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Putin's policy of championing his country's energy sector has left the country with few other productive industries. The Russian government relies on oil and gas revenue to fill its treasury. Analysts including ourselves believe that the Russian government will have to make cuts either to its military budget or to its social services if the Brent crude index falls below $110 per barrel. The lower the fall in oil prices, the deeper the cuts will need to be in the Russian government's budget. This year does not portent well for the price of Brent crude. Iran and Iraq are already bringing their production back online and Libya will be back in the market in full force later this year. OPEC predicted rising demand to justify its failure to cut its output. However, with the BRICs in or on the threshold of recession that forecast seems to be flawed. Brent crude could possibly fall this year and Putin would be in trouble. His encouragement of a crisis in Ukraine could have been an attempt to bring panic to oil speculators and support the price of oil, thus saving his budget. However, that gambit seems to have failed. The Brent crude oil price fell throughout the crisis and remains below the vital $110 mark.


Ukraine's neighbor to the south is Moldova. This also used to be part of the Soviet Union and contains a region with a Russian majority. In the same week that Crimea declared independence from Ukraine, the troublesome region of Transdniestria also requested to become part of Russia. Putin was never interested in helping the Russian citizens in this enclave in Moldova before, but now it seems he may make a grab for it. Interestingly, the transfer of Crimea enabled Russia to acquire 41 of Ukraine's 51 naval vessels -- including their only submarine. This seizure leaves Ukraine's remaining coastline, and the great port of Odessa, vulnerable to attack. In the week following the vote in Crimea to join Russia, Putin moved most of his 250,000 troops in the peninsula over to its Western coast. NATO's Supreme Commander in Europe, General Breedlove theorizes that this indicates a new willingness to integrate Transdniestria.


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U.S. natural gas prices fell to the lowest level in more than two weeks on Tuesday, as forecasts for mild weather across the U.S. in the week ahead dampened demand expectations for the fuel.

Oil prices down $1 as U.S. dollar surges

Crude oil futures tumbled on Tuesday, as the U.S. dollar rallied to a one-month peak amid expectations for higher U.S. interest rates later this year.s volatile Core CPI Index, which excludes food and energy prices, was ostensibly less deflationary. The Core CPI rose 0.3% for the month, its highest gain since January, 2013, and 1.8% on a year-over-year basis. The deflationary pressures could be attributed almost entirely to a sharp drop in energy prices. The Federal Reserve would like to see inflation move toward its targeted goal of 2% on an annual basis before it institutes its first interest rate hike in nearly a decade. Shortly thereafter, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi emphasized the importance of enacting structural reforms with the European economy during a speech in Sintra, Portugal. Draghi indicated that the reforms have the potential to permanently and positively impact the supply-side of the economy. Draghi said. Hours later, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said that an interest rate hike will be appropriate at some point in 2015, if there are continual improvements in the U.S. economy. Speaking at a luncheon at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Yellen indicated that the U.S. economy appears well-positioned for continued growth as transitory factors from a colder than usual winter and a West Coast port labor dispute start to fade. While the dollar inched up following Yellen's speech, her address had little impact on the EUR/USD pair. Yields on U.S. 10-Year Treasuries rose by roughly two basis points on Friday to end the session at 2.215%. Bond markets typically rally when the CPI moves higher.

Gold prices higher after retail sales up in Japan, Greece eyed

Gold rose in Asia on Thursday with investors focused on the scope for continued easy policy in Japan.

NYMEX crude gains despite API reported build in stocks last week

Crude oil prices gained in Asia on Thursday despite higher than expected U.S. stockpiles last week as measured by industry. Crude oil prices rose slightly on Wednesday with industry data ahead of U.S. stockpiles last week and geopolitical tension keeping the tone firm despite ample supplies.

Gold prices mostly steady in Asia as investors eye Greece, U.S. data

Gold prices held steady in Asia on Wednesday as investors looked ahead to Greece and renewed signals that a Federal Reserve rate hike is possible this year.

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Saudi Arabia's role in the oil market going forward is highly uncertain. Saudi Arabia has stated that it would rather maintain its export market share than cut production to keep prices higher. In the past, Saudi Arabia often played the role of the swing producer, cutting its production to accommodate supply growth elsewhere or increasing its output level to make up for a supply shortfall. EIA assumes that Saudi Arabia will continue to play some role as a swing producer, but perhaps to a lesser extent, as the country is sensitive to significant losses in market share. Saudi Arabia's production is still projected to decline in 2015 compared with this year, but by a smaller amount than previously expected. EIA projects that Saudi Arabia will cut production below its current level of 9.5 million bbl/d to avoid further downward pressure on oil prices amid high non-OPEC supply growth, but will maintain output above 9.0 million bbl/d through 2015.


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The continued slide in oil prices sent energy stocks lower Tuesday even as the broader stock-market indexes made modest moves.

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Drop in Oil Price Produces Big Winners and Losers. The slump in oil prices weighed on stocks again on Tuesday, giving energy companies another day of big losses. Disappointing earnings outlooks from several companies, including Priceline and Michael Kors, also affected the market. Oil has fallen sharply in recent weeks as global supplies rise while demand for fuel trails expectations. The latest decline was prompted by reports that Saudi Arabia was cutting the price of oil that it supplies to the United States as it tries to maintain its market share in the face of booming American production. The drop in oil prices has hit energy stocks hard, driving them into negative territory for the year. It has also helped push the stock market back from the record levels that it had reached last week.

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A stock market or equity market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers (a loose network of economic transactions, not a physical facility or discrete entity) of stocks (also called shares); these may include securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.

The stock market is one of the most important ways for companies to raise money, along with debt markets which are generally more imposing but do not trade publicly.[11] This allows businesses to be publicly traded, and raise additional financial capital for expansion by selling shares of ownership of the company in a public market. The liquidity that an exchange affords the investors enables their holders to quickly and easily sell securities. This is an attractive feature of investing in stocks, compared to other less liquid investments such as property and other immoveable assets. Some companies actively increase liquidity by trading in their own shares.[12][13] History has shown that the price of stocks and other assets is an important part of the dynamics of economic activity, and can influence or be an indicator of social mood. An economy where the stock market is on the rise is considered to be an up-and-coming economy. In fact, the stock market is often considered the primary indicator of a country's economic strength and development.[14] Rising share prices, for instance, tend to be associated with increased business investment and vice versa. Share prices also affect the wealth of households and their consumption. Therefore, central banks tend to keep an eye on the control and behavior of the stock market and, in general, on the smooth operation of financial system functions. Financial stability is the raison d'être of central banks.[citation needed] Exchanges also act as the clearinghouse for each transaction, meaning that they collect and deliver the shares, and guarantee payment to the seller of a security. This eliminates the risk to an individual buyer or seller that the counterparty could default on the transaction.[citation needed] The smooth functioning of all these activities facilitates economic growth in that lower costs and enterprise risks promote the production of goods and services as well as possibly employment. In this way the financial system is assumed to contribute to increased p osperity, although some controversy exists as to whether the optimal financial system is bank-based or market-based.[15][citation needed] Recent events such as the Global Financial Crisis have prompted a heightened degree of scrutiny of the impact of the structure of stock markets[16][17] (called market microstructure), in particular to the stability of the financial system and the transmission of systemic risk.[18]

The financial system in most western countries has undergone a remarkable transformation. One feature of this development is disintermediation. A portion of the funds involved in saving and financing, flows directly to the financial markets instead of being routed via the traditional bank lending and deposit operations. The general public interest in investing in the stock market, either directly or through mutual funds, has been an important component of this process. Statistics show that in recent decades, shares have made up an increasingly large proportion of households' financial assets in many countries. In the 1970s, in Sweden, deposit accounts and other very liquid assets with little risk made up almost 60 percent of households' financial wealth, compared to less than 20 percent in the 2000s. The major part of this adjustment is that financial portfolios have gone directly to shares but a good deal now takes the form of various kinds of institutional investment for groups of individuals, e.g., pen ion funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance investment of premiums, etc. The trend towards forms of saving with a higher risk has been accentuated by new rules for most funds and insurance, permitting a higher proportion of shares to bonds. Similar tendencies are to be found in other industrialized countries. In all developed economic systems, such as the European Union, the United States, Japan and other developed nations, the trend has been the same: saving has moved away from traditional (government insured) "bank deposits to more risky securities of one sort or another". A second transformation is the move to electronic trading to replace human trading of listed securities.[17]

From experience it is known that investors may 'temporarily' move financial prices away from their long term aggregate price 'trends'. Over-reactions may occur—so that excessive optimism (euphoria) may drive prices unduly high or excessive pessimism may drive prices unduly low. Economists continue to debate whether financial markets are 'generally' efficient. According to one interpretation of the efficient-market hypothesis (EMH), only changes in fundamental factors, such as the outlook for margins, profits or dividends, ought to affect share prices beyond the short term, where random 'noise' in the system may prevail. (But this largely theoretic academic viewpoint—known as 'hard' EMH—also predicts that little or no trading should take place, contrary to fact, since prices are already at or near equilibrium, having priced in all public knowledge.) The 'hard' efficient-market hypothesis is sorely tested and does not explain the cause of events such as the crash in 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 22.6 percent—the largest-ever one-day fall in the United States.[20] This event demonstrated that share prices can fall dramatically even though, to this day, it is impossible to fix a generally agreed upon definite cause: a thorough search failed to detect any 'reasonable' development that might have accounted for the crash. (But note that such events are predicted to occur strictly by chance, although very rarely.) It seems also to be the case more generally that many price movements (beyond that which are predicted to occur 'randomly') are not occasioned by new information; a study of the fifty largest one-day share price movements in the United States in the post-war period seems to confirm this.[20] A 'soft' EMH has emerged which does not require that prices remain at or near equilibrium, but only that market participants not be able to systematically profit from any momentary market 'inefficiencies'. Moreover, while EMH predicts that all price movement (in the absence of change in fundamental information) is random (i.e., non-trending), many studies have shown a marked tendency for the stock market to trend over time periods of weeks or longer. Various explanations for such large and apparently non-random price movements have been promulgated. For instance, some research has shown that changes in estimated risk, and the use of certain strategies, such as stop-loss limits and value at risk limits, theoretically could cause financial markets to overreact. But the best explanation seems to be that the distribution of stock market prices is non-Gaussian (in which case EMH, in any of its current forms, would not be strictly applicable).[21][22] Other research has shown that psychological factors may result in exaggerated (statistically anomalous) stock price movements (contrary to EMH which assumes such behaviors 'cancel out'). Psychological research has demonstrated that people are predisposed to 'seeing' patterns, and often will perceive a pattern in what is, in fact, just noise. (Something like seeing familiar shapes in clouds or ink blots.) In the present context this means that a succession of good news items about a company may lead investors to overreact positively (unjustifiably driving the price up). A period of good returns also boosts the investors' self-confidence, reducing their (psychological) risk threshold.[23] Another phenomenon—also from psychology—that works against an objective assessment is group thinking. As social animals, it is not easy to stick to an opinion that differs markedly from that of a majority of the group. An example with which one may be familiar is the reluctance to enter a restaurant that is empty; people generally prefer to have their opinion validated by those of others in the group. In one paper the authors draw an analogy with gambling.[24] In normal times the market behaves like a game of roulette; the probabilities are known and largely independent of the investment decisions of the different players. In times of market stress, however, the game becomes more like poker (herding behavior takes over). The players now must give heavy weight to the psychology of other investors and how they are likely to react psychologically. The stock market, as with any other business, is quite unforgiving of amateurs. Inexperienced investors rarely get the assistance and support they need. In the period running up to the 1987 crash, less than 1 percent of the analyst's recommendations had been to sell (and even during the 2000–2002 bear market, the average did not rise above 5%). In the run up to 2000, the media amplified the general euphoria, with reports of rapidly rising share prices and the notion that large sums of money could be quickly earned in the so-called new economy stock market. (And later amplified the gloom which descended during the 2000–2002 bear market, so that by summer of 2002, predictions of a DOW average below 5000 were quite common.) Irrational behavior Sometimes, the market seems to react irrationally to economic or financial news, even if that news is likely to have no real effect on the fundamental value of securities itself.[25] But, this may be more apparent than real, since often such news has been anticipated, and a counterreaction may occur if the news is better (or worse) than expected. Therefore, the stock market may be swayed in either direction by press releases, rumors, euphoria and mass panic; but generally only briefly, as more experienced investors (especially the hedge funds) quickly rally to take advantage of even the slightest, momentary hysteria. Over the short-term, stocks and other securities can be battered or buoyed by any number of fast market-changing events, making the stock market behavior difficult to predict. Emotions can drive prices up and down, people are generally not as rational as they think, and the reasons for buying and selling are generally obscure. Behaviorists argue that investors often behave 'irrationally' when making investment decisions thereby incorrectly pricing securities, which causes market inefficiencies, which, in turn, are opportunities to make money.[26] However, the whole notion of EMH is that these non-rational reactions to information cancel out, leaving the prices of stocks rationally determined.

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