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UK’s Second-Biggest Steel Company Collapses Into Bankruptcy As Iron Prices Climb

UK’s Second-Biggest Steel Company Collapses Into Bankruptcy As Iron Prices Climb

Talks to secure a government bailout have collapsed, and British Steel, the UK’s second-largest steel producer, has officially started insolvency proceedings, putting some 25,000 jobs – 5,000 workers at its Scunthorpe plant and another 20,000 along the supply chain – at risk, the FT reports.

The British High Court has ordered the compulsory liquidation of British Steel, and appointed an Official Receiver to oversee the liquidation alongside accountancy firm Ernst & Young.

Steel

The bankruptcy, which was hastened by a loss of business that the company has blamed on Brexit uncertainty, as well as a spike in iron prices (ore prices climbed above $100 a tonne on Friday, the first time they’ve closed above that level since May 2014).

Greybull, British Steel’s private equity owner, and a consortium of the firm’s lenders managed to assemble a rescue package worth £30,000 ($38,000). The only problem is the funds were contingent on a match from the UK government. But the money fell through at the last minute as ministers judged that it would violate EU rules.

The deal’s biggest proponent, Theresa May’s business secretary, Greg Clark, will now need to explain why he approved an earlier £120 million ($152 million) loan to help British Steel meet an EU environmental bill, but can’t save the company from bankruptcy.

As the FT explains in a video, the earlier bailout was required because under its previous owners, British Steel had used the EU’s system of carbon-credit trading to raise money by selling excess credits then covering its short position at the beginning of the following year.

But this year, the EU ruled that since the UK is leaving the bloc, its companies don’t deserve any more credits, leaving the company on the hook for a massive bill.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“No Talks, Only Resistance”: Iran’s Rouhani Slams Door On Trump’s “Call Me” Overture

“No Talks, Only Resistance”: Iran’s Rouhani Slams Door On Trump’s “Call Me” Overture

At a moment the US Navy conducted provocative military exercises in the Arabian Sea on Monday, Iran’s president responded to overtures by Trump that Tehran should “call me” with a firm line of, “No talks, only resistance.”

US military statements highlighted the Arabian Sea drills were specifically in response to heightened unspecified threats from Iran, and were led by the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and the US Marine Corps to highlight American “lethality and agility to respond to threat” and to advance US security. 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who oversaw the 2015 nuclear deal negotiations (JCPOA) with then president Obama, said he welcomed any US diplomatic overture but wouldn’t be coerced into new negotiations under economic sanctions and threat of military action. 

“I favor talks and diplomacy but under current conditions, I do not accept it, as today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” Rouhani said, according to Iran’s IRNA news agency.

“If we walked away from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the formal name of the nuclear deal] with the US provocative acts, then, in addition to the US, the UN and world would also impose sanctions on us,” he said.

It appears Trump has taken a “North Korea-style” approach to Iran that combines unpredictably aggressive threats and maneuvers – especially by other White House officials – with unexpected moments of reaching out a hand

That tactic was certainly on display Monday when Trump expressed US willingness to meet any Iranian action against US interests with “great force” – yet followed it by saying it’s up to Iran to initiate conciliatory dialogue: “If they call, we will certainly negotiate, but this is going to be up to them,” he told reporters.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Xi Sends Trump A Message: Rare-Earth Export Ban Is Coming

Xi Sends Trump A Message: Rare-Earth Export Ban Is Coming

Back in April of 2018, when the trade war with China was still in its early stages, we explained that among the five “nuclear” options Beijing has to retaliate against the US, one was the block of rare-earth exports to the US, potentially crippling countless US supply chains that rely on these rare commodities, and forcing painful and costly delays in US production as alternative supply pathways had to be implemented.

As a result, for many months China watchers expected Beijing to respond to Trump’s tariff hikes by blocking the exports of one or more rare-earths, although fast forwarding one year later this still hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and overnight President Xi Jinping’s visit to a rare earths facility fueled speculation that the strategic materials will soon be weaponized in China’s tit-for-tat war the US.

As Bloomberg reported overnight, shares in JL MAG Rare-Earth surged by the daily limit on Monday after Xinhua said the Chinese president had stopped by the company in Jiangxi, a scripted move designed to telegraph what China could do next.

The reason for the dramatic market response is that the presidential visit flags policy priorities, and “rare earths have featured in the escalating trade spat between the U.S. and China.” Specifically, as Bloomberg notes, China raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on American imports, while the U.S. excluded rare earths from its own list of prospective tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to be targeted in the next wave of measures. And just in case the White House missed the message, Xi was accompanied on the trip to JL MAG by Liu He, the vice premier who has led the Chinese side in the trade negotiations.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

UK Cops Fine Pedestrian $115 For Avoiding Facial Recognition Camera

UK Cops Fine Pedestrian $115 For Avoiding Facial Recognition Camera

A UK pedestrian was arrested and fined £90 ($115 US) after attempting to cover his face while passing a controversial facial recognition camera van on a East London street. The notorious London police vans scan the faces of passers-by and compare them to a database of wanted criminals. 

One man wasn’t having any of it, and was seen covering his face with his hat and jacket before London police stopped him and took his picture anyway according to the Daily Mail

If I want to cover me face, I’ll cover me face. Don’t push me over when I’m walking down the street,” said the man after his stop. 

“How would you like it if you walked down the street and someone grabbed your shoulder? You wouldn’t like it, would you?” the man asked an officer, who replied “Calm yourself down or you’re going in handcuffs. It’s up to you. Wind your neck in.” 

“You wind your neck in,” the man replied. 

After being fined, the man told a reporter: ‘The chap told me down the road – he said they’ve got facial recognition. So I walked past like that (covering my face).

‘It’s a cold day as well. As soon as I’ve done that, the police officer’s asked me to come to him. So I’ve got me back up. I said to him ‘f*** off’, basically.  

‘I said ‘I don’t want me face shown on anything. If I want to cover me face, I’ll cover me face, it’s not for them to tell me not to cover me face. 

‘I’ve got a now £90 fine, here you go, look at that. Thanks lads, £90. Well done.’ –Daily Mail

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two More US Warships Travel To Persian Gulf As Tensions With Iran Escalate

Two More US Warships Travel To Persian Gulf As Tensions With Iran Escalate

In the latest provocation against Tehran by the US, two Navy destroyers have entered the Persian Gulf as the American military continues to add to its assets in the region to head off any planned ‘aggression’, USNI reports.

The USS McFaul and USS Gonzalez traveled through the Strait of Hormuz Thursday afternoon without being challenged by IRGC forces in the are. They join the USS Abraham Lincoln, which is stationed in the Gulf of Oman, as well as a strike force that includes several B-52 bombers, as the US continues to build up its military presence in the region. Another Aircraft Carrier, the USS Kearsarge, is anchored off the coast of the UAE. 

Destroyer

According to USNI, if the US wanted to attack Iran from the water, its ships would be better off outside of the Persian Gulf, where it would be more difficult for Iranian missiles to reach them, and where they would be outside of Iran’s “domain awareness.”

The move comes after the US government has continued to warn about heightened threats from Iran. These fears have already prompted the evacuation of non-essential embassy personnel from the Baghdad embassy and the Erbil consulate.

Secret satellite photos of Iranian missiles on a small boat in the Gulf have helped ratchet up tensions, and the US has threatened to attack Iran if the regime starts stockpiling enriched uranium and heavy water again, as it has warned it would abandon the Iran deal if its European partners don’t make good on promises to buy Iranian oil and other financial considerations. CENTCOM has maintained that Iran is a ‘growing threat’ in the region.

An investigation into the source of attacks on two Saudi tankers that Iran is suspected of having orchestrated.

China Calls For “People’s War” Against The US, Vows To “Fight For A New World”

China Calls For “People’s War” Against The US, Vows To “Fight For A New World” 

While market mood has shifted diametrically from yesterday, with stocks sharply higher on Tuesday following what has widely been interpreted as conciliatory comments from both president Trump and various members of China’s ruling elite, one would be hard pressed to find any de-escalation amid the Chinese press commentaries written in the aftermath of the latest escalation in trade war between the US and China.

In a series of editorials and op-ed articles published Monday and Tuesday, Chinese state media slammed what it labeled the Trump administration’s “greed and arrogance“, called for a “people’s war” targeting the US “with precision” as China begins a “fight for a new world.”

“The most important thing is that in the China-US trade war, the US side fights for greed and arrogance … and morale will break at any point. The Chinese side is fighting back to protect its legitimate interests,” the nationalist, state-owned Global Times tabloid wrote .

Urging indirect boycott of US goods and services, the editorial slammed Trump and suggested a nation-wide uprising against the US aggression: “The trade war in the US is the creation of one person and one administration, but it affects that country’s entire population. In China, the entire country and all its people are being threatened. For us, this is a real ‘people’s war.'” Whether this means a renewed collapse in Chinese iPhone sales remains to be seen – for confirmation, watch for a new guidance cut from Apple in the coming days.

The Global Times  also accused the Trump administration of misleading Americans about the victims of US tariffs. It singled out Larry Kudlow’s interview on “Fox News Sunday” in which Trump’s top economic advisor said that US consumers would also suffer from the trade war, contradicting Trump’s claim that China would foot the bill.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Guaido Begs US Military To Help With Maduro Regime Change

Guaido Begs US Military To Help With Maduro Regime Change

Venezuela’s self-declared President Juan Guaido said on Saturday that he has instructed his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the US military. 

Guaido asked his ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, to sit down with Pentagon officials for “direct communications” to discuss “coordination” of efforts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whose 2018 reelection Guaido claims is illegitimate. 

“We have instructed our ambassador to meet immediately … with the [US] Southern Command and its admiral to establish a direct relationship,” Guaido told a Caracas crowd during a pro-opposition rally. 

“We have said from the beginning that we will use all the resources at our disposal to build pressure.” 

The Southern Command is part of the US military responsible for operations and security in Central and South America, along with the Caribbean.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options are on the table” to end the country’s yearslong political crisis. Washington, along with the European Union and most of Venezuela’s neighbors, have backed Guaido to take control of the oil-rich nation.

However, Brussels and most Latin American countries have expressed opposition to potential military intervention. –DW

According to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, the CIA is behind a plan to overthrow Maduro, according to Russia’s state-owned TassSpeaking at a Moscow press conference on Monday, Arreaza said “There is a whole plan made up by the CIA and the Venezuelan opposition to overthrow the Maduro government and take control of our country’s natural resources, which belong to the people as a result of a socialist revolution,” adding “This is what we are trying to prevent. We don’t want the Venezuelan people to suffer”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Cashless” Sweden Suddenly Warns Citizens: Hoard Banknotes & Coins In Case Of Cyber-Attack Or War

“Cashless” Sweden Suddenly Warns Citizens: Hoard Banknotes & Coins In Case Of Cyber-Attack Or War

For years, we have commented on the Swedish government and the Riksbank pushing for a “cashless society.” 

The Riksbank has over 1,000 articles posted on its website on the “cashless society“. The emphasis worked: between 2013 and 2017, the amount of cash in circulation dropped by 35%, earning Sweden a reputation as the world’s “most cashless nation”:

Many of Sweden’s bank branches had stopped handling cash altogether. 

Figures from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm show that only 18% of all payments made today in Sweden are in cash – a 15% drop from the previous year. Meanwhile figures from the Swedish Trade Federation show that most Swedish retailers say that 80% of their commerce is from card payments. A number that probably will be 90% by 2020. Such is the appetite for digital commerce in Sweden that many predicted it could become the world’s first cashless society.

But, nowas The Daily Mail reports,  The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, an arm of the government, has sent guidance to every home telling residents to squirrel away “cash in small denominations” in case of emergencies ranging from power cuts or technology glitches to terrorism, cyber-attacks by a rogue government or war.

Riksbank, the country’s central bank, last week called for an inquiry into the risks posed by a future cashless society.

Officials told parliament that hard cash was important “not just in times of crisis and war, but also in peacetime.”

In December, Britain’s Access to Cash Review warned that Britain too was ‘sleepwalking into a cashless society’, the Daily Mail reported.

Chair Natalie Ceeney said, “If we don’t take action now in this country, we’re only a couple of years away from Sweden.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Retaliates To US Provocations: Threatens To Accelerate Uranium Enrichment

Iran Retaliates To US Provocations: Threatens To Accelerate Uranium Enrichment

Iran celebrated the one-year anniversary of President Trump officially withdrawing the US from the JCPOA – or the Iran deal, as it’s better known – by suspending its commitments under the 2015 treaty, an unprecedented escalation from Tehran that will almost certainly alienate the other signatories, who had pledged to do everything in their power to keep the deal intact.

Iran

with an American aircraft carrier idling in the Mediterranean and a team of B-52 bombers on standby, Iran goaded the US to strike by announcing that it would start retaining its enriched uranium and heavy water stocks instead of selling them abroad. President Hasan Rouhani also threatened to start increasing production of enriched uranium within 60 days unless the other treaty partners meet commitments related to oil purchases and other financial arrangements, something that will be almost impossible to do now that the US has ended export waivers on Iranian oil.

Iran informed France, Germany, Russia, China and the UK, the remaining parties to the treaty, of its decision early Wednesday. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif insisted that Iran was within its rights to suspend the deal now that the US had reimposed all economic sanctions, and added that it was now up to Iran’s European partners to act.

On May 8 2018, US withdrew from #JCPOA, violated #UNSCR 2231 & pressured others—incl #E3—to do the same
After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue
Our action is within the terms of JCPOA.
EU/E3+2 has a narrowing window to reverse this.

While China and Russia blamed Washington for Iran’s decision, France’s Defense Minister said France would likely have little choice but to join the US in reimposing sanctions on Iran.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

From Nukes To ‘Gravity Tractors’ – How Well Prepared Is Earth For An Impending Asteroid Strike?

From Nukes To ‘Gravity Tractors’ – How Well Prepared Is Earth For An Impending Asteroid Strike?

NASA launches an asteroid strike simulation this week, but what would happen if a devastating asteroid was coming our way today? RT asks an expert about the tools available, and how long it will be until we’re fully prepared.

While hundreds of small asteroids and meteorites have hit Earth, big objects, like the 55 foot one that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 only occur around twice a century, and larger (dinosaur-destroying) ones are even less common. However, NASA warns that “given the current incompleteness of the NEO [Near Earth Object] catalogue, an unpredicted impact could occur at any time.”

At the start of 2019, NASA reported there were 19,000 known near-Earth asteroids, with an average of 30 new ones found each week.

Detlef Koschny, co-manager of the Space Situational Awareness (SSA)-NEO Segment of the European Space Agency, told RT that it’s not the large NEOs that we need to worry about, though, but the smaller ones, as scientists are only aware of “one percent or less” of them and “they could still damage a city or region.”

Ideally, scientists hope to have several years’ warning of an approaching NEO of 100 meters or more, but when it comes to smaller ones, it is “more difficult to see them early on,” Koschny explains.

Offensive defense

“Anything larger than 50 meters we’d try to deflect,” Koschny said, pointing to NASA’s 2022 Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which aims to intercept an asteroid’s moonlet when it gets within 11 million kilometers of Earth. The hope is that it can “change the speed of an asteroid via a kinetic impact,” he explained.

Unfortunately, deflection methods require a few years of preparation, and the correct spacecraft would need to be built.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Iran Expected To “Go Nuclear” By Breaching Parts Of JCPOA, Europe Warns

Iran Expected To “Go Nuclear” By Breaching Parts Of JCPOA, Europe Warns

Iran is expected to go nuclear, by backing out of some of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA), at a sensitive time when Washington appears to be ramping up military readiness in response to what the White House says are credible threats against US assets in the Middle East by the Iranian regime. 

Simply put, the European Union is not capable of facing US sanctions, and despite some meager past efforts, such as the attempt to establish a ‘SWIFT alternative,’ EU initiatives to salvage the deal have been too little too late, as Iran has already hinted to some European officials. Image via CNN

According to a new report in The Wall Street Journal Monday:

European diplomats warned Monday that Iran is preparing to abandon parts of a landmark nuclear deal in response to new U.S. sanctions, a step that risks inflaming tensions after the Trump administration dispatched warships to the Persian Gulf to deter potential Iranian attacks.

The WSJ likens it to a “partial withdrawal” after other international signatories such as France and China tried to keep the deal alive following Trump’s ordered US withdrawal last May. 

Middle East based war reporter Elijah Magnier reports that Iran’s leaders “seem convinced that the only way to stand against the US sanctions is to go nuclear, gradually, pulling out from the Nuclear deal as the US unilaterally did.” He said “President Hassan Rouhani is expected to announce an important step this week.”

It appears the thinking in Tehran is that any future negotiation with the Trump administration are useless and pointless so long as White House rhetoric remains so aggressive, including the weeks ago formal terror designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), widely seen as a potential precursor to war.  

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beijing Puts Army On “Heightened Alert” Over US Warships In South China Sea As Tensions Soar

Beijing Puts Army On “Heightened Alert” Over US Warships In South China Sea As Tensions Soar

While investors from around the globe are desperately looking for clues if the simmering trade war between the US and China is about to get rather hot at midnight on Friday, when as the US Trade Rep warned after the close, the US will hike tariffs to 25% on Chinese imports, the not so veiled geopolitical conflict between the two superpowers which has a far greater chance of mutating into a “kinetic” exchange after China expressed its “strong opposition” on Monday after two US warships sailed near disputed islands in the South China Sea.

It was the third time this year that Washington has challenged Beijing’s maritime claims in the region which China has expressly claimed as its national interest, amid escalating rivalry between the two powers.

As we reported this morning, guided-missile destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon passed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson reefs in the Spratly Islands on Monday, Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said according to Reuters. The territory is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.USS Preble, one of two guided-missile destroyers that took part in Monday’s freedom of navigation exercise in the South China Sea.

Quoted by the SCMP, Commander Doss said the move aimed to assert international rights to “innocent passage” and “challenge excessive maritime claims” in accordance with international law, although Beijing hardly saw the latest US intervention in Chinese backwaters as “innocent.” The incident was the third time this year that the US has conducted so-called freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, compared to five publicly reported passages last year and four in 2017.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

One Bank Asks “Is The Fed Losing Control Of The Interest Rate System”

One Bank Asks “Is The Fed Losing Control Of The Interest Rate System”

Last Wednesday, before the Fed “unexpectedly” cut its IOER rate by 5bps o 2.35%, we warned that the “Fed Loses Control Of Rates” when pointing out the ongoing divergence of the effective fed funds rate from the Overnight Repo – IOER rate corridor.

Now, one week later and following the Fed’s admission that even it was surprised by how quickly the overnight funding market plumbing had gotten clogged up, others are starting to ask the very question we posed a week ago.

In a note published overnight by Rabobank’s Phillip Marey, the US strategist – just like us – asks “Is the Fed losing control of the policy rate system?” Needless to say, the answer could have profound implications not only for the future of US monetary policy, but whether or not the dollar can remain as the world’s reserve currency in a world in which the US central bank loses the ability to set the price of money.

Here’s Marey’s full note:

The pause continues

The FOMC statement noted that economic activity rose at a solid rate, but repeated that household spending and business fixed investment slowed in the first quarter. The Fed repeated that job gains have been solid, on average, in recent months, and dropped the reference to the weak February nonfarm payroll figure. The Fed also noted that core inflation has declined and is running below 2%. At the press conference, Powell said that the data are not pushing the FOMC in either direction. The Committee does not see a strong case for a rate move either way.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Joint Russia-China Naval Drills Kick Off After 2 US Warships Enter Taiwan Strait

Joint Russia-China Naval Drills Kick Off After 2 US Warships Enter Taiwan Strait

Early this week Chinese media confirmed that Russian warships arrived in Qingdao, a port city in East China’s Shandong Province, at the start this week’s join China-Russia naval exercises. 

The Russian fleet included the Varyag guided missile cruiser, a submarine, two anti-submarine ships, a corvette, a landing ship, a tanker and a rescue vessel, according to China’s Global Times

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Russian submarine makes a visit to Qingdao Port in China.

The planned drills, called Naval Cooperation 2019 exercises, set to run April 29 to May 4 come amidst a general thawing and improvement of relations between Moscow and Beijing as both experienced heightened economic and military tensions with the United States of late

For its part, the PLA Navy (People’s Liberation Army) will deploy a submarine, two guided missile destroyers, three guided missile frigates and a submarine rescue ship to participate in the exercises, according to an official PLA statement. Prior file photo of PLA crew members aboard the Russian missile cruiser Varyag last year. via China Daily

Official descriptions of the drills detail plans for joint training in maneuvering and communication, missile launches, artillery fire at sea, and naval aviation coordination, among other things. 

Russia’s TASS news agency identified the ships in its fleet that are involved in the joint drills as follows

A group of Pacific Fleet ships consisting of the flagship Guards Order of Nakhimov missile cruiser Varyag, the large anti-tank ships Admiral Vinogradov and Admiral Tributs, the corvette Sovershenny, the large landing ship Oslyabya, the rescue vessel Igor Belousov and the sea tanker Irkut arrived at the port of Qingdao on a business call several hours ago, and the official opening ceremony for the bilateral Russian-Chinese naval drills ‘Maritime Cooperation 2019’ was carried out.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Washington Warns Beijing: ‘Paramilitary’ Fishing Boats Will Now Be Treated Like Combatants

Washington Warns Beijing: ‘Paramilitary’ Fishing Boats Will Now Be Treated Like Combatants

As the US continues its increasingly daring and extremely provocative “freedom of navigation” operations in the Strait of Taiwan and South China Sea, it’s also growing more vocal about challenging China’s increasingly expansionary military presence in the Pacific. Over the weekend, the US has warned Beijing that the US military would aggressively respond to provocative acts by China’s coast guard and fishing boats in the same way it reacts to the Chinese navy.

China

The threatening posture is aimed at curbing Beijing’s increasingly sharp-elbowed approach not just to the South China Sea, which it already effectively dominates, despite the rival claims of several of its neighbors (claims that have been validated by international courts), but in the Pacific more broadly, the FT reports.

Admiral John Richardson, head of the US Navy, said he told his Chinese counterpart, vice-admiral Shen Jinlong, in January that Washington would not treat Chinese fishing boats that work with the People’s Liberation Army-Navy any differently from actual Navy ships. This warning wasn’t unprovoked: On several occasions, Chinese fishing boats have blocked vessels belonging to the US, Vietnam and the Philippines. They have even rammed and harassed ships, blocked access to lagoons, and participated in the seizure of reefs and shoals.

“I made it very clear that the US navy will not be coerced and will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all,” Adm Richardson told the Financial Times.

China’s informal marine militia has been expanding since 2015, when it established a headquarters on the Paracel Islands.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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