Macro Links Apr 5th – China Fights Back
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- YOUTUBE, GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, TESLA
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
- FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, IMMIGRATION, FOREIGN POLICY
- GUN CONTROL, SHOOTINGS, MARIJUANA, OPIOIDS
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
- INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
- VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
YOUTUBE, GOOGLE, FACEBOOK, TESLA
Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman who the police say attacked the YouTube headquarters on Tuesday before killing herself, created and posted videos that show her to be a passionate animal rights activist and vegan. But they also reveal her anger toward the video internet giant.
“At this point in the investigation, it is believed that the suspect was upset with policies and practices of YouTube,” Ed Barberini, San Bruno’s police chief, said at a press conference on Wednesday morning. “This appears to be the motive for this incident.” Interviews with the suspect’s parents and a website believed to belong to Ms Aghdam suggest she may have become upset with YouTube for filtering videos that she had posted to the site.
Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google and has garnered more than 3,100 signatures, reflects a culture clash between Silicon Valley and the federal government that is likely to intensify as cutting-edge artificial intelligence is increasingly employed for military purposes.
Alphabet bought enough renewable energy last year to match the power needs of all its data centres and global operations, making it the biggest corporate buyer of renewable power in the US. Neha Palmer, head of energy strategy at Google, the search engine subsidiary of Alphabet, said the company’s energy purchase contracts had resulted in more than $3bn of investment in wind and solar farms globally. Alphabet’s investments come at a time when energy demand from data centres is surging, and tech companies are racing to build out their renewables portfolios to keep pace with growing power demand.
Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11. E&C Committee Chairman Greg Walden and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. made this announcement this morning, clarifying that Zuckerberg will speak on the company’s use and protection of user data. This all comes amidst the greatest existential threat to Facebook we’ve yet to see.
Facebook on Wednesday said that the data of up to 87 million users may have been improperly shared with a political consulting firm connected to President Trump during the 2016 election — a figure far higher than the estimate of 50 million that had been widely cited since the leak was reported last month. Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, also announced that Facebook would offer all of its users the same tools and controls required under European privacy rules. The European rules, which go into effect next month, give people more control over how companies use their digital data.
Facebook Inc. said data on most of its 2 billion users could have been accessed improperly, giving fresh evidence of the ways the social-media giant failed to protect people’s privacy while generating billions of dollars in revenue from the information. The company said it removed a feature that let users enter phone numbers or email addresses into Facebook’s search tool to find other people. That was being used by malicious actors to scrape public profile information, it said.
Facebook Inc. scans the links and images that people send each other on Facebook Messenger, and reads chats when they’re flagged to moderators, making sure the content abides by the company’s rules. If it doesn’t, it gets blocked or taken down. The company confirmed the practice after an interview published earlier this week with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg raised questions about Messenger’s practices and privacy.
Tesla Inc. needs to brace for another setback after China included electric cars among American products that it would hit with additional tariffs in a counter-punch to the U.S. Other American auto imports also made the list of products China is threatening including SUVs, which could even impact BMW AG and Daimler AG. But Tesla is at particular risk. The Elon Musk-led carmaker relies on U.S.-built vehicles for all its Chinese sales, whereas U.S. carmakers General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. manufacture in China and import few vehicles into the world’s biggest market.
A series of setbacks have left Tesla far behind schedule in turning out the Model 3 — for which nearly 400,000 prospective buyers have already put down $1,000 deposits — and it is taking some extraordinary measures to turn things around. Mr. Musk said on Twitter this week that he had been sleeping at the plant, and the company said some workers who normally assemble the Model S and Model X were shifted to Model 3 production. The troubles reflect a reality overlooked by many people outside the auto industry: Producing a quarter of a million cars a year in one plant is a daunting task.
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
The secretary of Iran’s High Council of Cyberspace (HCC) has publicly supported the potential ban of Telegram within the country, citing the chat app’s recent Initial Coin Offering (ICO) as potentially “undermin[ing] the national currency of Iran,” local news outlet Al-Monitor reported yesterday, April 3.
Ripple has a problem. For all the hype surrounding Ripple and XRP, its absence on markets like Gemini and Coinbase is eye-catching. By dangling money in front of exchanges, Ripple signaled that its future success hinges in part on getting XRP listed on the top trading venues. But there’s a major headwind in that effort: U.S. officials have warned unlicensed exchanges not to list tokens that could be deemed securities. XRP’s control by a single company has fueled speculation it could fall under that designation.
A large cryptocurrency exchange denied accusations from some customers it manipulated prices of bitcoin futures after sudden price swings on its trading platform last week. OKEx, which operates one of the world’s most popular electronic venues for bitcoin trading, said it would cancel trades that occurred in a 90-minute period between 5 a.m. and 6.30 a.m. Hong Kong time Friday. That was when the price of a bitcoin futures contract on OKEx fell sharply below bitcoin’s spot price—which, according to CoinDesk, was about $7,000 that day. The exchange didn’t state the futures price, but traders said it slumped to as low as $4,755 during that period. The sharp divergence prompted cryptocurrency investors to flock to social media to complain about the activity, with some alleging the exchange had tampered with prices.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Nvidia Corp. are feeling the heat from a Chinese adversary that they never imagined would become a competitor. The chipmakers, which have seen a sales boost as cryptocurrency miners bought up their graphics processing units to solve complex calculations in an attempt to win digital tokens, now face a threat from Bitmain Technologies Ltd. The Beijing-based hardware maker just began sales of a more powerful new product for Ethereum mining. The firm confirmed on its website Tuesday that it’s selling the Antminer E3, and analysts say the so-called application-specific integrated circuit miner, or ASIC, could dent revenue at AMD and Nvidia.
Defunct Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox’s ex-CEO claimed in a statement April 4 that he “doesn’t want” the 160,000 BTC ($1.12 bln) that will be left after the exchange repays its creditors. As part of a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session Wednesday, Mark Karpeles said that he found the billion dollar windfall, which will come about as a result of Japanese bankruptcy procedures, to be “distasteful”. “The way bankruptcy law works [in Japan] is that if there are any assets remaining after the creditors have been paid in full, then those assets are distributed to shareholders as part of the liquidation,” he explained in introductory comments.
A utility in Washington State – a popular location for bitcoin miners – has cut off electricity to three “unauthorized” sites that officials said posed a risk to public safety. The Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) said Monday the three mines – located separately in Wenatchee, Malaga and Chelan – were “using enough power to create fire risks for neighbors and damage grid equipment not sized for the load.” For that reason, utility officials disconnected the power at those sites. “Not only are we concerned, we’re incensed that individuals are putting people at risk,” PUD Commissioner Steve McKenna said in a statement issued April 2. “We’re not going to tolerate it. This is a strong message, and I want to make that very clear.”
A proposal to allow residents in the U.S. state of Georgia to pay their taxes in cryptocurrency has stalled – at least for now. Put forward in February, Senate Bill 464 would, if passed, mandate that the state accepts bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a form of payment. Other states, including Arizona, are also considering similar proposals.
Canada’s Bank of Montreal (BMO) will no longer allow customers to buy cryptocurrency using Interac debit cards. A spokesperson for the bank confirmed the move in an email to CoinDesk Tuesday, without giving an explanation. The Interac ban follows reports that the bank barred crypto purchases through Mastercard debit and credit cards weeks ago.
Ontario’s securities regulator will prioritize work on cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings in the coming year. In a draft “Statement of Priorities” published on March 29, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) flagged token sales and cryptocurrency markets as two areas in which it would push to better understand – and regulate – during the next 12 months. The OSC said it will accept feedback on its document until the end of May.
Monex Group Inc., which may buy a troubled cryptocurrency exchange, got a first-hand taste of how volatile its next purchase can be. When the Japanese online retail broker said yesterday it’s mulling the acquisition of Coincheck Inc., its shares surged by a record 23 percent to a four-year high. Then today, the stock declined as much as 8 percent. More than 1.5 billion Monex shares changed hands in two days, as the daily volume of each session was more than 2,000 times the 30-day average.
- Korean Regulator Orders 12 Crypto Exchanges To Make Contracts More Consumer-Friendly – Coin Telegraph
The South Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) informed 12 cryptocurrency exchanges that they must change their adhesion contracts – contracts created by an entity where the terms and conditions are non-negotiable to the customer – due to their current lack of customer protection, local news outlet Yonhap News reports today, April 4. The FTC reported that the contracts in their current form don’t allow users to withdraw their deposits, limit user services, and put the financial burden on users when they end their membership with the crypto exchange.
The increased scrutiny by Japan’s financial regulator following Coincheck’s infamous $530 million NEM theft will reportedly see two cryptocurrency exchange operators shutter and exit the industry. According to a Nikkei report on Thursday, two cryptocurrency exchange operators -Tokyo GateWay and Mr. Exchange are withdrawing their applications to operate as recognized exchange operator under Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA), the country’s financial regulator. Earlier this month, the FSA had ordered both exchanges to improve their data security and overall cybersecurity posture which were found to be inadequate by the regulator.
A South Korean regulator has ordered 12 of the country’s cryptocurrency exchanges to revise their user agreements. In a statement published Wednesday, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday outlined the mandate, which was directed at popular exchanges like Bithumb, Korbit and Coinone, among others. According to a report from the South Korean news agency Yonhap, officials faulted the exchanges for failing to provide the necessary protections for users in the so-called adhesion contracts, also known as boilerplate contracts.
BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
Foxconn Technology Group grew into the world’s largest electronics manufacturer for hire by churning out best-selling products such as iPhones, Kindles and PlayStations. Now, it’s deploying that power to bring cryptocurrencies to the masses. A subsidiary of Foxconn has agreed to help develop and produce a blockchain phone from Sirin Labs, according to the startup. The new device, called the Finney, is designed to help owners securely store and use digital coins such as Bitcoin, as well as related services.
FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
Venezuela’s currency is worth even less than previously believed, with new trackers of the black-market rate showing deep discounts compared with the long-standing benchmark gauge. Rates from the widely watched Dolartoday.com, known for arousing President Nicolas Maduro’s ire on state TV, have lagged behind other markers that show prices about 30 percent weaker. While the U.S.-based website posts a rate of 251,000 bolivars per dollar, DolarPro has it at 362,000 and e-wallet AirTM is selling dollars for 313,000 bolivars each.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, IMMIGRATION, FOREIGN POLICY
President Trump showed no sign Wednesday of backing down from an escalating trade confrontation with China, even as financial markets wobbled and American farmers and manufacturers warned that he was inviting a damaging commercial clash. Hours after the Chinese government announced plans to match the president’s tariffs on $50 billion in imported Chinese goods with import levies on U.S. soybeans, cars and airplanes, Trump fired off a bellicose tweet. “When you’re already $500 Billion DOWN, you can’t lose!” the president wrote, in reference to the 2016 U.S. deficit in goods and services trade. Other administration officials hinted that the trade dispute ultimately may be settled at the bargaining table.
The Trump administration’s tit-for-tat with Beijing over potential tariffs has ushered in a high-stakes standoff over the future of trade between the world’s two largest economies. The combatants will now follow a timeline stretching over the next half year, during which the two sides will seek to negotiate a new normal. President Donald Trump, who initiated the tensions over Chinese trade practices, has put himself in a position to face mounting pressures from lawmakers, an intense campaign from corporate lobbyists, and outcry from businesses big and small navigating cumbersome new trade rules—all of which was feeding tremendous volatility in the stock and commodities markets.
International businesses expressed hopes that a trade war between the US and China could be averted, urging the two countries to find a compromise before they go ahead with plans to impose steep new tariffs in the months to come. The delay before the proposed tariffs are implemented gives the two sides time to find a compromise to avoid a dispute that would mean lost sales, investment and jobs, US businesses said. Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump’s recently appointed chief economic adviser, attempted to calm fears of a trade war, telling Fox Business: “These are just the first proposals [for tariffs] . . . I doubt if there’ll be any concrete actions for several months.”
President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the U.S. is not in a trade war with China – and “that war was lost many years ago” by previous U.S. leadership. “We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.,” Trump said. The president doubled-down on his view of the trade deficit in a later tweet, saying the current situation means the U.S. “can’t lose.”
As markets plummeted Monday, White House aide Peter Navarro insisted fears of a trade war and President Donald Trump’s attacks on Amazon were all wrong. “Everybody needs to relax,” Navarro told CNBC. Trump’s trade policy is “good for the market,” he insisted, adding: “I teach that stuff. I mean, let’s remember – if anybody knows what goes wrong with these models, it’s the guy who knows how to teach them.” Navarro taught at the University of California-Irvine before coming to the White House. But considering his comments, fellow economists question his grasp of the curriculum.
China hit back at the United States on Wednesday with proposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of American soybeans, cars, chemicals and other goods, in a move likely to stoke fears that the countries’ escalating confrontation could become an all-out trade war. Moving with unusual speed, Chinese officials outlined plans to make it more costly to import 106 types of American goods into China. They are intended to hit the United States square in the farm belt — a major section of President Trump’s political support but also a major supplier of what China stocks in its supermarkets.
Boeing shares took a hit on Wednesday after China said it was considering imposing punitive tariffs that would hit some variants of the US aircraft maker’s biggest selling family of aircraft. Shares in Boeing, the biggest US exporter by value, fell more than 4 per cent at one point before recovering some of their losses to trade 3 per cent lower in New York in early-afternoon trading.
On Wednesday, U.S. farmers got the news they had been fearing for months. China announced plans for retaliatory tariffs against American soybeans, the nation’s No. 2 crop. As growers digested the move, their concerns ranged from the immediate drop in Chicago futures to the potential strain on long-term relationships between U.S. exporters and Chinese buyers.
Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. said Tuesday that his country has formally asked the Trump administration to clarify the president’s announcement that he is planning to deploy troops along the U.S. southern border. “The Mexican government has formally asked for clarification of the president’s statements, both through the State Department and the Homeland Security Department,” Gerónimo Gutiérrez said on CNN International, adding that he had personally spoken to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
In recent days, and in anticipation of an annual increase in numbers of people who attempt to cross the border, the Trump administration has been ramping up plans to block migrants and asylum seekers, including young unaccompanied children, from entering the United States. The announcement came a day after Mr. Trump said he wanted to send the military to the southwest border to guard against growing threats from unchecked immigration, suggesting he might want to use active-duty armed forces to do what immigration authorities cannot.
Under the initiative, the military would build a wall along at least part of bombing range known as the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range, located in Arizona on the U.S.-Mexican border, U.S. officials say. That range fronts the border for 31 miles and the Department of Homeland Security has identified sections of that area where there have been some limited illegal migration.
GUN CONTROL, SHOOTINGS, MARIJUANA, OPIOIDS
The New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman was in Texas visiting his former teammate Danny Amendola late last month when he received a direct message on his Instagram account: “Dude, there is a kid in your comment section says he s going to shoot up a school, i think you should alert the authority.”
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
The head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergei Naryshkin used a quote from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 to attack what he called the “unprecedented hypocrisy” of the West amid worsening relations. Naryshkin told a security conference in Moscow that the West is engaging in “unprecedented hypocrisy to justify their hegemony.” “In fact all the norms that regulate intergovernmental relations are given precisely the opposite meanings,” he said, reported The Moscow Times, before citing the famous mantra “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” from Orwell’s 1984. Naryshkin warned of a return to Cold War hostilities.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, in his final days in office, condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech on Tuesday night. He urged the world’s democracies and their institutions to resist the Kremlin’s “pernicious form of aggression that combines political, economic, informational, and cyber assaults against sovereign nations.”
In his last public remarks as national security adviser, Lt. Gen. HR McMaster offered harsh words for Russia Tuesday during a speech at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC. “We have failed to impose sufficient costs” on Russia, McMaster said at the event, which also included a Q&A with the Presidents of Estonia and Latvia, as well as the Foreign Minister of Lithuania. He added that the failure to impose adequate costs on Russia’s activities meant that “the Kremlin’s confidence is growing. “Russia has used old and new forms of aggression to undermine our open societies,” McMaster said.
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
Carmakers that used zero-percent financing offers to juice sales at the height of the American auto boom are starting to abandon them as rising interest rates lift their own borrowing costs. The average interest rate on consumers’ new-car loans climbed to 5.7 percent in March, the highest since 2009 and up from 5 percent a year ago, according to Edmunds. Zero-percent offers fell to 7.4 percent of auto loans last month, down from more than 11 percent the prior year and the lowest share in more than two years, the car-market researcher said.
VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS
Troubled Chinese conglomerate Anbang Insurance Group Co. said Wednesday it will receive a $9.7 billion capital injection from an industry-rescue fund to help stabilize its operations and keep it solvent while it tries to find new private investors. The large capital infusion comes a month and a half after China’s insurance regulator said it had formally seized control of Anbang, the country’s third-largest insurer by assets. Anbang in recent years had gone on an overseas acquisition spree, spending billions on real estate and luxury hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
One group of hedge funds has long pitched the idea they can protect investors and even prosper when markets fall sharply. But when volatility returned, the big idea didn’t work. The reason: The funds kept betting on sharp falls, but failed to profit from sharp rebounds–a disappointment after years of losing money in the bull market, according to portfolio managers. The woes of these “tail-risk” funds, designed to benefit from market turmoil, show that in a month when many investors lost massive sums betting against volatility, wagers on it proved tricky too.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
Before and after he became president, Mr. Trump attacked tech firms, military contractors, carmakers, cellphone companies, financial firms, drug companies, air-conditioner makers, sports leagues, Wall Street giants — and many, many media companies, which he has labeled “shameful,” “dishonest,” “true garbage,” “really dumb,” “phony,” “failing” and, broadly, “the enemy of the American people.” Lately, Mr. Trump’s antibusiness rants have become particularly menacing and caused the stocks of some companies to plunge. His Twitter posts have carried with them the threat, sometimes explicit, that he is prepared to use the power of the presidency to undermine the companies that anger him.
Even if the tariff proposals never come to fruition, a hit to sentiment—and economic growth in general—could have a direct impact on the trans-Pacific air travel, a fast growing, but highly competitive part of the airline business. Nearly 3 million Chinese visited the U.S. in the year through September 2017, triple the annual rate at the start of the decade. In addition to their air tickets, they spent more than $4,400 on average while in the U.S., according to Nielsen. The likes of Air China , China Southern, as well as Delta Air Lines ’ partner China Eastern , have massively expanded across the Pacific, and last year for the first time flew more flights across to the U.S. than their U.S. peers.
China’s apparent threat to tax U.S.-made cars more heavily would hit a different diplomatic target from the one intended: Germany. The one U.S. car maker that would be heavily affected is Tesla. If Chinese tariffs do rise, in retaliation against the 25% tariffs U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose on $50 billion of Chinese imports, the worst affected would be car makers based in Germany, not Detroit.
Trump’s war on Mr Bezos looks more like strategy. He sent his first anti-Amazon tweet more than two years ago, in December 2015. Given his animus towards Mr Bezos, and his newspaper’s investigative reporting, it is a fair bet Mr Trump will still be on Amazon’s case two years from now. How much damage can he do? The answer is a lot. Mr Trump’s handiest weapon is regulatory. Much of the Democratic party now supports the idea of breaking up the big tech companies. Mr Trump could pressure the Federal Trade Commission to launch an antitrust investigation of Amazon’s impact on retailers. Larry Kudlow, his new economic adviser, apparently backs such an assault. Amazon is clearly anticipating a backlash. It already has far more lobbyists in Washington than any other tech company. Their number has doubled in the past 18 months. Mr Trump has already tilted the playing field towards his media allies. Last week, Americans learned that Sinclair Broadcasting, which is the largest single owner of US local television stations, obliged its anchors to recite a word-for-word jihad against “fake news”. That was Orwellian enough. Less well known is that Trump-appointed regulators have altered competition rules to make it easier for Sinclair’s bid for Tribune Media to succeed. The $3.9bn acquisition would extend Sinclair’s reach to more than 70 per cent of US homes.
China, normally known for “measured” responses in its trade dealings, fired back Wednesday with a gut punch to Trump, saying it intends to put 25 percent tariffs on the top goods the United States exports to China: airplanes, soybeans and cars. The United States’ tariff list was full of a lot of products, mostly parts of machines, that are traded on a smaller scale. But China is taking aim at key U.S. industries, and two of them — soybeans and cars — are concentrated in states Trump won.
The administration’s insistence that a trade war was not imminent came as the United States and China traded tit-for-tat penalties that caused wild swings in stock markets from Hong Kong to New York. Led by more audacious leaders than either country has had in decades, China and the United States are now locked in a perilous game of chicken, with the possibility to derail the global economic recovery, disrupt international supply chains and destabilize the huge yet debt-laden Chinese economy.
China would ride out a trade spat well in the short term: Nearly half the workforce is now in services, while trade-exposed industry’s share has declined. But companies attracting investment from outside mainland China have still been key job engines over the long run. Crucially, they have done so without the dangerous build-up of debt that’s characterized so much of China’s domestic industry.
Africa needs free trade for many reasons. The most important is to remake history. Colonialism left Africa in bad shape to develop. It broke the continent into more than 50 pieces, few of which today have the scale to attract sufficient investment or ramp up manufacturing. The whole of Africa has a gross domestic product of about $2.5tn, roughly the same as the UK. Imagine if Britain were broken up into 54 units, each with its own politics, language, regulatory environment and hard border. Most African countries are missing out on the classic benefits of trade: economies of scale, specialisation, access to cheaper inputs and, for consumers, more affordable products. Chiedu Osakwe, Nigeria’s chief trade negotiator, sees continental trade as nothing less than a way to “reverse the colonial inheritance of fragmented and polarised African economies”.
Current account balances are an accounting identity, not a morality tale. And it is not clear that current surpluses are universally any better for growth than deficits. The US may want to reduce its current account deficit, but doing so may be more harmful than having a deficit in the first place.
Ms. Vestager, a 49-year old Dane, has become the public face of Europe’s effort to rein in technology firms and the de facto global regulator for the U.S.’s tech giants. Her approach to companies such as Google and Apple Inc. is having a ripple effect around the globe, influencing regulatory action not only in the U.S. but in countries including Brazil, India and Russia. Ms. Vestager has sway beyond Europe’s borders in part because of the EU’s administrative-law system, which empowers her to issue punishments and order remedies before any judicial review. That gives her more leeway than antitrust enforcers in other countries.
The mass roll-out of electric vehicles may still be years away, but there are signs the nickel industry is already preparing for a surge in demand. Inventories on the London Metal Exchange have tumbled to their lowest level since 2014, in what Macquarie Bank Ltd. analysts say could be evidence of stocking up in the battery-making supply chain. The bank says the main beneficiaries of booming nickel usage in EVs will be producers like Vale SA and Glencore Plc.
The story begins in 1971, when Pimco and two other future bond giants, Trust Co. of the West and Western Asset Management Co., sprang up in the City of Angels. Others followed. In 1978, Pimco was still a unit of Pac Mutual when a Wall Street banker, originally from the San Fernando Valley, returned from New York to set up an outpost for Drexel Burnham Lambert. His name: Michael Milken. Before long, Milken’s new junk-bond-fueled era was rocking to the strains of Ghostbusters with custom lyrics, answering “Who ya gonna call?” from the original with “Call Drexel!” Jeffrey Gundlach, future bond master of DoubleLine Capital LP, arrived in L.A. with dreams of becoming a rock star. Scott Minerd, later of Guggenheim Partners, moved West for the bodybuilding scene on Muscle Beach. Let New York have its state of mind, its snow-bomb winters, its stock exchange. Balmy Southern California, with its palm tree-silhouetted twilights, would make its mark in fixed income. Those who surfed the yield curve around L.A. will tell you that the move West granted perspective and independence from the groupthink of New York. “Maybe distance from Wall Street is key,” says Gross, who turns 74 in April.
Bone by bone, workers at the Baghdad morgue are piecing together the victims of Islamic State, a gruesome jigsaw puzzle that has overwhelmed Iraqi authorities and delayed a sense of closure for families of the missing. After decades of conflict, culminating in Islamic State’s brutal three-year reign over the country’s north, Iraq has one of the highest number of missing people—and unidentified bodies—anywhere. Yet only 25 people in the country have been trained in scientific exhumation techniques, and the morgue attached to the single Baghdad laboratory equipped to conduct DNA tests is running out of space to store remains. Those limited resources have been further strained by the economic crisis curbing Iraq’s budget.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
The Bank of Japan is likely to raise its yield target within a year, according to the central bank’s former chief economist, who says inflation is accelerating faster than expected. “The hike won’t trigger market turmoil because it’s becoming almost consensus that the long-term yield target will be adjusted after the core core hits 1 percent,” Hayakawa said in an interview on Wednesday.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
Activity across most of the U.S. economy decelerated again in March but continued to expand at a solid pace headed into the spring. The Institute for Supply Management on Wednesday said its nonmanufacturing index—tracking a wide range of U.S. industries such as health care, finance, construction and agriculture—fell to 58.8 in March from 59.5 in February. It was the second straight modest pullback after the index in January hit 59.9, its highest level in records going back a decade.
Hiring at private U.S. employers grew more than expected in March, according to a report, as the manufacturing industry showed the strongest increase in more than three years. Firms across the country added 241,000 workers in March, according to payroll processor Automatic Data Processing Inc. and forecasting firm Moody’s Analytics. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected the addition of 200,000 jobs. “The job market is rip-roaring,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “The tight labor market continues to tighten.”
GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
The world’s largest exhibitor said Wednesday it had finalized an agreement with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund to bring the first new cinema to a country that lifted a decadeslong ban on them only five months ago. The news coincided with a weekslong trip led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now in Los Angeles meeting with entertainment executives.
Globally, economic growth and relatively cheap funding have encouraged firms to buy rivals. In the Middle East, lower oil prices are prompting governments to seek external funding from bond and asset sales. IPOs raised $3.2 billion in the first quarter, making it the most active start to a year since 2015, the data show. Completed mergers worth $4.2 billion exceeded the $3.6 billion a year earlier.
In pockets of suburbia all across Australia, electronic gambling machines known as pokies await their many customers in pubs, hotels and sports clubs, as common a fixture as A.T.M.s in a shopping mall. But the unremarkable machines contribute to an extraordinary level of gambling. Government statistics show that they account for more than half of individual Australians’ annual gambling losses, a gargantuan 24 billion Australian dollars, or about $18.4 billion. On a per-capita basis, Australians lose far and away the most in the world: more than 1,200 Australian dollars every year (or $920). Australia’s gambling losses per adult are more than double those in the United States, and around 50 percent higher than second-placed Singapore, according to H2 Gambling Capital, an analytics company.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
Major stock indexes recovered early losses and closed sharply higher Wednesday, as investors bet the recent trade disruptions between the U.S. and China are negotiating tactics and the countries will ultimately reach a compromise. Shares of manufacturers and machinery companies initially came under pressure after China unveiled plans for a series of retaliatory tariffs on American goods. But stocks erased those declines in afternoon trading, as some analysts said knee-jerk selling on worries that protectionist trade policies could slow global economic growth might have been overdone.
While no one is expecting a new peak in trading like the ones that occurred in 2009 and shortly before the financial crisis, the trading desks of the biggest U.S. banks are expected report revenue as much as 5% higher than a year ago, say analysts at Credit Suisse . Analysts at Jefferies are a bit more optimistic, saying that trading results, which sometimes make or break a quarter for some the largest U.S. lenders, could rise in the high single digits.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
Spotify’s market debut delivered a windfall for the music companies that acquired stakes several years ago. Sony, which operates the world’s second-largest record label and largest music publisher, owned 5.7 percent of the company prior to the sale, the fifth-largest stake and most of any music company. Some artists have criticized Stockholm-based Spotify and the labels for not sharing enough of the proceeds. Tokyo-based Sony and its Orchard subsidiary have said they will.
As to whether other private tech companies — unicorns who have been able to raise billions of dollars and achieve a high valuation with private fundraising — will follow Spotify down its unconventional path to the public markets, the odds will not change much until Spotify’s record is longer. And the consensus is still that direct listings are only feasible for a small group of companies that have similar attributes to Spotify, most notably wanting to be public but not needing to raise capital. “There are alternatives to the traditional book building process for an IPO for some companies with enough brand recognition and financial wherewithal to try a different tack,” said Lise Buyer, a partner at Class V Group, an IPO adviser who was part of Google’s IPO team in 2004.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
The high-end of Toronto’s housing market is bearing the brunt of declines from last year’s dizzying growth, with prices falling and unit sales slumping by almost half. Sales of detached homes in and around Canada’s biggest city fell 46 percent in March from the same month a year ago, while the average price fell 17 percent to C$1.01 million ($786,871), according to data released Wednesday by the Toronto Real Estate Board. That dragged down the average selling prices for all housing types by 14 percent from a year earlier to C$784,558, the biggest drop since 1991.
The sprawling apartment is a combination of two units on the upper floors of the building, according to listings website StreetEasy. Together, the units comprise about 8,200 square feet. They have views of Central Park and the city skyline. Residents also have access to amenities including a private restaurant, a 75-foot indoor swimming pool, a fitness center and a screening room. Other buyers at the building including actress-singer Jennifer Lopez and former Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez. Saudi retail magnate Fawaz Al Hokair bought the 8,255-square-foot, full-floor penthouse.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Bahrain’s largest ever hydrocarbons discovery contains at least 80bn barrels of shale oil, potentially providing a much-needed fillip for the Gulf state’s struggling economy, the kingdom said. The offshore field also contains an estimated 10tn-20tn cubic feet of deep gas reserves, the national oil and gas authority said. Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the oil minister, said appraisals by US firms Halliburton and DeGolyer & MacNaughton had confirmed the “find of highly significant qualities of oil in place”.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
Portugal produced more power from clean energy sources in March than it actually needed, marking the first time in the 21st century that renewables have topped 100% of its production. But a dearth of energy connections with the rest of Europe remains problematic. Increasing renewable energy capacity is one of the key pillars of the Energy Union and in the month of March, Portugal was regularly able to meet 100% of its energy needs predominantly through hydro and wind power.
With Brazil’s economy recovering from its worst recession ever, demand for energy is on the rise. The government canceled two energy auctions in 2016, putting the brakes on new power plants, and developers are now eager to get their projects moving. That helped drive bidding in the auction, and with turbine prices continuing to slide, participants were ready to go low. The winners are expected to drive about 5.3 billion reais of investment. “From an international point of view, we’ve seen really competitive prices, mainly for wind and solar,” Tiago Correia, director at Brazil’s Electricity Regulatory Agency, known as Aneel, told reporters after the auction.
COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
CME Group’s Black Sea wheat futures contract that debuted in November last year has attracted wheat traders buying and selling the grain from Russia and Ukraine, while also catching the attention of hedge funds. There have been plenty of failed new agricultural commodities contracts but the new Black Sea wheat contract comes as the region, especially Russia, has emerged as a key player in the wheat market, overtaking the US as the largest exporter in the 2015-16 crop year.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
March marked the lowest reading since July 2016, and the first time the PMI has dropped below 50 in six months. Analysts had expected a reading of 50.9 for March. Tim Moore, associate director at IHS Markit, said: “The construction sector continued to experience subdued business conditions during March, but snow-related disruption was a key factor.”
The loss of London’s allure for young European software coders could threaten the government’s ambition to maintain the UK’s position as the continent’s dominant hub for the fast-growing fintech sector after Brexit. Mr Laven said: “We think the market for engineers has tightened and I think engineering salaries are going up. I think we are seeing not so much people leaving but not the influx that we had before . . . I think that is a threat to the industry.
“Strategy? What strategy?” So responds a senior civil servant when asked how plans for the future of UK trade are coming together. They then proceed to smash their coffee’s foam with the back of a teaspoon aggressively. “[The] trade strategy is basically tweeting out flag emojis.” Their frustration is not about being for or against Brexit, they stress. It is about understanding the challenge and importance of the UK getting trade right, so that businesses and jobs are protected. At the moment, that is not happening. Instead, “[there is] a distressing and embarrassing level of chaos across Whitehall on trade”.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
President Donald Trump has agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, but only until the defeat of the Islamic State extremist group, a task he expects to be completed in a matter of months. Mr. Trump’s decision, at a White House meeting, was a recognition of military commanders’ argument that they needed more time. But Mr. Trump made it clear that he expected the rest of the operation to go quickly, officials said, and sharply narrowed the scope of the U.S. involvement from the administration strategy spelled out earlier this year. “It’s months, not years,” one senior official said.
It was the latest instance of the president making an unscripted remark with far-reaching implications that prompted a behind-the-scenes scramble by his advisers to translate blunt talk into an workable policy. White House and administration officials also spent Monday and Tuesday trying to translate a series of confusing presidential tweets and comments on immigration into a coherent strategy, including a new legislative push and the deployment of the National Guard to the southern border.
A caravan of migrants from Central America set out from southern Mexico last week. Many said they hoped to make it the U.S. and begin a new life. Instead, they have become the focus of a growing crisis between the U.S. and México.
The United Nations said Tuesday it was investigating “disturbing reports of serious harm to civilians” in an Afghan airstrike on a religious school which, according to security sources, left dozens of children dead or wounded. Hundreds of people were attending a graduation ceremony at the madrassa in a Taliban-controlled district in northeastern Afghanistan on Monday when Afghan Air Force helicopters struck, witnesses have told AFP. “Human Rights team on ground establishing facts. All parties reminded of obligations to protect civilians from impact of armed conflict,” the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in a brief statement. At least 59 people, including Taliban commanders meeting at the compound in the Dashte Archi district in Kunduz province, were killed in the attack, Afghan security sources told AFP on condition of anonymity. Most of the civilian victims were children, they said.
The Israeli army’s decision to open fire on Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip last week has reignited a public debate about the use of military force ahead of another round of demonstrations Friday that are expected again to test the country’s soldiers. Palestinian health authorities have said 18 people were killed and more than 1,400 injured. Israel said Gazans, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails, charged a border fence dividing the strip from Israeli territory. The protest organizers said the Palestinians posed no threat. Israel’s government, its coalition parties and many political commentators defended the army’s response, saying it was justified in using gunfire, in addition to tear gas, to prevent a breach of the fence that they said could have threatened Israeli lives.
A Marine helicopter crashed during a Southern California training mission and all four crew members were believed killed, the military said. The CH-53E Super Stallion went down shortly after 2:30 p.m. Tuesday near El Centro, a few miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The helicopter was with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing out of the Miramar air station in San Diego, according to a base press statement. The nearby Naval Air Facility El Centro messaged that the crash site was north of Plaster City, west of El Centro. The cause of the crash is under investigation. The names of the crew members will be withheld until 24 hours after their relatives are notified, the Miramar base said.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
A cyberattack that hobbled the operations of at least four natural gas pipeline companies starting late last week also triggered changes within the utility industry. Duke Energy Corp., the second largest U.S. utility by market capitalization, said it first learned about the attack on March 30. Duke became concerned because it shares consumer data with dozens of third-party electricity and gas providers in Ohio through an electronic system run by Energy Services Group LLC, the data firm that was hacked.
A Russian citizen accused of hacking LinkedIn and Dropbox was supposed to have a bail hearing Wednesday before a U.S. judge, but plans went sideways after prosecutors said he tried to escape. Yevgeniy Nikulin, 30, appeared in San Francisco federal court wearing shackles after being extradited last week from the Czech Republic over objections from Russian officials who sought him on separate charges.
In Illinois, whose 10.6 million acres of soybeans are more than any other state’s, the incumbent governor, Bruce Rauner, already trails his Democratic challenger, Hyatt hotel heir J.B. Pritzker, according to recent polls. Republicans are also defending statehouses in what are expected to be close races in Wisconsin and Ohio. “This could be very good for Democrats,” said Duffy. “Trump started this. It makes Republicans’ bid to hold the Senate harder. And it might even make Republicans start looking over their shoulder at places that shouldn’t be competitive, like Nebraska and Mississippi, where the Democrat, Mike Espy, is a former Agriculture secretary.”
“We are at risk of a blue wave in Wisconsin.” That’s none other than the governor of Wisconsin, a Republican, warning his party Tuesday night that things could go badly for them in just a few months — including his own reelection. The evidence Gov. Scott Walker has to back up that prediction is pretty solid: On Tuesday, Democrats won a statewide election for a state Supreme Court seat by more than 11 points. That comes after Wisconsin Democrats won a special election for a state Senate seat in January in historically Republican territory. Walker was already ringing the alarm bells after that first loss in January.
If there’s one person Republican congressional candidates can rally around for their November election campaigns, it’s House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Much as animosity toward President Donald Trump rouses Democrats, Pelosi is a bete noire for Republicans, who’ve long targeted her as the prototype of a San Francisco liberal. But this year, the GOP is turning it up a notch. “Nancy Pelosi will be front and center in every competitive race in 2018,” promised Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
News of the investigation sent shockwaves through the company and was a surprise to a number of senior executives contacted by the Financial Times, all of whom said they did not know the details of the allegation. The probe has also created a split among WPP’s board members, according to three people with direct knowledge of the situation. One alleged that news of the investigation was “leaked from the very top” of the company to “stir things up” for Sir Martin.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
American auto makers are embarking on a historic shift away from passenger cars, as more-profitable sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks continue to expand their share of the market. Long thought to be necessary for combating Japanese rivals and catering to budget-minded or young customers, small cars have fallen out of favor amid low gasoline prices and efficiency improvements in SUVs. Now, large sedans also are on the chopping block.
A Canadian startup is the latest contender in the race to build a super-fast transportation system to rival futuristic projects backed by Elon Musk and British tycoon Richard Branson. TransPod wants to raise $50 million for its own version of hyperloop technology, designed to ferry passengers at speeds of more than 1,000 kilometers (622 miles) an hour. The Toronto-based company is planning to build a half-size prototype near Limoges in central France by next year that’s better than a concept put forth by Musk, according to Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Gendron.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
More than 50 of the world’s top robotics experts are boycotting one of South Korea’s leading universities, KAIST, over its decision to open an artificial intelligence weapons lab they fear can develop “killer robots”. The academic boycott, which was announced on Wednesday, comes ahead of talks at the UN next week in Geneva over challenges posed by lethal autonomous weapons. Some 22 nations have already called for an outright and pre-emptive ban on such weapons, which experts worry will trigger rounds of escalation.
Supervisors of the New York Police Department’s Facial Identification Section, launched as a pilot in 2011, see utilizing facial recognition to identify missing people as the next frontier of a technology that until now has been used mostly to identify potential suspects or witnesses for detectives investigating crimes. Critics say obtaining a DMV database—with thousands of photographs of innocent New Yorkers—raises serious privacy concerns.
SCIENCE, NATURE, HISTORY, PSYCHOLOGY
Rafaela S.C. Takeshita and her colleagues at Kyoto University collected and tested the monkeys’ feces for levels of glucocorticoids, which increase with stress. The cold is known to cause levels of these hormones to go up. They published their results in the journal Primates. As expected, during the periods when the monkeys were bathing, stress levels were down. Another indication of the value of bathing to the macaques was that the higher-ranking females spent more time in the pools.
Before Google Maps and GPS, before knowledge of magnetic compasses traveled from China to Europe, Viking sailors journeyed across the North Atlantic. A thousand years ago, the trip between Norway and Greenland by longboat took about three weeks. Viking navigators used shadows cast by a sun compass, a ring with a central fin like a sun dial’s, to identify geographic north. But such compasses work only when the sun shines, not on foggy or cloudy days. In 1967, Danish archaeologist Thorkild Ramskou proposed that the Vikings had a backup tool for navigation. Perhaps, he suggested, they tracked the sun through the clouds using chunks of crystal called sunstones. Sunstones sound wild, even mystical. But two optics researchers, Dénes Száz and Gábor Horváth at Budapest’s Eotvos Lorand University, calculated that the Vikings could have used sunstones to orient their ships on the long voyage to Greenland.
Woods is still lean, fit and powerful, as measurements of his club-head speed attest, yet the supple 21-year-old Masters champion has given way to a brittle 42-year-old locked in battle with an undefeated opponent: time. “Is anybody in here who is in their 40s ever going to feel like they did in their 20s?” Woods asked a roomful of reporters last fall, before he began what figures to be a proud champion’s last stand. Woods’s decision last spring to have spinal fusion surgery, which he called “a last resort” after three less complex operations, seems to have restored him, at least for the moment. “I got a second chance on life,” Woods said on his website last week. “I am a walking miracle.”
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