When Hurricane Harvey blew into Texas last weekend, it dumped more than 30 inches of rain, flooding Houston and large areas of southeastern Texas, while leaving thousands homeless or without power. The worst storm to hit the U.S. since 2004 and by some estimates the largest rain-storm in U.S. history, Harvey has had a profound impact on the nation’s largest oil-producing and oil-refining region. Refinery shutdowns, pipeline closures and other consequences of Harvey has sent the Gulf oil industry into a tailspin while throwing oil markets…
President Trump is expected on Friday to announce plans to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which gave a deportation reprieve to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants also known as “dreamers”, Fox News reports. Under DACA, nearly 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children received work permits and deferral from deportation.
Trump had originally promised to terminate DACA during his presidential campaign, but since taking office had left the door open to preserving parts of it. According to Fox, which cites a senior administration official, Trump will announce the program’s end but will allow so-called “dreamers” currently in the program to stay in the U.S. until their work permits expire – which, for some, could be as long as two years.
The program, which was instituted through an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012, has been facing a legal challenge from Texas and nine other states, which threatened court action to attempt to block it unless Trump rescinds DACA by Sept. 5.
However, on Thursday afternoon, White House officials on Thursday pushed back on the Fox News report, claiming no decision has been made. “A final decision on that front has not been made,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during today’s press briefing. “When we have a final decision, this is under review, there are a lot of components that need to be looked at.” She then told a reporter “No offense to your colleagues from Fox News, but I’m better informed than they are … it has not been finalized.”
“A final decision on that front has not been made, and when it is, we will certainly inform everybody in this room,” she said.
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert added that “the administration is still reviewing the policy,” and said the lawsuits “won’t affect the policy decision, but it will affect the timing of it. We certainly have to watch the lawsuits and how they matriculate through the courts and when the deadlines will be.”
According to The HIll, Trump and senior administration officials, including White House chief of staff John Kelly, have said they don’t believe DACA would hold up in court, while the DOJ has declined to say whether it would defend the program from the potential lawsuit.
Rumors have been circulating for weeks about how Trump plans to respond to the threat of court action, prompting Democrats, some Republicans and activists to mount a public defense of the program.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) introduced amendments Tuesday that would prevent public funds from being used to alter the memo that instituted DACA in 2012.
And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said Monday his office was considering mounting a defense of the program if the Justice Department refuses to act.
A plan to allow DACA to simply lapse already has buy-in from conservative groups that want the president to end the program. “Our position has been that President Trump should allow DACA to lapse,” Ira Mehlman from the Federation for American Immigration Reform told Fox News. “As people’s two-year deferments and work authorization expire they should not be renewed.”
Ironically, in an interview with ABC News earlier this year, Trump suggested he might not entirely do away with DACA. “They shouldn’t be very worried,” Trump said of the young people in the program. “I do have a big heart.”
Meanwhile, Democrats on Thursday expressed opposition to the move, referencing the president’s past comments. “If he ends DACA, Trump would betray #DREAMers he said he’d treat w/ ‘great heart.’ These incredible young people make our country stronger,” tweeted Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee.
A medium-sized oil tanker that was smuggling crude oil in the Mediterranean Sea was apprehended by the Libyan coastguard on Thursday, according to a new report by The New Arab. The ship, called “Rex,” had ten crew members, all of whom have been captured by the coast guard. Colonal Abu Ajila Abdelbarri told reporters that the crew and boat had been under tight surveillance prior to their arrest in Libyan waters. The tanker flew the Tanzanian flag and carried 1.16 million liters of diesel. The crew contained five Turks, three Georgians…
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Russia will be financing the development of the Artic continental shelf and the economy of the local areas with more than US$2.75 billion (160 billion rubles) by 2025, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday. Russia’s program for Arctic development rests on three pillars—boosting economic growth, developing sea infrastructure, and developing the continental shelf with modern technology and equipment, Medvedev said. Neither sanctions nor low oil prices are deterring Russia’s ambitions…
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On Tuesday, during the peak of the Harvey-related flooding, we reported that the hurricane may leave a greater trail of automobile destruction than even Katrina, the most expensive natural disaster in US history. In August 2005, Katrina wiped out some 500,000-600,000 vehicles but William Armstrong of CL King warned that Houston has about 5x more people than New Orleans did at the time.
The news was especially bad for retailers and auto dealers: storms of this magnitude bring not only millions in salvage-related charge offs for the auto industry but a loss of critical “selling days” for one of the biggest markets in the country. As CNBC pointed out, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli figures Hurricane Harvey could knock about 500,000 units off the August auto SAAR to be reported tomorrow. Michaeli now estimates Harvey will affect some 125 counties in Texas and about 60 percent of the state’s auto sales.
Before Harvey, Michaeli estimated the August sales pace for the country was going to be in the mid-16 million range. As the storm lingers over the area, Michaeli has dropped his estimate. “Our analysis suggests that Hurricane Harvey could push this down to the low-16 million unit range,” Michaeli wrote in a note to clients.
“This is bad; real bad,” said Marc Cannon, an AutoNation executive vice president. “Right now, we are focused on making sure all of our employees are safe and taken care of. At the same time, we’re focusing on getting all of our stores up and running.” AutoNation’s 18 dealerships in the Houston remain shut as widespread flooding has not only swamped thousands of buildings in the Houston area, it’s likely damaged hundreds, perhaps thousands of new cars and trucks parked on dealership lots.
Which, while terrible news to dealers – many of whom face bankruptcy if their insurance policies don’t cover all the damages – may be just what the struggling U.S. OEM and supplier industry ordered, according to a new report by RBC. As bank analyst Joseph Spak writes, “while the devastation from Tropical Storm Harvey continues and our thoughts remain with the affected areas, we are beginning to wonder if the storm can, at least near-term, change the auto narrative. Harvey may have removed a number of the overhangs that caused investors to sour on the group.“
The RBC strategist then lays out his reasoning why Harvey may have helped the US auto industry in terms of the 4 most pressing narratives: bloated inventory, demand concerns, peak mix, and used vehicles pricing. In fact, as he puts it, “In short, Harvey may have solved the industry’s inventory problem.“
Here is the spin:
- Overhang 1: Bloated inventory. July 2017 days inventory stood at 68 days, 8 days higher than July 2016 and 13 days higher than the 10-year July average. This led investors to be worried about production cuts. Absolute inventory (at July 2017) was up ~330k units y/y. Edmunds estimates approximately 366k new cars and light trucks are on dealer lots in Texas that could be affected by Harvey. We believe a significant number of those could be damaged. Once Houston is stabilized, we see an opportunity for automakers to help re-position inventory from other geographies (we suspect GM could take advantage of this). In short, Harvey may have solved the industry’s inventory problem.
- Overhang 2: Demand concerns. We expect there could be a modest impact to August SAAR (we hedged by ~0.1mm to 16.4mm), but also believe the market won’t put a lot of credence into the print. We would expect a further impact into early September before delayed purchases start to come back. Then over late 2017 and into 2018, replacement would occur. The actual damage to existing vehicles in operation is unknown but likely extensive. Cox Automotive estimates ~500k vehicles could ultimately be scrapped (they estimate Sandy was ~250k). As a result, we believe future NA production forecasts could be positively revised – a good catalyst for suppliers.
- Overhang 3: Peak mix concerns. Moreover, this should be a rich mix as Texas is a key truck market (~14% of all full-size trucks, vs. 9% of overall sales; 1 out of 5 vehicles sold in Texas is a full-size truck). Key pickup truck suppliers AXL, TEN, BWA could benefit. We would favor Ford and F-150 suppliers and Ram and their suppliers over GM and K2XX suppliers given GM may not be able to participate as much given constraints from their program changeover.
- Overhang 4: Used vehicle pricing concerns. We would expect near-term used vehicle pricing to improve given a rush of demand for loaner vehicles. This could help consumers looking to trade-in vehicles and potentially residual values for new leases.
In short, yet another twist on the familiar broken window, or in this case, busted car fallacy, which of course is great in capturing the flow impact on metrics such as GDP and consumption, but completely ignores the capital lost as a result of the inherent destruction, something which insurers, and perhaps the US taxpayer, will ultimately be on the hook for. Naturally, there is only so far that this type of “obligation transfer” can stretch before the whole construct falls apart, or else every time the US entered a recession a few strategically placed nukes would be sufficient to unleash a new economic golden age until the next contraction in the business cycle. Luckily, economists haven’t gone that far yet. Unluckily, it is becoming increasingly obvious to everyone that the “next best thing” may be needed to boost growth. War.
As for cars, here is Spak’s advice on how to trade the Texas tragedy:
“Time to tactically increase auto exposure. Net, with valuations that will screen attractive relative to other potential Harvey recovery plays, we would tactically look to increase exposure to the group. Separately, suppliers with meaningful Europe exposure should benefit from the Euro move. Among suppliers, larger beneficiaries could be: AXL, BWA, DAN, TEN. For OEMs, we would look to F.”
If he is right, how long before a populist outcry demands that any industries benefiting from Harvey’s destruction should be taxed more?
For now one thing is certain – stocks of RV makers have surged on the Harvey news, whether on expectations that just like during Katrina, FEMA will splurge on recreational vehicles to house the tens of thousands of emergency workers, or simply on expectations that with their homes – and car – badly damaged, tens of thousands of Texans will opt to buy the one object that combines the two.
Which just may push US GDP even more into the green: recall that in the first quarter, the biggest contributor to personal spending came from sales of… recreational goods and vehicles.
Incidentally, for those who wonder, FEMA’s 2005 purchase of RVs ended up being a big hit to taxpayers. Back then, FEMA hurriedly bought 145,000 trailers and mobile homes just before and after Katrina hit, spending $2.7 billion largely through no-bid contracts. It then scrambled – unsuccessfully – to sell as many as 41,000 of the homes, netting about 40 cents on each dollar spent by taxpayers.
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On a sparsely populated island off the coast of the northwestern United States, more than a hundred environmental activists gathered last weekend to practice seaborne drills to disrupt construction on Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd’s (KML.TO) Westridge crude oil terminal. In kayaks and sailboats, they practiced forming blockades, raising banners and rescue techniques. Sunday culminated in a mass role play in which kayakers blockaded a large vessel and unfurled banners emblazoned with “Stop Kinder Morgan” while pretend law enforcement boats circled around…
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DELHI: “Kill us, but don’t send us back to Myanmar,” pleaded 29-year-old Sabber, a Rohingya refugee living in India since 2005.
Sabber, who was known as Kyaw Min in his home country, has lived in constant fear of deportation since the Indian government asked state governments to identify and deport all Rohingya Muslims.
“This is absolutely wrong, very inhumane,” said Sabber, who lives with family members in a shanty in New Delhi.
“The community came to India seeking shelter from the atrocities taking place in their own country. How can you turn them back when you know that the situation in Myanmar is so dangerous for us?”
In January, he formed the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI), an NGO, to take up the issue of the community’s suffering with the Indian government.
But Kiren Rijiju, union minister of state for home affairs, told Reuters: “They are all illegal immigrants. They have no basis to live here. Any illegal immigrants will be deported.”
Some 16,500 Rohingya are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in New Delhi.
“We can’t stop them from registering. But we are not signatory to the accord on refugees,” Rijiju said.
But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: “While India is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol, it is still bound by customary international law not to forcibly return refugees to a place where they face a serious risk of persecution or threats to their life or freedom.”
Raghu Menon, media and advocacy manager at Amnesty International India, told Arab News: “Considering how dangerous the situation is in Myanmar, sending them back against their wishes is not only a violation of international law but also morally questionable.”
HRW has come down heavily on the Indian government’s decision to deport the minority. “Indian authorities should abide by India’s international legal obligations and not forcibly return any Rohingya to Burma without first fairly evaluating their claims as refugees,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of HRW.
Despite not being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, India has a healthy tradition of giving asylum to persecuted minorities, including Tibetans, Afghans, ethnic Kachins from Myanmar, Buddhist Chakmas from Bangladesh, and Tamils from Sri Lanka.
MP Shashi Tharoor, a prominent leader of the Congress Party, tweeted: “Shocked by Govt’s decision to deport Rohingya refugees. Ancient humanitarian tradition being sacrificed purely because Rohingyas are Muslim?”
But the Indian government says deportation is due to security reasons. The Week magazine quoted a Home Affairs Ministry official as saying: “Illegal migrants are more vulnerable to getting recruited by terrorist organizations.”
Dr. Nafees Ahmad, assistant professor at the Faculty of Legal Studies at the South Asian University (SAU), told Arab News that such an argument is unconstitutional.
“Constitutional protection of the right to life and personal liberty is also available to people who aren’t citizens of India. No one can be forcefully deported and expelled,” he said.
An estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims live in various cities in northern India. They have come from Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar.
Sabber said hundreds of Rohingya are languishing in jails in Kolkata and Tripura after being caught crossing the India-Bangladesh border. He has asked the Indian government to release them.
Meanwhile, he plans to buy goats to slaughter for Eid Al-Adha on Saturday and throw a feast for his community, because “in our life there’s hardly any moment of enjoyment. It’s a constant struggle.”
MUZDALIFA, Saudi Arabia: After converging on the plains of Arafat on Thursday for the most important ritual of Hajj, Muslims pilgrims descended to Muzdalifa to prepare for the final stages of the annual pilgrimage.
As the sun set, they began moving to the rocky plain to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolizing the devil at another location called Jamarat on Friday, which marks the first day of Eid Al-Adha (feast of sacrifice).
Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammed bin Saleh Taher Bentin confirmed that more than 2 million pilgrims have managed to reach Arafat’s high level easily, with more than 20,000 buses and similar private cars in operation.
On Thursday night, the eve of Eid Al-Adha, Saudi King Salman arrived in Mina to review the services offered to pilgrims, the Saudi press Agency said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah showed that as of Thursday, the total number of local and foreign pilgrims reached 2,352,122. Hundreds of thousands more have been turned away by security forces for lack of permit to perform Hajj.
High point of Hajj
On Thursday, with temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius under the desert sun, the faithful climbed the hill east of Makkah where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave his last sermon some 14 centuries ago.
Standing at Mount Arafat in prayer before sunset on 9th Dul Hijjah is the high point of Hajj.
Other worshippers who had been praying in the nearby Mina area ascended in buses or on foot from before dawn as security forces directed traffic and helicopters hovered overhead.
Some of the faithful carved out seats on the craggy hillside, carrying umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Others filled nearby roads, undeterred by the scorching heat of the sun.
Men and women from nearly every country in the world gathered side by side, some crying on their neighbor’s shoulder.
An elderly Syrian pilgrim sitting on the hilltop shouted out, “Oh God, take revenge on the oppressors.” Others assembled around him responded, “Amen.”
Awfa Nejm, from a village near Homs, said: “We ask God to protect Syria and its people and return it to the way it was before.”
Twenty-seven-year-old Amin Mohammed from Nigeria said he was praying for peace in his country.
Saudi Arabia said more than 2.3 million pilgrims, most of them from outside Saudi Arabia, had arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.
No politics, please
Sheikh Saad Al-Shathri, a senior Saudi cleric, delivered a midday sermon denouncing terrorism and violence against civilians.
“Sharia came to preserve the security of nations and cultivate benevolence in (people’s) hearts,” he said, referring to the Islamic legal and moral code derived from the teachings of the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet.
He urged pilgrims to set aside politics during the Hajj and come together with fellow Muslims.
“This is no place for partisan slogans or sectarian movements which have resulted in great massacres and the displacement of millions,” he said.
Security had been tight, with officials saying they have taken all necessary precautions this year, with more than 100,000 members of the security forces and 30,000 health workers on hand to maintain safety and provide first aid.
A crush in 2015 which killed hundreds occurred when two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometers east of Makkah, on their way to Jamarat. It was the worst disaster to strike Hajj for at least 25 years.
Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites — Makkah and Medina — and organizing the pilgrimage. Saudi state television on Thursday morning showed a new kiswa, the cloth embroidered with verses from the Qur’an, being placed over the Kaaba in Makkah’s Grand Mosque. Pilgrims will return to pray there at the end of Hajj.
Abdelhadi Abu Gharib, a young Egyptian pilgrim, prayed in Muzdalifa before collecting stones for Friday’s ritual.
“The scene today in Arafat confirms that Muslims are not terrorists and that Islam is the greatest religion,” he said. “God has blessed us with Islam.”
(With Reuters and AFP)
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One look at the last few days in stocks and all we can say is…
Gold and The Long Bond were the best performers in August with stocks and the dollar unchanged-ish
Trannies were best among the major indices in August followed by Nasdaq. Small Caps lagged. S&P just managed to close green for August.
Treasury yields tumbled in August… the biggest monthly drop for 10Y yields since Brexit (June 2016)
With the yield curve flattening dramatically… August saw 2s10s collapsed 15bps to below 80bps (the biggest flattening since Feb 2016) near its flattest level since Aug 2016
Debt Ceiling anxiety has exploded during August…
Despite the last two days panic-buying, The Dollar Index ended the month lower – the 6th monthly loss in a row… (NOTE the morning’s spike on ECB leaks failed to hold and keep the dollar green for the month)
And notably, of all the majors, Yuan was the strongest against the greenback and cable weakest on the month (this was GBP’s weakest month since Oct 2016)…
In virtual currency-land, Bitcoin surged 65% on the month to a new record high…
* * *
Back to this week’s action…
Today’s biggest headline-maker was the 14% explosion in September RBOB futures as they expired (amid zero liquidity), but Oct Futs also spiked as more refiners were shut down…
Rather oddly, given the huge cut in demand (from refinery shutdowns), WTI futures spike today magically, back above $47…
All that mattered in stock land today was gettingh the cash S&P above 2470.3 for a green month… Sheer panic right at the close saved the day (S&P now up 9 of last 10 months)
FANG Stocks ended the month unchanged despite a massive 5% rip in the last week…
This week’s meltup in stocks is entirely opposite to the strength in bonds and bullion…
10Y yields rolled back to a 2.11% handle today…
The Dollar Index spiked this morning as EUR tumbled on a Reuters story about ECB, but Mnuchin spoiled the party and the dollar started sinking…
Gold flash-crashed overnight (with spot breaking below $1300), but precious metals players just bought the dip and sent it back to the post-Korea-Missile highs…
Finally, we note that gas prices at the pump hit a 2-year high today… and The Fed’s about to get its transitory inflation if RBOB plays through…
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Saudi Aramco is deploying advanced seismic testing technology to explore again areas of the desert known as the Empty Quarter, a move that could help it to raise its proved oil and gas reserves ahead of the planned listing of 5 percent in the company next year, expected to be the world’s biggest IPO ever. Aramco’s crew is exploring an area spanning 15,400 square kilometers (5,946 square miles) around Turayqa—an onshore conventional gas field discovered in 2013, which contains no oil. Part of that desert area has been explored…
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