Online Grocer Debuts “Fruit-Picking Robot” In Latest Blow To Minimum Wage Proponents

In the latest sign that low-skill jobs are doomed to the inevitable, detrimental effects of technological advancements, particularly in era of politicians relentlessly fighting for higher minimum wages, an online grocer in Britain, Ocada, has debuted a prototype of a robotic arm that can pick fruit off an assembly line just like a human worker. Per a report from BBC, the fruit and vegetable picker is part of a five-year, EU-funded collaboration between five European universities and Disney, called Soma (Soft Manipulation).
Currently, all of Ocado’s customer orders are bagged on an assembly line at a warehouse in Andover, Hampshire by 1,000s of human hands. But that may be all about to change as Ocado’s technology looks to combine it’s robotic human hand with computer vision and the ability to actually pick fruit and vegetables according to ripeness.
“People have tried suction cups, robot hands with three fingers… What we are trying to do is to actually mimic the human hand.”
“The gripper is based on air pressure, which controls the movement of the robotic fingers.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Why February May Be An Ugly Month For Markets: Here Are BofA’s “Danger Signals”

With the S&P500 ending January on the back foot, more pain may be in store for markets in February.
This is the observation of BofA’s chief technician Stephen Suttmeyer, who provides several danger signals why bulls may want to be particularly cautious ahead of the coming months.
As he notes, the post-Presidential Election S&P 500 rally has done better than the post-Brexit rally, but there are warning signs moving into February just as there were coming off the mid-August post-Brexit S&P 500 peak.
These include complacent VXV/VIX and put/call ratios, a bearish divergence for the US most active advance-decline line, and a Net Tab sell signal. In addition, there is the risk of a weaker
February based on seasonals and the US Presidential Cycle Year 1 pattern going back to 1928. A close below 1.17 on the VXV/VIX as well as a cross for VIM Distribution above VIM Accumulation would increase the risk for following weaker February seasonals.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Gold Gets A Leg Up on the Trump Dump in Stocks

Blame Trump’s weekend travel ban shenanigans.
Blame the market gods.
Or those damn algos…
But we know the real culprit behind yesterday’s market slide:

We would accuse President Obama of having a hand in this mess. But he left for vacation more than a week ago. So we’re going to have to instead chastise the financial press for this epic market jinx…
Thanks a lot, Barrons.
Just weeks removed from the financial mag’s Dow 20,000 cover and we’re graced with this doozy.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on January 31, 2017.

In Latest Scandal, Le Pen’s Main Rival Accused Of Getting Wife, Children Jobs Paying 1 Million

Last week we reported that in the aftermath of a report by the Canard Enchaine newspaper, French financial prosecutors had launched an informal probe into possible misuse of public funds by French presidential frontrunner Francois Fillon, who was accused of paying his wife around 500,000 over a period of ten years.
Now one week later, the man who is expected – according to public polls whose reputation over the past year has hit rock bottom – to defeat Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election’s runoff round, was hit with a fresh scandal, after a new report by the same satirical newspaper alleged that Fillon got his wife and two of his children jobs that paid nearly 1 million euros.
According to the report, Penelope Fillon worked as his parliamentary aide for longer than he has admitted and was paid 331,000 more euros for the role than it originally reported. In the new Canard report, the candidate’s wife was paid more for that job than it wrote in its edition last week, reaching a total of 831,440 euros ($897,456) gross. Additionally, two of Fillon’s five children were employed as parliamentary assistants, earning a further 84,000 euros, the report alleged. Le Canard has also written that Penelope Fillon was paid another 100,000 euros for a job at a cultural magazine.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

China Sets the Stage to Replace the U.S. as Global Trade Leader

Saturday marked the Lunar New Year, the most important date in the Chinese calendar. It’s also the start of the longest holiday at two weeks, during which the largest mass migration of humans occurs every year as families reunite and go on vacations, both domestic and overseas.
2017 is the year of the 10th Chinese zodiac, the fire rooster, one of whose lucky colors is gold. Year-to-date, gold – the metal, not the color – is up 3.5 percent, which is below the 5.7 percent it had gained so far around this time last year. Unfortunately, gold prices won’t find support from Chinese traders this week, as markets will be closed in observance of the new year. If you remember, the yellow metal had one of its worst one-day slumps of 2016 back in October during China’s Golden Week, when markets were similarly closed.
But there are other opportunities to get excited about. More than 3 billion trips are expected to take place domestically this year – 58 million by air alone. That’s up from 55 million last year and is equivalent to the combined populations of Texas, Ohio and New York. China Southern Airlines, the largest carrier in Asia, added as many as 3,600 flights to accommodate the demand.
As disposable incomes rise in the worlds second-largest economy, travelers are more inclined to take their new year celebrations outside the country. This year, 6 million Chinese tourists are expected to travel abroad and spend more than $14 billion in 147 destinations, the U. S. included. As I’ve mentioned before, China is home to some of thebiggest overseas spenders, with 128 million people spending a whopping $292 billion in 2015 alone.
Betting on China’s Surging Middle Class
A theme I’ve written and spoken about frequently is the emergence of new investment opportunities as more and more Chinese citizens join the middle class and build disposable incomes. The size of the Asian giant’s middle class has already exceeded that of America’s. Looking ahead 10 years, the number of Chinese households with incomes over $35,000 is now expected to surge 300 percent, from 40 million today to 160 million by 2025. That projection can be found in a January report from Oxford Economics, which points out that these new middle-class Chinese consumers ‘will demand more of the services and higher-end products that American companies export.’

This post was published at GoldSeek on 31 January 2017.

Donald Trump Has a Goldman Sachs Problem: Derivatives

In the midst of being skewered across media outlets yesterday for his chaotic rollout of an Executive Order that appeared to target Muslims, including those legally living in the U. S. as businessmen, doctors, university faculty and students – who were initially denied reentry after travel abroad – President Donald Trump tried desperately to change the subject. Following a plunge of over 200 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday, Trump pivoted to something he thought would please his financial backers on Wall Street. He called the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 by the Obama administration a ‘disaster’ and promised to ‘do a big number’ on it soon. The Dow closed down 122 points – now wary of Trump’s fire-ready-aim leadership on complex matters.
The legitimate fear across Wall Street right now is that Trump’s zero-vetting approach to rule-by-Executive-Order could leave Wall Street in the same chaotic state as the airports experienced from his ham-fisted approach to immigration.
But it’s not just Trump that Wall Street needs to fear: it’s Goldman Sachs as well. Trump has stuffed his administration with so many Goldman Sachs progeny that his administration is now regularly referred to as Government Sachs.
Goldman Sachs has a unique vested interest in repealing chunks of Dodd-Frank while making sure that the Glass-Steagall Act is not reinstated. That’s because when it comes to derivatives, Goldman Sachs is keeping a lot of secrets.

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on January 31, 2017.

Gold Up, World Equity Markets Under Pressure, From Trump Uncertainty

World stock markets were mostly weaker and tried to stabilize Tuesday after the sharp sell-off in U. S. and European equities on Monday. Asian stock markets followed on Tuesday by trading lower. Markets in China are still closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. U. S. stock indexes are pointed toward weaker openings when the New York day session begins.
Gold prices are posting good gains Tuesday morning, on safe-haven demand amid the world stock market selling pressure.
The world marketplace is still uneasy regarding executive moves the new U. S. president has made. President Donald Trump on Monday fired the acting U. S. attorney general when she refused to support his immigration ban. This seemingly growing uncertainty, including related world stock market weakness, is a mildly bullish element for the safe-haven gold market.
In overnight news, Euro zone gross domestic product in the fourth quarter was up 0.5% from the third quarter and was up 1.8%, year-on-year. Those numbers were just above market expectations. The Euro zone January consumer price index was up 1.8% versus up 1.1% in December.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on January 31, 2017.

Is A US-German Trade War Imminent?

In the aftermath of the stunning statement by Trump‘s top trade advisor, Peter Navarro, who indirectly warned that a currency, and therefore, trade war with Europe may be imminent after he told the FT what everyone else knows but is unwilling to admit, namely that Germany is using a ‘grossly undervalued’ euro to which was like an ‘implicit Deutsche Mark’ whose low valuation gave Germany “an advantage over its main partners”, analysts are asking if this is the precursor to a third front in Trump’s currency wars, which most recently included China and Mexico.
While one look at the rising European currency reserves driven by the soaring current account surplus, mostly out of Germany, suggests that Navarro’s allegation that Germany is a currency manipulator does have some validity. But isolating the problem is only the first step: a full blown trade war with Europe, or Germany, would have profound consequences not just for the two counterparts, but the rest of the world.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Here’s Why Dow 20,000 Is Meaningless

Central Bank intervention in the markets has completely destroyed the stock market’s value as a reflector of economic activity and business profitability. Rather, like the mainstream media, the stock market has become little more than propaganda tool used in an effort to manage public perception.
I was fooling around with some charts and discovered something interesting. Of the 30 stocks in the Dow index, 21 of them are below to well below their all-time highs despite the fact that Dow hit the 20k milestone and a new all-time high this past week. Only 9 of the stocks are pressing an all-time high along with the Dow:
The Dow index is price-weighted somewhat arbitrarily by Dow Jones & Company, which is now owned by News Corp (Rupert Murdoch). Each stock is assigned a weighting in the index. So for instance, Goldman Sachs – for whatever reason – has been assigned a weighting of 8.16%, which is by far the highest weighting. GE on the other hand has been assigned a weighting of 1.03%. What this means is that if both stocks move up in price by the same percentage, GS has a nearly 8x greater affect on the move in the Dow index than GE.

This post was published at Investment Research Dynamics on January 30, 2017.

Silver, Platinum and Palladium As Safe Havens – Reassessing Their Role

Precious Metals As Safe Havens – Reassessing Their Role
New research confirms that not just gold but also the other precious metals – silver, platinum and palladium bullion – act as safe havens, especially from ‘Economic Policy Uncertainty.’ This is something that is particularly prevalent today due to the ‘Hard Brexit’ impact on the UK and the Eurozone, risk of trade wars and heightened financial and geopolitical risk under the Trump Presidency.
In their just released paper, Reassessing the Role of Precious Metals As Safe Havens – What Colour Is Your Haven and Why?, Dr Brian Lucey and Sile Li, of Trinity College Dublin and Trinity Business School, examine the ‘safe haven properties versus equities and bonds of four precious metals (gold, silver, platinum and palladium) across eleven countries.’

This post was published at Gold Core on January 31, 2017.

Merkel Responds To Trump Trade War Charge

Following Peter Navarro’s accusations of German manipulation of the euro (and the surge in the EUR relative to the USD), Angela Merkel has responded by explaining implicitly ‘it’s not my fault. Noting that she “can’t change the situation with respect monetary policy” (so blame Draghi), Merkel added she “doesn’t want to influence the euro exchange rate.” EURUSD is dropping a little on her headlines.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, asked about the euro’s exchange rate, says Germany has always supported an independent European Central Bank ‘which is why we won’t seek to exert influence over the ECB.’
‘I neither want to nor can I do something to change the situation.’ The reaction was a modest drop in EURUSD…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Is the Gold Market Finally ready to breakout?

If pleasures are greatest in anticipation, just remember that this is also true of trouble.
Elbert Hubbard
Throughout 2016, we stated we did not expect much from Gold, and we stuck to this forecast, even though many experts went out of their way to report that Gold was ready to soar to the Moon or even to the next Galaxy. In fact, since 2011, we have continuously said that until the Trend turns positive, it would be best to play other lucrative markets, such as the general equities market, the US dollar, etc. During this time several experts stated that Gold was ready to surge and some issued insane targets ranging from $20,000-$50,000. Under no circumstance can we ever see Gold going to $20,000 or $50,000 and even if drank a whole bottle of scotch or any other toxic compound it would still be very hard to visualise such a target. Issuing such targets is perfect for fear mongering, and we find that tactic to be unpleasant and distasteful.
You would think that experts would try to release targets that made some sense. After all, Gold has not even traded past $2,000, so it makes one wonder how any individuals with a shred of common sense could issue a target of over $5,000. Even this target is quite high, and we only envision it being struck under extreme conditions. Don’t fixate on these preposterous targets for such targets are only for those who live in Lala land and have plenty of time to ponder over rubbish. Gold would need to trade past $1990 on a monthly basis to indicate significantly higher prices. Until that occurs, focus on targets that are below $2,000.
Having said that Gold has for the time in many years issued a confluence of bullish signals. The trend is still neutral but moving closer and closer to the bullish zone.
Let’s examine these bullish factors
Panic in the Gold Camp; we spotted a surge in frustration in the Gold camp when Gold traded below 1200 after creating the illusion that It was ready to take off in Nov 2016; this frustration soared when it broke below 1150, and it reached a screeching point when it traded below 1130
Many Technical Indicators, including several of our custom indicators are trading in the extremely oversold ranges on the weekly charts. Weekly charts, infers that each bar on the chart represents one week’s worth of data

This post was published at GoldSeek on 30 January 2017.

Case-Shiller Home Prices Reach Record High In November (Right Before Rates Exploded Higher)

The good news – US home prices have never, ever, been higher according to Case-Shiller.
‘With the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index rising at about 5.5% annual rate over the last two-and-a-half years and having reached a new all-time high recently, one can argue that housing has recovered from the boom-bust cycle that began a dozen years ago,’ says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. ‘The recovery has been supported by a few economic factors: low interest rates, falling unemployment, and consistent gains in per-capita disposable personal income. Thirty-year fixed rate mortgages dropped under 4.5% in 2011 and have only recently shown hints of rising above that level. The unemployment rate at 4.7% is close to the Fed’s full employment target. Inflation adjusted per capita personal disposable income has risen at about a 2.5% annual rate for 30 months.
The bad news – that was November’s data.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Thousands Of Google Employees Protest Trump Order; Top Tech Companies To Join Legal Action

The US tech industry “resistance” to Trump is growing louder, and on Tuesday a group of top technology companies including Google, AirBnB and Netflix, plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss filing an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit challenging President Trump’s order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, said a spokesperson for a company organizing the gathering cited by Reuters. The meeting is being called together by GitHub, which makes software development tools.
For those unfamiliar, amicus, or “friend of the court”, briefs are filed by parties who are not litigants in a case but want to offer arguments or information to the judge. In other words, tech companies do not want to burn all bridges with the president, but they don’t want to lose their liberal clients either by being perceived as doing nothing, something which impacted Uber adversely over the weekend, leading to the #DeleteUber social media meme.
As Reuters adds, some of the companis invited to the meeting are Alphabet’s Google, Airbnb and Netflix.
As reported yesterday, the technology sector has become the clearest corporate opponent to the ban announced last week, however not due to a genuinely altruistic reason, but because Trump’s crackdown on H1-B visas threatens to cutoff a key labor supply. The industry depends on talent from around the world, and companies have been considering the best way to muster their resources, with efforts so far including statements condemning the move and financial support for organizations backing immigrants, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to Michal Rosenn, general counsel for fundraising company Kickstarter, which will be involved in a filing, the “effort” – which at places like Bloomberg has already been dubbed the “resistance” – began on Monday. “We’re all very shaken. We’re shaken to see our neighbors and our families and our friends targeted in this way,” Rosenn said. “All of us are trying to think about what we can do.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Gold after Trump: How Gold Performed in 2016 and Price Forecast for 2017

We started 2016 with a strong gold price rally. It continued to grow for almost 6 months before the price started to stabilize. As with other trends on the market, gold price quickly entered a stall once everyone started to jump on the wagon.
***
The recent U. S. Presidential Election, as well as other factors, will continue to influence the price of gold in 2017. Before you look at the price forecast, however, let’s take a closer look at some of the most prominent factors that influenced gold prices across 2016.

This post was published at GoldSilverWorlds on January 31, 2017.

Dallas Fed Gives The Best Forecast Of What The Trump Economy Will Look Like

One of the least convoluted, most insightful and thus best forecasts of what the first few months of the Trump administration will look like, came from one of the respondents of today’s Dallas Fed manufacturing survey. This is what the respondent said:
President Trump looks to do things that will be favorable for business, which would improve employment and growth if successful. However, protesters are all over the place, so I tend to think that will cause trouble for the country and for business.
Those 42 words, with a sufficient margin of error on either side, pretty much summarize everything that will happen in the next 6-12 months: a push to improve the economic growth (perhaps leading to overstimulation and a Fed that is far behind the inflationary curve, resulting in a sharp move higher in rates), offset by protesters who are “all over the place.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Is Italy’s Banking Problem Becoming Too Big to Solve?

They said it was contained, but now it hit the largest bank. Ever since the European Commission and ECB jointly decided that Italy’s government could bend EU banking rules out of all recognition in order to bail out the country’s third largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Europe’s financial stocks have been on a tear. But the good times were brought to a grinding halt Monday after Italy’s largest bank, Unicredit, which employs 55,000 people in 17 countries, announced losses for 2016 of 11.8 billion.
By the bank’s logic, it would have announced profits if it hadn’t had to write off 12.2 billion, including billions of euros of non-performing loans (NPLs) festering on its balance sheets.
But it got worse. In the registration document for its pending recapitalization, published on its website today, Unicredit also announced that its capital ratios at the end of 2016 might fall short of ECB requirements. It was enough to prompt a 5.45% slide in its shares. As detected in the ECB’s latest stress test, Unicredit already had the slimmest capital buffer of all Europe’s Global Systemically Important Banks (G-SIBs). And it just got slimmer.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Jan 30, 2017.

Mnuchin Dashes Banker Hopes That Prop Trading Is Coming Back

What a difference a week makes.
On January 23, Reuters reported that dialing back the Volcker Rule which limits banks’ ability to engage in speculative investments using their own balance sheet, has emerged a top priority for President Donald Trump’s nominee for U. S. Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. In written responses to questions posed by members of the U. S. Senate Finance Committee, Mnuchin said he would use his role as head of the interagency Financial Stability Oversight Council to give the Volcker Rule a stricter definition of proprietary trading.
At issue is the Volcker Rule, a contentious provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that sought to prevent lenders from putting federally-insured deposits at risk through wagers on stocks, bonds and other assets.
“As Chair of FSOC I would plan to address the issue of the definition of the Volcker Rule to make sure that banks can provide the necessary liquidity for customer markets and address the issues in the Fed report,” Mnuchin wrote in the document, which also included senators’ questions and was verified by a Senate aide.
According to Reuters, Mnuchin also said that “regulators have applied proprietary trading prohibitions to too many activities” adding that “In the responses Mnuchin also made it clear he believes the rule should only apply to “a bank that benefits from federal deposit insurance.” The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation guarantees retail deposits at about 6,000 banks, including the consumer banking arms of the country’s largest investment banks.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 31, 2017.

Is the CIA Responsible for Creating the EU?

The new conspiracy theory running around claims that the European Union was a CIA project. This serious misconception misses the entire point. It is very true that the idea of the EU was supported by the United States since World War II. However, the U. S. supported the idea of the EU as a trade union that could support NATO during the Cold War. However, the idea of federalizing Europe came, not from the United States, but from France. It was de Gaulle who blocked Britain from joining the EU because he wanted France to dominate Europe. It was de Gaulle who broke Bretton Woods by buying up dollars and redeeming them for gold to make France the economic power of Europe. Britain was only allowed to join the EU upon de Gaulle’s death.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Jan 31, 2017.