Macro Links Feb 21st – Appetizer For the Real Deal

Macro Links Feb 21st – Appetizer For the Real Deal

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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Venezuela Is Jumping Into the Crypto Craze – Bloomberg

For the past seven months, Jimenez has been part of a government team working in secret in Caracas to study how cryptocurrencies could alleviate some of Venezuela’s deepest problems, including its recent lack of bank notes. Despite importing billions of banknotes, Venezuela’s worthless currency has struggled to keep up with quadruple-figure inflation that values the highest-denominated bill (100,000 bolivars) at just 50 cents. As a result, ATMs are empty across Caracas, and local banks limit customers to withdrawals equivalent to just a few cents a day.

Look Out Bitcoin: Venezuela Launches its Own Cryptocurrency – MoneyBeat – WSJ

The cash-strapped South American nation–which is facing hyperinflation, an increasingly worthless physical currency, and widespread food and medicine shortages–took the first step in its plan to raise billions of dollars by launching a presale of the digital currency, named the petro, on Tuesday. An initial coin offering is expected in March.

Bitcoin nearly doubles in value from year’s low hit in early February – Reuters

Bitcoin hit a three-week high on Tuesday and has surged nearly 100 percent from its lowest level this year, as its recovery continued after South Korea’s financial regulator eased its stance on cryptocurrencies, weeks after it considered shutting down digital currency exchanges.

Bitcoin Rises as South Korea Talks ‘Active’ Support for Trading – Bloomberg

Bitcoin’s stunning rebound continued on Tuesday, with the world’s largest digital token extending February’s gains after South Korean regulators signaled they will actively support what they called “normal” cryptocurrency trading.

ETF Veteran Goes Crypto, Predicting Multitrillion-Dollar Market – Bloomberg

“When I think about individual applications, like gold which is a $3 trillion market, there’s the idea of Bitcoin as millennial gold,” Hougan said in an interview. “It’s a multitrillion-dollar opportunity, and then when you get into utility tokens, each of those markets can be substantial.”

Bank of England Governor Claims Bitcoin Has ‘Failed’ As A Currency | Cointelegraph

At an event at London’s Regent’s University, Carney claimed that Bitcoin failed to meet two major requirements of a traditional currency, claiming that Bitcoin is neither a means of exchange, nor a store of value. “It [cryptocurrency] has pretty much failed thus far on… the traditional aspects of money. It is not a store of value because it is all over the map. Nobody uses it as a medium of exchange,” Carney told students of London’s Regent’s University.

PayPal Exec Says ‘Very High Likelihood’ Bitcoin Will Become Popular Payment Method | Cointelegraph

PayPal’s chief financial officer, John Rainey, spoke positively of Bitcoin’s (BTC) use as a future popular option for payments during an interview with The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published Monday, Feb. 19. “The technology, there is real merit to it. I do think, though, it will be years down the road before we see the kind of ubiquity and acceptance that make it a form of currency that is used every day.”

Bitcoin ‘one of the most brilliant scams in history,’ says Elliott Management – Business Insider

“FOMO (fear of missing out) has solidly trumped WTHIT (what the hell is this??),” Elliott told clients in a January 26 letter seen by Business Insider. “When the history is written, cryptocurrencies will likely be described as one of the most brilliant scams in history.”

Bitcoin Thieves Threaten Real Violence for Virtual Currencies – The New York Times

The rich have always feared robbery and extortion. Now, big holders of Bitcoin and its brethren have become alluring marks for criminals, especially since the prices of virtual currencies entered the stratosphere last year. Virtual currencies can be easily transferred to an anonymous address set up by a criminal. While banks can stop or reverse large electronic transactions made under duress, there is no Bitcoin bank to halt or take back a transfer, making the chances of a successful armed holdup frighteningly enticing.

Coinbase Runs From One Fire to the Next – Bloomberg

Coinbase Inc. is one of the most popular online exchanges for digital currencies. But last year, it started seeing complaints soar on the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. Unfortunately for the San Francisco business and its customers, things have only gotten worse.

Coinbase to Launch SegWit Upgrade – Bloomberg

Coinbase Inc., the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, is planning to roll out a long-awaited software update in an effort to reduce transaction fees customers pay when sending Bitcoin. The upgrade, called Segregated Witness or SegWit, was first made available by developers in August as Bitcoin’s growing popularity led to congestion in the network.

Congress sets sights on federal cryptocurrency rules – Reuters

Jolted by the global investment craze over bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, U.S. lawmakers are moving to consider new rules that could impose stricter federal oversight on the emerging asset class, several top lawmakers told Reuters. Bipartisan momentum is growing in the Senate and House of Representatives for action to address the risks posed by virtual currencies to investors and the financial system, they said.

California Bill Would Legally Recognize Blockchain Data – CoinDesk

A California lawmaker has introduced a bill that, if passed, would update the state’s electronic records laws to account for blockchain signatures and smart contracts. Assembly Bill 2658, submitted by Assemblymember Ian Calderon last week, expands the definition of electronic records and signatures – contained in the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act – to include records and signatures on the blockchain, notably stipulating: “A record that is secured through blockchain technology is an electronic record.”

Don’t believe the hype. The five largest “ICO exit scams” | Cointelegraph

ICO exit scams thrive in the current environment of unbelievable profits, overwhelming hype, and the time-constrained nature of ICOs, which make investors feel like they need to invest quickly or risk losing out on a good deal. No matter if you are just starting out or are a seasoned investor, every single decision needs to be analyzed thoroughly – there is no substitute for due diligence.

South Korean Cryptocurrency Regulator Found Dead at Home – WSJ

Mr. Jung’s colleagues said he had been under heavy stress in recent months as South Korea worked to tackle cryptocurrency speculation, Yonhap reported. South Korea has been a hot spot for cryptocurrency trading and the threat of new legislation has weighed on the price of bitcoin this year following a manic rally in 2017.

Israel Confirms Cryptocurrency Will Be Taxed As Property, Not Currency | Cointelegraph

Israel’s general consumption value-added tax (VAT) will not be added for individual investors, as crypto is considered an “intangible asset” used “for investment purposes only”, but businesses will have to pay VAT, the circular notes. The document also states that miners will be classified as “dealer[s]” for VAT purposes.

Illicit Uses of Cryptocurrency Gaining Attention Around the World | Cointelegraph

Newer cryptocurrencies such as Cloakcoin, Dash, PIVX, and Zcoin have built in mixing services as a part of their Blockchain network. Monero, drug dealer’s favorite crypto, provides anonymity without tumbling services due to its privacy-centric Blockchain design. Therefore more effort needs to be placed upon the monitoring cryptocurrencies with privacy or mixing services features, crypto mixers and tumblers since they can impede tax collection, anti-money laundering practices, and law enforcement agencies.

Tim Draper on Bitcoin: “Why Would I Sell the Future for the Past?” – Bitcoin News

In the most quoted segment of his Bloomberg interview, Draper reasoned, ““People ask me, ‘Are you going to sell your bitcoin [for fiat]?’ and I say, ‘Why would I sell the future for the past?’” This augments previous remarks when Draper was quoted as saying: “I don’t know why anyone would want to go back to fiat when crypto is distributed, secure and global, while fiat is subject to the whims of political forces”.

Commodities Shipper Seeks $150 Million to Start Digital Coin – Bloomberg

The company was the first to execute a freight deal in Bitcoin, shipping 3,000 tons of Russian wheat to Turkey at the end of last year. While the freight charges were billed in the cryptocurrency, using digital coins to pay for the actual commodities has proven to be difficult. That’s because their lack of liquidity makes it harder to convert higher-value deals quickly into fiat currencies, he said. “The conversion in and out of Bitcoin can sometimes take one or two days, and that’s not fast enough,” Vikulov said. “Ours will take a few seconds.”

Riot Blockchain Tumbles After Expose Raises Manipulation Concern – Bloomberg

Riot Blockchain Inc. shares tumbled as much as 34 percent after CNBC broadcast a report suggesting the rebranding of the former biotech-equipment maker was done to enrich the people who control the company.

Wyoming Introduces New Bill To Exempt Crypto From Property Taxation | Cointelegraph

A new tax bill has been introduced in the Wyoming state senate on Feb. 16 that would exempt virtual currencies from state property taxation, and suggests an effective date be provided for the tax exemption implementation.

Western Union Says It’s Testing Transactions With Ripple – Bloomberg

Western Union’s long-rumored relationship with Ripple is turning out to be real. After more than a month of speculation, the money transfer company said it’s evaluating blockchain technology and is testing transactions with Ripple, the San Francisco-based startup behind the cryptocurrency of the same name.

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Trump: Reverse TPP, trade decision, GOP senators say – Business Insider

25 GOP senators sent a letter asking President Trump to re-engage on talks to make the US part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The multilateral trade deal was designed help lower barriers to trade among 12 countries along the Pacific Rim, including Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Since the US backed out, the remaining members have developed a new deal, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP.

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BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION

Spending Bill Raises Expectations for More Fed Rate Increases – WSJ

A bipartisan spending deal reached by U.S. lawmakers earlier this month has prompted many Wall Street economists to raise their projections of how much the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year and next. More forecasters say they now expect four Fed rate increases this year, up from three, because of the deal to increase federal government spending by $300 billion over the next two years.

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GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY

For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals – The Washington Post

The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families. “But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.

Florida Teachers’ Pension Fund Invested in Maker of School Massacre Gun – Bloomberg

American Outdoor made the AR-15 used to kill 17 people at a Florida high school last week. The fund owned more than $500,000 of its stock. As Florida teachers grieve over the mass shooting that left 17 students and colleagues dead last week, some of them may be surprised to learn they’ve been helping fund the firearms industry—including the company that made the gun used that bloody Wednesday.

Poll: 97 percent support background checks for all gun buyers | TheHill

Support for universal background checks has hit a record high, according to a new poll conducted in the wake of last week’s deadly school shooting in Florida. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed in the Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday said they support requiring background checks for all gun buyers, while just 2 percent were opposed.

As Florida Students Head to State Capital, Lawmakers Fail to Take Up Assault Rifle Bill – The New York Times

Driven by rage and grief over one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history, students from across the country were taking action in hopes of pushing their lawmakers to rethink their positions on gun control, even as the Florida State House rejected a move on Tuesday to consider a bill that would ban assault rifles. From California to Florida, teenagers walked out of classes, stopped traffic and made stirring speeches calling out their elders for inaction.

Trump directs Attorney General Sessions to propose regulations to ban ‘bump stocks’ – The Washington Post

President Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he has signed a memorandum directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to propose regulations to ban “bump stocks” and other devices that turn semiautomatic firearms into “machine guns.”

Trump Moves to Regulate ‘Bump Stock’ Devices – The New York Times

Mr. Trump’s first embrace as president of any gun control measures was dismissed by gun control supporters as minor. The National Rifle Association supports the background check legislation and also backs bump stock regulation, although not an outright ban.

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RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE

After Florida School Shooting, Russian ‘Bot’ Army Pounced – The New York Times

“This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”

Russian Trolls Tweeted Disinformation Long Before U.S. Election – WSJ

“Well before it was focused on the 2016 election, what Russia was doing was stockpiling capabilities,” said Keir Giles, a specialist in Russian information warfare at the Chatham House think tank in London. “They were doing test runs of what happens if we launch this kind of Twitter attack or attempt to start this kind of panic. Sit back, refine your results, see what works and what doesn’t.”

On Social Media, Lax Enforcement Lets Impostor Accounts Thrive – The New York Times

Millions of accounts impersonating real people roam social media platforms, promoting commercial products and celebrities, attacking political candidates and sowing discord. They spread fake images and misinformation about the school shooting last week in Parkland, Fla. They were central to Russian attempts to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald J. Trump, according to a federal grand jury indictment on Friday. And American intelligence officials believe they will figure in Russian efforts to shape the coming midterm elections, too.

Conservatives urge Trump to grant pardons in Russia probe – POLITICO

After months of criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Donald Trump’s supporters are issuing increasingly bold calls for presidential pardons to limit the investigation’s impact. “It’s kind of cruel what’s going on right now and the president should put these defendants out of their misery,” said Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist. “I think he should pardon everybody — and pardon himself.”

Mueller’s interest in Kushner grows to include foreign financing efforts – CNNPolitics

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

Trump Tries to Shift Blame to Obama for Not Countering Russian Meddling – The New York Times

President Trump, who spent months belittling charges that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, has managed to revive questions about how his predecessor, President Barack Obama, handled suspicions about Russia in the months before the election.

In Mueller probe, son-in-law of Russian businessman pleads guilty to false statements – The Washington Post

The Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s wealthiest men pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington to making false statements in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Alex van der Zwaan was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with Rick Gates, who served as a top official on President Trump’s campaign and a longtime business partner of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

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NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS

North Korean Hacking Group Grows Into Global Threat – Bloomberg

North Korean cyber-spy group “Reaper” is emerging as a global threat, conducting espionage well beyond the Korean peninsula in support of Pyongyang’s military and economic interests, FireEye Inc. said. North Korea has been widening its cyber-operations in pursuit of cash and intelligence in an attempt to cushion the impact of international sanctions, and Reaper underscores the challenge in fending them off.

U.S. Pursues Saudi Nuclear Deal, Despite Proliferation Risk – WSJ

The Trump administration is pursuing a deal to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia despite the kingdom’s refusal to accept the most stringent restrictions against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, U.S. officials say. Saudi Arabia’s resistance to the toughest proliferation controls—a ban on enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel—already is stirring concern among U.S. lawmakers, who must review any accord to transfer U.S. nuclear technology, known as a 123 agreement.

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INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS

Household Debt Sees Quiet Boom Across the Globe – WSJ

A decade after household debt burdens contributed to a crisis in the U.S. and EU, a new crop of economies face high and still rising household debt burdens. Will Switzerland, Australia, Canada and others be able to carry larger debts, or are they victims of their own success? “When household credit goes up too fast, the fact is, it doesn’t end well,” said Guillermo Tolosa, an economist at Oxford Economics.

Boom Turns to Bust for Millennials Across Advanced Economies – Bloomberg

The income boom enjoyed by people born between 1966 and 1980 has turned to “bust” for the generation that followed them, according to a report published Monday. In an analysis of eight high-income countries, the Resolution Foundation think tank found that millennials in their early 30s have household incomes 4 percent lower on average than members of so-called Generation X at the same age.

18G21 - MILLENNIAL BUST

Market’s Red Line for Yields Isn’t Where Everyone Thinks It Is – Bloomberg

“We have a tight labor market, we have inflation higher than people think and when inflation goes up it tends to represent cost pressure for companies, and this tends to be a problem over time for profit margins,” Golub said. “Rising cost pressures will eventually be problematic for profitability, and that’s what I think the market is concerned about.”

Tudor Veteran Says a Little More Inflation Could Rock Bonds – Bloomberg

The apparent stabilization in the bond market of the past couple weeks could just mark the eye of the storm, according to a former Tudor Investment Corp. trader whose bets on ructions in fixed income have been paying off. Just a small pick-up in inflation — which has long undershot central banks’ targets — could send bonds tumbling anew, says Brett Gillespie, who’s lured about A$370 million ($293 million) since July into a global macro fund he’s building in Sydney at Ellerston Capital Ltd.

U.S. Pays Up to Auction $179 Billion of Debt in a Span of Hours – Bloomberg

The U.S. Treasury on Tuesday sold $96 billion of bills at yields unseen since 2008 and is preparing to sell a further $55 billion of short-term securities later in the day as it works to rebuild its cash balance with record-sized sales of short-term securities. All told, the offerings saw decent demand, given the market is facing a deluge of sales following the recent U.S. debt ceiling suspension. The bid-to-cover ratios on the three- and six-month auctions were 2.74 and 3.11, respectively.

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VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS

Morgan Stanley Says Stock Slide Was Appetizer for Real Deal – Bloomberg

“Appetizer, not the main course,” is how the bank’s strategists led by London-based Andrew Sheets described the correction of late January to early February. Although higher bond yields proved tough for equity investors to digest, the key metric of inflation-adjusted yields didn’t break out of their range for the past five years, they said in a note Monday.

18G21 - REAL NOT THREAT YET

Money Managers Think the Worst Is Yet to Come for S&P 500 – Bloomberg

About 57 percent of investors surveyed by Strategas Research Partners expect the S&P 500 Index to break the intraday low of 2,533 reached on Feb. 9, while the rest say the market has bottomed for the year after a two-week selloff sent the index to its first 10 percent correction since 2016. The poll, conducted Feb. 16, covered roughly 500 institutional investors.

Buy the Dip Isn’t Dead. In Fact, It’s Just Getting Stronger – Bloomberg

Never fear, buy the dip is still here. Canaccord Genuity asset strategist Brian Reynolds, who tracks repurchasing plans among companies in the S&P 500 Index, notes that the firm’s “buyback authorization chart has gone nearly vertical this month.” Such a move suggests that American businesses are more ready than ever to step in and cauterize any market wounds.

Washington’s $500 Million Financial-Storm Forecaster Is Foundering – WSJ

Congress created a brand new agency after the 2008 financial crisis with a gargantuan mission: Serve as the finance world’s version of the National Weather Service. The new Office of Financial Research wasn’t expected to prevent economic storms, but it was supposed to anticipate them and issue warnings to help authorities contain the damage. Almost a decade and nearly $500 million later, the agency has struggled to establish a place for itself in Washington. In November, Treasury Department officials told OFR employees that the agency’s budget would be cut by one-quarter and its staff by more than one-third.

S&P Global Ratings on cryptocurrency’s contagion risk to banks – Business Insider

In a note published on Monday, the ratings agency said cryptocurrencies would have “an insignificant effect on global financial stability if its value were to collapse” and are not a threat to banks. “In our opinion, in its current version, a cryptocurrency is a speculative instrument, and a collapse in its market value would be just a ripple across the financial services industry, still too small to disturb stability or affect the creditworthiness of banks we rate,” credit analyst Mohamed Damak and his team wrote.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

Should risk-takers be required to have ‘skin in the game’? – FT

Skin in the Game advances Taleb’s long-held belief, doubling as a grudge, that people should only be heeded or trusted if they have a personal stake in the outcome. The advice of everyone else, from economists to policymakers, intellectuals and journalists, should be ignored, or treated with a great deal of scepticism, because they lack both credibility and integrity. The book’s weakness is that it never satisfactorily addresses the counter-argument to the need for “skin in the game” — that having a stake in an outcome eliminates impartiality and causes conflicts of interest.

The Mueller probe and a lesson in Russian strategic deception. – Slate

While I can’t pretend to know when and how the Russians will undertake a deception operation, my sense is that it will be around the issue of collusion. If there was collusion with the Trump team, the Russians will surely be looking to steer U.S. authorities toward alternate explanations for the activities of 2015 and 2016. If there was no collusion whatsoever, the Russians may follow an alternative strategy of actively promoting the story as a means of weakening the Trump administration and our trust in the democratic system. In either case, their goal is the same: turn the U.S. against itself and protect Russian interests.

Technological Unemployment: Much More Than You Wanted To Know | Slate Star Codex

This is a very depressing conclusion. If technology didn’t cause problems, that would be great. If technology made lots of people unemployed, that would be hard to miss, and the government might eventually be willing to subsidize something like a universal basic income. But we won’t get that. We’ll just get people being pushed into worse and worse jobs, in a way that does not inspire widespread sympathy or collective action. The prospect of educational, social, or political intervention remains murky.

Why A.I. Researchers at Google Got Desks Next to the Boss – The New York Times

A growing number of tech companies are pushing research labs and other far-reaching engineering efforts closer to the boss. The point is unmistakable: What they are doing matters to the chief executive. It may even be the future of the company. “The world is moving faster and faster. It is being driven by technology and innovation,” said John Kotter, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School who has written several books on business leadership. “And a lot of these businesses are concluding that the speed of technological innovation should be the heart of everything.”

‘No Cash’ Signs Everywhere Has Sweden Worried It’s Gone Too Far – Bloomberg

Sweden is widely regarded as the most cashless society on the planet. Most of the country’s bank branches have stopped handling cash; many shops, museums and restaurants now only accept plastic or mobile payments. But there’s a downside, since many people, in particular the elderly, don’t have access to the digital society. “One may get into a negative spiral which can threaten the cash infrastructure,” Dillen said. “It’s those types of issues we are looking more closely at.”

The Car of the Future Will Sell Your Data – Bloomberg

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.

Devil’s Bargain: We already have planet-cooling technology. The problem is, it’s killing us. | Grist

When most people hear “climate change,” they think of greenhouse gases overheating the planet. But there’s another product of industry changing the climate that has received scant public attention: aerosols. They’re microscopic particles of pollution that, on balance, reflect sunlight back to space and help cool the planet down, providing a crucial counterweight to greenhouse-powered global warming. But there’s a catch. Our surplus of aerosols is a huge problem for those of us who like to breathe air. At high concentrations, these tiny particles are one of the deadliest substances in existence, burrowing deep into our bodies where they can damage hearts and lungs.

Survey of Downtown San Francisco Reveals Trash on Every Block, 303 Piles of Feces and 100 Drug Needles – NBC Bay Area

An NBC Bay Area Investigation reveals a dangerous concoction of drug needles, garbage, and feces lining the streets of downtown San Francisco. The Investigative Unit surveyed more than 150 blocks, including some of the city’s top tourist destinations, and discovered conditions that are now being compared to some of the worst slums in the world.

Congo’s war was bloody. It may be about to start again – Economist

President Kabila is in the seventh year of a five-year term and is constitutionally barred from standing again. He was supposed to call an election in 2016 but found excuses to delay it over and over. He has no legitimacy. His authority is disintegrating. And with it, central Africa faces once again the possibility of a slide into war.

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Gold Miners ETF Lures $529 Million Inflow After Market Turmoil – Bloomberg

Investors piled into VanEck’s Vectors Gold Miners exchange-traded fund last week to the tune of $529 million, the most since September 2013. The ETF holds shares of mining companies including Newmont Mining Corp. and Barrick Gold Corp. Gold meanwhile rallied after two weeks of declines.

18G21 - GDX BOOM

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Albertsons to buy Rite Aid as Amazon threat looms – Reuters

U.S. grocer Albertsons Cos Inc said it would buy drug store chain Rite Aid Corp to create a company with $83 billion in annual revenue, giving it more clout to compete with bigger chains in an industry fearing the entry of Amazon.Com.

Home Depot Gets Lift From Housing Boom, Hurricane Spending – Bloomberg

After almost a decade of rising U.S. property values, homeowners are making renovations at a record pace. The world’s largest home-improvement chain also has benefited from investments in its technology and customer service — part of a strategy that has focused on generating more sales from current stores, rather than opening new ones.

Walmart Stumbles in Shift to Web Selling – WSJ

Walmart shares fell more than 10% Tuesday, with the downdraft pulling many retail stocks along. It was the biggest one-day drop in stock price in more than two years for the world’s largest retailer. Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said that as holiday goods like TVs and toys flooded Walmart’s e-commerce warehouses, they squeezed the room for everyday items such as toilet paper. That meant the retailer ran out of some items, hurting online sales. “Our in-stock for basic items suffered as a result,” Mr. McMillon said.

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

Israel-Egypt $15 Billion Deal Boosts Energy Hub Prospects – Bloomberg

A $15 billion deal to export Israeli gas to Egypt is moving forward after months of talks, bringing the Jewish state a step closer to becoming an energy exporter to the most populous Arab country.

US forges ahead on oil and gas exports pledge – FT

The US is forging ahead with a plan to boost oil and gas exports as part of a push by President Donald Trump’s administration for “energy dominance”, a top government official said. The country’s exports have been propelled by a boom in oil and natural gas production linked to the technological revolution that unlocked vast energy reserves from shale rocks in recent years.

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ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE

OPEC, Russia See Oil Glut Dissipating at a Faster Rate – Bloomberg

After about four years of surplus, the global market will finally rebalance in the second or third quarter, earlier than previously estimated, said people familiar with the group’s deliberations. This conclusion follows multiple signals of tighter supply, including Brent crude briefly surging above $70 a barrel and oil stockpiles in developed nations falling by the most in six years.

18G21 - OPEC ALMOST CLEARS OIL GLUT

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ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR

Mandates, Not Market Prices, Likely to Keep U.S. Solar Growing – WSJ

Government mandates should keep U.S. solar power growing, despite new Trump administration tariffs on imported solar panels that are poised to raise prices. While the tariffs may slow the rate of solar expansion, local and state policies requiring utilities to procure renewable energy will continue to help create a baseline market for solar power, particularly for large, utility-scale projects.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia, a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times

Two Americans snapped up large swaths of land in Chile, which they donated to a new conservation area that will be three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone combined. The park is the brainchild of Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her husband, Douglas Tompkins, who founded The North Face and Esprit clothing companies, and starting in 1991, put $345 million — much of his fortune — buying large swaths of Patagonia.

3M Agrees to Pay $850 Million to Settle Minnesota Water Contamination Lawsuit – WSJ

The deal reached by the company and state’s attorney general was announced hours after a trial over the suit was slated to begin Tuesday. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson had accused 3M of contaminating the state’s water supply by dumping millions of pounds of waste into the ground and water from the production of fluorochemicals, or PFCs, that the company used in its Scotchgard product for protecting furniture and carpets from stains.

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BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

May Under Pressure After 62 Tory Hardliners Demand Clean Brexit – Bloomberg

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a potentially dangerous outcry from 62 members of her own party who are demanding a quick, clean break from the European Union, just as she tries to finalize her Brexit plans. While insisting they back May’s leadership, the Tories link their support to her delivering the kind of decisive split that they want Brexit to be. They number more than enough to trigger a leadership bid against May, whose government lacks a parliamentary majority.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

German armed forces in ‘dramatically bad’ shape, report finds – FT

From submarines to bulletproof vests, the state of Germany’s military equipment is “dramatically bad”, according to an official report published on Tuesday that hits out at decades of underfunding of the Bundeswehr. The report is likely to heighten concerns about the readiness and funding of Germany’s armed forces, which are being asked to take over more tasks and responsibilities than at any point since reunification in 1990.

Cambodia’s embrace of China stirs local tension – FT

Cambodia is not alone in weighing the mixed blessings of Chinese investment, which elsewhere has been welcomed for its scale and relative lack of conditions attached but criticised for leaving construction and other jobs in Chinese hands. What is unusual about Sihanoukville’s transformation is that tension in the town has coalesced into a public backlash — unusual in a country where personal freedoms are fading — and drawn a stern response from Cambodian authorities as well as from China’s ambassador.

Syrian attacks on eastern Ghouta kill over 100 – The Washington Post

A surge in Syrian government airstrikes has killed at least 200 people over the past two days on the outskirts of Damascus, aid agencies said Tuesday, as the Syrian war ramps up and civilians again pay the price for the failure of international efforts to resolve it. The bloodshed marked one of the deadliest episodes in the ­seven-year war, aid agencies and human rights monitors said, as nightfall brought more waves of bombing against the cluster of towns and villages known as Eastern Ghouta, one of the largest areas still under rebel control.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

New Pennsylvania congressional map erases 1,100 miles of district borders – The Washington Post

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has drawn a new congressional district map for the state after finding that the previous map, drawn by Republicans following the 2010 Census, was an illegal gerrymander that deprived the state’s voters of their right to participate in free and equal elections.

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MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT

Vice, BuzzFeed and Vox hit by changes in digital media industry – FT

The challenge facing these companies and other digital players like Vox Media, which owns digital brands such as Curbed and Recode, is how to diversify and prosper at a time when traditional media — namely television — is under extreme stress thanks to the explosion of streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH

Vodafone to test traffic control for drones over mobile network – FT

Vodafone is to test the world’s first air traffic control system for drones over a mobile network as the telecoms industry seeks to take a central role in developing a framework to integrate drones safely into international airspace. The proliferation of drones has caused a problem for aviation regulators, bringing safety concerns and the risk of inadvertent or criminal incursions around sensitive locations including airports and prisons, where drones have been used to deliver contraband.

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HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS

Counting Calories Is Not the Key to Weight Loss, New Study Finds – The New York Times

A new study found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.

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MISCELLANEOUS

John Glenn, American Hero of the Space Age, Dies at 95 – The New York Times

John Glenn, a freckle-faced son of Ohio who was hailed as a national hero and a symbol of the space age as the first American to orbit Earth, then became a national political figure for 24 years in the Senate, died on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. He was 95.

18G21 - JOHN GLENN

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