Macro Links Nov 6th: The Saudi Purge
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- SAUDI PURGE
- TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTING
- RUSSIA CONNECTIONS
- RUSSIA PROBE
- GOP TAX PLAN
- TWITTER, FACEBOOK, RUSSIA
- TRUMP IN ASIA
- PUBLIC POLLS
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- TRUMP WORLD
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
- CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
- HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman.
Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men with extensive holdings in Western companies, as well as two of the late King Abdullah’s sons.
When Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was arrested as part of an anti-corruption probe in Saudi Arabia, it was the latest twist in the story of a billionaire who has courted international attention — while cloaking his investments in secrecy.
Alwaleed is among the 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of current or former senior officials arrested on orders from a newly established anti-corruption committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, said a senior Saudi official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The wealthiest of the arrestees, Alwaleed was picked up from his desert camp, the official said. Authorities didn’t disclose the allegations that prompted the action.
Mohammed bin Salman, the young crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, took another huge stride towards absolute power this weekend, with a round-up of leading figures in the kingdom’s political and business elite that includes 11 princes and more than three dozen current and former ministers.
The arrests, announced late Saturday by Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned pan-Arab news channel, came only hours after King Salman set up an anti-corruption commission with wide powers, headed by the 32-year-old crown prince. If this is an Arabian game of thrones, the headstrong young prince, who seeks to embody the pent-up aspirations of a people two-thirds of whom are under 30, has left no one in doubt he means to win.
Whatever legitimate debate there was about MBS ended Saturday — his drive to consolidate power is now too obvious to ignore. And that puts denizens of Washington’s think tank world in a difficult spot, as they have come to rely heavily on the Saudi and UAE end of the bargain. As The Intercept reported earlier, one think tank alone, the Middle East Institute, got a massive $20 million commitment from the UAE.
The purge led by the powerful Saudi crown prince has triggered uncertainty among investors who fear a campaign against established business leaders. It has alarmed executives working on Prince Mohammed’s ambitious transformation plan and sent shockwaves through a Saudi business community wondering whether they might be next in line.
Bankers say that while the economic downturn and regional geopolitical tumult has already sparked capital flight out of the kingdom over the past few years, these latest developments would speed up the pace of outflows.
Media-savvy and regularly spotted espousing his investment mantra on business television, most recently on cryptocurrencies, Prince Alwaleed cemented his reputation in recent years with large investments in companies such as Citigroup, Twitter and Lyft.
At the turn of the century, Time Magazine declared the self-styled “value” investor as the Warren Buffett of Arabia after he made hugely lucrative early bets on Apple and Netscape Communications.
The sudden arrest on Saturday of such a prominent investor has magnified the attention to the corruption crackdown that has ensnared at least 11 Saudi princes along with dozens of senior officials and businessmen.
TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTING
At least 27 people have been killed and 30 people have been injured in a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A witness reported seeing the as-yet unidentified man walk into First Baptist Church and began shooting around 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
A gunman walked into a small Baptist church in rural Texas on Sunday and opened fire, killing at least 25 people and turning a tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s most recent mass horror.
Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas confirmed the death toll, which has steadily increased throughout the day after the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
Leaked legal records show Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shares business interests with Vladimir Putin’s immediate family, which he failed to disclose during his confirmation.
Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, is doing business with Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law through a shipping venture in Russia. Leaked documents and public filings show Ross holds a stake in a shipping company, Navigator, through a chain of offshore investments. Navigator operates a lucrative partnership with Sibur, a Russian gas company part-owned by Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova.
Newly leaked documents show that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration’s point man on trade and manufacturing policy, has a stake in a company that does business with a gas producer partly owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Ross’s stake in Navigator has been held by a chain of companies in the Cayman Islands, one of several tax havens where much of his wealth, estimated at more than $2 billion, has been tied to similar investment vehicles. Details of these arrangements surfaced in a cache of leaked files from Appleby, one of the world’s largest offshore law firms, which administered some 50 companies and partnerships in the Caymans and elsewhere connected to Mr. Ross.
Russian President Vladimir Putin thoroughly believes he’s the reason U.S. President Donald Trump reached the White House, according to a former adviser.
Authorities in Cyprus handed over bank and company records to U.S. investigators late last week related to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the probe.
The investigators are speaking to multiple witnesses in coming days to gain more information surrounding Flynn’s lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
Mueller’s team is also examining whether Flynn attempted to orchestrate the removal of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, two officials said.
An Associated Press investigation into the digital break-ins that disrupted the U.S. presidential contest has sketched out an anatomy of the hack that led to months of damaging disclosures about the Democratic Party’s nominee. It wasn’t just a few aides that the hackers went after; it was an all-out blitz across the Democratic Party. They tried to compromise Clinton’s inner circle and more than 130 party employees, supporters and contractors.
Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, told House investigators he met with Russian government officials during a July 2016 trip to Moscow. He has long denied doing so.
The House Intelligence Committee plans to ask Keith Schiller about claims about Trump’s behavior.
GOP TAX PLAN
If John McCain, Susan Collins, and Bob Corker mean what they say, then the House bill will (almost certainly) die in the upper chamber.
The Republican tax rewrite unveiled on Thursday has set off a scramble among lobbyists and interest groups desperate to preserve prized tax breaks that are suddenly at risk in the sweeping bill moving through the House.
Yet the ability of K Street to prevent longstanding tax provisions from getting the ax is running headfirst into Republicans’ own mad dash as they attempt to quickly pass the tax rewrite and get it to President Trump’s desk by Christmas.
“Some Republicans don’t realize that 80 percent of benefits of wind power is going to Republican areas of the country — and to Republican voters,” said Mike Garland, chief executive officer of Pattern Energy Group Inc. and Pattern Energy Group LP, which together own 2.2 gigawatts of U.S. power. “It’s cruel and unusual punishment to go after one energy sector.”
Republicans are poised to begin debating details of their tax plan this week, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) signaled Sunday that party leaders are still mulling whether to use the proposal to end a central element of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act.
The House Republican tax bill intensified a debate about whether the GOP is setting up a big giveaway to the rich, but there is a broader policy shift in the proposal: What matters isn’t just how rich you are, but how you are rich.
The GOP says its plan, if enacted, would encourage investment, hiring and growth by allowing owners and investors to keep more of what they put into their businesses. “The kind of growth you’re looking for is not quick stimulus,” said Republican economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin. It is “to raise the return to saving and investment, improve productivity.”
Yet because of these changes, the tax code could become even more complex for America’s wealthiest households and open new avenues for tax avoidance.
“It creates a lot of complexity for taxpayers and a lot of opportunities to game the tax code, which tend to benefit people who are richer and able to afford the best tax advice,” said Lily Batchelder, a New York University tax-law professor and former aide to President Barack Obama.
TWITTER, FACEBOOK, RUSSIA
Leaked files show that a state-controlled bank in Moscow helped to fuel Yuri Milner’s ascent in Silicon Valley, where the Russia investigation has put tech companies under scrutiny.
A prominent Silicon Valley investor who was an early backer of Facebook Inc. has since partnered in two investments with the Russian state-controlled bank VTB Bank PJSC, his spokesman confirmed Friday.
The discovery is likely to stir concerns over Russian influence in US politics and the role played by social media in last year’s presidential election. It may also raise new questions for the social media companies and for Kushner.
The deactivation of President Donald Trump’s Twitter account by a rogue employee was the most public sign yet that Twitter’s greatest star can also cause the company great headaches.
The incident immediately made the unnamed contractor a hero to some and a villain to others for muting, even temporarily, Mr. Trump. Yet the outcome for Twitter was black and white: It was another fiasco that the social media company had to clean up.
In early 2015, a Twitter employee discovered a vast amount of Twitter accounts with IP addresses in Russia and Ukraine. The worker, Leslie Miley, said most of them were inactive or fake but were not deleted at the time. Miley, who was the company’s engineering manager of product safety and security at the time, said efforts to root out spam and manipulation on the platform were slowed down by the company’s growth team, which focused on increasing users and revenue.
“Anything we would do that would slow down signups, delete accounts, or remove accounts had to go through the growth team,” Miley said. “They were more concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts.”
U.S. lawmakers are probing the extent of the Kremlin’s campaign to disrupt last year’s presidential election, and so far, they have trained their scrutiny on tech platforms like Twitter.
But new data show that many news publications — including established outfits like the Post, the Miami Herald (owned by McClatchy), Buzzfeed and even Vox, as well as controversial alt-right hubs like InfoWars — were duped into citing some of these nefarious tweets in their coverage, perhaps unwittingly amplifying the reach of Russian propaganda in the process.
TRUMP IN ASIA
The 11-day tour of Asia — the longest trip to the region by an American president since George Bush in 1991 — will also take Mr Trump to South Korea and China. Later in the week, he will fly to Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit, before heading to the Philippines for two other Asian regional summits.
Breaking with tradition for American presidents on foreign soil, Mr. Trump used his speech to promote his domestic record with a distinct political edge, asserting that the economy and military were far better off since he became president.
“We are back home starting to do, I will tell you — and you’re reading, and you’re seeing — really, really well,” Mr. Trump told the troops, noting that the stock market has surged and unemployment has been low, with almost two million jobs added “since a very, very special day — it’s called Election Day.”
“The reason our stock market is so successful is because of me. I’ve always been great with money, I’ve always been great with jobs, that’s what I do. And I’ve done it well, I’ve done it really well, much better than people understand and they understand I’ve done well.”
The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said.
President Donald Trump expects to cross paths with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the U.S. leader’s first official trip to Asia.
Amid ever-worsening ties between the U.S. and Russia, the two presidents could discuss North Korea, Ukraine, Syria and Russian election meddling.
The staffing of any major presidential trip is an exercise in internal politics — sometimes byzantine — as the White House parcels out coveted seats on Air Force One. But the Trump administration’s staffing of this trip is drawing particular scrutiny from those seeking clues about who’s up or down, and what message the president is trying to send to allies and adversaries.
So one year after getting elected: half of Americans think he’s a racist and nearly two-thirds think he has accomplished little to nothing. This helps explain how, based on this poll, he wins — in a landslide — the race for least popular president one year in since polling began with Truman.
And yet … Trump has transformed the core beliefs of the GOP, making it his Republican Party in a way that the establishment didn’t expect, even post-inauguration.
Trump won’t change and elected Rs — and those who want to be elected Rs — are morphing into him. On the other side, Democrats see full resistance as the only plausible response. Hard to believe, but we think polarization only intensifies.
Just 37 percent of Americans approve of his job performance in the latest ABC News/Washington Poll poll. His net approval rating of negative 22 percentage points is the lowest for any president at nine months in office in polling dating to 1946; except for Gerald Ford, no other president had a net negative at this point in his presidency.
Trump has succeeded in satisfying voters who elected him president but few others. Voters who supported Trump continue to be overwhelmingly supportive, with 91 percent approving of his performance, including 69 percent “strongly.” A still larger 95 percent of Clinton voters disapprove of him, with 88 percent who feel that way strongly. Among those who supported neither candidate — or did not vote — 24 percent approve of Trump while 68 percent disapprove.
The police in New York said they were developing a case against Harvey Weinstein in investigating the claims of an actress who said he sexually attacked her in 2010.
Three new accusers shed light on the Oscar winner’s history of abuse. “Being closeted has … enabled him to use this privacy claim as a shield,” one of the men told BuzzFeed News.
The streaming service said it won’t be involved with any further production of “House of Cards” that includes Kevin Spacey after the actor was accused of making a sexual advance toward a teenager in 1986.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
Developing-economy currencies and corporate bonds are moving in opposite directions, bucking a decade-long trend and raising questions about which is the right economic signal to follow.
The correlation between emerging-market corporate credit in dollars and currencies has tumbled to a 15-year low over the past three months, according to an analysis by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., as bond buyers continue to choose riskier assets despite weakening foreign-exchange markets.
The signs are ominous. Of the more than a dozen countries that have issued sovereign bonds between 2010 and 2016, nearly half of them are close to defaulting on their coupon payments or are actively seeking ways to refinance the bonds. The bonds in themselves carry an average maturity period of ten years and thus the majority of these bonds will fall due between 2020 and 2026, but the cracks in the wall have already started showing.
China’s financial system is getting significantly more vulnerable due to high leverage, according to central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who also flagged the need for deeper reforms in the world’s second-biggest economy.
Latent risks are accumulating, including some that are “hidden, complex, sudden, contagious and hazardous,” even as the overall health of the financial system remains good, Zhou wrote in a lengthy article published on the People’s Bank of China’s website late Saturday. The nation should toughen regulation and let markets serve the real economy better, according to Zhou. The government should also open up financial markets by relaxing capital controls and reducing restrictions on non-Chinese financial institutions that want to operate on the mainland, he wrote.
“High leverage is the ultimate origin of macro financial vulnerability,” wrote Zhou, 69, who is widely expected to retire soon after a record 15-year tenure. “In sectors of the real economy, this is reflected as excessive debt, and in the financial system, this is reflected as credit that has been expanding too quickly.”
Zhou’s comments are the latest in a series of blunt warnings, and signal that policy makers remain committed to a campaign to reduce borrowing levels across the economy. Concern that regulators may intensify the deleveraging drive after the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress has helped push yields on 10-year government bonds to a three-year high.
Investors poured a record $380 billion into ETFs this year, much of them ultra-low-cost index funds—leaving asset managers, brokers and advisers to fight for a piece of a tiny pie.
ETFs have been a big beneficiary of the shift toward fee-based investment advice. For much of their 25-year history, ETFs competed against mutual funds that paid sales incentives to brokers that relied on commissions to make money. ETFs, which trade on exchanges like any other stock, paid no such sweeteners.
But the commission model is rapidly shrinking amid heightened regulatory scrutiny of sales commissions and an onslaught of regulations designed to elevate a client’s best interest over a broker’s own financial incentives.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
The accusations of corruption target different aspects of the Clintons and their three decades on the national political scene. But one primary objective of many of the stories circulating on the right seems clear: to discredit Mr. Mueller and his inquiry to the point that Americans come to see it as the partisan witch hunt Mr. Trump insists that it is.
The suggestion that the Steele dossier has been discredited is discreditable to the point of being dishonest. The deeper mystery is why certain conservatives who were once Trump’s fiercest critics have become his most sophistical apologists. The answer to that one requires a mode of analysis more psychological than political.
Setting Donald Trump aside for a second, the story here is that the Russian government has developed a sophisticated digital propaganda and misinformation strategy based on using hacked data from public figures and institutions in countries of interest to influence public opinion and elections in those countries. Just about a year ago, they found out just how well this strategy could work, and nobody in the security sphere doubts they will use it again in 2018, 2020, and beyond. Unless we find a way to prevent or counteract this kind of foreign interference, it will quickly become a constant factor in our elections—and Russia won’t be the only country doing it, either.
This isn’t simply a matter of getting people like John Podesta to use two-factor authentication on their emails. These digital instigators can create real-world events, such as when two separate Russian-bought Facebook pages organized both a group of anti-Islam protesters in Texas last year and a group of counter-protesters to square off with them in Houston. The implications of a tool that lets foreign actors weaponize the American public like this are disconcerting.
Manafort’s scheme, if proven, was brazen. It is remarkable that a sophisticated operator would feel so comfortable funnelling millions of dollars through Cyprus-based shell companies and bank accounts into the United States. He was probably right to feel invincible. Absent the Mueller investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump Presidential campaign, Manafort would likely never have been caught. It seems reasonable to assume that many others are doing much the same and, similarly, have little fear of prosecution.
However the Mueller investigation ends, the world cannot continue to accept money laundering as inevitable, and only prosecuted when it is a useful tool toward some other end. Money laundering is terrible in and of itself. It transfers wealth away from tax-funded democracies and toward kleptocracies, rewarding crime and punishing legitimate businesses. Hopefully, one of the lessons of the Mueller investigation will be that global criminals should feel quite a bit more afraid about the illicit transfer of their money around the globe.
Jan Techau, a German who has traveled extensively in England and ran Carnegie Europe, sees Britain as a tragedy. The European country considered the most outward-looking and globalized is fractured by the backlash against the very model that made Britain strong. “It’s very sad, but Brexit is a controlled suicide,” he said.
There are many who see Britain as having suffered a sudden nervous breakdown, said Simon Tilford, an economist and deputy director of the Center for European Reform. But he believes that Britain’s political culture and economic stability have been eroding for some time, hidden by the longstanding willingness of others to give it the benefit of the doubt as a pragmatic democracy with a strong civil society and civil service.
He too blames the Conservatives and the right-wing tabloids that support them for much of the erosion. “The readiness of the political right in particular to lie and peddle obvious untruths, to place their party politics and party unity over and above the national interest, has been going on for a long time,” he said. “The harrumphing nationalism masks a country ill at ease with itself.”
Rather than a vote for a global Britain and economic liberalism, Mr. Tilford said, Brexit was a vote for protectionism, and its political system now “is deeply provincial and introverted at a time when Britain is supposed to be heading out into the world.”
I agree with Governor Carney and the colleagues who do not like to be out of step with him that official rates look absurdly low by historical standards. In an ideal world, they should be “normalised”. But we are where we are: a British economy which, unlike many others, is in the doldrums and which – as the governor, to his credit, repeatedly points out – is heading from the doldrums into stormy waters if Brexit goes ahead.
Monetary policy has, these last 10 years, been aimed at trying to counteract the deleterious impact of a seriously misconceived policy of austerity, which has had the effect of not only damaging so many people’s living standards but also dampening confidence and the investment that would help to boost productivity. And now the prospect of Brexit!
The physical decay of the Palace of Westminster is more than a metaphor. Like the culture and conventions inside, the building’s failings contribute to the problems of running a respected 21st-century democracy. Scaffolding obscures the view of Big Ben, the world’s most famous clock, its bongs silenced to allow repair.
In the subterranean dining rooms, carpets reek from years of spilled alcohol, and one MP memorably tweeted that urine was leaking through his office ceiling (from toilets, not another member’s office, he later clarified). Contractors peer at the wiring wondering what they can safely patch up — and if they win the tender for the great renovation, whether it will prove a poisoned chalice. Yet MPs duck a decision on repairs, fearing that public opinion will damn them for the costs if work is done while they are still in residence, or prevent them returning if they decamp.
The culture is the greater problem, though. It is hard to get a better illustration of how it needs to change than Michael Fallon’s assertion on resigning that “what might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now”. As the former defence secretary would have it, he was wrongfooted by the passage of a few years — not that he was wrong back then. Even more tone deaf was his remark that his inappropriate advances to women had “fallen below the high standards that we require of the armed forces”. Not those of Westminster.
The UK farming industry is heavily dependent on pickers from the EU — notably eastern Europe — for seasonal work. Low unemployment rates and the seasonal nature of farm work makes it difficult to attract domestic pickers, the sector argues.
At the same time, the UK has also become less attractive to seasonal workers mostly from Romania and Bulgaria because of the fall in the value of sterling against the euro since Britain voted last year in a referendum to leave the EU.
Silicon Valley is going all out to own America’s school computer-and-software market, projected to reach $21 billion in sales by 2020. An industry has grown up around courting public-school decision makers, and tech companies are using a sophisticated playbook to reach them, The New York Times has found in a review of thousands of pages of Baltimore County school documents and in interviews with dozens of school officials, researchers, teachers, tech executives and parents.
In considering Facebook’s far-reaching influence, it’s worth keeping in mind the perspective of the more than five million advertisers whose money is financing the social network’s rampant growth. For them, Facebook and Instagram, which the company also owns, are the stuff of fantasy — grand bazaars on a scale never seen before. By advertising directly in users’ news feeds, companies can, at any time of day, target potential customers at moments when they are often bored and open to novelty. What better time to hear a product pitch?
“Facebook created the world’s greatest infomercial,” says Roger McNamee, a founder of Elevation Partners, who invested early in Facebook but has since become critical of the company’s influence. “It’s really inexpensive to produce ads and unbelievably inexpensive to reach exactly the market that you’re looking for.” As a result, Facebook has become especially lucrative for companies trying to sell new products online. The leaders of more than half a dozen new online retailers all told me they spent the greatest portion of their ad money on Facebook and Instagram.
“In the start-up-industrial complex, it’s like a systematic transfer of money” from venture-capital firms to start-ups to Facebook, says Charlie Mulligan, the founder of BrewPublik, which uses a “Beergorithm” to deliver personalized selections of craft beers to customers every month. At 500 Startups, the tech incubator based in Silicon Valley that funded BrewPublik, Facebook advertising is a topic covered in classes. In fact, social-network advertising is an assumed prerequisite for anyone studying marketing at a tech incubator these days — or at any business school across the country. “There is a formula for this stuff,” Mulligan says. “And the reason why there is a formula is because it works.”
A military modernization overseen by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whose political power reached new heights after last month’s Communist Party congress in Beijing, has proceeded in leaps and bounds, lifted by hefty budget increases that have already made China the world’s No. 2 military spender after the United States, though it is a distant second.
Taiwan’s armed forces, by contrast, have fallen way behind, struggling to recruit enough soldiers and sailors — and to equip those they have. A major obstacle is that countries that might sell it the most sophisticated weaponry are increasingly reluctant to do so for fear of provoking China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory. The unwillingness to anger China extends even to the United States, on which Taiwan has long depended for its defense.
This shifting balance affects more than just Taiwan. The Taiwan Strait was once Asia’s most ominous flash point, with the potential to drag the United States into war with China. Now, it is just one of several potential hot spots between a more assertive China and its neighbors.
Taiwan’s experience could be a cautionary tale to Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and others in the region who are also warily watching China’s rising military capabilities.
Ironically, Cobalt, Ontario—population 1,100—was built on silver.
Remnants of a boom that transformed the town more than a century ago are everywhere. A mine headframe still protrudes from the roof of the bookstore, which was previously a grocery. The butcher used to toss unwanted bones down an abandoned 350-foot shaft in the middle of the shop floor and keep meat cool in its lowered mine cage.
While the last silver mines closed almost 30 years ago, a global push for the village’s namesake metal is promising to breathe new life into the sleepy town 500 kilometers (300 miles) north of Toronto. The whitish element (which “blooms” pink when exposed to air) was initially ignored by the area’s prospectors and later mined mainly as a by-product of silver. Now, global demand for cobalt, a component in batteries used to power electric cars for automakers from Tesla Inc. to Volkswagen AG, is changing the game.
Call it a cobalt rush in Cobalt.
“This area’s seen more airborne surveys in the last year than in the last hundred,” said Gino Chitaroni, a local prospector and geologist. “Two years ago, if you had a cobalt property you couldn’t give it away. All of a sudden, within six months, everything changed.”
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
Central bankers are talking a lot about wages. With inflation staying stubbornly low in developed economies, they’re hoping that workers will ask for more pay as labor supply shrinks.
The hardest job in central banking is to take the punch bowl away from the party just when people are starting to have fun. Jerome Powell could soon have to assume the role of sober killjoy as he is confronted with an economy and markets that are heating up.
Official data show Turkey added 3.8 million ounces of gold worth almost $5 billion to reserves this year. While actual purchases could be much less — the figure is skewed by metal deposited by commercial banks — even if Turkey bought just one-third of the reported amount, it would still rank among the top two or three buyers this year.
While the central bank cited a good old-fashioned diversification policy, some analysts speculated that the country could be shoring up reserves amid rising tensions between Turkey and its traditional Western allies.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
U.S. employers hired at a strong pace in October, and revisions showed the labor market weathered hurricane damage better than previously estimated. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 261,000 in October, a pickup from the prior month. The unemployment rate fell to 4.1%, the lowest since 2000.
Profits are healthy at large U.S. companies, but earnings growth was pinched in the third quarter by higher materials and labor costs, as well as the impact of three major hurricanes on insurers.
The unemployment rate for Americans with less than a high-school education just dropped to 5.7 percent, its lowest level on record (going back to 1992). That clearly illustrates the tightness of the labor market in what might be deemed lower-skilled occupations.
The US unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since the beginning of the century, as a rebound in hiring following hurricane-induced stoppages confirms signs of a resilient economy.
From the residential areas of Hollywoodland beneath the sign, there are no official entrances to Griffith Park and Mount Lee, the steep, brush-covered hill where the sign is perched. Still the influx is so great it is straining local infrastructure and exposing the absence of facilities to cope with the growing numbers. Some days thousands make the journey — causing chaos along the neighbourhood’s tiny streets.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
The dollar has moved from a supporting role to a featured player this earnings season, a boon to U.S. multinationals which have benefited from the biggest quarterly year-on-year decline in the greenback in three years.
Since the start of October, at least 35 U.S. companies have cited currency “benefits” or “tailwinds” and “weaker dollar” for boosting quarterly earnings, compared with few mentions a year ago, and some see that extending to the fourth quarter, a Reuters analysis shows.
“The quarter was one where the dollar weakened over the course of the quarter, more so than analysts expected,” said Jill Carey Hall, equity and quantitative strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is on course for its first annual insurance underwriting loss since 2002, after taking a $3bn hit from the recent run of natural disasters.
Bad weather hurt Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc in the third quarter, as insurance losses tied to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and an earthquake in Mexico contributed to a 43 percent drop in profit.
Broadcom is planning to make an unsolicited takeover bid for Qualcomm that could value its rival US chipmaker at more than $100bn, according to two people briefed on its plans.
Jeff Bezos sold a million Amazon.com Inc. shares this week for $1.1 billion, according to a U.S. securities filing on Friday. The sale represented 1.3 percent of his holding and leaves Bezos with a 16.4 percent stake in the retailer.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS
A year after the Panama Papers, a new set of data taken from another offshore law firm could expose the hidden wealth of individuals and show how corporations, hedge funds and others may have skirted taxes.
The revelations are to be published beginning Sunday, just as U.S. lawmakers are poised to debate a tax reform plan that calls for slashing the corporate rate. It also comes at a delicate time in the U.K., where Theresa May’s government is engulfed in a sexual harassment scandal and consumed by Brexit negotiations.
The news comes out of an investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which was provided data collected in an alleged hack in 2016 of Appleby Global Group Services Ltd., a Bermuda firm providing legal services for hedge fund managers and corporations. Reporters working with the ICIJ, which was also behind the release of the Panama Papers, are reviewing the millions of pages of documents that reveal strategies used to hide assets and avoid taxes. Bloomberg hasn’t seen the leaked documents.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
It is the latest showdown between an established company and an activist investor trying to shake things up, and the result will be a litmus test of the shifting power of activists in an era of record corporate profits.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
Scotland is on target to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, the Citizens’ Assembly has heard. Under chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, the 99 assembly members, meeting in Malahide, Co Dublin are spending a second weekend debating on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
A cousin to the deadly smallpox virus, the monkeypox virus initially infects people through contact with wild animals and can then spread from person to person. The disease produces fever and a rash that often turns into painful lesions that can feel like cigarette burns. It kills up to 1 in 10 of its victims, similar to pneumonic plague, and is particularly dangerous in children. Monkeypox is on the U.S. government list of pathogens such as anthrax and Ebola with the greatest potential to threaten human health. There is no cure.
The large plague outbreak that began in Madagascar in August appears to be waning, according to government case counts and local news reports. The outbreak has infected about 1,800 people so far, killing 127 of them.
A World Health Organization spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, confirmed reports in Malagasy media that both deaths and new cases were declining and most hospitalized patients had recovered, although “we cannot rule out the possibility of further spikes.”
A report from 13 federal agencies says humans are the main cause of global warming, a position at odds with some in the Trump administration.
The White House did not seek to prevent the release of the government’s National Climate Assessment, which is mandated by law, despite the fact that its findings sharply contradict the administration’s policies.
With time running out, government officials, industry experts and researchers at Chinese think-tanks say Beijing could announce the scheme at the two-week Bonn climate change meeting that opens on Monday.
Increasingly, insurance carriers are finding wildfires are an opportunity to provide protection beyond what most people get through publicly funded fire fighting, but consumer advocates say the programs mean the rich can get better fire protection.
Some of Europe’s largest energy companies have accused the EU of lacking ambition in the fight against climate change and urged more aggressive targets for growth in renewable power.
The former president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, and four former members of his regional government turned themselves in to the Belgian police on Sunday morning, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office said.
The spokesman, Gilles Dejemeppe, said that they would be questioned over the next 24 hours by an investigative judge, who will decide whether to keep them in jail or to order any other measures, such as house arrest.
A planned $1 billion Apple data center is in doubt after Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the U.S. company’s Chief Executive Tim Cook would no longer commit to it, adding that Dublin would do whatever necessary to get it built.
DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Saudi Arabia said it intercepted a ballistic missile fired towards its capital by Houthi forces in Yemen, in an escalation of the kingdom’s war against rebels allied with Iran on its southern border. The apparent attempt to target Riyadh, located more than 1,000km from the Yemen border, is set to sharpen the proxy conflict between Riyadh and Tehran in the impoverished Arab state.
The U.S. military conducted a series of airstrikes against Islamic State in Somalia, military officials said, marking an expansion of American operations against extremists in that country.
Instead of celebrating the defeat of a key Islamic State affiliate in Africa, the Pentagon and its allies are confronting an increasingly potent constellation of militant groups and a deepening rivalry between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State for influence and recruits.
“The big challenge is the instability in Libya,” Kalla Moutari, Niger’s minister of defense, said in an interview Wednesday. “Fighters and weapons from Libya continue to come to this part of the world because there are no controls over there.”
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
Mr. Trump’s repeated assaults on the criminal justice system cross lines other presidents have largely observed since the Watergate era.
A flurry of accusations followed an earlier acknowledgment that presidents are not supposed to intervene in such decisions.
By going after political opponents for prosecution, the president risks a major breach of protocol.
The governing party in this East African nation has a network of millions of loyalists and informers to watch each village and every neighborhood. Meet one of them, a farmer and enforcer.
Protests calling for the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbé have drawn thousands and the demonstrations are increasingly turning deadly.
A new book on the father-and-son presidents provides a glance at their apprehension over Mr. Trump’s rise to power and what it means for the country.
The White House has struck back at both Bush presidents Saturday after the two made stinging comments about President Donald Trump in a new book about the father and son.
The Tennessee senator is keeping everyone guessing about his next move, and even he might not be sure.
Ivanka Trump was reportedly greeted with an underwhelming turnout as she delivered a speech on women’s empowerment in Tokyo. The US President’s daughter was speaking at a conference on women’s advancement in the Japanese capital. But people there claimed the auditorium was half-empty as she outlined her zero-tolerance stance on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Ironically, Mr. Trump’s comments may have contributed to the decision not to sentence him to prison. After Mr. Trump seemed last month to endorse his harsh criticism from the campaign trail, Colonel Nance ruled that he would consider the comments as mitigating evidence at sentencing.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he was unsure whether his top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, would remain in his post for the rest of Trump’s term in the White House and was “not happy” that some State Department staff were not supporting his agenda.
Ms. Brazile, a former interim head of the Democratic National Committee, said she considered the action after Hillary Clinton suffered a fainting spell, according to a published report.
Donna Brazile, the former Democratic National Committee interim leader, stood by her assertions in a new book that she considered replacing Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee late in the 2016 presidential race.
Virginia’s gubernatorial election Tuesday, has put Democrats on edge because the race seems to be neck-and-neck, despite their considerable advantages in this Democratic-leaning state.
The campaign for Virginia governor has divided voters along demographic lines highly reminiscent of last November’s presidential election, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll on Sunday, and the Democrat, Ralph Northam, holds a modest three-point lead over the Republican, Ed Gillespie, 43 percent to 40 percent.
Paul and Boucher live in the same gated community along Rivergreen Lane in Bowling Green, Ky., according to Porter and another person close to Paul who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of respect for the senator. It was unclear whether politics was a motivation for the attack, according to a senior aide to the senator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the aide was not authorized to speak about the incident.
SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed that Fresh is ending service in parts of these states, but made clear the service would remain serving certain areas of big cities such as New York City, Boston and Chicago — as well as Philadelphia and Los Angeles, among other metropolises. She said the changes were unrelated to the Whole Foods acquisition, but declined to provide more details.
Amazon has quietly started lowering prices by as much as 9% on goods offered by independent merchants on its site, ratcheting up a price war with other retail giants—and potentially straining its relationship with some sellers.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
Google and others, fighting for a small pool of researchers, are looking for automated ways to deal with a shortage of artificial intelligence experts.
The tech industry is promising everything from smartphone apps that can recognize faces to cars that can drive on their own. But by some estimates, only 10,000 people worldwide have the education, experience and talent needed to build the complex and sometimes mysterious mathematical algorithms that will drive this new breed of artificial intelligence.
In building a neural network, researchers run dozens or even hundreds of experiments across a vast network of machines, testing how well an algorithm can learn a task like recognizing an image or translating from one language to another. Then they adjust particular parts of the algorithm over and over again, until they settle on something that works. Some call it a “dark art,” just because researchers find it difficult to explain why they make particular adjustments.
But with AutoML, Google is trying to automate this process. It is building algorithms that analyze the development of other algorithms, learning which methods are successful and which are not. Eventually, they learn to build more effective machine learning. Google said AutoML could now build algorithms that, in some cases, identified objects in photos more accurately than services built solely by human experts.
HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
Could food choices actually lower inflammation and make the rest of us as strong and healthy as Brady, who has won five Super Bowls and is still starting as quarterback at age 40?
Science has yet to connect those dots, experts say, and there are reasons to be skeptical. Despite a growing body of evidence linking inflammation with a variety of illnesses, inflammation isn’t always bad. And even though the literature on food and inflammation is suggestive, the details remain murky.
“I think everyone wishes that there was one secret or a couple of secrets for making dietary changes and improving health outcomes,” says Laura Cappelli, a rheumatologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. “It’s not that simple.”
The Bucks’ All-Star isn’t changing the way his position is played. He’s changing the way all the positions are played.
Flanagan became the first American woman since Miki Gorman won the second of her back-to-back NYC marathons in 1977 to win the race, finishing in an unofficial time of 2:26:53. Flanagan, 36, is the American record holder in the indoor 3,000 meters, the indoor 5,000 and won a bronze medal that was upgraded to silver in the 10,000 in the 2008 Olympics. She finished sixth in the Rio Olympics marathon.
Ape trafficking is a little-known corner of the illicit wildlife trade, a global criminal enterprise that hauls in billions of dollars. But unlike the thriving business in elephant ivory, rhino horns, tiger bone wine or pangolin scales, ape smuggling involves live animals — some of the most endangered, intelligent and sensitive animals on Earth.
Malnourished and terrified apes have been seized across the world, in undercover busts or at border checkpoints, in countries as varied as France, Nepal, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kuwait. Two years ago, at Cairo’s international airport, the Egyptian authorities discovered a baby chimp curled up into a ball and stashed in a piece of hand luggage. Just this summer, the authorities in Cameroon stopped a smuggler at a roadblock who was trying to move 100 pounds of pangolin scales and a tiny chimp, not even a month old, hidden in a plastic sack.
But for every successful bust, wildlife specialists say, five to 10 other animals slip through. And for every smuggled ape, several more may have been killed in the process. Most species of apes are social and live in large groups, and poachers often wipe out entire families to get their hands on a single infant, which is far easier to smuggle.
South Korea says the four passages, the so-called Tunnels of Aggression, were built to move thousands of North Korean troops quickly and covertly underneath the Demilitarized Zone and onto South Korean soil for an invasion, an accusation Pyongyang has long denied.
But in the decades since their discovery, some of the tunnels have found new life as a tourist destinations. Thousands of Koreans and foreign visitors explore these odd relics of a frozen conflict, one that is now stressed by renewed tensions and in the spotlight ahead of President Trump’s visit to the Peninsula on Tuesday.
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