January 23, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – This Rare Bear Who Called the Crash Warns Housing Is Too Hot Again – Prashant Gopal 1/22

FT – China’s VPN crackdown is about money as much as censorship – Lucy Hornby 1/21

  • “Curbs on internet access also serve to hand business to Chinese companies.”

Markets / Economy

NYT – Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future – Nick Wingfield 1/21

FT – IMF hails ‘broadest’ upsurge in global growth since 2010 – Chris Giles 1/22

  • “Forecasts upgraded for 2017, 2018, 2019, adding to positive mood ahead of Davos gathering.”

Real Estate

Bloomberg – WeWork Is Turning Its Offices Into Study Halls – Olivia Zaleski 1/22

  • “The co-working giant is teaming up with online education provider 2U to give online students places to study and collaborate.”

Energy

WSJ – Frackers Could Make More Money Than Ever in 2018, If They Don’t Blow It – Bradley Olson 1/22

  • “Oil companies, listening to investors, promise modest drilling as oil prices rise, but skeptics remain.”

Cryptocurrency

NYT – There Is Nothing Virtual About Bitcoin’s Energy Appetite – Nathaniel Popper 1/21

  • “In the virtual currency world this creation process is called ‘mining.’ There is no physical digging, since Bitcoins are purely digital. But the computer power needed to create each digital token consumes at least as much electricity as the average American household burns through in two years, according to figures from Morgan Stanley and Alex de Vries, an economist who tracks energy use in the industry.”
  • “The energy consumption of these systems has risen as the prices of virtual currencies have skyrocketed, leading to a vigorous debate among Bitcoin and Ethereum enthusiasts about burning so much electricity.”
  • “All of the computers trying to mine tokens are in a computational race, trying to find a particular, somewhat random answer to a math algorithm. The algorithm is so complicated that the only way to find the desired answer is to make lots of different guesses. The more guesses a computer makes, the better its chances of winning. But each time the computers try new guesses, they use computational power and electricity.”
  • “The lure of new Bitcoins encourages people to use lots of fast computers, and lots of electricity, to find the right answer and unlock the new Bitcoins that are distributed every 10 minutes or so.”
  • “This process was defined by the original Bitcoin software, released in 2009. The goal was to distribute new coins to people on the Bitcoin network without a central institution handing out the money.”
  • “Early on, it was possible to win the contest with just a laptop computer. But the rules of the network dictate that as more computers join in the race, the algorithm automatically adjusts to get harder, requiring anyone who wants to compete to use more computers and more electricity.”
  • “These days, the 12.5 Bitcoins that are handed out every 10 minutes or so are worth about $145,000, so people have been willing to invest astronomical sums to participate in this race, which has in turn made the race harder. This explains why there are now enormous server farms around the world dedicated to mining Bitcoin.”
  • “The rules have kept attackers at bay in the nine years since the network got going. Without this process, most computer scientists agree, Bitcoin would not work.”
  • “But there is disagreement over the real value of Bitcoin and the network that supports it.”
  • “Mr. de Vries, who keeps track of the use on the site Digiconomist, estimated that each Bitcoin transaction currently required 80,000 times more electricity to process than each Visa credit card transaction, for example.”
  • “The figures published by Mr. de Vries have been criticized by Mr. Bevand (Marc Devand, a miner and analyst) and other Bitcoin fans, who say they overstate the energy costs by a factor of about three. Many critics add that producing and securing physical money and gold also require lots of energy, in some cases as much as or more than Bitcoin uses.”

China

Axios – China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure projects – Lazaro Gamio and Erica Pandey 1/19

By the numbers

  • “$1 trillion or more is the expected price tag, the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos reports. That’s seven times as costly as the Marshall Plan, on which the U.S. spent $130 billion to rebuild Europe after World War II.”
  • “70 countries will be involved in the initiative, Chinese news outlet Xinhua reports.”
  • “At least 36 planned or existing ports outside of China are involved.”
  • “$786 billion in trade took place between China and Belt and Road partners in the first three quarters of 2017, a 15% increase from 2016.”
  • “In Pakistan: China is partnering with Pakistan to build $60 billion worth of infrastructure as part of the initiative, CNBC reports.”
  • “In Thailand: The Chinese partnership with Thailand is expected to yield a 542-mile railroad, carrying high-speed trains that’ll move at up to 150 miles per hour, per CNBC.”
  • “In Malaysia: One Belt, One Road will spend about $40 billion on four railroad projects, per Xinhua.”
  • “The rise: The U.S. controls 24% of the global economy and China 15%, compared to 31% and 4% respectively in 2000.”

FT – Dalian Wanda pledges to clear overseas debt as revenues drop – Emily Feng and Lucy Hornby 1/21

  • “Chinese group’s turnover falls 11% on asset sales and credit squeeze.”
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