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All You Need to Know About Iran, $200 Oil, and $6.00 Gas

If you’re unsettled by the thought of gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, brace yourself. With tensions between Iran and the West quickly escalating, we could see gas jump to $6.00 a gallon at the pump in a matter of months.

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If you’re unsettled by the thought of gasoline at $4.00 a gallon, brace yourself.

With tensions between Iran and the West quickly escalating, we could see gas jump to $6.00 a gallon at the pump in a matter of months.

Make no mistake about it: If Iran were to follow through on its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, oil prices would surge as high as $200 a barrel in matter of days.

But that’s just the beginning…

A wider Iranian war could throw the entire region into chaos — making $100 oil seem like a bargain.

None of this is hyperbole. In fact, these dangers are likely according to of one of world’s leading energy analysts, Dr. Kent Moors.

Dr. Moors is an advisor to six of the world’s top 10 oil companies, including natural gas producers throughout Russia, the Caspian Basin, the Persian Gulf and North Africa. He also consults for high-level officials from the U.S., Russian, Kazakh, Bahamian, Iraqi and Kurdish governments on all things energy related.

In short, Kent’s insights are invaluable.

That’s why we’ve given Dr. Moors a chance to address all of the concerns swirling around the energy market today.

In the interview that follows you’ll learn what you really need to know about Iran, the global oil market, and most importantly, what you can do to profit…

Dr. Kent Moors on the Brewing Crisis in the Gulf

Q) Dr. Moors, how serious are the recent developments in Iran?

Moors: This is the most serious U.S.-Iranian crisis since the fall of the Shah in 1979. There’s a very dangerous situation inside Iran that is only being accentuated by the oil market problems that have resulted from Western sanctions.

First off, on the Strait of Hormuz: This is the most significant oil choke point in the world. Some 35% of the world’s seaborne oil shipments and at least 18% of daily global crude shipments pass through this narrow channel in the Persian Gulf. And while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy is not large enough to blockade the Strait of Hormuz for any length of time, it could disrupt traffic.

Q) What effect would closing the Straits of Hormuz have on oil and gas prices?

Moors: Closing the strait would result in a rise in crude oil prices of between $20 and $40 a barrel in a matter of hours. Any interruption beyond 72 hours would push prices to between $150 and $200 a barrel.

As far as gas prices are concerned, the basic rule of thumb is that each $1.00 rise in a barrel of oil results in a 3.2-cent rise in a gallon of gasoline. So $200 oil would equal $6.00-plus gasoline.

Q) Why is this crisis unfolding right now?

Moors: Three major elements are causing Iran to become belligerent:

  1. Massive economic and political problems inside the country.
  2. The last round of sanctions that restricted Tehran’s access to international banking.
  3. And the European Union’s (EU) decision to boycott Iranian crude imports.

I’ll explain each of these further.

First, Iran is undergoing significant economic and political problems. The rial (the Iranian currency) has inflated almost 80% against the dollar in less than a year. The government has not accounted for almost $120 billion in oil proceeds kept out of the country, resulting in a split between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and some of his former supporters in the Majlis (parliament). Several of the president’s closest advisors are, or shortly will be, under indictment for corruption. That includes a multi-billion dollar case of banking fraud, the largest in the country’s history.

Ahmadinejad is in a flat out political war with both the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei and major clerics.

Now come the sanctions, which have gotten unbearably strict.

The last round of U.S., EU and United Nations (UN) sanctions began cutting Tehran off from international banking. Since global oil sales are denominated in dollars, access to exchange and clearing banks is essential.

Germany, under pressure from Washington, closed Europäish-Iranische Handelsbank (EIH). This small bank is Hamburg-based but Iranian-owned and registered by the Bundesbank (German Central Bank). American intelligence and Treasury officials are convinced (almost certainly correctly) that EIH had been a primary means through which Tehran accessed the international exchange, acquired equipment for its nuclear program, financed arms deals, and provided subsidies to Hezbollah and Hamas.

That was followed by the end of Asian Clearing Union (ACU) services for Iranian oil sales (despite Iran being one of the ACU members). That resulted in a full-blown crisis in India, where Iranian crude imports are essential. New Delhi had no mechanism to pay for the consignments until it set up a very inefficient system of rupee accounts in Turkish banks to exchange them for rials.

Iran must now resort to inefficient and costly substitutes – such as shadowy exchanges around the Dubai Exchange and barter arrangements (especially with China) via the Singapore Exchange. Since China has a trade surplus with Iran, it can effectively finance its crude purchases with its own exports.

Finally, the EU has decided to stop importing Iranian oil. Europe is the second-largest buyer of Iranian crude after China. Iran cannot find customers to replace such a large volume in short-order. The EU must be careful not to spike the price of crude through such a policy, especially for certain member countries already having problems of their own.

Greece, for example, usually receives a third of its crude oil directly or indirectly from Iran. Spain also would be immediately impacted. There’s also a range of daily swap contracts in Europe involving Iranian oil as an element. These would also be thrown out of balance resulting in a price rise.

Risk is now an exacerbating concern in the oil market. The Iranian situation is rapidly becoming a major crisis.

Q) So what’s the next move? How do you see this crisis playing out over the next several months?

Moors: The crisis will probably intensify. Western intelligence agencies have already concluded Iran will get nuclear weapons at the current rate of development. The attempt now is to destabilizeIran internally – hence the latest round of sanctions. Tehran will not allow this to happen. Threateningto close the Strait of Hormuz is one response;moves to destabilize the regionwill be another. Iran is a main sponsor of both Hezbollah and Hamas and neitherof these will sit idly by and have a financiallifeline cut.

Saudi Arabia will increase its own pressure against Iran, while any genuine attempt toclose the Strait will be met with an immediate Saudi response.

Q) Finally, how can investors profit? In the past, Money Morning has advocated exchange-traded funds such as the United States Oil Fund LP (NYSE: USO) and stocks as Suncor Energy (NYSE: SU) as ways to profit from higher oil prices. Are these stocks still good investments?

The longer the crisis remains, the greater the benefit from emphasizing North American-based production.

Companies – like the Calgary-based Suncor – that are active in Canada’s oil sands are one way for investors to go. According to the government of Alberta, nearly 173 billion barrels of recoverable oil rest in these tar sands, based on current production costs. This represents nearly 75% of the total North American reserves currently available. Canada is the largest supplier of oil and gas to the United States, shipping approximately 75% of its exports here each month.

Kent discusses energy-related investment opportunities in depth in his ever-popular Energy Advantage newsletter.

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6 Things That Can Make or Break The Stock Market In 2018

Credit Suisse is out early with its forecasts for US stocks and the economy next year, and they are bullish. 

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Credit Suisse is out early with its forecasts for US stocks and the economy next year, and they are bullish.

The firm’s equity strategists see the S&P 500 rising to 2,987 by year-end, implying an annualized gain of about 11%. They forecast earnings-per-share growth of 6% to 7% over the next two years, from $130 this year to $147 in 2019.

“Our market views are predicated on a supportive economic backdrop, with benign recessionary risks and a pickup in near-term indicators,” said the US equity strategists led by Jonathan Golub, in a note on Tuesday. “While we expect more muted longer-term growth, this has focused corporations on cost containment and the return of capital to shareholders, extended the business cycle and lowered discount rates.”

Credit Suisse is also betting on the continued outperformance of favored sectors in 2017. The tech sector remains the team’s favorite even though it’s expensive relative to earnings. And, they expect financials to outperform due to deregulation.

“Our forecasts are built upon the most historically important drivers of corporate profits and stock prices,” Golub wrote. “That said, many things can alter the market’s path over the near term.”

Trump policy

Trump policy

Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

The group of stocks that would benefit the most from a corporate-tax cut surged after the election but slid only until recently. This suggests investors were doubtful about President Donald Trump’s plan.

“We expect that the proposed tax plan will be difficult to pass, or will have less of an impact than hoped for,” Golub said.

“While we believe that the market would initially applaud such actions, we anticipate that the investment conversation would quickly shift toward higher potential deficits and wage inflation, both negatives for stocks.”

New Fed leadership

Trump said two weeks ago Friday that he would make an announcement on who will lead the Fed after Chair Janet Yellen’s term ends in February. He is reportedly considering policy hawks including Kevin Warsh and John Taylor.

“We believe that there are two key issues surrounding Yellen’s replacement that could unsettle the market: (1) a change in the perceived independence of the Fed, and (2) an end to the period of uber-dovish policy.”

Volatility

Stocks have historically rallied when the CBOE Volatility Index is very low.

“Market volatility has been extremely low throughout the recovery, with the VIX currently reading 9.7,” Golub said. “This has led many pundits to characterize investors as complacent and the market vulnerable to a pullback. We disagree with these assertions.”

Currency

Currency

Credit Suisse

The trade-weighted dollar has slumped 9% this year.

“Our work indicates a 10:1 ratio between currency moves and corporate profits (in the opposite direction). Unfortunately, the dollar’s move is much more muted when measured on a year-over-year basis [-3.3%], and is therefore a much smaller consideration in our forecasts.”

North Korea

North Korea

Credit Suisse

The concern is not a North Korean attack — which investors aren’t expecting — but what happens if the US government punishes one of its major trading partners: China.

“While such actions would likely be targeted, with little economic impact, they have the potential to escalate, disrupting global growth.”

The chart shows that the recent improvement in China’s economy has benefitted US companies.

Hurricanes

The impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and the recovery efforts, will skew many economic indicators over the next few months.

“Separately, we would not be surprised to see some companies using these natural disasters as an opportunity to conveniently take write-downs,” Golub said.

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Is White-Collar Crime a Threat to Wall Street?

The stock market has had nightmares in the past and we cannot rule that out from happening again in the future, not even with the introduction of new financial regulation policies designed to prevent a financial crisis like the one witnessed in 2008-09.

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The stock market has had nightmares in the past and we cannot rule that out from happening again in the future, not even with the introduction of new financial regulation policies designed to prevent a financial crisis like the one witnessed in 2008-09.

While only one person, Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS) executive Kareem Serageldin, was convicted in relation to the global financial crisis of 2008, investigations over the years have revealed  there probably should have been more. According to findings, the financial crisis of 2008 had more to do with white-collar crime than a natural market meltdown.

The biggest issue when it comes to white-collar crime however, especially in securities fraud, is there are a lot of gray areas. Since markets are unpredictable, it has often proven difficult to pin these malpractices on individuals.

In most cases, the company, its shareholders and even employees are the ones who suffer the consequences.

For instance, in a Financial Times feature on Eric Ben-Artzi, the Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) whistleblower who exposed the bank’s improper accounting practices, the bank’s former risk management officer accused the SEC of performing a disappointing investigation. Ben-Artzi actually turned down the $8.25 million offered to him by the SEC for his role in exposing the company.

In the article, Ben-Artzi argues that by forcing the bank to pay $55 million rather than prosecuting the individuals involved in the crime, the SEC had allowed top executives at the bank to retire with “multimillion-dollar bonuses based on the misrepresentation of the bank’s balance sheet.” On the flipside, the bank’s shareholders and general employees ended up suffering the consequences as they were forced to bear the burden of their managers’ accounting treachery.

This is a clear example of what happens when things go wrong in these so-called “too big to fail” companies. Top executives who are often at fault for planning and executing such malpractices are also deemed “too big to jail,” thereby transferring the burden to the company, the shareholders and rank-and-file employees. This happens on Wall Street, in multinational institutions and even within the confines of government parastatals.

According to Vikas Bajaj, a criminal defense attorney who regularly defends people accused of white-collar crimes, corporate fraud is often pinned on the wrong victims and at times can “devastate personal and professional life for a very long time, making it difficult to secure employment, rent a home, secure a government student loan or obtain a professional license.” However, gathering the right evidence and speaking to the right people can help to strengthen the defense, while getting a white-collar crime defense attorney can ensure the true story emerges, thereby protecting the rights and the future of the accused, notes Bajaj.

But as we have seen, investigators do tend to go for the least protected individuals when it comes to white-collar crime. This does not rectify the long-term impact on the company in question and we have witnessed many companies go down the drain due to major financial malpractices.

While most people view corporate fraud as any practice that wrongly represents the financial position of a company or anything that results in money being lost without a trace, sometimes ignorance and negligence can amount to white-collar crime. For instance, banks are mandated to perform thorough credit checks before issuing loans to individuals and businesses. Yet, defaults from loans and mortgages are what fueled the magnitude of the 2008 global financial crisis.

In short, lenders did not do their homework before issuing loans. It was high-risk lending fueled by the then-booming housing market, which was shortly followed by several credit defaults and then the global financial crisis. While various financial regulations like the Dodd-Frank Act and Basel III Rules have since been introduced to avert the possibility of another financial crisis triggered by the banking sector, accounting misrepresentation like in the case of Deutsche Bank could end up taking the market back to those dark times.

Had it not for Ben-Artzi, who knows whether the malpractice at Deutsche Bank would ever have been uncovered? Who knows how many more companies are doing the same thing on Wall Street? According to World Finance‘s Emily Cashen, “the same reckless behavior behind the 2008 global crash continues to run rampant on Wall Street and unless this vicious cycle can somehow be broken, the global banking system may spiral into fresh disaster.”

Conclusion

White-collar crime on Wall Street is real and could be one of the biggest undetected threats the financial markets could be facing. The various regulatory bodies tasked with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting the individuals responsible seem to be reluctant to do so on the belief of some being “too big to jail.” Often, the innocent and defenseless end up bearing the burden of their managers’ crimes, losing their jobs and even being put behind bars.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned in this article.

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Is It Wrong To Question The Official Story When Tragedy Strikes?

Of course, when there is news, it should be reported. Today it is reported sensationally, as entertainment. Is it meant to inform, or induce?

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via The Daily Bell

The media says, “Jump.” And the public responds in unison, “How high?”

“As high as you ever have jumped before, except maybe after 9/11, or the Kennedy assassination.”

Of course, when there is news, it should be reported. Today it is reported sensationally, as entertainment. Is it meant to inform, or induce?

Which came first, the media’s obsession with violence, or the public demand for violence? In the 1990’s as violent crime in America dropped, the media filled more and more time slots with stories about violence.

By the end of the 90’s the public was clamoring for the government to do somethingabout what they assumed was a rising trend in violent crime.

Was that orchestrated? The government certainly benefits from a hysterical public begging them to help. It certainly gives the government an important role in the daily life of an average citizen. But this alone doesn’t mean that it was a conspiracy. Acknowledging that the government benefitted from the media’s overreporting of crime is not the same as suggesting the government actively pushed the media to do so.

But why not wonder? Exercise those thought processes.

It is a known fact that thousands of journalists were at one time on the payroll of the CIA. It was called Operation Mockingbird, and agents would place false stories in publications like the New York Times, and Time.

So when it comes to the case of the fake 90’s crime wave, it makes sense to wonder if a similar program still exists. The courts have ruled that FBI agents can legally impersonate journalists in the course of an investigation.

Do we need to discover the actual program in order to speculate? Well, I certainly wouldn’t say that it is happening without knowing for sure. But we can acknowledge a historical fact and draw a parallel between that and a similar contemporary trend. In such circumstances, it makes sense to be skeptical.

Either way, we shouldn’t fall prey to the media’s manipulations about such things, regardless of the catalyst. So why not remind people that in the past, lies from the government shaped public opinion?

But there are some cases when questioning, wondering, and speculating is considered downright wrong.

When it is most important to speak freely, you can’t.

How do I walk the line between my inherent mistrust of the government media complex and sincere compassion and empathy for victims of tragedy?

Is it wrong to question official narratives after a tragic event? Is it disrespectful to wonder if there isn’t more to the story? Should I censor myself to avoid appearing insensitive, when I want to talk about inconsistencies in the media tale, or the motives that various groups could have to lie about such events?

I think it is especially important to be able to talk freely when it comes to tragedy. The more potential an event has for exploitation, the more possibilities should be explored.

If we are conditioned to hold our tongues, to suppress our curiosity and skepticism when it comes to tragedy, then the worst actors in any given situation win. Those in power need only create a tragedy, and it becomes impossible to question the official narrative. Otherwise, you are disrespectful and uncaring.

When someone is gravely wounded, you don’t slap a band-aid over it. You’ve got to clean out the wound. And that hurts in the moment. But in the long run, it is necessary to prevent infection.

We should wonder if 9/11 was a false flag attack. I don’t think it is disrespectful to the victims to do so. I think it would be more disrespectful to unquestioningly believe the official story. The official story comes from the people who have the most to gain.

Did the terrorists who carried out the attack on the twin towers have anything to gain? Well maybe if they believed the whole 72 virgins thing. But in real life, they died. Suiciding bombing is a thing that people do, however, so it certainly can’t be ruled out.

Did Osama Bin Laden have a lot to gain? Well again, it is tough to understand the motivation of terrorists. Apparently, they think killing innocent people accomplishes something. But now he is dead.

And what about the official storytellers, the ones who investigated, and revealed the true culprits behind 9/11?

Their gains remain. They gained the power to easily declare wars and conduct military operations. Money was poured into the defense budget. Agencies like Homeland Security and the TSA sprang into existence.

Attention was diverted from missing money at the Pentagon. The PATRIOT Act was passed. Due process was no longer a concern.

“Mission Accomplished” in Iraq; the glory of killing Bin Laden. The public became desensitized to war. America helped toppled regimes in Libya and Egypt, and support a civil war in Syria.

These things alone don’t prove anything. But it looks awfully suspicious. The ones who we rely on for information about what happened had the most to gain from the attack. They are the ones who will “solve” the problems.

It is a conflict of interest even if the official story is true. It just so happens that their recommendations on the best course of action were the very things that would grow their power, expand their budget, and swell their ranks.

Again we have a historical fact to turn to for comparison. The Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy floated the idea of carrying out a false flag against American citizens to get them involved in a war with Cuba. It was called Operation Northwoods. Kennedy told them if they ever mentioned the idea of murdering innocent Americans again, he would have them tried for treason.

Well, we all know what happened to Kennedy, but that is a whole rabbit hole of its own. What we know for sure, is that as early as the 1960’s people in the U.S. government wanted to commit false flag attacks against Americans to provoke war. And the leader most vehemently opposed was assassinated.

Incidentally, the Kennedy Administration approved of Operation Mockingbird.

May I Speak Freely?

I want to wonder, and I want to speculate. I get as angry and sad as anyone else with a properly developed conscience when horrible things happen. I want those responsible held accountable. And it is against my skeptical nature to accept an official story without digging for more evidence. Horror does not paralyze my desire to question the official narrative and wonder about inconsistencies.

One thing that strikes me about all of the mass shootings of the past few years, is the great diversity in location and venue.

A college in Virginia. An elementary school in Connecticut. A mall in Washington. A nightclub in Florida. A church in North Carolina. A movie theater in Colorado. A political meet and greet in Arizona. The streets of California. A concert on the Vegas strip.

If someone wanted to strike fear into the hearts of Americans, they could not have chosen a better range of targets. The message would be whatever place you live, wherever you go in public, whatever your age, job, or social status, you are not safe.

Maybe that is the truth. And maybe it is random.

We are told these were all carried out by lone a lone gunman–or a married couple in one case.

But why are there so often witness reports of a second gunman? Could it be chalked up to confusion?

The victims tragically lost their lives. Their families lost loved ones, which will impact them for the rest of their lives. The American people lose their sense of security and their rights. Relationships deteriorate as bitter disagreements turn personal, blame abounds, fingers point, defenses go up.

And after so many tragedies, the culprit is left dead. Is that justice?

Who benefits? The dead guy on the 32nd floor?

The Democrats who want gun control? The Republicans who want militarized police? The media who get a bump in ratings? The Generals who want war? A government that “never let(s) a good crisis go to waste”?

I want this madness to stop. We know how the media wants it to play out. They will get their ratings with division and bitter disagreement. The government always gets more power, more relevance, more opportunity to insert itself into the everyday lives of Americans.

That is why it is so necessary to look deeper, to ask those tough questions that we don’t even want to consider as a possibility. We can’t sit by silently wondering if we are being told the truth or fed lies. It is not disrespectful to question the official story. It would be a miscarriage of justice to accept it without protest, as we are told is what should be done in times of crisis.

The only other option is to play into the hands of the media and government, whether they be orchestrators or opportunists. When we replay the same old arguments and put forth the same stale solutions, when we look to them for information and solutions, they win.

Question everything. Clean out the wounds. It may hurt to get in there deep. But if we don’t, the infection will grow and fester, as it always has before.

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