Macro Links Nov 9th – Anti-Trump Resurgence
You are viewing the Macro Links delayed archive. The real time Macro Links, posted each trading day, are available via the Mercenary Research Suite. To see how it works, click here.
MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- ANTI-TRUMP RESURGENCE
- SAUDI ARABIA, LEBANON
- GOP TAX PLAN
- AT&T TIME WARNER DEAL
- TRUMP IN ASIA
- FANG FUTURES
- TEXAS SHOOTING, GUN LAWS
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT
- VENEZUELA, CUBA, PUERTO RICO
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS
- FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
- RUSSIA PROBE
- DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- TRUMP WORLD
- TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
- CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
The American suburbs appear to be in revolt against President Trump after a muscular coalition of college-educated voters and racial and ethnic minorities dealt the Republican Party a thumping rejection on Tuesday and propelled a diverse class of Democrats into office.
From the tax-obsessed suburbs of New York City to high-tech neighborhoods outside Seattle to the sprawling, polyglot developments of Fairfax and Prince William County, Va., voters shunned Republicans up and down the ballot in off-year elections. Leaders in both parties said the elections were an unmistakable alarm bell for Republicans ahead of the 2018 campaign, when the party’s grip on the House of Representatives may hinge on the socially moderate, multiethnic communities near major cities.
Democratic pollsters tell me the results are causing them to rethink basic assumptions about next year’s elections. In interviews, they pointed to two major factors (among others) in yesterday’s victory: Northam’s larger-than-expected share of the college-educated white vote (a factor of persuasion) and the off-the-charts turnout relative to previous off-years (a factor of energy and engagement).
With his approval rating at a paltry 38 percent, Trump’s Republican Party took a whupping. It’s not just that the Democrats easily won the highest-profile race — the Virginia governorship. Democrats enjoyed a stunningly good night across the country.
In their rousing election victories in Virginia on Tuesday, Democrats learned two important things: They found out what an anti-Trump coalition looks like, and they discovered it can be a winning one.
That coalition combines upper-scale white voters, millennials, minorities, suburban women and single women. Exit polling indicates that those groups not only went heavily for Democratic victor Ralph Northam in the governor’s race, but performed better for him than they did for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats won a sweeping statewide victory in Virginia by energizing the coalition that was supposed to carry them into the future but failed them in 2016: young voters and women.
The resounding victory by Democrat Ralph Northam in the Virginia governor’s race tells only part of the story of Tuesday’s “old-fashioned thumping,” as former Virginia congressman Tom Davis called it. Beneath the top-of-the-ticket races, in many fundamental places, the ground shifted against Republicans in ways that have properly struck fear in the hearts of GOP consultants.
In droves, voters rebuked his leadership, his party and the divisive white-nationalist politics that was supposed to save Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia governor’s race, the centerpiece of the GOP catastrophe.
Speaking with Fox News radio host Brian Kilmeade, Ryan offered perhaps his biggest bear hug of Trump to date. Kilmeade asked Ryan if the GOP has to choose between Bush-style Republican policies and Trump, and Ryan didn’t equivocate. “We already made that choice,” he said. “We’re with Trump.” And a thousand Democratic campaign ads were born.
SAUDI ARABIA, LEBANON
About 500 people have been detained without charge in a corruption crackdown, but how corruption is defined is unclear.
Saudi laws, issued by royal decree or derived from Islamic law, have so far included little or no regulation of the sprawling royal family and its closest clients. The family has never disclosed the sources of its income, how much its members might take from the country’s oil revenues, how much they earn from state contracts or how they afford their lavish lifestyles.
King Salman has never explained where he got the money to buy as much as $28 million in London luxury homes, just as his son, Crown Prince Mohammed, has never said how he was able to plunk down more than $500 million for a 440-foot yacht he spotted one day and decided he had to own.
The kingdom, an absolute monarchy, has also never attempted to create an independent court system to adjudicate claims. And if corruption is defined as private profit at the public expense, the practice is so pervasive that any measures short of revolutionary change may appear to be selective prosecution.
Saudi expert James Dorsey, a senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: “The most recent crackdown breaks with the tradition of consensus within the ruling family whose secretive inner workings are equivalent to those of the Kremlin at the time of the Soviet Union.
“Prince Mohammed, rather than forging alliances, is extending his iron grip to the ruling family, the military, and the National Guard to counter what appears to be more widespread opposition within the family as well as the military to his reforms and the Yemen war.”
Saudi authorities have attempted to reassure jittery investors and others in the business community following the attorney-general’s decision to freeze up to 1,500 bank accounts of suspects detained in the corruption crackdown.
The corruption crackdown comes at a critical time for Saudi as it prepares the ground for the sale of shares in Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, in what has been billed the biggest initial public offering in history. The kingdom plans to float about 5 per cent of Saudi Aramco next year as part of the prince’s reform plan. Some analysts think the company could be worth $2tn.
Saudi banks have in recent days been called to meetings with regulators to discuss how to process the freezing of accounts as the graft probe continues, said one person familiar with the matter.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran stood his ground on Wednesday in an escalating regional showdown, defending a Yemeni rebel missile attack on the Saudi capital that Saudi Arabia has denounced as an Iranian “act of war.”
Saudi forces were “constantly bombing” Yemen, Mr. Rouhani said, adding: “What reaction can the nation of Yemen show toward this amount of bombardment? They say that they should not use weapons? Well, you stop the bombs, and then see if you don’t get a positive reaction from the nation of Yemen.”
No one has seen anything quite like the spectacle that has played out over the past few days. Saad Hariri, the prime minister, who had previously shown no signs of planning to quit, unexpectedly flew to Saudi Arabia and announced his resignation from there, to the shock of his own close advisers. He has not been back since, and no one is sure when, or if, he is returning.
In a country where political analysis is a near-universal hobby, and where political power is — to oversimplify a bit — divided between Mr. Hariri’s Sunni, Saudi-backed party and the Shiite, Iran-backed Hezbollah, speculation was immediate that Mr. Hariri was also being held against his will. He holds dual Lebanese and Saudi citizenship and has extensive business dealings in the Persian Gulf kingdom.
Investors worried about an escalating crisis between Riyadh and Beirut are selling Lebanese debt and equity, a flight of capital that threatens to upend the precarious finances of a country struggling with slow growth and high debt.
Even for a country often used as a battleground by regional powers and their proxies, the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri has opened a new period of political uncertainty and fear in Lebanon.
The tiny nation has often been caught between the political agendas of more-powerful countries. But it now appears more vulnerable to conflict as Israel and Saudi Arabia try to isolate their shared enemy, the Iran-backed movement Hezbollah.
GOP TAX PLAN
President Trump moved to assuage centrist Democratic senators’ concerns about the House Republican tax overhaul by telling them the Senate version will be more to their liking, in comments that risk muddying the GOP’s effort to get a bill passed.
House lawmakers kicked off a third day of debate on the GOP tax bill, a task made more difficult by a growing revenue hole of at least $74 billion in the plan. The gap stems from an amendment Republicans made late Monday that would cut an excise tax on multinational corporations proposed in the first version of the GOP bill.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R., Fla.) said Republicans were talking about needed adjustments. “They’ve got dials, and they’re having to turn dials,” he said.
President Donald Trump knows first-hand that a divorce — or in his case, two — can be messy and expensive. But if Republican lawmakers get their way, untying the knot could get even more costly for affluent Americans.
“I’m just praying this does not go through,” said Jacqueline Newman, a New York divorce attorney at Berkman, Bottger, Newman & Rodd LLP. “For many people in different income brackets, this is going to be horrible.”
President Donald Trump’s promised tax cut for the middle class comes with some extra baggage in the bill House Republicans are considering: a much larger tax cut for the top 1 percent.
Senate Republicans were on Wednesday grappling with a politically fraught menu of choices as they attempted to squeeze their tax overhaul into a framework that sharply curtails their ability to run up budget deficits.
An amendment late Monday to the tax bill winding its way through the House appears to fulfill President Trump’s promise to close the so-called carried-interest loophole private-equity firms enjoy while also preserving many of the benefits they derive from it.
Republican tax reforms would lead to a dramatic fall in the amount of charitable donations that benefit from tax incentives, according to official projections that underscore the far-reaching implications of the overhaul.
California’s biggest housing markets figure to be among the losers if a Republican-sponsored tax overhaul becomes law, according to two analyses of local market data.
The House bill would cap the size of mortgage loans for which taxpayers can deduct interest payments at $500,000. In most regions of the U.S., that represents a small fraction of properties.
But in the priciest markets, concentrated in some of the nation’s largest coastal cities, the impact could be significant. In the San Jose, Calif., metropolitan area, 75% of new mortgage loans thus far in 2017 were for more than $500,000, according to an analysis by CoreLogic Inc., a housing data provider. The median home price there is more than $1 million, and even small starter homes can climb well above the proposed cap.
AT&T TIME WARNER DEAL
U.S. antitrust regulators are pressing for major changes to AT&T’s proposed takeover of Time Warner—including selling either its DirecTV satellite business or the Turner TV unit that comprises CNN—threatening to derail one of the biggest media deals ever.
The demands from the Justice Department set up a potential battle over the fate of the pending $85.4 billion deal.
AT&T is opposed to selling the TV network, two people familiar with its thinking said, and is preparing to take the Trump administration to court to argue the deal with Time Warner does not pose any threat to competition.
The issue became an extraordinary public dispute on Wednesday, after the Financial Times reported the CNN demand. The chief executive of AT&T, Randall Stephenson issued a statement denying other media reports, which cited anonymous DoJ sources, that said the company had itself offered to sell CNN.
“Until now, we’ve never commented on our discussions with the DOJ,” Mr Stephenson said. “But given DoJ’s statement this afternoon, it’s important to set the record straight. Throughout this process, I have never offered to sell CNN and have no intention of doing so.”
Per the FT, “It’s all about CNN,” which makes sense if you are a leader of a banana republic who believes that news outlets that report stories critical of your leadership are “fake news.” Or, if you don’t really think that but know that saying that sort of thing riles up the people who voted for you. Just like complaining about NFL players who engage in silent protest before the start of games whips them up.
TRUMP IN ASIA
Xi Jinping welcomed Donald Trump to China with a series of business deals and a private tour of the Forbidden City, seeking to impress the U.S. president even as he stepped up pressure on Beijing to curb financial ties with North Korea.
President Trump will take a team of business leaders who may sign sales agreements, but chances of a big breakthrough on trade frictions seem slim.
Futures on the NYSE FANG+ index started trading Wednesday, providing access to the group that’s boasted some of the stock market’s best gains this year. In addition to the quartet of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, the index also includes Apple, Twitter, Alibaba, Baidu, Nvidia and Tesla. Each member is weighted equally.
The Fangs — Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet, the parent company of Google — are joined by six other tech names in the futures contract that began trading Wednesday on Intercontinental Exchange. “Trade the top of tech,” said ICE in an announcement to customers.
ICE, which also owns the New York Stock Exchange, created the NYSE FANG+ stock index in September. The equally-weighted basket is up 58 per cent in the year to date, compared to a 16 per cent gain for the S&P 500 stock index.
TEXAS SHOOTING, GUN LAWS
The gunman also had an Apple iPhone with him, according to people familiar with the investigation, but the F.B.I. has not been able to unlock the device.
The situation is a reminder of last year’s fight between Apple and the F.B.I. At the time, law enforcement wanted to get into the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 of Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015.
The proposed ban on bump stocks, once hailed as a modest step toward bipartisan compromise on gun safety, may be turning into a cautionary tale of how energetic intentions in the wake of mass shootings can dissipate quickly. As attentions moved elsewhere, the N.R.A. turned against action, and Republican lawmakers decided the devices would be someone else’s problem: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or A.T.F.
“Right now everyone’s in a holding pattern, because some people around here have hope that A.T.F. will bail us out,” said Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, who has co-sponsored a bipartisan measure to ban bump stocks.
David Boies, known for Bush v. Gore but also aggressive battles for businesses, is drawing fire for helping Harvey Weinstein draft a contract to hire private investigators.
A private investigator reported to be working undercover on behalf of film mogul Harvey Weinstein was identified by two people as the same woman that The Wall Street Journal reported had used a different alias to wring information out of a critic of a large U.S. insurer.
VENEZUELA, CUBA, PUERTO RICO
Venezuela and Russia have agreed on terms for restructuring about $3 billion of the Latin American country’s debt and the deal will come soon, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in Moscow.
By announcing a debt restructuring and threatening a payment default, Mr Maduro drove the secondary market prices of the bonds off a cliff. Prices may fall further next week if Venezuelan officials say something alarming during the meeting in Caracas (how could they not?).
Once the secondary market price of a sovereign bond drops below about 35 cents on the dollar, the issuer may be tempted to buy the bond back rather than slog through a debt restructuring exercise in which impertinent investors can raise questions about economic policy and corruption.
The Trump administration should dramatically tighten its sanctions on Venezuela by imposing a full embargo on its oil exports to the US, according to Argentine president Mauricio Macri, who said the move would enjoy broad support across Latin America.
The US has made it harder for Americans to travel and do business in Cuba, issuing regulations that clamp down on transactions tied to the Cuban military, intelligence and security services. Donald Trump, US president, ordered a policy reversal on Cuba in June, rolling back a two-year rapprochement initiated under the Obama administration that sought to unpick a long-running embargo and move towards a permanent thaw in relations.
The new rules, intended to direct money away from the military, limit ties with Cuba just as President Trump pushes business deals with Communist China.
The volume of trading for Puerto Rico debt is at the highest in at least three years as the island seeks as much as $21 billion in aid to help keep the government operating and paying public employees after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island in September.
Hundreds of Puerto Rican students have resettled on college campuses across the mainland U.S. and many more are considering leaving the island territory—grateful for the opportunity to resume their studies in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
Forget secular stagnation. One historian says the world is actually in its ninth “real rate depression” and 700 years of data show that – when it comes – the turnaround could be sudden.
The current period – since the 1980s – is the second-longest recorded and its closest historical analogy is the global “Long Depression” of the 1880s and 1890s which saw low productivity growth, deflationary price dynamics, and the rise of global populism and protectionism.
Be prepared though. The data show most reversals of real-rate stagnation periods have been rapid and non-linear. Within 24-months after hitting their troughs in the cycle, rates gained on average 315 basis points, with two occasions showing appreciations of more than 600 basis points, Schmelzing says.
Now that the 19th Communist party Congress is over, Chinese financial markets are again nervous. Given the economic and policy uncertainty they face, this week’s bond market squall will not be the last.
The debt coming due, along with America’s over-stored suburbs and the continued gains of online shopping, has all the makings of a disaster. The spillover will likely flow far and wide across the U.S. economy. There will be displaced low-income workers, shrinking local tax bases and investor losses on stocks, bonds and real estate. If today is considered a retail apocalypse, then what’s coming next could truly be scary.
Until this year, struggling retailers have largely been able to avoid bankruptcy by refinancing to buy more time. But the market has shifted, with the negative view on retail pushing investors to reconsider lending to them.
Making matters more difficult is the explosive amount of risky debt owed by retail coming due over the next five years. Several companies are like teen-jewelry chain Claire’s Stores Inc., a 2007 leveraged buyout owned by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, which has $2 billion in borrowings starting to mature in 2019 and still has 1,600 stores in North America.
The drop coincides with a rapid acceleration in store closings as bankruptcies surge and many of the nation’s largest retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., have decided that they have too much space. Even before the e-commerce boom, the U.S. was considered over-stored—the result of investors pouring money into commercial real estate decades earlier as the suburbs boomed.
Now that boom is finally going bust. Through the third quarter of this year, 6,752 locations were scheduled to shutter in the U.S., excluding grocery stores and restaurants, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. That’s more than double the 2016 total and is close to surpassing the all-time high of 6,900 in 2008, during the depths of the financial crisis.
Data compiled by the Bank for International Settlements suggest that the debt-to-GDP ratio of emerging markets’ non-financial corporate sector has risen to a figure of 104 per cent, up from 56.2 per cent before the global financial crisis.
As a result, the EM-wide debt service ratio has risen to 14.6 per cent of GDP, surpassing the level in the developed world. The Institute of International Finance, an industry body, warned in October that the proportion of “stressed” companies, those whose underlying earnings are less than their interest costs, is well above 2010 levels in most big emerging markets, encompassing 20 per cent of companies in Brazil, India and Turkey, and almost 15 per cent in China.
Emerging market currencies are weakening in the face of US rate expectations and political uncertainty, casting doubt on investors’ hopes that they can withstand a mix of pressures that has in the past thrown them into turmoil.
A sell-off in the last five days has added to the strain on EM currencies, taking the Turkish lira’s decline over the past month to 7 per cent. The Mexican peso, the Brazilian real, the Colombian peso and the South African rand have each lost more than 3 per cent in the period, while the Russian rouble has fallen 2.3 per cent.
“It’s been very wobbly,” said Luis Costa at Citigroup. The weakness in these currencies has unfolded despite a backdrop of record low levels of volatility and continued risk appetite in developed markets, he added. “It’s a bit head-scratching for investors.”
Wall Street, which normally roots for investors to pour their cash into stocks and bonds, is growing increasingly concerned that there is such a thing as too little of it in reserve.
Last week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a research note that a survey of the bank’s private wealth clients found that cash as percentage of their total investment accounts had dropped to 10.2 percent. That’s the lowest it has been since Bank of America began surveying its clients on their holdings in 2005. Cash hit a previous low of 11 percent in April 2007. It was as high as 21 percent coming out of the financial crisis, and it has averaged just under 13 percent for the past 12 years.
Financial markets have spent a good deal of time fretting about the withdrawal of the extraordinary monetary policy measures taken by central banks. Just the suggestion that U.S. quantitative easing wouldn’t last forever sparked the 2013 taper tantrum. Yet this year, with institutions from the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank to the Bank of England and Bank of Canada all taking action to rein in monetary largess, investors have hardly blinked.
The key difference this year is that central bankers are turning words into actions. The Fed came into 2016 with a dot plot projecting four interest-rate increases in that year, but only raised rates once. By contrast, if it raises rates again in December this year it will have delivered on its promises: three rate increases and the start of balance-sheet reduction. Yet markets still price in fewer increases next year than the three the Fed has on the cards. In essence, markets don’t buy what central banks are offering.
The eurozone’s largest and most powerful economy is in danger of overheating, Germany’s influential Council of Economic Experts has warned, calling on the country’s next government to pursue reforms to ensure that the boom does not end in disaster.
The council, composed of five top economists who present an annual report to the German parliament, warned that with growth above trend and interest rates low, risks to the country’s financial system would rise and conditions threatened to create a bubble in property prices.
Euro-optimists believed the capital controls and political crisis of mid-2015 would crush any desire to exit the monetary union. But the survey data show that Greeks have progressively soured on the euro since then. Walter’s theory is that the crisis of 2015 made explicit to regular Greeks what was long known to economists and officials: choosing to keep the euro means choosing austerity imposed from abroad. Before 2015, the link was less obvious.
None of this means that Greece is poised to leave any time soon. The official position is that it is impossible to leave the euro while remaining in the EU, and leaving the EU is something few Greeks are interested in. But analysts should not overestimate the durability of the single currency. Fear is what has held it together. This same fear, however, has bred resentment that still threatens to drive the euro apart.
China on Wednesday released fresh details about a new financial regulatory body intended to calm a financial system that in recent years has endured a stock market crash, a huge exodus of money outside the country and the rapid accumulation of debt.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether. His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments.
For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.
For decades, Saudi Arabia was a stable and reliable economic and strategic partner of the United States. That country no longer exists. The Saudi Arabia that preferred caution to confrontation in international affairs, that emphasized stability at home and that kept royal family disputes private, has been disassembled by the ambitious young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has seized control of all instruments of policy and power in the kingdom.
With a flurry of arrests of princes and business tycoons over the weekend, the crown prince jettisoned the longstanding practice among Saudi rulers of seeking consensus, or at least acquiescence, from all branches of the family and from the country’s business elite. Can the consensus of the family and the business leadership that they forged survive?
If the Saudis are looking at their own history, they should be worried.
To understand the upheaval that is taking place in Saudi Arabia today, you have to start with the most important political fact about that country: The dominant shaping political force there for the past four decades has not been Islamism, fundamentalism, liberalism, capitalism or ISISism.
It has been Alzheimer’s.
The country’s current king is 81 years old. He replaced a king who died at 90, who replaced a king who died at 84. It’s not that none of them introduced reforms. It’s that at a time when the world has been experiencing so much high-speed change in technology, education and globalization, these successive Saudi monarchs thought that reforming their country at 10 miles an hour was fast enough — and high oil prices covered for that slow pace.
It doesn’t work anymore. Some 70 percent of Saudi Arabia is under age 30, and roughly 25 percent of them are unemployed. In addition, 200,000 more are studying abroad, and about 35,000 of them — men and women – are coming home every year with degrees, looking for meaningful work, not to mention something fun to do other than going to the mosque or the mall. The system desperately needs to create more jobs outside the oil sector, where Saudi income is no longer what it once was, and the government can’t keep eating its savings to buy stability.
You might say it is a match made in heaven. With their taste in gold elevators, the Trump family and the House of Saud were destined to alight at the same penthouse. But the affinity between Donald Trump, US president, and Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto monarch, goes beyond a shared aesthetic for “dictator chic”. It is chiefly transactional. The US-Saudi relationship is the quintessence of Trumpian diplomacy. Its flowering symbolises the decay in the US-led global order.
Mr Trump’s approach to foreign relations is a blend of family and money and a weakness for flattery. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe pledged $50m to the Ivanka Trump-inspired Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative — the World Bank’s effort to seduce America’s first family. Mr Abe, whose first gift to Mr Trump was a gold-plated golf club, hosted Ms Trump in Tokyo shortly before her father turned up. Six months ago, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates became the first donors to Ms Trump’s scheme with a $100m grant. Now it is China’s turn to host Mr Trump. Its president, Xi Jinping, approved a flurry of Ivanka Trump trademarks shortly before he first met her father in Mar-a-Lago earlier this year.
Ed Glaeser, an economist at Harvard University who is one of the foremost experts on cities, says that predictions about the city’s decline were not uncommon when he entered the profession back in the 1980s. At the time, urban centers were sinking into cesspools of poverty, blight, and crime. Since then, there’s been a remarkable reversal, with waves of development and gentrification, pushing more and more poor people out and bringing more and more rich people in.
Part of the story, Glaeser says, is that “Macrae didn’t foresee the rise of the consumer city, the fact that millions of people would actually want to locate in London or New York—not just because there are jobs there—but because it was fun.” The other part of the story is that, far from killing the urban office, computers invigorated it with new forms of work that made it even more profitable.
It’s true that, since the rise of the Internet, we report working from home more than we did before. But computers and smartphones didn’t replace the office—they’ve just kept us tethered to it when we’re not there. The vast majority of us still travel to work most days: only about 2.8 percent of the total workforce says they work from home “at least half the time.” It’s a reality reflected in commuting data: Since 1980, when the U.S. Census Bureau started collecting data on this issue, the average daily commute of Americans has increased roughly 20 percent, with the typical worker now commuting over 26 minutes each way. According to data from Waze, Google’s traffic app, there are regions like Sarasota, Florida, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where the average worker commutes over an hour and half.
Germans normally wait about six weeks after an election for a government to be sworn in. That benchmark quietly came and went a week ago, an indication of the challenge facing a politically weakened Angela Merkel.
Since her party won just 30.2 percent of the vote in the Sept. 24 election, the chancellor has found herself struggling to bridge a yawning gap between prospective coalition partners, rendering a normally painstaking process even more protracted and difficult.
The four parties in the talks — her conservative Christian Democrats; their Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union; the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens — span the political spectrum.
There’s now one Wall Street chief executive officer who says bitcoin presents a real enough threat to the financial system that governments will have no choice but to issue versions of their own.
“I don’t think governments are going to take lightly other people coming in and potentially disrupting their abilities around data, around tax collection, around money laundering, around know-your-customer,” Citigroup Inc. CEO Michael Corbat said Wednesday in an interview at the Bloomberg Year Ahead summit in New York. “It’s likely that we’re going to see governments introduce, not cryptocurrencies — I think cryptocurrency is a bad moniker for that — but a digital currency.”
Thanks to a string of screw-ups and bugs, an unsuspecting developer recently took possession of an estimated $300 million worth of the Ethereum cryptocurrency by accident. In an attempt to give back the money, however, the poor guy ended up locking up the funds permanently. In effect, that money is just gone.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
New Zealand’s central bank signaled that interest rates may need to rise slightly earlier than previously expected as it revised up inflation forecasts. The local dollar rose.
“Monetary policy will remain accommodative for a considerable period,” Reserve Bank Acting Governor Grant Spencer reiterated Thursday after keeping the official cash rate at 1.75 percent, a record low. Still, “the exchange rate has eased since the August statement and, if sustained, will increase tradables inflation and promote more balanced growth.”
This is how home loans offered by banks commonly work in Hong Kong: you pay a floating rate that’s equal to a spread on top of the one-month interbank rate known as Hibor, but that payment is capped by a rate that’s equal to the prime rate minus a spread.
What’s happening now is that as Hibor surged, the floating rate is starting to run into the cap, giving banks the incentive to raise the prime rate for the first time since 2006.
Mario Draghi’s tenure as European Central Bank president will end without a single interest-rate increase, according to economists at Nordea Bank. The ECB won’t raise any of its key policy rates until December 2019, said Holger Sandte, Jan von Gerich and Tuuli Koivu in a note. They previously foresaw a rate hike in the first quarter of that year. Draghi’s term runs until the end of October 2019.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
The chief executive of Deutsche Bank has given his clearest hint yet that his bank could cut tens of thousands more jobs as it turns to technology to bring costs into line with sharply lower revenues. “We employ 97,000 people,” John Cryan told the Financial Times. “Most big peers have more like half that number.”
Equifax Inc said it will release quarterly earnings on Thursday afternoon, its first earnings release since the September disclosure of a massive breach that prompted multiple government probes and the departure of its chief executive.
Monster Beverage shares lost their vim after the energy drink maker posted quarterly earnings that turned up shy of anlaysts’ estimates.
Apple just became the first public U.S. company to reach a market value of $900 billion. It now needs to grow its market capitalization by just 11% to become the first to be worth $1 trillion.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
Shares of Tencent unit China Literature soared in their trading debut in Hong Kong giving the four-year-old business a market value of nearly $12 billion.
21st Century Fox Inc. Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch declined to comment on reports the company held talks to sell assets to Walt Disney Co., but said the movie and TV business built by his father Rupert is well positioned in a tough climate for media companies.
Snap disclosed in a regulatory filing that Chinese giant Tencent bought a 12% stake, a vote of confidence in the struggling social-media and camera company.
Tencent didn’t disclose the price it paid for the shares, but as recently as Oct. 6 executives were discussing raising its stake through share purchases on the open market, a person familiar with the matter said. That would suggest Tencent likely spent at least $2 billion acquiring the stake, based on Snap’s minimum share price in this period.
TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS
A trove of millions of leaked documents from a Bermuda-based law firm, Appleby, reflects some of the tax wizardry used by American colleges and universities. Schools have increasingly turned to secretive offshore investments, the files show, which let them swell their endowments with blocker corporations, and avoid scrutiny of ventures involving fossil fuels or other issues that could set off campus controversy.
FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS
Backers of bitcoin appear to have avoided a brewing civil war that could have led to a major split of the digital currency and endangered its heady gains so far this year.
Bitcoin hit a record high just shy of $8,000 on Wednesday after a coalition of developers and investors suspended a software upgrade planned for next Thursday that could have split the digital currency in two.
A bitcoin transaction wastes as much electricity as it takes to power an American home for a week, and legendary coder Bram Cohen wants to fix that. And considering he invented the ubiquitous peer-to-peer file transfer protocol BitTorrent, you should take him seriously.
Cohen has just started a new company called Chia Network that will launch a cryptocurrency based on proofs of time and storage rather than bitcoin’s electricity-burning proofs of work. Essentially, Chia will harness cheap and abundant unused storage space on hard drives to verify its blockchain.
“The idea is to make a better bitcoin, to fix the centralization problems” Cohen tells me. The two main issues he sees in bitcoin are in environmental impact and the instability that arises from the few bitcoin miners with the cheapest access to electricity exerting outsized influence.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
The ‘family offices’ set up by ultrawealthy families to manage investments and other affairs typically are secret. Disclosures filed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos offer a rare peek inside her family’s operation, from complicated investment structures to the Christmas-card list.
ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
U.S. refiners are setting up for the strongest end-of-year they’ve ever had, and it’s all thanks to Mexico. Nationwide gross oil refinery inputs will rise above 17 million barrels a day before the year ends, according to Energy Aspects, even amid a busy maintenance season and interruptions at plants in the the U.S. Gulf of Mexico that were clobbered by Hurricane Harvey in the third quarter.
“We’re going to hit very high runs in the next two months,” Robert Campbell, head of research at Energy Aspects, said by phone. “The balance looks quite bullish. Can the U.S. export it? Yeah. It will.”
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
“China will remain the strongest demand driver for the world’s oil industry for the next couples of years,” said Li Li, the head of research at ICIS China. “The total imports by Chinese state-owned and private refiners and traders will increase remarkably with the expansion of existing capacity and starting-up of new plants.”
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
A toxic cloud has descended on India’s capital, delaying flights and trains, causing coughs, headaches and even highway pileups, and prompting Indian officials on Wednesday to take the unprecedented step of closing 4,000 schools for nearly a week.
Delhi has notoriously noxious air but even by the standards of this city, this week’s pollution has been alarming, reaching levels nearly 30 times what the World Health Organization considers safe. On Tuesday, the government decided to close primary schools and on Wednesday the closings were extended to all public and most private schools.
Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi State, said he was driving to a meeting Wednesday morning when he passed a school bus and saw two children throwing up out of the window. “That was shocking for me,” he said. “I immediately told my officers to pass the order to close all the schools.”
BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY
Within Mrs. May’s Conservative Party, the internal politics of Brexit overshadow everything, including appointments to a cabinet constructed carefully to balance supporters and opponents of the withdrawal, which was approved narrowly last year in a bitterly contested referendum.
Hence, a ragged government is “moving from one crisis to the next crisis,” in the words of Nicholas Crowson, professor of contemporary British history at the University of Birmingham. With Brexit now the key dividing line in British politics, he said, management of a cabinet has become “close to impossible.”
Theresa May has lost her second cabinet minister in a week, after Priti Patel, the international development secretary, was forced to resign over undisclosed meetings with a lobbyist and Israeli politicians.
Ms Patel’s departure adds to the instability around the British government, which is also struggling with sexual harassment allegations, cabinet splits on Brexit and a lack of firm leadership from Downing Street.
U.K. lawmakers have become the latest group to sound a warning bell about the state of British household finances. The House of Commons Treasury Committee will examine whether households are saving enough, as part of an inquiry that will scrutinize problematic indebtedness, inter-generational issues and lifetime financial planning, it said in a statement Wednesday.
The U.K.’s exit from the European Union should be prevented due to the “far-reaching impact” Brexit would have, Germany’s Council of Economic Experts, which advises Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Wednesday.
The impact of a cliff-edge Brexit on U.K economic growth would be at least 10 times bigger than that felt by Germany, France or Italy, according to Oxford Economics.
Almost two weeks after Spain’s government took control of Catalonia, the restive region’s independence movement is showing some signs of strain.
On Wednesday, demonstrators blocked dozens of roads and railway lines across Catalonia as part of a general strike protesting the recent jailing of former members of the regional government. But the strike, coupled with a smaller street demonstration in Barcelona than on other recent occasions, had relatively limited impact.
Separately, the two main Catalan parties confirmed that they would not campaign together for independence ahead of regional elections in December, after disagreeing over how to renew the joint ticket that brought them to office in late 2015.
At least 20 countries in the European Union will sign up to a new defense pact next week, promoted by France and Germany, to fund and develop joint military hardware in a show of unity following Britain’s decision to quit the bloc.
DACA, TRAVEL BAN, IMMIGRATION, WALL
Starting Jan. 22, 2018, the T.S.A. will ask all travelers who don’t have a driver’s license from a compliant state or a state that has been granted an extension to the compliance deadline (this means that residents can continue using their noncompliant license for federal purposes while the state continues working to be in compliance) to provide an alternative form of acceptable identification. Travelers won’t be able to pass through security without this acceptable identification.
The D.H.S. has designated more than a dozen forms of acceptable ID including a passport; a border ID card; a trusted traveler card, such as Global Entry; a Real ID compliant driver’s license; and a permanent resident card.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
Three UCLA basketball players, including high-profile freshman LiAngelo Ball, were detained in China for alleged shoplifting.
Syria’s army and its allies, spearheaded by Lebanon’s Hezbollah, captured Islamic State’s last stronghold in Syria on Wednesday, a commander in the alliance said, bringing the self-declared caliphate close to complete downfall.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
Former Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer apologized on Wednesday for two massive data breaches at the internet company, blaming Russian agents for at least one of them, at a hearing on the growing number of cyber attacks on major U.S. companies.
In one notable exchange, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) asked the interim chief executive officer of Equifax, Paulino do Rego Barros, why consumers do not have a say in opting in or out of the company’s data collection.
“This is part of the way the economy works,” Barros said. But he was swiftly interrupted. “The consumer doesn’t have a choice, sir. The consumer does not have a choice on the data that you’re collecting,” Masto said.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
China does not allow its people to gain access to Facebook, a powerful tool for disseminating information and influencing opinion. As if to demonstrate the platform’s effectiveness, outside its borders China uses it to spread state-produced propaganda around the world, including the United States. So much do China’s government and companies value Facebook that the country is Facebook’s biggest advertising market in Asia, even as it is the only major country in the region that blocks the social network.
Federal investigators have issued subpoenas for information on Carl Icahn’s efforts to change biofuel policy while he served as an adviser to President Donald Trump, according to regulatory filings.
Turkey’s main opposition called for the resignation of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Wednesday, saying that reports his sons owned offshore companies amounted to a breach of ethics.
The former ‘Apprentice’ star’s photo session at the White House did little to help the reputation of the Office of Public Liaison, where she is a senior aide.
Condominium prices are faltering at Trump Tower, President Donald Trump’s property on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, more than at similar buildings across New York City.
TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT
Hurdles to foreign investments in sensitive US companies would be raised under proposed legislation that responds to perceived threats to national security from China and elsewhere.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers on Wednesday put forward legislation that would broaden the remit of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and widen the criteria it uses to assess threats to US security.
Since Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was attacked on Friday, we’ve found out that the accused party is his next-door neighbor in a gated community in Bowling Green, Ky. The neighbor, Rene Boucher, has confirmed that he tackled Paul. We’ve also learned that Paul sustained more severe injuries than previously known — including five broken ribs, three of which were displaced fractures, meaning the bone is fully broken and the two sides no longer line up — and that they will require months of recovery. Police had initially said that Paul sustained minor injuries, and as The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe writes, the severity of those injuries could lead to felony charges against Boucher, rather than the current misdemeanor charge.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
A former portfolio manager of New York’s main pension fund admitted he accepted gifts that included luxury watches and tickets to concerts in exchange for steering state business to brokerages.
Navnoor Kang, 37, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. According to federal sentencing guidelines he could get more than 21 years in prison. Judges aren’t required to follow the guidelines in handing down a sentence.
SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
Restaurants, supermarkets and commercial kitchens in the U.S. waste $57 billion of food each year, according to ReFED, a nonprofit that works to reduce food waste. Another $15 billion of food is produced but never makes it off farms.
Spoiler Alert, founded by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s business school, is helping food manufacturers and wholesale distributors better manage unsold inventory and increase donations. Sysco Corp , the largest food distributor in North America, said Spoiler Alert helped it redirect roughly 700,000 pounds of food worth about $1 million.
Senator Al Franken called for more transparency into how Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. choose what news and products users see and said lawmakers should investigate the biggest internet platforms.
CONSUMER TECH, SOCIAL MEDIA, E-COMMERCE, MOBILE
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
The untitled drama centered on a morning TV show is the tech giant’s second play against traditional networks and Netflix.
His weekly “Slow Cooker Sunday” videos on Facebook and Twitter Inc.’s Periscope attract a cult following among T-Mobile customers, employees and some viewers who are there just for the recipes, gathered from online cookbooks and employee suggestions. Mr. Legere usually gets more than a million viewers a week.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
Carl Icahn rarely takes his Mercedes out for a spin. And he figures many people in the U.S. will eventually treat their vehicles as dismissively as he does, if they bother owning any at all.
That’s part of why the billionaire expects he’ll make a bundle on the offbeat collection of investments he’s assembled, including a raft of auto repair and supply outfits, a small stake in Lyft Inc. and a controlling position in Hertz Global Holdings Inc. “If you look at these businesses as single things, I don’t think they’re that great,” he said in a recent interview. But they’re positioned as a group to cash in on the new car culture. “There’s a secular change happening, which we see as a great opportunity, and it will be good for Icahn Enterprises.”
Icahn imagines the next two decades or so of transportation the way a lot of experts do: Americans will ditch personal cars, opting instead for communal rideshares or short-term rentals, some of them self-driving and fueled by electricity. Icahn sees the migration playing into his hands. He’s sure enough that he’s invested more than $3 billion so far, not counting what he’s put into Hertz.
To capture electric cars’ full environmental impact, regulators need to embrace lifecycle analysis that takes into account car production, including the sourcing of rare earth metals that are part of the battery, plus the electricity that powers it and the recycling of its components. Such studies have become popular among researchers who favour direct comparisons with petrol and diesel cars. If these studies were to inform regulatory policy, analysts say it would have a big impact on what cars will be on the road in the coming decades.
Electric-car production in the European Union got a spur on Wednesday as EU regulators acted to close a technological gap with China by seeking stricter emission curbs on manufacturers such as Volkswagen AG and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
It is already known that when we are asleep, a strong smell won’t disturb us the way a loud noise or a bright light will. Perhaps the biological machinery behind smell shuts itself down for the night, at least in some people. But Dr. Herz speculates that having stronger olfactory abilities as dusk fell might have helped our ancestors survive.
The Mercenary Trader Macro Links were created by Justice “Jack” Litle, aka Justice Litle / Jack Litle — the founder of Mercenary Trader — to provide a compact summary of daily information flows. They are accessed via the Mercenary Research Suite, the flagship offering of Mercenary Trader, which combines trading education and trading research. To see how it works, click here.