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The Federal Reserve meeting is being held today and tomorrow, with an FOMC announcement followed by the usual Jay Powell press conference slated for tomorrow afternoon, I guess at 2:30.
For all you Fed watchers out there, and others concerned about your stock market portfolio, the Fed’s got a brand-new challenge. It’s called $100 oil. Good story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal website on this — all about Saudi and Russia production cuts, and yes, the Fed’s going to hold their interest rate target steady tomorrow. I guess everybody thinks that, but several analysts think world oil is understocked by several million barrels a day at least.
Going beyond the Journal’s oil story, Joe Biden has essentially frozen drilling in Alaska and big chunks of the Gulf of Mexico and is closing down oil and gas exploration in the great state of New Mexico. I believe we got that news today, didn’t we, which happens to be the home of the Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, who is a Native American who insists on going against most of the tribes in New Mexico where so many other Native Americans would love to have high-paying jobs in the oil fields.
In other words, OPEC+ whacks the U.S. on the head by cutting back on production — please, don’t forget that includes Iran and Venezuela along with Russia and the Saudis — and Joe Biden’s response is to slam down current and future production here in the U.S. in tandem with our adversaries.
Sheer insanity! Totally giving up our energy independence. Wasting away the progress of the Trump years. We’re not quite to $100 oil yet, but we’re gaining on it, and with today’s quote for Brent crude around $95, and West Texas around $91. Following world wholesale prices going up, nationwide AAA retail gasoline at the pump has climbed all the way back to $3.88. Year-end last December it was around $3.30.
You can also note that since Joe Biden took office, based on February 2021, gasoline is up over 50%. How about that? In the last couple of months, the topline CPI inflation rate ended its 12-month slide and is now beginning to rise again. A big reason is energy, and that reason is likely to continue. Now, here’s what the Fed has to contend with. I’ve said this before, but not for a while.
So, let me repeat: Refined petroleum products permeate the entire economy. That’s why energy has such a huge impact on inflation. It’s easy for economic eggheads to exclude food and energy from the prevailing inflation, but that’s a misnomer. It’s a big mistake. Know what requires fossil fuels? Are you ready for this? I haven’t done this list in a while. Fasten your seatbelts.
Chewing gum, golf balls, golf bags, shampoo, shaving cream, phones, clothes, toothpaste, asphalt, trash bags, laptops… Hang on, I’m just getting warmed up here. Don’t forget diapers, pacifiers and toys used by parents and babies around the world that are all made with oil or natural gas or both, but hang on a second!
In hospital operating rooms that keep us healthy, fossil fuels are used in life-saving products and equipment like pacemakers, MRI machines, IV bags, tubes, surgical instruments, monitors, stethoscopes. I’m not done yet! Also: fossils are critical to prosthetics, hearing aids, glasses, contact lenses, but hang on! Chemicals derived from petroleum also help make soaps, antiseptics, aspirin, life-saving pharmaceuticals used by emergency care doctors and physicians.
By the way, don’t forget fertilizer, which of course impacts food prices, which is, of course, yet another pocketbook, kitchen-table issue. There’s a reason former President Trump calls oil and gas “liquid gold.” It is incredibly important to every nook and cranny of our economy and because of Mr. Biden’s Bidenomics, which wages continuous war on fossil fuels, the likelihood is energy prices are going to continue to rise right into the next recession.
The Federal Reserve is going to have to do something about energy-related inflation before the next recession. That’s the Fed’s $100 challenge and that’s my riff.
This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow’s opening commentary on the September 19, 2023 edition of “Kudlow.”
Live sports including NBA and MLB games are coming to the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned streaming service Max next month and will cost interested subscribers an additional $9.99 a month, the company said Tuesday.
The charge for the “Bleacher Report Sports” add-on tier—named after the company’s digital sports platform—is a 62% premium over the $16-a-month average subscription fee for the most popular version of the service, which includes content from HBO and Discovery and the Warner Bros. television and movie library.
The lion’s share of live sporting events available on the Bleacher Report add-on tier will be those that air on Warner-owned TV networks such as TNT and TBS. Cable customers who receive those channels will continue to get the same sports content. Those who want additional content available in the Bleacher Sports tier would have to pay for it.
The Bleacher Sports add-on will be available starting Oct. 5, when postseason baseball is under way, and will be complimentary through February 2024. Subscribers can then decide whether to pay the additional monthly fee.
The creation of the new Max tier continues the growing migration of sports to streaming services. Amazon.com’s Prime Video and Google’s YouTube TV carry NFL football while Apple’s TV+ offers professional soccer and baseball.
The approach Max is taking differs from other streaming platforms such as NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Paramount Global’s Paramount+, both of which carry live sports that air on their broadcast networks at no extra charge to subscribers. Media companies pay huge sums for the rights to air live sporting events.
“Our peers are essentially giving away sports for free. That is not the right model,” said JB Perrette, chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery global streaming and games.
There has been tension between pay-TV distributors and programmers over the movement of high-value content in the cable bundle, including sports, to streaming services. The distributors say that is encouraging people to cut the cable cord, destroying a lucrative business.
Cable giant Charter Communications recently dropped Disney’s cable channels, including ESPN, for about a week, arguing that Disney was putting its best content on Disney+ and Hulu, services that compete with cable. The dispute was settled, with Disney agreeing to partner with Charter to market streaming services.
For now, media companies are straddling the two businesses—TV and streaming—by making content available in both places.
“Pushed or shoved, that universe is shrinking so we want to figure out ways that don’t advantage or disadvantage one side or the other but does provide access to customers,” Perrette said.
“We’re not playing a game where some games are here and some are there. This is very consumer friendly,” said Warner Bros. Discovery Sports Chief Executive Luis Silberwasser.
Silberwasser said one goal is to attract younger viewers to Max who aren’t cable TV subscribers.
In addition to basketball and baseball, other sports available on Max will include the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament known as “March Madness” and the National Hockey League.
The Max sports platform will also feature content from Warner Bros. Discovery’s international sports channels, such as cycling events.
Max is expected to pursue partnerships with cable and broadband providers to sell the Max-with-sports service that could include revenue sharing, the company said.
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