Macro Links Jan 19th – McConnell Plans For Shutdown

Macro Links Jan 19th – McConnell Plans For Shutdown

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Venezuelan Hyperinflation Explodes, Soaring Over 440,000 Percent – Bloomberg

The price of a cup of coffee in Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche Index has risen six of the past 12 weeks. During that period, the cost climbed from 5,500 bolivars to 45,000 bolivars. That’s an increase of 718 percent. Translated into an annualized pace, it comes to 448,025 percent.

Venezuela’s Currency Rout Hits a New Milestone at 200,000 per Dollar – Bloomberg

The rate in the black market — where most Venezuelans acquire dollars — weakened to 202,000 bolivars per greenback on Thursday, according to, a widely-watched website that monitors prices. That means that the monthly minimum wage is now the equivalent of less than $4.




McConnell plans for shutdown – POLITICO

The Senate leader intends to keep his chamber in session and stage a series of votes designed to embarrass vulnerable Democrats. The goal would be to place the blame for a shutdown squarely on 10 Democratic senators up for reelection this fall in states won by Donald Trump in 2016, and make them the face of a government closure. The strategy is risky for Republicans, considering that they control the White House and Congress.

House Acts to Avoid Shutdown Amid Senate Doubt as Deadline Nears – Bloomberg

The House passed a spending bill Thursday to avoid a U.S. government shutdown, but Senate Democrats say they have the votes to block the measure in a bid to force Republicans and President Donald Trump to include protection for young immigrants.

House Passes Short-Term Spending Bill, Setting Up Shutdown Battle in Senate – The New York Times

Shortly after the stopgap bill cleared the House, Senate Republicans said they would hold a vote later Thursday night to proceed to the measure. In the Senate, at least a dozen Democratic votes will be needed to approve the measure, and there is little chance those will materialize. Democrats are intent on securing concessions that would, among other things, protect from deportation young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, increase domestic spending, aid Puerto Rico and bolster the government’s response to the opioid crisis.

Trump complicates efforts to avoid US shutdown

Some lawmakers are frustrated that Mr Trump last week backed a bipartisan deal on the Dreamers, before changing his mind several hours later. On Wednesday, Mr McConnell said he did not want Congress to be “spinning its wheels” by trying to pass a measure until it was clear what kind of legislation Mr Trump would sign into law.

How Trump’s TV habits raised the risk of a shutdown – POLITICO

If the government shuts down on Friday, President Donald Trump’s television habits may be partly to blame, according to two White House aides. The president began the day on Thursday by blasting out a tweet that threatened to derail a GOP legislative package designed to keep the government open, arguing that the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known by its acronym, CHIP, “should be part of a long-term solution, not a 30-day, or short-term, extension.” But that is precisely the package House Speaker Paul Ryan was trying to persuade skeptical Republicans to agree to in order to keep the government open.



Bitcoin Bull Tom Lee Goes Hyperbolic on Latest Price Forecast – Bloomberg

Bitcoin’s recent slide isn’t discouraging for crypto bull Thomas Lee, who predicts that the value of the digital-coin market will roughly double to more than $1.2 trillion this year. Lee expects the price of one Bitcoin will surge to $125,000 by 2022. That’s 400 percent higher than his forecast from October, when he said the top digital token may reach $25,000 over the same period. That compares with about $11,750 Thursday.

Ripple’s XRP is leading the cryptocurrency comeback | Markets Insider

To be sure, XRP is still more than 5,000% above its price a year ago. The high volatility of cryptocurrencies has attracted both Wall Street and retail investors looking to find more alpha than they could in the highly-regulated and much less volatile stock market.

Smaller cryptocurrencies are leading a comeback from the crypto bloodbath | Markets Insider

“Today’s correction might seem cataclysmic to those that are new to the scene, but crypto has been through this roller coaster numerous times before,” David Sonstebe, the founder of the IOTA cryptocurrency, told Business Insider’s Frank Chapparo.

Regulators eye ban on cryptocurrency derivatives

European regulators are considering a ban on popular retail derivatives of cryptocurrencies as part of their sweeping push to tighten rules around leveraged trading platforms. The European Securities and Markets Authority on Thursday said it was looking into whether so-called contracts for difference based on cryptocurrencies could be included in the scope of its plans to clamp down on online trading platforms.

As Bitcoin Tumbles, New Fund Offers Crypto Investors an Easy Exit – Bloomberg

Managers of a new investment fund have a message for those who made staggering gains from Bitcoin before the recent selloff: diversify and avoid the fate of early dotcom believers who were wiped out when tech crashed. InvestX will accept cryptocurrencies for investment in private companies headed for initial public offerings. Notably, the structure may also offer investors tax benefits as governments seek to take a share of the profits made from virtual currencies.

IMF Calls for Global Talks on Cryptocurrencies – Bloomberg

The International Monetary Fund is calling for global coordination on cryptocurrencies as it warned of the risks from surging prices. “Greater international discussion and cooperation among regulators, yes, would be helpful,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters Thursday in Washington.

Cryptocurrency traders in Korea took the ‘bloodbath’ to another level – Business Insider

After what some have deemed the crypto “bloodbath,” users on the South Korean online community DC Inside displayed their frustrations by posting profanity-laced stories and uploading images of broken items that they said resulted from their anger over the valuations. Though the user comments and images may be amusing for some, it underscores the implications of the South Korean government’s approach to cryptocurrencies, especially for those who have invested heavily in the market.

Hackers Have Walked Off With About 14% of Big Digital Currencies – Bloomberg

Digital currencies and the software developed to track them have become attractive targets for cybercriminals while also creating a lucrative new market for computer-security firms. In less than a decade, hackers have stolen $1.2 billion worth of Bitcoin and rival currency Ether, according to Lex Sokolin, global director of fintech strategy at Autonomous Research LLP. Given the currencies’ explosive surge at the end of 2017, the cost in today’s money is much higher.

Morgan Stanley Joins Goldman Sachs in Clearing Bitcoin Futures – Bloomberg

Morgan Stanley has been clearing Bitcoin futures contracts for big institutional clients and convenes a regular meeting of executives to consider how else to engage with cryptocurrencies, Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Pruzan said.

This Singapore Hedge Fund Unit Is Raising Money for a Crypto Arbitrage Fund – Bloomberg

As Bitcoin continues its wild ride, a Singapore hedge fund unit is raising $10 million for a cryptocurrency arbitrage fund to trade off price movements. Kit Trading is joining an increasingly crowded field as interest in digital currencies explodes globally. In an Oct. 23 report, researcher Autonomous Next said 84 crypto hedge funds had opened in 2017, up from just 11 in 2016. While institutional investors have mostly stayed on the sidelines, companies are launching everything from funds to regulated exchanges to crypto derivatives, trying to lure them in.

What’s Bitcoin Worth? A New Plan to Bring Discipline to Crypto Prices – WSJ

Intercontinental Exchange Inc., or ICE, said Thursday that it was joining with startup Blockstream to launch a data feed that would pull information from more than 15 cryptocurrency exchanges around the world and deliver it to financial firms. Due to go live by March, the feed would transmit information over ICE’s high-speed data network in the same digital format used in electronic stocks trading, helping it fit seamlessly into the systems favored by big banks, high-speed traders and asset managers.

Where the world’s biggest banks and investors stand on bitcoin – Business Insider

There is a big spread of opinion across the sector, with some seeing cryptocurrencies as a possible driver of a fundamental shift in the global financial system, others disliking bitcoin, but having some faith in the blockchain technology that underlines it, and others just seeing crypto as, basically, a complete waste of time.



Blockchain Eyed for Mortgage Bundling That Caused 2008 Crisis – Bloomberg

A group of big financial institutions wants to use the blockchain to help resurrect the packaging of home mortgages into securities, a business that almost destroyed the global banking system in 2008.

Bitcoin rival’s rise unnerves banking sector

Ripple’s golden goose cryptocurrency, whose price has now sagged, raises awkward questions. While its separate technology solutions for fast payment settlement impresses some financiers, XRP’s volatility, and Ripple’s ownership of more than half the 100bn XRP ever created, has unnerved banks that evangelists hoped would adopt the asset as a bridge currency.



Tax overhaul leads AmEx to first loss in 26 years, buyback suspension

Credit card issuer American Express Co (AXP.N) posted its first quarterly loss in 26 years and said it would not buy back shares for the next six months, both due to the impact of the recently enacted U.S. tax reform.



FBI investigating whether Russia funneled cash to NRA to aid Trump’s campaign | McClatchy Washington Bureau

FBI agents are examining whether a top Russian banker who forged ties with the National Rifle Association funneled money to the gun rights group to bankroll its efforts to boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The NRA Is Part of the Trump–Russia Scandal Now

Russian intervention in the 2016 campaign has a number of complex threads. But the latest development is simple and old-fashioned. McClatchy reports that the FBI is investigating whether a Kremlin-linked Russian banker funneled money through the National Rifle Association to help elect Donald Trump. American law prohibits foreign campaign donations.

A year later, no details on where Trump’s surplus inaugural funds went

Nearly a year after President Trump’s inauguration, the committee that raised a record $106.7 million for the event has not disclosed how much surplus money it still has or provided a final accounting of its finances. Presidential inaugural committees are private fundraising vehicles that pay for the concerts, balls and other festivities that surround the swearing-in. Trump’s committee raised twice the $53.2 million President Obama collected for his first inauguration.

GOP Conservatives Brought Russia Probe Demand to Shutdown Talks – Bloomberg

House conservatives negotiating with GOP leaders over how to avert a government shutdown brought a fresh demand to the last-minute talks: release classified information they say raises questions about the origins of the FBI’s probe into President Donald Trump’s possible connections to Russia.

Trump personally made decision to limit Bannon testimony: report | TheHill

President Trump reportedly ordered that former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon limit his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Trump’s decision came after receiving advice from Uttam Dhillon, a deputy White House counsel, Foreign Policy reports.



George Friedman: North Korea has backed the U.S. into a corner – MarketWatch

North Korea, Friedman writes in the forecast, “has backed Washington into a corner. The U.S. does not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, but neither does it want to launch the full-scale invasion that would be required to disarm it.” For the moment, North Korea and the U.S. are at a stalemate, Friedman says. “Everybody is hoping that somebody else will break first.”

Six Chinese Ships Covertly Aided North Korea. The U.S. Was Watching – WSJ

Intelligence gathered by American officials provides what they say is detailed evidence of sanctions violations, involving illicit cargo such as coal that the regime relies on for hard currency. China later successfully lobbied to have the vessels removed from a proposed United Nations blacklist.



Weak Dollar Poses a $3.4 Trillion Question for U.S. Credit Markets – Bloomberg

The weak dollar has whittled down returns for unhedged money managers, raising the prospect of capital flight if the greenback’s losing streak gathers pace, warn Wells Fargo & Co. strategists. “We see a distinct risk that non-U.S. investors could become net sellers as global economic growth converges and central banks transition from a nearly a decade of easing to more normalized polices, resulting in a lower USD,” strategists led by George Bory wrote in a report distributed to media this week.

Most companies plan to use overseas cash to pay down debts: CHARTS – Business Insider

As illustrated by this chart from Statista — which is based on data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch — when it comes to how the biggest corporations plan to spend their overseas cash, capital expenditures, which represent investments in things like new equipment and new buildings, are a distant fourth on their priority lists, trailing not only debt repayment, but buying back their own shares and purchasing other companies.


Japan Dumping U.S. Treasuries Puts Spotlight on Euro-Area Debt – Bloomberg

Sovereign issuers that are selling bonds in euros at a record pace could well be finding some of the world’s most prolific buyers ready to pounce. Investors in Japan and China are shunning U.S. Treasuries, and the conditions are ripe for that cash to find a home in Europe. A widening deficit may double U.S. government bond supply this year, while tax cuts threaten to curb corporate demand for Treasuries. At the same time, Europe’s economy is booming, the euro is the best-performing currency in the Group of 10 in the past 12 months, and the region’s central bank is still buying bonds.



A theory about the recent crypto price plunge | FT Alphaville

It’s possible the recent price collapse below $10,000 per bitcoin is part of a coordinated effort by regulators to apply unconventional pressure techniques on North Korean elites.

Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble – The New York Times

The true believers behind blockchain platforms like Ethereum argue that a network of distributed trust is one of those advances in software architecture that will prove, in the long run, to have historic significance. That promise has helped fuel the huge jump in cryptocurrency valuations. But in a way, the Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain. The real promise of these new technologies, many of their evangelists believe, lies not in displacing our currencies but in replacing much of what we now think of as the internet, while at the same time returning the online world to a more decentralized and egalitarian system. If you believe the evangelists, the blockchain is the future. But it is also a way of getting back to the internet’s roots.

The Russia scandal just got bigger. And Republicans are trying to prevent an accounting. – The Washington Post

One way to understand what happened with regard to Russia is that because our political system is open and decentralized, we’re vulnerable to this kind of attack. But the possibility that Russia funneled money through a group such as the NRA highlights another dimension of our vulnerability, which is that thanks to the conservative attack on campaign finance restrictions and disclosure rules, the system has become much less transparent, in ways that enable those with resources — including, perhaps, hostile foreign governments — to influence the elections while keeping their tracks covered.

Why U.S. Companies May Lose the AI Race – WSJ

Big U.S. technology companies are leading the race. But their Chinese rivals are catching up quickly because of growing investments, as well as freer access to enormous amounts of data about people, often compiled with the help of government agencies. In the West, access to such information is at times limited by growing concerns over privacy and the ethics of letting machines make important decisions—fears that are leading to new policies and stricter proposals around collecting personal data and deploying AI.

Here’s What Could Make the Next Global Recession Even Worse – Bloomberg

If countries coordinate their economic policies too closely, their business cycles could become overly synchronized, leading to booms—and busts—that are global in scale. And if there’s just one unified world financial architecture, mistakes could propagate through it more quickly and destructively than if there are multiple, competing systems. The analogy is to a forest that has only one species of tree: A single insect or fungus could spread rapidly and wipe out the whole thing.

Populist swing alarms financial titans

Nearly all — 93 per cent — WEF members think that political and economic conflicts between countries will increase this year; 79 per cent believe there is a rising danger of military conflicts; and 78 per cent expect that large countries will be drawn into regional battles. Unsurprisingly, this leaves two-thirds of WEF delegates nursing the gloomy conclusion that the world will be riskier in 2018 than last year.

As Trump Shreds Global Trade Deals, Xi Basks in ‘Davos Man’ Role – Bloomberg

If one needed a reminder of how surreal the globalization debate has become in recent years, look no further than the talking salons of Davos. In an historic role reversal, it’s the leader of the Chinese Communist Party who has emerged as a defender of the Davos consensus, last year using his speech in the Swiss ski resort to defend globalization. And it’s an American president — the main event this year — insisting his country’s economic interests take precedence over gauzy visions of a more inter-connected world.

The Fall of Travis Kalanick Was a Lot Weirder and Darker Than You Thought – Bloomberg

A year ago, before the investor lawsuits and the federal investigations, before the mass resignations, and before the connotation of the word “Uber” shifted from “world’s most valuable startup” to “world’s most dysfunctional,” Uber’s executives sat around a hotel conference room table in San Francisco, trying to convince their chief executive officer, Travis Kalanick, that the company had a major problem: him.

Japan’s lost lands: why a fifth of the nation’s territory is worthless

More than 20 per cent of Japan, an area the size of Denmark, has no readily contactable owner. By 2040 the projected area is bigger than the Republic of Ireland — a spreading nightmare for government, construction and the property industry, because if nobody knows who owns the land then nobody, except for flytippers, can use it.

Fed Up With Drug Companies, Hospitals Decide to Start Their Own – The New York Times

For years, hospital executives have expressed frustration when essential drugs like heart medicines have become scarce, or when prices have skyrocketed because investors manipulated the market. Now, some of the country’s largest hospital systems are taking an aggressive step to combat the problem: They plan to go into the drug business themselves, in a move that appears to be the first on this scale.

Eni’s New Supercomputer Scans for Oil and Gas Deep Below Earth – Bloomberg

Big Oil is now Big Tech. So big, in fact, that Eni SpA’s new supercomputer is the size of a soccer field. In the multimillion-dollar pursuit of the world’s most powerful computers, the Italian explorer says it’s taken the lead. Its new machine, located outside Milan, will scan for oil and gas reservoirs deep below the Earth over thousands of miles.

After all the talk about a U.S. “skills shortage,” the real problem may be an employer shortage.

Here’s a hypothetical example of how the theory might play out in the real world. Let’s say you manage a small construction company, and you’ve been getting away with paying your crew relatively little because there aren’t that many other contractors posting help-wanted ads in your town. You need a new carpenter. But you don’t want to tick off the rest of your men by offering this new potential employee a more generous wage. So you post the job with the same mediocre hourly rate you’ve offered for the past three years. Nobody good responds, and to you, this looks like there aren’t enough talented carpenters out there. But in reality, there’s only a shortage of people willing to work at the artificially low wage you’ve set your heart on paying. The real problem isn’t a skills shortage, it’s that you aren’t offering market wages, because the market isn’t functioning.



South Africa Holds Rate as Rand, Inflation Risks Persist – Bloomberg

The South African Reserve Bank kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged for a third consecutive meeting as the risks of a credit-rating downgrade persist, muddying the outlook for the rand and inflation.

White House Considering San Francisco Fed President John Williams for Fed’s No. 2 Job – WSJ

The White House is considering John Williams, the president of the San Francisco Fed, as a candidate to serve as the vice chairman of Federal Reserve Board in Washington, according to people familiar with the matter.

Fed’s Dudley backs review of 2% inflation target

Bill Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said it would be “prudent monetary policymaking” to put the central bank’s method of managing the economy on the agenda this year, even as he insisted this was not because he was worried the US faced the threat of an imminent downturn.



U.S. Jobless Claims Fell Last Week to Near 45-Year Low – WSJ

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in nearly 45 years, a sign the labor market is beginning 2018 with strong momentum.

Poll Finds Upturn in Sentiment on Tax Overhaul and Economy – The New York Times

The tax overhaul that Mr. Trump signed into law just before Christmas remains relatively unpopular and highly polarizing, according to a new poll conducted for The New York Times by SurveyMonkey. But support for the law has grown significantly over the past month, and more Americans believe that they will receive a tax cut. Forty-six percent of Americans strongly or somewhat approved of the law in early January, up from 37 percent when the bill was nearing passage in December.



China’s Economic Growth Looks Strong. Maybe Too Strong. – The New York Times

Measuring the size and health of the world’s second-largest economy can be difficult at best. Its official figures have become implausibly smooth and steady, even as other countries post results with plenty of peaks and valleys. Officials in far-flung regions are admitting their numbers are wrong. And outside experts crunching the data have come up with different — and usually weaker — results.

China’s Robust Economic Growth to Face Pressure in 2018 – WSJ

Beyond the headline performance, the outlook appears hazier to many economists. Key drivers of last year’s expansion, from investment to consumption, appear to be weakening, undermined in part by a government effort to wring out excess manufacturing capacity and purge risky lending from the financial system.



American Express Reports First Loss in Quarter-Century – WSJ

In all, American Express had a fourth-quarter loss of $1.22 billion, or $1.41 a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $800 million, or 88 cents a share. Excluding the charge, the company reported a profit of $1.58 a share. It was the first quarterly loss since 1992.

Goldman Is Worth Less Than Morgan Stanley for the First Time in a Decade – Bloomberg

After reporting a plunge in bond trading, Goldman’s market capitalization fell to $99.4 billion at the close on Wednesday, a fraction less than Morgan Stanley. That snapped a 4,105-day streak, which started on Oct. 23, 2006. The reversal comes on the heels of an uncharacteristically rough year for Goldman, long-considered the envy of Wall Street.

Morgan Stanley hails post-crisis turning point for returns

Morgan Stanley has reached “an inflection point” after years of post-crisis restraint, chief executive James Gorman said as he pushed up profit targets and suggested the New York bank was on the hunt for acquisitions. His comments came just hours after the bank’s market capitalisation broke through the $100bn mark. On Wednesday it closed ahead of Goldman Sachs, its deadly downtown rival, for the first time in more than a decade.

Alcoa Plunges Most Since 2016 as Profit Disappoints on Costs – Bloomberg

Alcoa Corp. slid the most in more than 15 months after one of last year’s best-performing metal producers missed earnings estimates as higher input costs offset surging aluminum prices.

IBM Revenue Grows for the First Time Since 2012 – WSJ

International Business Machines Corp. reported higher revenue for the first time in 23 quarters and signaled continued growth into 2018, giving Chief Executive Ginni Rometty breathing space as she tries to turn around the century-old tech giant.



US cities with the worst housing shortages, according to Zillow – Business Insider

“Aging millennials and young families may be able to find more affordable new homes for sale this year, but they’ll most likely be in further-flung suburbs with more grueling commutes to urban job centers,” said Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow. He added that tax cuts would put more money in buyers’ pockets, increasing demand at a time when builders continue to struggle with rising land and labor costs. The shortage is worse in some markets where home prices are rising faster.



Cuomo Proposes Ending Carried Interest Loophole for Hedge Funds – Bloomberg

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans Thursday to target a tax break for investment fund managers in his state. The proposal would impose a 17 percent “Fairness Fix” tax on hedge fund and private equity managers’ compensation — reflecting the difference between a 20 percent federal rate that such earnings often qualify for and the top 37 percent rate it would face if it were treated as ordinary income, according to Abbey Fashouer, a Cuomo spokeswoman.



Cape Town water supply near ‘point of no return’ as reservoirs run dry – MediaShaft

Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille declared the city is heading close to a point of no return. “We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them,” she told reporters.

Last Year Was One of Three Hottest Ever Recorded, WMO Says – Bloomberg

Last year turned out to be one of the three warmest ever. “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have all been during this century, and the degree of warming during the past three years has been exceptional,” said Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of Geneva-based WMO. The U.S. “had its most expensive year ever in terms of weather and climate disasters, whilst other countries saw their development slowed or reversed by tropical cyclones, floods and drought.”

Oil spill off China coast now the size of Paris – CNN

An oil spill from an Iranian oil tanker that sank in the East China Sea is now the size of Paris. The slick covers an area of 101 square kilometers (39 square miles), after almost doubling in size from the start of the week, according to figures released Wednesday by the Chinese State Oceanic Administration.

Stefano Boeri designs plant-covered affordable housing skyscraper – Business Insider

Called the Trudo Vertical Forest, the 19-story skyscraper will house 125 units measuring approximately 540 square feet each. In total, 125 trees and 5,200 shrubs and plants will grow on the apartment balconies. According to its architects, the tower’s plants will consume 50 tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s the equivalent of kicking about 10 cars off the road annually.

Sunken tanker off China’s coast leaks 100 sq km of oil slicks

China is preparing to send underwater robots to investigate the hull of a sunken Iranian tanker that has created oil slicks covering 100 sq km of ocean, marking one of the worst shipping disasters in recent years. The underwater operation, which will also involve surface vessels and divers, could attempt to plug holes in the hull that are leaking oil, according to the Shanghai Maritime Search and Rescue Centre. The effort to explore the wreck comes as authorities race to limit environmental damage from the spill.



Canada’s Debt Binge Has Macquarie Sounding Alarm on Rate Hikes – Bloomberg

The unprecedented rise in consumer debt means the Bank of Canada’s rate-hiking cycle is already the most severe in 20 years and further increases will have far graver consequences than conventional analysis shows, Macquarie Capital Markets Canada Ltd. said.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces she’s pregnant |

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced she is pregnant. Ardern and her partner Clarke Gayford said they were expecting their first child in June. “We’re both really happy. We wanted a family but weren’t sure it would happen for us, which has made this news unexpected but exciting,” she said in a statement.



India Tests Ballistic Missile, Posing New Threat to China – The New York Times

The successful trial of a long-range rocket capable of transporting nuclear weapons puts major cities like Shanghai within reach.

World’s Approval of U.S. Leadership Drops to New Low

One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, the image of U.S. leadership is weaker worldwide than it was under his two predecessors. Median approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%, according to a new Gallup report.

China-Russia rocket talks spark US disquiet over growing links

Great Wall Industry, the Chinese space launch company, is negotiating with Russia’s top rocket maker to procure sensitive engine technology, highlighting the deepening aerospace ties between the two countries that have sparked concerns in Washington.

Gabon Says It Busted a Major Ivory Smuggling Network – The New York Times

Officials said they had dismantled an ivory trafficking network with links to Boko Haram in a region where poaching has decimated the elephant population.

U.S. Scales Back Plan to Create Syria Border Force After Turkey Objects to Kurdish Role – WSJ

The U.S. military is swiftly backtracking from plans to build a 30,000-person border force in Syria after the proposal triggered a new diplomatic showdown with Turkey.

U.S. Presses to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019 – The New York Times

The plans suggest the administration no longer cares about cushioning the blow of its new policy, which has cast President Trump’s peacemaking ambitions into doubt.

First ‘ghost ship’ of 2018 washes up in Japan with dead North Koreans – CNN

Another ship bearing grim cargo has washed up on the shores of western Japan.

Zimbabwe’s new president seeks to build bridges with west

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s president, has signalled a clean break with the past and a desire to re-engage with the west by inviting the UN, the EU and the Commonwealth to send missions to monitor this year’s elections. Mr Mnangagwa also held out the prospect of swiftly re-establishing good relations with Britain, the former colonial power, after a two-decade rift under Robert Mugabe, the autocrat who was ousted after a brief military takeover in November.

Helicopter with Zimbabwe opposition leader crashes, kills 5

A group of prominent friends, including a key Zimbabwean opposition leader and a Texas-based investor and philanthropist, was heading to a ranch in the U.S. state of New Mexico when their helicopter crashed and burned in a remote area, killing five people aboard.



Majority Of Americans See Trump’s First Year As A Failure : NPR

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey finds Americans believe Trump has divided the nation in his first year as president. But people who backed him in 2016 continue to stand firmly behind him.

Trump “Fuming” After John Kelly Reportedly Calls Him “Uninformed” | Vanity Fair

Predictably, a source close to the president told Axios that Trump was liable to “explode” when he saw the interview. “Kelly has finally ventured into Steve Bannon territory when it comes to trying to create the perception that he’s the ‘great manipulator,’ saving the country from Trump’s ignorance,” the source added.

Trump Angry at His Chief of Staff Over Comment President ‘Not Fully Informed’ on Border Wall Issue – WSJ

President Trump vented frustration at White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, upset about how Mr. Kelly described his immigration views in a Fox News interview and how he presented them to members of Congress earlier in the day, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Trump Denies Changing His Position on Border Wall – The New York Times

In an early morning tweet, President Trump contradicted his chief of staff and said his position on building a wall between the United States and Mexico had not “evolved.”

Trump Lawyer Used Private Company, Pseudonyms to Pay Porn Star ‘Stormy Daniels’ – WSJ

President Donald Trump’s lawyer used a private Delaware company to pay a former adult-film star $130,000 in return for her agreeing to not publicly discuss an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, according to corporate records and people familiar with the matter.

Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka wanted for arrest in Hungary – The Washington Post

The site lists an active arrest warrant for Gorka stemming from an incident of “firearm or ammunition abuse.”



Trump to Let Health Practitioners Skip Procedures on Religious Grounds – WSJ

The Trump administration is planning new exemptions for health-care practitioners who have moral or religious objections to performing procedures such as gender-reassignment surgery and abortions, part of a broader White House effort to protect religious rights that critics say roll back anti-discrimination protections.



U.S. Is Losing Patience With Nafta Talks, Sources Say – Bloomberg

The U.S. is losing patience with the slow pace of Nafta talks and wants concrete proposals from Canada and Mexico on contentious issues such as content requirements for cars when negotiations resume next week, according to two people familiar with the matter.



Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling – The New York Times

The decision makes it likely the 2018 elections will be held using districts favorable to Republicans. But more decisions on gerrymandering are coming.



Barclays trader charged with front-running by US authorities

US authorities have filed criminal charges against Robert Bogucki, the US head of foreign exchange trading at Barclays, for allegedly defrauding Hewlett-Packard by front-running a £6bn options order ahead of its takeover of Autonomy.

HSBC to pay $100 million to settle U.S. probe into currency rigging

HSBC Holdings Plc on Thursday agreed to pay $101.5 million to settle a U.S. criminal probe into the rigging of currency transactions, which has already led the conviction of one of its former bankers.

California Parents of 13 Children Charged With Torture and Abuse – The New York Times

Before Sunday, neither law enforcement nor child protective services had any contact with the Turpin family. The couple hid the abuse in part by registering the residence as a private school, which prevented government officials from ever coming into contact with the children, the authorities said.

At Larry Nassar sentencing hearing, a parade of horror and catharsis – The Washington Post

Nearly a year and a half after one woman filed a police report and contacted a newspaper, the criminal cases against Larry Nassar are nearing an end this week with a marathon sentencing hearing — 105 of the more than 130 girls and women who’ve accused Nassar of abuse are expected to speak — that began Tuesday and will likely stretch into next week, before a judge levies a sentence for seven sex crimes Nassar has admitted to as part of a plea deal.



SoftBank is now Uber’s largest shareholder as deal closes

The deal includes a large purchase of shares from existing Uber investors and employees at a discounted valuation for the company of $48 billion, a 30 percent drop from Uber’s most recent valuation of $68 billion. These secondary stock sales will be completed by the end of the day Thursday on the Nasdaq Private Market, an Uber spokesman said.

Uber told to focus on US and Europe as SoftBank deal closes

Rajeev Misra, a board director of Japanese technology conglomerate SoftBank — which became Uber’s biggest shareholder on Thursday, with the formal closing of a $9.3bn investment* — told the Financial Times that the transportation group had a faster path to profitability if it returned to its core markets such as the US, Europe, Latin America and Australia.



Intel tries to recover lost ground after chip flaw debacle

Security researchers who uncovered the Meltdown and Spectre flaws have been highly critical of its efforts. If Intel had taken the time to study the risks associated with the 10 major design aspects of its chips, it would have been likely to spot the problem — not to mention other potential bugs that may still be there, says Paul Kocher, an independent security researcher.



Amazon Chooses 20 Finalists for Second Headquarters – The New York Times

The winner could get up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment, figures that Amazon has dangled in front of local officials, setting off an unprecedented competition to be the second home for one of the internet’s mightiest companies. In all, 238 cities and regions applied to bring the company to town, many using promises of tax breaks and public charm offensives to gain favor with the e-commerce giant.

Amazon second headquarters finalist list includes D.C., Los Angeles and Dallas – The Washington Post

The list, released Thursday, includes major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, as well as smaller communities including Pittsburgh, Raleigh and Nashville. The nation’s capital is heavily represented, with D.C., Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburb of Montgomery County also making the cut.



The unlikely partnerships that are shaping the car industry

Traditional carmakers have partnered with technology and ride-booking groups and even pizza companies as they develop electric and self-driving vehicles and explore new ways to make money from them. “Tech partnerships have never been more important, and they’re only going to grow in importance,” says Jim Farley, Ford’s global markets president.



Emirates throws lifeline to Airbus’s A380

Emirates has thrown a lifeline to the world’s largest passenger jet with plans to order up to 36 A380 superjumbos in a deal that will keep the aircraft in production for another decade. Emirates has committed to buy just 20 aircraft and taken an option on 16 more, instead of agreeing to a firm purchase of 36 passenger jets as was widely expected in November. It will also take delivery from 2020, three years earlier than initially planned, helping Airbus to bridge a gap in production from 2019.



Drone saves two Australian swimmers in world first – BBC News

Two teenage boys were rescued by a brand new lifesaving drone in Australia while lifeguards were still training to use the device. The swimmers, aged 15-17, had got into difficulties off the coast of Lennox Head, New South Wales (NSW). A member of the public spotted them struggling in heavy surf about 700m (2,300ft) offshore. Lifesavers instantly sent the drone to drop an inflatable rescue pod, and the pair made their way safely to shore. John Barilaro, the state’s deputy premier, praised the rescue as historic. “Never before has a drone fitted with a flotation device been used to rescue swimmers like this,” he said.



One of the World’s Oldest Clocks Stops Ticking, Briefly – The New York Times

Mr. Skala has until the end of August to complete a major renovation of the Orloj, one of the oldest clocks in the world. When he is done, the engineering marvel that started ticking in 1410 will have been returned to its medieval roots in ways both visible and invisible to the crowds that assemble daily on the square below. In an effort to be true to the original clock master’s design, he will, in effect, have turned back time.



Swiss town denies passport to Dutch vegan because she is ‘too annoying’

Ms Holten, a vegan and animal rights activist, has campaigned against the use of cowbells in the village and her actions have annoyed the locals. The resident’s committee argued that if she does not accept Swiss traditions and the Swiss way of life, she should not be able to become an official national. Ms Holten told local media: “The bells, which the cows have to wear when they walk to and from the pasture, are especially heavy.”


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