February 20, 2018

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ is threat to US in Latin America – US commander

© Olaf Krüger / Global Look PressChina unveils huge plans for the Arctic, with ‘Polar Silk Road’ on the way

Talking at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, he said China has already pledged $500 billion in trade funds with various Latin American countries and $250 billion in direct investment over the next decade.

“Increased economic cooperation – such as the extension of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative to Latin America, one of the nodes to support China’s vision of a competing global economic initiative – and the continued provision of financing and loans that appear to have ‘no strings attached’ provide ample opportunity for China to expand its influence over key regional partners and promote unfair business and labor practices.”

Tidd added that “Increased reach to key global access points like Panama create commercial and security vulnerabilities for the United States, as do Chinese telecommunications and space ventures with dual-use potential, which could facilitate intelligence collection, compromise communication networks, and ultimately constrain our ability to work with our partners.”

According to the SOUTHCOM commander, China is intensifying its role as a US rival in Latin America.

“The larger strategic challenge posed by China in this region is not yet a military one. It is an economic one, and a new approach may be required to compete effectively against China’s coordinated efforts in the Americas. Some of the most critical elements needed in this effort are not ones that [SOUTHCOM] can bring to bear,” he said.

China wants Afghanistan’s ancient trade routes to be part of new ‘Silk Road’

The US admiral explained Chinese operations in Latin America do not “yet” pose a military threat, but Beijing is increasingly recruiting Latin Americans who participate in the US International Military Education and Training program (IMET).

The program has facilitated the attendance of nearly 16,000 students from the region to various American war colleges, he noted.

“China, in particular, is increasingly aggressive in courting students from the region to attend Chinese military schools, offering to cover all expenses and salaries in return for increased student enrollment,” said Tidd.

Under the broader Belt/Road initiative announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, Beijing plans building a new ‘Silk Road’. It is aimed to connect China to Southeast and Central Asia by land and the Middle East and Europe by sea.

Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi has recently encouraged Latin American and Caribbean states to expand their trade with the country. Several states including Chile and Bolivia have already declared their readiness to integrate into the initiative.

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You can’t invest in cryptocurrencies without fear of cybertheft, experts tell RT

Crypto exchange claims $200 million stolen, but all may not be as it seems

“In my opinion, the terms ‘cryptocurrency’ and ‘safe investment tool’ should not be used together,” Olga Prokhorova, expert at the International Financial Center, told RT. If you are using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a short-term investment, the only convenient way of keeping them is to use online wallets and crypto-exchanges, she said.

“Theft of cryptocurrencies from exchanges will not stop as long as there are clear precedents of successful cyberattacks. They will motivate hackers to do similar things in the future. You should not keep cryptocurrency on the exchange – it’s not safe; everyone knows it, but people continue to do it,” Prokhorova said.

The only possible way of making sure your cryptocurrency is not stolen is the participation of banks, which have vast experience in it, but the community around digital assets hates the idea of banker participation, and digital assets are not recognized by many banks, she added.

Eldiyar Muratov, president of Singapore Castle Family Office, mentioned the major cryptocurrency thefts and closures of exchanges Mt.Gox and Cryptsy, as well as stolen funds in tether, NEM and other cryptocurrencies. According to some estimates, more than a $1 billion has been stolen in digital money in recent years.

Panic rules lawless world of cryptocurrencies

“First of all, do not trust online services. Yes, they advertise themselves, allegedly guaranteeing the security of BTC storage or any other cryptocurrency,” he told RT.

“But the practice shows that these guarantees are not worth anything. Such services are often hacked by outside hackers, and in addition, they are often organized by fraudsters, who simply disappear when they get enough money from customers.”

It is safer to store cryptocurrency on your PC, and you should create unique passwords for each of your offline wallets. But if you forget them, you will lose your digital currency irreversibly, Muratov added.

“The point is that there is an inverse relationship between usability and the safety of BTC storage. Online storage and smartphone are convenient for permanent use. But it is online wallets that are most vulnerable to hacker attacks, and a smartphone can be easily lost,” he warned.

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Maduro says ‘illegal’ embargo of Venezuelan oil won’t do America any good

© Marco BelloUS threatens to ditch oil imports from Venezuela

“The oil embargo would be one of the biggest mistakes in international politics that Donald Trump would commit,” Maduro posted on Twitter.

Venezuelan oil production has been falling in the recent years, but was still around 1.7 million barrels per day in December. The country sells about a third of its oil to the United States, but its sales to America are at the lowest level since 1991. Oil exports account for 95 percent of the country’s exports.

Washington warned it may impose an embargo on imports from Venezuela to add more pressure on Maduro before the presidential elections in the country in April. Maduro said if the ban happens, the country will go to other markets to sell crude. “If the United States puts an oil embargo on us, we will take our boat and go somewhere else,” Maduro told a press conference on Thursday.

“If they take measures against Venezuelan oil like those demanded by (opposition leader) Julio Borges, we will take the appropriate measures.” According to the Venezuelan president, imposing such an embargo is illegal under international law.

Trump has already introduced financial and individual sanctions on Venezuela and dozens of its leaders. The US has also threatened to block Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurrency petro, as Washington considers it a way of bypassing sanctions.

Critics have said a US oil embargo will not help Washington to oust Maduro, but will create more hardship for the Venezuelan people, who are suffering from food and medical shortages.

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US rejects ‘Communist Chinese’ takeover of Chicago Stock Exchange

© Tim Wimborne TBWAustralia rejects large land sale to China

“The review process has also raised questions about whether the proposed ownership structure will allow the commission to exercise sufficient oversight of the exchange,” the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on Thursday.

The decision by the SEC has put an end to a two-year battle for an approval of the sale and emphasizes once again zero tolerance by Donald Trump’ s administration toward Chinese buyers. During the election campaign the 45th US president pointed to the CHX deal as an example of how American jobs and wealth were leaving the country.

Under the proposal, the Chinese-led North America Casin Holdings group aimed to purchase a minority share of the CHX. The deal could reportedly bring the exchange, which accounts for just 0.5 percent of US equities trades, some “vital capital.”

The funding would be used “to boost numerous initiatives designed to benefit the city of Chicago, the US economy and market structure as a whole,” the exchange said.

In August, the regulator approved the sale of the privately owned exchange, but the decision was put on hold for further review within minutes after the announcement. The SEC commissioners are currently led by Chairman Jay Clayton, a Trump appointee.

The US congressmen from both political camps had been slamming the deal, arguing that it could give China’s government access to American financial markets

“We must continue to be vigilant, with thorough oversight, to prevent the highly-coordinated and strategic efforts of the Communist Chinese government to threaten our national security through malicious business investments,” Republican Congressman Robert Pittenger said in a statement on the issue.

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Florida massacre sparks brief rally in gun stocks amid downward trend

While gun and ammunition maker stocks typically rise in the wake of a major shooting incident in the US, in response to a highly charged political climate as well as heightened public anxiety about personal safety, the overall US gun market has experienced a slump since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

American Outdoor Brands (AOBC, formerly Smith Wesson) fell two percent after initial gains in share price exceeding four percent. Its main competitor Sturm Ruger (RGR) fell one percent while ammunition maker Olin Corp (OLN) also fell one percent despite both having closed up on Wednesday, the day of the shooting.

Remington Outdoor Co. was the big surprise, having announced plans to file for bankruptcy midweek, jumping seven cents on the dollar, marking its largest-ever intraday gain. For reference, the overall SP 500 was up one percent on Thursday, according to CBS.  

Nikolas Cruz used a Smith Wesson MP15 rifle, a variant of the AR-15, to carry out the attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday. This marks the third time an MP15 has been used in a mass shooting in the US in recent history: 12 people were killed and 70 injured in the 2012 Aurora shooting while an illegally-modified version of the rifle was used in the San Bernardino massacre in which 14 people died and 22 were injured.

MP, which stands for Military and Police, was a subset of the Smith Wesson brand which was later bought by American Outdoor Brands. The MP15 is widely available on the retail market, selling for roughly $500 to $600.

Other AR-15 style rifles were used to carry out the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Sutherland Springs, Texas reports TIME.

After previous mass shootings, gun maker stocks typically experience a boost of roughly 1.6 percent in the five days following the tragedy amid fears of tighter gun control legislation. However, given that the Republican party controls both the House and the Senate, with many of its members receiving contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA), new gun-control legislation is highly unlikely.

This fact did not prevent Democrats from ramping up the rhetoric in an already-heated debate which reignites after every such mass shooting.

American gun stocks have experienced something of a sell-off since the 2016 presidential election as  retailers stocked up expecting Hillary Clinton to win. Many have not been placing orders with manufacturers in the wake of Trump’s somewhat unexpected victory as they try to reduce their inflated weapons inventories at discounted rates. However, with little to no expectation of sweeping gun control reform, the demand side simply isn’t there.

Since 2016, American Outdoor has lost 62 percent of its value, Vista Outdoor Inc. is down 50 percent, and Sturm Ruger is down 23 percent, reports Bloomberg. In addition, background check data indicates a decline overall and January 2018 numbers were the lowest for any January since 2012. Overall, American Outdoor’s profits slid 90 percent in 2017 while Sturm Ruger reported a decline in quarterly profits of 35 percent last October.

“Everyone thought Hillary was going to win. These retailers and distributors stocked up on the product before the election. They were really expecting a dramatic surge,” said Rommel Dionisio, a managing director of equity research at Aegis Capital who specializes in publicly traded firearms companies, as cited by Bloomberg. “The scenario didn’t materialize, so after the election, they’re stuck with excess inventory. They’ve been trying to work down that inventory, bring them down to normal levels, and in the meantime not ordering from manufacturing.”

In addition, the FBI reported a total of 2,030,530 firearm background checks in January this year, down from 2,043,184 in 2017 and from 2,546,805 in January of 2016.

“There are strong desires with people to protect themselves. And again, we saw that last year when there were a number of events that drove people to think about that more strongly than ever before, and that does happen from time to time, as we’ve seen in our history,” P. James Debney, CEO of American Outdoor Brands, said on a call on September 17, 2017 as cited by CBS. “There is no fear-based buying right now,” Debney said in December.

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/418990-florida-massacre-gunmaker-rally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Bitcoin recovers to $10,000 inspiring cautious optimism for cryptocurrency market

Bitcoin had previously lost nearly two-thirds of its value in a sharp plunge from a historic high of $20,000 in mid-December to below $6,000 last week. The cryptocurrency was trading at $10,044 at 9:40 GMT, according to Coinmarketcap.com.

The recovery of bitcoin and the crypto markets in general was reportedly spurred by the US Senate’s cautiously-optimistic response to calls for stricter regulations.

“For most of December and all of January, investors were focused on a regulatory crackdown, mostly in Asia,” said Brian Kelly, the founder and CEO of BKCM, an investment firm focused on digital currencies, as quoted by CNBC. “That all changed when CFTC Commissioner Giancarlo spoke at the Senate Banking Committee and changed the regulatory tone. It appears the negative regulatory news is behind us and investors feel more confident investing.”

According to analysts, such psychological milestones commonly trigger interest in the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin first topped $10,000 in late November as interest in the cryptocurrency surged. Now as the world’s number one cryptocurrency is on its way to settle at that level again, it may boost uptake.

“When it originally hit 10,000 in November, it created a new dialogue about bitcoin and cryptocurrencies — almost what it was like 25 years ago about having an email address — that has translated into new entrants pouring into the space to participate in this new frontier at the intersection of technology and finance,” Matt Roszak, co-founder of enterprise blockchain development company Bloq, told the agency.

According to Roszak, bitcoin’s historical performance is similar to psychologically key milestones of $1, $10 or $100.

“Each time these milestones have been hit, it introduced a new audience of participants and developers,” he said.

“Despite the volatility in cryptocurrency prices, we continue to see growing interest in creating investment products in this space,” said Lex Sokolin, global director of fintech strategy at Autonomous Next.

According to the company’s estimates, 167 crypto funds were launched last year and 20 such funds have been started since the beginning of the year through February 10, bringing the total to 225 with about $3.7 billion in assets under management.

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Soros accuses Facebook & Google of manipulation and deceit

Google, Twitter, Facebook other tech giants demand return of net neutrality

While often playing an “innovative and liberating role,” the companies are deceiving users “by manipulating their attention” and “deliberately engineering addiction” to their services, Soros wrote on opinion website Project Syndicate.

According to him, the two firms profit from making users stay on their websites for long periods of time. Due to the size of the companies, content providers have to “accept whatever terms they are offered,” but that is only helping Facebook and Google become more profitable.

“Indeed, the exceptional profitability of these companies is largely a function of their avoiding responsibility – and payment – for the content on their platforms,” Soros wrote.

“The companies claim that they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulation, aimed at preserving competition, innovation and fair and open access.”

Soros added that as Facebook and Google grow, they are looking to bundle more services to offer to consumers. They “exploit the data they control” and use “discriminatory pricing” to do this, he explained.

“There is a similarity between Internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook customers to the point that they gamble away all of their money, even money they don’t have.”

Social media companies are “inducing people to surrender their autonomy” with the power to shape people’s attention “concentrated in the hands of a few companies.”

The investor warned these “data-rich IT monopolies” could form an alliance with authoritarian states that “may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even George Orwell could have imagined.”

He said this could happen in Russia and China first, adding that EU regulators are more “farsighted” than those in the US when it comes to social policies.

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Poland plans to end dependence on Russian energy with own Baltic pipeline – report

The project, called Baltic Pipe, was proposed by Polish right-wing populist party ‘Law and Justice,’ and will reportedly move the gas from Denmark.

The idea is not new. It was first proposed as early as 2001, when energy giants DONG of Denmark and PGNiG of Poland agreed to establish a pipeline consortium with the possible participation of Norway’s Statoil. However, the enterprise was scrapped due to economic unfeasibility.

Polish authorities made several efforts to revive the Baltic Pipe plan, but in 2009 the project was suspended again due to a lack of natural gas demand in Poland, among other reasons. The pipeline was initially linked to the Skanled project – an offshore pipeline connecting Norway to Sweden and Denmark.

However, the Skanled Project Group suspended the enterprise “due to increased commercial risk, combined with the global economic developments that have given an uncertain view on future gas demand.”

According to the German media outlet, Poland is currently obtaining the documents necessary to start building infrastructure for the Baltic Pipe project. The routing has reportedly been approved with a final decision on the building of the gas pipeline expected this year.

Poland is one of the most vociferous opponents of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. Last month, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, during a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asked the White House to sanction Gazprom’s project, which is currently under construction.

“We want that the sanction regime set by US law from August 2, 2017, which provides for sanctions against Russia also [to cover] the construction of the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2,” he said. “For us, the previous US State Department’s interpretation of the document was ambiguous and unsatisfactory. This is a very important moment for us in our negotiations with the United States. And it’s not only about our energy security, it’s about the security of the entire region.”

However, Gazprom’s European partners are not satisfied with Poland’s position, and have accused Warsaw of only looking out for its own interests, FAZ reports.

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Soros brands bitcoin ‘nest egg for dictators,’ but still invests in it

Soros Fund Management held 2,472,188 shares in Overstock at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017, making the businessman the third-largest shareholder, CNBC reports, quoting regulatory filings. The shares were worth $157.97 million at the time of investment, but had lost more than $10 million as of Wednesday.

Bitcoin ‘a nest egg for dictators’ but blockchain tech is ‘good for migrants’ – Soros

Overstock used to be a traditional online retailer competing with Amazon and other firms. However, the company decided to reshape radically and started accepting bitcoin. It held an initial coin offering (ICO) through its exchange, tZero, on December 18.

Owner Patrick Byrne told CNN in December he wanted to sell off the retail business and focus on Overstock’s ownership of 10 blockchain companies.

Soros spoke publicly against bitcoin in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The billionaire called it a “nest egg for dictators” and compared it to a “typical bubble.”

He added, however, that blockchain technology could be put to “positive use,” like sending cash to illegal migrants arriving in Europe.

The company he has invested in has a completely different stance on bitcoin. Overstock’s Byrne told Fox that bitcoin could surge to $1 million, and called it “the most important change in 6,000 civilizations of technology.”

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Plunging US dollar boosts gold’s safe-haven demand

The yellow metal was trading at $1,354.65 an ounce as of 10:20 GMT on Thursday, after enjoying its best trading day on Wednesday since June 24, 2016.

Gold price could smash $10,000 on crashing dollar other factors – Jim Rickards

“Higher US inflation combined with the US dollar exhibiting zero correlation to higher interest rates amidst burdening duel deficits (trade and budget) should play out favorably for gold markets,” the head of trading APAC at foreign exchange OANDA, Stephen Innes, told Reuters.

The US dollar hit a 15-month low on Thursday, trading at 106.30 yen. The dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, fell 0.5 percent to 88.66.

“I think we could see significant US dollar weakness through the first half of the year,” Bill Baruch, president of Blue Line Futures, told the Street. “The real move in gold is yet to come. I think we could see prices above $1,400 an ounce later this year.”

Analysts say concerns over Washington’s possible pursuit of a weak-dollar strategy and the growing US fiscal deficit weighed on the greenback. Inflation fears boosted gold, which is considered as a safe haven against inflation.

According to Fawad Razaqzada, technical analyst at City Index, gold prices have managed to hold on to crucial retracement levels despite the recent pullback. “That tells me that the buyers are in control of this market and prices are going higher,” he said.

Looking at the long-term picture, Razaqzada said gold has risen higher for three consecutive years with prices last month hitting a 1.5-year high.

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