Macro Links Mar 7th – Exit Cohn
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- GARY COHN RESIGNS, WALL STREET TANKS
- BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
- GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY
- RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
- NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, 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
- GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
GARY COHN RESIGNS, WALL STREET TANKS
U.S. stock index futures pointed to a sharply lower open after news late Tuesday that White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn has resigned. Dow Jones industrial average futures indicated an open of 300 points lower, while the S&P 500 futures implied a decline of more than 1 percent. Industrials stocks Caterpillar and Boeing fell more than 2 percent in extended trading.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Michael Purves, Weeden & Co.’s chief global strategist, said by phone. “I wrote up Cohn’s departure this morning as a real risk to consider. I thought it’s like a 35 percent probability event. I was just amazed that Trump is letting this happen.”
President Donald Trump demanded economic adviser Gary Cohn’s cooperation on tariffs in a meeting in the Oval Office Tuesday — asking Cohn directly if he would support his decision to move forward with the plan. Cohn would not offer his support, according to two people familiar with the episode — and just hours later, the White House announced Cohn’s resignation.
“The economic nationalists now certainly have the upper hand and their camp is bigger. I think they are going to be very influential in the administration,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based think tank. The Trump administration has launched an investigation into intellectual property abuses by China, which could dwarf any impact of the steel and aluminum proposals and trigger a sharp response from Beijing. Trump has said the fines could be huge.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson privately warned senior trade officials on Tuesday that President Trump’s proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum could endanger the U.S. national security relationship with allies. Subsequent events showed in stark fashion how establishment figures in Washington — national security leaders, top lawmakers, the former president of Goldman Sachs — had suddenly found themselves in a losing battle with a small posse of Trump advisers who have nurtured the president’s long-running skepticism of foreign trade.
Cohn decided within the past few days there would be no perfect time to leave, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Now was the time to pull the trigger, especially given his frustration over the trade fight. Cohn also wanted to start returning calls from top companies offering jobs, something he would not do while still working on policies that could impact those companies.
BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS
In a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) dated Feb. 13 but only released Tuesday, a Treasury official said that companies and organizations must comply with laws devised to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. To comply, companies have to investigate customers and report suspect transactions to authorities. This interpretation of the Bank Secrecy Act could mean trouble for startups planning ICOs as well as those that have already sold coins, as Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network could potentially enforce this requirement retroactively.
The South Korean government has banned its own officials from holding and trading cryptocurrency, which is considered to be ‘the first time the government has formulated a virtual currency ban for all public officials,” Maeil Business reported on March 1. The government stance toward cryptocurrencies in South Korea, reportedly the world’s largest market for cryptocurrencies after the US and Japan as of February 2018, has at times been unclear.
Hip Hop artist Young Dirty Bastard, the son of late rapper and producer Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu-Tang Clan, is launching his own cryptocurrency in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), he announced in an interview with Yahoo Finance Tuesday, March 6.
Named as one of CoinDesk’s Most Influential in Blockchain for 2017, Wu is at the head of the world’s largest provider of bitcoin mining hardware, which analysts have estimated made as much as $4 billion in profits last year, according to Fortune. Depending on who you ask, Wu is either Enemy Number One or, in the words of Roger Ver, someone who has “poured his life and soul into this for years.”
FAT Taiwan Inc., the company behind the Far Eastern Air Transport brand, has announced that it will accept crypto payments for tickets, making it the first Taiwanese airline to allow its clients to fly for cryptocurrency. The airline says it will fully accept cryptocurrency for the payment of tickets and all relevant services, with the aim of becoming a pioneer of cryptocurrency adoption in the aviation industry.
North Carolina’s government has sent a cease-and-desist order to a cryptocurrency company they say is selling unregistered securities in the U.S. state. The North Carolina Secretary of State Securities Division issued a temporary cease-and-desist order on March 2 against the European project PowerMining Pool. The move comes just under two months after that department issued a cease-and-desist order that faulted the now-defunct investment scheme BitConnect for failing to register its offerings as securities.
Initialized Capital, the venture-capital firm co-founded by Alexis Ohanian, has invested $2.1 million in a startup cryptocurrency trading platform, DDEX. DDEX describes itself as a hybrid model decentralized cryptocurrency exchange that lets buyers and sellers of cryptocurrencies trade without the need to deposit any assets into an exchange. DDEX aims to build a secure, decentralized cryptocurrency trading platform.
Popular online exchange Coinbase is releasing a weighted index fund for cryptocurrencies. “It’s a very simple to use, easy way to get exposure to the crypto-assets that we offer on our exchange,” Coinbase President and COO Asiff Hirji told CNBC’s “Fast Money” Tuesday. The Coinbase Index Fund will give accredited U.S. investors exposure to all assets listed on the company’s current exchange, GDAX. The currencies will be weighted based on market capitalization.
A decade from now, will one Bitcoin be worth $100 or $100,000? According to Harvard professor and economist Kenneth Rogoff, the former is way more likely. Rogoff, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) former chief economist, told CNBC that Bitcoin’s “actual uses as a transaction vehicle are very small”—certainly when compared with its utility for money-laundering and tax evasion, which regulators around the world are trying to suppress.
Hut 8 Mining Corp., backed by billionaire investor Mike Novogratz, declined on its first day of trading on the TSX Venture Exchange as it seeks to boost bitcoin mining operations across North America. Hut 8’s listing is an opportunity for investors to buy into the booming market for specialized computer chips that drive the world’s bitcoin mining. Bitfury, its partner and largest shareholder, is the second-biggest supplier of those chips after China’s Bitmain Technologies Ltd.
The CEO of little-known UK-based startup Circulor told Reuters they are collaborating with BMW to track so-called ‘clean’ cobalt supplies in order to ensure their ethical provenance. Cobalt is sourced overwhelmingly from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, where some supplies are reported to involve the use of child labor and informal setups known as ‘artisanal’ mines, Reuters notes. Blockchain tech, Circulor’s CEO says, is the auto giant’s ticket to ensuring a sustainable supply chain.
Legislators in Illinois are weighing a proposal to allow residents in the state to pay their taxes in cryptocurrency. With the move, Illinois joins a growing list of U.S. states that are considering such measures, and the bill – filed in February and previously unreported – marks the third effort of its kind to emerge in 2018. The trend got started in January with Arizona, then Georgia lawmakers threw their hat in the ring the following month.
With the largest cryptocurrency down about 40 percent from its all-time high reached in December, Google Trends data show searches are down by more than 80 percent. The last time so few people were interested, Bitcoin traded near $5,000. The decline in interest searches coincides with trading volume failing to recover alongside prices in February.
One of the earliest investors in the internet expects that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will be the primary means of payment in five years. “They’re not going to use fiat. Five years from now, none us of will be,” Draper said. “Because all of this engineering effort, all that excitement, this focus is really on bitcoin and all of the cryptos around it. And I think that’s what we’re all going to be using and paying with.”
The Russian Ministry of Finance is drafting a law to criminalize the use of cryptocurrencies as money substitutes. The Bank of Russia and the finance ministry have previously opposed the use of cryptocurrency in this way, citing that only rubles can be used for payments of goods and services in Russia.
Québec, Canada has recently been thought to be a bitcoin mining boom town, as more data centers set up there to take advantage of relatively cold climes and low cost electricity. Not everyone is happy about it, especially the local government who fail to see why decentralized, invisible, magic internet money is worth anything at all. For his part, Premier Couillard doesn’t believe bitcoin mining makes for “a real ecosystem or a real technological transformation centered on blockchain.”
Announced Tuesday, Venezuela’s Asamblea Nacional, a group of politicians largely at odds with President Nicolas Maduro and his policies, declared it believes the petro cryptocurrency is unconstitutional, using harsh rhetoric that denounced the project as not only a fraud, but a threat to potential investors. In a public statement, the group’s members lashed out against the sale, which is said to have already raised $735 million, arguing it’s simply a symptom of the country’s ongoing political crisis.
The CFTC, which is tasked with regulating commodity, futures and derivatives markets, first determined that virtual currencies, also known as cryptocurrencies, are commodities in 2015. Weinstein upheld that determination on Tuesday, saying it was supported by the plain meaning of the word “commodity” and that the CFTC had broad leeway to interpret the federal law regulating commodities.
Social media giant Twitter appears to be cracking down on cryptocurrency scam accounts – but several members of the crypto Twitter community have been caught in the fray. Responding to a tweet by Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote that “we are on it.” Yet the statement drew some swift critiques given that, in recent days, a number of accounts – including the support team for cryptocurrency exchange Kraken – reported that they had seen their accounts restricted despite trying to warn others about copycat accounts that mimic well-known industry members.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
The world is at risk of a trade war and deep recession because of President Trump’s announced tariffs of 25 percent on steel on 10 percent on aluminum, World Trade Organization director-general Roberto Azevêdo said on Monday. “It is clear that we now see a much higher and real risk of triggering an escalation of trade barriers across the globe,” he said at a meeting of the whole WTO membership. “We cannot ignore this risk and I urge all parties to consider and reflect on this situation very carefully. “Once we start down this path, it will be very difficult to reverse direction. An eye for an eye will leave us all blind and the world in deep recession. We must make every effort to avoid the fall of the first dominoes.”
Australian central bank Governor Philip Lowe slammed President Donald Trump’s tariffs proposal, warning escalation and retaliation could develop into a “very big shock for the global economy.” In unusually strong language for the Reserve Bank of Australia chief, Lowe described Trump’s proposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as “highly regrettable and bad policy.” He urged other nations not to retaliate, saying the protection is “not a positive, but it’s manageable” for the world economy if only restricted to the two industries.
The Trump administration is considering clamping down on Chinese investments in the U.S. and imposing tariffs on a broad range of its imports to punish Beijing for its alleged theft of intellectual property, according to people familiar with the matter. An announcement following an investigation by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office into China’s IP practices is expected in the coming weeks, potentially handing President Donald Trump further cause to impose trade restrictions.
Targeting 2.8 billion euros ($3.5 billion) of American goods, the EU aims to apply a 25 percent tit-for-tat levy on a range of consumer, agricultural and steel products imported from the U.S. if Trump follows through on his tariff threat, according to a list drawn up by the European Commission and obtained by Bloomberg News. The list of targeted U.S. goods — including motorcycles, jeans and bourbon whiskey — sends a political message to Washington about the potential domestic economic costs of making good on the president’s threat.
Goldman Sachs delivered a comprehensive critique of Donald Trump’s planned metal tariffs, saying they risk damaging the world’s biggest economy. “Import tariffs make the U.S. less competitive by raising the prices of raw materials,” the New York-based bank said in a report received on Tuesday. It added: “By imposing across-the-board tariffs to all steel and aluminum imports, the larger economic impact is on Canada, Mexico and the EU, and it ironically eases the economic impact to China and Russia.”
In contrast with Europe, U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region so far are avoiding outright threats of retaliation against American goods. They believe that could be counterproductive when Mr. Trump has yet to make his plans final and faces rifts within his own administration and Republican Party about the tariff plans.
“To the extent that we’re successful in renegotiating Nafta, those tariffs won’t apply to Mexico and Canada,” Mr. Mnuchin said in response to questions at a House hearing Tuesday, echoing remarks President Donald Trump made on Twitter on Monday.
BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION
President Trump and the regulators he appointed are taking a far less aggressive approach to consumer protection than their predecessors, delaying key regulations and imposing fewer penalties against financial institutions and other corporations accused of wrongdoing, according to a Washington Post review of available data and interviews with consumer advocates and government officials.
The House could pass a $1 trillion omnibus next week to give the Senate extra time to approve the massive spending package before funding for the government runs out on March 23, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told colleagues in a private meeting Tuesday. “There was no formal guarantee but it was suggested as a possibility” that the omnibus vote would be next week, said one GOP lawmaker who attended the closed-door conference meeting.
GUN CONTROL, MARIJUANA BOOM, PUBLIC POLICY
Orvis Co., the 162-year-old retailer known for its outdoorsy catalogs, is following Walmart Inc. and Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. in tightening firearms restrictions. A wave of retailers have made changes to their gun policies in the wake of a school shooting last month in Parkland, Florida.
RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD
An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Nader’s cooperation in the special counsel’s investigation could prompt new legal risks for the Trump administration, and Mr. Nader’s presence at the Seychelles meeting appears to connect him to the primary focus of Mr. Mueller’s investigation: examining Russian interference during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Foreign ministers from the Baltic states, three exposed allies on NATO’s eastern flank, visited Washington on Monday to urge Western leaders not to respond naively to Russian threats. The envoys from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania brought a stark message to meetings with top officials a city already gripped by political infighting and fears of Kremlin intrigue.
Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Trump, violated federal law on two occasions by making public comments supportive of one candidate and against another ahead of a special Senate election in Alabama last year, a federal investigator said Tuesday. The remarks, in a pair of televised interviews, amounted to a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits public employees from using their official capacity to conduct political activity, special counsel Henry J. Kerner said in a report.
The following, based on conversations with multiple sources familiar with the matter, illuminates the extraordinary breakdown of trust between committee investigators and the witnesses they call. It also suggests that some people working on the committee investigation may be trying to covertly assist one of the president’s closest allies—when the president’s inner circle is ostensibly a focus of their probe.
President Trump on Tuesday made his most forceful comments to date about Russia’s campaign to disrupt U.S. elections, warning Moscow that his administration would counteract any attempts to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. Though Trump has at times doubted that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, he told reporters Tuesday that “certainly there was meddling” and that the U.S. government must be vigilant to prevent foreign intrusions in future elections. “I think you have to be really watching very closely,” Trump said. “We won’t allow that to happen. We’re doing a very, very deep study, and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election. I think we’re going to do very well in the ’18 election, although historically those in the White House have a little bit of a dip.”
President Donald Trump publicly derided reports Tuesday that chaos is engulfing the West Wing, but in private, the man who thrives on discord seems to be sowing some of it himself. The President has emboldened Anthony Scaramucci, the boisterous former communications director who was fired after just 10 days, to continue attacking White House chief of staff John Kelly during his cable news appearances, a source familiar with the situation told CNN.
Two Republican chairmen in the House are asking the Justice Department to consider the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate matters related to how and why material gathered from a former British spy was used to spy on an associate of Donald Trump.
Adult film star Stormy Daniels sued Donald Trump Tuesday, alleging that he never signed the nondisclosure agreement that his lawyer had arranged with her. The civil suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by NBC News, alleges that her agreement not to disclose her “intimate” relationship with Trump is not valid because while both Daniels and Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen signed it, Trump never did.
NORTH / SOUTH KOREA, IRAN, NUCLEAR WEAPONS
North Korea’s sudden willingness to bargain with the Trump administration over scrapping its atomic arsenal surprised the world on Tuesday, setting in motion an unpredictable diplomatic dance with the United States and South Korea, but raising hopes that one of the most dangerous confrontations of the nuclear age could be defused.
Whatever one thinks of Mr. Trump’s version of history, he now faces a prospect uncannily similar to that confronted by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. North Korea’s offer to put its nuclear weapons on the bargaining table opens the door to negotiations of unpredictable length and inevitable complexity. And Mr. Trump will surely be pressured to make concessions, starting with North Korea’s perpetual demand that the United States withdraw all American troops from the Korean Peninsula.
President Trump’s plan to impose stiff steel tariffs would severely punish South Korea, a key diplomatic ally and a major exporter of the metal to the United States, at a moment when America is embarking on a series of high-stakes negotiations to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. If talks materialize, the United States will need the close partnership of South Korea. But in recent months, the Trump administration has alienated the South’s leaders by initiating a series of tough trade measures that seek to penalize the country for exporting more goods to the United States than it imports.
The United Nations panel enforcing trade sanctions against North Korea has been hacked repeatedly by a “nation-state actor,” compromising the email accounts of four current or former members of the panel and a “considerable number” of email messages, according to a U.N. incident report. The documents do not disclose the nature of the information that the hackers acquired. But members of the panel routinely review secret intelligence analyses of the smuggling operations propping up the regime of leader Kim Jong Un.
INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS
The number of people with more than $50 million of net assets rose 10 percent last year, the fastest pace in at least five years in 2017, according to a report published Wednesday by broker Knight Frank LLP. The increase, to a total of almost 130,000, came as each of the world’s major economies began to grow at the same time. Asia leapfrogged Europe as the region with the second highest number of ultra wealthy, while North America retained top spot, according to the data compiled by Wealth-X. New York was ranked top in the broker’s city wealth index, followed by London, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Inflation in the world’s largest economies was unchanged for a third straight month in January, while it fell in rich countries, according to figures released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Paris-based research body’s measures suggest that pickup in inflation is still a possibility, rather than a fact.
“If interest rates rise it is going to make things more and more difficult for me,” says an indebted Turkish businessman. “If it goes above 6 per cent then it will become intolerable.” Ertuğrul, who declined to give a surname, is far from alone. Across the emerging world, businesses, households and governments loaded up on an estimated $40tn of cheap debt during the decade of loose monetary policy in the developed world that followed the global financial crisis.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
These tariffs are not that important in themselves. But the rationale used to justify them, their proposed level and duration, the willingness to target close allies and the president’s statement that “trade wars are good and easy to win” must alarm all informed observers. This action is unlikely to be the end; it is more likely to be the beginning of the end of the rules-governed multilateral trading order that the US itself created. This may sound alarmist. It should not. It is possible that, with someone as inconsistent as Mr Trump in charge, this is where it will end. But we cannot bet on it.
“There is no Chaos,” tweeted Donald Trump about his White House on Tuesday morning. “Only great Energy!” All of it seems to be rushing for the exits. A few hours later, Gary Cohn became the third senior Trump official to quit in three weeks. His absence will be by far the most significant. Having failed to persuade Mr Trump to take a softer approach on trade, Mr Cohn’s exit cements the defeat of the so-called globalists.
Virulent as he may be, Donald J. Trump is a symptom not the disease. Without us, he would amount to nothing more than what he had always been before the bizzaro presidential election of 2016: a foppish narcissist desperate for any measure of affirmation; a joke; a nothing. He did not create his voters. They have been there all along, seething with sometimes justifiable anger and suffering their various insecurities. They created and enabled Trump. And make no mistake, in all their vulnerable humanity, they are us: Gullible, compliant, distracted, marinating in irony. At root, we the people are the problem.
Jamie Kirchick of the Brookings Institution wryly observes: “Everything Trump says makes sense when you just preface it with, ‘Donald from Queens, you’re on the air.’” I do not know if Kirchick intended his remark this way, but his joke actually splits the difference between the grand-design explanation of Trump’s ridiculousness and the he’s-just-an-ordinary-fool explanation. There’s a reason Trump sounds like your chemtrail-obsessed uncle or that guy at work who’s always going on about Q-Anon, trafficking in a poisonous mix of conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and resentment-driven politics.
In foreign-exchange markets, investors aren’t waiting to find out if all the tariff threats being thrown around lead to a full-blown trade war. Some money managers have begun piling into traditional havens like the yen; others are trimming currency exposure altogether; and even those who’re betting not much will come from the row are hedging just in case. “Currencies can be very small but sharp objects, where a little exposure can have a large impact,” said Gene Tannuzzo, a portfolio manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments. “So you could see more and more managers just not really stick their neck out as it relates to FX exposure.”
The overall numbers for leveraged loans are not big in the context of the IIF’s estimate that global debt hit an all-time high of $233tn in 2017, or close to 320 per cent of global domestic product, compared with 280 per cent in 2007. Yet, along with the rise in public sector debt, those numbers are substantially driven by the non-financial corporate sector’s borrowing habit. And an unhealthy proportion of the increase has gone on buybacks, dividends and mergers and acquisitions rather than productivity enhancing capital investment and research and development.
Some Washington policy makers and industry executives have suggested a deeper worry that, with Huawei’s help, China could displace Silicon Valley as the world’s innovation center and lure top engineers there. Another concern: If Huawei extends its lead in the telecom-equipment industry, these officials believe, American wireless carriers might have no choice but to use Huawei gear in the future.
Kim’s thaw with South Korea will likely lead to new talks eventually. When that happens, at least three important facts will be materially different from the last time Lucy got the ball. First, North Korea’s nukes are an accomplished reality, no longer a possibility to be averted. Second, Kim has in neighboring China a model for his own future. His family has always believed that modernization threatens their grip on power, so they sealed it out, making theirs a Hermit Kingdom. But Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier, is attempting to prove that economic liberalization can coexist with political dictatorship. Kim may conclude that he can maintain power without utterly isolating his country. Third, Kim has on the horizon a prospect for greater security than ever before.
If you buy physical and digital products from Amazon, would you consider buying financial products as well? 70% of U.S. households trust Amazon enough to be Prime members (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, 2017). In all probability, an even greater portion of households owning mutual funds are Prime members. I believe most of these customers would at least investigate the possibility of becoming an Amazon asset management client. It’s also likely that some non-trivial portion of this group would go on to become clients. Jeff Bezos’ disdain for Wall Street is well known, so it’s surprising that he doesn’t appear to have set his sights on asset management. If Amazon could decimate bricks and mortar retailers, what might happen to the asset management industry, where 35% operating margins are the norm?
An analysis of Uber’s financial position, based on Bloomberg reporting and voluntary disclosures by the privately held company, shows that Uber is a corporate anomaly. Few companies in history have grown so fast or lost so much money in such a short period of time. Uber has developed what may be considered a Peter Pan syndrome. After reaching a stage of maturity most companies never realize, it has yet to turn a profit and remains deeply in the red.
Monsegur doesn’t like talking about his time working with the FBI. On one hand, his work with the FBI turned him into a widely reviled figure on the internet. On the other, cooperating let him keep the girls until their mother was released from prison. Monsegur was determined to remain a lodestar in their lives. The night he chose to turn on Anonymous launched a complicated path to redemption. It’s one he’s still trying to figure out.
Utilities, grid operators and other companies in the sector will plow $590 billion into digital initiatives from 2017 to 2025, or about a fifth what they’ll spend on of their total capital spending, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The industry must make such investments if it’s going to survive, but “you need to credibly show that you can deliver,” said Leonard Birnbaum, an executive board member at Eon. “You can’t say, ‘Hey there’s the growth out there, let’s go spend money. Trust me and lets see what happens.”
When my husband and I lived in our dingbat apartment with our one car, we only rarely took the bus. We carpooled. Angelenos may love our cars, but we don’t all use them the same way. One-size-fits-all parking rules are increasingly unnecessary and oppressive. There’s no reason to force people to buy smaller homes — or to squeeze them out of the market altogether — in order to give everyone, like it or not, convenient parking. Just because it isn’t priced separately doesn’t make parking free.
For-profit podcasting is now matching and even eclipsing public radio in terms of ambition and budgets. It might have started out producing small indie movies, but now it’s regularly putting out serious blockbusters aimed at a mass audience. Public radio now needs to up its own game and rise to meet the challenge, even as podcasting itself is moving on to even greater things.
A widening scandal that has led to arrests of executives from two construction companies threatens to put the brakes on Japan’s plan to build the world’s fastest train. To surpass the nation’s famous bullet train, the project incorporates magnetic-levitation technology that promises to cut journey times from Tokyo to Osaka by more than half, to just over an hour. The $80 billion project carries the government’s added hopes of exporting the maglev technology.
China’s tech giants will add star power to the country’s political festivities this week, paying homage to President Xi Jinping and endorsing constitutional changes for him to remain president indefinitely. Amid the annual legislative meetings, the luminaries have important business: Preserving their grip on a 1.4 billion-person market protected from global competitors.
China, under President Xi Jinping, has launched an ambitious plan to dominate mobile technology, supercomputers, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge industries, putting huge resources behind an effort that it considers crucial to the country’s government, military and economy. Beijing wants to build its own technology champions and is encouraging companies to acquire the engineering, expertise and intellectual property from big rivals in the United States and elsewhere. The aggressive push has set off alarms in Washington, with policymakers and lawmakers fearful that American giants could lose their edge.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
The European Central Bank is being dragged into local controversies over issues ranging from banking scandals to bribery, underlining the mounting political pressures on the world’s No. 2 central bank as it takes on a vastly expanded role. Three of the ECB’s 25 policy makers, a group that includes central-bank governors from 19 eurozone countries, are currently entwined in domestic investigations—in Latvia, Slovenia and Greece—and other top officials have faced pressure to resign.
Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, one of the central bank’s most ardent doves, sounded optimistic about the U.S. economy’s outlook and suggested the pace of monetary policy tightening may need to accelerate. “The macro environment today is the mirror image of the environment we confronted a couple of years ago,” Brainard told the Money Marketeers of New York University Tuesday. “In the earlier period, strong headwinds sapped the momentum of the recovery and weighed down the path of policy. Today, with headwinds shifting to tailwinds, the reverse could hold true.”
Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard said Tuesday she has become more confident inflation will hit the central bank’s target, allowing officials to continue raising interest rates gradually. She also sounded more upbeat about the economic outlook, saying factors that held back the U.S. economy in recent years have reversed and now are offering a boost, in a speech in New York.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
San Francisco lost more residents than any other city in the US in the last quarter of 2017, according to data from real-estate site Redfin, which sampled a million users. The data factored in the number of residents that cities gained, meaning San Francisco lost a net 15,489 residents; about 24% more than the next-highest loser on the list, New York City. This is expected to continue into 2018, considering that, as of February, 49% of Bay Area residents were looking to move out of San Francisco, according to a survey by public-relations firm Edelman.
Even before Maria strafed the region, a record number of Puerto Ricans were realizing that the declining island might be where their heart is but cannot be where their feet stay. Nearly 500,000 people left Puerto Rico for the mainland during the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center, pushing the stateside Puerto Rican population past the number living on the island last year — an estimated 3.3 million. The government of Puerto Rico’s guess is that by the end of 2018, 200,000 more residents will have left the U.S. territory for good, moving to places such as Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England. It would mean another drop of more than 5 percent in the island’s population.
GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL
Saudi Arabia and the UK will sign a series of agreements when the kingdom’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman visits London this week, in deals that diplomats said could be worth more than $100bn. Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi foreign minister, told reporters on Monday that the trip was aimed at taking the Saudi-UK relationship to a “higher level”, with both countries seeking co-operation in sectors such as education and technology as well as security.
In another sign that the “Asian century” has arrived, China is on course to overtake the euro area in the size of its economy this year. China’s gross domestic product is forecast to reach about $13.2 trillion in 2018, beating the $12.8 trillion combined total of the 19 countries that use the euro, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In 2017, the euro cohort edged China by less than $200 billion.
The doubling of expenditures on foreign affairs under Mr Xi has tracked a revolution in Chinese external policy, with Beijing becoming increasingly assertive throughout the world. “For the past five years we have pursued distinctively Chinese major country diplomacy on all fronts,” Li Keqiang, the premier, told deputies to the annual National People’s Congress on Monday.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
“I hear it every day,” said Jimmy Freeman, a financial adviser at Edward Jones in San Angelo, a city of some 100,000 that’s just east of the booming Permian Basin shale oil fields. “The market’s going up because of Trump. They all think it’s Trump.” Across middle America, in the towns big and small that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump, his most ardent, and financially comfortable, backers are opening stock-market accounts or beefing up existing ones, according to interviews with more than a dozen advisers and brokers. They were spurred on by a stream of presidential tweets crowing about, and taking credit for, the gains throughout 2017 and they remain undaunted now as the rally sputters and the tweeting dissipates.
The January plunge of the index preceded the sell-off in early February. What everyone wants to know now is what the index’s much bigger plunge in February might precede. But whatever the plunge of the index means, one thing is clear: The extraordinary breathtaking enthusiasm of retailer investors late last year has unceremoniously collapsed.
The U.S. tech heavyweights, for months seen as an indestructible monolith that doesn’t go anywhere but to the sky, are starting to show some cracks in the foundation. Case in point: this year’s performance of the FAANG group of Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. As a whole, the group is still outperforming the market. But upon closer inspection, there’s a performance gap between the index’s winners and losers not seen since 2015.
The biggest fixed-income exchange-traded fund — the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF, ticker AGG — was hit by a record $798 million outflow Monday, the largest one-day withdrawal since its September 2003 inception. Expectations that President Donald Trump’s tough talk on tariffs would fail to spur strongly protectionist outcomes fed risk appetite during Monday’s trading, sending 10-year Treasury yields toward 2.90 percent.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
CREDIT, YIELD, BUYBACKS, CORPORATES
Pharmacy chain CVS plans to sell about $44 billion of bonds as soon as Tuesday to help pay for its $69 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna—the largest corporate bond sale in more than two years and a bellwether for the health of the corporate bond market.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
“After signing and entering into the confirmatory diligence phase, we have received disappointing information about the viability of completing this transaction. As a result, we have decided to terminate this transaction,” said Maria Contreras-Sweet, a former Obama administration official who was leading the group.
Shares of Qualcomm slid 3 percent on growing investor concern that such government scrutiny, unusual for a deal that has not yet been agreed, would scupper any takeover by Broadcom. Some of the U.S. government’s concerns relate to risks associated with Broadcom’s relationships with foreign entities, Aimen Mir, the Treasury’s deputy assistant secretary for investment security, said in the letter, without identifying who those parties might be.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
After months of declines, Apartment sales in Manhattan fell in January to the lowest monthly rate since February 2012 (a six year low) as a trend in both declining sales prices and volume has intensified. Across Manhattan, 840 co-ops and condos were sold in January, a 20.1% drop from a year earlier, when 1,051 apartment sales were recorded, according to CityRealty. That’s the lowest number of units sold since February 2012, when 799 sales were recorded at an average price of $1.50 million. Volume peaked in July 2013, when 1,721 units were sold.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
To appease everyone from pension funds to consultants, hedge fund managers have implemented a slew of favorable terms. Those include discounts for early investors or those willing to lock up their capital, promising a minimum return level before levying incentive fees and offering the so-called 1-or-30 model, which charges the higher of a 1 percent management fee or 30 percent performance fee. The efforts are paying off: 92 percent of allocators said they intend to maintain or increase their exposure to the industry, a five-percentage-point increase from the prior year.
A decades-old $350 billion pocket of quantitative money management may have met its match in February’s choppy markets — and it could get worse from here. Some quant investors are concerned that the most popular trend-following commodity trading advisors, more widely known as CTAs, are ill-equipped to handle a new era of steeper declines and sudden volatility spikes. The strategy, which rides price trends across asset classes, fell 6.4 percent in February, the worst month since 2001, according to a Societe General basket of the 20 largest managers. CTA funds have fallen 0.7 percent in the first three trading days of March.
About 15 percent to 20 percent of Blackstone Group LP’s annual fundraising currently comes from retail investors, Joan Solotar, head of private wealth solutions at the firm, said in an interview Tuesday with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker. That proportion, she said, will rise in the next five to 10 years. “There’s no reason that ultimately it won’t account for half the assets we manage,” Solotar said. Pressed for a timeline, she said, “I’m going to give myself a little more than five years. Let’s say 10.”
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
The changing of the guard comes more than a year after Tesla bought Musk’s debt-burdened SolarCity for $2 billion. Tesla has since prioritized profitability in solar over growth-at-all-costs as the company seeks to transform itself into a solar and battery giant to complement its electric vehicles. Tesla has ceded solar market-share in most quarters since that deal, and without SolarCity trumpeting solar, the U.S. residential market contracted in 2017 after at least 16 consecutive years of growth.
COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS
Traders pushed out bets on Australia’s next interest-rate hike as economic growth missed forecasts and fears of a global trade war mounted. The chance of a December rate increase was pared to just over 40 percent Wednesday after data showed gross domestic product slowed to 2.4 percent from a year earlier. The release came shortly after Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe lashed out at U.S. tariff proposals, urging targeted nations not to respond.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
As a powerful winter storm took aim at the Northeast, city and state agencies scrambled to minimize the damage from the second nor’easter in less than a week. New York’s Lower Hudson Valley was poised to bear the brunt of the latest snowstorm, even as thousands remained without power after a storm Friday knocked down trees and power lines and uprooted families across the region. By midday Tuesday, four days after many lost power, roughly 78,000 New York residents were still in the dark, along with more than 37,000 New Jersey homes and business.
A column of volcanic ash spewed skyward and blanketed a city in southern Japan on Tuesday, grounding flights at a nearby airport as the ash reached a height of 7,500 feet in Mount Shinmoedake’s most violent eruption since 2011. Cars and buildings are covered with volcanic ash after Mount Shinmoedake erupted. The volcano billowed smoke and ash from smaller eruptions last week, local media reported, but the new eruptions on the country’s southern island of Kyushu was a significant increase of potentially dangerous activity, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said in an Associated Press report.
The extreme winds and snows, created by the collision of two weather systems, Storm Emma and a blast of arctic Siberian air nicknamed the Beast from the East, left several rural communities stranded for days with limited food and fuel, prompting the military to drop emergency supplies by helicopter on Monday. Snowdrifts piled up to seven feet high in the northern Pennines, leaving some residents trapped in their homes for more than 48 hours before emergency services and volunteers were able to dig them out.
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
As the EU attempts to navigate an emerging world order — with a rising China and an unpredictable and protectionist US — the strategic alignment of Brexit Britain is uncertain. So it makes sense for the EU to try to pull the UK into a new sort of “special relationship”. By contrast, a Britain that feels humiliated or impoverished by the EU could be an uncomfortable neighbour — with Russia as an extreme example of what can happen when a major European power is at odds with the EU.
The EU has dismissed Theresa May’s Brexit speech as being more about Conservative party management than putting forward sensible solutions on trade, according to an internal document leaked to the Guardian. The Brussels analysis of the prime minister’s address, issued to representatives of all 27 member states, described her intervention as “a change in tone, but not in substance”, warning that all the UK’s red lines remained.
Theresa May’s plan to secure London’s place as Europe’s financial services capital after Brexit will suffer a serious setback on Wednesday when Brussels and Paris are to publicly rebuff her proposals to maintain the City’s access to the EU single market. Mr Tusk’s guidelines will say that Mrs May’s insistence on taking Britain out of the EU’s single market and customs union imposes red lines that make it impossible to preserve elements of the City’s current relationship with Europe.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Thousands of women, children and men have taken cover underground in basements, bunkers and tunnels to survive the Syrian government’s bombing campaign on a besieged rebel-held district on the outskirts of Damascus.
Advances in anti-tunnel technology have provided the Israeli military with new means of heading off attacks from Palestinian militants based in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli military official said Tuesday. The official, who heads the underground-warfare section of the Israeli military’s technological unit, said the new methods for detecting and destroying extensive, often sophisticated, underground spaces had resulted in the elimination of at least three tunnels since October.
The Maldives archipelago, popular among luxury honeymooners, has become a playing field for geostrategic rivalry as China expands its influence in the Indian Ocean and the U.S. and India push back. Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who has steadily swung his country toward Beijing and away from traditional partner New Delhi, has imposed a state of emergency, jailed opponents and clamped down on protests to weaken his opposition.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
In a twist on ID theft, criminals are deploying figments of their imaginations, in what is often called synthetic-identity fraud. It’s one of the fastest growing forms of identity crimes, the Justice Department says, and among the hardest to combat. Because the person taking out cards or loans isn’t real, there are no consumer victims to alert lenders. When companies and law enforcement discover something amiss, they often wind up chasing ghosts.
It was a fresh sign that the 2018 election in Texas, which has not elected a statewide Democrat since 1994, could be more competitive than the state is accustomed to. O’Rourke, 45, a three-term congressman, still faces an uphill battle. But there are signs he could at least keep November’s election close, including an impressive turnout among Democrats for Tuesday’s primaries, robust fundraising reports and polls showing declines in popularity for Cruz and President Trump.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
The New York Stock Exchange has agreed to pay $14m in penalties to settle regulatory charges for multiple violations related to high-profile events in recent years that have disrupted trading in the world’s largest equity market. The exchange, part of Intercontinental Exchange, struck a deal with US markets regulators looking into an outage on the NYSE in 2015 and a chaotic trading day months later known in the industry as “August 24”.
In raising money for Fyre Festival, Mr. McFarland caused at least 80 investors and a ticket vendor to lose a total of more than $26 million, the government said. To secure funding for the festival, Mr. McFarland admitted to lying to investors about the financial condition of Fyre Media. He tricked one ticket vendor into buying an advance block of tickets for $2 million by providing company statements that grossly inflated its revenue and income, according to prosecutors.
CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
Despite Facebook’s repeated reassurances, some on Capitol Hill fear the company — and country — may be sucker punched again come November. And a dysfunctional federal government waffling on plans to thwart future attacks on elections isn’t helping matters.
The e-commerce giant aims to have almost 14 million square feet (1.3 million square meters) of office space in its hometown, according to a tally in a report by the Downtown Seattle Association confirmed by Amazon. That’s up from about 10 million square feet today and from a previous proposal to expand to about 12 million square feet.
Greg Greeley, one of Amazon.com Inc.’s most-senior and longest-serving executives, is leaving the company to run Airbnb Inc.’s core home-rental business. Mr. Greeley has overseen Amazon’s Prime membership unit since 2013 and helped to develop the program. An employee since 1999, he was slated to work on integrating natural foods chain Whole Foods into the operations of the Seattle e-commerce giant, according to Amazon.
Whole Foods, Instacart’s partner and investor, is now a subsidiary of Instacart’s biggest rival. Instacart shoppers are working side by side with their potential replacements. At another Whole Foods in San Francisco located on Market Street, Amazon workers set up four checkout stations and several industrial fridges in an area near the entrance that used to house fresh flowers and fruits, while Instacart workers packed bags downstairs near the stairwell.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
If there’s a target on Tesla’s back, it might be Porsche that has Elon Musk’s company most firmly in its sights. Porsche has already shown off an all-electric sedan, the Mission E, which is expected to compete with Tesla’s Model S. And at the Geneva International Motor Show on Tuesday, Porsche made a surprise reveal of a crossover concept variant, the Mission E Cross Turismo, which looks very much like a rival to the Model X. But the German automaker it isn’t going to compete with Tesla just on the street by turning out a line of electric cars that it insists will be unmistakably Porsche. It’s also ramping up its answer to Tesla’s Supercharger stations.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
The “Super Monster Wolf” is a 65cm-long, 50cm-tall robot animal covered with realistic-looking fur, featuring huge white fangs and flashing red eyes, Asahi Television reports . It’s been designed to keep wild boar away from rice and chestnut crops, and was deployed on a trial basis near Kisarazu City in Japan’s eastern Chiba prefecture last July. When it detects an approaching animal, its eyes light up and it starts to howl, Asahi TV says. Its manufacturers say the robot wolf uses solar-rechargeable batteries and has a range of howl noises so that animal threats don’t get used to it.
A massive airplane being built by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen moved a step closer to flight last week, when it crept out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif., and practiced rolling down the runway, hitting a top speed of 46 mph. Known as Stratolaunch, the plane has a wingspan even greater than that of business mogul Howard Hughes’s famed Spruce Goose and is designed to carry as many as three rockets, tethered to its belly, to about 35,000 feet. Once aloft, the rockets would drop, then fire their engines and deliver satellites to orbit. But Allen has even bigger ambitions for Stratolaunch and is considering pairing it with a new space shuttle that’s known inside the company as Black Ice.
Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google’s involvement.
More digging, along with help from authorities in the Netherlands and Germany, revealed that the bottle was part of a long-term German Naval Observatory program studying global ocean currents. An entry in the Paula’s meteorological journal written by the captain detailed the bottle being tossed overboard on the same date listed on the paper. The handwriting also matched his, down the extra curl in his C’s.
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