Big banks, business and lobbies want you to get rid of cash and of everything it means to you… and actually, they don’t really care if you like it or not.
Historically, every country in the world has used cash and coins for goods and services, and physical money has always represented a country’s pride and DNA. But several countries have decided to move towards a cashless economy, and they seem not to want to involve their citizens in that decision.
The idea is simple – make people believe that cash didn’t really belong to them to begin with. Like a passport, it never really belonged to you, your government just lent it to you. And if they decide to become a “cashless country,” you don’t really have a say in the matter. But some people throughout the world are already taking a stand against these lobbyists.
Among the lobbyists, many banks are of course pushing towards a cash-free future, as they would benefit from the fees on almost each and every electronic/online transaction a customer would make. Credit card and security chip manufacturers are also supporting doing away with cash. For them, no cash means more cards, and therefore more business.
Besides them, big companies are increasingly getting into electronic payments and banking. In the past years, almost each and every major internet player had introduced online payment solutions – think Apple Pay and Google Wallet. They would also greatly benefit from a cashless future, without showing much concern about their users’ privacy basic rights.
One major argument of the “anti-cash lobbyists” is: “safety”. The problem is that in the past several years and as cash usage decreased in many countries, we have seen an increase in criminal activity among electronic and online payment methods. The “anti-cash” groups have taken advantage of this reality, which basically allows government to make any reform as long as it’s supposedly to “increase security.” Denmark for instance has come up with a proposal to make it legal for many businesses to refuse cash by this years.
The proposal was part of the “economic growth measures” package. According to the anti-cash groups, it aims to reduce costs and increase productivity for Danish businesses. Yet no study has proven that tendency works in a cashless society. Finansradet, a Danish finance industry lobbying group says the change would “free retailers from the cost of security, and the burden of managing change and notes,” (1) but even among retailers, the decision isn’t received unanimously, and many fear to lose business while not even coming close to prevent or end fraud altogether.
Denmark is currently facing its biggest tax fraud case ever, which happened last year as more and more of Denmark’s tax authority system went online. The damage could be up to 804 million euros and the investigation is still ongoing. Karsten Lauritzen, Denmark’s Minister of taxation even declared that it would be hard for Denmark to get that money back, as the online fraud had crossed its borders. “We’ve succeeded in tracking some of the money to the U.K.,” Lauritzen said in an interview in Copenhagen. “But getting that money back and proving it belongs to Denmark will be a struggle. I’m really not very optimistic.” (2) Since then, many Danes are increasingly reticent of electronic and online payment solutions.
When you look at Denmark’s neighbor, Sweden (one of the highest number of bank transactions per person in Europe), which has been trying to lower the amount of cash used in the country, cases of credit card fraud have doubled in the last decade. Some anti-cash groups had no shame in advertising the fact that in 2013, a Swedish bank robber left empty-handed, after he found out that “the Stockholm bank he held up did not carry any cash.”
The security argument is a hard one to win and it applies to all countries. Cashless lobbyists are working worldwide towards that economic transition, and are using Scandinavia as an example of what could be the future. This future isn’t exactly right around the corner yet, which is partly why many central banks throughout the world still haven’t embraced the anti-cash arguments.
(1) Denmark moves closer to a cashless society, The Independent, Doug Bolton, May 7th 2015
(2) Cross-Border Web of Deceit Leaves Denmark With Huge Tax Hole, Bloomberg, November 11th 2015(3) Denmark goes cashless: it’s not about money, it’s all about freedom of choice
(4)The EU Commission seeks to ban cash: A cashless democratic sham?
Saudi Arabia halves oil production: How long will it last, and will it affect oil prices?
Saudi Arabia announces it will halt 50% of its oil production. This Vestle news article will explore the possible financial impact.
Since recent drone airstrikes crippled Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil processing facility in mid-September, the country – the world’s No. 1 exporter of oil* – has been forced to close half the plant while reconstruction takes place. While no casualties resulted from the attack, the real harm is finally coming to light, as the impact on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry is becoming clearer. This Vestle news article explores this important topic.
Aramco estimates that the closure will affect almost 5.7 million barrels of crude oil per day, which amounts to roughly 5% of the world’s daily oil production. To help you put that into perspective, consider that Saudi Arabia produced 9.85 million barrels a day in August 2019. And it’s not just oil production that will suffer. Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman also indicated that the closure has forced a temporary halt in gas production, limiting the supply of ethane and natural gas by 50% as well.
One particular detail that those with an eye on the financial markets might find interesting is that the attacks took place at a time when Saudi Arabia continues to progress toward taking Saudi Aramco public – a first for the kingdom’s global-reach energy sector. How much money are we talking? As the world’s most profitable oil company, it’s estimated to be valued at around $1.5 trillion.**
Will this affect oil prices?
The short answer, according to some people, is probably yes. With Saudi oil output expected to dip below 50%, the outages present “an extreme risk situation for oil,” according to Paul Sankey, managing director for Mizuho Securities. However, measures have already been put into place. Depending on how long it takes for Saudi Arabia to recover the damaged facility, OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is aiming to suspend production cuts to help temper the impact of the ongoing crisis. On the trading side, the International Energy Agency is expected to release strategic oil stocks, and US President Donald Trump has already authorized the release of oil from the US petroleum reserve.***
In the weeks just after the drone strikes, the price of WTI Oil on the Vestle platform showed a 13% increase, followed by a 12% decrease over the following two weeks. Also during that time, Bloomberg reported that the spread between WTI and Brent widened to 37%, which could be an indication that the oil spike might affect global prices more than other oil giants, such as the United States. Furthermore, a representative from Goldman Sachs estimates that the global benchmark for Brent Oil could rise above $75 a barrel if the plant shutdown lasts for more than six weeks.****
Will it get any worse?
Some people fear the Aramco incident represents the potential for a broader regional conflict that could escalate to the point that it affects Gulf oil production as a whole. CFRA Research oil analyst Steward Glickman said, “Oil prices are now likely to bake in a much higher geopolitical risk premium than had been absent in much of 2019.” With the recent bombing in June of oil tankers in the Gulf of Hormuz not so distant, it’s no wonder some analysts like Glickman like are raising their eyebrows. ***
Considering all the different factors that play into this situation—the global, financial and geopolitical—there’s no telling what kind of turns it will take. The only thing to do is keep an eye on the news for the political side of it, and financial sites like Vestle to see what kind of ripples such an event is making in the financial markets.
Oil prices and the financial markets
Volatility such as that recently experienced by both WTI Oil and Brent Oil can present both opportunities and risks for informed traders, such as those who invest in Contracts for Difference or CFDs, which essentially means trading on the price movement of a particular instrument without owning the underlying asset. At Vestle, you’ll find hundreds of tradable CFD instruments, from commodities like oil and natural gas to popular stocks, indices, ETFs and crypto. And thanks to a selection of trading signals, market indicators and our economic calendar, access to important financial info for global situations like this is right at your fingertips.
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Fears of a 2019 European Economic Slowdown Loom
Although the spotlight is on the trade war between the United States and China, one aspect that is currently ignored by the media is represented by signs of weakness in the European continent.
Germany slows down
After posting a -0.3% GDP contraction in the third quarter of 2018, the economic indicators released from Germany in 2019 cannot support a positive economic picture. The manufacturing sectors continue to show signs of weakening, with the Markit PMI Composite now at 51.6, down from 52.3.
Industrial Production had been contraction by 1.9% in November, and both imports and exports had been down by 1.6% and 0.4%, respectively. DAX trading had also suggested there is growing concerns among investors and the main German stock index peaked out in July 2018, being now down by 15%.
Germany relies mostly on exports, being the third exporter in the world, only surpassed by the United States and China. That is why the weakness we see in Germany is actually a symptom of what’s happening in other European countries as well.
Italy and France not too encouraging
The new populist government in Italy, formed by La Lega and The Five Star Movement faced a serious challenge to get the EU’s approval for the 2019 budget, as the already high debt-to-GDP ratio (currently at 131.8%) raises concerns on whether the country will be able to meet its debt obligations in the future.
There are also serious concerns about the banking sector, which despite mergers and acquisitions, and huge capital available from the ECB, were unable to solve their problems which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. The future of Italy is very uncertain, and analysts predict that the new government will not be able to meet their economic promises, given that we are at the end of a business cycle.
Speaking of France, the problems are social at the present time. President Macron was unable to stop the “Yellow Vests” protests, despite promises to increase the minimum wage and the overall standard of living for the very poor. France’s debt-to-GDP ratio currently stands at 97%, but given the latest promises, there are concerns whether the country will manage to keep the budget deficit below 3% in 2019, as the European treaties demand.
Although there’s a single currency in Europe, in terms of fiscal policy things were very fragmented, which is why the economic recovery had been very slow and the reason why investors predict Europe will face the greatest challenges to solve its economic, political, and social problems.
Sterling Whipsaws as Brexit Negotiations Fall Flag
Sterling whipsawed on Thursday, first tumbling and then rallying, and experiencing robust volatility. The GBP/JPY also experienced a wild ride as the yen increased in value on safe-haven flows. Sterling has been trading under pressure following news that the European Union has no plans for further Brexit discussions. May is now stuck between a rock and a hard place and may have to exit from the EC without an agreement.
The EU Has No Plans to Continue Brexit Talks
The European Union announced through a spokesperson saying that they had no plan on further Brexit discussions with the UK. The British had hoped for additional assurances on the contested Irish backstop. Prime Minister May has been making the rounds with EU leaders ahead of this month’s vote in parliament, but her diplomacy appears to have failed to change any minds.
The Financial Times reports that a EU source said no dialogue has occurred over the past 10-days and that PM May spoke to the EC head Donald Tusk on January 2. The EU is sticking to their word and appears to reflect the view that EU officials have gone as far as they can as it relates to the Irish backstop. They also revealed that if a backstop was triggered that EU negotiators would use “best endeavors” to negotiate a replacement agreement.
Strong US Private Payrolls Help Buoy US Yields
Sterling was also shaken by a rebound in the dollar which was buoyed by an uptick in US yields. US yields tumbled on Wednesday as traders removed all the potential tightening of interest rates in 2019. In fact, the yield curve shows that 1-year yields are less than current yields. This came despite a stronger than expected private payroll report, released by ADP on January 3.
ADP reported that Private payrolls rose by 271,000 in December, beating expectations that jobs would increase by 178,000. You can follow the private payroll report on Vestle news. The strong jobs numbers should help lift wages which is an argument for why the Fed should remain vigilant. The increase in private payrolls was the largest climb in nearly 2-years and increased the 2018-month average of private payroll gains to 203,000.
The report showed the increase in jobs was mainly drive by professional and business services which increased by a solid 66,000 while education and health services contributed 61,000 and leisure and hospitality added 39,000. In all, service-related industries were responsible for 224,000 of the new hires, while goods producers rose by 47,000. This include an increase in construction which grew by 37,000 and manufacturing added 12,000. Natural resources and mining lost 2,000 positions.
Sterling rebounded after making a fresh low of 1.24 which is a 20-month low on sterling versus the greenback. The exchange rate is likely to remain volatile until there is a solution to the UK exit from the EU. The trend is also downward sloping, and with momentum negative, the path of least resistance is for a lower exchange rate for sterling.
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