Macro Links Feb 22nd – Cryptojacked
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
- BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
- GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE
- INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
- HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
Hackers accessed Tesla’s AWS access credentials by penetrating a non-password protected Kubernetes software container. The hackers then used the Kubernetes container to mine for cryptocurrencies, for an as of yet unknown amount of time. RedLock’s CSI team exposed a similar hack of AWS for Bitcoin (BTC) mining purposes at companies Aviva and Gemaltо in October of last year. These companies, like Tesla, did not have passwords for their admin consoles.
“Zen Master” and Hollywood actor Steven Seagal has announced that he is the new brand ambassador for Bitcoiin2Gen (B2G), a new cryptocurrency that claims to be a “superior or more advanced version of [Satoshi Nakamoto’s] Original Bitcoin”, in a tweet Feb. 20.
“Stable coins are potentially the key to unlocking widespread adoption of cryptos,” said Rafael Cosman, the 24-year-old co-founder of San Francisco-based TrustToken, which issued a token named TrueUSD last month. Their creators say stable coins can be used by merchants to price goods, send remittances abroad and serve as a reliable store of wealth. They can also act as a haven from the wild price swings that often accompany Bitcoin and other popular tokens.
It was Andy Warhol who famously observed that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. That fame, it now appears, may come in the form of the ultimate crypto vanity project: tokenizing yourself and selling your time. One audacious entrepreneur, Boris Akimov, is seeking to do precisely that.
“Friday was one of the worst days we have suffered through in a very long while,” he wrote in the Gartman Letter on Tuesday. “We were long of a sizeable position in a blockchain focused company that was the victim of a CNBC expose, which sent the shares down more than 20 percent and which sent us ‘down’ for the year to date, having been up about 6 percent previously.”
Germany’s financial regulator has clarified its position on initial coin offerings. Bafin admitted it was receiving many inquiries about ICOs and tokens. A new survey found out that more than two thirds of Germans know about bitcoin.
The bill’s provisions seek to prevent town and county governments in the state from imposing restrictions on people who run such nodes in their residences, saying that the matter “is of statewide concern and not subject to further regulation” in those local jurisdictions. Weninger’s measure does not specify whether it is restricted to cryptocurrency miners, but it does state specifically that individuals using computing power to either validate or encrypt a transaction on a blockchain are protected.
As customers realized the situation, a number attempted to make the most of the 20-minute window for free coins. One, according to the Asahi Shimbun, even placed a order for bitcoin worth 2,200 trillion yen ($20 trillion) at the time; then moving to quickly sell it again. The firm later cancelled the transactions and corrected the users’ balances, Asahi indicates.
A glitch at a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange allowed some users to buy digital currencies for free, heightening concerns over the security of such trading platforms. Six of the transactions have been voided. Zaif is trying to rectify the issue with the seventh customer who attempted to transfer the bitcoin from the exchange, a spokesperson told Reuters.
The operator of a now-defunct cryptocurrency investment platform was charged with lying to U.S. regulators to hide the fact that hackers stole more 6,000 of his customers’ Bitcoins. Jon Montroll, 37, of Saginaw, Texas, was charged with two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice in a complaint unsealed Wednesday by the office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
Distributed ledger startup Ripple has today announced new partnerships with five banking and money transfer institutions across four different countries. Going forward, the two banks – Itaú Unibanco from Brazil and IndusInd from India – along with money remittance companies InstaReM from Singapore, Beetech from Brazil and Zip Remit from Canada, will be adopting different Ripple platforms to facilitate real-time international payments, according to a press release.
As the dramatic surge in bitcoin’s price lures both individuals and corporations to try their hand at mining cryptocurrencies, many people are facing logistics challenges. That’s giving rise to “hosting” or “colocation” services that make mining easier for the masses by providing ready infrastructure, security and electricity.
BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
Mobile banking apps keep getting better, but 60 percent of Americans would still rather open a new checking account in person at a bank branch than on a phone, tablet or desktop computer, according to a new survey. Set for release on Wednesday by consulting firm Novantas, the survey also found that half of U.S. customers feel that online-only banks are “less legitimate” than those with branches.
BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.
A decades-old federal law prevents Americans from discharging student debt in bankruptcy court unless they prove to a judge’s satisfaction that they face an “undue hardship,” such a stringent standard that few borrowers even try. The Trump administration can’t change the law without congressional approval. But it can decide how aggressively to fight a borrower’s request to cancel loans in court.
The parents of first lady Melania Trump have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship, according to people familiar with their status, but their attorney declined to say how or when the couple gained their green cards. Immigration experts said Viktor and Amalija Knavs very likely relied on a family reunification process that President Trump has derided as “chain migration” and proposed ending in such cases.
GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY
The White House is signaling support for a bipartisan bill that would enhance reporting of violent criminals to the FBI’s background-check database in order to stop them from buying firearms. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) is trying to round up support for it along with the White House — a formidable duo from a party that typically shuns any talk of stricter gun measures. But House conservatives are unwilling to sign on, unless the measure is coupled with so-called “concealed-carry” legislation backed by the NRA. Combining the two ideas would have the net effect of loosening gun controls.
Borges’ friend Carlos Rodriguez told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the two rushed to hide in a nearby classroom when they first heard gunshots. He says no one knew what to do, but that Borges “took the initiative to just save his other classmates.”
Filled with fury and impatient for change, thousands of Florida high school students and protesters rallied Wednesday at the state Capitol to demand that lawmakers take action in the final weeks of the legislative session to curb the sale of assault rifles. Potential agreement would stop short of an assault weapons ban, which suffered legislative defeat this week.
Seven days after the killing of 17 people at the Broward County school, Republicans, who dominate government in the state, are facing pressure unlike any they have experienced before to pass legislation addressing gun violence. The State Legislature is in session for roughly two more weeks, and Republicans have concluded that it would be catastrophic to wrap up without doing something to address the mounting outcry. The debate now is over what counts as doing enough.
The actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, a human rights lawyer, said Tuesday that they would donate $500,000 to a nationwide protest against gun violence planned next month by teenage survivors of a Florida high school shooting, inspiring similar gifts from other big-name Hollywood figures.
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE
Prosecutors accused the attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, of lying to the FBI and Mueller’s office about conversations related to a report supporting the legitimacy of a Ukrainian criminal prosecution of a former prime minister. That report has already come under the glare of Mueller’s team, which has previously accused Manafort and Gates of secretly funneling $4 million through offshore accounts to pay for it.
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, over who should be allowed to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, according to White House officials and others briefed on the matter.
President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suggesting the president’s supporters should pressure Sessions to focus the investigation into Russian election meddling on President Barack Obama’s administration. Taking to Twitter, Trump said that the meddling occurred while Obama was in office and asked why his predecessor didn’t intervene.
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
The yield on the US 30-year was up more than 7 basis points to 3.233 per cent — hitting its highest level since July 2015. That saw the yield surpass a recent high level struck soon after the US presidential election that had held until today.
A hospital district in Pilot Knob, Missouri, filed for protection from its creditors Wednesday, marking the second municipal bankruptcy of the year. The Iron County Hospital District, which owns a local hospital, listed liabilities between $10 and $50 million and assets between $1 million and $10 million.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
If North Korea fired a nuclear-tipped missile at San Francisco, would U.S. missile defenses blast it out of the sky? Most Americans seem to think it’s a sure thing. Sadly, they’re mistaken. With the world’s nuclear club growing and peer threats on the rise, the U.S. needs to step up both its missile-defense research and efforts to reach new nonproliferation agreements.
By antagonizing underage survivors of a national tragedy, the pro-Trump media abandoned its usual play for the moral high ground and made an uncharacteristic miscalculation: It chose a popular, deeply sympathetic, nonpolarizing political enemy. More specifically, it chose a political enemy effectively born onto the internet and innately capable of waging an information war.
The latest artificial intelligence systems start from zero knowledge of a game and grow to world-beating in a matter of hours. But researchers are struggling to apply these systems beyond the arcade. “I’m not sure the ideas in AlphaZero generalize readily,” said Pedro Domingos, a computer scientist at the University of Washington. “Games are a very, very unusual thing.”
GE’s precipitous fall, following years of treading water while the overall economy grew, was exacerbated, some insiders say, by what they call “success theater.” Mr. Immelt and his top deputies projected an optimism about GE’s business and its future that didn’t always match the reality of its operations or its markets, according to more than a dozen current and former executives, investors and people close to the company.
“My leader is moving crab-like in the direction of a referendum,” Adonis said in an interview. Another Labour lawmaker, Geraint Davies, predicted the main opposition party “will probably vote against the deal in parliament if it doesn’t match up to the test we have set against it — to have frictionless trade — and in that case it is quite likely there will be a general election.”
On Tuesday, a group of artificial intelligence researchers and policymakers from prominent labs and think tanks in both the United States and Britain released a report that described how rapidly evolving and increasingly affordable A.I. technologies could be used for malicious purposes. They proposed preventive measures including being careful with how research is shared: Don’t spread it widely until you have a good understanding of its risks.
Self-driving cars need painfully detailed data on every inch of street. Can automakers solve the problem without the reigning superpower of maps? Alphabet Inc.’s Google emerged years ago as the winner in consumer digital maps, which human drivers use to evade rush-hour traffic or find a restaurant. Google won by blanketing the globe with its street-mapping cars and with software expertise that couldn’t be matched by navigation companies, automakers and even Apple Inc. Nobody wants to let Google win again.
Mid-sized electric vehicles won’t be competitive with their conventionally powered equivalents until battery packs drop to about $100 per kilowatt hour, probably around 2025, from more than $200 at the moment, according the Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Large cars and SUVs will be the first to reach price parity with internal combustion engines, while small cars need battery prices lower than $80 per kilowatt hour and will require new technologies such as high-voltage cells or solid-state batteries.
The effect of oil prices on the U.S. economy used to be straightforward: Higher was bad. Yet between 2014 and early 2016, as oil collapsed, growth slowed sharply. Since then oil has doubled, yet the economy has accelerated.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
The US economic expansion is set to gain momentum, hardening the arguments for higher interest rates, according to Federal Reserve minutes that triggered a sell-off in US government bonds and equities. “A majority of participants noted that a stronger outlook for economic growth raised the likelihood that further gradual policy firming would be appropriate,” according to the record released on Wednesday.
Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker on Wednesday said he still thinks just two interest-rate hikes this year is “likely appropriate,” but signaled he is open to more if needed. “Based on the relatively strong economy, but the continued stubbornness of inflation, I’ve penciled in two hikes for 2018,” Harker said at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. “I use pencil because the data can change, and sometimes they don’t accurately point to future events.”
With all that has happened over the last few weeks, the Federal Reserve is more hawkish now than it was during its January meeting, J.P. Morgan chief global strategist David Kelly told CNBC on Wednesday. Minutes from that meeting, held Jan. 30-31, were released on Wednesday. They indicated the Fed sees increased economic growth and an uptick in inflation as justification to continue to raise interest rates.
Federal Reserve officials see increased economic growth and an uptick in inflation as justification to continue to raise interest rates gradually, according to minutes from the central bank’s latest meeting. Though the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee chose not to hike its target rate at the Jan. 30-31 gathering, members indicated clearly that the path ahead for rates was higher.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
Sales of previously owned U.S. homes in January experienced their sharpest annual drop in more than three years as low inventories and rising prices and interest rates took a toll.
The supply squeeze and rising mortgage interest rates are stoking fears of a lackluster spring selling season. The second straight monthly drop in home sales reported by National Association of Realtors on Wednesday added to weak retail sales and industrial production in January in suggesting slower economic growth in the first quarter.
GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
A flood of money from private pension funds has driven a 33 percent surge in Ghana’s benchmark stock index this year, giving the West African country the world’s best-performing equities.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
Three technology titans have powered nearly half of the S&P 500’s advance this year, a worrying sign for investors expecting a strengthening economy to lift shares of manufacturers, oil companies and other firms whose fortunes typically improve with growth. “When you see a Netflix or Amazon leading, it’s not necessarily a great sign of investor confidence, since you know those names can always deliver growth no matter what’s going on,” said Jack Ablin, founding partner and chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors.
Since Bridgewater, run by its outspoken founder Ray Dalio, started to disclose short positions against European-listed companies including Unilever, Airbus and Siemens, speculation has been rife over what could be behind the closely followed fund’s thinking. Bridgewater, which eschews stock picking and is best known for making investments based on top-down analysis of macroeconomic trends, has so far remained silent on the logic behind its vast trade.
“Gold prices and US 10-year real yields have historically had a tight inverse relationship, which is much stronger than the inverse relationship between the US dollar and gold prices,” he says, adding that “lower yields increases the appeal of non US interest bearing assets like gold.” But the inverse relationship between the two has broken down recently, with the gold price pushing higher despite a lift in real US bond yields.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
The Swiss commodity giant’s financial results highlighted its dramatic turnaround from 2015, when it nearly collapsed under the weight of a copper-price crash and an investor revolt over its high net debt levels. Its unusual model—an enormous mining operation coupled with the world’s biggest commodity trading business—posted the kind of strong profits long promised by Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg.
The mining industry is awash with cash, and so far it’s got two main uses — pay down debt and reward investors. Three of the big four London-listed miners have released earnings this month, and it’s clear the companies are doing what shareholders have demanded of them. Glencore Plc, which traditionally favored stuffing its war chest over rewarding shareholders, surprised the market with a $2.9 billion payout Wednesday.
While Booking.com is well known around the world, the brand has less of a presence in the U.S. Priceline has been pouring resources into marketing it in the country, working to compete with upstarts like Airbnb Inc. as well as traditional rival, Expedia Inc. Rebranding the parent company as Booking Holdings reinforces for investors that Booking.com is the center of the company, Chief Executive Officer Glenn Fogel said in an interview.
Despite leaving the ticketing business, Pandora managed to scratch out more revenue in the fourth quarter, thanks to a doubling of its subscription sales. The company introduced on-demand, paid services in 2017 to compete with Spotify and Apple Music. Pandora finished the year with 5.48 million paying customers.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
An official with the department, who asked not to be named to discuss its decision-making process, said the agency was conducting research and working with utilities seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow nuclear reactors built in the 1970s to keep operating to 2050 and beyond.
COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS
Apple Inc. is in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
Each time Prime Minister Theresa May makes a move over Britain’s looming departure from the European Union, she upsets someone within her fractured Conservative Party. But with that withdrawal a little over a year away, silence is no longer an option, and on Wednesday it was the turn of hard-line supporters of withdrawal to be disappointed when a government paper appeared to suggest that the transition period after Brexit could be longer than two years.
Concern that the Brexit vote would prompt financial companies to move large numbers of workers out of London has yet to be realized. Banks including Wells Fargo & Co., Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG have bought or leased London buildings since the vote.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is asking the European Union for flexibility on the length of the Brexit transition period with just over a year before the country leaves the bloc. Britain has said it wants an implementation period to last around two years, while the EU has stipulated an end date of Dec. 31, 2020. But the U.K.’s proposal suggests it wants a longer bridging phase that lasts until it is no longer needed. That risks inflaming May’s already tense relations with Conservative euroskeptics.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is not an autocrat and is taking seriously a report by the U.S. intelligence community that names the firebrand leader among the threats to democracy in Southeast Asia, his spokesman said on Wednesday. The report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, places Duterte alongside Cambodia’s Hun Sen, the Rohingya crisis and Thailand’s military-backed constitution as impediments to democracy.
As it turns out, Schiller didn’t go very far. Within weeks of leaving his job as director of Oval Office operations, Schiller’s private security firm, KS Global Group, began collecting $15,000 a month for “security services” from the Republican National Committee.
Navalny, a 41-year-old lawyer whose protests and corruption exposes of the sometimes gilded lives of government officials have irked the Kremlin, has been barred from the contest over what he says is a trumped up suspended prison sentence. Unable to challenge 65-year-old Putin at the ballot box and kept off state TV, he has devised a different strategy: A long-term political siege of a man most Russians consider invincible.
Indian newspapers have been running advertisements that promise homebuyers willing to pay a roughly $38,000 booking fee an opportunity to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner.” Government ethics experts in the US are appalled by that prospect, and say that the arrangement encourages Indians — especially those with ties to India’s government — to use purchases of Trump-branded property as a way to gain favor with the Trump administration.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
“If you were involved in a collision between June 2015 and December 2017 and received assistance from a tow company, chances are, you were an unwitting customer of an illegal enterprise that dominated New York City’s towing industry,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said at a news conference. He compared the schemes with those in the 1954 film “On the Waterfront,” which depicted violence and corruption among longshoremen.
One of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest and longest-serving aides appeared ready to incriminate him on Wednesday after agreeing overnight to become a government witness, the latest twist in a spiraling graft scandal that seemed to dim Mr. Netanyahu’s legal and political chances of survival almost by the hour.
AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
Acknowledging there are no final cost estimates or engineering designs yet for its proposed broadband constellation, spokesman John Taylor revealed substantial delays from initial project timelines. In a statement provided exclusively to The Wall Street Journal Tuesday night, billionaire Elon Musk’s company signaled that development of its high-profile satellite network has been significantly slower—and seemingly more complex—than many inside and outside SpaceX originally anticipated.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
China has notched up another first in its battle for supremacy in the field of artificial intelligence – overtaking the US in terms of AI startups funding. Arguably it’s a small notch – for a country banking on AI to become a $150bn industry, VC money is pocket change – but it’s a big jump. Last year almost half the global investment into AI startups went to China, up from a mere 11.3 percent slice in 2016.
HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
Studies have shown that controlled breathing, even when you’re not competing in the Olympics, helps to both reduce stress and increase alertness. McCann works with Egan and other biathletes on their breathing technique to help them calm themselves slightly in the few seconds they have to switch from racing mode to shooting mode. While their heart rate remains high, mindful breathing helps them slow it just enough to complete the target portion of the competition.
Billy Graham, the evangelist whose eloquent oratory and passion for Jesus attracted a worldwide following and made him one of the most influential and best-known religious figures of his time, was found dead Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99. Mr. Graham’s ministry spanned more than six decades, and his evangelical “crusades,” as he called them for most of his career, touched every corner of the world.
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