Macro Links Mar 20th – Facebook Reckoning
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)
- CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA, FACEBOOK
- SELF-DRIVING UBER FATALITY
- PUTIN LANDSLIDE VICTORY
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
- GUN CONTROL, POT BOOM, OPIOIDS, PUBLIC POLICY
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
- KOREAN PENINSULA, MIDDLE EAST, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
- INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
- 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
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- BANKS, BROKERS, INSURANCE, EXCHANGES
- CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
- RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA, FACEBOOK
The stock tumbled about nearly 7% Monday on news that data firm Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to Trump’s campaign, reportedly accessed information from about 50 million Facebook users. This is the stock’s biggest drop, on a percentage basis, in four years. Even after Monday’s plunge, Facebook is still one of the nation’s most valuable companies, with a market cap of about $500 billion.
Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information. Facebook has already testified about how its platform was used by Russian propagandists ahead of the 2016 election, but the company never put Zuckerberg himself in the spotlight with government leaders. The pressure may also foreshadow tougher regulation for the social network.
The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman is considering holding a hearing with the chiefs of Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Twitter Inc. after reports that a company that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign harvested data on millions of Facebook users without their consent.
Connecticut opened an inquiry into how the personal information of millions of Facebook Inc. users came into the possession of U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the sophisticated data analytics firm that helped President Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Reports that as many as 50 million profiles were tapped “raise serious questions about how this happened in the specific situation involving Cambridge Analytica and about Facebook’s policies and practices,” Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said Monday.
Investors are punishing Facebook Inc. following the disclosure that a political-advertising firm held onto personal data for millions of the social media giant’s users without their permission. Wall Street analysts say it’s a good chance to buy. “Facebook and Google still very much enjoy an advertising duopoly, and although engagement is arguably at risk, there are no real alternatives of scale,” James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt and Co., wrote in a note. “This is an unintended, yet unavoidable, byproduct of operating a platform with 30 percent of the global population.”
The fallout from the reports added to questions Facebook was already confronting over the use of its platform by those seeking to spread Russian propaganda and fake news. The social media giant has grappled with the criticism over the issue for much of the past year, and struggled to keep public opinion on its side.
Mr. Stamos, who plans to leave Facebook by August, had advocated more disclosure around Russian interference of the platform and some restructuring to better address the issues, but was met with resistance by colleagues, said current and former employees. In December, Mr. Stamos’s day-to-day responsibilities were reassigned to others, they said. Mr. Stamos said he would leave Facebook but was persuaded to stay through August to oversee the transition of his responsibilities and because executives thought his departure would look bad, the people said. He has been overseeing the transfer of his security team to Facebook’s product and infrastructure divisions. His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, current and former employees said.
In the latest turn of the developing scandal around how Facebook’s user data wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica — for use in the in development in psychographic profiles that may or may not have played a part in the election victory of Donald Trump — the company has taken the unusual step of suspending the account of the whistleblower who helped expose the issues.
Executives from Cambridge Analytica spoke to undercover reporters from Channel 4 News about the dark arts used by the company to help clients, which included entrapping rival candidates in fake bribery stings and hiring prostitutes to seduce them. In one exchange, the company chief executive, Alexander Nix, is recorded telling reporters: “It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.”
An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News reveals how Cambridge Analytica secretly campaigns in elections across the world. Bosses were filmed talking about using bribes, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers.
The head of a data company accused of improperly using information from Facebook Inc. profiles during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign deliberately misled U.K. lawmakers in testimony last month, the panel’s chairman said Sunday. Alexander Nix, chief executive officer of London-based Cambridge Analytica, told a House of Commons committee that his company didn’t receive data from Global Science Research Co. That contradicts newspaper reports that it did receive the information and used it to reach U.S. voters with hyper-targeted messaging.
Facebook had said earlier that it enlisted the firm Stroz Friedberg to assess advertising-data provider Cambridge Analytica, whose handling of Facebook user data has embroiled the social networking company in controversy. “At the request of the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office, which has announced it is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation, the Stroz Friedberg auditors stood down,” Facebook said Monday.
SELF-DRIVING UBER FATALITY
Police identified the victim as 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg and said she was walking outside of the crosswalk with a bicycle when she was hit at around 10pm on Sunday. Images from the scene showed a damaged bike. The 2017 Volvo SUV was traveling at roughly 40 miles an hour, and it did not appear that the car slowed down as it approached the woman, said Tempe sergeant Ronald Elcock. Elcock said he had watched footage of the collision, which has not been released to the public. He also identified the operator of the car as Rafael Vasquez, 44, and said he was cooperative and there were no signs of impairment.
Uber halted use of its self-driving vehicles across the United States after a woman was fatally struck by an autonomous car in Tempe, Ariz. It was the first known pedestrian fatality involving a driverless car. The company said the moratorium on testing includes San Francisco, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Toronto.
Carmakers and technology companies should freeze their race to field autonomous vehicles because “clearly the technology is not where it needs to be,” said Raj Rajkumar, head of Carnegie Mellon University’s leading self-driving laboratory. Speaking a few hours after a self-driven vehicle ran over and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, Rajkumar said, “This isn’t like a bug with your phone. People can get killed. Companies need to take a deep breath. The technology is not there yet. We need to keep people in the loop.”
“It will set consumer confidence in the technology back years if not decades,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group. “We need to slow down.”
Carmakers who’ve linked their autonomous futures to Uber Technologies Inc. could feel the effects after a self-driving car from the ride-hailing giant hit and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, on Sunday evening. Volvo Cars, which makes the vehicles that San Francisco-based Uber uses in its self-driving tests, declined to comment in detail on the incident. In November, Uber agreed to buy 24,000 Volvo sport utility vehicles on which it planned to install its own sensors and software to permit pilot-less driving.
In a statement, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said it was “deeply concerned” with how self-driving vehicles are being tested on public roads and highways. “It is sad and unfortunate that a life was lost in this collision,” the Teamsters said in the statement. “Steps must be taken to avoid these situations in the future. Driverless technology is still in a testing phase and there are enormous risks inherent to testing unproven technologies on public roads.”
PUTIN LANDSLIDE VICTORY
Barring any changes to the constitution, Russia’s long-time leader will be forced to step down in 2024. But he would be eligible to stand for a fifth term in 2030 — when he will be 77 — as Russian law only stipulates that presidents cannot serve more than two consecutive terms of office. Sunday’s result — in which Putin won close to 77 percent of the vote, according to preliminary figures — confirmed his grip on power and marked the biggest landslide win in the history of Russian presidential elections. It also came amid reports of widespread pressure on voters and a crackdown on the opposition.
With almost all ballots counted, the Kremlin’s longest-serving leader since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin gained a record 77 percent support, handing him a new six-year term. Putin, 65, barely campaigned before Sunday’s vote, which was marred by opposition allegations of fraud, and faced no real competition in a contest that even some of his seven rival candidates described as a farce.
“Turnout is higher than we expected, by about 8-10 per cent, for which we must say thanks to Great Britain,” said Andrei Kondrashov, Mr Putin’s campaign spokesman, as preliminary results suggested Mr Putin had won 75.6 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election. “We were pressured exactly at the moment when we needed to mobilise [voters]. Whenever Russia is accused of something indiscriminately and without any evidence, the Russian people unite around the centre of power. And the centre of power is certainly Putin today,” Mr Kondrashov said at a victory party for the president’s campaign.
“Before he was simply our president and he could be changed. But now he is our vozhd,” wrote Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of the Kremlin’s main foreign-language bullhorn, the RT broadcast network, on Twitter. “And we will not allow him to be changed. And you did this yourselves.” Vozhd is an old Russian word for chieftain, most commonly applied to Soviet rulers like Lenin and Stalin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s victory in Sunday’s presidential election has left deep divisions in an opposition movement that had been buoyed in recent months by countrywide protests, but that failed to translate its momentum into a broad political movement.
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
IBM announced today, March 19 that the world’s smallest computer – its dimensions less than a grain of salt – will use Blockchain technology and soon be “embedded into everyday devices”. The announcement comes on the first day of the IBM Think 2018 conference in Las Vegas. “Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors — such as ink dots or tiny computers smaller than a grain of salt — will be embedded in everyday objects and devices,” said IBM Research Head Arvind Krishna.
Bitcoin has long been compared to the dot-com bubble. Morgan Stanley says its recent moves are similar to the tech boom and bust, but on steroids. Bitcoin’s recent moves almost mirror that of the Nasdaq Composite Index in the lead-up to and aftermath of 2000, but at 15 times the speed, Morgan Stanley said. The Nasdaq climbed 278 percent in 519 days in the rally leading up to its high in March 2000, while Bitcoin soared 248 percent in 35 days in the last leg of the rally to its $19,511 high in December, according to the report.
MasterCard would be “very happy to look at” facilitating the use of national digital currencies issued by central banks, a senior executive at the card company has told the Financial Times. Central banks including Sweden’s have considered creating their own cryptocurrencies that would have the same security and ease of use as decentralised cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, but would be backed by the central bank and would be less volatile.
The Financial Stability Board, G20’s global watchdog, does not consider cryptocurrencies a risk to financial stability. In a letter to the Group of 20 central bankers and finance ministers, its Chair Mark Carney said FSB was pivoting away from designing new policies and focusing on reviewing existing rules. His comments suggest there is no G20 consensus on common crypto regulations, despite calls from member-states for adopting global guidelines.
At MIT Bitcoin Expo on Saturday, Christian Catalini claimed that “40% to 50% of ICOs are currently underwater – trading at a price lower than the initial offering price”. Having examined the data for 2018, using Tokendata and ICO Stats, news.Bitcoin.com can confirm this to be a reasonable estimate. In fact, 76% of 74 ICOs completed this year are in the red, posting an average dollar return of 0.9x. The 56 exchange listed ICOs that are trading at a loss have an average USD return of 0.45x. (ICO Stats calculates its ROI based on the token’s pre-sale price, rather than the public sale, so the average return for all 76 ICOs is in fact slightly lower than stated.)
Blockchain, the technology promising to usher in simplicity and transparency to finance, is entering one of the industry’s most obscure corners. London-based Marex Solutions created what it says is the first structured product to be registered, cleared and settled using the distributed ledger technology underpinning Bitcoin. The two-month pound-denominated notes pay a coupon of up to 13 percent per year based on the performance of the FTSE 100 Index, according to a term sheet. Marex declined to say how much was sold to retail investors in the private placement on Friday.
The digital coins can often be used by investors to buy services from companies. But securities watchdogs in the US and in Hong Kong have taken action against companies selling coins that have the qualities of securities — for example, promising voting rights or guarantees on companies’ earnings. In response, some groups have stopped selling the tokens and, instead, are handing them out to customers for free. OKex, a digital asset exchange, will start giving away its tokens, called OKB, on March 19. The company said it will dole out 600m tokens to customers when they buy subscription packages that give them access to OKex’s digital exchange. A remaining lot of 400m coins will be given to its development team and to early investors in the platform.
“It’s a pretty big blow,” said Russ Dallen, the managing director at Caracas Capital. “Since most cryptocurrencies are not actually backed by anything real, cryptocurrency speculation is based on the greater fool theory — I can buy this at $100 because there is someone who is a bigger idiot who is going to buy it at $200. When you take the U.S. out of that equation, you reduce the interest and potential for that speculation.”
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order barring any U.S.-based financial transactions involving Venezuela’s new petro cryptocurrency, as U.S. officials warned that it was a “scam” by President Nicolas Maduro’s government to further undermine democracy in the OPEC country.
Fundstrat’s Tom Lee has forecasted that Bitcoin’s price will reach $91,000 by March 2020, basing his prediction on a chart that shows Bitcoin’s (BTC) performances after past market dips, Forbes reported March 17. Lee and Fundstrat used an average of the percentage gained in price after each dip to arrive at the 2020 figure.
Getting your head around cryptocurrencies was hard enough before governments got involved. But now that policy makers around the world are drawing up fresh regulations on everything from exchanges to initial coin offerings, keeping track of what’s legal has become just as daunting as figuring out which newfangled token might turn into the next Bitcoin.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
President Trump is preparing to impose a package of $60 billion in annual tariffs against Chinese products, following through on a longtime threat that he says will punish China for intellectual property theft and create more U.S. jobs. The tariff package, which Trump plans to unveil by Friday, was confirmed by four senior administration officials. The situation remains fluid, and Trump has previously in his presidency backed off economic threats at the last minute. But he has shown a recent willingness to unilaterally impose tariffs — even amid objections from advisers who fear starting a global trade war and economists who warn such actions could ultimately hurt U.S. businesses.
Global finance chiefs were unusually blunt in warning that the U.S. had put the international trade order at risk as President Donald Trump pushes ahead with his “America First” agenda by imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum. But U.S. officials are standing firm and telling counterparts gathered in Argentina that they won’t give up their economic and national security interests, according to a Treasury official.
BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
Congressional negotiators raced Monday to finalize a $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the government running, with several thorny issues such as health care and immigration still unresolved ahead of an end-of-week deadline. The “omnibus” spending bill spreading billions across all agencies of government was supposed to be released Monday night to allow time for passage through the House and Senate before a government shutdown deadline at midnight Friday. But as evening arrived, bipartisan congressional leaders remained locked in negotiations on several issues, and the eleventh-hour wrangling carried the potential to delay the bill’s release.
GUN CONTROL, POT BOOM, OPIOIDS, PUBLIC POLICY
The Department of Justice “will seek the death penalty against drug traffickers, where appropriate under current law,’’ the White House said in a fact sheet released on Sunday.. The White House also floated several other initiatives to combat opioid overdoses that killed more than 40,000 people in the U.S. in 2016 — five times higher than the rate in 1999.
Kroger Co’s superstore chain Fred Meyer said it would exit its firearms business, two weeks after deciding to stop selling guns and ammunition to those under the age of 21. Fred Meyer said the firearm business generated about $7 million annually, while it also highlighted “softening consumer demand.” Fred Meyer operates 133 stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and sells firearms in 43 of them.
Maximilien Reynolds had an AR-15, 300 rounds of ammunition and more, but his lawyer says he had no plans to use them and suffers from mental illness. Mr. Reynolds had been on leave from Cornell since after the 2016 fall semester and was taking classes at a local community college. After the raid on his apartment, Mr. Reynolds voluntarily sought treatment at a hospital. He was arrested and charged on Thursday.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY
The retirement of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing marks another milestone in a vast wealth transfer now underway from a scrappy generation of Chinese empire builders to their heirs. “The second generation always has a lot of pressure,” said Kevin Au, director of the Center for Family Business at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Compared to their fathers, they’re always being looked down upon by public and by business partners,” he said. “Their fathers are heroes.”
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
Donald Trump lashed out at the official probe into his campaign’s dealings with the Russians over the weekend, accusing it of partisan bias and arguing it should never have been initiated. The President coupled his angry protestations about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with barbs against former FBI director James Comey and his ex-deputy, Andrew McCabe, who was dismissed from the bureau on Friday just days before he was due to retire, depriving him of his full pension entitlements.
Mr. diGenova has endorsed the notion that a secretive group of F.B.I. agents concocted the Russia investigation as a way to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president. “There was a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime,” he said on Fox News in January. He added, “Make no mistake about it: A group of F.B.I. and D.O.J. people were trying to frame Donald Trump of a falsely created crime.” Little evidence has emerged to support that theory.
In courting the Saudi prince, Kushner has displayed an unorthodox approach to diplomacy that has unsettled national security and intelligence officials — relying on personal relationships instead of standard government channels to tackle complex problems, according to multiple people with knowledge of Kushner’s role. Some officials fear the president’s son-in-law has been freelancing foreign policy in one of the most volatile regions in the world. There is particular wariness about Kushner’s embrace of Mohammed, now the Saudi crown prince, who has earned praise in the West for his moves toward modernity but also criticism for his government’s arrests of rivals and critics.
KOREAN PENINSULA, MIDDLE EAST, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Even under the best of circumstances, President Trump’s planned summit with North Korea’s leader would be a daunting challenge — a faceoff with the dictator of a pariah state about whom there is little reliable intelligence and whose regime has a history of breaking promises and violating agreements. But for the Trump administration, that may be the least of its worries. In the rush to prepare Trump for his meeting with Kim Jong Un in May, the White House is overseeing a frantic scramble to resolve even the most fundamental questions on the U.S. side: Where will the summit be? Who will be at the table? What should be on the agenda?
Experts say it defies economic logic and points to nuclear weapons ambitions. “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has confirmed what many have long suspected — nuclear energy in Saudi Arabia is about more than just electrical power, it’s about geopolitical power,” Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “The United States must not compromise on nonproliferation standards in any 123 agreement it concludes with Saudi Arabia.”
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
Yields on one-year US Treasury bills are hitting levels not seen since the financial crisis, driven by a combination of tighter Federal Reserve policy and looser fiscal policy. The one-year Treasury bill yielded 2.052 per cent in afternoon trading on Friday. The last time they were so high was in 2008, when the Fed was cutting rates aggressively to fight the worsening US financial crisis.
The average rate on a one-year certificate of deposit, or CD, rose to 0.49% last week, according to Bankrate.com, a personal-finance website. While that’s peanuts by historical standards, it is the highest in more than seven years, and the march upward has quickened after the most recent Fed moves. Banks over the past year have already raised the interest paid on deposits held by businesses and affluent individuals who demand it. But their tentative foray into higher CD rates is more about trying to get ahead of average customers’ demands.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
The revelation that Cambridge Analytica exploited the data of 50 million Facebook profiles to target American voters is indeed frightening. But Cambridge Analytica shouldn’t act as a diversion from the real bad guy in this story: Facebook. We have now reached the point where an unaccountable private corporation is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world’s population. Zuckerberg and his company have been avoiding responsibility for some time. Governments everywhere need to get serious in how they deal with Facebook.
It’s true that the Cambridge Analytica incident wasn’t a security breach. It is something even more troubling: an all-too-natural consequence of Facebook’s business model, which involves having people go to the site for social interaction, only to be quietly subjected to an enormous level of surveillance. The results of that surveillance are used to fuel a sophisticated and opaque system for narrowly targeting advertisements and other wares to Facebook’s users. Facebook makes money, in other words, by profiling us and then selling our attention to advertisers, political actors and others. These are Facebook’s true customers, whom it works hard to please.
Whether this latest scandal was a breach or a misuse of information is irrelevant. It was wrong. Zuckerberg needs to explain — slowly and clearly and without legal terminology or whiny excuses — what went wrong at the company he founded in his Harvard dorm room, and what steps the company is taking to make sure it never happens again. My suspicion? He can’t do that. Instead, a Zuckerberg appearance will demonstrate the need for significant federal regulation of large technology platforms. No wonder it hasn’t happened yet.
US tariffs are only one of three potentially destabilising shocks for the car industry. Another is a cliff-edge Brexit. A third and more predictable problem is the ongoing collapse in the sale of diesel cars. From a strategic point of view it is utter madness for the EU to have allowed itself to become so dependent on the export of a late-lifecycle product. Its entire business model turns out to have been based on the bet that Mr Trump would not become US president, that there would be no Brexit, and that you could cheat on emissions targets forever.
Europe is worried that U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are just the beginning. The EU’s bigger fear is that Trump’s ultimate goal is to kill off the World Trade Organization and rip up the current rule book that underpins global trade networks. To the Europeans, Trump is making a cynical calculation that the U.S. is the world’s No.1 economy and can outmuscle any opponent in a trade dispute, without the need for international arbitration. In a world that returns to the law of the jungle, Trump reckons he wins.
Mr Putin seems willing to take big risks when he believes that the west is not paying attention. But when the Russian leader meets clear resistance, he backs off. The real danger for both Russia and the west is therefore not that Mr Putin is seeking outright conflict with the west, but that he miscalculates and creates confrontations that he cannot control. Mr Putin’s fans at home and abroad have fallen for the idea that he is a brilliant strategist who annexed Crimea, intervened in Syria and meddled in the US elections without paying a price. But a cooler look at the record shows that the Russian leader’s interventions frequently backfire.
Many requests were mundane. “He doesn’t write anything down,” one source close to the White House told me. “He doesn’t type, he dictates. ‘Take this down, take this down: Trump: richest man on Earth.’ ” A second source who meets regularly with the president told me that Hicks acted almost as an embodiment of the faculties the Trump lacked — like memory. “He’ll be talking, and then right in the middle he’ll be like, ‘Hope, what was that … thing?’ ” When the name of a senator or congressman or journalist came up, Trump would prompt Hicks to provide a history of their interactions, asking, “Do we like him?” “And she fucking remembers!” (Trump has said his own memory is “one of the greatest memories of all time.”) “She’s the only person he trusts,” the second source continued. “He doesn’t trust any men and never has. He doesn’t like men, you see. He has no male friends. I was just with one of them the other day, someone who’s described as one of his closest friends, and he doesn’t know him very well. But a small number of women, including his longtime assistant back in New York, he really listens to them — especially if he’s not banging them. Because, like a lot of men but more so, Trump really does compartmentalize the sex and the emotional part.”
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is a virtual ghost — despite serving nearly seven years in the No. 2 position at the blood-testing startup that turned out to be too good to be true. While the black-turtleneck-clad Holmes graced magazine covers and spoke before adoring crowds, Balwani, her former boyfriend, stayed in the shadows. He has almost no internet presence, and the only verifiable photo that STAT could find of him was a grainy image from his 1988 college yearbook. Now, he’s at the center of a legal showdown that could tear open a new chapter in a scandal that has rocked the business world and captivated the public imagination. And it could set up a daytime-TV legal defense: My ex-girlfriend duped me.
The ability to assert control, some argue, eliminates the agency problem that exists where ownership and control are divorced. It also provides a shelter from capital market short-termism. Yet the costs that result from forfeiting votes are potentially high. First and most obviously, founder-directors are insulated from accountability. They cannot be booted out if their wizardry turns out to be less than miraculous or wanes over the years, as is all too likely in a tech sector where constant disruption is the norm.
Cities have been offering homeless people free bus tickets to relocate elsewhere for at least three decades. In recent years, homeless relocation programs have become more common, sprouting up in new cities across the country and costing the public millions of dollars. But until now there has never been a systematic, nationwide assessment of the consequences. Where are these people being moved to? What impact are these programs having on the cities that send and the cities that receive them? And what happens to these homeless people after they reach their destination?
With VW and GM pouring billions into production facilities for electric cars, Tesla’s supremacy is far from assured. While General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota all make around 10m cars a year, each is playing catch-up on long-range, zero-emission vehicles. But by “adopting, adapting, imitating, innovating and acquiring”, as Goldman Sachs puts it, they are revamping facilities to produce electric cars at scale and for profit — two achievements yet to be seen at Tesla despite the huge disruption the US electric carmaker has brought to the market.
Chinese technology giants Baidu Inc., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. —dominant forces in e-commerce, mobile payments and social media—now are elbowing their way into autos, threatening established car makers. These three companies—the so-called BATs—are plowing millions of dollars into electric-vehicle startups, car-sharing services and online retailers, as well as software platforms for autonomous driving and online car selling. U.S. tech companies, notably Alphabet Inc. and its self-driving car unit Waymo, also are pushing into the auto sector. But the BAT companies have a big advantage in China, where tight government internet controls make it difficult for foreign enterprises to compete. For example, non-Chinese companies aren’t allowed to operate digital mapping systems needed for autonomous driving.
For a quarter century, the West helped rebuild Cambodia while it was still reeling from the genocidal Khmer Rouge. The United States and Europe tied billions of dollars in aid to an effort to transform Cambodia into a liberal democracy. That campaign has failed. Instead, Cambodia has come to stand as the highest watermark for China’s influence in Southeast Asia and as the stage for Mr. Hun Sen’s evolution into one of Asia’s most unstinting autocrats.
The tumult in Slovakia has now distinguished this country from others in the region, where a loss of faith in democracy has prompted voters to turn to populist leaders offering a strong hand as a remedy. In Hungary and Poland, those leaders have steadily embedded networks of cronies, dismantled democratic institutions and promoted what they say are traditional, national values over Western ones. But in Slovakia, a country smaller than West Virginia with a population of around five million, people are calling for something else: a recommitment to Western democratic values and the rule of law.
The dramatic drop in U.S. net oil import needs will “have profound implications on energy geopolitics,” said Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency. “The U.S. secretary of state today, in international discussions, must be sitting in his negotiation chair more comfortably compared to his predecessors representing a country becoming an energy exporter,” Birol said in an interview earlier this year.
The risk is that buoyant crude prices allows shale producers to pump without restraint, challenging the country’s oil dominance and in the long run jeopardising the country’s entire modernisation programme. The kingdom’s existential crisis was first laid bare in 2014 and again it is grappling with this dilemma and this time there is little room for manoeuvre. “Saudi Arabia has an ambitious reform agenda now. Prior comments from officials who said they don’t care if oil prices go to $20 or $30 a barrel is clearly no longer the view,” says Jason Bordoff at Columbia university’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “But higher prices have shown that they can bring shale supplies back even more strongly than people think.”
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
The Federal Reserve in December expected a gradual path of rate rises would allow the economy to keep expanding without overheating; since then, the burst of fiscal stimulus, together with steady growth and very low unemployment could lead the central bank to be more aggressive.
Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said higher interest rates will be needed to keep the U.S. economy from overheating, though the pace must be calibrated to allow inflation to rise to the central bank’s 2 percent goal.
Japan’s dependence on the central bank to drive economic policy was on show again on Friday as parliament locked in Governor Haruhiko Kuroda to another five-year term as a land scandal undermined the nation’s political leaders. While analysts are divided on whether the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finance Minister Taro Aso will hang onto their jobs this year, there’s no doubt their focus will be diverted away from the government’s already flagging economic agenda.
China’s new central-bank chief is off to a running start. Fresh from his appointment as governor of the People’s Bank of China, announced on Monday at the annual legislative session, Yi Gang said “there will be a series of reform and opening-up measures” during the next three weeks. “You’ll see,” Mr. Yi told throngs of reporters inside the Great Hall of the People as he made his way to take his oath as PBOC governor. He didn’t elaborate.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
America is facing a new housing crisis. A decade after an epic construction binge, fewer homes are being built per household than at almost any time in U.S. history. Home construction per household a decade after the bust remains near the lowest level in 60 years of record-keeping, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. What makes the slump puzzling is that by most other measures, the American economy is booming. Jobs are plentiful, wages are on the rise and the stock market is near record highs. Millennials, the largest generation since the baby boomers, are aging into home ownership.
Though economic activity in Puerto Rico has picked up in recent months, businesses large and small are struggling. Electricity woes continue to plague the island, where 91% of power generation has been restored but the grid is prone to sudden outages. Insurance money has arrived slowly, with $1.7 billion paid in residential and business claims as of Jan. 31—about 40% of the expected total, according to the island’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. And the market is shrinking as a result of an accelerating exodus of Puerto Ricans fleeing conditions on the island.
An adverse decision for McDonald’s could have enormous implications for the franchise business model, affecting millions of workers in the fast-food industry and beyond. Employees at disparate franchise locations could seek union representation to deal directly with parent companies, rather than be left to work out disputes with franchisees. But rather than push for a decision that could create a broad precedent, the board’s new general counsel has been scrambling to broker settlement terms among the company, its franchisees and the workers at the center of the case. A judge had halted the trial for 60 days to provide a chance to do so. On Monday, when a proposed settlement was presented, the judge said not so fast.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
The stock-market rout in early February that caused a spike in the Cboe Volatility Index is a symptom of growing “financial fragility,” or big swings in prices caused by breakdowns in markets themselves as opposed to changes in fundamentals, an economist at the bank wrote Monday in a note to clients. To make matters worse, Goldman says there’s reason to be concerned about liquidity drying up during periods when markets are distressed.
Treasury bears may be in hibernation and the February equity rout behind them, but investors had better get used to lackluster returns. So say Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists who warn higher volatility will sap equity gains while bonds lose their hedging potency. “This moderation in risk-adjusted returns has begun to play out quickly, in particular due to the low-vol regime fading and equity/bond return correlations becoming positive,” Goldman strategists led by Ian Wright wrote in a note Friday.
After resisting the full force of the gales that swept through markets earlier this year, corporate bonds are sending ominous messages. Traders are jumping out of the asset class as investment-grade spreads sit near their widest in six months and yields rise to the highest in more than six years — just as stock investors seek to recover from the first S&P 500 correction in two years. “If credit spreads widen, the equities with bad balance sheets will underperform,” said Louis de Fels, a Paris-based fund manager at Raymond James Asset Management International. “We’re quite cautious on the quality of the assets.”
The record-setting stream of money into stock funds has underlined how much the market has been driven by investor fervor for a handful of popular names, which some say makes stocks vulnerable to sudden reversals. Investor enthusiasm for fast-growing companies has driven shares of companies like Amazon.com Inc., Netflix and Nvidia sharply higher this year. Each of the stocks is up double-digit percentages in 2018, even as the broader S&P 500 has risen just 1.3%.
Technology shares dragged down stock indexes, jolting investors who have rallied behind a handful of the hot tech companies and raising fresh questions about the resiliency of a nine-year-old bull market in U.S. stocks. Together, Facebook , Amazon.com , Netflix and Google parent Alphabet—young firms closely associated with the Silicon Valley technology scene and deemed to be “disrupters” of rival firms engaged in media, travel, online shopping and other businesses—shed a total of roughly $76 billion in market value.
A deep sell-off across technology companies on Monday on U.S. stock markets left some investors worrying how much longer those high-flying stocks’ market leadership would last. Wall Street has ridden the tech sector to record highs in recent months, betting on further outsized returns from stocks like Apple, Facebook and Alphabet. The sell-off, which bled into the wider market, was sparked by social network Facebook’s regulatory troubles, but that was not alone in rattling investors.
“What’s chilling to an investor is whether Facebook will be able to get advertisers to pay for the rich data they pay for today,” said Kim Forrest, Senior Portfolio manager, Fort Pitt Capital, Pittsburgh. “Investors are not only concerned about losing advertising dollars. They’re also concerned these companies might come under relatively heavy regulation.”
The Cboe Volatility Index rose 20% Monday as Facebook and other technology companies dragged U.S. stocks lower, in its biggest gain since Feb. 8. The volatility index, called the VIX, surged as much as 38% during the trading day, the biggest intraday gain since Feb. 5, when the gauge more than doubled. “The thing to watch out for this time is whether this is the start of a broader selloff,” said Pravit Chintawongvanich, head of derivatives strategy at Macro Risk Advisors.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Regional chains are filing for bankruptcy. European-born discounters are expanding, forcing competitors to keep their own prices low. And Kroger Co. and Walmart Inc., the two largest grocers in the U.S., are investing in technology and expanding delivery as they try to fend off an incursion by Amazon.com Inc. It’s a bleak outlook for a sector that was supposed to be rebounding this year. A historic bout of food deflation — which fueled a price war in the past two years — has ended, but efforts to sell more groceries online are gobbling up investment dollars. And some well-known names are crying uncle.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
Saudi Arabia is scaling back its ambitions for a public offering for oil giant Aramco, moving ahead with a listing next year solely on the Saudi stock exchange while taking more time to decide if an international venue is worth it, government officials and others close to the process say.
More than three-quarters of the 108 companies that completed IPOs in 2017 reported per-share losses in the 12 months leading up to their debuts, according to data tracked by Jay Ritter, a finance professor at the University of Florida. The share of loss-makers in the IPO market has been rising. Last year, it reached the highest percentage since the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000. By contrast, data spanning nearly four decades shows 38% of companies are typically unprofitable when they go public.
A flurry of Chinese tech companies are set to tap capital markets this year, kicking off with an offering from Baidu’s iQiyi, a Netflix-style streaming platform that could raise up to $2.7bn. This year’s pipeline follows a bumper year for initial public offerings from Chinese tech groups in 2017, with 88 issuers raising $7.6bn globally, according to data from Thomson Reuters — about double the previous year’s volume.
The investment announced Monday comes on top of the $2 billion the Chinese e-commerce giant has poured into Lazada since buying a majority stake in 2016. Singapore-based Lazada operates online marketplaces in six Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, selling everything from lipstick and car wax to instant coffee and smartphones.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
Falling values are “bound to be a deterrent to some potential sellers,” Miles Shipside, Rightmove director, said in the report. “Even though fewer properties are coming to market, the slower rate of sales means stocks of unsold property are growing, leading to subsequent downwards price pressure.”
A Los Angeles compound dating back to the late 1920s is slated to hit the market for $49.9 million. The gated property totals approximately 36,000 square feet, including more than 20,000 square feet of indoor entertainment space with a spa, an indoor pool, a game room, a wine cellar, a bowling alley, a cinema, a bar and a basketball and a racquetball court.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
Commodity Trading Advisors/Managed Futures strategies had the steepest drop for both February and the year, falling 6.01 percent in the month and 3.02 year to date. Macro Funds saw the second-largest monthly drop, slipping 2.31 percent, underperforming the hedge fund database by 12 basis points. Fixed Income Relative Value Funds were the only group spared, ending the month up 0.06 percent.
The 41-year-old veteran, who started at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s pioneering credit-derivatives business in 1999, was caught out by a market turn that gave him what could be the biggest drubbing of his career. Ahmad’s London-based Decca Fund lost 21 percent, or $147 million, in the month of February, following its wrong-way bet on volatility. As the dust settles, questions remain about what went wrong at Decca. Not least: why did Ahmad ignore his own rule.
Paulson is now re-focusing his firm on his founding strategy — merger arbitrage — despite some disastrous returns in recent years. The Paulson Partners Enhanced fund, which uses borrowed money to double down, sunk 23 percent in the first two months of 2018, according to a person familiar with the matter, after plunging about 70 percent over the past four years. The losses come amid a fund revamp at Paulson’s namesake firm, once one of the biggest in the industry. It will return money to investors in some funds including the Credit Opportunities, Bloomberg News reported Friday. Investors in that credit fund can transfer their capital to a separate pool or they’ll be forced to redeem.
BBL Commodities LP, one of the biggest energy focused hedge funds, is looking to raise $1 billion for a new fund that will wager on macroeconomic trends via bonds, stocks, currencies and commodities. BBL currently runs a $535 million commodity fund. Founder Jonathan Goldberg said its work on oil and other commodities gives it a unique view into global trends, which it will be able to express in the new macro fund and vice versa. “The commodity work helps the macro, and the macro work helps our commodities stuff,” he said.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Saudi Arabia’s exports of diesel and gasoline soared to a record in January, underscoring a big advantage the world’s largest oil exporter has over other producers who’re more dependent on shipments of lower-value crude. While the kingdom kept crude output below an OPEC-agreed cap, its shipments of diesel, gasoline and other fuels surged by 27 percent to a record 1.912 million barrels a day in January, according to data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative in Riyadh.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
Lithium could be a lifeline for oil majors as the energy industry shifts toward lower-polluting alternatives to fossil fuels, said Jeff McDermott of Greentech Capital Advisors LLC. “Their specialty is resource extraction,” McDermott, managing partner of the New York-based boutique investment bank advising energy companies and investors, said in an interview in London. “They should buy lithium miners, get involved in the upstream of core battery technology.”
COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS
Gloom and doom have gripped the coffee market for months. But as executives and traders gathered for one of the biggest industry events of the year, a cautious optimism was in the air. Prices have gotten so low that pretty soon they’re going to force some producers to cut back on crop investments, eventually helping to trim output, Kona Haque, the head of research at London-based trader ED&F Man Holdings Ltd., said in an interview during the National Coffee Association annual conference. Growers with higher costs, like those in Central America, will probably be the first to respond, she said.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
The blaze comes amid increasing concern about extreme bush fires in southern and eastern Australia, with climate change and a paucity of rainfall believed to be behind the lengthening of the fire season from October through March. Shane Fitzsimmons, the commissioner for the state’s Rural Fire Service, said on 7 News Sydney that the fire was still not under control and called the situation “dangerous and dynamic.”
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
British and European Union negotiators on Monday agreed on the terms of a 21-month transition period to keep Britain inside Europe’s economic structures and to avoid an economically damaging “cliff edge” when the country formally departs the bloc next March. The deal, however, depends on a broader agreement on Britain’s withdrawal, which is to be finalized this year but is by no means certain. One of the main sticking points in those talks has been the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, which will remain in the European Union.
Once British and European Union leaders carry out the split — Brexit — that British voters ordered up, the border between Ireland’s north and south will be the only land crossing between the two jurisdictions. With both sides facing off over the fine print of their separation, Ireland’s border is proving one of the most vexing issues.
After years of austerity, the National Health Service is under enormous strain, so it is paying French doctors to perform some operations on its behalf. Given that the Brexit vote was largely won on highly emotive issues surrounding British sovereignty and a misleading promise by politicians that leaving the bloc would free up 350 million pounds, or about $490 million, a week to fund the N.H.S., the paradox of Britain seeking aid from France is not lost on the French hospital, nor on Mr. Orlov. “I find something quite ironic about it,” he readily admitted. “I think it’s hilarious, actually.”
Theresa May’s Conservative Party faces its worst-ever showing in local elections in London this year, as the unpopularity of Brexit with the city’s younger and more international population weighs on the party. In 2014, the Conservatives won 612 seats in the city. This year, experts expect them to lose at least 100 of those, which would take them below their previous record low of 519 seats, in 1994.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
“We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point,” Brian Manley, Austin’s interim police chief, told reporters as parts of Travis Country, where the latest bombing occurred, were placed on lockdown through midafternoon.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives Monday in Washington, D.C., bringing the brash foreign policy that has shaped Saudi Arabia’s more muscular stance in the Middle East to counter archenemy Iran. The Trump administration and lawmakers now need to weigh whether to support the prince’s more confrontational approach with Iran and risk sparking a regional conflict, or seek to moderate his diplomacy.
Turkish forces have captured the town center of Kurdish-controlled Afrin in northern Syria, Turkey said Sunday, capping a two-month military campaign that has divided Ankara and its international allies. The capture of Afrin followed a siege to the city that displaced more than 200,000 civilians.
Actress Cynthia Nixon on Monday announced she will challenge New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Democratic primary, presenting a threat from the left to his bid for a third term. Ms. Nixon is best known for her role as Miranda Hobbes, a lawyer in HBO’s “Sex & the City,” but has also been involved in New York politics in recent years, calling for more funding of public education and stumping for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat.
The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request from Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania to block a redrawn congressional map that creates more parity between the political parties in the state. The practical impact is the 2018 elections are likely to be held under a map much more favorable to Democrats, who scored an apparent victory last week in a special election in a strongly Republican congressional district. The 2011 map that has been used this decade has resulted in Republicans consistently winning 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
Three Bank of America whistleblowers who tipped off US authorities about misconduct at its broker-dealer arm Merrill Lynch are to share a record $83m in awards, according to the law firm that represents them. Information provided by the trio led the Securities and Exchange Commission to extract $415m from Merrill almost two years ago over the group’s failure to separate client money from its own, putting customer assets at risk.
BANKS, BROKERS, INSURANCE, EXCHANGES
The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday pressed exchanges to end a standoff that has delayed the launch of a massive database meant to track all activity in the stock and options markets. “I’m not happy,” SEC Chairman Jay Clayton told a conference in Orlando, Fla., sponsored by the principal trade association for stockbrokers. “We can’t dilly around. The main markets regulator should have access to a forensic trail that enables us to assess what happened if a market event occurred.”
CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
Google and Facebook have dominated the U.S. digital advertising market for years, but new data show signs that platforms like Amazon and Snapchat are chipping away at the digital duopoly’s market share. To be sure, Google and Facebook are still increasing their total ad revenue significantly, and no other competitor even cracks 5% market share. But those smaller rivals are growing more quickly than expected and are seeking a larger share of the pie.
RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX
Whole Foods will host a summit on Tuesday for up to 200 of its suppliers, amid anxiety about how its ongoing business revamp will play out under new owner Amazon.com. Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods last summer shook the grocery industry, spawning worries that the ecommerce giant would disrupt groceries the way it upended books, toys and electronics.
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
Not since “Avatar” has a box-office hit had the kind of staying power of “Black Panther.” Ryan Coogler’s comic-book sensation on Sunday became the first film since James Cameron’s 2009 smash to top the weekend box office for five straight weekends. Though “Black Panther” has had little competition to contend with throughout February and March, such consistency is especially rare in today’s moviegoing world. Before “Avatar,” the last film to do it was 1999’s “The Sixth Sense.”
Cheddar, the financial news streaming service aimed at millennials, is preparing to expand internationally and launch a channel on Snapchat Discover after securing a new investment round. Roughly two years after its launch as a self-described “post-cable network,” Cheddar has raised $22 million, according to founder and Chief Executive Jon Steinberg.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
Tesla Inc. fans have waited a long time for the chance to buy the car company’s Model 3 sedan, but an analyst said Monday that many didn’t jump at the first chance to buy one. “If correct, this take rate would be substantially worse than predicted by our July 2017 survey, which had indicated that up to 69% of S/X owners with reservations were likely/very likely to take delivery of their Model 3,” Sacconaghi wrote.
Venture capital investment into batteries has hit a record $1bn this year as companies race to develop better technology to power electric cars and store renewable energy from the wind and the sun. The amount raised by energy storage companies year-to-date is already double that of 2017, due to a large $790m fundraising in February by China’s Farasis.
Now that the Model 3 is getting into the hands of the general public, outlets including Consumer Reports, Edmunds and Strategy Analytics have taken delivery and published their impressions. Reviews among this group have generally been mixed. Driving dynamics and handling were among their consistent pros, while some of the commonly cited cons have had to do with poor build quality and problems with so many of the car’s controls being tied to its touch screen.
AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS
United faces possible action by the U.S. Congress, as well as federal and local authorities, along with criticism from passengers after the latest in a series of public relations blunders by the third largest U.S. air carrier. The most recent incident involved the death of a French bulldog, Kokito, that died last week after a United flight attendant insisted that the puppy’s carrying case be stored in the plane’s overhead locker during a 3-1/2-hour flight.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
In 2012, Amazon acquired a robotics company called Kiva. Since then, it has moved many of that company’s robots into its network of more than 210 fulfillment and package-sorting centers. Now, many Amazon partners and competitors are moving in the same direction, including big shipping and logistics operations like FedEx and DHL. But what has happened at the FedEx hub may be a surprise to people who fear that they are about to be replaced by a smart machine: a robot might take your role, but not necessarily your job.
Walmart has just filed a patent for autonomous, robot bees. Yes, that Walmart — and no, you didn’t slip into another, stranger dimension. The mega-corporation’s patent specifically covers “pollination drones.” These tiny robots could act just like bees, pollinating crops autonomously. The robot bees would operate using sensors and cameras to help them navigate to crops. Flying around autonomously, these drones could potentially pollinate as effectively as the real thing.
Biologists are now faced with the monumental challenge of making sense of a rapidly growing menagerie of discoveries that violate deeply ingrained ideas. One can get a sense of the growing dissonance between theory and evidence by perusing a recent review of such studies and then reading the introductory chapter from any undergraduate biology textbook. Something is clearly missing from the conventional concept of heredity, which asserts that inheritance is mediated exclusively by genes and denies the possibility that some effects of environment and experience can be transmitted to descendants.
Called Mr. Basis Point by his colleagues at the bank because of his trades on minuscule changes in short-term interest rates, he was famous for alternating between fad diets and eating binges. One week he would be on an egg-only regimen and the next be back to eating junk food and downing Cokes. But even after he became a wealthy trader, he still lived in a relatively modest London house — by banker standards — with his wife and children. His car wasn’t flashy and colleagues said sartorial elegance wasn’t his top priority. He’d be at work every day by 6:30 a.m., focused and intense. Despite his outsize bonuses, on several occasions he lobbied his boss to get a better pay deal. The trader, who has been described as soft-spoken, threatened to quit and join a hedge fund if his demands weren’t met, according to a former colleague. But the end came quickly for Bittar amid the mounting rate-rigging probes in the U.S. and U.K.
Former teammates all have favorite Ichiro stories, about how he carries his bats in a custom humidor case to keep out moisture, how in the minors he’d swing the bat for 10 minutes every night before going to sleep, or wake up some mornings to swing alone in the dark from 1 to 4 a.m. All the stories make the same point: He has methodically stripped away everything from his life except baseball. Former first baseman Mike Sweeney, who got close to Ichiro in Seattle, tells one about getting a call from an old teammate who’d had an off-day in New York. You’re not gonna believe this, the guy began. He’d brought along his wife and they walked through Central Park, thrilled to be together in such a serene place. Far off in the distance, at a sandlot field with an old backstop that looked leftover from the 1940s, they saw a guy playing long toss. The big leaguer did the quick math and figured the distant stranger was throwing 300 feet on the fly. Curious, he walked closer. The guy hit balls into the backstop, the powerful shotgun blast of real contact familiar to any serious player. He became impressed, so he got even closer, close enough to see. The man working out alone in Central Park was Ichiro.
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.