Macro Links Nov 8th – Oh Snap
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- BELLWETHER ELECTIONS
- PUBLIC POLLING
- SAUDI PURGE
- NORTH KOREA
- TRUMP IN ASIA
- GOP TAX PLAN
- SNAP EARNINGS DISASTER
- TWITTER 280 CHARACTERS
- TEXAS GUNMAN, MASS SHOOTINGS
- WAYMO SELF-DRIVING MILESTONE
- BREXIT MESS
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS
- FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS
- FINTECH, BLOCKCHAIN, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- TRUMP WORLD
- SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
Mr. Northam was elected Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, overcoming a racially charged campaign by his Republican opponent and maintaining the Democrats’ hold on Virginia in the Trump era.
The success of his campaign, built on rejecting Gov. Chris Christie and President Trump, further cemented New Jersey’s shift to a decidedly blue state.
The election is seen as a key barometer of whether Democrats can win in crucial swing states ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Republicans are in big trouble. Generic balloting shows them 10 points down in the House popular vote, far too large a gap for Republicans to gerrymander away. And while Trump has often seemed indifferent to the electoral fate of the congressional GOP, the reality is that their fates are intertwined in a more profound way than the White House seems to recognize. Even a thin Democratic majority would open the floodgates of oversight that Republicans have kept shut, with hearings extending well beyond the Russia matter to the Trump family’s systematic conflicts of interest and beyond.
Nearly one year after Donald Trump’s upset election victory, support for the president is eroding in counties that were most responsible for his election, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. But Democrats have not yet managed to turn Mr. Trump’s weakness in those precincts into gains.
Among residents of the counties that propelled Trump to victory, 41 percent say the country is worse off now than it was when he became commander in chief.
“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” the U.S. president tweeted.
Saudi Arabia said it has only frozen the bank accounts of individuals and not those of the companies they own or manage, as the kingdom seeks to ease tension among global investors over a crackdown that’s seen princes and billionaires arrested.
The Saudi government is aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite, according to people familiar with the matter.
An anti-corruption drive and a firmer stance towards Iran resonate in Saudi society. But the execution will not necessarily inspire confidence. Nor are the policies without broader risk. The war in Yemen has cost billions that could have been invested at home to create the jobs that MbS is promising. The purge also reinforces the arbitrary nature of Saudi rule and unnerves businesses that should be encouraged to invest. What MbS is building with one hand, he could be destroying with the other.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump had urged North Korea to “come to the table and make a deal”, hailing US progress in countering the threat from Pyongyang in comments marking a departure from his typically fiery rhetoric.
Donald Trump opened the door to negotiations with North Korea while three U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups prepared for a rare display of strength nearby, in a carrot-and-stick approach to the nuclear standoff.
TRUMP IN ASIA
A surprise visit by US President Donald Trump to the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea was cancelled on Wednesday morning due to bad weather, according to official media, leaving South Korean President Moon Jae-in waiting in vain at the border.
President Trump brought a message of reassurance to South Korea, saying he saw progress in diplomatic efforts to counter the threat from Pyongyang.
Mr. Xi has pushed for what he calls a “new type of great power relations” with the U.S., an innocuous-sounding slogan but one freighted with deep implications, not least that Washington would start treating China as an equal and cede ground on its territorial demands in the South China Sea and East China Sea. The arrangement could put Taiwan in play as another of China’s “core interests” to be accommodated.
GOP TAX PLAN
Multinational companies including Apple Inc., Pfizer Inc. and others would face a new tax on payments they make to offshore affiliates under the House Republicans’ tax bill — a surprise provision that has stunned tax experts.
The new 20 percent tax is “the atomic bomb in the draft” legislation, said Ray Beeman, co-leader of Ernst & Young’s Washington Council advisory services group. “We’re trying to get our arms around the implications.”
House tax writers say the proposed excise tax is aimed at preventing U.S. companies from shifting their earnings offshore to subsidiaries in tax shelters — and it moved into the spotlight this week amid a series of global investigative reports on corporate tax avoidance. But tax practitioners say the provision has far larger implications for consumer prices on a range of goods.
“It’s a very big gorilla in the living room,” said Gary Friedman, a tax partner at Debevoise & Plimpton. Tech companies, pharmaceutical makers, automakers and reinsurers are the companies most likely to be concerned, he said.
Some Republican lawmakers have already raised questions about provisions in the bill, particularly the repeal of the state and local tax deduction for income and sales taxes. Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, who is facing a difficult re-election campaign in 2018, said Tuesday that he had concerns about the effect on his constituents, while several senators over the past days have raised concerns about tax legislation that raises the federal budget deficit.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday were considering a starkly different approach to overhauling the tax code than their House colleagues, weighing a delay in the implementation of a major corporate tax cut and other measures to alter the cost and impact of the plan.
More than 60% of U.S. taxpayers, including much of the middle class, would see lower taxes in 2019 under the House Republican tax plan while 8% would pay more, according to a new analysis. But by 2027, many of those effects would peter out.
Republicans have failed to quell a corporate outcry over plans to impose a new tax on cross-border payments by multinationals, as lobbyists criticised revisions to a sweeping reform bill this week as insufficient.
SNAP EARNINGS DISASTER
As Snap’s stock plunged 18 per cent in after-hours trading, Evan Spiegel, co-founder and chief executive, warned of further uncertainty ahead as it overhauls its app, in an attempt to win a broader audience.
Snap Inc. shares plunged as much as 20% after the company said its quarterly loss more than tripled, disappointing Wall Street again as it failed to significantly grow the number of people using its app daily.
Snapchat disclosed it would change the fundamental character of its app — the sole significant revenue source — to make it easier for people to use. This might be a good idea, but Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said this decision “will be disruptive to our business in the short term.” Mind you, when Snapchat was pitching itself to public company investors, the fact that the app was befuddling to many people older than 30 was cited as a feature, not a weakness than needed a serious revision.
TWITTER 280 CHARACTERS
The social media service is doubling its character limit for almost all users, a major change that it hopes will spur more activity across Twitter.
The extra latitude for the verbose, which comes more than 11 years after the service was launched, represents a dilution of the early vision of co-founder Jack Dorsey, who saw the extreme brevity of Twitter’s messages as a way to force users to concentrate their thoughts.
TEXAS GUNMAN, MASS SHOOTINGS
Devin P. Kelley, who killed 26 people at a church on Sunday, fled a treatment center in 2012, according to police report that also said he had threatened his Air Force superiors.
Organizers of the Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon, the first major outdoor festival to be held on the Las Vegas Strip since last month’s mass shooting, are moving key events and ramping up security.
WAYMO SELF-DRIVING MILESTONE
For the last year, Waymo has offered free taxi rides to ordinary people who live near the Phoenix suburb of Chandler. Until recently, the company’s modified Chrysler Pacifica minivans had a Waymo employee in the driver’s seat ready to take control if the car malfunctioned.
Waymo is now confident enough in its technology to dispense with a safety driver. The company has released a video showing Waymo cars driving around the Phoenix area with no one in the driver’s seat:
Alphabet Inc’s Waymo will launch a ride-hailing service with no human behind the steering wheel and has been testing the fully self-driving cars on public roads in Arizona, Chief Executive John Krafcik said on Tuesday.
Britain’s political landscape is so chaotic that even those trying to cut through the noise –and provide clarity to investors — can’t agree on what is going on.
It’s no surprise that leaders overseas are baffled by the current state of the UK. Theresa May has given up any notion of Cabinet discipline. Her lack of authority has created a set of little fiefdoms where a centralised British foreign policy used to be. All of them are able to speak and act independently of No.10 without consequence.
A group of large financial institutions with big London operations, led by Wall Street’s pre-eminent banks, have told the US commerce secretary that Britain’s unstable government and slow progress in Brexit planning may force them to start moving thousands of jobs out of City in the near future.
The Manhattan district attorney will seek an indictment against Harvey Weinstein as early as next week — ignoring an NYPD plan to immediately slap the movie mogul in cuffs, sources told The Post. Cops had been building a case against the predatory producer for allegedly raping actress Paz de la Huerta twice in 2010.
A potential buyer walked away from the Weinstein Company on Tuesday, nudging the struggling studio closer to the brink. After disagreeing on price, Colony Capital, the private equity firm run by Thomas J. Barrack Jr., ended talks with the boutique studio to buy some or all of its assets, according to two people briefed on the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the process was private.
Claims that go beyond previous reports simmered inside the e-commerce giant’s Hollywood unit. Some executives say the company’s policy of giving its business operations autonomy may have given Mr. Price extra leeway.
Bridgewater paid a $1 million-plus settlement to a woman who was pushed out after engaging in a consensual relationship with executive Greg Jensen, and shortly after it heard from another employee that Mr. Jensen had groped her buttocks.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
What happens when you say you’ve taken away a safety net, but nobody believes you? That’s essentially what’s going on in one corner of China’s bond market, with the implication being that someone needs to get hurt before the message hits home. The issue relates to local government financing vehicles, or LGFVs, which boomed a decade ago when China’s Communist leadership let provincial and municipal authorities ramp up borrowing to fund all sorts of infrastructure and property development.
Who’s not listening? Bond buyers. The yield premium on LGFV five-year notes rated AA — a typical grade — over government securities has dropped 61 basis points from a June high, to 163 basis points, according to data compiled by ChinaBond. That means they’ve broadly kept pace with the rest of the corporate-debt market, outperforming during a time when government bonds have tumbled, sending yields to three-year highs.
After years of banks grappling with the fallout of the crisis and low interest rates, the bets on what are known as TARP warrants are finally paying off. The investors, who include fund managers John Paulson and Bill Miller, bought these warrants for bank stocks secondhand, after they were initially issued to the government during the 2008 bank bailout.
The investors’ unpopular view at the time was that banks and their stock prices would recover to precrisis levels. By betting on warrants, a high-octane security similar to an option, the fund managers basically doubled down on that opinion, risking their entire investment if it didn’t happen by 2018 or 2019.
Cheap money may have buoyed emerging-market macro hedge funds toward their ninth straight annual advance, but that doesn’t mean investors are expecting an exodus as the world’s central bankers start turning off the taps.
Demand for these funds remains so brisk, in fact, that some are turning new money away. Pharo Management (UK) closed one of its developing-economy macro pools to new clients after it made 25 percent this year through September. And Antoine Estier raised twice what he expected for his new Amia Capital venture, which invests across markets, closing part of the fund to additional clients, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Corporate bonds are starting to look uncomfortably expensive, according to the head of fixed income at Norway’s biggest bank. “The pricing is such that there’s an increasing probability for a correction,” Svein Aage Aanes, who oversees a $40 billion bond portfolio at DNB Asset Management, a unit of DNB ASA, said in an interview.
“Credit spreads are at the lowest levels since the financial crisis,” he said at his office in Bergen in western Norway. “A lot of the news around growth and the business cycle is priced in. It makes the markets more vulnerable for negative setbacks.”
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
The details are in, and millions of people are going to get screwed. One way to look at this is that it’s a tribute to the Republicans’ ambition. They could have done what they did when Bush was president: cut a bunch of taxes, pay for it with borrowing, and leave it at that, with no one losing in the short run even if the wealthy gained a lot more than everyone else. This time they wanted to remake the tax code, but in doing so they ended up picking a lot of winners and losers.
For 13 years, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has been telling Forbes that he’s a billionaire, producing numbers to bolster his point. But it seems he has been lying all along–and not just to us.
Ross protested, citing trusts for his family that he said he did not have to disclose in federal filings. “You’re apparently not counting those, which are more than $2 billion,” he said. When asked for documentation, the 79-year-old demurred, citing “privacy issues.” Told that Forbes nonetheless planned to remove him from the list for the first time in 13 years, he responded: “As long as you explain that the reason is that assets were put into trust, I’m fine with that.” And when did he make the transfer that allowed him to not disclose over $2 billion? “Between the election and the nomination.”
So began the mystery of Wilbur Ross’ missing $2 billion. And after one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer: That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004. In addition to just padding his ego, Ross’ machinations helped bolster his standing in a way that translated into business opportunities. And based on our interviews with ten former employees at Ross’ private equity firm, WL Ross & Co., who all confirmed parts of the same story line, his penchant for misleading extended to colleagues and investors, resulting in millions of dollars in fines, tens of millions refunded to backers and numerous lawsuits. Additionally, according to six U.S. senators, Ross failed to initially mention 19 suits in response to a questionnaire during his confirmation process.
The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.
Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.
Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people — a distinction Mr. Lankford urged to avoid outliers. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.
Behind the Facebook profile you’ve built for yourself is another one, a shadow profile, built from the inboxes and smartphones of other Facebook users. Contact information you’ve never given the network gets associated with your account, making it easier for Facebook to more completely map your social connections.
Shadow contact information has been a known feature of Facebook for a few years now. But most users remain unaware of its reach and power. Because shadow-profile connections happen inside Facebook’s algorithmic black box, people can’t see how deep the data-mining of their lives truly is, until an uncanny recommendation pops up.
Under an ambitious plan unveiled two years ago called Made in China 2025, Beijing has designs to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, among many others, in a decade. And China is enlisting some of the world’s biggest technology players in its push.
Sometimes it demands partnerships or intellectual property as the price of admission to the world’s second-largest economy. Sometimes it woos foreign giants with money and market access in ways that elude American and global trade rules.
Fox News may be enjoying large audiences right now, partly because of its close relationship with the president, but the network is taking a real risk — both to itself and to our democracy — by peddling falsehoods and making the president’s political enemies its own. Given those risks, the network’s eagerness to take on a role normally occupied by state media in strongman regimes, up through its current attempts to discredit special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation, is surprising.
Shen Dingli, a professor of American studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University, said Mr Trump “says he is making America great again, but he defines greatness in a very narrow sense, in money. He cares only about money, exports and jobs. That makes it very easy for China to handle him.”
The conundrum for Beijing is whether to take seriously Mr Trump’s threats and apply more pressure to North Korea, in order to head off a confrontation. “There is a major debate in the US right now about whether the US president is really a risk taker or just playing a risk taker,” said Mr Harold. “They are having the same debate in China too.”
Let’s unpack this flight of fancy. In this scenario, Apple would be wildly overpaying for Netflix. However, the world’s most valuable company has a not-so-secret weapon: its own wildly expensive currency. Apple, whose stock price has surged 50 percent this year, is worth almost $900 billion. It is on its way to becoming the first trillion-dollar company.
A merger — technically a takeover — provides each company with a solution to challenges both face. Apple has learned that film and television are very different industries than music. Its video content offerings have not caught up to those offered by competitors Netflix and Amazon.com Inc. Netflix is spending billions per year to acquire or create new content, money that it may not have in the future. A deep-pocketed partner would ensure the lead it has built does not disappear.
And both companies are well aware that the mightiest competitor they face these days is Amazon. A tie-up creates a competitor that would equal the Jeff Bezos juggernaut.
That people would prefer to hang on to their bitcoin than spend it is not surprising given its soaring value. This clingy behaviour is an instance of Gresham’s law, which states that bad money always drives out the good, and that if there are two forms of commodity money in circulation, the more valuable one will disappear as it is hoarded.
But these days there are other reasons to hang on to your bitcoin. The era of costless bitcoin transactions is long gone. For some time, fees have ranged from $3 to $6 per transaction, depending on the network’s available capacity. The situation makes small, day-to-day payments, from coffee purchases to bus ticket sales, increasingly impractical.
In energy terms, meanwhile, a recent analysis by the Motherboard site estimated that a single bitcoin transaction requires 215 kilowatt-hours of electricity to process. That is the equivalent of what an average American household consumes in one week.
Add this energy wastage to the reputation bitcoin already has for opaque governance, cyber crime and dark market trade, and you can see how, from an ESG perspective, bitcoin proves an even more controversial investment than a holding in a developing-world, commodity-extracting company.
Many people win multimillion-dollar judgments in court. Collecting on them is another matter. Burford, Mr. Hall’s employer, is part of a new generation of firms that chase assets of the superrich who are tardy on payments from judgments, arbitration awards and other financial obligations. In one measure of the potential market, The Global Arbitration Review, an industry journal, estimates there are about $2 trillion in pending arbitration claims world-wide.
These high-end collection services—which include litigation-funders like Burford, as well as hedge funds and other specialized investors—retrieve what is owed for a share. They are usually hired by people who lack the resources or don’t want to use their own money to collect, even at a time when high-profile scandals are making it more difficult to hide assets around the globe.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
U.S. consumer credit outstanding rose in September by the most since November 2016 as credit-card debt exceeded $1 trillion, Federal Reserve data showed Tuesday. While home values and stock prices have climbed, generating more wealth for some Americans, other households with fewer assets may find it difficult to boost their spending as their debt burdens mount.
Rising homeownership is adding to the jitters in the residential rental market, which has slumped recently after a long stretch near the top of the commercial real-estate industry.
The recent trend is causing analysts and investors to wonder whether the rental market’s good times are coming to an end. Investors pumped tens of billions of dollars into the sector during the recovery, building and buying apartment complexes and amassing large portfolios of single-family homes.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
Charles de Vaulx knows keeping 40 percent of his fund in cash is hurting results. But as far as he’s concerned, there aren’t many stocks to buy. “Being fully invested has zero appeal right now because stocks are so expensive,” says de Vaulx, whose $8.3 billion IVA Worldwide Fund trails the MSCI All-Country World Index by a big margin this year. “We are willing to underperform while the party goes on.”
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has shaken up the leadership of its vaunted fixed income, currencies and commodities business after stumbles this year called its strategy into question.
Toyota raised its profit projections for the year but its earnings in the U.S. were hobbled by incentives on passenger cars and a shortage of its hit RAV4 model.
Online travel booking sites Priceline Group and TripAdvisor took a beating from investors on Tuesday, highlighting how the companies’ once industry-disrupting model is under growing pressure from other competitors.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
The initial public offering will be at least the seventh overseas this year by Chinese companies offering private education services, mostly in tutoring and private school management, as they look to expand nationally and consolidate an education market that has largely been dominated by regional players.
British broadcaster Sky has said that it could shut down Sky News if its ownership of the channel proves to be an obstruction to the company’s 11.7 billion-pound ($15.4 billion) takeover by Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox.
Rupert Murdoch is not used to hoisting the white flag of surrender. Yet his willingness to explore a break-up of 21st Century Fox and discuss the sale of prime film and television assets to Walt Disney suggests that, at the age of 86, the media mogul may have lost his appetite for a fight.
The talks were initiated by Disney and its chief executive, Bob Iger, according to two people briefed on the discussions, and are no longer active. Yet by even entertaining the discussions, Mr Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, have effectively put Fox on the block, a target for content-hungry companies such as Verizon, the telecoms group, and the John Malone-backed Charter Communications.
The Murdochs have started a process that could lead to the dismantling of a company that took decades to assemble. Without the scale offered by a combination with rival Time Warner — which rejected a Fox takeover offer three years ago — a break-up might be the best option.
If Walt Disney Co buys some Twenty-First Century Fox businesses, it could provide a quick path for the traditional media giant to create a substantial competitor to Netflix Inc in the battle for TV and movie viewers.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS
Appleby operates in a rarefied universe of ultra-high-net-worth individuals, where yachts and private jets are preferred transport and mansions sit empty because their owner has several others. Some of Appleby’s customers are also P.E.P.’s — politically exposed persons — for whom avoiding unwanted attention is a crucial goal.
“The Right People. The Right Places,” reads the slogan on Appleby’s stationery. What offshore services offer to a diverse international elite is secrecy and discretion, along with the opportunity to minimize or defer taxes. Appleby appears to be more scrupulous than another offshore firm, Panama-based Mossack Fonseca, about shunning overtly corrupt and criminal clients, based on a comparison of the Appleby files with the leaked Panama Papers, which drew global coverage last year.
Offshore business transactions and the use of tax havens are often legal, but governments and representatives of civil society have increasingly criticized such behavior, which helps impoverish African governments and widen wealth inequality between the region and the rest of the world.
Research shows that companies are more likely to use questionable tax avoidance maneuvers when operating in developing countries than in wealthier countries where tax enforcement is stronger. African countries are vulnerable to tax avoidance and evasion because corporate taxes contribute more to Africa’s overall tax revenue, on a relative basis, than such taxes do for other countries.
FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS
According to Google Trends, global searches for “buy bitcoin” have overtaken “buy gold” after previously exceeding searches for how to purchase silver. Last month, the amount of gold changing hands on BullionVault’s online trading platform dropped by almost a third from the 12-month average.
Chinese investors are still trading bitcoin and buying initial coin offerings, suggesting authorities in Beijing are struggling to clamp down on cryptocurrencies just weeks after announcing that public exchanges would be shut down.
Observers feared the closure of Chinese exchanges would lead to a sharp drop in demand for bitcoin, given China has been a key source of demand. Instead, more of the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies has gravitated towards the private over-the-counter market.
Today is not a good news day for Ethereum. A vulnerability found within a popular wallet has frozen potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of the crypto currency in a second setback in recent months. Parity Technologies, the company behind widely used wallet service Parity, today disclosed an issue that could enable the contents of a wallet to be wiped.
Crypto-currencies may be one of the most intriguing subjects in the world of finance right now but they have failed to impress India’s central bank. In a fairly definitive expression of its stance, a director of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has signalled that virtual currencies like bitcoin won’t be allowed in the country.
The Chicago-based exchange plans to impose limits on how much prices of its proposed bitcoin futures can fluctuate within a day, according to a company document seen by The Wall Street Journal. CME announced last week that it aims to launch the new futures market by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval.
CME uses such limits in other markets, such as crude oil, gold and stock-market futures, to temporarily halt trading when price swings get out of control. They are a key way in which futures exchanges can try to damp the gyrations of prices.
But CME—the world’s largest exchange operator—has never before dealt with something like bitcoin, which is notoriously volatile. It is also unclear how much impact CME’s limits will have on bitcoin, since its futures market has yet to emerge and most trading in the digital currency is on exchanges outside of CME’s control.
FINTECH, BLOCKCHAIN, DIGITAL PAYMENTS
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s app is close to surpassing Apple Pay in usage for mobile payments in the U.S., giving the world’s largest retailer even more clout as a growing number of people shop with their smartphones.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
Hedge funds are headed for their best year since 2013 thanks to a gravity-defying stock market.
William Ackman got what Automatic Data Processing Inc’s chief executive called an “ass-whipping” on Tuesday as the activist hedge fund manager lost an acrimonious fight to win seats on the payroll company’s board.
ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s credit grade was cut to one notch above default by Fitch Ratings in the aftermath of President Nicolas Maduro’s announcement that the country intends to restructure its global debt, including that of the state-run oil producer.
The number of active oil rigs in Venezuela is heading for a second annual decline, Baker Hughes Inc. data published Tuesday showed. That means lower output and a drop in the much-needed dollars the country requires to service its debt. Once Latin America’s largest oil producer, Venezuela lost the top spot to Brazil amid triple-digit inflation, unpaid debts to oil-service companies and lack of investment.
The refining industry is facing its biggest disruption in years from a looming international air-pollution regulation aimed at slashing the amount of sulfur in marine fuel for oceangoing ships.
The regulation doesn’t go into effect until 2020, but its reverberations are already being felt. Analysts predict it will widen the gap between the refining world’s winners and losers, making some richer while pushing others to the brink.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Russia, the world’s largest oil producer, has ramped up its crude exports this year, potentially undermining a deal with OPEC that has helped raise oil prices by cutting production.
ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR
Norsk Hydro, one of Europe’s largest aluminium producers, has agreed to buy most of the electricity from an €800m wind farm in Sweden, highlighting the increasing importance of industrial energy users in driving uptake of renewable power.
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
Prolonged exposure to the air in the Indian capital is equivalent to smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day, experts say.
For Arvind Kumar, a chest surgeon for more than three decades, the situation is adding to a growing health crisis in the region. “I don’t see pink lungs even among healthy nonsmoking young people,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “The air quality has become so bad that even if you are a nonsmoker you are still suffering.”
Farmers must be prevented from using powerful antibiotics on animals reared for food, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, because of the serious risks to human health that result.
New guidelines from the global body suggest farmers should stop using any antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in animals that are otherwise healthy, a common practice in some parts of the world, including Asia and the US. Such routine use is banned in Europe, though campaigners fear the rules are sometimes flouted.
CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
The nation’s gross domestic product unexpectedly contracted in August, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday, after a flat reading in July. The latest disappointment adds to signs the process of cooling is well underway, from the blistering pace of growth in the 12 months through June.
Central and southeastern European economies are on course for their strongest year of growth since the global financial crisis, in part due to a surge in wages and stronger demand from the recovering eurozone, according to forecasts from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The 18 nations in the region, seven of which are eurozone members, suffered a sharp slowdown in the wake of the crisis and that was prolonged by the euro area’s subsequent struggles with government debt and weak banks. As a consequence, for much of the past decade, the expected convergence between incomes in eastern and western Europe has stalled.
But there are signs it has resumed, with the EBRD significantly raising its growth forecast for 2017 and to a lesser degree, for 2018. It now expects Poland’s economy to grow by 4.1% in 2017, having projected an expansion of 3.2% in May. It now expects Romania’s economy to grow by 5.3% in 2017, having previously forecast an expansion of 4%.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Nato is planning its first new command structures in more than 30 years to increase its ability to deploy military reinforcements in Europe in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. The two planned commands would speed and secure deployment of forces on land and across the Atlantic, as the western alliance seeks to be able to respond more quickly to crises.
NATO is set to agree on Thursday to increase its Afghanistan training mission by some 3,000 troops, alliance officials said, after the United States switched tack in long-running efforts to defeat Taliban militants and end the conflict.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
A year after Trump’s stunning election, the administration has zero legislative wins, a looming investigation hanging over their heads, and Jared and Ivanka have a pretty erratic family member/boss to deal with—and New York isn’t looking much prettier.
Jim Simons, the founder of Renaissance Technologies, urged Robert Mercer to step down from his role as co-chief executive officer over concerns that his backing of Breitbart News was hurting morale at the world’s most profitable hedge fund, according to people familiar with the matter.
Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.
Former Donald Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo is determined to prove that he did not work for Vladimir Putin, and he’s using every tool at his disposal to do so—from a congressional ethics complaint, to a defamation lawsuit, to a surreptitious Wikipedia edit campaign.
SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
The $20 billion startup, built on a vast network of hip co-working spaces where entrepreneurs and freelancers rent desks, is making its move into children’s education, launching a private elementary school for “conscious entrepreneurship” inside a New York City WeWork next fall. A pilot program of seven students, including one of the five young children of WeWork Cos. founders Adam and Rebekah Neumann, is under way.
“In my book, there’s no reason why children in elementary schools can’t be launching their own businesses,” Rebekah Neumann said in an interview. She thinks kids should develop their passions and act on them early, instead of waiting to grow up to be “disruptive,” as the entrepreneurial set puts it.
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
Amid a growing backlash, the Walt Disney Company on Tuesday reversed its decision to bar The Los Angeles Times from press screenings of its movies following an investigation by the newspaper into the media giant’s business dealings in Anaheim.
“We’ve had productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at The Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, and as a result, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics,” Disney said in a statement.
The negotiations reignite a years-long battle between one of the most powerful artists in the world and Spotify, the pioneer of music streaming. However, the music business has changed profoundly in the three years since Ms Swift pulled her last album, 1989, from Spotify, prompting Daniel Ek, chief executive, to retaliate with a defence of his business model.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
From picking stocks to examining x-rays, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to make decisions that were formerly up to humans. But AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on, and in many cases we end up baking our all-too-human biases into algorithms that have the potential to make a huge impact on people’s lives.
In a new paper published on the arXiv, researchers say they may have figured out a way to mitigate the problem for algorithms that are difficult for outsiders to examine—so-called “black box” systems.
SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
CBC Marketplace travelled to Dopamine Labs, a startup in Venice, Calif., that uses artificial intelligence and neuroscience to help companies hook people with their apps.
Named after the brain molecule that gives us pleasure, Dopamine Labs uses computer coding to influence behaviour — most importantly, to compel people to spend more time with an app and to keep coming back for more. Co-founder Ramsay Brown, who studied neuroscience at the University of Southern California, says it’s all built into the design.
“We’re really living in this new era that we’re not just designing software anymore, we’re designing minds.” To make a profit, companies “need your eyeballs locked in that app as long as humanly possible,” he says. “And they’re all in a technological arms race to keep you there the longest.”
If you haven’t heard, universities around the world are offering their courses online for free (or at least partially free). These courses are collectively called MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses. In the past six years or so, close to 800 universities have created more than 8,000 of these MOOCs.
Russian Communists and left-wing activists from around the world marched through central Moscow on Tuesday to commemorate the centenary of the Russian Revolution, in a pale shadow of grand Soviet demonstrations on Red Square.
The mood at this year’s celebration was more subdued than at previous ceremonies, despite the milestone anniversary and the global feel as organizers invited representatives of left-wing movements from 88 countries to attend. The day also highlighted the stark contrasts between today’s Russia and the ideals embraced in the revolution 100 years ago.
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