Macro Links Nov 24th – Black Friday
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- BLACK FRIDAY, E-COMMERCE
- SAUDI ARABIA, LEBANON, YEMEN, QATAR
- NET NEUTRALITY
- UBER HACK FALLOUT
- BROKEN BREXIT
- ELECTRIC CARS, TESLA, COBALT, LITHIUM
- GOP TAX PLAN
- RUSSIA PROBE, RUSSIA MEDDLING
- BITCOIN BOOM, CRYPTOCURRENCY
- GERMAN POLITICAL CRISIS
- ROY MOORE, SENATE RACE
- ZIMBABWE POST-MUGABE
- THIEL TARGETS GAWKER (AGAIN)
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- TRUMP WORLD
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
BLACK FRIDAY, E-COMMERCE
It wasn’t always this way. The New York Times first used the term Black Friday in an article in 1870 to refer to the day the gold market collapsed the year before. Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Vocabulary.com, who has researched and written about the term, says its association with shopping the day after Thanksgiving began in Philadelphia in the 1960s — and even then, the reference wasn’t positive.
The local police took to calling the day Black Friday because they had to deal with bad traffic and other miseries connected to the throngs of shoppers heading for the stores. Needless to say, that usage didn’t sit well with local retailers. They tried, according to Mr. Zimmer, to give the day a more positive name: Big Friday.
That did not take, but eventually retailers — in Philadelphia and beyond — managed to spin a new connotation: The day retailer’s books went from red ink to black.
Most consumers probably don’t know — and don’t care — about any of this. All they want are deals. The rebranding of Black Friday has been so successful that others have tried to spread the wealth across multiple days of the week as the holiday shopping season has grown ever more competitive.
Once the forks are put down for good, Americans will start hitting the stores for Black Friday deals. Even if it’s still Thanksgiving.
Jeffrey Inman, a veteran of Black Friday lines and president of the Society for Consumer Psychology, said that many families treat the hourslong experience as a bonding ritual and a cherished tradition.
“It’s not a chore,” said Mr. Inman, who is also a professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh. “And there’s this layer of competition to it, with people edging forward, getting in their ready stance, because there are only so many of those big screen TVs inside the door.”
As the Christmas shopping season kicks into high gear on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, portraits of St. Nick with a family’s beloved dog are just one way retailers are looking to attract customers in the face of exploding e-commerce.
Brick-and-mortar stores have expanded their bag of tricks — and gotten increasingly bold — as they look to lure shoppers who might otherwise be happy to stay on the couch and pick up gifts while still in their pajamas.
Retailers are contending with a new challenge as this year’s holiday shopping season heats up: extra shipping fees during the busiest weeks.
United Parcel Service Inc. for the first time is tacking on a surcharge on packages shipped to homes around Black Friday and the week before Christmas, hoping to convince companies to send their orders outside those peak periods—or to make more money from ones that must be delivered then.
The surcharge has prompted e-commerce retailers large and small to consider other delivery options, such as FedEx Corp. or the U.S. Postal Service, passing the additional costs to their customers, or delaying shipments to cheaper times.
SAUDI ARABIA, LEBANON, YEMEN, QATAR
The BBC’s Lyse Doucet was the first journalist to be allowed inside the hotel. She was given access by Saudi authorities.
As the Daily Mail reports, mercenaries purportedly employed by Academi, a successor to infamous US security contractor Blackwater, have been stringing up some of MBS’s “guests” at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton by their feet and savagely beating them during interrogations. The claims have spread rapidly on Arabic-language social media, and even Lebanon’s president Michel Aoun has accused MbS of using mercenaries. Still, the Daily Mail isn’t the most reputable news organization, so these reports should be taken with a grain of salt.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon returned to his country on Tuesday as Lebanese eagerly awaited the latest act in one of the most unusual and puzzling diplomatic dramas in recent history.
Mr. Hariri had unexpectedly flown to Saudi Arabia this month, declared his resignation via video and then remained there for two weeks amid questions about whether he was coerced or had even been detained by the Saudis.
The prime minister caused a shock when he appeared in Saudi Arabia and vowed to quit. He now says he will stay in his post to allow for political dialogue.
Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that it will ease its weeks-old air and sea blockade of Yemen amid outcry from the United Nations and humanitarian groups.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is imposing a trade-off that appeals to many fellow young Saudis:
broadening social liberties in exchange for closing off the limited political freedoms that existed in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s status as the biggest oil supplier to China has been usurped by Russia. OPEC’s biggest producer is now trying to regain ground in the world’s largest crude importer.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to buy about $7 billion worth of precision guided munitions from U.S. defense contractors, sources familiar with the matter said, a deal that some lawmakers may object to over American weapons having contributed to civilian deaths in the Saudi campaign in Yeme
Warning of “dark ages” in the Middle East, Qatar’s foreign minister on Monday accused its neighbours of perpetuating “drama and discord” as part of a “dangerous game of power”.
“Regional players are acting irresponsibly, taking a political gamble with the lives of other nations’ citizens with no exit strategy,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in a speech at Washington, DC-based think-tank the Center for the National Interest.
Small companies, which have increasingly turned to the internet, worry that a pay-for-play system online could price them out of doing business. Internet service providers say that the proposal would lead to a better variety of services for online customers and more innovation in the industry.
For small businesses, a rollback could fundamentally change how, and whether, they do business. Many started online or turned to e-commerce to expand their thin margins. “Things are already difficult enough as it is for a small businesses,” Mr. Callicott said. “You’re busy enough just keeping your company running, trying to grow and succeed or just stay alive, that you don’t have the resources or the time to contemplate how to prepare for something like this.”
On one side are internet service providers, who believe rolling back the Obama-era rules will allow them to innovate and offer customers new options at more competitive prices. Tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple, have warned that this could set a dangerous precedent, allowing these internet service providers to become gatekeepers of information and entertainment.
The FCC’s move will allow companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to charge internet companies for speedier access to consumers and to block outside services they don’t like. The change also axes a host of consumer protections, including privacy requirements and rules barring unfair practices that gave consumers an avenue to pursue complaints about price gouging.
The country is spiraling further into a humanitarian disaster spurred by the government’s economic policies, which have caused the currency, the bolivar, to plunge in value and prices to skyrocket. Food and medicine shortages have been reported across Venezuela.
The bolivar has lost 96% of its value this year. As of Tuesday, it took 84,000 bolivars to buy an American dollar. At the beginning of this month, a dollar was worth 41,000 bolivars. And at the start of this year, it only took 3,100 bolivars to buy a dollar, according to DolarToday, a website that tracks the unofficial exchange rate.
Already in default and struggling with sinking oil production, Venezuela’s state-run energy firm told its employees to cut costs and expenses by 50 percent in an austerity drive to reflect the broader economic crisis hitting the OPEC nation of 30 million people.
UBER HACK FALLOUT
Khosrowshahi’s role so far looks less like a turnaround artist and more like chief apology officer on behalf of his predecessor, Travis Kalanick. Since he took over, London moved toward outlawing the service, citing “a lack of corporate responsibility.” Uber is appealing. (“I apologise for the mistakes we’ve made,” Khosrowshahi said in response.) He then traveled to Brasilia to meet with officials there and ward off restrictions on Uber’s business. (“In the past, we were a bit aggressive,” he told a Brazilian newspaper.) And now the mishandled data breach. (“We will learn from our mistakes.”)
The hacking fallout has already begun. Within hours of the disclosure, a customer filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation. More states and the Federal Trade Commission, which had settled with Uber over another privacy matter in August, will probably pile on, said Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne Inc., which aids companies with cyber-defense. “I’m sure they’ll get another call from the FTC,” he said.
While the massive data breach at Uber Technologies Inc. didn’t happen under the watch of the new chief executive, more than two months elapsed before he notified affected customers and drivers of the incident, people familiar with the matter said.
A Federal Trade Commission spokesman said the agency is “closely evaluating the serious issues raised,” while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn) said on Twitter that the Senate Commerce Committee should hold a hearing to “demand Uber explain their outrageous breach—and inexplicable delay in informing its consumers and drivers.”
The financial and reputational cost of the hack will pose a major test for Dara Khosrowshahi, the ride-hailing company’s new chief executive, at a time when he is already fighting a potential ban in London and working to finalise a major investment deal led by SoftBank, the Japanese technology group.
The UK is in danger of losing almost 20 years of earnings growth, warns an independent economic think tank.
Britons were warned they are on course for the longest fall in living standards since records began 60 years ago after the U.K.’s fiscal watchdog took the ax to its outlook for economic growth.
It also calculated wages will not return to their pre-financial crisis levels of 2007 until at least 2025 once inflation is taken into account. Average annual pay is now projected to be 1,030 pounds lower in 2022 than the March forecasts and household disposable incomes will fall for an unprecedented 19 straight quarters between 2015 and 2020, according to Resolution.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s troubled government resigned itself to a deteriorating economic outlook as it committed 3 billion pounds ($4 billion) to prepare for Brexit and tried to make housing more affordable for the young.
In delivering his annual budget on Wednesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond acknowledged official forecasts which showed Brexit already inflicting an economic cost. The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted growth will now undershoot 2 percent every year through 2021 and it halved its estimate for productivity gains over the next five years.
Without changes, younger Britons risk becoming less prosperous than their parents’ generation for the first time since the Black Death pandemic that ravaged the region in the Middle Ages, according to the country’s chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who delivered his annual budget on Wednesday.
That danger could also prove critical for Mr. Hammond’s Conservative Party. The divide between generations, long debated in Britain, became a newly urgent topic for the Conservatives after a general election in June, in which they unexpectedly lost their majority in Parliament. Young voters turned out in force for the opposition Labour Party, led by the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn.
The announcement that Europe’s drugs regulator will move to Amsterdam after Brexit provided long-sought clarity for its 900 staff currently in London’s Canary Wharf. But to the pharmaceutical industry it was a reminder of how many critical issues remain unresolved just 16 months before cross-Channel collaboration over medicines regulation and patient safety looks set to end.
Ireland has become an unexpectedly difficult hurdle to advancing stalled Brexit talks, with Dublin warning that Britain isn’t doing enough to prevent the return of a border across the island that could impede commerce and reconciliation efforts.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May appears ready to offer politically painful concessions to the EU to advance Brexit talks, but the eventual reward—moving talks onto the future trade relationship and a post-Brexit transition— may prove meager.
ELECTRIC CARS, TESLA, COBALT, LITHIUM
Norwegians are switching to electric vehicles faster than anyone else on the planet. More than a third of all new cars are either fully electric or plug-in hybrids, well over 10 times the proportion in the U.S. With about 100,000 electrics on the road, Norway (population 5 million) trails only the U.S., China, and Japan in absolute numbers. By 2025, the government has suggested, there may be no gasoline- or diesel-powered cars sold in the country. “It’s safe to say that Norway is the first mass market for EVs,” says Sture Portvik, the city official overseeing the Akershus garage.
Among the noise, the clearest signal is for Tesla itself. Burning cash at a ferocious rate as it throws its “financial capital at the problem” of the Model 3, the company could potentially use another infusion. So if Tesla buys the notion that its stock could jump by a third and then maybe drop by half, it may be minded to tap the market again sooner rather than later. You can almost see it coming.
Tesla Inc has completed construction of the world’s largest lithium ion battery in Australia, putting it on track to meet a 100-day deadline for switching the battery packs on, the South Australian government said on Thursday.
Billionaire Elon Musk’s giant battery being built in the Australian outback will be energized in coming days and begin testing, indicating Tesla Inc. is on track to meet a 100-day self-imposed deadline to install the system.
Volkswagen AG is stepping up its hunt for long-term supplies of battery metals it will need to help power electric cars across its entire range. The top automaker invited producers and traders of cobalt, one of this year’s best-performing metals, for talks at its German headquarters this week, people familiar with the matter said. Buying the critical battery component might not be as simple as first thought — after issuing a tender in September, the firm has since relaxed demands for offers at a discounted fixed price, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
Rest assured, Earth has the lithium. The next dozen years will drain less than 1 percent of the reserves in the ground, BNEF says. But battery makers are going to need more mines to support their production, and they’ll have to build them much more quickly than anyone thought.
Mining companies have promised to add 20 lithium production sites to the 16 currently operating, but the concern remains that they won’t be finished in time to satisfy rising demand. (The first new mine is scheduled to open in 2019.) Mark Cutifani, chief executive officer of mining company Anglo American Plc, sees the opposite problem as more likely. “There are a lot of projects out there, and they’ll end up oversupplying the market,” he says.
GOP TAX PLAN
“What I am concerned about is that this will impede our forward momentum,” Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said in an interview. “This tax plan will basically burst the balloon that’s happening here.”
Oregon is not alone in its concerns. State and local officials in other high-tax, largely blue states like New York, New Jersey and California are warning the tax plan will strain budgets, shake real estate markets and prompt residents to flee expensive coastal states for places with lower taxes.
For decades, the real estate industry has benefited from generous tax deductions that raise home values by making it cheaper for people to own property and shoulder their local taxes. Now, as the Republican tax plan makes its way through Congress, the industry is worried that the fallout will harm its business by making homeownership less valuable.
Around the country, real estate organizations are calling legislators, warning clients about their future tax bills and staging protests, all in an effort to keep homeowners as a favored class in the tax code. “We don’t consider ourselves to be Republicans or Democrats,” said Linda Jay, chief executive of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors in central California. “We are the Realtor party.”
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Thursday said the share of economic output taken by governments in developed economies as taxes has risen to its highest level since records began 50 years ago.
But in the U.S., taxes as a share of gross domestic product fell in 2016 to below the level recorded in 2007, the year before the financial crisis hit and briefly reduced tax revenues for governments around the world.
Many top Republicans have urged Mr Moore to abandon his Senate quest to avoid the damage they believe the anti-establishment stalwart will do to their brand. But Kellyanne Conway, a White House official, said this week it was important to elect Mr Moore to ensure the passage of tax reform.
RUSSIA PROBE, RUSSIA MEDDLING
Paul Manafort’s flight records in and out of Ukraine, which McClatchy obtained from a government source in Kiev, and interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with his activities suggest the links between Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and Russia sympathizers run deeper than previously believed.
Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, are said to have terminated an information-sharing agreement with the president’s legal team.
The legal team representing former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has notified President Donald Trump’s own lawyers that they will no longer discuss the investigation currently being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Times reports. The end of Flynn’s legal cooperation with the president’s team indicates that Flynn may be cooperating with prosecutors, or negotiating doing so. Flynn’s defense team had been sharing information related to the investigations with Trump’s lawyers, but recently terminated the agreement. Mueller has been tasked with leading a broadening investigation into Russian interference with the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and examining allegations of collusion between the Russian government and Trump’s campaign and allies.
“POTUS is not paying anything to Flynn,” the official told CBS News. “President (Trump) has never been approached for money from Manafort or Flynn and would not contribute under these circumstances.”
Jared Kushner was worried about his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, reportedly asking a friend about the ongoing Russia probe: “Do you think they’ll get the president?”
The businessman and adviser to the president was reportedly concerned about the reach of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe following the indictment of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, according to a report from Vanity Fair that cited a source briefed on Kushner’s conversation. He questioned whether the investigation would reach the president even as he himself faced increasing scrutiny.
Kushner’s concern is understandable. In addition to being a recurring figure in the Russia probe—with media reports revealing he had contacts with Russian figures that he previously kept secret—Kushner’s role as an adviser to the president is reportedly turning sour.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators are asking questions about White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s interactions with foreign leaders during the presidential transition and what role he may have played in firing former FBI Director James Comey.
Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, that seems unlikely.
A former television news editor for Russian state media outlet Rossiya says that the Kremlin used to call and give instructions about how to cover Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. election.
“Sometimes it was a phone call. Sometimes it was a conversation,” Dimitri Skorobutov told The New Yorker Thursday. “If Donald Trump has a successful press conference, we broadcast it for sure. And if something goes wrong with Clinton, we underline it.”
“Me and my colleagues, we were given a clear instruction: to show Donald Trump in a positive way, and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in a negative way,” Skorobutov said at a recent speech at a journalism conference in Maastricht in the Netherlands.
Facebook plans to tell millions of users who liked or followed any of the 290 Facebook and Instagram pages created by Russian actors that they were ensnared in an alleged misinformation campaign around the U.S. presidential election last year.
BITCOIN BOOM, CRYPTOCURRENCY
According to Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, as of Monday November 20th, 2017 Bitcoin’s current estimated annual electricity consumption stands at 29.05TWh.
That’s the equivalent of 0.13% of total global electricity consumption. While that may not sound like a lot, it means Bitcoin mining is now using more electricity than 159 individual countries. More than Ireland or Nigeria.
The price ether, the digital token used on the ethereum blockchain set a new record high in trading today, at just under $415. It has been a good year for the cryptocurrency, which has appreciated by a cool 5,000% (or so) since January, when it was trading at $8. All the ether in circulation is now worth $39 billion, compared with bitcoin’s $137 billion. The market value of all cryptocurrencies in circulation, meanwhile, has just passed the quarter-of-a-trillion mark, according to data provider CoinMarketCap.
The Old Mutual Gold & Silver Fund, which manages $220 million of mostly precious metal equities, is jumping on the bitcoin wagon. The fund started buying in April with a mandate to allocate as much as 5 percent to cryptocurrencies, according to its manager, Ned Naylor-Leyland. The idea is to take profits from bitcoin as it advances to reinvest in gold and silver assets, he said in an interview on Nov. 16.
“Bitcoin was explicitly designed to be digital gold,” said Naylor-Leyland. “So if you’re going to have a small proportion of a fund in bitcoin, it should be in a gold fund, because that’s exactly the point. It’s about bringing the ownership of disciplined money into the modern world. Bitcoin is paving the way for the reintroduction of gold as global money.”
Swissquote Bank SA upped its cryptocurrency game with the release of an exchange-traded product that will attempt to curb volatility by switching holdings between bitcoin and dollars. The Switzerland-based online trader called its offering the first actively managed bitcoin certificate. Funds will be shifted between the digital currency and cash based on an algorithm that will use “technical signals” and sentiment expressed on social media to try to forecast the market. Trading will take place on the SIX Swiss Exchange.
“Investors are excited about the cryptocurrency but are unnerved by its volatility,” Peter Rosenstreich, the bank’s head of market strategy, said in an interview. “So we tried to build a trading algorithm that’s a protection against downside risks”
Swissquote said in a statement Thursday it will hold the cryptocurrency and a buffer of dollars that ranges from zero to 40 percent of the certificate’s portfolio, depending on its quantitative algorithmic trading strategy. The exposure is limited to bitcoin and cash, minus a 1.5 percent management fee and trading costs, it said.
Bitfinex, which is officially incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, has been fined by regulators in the United States and cut off by American banks, and it has lost millions of dollars of customer money in two separate hackings, leading critics to question whether it even has the money it claims to hold.
In the latest blow, on Tuesday, an alternative virtual currency that is owned and operated by the same people as Bitfinex, known as Tether, announced that it had been hacked and lost around $30 million worth of digital tokens.
None of that has been enough to stop customers from pumping billions of dollars worth of virtual currency trades through Bitfinex in recent weeks — on some days, the exchange claimed to be doing more trades, by dollar value, than some stock exchanges in the United States.
Even many people who believe in virtual currencies worry that the mixture of loose controls and booming trading at the world’s largest exchange is likely to cause trouble for all the investors piling into virtual currencies, even those who don’t go near Bitfinex.
GERMAN POLITICAL CRISIS
After Angela Merkel’s hopes for a fourth term as German Chancellor were cast into chaos, her traditional rivals may now toss her a lifeline. Spurned by the Free Democrats, who walked out of coalition talks Sunday and said they couldn’t trust her, the Social Democrats are signaling they may step into the breach.
The top leadership of Germany’s Social Democrats were deep in talks on Thursday evening to consider whether the party should drop its opposition to another conservative-led government under Chancellor Angela Merkel.
ROY MOORE, SENATE RACE
DuPré described what he called four problems with Corfman’s story, including the claim of a different address. The evidence he presented did not contradict what Corfman has told The Post.
Campaign strategist Brett Doster told CNN that Rogers wasn’t prepared to deal with the “level of scrutiny” from the media following The Washington Post’s extensive report on Nov. 9 detailing allegations that Moore pursued relationships with teenage girls, including a 14-year-old when he was 32.
The ethics chiefs for former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama have called for White House advisor Kellyanne Conway to be fired for weighing in on the Alabama Senate race. Ms Conway sparked controversy after she attacked Republican Alabama Senate Roy Moore’s opponent on television on Tuesday. She responded to a question about Mr Moore, who is accused of pursuing underage girls while he was in his 30s and working as an assistant district attorney in Alabama, by attacking his rival Doug Jones.
George Charamba, Mr Mugabe’s spokesman, said that army generals who led a military takeover last week wanted to avoid a “dishonourable exit” for the 93-year-old. Mr Charamba added that there was no question of the former president being forced out of the country or surrendering his assets.
Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe won’t face prosecution and is free to remain in the southern African nation following his resignation on Tuesday after 37 years in power.
The dramatic demise of Zimbabwe’s economy over the past quarter-century tells a story of political failure in one of Africa’s most resource-rich nations and spotlights the arduous task Robert Mugabe’s successor will face in reviving it.
As Emmerson Mnangagwa prepares to take the oath of office as Zimbabwe’s president, there’s a public hunger for a real break from the policies of Robert Mugabe, whose resignation on Tuesday after 37 years in power sparked scenes of jubilation in the streets of the capital.
THIEL TARGETS GAWKER (AGAIN)
Venture capitalist Peter Thiel may be looking to buy online news site Gawker.com, BuzzFeed said on Wednesday. Thiel’s lawyers have objected to the currently ongoing sale process of Gawker.com, saying that he has been prohibited unreasonably from bidding for the website’s assets, the internet media company reported, citing a federal bankruptcy court filing.
Peter Thiel is demanding that he be given the chance to bid on Gawker.com, the gossip and news website he helped drive out of business and which is now being shopped in bankruptcy.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
The yield gap between short and long-term Treasurys has shrunk to its narrowest level since 2007, the year the financial crisis gathered steam. But few investors and economists are worried that a repeat of the 2008 meltdown is in store.
While analysts have long considered the gap, known as the yield curve, a key barometer for the health of the economy, many are split about what the signal means now. Much of their disagreement is rooted in the exceptional conditions of the past decade: emergency measures from global central banks that have produced little inflation, unemployment falling with few signs of wage pressure and stock markets that continue to climb with little volatility.
According to Bank for International Settlements (BIS) data, total debt of the nonfinancial sector (that is, households, government and nonfinancial corporations) amounted to $145 trillion in the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 40 percent since the first quarter of 2007. Most of this increase has been driven by an increase in total debt in emerging economies, especially in China, as seen in the following figure.
The OECD warned that rising private debt loads in both advanced and developing economies pose a risk to growth as Canada, South Korea and the U.K. lead the world in household borrowing. With the global economy showing its most even expansion since the financial crisis, debt levels and credit quality are among the risks that could trigger a downturn. Consumer debt tops 100 percent of gross domestic product in Canada, with South Korea and Britain both above 80 percent.
Corporate borrowers are wasting no time waiting for the dust to settle on a junk-bond selloff that shook global markets this month. A rebound in risk appetite has increased the sense of urgency for borrowers as primary markets downshift before Thanksgiving on Thursday and in the run-up to Christmas. Sentiment in credit markets has turned around, taking the cue from rallying stocks. Funding costs are heading back down after average yields in speculative-grade indexes spiked about 40 basis points this month.
“Although not imminent, the end of QE poses a threat” to the country’s public finances, Fabio Balboni, an economist at HSBC Bank Plc in London, said in an interview. “Higher inflation in Italy won’t be enough to offset the effect of the possible rise in borrowing costs, being driven by higher energy prices rather than a strengthening of domestic demand.”
Large companies are repurchasing their shares at the slowest pace in five years, as record U.S. stock indexes and an expanding economy propel more money out of flush corporate coffers into capital spending and mergers.
Companies in the S&P 500 are on pace to spend $500 billion this year on share buybacks, or about $125 billion a quarter, according to data from INTL FCStone. That is the least since 2012 and down from a quarterly average of $142 billion between 2014 and 2016.
The party is finally winding down for Australia’s housing market. How severe the hangover is will determine the economy’s fate for years to come.
After five years of surging prices, the market value of the nation’s homes has ballooned to A$7.3 trillion ($5.6 trillion) — or more than four times gross domestic product. Not even the U.S. and U.K. markets achieved such heights at their peaks a decade ago before prices spiraled lower and dragged their economies with them.
Australia’s obsession with property is firmly entrenched in the nation’s economy and psyche, fueled by record-low interest rates, generous tax breaks, banks hooked on mortgage lending, and prime-time TV shows where home renovators are lauded like sporting heroes. For many, homes morphed into cash machines to finance loans for boats, cars and investment properties. The upshot: households are now twice as indebted as China’s.
Led by Tesla Inc., the U.S. solar asset-backed securities market has had a banner year, more than quadrupling from 2016.
Tesla deals account for $485 million of the more than $1.3 billion raised so far this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Solar Mosaic Inc., an industry financier, has raised $466 million, followed by rooftop solar company Sunnova Energy Corp. with $255 million. The total last year was $321 million.
The uptick shows that the residential solar industry has become large enough for installers to monetize long-term consumer contracts by refinancing them in the capital markets.
China’s blue-chip index suffered its worst one-day fall in 17 months on Thursday, as investors cited rising bond yields and tough new regulations targeting corporate debt for scaling back their exposure to equities after a strong performance this year.
The yield on 10-year Chinese government bonds rose above 4 per cent, before easing in late trade according to ChinaBond, the latest milestone in a bond rout that has gathered pace over most of this year.
The long calm in Chinese stocks came to an abrupt end, with shares in Shanghai suffering their biggest one-day drop in almost a year, following fresh signs of Beijing’s determination to clamp down on market speculation and the country’s high debt levels.
Chinese authorities acted to halt the proliferation of small online consumer lenders, in the latest restraint on China’s fast-evolving financial-technology sector.
A top regulatory body that includes the central bank directed local governments to stop approving licenses for companies that make online microloans—typically small, short-term loans that carry high interest rates—and to prohibit lenders from operating outside the province in which they are registered, according to a notice reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The rumbling crisis in Lebanon has raised questions about the country’s currency peg — the bedrock of its relative financial and economic stability — and prompted a sterner examination of other fixed foreign exchange regimes across the region.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
The collapse of coalition talks in Germany is not simply a political problem for the Germans; it portends a period of serious uncertainty for all Europe and the West. In a Europe shaken by Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, democratic backsliding in Poland and Hungary, Russian meddling and much more, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Germany was supposed to be a beacon of prosperity and stability, an indomitable defender of the international liberal order. Suddenly there is talk of new elections and possibly the start of a post-Merkel era.
Germany’s fear of political instability goes deep. For many, the AfD’s entrance into the Bundestag brings to mind the dark shadow of the Weimar Republic, its disastrous collapse and all that followed. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has featured a series of German historians mining the parallels between the 1920s and ’30s and today: Back then, a divided political spectrum and a splintered left, with extremism on both sides, created a run of minority governments and a perception of political chaos, all of which made Nazi authoritarianism look like an attractive alternative.
Given all the obvious differences between then and now, one could shrug off the hand-wringing as historical trauma made obsolete by Germany’s political and constitutional reality. The federal republic is not Weimar; it is one of the world’s most stable political systems. There may be a few weeks of political chaos, but in the end, someone will be an adult and think twice. Or we will have new elections and deal out a new hand of cards. I am still convinced that the AfD, which won 12.6 percent of the votes in September, has pretty much exploited its electoral capacity.
But “we’re not Weimar” is not exactly comforting. Germany’s political system is based on the ability to compromise. All German governments since 1949 have been coalition governments and so far, they have always worked. The rise of populism has complicated all this, and not only in mathematical terms. Mr. Lindner’s decision also shows that the AfD has corrupted the ability to compromise in a more fundamental way. It has managed to discredit compromise as a core value of democracy.
Germany wants nothing to disturb its present good fortune. Ms Merkel has the looks of a politician who has run out of energy and ideas. It is not clear the people are terribly bothered. “It was the right thing to do,” she still insists of her decision in 2015 to open Germany’s borders to the flood of Syrian refugees. Then the caveat: “I promise never to do it again.” The contradiction offers a fair description of the nation’s political mood.
The global financial guardians at the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund have warned us for some years now about risks from rising debt in emerging markets. China explains much of the change in credit levels but Turkey, Malaysia, Russia, Korea, India and Mexico have also levered up. Lending to non-financial corporations has risen the most, up from 56 per cent to 104 per cent of EM GDP over the past decade, while for advanced economies it fell from 89 per cent to 87 per cent of GDP over the same time.
But what type of companies are these? The trends from corporate debt issuance give us an important clue. The biggest issuers of debt have been financials, energy and utilities; sectors where government ownership is the highest. The bulk of EM debt sits with corporates which, although not directly accounted for as a part of government, are linked to it through partial ownership, guarantees or subsidised lending from public sector financials.
So, can government-linked companies keep adding to national debt while private companies, in a parallel universe, keep getting re-rated? If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. The macro-micro gap is likely to be bridged in two ways and over different time horizons.
In 2008, China was supposedly on the brink of collapse. In 2009, its farsighted stimulus program saved the world economy. And in 2015, its nearsighted stimulus and ham-handed regulation was poised to tank the world economy. Now, according to market consensus, China’s problems have largely been fixed and it is poised to dominate the new century.
If that sounds suspicious, it should.
China’s financial vulnerability to a real-estate downturn—now starting to unfold again—remains worryingly high. Corporate debt ticked down by a measly 1% of GDP in the first quarter of 2017, according to the Bank for International Settlements, after rising by nearly 50 percentage points over the past five years. Close to 40% of the total is located in the real-estate, construction, mining, and steel sectors, all intimately linked to the property market. Steel firms alone had 4.4 trillion yuan ($665.72 billion) of debt at the end of 2016 (4% of GDP), according to researchers at the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office.
No one should delude themselves into thinking China’s debt problem has really turned the corner. To spring itself from the sturdy debt trap built in the years after the 2008 crash, China needs to keep credit growth in check and keep steel, coal and apartment prices reasonably high.
History suggests doing both won’t be easy.
Ms. Pardela does not want to leave the country she came to over a decade ago. But that country no longer exists. On June 24 last year, she said, “We all woke up in a different country.”
Seventeen months after Britain voted to leave the European Union, many Europeans are voting to leave Britain — with their feet. Some 122,000 of them packed their bags in the year through March, according to the latest figures available, while the stream of new arrivals has slowed.
In London, a city long sustained by European bankers, builders and baristas — “a place that makes you dream,” Ms. Pardela said — the departures are beginning to hurt. Construction companies and coffee shops are struggling to recruit. Top universities worry about retaining talent. And nowhere are the concerns more elemental than in Britain’s treasured and already overstretched National Health Service.
“The Fed’s biggest fear is they know darn well this much credit has built up in the background, and the ramifications of the un-wind for what has happened since the great financial crisis is even greater than what happened in 2008 and 2009.
It’s global and pretty viral. So, the Fed has good reason to be fearful of what’s going to happen when the baby boomer generation and the pension funds in this country take a third body blow since 2000, and that’s why they are so very, very intimidated by the financial markets and so fearful of a correction.”
Two centuries ago, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German philosopher, observed that ideas and movements rarely develop in straight lines; instead, history moves in pendulum swings, since any powerful initiative or concept tends to sparks a reaction. Or, to use Hegel’s phrase, a “thesis”, creates an “antithesis” — and then (sometimes) fuses into a “synthesis”.
Mr Trump’s election has now unleashed this “Hegelian dialectic”. When he was elected, shattering hopes that Hillary Clinton might be America’s first female president, most observers presumed that his victory was bad for women. However, a year later, it has become clear that Mr Trump has unexpectedly empowered feminists. One early sign of this was the women’s’ marches. Another is the politicisation of media channels aimed at teenage girls. One reason the Weinstein scandal snowballed so fast last month was that it involved film stars and other celebrities.
More women are getting involved in politics, too. Emily’s List, a non-profit organisation which supports women running for office on a pro-choice Democrat platform, currently has 20,000 female candidates; two years ago there were just 900.
America’s opioid epidemic has reached horrific proportions. More than 50,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2015, with most of the deaths involving opioids. Overdose is now the leading cause of death for those under 50.
The cost of this crisis has been vastly underestimated, argues a report published this week by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers. Previous studies focused on costs to the healthcare and criminal justice systems, or to productivity and workforce participation. If one accounts for the deaths using “value of a statistical life” methodology, the cost rises to some $504bn, the CEA says — equivalent to 2.8 per cent of national output.
It is broadly clear what needs to be done. Addicts need easier access to rehabilitation programmes so they can get sober, and easier access to medication to help them avoid relapse and lead stable lives. Opioid antagonists such as naltrexone, and substitute opioids such as buprenorphine and methadone, should be in wider use.
Scientists recently said an artificial intelligence program diagnosed pneumonia on chest X-rays more accurately than human radiologists. Should radiologists worry? Probably not. AI is more likely to make their jobs easier, not less necessary.
Radiologists today face the same 21st century problem of most professionals: too much data. Machine learning, the latest iteration of AI, can sift through that data and spot patterns humans might miss. But machines don’t know what to do with that information—at least not yet. Only humans do.
The panic over AI stealing jobs is reminiscent of the worry nearly two decades ago over offshoring of jobs of all types. Some economists predicted international broadband connections meant much of the reading of medical images would be outsourced to radiologists in India earning a fraction of American salaries. It never happened.
U.S. regulators didn’t want unregulated doctors reading American patients’ images, and the requisite skills and experience were too scarce in emerging markets. The number of U.S. radiologists has thus risen more than 40% since 1995. The American College of Radiology predicts 2017 will be the best year for hiring in at least seven years.
It has become commonplace to hear that machines, armed with machine learning, can outperform humans at decidedly human tasks, from playing Go to playing “Jeopardy!” We assume that is because computers simply have more data-crunching power than our soggy three-pound brains. Kosinski’s results suggested something stranger: that artificial intelligences often excel by developing whole new ways of seeing, or even thinking, that are inscrutable to us. It’s a more profound version of what’s often called the “black box” problem — the inability to discern exactly what machines are doing when they’re teaching themselves novel skills — and it has become a central concern in artificial-intelligence research. In many arenas, A.I. methods have advanced with startling speed; deep neural networks can now detect certain kinds of cancer as accurately as a human. But human doctors still have to make the decisions — and they won’t trust an A.I. unless it can explain itself.
Instead of certainty and cause, A.I. works off probability and correlation. And yet A.I. must nonetheless conform to the society we’ve built — one in which decisions require explanations, whether in a court of law, in the way a business is run or in the advice our doctors give us. The disconnect between how we make decisions and how machines make them, and the fact that machines are making more and more decisions for us, has birthed a new push for transparency and a field of research called explainable A.I., or X.A.I. Its goal is to make machines able to account for the things they learn, in ways that we can understand. But that goal, of course, raises the fundamental question of whether the world a machine sees can be made to match our own.
The military says it won’t follow ‘illegal’ orders. But don’t let that reassure you. News coverage of these comments seemed to convey the idea that the military could be a fail-safe to prevent a nuclear launch, but the opposite remains true.
Instead, they revealed what many of us outside the system have suspected for a long time: There are no “checks and balances” on nuclear launch decisions in any formal sense. There is no need for congressional authorization; there is no “two-man rule” for the decision to use the bomb; and although the process for initiating a nuclear attack spells out the need for “consultation” with officials such as the secretary of defense, they have no power to veto the order, and ultimately, their consent is not required.
If President Trump wants to use one of the thousands of nuclear weapons in the U.S. military’s arsenal, the chance of anyone stopping him appears to be very low.
In the “colonias” of the American Southwest, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens have lived without running water for decades (not to mention the lack of electricity, sewage treatment and drainage). Homes are built without regard for safety codes or regulations. The result is structures that look like shacks, hastily built by residents with little money and even less construction expertise.
Some colonia houses have dirt floors and fit a full family in a single room. Many families in the colonias live on less than $250 a week. I visited one colonia this past summer where a family showed me the blackened shell of their house, which burned to the ground after firefighters took 30 minutes to arrive at the scene.
One might think that colonias are just communities of immigrants living in the United States illegally, but most colonia residents are full-fledged American citizens. As citizens and taxpayers, residents demand and deserve the same basic government services as everyone else.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
Federal Reserve officials have penciled in a gradual path for raising interest rates, but minutes of their last meeting may show increasing concern that the U.S. labor market is overheating.
“The decline in the unemployment rate seems to be weighing heavily in their thought process,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities in New York. “The Fed views policy from a risk management perspective and the risk is going too slowly.”
Federal Reserve officials said at their latest meeting they likely would raise rates “in the near term” as the economy strengthens, although several said their support for the move would hinge on inflation picking up, according to minutes released Wednesday.
Federal Reserve officials meeting earlier this month saw an interest-rate increase in the near term even as tepid inflation drove divisions over the policy path and as financial stability concerns cropped up.
The Swiss National Bank is not keeping the franc artificially low to give exporters an edge, President Thomas Jordan said, an indirect rebuff of the U.S. which has reprimanded Switzerland for its foreign exchange market interventions.
Janet Yellen, the outgoing chair of the Federal Reserve, affirmed to an audience at New York University on Tuesday night that she finds this year’s low US inflation a mystery — but also asserted that she had found it easy to explain the inflation of the previous three years of her tenure.
In 2017, with low unemployment and stability in oil prices and the dollar, she said the Fed’s “working hypothesis is that there are a whole range of idiosyncratic factors, most of which may be temporary”. She pointed to a much slower increase in healthcare costs than had been expected, and to the introduction of unlimited data plans by cell phone providers which had shown up in the official statistics as a sharp decline in prices.
“We would expect it to move up next year,” she said of inflation, but “there may be something endemic here that we need to pay attention to”. She added: “You have to keep an open mind and not assume you have a monopoly of truth.”
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen cautioned that raising interest rates too quickly risked stranding inflation below the U.S. central bank’s 2 percent target and said there’d been “some hint” that expectations for future price increases may be drifting down.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
New claims for US jobless benefits fell in mid-November, confirming the strength of American labor markets and continuing a record streak of low levels, official data showed Wednesday. Data were collected during the survey week for the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report.
Orders for long-lasting factory goods declined in October, a small setback for manufacturers experiencing solid growth in demand this year. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 0.2% increase for orders last month.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has instructed the FBI and ATF to find ways to improve the screening system.
Its defenders say the program helps economically depressed neighborhoods attract capital — and jobs. But critics note instances where developers have used the low-cost financing to build luxury skyscrapers and high-end hotels in affluent areas, as President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has done.
GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA
By the end of the year, some 1.8 million Chinese coal and steel workers will lose their jobs, victims of the government’s shift to cleaner industries and a shutdown of small enterprises. To put that in perspective, the two industries employ just 192,000 workers in the U.S.
Why it matters: Ordinarily, China’s leadership is most focused on social stability. The party always looks to avoid any outbreak of discontent that could threaten political calm. But now, the priority has shifted to producing higher-value, branded products sold internationally, and owning the future economy of electric and self-driving cars, advanced batteries, robotics and automation equipment.
According to a recent ranking, there’s no better place on Earth to live than Denmark. But the Danish finance minister, Kristian Jensen, says his country faces a number of challenges in persuading highly skilled professionals to bring their much-needed expertise to an economy now facing labor shortages.
The U.S. declined the most in an annual study of global peace that cites political turbulence, deteriorating press freedom, a public perception of increasing crime and corruption, and less acceptance of minorities.
The U.S. dropped 11 places to the 114th most-peaceful country out of 161 in the index published by The Institute of Economics and Peace, which has offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, and Mexico City. The index uses 23 criteria to cover conflicts, domestic violence, crime, human rights, and economic stability.
The reputations of the U.S. and U.K. as good places to live and work are in free fall among some of the world’s most mobile and cosmopolitan people.
Since last year’s presidential and Brexit votes, both the U.S. and Britain are perceived as less friendly to foreigners and less politically stable, according to a survey of almost 13,000 expatriates of 166 nationalities. Expats also say the two countries’ quality of life is declining by other measures, especially the affordability of child care and health care in the U.S. and housing in the U.K.
Singapore raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 3 percent to 3.5 percent after third-quarter data beat projections on the back of stronger exports and manufacturing.
After a respite that began before the Olympics, Brazil’s showcase city is reeling as ever more neighborhoods fall under the control of drug gangs.
Exports and investment propelled German growth in the third quarter, putting Europe’s biggest economy in a strong position to weather rising political uncertainty after coalition talks collapsed.
French companies stepped up hiring to its fastest pace in almost 17 years to meet surging demand and growing backlog of unfinished work as business confidence surged.
The euro-area economy gathered pace in November to stay on track for its best annual performance since the financial crisis.
The eurozone’s “booming” economy powered ahead in November with jobs growth and new manufacturing orders reaching 17-year highs as a stronger currency did little to dampen robust foreign demand for the region’s exports.
There is good reason, concludes a report, to suspect that the shoplifting crime wave in particular represents an attempt by those convicted to end up in prison — an institution that offers free food, accommodation and healthcare.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees a scary good news-bad news scenario unfolding in 2018: A solid push higher in the first half followed by all sorts of potential trouble after.
That setting assumes three things: the “last vestiges” of stimulus from the Fed and other central banks, the passage of tax reform in Congress, and “full investor capitulation into risk assets” on better-than-expected corporate earnings. After that, though, things get considerably sketchier as the second-longest bull market in history runs into trouble.
Hedge funds are borrowing more to buy equities, a sign of growing confidence in the economy and their favorite stocks. Leverage among managers who speculate on rising and falling shares has climbed this month to near the highest levels since the bull market began in 2009, according to data compiled by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. on its hedge fund clients.
Starting with retail investors one can notice that margin debt (measured as percentage of market capitalization) is at its highest point ever, which includes the 2000 tech bubble episode. The percentage of US household wealth in equities is in its 94th percentile and above its 2007 peak, but slightly below 2000 levels. Sovereign wealth funds and US mutual funds are also near record levels. Pension Fund allocations appear to be in the 88% percentile, although there is some uncertainty around this number in adjusting for private asset and HF holdings. Global Hedge Funds’ allocation (as measured by equity beta) are also near record highs, and Equity Hedge funds’ allocation in their 93rd percentile (since 2005).
Stock market research firm Birinyi Associates has tracked the predictions of Wall Street strategists back to 2001. The general conclusion, according to Birinyi’s director of research Jeff Rubin, is not to put too much faith in them. The stock market has plunged in years when analysts predicted it would go up a lot, and jumped in years when Wall Street strategists said it would go up only a little. (Strategists as a group rarely predict down years and haven’t since 2001.) But there is one pattern to look out for: Years in which Wall Street is looking for a double-digit return for the first time in a while.
That was the case in 2001, when the market dropped 13 percent, and again in 2008, when stocks dived 38 percent. And that’s the case for next year. The last time Wall Street was predicting a double-digit return for the S&P 500 was 2010. Expectations have been in the mid-to-high single digits since then. There is still time left in 2017 for the market to rise further and make Wall Street’s 2018 finish line more attainable. And there is no doubt stocks have a lot going for them right now, including expected tax cuts, the combination of low employment and low inflation, resurging global growth and no real sign of a recession. But in general the track record is clear: The years in which momentum has built up for outperformance is often when stocks disappoint.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Shares of Rovio Entertainment, the Finnish mobile-gaming firm that makes “Angry Birds,” plunged 20% after it reported a surprise third-quarter loss, a little more than a month after its initial public offering.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
The Miami Marlins owners are seeking to raise at least $150 million and have tapped Morgan Stanley’s private wealth management group to advise them, according to a person who was approached about the possible investment.
The 29-year-old founder of Singapore’s BandLab Technologies Ltd. said he wants to buy the 51 percent of Rolling Stone he doesn’t own, adding the world-famous brand to his growing global music business.
Kuok Meng Ru, a member of one of Asia’s richest families, said he’s in talks to take over the magazine after Jann Wenner put his controlling stake up for sale two months ago, relinquishing his hold on the publication he co-founded in San Francisco in 1967.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Oil extended its rally above $58 a barrel as supply disruptions on the Keystone pipeline added to optimism that the U.S. glut is waning and that OPEC will prolong its output curbs.
“We continue to see support from the optimism that you’ll see an extension agreed to next week,” said Gene McGillian, research manager at Tradition Energy. Along with healthy demand, “those two factors still seem to be outweighing that U.S. and North American production is going to be increasing,” he said.
OPEC will have to decide whether to extend global oil cuts without knowing whether they’re triggering a new flood of rival supply from U.S. shale producers.
Analysts gave differing outlooks for U.S. shale output in a briefing to officials from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, stoking concern ahead of OPEC’s planned meeting on Nov. 30, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The analysts included Andy Hall, the veteran crude trader who closed his hedge fund this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the briefing was private.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
South Korea’s solar industry is heating up as tighter global supply lifts polysilicon prices higher. But with China expected to ramp up production capacity again next year analysts are questioning how long the upturn will last.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
A strain of malaria resistant to two drugs, including artemisinin, which was once seen as a miracle cure, is spreading, and experts fear that it could reach Africa.
There’s no doubt this ice will melt as the world warms. The vital question is when. “Ice is only so strong, so it will collapse if these cliffs reach a certain height,” explains Kristin Poinar, a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “We need to know how fast it’s going to happen.”
CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
Sales for Canadian retailers continued to disappoint in September, adding to evidence consumers are paring back in the second half of this year. It’s a slowdown that suggests the tailwinds spurring growth earlier this year are waning. That includes the effects of a ramp up in child benefits by the federal government last year that had a clear impact on consumption, but are now no longer adding to growth.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Egypt’s public prosecutor has ordered the detention of 29 people suspected of espionage on behalf of Turkey and joining a terrorist organization, state news agency MENA reported on Wednesday.
The European Union may include Turkey on a blacklist of tax havens as soon as next month, in a move that could further strain ties between Ankara and the world’s largest trading bloc.
It’s 3:11 p.m. on a cold, gray day on the North Korean side of the most heavily armed border in the world, and a lone soldier is racing toward freedom.
India has for the first time fired a BrahMos missile from a Sukhoi Su-30 plane, with the country’s Defense Ministry claiming the air-launch a success.
Islamic State beheaded 15 of its own fighters due to infighting in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, officials said, while a separate suicide attack on Thursday tore into a crowd in the provincial capital, Jalalabad, killing at least eight.
Ratko Mladic received a life sentence for his role in one of the worst atrocities in 20th-century Europe. But nationalist passions are once again on the rise.
The risks that this stand-off degenerates into something worse are real. There is no obvious political solution that would halt momentum in the wrong direction. Yet a settlement, that reassures all of Kenya’s ethnic groups that they have an equal political opportunity, and that future elections will be genuinely free and fair, is the only alternative to chaos.
Eight people were rescued and a search was underway for the other three, the Navy’s Seventh Fleet said. It was the fleet’s fifth accident this year.
North Korea criticizes President Trump’s re-designation of it as a state sponsor of terrorism and vows to keep up its nuclear and missile programs.
Russia must press the Taliban to enter peace talks in Afghanistan, while an international inquiry should establish whether the Kremlin is arming the insurgent group, according to a senior Afghan official.
“The ability of our economy to increase military production and services at a given time is one of the most important aspects of military security. To this end, all strategic, and simply large-scale enterprise should be ready, regardless of ownership.”
With armored vehicles on streets, civilians fled a showdown between rival Moscow-backed political leaders in the breakaway Luhansk region.
In an expansion of the war on drugs, the U.S. Coast Guard is targeting low-level smugglers in international waters — shackling them on ships for weeks or even months before arraignment in American courts.
The long-anticipated designation will open the door to sanctions against the country’s military commanders and intensify pressure on its civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
When Pope Francis visits Myanmar next week, his advocacy for refugees and outreach to the Muslim world could put him at odds with his host, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and with some of his own bishops.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s enforcement actions and fines plunged in the first year of the Trump administration from a year earlier, when the figures were lifted by big settlements with banks.
The police detained seven people thought to have helped thousands of Chinese circumvent government limits on how much money they can move from the country.
A Justice Department complaint alleges that a vast private Chinese conglomerate used commercial and diplomatic channels to bribe African officials and win contracts.
Suleiman Kerimov, a Russian billionaire and senator, was charged with laundering money gained through tax fraud in Nice and prohibited from leaving the French region after being detained by authorities for two days.
Trump’s approval rating is at least 10 points below past presidents at the same number of days in office.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co, on Wednesday said he expects to see a new U.S. president in 2021 and advised the Democratic party to come up with a “pro-free enterprise” agenda for jobs and economic growth instead.
There are at least 13 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Here’s the complete list, with their evidence.
The president kicked off Thanksgiving Day by replying to a tweet that referenced Trump’s feud with LaVar Ball.
Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter behind President Trump’s bestselling 1987 book “The Art of the Deal”, says the president’s recent attacks of LaVar Ball stem from Trump being “half awed and half frightened by black people.”
The president and his family ‘absolutely’ adore her. Trump’s allies think she’s a superstar. And she privately encourages some of Trump’s worst instincts.
A restaurant has closed and room rates have been slashed at the Trump SoHo, which has had trouble attracting guests. The president’s company has negotiated a departure.
President Donald Trump, in a Thanksgiving address to troops, credited his policies for allowing progress in Afghanistan and against Islamic State, and warned about sending sophisticated weapons to American allies that one day could become the enemy.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
President Donald Trump is reportedly leaning toward tapping an academic for the No. 2 position at the U.S. Census Bureau, a decision that has alarmed advocates who say the pick lacks adequate management experience for a massive operational role and has political views that would undermine the credibility of the agency.
Negotiators made some progress in the fifth round of negotiations, but the United States trade representative said he remained “concerned about the lack of headway.”
The United States International Trade Commission will hand the president the second test of his willingness to impose tariffs on foreign rivals of domestic manufacturers.
Mr. Barton, vice chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was swept into the swirl of sexual improprieties with the posting of an explicit photo.
Lawmakers in both parties say members of Congress shouldn’t be allowed to use taxpayer money to settle harassment claims without being named.
SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
“We’re currently recruiting more people for artificial intelligence,” Veronica Lange, head of innovation at Switzerland’s biggest bank, said in an interview in Moscow. “These are data scientists, architects, business analysts.”
SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
A new study by the University of Wroclaw has provided the first evidence human love is related to reproductive success, therefore providing us with an evolutionary advantage.
A population of finches on the Galapagos is discovered in the process of becoming a new species.
A woman and her boyfriend have raised more than $250,000 on GoFundMe for a homeless man who rescued her when she ran out of gas on I-95.
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