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For the week 7/25-7/29
[Posted 11:30 PM ET, Friday]
Note: StocksandNews has significant ongoing costs. Your support is greatly appreciated. Click on the gofundme link above or send a check to PO Box 990, New Providence, NJ 07974. *Special thanks to Jim D. this week.
*Equal time for the Democrats, though after watching both parties now the past two weeks, I’m voting for the two former governors instead, Johnson and Weld. Long-time readers know me well. I couldn’t be more disgusted by the choice being presented us and I am particularly aghast at how since locking up the Republican nomination, Donald Trump has regressed beyond belief.
As for this past week, I watched at least the final hour of each night and saw all the key speeches. I’m tired from staying up past my bedtime on Wednesday and Thursday, school nights, no less.
I do have to note before summarizing the key events, however, that if you recognize how critical foreign policy is in this election, there was one consistent, albeit very short message coming from both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. As the president said on Wednesday:
“We brought more of our troops home to their families, and delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. Through diplomacy, we shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could save this planet for our kids.”
That was it. Really. You can look it up.
Improved relations with Russia and China? Nope. Nothing to say there.
A stable situation in Iraq, which is what President George W. Bush left Obama nearly eight years ago? Nope. Nothing to say there; the Rise of ISIS happening on one’s watch not exactly being a resume stuffer.
Peace in Syria? Nope. Can’t talk about 400,000 dead, 380,000 of which are the direct responsibility of President Obama, as I’ve proved over and over again.
A solid ally in Turkey? Nope. See Syria...and August 2012 when it was “GM is alive and bin Laden is dead” and screw setting up a no-fly zone as the Turks were asking for help with because we had an election to win.
Hordes of migrants from the instability in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia, destabilizing Europe and leading to an ongoing series of terror attacks and looming political crises? Nope. Nothing to say there.
Giving Ukraine simple defensive weapons to help defend themselves against Vlad the Impaler? Nope. Nothing to say there. Can’t rile up the Kremlin.
It’s tragic...and sad.
And in looking at the future, scary as hell.
Lastly, in his speech about his dear wife, Hillary, whom he has been madly in love with since 1971, wouldn’t you know, Bill Clinton had this line:
“You can drop her in any trouble spot and come back in a month and somehow she will make it better.”
Really, he said that. I hate when politicians treat us like chumps.
Democratic National Convention
The Democrats’ big week in Philadelphia kicked off in chaotic fashion, with the publishing by WikiLeaks of some of the DNC’s email archives that showed DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who I have written for years was a rather loathsome individual, showing what we all knew, that her team had its thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton from day one, as they sought to undermine Bernie Sanders’ effort in a most nasty fashion.
Various Democratic Party officials blamed Russia for the hack*, with the FBI saying it was investigating. Wasserman Schultz was forced to resign before she could gavel in the convention. Sanders supporters booed many of Monday’s speakers. But most felt Michelle Obama nailed it.
*The hacking activity has spread to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign data / data analytics.
John Podhoretz / New York Post
“(Michelle Obama’s speech) was so good, and so skilled in the way it went at Donald Trump with a scalpel while never mentioning his name, that it threatens to overshadow (Clinton’s) own acceptance speech on Thursday night.
“It wasn’t just the fact that (Clinton’s) name was lustily booed every time it was mentioned by Bernie Sanders diehards, though that was bad. It wasn’t just that the enthusiasm displayed for Sanders when he finally emerged at 10:50 p.m. may dwarf the response she receives on Thursday....
“Most problematically, Bernie Sanders’ wild speech directly associated Hillary Clinton with his own far-left positions when he claimed she would fight for his agenda as president – positions like universal health care and the ‘public option,’ which is code for an unambiguously socialist single-payer system. He basically said he was endorsing Hillary with the understanding that Hillary had transmuted herself into him.
“He declared that this election is about fighting income inequality, because that’s his cause – and while Hillary has certainly spoken of it, it is not hers....
“(In) fighting off the Trump challenge, Hillary’s best play is to make him seem extreme and make herself seem reasonable – to be the calmer, more sober, less risky choice.
“Being a socialist manqué isn’t the way to achieve that aim.”
Tuesday, Bill Clinton set out to praise his wife.
Philip Rucker and Karen Tumulty / Washington Post
“Bill Clinton harked back to the spring of 1971, when he was a love-struck young man from Arkansas smitten by the brainy blonde he spotted across a law-school classroom.
“ ‘We’ve been walking and talking and laughing together ever since,’ the former president said of the woman he would marry. ‘We’ve done it in good times and bad, through joy and heartbreak.... We built up a lifetime of memories.’
“The clear takeaway was intended to be that Hillary Clinton makes things better. She makes people’s lives better. She has made his life better....
“ ‘Always making things better,’ he said, adding: ‘She’s the best darn change maker I’ve ever met in my entire life.’”
Michael Goodwin / New York Post
“Here’s a fact to chew on: Much of Day Two at the convention was spent trying to humanize Hillary Clinton. After 25 years in public life, she feels the need to tell us she cares.
“A parade of speakers warmed up the crowd by telling stories about her compassion, some of it very long ago. Getting money for New Yorkers after 9/11, helping children get health insurance, securing health care for veterans.
“This being a coronation, the circumstances grew in grandeur with each telling, until they made her sound like Mother Teresa. She’s so profoundly kind and tireless and honest and so full of grace, ‘she defies gravity.’
“But wait, there’s more – she’s tough, too. Single-handedly, she practically made peace in the Mideast, forged progress on climate change, and forced Iran to the negotiating table.
“If that superhuman doesn’t sound like the Hillary you know, or the world as you know it, well, Bill Clinton showed up to swear it was all true, and then some....
“Hours after she became the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major party, America had to be reminded that she was both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.
“The only possible reason is that the Clintons’ jubilation is mixed with fear. The polls are telling a terrifying story – Donald Trump really could win.
“One of the reasons is the rising tide of Americans who don’t trust Hillary, a full 68 percent in a recent survey. It is a trend that is potentially fatal to her quest. Hence the desperate bid to humanize her, to make her more trustworthy by telling people why they should admire her.”
Maureen Dowd / New York Times
“Starting tonight and through the fall as he (Bill) tries to woo back white voters and older voters in the Rust Belt and the South, he is trying to conjure the halcyon days of Clinton peace and prosperity. He does not want to remind people of the shady days of Clinton avarice and deceit, or the parts of his presidency or post-presidency that haven’t aged well, like Nafta, the crime bill, deregulation of Wall Street and the Defense of Marriage Act, the Marc Rich pardon or the unseemly braiding of the Clinton Foundation with Hillary’s State Department.”
Wednesday night, President Barack Obama sought to elevate Hillary Clinton as a tested leader at a time of global peril.
“Nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office,” said Obama in the keynote address. “You don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war. But Hillary’s been in the room. She’s been part of those decisions.”
Other speakers Wednesday, such as Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as current VP candidate Tim Kaine, blistered Trump as a reckless businessman with no knowledge of world affairs and a seeming disinterest in learning what he doesn’t know.
Bloomberg said: “The bottom line is: Trump is a risky, reckless and radical choice. And we can’t afford to make that choice. I know Hillary Clinton is not flawless, no candidate is. But she is the right choice, and the responsible choice, in this election....
“There are times when I disagree with Hillary. But whatever our disagreements may be, I’ve come here to say, we must put them aside for the good of our country. We must unite around the candidate who can defeat a dangerous demagogue.”
John Podhoretz / New York Post
“After two days of tacking entirely left, Democrats finally tried to reach out Wednesday night to undecided voters – and had to contend with Bernie Sanders Democrats who booed down former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and sought to interrupt VP candidate Tim Kaine and current VP Joe Biden with chants against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
“Those boos and interruptions were meaningful because their purpose was precisely to warn Hillary Clinton against any pivot to the center – to threaten her with the possibility that the slightest betrayal of the Sanders agenda might lead a significant number of the 13 million Sanders voters to stay home, or vote for third-party candidates or even Donald Trump.
“The threat is so meaningful that in his masterly concluding speech, President Obama made a direct appeal and challenge to those who are implicitly making it: ‘If you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport.’
“The threat is real. The polls tell the tale. Trump is now leading in the Real Clear Politics average following a significant convention bounce preceded and amplified by the slapdown of Hillary by FBI Director James Comey for her disgracefully careless handling of classified government information.
“If these polls aren’t a transitory thing, Hillary Clinton has become the underdog in this race. Which means she’ll need those Sanders voters and the undecided voters the Sanders voters don’t want her to pivot toward. They want to make sure her presidency follows Bernie’s unambiguously leftist course rather than her own soft-left approach.
“The undecided voting numbers in some polls are staggering – ranging from 13 to 24 percent. These are people unhappy with the choices they’ve been offered in the two most unpopular national politicians ever to run against each other.
“So there’s a lot of opportunity there for Hillary. But she’s got a Sanders-sized ball-and-chain attached to her leg.”
George F. Will / Washington Post
“Clinton’s selection of Virginia’s former governor and current senator, Tim Kaine, represents the rare intersection of good politics and good governance. He increases her chance of winning the 13 electoral votes of his state, which has voted with the presidential winner in four consecutive elections and seven of the past nine. He, like she, has been an executive, so perhaps experience has inoculated him against the senatorial confusion between gestures and governing.
“There probably is no Democratic governor or senator more palatable than Kaine to constitutional conservatives. Such conservatives are eager to bring presidential power back within constitutional constraints, and Kaine is among the distressingly small minority of national legislators interested in increased congressional involvement in authorizing the use of military force. And as a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, Kaine can, if their paths ever cross on the campaign trail, patiently try to help Trump decipher the acronym NATO.”
Chris Cillizza / Washington Post, on Wednesday’s winners and losers:
“Joe Biden: The vice president did three things extremely well in his speech on Wednesday night: (1) Told his own story of loss and perseverance; (2) offered a full-throated testimonial on behalf of Hillary Clinton; and (3) smashed Donald Trump; ‘no major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has ever been less prepared,’ Biden said.
“He did more than that, too. Sensing that this was almost certainly a swan song for him in front of this sort of audience on a national stage, Biden delivered a powerful defense of the middle class and of the unique ability of Americans to overcome even the most difficult challenges. It was quintessential Biden – a fundamental rejection of the dark vision of the United States offered by Trump in favor of the come-on-this-is-America spirit that the longtime Delaware senator personifies.
“The total package was absolutely outstanding – a speech only rivaled at this convention by first lady Michelle Obama’s address.
“Barack Obama: This was not a speech that will make it into the pantheon of Obama’s best addresses. Obama is still better at selling himself than he is serving as a surrogate for someone else....
“But, Obama at 75% is still a better speech-giver than almost anyone else on the planet. He was gracious – sharing credit with Clinton for the decision to go after Osama bin Laden. He was biting and tough on Trump, dismissing him as a ‘self-described savior.’ And Obama made a stirring case for American exceptionalism and the enduring power of the American experiment; ‘America is already great,’ he said at one point. ‘America is already strong.’”
“Tim Kaine: The vice presidential nominee delivered a totally competent speech, introducing himself to a convention hall and a country that, largely, didn’t (and doesn’t) know him, touting Clinton’s credentials for the top job and attacking Trump. But, that same speech contained a few groan-worthy lines – ‘We should all feel the Bern and not get burned by the other guy’ – and too much ‘hey, do you remember’ sort of phrasing. Also, please, Senator Kaine, never do the Trump impersonation again. I beg you.”
In her acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton repeatedly slammed Donald Trump as unfit and someone who “loses his cool at the slightest provocation.” And addressing his narcissim:
“Don’t believe anyone who says ‘I alone can fix it,’” she said. “Americans don’t say: ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say: ‘We’ll fix it together.’”
Clinton highlighted her immediate priorities, including a large increase in infrastructure spending, an immigration overhaul, new gun restrictions, paid family leave and subsidies to make public college tuition-free for most families; funding her plans with taxes on Wall Street and the “super rich.”
Earlier, Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim U.S. soldier from Virginia who was killed in Iraq, said:
“Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending United States of America. You’ll see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing.”
John Podhoretz / New York Post
“(Hillary Clinton’s speech) was a Jell-O mold of a sort my Aunt Millie used to make – blandly gelatinous in flavor and texture with little pieces of boilerplate left-liberal policy suspended in it like peach chunks from a three-week-old can. I can’t think of another one of these events when the presidential candidate’s acceptance address ended up solidly in the running for the more-than-dubious honor of being the worst speech of the convention.
“I’d quote the bad parts, but since it was almost all bad parts I couldn’t decide which one. I’d even quote the good lines to be fair, only there weren’t any....
“After losing her lead in the poll averages to Donald Trump and after the FBI director indicted her in spirit if not in fact, Hillary needed to rise to the occasion, simply as a practical political matter.
“She needed to win over undecided voters with a new eloquence she had not shown previously, establish the place she would wish her presidency to secure in the flow of American history, do something to convince people she’s trustworthy...and come across as likable....
“(But) she blew it.
“She spoke in her patented da-DA da-DA ta-TA cadence, which makes every sentence sound like every other. What is more, she looked more angry than determined and seemed in no way transformed into a larger or more impressive figure due to her historic accomplishment at securing her party’s nomination and very possibly the presidency itself.”
Editorial / Wall Street Journal
“Democrats in Philadelphia extolled Hillary Rodham Clinton as a tireless warhorse with a lifetime of hard experience who also happens to be fresh and modern and historic. The contradiction shows how hard it is to sell a candidate who has been a national figure for 25 years when the public wants change....
“Mrs. Clinton has been clear. She wants to serve as Mr. Obama’s political and policy heir, as she and he now admit. This won’t mean ‘change’ unless the Clintons have an unusual personal definition of that word, as they do for ‘classified material.’ A de facto third Obama term will mean the status quo, only more of it.
“Also changeless will be Mrs. Clinton’s political and private character. Voters have seen enough of this national figure since 1992 to understand how she cuts ethical corners and then stonewalls and dissembles when discovered. This is why some 68% of the country believes she isn’t honest or trustworthy...
“Democrats this week have made a theme of her experience on foreign policy, and the Commander in Chief test is an advantage given Mr. Trump’s lack of knowledge and mercurial temperament. But what genuine achievements can she point to? As New York Senator, Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war in 2003, then tried to prevent the 2007 surge when the political tide ran out. As Secretary of State, she helped to lead Mr. Obama’s global retreat, which has left the world more dangerous than any time since the Cold War ended....
“Mrs. Clinton’s instincts are more hawkish than Mr. Obama’s, and we would hope that as President she’d steer towards a more prudent realism. But she might also continue the opportunism she has shown on trade, abandoning the Pacific pact she helped craft to placate her liberal base....
“Notwithstanding her invocation of optimism Thursday night, the sour public mood and Mrs. Clinton’s unpopularity mean that to win she will have to run an unremittingly negative campaign that disqualifies Mr. Trump as unfit for the Oval Office. Americans may well decide that he isn’t worth the risk. But though false hope springs eternal, they shouldn’t underestimate the risks of a third Obama-Clinton term.”
Editorial / Los Angeles Times
“Finally, it seems, the promise that has been made to generations of girls – that they too could grow up to be president – may become more than a meaningless platitude.
“This has been a long, long time in coming. Other nations, beginning in the 1960s, have had female leaders – India’s Indira Gandhi, Israel’s Golda Meir and later Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet and Germany’s Angela Merkel, to name a few. Currently, there are at least 18 nations led by women....
“Now, there’s a woman in the final stretch of the biggest race. A supremely qualified, well-prepared woman with decades of public service experience....
“The reality is that political leadership in this country is still overwhelmingly a man’s world. Women are underrepresented from the lowest levels of government up to the White House....
“That is true in California as well. For all the state’s progressive leanings and even though it has two female senators, no woman has ever served as governor. Only about a quarter of California’s legislators are women....
“It’s no secret that female candidates often have been required to withstand intense scrutiny and questions about their legitimacy even if, as in the case of Clinton, they are manifestly qualified for the job. And it is important to remember that even if a woman is elected president this year, that won’t mean that discrimination against women has become a thing of the past – any more than the election of President Obama meant an end to racial injustice.
“So let’s take a moment to celebrate this moment, even if it isn’t the big prize in November. It matters, because every step forward makes it likelier that the next woman will reach the finish line.”
Wednesday, during a news conference, Donald Trump said that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, thus encouraging an adversarial foreign power’s cyberspying.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Immediately, Jake Sullivan, Mrs. Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser, said: “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence vowed there would be “serious consequences” if the FBI determines Russia is behind recent hacking attempts and is meddling in the Nov. 8 election. “If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.”
But Pence added: “That said, the Democrats singularly focusing on who might be behind it and not addressing the basic fact that they’ve been exposed as a party who not only rigs the government, but rigs elections while literally accepting cash for federal appointments is outrageous.”
A spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan responded to Trump’s remarks: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
Editorial / Wall Street Journal
“Will someone – calling Ivanka – please tell Donald Trump that Vladimir Putin is no friend of America, or for that matter of Donald Trump? An intervention is needed after the Republican’s mouth-in-foot press conference Wednesday in which he invited Russia to turn over Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails from her private server....
“The man who is representing millions of Republican voters between now and November added, when given a chance to reconsider, that ‘If Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.’ So would we, and everyone else in the media if they’re honest, but that doesn’t mean a presidential candidate should appear to invite a Kremlin hack....
“Mr. Trump’s comments are indefensible on their own, but they are even more concerning because they come in the context of the nominee’s seeming bromance with Mr. Putin. He’s often said he likes the authoritarian for his ability to get his way – military imperialism works that way – and the American seems to think his superior negotiating skills would outwit the strongman.
“Get over it, Donald. George W. Bush looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and found him ‘straightforward and trustworthy,’ only to have Russia invade Georgia. President Obama vowed a ‘reset’ with Russia, and Mr. Putin returned the favor by invading Ukraine and buzzing NATO jets. You don’t have to credit the conspiracy theories that Mr. Putin has something on Mr. Trump to conclude that the Republican needs a crash course in geopolitics. Even as a nominee who hasn’t been elected, his statements are followed around the world by adversaries looking for weaknesses to exploit.
“At the same time the press corps should hold Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama to the same standard. Four years ago Mr. Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney for saying that Russia was America’s foremost ‘geopolitical foe.’ Mr. Obama said the 1980s are ‘calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.’ Mr. Romney was right.
“As for Mrs. Clinton, she wasn’t merely a candidate when she exposed America’s top secrets on her private email. She was Secretary of State. She thus made herself and the U.S. vulnerable to Mr. Putin’s blackmail. That’s at least as troubling as Mr. Trump’s geopolitical illusions.”
Editorial / Washington Post
“The FBI is investigating the theft of some 20,000 emails from servers of the Democratic National Committee, even as U.S. intelligence agencies are reported to have told the White House they believe Russia is responsible. The hack and the release of the emails to the WikiLeaks website are offenses that, if traced to the regime of Vladimir Putin, would justify sanctions or other retaliation. Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence understands that: On Wednesday, he said that if Russia is ‘interfering in our elections, I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences.’
“Donald Trump, on the other hand, is inviting more such interference. ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,’ he said at a news conference, referring to messages that were deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server....
“Let’s be clear about what this means: The Republican candidate for president has invited a hostile foreign power to conduct an unlawful cyberattack against his opponent and to make public emails she deemed personal and private. Washington has been wondering whether Mr. Putin is attempting to tip the U.S. election to Mr. Trump. Now Mr. Trump is openly appealing to him to do so....
“Mr. Trump (provided) more evidence of why Mr. Putin might be eager to support him. After repeating his disparagements of the NATO alliance, he was asked if his administration would lift sanctions on Russia and recognize its annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that it invaded and occupied in 2014. ‘We’ll be looking at that. Yeah, we’ll be looking,’ Mr. Trump responded, suggesting a stark reversal of the stance taken by the United States and its European allies. You could almost hear the champagne corks popping in the Kremlin.”
Editorial / New York Post
“Boy, did Donald Trump set off a wave of hysteria with Wednesday’s offhand remark that the Russians should ‘find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing,’ referring to the ‘personal’ e-mails that Hillary Clinton deleted before turning her home-brewed server over to the FBI.
“First off, it was a joke at Clinton’s expense – followed by another dig, this time at the media, namely that if Russia does reveal them, ‘you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.’
“Which didn’t stop a round of media and political hand-wringing to the effect that Trump had asked Moscow to intervene in the U.S. election. The New York Times, for example, quickly posted a news story that he was ‘essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power to cyberspy on a secretary of state’s correspondence.’ Dozens of headlines put it the same way.
“Um, no: He wasn’t urging anyone to hack the Clinton server now. Nobody can: It’s offline and in FBI hands.
“The danger is that it was hacked already, during those long years when it sat unprotected, and when she was carrying her also-unsecure phones and tablets along on her global travels.
“So Moscow, Beijing and/or other forces could have all the communications that the Democratic nominee was so eager to keep private. As Trump put it (before making his joke), ‘They probably have those 33,000 e-mails.’
“Maybe all 33,000 are indeed just boring chatter...
“On the other hand, Clinton was, to quote FBI chief Jim Comey, ‘extremely careless’ with classified info in her e-mails....
“(WikiLeaks) claims it has more Hillary-damning dumps ahead – conceivably, some of her 33,000 ‘deleted’ e-mails.
“The nation has to worry about that all the way to Election Day – and, if she wins, beyond. A devious enemy might opt to let Clinton take office before crippling her politically, or try to blackmail the new president.”
On Thursday, Trump said he was just being “sarcastic” with his hacking comments, but this doesn’t hold water.
Lastly, the Washington Post had a scathing editorial on Trump’s candidacy last weekend. In part:
“It has been 64 years since a major party nominated anyone for president who did not have electoral experience. That experiment turned out pretty well – but Mr. Trump, to put it mildly, is no Dwight David Eisenhower. Leading the Allied campaign to liberate Europe from the Nazis required strategic and political skills of the first order, and Eisenhower – though he liked to emphasize his common touch as he faced the intellectual Democrat Adlai Stevenson – was shrewd, diligent, humble and thoughtful.
“In contrast, there is nothing on Mr. Trump’s resume to suggest he could function successfully in Washington....Given his continuing refusal to release his tax returns, breaking with a long bipartisan tradition, it is only reasonable to assume there are aspects of his record even more discreditable than what we know. The lack of experience might be overcome if Mr. Trump saw it as a handicap worth overcoming. But he displays no curiosity, reads no books and appears to believe he needs no advice. In fact, what makes Mr. Trump so unusual is his combination of extreme neediness and unbridled arrogance. He is desperate for affirmation but contemptuous of other views. He also is contemptuous of fact....
“The (Republican) party’s failure of judgment leaves the nation’s future where it belongs, in the hands of voters. Many Americans do not like either candidate this year. We have criticized the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in the past and will do so again when warranted. But we do not believe that she (or the Libertarian and Green party candidates, for that matter) represents a threat to the Constitution. Mr. Trump is a unique and present danger.”
Some important economic data for the Eurozone (EA19):
A flash estimate for second quarter GDP came in at 0.3% vs. 0.6% in the first quarter, as reported by the EU’s statistics arm, Eurostat. This was as expected. Year-over-year GDP rose 1.6%, a tick down from Q1’s yoy of 1.7%, which compares with 1.7% for Q4 and 1.6% for Q3 2015. Ergo, pretty steady mediocrity.
The Eurozone unemployment rate for June is 10.1%, same as May and compared with 11.0% in June 2015. [And still over double that of the U.S.]
Among the key states: Germany’s jobless rate is 4.2%, France 9.9%, Italy 11.6%, Spain 19.9% (22.3% June ’15), and Greece 23.3% (April).
The youth unemployment rate is 20.8% for the EA19, but still 45.8% in Spain, 36.5% in Italy and 47.4% in Greece (April). [Eurostat]
And a flash reading on Euro area inflation for July shows it ticking up to 0.2%, annualized, from 0.1% in June, also as reported by Eurostat.
One other. Last Friday I didn’t have a chance to note some of the EA19’s government debt figures. For the Eurozone overall the figure at the end of the first quarter of 2016 was 91.7% of GDP, down from 93.0% Q1 2015.
Germany is down to 71.1%, but France is 97.5%, Spain 100.5%, Portugal 128.9%, Italy 135.4%, and Greece 176.3%. With all of Greece’s bailouts and various austerity programs, debt to GDP just continues to soar, up from 170.5% a year earlier.
A few country specifics....
France: Second-quarter GDP was stagnant, after a 0.7% increase in Q1 over Q4. The French government still expects GDP for the year of 1.5%. There was a bit of good news, though. The July CPI was up 0.4%, annualized, which is a sign of actual inflation, mon freres.
Spain: Q2 GDP was 0.7%, after 0.8% in the first quarter; both very solid though a slowdown from here is anticipated. And this without a government. [Spain still doesn’t have a formal one after two inconclusive elections, though interim Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy continues to lead.]
Germany: June consumer spending was down 0.1% over May, but up 2.7% year-over-year.
Then there is Britain and Brexit....
Next week the Bank of England is expected to lower interest rates for the first time in more than seven years as Brexit fears overwhelm both consumers and corporations; with sentiment readings crashing to lows not seen since 1990.
Once again this week you had reporters on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange saying, basically, that Brexit didn’t seem to be such a big deal, at which point I wanted to repeat, ‘The process hasn’t started yet!’
The UK reported second-quarter GDP rose 0.6%, better than the first quarter’s pace of 0.4% and up 2.2% year-over-year, but that was a pre-Brexit bounce and the early data post-vote show a “dramatic deterioration” as the BoE has pointed out. A survey of economists for Bloomberg projects growth of 1.5% for all of 2016, so a major slowdown in the second half, and just 0.6% growth in 2017.
With the expected rate cut next week, the yield on the British 10-year bond hit a record low of 0.68% on Friday (which helped influence further falls in other Euro paper, with the German 10-year at -0.12%, France 0.10%, Italy 1.16% and Spain 1.01%...in the case of Italy in particular, ignoring the aforementioned debt load).
That said, new Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury secretary) Philip Hammond chose to look on the bright side of the GDP report, saying “it is clear we enter our negotiations to leave the EU from a position of economic strength.”
One issue I’ve been writing about the past few months with regards to the U.S. is the growing pension gap. But it’s the same elsewhere, including in the UK.
Bloomberg reports: “The combined deficits of all UK defined-benefit pension schemes...rose from 820 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) to 900 billion pounds overnight following the referendum, according to pensions consultancy Hymans Robertson,” but since has grown further to a record 935 billion pounds.
And that’s because fixed income represented 47.5% of total 2014 assets for corporate pension funds, of which about three-quarters were issued by the UK government and/or sterling denominated.
So with a weaker economy looming, companies will have less to fund the gaps, threatening future payouts and creating a vicious feedback loop.
G-20 officials meeting in China last weekend are certainly worried about the Brexit process. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, “Britain’s exit from the EU has brought new complexities to the world. World economic development is at a crucial stage.” [Wall Street Journal]
An example of corporate sentiment came from discount airline king Ryanair, which in reporting terrific traffic growth and profits for the recent quarter, warned of “significant risks” coming down the line after Brexit, including further falls in fares due to uncertainty around economic growth and consumer confidence. CEO Michael O’Leary also cited the impact of terrorism.
Speaking of which, while I cover Turkey’s political crisis down below, it’s a good time to note that foreign visitors to the country fell by 41% in June, realizing initial fears over the impact of recent attacks there, including at Istanbul’s airport. It is the worst single monthly drop on record.
Overall visitor numbers in Turkey fell 28% in the first six months; the tourism sector making up just over 10% of the Turkish economy. [Financial Times]
In terms of the Eurozone, the string of attacks has led to a sharp decrease in the number of mainland Chinese tourists to the continent. It was up 32% to 4.78 million in 2015, with growth strongest among those heading to Germany and France.
But after the November 13 Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives, France issued just 320,000 visas in China in the first six months of the year, a drop of 15% from the same time last year, according to the French embassy in Beijing. Last year the number of mainland visitors to France was up 48% from 2014 to 2015. But the momentum is reversing rapidly. [South China Morning Post]
Speaking of terrorism, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a staunch defense of her policies on refugees after four recent terror attacks in Germany. Some of the attacks were by asylum seekers that she said “shamed the country that welcomed them.”
But Merkel said those fleeing places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan deserved to be protected and that Germany would “stick to our principles” in giving shelter to the deserved.
“Fear cannot be the guide for political action,” Merkel said on Thursday. “I didn’t say this was going to be simple. That we could just do it. But I am still convinced that we can do it. This is a historic test in a time of globalization.”
“The terrorists want to make us lose sight of what is important to us, break down our cohesion and...our willingness to take in people who are in need,” she added. “They sow hatred and fear between cultures and they sow hatred and fear between religions. We stand decisively against that.”
But many in Bavaria, site of the Munich terror attack that killed nine, are not happy with their chancellor, and a newspaper of Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, blasted her for opening the door to risk.
“The chancellor has subjected us to security risk with her open borders and arms,” the editorial stated. “Tens of thousands of people of fighting age who haven’t been properly registered are in our country. Of many of them, the state neither knows their proper name, nor their right age, nor their current place of residence.” [Anthony Faiola / Washington Post]
Merkel said the intelligence services would increase surveillance and work on perhaps reforming the deportation system, but she gave few details.
As for the four who perpetrated the various attacks in Germany in the span of eight days, at least two of them were inspired by ISIS, including the suicide bomber who blew himself up outside a crowded wine bar last Sunday, injuring 15. He had been trying to gain access to an open air music festival attended by 2,500 but he had been turned away because he did not have a ticket. The Syrian, Mohammad Daleel, was facing deportation to Bulgaria after being turned down twice in his attempt to seek asylum in Germany.
The other three attackers were Pakistani (the ax-attacker who claimed to be from Afghanistan), the killing of nine in Munich by a German-Iranian, and a Syrian refugee who hacked a woman to death with a machete.
Then there was France, and that sickening attack on a small church in Normandy by two men who were inspired, at least, by ISIS; slitting the throat of an elderly priest serving Mass, forcing him to kneel before they performed the act in front of a handful of parishioners.
Once again French President Francois Hollande said France was at “war” with Islamic State, but nothing happens.
A poll by BVA in France, post the Bastille Day attack in Nice, but prior to the church attack, had Hollande’s approval rating at 19%. Another survey, Ifop, had Hollande at 20%, both slight improvements, after falling to a record low of 14% in June. [And you think Trump and Hillary’s numbers are bad.]
Prime Minister Manuel Valls saw his popularity in the BVA poll at a record low for him, 24%, while his Ifop rating was 21%.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy jumped four to 24% in the BVA poll. His main rival to be the conservative Republicans’ (Les Republicains) candidate for resident, Alain Juppe, has a 42% approval rating.
Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National party, saw her rating rise three to 27%. Yes, it’s a fractured country, with the French rightfully pissed off at their leaders for failing to protect them, let alone Hollande for his failed economic policy.
Washington and Wall Street
In the States, June new home sales came in at an annualized pace of 592,000, the best since 2008, and 25% better than the June 2015 rate.
The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index showed a rise in May (it’s a laggard) of 5.2%, year-over-year, but it was down 0.1% month-to-month, though this was May and June by other housing measures was strong.
[We note the passing of economist Karl Case, 69, who died the other day. He put this index together with the great Robert Shiller.]
Separately, the latest figure on home ownership came in at 62.9% for the second quarter, the lowest since 1965!
We had a very sloppy report on June durable goods, -4.0%, and -0.5% ex-transportation. The lead figure is down 6.4% year-over-year, the weakest in four years.
And then Wednesday, the Federal Reserve wrapped up its two-day meeting and in announcing no change in interest rates, as expected, it said: “Near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished,” which had some scrambling to place their bets on a September rate hike, but as I said a while ago, no freakin’ way what with the election.
Yes, the Fed added in its statement that household spending was “growing strongly” and that economic activity was expanding at “a moderate rate,” but they aren’t moving until December, sports fans.
Now these were my thoughts before Friday’s godawful first look at second-quarter GDP, and final look at the first quarter.
Talk about ‘yuck!’ The first quarter was revised down from 1.1% to 0.8%, annualized, and the second quarter was just 1.2%, plus the fourth quarter of last year was revised down and, bottom line, these are the annualized rates of growth the past four quarters.
Q3 2015... 2.0%
Q4 2015... 0.9%
Q1 2016... 0.8%
Q2 2016... 1.2%
Or a whopping 1.225% if you just average the four...1.0% for the first two quarters of the year.
You know that Atlanta Fed GDPNow indicator I’m always mentioning? They once again nearly nailed it, the closest of any I saw.
The GDPNow projection for Q2 got up to 2.9% on May 31, but the Atlanta Fed has been lowering it ever since and dropped it from 2.3% to 1.8% on Thursday ahead of the release. Virtually everyone else had it coming in at 2.5%. The New York Fed had it at 2.2%, while it sees 2.6% for the third quarter...at least this was their view on Thursday.
So Republicans have been handed a gift, but they are so incompetent, don’t expect them to take advantage of it.
And of course the new data means there is simply no way the Fed is hiking in September, even if next week’s jobs report, and the one after that prior to the Fed’s next confab, is strong; though I do grant you, Chair Janet Yellen’s Aug. 26 speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., is important.
Big week for Japanese economic data, with the consumer price index, ex-fresh food, down 0.5%, annualized, the fastest pace of decline since 2013, and needless to say way off the government’s 2% target. The Bank of Japan didn’t help sentiment when on Friday it said it needed to carry out a “comprehensive assessment” of its failed policies and would have a plan come September to address wage and price stagnation.
As for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, 3 1/2 years of his economic policies have done nothing to juice inflation, either, but next week he’ll be unveiling a $270bn stimulus package, details to follow.
The consumer isn’t feeling it. Household spending was down 2.2% in June, the fourth month of decline, while industrial output was flat on the month.
But the unemployment rate of 3.1% for June matches the 1995 low.
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea reported second-quarter GDP rose 0.7% (3.2% annualized), but it is not expected to sustain this healthy clip.
--The Dow Jones and S&P 500 had their four-week winning streaks snapped, but Nasdaq registered gains for a fifth consecutive week, 1.2%, owing to strong earnings reports from some tech heavyweights. The Dow lost 0.8% to finish at 18432, while the S&P lost just 2 points, 0.1%, to 2173.
The Dow actually fell all five days, while Nasdaq registered gains the last four of the week.
For July, the Dow rose for a sixth consecutive month, 2.8%. The S&P gained 3.6% and Nasdaq surged 6.6%.
With more than half of the S&P 500 companies having reported for the second quarter, earnings are expected to decline 3.8%, according to FactSet. At the end of June, the forecast was for a decline of 5.3%. [Wall Street Journal]
One thing is for sure, volatility has dried up...for now.
--U.S. Treasury Yields
6-mo. 0.37% 2-yr. 0.66% 10-yr. 1.45% 30-yr. 2.18%
Treasuries rallied on the lousy GDP data and the view rates will stay lower for longer.
--Oil prices continued to fall as the U.S. Energy Dept. reported inventories unexpectedly rose by the widest margin in months, up 1.6m barrels, when a ‘draw’ of 2m barrels was forecast. Gasoline inventories also swelled.
--Emblematic of the renewed troubles in the oil patch was ExxonMobil, which reported profit fell 60% in the second quarter, while Chevron reported a third-straight quarterly loss. Earlier, BP and Royal Dutch Shell had results that failed to meet expectations.
All of these companies also continue to cut spending as they slash tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.
In the case of Exxon, its revenue dropped 22%, well below analysts’ forecasts.
--Amazon.com Inc. reported its third consecutive record profit, and its fifth straight quarter in the black, as revenue jumped 31%, including a 58% gain at its Amazon Web Services cloud computing unit, AWS.
Just amazing that a company this size can continue to have such revenue growth. And just as importantly for investors is the now consistent profitability it is displaying.
But Amazon is still plowing much of what it takes in back into the business, with the company announcing it planned to add 18 new warehouses in the current quarter compared with six a year earlier.
Amazon’s operating profit margin was 4.2%, more than double the 2% year-earlier figure, a sign of cost controls despite the ongoing expansion. The profit was $1.78 a share, compared with 19 cents a year ago. Sales rose to $30.4 billion from $23.19 billion, with AWS revenues jumping to $2.89 billion, thus it would seem CEO Jeff Bezos’ goal of $10 billion for this unit for all of 2016 will be exceeded.
As a result of its warehouse expansion, Amazon now has 268,900 employees, up 9.6% from the first quarter. The company also gave a cheery forecast for the current quarter.
Bezos, by the way, owns 18% of Amazon’s shares and Forbes says he is now the third richest person in the world, surpassed only by Bill Gates and Zara founder Amancio Ortega.
--Shares in Google (aka Alphabet) soared as the company beat on the top and bottom line, revenue rising to $21.5 billion in the quarter, a 21% increase from a year earlier, while earnings were $8.42 a share vs. $6.99.
CEO Sundar Pichai of the Google division said, “The strength of the quarter is about mobile.” He said that the main focus is “machine learning” – software that adjusts to the user’s experience; an area it says will be the source of the next great innovations.
The company reported 19% growth in advertising revenues, while nonadvertising grew 33% to $2.17 billion, mostly in its cloud business of hosting other companies’ data and processing on its servers, a la Amazon.
Revenue for Alphabet’s other big plays such as Fiber; the thermostat company, Nest; and Verily, a life sciences company, was $185 million, though it lost $859 million on these “other bets,” as they are categorized, the “moonshots,” which also includes self-driving cars and delivering goods by drone.
--Facebook killed it again with its second-quarter earnings report as advertising surged in mobile, with the shares trading at a new record high in response.
Revenues from advertising, after adjusting for the effects of foreign currencies, jumped 63% from a year earlier, matching the first quarter.
Facebook’s report showed it was continuing to take market share from smaller rivals as advertisers race to catch the boom in online video.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced questions on the analyst call about waning interest in its original social media platform, but he countered the overall amount of time users spent on Instagram, Messenger and the Facebook app had grown in double digits in the latest quarter.
The company reported it now had 1bn active users on Messenger and WhatsApp mobile apps and 500m on Instagram. The number of users who visited Facebook on a mobile device every day rose above 1bn for the first time, reaching 1.03bn.
The mobile user base is equivalent to 91.6% of all of Facebook’s daily users, up from 90.1% the year before.
The surge in mobile advertising accounted for 84% of revenues, up 80% for the segment, with overall company revenues up 59% to $6.4bn, well ahead of expectations, ditto earnings per share.
The company’s strong results represented the 13th quarterly beat in a row.
Facebook did warn growth would slow the rest of the year as it faced more difficult comparisons.
Google controls about 31% of the roughly $187 billion world-wide digital-ad market, while Facebook’s share is up to 12% from nearly 9% in 2014, according to eMarketer.
--Just a day before Facebook’s release, Twitter warned of a sharp slowdown in its own advertising business, with former online ad star Yahoo having been formally swallowed up by Verizon two days before that.
Twitter reported 313 million monthly active users, up only 3 million from the prior quarter, while revenue rose just 20 percent, to $602 million – its slowest growth rate since the company’s 2013 initial public offering, and falling short of analysts’ forecast.
The company blamed “increased competition for social-marketing budgets” – ergo, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are cleaning its clock.
Twitter said it will continue cutting live-streaming deals with the NFL, NHL and MLB.
--Meanwhile, Yahoo Inc.’s deal to sell its core assets to Verizon for $4.8 billion was announced Monday morning. Yahoo had its founding in 1994, peaking during the Internet bubble of 1999-2000, chronicled so well in this space. Back then, it was about ‘clicks,’ which was a totally fraudulent way of measuring traffic, but investors bought it.
Not my dear readers, though, as I introduced you to click fraud on a personal basis before the likes of the Journal were trumpeting the topic.
All of us, in the content area, that is, followed Yahoo though in one form or another. They were the original single website, portal, for everything you would want on the web, but were never successful monetizing, in relative terms, while spending huge sums on the likes of Katie Couric.
As for CEO Marissa Mayer, according to one calculation, should see decide to leave, or not be allowed to continue by her new bosses, she could depart with up to $218 million in parting gifts; this for someone who did a truly awful job. [Ignore the statistic that Yahoo’s share price rose about 145% under her watch...that was all due to the rising value of the Alibaba and Yahoo Japan stakes that were acquired before Mayer arrived.]
What is left of Yahoo after Verizon’s acquisition is the company’s cash, its shares in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan, certain minority investments, and Yahoo’s non-core patents. Yahoo will change its name and become a publicly traded investment company.
--Shares in Apple rose 7% following its earnings reports, even as slackening demand for new iPhones sent revenues down. Earnings per share of $1.42 were down from $1.85 a year ago, with net income falling 27% to $7.8 billion.
Sales dropped for the second straight quarter, down 15% to $42.4 billion. IPhone unit sales fell to 40.4 million, also down 15% year-over-year, though this was above analysts’ estimates of 40 million.
IPad revenue returned to growth for the first time in 10 quarters, however unit sales fell again, down 9% to 9.95 million. Sales of Mac computers fell 11%.
But services revenue (including subscriptions to Apple Music, fees from Apple Pay and sales of apps) rose 19% to 45.98 billion.
All in all, earnings and revenues were above expectations and that’s why the stock rose. The company is also a bit more optimistic on the current quarter than the Street was.
But...Eva Dou / Wall Street Journal:
“Apple has a China problem, and it may only worsen as Chinese smartphone makers offer better products and appeal to consumers to buy home grown hardware.”
Gee, sounds like something I wrote over a year ago.
“Sales in Greater China, which includes mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, fell 33% to $8.8 billion in the quarter ending in June, compared with 112% growth a year earlier.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook said sales in mainland China were only down 2% if you took out currency impacts, adding he was “very bullish” on China in the long run.
But Apple is getting hit as Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp., among others, move from the budget market to the high-end segment. Apple’s smartphone market share in China is down to 9%, fifth, according to Canalys.
“Apple is also facing geopolitical and regulatory challenges in China. Chinese social media circulated reports this month of consumers smashing their iPhones in anti-U.S. protests after China lost a territorial ruling in the South China Sea.” [Eva Dou]
Gee, I’ve been writing about this kind of reaction, too, for over a year, and pointed out how Yum Brands’ KFC chain was getting hit hard by protests over The Hague’s move.
At least Apple is showing excellent early growth in India, where it is just getting started. Hopefully for them this huge potential market picks up for some of the relative losses in China.
--Huawei, by the way, reported revenue in the first half rose 40% vs. a year ago, an acceleration of a rise of 30% from a year earlier.
--Microsoft plans to lay off 2,850 employees, adding to previously announced job cuts as it continues to dismantle its mobile phone hardware business.
--Oracle is acquiring cloud company NetSuite for $9.3 billion, which marks the biggest deal for Oracle and chairman Larry Ellison since it bought PeopleSoft 11 years ago. With a near 40% stake in NetSuite, Ellison stands to personally make a profit of about $3.5bn.
Kind of funny seeing as how for years, Ellison criticized cloud computing, dismissing it as a fad as he tried to defend Oracle’s traditional software business.
NetSuite was set up to run the software that controls other businesses’ back-office functions over the Internet; founded around the time Marc Benioff, a former Oracle salesman, established Salesforce.com, which pioneered the idea for cloud-based software.
--Ford earned $2 billion in the second quarter, down 9% from a year earlier, and the shares fell sharply as the automaker strongly hinted the long-running boom in U.S. vehicle sales could be cooling.
Total revenue rose 6% to $39.5 billion, but CFO Bob Shanks said: “We do think (the U.S. new vehicle market) is coming down. We think the second half will be lower than the first half. We saw higher industry incentives in the U.S. and we also saw lower auction values.”
Ford Credit saw a moderate increase in credit losses on delinquent loans.
The company reduced its forecast for total U.S. vehicle sales this year from a range of 17.5 million to 18.5 million to one of 17.4 million to 17.9 million, including heavy-duty pickups.
Ford did have an operating profit of $467 million in Europe, a major improvement, but now you have uncertainty over Brexit and the UK leaving the European Union.
--Volkswagen’s core passenger car brand saw worldwide first half sales of 2.93m vehicles, essentially the same as a year ago before the diesel emissions crisis was revealed by U.S. authorities.
In China, VW’s biggest market, sales rose 7% to 1.392 million; up 23.7% in June alone, as reported by the Financial Times.
Globally, June sales were up 4.7% over a year ago, so it’s clear the worst is behind the automaker.
--Caterpillar cut its full-year sales and profits forecast for a second straight quarter, but it beat expectations for Q2 and the shares rallied...underpromise, overdeliver.
Second-quarter revenue fell 16% to $10.3 billion, as the recent recovery in commodity prices has yet to translate into increased mining activity or a rise in equipment purchases.
“We’re not expecting an upturn to happen this year,” Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman said, citing items such as Brexit, the U.S. election and the attempted coup in Turkey as impeding demand for its heavy machinery. [This last item is a stretch, Mr. Oberhelman.]
A solid U.S. housing industry, though, has helped stabilize demand for earth-moving equipment in North America.
CAT has previously announced it would cut 10,000 jobs through 2018 and now it says that figure will be higher, though it wasn’t specific.
--According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, the average domestic airline ticket sold in the first three months of the year was $361, down 7.8% from a year earlier.
Lower fuel prices have helped, with the price of a gallon of jet fuel in North America at $1.25, 22% cheaper than ’15. [Hugo Martin / Los Angeles Times]
--McDonald’s U.S. sales growth slowed in the second quarter, with the shares getting hit in response. Same-store sales rose just 1.8%, far slower than the 5.4% in the first quarter and missing analysts’ estimates by a wide margin.
Earlier, the likes of Yum Brands (KFC, Taco Bell), Dunkin Brands and Starbucks blamed weaker consumer confidence for softer sales.
That said, McDonald’s is still benefiting from its All-Day Breakfast and McPick offer of two items for $5, though total revenue fell 4% to $6.27bn while earnings fell 1%.
So the issue is, is the positive initial impact of the menu changes now a thing of the past?
--CBS Corp. said its net income soared 27% as higher content licensing fees and distribution revenues from entertainment programming offset sluggish revenue from its cable network and publishing businesses. Total revenue increased 2% to $3.29 billion.
The namesake TV network and interactive-digital businesses reported a solid 9% revenue gain.
--Anthem Inc. said it is now projecting losses on its Affordable Care Act plans in 2016, after in previous years expressing optimism about the business; Anthem citing higher-than-expected medical costs.
But it is looking for better results in 2017 because it expects to gain approval on hefty premium increases. Anthem has 923,000 exchange enrollees in 14 states where it is a Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer.
Recently, UnitedHealth Group said it is getting out of virtually all its ACA marketplaces next year, amid mounting losses, while Humana, dealing with its own losses, said it was pulling back sharply.
--Lloyds Banking Group Plc announced it would eliminate 3,000 jobs and a further $525 million in annual expenses, as the UK’s largest mortgage lender takes steps ahead of what will surely be a Brexit-induced earnings slump.
Lloyds has cut 7,300 employees thus far as part of a plan launched two years ago to shed over $1 billion in expenses.
--Coca-Cola cut its sales forecast for the year as it struggles with a consumer slowdown in China.
The company’s COO said, “We have not really assumed China will get better the rest of the year,” with juice sales falling double digits in the second quarter in the country and Coca-Cola drinks dropping single digits.
Coke is in the midst of a restructuring where it is selling off its bottlers to focus on producing the concentrates and product development.
In the second quarter, total revenue fell 5% to $11.5bn, short of expectations, while earnings beat.
--Just like terrorism is an economic issue, as shown above, so is Zika as this week we learned that four cases of the infection in Miami are likely to have been caused by infected mosquitoes, the state Department of Health said Friday – the first documented instance of local transmission in the continental United States.
Officials believe the area of active transmission is limited to a one-square mile area north of downtown Miami.
--Boeing reported first-half revenues increased 1% to $47.4bn, while maintaining its guidance for the full year. The company reported it had 5,700 aircraft on order.
--CNN was the most-watched network for all four nights of the Democratic National Convention. Tuesday, for example, during the 10 to 11:15 PM ET slot, CNN had 5.92 million viewers, followed by NBC (5.281m), MSNBC (3.83m), ABC (3.46m), CBS (2.94m) and Fox News Channel (2.85m). PBS averaged 2.33m. [NBC and MSNBC together, though, were tops.]
Turkey: The purge seems endless. This week more than 80 Turkish foreign ministry staff have been sacked, while two senior generals reportedly resigned from their posts after almost 1,700 military personnel were dishonorably discharged for their alleged role in the plot to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish Army is a shell of its pre-coup self when you consider that some 149 generals and admirals, 40% of all top-level staff, have been released, or arrested.
Authorities continue to claim the failed coup of July 15 was staged by a military faction loyal to exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen, who is in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. [A poll of Turks released this week showed 2/3s believe Gulen was responsible, though once again he denied that this week. The State Department will not extradite him to Turkey without strong evidence of his involvement.]
Erdogan wants the armed forces and the national intelligence agency to be brought under the control of the presidency, though this would require a constitutional change.
It is impossible to verify all the numbers being tossed around but Friday’s Irish Independent spoke of 16,000 having been detained, while tens of thousands of state employees ( as I laid out last time) – including police, teachers and judges – have been dismissed from their posts. [More than 60,000 in all affected groups.]
1,000 private schools and more than 1,200 associations have been closed.
Also this week, and most worrisome, though the continuation of a trend prior to the coup attempt, arrest warrants were issued for 89 journalists and 131 media outlets have been shut down, including newspapers, magazines, television channels, radio stations and publishers.
Amnesty International said human rights were “in peril” in Turkey and condemned the “swift and brutal” response enabled by the three-month state of emergency, announced by Erdogan over a week ago that he also said at the time could be extended.
Finally, Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to be patching up their disagreements after the downing of a Russian warplane near the Syrian border by Turkish forces last year.
David Gardner / Financial Times
“Turkey is in trauma after the failed coup attempt by a faction of the army. But as President Erdogan and his neo-Islamist ruling party launch sweeping purges against the rival Islamist movement he blames for the putsch, Turkey’s allies in Europe and the Atlantic alliance have reason to worry about where it is heading – whether, indeed, the West could lose this pivotal country straddling Europe and Asia.
“The perception had taken hold long before this drama that Turkey, an eastern pillar of NATO and an EU candidate member in a volatile region, had ceased to be a team player. Mr. Erdogan has subordinated almost every consideration of domestic or foreign policy to his quest for a Vladimir Putin-style presidency. Relations with western allies have become transactional. He has mused about whether the country would be better served inside other alliances, such as the Eurasian Economic Union, brainchild of the Russian president, or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, rather than in NATO or an EU that has no real plans to admit Turkey....
“Since becoming president in 2014, Mr. Erdogan has sharpened the Sunni, Islamist and Turkish identity of (his ruling) AKP, polarizing it against ethnic Kurds and quasi-Shia Alevi, grouped in separate opposition parties, as well as against secularists spread between them. Dog-whistle xenophobia has become fuller throated. The parliamentary opposition nevertheless stood by him against the army mutiny. The president could forge with them a new democratic consensus or, with Islamists and ultranationalists out in force on the streets, continue his record and stitch all his opponents, at home and abroad, into one seamless conspiracy.”
Iraq/Syria/ISIS/Russia: Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front, announced it had split from al-Qaeda. Leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani, in his first recorded message, said the new name would be Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [Front for the Conquest of Syria.]
Al-Julani said the move was being made to remove the pretext used by the U.S. and Russia, as well as Syria, to bomb Syrians under the guise of bombing Nusra Front, but the U.S. said it would continue to view it as a terrorist organization.
The split was sanctioned by al-Qaeda, with its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, saying: “The brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organizational links that change and go away.” In the recording, al-Julani thanked the “commanders of al-Qaeda for having understood the need to break ties.”
The break with al-Qaeda could pave the way for greater support from Gulf states such as Qatar. It also means that while the U.S. may call Nusra Front a terror group, it will be easier for Nusra to embed itself in the wider insurgency.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum, writes: A larger coalition between Nusra Front and other groups “would then quickly and easily dismantle many of the U.S.-backed groups among the Syrian rebels in the north.” [Reuters]
In the battle for Aleppo, only a few of the 250,000 residents that have been encircled by Syrian government forces have been able to leave, despite Russia’s announcement it was opening aid passages for civilians and surrendering fighters looking to exit the city’s rebel-held neighborhoods.
Government forces have been bombing neighborhoods, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting at least 16 civilians had been killed in airstrikes and barrel bomb attacks. Passages into government-held territory are open.
Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for a truck bombing in a Kurdish-controlled town in northeastern Syria that killed at least 48, according to the Observatory.
In Iraq, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday that up to 1 million people could be forced to flee their homes in Iraq soon as fighting intensifies in the government’s attempt to retake Mosul from ISIS. A final push is expected by the end of the year.
The ICRC said that 10 million Iraqis already require assistance in the country, including more than 3 million who are internally displaced, a figure that seems destined to swell.
Separately, FBI Director James Comey warned of the potential consequences of ISIS being defeated in the Middle East: a migration of the group’s fighters to Western Europe and the U.S.
“This is an order of magnitude greater than any diaspora we’ve seen before,” Comey said in a speech on Wednesday. “A lot of terrorists fled out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is 10 times that or more.” Comey added, trying to stop attacks like we have seen recently is harder than finding a needle in a haystack, noting the proliferation of the terrorist group’s propaganda on social media makes it almost impossible to determine when an online sympathizer will take steps to commit a violent act.
Iran: AFP reported that last Sunday, as part of a crackdown on illegal devices, Tehran collected and destroyed 100,000 satellite dishes and receivers, with the head of Iran’s Basij militia (Storm Troopers) saying, “The truth is that most satellite channels...deviate the society’s morality and culture.” According to this fellow, one million Iranians had already turned in their dishes.
Afghanistan: A horrific suicide bombing of a protest march in the capital, Kabul, killed more than 80 people, hundreds more maimed, last Saturday, with IS claiming responsibility. It was the worst attack in Kabul in 15 years and the first inside the capital claimed by ISIS.
Libya: The UN-backed Libyan government said its forces had seized a key headquarters for ISIS in Sirte, the coastal city the government is attempting to retake after Islamic State captured it a year ago. Sirte is the birthplace of Moammar Gaddafi and earlier this year the U.S. estimated some 5,000 militants were there, though many have since fled elsewhere.
Russia: Nathan Kohlenberg / Defense One
“Vladimir Putin has a grand strategy for Russia, and he has not exactly been secretive about its goals.
“ ‘First and foremost, it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,’ Putin said in a 2005 national address. Through bodies like the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Customs Union, he has sought to build Russian-dominated institutions to rival NATO and the European Union as part of his plan to return Russia to its 20th-century glory.
“Putin’s efforts have met with some success. Russia is a far bigger player on the international stage than it was 20 years ago, and some former Soviet republics have maintained or returned to close ties with Moscow, including Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. But others, like Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan have, in varying ways and to varying degrees, rejected Russian involvement in their affairs and sought closer ties with the West.
“The single biggest obstacle to Putin’s goal of a Eurasia united economically and militarily behind Moscow has been the persistent global consensus that democracy is the best form of government....
“The global Democratic Consensus has hindered Putin’s global aspirations in two ways. The first and more obvious is that sometimes the citizens of former Soviet republics choose to elect governments that promise to align with the West, rather than Moscow. In response, Russia has sought to undermine such governments through promoting corruption and organized crime, mounting cyberattacks on telecommunications and power infrastructure, inciting local ethnic Russians to rebellion, and even intervening militarily with the Russia Army.
“The other challenge that the Democratic Consensus poses to Putin’s strategy is more abstract. In democratic contests between pro-Moscow and pro-West candidates, the pro-West candidates have a rhetorical advantage: EU members are democracies, and Russia and most of its allies aren’t. It stands to reason that people voting in democratic or semi-democratic elections are inclined to choose the path that is more likely to preserve democracy in their own country, at least as long as democracy is associated with the relative peace, prosperity, and freedom currently enjoyed by EU members.
“So at some point, Putin set out to break that association. In 2008, he sent the Russian Army into Georgia to punish its citizens for electing a pro-Western president and attempting to join NATO, and to demonstrate to the Georgian people that they should associate democracy and the West with fecklessness and betrayal, not freedom or prosperity. After all, Germany and France had only months earlier blocked Georgia from receiving a NATO Membership Action Plan, and then the alliance stood by while Russian troops dismembered the country.”
You get the picture. It was the same deal in Ukraine.
And now, Syria, “the linchpin of his strategy” for dismantling Democratic Consensus.
‘Promoting chaos and suffering in Iraq and Syria through military intervention and other means serves the triple purpose of a) maintaining Russia’s access to Syrian ports, b) undermining the Democratic Consensus in the Arab world by demonstrating the incompetence of democratic rule in Iraq and the threat of Sunni populism in Syria, and c) weakening the Eastern Hemisphere’s greatest example of an advocate for democracy: the European Union. A steady flow of refugees into the heartland of Europe has ensured a rise in radical politics, a surge in Euro-skepticism, and now the departure from the EU of Russia’s greatest critic, Britain.
“Brexit stands as Moscow’s greatest geostrategic accomplishment since the end of the Cold War. Unthinkable only a few years ago, Britain’s abandonment of the European project was a direct result of 18 months of Muslim refugees streaming into the EU.”
And there is Turkey, another win for Putin as it undergoes its biggest retreat from democracy in decades.
And then...Donald Trump, “who speaks about Putin in glowing terms, and now has begun to question our commitment to NATO integrity, even as American foreign policy leaders call for greater support to the Baltic states most vulnerable to Russian incursion....
“The Kremlin so strongly favors a Trump presidency that it is actively attempting to sabotage the Clinton campaign.... If they are successful, Russian hackers and propagandists will have achieved one of the Kremlin’s greatest strategic victories in a hundred years without ever firing a shot.”
Separately, Putin fired four regional governors, four presidential envoys and an ambassador this week, with it seems most if not all of them being replaced by officials with a background in security services; veterans of the FSB or its Soviet predecessor, the KGB.
Dmirty Gudkov, an independent State Duma deputy, wrote on his Facebook page, “I can’t remember a time when so many security service guys ascended to power at once...Readying the guns for battle, closing ranks – this is what these appointments are all about. [The Kremlin] can’t trust anyone but those in uniform.”
A political commentator put it more bluntly: “All the figures appointed today are Putin’s personal bodyguards.” [Moscow Times]
Gee, this is reassuring, isn’t it?
Also, from Reuters: “Russia has strengthened its southwestern flank as NATO builds up its military presence near its borders and next-door Ukraine remains unstable.”
[This week, at least another six Ukrainian soldiers were killed in clashes with Russian separatists in the east.]
Lastly, in a study by Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, more than 40% of Russian families are struggling to find the money to buy food or clothes. [Moscow Times]
China: Tom Mitchell / Financial Times
“The chill that has descended across Chinese civil society, especially over the past 12 months, has become one of the defining aspects of Xi Jinping’s presidency, alongside his own rapid consolidation of power over the party, government and military. As China’s most powerful party and state leader since Deng Xiaoping, Mr. Xi has presided over a crackdown without precedent since the repression that followed the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre....
“In an internal document issued just a month after Mr. Xi became president in March 2013 and later leaked, the Communist party identified the very notion of civil society as ‘an attempt to dismantle the party’s social foundation.’
“ ‘Western anti-China forces and people with ulterior motives within China view civil society as a magic bullet for advancing social management at the local level [and] have launched all kinds of so-called citizen’s movements,’ Document No. 9 warned.
“ ‘Advocates of civil society want to squeeze the party out of leadership at local level...their advocacy is becoming a serious form of political opposition.’
“The belief that people who do not see themselves as challenging the party are nevertheless a threat to its rule has only intensified, especially in an environment where slower economic growth increases the risk of social unrest.”
In keeping with the above, the Communist Party is holding a meeting in October, a plenum, to map out and revise rules for internal party discipline, according to state media on Tuesday; all part of Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption battle.
Separately, China’s internet regulators put a halt to original reporting by some of the country’s biggest online news portals, which may force the likes of Sina to abandon their news gathering operations in yet another sign Xi wants full control over the dissemination of news.
Four months ago, Xi toured some pillars of state-media, such as Xinhua and the People’s Daily, emphasizing the need to put fealty to the party above all else.
Finally, the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth interviewed Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen.
Q: Is it fair that Washington has considered Taiwan an entity, not a country, since 1979, when the United States changed sides and recognized the People’s Republic of China (with its capital in Beijing) – in lieu of the Republic of China in Taiwan (with its capital in Taipei) – as China?
Tsai: I am not clear what the U.S. means when they use the term ‘entity.’ For us here in Taiwan, we believe that we are a country, a democratic country.
Q: So isn’t it unfair that Taiwan is not recognized in the world?
Tsai: It is indeed unfair.
Q: American readers would find it hard to understand that you, as a Taiwanese president, are only allowed to come to the United States for 48 hours, and then only if it is a transit stop.
North / South Korea: South Korean police said Thursday that the North’s main intelligence agency had stolen the personal data files of more than 10 million customers of an online shopping mall, Interpark.
Interpark did not learn of the May hack attack until July 11, when it received an anonymous message threatening to publicize the data unless it paid the equivalent of $2.6 billion in South Korean currency. Most of the customers whose data was stolen are South Koreans, many of whom are suing for damages.
It was in 2008 that North Korea launched a series of online attacks on South Korea’s banking system.
Japan: This nation suffered its worst mass attack in decades as a former employee rampaged through a facility for the disabled, stabbing 19 to death and injuring 25 more before turning himself in. The man did this in the dead of night, when residents were sleeping. It was not terrorism, just a very messed up individual who authorities knew about going back to disturbing messages he was writing in February.
Zimbabwe: 92-year-old dictator, President Robert Mugabe, who I argued, correctly, should have been “taken out” in 1999, said the long-time loyalists who turned against him last week should face “severe punishment” as he vowed to stay in power for “a long time.”
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, veterans of the country’s 1970s liberation war, last week called Mugabe dictatorial, manipulative and egocentric. This is a group that has long defended him, even taking up violence in his cause, but now they want change.
Mugabe claimed Western countries have infiltrated the group. We need a pride of lions to descend on the presidential palace.
Donald Trump received a post-convention bounce of generally 2 to 5 points, but you really can’t tell until a week or so after the Democrats’ shindig to see how it all shakes out. For now, Trump has a two-point lead, 39-37, over Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday. [24% would vote for neither.]
A CNN/ORC four-way poll has Trump topping Clinton 44-39, with Gary Johnson (9%) and Jill Stein (3%). In a head-to-head, Trump leads 48-45, a 6-point convention bounce. Trump’s big move in this one is with independents.
I mentioned above that 68% don’t believe Clinton is honest and trustworthy. That was according to a CNN poll. A CBS poll has 67% saying she is dishonest.
When asked if you have a favorable or unfavorable view of Clinton, CBS has a 31-56 split, while CNN puts it 39-55 (unfavorable); the latter unprecedented in the dozens of CNN polls on her since 1992.
In a CBS News Battleground Tracker Poll of 11 key states, Trump has 42% across all of them combined – up from 40% before the RNC. Clinton was at 41%, unchanged from the prior week.
--Editorial / Wall Street Journal
“Bill Clinton on Tuesday portrayed his wife as a ‘change maker’ whose life has overflowed with good intentions and commitment to others. No one can spin a yarn like Bill, and for the believers it was a touching portrait. But if it’s true, why do the polls show that 68% of Americans don’t trust Hillary Clinton? That has to do with the rest of the story, which is how the Clintons have used politics to enrich themselves and retain power.
“Nowhere is this clearer than at the words you didn’t hear Mr. Clinton speak: the Clinton Foundation. This supposedly philanthropic operation has become a metaphor for the Clinton business model of crony politics. The foundation is about producing a different kind of ‘change.’”
--Joe Scarborough / Washington Post
“Donald Trump is predictably unpredictable. It’s a trait that has kept him at the center of the media storm every day this year. Even in the middle of the Democratic convention, The Donald is still dominating the news.
“On a day when the Democratic National Committee scheduled a long list of all-star speakers, The Post’s top seven stories focused on the Republican nominee. Six of their 7 headlines centered on Trump’s bizarre and disturbing invitation for Russian criminals to break into Hillary Clinton’s email accounts.
“At least Richard Nixon’s men had the good taste to break into the Watergate under the cover of night. With Trump, gaudy political shenanigans are to be performed under the brightest of klieg lights. The chaos subsequently created seems to focus on little more than dominating the next news cycle at any cost.
“Tonight, this one trick pony has taken us all for a ride again.”
--How stupid is Donald Trump? Incredibly so as on Thursday, he was talking about Tim Kaine and somehow confused him with former New Jersey Republican Gov. Thomas Kean, a hero to many of us from the Garden State. I mean this is beyond belief on so many different levels, but Trump blasted Tim Kaine as doing a “terrible job as governor of New Jersey,” talking about his tax policies and other things, and then adding he “was not very popular in New Jersey, and he still isn’t,” which couldn’t be further from the truth regarding Tom Kean, though we don’t know what the heck Trump was talking about.
--The logistics for the Democratic Convention were a disaster, with the site being a sports complex, not in the middle of Center City, and many complained they had up to 90-minute commutes due to restricted traffic patterns from their Center City hubs. At least with Cleveland, or New York, or most other big cities, the arena is part of downtown.
--Christian Davenport / Washington Post
“In the past five years, the number of operational satellites has jumped 40%, and nearly 1,400 now orbit the Earth,” which could double again in the next five years as the revolution in technology has made them smaller and more affordable.
Boeing recently filed an application with the FCC that would allow it to send up nearly 3,000 satellites for broadband services.
But all this traffic is worrisome, and little regulated.
Consider, just one collision “could create 5,000 pieces of debris that will be up there for 100 years,” as one expert put it.
--Prosecutors in Baltimore on Wednesday dropped all remaining charges against three city police officers awaiting trial in the death of Freddie Gray, ending one of the most closely watched police prosecutions in the nation...one of the most unsuccessful, too.
The city’s top prosecutor, Marilyn J. Mosby, was/is a miserable failure, unable to secure a single conviction during the first four trials. She tried to milk the case for political gains and now she looks like an inept fool.
--Following the deadly sniper attack of July 7 that left five police officers dead, Dallas Police Chief David Brown issued a call to those protesting his force. Join us.
“We’re hiring,” said Chief Brown. “Get off that protest line and put an application in.”
So from July 8 through July 20, the department received 467 applications, compared with 136 during the same period in June.
Hillary Clinton did a good thing in bringing it up in her acceptance speech on Thursday.
Deputy Chief Jeff Cotner told the Wall Street Journal that about 15% of applicants make it through the entire hiring process.
--John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, is going to be released from a psychiatric hospital after a judge ruled he could live freely but with limits on his movements, communications and internet usage.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said Hinckley’s doctors found he has “no signs pf psychotic symptoms, delusional thinking or any violent tendencies” and “presents no danger to himself or to others in the reasonable future if released.”
Here’s my deal with this. I don’t believe he should be released, ever, but I won’t slam the doctors.
What I will slam is the decision to release him as early as Aug. 5 to live with his mother in Williamsburg, Va., Hinckley being 61 and his mother, 90! What the heck is this about?! A 90-year-old mother is supposed to help monitor his activities?! Is Judge Friedman nuts?!
The person I really feel for is actress/director Jodie Foster, who Hinckley was obsessed with; shooting Reagan because he hoped it would impress her.
--We’ll end on a little more positive note. From the Financial Times:
“Meet Debbie, Denise, Dianna and Daisy – identical sisters of Dolly the Sheep, the world’s most famous clone, who was born 20 years ago this month.
“The Nottingham Dollies, as they are known, are elderly sheep – nine years old, equivalent to about 70 human years – but in good health. The four Finn-Dorset ewes were cloned from the same mammary cell line that gave rise to the original Dolly, who died in 2003 aged six, suffering from osteoarthritis.
“Scientists at Nottingham University, who are looking after the Dollies and nine other elderly cloned sheep, published a long-term study on their health at the European Science Open Forum in Manchester.”
Bottom line, the clones are healthy. Various studies looked at these four, plus the nine others, and all 13 showed no signs of diabetes, high blood pressure or degenerative joint disease.
Pray for the men and women of our armed forces...and all the fallen.
God bless America.
Returns for the week 7/25-7/29
Dow Jones -0.8% 
S&P 500 -0.1% 
S&P MidCap +0.5%
Russell 2000 +0.6%
Nasdaq +1.2% 
Returns for the period 1/1/16-7/29/16
Dow Jones +5.8%
S&P 500 +6.3%
S&P MidCap +11.5%
Russell 2000 +7.4%
Bears 21.6 [Source: Investors Intelligence]
Have a great week.
And thank you to Ted T. and Kelly L. (longtime friends going back to my Thomson McKinnon days in the 1980s) for their kind words about StocksandNews in their recent client newsletter. You guys are the best.