An Energy Independent North America Needs NAFTA

NAFTA talks continue. Goods like milk, lumber and auto parts are all under the negotiators’ microscopes. Oil is clearly visible too. Last year, the bilateral trade of energy (including natural gas, oil and power) between the U.S. and Canada was about U.S $55 billion, with oil being 80 percent of the total. Its dollar amount dwarfs other industries, but negotiators may need to view this vital commodity using a different lens. Beyond size, the upstream oil business between America and Canada reveals big shifts in dollar and volume trade over…

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Democrats Furious After Trump Announces 90% Cut To Obamacare Marketing Funds

It appears as though President Trump has just given the Democrats yet another reason to shift the blame for Obamacare’s epic failure to his administration, as ridiculous as that may be.  According to The Hill, the Department of Health and Human Services has just announced that they’ll be slashing the Obamacare advertising budget by 90% for the 2018 plan year, from $100 million down to $10mm. 

Department of Health and Human Services officials said on a call with reporters that funding for advertising and other outreach for ObamaCare enrollment will be cut from $100 million last year to $10 million this year.

 

An HHS official argued the administration is seeing “diminishing returns” from ObamaCare spending.

 

The administration will still be spending some money on signing people up for the law, despite its opposition to ObamaCare.

 

Officials also announced they are cutting funding for “navigators,” which are outside organizations that help sign people up. Funding will be proportional to how navigators have fared in hitting their enrollment target the previous year. If a group signed up 70 percent of their target, they will get 70 percent of the funding.

Obama

Of course, what this really means is that when enrollments start to decline, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will have the perfect excuse lined up for immediate distribution via their own personal propaganda machines, CNN, MSNBC, etc., as to why this is all Trump’s fault.

And, right on cue, Schumer has just released the following statement:

You know, because prices surging by 30% every single year couldn’t possibly have any impact on demand, right?

But, lest you forget, Nancy and Chuck have that angle covered too.  You see, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out recently, 2018 Obamacare price increases are also Trump’s fault because his threats to remove the individual mandate and/or cut federal subsidies have thoroughly confused the insurance companies and forced them to raise rates.

Major health insurers in some states are seeking increases as high as 30% or more for premiums on 2018 Affordable Care Act plans, according to new federal data that provide the broadest view so far of the turmoil across exchanges as companies try to anticipate Trump administration policies.

 

Insurers are also concerned about whether the Trump administration will enforce the requirement for most people to have insurance coverage, which industry officials say helps hold down rates by prodding young, healthy people to sign up for plans.

 

In Montana, Health Care Service linked 17 percentage points of its 23% rate increase request to concerns about the cost-sharing payments and enforcement of the mandate that requires everyone to purchase insurance. Kurt Kossen, a senior vice president at Health Care Service, said the company’s rate requests are driven by causes including growing health costs and “uncertainty and the associated risks that exist within this marketplace, including uncertainty around issues like the continued funding of [cost-sharing payments] and mechanisms that encourage broad and continuous coverage.”

 

The impact of potentially losing the cost-sharing payments was also clear in the rates requested by Blue Cross of Idaho, which average 28%. That would probably be in the lower teens if the payments were guaranteed, said Dave Jeppesen, a senior vice president. “It’s a big swing,” he said. “There’s a lot of risk associated with the uncertainty in Congress right now, and we are pricing appropriately for that risk.”

Of course, as we’ve noted multiple times over the past couple of years, Obamacare premium increases are hardly a new phenomenon.  In fact, data from the Department of Health and Human Services recently revealed that premiums across the country soared an average of 113% over the past 4 years, or nearly 30% per year.  Ironically, that 30% is the same hike that many insurers are seeking for 2018…some folks would call that a trend.

 

But, other folks don’t believe in things like math and adverse selection bias that results in deteriorating risk pools and higher costs for insurers…no, they prefer simple, provocative narratives that can be exploited for political gain while masking the real underlying problems of a failed policy that is ruining healthcare for millions of hard working Americans.

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CHILE: Unemployment Rate Falls To 6.9% Between May And July

Chile’s jobless rate fell to 6.9% between May and July, down 0.1 percentage point from the second quarter of 2017 and 0.2 percentage point from the May to July quarter in 2016, said the country’s statistics office.

The decline in the unemployment rate reflects a 2.2% annual increase in the number of employed people in the quarter until July, which rose faster than the total available workforce (+1.9%). Meanwhile, the number of jobless people decreased by 2.0%.

The participation rate remained stable, at 59.5%, while the employment rate rose by 0.2 percentage point, to 55.4%.

In absolute terms, the number of working people totaled 8,231,570, while the unemployed were 607,190. Chilean workforce totaled 8,838,770 people between May and July.

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How Long Can U.S. Refineries Remain Offline?

When Hurricane Harvey blew into Texas last weekend, it dumped more than 30 inches of rain, flooding Houston and large areas of southeastern Texas, while leaving thousands homeless or without power. The worst storm to hit the U.S. since 2004 and by some estimates the largest rain-storm in U.S. history, Harvey has had a profound impact on the nation’s largest oil-producing and oil-refining region. Refinery shutdowns, pipeline closures and other consequences of Harvey has sent the Gulf oil industry into a tailspin while throwing oil markets…

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Trump Ending Obama-Era “Dreamer” Program: Report

President Trump is expected on Friday to announce plans to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which gave a deportation reprieve to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants also known as “dreamers”, Fox News reports. Under DACA, nearly 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children received work permits and deferral from deportation.

Trump had originally promised to terminate DACA during his presidential campaign, but since taking office had left the door open to preserving parts of it. According to Fox, which cites a senior administration official, Trump will announce the program’s end but will allow so-called “dreamers” currently in the program to stay in the U.S. until their work permits expire – which, for some, could be as long as two years.

The program, which was instituted through an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012, has been facing a legal challenge from Texas and nine other states, which threatened court action to attempt to block it unless Trump rescinds DACA by Sept. 5.

However, on Thursday afternoon, White House officials on Thursday pushed back on the Fox News report, claiming no decision has been made. “A final decision on that front has not been made,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during today’s press briefing. “When we have a final decision, this is under review, there are a lot of components that need to be looked at.” She then told a reporter “No offense to your colleagues from Fox News, but I’m better informed than they are … it has not been finalized.”

“A final decision on that front has not been made, and when it is, we will certainly inform everybody in this room,” she said.

White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert added that “the administration is still reviewing the policy,” and said the lawsuits “won’t affect the policy decision, but it will affect the timing of it. We certainly have to watch the lawsuits and how they matriculate through the courts and when the deadlines will be.”

According to The HIll, Trump and senior administration officials, including White House chief of staff John Kelly, have said they don’t believe DACA would hold up in court, while the DOJ has declined to say whether it would defend the program from the potential lawsuit.

Rumors have been circulating for weeks about how Trump plans to respond to the threat of court action, prompting Democrats, some Republicans and activists to mount a public defense of the program.

 

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) introduced amendments Tuesday that would prevent public funds from being used to alter the memo that instituted DACA in 2012.

 

And California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said Monday his office was considering mounting a defense of the program if the Justice Department refuses to act.

A plan to allow DACA to simply lapse already has buy-in from conservative groups that want the president to end the program. “Our position has been that President Trump should allow DACA to lapse,” Ira Mehlman from the Federation for American Immigration Reform told Fox News. “As people’s two-year deferments and work authorization expire they should not be renewed.”

Ironically, in an interview with ABC News earlier this year, Trump suggested he might not entirely do away with DACA. “They shouldn’t be very worried,” Trump said of the young people in the program. “I do have a big heart.”

Meanwhile, Democrats on Thursday expressed opposition to the move, referencing the president’s past comments. “If he ends DACA, Trump would betray #DREAMers he said he’d treat w/ ‘great heart.’ These incredible young people make our country stronger,” tweeted Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

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COLOMBIA: Government Condemns Alleged ELN Attack Against Oil Pipeline

The Colombian government’s peacemaking team condemned the bombing of an Ecopetrol pipeline in the eastern region of the South American country and accused the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla of the attack.

Juan Camilo Restrepo, Colombia’s chief negotiator, said that “to contaminate water sources, aqueducts, is the most degraded way of practicing terrorism against the civilian population.”

Around 700 families had their access to water services cut after the last attack against the Ca?o Lim?n Cove?as pipeline, occurred on Monday.

“This unfortunate event illustrates the need, in the case of a bilateral ceasefire with the ELN, that is essential that hostilities against the civilian population cease,” Restrepo added.

The Colombian government and the ELN are negotiating a ceasefire before Pope Francis visit to the country, scheduled for the next week. The ELN, however, did not claim or denied the attack so far.

Year-to-date, there have been 43 attacks against the Ca?o Lim?n Cove?as pipeline in the Colombian departments (states) of Arauca, Norte de Santander, Boyac?, and Cesar.

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TSX Jumps On Upbeat News — Canadian Commentary

Canadian stocks rallied Thursday after upbeat economic data, strong bank earnings and rebounding crude oil prices.

Canada’s gross domestic product grew at an annualized 4.5 percent pace, the fastest in five years. GDP was up 0.3% in June from May, rising for the eighth month in a row as 14 of 20 industrial sectors grew. Goods-producing industries rose 0.5% while service producing industries edged up 0.2%.

The TSX Composite Index rose 80.47 points to 15,213.64.

TD Bank (TD.TO) earnings per share rose to $1.46 per share in the quarter to June 30, compared with $1.24 a year ago. Analysts had on average expected earnings of $1.36 per share. The stock jumped 3.3%.

Couche-Tard said 19 convenience stores remained closed in South Texas and 71 in the Houston area as of Wednesday.

October West Texas Intermediate rose $1.27, or 2.8%, to settle at $47.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Gasoline futures continued to skyrocket.

September gasoline rose 25.5 cents, or 13.5%, to end at $2.140 a gallon, up about 28% for the month. October gasoline rose 14.2 cents, or 5.7%, to $1.779 a gallon.

Dec. gold gained $8.10, or 0.6%, to settle at $1,322.20/oz, the highest in eleven months. Gold was up 4% for the month of August.

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Libya Thwarts Suspected Oil Smugglers For Second Time This Week

A medium-sized oil tanker that was smuggling crude oil in the Mediterranean Sea was apprehended by the Libyan coastguard on Thursday, according to a new report by The New Arab.  The ship, called “Rex,” had ten crew members, all of whom have been captured by the coast guard. Colonal Abu Ajila Abdelbarri told reporters that the crew and boat had been under tight surveillance prior to their arrest in Libyan waters. The tanker flew the Tanzanian flag and carried 1.16 million liters of diesel. The crew contained five Turks, three Georgians…

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Crude Oil Trims Recent Losses, Gasoline Skyrockets

Crude oil futures surged Thursday, taking back recent losses after the U.S. Energy Department’s release of 1 million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The move was made in the wake of Hurricane Harvey which has disrupted refinery operations on the Texas coast.

October West Texas Intermediate rose $1.27, or 2.8%, to settle at $47.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Still, oil was down 6% for the month.

Gasoline futures continued to skyrocket.

September gasoline rose 25.5 cents, or 13.5%, to end at $2.140 a gallon, up about 28% for the month. October gasoline rose 14.2 cents, or 5.7%, to $1.779 a gallon.

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London mayor: Theresa May ‘needs to get a grip’ on Brexit

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has harshly criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, saying she “needs to get a grip.”

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