Macro Links Dec 11th – “Please Invest Responsibly”

Macro Links Dec 11th – “Please Invest Responsibly”

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BITCOIN FUTURES COMETH

Please invest responsibly — an important message from the Coinbase team

Despite the sizable and ongoing increases in our technical infrastructure and engineering staff, we wanted to remind customers that access to Coinbase services may become degraded or unavailable during times of significant volatility or volume. This could result in the inability to buy or sell for periods of time. Despite ongoing increases in our support capacity, our customer support response times may be delayed, especially for requests that do not involve immediate risks to customer account security. You can read more in our Coinbase User Agreement.

We also wanted to remind customers of some of the risks associated with trading digital currency. Digital currencies are volatile and the prices can go up and down. Due to the rapidly changing price of digital currencies, some customers may not have sell limits that are sufficient relative to the value of total digital currency they are storing on Coinbase. Sell limits are one of the many measures Coinbase takes to protect client accounts and assets.

Bitcoin drops after dramatic gains ahead of futures launch

Bitcoin lost almost a fifth of its value in 10 hours on Friday, having surged more than 40 percent in the preceding 48 hours, sparking fears the market may be heading for a price collapse.

Coinbase is now the No. 1 iPhone app in the U.S. – Recode

The crazy spike in the value of a bitcoin — from around $1,000 at the beginning of this year to more than $18,000 today, according to CoinMarketCap — has made Coinbase, an app that lets you buy, sell and store bitcoin, a winner. As of this afternoon, it is now the most-downloaded iPhone app in Apple’s U.S. app store.

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Bitcoin Boom Makes Aussie a Paper Billionaire as Crypto Jumps – Bloomberg

The cryptocurrency frenzy has minted another billionaire. On paper, at least.James Gilbert, the president and largest shareholder of Malibu, California-based Crypto Co., held a $1.1 billion stake Thursday after its stock surged 76 percent. Crypto’s market value climbed to $2.9 billion, after 7,062 shares — or just 0.04 percent of 19.6 million outstanding — changed hands in over-the-counter trading.

The Bitcoin Whales: 1,000 People Who Own 40 Percent of the Market – Bloomberg

Holders of large amounts of bitcoin are often known as whales. And they’re becoming a worry for investors. They can send prices plummeting by selling even a portion of their holdings. And those sales are more probable now that the cryptocurrency is up nearly twelvefold from the beginning of the year.

About 40 percent of bitcoin is held by perhaps 1,000 users; at current prices, each may want to sell about half of his or her holdings, says Aaron Brown, former managing director and head of financial markets research at AQR Capital Management. (Brown is a contributor to the Bloomberg Prophets online column.) What’s more, the whales can coordinate their moves or preview them to a select few. Many of the large owners have known one another for years and stuck by bitcoin through the early days when it was derided, and they can potentially band together to tank or prop up the market.

“I think there are a few hundred guys,” says Kyle Samani, managing partner at Multicoin Capital. “They all probably can call each other, and they probably have.” One reason to think so: At least some kinds of information sharing are legal, says Gary Ross, a securities lawyer at Ross & Shulga. Because bitcoin is a digital currency and not a security, he says, there’s no prohibition against a trade in which a group agrees to buy enough to push the price up and then cashes out in minutes.

Online brokerage giant TD Ameritrade is gearing up for bitcoin futures – Business Insider

Morgan Stanley wrote it expected TD Ameritrade would be the first brokerage to get on board with bitcoin futures in a note out to clients Thursday. “We see AMTD as most likely to lead the way, leveraging their leading technology platform and Forex offerings,” the bank said.

A spokesman from rival Charles Schwab told Business Insider the firm had “nothing to report” on bitcoin futures but that it was evaluating it actively. And E-trade did not respond to messages seeking comment. Bloomberg reported that Ally Financial would offer bitcoin futures to its clients.

Inside Banks, Bitcoin Futures Are Riling Trading Executives – Bloomberg

With just a few days left until Cboe Global Markets Inc. debuts futures contracts on the cryptocurrency, many banks are still weighing whether to offer them to clients — and if so, how to handle the mechanics. Several of the largest firms, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc., aren’t immediately offering clearing of the futures as they wait to see how it will work, according to people briefed on the plans.

In interviews, some executives and traders said their desks are eager to get in on the action — but most sounded cautionary notes, ticking off concerns and unanswered questions. Bitcoin’s violent price swings this week have made the new market look all the more dangerous.

Bitcoin trading on a traditional exchange begins Sunday night

As U.S. exchanges get set to offer bitcoin futures, some major global financial institutions feel the rollout is happening too fast, and some retail brokers say they will look hard at the new market before offering related products to customers without steep restrictions.

The first bitcoin futures product starts trading Sunday, potentially bringing an air of greater legitimacy to the cryptocurrency which has been a trading sensation around the world. For many on Wall Street, however, it is viewed as a volatile, rapidly growing, massive speculative bubble, based on a hard-to-understand quasi-currency that has not been fully embraced by the financial community or major institutions.

Cboe Global Markets is the first of three U.S. exchanges to offer futures in bitcoin, jumping a week ahead of its rival, CME, to do so. It is a so-called self-certified product, however, an exchange spokeswoman said it has vetted everything with the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission “to their liking.”

Big banks not willing to support launch of bitcoin futures

Some of the largest US futures brokers, including JPMorgan and Citigroup, will not immediately clear bitcoin trades for clients once futures contracts in the cryptocurrency begin trading next week, according to people with knowledge of the banks’ plans.

Many big global banks that are allowing such trading, such as Dutch bank ABN Amro, will clear for customers only after implementing strict standards that will make transactions very difficult. Others, such as Société Générale, are still considering their stance, leaving smaller brokers like Wedbush and Interactive Brokers as some of the few firms where trades will be executed.

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GOP TAX PLAN

With Tax Overhaul, Susan Collins Stretches Her Political Powers – WSJ

Maine Sen. Susan Collins brokered some of the most significant last-minute changes to the Senate tax bill, becoming a most high-profile example of a growing group of female lawmakers making their mark on legislation.

Renewable Energy Is Surging. The G.O.P. Tax Bill Could Curtail That. – The New York Times

The Republican tax bills moving through Congress could significantly hobble the United States’ renewable energy industry because of a series of provisions that scale back incentives for wind and solar power while bolstering older energy sources like oil and gas production.

The possibility highlights the degree to which the nation’s recent surge in renewable electricity generation is still sustained by favorable tax treatment, which has lowered the cost of solar and wind production while provoking the ire of fossil-fuel competitors seeking to weaken those tax preferences.

GOP lawmakers reconsider proposal to shrink corporate tax cut – The Washington Post

An advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers joined a chorus of conservative groups and senators pushing the GOP to keep the final rate at 20 percent.

The Hated Tax That Just Won’t Die – WSJ

After vowing for years to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, Republicans decided to keep a version of it in the Senate tax-overhaul bill. If if passes, it will increase what many individuals owe Uncle Sam.

On Tax Bill, It’s Trump vs. His Hometown – The New York Times

While Mr. Trump has tried to sell the tax package as a giant tax break for all Americans, a different story is unfolding in New York and other high-tax, mostly Democratic states. The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has estimated that there could be tax increases for as many as 700,000 residents if the legislation is approved. Nearly half of households in surrounding suburban counties itemize their deductions — and stand to lose valuable write-offs of state and local taxes on their federal returns.

Foreign-owned banks to be hit by US tax rules

Major international banks operating in the US could be disproportionately hit by new tax rules that will penalise the way they have structured their global operations, lobbyists and lawyers have claimed.

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BREXIT DIVORCE DEAL

UK reaches historic Brexit divorce deal

Britain has reached a historic deal on its EU exit terms, enshrining special rights for 4m citizens and paying €40bn to €60bn in a hard-fought Brexit divorce settlement that clears the way for trade talks next year. The breakthrough came after a week of high drama in Brussels and Westminster over Northern Ireland’s border, with original compromises scuttled on Monday by the Democratic Unionist party, Mrs May’s parliamentary allies.

‘Grand bargain’ divorce settlement means no hard border for Ireland | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

The European Union is to formally offer Theresa May a two-year standstill Brexit transition deal next week as the reward for today’s “grand bargain” divorce settlement with the bloc. In return for Britain paying about £40 billion in EU liabilities for many years to come, the 27 EU member states will sign off on the next stage of Brexit at a summit of EU leaders on Thursday.

Irish claim divorce agreement points to ‘soft’ Brexit

Irish politicians claimed on Friday that Britain was on course for a ‘soft’ Brexit, as they welcomed Theresa May’s divorce agreement with the EU as a step towards their key objective of averting a hard border. The Irish border had become the biggest obstacle in the first phase of Brexit talks, with weeks of escalating tension and a late move on Monday by the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland to block an agreement between Dublin and London.

May set for new battles after Brexit breakthrough

Friday’s deal, struck after a week of high drama in Brussels, London and Dublin, covered the UK’s divorce bill, citizens’ rights and the fraught issue of Northern Ireland’s border with the Irish Republic, where the two sides agreed a fallback of regulatory “alignment” with the EU.

British Eurosceptic cabinet ministers and mainstream pro-Brexit Tory MPs rallied behind Mrs May, reflecting a general desire to make sure that Brexit happens and that it is not an economic disaster. Michael Gove, environment secretary, claimed that Mrs May had “won” and that the deal struck in Brussels marked “a significant personal achievement for the prime minister”.

Not much remains of Theresa May’s red lines after the Brexit deal | Dan Roberts | Politics | The Guardian

f the EU referendum was the moment the British electorate clashed with the establishment, 8 December 2017 was the day that the legal and economic consequences collided with its political promises. The joint divorce agreement hammered out in the intervening 528 days makes clear that little remains of the many red lines set out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech or party conference address of 2016.

Conservative Eurosceptics give blessing to EU divorce deal

In spite of criticism of the prime minister’s stance from some hardline Eurosceptics, Mr Gove and Boris Johnson, foreign secretary, have pulled back from what appeared to be the more uncompromising stance they took earlier in negotiations. Mr Gove defended aspects of the deal struck in Brussels. He said the decision to let British courts refer cases relating to EU citizens to the European Court of Justice for a period of eight years would provide “an important period during which we would have certainty”.

Brexit divorce deal: the essentials

The UK will pay into the EU budgets for 2019 and 2020 as if it had remained in the bloc. It will also “contribute its share of the financing” for any EU liabilities incurred before the end of 2020 that fall due over the years, and in some cases decades to come.

No EU member state will expect to pay a euro more to the EU budget as a result of Brexit. This was considered unthinkable by the UK at the beginning of the negotiation, and allows the EU to see out its 2014-2020 budget with no disruption.

Britain was able to structure the financial negotiation in a way that minimises the expected net costs of the financial settlement. When using conservative assumptions about expected payments, the UK can show a net exit bill of €40bn to €45bn.

Brexit Talks Headed for a Second, More Difficult Phase – The New York Times

Difficult as that was, most analysts agree that the second stage of negotiations will be far harder. Britain and the European Union will begin to tangle with the finer details of the divorce settlement and the structure, at least, of the future relationship that Britain, as a nonmember, will have with the European Union.

For that to happen, though, the badly divided cabinet members will have to stop bickering and begin to work out agreements among themselves. At the same time they will need to grapple at the negotiating table with a dominant European Union that is determined to make an example of Britain to any other member states thinking of cutting ties.

“This deal has only been done through a mixture of fudge and playing for time,” said Peter Ricketts, a former senior British diplomat with long European experience and a member of the House of Lords. On the border, he said, “no one has solved the underlying problem of how to have a border if there is no deal with the European Union,” which will be the subject of further talks.

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CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

‘It Burns and It Keeps Burning’: Scenes From Southern California’s Wildfires – The New York Times

The flames raced across brittle hillsides like advancing armies. Up and down Southern California’s canyons and coastlines, they stormed into neighborhoods and engulfed homes where people were using sprinklers and garden hoses as a last, desperate defense against the wind-driven wildfires.

On Thursday, the hot, dry winds sparked new fires in San Diego and Riverside Counties and up the coast. Nearly 200,000 people were forced to evacuate, and residents in areas already charred by wildfire worried that the strengthening, erratic winds could ignite new fires at any moment.

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Record Wildfires Ravage California – WSJ

In Los Angeles, a fire now largely under control near Bel-Air shut down a portion of a major freeway, contributed to the closure of hundreds of schools this week, and set the city on edge. With multiple fires still burning, and nearly 200,000 people chased from their homes, it is too early to tally the damages across the southern part of the state.

Southern California Fires Live Updates: ‘We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet’ – The New York Times

The quick-moving fires that have forced thousands of Californians to evacuate their homes continued to sweep across the southern part of the state on Friday, destroying buildings and taxing fire crews that have been working for days. Evacuees in San Diego County, where a 4,100-acre fire remained completely uncontained, told of quickly encroaching flames that left at least six people injured, 25 racehorses dead and 85 structures ruined.

California Wildfire Torment Far From Over as Winds Keep Blowing – Bloomberg

Fires fanned by strong winds have charred hundreds of thousands of acres, burned hundreds of homes, shut major freeways and closed schools throughout Southern California this week. Lower winds on Friday have allowed crews to make progress in containing some of the conflagrations, said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It’s a very volatile situation,” McLean said in a phone interview. “When you get high winds and low humidity, those things make a big difference in how a fire reacts.”

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JERUSALEM

U.S. Faces Blunt Criticism at U.N. Over Jerusalem Decree – The New York Times

The United States faced blunt and sometimes withering criticism from friends and adversaries alike at the United Nations on Friday over President Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and his plans to move the American Embassy to the highly contested holy city.

The rebukes, made at an emergency Security Council meeting called over Mr. Trump’s announcement, constituted an extraordinarily public denunciation of American policy on the world’s most prominent diplomatic stage, leaving the United States alone on the issue among the council’s 15 members.

One by one, the ambassadors of Sweden, Egypt, Britain, France and Bolivia, among others, reiterated their view that President Trump’s announcement had subverted the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a longtime bedrock of the United Nations position on resolving it. Some, like Bolivia’s ambassador, Sacha Sergio Llorenty Solíz, demanded that the body take action, “otherwise the Security Council will become an occupied territory,” he said.

It is unclear what the council members could do, however, except to voice their anger and frustration. The United States is one of the five permanent members and could veto any resolution seeking to condemn President Trump’s decision.

Did Trump Kill Off a Two-State Solution? He Says No, Palestinians Say Yes – The New York Times

More so than the protests that erupted in the West Bank, which injured dozens of people but were less intense than expected, the comments of senior Palestinians like Mr. Erekat captured the profound sense of despair.

Administration officials strenuously reject the argument that Mr. Trump has foreclosed a two-state solution. He recommitted himself to brokering what he has called the “ultimate deal” between the two sides, they said. He studiously avoided taking a position on the eventual borders or sovereignty of Jerusalem. And he called for status quo in the administration of the Jewish and Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Israeli jets hit Gaza following rocket fire, as protests surge in wake of Trump announcement – The Washington Post

Israeli forces fired live ammunition Friday at Palestinian protesters who burned tires and threw stones near the border fence with Gaza, and Israeli jets responded to rocket fire with an airstrike, in a sharp escalation of violence over President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Two Palestinians were reported killed and hundreds injured.

Top Iranian cleric calls for Palestinian violence, vows to ‘level Tel Aviv’ | The Times of Israel

A senior Iranian cleric called during Friday prayers for Palestinians to “rage” against Israel after US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an ultra-conservative and a key leader of the main weekly Muslim prayers, said Trump had drawn a line on years of peace efforts by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian President Says U.S. No Longer Qualified To Broker Peace Talks : NPR

President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday the U.S. is not qualified to sponsor the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians because of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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NORTH KOREA

CIA Told Trump North Korea Can Hit Washington With Nuclear Weapons in Three Months, Report Says

The Central Intelligence Agency has told President Donald Trump that North Korea could have the ability to strike major U.S. cities, even with nuclear weapons, within the next three months, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told British officials last week, according to The Guardian.

John Bolton, who served under former President George W. Bush, reportedly told officials at the House of Commons that CIA “chiefs” claimed there was a “three-month window” to act before Kim Jong Un’s regime gained the capability to attack U.S. cities.

Japan to buy cruise missiles capable of striking North Korea

Announcing the acquisition on Friday, Itsunori Onodera, defence minister, said that the missiles would be purely for defensive purposes and did not reflect a policy of preventive strikes against enemy bases.

Japan to acquire air-launched missiles able to strike North Korea – Breaking News – Jerusalem Post

Japan is to acquire medium-range, air-launched cruise missiles, capable of striking North Korea, a controversial purchase of what will become the longest-range munitions of a country that has renounced the right to wage war.

U.N. Sanctions Leave North Korean Drug Maker on Life Support – WSJ

The predicament of a North Korean pharmaceuticals maker that may be forced to close shows the challenge world leaders face in trying to squeeze Pyongyang without further harming the isolated country’s endangered population.

This is how nuclear war with North Korea would unfold – The Washington Post

The thread of history winds along on twists of fate, like Archduke Ferdinand’s driver missing a turn.

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RUSSIA PROBE

F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives – The New York Times

F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events.

The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers.

Email pointed Trump campaign to WikiLeaks documents that were already public – The Washington Post

A 2016 email sent to candidate Donald Trump and top aides pointed the campaign to hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee that had already been made public by the group WikiLeaks a day earlier.

The email — sent the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2016 — noted that “Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC” and included a link and a “decryption key,” according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post.

Russian social media executive sought to help Trump campaign in 2016, emails show – The Washington Post

The executive at Vkontakte, or VK, Russia’s equivalent to Facebook, emailed Donald Trump Jr. and social media director Dan Scavino in January and again in November of last year, offering to help promote Trump’s campaign to its nearly 100 million users, according to people familiar with the messages.

Trump’s Allies Urge Harder Line as Mueller Probe Heats Up – WSJ

A Russia investigation that Donald Trump’s legal team predicted would clear the president by year’s end looks to stretch into 2018, prompting his supporters to press for tactics that portray Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s operation as politically motivated.

Roger Stone says Trump’s lawyers ‘are giving him bad advice’ – NY Daily News

“I don’t think the President is getting good legal advice,” Stone told the Daily News in reference to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Manafort Heavily Edited Op-Ed, Documents Filed by Mueller Show – Bloomberg

Paul Manafort, the onetime campaign chairman of President Donald Trump, contributed heavy edits to an opinion piece that ran this week in an English-language Ukrainian newspaper, prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in a legal filing Friday.

George Papadopoulos’ fiancee: He’s a patriot, not a Trump campaign coffee boy – ABC News

The Italian fiancee of George Papadopoulos offered the first public defense of the embattled former Trump campaign adviser, who in October was revealed as the first campaign adviser to plead guilty and cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia probe.

“George is very loyal to his country,” Simona Mangiante told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview. “He is already on the right side of history. I think he will make a big difference.”

Democrats Ask Kushner If He Sought Help Abroad for Tower – Bloomberg

The building is losing money and has a $1.2 billion mortgage due in February 2019. Kushner Cos. is responsible for half the loan, and representatives for the company have approached investors in Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, Qatar, France and Israel, Bloomberg reported in an article cited by the lawmakers.

As chief executive officer of Kushner Cos., Jared Kushner participated in some of those talks prior to joining the White House in January. He quit the role and divested his stake in the building to close family members in connection with his joining the administration.

NO DEAL: How Secret Talks With Russia To Prevent Election Meddling Collapsed

The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference, three senior US administration officials tell BuzzFeed News. Russia first broached the subject in July, when one of Vladimir Putin’s top diplomats arrived in Washington with a sheet of proposals aimed at addressing a top concern of the US government: A resurgence of Russian meddling in the 2018 elections.

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Lobbyists Ask for Votes. Some Lawmakers Want Much More. – The New York Times

Charges of harassment are cascading through statehouses across the country, leading to investigations, resignations of powerful men and anguish over hostile workplaces for women that for years went unacknowledged. Amid this reckoning, one group of victims has stood apart: political lobbyists.

Part of a frequently disparaged profession, female lobbyists have emerged as especially vulnerable in legislatures and in Congress because, unlike government employees, they often have no avenue to report complaints and receive due process. Lobbyists who have been harassed are essentially powerless in their workplaces, all-dependent on access to mostly male lawmakers for meetings and influence to advance legislation and earn their living.

Dustin Hoffman accused of ‘abusive’ sexual harassment on Broadway | Film | The Guardian

Another claim of sexual harassment has been aimed at Dustin Hoffman, detailing a “horrific, demoralizing and abusive” experience on the set of a 1983 Broadway show. The actor Kathryn Rossetter has alleged that the actor groped her repeatedly while they worked together on a production of Death of a Salesman. In an op-ed for the Hollywood Reporter, Rosseter lays out a number of alleged incidents, which also included Hoffman pulling up her clothing offstage and exposing her body to crew members.

“X-Men” Filmmaker Bryan Singer Accused Of Raping 17-Year-Old Boy On Yacht

Bryan Singer, the big-budget filmmaker behind multiple X-Men movies, has been sued for allegedly raping a 17-year-old boy on a yacht, and then using his position in Hollywood to threaten him into silence.

Female aides fretted Franks wanted to have sex to impregnate them – POLITICO

The sources said Franks approached two female staffers about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who has struggled with fertility issues for years. But the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sexual relations with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos.

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RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

Pool of negative yielding bonds tops $11tn in November

More than $11tn of sovereign and corporate bonds traded with a yield below zero at the end of November, despite quickening global growth and a view among investors that central banks will begin to remove their extraordinary accommodation.

The value of debt with a subzero yield rose to $11.2tn from $10.9tn a month prior, and was the highest reading since August, according to data from Bloomberg compiled for the Financial Times.

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Over $600 Billion Has Flown Into ETFs in 2017 – WSJ

Investors plowed more than $600 billion into exchange-traded funds globally in the first 11 months of the year, according to new research, already marking an annual record for one of Wall Street’s hottest products.

Roughly 54% more cash flowed into ETFs through November than in all of 2016, according to London-based consulting firm ETFGI LLP. Assets in ETFs world-wide rose to $4.7 trillion at the end of November, up from $3.6 trillion at the end of last year.

Solid US jobs report clears way for rate rise

The US extended its multiyear run of uninterrupted jobs growth in November as employers took on more workers than expected, cementing expectations for another rise in interest rates next week.

Non-farm payrolls rose 228,000, according to the Labor Department, comfortably above the median forecast of 195,000 from a survey of economists by Bloomberg. Unemployment held at 4.1 per cent, equal to the lowest figure since the early 2000s, while average hourly earnings rose 2.5 per cent on the year.

Retail Giant Steinhoff’s Share Rout Raises Scrutiny of Transactions – WSJ

The stock market carnage at Steinhoff International Holdings NV—its shares are down 82% since disclosing possible accounting irregularities earlier this week—is raising fresh scrutiny over a set of Byzantine transactions between the global furniture retailer and related parties.

Shares in Steinhoff fell another 15% Friday, extending a rout that has wiped out nearly $12 billion in market value since the company said its chief executive had resigned and it had identified possible accounting problems that could affect some $7 billion in assets. The company now has a market capitalization of about $2.7 billion.

Global Regulators Agree on Rules to Prevent Financial Crises – The New York Times

A group of global central bank governors and bank regulators, meeting in Frankfurt, signed off on the last chapter of a banking rule book they began writing after the financial crisis began in 2008. The rules are intended to prevent the kind of mischief by banks that triggered the last meltdown, causing millions of people to lose their homes and jobs.

The rules are the capstone of years of grindingly detailed work by the so-called Basel Committee. Known as Basel III, the rules require banks to reduce their dependence on borrowed money so they are less susceptible to losses from bad loans, market turmoil or other problems.

Developers Are Building More Condos in Canada Than Ever Before – Bloomberg

Canadian real estate developers are on a tear, starting construction on a record number of multiple-unit projects. A November surge in everything from semi-detached homes to condos has brought the number of housing starts over the past 12 months to the highest on record in data going back to 1959, according to figures released Friday by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

The jump surprised policy makers and analysts particularly given the softening that has taken place in the Toronto resale market, the country’s largest, in recent months. “Canadian home building activity remains rock solid,” BMO Capital Markets economist Robert Kavcic said in a note to investors. “Builders in the biggest cities appear to be responding to supply shortages as best as possible.”

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

Why Siberia is a great place to mine bitcoins – Russia’s digital gold rush

Irkutsk has embraced the digital gold rush. Awash in electricity from hydroelectric plants, the region charges 2.1 roubles ($0.04) per kilowatt-hour, compared with 5.3 roubles in Moscow. That makes “mining”, in which computers solve cryptographic challenges to generate currency, especially profitable. Seminars have proliferated. “Cybercurrency fever has swept Irkutsk,” declared a local television station this month.

Mr Dromashko says he spends about 4m roubles per month on electricity, but easily recoups that. “Selling drugs and guns wouldn’t generate such profits,” he says. (“Though I haven’t tried,” he clarifies.)

Some see cybercurrency as a path to self-sufficiency. Dmitry Tolmachev, an Irkutsk furniture magnate, developed a prototype modular home warmed by the servers’ excess heat. The homes cost $8,500 and up, and generate about $850 per month in mining profit. Mr Tolmachev sports a black beret, goes by “Che”, and recently did jail time for hosting a rally by the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. “The Russian man doesn’t love to work, he needs free money,” he says, invoking “Wish Upon a Pike”, a classic Russian fairy tale about a lazy villager who catches a magic fish that grants his wishes. “This is a kind of pike that does everything for you: it produces money, and heats your home too.”

Bitcoin bubble follows classic pattern of investment mania

Since its introduction almost a decade ago, bitcoin has spurred the most impressive burst of entrepreneurial activity since the first wave of investment in the worldwide web. There are now many other cryptocurrencies, while different entrepreneurs are working to expand the concept to contracts and even to journalism.

Only the resolutely unimaginative could fail to be excited by the technology. As with the internet two decades ago, its potential to be transformative is evident. But this does not necessarily extend to the price of bitcoin itself. As the dotcom bubble proved, even the most exciting long-term technology can also inflict grievous long-term losses on you if it gets sufficiently overvalued.

The Bitcoin Bubble Post Mortem – Cryptocurrency Hub

Digital-first (only): Bitcoin is the first purely digital bubble. To be sure, we have had bubbles that have occurred mostly in a digital realm but even there we could claim that someone, somewhere was getting paper upon which their paper profits were written. This time around there is no paper. It is perhaps the first bubble in three centuries without that medium so it is different.

World-wide: this is one of the most global bubbles ever. Thanks to bitcoin being digital, anyone, anywhere can purchase bitcoin. You don’t need a stock-broker or a stock-account. You probably don’t even need a bank account. Everyone can get in on this. That means that people are likely buying bitcoin in communities without previous asset bubble experience; not that experience has ever proved much of a constraint before.

Unrelated to finance: bubbles have happened before that are unrelated to finance but they are usually related to being able to raise funds. No one is raising any money here. Unlike a stock market or junk bond crash, if bitcoin goes down, there are no investments that are curtailed except for the mining operations that underpin the system of course. I doubt central bankers are sweating this one out but then again, there will be distributional effects, it is just hard to know what they are. The point though, is that unless people are transferring vast quantities of savings that would be used for investment, it is not clear that a crash will have large financial consequences. Indeed, it isn’t even a signal of any broader issue.

Trading volumes are not that high: In the last 24 hours, around US$43 billion was traded. That’s alot and is about 16% of all bitcoin on issue. But it is perhaps the equivalent of the NYSE normal trading day.

Bitcoin is none of the things it was supposed to be | The Outline

After nearly nine years in existence, the closest thing to the kind of Bitcoin-powered payments Nakamoto envisioned is on dark-web markets: the websites like Valhalla or the now-defunct Silk Road that can only be accessed through the anonymizing network Tor. Bitcoin is the default currency on the dark web — but the speculators driving the current bubble are making it difficult to use Bitcoin for actual transactions. “Fuck you Bitcoin,” one buyer commented on the dark-web subreddit. “Went to do a direct deal today with a vendor, realized my $250 purchase would end up costing me $315 or so with fees and would still take probably 24 hours to get to him.” “I personally think there needs to be a grand movement on markets and vendors… to move to an alternative crypto, one that is not so god damn volatile and that can actually be viable,” wrote another.

What about Bitcoin as a peer-to-peer network with no trusted third parties? “A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without the burdens of going through a financial institution,” the Nakamoto wrote. This system very quickly fell apart.

Only One Side Compromised for This Brexit Breakthrough – Bloomberg

As he announced the deal, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called it a compromise; but Juncker was just being generous. This is no compromise. These are EU positions covered by some linguistic fig leaves meant for the Tory party’s hard Brexit wing and the Democratic Unionist Party. The only tangible achievement the U.K. can boast after six months of talks is the partial concession on court jurisdiction which allows U.K. courts and not the ECJ settle citizens’ rights disputes. But it’s largely symbolic: Not many EU citizens living in the U.K. have the stamina to go all the way to the ECJ with their cases; it’s easier to go back to Europe.

The Brexit monomania built on blind faith

Observers of British politics will not find the parallel hard to discern: the centre ground has been hollowed out, the economy is faltering, respect for basic norms of truth-telling are in tatters, and the union itself is under strain.

Jocelin slowly realises the toll his project is taking on those around him, but since he is doing the work of God, any price must be worth paying. British politicians obey the will not of God, but of the British people as expressed in a referendum. It seems to amount to the same thing.

In the end, Jocelin is stripped of his job and his dignity. The long-predicted storm comes. Reality asserts itself. The vision, the visionary and the spire itself crack under the strain.

Harsh lessons for the next phase of Brexit

For Theresa May’s government, nine months of divorce talks have been a humiliating and yet wholly predictable rendezvous with reality. The false promises and Rule Britannia platitudes of leading Brexiters have dissolved on contact with the facts of economic and political life. Brussels, it was said, could “whistle” for a financial settlement from London. Now the prime minister is ready to write a cheque for €50bn. It was always going to be so. When Mrs May invoked Article 50 she gave away what little bargaining leverage she once had.

Britain can “take back control” — as long as it accepts, say, that business data-sharing will be outlawed, that British airlines will be barred from European airspace, and that electricity interconnectors with the continent will be shut down. This is just the start of the list. Anyone for sovereign self-harm?

The G.O.P. Is Rotting – The New York Times

A lot of good, honorable Republicans used to believe there was a safe middle ground. You didn’t have to tie yourself hip to hip with Donald Trump, but you didn’t have to go all the way to the other extreme and commit political suicide like the dissident Jeff Flake, either. You could sort of float along in the middle, and keep your head down until this whole Trump thing passed.

Now it’s clear that middle ground doesn’t exist. That’s because Donald Trump never stops asking. First, he asked the party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.

There is no end to what Trump will ask of his party. He is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him. Trump may soon ask them to accept his firing of Robert Mueller, and yes, after some sighing, they will accept that, too.

Trump’s mental meltdown – The Washington Post

Any Fortune 500 company would have fired a chief executive exhibiting similarly erratic behavior long ago. Unfortunately, the Washington leaders most strategically positioned to limit the damage seem to be frozen by fear.

The president’s meltdown could not come at a more perilous time. For months now, national security insiders have been fretting about the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula. But administration sources admit their greatest fear is their own commander in chief’s instability.

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching. – The New York Times

From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity. While the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris accord, the Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward.

It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over. You may wish to pretend that rising seas are a hoax perpetrated by scientists and a gullible news media. Or you can build barriers galore. But in the end, neither will provide adequate defense, the Dutch say.

Reflections on Hayek | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal

Friedrich A Hayek (1899-1992), well ahead of his time, viewed the market economy as an information processing system characterised by spontaneous order – the emergence of coherence through the independent actions of large numbers of individuals, each with limited and local knowledge, coordinated by price messages that arise from a decentralised process of competition.

Hayek also advocated for a broad range of free market policies, and indeed considered the market system to be superior to competing alternatives precisely because it made the best use of dispersed knowledge. These political views included opposition not only to central planning, but also to monetary and fiscal demand management policies, collective bargaining, wage floors, and significant public expenditures. His hostility to Keynes and to Keynesian policies in particular was deep and visceral.

Hayek drew a sharp contrast between his approach and general equilibrium theory, which itself had been used to make a case for free markets on the basis of the fundamental theorems of welfare economics. As he put it, the “argument in favour of competition does not rest on the conditions that would exist if it were perfect” (Hayek 1948: 104). Instead, his case for competitive markets rested on the idea that competition was a “procedure for discovering facts which, if the procedure did not exist, would remain unknown or at least would not be used” (Hayek 1968).

How to Launder $1 Billion of Iranian Oil – Bloomberg

Over more than a week on the witness stand, Zarrab spun a stunning tale of corruption and double-dealing that reached the highest levels of the Turkish government, all the way up to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The case has further soured Washington and Ankara’s already strained relationship, revealing how America’s longtime ally may have helped Iran undermine sanctions even as Turkey received millions of dollars in U.S. aid. Nine people have been charged, including Turkey’s former economy minister and past chief executive officer of Halkbank, a major Turkish bank owned by the government. Of them, only one—a senior Halkbank executive named Mehmet Hakan Atilla, Zarrab’s former co-defendant—is on trial. The others have all avoided U.S. arrest.

In court, Zarrab laid out how he paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes to Turkish government officials and banking executives to win their assistance—and cover—for the money laundering operation. He dropped a bombshell on his second day of testimony, when he implicated Erdogan as part of the scheme, saying he was told Turkey’s president gave orders that two Turkish banks be included in the plot.

The Next Flu Pandemic Will Appear When You Least Expect It – The New York Times

If a new flu pandemic emerges, it may be easy to spot. The epidemic is most likely to appear in spring or summer, researchers have found — not in the midwinter depths of the flu season.

Normally flu strikes in winter, when children are crowded into classrooms and the air is cold and dry — ideal for transmitting the influenza virus. But historically, that has not been true of the great flu epidemics.

A half-dozen flu pandemics — including those of 1889, 1918 (the Spanish Flu) and 2009 (the swine flu) — were all first detected between late March and late July, according to a study published recently in PLOS Computational Biology by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Wash.

After 7 Years of Job Growth, Room for More, or Danger Ahead? – The New York Times

The economy’s vital signs are stronger than they have been in years. Companies are posting jobs faster than they can find workers to fill them. Incomes are rising. The stock market sets records seemingly every month.

The latest evidence of the revival came Friday, when the Labor Department reported that American employers added 228,000 jobs in November. The unemployment rate held steady at 4.1 percent, the lowest since 2000. Job growth has slowed since its peak in 2014 but remains remarkably steady: For the first time on record, employers have added jobs every month for more than seven years — 86 months, to be precise.

Wherever the credit lies, workers are benefiting from an economy that is delivering broad-based gains in income and employment for the first time in at least a decade. Groups that were left behind in the early stages of the economic recovery, such as African-Americans and people without a college degree, have seen their unemployment rates drop sharply in recent years.

And although wage growth remains disappointing, household income — which reflects not only hourly pay rates but also how many people have jobs and how many hours they are working — has shown strong gains, particularly for poorer households.

17Z11 - NONFARM UNEMP

TOP

CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY

Next week: Fed, ECB, EU summit

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to lift its interest rate by 0.25 percentage points to 1.375 per cent when it delivers its monetary policy decision on Wednesday. However, with a rate rise considered a cinch, investors will have their attention on the central bank’s updated economic forecasts, dot plots of interest rate projections.

The press conference is also the last for chair Janet Yellen as Jay Powell is now a shoo-in after he was cleared by the Senate Banking Committee. Instead, investors will be watching to see if the Fed leaves itself enough room to maneuver as it awaits updates on tax reform.

On Thursday, attention turns to the European Central Bank, which is projected to leave its main refinance rate and deposit rate steady at 0 per cent and -0.4 per cent respectively and focus instead turns to its new macro forecasts.

Investors also get an update from the Bank of England on Wednesday. After lifting interest rates for the first time in a decade at its last meeting, this is expected to be a more muted affair with the Monetary Policy Committee expected to maintain the Bank Rate at 0.5 per cent. The meeting in February is likely to be more high profile as central bankers and markets will know more on the status of Brexit negotiations by then.

TOP

USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

U.S. Hiring Figures Reveal Sweet Spot for Economy – WSJ

The U.S. economy is hitting milestones not seen in more than a decade, marked by robust hiring that has led to low unemployment and a sustained pickup in output.

Labor Department data Friday showed nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 228,000 in November—the record 86th straight month of expansion—after a 244,000 gain in October. Steady hiring has in turn driven the unemployment rate down to 4.1% for two straight months, holding at a 17-year low.

That would put economic output on track for a third straight quarter of near 3% growth, a breakout, for now at least, from a long period of 2% growth. The economy hasn’t delivered three straight quarters of growth at or above 3% since a period from mid-2004 to early 2005.

17Z11 - NONFARM PAYROLLS

Americans are drowning in debt. Here’s where they have it the worst. – The Washington Post

Nationwide the data shows that 33 percent of Americans hold debt that is currently in collection. The median amount of debt in collections is $1,450.

But those figures show striking regional variation. In Louisiana, 46 percent of adults have debt in collection, the highest share in the nation. Rates of past-due debt are generally highest in southern and western states, and lowest in the upper Midwest. In Minnesota, for instance, only 17 percent of adults have debt in collections, the lowest rate in the nation.

U.S. Job Market Not Looking Very Tight Based on Low-Skill Wages – Bloomberg

This rising tide isn’t lifting many boats. Wage growth in the U.S. has failed to pick up this year despite a steady decline in the unemployment rate. The sluggishness has been relatively broad-based across the labor market, including among low-skilled workers, who might seem to be the most likely candidates for bigger pay increases as labor becomes scarcer.

The bottom 20 percent of workers by average industry pay received a 3.9 percent increase in hourly earnings in October from a year earlier, marking an acceleration from a 3.4 percent advance in the year through October 2016. The detailed industry numbers for October were released on Friday along with the Labor Department’s main employment report for November.

U.S. Payrolls Rise 228,000 While Wages Gain Less Than Forecast – Bloomberg

The U.S. labor market has moved past a couple months of hurricane disruptions and returned to its regularly scheduled programming: solid hiring but tepid wage gains that suggest things aren’t as tight as the unemployment rate suggests.

U.S. Consumer Sentiment Fell Again in December – WSJ

A key measure of U.S. consumer sentiment slid in December for the second straight month, but continued to signal solid household confidence during the holiday shopping season.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA

EU and Japan finalise ‘cars-for-cheese’ trade deal

The EU and Japan have agreed the final pieces of a major free trade agreement — dubbed the “cars-for-cheese” deal by some commentators — saying the accord sends a “clear signal” that global markets remain open.

The deal, agreed in principle in July, covers a combined market of 600m people accounting for approximately 30 per cent of global gross domestic product. Brussels hailed it as a breakthrough for the bloc’s businesses, notably its farmers, saying it was “the most significant and far reaching deal ever concluded by the EU in agri-food trade”.

E.U. and Japan Reach Deal to Keep ‘Flag of Free Trade Waving High’ – The New York Times

The European Union and Japan said on Friday that they had finalized a sweeping deal that would create a free trade area covering more than a quarter of the world’s economy, pushing against rising calls for protectionism in much of the West.

Leaders of both parties to the agreement trumpeted its strategic, as well as economic, importance. That it was announced just hours after Britain and the European Union broke a deadlock to start a new round of talks over that country’s withdrawal from the bloc only heightened its symbolic impact.

The so-called economic partnership agreement, which would be one of the largest free trade deals ever, “demonstrates the powerful political will of Japan and the E.U. to continue to keep the flag of free trade waving high,” the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the president of the European Union’s executive arm, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in a joint statement.

America’s Factories Are Churning Out Job Growth – Bloomberg

U.S. manufacturers have been producing quite a few jobs since the summer. Factory payrolls over the last four months have increased 27,000 on average, the most since April 2012, the Labor Department’s latest employment report showed on Friday. What’s more, employees at producers of non-durable goods, such as chemicals, fuels and foods, worked longer hours in November and saw their weekly pay advance 3.2 percent from a year ago.

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Gold’s Beaten Down in Worst Week Since May on U.S. Rates Outlook – Bloomberg

Gold is heading for the biggest weekly drop since May as investors anticipate higher U.S. interest rates and progress on tax reform buoys the dollar, deepening a slump for the metal that touched a one-year high as recently as September.

U.S. Stocks Are Having One of the Best Years in Half a Century – Bloomberg

Rarely in the last half century have the stars been so aligned for U.S. stocks. The collapse in volatility and mid-year slump in bond yields has helped investors earn the third biggest risk-adjusted return from U.S. equities in 50 years, according to Bloomberg Sharpe ratio calculations. The measure tracks stock returns relative to Treasuries and volatility.

U.S. stocks have hit new highs this year as a bull market that started in March 2009 is poised to become the longest on record. Treasury yields are ending the year little changed and stock volatility is close to historic lows. Investor enthusiasm for technology shares and optimism over the potential benefits of U.S. tax reform have helped drive returns.

Companies are enjoying a ‘Goldilocks’ backdrop for profits with strong pricing power and surging cash flows, strategists at Jefferies Group LLC wrote in a recent note to clients. However, the backdrop for equity markets has been unique, and may not recur in 2018, they said.

Tax-loss selling to pressure 2017’s losers in December

Stocks that have been lackluster so far in 2017 are unlikely to see their fortunes reversed in the final month of the year, as investors engage in tax-harvesting practices before the new year.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Gunmaker shares slide as ‘fear-based buying’ recedes

Dimming expectations that the US will restrict gun ownership, despite a string of mass shootings, has had an effect on the nation’s gun manufacturers, whose sales, profits and share prices are falling. Gunmaker stocks declined on Friday after Smith & Wesson parent American Outdoor Brands cut its earnings forecasts for the year following a sharp drop in quarterly sales.

PepsiCo to move to Nasdaq after nearly a century with NYSE

PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N) is moving its listing to the Nasdaq, ending a century-long association with the New York Stock Exchange.

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DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS

SoftBank is in talks to invest around $300 million in DoorDash – Recode

The Japanese giant SoftBank is preparing to invest around $300 million into the food delivery startup DoorDash, according to sources familiar with the deal. The investment would be the latest big bet from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, a $98 billion pool of cash that is striking massive deals in some of Silicon Valley’s flashiest companies.

Sources: Apple is acquiring music recognition app Shazam | TechCrunch

As Spotify continues to inch towards a public listing, Apple is making a move of its own to step up its game in music services. Sources tell us that the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advert in seconds, by listening to an audio clip or (in the case of, say, an ad) a visual fragment, and then takes you to content relevant to that search.

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FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS

GOP tax reform bill: US dollar impact – Business Insider

Vamvakidis sees traders buying the dollar on tax reform after selling the “rumor,” or the period when uncertainty about its passage weighed on traders. The Senate passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the wee hours of Saturday morning. It’s now set to resolve the differences between its bill and the House version that passed in mid-November.

The tax-cut boost to the dollar would take three forms, Vamvakidis said. Companies would be encouraged to repatriate funds they’ve left overseas for tax reasons, and some of these would be converted to dollars and used for capital expenditure. Tax cuts could boost annual gross domestic product growth by 0.3 to 0.4 percentage points over the next two years. And this could force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates faster than it expects.

Pound’s Acid Test on Brexit Is Yet to Come for Options Traders – Bloomberg

On display was the classic market adage of “Buy the rumor, sell the fact.” But also obvious was a recognition among traders that the negotiations have reached a crucial second phase: if just the first phase of unlocking the divorce bill was this challenging, the path ahead could be even more frustrating and time-consuming.

Investor skepticism about further progress in talks is on candid display across the spectrum of derivatives. From one-month to one-year risk reversals, put options on the pound are more expensive that calls; what’s more, the premiums get stiffer the further out one goes on the curve.

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FINTECH, BLOCKCHAIN, DIGITAL PAYMENTS

France Allows Use of Blockchain to Trade Some Traditional Securities – WSJ

France said Friday that it will allow wider use of the record-keeping technology behind bitcoin in the issuance and trading of traditional securities, part of a growing number of experiments to speed up trading by decentralizing it.

The change is the latest seal of mainstream approval for systems, often called blockchains or distributed ledgers, that were first developed to allow total strangers on the internet to place faith in virtual-currency transactions without the need for a trusted third party.

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

Bill Ackman Likely to Face Trial on Allergan Insider-Trading Claims – Bloomberg

Activist investor Bill Ackman and his estranged former collaborator in a 2014 hostile takeover bid for Botox-maker Allergan Inc. will likely face a jury trial next month over claims they engaged in insider trading.

U.S. District Judge David Carter issued a tentative ruling at a hearing Friday, denying a request by Ackman and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. to throw out the allegations by Allergan shareholders. They claim they were tricked when Ackman bought their shares in the secret knowledge Valeant was planning a hostile bid.

The case turns on whether Valeant and Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management were planning as early as February 2014 to take their offer directly to Allergan’s shareholders rather than to pursue a negotiated merger with Allergan’s management. It also depends on whether Pershing Square was really trying to buy Allergan instead of just helping to facilitate Valeant’s bid.

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

Big Oil Backs Away From a Former Industry Darling – WSJ

Angola was once a magnet for the world’s biggest oil companies, drawing billions of dollars in investment from BP, Exxon Mobil and others. Now, foreign companies have all but given up on new ventures there.

Russia Skirts U.S. Sanctions With $27 Billion Arctic Gas Plant – WSJ

Russia is launching Yamal LNG, a $27 billion Arctic gas project that is a symbol of its efforts to overcome Western sanctions and strengthen ties with China.

The Panama Canal Is Now a Major Problem for U.S. Shale – Bloomberg

Just as the Panama Canal was unveiling a new, fatter set of locks, U.S. shale drillers were readying their very first exports of liquefied natural gas. While the wide-body tankers that transport LNG would’ve had no chance of squeaking through the original steel locks built a century ago, they could easily traverse the bigger channel and shave 11 days off the trip to primary markets in Asia.

But 17 months in, it’s not quite working out as planned. Only a single LNG tanker has a guaranteed passage each day. The natural-gas industry blames the Panama Canal Authority for holdups, and the canal authority blames the industry for being lackadaisical about transit timetables.

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ENERGY NATURAL GAS, COAL

‘Death spiral’: half of Europe’s coal plants are losing money | Environment | The Guardian

Coal in Europe is in a “death spiral”, according to Carbon Tracker, with seven nations including the UK already having announced the end of coal power by 2030 or earlier. At the UN climate change summit in November, the launch of a new alliance of 19 nations committed to phasing out coal rapidly was greeted as a political watershed. “The time of coal has passed,” said the UK’s climate minister Claire Perry.

Until recently European utilities were strong performers, beating Europe’s Stoxx 600 index by 60% between 2000 and 2010. But since then, the utilities have plunged 20% in value as the rise of renewable energy and government policies radically reshaped the market.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Environmentalists Ask: Is India’s Government Making Bad Air Worse? – The New York Times

The smog crisis cuts to the heart of India’s image abroad. It is stirring dissatisfaction against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is a drag on the economy and, according to a new Unicef report, it might be permanently damaging children’s brains.

India’s environmentalists acknowledge that air pollution is a multiheaded monster with many causes. But they argue not only that Mr. Modi has failed to adequately respond, but that his business-friendly policies, like loosening rules on construction sites, have made a toxic air problem even worse.

“Environment regulations are being diluted to promote the ease of doing business,” said Prerna Bindra, a wildlife conservationist. “Green concerns are not reflected in India’s growth story. In some cities, we draw in poison with every breath we take.”

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EUROPE

Poland Gets a New Prime Minister in Cabinet Reshuffle – The New York Times

Poland will get a new prime minister next week, the centerpiece of a cabinet reshuffle at the midpoint of the governing party’s four-year term. But the party’s undisputed leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, will retain the real behind-the-scenes power in the country’s increasingly authoritarian government.

Poland’s Ruling Party Moves to Impose Its Will on Supreme Court – WSJ

Poland’s lower chamber of parliament approved legislation on Friday that would retire more than a third of the Supreme Court, removing one of the few checks on the ruling party’s growing power.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

France Investigates Lafarge Executives for Terrorist Financing – The New York Times

One of France’s biggest companies faces claims it helped finance the Islamic State and several armed groups when it operated in Syria from 2012 to 2014.

In Syria’s Skies, Close Calls With Russian Warplanes – The New York Times

American air commanders complain that the Russians are flouting their agreements aimed at avoiding midair collisions.

They Fled Boko Haram, Only to Be Raped by Nigeria’s Security Forces – The New York Times

Thousands of women and girls have endured Boko Haram’s sexual violence. But Nigerian security forces have also preyed on the people they are assigned to protect.

Two London men who sprayed corrosive fluid in the face of two women get 28 years in jail

In the first attack, the pair were part of a gang of five that targeted a supermarket after staking it out for the evening. A woman in her 50s was the lone shopkeeper in the store when they entered.

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TRUMP WORLD

Dina Powell, Influential Foreign Policy Adviser, Is Set to Exit White House – The New York Times

In a White House fractured by tribal divisions, Ms. Powell has been a prominent member of the New York camp affiliated with Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Her departure will remove one of the figures who has resisted the more hard-line policies advocated by the nationalist wing associated with Stephen K. Bannon, who stepped down over the summer as the president’s chief strategist.

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Trump admin scraps Obama-era proposal requiring airlines to disclose bag fees | TheHill

The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era proposal requiring airlines and ticket agencies to disclose baggage fees as soon as passengers start the process of buying a ticket. The Department of Transportation (DOT) posted a notice on the Federal Register this week that it is withdrawing the proposed rule, along with another plan to force air carriers to disclose how much revenue they make from charging other ancillary fees.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

Rep. Trent Franks to Resign From Congress Immediately – WSJ

Rep. Trent Franks said Friday he would resign from Congress immediately rather than in the new year, just ahead of news reports about his alleged conversations with aides asking them to bear a child as a surrogate.

Kim Davis Denied Him a Marriage License. He’s Running to Replace Her. – The New York Times

Ms. Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, attracted national attention for refusing to issue licenses to same-sex couples. One of the men she denied wants her job.

In Pensacola, Trump to Lead Rally Near Roy Moore’s Home State – WSJ

The president returns to a friendly neighborhood in a swing state, where he is expected to talk up Florida’s 2018 Senate race and offer arm’s-length support for Alabama Republican Roy Moore.

The Roy Moore Republicans – Axios

They’re backing him despite controversies. Nine women, on the record, have accused Alabama Republican Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, most when they were teenagers and he was a grown man. Moore’s spokesman says the women, who Mitch McConnell unambiguously believes, are criminals.

At a rally in September, one of the few African Americans in the audience asked Moore when America was last “great.” He responded: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. … Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

Moore Accuser Says She Wrote Part of Yearbook Inscription – The New York Times

Beverly Young Nelson said she made notes on a yearbook inscription she had offered as crucial evidence about her claim that Roy S. Moore had groped her.

Study: Hillary Clinton’s emails got as much front-page coverage in 6 days as policy did in 69 – Vox

Watts and Rothschild analyze the Times’s election coverage more broadly, but “Hillary’s emails” stands out as one of the starkest examples. It illuminates a larger problem in the coverage: The researchers found that the Times devoted much more online and print real estate to the campaign horse race and personal scandals for both candidates than it did to their policies on topics such as health care and taxes.

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CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE

Jony Ive Returns to Apple to Oversee Its Design Teams – WSJ

Ive resumes control of industrial-design and user-interface teams, which he stepped away from to focus on development of Apple’s new headquarters.

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MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT

Boston Herald Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection – WSJ

The owner of the Boston Herald newspaper has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and is putting itself up for sale, with a $5 million starting offer from GateHouse Media.

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AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

Ford Will Build Electric Cars in Mexico, Shifting Its Plan – The New York Times

Almost a year ago, after heavy criticism from President-elect Donald J. Trump, Ford Motor Company canceled plans to build a $1.6 billion car plant in Mexico and announced that it would instead equip a Michigan factory to make electric and hybrid models.

Now the automaker is changing its plans again, saying it intends to assemble new battery-powered cars in Mexico, not Michigan. But the Michigan location will get an even larger investment than previously planned and will focus on making a range of self-driving cars.

This Chevron Economist Isn’t Worried About Electric Cars – Bloomberg

Given the average life of an vehicle is between 10 and 15 years, every vehicle sold today would have to be electric for the world’s automotive industry to be free of fossil fuels by 2035, Karson said at a conference in Houston on Friday. Currently only about 1 percent of vehicle sales are electric, he said.

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LUXURY, HIGH END, ASPIRATIONAL

Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ Is Likely a Gift From Saudi Arabia to the U.A.E. – WSJ

The Leonardo da Vinci painting acquired for $450.3 million by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince will be displayed at the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum—a gift from Saudi Arabia to the United Arab Emirates, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH

Hyperloop work begins before a business case is made

Besides finding the right business case, the backers of schemes like these have yet to prove they can build a system that is reliable and safe — and which passengers will trust with their lives.

There are considerable technical challenges. The idea relies on a rail technology known as maglev, that uses magnetism to lift transport pods above a track, removing friction. Though proven decades ago, only one commercial maglev system is in use, in Shanghai, while an inter-city link under construction in Japan is turning out to be cripplingly expensive.

Pentagon Makes New Push to Put a Laser Weapon on a Fighter Jet – WSJ

Lockheed in November secured a $26 million deal from the Pentagon to develop a laser for a supersonic F-15 jet capable of disabling a missile or drone from a mile or more away, according to a defense department release and military officials. It is the landmark piece of a Pentagon push to develop a low-cost solution to outmatch adversaries such as China that are fielding ever-more capable missiles and drones.

Lasers fired from trucks or a Navy ship already have been tested, but military officials said fitting one to a jet would be a crucial breakthrough in providing defenses that can be employed in large numbers.

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SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY

These whales are stressed out. The proof is in their poop. – The Washington Post

In a recent paper in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists showed for the first time that right whale stress hormones can be accurately measured by sifting through the animals’ feces. And they found that chronically entangled right whales show stress levels that are orders of magnitude greater than unencumbered whales.

Tracking Dolphins With Algorithms You Might Find on Facebook – The New York Times

Scientists leveraged machine learning techniques to sift through recordings of dolphin clicks, which could help with monitoring the health of the sea mammals.

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MISCELLANEOUS

Five Days of Smoke and Fire in Southern California – The New York Times

Six major fires are burning across Southern California. They began Monday and many are still raging. It’s hard to underestimate how many helicopters and planes are in the skies right now. In burned neighborhoods, you can see the pink splatter of fire retardant on cars and driveways.

17Z11 - FIRE RETARDANT

TOP

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