Macro Links Feb 9th – Correction Territory
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- CORRECTION TERRITORY
- NEW US GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
- WHITE HOUSE STAFFER ALLEGATIONS
- CHINA VOLATILITY
- AMAZON WHOLE FOODS
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- RUSSIA PROBE
- NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- POT BOOM, MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION, DRUG POLICY
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
The Dow Jones industrial average nosedived more than 1,000 points Thursday, registering another eye-popping loss for the closely-followed index, as wild trading and fears of rising interest rates around the world took hold of traders. The Dow as well as the S&P 500, a broader stock index, are now down more than 10 percent from their all-time highs, passing an important psychological barrier known as a “correction” for the first time in two years.
Swooning markets Thursday cost the world’s 500 richest people $93 billion in net worth, and 20 of them lost at least $1 billion each. Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, saw his fortune drop by $5.3 billion to $113.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as his Amazon.com Inc. tumbled 4.7 percent on the day. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett ’s wealth dropped $3.5 billion and Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg lost $3.4 billion.
Thursday marked the fifth consecutive session that the Dow swung more than 500 points intraday from its high to its low. The return of volatility struck some investors as long overdue, rather than a threat to the stock rally, especially as an unusually long streak of calm trading lifted major indexes around the world to multiyear highs in 2017.
The latest plunge in global stocks hit Asia Pacific on Friday after late heavy selling in the U.S. left the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 in correction territory for the first time in two years. Chinese big caps slumped again after underperforming Thursday. The Shanghai Composite dropped 3.5% to hit eight-month lows, just two weeks after hitting its latest two-year high.
Pressure again came from the Treasury market, where another weak auction put gave bond bears ammunition, sending the 10-year yield to the highest in four years. Equity investors took bond signal to mean interest rates will push higher, denting earnings and consumer-spending power.
Trying to pinpoint the exact reasons for the last week’s tumble is a fool’s errand. But the most likely culprit appears to be fear that central banks will increase interest rates in an effort to fend off inflation and ensure that fast-growing economies don’t overheat. Those fears were stoked Thursday when the Bank of England warned that it might raise interest rates faster than investors had expected.
Machine-guided, numbers-obsessed fund managers could cause U.S. stock prices to weaken further as they adjust to the return of wild gyrations in global markets. Several years of generally low volatility, when shares have not experienced big day-to-day oscillations, in part due to money-printing and bond-buying policies pursued by the world’s major central banks, has led investors to shovel billions of dollars into some highly technical and risk-focused strategies.
The selloff that’s been battering investors for nine days feels like the worst thing ever — it’s far from that. Nine times since the bull market began in 2009 have equities experienced stretches as gruesome as this one; each time the end of the world was averted.
NEW US GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN
The federal government shut down for the second time in three weeks Friday, driven to the brink by acute congressional dysfunction and pushed over it by the objections of a single conservative senator. The partial shutdown began just after midnight when the government, operating on the latest in a series of short-term spending bills, ran out of money because Congress missed its deadline to pass a new one. But the closure could be brief, with minimal disruptions to federal workers and others.
Congress is set to miss a midnight deadline to fund the U.S. government because of a Republican senator’s objections, but the lapse may last only a few hours as the House and Senate plan votes early Friday morning.
The federal government headed toward its second shutdown in three weeks late Thursday as congressional leaders struggled to rally support for a sweeping half-trillion-dollar spending deal amid last-minute objections from a conservative in the Senate and attacks from the left and right in the House.
The U.S. funding lapse is now likely as the House votes are expected after the midnight deadline, Washington time.“At this point, we expect next votes in the House to occur at very roughly 3:00-6:00 a.m.,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s office says in email to lawmakers, Bloomberg News reports.
WHITE HOUSE STAFFER DOMESTIC ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
White House officials conceded Thursday that they regretted the way they handled accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned Wednesday after two former wives publicly accused him of abusing them. But they refused to provide any information about when President Trump’s most senior advisers first learned about the episodes.
Senior aides to President Donald Trump knew for months about allegations of domestic abuse levied against top White House staffer Rob Porter by his ex-wives, even as Porter’s stock in the West Wing continued to rise, multiple sources told CNN on Wednesday.
Staff Secretary Rob Porter, who has been accused of abusing his former wives, is Kelly’s right hand—and dating Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest confidantes. But Kelly’s declaration that Porter is a man of “true integrity and honor” was seen as deeply tone deaf.
Investors got a stark reminder of how fast their bets can turn in China, where the most bullish trades are falling apart. Traders are running out of places to hide in a nation where market declines have a habit of snowballing. Government bonds are offering little in the way of comfort, and even commodities are feeling the squeeze. Making matters worse is the prospect of seasonally tighter liquidity ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.
China’s yuan sank the most since the aftermath of its shock 2015 devaluation, after data showed the country’s trade surplus more than halved last month, and investors speculated controls on outward cash flows will be eased. The surplus was much smaller than economists had expected, and was affected by a surge in imports on rising commodity prices as well as seasonal effects related to the Chinese New Year holiday.
AMAZON WHOLE FOODS
Amazon has begun delivering Whole Foods groceries — including meat, produce and alcohol — free and within two hours to Prime subscribers in four U.S. cities, bringing a new level of competition to the already booming food-delivery business. The service is available to shoppers in Austin (where Whole Foods is based), as well as Cincinnati (home to competitor Kroger), Dallas and Virginia Beach, with plans to expand “across the U.S.” this year, Amazon said in a statement.
Once a customer has placed an order, pickers—not necessarily Whole Foods employees—will manually collect the items from a nearby Whole Foods store and put them in “appropriate packaging.” The orders will then be given to Amazon Flex delivery drivers—contract drivers who, similar to Uber, drive their own cars but use Amazon’s routing app to make deliveries. These drivers also deliver items for Amazon, Prime Now, Amazon Fresh, and Amazon Restaurants.
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
It’s Forde’s expertise in cryptocurrency that’s attracted marquee Bitcoin evangelists such as Pete Briger of Fortress Investment Group; Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures; the investor Mike Novogratz; and famed Facebook litigants Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who founded the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange. “Brian understands the power of emerging technologies and how to foster and shape them in a way that has a positive impact on people and organizations,” says Tyler Winklevoss.
Investors rushing to bet on a cryptocurrency rally have prompted one hedge fund manager to take the unusual step of accepting new money in the middle of the month. Silver 8 Capital, whose bullish bets on digital assets helped propel its hedge fund to a 771 percent gain last year, told new and existing clients it will allow mid-month subscriptions after getting several requests from investors to boost their exposure in the wake of a $500 billion selloff in virtual currencies over the past four weeks. The Florida-based manager, which invests in digital assets, early-stage companies and publicly-traded securities, usually only accepts new money at the start of each month.
The outage at the trading venue, one of the world’s biggest, comes after Japanese exchange Coincheck sustained a $500m hack late last month. Binance’s woes sparked a mix of criticism, concern and sympathy from users on Twitter. “ . . . we have not been hacked. Just working with large data takes time,” Mr Zhao said to a user on Twitter who asked for confirmation that the exchange was not the subject of a cyber attack.
Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges by trading volume according to CoinMarketCap, has had to continuously refute accusations of a hack since their exchange has unexpectedly gone offline due to server issues. Some on Twitter have repeatedly accused Binance of covering up a hack, most notably crypto persona John McAfee, who tweeted that while he wasn’t “trying to spread FUD,” he’d been receiving multiple reports alleging that Binance was really hacked.
Bitcoin has “potential appreciation” of thirty to forty times its current value, Cameron Winklevoss claimed in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, Feb. 7. At press time, the market capitalization of Bitcoin was just below $140 bln. That would put the Winklevoss’ estimation of Bitcoin’s future market cap at over $5 trln. This number comes from a comparison to the $7 trln global gold market, which the brothers claim Bitcoin will disrupt.
The petro, an oil-backed state cryptocurrency set to be released in both a pre-sale and an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), was first announced by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in December 2017. The petro’s white paper released Jan. 30 explains that the idea for the petro came from Hugo Chavez, who had envisioned a “strong currency backed by raw materials.”
Yves Mersch, Executive Board member of the European Central Bank (ECB), referred to cryptocurrencies as a risk of “contagion and contamination of the existing financial system” during an interview with 4 Technology on Feb. 8. Mersch warned of the potential for crypto markets to begin more strongly influencing traditional markets as the two have become more interconnected.
“In terms of using Bitcoin or some of the cryptocurrencies, we are also looking at it, but I’m told the vast majority of cryptocurrencies are basically Ponzi schemes,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said Wednesday at an event in Washington. “It’s still not really clear how it’s going to work.”
While the price of Bitcoin has dropped since Christmas, the virtual currency boom has shown no signs of cooling off in the more august precincts of America’s elite universities. Several top schools have added or are rushing to add classes about Bitcoin and the record-keeping technology that it introduced, known as the blockchain.
It may seem like everyone from Grandma to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has piled into Bitcoin in the past year, but there’s at least one group that’s looking for a way out: Criminals. Transacting with Bitcoin has become more expensive and less efficient as an influx of users has put strain on the network, leading to higher fees. As a result, some cryptocurrency enthusiasts — including criminals, who were among Bitcoin’s earliest adopters — have resorted to other digital coins.
FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
The latest turbulence in China’s yuan only adds to the complexity of a bruising stretch for global currency markets. Yet for some money managers and strategists, the path forward couldn’t be more simple: a weaker dollar. For these observers, the dollar’s rebound amid the biggest burst of foreign-exchange volatility since 2015 is bound to be short-lived.
“It’s clear to everyone that the euro is a mistake for our economy,” Matteo Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of a rally in Florence ahead of the March 4 parliamentary election. The eurosceptic League is a key member of the center-right coalition which polls suggest will win most seats at the election, but probably fall short of a working majority.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
Even amid U.S.-initiated talks to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico bought a record amount of wheat, corn, soybeans, pork, dairy products and fresh vegetables from its northern neighbor in 2017. Overall, Mexico imported 8 percent more than in 2016, and it was the largest market for U.S. corn and wheat. The seventh round of Nafta talks are scheduled to begin Feb. 26. Should the negotiations fail, the Latin American nation has said it will seek food shipments from other suppliers.
Former President George W. Bush appeared to take aim at President Trump on Thursday when he said at an economic summit in the Middle East that there was “pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled” in the 2016 U.S. president election.
The White House is inclined to approve the release of a classified Democratic memo that rebuts Republican allegations of abuse by the FBI in its application to monitor a former Trump campaign aide, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Senator Mark Warner said he’s not finished pressing the technology companies whose networks were exploited by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign and beyond.
The former Trump campaign adviser says he spoke to Trump aide Steve Bannon about Russia in January 2017, at a time when the FBI had a controversial warrant to monitor Page’s communications.
British MPs on Thursday attacked Facebook, Google and Twitter in Washington over what the parliamentarians regard as failures by the tech giants to fully investigate Russian interference in the Brexit referendum and 2017 election.
NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The behind-the-scenes break between Washington and Seoul over North Korea has now spilled into public view. One day ahead of the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies, the two governments are sending out contradictory messages about whether the Games are the beginning or the end of engagement with Pyongyang.
Never before have an Olympics, a host country and a major company been so closely intertwined. South Korea got the Olympics it wanted, and Samsung stands to reap dividends from its heavy involvement in the Games.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
“The market has been kind of having a panic attack — we really haven’t heard from Powell and it would help if he made some soothing comments,” said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. “I don’t think he wants to establish right away that he wants a ‘Powell put’ the way we had a ‘Greenspan put’ and a ‘Bernanke put.’”
The e-mail arrived in clients’ inboxes shortly after the market opened on Tuesday: “LJM strategies have suffered significant losses.” LJM Partners, a Chicago-based hedge fund with about half a billion dollars in assets, pinpointed the damage on spiking volatility, a trade that has claimed more than one scalp in the last few trading days. Their mutual fund, known as the LJM Preservation and Growth Fund, collapsed by 82 percent over the last week and was closed to new capital on Wednesday.
Those higher yields are likely to be fairly costly for the U.S. Nine years of bond yields near record lows mean the U.S. government is paying virtually the same in interest costs on $20.5 trillion of debt as it paid in 2008 on about $10.6 trillion. Should bond yields continue to rise, so will the cost of funding that debt. This is of particular importance to the U.S., which is increasing the amount it borrows at its bond auctions this year as it funds a $1.5 trillion tax cut.
More than $200m has flowed into an exchange-traded fund that narrowly survived the week’s upheaval. The ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF, known as SVXY, allows investors to bet on a decline in the Vix volatility index, Wall Street’s “fear index”. It lost 90 per cent of its value on Monday, but enjoyed renewed inflows of $71.7m on Tuesday and another $135.6m on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg data.
Market turbulence is good for firms like Virtu, whose primary business is market-making, the strategy of continuously quoting prices for stocks and collecting a small profit from the difference between the buying and selling price. Such spreads tend to widen when markets are volatile, resulting in bigger profits for market makers.
To a greater extent than 24 previous pullbacks since 2009, he says, this one arrived to distinct signs of froth. Bitcoin’s 20-fold run-up. Individuals streaming into the market. Equity funds getting record cash. In contrast with euphoria years like 2017, bond yields are rising with increasing momentum, something that has historically spelled trouble, according to the chief investment officer of Leuthold Group.
The ballooning federal budget deficit under President Donald Trump will force the U.S. to borrow more than $1 trillion this year and risks worsening the frenzy behind the global sell-off in stock markets. The budget deal Senate leaders reached late Wednesday would add nearly $300 billion in government spending over two years and push the deficit higher. Even beforehand, Bank of America Corp. senior U.S. economist Joseph Song warned in a report that the federal deficit was on track to exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product by 2019, by far the largest for the economy while at full employment since World War II.
Exchange-traded loan funds bear a lot of similarity to the volatility funds that average investors have flocked to for safety, except that they are much bigger. Volatility-linked ETFs grew to include about $8 billion in investments. The PowerShares Senior Loan ETF has nearly that much in it alone. Last month, LCD, a unit within S&P Global Market Intelligence, said that assets under management in loan funds had grown to more than $156 billion, up from around $110 billion two years ago.
Borrowing is very high in current markets, although by one measure it isn’t as aggressive as it has been. Banks however have more reason to worry than in recent times: many of them were hit with a sudden and very painful loss in this business late last year. That means they could limit new margin lending or start cutting back on what they already have given to clients. That would remove one leg of support that has helped buoy stock markets.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
The Bank for International Settlements calculates that global debt to gross domestic product is now 40 per cent higher — yes, higher — today than it was a decade ago. That is partly due to rising government borrowing in the west. Chinese debt has also exploded. But leverage has crept, almost unnoticed, into the corporate world. This highlights a second point: financial engineering has proliferated in the low-rate era.
The debt binge caps off a major reversal for the Republican Party, which has been swept up by President Trump’s demands for more spending and tax cuts at a time when the public seems to care less about debt than it has in years.
The long-term implications of all this borrowing put the United States on track to ultimately owe more to its creditors than the economy produces over the course of a year. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that the United States will run $2 trillion annual budget deficits by 2027 and have a debt-to-gross domestic product ratio of 105 percent — a level not seen since the end of World War II.
In the next decade or so, automation and demographics will become a new dimension to the economic and social pressures already roiling the U.S. and societies around the world, according to the study released today by Bain. This new conflict will pit millennial workers displaced by machines against boomers living on Social Security and Medicare. “Who votes, who wins, and who goes to the polls become a highly politicized issue potentially,” says Karen Harris, managing director of Bain’s Macro Trends Group.
Wall Street’s up and downs have little impact on the income or wealth of most Americans, despite the bromides of politicians on both sides of the aisle. A whopping 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans belong to the wealthiest 10 percent of households. And that includes everyone’s stakes in pension plans, 401(k)’s and individual retirement accounts, as well as trust funds, mutual funds and college savings programs like 529 plans.
On Tuesday it was revealed that the US trade deficit widened by 12.1 per cent, to the highest level since the global financial crisis hit. As it happens, Mr Trump’s actions are probably making it bigger, not reducing it. By threatening emergency restrictions on steel imports, the administration only encouraged American manufacturers and construction companies to buy more product from abroad quickly, before the restrictions were imposed. And the big tax cuts agreed recently by Congress, by stoking demand, will suck in more imports.
The plastic bag’s ascent to ubiquity is in stark contrast to its humble beginnings. Made from a material that was invented by accident in the 1930s, it wasn’t until 1962 that the first patent of what we now think of as a plastic bag emerged. Its rise from there was meteoric, with the patent approved for a company called Celloplast in 1965, before being brought into the mass market by chemical businesses like Mobil.
So what is going on? The answer is that the country is in the middle of a civil war. The EU referendum did not resolve this war: the two sides are too evenly matched and contemptuous of each other for that. The war is over the sort of country this is, maybe even over whether the UK is to be a country at all. True, this is a peaceful civil war. That is the abiding virtue of the democratic political process. But it is still a schism between irreconcilable opponents.
Canada is in the grip of a housing crisis more severe, by some measures,than anywhere else in the world. Household debt now amounts to more than 100 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements, one of the highest of any developed nation. House prices have raced ahead of wages for years, boosted by loose lending, low interest rates and lax controls on foreign money.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
U.S. stocks have fallen in recent days in part because of the rising prospect that global central banks will be tightening monetary policy, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley said. “So far, I’d say this is small potatoes,” Dudley said of recent market moves. “The little decline that we’ve had in the equity market today has virtually no implications for the economic outlook.”
Well, that escalated quickly. The Bank of England has struck a surprisingly hawkish note in its latest Inflation Report, delivering a clear warning that interest rates may need to rise substantially to counter the effect of a buoyant global economy on UK prices. (Hello sterling.)
The Bank of England said it expects to raise interest rates in the U.K. at a swifter pace than it anticipated last year, responding to stronger growth in the global economy.
The Bank of Mexico lifted interest rates by a quarter percentage point to a nine-year high of 7.5%, amid stubbornly high inflation and investor expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise rates faster than previously thought.
Sen. Rand Paul said he would vote against the nomination of Marvin Goodfriend for a spot on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, raising the prospect the Carnegie Mellon University economist might not have enough support to win confirmation.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, dropping to its lowest level in nearly 45 years as the labor market tightened further, bolstering expectations of faster wage growth this year.
POT BOOM, MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION, DRUG POLICY
The girl spent more than six hours closing sales, her father said. While some have praised the plucky scout for figuring out where the demand would probably be, the Girl Scouts organization has been wrestling with how to handle marijuana-adjacent sales as more states have legalized the drug.
Seattle’s mayor and city attorney announced plans to ask the courts to vacate all misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions that were prosecuted before it was legalized in Washington state in 2012 — a move that could affect the records of hundreds of people.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Mr. Wynn’s shoes “will not be easy to fill,” Vitaly Umansky, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Hong Kong, wrote in a note on Wednesday. “While, theoretically, the old adage that everyone is replaceable may be generally true, the Wynn dynamic is much more complicated and uncertain. Steve Wynn is WYNN (the company).”
Twitter reported its first profitable quarter as a publicly traded company, a welcome piece of news for a company that has long
sought to make a viable business out of the eyeballs following its feeds.
Twitter made $91 million in Q4, its first profitable quarter ever. Investors loved the flip, and Twitter stock is up almost 16 percent. But it didn’t get there by growing its business. It got there by cutting costs. A quick look at the company’s income statement shows us where: 1) Stock-based compensation, or stock awards given to employees as part of their salary; 2) research and development; and 3) sales and marketing. Twitter made notable cuts to all three categories in the past year.
American International Group posted a higher fourth-quarter loss as the global insurance conglomerate was affected by the wildfires in California last year and took a $6.7 billion hit from recent U.S. tax law changes.
Nvidia Corp’s upbeat current-quarter revenue forecast on Thursday underscored surging demand for its graphics chips used in data centers, gaming devices and cryptocurrency mining, sending its shares up as much as 12 percent in extended trading.
New York Times Co. shares surged to their highest level in more than a decade after the publisher gave a bullish forecast for online subscriptions, easing concern about a decline in print advertising.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
“Landlords have finally realized, ‘OK, we have to adjust these prices because the concessions aren’t doing as much,’” said Hal Gavzie, who oversees leasing for Douglas Elliman. “Customers are looking past the concessions being offered and just looking for the best deals they can find.”
High-end homes in central London are selling at the biggest discounts in more than a decade as sellers continue to set ambitious prices even as the market declines. In 2017 homes in the most exclusive postcodes were sold at an average discount of 10 per cent or more on their initial asking price, according to figures from LonRes, a research company.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
In a trade that illustrates how the rise of the American shale industry is upending energy markets across the globe, the U.A.E. bought oil directly from the U.S. in December, according to data from the federal government. A tanker sailed from Houston and arrived in the Persian Gulf last month. The cargo of American condensate, a type of very light crude oil, was preferred to regional grades because its superior quality made more suitable for the U.A.E’s processing plants, a person with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing a commercially sensitive matter.
Oil prices fell for a sixth day on Friday after Iran announced plans to boost production and U.S. crude output hit record highs, adding to concerns about a sharp rise in global supplies.
Even though India aspires to sell only electric vehicles by 2030, it still sees gasoline and diesel consumption doubling over that period. The two ideas may not be contradictory. Electric vehicles will take time to become affordable enough for price-sensitive Indian masses, according to the country’s energy forecaster. During that time, gasoline and diesel vehicles will remain the mainstay as cars and scooters sold in the next few years will stay roadworthy for at least a decade after.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
Britain has a message for the rest of the world after Brexit next year: please pretend we are still in the EU. A “technical note” prepared by the British government calls on non-EU nations to treat the UK during its post-Brexit transition period after March 2019 as if it was still covered by more than 700 treaties Brussels has struck with third countries on everything from fishing rights to data sharing. “To coin a phrase, they are going to tell the world that Brexit does not mean Brexit,” said one EU official.
Billionaire investor George Soros has given hundreds of thousands of pounds to a pro-European Union campaign aimed at stopping the U.K. leaving the political and economic bloc, according to media reports.
DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
The U.S. military launched an airstrike and aimed artillery fire against forces fighting for the Syrian regime Wednesday, in response to what it called an “unprovoked attack” on U.S. and coalition personnel and the local forces they back.
The conflict has broken into several small wars, and the carnage is reaching a new peak, upending any assumptions it might be nearing an end.
A day after Taiwan rejected Beijing’s offer to send help following a powerful earthquake that killed at least 10 people and injured 272 others, a seven-member Japanese team arrived in Hualien on Thursday to assist with rescue efforts.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have packed into camps in Bangladesh since last year, dwarfing the local population and triggering an increasingly angry response from some locals who say the influx is causing food shortages, pushing up prices and undercutting wages.
On Sept. 2, Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops killed 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state. Reuters uncovered the massacre and has pieced together how it unfolded. During the reporting of this article, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police.
The Trump administration secretly reached out to Iran in December to propose creating a direct channel to negotiate the release of prisoners held by each side, marking the first U.S. diplomatic overture to Iran on the issue under the Republican president.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
A Saudi Arabia court has jailed a prominent newspaper columnist after he criticised the country’s royal court, in the latest sign of the diminishing margin for free speech despite the kingdom’s push for more social liberalisation. Saleh al-Shehi, who writes for al-Watan, the daily paper, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by a five-year travel ban for insulting the royal court and its employees, state news television reported on Thursday.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has lashed out at the country’s police chief, whom he accused of airing “delusional and mendacious” insinuations against him, just days before the police are expected to publish recommendations regarding potential charges against Mr. Netanyahu in two corruption investigations, possibly including bribery.
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
China has become the largest market for live streaming, with 2018 revenue expected to reach $4.4 billion, according to a December report from Deloitte. And the boom has been a boon for YY shares, which have almost tripled in the past 12 months and given founder Xueling Li a net worth of $1.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
He may have conquered space, but time is one commodity that even Mr Musk cannot control. The Tesla boss told Wall Street this week that there is no thought at the moment of him handing over the CEO title — a possibility envisaged in his latest long-range remuneration plan. But if the delays stretch much longer, even Tesla shareholders may be content for him to join the one-way car ride to the asteroid belt.
Mr Musk compared the current top speed of the industry’s automobile production lines to “grandma with a walker”, and said the lines should run at “30 . . . 40 kilometres per hour”. He did not explain how such huge leaps could be achieved, or whether Tesla could ever reach those levels.
HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
A study recently published in Neurology finds that healthy seniors who had daily helpings of leafy green vegetables — such as spinach, kale and collard greens — had a slower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who tended to eat little or no greens.
Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.’”
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