Appeals Court Says State Health Policies Excluding Transgender Surgeries Violate Constitution

Appeals Court Says State Health Policies Excluding Transgender Surgeries Violate Constitution

Authored by Sam Dorman via The Epoch Times,

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against two state-level health policies that exclude so-called “gender-affirming” treatments, teeing up potential review by the U.S. Supreme Court…

Judge Roger Gregory, an appointee of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote in his majority opinion that the policies’ exclusion of surgeries such as vaginoplasties for certain diagnoses violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

“The coverage exclusions facially discriminate on the basis of sex and gender identity, and are not substantially related to an important government interest,” he said.

The 8–6 decision affirmed lower court decisions against West Virginia’s Medicaid policy and the North Carolina State Health Plan for Teachers and State Employees. Both aimed to preclude coverage of procedures or treatments pursuant to attempts at changing one’s gender.

During oral arguments in September, at least two judges said it’s likely the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Gregory’s opinion rejected the idea that the policies didn’t discriminate on the basis of gender identity merely because they focused on diagnoses rather than individuals experiencing that condition.

“Appellants argue that the district courts’ equal-protection analyses were flawed because, they say, the exclusions distinguish on the basis of diagnosis,” he said.

He added that “in this case, discriminating on the basis of diagnosis is discriminating on the basis of gender identity and sex.”

Later in the opinion, Judge Gregory wrote that “gender dysphoria is so intimately related to transgender status as to be virtually indistinguishable from it. The excluded treatments aim at addressing incongruity between sex assigned at birth and gender identity, the very heart of transgender status.”

He later added that in “addition to discriminating on the basis of gender identity, the exclusions discriminate on the basis of sex.”

Certain gender-affirming surgeries that could be provided to people assigned male at birth and people assigned female at birth are provided to only one group under the policy. Those surgeries include vaginoplasty (for congenital absence of a vagina), breast reconstruction (post-mastectomy), and breast reduction (for gynecomastia).”


Judge Gregory’s opinion encountered three separate dissents, including one in which Judge Harvie Wilkinson, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, argued “the science behind gender dysphoria care is far from settled.”

He suggested the majority overstepped its authority in encroaching on state decisions about health care.

“Providing the best possible care to adults and youth struggling with gender dysphoria is a challenging task for our States,” he said.

“But it is one that they are entitled to perform without premature judicial interference.”

Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, director of the Conscience Project, said in a statement to The Epoch Times that the decision “cries out for reversal from the Supreme Court.”

She warned that Judge Gregory’s reasoning “surely will be cited in attempts to force private insurance plans to do the same.”

Judge Marvin Quattlebaum, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said the majority “improperly” declared statements from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health “to be facts.”

“Individually and combined, these missteps improperly stack the deck, effectively ignoring the fair-minded debate about the medical necessity and efficacy of the treatments the plaintiffs seek,” he added.

Lambda Legal, which challenged both states’ policies, declared victory.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision, which will save lives. It confirms that discriminating against transgender people by denying critical medical care is not only wrong but unconstitutional,” Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Tara Borelli said in a press release.

“No one should be denied essential health care, but our clients in both cases were denied coverage for medically necessary care prescribed by their doctors just because they’re transgender.”

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 19:00

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Apollo Slapped With Lawsuit Alleging “Widespread Fraudulent Human Life Wagering Conspiracy” 

Apollo Slapped With Lawsuit Alleging “Widespread Fraudulent Human Life Wagering Conspiracy” 

Apollo Global Management has been entangled in a scandalous lawsuit and accused of acquiring illegal life insurance policies on senior citizens through a complex web of shell trusts. 

The company allegedly used an affiliate, Financial Credit Investment, to manage about a $20 billion portfolio of stranger-originated life insurance policies, effectively engaging in what the lawsuit claims:

“In short, Apollo has been carrying out a widespread fraudulent human life wagering conspiracy designed to not only hide its involvement, but to create the false appearance that the policies it owns are somehow legitimate.” 

The complaint continues:

“Worse still, when Apollo senses a claim is going to be brought, it attempts to dissolve its shell entities to give itself yet another layer of protection.”

This scheme was designed to give the policies the illusion of legitimacy. Martha Barotz’s estate initiated the legal action filed in Delaware’s Chancery Court last Friday. It raises serious questions about Apollo’s ethical practices.

“In this way, the senior citizens have no idea who owns a policy on their life, and who wants them dead,” the suit said, adding, “Apollo was fraudulently and illegally using these shell entities to perpetuate human life wagers not only on the life of Mrs. Barotz, but on the lives of hundreds (if not thousands) of other senior citizens.”

Bloomberg first reported on the lawsuit. Responding to BBG’s note, Joshua Rosner, a  Graham Fisher & Co. managing partner, wrote on X that Apollo’s actions are “mind-bending and horrifying.” 

“Apollo should have its insurance licenses pulled in every state by the @naic. They predate retirees and pensioners through pension risk transfers and now we find they take out life insurance policies against seniors. @AARP,” Rosner said. 

Rosner asks one heck of a question: “With Apollo managing hospitals, nursing & hospice facilities & also the retirement accounts of seniors, are they essentially taking a straddle position on seniors by buying life insurance policies on them?” 

One X user asks: “Did they take out life insurance on Alfred Villalobos and Jeffrey Epstein?” 

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 18:40

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DoJ Charges ‘Bitcoin Jesus’ With Tax Fraud

DoJ Charges ‘Bitcoin Jesus’ With Tax Fraud

Authored by Turner Wright via,

The early crypto investor, often called ‘Bitcoin Jesus,’ faces extradition to the U.S. after being charged with evading nearly $50 million in taxes.

Officials with the United States Department of Justice announced charges against early Bitcoin investor Roger Ver, known by many as ‘Bitcoin Jesus.’ 

In an April 30 notice, the Justice Department said authorities in Spain had arrested Ver based on criminal charges in the United States, including mail fraud, tax evasion and filing false tax returns.

The U.S. government alleged Ver defrauded the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) out of roughly $48 million with his failure to report capital gains on his sale of Bitcoin and other assets.

According to the indictment filed on Feb. 15 but unsealed on April 29, Ver allegedly took control of roughly 70,000 BTC in June 2017 – before the now famous bull run – and sold many of them for $240 million. U.S. officials said they planned to extradite Ver from Spain to the United States to stand trial.

Reactions to Ver’s arrest on social media were mixed.

However, Bitcoiner Dan Held, the former growth lead at Kraken, claimed Ver “deserves everything that he’s about to get” after he “nearly destroyed Bitcoin.”

“Roger attacked my livelihood by trying to get me fired, called up others to hurt my relationships, and attacked my reputation,” said Held on X.

“He misaligned expectations around Bitcoin so much that it led to a civil war.”

A cryptic message was Ver’s most-recent post on X, reading:

Source: Roger Ver

Ver was also a proponent of Bitcoin Cash.

In 2022, he became embroiled in a scandal with crypto investment platform CoinFlex, which claimed he owed them $47 million in USD Coin.

He had not commented on social media regarding the Justice Department charges at the time of publication.

Ver has previously pleaded guilty and served time for selling explosives on eBay.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 18:20

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Blackrock’s Larry Fink Jumps On “Next AI Trade”, Warning World Will Be “Short Power”

Blackrock’s Larry Fink Jumps On “Next AI Trade”, Warning World Will Be “Short Power”

At the start of April, we penned a lengthy report for premium subs discussing why artificial intelligence data centers, the electrification of the economy, and onshoring trends will result in a major upgrade of the nation’s power grid. We followed the note up on Monday with a report titled Everyone Is Piling Into The “Next AI Trade.” 

Now , BlackRock Chairman and Chief Executive Larry Fink has jumped on the “Next AI Trade” theme at a World Economic Forum event on Monday. 

“I do believe to properly um build out AI. We’re talking about trillions of dollars of investing. So data centers today could be as much as 200 megahertz – and they’re now talking about data centers being one gigawatt. That powers a city,” Fink told the audience. 

He pointed out that he spoke with the head of one tech company, who said their data centers currently require about 5 gigawatts of power. By 2030, the person told Fink that number could jump to 30 gigawatts. 

“The amount of power that’s needed to use AI has a huge impact on society,” Fink said. 

He then asked: “So where’s that power going to come from? Are we going to take it off the grid? What does that mean for elevated energy prices?” 

Fink then said the surge in power demand because of AI data centers is a “huge investment opportunity.” 

He warned: “The world is going to be short power – short power – and to power these data companies you cannot have this intermittent power like wind and solar.” 

“You need dispatchable power because they can’t turn off and on these data centers,” he continued. 

So what kind of clean, reliable energy could Fink be hinting at? 

Well, nuclear, as we’ve explained to readers as early as December 2020: “Buy Uranium: Is This The Beginning Of The Next ESG Craze.”

This week, the nuclear power industry appears to be gaining a major comeback. The federal government is expected to continue restarting shuttered nuclear power plants in the coming years, according to Jigar Shah, director of the US Energy Department’s Loan Programs Office, who spoke with Bloomberg on Monday. 

In March, Shah’s office approved a loan to Holtec International Corp. to reopen the Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan. This was a historical shift, and it was the first nuclear power plant to be reopened in the US, setting a precedent for atomic energy to make a triumphal comeback. The plant could begin producing power as early as the second half of 2025.

Shah said, “A lot of the other players that have a nuclear power plant that has recently shut down and could be turned back on are gaining that confidence to try.” He declined to give specifics about which plants were slated to reopen. 

Now, the head of the world’s largest asset manager, with $10 trillion in assets under management, is a believer in the “Next AI Trade,” as everyone is seriously piling in. 

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 18:00

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Unification Of CBDCs? Global Banks Are Telling Us The End Of The Dollar System Is Near

Unification Of CBDCs? Global Banks Are Telling Us The End Of The Dollar System Is Near

Authored by Brandon Smith via,

World reserve status allows for amazing latitude in terms of monetary policy. The Federal Reserve understands that there is constant demand for dollars overseas as a means to more easily import and export goods. The dollar’s petro-status also makes it essential for trading oil globally. This means that the central bank of the US has been able to create fiat currency from thin air to a far higher degree than any other central bank on the planet while avoiding the immediate effects of hyperinflation.

Much of that cash as well as dollar denominated debt (physical and digital) ends up in the coffers of foreign central banks, international banks and investment firms where it is held as a hedge or used to adjust the exchange rates of other currencies for trade advantage. As much as one-half of the value of all U.S. currency is estimated to be circulating abroad.

World reserve status along with various debt instruments allowed the US government and the Fed to create tens of trillions of dollars in new currency after the 2008 credit crash, all while keeping inflation under control (sort of). The problem is that this system of stowing dollars overseas only lasts so long and eventually the consequences of overprinting come home to roost.

The Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 established the framework for the rise of the US dollar and while the benefits are obvious, especially for the banks, there are numerous costs involved. Think of world reserve status as a “deal with the devil” – You get the fame, you get the fortune, you get the hot girlfriend and the sweet car, but one day the devil is coming to collect and when he does he’s going to take EVERYTHING, including your soul.

Unfortunately, I suspect the time is coming soon for the US and it may be in the form of a brand new Bretton Woods-like system that removes the dollar as world reserve and replaces it with a new digital basket structure. Global banks are essentially admitting to the plan for a complete overhaul of the dollar-based financial world and the creation of a CBDC-centric system built on “unified ledgers.”

There have been three recent developments all announced in succession that suggest the dollar’s replacement is imminent (before this decade is over).

The IMF’s XC Model – A Centralized Policy For CBDCs

The IMF’s XC platform was released as a theoretical model in November of 2022 and matches closely with their long discussed concept of a global Special Drawing Rights basket, only in this case it would tie together all CBDCs under one umbrella along with “legacy currencies.”

It’s promoted as a policy structure to make cross-border payments in CBDCs “easier” and this model is focused primarily on currency exchanges between governments and central banks. Of course, it places the IMF as the middle-man in terms of controlling the flow of digital transactions. The IMF suggests that the XC platform would make the transition from legacy currencies to CBDCs less complicated for the various nations involved.

As the IMF noted in a discussion on centralized ledgers in 2023:

We could end up in a world where we have connected entities to some degree, but some entities and some countries that are excluded. And as a global and multilateral institution, we’re sort of aiming to, you know, provide a basic connectivity, a basic set of rules and governance that is truly multilateral and inclusive. So, I think that is—the ambition is to aim for innovation that is compatible with policy goals and that is inclusive relative to the broad membership of, say, the IMF.”

To translate, decentralized systems are bad. “Inclusivity” (collectivism) is good. And the IMF wants to work in tandem with other globalist institutions to be the facilitators (controllers) of that economic collectivism.

Bank For International Settlements Unified Ledger

Not more than a day after the IMF announced their XC platform goals, the BIS announced their plans for a unified ledger for all CBDCs called the ‘BIS Universal Ledger.’ The BIS specifically notes that the project is meant to “inspire trust in central bank digital currencies” while “overcoming the fragmentation of current tokenization efforts.”

While the IMF is focused on international policy control, the BIS is pursuing the technical aspects for the globalization of CBDCs. They make it clear in their white papers that a cashless society is in fact the end game and that digital transactions need to be monitored by a centralized entity in order to keep money “secure.” As the BIS argues in their extensive overview of Unified Ledgers:

Today, the monetary system stands at the cusp of another major leap. Following dematerialisation and digitalisation, the key development is tokenisation – the process of representing claims digitally on a programmable platform. This can be seen as the next logical step in digital recordkeeping and asset transfer.”

…The blueprint envisages these elements being brought together in a new type of financial market infrastructure (FMI) – a “unified ledger”. The full benefits of tokenisation could be harnessed in a unified ledger due to the settlement finality that comes from central bank money residing in the same venue as other claims. Leveraging trust in the central bank, a shared venue of this kind has great potential to enhance the monetary and financial system.

There are three major assertions made by the BIS in their program – First, the digitization of money is unavoidable and cash is going to disappear primarily because it makes moving money easier. Second, decentralized payment methods are unacceptable because they are “risky” and only central banks are qualified and “trustworthy” enough to mediate the exchange of money. Third, the use of Unified Ledgers is largely designed to track and trace and even investigate all CBDC transactions, for the public good, of course.

The BIS system deals far more in the realm of private transactions than the IMF example. It is the technical foundation for the centralization of all CBDCs, governed in part by the BIS and the IMF, and it is scheduled to go into wider use in the next two years. There are already multiple nations testing the BIS ledger today. It’s important to understand that whoever acts as the middle-man in the process of the global exchange of money is going to have all the power, over governments and over the populace.

If every movement of wealth is monitored, from the shift of billions between governments to the payment of a few dollars from an individual to a retailer, then every aspect of trade can be throttled on the whims of the observer.

SWIFT Cross Border Project – Another Way To Control The Behavior Of Countries

As we’ve seen with the attempt to use the SWIFT payment network as a bludgeon against Russia, there is an ulterior motive for globalists to have a high speed large scale monetary transaction hub. Again, this is all about centralization, and whoever controls the hub has the means to control trade…to a point.

Locking Russia out of SWIFT has done minimal damage to their economy exactly because there are alternative methods for transferring money to keep the flow of trade running. However, under a CBDC based global monetary umbrella, it would be impossible for any country to work outside the boundaries. It’s not only about the ease of shutting a nation out of the network, it’s also about having the power to immediately block the transfer of funds on the receiving end of the exchange.

Meaning, any funds from any Russian source could be tracked and cut off before they are allowed to get into the hands of, say, a recipient in China or India. Once all governments are completely under the thumb of a centralized monetary system, a centralized ledger and a centralized exchange hub, they will never be able to rebel and this control will trickle down to the general population.

I would also remind readers that the majority of nations are going right along with this program. China is most eager to join the global currency scheme. Russia is still part of the BIS, but their involvement in CBDCs is still unclear. The point is, don’t expect the BRICS to counteract the new monetary order, it’s not going to happen.

CBDCs Automatically Require The End Of The Dollar As World Reserve

So what do all these globalist projects with CBDCs have to do with the dollar and its venerated position as the world reserve currency? The bottom line is this: A unified CBDC system completely excludes the need or use-case for a world reserve currency. The Unified Ledger model takes all CBDCs and homogenizes them into a puddle of liquidity, each CBDC growing similar in characteristics over a short period of time.

The advantages of using the dollar disappear in this scenario and the value of currencies becomes relative to the middle-man. In other words, the IMF, BIS and other related institutions dictate the properties of CBDCs and thus there is no distinguishing aspect of any CBDC that makes one more valuable than the others.

Sure, some countries might be able to separate their currency to a point with superior production or superior technology, but the old model of having a big military as a way to ensure Forex and trade favors is dead. Eventually the globalists will make two predictable arguments:

1) “A world reserve currency under the control of one nation is unfair and we as global bankers need to make the system “more equal.””

2) “Why have a reserve currency at all when all transactions are moderated under our ledger anyway? The dollar is no longer any more easy to use for international trade than any other CBDC, right?”

Finally, the dollar has to die because it’s an integral part of the “old world” of material exchange. The globalists desire a cashless society because it is an easily controlled society. Think of the covid lockdowns and the attempts at vaccine passports – If they had a cashless system in place at that time, they would have gotten everything they wanted. Refuse to take the experimental vaccine? We’ll just shut off your digital accounts and you will starve.

This was even partially attempted (think Canadian trucker protests), but with physical cash there’s always a way around a digital embargo.  Without physical cash you have no other options unless you plan to live completely off the land and barter goods and services (a way of life most people in the first world need a lot of time to get used to).

I believe that a sizable percentage of the American populace will go to war before they accept a cashless society, but in the meantime, there is still the inevitability of a dollar crash to deal with. Globalist organizations are pushing CBDCs to go active VERY quickly, and as this happens along with the centralized ledgers the traditional dollar will swiftly lose favor. This means that those trillions in greenbacks held overseas will start flooding back into America all at once causing an inflationary disaster well beyond what we are witnessing today.

As much as the economy has benefited from world reserve status in the past it will suffer equally as the dollar fades, only to be replaced by a framework even worse than fiat. That is, unless there’s a dramatic upheaval that removes the globalist order from the equation entirely…

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 17:40

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“A Lack Of Job Security”: White-Collar Job Growth Stalls Hard

“A Lack Of Job Security”: White-Collar Job Growth Stalls Hard

While hiring rates for those in the bottom-third of US income distribution has been on a tear (and largely going to part time workers, most of whom are illegal immigrants), white collar jobs hiring is stalling out across much of the US, with industries such as finance, technology, media, and professional services such as law and accounting all suffering despite the national unemployment rate hovering near historic lows.

To wit, nearly 120,000 corporate positions have vanished from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago combined over the past year, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. White-collar payrolls have also declined in various metros such as Phoenix and Seattle, as well as in pandemic boomtowns such as Miami and Austin, which have seen white-collar growth flatline.

Nationally, payrolls for white-collar types of jobs were up just 0.6% from a year ago in March, about a third of the overall pace of job creation, according to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wage growth for high-paid workers has also largely cooled from its peaks.

Banks, consulting firms and tech companies all went on hiring sprees at the height of the pandemic, when low interest rates, easy access to credit and government support made it easier to expand. Many of those incentives have since faded, paving the way for layoffs. Citigroup, McKinsey and Tesla are among the high-profile employers slashing jobs in recent weeks. -Bloomberg

“We’re not seeing the big post-Covid booms anymore,” said Alexandra-Dana Gusita​​​​, who heads the New York office of Tiger Recruitment. “Employers are more cautious in hiring.”

“Even though the labor market looks strong, there’s a lack of job security, especially in tech,” said Jack Benedict, 25, who learned that he and 42 other YouTube Music employees had been laid off in February. “All these massive companies are trying to downsize or replace people with AI,” he continued, adding that he worries college degrees are “not enough when companies are asking for 10 years of experience.”

According to jobs website Indeed, the number of openings in banking, finance, media / communications, and software development are all running below levels seen in February 2020, as the pandemic was kicking into high gear.

Part-time white collar?

According to the report, part of the white-collar weakness is the result of a large pullback in ‘temporary-help employment’ according to the BLS. The category, considered something of an economic bellwether, indicates that businesses are shedding part-time positions before full-time ones. Since the sector peaked two years ago, 420,000 of those jobs have vanished.

In March note, Vanguard’s chief global economist, Joe Davis, wrote that demand is greatest for workers making under $55,000 per year, as hiring rates for those in the bottom-third of the US income distribution far outpaced that of higher-income workers.

Source: Vanguard, as of October 2023.

“Many higher-income workers accepted slower wage growth as a trade-off for remote work flexibility,” wrote Davis. “These dynamics have all contributed to the faster rise in wages for lower-income workers.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 17:20

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Patrick McHenry Slams SEC’s Gary Gensler For Misleading US Lawmakers Over Ether

Patrick McHenry Slams SEC’s Gary Gensler For Misleading US Lawmakers Over Ether

Authored by Turner Wright via,

United States House Financial Services Committee Chair Patrick McHenry has alleged Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler “knowingly misled Congress” over the regulator’s alleged attempts to classify Ether as a security.

In an April 30 X post, Representative McHenry claimed that Gensler intentionally misled lawmakers in testimony before the Committee.

The U.S. lawmaker referred to claims made in a recent court filing by software development firm Consensys, which filed a lawsuit against the SEC on April 25.

Source: Representative Patrick McHenry

Consensys’s initial complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas highlighted public inconsistencies in the SEC’s approach to digital assets as securities, specifically Ether. Unredacted sections of the filing appeared on the court docket on April 29, suggesting that the SEC launched an investigation into ETH as security in March 2023.

Gensler appeared before the House Financial Services Committee in April 2023, pivoting or ducking direct questions from McHenry on whether Ether fell under the SEC’s or Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC’s) purview. The timing of his testimony suggested that the SEC may have already considered Ether a security.

“Clearly, an asset cannot be both a commodity and a security,” said McHenry in the Committee hearing.

“I’m asking you, sitting in your chair now […] is Ether a commodity or a security?”

If the SEC is pursuing a path that could put it at odds with the CFTC over Ether, it could have ramifications for approving or denying spot Ether exchange-traded funds on U.S. exchanges. The SEC began approving investment vehicles tied to ETH futures in October 2023, with many experts speculating that the Commission will decide on a spot Ether ETF in May.

McHenry used the opportunity to urge lawmakers to support the passage of the Financial Innovation and Technology for the 21st Century Act (FIT21) to establish clear rules of the road between the CFTC and SEC.

The legislation moved out of Committee in July 2023 and is set for a full floor vote in the House.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 17:00

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WTI Extends Losses After API Reports Unexpected Crude Build

WTI Extends Losses After API Reports Unexpected Crude Build

WTI ended April on a down-note (closing lower on the month, as opposed to Brent which saw its fourth straight monthly gain) as hopes for cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas dampened fears of a wider conflict that could threaten crude supplies.

The recent declines come as a “relief to both central bankers and consumers alike,” Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, told MarketWatch.

There’s been a notable decrease in speculation about the possibility of U.S. benchmark WTI surpassing the $100-a-barrel threshold, at least for now, he said. This shift in sentiment can be attributed, in part, to “reduced concerns about disruptions to Iranian production, following Israel’s measured response to previous drone attacks.”

Meanwhile, “attention should also be directed towards peace talks, as progress in this area could further contribute to a decrease in oil prices,” said Innes.

But, after last week’s big crude draw, analysts expect another drawdown in stocks this week.


  • Crude +4.91mm (-1.5mm exp)

  • Cushing +1.48mm

  • Gasoline -1.48mm (-1.2mm exp)

  • Distillates -2.19mm (+400k exp)

Crude stocks unexpectedly rose almost 5mm barrels last week while distillates inventories declined notably…

Source: Bloomberg

WTI was hovering around $81.65 ahead of the API print and extended losses modestly after…

Despite the reprieve in oil prices, crude-oil markets are expected to remain volatile, said Innes, partly due to uncertainty surrounding the pace of global oil demand growth, the rise in non-OPEC+ and U.S. oil production, the potential for supply disruptions in regions like Russia and the Middle East and, critically, OPEC+’s future production strategy.

“These dynamics underscore the ongoing challenges and complexities within the oil market landscape,” Innes said.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 16:38

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Amazon Swings Wildly After Reporting Blowout AWS Results But Revenue Guidance Disappoints

Amazon Swings Wildly After Reporting Blowout AWS Results But Revenue Guidance Disappoints

Heading into Amazon’s Q1 earnings, we said earlier that the investment thesis is driven by i) ecommerce share, ii) margin expansion and iii) the potential for AWS growth recovery through the year. We also noted that the key bogeys for this extremely popular – among hedge funds – position were the following:

  • Q1 Total Sales: high end of guide $138-$143.5 bn
  • Q2 Total Sales: $150 bn high end
  • Q1 AWS Growth: 15%-16%+
  • Q1 EBIT: $13 bn
  • Q2 EBIT: $14 bn high end

So with that in mind here is what Amazon – whose stock furst tumbled then spiked after hours, reported moments ago:

  • EPS 98c vs $1 q/q, and beating estimates of 83c
  • Net sales $143.31 billion, +13% y/y, beating estimate of $142.59 billion
    • Online stores net sales $54.7 billion, +7% y/y, in line with estimates of $54.77 billion
    • Physical Stores net sales $5.20 billion, +6.3% y/y, beating estimate $5.08 billion
    • Third-Party Seller Services net sales $34.60 billion, +16% y/y, missing estimate $34.63 billion
    • AWS net sales $25.04 billion, +17% y/y, blowing away estimate $24.11 billion
    • North America net sales $86.34 billion, +12% y/y, beating estimates $85.55 billion
    • International net sales $31.94 billion, +9.7% y/y, missing estimates $32.47 billion
  • Amazon Web Services net sales excluding F/X +17% vs. +16% y/y, beating estimate +14.5%
  • Third-party seller services net sales excluding F/X +16% vs. +20% y/y, beating estimate +15.8%

Turning to operating results we get an even stronger tally:

  • Operating income $15.31 billion vs. $4.77 billion y/y, smashing estimates of $10.95 billion
  • Operating margin 10.7% vs. 3.7% y/y, beating estimates of 7.63%
  • North America operating margin +5.8% vs. +1.2% y/y, beating estimates of +4.92%
  • International operating margin 2.8% vs. -4.3% y/y, beating estimates of -1.85%

Expenses were generally in line with estimates:

  • Fulfillment expense $22.32 billion, +6.8% y/y, below estimate $22.4 billion
  • Seller unit mix 61% vs. 59% y/y, beating estimates of 59.5%

Of the above, the most notable highlight was AWS which not only grew revenue by a whopping 17% (ex. FX) and 16% including FX, both of which handily beat estimates of 14.5%, and were the strongest growth in a a year, but whose Q1 operating income of $9.42BN on revenue of $25.04BN, meant that margin surged to 37.6%, which was the highest AWS margin in history!

Sales growth at the cloud unit slowed to a record low last year as businesses cut back on technology spending and sought to curb computing bills that ballooned during the pandemic. Investors have been banking on a rebound this year, particularly after strong results last week from Microsoft and Google, Amazon’s two main rivals in the business of renting computing power and data storage. And, in the case od AMZN, they were right to do so.

The results are the first since Amazon introduced video advertising to the Prime Video streaming service, creating a new revenue source. Advertising revenue rose 24% to $11.8 billion.

Looking ahead, the company’s guidance which was soft on the top line but disappointed on earnings:

  • Revenues expected to be between $144.0 billion and $149.0 billion, or grow between 7% and 11% YoY, below the consensus estimate of $150 billion.
  • Operating income is expected to be between $10.0 billion and $14.0 billion, vs $7.7 billion in Q2 2023 and in line with estimates of $12.56 billion.

If accurate, that would mean Q2 revenue will grow at the slowest pace sine Dec 2022.

So turning the abovementioned bogeys, this is how AMZN did:

  • Q1 Total Sales: $143.3 billion, just below the upper end of the guide $138-$143.5 bn
  • Q2 Total Sales: $147 billion range midline, below the $150bn high end estimate
  • Q1 AWS Growth: 17%, well above the 15%-16% bogey
  • Q1 EBIT: $15.31BN, blowing away the $13 bn bogey
  • Q2 EBIT: range of $10-$14BN, matching the $14 bn high end

CEO Andy Jassy has been cutting costs in recent years as he refocused on profitability in Amazon’s central retail business, laying off thousands of people and touting a more efficient warehouse network. At the same time, he’s backed big investments in artificial intelligence services that Amazon expects to generate tens of billions in revenue in the coming years.

“The combination of companies renewing their infrastructure modernization efforts and the appeal of AWS’s AI capabilities is reaccelerating AWS’s growth rate (now at a $100 billion annual revenue run rate),” Jassy said in the statement.

The results are also the first since Amazon introduced video advertising to the Prime Video streaming service, creating a new revenue source. Advertising revenue rose 24% to $11.8 billion.

The stock initially tumbled, only to rebound sharply and then fade, closing roughly unchanged with where it was for much of the day around $180.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 16:37

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden

“There Is No Crime”: Dershowitz Says Bragg’s Case Against Trump Will Fail

“There Is No Crime”: Dershowitz Says Bragg’s Case Against Trump Will Fail

Authored by Tom Ozimek via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said on April 28 that he believes that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against former President Donald Trump could fail because prosecutors have charged the former president with fake crimes.

Alan Dershowitz and former President Donald Trump in file photos. (Mario Tama/Getty Images; Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

There is no crime,” Mr. Dershowitz said during an interview on Fox News on April 28, referring to the case in which Mr. Bragg’s office has charged the former president with 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide so-called hush money payments that prosecutors allege amounted to a criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Dershowitz argued that making nondisclosure payments is not a crime and that neither is paying for the non-publication of potentially embarrassing stories (the so-called catch-and-kill dimension of the case), both of which prosecutors have alleged were part of a conspiracy to sway voters.

The retired law professor argued that Mr. Bragg’s office is in danger of having the case thrown out on grounds similar to those on which the conviction of Harvey Weinstein was recently overturned, namely that prosecutors prejudiced the case by a number of “egregious” improper rulings, including allowing testimony that was unrelated to what Mr. Weinstein was charged with.

They ought to be very careful about this because the Supreme Court of the Appellate Court in Albany just reversed Harvey Weinstein’s conviction on the ground that they put in too much information that wasn’t really relevant to the case,” Mr. Dershowitz said, adding that this is “what’s happening” in the trial against President Trump.

“There is no crime in Manhattan. You cannot figure out what the crime is. That’s why they’re putting on all this evidence of non-crimes,” Mr. Dershowitz said.

“Trying to persuade the jury that ‘catch-and-kill’ is a crime—it’s not. Paying hush money is a crime—it’s not. Putting a corporate statement is a misdemeanor barred by the statute of limitations. You can’t suddenly resurrect that and turn that into a crime by invoking a federal statute which the federal government refused to invoke—the Federal Election Commission refused to invoke.”

The former Harvard law professor has repeatedly criticized Mr. Bragg for elevating the charges against President Trump from misdemeanors to felonies on what Mr. Dershowitz has argued was an invalid legal premise because the Manhattan district attorney invoked federal statutes over which New York has no jurisdiction.

Republicans have accused Mr. Bragg of bringing the case against the former president for political reasons.

Mr. Bragg’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Destruction of America’s Rule of Law’

Mr. Bragg indicted President Trump on 34 counts of allegedly falsifying business records in order to conceal $130,000 in payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for keeping quiet about her allegations of an affair she had with President Trump.

President Trump has maintained his innocence and has denied the affair.

“There is no case here. This is just a political witch hunt,” the former president said before court in brief comments to reporters on April 25.

Under New York state law, falsifying business records is a misdemeanor. However, if the records fraud was used to cover up or commit another crime, the charge could be elevated to a felony, though a number of legal experts—including Mr. Dershowitz—have challenged the way that has been done in this case.

“In order to turn the state statute into a felony, you have to borrow a federal statute,” Mr. Dershowitz told The Epoch Times in March 2023. He said that this combining of laws “seems to raise real serious legal questions.”

“In Bragg’s case, what they’re trying to do is add one and one and come up with 11,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “No rational person would look at these two statutes and say that Trump violated them.”

The prosecution’s first witness in the case was former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Prosecutors alleged that he participated in a catch-and-kill scheme to suppress unflattering stories about President Trump and help him get elected.

President Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, said in court that the catch-and-kill that the jury heard about from prosecutors was not part of the charges against the former president because it was not illegal and happens regularly.

“The reality is that there is nothing illegal about what happened,” Mr. Blanche argued. He added that testimony would be about things from 2015 to 2017 and asked the jury to “think about whether it rings true and whether what they’re saying is accurate.”

Use your common sense. We’re New Yorkers; that’s why we’re here. You told the court you would put aside whatever view you have about President Trump, the fact that he’s running,” he said. “If you do that, there will be a very swift non-guilty verdict.”

Mr. Dershowitz has said in the past that he believes that New York prosecutors are violating voters’ rights with the case, alleging that the law is being “abused for partisan political purposes and to constitute election interference.”

The former law professor went further in his remarks on Fox News on April 28, arguing that the case is about whether basic civil liberties are protected or undercut.

“If it’s Donald Trump today, they can go after you tomorrow, and your relatives tomorrow, for something that isn’t a crime,” he said.

“That’s why every American, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, should be opposed to what’s going on in that Manhattan courtroom.

“It’s a scandal and it’s a destruction of America’s rule of law.”

Tyler Durden
Tue, 04/30/2024 – 16:20

via ZeroHedge News Tyler Durden