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Oil Shockwaves From U.S. Shale Boom Seen by IEA Ousting OPEC

By Grant Smith - May 14, 2013
The U.S. shale boom will send “shockwaves” through the global oil trade over the next five years, benefiting the nation’s refiners and displacing OPEC as the driver of supply growth, the IEA said.

North America will provide 40 percent of new supplies to 2018 through the development of light, tight oil and oil sands, while the contribution from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will slip to 30 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA trimmed global fuel demand estimates for the next four years, and predicted that consumption in emerging economies may overtake developed nations this year.

“The supply shock created by a surge in North American oil production will be as transformative to the market over the next five years as was the rise of Chinese demand over the last 15,” the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil-consuming nations said in its medium-term market report today.

The development of U.S. shale resources, enabling the nation’s highest level of energy independence in two decades, is creating a “chain reaction” in the global transportation, processing and storage of oil that may escalate as other countries try to replicate the American oil boom, according to the IEA. Crude futures for settlement in 2018 are trading at a discount to current prices, signaling expectations for increasing supplies and constrained demand.



Fed Says U.S. Household Debt Declined to 2006 Level

By Joshua Zumbrun - May 14, 2013
U.S. households reduced debt during the first quarter by 1 percent to the lowest level since 2006, resuming a deleveraging trend in the wake of the financial crisis, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Household debt fell to $11.2 trillion in the first quarter compared with a peak burden of $12.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. Consumers reduced debt by $110 billion after increasing their borrowing by $31 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012, while delinquency rates fell “across the board,” the Fed district bank said in a statement.

“Household deleveraging has resumed its previous trajectory,” Wilbert van der Klaauw, a senior vice president and economist at the New York Fed, said today in a statement. “We’ll look to see if this pace of debt reduction and delinquency improvements will persist.”

Consumers are repairing their post-crisis balance sheets as the Fed tries to spur the expansion and enliven the job market by holding the main interest rate at zero and buying $85 billion in bonds every month. More than four years of record stimulus have yet to reignite household borrowing, and the unemployment rate has exceeded 7 percent since December 2008.



Pentagon Said to Furlough Up to 650,000 Civilian Workers

Source: Bloomberg

By Tony Capaccio - May 14, 2013

The U.S. Defense Department will impose furloughs on as many as 650,000 civilian employees in response to the federal budget cuts known as sequestration, according to a defense official.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today will announce plans for 11 days of unpaid leave for the affected workers in the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, down from as many as 14 days previously projected, according to the official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the plans in advance of the formal announcement. The final number is still being worked out because the formula for exempting civilian employees isn’t yet completed, said the official.

Hagel will announce the furloughs and exemptions today during a “town hall” meeting with employees at the Mark Center, a Pentagon facility in Alexandria, Virginia, the official said.

Automatic spending cuts, called sequestration, took effect March 1. Furloughs already have begun for other federal employees, including the White House staff. Congress moved last month to let the Federal Aviation Administration move around funds to stop furloughs of air-traffic controllers that forced delays at the nation’s largest airports and provoked anger from travelers.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-14/pentagon-to-furlough-up-to-650-000-civilian-defense-workers.html

Gay-Marriage Letdown Looms as High Court Weighs Narrow Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court fight over California’s Proposition 8, viewed by gay-rights advocates as a historic opportunity to establish same-sex marriage nationwide, may not even settle the issue in the state.

The justices, who probably will rule next month, signaled during the March 26 argument that they might sidestep the underlying constitutional questions and decide that the defenders of the 2008 gay-marriage ban lacked “standing,” or legal eligibility, to bring the case. That could leave the status of gay marriage in California in doubt, spawn new litigation and perhaps even prompt another ballot initiative.

A standing ruling might mean “a quick death for Prop 8,” said Vikram Amar, a constitutional law professor at the University of California Davis School of Law. “But it’s also quite possible -- maybe more likely -- that it will take some time before we know which couples, beyond the two couples who sued, would be able to get their licenses.”

The issue will loom large as the court nears its decision. It’s the first time the justices have considered whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry. While a ruling limited to standing might mean months or even years of uncertainty, a declaration that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional could take effect in as little as 25 days, letting thousands of Californians marry this year.



Temporary Workers Near U.S. Record Makes Kelly a Winner

James D. Jones III has been drafting new drawings of the piping at an Atlanta-area factory on a contract for ManpowerGroup Inc. (MAN) for the last 10 months. When this job ends, he says it will be easy to find another.

The Texas native is part of a groundswell of temporary workers at staffing companies from Manpower to Kelly Services Inc. (KELYA) The number of temps and their share of the U.S. workforce are both headed for records this year, according to forecasts by research firm Staffing Industry Analysts and others.

“There’s been this push to get things just in time,” Jeffrey Joerres, chief executive officer at Milwaukee-based Manpower, said in an interview. “Companies have gotten their hands forced on being more adept at trying to figure out their demands for talent as much as their demand for capital resources.”

Increased consumer demand, a greater need for flexibility and new health-care requirements are prompting businesses from Ford Motor Co. (F) to the PeaceHealth health-care system in Washington state to turn to staffing firms. Companies’ reluctance to hire amid concerns the economic expansion may slacken has also been a boon for Manpower (MAN), its peers, and their shareholders. Many stocks in the industry are outpacing the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, and analysts see more gains: Almost two-thirds of ratings for eight among the largest staffing companies are buy.

‘More Nimble’

Automakers, retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and pharmaceutical companies such as AbbVie Inc. all use temporary staff. Those workers, full-time or part-time, handle everything from manning factories and warehouses to working in information technology or sales.



Robert Gates: Military Action In Syria Would Be A ‘Mistake’

Former US defense secretary Robert Gates warned Sunday that deepening US military involvement in Syria’s civil war would be a “mistake,” warning the outcome would be unpredictable and messy.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Gates also said he saw “no good outcomes” in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and warned that a full US withdrawal from Afghanistan would be “a disastrous mistake.”

Gates’ comments on Syria come amid debate in Washington over whether to step up military support for rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, even as the administration attempts a new peace initiative with Russia.

“I thought it was a mistake in Libya, and I think it is a mistake in Syria, even if we had intervened more significantly in Syria a year ago or six months ago. We overestimate our ability to determine outcomes.

“Caution, particularly in terms of arming these groups and in terms of US military involvement, is in order,” he said.



Arrival Of U.S. Aircraft Carrier Infuriates North Korea

North Korea has criticised the arrival of the US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the South for a joint drill as an “extremely reckless” provocation and a rehearsal for war against the communist state.

A US naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered Nimitz arrived off the South’s southern port of Busan Saturday for the drill to be staged this week, following joint exercises that infuriated North Korea in recent months.

The 97,000-ton Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will participate in joint search-and-rescue operations as well as “sea manoeuvring” around the Korean Peninsula, the South’s defence ministry said.

The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea that handles cross-border affairs called the arrival of the US fleet “a grave military provocation” that would dramatically ratchet up tension.

“The joint naval drill involving the latest weaponry including the nuclear aircraft carrier is a wanton blackmail against us and demonstrates…that their attempt to invade us has reached an extremely reckless level,” it said.



Cars, Home Improvement Give April Retail Sales A Boost

May 13, 2013, 7:57 a.m.
Spring’s arrival late in April gave retail sales a light boost as Americans emerged from hibernation to spend on cars, gardening goods and building supplies.

From March to April, sales rose a slight 0.1% after declining a revised 0.5% from February to March, according to the Commerce Department. Wall Street had expected a 0.3% slide.

The dissipation of the bitter weather that had kept many consumers cooped up at home, coupled with higher home prices, the better-than-expected job market and the record stock performance, helped the sales figures jump 3.7% compared with April 2012.

Consumer spending is a key measure of the nation’s economic health, as it is estimated to make up the majority of domestic economic activity.

Car dealers and other motor vehicle and parts sellers said monthly sales ticked up 1% in April and surged 7.7% from the year-earlier period after slumping 0.6% in what analysts at Credit Suisse called a “sluggish March.”



Middle East Peace Process Dealt A Blow As Israel Gives Go-Ahead For 300 New Homes In West Bank

Hope earlier in the week that a decision to freeze the construction of new Israeli settler homes in the occupied West Bank could renew the moribund peace process were dealt a blow earlier today when it transpired that permission had been granted to build nearly 300 new houses close to the Palestinian administrative capital, Ramallah.

The announcement will disappoint Americans – especially the Secretary of State, John Kerry - who have spent two months attempting to broker a new deal between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.

The Palestinians maintain a long held position that new talks are only possible with a new moratorium of settlement building. The Americans and Israelis say new talks should go ahead without pre-conditions. Settlements are considered illegal under international law.

Israel’s civil administration yesterday approved a plan to build 296 new houses in the settlement of Beit El. The scheme – which is the first settlement plan to be approved by Israel’s new government since it was sworn in in March - has already won approval from the Defence Minister, Moshe Ya’alon.



Settlers Uproot Dozens Of Olive Trees In Hebron Village

Residents of Maon settlement uprooted around 70 trees in al-Tawani village, east of Yatta, said Rateb al-Jbour, the Hebron popular committee coordinator.

The trees belonged to Khader al-Amour and Kayed al-Amour, al-Jbour told Ma'an. He said settlers were trying to confiscate more Palestinian land in the area to expand the illegal settlement.

Al-Tawani mayor Mohammad Rabei condemned the incident and settlers' continuous attacks on villagers. He said settlers were trying to force Palestinians to leave the village.

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said "police received a report about the damaging of some 62 Palestinian-owned olive trees" in the area.


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