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

    The man who will likely lead the Navy under Trump means business in the South China Sea

    When President-elect Donald Trump spoke about expanding the Navy to 350 ships in his September national security speech, he's most likely taking his cues from Randy Forbes, the Republican Congressman from Virginia poised to take over as Secretary of the Navy in a Trump administration.

    “The 350-ship navy, cruiser modernization – those naval planks [in Donald Trump’s policies] are lifted from Randy Forbes,” a source familiar with the matter told USNI News.

    The president appoints a Secretary of the Navy to "conduct, all affairs of the Department of the Navy," which includes the Marine Corps. Trump, during his speech, said he wants to greatly increase the size of both the Navy and the Marines, and to generally "rebuild our military."

    Additionally, Trump mentioned buying newer destroyers to bulk up the Navy's fleet of 272 ships, most likely with Zumwalt class destroyers, but the Navy has struggled so far to field those.

    Forbes, a military adviser to Trump during his campaign, serves as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and makes it plain on his website that he is "one of the nation’s most forceful advocates for a strong national defense."

    In September, Forbes asserted before Congress that "more than rhetoric is required to counterbalance China’s growing military power and assertiveness," referring to China's artificial island building and militarization in the South China Sea, as well as China ignoring an international court ruling that said its claims in the region were illegal.

    China has declared "no fly" and "no sail" zones in international waters in the Pacific that have gone unchallenged by the US in the last few years. Increasingly Beijing bullies ships from its neighbors, some of whom are US allies.

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    Tech Defanged as Stocks From Amazon to Netflix Left Out of Rally

    This article by Lu Wang and Rebecca Spalding for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Losses among computer and software makers mushroomed Thursday and were pronounced in the FANG block of Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc., each of which fell at least 3.6 percent. The Nasdaq 100 Index slumped 2.3 percent as of 10:58 a.m. in New York, the biggest retreat since Sept. 9.

    While opinions vary about what’s going on, one possibility was concern about the impact of Trump’s policies on trade overseas, where U.S. technology companies thrive. Others saw a rational retreat for a group that through Election Day had surged 11 percent in 2016, or even the potential for retaliation by the president-elect against an industry that didn’t exactly cozy up to him during the campaign.

    “Amazon is not worth $42 less than it was yesterday. It’s just that there’s been these violent moves as investors try to sort out what the election means,” said Terry Morris, manager director of equities at BB&T Institutional Investment Advisors in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. “These exaggerated moves are just that, and I think we’re going to come back to more reasonable valuations.”

    Facebook slid as much as 6.4 percent to $115.27. Amazon was down 4.7 percent to $735.66 after falling as much as 7 percent earlier. Netflix declined 5.4 percent to $115.57 in its biggest slide since July. Alphabet lost 3.8 percent to $774.77.

    Trump’s presidency leaves the U.S. tech industry in an uncomfortably uncertain position. Total contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign from the internet industry came in at 114 times the level they did for Trump, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a strongly worded rebuke to Trump’s views on immigration at the company’s developers conference in April, although he never called him out by name.


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    Merkel's conservatives warn of Trump effect in Germany

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

    "Things are getting simplified, black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. You can asked simple questions, but one should not give simple answers," Oettinger told Deutschlandfunk radio.

    He said politicians and media should better explain complicated things with facts, but they should also embrace social media to reach younger voters in the new digital world.

    The AfD, polling at around 13 percent, on Wednesday welcomed Trump's victory as the disempowerment of political elites.

    INSA chief Hermann Binkert told Bild politicians had not taken on board the warning signs and a growing number of people had rejected the established parties and turned to the AfD.

    However, polls show a majority of Germans still reject rabble rousing slogans. A Politbarometer poll for broadcaster ZDF showed some 82 percent of Germans think it is bad or very bad that Trump became president.

    Experts also argue that Germany's political system, established after World War Two to avoid the rise of another dictator after Hitler, makes the rise of individual politicians like Trump or even a single party difficult.


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    Robots and industrialization in developing countries

    This report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    A country wishing to benefit from such effects must deploy more robots than others. According to data from the International Federation of Robotics, recent deployments of industrial robots in developing countries have been concentrated in China, and the country is expected to maintain its front-runner status (figure 1). In response to a shrinking working-age population and rising labour costs, which have eroded the country’s cheap-labour advantage, China has embarked on a government-backed robot-driven industrial strategy entitled “Made in China 2025”. Each year since 2013, China has bought more industrial robots than any other country and, by the end of 2016, is likely to overtake Japan as the world’s biggest operator of industrial robots. While its robot density - robots per industrial workers – continues to fall short of that of Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the rapid pace of robot deployment is likely to significantly reduce the erosion of China’s comparative advantage in labour-intensive manufacturing.

    The data also show, however, that industrial robots have primarily been deployed in the automotive, electrical and electronics industries (figure 2). This means that in developing countries – such as Mexico and many countries in Asia – those engaged in export activities in these two sectors are the most exposed to reshoring. By contrast, in many labourintensive industries, such as garment-making, widespread automation is not yet suitable. While robots have become cheaper, some developing countries continue to have a large pool of cheap labour. Thus, for those countries whose major challenge is to create jobs for a large number of low-skilled entrants to the labour force – such as in many parts of Africa – deploying robots under current cost structures may drive production costs up, rather than down.


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    Wall Street Rises, Bets on Donald Trump Inflation

    Here is the opening of this topical article by John Kehoe of Financial Review:

    American investors are surprisingly upbeat about Donald Trump's shock ascension to the US presidency, saying the big spending real estate mogul could trigger overdue inflation via his debt-funded plan to unleash a wave of infrastructure investment and to slash taxes.

    Shares on Wall Street lifted about 1 per cent on bets the Republican clean sweep of the White House and Congress is poised to end six years of legislative gridlock and deliver a pro-business agenda on tax and regulation.

    US markets failed to follow the 4-plus per cent dive in the S&P 500 futures index or earlier global stock rout in response to Mr Trump's upset victory.

    Investors pointed to Mr Trump's magnanimous victory speech pledging to unite a divided country and his vow to invest in underfunded infrastructure, which would take pressure off the US Federal Reserve to keep interest rates near zero.

    Fund managers expressed hope that conservatives in Congress would constrain his trade protectionist populism and try to keep the budget deficit under control.

    The potential for a fiscal stimulus and Trump inflation wave caused the yield on the ten-year US Treasury bond to surge above 2 per cent, from 1.71 per cent, even as economists trimmed bets on the Fed raising rates next month due to political uncertainty from the billionaire's shock election.

    "Inflation is the big issue," Bernstein Advisors chief investment officer Richard Bernstein said.

    Mr Trump has vowed to go on a spending spree on infrastructure and defence, which could lift subdued inflation and allow the Fed to raise rates more in the longer term.

    The president-elect wants to slash the US corporate tax rate to 15 per cent, from 35 per cent, and reform the system to encourage multinationals such as Apple and Google to repatriate $US2.5 trillion stashed offshore.

    The real estate tycoon has also threatened to impose tariffs on foreign goods and to cut the amount of foreign workers, both of which would push up prices on imports and wages.

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    Trumped America and Brexit Britain are Both Calling the Bluff of the Established Order

    The Brexit view is a good deal more coherent than the Trump one. Brexit’s leaders, for example, want to open up world markets rather than put up new tariff walls. But both share a desire to bring power home to the nation’s own citizens. Both recognise that everything is different now.

    Part of the great bluff of the Washington elites and their Europhile cousins is that there is only one sensible way of doing things and they, being the experts, can tell the rest of us what it is. But since 2001 in relation to security, and 2008 in relation to money, their way doesn’t look so sensible.

    Does Mr Obama’s deal to let Iran off the hook about nuclear weapons feel outstandingly rational? Does Angela Merkel look wise to have let in 1 million Middle-Eastern immigrants? Does reinforcing the euro seem like the way of the future after its imposition has impoverished the younger generation right across southern Europe? A growing constituency calls the bluff of the established order.  

    Once you start on this road, establishment disapproval only makes you feel stronger. Why vote for an elderly groper with strange hair and no political experience? Why incur the anger of the 27 other EU member states by Brexiting?

    Partly because of seeing the pursed lips of the powerful when you do so. The only person who piped up to say the emperor had no clothes was a child: being electoral naughty boys proves to be fun.

    It is not within the power of electors to run their country. It is within their power to point out to the self-righteous mighty when they are wrong. That is what has happened, first in Britain, now in America. By that logic, Mrs Clinton had to lose to Mr Trump.

    I can think of at least one difference between Brexit and Mr Trump’s administration. The former will be led by a woman who didn’t even vote for it, the latter by the man himself.

    The British situation may be the better, because it is less likely to inspire false hopes. It wouldn’t take all that many errors for Mr Trump’s vision to turn into Brexit minus minus minus.

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