Macro Links Mar 2nd – Trade War

Macro Links Mar 2nd – Trade War

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TRUMP’S TRADE WAR

Dow closes more than 400 points lower after Trump says steel and aluminum tariffs coming – CNBC

The U.S. will set tariffs of 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum, the president said. It is unclear whether they will apply to all imports or only metals from certain countries. “That could really spook the market,” said Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics. “The biggest wildcard would be a trade war and nobody should be excited for that.” Chaikin also noted some of the pressure seen in stocks is in response to the news on tariffs.

Trump announces steel and aluminum tariffs Thursday over objections from advisers and Republicans – The Washington Post

Speaking at the White House, the president said he has decided on tariffs of 25 percent for foreign-made steel and 10 percent for aluminum. “We’ll be imposing tariffs on steel imports and tariffs on aluminum imports,” the president said. “…You will have protection for the first time in a long while, and you’re going to regrow your industries.”

Trump says U.S. to impose hefty tariffs on steel, aluminum imports – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Thursday he would impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, in a move the administration said would protect U.S. industry, but which critics said would fail to boost jobs and risked stoking a trade war with China.

Trump to slap 25% tariff on steel imports invoking national security – FT

The news prompted a warning from the EU and outrage from other countries and a steep fall in US equity indices, although shares in US producers jumped.

Trump’s Steel Tariffs Will Hit U.S. Factories Already Jammed – Bloomberg

“It’s a mistake. It’s a big, big mistake,” Timothy Fiore, chairman of the Institute for Supply Management’s factory survey committee, said by phone on Thursday. “It is going to add so much disruption and cost here. We don’t make a lot of those steels anymore, so you’re going to have to import them anyway.”

America’s Glaring Weak Spot in a Trade War? The Lowly Soybean – WSJ

How might China respond? One possibility is soybeans. The country imported $12.4 billion of American soybeans last year to feed its pigs. China relies on these imports to keep feed prices low, which in turn keeps low the politically-sensitive price of pork. The meat is China’s staple protein, and a sizable component in household budgets. But China is arguably now in a better position to handle disruption from American soy. Food price inflation has been running negative for over a year thanks to agricultural reforms, rebounding pork supply and a worldwide grain glut.

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PUTIN NUCLEAR UPGRADES

Putin Says New Russian Missile Can Pierce U.S. and European Defenses – The New York Times

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia threatened the West with a new generation of nuclear weapons Thursday, including what he described as an “invincible” intercontinental cruise missile and a nuclear torpedo that could outsmart all American defenses. The presentation by Mr. Putin, which included animation videos depicting multiple warheads aimed at Florida, where President Trump often stays at his Mar-a-Lago resort, sharply escalated the military invective in the tense relationship between the United States and Russia, which has led to predictions of a costly new nuclear arms race.

Russia to deploy ‘unstoppable’ nuclear weapons says Putin – FT

Putin said Russia had started mass-producing the “Avangard” or RS-26 Rubezh, an intercontinental ballistic missile that carries multiple nuclear warheads capable of flying at 20 times the speed of sound to reach its target and avoid defences deployed by the US and its allies. He also said the military had tested a hypersonic air-launched missile, capable of carrying a nuclear or conventional warhead, called the “Dagger”. The weapon could be used to target ships or well-protected land targets — it reportedly reaches speeds of Mach 10 which would defeat any operational Nato anti-missile system.

Putin: Moscow would regard nuclear attack on allies as attack on Russia – Reuters

President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Moscow would regard a nuclear attack on its allies as a nuclear attack on Russia itself and would immediately respond. “We would consider any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies to be a nuclear attack on our country. The response would be immediate,” Putin said in a speech to Russian lawmakers.

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Digital Tokens Rise Even as SEC Bears Down – Bloomberg

Securities regulators in the U.S. are reportedly investigating a large number of digital-asset projects yet the market is responding with a resounding: “Crypto don’t care.” Bitcoin gained as much as 3.2 percent to $10,873, while most of the largest cryptocurrencies also strengthened. Not even the smaller coins, the ones most likely to fall under Securities and Exchange Commission scrutiny, are getting hit, according to the MVIS CryptoCompare Digital Assets 100 Small-Cap Index.

Germany: Blockchain Service Bitwala Introduces ‘Crypto-First’ Banking | Cointelegraph

The German Blockchain-based payment service provider Bitwala announced that it is launching a new “crypto-first” banking service complete with accounts, international bank account numbers (IBAN), SWIFT codes, and corresponding MasterCard debit cards, Cointelegraph Deutsch reported Tuesday, Feb. 27.

This $1 Trillion Money Manager Just Joined the Crypto Frenzy – Bloomberg

The Boston-based firm with $1 trillion under management is considering including cryptocurrencies in some portfolios, it said in a February report from a team that includes equity research analyst Matthew Lipton and trading technologies principal Lee Saba. The company’s systems were upgraded to enable trading in Bitcoin derivatives, and Wellington has started taking positions in companies related to cryptocurrencies.

Circle-Poloniex Deal Presages the Future of Cryptocurrency Exchanges – Bitcoin News

On the surface, the Circle-Poloniex deal looks like a simple changing of the guard: out with the old, in with the new. As a holder of a coveted Bitlicense, and the operator of several popular trading apps, Circle is everything Poloniex is not: mobile, user-friendly, and well connected. Its acquisition of the rickety but well-regarded Polo exchange is an indicator of the new world that cryptocurrency traders are being herded into, one characterized by more compliance and less securities tokens. It’s a world which looks very similar to the realm of traditional finance that cryptocurrency was once meant to subvert.

Cryptocurrency Firms Targeted in SEC Probe – WSJ

The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued dozens of subpoenas and information requests to technology companies and advisers involved in the red-hot market for cryptocurrencies, according to people familiar with the matter. The sweeping probe significantly ratchets up the regulatory pressure on the multibillion-dollar U.S. market for raising funds in cryptocurrencies. It follows a series of warning shots from the top U.S. securities regulator suggesting that many token sales, or initial coin offerings, may be violating securities laws.

Singapore: Central Bank ‘Assessing’ Need For More Cryptocurrency Regulation | Cointelegraph

As Cointelegraph reported last week, Singapore remains one of the most permissive environments for businesses in the Blockchain and cryptocurrency spheres. Singapore’s approach has even spawned an international government fan club, with lawmakers in Kazakhstan publicly announcing their wish to follow in the city-state’s footsteps regarding Blockchain policy in particular.

India: Two Crypto Exchanges Halt Trading, Blame ‘Discouraging’ Government Stance | Cointelegraph

Crypto exchanges BTCXIndia and ETHEXIndia have informed their customers via email that they are stopping trading activities, citing the “stress” on their business caused by governmental actions discouraging crypto, local Indian news outlet the Economic Times reported yesterday, Feb. 28.

Australians Can Now Purchase BTC, ETH Across 1,200 Newsstands In Win For Adoption | Cointelegraph

Australian cryptocurrency exchange Bitcoin.com.au has made buying Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) for fiat possible in more than 1,200 newsstands across Australia starting Thursday, March 1, local news outlet 9Finance reports. Bitcoin.com.au, which has been in operation for around 18 months, describes itself on its website as “one of the first independent Bitcoin exchange networks in Australia.”

Overstock.com drops 10% after revealing SEC investigation – CNBC

Shares of Overstock.com fell Thursday after the e-commerce retailer that’s announced cryptocurrency operations in the last year disclosed the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the firm over digital tokens. In an 8-K filing Thursday with the commission, Overstock said that in February the SEC requested “certain documents related to the Offering and the Tokens in connection with its investigation.”

Overstock Defends tZero ICO: SEC Subpoenaed ‘Everyone Else’ – CoinDesk

The president of Overstock’s tZero subsidiary has one simple message to convey: “We have not received a subpoena.” Since public documents Thursday revealed the e-commerce giant’s efforts to raise funding via an initial coin offering (ICO) had drawn scrutiny from the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, Joseph Cammarata has been speaking out, seeking to put forth the message that Overstock is “willingly working” with regulators.

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GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY

Kroger Raises Age Limits on Gun Sales, Joining Walmart and Dick’s – The New York Times

The Kroger Company will stop selling guns to customers under the age of 21, the grocery store chain said Thursday, joining two other major retailers who have raised age limits after last month’s school shooting in Florida.

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TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY

Boom in Share Buybacks Renews Question of Who Wins From Tax Cuts – WSJ

U.S. companies are buying back their shares at an aggressive pace, stirring debates in Washington and on Wall Street about how savings from corporate tax cuts are being used and who benefits most.

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RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE

An Industry Group Says the Trump Administration Is Run “Like a Bad Family Owned Small Business” — And They Love It – ProPublica

Trump, the presentations state, is an “autocratic leader” who regularly “humiliates [his] senior team” and is running the administration “like a bad family owned small business.” One presentation quotes the president’s statement that infrastructure should be “easy” and follows it with a rhetorical eye-roll: “Really?????” At the same time, the presentations make clear that the industry group views Trump as a godsend for their agenda of rolling back environmental and labor regulations.

18H02 - AUTOCRATIC

Trump’s Chaos Theory For the Office is Taking Its Toll – The New York Times

It was the second day in a row that Mr. Trump blindsided Republicans and his own aides. On Wednesday, in another televised session at the White House, he embraced the stricter gun control measures backed by Democrats and urged lawmakers to revive gun-safety regulations that are opposed by the National Rifle Association and most of his party. But late Thursday, he appeared to have changed his mind again, this time after a meeting with N.R.A. leaders that he described as “great.”

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico to Quit Amid Tense Relations Under Trump – The New York Times

Mrs. Jacobson leaves at a tense moment in relations between Mexico and the United States, with President Trump vowing to have Mexico pay to build a wall between the countries, pledging to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement and promising to deport millions of Mexicans who crossed the border illegally.

Many Trump Staffers Are Trying To Leave His Out-Of-Control White House – Buzzfeed

Many mid- and low-level staffers are anxious to leave and are actively looking for jobs elsewhere, sources close to the White House say. Those staffers saw the surprising resignation of Trump loyalist and communications director Hope Hicks on Wednesday as a sort of tipping point. A former White House official said he’s spoken with more aides inside the White House who are trying to leave the administration, but not necessarily getting the kinds of high-paying offers in the corporate world as former aides usually do.

Senate Intelligence Leaders Say House GOP Leaked a Senator’s Texts – The New York Times

Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s Republican chairman, and Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat, were so perturbed by the leak that they demanded a rare meeting with Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month to inform him of their findings. They used the meeting with Mr. Ryan to raise broader concerns about the direction of the House Intelligence Committee under its chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, the officials said.

White House preparing for McMaster exit as early as next month – NBC

The White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser as early as next month in a move orchestrated by chief of staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to five people familiar with the discussions. The move would be the latest in a long string of staff shake-ups at the White House over the past year and comes after months of strained relations between the president and McMaster.

Jared Kushner’s troubles include an impending $1.2 billion company debt – Washington Post

Meetings that Kushner had that month with a Chinese insurance company and a Russian banker — as well as the company’s efforts to get funding from a Qatari source — are coming under new scrutiny after The Washington Post revealed that foreign government officials viewed him as a figure who might be manipulated due to the family company’s financial needs and his lack of experience.

FBI counterintel investigating Ivanka Trump business deal – CNN

US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump’s international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump.

Mueller investigation examining Trump’s apparent efforts to oust Sessions in July – The Washington Post

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to people familiar with the matter who said that a key area of interest for the inquiry is whether those efforts were part of a months-long pattern of attempted obstruction of justice.

Ben Carson Tries to Cancel $31,000 Dining Set Purchase for HUD Office – The New York Times

At the request of the secretary, the agency is working to rescind the order for the dining room set,” Armstrong Williams, Mr. Carson’s business manager and an informal adviser, said on Thursday. He added, however, that “it might not be possible.”

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NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS

North Korea, Finally, Feels the Sting of International Sanctions – WSJ

China, long criticized by the U.S. for supporting the Pyongyang regime, appears to be ramping up enforcement. At a border crossing, garments and seafood aren’t coming out, and fewer goods are going in. The question now is whether any economic pain will deter Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions.

South Korea Tells U.S. It Will Send Special Envoy to North – WSJ

South Korean President Moon Jae-in told President Donald Trump that he would send a special envoy to North Korea to follow up on a visit by the sister of leader Kim Jong Un to Seoul, the South Korean presidential office said.

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INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS

Junk-Bond Veteran Says Market’s Claim of Price Stability a Sham – Bloomberg

The high-yield market hasn’t owned up to the magnitude of price swings for the past 30 years — reported declines during downturns are too few and far between for an asset class where value is often guesswork more than consensus. That’s the striking claim from Marty Fridson, a renowned market veteran with over three decades experience. In a sweeping study drawing on data from 1987 onwards, he concludes that U.S. junk prices have defied reality unlike their high-grade counterparts.

Libor surge is nearing danger level for debt-drenched world – UK Telegraph

The stress signals of the global credit system are flashing amber. The offshore dollar funding markets that lubricate world finance are facing an incipient squeeze. The “Libor-OIS spread’ – watched carefully by traders – has risen to levels reached during the onset of the Chinese currency crisis in early 2016, and during the onset of the Italian and Spanish funding crisis in late 2011.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

‘We need to talk about Igor’: the rise of Russia’s most powerful oligarch – FT

Igor Sechin was once Putin’s secretary. Now, as head of the oil giant Rosneft, he has emerged as one of the country’s most formidable political figures. Grey-haired and bulky, with piercing eyes and a quiet, hushed voice, Sechin is Russia’s pre-eminent oligarch. The oil baron is the epitome of the group of all-powerful businessmen whose deep political influence and control over the country’s national resources depend on their proximity to President Putin. They are widely perceived in Russian society to be above the law and answerable only to the Kremlin.

The crises engulfing Jared Kushner – FT

Terms such as “leverage” and “conflict of interest” fail to capture the scale of the danger Mr Kushner poses to US national security. As the Washington Post reported earlier this week, US intelligence agencies have learnt that numerous foreign government officials discussed how to exploit Mr Kushner’s business interests. These include the governments of Israel, China, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. US relations with all of these four countries were at one time part of Mr Kushner’s portfolio.

The secret on the ocean floor – BBC News

A wave of pioneers is poised to scoop up treasure from the deep sea. But was this ocean mining boom sparked by a 1970s CIA plot? In the summer of 1974, a large and highly unusual ship set sail from Long Beach in California. It was heading for the middle of the Pacific where its owners boasted it would herald a revolutionary new industry beneath the waves. Equipped with a towering rig and the latest in drilling gear, the vessel was designed to reach down through the deep, dark waters to a source of incredible wealth lying on the ocean floor. It was billed as the boldest step so far in a long-held dream of opening a new frontier in mining, one that would see valuable metals extracted from the rocks of the seabed. But amid all the excited public relations, there was one small hitch – the whole expedition was a lie.

How AI helps recruiters track jobseekers’ emotions – FT

So-called emotion recognition technology is in its infancy. But artificial intelligence companies claim it has the power to transform recruitment. Their algorithms, they say, can decipher how enthusiastic, bored or honest a job applicant may be — and help employers weed out candidates with undesirable characteristics. Employers, including Unilever, are already beginning to use the technology.

Consumer goods: big brands battle with the ‘little guys’ – FT

People are changing the way they shop at a time when digital technology has made it easier for companies without large marketing budgets to reach consumers online removing the dependence on traditional distribution routes. One way for consumer companies to combat such trends has been to innovate, create desirable new products, and charge more for them. But they have ceded ground in this area. “Large, fast-moving consumer goods companies are highly skilled at executing known business models,” says Richard Taylor, analyst at Morgan Stanley, “but their record on true radical innovation over the past 20 years is downright dire.”

By Day, a Sunny Smile for Disney Visitors. By Night, an Uneasy Sleep in a Car. – The New York Times

Orange County is known for its affluence, and for its tourist industry. But the thousands of workers who keep its resorts, restaurants and hotels running are sometimes struggling to stay afloat. As the state grapples with soaring housing costs, workers in California earning just above the minimum wage find it difficult to pay for basic costs. Many employees at Disneyland have moved farther inland, driving hours each day to work. Others, like Ms. Bertola, have opted to move from couch-to-couch or sleep in their cars for months at a time.

‘Crisis Actor’ Isn’t a New Smear. The Idea Goes Back to the Civil War Era. – The New York Times

Those conspiracy theories have been amplified in the internet age, but they are a part of a long, troubled history of dismissing the voices of those seeking change. “This theme that anyone agitating for change must be either an outside agitator or must have been paid or put up to it is one that runs throughout American history,” Kevin M. Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University, said in a phone interview. That strategy of dismissing protest as being funded or imported by outsiders was commonly used during the civil rights movement to minimize racial tension or brush aside genuine demands for equality.

‘Powell Put’ assumption challenged as Fed chief shows hand – FT

In a marked departure from the more academic tone of his immediate predecessors in the Fed chair, the 65-year old signalled to Congress a willingness to look beyond bursts of volatility in financial markets and would tighten policy against a backdrop of a strengthening economy that may in due course reveal signs of overheating. The long-held view that the US central bank will temper tightening if equity and credit markets suffer bouts of turmoil is sometimes referred to as the Fed put.

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CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY

Tudor Jones likens Powell’s job to Custer’s Last Stand – FT

In an interview with Goldman Sachs analysts, published by the investment bank on Wednesday evening, Mr Jones likened the new Fed chair’s predicament to the 19th century battle best known as “Custer’s Last Stand”. Mr Powell faces a series of of “menacing warriors” that have been “drawn to the battlefield because of our policy experiment with sustained negative real rates”.

Powell Bullish on Economy, but Sees No Signs of Overheating – WSJ

“There’s no evidence that the economy is currently overheating,” Mr. Powell said at Thursday’s hearing. Markets fell in early February after increases in wages and market-based measures of inflation fanned investor fears the Fed might dial up the pace of rate increases. Mr. Powell, however, told the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday he didn’t see decisive evidence of a breakout in wage gains.

Fed’s Dudley: four rate rises this year would be ‘gradual’ – FT

“If you were to go to four, 25-basis-point rate hikes I think it would still be gradual,” Mr Dudley said at conference in São Paulo, according to Reuters. Mr Dudley — a voting member of the monetary policy setting Federal Open Market Committee — added that he is gaining confidence that rate rises will be needed and that fiscal policy is in the process of turning “stimulative” which should ease any concerns over the health of the economy.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

U.S. Jobless Claims Hit Lowest Level Since 1969 – WSJ

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since December 1969, offering fresh evidence of health in the labor market. “Claims remain historically low—indeed, they are still falling—consistent with the trend in employment growth remaining more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down,” said Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in a note to clients.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL

China’s GDP Target to Set the Tone for Power Summit – Bloomberg

A momentous fortnight for China’s economy begins next week when leaders set policies for the year and detail plans to curb financial risk, air pollution, and excess industrial capacity. Things kick off Monday morning in Beijing with Premier Li Keqiang’s work report outlining 2018 goals for economic growth, money supply, credit growth, inflation and the fiscal deficit.

China’s big housing markets in deep freeze – FT

The FTCR China Real Estate Index fell for a fourth straight month to 42.3 in February, dragged by a plunge in sales activity in first-tier cities. This partly reflects the seasonal lull that comes with the lunar new year holiday, with business typically picking up once the week-long break ends.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

WPP Suffers Worst Stock Drop Since 1999 – Bloomberg

On Thursday, WPP Plc announced a bleak outlook, following two cuts to its sales forecast last year that Sorrell called embarrassing. Shareholders anticipating a rebound from the company’s worst annual performance since the financial crisis were left disappointed. “There’s a real sense of shock and awe at what’s happened to his business model,” said Alex DeGroote, media analyst at Cenkos Securities. “This is a stark reminder of the significant challenges WPP faces.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Gives Blunt Assessment of the Company’s Failures – WSJ

“We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough,” Mr. Dorsey said in a string of more than 10 posts on Twitter. “While working to fix it, we’ve been accused of apathy, censorship, political bias, and optimizing for our business and share price instead of the concerns of society. This is not who we are, or who we ever want to be.”

Snap Skips Employee Bonuses, Combats Morale Slump After a Rough Year – Bloomberg

Just last month, the company reported revenue that beat Wall Street’s projections for the first time, causing the stock to surge 47 percent. Internally, the picture isn’t as celebratory. The year involved a complete rethinking of the advertising business, an exodus of top executives, a broadly critiqued redesign of the Snapchat photo-sharing application and stiff competition from Facebook Inc.’s Instagram, leaving the shares close to their IPO price. While Snap topped Wall Street’s estimates last quarter, employees were told they didn’t beat internal goals — and wouldn’t be getting cash bonuses, according to people familiar with the matter.

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

Carl Icahn says he made $1 billion on winning Herbalife trade against Ackman – CNBC

Five years after his on-air verbal brawl with Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman over Herbalife, Carl Icahn said he made a billion dollars from his investment in the nutritional supplement maker. “I enjoy a good fight, especially when I win it,” Icahn said Thursday on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” “On paper, I made a billion.” Icahn said his relationship with Ackman is friendly. “I honestly, in a strange way, I thank Bill … I wish him well,” he said. “He called me up yesterday and congratulated me.”

Schwarzman Collects $787 Million in ’17 to Rule Over Wall Street – Bloomberg

The Blackstone Group LP co-founder received $786.5 million for 2017, his biggest take-home ever, according to calculations based on the firm’s annual report filed March 1. His stake in New York-based Blackstone—and the $661 million in dividends it yielded—fueled much of the payout. The rest came from his cut of deal profits, salary and other compensation, according to the filing. In 2016, Schwarzman got $425 million.

Harvard Blew $1 Billion in Bet on Tomatoes, Sugar, and Eucalyptus – Bloomberg

Harvard bet the farm in Brazil and lost. The university, which invested at least $150 million in the development, is now exiting, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to discuss the investment. The venture contributed to the decision by its current endowment chief, N.P. “Narv” Narvekar, to write down the value of its globe-spanning natural resources portfolio last year by $1.1 billion, to $2.9 billion. Harvard, which manages $37.1 billion, has said those investments produced strong returns but now face “significant challenges.” Current and former officials otherwise declined to comment.

Japanese venture capital investment hits record levels – FT

Venture capital spending by Japanese corporations including Toyota and Sony have reached record levels as established companies look to the start-up world to keep pace with digital innovation. On Thursday, Panasonic became the latest to join the “open innovation” boom, announcing a tie-up with San Francisco-based Scrum Ventures to accelerate start-up funding in technologies for connected home appliances.

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

Exxon Abandons Russian Projects Brokered by Tillerson – WSJ

Exxon is ending projects with Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled energy giant, because of international sanctions on Moscow, abandoning signature achievements of its former CEO, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. A key deal was struck when oil prices topped $90 a barrel and prospects for them remaining high seemed likely. Oil is now trading at just over $60 a barrel, and many companies, including Exxon, are pursuing shorter-cycle projects such as drilling in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico that can deliver returns more quickly.

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COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS

Chile’s SQM cautious over lithium production expansion – FT

SQM, Chile’s largest lithium producer, says it will only expand production beyond 2019 “based on market conditions” amid fears there will be oversupply of the key battery raw material over the next few years. Shares in SQM have fallen by 15 per cent this week after analysts at Morgan Stanley said they expected lithium prices to fall by 45 per cent over the next four years.

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COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS

With Lumber in Short Supply, Record Wood Costs Are Set to Juice Home Prices – WSJ

A lumber shortage has pushed prices to record highs as builders stock up for what is expected to be one of the busiest construction seasons in years. Builders say the higher lumber costs are making homes more expensive. Lumber prices started rising last year after fires destroyed prime forests and a trade dispute between the U.S. and Canada restricted supplies. Now a shortage of railcars and trucks is forcing builders to pay even more. “We are in a lumber supply crisis,” said Stinson Dean, a broker in Kansas City, Mo., who ships wood from sawmills to lumber yards, in a note to clients. “None of us have experienced a market like this.”

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Heaviest Snow in Decades Batters U.K., Ireland and the Continent – The New York Times

Since last Friday, Europe has been locked in a Siberian weather pattern that has pummeled the Continent with snow, freezing rain and brutal wind chills, paralyzing cities unaccustomed to more than a thin wet film of snow and killing dozens of people, mainly older and homeless people. The weather system that is being called the “Beast From the East” has hit Britain especially hard, with some areas buried in up to three feet of snow and pushing temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 Celsius).

Snowstorm Called ‘Beast From the East’ Sends Britons Scrambling – The New York Times

“Nothing works when it snows in England,” said Kevin Hodge, 37, a London-based accountant who had to take a cab to work Wednesday morning because of the severe delays on the subway lines. “We don’t have the right infrastructure or tools in place, so the city comes to a grinding halt, and people can’t go about their business so they start to panic.” But while some commuters said the authorities were overreacting with dire warnings, temperatures in some areas dropped to minus 10 Celsius, making it one of the coldest days in Britain in the past three decades.

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BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

Brussels raises Brexit tempo with Irish protocol – FT

The EU’s Brexit negotiators set out their answer to the Irish border question on Wednesday: take legal control of a large part of Northern Ireland’s economy. Cast as a last-resort measure to avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit, the European Commission’s “protocol” maps in excruciating detail the legal arrangements required to allow seamless movement of goods across the island. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, brushed off claims that imposing EU customs checks on the Irish Sea, under the direct jurisdiction of EU judges, amounted to breaking up the UK.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

Pakistan’s Shields Suddenly Step Aside, Placing It on Terrorism Listing – The New York Times

The acceptance by China and Saudi Arabia of the U.S. effort to list Pakistan as too lax on terrorism financing is prompting worry, and debate, in Islamabad.

Australia Bolsters Military Posture in South China Sea – WSJ

Australia said it has boosted its naval presence in the South China Sea in response to concerns about regional stability, as Beijing expands its military footprint in the disputed waterway and faces accusations of interference in Australia’s affairs.

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PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE

Equifax to Notify 2.4 Million More Consumers Affected in Hack – Bloomberg

Equifax Inc., the credit-reporting firm that suffered a massive data breach last year, said it will notify an additional 2.4 million U.S. consumers that they were affected by the hack.

Germany Scrambles to Contain Cyber Attack on Government Systems – Bloomberg

Germany has yet to fully contain a cyber attack on the government’s computer networks, indicating the threat is more serious than initially thought. “The federal government is trying to get the situation under control,” Armin Schuster, head of the German parliamentary body that oversees intelligence operations, said Thursday at a press conference in Berlin. “The betrayal of state secrets on its own represents significant damage.”

Germany Says Hackers Infiltrated Main Government Network – The New York Times

German news outlets, citing security sources, have widely blamed a Russian hacking group backed by the Russian government — either one called Snake, or another known as APT28, or Fancy Bear. But Berlin has not publicly said who was behind the attack. The attack was narrowly targeted, apparently seeking specific information, said Patrick Sensburg, a lawmaker with the governing Conservative Party. Officials would not say how successful the intrusion was, or what data the hackers may have taken.

US spy chiefs look to UK for guidance in cyber security battle – FT

American spymasters are concerned over the vulnerability of US companies to cyber attack and are turning to the UK for guidance on how to boost protection in the face of a growing threat from hostile state hackers. A US intelligence official told the Financial Times that US intelligence is braced for the cyber threat to “get worse”, likening the US to a city at the bottom of a dam that is fast developing cracks. “Something horrible has to happen to fix it,” said Rick Ledgett, former deputy director of the NSA who left the agency last year after four decades. “The US should follow the UK model.”

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PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM

Trump Ally Was in Talks to Earn Millions in Effort to End 1MDB Probe in U.S. – WSJ

A top Republican fundraiser close to President Trump was in negotiations to earn tens of millions of dollars if the Justice Department dropped its investigation into a multibillion-dollar graft scandal involving a Malaysian state fund, according to emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

China Detains Relatives of Radio Free Asia Reporters – The New York Times

Since last year, the Chinese government has carried out a broad campaign against what it calls separatism and religious extremism, detaining thousands of Uighurs and members of other minority groups in re-education camps. The Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim and Turkic-speaking ethnic group native to the region, have faced economic isolation and restrictions on their language, culture and religious practices in Xinjiang. Rights groups say the detentions are arbitrary and extralegal, sweeping up huge numbers of people on scant evidence.

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CLOUD, IOT, SEMICONDUCTORS, ENTERPRISE / SAAS

Canada to Scrap IBM Payroll Plan Gone Awry Costing C$1 Billion – Bloomberg

It went live in 2016, just months after Trudeau won office. From the beginning, it didn’t work like it was supposed to. Some people were paid too much, others not at all. Those issues snowballed with the deluge of requests to fix incorrect paychecks. The fear of not getting paid still hangs over the country’s more than 260,000 federal public servants. Some put off major financial decisions. Others declined promotions or retirement, fearing any change in their pay could cause more trouble.

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RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX

P&G Contends Too Much Digital Ad Spending Is a Waste – WSJ

After publicly pressuring major technology platforms to help clean up the online ad market and fork over more information about the effectiveness of digital ads, Procter & Gamble Co. slashed its spending on digital advertising by more than $200 million last year. The consumer products giant says that its push for more transparency over the past year revealed such spending had been largely wasteful and that eliminating it helped the company reach more consumers in more effective ways.

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SCIENCE, NATURE, HISTORY, PSYCHOLOGY

Boeing Is Getting Ready to Sell Flying Taxis Within a Decade – Bloomberg

“I think it will happen faster than any of us understand,” CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in an interview. “Real prototype vehicles are being built right now. So the technology is very doable.” The new era of flying urban vehicles is close enough for the man overseeing jetliners and spacecraft to begin plotting what he calls the “rules of the road” for three-dimensional highways.

Ancient carbon is coming from Arctic soil. It might be fine, but it might be terrible. – The Washington Post

Over thousands of years, the Arctic has stored up massive amounts of carbon as plants have died but have not fully decayed because of the region’s cold temperatures. Instead, their roots and other plant parts have been preserved in the frozen soil. Layer upon layer of Arctic soil has built up, representing a kind of time capsule with the oldest layers, and the oldest carbon, generally found at the greatest depths.

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