The only thing that is of any interest when you say the word Qatar is the fact that the French have just struck a $7 billion deal for the sale of 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets.
China, the world’s largest gold producer and buyer, feels its market weight should entitle it to be a price setter for gold bullion. It is asserting itself at a time when the established benchmark, the century-old London ‘gold fix’, is under scrutiny because of long-running allegations of price manipulation.
Wall Street's Council on Foreign Relations has issued a major report, alleging that China must be defeated because it threatens to become a bigger power in the world than the U.S. This report urges: "The United States should invest in defense capabilities and capacity specifically to defeat China’s emerging anti-access capabilities and permit successful U.S. power projection even against concerted opposition from Beijing. … Congress should remove sequestration caps and substantially increase the U.S. defense budget.” In other words: the Government should spiral upward the U.S. debt even more vertically (which is good for Wall Street), and, in order to enable the increased ‘defense’ expenditures, only ‘defense’ expenditures should be freed from spending-caps.
"The Japan-led Asian Development Bank unleashed measures that could help it hold its ground as a resource for regional economies, even as China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank gains prominence," Bloomberg says. In the latest sign that the US and Japan are struggling to cope with the rise of China-led multilateral institutions, the ADB is reportedly adopting "groundbreaking" measures to ensure it can remain competitive.
Quickly looking at the potential market moving events this week, US payrolls on Friday will be the clear focus. In terms of expectations, our US colleagues are expecting a +225k print which matches the current Bloomberg consensus, while they expect the unemployment rate to drop one-tenth to 5.4%. Elsewhere, Thursday’s UK Election will be closely followed while Greece will once again be front and center.
Holidays in Europe and Asia left things quiet overnight after some traders used the last day of April to frontrun the old "sell in May and go away" market adage. Market closures also kept the Chinese day trading hordes from using a tiny beat on the official manufacturing PMI print as an excuse to pile more money into the country's equity mania, while Japanese shares ended mostly unchanged as investors fret over when the BoJ will deliver the next shot of monetary heroin. In the US we'll get a look at ISM manufacturing and the latest read on consumer confidence as we head into the weekend.
Moments ago there was yet another step up in the Persian Gulf naval escalation when CNN reported that the U.S. Navy will escort U.S.-flagged cargo ships through Strait of Hormuz in wake of Iran seizure this week, a US official says. Specifically, the Navy will henceforth accompany ships on concern that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard may seize them, CNN’s Jim Sciutto says in Twitter post, citing CNN’s Barbara Starr. It is unclear what happens if either the accompanied cargo ship, or the US Navy warship leaves international waters, and enters Iran territory, which as the Bab el-Mandeb Strait is virtually assured: a strait which as the following US Naval update map has become as busy for US traffic as the 405 Freeway during rush hour.
Whatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain - alongside Russia - a key US geostrategic target. What the Pentagon - with customary hubris - does not see is Moscow and Tehran easily identifying the power play; the US government's hidden agenda of manipulating a "rehabilitated" Iran to sell plenty of oil and gas to the EU, thus undermining Gazprom.
- Marchers protest police violence in Baltimore, New York (Reuters)
- Majority of Financial Pros Now Say Greece Is Headed for Euro Exit (BBG)
- Greece signals concessions in crunch talks with lenders (Reuters)
- Greece, Euro-Area Partners Target Deal by Sunday (BBG)
- Iglesias Says EU Risking Right-Wing Backlash With Greek Pressure (BBG)
- Student-Loan Surge Undercuts Millennials’ Place in U.S. Economy (BBG)
- Majors’ Quandary: Why Drill for Oil When They Can Buy Somebody Else’s? (WSJ)
Greece must pay $3.8 billion to the IMF over the course of the next month and most analysts believe they will not be in a position to do so unless they can access the outstanding $7.2 billion in funds that form part of the existing program. Ukraine have also been flirting with a default.
Following The Guardian's report that ISIS leadder Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi had received serious "life-threatening" injuries during a US-led airstrike in March; in what could deal a severe jolt to the extremist organization, Radio Iran has claimed that the ISIS caliph has died.
- Nepal earthquake toll crosses 3700 (Reuters)
- Greeks Add Pressure on Tsipras to Compromise as Talks Resume (BBG)
- With No Deal on Greek Bailout Aid in Sight, Some in Europe Suggest ‘Plan B’ (WSJ)
- BOJ Shouldn’t Ease Further; Yen Fell Enough: Business Lobby Head (BBG)
- Clinton Foundation admits making mistakes on taxes (Reuters)
- Here’s the Old Nemesis Starting to Spook Bond Traders Again (BBG)
- Deutsche Bank to Trim Investment Banking (WSJ)
- China’s Stocks Rise to Seven-Year High on SOE Merger Speculation (BBG)
While sentiment towards gold in the West is abysmal - even as gold languishes at record lows when adjusted for inflation - Asian demand remains insatiable. It would be wise for investors to inform themselves as to why this should be so. Demand for gold in Asia is often written off by Westerners as an irrational impulse of uneducated Asian peasant farmers and workers.
"I have no way of imagining what the United States will be like in your adulthood and yet I can sense that this country is changing in unsettling ways... Stretch anything far enough and it’ll begin to tear, fragment, break apart. That, I suspect, may be a reasonable summary of what’s been happening in our twenty-first-century world. Under stress, things are beginning to crack open... Though you don’t know it yet, you’re already living in an increasingly lopsided world whose stresses only seem to be multiplying. This has been true for the return of plutocracy...It certainly doesn’t look like the American world I’d want to turn over to you."
A little over four years after the devastating Japanese earthquake led to a tsunami that triggered the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, overnight Asia was once again the epicenter of a massive, 7.9 magnitude earthquake, this time not on the Pacific Rim but deep in the Himalayan mountain range, striking the small country of Nepal and sending tremors deep in Northern India, resulting in at least 449 deaths, countless injured, toppling a 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and triggering avalanches on Mount Everest.