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Blue, Blue, Blue Xmas

Posted August 30, 2023

Matt Insley

By Matt Insley

Blue, Blue, Blue Xmas

A reader cites something I said in these digital pages last week… 

The newly expanded BRICS now incorporates six of the top 10 oil producers — Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil, Iran and UAE — comprising 43% of the world’s oil production. 

I hate to state the obvious… but what do these six countries have in common? (Okay, five. For now, we’ll leave Brazil off the list.)

They all hate the United States. 

“Good day,” says Mike B. “A decade ago, as a Canadian, I spent nearly 11 years in Dubai, UAE along with a large contingent of American expat workers. 

“I don’t think my friends felt 'hated’ by the locals for being American so much as a general distrust for all of us non-Muslim expats. 

“Heck, there was a ‘secret’ airbase near Dubai with American military flying in the neighborhood most of the time I was there, so not sure why you believe the UAE hates the USA?

“Anyway my two cents worth,” he says. 

C’mon, Mike, you’re Canadian! You’re universally adored… Just kidding, man. 

True, the UAE has maintained “friendly” relations with the U.S. Historically, it’s been pragmatic to do so. But, these days, the good feelings are like a desert mirage. 

A rare poll of 1,000 Emirati citizens — conducted by D.C.-based think tank The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in November 2022 — finds the following: 

  • “When asked about the importance of maintaining good bilateral relations, under half of Emiratis (44%) now think this is at least somewhat important when it comes to the United States
  • “Over the past year, agreement with the statement that ‘our country cannot count on the United States these days, so we should look towards Russia and China’ has increased by ten percentage points, with 61% of Emiratis now concurring.” 

All to say, “hate” might be a strong word, but being kicked to the curb sure feels like it! 

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Your Rundown for Wednesday, August 30, 2023...

I’ll Have A Blue Christmas… 

Here stateside, Paradigm’s income-investing ace Zach Scheidt notes: “As the summer winds down and we start looking forward to the holiday season, this year is shaping up to be a challenging one for retailers, thanks to three key factors I'm watching carefully. 

“First, consumers are prioritizing experiences over tangible goods. This is a trend left over from the pandemic,” he notes. “After buying lots of ‘stuff’ while cooped up, consumers are now more interested in paying for experiences like trips, attractions or even dining out.

“A second concern is the resumption of student debt payments — this could take a major bite out of discretionary spending this fall,” says Zach. “Unless a new reprieve is granted, student loan payments will resume in October, affecting nearly 44 million Americans.

“These borrowers collectively owe more than $1.6 trillion, so this will certainly cause a drag on household budgets and sentiment as families worry about these long-term liabilities.

“Finally, we're seeing a pickup in credit card delinquency rates. And this is a major concern for both retailers and the financial institutions that issue these revolving loans.” 

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Zach adds: “The stock market tends to look ahead… As traders see key themes emerging, they place bets ahead of the headlines. The best way I know to do this is to buy in-the-money put options contracts on key retail stocks before the companies announce weak holiday spending,” he says. 

“I've got my eye on a few vulnerable stocks and will likely set up some new aggressive trades over the next few weeks.” 

We’ll keep you posted… 

Market Rundown for Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023

The S&P 500 is up 0.20% to 4,505. 

Oil is up 0.55% to $81.60 for a barrel of WTI. 

According to Kitco, gold is priced at $1,946.10 per ounce. 

And Bitcoin’s down about 1.75% this morning to $27,400. 

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