Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Greek Debt Worries;Oil Optimism

The Greek finance minister expressed doubts about being to repay its big loans,although it can manage its public sector expenses.We will definitely have problems in making debt payments,said Yanis Varoufakis to Alpha Radio.Greece has an IMF loan of 1.6 billion euros comig due in March;i also has 7.5 billion of ECB bonds coming to maturity in July and August.
This skepticism comes after Greece got a four-month bailout extension from the EU on Tuesday.Any major Greek credit problems could roil world financial markets.*
In the port of Jizan,Saudi Arabia,Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi voiced optimism to reporters.The oil markets are calm now,and demand is growing,according to
As well,China's manufacturing sector is growing,according to the flash HSBC/Markit Purchasing Managers Index.China is the world's second-largest energy consumer after the US.
The cheery news caused Brent crude to soar 5% to 61.63 per barrel;while Cushing crude went up 1.71 to 50.99.*
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U-2 Spy Plane - Prep & Takeoff-SW Asia

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Progress in Afghanistan,But Grave Concerns Remain

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday,General John Campbell,US Army,Operations Commander for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan,painted an optimistic picture of Afghanistan today after nearly 14 years of assistance from Western nations,while also taking note of challenges that remain.One area of concern is the timetable for the withdrawal of US troops.Under the current plan,about 10,000 American soldiers will be present in 2015,but will go down to 5,000 for 2016,and withdraw entirely by early 2017.Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has requested us and NATO to show some flexibility,General Campbell said.Both Counterterrorism and Train,Advise and Assist missions are complementary.President Obama has granted us some flexibility,enabling us to continue the TAA mission beyond 1 January.*
Most of the options I'm discussing with my senior leadership include allowing more flexibility on glide slope,allowing more flexibility on locations.None of my options allow bumping troop strength up to 20,000.We currently have 9,800 US-combined with NATO,12,900 troops.There are several special operations forces camps.I think you have to continue to keep the pressure on al-Qaida.Our counterterror capability is quite good.*
I have no doubt in my mind the Afghans have the capability to do what they need to do.It's just a confidence issue.But if we continue to withdraw at the rate we are today,they will feel abandoned.President Ghani has requested continued help with logisitics,intelligence and close air support.*
The Afghan National Security Forces have 352,000 members.The army and police have good cross-pillar cooperation.
In the last 45-60 days,I've seen more Afghan-Pakistani cooperation than I've ever seen before.There's more cooperation between the Afghan border police and the Pakistani Frontier Corps.*
Force protection for both our troops and contractors is utmost on my mind.Our green-on-blue incidents have gone way,way down,but we'll continue to look very,very hard at that.
So far,the nascent ISIL is more a rebranding of a few Taliban,but we'e still taking this potential threat,with its dangerous rhetoric and ideology,very,very seriously.President Ghani is quite concerned about ISIL.I've made it a priority of information for my forces,and we'll continue to work that hard.There is some talk of ISIL being present in the universities.*
Kabul is the fifth-fastest growing city in the world today,General Campbell noted.He had a chart displayed for the Senators which showed gains in Afghan literacy,cellphone use,roadbuilding and girls' education in recent years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

From Europe to India:Defense Secretary Nominee Speaks Out

Dr.Ashton B. Carter,60,won unanimous approval from the Senate Armed Services Committee to be the new Secretary of Defense with a 25-0 bipartisan vote.The nomination now goes to the full Senate for final approval-really a formality at this point.The graduate of Oxford University served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from 2011-2013.Before that,he held two other high level Pentagon posts,including Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and chief weapons buyer.*
At his confirmation hearing last week,Dr.Carter laid out his views on a number of issues such as European security,India-US ties and Iran's nuclear program.I think that our strength in Europe is our alliance with NATO,he said.Another strength is of course our military strength.I understand we are adding forces in rotation as a deterrence to Russian adventurism.*
India,in my view,is destined to be a strategic partner of the US.I'm for hastening that.In the military and technical cooperation area,I think there's a great deal we can do with India.*
If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons,that would be very grave because:
1.They might use them.
2.Their having them might influence others to acquire them.
They have the ambition to wipe Israel off the map.They have a long history of acting in a disruptive way.*
As to Russia,the little green men are part of the big Putin lie.The common sense is,he's violated Ukrainian sovereignty.It is,I am told, quite clear that Russia is in clear violation of the INF treaty by developing a new ground-launched nuclear missile.I think there are defensive and deterrent and counterforce steps we can take if they want to play that game.They need to be reminded it's a two-way street,Dr.Carter told the Senate Armed Forces Committee.*
Chuck Hagel is staying on as Defense Secretary until Dr.Carter's confirmation is completed.
Update:Dr.Carter was confirmed by the full Senate with a 95-3 vote on 12 February.

Defense Secretary nominee pledges not to bow to White House pressure on ...

Senator Ayotte Questions Dr. Carter About Yemen

Ashton Carter - physicist, Rhodes scholar, Defense Secretary

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Taking Advantage of Market Volatility

This volatility is a real problem,said Rob Kapito,President of BlackRock,the world's largest money manager.People are back in cash,but my message is to get invested in the marketplace and try to put all this noise away.There's always noise in the marketplace.Most companies have been buying back stock and paying dividends.I'd like people to think about who benefits from lower oil prices.Discretionary goods are going to see a pop in this.Tech advances are changing the business models of many companies.Think through what's going to change.Look at companies that are innovative and changing their models,and those that are just lagging behind.
You're going to live longer,and you're not going to have saved enough for retirement.You can't invest for the future in the future.The millennials are saving,but we need to get others thinking about it.You can benefit from being a long-term investor in those sectors.*
I think you've put in a low on oil prices,adds Jeff Saut of Raymond James Financial.The oil stocks have been absolutely crushed.If crude oil has bottomed,you're going to see some pretty good action on the way back up.If we've seen a low,you're going to do very well in an energy etf or an energy-centric mutual fund.*
I'm just a little bit concerned about the near-term volatility,said Brian Jacobsen of Wells Fargo Advantage Funds.However,I would view that as a buying opportunity.Any weakness,I'd be buying into the equity front.*
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