What Will Drive The Next Oil Price Crash?

Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via OilPrice.com,
As we roll into 2018, analysts and investors are more optimistic that the oil market will further tighten next year and support higher oil prices, but rising U. S. shale production will likely cap any significant price gains.
On the demand side, expectations are that global economic growth will support solid oil demand growth.
On the supply side, Venezuela’s dire situation, possible new sanctions on Iran, and increased tension in the Middle East mostly with the Saudi-Iran issues and the Iraq-Kurdistan standoff may take more barrels off the market than OPEC and friends plan, and send geopolitical jitters through the oil market.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.

In From The Cold: CIA Gesture Indicates Thawing US-Russia Ties

In the annals of Russian-American relations, it is difficult to recall a precedent for the Kremlin leader calling his White House counterpart to convey his personal gratitude and appreciation for the profound contribution made by the US’ Central Intelligence Agency and its director to Russian national security.
The great irony is that the incumbent Kremlin boss is a former KGB officer. Vladimir Putin never ceases to surprise.
The Kremlin readout of Putin’s phone call to US President Donald Trump on Sunday should be an eye-opener to anyone who bought the US propaganda that Putin is a demon preparing to devour the West – or Russian propaganda that encourages an impression to be formed among the nave and the gullible that the world is carved into two neat halves, namely the good and the evil.
Countries like Turkey, Iran and Egypt – and Venezuela and North Korea – should take particular note that the world situation and the emerging international order are a lot more complicated than some among them would like to think. What prompted Putin to make such an extraordinary move?
For a start, the Kremlin senses that the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US election last November is meandering aimlessly and may have to be wound up sooner rather than later. That being the case, a future is conceivable in which the tidal wave of Russophobia in the US recedes, leaving behind much devastation and debris but also the opportunity to begin rehabilitation and reconstruction.
Most certainly, Putin understood the great symbolism and meaning behind the gesture by the CIA to pass on crucial intelligence relating to the security of his hometown, the city of his heart’s desires, and the pride of all Russian people.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 20, 2017.

Oil Producers Turning To Crypto To Solve Sanctions Problems

Authored by Tom Luongo,
Last week, Venezuela announced it would develop a national cryptocurrency backed by its oil reserves, the Petro. Now there is a report that Russia is considering the same thing. Iran will likely follow suit.
As of right now this is just a rumor, but it makes some sense. So, let’s treat this rumor as fact for the sake of argument and see where it leads us.
The U. S. continues to sanction and threaten all of these countries for daring to challenge the global status quo. There is no denying this. And so much of what we see in the geopolitical headlines are knock-on effects of this challenge.
The Geopolitical ‘Why’
From the Middle East to North Korea, the Dutch changing their laws to block Nordstream 2 to the Saudis breaking off relations with Qatar, everything you read about in the news is a move on the geopolitical ‘Go’ board.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2017.

Time’s Up On The Norks

Yes, I know the problem is difficult.
I know there are no good answers.
I know that any military solution is not only fraught with risks, but is likely to result in tens of thousands of casualties and might lead to nuclear fireballs.
Nonetheless we must cut the crap. Either North Korea (and by extension every other nation) has the right to possess nuclear weapons or it does not.
Either we and other nations have the right to determine who can “join” the nuclear club or we do not.
It’s binary, when you get down to it.
Nobody wants to take it on in this regard, but we must. We must because the same situation applies today to Iran. Tomorrow it will be Sudan or for that matter Venezuela. The principles are the same; either a sovereign nation has the right to possess any technologically-possible means of defense and offense within its military or it is not a sovereign nation with the right of self-determination.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-12-01.

Venezuela’s Default Disaster

Socialism always promises heaven and gives hell.
In the early hours of Thursday, November 2, the Maduro regime certified its latest failure with what they promised would never happen: technical default. With his usual arrogance, Maduro issued a ‘decree’ demanding ‘the refinancing and restructuring of the debt as of November 3.’ That is, default.
The bad news for investors or high-yield hunters is that the likelihood of being swindled again is almost 100%.
Chavez once said ‘put me oil at zero and Venezuela will not suffer,’ and Maduro stated that ‘a revolutionary government with economic power as the one I preside has plans to surpass any situation arising from any price of oil.’ Reality has now kicked in.
Venezuela was not destroyed by low oil prices, but by high socialism.
Socialism has led Venezuela to an unparalleled economic disaster . No, it’s not ‘the price of oil.’ Venezuela is the only OPEC country that has fallen into default, depression, and hyperinflation. It’s not oil, it’s socialism.
The management disaster is spectacular and the greatest example of the devastating effect of socialism is the state-owned oil company. PdVSA, the national oil company, has gone from being one of the most efficient and profitable twenty years ago, to end up importing oil.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 11/20/2017.

Venezuela Just 24 Hours Away From Formal Declaration Of Default

Less than a week after Venezuela shocked the world by announcing it would proceed to restructure its massive external debt, even as it was within the grace period on hundreds of millions in unpaid interest expense, on Thursday the socialist nation confirmed it has never been closer to an official default after Reuters reported that Venezuela’s state oil-firm company, PDVSA, has not made a debt payments to India’s top oil producer ONGC for six months, and has previously used a Russian state-owned bank and another Indian energy company as intermediaries to make payments.
Reuters sources noted that PDVSA has made no payment since April on what was a $540 million backlog of dividends owed to ONGC for an investment the Indian firm made in a an energy project in Venezuela. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said last week that the country planned to restructure some $60 billion of bonds, much of it held by PDVSA, as the country struggles to meet debt repayments.
While ONGC Videsh – the overseas investment arm of ONGC confirmed to Reuters that PDVSA had fallen behind on the payments, but declined to give details on the delays.
Curiously, the Indian company appears not to be overly concerned about non-payment for half a year, and instead was willing to keep giving Maduro the benefit of the doubt: ‘They have got certain challenges at this stage,’ ONGC Videsh said in an emailed response to Reuters’ questions. ‘They have assured that they are working on it (payment of dues). In due course it will be settled and follow up steps will be undertaken.’ And just to underscore that it has no intention of pushing Venezuela into involuntary bankruptcy, ONGC added that ‘we have a good working relationship with PDVSA.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 9, 2017.

In Angry Tweetstorm, Venezuela’s National Oil Company Lashes Out At “Doomsayers”

As reported earlier, Venezuela’s state-run oil company surprised naysayers who speculated that today may be the day PDVSA finally defaults on its $842 million bond issue. In a statement, PDVSA ‘confirms its full solvency and capacity to fulfill its commitments, despite the economic war and the imposition of unjustified sanctions from Donald Trump,’ the oil firm said in its statement.
Petrleos de Venezuela, S. A. confirms its full solvency and capacity to meet its commitments, despite the economic war pic.twitter.com/5EjglWGUO2
— PDVSA (@PDVSA) October 27, 2017

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 27, 2017.

India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues

Venezuela’s Indian, Chinese, and American clients are complaining that crude shipments from PDVSA are poor in quality and are resulting in demands for discounts and returned shipments, according to a new report by Reuters, including interviews with over a dozen sources and supporting documents.
The disputes involve the contamination of crude with water, soil, and other minerals that make it difficult for refineries to effectively process crude for mass consumption.
But the sources speculated that the low quality of shipments was due to lack of upkeep at PDVSA facilities as officials try to cut corners to save operating costs.
In addition, the state-owned company lacks the resources to buy chemicals that aid in the long-term storage of crude before shipment.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 19, 2017.

Reflections on a World Gone Mad and Pushing Back against Neocolonialist Thuggery

The following is an interview with ANDRE VLTCHEK by ALESSANDRO BIANCCHI, Chief Editor of the Italian political magazine Anti-Diplomatico:
ALESSANDRO BIANCHI: Self-determination of peoples and respect for the borders and sovereignty of a country. This is of the most complicated issue for international law. How can it be articulated for the case of Catalonia?
ANDRE VLTCHEK: Personally, I’m not very enthusiastic about smaller nations forming their own states, particularly those in the West, where they would, after gaining ‘independence’, remain in the alliances that are oppressing and plundering the entire world: like NATO or the European Union.
Clearly, the breaking of the great country of Yugoslavia into small pieces was a hostile, evil design by the West, and particularly of Germany and Austria. The dissolution of Czechoslovakia after the so-called ‘Velvet Revolution’ was a total idiocy.
But Catalonia (or Basque Country), if it became independent, would become one of the richest parts of Europe. I don’t think it would have any great positive or negative impact on the rest of the world. As an internationalist, I don’t really care if they are separate from Spain or not, or whether they are even richer than they already are, as I care much more about what is happening in places such as Afghanistan, Venezuela or North Korea.
READ MORE

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on OCTOBER 14, 2017.

How Socialism Ruined Venezuela

In order to understand the disaster that is unfolding in Venezuela, we need to journey through the most recent century of our history and look at how our institutions have changed over time. What we will find is that Venezuela once enjoyed relatively high levels of economic freedom, although this occurred under dictatorial regimes.
But, when Venezuela finally embraced democracy, we began to kill economic freedom. This was not all at once, of course. It was a gradual process. But it happened at the expense of the welfare of millions of people.
And, ultimately, the lesson we learned is that socialism never, ever works, no matter what Paul Krugman, or Joseph Stiglitz, or guys in Spain like Pablo Iglesias say.
It was very common during the years we suffered under Hugo Chvez to hear these pundits and economists on TV saying that this time, socialism is being done right. This time, the Venezuelans figured it out.
They were, and are wrong.
On the other hand, there was a time when this country was quite prosperous and wealthy, and for a time Venezuela was even referred to as an ‘economic miracle’ in many books and articles.
However, during those years, out of the five presidents we had, four were dictators and generals of the army. Our civil and political rights were restricted. We didn’t have freedom of the press, for example; we didn’t have universal suffrage. But, while we lived under a dictatorship, we could at least enjoy high levels of economic freedom.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Oct 13, 2017.

MYANMAR: A Confrontation Between China and ‘Political’ Islam

You are probably aware that you are incompletely informed about what is brewing in Myanmar, and you probably haven’t heard about the military coalition that is preparing to attack that country. And yet, as Thierry Meyssan reveals here, these current events have been in preparation by Riyadh and Washington since 2013. Don’t take sides before you read this article and digest the information.
Pursuing its Grand Strategy of extending the theatre of war [1], the Pentagon is at the same time preparing the instrumentation of the Kurds in the Greater Middle East, a civil war in Venezuela and a war of attrition in the Philippines. However, these conflicts will have to wait for the implementation of a fourth theatre of operations – namely Burma, China’s next-door neighbour.
During the meeting of the UN Security Council on 28 September, the US ambassador and several of her allies accused Myanmar’s coalition government of genocide [2]. This loaded word – which, in European law, designates the massacre of a great number of people, but in US law applies to a method of killing, even if the criminal kills only one person – is enough for Washington to justify a war, with or without the backing of the Security Council, as we saw in Yugoslavia [3]. The meeting of the Security Council was held at the request of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
In order to make the facts correspond to their narrative, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, which had celebrated Aung San Suu Kyi and the Buddhist monks for their non-violent resistance to the dictatorship of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) during the Saffron revolution in 2007 [4], simply redefined the Burmese army, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi [5], and all the Buddhists in the country [6] as ‘the bad guys’.

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on OCTOBER 8, 2017.

Venezuela Prepares For A War With The United States

The socialist nation of Venezuela has called on its military and asked them to prepare to go to war with the United States. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is bracing for war just days after the Trump administration banned Venezuelan officials from entering the nation.
‘We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,’ said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles. ‘We need to have rifles, missiles, and well-oiled tanks at the ready….to defend every inch of the territory if needs be. The future of humanity cannot be the world of illegal sanctions, of economic persecution,’ Maduro said.

This post was published at shtfplan on September 27th, 2017.

Maduro To Generals: Prepare For War With “Criminal Empire” US

After barely managing to scrape together the nearly $200 million needed to make a bond payment earlier this month (the country made the payment a week late), Embattled Venezeulan President Nicolas Maduro is refocusing his attention on the US, warning military leaders Tuesday to begin preparing for war with the US. Maduro’s call to arms comes after the US has repeatedly tightened sanctions against Maduro’s regime and the country’s state-run oil company; earlier this week, the Trump administration blocked Venezeulan officials from entering the US as part of the White House’s new ‘targeted’ travel ban. Trump has also repeatedly threatened a military intervention if Maduro doesn’t leave voluntarily.
Maduro is probably still brooding over Trump’s call for the world community to help restore ‘democracy and political freedoms’ to Venezeula by ousting Maduro (to which Maduro reportedly responded in typical leftist fashion by comparing Trump to Hitler). Trump made those remarks last week during his first address to the UN General Assembly. Earlier this year, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out a military option for dealing with Venezuela, adding that the US has an obligation to take of the country because it’s “our neighbor.”
Maduro said Trump’s threats were the reason for him ordering the military to be on alert.
“We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,” said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles. “We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready….to defend every inch of the territory if needs be,” he added.
Over the summer, the US announced sanctions to prevent PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owed oil company, from issuing new debt (sanctions that conveniently avoided existing bonds held by Goldman Sachs), while also preventing Citgo, the US subsidiary of PDVSA, from repatriating dividends. The US has also passed sanctions against many top Venezuelan officials. Tensions between Maduro and Trump started escalating shortly after Trump’s inauguration, when the US blacklisted Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for drug trafficking.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 27, 2017.

Dark Humor From Socialist Hellhole Venezuela

Back in 2015, I mocked Venezuelan socialism because it led to shortages of just about every product. Including toilet paper.
But maybe that doesn’t matter. After all, if people don’t have anything to eat, they probably don’t have much need to visit the bathroom.
The Washington Post reports that farmers are producing less and less food because of government intervention, even though the nation is filled with hungry people.
Venezuela, whose economy operates on its own special plane of dysfunction. At a time of empty supermarkets and spreading hunger, the country’s farms are producing less and less, not more, making the caloric deficit even worse. Drive around the countryside outside the capital, Caracas, and there’s everything a farmer needs: fertile land, water, sunshine and gasoline at 4 cents a gallon, cheapest in the world. Yet somehow families here are just as scrawny-looking as the city-dwelling Venezuelans waiting in bread lines or picking through garbage for scraps.
…’Last year I had 200,000 hens,’ said Saulo Escobar, who runs a poultry and hog farm here in the state of Aragua, an hour outside Caracas. ‘Now I have 70,000.’ Several of his cavernous henhouses sit empty because, Escobar said, he can’t afford to buy more chicks or feed. Government price controls have made his business unprofitable…the country is facing a dietary calamity. With medicines scarce and malnutrition cases soaring, more than 11,000 babies died last year, sending the infant mortality rate up 30 percent, according to Venezuela’s Health Ministry.
… Child hunger in parts of Venezuela is a ‘humanitarian crisis,’ according to a new report by the Catholic relief organization Caritas, which found 11.4 percent of children under age 5 suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition… In a recent survey of 6,500 Venezuelan families by the country’s leading universities, three-quarters of adults said they lost weight in 2016 – an average of 19 pounds. This collective emaciation is referred to dryly here as ‘the Maduro diet,’ but it’s a level of hunger almost unheard-of… Venezuela’s disaster is man-made, economists point out – the result of farm nationalizations, currency distortions and a government takeover of food distribution. … The price controls have become a powerful disincentive in rural Venezuela. ‘There are no profits, so we produce at a loss,’ said one dairy farmer.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sep 27, 2017.

Venezuelan Women Turn To Prostitution To Afford Food

All twelve women who work at the ‘Show Malilo Night Club’ brothel in Arauca, Colombia are from Venezuela. As Venezuela’s socialist economic crisis continues, many Venezuelan women have turned to the sex trade in neighboring Colombia to eat and provide for their families.
‘We’ve got lots of teachers, some doctors, many professional women and one petroleum engineer,’ brothel owner Gabriel Snchez said of the women who sell their bodies for $25 an hour. ‘All of them showed up with their degrees in hand.’ Sanchez who is 60 years-old, started the brothel in Arauca, Colombia after he lost his job in a car repair shop in Venezuela thanks to the government’s socialist policies.
Snchez and others in the sex industry say Venezuelans dominate the trade now because they’re willing to work for less pay. ‘I would say 99 percent of the prostitutes in this town are Venezuelan,’ he said. Amid food shortages, hyperinflation, rampant poverty driven by socialism, and U. S. sanctions, waves of economic refugees have fled the country. Those with the means to do so have gone to places like Miami, Santiago, and Panama. But those who are less fortunate, have had to sink low to simply eat.
A recent study suggested as many as 350,000 Venezuelans had entered Colombia in the last six years. With jobs scarce in the country though, many young (and some not so young) women are turning to the world’s oldest profession to make ends meet. According to the Miami Herald, prostituting for money to buy basic necessities has become commonplace for Venezuelan women.

This post was published at shtfplan on September 25th, 2017.

Muslim Ban 3.0 blaimed on ICAO passport standards and ‘ID management’

Invoking memes that we’ve seen and warned about before under both Democratic and Republican administrations, President Trump has attributed the latest version 3.0 of his ‘Muslim ban’announced today (proclamation, FAQ, explainer) with the need to comply with ICAO and INTERPOL standards for passport issuance, ‘identity management’, and data sharing about travelers – as though US immigration and asylum policy should be determined by an international technical body for aviation operations, as though such a body has the authority to override US treaty obligations to freedom of movement and ‘open skies’, and as though predictive pre-crime profiling based on ‘biographic and biometric data’ can be substituted for judicial fact-finding as a basis for denial of the right to travel.
Today’s Presidential proclamation extends the blacklisting-by-citizenship of the Muslim Ban 1.0 and Muslim Ban 2.0 to include a few token non-Muslim North Koreans and Venezuelan government officials, in an unsuccessful attempt to render its underlying Islamophobia less blatant.
In practice, the Muslim Ban 3.0 is similar in effect and intent to its predecessors. But in response to court decisions that have voided many of the provisions of the previous ‘Muslim Ban’ Executive Orders, the White House is making a new set of excuses for travel restrictions on citizens of certain countries that begins by ascribing them to other countries’ failure to implement ‘recommendations’ of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and INTERPOL for passports, ID management, and globalized traveler surveillance (‘data sharing’):
Q: What was the basis for the requirements?
A. The… report submitted by the Secretary of Homeland Security… established baseline requirements for 1) identity management practices and 2) information sharing….. The requirements reflect a combination of long-standing U. S. Government goals, as well as standards established by international bodies such as… the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and INTERPOL They incorporate best practices derived from… identity management practices, law enforcement practices, and national security initiatives, such as the adoption of ePassports…..

This post was published at Papers Please on Sept 24, 2017.

Iran President Rouhani’s ‘Clear and Calm’ Rebuttal to Trump’s UN Neocon Rant

21st Century Wire says…
This week, US President Donald Trump did what every US President before has done – he read from his teleprompter script provided to him by his handlers.
As far as this year’s United Nations General Assembly was concerned, Trump’s address is now widely recognized as perhaps the worst such address made by a US leader to a world body. If one breath, he all but declared war on at least four countries; Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Syria.
While Trump vowed to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, he branded Iran as a ‘rogue nation,’ while threatening Venezuela saying that the United States was ‘prepared to take further action’ against the embattled South American nation.
When Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani took the podium at the UN headquarters in New York City, his delivery was measured and sober – a stark difference to the reckless US leader’s suicidal neoconservative rant on Tuesday…
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has addressed the General Assembly in a short speech that primarily covered Iran’s foreign policy outlook, its specifically goals for peace and an unambiguous warning against anyone who seeks to undermine the 2013 JCPOA (aka the Iran nuclear deal).

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on SEPTEMBER 20, 2017.

Trump’s UN Speech

I listened to part of Trump’s UN speech this morning. I was so embarrassed for him and for my country that I had to turn it off.
I wonder if whoever wrote the deplorable speech intended to embarrass Trump and inadvertently embarrassed America as well, or whether the speechwriter(s) is so imbued with the neoconservative arrogance and hubris of our time that the speechwriter was simply blind to the extraordinary contradictions that stood out like sore thumbs all through the speech.
I am not going to describe all of them, just a couple of examples.
Trump went on at great length about how America respects the sovereignty of every country and the people’s will of every country, and how the US, despite its overwhelming military power, never tries to impose its will on any country. What was the administration thinking, or can it think? What about Yugoslavia/Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Crimea, Ukraine, Venezuela, Honduras, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, just to mention countries in the 21st century that have been subjected to US military attacks, government overthrows, and removals of political leaders who did not conform to US interests?

This post was published at Paul Craig Roberts on September 19, 2017.