David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    See Food: Why Robots Are Producing More of What You Eat

    This article by Natashe Khan for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Food manufacturers have been early adopters of new technologies from canning to bread slicers, and vision automation has been used for many years for tasks such as reading bar codes and sorting packaged products. Leaders now are finding the technology valuable because robot eyes outpace the human eye at certain tasks.

    For years, Tyson Foods Inc. used sensors to map chicken fillets so they could be cut to the precise specifications required by restaurant customers that need them to cook uniformly. But exposure to the high pressure, high temperature water there kept causing equipment failures.

    Now technical improvements, tougher materials and declining prices mean the company can integrate vision technology in facilities including the new $300 million chicken-processing plant in Humboldt, Tenn., said Doug Foreman, who works in technology development at the Springdale, Ark.-based food company. The technology could help optimize the use of each part of the bird, he added.

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    Email of the day on Venezuela on the Med:

    There is an increasing number of commentators in Italy that have drawn to the conclusion that the current government (still supported by a vast majority of Italians, ~60% according to latest polls) is determined to leave the Euro area and the EU. I am now convinced about this too.

    Since there is no legally viable way of achieving this, the path to be followed will be that of an "accident" on the financial markets: the delivery of the promises of universal income and lower taxation, will push the fiscal deficit to "breaking point", while the ECB (unelected enemy of the people #1) will start withdrawing the bond buying program. 

    With the spread uncontrollably high and seized credit (banks are also notorious enemies of the people), the only solution left (so the people will be told) will be the reintroduction of the Lira, overnight. The country will default and withdraw from international markets. Most activities nationalised. 

    The motivation for doing this for those currently in power is clear: seizing unrestrained power (forget ideology, or patriotic instincts... those are facades). A country with universal income (assuming that functions) ceases to be a democracy anyway. The sponsor for all this comes from the East.

    Interesting (Venezuelan) times ahead. 

    The conclusion: don't touch Italian domestic names, not even with a barge pole from far away. 

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    How an Aussie miner and American tech company plan to extract lithium quickly in Argentina

    This article by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    What sets this partnership apart is that both the miner and the techie claim they can produce lithium carbonate or lithium chloride more rapidly and at a lower cost than others. According to Lilac, this is possible because its system eliminates the need for sprawling evaporation ponds, which are expensive to build, slow to ramp up, and vulnerable to weather fluctuations.

    “Even for the world's best lithium reserves in the Atacama desert, conventional evaporation ponds take many years to ramp up and remain vulnerable to weather volatility. Lilac's projects will run at full capacity from year one of commissioning and maintain that output regardless of weather or brine chemistry. We have done benchtop testing in other brines and we saw recoveries over 95% in less than 2 hours versus 9-24 months in evaporation ponds,” the company’s CEO, Dave Snydacker, told MINING.com.

    Snydacker explained that the reason why the processes run by his company are so fast is that his engineers have developed ion exchange beads that absorb lithium directly from the brine. Once they do that, the beads are then loaded into ion exchange columns and brine is flowed through such columns. As the brine contacts the beads, the beads absorb the lithium out of the brine. Once the beads are saturated with lithium, the alkali metal is recovered from them as a lithium solution, which is later on processed into battery-grade lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide using streamlined plant designs.

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    Shinzo Abe's quiet social revolution

    Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Hiroshi Marutani for Nikkei may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

    In his second stint as prime minister, Abe seems to have finally understood the secret to the LDP's longevity: an all-engulfing pragmatism. Reality over ideals. This has been clearest in Abe's decision to expand acceptance of foreign workers. Under Abe's administration, the number of foreign workers has almost doubled to 1.3 million. Laborers from China, Vietnam and the Philippines have poured into Japan to fill gaps in the health care, construction "With the economy performing so well, it is becoming apparent that hiring is tight," Abe told Nikkei. "Worker shortages are starting to hamper a variety of fields."

    The ills of a shrinking population were hardly noticeable during the country's long deflationary spiral. But after growth returned in 2013, businesses began to shout their concerns about a smaller workforce.

    "Nursing facilities, for instance, have a severe lack of hands," said Abe, whose recognition of the issue has been heavily shaped by Yoshihide Suga, his chief cabinet secretary since 2012.

    Suga realized the need for more workers in nursing facilities last fall, when local caregivers raised the issue with him and requested foreign staffers. He gathered officials to look into the problem and was told that there was adequate manpower.

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    A Twist in the U.S. Tariff Battle: It's Helping China Be More Competitive

    This article by Liza Lin and Dan Strumpf for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Tony Lee’s Sintai Furniture Co. makes outdoor furniture and other products sold at Costco , Home Depot and other U.S. stores that would be subject to tariffs in the expected $200 billion round. He is moving one-fifth of production to Vietnam for his U.S. exports, and keeping production for European and other markets at his factory in Dongguan.

    Mr. Lee said the company will incur higher costs in worker training and material shipment in the short term, but he expects the move will save money in the long run. “The supply chain and capability in Vietnam takes time to build,” he said. “Once it is built up, Vietnam will be cheaper than China.”

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    HNA's Missed Payments Show Deutsche Bank Exit Won't Be Enough

    This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Despite HNA Group Co. having sold more than $17 billion in assets this year, one of its units still missed payments on a $44 million loan this week, illustrating how the once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate will need to unload more properties and shares to overcome its liquidity challenges.

    Signs abound that the selloff will continue: It’s planning to get out of Deutsche Bank AG, seeking a buyer for its container-leasing Seaco business, surrendering eight floors of office space in Hong Kong and selling stakes in various Chinese units, people familiar with the matter have said since last week. What’s more, HNA is said to be dangling billions of dollars in real estate in the U.S., London and China to prospective buyers.

    All in all, the company that was once at the forefront of China’s massive global buying binge has more than $17 billion in further asset sales planned, according to a tally by Bloomberg, as HNA tries to shrink back to its aviation roots. But as the missed payments show, there’s plenty of turbulence lying ahead for the conglomerate, which is saddled with one of the biggest piles debt in corporate China.

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    Financial panic and credit disruptions in the 2007-09 crisis

    This article by Ben Bernanke for the Brookings Institute may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

    Although the Balance Sheet factors do not forecast the acute phase of the economic downturn in my setup, that does not mean they were irrelevant. Of course, the bursting of the housing bubble was the spark that ignited the panic in the first place. Moreover, much other evidence (by Mian and Sufi and others) is consistent with the view that household deleveraging contributed both to the initial downturn in spending and to the slowness of the recovery. It may well be that household balance sheets evolve too slowly and smoothly for their effects to be fully accounted for in the type of analysis used in my paper, which tends to emphasize shorter-term fluctuations. But my results do suggest that, in the absence of the panic, the declines in employment, consumption and output in the early stages of the Great Recession would have been significantly less severe.

    The panic of 2008 differed from the Great Depression of the 1930s in that the runs on the financial system during the recent episode were on wholesale funding, and occurred electronically, while in the 1930s retail depositors lined up in the streets.  But the overall effect was the same:  A loss of confidence in credit providers caused the supply of credit to plummet, the external finance premium to spike, and the real economy to contract rapidly.  Macroeconomic analysis and forecasting needs to take into account how disruptions to credit markets, in ordinary recessions as well as in financial panics, can damage the real economy.

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