Friday, June 5, 2020

D-Day "First Wave at Omaha Beach"

I have debated posting this article but finally decided to link.
The first consideration is: this is a ghastly story.
Beyond the high-flying rhetoric of politicians and commentators is the fact that people were killed and maimed in nasty, brutal, horrific ways.

Secondly, the author, S.L.A. Marshall, although an official U.S. Army combat historian who eventually retired as a brigadier general has, since his death, been found to be something of a stolen valor exaggerator and a sometimes methodological fabulist.

Still, the fact this piece was published in a major magazine just sixteen years after the events recounted is remarkable in and of itself.

From The Atlantic, :

Unlike what happens to other great battles, the passing of the years and the retelling of the story have softened the horror of Omaha Beach on D Day.

This fluke of history is doubly ironic since no other decisive battle has ever been so thoroughly reported for the official record. While the troops were still fighting in Normandy, what had happened to each unit in the landing had become known through the eyewitness testimony of all survivors. It was this research by the field historians which first determined where each company had hit the beach and by what route it had moved inland. Owing to the fact that every unit save one had been mislanded, it took this work to show the troops where they had fought.

How they fought and what they suffered were also determined in detail during the field research. As published today, the map data showing where the troops came ashore check exactly with the work done in the field; but the accompanying narrative describing their ordeal is a sanitized version of the original field notes.

This happened because the Army historians who wrote the first official book about Omaha Beach, basing it on the field notes, did a calculated job of sifting and weighting the material. So saying does not imply that their judgment was wrong. Normandy was an American victory; it was their duty to trace the twists and turns of fortune by which success was won. But to follow that rule slights the story of Omaha as an epic human tragedy which in the early hours bordered on total disaster. On this two-division front landing, only six rifle companies were relatively effective as units. They did better than others mainly because they had the luck to touch down on a less deadly section of the beach.

Three times that number were shattered or foundered before they could start to fight. Several contributed not a man or bullet to the battle for the high ground. But their ordeal has gone unmarked because its detail was largely ignored by history in the first place. The worst-fated companies were overlooked, the more wretched personal experiences were toned down, and disproportionate attention was paid to the little element of courageous success in a situation which was largely characterized by tragic failure.

The official accounts which came later took their cue from this secondary source instead of searching the original documents. Even such an otherwise splendid and popular book on the great adventure as Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day misses the essence of the Omaha story.

In everything that has been written about Omaha until now, there is less blood and iron than in the original field notes covering any battalion landing in the first wave. Doubt it? Then let's follow along with Able and Baker companies, 116th Infantry, 29th Division. Their story is lifted from my fading Normandy notebook, which covers the landing of every Omaha company.

Able Company riding the tide in seven Higgins boats is still five thousand yards from the beach when first taken under artillery fire. The shells fall short. At one thousand yards, Boat No. 5 is hit dead on and foundered. Six men drown before help arrives. Second Lieutenant Edward Gearing and twenty others paddle around until picked up by naval craft, thereby missing the fight at the shore line. It's their lucky day. The other six boats ride unscathed to within one hundred yards of the shore, where a shell into Boat No. 3 kills two men. Another dozen drown, taking to the water as the boat sinks. That leaves five boats.

Lieutenant Edward Tidrick in Boat No. 2 cries out: "My God, we're coming in at the right spot, but look at it! No shingle, no wall, no shell holes, no cover. Nothing!"

His men are at the sides of the boat, straining for a view of the target. They stare but say nothing. At exactly 6:36 A.M. ramps are dropped along the boat line and the men jump off in water anywhere from waist deep to higher than a man's head. This is the signal awaited by the Germans atop the bluff. Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.

Able Company has planned to wade ashore in three files from each boat, center file going first, then flank files peeling off to right and left. The first men out try to do it but are ripped apart before they can make five yards. Even the lightly wounded die by drowning, doomed by the waterlogging of their overloaded packs. From Boat No. 1, all hands jump off in water over their heads. Most of them are carried down. Ten or so survivors get around the boat and clutch at its sides in an attempt to stay afloat. The same thing happens to the section in Boat No. 4. Half of its people are lost to the fire or tide before anyone gets ashore. All order has vanished from Able Company before it has fired a shot.

Already the sea runs red. Even among some of the lightly wounded who jumped into shallow water the hits prove fatal. Knocked down by a bullet in the arm or weakened by fear and shock, they are unable to rise again and are drowned by the onrushing tide. Other wounded men drag themselves ashore and, on finding the sands, lie quiet from total exhaustion, only to be overtaken and killed by the water. A few move safely through the bullet swarm to the beach, then find that they cannot hold there. They return to the water to use it for body cover. Faces turned upward, so that their nostrils are out of water, they creep toward the land at the same rate as the tide. That is how most of the survivors make it. The less rugged or less clever seek the cover of enemy obstacles moored along the upper half of the beach and are knocked off by machine-gun fire.

Within seven minutes after the ramps drop, Able Company is inert and leaderless. At Boat No. 2, Lieutenant Tidrick takes a bullet through the throat as he jumps from the ramp into the water. He staggers onto the sand and flops down ten feet from Private First Class Leo J. Nash. Nash sees the blood spurting and hears the strangled words gasped by Tidrick: "Advance with the wire cutters!" It's futile; Nash has no cutters. To give the order, Tidrick has raised himself up on his hands and made himself a target for an instant. Nash, burrowing into the sand, sees machine gun bullets rip Tidrick from crown to pelvis. From the cliff above, the German gunners are shooting into the survivors as from a roof top.

Captain Taylor N. Fellers and Lieutenant Benjamin R. Kearfoot never make it. They had loaded with a section of thirty men in Boat No. 6 (Landing Craft, Assault, No. 1015). But exactly what happened to this boat and its human cargo was never to be known. No one saw the craft go down. How each man aboard it met death remains unreported. Half of the drowned bodies were later found along the beach. It is supposed that the others were claimed by the sea.
Along the beach, only one Able Company officer still lives—Lieutenant Elijah Nance, who is hit in the heel as he quits the boat and hit in the belly by a second bullet as he makes the sand. By the end of ten minutes, every sergeant is either dead or wounded. To the eyes of such men as Private Howard I. Grosser and Private First Class Gilbert G. Murdock, this clean sweep suggests that the Germans on the high ground have spotted all leaders and concentrated fire their way. Among the men who are still moving in with the tide, rifles, packs, and helmets have already been cast away in the interests of survival.
To the right of where Tidrick's boat is drifting with the tide, its coxswain lying dead next to the shell-shattered wheel, the seventh craft, carrying a medical section with one officer and sixteen men, noses toward the beach. The ramp drops. In that instant, two machine guns concentrate their fire on the opening. Not a man is given time to jump. All aboard are cut down where they stand.

By the end of fifteen minutes, Able Company has still not fired a weapon.....

D-Day: A Little Boat that Made the Difference

First posted June 6th 2009.

There were so many heroes on June 6, 1944 that it is not right to single out any individual or group.

From the lunatic glider troops of the British 6th Airborne Division securing the Pegasus Bridge at 0016 hrs in Operation Deadstick, the pilots landing within yards of their objective, in freakin' gliders!, with a skill that Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, the commander of Allied air forces, would later praise as the finest feat of flying in the entire war.

The parachutists of the 82nd Airborne jumping into Sainte Mere Eglise at 01:30, where Pvt. John Steele found his place in history when his parachute got caught on the church steeple and he hung wounded for two hours before the Germans cut him down (he escaped).

The German privates in the bunkers and pillboxes at dawn, looking out at the largest armada ever assembled-
6939 vessels: 1213 naval combat ships, 4126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels.

Most of them said something that included the word Scheiße (exkrement).
(One German officer purportedly said, in disbelief, "It's impossible ... there can't be that many ships in the world." )

At 06:30 the 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling Pointe du Hoc's 100 foot cliffs under fire using ropes and ladders.

Those are some of the famous stories, and there are hundreds more.
The archetypal image though, is the beach landing, with this being one of the most famous pictures of the war:

That's a Higgins boat with troops of 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) on Omaha Beach.

From a 1964 interview with Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower: 
"'Andrew Higgins..'..Eisenhower said..' the man who won the war for us.' My face must have shown the astonishment I felt at hearing such a strong statement from such a source. Eisenhower went on to explain, 'If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.'"
-Stephen E. Ambrose

As one writer put it:
...It wasn't very big, it wasn't blindingly fast, it wasn't brimming with big guns, and it most definitely wasn't heavily armored. In fact, it was made primarily of wood. 
But the Higgins Boat was one of the most decisive weapons utilized by the Allies during World War II. The only real dispute is whether it should be classified as a weapon.

It differed greatly from other tide-turning developments, such as the British Spitfire fighter plane, the Russian T34 tank, and the American P51 Mustang fighter. While the boat was equipped with a pair of .30 caliber machine guns, it was not an instrument of destruction....
Mr. Higgins ended up running a pretty big operation, over 20,000 employees manufacturing the landing craft and PT boats. Here's a factoid:
...In September, 1943, when the United States Fifth Army landed at Salerno, Italy, and General Douglas MacArthur's forces captured Salamaua in New Guinea, the American navy totaled 14,072 vessels.  Of these boats, 12,964, or 92% of the entire U.S. Navy, were designed by Higgins Industries, Incorporated; 8,865 were built at the Higgins plants in New Orleans, La....
This landing craft was in on every major D-Day invasion of the war. Normandy, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and the islands of the Pacific: Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Here's the site of the Higgins Memorial in Columbus Nebraska, Higgins' boyhood home, a long way from the beaches of Normandy.

Parisians And the Seine River

From Delancey Place:

Today's selection -- from The Seine by Elaine Sciolino. Parisians and the Seine River:
"The harmony between Paris and its river is no accident. Parisians left nothing to chance. The Seine has served as a mirror for the city's architectural treasures since the twelfth century, with the construction of the Louvre -- first a defensive fortress, then a royal residence, then a museum -- and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Paris became the first city in Europe to use its river to put its imposing architecture on display. Over time, the river was contained and landscaped to show off the structures of art and history that line its banks. The Seine allows Paris to present itself as a stage set, with the river cast as the pièce de résistance.

"In the nineteenth century, the Seine was plagued by raw sewage, the residents' garbage, putrid smells, and thick mudflats that revealed themselves at low tide. Then, in 1853, Baron Georges-Eugene Hauss­mann, who was given the title 'prefect of the Seine,' began to transform Paris, including its riverfront. He and his successors were determined to dominate the river, to channel the waterway into pleasant submis­sion. They lined the Seine with new stone quays to create a single continuous route and built bridges to improve commerce and harmo­nize both sides of the river. They demolished thousands of decrepit houses -- and uprooted thousands of poor Parisians -- to create water views and tree-shaded promenades. They constructed locks and dams outside the city to make the river's flow consistent and dependable. The architects outdid themselves. In 1991, the riverbanks earned the honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site. That des­ignation applies only to the picture-perfect central area between the Pont d'Iena, at the Eiffel Tower, to the west, and the Pont de Sully, near Notre-Dame to the east. This is the Seine of romance; the commercial, industrial Seine farther east is left out. ...

"Napoleon intuitively felt the Seine's force, and once he was in power, he altered the river's life, defining it as the national river of France and launching ambitious public works projects to tame and reshape it. He saw it as a romantic inspiration as well as a practical asset and uni­fier of the nation. In a speech in Le Havre in 1802, he proclaimed its commercial importance as the connector of its three great port cities:
'Le Havre, Rouen, and Paris are a single town, and the Seine is Main Street.

"Sustainable Bluefin Tuna? Not So Fast."

Tuna is tough, some links below.
From Hakai Magazine:
Analysis: A decade’s worth of research says that an ecolabel for industrial bluefin tuna fisheries is a sham.
Buying fish with a clear conscience isn’t easy these days. The ocean is so depleted and the demand so high that only half of the world’s seafood comes from the wild. The rest is farmed. Well-intentioned consumers want to know how to minimize harm through their purchasing power when at retailers such as Marks and Spencer, Walmart, and Whole Foods. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) offers one of several guides. I’m afraid it’s a sham.

For nearly 25 years, the MSC has positioned itself as the fishing industry’s gold standard for ecolabeling. To be MSC certified is to be identified as the best choice in wild-caught seafood, so the branding goes. Authorized contractors paid by fleets seeking certification are supposed to remain independent and take a science-based approach to verify for consumers that the fish they buy meets MSC standards: whether a fish is abundant, legal, subject to robust regulations, and caught with methods that minimize by-catch. Other aspects, such as whether a fish is high in mercury or sourced from fleets respecting human rights, are outside MSC’s criteria.

But certified does not mean sustainable. The MSC has had major run-ins with conservation groups for certifying fisheries they regard as unsustainable, poorly managed, and tolerant of by-catch, habitat destruction (from fishing gear), and worker abuse. Fisheries for Ross Sea toothfish (Chilean seabass) and Antarctic krill (for fishmeal) are examples of particularly egregious cases.

Be that as it may, even more scandalous would be certifying Atlantic bluefin tuna fisheries as sustainable—a move the MSC is now considering. For decades these fisheries have drawn widespread global criticism for corruption, mismanagement, lack of transparency, bad science, and use of destructive gear. I have spent the last decade studying the demise of the once giant Atlantic bluefin as a nonaligned, accredited observer of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the intergovernmental regulatory agency that for a half century has overseen the capture of commercial fish on the high seas. Recently, member states seized upon the slight glimmer of hope that the population is rebounding and tripled the quota for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic. They boosted catch targets for eastern bluefin from their lowest in 2010 to their highest ever in 2020, even though ICCAT’s scientific committee, who recommended the hike, predicts biomass will continue to deteriorate.

Despite high mercury contamination, the bluefin make the best sushi money can buy. These sublime beings fetch such an exorbitant price that they have shrunk significantly in size and number since the advent of the global sushi economy in the 1970s. In a word, endangered. The bluefin’s sky-high valuation creates the conditions for black markets to proliferate. A 2018 Europol report revealed that the volume of the illegal trade in eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna was double the legal one, despite multilateral investment since 2011 in electronic traceability programs to stop pirate fishing. To make matters worse, a warming ocean, increasingly plastic and acidic, portends a precarious future for giant tuna....

Tuna Farming In The Mediterranean 
"The certificate that could kickstart a renaissance in tuna aquaculture in Europe"
As noted in 2013's "Single Tuna Sells for Record $1.76 Million in Sign of Prices to Come":
We've been on the Bluefin beat for a few years, links below....
The record price for a single fish is now $3.1 million. set last January[2019]

June 2009 
Mitsubishi Tries a Corner in World's Bluefin Tuna Market 
I can't recall another attempted corner in an endangered species, usually the perps sell as soon as possible.
      Mitsubishi freezing fish to sell later as stock numbers plummet toward extinction 
July 2009 
How to Break a Market Corner: Breeding Breakthrough Helps Sushi Baron Create Sustainable Tuna

As a follow-up to "Mitsubishi Tries a Corner in World's Bluefin Tuna Market" comes news that may bring sorrow and sadness to Mitsubishi.
(and is reminiscent of a scene from January 1980*)....

...*In January 1980, as the Hunt Brothers were gunning the price of silver toward it's historic high, the CEO of one of the world's largest trading firms said "Those boys don't know what deep pockets are", rather an amazing statement when talking about billionaires.
Within 48 hours both U.S. silver futures exchanges had gone "Liquidation only", the corner was broken and the Hunt's had lost their fortunes.
I'll leave it to you to guess the CEO.
May 2010 
Sushi: "European Researchers Advance Toward Farming Endangered Bluefin Tuna"

I'll probably never again be able to do a tuna and/or provenance story without thinking of this:

....Izabella Kaminska's Alphaville post "Tuna blockchains and Chilean Seabass" back in 2016 was the first time I saw someone mention the pluses and minuses of using blockchain databases to keep track of animals, in that case fish.
I was so taken with her illustration for that post that I swiped it for December 2017's "Synthetic Rhino Horns Are Being Created to Flood Markets and Eradicate Poaching":
Whichever approach is best will soon be determined in the market as long as we keep uppermost in mind the cause of the slaughter of the big beasts: 
September 5, 2016
Blame Rhino Killings On Speculators

Tuna Price-Fixing: "Federal criminal case led to $100 million fine, possible jail time for Bumble Bee Foods CEO"

The state charges are new to me, we looked at the federal actions in late November/early December last year.*
From PoAnd Po Agrifish, June 4:
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a civil lawsuit against Starkist, one of the world’s largest canned tuna manufacturers and the former CEO of Bumble Bee Foods, another large tuna manufacturer, over a price fixing conspiracy that drove up the cost of packaged tuna for more than a decade, costing Washingtonians at least $6 million.

Ferguson’s lawsuit makes Washington the first state to bring a case over this conspiracy.

Ferguson’s charges, filed in King County Superior Court, assert StarKist Co., its parent company Dongwon, and former Bumble Bee Foods CEO Christopher Lischewski, engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy from 2004 through 2015 to drive up the cost of packaged tuna, violating Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.

As a result, Washington residents paid millions more than they should have. StarKist is the leading manufacturer of packaged tuna, accounting for 40 percent of the market share.

The conspiracy affected the prices consumers paid for packaged tuna, including cans and pouches. For example, if a consumer would have normally paid $1 for a five-ounce can of chunk light tuna — one of the most popular tuna products — they would actually have paid perhaps $1.08 as a result of this conspiracy.

“We cannot have a free market when corporate titans are able to tip the scales to their own bank accounts,” Ferguson said. “Washingtonians lost millions as a result of this corporate greed. I intend to get that back for them.”....
Fishy Business: "This government price-fixing case makes the tuna industry sound like the mafia "

Private Equity Owned Bumble Bee Tuna Prepping for Bankruptcy

Guilty Verdict: "Ex-Bumble Bee CEO Is Latest Catch in Tuna Price-Fixing Hunt"

Shipping: Oil Tanker Firm Frontline Plans $100 Million Stock Offering (FRO)

From Hellenic Shipping News:
Oil tanker company Frontline will raise up to $100 million in an equity offering to fund potential growth opportunities and general corporate needs, it said.

Morgan Stanley will act as the Oslo and New York-listed shipping firm’s sales agent, Frontline said.
The company has repeatedly said it is looking to add to its fleet of Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) as well as smaller vessels but has yet to announce a deal.

Frontline said on May 20 it currently has five tankers on order – one VLCC expected to be delivered this month, and four LR2 tankers, which are to be delivered over the coming 19 months....MORE

"Grubhub has two new suitors, Just Eat Takeaway and Delivery Hero, as Uber stalls"

After the of Battle of Kleidion, July 29, 1014, the victorious Byzantine Emperor Basil II found himself with 15,000 Bulgarian prisoners. Not wanting 15,000 unfriendly guys on his hands he decided the thing to do was blind 99 out of 100 leaving one-in-a-hundred with one eye to lead the others back home.
Although not the origin* of the phrase "In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is King," that's sort of how I think of the food delivery companies.

From CNBC:
  • Grubhub has received interest from at least two European companies -- Delivery Hero and Just Eat -- as potential acquirers, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • A deal with a European buyer would likely be an easier sell to regulators.
  • Uber’s talks with Grubhub continue and could still strike a deal to buy the third-largest U.S. delivery service.
Grubhub is fielding interest from at least two European food delivery companies as antitrust concerns have clouded the chances of an Uber acquisition, according to people familiar with the matter. 
Netherlands-based Just Eat and German company Delivery Hero have expressed interest in merging with Grubhub, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

Shares of Grubhub were up nearly 8% on the news by mid-afternoon on Friday.
Just Eat is working with Bank of America as an adviser, the people said.
Spokesmen at Just East Takeaway and Bank of America declined to comment. A Delivery Hero spokesman declined to comment on specifics but added, “As the world’s leading local delivery platform, we are committed to invest in sustainable growth and gain leadership positions in the markets we operate in. Being a global leader in the delivery industry, we are regularly looking at potential transactions to evaluate new opportunities.” ...
*in regione caecorum rex est luscus —ca. 1500

and much earlier:
"בשוק סמייא צווחין לעווירא סגי נהור", meaning "In the street of the blind, the one-eyed man is called the Guiding Light".ca.4th or 5th century CE

"Wirecard offices searched as prosecutors probe management board"

The FT's Dan McCrum and Olaf Storbeck
German financial watchdog filed criminal complaint against CEO Markus Braun and three other top executives
Wirecard’s headquarters were searched by police on Friday after Munich prosecutors launched a criminal investigation against chief executive Markus Braun and the payment group’s three other executive board members.

In a statement on Friday, Munich prosecutors said that the search followed a criminal complaint submitted a few days earlier by BaFin, Germany’s financial watchdog. The complaint relates to potentially misleading statements made by Wirecard to investors ahead of the publication of a special audit by KPMG in late April. ...

Besides everything else, Wirecard probably won't be in the DAX at the next reshuffle.

FAO: World Cereal Grains Production/Consumption To Sett All-Time Records In 2020

From the Food and Agriculture Organization, June 4:

Global cereal production, utilization, stocks and trade all set to rise to new records in 2020/21
Release date: 04/06/2020
In spite of uncertainties posed by the pandemic, FAO’s first forecasts for the 2020/21 season point to a comfortable cereal supply and demand situation. Early prospects point to global cereal production in 2020 surpassing the previous year’s record by 2.6 percent. Based on conditions of crops already in the ground, planting expectations for those still to be sown, and assuming normal weather for the remainder of the season, world cereal output is forecast at 2 780 million tonnes (including rice in milled equivalent), nearly 70 million tonnes higher than in 2019, setting a new record high. Maize would account for the bulk of the predicted increase, with an expected expansion of 64.5 million tonnes to a record level of 1 207 million tonnes, boosted by record harvests in the United States of America (USA), Canada and Ukraine, and near-record harvests in Brazil and Argentina. Similarly, rice production is seen reaching an all-time high of 508.7 million tonnes in 2020, exceeding the 2019 reduced level by 1.6 percent. More normal weather and attractive prices are anticipated to underpin rice output recoveries primarily in China, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Pakistan, Thailand and the USA, as well as continued production growth in India. By contrast, global production of wheat in 2020 is forecast to decline from the previous year’s good level, largely on likely downturns in the European Union (EU), Ukraine and the USA more than offsetting expected production increases in the Russian Federation and Australia.  
After stagnating in 2019/20, world cereal utilization in 2020/21 is tentatively forecast to expand by 1.6 percent (43 million tonnes) year-on-year to reach an all-time high of 2 732 million tonnes. The projected growth would mainly mirror a more robust expansion foreseen in feed use relative to 2019/20, although both food and industrial uses are also forecast to increase. Maize is predicted to account for the largest year-on-year anticipated growth in total cereal utilization, rising by almost 3 percent (33 million tonnes) to 1 169 million tonnes, on expectations of a partial recovery in industrial demand, especially for production of ethanol in the USA, and a faster growth in feed use, particularly in China. Underpinned by plentiful supplies, world rice utilization is forecast to expand by 1.6 percent in 2020/21 to a fresh peak of 510.0 million tonnes, with food use to account for much of this growth, increasing by 1.6 percent from 2019/20 to 420.0 million tonnes. On a per capita basis, this would result in a global food intake of 53.9 kg, up 0.6 percent year-on-year. By contrast, world utilization of wheat in 2020/21 is expected to fall slightly (0.4 percent) from the 2019/20 estimated level to around 754 million tonnes, mostly reflecting weaker demand prospects for the feed sector due to ample availabilities of coarse grains and a likely cut in industrial use, especially for biofuel production  in the EU.  

Based on FAO’s first forecasts for production in 2020 and consumption in 2020/21, world cereal inventories by the end of national marketing seasons in 2021 are forecast to reach a new record of 927 million tonnes, an increase of 4.5 percent (nearly 40 million tonnes) from their already high opening levels. The expected increase in cereal stocks would result in a slight rise in the global cereal stock-to-use ratio, from 32.5 percent in 2019/20 to 32.9 percent in 2020/21, indicating a generally comfortable supply situation when compared to the 21.2 percent low registered in 2007/08. Of the total cereal stocks, as much as 47 percent are expected to be held in China, where national stocks could increase for the second consecutive season and reach a new high of at least 438 million tonnes. 
Global coarse grain stocks are forecast to increase the most, rising by nearly 10 percent....

A Startup for Flying Motorcycles and Jetpacks

From Nanalyze:
It’s been nearly a decade since venture capital firm Founders Fund published its manifesto complaining about the slowing rate of innovation, encapsulated by the tagline: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” (The line has been attributed to the firm’s founder and co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, though the essay itself was penned by former Founders Fund-er and writer Bruce Gibney.) Since then, Twitter has doubled the number of characters in a tweet and we’re still waiting on a commercially available flying car. We may have to settle for flying motorcycles and jetpacks instead – if one Los Angeles startup can succeed.

A Startup for Flying Motorcycles and Jetpacks
Click for company website
Officially founded in 2016, JetPack Aviation has raised an estimated $2.75 million in funding. Most of the money came from a $2 million Seed round last year led by Draper Associates, a VC fund under the thumb of Tim Draper. Draper is a venture capitalist with a pretty good track record, with investments including Chinese tech giant Baidu, Elon Musk companies Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX, millennial-focused success stories like Twitch and Robinhood, and even Twitter. His son, Adam Draper, is a fourth-generation venture capitalist whose Boost VC put down $350,000 on JetPack Aviation more than a year ago. The firm likes to bet on what it calls sci-fi startups, with a portfolio that includes solar-powered airships, animal-free dairy cheese, and engineered viruses. The world’s most famous startup accelerator, Y Combinator, is also an investor.
Company timeline of JetPack Aviation

David Mayman and Nelson Tyler are the brains behind JetPack Aviation. Mayman is the CEO and founder, as well as a test pilot who has flown the company’s jetpack around landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Tyler is JetPack Aviation’s chief designer whose own company – Tyler Camera Systems, founded back in 1964 – develops stabilized camera systems for helicopters and other bumpy rides. That innovation actually won him an Academy Award in technical achievement for adapting the technology for shots taken from a boat.
A Real-Life Jetpack
Before we dive into the company’s latest project to develop a flying motorcycle, let’s first geek out on its real-life jetpack. Mayman and Tyler started collaborating on such a machine way back in 2006-07 – about 45 years after Bell Aerosystems demonstrated the first working jetpack for the military. That contraption, however, could only stay aloft for about 21 seconds on five gallons of hydrogen peroxide. The Army brass figured the so-called Bell Rocket Belt was more of a toy than a true military asset. But the idea of a personal flying machine fired the imagination of more than one tinkerer, including Tyler, who had worked on various propulsion systems in the 1970s and 1980s including pulse jets, pressure jets, and gasoline engine-powered ducted fans.
A schematic of the Bell Rocket Belt designed by Nelson Tyler.
A schematic of the Bell Rocket Belt designed by Nelson Tyler. Credit: JetPack Aviation
In 1984, test pilot Bill Suitor (who had been Sean Connery’s stunt double when James Bond flew a Bell Rocket Belt in the movie Thunderball) made a spectacular entrance during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He was wearing a rocket belt built by – you guessed it – Nelson Tyler. Tyler had built a copy of the Bell Rocket Belt in 1969 that he called the NT-1, according to a brief history on Suitor’s personal webpage
Thirty years later, in 2015, JetPack Aviation unveiled the first workable iteration of its personal vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) machine, the JB9 JetPack. The company went on to develop two more jetpack models, JB10 and JB11:...

"It's Pretty Obvious This Will End Badly": In Historic Reversal, Grantham's GMO Goes Short US Stocks

If interested see "How Good (or bad) Are GMO and Jeremy Grantham's Market Calls?" after the jump.
From ZeroHedge:
With retail investors taking over the extremely illiquid market,  resulting in crazy intraday swings where the horde of robinhood retail traders alone can send a stock soaring (and tumbling)...
... many veteran investors are throwing in the towel on what is emerging as the most furiously ridiculous rally in history in what is now better known as "Jay's market" (with 73% of Wall Street claiming that the market is only up due to the artificial gimmick of the Fed's balance sheet explosion and not due to fundamental factors). And with one after another investing legend such as Warren Buffett, Stanley Druckenmiller, David Tepper boycotting the artificial rally, and either selling or pulling out, today GMO's Jeremy Grantham became the latest to bail on what Bank of America recently called a "fake market."

In a letter to GMO investors, Grantham writes that "we have never lived in a period where the future was so uncertain" and yet "the market is 10% below its previous high in January when, superficially at least, everything seemed fine in economics and finance. And if not “fine,” well, good enough. The future paths include many that could change corporate profitability, growth, and many aspects of capitalism, society, and the global political scene."

In short, the veteran value investor known for calling several of the biggest market turns of recent decades admits he has lost his faith in an upside case - unlike the retail daytrading army - and his sense of direction in a world of record uncertainty "which in some ways seems the highest in my experience" and as a result "in terms of risk and return – particularly of the worst possible outcomes compared to the best – the current market seems lost in one-sided optimism when prudence and patience seem much more appropriate."

Grantham also highlights the obvious: that the market and the economy have never been more disconnected, and points out that while "the current P/E on the U.S. market is in the top 10% of its history... the U.S. economy in contrast is in its worst 10%, perhaps even the worst 1%.... This is apparently one of the most impressive mismatches in history."

As a result of this total loss of coherence driven by trillions in central bank liquidity that have propelled a massive wedge between fundamentals and stock prices, GMO, the Boston fund manager Mr Grantham co-founded in 1977, cut its net exposure to global equities in its biggest fund from 55% to just 25%, near the lowest levels it reported during the global financial crisis, according to a separate update from GMO's head of asset allocation, Ben Inker.

That decision, according to the FT, slashed GMO's Benchmark-Free Allocation Fund exposure to US equities from a net 3-4% to a net short position worth about 5% of the $7.5bn portfolio, said Inker, perhaps the first time the fund has turned net short US stocks since the crisis. This, after GMO loaded up on stocks during the sell-off but has since cut offloaded its exposure to the US market following the unprecedented 40% rally in the past 2 months.

"The Covid-19 pandemic “should have generated enhanced respect for risk and it hasn’t. It has caused quite the reverse,” Grantham told the Financial Times. He noted that trailing price-earnings multiples in the US stock market were “in the top 10 per cent of its history” while the US economy “is in its worst 10 per cent, perhaps even the worst 1 per cent”, echoing what he said in his quarterly letter.

And while markets seem to be taking all the negative news in stride, Grantham is worried that the wave of devastation that is coming is unlike anything experienced before:
At GMO we dealt with three major events prior to this crisis, and rightly or wrongly, we felt “nearly certain” that sooner or later we would be right. We exited Japan 100% in 1987 at 45x and watched it go to 65x (for a second, bigger than the U.S.) before a downward readjustment of 30 years and counting. In early 1998 we fought the Tech bubble from 21x (equal to the previous record high in 1929) to 35x before a 50% decline, losing many clients and then regaining even more on the round trip. In 2007 we led our clients relatively painlessly through the housing bust. In all three we felt we were nearly certain to be right. Japan, the Tech bubbles, and 1929, which sadly I missed, were not new types of events. They were merely extreme cases akin to South Sea Bubble investor euphoria and madness. The 2008 event also was easier if you focused on the U.S. housing euphoria, which was a 3-sigma, 100-year event or, simply, unique. We calculated that a return trip to the old price trend and a typical overrun in those extreme house prices would remove $10 trillion of perceived wealth from U.S. consumers and guarantee the worst recession for decades.All these events echoed historical precedents. And from these precedents we drew confidence.
But this event is unlike all those. It is totally new and there can be no near certainties, merely strong possibilities. This is why Ben Inker, our Head of Asset Allocation, is nervous and this is why you are nervous, or should be.
While the uncertainties are indeed large, one can triangulate a sufficiently material dose of "certainty" about what is coming, and as Grantham explains further, it is not pretty, especially with the US economy already on the back foot heading into the crisis:....

Because Mr. Grantham gets so much press we include a couple old posts almost every time he catches some ink. From the afore-mentioned "How Good (or bad) Are GMO and Jeremy Grantham's Market Calls?" October 11, 2019:
We have quite a bit on Mr. Grantham, in part because his interests overlap with ours: He's willing to opine on fertilizer and global warming and markets and, well, no cat videos but no one is perfect.
On the market here's something from 2018 that still rings true:

Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo's 7-Year Asset Class Performance Forecast

We've linked to quite a few of the GMO forecasts over the years, but haven't since 2015.
Mr. Grantham's dour outlook was not in tune with what was actually happening in the markets and didn't really reflect our views.

So instead we've taken to linking to his commentaries where oddly enough Mr. G, got exuberantly - and correctly - bullish a few years ago and we have been leaning toward his original melt-up target of S&P 3300 as a blow off top. He hedged a bit in conversation with The Economist April 10 but said there was still a 40% possibility. "An update from Jeremy Grantham".....
Feb 2010
"Grantham’s ‘Horrifically Early’ Calls Challenge GMO"
March 2014
How Good Is Jeremy Grantham's Forecasting Record?  
His strong pessimism drives GMO managed funds toward the most stable (large capitalization) value stocks, and these funds have performed fairly well (reflecting perhaps a value premium rather than market timing)....
As noted in that October 2019 post
It would be horribly ironic if Mr. Grantham's most accurate call in the last decade turns out to be S&P 3300 but we are betting that is where the market goes before all is said-and-done (and one of the reasons we can maintain a façade of equanimity in the face of drawdowns such as the Oct. 3 - Dec. 24, 2018 unpleasantness)
CXO Advisory did an analysis of GMO's glory days, 1999 -2009 which caught two major bear markets, the dot.bombs and the Great Financial Crisis, here if you want to take a look.

CXO is also the source for 2014's "How Good Is Jeremy Grantham's Forecasting Record?" above....
Well the S&P 500 top-ticked at 3,393.52 on February 19 (currently 3,181.37 +69.02) and this time I don't think Mr. Grantham is going to be as "Horrifically Early" as in the past.

See April 11's ""Stocks will revisit their coronavirus crash low, and here’s when to expect it"" which was preceded by "It's Time To Buy Some Stocks" on Friday, March 20, 2020, 8:40 PM PDT

That was the weekend the DJIA and S&P futures set their lows for that go-round, 18,000 on the Dow.
Sometimes you get lucky.

Creighton Uni's Rural Mainstreet Index Inches Up from April’s Record Low: Three of Four Banks Restructuring Farm Loans

Two from Creighton's Heider College of Business. First up, the headline story, May 21:
May Survey Results at a Glance:
  • Overall index advances slightly from April’s record low.
  • Almost three fourths of bankers have restructured farm loans to deal with weak farm income.
  • Bank CEOs expect farm loan defaults to expand by only 5.4% over the next 12 months.
  • Fully 100% of bankers gauged the federal Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) as successful, and more than one of five bank CEOs support expansion of PPP.
  • Business confidence sinks from April’s very pessimistic outlook.
OMAHA, Neb. (May 21, 2020) - The Creighton University Rural Mainstreet Index (RMI) increased slightly from Aprils’ record low. According to the monthly survey of bank CEOs in rural areas of a 10-state region dependent on agriculture and/or energy, May’s reading represented the third straight month with close to record lows. 

Overall: The overall index for May increased to 12.5 from April’s record low 12.1, but down significantly from March’s weak 35.5. The index ranges between 0 and 100 with a reading of 50.0 representing growth neutral. 

“Since this time last year, livestock and grain prices have sunk by 19.1% and 4.7%, respectively. Accordingly, approximately 73% of bankers reported restructuring farm loans. As a result of the restructuring, bank CEOs expect farm loan defaults to expand by only 5.4% in the next 12 months,” said Ernie Goss, PhD, Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics at Creighton University's Heider College of Business

Jeff Bonnett, president of Havana National Bank in Springfield, Illinois, expects the Rural Mainstreet economy to be up six months from now if the covid-19 lockdown has ended.
Farming and ranching: Farmland prices continue to slide. May’s reading fell to 39.7 from April’s 40.9. This is the 77th time in the past 78 months the index has been below growth neutral.
The May farm equipment-sales index increased slightly to 21.9 from 20.0 in April. This marks the 80th month straight month that the reading has remained below growth neutral 50.0.
Donald Vogel, president and CEO of Farmers National Bank in Prophetsville, Illinois, “Beginning to have a rain pattern (too much) similar to 2019.” 

Banking: Borrowing by farmers expanded for May, but at a slower pace than in April. The borrowing index slipped to 72.2 from April’s 75.8. The checking-deposit index soared to 86.1 from April’s 65.6, while the index for certificates of deposit and other savings instruments increased to 48.6 from 48.4 in April....

And June 1, The Business Conditions Index:

May’s Mid-America Business Index Remains in Recession Range: More Than One-Third of Firms Cancelled Vendor Contracts
May survey highlights:
  • The Business Conditions Index expanded to a still recessionary reading.
  • Employment reading indicated that the rate of job losses slowed from April.
  • Stimulus programs from the Federal Reserve and the federal government boosted economic confidence.
  • As a result of COVID-19: 34% of firms extended the period of paying outstanding invoices; 35.9% revised or cancelled contracts; and 28.2% moved purchases from foreign sources to domestic sources.
  • Between the middle of March and the first week of May, the percent of insured unemployed in the region soared from 1.3% to 10.5%.
OMAHA, Neb. (June 1, 2020) – The May Creighton University Mid-America Business Conditions Index, a leading economic indicator for the nine-state region stretching from Minnesota to Arkansas, advanced to a still recessionary level.

Overall index: After falling below growth neutral for March, the overall index has remained in recessionary territory for two straight months. The Business Conditions Index, which ranges between 0 and 100, increased to 43.5 from April’s 35.1, but down from March’s 46.7.
“According to Creighton’s May survey of regional manufacturing supply managers, COVID-19 had a less significant impact on the manufacturing sector than other areas of the economy more directly tied to the consumer. This is a consumer led recession with manufacturing lagging. Nonetheless, Creighton’s survey indicates that the regional manufacturing sector is trapped in a recession,“ said Ernie Goss, PhD, director of Creighton University’s Economic Forecasting Group and the Jack A. MacAllister Chair in Regional Economics in the Heider College of Business.  

Employment:  The May employment index continued to indicate job losses, but at a slower pace than in April. The May index rose to 40.0 from April’s record low of 26.2.
“In the middle of March U.S. Department of Labor data showed that only 160,170 workers in the nine-state region were unemployed and receiving unemployment insurance benefits. This represented only 1.3% of individuals covered by the unemployment insurance system. By the first week of May 1,328,520 workers were receiving unemployment insurance benefits, or 10.5% of covered workers,” said Goss.
As a result of COVID-19: 34% of firms extended the period of paying outstanding invoices; 35.9% revised or cancelled contracts; and 28.2% moved purchases from foreign sources to domestic sources.

Wholesale Prices: The wholesale inflation gauge for the month indicated deflationary pressures at the wholesale level with a wholesale price index of 48.6 for May, which was up from 44.0 in April.
“I expect to see deflationary pressures at the wholesale level in the weeks and months ahead despite the Federal Reserve’s, and the U.S. government’s record economic stimulus programs,” said Goss....

UN FAO Food Price Index Drops to a Seventeen-month Low

From the Food and Agriculture Organization:
» The FAO Food Price Index* (FFPI) averaged 162.5 points in May 2020, down 3.1 points (1.9 percent) from April and reaching the lowest monthly average since December 2018. With the continued negative economic effects of COVID-19, the FFPI has been on a downward trend for four consecutive months. The latest drop in May reflects falling values of all the sub-indices with the exception of sugar, which rose for the first time in three months.
» The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 162.2 points in May, down 1.6 points (1.0 percent) from April and very close to its level in the corresponding month last year. Among major cereals, only rice prices rose in May. International rice prices edged up 1 percent, mainly on rising Japonica and Basmati quotations, although currency movements and demand from Malaysia and the Philippines also kept Indica quotations firm. In wheat markets, after a rise in April, export prices fell under downward pressure, shedding almost 2 percent, as expectations point to ample global supplies also in the new season while trade activities have slowed down with the harvesting seasons underway, or approaching, in the northern hemisphere. In coarse grain markets, the US maize prices, continuing the downward trend of the last four months, fell further in May, to almost 16 percent below the corresponding period last year. Weak demand from feed and biofuel sectors, amidst abundant export supplies, continued to pressure international maize prices.

» The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 128.1 points in May, shedding another 3.7 points (or 2.8 percent) and marking a 10-month low. The continued decline of the index primarily reflects lower palm oil prices, whereas quotations of rapeseed and sunflower oils increased. International palm oil values registered the fourth consecutive monthly drop in May, mainly reflecting protracted, subdued global import demand (tied to the coronavirus pandemic and depressed mineral oil prices) and higher than expected production and inventory levels in major exporting countries. By contrast, international prices of rapeseed and sunflower oils strengthened owing to, respectively, prospects of continued supply tightness in the EU and shrinking exportable surpluses in the Black Sea region.» The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 181.8 points in May, down 14.4 points (7.3 percent) from April, registering the third consecutive month of decline and setting the index value 44.3 points (19.6 percent) below its level one year ago. Quotations for all dairy products represented in the index fell in May, with the steepest drops registered for butter and cheese.  Quotations for butter fell due to large seasonal supplies, especially in Europe, while those of cheese dropped, pressured by lower import demand amid high late season export supplies from Oceania. Despite continued high export availabilities and inventories, quotations for whole milk powder (WMP) and skim milk powder (SMP) declined only moderately, as low prices and renewed economic activities in China fuelled strong buying interests.

» The FAO Meat Price Index* averaged 168.0 points in May, down 1.3 points (0.8 percent) from April, registering the fifth consecutive monthly decline. At this level, the index is 6.3 points (3.6 percent) below its value in the corresponding month last year and 44 points (20.8 percent) below the peak it reached in August 2014. In May, international quotations for poultry and pig meats continued to fall, reflecting high export availabilities in major producing countries, despite an increase in import demand in East Asia following the relaxation of COVID-19 social distancing measures. Ovine meat prices fell slightly due to diminished import demand from the Middle East, caused by economic hardships and logistical difficulties.  By contrast, bovine meat quotations increased on strong import demand amid reduced supplies from Brazil and Oceania, reflecting the start of herd rebuilding phases....

Thursday, June 4, 2020

"Norwegian seafood exports fall in value in May" (plus China appears to exit U.S. trade deal)

Two from PoAndPo Agrifish. First up, the headline story June 4:

The value of Norwegian seafood exports fell for the second month in a row. In May, Norway exported seafood worth NOK 7.8 billion.
This represents a reduction of NOK 764 million, or 9 per cent, compared with May last year.

Although there was a fall in value in April and May, seafood exports in January, February and March contributed to an overall growth in export value in 2020. So far this year, seafood exports have been worth NOK 44.6 billion. This is an increase in value of NOK 1.5 billion, or 3 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

Broadly speaking, herring and mackerel account for 2/3 of the value increase so far this year, while salmon and trout account for 1/3 of the value increase.

In May, 85,000 tonnes of salmon were exported to a value of NOK 5.7 billion. This is a 5 per cent reduction in volume, while export value fell by NOK 312 million, or 5 per cent, compared to May last year. The average price for fresh whole salmon in May was NOK 60.65 per kg, compared to NOK 62.13 per kg in May last year. Poland, France and Denmark were the largest markets for Norwegian salmon in May.

So far this year, 419,000 tonnes of salmon have been exported, worth NOK 29.3 billion. The volume is at the same level as last year, while export value has increased by NOK 476 million, or 2 per cent.

In March and April, exports of Norwegian salmon to France declined by 11 and 12 per cent respectively. In May, this negative trend turned, and export volume increased by 4 per cent, to 8,976 tonnes. ...MUCH MORE
And June 2:
China tells state firms to halt purchases of U.S. soybeans, pork
China has told state-owned firms to halt purchases of soybeans and pork from the United States, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters News Agency, after Washington said it would eliminate special treatment for Hong Kong to punish Beijing....MORE

What's Cheap? Baltic Dry Index Near Lowest in Decades

There's no rush to nail down some space on a big boat, coal and iron ore will not be moving around like they did earlier in the decade and unless the Central/Eastern Europe and Black Sea droughts (both via GDACS on blogroll at right) intensify there won't be a lot of call for grain movement so no hurry but something to keep in mind.
From Hellenic Shipping News, June 5: 

2016 Déjà Vu Lurking As Baltic Dry Index Lingers At Lowest Levels In Decades
In yet another turn of extraordinary events, the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is now hovering around the lowest level in at least 20 years.
The index currently sits at 520 index points (1 June 2020), 583 points below the reading one year ago and underscoring the difficulties currently faced by dry bulk shipowners.
While the advanced economies in Europe are starting to ease containment measures, the Covid-19 outbreak has already dealt a significant blow to the global economy, plunging both emerging markets and advanced economies into recession. Given that the dry bulk market thrives on global economic growth, the market outlook is bleak.

“The dry bulk market depends on global economic growth and with the current prospect of declining demand in 2020, the dry bulk outlook remains lacklustre for the rest of the year. The movements of the Baltic Dry Index in 2020, hovering at unusually low levels in June, underscores just how challenged the market is,” says BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst, Peter Sand.

A 2016 déjà vu for dry bulk?
Some may argue that history repeats itself and the state of the dry bulk market is currently prompting flashbacks to previous years of extreme hardship. The year 2016 marked the bottom of the dry bulk market in recent decades, partly due to a slowdown of global economic activity, sluggish dry bulk demand in China and copious capacity in the market, caused by the largest ship delivery spree the market has ever seen. Consequentially, in 2016, the dry bulk fleet utilization rate also tumbled to the lowest level in this century, while the BDI bottomed out at 291 index points during the seasonal downturn of Q1 in 2016.
In May and early June 2020, the BDI reached the lowest level recorded for that period in the last 20 years. Overall, however, the BDI has yet to test the absolute low of the index. Nonetheless, 2020 is not a carbon copy of 2016, as the market is now facing a decline in demand with the global economy deep in recession. The dry bulk shipping market encountered such a decline in demand in 2009, but due to a relatively balanced supply-side back then, the market remained largely profitable that year....

Truffle Price Tracker

I am tired of markets.
Energy ennui, live cattle lassitude, board-feet boredom, gruntled and disgruntled at the same time.
What to do?

Truffle Prices in 2019 (Retail)

Truffle Species Common Name Avg price per oz Avg price per lb Avg price per kg
Tuber Mangnatum Italian White Truffle $218.30 $3492.80 $7684.16
Tuber Melanosporum Winter Black Truffle $94.05 $1504.80 $3310.56
Tuber Uncinatum Burgundy Black Truffle $38.40 $614.40 $1351.68
Tuber Aestivum Summer Black Truffle 22.55 373.76 168
Tuber Indicum Chinese Black Truffle $5.38 $86.08 $189.38
Prices updated: 2020/06/04
White Truffle Prices (Tuber Magnatum)
When people think of pricey truffles, they are thinking of the Italian white winter truffle. White truffle season starts mid-September and runs through December/January. The most expensive white truffle ever sold went for $484,000 USD per lb while the largest truffle ever sold went for $66,000 per lb. More typically however, white truffles sell for $1500-$4000 USD per lb. We started tracking retail white truffle prices in mid 2019. The chart below shows the average retail price (e.g. price the regular consumer can buy them for) for white truffles. Currently, the cheapest white truffles are being sold by Gourmet Food Store for $3199.20 per lb while the most expensive truffles are being sold for $3840.00 per lb by Urbani....

Meanwhile In Other 2020 News, AFP Is Reporting...

Via AFP's Hazel Ward:
To quote a wise gentleman currently in Paris, "Huh."

The Dollar Continues Its Stately Decline

Umm, did someone sign a Plaza Accord II while I was napping?
Two weeks of Dollar Index futures via FinViz:

Related: May 26's "King Dollar Be Could Double Topping..."

Also March 16's "What would be useful for the cause would be a plunge in the dollar, in the middle of the big spike (98.09) as folks scrambled for bucks:

EIA Natural Gas Storage Report: Meh

First up, the predictions via FX Empire:
Regarding the EIA report, a number higher than 110 will be viewed as bearish by traders, while a build under 100 could trigger a bullish reaction....

... Bespoke is estimating a build of 106 Bcf in the report, which falls a few Bcf below consensus. A Wall Street Journal poll of 12 analysts, brokers and traders produced injection estimates ranging from 96 Bcf to 122 Bcf, with an average of 110 Bcf. A Bloomberg survey had a tighter range of forecasts with a median of 111 Bcf, while a Reuters survey landed at a 110 Bcf injection. NGI estimated a 104 Bcf build.

Last year, the EIA recorded a 118 Bcf increase in storage for the similar week, while the five-year average build stands at 103 Bcf....
The report from the Energy Information Administration:
for week ending May 29, 2020   |   Released: June 4, 2020 at 10:30 a.m.
Working gas in storage was 2,714 Bcf as of Friday, May 29, 2020, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 102 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 762 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 422 Bcf above the five-year average of 2,292 Bcf. At 2,714 Bcf, total working gas is within the five-year historical range....MORE
And the price action in the front (July) at the NYMEX:
1.825 +0.004

ZeroHedge Says To Former MI6 Head: "Hey, Get Off Our Side"

Whenever I hear a spook talk, Brennan, Clapper, Dearlove, Steele, any of them, I am reminded of the John le Carré line:
“What do you think spies are: priests, saints, and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists, and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London balancing the rights and wrongs?”
— Alec Leamas, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, 1963
They lie for a living. They're professional liars, the very nature of their business is lies and trafficking in lies.
[note: le Carré worked for both MI5 and MI6, he knew these people]

From ZeroHedge:   
Former MI6 Boss Says COVID-19 Manmade, Escaped From Chinese Lab
The former head of Britain's MI6 spy agency believes COVID-19 is a manmade virus that accidentally escaped from a Chinese laboratory, based on forthcoming research, according to The Telegraph.
Entitled "A Reconstructed Historical Aetiology of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike", the new study, seen by The Telegraph, suggests the virus is "remarkably well-adapted virus for human co-existence" and is likely to be the result of a Wuhan lab experiment to produce "chimeric viruses of high potency".
The paper concludes: "Henceforth, those who would maintain that the Covid-19 pandemic arose from zoonotic transfer need to explain precisely why this more parsimonious account is wrong before asserting that their evidence is persuasive, most especially when, as we also show, there are puzzling errors in their use of evidence." -The Telegraph
Perhaps most notable is that the former MI6 boss in question is Sir Richard Dearlove - who helped Obamagate operative Stefan Halper set up a smear campaign against Michael Flynn, and who made a name for himself nearly two decades ago peddling a bogus report that Saddam Hussein had WMDs - which Tony Blair used to justify the UK's involvement the Iraq war. Clearly Dearlove is trying to ruin our street cred....

In the words of Larry the Cable Guy:
"I don't care who you are, that's funny right there."

Bloomberg: Natural Gas May Trade Below Zero In Europe

There's a specter haunting Europe, the specter of low, low prices and maybe even cash back.
(kidding on the cash back, it's a line from one of our most popular links ever.)

From Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance:
Natural Gas May Be the Next Commodity to Trade Below Zero
The specter of negative prices is hanging over energy markets more than a month after oil’s unforgettable crash below zero.
While crude has staged a rapid recovery after a deal by the biggest producers to curb a surplus, the $600 billion global gas market remains extraordinarily oversupplied. Traders and analysts say the worst may be yet to come as demand falls and storage nears capacity, creating the ideal conditions for negative prices in some parts of the world.

It shows just how far the global energy industry is from recovering from a pandemic-fueled slide in demand and signals more pain for producers from the shale fields of Texas to Australia’s Curtis Island. Unlike the oil market, there’s been no sign of a coordinated response to address the glut, meaning the fallout could be deeper and longer.

“We are in uncharted territory with low demand levels and high storage stocks,” said Guy Smith, head of gas trading at Swedish utility Vattenfall AB. “In the shorter term there is real risk that conditions may be set to allow negative prices in Europe, but only in the very short term.”
The fuel, used to generate power and heat and as a feedstock for chemicals and fertilizers, was already slated to have a terrible year after a mild winter exacerbated a glut. But things turned from bad to worse as the pandemic hammered demand, forcing major buyers to reject deliveries. Meanwhile, top sellers haven’t yet throttled back enough output as stockpiles near capacity.
Like oil’s brief plunge in April below minus-$40 a barrel, the key factor is the lack of storage to absorb excess supply. Traders and analysts point to Europe as the first market likely to hit that crisis point, which could have ripple effects for buyers and sellers from the U.S. to Asia.
While the oil market has a broad, if fragile, alliance of producers to manage production and rescue prices, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, the gas market lacks a coordinated approach, allowing the current oversupply to drift unchecked.

With a deep bench of buyers across utilities and trading houses and flexible infrastructure that can both import and export cargoes, Europe has in recent years become known as the “sink” for global gas -- balancing booming output from the U.S. with the increasingly energy-hungry economies of Asia, led by China.

That roll may soon be challenged as inventories across Europe are at a seasonal record of 73% capacity, compared with the 5-year average of 45%, according to data compiled by Gas Infrastructure Europe.

“European gas storage inventory is the biggest risk for global gas markets,” said Edmund Siau, a Singapore-based analyst at energy consultant FGE, who expects the region’s storage to hit capacity in August. “Gas prices will see increasing downward pressure and volatility as the market gradually loses one of the tools to balance itself.”

One European market in particular has come in focus as the most likely to go negative. While the world’s four major indexes have converged near historic lows, the U.K.’s National Balancing Point is the weakest, with the next-day contract recently dropping to the equivalent of about $0.99 per million British thermal units.

“If we see below-zero gas prices in Europe, we will see it in the U.K.,” said Hadrien Collineau, senior gas analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “The market is constrained by its physical capacity, and once storage sites are filled, prices can go below zero. The U.K. doesn’t have much place for more gas, while we still have space in continental Europe.”

The U.K.’s storage capacity declined drastically after Centrica Plc’s Rough facility closed in 2017.
European prices would be more likely to flip negative in the prompt contracts -- such as within-day or day-ahead rather than contracts further out -- when storage injection rates are low and demand is weak due to mild, windy weather, according to Nick Boyes, an LNG and gas analyst at Swiss utility and trader Axpo Group.

“I think the highest possibility of this happening is in August or early September when we have a greatest coincidence of both lowest demand and highest storage inventories,” he said.
Natural gas is no stranger to negative prices. The U.K.’s NBP plunged below zero in 2006 after a pipeline opened for commercial imports from Norway. That plunge was more of an operational issue from the pipeline than a market trend, and it wasn’t in the middle of a bearish market, such as the one today, according to James Huckstepp, manager of EMEA gas analytics at S&P Global Platts.

In the U.S., associated gas, a byproduct of shale drilling, has periodically gone negative due mainly to increased production coming up against limited transport capacity at places such as the Waha Hub in West Texas....MUCH MORE