Macro Links Mar 13th – Nerve Agent Attack
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- UK ACCUSES RUSSIA
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
- GUN CONTROL, POT BOOM, OPIOIDS, PUBLIC POLICY
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
- NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
- INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
- VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
- COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
- RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS
- AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
UK ACCUSES RUSSIA
Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday that British investigators have concluded it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the poison attack that left a former Russian double agent and his daughter comatose on a park bench last week. The British leader said police identified the poison as a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.”
Prime Minister Theresa May’s remarks were an unusually direct condemnation of a country that Britain has been loath to blame for previous attacks. Britain’s prime minister said on Monday that it was “highly likely” that Moscow was to blame for the poisoning of a former Russian spy attacked with a nerve agent near his home in southern England, and she warned of possible reprisals.
The poison used on a former spy and his daughter in South West England last week was a chemical weapon produced by a highly secretive Soviet-era program to develop a new grade of undetectable nerve agents. Russia has never admitted that this “novichok” program even existed and the attack in Britain may be the first confirmed use of the deadly toxin.
If the U.K. assessment is correct, the Kremlin did next to nothing to hide its culpability — using a nerve agent produced by the Russian government and leaving Sergei Skripal, the ex-spy, and his daughter nearly unconscious in a busy area. Per former Russia ambassador Michael McFaul, Putin “is taunting us, daring us to do nothing.”
Russian state TV has accused Britain of poisoning former double agent Sergei Skripal in southern England as part of a special operation designed to spoil Russia’s hosting of the soccer World Cup this summer. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital in a critical condition since March 4 when they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the city of Salisbury.
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
The co-founder of Czech cryptocurrency exchange NakamotoX will launch a Blockchain startup based on growing edible crops from excess mining heat. In a Twitter discussion March 10, Kamil Brejcha said staff had created bespoke housing for Bitcoin servers, which harnesses heat and sends it to greenhouses currently growing tomatoes. The project, which will soon be accompanied by a new business called Agritechture, has been in stealth mode but has now delivered its first crop – a five-acre greenhouse full of tomatoes dubbed ‘Cryptomatoes.’
Thomson Reuters Corp has announced the launch of a gauge tracking the sentiment of cryptocurrency traders. The metric will track and examine discourse regarding bitcoin on hundreds of major social media websites and news outlets in order estimate the majority sentiment of the bitcoin and cryptocurrency markets.
Some investors say the tandem moves suggest bitcoin may be a barometer of investor sentiment that ultimately feeds into the stock market and other risky investments. If stocks are headed for another pullback, the thinking goes, bitcoin may fall first—and harder. “We’ve begun to watch bitcoin more closely as a sign of speculative enthusiasm,” said Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer of the Minneapolis money manager Leuthold Group. The top in bitcoin in December and stocks in January marked a peak in investor optimism, Mr. Ramsey said.
On Sunday, the team sent a note to clients warning that the next BTC sell-off threatens dipping below the February low of $5,922. Jafari’s team suggested that the next sell-off would be caused by the break of short-term support at $9,210. “The break is significant as implies [sic] potential for a more impulsive decline,” Jafari stated. Her team warned investors to keep an eye on BTC price, predicting that, “The next meaningful level is down at $7,667 to $7,198.”
One of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges is going on the offensive to deter hacking attempts that have plagued the industry. Binance, founded by Zhao Changpeng, is offering the equivalent of $250,000 (paid in cryptocurrency) for information that leads to the arrest of hackers who targeted the venue last week, it said in a statement on Sunday. The exchange has set aside $10 million for future bounties and is encouraging other platforms to do the same, it said.
“What the SEC is saying is, the rules haven’t changed,” said Barbara Stettner, a Washington DC-based managing partner at law firm Allen & Overy and who previously spent four years as an SEC senior counsel. The tough language sent ripples through the volatile digital asset markets, with bitcoin tumbling a fifth over the past week below $10,000.
Bitcoin should be regulated similar to gold — which benefits from simpler compliance rules than stocks or bonds — according to Austria’s biggest broker of the digital token. While cryptocurrency transactions in the European Union above 10,000 euros ($12,310) should be subject to anti-money laundering rules, applying more onerous financial standards could stunt the emerging market for digital cash, the founders of Bitpanda GmbH said.
Scammers appear to have made off with more than $2 million in cryptocurrency after carrying out an apparent fake initial coin offering (ICO), and the individuals linked to the incident may be connected to another recent theft, CNBC has learned. A bad actor or actors used a fake LinkedIn profile and copied pictures from another user’s Instagram to create a false persona — and successfully drew more than 1,000 investors into the ICO project, which was called Giza.
Blockchain developer Ripple Labs Inc. lost its shot at a home-court advantage in a dispute with rival R3 Holdco over ownership of cryptocurrency XRP that was once worth more than $16 billion. A New York court will probably be the sole decider after a San Francisco state appeals court denied Ripple’s bid to fast-track an appeal of an order quashing a lawsuit against R3. San Francisco-based Ripple has argued that it would face “irreparable injury” if it has to battle on R3’s home turf in Manhattan.
The lucrative market for cryptocurrency exchanges may soon have some competition for institutional investors. J. Robert Collins Jr., the former president of the New York Mercantile Exchange, plans to launch the San Juan Mercantile Exchange in October as a venue for broker dealers and other professional investors to trade digital assets such as Bitcoin and Ripple.
A cryptocurrency startup backed by a credit-default swaps pioneer just took two big steps toward bringing new derivatives contracts to Ether and Bitcoin. TrueDigital, an exchange created by Sunil Hirani, has partnered with ConsenSys to create a reference rate for Ether, the companies said in a statement Monday. Such benchmarks are a crucial step because they supply the price reference traders use to calculate the value of derivatives, such as the ones TrueDigital wants to introduce for Ether, the second-biggest cryptocurrency.
Endowments and foundations are steering clear of the crypto-craze. At least for now. Ninety-six percent of top officers at these organizations said they aren’t investing in cryptocurrencies and have no plans to do so, according a survey released Monday by consulting firm NEPC. But plenty of them are intrigued.
Digital currencies are a revolutionary tool that central banks should consider, but they remain far too risky to be used as legal tender any time soon, according to the Bank for International Settlements. The BIS — the club of the world’s largest central banks — said in a report on Monday that the new form of money could one day be issued by policy makers for tasks such as settling payments among financial institutions. At the same time, it warned that digital coins might destabilize traditional lenders if offered widely to the general public.
Central bankers risk endangering the stability of the global financial system by jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon and launching their own digital currencies in an effort to destroy competition from rivals from outside the official sphere, the Bank for International Settlements has warned. “A central bank digital currency could allow for ‘digital runs’ towards the central bank with unprecedented speed and scale,” the Basel-based BIS said in a report put together by its committees for payments and markets.
According to Das, the main problem with cryptocurrencies is that they are not backed by any assets. In an interview with Quartz, Das unfavorably compared shares that represent the value of a real company to cryptocurrency assets that are “created out of vacuum” and “thin air.” Das argued that RBI is the only body that is legally allowed to issue currency in India, hence digital currencies are illegal.
Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck is starting to refund customers that were affected by the Jan. 26 hack of around $534 mln worth of NEM, as well as allowing the withdrawal and sale of certain cryptocurrencies, according to two press releases published today, March 12, on Coincheck’s website.
Finnish cryptocurrency exchange and crypto wallet services provider Prasos Oy is one step from being “frozen”, as most Finnish banks will no longer conduct business with them, Bloomberg reports March 9. Founded in 2012, Prasos has seen a ten-fold spike of transaction volumes reaching $185 mln in 2017, which became a subject of concern among the banks.
Venezuela’s petro is more likely to imperil “legitimate” cryptocurrencies than to save the South American nation’s troubled economy, according to analysts at the Brookings Institute. In an article published on its website last Friday, the century-old think tank cautioned that “there exists a very real danger that the petro will not only fail to cure Venezuela’s economic woes but will also weaken the integrity of cryptocurrencies writ-large.”
Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch finance minister, has issued a letter to Holland’s parliament describing the current regulatory framework pertaining to cryptocurrencies as “insufficiently equipped.” The minister advocates the development regional and international regulatory efforts in response to the burgeoning digital currency phenomenon.
FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
The situation is on the verge of boiling over: Hong Kong’s dollar has weakened to a point where intervention is about to become obligatory. And to politicians and anyone else concerned about asset bubbles in the city, it couldn’t be happening at a better time. “Why have home prices risen non-stop for 10 years? It’s not related to the economy. It’s a purely monetary phenomenon,” said Raymond Yeung, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Hong Kong. “If Hong Kong rates don’t rise, it’s hard for asset prices to correct.”
Exports from India and China are the most likely to be harmed by currency strength — or boosted by weakness — among Asian economies, underscoring the two giant’s sensitivity to the swings of foreign exchange markets. An analysis by Bloomberg Economics’ Tamara Henderson shows the historical link between exports and exchange rates was the highest in India in the decade through 2017, followed by China, Malaysia and Japan. Singapore was a notable outlier — exports actually do better when its currency firms up.
A deepening political scandal that’s put pressure on a top ally to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has added a fresh reason for yen bulls to spy a move past 100 per dollar. The stars had already been aligning for the yen to potentially cross 100 for the first time since 2016, thanks to a combination of trade flows, investor positioning and monetary-policy divergence. Now Finance Minister Taro Aso has come under pressure thanks to a controversial land deal and FX traders are taking notice.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
“The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the U.S. very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum. If they drop their horrific barriers and tariffs on U.S. products going in, we will likewise drop ours. Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!,” the president tweeted.
European auto executives are warning that if President Donald Trump imposes prohibitive tariffs on automotive imports they could be forced to curb investment in their U.S. factories in the event of a trade war, which would threaten American jobs.
Hertel isn’t claiming the department used Purdue’s computer model incorrectly—more that it was parsimonious in what it released to the public. The Commerce document predicts gains for makers of raw steel, but says nothing about the losses that would be suffered by consumers or by companies that make things from steel. (For some reason, the department’s document on aluminum doesn’t cite the Purdue model.)
Experts say the government’s investigation into the hostile takeover has been unusual in its speed and intensity, a sign that the United States is growing increasingly concerned about putting mobile technology into the hands of an Asian company.
In a presidential order, Mr. Trump said there was “credible evidence” that led him to believe that if Singapore-based Broadcom were to acquire control of Qualcomm, which is based in San Diego, it “might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”
BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos released a fiscal 2019 budget Monday that rehashes many of the proposals floated by the White House last year. Among them are plans to ax loan forgiveness for public servants, alter the terms of income-driven student loan repayment and stop paying the interest on low-income students’ loans while they are in school. Those three changes alone could increase the cost of higher education for borrowers by more than $200 billion over the next decade.
Top White House officials have reached out to gauge Lawrence Kudlow’s interest in becoming President Trump’s top economic adviser, and the CNBC commentator was expected to interview for the position as soon as this week, people familiar with the discussion said.
GUN CONTROL, POT BOOM, OPIOIDS, PUBLIC POLICY
On Monday, Mr Trump suggested that he did not have enough “political support” to raise the mandatory age limit for purchasing assault rifles from age 18 to 21. His tweet came a day after the White House failed to include a measure on age limits in its response to last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
After a made-for-television moment in which he appeared to embrace expansive gun control, President Trump completed his walk-back on Monday, abandonING his promise to work for gun control measures opposed by the National Rifle Association, bowing to the gun group and embracing its agenda of armed teachers and incremental improvements to the background check system.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
“Kevin, are we going for an additional tax cut, I understand?” Trump asked, drawing laughter from those gathered for the event. “Huh? He’s the king of those tax cuts, yeah? We’re going to do a phase two, I’m hearing that. You hear that, John and Ted? Phase two. We’re actually very serious about that, Kevin. So, it’s good.”
Congressional Republicans created a juicy new tax break for business owners when they rewrote the U.S. tax code late last year. Three months later, hundreds of thousands of U.S. employers still don’t know if they qualify. The Internal Revenue Service has said it will provide guidance detailing exactly who’s allowed to take the so-called pass-through deduction. With billions of dollars at stake, business groups are lobbying for the agency to open the doors to the deduction as widely as possible.
Big multinationals are paying significantly lower tax rates than before the 2008 financial crisis, according to Financial Times analysis showing that a decade of government efforts to cut deficits and reform taxes has left the corporate world largely unscathed. Companies’ effective tax rates — the proportion of profits that they expect to pay, as stated in their accounts — have fallen 9 per cent (two percentage points) since the financial crisis. This is in spite of a concerted political push to tackle aggressive avoidance.
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
In a statement Monday night, the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), said the sight-unseen report was a “tragic milestone” and a “capitulation to the executive branch.” The committee has been crippled by partisan division for months, as GOP members accused Democrats of trying to malign Trump without adequate evidence and Democrats accused the GOP of trying to undermine Mueller’s investigation.
A Russian-born businessman with ties to President Donald Trump claims to have been a spy working with American intelligence for more than 20 years, according to a statement his spokesman said he provided to government investigators. Felix Sater said in the statement that he “provided extraordinary assistance to our government involving serious matters of National Security, posing tremendous risks to my safety and the safety of my family.”
White House officials were alarmed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ struggle to answer basic questions about the nation’s schools and failure to defend the administration’s newly proposed school safety measures during a tour of television interviews Sunday and Monday, according to two sources familiar with their reaction.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The pornographic film actress who says she had an affair with President Trump offered on Monday to return $130,000 she received from Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer in 2016 for agreeing not to discuss the alleged relationship. In exchange, the actress, Stephanie Clifford, seeks an end to her deal to keep quiet about what she says was an affair with Mr. Trump that started in 2006 and lasted for several months.
Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to special counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration, say three sources familiar with the Qatari discussions.
Even as the special counsel expands his inquiry and pursues criminal charges against at least four Trump associates, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said on Monday that they have found no evidence of collusion between Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 election.
White House adviser Ivanka Trump receives more than $1 million each year from her family’s business that develops luxury resorts across the globe, sometimes with help from foreign governments. Her continued relationship with the Trump Organization creates countless potential conflicts of interest as she represents President Donald Trump at meetings with world leaders and lobbies U.S. lawmakers.
NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Malcolm Davis has cautioned against letting US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet alone together in the same room. President Trump has promised to meet the North Korean leader by May after receiving Kim Jong-un’s formal invitation from South Korean delegates on Thursday.
U.S. officials don’t have direct confirmation yet that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet with President Donald Trump in May, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday during his trip in Africa, although the White House said the meeting would be held as planned.
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
The cost of living in the U.S. is probably still rising — just not as fast as at the start of the year. Consumer prices advanced 0.2 percent last month from January, which saw the biggest increase since September, according to the median projection of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg ahead of Tuesday’s Labor Department report. Even so, the continued gains in prices will be a key reason behind the widely anticipated decision by Federal Reserve policy makers to raise interest rates on March 21.
The U.S. recorded a $215 billion budget deficit in February — its biggest in six years — as revenue declined. The data underscore concerns by some economists that Republican tax cuts enacted this year could increase the U.S. government debt load, which has surpassed $20 trillion. The tax changes are expected to reduce federal revenue by more than $1 trillion over the next decade, while a $300 billion spending deal reached by Congress in February could push the deficit higher.
Consumer discretionary companies are the biggest bet of funds that repackage leveraged loans, which use them in almost a quarter of the collateral underpinning $213 billion of bonds covered by S&P Global Ratings, according to the firm. Demand for those notes helped spur a 65 percent increase in issuance in 2017. Yet with such a heavy weighting, CLOs risk getting caught in the “retail apocalypse.”
It’s been a generation since traders like Coats last imposed their will on Washington and Wall Street alike. Yet the original vigilante says he’s seeing signs that the once feared punishers of profligate spending are lurking again, lured back by an expansionary fiscal policy and signs of resurgent inflation — just as the world’s central banks dial back years of unprecedented bond buying that’s largely shielded politicians from market pressures.
Add one more thing to the list of worries for the world’s most indebted nation: weakening demand at its bond auctions. While there’s no danger of the U.S. being unable to borrow as much as it needs, over the past two years, the drop-off has been unmistakable. Based on the number of bids that investors submitted versus the actual amount sold, average demand for 10-year notes has fallen to the lowest since October 2009.
VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS
The about-face by hedge funds and speculators comes after a rocky month for stocks, with the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average entering correction territory in February as investors grew jittery about higher inflation and volatility bets gone wrong rippled through markets. Since then, market turmoil has receded, but one measure of stock volatility indicates that it remains above last year’s average level.
Asia’s big developers are “more vulnerable” to shocks after their profitability waned from the boom years at the start of the decade, the Bank for International Settlements warned. The “sector’s deteriorating fundamentals give reason for concern,” said the Basel, Switzerland-based institution, which watches over global financial stability. Many firms’ returns on assets are below their costs of debt, the BIS said in a quarterly review, citing a study of developers in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
Russia could be slowly following the path of Argentina, which was among the world’s 10 biggest economies early last century thanks to its booming commodities exports. Now it’s below the top 20. “If Russia doesn’t do anything, we’ll face the same fate,” said Igor Yurgens, a former Russian presidential adviser who’s vice president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
Already, 1.1 million items sold or on sale at Walmart are on a blockchain—including chicken and almond milk—helping the company trace their journey from manufacturer to store shelf. Global shipping giant Maersk uses the same technology from IBM to track shipping containers, making it faster and easier to transfer them and get them through customs. While these projects are still a fraction of the overall tracking that goes on at these giants, they are expanding rapidly both within the organizations and across their industries. Other companies using blockchain technology to track goods include Kroger, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Unilever, with many more yet to be announced, says Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of platforms and blockchain at IBM.
A potential trade war and U.S.-North Korea summit have thrown market participants for a bit of a loop as central banks play less of a role in setting the global agenda. “If we had a trade war, the scariest thing for me is not what’s the likelihood of it but what would I even do?” said Michael Kelly, global head of multiasset at PineBridge Investments, which has $85 billion in assets under management. “I don’t have a good answer for you on that. It’s what keeps me up at night.”
Felix Sater has been cast as a Russian mafioso, a career criminal, and a key business associate of President Donald Trump’s — but he spent more than two decades as an intelligence asset who helped the US government track terrorists and mobsters. “Greed is my go-to weapon.”
If we do not secure a soft Brexit at the end of the transition, we will either have a hard Brexit or no deal at all. A hard Brexit – which is the EU’s expectation if we sign a Canada-style free trade agreement – means compulsory border controls. Outside the customs union, all goods must face rules-of-origin checks at either Dover or Calais to ensure that goods from the rest of the world pay the correct EU tariffs. This will be the case even if UK goods face no tariffs.
America’s economic challenge to China comes at the same time as an increasingly confident Beijing ramps up its own ideological and geopolitical challenge to Washington. During the Xi years, China has embarked on an ambitious programme of “island building” in the South China Sea, to re-enforce its territorial and maritime claims. The broader goal is to end US dominance of the western Pacific — the site of the world’s most important commercial sea routes. At the same time, Beijing’s new authoritarianism is promoted not just as a governing method suitable for China, but also as an alternative global model to western democracy.
The Amazon threat increasingly seems to be jostling executives into action, with Cigna’s acquisition the latest since the tech giant said it would dive into the healthcare sector. Dealmaking in the sector is running at a frenetic clip. Overall, global M&A has now crossed above $800bn, which puts it just barely behind 2000’s pace.
The trade deal reached last week is a powerful signal of how countries like Australia and Japan are forging ahead without American leadership. The deal replaces the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Mr. Trump had effectively killed. Every Asian country now trades more with China, often by a factor of two to one, an imbalance that is only growing as China’s economic growth outpaces that of United States. Asian leaders know that their economies – and therefore, domestic politics – rely on Beijing, which has shown it will offer investment to friends and economic punishment to those who displease it.
In November, the Saudi government locked up hundreds of influential businessmen — many of them members of the royal family — in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton in what it called an anti-corruption campaign. Most have since been released but they are hardly free. Instead, this large sector of Saudi Arabia’s movers and shakers are living in fear and uncertainty. During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse, witnesses said. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body.
In the age of the rock-star chef, pop-ups are their world tours. They even have specially designed posters! And merch! Follow five hot young chefs on Instagram and you’ll start to stumble upon pop-ups the way you do Bonobos ads. You’ll learn that “pop-up restaurant” can accurately describe everything from a parking-lot cookout to a brand activation to a fine-dining experience. The only through line is that it’s temporary—but even then, it might not be. Some pop-ups are sneak previews, market tests of restaurants to come, or offerings from brick-and-mortar spots on another coast. The triumph of modern pop-ups in dining culture, a decade after they first began emerging, post-recession, shows us just how transient our desires are. After a month of eating at pop-ups, I figured out only one conclusive thing about them: They are not so much about the food as they are about all the stuff around the food—how we eat, not what we’re eating.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
Job gains continue to exceed the rate at which central bankers believe will eventually be the rate of labor force growth when secular factors dominate cyclical behavior. That time, however, continues to be postponed. If this trend continues, then we would expect that the unemployment rate will generally track in line with the Fed’s forecast despite growth well in excess of long-run potential growth.
As China seeks to reorganize its financial oversight system amid a crackdown on excess borrowing and financial frailty, the PBOC may soon be able to stand on the global stage buttressed by a more powerful role at home too. That means even if its direct financial linkages are still tiny when compared with the Fed, decisions taken by the bank will become increasingly crucial. “It is becoming much more influential,” said Helen Qiao, chief greater China economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong. “Whoever has important influence over the biggest contributor to global growth will be seen as having a much more important role in central banking globally.”
America’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since late 2000. But when Fed Up’s members look at the labor market, they see the people that they say the central bank has overlooked. That’s why they and other progressives, including Democratic lawmakers, are pressing the New York Fed to consider a diverse slate of candidates as it weighs replacements for its president, William Dudley, who plans to step down this year.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
Investors broadly remain bullish on stocks and other investments, aided by an upbeat U.S. jobs report on Friday. But repeated bouts of market volatility in 2018 and signs of a pickup in inflation have forced them for the first time in several years to reassess their tolerance for risk. For many, that means boosting cash positions, slashing equity or diversifying portfolios.
Hedge funds have amassed bearish bets of more than $3bn against the world’s largest advertising companies in an attempt to profit as the industry undergoes wrenching disruption and slowing growth. Funds including the UK’s Marshall Wace and the US funds Lone Pine and Maverick Capital have accumulated short sales of shares worth a combined €280m against France’s Publicis, according to regulatory filings, as the company’s shares have held their value as those of rivals’ have tumbled.
Short seller Andrew Left of Citron Research is setting his sights on high-flier Netflix Inc., noting in a tweet that the streaming company’s market cap has increased by $17 billion since the beginning of March as short interest hovers near a 10-year low.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
As bake-offs go it was pretty unusual: a part-time disc jockey and a karate black belt vying to be the next leader of arguably the world’s most influential bank. On Monday, Goldman Sachs Group picked the D.J. David M. Solomon, 56, a longtime investment banker, has been anointed as the sole heir apparent to Goldman’s chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein. The decision was signaled Monday with the abrupt retirement of Mr. Solomon’s lone rival for the job, Harvey M. Schwartz.
“Our Model 3 production plan includes periods of planned downtime in both Fremont and Gigafactory 1,” a Tesla spokesman said in an emailed statement. “These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates. This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this.”
CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust Inc. just tripled its holdings of industrial properties, picking up 22 million square feet of buildings for about $1.8 billion. With the rise of online shopping, companies are scrambling for real estate in or near major urban areas to store products close to where their customers live and work. These buildings help create a network of facilities to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
The pricing is about a 30 percent drop from the $10 billion valuation Dropbox earned in early 2014 after a financing round led by BlackRock Inc. The company, which started as a free service to share and store photos, music and other large files, has raised more than $600 million from private investors.
The company also revealed in its filing that the corporate investment group of Salesforce.com Inc., which has been an investor in the company, will serve as a so-called anchor in the IPO and will buy $100 million worth of the shares being offered when the IPO closes in a private placement.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
Hedge funds that use artificial intelligence and machine learning in their trading process posted the worst month on record in February, according to a Eurekahedge index that’s tracked the industry from 2011. The first equity correction in two years upended their strategies as once-reliable cross-asset correlations shifted. The slump even surpassed a more traditional category of quants, commodity trading advisers or CTAs, which posted near-record losses as the equity reversal hammered the automated trend-following strategies.
With his technology fund and Fortress under one roof, Mr. Son concluded that SoftBank could create an asset management firm capable of siphoning business from industry heavyweights. With their rich fees and locks on client cash for as much as 10 years, so-called alternative investments — investing in private equity, hedge funds and distressed debt — are the fastest-growing segment of the fund industry. Though not yet formally established, the plan is for the new firm to be called SoftBank Financial Services. Fortress and the Vision Fund would be the main cogs, but they would exist as separate entities.
Ms. Tilton said in a sworn declaration filed Monday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., that she planned to use the chapter 11 process to sell the underlying portfolio companies or refinance their obligations to the Zohar funds. The companies, she said, are worth more than the roughly $2.4 billion owed to investors in Zohar I, Zohar II and Zohar III. But the cloud of legal uncertainty has turned off potential buyers and lenders and kept their value tied up in the courts, according to her bankruptcy documents.
Blackstone recorded an annualized internal rate of return of about 30 percent on its India private equity investments since 2011, the highest among its markets worldwide, according to the person. It booked about 25 percent returns in China during the period, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. India-focused funds of all vintages have seen median returns of 12.4 percent, according to Preqin Ltd.
ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
Turning Canada’s heavy oil sands into a more marketable kind of crude is making a comeback, or rather half a comeback. Alberta’s government’s C$1 billion dollar pledge ($780 million) will help support the construction of smaller and cheaper varieties of upgraders. The so-called partial upgraders would process the sticky oil just enough so that it can flow freely through pipelines without adding ultra-light condensate. The government expects that as many as five private investors will infuse about C$5 billion in the sector.
COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
The tide could be about to turn for one of 2018’s best-performing commodities. Investors last week pulled $8.6 million from the Europe-listed ETFS Cocoa Exchange-Traded Commodity, or COCO, in the biggest weekly outflow on record. More than $12 million has left the product this year, or about a fifth of its assets, as traders lock-in gains after a 30 percent rally in the price of cocoa.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
The city will be the weakest performing market in the country over the next five years, said Lucian Cook, head of residential research at broker Savills Plc, as a decade of soaring prices means London’s more exposed to political and economic uncertainty, the prospect of interest rate increases and mortgage loan limits.
The shock is only beginning to hit. Since October, 650 of Cooper’s colleagues have lost their jobs at the factory where Vauxhall Motors churns out Astra hatchbacks. The remaining 1,200 staff worry the plant may close if the U.K. loses tariff-free access to Europe. Across the River Mersey from Vauxhall’s factory, Jaguar Land Rover is planning production cuts.
In a detailed assessment of Whitehall’s Brexit spending, the Institute for Government, a think-tank, estimated that by the time Article 50 expires a year from now, the six core Brexit ministries alone will have spent at least £1.3bn on policy work. But it said that once spending by other departments is included, total costs could reach £2bn by then. It added that much of this would fund the increase in staff numbers needed to drive the Brexit process.
More than three-quarters of the impact of Brexit will fall on just five sectors in the EU and the UK, according to new research, and would disproportionately affect specific regions such as London in the UK and Bavaria in Germany. The hardest hit sectors will be financial services, automotive, agriculture, food and drink, chemicals and plastics, says the study to be published on Monday by consultancy Oliver Wyman and the law firm Clifford Chance.
On the eve of the meeting, ex-premier Renzi ruled out any participation in government. “No to institutional governments, no possible collaboration with Five Star or the right,” Renzi, 43, told Corriere della Sera earlier Monday. “We need to start from zero, from the opposition.”
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is swiftly demonstrating his power over Saudi business interests, senior Saudi advisers said, after the detention of dozens of top businessmen, government officials and royal family members last year. The 32-year-old, who already controlled the military and foreign policy, forced some businessmen to make cash payments and give up control of their companies in exchange for their freedom.
Police said Monday that they believe three packages that exploded at homes and killed two people here are connected, raising fears that a bomber is on the loose in a city that is hosting tens of thousands of people for a world-renowned music and technology festival. Authorities said it was too early to say what motivated the attacks, and they would not rule out the possibility of a hate crime. Two people killed in the explosions — a teenage boy and a 39-year-old man — were black, while an elderly Hispanic woman was seriously injured.
The fracturing of the enclave, one of the last major rebel-controlled areas in Syria, could be a turning point after three weeks of a relentless scorched-earth campaign by pro-government forces, backed by heavy Russian airstrikes. In the pivotal battle for the northern city of Aleppo a year and a half ago, a government advance that divided the rebel-held pocket in two signaled the beginning of the end for insurgents.
Afghan and Western officials warn that the country’s security could further deteriorate in the coming year, even as the American military finds itself drawn deeper into the war, with additional military advisers arriving to help Afghan forces. The Taliban have yet to show any interest in a comprehensive peace offer made recently by the Afghan government.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that under no circumstances would he give Crimea back to Ukraine, speaking in a new documentary released on Sunday (Mar ahead of his expected re-election in next week’s poll. “What, have you gone mad?” he told a journalist who asked him if there were any circumstances under which the Russian leader would be ready to give up Crimea. “There are no such circumstances and never will be,” he said in the new two-hour documentary “Putin”.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
Yahoo has been ordered by a federal judge to face much of a lawsuit in the United States claiming that the personal information of all 3 billion users was compromised in a series of data breaches. In a decision on Friday night, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California rejected a bid by Verizon Communications Inc, which bought Yahoo’s Internet business last June, to dismiss many claims, including for negligence and breach of contract.
Equifax’s role in the biggest consumer data breach in U.S. history isn’t stopping Congress from giving the giant credit reporting company sweeping protection from lawsuits while allowing it to expand its offerings into the mortgage business. Those favors for Equifax and its peers in the credit reporting industry are among the surprise provisions in a major banking and financial deregulation bill that the Senate is set to pass this week.
The woman, Krishna Kumari, 39, a human rights activist and member of the Pakistan Peoples Party, was elected as a senator over the weekend. The governing party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, emerged as the largest party in Saturday’s Senate elections, ahead of the Pakistan Peoples Party.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
“This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that,” Schwarzenegger, a global environmental activist, said.
Geneva’s public prosecutor has opened a criminal probe targeting top executives at an oil trading company suspected of bribing foreign officials and money laundering, as part of a scandal involving Venezuelan oil deals. Prosecutors arrested two executives at oil trading company Helsinge in Geneva, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing a person familiar with the matter.
CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
Amazon.com Inc. is planning to offer a credit card to U.S. small-business customers, furthering its push to supply companies with everything from reams of paper to factory parts, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The e-commerce giant has been in talks with banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. on a co-branded credit card for small-business owners who shop on its website, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private negotiations. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.
RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX
American Express is planning to cut the fees it charges retailers and other businesses by more than it has done in two decades, as its new chief executive pushes more outlets to accept its cards. About 1.3m fewer locations in the US allow consumers to pay with Amex than Visa and MasterCard, mainly because it takes a bigger cut of customer payments. The gap is even wider overseas.
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
Apple Inc. said it is acquiring Texture, a digital magazine service that lets users subscribe to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 a month. The deal may help Apple boost relations with news outlets that have become wary of Facebook Inc. and Google. Some publishers reported losing online traffic from Facebook after the social media network recently refocused on content from friends and family.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
Need some confirmation that fossil fuels’ days are numbered? Look at the growth of electric vehicles. Battery-powered EVs are forecast to outsell fossil-fuel burning cars by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Based on one estimate, that’ll wipe out 8.5 million barrels of transportation fuel demand a day.
Efforts by governments around the world to cut noxious emissions produced by fossil fuel-powered cars is driving demand for electric vehicles and the metals used to make them, such as lithium and cobalt which are key ingredients for batteries. Now the spotlight is on neodymium. Several auto makers already use permanent magnet motors that rely on the metal because they are generally lighter, stronger and more efficient than induction motors that are based on copper coils.
The gold rush triggered by the Chinese government’s embrace of electric cars will lead to an industry shakeout that could see many of the market’s current leaders left behind. Of the industry’s current leaders by sales, only Shenzhen’s BYD features among the most favoured electric car brands among consumers, according to an FT Confidential Research survey. Instead, respondents showed an overwhelming preference for electric cars made by the global auto giants, even though many are still developing their technologies and most are yet to begin selling in China (our survey excludes high concept, tech-funded start-ups such as Nio, Byton and Xpeng).
AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS
Federal crash investigators said they will examine the role of hard-to-remove harnesses that may have trapped five passengers in a helicopter that ditched in the East River in New York on Sunday. The harnesses, which are different than traditional aircraft seat belts, are designed to allow people to safely take photographs from a helicopter with the doors open. They attach from the rear and could be difficult to remove in an emergency, according to a passenger on another flight who said he photographed the helicopter before the crash.
AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
Entrepreneur Elon Musk said a rocket ship that his company is building for trips to Mars could make short flights by as early as next year. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX, is “making good progress on the ship and the booster,” Musk said at the South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas, where he took questions from screenwriter Jonathan Nolan. “I think we will be able to do short flights, short up and down flights, probably in the first half of next year. This is a very big booster and ship.”
“The price of admission to space is very high,” Bezos said Saturday night in New York, accepting the Buzz Aldrin Space Exploration Award at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. “I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can go explore the solar system.”
SCIENCE, NATURE, HISTORY, PSYCHOLOGY
The dream of nuclear fusion is on the brink of being realised, according to a major new US initiative that says it will put fusion power on the grid within 15 years. The project, a collaboration between scientists at MIT and a private company, will take a radically different approach to other efforts to transform fusion from an expensive science experiment into a viable commercial energy source. The team intend to use a new class of high-temperature superconductors they predict will allow them to create the world’s first fusion reactor that produces more energy than needs to be put in to get the fusion reaction going.
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