Thursday, February 20, 2014

Warren Buffett Getting Ahead Of The CBR Challenge

Reuters is reporting:
BNSF Railway Co plans to buy its own fleet of up to 5,000 new crude oil tank cars with safety features that exceed the latest industry standards, the company, a unit of investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said on Thursday.
The unusual step by one of the largest U.S. railroads aims to further the industry's push for safer movement of crude by rail after several recent accidents, including one involving a BNSF train in North Dakota in December.
The company, a major mover of crude by rail throughout the United States, plans to seek bids from railcar makers for up to 5,000 new tank cars with thicker walls and ends, increased protection of safety and pressure valves, and other features that go beyond industry standards adopted two years ago.
The news sent shares of several U.S. railcar makers higher.

If The Teachers Are Smart, They Would Support Fracking To Help Pay Their Pension

This is incredible: a $71 billion shortfall for California teachers pensions.

$71 billion. And the fund shortfall is growing by $22 million every day.

The governor is looking to put this "crisis" off for another year. Perhaps a vibrant oil and gas industry could provide the royalties necessary to meet the shortfall. The Los Angeles Times is reporting:
The same could be said of the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS, which Ehnes has run for more than a decade. Today, the pension fund is one of the biggest financial problems in a state with more than its share of money woes.
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders are pledging to repair and replenish the $181.1-billion retirement system that is supposed to finance more than 800,000 retirements for public school teachers, administrators and community college instructors. Hearings on possible solutions began in the Capitol on Wednesday.
The second-largest public pension fund in the country, after California's primary pension system for public employees, it faces a $71-billion shortfall that worsens by $22 million every day, according to pension officials.

For Warmists Or Deniers, One Has To Admit This Is One Humdinger Of A Winter -- Update From The Twin Cities

I don't know about the rest of the warmists, deniers, and agnostics out there, but this is quite a story. The StarTribune is reporting:
The winter storm pushing its way into Minnesota on Thursday snarled the evening commute, closed afternoon and evening activities at schools, canceled some evening college classes and set snow emergencies in motion throughout the metro area.
By the time it passes, the storm could leave the most significant snowfall of the season.
The National Weather Service (NWS) predicted amounts of 10 inches in the core of the metro and deeper totals in northeast and southeast suburbs.
As the storm picked up steam late in the afternoon, near white-out conditions were reported near Mankato while heavier snow began to fall in parts of the metro area. Transportation officials advised no travel in the southwest and south central part of the state, including Blue Earth, Faribault, LeSueur and, Waseca and Watonwan counties.
By 3:45 p.m., Minneapolis and St. Paul had declared a snow emergency, which will take effect at 9 p.m. Thursday, and the NWS reported 3 inches of snow had fallen in Mounds View.
“Intense snowfall commencing,” the NWS said in a statement, which also noted snow with thunder in southern Minnesota.
The Weather Service added that the storm’s target, with the metro area as the bull’s-eye, should be ready for 1 to 2 inches of snow an hour, strong winds and sharply reduced visibility for motorists.
The Kennedy clan should probably fly out to the Twin Cities the first chance they get; this may be the last time their children and their grandchildren ever see snow.

Random Note On The Parshall Oil Field

Recently there had been six rigs in the northern half of the Parshall oil field, all outside the reservation.

Today, there are seven active rigs in the Parhsall oil field. Five of them are still in the northern half, outside the reservation, but two have moved inside the reservation:
  • 27042, drl, sits on a three-well pad; this is the first of the three to be drilled; 10-152-90; EOG, Parshall 46-1004H,
  • 27158, drl, sits on a three-well pad; this is the first of the three to be drilled; 22-152-90; EOG, Parshall 47-2226H,
  • Located in the section between these two three-well pads, is another three well pad, one of which, is:
27035, loc, EOG, Parshall 60-1509H,
The nearest completed well to all three pads is probably:
  • 16774, 1,433, EOG, Roger 1-15H, Parshall a single section, t3/08; cum 336K 12/13; still producing 1600 bbls of oil per month; no flaring.
A recent reader sent a comment suggesting that EOG would be moving back and forth, in and out of the reservation with infill drilling.

Are They Joking? The Price Of Oil Drops 39 Cents And It's Blamed On A Chinese Manufacturing Index

On February 9, 2014, I wrote, regarding the price of oil:
The major factors affecting the price of oil:

  • Mideast politics and hostilities (Syria, Iran, Israel); sabre-rattling
  • strength of the dollar
  • US economy six months out
  • Chinese manufacturing index
  • global economy six months out
Of the five, I think the US economy six months out as telegraphed by the Fed's actions is the most important. On a day-to-day basis, all things being equal (e.g., no report of a war breaking out in the Mideast, it is the strength of the dollar).
So, today it was "rewarding" to see this headline over at Yahoo!Finance: oil below $103 as Chinese factory activity drops. Are they joking? Oil has been quietly and slowly melting up from the low 90's to solidly over $100. It was close to $104 yesterday and today closed slightly below $103. But to say this was due to the Chinese manufacturing report seem ludicrous. Here's the lede:
The price of oil slipped below $103 a barrel Thursday after a report indicated that manufacturing in China, the world's second-biggest economy, shrank again in February.
U.S. crude for March delivery fell 39 cents to close at $102.92 a barrel in New York on the last day of trading for the contract. Crude for April delivery fell 9 cents to close at $102.75.
Oil prices fell after a monthly survey by HSBC found that China's manufacturing, a driver of the global economy, contracted for a second straight month.
The HSBC purchasing managers' index also declined to the lowest since July, a sign of the extended slowdown in China as leaders in Beijing try to clamp down on an investment boom and refocus the economy on domestic consumption.
"Results from this private sector survey have deteriorated for four months now, which indicates an unambiguous trend of domestic growth deceleration," Societe Generale economist Wei Yao said in a report.
May be the 39-cent drop on a $103-bbl or oil is due to the Chinese manufacturing report, but I doubt it's much more than just the background noise of trading. If the Chinese manufacturing report was really that significant, we should have seen a healthier pull back in the price of oil. My hunch is the reporter spoke to "his" inside source, asked the question, and the oil export simply said it had to do with the China manufacturing index. It sounded good, and the reporter went with it. 

"We Don't Drill Dry Holes Here" -- Pioneer Natural Resources

I don't know who coined the term "Saudi America" but I know Carpe Diem was among the first to use it. In the most recent issue (February 15, 2014) of The Economist there is a long article with the headline/title: "Saudi America."

I remember when I first start blogging about the Bakken, I said there were "no" dry holes in the Bakken. An occasional individual wrote in to disagree with me. But I stuck with it: there are "no" dry holes in the Bakken. I don't recall anyone else picking up on that line until today when I happened across that Economist article:
Dennis Lithgow is an oil man, but sees himself as a manufacturer. His factory is a vast expanse of brushland in west Texas. His assembly line is hundreds of brightly painted oil pumps spaced out like a city grid, interspersed with identical clusters of tanks for storage and separation. Through the windscreen of his truck he points out two massive drilling rigs on the horizon and a third about to be erected. Less than 90 days after they punch through the earth, oil will start to flow.
What if they’re dry? “We don’t drill dry holes here,” says Mr Lithgow, an executive for Pioneer Natural Resources, a Texan oil firm. In the conventional oil business, the riskiest thing is finding the stuff. The “tight oil” business, by contrast, is about deposits people have known about for decades but previously could not extract economically.
Pioneer’s ranch sits at the centre of the Permian Basin, a prehistoric sea that, along with Eagle Ford in south Texas and North Dakota’s Bakken, are the biggest sources of tight oil, a broad category for the dense rocks, such as shale, that usually sit beneath the reservoirs that contain conventional oil. Since 2008 tight-oil production in America has soared from 600,000 to 3.5m barrels per day.
Thanks to tight oil and natural gas from shale, fossil fuels are contributing ever more to economic growth: 0.3 points last year alone, according to J.P. Morgan, and 0.1 to 0.2 a year to the end of 2020, according to the Peterson Institute, a think-tank. Upscale furniture stores and luxury-car dealerships have sprung up in Midland since the boom began. Mr Lithgow has truck drivers who earn $80,000 a year. Local oil-service firms have been known to hire fast-food workers on the spot. In all, the unconventional-energy boom will create up to 1.7m new jobs by 2020, predicts McKinsey, a consultancy.

Four (4) New Permits -- The Williston Basin, North Dakota, USA; MRO Reports A Nice Murphy Creek Well

Active rigs:

Active Rigs18318420017194

Four (4) new permits -- 
  • Operators: Oasis (2), Corinthian, Balantyne
  • Fields: Missouri Ridge (Williams), Robinson Lake (Mountrail), North Souris (Bottineau)
  • Comments: Ballantyne getting active in the Spearfish formation
Wells coming off the confidential list were posted earlier; see sidebar at the right.

Wow, these are some old permits being renewed:
  • 18036, conf, Texakota, H. Borstad 3-6, West Tioga, Williams County
  • 18037, conf, Texakota, Hemsing 3, West Tioga, Williams County
  • 22437, conf, Slawson, Drone 2-34-27H, Saxon, Dunn County
  • 22449, loc, OXY USA, Eddy Dvorak 1-14-23H-142-95, Murphy Creek, Dunn County
One (1) producing well completed:
  • 24785, 1,057, Hess, LK-Bice 14709701201H-2, t1/14; cum --
Wells coming off confidential list Friday:
  • 25107, 1,824, MRO, Darcy Dirkach 44-12H, Murphy Creek, t12/13; cum 20K 12/13;
  • 25313, 998, Hess, EN-Weyrauch A 154-93-1720H-7, Robinson Lake, t1/14; cum --
  • 25545, drl, MRO, Rudolph USA 41-15TFH, Reunion Bay, no production data,

Off The Net For Awhile -- Biking -- Maybe Later This Afternoon

For investors only. Market surging.

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on anything you read here or anything you think you may have read here.

Trading at new highs: ARII, ERF, PSXP, XLNX, HP (Helmerich & Payne, the oil rig manufacturing company).

A Note to the Granddaughters

When I was growing up, every summer, or every other summer, my mother alone or my father and mother together would take us (four children, until a fifth came along) to her parents' home in Storm Lake, Iowa. That was a long trip, and an expensive trip for my dad. It was always a sore point for my mom that she couldn't visit her parents more than once a year. Now that I am a grandparent, I understand so much more what it means to "show off" one's wonderful children. If there is any sadness in my heart with regard to growing up, that might be the "only thing": my mom not getting to visit her folks more often and my mom not getting to show off her wonderful children (at least in her mind) to her folks. My mom was the best and she deserved the opportunity to do that; but circumstances were such....

I say all that to say that I have wonderful memories of visiting both sets of grandparents, the paternal ones in rural Newell, South Dakota; and the maternal ones in small-town Storm Lake, Iowa. I have so many great memories. Perhaps that is why I do not take our own grandchildren for granted. Some readers probably think I am insanely obsessed with the Bakken; my obsession with my grandchildren exceeds the Bakken obsession greatly.

My maternal grandfather was a stern, stoic, German. Outwardly, it appeared his worse nightmare came to life when he was visited by four rug-rats from Williston, North Dakota. He was extremely germanically frugal. His only vice was those little orange-slice-granulated-sugar-coated candies. I remember the one (and only) time I tried to take one of those candies without asking. (It didn't do much good to ask; the answer was always the same: "no" in English, not German, so there was no chance of a misunderstanding).

[It is best that my daughter, if she has read this far, not to read any farther.]

I suppose that explains my attitude with the granddaughters.

I have one vice (to which I will admit). I keep Kit Kat candy bars in the refrigerator. I enjoy them on certain occasions.

Two days ago, the granddaughters independently and almost simultaneously discovered the Kit Kats. It was so nice when very quietly, and very tentatively the younger one asked if she could have one. I think she was surprised that I was so happy that she would even ask. Yes, she could have one. Some minutes later, the older one came over, and even more quietly, and perhaps even more tentatively, asked if she, too, could have a Kit Kat. And again, I suppose she was surprised that I reacted in a way to suggest that I was very happy she asked.

Later on, driving the older one to swimming, I told her that she could always have a Kit Kat, but probably best, just one per day (they are the small size bars). I also told her, that although I would always say "yes," it was probably best if she asked me first, if only for the sake of appearances.

I knew there was no point in suggesting the same to the younger granddaughter. She is quite sensible, for lack of a better word, and asking would only delay the inevitable outcome, getting her Kit Kat.

I thought of all that because of a note my wife just sent me. There is a story in Yahoo!News today, apparently, suggesting that "the Kit Kat is the most influential candy bar of all." Whatever that means.

Ah, here the story is, about Kit Kat. Another phenomenal story. It's easy to find, all over the net now.
The most influential candy bar of all time isn’t a Hershey bar, a Snickers, or a Baby Ruth. According to Time magazine, it’s the Kit Kat, which may have you scratching your head. Sure, a Kit Kat is a delight, chocolatey and crunchy and shareable with friends (on the rare occasions you’re feeling generous). But what sets it apart from its also-very-tasty competition?
The Kit Kat, it turns out, was made for sharing. How wonderful. 

Early Morning Trading -- Slow News Day -- For Investors Only

Investing talk. 

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on anything you read here or think you may have read here.

Jobs report status quo. My hunch is the weekly initial unemployment claims will now remain in a narrow range. The monthly unemployment number will continue to improve, though it won't mean much. Things are in a holding pattern right now. "Everyone" has baked ObamaCare into the stock market ... and guess what: the President, by executive order, has put the whole program on hold. Technically and legally NOT the WHOLE program but the word on the street is that the program is on hold. Do you remember the movie, Waiting For Guffman? Life follows art; now it's "waiting for Obamacare." This is what we will get:
  • insurers will get a huge bailout
  • 2015 premiums will skyrocket; government will step in; cap premiums
  • folks will finally understand what "deductibles" mean
  • urgent care clinics will flourish; hospitals will struggle
  • insurers will be pass-through entities for Obamacare; regulated; same as federal crop insurance
  • federally-mandated 30-hour work week will be the biggest single cultural change 
  • massive civil disobedience as folks don't sign up for ObamaCare (it's the law of the land)
  • employers have been given the green light to cost-shift health care expenses to employees
  • cost-shifting will be the headline story when unions, NLRB gets involved
  • all the current talk about the minimum wage is a spin-off from Obamacare reality
For investors, Obamacare will be a godsend. I think folks forget how this all started. It was demagoguery that got it passed; it was passed on the premise that 30 million Americans are uninsured for health care.

The dirty little secret was this: employers -- BIG BUSINESS -- knew they were going to go broke because of health care expenses. I saw it in the military: the general officers were the first to see it but they couldn't stop it. TRICARE was a bigger operation than flying in the US Air Force by the time I retired. Conscientious municipal financial officers saw it coming, but mayors and governors didn't want to "touch it." Hillary was pragmatic; she knew it. She had business experience (cattle futures, if nothing else) and she listened to BIG BUSINESS that was supporting her financially. BIG BUSINESS needed to do something. Health care costs had two liabilities:  a) increasing exponentially; and, b) increasing capriciously. It was bad enough that Blue Cross Blue Shield premiums increased 20% every October for the next year's coverage, but not being able to plan was the most difficult.

BIG BUSINESS can handle 20% increases in any expense year after year if the playing field is even (everybody incurs the 20% increase) and if it is predictable: they simply bake it into their numbers and pass the increased cost unto their customers.

It was unpredictably that was the killer. Hillary listened. She was the first to succeed at making this her entire campaign. And she almost won. Until a better orator came along.

The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Obamacare is a win-win for everyone. The consumers got two things: no pre-existing conditions clauses (smoke all you want, gain all the weight you want, you won't be penalized); and, no annual cap on medical expenses. BIG BUSINESS got two things: predictably and the green-light to cost shift their employees.

Everything else is marginal. Everything else will be sorted out in the US Congress and in state legislatures. But with consumers getting no pre-existing-condition clauses and no annual/lifetime caps; and BIG BUSINESS getting out of the health insurance business, Obamacare, by another name, is not going to go away.

And now that it's on hold, the market can only go one way. Companies will start reporting falling health expenses this year. My hunch is there will be no headlines reporting that. It will be hard to find. In fact, the health care expense line in financial reports will simply and silently disappear, except for the $200/month/employee subsidy that employers will provide their employees to find their own health insurance. And employers will be very resistant to raising that amount, just as they are very, very (ostensibly) resistant to raising the minimum wage. (I say ostensibly because I don't think BIG BUSINESS is all that resistant to increasing the minimum wage -- maybe a separate blog on that in the future, why BIG BUSINESS probably favors an increase in the minimum wage. Spoiler alert: think Darwinian).

Yesterday, I wrote Don, that TESLA surging in after-hours was a huge plus for the market. It has nothing to do with TESLA, per se. But a lot of retail investors are sitting on the side line watching the market recover from the January slump and missing out. Even conservative investors have missed out on MDU -- hitting new highs almost every day for the past couple of weeks.

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment decisions based on anything you read here or think you may have read here.

Oil is flat today. Taking a breather. Not much news, I suppose, but that doesn't mean the oil and gas companies are flat. TPLM up a bit, but AMZG is up almost 4%. WMB is up over 3%.

WMB: beats by a whole penny and the shares go wild, up 3%. Gotta love it. Earnings were actually down this year compared to last year. By a pretty healthy amount.

That's the problem with the market for some folks. It doesn't make sense. All things being equal, it comes down to perception, sentiment, fear, greed, I suppose.

Must be the start of summer here in the DFW area. I see the mowers alongside the interstate and state highways. Drives my allergies wild.


This is cool.

Yesterday in one of my long rambling notes I mentioned that ObamaCare and an increased minimum wage will hasten the day when fast food restaurants like McDonald's move to kiosk ordering. It is beyond me why they haven't already started.

Folks can by car insurance on-line.

Folks can buy airline tickets, and check-in, on-line.

In some states, one can even buy health insurance on-line. I can't imagine many things much more complicated and/or important than health insurance. 

Purchasing health care insurance, car insurance and airline tickets on-line and yet, with very, very few exceptions one cannot order a hamburger, FF, and a Coke while standing in line at McDonald's, holding a tablet or smart phone. iBeacon could change that in a heartbeat.

I wouldn't have brought this up, but I was told today that one of the airlines, Continental, I believe, at one of their terminals now boards passengers without an airline employee scanning one's ticket. At the boarding gate, there is a turnstile-like gate that opens/closes when a passenger scans his/her own ticket. Most gates require at least two airline employees at the counter; the turnstile will minimize this. At most, a gate will require one airline employee in the future. And with gates across from each other, one airline employee could easily manage two gates. One can now, in certain locations, purchase a ticket, download the boarding pass on a tablet/smart phone, and board an airline without human contact. Except for TSA unparalleled attention one can avoid personal contact throughout the entire airline experience.

Looks Like We Have A New Shale Play To Keep Track Of: Burnt Wood Canyon,

A big thank you to a reader alerting me to this new shale play, southwestern Nebraska/northwestern Kansas, on the state line. 
THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA LINE SOUTH OF STRATTON, Nebraska -- Sparked by a series of significant oil strikes, one of the biggest oil booms in this region's history is bringing an outpouring of oil activity along the Kansas-Nebraska line south of Stratton, Nebraska.
Exceeded only by the Sleepy Hollow and Ackman Field discoveries of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the latest rush of petroleum activity got a big boost July 5, 2013, when Berexco hit a 400 barrel a day well on the ranch land of Rich and Ken Walter. Before and since, drilling crews from Berexco and Murfin have brought in a bunch of big producers on both sides of the state line, with the core of the prolific production centered in the Walter Brothers' Burnt Wood Canyon field.
"The Sleepy Hollow name became famous in the 1960s," said Bill Sydow, the executive director of the Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. "Going forward, the Burnt Wood Canyon name will define this development."

Shocked! I'm Shocked! It Might Be A Cooler Summer

AccuWeather is reporting: potential record ice on Lake Superior may mean a cooler summer.

Jobs Watch: Initial Unemployment Claims Decrease Slightly

Some obscure website is reporting: the advance figure was 336,000; a decrease of 3,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 339,000.

The four-week moving average, a better indicator of how poorly things are going, rose 1,750 to 336,750. The fact the newest figure almost matches the average suggests nothing is changing one way or the other.

Looking at the graph at the linked site, which shows the four-week average going back to 2000, suggests we are probably going to be at this level (330,000 +/-) for the rest of my investing lifetime, barring another repeat of what we've just been through.

It's really quite remarkable how steep the curve was going up back in 2008 - 2009, and how quickly it has come back to the baseline, in the big scheme of things, despite the politics and the uncertainty of ObamaCare.

Looks like happy days are here again.

Thursday -- For Investors Only And Other Odds And Ends; Doubling The Minimum Wage Won't Offset Losses Incurred Due To ObamaCare

KOG trading at a new high. Just barely, but it's still a new high. 

Maybe more on this later: a recurring theme on this blog is health care cost-shifting due to Obamacare. Now this report, read it closely. It's the most succinct explanation of what I mean by cost-sharing.  Bloomberg is reporting:
One-third of U.S. employers plan to move their workers’ health-care coverage to a private exchange in the next few years, a survey found, following the lead of companies like Walgreen Co. seeking to reduce costs.
While 95 percent of employers said they would continue to offer health care in the next three to five years, 33 percent may use a private exchange to provide the benefit up from 5 percent currently, according to a survey released today by a unit of Aon Plc, a London-based insurance broker.
Traditionally, most large employers are self-insured, meaning they take on the financial risk of their employees’ health costs. Under a private exchange, workers are given a subsidy to pick from a limited number of health plans and the insurer takes on the risk.
Wal-Mart "badly" misses expectations. Expectations: $1.59 vs actual: $1.34, compared to $1.67 a year earlier. Profit falls 21%; guides lower.  I haven't been in a Wal-Mart in months. Our favorite retailer remains Target but we try not to go there, and we definitely never use a credit card there. My wife mentioned that ever since the Target security breach, she has saved a lot of money. I'm impressed. 

Russian hockey team loses to Finland; out of the competition.  The New York Times reports:
President Vladimir V. Putin and any other Russian who was asked made it plain that the Sochi Games’ success hinged on the Russian men’s hockey team.
Sure, Russia has a formidable delegation, winning medals in many events, from biathlon to bobsled. But it was the hockey team, representing the national sport, that would offer the world the most meaningful symbol of the country’s might.
Active rigs in North Dakota:

Active Rigs18618420017194

Sixteen companies announce increased dividends or distributions, including Alaska Air Group, Flowserve, Foot Locker, Permian Basin (PBT).

Denbury Resources misses by $0.04, misses on revs: Reports Q4 (Dec) earnings of $0.27 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $0.04 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $0.31; revenues fell 1.2% year/year to $596 mln vs the $610.22 mln consensus.

American Railcar Industries beats by $0.14, reports revs in-line: Reports Q4 (Dec) earnings of $1.14 per share, $0.14 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $1.00; revenues fell 5.1% year/year to $197.2 mln vs the $196.86 mln consensus. Primary reason for the increase in manufacturing revenue was a higher mix of tank railcars; the primary reason for the increase in leasing revenue was an increase in the number of railcars and an increase in the average lease rate.

Could we see a Balkanization of the union? A segment of Colorada wants to split away from Colorado. Now, a proposition to split California into six states gets the "ok" to gather signatures; 12 senators vs the current two.

RBN Energy: musings on US energy policy.
There is a common theme of surplus in US energy markets today with more natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and light sweet crude oil being produced than can be processed and consumed domestically. The likely destination of those surpluses is export markets – either directly or in the form of derivative products.  How should we think about these exports in the context of “energy independence”?   U.S. energy policy since the 1970s has been centered on the importance to national security of reducing dependence on foreign resources—the oft-touted, elusive goal of “energy independence.”  Today we examine whether a btu energy balance is a practical and effective measure of energy independence.
One way to look at the energy independence issue is the same way we view US economic national security, where the closely watched statistic is the balance of payments.  By that measure if we spend more on imports than we make back on exports there is a net outflow of money.  But if we spend about the same amount of money on imports as we make on exports, we have a healthy trading relationship with the world.  The same kind of logic could be applied to energy.  The theme of today’s blog forms part of the analysis in RBN Energy’s latest Drill Down Report “The Future’s So Bright I’ve Gotta Wear Shades – Crude, NGLs and Natural Gas Outlook."
 The Wall Street Journal

Yes, the news that was posted yesterday made the front section of The WSJ: judge in Nebraska says "NO" on the Keystone XL 2.0 North route. Back to square one for the banana republic.

Japan's trade deficit soars.

There is a suggestion that work on widening the Panama Canal may resume.

I first learned about this story in Forbes many, many years ago. Lost track of it. Wondered how it would play out. Grupo Mexico and Kansas City Southern are battling a Mexican bill that would dial back exclusive railroad rights purchased more than a decade ago. I'm amazed the "exclusive deal" last this long.

In the third section, the lead story: Arctic winds put fire under natural gas, which traded over $6 yesterday, at a five-year high. We'll see more of the same this summer when global warming kicks in and everyone turns on their air conditioners.

The Los Angeles Times

In parched states, fracking thirst grows. Greeley, CO, sells water to the oil and gas companies that have bought a drilling boom to town Some residents wonder whether it will run out. Fracking, nationwide, uses much less water than the amount of water used to water golf courses. Another inconvenient truth.

The LA Times is absolutely right: the last argument against raising the minimum wage is  over. Presidential wanna-be's need to get out in front on this. The minimum wage needs to be raised to help offset the impact of Obamacare on low-wage earners. Because of Obamacare, the federally-mandated 30-hour work week will result in an immediate 25% pay cut for low-wage earners. That's bad enough, but the same folks will be the first targets for health care cost shifting. I don't think doubling the minimum wage would be enough to offset the losses that low-wager earners will incur because of Obamacare. By the way, those folks who suggest with the 30-hour work week, they will have the opportunity to get a second 30-hour/week job. Not so fast. The jobs may not be available. ObamaCare and an increased minimum wage will both result in lost job opportunities.