Krebs Daily Briefing 27 August 2015


Bodies of at Least 20 Thought to Be Migrants Are Found in Truck in Austria

VIENNA — The partly decomposing bodies of at least 20 people assumed to be migrants being smuggled across Europe were found in a truck abandoned on a highway east of Vienna on Thursday, the police said. The death toll could be as high as 50, said Hans-Peter Doskozil, director of police in the eastern state of Burgenland, speaking at a news conference live on the public broadcaster. Mr. Doskozil said the bodies, some of which had started to decompose, had been discovered when the truck was opened after the police noticed it parked off the highway that links Budapest and Vienna. He declined to give further details. He said the Austrian police had contacted the authorities in neighboring Hungary, which has been a stop for migrants surging north from Turkey and Greece through the Balkans to central and northern Europe. Austria’s interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, called it a “dark day,” and urged everyone across the 28-nation European Union to move harshly against human traffickers. “These are not well-minded helpers,” she said. “They are not concerned with the welfare of the migrants. They care only about profit.”

China Falters, and the Global Economy Is Forced to Adapt

HONG KONG — The commodities giant BHP Billiton spent heavily for years, mining iron ore across Australia, digging for copper in Chile, and pumping oil off the coast of Trinidad. The company could be confident in its direction as commodities orders surged from its biggest and best customer, China. Now, BHP is pulling back, faced with a slowing Chinese economy that will no longer be the same dominant force in commodities. Profit is falling and the company is cutting its investment spending budget by more than two-thirds. China’s rapid growth over the last decade reshaped the world economy, creating a powerful driver of corporate strategies, financial markets and geopolitical decisions. China seemed to have a one-way trajectory, momentum that would provide a steady source of profit and capital. But deepening economic fears about China, which culminated this week in a global market rout, are now forcing a broad rethinking of the conventional wisdom. Even as markets show signs of stabilizing, the resulting shock waves could be lasting, by exposing a new reality that China is no longer a sure bet.

Heard of China’s Fake Rolexes? Now There’s a Fake Goldman Sachs

China has been accused of pirating movies, handbags, Rolexes — even cars. Add Goldman Sachs to the list. Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Co. has been operating in the city just across the border from Hong Kong using a nearly identical English and Chinese name as the New York-based financial institution, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. It claims on its website to be one of the city’s largest financial leasing firms. A receptionist answering the phone at the Shenzhen company who declined to give her name said it’s not affiliated with the U.S. bank and wouldn’t offer how it got its name, emphasizing it includes Shenzhen. It’s the first time she’s been asked the question, she said. A filing with the Shenzhen government indicates the company has been operating since May 2013. The company uses the same Chinese characters, gao sheng, as the real Goldman Sachs, and its English font is evocative of the U.S. bank’s. Connie Ling, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs, confirmed there are no ties between the U.S. investment bank and the Shenzhen company and said Goldman is looking into the matter. It’s not the only bank facing brazen name-borrowing. In a more extreme example, a 39-year-old man in eastern China’s Shandong province was arrested earlier in August after setting up a fake branch of China Construction Bank, including card readers, teller counters and signs, according to the Xinhua news agency. Shenzhen’s Goldman Sachs came to light through a letter sent by a U.S. casino workers union to Chinese officials. The International Union of Operating Engineers said it sent a letter to Wang Qishan, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is spearheading the biggest anti-corruption crackdown in decades.


Flexible Venue Rules Play Important Role in Multimillion-Dollar Bankruptcy Filings

While many of us were enjoying some August beach time, Judge Russell F. Nelms of the United States Bankruptcy Court in Fort Worth decided to use a ruling in a local case as a chance to drop a bombshell on the restructuring community. The case in question is rather prosaic, and would normally be of little concern to anyone other than the litigants. Crosby National Golf Club in San Diego, which is controlled by a Texas company that oversees many golf courses, filed for bankruptcy as a result of a dispute with a gated residential community that borders the course. The case was filed in Texas, given that the executives calling the shots have offices in Fort Worth. One of the residents in the dispute presented the judge with a motion to move the case to San Diego, the other place where this case might have reasonably been filed. The judge ultimately agreed, given that the golf course is in San Diego. If the court’s opinion had ended there, we would not be talking about it today. But the final three pages of the opinion provided something of a surprise ending. Judge Nelms used those pages to rail against the practice of large corporations filing bankruptcy cases “in venues that have almost no connection to the debtor.” That, of course, did not apply in this case. It seems that the judge is miffed that RadioShack and Quicksilver Resources — both with corporate headquarters in the judge’s jurisdiction in Fort Worth — filed for bankruptcy in Delaware. The complaint seems somewhat odd, however, since his golf course ruling rejected the use of corporate headquarters as the basis for venue. Quicksilver Resources has primary assets in West Texas. Using Judge Nelms’s reasoning, that would make Fort Worth an unlikely venue for the case. There are undoubtedly abuses of the superflexible venue rules in bankruptcy — the Los Angeles Dodgers filing in Delaware is my favorite example. It seems single-state operations should file in the state it which they are based. But for cases that involve national or international businesses, there is a lot to be said for having a specialized bench of judges. From a policy perspective, it might have been better for Congress to formally create such a system for large, multimillion-dollar cases. Instead, we have developed it on an ad hoc basis, exploiting the fact that Delaware is a favorite place of incorporation and New York City is the nation’s financial center. Thus, most big Chapter 11 cases happen in either Delaware or the Southern District of New York. But given that the venue laws allow this, is it really lamentable that corporate managers seek out an experienced judge for a life-or-death moment in the corporation’s existence? After all, corporate management has fiduciary obligations — in insolvency, these extend to both shareholders and creditors.


Exchanges, Barclays Bank Win Dismissal of High-Speed-Trading Lawsuit


Major U.S. stock exchanges and Barclays Plc. on Wednesday won the dismissal of nationwide litigation in which pension funds and other investors accused them of rigging markets to benefit high-frequency traders. U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan said federal law affords exchanges “absolute immunity” from the plaintiffs’ key claims, including over the creation of “complex order types” and proprietary data feeds that can benefit rapid traders, because of their status as self-regulatory organizations. In a 51-page decision, Furman also said the plaintiffs did not show they reasonably relied on Barclays’ misrepresentations about the safety of its Barclays LX “dark pool,” including that they were not at risk of being exploited by fast traders. The lawsuit accused Barclays and seven exchanges, including Nasdaq, Intercontinental Exchange Inc.’s New York Stock Exchange, BATS Global Markets and CHX Holdings Inc.’s Chicago Stock Exchange, of giving high-frequency traders favored treatment, costing less-favored investors billions of dollars.Several regulators are also investigating dark pools, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sued Barclays.


Barclays ‘dark pool’ lawsuit thrown out by judge


Barclays has won a significant legal battle after a judge ruled the bank will not face a lawsuit by investors over claims it favoured certain traders in its so-called “dark pools”.

The bank, along with seven US stock exchanges, including the NYSE and Nasdaq, saw legal action thrown out by US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan on Wednesday night. Mr Furman ruled that investors, including Great Pacific Securities, failed to show how Barclays’ actions could have affected the price of securities in the dark pool or that the bank made misleading statements. “The plaintiffs do not allege any actions by Barclays that meet th[e] definition [of manipulative acts],” the judge ruled, adding: “The plaintiffs … do not point to any statements by Barclays that could have affected the price at which they decided to trade.” Great Pacific also failed to show that it would have acted differently had it known about the types of traders operating in the pool. “The exchanges are absolutely immune from suit based on their creation of complex order types and provision of proprietary data feeds, both of which fall within the scope of the quasi-governmental powers delegated to the exchanges,” the judge added.

Inside the Trump-Bush melodrama: Decades of tension and discomfort

Donald Trump spent a day in January 2014 hobnobbing with politicians at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. The billionaire mogul touted legalizing gambling with state House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and two other wired Florida Republicans, plugging his properties as potential sites for casinos. But as they tapped putts on the manicured greens, something else was on Trump’s mind: Jeb Bush. “He was trashing Jeb and, quite honestly, I don’t think he’s ever held Jeb in high regard,” said Crisafulli, a Bush supporter who said he was “uncomfortable” with the conversation and defended the former Florida governor to Trump. “I’ve met with Mr. Trump on several occasions and he’s constantly had things to say about Jeb. . . . He’s always had a negative connotation about Jeb.” Trump’s jeering that day was a harbinger of the taunts and derision that the 2016 GOP front-runner has directed at Bush on the campaign trail this summer. The feud between the two leading Republicans, which has escalated in recent days, is shaping up as a defining dynamic at this early stage of the race. And considering Trump’s dominant status in polls and Bush’s fundraising dominance, the tensions between the two are likely to be a factor for weeks or months to come as each candidate attempts to topple the other on his way to the nomination.

Lockheed Martin pays $4.7 million to settle charges it lobbied for federal contract with federal money

The world’s largest defense contractor has agreed to pay $4.7 million to settle charges that it used government money illegally to lobby top federal officials for an extension of its contract to run one of the country’s premier nuclear weapons labs. Over five years, starting in 2009, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary — which was being paid by the federal government to run Sandia National Laboratories — lobbied members of Congress and senior Obama administration officials for a seven-year extension of the contract, according to the settlement the Justice Department announced Friday. Company executives, who allegedly hired a former New Mexico congresswoman to help them, didn’t just press people with influence to  continue a relationship worth $2.4 billion a year to Lockheed, as Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman concluded in an investigation last fall.  They also urged that the contract be closed to competition.  “The money allocated by Congress for the Sandia National Laboratories is designed to fund the important mission carried out by our national laboratories, not to lobby Congress for more funding,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said in a statement. Mizer alleges that Sandia Corp., the Lockheed subsidiary, used federal money to lobby Congress and other federal officials from 2008 and 2012 “to receive a non-competitive extension” of its contract in violation of federal law.

The Florida Republicans Who Couldn’t Draw a Map

When the Florida legislature convened for a special summer session earlier this month, lawmakers had, literally, one job: to redraw the state’s congressional districts after a court had thrown out the last map they came up with. They failed. After two weeks of bickering, the Republicans running the House and Senate gave up and sent their members home, tossing the hot potato of redistricting—for the moment—back to the judiciary. This being Florida, the legislative whiff was not entirely a surprise: Despite one-party rule, Republican leaders in the Sunshine State have gotten along no better than Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid do in Washington. The Senate even sued the House earlier this year in a health-care dispute. But the quandary they faced in drawing new districts was more tortuous. The Florida Supreme Court had invalidated the legislature’s original congressional map because the justices ruled it improperly favored Republicans, which is in violation of a constitutional amendment on redistricting adopted by voters in 2010. They ordered the GOP-led legislature to make it less favorable, or more fair. Your appendix needs to come out, the court told the lawmakers. Here’s the scalpel. “Reapportionment is existential,” Jon Mills, the former Democratic speaker of the Florida House, told me. “It’s personal for everybody.” Mills, who has worked on redistricting issues as a lawyer and law professor at the University of Florida, recalled when it was Democrats who controlled the legislature and were forced to redraw districts in the early 1990s. “It doesn’t matter who’s in control. It’s difficult for anybody,” Mills said. “And for those in control, they’re going to get blamed.”

Pollsters dumbfounded by Trump

Polling experts agree on one thing when it comes to Donald Trump’s presidential run: They’ve never seen anything like it. The businessman’s dominance of the Republican presidential race is forcing experienced political hands to question whether everything they know about winning the White House is wrong. The shocks have come in quick succession, with the businessman first rocketing to the top of national polls, and then taking double-digit leads in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In another act of political magic, Trump managed to flip his favorability rating from negative to positive in one poll during the span of a month — a feat that Monmouth University’s Patrick Murray called “astounding.” “That defies any rule in presidential politics that I’ve ever seen,” Murray, the director Monmouth’s Polling Institute, told The Hill. Trump’s favorability rose from 20 percent to 52 percent among Republican voters between July and August, Monmouth found. While a later CNN/ORC poll did not find a similar shift in Trump’s favorability, the Monmouth data was yet another sign that he is a candidate to be reckoned with. “Throw out the rulebook when it comes to Trump, that’s not even in the parameters of what we see as unusual,” Murray said. Trump’s dominance of the race has flustered the Republican field, with many of the candidates trying their best to bring him back to earth. But as the attacks on Trump have intensified, so has his level of support.


City officials ‘definitely want Uber’ in Birmingham; ridesharing ordinance will be expedited

Ridesharing services like Uber are one step closer to setting up shop in Birmingham after company representatives met with city council members today. Trevor Theunissen, Uber’s public policy director for the Southeast United States, said the company has heard resoundingly from constituents and tourists that their service is wanted in the city. “We’re in Birmingham today because we want to be in Birmingham,” Theunissen said. “It’s the largest city, the largest market on the East Coast that Uber is currently not operating in.” He said the addition of Uber benefits municipalities in a variety of ways: it provides transportation alternatives in neighborhoods with few options, reduces DUI arrests, provides jobs for residents and invests in communities. “We look forward to being a part of the community and providing safe, accessible, affordable rides to your constituents,” Theunissen said. The city has to modify the existing code to allow transportation network companies (TNCs) to operate here. Those regulations govern not only ridesharing companies but also limousines, non-emergency medical vehicles, buses and any transportation options that operate on demand or pre-arranged in Birmingham. The legal department is reviewing similar ordinances in other cities to determine how best to move forward in Birmingham. “We definitely want Uber here, but there are still a few hurdles that need to be crossed,” Council President Johnathan Austin said. “We want [TNCs] to provide as many different options to citizens and visitors as possible.” Mayor William Bell said he supports bringing Uber to the city, and the ordinance will be expedited. If it passes, Uber would have drivers on the road “as soon as possible,” representatives said. Uber released this statement after the meeting:  “Based on today’s conversation, we’re optimistic that City Council is on a path towards bringing ridesharing to Birmingham.  We thank Council President Austin for his leadership, and look forward to working with City Council on an ordinance that aligns with the nearly 50 US jurisdictions with pro-innovation, pro-consumer ridesharing regulations.”

Birmingham targeted as CDC seeks to stop spread of HIV among young gay men

Despite advances in prevention and treatment, HIV infection rates have been increasing for young gay men of color in Birmingham. Efforts to fight this trend will receive $1.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on top of more than $3 million announced earlier this year. Last year, a CDC report identified Birmingham as having the 17th highest rate of HIV infection in the country. The infection rate for young African-American men who have sex with men is more than twice the national average, according to Birmingham AIDS Outreach. The trend among young gay men is alarming, said Sharon Jordan, director of the Division of HIV Prevention and Care at the Alabama Department of Public Health. When HIV and AIDS first emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, gay men became one of the most vocal and active populations fighting the spread of the disease, Jordan said. “A lot of emphasis was placed on men who have sex with men, and they did a wonderful job educating their community,” Jordan said. “Now it’s almost like we have this new wave of young men who have sex with men who did not get that message.” HIV infection rates have been climbing among young people between the ages of 15 and 29, Jordan said. Almost 70 percent of new HIV infections in Alabama occur in young gay men of color, Jordan said. The CDC announced an award in July of $3.7 million over five years for three organizations in Birmingham that target at-risk groups, especially minorities. Birmingham AIDS Outreach, Aletheia House and AIDS Alabama will share the funding for outreach projects. Birmingham AIDS Outreach has been reaching out to the LGBT community to identify men who may be at high-risk for HIV. The disease has infiltrated low-income communities in Birmingham and has been difficult to contain, said Josh Bruce, director of education for Birmingham AIDS Outreach.

False News Reports Lead Judge to Issue New Order in Hubbard Case

MONTGOMERY — After erroneous stories were published by The Associated Press and Opelika-Auburn News, Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III issued an order in the Speaker Mike Hubbard case stating the motion to challenge the constitutionally of the ethics laws would be unsealed. Responding to reports that Hubbard’s motion to challenge the constitutionally of the ethics laws he is accused of violating would remain sealed, Judge Walker said, “the State’s motion [to unseal] is granted…The vast majority of it is going to be unsealed.” He further states, “the Court instructed the parties to re-file their respective motions in such a manner as they did not reference witnesses or testimony that was presented to the Lee County Grand Jury. It is still the Court’s intent to release as much of the Defendant’s motion setting forth his constitutional challenges as possible.” (See Judge Walker’s Order Here.) Reporters Kim Chandler (Associated Press) and Sara Falligant (Opelika-Auburn News) both reported in error that Hubbard’s constitutional challenges would remain sealed. This is another example of news outlets buying into and even aiding in Hubbard’s media deception. Falligant, quoting Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White, wrote “[Walker] is determined to protect the integrity of the process, and we support it,” adding that the order is an attempt to maintain grand jury secrecy. He also alleged the prosecution has compromised the integrity of the grand jury in the past, stating there have been “severe violations of grand jury secrecy by the Attorney General.” The AP’s Chandler reported “Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s challenge to Alabama’s ethics law will remain out of public view.” An attorney who is following the case stated off the record, “There was a time when you could trust the AP to get its facts straight, but Hubbard has fooled the press so many times it is a disgrace.”


Emails: Birmingham council ignored advice; is ‘at war’ to improve image

Birmingham City Council members, eager to win a “war” over public perception after voting themselves an unpopular 233 percent pay increase, ignored advice of their lawyers as they rushed to increase the minimum wage. “It is our belief that while passing this ordinance is within our power, it will likely lead to litigation and other unintended consequences,” lawyer Leslie Wright wrote in a late July email to Council President Johnathan Austin and several other council members. “A decision to pass such an ordinance should be taken only after the City Attorney gives their opinion as they will likely have to be ready to litigate the issue.” The city attorney’s office requested 30 to 60 days to consider the issue, to see what such a change would cost, what the likely challenges might be, and what consequences it could create. And yet the council did what it always does when it comes to money. Exactly what it wanted to do. Without regard for cost or legal advice, without regard for anything but its own self-serving need to change the subject, it rushed the minimum wage issue onto the agenda before all those questions could be answered. Austin submitted the ordinance August 18, and the council overwhelmingly agreed to raise the minimum wage for Birmingham workers. The increase will come in steps, reaching $10.10 by July 2017. Which sounds like a wonderful thing for workers trying to survive on the current $7.25. And just might be a wonderful thing after it is studied and considered in a thoughtful way – in the way strongly suggested by the council’s own taxpayer-paid advisors. “We’re just trying to do what we think is best for our citizens and our workers,” Austin said at the time. What they think. Not what is studied. And the results are important, to businesses and taxpayers and minimum wage workers themselves. This is Birmingham, after all, in a county where 35 municipalities compete for businesses every single day, where five counties offer cash as carrots for businesses to locate within their boundaries. This is Birmingham, which already charges more in business license fees than its neighbors, where companies every day move to the suburbs – even when they say they don’t want to — because they can operate more cheaply there. Yet this council, eager to make its statement, went full steam ahead without waiting for an answer. It gambled your money. Again. What will it mean to Birmingham when every business with three minimum wage employees realizes it will cost them another $17,784 a year just to operate in Birmingham? We don’t know. What will it mean when every business with 10 minimum wage workers realizes it must pay $60,000 a year more than its competitors across the municipal lines? We don’t know. And the council would not wait a month to find out. They were at war, as it turns out, and they needed a diversion. That’s what council member Marcus Lundy wrote in an email to Austin, councilwoman Lashunda Scales and political operative Daryl Perkins after an unflattering story about its pay raise appeared in the press. “This is war, and we need to act like it,” he wrote. It came after a column I wrote listing cities bigger than Birmingham that paid its council members less. “We missed an opportunity to get our message out before ‘their’ version of the truth surfaced,” Lundy wrote. “Our central staff has to be proactive and realize WHO they work for!!!” To which Scales replied “Enough said. Amen.” Council central staff – 27 people including five communications workers (costing about $2.5 million a year in all) – do need to realize who they work for. But so does the council. They work for you. Or they are at war with you. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Morning Money

NICE BOUNCE BACK. WILL IT LAST? — The buy the dip crowd finally came out in force on Wednesday and sent the Dow soaring 619 points, or 4 percent, to 16,285.52. The rally came in large part thanks to New York Fed Chair William Dudley signaling that the case for a September rate was “less compelling than it was a few weeks ago.” That’s not a firm no on September but it’s pretty darn close. Today will be another huge day with the second read on Q2 GDP out at 8:30 a.m.

Consensus if for the number to get bumped up to a healthy 3.2 percent, which should quiet fears of a fresh U.S. slowdown for now. But forecasts for Q3 are still much softer. Still, if the legacy of the crazy August market meltdown is that it pushed the Fed away from an ill-advised September hike, it may turn out to have been a very good thing (especially for Hillary Clinton).

FIRST LOOK: CHINA GETS BEARISH — Bloomberg Businessweek cover features a montage of snarling bears and a piece by Peter Coy: “The U.S. is healthy enough to withstand Black Monday, but it and the rest of the world must learn to watch out for China’s well-being. China accounted for almost 40 percent of global growth last year.

“Its appetite for raw materials has undergirded economies from Australia to Brazil to South Africa, and its production capabilities have lowered prices of industrial machines and consumer goods everywhere money changes hands. The current crisis has ominous parallels with a 1997 Asian meltdown, including expectations of a Fed rate hike.” Cover image:

ASIA RISES — Reuters: “Asian stocks rose on Thursday as a sharp rebound on Wall Street eased fears of a protracted global market rout, while the dollar steadied as risk appetite returned. … Markets around the world plunged earlier in the week as a slump in Shanghai shares fueled worries over China’s economic health, but some calm returned after Beijing rolled out strong policy easing steps late on Tuesday. …

“MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.8 percent, pulling away from a three-year low hit earlier in the week. .. Chinese shares, the epicenter of recent financial market tremors, were solidly higher for most of the day”

AP at 4am EST: “China’s main stock market index closes up 5.3 percent for biggest one-day gain in 8 weeks”

LATE RALLY — FT’s Patrick McGee: “China’s markets staged another swing in the last hour of trading … in its biggest leap since the bullish surge seven weeks ago. … It turned negative with just an hour to go before trading closed, then rallied 6 per cent to end 5.3 per cent higher. The gain is the largest since July 9, when Beijing made it all but impossible for the market to continue sinking with a series of unprecedented measures including a ban on selling stock among major shareholders”

CHINA INJECTS MORE CASH … — Bloomberg: “China’s central bank brought out an array of tools to target stubbornly high financing costs this week, reducing interest rates, offering cheap loans and adding cash to the financial system through open-market operations. … Money-market rates are finally buckling under the pressure, with the overnight rate breaking a record 39-day run of increases and interest-rate swaps slipping to the lowest since July. Supply of cash has lagged demand especially since a shock Aug. 11 yuan devaluation that saw the People’s Bank of China buying the currency on subsequent days to lend it stability.

“The monetary authority auctioned 150 billion yuan ($23.4 billion) of seven-day reverse-repurchase agreements Thursday, according to a statement on its website. It added the same amount on Tuesday, leaving a net addition of 210 billion yuan for the past two weeks, the most for open-market operations since February. … The central bank reduced its one-year lending and deposit rates by 25 basis points each to 4.6 percent and 1.75 percent, respectively, effective Wednesday. It lowered the reserve ratio for all banks by 50 basis points”

… BUT IT’S NO LONGER A SURE THING — NYT’s Keith Bradsher: “China’s rapid growth over the last decade reshaped the world economy, creating a powerful driver of corporate strategies, financial markets and geopolitical decisions. China seemed to have a one-way trajectory, momentum that would provide a steady source of profit and capital. …

“But deepening economic fears about China, which culminated this week in a global market rout, are now forcing a broad rethinking of the conventional wisdom. Even as markets show signs of stabilizing, the resulting shock waves could be lasting, by exposing a new reality that China is no longer a sure bet.”

DONALD TRUMP, EXPLAINED — The best paragraphs we read on Wednesday came from Leon H. Wolf on RedState writing about the near impossibility of going after Donald Trump: “Watching Donald Trump speak and answer questions … is like watching a billion targets appear in the sky all at once, for a political opponent. Each thing he says is so bizarre, or ill informed, or demonstrably false, or un presidential in tone or character, that it becomes impossible to know which target to lock on to or focus on. …

“And to the extent that he makes a policy statement, it is so hopelessly vague and ludicrous that it’s impossible to know where to begin, at least within the context of the 30-second soundbite that the modern political consumer requires … Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things — yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore.”

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING — Just a gentle reminder that M.M. goes dark next week returning Tues. September 8th.

DRIVING THE DAY — Second estimate on Q2 GDP at 8:30 a.m. expected to show an increase to 3.2 percent from 2.3 percent … Pending Home Sales at 10:00 EDT expected to rise 1.5 percent … President Obama visits New Orleans to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina … The Janet Yellen-less Fed symposium kicks off in Jackson Hole.

THIS MORNING ON POLITICO PRO FINANCIAL SERVICES —  Patrick Temple-West on the Labor Department’s tentative denial of banks’ requests to continue managing pension assets after pleading guilty to misconduct.  For Pro’s subscriber-only coverage — and to get Morning Money every day before 6 a.m.– please contact Pro Services at (703) 341-4600 or

CLINTON GIVES BIDEN HIS SPACE — POLITICO’s Annie Karni: “Hillary Clinton said she ‘could not even imagine the grief and the heartbreak’ Joe Biden has suffered from personal tragedies in his life, a preview of just how difficult it could be for Clinton to attack the vice president if he decides to challenge her for the Democratic presidential nomination. … Clinton said she has had no private conversations with Biden as he weighs a presidential campaign, and that neither she personally nor any of her campaign operatives have received any behind-the-scenes briefing on Biden’s thinking process from any of his top aides.

“‘I haven’t asked for that,’ Clinton told reporters at a brief Q&A after a campaign stop outside Des Moines. ‘I just want the vice president to do what’s right for him and his family. I don’t think it’s useful to be behind the scenes, asking this or saying that. I’ve done none of that. I just want him to reach whatever the right decision is.”

THE BIG IDEA: IS SYSTEMIC RISK DATA FLAWED? — SNL’s Zach Fox. SNL analyzed systemic risk scores at big banks and found a worrying trend: “[A]fter the financial crisis, regulators developed systemic risk scores to track factors like size, complexity and interconnectedness at big banks, in hopes of preventing another meltdown. … The problem is that some banks have been quietly making major revisions to their filings, in some cases more than a year after the fact. In one case, a company revised a key indicator by a quarter-trillion dollars.”

THE COMEBACK — WSJ’s Corrie Driebusch and Michael S. Derby: “Stocks snapped a six-day losing streak Wednesday, soaring by the highest percentage in nearly four years amid signs of strength in the U.S. economy and help from central bankers. … Earlier in the day, stocks posted narrower losses in China after a move to cut interest rates and free banks to make more loans blunted a string of much sharper selloffs. A positive reading on U.S. business investment further bolstered sentiment. Demand for big-ticket manufactured goods rose more than expected in July, and a reading for June was revised upward, a sign that U.S. growth remains healthy even as the expansion in China, the world’s second-largest economy, slows.

“Despite the gains, few investors were ready to call an end to a selloff that has left the Dow down 8.6 percent on the year. The U.S. economy appears strong, but investors are concerned about weakness in China and the damage that is doing to other big developing countries such as Brazil, Turkey and Russia. The prospect that the Fed will lift interest rates from near zero when it meets in September is only adding to the uncertainty. The result is likely to be weeks of apprehension in which investors are glued to central-bank moves and economic indicators in the U.S. and China.”

NO McWHOPPER! — FT’s Malcolm Moore: “It was a calculated offer that only a heartless company could refuse: a marketing stunt to create a ‘hamburger of peace’. In a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune and online on Wednesday, Burger King laid down a challenge to its rival McDonald’s. ‘How about we call a ceasefire on these so-called ‘burger wars’?” Burger King asked, proposing that the two companies unite ‘the tastiest bits’ of their flagship burgers into one ‘delicious, peace-loving burger’.

“The result would be half Big Mac, half Whopper, and sold by staff wearing half-and-half uniforms in a pop-up shop in Atlanta, halfway between McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago and Burger King’s base in Miami, on September 21 … But McDonald’s wasted no time in using the olive branch as kindling. ‘Let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequalled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war,” wrote Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s chief executive. “PS. A simple phone call will do next time,” he added.”

SOME GOOD NEWS! — Reuters’ Lucia Mutikani: “A gauge of U.S. business investment plans recorded its largest increase in just over a year in July, suggesting the United States was in good shape to withstand growing strains in the global economy. … The Commerce Department said on Wednesday non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, increased 2.2 percent last month, the biggest rise since June last year. … July’s increase in the so-called core capital goods orders was on top of an upwardly revised 1.4 percent increase in June and marked two straight months of hefty gains.

“Economists had forecast only a 0.4 percent rise in July after a previously reported 0.9 percent increase in June. The report added to employment, industrial production, retail sales, housing and consumer spending data in highlighting the U.S. economy’s resilience. The string of upbeat reports suggests the Federal Reserve could still raise interest rates this year despite a global markets sell-off, triggered by worries over China’s slowingeconomy, and policymakers’ concerns about low inflation.”


CEOS: NEXT YEAR LOOKS BAD! — Forbes: “Next year is going to stink? Show me ‘next year is going to stink!’ Survey says … Ding! Number one answer! According to a survey of chief executives conducted by A.T. Kearney, most expect the business landscape next year to be marked by increasing operational difficulties, economic and geopolitical volatility. Some takeaways? Terrorism. Yes, ISIS or ISIL is going to shake things up. According to the survey, released on Tuesday, 82 percent say volatility and terrorism will intensify later this year into next.

“Forty-two percent say geopolitics will be an important business challenge compared to only 29 percent who said so in 2014. Policy and regulatory concerns are at the forefront, 46 percent of survey respondents citing it as one of their top operational challenges. Other survey responses show that 72 percent believe oil prices will remain low and 76 percent said that struggling emerging markets will make a comeback next year.”

NEW ORLEANS TEN YEARS LATER — WSJ’s Leslie Eaton and Cameron McWhirter: “Many say New Orleans has emerged more entrepreneurial and energetic. Along the Mississippi River, crowds fill city streets, even in the soggy summer heat. In the years since the storm forced out about half the metropolitan area’s residents, the population has rebounded to 1.25 million people, 90 percent of its pre-Katrina level. But as the $135 billion rebuilding winds down, federal employment data reveal a local economy increasingly skewed to low-wage jobs, especially restaurant work, one of the few sectors now employing more people than before Katrina.

“Those jobs drag down average incomes, analysts say, widening the economic divide between whites, who are generally richer than before, and blacks, who aren’t. The number of jobs in the metropolitan region is close to 91 percent of pre-storm levels. But the region lost 3,800 jobs in the year that ended in July, while most U.S. metropolitan areas of more than a million residents gained jobs, federal data show. … In the city, meanwhile, there are almost 100,000 fewer black residents, who now make up 59 percent of the population, down from 67 percent, according to the local Data Center analysis group”

HFT LAWSUIT TOSSED OUT — FT’s Ben McLannahan: “A district court judge in the US has thrown out investor lawsuits against Barclays and a host of exchanges, dismissing claims that the bank rigged its ‘dark pool’ trading venue in favour of high-frequency traders. … The multi-district litigation was part of a litany of claims set off by Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Michael Lewis’s best-selling book published last year. In it, Mr Lewis argued that high-frequency traders were able to gain an unfair advantage because stock exchanges and “dark pools” — broker-run trading venues that allow buyers and sellers to swap shares with greater anonymity — had enabled those traders to obtain and trade on market data faster than other investors. …

“But judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York said on Wednesday that the plaintiffs did not allege any actions that met the definition of ‘manipulative acts,’ or how those actions could have affected the price at which securities traded in the dark pool. In a statement, Barclays said it was ‘pleased with the court’s thorough and well-reasoned decision dismissing all the allegations in the complaints … and concluding that the plaintiffs were unable to identify any materially false or misleading statements by Barclays.”

FUTURE OF THE IoT: What’s Washington’s role in the Internet of Things? What are the cyber-security risks? In our first POLITICO-McKinsey & Company Working Group for the Agenda, we convened a group of high-level voices to determine how — or if — Washington will be involved in the future of the IoT. Find out what the experts said in the debut findings report from the Agenda:

POTUS Events

10:05 am ET || Departs White House
12:20 pm CT || Arrives New Orleans
12:45 pm CT || Meets with residents and youth
2:55 pm CT || Participates in a roundtable discussion
3:55 pm CT || Delivers remarks on the region’s rebirth after Hurrican Katrina
5:00 pm CT || Departs Departs New Orleans
8:30 pm ET || Arrives White House

Floor Action

Congress is in recess.


Job Search Expenses May be Deductible

People often change their job in the summer. If you look for a job in the same line of work, you may be able to deduct some of your job search costs. Here are some key tax facts you should know about if you search for a new job:

  • Same Occupation.  Your expenses must be for a job search in your current line of work. You can’t deduct expenses for a job search in a new occupation.
  • Résumé Costs.  You can deduct the cost of preparing and mailing your résumé.
  • Travel Expenses.  If you travel to look for a new job, you may be able to deduct the cost of the trip. To deduct the cost of the travel to and from the area, the trip must be mainly to look for a new job. You may still be able to deduct some costs if looking for a job is not the main purpose of the trip.
  • Placement Agency. You can deduct some job placement agency fees you pay to look for a job.
  • First Job.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if you’re looking for a job for the first time.
  • Substantial Job Break.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if there was a long break between the end of your last job and the time you began looking for a new one.
  • Reimbursed Costs.  Reimbursed expenses are not deductible.
  • Schedule A.  You usually deduct your job search expenses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You’ll claim them as a miscellaneous deduction. You can deduct the total miscellaneous deductions that are more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.
  • Premium Tax Credit.  If you receive advance payments of the premium tax credit it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or eligibility for other coverage, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. Other changes that you should report include changes in your family size or address.  Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

For more on job hunting refer to Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. You can get IRS tax forms and publications on at any time.

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