Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Investing Outlook for 2016

Money managers are setting their sights on the 2016 investment picture.
For us,it's the Euro-zone and Japan,which are benefitting from quantitative easing,said Kevin Nicholson,CFA,of Riverfront Investments in Richmond,Virginia.The US is going to have single-digit returns in 2016.When you look at Europe,they out-earned the US for the first time in a long time.We think that's going to continue.*
We like banks.We believe their low loan losses are beneficial and wages are starting to pick up.As consumer confidence builds,banks' confidence builds.*
We're staying away from energy at the moment,Mr.Nicholson noted.*
Philip White,President and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Affiliates LLC,a Realogy Holdings subsidiary,said it's taken a long time to get to this recovery point.We've had a very good year,where we've outpaced the market-by two to one,actually.We have seen fairly stable pricing.
I think the luxury market is even stronger than before the crash.It's stable,less erratic.We are seeing a little drop-off in international buyers.We don't think this will be a long period of time,but they are a very important factor in the luxury market,and they will continue to be,according to Mr.White.*
Robert Plaza of Key Private Bank likes Walmart.Most of the bad news is already priced in,Mr.Plaza said.We think the risk-reward profile is promising.I see little earnings risk going into 2016.With only five buy recommendations on it,they're speed bump-high expectations at this point.*
Realogy Holdings Corp (RLGY),Walmart Stores Inc (WMT),iShares MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ),iShares Europe ETF (IEV)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Joint Chiefs Chairman:The Dynamics of War in the 21st Century

General Joseph Dunford,USMC,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,participated in a national security forum at The Center For a New American Security in Washington,DC on 14 December.In a discussion with Michele Fluornoy,CEO of the Center and former Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009-12,General Dunford said there's a high likelihood that any conflict we might have will be transregional (multi-regional),multi-domain and multi-functional.Our current planning,command and control is not optimised for this.I don't think we'll be as responsive as we should be unless we make some changes.We're doing some things every day to mitigate this challenge.
The character of war in the 21st century is actually pretty dynamic,but I think our organisational structure,command and control need to be changed.The number one challenge is balancing what we're doing in the current fight with what we need for tomorrow,in the context of reduced funding.If we're involved in a conflict with Russia,it's not going to be isolated to the old plan.Our old plans need to be born with the three m's.
In any ICBM scenario,there are the combatant command (COCOM) from which it originates;the COCOM through which it passes;and NORTHCOM to deal with the consequences.I do believe there needs to be a staff that can provide SecDef with a comprehensive operational picture.This is all about SecDef and the National Command Authority.*
The current force is not broken.I certainly believe we are recruiting and retaining a good cut of people.The Marine Corps is a very young force.Be specific about requirements and start from cradle to grave to grow the force that we need to be.*
In Europe,not only do we need a capacity to respond,but on a day-to-day basis we need to be visible.We need to be there so our adversaries can see our physical presence,more rotational forces,an aggregate of forces adequate to fight and win.My joint staff priority is to focus on strategy and joint force readiness.*
The global commons should be accessible to all.The South China Sea should be available for trade and economic activity.It's a combination of a whole of government approach;freedom of navigation;military-to-military relations.We need to have the cyber capability to escalate horizontally in a crisis.*
I don't think we ought to apologise for our values when we go to war.I'm incredibly proud of the discipline of our force since 9-11.This is a war of values,a war of ideas.We actually have something to sell.Our engagement with people in Afghanistan or elsewhere is likely the only Americans they'll ever see,General Joseph Dunford reflcted at The Center For a New American Security.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council Move Ahead

Preparations for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church,to be held in 2016, are continuing in Athens,Greece.The Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council convened in Athens on 16 December and will wrap up the session on 18 December.Under the leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon,Ecumenical Patriarchate,representatives of the autocephalous churches are drafting the procedural rules of the Great and Holy Council.
Among those attending the Athens meeting are several hierarchs,including:
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk,chairman of the Department of External Church Relations,Moscow Patriarchate;
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France,Ecumenical Patriarchate;
Metropolitan Basilios of Akkar,Patriarchate of Antioch;
Bishop Irinej of Backa,Patriarchate of Serbia;
Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristerona,Orthodox Church of Greece;
Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantine,Jerusalem Patriarchate;
and Metropolitan John of Korce,Albanian Orthodox Church.
The Great and Holy Council has long been a cherished dream of many,but it is safe to say it is now well on the way to realisation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Fed's Rate Hike:What Was Behind It and What It Means

The Federal Reserve announced today that it is hiking the Fed Funds Rate,its iconic interest rate,by 0.25%.*
This action marks the end of an extraordinary seven-year period during which the Fed Funds Rate was held near zero,said Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen at a post-announcement press conference.It reflects the Open Market Committee's confidence that the economy will continue to strengthen.The Committee judged that a modest increase in the FFR target is now appropriate.The labour market has clearly shown continued improvement.Overall,the Committee sees the risk to both the labour market and economic growth as being balanced.
Low energy prices and the appreciation of the dollar have weighed on inflation.Long-term inflation expectations remain anchored.In considering future policy decisions,we will carefully monitor progress towards our 2% inflation goal.The limit on inflation is due to transitory factors which we expect to slacken over time.An abrupt tightening could increase the risk of pushing the overheated economy into recession.*
It's important not to overblow the significance of this first move-it's only a quarter of a percent.The policy we judge to be accommodative.I continue to judge there is slack in the economy:the depressed level of labour participation and the high level of part-time employment.With rates close to zero,we have less room to respond to negative shocks.If we do not begin to slightly reduce the amount of accommodation,the odds are good the economy would overshoot our goals.
It doesn't mean we need to see inflation reach 2% before we move again.I'm not going to give you a simple formula for when we would move again.It could be on a variety of different forms of evidence,but I don't want to give a simple benchmark.We do expect inflation to be moving up,but we don't expect it to reach 2%.
All oil prices need to do for us to reach our inflation goal is stabilise.I certainly grant that we've seen a number of shocks,but we don't expect them to drop much lower;but to stabilise.Market expectations are for oil to stabilise for awhile and then move up.*
Were there an unexpected,persistent change in financial market conditions,we would need to take them into account.I do not think that expansions die of old age,but the economy does get hit by shocks,and there are significant odds that the economy hits some unforeseen shock that sends it into recession,and of course we would respond.Some European central banks have cut their overnight lending rates;we could study taking the overnight rates into negative territory.This is something we have contemplated-our options.It would be nice to have a buffer in the FFR,to have some ability to respond.We have a far more resilient financial system now than we had before the financial crisis,but we will be evaluating this carefully.*
For average Americans,the Fed's decision reflects our confidence in the US economy.We see an economy that is on the path of sustainable improvement.I hope they will take this to mean that conditions will continue to strengthen and job prospects will be good.Some consumer borrowing rates,some credit card rates (and adjustable rate mortgage and small business loan rates) may move up slightly.
Gradual rate hikes does not mean mechanical,evenly spaced hikes.We will be data-dependent,and as the conditions evolve,we will take them into account.*
We are constantly monitoring foreign economic developments;we understand that our fates are linked.We've made a commitment to the emerging market policy makers that we will communicate as clearly as we can to avoid spillover to the emerging markets.Our economy doing well is encouraging to other economies around the globe.We have taken care to avoid unnecessary negative spillover to the emerging markets,Fed chair Janet Yellen told the reporters.*
In sum,the Fed judges that the US economy is doing so well,they need to slow it down it a bit,so it doesn't overheat into high inflation and another recession.The way they do that is by raising the Fed Funds Rate,which raises the rates on certain consumer loans such as credit card balances and adjustable rate mortgages.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Strategic Allies US and Singapore Aggravate Beijing

On 7 December,US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen met at the Pentagon,where they signed an enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,or DCA.It provides for an expanded defence relationship between the two countries,the Pentagon said.Singapore already provides logistical support for US military aircraft and ships.A small number of US military personnel conduct logistics and planning activities in Singapore for US ships and aircraft in the region.
Singapore agrees that the US presence in the region is critical for peace,prosperity and stability in the Asia Pacific,as expressed in the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding and 2005 DCA the two nations signed.The enhanced DCA calls for continued cooperation in the military,policy,strategic and technology spheres,as well as in the new areas of humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR),cyber defence,biosecurity and public communications.It also introduces new high-level dialogues between the defence establishments of the two countries.*
Specifically,the defence relationship involves the US rotationally deploying US Navy littoral combat ships to Singapore.The USS Fort Worth was deployed there in December 2014.The next LCS will be deployed to Singapore in 2016 as the US ramps up to deploying four LCSs coterminously in the APAC region.
The US has just made the inaugural deployment of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to Singapore,which runs from 7-14 December,in accordance with the 1990 and 2005 bilateral defence agreements.Further deployments of the P-8A could be expected,a US defence official said.The deployments are to promote greater interoperability with regional forces through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises,while providing timely support for regional HADR and maritime security efforts.
Besides these deployments of ships and aircraft,the US and Singapore air forces conduct joint exercises,personnel exchanges and cross-attendance of courses.Exercise Tiger Balm between the Singapore and US armies,as well as Exercise Commando Sling between the two air forces,which has grown in scale and complexity since its inaugural iteration in 1990,are concrete examples of such cooperation,as are the annual bilateral Cooperation Afloat and Training (CART) naval exercises.
Singapore and the US have served together in construction and stability operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,as well as in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and in the anti-ISIL Operation Inherent Resolve.APAC countries must work together to counter transnational threats such as terrorism,maritime security and natural disasters,Dr.Ng and Dr.Carter agreed.*
China expressed concern about the enhanced defence cooperation between the US and Singapore.The Chinese Defence Ministry said we are paying close attention as to how the relevant situation develops and hope bilateral defence cooperation between the relevant countries is beneficial to regional peace and stability,and not the opposite.The Chinese Foreign Ministry said more bluntly that the P-8A's presence in Singapore was aimed at militarising the region,which does not conform to the common and long-term interests among the regional countries.
In May,the Chinese PLA Navy shrilly and repeatedly warned a US Navy P-8A that was flying near China's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea,which China claims almost all of for itself,contrary to the views of the US and several Southeast Asian nations.The P8-A is also stationed in Japan and the Philippines.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Orion ESM - Service module for NASA's spacecraft Orion - Clip 2

Orion ESM - Service module for NASA's spacecraft Orion - Clip 1

European Service Module arrives at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station

NASA and ESA:Orion Program Draws Them Even Closer

On 30 November,several NASA officials,plus Orion Program prime contractor Lockheed Martin and their European partners held a press conference to mark the start of testing of the European Service Module for the Orion spacecraft.The ESM test article was recently flown to the US on a huge Russian Antonov aircraft and trucked to the NASA Glenn Research Center in Clevelend and Sandusky,Ohio.The ESM will be certified for flight on Exploration Mission 1 in 2018,an unmanned mission that will be the first flight of Orion on the new Space Launch System rocket,which will take the spacecraft to the Moon and back.*
This is another step along that journey of designing a vehicle that's going to take us farther than human beings have gone ever,said GRC director Jim Free.It's really about ensuring the success of EM-1.GRC is the only place you can test a vehicle this size in its launch configuration.The huge vibration table here shakes the vehicle and the vacuum chamber simulates what space is like for the vehicle.At GRC's multiple locations for testing and getting qualified for flight,there will be ESM solar array deployment and firing pyrotechnics.It's all about ensuring mission success,meeting the flight and mission requirements here on the ground.
With the ESM Orion Service Module,we're building on the international partnership of the ISS.*
This is a significant milestone,said Greg Williams of NASA headquarters in Washingon,DC.What's more important is,we don't want to go it alone.We want exploration to be together.Orion and the Exploration Systems program will be the same as ISS.
We're building hardware,testing hardware,testing software.All the pieces are coming together.In the SLS program,tanks are being welded together;there is fabrication and testing.The huge Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center is being recertified;pads are being refurbished.It's really exciting to see we're on this march to EM-1.*
The vibration table and acoustic chamber here at GRC are unique in the world,said Mark Kirasich,Orion Program Manager,Johnson Space Center,Houston.We have to make sure we can survive that and the thermal extremes.We welcomed the ESA three years ago.Their ESM will provide Orion with propulsion,attitude control and abort capability.Its large solar arrays power the equipment and its radiators keep the equipment and astronauts comfortable.Its water and gas tanks are for drinking and breathing.
Down in Louisiana,the EM-1 crew module is almost complete;in early January,it will be shipped to KSC for the production and outfitting phase.*
This Saturday will be the first anniversary of EFT-1,the first test flight of Orion,said Dr.Mike Hawes,Orion Program Manager at Lockheed Martin.Five of the seven EM-1 crew module welds are complete.We are delivering computer boards to the ESA.We all believe exploration has to be an international venture.We work day in and day out with the Airbus team.The service module has to be totally interactive with the crew module.The crew module is the brains,directing the ESM's solar arrays and firing.The ISS proves that these partnerships can work on a vast scale.ESM is really building on that.We're testing Orion components on the ISS.*
It's a real team achievement,said Nico Dettman,head of the ESA's Development Department.I've seen a tremendous development in cooperation of the teams,a continuation of the ISS program.It's the first time ESA is embarking on a human mission beyond low earth orbit.*
On this programme,we are the partner of Lockheed Martin,building for the agencies,said Dr.Oliver Jukenhoefel,ESM Program Manager for Airbus Defence&Space.Our ESM couldn't fly alone;there is no onboard computer.The whole mission control is done by the crew module and NASA.Collaboration on a daily basis is not easy.The ESM test article is the majority of the mechanical.Space is in our DNA.The Orion Program is the best place we can be and we want to be in it for a very long period.*
The whole reason we're going to the Moon is for practice and as a staging area for equipment going to Mars,added NASA's Greg Williams.We need to develop equipment for deep space habitation;deep space propulsion ( needed first for the Asteroid Redirect Mission);and a landing capability for the Martian atmosphere.We are thinking ahead.Development and testing activities are underway.A lot is being tested on the ISS.Many componenets are either being designed or developed.It's a long,expensive proposition.We would love to see astronauts from several nations involved when we first set foot on the red planet.
All of our avionics and electronics have to be radiation-hardened.We,re building places to protect astronauts if we experience a solar flare,a place where they can hide.*