China may grant Israel special economic waiver

BEIJING — China appears willing to approve Israel’s request to be exempt from a new Chinese policy barring investments in foreign countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

In a bid to boost its domestic economy, Beijing in January decided to restrict Chinese capital spent abroad, causing much anguish among businessman worldwide.

But on Tuesday, Netanyahu asked Chinese President Xi Jingping to make an exception for Israel, he told reporters, hours after their meeting at Diaoyutai State Guest House.

“I asked for an exemption on the general restrictions. I said that Israel’s a special case. It’s a technology powerhouse that has no market,” Netanyahu said. “It has significance for technology but it doesn’t have any significance in terms of volume on markets or currencies, or anything. Israel is very big in technology but small in market weight.”

Netanyahu told Xi that China is interested in Israeli technology while Israel is interested in Chinese capital. But Israel’s much-lauded innovation needs more cash, and therefore Beijing should consider not applying its new restrictions on Israeli companies.

“He said he was willing to do it,” Netanyahu said. However, the two leaders did not discuss details of the arrangements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with China's Premier Li Keqiang (L) during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Wang Zhao)

Netanyahu told Xi that the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang had asked him on Wednesday to reduce regulatory burdens so that Israeli technology would reach the Chinese market more easily.

If you want our products, let us have your capital, Netanyahu argued during his Tuesday meeting with the Chinese president. “It’s called reciprocity,” Netanyahu said.

Currently, one-third of foreign investment in Israel comes from China, according to Netanyahu.

“Israel’s start-up/high-tech community is always thirsty for new capital,” said Eli Groner, the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the co-head of the Israel-China economic task force.

“The recent Chinese decision caused concern within our hi-tech community that the Chinese capital that has been flowing into Israel over the last few years would come to sudden stop. We are encouraged that the prime minister’s involvement will help unlock this potentially significant flow of capital,” he told The Times of Israel.

Earlier on Tuesday, Xi announced the establishment of a “Comprehensive Innovation Partnership” with Israel, which Netanyahu hailed as “a tremendously important decision.”

“We have always believed… that Israel can be a partner, a junior partner, but a perfect partner for China in the development of a variety of technologies that change the way we live, how long we live, how healthy we live, the water we drink, the food we eat, the milk that we drink – in every area,” he told Xi at the beginning of their meeting.

Later, the prime minister told Israeli reporters that Xi promised to issue a policy directive to all relevant authorities asking them to advance the technological cooperation with Israel.

Last year, China formed an “Innovative Strategic Partnership” with Switzerland, but no other country in the world has the status of a “Comprehensive Innovation Partnership” with the Asian giant, Netanyahu said.

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Justin Trudeau Warns Trump About NAFTA Plan, Says Deal Is Good for U.S. Jobs

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/justin-trudeau-warns-trump-about-nafta-plan-says-it-s-n734231?cid=eml_nnn_20170316

 

Donald Trump’s plan to tear up NAFTA could hit U.S. jobs, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

The president has begun moves to renegotiate what he called the “worst trade deal ever approved in this country.” However, Trudeau said the Clinton-era agreement had “led to a lot of great jobs for a whole lot of people on both sides of the border.”

Trudeau spoke to NBC News’ Tom Brokaw at the New York launch of “Come From Away,” a Broadway musical about international friendships and the cross-border impact of 9/11.

It tells the story of the 38 international flights forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland, when U.S. airspace was closed following the attacks by al Qaeda in 2001.

Ivanka Trump and Nikki Haley, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, were among the guests at Wednesday night’s event.

Trudeau said his message to the new administration was that “good jobs, middle class, happen on both sides of the border because of the close relationship” between the neighbors.

“NAFTA’s been … improved a dozen times over the past 20 years,” Trudeau said. “There’s always opportunities to talk about how we can make it better. It has led to a lot of great jobs for a whole lot of people on both sides of the border and I very much take him at his word when he talks about just making a few tweaks. Because that’s what we’re always happy to do.”

Image: Justin Trudeau speaking to Tom Brokaw
Justin Trudeau speaking to NBC News’ Tom Brokaw. NBC News

Trudeau added: “We’ve got auto parts criss-crossing the border six times before they end up in a finished product. You’ve got over $2 billion a day going back and forth. So, making sure that the border is … secure but also smooth in its flow of goods and people is essential to good jobs on both sides of the border.”

President Trump has vowed to withdraw from NAFTA, which took effect in 1994 and includes Canada and Mexico, if he cannot renegotiate it to benefit American interests. He formally withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership within days of taking office in January and said he would renegotiate NAFTA “at the appropriate time.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the United States conducts more than $3.2 billion worth of trade with its North American neighbors every day. NAFTA brings export revenue worth $36,000 for each and every American factory worker, it says.

A study published by the Center for Automotive Research in January suggested the withdrawal from NAFTA or the implementation of punitive tariffs could result in the loss of 31,000 U.S. jobs.

Trump has called the deal “one-sided,” citing a “$60 billion trade deficit with Mexico.”

Revisiting comments made during last month’s trip to the White House, the Canadian leader said that “we’ll agree to disagree on certain things.”

“Come From Away” tells the story of how Gander’s 10,000 inhabitants rallied to accommodate the 6,700 travelers whose planes were diverted and then stranded in the hours after the 9/11 attacks.

Trudeau said the episode underscored the close relationship between the U.S. and Canada and “encapsulates so much of what we’ve shared through great times and also through extraordinarily tragic times.”

It also highlighted what is now a stark difference between the nations over immigration, he said.

“I know and I’ve always felt for Canada that we recognize that diversity is a great source of strength,” Trudeau said. “I think Canadians have always been interested in the choices Americans make because the choices you make inevitably impact upon us … and how we make sure that we get that balance right between continuing to have a good relationship and standing for the things we believe in is what we expect of ourselves.”

Trump federal budget 2018: Massive cuts to the arts, science and the poor

President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

“You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters.

Many of Trump’s budget proposals are likely to run into stiff resistance from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, even from Republicans, whose support is crucial because they must vote to authorize government appropriations. Republicans have objected, for example, to the large cuts in foreign aid and diplomacy that Trump has foreshadowed, and his budget whacks foreign aid programs run by the Education, State and Treasury departments, among others.

“The administration’s budget isn’t going to be the budget,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “We do the budget here. The administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets.”

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Trump’s budget would not take effect until the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, but the president must still reach a separate agreement with Congress by the end of April, when a temporary funding bill expires. If they can’t reach an agreement, and if Trump’s new budget plan widens fault lines, then the chances would increase for a partial government shutdown starting on April 29.

The president and Congress must also raise the debt ceiling, which has become a politically fraught ritual. Although the ceiling was extended until March 15, budget experts say the government should be able to continue borrowing money by suspending or stretching out payments through August or September.

White House budget proposals are often changed by lawmakers, but they serve as a marker for how the president plans to govern and as an opening bid on budget talks. Mulvaney said the White House was open to negotiation, but he was unapologetic about the size and scope of the reductions.

“This budget represents a president who is beholden to nobody but the voters,” Mulvaney said. “He is following through on his promises. We did not consult with special interests on how to write this budget. We did not consult with lobbyists on how to write this budget. The president’s team wrote this budget and that’s what you’ll see in the numbers.”

The 53-page budget plan offers the clearest snapshot yet of Trump’s priorities. Yet it is also far shorter and vaguer than White House budget plans normally are. One of the missing details is precisely where and how many jobs would be eliminated across the federal government.

Parts of the budget proposal also appear to contradict Trump’s agenda. Trump has said he wants to eliminate all disease, but the budget chops funding for the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion, or close to 20 percent. He has said he wants to create a $1 trillion infrastructure program, but the proposal would eliminate a Transportation Department program that funds nearly $500 million in road projects. It does not include new funding amounts or a tax mechanism for Trump’s infrastructure program, postponing those decisions.

And the Trump administration proposed to eliminate a number of other programs, particularly those that serve low-income Americans and minorities, because it questioned their effectiveness. This included the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which disburses more than $3 billion annually to help heat homes in the winter. It also proposed abolishing the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides roughly $3 billion for targeted projects related to affordable housing, community development and homelessness programs, among other things.

The budget was stuffed with other cuts and reductions. It calls for privatizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control function, cutting all funding for long-distance Amtrak train services and eliminating EPA funding for the restoration of Chesapeake Bay. Job training programs would also be cut, pushing more responsibility for this onto the states and employers.

Many Republicans have criticized these programs in the past as wasteful and ineffective, but supporters have said the programs are vital for communities in need.

The proposed budget extensively targets Obama programs and investments focused on climate change, seeking to eliminate payments to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund — one key component of the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement — and to slash research funding for climate, ocean and earth science programs at agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. At the same time, clean-energy research, heavily privileged by the Obama administration, would suffer greatly under the budget with the elimination of the ­ARPA-E program (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) at the Energy Department and an unspecified cut to the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

“I think one of the reasons they’re proposing them [big spending cuts] is that they know they won’t ever get through Congress,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). “They know they’d be a disaster for their own party if they did. It makes for a great talking point. It actually fits on a tweet.”

There were several areas in which Trump proposed increasing spending. He proposed, for example, $168 million for charter school programs and $250 million for a new private-school choice program, which would probably provide tuition assistance for families who opt to send their children to private schools.

The biggest increase in spending would be directed at the Pentagon, but the budget plan does not make clear where the new $54 billion would go. The budget plan would boost funding for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. It would, among other things, acquire new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and rebuild what it says are depleted munitions inventories. But it stops short of saying how these new funds would support new tactics to combat the Islamic State.

The bump in defense spending was a marked contrast to the cuts Trump proposed in diplomatic and international programs. He proposed cutting combined spending for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by $10.1 billion, or nearly 29 percent. It would cut an unspecified amount of funding from U.N. peacekeeping efforts. It would also cut spending for Treasury International Programs, foreign assistance programs that have been supported by Republican and Democratic administrations, by $803 million, or 35 percent.

Trump directed funding to meet several of his campaign pledges as well.

He proposed new money to hire border security agents and immigration judges.

And he requested $1.7 billion in new funding this year and an additional $2.6 billion in new funding in 2018 to begin construction of a wall along the border with Mexico. Trump proposed creating this wall during his campaign and had said Mexico would pay for it. A number of congressional Republicans appear to be cooling on the idea.

The federal government is expected to spend more than $4 trillion in the fiscal year that begins in October, and Trump’s budget proposal would deal with slightly more than 25 percent of this funding. The government is expected to spend $487 billion more than it brings in through revenue during the next fiscal year, and to avoid widening the deficit, Trump proposed steep cuts across the budget to compensate for the new defense spending.

Trump will propose a more comprehensive budget plan in May, which could include changes to programs such as Medicaid and also offer economic forecasts. But that proposal will come after the deadline for reaching an agreement to avoid a partial shutdown. So Thursday’s budget proposal from Trump will factor squarely into those negotiations.

Fed Raises Interest Rates for Third Time Since Financial Crisis

The Federal Reserve, which raised its benchmark rate on Wednesday for the second time in three months, this time to a range between 0.75 percent and 1 percent, is finally moving toward the end of its nine-year-old economic stimulus campaign, which began in the depths of the financial crisis.

But Janet L. Yellen, the Fed’s chairwoman, said at a news conference after the decision was announced that the Fed did not share the optimism of stock market investors and some business executives that economic growth is gaining speed. It still plans to move slowly because the economy continues to grow slowly. She suggested that the Fed would have plenty of time to adjust its plans should President Trump and Congress cut taxes or spend massively on infrastructure.

Her announcement was full of confidence. But it certainly was not ebullient. “The data have not notably strengthened,” Ms. Yellen told reporters. “We haven’t changed the outlook. We think we’re moving on the same course we’ve been on.”

The Fed said that the United States economy continued to chug along, expanding at a “moderate pace.” Employers are hiring, consumers are spending and businesses — the laggards in recent months — are starting to plow a little more money into their operations, too.

The Fed’s sobriety did not appear to make much of an impression on investors. The stock market’s heady march that began after Mr. Trump’s election continued apace. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 0.84 percent to close at 2,385.26 Wednesday, moving up sharply after the announcement. Some said the Fed was still a long way from doing anything that might hurt.

“The first four to eight rate hikes are the low-hanging fruit,” said Deron McCoy, the chief investment officer at SEIA, a Los Angeles firm. “The real test will be whether the economy can withstand positive real rates. And that still seems to be a 2019 topic.”

Some analysts said the Fed will want to see an impact from its actions. “Policy makers hike rates to tighten financial conditions,” said Ellen Zentner, the chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley. “If this easing of financial conditions on the back of today’s hike are sustained, that would tell policy makers they need to do more.”

Ms. Zentner said she expected the Fed to raise rates again at its June meeting. The Fed’s policy-making committee next meets on May 2 and 3.

She noted that the Fed’s longer-term outlook is less clear. Ms. Yellen’s term as Fed chairwoman ends in February, and Mr. Trump could then replace her.

The Fed, charged with maximizing employment and moderating inflation, is close to achieving both goals. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in February, consistent with the normal churn of people moving among jobs. And after several years of concern that prices were not rising fast enough, inflation is reviving. The Fed’s preferred measure rose 1.9 percent over the 12 months ending in January, close to its 2 percent annual target.

“The basis for today’s decision is simply our assessment of the progress of the economy,” Ms. Yellen said at the postmeeting news conference. “And it’s been doing nicely.”

The Fed, which had made more inflation a central objective, said on Wednesday that it was now focused on stabilizing inflation. Ms. Yellen took the opportunity to note that inflation may now rise a bit above 2 percent, just as it has been below 2 percent the last few years. “It’s a reminder 2 percent is not a ceiling on inflation,” she said. “It’s a target.”

The Fed’s increased confidence was reflected in a new round of policy forecasts it also published Wednesday. An increased number of Fed officials are expecting to raise rates at least twice more this year. Only three of the 17 officials who submitted forecasts expect the central bank to move more slowly. There was a similar coalescing around tighter policy for the following two years, marking the first time in recent years that the Fed’s quarterly economic forecasts have shifted toward a prediction of tighter monetary policy.

This is the third time the Fed has raised rates since the financial crisis. The first hike came at the end of 2015 and the second almost exactly one year later. This time the Fed waited just three months. The benchmark rate remains below 1 percent, a very low level.

People with credit card debt are likely to see an immediate increase of about a quarter percentage point in their interest rates. The effect on longer-term loans is less direct, but the average rate on a 30-year mortgage rose by half a percentage point over the last year.

The nation’s largest borrower, the federal government, will also feel the pinch of higher rates. The Congressional Budget Office expects federal interest payments, measured as a share of the economy, to double over the next decade.

Savers are unlikely to benefit immediately. Banks tend to raise interest rates on loans more quickly than they raise rates on deposits. Last week, the average rate on a six-month certificate of deposit was 0.14 percent. Last year at this time: 0.13 percent.

The Fed’s move to raise rates puts it on course for a slow-motion collision with President Trump, who has repeatedly promised to increase economic growth through policies including cuts in taxation and regulation and more spending on infrastructure and defense.

Fed officials have emphasized that the economy is already growing at roughly its maximum sustainable pace; faster growth would therefore lead to faster increases in interest rates.

Some economists and liberal activists argue that the Fed is raising rates too quickly. Narayana Kocherlakota, an economist at the University of Rochester and a former member of the Fed’s policy-making committee, noted that strong economic growth continued to pull people into the job market while wage growth remained relatively weak. That suggests, he said, that the economy has not yet returned to full employment.

“We should be seeing faster wage growth with this level of employment growth if we were close to full employment,” Mr. Kocherlakota said on Twitter before the Fed’s decision.

Mr. Kocherlakota’s successor as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, cast the sole vote against raising rates on Wednesday.

The Fed’s assessment of economic conditions remained quite measured. The economy expanded by just 1.6 percent in 2016, and there is little sign of an acceleration during the first quarter. Fed officials continue to forecast a Goldilocks economy, with the unemployment rate remaining at 4.5 percent and inflation around 2 percent for the next three years.

Ms. Yellen played down surveys showing a sharp rise in the optimism of consumers and business executives since the presidential election, noting there is little evidence that such surveys predict spending decisions.

She said that Fed officials spoke regularly to business leaders, and that many were undoubtedly in “a much more optimistic frame of mind.” But she added that many of those executives have adopted a wait-and-see attitude — just like the Fed itself.

Britain looks to strengthen trade ties with Israel post-Brexit

Britain will reportedly seek to bolster economic ties with Israel following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union last year.

Israel and Britain will set up a working group to negotiate trade deals between the two countries, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday.

According to the report, a team of two to four officials from each country will meet by the end of March, and the group is expected to continue meeting two or three times a year to hammer out economic agreements.

On his visit to Israel last week, UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson boasted of the existing close ties between the two countries and mentioned plans to negotiate a new free trade agreement.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Johnson hailed growing bilateral commercial ties: “We have the fastest growing Aston Martin dealership anywhere in the world here in Israel. We’ve done some fantastic export deals with you. But you’ve also greatly contributed to our economy.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, the formal procedure to start negotiations on leaving the bloc, by the end of March. That will begin two years of negotiations between Britain and the EU as to exactly what Brexit will entail.

While it was part of the European Union, trade deals with other countries were done in Brussels on behalf of the entire bloc of nations. Britain is now looking to set up trade deals on its own to replace the existing deals. Although a trade deal with the US is a priority, the UK sees Israel as an important trading partner.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with UK PM Theresa May, at 10 Downing Street in London, February 6, 2017. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Last month Netanyahu visited London, and he and May spoke of “preparing the ground” for a post-Brexit trade deal.

“We’re seeing trading bilateral relationships between the UK and Israel, in science and trade for example, doing better than ever,” British ambassador to Israel David Quarrey told the Guardian. “But there’s the potential to do even better, particularly in the context of Brexit. I was with Theresa May and Benjamin Netanyahu in London and it was clear there was the determination for this.

“Most business people in Israel look at the UK as a great place to do business, because of its culture, language, and the predictability of the regulatory and tax system,” he said.

James Sorene, chief executive of Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM), wrote that “the Israel-Britain alliance is a boost for the British economy and carries sizable strategic advantages for both countries. The reality is that a strong partnership with Israel is an asset that will become increasingly valuable for the UK as it resets relations after leaving the EU.”

Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who serves on the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, told the Guardian that “one of the main areas we can co-operate is cybersecurity, where Israel is receiving 20% of worldwide investments – huge for such a small country.”

ISRAEL CALLS ON BANKS IN SPAIN, SOUTH AFRICA, US TO SHUT BDS ACCOUNTS

 

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is ratcheting up pressure on banks to close the accounts of groups that boycott Israel, including one organization that has links to an internationally recognized Palestinian terrorist organization.

“Facilitating the bank accounts of BDS organizations constitutes support for BDS. Banks maintaining such accounts should carefully consider the danger of running afoul of strict anti-BDS legislation in the US and other countries,” Erdan told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive statement on Thursday.

 

“Countries have already shut BDS accounts for legal reasons and we urge others to do the same,” he added.

The Post’s ongoing investigative series on financial institutions enabling boycott groups to target Israel revealed that BDS South Africa’s bank account is maintained at that country’s First National Bank.

BDS South Africa – one of the most powerful and aggressive anti-Israel groups internationally – held a series of fund-raisers in 2015 with Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the US and EU have designated as a terrorist organization.

The BDS South Africa website shows a photograph of Khaled hosted by the group with a caption that reads, “Leila Khaled fund-raising dinner in Rustenburg.” A second photograph carries the caption: “Leila Khaled fundraising dinner in Pretoria.”

Khaled was a key member of a terrorist cell that hijacked TWA Flight 840 in 1969. A year later, she participated in the hijacking of EL AL Flight 219. BDS South Africa termed Khaled a “Palestine icon” on its website. It is unclear whether the money raised was sent via the First National Bank account to the PFLP and Khaled, or held in the account to promote BDS in South Africa and abroad.

Concerns about money laundering for crime and terrorism, as well as anti-BDS laws, have triggered the closure over the past year of BDS accounts in Ireland, US, Austria, France, the UK and Germany.

Nainesh Desai, First National Bank’s business chief risk officer, wrote to the Post: “Due to client confidentiality, First National Bank (FNB) cannot disclose information about any of its customers to a third party.”

In June, the Austrian financial giant BAWAG closed the bank account of Vienna’s Austrian-Arab cultural center, OKAZ, because it hosted Khaled in April.

First National Bank maintains a correspondence bank relationship with the UK’s Standard Chartered. When asked if First National used Standard Chartered to transfer BDS funds and payments for the PFLP, Julie Gibson, a Standard Chartered spokeswoman, said: “Whenever we receive complaints or information about potentially suspicious activity, we look into it.”

Gibson told the Post by phone that an investigation had been opened into the BDS account, but Lauren Callie, a Standard Chartered spokeswoman in South Africa, wrote to the Post that Gibson “made no reference nor commitment to the bank specifically investigating the BSD account with First National.”

According to Callie, Standard Chartered’s official position is as follows: “In line with the bank’s commitment to preventing fraud, money laundering and terror financing, Standard Chartered will investigate any external reports or tipoffs we receive. Regrettably, we are unable to provide any specifics on our investigations, in the interest of client privacy and confidentiality.”

Gibson told the Post that Standard Chartered has terminated correspondence bank accounts in the past but has declined to state the reasons. She added that the bank complies with US laws regarding terrorism.

Standard Charted admitted in 2012 that it violated sanctions against Iran, and paid $667 million to the US government.

The US government reopened an investigation in 2015 against Standard Chartered for additional violations of Iran sanctions.

Numerous Post press queries to BDS South Africa were not returned.

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers – a pro-BDS organization that supports Iran’s nuclear program – has accounts with Texas-based Comerica Bank and Spain’s La Caixa. When asked about Erdan’s statement, Wayne Mielke, a spokesman for Comerica, told the Post: “We decline to comment outside of reiterating that we have a robust compliance program in place at the bank.”

An anti-BDS bill is working its way through the Texas legislature.

Several queries to La Caixa were not immediately returned.

Are We Witnessing The Weirdest Moment In Economic History?

http://www.renegadetribune.com/witnessing-weirdest-moment-economic-history/

 

It is an unfortunate reality that most people tend to be oblivious to massive sea changes in geopolitics and economics. You would think that these events would catch the immediate attention of everyone as they happen, but usually it is not until they realize that the microcosm of their personal lives is subject to the consequences of the macrocosm that they wake up and take notice.

There are, however, ways to train yourself to pick up on signals within the news cycle and within political and financial rhetoric; signals that indicate a great shift is perhaps on the way. Sometimes these initial signs are subtle, sometimes they are as subtle as a feminist slut-walk. I would point out that over the next few months there are dangerous correlations so numerous and blatant in the economic sphere that I would almost rather watch a marching gaggle of frumpy feminists wearing nothing but electrical tape than bear witness to the mayhem that is about to strike the unwitting public.

What am I talking about? Well, let’s go through the list…

Federal Reserve Meeting March 14-15th

As my readers know well, I have been warning since before the election that the Fed would use a Trump presidency as an opportunity to pull the plug on near-zero interest rates and remove a primary pillar supporting stock markets — stock buybacks made possible by free overnight loans to numerous banks and corporations. Without QE and low interest rates the equities bubble will inevitably implode.

Corporate earnings certainly aren’t holding up stocks, neither is GDP or consumer spending. The Fed is the only determining factor of the ongoing bull market. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably a mainstream analyst or overzealous day trader with a vested interest in keeping the illusion going.

It is not surprising to me at all that the “rate hike odds” for March have been increased by mainstream analysts to 90% in the span of a week. I don’t know why anyone uses these arbitrary odds as an indicator of anything. I’ve been receiving emails all month asking me if I still believe the Fed will hike rates while the odds are “so low.” Look, the Fed does not make decisions at these meetings. They make decisions months in advance and the meetings are window dressing.

Too many people operate under the delusion that the central bank wants to continue propping up stocks, which is why they cannot grasp why the Fed would raise rates. In reality, the stage has been perfectly set to allow the bubble to implode. When the elites have a perfect scapegoat, they use it, and conservative movements represent that perfect scapegoat today.

The important thing to remember, though, is the timing of this particular meeting…

U.S. Debt-Ceiling Suspension Ends March 15th

So, in case you weren’t tracking the economic situation two years ago, the U.S. government almost went bust (in a sense) in 2015. The debt ceiling sets limits on how much the government can borrow to fund itself, and that limit was hit hard under the Obama administration after he managed to nearly double the national debt during his tenure. Congress passed legislation to allow borrowing to continue until March 2017, and of course, much of that capital was “borrowed” from the Federal Reserve, which, of course, creates it out of thin air. With the return of the debt ceiling, the question is — will Congress be able to extend and delay again? With Trump running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, CAN they extend again?  Do they even want to, or is this an engineered crisis event?

Once again, the timing of all this is a little odd. The Fed is raising rates into the first year of the Trump presidency leaving equities increasingly open to destabilization. In addition, the government might not be able to continue borrowing from them, or there will be a renewed extension but the costs of borrowing will run much higher. In either case, this month seems to pronounce the beginning of something; a considerable move away from the standard operating procedures that the elites have been using for the past several years. With such changes come consequences, always.

Formal Initiation Of Brexit On March 15th

The skeptics have been telling me for months that even though I was right about the Brexit vote victory the elites “would never allow” the British to leave the EU. Well, it doesn’t look that way to me so far. Theresa May plans to formally notify the EU of British exit on March 15th triggering two years of negotiations which will undoubtedly send economic shock waves throughout the globe on a regular basis.

Of course the Brexit will move forward! Why not? Globalists need a continuing atmosphere of crisis to distract the masses from their great global reset, and they need multiple scapegoats for the economic disaster that their reset will cause. Enter conservative movements in Europe; once again the perfect target to pin a crisis on.

French Elections Start April 23rd, End May 7th

Yet another election in which the EU hangs in the balance. Recent polls indicate that Marine Le Pen, the designated “populist” candidate, is falling behind. I have to ask, though, have we not learned our lesson yet on the meaninglessness of political polls? I think most of us have.

I believe Le Pen will be one of the final two candidates to move on to the election in May, and though I am not as certain as I was on Brexit and Trump, I am going to go ahead and predict a Le Pen win. If there is any sizable terrorist event in the next couple of months in the EU, or expanded Muslim riots, she is a guaranteed win. This brings up the very real prospect of a “Frexit” in the near future, and analysts should expect that a Le Pen win will be met with some panic in the financial world.

Potential Italian Election Move On April 30th

The Italian political process is a little confusing to me, but what I can tell you is that this spring or early summer you will probably be hearing a lot more about it. Former Italian prime minister and current Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi is set to decide on a the date for a leadership vote, which may come as early as April 30th. The outcome of this vote will likely decide how soon the next official Italian election will take place.

The election is required to be held before May 2018, but there is increasing pressure to hold elections in 2017, perhaps even this coming summer. I would not be at all shocked to see a surprise announcement of an early Italian election after the leadership vote is held.

Why should anyone care? The consensus is that Renzi’s party will be overrun by anti-EU factions and that this may result in a kind of “Italiexit.” The outcome of Italy’s series of votes and political restructuring will have wide reaching effects on the psychology of the markets for many months to come.

German Federal Election Held September 24th

Yes, even Germany is quaking this year in the wake of a potential “populist” tsunami. Angela Merkel is exceedingly unloved by her own people lately as her approval ratings collapse. Once-silent sovereignty champions in the country are becoming more and more vocal about Merkel’s rather insane open immigration policies which were the key element that drew millions of Muslims into the EU. It was the German government’s promise of endless entitlement programs that created the incentive for the mass migration in the first place, and now, finally, the German people are fed up with the complete lack of cultural assimilation and what many see as the destruction of western values.

I do not think that Germany will abandon the supranational concept of the EU regardless of the outcome of the election, but the removal of Merkel would signal a less agreeable Germany, which would exacerbate the already tottering European Union. Meaning more economic uncertainty in 2017.

If You Thought 2016 Was Weird…

If you thought 2016 was weird, I suggest you get comfortable with the surreal because it is not going away anytime soon. 2017 is a veritable treasure trove of falling elevators, and I haven’t even covered half of the issues facing the economy this year. But what about the macro-analysis?

To summarize, it seems to me that many of these events, stacked so closely together, are not coincidental in their timing. As I have noted in articles such as The Economic End Game Explained, globalists have been openly planning for decades to set in motion a vast financial overhaul and the launch of a single global economy and currency (the seeds being planted starting in 2018). If this is still their timeline, then it would follow that they would need a series of fiscal earthquakes designed to shake up the “old world order” to make way for a “new world order.”

Perhaps each of these events will result in a “stable” outcome and there is nothing to be concerned about. That said, I don’t believe in chance. Most geopolitical outcomes are influenced by internationalist players, which makes the outcomes of these events predictable. This is what made the Brexit predictable, and it is what made Trump’s victory predictable. Everything about the confluence of political and economic events in 2017 suggests to me a festering crisis atmosphere.

As I have always said, economic collapse is a process, not a singular moment in time. This process lulls the masses into complacency. You can show them warning sign after warning sign, but most of them have no concept of what a collapse is. They are waiting for a cinematic moment of revelation, a financial explosion, when really, the whole disaster is happening in slow motion right under their noses. Economies do not explode, they drown as the water rises one inch at a time.


This article originally appeared at PersonalLiberty.com. Brandon Smith’s site is Alt-Market.com.

Trump Insists Jobs Numbers Were Phony In Past, They’re Very Real Now – Yep, Politics (LOL…..)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2017/03/11/trump-insists-jobs-numbers-were-phony-in-past-theyre-very-real-now-yep-politics/#2d39a0346da7

 

There’s a certain amusement as the job claims and employment numbers come out. President Trump, according to his spokesman at least, is insisting that while these numbers were, umm, less than wholly and entirely accurate in the past (he has actually said “phony”) now that they’re both good and referring to a time when he’s in office they’re just fine, bigly accurate. Which is amusing of course but we’ve also got to grasp that this is just how politics works. Good things that happen are due to the good person in office, bad things that happen either to his predecessor, enemies or worries about his successor. There is nothing unique about Trump in this except perhaps in the degree of shamelessness with which the idea is put forward. Hillary told us quite a lot about how great that 90s economy was but there are very few who are willing to insist that it was Bill that did it all even if the claim is often there unsaid.

So, a cocked eyebrow at the claim perhaps:

Donald Trump’s spokesman acknowledged on Friday that the White House was now cheering U.S. job growth figures that Mr. Trump routinely dismissed on the campaign trail as misleading.

Or in more detail:

Now that he’s president, Trump has changed his tune. On Friday, after the Labor Department announced the economy added 235,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in February, White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced that the president doesn’t think the jobs numbers are bogus anymore.

“I talked to the president prior to this and he said to quote him very clearly: ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now,’” Spicer said.

Then Spicer and people in the White Hose briefing room laughed.

Laughter is indeed an appropriate response:

The economy created more than a quarter of a million jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7 percent, according to Friday’s jobs report.

It’s entirely possible to construct an argument that Trump and his future policies are behind this. Markets are forward looking after all and if businessmen think that times are going to get much better then they will gear up with more staff in order to produce more. And the joy of the economy is that those animal spirits do matter, as Keynes said they did. If businesses all gear up, hire more to produce more, then the economy will get better. Simply because more people have been hired to produce more stuff and thus the demand is there for that more stuff. Shrug, this is just the way that it works.

However, I would hesitate to ascribe too much weight to that argument. Entirely willing to believe that there’s a bit there, you can decide how much you want it to be. For if I did want to ascribe much–or even more than a tad–of weight to that argument then I would be looking for a divergence from the previous trend. If a change in policy, a potential change in future policy, a change in who is President, had changed views of the economy then I would expect there to be something of a change in the figures as we found out about the new policy and the new President.

IS TRUMP’S STRENGTH ON THE ECONOMY ACTUALLY A WEAKNESS?

One of President Donald Trump’s consistent strengths in overall dismal polling numbers is how Americans rate him on the economy. He’s assiduously cultivated his image as a jobs creator, claiming credit for the rise in the stock markets, U.S. companies’ expansion plans (even though, in most of the cases, those plans predated his election) and, on Friday, the positive jobs report from the Department of Labor. One Democratic super PAC, however, says the president’s stance on the economy is exactly what his opposition should target.

Related: Trump pressures drugmakers to lower prices, produce in the U.S.

Priorities USA, one of the left’s most influential super PACs, released a memo Friday outlining its thinking, based on regular polling the group has commissioned from Global Strategy Group and Garin Hart Yang. The latest poll, conducted March 3 through March 7, finds that 42 percent of American voters view the president’s performance on the economy favorably thus far, compared with 32 percent who have an unfavorable view. It’s the only policy area where Trump enjoys a net positive rating—on immigration, health care, foreign policy and Russia relations, more people view him unfavorably than favorably. That’s consistent with a March 7 Quinnipiac University poll that found 49 percent of voters approved of Trump’s handling of the economy, while 41 percent did not. Again, it was the only policy area where Trump wasn’t “underwater,” i.e., at a net negative.

Still, the liberal super PAC, which spent nearly $200 million on the 2016 election supporting Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates, asserts that Trump “has a clear vulnerability on the economy.” Namely: “Voters believe he looks out for the interests of the wealthy and corporations.” Among the criticisms of Trump that the pollsters tested, the one that drives the biggest reaction, Priorities USA says, is the claim that the president “supports giving a big tax cut to millionaires and big corporations, and will shift more of the tax burden to the middle class.” In its memo, the super PAC counsels progressives to “prioritize connecting the dots between Trump’s economic policies and the impact they have on regular people.”

Democrats already seem to be pursuing that strategy. Progressive advocacy groups have been going after Trump and his cabinet for alleged conflicts of interest, ties to Wall Street and general favoritism of the wealthy and powerful—perceived to be exactly the opposite of the “drain the swamp” pledge Trump campaigned on. And since Republicans in Congress on Monday unveiled their proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare, Democrats have been relentlessly attacking it as a tax cut for the rich that will drive up the cost of health insurance for the poor, sick and elderly.

The political battle over the Obamacare repeal is likely to consume much of the spring, giving Democrats plenty of opportunities to hammer home that point. And Republicans have signaled they will follow up the health care effort with an ambitious plan to overhaul the tax code, which could also feed into the progressive narrative of Trump giveaways to the rich. Democrats, in other words, will have openings to attack Trump on the economy. The question is whether continued job growth and a brightening of the general economic outlook will drown out their efforts to play up a class war

Steady U.S. Job Growth Sets Stage for Fed to Raise Interest Rates

A wave of hiring in February — President Trump’s first full month in office — pointed to a strong foundation for the nation’s economy, providing further evidence for the Federal Reserve that the moment to raise interest rates has come.

The Labor Department reported a gain of 235,000 jobs and healthy wage growth in a month when even the weather cooperated. It was the last major data release before Fed policy makers meet Tuesday and Wednesday, when they have signaled their intent to increase the benchmark interest rate.

“The economy is riding a wave of bullish sentiment postelection,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, a career website. “We’re seeing strong labor demand across the board and no sign of slowing right now.”

Republicans and Democrats quickly jostled for credit.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump had “jump-started job creation, not only through his executive action but because of the surge in economic confidence and optimism that has been inspired since his election.”

Mr. Trump, who, as a candidate, repeatedly dismissed the official jobs reports as “phony,” reposted a comment on Twitter from the conservative website Drudge Report that said, “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000.” Mr. Spicer later quoted Mr. Trump on his faith in the report, “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

The Labor Department repeated that it had not changed the way it collected and analyzed jobs data since Mr. Trump took office. “It’s business as usual,” said Megan Kindelan, director of public affairs at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Republican self-congratulation clearly irked Democrats. Tom Perez, labor secretary in the Obama administration and now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, countered that Mr. Trump had “absolutely nothing” to do with the job gains. “Trump inherited an economy from Barack Obama with the longest streak of private sector job growth in history,” he said.

Although the economic anxiety that helped put Mr. Trump in the White House remains, the official jobless rate is near what the Fed considers full employment — a threshold where, in theory at least, everyone who wants a job at the going rate can find one. The official jobless rate fell to 4.7 percent, from 4.8 percent in January, even as the overall labor force grew.

At the same time, jobless claims are near a 44-year low, and the stock market is surging. Revisions to previous estimates raised the three-month average of monthly job gains to 209,000 and annual wage growth to 2.8 percent, further bolstering the case for those who argue the economy is strong enough to withstand a rate increase.

The overall economic momentum received a push from February’s unusually warm weather, with almost a quarter of the jobs — about 58,000 — coming from construction. Manufacturing and mining rose too.

Also significant was the increase in the labor participation rate to 63 percent, a result of rising employment even among people without a high school diploma. “There’s got to be some optimism that these people are feeling they finally have a chance,” said Diane Swonk, founder and chief executive of DS economics in Chicago.

On the other end are employers who are seeing acute labor shortages. “They’re offering training programs now,” Ms. Swonk said. “They’re complaining about it. But that’s what tight labor markets do. It forces you to invest more to work with less.”

Bigger paychecks are something that most Americans are particularly eager to see, after years of stagnant wage growth. The Fed, too, has been waiting for an increase, but it is also wary of wages rising too fast. Its members want to head off incipient inflation without putting the brakes on hiring, especially because the benefits of the eight-year-old recovery have been so unevenly distributed.

The Labor Picture in February

Balancing those two goals is tricky.

Lauren Griffin, senior vice president at Adecco Staffing USA, said the scarcity of qualified workers had compelled employers to raise wages, strengthen benefits and improve amenities at the office. “We’ve got people in orientation classes,” Ms. Griffin said, “and they get up and leave because they’re contacted about another job that might be more money.”

At the same time, a broader measure of unemployment — which includes the millions of Americans who have given up looking for work or who are working part time but would prefer full-time jobs — dropped to 9.2 percent last month but is still high given how tight the labor market looks otherwise.

Cautioning the Fed against moving too quickly with a rate increase, Elise Gould, an economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, noted that, “Workers throughout the economy, including young workers, workers of color, and low-wage workers, need a chance to make up lost ground on wage growth.”

Many Americans who live outside urban centers also have been excluded from most of the rewards of the recovery.

Large metropolitan counties have had more than twice the annual wage growth of nonmetropolitan areas, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Higher-wage jobs might be following educated, young workers, who are increasingly living in dense, urban neighborhoods as other demographic groups move to the suburbs,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, a job-search site. “Broader economic shifts also favor big cities: The occupations projected to grow tend to be more urban, while shrinking sectors like manufacturing and farming tend to be located outside large metros.”

That is disappointing for people with longstanding ties to smaller, more rural communities. “A lot of this has to do with mobility,” said Steven W. Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group, an insurance company. “People are going to have to move where the jobs are and not expect the jobs to come where they are.”

Although the Trump administration has had little time to make any substantial policy changes, the expectation of a reduction in taxes and regulations and the possibility of vast infrastructure spending have created optimism among employers and blue-collar workers.

Mr. Trump has promised to expand the economy by 4 percent a year, create 25 million jobs in the next decade, revive manufacturing and reduce the trade deficit.

Achieving all that would be difficult in the best of circumstances, let alone with the potential headwinds facing the White House. Dissension among Republicans and the unpredictability of Mr. Trump’s course in several policy areas could dampen job growth.

The future of the Affordable Care Act and a possible replacement is making hospitals and community health centers cautious about adding workers. A strong dollar and a potential backlash against the White House’s travel ban could slow tourism and hiring in the sector. And Mr. Trump’s across-the-board hiring freeze on federal government jobs, combined with declines at the state level, will probably reduce the total number of public sector employees.

The uncertainty extends to prospects for tax cuts. Some Wall Street analysts, expecting delays, have pared their growth forecasts for 2017, after recently raising them.

Certainly the snapshot of February’s labor market is good. The question is, if the economy does slow, whether Mr. Trump will accept the legitimacy of weak reports as enthusiastically as he does good ones.

Mr. Spicer suggested the president would. “Numbers are going to go up and down,” he said. “We recognize that.”