Macro Links Jan 10th – “Someone Has Already Been Killed”

Macro Links Jan 10th – “Someone Has Already Been Killed”

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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Growing number of cryptocurrencies spark concerns

At least 39 digital currencies have market capitalisations of more than $1bn, according to three price tracking websites. The growing market highlights the difficulty for cryptocurrency investors of valuing the volatile and often thinly traded assets. It has also prompted concerns about a speculative bubble.

18F10 - TOP TEN CRYPTO

Jamie Dimon: ‘I regret’ calling bitcoin a fraud

The JPMorgan Chase chief executive on Tuesday softened the comments he made at a banking conference in September, saying in an interview on FOX Business Network, a US television station, that “I regret making them”.

Mr Dimon said that he personally is “not interested in the subject at all”. However, he said that blockchain, the ledger system that powers bitcoin and is also being used by an increasing number of companies for record keeping, “is real”.

Mike Novogratz Wants to Build the Goldman of Crypto and List It in Canada – Bloomberg

Mike Novogratz, the Wall Street trader who became one of bitcoin’s most outspoken champions, is starting a merchant bank dedicated to cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based ventures. And he intends to take it public.

The former macro manager laid out a series of transactions in a statement Tuesday that would, if successful, raise $200 million and, through a holding company, list shares of his Galaxy Digital LP on Canada’s TSX Venture Exchange. He said Galaxy is building a “best-in-class, full service, institutional-quality merchant banking business in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space” and will be active in four areas: trading, principal investing, asset management and advisory work.

Kodak Catches Crypto Fever – MoneyBeat – WSJ

Shares of Eastman Kodak more than doubled after the company waded into the digital-currency world with plans to launch an initial coin offering.

Kodak on Tuesday said the coin, KodakCoin, would be the backbone of a new platform that will help photographers license their work and track the unlicensed use of their images. The coin uses the technology behind bitcoin, called blockchain, to keep a digital ledger of the photographs.

Kodak Surges After Announcing Plans to Launch Cryptocurrency Called ‘Kodakcoin’ – Bloomberg

The move comes as investors snap up virtually any asset related to digital coins or the blockchain technology that underpins them — no matter how tenuous the tie. Microcaps previously involved in sports bras, fruit juices and teas have made the move and been rewarded with spikes in their share prices.

Kodak, whose name was once synonymous with photographic film, emerged from bankruptcy in 2013 after selling off most of its patents to companies including Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The Rochester, New York-based company now focuses on digital photography and printing, as well as licensing agreements

Chinese regulators move to shutter bitcoin mines

China is moving to eradicate the country’s bitcoin mining industry over concerns about excessive electricity consumption and financial risk, reflecting authorities’ judgment that cryptocurrencies are not a strategic industry.

A multi-agency task force has instructed provincial governments to “actively guide” companies in their respective regions to exit the cryptocurrency mining industry, according to a document seen by the Financial Times. The move to pressure miners follows China’s shutdown of local bitcoin exchanges and its ban on initial coin offerings.

Bitcoin Can Drop 50% and China Miners Will Still Make Money – Bloomberg

Bitcoin mining is so profitable in China that the cryptocurrency could fall by half and miners would still make money, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Even at the country’s highest regulated electricity tariff, miners can profit from bitcoin as long as it’s worth more than $6,925, BNEF analysts including Sophie Lu wrote in a report Wednesday. The digital currency currently trades at about $13,850, down 29 percent from its record.

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TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY

Power Companies Got a Tax Cut. Will Your Bill Reflect It? – The New York Times

In recent days, electric companies in Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon and other states have announced plans to pass their tax cuts on to customers through lower rates. On Tuesday, Pepco, which provides power to nearly 300,000 customers in Washington, D.C., said it would cut rates beginning in the current quarter.

Other utilities might be forced to follow suit. In much of the country, investor-owned utilities have a monopoly on providing electricity and gas to homes and businesses. State regulators allow them to charge rates high enough to recoup their costs — including the cost of paying taxes — and to provide a guaranteed return to their shareholders. Those regulators periodically scrutinize rates to ensure that they are reasonable. When taxes go down, so should customers’ utility bills.

State regulators across the country have said they will make sure that actually happens. And in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, the attorneys general of several states, including Massachusetts, Texas and New York, asked the agency to act as well.

Agriculture Firms Warn of Unintended Impact of Tax Law – WSJ

The new U.S. tax law has placed Rick Tronson, a North Dakota grain-company operator, in a precarious position by unexpectedly bestowing big benefits on his main competitors.

A provision inserted into the tax code during Senate and House negotiations in December gave farmers more lucrative deductions when they sell agricultural products directly to the farm cooperatives he competes against rather than to businesses like his own.

Mr. Tronson, whose four storage facilities handle 17 million bushels of grain a year, said the competition could spell the end of his 76-year-old family-owned business. “We’ve made a big investment. And this law, if they don’t change it, the scenario is that we’ll go broke,” he said.

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RUSSIA PROBE

Glenn Simpson / Fusion GPS Senate Transcript.pdf

Good morning. This is the transcribed interview of Glenn Simpson. Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein requested this interview as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of Fusion GPS’s activities related to the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the Prevezon case, and the Magnitsky Act. Would the witness please state your name for the record…

Democratic Senator Releases Transcript of Interview with Dossier Firm – The New York Times

For Ms. Feinstein and Mr. Grassley, two senior senators who worked closely last summer to initiate a joint Russia investigation, the breach was striking. But it reflects the growing divide between the two parties.

Republicans have repeatedly and vocally raised concerns that the dossier — a set of reports paid for by Democrats — could have been mishandled by the F.B.I. as it was opening its own investigation into the Russian effort and the Trump campaign. Democrats say scrutiny of the dossier’s provenance is a distraction from the central question: Did the Trump campaign knowingly seek aid from Russia?

Fusion GPS lawyer: Someone has already been killed over publication of Trump dossier | TheHill

A lawyer for Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, told congressional investigators that “somebody’s already been killed” as a result of the publication of the controversial dossier tying President Trump to Russia.

Twitter misses deadline to answer Senate Intel’s Russia questions – Axios

Twitter missed a Monday deadline to respond to written questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russian online interference in the election, the panel’s top Democrat said on Tuesday. “Facebook and Google met the deadline, and [with] voluminous amounts of information, Twitter did not,” Sen. Mark Warner told Axios. “I’m disappointed in Twitter.”

White House Official Floated Withdrawing U.S. Forces to Please Putin

A senior National Security Council official proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump presidency, according to two former administration officials.

While the proposal was ultimately not adopted, it is the first known case of senior aides to Donald Trump seeking to reposition U.S. military forces to please Putin—something that smelled, to a colleague, like a return on Russia’s election-time investment in President Trump. The White House did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.

Donald Trump’s Personal Attorney Sues BuzzFeed Over Allegations in Russia Dossier – WSJ

In a statement, BuzzFeed noted that the dossier remains the subject of active investigations by Congress and intelligence agencies. “Its interest to the public is obvious,” the site said. “This is not the first time Trump’s personal lawyer has attacked the free press, and we look forward to defending our First Amendment rights in court.”

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NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Iran’s Leader Calls Trump ‘Psychotic’ and Warns of Revenge – The New York Times

Ayatollah Khamenei, who admitted that the recent protests, where people shouted harsh slogans against him, had hurt Iran’s establishment, threatened the United States with revenge.

“They damaged us during these days, they know there will be some sort of retaliation,” he said. “This man who sits at the head of the White House — although, he seems to be a very unstable man — he must realize that these extreme and psychotic episodes won’t be left without a response.”

North Korea Moves Toward Détente With Seoul – The New York Times

After his outreach to Seoul on New Year’s Day, Mr. Kim agreed to send a team to compete in the Olympics next month when the Winter Games open in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang. That was followed by an announcement about resumption of military-to-military talks between the two countries — without the United States.

All this is a relief to South Korea’s leader, President Moon Jae-in, who feared the North would find a way — missile launches, terrorism, a nuclear test — to cast a pall over a sports event meant to highlight the South’s emergence as one of the world’s most dynamic economies.

Few in Seoul or Washington believe Mr. Kim, though an avid sports fan, is motivated solely by the Olympic spirit. The Winter Games also present him with an ideal opportunity to throw a wrench in President Trump’s threats of military action if the North does not agree to give up its nuclear program.

North Korea taking part in South Korean Olympics after talks | CTV News

The rival Koreas moved toward easing their bitter animosity Tuesday during rare talks, with North Korea agreeing to take part in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. The countries also agreed to hold more discussions on reducing tension along their border and to reopen a military hotline.

South Korea, After Talks With North, Concedes Policy Differences With Trump – WSJ

South Korea’s leader acknowledged policy differences with his U.S. ally in their approach to North Korea, but credited President Donald Trump for helping bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.

US to loosen nuclear weapons constraints and develop more ‘usable’ warheads | US news | The Guardian

The Trump administration plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for US Trident missiles, according to a former official who has seen the most recent draft of a policy review.

Jon Wolfsthal, who was special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and nonproliferation, said the new nuclear posture review prepared by the Pentagon, envisages a modified version of the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles with only part of its normal warhead, with the intention of deterring Russia from using tactical warheads in a conflict in Eastern Europe.

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RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

Fizzling out: World Bank says global economy is set for a decade of gloom

The World Bank has joined a growing chorus predicting an end to the global economy’s strong run. Stock prices are high relative to earnings and volatility is at historic lows, warnings that economists traditionally take as signs of overheating.

“There is a sense in which financial markets appear to be complacent. That makes room for disruption when there are surprises – a repricing of risk,” said Franziska Ohnsorge, a World Bank economist. Her warning echoes those of institutions including Legal and General Asset Management, which fears the US economy and markets will surge ahead this year before rate hikes burst the bubble and cause a recession.

U.S. Two-Year Yield Surpasses Greece in Crisis Watershed – Bloomberg

Greek notes are just as safe as U.S. obligations — at least according to the bond market. Two-year Treasuries now yield more than those from the Mediterranean nation. Greece’s market rehabilitation and speculation it’s poised to relinquish its aid program are causing borrowing costs to fall just as rising U.S. growth and inflation expectations push up short-term Treasury yields.

18F10 - ROLE REVERSAL

Global Bond Markets on Tenterhooks as Sentiment Stays Fragile – Bloomberg

With some of the biggest names in the market urging caution and governments flooding the market with paper, debt traders braced for what they feared could be the final days of a three-decade bull market.

Debt markets are being weighed down by prospects of central banks in Europe and Japan moving away from their stimulus plans. Markets were also braced for possible debt syndications from Italy and Portugal, alongside a German auction on Wednesday. The U.S. Treasury auctions $20 billion of 10-year debt in a re-opening later in the day.

‘Have we finally entered a bond bear market?’: US bonds dip again

This week’s bout of selling has been driven by a decision by the Bank of Japan to reduce its purchases of long-term bonds. The move added fuel to the growing consensus that central banks are shifting from an era of stimulative policies to one of tightening.

“Have we finally entered a bond bear market?” asked Michael Every, strategist at Rabobank. Bill Gross, the Janus Henderson fund manager who has been dubbed the “bond king” was blunter in his assessment, saying on Tuesday that that the “bond bear market [was] confirmed today”.

Investors Prepare for Inflation – WSJ

For years, bond buyers and economists have debated whether tentative signs of rising prices will take hold, sparking sporadic moves in the bond market. So far, inflation has remained stubbornly low, even as the economy rebounds.

Still, many investors believe inflation is bound to pick up if the labor market continues to improve, and some market indicators suggest inflation expectations have been climbing in recent weeks, reflecting better economic data, rising energy prices and the passage of sweeping tax cuts, which many think could provide a further boost to the economy.

Rising inflation is a major threat to government bond investors because it chips away at the purchasing power of their fixed interest payments. The 10-year Treasury yield is watched particularly closely because it is a bedrock of global finance, influencing borrowing rates for consumers, businesses and state and local governments.

Man Group Says Emerging-Market Bond Values Don’t Make Sense – Bloomberg

The appeal of developing debt increased in recent years after central banks globally remained accommodative and kept interest rates near historical lows. That has sent the premium on emerging-market dollar bonds to the lowest since 2007, according to a Bloomberg Barclays index. While some money managers forecast the market will cool, others say developing bonds and equities will continue to streak ahead.

“This has resulted in fairly indiscriminate spread compression, pushing valuations on emerging-market dollar bonds to levels that no longer make sense when considering the credit and liquidity risks, particularly for the high-yield segment of the asset class,” said Lisa Chua, a portfolio manager on the emerging-markets debt team at Man Group, in an interview by email.

HNA Group Has So Many Companies It’s Running Out of Names – Bloomberg

HNA Group Co.’s multibillion-dollar buying spree is testing the limits of the English language: the company is starting to run out of names for its businesses.

The conglomerate, which owns about 20 percent of Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. and has been dogged by questions from regulators worldwide about the group’s ownership, told the Australian stock exchange this month there are 518 related entities associated with the airline stake.

Malls May Be Dying, But Bets Against Their Debt Haven’t Paid Off – WSJ

The wager against commercial mortgage-backed securities largely has focused on the CMBX 6, a little-known credit default swap index that tracks the values of bonds backed by mortgages on malls as well as office buildings and other commercial properties. While a few slices of the index have slumped due to the perceived greater exposure to struggling mall properties and retail bankruptcies, more mall mortgage defaults would have to occur before investors will get a windfall.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

China’s Strategy to Psych Out the West Is Paying Off – WSJ

China has timed its resurgence on the global stage to take full advantage of weaknesses in democracies in U.S. and Europe, beset by populist revolts.

China sees itself in competition with these societies not just in the economic and security spheres but also on values. Its long-term strategy is to promote its authoritarian model of development. The immediate diplomatic objective is to garner overseas support for Beijing’s positions on everything from Tibet and Taiwan to the South China Sea. As part of that effort, Beijing seeks to co-opt credible Western voices to speak on its behalf.

Beijing’s intimidation tactics are paying off. Western governments hesitate to speak out on issues sensitive to Beijing, such as Tibet. Hollywood movies that portray China in a negative light don’t get made. Academics may choose not to research topics that could threaten their visa status. Media organizations are tempted to pull their punches.

With the Chinese economy on track to become the world’s largest, the cost of standing up to China in defense of freedoms increases. It took Norway six years to end an economic and diplomatic freeze after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

Real News on Fake Data in China – WSJ

The really big data problem is in the poor, commodity-and-industry-dependent hinterlands where growth is more cyclical and whose officials are under more pressure to polish figures. Inner Mongolia’s headline growth figures show the coal and infrastructure hub outperforming during the commodity and housing boom in the late 2000s, but then doing implausibly well during the 2015 commodities crash. Growth in rival coal province Shanxi cratered during the same period. And more granular Chinese national data such as freight traffic and electricity production also show a steep fall.

The lesson is that Chinese GDP represents a reasonable long-term indicator of overall trends, but isn’t particularly helpful in capturing cyclical shifts, in part because figures from the more volatile, less diversified inland economies may be fudged during sharp slowdowns.

Instead, investors should watch Chinese numbers that line up better with global trade and price trends—such as lending, freight traffic, real-estate investment and output of key Chinese exports like telecom equipment.

Mohammed bin Salman’s Next Saudi Challenge: Curtailing Ultraconservative Islam – WSJ

These efforts have prompted resistance from those wary of undoing decades of edicts woven into the Saudi social fabric, in particular from religious conservatives, who remain a powerful constituency.

Sheikh Saleh al Fozan, a member of Saudi Arabia’s top religious body, reiterated a common argument against women driving. “If women are allowed to drive,” he said in a statement published on his website, “they will be able to go and come as they please day and night, and will easily have access to temptation, because as we know, women are weak and easily tempted.”

Even Saudi Arabia’s Allies Are Questioning Its Mideast Power Plays – Bloomberg

If the prince’s enemies aren’t sweating it much, his allies are showing signs of alarm. From the Arab Sunni world, the natural sphere of Saudi influence, to the U.S. and Europe, diplomats have dissociated themselves from the kingdom’s ventures or come out against them.

That made 2017 a mixed year for the leader known as MBS. At home, he shunted rivals aside, cementing an unprecedented rapid rise to power. But in Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon, regional countries where the Saudis seek leadership and perceive a challenge from Iran, his initiatives have foundered.

“MBS approaches domestic and regional politics in a similar, bold fashion,” said Hani Sabra, founder of New York-based Alef Advisory. “Domestically, this has worked well for him. He’s outmaneuvered many influential relatives.” Abroad, the approach “is creating and intensifying risks,” he said.

Japan is ill prepared for coming labour shock

Japan, you would think, must have realised by now that its labour shortage is acute. Whether it is unfinished construction in the suburbs, cafés giving up on lunchtime sittings, septuagenarians bolstering the workforce or difficulties hiring performers for Disneyland shows, the evidence is everywhere.

Every dot of data implies fundamental change in the way the economy operates, with optimists seeing inexorable momentum towards wage increases. A harsher reading suggests the demographic shock will mount the biggest management challenge to Japanese company leadership since the collapse of the 1980s bubble. A challenge, say some analysts, that many look primed to fail.

El Salvador Again Feels the Hand of Washington Shaping Its Fate – The New York Times

On Tuesday, after the Trump administration’s decision to cancel a program that gave nearly 200,000 Salvadorans temporary status to live and work in the United States following a pair of deadly earthquakes in 2001, many Salvadorans feel the heavy hand of Washington will again shape the fate of this country.

“It’s going to be chaos,” said Bertila Parada, whose son built a life and a family in the United States, benefiting from the so-called Temporary Protection Status granted by the United States. “He gave them 19 years of work, and how do they repay him? They tell him, ‘Get out of here.’”

Behind the Iron Curtain: Intimate Views of Life in Communist Hungary – The New York Times

Hungary was ruled as a socialist republic from 1949 until 1989, when activists and intellectuals pressed the government to adopt a democratic political system with a revised constitution that affirmed civil rights. Mr. Bankuti’s images from the 1980s and 1990s straddle this complex period, and include intimate depictions of struggling families — people sleeping in the streets, piled together on a bed — as well as celebratory christenings and rousing political gatherings. And even as the state loosened its grip, he had to be careful about his audience.

“All the conscientious reporters worked for their own archives,” he said. “The negatives got stored away in drawers, maybe shown to small professional audiences in exhibition rooms tucked away in nameless alleyways.”

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CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY

ECB Hawks Take the Lead on QE Debate as Doves Stay Quiet – Bloomberg

With the euro-area economy expanding solidly after three years of negative interest rates and quantitative easing, hawks such as Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann have stepped up calls for a definite end-date to bond purchases. Even Executive Board member Benoit Coeure, a leading proponent of QE when the region faced deflation, now sees a “reasonable chance” the latest extension of the program to September will be the last.

The key though is whether President Mario Draghi and doves such as chief economist Peter Praet also adjust their positions. They’ve stayed quiet this year, letting the latest slowdown in inflation do the talking. Investors should gain an insight into the discussion on Thursday, when the account of the Dec. 14 Governing Council meeting is published.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

Toyota, Mazda Choose Alabama for New $1.6 Billion Car Plant – WSJ

Toyota and Mazda first announced plans in August for the new plant, which will create 4,000 jobs and make up to 300,000 vehicles a year by 2021. Toyota has said it would build 150,000 Corolla models and Mazda will use the rest of the capacity for an unspecified model.

Fast-Food Workers Claim Victory in a New York Labor Effort – The New York Times

With labor unions seeing their influence wane, more than 200 organizations have sprouted nationwide to help low-wage workers. But nearly all these groups say they are hampered by a lack of dependable funding because, unlike unions, they cannot rely on a steady flow of dues.

To the dismay of many business groups, New York City enacted an innovative law last year that many labor advocates hope will become a model to finance such organizations across the nation.

Under the law, fast-food employees who want to contribute to a nonprofit, nonunion workers’ group can insist on having the restaurant they work for deduct money from their pay and forward that money to the group. But before a group can receive these contributions, it must get 500 workers to pledge to contribute.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA

Global economic growth has peaked, says World Bank

Global growth appears to have peaked, with demographics, a lack of investment, a slowing in productivity gains and tightening monetary policy placing limits on economic expansion, the World Bank said.

The world’s economic output grew 3 per cent last year as more than half of economies accelerated, thanks to a rebound in investment, manufacturing activity and trade, bank economists said. The global economy is expected to maintain that rough growth level through 2020.

But that may be as good as it gets, according to the bank’s annual report on the state of the global economy. The problem facing the world is that after years of recovery from the 2008 financial crisis, most advanced and developing economies have closed the output gap between actual and potential economic growth.

World Bank Raises Outlook as Growth Hits Fastest Pace Since 2011 – Bloomberg

The World Bank lifted its forecast for global growth, predicting the global recovery will continue to gain steam after reaching the fastest clip in six years.

Global growth is expected to last for at least the next couple of years, as conditions improve for commodity exporters hurt by the oil crash, said the Washington-based lender. Increased investment and manufacturing activity is driving a broad cyclical recovery, aided by benign financial conditions, loose monetary policy and improved confidence, it said.

Still, the bank said risks remain tilted to the downside, warning an abrupt tightening of financing conditions or spike in market volatility could derail the expansion. The pain would be greatest for emerging markets and developing economies with big external financing needs and weak corporate balance sheets.

U.K. Factories in Best Growth Run Since 1997 Amid Global Upswing – Bloomberg

U.K. manufacturers posted a seventh consecutive month of expansion in November as sectors from food producers to makers of games and sports equipment increased output.

UK construction activity contracts at fastest rate in 5 years

Construction activity in the UK fell at its fastest pace in five years in the three months to November, according to official data, as economic uncertainty discourages major new projects.

Mexican Inflation Ended 2017 at Highest Level in 17 Years – WSJ

Mexican inflation accelerated in 2017 to its fastest rate in 17 years, led by higher food and energy costs that were affected by a weaker peso and an end to government controls on gasoline and other fuels.

India’s Oil Demand Growth Weakest Since 2013 as Economy Slows – Bloomberg

India’s oil consumption in 2017 expanded at the slowest pace in four years as a surprise ban on high-value currency notes and a new national sales tax weakened the economy.

Egypt Urban Inflation Rate Drops as Currency Float Shock Eases – Bloomberg

Egypt’s monthly urban inflation rate fell for the first time in more than two years as the impact of lifting currency controls eased.

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Signs of Euphoria Are So High Investors Are ‘Having a Hard Time Imagining a Decline’ – Bloomberg

The sound of euphoria just got a bit louder. The new year isn’t even two weeks old, and already $2.1 trillion has been added to the market capitalization of global equities. The market is verging on such overbought levels that not even reliably bullish analysts can keep up with the new highs.

Optimism is upending the once-dour mood of a rally noted for the hate it inspired. The bull market, now in its ninth year, has finally reached the point of euphoria, said Morgan Stanley’s U.S. equity strategists.

“Now, we have seen a total reversal with people having a hard time even imagining how the market could decline,” they wrote in a report dated Monday. “We must admit the speed and relentlessness of the move is a bit troubling.”

“Bill Gross Is Early”: Jeff Gundlach’s Complete Presentation Highlights | Zero Hedge

“I’m gonna put it out there right now…and I know it’s very unlikely for a market in its present condition to go down…but my prediction for 2018 is the S&P 500 will have a negative rate of return.” – Jeff Gundlach

Gundlach Says S&P 500 Will Have Negative Return for 2018 – Bloomberg

Jeffrey Gundlach, the billionaire bond manager, says the S&P 500 Index will end the year with a negative return and is dubious of the long-term value of bitcoin.

“All recession indicators are flashing no recession, which means it’s priced in,” Gundlach said Tuesday during his annual “Just Markets” webcast, in which he gives his outlook for the coming year. “This is why I say S&P 500 down after a pretty decent run early in 2018.”

Gundlach Sees Commodities Outperforming in Late-Cycle Boom – Bloomberg

Jeffrey Gundlach, the billionaire bond manager, said commodities may be one of the best investments this year as they surge during the late phase of the economic cycle.

“I think commodities will outperform in 2018,” Gundlach said during his annual ‘Just Markets’ webcast on Tuesday, in which he gives his outlook for the coming year. “Commodities always rally sharply — much more sharply than they have so far — late in the business cycle as we lead into a recession.”

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REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL

Singapore Property Rebound Just Starting as Prices Seen Jumping – Bloomberg

Credit Suisse Group AG and Morgan Stanley are calling the end of Singapore’s property downturn, after a second consecutive quarterly increase in private residential prices. Home prices may rise as much as 10 percent this year, according to analysts at Credit Suisse, while Morgan Stanley and OCBC Investment Research expect as much as an 8 percent increase, according to reports from the brokerage firms.

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

Cohen’s Point72 Shows 8-to-1 Leverage as It Seeks New Money – Bloomberg

Steve Cohen had about $90 billion of market bets outstanding at the beginning of this year, indicating his Point72 Asset Management was using large amounts of leverage as the firm prepared for outside investors.

The firm’s regulatory assets, a calculation required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, reflect as much as $8 of leverage for each dollar of capital, according to documents filed Jan. 6 with the agency. That is more than double the leverage Cohen reported using at his previous hedge fund firm, SAC Capital Advisors, at the end of 2013.

KKR Launches Aggressive New Real-Estate Fund – WSJ

KKR has closed a $2 billion real-estate fund to buy properties that are more challenging than fully leased buildings in prime locations—but also offer the potential for higher returns.

The new fund, which already has committed or spent about $250 million of the capital raised, is shooting for the kinds of returns that define “opportunistic” and “value-added” funds, which typically are aggressive in buying properties, increasing rents, leasing vacant space or redeveloping.

Norway’s $1tn oil fund looks to begin investing in private equity

Norway’s $1.1tn sovereign wealth fund should be able to invest in unlisted equities in a big potential shift in strategy, according to a recommendation from its manager. The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund would first consider investing in private equity funds or alongside them as part of a gradual approach, Norges Bank Investment Management said on Tuesday in advice to the country’s finance ministry.

The World’s Best Female Poker Player Joins the World’s Biggest Hedge Fund – Bloomberg

Selbst, who won $11.9 million in prizes over 12 years in the card game, joined the world’s largest hedge fund, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. In a Dec. 31 Facebook post announcing a career change, Selbst said she started at an unspecified hedge fund firm four months ago to focus on trading research and strategy. Selbst didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

“The environment feels a lot like poker did back in the day — a bunch of nerdy kids collaborating to try to beat our opponents at a game,” Selbst said in her post. “It’s also really freaking difficult.”

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ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE

Citi Says Trump and War Could Help Drive Oil to $80 – Bloomberg

This year may be anything but staid for the oil market as Citigroup Inc. predicts wildcards including war, Middle East tensions, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un driving crude toward $80 a barrel.

After prices were boosted by OPEC’s output curbs in 2017, the U.S. President has shifted the focus to geopolitical risks, with his pursuit of sanctions on Iran and North Korea potentially having significant consequences, the bank said. That’s in addition to political disturbances in some OPEC members like Iraq and Libya that could see crude supplies decline, boosting oil to levels between $70-$80, it said in a Jan. 9 report.

U.S. oil prices hit highest since 2014, but analysts warn of overheated market

U.S. oil prices hit their highest since 2014 on Wednesday due to ongoing production cuts led by OPEC as well as healthy demand, although analysts cautioned that markets may be overheating.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Magnitude 7.6 Quake Hits Caribbean Sparking Tsunami Alert – Bloomberg

One of the strongest earthquakes to hit the Caribbean in modern times struck off the coast of Honduras on Tuesday night, shaking the mainland and setting off tsunami warnings that were canceled about an hour later.

There were no early reports of serious damage or casualties on land after the quake struck shortly before 10 p.m. EST. Officials in Honduras said shaking was registered across much of the nation and there were some reports of cracks in homes in Colon and Atlantida provinces along the northern coast and Olancho in eastern Honduras.

Mudslides Strike Southern California, Leaving at Least 13 Dead – The New York Times

At least 13 people — and possibly more, the authorities warned — were killed on Tuesday and more than two dozen were injured as a vast area northwest of Los Angeles, recently scorched in the state’s largest wildfire on record, became the scene of another disaster, as a driving rainstorm, the heaviest in nearly a year, triggered floods and mudslides.

The wreckage of the downpour, coming so soon after the wildfires, was not a coincidence but a direct result of the charred lands, left vulnerable to quickly forming mudslides.

California’s Cruel Seasons: Fire, Flood, Mud – WSJ

The one-two punch of fire and mudslides is a common occurrence in California, where hills stripped of grass and other vegetation by flames in the fall are less able to soak up the winter rains that follow. Rains were expected to taper off by late Tuesday night, forecasters said.

In the kind of steep terrain that surrounds Los Angeles, mud and debris can begin flowing within just 15 minutes of a downpour—rushing down the mountain as fast as 50 miles an hour, said Dennis Staley, a landslide specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. The threat of mudslides to populated areas has grown markedly, he said, because so many more people have moved into fire-prone zones in California and other mountain states.

Snow in the Sahara Creates White-Capped Dunes of Eerie Beauty – The New York Times

The orange dunes frosted with snow look at first as though they could be images from a frozen moon circling some distant planet. In fact, the rolling hills with the alien-looking white peaks were formed by a more earthly — if unusual — phenomenon: snow in the Sahara.

Unforgivingly hot in the day, but freezing during the night, the Sahara is renowned for its extreme temperatures. Experts said snowfall was rare — though nobody knows quite how rare, because the desert is so vast and there are comparatively few monitoring facilities.

The Ocean Floor Is Sinking Due To Additional Water Weight From Melting Glaciers : SCIENCE : Tech Times

The enormous mass being added into the ocean also causes the seafloor to warp and deform and this can disguise the actual rise of sea levels in some parts of our planet and even cover up the actual extent of sea level rise.

In a new study published in Geophysical Research Levels, study researcher Thomas Frederikse, from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and colleagues used a mathematical equation called the elastic sea level equation to get a more
accurate measurement of the ocean floor.

TOP

CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND

Canada Outlook Shifts, as Currency and Bond Yields Jump – WSJ

The Canadian dollar is trading near three-month highs, as the country’s growing economy, thriving labor market and rising prices for one of its key commodities have boosted the outlook for its currency.

Several factors have contributed to the loonie’s rise: Canada added 79,000 jobs in December and finished last year with its strongest annual job gains since 2002, while its unemployment rate declined to 5.7%, the lowest since comparable data became available in 1976, according to Statistics Canada. Inflation has also risen, with consumer prices climbing 2.1% in November from the year earlier.

Another part of the Canadian currency’s strength has come from surging oil prices, with U.S. crude settling Tuesday at its highest value since December 2014. Oil has benefited from factors including antigovernment protests in Iran, declining U.S. crude stockpiles, freezing winter weather in the U.S. Northeast and continued high levels of compliance with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ plan to cut crude output.

Australia lashes out at China’s ‘useless’ Pacific projects

Australia has launched a scathing attack on China’s efforts to build influence in the Pacific, accusing Beijing of currying favour with the region’s smaller nations by funnelling cash into little-used infrastructure projects.

“You’ve got the Pacific full of these useless buildings which nobody maintains, which are basically white elephants,” Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, said on Wednesday.

TOP

BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

‘Bad Brexit’ Would Hurt the U.K. Economy for More Than a Decade – Bloomberg

The U.K. economy will be paying the price for years to come if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to secure a Brexit agreement with European Union leaders.

Leaving the bloc in March 2019 with no deal in place could result in a 6.5 percent hit to GDP by 2030, according to research published by Bloomberg Economics analysts Dan Hanson and Jamie Murray. That’s compared with projections for growth if the U.K. voted to stay in the EU, though an agreement that helps trade would soften the blow.

18F10 - PAYING THE PRICE FOR BREXIT

Brussels warns UK companies of shut-out in event of no-deal Brexit

Even as negotiators neared a breakthrough in Brexit divorce talks, EU regulators issued a flurry of “be prepared” memos to about 15 industries in November and December, ranging from drugmakers, seafarers and mineral water producers to hauliers and airlines that rely on UK operating licences.

The documents call on companies to be ready for the UK to become a “third country” on March 29 2019, with no automatic right to operate in the single market. They also warn that operating licences will automatically lapse after Brexit and that many groups may have to create EU entities for continuity of business.

TOP

DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL

Trump Appears to Endorse Path to Citizenship for Millions of Immigrants – The New York Times

President Trump on Tuesday appeared open to negotiating a sweeping immigration deal that would eventually grant millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, declaring that he was willing to “take the heat” politically for an approach that seemed to flatly contradict the anti-immigration stance that charged his political rise.

Trump meeting sows confusion over immigration policy

Republican lawmakers struggled to pull President Donald Trump from the brink of striking an immigration deal with Democrats in an extraordinary public negotiation in front of television cameras at the White House.

Mr Trump sparked panicked interventions from Republicans as Democrats pushed him towards backing immigration reform that would begin with legislation to legalise the status of “Dreamers”, people brought to the US illegally as children.

Dreamer talks still jumbled after Trump’s freewheeling summit – POLITICO

President Donald Trump’s freewheeling, televised — and, at times, incoherent — immigration meeting with lawmakers Tuesday accomplished one thing at least, according to attendees: They agreed on what they would try to agree on.

DACA Immigration Protections Must Continue for Now, Judge Says – The New York Times

In the middle of an intense political fight about the program that shields from deportation young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction late Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to start the program back up again.

Saying the decision to kill it was improper, Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco wrote that the administration must “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis” as the legal challenge to the president’s decision goes forward.

TOP

GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

U.S. Navy Destroyer Arrives in Ukraine Amid Rift With Russia

The U.S. Navy’s guided-missile destroyer Carney sailed into Ukrainian waters Monday in the third visit by a vessel of its kind to the tense Black Sea region since August.

The Arleigh Burke-class U.S.S. Carney docked in the port city of Odessa as part of an ongoing commitment by the U.S. military to show support for Ukraine, particularly in the face of Russian aggression. The former Soviet country has been locked into a prolonged standoff with Russia in its east and south.

Julian Assange’s stay in London embassy untenable, says Ecuador | Media | The Guardian

Ecuador’s foreign minister has said Julian Assange’s five-and-a-half-year stay in her country’s London embassy is “untenable” and should be ended through international mediation.

Private Salvage Firm Will Seek MH370; Paid on Find-Only Basis – WSJ

A Houston-based private salvage company will be paid $50 million to $70 million if it finds the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH370 in a bid to solve one of aviation’s greatest mysteries.

TOP

PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE

AT&T Drops Huawei’s New Smartphone Amid Security Worries – The New York Times

The telecommunications giant canceled a deal to sell the Mate 10 after U.S. lawmakers expressed misgivings about what they said were Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government.

Dog-Walking App Exposed Home Addresses and Lockbox Codes – WSJ

Wag Labs, the company behind a popular dog-walking smartphone app, inadvertently exposed webpages showing customer information including addresses and lockbox codes that could have enabled thieves to break into homes.

FBI opens new front in encryption fight with tech sector

The FBI has opened up a new front in the battle between the US government and the tech industry over encryption, with director Christopher Wray saying on Tuesday that law enforcement’s struggle to access data on encrypted devices is an “urgent public safety issue”.

Microsoft says security patches slowing down PCs, servers

Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday that software patches released to guard against microchip security threats slowed down some personal computers and servers, with systems running on older Intel Corp processors seeing a noticeable decrease in performance.

How Millions of Iranians Are Evading the Internet Censors – WSJ

Authorities in Tehran have ratcheted up their policing of the internet in the past week and a half, part of an attempt to stamp out the most far-reaching protests in Iran since 2009.

But the crackdown is driving millions of Iranians to tech tools that can help them evade censors, according to activists and developers of the tools. Some of the tools were attracting three or four times more unique users a day than they were before the internet crackdown, potentially weakening government efforts to control access to information online.

“By the time they wake up, the government will have lost control of the internet,” said Mehdi Yahyanejad, executive director of NetFreedom Pioneers, a California-based technology nonprofit that largely focuses on Iran and develops educational and freedom of information tools.

TOP

PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM

Charged With Journalism: Reuters Reporters Face 14 Years in Myanmar Prison – WSJ

Prosecutors in Myanmar formally charged two Reuters reporters under archaic, colonial-era secrecy laws as criticism grew over the restriction of press freedoms and civil rights in the country under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Netanyahu’s son Yair Netanyahu brags about prostitutes, $20 billion deal for friend’s dad in strip club rant – The Washington Post

The conversation between the young men, lubricated with alcohol, meandered past several ribald topics: disparaging, misogynistic comments about women; money borrowed to pay a stripper, a late-night search for a prostitute.

Three years later, recordings of their exchange have shaken Israel’s political establishment and rippled around the world because of one of the men involved is Yair Netanyahu, the 26-year-old son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump Administration Waives Punishment For Convicted Banks, Including Deutsche — Which Trump Owes Millions

The Trump administration has waived part of the punishment for five megabanks whose affiliates were convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. One of the Trump administration waivers was granted to Deutsche Bank — which is owed at least $130 million by President Donald Trump and his business empire, and has also been fined for its role in a Russian money laundering scheme.

The waivers were issued in a little-noticed announcement published in the Federal Register during the Christmas holiday week. They come less than two years after then-candidate Trump promised “I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder.”

Russian historian who exposed Stalin’s crimes faces enforced psychiatric testing

A Russian historian whose exposure of Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s crimes angered state officials is due to begin enforced psychiatric testing this week amid fears he will be falsely declared insane, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Yuri Dmitriev, 61, is on trial in northwest Russia on charges brought by state prosecutors of involving his adopted daughter, then 11, in child pornography, of illegally possessing “the main elements of” a firearm, and of depravity involving a minor.

Some of Russia’s leading cultural figures say Dmitriev was framed because his focus on Stalin’s crimes – he found a mass grave with up to 9,000 bodies dating from the Soviet dictator’s Great Terror in the 1930s – jars with the latter-day Kremlin narrative that Russia must not be ashamed of its past.

White House plans to destroy Trump election fraud commission’s voter data – POLITICO

The White House intends to destroy voter data collected by the election fraud commission President Donald Trump recently shut down, the Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday night.

White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said in a declaration submitted to a federal court in Washington that officials plan to erase the information, rather than transfer it to the Department of Homeland Security or the National Archives and Records Administration.

Herndon also indicated that White House press secretary Sarah Sanders’ comment last week that the commission’s “preliminary findings” were being sent to DHS was inaccurate.

TOP

TRUMP WORLD

Stephen K. Bannon leaves Breitbart after blowup over comments in Trump book – The Washington Post

Bannon’s departure — just days after his public criticisms of former White House colleagues led to a spectacular falling-out with President Trump and his allies — was a humbling denouement for a figure who had reached the uppermost levels of power only a year ago. It leaves him with no evident platform to promote his views and no major financial backer for his preferred candidates.

Steve Bannon lit himself on fire — and Trump extinguished him – Axios

Bannon still thinks of himself as a revolutionary. That self-perception won’t change. It’s just that now he has no vehicle, no staff, no platform, and no major donors funding his ambitions.

Donald Trump speaks at a fourth-grade level, the lowest of last 15 U.S. presidents, according to analysis

President Donald Trump connects with the American people by using a language that even a fourth grader could understand, according to a recently published analysis by Factbase on the speech patterns of the last 15 U.S. presidents.

Facing staffing exodus, Trump struggles to fill West Wing – CNNPolitics

White House aides have been told to decide before the end of January whether they intend to leave the administration or stay through the November midterm elections, an official said, a deadline intended to help bring a sense of order to an anticipated staffing exodus.

President Trump has made more than 2,000 false or misleading claims over 355 days – The Washington Post

With just 10 days left in his first year as president, Trump breaks a barrier we thought was beyond his reach.

Trump Plans to Attend the World Economic Forum in Davos – The New York Times

The forum in Switzerland is synonymous with wealth and elite prestige, drawing leaders of nations and corporations, and some of the world’s richest individuals.

Presidents have rarely attended the forum in Davos, in part out of a concern that it would send the wrong message to be rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s richest individuals. The event in Switzerland is a global symbol of everything that Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, railed against during the presidential campaign and the first seven months in the administration.

But Mr. Trump has also spent a lifetime as a real estate mogul and television personality seeking to be accepted by the financial and media elite in New York and around the world. His decision to travel to Davos as president may represent his desire to prove that he has achieved that goal.

TOP

HEALTHCARE, TAX REFORM, BUDGET

Republicans Want Bigger Increase for Military Spending in Budget Talks – WSJ

The brewing budget deal on Capitol Hill could get much larger thanks to a late Republican push for a bigger boost in defense spending.

As the spotlight has been on immigration negotiations, lawmakers and aides have been working behind the scenes to hammer out a two-year deal that would not only prevent the budget limits known as the sequester from kicking in, but potentially raise spending beyond that.

While many expected lawmakers to eventually reach an agreement adding $200 billion over two years over sequester levels, that sum would grow if a GOP push to ramp up military spending even more is successful.

TOP

TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Trump Administration Says New Drilling Won’t Be Allowed Off Florida Coast – WSJ

The Trump administration told Florida’s governor it won’t consider new oil and gas drilling off the state’s coast, backtracking on plans to expand offshore drilling all around the U.S. and bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans in the state.

Trump administration says no oil drilling off Florida coast – The Washington Post

The change of course — just five days after Zinke announced the offshore drilling plan — highlights the political importance of Florida, where President Trump narrowly won the state’s 29 electoral votes in the 2016 election and has encouraged Scott to run for Senate.

The state is also important economically, with a multibillion-dollar tourism business built on sunshine and miles of white sandy beaches. Zinke said Tuesday that “Florida is obviously unique” and that the decision to remove the state came after meetings and discussion with Scott.

TOP

ELECTORAL POLITICS

North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled Unconstitutionally Gerrymandered – The New York Times

A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage.

The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections.

Trump Backs GOP Efforts to Explore Bringing Back Earmarks – WSJ

“If Republicans bring back earmarks, then it virtually guarantees that they will lose the House,” David McIntosh, president of the conservative advocacy group Club For Growth, said in a statement. “Bringing back earmarks is the antithesis of draining the swamp. Earmarks will only benefit the special interests that grow government at the expense of working men and women.”

Republicans who support earmarks say there should be limitations, and perhaps a different moniker.

Silvio Berlusconi lures Italian voters with flat tax plan

Italy’s resurgent centre-right led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has put a “flat tax” plan at the heart of its economic platform for the March general election, sparking concern about the potential impact on the country’s strained finances.

“The flat tax is simple and fair, and it would no longer be convenient to avoid or evade taxes,” Mr Berlusconi said in a radio interview on Tuesday. “Fewer taxes on families, fewer taxes on companies, fewer taxes on labour, means more consumption by households, more production by businesses, more employment, and more money in the state’s coffers to help citizens.”

TOP

SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC

Silicon Valley Reconsiders the iPhone Era It Created – WSJ

A tussle this week between prominent investors and Apple Inc. over iPhone use by young people comes amid a nascent re-evaluation of the smartphone’s social consequences within the industry that spawned it.

The smartphone has fueled much of Silicon Valley’s soaring profits over the past decade, enriching companies in sectors from social media to games to payments. But over the past year or so, a number of prominent industry figures have voiced concerns about the downsides of the technology’s ubiquity.

They include Apple executives who helped create the iPhone and now express misgivings about how smartphones monopolize attention, as well as early investors and executives in Facebook Inc. who worry about social media’s tendency to consume ever more user time, in part by pushing controversial content.

TOP

CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE

U.S., French Officials Question Apple Over iPhone Battery Slowdowns – WSJ

Apple Inc. AAPL is facing new questions from government officials in the U.S. and France about its handling of battery-related performance issues on iPhones, a sign that controversy over the problem continues despite the technology giant’s apology last month.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Thune (R., S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, pressed Apple for answers to a series of questions about how the company decided to throttle back iPhone processing performance in phones with older batteries.

TOP

CLOUD, IOT, SEMICONDUCTORS, ENTERPRISE / SAAS

Mega Chip Deal Alarms Some Chinese Smartphone Makers – WSJ

Two large Chinese smartphone manufacturers said they are against the potential merger of chip giants Broadcom Ltd. and Qualcomm Inc., fearing it could squeeze the mobile companies’ profit margins and benefit large global rivals to their detriment.

Executives from China’s Oppo Electronics Corp. and Vivo Electronics Corp., which together generate more than 10% of Qualcomm’s $22 billion in annual revenue, said they are worried about possible price hikes and other changes that could come down the pipe if Broadcom succeeds in its $105 billion hostile takeover bid for San Diego, Calif.-based Qualcomm.

A third Chinese customer, Xiaomi Corp., said it also has reservations about a merger, which would create the world’s third-largest chip company.

TOP

MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT

Scoop: WaPo hits 2nd year of profitability, plans expansion – Axios

The Washington Post will celebrate its second consecutive year as a profitable company by adding to its business and technology teams in 2018, according to a memo to staff from Post Publisher Fred Ryan obtained by Axios. The team of nearly 800 journalists will be acquiring additional space in its headquarters building in downtown Washington in 2018.

Radiohead Denies Suing Lana Del Rey Over Copyright (but Still Wants Credit) – The New York Times

“Get Free,” it seemed, was the latest victim of the so-called “Blurred Lines” effect: a new song accused of stealing from an old one by borrowing chords, texture or “feel,” the kind of generic elements that have long been considered fair game.

But on Tuesday, after a few days of silence, Radiohead’s music publisher, Warner/Chappell, made a statement confirming that it had requested credit for Radiohead, but denying that it wanted all of Ms. Del Rey’s songwriting money.

TOP

AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

As Electric Cars’ Prospects Brighten, Japan Fears Being Left Behind – The New York Times

At a factory near the base of Mount Fuji, workers painstakingly assemble transmissions for some of the world’s top-selling cars. The expensive, complex components, and the workers’ jobs, could be obsolete in a couple of decades.

The threat: battery-powered electric vehicles.

Their designs do away with the belts and gears of a transmission, as well as thousands of other parts used in conventional cars. Established suppliers are nervous, especially in Japan, where automaking is a pillar of the economy — and where industrial giants have been previously left behind by technological change.

Renault-Nissan Starts Up Billion-Dollar Venture Fund for Car Technology – WSJ

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is creating one of the largest venture-capital funds dedicated to automotive technologies, escalating an already feverish pursuit by global auto makers to reinvent personal transportation.

The company said it will commit $200 million annually over five years—for a total of $1 billion—to invest in a variety of startup technologies, including battery and self-driving vehicle advances. The new corporate venture fund is part of a push by Renault-Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn to speed development of technologies that the alliance’s three auto makers don’t have in-house.

TOP

AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS

Why Airfreight Traffic Is Up: Dog Food and Semiconductors Are Vying for Space – WSJ

Companies are shipping more items by plane to meet customers’ rising expectations for rapid delivery, prompting a scramble for cargo space that has sent airfreight rates soaring and pushed Amazon.com Inc. and others into the airline business.

The cause is twofold: As online shoppers come to expect faster home delivery of everything from smartphones to paper towels, passenger jets and dedicated cargo planes are picking up more kinds of cargo traditionally carried by container ships, trains and trucks. At the same time, strong global economic growth also is spurring demand for goods long ferried by air, such as automotive and manufacturing parts.

TOP

AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE

Boeing Sets Jet Delivery Record – WSJ

Boeing Co. said it delivered a record 763 jetliners in 2017 and secured net orders for 912 planes, as surging airline traffic continues to fuel a multiyear boom for the airline and aerospace industries.

The increased orders and deliveries highlight Boeing’s ability to boost production while introducing new aircraft models, trends that have improved the aerospace giant’s cash flow and profits and sent its stock to new highs.

Musk’s Space Dreams Are Tested by Mystery Failure – Bloomberg

Details are scant and it’s far from clear who, if anyone, is at fault. But this much is certain: Zuma, perched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, streaked across the Florida sky from Cape Canaveral on Sunday evening and the first stage returned safely to land. Cheers went up inside SpaceX Mission Control, in Hawthorne, California.

But something went wrong. By Monday evening, Zuma was presumed lost.

Gwynne Shotwell, the chief operating officer of SpaceX, issued a strongly worded statement on Tuesday that placed the blame elsewhere. “After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night,” Shotwell said. SpaceX declined to comment further, citing the mission’s classified status, as did Northrup Grumman Corp., which hired SpaceX as the launch contractor.

SpaceX Indicates Its Rocket Didn’t Cause Loss of Spy Satellite – WSJ

Elon Musk’s SpaceX said it wasn’t responsible for the loss of an expensive U.S. spy satellite it launched over the weekend, pointing instead to unspecified problems with the payload or mechanisms that attached it and eventually were supposed to release it from the rocket.

TOP

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH

Amazon and Google lead way on virtual assistant dealmaking at CES

At this year’s CES, dealmaking has taken centre stage as tech companies, carmakers, appliance manufacturers, chip providers and start-ups race to strike alliances for the “internet of things” era. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the world of virtual assistants, with Amazon and Google leading the way on recruiting partners to help them distribute and activate their artificial intelligence platforms.

Google and Others Are Building AI Systems That Doubt Themselves – MIT Technology Review

Researchers at Uber and Google are working on modifications to the two most popular deep-learning frameworks that will enable them to handle probability. This will provide a way for the smartest AI programs to measure their confidence in a prediction or a decision—essentially, to know when they should doubt themselves.

Deep learning, which involves feeding example data to a large and powerful neural network, has been an enormous success over the past few years, enabling machines to recognize objects in images or transcribe speech almost perfectly. But it requires lots of training data and computing power, and it can be surprisingly brittle.

Somewhat counterintuitively, this self-doubt offers one fix. The new approach could be useful in critical scenarios involving self-driving cars and other autonomous machines.

“You would like a system that gives you a measure of how certain it is,” says Dustin Tran, who is working on this problem at Google. “If a self-driving car doesn’t know its level of uncertainty, it can make a fatal error, and that can be catastrophic.”

TOP

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