Macro Links Dec 7th – Riddled With Glitches

Macro Links Dec 7th – Riddled With Glitches

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GOP TAX PLAN

‘Holy crap’: Experts find tax plan riddled with glitches – POLITICO

Republicans’ tax-rewrite plans are riddled with bugs, loopholes and other potential problems that could plague lawmakers long after their legislation is signed into law. Some of the provisions could be easily gamed, tax lawyers say. Their plans to cut taxes on “pass-through” businesses in particular could open broad avenues for tax avoidance.

Some provisions are so vaguely written they leave experts scratching their heads, like a proposal to begin taxing the investment earnings of rich private universities’ endowments. The legislation doesn’t explain what’s considered an endowment, and some colleges have more than 1,000 accounts.

The Senate Would Keep The Individual AMT, But Turn It Into A Very Different Tax | Tax Policy Center

The individual alternative minimum tax (AMT) looks like it may survive yet another tax overhaul. But the latest incarnation of the tax may look very different from the current version. Instead of targeting primarily higher income taxpayers who live in high-tax states or have many children, the primary role of the Senate’s approach to the AMT in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) would be to claw back the TCJA’s tax rate cuts for many rich, but not uber-rich, households.

Citigroup CFO Sees $20 Billion Hit If Senate Tax Bill Signed – Bloomberg

Citigroup Inc. expects to take a noncash charge to earnings of about $20 billion if the U.S. Senate’s version of the tax reform bill is enacted, Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said. The hit to profit would mostly stem from the bank writing down its deferred tax assets in the period the bill is signed, Gerspach said Wednesday at an investor conference in New York. About $3 billion to $4 billion of the charge would come from the taxation of unremitted foreign earnings.

Tax Plan Aims to Slay a Reagan Target: The Government Beast – The New York Times

The plan to starve the beast of government by depriving it of money, it seems, is back in the saddle. This time around it might succeed where Reagan failed: Barring taxpayers from deducting state and local income taxes and limiting the property taxes they can deduct on their federal returns, the Republican bills could, for the first time, force high-tax states run by Democrats to capitulate.

Tax Plan Crowns a Big Winner: Trump’s Industry – The New York Times

Perhaps the biggest winner is the industry where President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made their millions: commercial real estate. House and Senate Republicans, in their divergent bills, both offered steeply reduced rates to corporate giants, partnerships and family-owned firms across the board. But when it came time to eliminate special breaks or impose tighter standards, real estate was generally excused from the room.

Most businesses were hit with new limits on deductions for interest payments, but not real estate. Most industries lost the ability to defer taxes on the exchange of similar kinds of property, but not real estate. Domestic manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies lost some industry-specific breaks, like the tax credit for so-called orphan drugs, in exchange for lower rates. The real estate industry ended up with an even more generous depreciation timetable, allowing owners to shelter more income.

Apple will see up to $47bn potential benefit from tax reform

Apple will see as much as $47bn slashed from its expected tax liability if Republicans push through their current tax plan, making it the biggest beneficiary of the legislation now working its way through Congress. The potential windfall for the world’s most valuable company stems from the reduced tax rate that would be applied to foreign earnings that it currently holds outside the US.

Republicans Consider More Generous State and Local Tax Break – The New York Times

Republicans are considering adding a more generous state and local tax break into the $1.5 trillion package barreling through Congress, as they try to ease concerns among lawmakers from high-tax states and their constituents, who say they will be penalized by the current legislation.

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JERUSALEM CONTROVERSY

Trump recognizes Jerusalem as capital of Israel in reversal of longtime U.S. policy – The Washington Post

Even as Trump sought to convince Middle East partners that the move would not derail his commitment to peace, his remarks at the White House revealed an important subtext that helps explain why the president was willing to buck warnings from U.S. allies and take a risk over the contested holy city.

“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver,” Trump said in a midday speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room. “Today, I am delivering.”

Trump Says U.S. Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital – WSJ

President Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on behalf of the U.S. on Wednesday and directed the State Department to begin moving the American Embassy to the holy city, in a White House speech that threatened to spark

protest across the Middle East.

U.N., European Union and Pope Criticize Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement – The New York Times

Pope Francis said, “I cannot remain silent.” The United Nations secretary general spoke of his “great anxiety.” The European Union expressed “serious concern.” American allies like Britain, France, Germany and Italy all declared it a mistake.

A chorus of international leaders criticized the Trump administration’s decision on Wednesday to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, calling it a dangerous disruption that contravenes United Nations resolutions and could inflame one of the world’s thorniest conflicts.

In Jerusalem, Trump’s speech sparks scenes of joy, outrage – The Washington Post

Trump’s announcement that the U.S. Embassy would be moved to Jerusalem upended a decades-old Washington policy and was met in Israel and the Palestinian territories with scenes of celebration and of fury.

Tillerson Says Trump Remains Committed to Mideast Peace – The New York Times

Mr. Tillerson has been largely shut out of the usual back-and-forth between Israelis and Palestinians that many secretaries of state spent much of their tenures conducting. Instead, Mr. Trump entrusted that task to his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

For Tillerson, a lonely job defending Trump’s Jerusalem move

The onslaught came from all sides as Tillerson, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, got an earful from many a U.S. ally on Trump’s Jerusalem move. So far, not a single country — other than Israel, of course — has thrown its support behind the declaration. Even Tillerson’s own State Department has conceded the announcement could sow unrest throughout the Middle East.

In the Arab World, the Rallying Cry of Jerusalem May Have Lost Its Force – The New York Times

While Arab leaders have continued to pay lip service to the Palestinian cause, it has slipped in importance, displaced by the Arab Spring uprisings, the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the threat of the Islamic State, and the contest between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance. Persian Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, more concerned about their rivalry with Iran, have found their interests increasingly overlapping with those of Israel.

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NORTH KOREA

Chinese Newspaper Publishes Precautions for Nuclear Conflict – The New York Times

The advice published by the newspaper emphasized ways for residents to minimize their exposure to radioactive fallout. The suggestions, including cartoons vaguely reminiscent of those published in the United States during the 1950s, emphasized taking shelter indoors, washing off suspected radioactive dust from exposed body parts and shoes, and taking other precautions consistent with past tips from civil defense experts in the West.

China Hints It Might Back North Korea in Event of War | Fortune

The South China Morning Post quotes Li Jie, a Beijing-based military expert, as saying the drills were done specifically to send a message to Donald Trump. “The timing of this high-profile announcement by the [People’s Liberation Army] is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Jie told the Post.

North Koreans Get Smartphones, and the Regime Keeps Tabs – WSJ

North Korea has allowed more citizens access to smartphones and an isolated intranet, offering residents who can afford it a new way to communicate and giving the dictatorship new opportunities to monitor its peo

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RUSSIA PROBE, MUELLER SCRUTINY

Flynn’s Secret Text Messages Show Trump Colluded With Russia, Experts Say

Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, told a former business partner that economic sanctions against Russia would be “ripped up” as soon as Donald Trump took office, according to an anonymous whistleblower.

Whistleblower: Flynn told ex-partner Russia sanctions would be ripped up – NBC News

Donald Trump was just 11 minutes into his presidency when his choice for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business partner to say an ambitious U.S. collaboration with Russia to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East was “good to go,” according to a new whistleblower account.

Flynn Said Russian Sanctions Would Be ‘Ripped Up,’ Whistle-Blower Says – The New York Times

Mr. Flynn believed that ending the sanctions could allow a business project he had once participated in to move forward, according to the whistle-blower. The account is the strongest evidence to date that the Trump administration wanted to end the sanctions immediately, and suggests that Mr. Flynn had a possible economic incentive for the United States to forge a closer relationship with Russia.

Blackwater Founder Denies Trump Connection to Seychelles Meeting – Bloomberg

Blackwater Security founder Erik Prince told U.S. House lawmakers conducting the Russia probe that he discussed U.S. trade policy with Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian investment fund in January, but insisted he wasn’t operating as a back-channel for the incoming Trump administration.

Investigators probe European travel of Trump associates – POLITICO

Congressional investigators are scrutinizing trips to Europe taken last year by several associates of President Donald Trump, amid concern they may have met with Kremlin-linked operatives as part of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Russian oligarch Deripaska drops libel suit against Associated Press – POLITICO

The oligarch’sbusiness dealings have come under scrutiny by investigators probing Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy AG Rosenstein Satisfied With Mueller’s Work – The Daily Beast

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein replied in the affirmative when asked if he is satisfied with Robert Mueller’s work as special counsel, NBC New York reported Wednesday. Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller to the position to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, pointed to the lack of leaks coming from the probe. “When we conduct criminal investigations—just as was true in Maryland—we don’t talk about the investigation while it’s ongoing,” he said. “So what the American people will see is only if and when a case is charged. And there are several cases that have been charged to date.” So far the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has charged at least four people, including former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, with violating federal law.

Special Counsel Investigation Has Cost at Least $6.7 million – The New York Times

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, spent almost $7 million in its first four and a half months, he said.

Republicans hammer Mueller, FBI as Russia investigation intensifies – The Washington Post

Republican activists and lawmakers are engaged in a multi-front attack on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of possible connections between associates of President Trump and Russian agents, trying to stop or curtail the investigation as it moves further into Trump’s inner circle.

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Schumer and Democratic Women in Senate Call on Al Franken to Resign – The New York Times

“Senator Franken should resign,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said Wednesday evening, the latest in an avalanche of statements that began with a half-dozen Democratic women and then snowballed throughout the day. “I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately.”

Franken Insists ‘No Final Decision Has Been Made’ About Political Future – Talking Points Memo

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) denied a report Wednesday that he had decided to resign the following day. Minnesota Public Radio had reported, citing an unnamed Democratic official who had spoken to Franken and his staff, that the senator would resign Thursday. Shortly after the story went live, however, Franken’s office said it was “not accurate.”

TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers | Time.com

Emboldened by Judd, Rose McGowan and a host of other prominent accusers, women everywhere have begun to speak out about the inappropriate, abusive and in some cases illegal behavior they’ve faced. When multiple harassment claims bring down a charmer like former Today show host Matt Lauer, women who thought they had no recourse see a new, wide-open door. When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who’s been quietly enduring for years.

Weinstein’s Complicity Machine – The New York Times

Harvey Weinstein built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate.

In the weeks and months before allegations of his methodical abuse of women were exposed in October, Mr. Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, pulled on all the levers of his carefully constructed apparatus.

Conyers faced mounting sexual misconduct allegations as he weighed his future – The Washington Post

As Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) this week weighed calls for his resignation from a Michigan hospital bed, more women were coming forward with accounts of sexual misconduct by the lawmaker.

Paris Review Editor Resigns Amid Inquiry Into His Conduct with Women – The New York Times

Lorin Stein, the editor of The Paris Review, the prestigious magazine that for more than 60 years has acted as an international literary tastemaker, resigned on Wednesday, amid an internal investigation into his behavior toward female employees and writers.

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PUTIN RE-ELECTION, RUSSIAN OLYMPICS BAN

Vladimir Putin announces he will seek re-election in 2018

Vladimir Putin is to run for re-election as Russian president, putting him on course to extend his lock on power to 24 years and become the country’s longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin.

Putin to Seek Another Term as Russian President – WSJ

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his candidacy in the country’s 2018 presidential election, seeking to extend his 17-year leadership that has recently been marked by worsening ties with the West.

Russia Won’t Keep Athletes Home, Putin Says After Olympics Ban – The New York Times

In a surprisingly conciliatory move, the Russian president said he would not stop individuals competing at the 2018 Winter Games on their own account.

Russian Doctor Explains How He Helped Beat Doping Tests at the Sochi Olympics – The New York Times

The director of Russia’s antidoping laboratory during the 2014 Winter Olympics revealed to The New York Times how Russian agents used an elaborate scheme to swap out tainted urine samples from Russian athletes.

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CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

Thousands Evacuate in Southern California as Wildfires Grow – WSJ

A series of large fires across Southern California continued to grow, leading to the closure of schools and a major freeway and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Tens of Thousands Evacuate as Southern California Fires Spread – The New York Times

Four wildfires roared through Southern California on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and destroying hundreds of homes and other buildings in the latest chapter of what has been one of the state’s worst fire seasons.

The first fire, in Ventura County, started Monday evening and was still “out of control” on Tuesday night, the authorities said. Named the Thomas Fire, it began north of Santa Paula, Calif., and spread rapidly overnight on Monday to envelop at least 50,000 acres, destroying hundreds of structures and prompting 27,000 people to evacuate, including some from the city of Ventura.

17Z07- THOMAS FIRE

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TRADE TENSIONS

WTO faces an identity crisis as Trump weighs going it alone

As trade ministers from the WTO’s 164 members gather in Buenos Aires on Sunday for their biennial conclave, they are confronting what many see as an accelerating existential crisis for both the two decades-old body and for the postwar trading system. And the US, the one-time guarantor of that architecture, is now leading the assault.

On Twitter, Farmers Are Begging Trump Not to Bail on Nafta – Bloomberg

President Donald J. Trump was largely supported by American farmers during the election, even as he made a campaign promise to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement. But now many of those farmers are worried President Trump will follow through on that promise. And they are taking to Twitter to plead with him not to.

Steelmakers Surge on `Precedent-Setting’ U.S. Import Ruling – Bloomberg

U.S. Steel Corp. led gains among major American producers of the metal after the U.S. slapped duties on some Vietnamese alloys made with China imports.

In a preliminary ruling, the Commerce Department found that corrosion-resistant steel and some cold-rolled metal from Vietnam made from products originating in China circumvented duty orders on those imports from China. The decision could pave the way for the U.S. to place duties on other countries that use Chinese steel.

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCIES

Bitcoin zooms above $13,000 to record high on relentless demand

Bitcoin extended its rally on Wednesday, breaking above $13,000 to a record high despite questions about the cryptocurrency’s real value and worries about a dangerous bubble.

Largest Crypto-Mining Exchange Confirms It Was Hacked, $62 Million In Bitcoin Stolen | Zero Hedge

“Unfortunately, there has been a security breach involving NiceHash website… our payment system was compromised and the contents of the NiceHash Bitcoin wallet have been stolen.”

Hedge Funds Try a Quant Approach to Tackling Cryptocurrencies – Bloomberg

A daring few hedge funds are attempting to apply rules and models to the wildest market out there — cryptocurrencies. There are now more than 100 cryptocurrency hedge funds that have launched in the past two years, but only a handful use quantitative analysis techniques, which rely on numbers crunching to identify opportunities and improve returns. The proliferation of portfolios and trading strategies reflects growing investor interest.

Big banks push back on launch of bitcoin futures

The world’s largest banks are pushing back on the introduction of bitcoin futures, raising concerns with US regulators that the financial system is ill-prepared for the launch of the contracts as the value of the volatile cryptocurrency has soared.

Bitcoin Hasn’t Replaced Cash, but Investors Don’t Care – The New York Times

Many entrepreneurs and academics think virtual currencies will gain traction only if they are easy and cheap to send around. The disagreement has given rise to a host of Bitcoin competitors — including a separate virtual currency known as Bitcoin Cash. But the community that has developed around the original Bitcoin has increasingly been united around a vision that is focused on its goldlike qualities, rather than its ability to compete with PayPal or Western Union.

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BIG TECH WARS

Inside Oracle’s cloak-and-dagger political war with Google – Recode

For the past year, the software and cloud computing giant has mounted a cloak-and-dagger, take-no-prisoners lobbying campaign against Google, perhaps hoping to cause the company intense political and financial pain at a time when the two tech giants are also warring in federal court over allegations of stolen computer code.

Google blocks YouTube on Amazon devices as feud heats up

Google, which is owned by Alphabet, said on Tuesday that the decision to block YouTube from Echo Show and Fire TV was due to a “lack of reciprocity” from Amazon, and followed failed attempts to reach an agreement over mutual access to products and services for customers of both companies.

Google Pulls YouTube From Amazon Devices, Saying It Isn’t Playing Fair – WSJ

Google said it is pulling YouTube from some Amazon.com Inc. devices in retaliation for Amazon refusing to sell many Google products, escalating a battle between two tech titans as their businesses increasingly overlap.

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

DeepMind’s AI became a superhuman chess player in a few hours – The Verge

The end-game for Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind was never beating people at board games. It’s always been about creating something akin to a combustion engine for intelligence — a generic thinking machine that can be applied to a broad range of challenges. The company is still a long way off achieving this goal, but new research published by its scientists this week suggests they’re at least headed down the right path.

In the paper, DeepMind describes how a descendant of the AI program that first conquered the board game Go has taught itself to play a number of other games at a superhuman level. After eight hours of self-play, the program bested the AI that first beat the human world Go champion; and after four hours of training, it beat the current world champion chess-playing program, Stockfish. Then for a victory lap, it trained for just two hours and polished off one of the world’s best shogi-playing programs named Elmo (shogi being a Japanese version of chess that’s played on a bigger board).

One of the key advances here is that the new AI program, named AlphaZero, wasn’t specifically designed to play any of these games. In each case, it was given some basic rules (like how knights move in chess, and so on) but was programmed with no other strategies or tactics. It simply got better by playing itself over and over again at an accelerated pace — a method of training AI known as “reinforcement learning.”

Demand for AI Talent Turns Once-Staid Conference Into Draft Day – Bloomberg

Tech companies are increasingly competing with one another, as well as banks and hedge funds, to hire experts in AI techniques like neural networking, a kind of machine learning loosely based on how the human brain works. These are the skills behind recent advances in computers’ ability to identify objects in images, translate languages, drive cars and spot financial fraud. More changes are in store for many industries and conferences like this week’s one on Neural Information Processing Systems, aka NIPS, are where companies can go to hire the talent they need to embrace their AI future.

How AI Will Invade Every Corner of Wall Street – Bloomberg

Bit by bit, AI is laying a claim to the future of investing after many false dawns going back decades. Giant money managers like Two Sigma and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and smaller players like Schonfeld Strategic Advisors have adopted it as a cornerstone strategy or research tool.

From this foothold, how far will AI go? Man Group Plc’s Luke Ellis sees a slow takeover coming. The $103.5 billion firm in London already devotes about $13 billion to several hedge funds using machine learning. In 10 years, it will play a role in everything Man does, from executing trades to helping pick securities at the firm’s discretionary unit, Ellis, the chief executive officer, said in an interview.

Hank Greenberg backs funding round for AI underwriting start-up

Artificial intelligence is attracting huge excitement in insurance. Underwriters say that it could help them to make better assessments about the kind of risks that their customers present, leading to more accurate pricing. It could also help them to manage claims.

Mr Greenberg said: “With ever-increasing levels of available data, we can really see the benefits that artificial intelligence and other similar technological advances bring to the industry. We believe that Cytora can use this information in a powerful way to provide a competitive edge to Starr and its other clients.”

Japan Embraces the Robot Takeover – Bloomberg

While people fret about robots taking human jobs, machines in Japan are stepping in to fill vacancies amid the worst labor shortage in more than 40 years. That’s creating an opportunity for up-and-coming startups focused on automating warehouse tasks.

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RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

Trump again elevates shutdown threat, even as tensions ease on Capitol Hill – The Washington Post

“It could happen,” Trump said about a shutdown before a Cabinet meeting, pointing to Democratic demands on immigration policy. “The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous for our country.”

“They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime,” he added. “We don’t want to have that. We want to have a great, beautiful, crime-free country.”

Republicans Are Moving Ahead With Plan to Extend Government Funding – Bloomberg

House Republicans are moving ahead with a plan to avoid a Saturday U.S. government shutdown by passing a two-week stopgap spending measure, overriding conservative GOP lawmakers who were pressing for a longer extension to get more leverage over Democrats and the Senate.

Jean-Claude Juncker ‘fears Theresa May’s Government will collapse next week without Brexit deal’

Jean-Claude Juncker fears Theresa May’s Government could collapse next week if Brexit talks remain deadlocked, The Telegraph has learnt. The European Commission president will extend the deadline for Mrs May to settle a dispute over the Irish border to the eve of an EU leaders’ summit next Thursday to maximise her chances of success.

Hunt for yield spurs return of esoteric crisis-era debt instrument

Such securities allow companies to make interest payments with either cash or more debt, a scenario that duly registered during 2008 when many companies fell into stress and “toggled” interest payments from cash to extra debt.

But in the current climate of meagre fixed-rate yields and low risk premiums, Pik toggles have proven an alluring option as they pay a yield nearly twice as much as the average junk bond, according to data from ICE BofAML Indices. Portfolio managers willing to tolerate the risk of owning Pik toggle notes generated a total return of more than 20 per cent last year, beating the broader high-yield bond market. This year Pik toggles have returned 7.1 per cent, less than two-tenths of a percentage point behind high-yield debt.

China’s Push to Trade Oil in Yuan Faces a Key Hurdle – Bloomberg

As the world’s largest energy consumer and an increasing source of investment capital for oil-producing nations, China has an interest in using its own currency rather than that of a geopolitical competitor. One hurdle for setting up a rival to Brent or West Texas Intermediate: Overseas oil producers and traders would need to swallow China’s capital controls and penchant for occasional market interventions.

17Z07 - YUAN SHARE OF GLOBAL PAYMENTS

Accounting Blowup at Steinhoff Was Hiding in Plain Sight – WSJ

Steinhoff had lumps in its mattress long before the 63% plunge in its stock price Wednesday. Lest they suffer another sleepless night, investors should stay up late studying the string of warning signs that preceded an admission of “accounting irregularities” by one of the world’s largest furniture retailers.

Steinhoff has a sprawling portfolio of retail assets across Europe, Africa, Australasia and—since last year’s $2.4 billion acquisition of Houston-based Mattress Firm Holding Corp., which owns the Sleepy’s brand—North America.

It was supposed to announce its annual results Wednesday, but instead said new information had emerged requiring “further investigation.” Chief Executive Markus Jooste quit, leaving in charge Chairman and anchor shareholder Christo Wiese, who was one of South Africa’s three richest men before the announcement.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

Four Ways That 2018 Could Be a Turning Point – Bloomberg

As 2017 draws to a close, the least surprising thing on Wall Street is seeing strategists forecast that next year will look more or less like this year. I respectfully disagree. In the economy, in monetary policy, in the technology sector and in politics, 2018 could be the most consequential year of the decade, just as 2008 was to the 2000s.

Next year may bring the hottest labor market in 50 years, an inexperienced Fed navigating an overheating economy and an inverted yield curve, a crisis of confidence in the unprofitable futuristic technology sector, and Democrats retaking control of Congress. That won’t feel like “more of the same.”

How much energy does bitcoin mining really use? It’s complicated | WIRED UK

Bitcoin chews through masses of energy, but exactly how much is up for debate. Regardless of the actual number, it’s climbing — so is the environmental cost of the digital currency becoming too high? In short, it’s complicated.

Why does energy consumption matter? Regardless of whether bitcoin is a bubble or not, we’re investing heavily in infrastructure and burning through huge amounts of energy. If this is going to be a viable alternative financial system, it needs to be financially and environmentally sustainable. And if it never has a chance of being truly useful, and is just a get rich quick scheme, are we destroying the climate for something totally trivial?

The Bitcoin bubble – how we know it will burst

What is not yet available is an accurate advanced warning bubble indicator. In its absence, this approach may be the best. Unfortunately, we cannot use this approach to determine the extent of the bubble. There is no well-accepted model that suggests a “fair” value for Bitcoin. But whatever that level is, it is almost certain that, at present, it is well below where we are now.

The Price of War With North Korea – The New York Times

The key problem for the United States is the likely possibility that North Korea has the missiles to deliver nuclear bombs to South Korea and Japan. If one of these weapons were to reach its target, an entire city would be annihilated.

And even if an American first strike knocked out North Korea’s nuclear capacity, millions of South Korean civilians, and American and South Korean soldiers, would be vulnerable to retaliation with conventional or chemical weapons. Pyongyang could devastate Seoul and kill tens of thousands of people.

North Korea may have as many as 250 mobile missile launchers, some of which could fire nuclear-tipped missiles. If some of these mobile units were dispersed at the time of an American attack, it’s unlikely that the United States could destroy all of them before one fires a missile. America has not had much success in finding and destroying mobile missile launchers in recent wars.

An American attack that truly caught North Korea by surprise could minimize the effectiveness of a North Korean counterattack — but not eliminate the possibility. And surprise would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Bannon Finds New Fight Backing Roy Moore, but Risks Are High – The New York Times

The stakes for Mr. Moore, the Republican Senate nominee who next Tuesday faces off against the Democrat Doug Jones, are indeed high. The race has become a closely watched referendum on the Republican Party leadership in Washington, the credibility of the national news media and the country’s tolerance for political spectacle.

But the only person who may have more on the line than Mr. Moore is Mr. Bannon, who is risking his own campaign to topple Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, as well as other incumbent Republican senators across the country.

‘It’s a Slow Death’: The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis – The New York Times

After two and a half years of war, little is functioning in Yemen. Repeated bombings have crippled bridges, hospitals and factories. Many doctors and civil servants have gone unpaid for more than a year. Malnutrition and poor sanitation have made the Middle Eastern country vulnerable to diseases that most of the world has confined to the history books.

In just three months, cholera has killed nearly 2,000 people and infected more than a half million, one of the world’s largest outbreaks in the past 50 years.

Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it? | News | The Guardian

Portugal’s remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government – including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs – could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction – and itself.

In many ways, the law was merely a reflection of transformations that were already happening in clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables across the country. The official policy of decriminalisation made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing etc) that had been struggling to pool their resources and expertise, to work together more effectively to serve their communities.

It is important to note that Portugal stabilised its opioid crisis, but it didn’t make it disappear. While drug-related death, incarceration and infection rates plummeted, the country still had to deal with the health complications of long-term problematic drug use. Diseases including hepatitis C, cirrhosis and liver cancer are a burden on a health system that is still struggling to recover from recession and cutbacks. In this way, Portugal’s story serves as a warning of challenges yet to come.

Japan rethinks care as it confronts ‘pandemic of dementia’

As the world’s fastest ageing country — more than a quarter of Japanese people are over the age of 65 — Japan confronts a “pandemic of dementia”, according to Masaki Muto of the International University of Health.

By 2025, 7.3m Japanese will be living with the condition — one out of every 20 people in the country. By 2050, if nothing changes, it will be one in 10. The treatment and care of people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia costs Japan ¥14.5tn ($128bn) a year, according to a study by Keio University.

The scale of the challenge for Japanese society has prompted a rethink on dementia, with a move away from medicine and institutional care towards care in the community. With Japan’s health system struggling with shortages of both staff and money, the goal is to make dementia care part of the fabric of local life.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

The Number of Homeless People Rises on American Streets – WSJ

The number of homeless people in the U.S. rose slightly this year—the first increase since 2010, new federal data shows. The trend was most pronounced in high-cost cities, particularly on the West Coast, despite efforts to curb homelessness.

What Happened to the American Boomtown? – The New York Times

The places that are booming in size aren’t the economic boomtowns — the regions with the greatest prosperity and highest productivity. In theory, we’d expect those metros, like the Bay Area, Boston and New York, to be rapidly expanding, as people move from regions with high unemployment and meager wages to those with high salaries and strong job markets. That we’re not seeing such a pattern suggests that something is fundamentally amiss. The magnets aren’t working.

The metro areas that offered the highest pay in 2000 have grown by some of the slowest rates since then, while people have flocked to lower-wage metros like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C. Similarly, the metros with the highest G.D.P. per capita are barely adding workers relative to much less productive areas.

Some people aren’t moving into wealthy regions because they’re stuck in struggling ones. They have houses they can’t sell or government benefits they don’t want to lose. But the larger problem is that they’re blocked from moving to prosperous places by the shortage and cost of housing there. And that’s a deliberate decision these wealthy regions have made in opposing more housing construction, a prerequisite to make room for more people.

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Copper Flashes Red as Stockpiles and Spreads Point Bearish – Bloomberg

Copper is coming off the biggest one-day slump in two years and the mood in the market is souring. Even though prices are still up dramatically this year, here are four reasons traders are cautious for the future.

Copper inventories held in global exchanges remain stubbornly high, even after heavy disruptions to supply from mines in Chile and Indonesia at the start of the year. A large inflow on to the London Metal Exchange was a catalyst in Tuesday’s rout, as it sent a reminder that the market isn’t short of metal.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Iger Likely to Stay On as Disney CEO Past 2019 if Fox Deal Is Reached – WSJ

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger will likely stay on past his 2019 retirement date if the entertainment company wins its bid to buy the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox Inc., according to people familiar with the negotiations.

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CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES

Home Depot sets $15 billion share buyback, investment plan

Home Depot Inc. announced a $15 billion share buyback plan on Wednesday and said it would invest in improving its stores to hit a $120 billion annual sales target in the next three years.

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FINTECH, BLOCKCHAIN, DIGITAL PAYMENTS

Blockchain Scores Major Win as Australian Exchange Plans Shift – Bloomberg

Australia’s main stock exchange just announced one of the finance industry’s biggest bets yet on blockchain.

ASX Ltd. will start using blockchain — the ledger software that makes bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies possible — to process equity transactions, according to a filing Thursday. Digital Asset Holdings LLC, the startup run by former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Blythe Masters, will supply the technology.

“We’re the first exchange to consider taking this step,” said Peter Hiom, ASX deputy chief executive officer said on a media conference call.

Blockchain is massively hyped and banks have conducted myriad tests of the ledger technology, with few live deployments. Proponents tout it as a more efficient and less expensive way to track trades.

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

Wall Street Tells Frackers to Stop Counting Barrels, Start Making Profits – WSJ

Twelve major shareholders in U.S. shale-oil-and-gas producers met this September in a Midtown Manhattan high-rise with a view of Times Square to discuss a common goal, getting those frackers to make money for a change. In the months since, shareholders have put the screws to shale executives in ways that are changing the financial calculus of hydraulic fracturing and could ripple through the global oil market.

“Investors are tired of getting burned,” Mr. Heltman says. “Many are telling companies that unless this becomes a more disciplined industry, they aren’t going to come back.”

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ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR

Why An Oil Company Plans To Build California’s Biggest Solar Energy Project

With solar, you make your big investments upfront, then effectively get your fuel for free when the sun shines. Otherwise, when burning natural gas, Aera faces continual fuel bills, and gets dinged by California regulators for its industrial carbon emissions. The Glasspoint installation will eliminate 375,000 tons of carbon emissions each year, and offset about 4.9 billion cubic feet of natural gas use. At about $3 per thousand cubic feet, that works out to about $15 million in gas savings per year for fuel. Carbon credits are trickier to figure. Recent auction prices under the California-Canada carbon cap-and-trade program have come in at around $14.50 per ton. Outyear estimates are higher. Belridge carbon reductions might then be worth roughly $5 million per year? Aera’s Sistrunk won’t comment on such speculations. What she will say is that even with cap-and-trade and the natural gas savings, and other state and federal incentives, this solar project “is not overwhelmingly economically robust.”

So why go to the trouble? Because it looks good to do solar projects. And because California, despite being the epitome of America’s car culture, has made it an ever harder place for oil companies to maintain a “social license” to operate. “It’s a challenge in California, where you need your performance to be even stronger to offset the regulatory costs of doing business here,” says Sistrunk. “Previously we couldn’t afford to do it.”

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

World’s No. 1 Miner Sees Bigger Role for Carbon-Capture Systems – Bloomberg

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, said wider use of systems that trap carbon emissions will be needed to meet international climate goals, even as investments in the technology stall.

The most accurate climate change models predict the most alarming consequences, study finds – The Washington Post

The climate change simulations that best capture current planetary conditions are also the ones that predict the most dire levels of human-driven warming, according to a statistical study released in the journal Nature Wednesday.

The study, by Patrick Brown and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., examined the high-powered climate change simulations, or “models,” that researchers use to project the future of the planet based on the physical equations that govern the behavior of the atmosphere and oceans.

The researchers then looked at what the models that best captured current conditions high in the atmosphere predicted was coming. Those models generally predicted a higher level of warming than models that did not capture these conditions as well.

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BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

A U.S. Startup Is Gobbling Up the Old City of London – Bloomberg

The City of London isn’t just “the City” anymore. The 2008 crisis chipped away at the U.K. capital’s banking and finance office workers, and replaced them with Silicon Valley technology and media darlings. Creative industries account for 24 percent of London’s leased office space, versus the financial sector’s 21 percent, according to Credit Suisse. And a Bloomberg News report estimates that the city’s biggest tenant will soon be WeWork, a U.S. startup offering trendy, flexible workspace. With Brexit around the corner, tech looks like London’s renter of last resort.

Davis confirms there are no sectoral impact assessments on Brexit

Brexit secretary David Davis has confirmed that the government has not conducted sector-by-sector assessments on the impact of leaving the EU, telling a parliamentary committee that such studies would “not necessarily be informative”.

Most British Businesses Expect Higher 2018 Costs Because of a Weak Pound – Bloomberg

The majority of British businesses expect their costs to rise over the next year as a result of weakness in the pound, but almost half are doing nothing to mitigate their foreign exchange risk.

UK has 48 hours to agree potential deal or Brexit talks cannot progress | Politics | The Guardian

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has told member states that the British government has just 48 hours to agree a text on a potential deal or it will be told that negotiations will not move on to the next stage.

Brexit divorce deal hopes fading on Irish impasse

In a sign of growing tension with the Conservative party, three prominent Eurosceptics criticised Mrs May’s handling of negotiations during parliamentary questions. One, Jacob Rees-Mogg, complained her red lines had begun “to look a little bit pink”. Hours later, 19 pro-European Conservative MPs responded by criticising their colleagues’ “highly irresponsible” attempts to dictate exit terms.

Britons’ Brexit views unchanged — but more are expecting a bad deal

In February a clear majority of Leave voters thought the UK would get a good deal on Brexit: 51 per cent, compared with 20 per cent who expected a bad deal. However, the latest figures show 28 per cent of Leave voters expect a good deal, while 38 per cent think the deal will be bad.

Despite the pessimism, the share of people saying they want Brexit has remained extremely stable since the referendum, according to YouGov, another pollster. In November, 42 per cent of people polled said they thought the vote for Brexit was the right decision, with 44 per cent thinking it was wrong.

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EUROPE

Anti-Euro Swing on EU’s Fringe Triggers Backlash From Businesses – Bloomberg

When Poland’s main business lobby hosted a debate on the pros and cons of euro membership last month, former central bank Governor Marek Belka surprised the audience by issuing a ringing endorsement for joining the euro.

For a man who resisted a switch to the single currency during the Greek crisis, his call for deeper integration now – echoed by attending executives – revealed how alarmed eastern Europe’s corporate elite is by the nationalism running through their governments and on the streets.

It’s the same story in Hungarian business circles and in the Czech Republic, where premier-elect Andrej Babis rose to power by rejecting the French and German drive to make the currency union the engine of the European Union. Businesspeople worry about the economic costs of forgoing a seat at the table.

Given how heavily the three countries rely on the EU for exports, foreign investment and subsidies, there’s good reason to be nervous, especially against the backdrop of Brexit. Without the anchor of euro membership, some companies fret that the deepening wedge between their governments and the EU will leave the nations with less clout in making decisions that affect their economies.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

‘Islamist plot’ to kill Theresa May foiled by MI5 and police

MI5 and British police foiled an alleged Islamist plot to kill Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street — one of nine alleged terror assaults to be stopped by the security services since the Westminster attack in March.

China Scolds Australia Over Its Fears of Foreign Influence – The New York Times

The Chinese Embassy accused Australian officials of damaging “mutual trust,” a day after laws were proposed to curb interference by other countries in Australian politics.

There are four times as many U.S. troops in Syria as previously acknowledged by the Pentagon – The Washington Post

There are about 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in Syria, the Pentagon said Wednesday — a number that is four times more than any official figure that U.S. officials have previously acknowledged, and yet still lower than at the height of operations in Syria.

Tillerson Is Hopeful on Agreement for Ukraine Peace Force – WSJ

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he is hopeful that Moscow and Washington can bridge differences and agree on a peacekeeping force for Ukraine.

Trump calls on Saudi Arabia to allow food, other aid to reach Yemen – The Washington Post

President Trump on Wednesday called on Saudi Arabia to allow food, fuel, water and medicine to reach the people of Yemen, in a statement that reflected the growing alarm of relief agencies and amounted to an unusually harsh public scolding of one of his administration’s closest allies.

U.S. Files Suit to Seize Antiquities Looted by Islamic State Militants – WSJ

U.S. authorities are trying to seize an ancient gold ring allegedly looted by Islamic State militants that was sold for around $250,000 in Turkey and then confiscated by Turkish police, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

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TRUMP WORLD

Trump Pick to Head Consumer Safety Board Is Seen as Too Close to Industries – The New York Times

Ann Marie Buerkle, a commissioner poised to run the federal agency, has rarely voted for a mandatory recall, a maximum fine, or a tougher safety standard.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

John Conyers III Was Arrested in February, Accused of Stabbing His Girlfriend – The New York Times

John Conyers III, whose father endorsed him for a House seat election as the lawmaker resigned amid sexual harassment allegations, was arrested in February after his girlfriend suffered knife cuts during an argument.

House Passes Bill Requiring States Recognize Concealed Gun Permits – Bloomberg

The Republican-sponsored bill, which the National Rifle Association has called its “highest legislative priority in Congress,” would amend the federal criminal code to allow the concealed transport of handguns across state lines, so long as both states allow concealed carry. The final vote, on legislation that included a provision increasing federal and state reporting to the national gun background check system, was 231 to 198.

House votes to kill Texas lawmaker’s Trump impeachment effort – The Washington Post

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) issued a joint statement before the vote making clear that they opposed Green’s effort, though they stopped short of calling on Democrats to vote to kill it.

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SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC

China’s Blurry Cyber Laws Give U.S. Tech Companies No Security – WSJ

Six months after it went into force, China’s tough new cybersecurity law is still troubling U.S. technology executives who fear that it will put the intellectual property of their companies and the data they collect in jeopardy.

Uber’s top dealmaker in Europe steps down

Uber’s top dealmaker in Europe is stepping down, the latest in a series of departures as the company faces a potential ban in London and manages the fallout from a massive 2016 data breach.

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MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT

NFL Completes Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Contract Extension – WSJ

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension has been completed, bringing resolution to a hostile, weeks-long drama in which Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones attempted to forestall the deal.

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AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

GM’s Latest Weapon in Pickup Truck Wars: Carbon Fiber – WSJ

General Motors plans to use costly but lightweight carbon fiber to make the beds on premium versions of large pickup trucks as the auto maker aims to stay competitive in the crucial category while also satisfying tightening fuel-economy standards.

Volkswagen Official Gets 7-Year Term in Diesel-Emissions Cheating – The New York Times

Oliver Schmidt had pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the carmaker’s scheme to deceive regulators in the United States by cheating on diesel-emissions tests.

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LUXURY, HIGH END, ASPIRATIONAL

The Louvre Abu Dhabi Is Getting the $450 Million Da Vinci Painting – Bloomberg

Christie’s said the artwork will be going to the museum, but declined to say whether the Louvre Abu Dhabi bought the painting. The Louvre Abu Dhabi said in a tweet Wednesday: “Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi.”

The Mysterious Buyer of the $450 Million Leonardo da Vinci? A Saudi Prince – The New York Times

He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH

The U.S. has lost its lead in lasers – The Washington Post

“Although the United States led innovations in high-intensity lasers throughout the 20th century, leadership is rapidly moving to Europe, and in some cases, to Asia as well,” the report concluded. “The U.S. has lost its previous dominance.”

The stark warning that the United States is missing out on a “second laser revolution” comes as President Trump calls for rejuvenating traditional industries such as coal mining. Elsewhere, U.S. commercial rivals such as China are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and other futuristic sectors.

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