July 18, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

FT – Why millennials are driving cashless revolution in China – Yuan Yang 7/16

  • “The mobile payments revolution in China has happened with breathtaking speed and scale. In only five years it has transformed daily life in Chinese cities and also laid the foundations for the country’s mammoth financial tech industry, which last year generated revenues of Rmb654bn ($98bn), according to iResearch. Last year, the value of mobile payments in China overtook the worldwide totals of both Visa and Mastercard.”
  • “Almost half the world’s digital payments in 2017 were made in China, through apps such as Alipay (owned by Ant Financial, an affiliate of e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba) and WeChat (owned by Tencent), according to PwC research. Alipay and Tencent have now also outstripped PayPal, the US’s biggest online payments operator. They each handled more payments in one month this year than Paypal’s $451bn for the whole of 2017, according to market research firm Analysys.”
  • “This transformation has been spearheaded by millennials, who were the early adopters of mobile payments, but it has rapidly spread across generations…A survey by research company Ipsos, commissioned by Tencent, shows that the average person born in the 1990s now carries Rmb172 of cash ($26) compared with Rmb557 by those born in the 1960s.”
  • “China’s mobile payments revolution was partly spurred by the inconvenience felt by many of using traditional banks, from having to travel long distances for rural customers to having to queue in branches in the cities. But it was the unique formula offered by China’s tech giants that generated the explosion: by blending social, e-commerce and payment functions into single apps, customers could manage their finances at the same time as managing their social lives.”
  • “The revolution was enabled by the dominance of Tencent and Alibaba, along with the latter’s sister fintech company Ant Financial (recently valued at more than $150bn). Together they have created an interlocking network, or ‘ecosystem’, of services that complement each other and can be accessed via a few ‘killer apps’. These have become the natural playground of millennials. Imagine Facebook bolted on to email with a built-in payment platform for splitting bills among friends: that is Tencent’s WeChat. Or Amazon, with its own payment system that lets you send money to friends using only their phone number: that is Ant Financial’s Alipay. The network effect of such platforms is vast; if all your friends are using them, it is difficult to opt out.”
  • “’The way Beijing is developing, living without a smartphone will be difficult because of all the places that are starting not to take cash,’ says Chauncey Zhang, a 23-year-old tech company employee. In large cities some stores, markets and food stalls now only accept mobile payments.”
  • “Not only is a smartphone necessary for shopping, it has also become indispensable for hailing and paying for taxis. Beijingers joke that it is now more important to carry a phone charger than a physical wallet.”
  • “Familiarity with mobile payments has also made customers more comfortable with other new fintech innovations, in areas such as peer-to-peer lending, investing in money market funds, and consumer loans.”
  • “On the surface, China looks an unlikely place for this to happen. Saving, rather than borrowing, is what Chinese people typically do to afford big purchases. The country has one of the highest household savings rates in the world. When it comes to investment, property is viewed as the safest asset.”
  • “However, many citizens and small businesses are still under-served by traditional banks, and fintech companies have seen the opportunity for mobile platforms to leapfrog the old lenders.”
  • “Feidee, a company that makes personal financial management apps, says that 93% of its users are young customers born after the 1980s, and 42% of these were born after the 1990s.”
  • “China’s government has become worried by this surge in access to credit. Regulators as well as companies are now cracking down on opportunistic lending and high-interest rate loans. Policymakers are particularly concerned about young people falling prey to bad lenders, and last year launched a push to stop such companies advertising scams on university campuses dressed up as ‘entrepreneur loans’, ‘trainee loans’ and ‘jobseeker loans’.”
  • “Investment, too, has been normalized by being bundled up with Alipay and Tencent’s apps: in a couple of taps a user can deposit leftover money from their mobile wallet balance into a fixed-term investment. As a result, Ant Financial’s Yu’E Bao, meaning ‘leftover treasure’, became the world’s biggest money market fund just four years after launch.”
  • “The rapid uptake of fintech in China means customers, investors and entrepreneurs are asking whether the same tools can succeed abroad. ‘When I leave China, I feel I’ve gone back 10 years . . . Tencent, why don’t you launch [WeChat Pay] here?’ complained a young French man in a video that went viral in China.”
  • “Tencent and Ant Financial have expanded internationally by following the surge of Chinese tourists travelling abroad, and are considering how best to serve local customers. WeChat Pay is starting to expand partnerships with shopping malls in Paris and Japan’s Hokkaido. The company applied for a third-party payments license in Malaysia ‘but when we got it, we found basic infrastructure was lacking,’ says Mr Ma. It took Ant Financial and Tencent years to build the links with hundreds of Chinese banks that makes their services possible.”
  • “China’s revolution leaves one great question unresolved. How will data regulators across the globe respond to the rise of fintech companies that could, as they already do in China, track every commercial decision in a person’s life?”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Four Reasons Taxpayers Should Never Subsidize Stadiums – Barry Ritholtz 7/16

  • “Elected officials have been played by team owners and sports leagues.”

Bloomberg – Warnings of Market Complacency Are Growing Louder – Liz McCormick and Lu Wang 7/16

Economist – American democracy built-in bias towards rural Republicans – Leaders 7/12

Economist – Mini-grids may be the best way to illuminate the “bottom billion” – Leaders 7/12

NYT – I Was a White House Stenographer. Trump Wasn’t a Fan. – Beck Dorey-Stein 7/17

WSJ – How an Economic Boom Can Run Out the Clock – James Glynn 7/15

  • “Australia’s 27-year stretch of growth offers lessons for U.S. policy makers.”

WSJ – Why Tapping the U.S. Oil Reserve Is an Awful Idea – Spencer Jakab 7/16

  • “Using the reserve to curb summer pump prices at a time the economy is booming and midterm elections loom would be a strategic blunder, leaving the country exposed in the event of an actual oil shortage.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Whirlpool Wanted Washer Tariffs. It Wasn’t Ready for a Trade Showdown. – Andrew Tangel and Josh Zumbrun 7/16

  • “Put into practice, tariffs are a complex economic weapon that can ricochet through an economy in ways even proponents don’t expect. That’s what happened with washing machines, which were among the first consumer products targeted by the Trump administration.”
  • “In the months since washing machine tariffs took effect in February, LG and Samsung have pressed on with investments in the U.S., given that they now face the higher cost of shipping goods in from abroad. The overseas companies and Whirlpool have also increased hiring in the U.S. But appliance prices have risen for consumers, and there are signs of waning demand.”
  • “Last year, Whirlpool sought protection from South Korean competition under a provision known as the safeguard law, which required the company to establish it suffered serious injury from surging imports. The law, or section 201 of the 1974 trade act, was previously invoked in 2002 when then-President George W. Bush moved to protect steelmakers.”
  • “The resulting tariffs apply a 20% duty on the first 1.2 million washing machines brought into the country each year, and a 50% duty on quantities above that threshold. The barriers are expected to remain in place for at least three years.”
  • “The U.S. imported 4.2 million large residential washers in 2017, for a monthly average of 350,000, according to Christopher Rogers, an analyst at Panjiva, a firm that tracks global trade data. This year, imports have fallen to an average of 161,000 each month through April.”
  • “Washer and dryer prices climbed 20% in the three months through June, the steepest rise in at least 12 years, according to Labor Department estimates.”
  • “Washer shipments, a proxy for sales, to U.S. dealers dropped 18% in May compared with the previous year, the steepest monthly decline since March 2012, according to data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, a trade group. Analysts said shipments likely dropped because dealers had stocked up on washers before prices rose. LG blamed post-tariff price increases, too, a spokesman for the manufacturer said.”

WSJ – GE Still Wrestles With a Big Problem – Thomas Gryta 7/17

  • “Lending unit GE Capital nearly toppled whole company as the source of ‘nasty surprises’.”

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Princeton Energy Advisors – US Shale Oil Production 7/17

Finance

FT – PE firms raise money at fastest pace since 2006 – Javier Espinoza 7/16

  • “Private equity groups are raising money at the fastest rate in more than a decade. Buyout executives are rushing to tap investor demand just as fears grow of a market correction.”
  • “The average time PE funds, including those investing in infrastructure and real estate, are taking to raise money has fallen to 12 months — from almost two years in 2010 — the quickest pace since at least 2006, according to an analysis by Pitchbook, a data provider.”
  • “But the figures also show there are fewer funds raising cash from investors in the US — from 328 in 2014 to 271 last year and 111 by the end of June this year.”
  • “Last year was still marginally up from a decade ago, but large institutional investors have been concentrating their allocations to larger and more established managers, which is partly driving the decline in funds looking to raise money.”
  • “PE funds have been one of the winners of the era of low interest rates, as investors such as pension funds chase higher returns.”
  • “However, with the PE industry already having an estimated $3tn in cash to invest, there is concern that buyout funds may end up overpaying for assets and eroding the potential returns for their investors.”

Canada

Bloomberg – Vancouver’s One-Two Punch Is Expensive Homes and Low Wages – Natalie Obiko Pearson 7/13

  • “Want to pay San Francisco housing prices on a Columbus, Ohio income? Move to Vancouver.”

South America

Economist – Venezuelan cash is almost worthless, but also scarce 7/12

  • “The worthlessness of Venezuela’s currency is the result of inflation, 46,000% a year, which in turn is largely caused by the printing of money to finance the government’s deficit of 30% of GDP. But there is also a shortage of banknotes. In the looking-glass world of Venezuela’s economy, cash itself trades at a premium to its face value, making it slightly less worthless than bolívares in other forms.”

Economist – Daniel Ortega is causing a bloodbath in Nicaragua 7/12

Other Interesting Links

WSJ – Daily Shot: Cresset Wealth Advisors – Money and Baseball 7/17

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July 17, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

NYT – Tracking the President’s Visits to Trump Properties – Karen Yourish and Troy Griggs 7/16

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – Giant Pork Pile Awaits Americans as Trade Wars Risk Exports – Megan Durisin and Justina Vasquez 7/13

  • “American production is poised to reach an all-time high this year, and output is forecast to surge again in 2019. The supply boom comes as tariffs from China and Mexico threaten to curb export demand, leaving Americans with a mountain of cheap meat.”
  • “Total U.S. meat production is forecast at a record in 2018 and is set to climb again next year, the USDA estimates. Cash hogs may average about 42 cents a pound in 2019, down 7.7% from this year, the department predicts.”

NYT – After Storm, Foreclosures in Puerto Rico Stopped. They’re Starting Again. – Matthew Goldstein 7/15

  • Bottom line, the imposed foreclosure moratoriums are ending.

FT – Sovereign wealth funds abandon active managers – Chris Flood 7/15

  • “More problems lie ahead as SWFs look to switch more equity holdings.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: China Beige Book – China Construction Growth YoY Change 7/16

  • “Here is the reason steel rebar futures have been rallying.”

Real Estate

FT – US bankers warn on commercial property risks – Alistair Gray 7/15

  • “US bankers have warned about mounting risks in commercial real estate, with figures showing they are putting the brakes on loans to buyers of office buildings, hotels and shopping malls.”
  • “JPMorgan’s latest quarterly results published on Friday showed its commercial real estate business had its slowest period for at least 10 quarters, with average balances flat from the previous three months.”
  • “Wells Fargo’s CRE loan book shrank by $2.5bn in the second quarter because of declines in construction funding and mortgages on existing properties. In contrast, its non-property commercial portfolio expanded by $1.9bn.”
  • “Default rates remain low but bankers are concerned that CRE loan terms are too loose, especially as the Federal Reserve’s interest rate rises push up their own funding costs.”
  • “Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo’s chief executive, said CRE underwriting standards had been deteriorating ‘for some time’. He added, though, that the slippage was ‘nowhere near what we saw in 2006 and 07’, before the financial crisis.”

Energy

FT – Peak oil demand forecast for 2036 – David Sheppard 7/15

  • “One of the world’s most influential oil consultancies has forecast that global oil demand will peak within 20 years, as a ‘tectonic’ shift in the transport sector towards electric cars and autonomous vehicles gathers pace.”
  • “’A lot of our clients recognize that peak demand is real,’ said Ed Rawle, Wood Mackenzie’s head of crude oil research. ‘It’s just a question of when it arrives.’”
  • “Mr. Rawl at Wood Mackenzie said the consultancy’s thinking on peak demand was driven by a renewed assessment of the impact of not just electric cars but growing signs that autonomous electric vehicles will play a major role in the future of transport.”
  • “In the next 10 years the biggest impact on slowing global oil demand growth — which is expected to hit 100m barrels a day for the first time this year — would be fuel efficiency, Mr. Rawl said.”
  • “The improvement in fuel efficiency standards in conventional cars over the past decade has already had an effect, while the coming years should see the retirement of many older, gas-guzzling cars, leaving a less fuel-hungry fleet on the road.”
  • “Petrol demand is expected to be the first component of oil demand to peak around 2030 as a result.”
  • “Seeing peak oil demand on the distant horizon, does not, however, mean lower prices in the short term, Mr. Rawl said.”

Finance

WSJ – Why a $1 Trillion Mountain of Private-Equity Cash Matters – Ben Eisen 7/10

China

FT – Tencent and Alipay set to lose $1bn in revenue from payment rules – Gabriel Wildau 7/15

  • “China’s two mobile payments giants, Alipay and Tencent, are poised to lose around $1bn in combined annual revenue to a new central bank requirement that third-party payment groups hold all customer funds in reserve.” 
  • “Chinese mobile payment transactions reached Rmb109tn ($16tn) last year, according to research firm Analysys Mason, as consumers switched to smartphones from cash for supermarkets, taxis, and payments to friends. The platforms are also increasingly used to purchase mutual funds, peer-to-peer loans and other wealth management products.” 
  • “Ant Financial’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat Pay dominate the industry, with market shares of 54% and 39% respectively in the first quarter. Ant Financial is the finance affiliate of Alibaba.” 
  • “Together the two groups control hundreds of billions of renminbi in customer funds that accumulate on their platforms when users receive payments but do not immediately transfer the funds to a bank account or other investment.” 
  • “Previously, third-party payment groups were permitted to invest customer funds, much as banks use deposits to make loans and other investments, even though unlike banks, the payment groups pay no interest to users.” 
  • “In January 2017, the People’s Bank of China announced that it was requiring third-party payment groups to keep 20% of customer deposits in a single, dedicated custodial account at a commercial bank and specified that this account would pay no interest.”
  • “In April, the ratio was increased to 50%, and last month, the central bank announced that it would raise the reserve requirement to 100% by next January. At that point, payment groups will earn zero interest on all customer funds.”
  • “The ostensible reason for the change is to prevent fraud and protect customers.” 
  • “Large players like Alipay and Tencent handled customer funds conservatively, but they were still able to earn significant revenue by depositing funds in interest-bearing accounts at commercial banks. Tencent earned Rmb3.9bn in interest income in 2017, or 1.7% of total revenues, according to its annual report.” 
  • “The PBoC’s balance sheet shows that ‘deposits of non-financial Institutions’ — a category that mainly includes payment companies — increased from nothing in May 2017 to Rmb501bn by the end of May. Before the implementation of reserve requirements, nearly all that money would have been generating interest for Alipay, Tencent, and their smaller rivals.” 

July 16, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Erdogan’s New Dynasty Makes Turkey Uninvestable – Marcus Ashworth 7/10

Bloomberg – Chinese Savers Won’t Save China – Christopher Balding 7/7

FT – China developers may cut prices in tight funding – Wang Zelei and Li Huizi 7/12

  • “Slowing sales and restrictive policy could mean firms will fight to avoid default.”

howmuch.net – How Much States Invest in Public Higher Education per Student FY 2017 – Raul 7/10

WSJ – Daily Shot: Pew Research – Changes in US income distribution by race 7/13

WSJ – China’s Land Grab Could End Badly – Nathaniel Taplin 7/13

Markets / Economy

CNBC: Reuters – Airbus withdraws jet deliveries to HNA Group after late payments – Regis Duvignau 7/11

WSJ – Business-Loan Drought Ends for Banks – Rachel Louise Ensign 7/8

Automotive

WSJ – Ford Sales Plummet in China, and New Tariff Hit Is Yet to Come – Trefor Moss 7/11

Politics

WP – In about 20 years, half the population will live in eight states – Philip Bump 7/12

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – China stock of soybean 7/13

July 13, 2018

Perspective

howmuch.net – How Much Americans Pay in Electricity Rates in Each State – Raul 6/25

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Donald Trump creates chaos with his tariffs trade war – Martin Wolf 7/10

The Registry – Uber’s Johnny Cab Future – John McNellis 7/12

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Trade Conflict Ripples Through Emerging Markets – Julie Wernau and Ira Iosebashvili 7/10

Real Estate

Bloomberg – Hot Rents in Hot Shale Basin – Ryan Collins 7/11

WSJ – House Money: Wall Street is Raising More Cash Than Ever for its Rental-Home Gambit – Ryan Dezember and Laura Kusisto 7/9

  • “Wall Street is betting that more well-off Americans will want to be renters.”
  • “Financiers who loaded up on homes after the housing bust for pennies on the dollar are buying yet more—despite home prices in many markets being at all-time highs.”
  • “Their wager: High prices, higher mortgage rates and skimpy inventory are making homeownership harder. Well-to-do families who might have bought a single-family home in another era are willing to rent a house now, especially if it means access to a good school system.”
  • “The number of homes purchased by major investors in 2017 was at least 29,000, up 60% from the previous year, estimates Amherst Capital Management LLC, a real-estate investment firm with an affiliated business that made nearly 5,000 of those purchases.”
  • “Single-family homes have become far more attractive to investors than apartments, where a nationwide glut has driven down rental yields.”
  • “This year, investors have raised billions of dollars from bond buyers, pension funds and even wealthy Chinese individuals to purchase more homes. They have been particularly aggressive buyers in places like Atlanta, Phoenix, and other metro areas with good schools and faster-growing economies.”
  • “On Monday, the investment firm Pretium Partners LLC said it had raised more than $1 billion so that its Progress Residential could add to its 26,000 rental homes.”
  • “Cash to acquire and renovate homes has become so abundant lately that some rental investors can’t spend it fast enough. Without enough homes to buy, some investors are now building their own in popular residential markets like Miami and Nashville, Tenn.—upending a traditional pattern of Americans buying starter homes and moving up.”
  • “Managing far-flung clusters of homes—much harder than running an apartment building—has long been a hurdle for investors. But analysts and rental executives say investors are gaining confidence it can be done profitably. Also, wealthier tenants in the single-family-home market typically have children and need more bedrooms than most apartments offer. They’re also willing to accept rent increases to stay in good school districts.”
  • “These investors’ war chests have been swelled by rising home prices, which give them more valuable collateral to borrow against to buy more.”

Construction

WSJ – Daily Shot: John Burns RE Consulting – Construction Contractor Hourly Wages 7/11

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: BlackRock – Annual Growth in China Bank Claims 7/11

WSJ – Chinese Auto Sales Run Into a Lending Roadblock – Jacky Wong 7/10

  • “Beijing’s crackdown on shadow banking has made it harder for car buyers to get the loans they need. That could hit domestic auto-maker shares.”

July 11, 2018

Perspective

Economist – Why some countries are turning off the internet on exam days 7/5

  • “With so many students cheating electronically, governments are taking drastic steps.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – The Children of the Rich Will Always Be With Us – Stephen Mihm 7/10

  • “The wealthy can stop worrying: Their heirs won’t burn through their inheritances for many generations.”

Bloomberg – Tesla Was Already Priced for Long-Term Perfection – Liam Denning 7/10

Markets / Economy

Visual Capitalist – Walmart Nation: Mapping the Largest Employers in the U.S. – Jeff Desjardins 11/17/17

Real Estate

The Big Picture – Mortgage Rates in the 21st Century – Barry Ritholtz 7/10

Finance

Bloomberg Businessweek – How a Tiny Bank From the Ozarks Got Big and Outpaced Wall Street’s Real Estate Machine – Peter Robison 7/10

  • “An Arkansas bank has become one of America’s top construction lenders. Does it know something the giants don’t?”

WSJ – How Regulators Averted a Debacle in Credit-Default Swaps – Gabriel T. Rubin and Andrew Scurria 7/8

  • “The CFTC waged an unusual campaign to get Blackstone to unwind its bet on the default of home builder Hovnanian.”

South America

Economist – Argentina’s currency crisis is far from over 7/5

July 10, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Amazon as a Value Stock? Believe It – Matthew A. Winkler 7/9

FT – Japan is nervous about its energy security – Nick Butler 7/8

  • “The country’s new national plan puts nuclear power back in the picture.”

NYT – Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras – Paul Mozur 7/8

  • Spooky. By the way, one of the data aggregator/policing systems is aptly named: Skynet.

WSJ – A Stock Market Crash With Chinese Characteristics – Nathaniel Taplin 7/9

Markets / Economy

FT – The retreat from easy money that markets cannot escape – Michael Mackenzie 7/4

Environment / Science

NYT – Record Heat in Southern California, and an Ominous Start to Wildfire Season – Tim Arango 7/7

  • “After a temperate early summer and a balmy Fourth of July, Southern California residents abruptly found themselves in a caldron of triple-digit temperatures and wildfires this weekend.”
  • “The temperature spike broke with historical weather patterns. While much of the Northern Hemisphere suffers through its hottest days in the summer months — June, July, August — Southern California’s hottest days are often in September or October.”
  • “Records were shattered in some places on Friday. The temperature at the University of California, Los Angeles, reached 111 on Friday, the hottest it has ever been there. Other record highs, according to the National Weather Service, were 114 at the Hollywood Burbank Airport, 117 at the Van Nuys Airport, 117 in Ramona and 114 in Santa Ana. In Riverside, a high temperature of 118 matched a record set in 1925.”

China

FT – China scales back property subsidies, adding to growth concerns – Gabriel Wildau and Yizhen Jia 7/8

  • “China is retreating from a policy that has channeled about $1tn in subsidies to homebuyers since 2016, a reversal that has sent tremors through the country’s residential property market amid broader concerns about a housing bubble.”
  • “Property investment and home sales have remained strong in recent months despite a broader growth slowdown, but analysts say the withdrawal of subsidies will damp property demand, leading to reduced construction activity.” 
  • “Premier Li Keqiang pioneered the slum redevelopment policy as top party official in north-east China’s Liaoning province in 2005. The policy, which was later rolled out nationwide, financed demolition and reconstruction of dilapidated residential neighborhoods.” 
  • “The program received a boost in 2014, when the People’s Bank of China created a new monetary policy instrument known as Pledged Supplementary Lending, which consisted of loans directly from the central bank to CDB earmarked for slum redevelopment.” 
  • “The turning point came in 2015. Amid a sharp downturn in the housing market that led to a glut of unsold housing, China’s cabinet allowed local governments to provide cash subsidies to residents of slum districts, rather than physical resettlement in newly built flats in the former slum.” 
  • “’Physical resettlement didn’t affect the supply-demand balance. It was self-regulating,’ said Zhao Quanhou, director of the financial research center at the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences, a think-tank under China’s finance ministry.”
  • “’But monetary resettlement meant you were demolishing old buildings and not replacing them, so there was a net demand increase, and the market impact was large,’ he said.”
  • “’The policy was basically giving money directly from the central bank to CDB. It spurred a lot of real estate demand, and it also expanded the base money supply,’ said Xu Gao, chief economist at Everbright Securities. ‘Going forward it needs to be adjusted.’”

Turkey

FT – Erdogan fires thousands more state employees in Turkey – Ayla Jean Yackley 7/8

  • “Thousands of Turkish teachers, police officers and members of the armed forces have been fired one day before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to be sworn in for a second term after being re-elected with vastly enhanced powers last month.”
  • “Mr. Erdogan issued a decree dismissing the employees on Sunday. During his election campaign he promised to end a state of emergency imposed in the wake of an abortive military coup two years ago, under which 160,000 public servants have been dismissed and more than 50,000 people have been jailed.”
  • “The order, published in the Official Gazette on Sunday, fired 18,632 people — nearly half of them from the police force — for allegedly threatening national security. More than 6,000 military personnel and about 200 teachers were also named. Their passports have all been cancelled, the announcement said.”
  • “The decree also banned 12 civil-society groups, three newspapers and a television broadcaster.”

 

July 9, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – The Billionaire Space Race Is Making Life Difficult for Airlines – Justin Bachman 6/27

  • “More launches mean more closed airspace, and more delays.”

FT – Dollar repatriation: stealth tapering – Lex 7/4

NYT – Americans Are Having Fewer Babies. They Told Us Why. – Claire Cain Miller 7/5

  • “Women have more options, for one. But a new poll also shows that financial insecurity is altering a generation’s choices.”

Real Estate

FT – Hong Kong’s Repulse Bay attracts China’s tech billionaires – Hugo Cox 7/5

  • “While The Peak may still be the area’s most prestigious location, Island South offers practical benefits.”
  • “China’s new oligarchs will pay handsomely for their seaside spots. Last year, local agents claimed a world record for the priciest home per square foot, when a four-bedroom beachside townhouse hit the market for USD$87.3m, or $21,200 per sq ft. This is about nine times the current average price for prime central London, according to estate agents Savills. Put another way, the same budget in London would buy six Grade II-listed Queen Anne terraced houses in Kensington, providing a total of 36 rooms.”

Environment / Science

WP – Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week – Jason Samenow 7/5

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Malaysia suspends $22bn China-backed projects – Stefania Palma 7/4

Australia

Bloomberg – Australia Property Prices Fall for Ninth Month on Tighter Credit – Emily Cadman 7/1

Other Interesting Links

howmuch.net – The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes in Top Sports 2018 – Raul 6/28

statista – Roger Federer Is the King of Athlete Endorsements – Felix Richter 7/5

July 5, 2018

Hope that you all had a nice 4th of July.

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – At any given time in their lives, people have two dozen regular haunts 6/28

Economist – America Inc and the rage against Beijing – Schumpeter 6/28

FT – Lex in depth: Why WeWork does not deserve a $20bn price tag – Elaine Moore and Eric Platt 7/2

  • “WeWork’s steep valuation depends on a blinkered faith in its originality despite a crowded market of competitors. If the company’s equity value was based on the same multiple of sales as flexible workspace peer IWG (formerly Regus) it would be worth less than $3bn.”
  • “The company’s pitch is scale. WeWork envisions a world in which offices are so attractive that workers will choose to spend more time in them. Eventually, it pictures global cities of We-flats and We-offices, where members work out at We-gyms, learn at We-schools and network at We-events — all the while tracked by the We-operating system.”
  • “WeWork’s valuation comes courtesy of the deep pockets of Japan’s SoftBank and the Saudi-backed $100bn Vision Fund , which led a $3bn investment last year. That came with an additional $1.4bn raised for WeWork’s Asian subsidiaries. The fundraising round transformed WeWork into one of the world’s top 10 most valuable start-ups. Further financing from the Vision Fund, valuing WeWork at $35bn, has been mooted. This would exceed the value of SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space technology company.”
  • “In the meantime, WeWork needs financing. It is likely to require at least $2bn from investors in the next two years. To plug future outflows, it may seek far more. A successful initial public offering will require WeWork to convince investors that its value is based on more than giddy markets and a millennial-friendly aesthetic.”
  • “Unfortunately for WeWork, costs are growing just as steeply. Some look extravagant. Last year the group spent an additional $6.5m on events that included a weekend summer camp. The company justifies this as the price of growth.”
  • “However, WeWork’s valuation is based on its growth potential. Airbnb might therefore be a better comparison. It is valued at a higher $31bn. Yet even this is a more sober reflection of business than WeWork’s. The value is equal to 12 times trailing sales versus 20 for WeWork.”
  • “For now, WeWork is far from self-sustaining. The company lost nearly $1bn last year. Office occupancy at 82% is higher than IWG’s 75%. However, average membership fees are falling. There is little reason to think the decline will reverse while expansion is driven by Asia, where rates are lower.”
  • “Funding rounds were the only reason the company ended 2017 with cash of $2bn on the balance sheet. On FT estimates it is likely to need about $2bn more by the end of 2019.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – US-Europe monetary policy divergence 7/3

WSJ – Where is Joblessness the Lowest? Hint: Cities With College Students and Tourists – Sharon Nunn 6/28

Real Estate

Bloomberg Businessweek – Startups Front Cash to Homebuyers in Bidding Wars – Noah Buhayar and Patrick Clark 6/28

  • “FlyHomes’ ability to turn clients into cash buyers exploits a quirk in the capital markets that’s arisen since the housing meltdown: Consumers are being put through more rigorous standards when they apply for a mortgage. Meanwhile, it’s comparatively easy for companies—even those with new, barely tested ideas—to get buckets of money from banks, venture capitalists, and other institutional investors.”
  • “Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman says these new ventures are part of a shift in how homes will be bought and sold. ‘There is just money coming out of every possible part of the world, and it isn’t going toward the consumer,’ he says. ‘It’s going toward real estate businesses who charge the consumer for access to that money.’”

Bloomberg – U.S. Retail Vacancy Rate Jumps on Toys ‘R’ Us Store Closings – Jordan Yadoo 7/2

  • Considering the headwinds of retail over the last few years, I’d say things are doing not too shabby considering it took the closure of Toys ‘R’ Us to push the absorption rate negative (granted local situations vary).

Bloomberg – Manhattan Homebuyers Demand Bargains, Walk Away-Anything But Overpay – Oshrat Carmiel 7/2

Environment / Science

Bloomberg – Stemming the Tide of Plastic Pollution – The Editors 7/2

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Samsung finds unlikely ally in stance on worker safety – Song Jung-a 7/2

  • “S Korea commerce ministry backs view that transparency may compromise tech secrets.”

FT – South Korea to cap working week at 52 hours – Song Jung-a 7/2

  • “Cut from 68-hour maximum aims to improve life balance for country of workaholics.”
  • “The country is home to the longest working hours and highest suicide rate in the developed world. South Koreans put in an average of 2,024 hours in 2017, the second-most after Mexico among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). But the long hours have not translated into better productivity, with the country’s per-hour productivity ranking near the bottom.”

WSJ – Go Home Already! South Korea Pulls the Plug on Overworked Desk Warriors – Timothy W. Martin and Yun-Hwan Chae 7/1

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index 7/3

India

Bloomberg Businessweek – India’s Push to Fast-Track Bankruptcies – Iain Marlow 6/26

WSJ – Bankrupt Indian Companies Are Clogging the Economy-but Now the Clock Is Ticking – Corinne Abrams and Debiprasad Nayak 7/1

 

July 3, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Sustaining Wealth is Harder Than Getting Rich – Ben Carlson 7/1

FT – US and China must find ways to control their elites – Rana Foroohar 7/1

  • “Success rests on heading off popular unrest, rather than winning trade fights.”

Market Watch – Yes, corporations have brought home cash after the tax cut, but they haven’t put it to work – Rex Nutting 6/29

NYT – What’s the Yield Curve? ‘A Powerful Signal of Recessions’ Has Wall Street’s Attention – Matt Phillips 6/25

WSJ – Tariffs Aren’t China’s Strongest Weapon Against the U.S. – Nathaniel Taplin 7/2

  • “Mr. Trump’s trade agenda may have certain U.S. industries-like steel-flashing smiles. American companies operating in China, though, can expect to lost a few teeth.”

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – Where Have America’s Truck Drivers Gone? – Virginia Postrel 6/24

  • “The U.S. trucking industry is short about 50,000 drivers, estimates Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations. The driver shortage ranked first among industry concerns in the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey, released last October.”
  • “The strong economy means more stuff to haul, even as increasing numbers of truckers retire. The average age of over-the-road truckers…is 49, compared with 42 for the U.S. workforce as a whole. Forecasts of massive job losses from autonomous trucks don’t help. Few people want to join a dying profession. With unemployment low, there are other options.”
  • “In response, pay is up. The median salary for drivers who haul a variety of goods nationally is about $53,000, according to an ATA survey published in March. That’s a $7,000 increase since the previous survey five years ago, or about $4,000 when corrected for inflation. For drivers who work for private fleets serving individual companies, such as PepsiCo Inc. or Walmart Inc., median pay is $86,000, up from $73,000.”
  • “But a shortfall remains. Recent regulatory changes exacerbate the problem. So does an increasing shortage of places to park.”

Tech

FT – China backs $15bn tech fund to compete with Japan’s SoftBank – Arash Massoudi and Don Weinland 7/1

  • “China Merchants Group has teamed up with a London-based firm to launch a new Rmb100bn ($15bn) technology investment fund with aim of becoming China’s answer to the near-$100bn Vision Fund created by Japan’s SoftBank.”
  • “The state-owned conglomerate, along with other unnamed Chinese groups, has pledged to invest up to Rmb40bn of the fund, in what would be a huge pool of capital primarily designed to target investments in Chinese technology companies.” 
  • “CMG is set to announce the plans with the UK’s Centricus, the investment firm that helped structure SoftBank’s record-setting technology fund, and SPF Group, a small Beijing-based fund manager that counts Joshua Fink, the son of BlackRock founder Larry Fink, as one of its partners.”

Health / Medicine

Bloomberg – Sky-High Deductibles Broke the U.S. Health Insurance System – John Tozzi and Zachary Tracer 6/26

  • “Employers are questioning a system they say costs patients too much.”

FT – US drug maker Pfizer lifts price of Viagra and 100 other products – David Crow 7/2

China

FT – China tightens party control of foreign university ventures – Emily Feng 7/1

  • “British academic ejected from board after writing essay critical of Communist party.”

Russia

FT – Older Russians fear pension reform will hit income – Kathrin Hille 7/1

July 2, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Forget Banks and Worry About High Stock Prices – Nir Kaissar 6/29

  • “It’s time for investors to stop fighting the last war. The next downturn most likely won’t be triggered by another meltdown of the financial system.”
  • “Investors didn’t need the Fed to tell them that banks are in better shape than they were a decade ago. The signs are everywhere. Profits have fallen across the industry since the financial crisis, an  indication that banks are taking on less risk. Profit margins for the S&P 500 Financials Index averaged 9.3% from 2008 to 2017, down from an average of 13.8% from 2003 to 2007, the years leading up to the crisis. Return on equity is down to an average of 5.2% from 14.5% over the same periods.”
  • “The biggest of those risks is leverage — or piling on debt to boost profits — and banks have a lot less of it than they used to. The debt-to-equity ratio of the financials index has dropped to 159% as of the first quarter from 563% at the end of 2007. The debt-to-assets ratio has fallen to 19% from 43% over the same period.”
  • “But if the numbers don’t persuade investors that the next crisis won’t look like the last one, then maybe a look at previous bear markets would. In reverse chronological order: The bursting of the dot-com bubble was behind the downturn from 2000 to 2002. A mass panic or newly introduced computerized trading, depending on whom you ask, set off the 1987 crash. Stagflation brought down the market from 1980 to 1982. A global oil embargo hit stocks from 1973 to 1974. I could keep going, but you get the idea.”
  • “There is a common thread running through the scariest episodes: high stock prices. The average cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings, or CAPE, ratio for the S&P 500 has been 18 since 1928, according to numbers compiled by Yale professor Robert Shiller. The five worst bear markets during those nine decades, as measured by peak to trough declines, commenced in 1929, 1937, 1973, 2000 and 2007. The average CAPE ratio on the eve of those downturns was 29 and the median was 27.”
  • “The current CAPE ratio: 32. And it’s never just stocks. Other assets in the U.S. look frothy, too, such as private equity and real estate.”

Bloomberg – How to Avoid Going Broke After Making $650 Million – Barry Ritholtz 6/29

Economist – How oil transformed the Gulf – Special report 6/21

Economist – Why Gulf countries are feuding with Qatar – Special report 6/21

Economist – Saudi Arabia turns against political Islam – Special report 6/23

Pragmatic Capitalism – Let’s Talk About that “Rapidly” Falling Deficit – Cullen Roche 6/29

  • “Don’t be scared Larry (Kudlow), just tell it like it is – you guys are boosting spending, boosting the deficit and the USA can afford it!”

Real Estate

WEF: statista – The world’s most expensive prime property – Adam Jezard 4/12

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Bloomberg – Bitcoin Bloodbath Nears Dot-Com Levels as Many Tokens Go to Zero – Adam Haigh and Eric Lam 6/28

howmuch.net – The ICO Explosion in the Past 5 Years – Raul 6/27

Environment / Science

Bloomberg – The Recycling Game Is Rigged Against You – Faye Flam 6/27

  • “Americans were not set up for success in recycling plastics. Even before China stopped accepting plastic refuse from abroad, 9% of potentially recyclable plastic in the U.S. ended up in landfills – or worse, in the oceans. Europe does a little better, with only 70% getting tossed.”
  • “Why such terrible rates? Partly because some changes that were supposed to make recycling simpler ended up making it almost impossible.”
  • “University of Georgia engineering professor Jenna Jambeck said that indeed, part of the reason China is now refusing to process American and European plastic is that so many people tossed waste into the wrong bin, resulting in a contaminated mix difficult or impossible to recycle.”
  • “In a paper published last week in Science Advances, she and her colleagues calculated that between now and 2030, 111 million metric tons of potentially recyclable plastic will be diverted from Chinese plants into landfills.”
  • “Plastic matters because it takes centuries to degrade, and there’s a lot of it. Jambeck has estimated that the world has produced more than 8 billion metric tons since the 1950s. To help grasp this quantity, paleontologist Jan Zalasiewicz has estimated that this is enough to wrap our entire planet in cling wrap. Others have calculated that it would make four mountains the size of Everest.”
  • “Given what scientists already know how to do, the future could bring a greener, more fool-proof system. Right now, she said, she and other scientists are starting to develop ways to recycle mixtures of plastics – a tough job because many plastics repel one another like oil and water. One of the reasons China imported recycling was that it was possible there to hire cheap labor to sort the different plastic types by hand.” 
  • “Curing the plastic problem is a lot like fighting cancer. Even if everyone stopped smoking, there would still be cancer. And even if we all figure out whether our municipalities accept yogurt containers, plastic waste will still pollute the environment. Compliance won’t be a cure until innovations from the lab set us up for success.”

WIRED – Data Shows Rising Seas Threaten Over 300,000 Homes – Oliver Milman 6/19

  • “Sea level rise driven by climate change is set to pose an existential crisis to many US coastal communities, with new research finding that as many as 311,000 homes face being flooded every two weeks within the next 30 years.”
  • “The UCS used federal data from a high sea level rise scenario projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and combined it with property data from the online real estate company Zillow to quantify the level of risk across the lower 48 states.”
  • “Under this scenario, where planet-warming emissions are barely constrained and the seas rise by about 6.5 feet globally by the end of the century, 311,000 homes along the US coastline would face flooding on average 26 times a year within the next 30 years—a typical lifespan for a new mortgage.”
  • “The losses would multiply by the end of the century, with the research warning that as many as 2.4 million homes, worth around a trillion dollars, could be put at risk. Low-lying states would be particularly prone, with a million homes in Florida, 250,000 homes in New Jersey and 143,000 homes in New York at risk of chronic flooding by 2100.”
  • “The oceans are rising by about 3 mm a year due to the thermal expansion of seawater that’s warming because of the burning of fossil fuels by humans. The melting of massive glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica is also pushing up the seas—NASA announced last week that the amount of ice lost annually from Antartica has tripled since 2012 to an enormous 241 billion tons a year.”
  • “This slowly unfolding scenario is set to pose wrenching choices for many in the US. Previous research has suggested that about 13 million Americans may have to move due to sea level rise by the end of the century, with landlocked states such as Arizona and Wyoming set for a population surge.”

Agriculture

FT – US farmers plant more soya than corn for first time since 1983 – Gregory Meyer 6/29

  • “Farmers planted 89.6m acres with soya beans this spring, the government reported Friday, surpassing the 89.1m acres planted with corn. The only other year soya topped corn was in 1983, because of a one-off quirk of agricultural policy.”

Britain

NYT – In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything – Peter S. Goodman 5/28

  • “After eight years of budget cutting, Britain is looking less like the rest of Europe and more like the United States, with a shrinking welfare state and spreading poverty.”

Japan

FT – Japan’s elderly care bill soaks up worker pay rises – Robin Harding 5/27

  • “Monthly premiums for care insurance have doubled from ¥3,000 to almost ¥6,000 ($55) since the system began in 2000. Meanwhile, the average annual cost of employer-based health insurance is up from ¥386,038 in 2008 to ¥486,042 this year, equivalent to a two percentage point rise in income tax.”
  • “The rise in health and care costs helps to explain why moderate wage growth, after five years of economic stimulus under prime minister Shinzo Abe, is doing so little to boost consumption. It poses a conundrum for the Bank of Japan, which is relying on spending pressure to push inflation towards its 2% objective.”
  • “Japan’s future holds more of the same, especially after 2020, when the baby boom generation starts to reach the age of 75 and needs more care. Recent government figures suggest that by 2040 social insurance costs will rise another 2.5 percentage points to 24% of gross domestic product.”

South America

Axios – It’s nearly impossible to afford a cup of coffee in Venezuela – Stef W. Kight 6/28

  • “Less than two years ago, a cup of coffee cost 450 bolivars in Venezuela. Today, as the nation’s hyperinflation continues to skyrocket, a cafe con leche costs 1 million bolivars — or a mere 29 U.S. cents, according to Bloomberg.”