Macro Links Jan 29th – Digital Currency Heist

Macro Links Jan 29th – Digital Currency Heist

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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)

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STEVE WYNN ALLEGATIONS

Dozens of People Recount Pattern of Sexual Misconduct by Las Vegas Mogul Steve Wynn – WSJ

Mr. Wynn later paid a manicurist a $7.5 million settlement, according to people familiar with the matter. Beyond this incident, dozens of people The Wall Street Journal interviewed who have worked at Mr. Wynn’s casinos told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn. Some described him pressuring employees to perform sex acts.

Wynn Harassment Allegations Draw Calls for Investigation or Ouster – Bloomberg

Wynn Resorts Ltd. faced calls to oust or investigate Chairman and founder Steve Wynn over allegations he sexually harassed numerous women who work for him.

Wynn Resorts CEO calls sexual misconduct accusations ‘preposterous’ – Reuters

“The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” he said. He added, “The instigation of these accusations is the continued work of my ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, with whom I am involved in a terrible and nasty lawsuit in which she is seeking a revised divorce settlement.”

Massachusetts Gambling Regulator Opens Review of Wynn Resorts – WSJ

The Massachusetts state gambling regulator said Friday that it will conduct a regulatory review of Wynn Resorts Ltd., which is building a casino near Boston, following an article in The Wall Street Journal that reported allegations of sexual misconduct by Chief Executive Steve Wynn.

Republicans Dragged Democrats Over Harvey Weinstein. Now They Have A Problem Of Their Own – Buzzfeed

In a statement Friday, Democratic National Committee spokesperson Sabrina Singh recalled some of the words McDaniel used when pressuring the DNC to return Weinstein money. She also noted the RNC’s support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, even after misconduct accusations involving Moore and teenage girls.

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Armed robbers break into dad’s home and force him to hand over Bitcoin fortune in Britain’s first digital currency heist

Armed robbers burst into a city trader’s home and forced him at gunpoint to hand over a fortune in the virtual currency Bitcoin. Danny Aston, 30, and partner Amy Jay, aged, 31, are thought to be Britain’s first victims of a cryptocurrency raid. Mr Aston – believed to be known as “Goldiath” online – was ordered to transfer his Bitcoin to the raiders in a cyber-transaction that cannot be reversed and could allow them to stay anonymous.

Coincheck Confirms Crypto Hack Loss Larger than Mt Gox – CoinDesk

In a press conference, the exchange’s president Wakata Koichi Yoshihiro and chief operating officer Yusuke Otsuka estimated its loss at 58 billion yen (approx. $533 million). According to Bloomberg, which attended the conference, 500 million NEM tokens were taken from Coincheck’s digital wallets.

Cryptocurrency Worth $530 Million Missing From Japanese Exchange – WSJ

The operator of one of Japan’s leading trading platforms for cryptocurrencies said Friday it lost $530 million worth of customer assets after getting hacked, the latest security problem connected to the fast-growing market.

Massive Cryptocurrency Heist Puts Spotlight on Exchange Security – Bloomberg

The episode, disclosed by Coincheck executives at a hastily arranged press conference on Friday night, comes at an awkward time for Japanese regulators, who began rolling out a new licensing system for cryptocurrency venues just a few months ago. It has heightened calls for stricter oversight and may influence a closely watched debate in neighboring South Korea over whether to ban digital-asset exchanges outright.

Huge interest in Robinhood Crypto has skeptics worried about a bubble – CNBC

Just over 24 hours since no-fee stock trading app Robinhood announced it would roll out free digital currency trading in February, 530,000 and counting have signed up to “get early access.”

Hedge Funds Go Bullish on Bitcoin Futures – WSJ

Hedge funds have swung their bitcoin-futures bets to the bullish side for the first time, a marked turn around from a few weeks ago, according to figures released on Friday. The data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission suggests a shift in sentiment among so-called “leveraged funds,” a category that includes hedge funds.

Tether Confirms Its Relationship With Auditor Has ‘Dissolved’ – Coindesk

Tether, the issuer of the dollar-pegged cryptocurrency USDT, said its relationship with audit firm Friedman LLP has ended. The statement, provided Saturday evening by a company spokesperson to CoinDesk, confirms the suspicions of online sleuths and is likely to raise new questions about the company’s finances.

Starbucks Chairman Big on Cryptocurrency, Just Maybe Not Bitcoin – Bloomberg

Schultz said that Starbucks, an early adopter of smartphone payments, is positioned to take advantage in coming years as cryptocurrency — and its underlying technology known as blockchain — become more prevalent among consumers. He’s just not sure that Bitcoin, which was released in 2009 as the first decentralized digital currency, will still be around.

Dr. Doom (Professor Nouriel Roubini) Calls Stablecoin Tether a Scam – Bitcoin News

Renowned economics professor Nouriel Roubini (commonly known as Dr. Doom) has called out Tether for being a scam meant to artificially prop up the price of bitcoin. He thinks that without this “criminal manipulation” the price of bitcoin would crash by 80% and that American financial markets regulators are failing to stop this fraud.

South Korean National Pension Fund Indirectly Invests In Crypto Exchanges – Bitcoin News

The South Korean National Pension Fund has been indirectly investing billions of won in cryptocurrency exchanges such as Upbit, Bithumb, and Korbit. This was revealed amid the country’s regulators continually releasing regulatory measures for cryptocurrencies.

Katy Perry Posts Her New ‘Crypto Claws’ On Instagram | News | Cointelegraph

Perry’s nails are now decorated with 3D images of five cryptocurrencies superimposed over a background of US dollar bills: the currencies are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Stellar and Monero. The singer did not disclose the reasons behind her selection.

18F29 - CRYPTO CLAWS

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BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH DIGITAL PAYMENTS

How blockchain could kill both cable and Netflix – Venturebeat

Blockchain has the power to fundamentally disrupt the entertainment industry because it brings out a completely new, decentralized model for content distribution. In a blockchain, computers all over the world act together in a peer-to-peer network to work on some task — there is no central server or authority.

One Thing Is Clear From Davos, Blockchain Is Out Of Beta – Forbes

While Trump’s remarks on the closing day of the Forum signaled that America first does not necessarily mean America alone, there was one sub-theme that echoed throughout the snow-covered mountains of Davos – Blockchain, Blockchain, Blockchain.

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FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES

A Doomsayer’s Guide to the Dollar and Why It Could Keep Plunging – Bloomberg

One of the more remarkable things about this selloff is how broad-based it is. The dollar is weaker in 2018 against all major currencies. Widening the basket to the extended majors, only the Argentine peso is weaker against the greenback this year. The breadth of the selloff suggests a thematic trade. These tend to last longer compared to moves based on idiosyncratic rationales.

In Global Currency Game, China Is Losing to U.S. – WSJ

The yuan’s resurgence is making the currency a policy headache for the Chinese government once again. If it keeps going up, government advisers and analysts say, it could encourage speculative fund flows from overseas and hurt exports amid already rising trade tensions between China and the Western world, particularly the U.S.

18F29 - YUAN FLOW

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

U.S. farmers have much to lose if NAFTA deal collapses – Reuters

A collapse of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to scrap, could create the most profound disruption for U.S. farmers who produce grains, meats and dairy products sold to Canada and Mexico.

NAFTA talks that were supposed to end last year might continue into 2019

Talks aimed at reaching a new trade agreement involving the United States, Canada and Mexico are expected to continue for months beyond a March 31 deadline and could even extend into 2019, according to industry executives and others close to the negotiations. The delay means that the contentious three-way bargaining — involving lucrative markets and issues of national sovereignty — may collide with elections later this year in both Mexico and the United States.

U.S. Panel Says Bombardier Jet Sales Didn’t Harm Boeing – WSJ

In a setback for Boeing Co., a U.S trade panel rejected the aerospace giant’s complaint that it was harmed by subsidies to Bombardier Inc., effectively blocking a Trump administration proposal for steep tariffs against the Canadian jet maker.

Donald Trump in Davos: dollar talk adds to fears of trade war – FT

“There has been a lot of thunder, and now the storm is coming,” says Matthew Goodman, a former White House and Treasury official who is now at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “Maybe the world economy can absorb all of this, but these actions on trade and currency have ripple effects around the world and I don’t take them lightly.”

EU condemns US trade war talk as irresponsible – FT

“To talk about a trade war is not good . . . It’s irresponsible,” Ms Malmström said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “The whole world is worried the US is disengaging from the global trade arena.”

China reveals Arctic ambitions with plan for ‘Polar Silk Road’ – FT

Beijing has outlined plans for a “Polar Silk Road” in the Arctic, setting off what experts say is a slow-motion race for control of the region as climate change allows for the expansion of shipping routes across the top of the world.

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TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY

World Inequality Grows Amid Glut of New Billionaires, Oxfam Says

The global economy created a record number of billionaires last year, exacerbating inequality amid a weakening of workers’ rights and a corporate push to maximize shareholder returns, charity organization Oxfam International said in a new report.

18F29 - INEQUALITY AMID INEQUALITY

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut plan to sue federal government over SALT caps – CNBC

In the latest battle over state and local tax deductions, New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Empire State, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, plan to sue the federal government.

Tax Incentive Puts More Robots on Factory Floors – WSJ

New tax rules are speeding up automation of U.S. factories because they provide a strong incentive for manufacturers to replace old equipment with more-automated machines—an immediate tax deduction of the entire cost.

Drugmaker emerges as big winner from Trump tax bill – FT

AbbVie, the maker of the world’s best-selling drug, issued what analysts described as a “jaw dropping” profit forecast after Donald Trump’s reforms helped the pharma company slash its tax rate to just 9 per cent.

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RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

Illinois Ponders Pension-Fund Moonshot: a $107 Billion Bond Sale – Bloomberg

Lawmakers in Illinois are so desperate to shore up the state’s massively underfunded retirement system that they’re willing to entertain an eye-popping wager: Borrowing $107 billion and letting it ride in the financial markets.

Puerto Rico Wants to Stall Creditors. That Went Badly in 1842 – Bloomberg

Puerto Rico may pave the way for struggling U.S. cities and states to bite the hands that fed them billions. The U.S. territory says it can’t pay any of the estimated $17 billion due to bondholders in the next five years. If the gambit is approved by a federal financial control board and kept in place once it emerges from bankruptcy, it would be the first time a major municipal borrower formally suspended debt payments since New York City’s 1975 fiscal crisis.

The Daily Shot – WSJ

.The number of days without at least two consecutive 0.25%+ daily losses in the S&P 500 has reached an unprecedented level. Analysts continue to raise concerns about valuations.

18F29 - SINGULAR MARKET

18F29 - RECORD OVERVALUED

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

Trump’s high-risk reversal of 70 years of trade progress

It’s important to note that the tariffs, 30 percent in solar and up to a whopping 50 percent in washing machines, were imposed under a rarely used section of trade law whose only condition is that an industry is hurt by imports. Not by unfair imports — just imports. The knockoff effects will extend to far more than washing machines, as other domestic companies see if they, too, can bring a trade case. Internationally, other countries are sure to retaliate.

Nouriel Roubini — Blockchain’s Broken Promises – Project Syndicate

Boosters of blockchain technology compare its early days to the early days of the Internet. But whereas the Internet quickly gave rise to email, the World Wide Web, and millions of commercial ventures, blockchain’s only application – cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin – does not even fulfill its stated purpose.

Most Cryptocurrencies Are More Centralized Than You Think – Bitcoin News

The whole point of cryptocurrencies is that they’re decentralized. Peer-to-peer cash; trustless exchange; bypassing intermediaries. So why are numerous cryptocurrencies structured more like central banks? From adjusting wallet balances to controlling nodes, many crypto projects behave just like the financial institutions they were meant to replace. Throw in the cult of a strong leader, and there’s little to differentiate some altcoins from the Paypals and Visas of the world.

What history tells us about bubbles, crashes and today’s markets – FT

None of these years rhymes perfectly with 2018. This is not deathless verse we are talking about here. But they show enough doubt about the outcome to behave with great caution. If it grows clearer that inflation is rising and pulling up bond yields with it, then it looks like this could be a great time for those who want to time the market to start selling their stocks.

18F29 - US EQUITIES AND INFLATION

The tricks propagandists use to beat science – MIT Technology Review

The propagandists don’t even need to use their own in-house scientists to back specific ideas. When there is natural variation in the results of unbiased scientific experiments, the propagandists can have a significant influence by cherry-picking the ones that back their own agenda. And it can be done at very low risk because all the results they choose are “real” science.

Sir Isaac Newton: Scientific Genius, Investing Fool – MoneyBeat – WSJ

Newton appears to have ended up torching not only his own money, but also the value of an estate he oversaw. As Prof. Odlyzko summarizes it: “In hindsight, [Newton] made the correct early evaluation, that the South Sea venture was going to collapse. But then…he changed his mind and became an ardent believer, more ardent than those around him.”

That Trump economic boom? It’s mostly hype. – Washington Post

Just to be clear, no one is saying the economy is doing poorly under Trump, because it isn’t — it’s essentially continuing along the path it was on before he took office. GDP growth is steady but fairly low, unemployment is extremely low, wages are very slowly starting to tick up, and so on. In the American economy today almost anyone can find a job, but it may not be the kind of job they want.

18F29 - ECONOMY TRENDS

The Man from Red Vienna | by Robert Kuttner | The New York Review of Books

Market society, Polanyi persuasively demonstrated, could only exist because of deliberate government action defining property rights, terms of labor, trade, and finance. “Laissez faire,” he impishly wrote, “was planned.” Polanyi believed that the only way politically to temper the destructive influence of organized capital and its ultra-market ideology was with highly mobilized, shrewd, and sophisticated worker movements.

The Follower Factory

Everyone wants to be popular online. Some even pay for it. Despite rising criticism of social media companies and growing scrutiny by elected officials, the trade in fake followers has remained largely opaque. While Twitter and other platforms prohibit buying followers, Devumi and dozens of other sites openly sell them. And social media companies, whose market value is closely tied to the number of people using their services, make their own rules about detecting and eliminating fake accounts.

Paul Manafort and The Plot Against America – The Atlantic

Manafort’s role in Mueller’s broader narrative remains carefully guarded, and unknown to the public. And his personal corruption is less significant, ultimately, than his lifetime role as a corrupter of the American system. That he would be accused of helping a foreign power subvert American democracy is a fitting coda to his life’s story.

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CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY

Malaysia Raises Interest Rates, Posing a Risk for Ruling Party as Election Nears – WSJ

Malaysia’s central bank raised interest rates for the first time in three-and-a-half years, easing its support for the economy just months before an election that is likely to focus on the ruling party’s economic performance.

BOJ Says Kuroda Didn’t Revise Inflation Outlook in Davos Remark – Bloomberg

The Bank of Japan said Governor Haruhiko Kuroda wasn’t revising the inflation outlook when he said in Davos on Friday that consumer prices are finally moving close to the 2 percent target.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

GDP Grew 2.6% at Year End, Extending Strong Stretch – WSJ

Eight years into what has been an unexpectedly slow expansion, the U.S. economy appears to have picked up steam. Gross domestic product rose at a 2.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter. That didn’t match the second and third quarters’ above-3% growth rates, but it exceeded the 2% average that has prevailed since the early 2000s.

US economy grows 2.6% in last quarter of 2017 – FT

The return of the American consumer, whose spending grew at its quickest pace in a year and a half in the run-up to Christmas, is helping extend a multiyear expansion that stands to gain further traction from recent Republican tax cuts.

U.S. Economy Doing Just Fine But 3% Growth Still a Challenge – Bloomberg

Despite fourth-quarter U.S. growth missing forecasts, the world’s largest economy is doing just fine. The results also underscore just how challenging it will be to reach President Donald Trump’s goal of a sustained 3 percent pace.

U.S. Durable-Goods Orders Rose 2.9% in December – WSJ

Demand for long-lasting factory goods rose in December, capping a solid year for U.S. business investment and the manufacturing sector.

Flu Epidemic, Worst in Nearly a Decade, Intensifies – WSJ

The worst flu epidemic since 2009 intensified this week, health officials said, with pediatric deaths, symptoms and hospitalizations all rising and more schools closing across the country.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL

Global dealmaking running at fastest clip since 2000 – FT

Global dealmaking has made its strongest start since the turn of the century, reflecting boardroom confidence from US tax reform, a strengthening international economy and surging equity markets. A total of $273bn in mergers and acquisitions so far this year marks the busiest January since the peak of the dotcom boom in 2000, data from Dealogic shows.

Every One of the World’s Big Economies Is Now Growing

A decade after the world descended into a devastating economic crisis, a key marker of revival has finally been achieved. Every major economy on earth is expanding at once, a synchronous wave of growth that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent.

Brexit Drags Down U.K. Economy as Neighbors Soar – WSJ

The U.K. economy in 2017 grew at the slowest pace in five years, highlighting how Britain isn’t reaping the full benefits of the recent upsurge in global growth as it prepares to leave the European Union.

At Davos, the Real Star May Have Been China, Not Trump – New York Times

President Trump used the World Economic Forum meeting to woo investors and business leaders by reassuring them that “America first does not mean America alone.” But it was clear in Davos, Switzerland, this past week that geopolitical momentum lay with Beijing, not Washington.

Trump Promotes the U.S. as ‘Open for Business’ in Davos Speech – WSJ

President Donald Trump struck a largely conciliatory tone at the World Economic Forum after what have at times been strained relations between the U.S. and its key global allies and trading partners.

Trump tells Davos ‘America First, not America alone’ – FT

On Friday, it fell to Mr Trump to try to defuse tensions and he stuck rigidly to his script. The president mostly stayed away from the incendiary remarks that have delighted supporters but horrified critics at home and abroad, framing his nationalist agenda in more measured terms.

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Lured by Market Records and Hot Bets, Individual Investors Finally Dive In

After sitting out most of the nearly nine-year bull market, individual investors are finally pouring in. Analysts say the strong trading activity from Ameritrade , AMTD 0.96% E*Trade and Schwab—results reminiscent of their heady days during the tech-stock boom—suggests the market rally is entering a “melt-up” stage that is bringing in once-skeptical investors.

Biggest Stock Sell Signal Since 2013 Sparked by Record Inflows – Bloomberg

Investors added the most money on record to equity funds last week as the earnings season began on a positive note and global stocks continued to post record highs.

Ebullient market sees investors rush into EM assets – FT

Global investors have rushed into emerging markets in January, with combined flows to EM equity and bond funds at their highest level for 18 months in each of the past two weeks, according to data from fund monitor EPFR and the Institute of International Finance (IIF), an industry association.

18F29 - EM FLOWS

Bright Outlook for the Economy and Stocks – Barron’s

Not everything is rosy, of course. Our resident bond maven, Jeffrey Gundlach, is keeping a wary eye on Treasury yields, which have been creeping higher in recent months. If yields continue to rise—a distinct possibility as the economy strengthens and the Federal Reserve moves to tighten credit—all bets could be off for stocks. Or, as Roundtable newcomer Paul Wick put it, if rates go up, “the discounting mechanism is going to take a chain saw” to stocks with extravagant valuations. Ouch.

‘50 Cent’ Is Buying Up Big on March VIX Calls – Bloomberg

Just as the rapper Curtis Jackson III captures attention for realizing he’s made millions on Bitcoin, the buyer of volatility options that shares his moniker is a window shopper in VIX options no longer.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Ackman’s Pershing Square Takes Stake in Nike – WSJ

Mr. Ackman announced the position, accumulated since October, at an event for his investors Thursday evening, according to a person familiar with the matter. It isn’t clear how big the stake is.

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CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES

Tesla plugs into securitisation market for new funds – FT

Electric carmaker Tesla is set to tap a new source of financing to fund its multibillion-dollar expansion, with the issue of a $546m bond backed by customers’ lease payments. The sale, if completed, would mark the Elon Musk-led company’s first foray into the auto securitisation market, at a time when it faces scepticism on Wall Street about its ability to finance both the capital spending and operating losses tied to its new Model 3.

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DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS

Aramco IPO Stalled by Indecision Over Where to List – WSJ

Two years after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his intention to turn Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil producer into the world’s largest public company, the kingdom and its advisers remain stuck on the crucial question of where to list the shares.

Dell considers return to stock market – FT

Michael Dell is considering a return to the stock market, a little over four years after he took his PC company private in a highly contentious $25bn buyout, followed by the $67bn purchase of storage company EMC in the tech industry’s biggest deal.

Dell Explores Strategic Alternatives, Including IPO, Deal With VMware – WSJ

If Dell pursued a public listing, it would be one of the biggest IPOs in recent years and could provide a shot in the arm for the sluggish new-issue market. An IPO also could provide the company with cash to invest in the business and pay down debt.

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REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL

Ghost towers: half of new-build luxury London flats fail to sell | Business | The Guardian

More than half of the 1,900 ultra-luxury apartments built in London last year failed to sell, raising fears that the capital will be left with dozens of “posh ghost towers”. The swanky flats, complete with private gyms, swimming pools and cinema rooms, are lying empty as hundreds of thousands of would-be first-time buyers struggle to find an affordable home.

Buying a Home in San Francisco Is About to Get Even Harder – Bloomberg

For all the talk of the U.S. tax overhaul hitting wealthy blue-state real estate, the San Francisco Bay area is set for more home-price gains. Its technology-fueled economy and persistent housing shortage are sending values ever higher — and that may get even more pronounced as tech share sales mint millionaires in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

A $1 Billion Bet on Selling Mansions in Mexico – Bloomberg

One&Only Resorts is known for ultra-luxury hotels in outposts like Cape Town, the Maldives and Dubai, where it operates a beachfront retreat on an artificial island. Now it’s selling private homes in a $1 billion development near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

Jamison Capital to Close Commodities Hedge Fund – WSJ

Jamison Capital Partners LP is shutting its $1.5 billion flagship fund, one of the biggest high-profile commodities hedge funds to close in recent months. The New York-based fund run by former Morgan Stanley trader Stephen Jamison focused on commodities and macroeconomic trends. It soon will begin returning capital to investors and is converting to a family office structure, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

Saudi Aramco, the Crude-Oil Giant, Becomes a Force in Refining – WSJ

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company is building an oil-refining empire, a major shift for the world’s No. 1 crude producer as it tries to shore up its balance sheet ahead of the world’s biggest-ever IPO and make up for income lost to OPEC production cuts.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Floods Leave Paris Contemplating a Wetter Future – The New York Times

The Seine River overflowed its banks again in Paris and several nearby cities this week, a mere 18 months after reaching its highest level since 1982. Thirteen of France’s 96 administrative departments had flood alerts as of Friday, in what the monitoring body Météo-France says is the country’s wettest winter since 1959.

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BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

Brexit: Britons favour second referendum by 16-point margin – poll | Politics | The Guardian

Excluding the roughly one-fifth who do not have a view gives a lead of 58% to 42% for a second referendum, showing rising interest in the idea as concern grows over the direction of recent negotiations.

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EUROPE

Nutella ‘riots’ spread across French supermarkets – BBC News

A discount on Nutella has led to violent scenes in a chain of French supermarkets, as shoppers jostled to grab a bargain on the sweet spread. Police were called when people began fighting and pushing one another. “They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand,” one customer told French media.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

Exploited and Extorted, 30 Africans Drown While Trying to Return Home From Yemen – The New York Times

At least 30 African migrants and refugees drowned off Yemen this week after their overcrowded vessel capsized during a clash with smugglers trying to extort them for more money, the United Nations said Friday. The victims, Somalis and Ethiopians who had originally sought temporary refuge in Yemen, were en route back toward their home countries — a telling barometer of Yemen’s descent into deprivation during its long civil war.

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PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM

Russian billionaire ‘loses half his fortune’ after ‘divorcing Vladimir Putin’s daughter’ – UKT

When 32-year businessman Kirill Shamalov wed Vladimir Putin’s daughter in 2013, he suddenly found his fortunes on the rise – to the tune of $2 billion in shares and a lucrative post at a petrochemical giant. But amid rumors of his separation from Katerina Tikhonova, Mr Shamalov appears to have been cast out of favour, demoted from his position as deputy chief executive at Sibur and his wealth halved.

Putin Family Split Offers Peek at Secret Dealings of Russia Inc. – Bloomberg

The reversal of fortune offers a rare glimpse into the secretive ways Putin’s inner circle mixes family, friends and finance. How and why riches are divvied up is the subject of intense scrutiny in the U.S., where investigators are looking for more targets to penalize for Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Saudi Arabia Moves Elites to Prison, Threatens Trial – WSJ

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince is stepping up pressure on detained members of the country’s elite resisting his demands for billions of dollars in payments—moving them from a luxury hotel to prison, according to people familiar with the move, and threatening them with prosecution.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny released after arrest – FT

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested and later released on Sunday for organising an unauthorised protest in Moscow, but thousands of his supporters continued to march in cities across Russia calling for a boycott of March’s presidential election. While turnout was lower than at two anti-corruption rallies last year, demonstrators in more than 50 cities took to the streets to protest Mr Navalny being banned from challenging Vladimir Putin in the polls.

How Corruption and Cronyism in Banking Fueled Iran’s Protests – The New York Times

Thousands lost their savings in the collapse of shady banks, part of a broader economic system plagued by insider dealing, mismanagement and inefficiency. The cascade of defaults, economists say, was not just the result of risky banking practices, but also a case study in official corruption — a major reason Iranians found their losses so infuriating.

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TRUMP WORLD

Trump interview with CNBC: Full transcript – CNBC

President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with CNBC’s Joe Kernen at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The president touched on an array of topics, including immigration reform, the potential for renegotiating multilateral trade deals, and the dollar.

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HEALTHCARE, TAX REFORM, BUDGET

Trump plans to ask for $716 billion for national defense in 2019 — a major increase – The Washington Post

President Trump is expected to ask for $716 billion in defense spending when he unveils his 2019 budget next month, a major increase that signals a shift away from concerns about rising deficits, U.S. officials said. The proposed budget is a victory for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who recently unveiled a strategy that proposes retooling the military to deter and, if necessary, fight a potential conflict with major powers such as China and Russia.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

Finland’s Marine Le Pen – POLITICO

She hates the EU, cheered Brexit, supports Trump — and believes Finland needs her brand of populism. Her strong comments about immigrants and homosexuality have broken the mold of Finland’s traditionally staid politics and her silver-blonde hair and bombastic speeches have earned Huhtasaari the moniker of “Finland’s Marine Le Pen” in the local press.

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SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY

Deaths of Toronto Billionaire, Wife Are Now a Homicide Case – WSJ

The deaths last month of Barry Sherman, the billionaire founder of generic drugmaker Apotex Inc., and his wife are being investigated as homicides, Toronto Police said Friday.

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RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX

Now Amazon is disrupting fashion retail, too – FT.com

Amazon is set to overtake Macy’s to be the largest seller of clothing to Americans this year. Analysts are bullish. Nomura estimates apparel could be a $45bn-$85bn business for Amazon by 2020. The global apparel and accessories market is worth more than $1tn, and margins are higher than in other categories like electronics or food, making it an attractive source of profits to fund Amazon’s other ambitious investment plans.

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MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT

Google is testing Bulletin, an app that would let anyone publish a news story. – Slate

Google is testing a new tool for people to report and publish local news stories, called Bulletin. The app is in a “limited pilot” in just two cities: Nashville and Oakland. The announcement appears to have flown entirely under the radar of the national media and tech press—perhaps illustrating a point that Google hoped to make.

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AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

California looks to ramp up electric vehicle sales – Reuters

California said on Friday it would ramp up efforts to boost electric vehicles even as it holds talks with the Trump administration over the fate of fuel efficiency standards through 2025. California Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order “to curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks and boost the number of zero-emission vehicles driven in California.”

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HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS

Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness – The New York Times

With nearly 1,200 students signed up, a course that tells students how to lead more satisfying lives may be the largest in university history.

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MISCELLANEOUS

William McDonough, Who Guided New York Fed Through Crises, Dies at 83 – New York Times

William J. McDonough, whose 10 years as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York included guiding it through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and keeping a major hedge fund’s collapse from setting off a wider financial crisis, died on Tuesday at his home in Waccabuc, N.Y. He was 83.

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dies in Sweden at 91 – BBC

The company said that Mr Kamprad was “one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century”. The billionaire, who was born in 1926 in Småland, founded Ikea at the age of 17. He used some money his father had given him as a gift for performing well at school despite his dyslexia.

Bill Belichick and Nick Saban’s Friendship | SI.com

The best NFL coach of this generation has been friends for more than 30 years with the best college football coach, a fact that is remarkable but not entirely surprising. This is the story of a friendship that has made a lasting impact on the sport.

Panic in Paris: 52 Baboons on the Loose Lead to Zoo Evacuation

In Paris, the Vincennes Zoo is home to a variety of animals including a large population of baboons. But on Friday, all 52 baboons escaped their enclosure, prompting zoo staff to evacuate and close the park, French newspaper Le Parisien reports.

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