Zero Hedge

Walmart Rolls Out Bitcoin ATMs Across 200 Stores Nationwide

Walmart Rolls Out Bitcoin ATMs Across 200 Stores Nationwide

While adoption of cryptocurrencies is accelerating among the investor class, rapidly enabled by this week's launch of the first bictoin (futures) ETF, it appears the even broader adoption of digital currencies into day-to-day life and mom-and-pop may be about to escalate dramatically.

Reuters reports that Walmart customers at some of its U.S. stores will be able to purchase bitcoin using ATM-like machines installed by Coinstar.

Coinstar, known for its machines that can exchange physical coins for cash, has partnered with digital currency exchange CoinMe to let customers buy bitcoin at some of its kiosks.

A bitcoin-enabled Coinstar kiosk at a Walmart in Warminster, Pa. (Kevin Reynolds/CoinDesk)

“Coinstar, in partnership with Coinme, has launched a pilot that allows its customers to use cash to purchase bitcoin,” Walmart communications director Molly Blakeman told CoinDesk via email.

“There are 200 Coinstar kiosks located inside Walmart stores across the United States that are part of this pilot.”

Source: Coindesk

This is all good news for those who see the network effect building more sustainable value in bitcoin, but, as CoinDesk.com reports, there are some 'complications'.

After inserting bills into the machine, a paper voucher is issued.

The next stage involves setting up a Coinme account and passing a know-your-customer (KYC) check before the voucher can be redeemed.

The machine charges a 4% fee for the bitcoin option, plus another 7% cash exchange fee, according to the Coinstar website and verified by CoinDesk.

That's considerably more complicated than a standard bank ATM and we suspect may leave a few eager adopters holding back.

“Large retailers need to make sure they know the vendor they’re getting into bed with and what that organization is doing to manage risk,” Seth Sattler, compliance director of BTM provider DigitalMint, said in an interview.

However, as Coindesk notes, the cryptocurrency ATM industry is expanding at a rapid pace, partly fueled by the COVID pandemic.  Coinstar announced plans in 2020 to double its fleet of 3,500 Coinme BTMs amid a spike in usage. More recently, Coinstar, which started adding bitcoin-buying services with Coinme in early 2019, added 300 bitcoin-enabled machines at Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más, Harveys and other grocery stores across Florida.

There are now almost 30,000 Crypto ATMs worldwide...

Source: CoinATMRadar.com

But Walmart (with 4,700 stores and a market cap of $409 billion), long seen as the crown jewel to bringing crypto financial services into the mainstream, is another step in the evolution of cryptocurrencies in everyday life.

And no, this is not another Litecoin-like hoax.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 20:50

Blacklisted Huawei Paid Tony Podesta $500K To Lobby Biden Admin During Same Quarter CFO Released

Blacklisted Huawei Paid Tony Podesta $500K To Lobby Biden Admin During Same Quarter CFO Released

Chinese tech giant Huawei paid Democratic lobbyist and donor Tony Podesta $500,000 to lobby the White House during the third quarter - the same period in which the Biden DOJ struck a deal to allow Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to return home from Canada, where she was awaiting extradition to face criminal charges in the US.

Whether Podesta spirit-cooked up Wanzhou's release is unknown, however the White House says they had nothing to do with it - and that the company is still subject to trade restrictions.

"This was a law enforcement matter that was entirely in the Justice Department’s hands – not a policy matter," a White House official told CNBC. "As the Justice Department has said, they ‘reached the decision to offer a deferred prosecution agreement with Ms. Meng independently, based on the facts and the law, and an assessment of litigation risk."

"President Biden and this administration believe digital infrastructure equipment made by untrustworthy vendors, like Huawei, pose a threat to the security of the U.S., our allies, and our partners. Export controls against Huawei remain in place," the official continued, adding. "We are engaging with all of our partners and allies on the risks posed by Huawei and dozens of countries and carriers have made the decision to exclude Huawei from their 5G networks. And we expect this trend to continue."

According to the report, Podesta registered to lobby for Huawei in July - his first official return to lobbying after his firm's 2017 collapse under heavy scrutiny from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russiagate probe.

Podesta, according to the third quarter disclosure, targeted only the White House Office for Huawei last quarter. The disclosure form says it was for “issues related to telecommunication services and impacted trade issues.” The White House Office is run by the president’s chief of staff, who, in this case, is Ron Klain, another veteran Democratic power player.

...

For years, Huawei has sought to curry favor with American officials as it faces accusations that it is a threat to American national security. China’s government is known to exert a great deal of influence over the nation’s companies, although Huawei has denied that it would give data to Beijing. -CNBC

Podesta's now-defunct lobbying firm earned hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for Russian-owned mining company Uranium One during the same period that the Clinton Foundation was receiving millions from individuals connected to the U1 transaction.

The Podesta Group ended 2015 as Washington DC's third-largest lobbying firm - with nearly $30 million in revenue from over 100 clients. After a string of embarrassing news reports, including a failure to improperly report a $300,000 shipping expense for Tony's art collection, employees set up a system to prevent Mr. Podesta from being reimbursed by the company for personal expenditures, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In 2016, SunTrust bank severed ties with the Podesta Group when they discovered that they were doing work for a U.S. subsidiary of a sanctioned Russian bank - presumably Russias Kremlin-owned Sberbank, which paid the Podesta group $170,000 over a 6 month period through September 2016 to lobby against 2014 economic sanctions by the Obama administration.

Then, during the Russiagate investigation, Podesta clients became spooked as Special Counsel Robert Mueller began closing in on associate Paul Manafort. The Podesta Group decided (coincidentally) to retroactively file as a foreign agent for their work with the Manafort's Pro-Russia Centre for a Modern Ukraine campaign  tied to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, shortly before Manafort's indictment. The Podesta Group made $1.2 million as part of that effort

With the Manafort probe red-hot, the unraveling of the Podesta Group was swift. With clients such as Wells Fargo, Wal Mart and Oracle Corp. bailing on Tony, the lobbying firm death-spiraled into default - as Tony refused to pledge his giant art collection against firm obligations.

That said, like a cat with nine-lives, Tony Podesta has risen from radioactive recluse to DC power broker once again,. now that his old friends from the Democratic party running the show.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 20:30

Shipping Containers From Stranded Ships Abandoned In California Neighborhoods

Shipping Containers From Stranded Ships Abandoned In California Neighborhoods

Authored by Christopher Burroughs via The Epoch Times,

Shipping containers stranded for weeks at sea are now reportedly being abandoned in California neighborhoods.

Anaheim Street in Los Angeles has become one of the locations where an overflow of empty containers now line local streets, as nearby UCTI Trucking deals with more than they can handle under the local port’s 24/7 operations.

“It’s a bunch of neighbors that are very upset because it’s a non-stop issue,” local resident Sonia Cervantes told CBSLA.

Cervantes also said a container had blocked her car at one point.

UCTI Trucking owner Frank Arrieran addressed the situation, as the company experiences massive overflow to its usual 65 container spaces.

“Right now with the ports and everything that’s going on over there we’re stuck with the containers, having to bring them all to the yard, and we only have so much space,” Arrieran told CBSLA.

Arrieran hopes to strike a deal with local officials to access more space to meet the growth in operations.

As of Tuesday, 100 container ships were reportedly waiting to unload in the Los Angeles Port. Industry leaders claim the backlogs are partly due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growing supply chain issues have led some to label it a crisis. Republicans have spoken out for more from the Department of Transportation, while President Joe Biden addressed plans to improve shipping.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said there “is more that the Department of Transportation can and should be doing to help address ongoing supply chain issues related to the pandemic,” in a statement to the Washington Examiner last week.

The supply chain crisis led Biden to make new announcements last week to address congestion at some of America’s ports.

“After weeks of negotiation and working with my team and with the major union and retailers and freight movers, the Ports of Los Angeles—the Port of Los Angeles announced today that it’s going to be—begin operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Biden announced.

“This follows the Port of Long Beach’s commitment to 24/7 that it announced just weeks ago,” he added.

Biden called the effort a “first key step” to improving the nation’s supply chain.

The president’s speech also announced the expansion of shipping companies to meet the growing demands.

“Additionally, FedEx and UPS, two of our nation’s biggest freight movers, are committing today to significantly increase the amount of goods they are moving at night. FedEx and UPS are the shippers for some of our nation’s largest stores, but they also ship for tens of thousands of small businesses all across America,” he added.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 20:10

China Tested Two Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Glide Vehicles This Summer, FT Reports

China Tested Two Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Glide Vehicles This Summer, FT Reports

The Chinese military threat continues to be realized this week as it now appears two hypersonic weapon tests were conducted from low Earth orbit this summer, according to Financial Times, citing four people familiar with US intelligence assessments. 

China's next-generation hypersonic weapons appear far superior to anything in the US arsenal (that we know of). The first test was reportedly conducted on July 27 when a rocket used a "fractional orbital bombardment" system to launch a nuclear-capable "hypersonic glide vehicle" around the world. 

FT initially reported the test was conducted in early August. However, sources familiar with US intelligence assessments say the second test occurred on August 13. 

Three people familiar with the hypersonic tests said US military officials were "stunned" because China tested weapons that the US does not currently possess. 

One person said US government space experts were baffled on how the Chinese were able to conduct such tests because they appeared "to defy the laws of physics." 

China orbiting nuclear-capable hypersonic gliders exploits the weakness of US missile defense systems which means the new weapons could potentially strike the US mainland. On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian downplayed the August test and disputed FT's initial report indicating the object was a "reusable space vehicle" similar to the ones used by SpaceX. 

On Thursday, during a regular news briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, "I want to reiterate that this test reported by certain media is a routine spacecraft test to verify the technology of the spacecraft's reusability." 

The tests reported by FT have garnered concern from the White House. President Biden on Wednesday told reporters he was worried about the hypersonic development overseas. 

US Admiral Charles Richard, the head of Strategic Command who oversees US nuclear forces, told Stars and Stripes this week that he wouldn't be surprised if more reports are published in the press next month. 

In response to the tests, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that the West "needs to wake up" to the dangers of Chinese hypersonic weapons.

"I definitely think the West needs to wake up to the consequences of Chinese and Russian missile development. They are potent," Wallace said. "It is very important to understand what they are developing and what that means, both in range and speed of capabilities. We have seen China and Russia increase speeds in [their] missiles and ranges to an accurate level."

If the hypersonic tests are confirmed, they would suggest China is lightyears ahead of the US and the rest of the world. President Xi Jinping would then have the ability to unleash orbital strikes on the US mainland or allies. 

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 19:50

Salmonella Outbreak In Multiple States Linked To Onions: CDC

Salmonella Outbreak In Multiple States Linked To Onions: CDC

Authored by Mimi Nguyen Ly via The Epoch Times,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a food safety alert on Wednesday regarding an outbreak of Salmonella infections in multiple states it says has been linked to whole onions.

At least 652 people from 37 states have reported sick, 129 of whom have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported, the CDC announced.

The onions—whole red, white, and yellow varieties—were all imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed across the United States by ProSource Inc., according to epidemiological and traceback data, per the CDC.

“The outbreak strain was identified in a sample of cilantro and lime from a restaurant condiment cup collected from a sick person’s home,” the CDC alert reads.

“The sick person also reported that the cup contained onions, though none were left in the cup when it was tested.”

About 75 percent of the sick people who were interviewed said that they ate or possibly ate raw onions or dishes containing raw onions before they became sick, and several ill people reported eating at the same restaurants, which the CDC said indicates “they may be part of illness clusters.”

Investigators determined that ProSource Inc. supplied onions to many of the restaurants where sick individuals had eaten, including the restaurant where the condiment cup was collected. The investigators are now working to see whether other onions or suppliers are also linked to the outbreak.

The CDC advises people who have unlabelled whole onions at home to throw them away. If the onions are known to have been imported from Chihuahua, Mexico, and distributed by ProSource Inc., people should not eat them and businesses should not sell or serve them, the agency advised.

Furthermore, people are urged to wash surfaces and containers that may have touched the onions, using hot soapy water or a dishwasher.

People who eat food contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria can develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramping within 6 hours to 6 days, the CDC warned. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment, but sometimes cases can be severe and warrant hospitalization. Severe illness is more likely in children younger than 5, adults 65 and older, and people with compromised immune systems.

The CDC urges people to contact a doctor if they have severe symptoms.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 19:30

CDC Advisory Committee Quietly Confirms Moderna Jab Significantly More Dangerous Than Pfizer

CDC Advisory Committee Quietly Confirms Moderna Jab Significantly More Dangerous Than Pfizer

Update (1900ET): The CDC's independent advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine for certain populations and allow people to mix-and-match doses.

This aligns with The FDA's authorization Wednesday night which said people could switch to whichever vaccine they wanted for their booster shot.

  • Boosters for Moderna’s two-dose vaccine and J&J’s single-dose shot may be taken by Americans over 65, as well as those over 18 with a higher risk of severe COVID or exposure to the virus.

  • Dosing for the Moderna booster will be less than its two-dose regiment and will be permitted six months after the third shot.

  • J&J will be allowed after two months.

  • The Food and Drug Administration authorization Wednesday night greenlit people could switch to whichever vaccine they wanted for their booster shot.

As a reminder, the committee in late September did not support a Pfizer booster for people in high-risk workforces but was overruled by CDC director Rochelle Walensky.

"We have to acknowledge where we’re in a situation where we don’t have as much data as we would like. But we still have to make practical decisions and I think there’s as much data to support mixing and matching as there is for boosters in general," John Whyte, chief medical officer of WebMD, tells Axios.

*  *  *

Back in July, we reported on a study published in JAMA's Cardiology journal which linked "acute chest pain" in male American soldiers to mRNA jabs. The pain, as researchers found, was caused by myocarditis and pericarditis, two different types of heart inflammation, which, as we now know, are rare but dangerous side effects of the mRNA vaccines.

About six weeks after that, the Washington Post published leaked data from a Canadian study which claimed that the risks of these types of dangerous side effects (which mostly occur in younger men) were significantly higher in patients given the Moderna jab vs. the Pfizer jab.

Now, one day after the FDA defied its own advisors by approving the Moderna jab and J&J jab for booster doses for practically all American adults (while also producing guidelines for mixing and matching of vaccines for booster doses), a CDC advisory panel met Thursday and, while reviewing all the data on safety and efficacy, finally admitted that the earlier warnings about the excess dangers associated with the Moderna jab have been confirmed.

What's more, as the slide below says, rates of rare heart risks (myocarditis/pericarditis) among 18-39 year olds are higher for the Moderna jab than the Pfizer jab. But risks are still present for both, and it's the younger patients (who least need the vaccines) who are most at risk for the side effects.

To be sure, the CDC advisory committee presentation notes claim that most cases of heart inflammation following vaccination are "generally mild, with prompt resolution of symptoms". But keep in mind, that's in adult patients under the age of 40, who are among the lowest risk for COVID (unless they have a weakened immune system, are obese or have any other issues that make them particularly vulnerable).

For a visualization of the risks of Moderna vs. Pfizer, check out the chart below, which was presented to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and relies on data gathered by Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Of course, this data doesn't include patients who received boosters, although some data have shown that booster doses raise the risk for rare side effects (though they do remain pretty rare).

When it comes to boosters, it is unclear if the myocarditis risk of the Moderna booster will be as high since the FDA and CDC are asking Moderna to reformulate boosters with a lower dose (since there's also data showing that the Moderna jab's efficacy is longer lasting than that of the Pfizer jab).

Unfortunately, ACIP member Keipp Talbot, who chairs a work group on COVID vaccine safety, told his colleagues on Thursday that there's no way of knowing for certain right now if the risks from the Moderna jab will be lessened by giving boosters that are half the dose of the original courses. 

Another advisory committee member said she's worried about giving boosters of mRNA jabs to young men, and also worried about giving boosters of the J&J jab to young women (the J&J and AstraZeneca jabs have been linked to serious side effects and even deaths).

Finally, after reviewing all the safety and efficacy data, one observer who apparently monitored Thursday's meeting still has a burning question: Will mRNA boosters lead to stabilized boosting? Or is mRNA protection inherently short-lived?

Thanks to the Biden Administration's rush to dole out booster jabs due to the delta variant (and now, with the threat of the delta-plus variant looming on the horizon), it looks like we'll all find out together.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 19:10

House Votes To Hold Steve Bannon In Contempt Of Congress

House Votes To Hold Steve Bannon In Contempt Of Congress

Authored by Joseph Lord via The Epoch Times,

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold former President Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after he declined to cooperate with a congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally.

The partisan vote came after the Democrat-led Jan. 6 Committee voted to move the charge forward to be confirmed in the House. Members of the commission alleged that Bannon refusing a subpoena to provide documents and testimony to the panel constitutes contempt of Congress.

Five 'Republicans' voted "yes" on Bannon's contempt charge:

  1. Liz Cheney

  2. Adam Kinzinger

  3. Anthony Gonzalez

  4. Peter Meijer

  5. Mike Simpson

The contempt resolution argues that Bannon has no legal standing to defy the subpoena.

Trump’s attorney argued that Bannon shouldn’t comply because the requested information is protected by the former president’s executive privilege. Team Trump submitted a memo to Trump’s website announcing a “lawsuit to defend executive privilege.”

“The January 6th Committee is a partisan sham to distract Americans from the Democrats’ policies that are killing and robbing Americans,” the memo alleged.

The committee says it wants Bannon’s documents and testimony because he was in touch with Trump before the Jan. 6 incident, because he tried to get Trump to focus on the congressional certification of the election results, and because he said on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.

Bannon “appears to have had multiple roles relevant to this investigation, including his role in constructing and participating in the ‘stop the steal’ public relations effort that motivated the attack” and “his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of Jan. 6,” the committee alleged in the resolution.

“Based on the committee’s investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advance knowledge of the plans for January 6th and likely had an important role in formulating those plans,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel’s vice chair, said at the committee meeting.

“His testimony is important because he was predicting that all hell was going to break loose on Jan. 6 and he was reportedly in communication with the president in proximity to the 6th, in multiple communications with the White House leading up to that day,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of nine members on the Jan. 6 committee, told reporters.

With the House’s certification of the charge, it is now up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide whether or not to pursue legal action.

President Joe Biden has encouraged the DOJ, led by his appointee Merrick Garland, to prosecute those found to have violated the Jan. 6 commission’s subpoenas.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later sought to clarify Biden’s remarks, writing on Twitter that he “supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”

The post drew pushback from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), who responded by wondering if the DOJ would be charging Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who’s under investigation for alleged tax fraud.

“How about the millions of illegals crossing our southern border? There is nothing independent about this DOJ. They serve the far left and only care about investigating conservatives,” Steube said.

The DOJ has promised that it will react to the case on its merits, and will not be swayed by partisanship.

“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” a DOJ spokesperson told news outlets in an Oct. 15 statement.

Garland promised much the same. “The department recognizes the important oversight role Congress plays in respect to the executive branch. I’ll say what a DOJ spokesperson said yesterday: The House votes for a referral of a contempt charge, the DOJ will do what it always does—apply the facts and the law and make a decision.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) argued that the subpoena issued by the committee is “invalid” because neither party knows whether Bannon is protected under executive privilege.

“They’re issuing an invalid subpoena,” McCarthy said.

“Issuing an invalid subpoena weakens our power. He has the right to go to the court to see if he has executive privilege or not. I don’t know if he does or not, but neither does the committee. So they’re weakening the power of Congress itself by issuing an invalid subpoena.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) applauded the committee at a Thursday press conference.

She alleged that “The January 6 domestic terrorist attack was intended to interfere with the constitutional transfer of power.”

House Democratic Caucus Co-chairman Pete Aguillar (D-Calif.) said of the vote. 

“Let me be clear that this is not done to be punitive, this is done to uphold the law.”

Trump has also commented on the ongoing proceedings on his website.

Trump said in a statement on the situation:

This is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which started with the now fully debunked and discredited Russia, Russia, Russia Scam, quickly reverting to a perfect phone call with Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, and now this. The Unselect Committee is composed of absolute political hacks who want to destroy the Republican Party and are decimating America itself.

“I am the only thing in their way,” Trump concluded, promising continued intervention on Bannon’s behalf.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 18:50

Stocks That Miss Expectations Are Being Hammered By The Most On Record

Stocks That Miss Expectations Are Being Hammered By The Most On Record

It was just a quarter ago (and then again, the quarter before that) when we reported that in a market as priced to perfection as this one, where stock prices have massively outrun fair value based on corporate earnings (in some cases by years, but that's where super generous earnings multiples come in), that investors have no patience for companies that miss, and the result was a furious hammering of all stocks that missed top or bottom-line expectations (and in many cases, companies that beat but did not beat by enough were also punished).

Well, fast forward to this quarter when the same phenomenon is at play: while earnings are expected to (still) come in hot, the market has a familiar warning to companies: miss and you will get punished.

While so far Q3 earnings has come is surprisingly strong - amid whispers that stagflation will hit margins - and 84% of reporting companies have posted earnings that topped expectations, just shy of the best showing ever, similar to last quarter the firms that surpassed profit forecasts got almost nothing to show for it in the market while misses got punished the most since Bloomberg started tracking the data in 2017.

As Bloomberg details looking at recent reports, Procter & Gamble beat on sales and earnings on Tuesday, only to have investors fixate on rising commodity and freight costs. Baker Hughes plunged 5.7% after reporting a third-quarter earnings stumble. And streaming giant Netflix Inc. fell 2.2% on Wednesday as traders looked past a profit and subscriber-growth beat.

On average, companies that beat on profit estimates outperformed the S&P 500 by less than 0.2%.

What about companies that did not beat? Here it was really ugly: shares of firms that missed profit forecasts underperformed the S&P 500 by 4.4% a day after the report, the worst post-earnings reaction since at least 2017, Bloomberg reported.

Combining with our previous observations on this striking phenomenon, this makes Q3 the fourth consecutive quarter in which earnings are not being rewarded and where beats are being severely punished by a market which has been priced to beyond perfection. And while U.S. companies overall have been able to deal with the pandemic-related headaches, analysts want to see whether they can continue to charge more for products without losing business should costs from labor to raw materials continue to go up.

“It is just going to take time to get all those container ships to port and to have enough trucks and truck drivers to take it the last mile to the store shelf or distribution facility,” said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management. “We hear corroborating evidence from corporate CEOs and, frankly, our own clients — that the current bottlenecks will persist into mid-2022.”

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 18:30

Feds Confirm Body Found In Florida Nature Preserve Is Brian Laundrie

Feds Confirm Body Found In Florida Nature Preserve Is Brian Laundrie

One of the biggest American manhunts in recent memory is finally over.

After a day of anxious speculation by millions of Americans who have become engrossed in the Gabby Petito drama, the FBI has just confirmed that human remains found in a Florida nature preserve do in fact belong to Brian Laundrie. According to the bureau, dental records on the cadaver match those belonging to Laundrie.

Laundrie is a person of interest in the death of his former girlfriend, Petito, whose body was found in Wyoming a month ago. Laundrie was wanted on a federal warrant for using a debit card belonging to Petito after her disappearance. He is also a person of interest in her death.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 18:13

Dems Want To Give Biden War Powers Over Taiwan

Dems Want To Give Biden War Powers Over Taiwan

Authored by Dave DeCamp via AntiWar.com,

There is an ongoing debate between centrist Democrats and progressives in Washington over giving President Biden war powers to go to war with China in the case that Beijing invades Taiwan, Foreign Policy reported on Wednesday.

The centrists are in favor of expanding Biden’s authorities even though any military action against China risks nuclear war, while the progressives favor the current policy. One Democrat in the House, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), the House Foreign Affairs Committee vice-chair, made the case to give Biden the war powers in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

Image source: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Luria’s concern is that if China moves to take Taiwan, getting authorization from Congress would take too long. "So if you can’t act quickly enough, China overwhelmingly takes Taiwan," she told Foreign Policy.

Luria frames the need for authorization to fight China as necessary to "de-escalate" the situation despite the obvious risks. "Without the ability for the president to react immediately, any delay would prevent the United States from responding, at a lower level of conflict, to repel an invasion and de-escalate the situation," she wrote in the Post.

Republican hawks have already drawn up legislation that would give Biden the authority to go to war with China over Taiwan. "My Republican colleagues introduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act in February to grant the president the authority to act against an invasion of Taiwan and prevent a fait accompli. This act is a good starting point to address a legal dilemma," Luria said in the Post.

The Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act would authorize "the President to use the Armed Forces to defend Taiwan against a direct attack by China’s military, a taking of Taiwan’s territory by China, or a threat that endangers the lives of civilians in Taiwan or members of Taiwan’s military."

Matt Duss, an aide to Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), told Foreign policy that the current policy of not committing to defending Taiwan, known as "strategic ambiguity," shouldn’t be changed.

"A policy of ambiguity may not be the most emotionally satisfying for DC hawks, but it’s working," Duss said. "The dangers of creating another open-ended war authorization should be obvious."

The renewed debate was sparked by China’s recent flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), which have been falsely portrayed as airspace violations by Western media. An ADIZ is an area where a country wants foreign aircraft to identify itself. The concept is not covered by any international laws or treaties, and the Chinese warplanes usually enter the southwest corner of the ADIZ, nowhere near the island of Taiwan.

Missing from most reports on China’s ADIZ flights is how much the US has increased its military activity in the region. Beijing’s moves around Taiwan are clearly fueled by the US’s presence and Washington’s steps to boost ties with Taipei. A change in policy in the form of a war powers authorization would only raise tensions in the region and make a conflict more likely.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 18:10

Peter Thiel: Here's Where I Would Look For Bitcoin-Creator Satoshi

Peter Thiel: Here's Where I Would Look For Bitcoin-Creator Satoshi

Guessing at where, and most importantly who, is bitcoin's pseudonymous founder Satoshi Nakamoto has become a cottage industry full of myths and rabbit holes (and even a few actual claimants of the crown).

However, perhaps the most viable 'origin' story for bitcoin and the identity of Satoshi came from billionaire VC Peter Thiel yesterday as he addressed a conference in Miami.

As Bloomberg reports, the self-described libertarian said Wednesday, recounting an early meeting with the founders of E-Gold Ltd., a now defunct digital currency, that "my sort of theory on Satoshi’s identity was that Satoshi was on that beach in Anguilla.”

“I met them on the beach in Anguilla in February of 2000. We were beginning the revolution against the central banks on the beach in Anguilla. We were going to make PayPal interoperable with E-Gold and blow up all the central banks.”

While E-Gold did not end well - amid allegations of fraud, libel, and a legal settlement - Thiel believes that that Satoshi may have been one of around 200 people at that initial meeting and probably learned from E-Gold’s failures.

“Bitcoin was the answer to E-Gold, and Satoshi learned that you had to be anonymous and you had to not have a company,” Thiel said.

“Even a company, even a corporate form was too governmentally linked.”

Thiel said he hasn’t gone back and tried to figure out exactly who that one person at the beach might have been, and he cautioned against too much speculation, which he said would take the “anti-crypto” side.

“If we knew who it was, the government would arrest him,” Thiel warned.

While we do not have video of his latest appearance, he laid out similar thoughts about the origin of bitcoin (and Satoshi) in 2001...

And even further back, here is Thiel in 1999 discussing digital currencies that cannot be stopped...

Given those two clips, one could be forgiven for believing Thiel may on the right track (or even Satoshi himself...).

Finally, as we pointed out earlier in the day, Thiel joked further with the audience at the Miami conference that he underinvested in Bitcoin as he argued its rise is a rebuke to the world's financial systems.

"It surely tells us that we are at a complete bankruptcy moment for the central banks," he said.

And it seems from the above clips, he saw that coming over 20 years ago.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 17:50

Controversial Wuhan Lab Seeks To Staff New Facility With CCP Members

Controversial Wuhan Lab Seeks To Staff New Facility With CCP Members

Authored by Frank Fang via The Epoch Times,

China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the lab at the center of intense scrutiny over whether it was the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier this year launched a new research facility and has sought to staff it with workers loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The new facility, called the Jiangxia Laboratory, will focus on studying emerging and highly pathogenic pathogens, biosafety technologies, and drugs on biosafety defense, according to China’s state-run media. Located in central China’s Hubei Province, the new lab was formally unveiled in a ceremony in February.

According to the WIV website, the facility is headed by Xiao Gengfu, who is currently the CCP secretary attached to the WIV.

In China, most companies, schools, institutions, and other entities have party branches or party cells embedded in them—a way for the communist regime to maintain a tight grip on their operations and staff.

Since May, the WIV has published several job listings on its website for positions at the new facility. At least two listings had one specific qualification requirement—being a CCP member.

A May 17 job post looked for a CCP member who could fill a “comprehensive management post.” The person would need to handle administrative duties such as coordinating and organizing important meetings and major events.

Additionally, the person would be tasked to handle “Party affairs management,” including having the responsibility of “Party branch construction and daily management of Party members,” according to the job post.

On Aug. 25, the WIV published a post seeking a CCP member to fill a human resources position. The person would be in charge of hiring and other duties such as managing contracts.

Jiangxia Laboratory is one of seven new labs established in Hubei this year, as part of an initiative by the provincial authorities to turn Hubei into a province with strong technology sectors. According to China’s state-run media, one of the labs focuses on optoelectronics, the study of electronic devices that use light, and is run by the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital.

Of the remaining five new labs, one dedicated to researching aerial technology is run by Wuhan University, while another lab focusing on biological breeding is located in Wuhan-based Huazhong Agricultural University.

The Chinese regime has vehemently denied that the CCP virus, the pathogen causing the disease COVID-19, escaped from the WIV, despite a growing body of circumstantial evidence raising questions about the potential role of the lab in causing the pandemic. Instead, the communist regime has argued that the virus has a natural origin.

In January, the U.S. State Department released a fact sheet stating that several researchers at the WIV fell ill with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses in autumn 2019. The assertion contradicts a claim by a researcher at the institute who said there was “zero infection” among lab staff and students.

The WIV has been doing research on bat coronaviruses for over a decade and is located a short drive from a local market in Wuhan where the first reported cluster of infection cases emerged.

Australian investigative reporter Sharri Markson, in a recent episode of EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders,” said “evidence quite clearly points to a leak” at the WIV. Among the evidence she cited included how a WIV database containing 22,000 viruses went offline unexpectedly in September 2019, and that the institute spent $500,000 to boost its security before the onset of the pandemic. 

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 17:30

5 Sinema Advisors Quit, Accuse Her Of 'Selling Out' To Big Donors, As Far-Left Backlash Intensifies

5 Sinema Advisors Quit, Accuse Her Of 'Selling Out' To Big Donors, As Far-Left Backlash Intensifies

While the New York Times attempts to augur Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's demands as she and fellow moderate Dem Sen. Joe Manchin continue their battle with progressive House Dems that has left President Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda - an infrastructure bill and accompanying expansion of the social safety net - the backlash against her "obstructionist" stance has just prompted five veterans who once served on her semi-formal "advisory council" to resign in protest.

In recent weeks, Sinema has been hounded by progressive activists who tried - but failed - to harangue her as she ran the Boston Marathon. Now, that pressure is likely about to be turned up to '11' as the former advisors accused her of "hanging your own constituents out to dry" in a letter that was just leaked to the New York Times.

As President Biden struggles to quell the partisan battle over his agenda and sell it to the American people (as warnings about the potential for stoking further inflationary pressures multiply), progressives are getting increasingly desperate, and ramping up their attacks on Dem moderates who are in the middle of a pitched battle with progressives.

According to the NYT, which "obtained" (ie was given) a copy of the letter, the former Sinema aides accuse her of placing the needs of wealthy donors ahead of the needs of her constituents.

In a scathing letter obtained by The New York Times, the veterans took Ms. Sinema to task for her refusal to abolish the filibuster and her opposition to parts of Mr. Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social safety net, education, climate and tax plan, stances that have stymied some of his top priorities.

"You have become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than your own people," the veterans wrote in a letter that is to be featured in a new advertisement by Common Defense, a progressive veterans’ activist group that has targeted Ms. Sinema.

"We shouldn’t have to buy representation from you, and your failure to stand by your people and see their urgent needs is alarming," they added.

Moreover, the NYT said the letter is the latest in a "crescendo of anger" directed at Sinema over her 'perplexing' tactics during the hectic negotiations, which have most recently centered on the tax hikes Dems' have promised to help offset the cost of both Biden's "bipartisan" infrastructure plan as well as his plan to expand the social safety net. Sinema is a key swing vote in this battle.

But it's not just Sinema's stance on the tax hikes that's got the far-left so hot and bothered. There's a groundswell of anger over her opposition to scrapping the filibuster, which progressive Dems want to eliminate to help push through a version of the Biden agenda that they effectively dictate.

The resignations add to a crescendo of anger and pressure that Ms. Sinema is facing from erstwhile allies who say they are perplexed by her recent tactics. She has resisted major elements of Democrats’ sprawling social safety net and climate bill, including raising individual income and corporate tax rates to pay for it. Because Democrats control the Senate with only 50 votes, even one defection could spell defeat for the measure, giving Ms. Sinema outsize influence to determine what can be included.

Ms. Sinema has also steadfastly opposed changing the Senate’s filibuster rule, which effectively requires 60 votes to move forward on any major bill, even as Republicans have used it as a procedural weapon to block voting rights legislation and a bill to avert a federal debt default.

Progressive activists have stepped up their campaign to push Democrats to do away with the rule so they can muscle Mr. Biden’s priorities through Congress on simple majority votes, and they have trained their anger on Ms. Sinema and another centrist holdout, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

One progressive activist quoted by the NYT said that Dems worked "so hard" to get Sinema elected, and now they feel betrayed.

"Democrats were out desperately trying to help her win the seat, and now we feel like, what was it for?” Sylvia González Andersh, one of the veterans who signed the letter, said in an interview. "Nobody knows what she is thinking because she doesn’t tell anybody anything. It’s very sad to think that someone who you worked for that hard to get elected is not even willing to listen."

Well, there is one person who knows - Nancy Pelosi. But apparently she won't tell.

As time goes on, pressure on Sinema is only going to get worse. How much longer until she gets "Tucker Carlson'd" - or worse - by Antifa?

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 17:10

America Is Now A Kleptocrapocracy

America Is Now A Kleptocrapocracy

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

I hope everyone here is hungry because the banquet of consequences is being served.

I've coined a new portmanteau word to describe America's descent: kleptocrapocracy, a union of kleptocracy (a nation ruled by kleptocrats) and crapocracy, a nation drowning in a moral sewer of rampant self-interest in which the focus is cloaking all the skims, scams, rackets and bezzles in some virtuous-sounding garb, a nation choking on low-quality junk ceaselessly hawked by robocalls, spam, phishing and Big Tech manipulation.

It's little wonder trust has collapsed in America: the only thing we can trust is whatever's being pitched is deceptively packaged to mask the self-interest and profiteering of the perps.

The stench from the decomposing carcasses of once-trusted institutions is everywhere. Insiders and the marketers they pay to cloak their grifting are banking bennies at the expense of hapless debt-serfs who fell for the scam. You need these three costly medications, and then when the side-effects kick in, you need six more to counteract the first three, and so on. But trust us; your "health" (heh) is our only concern. Uh, sure.

Why do state universities need to market themselves like a roto-rooter service? Maybe because they're both working the sewers: state universities are exploiting the student loan sewers, desperate to recruit another batch of debt-serfs who fell for the 3-card monte game in which a lifetime of debt is exchanged for a credential of dubious value.

The competition for the remaining pool of debt-serfs is heating up, so like everything else in America, the game is now all about marketing, virtue-signaling, exploiting Big Tech manipulation, and so on.

Doing something useful is now for chumps. The opportunities in America are all about getting rich by doing, well, nothing: skimming 20% "guaranteed" returns in DeFi, mining cryptos, trading stablecoins, selling volatility, etc.--getting rich and then living large on the sweat of the chumps who are still working (poor deluded fools!).

The obvious goal here is for everyone to get in on trading stablecoins, buying rentals with DeFi, churning meme stocks, etc. Why should anyone lower themselves to doing something useful anymore? Why bother?

Labor has been degraded for decades in speculative-frenzy America. Why work when the Fed has our backs and all those newly issued trillions are up for grabs? Doing something useful is for chumps.

Nobody seems to ask what happens when we're all minting fortunes off speculative churn and there's nobody filling potholes, stocking shelves or carrying bags of QuikCrete to customers' trucks.

And while we're on the subject of sewage: if America's security services and Big Tech oligarchies track everything and everyone, why are we drowning in robocalls, spam, SMS-spam (smishing), etc.? Couldn't the NSA/CIA track the spammers and robo-callers down and rendition them (warrantlessly, of course) to a hellhole camp in an unnamed country?

Of course they could. But the ruination of everyday life is of no concern to the kleptocrats (fly with me to the stars!) or our dysfunctional government, which has become nothing more than an invitation-only auction of favors that elevates the relentless pursuit of self-interest and profiteering to new kleptocratic heights.

Please don't make the mistake of expecting anything to work properly in America. The components are garbage, the parts are on back-order, the people who knew how to make the kludgy mess function just quit in disgust, and we'll have to get back to you about your request, as our service staff just left to launch an OnlyFans site.

I don't want to work, I'm minting money speculating, but gol-darn it, I want everyone else to wait on me and meet my needs for low, low quality goods and services at not-so-low prices, and if I'm not treated well enough by everyone earning chump-change, then I'll freak out, and if that doesn't pan out, I'll blame it all on my meds. Accountability is like work--only for chumps.

Trust me, everything's going great and we're all going to get wealthier and wealthier until we won't be able to take it any more, it will be so great. I hope everyone here is hungry because the banquet of consequences is being served.

*  *  *

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.

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A Hacker's Teleology: Sharing the Wealth of Our Shrinking Planet (Kindle $8.95, print $20, audiobook $17.46) Read the first section for free (PDF).

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Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 16:50

Will Democrats Really Fail To Raise Taxes: Some Thoughts From Goldman Sachs

Will Democrats Really Fail To Raise Taxes: Some Thoughts From Goldman Sachs

Overnight, several media outlets reported that the White House is considering abandoning plans to raise the corporate and top individual tax rates, in response to opposition from Sen. Sinema (D-Ariz.).

As Goldman's chief political economist Alec Phillips writse today, the news here "is not her position against tax rate increases, which has been known and reported on for some time. Instead, it is that her position has not changed" and that the White House is considering alternatives in an effort to reach a deal by late next week, before (1) the President leaves for Europe (Oct. 29), (2) a potential House vote on the infrastructure bill (by Oct. 29), and (3) the Virginia gubernatorial election (Nov. 2).  

Looking at prediction markets, Goldman notes that there has been a shift in the consensus expectation, with the odds of any increase in the corporate rate this year declining from around 70% on average over the last week to around 63% today, while the odds of an increase to more than 24.5% declining more sharply, from nearly even odds over the last week to 22% today.

Taking a step back, the Washington strategist notes that since the start of 2021, Goldman had has expected Congress to increase the corporate rate to 25% next year from 21%, raising around $400bn over ten years, and he still thinks the corporate rate is more likely than not to rise; indeed a higher corporate tax rate has long been one of Goldman's biggest bear cases for stocks.

Asked moments ago if spending bill can be paid for without raising taxes on corporations, Manchin responded "oh no they're going to pay. they're going to pay. ...everybody has to pay their fair share"

To put the corporate rate increase in context, the House Ways and Means Committee’s proposal to pay for the “Build Back Better Act” (BBBA) would have generated nearly $3 trillion in budgetary savings – a little more than $2.2 trillion in tax increases, and around $700bn in drug pricing reductions.  Of the tax increases, a 26.5% corporate rate would raise $540bn over 10 years, the 39.6% top individual rate in that package would raise another $170bn/10yrs and the 25% capital gains rate would raise $123bn/10yrs. A 3% surtax on income over $5mn would raise another $127bn/10yrs.  Altogether, those tax rate increases would raise around $1 trillion/10yrs in revenue.

Assuming that the eventual cost of the package shrinks to around $2 trillion - as is now the consensus - there is theoretically room to drop some of these tax rate increases and still have enough savings to cover the cost of the bill. However, it is unclear whether congressional Democrats can count on all of those other provisions, either. Drug pricing changes are likely to make it into the final bill, but we would expect less than half of the $700bn savings they current generate (around $130bn in savings from delaying an already-delayed Trump Administration policy, and another $100-200bn from Medicare-related savings). Proposed estate tax changes seem unlikely ($82bn), and it is unclear whether there will be sufficient support to repeal the deduction for pass-through income ($78bn).

Meanwhile, Goldman warns that other things could make their way into the bill.

Among these are increased requirements for bank information reporting to the IRS ($463bn/10yrs, according to the Treasury), changes to partnership rules ($172bn, according to the Senate Finance Committee), or a 2% tax on buybacks that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Wyden (D-Ore.) has proposed (potentially $100-150bn/10yrs assuming corporate profits grow as CBO projects and buybacks run at the current ratio to profits). Regarding buybacks, Democrats could always consider Sen. Rubio’s (R-Fla.) proposal to tax buybacks as deemed dividends to shareholders, which could potentially raise more revenue than the excise tax approach.

Another clear possibility is to further tighten the international tax changes already in the House-proposed bill. The White House proposed more than $1 trillion/10yrs in cross-border tax increases in its budget earlier this year, but the House Ways and Means Committee raises only $340bn from these policies because most of them are scaled back from the original.

That said, Phillips concludes that all these changes are all fairly complicated "and once lawmakers look through all of these alternatives, it would not be surprising to see them return to the idea of at least incrementally raising corporate tax rates, after all."

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 16:31

Intel Plunges After Sales Miss, Profit Forecast Disappoints

Intel Plunges After Sales Miss, Profit Forecast Disappoints

In its preview of Intel's Q3 earnings, Bloomberg writes that against a background of a 10-year high in personal computer shipments and surging demand for chips in general, Intel’s growth has dried up in 2021, causing concern it’s giving up market share. Rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. grew 45% in 2020 and is on course to post a revenue expansion of more than 60% this year, according to estimates. Nvidia which has overtaken Intel to become the largest U.S. chipmaker by market capitalization, will expand more than 50% for its second consecutive year.

Commenting ahead of earnings, Matt Bryson of Wedbush Securities said “Our concerns regarding Intel remain the same in the intermediate term. Specifically, we believe Intel will continue to bleed share to AMD as well as former customers (e.g., Apple, Amazon, etc.) until it resolves its manufacturing disadvantage. And while it’s struggling competitively, increased capex will weigh on gross margins. Net, while Intel is doing the right thing in reinvesting in the company, we don’t see the combination of higher expenses and market share headwinds as creating a positive outcome for shareholders for some time to come.”

Amid the gloomy sentiment, Intel shares have trailed the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index this year, with a 12% advance versus the index’s 22% climb.

So can/will Intel finally prove the skeptics wrong?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no because moments ago the giant chipmaker not only missed revenue expectations but it also cut guidance, sending its stock tumbling after hours.

This is what Intel reported moments ago for the just concluded third quarter:

  • Adj Rev $18.1B, missing est. $18.24B
    • Rev. $19.2B, +4.9% Y/Y
  • Adj EPS $1.71, beating est. $1.11
  • Adjusted gross margin 57.8% vs. 54.8% y/y, beating estimate 55.0%

The EPS beat was in no small part driven by a plunge in the effective tax rate which collapsed to just 0.5% from 15.2% Y/Y.

Breaking down the revenue components reveals a mixed picture, with Client Computing Beating but Data Center Group revenue missing estimates::

  • Client Computing Group Revenue $9.7 billion, -2% just barely but beating estimates of $9.64 billion
  • Data Center Group Revenue $6.50 billion, +10% y/y, missing estimate $6.65 billion
  • Internet of Things revenue $1.37 billion, +50% y/y, beating estimate $979.5 million
  • Mobileye revenue $326 million, +39% y/y, missing estimate $362.5 million
  • Non-Volatility Memory Solutions revenue $1.11 billion, -4.2% y/y, beating estimate $1.02 billion
  • Programmable Solutions revenue $478 million, +16% y/y, missing estimate $493.4 million

Despite the mixed picture, Intel said Q3 revenue was driven by return to normalcy in the IOT and data center groups. Intel also said its Q3 numbers for IOT, Data Center, and MobileEye groups are all-time records.

Commenting on the results, CEO Pat Gelsinger said “we are still in the early stages of our journey, but I see the enormous opportunity ahead, and I couldn’t be prouder of the progress we are making towards that opportunity.”

Looking ahead, Intel boosted its full year adjusted EPS forecast and is now expecting GAAP EPS of $4.50, non-GAAP EPS of $5.28, GAAP gross margin of 55% and non-GAAP gross margin of 57%, even if Q4 EPS came in below consensus estimates; The company also guided to slightly higher revenue than consensus.

  • Intel Sees 4Q Adj EPS 90c, Est. $1.02
  • Intel Sees 4Q Adj Rev About $18.3B, Est. $18.26B
  • Intel Sees FY Adj EPS $5.28, Saw About $4.80
  • Intel Sees FY Rev. $77.7B, Saw $77.6B

Intel also hiked its gross margin guidance, and now expected 53.5% non-GAAP gross margin for Q4 and 57% for the full year 2021.

Visually:

Not helping matters, Intel CFO George Davis announced plans to retire in May 2022. Davis is a holdover from Gelsinger’s predecessor and one of the relatively few top executives that the CEO hasn’t replaced.

Commenting on the results, Bloomberg's Ian King writes that "the key takeaway is the cost of Gelsinger’s attempts to make Intel more competitive is hurting profitability. Investors like what he’s said and the actions he’s promising, but the interim hit to the financial performance of the company is the problem."

Sure enough, the stock is tumbling after hours, and was down more than 6% at last check. This is the fourth time in a row that the stock has dropped more than 5% following an earnings announcement. Maybe it's time for another new CEO?

Adding insult to injury, key competitor Advanced Micro Devices is now rising in extended trading, up about 1%, potentially on Intel’s boosted full-year profit view.

The company's earnings presentation is below:

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 16:22

SNAP Crashes After Revenue Miss, Blames Apple Privacy Changes, Labor Shortages

SNAP Crashes After Revenue Miss, Blames Apple Privacy Changes, Labor Shortages

Snap reported its Q3 earnings and it was not pretty, missing revenues:

  • *SNAP 3Q REV. $1.07B, EST. $1.10B

It also cut the outlook dramatically:

  • *SNAP SEES 4Q REV. $1.17B TO $1.21B, EST. $1.35B

  • *SNAP SEES 4Q ADJ EBITDA $135M TO $175M, EST. $299.3M

The blame for all this covered pretty much everything:

“While we anticipated some degree of business disruption, the new Apple-provided measurement solution did not scale as we had expected, making it more difficult for our advertising partners to measure and manage their ad campaigns for iOS,” Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said in his prepared remarks.

Spiegel also warned that global supply chain interruptions and labor shortages reduces the “short-term appetite to generate additional customer demand through advertising.”

SNAP shares have been destroyed after-hours, crashing a stunning 28%...

On the barely bright side, Snapchat reported 306 million daily active users, up more than 4% from the 293 million the company reported in April. That figure is up nearly 23% compared with the 249 million daily users the company reported a year prior.

Although we note that North America DAUs remain basically flat.

The company expects to reach between 316 million and 318 million DAUs in the fourth quarter, the company said in its prepared remarks. That came in ahead of the 311.8 million daily active users analysts were expecting for the fourth quarter, according to StreetAccount.

 

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 16:20

Bitcoin, Bills, Bonds, & Black Gold Slide As Trump 'Truth' SPAC Soars

Bitcoin, Bills, Bonds, & Black Gold Slide As Trump 'Truth' SPAC Soars

The "TRUTH" will set you free (and make you rich if you bought Trump's new media SPAC today)...

Making SPACs Great Again?

Overall, US equities saw endless barrages of buying panics with a closing ramp that got The Dow green. Nasdaq outperformed...

The S&P rallied up a new record high just barely...

The Dow stalled at its record high...

Short-dated bonds were monkeyhammered higher in yields today as the long-end remained flat (30Y -1bp, 2Y, 5Y +5bps)...

Source: Bloomberg

5Y Yields rose to their highest since Feb 2020...

Source: Bloomberg

This stalled the yield curve steepening at a significant resistance level...

Source: Bloomberg

The Short-term debt market jumped notably today with Fed rate-hike expectations back at cycle highs (at least 1 hike by Sep 2022 and 2 by Dec 2022)...

Source: Bloomberg

The 5Y Breakeven rate hit 2.915% today - the highest on record - and 10Y breakevens at their highest since 2006...

Source: Bloomberg

Record breakevens followed today’s auction of a fresh TIPS bond which stopped at -1.685%, 1bp through the when-issued price, and the lowest-ever auction rate for a five-year inflation-linked Treasury.

The dollar rallied back to yesterday's highs (but remains down on the week)...

Source: Bloomberg

Crypto had a tougher day with an early morning flash-crash on Binance sparking some downside pressure in Bitcoin...

Source: Bloomberg

Ethereum significantly outperformed Bitcoin overnight...

Source: Bloomberg

BITO fell back below its opening level...

Oil tumbled today, falling the most since August on news of lockdowns in Eastern Europe and Russia, before bouncing hard off the $80 handle...

As Bloomberg noted, before crude plunged in today’s session, the 14-day Relative Strength Index had been above 70 since early October, signaling the commodity was overbought and primed for a pullback. The run up to $85bbl had been fostered by end-of-day trading amidst low volume and WTI’s November contracts expiring.

Gold ended the day unchanged...

Finally, we note a significant decoupling between Bond volatility (high) and Nasdaq risk (low)...

Source: Bloomberg

And which of these looks more like an inflation hedge (for now)...

Source: Bloomberg

As Peter Thiel reflecting on the record highs, and demand, for crypto: "It surely tells us that we are at a complete bankruptcy moment for the central banks."

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 16:01

$250 Billion Fund CIO Blasts Washington's 'Soviet-Style' Central Planning: "Disassociating Demand From Supply In Fundamental Ways"

$250 Billion Fund CIO Blasts Washington's 'Soviet-Style' Central Planning: "Disassociating Demand From Supply In Fundamental Ways"

Authored by Tad Rivelle, CIO at TCW,

Back In The US... Back In The USSR

The inefficiencies of that ultimate state planned economy – the former Soviet Union – were eminently lampoonable. One of former President Reagan’s went this way:

A man walks into a Moscow car dealership and hands over his rubles to the car salesman. The beaming salesman exclaims, “Congratulations on buying your new car. I am scheduling it for delivery exactly ten years from today.”

The buyer, suddenly distraught, quizzically probes: “Ten Years?! – well…is that going to be in the morning or the afternoon?”

The salesman, now perplexed, replies: “Comrade – this is ten years from now – what difference does it make if the car is delivered in the morning or the afternoon?”

The buyer raises his voice and shouts, “Well, I have the plumber coming in the morning!”

Notwithstanding employing armies of well-educated central planners, such economies failed in their ability to deliver what consumers needed. Shortages were widespread and endemic. This is all understandable: the planners were being asked to solve for the impossible. The job of the planning bureau was to set prices and production targets. But as every undergraduate student of economics knows, you cannot simultaneously fix both the price and the quantity of anything. The attempt to do so led to a hopelessly tangled and confused system. In contrast, free market economies seek efficiency by respecting individual preferences. When all is working as it should, the “right” price is solved for, and shortages (or surpluses) are rapidly corrected. You are never supposed to go to the store and find empty shelves, or be told that what you want can’t be delivered for months or years.

The riddle for the day then, is why is our “free market” economy experiencing shortages across a wide variety of goods and services? Shoppers for new cars arrive to find the dealerships out of inventory. Want to upgrade or improve your home? Good luck getting the windows or doors that you want. Businesses struggle to hire workers even as millions remain in the ranks of the unemployed. Wait times for appliances, running shoes, and holiday gifts have “inexplicably” lengthened. Why?

The conventional “explanations” are as plausible as they are superficial. Yes, there are COVID restrictions. And supply chain issues. Also social pressure to decarbonize via the curtailment of fossil fuels. These obviously do constrict supply. The deeper question is why hasn’t the price mechanism corrected for these? Historically, supply constrictions have occurred owing to bad harvests, labor strikes, political disruptions, or trade embargoes. But reductions in supply should jack up prices thereby restraining demand and, eventually calling forth new sources of production. But here we are, closing in on the two year “anniversary” of the pandemic, and the shortages remain. Indeed, using the proxy in the form of shipping congestion, these shortages may be worsening.

Los Angeles/Long Beach Port Congestion

Source: MXSOCAL, Bank of America

The difficulties in balancing supply with demand suggest there may be deeper reasons for the imbalance. Like what? Let’s try this one on for size: perhaps the U.S. economy has taken on some nascent characteristics of a centrally planned economy because it has implemented policies that are more at home in a state driven economy than a “free” market. Indeed, as all well know, the constellation of fiscal and monetary policies implemented under COVID have dramatically kicked up the economic role of the state. Federal spending has gone into overdrive even as the Fed brought asset purchases to new levels. While this was all done in the service of stabilizing the macroeconomy, there can be too much of a “good thing.”

The demand side of the economy has been well fed by these policies, so much so that the supply side isn’t – and can’t – keep up. Year-over-year conventional inflation metrics are running above 5%, even as the shortages suggest further upward price adjustments may be needed to balance supply and demand. Importantly, it isn’t like the supply side isn’t expanding: oil may well be at $80/barrel (at the time of this writing), still global output is expected to rise at a respectable 4% pace in 2021. Employment continues to expand, yet millions of positions remain unfilled.

If this thesis is correct, then the question of whether today’s inflationary uptick is “transitory” may very well depend upon how “transitory” the pandemic motivated expansion of the state’s footprint turns out to be. Already, conventional inflation metrics indicate a rate in excess of 5%. Tellingly, the Citi U.S. Inflation Surprise Index signals that inflationary conditions are worsening at a rate higher than expected by investors and pundits alike:

Citi U.S. Inflation Surprise Index

Source: Bloomberg

To probe the question as to whether today’s market dysfunctions are in fact a direct product of excessive stimulus, note the near asymptotic rise in the size of the Fed’s balance sheet juxtaposed with the observation that nearly half of all the “risk-free” debt being issued (mainly Treasuries and Agency MBS) have been gobbled up by the central bank:

Fed Growth of Balance Sheet

Source: U.S. Federal Reserve

Fed Share of Risk-Free Borrowing*

* Net Fed purchases of U.S. Treasuries and Agency MBS bonds as a percentage of aggregate net issuance.
Source: SIFMA, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, TCW

Of course, all this buying of debt by the Fed has enabled a massive spending surge by the national government. Ordinarily, so much borrowing would pressure rates higher, causing private sector demand to moderate. With a little help from its friends at the Fed, all this borrowing is accomplished without making credit more expensive.

U.S. Federal Deficit and as a % of GDP

Source: BEA, TCW
** Bloomberg and CBO projections used for the last four months of 2021.

In effect, while the U.S. is not engaged in anything like Soviet style “in the weeds” microeconomic central planning, the policy regime in place now is a kind of macroeconomic driven central planning that has dissociated demand from supply in some fundamental ways. Both the quantity and pattern of spending throughout the economy has been realigned by political direction, even as the financing of this spending has been untethered from market constraints. Indeed, some one trillion dollars per year in Treasury debt alone is simply being journalled from the U.S. Treasury’s balance sheet onto that of the Fed. The Fed is not a market buyer of securities – it is a quantity buyer and, as such, its transactions are “off market.”

Ongoing suppression of market rates by the Fed adds a further dimension to an increasingly uncoordinated economy. The Fed has, in effect, redefined its mandate to that of enabling the turning of the fiscal spigots, suppressing market interest rates and elevating asset prices. The Fed has long ago ceased being the adult in the room who took the punchbowl away. While none of this is exactly a newsflash, the sheer scale of policy implementation has inflated incomes (via transfer payments) in a manner that is non-market. Essentially, the traditional role of interest rates as the coordinating mechanism between, for instance, capital goods and consumption, has been disabled. Meanwhile, inflated asset prices provide the collateral against which credit can be unnaturally expanded creating new spending power today at the risk of heightened vulnerabilities tomorrow.

So, where does this leave us investors? Well, to be fair, it may be the case that U.S. policy may move in a more market friendly direction in 2022.

Already, a certain amount of fiscal tapering – supplemented by monetary tapering – may represent a partial backing away from this expanded governmental presence. Should that happen, and recognizing that one of the consequences of inflation is also diminished purchasing power, we might see a period where demand moderates, and shortages rehabilitate.

Another possible direction is that a slowing economy is championed by the politicians as a reason to double-down on stimulus. Hence, “rinse – cycle – repeat” is an alternative possibility for 2022. Should the politicians take us down that road, i.e., more of the same in terms of policy, expect more of the same in terms of results: shortages, more inflation.

The upshot, then, boils down to the basic market reality that 10-year Treasury securities at or around 1.5% do not represent fundamental “value” in a 5% trailing inflation environment. More stimulus is not likely to be taken kindly by bond investors already suffering a loss in purchasing power. Policy has painted itself into a corner: adding more demand may not so much counteract an economic slowdown as it might add to inflation and promote a market protest in the form of higher rates. But, how might the economy re-coordinate itself unless it is given a chance to hold its breath and rebalance? Markets do have a way of making fools of all, and perhaps a way out will be found. That said, a growth slowdown owing to moderating stimulus or, alternatively, a step further towards stagflation would seem to be the likeliest scenarios going into the new year.

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 15:40

Nickel Prices Jump To Seven-Year High As Supply Woes Mount 

Nickel Prices Jump To Seven-Year High As Supply Woes Mount 

Nickel is the latest industrial metal to ramp vertically on dwindling supply concerns sending prices in London to seven-year highs. 

Contracts for the industrial metal on the London Metal Exchange jumped 4.6% to $20,963 per metric ton on Wednesday, the highest since May 2014. 

Nickel -- used in kitchen wares, smartphones, medical equipment, transport, buildings, batteries, and jewelry -- has doubled in price this year. 

"At this juncture, watch the critical cash-three month gap, which is already backwardation and has the scope to widen further. It was last at $83/ton, the biggest in two years. Spiking spreads have been an important feature for record-setting tin, which has rallied almost 90% this year, and similarly in the copper market," Bloomberg said. 

Tightening supply is primarily due to Vale SA, one of the world's top nickel producers, slashing its production outlook for the year due to a strike at its Canadian mine. MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, the world's largest refined nickel producer, reported declining output in the third quarter. The second-largest metal producer, the Philippines, said output this year would be 10% less than the annual average due to torrential rains and declining vessels for transport. 

On Tuesday, Vale said its nickel output would be in the range of 165,000 to 170,000 tons versus earlier projections of 200,000 tons. This news was one day after courts suspended operations at its Onca Puma mine in Brazil.

On Wednesday, Tesla's CFO Zachary Kirkhorn revealed the company had seen an impact from soaring industrial metal prices, particularly aluminum and nickel. He said this prompted Tesla to swap out nickel-based batteries iron-based batteries for its standard Model 3 and Model Y models across world markets to save costs. 

BloombergNEF expects the nickel price to remain over $18,000 per ton for the year. 

The latest rise of industrial metals comes from China, where smelters have been taken offline as the Beijing reduces power to energy-intensive industries amid a power crunch. 

Inflation expectations have been rising on the backs of higher metal prices. 

Tightening nickel supplies can extend price gains, echoing recent ramps in aluminum and copper markets. 

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 15:21

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