Afternoon Coffee: Congo Doubles Cobalt Taxes, Imports Slow US GDP Growth in Q4

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The Congolese government is moving to double taxes on cobalt, creating a new hurdle for miners looking to extract the metal for use in lithium-ion batteries, the Wall Street Journal reports. Congo holds as much as two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt, but the country “has struggled to raise enough revenues to pay public workers and fund social projects, fueling discontent across the impoverished nation.”

US GDP

The U.S. economy expanded at a 2.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter, surprising economists with a slowdown compared with last quarter, Reuters reports. The economy grew 2.3% in 2017 but was held back by rising imports, indicating strong demand from consumers but a lack of domestic capacity to meet it. 

Japanese Trade

On the other side of the Pacific, Japan reported robust exports for 2017, bringing the country’s trade surplus to ¥2.99 trillion ($27 billion), “the second straight year of black ink,” according to the Japan Times. Exports jumped 11.8% to ¥78.29 trillion, but the total surplus came in 25.1% lower than in 2016. 

Nutella Riots

And finally, a saga of short supply and ravenous demand: Supermarket Intermarché’s 70% off sale of Nutella has led to violent scenes in France, the BBC reports, as customers fought and pushed each other to get their fix of the sweet spread. All of the Nutella stock was depleted within 15 minutes, one French outlet reports, and at least one customer suffered a black eye.

"They are like animals,” one woman said. “A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand.”

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