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NEWS: Standard Lithium Completes Installation of Final Modules of Its “LiSTR” Direct Lithium Extraction Demonstration Plant at the Arkansas Project Site

Standard Lithium Ltd. (“Standard Lithium” or the “Company”) (TSXV: SLL) (OTCQX: STLHF) (FRA: S5L), is pleased to announce that the final modules of the Company’s “LiSTR” direct lithium extraction Demonstration Plant have been transported to and are currently being installed at Lanxess’ South Plant facility in southern Arkansas (the “Site”).

Fabrication and initial QA/QC testing of the final Phase 3 Modules of the Demonstration Plant was completed in early October, and the modules (8 modules in this final Phase 3, plus spare parts) were separated and shipped to the Site.  The Phase 3 modules have now arrived at the Site and are in the process of being installed and connected. Current photos of the Demonstration Plant Site, showing the installed modules in Figures 1 and 2 below.

Once all the modules are installed, the project engineers and contractors will continue connecting and testing all the modules and installing the tie-ins to utilities and services.  The commissioning process is scheduled to begin in November.

Two photos accompanying this announcement are available at: 

https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/5e0dd3d4-421c-473a-9aff-51af3b8e7ab4

https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/ea42156e-8644-48b0-a6c5-54af86935d85

The Demonstration Plant is designed to continuously process an input tailbrine flow of 50 gallons per minute (gpm; or 11.4 m3/hr) from the Lanxess South Plant, which is equivalent to an annual production of between 100-150 tonnes per annum Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE). The Demonstration Plant is based on Standard Lithium’s proprietary LiSTR technology, that uses a solid sorbent material to selectively extract lithium from Lanxess’ tailbrine. 

The environmentally friendly process eliminates the use of evaporation ponds, reduces processing time from months to hours and greatly increases the effective recovery of lithium.

Dr Andy Robinson, Standard Lithium President and COO, commented “our roll-out of the LiSTR direct lithium extraction Demonstration Plant continues to be executed on-schedule, and Standard Lithium would like to thank our project partners for all their efforts in keeping this Project constantly moving forward.  We now have a full project team in place, and plant operators are currently undergoing process-specific training.  We look forward to beginning the commissioning phase in November and starting the next exciting step of this Project.

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Trump says the Fed should cut rates anyway even though U.S. and China have agreed to trade deal

President Donald Trump said Friday the Federal Reserve should still lower interest rates even though China and the U.S. agreed to the first part of a trade deal.

“The Federal Reserve should cut rates regardless of how good this is,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “We have a great economy, but we have a Federal Reserve that’s not in step with the rest of the world.”

“I think they ought to get in step,” he said.

The U.S. central bank has already cut rates twice this year in part because of weakness in the global economy, which has arisen due to the ongoing trade war. On Friday, however, the two sides announced strides to end the trade war.

Trump announced the first phase of a trade deal that will bring Chinese agricultural purchases to a range of $40 billion to $50 billion. That phase also includes agreements by both nations on intellectual property, Trump said, as well as accords on foreign exchange issues. In exchange, the U.S. agreed to hold off on tariff increases scheduled for next week. Trump also said that phase two of the deal will come soon after the terms of the first one is signed.

The Fed is scheduled to meet at the end of the month, with investors largely expecting a rate cut. Market expectations for lower interest rates by the end of October were at 74.3%, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

U.S. economic growth has been slowing this year with many economists citing the trade war with China. The Fed expects GDP for 2019 to come in at 2.2%, down from 2.9% in 2018. The Fed had said that growth could be worse if the trade war continued.

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U.S. outlines ‘Phase 1’ trade deal with China, suspends October tariff hike

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday outlined the first phase of a deal to end a trade war with China and suspended a threatened tariff hike, but officials on both sides said much more work needed to be done before an accord could be agreed.

The emerging deal, covering agriculture, currency and some aspects of intellectual property protections, would represent the biggest step by the two countries in 15 months to end a tariff tit-for-tat that has whipsawed financial markets and slowed global growth.

But Friday’s announcement did not include many details and Trump said it could take up to five weeks to get a pact written.

He acknowledged the agreement could fall apart during that period, though he expressed confidence that it would not.

“I think we have a fundamental understanding on the key issues. We’ve gone through a significant amount of paper, but there is more work to do,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said as the two sides gathered with Trump at the White House. “We will not sign an agreement unless we get and can tell the president that this is on paper.”

With Chinese Vice Premier Liu He sitting across a desk from him in the Oval Office after two days of talks between negotiators, the president told reporters that the two sides were very close to ending their trade dispute.

“There was a lot of friction between the United States and China, and now it’s a lovefest. That’s a good thing,” he said.

Liu took a different tone in his remarks, however.

“We have made substantial progress in many fields. We are happy about it. We’ll continue to make efforts,” Liu said.

China’s official state-owned news organization Xinhua said that both sides “agreed to make the efforts towards a final agreement.”

In an editorial published online by the state-run People’s Daily newspaper on Saturday, China called the latest round of talks constructive, frank and efficient and noted that while the two sides were moving toward a resolution, “it is impossible to resolve the problem by putting arbitrary pressure on the Chinese side.”

Trump, who is eager to show farmers in political swing states that he has their backs, lauded China for agreeing to buy as much as $50 billion in agricultural products. But he left tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese products in place.

His announcement, while seen as progress, drew some scepticism.

“I’m unsure that calling what was announced by President Trump an agreement is justified,” said Scott Kennedy, a China trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“If they couldn’t agree on a text, that must mean they’re not done. Wishing an agreement does not one make. This isn’t a skinny deal. It’s an invisible one.”

Mnuchin said the president had agreed not to proceed with a hike in tariffs to 30% from 25% on about $250 billion in Chinese goods that was supposed to have gone into effect on Tuesday.

But U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Trump had not made a decision about tariffs that were subject to go into effect in December.

“I think that we’re going to have a deal that’s a great deal that’s beyond tariffs,” Trump said.

PHASED APPROACH

The world’s two largest economies have made progress in their trade dispute before without sealing a deal. In May U.S. officials accused China of walking away from a sweeping agreement that was nearly finished over a refusal to make changes to Chinese laws that would have ensured its enforceability.

Trump had said previously he would not be satisfied with a partial deal to resolve his effort to change China’s trade, intellectual property and industrial policy practices, which he argues cost millions of U.S. jobs. On Friday he said he had decided that a phased approach was appropriate.

U.S. stocks ended more than 1% higher on Friday but well off the day’s highs after the announcement, with the S&P 500 up 1.09% after rising as much as 1.7% earlier on hopes of an agreement.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are both scheduled to attend a Nov. 16 summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation countries in Santiago, Chile, and Trump hinted that a written agreement could be signed there.

There have been positive signs from China in recent days.

China’s securities regulator on Friday unveiled a firm timetable for scrapping foreign ownership limits in futures, securities and mutual fund companies for the first time. Increasing foreign access to the sector is among the U.S. demands at the trade talks.

Beijing previously said it would further open up its financial sector on its own terms and at its own pace.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed net sales of 142,172 tonnes of U.S. pork to China in the week ended Oct. 3, the largest weekly sale to the world’s top pork market on record.

The president said China had agreed to make purchases of $40 billion to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural goods. Mnuchin said the purchases would be scaled up to that amount annually.

A person briefed on the talks said that the proposed intellectual property provisions were largely centered on strengthening “20th century” IP protections such as those involving copyrights, trademarks and piracy. Not addressed were more difficult technology transfer issues involving data flows, cybersecurity, product standards reviews and a new social credit system that evaluates company behavior.

The status of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the world’s biggest telecoms gear maker, which has been put on a U.S. trade blacklist since May, was not part of the deal, Lighthizer said.

Trump said some IP issues would be left for later phases of the talks. He said talks over a second phase would begin as soon as the first phase agreement was signed and said a third phase might be necessary, too.

Liang Haiming, Hong Kong-based chairman of think-tank China Silk Road iValley Research Institute, called the agreement “anesthetic, pain relief, not an antidote.”

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The Fed’s $4 trillion experiment is growing

The Federal Reserve is once again buying vast amounts of bonds to calm stress in financial markets. But this isn’t a return to crisis-era efforts to save the economy. At least not yet.

The Fed announced on Friday it will launch a new program next week that will gobble up $60 billion of Treasury bills per month. The purchases will further boost the size of its already-massive $4 trillion balance sheet.

Given the slowing American economy, the actions are reminiscent of the bond buying programs known as quantitative easing. The Fed resorted to QE, and eventually QE2 and QE3, to keep borrowing costs ultra-cheap once it ran out of room to cut interest rates in 2008.

You don’t want to have funding shocks add to the worsening outlook. We don’t need this problem on top of our other problems.”
Ralph Axel, senior US rates strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Yet central bank officials and economists stress today’s moves have an entirely different purpose. Rather than boosting sluggish growth, the Fed is buying bonds to fix significant problems that have emerged in the plumbing of the capital markets.

“This is not QE to induce animal spirits and pull people into risk-taking and borrowing,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Fed official who is now CEO of Quill Intelligence.

The Fed even put out a Frequently Asked Questions page on Friday that sought to draw a bright line between the moves and what happened during the crisis.

“These operations have no material implications for the stance of monetary policy,” the statement said, adding that there should be “little if any effect” on household and business spending nor the overall level of economic activity.

Instead, the Fed just wants to make sure there is enough cash sloshing around the system — because lately there hasn’t been.

‘Plumbing’ problems emerge

Overnight lending rates spiked suddenly last month. The episode revealed a sudden cash crunch. Now the Fed is responding by pumping in more cash to get the plumbing flowing again.

“This is not about changing the stance of monetary policy. This is about making sure markets are functioning,” Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, said on Thursday at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit. “This is kind of just a plumbing issue.”

But as many homeowners know, even plumbing problems can turn into bigger ones.

The Fed needs to fix the cash crunch before it erodes confidence or spills over into the real economy, which has already started to show serious cracks because of the US-China trade war and weak global growth.

“You don’t want to have funding shocks add to the worsening outlook. We don’t need this problem on top of our other problems,” said Ralph Axel, senior US rates strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The Fed revealed on Friday that officials met by videoconference on October 4 to discuss the recent pressure in overnight lending markets. Final plans for the Treasury bill purchases were approved on Friday.

‘Intense volatility’

Normally, the overnight lending markets get very little attention. But that’s not because they aren’t important. These markets are critical. They allow banks, hedge funds and other financial institutions to quickly and cheaply borrow money for short periods of times.

Many were surprised when the rate on overnight repurchase, or repo, agreements surged in mid-September well above the target range for short-term borrowing set by the Fed.

Even Fed chief Jerome Powell acknowledged that these markets experienced “unexpectedly intense volatility.”

The Fed blamed the stress on two one-off factors: The withdrawal of cash by US companies to make quarterly tax payments to the Treasury Department and the settlement of a large amount of Treasury purchases.

Sustained pressure could lead investors to fear the Fed is no longer in control of short-term borrowing rates. That would be a problem because that’s precisely how the Fed influences the economy.

“This volatility can impede the effective implementation of monetary policy, and we are addressing it,” Powell said.

The initial response, led by the New York Fed, featured a series of emergency “overnight repo operations.” These cash injections, which are promptly repaid, were aimed at getting borrowing costs back in line. The moves worked, driving rates back down.

However, the NY Fed’s repo operations drew very strong demand, suggesting it couldn’t just walk away.

The fact that there is still a clamor for cash signals there still isn’t enough cash in the system. These aren’t one-off events driven by tax payments or Treasury auctions.

‘Winging it’

The Fed started to shrink its balance sheet in October 2017 because the economy was improving. Economists say the Fed underestimated how much cash the financial system needed to keep operating smoothly. The Fed seems to have sucked out too much cash when it reversed QE.

“It was a bridge too far,” said DiMartino Booth.

There was always a risk that would happen. No one, not even the Fed, knows how much cash needs to be kept in the post-crisis system.

“They are winging it, absolutely,” said Bank of America’s Axel.

Powell signaled this week that the Fed will soon increase the size of its balance sheet. It’s a return to what the Fed did prior to 2007, when the central bank’s balance sheet regularly grew prior to the crisis in line with the growth of currency.

But Powell stressed that this “should in no way be confused” with the QE program launched after the financial crisis.

And to emphasize that point, the Fed is purchasing short-term government debt known as Treasury bills, or T-Bills. The Fed said these purchases “should have little if any effect” on long-term interest rates.

That’s a major difference from QE, when the Fed gobbled up longer-duration Treasuries in a bid to keep borrowing costs cheap.

“They are specifically targeting T-Bills to try to help the messaging, which is difficult because of the simultaneous happenings of the slowdown and the Fed cuts,” said Axel.

QE4 to fight the next recession

The Fed has already cut interest rates twice in response to the loss of momentum in the US economy. Those rate cuts, down to a range of 1.75% to 2%, have eroded the Fed’s limited firepower to fight the next recession.

UBS has warned that US GDP growth will tumble to near-zero next year, forcing the Fed to slash interest rates by another percentage point between now and the first half of 2020.

“We’ve got a pretty massive slowdown in our forecasts,” said Rob Martin, US economist at UBS.

Although UBS isn’t calling for GDP growth to go negative, Martin said he’s “not at all” confident the United States will avert a recession.

And Fed officials have already said that they would be comfortable relaunching QE if they have no room to cut rates in the next recession.

“When history is written, this will be looked at as the second step in the Fed’s easing campaign headed into the coming downturn,” said DiMartino Booth. “First we had rate cuts. Now we have relief in the overnight lending market. The third step is quantitative easing.”

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EU has ‘whitewashed’ Switzerland, one of the ‘world’s most harmful tax havens’

The European Union has removed seven countries from its list of tax havens, the bloc’s finance ministers announced on Thursday. They include Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and five other countries.

Brussels set up a blacklist and a gray list of tax havens in December 2017, following revelations of widespread avoidance schemes used by corporations and wealthy individuals to lower their tax bills. Blacklisted countries face reputational damage and stricter controls on transactions with the EU.

The largest financial center on the blacklist, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was removed after it adopted new rules on offshore structures in September.

The Gulf state charges no corporate taxes, making it a potential target for firms seeking to avoid paying tax in the countries where they actually operate.

The EU does not automatically add countries that don’t charge tax – which can be a sign of being a tax haven – to its blacklist, but it requested the UAE introduce rules that would allow only companies with a real economic activity there to be incorporated in order to reduce the risks of tax dodging.

The Marshall Islands has also been removed from the blacklist, which still includes nine extra-EU jurisdictions – mostly Pacific islands with few financial relations with the EU.

Switzerland, one of the EU’s close trading partners, had been on the gray list. According to the EU, the nation has “delivered on its commitments” to prevent it from being a tax haven and is now off the list.

Albania, Costa Rica, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and Serbia have also been removed from the gray list, with around 30 jurisdictions remaining on it.

Countries on the gray list risk being moved to the blacklist if they fail to deliver on their commitments.

“The EU has whitewashed two of the world’s most harmful tax havens,” said Chiara Putaturo of Oxfam, referring to the delisting of Switzerland and Mauritius.

“Despite recent reforms, both countries will continue to offer sweet treats to tax-dodging companies,” she said, as cited by Reuters.

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