Market Morning: Mideast Policy Chaos, Brexit Continues, Impossible Pork, China Changes Mind

Market Morning

The Iran Mess Gets Messier

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The Defense Secretary contradicts a Brigadier General. The Pentagon contradicts the President while he draws up sanctions against an ally. It’s getting very confusing on the foreign policy front and it appears one part of the system doesn’t know what the other part is doing. In a letter sent by Brigadier General William Seely, Commanding General in Iraq, addressed to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Seely said that he respects Iraq’s sovereign decision to order the departure of US troops from Iraq, confirming that a withdrawal is underway. However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper contradicted that letter and said that there are no plans to leave Iraq “at all, period.” To make matters even more chaotic, US President Donald Trump has threatened sanctions against Iraq if it insists that US forces leave the country without paying for an airbase. Meanwhile, Trump has threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites, but the Pentagon has said that it would not honor such an order from its Commander-In-Chief, since the wanton destruction of cultural sites in war is illegal by international treaty.

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Meanwhile, back in Iran, 32 people were trampled to death in a stampede at a procession for the late General Qassem Soleimani’s funeral. Plus, Reuters reports that 600 soldiers are headed for the Middle East from Fort Bragg, one of them quoted as saying, “We’re going to war, bro.” How another trillion dollars will be found to pay for another war is unclear.

Prepare for Another Barage of Brexit News

Great Britain is going to leave the European Union on January 31st, this time without any doubt. But that will only be the beginning of the new phase of Brexit, to the delight of all news outlets that cover Brexit. The transition period will last until the end of 2020, but knowing the predilections of politicians in charge of managing these matters, it could end up being extended several times. Theoretically, the United Kingdom and EU are supposed to discuss trade arrangements during the transition, but both sides apparently already disagree about the timeline of these talks. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing for legislation that will force trade talks to end by December. The President of the European Commission thinks that this isn’t enough time, calling it “extremely challenging”. Johnson probably has the votes to pass through any legislation he wants though, since he won a massive majority over Labour last month. Meanwhile, British stocks (NYSEARCA:EWU) continue to trade flat after Johnson’s big win.

Impossible is Moving Into Pork

Move over, Chinese pork shortage crisis and swine fever. Impossible Foods has a possible cure for your porcine needs. Showing up market leader Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND), which has already raised $800M in venture capital, Impossible presented Impossible Pork and Impossible Sausage, made from plant protein. Impossible CEO Pat Brown told reports that consumers can expect lamb, goat, fish, and dairy products in the future. “What we’re working on is the most significant science project and business endeavor in the world,” said Brown, who has been a vegetarian since the 1970s. He may be on to something, since meat production contributes to climate change and the crimping of biodiversity on the planet. The developments are spurring rumors of an Impossible IPO.

Facebook Ramps Up China Advertising

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is setting up a team to focus on advertising in China, a country that is not particularly friendly to social media, particularly Facebook itself, which is blocked in the country. Facebook confirmed the news, describing it as an “Asia-first” mission. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has been trying to make headway in China without much success yet. In 2016 he made a visit to the country and promised to learn Mandarin. Facebook staff met with Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and Tencent (OTCQB:TCEHY) staff on a “knowledge-exchange” trip. Still, despite being banned in China, Faceook still earns oodles of ad revenue from Chinese businesses looking to get their message out to international markets. The company rakes in about $5 billion a year from the People’s Republic.

Speaking of China…

The Phase One trade deal, despite not yet being actually signed, has already run into a major stumbling block. Han Jun, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs, was quoted by Caixin on Tuesday saying that Beijing won’t increase its import quotas for agricultural products. One may ask then, how would China be able to increase purchases from the United States as it has supposedly promised to do? The answer is that it wouldn’t, aside from the fact that private Chinese companies do most of the importing and it is doubtful if Beijing would force these companies to import more food than they need. Han had previously said that China would increase its import quotas, but has now said that the trade team has changed its mind and won’t adjust import quotas for one country. What Trump will do about this about-face is the question.


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