Category Archives: General

Three JPMorgan Traders Charged for “Massive” Gold Market Manipulation Fraud

Who would have thought that JPMorgan’s precious metals trading desk is the functional equivalent of the mafia, and that its one-time leader, Blythe Masters, was the mafia’s don? 

Well, almost everyone who didn’t mind being designated a conspiracy theorist for years. And now comes vindication, because this has just been confirmed by the DOJ, which accused the PM trading desks at JPMorgan of being deeply involved in what prosecutors described as a “massive, multiyear scheme to manipulate the market for precious metals futures contracts and defraud market participants.”

In an indictment unsealed on Monday morning, the DoJ charged Michael Nowak, a JPMorgan veteran and former head of its precious metals trading desk and Gregg Smith, another trader on JPM’s metals desk, in the probe. (Blythe Masters was somehow omitted). “Based on the fact that it was conduct that was widespread on the desk, it was engaged in in thousands of episodes over an eight-year period — that it is precisely the kind of conduct that the RICO statute is meant to punish,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski told reporters.

For full story, visit ZeroHedge.

NEWS: Standard Lithium to Participate at Battery Next Summit in Boulder, CO on September 17, 2019

Standard Lithium Ltd. (“Standard Lithium” or the “Company”) (SLL.V) (OTC-Nasdaq Intl. Designation: STLHF) (S5L.F), announced that its CEO Robert Mintak, will be joining host Sam Jaffe of Cairn ERA and other industry experts at the Battery Next Summit, in Boulder, CO on September 17, 2019. Battery Next is a C-level summit of top battery professionals and investors exploring the issues, solutions and technology advances in advanced battery materials. Mr. Mintak will be participating in a session on next-gen battery supply chain issues.

The purpose of Battery NEXT is to cultivate dialogue about problems, solutions and paths to success in the advanced battery materials market. It’s meant for participants from throughout the supply chain, from technologists to battery manufacturers to investors. In beautiful Boulder, Colorado, attendees from throughout the battery supply chain will engage in focused discussions on important emerging battery technologies, including silicon anode materials, solid electrolytes and flow battery developments.

Full release

Oil prices skyrocket 20% after attacks on Saudi plants disrupt global supply

Crude prices soared as trading opened on Monday after this weekend’s drone attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities slashed the kingdom’s output by half, or more than five percent of global daily production.

Brent crude futures jumped by as much as 19 percent to $71.95 per barrel, making the biggest intra-day gain in nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) soared more than 15 percent, reaching $63.34 a barrel.

The gains were pared later in the day, but oil prices were still higher than at the end of last week. Brent crude was trading above $65 per barrel and WTI over $58 as of 7:18am GMT.

The price spike came after attacks on two Saudi Aramco plants, including a key refinery in the city of Abqaiq. Restoring work at the facilities may take weeks, not days as Aramco pledged earlier.

“This incident effectively eliminates the world’s spare capacity,” Sarah Cottle, global head of market insight at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC.

She added that the attack “heightens the risk premium” and can drive crude prices beyond $70 per barrel. Some earlier forecasts suggested that oil prices may reach $100 a barrel if Saudi refineries stay closed for too long.

On Monday, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that such attacks on major facilities “impact the general energy security issues.” He noted that commercial stocks around the world have enough resources to cover oil shortage in the medium-term, but the situation will depend on how long the impact of the infrastructure breakdown will be felt.


China’s economy is getting worse. That makes a trade deal more likely

China’s economic slowdown keeps getting worse. That could give the country incentive to repair its trading relationship with the United States and take more steps to stimulate its economy.

The country released data Monday that showed industrial production — an important indicator for China’s economy — increased by just 4.4% in August compared to a year earlier. That’s worse than the sector’s performance in July, when it grew by 4.8%, its weakest growth in 17 years.

Industrial production is important because it measures the output of key businesses in China’s manufacturing, mining and utilities sectors. The latest figure was also worse than the 5.2% growth that analysts polled by Reuters expected.

Other data released Monday by China’s National Bureau of Statistics was also poor. Retail sales growth slowed to 7.5% in August, down from July’s 7.6% year-on-year uptick.

The world’s second biggest economy has been struggling because of its trade war with the United States. It’s also facing domestic challenges as it tries to rely less on debt to fuel growth.

The new data comes as China’s tense trade relationship with the United States appears to be improving, at least a little bit. China announced last week that it would exempt American soybean and pork from tariffs. That was the latest in a series of steps taken by both countries to cool off ahead of a new round of trade talks.

The soft August figures reflect an “increasing downside risk to the economy” as the trade war rages on, said Ken Cheung Kin Tai, chief foreign exchange strategist for Asia at Mizuho Bank in Hong Kong. “Against this backdrop, it makes sense that China softened its stance on trade talks” and introduced stimulus plans in recent weeks.

The weak data also fuels speculation about how China’s central bank will continue responding to the slowdown, Cheung added.

The People’s Bank of China has taken several steps in recent weeks to boost the country’s economy. Earlier this month, it reduced the amount of cash banks have to keep in reserve by slashing the reserve requirement ratio for the first time in eight months.

And in August, the central bank launched a new Loan Prime Rate that will become the benchmark for banks to price loans, a reform meant to support growth and employment. It is fixed monthly. Cheung said Chinese policymakers could fix that rate lower when it is set later this week.

China has also allowed the yuan to depreciate to its lowest levels in more than a decade in recent weeks. But a weaker currency isn’t likely to completely offset problems with tariffs and sluggish global demand, said Martin Lynge Rasmussen, a China economist for Capital Economics. He said in a Monday research note that China will likely keep easing monetary policy in the coming months.

Tommy Wu, a senior economist for Oxford Economics, also said the country needs to take significant steps to stabilize growth. His firm forecasts the economy will grow 6.1% this year and 5.7% in 2020.

The People’s Bank of China could consider a cut to its medium-term lending facility rate, which is a key loan rate, said Ting Lu, chief China economist for Japanese investment firm Nomura. He also expects the government to loosen restrictions on the property sector later this year to help stimulate purchases.

Chinese officials have said they have enough tools available to bolster the economy.

“The Chinese economy is facing certain downward pressure from slowing global growth, protectionism and rising unilateralism,” said Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in an interview with Russian media, according to a transcript published Monday by the Chinese government. “But the economy also has big resilience, potential and enough space to maneuver.”


Lamborghini’s new tech could revolutionize electric supercars

Lamborghini’s newest supercar, the $2 million Sián hybrid, will be the fastest and most powerful Lamborghini ever made. But it also represents a small step toward what Lamborghini hopes will be the future of electric cars.

Or, at least, electric supercars.

I spent a few minutes talking with Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini’s chief technical officer, as we stood next to the car. He’s had strong feelings about hybrid and electric supercars. He’s never been a fan of battery power in supercars. His stance is that batteries are just too big and heavy. Weight is the enemy of performance and, if you’ve ever sat inside a supercar, you know there’s not a lot of room to spare.

But over the past couple of years, Reggiani has started talking about supercapacitors. That’s what the Sián has instead of a battery pack. It’s located behind the seats, in front of the engine.

Supercapacitors store power using an entirely different method from batteries. Think about it this way: when you rub your feet on a carpet then give someone an electric shock, or when you see lightning strike, those are examples of natural capacitors storing and releasing electricity. (The word “sián” means “lightning bolt” in the traditional Bolognese dialect of Lamborghini’s home in Italy.)

Supercapacitors are ideal for supercars, Reggiani says, because they’re light — one third the weight per unit of energy — and they can transfer electricity quickly without losing energy as heat. They charge up quickly during braking, then blast out electricity during acceleration. The Sián’s 34-horsepower electric motor can drive the wheels directly to get the car moving and to keep pushing it along between shifts in its automatic transmission.

The Sián isn’t a full hybrid like the Toyota Prius. It’s a “mild hybrid” (if anything Lamborghini makes can ever be called “mild”). It can’t drive even a short way on electrical power alone. The V12 engine does the vast majority of the work with the electric motor helping.

The Sián can go from zero to more than 60 miles an hour in under three seconds, according to Lamborghini, and has a top speed of more than 217 miles an hour. The electric motor adds 10% to the speed.

This isn’t the first time Lamborghini has used a supercapacitor in one of its cars. The Aventador, Lamborghini’s $400,000 non-hybrid V12 supercar, also uses one. A supercapacitor powers the Aventador’s starter motor to crank up its big V12 engine. With the Sián, the supercapacitor actually helps move the car.

The next step will be to have supercapacitors that can do even more to power the car. Perhaps real full hybrids that can actually drive some distance at casual road speeds under electric power. That would require better supercapacitors that can deliver more power longer while still retaining the benefits of rapid, efficient energy transfer. The ultimate goal will be to have supercapacitors alone power a supercar with real Lamborghini-style performance.

That’s what Lamborghini is working on with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Reggiani said. “On this, we need to have much more time,” he said.

Whatever Lamborghini and MIT might create doesn’t just have to work in a laboratory under ideal conditions. It will have to work in a car that shakes and bumps, then is left sitting in all kinds of extreme temperatures. And this technology will have to be safe in a crash. Cars are some of the toughest environments in the world in which to make technology work.

In 2017, Lamborghini showed off the Terzo Millennio concept car it had designed with MIT. But that was just a concept car. It was basically a life-sized model that showed what Lamborghini mighy someday do with supercapacitors. The Terzo Millennio was described as being powered by supercapacitors that were actually built right into the car’s body. A cool idea, but one that’s still far in the future.

“This is the first step on the road and the Terzo Millennio is the arrival point,” Reggiani said.

There’s still a very long road ahead.