Macro Links Oct 27th – Tech Earnings Blowout
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- TECH EARNINGS BLOWOUT
- MIGHTY AMAZON
- NORTH KOREA, SOUTH KOREA, VENEZUELA
- JFK ASSASSINATION FILES
- CATALAN CRISIS
- GOP TAX REFORM
- RUSSIANS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
- BREXIT ESCALATION
- SEXUAL HARRASSMENT
- OPIOID CRISIS
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS
- POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
- FRONTIER MARKETS
- CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
- RUSSIA PROBE
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- TRUMP WORLD
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
- SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
TECH EARNINGS BLOWOUT
“Big Tech” outstripped investor expectations on earnings’ “Super Thursday”, sending the shares of Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft sharply higher and injecting fresh momentum to a sector that has driven the US stock market to record highs this year.
Amazon was the biggest winner, with its shares jumping nearly 8 per cent to trade above $1,000 in after-hours trading on Thursday as the online retailier easily beat analysts’ forecasts.
Alphabet on Thursday said profits spiked 33% in the third quarter as users clicked on more ads on smartphones, atop search results and before YouTube videos. Amazon, meanwhile, said its revenue grew by 34% and profits inched up, shrugging off concerns that heavy investments in new warehouses and hiring workers would push it to a loss. And Microsoft reported a 12% revenue increase, capitalizing on a shift to cloud computing.
Microsoft Corp.’s push into the cloud forged ahead last quarter, with demand for online versions of Office productivity software and the Azure web-services business bolstering sales and earnings.
Microsoft hit a new all-time high in after-hours trading on Thursday, as its shares bounced above $80 after shooting through Wall Street’s earnings estimates.
“We had a terrific quarter, with revenues up 24% year on year, reflecting strength across Google and Other Bets,” Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat said in the statement. It’s the first time in an earnings release that the CFO praised Alphabet’s non-Google units, in self-driving cars and other experimental fields, which sharply curbed their costs during the quarter.
Ruth Porat, Alphabet chief financial officer, said Google had seen “tremendous results in mobile search”, along with substantial growth in network revenues from programmatic advertising and cloud, Google Play and hardware revenue.
All four companies posted stellar quarterly earnings on Thursday, showing the strength of the shift in corporate computing away from company-owned data centers and to the cloud.
If revenue growth is a good indication of giving the public what it wants, customers appear to love what the biggest technology companies are offering, whether it’s cheap online storage, clothing or a social network, and the party isn’t slowing down.
“If you’re looking for consumers to go after these companies, we’ll be waiting for a long time,” said Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business and the author of a recent book that examines the power of large technology companies.
But to a different audience — regulators, competitors, academics — the continued show of strength by big technology companies is a further sign of the risks of their getting bigger, even if there does not appear to be much of an appetite to do anything about it in the United States.
The fortune of Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos surged by as much as $6.6 billion in extended trading Thursday after the retailer reported third-quarter results that topped Wall Street estimates.
It is hard to imagine a company that employed 382,400 people by the end of June could grow its headcount by 77% in three months. But Amazon did.
Amazon is now the second largest US company by headcount. However, it’s still a long way behind Walmart, which has 2.3 million employees.
But Amazon isn’t done growing or hiring. The company said it plans to hire 120,000 seasonal workers for its warehouses and customer services centers this holiday season. After last year’s holiday season, Amazon ended up hiring many of its seasonal workers full time, and it plans to do the same thing again this year, the company said. Meanwhile, the company has grown its warehouse space by 30% this year, Olsavsky said.
The company is hiring an army of office workers as well. It has 14,000 job openings listed on its website, over 7,000 of which are for software engineers. Another 2,500 of the openings are for sales people, mostly focused on promoting its Amazon Web Services cloud computing service to businesses.
Amazon.com Inc on Thursday said its sales surged over the summer and profit trounced expectations, as shoppers jumped at “Prime Day” promotions on its website and bought groceries at its newly acquired chain of Whole Foods Market stores.
Throughout the past year, and without much fanfare, Amazon.com Inc. has gained approval to become a wholesale distributor from a number of state pharmaceutical boards, according to a review of public records.
It’s unclear, though, whether the regulatory filings support speculation that the e-commerce giant is planning a move into the prescription drug delivery business, territory currently dominated by a handful of companies.
Industry analysts in recent weeks have raised the possibility that Amazon was eyeing this lucrative new business, posing a potential threat to such companies as north St. Louis County-based Express Scripts Holding Co.
Executives in the drug industry say that Amazon could use its expansive online reach and its logistical muscle to threaten companies that ship and sell medicines to consumers and cut pricing deals with drug makers.
“Size and scale-wise, they can disrupt anywhere they want to disrupt,” said Chip Davis, president of the Association for Accessible Medicines, a trade group for generic medication, in an interview Thursday.
NORTH KOREA, SOUTH KOREA, VENEZUELA
In a visit to the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday accused North Korea of building a nuclear arsenal to “threaten others with catastrophe,” the Yonhap news agency reported.
Mattis pledged solidarity with U.S. ally South Korea, saying that President Donald Trump’s administration wants to avoid war if possible and remains committed to forcing North Korea to disarm, according to Yonhap.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis denounced North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s regime as a threat to regional security during a visit to the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas, even as he reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to diplomacy.
Though tensions have been high, North Korea says it will send home a South Korean fishing crew captured after its boat crossed the sea border.
South Korea is pushing the U.S. to allow it to take control of its own military forces should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, but the Americans are concerned that Seoul isn’t ready, according to U.S. officials.
Off the Caribbean island of Curacao, a huge tanker has been bobbing in the water with its cargo of crude oil for five months waiting to get paid — the latest sign that Venezuela’s cash crunch could get a lot worse as more debts come due.
JFK ASSASSINATION FILES
President Trump ordered the long-awaited release of more than 2,800 documents that investigators, historians and conspiracy theorists hope hold more clues to what happened on Nov. 22, 1963.
The government is releasing thousands of long-secret files on Kennedy’s murder. Here are some tips for making sense of all the code names, redactions and confusing jargon.
President Donald Trump blocked the release of hundreds of records on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, bending to CIA and FBI appeals, while the National Archives came out Thursday night with a hefty cache of others.
“I’m going to bet this is about protecting people,” Mudd explained. “It’s not about whether there’s a plot that the American people don’t understand. It’s people. Back after this assassination, you can guarantee that the FBI and CIA were talking to everybody they knew overseas in countries like Russia, Cuba, Mexico, about what happened and whether they had information in these foreign governments about the assassin. Those conversations might have been with government officials and might have been with paid informants.”
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont on Thursday ruled out calling a snap regional election that could have de-escalated the political crisis in the region, paving the way for the Spanish state to begin imposing direct rule over Catalonia.
In a day of high drama in Barcelona, Mr Puigdemont held last-ditch talks with the Spanish government aimed at stopping it from triggering Article 155 of the constitution on Friday that would allow Madrid to take control of Catalan institutions.
The two sides explored whether Madrid might delay or even call off the implementation of Article 155 if elections were called. But Mr Puigdemont said that after talks he felt there were “not enough guarantees” from Madrid.
After a chaotic day of wavering, Catalonia’s separatist leader, Carles Puigdemont, announced on Thursday that he would place a decision on independence from Spain before the region’s Parliament.
The move by Mr. Puigdemont virtually ensures that the central government in Madrid will take control of the restive region, using its emergency constitutional powers following an expected approval vote on Friday in the Spanish Senate, where the conservative party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy holds a majority.
GOP TAX REFORM
House Republicans are planning to release their tax bill next week, and the budget measure will allow the overhaul to pass Congress without any Democratic votes.
Lawmakers have not resolved basic questions about how the tax overhaul would affect the wealthy, the middle class or lower-income earners.
The US Treasury secretary has insisted Donald Trump’s feuds with Republican senators will not derail tax reform as negotiations within Congress intensify following a key budget vote.
While Mr Trump is venting at Republican leaders and GOP members he blames for the failure to pass any major legislation — such as the repeal of Obamacare — his attacks could come at a heavy price. Since the Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, they can only afford to lose two votes if they want to pass tax reform.
RUSSIANS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
A troll account linked to Moscow shows how easily social media fanned the flames of outrage. Unlike other tech giants, Twitter could have a harder time dealing with the fallout.
Twitter on Thursday announced that it was banning all advertisements on the service from the Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik effective immediately.
As the probes of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election turn to the role of social-media giants, Facebook is looking to boost its influence in Washington amid talk of potential federal regulation.
Being less friendly to advertisers also insulates the service from viral hoaxes and propaganda.
Parliament is asking social media giants about potential efforts by Moscow to sway voters, adding to inquiries in the United States and elsewhere.
The UK and EU could end up in a ‘trade war,’ Ivan Rogers tells MPs.
“It’s clear retailers are beginning to really feel the pinch from higher inflation. While retail sales can be volatile from month to month, the steep drop in sales in October echoes other recent data pointing to a marked softening in consumer demand.”
The accusations against Mr. Halperin, among the most prominent political journalists in the country, were made by former colleagues from his time as political director at ABC News.
Claims against the famous political pundit keep piling up. Two female journalists spoke out Thursday, including one who told The Daily Beast that Halperin allegedly lunged at her.
The unfolding Weinstein scandal has sparked criticism that non-disclosure agreements allow powerful companies and individuals to stave off scrutiny and continue abusive practices. Now, there is a move afoot to place clear restrictions on their use.
Harvey Weinstein sued the studio he had co-founded, saying he needs access to records and emails to defend himself against accusations of misconduct against women.
Comedian and daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is receiving some backlash from fans after a joke about Katy Perry was taken as sexist.
New allegations of sexual harassment against Leon Wieseltier have tanked the former New Republic editor’s new publication, which was set to launch this fall. Wieseltier on Tuesday apologized for “offenses against some of my colleagues in the past.” As a result, the Emerson Collective, founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, said it was killing Wieseltier’s new publication.
Skepticism is wise. I’ve spent the past two weeks investigating sexual harassment allegations at another media company. I’ve approached lots of scared young women who tell me about awful experiences but won’t talk on the record because they’ve signed non-disclosure agreements or fear becoming unemployable if they talk.
They will, of course, offer the names of other women who may talk because “everyone knew”. There is still plenty of fear. There are still plenty of shitty men in the media.
Jia Tolentino on Donald Trump’s response to the twenty-four women—twenty by name—who have shared stories about his sexual misconduct.
Two speeches underscore a drug policy that seems straight out of the 1980s.
Trump shared the personal story of his brother’s alcohol abuse and offered a solution to the opioid crisis: “Really tough, really big, really great advertising so we get to people before they start.” His prediction: “If we can teach young people not to take drugs … it’s really, really easy not to take them.”
A Reaganesque ad campaign aimed at telling kids that drugs are bad is the latest gigantic waste of time and money in attempting to solve the opioid crisis.
The long-promised directive fulfills a vow but falls short of the national emergency declaration President Trump had pledged.
The Facebook video, of a couple passed out in a vehicle with a sleeping infant, was shared in what was described as an effort to shed light on opioid addiction.
More than a decade after opioid painkillers first exploded across the U.S., John Kapoor found an aggressive way to sell even more, according to prosecutors: He began bribing doctors to prescribe them.
He declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, which sounds urgent but doesn’t free any significant new money to fight it. In doing so, he ignored the plea of his own opioids commission to declare a full-on national emergency, which would immediately free billions of dollars for emergency response, addiction treatment and efforts to stop the flow of illegal opioids into the country — a comprehensive approach that is so far missing.
Combine this with his repeated attempts to gut health care for poor and middle-class Americans, and the president has offered few tangible solutions for a scourge that now kills about 50,000 Americans a year.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
The European Central Bank confounded monetary hawks by extending its economic stimulus programme until at least September next year, pushing down the euro as investors digested Mario Draghi’s refusal to call the end to emergency crisis-era measures.
The ECB decision had been eagerly awaited, with many in Germany pushing Mr Draghi to set a firm end date to the €2.1tn programme amid increasing signs the eurozone economy’s growth has become stronger and more sustained.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio said that he sees a “significant amount of risk in the bond market” as the U.S. moves toward a bigger deficit and the Federal Reserve unwinds its balance sheet.
“Tightenings become progressively more concerning because as you move along they’re more and more difficult to get perfect,” Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. “As we’re progressing, we’re entering a period of greater risk in the nature of the market.”
Beneath the surface, the banks’ problem is that they haven’t been generating enough earnings to replenish their capital bases organically. Overall, capital adequacy ratios ticked down in the first half this year.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person’s vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them. It usually comes down to four things, which—in true government style—the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it.
It is important to note, too, that a person might not know he is doing something he shouldn’t do. As former CIA Director John Brennan testified in May, “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.” Sometimes, such people make the best assets. They are so sure in their convictions that they are acting in their own best interest or in the best interest of their country that they have no idea they are being completely manipulated.
The Russians know all this, too.
From an intelligence point of view, the people surrounding Trump, and Trump himself, make easy targets for recruitment. This is not to say these people have definitely been recruited by Russian intelligence—and they’ve all denied it repeatedly—but you can be sure that Russia’s intelligence services took these factors into consideration when they approached the campaign.
Amid all the “most powerful ruler since Mao” hoopla, it is worth remembering Davos 2016.
It now seems like a lifetime ago, but in January 2016, China’s equity and currency markets were in chaos, foreign exchange reserves were falling at a rate of $100bn a month and there was radio silence from party central. Only two relatively low-ranking Chinese officials were dispatched to the World Economic Forum.
Then three very random events occurred. Partly because of the market shocks emanating from China, Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chair, decided to delay an expected increase in US interest rates, which helped relieve the capital outflow pressures building in China. As Ms Yellen travelled to Shanghai in February 2016 for a G20 meeting, there was a case to be made that she, not Mr Xi, was at that moment the most powerful person in China.
A few months later the UK decided to exit the EU, and in November Mr Trump shocked the world with his Electoral College triumph. Analysts and investors who had been fretting about the competence of Chinese policymakers suddenly had much larger concerns elsewhere.
As a result, the many people who made straight-line projections of the global economic trends that prevailed in early 2016 ended up looking pretty silly. The same could well happen to those who now predict the rise and rise of Mr Xi as he enters his sixth year in power.
Now that China’s president has emerged as the country’s most powerful leader in decades, he needs an energized party to fulfill his goals. So far, members have seen a crackdown on unpaid dues, mandatory study sessions and purge of those seen as corrupt or inept.
“Imagine that Xi is the new CEO of a company where employees don’t show up for work, don’t participate in work activities, and can’t even articulate what the company’s mission statement is,” said Jude Blanchette, a Beijing-based researcher. “That’s roughly what Xi faced in late 2012.”
Since taking power, Mr. Xi, Premier Li Keqiang and other Chinese leaders have repeatedly inveighed against do-nothing government and company officials. State media have blamed bureaucratic inertia and sloth for exacerbating local government debts, overbuilding and environmental degradation.
If we tease out the trends taking shape in China and its relations with the U.S. and other developed countries, we can foresee an unhealthy schism forming and widening in coming years. The global economy could be split into two giant parts. One would be centered in the U.S. and the European Union; the other would revolve around China.
Listening to the rhetoric streaming out of Beijing, it’s easy to believe that China remains intent on melding itself into the global economy. In his speech to open the latest Communist Party congress, President Xi Jinping promised to give foreign companies wider access to China’s markets and protect their rights and interests. “China will not close its door to the world; it will only become more and more open,” he told the delegates. Xi has also painted himself as a champion of free trade and an international statesman, eager to take the lead on global issues such as climate change, in contrast to an isolationist, “America First” Trump.
Don’t be fooled. The problem with Xi’s version of globalization is he wants to control it. Instead of integrating China into the existing world order, he is creating a separate economic bloc, with different dominant companies and technologies, and governed by rules, institutions, and trade patterns dictated by Beijing.
One big question is whether the Czech Republic will now join Hungary and Poland to form an enlarged illiberal bloc in central Europe. Mr Babis certainly shares the anti-migrant stance and hatred for EU refugee policy of Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s ruling party. But he does not share their socially conservative views, nor their nationalism. Indeed, as a Slovak, he is an unlikely Czech nationalist.
A closer parallel is perhaps with Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi or US president Donald Trump. Not only does Mr Babis share their combination of wealth with political power, but like Mr Trump he has promised voters disillusioned with traditional politics that he will run the country more like a business. Echoing the US president’s pledge to “drain the swamp”, he has vowed to tackle corruption and vested interests.
Given the particular vulnerabilities of young democracies to manipulation, the Czech Republic’s EU partners will need to be vigilant — as they have been with Hungary and Poland — for signs of backsliding. After the reversals elsewhere, a retreat from democracy in the country of the 1968 Prague Spring and 1989 Velvet Revolution would be a further tragedy.
Yet while western states are right to condemn the illiberal steps of Warsaw and Budapest, they should remember that the election of these governments reflects disquiet with the EU status quo among important segments of the population. They should beware of proceeding with the integration now being advocated by Paris, Berlin and Brussels, without addressing the underlying causes of that discontent. Doing so might only exacerbate Europe’s east-west split — and weaken the EU itself.
Congressional Republicans have ignored Trump’s proposals for severe cuts to “discretionary spending” like the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institutes of Health. They still talk about reining in Big Government and taming the national debt, but so far, their governing philosophy looks more like don’t-tax-and-spend economics.
“There’s no doubt that congressional Republicans have a decreased appetite for tackling overspending,” says Dan Holler, a conservative activist with Heritage Action. “It’s tough. There’s always resistance. People like spending money.”
In one key respect, Trump is the most successful president in modern times. He has ripped out the ideological foundations on which his party once stood. The Democratic Party was still recognizably itself after Bill Clinton left office. The G.O.P. will not be after Trump is done with it. Like it or not, that’s a testament to his charisma and power — aided and abetted by those conservative intellectuals who proved so quick to prostitute themselves on his behalf.
The Trump-Steve Bannon-Laura Ingraham wing of the Republican party is ascendant. As Mike Allen headlined his post on Axios Wednesday: “Virtually every Republican now a Trump Republican.”
A number of questions present themselves to us as a nation, most notably: Where are we going? Off a cliff appears to be the answer for now, but who is going to help us climb back up? What can mitigate these developments except disaster? Over time, will we just swing back and forth between parties with no bipartisan achievements at all? What phoenix will rise from the ashes of our tribal partisanship?
Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to the United States. It is a worldwide problem, which is another way of extending the question. Germany, France and the Netherlands have one answer, still refusing to yield government control to right-wing populists despite the success of ethonationalist insurgencies in all three countries; Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have another answer — they are all currently swerving to the far right. Which path will we take?
The fastest-growing jobs through 2026 belong to what one might call the Three Cs: care, computers, and clean energy. No occupation is projected to add more workers than personal-care aides, who perform non-medical duties for older Americans, such as bathing and cooking. Along with home-health aides, these two occupations are projected to create 1.1 million new jobs in the next decade. Remarkably, that’s 10 percent of the total 11.5 million jobs that the BLS expects the economy to add. Clean-energy workers, like solar-panel installers and wind-turbine technicians, are the only occupations that are expected to double by 2026. Mathematicians and statisticians round out the top-10 list.
The wunderkind is Kevin Frans, a senior currently working on his college applications. He trained his first neural net—the kind of system that tech giants use to recognize your voice or face—two years ago, at the age of 15. Inspired by reports of software mastering Atari games and the board game Go, he has since been reading research papers and building pieces of what they described. “I like how you can get computers to do things that previously you would think were impossible,” Frans says, flashing his ready smile. One of his creations is an interactive webpage that automatically colors in line drawings, in the style of manga comics.
Frans landed at OpenAI after taking on one of the lab’s list of problems in need of new ideas. He made progress, but got stuck and emailed OpenAI researcher John Schulman for advice. After some back and forth on the matter of trust region policy optimization, Schulman checked out Frans’s blog and got a surprise. “I didn’t expect from those emails that he was in high school,” he says.
We live in an era of previously unimaginable luxury. Without leaving our sofas, we can conjure almost any book or film on our phone and enjoy it with exotic cuisine delivered right to our doorstep via an app. But there is a cost to this convenience that doesn’t appear on your credit-card statement. Our indoor, sedentary and socially isolated lives leave us vulnerable to depression. The U.S., the most technologically advanced nation on the planet, is also the most depressed: Three in 10 Americans will battle depressive illness at some point in their lives, an estimated tenfold increase since World War II.
Labor-saving inventions, from the Roomba to Netflix, spare us the arduous tasks of our grandparents’ generation. But small actions like vacuuming and returning videotapes can have a positive impact on our well-being. Even modest physical activity can mitigate stress and stimulate the brain’s release of dopamine and serotonin—powerful neurotransmitters that help spark motivation and regulate emotions. Remove physical exertion, and our brain’s pleasure centers can go dormant. As AI renders the need for human activity increasingly superfluous, rates of depressive illness will likely get worse.
New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier is the egghead boy toy of such glamorous powers as Barbra Streisand, Shirley MacLaine, and Tipper Gore. But has he abandoned the life of the mind to be the life of the party?
Despite his vertiginous I.Q. and prodigious learning, Wieseltier seems to have worked as hard at the construction and maintenance of his glittering image as he has at the occupation of thinking and writing. As he once told a pal, “You must always have a cover. You always have to have something you can tell people you’re doing, something really nifty.” Wieseltier’s friend pointedly adds, “When in fact what you’re doing is eating peanuts in bed.”
Moocall, an Irish company that is working with the IoT team at Vodafone, the telecoms group, says it aims to reduce mortality rates in cows by up to 80 per cent by placing a palm-sized sensor on the animal’s tail. In the UK, more than 110,000 calves and some 50,000 cows die every year because of birth-related complications. Moocall’s system can alert farmers how long a cow has been calving by monitoring tail movements, alerting the owner to potential problems.
Similar initiatives include the Well Cow Bolus, a telemetry system that monitors the dietary health and temperature of a cow from within the rumen, the animal’s first stomach, to sample bio-markers in the milk as it is being developed. The unit, a subsidiary of agricultural research charity the Roslin Foundation in Scotland, builds the sensors using technology from Arm Holdings similar to that used in older generations of mobile phones.
Investment in precision “agtech” systems reached $3.2bn globally in 2016 (including $363m in farm management and sensor technology), according to AgFunder, a California-based crowdfunding platform, and is set to grow further as dairy farms become a test bed for the wider IoT strategy of big technology companies. Telecoms companies, for example, are targeting dairy farmers as a new growth angle, either with dedicated IoT networks (such as Vodafone’s) or with the launch of 5G networks (as Telecom Italia is doing in Italy). The GSMA, the mobile trade body, predicts the IoT market will be worth $1.8tn to telecoms companies by 2026.
From music and books to telephones and taxis, Silicon Valley companies have upended countless products and markets over the years. Noon Home, a start-up launching this week, has a more prosaic ambition: it wants to disrupt the light switch.
“The switch has been around for 100 years now, but it’s not sexy or engaging,” says Noon chief executive Erik Charlton. The Cupertino-based start-up has raised $50m from some of the same venture capitalists behind Nest — the Alphabet-owned maker of smart thermostats and cameras — for its customisable lighting system, which plugs into existing bulbs and fixtures.
While Noon’s proposition remains unproven, its well-financed debut is the latest indication that Silicon Valley is getting excited about the “smart home” again. The concept of giving everyday household appliances cloud-enabled smarts has rapidly passed through the Silicon Valley “hype cycle” of initial frenzy followed by steady deflation.
Investment in untested self-driving startup companies remains relatively modest despite all the buzz and lofty expectations. Total funding of self-driving startups from both corporate and private investors has barely topped $5 billion, the Reuters analysis of publicly available data shows.
With the notable exceptions of Andreessen Horowitz and New Enterprise Associates, few of the big Valley venture capital firms are heavily invested in the sector. Overall, only seven of the top 30 self-driving startups have received later-stage funding, the Reuters analysis shows, an indication that some venture capitalists are ambivalent about the industry’s potential.
Skeptics note that few of the startups are making money. And established auto and parts companies have not demonstrated a clear path to revenue and profitability in autonomous vehicles despite their big bets in the space.
Another sticking point: While the initial wave of self-driving vehicles is expected to begin commercial service in 2019-2020, experts expect the transition from human-driven to automated cars could take a decade or more to roll out.
Cautions Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles: “You can destroy a lot of value by chasing your tail in autonomous driving.”
The company has so far sunk $2 billion into a sprawling Nevada factory to manufacture its vehicles’ batteries. In-house programmers design the bulk of the complex software that runs the Model 3, which Musk has described as a “computer on wheels”. Tesla controls its own retail chain, selling its cars directly to customers and bypassing dealers.
But it is Tesla’s 2015 decision to build its own seats that has some industry veterans scratching their heads. Seat making is a low-margin, labor-intensive enterprise that big automakers generally farm out to specialists. Tesla is operating its own seat assembly line inside its factory, and it is hiring engineers and technicians to figure out a way to fully automate the process.
“Is that really the core competency of an auto company? It is not,” said analyst Maryann Keller, who has been tracking the car industry since the early 1970s. “Why would you want to do that?”
It is partly a reflection of the entrepreneur’s obsession with detail. “One of the hardest things to design is a good seat,” Musk said at the September 2015 launch of the Model X in Fremont.
“He saw the opportunity to do it differently and better,” the former Tesla executive said. “The short term was a stop gap, but the long-term idea was to rethink the design of how a seat works to include how a seat is built.”
Although Musk’s philosophy has always been “build it right and then figure out how to get the cost down” later, according to the ex-Tesla executive, observers say Tesla can ill afford more production headaches.
The world’s super-rich hold the greatest concentration of wealth since the US Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, when families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes.
Billionaires increased their combined global wealth by almost a fifth last year to a record $6tn (£4.5tn) – more than twice the GDP of the UK. There are now 1,542 dollar billionaires across the world, after 145 multi-millionaires saw their wealth tick over into nine-zero fortunes last year, according to the UBS / PwC Billionaires report.
Josef Stadler, the lead author of the report and UBS’s head of global ultra high net worth, said his billionaire clients were concerned that growing inequality between rich and poor could lead to a “strike back”.
“We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler said. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest – that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?”
Stadler added: “We are now two years into the peak of the second Gilded Age.” He said the “$1bn question” was how society would react to the concentration of so much money in the hands of so few.
Singaporeans on the verge of retiring are prepared to keep working for longer than those that came before them.
Men aged 55 to 59 had far greater expectations to work full-time past 65 and 70 than employees currently are, while women had higher such projections beyond 62, 65, and 70, according to the latest survey by the Singapore Management University’s Centre for Research on the Economics of Ageing, which works with the U.S.-based RAND Corporation.
The findings could ease pressure on policy makers to financially support a rapidly-ageing population that’s living longer. Other countries have grappled with political pressures to keep retirement ages unchanged, leaving a steady flow of people taking up benefits as they kick in. Singapore’s retirement age, however, has rapidly increased to 67 years and made residents more adaptive to working longer, according to RAND.
Supporters of floating exchange rates today generally acknowledge that some of the new system’s predicted benefits have not come to pass. Large, permanent trade deficits haven’t disappeared — indeed, they have gotten far larger. Government stockpiling of foreign-exchange reserves, assumed to be unnecessary under floating exchange rates, hasn’t declined — it has expanded dramatically. Inflation? Much higher. Fiscal discipline? Out the window. Average annual GDP growth and unemployment? Both worse with fluctuating currencies.
The best argument for floating exchange rates, supporters say, is that they provide a crucial “shock absorber” for nations to offset economic crises. But that is generally not the case, at least not according to Professor Robert Mundell, the Nobel Prize winner who has advised policy makers in the U.S., Europe, and China for decades and who celebrates his 85th birthday this week. The theorist behind Reaganomics has called floating exchange rates “one of the worst ideas of the 20th century.”
According to Mundell — agreeing with another Nobel laureate, Friedrich Hayek — floating exchange rates stimulate currency speculation, which then itself becomes a driver of financial instability. Further, large currency areas are better able to absorb financial shocks than small ones — “just as a large lake can absorb the impact of a meteor better than a small pond.” Mundell has said that on this basis, “the ideal currency area would be one comprising the entire world.”
HKEX will shut its iconic Trading Hall on Friday, 31 years after opening the space in the heart of the city’s financial district. While it survived longer than counterparts in Singapore and Tokyo, Hong Kong’s floor had become increasingly irrelevant amid the rise of electronic trading. The last time HKEX bothered to publish figures in 2014, floor transactions comprised just 0.2 percent of total turnover.
On a sandy peninsula in northwest Saudi Arabia, the only interruption to miles of desert was the wreck of a Catalina seaplane, abandoned by its American pilot in 1960 and now covered in Arabic graffiti.
But it’s here that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince plans Neom, a city from scratch that will be bigger than Dubai and have more robots than humans. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman envisions it as a “civilizational leap for humanity” outside the traditional Saudi constraints and a business hub with advanced manufacturing, bio-tech, media and airlines.
“We want the main robot and the first robot in Neom to be Neom, robot number one,” the crown prince said in an interview in a palatial setting next to the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh. “Everything will have a link with artificial intelligence, with the Internet of Things—everything.”
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
The European Central Bank on Thursday gave notice that its stimulus will be around for a while, widening a gap between monetary policy expectations in the eurozone and U.S. that is set to further influence financial markets.
With every headline, financial markets get jolted as investors guess whether President Donald Trump will re-nominate Yellen to the helm of the U.S. central bank or opt for a more hawkish successor such as Stanford University economist John Taylor. Fed chairs matter. If credible, they influence dozens of policies, from regulation to research.
But on monetary policy, Yellen’s strategy of gradual rate hikes, and ultra-slow balance sheet runoff, will be difficult for any newcomer to quickly change. The Fed is guided by the goals Congress set for it, what the data say about those goals, and its forecast of how fast it’s going to achieve them. And right now, it has missed its inflation goal for most of the past five years, with the data showing scant sign of a breakout to galloping growth.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
U.S. economic growth probably slowed in the third quarter as hurricanes Harvey and Irma restrained consumer spending and undercut construction activity, but underlying momentum likely remained strong amid robust business investment on equipment.
GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA
Chinese industrial profits jumped the most since 2011, underscoring resilience in the economy as authorities intensify their efforts to cut excess capacity and reduce pollution.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
Accelerating Chinese inflation will derail a global rally in commodities and deepen a rout in the nation’s bonds, according to a top-performing macro fund manager.
Lu Jun, who manages about $1.6 billion at Shanghai Congrong Investment Management Co., is shorting raw materials such as ferrous and chemical products in a bet that mounting price pressures will cut short government efforts to reduce capacity in mills. He’s also bearish on Chinese sovereign debt, he said in an interview in his Shanghai office.
Prices of commodities from steel to aluminum have surged as China closed plants and boosted environmental controls, curbing output. While the nation’s consumer price index has remained subdued, core inflation — which strips out food and energy prices – is the highest in six years at 2.3 percent. Concern about higher prices and rising borrowing costs have hammered bonds this month, with the 10-year yield surging to the highest level since 2014.
“We haven’t felt much inflationary pressure at the moment so that’s why China’s able to continue with the supply-side reforms,” Lu said. “If inflation picks up, it won’t be able to carry forward the reforms, and then commodity prices will start to drop.”
“China’s economic recovery rekindled enthusiasm among global commodity bulls as they bet the economy would drive prices higher,” said Lu, formerly chief investment officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s local asset-management venture. “I’m afraid they’ll be disappointed this time.”
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
Barclays Plc Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley said he wouldn’t panic after one bad trading quarter. Now he’s had three.
The British bank plunged the most since the aftermath of the Brexit vote after it posted the worst markets performance in Staley’s two-year tenure. Revenue from trading stocks, bonds and currencies fell 31 percent in the third quarter, the lender said Thursday, trailing most Wall Street rivals that posted an average 15 percent decline.
When asked about the fall in Barclays’ share price since he took charge two years ago, Jes Staley is quick to tell colleagues that Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse have done even worse since their new bosses arrived a few months ahead of him.
This is of little consolation to Barclays shareholders, who were disappointed once again on Thursday when the bank’s third-quarter results showed painfully slow progress in Mr Staley’s promised turnround.
Baidu Inc. is asking investors for patience, after forecasting lower-than-expected revenue and warning that its driverless car platform won’t yield earnings in the near future.
The miss comes at a critical time for Baidu, which is attempting to turn around its business after a difficult 2016. Profits fell for the first time since the company listed thanks to heavy spending on services like food deliveries, rising competition from the likes of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and a health-care ad scandal that slashed its pool of advertisers. Rivals Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sohu.com Inc.’s Sogou are also angling for a greater share of search advertising.
Soft iPhone 8 sales stem partly from confusion over the trio of phones Apple is releasing this year—and could reflect buyers waiting for the iPhone X, which boasts edge-to-edge display and facial-recognition technology. It ships Nov. 3 and starts at $999.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which started shipping Sept. 22 and start at $699 and $799, offer wireless charging, improved processors and new camera capabilities over preceding models but feature the same basic design.
Many consumers have decided the improvements in the iPhone 8 are too incremental to justify the higher price tag and instead opted to buy less-costly, older models or wait for the iPhone X, said Mike Levin and Josh Lowitz, co-founders of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Macquarie Group’s shares climbed to a new high after the investment bank reported a record profit for the first half of its 2017-2018 financial year, beating analysts’ expectations and upgrading its full-year earnings forecast.
Australia’s biggest investment bank benefited from a strong performance from its “annuity-style” businesses that generate recurring income, which enabled the group to report a 19 per cent year-on-year increase in net profit after tax to A$1.24bn ($949.3m) in the six months to the end of September.
Twitter Inc. on Thursday said it had overstated the number of users of its online service since late 2014, another black eye for a company that’s struggled with controversies over its handling of political messaging and phony accounts.
Twitter Inc. beat sales estimates and added more monthly users, indicating signs of life at the social network that has struggled to attract new consumers and advertisers. The shares surged.
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
CVS Health is in talks to buy Aetna for more than $66 billion as the drugstore giant scrambles to fortify itself against looming competition from Amazon amid a continuing reordering of the health-care industry.
Saudi Arabia’s finance minister has confirmed the kingdom is exploring a private stake sale in state energy giant Saudi Aramco, with plans for an international listing just one option for a privatisation billed as the largest initial public offering in history.
FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS
Uncertainty surrounding another possible split in bitcoin is weighing on the value of the hundreds of other digital tokens that have been issued this year as the price of the biggest cryptocurrency soars.
From OKCoin to Binance.com, Chinese exchanges and wallet services are seeking a second life in friendlier Asian jurisdictions as the mainland clamps down on trading and coin offerings. They’re applying for licenses in Japan — solo or via partners — setting up over-the-counter shops in Hong Kong, or laying the groundwork to operate from Singapore and South Korea.
Forced out of their own home turf, the players that once dominated the world’s largest digital currency market are betting that investors harboring an insatiable demand for alternative investments will follow. Going abroad may help operators hedge risks, attract new customers and stake out other corners of the $170 billion industry.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
Hong Kong’s sky-high prices and low affordability rank it as one of the riskiest property markets for Savills Investment Management, which is avoiding the city in favor of Japan and Australia.
Rents have increased rapidly across U.S. housing markets as the share of renting households has risen faster than the number of new units. Now, in a survey published Thursday by an apartment-listing service, nearly one in five respondents reports struggling to make the monthly payments.
What is the most severely unaffordable housing market in North America as measured by local household incomes in relationship to local home prices?
Number one is Vancouver, Canada, with a median home price of $1.11 million and a median household income of $64,000 (all amounts in US dollars at the exchange rate effective at the time of the study).
Toronto, whose formidable housing bubble is now under pressure, is the second most unaffordable market in Canada with a median home price of $471,600 and a median household income of $62,600. But it’s only in 13th place overall.
In second place overall? New York City’s borough of Manhattan, with a median home price of $1.27 million and a median household income of $77,600. Brooklyn is in fourth place, Queens in 11th place, and the Bronx in 16th place.
By comparison, the US median home price is $258,300 and the median household income is $56,500.
Switzerland’s sky-rocketing rents may become a thing of the past. That’s the view of real estate experts, including consultancy Wueest Partner, which expects advertised rental prices to decline 1 percent on a country-wide basis next year.
While in days past would-be tenants mobbed apartment viewings to fight over the most coveted residences in Zurich and Geneva, brisk construction spurred by yield-seeking institutional investors and a tapering off of net immigration have helped to push up the national vacancy rate. According to a Credit Suisse Group AG report last month, some 5,000 to 6,000 surplus flats are being constructed annually, the equivalent of just over 10 percent of new building.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
Harvard University wrote down the value of its natural resources investments by $1.1 billion in the last fiscal year, contributing significantly to its poor endowment performance.
The university revalued the portfolio to $2.9 billion from $4 billion in the year through June 30, according to an annual report released Thursday. The writedown is part of an ambitious attempt to overhaul the $37.1 billion endowment and helps explain why the world’s richest school trailed in performance against its peers.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
COMMODITIES BASE METALS, MATERIALS
POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
Craig-Bennett said lobbyists used deliberately confusing statistics about shipping emissions – which are roughly equal to the annual emissions of Germany – in order to mislead and delay action on carbon pollution.
Ayala Land Inc., which built Manila’s financial district, is expanding into workers’ dormitories as developers target people fed up with battling some of the world’s worst traffic.
The company is investing 3 billion pesos ($58 million) building five dormitories on four sites in the Makati and Taguig business districts, comprising 1,500 units that can house as many as 6,000 people, President Bobby Dy said in an interview. The first dormitory will be ready next year, and has received interest from firms wanting to lease entire floors to keep workers close, he said.
CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
Australia’s government was thrown into crisis on Friday after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was declared ineligible to sit in parliament because he was also a citizen of New Zealand when elected.
Robert Mueller’s first spending report must be reviewed by the Justice Department, but lawmakers are already questioning the open-ended use of taxpayer funds.
Cambridge Analytica used its own database and voter information collected from Facebook and news publishers in its effort to help elect Donald Trump, despite a claim by a top campaign official who has downplayed the company’s role in the election.
Michael Cohen, a longtime lawyer for the Trump Organization, himself was a real estate wheeler-dealer. Four deals in which he sold buildings for what appear to be inflated prices and was paid in cash by mysterious buyers raise questions among experts McClatchy consulted.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
New details have changed the timeline to the attack as Pentagon officials investigate the ambush that left four Americans and five Nigeriens dead.
The grievances of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority allowed the Islamic State to flourish. How the government deals with Sunnis now could have long-term consequences.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible for a deadly sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed scores of people, a UN investigative panel said Thursday.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
For the second time in nearly three months, Kenyans voted on Thursday. Protesters tried to block the balloting amid clashes with the police.
A government watchdog agency said it will investigate President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission’s funding, internal operations and data security methods.
A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned.
A company that few had heard of and only had two employees was chosen to lead power restoration in Puerto Rico for a whopping $300 million. Whitefish Energy, of Whitefish, Montana, is not only linked as a donor to President Donald Trump but the CEO has a financial relationship to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
“We have a leader who has a personality disorder,” former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) told The New York Times.
An interesting bit from Jonah Goldberg’s podcast, The Remnant. Goldberg puts Sasse on the spot by asking whether he’ll be following the lead of his libertarian-ish colleagues in the Senate — Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and most recently Ted Cruz — by endorsing Roy Moore, who’s as far from libertarian as a Republican can get.
Sasse won’t give him a straight answer, pleading that he hasn’t followed the race closely, but he’s followed it closely enough to know that Moore thinks Muslims should be barred from holding seats in Congress.
That’s a religious test, he notes, which is barred by the Constitution, and he’s not ready for a “post-constitutional” party. Moore, he goes on to say, seems to have little interest in conservatism but instead appeals to a politics of “white-backlash grievance.”
There’s a record number of Democratic primary candidates for next year’s congressional midterm elections, a sign of grass-roots enthusiasm but also the intense ideological battles to come. Some on the left worry the party has yet to define what it stands for.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
This year, scary clowns, scary dolls and scary suburbanites have drawn audiences to the movies in droves. Even with two months remaining, 2017 has already become the biggest box office year ever for horror.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have revamped their businesses to enhance profitability and lay the foundation to develop high-tech models.
Nvidia Corp chief executive Jensen Huang said on Thursday artificial intelligence would enable fully automated cars within 4 years, but sought to tamp down expectations for a surge in demand for its chips from cryptocurrency miners.
Lawmakers are weighing whether to force automakers to include a device to alert drivers when a child in the back seat of a car after it has been turned off.
Nissan Motor Co. had been conducting its current inspection process for vehicles sold in Japan — deemed faulty by the government last month — since at least 1979, according to a person familiar with the situation.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH
Saudi Arabia is poised to invest $1 billion in entrepreneur Richard Branson’s space-tourism and satellite-launching venture, which is seeking to show it is back on track three years after a fatal accident.
SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY
By analyzing Sinosauropteryx specimens found in China, paleontologists found that certain camouflage patterns have a deep evolutionary history.
Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders is now the oldest person to hike the 2,190-mile trail in a year.
In the heart of Bangkok, mourners say their final farewells to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign lasted seven decades.
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