Macro Links Jan 31st – Stocks Can Go Down
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- AMZN-BRK-JPM HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE
- RUSSIA SANCTIONS, OLIGARCH LIST
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- HEALTHCARE, BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
- RUSSIA PROBE
- NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- TRUMP WORLD
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
- CLOUD, IOT, SEMICONDUCTORS, ENTERPRISE / SAAS
- RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
AMZN-BRK-JPM HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE
Amazon.com Inc, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co said on Tuesday they will form a company to cut health costs for hundreds of thousands of their U.S. employees, setting up a major challenge to an inefficient U.S. healthcare system.
By combining three of the biggest companies in the world, with more than a million employees in total, the new venture will be able to directly negotiate better deals with sellers of prescription drugs, lab tests, and medical devices. The combined economic might could also give the companies more power over coverage decisions.
“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” said Warren Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”
The three companies provided few details about the new entity, other than saying it would initially focus on technology to provide simplified, high-quality health care for their employees and their families, and at a reasonable cost.
While this new company would be for the companies’ U.S. staff only, this is the first concrete move toward greater involvement in health care by the Internet giant. The mere possibility of the retailer entering the business had already started to cause far-reaching reverberations for a range of companies in the sector, roiling the shares of drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers.
The effect won’t be seen right away, of course — it takes a long time to build a new health-care system from the ground up — but over the long term, the impact could be significant. The health plan “could have a meaningful impact on core PCE” and the broader consumer price index, said Ben Emons, the chief economist and head of credit portfolio management at Intellectus Partners.
Start with the little-known fact that most large companies self-insure. They generally pay outside firms to administer their health insurance for them, but they are financially responsible for the claims. Add in the fact that Amazon is really, really good at technology — and most health-care companies aren’t. As customers with a combined employment base of over a million people, Amazon and JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway may have the incentives, and the expertise, to do it right.
RUSSIA SANCTIONS, OLIGARCH LIST
The twin announcements left a muddled impression of how Mr. Trump plans to approach the Kremlin in his second year in office even as investigators search for evidence of collaboration between his campaign and Russian agents. His domestic opponents complained that once again Mr. Trump seemed to be in thrall to Russia, while the Kremlin complained that he was a captive of what it described as the American deep state.
Almost all of the 96 oligarchs listed in the government-issued report, who each have a net worth of $1 billion or more, appear in the Forbes ranking. When asked if there is “any truth to the criticisms that the Treasury list was inspired or derived in some way from the Forbes list,” a Treasury spokesperson said “yes.”
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
Bitcoin traded 12 percent lower near $9,817, according to CoinDesk’s bitcoin price index, which tracks prices from digital currency exchanges Bitstamp, Coinbase, itBit and Bitfinex.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a court order freezing the assets of a Texas-based initial coin offering that claimed to have raised more than $600 million. The agency froze crypto assets including Bitcoin, dogecoin and litecoin among others and appointed a receiver to return investor cash.
“The ICO is an illegal offering of securities because there is no registration filed or in effect with the SEC, nor is there an applicable exemption from registration,” the SEC complaint said. The SEC seeks to recover the funds, and wants to bar the co-founders from serving as officers or directors of a public company, or offering digital securities in the future.
That means no advertiser — even those that operate legal, legitimate businesses — will be able to promote things like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings — ICOs for short — or binary options, according to a Facebook blog post. That also means that “crypto-genius” James Altucher, whose ads have appeared all over the internet and have become a meme of sorts for the entire crypto industry, won’t be able to advertise on Facebook.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission sent subpoenas on Dec. 6 to virtual-currency venue Bitfinex and Tether, a company that issues a widely traded coin and claims it’s pegged to the dollar, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The firms share the same chief executive officer.
WGC’s report went about explaining its stance on cryptocurrency, and why it sees gold remaining an integral store-of-value investment in the age of cryptocurrencies. It’s hard to call the arguments shockingly fresh though as gold trade sees less volatility, its market is far more liquid and highly regulated. It is also well-established as an investment portfolio.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said the country is pushing ahead with plans for the first sale of its cryptocurrency next month, and developing plans for its use with a national ID card held by at least 15 million Venezuelans.
BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH DIGITAL PAYMENTS
We simply need a fairer freelance economy that would make manipulation almost impossible. The Blockchain can help verify identities and rate both employers and freelancers, ensuring the security of transactions. And, what’s essential, Blockchain solutions will be much cheaper for freelancers than centralized platforms
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
Theresa May will raise western concerns about President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road initiative this week in a move that is likely to cast a shadow over her three-day visit to China. Mrs May’s office refused to comment on whether the UK prime minister would give her formal endorsement to the plan, a key demand from Beijing for the trip.
Chinese officials have warned that they will retaliate against American companies if President Trump imposes tariffs on China, an American business group said on Tuesday, with airplanes and agricultural products among the likely targets. The warning, issued by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, came just hours before Mr. Trump was expected to address the issue during his State of the Union address.
A Chinese solar manufacturer said Monday that it plans to open a plant in the U.S., a week after President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar panels. JinkoSolar JKS Holding Co. said Monday that its board has authorized the company “to finalize planning for the construction of an advanced solar manufacturing facility in the U.S.”
HEALTHCARE, BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Tuesday that it will end free supplies of food and water in Puerto Rico this week as the island’s supermarkets and other businesses reopen following Hurricane Maria.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
Pfizer Inc. offered a rosy outlook for the year, outlining the benefits from the new U.S. tax law and casting the Amazon.com Inc.-led partnership to lower health-care costs as positive for the drug industry.
House intelligence committee Republicans have a new, secretive investigation into the FBI—and they’re using it to justify freezing out the bureau from the release of a memo accusing it of abusing its power, The Daily Beast has learned.
House Speaker Paul Ryan defended the GOP decision to make public a classified Republican-authored memo alleging surveillance abuses against an associate of President Donald Trump dating to the 2016 campaign. The matter now goes to Mr. Trump, who has five days to decide whether to object to the release of the material. If he does, the full House of Representatives can override his decision. If he doesn’t object, the material will be released.
A major line of inquiry for the inspector general has been trying to determine who at the FBI and the Justice Department knew about the Clinton emails on the Weiner laptop, and when they learned about them. McCabe is a central figure in those inquiries, these people said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he sees no need to act to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — and declined to say how Republicans would react if President Donald Trump tries to fire Mueller.
The FBI inquiry into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 US presidential election has been given a second memo that independently set out some of the same allegations made in a dossier by Christopher Steele, the British former spy. The second memo was written by Cody Shearer, a controversial political activist and former journalist who was close to the Clinton White House in the 1990s.
NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
North Korea on Monday canceled a joint cultural event it had planned to hold with South Korea early next month, blaming “insulting” South Korean news media coverage of its participation in the Winter Olympics, South Korean officials said.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
The Dow Jones Industrial Average registered its second straight day of triple-digit declines and worst day since May, amid a slide in health-care shares and worries over rising bond yields. The declines were broad-based, hitting shares of everything from energy to financial companies and spooking investors, who have pushed U.S. stocks to a repeated string of record highs since the 2016 election.
“We are at a turning point in the psyche of markets,” said Marty Mitchell, a former head government bond trader at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. and now an independent strategist. “A lot of people point to 3 percent on the 10-year as the critical level for stocks,” he said, noting that higher rates signal traders are realizing that quantitative easing policies really are on the way out.
The global bond rout is scaring investors, the probability of four or more rate hikes in 2018 is rising, and retail investor market participation has gone parabolic in a way reminiscent of the late 1990s.
Central bankers in the U.S., Europe and Japan helped shape the new breed of deals by simultaneously purchasing over $1 trillion in high-quality bonds since 2009 and lowering benchmark interest rates to jump-start their faltering economies. Modest economic growth came, but the strategy crowded private investors out of safe debt, prompting them to buy riskier bonds to boost returns.
The crisis surrounding HNA Group Co. deepened after it emerged that the Chinese company’s ability to repay its debt will face a potential shortfall of at least 15 billion yuan ($2.4 billion) in the first quarter. The news illustrates the extent of HNA’s liquidity challenges — and the urgency behind it — after the conglomerate spent tens of billions of dollars on debt-fueled investments to transform a little known airline into one of China’s biggest business behemoths.
It is not just the bond market that is signalling the risk of rising inflation. As a move higher in bond yields threatens to cast a shadow over stocks, markets from currencies to commodities are pointing to a potential return of inflation that has proved rare in developed economies since the financial crisis.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
With an 85 percent probability, I now believe that President Trump will never agree to be questioned by Mueller and his special counsel team. The fast-moving time schedule to resolve whether Trump does or does not agree to be questioned by Mueller will be a precipitating event for Trump firing Mueller if indeed this occurs.
Hackers typically steal money from crypto exchanges by gaining access to their internet-connected wallet, which stores the funds of customers. Hackers have repeatedly cracked open the virtual vaults where they’re stashed, stealing billions of dollars worth of assets over the years. Called decentralized exchanges, the newfangled markets being developed or already deployed by AirSwap, EtherDelta and others sidestep that vulnerability by giving up the vault entirely. Instead, their customers keep their private keys, needed to access their accounts, and transact with each other directly, or with minimal help.
The 130-year-old company is trying an unlikely sort of comeback — one built by betting on cryptocurrency. It’s a bold gamble that has excited some investors, perplexed others and raised questions about how closely Kodak vetted its cryptocurrency business partners, who now include a paparazzi photo agency, a penny-stock promoter and a company offering what has been called a “magic money making machine.”
According to Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at Leuthold Group LLC, about 90 percent of U.S. market capitalization was trading at or below historical valuation multiples in early 2000. Even for a deep value investor, this presented a very appealing environment, he wrote in a report Friday, contrasting the two eras. “If this isn’t silly season, we don’t know what is,” he said. “Today’s market offers no place whatsoever for an acrophobic investor to hide.”
In its attempt to cool what are among the fastest-rising property prices in the world, China is pushing its people to rent instead of buy. That’s prompting venture capitalists to pour millions into an old-fashioned sector that’s being uprooted by technology: rental management.
De-equitisation, the shedding by corporates of equity in favour of debt, has been the theme for the past decade as low interest rates allowed companies to borrow at costs that were previously unimaginable. Of the $6.8tn in new bonds, 55 per cent was raised on behalf of corporates. Ultra-low rates on government debt have encouraged investors to seek returns elsewhere, driving them into corporate and emerging-market debt.
As spectacularly as Noble grew under Elman’s leadership into a company bankers once dubbed a “mini-Glencore,” its dizzying downfall was just as staggering. Like Andre & Cie, debts became untenable and trading losses mounted as Noble was dogged by allegations that it deceived investors with accounting tricks.
That ISS has become the kingmaker in proxy contests between billionaire hedge fund activists and their multi-billion-dollar corporate prey is even more astonishing given that ISS itself is worth less than $1 billion and started out as a back-office support system, helping shareholders cast their ballots on what are typically mundane matters of corporate governance. Says one former ISS executive who now works at a hedge fund: “ISS sort of stumbled into this powerful role.”
There’s no going back. If Wall Street wants to compete, it will have to lower fees. Some firms are already doing it. Merrill Lynch launched a discount broker and robo-adviser last year. Goldman Sachs introduced low-cost smart beta ETFs in 2015, the cheapest of which charges just 0.09 percent a year.
“Before Ikea came along, furniture shopping was a laborious task that a lot of people dreaded because they felt like they were making a decision they had to live with for 30 years,” said Warren Shoulberg, a consultant to the home furnishings industry. “Then Ikea showed up and said, you can buy something and use it for a couple of years — or you can keep it longer — but this isn’t necessarily something you’re going to pass down to your kids or your grandkids. That was a remarkable transition.”
This unusual approach of a public listing without an IPO might appeal to the more than 200 private companies with valuations of at least $1bn. Although many of these unicorns may not need more capital, they may want to help their employees and early backers sell some of their shares at a market price. And that would allow the investing public for the first time to own equity in these unicorns.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
Janet Yellen ends 14 years at the Federal Reserve this week, the last four as its first chairwoman, having guided the U.S. economy to its tightest labor market in nearly two decades by resisting calls to raise interest rates more aggressively. Her legacy is only partly written. The rest depends partly on whether the Fed can continue lifting rates gradually, but not so slowly that low borrowing costs fuel an asset bubble that ends in recession—as happened in 2001 and 2007.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
The U.S. homeownership rate rose in 2017 for the first time in 13 years, driven by young buyers who overcame rising prices, tight supply and strict lending conditions to purchase their first homes. The annual increase marks a crucial turning point because it comes after the federal government reined in bubble-era policies that encouraged banks to ease lending standards to boost homeownership.
Following a surge in the number of Americans forming households as renters over the past decade in lieu of homeownership, the tide is starting to turn in the other direction. The number of owner-occupied housing units rose 2 percent in 2017, logging the fastest pace of increase over a four-quarter stretch since 2005 — around the time the homeownership rate peaked.
The increase in the Conference Board measure was fed by higher consumer expectations about the economy, as the expectations index rose to 105.5 in January from 100.8 last month. Consumers’ view of current conditions decreased slightly to 155.3 in January from 156.5 in December.
Over the past decade, out-of-state drug companies shipped 20.8 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a Southern West Virginia town with 2,900 people, according to a congressional committee investigating the opioid crisis. The House Energy and Commerce Committee cited the massive shipments of hydrocodone and oxycodone — two powerful painkillers — to the town of Williamson, in Mingo County, amid the panel’s inquiry into the role of drug distributors in the opioid epidemic.
It’s relatively cheap in Seattle, and L.A. and San Francisco are pretty competitive, but it’s an entirely different story on the East Coast, especially in the nation’s capital.
An accurate headcount underpins Puerto Rico’s outlook on everything from how many power poles and teachers it needs to how much of its $74 billion of debt is repaid. Wall Street financiers, mainland politicians and the control board installed ahead of the bankruptcy are scrutinizing all assumptions.
GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
Germany is producing at full pelt. Its economy grew 2.2 per cent last year — the highest rate since 2011, driven by strong domestic demand and a recovery in the eurozone. The trend looks set to continue — economists expect the country to see its ninth consecutive year of growth in 2018. But the rate of expansion is so fast that some experts are warning the economy could be overheating. “The boom is beginning to eat its children,” says Andreas Scheuerle, an economist at DekaBank.
The eurozone has recorded its highest annual growth rate for a decade, underscoring a strong recovery from years of financial crisis and raising expectations that the European Central Bank will further scale back its crisis-era support for the economy.
A revival of the French economy has helped the eurozone clock its strongest growth in a decade, outpacing the U.S. last year, as businesses shake off economic fears that had long gripped the country.
Here’s the latest sign that political jitters are haunting fewer money managers in Europe: The Sentix Euro Break-Up Index, which reflects the probability that a regional member will leave the common currency within 12 months, just tumbled to the lowest since the poll began in 2012.
The Mexican economy staged a recovery in the fourth quarter, expanding at its fastest pace in more than a year as the country shook off the impact of natural disasters that contributed to a contraction in the previous quarter.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
The booming equities market has triggered concern among policymakers that investors could be overvaluing stocks, setting up a nasty correction. Wall Street veterans say traders see an approaching end to the Trump stock boom, partially due to rising interest rates around the world.
Renaissance Technologies, the world’s most profitable hedge fund, said there’s a “significant” risk of a correction in prices and is preparing for possible market turbulence. While accelerating global growth, corporate tax reform and a business-friendly administration in the U.S. have contributed to market gains, it’s not clear these factors justify current valuations, especially in light of sovereign debt levels, Ed Hubner, the quant firm’s head of risk control, wrote in a December letter sent to clients this month.
In a tweet on Monday, the chief investment officer at Los Angeles-based DoubleLine Capital LP said he saw “mania sentiment everywhere” and advised traders to “risk manage mindfully.” The billionaire bond guru is part of a growing chorus of market players warning that a decade of central bank stimulus has pushed asset prices to unsustainable levels.
As a sea of red spreads across global equity and fixed-income markets this week, fans of risky assets are finding reasons to see it merely as a temporary blip. As the global economic expansion picks up steam, corporate earnings growth will accelerate amid borrowing costs that are still cheap on a historical basis, barricading equity and credit markets from the threat of reduced central-bank stimulus, according to this theory. While Treasury yield rose close to a three-year high this week, optimists say investors are dumping safe assets for a good reason — there’s more money to be made in the risky stuff.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
The board of directors of Wynn Resorts, which has pledged to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct involving Chief Executive Steve Wynn, has itself faced criticism over its executive-compensation and corporate-governance practices.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
According to Dealogic, companies have raised nearly $8bn in IPOs so far this year, the most since it began tracking the market in 1995. At 17, the number of deals is the highest year to date since 1996. The rush of deals is offering some hope to bankers and regulators after years of concern that companies were losing interest in public ownership or finding the requirements too onerous.
The firm is in talks to buy a 55 percent stake in Thomson Reuters Corp.’s largest unit, which supplies data and analytical tools to financial professionals, a person familiar with the matter said. Thomson Reuters, controlled by one of Canada’s richest families, would cede its flagship Eikon terminal business while keeping the news operations, as well as ownership of its legal, tax and accounting arm.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
Mr Shafir, 59, previously chief executive of Credit Suisse Americas and co-head of the bank’s private banking and wealth management division, joins the hedge fund amid turmoil over who would succeed Mr Och, who has been preparing to step back from day-to-day oversight.
The billionaire will keep cherry-picking the most promising ideas from his managers and analysts when he returns to the big stage, according to people with knowledge of the firm. But at Point72 Asset Management, they don’t receive any extra compensation or capital to manage in return, a firm spokesman said. Cohen is using the practice as he tries to show he still has his mojo after posting an average annual return of 30 percent at SAC.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
The U.S. added 15 percent less wind power last year than in 2016 as developers paused for breath, safe in the knowledge that a federal tax credit doesn’t run out until 2020. New installations reached 7 gigawatts in 2017, down from 8.2 gigawatts the prior year, the American Wind Energy Association said in a report Tuesday. The projects represent $11 billion in private investment.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
The government cautions that the Day Zero threat will surpass anything a major city has faced since World War II or the Sept. 11 attacks. Talks are underway with South Africa’s police because “normal policing will be entirely inadequate.” Residents, their nerves increasingly frayed, speak in whispers of impending chaos.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
Britain will be left worse off under all economic scenarios after Brexit, according to a leaked government analysis, with financial services, manufacturing and retailing among the industries worst hit. The document is expected to strengthen the hand of cabinet ministers pushing for a soft Brexit after March 2019, led by chancellor Philip Hammond, and the analysis was attacked by Brexiters.
Disappointing business investment is one irrefutable consequence of Brexit, according to Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. The central bank estimates that business investment is four percentage points below what it would have been had Britain not voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, Carney told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee Tuesday.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
The agency said on Jan. 19 that it was denying the airlines permission for the flights because they were flying sensitive new routes in the Taiwan Strait that China began using without consulting Taiwan’s government. The move has been viewed in Taiwan as a show of disrespect, one that could heighten the risk of a dangerous incident and potentially provoke a crisis in the increasingly tense cross-strait relationship.
Saudi Arabia’s government has arranged to seize over $100 billion in financial settlements with businessmen and officials detained in its crackdown on corruption, the attorney general said on Tuesday. “The estimated value of settlements currently stands at more than 400 billion riyals ($106 billion) represented in various types of assets, including real estate, commercial entities, securities, cash and other assets,” Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb said in a statement.
On the eve of strategic talks with the Trump administration, Finance Minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi told The Wall Street Journal that the eight-month-old blockade has not delivered a punishing blow to his country. “If the blockade strategy was to corner us economically, that completely failed and it will not work,” he said.
Prime Minister Abadi is a national hero, but in Iraq’s tricky sectarian system, that doesn’t mean he will win the election. This is a crucial moment for Iraq as it gears up for an election that could undo its hard-fought gains. The vote could also reshape the influence of Iran across the Middle East and determine the likelihood of a resurgent Islamic State.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
The government defended its use of communications data to fight serious and organised crime and said that the judgment related to out of date legislation. Minister Ben Wallace said that it would not affect the way law enforcement would tackle crime. Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty, said: “Yet again a UK court has ruled the government’s extreme mass surveillance regime unlawful. This judgement tells ministers in crystal clear terms that they are breaching the public’s human rights.”
The bills, first introduced in December, were seen by many in government as a vital tool for protecting against meddling by countries like China and Russia. But lawyers groups, human rights organizations, journalists and government watchdogs have all criticized the new rules as so far-reaching that they threaten to make Australia more like the authoritarian regimes it aims to resist.
As he prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the president is very pleased to report that the State of Donald Trump himself is nothing short of fantastic. “He called to congratulate me on how brilliant and prescient I was to tell him to run for president,” said one friend, who asked not to be identified, laughing at the thought. “What he was really doing was flattering himself by flattering me. But for him, it was a long and very enjoyable monologue.”
The Republican Governors Association has decided to give back $100,000 in donations from Steve Wynn’s company and cut other financial ties with the casino mogul, in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report on allegations describing a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn.
The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee said Tuesday that the party wouldn’t return donations from Steve Wynn, its former finance chairman who faces allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades, unless an investigation by his company’s outside directors finds wrongdoing.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
Rivals say matters have barely improved, and in some areas even deteriorated. Some say that despite the new system, they struggle to get products listed on the first page of Google’s search results. And when they do, they say it is so costly to outbid Google that they can barely make money. Now, several—including Kelkoo and Compare—are asking the bloc’s competition regulators to demand a new remedy.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple Inc. violated securities laws concerning its disclosures about a software update that slowed older iPhone models, according to people familiar with the matter.
Volkswagen suspended its chief lobbyist on Tuesday amid a growing furor over experiments on monkeys that were meant to promote the virtues of diesel-powered vehicles, but now threaten to further undermine the German car industry and to increase political instability in Berlin.
SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
The SoftBank Vision Fund, a nearly $100 billion pot of money managed by the Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, is investing $300 million in Wag, a start-up in Los Angeles whose app lets you summon someone to walk your dog. The Vision Fund’s investment is several times the $68 million in total funding that Wag has raised since it was founded in 2015.
CLOUD, IOT, SEMICONDUCTORS, ENTERPRISE / SAAS
Alphabet Inc.’s Google is launching a digital store offering cloud-based software to companies and other organizations, its latest effort to catch cloud leaders like Amazon Web Services. The new product will enhance Google’s G Suite, an online store for company and third-party applications, allowing customers to tap an even larger number of external services through the Google universe.
RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX
From a religious-freedom bill to a proposed English-only constitutional amendment, Georgia politicians and advocates are invoking Amazon’s name. The prospect of luring the retailer here is being used as political ammunition, notwithstanding that Amazon.com Inc. is months away from picking among Atlanta and 19 other finalists for the location of its second headquarters.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
While autonomous cars have dominated tech headlines in recent months, a growing group of engineers in Silicon Valley is betting that a different type of self-driving vehicle will be the first to market — unmanned delivery vans. On Tuesday, two new start-ups each claimed to be the first to reveal such technology, underscoring the intense competition amid rising investment in autonomous vehicles.
A shortage of Model 3 sedans has created a frenzy among curious competitors, Tesla enthusiasts and auto reviewers to get their hands on the electric car. One engineering firm is capitalizing on the moment by buying cars from early buyers and selling data and CT scans to other auto makers.
Waymo LLC on Tuesday signaled a large expansion of its robot taxi fleet as the company prepares to open its driverless ride-hailing service to the general public. The auto maker had previously provided 600 Pacifica minivans to Waymo, which has equipped cars with its driverless technology in 25 U.S. cities, including most recently in Atlanta, for testing.
After years of upgrades and new sensors, Wozniak said Elon Musk and his company have promised too much and delivered too little. Automakers such as Audi and BMW have surpassed Tesla’s self-driving technology, Wozniak said, and that for everyday driving, his go-to car is now an electric Chevrolet Bolt.
Mayors of some of California’s largest cities are urging the state’s influential environmental regulator to give the battery-powered bus market a boost. The California Air Resources Board should introduce incentives and regulatory measures to spur a shift toward electric buses from ones that spew diesel and natural gas emissions, 16 mayors wrote in a letter to the agency.
AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
Individuals willing to participate in JAXA’s experiment must be in good health and aged 20 to 55. Test subjects will spend 14 days and 13 nights in an isolated setup created within the Tsukuba Space Center in Japan. This setup will mimic the life of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). The participants will be asked to carry out various tasks in the simulated space station to allow scientists to examine their stress levels.
SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
The newly discovered dinosaur, formally named Mansourasaurus shahinae, was part of the titanosauria group of sauropods — long-necked plant-eaters that include “some of the largest animals known to science,” according to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which jointly announced the finding Monday with Mansoura University, the Field Museum and Ohio University. Mansourasaurus would have been roughly the length of a school bus and weighed about the same as an African bull elephant, with bony plates embedded along its back.
Early Wednesday morning, if you live in the United States, the moon will bloom red, like a giant rose in the predawn sky. If you live in the western part of the United States, the eastern part of Asia or in Australia, you can watch the show unfold better than anywhere else.
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