Macro Links Mar 16th – NATO Powers Close Ranks
You are viewing the Macro Links delayed archive. The real time Macro Links, posted each trading day, are available via the Mercenary Research Suite. To see how it works, click here.
MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- SPY POISONING SHOWDOWN
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- GUN CONTROL, POT BOOM, OPIOIDS, PUBLIC POLICY
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
- KOREAN PENINSULA, MIDDLE EAST, 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
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS
- AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
SPY POISONING SHOWDOWN
Nato’s leading powers closed ranks against Vladimir Putin on Thursday as the US unveiled new sanctions against Moscow and joined France and Germany to back Britain’s accusations against the Kremlin for the poisoning of a former Russian spy on UK soil. The Trump administration appeared to shed its ambivalence towards Moscow by placing sanctions on five groups and 19 individuals, accusing them of staging a series of cyber attacks on US energy, nuclear and aviation infrastructure, the toughest measures taken since Donald Trump took office.
The leaders of France, Germany, Britain and the United States issued a joint statement on Thursday condemning a chemical attack on a Russian former double agent in England and blaming Moscow for it. “We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, U.K., on 4 March 2018,” the statement said.
Nikki Haley, the permanent US representative to the UN, called on Moscow to “fully co-operate” with the investigation into the nerve agent attack in Salisbury as the UN Security Council met on Wednesday after an urgent request from the UK to update members.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to retaliate against the U.K. after Prime Minister Theresa May threw out 23 diplomats over the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter on British soil.
Britain’s retaliation against Russia in their spy-poisoning brawl includes a small but symbolic slap: No ministers or members of the royal family will attend the World Cup this summer. The announcement, part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s list of measures announced Wednesday to penalize the Russians, comes three months before England’s team will play in the tournament hosted by Russia, which starts June 14 and lasts through July 15.
The first tanker of liquefied natural gas to depart a new facility on the US east coast has changed course mid-Atlantic and is heading for the UK, the day after questions were raised in Westminster about rising UK imports of Russian LNG. The Gemmata LNG tanker, which left the newly opened Cove Point terminal in Maryland roughly 10 days ago, has turned north east 1,500km off the coast of Suriname and is said to be heading for the Dragon LNG terminal in south Wales.
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
A version of the technology that’s meant to make cryptocurrency payments faster and cheaper went live Thursday. The software, called Lightning Network, can now be used for Bitcoin payments after more than a year in which thousands of developers tested it. Lightning Labs, one of the firms developing the technology, released this initial version, which is compatible with networks being developed by other groups, such as Blockstream and Acinq.
According to a recent study of 100 U.S. based merchants that use Square Inc.’s payment technology — a good majority surveyed are open to taking bitcoin as a form of payment. Nomura Instinet surveyed merchants who made at least $100,000 in annual revenue and 60 percent said they would accept bitcoin instead of USD.
Hedge fund billionaire Alan Howard made sizable personal investments in cryptocurrencies last year and plans to put more of his own money into digital assets and the blockchain technology behind them, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Other partners at the hedge fund firm he co-founded, Brevan Howard Asset Management, have independently made similar investments, the people said, asking not to be named because the information isn’t public. The investments are separate from the $9.1 billion hedge fund firm, and Brevan Howard does not trade cryptocurrencies, said the people.
Crypto exchange service and wallet Coinbase has become the first cryptocurrency exchange to open a UK bank account and gain access to the UK’s Faster Payments Scheme (FPS), according to a blog post by Coinbase CEO Zeeshan Feroz published today, March 14. The Fast Payments Scheme is a UK banking initiative aimed at reducing transaction times and is the main infrastructure for money payments currently used in the country.
Barclays has become a rare global bank to embrace the cryptocurrency sector by signing exchange operator Coinbase as a customer. Working with Coinbase is a big stride for Barclays into a sector that many banks have so far shunned for being too risky. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t backed or controlled by any government, and global regulators are still grappling with how to supervise trade in the currencies and related activities.
The US Treasury needs to intensify efforts to fill the “regulatory vacuum” for the cryptocurrency industry, according to a top US regulator. The explosion in cryptocurrencies — the total value of bitcoin and other digital currencies stands at more than $354bn despite a fall in recent months — has attracted the interest of regulators, who have had to balance the desire not to stymie the new technology while weeding out fraudulent ventures.
According to Allaire, the company, which raised $140 mln in venture capital from major investors including Goldman Sachs, Baidu, and investment bank China International Capital Corp., is looking to diversify its offerings on Poloniex in the future. “The long-term view is that every form of value on the planet will become a crypto token,” Allaire stated, referencing what he sees as the continued proliferation of Blockchain-based tokens and cryptocurrencies.
The expansion adds to signs that cryptocurrency entrepreneurs are undaunted by increased regulatory scrutiny and a selloff in digital assets that cut Bitcoin’s value in half since mid-December. Allaire, who has lofty visions for the future of digital tokens, said that Circle will cooperate with authorities as the company expands globally.
Bitcoin’s painful start of the year isn’t over, according to research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors LLC. Bitcoin is down more than 60 percent from its high of almost $20,000 in December and will only show signs of bottoming closer to $5,873, according to a Fundstrat report Thursday. Negative headlines on tightening regulation globally and decisions from Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to ban ads on digital coin sales are weighing on the cryptocurrency market.
UK-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinfloor will launch the world’s first “physically delivered” Bitcoin futures contracts in April 2018, an executive told Reuters March 14. Speaking to Reuters during the Futures Industry Association’s annual conference in Florida, Coinfloor’s co-founder Mark Lamb announced that the exchange would shortly unveil a dedicated futures exchange called CoinfloorEX, which would showcase the pioneering product.
McAfee is joining CryptoSecure, a firm that says it offers “hackproof security solutions” for the digital-coin industry, as senior strategic adviser, according to a press release Wednesday. Key Capital Corp., a company focused on precious-metal mining, fintech and cancer treatments, is leading development at the startup. Shares of Key Capital, which trade over the counter, surged almost 400 percent after the announcement.
The G20 is set to hold two separate discussions on cryptocurrencies next week in an effort to seek what representatives call a “common response” on regulation. A media representative for next week’s summit, to be hosted by Argentina, which currently holds the G20 presidency, said that the first meeting will take place Monday. The talks will feature Argentina Treasury Minister Nicolás Dujovne and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Secretary-General José Angel Gurría, among other stakeholders.
If the top financial watchdogs in the U.S. don’t come up with clearer guidelines for the cryptocurrency market, innovative startups may go elsewhere, according to one of the most popular digital-token exchanges. Coinbase Inc.’s chief legal officer, Mike Lempres, said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission need to work together to more clearly define what digital coins are and who should be regulating them.
Puerto Rico’s government has created an advisory council aimed at spurring the development of blockchain businesses on the island. The move was announced Thursday during the Blockchain Unbound conference in San Juan. Manuel Laboy Rivera, Puerto Rico’s secretary of economic development and commerce, struck a bullish tone during remarks about the tech’s future prospects. The council is composed of a mix of public and private sector representatives, including Rivera, the government’s chief innovation officer and its secretary of the Treasury, as well as a mix of entrepreneurs and investors that have moved to Puerto Rico.
New figures reveal that very soon there will be more bitcoin investors than traditional stock exchange traders in Indonesia. Despite repeated warnings from the central bank of Indonesia about the supposed risks of cryptocurrency trading, everyday people keep turning to bitcoin in this highly populated Asian country. In fact, soon there will be more traders on just one crypto platform than there are on the local stock exchanges established over a 100 years before it.
France’s stock market regulator announced on Thursday that it has blacklisted 15 cryptocurrency and crypto-asset investment websites. The Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) will add the offending platforms to its existing “liste noir,” which already includes businesses that unlawfully offer investments in commodities like diamonds, rare earth metals and wine.
FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
The Japanese yen has already appreciated 6 per cent versus the US dollar in 2018 and some think this trade has a lot more room to run. Deutsche Bank, for one, thinks we will see the yen rally towards ¥100 this year, a level last visited in mid-2016. Playing a key role in helping to bolster the yen in recent months have been investor flows away from dollar-based investments, while Japanese equities are attracting new money. “US dollar-denominated outflows from Japanese investors have slowed sharply, and FX-unhedged equity inflows into Japan are beginning, with parallels to the trend in Europe,” says Deutsche Bank.
Kudlow might end up as another disappointed dollar bull. The consensus bet in markets is for a softer greenback, as seen in speculator positioning and inflows into unhedged foreign currency exchange-traded funds. And faced with escalating trade tensions and a widening U.S. current account deficit, even Kudlow’s vocal support likely won’t provide a lasting boost to the currency, according to Alvise Marino, a foreign-exchange strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
“I thought it was a dumb comment but I wasn’t surprised,” said Mark Warner, an international trade lawyer in Toronto. “If it came from any other world leader it would be troubling. But pretty obviously he’s not a details guy and he’s kind of got a negotiating strategy of being in the moment.”
Mr. Trump’s private admission to having a loose grasp of the facts and his public refusal to back down from the incorrect statement — the United States has an overall surplus in trade with Canada — were vivid illustrations of the president’s cavalier attitude about the truth, and a reminder of how that approach has taken hold at the White House.
Germany said on Thursday any escalation of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on metal imports into a full-blown trade war could cause tangible damage to the global recovery, although the tariffs themselves should have only a limited effect.
The Trump administration is putting together a package of anti-China measures, including tariffs on at least an annual $30 billion of Chinese imports, to pressure Beijing to end requirements that U.S. companies transfer technology to Chinese firms. According to a White House official and people briefed on administration deliberations, the measures are the next part of an administration trade policy aimed at reducing the enormous U.S. trade deficit. President Donald Trump has said that he wants China to come up with a plan to slash its $375 billion merchandise trade surplus with the U.S. by $100 billion.
President Donald Trump disagreed with executives of major oil and gas companies Thursday about the importance of keeping binding dispute settlement procedures in a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Trump told roughly a dozen of the oil and gas industry leaders at a White House meeting that he understood — but did not share — their view that those Nafta provisions are essential to give companies confidence to invest in Mexico and Canada, said the person, who asked not to be identified describing the closed-door session.
GUN CONTROL, POT BOOM, OPIOIDS, PUBLIC POLICY
Surveillance video released on Thursday showed that the only armed sheriff’s deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., remained outside during the Feb. 14 massacre at the school, taking cover behind a wall. The deputy failed to confront the gunman during the six-minute rampage, the video’s time stamps show, confirming the account of other law enforcement officers who raised questions about the response by the sheriff’s office almost immediately after the shooting.
Sheriff Lott said that a school resource officer was informed by an administrator that Ms. Roof had the weapons and drugs. “Roof had also made a social media post on Snapchat which caused alarm to the student body,” Sheriff Lott said. No students were harmed, he said.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
President Donald Trump and the House’s top tax writer said separately Wednesday that Republicans are working on a second round of tax cuts. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) declined to discuss many details of what Republicans have in a mind, but said a proposal would be unveiled sometime this year. “We think even more can be done,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network.
Nirmal Jain has hit the jackpot serving the new rich in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The Mumbai banker’s $20 billion private-wealth-management unit became India’s biggest by assets and helped make him a billionaire. The nation’s demographics are a driving force, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to withdraw India’s biggest bills from circulation, which has pushed savings into the financial system. India’s young and thriving workforce will support its growth for years to come, Jain, 51, said in a phone interview, pointing out that millennials account for about a third of the country’s population and most of the income.
The Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca said in a statement on Wednesday that “reputational deterioration” and “the financial consequences and irregular actions by some Panamanian authorities” had caused irreparable damage to its business, “resulting in the total ceasing of public operations at the end of this month.” The firm said it would continue to cooperate with authorities looking into the “Panama Papers” leaks, which were published in 2016.
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said. The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and uncertainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization in recent weeks to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. The order is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding records directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.
President Donald Trump’s lawyers are gaming out possible questions and answers for a potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, according to two people familiar with the strategy. The preparations reflect an understanding that negotiations with the lead Russia investigator, which have been ongoing since January, will eventually culminate in a sit-down meeting between Mueller and the president. One source said the discussions about the terms of a possible interview may soon even reach a conclusion.
An assistant general counsel at the president’s flagship holding company intervened in arbitration proceeding in California to enforce a nondisclosure deal with former adult-film actress Stormy Daniels who claimed she had an affair with Mr. Trump.
Two months after Jared Kushner joined the White House as a senior adviser, his family firm sold a stake in a Brooklyn building to a unit of a company whose largest shareholder is the government of Japan.
BuzzFeed may have found a legal opening to allow the porn actress Stormy Daniels to discuss her alleged relationship with President Donald Trump and a $130,000 payment she received just before the 2016 election as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is now trying to void. The same Trump attorney who brokered the deal with Daniels, Michael Cohen, filed a libel suit in January against BuzzFeed and four of its staffers over publication of the so-called dossier compiling accurate, inaccurate and unproven allegations about Trump’s relationship with Russia.
Nancy Chemtob, another family law expert who is not representing either party, said Vanessa could invoke spousal immunity to avoid testifying against her husband while their divorce is still pending. Chemtob speculated that Vanessa may be filing for the split now to secure a financial settlement before the Mueller probe potentially puts her husband’s assets at risk.
KOREAN PENINSULA, MIDDLE EAST, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Saudi Arabia has warned that it will develop its own nuclear weapon if regional rival Iran acquires one. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told US network CBS News his country did not want to acquire nuclear weapons. “But without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we would follow suit as soon as possible,” he added.
The comments by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ratcheted up the rhetoric in the increasingly volatile rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has fueled sectarianism and war across the Middle East. His statements were in an excerpt, released on Thursday, of a prerecorded interview with “60 Minutes,” the CBS News program. Iran’s Foreign Ministry responded by calling the prince a delusional and devious novice who “has no idea of politics.”
Fourteen current and former senior U.S. officials told NBC News that intelligence shows Prince Mohammed bin Salman — often referred to by his initials MBS — blocked his mother from seeing his father, King Salman, more than two years ago and has kept her away from him as the young prince rapidly amassed power. Prince Mohammed, a key ally of the Trump White House, has concocted various explanations of his mother’s whereabouts over the years, such as that she’s out of the country receiving medical treatment, so King Salman would not know his son has been behind her continued absence, the current and former officials said.
It has been nine months since Qatar turned from a peninsula to a de facto island. By now, the tiny but wealthy emirate has gotten used to this new reality, developing fresh trade routes and alliances that may affect the Middle East’s balance for years to come. “They don’t want us to make our decisions, they want to make decisions for us, they think our decisions are for sale and that we will simply give up and do what they tell us. That will never happen,” said Sheikh Saif bin Ahmed Al-Thani, the director of the emirate’s government communications office and a prominent member of Qatar’s ruling family.
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
The rise in three-month Libor has been driven by factors including a shift in the investment portfolios of US multinational companies after the Trump administration’s tax reform, and by an increase in short-term Treasury bill supply, analysts say. “People are coming around to a conclusion that it’s not a crisis in the making and therefore they shouldn’t be overly concerned,” said George Goncalves, head of US rates strategy at Nomura. “That’s all well and good, but day to day, the cost of funding is still going up. That’s going to become an issue if it doesn’t come back down.”
Investors loved corporate bonds. Now they’re leaving them. It’s no coincidence investors are paring exposure at the same time as central banks retreat from bond-buying programs and pave the way for increasing interest rates. They’re also growing disenchanted with investment-grade debt that carries more duration risk, sending risk premiums to a five-month high and demanding more compensation for jumbo deals in the primary market.
China’s holdings of Treasuries fell to the lowest level since July as investors soured on U.S. fixed-income securities and the dollar at the start of the year. China’s portfolio of U.S. bonds, notes and bills sank to $1.17 trillion in January from $1.18 trillion a month earlier, according to Treasury Department data released Thursday. China remains the largest foreign creditor to the U.S., followed by Japan, whose holdings rose for the first month since July, to $1.07 trillion from $1.06 trillion.
The European Central Bank told banks they’ll need to be tougher in dealing with bad loans as euro-zone lenders continue to grapple with soured debts amounting to almost $1 trillion. For the first time, the banking supervisor laid down time limits for how quickly lenders should set aside capital for loans that turn bad. The guidelines, published Thursday, are the latest attempt by authorities to deal with a problem that still limits banks’ ability to lend and turn a profit a decade on from the financial crisis.
VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS
The scandal embroiling Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration may be more serious than some investors realize, raising the potential for a rapid move in Japanese markets to discount the potential for a surprise end to the champions of Abenomics. While Abe has faced down political controversy and public protests repeatedly in his more-than-five-years in power, the doctoring of a Finance Ministry document relating to a controversial land sale presents a more serious threat, according to political analysts. And at this point, markets haven’t priced in the idea of a resignation by stalwart Abe supporter Taro Aso, the finance minister, or the potential for Abe to lose office later this year.
The bank’s chief executive, Tidjane Thiam, has called the product “legitimate” and said investors took their own risk on a trade that did not pan out. Investors flocked to XIV, launched in 2010, for profits that grew in calm markets. XIV booked a 585 percent gain for the two years ended Feb. 1. The market action that led to the trade’s death in the Feb. 5 reversal of fortune in U.S. markets that some investors called “vol-mageddon” is now being probed by securities regulators, Reuters has reported.
For now, many hope that the Trump administration’s bark is worse than its bite, but some are calculating the potential damage from any escalation of tariffs. Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch are focusing on emerging market dominoes and note that while the “first order impact of the latest US tariffs on EM is limited . . . domino effects via global value chains are a risk”.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
It was the eve of the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Many on Wall Street worried that a recession loomed and that the housing bubble was bursting. And then there was Larry Kudlow, the man President Trump just tapped to be his top economic adviser. “Despite all the doom and gloom from the economic pessimistas, the resilient U.S. economy continues moving ahead,” Kudlow wrote on Dec. 7, 2007, in National Review, predicting that gloomy forecasters would “wind up with egg on their faces.” Kudlow, who previously derided as “bubbleheads” those who warned about a housing bubble, now wrote that “very positive” news in housing should “cushion” falling home sales and prices.
Bloomberg News reporters traveled to Iowa, Georgia, and Maine. What they saw there is encouraging. They discovered that employers have found ways to cope with tight labor markets and still make money. Businesses have pulled in workers from the sidelines—including retirees, immigrants, and the homeless—and retooled processes to use less labor. Some have raised pay considerably for certain jobs, but so far there are no signs of an overall wage explosion. That should embolden those at the Federal Reserve who want to raise interest rates slowly to give growth a chance.
Trump and his lawyers have thrown down all sorts of gauntlets around Mueller’s probe. They have argued for a tight deadline leading to its conclusion; negotiated for where, when and how the president might agree to an interview with investigators; and pointed to areas that they think are off-limits. It would appear that Mueller, with the full force of the law and subpoena power behind him, intends to proceed as he sees fit.
If you want to know where cryptocurrencies are in their development, keep an eye on fees. When a new “investment” comes along, investors are often too busy counting their anticipated bounty to care about cost. Shrewd purveyors predictably seize the opportunity to charge excessive fees. But reality inevitably falls short of investors’ expectations, and the focus eventually turns to
how much they’re paying to invest.
It might be hard to believe. But after the 1,400 percent rally of 2017, with wild swings along the way, the great crypto craze has cooled, at least for now. For the past month, Bitcoin’s price has stalled between $8,000 and $11,300 — a minuscule range by its standards. And internet searches for “Bitcoin” have plunged, suggesting public interest has, too. “The general public is now realizing that this is not a risk-free, get-rich-quick, investment opportunity and general interest has since diminished,” said Lucas Nuzzi, a senior analyst at Digital Asset Research.
Meeting the goal of 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of June is critical to generating enough cash to sustain operations without having to raise more capital. Tesla burned through on average about $1 billion a quarter last year, largely because of heavy investments to bring production of the Model 3 online. That left it with nearly $3.4 billion in cash at year-end, suggesting that at a similar pace it would be out of cash later this year unless it can raise more funds or substantially boost production.
Novichok, the poison used in England in an attack on a former Russian spy, is far deadlier than the generations of chemical weapons that came before it. For nearly three decades, since a Soviet whistle-blower told the world of its existence, the nerve agent Novichok has scared American weapons experts. The Pentagon sent teams to destroy abandoned laboratories that once produced the chemical, believed to be orders of magnitude more lethal than sarin or VX. There was no sign of it ever being used. Until last week.
The line between facts and reality has vanished. The president made up some nonsense and was embarrassed when his own staff presented him with the facts, so while recounting the story publicly—which, to repeat, he in no way had to do—he lied about what his staff told him. The Washington Post, in a subtle bit of (dark) comedy, simply called the same staffers, who will probably be fired by lunch. But he wasn’t done there. Oh, no…
Every mass shooting is different but police officers who constantly train for worst-case scenarios know one thing for sure: Even with years of weapons training and street experience, confronting an active shooter and successfully taking one out poses a staggering challenge. “You have to make split-second decisions with a fraction of information. It’s difficult to figure out where the shooter is,” said Knapp, a 24-year veteran who oversees the Miami-Dade police department’s training center in Doral, which is complete with mock-up street scene dubbed “Survival City.” “The biggest challenge in active shooting is it’s hectic, highly stressed and there’s blood everywhere,” said Knapp. “That makes it a perfect recipe for disaster.”
The N.R.A. pushed Congress in 1995 to stop the C.D.C. from spending taxpayer money on research that advocated gun control. Congress then passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996, and cut funding that effectively ended the C.D.C.’s study of gun violence as a public health issue. The result is that 22 years and more than 600,000 gunshot victims later, much of the federal government has largely abandoned efforts to learn why people shoot one another, or themselves, and what can be done to prevent gun violence.
Based on its annual Wealth Report index, the research team at Knight Frank has collected data from eight global cities, showing how their prime property markets have performed in the 10 years since the financial crisis — and, with the exception of a few outliers, the same forces seem to be acting on them. “The first thing that happened after the financial crisis was a flight to safety,” says Tony Key, professor of real estate economics at Cass Business School. “Everyone decided that they weren’t going to do Kazakhstan and Vietnam after all, so they reverted to the prime properties in prime cities.”
If only a handful of companies are going to be the big winners, why would the founders and investors of a contender want it to go public early in its growth cycle? That would allow public markets to capture their gains. If Uber is destined to be a $100 billion company, better to fund its growth in private markets and then dump it on the public markets only when it’s fully valued. An IPO is no longer a way to show a company’s legitimacy and fuel its development; it’s a way for successful speculators to cash out for maximum gains.
Water bills are surging nationwide as utilities try to fix corroded pipes and overflowing sewer systems, leaving many households struggling to pay and in some cases risking shutoffs and home foreclosures. Bills started rising significantly faster than inflation in the mid-2000s as communities stepped up their repairs of aging water and sewer infrastructure. Over the past decade, the increases have averaged 5.5% a year, more than three times the rate of inflation, according to the Labor Department.
It might seem like an impossible arrangement—observing an oath of poverty while also being one of India’s top entrepreneurs. But Ramdev is a master of contortion. Patanjali is an omnipresent brand in India, and though everyone refers to it as Ramdev’s company, he’s not technically its owner or chief executive officer. It would be scandalous for a sanyasi to profit from a corporation, and Ramdev neither owns shares nor takes a salary. He says his net worth is zero. The company calls him merely its “brand ambassador,” a title that belies his power. Other modern yogis have large, loyal, and lucrative followings, but Ramdev is the only one to build a sprawling for-profit enterprise in his image. On a three-axis chart of holiness, capitalism, and lumbar flexibility, he occupies a point beyond anyone else on Earth.
Governments normally run larger deficits when the economy is weaker because tax revenue is lower and safety net spending is larger. As an added bonus, this automatically creates additional financial assets to satisfy the private sector’s heightened desire to save. While there is no rule that says what the budget deficit should be at any point in time, it’s reasonable to think the 19 governments of the euro area are collectively taxing too much and spending too little by several percentage points of gross domestic product — perhaps around €500bn each year. For perspective, the euro area’s governments never loosened fiscal policy nearly as much as the United States. They have since tightened policy far more.
While the NYSE operates each day between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., more than ever the action is compressed in the final minutes. Brokers at the Big Board congregate on the exchange’s floor to call out their last orders before the closing bell, a brief throwback to the old days. Last year, 26% of all trading activity on the NYSE’s flagship exchange took place in the last trade of the day, up from 17% in 2012, exchange data shows. Last year, trades at the close accounted for more than 8% of trading volume in S&P 500 stocks, nearly four times what it was in 2004, according to Credit Suisse.
In the spring of 2014, Las Vegas tycoon Sheldon Adelson floated an offer to David Solomon: come run his casino empire. Mr. Solomon, a senior Goldman Sachs executive, was 52 years old and seen as a long shot to become CEO of the bank. But Mr. Solomon turned down the job, and that patience paid off this week.
The painstaking, year-round, drama-filled, occasionally meditative, absolutely crucial work of the vineyard manager is largely invisible to most wine drinkers. A vineyard manager makes small and large decisions throughout the year that can, separately and collectively, determine the quality of the fruit. The first big decision has to do with pruning the vines, when workers remove the old canes and cut others to encourage new growth. In Napa, pruning season starts in January—the time of my visit—and often continues into March. It’s Mr. Barbour’s favorite time of year.
Artificial intelligence has had more than its fair share of ups and downs over the past 60 years, but one constant feature of the field has been the dominance of the US. Significant contributions to AI have certainly arisen elsewhere but, until recently, every AI system that made worldwide news originated in the US. But today American hegemony in AI is being seriously challenged for the first time. One of the most remarkable features of the current AI boom is the sudden and very visible presence of China as a global force.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
The Federal Reserve’s independence and monetary-policy approach had a White House ally in Gary Cohn. His successor Larry Kudlow may be a different story. “Just let it rip, for heaven’s sake,” Kudlow said of economic growth in the U.S., during a more than hour-long interview Wednesday on CNBC. “The market’s going to take care of itself. The whole story’s going to take care of itself. The Fed’s going to do what it has to do, but I hope they don’t overdo it.”
Norway’s central bank shook up the krone on Thursday, propelling the currency to the highest point of the year after it left rates on hold for now but also said it would probably need to raise rates sooner than it had indicated in its monetary policy report in December. Governor Oystein Olsen said in a statement that the rate would “most likely be raised after summer 2018”. One hitch: Norway is not exactly known for its summers.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
A new pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that was at the vanguard of innovative construction techniques collapsed Thursday afternoon, smashing cars under its wrecked concrete and causing multiple casualties.
The graceful pedestrian bridge was swung into place on Saturday. Heralded as a triumph of “accelerated construction,” the bridge would allow pedestrians to safely cross eight lanes of traffic separating the campus of Florida International University from the small city where many of the students lived. Five days later, around midday Thursday, the bridge collapsed in a pile of 950 tons of metal, concrete and dust, before ever opening to pedestrians. At least four people were killed, according to Miami Fire Chief Dave Downey. Some reports put the number of dead at six to 10.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
The rally in the FANG block of tech shares and its megacap brethren just surpassed a dubious milestone. An index of 10 tech growth shares pushed its advance to 23 percent so far this year, giving the group an annualized return since early 2016 of 67 percent. That frenzied pace tops the Nasdaq Composite Index’s 66 percent return in the final two years of the dot-com bubble. “Lately, it seems, these stocks can do no wrong,” George Pearkes, a macro strategist at Bespoke Investment Group, wrote in a note. It makes “us wonder if this is a mini-1999 all over again,” he said.
Short-selling demand for European equities has continued to rise this year, with current short bets of $188 billion just below the post-financial crisis high of $193 billion seen on Feb. 16, according to IHS Markit Ltd.
Markets are in the “twilight of the mid cycle” and investors should be prepared to act if the economy edges toward a recession, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The firm still recommends a cyclical portfolio — for example, overweight equities versus bonds and credit — but it’s urging clients to reconsider that distribution if the likelihood of a recession over the next 12 months rises to at least 30 percent, cross-asset strategist John Normand and senior U.S. economist Jesse Edgerton wrote in a report Thursday.
Emerging-market stocks are the world’s best investment after February’s rout cheapened valuations, according to Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Unlike previous market corrections, when developing nations suffered big outflows, clients have been adding more money to the riskiest assets, said Sheila Patel, the chief executive officer of International GSAM.
President Donald Trump said his tariffs on steel imports will help domestic manufacturers. Judging from the companies’ stock performance, investors are skeptical. Shares of U.S. Steel Corp. slipped in eight of the past nine days, erasing all the gains since Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recommended the levies to Trump. Nucor Corp. is heading for its second weekly decline as an 11 percent rally in mid-February lost steam.
President Donald Trump’s announcement on March 1 to introduce heavy tariffs on steel and aluminium imports has prompted threats of retaliation from the EU, China and others that could take a toll on a number of US companies making everything from machinery to bourbon and denim. Investors are taking out their nervousness on those companies’ share prices.
Among more than 18,000 analyst ratings for stocks in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, 60 percent are buy recommendations — the highest since October 2011 — according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While earnings are still expected to grow this year, there has been a slight deceleration in the pace of profit upgrades, the data show. There is some risk the overflowing optimism points to a vulnerability for equity investors if markets shift, although the improving economic outlook in the region sugge
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Overstock.com Inc. has had a rough year so far. The online retailer’s stock has lost almost half of its value since peaking in January. Digital currencies, which the firm has fully embraced, have lost some steam. And it’s being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over its initial coin offering.
Pop star Rihanna erased about $800 million of Snap’s market value Thursday with one post to a social media account, becoming the latest celebrity to sink the stock. Shares of the Snapchat parent dropped 3.6% to close at $17.20 after the singer slammed the app for approving an advertisement that appeared to joke about domestic violence. “This advertisement is disgusting and never should have appeared on our service,” a spokesperson said. The company has blocked the advertiser from its platform and is investigating how the ad made it through the approval process.
The likely death of Toys “R” Us, which early Thursday filed plans to liquidate its U.S. operations and other businesses, means the $27 billion U.S. toy industry will no longer have a national partner to showcase its wares year-round, test experimental products and find the next Shopkins or ZhuZhu Pet.
Broadcom results beat expectations days after U.S. President Donald Trump blocked its $117 billion hostile bid for Qualcomm on national security concerns. The company scrapped the offer on Wednesday. Singapore-based Broadcom, however, said it would continue with its plans to redomicile to the United States, fueling expectations that the company would likely scout for smaller targets.
Steve Wynn may seek to sell his shares in Wynn Resorts after he and his former wife scrapped an agreement that had prevented them from selling their combined 21% stake, potentially setting off a scramble to control the $19 billion casino company.
CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
A person involved in the eurobonds issue who asked not to be named said VTB Capital of Moscow would be the sole book runner. The 11-year issue would aim to raise $3bn, with another $4bn from the reopened 2047 bond. Both issues were expected to be priced on Friday.
Debt from Puerto Rico is the top-performing bond investment of 2018, reflecting an unexpected improvement in the island’s economy and budding hopes for a settlement with creditors to resolve its continuing bankruptcy.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
Robinhood Markets Inc. is finalizing a fundraising effort that will see the value of the startup, which makes a stock-trading app, jump fourfold in less than a year. DST Global, a venture capital firm founded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, will lead an investment valuing Robinhood at $5.6 billion, a person familiar with the plans said. The funding round is expected to reach $350 million, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the process hasn’t yet completed.
Rule number one with an IPO: Don’t announce a target value years ahead of the actual sale — especially if one is tempted to use the word “trillion.” Naturally, it takes time to organize the sale of a company as big and complex as Aramco. But that $2 trillion figure may also be an obstacle in itself, especially as Aramco’s IPO isn’t just any share sale but a milestone in the prince’s plans to remake his country.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
Singapore is the world’s most expensive city for the fifth straight year in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Worldwide Cost of Living report, with Paris and Zurich tied for second place. As recent as 2013, Tokyo was the world’s costliest city to live in. The Japanese capital dropped seven places to 11th over the past year. Hong Kong, last year’s second-most expensive city, slipped to fourth place.
For decades, Hong Kong and Singapore have engaged in a more or less friendly competition for financial supremacy in Asia. This week, the rivalry got unusually heated. An episode highlighted the growing intensity of a battle for stock-market listings between the two financial hubs, with exchanges in both cities recently proposing changes to their rules to lure more fast-growing technology companies.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
The OZ Europe Master Fund, which has lagged the firm’s other multi-strategy funds this year and last, saw assets decline to $230 million from about $900 million two years earlier, according to one of the people and company filings. Investors are expected to transfer their capital into the flagship OZ Master Fund, which will execute the European strategies as part of its global multi-strategy portfolio, said the person. Och-Ziff is also weighing returning capital to investors in other smaller funds.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Canadian oil producers found a way to access the growing Asian energy market without the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline. A cargo of heavy crude was sent to China after being railed to a terminal in Portland, Oregon, according to U.S. Census data and people with knowledge of the situation. The crude came from Alberta’s oil sands, the people said.
Saudi Arabia said it would continue limiting its crude-oil output, signaling the world’s top oil exporter remained committed to production caps and underscoring a split with Iran’s call for gradually lifting output curbs.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
Scientists studying a remote and icy stretch of the North Atlantic have found new evidence that fresh water, likely melted from Greenland or Arctic sea ice, may already be altering a key process that helps drives the global circulation of the oceans.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
Brexit negotiators will hold a month of intensive talks aimed at ending the deadlock over how to police the Irish border when the U.K. leaves the European Union. A dedicated new strand in the negotiations — which will involve the U.K, the European Commission and the Irish government — will get under way on March 26 and last until April 18, officials familiar with the plans said.
Unilever has decided to shift its headquarters to the Netherlands, breaking a near century-old structure of running the company from both the UK and European mainland, in a setback for Theresa May’s pledge that it will be business as usual after Brexit.
More than a quarter of British bankers believe their job is damaging their health and wellbeing, and a similar proportion are afraid of negative consequences if they speak up about concerns, according to one of the biggest surveys of the industry.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged lawmakers on Wednesday to reject a bipartisan proposal that seeks to cut off American support for Saudi Arabia’s controversial three-year war in Yemen. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Mr. Mattis warned that the proposal would undermine American interests in the Middle East, jeopardize the country’s partnership with Saudi Arabia and increase the risk of a regional war with Iran.
Thousands of civilians fled Eastern Ghouta on Thursday as Syrian regime forces advanced further into the rebel-held enclave near the capital, while Turkish forces intensified their assault on the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin in the north.
China has indirectly confirmed that it was testing what would be the world’s first warship-mounted railgun, a powerful electromagnetic weapon that even the U.S. Navy has struggled to bring to sea, according to official media reports. China’s official military website published a report Thursday featuring Zhang Xiao, an associate research fellow at the People’s Liberation Army Navy University of Engineering. Zhang was described as a leading figure in Chinese efforts to develop “electromagnetic launching technology.”
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
Russian hackers are conducting a broad assault on the U.S. electric grid, water processing plants, air transportation facilities and other targets in rolling attacks on some of the country’s most sensitive infrastructure, U.S. government officials said Thursday. The announcement was the first official confirmation that Russian hackers have taken aim at facilities on which hundreds of millions of Americans depend for basic services. Bloomberg News reported in July that Russian hackers had breached more than a dozen power plants in seven states, an aggressive campaign that has since expanded to dozens of states, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The Trump administration accused Russia on Thursday of engineering a series of cyberattacks that targeted American and European nuclear power plants and water and electric systems, and could have sabotaged or shut power plants off at will. United States officials and private security firms saw the attacks as a signal by Moscow that it could disrupt the West’s critical facilities in the event of a conflict.
In August, a petrochemical company with a plant in Saudi Arabia was hit by a new kind of cyberassault. The attack was not designed to simply destroy data or shut down the plant, investigators believe. It was meant to sabotage the firm’s operations and trigger an explosion. The attack was a dangerous escalation in international hacking, as faceless enemies demonstrated both the drive and the ability to inflict serious physical damage.
For years, cyber security experts have been urging users to add a second layer of authentication to their accounts, often a code sent by text message to their phone. But determined hackers are now able to hurdle this extra measure by spoofing your SIM card, intercepting the unencrypted message as it is sent over the network or trying to steal databases filled with information about mobile accounts from telecoms operators.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
Russian President Vladimir Putin has an approval rating of around 80%, according to polls, making the challenge for the Kremlin not how to assure his victory against a cast of weak opponents, but how to boost voter turnout and legitimize an uncompetitive election.
The municipal councillor was shot in her car along with her driver in a central part of the city late Wednesday evening, in a crime that has shocked a city that is already hardened to horrific murders related to drug and police violence. The crime has focused public anger over the lack of public security in Rio and Brazil’s heavy-handed state as Latin America’s largest country prepares for what is shaping up to be its most unpredictable election in years in October
On March 10, in a highly publicised rally speech, President Trump described a conversation with the president of Singapore. “He said ‘We have a zero tolerance policy. That means if we catch a drug dealer, death penalty,'” he said to applause, “And they [Singapore] don’t have a problem”. Just two days later, Singaporean authorities told the family of 54 year-old Hishamrudin Bin Mohd that his execution for supplying heroin would be taking place in four days’ time, on Friday 16 March. Bin Mohd was sentenced in July 2016, but an execution date was never set – providing hope to him and his family that he could successfully appeal the sentence or receive clemency. Reasons are unclear for why the Singaporean government abruptly decided to execute him and Billy Agbozo, but support from the President of the United States may have played a role.
With anger still intense over the murders of the journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, and the way the government has responded, it is not clear that the prime minister’s resignation will end the crisis. Many of the demonstrators who have taken to the streets in the largest numbers since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 have demanded the fall of the government and a new round of elections.
South Africa demanded on Thursday that Australian interior minister Peter Dutton retract comments that suggested white farmers were being persecuted and deserved protection with special visas from a “civilized country”.
The high-profile case throws into stark relief the enduring legacy of corruption in the east Asian nation — a situation President Moon Jae-in has vowed to fix by healing the nation’s “accumulated ills”. But despite Mr Moon’s pro-reform rhetoric and the enthusiasm of the nation’s prosecutors, analysts say the courts are slowing progress by going easy on the nation’s most powerful.
Onesmus Twinamatsiko, a member of national parliament, made the comments to a national TV outlet on March 8. Outraged, the public demanded an apology. This is what they got on the floor of parliament Wednesday. “Kindly accept my sincere and unreserved apologies honorable members…(applause) and the general public and more particularly the women. This apology is unconditional. The beating I meant wasn’t the normal beating, but another type…(applause),” he said.
Mr. Lamb’s approach could become a template for a cluster of more moderate Democrats contesting conservative-leaning seats, in states like Arkansas, Kansas and Utah. Democrats in Washington have focused chiefly on Republican-held seats in the upscale suburbs where Mr. Trump is most intensely disliked. But they are hungry for gains across the political map, and in red areas they have encouraged candidates to put local imperatives above fealty to the national party, even tolerating outright disavowals of Ms. Pelosi.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan said the investors failed to show they had legal standing to pursue antitrust claims, or that the banks’ alleged conspiracy in the $5.1-trillion-a-day currency market was the proximate cause of their losses. The plaintiffs claimed they were injured by having bought currencies from dealers that did not rig prices, but which passed on the costs of the conspiracy. They said the conspiracy included the defendants’ alleged use of chat rooms with such names as “The Cartel” and “The Mafia.”
Japan’s anti-monopoly watchdog has raided Amazon’s Tokyo headquarters for the second time in two years, as the US technology group continues to grab market share at the expense of Japanese ecommerce rivals. Japan has become Amazon’s third-biggest market after the US and Germany and the threat it represents to local Japanese incumbents Rakuten and Start Today — which operates the popular fashion portal Zozotown — has pushed shares in those companies around 25 per cent lower over the past six months.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe knew of alterations made to documents linked to a questionable land sale six days before his government admitted as much to the public, fueling opposition claims that he tried to cover up a widening political scandal.
A former Walmart executive has accused the world’s largest retailer of overstating sales to show “meteoric growth in its ecommerce business by any means possible” as it battles with Amazon, according to a lawsuit by a whistleblower. Tri Huynh, a former director of business development at the company, alleges Walmart “sacrificed and betrayed its founder’s key principles of integrity and honesty, pushing those core values aside in its rush to win the ecommerce war at all costs”. Mr Huynh is suing the retailer for firing him after he complained about the alleged practices.
In July, Wells Fargo blamed a third-party vendor for wrongly layering insurance policies on its auto borrowers. Wells Fargo did not explain that it received payouts when those policies were written. The fact that Wells Fargo stood to profit from the insurance program will form the backbone of fresh sanctions against the bank, said people with knowledge of the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.
CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
According to draft proposals seen by the Financial Times, the European Commission will unveil a three-pronged digital tax next week that targets revenues rather than profits, heeding calls in France, Germany and Britain for a tougher approach to tax avoidance by tech companies. The levy, which is likely to be set at a rate of 3 per cent, will be raised against advertising revenues generated by digital companies such as Google, the fees raised from users and subscribers to services such as Apple or Spotify, and the income made from selling personal data to third parties.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
China is first out of the blocks in the global race to secure raw material supplies critical for the batteries that will power the electric vehicles of the future. Glencore Plc, the world’s top cobalt producer, agreed to sell about a third of its output of the metal to Chinese supplier of battery chemicals GEM Co., the Shenzhen-listed company said in a filing. The three-year deal is set to shake the car industry as the biggest brands rush to lock down battery supplies essential to their survival in the coming electric-vehicle era. It also bolsters China’s dominance in the battery industry, coming a day after Volkswagen AG signed $25 billion of contracts with three of the biggest Chinese and Korean producers.
General Motors Co said on Thursday it will invest more than $100 million in two facilities as it prepares to build production versions of its Cruise self-driving car next year at its Orion Township assembly plant in Michigan.
AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS
Service problems at Canadian National Railway Co. CNI -1.33% , caught off guard by an oil-sector rebound, are causing severe delays in deliveries of grain, fracking sand, crude and other goods from Wisconsin to the Canadian West Coast. Producers say they are falling weeks, and in some cases months, behind deliveries to customers because of erratic and reduced service at CN, Canada’s largest railway.
AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the formal name of Musk’s company, won a $290 million fixed-price contract to launch three Global Positioning System Satellites into orbit on Falcon 9 rockets by the end of 2020. The closely held Southern California company previously was awarded two other GPS launches.
SCIENCE, NATURE, HISTORY, PSYCHOLOGY
In a study published March 14 in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers announced the discovery that all galaxies rotate about once every billion years, no matter their size or mass. “It’s not Swiss watch precision,” said Gerhardt Meurer, an astronomer from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), in a press release. “But regardless of whether a galaxy is very big or very small, if you could sit on the extreme edge of its disk as it spins, it would take you about a billion years to go all the way round.”
The Mercenary Trader Macro Links were created by Justice “Jack” Litle, aka Justice Litle / Jack Litle — the founder of Mercenary Trader — to provide a compact summary of daily information flows. They are accessed via the Mercenary Research Suite, the flagship offering of Mercenary Trader, which combines trading education and trading research. To see how it works, click here.