Macro Links Mar 1st – “Take the Guns First”
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
- FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
- INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
A Las Vegas news show has featured a segment on an adult entertainment venue in the city which enables its dancers to get payments from clients directly via bitcoin transfers. The use of the cryptocurrency was primarily showcased as a privacy enhancing measure (preventing your wife from seeing the payments on the credit card bills) as well as an attraction for affluent bitcoin investors.
Telegram Group Inc., an encrypted-messaging service that just raised $850 million from selling rights to virtual coins, is tripling the price in its next funding round, according to people familiar with the matter.
The chairman of Switzerland’s stock exchange, Romeo Lacher, has spoken in favor of developing a Swiss national cryptocurrency. Mr. Lacher suggested that the proposed “e-franc” would provide a boost to the Swiss economy, in addition to comprising a payment system offering benefits over traditional systems.
Confronted with substantial federal funding reductions, Berkeley, California, is turning to crypto tokens as a way to fund services like affordable housing. Mayor Jesse Arreguin and councilman Ben Bartlett have teamed up with San-Francisco-based investment startup Neighborly to advance an initiative that would divide municipal bonds into micro-bonds and then sell them as tokens in what they call an “initial community offering.”
Co-founder and Fundstrat strategist Tom Lee has repeated his prediction that Bitcoin (BTC) will reach $20,000 by mid-year and $25,000 by the end of the year. He also expects at least three publicly traded corporations to issue their own cryptocurrencies in 2018, writes CNBC, citing Lee’s Feb. 28 Fundstrat report.
A copy of the legislation and official press release from the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) states that any exchanges offering crypto-to-fiat, fiat-to-crypto and even crypto-to-crypto trading must “identify the customer and verify that customer’s identity.”
“The purpose of this Act is to declare and issue a digital decentralized currency based on blockchain technology as legal tender of the Republic of Marshall Islands,” reads the bill, posted in the Sovereign’s official Telegram channel. The bill goes on to say that the currency will be issued by the nation’s Ministry of Finance and introduced via an initial coin offering (ICO).
Square Inc. has identified another business risk for publicly traded companies that deal in cryptocurrencies: unclear accounting rules. “The accounting can be complex and subject to challenge or scrutiny. The final conclusions on the accounting treatment for our cryptocurrency transactions could affect the presentation of our results of operations.”
Dorsey, who is also the CEO of Twitter, specifically discussed the company’s Cash App, which now allows all users to buy and sell Bitcoin, telling Market Watch: “Bitcoin, for us, is not stopping at buying and selling. We do believe that this is a transformational technology for our industry, and we want to learn as quickly as possible.”
“Right now crypto currencies are used for buying fentanyl and other drugs,” Gates wrote in a Reddit AMA, “so it is a rare technology that has caused deaths in a fairly direct way.”
Low-income areas in the city of Detroit are seeing a bunch of cryptocurrency-based automated teller machines (ATM). According to local reports, ATMs are popping up in great number in liquor stores, gas stations, and cash-checking locations. Cryptocurrency proponents in the area believe the Detroit crypto-ATMs help the underbanked within the region. Although, some law-enforcement officials believe some of the action may be helping facilitate illegal activities and money laundering.
Under the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s ethics guidance, workers can trade digital tokens as long as they don’t buy them on margin or have inside information gleaned from their jobs. Investing in the Bitcoin futures that the CFTC polices, however, is barred.
Angel investor and Founder of Chinese app Meitu, Cai Wensheng, has published criticisms of the central government’s expanding regulatory crackdown on cryptocurrencies via Wechat. Mr. Wensheng warns that heavy-handed regulatory policies may squander the opportunity for China to maintain a significant presence in the burgeoning global cryptocurrency sector, in addition to arguing that many of the challenges faced cryptocurrencies have are indicative of the typical “development process” experienced by emerging monetary forms.
According to Japanese media outlet Sankei, an additional 132 investors have joined a class action suit filed with the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 27 that seeks a refund of about 228 million yen (around $2.1 million) in cryptocurrency. The new case again puts Coincheck in the spotlight once more, as the exchange has yet to disclose details of how it plans to compensate victims who saw some $530 million-worth of NEM tokens stolen from the exchange on Jan. 26.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. just weighed in again on virtual currencies — very discreetly. Bank of America Corp. made a similar observation in a filing late last week. The warnings add to signs that traditional financial companies are taking Bitcoin’s innovations more seriously.
BLOCKCHAIN, FINTECH, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced plans to launch a Blockchain-based vehicle lifecycle management system in 2020 that would provide customers which a history of their vehicle from “the manufacturer all the way to the scrap yard,” local news outlet Arabian Business reported yesterday, Feb. 27. The Blockchain project, formed in connection with the Dubai 10x initiative, would show a transparent record of where each vehicle is at any moment of its life cycle. The initiative plans to begin by covering all cars in Dubai before expanding to all cars in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
International banking giant HSBC is reportedly close to testing blockchain in live transactions. Global Trade Review reports that the bank could launch several pilot programs based on existing proof-of-concept (PoC) projects in an effort to begin transitioning to live blockchain transactions. The move was announced during a private media call earlier this week.
FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES
The rupee this month dropped 2.2% against the dollar, making it one of Asia’s worst-performing currencies so far in 2018. It had advanced 6.4% against the dollar last year, as investors chasing juicy returns poured money into the country’s financial markets. A broad-based rebound in the dollar hasn’t helped, with the U.S. currency on track to notch its first monthly advance since October. But several domestic factors have collided recently, prompting foreign investors to sell holdings of Indian stocks and bonds and dragging the rupee lower.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
A majority of Americans are now concerned that the government won’t do enough to regulate how U.S. technology companies operate, according to an Axios-SurveyMonkey poll. Across the board, concern about government inaction is up significantly — 15 percentage points — in the past three months.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday he had “begun to have very high-level conversations” on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and rejoining the regional trade pact is an option for President Donald Trump.
President Donald Trump is warning the U.S. will use “all available tools” to prevent China’s state-driven economic model from undermining global competition, the latest warning to Beijing as America readies a host of trade actions.
Top aides to President Donald Trump look to push a tough line on trade in talks on Thursday with an envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with a White House official saying a frank exchange of views was expected.
GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY
President Trump on Wednesday voiced support for confiscating guns from certain individuals deemed to be dangerous, even if it violates due process rights.
In a remarkable meeting, the president veered wildly from the N.R.A. playbook in front of giddy Democrats and stone-faced Republicans. He called for comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, keep guns from mentally ill people, secure schools and restrict guns for some young adults. He even suggested a conversation on an assault weapons ban.
Sitting with a group of Democrats and Republicans, including some who are backed by the NRA, Trump made what sounded like an extraordinary break with the powerful gun-rights organization. He accused lawmakers of being so “petrified” by the NRA that they have not been willing to take even small steps on gun control.
Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States, said Wednesday evening that it would stop selling guns and ammunition to anyone under 21 years of age and remove from its stores all toys and airsoft rifles that resemble assault-style weapons.
Edward Stack, the group’s chairman and chief executive, called on politicians “to enact common sense gun reform” and pass regulations banning assault-style weapons, raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, ban high-capacity magazines and bump stocks and require universal background checks.
A social studies teacher barricaded himself inside a classroom at a Georgia high school on Wednesday and fired a handgun in what may have been a warning shot, authorities said. It wasn’t immediately clear why the teacher, 53-year-old Jesse Randal Davidson, had the gun. Under questioning by detectives, he refused to discuss what led to the shooting.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
The U.S. Treasury Department unveiled an online calculator Wednesday to help Americans determine whether the amount of federal taxes being withheld from their pay is accurate under a new tax law. Democrats have asked for more information about the withholding tables and how the calculations are made.
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
Among the enduring curiosities of Donald Trump’s presidential run was his announcement that campaign chairman Paul Manafort was an unpaid volunteer. The special counsel, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election, may seek to determine whether Manafort sought to benefit in some way from his unpaid work.
In a Twitter message that took some liberties with the facts, Trump wrote, “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
Trump accused the attorney general Wednesday of fumbling the investigation by leaving it to an independent inspector general. Sessions, who has been the subject of periodic attacks by Trump and repeated rumors that he’s on the verge of dismissal, responded with a statement defending himself and the Justice Department.
Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump’s longest serving advisers and closest aides, will resign, the White House said a day after she testified to congressional investigators probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
The president’s adviser and son-in-law lost his top-secret clearance, a White House official and another person familiar with Mr. Kushner’s situation said.
It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say government ethics experts.
The New York State of Department of Financial Services asked several banks for information about their relationships with Jared Kushner and his finances, people familiar with the information requests said.
More than 30 aides to President Donald Trump have been stripped of access to top secret intelligence, two people familiar with the move said. The officials have been notified that they will be downgraded to lower-level “secret” interim security clearances, said the two people. None of the officials has been asked to leave the administration and their portfolios on top secret matters will be distributed to other staff members, they said.
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
Last year, buying Treasurys and swapping the proceeds back into euros provided European investors with a higher return than buying German sovereign bonds. Now, hedging costs have increased so much that this trade is no longer profitable. That could sap an important source of demand for U.S. Treasurys. It’s also making it more expensive for foreign investors to buy U.S. corporate debt.
Overdue US credit card debt has reached a seven-year high, underlining the difficulties faced by many consumers in spite of the strong performance of the economy. Banking sector data show consumers were at least three months behind repayments or considered otherwise distressed on $11.9bn of credit card debt at the turn of the year, a rise of 11.5 per cent during the fourth quarter. More Americans are also falling behind on their mortgages, for which problematic debt levels rose 5.2 per cent over the same period to $56.7bn.
Some of the biggest international buyers of US corporate debt are showing signs of stepping back from this $8.8tn market, reflecting expectations of a bigger shift under way: the retreat of central banks from the era of easy money. International investors were net sellers of US corporate paper in December, only the second time this has occurred in the past three years as the rising cost of insulating their portfolios against swings in the dollar erodes the attraction of high US bond yields.
India’s 10-year bonds dropped for a seventh month in February, the longest-losing streak in data compiled by Bloomberg starting in November 1998. Government-run lenders such as State Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and Bank of Baroda, are the biggest holders of the securities and have been net sellers as a group this year.
In defaults of yesteryear, countries could bank on immunity as they reneged their obligations in peace. These days they’re ending up in costly legal quagmire like never before, according to a working paper published by the European Central Bank on Wednesday. The trend is strengthening the power of creditors, especially hedge funds, and significantly raising the cost of default for debtors, the paper found.
The next U.S. recession could drag on longer than the last one that stretched 18 months. That’s the assessment of former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. “…in the next few years a recession will come and we will in a sense have already shot the monetary and fiscal policy cannons, and that suggests the next recession might be more protracted,” he said during a panel with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker on Wednesday.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
China kept a half-century of global democratic growth at bay by at least nodding to the importance of institutions and rules. Now what? China’s Communist Party has been vigorous in suppressing dissent and crushing potential challenges. When the Communist Party announced this week that it would end presidential term limits, allowing Xi Jinping to hold office indefinitely, it shattered past norms. It may also have accelerated what many scholars believe is China’s collision course with the forces of history it has so long managed to evade.
Gone is a widespread agreement among diplomats, scholars and businesspeople that China is gradually converging with the United States and, therefore, that Americans should work to manage any flare-ups between the two countries. With China now unabashedly charting its own course — one that diverges rather than converges with the liberal democracies and market economies of the West — conflict, many say, is inevitable.
It took one of the wildest investment manias in history to jolt them into action, but governments around the world are finally starting to regulate cryptocurrencies. Their approaches have run the gamut, from a massive crackdown in China to an exchange-licensing regime in Japan and a largely hands-off system in Switzerland. Some countries, most notably the U.S., have yet to formulate a comprehensive strategy. But on the whole, oversight is increasing. How the rules evolve will help determine whether last year’s cryptocurrency boom was a flash in the pan, or the start of something bigger.
Private equity investors are weighing a tricky mix: high asset valuations, record levels of idle cash and an equity bull run some consider overdue for a downturn. While top dealmakers gathered in Berlin this week had plenty of words of caution, they show few signs of slowing down. Should dealmaking pick up in 2018, it could be years before the industry sees the outcome of those decisions. Whether business growth and operating improvements can overcome the expensive purchase prices is a key question for dealmakers and their investors.
The culprit is “monopsony power.” This term is used by economists to refer to the ability of an employer to suppress wages below the efficient or perfectly competitive level of compensation. It turns out that many corporations possess bargaining power over their workers, not just over their consumers. Their workers accept low wages and substandard working conditions because few alternative job opportunities exist for them or because switching jobs is costly.
A train station was built in just nine hours by 1,500 workers in China. Organised with military precision, the project which reportedly took place over the weekend, was completed in the southern Fujian Province. Seven trains and 23 diggers were used in the huge construction project at the Nanlong Railway Station in the south China city of Longyan, the Xianhua News Agency reported.
Populist groups in Europe in recent years have thrived on rising anger about immigration and the European Union. 5 Star represents a uniquely Italian strain, being overwhelmingly a revolt against Italy’s entrenched political class. The rest of its program is eclectic, borrowing from left, right and technological utopianism. It has centrist views on immigration, and while it was once in favor of Italy’s exit from the eurozone, its leaders say it is no longer time to leave the common currency.
Type “depression” or “depressed” into YouTube and it won’t be long until you stumble upon a suit-clad white supremacist giving a lecture on self-empowerment. They’re everywhere. For years, members of the alt-right have taken advantage of the internet’s most vulnerable, turning their fear and self-loathing into vitriolic extremism, and thanks to the movement’s recent galvanization, they’re only growing stronger.
People living in the world’s most cashless society may soon lose their access to notes and coins. To avoid that extreme scenario, Swedish cash-handling provider Loomis AB wants authorities to force banks and retailers to continue accepting cash. The warning follows similar calls from the Swedish central bank, which is worried that the rapid disappearance of cash will ultimately lead to the disintegration of the infrastructure needed to use notes and coins and undermine its task to promote a safe and efficient payment system.
Whatever you imagine a flying car to be — stop. What these companies envision is something like a helicopter but much quieter and more affordable. Think of a hobbyist’s drone, but big enough to fit people. It would, in theory, be welcome in urban environments and affordable to more than well-heeled businesspeople. At least, that’s the dream. Before there can be too much enthusiasm for these flying taxi services, it’s worth noting that self-driving cars have yet to turn into a notable business for anyone, despite about a decade of research at tech giants like Google and billions in investment from Silicon Valley and the auto industry.
Digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa do a pretty good job of recognizing human speech, but stumble over anything more than basic commands and questions. A.I. “recognizes objects, but can’t explain what it sees. It can’t read a textbook and understand the questions in the back of the book,” said Oren Etzioni, a former University of Washington professor who oversees the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. “It is devoid of common sense.” Success may require years or even decades of work — if it comes at all. Others have tried to digitize common sense, and the task has always proved too large.
Encana Corp.’s RAB Davidson well pad is so mammoth, the explorer speaks of it in military terms, describing its efforts here as an occupation. More than 1 million pounds of drilling rigs, bulldozers, tanker trucks and other equipment spread out over a dusty 16-acre expanse. As of November, the 19 wells here collectively pumped almost 20,000 barrels of crude per day, according to company reports. Encana calls this “cube development,” and it may be the supersized future of U.S. fracking, says Gabriel Daoud, a JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst who visited Davidson last year. The technique is designed to tap the multiple layers of petroleum-soaked rock here in Texas’ Permian shale basin all at once, rather than the one-or-two-well, one-layer-at-a-time approach of the past.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell delivered the Fed’s Semiannual Monetary Policy Report Tuesday morning. Powell smoothly and confidently responded to – or deflected – questions as if he were already seasoned in the role of Chair. As to the content of his remarks, they were hawkish. More hawkish than I anticipated and arguably signaled a significant change of focus for the Fed.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell appeared Tuesday before the House Financial Services Committee, his first testimony since he took charge earlier this month. He moved markets with his upbeat economic assessment, and also dropped some hints about how his views and style might differ from his predecessor, Janet Yellen.
Having a Fed chairman who understands the market, as many have put it, could be a double-edged sword. Mr Powell may be inclined, unlike an academic economist, to put an end to market nonsense earlier, and not be cowed by predictions of doom from the banks. On this view, worries about inflation may miss the point. The Powell Fed may wish to avoid becoming boxed in like the Greenspan Fed did when it prompted serious ructions in the fixed-interest market in 1994 (having arguably allowed speculation to go on too long) or when it felt obliged to bail out LTCM and the markets in 1998.
“It’s not a terribly useful tool right now,” said Alan Blinder, a Princeton economist and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. “For it to be useful you have to have at least a little confidence you know the number. You don’t need to know it to two decimal places, but within a reasonable range. If your range is 2.5 to 7, that doesn’t tell you anything.”
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
U.S. consumer confidence rose to its highest level since 2000 in February, showing Americans shrugged off financial market gyrations earlier in the month. ”Despite the recent stock market volatility, consumers expressed greater optimism about short-term prospects for business and labor market conditions, as well as their financial prospects.” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.
A gauge of contracts to purchase previously-owned U.S. homes unexpectedly declined in January to a more than three-year low, reflecting a shortage of inventories and rising mortgage rates, according to data released Wednesday from the National Association of Realtors in Washington.
Pending home sales, which measure signed contracts, not closings, fell 4.7 percent in January compared with December, according to the National Association of Realtors. It is the lowest point in nearly four years. The weakness was nationwide, and December’s reading was also revised lower. Pending sales, which are an indicator of future closings, were 3.8 percent lower than January 2017.
GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
China’s official gauge of manufacturing activity suffered its largest fall since 2011 in February, an unexpectedly sharp slowdown that left it near the zero-growth level. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index published by China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday dropped to 50.3, down a point from January and the largest fall in more than six years. The fall marked the gauge’s nearest brush with the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction since August 2016. The figure was stark enough to unnerve European-listed mining stocks, which depend upon China for a significant part of their revenues.
India’s economy grew at its fastest pace in more than a year last quarter, regaining the top spot from China of the world’s fastest-growing major economies. Asia’s third-largest economy grew 7.2% in the three months through December compared with a year earlier, government data show. The figure raised hope that the disruptions from dramatic policy moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year may have faded.
The new figures came on the same day Beijing announced that last month its official gauge of manufacturing activity suffered its largest fall in seven years, a reflection of an economy that analyst believe is set to slow this year as the government focuses on mitigating financial risks. Although China’s economic growth accelerated to 6.9 per cent last year, several signs of slowing momentum have started to emerge, led by a fall in property sales and prices in many large cities in January. The manufacturing index showed small and medium-sized enterprises particularly hard hit.
Business investment has been one of the weak spots in a broad Canadian economic expansion, with growth being led more by government and consumer spending. Bank of Canada policy makers have said a shift to an expansion led by business is important to create a durable recovery. “Forget about Canadian businesses opening their wallets this year,” Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto, wrote in a research note.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
“It’s the first time the sector has made up at least a quarter of the S&P since a one-year period that ran from Thanksgiving 1999 through Thanksgiving 2000,” according to analysts at Bespoke Investment Group. “Notably, the weighting only got above 25 percent for the final four months of the dot-com bubble when share prices were going insane.”
The S&P 500 Index dropped more than 1 percent, ending February with a decline of 3.9 percent in one of the wildest months in years. After a torrid January, the stock market sank into a recession a week later, only to claw back half of the rout just as quickly. Trading was heavier than normal Wednesday, with shares swinging between gains and losses for much of the day.
“I have not been this positive on banks since the 1990s,” Eisman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television, citing higher interest rates and deregulation. U.S. banks “were forced to clean their balance sheets rapidly and bring leverage down rapidly,” he said. “The Europeans are taking a much slower — I think wrong — attitude, and are still constrained by leverage and will be for years.”
Short interest as a percentage of shares outstanding on the $15 billion iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF, ticker HYG, hit an all-time high of 29 percent Monday, Markit data show. Add elevated shorts on the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond ETF, ticker JNK, in concert with a European counterpart, and bearish sentiment has piled up even as junk-bond spreads recover from the selloff earlier this month.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Lowe’s Cos., the second-largest U.S. home-improvement chain, reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates by 15 percent. That’s the biggest miss the company has ever recorded, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shares fell after the release and are down about 3 percent on the year.
There’s Netflix Inc., and then there’s everyone else in 2018. The stock is up more than 50 percent through the first two months of the year after shattering subscription-growth expectations. That jump easily makes it the best performer among the so-called FAANG’s this year. Amazon Inc. is in the rear-view mirror with a mere 30 percent return.
Analysts and investors have long speculated whether an activist was involved with United Technologies, a company that could be a prime target because of its distinct brands under a common corporate umbrella. The Farmington, Conn.-based company owns one of the world’s biggest jet-engine makers, Pratt & Whitney, along with Otis elevators and Carrier air conditioners.
Peter Gassner has become Silicon Valley’s latest billionaire as shares of his Veeva Systems Inc. hit a record Wednesday after the cloud-software provider posted profit and sales that topped Wall Street estimates.
CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
The drugmaker will have to bear higher interest costs to push out maturities as a massive debt load and weakening sales of a top product have cost it its investment-grade ratings. Teva is selling 1 billion euros ($1.22 billion) and $2.25 billion of debt, it said in a statement Wednesday. The European offering will include maturities of four and seven years, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
Chinese billionaire Li Shufu’s Geely Group structured the purchase of its 7.3 billion-euro ($9 billion) stake in Daimler AG through complex derivative transactions that allowed the buyer to build a large equity holding while limiting the risks, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The rapid pace of Geely’s acquisitions comes as other Chinese industrial groups have been told to unwind exposure to sectors such as real estate, entertainment and sports. Yet Geely has faced no such constraints from the Chinese government, spending more than $10bn in foreign M&A deals in the past three months alone. The sheer number of deals — and the company’s vagueness about its funding for the deal — has raised questions about whether it is acting entirely on its own. “The most plausible explanation is a China Inc deal,” says a research note from Bernstein in Hong Kong.
The filing showed that the company’s revenue is growing sharply but its losses are ballooning. It posted €4.1 billion ($5.02 billion) of revenue in 2017, up nearly 39% from the prior year. The company, which has yet to turn a profit, posted a loss of €1.24 billion in 2017, wider than losses of €539 million in the prior year and €230 million in 2015.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
They may be cutting research budgets, but European investors are more willing than ever to dole out up to $1,300 an hour to talk to someone who can give them an edge. Now that banks have stopped giving equity research for free under a new European Union law, some money managers are opting instead to spend their cash speaking with experts in fields as trendy as artificial intelligence or as niche as sausage packaging.
One of the longest and most colorful battles in Wall Street history is over, and Bill Ackman lost. Ackman has almost entirely exited his position in Herbalife Ltd., ending a short-selling campaign that lasted more than five years, according to a person familiar with the matter. The move follows a steady rise in the shares of a company that he repeatedly called an illegal pyramid scheme and vowed to destroy.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Once the world’s largest importer of crude, the U.S. is passing Saudi Arabia and closing in on Russia to become the world’s largest producer. Oil prices above $60 a barrel have lured companies to ramp up production. Oil and gas exploration last year was a money-maker for the first time in more than a decade, according to Wood Mackenzie Ltd. As a result, drillers in the U.S. are using the most oil rigs since 2015.
COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
Argentine President Mauricio Macri was banking on a near-record soybean crop to drive economic growth of 3.5 percent this year and extend the nation’s recovery. Instead, this year’s drought, on course to be the worst in 30 years, has farmers bracing for the poorest harvest since 2009. It’s an unwanted surprise for a government with a daunting list of tasks that already includes taming inflation, closing the fiscal gap and boosting exports.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
Theresa May said that no UK prime minister could “ever” accept new EU proposals that could keep Northern Ireland under the bloc’s rules, as she hit out at Brussels’ first draft of a Brexit treaty. Mrs May’s comments underline the scale of her dilemma, as her government seeks to reach a final agreement on the divorce terms, negotiate a transition deal with the EU and set out proposals for future ties — while taking account of Brussels’ demands, opposition from Eurosceptic Conservative MPs and the lack of a parliamentary majority.
The 118-page document includes 168 articles. Text highlighted in gray reflects points that the EU says it has already agreed with the U.K. during Phase 1 of the talks, while the plain text reflects the EU’s preferred outcomes. None of it should come as any surprise to London, the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
The United States-led campaign to hunt down the last pockets of Islamic State militants in Syria has lost its most effective battleground partner in what American military officials fear will stall a critical phase of the offensive and leave open the door for hundreds of foreign fighters to escape. Thousands of Kurdish fighters and commanders who make up the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces in recent weeks have diverted to defend Afrin, in Syria’s northwest, where other Kurdish militia are facing sharp attacks from Turkish troops.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
China has launched a broad effort to silence critics of a proposal that would allow President Xi Jinping to extend his reign indefinitely, as Beijing seeks to break decades of political precedent with minimal domestic uproar. Beijing has mobilized multiple arms of the government to suppress criticism of the Communist Party proposal to remove presidential term limits—expected to be approved at an annual parliamentary session that kicks off Monday—with lawyers threatened with disbarment, police visits to critics and online censorship.
Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, had tried to make adultery illegal in 2004 (it had been officially criminalized from 1926 to 1996), but the proposal was scrapped after it sparked a battle with the European Union and threatened talks about Turkey’s bid to join the union. Those talks have all but collapsed since a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan and his subsequent crackdowns and purges of perceived enemies.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
Waymo’s autonomous vehicles have now logged 5 million test miles, and it wants more of the world to experience that progress — at least virtually. Alphabet Inc.’s car unit disclosed the new milestone on Wednesday, along with a promotional push to educate the general public on the nascent technology. Waymo created a 360-degree video of a self-driving ride, culled from footage of its test fleet in Phoenix.
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