Tag: Facebook

April 12, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

Bloomberg Gadfly – Mark Zuckerberg Refuses to Admit How Facebook Works – Shira Ovide  4/12

  • “The most troubling takeaway from two days of congressional hearings on Facebook Inc. was this: Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want to explain how the social network operates.” 
  • “Zuckerberg found it hard to plainly acknowledge that Facebook tracks users from device to device, collects information on websites people visit and apps they use, gathers information on people’s physical locations, collects phone call logs from Android smartphones and pulls in some online activity from people who don’t even have Facebook accounts.”
  • “Zuckerberg declined to acknowledge that Facebook’s ad system and products are informed by all of this information gathering on and off the social network. If Facebook were a true bargain with users — they get a useful, free service in exchange for seeing advertising based on their interests and activity — then Zuckerberg should be comfortable explaining how it all works.”
  • “Instead, given the option to articulate Facebook’s relationship with users (and non-users), he dodged. A lot.”
  • “He said he couldn’t answer queries from Senator Roy Blunt, who asked on Tuesday whether Facebook tracks users across their computing devices or tracks offline activity. The answer to both is yes. During the House committee hearing on Wednesday, Zuckerberg claimed not to know what ‘shadow profiles’ are, even though this term has been used for years to describe Facebook’s collection of data about people who don’t use its services by harvesting the inboxes and smartphone contacts of active Facebook users. (Zuckerberg reluctantly acknowledged that Facebook gathers information on people who aren’t signed up for Facebook for what he said were ‘security purposes.’)”
  • “Most people do not understand the scope of Facebook’s data collection. Lawmakers tried more than once to get Zuckerberg to say this, but he never did. Here’s a piece of evidence lawmakers could have showed the CEO: In a survey conducted recently by Digital Content Next, a trade group of news organizations that is frequently critical of Facebook, a majority of respondents said they didn’t expect the social network to track use of non-Facebook apps to target ads, collect their physical location when they’re not using Facebook or harvest information from non-Facebook websites that people visit. Spoiler alert: Facebook does all of those things.”  
  • “It’s not people’s fault if they don’t know how Facebook works. If Zuckerberg and Facebook were comfortable with the data-based bedrock of their business, he should be able and willing to explain all the ways Facebook collects data on everyone and how it uses it.”
  • “It felt as though the company made a calculated decision to deflect rather than talk openly about the scope of Facebook data collection and its data-based ad system. And to me, that was a sign that Facebook is embarrassed about what it does for a living.”

Continue reading “April 12, 2018”

April 12, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

NYT – British Banks Will Have to Cut Ties to Sanctioned Oligarchs, U.S. Says – Ellen Barry 4/10

  • “The United States on Tuesday ratcheted up its efforts to block Kremlin-linked industrialists from doing business in the West, warning that British banks will have to sever their relationships with the tycoons if they want continued access to American financial institutions.”
  • “Sigal P. Mandelker, a top American Treasury official in London to meet with her counterparts, said British banks could face ‘consequences’ if they continued to carry out significant transactions on behalf of the 24 influential Russians sanctioned by Washington on Friday. The list includes the industrialists Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg, along with Kirill Shamalov, who American officials have identified as President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law.”
  • “The warning has resonated in London, which for decades has served as a haven for Russia’s wealthiest families. Russian investors own iconic British assets like the Chelsea Football Club and swaths of high-end London real estate, and they support thriving networks of lawyers, financial advisers and estate agents.”
  • “The new American sanctions expose financial institutions outside the United States to penalties if they ‘knowingly facilitate significant financial transactions’ on behalf of the listed Russian oligarchs.”
  • “The wording is similar to secondary sanctions imposed against Iran. These ‘essentially prohibit the individuals involved from taking part in the dollar economy,’ said Daragh McDowell, an analyst for Europe and Central Asia at Verisk Maplecroft, a consulting firm based in Bath.”
  • “It is likely to compel risk-averse British banks to cancel the Russians’ accounts altogether, said Brian O’Toole, a former senior official at the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers and enforces American sanctions.”

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April 9, 2018

Trying a new approach. Thoughts?

 

Trade War. Chinese Aviation. Japan Sex Industry. Facebook. Investment Management. Interest Rates. Solar Installations. US Treasuries. Shipping. Ireland. Britain. Former presidents Park and Lula.

Continue reading “April 9, 2018”

April 6, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

Bloomberg Businessweek – How Facebook Helps Shady Advertisers Pollute the Internet – Zeke Faux 3/27

  • Affiliate networks (‘affiliates’) = companies/brokers that design advertisements and pay to place them on social media sites on behalf of merchants.
  • “Granted anonymity, affiliates were happy to detail their tricks. They told me that Facebook had revolutionized scamming. The company built tools with its trove of user data that made it the go-to platform for big brands. Affiliates hijacked them. Facebook’s targeting algorithm is so powerful, they said, they don’t need to identify suckers themselves—Facebook does it automatically.”
  • “The basic process isn’t complicated. For example: A maker of bogus diet pills wants to sell them for $100 a month and doesn’t care how it’s done. The pill vendor approaches a broker, called an affiliate network, and offers to pay a $60 commission per sign-up. The network spreads the word to affiliates, who design ads and pay to place them on Facebook and other places in hopes of earning the commissions. The affiliate takes a risk, paying to run ads without knowing if they’ll work, but if even a small percentage of the people who see them become buyers, the profits can be huge.”
  • “Affiliates once had to guess what kind of person might fall for their unsophisticated cons, targeting ads by age, geography, or interests. Now Facebook does that work for them. The social network tracks who clicks on the ad and who buys the pills, then starts targeting others whom its algorithm thinks are likely to buy. Affiliates describe watching their ad campaigns lose money for a few days as Facebook gathers data through trial and error, then seeing the sales take off exponentially. ‘They go out and find the morons for me,’ I was told by an affiliate who sells deceptively priced skin-care creams with fake endorsements from Chelsea Clinton.”
  • “In a sense, affiliate scammers are much like Cambridge Analytica. Because Facebook is so effective at vacuuming up people and information about them, anyone who lacks scruples and knows how to access the system can begin to wreak havoc or earn money at astonishing scale.”
  • This is not a new game.
  • Affiliates are “…applying tricks on Facebook that had been invented by email spammers, who’d in turn borrowed the tactics of fax spammers in the 1980s and ’90s. New forms of media have always been hijacked by misleading advertising: 19th century American newspapers were funded in part by dishonest patent medicine ads. Within days of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, the makers of Bellingham’s Onguent were placing ads claiming the president had used their product to grow his trendy whiskers.”
  • “Fake personal endorsements and news reports are still the most effective tricks. Dr. Oz, the Shark Tank judges, and Fixer Upper co-host Joanna Gaines are among the most popular imprimaturs…”

Perspective

howmuch.net – How Much Income You Need to Afford the Average Home in Every State in 2018 – Raul 4/2

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – US Households with Zero or Negative Home Wealth 4/5

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – Road Quality in the US 4/5

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Situational Awareness – Ben Carlson 4/5

Bloomberg Businessweek – The Ancient History of Bitcoin – Peter Coy 3/29

  • “Cryptocurrencies may seem brand-new and disruptive, but look to the past and it’s clear they can be regulated.”

Civil Beat: The Associated Press – Hawaii’s Low Unemployment Rate Masks Underlying Problems 4/4

  • “In a state with a jobless rate of 2.1%, island residents have work if they want it. But their incomes often don’t pay the bills.”

NYT – Why China Is Confident It Can Beat Trump in a Trade War – Steven Lee Myers 4/5

  • “In the political realm, however, Mr. Xi enjoys advantages that may allow him to cope with the economic fallout far better than Mr. Trump can. His authoritarian grip on the news media and the party means there is little room for criticism of his policies, even as Mr. Trump must contend with complaints from American companies and consumers before important midterm elections in November.”
  • “The Chinese government also has much greater control over the economy, allowing it to shield the public from job cuts or factory closings by ordering banks to support industries suffering from American tariffs. It can spread the pain of a trade war while tolerating years of losses from state-run companies that dominate major sectors of the economy.”
  • “’The American agricultural sector is quite influential in the Congress,’ said Wang Yong, a professor of economics at Peking University, explaining why China has targeted farm products such as soybeans with possible retaliatory tariffs. ‘China wants the American domestic political system to do the work.’”

Visual Capitalist – The Jump from Millionaire to Billionaire, and How Long That Takes – Jeff Desjardins 4/4

WSJ – Even After a Tumble, the Stock Market’s Price Isn’t Right – Spencer Jakab 4/4

WSJ – At Quarter End, Tesla Suddenly Got Busy – Michael Rapoport 4/4

Markets / Economy

howmuch.net – How Vulnerable is Each State to a Trade War – Raul 3/27

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: LendingTree – Home Mortgage Purchase APR by Credit Score Range 4/5

Energy

FT – Alphabet becomes biggest corporate renewable energy buyer in US – Leslie Hook 4/4

  • “Alphabet bought enough renewable energy last year to match the power needs of all its data centers and global operations, making it the biggest corporate buyer of renewable power in the US.”
  • “The company has secured 3GW of renewable energy, making it the largest corporate buyer of renewable power, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while Amazon and Apple are in second and third place.”
  • “Amazon has pledged that its cloud computing business will be 50% matched by renewables in 2017, while Apple has promised to source four gigawatts of renewable power by 2020, and has been trying to reduce the emission footprint of its supply chain.”

Finance

WSJ – Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square Faces Wave of Investor Redemptions – David Benoit 4/5

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Barchart.com – Bitcoin 4/4

Automotive

WSJ – Car Makers Step Back From Cars – Mike Colias and Christina Rogers 4/4

  • “GM to stop production of the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford plans to end U.S. sales of Fiesta and Taurus amid Detroit’s broader exodus from passenger cars.”

China

Reuters – China’s HNA to sell some or all of $6.3 billion Hilton stake – Ankit Ajmera and Koh Gui 4/5

 

April 4, 2018

Perspective

FT – Naspers trims Tencent stake with $10bn share sale – Joseph Cotterill and Louise Lucas 3/22

  • “Naspers, the South African media company that is one of the biggest shareholders in Tencent, said that it would sell down part of its stake in the Chinese technology giant for the first time in almost two decades.”
  • “In a statement on Thursday, Naspers said that it would sell stock worth more than $10bn, equivalent to 2% of the shares in Asia’s biggest company by market capitalization, to fund investments elsewhere.”
  • “The transaction would reduce Naspers’ stake in Tencent, the world’s biggest gaming company and the owner of China’s WeChat and QQ social networks, from 33% to 31%.”
  • “Naspers added that it did not plan to sell any more of its Tencent shares for at least the next three years.”
  • “But even Thursday’s limited sell down is a landmark for what has been one of the most successful venture capital investments in history, and comes as Hong Kong-listed Tencent shifts strategy after years of explosive growth.”
  • Naspers’ investment of $32m in Tencent in 2001, now worth $175bn, powered its rise from a publisher and pay-TV operator to Africa’s biggest company by market capitalization.”
  • Approximately a 65.91% compound growth rate over 17 years. How do you like them apples?

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Forbes – Canadian Real Estabe Bubble Blowing Up North – Bob Haber 4/2

  • “According to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, single detached homes in Vancouver (on a local currency basis) have risen from approximately $400K CAD to $1.75 million CAD since 2002. That’s a 337% increase in 15 years. With incredibly fast rising prices, a large portion of the population is engaged in real estate brokerage, real estate development, construction, renovations, and everything that goes along with that. The echoes of Phoenix, Las Vegas, and San Diego from 2006 cannot be ignored.”
  • “…Taxation and interest rates are going higher. Cap rates on rentals or commercial properties are shockingly low (think 1% to 3% in most circumstances). In fact, Canada’s price-to-rent ratios are now well above what they were in the U.S. during the 2006 housing debacle. According to the Bank of Canada, 47% of Canada’s mortgages will reset in the next 12 months. To put that in perspective, a five-year fixed mortgage rate in Canada averages approximately 5.14%. This is 11% higher versus the 4.64% that it averaged for most of the past 2 years.”

NYT – Teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky Walk Out: ‘It Really Is a Wildfire’ – Dana Goldstein 4/2

Markets / Economy

engadget – New York approves surcharge for Uber and Lyft rides in Manhattan – David Lumb 4/2

  • “As part of the budget that New York lawmakers passed last Friday, ride-hailing services and taxis face a new fee if they drive in Manhattan. These aren’t nickel-and-dime increases, either: Uber, Lyft and the like face a $2.75 charge for each ride, taxis get a $2.50 increase and group ride services like Via and uberPOOL will be charged $0.75 per customer. It’s meant to combat congestion and help fund subway repair and improvements, providing an expected $400 million per year going forward for the MTA.”
  • “Unsurprisingly, it’s already catching flak from customers and from taxi drivers, who have become far outnumbered by ride-sharing cars in the last several years. Of the 103,000 vehicles for hire in NYC, 65,000 are driven by Uber contractors alone, while taxis remain capped by law at 13,600, The New York Times reported. As a result, average traffic in Manhattan has slowed from 6.5 miles per hour to 4.7.”
  • “Other cities have enacted their own surcharges for ride-hailing services in recent years, but they are far lower than those New York just passed. Seattle instated a $0.24 charge for each trip in 2014, Portland, OR agreed to levy a $0.50 fee per customer in 2016, both of which funnel money collected toward regulating ride-sharing services. Chicago passed one in 2014 that will reach $0.65 this year and directs part of the funds raised toward public transit, much like New York’s will.”

FT – Walmart extends money transfer operation to 200 countries – Anna Nicolaou and Ben McLannahan 4/2

  • “Walmart is expanding its money transfer operation to 200 countries, the latest move in the retail giant’s slow but steady push into financial services.”
  • “Through the new scheme, people will be able to deliver money from Walmart’s nearly 5,000 US stores to locations abroad within 10 minutes, the company said.” 
  • “Arkansas-based Walmart first unveiled a money transfer service four years ago, allowing customers to send funds between its stores, and aiming to reach the “underbanked” — about 27% of Americans have limited access to traditional banking, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Walmart claims it has saved customers $700m in fees because it charges cheaper rates.” 
  • “The retailer has partnered with MoneyGram, one of the big wire transfer groups, to expand globally this month. The service will allow US residents to send money to countries such as Mexico, which received nearly $30bn in remittances last year, according to Mexico’s central bank.”
  • “Walmart’s push into money transfers comes a few months after it announced it was partnering with PayActiv and Even, two financial-technology firms, to offer its 1.4m US employees tools for money management and on-demand access to their earned wages.”
  • “The moves suggest the retailer may see itself as a partner of the big financial services companies rather than a direct rival going head to head with basic products such as checking accounts or credit cards.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Political Calculations – Why Bad News for Big Tech Is Bad for Stocks 3/29

WSJ – Daily Shot: SPDR Americas – Equity Geographical Flows 4/3

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – Drawdown Durations 4/3

Real Estate

FT – Manhattan apartment sales plunge – Lindsay Fortado 4/2

  • “The number of co-op and condominium sales in Manhattan fell nearly 25% during the first quarter compared to the same period last year, according to new research by Miller Samuel real estate appraisers and Douglas Elliman real estate brokers.”
  • “It was the largest annual decline in sales in nine years, according to the report.”
  • “The average sale price across Manhattan fell by 8.1% from the year-earlier quarter, and the average price per square foot also recorded a sharp decline, falling by 18.5% to $1,697.”
  • “Luxury apartment sales, considered the most expensive 10% of all properties, were hit particularly hard, as were new developments.”
  • “The average sales price of a luxury apartment fell 15.1%, down from $9.36m in the first quarter of 2017 to $7.94m in the first quarter of this year, and the number of sales was down 24.1%. The number of newly built apartments that went into contract fell 54%.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Black Knight – Mortgage Equity 4/3

  • “Turning to consumer credit, how much borrowing capacity do households have against their homes? The answer is $5.4 trillion. $2.8 trillion of that capacity is with borrowers who have the highest credit scores.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Black Knight – Hurricane-related mortgage delinquencies in Florida and Puerto Rico 4/3

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – Countries with Negative-Yielding Bonds 4/3

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Bloomberg – The Crypto Hedge-Fund Bubble Is Starting to Deflate – Olga Kharif 4/2

Tech

FT – Why south-east Asia’s politics are proving  problem for Facebook – John Reed and Hannah Kuchler 4/2

  • “One of the company’s fastest-growing markets is also one of its most complex where hate speech and political manipulation are making it hard to remain neutral.”

China

FT – China moves its factories back to the countryside – Emily Feng 4/2

  • “After decades of urbanization and rural neglect, China’s Communist party is seeking to revitalize the countryside, where wages and standards of living have stagnated compared with those of big cities.”

FT – Chinese developers seek piece of booming education market – Emily Feng 4/2

  • “When China’s premier Li Keqiang recently vowed progress on a property tax intended to rein in home prices, it signaled to the country’s real estate developers that more than a decade of double-digit growth would soon end.”
  • “Facing slowing growth in their core business, top developers are betting on the education market, building and operating international schools for tens of thousands of students.”
  • “The country’s three biggest property developers — Country Garden, Evergrande and Vanke — have seen sales slow in the first quarter of this year, according to an industry ranking compiled by research agency China Real Estate Information Corp. Meanwhile, home price growth has dipped following a clampdown on lending and property speculation.”
  • “That has already made a dent in developers’ financials. Dalian Wanda reported a revenue drop of almost 11% in 2017 while other residential developers are girding for longer-term impact. JPMorgan Chase has forecast as much as a 6% decline in mainland Chinese home sales this year.
  • “Now developers are ‘looking at other sectors in which to invest in order to get the returns that they need to continue growth’, says John Mortensen, regional director of real estate investment and management company JLL, which often works with universities.”
  • “Meanwhile, China’s education market is booming. The sector will grow from Rmb1.64tn ($261bn) in revenue in 2015 to Rmb2.9tn ($461bn) in 2020, according to Deloitte, with particularly high demand for English-language curriculums.”
  • “Amid fierce competition to get into good universities at home and overseas, proximity to a good school is often a key factor in determining Chinese property prices. A 2012 study of Shanghai housing found that prices were more than 40% higher in top-rated school districts.”
  • “That has prompted residential developers to build new complexes with schools within walking distance of apartments, hiring or building in-house education teams to recruit teachers and design bilingual curriculums.”
  • “Guangzhou-based Country Garden, China’s top residential developer by sales, is now also among the country’s biggest private education providers. Its education subsidiary, Bright Scholar, runs 52 bilingual international schools that each offer a full education from kindergarten to secondary school. Bright Scholar listed on the New York Stock Exchange last year, raising more than $150m.”
  • “Vanke Group, China’s second biggest residential developer by sales, set up its own education group in 2015 as part of a strategic shift aimed at offering a ‘full ecology’ to families.”
  • “Dalian Wanda is another property group with a growing interest in schools — its children’s education and entertainment group almost tripled its sales last year even as the group’s total revenues fell more than 10%.”

India

NYT – Jeweler to the Stars Flees as India Seethes Over Bank Fraud – Maria Abi-Habib 4/3

  • “About a week after Mr. Modi grinned for the cameras with the prime minister, a state-run Indian bank told regulators that it had found nearly $1.8 billion in fraudulent transactions linked to the jeweler’s account. Indian officials now accuse Mr. Modi, his family and business associates of assembling a global empire with nearly $3 billion in money obtained illegally, mostly from government-run banks. He denies wrongdoing.”
  • “For many Indians, the allegations against Mr. Modi further cement the notion that taxpayer-owned banks are footing the bill for the lavish lifestyles of a rising elite. That idea has particular resonance in a country where stark poverty — India is home to a third of the world’s poorest people — remains dire.”
  • “Just a decade ago, during the global financial crisis, Indian lenders were held up as a bastion of stability. Today, they are considered more vulnerable than those in other leading emerging markets, mostly because state-controlled lenders dominate the sector, according to the International Monetary Fund.”
  • “Of the $6.5 billion in fraudulent loans that have hit the industry over the past two years, the most egregious cases were at government-owned banks, according to figures released by Parliament. Executives at those lenders are more likely to be appointed for their political connections than for their talent, financial analysts say.”

Russia

FT – Russia plans ‘bad bank’ for $19bn in toxic assets – Max Seddon 4/2

  • “Russia’s central bank is to create a ‘bad bank’ to ringfence Rbs1.1tn ($19bn) in toxic assets from three nationalized top-10 lenders, vastly increasing the total bill for bailing them out.” 
  • “Vasily Pozdyshev, a deputy central bank governor, told Russian news agencies on Monday that the central bank would transfer assets from three collapsed banks into Trust, another failed lender.” 
  • “Taxpayers are footing the largest bank rescue bill in Russia’s history to fund the central bank’s takeover of three privately held banks last year to stave off a collapse in the sector.”
  • “The largest of them, Otkritie, was Russia’s biggest privately held bank by assets until it was nationalized in August. The central bank then nationalized B & N Bank, another top-10 lender, and Promsvyazbank to stop them from going under.” 
  • “Under Ms Nabiullina (Elvira Nabiullina, Russian central bank governor), the central bank is conducting an unprecedented clear-up of the sector under which it has wound down more than 300 banks since 2013. To rescue the three top-10 lenders, however, Ms Nabiullina had to create a separate bailout mechanism that allowed the central bank to take direct stakes in their capital.” 

FT – Russia’s $55bn pipeline gamble on China’s demand for gas – Henry Foy 4/2

  • “The pipeline is Russia’s most ambitious, costly and geopolitically critical energy project since the fall of the Soviet Union, and represents a $55bn bet on uncharted territory by the world’s biggest gas company.”
  • “Russia’s first eastern pipeline is the most striking physical manifestation of President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic pivot towards China amid rapidly worsening relations with the west. It is the biggest and most critical element in a suite of energy deals, funding packages and asset sales that seek to warm a once frosty relationship.”
  • “For Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas export monopoly behind the pipeline, the mega-project is the largest and most expensive in its history. When the taps are switched on in December 2019, the world’s largest gas exporter will be connected for the first time with its largest energy importer.”

March 28, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg Gadfly – Users Built Facebook’s Empire, and They Can Crumble It – Nir Kaissar 3/26

FT – It is Venezuela’s crisis that is driving the oil price higher – Nick Butler 3/25

  • “While the Maduro-military alliance holds, output is likely to fall further.”

NYT – Live in a Drainpipe? Five Extreme Ideas to Solve Hong Kong’s Housing Crisis – Austin Ramzy 3/26

NYT – Repeal the Second Amendment – John Paul Stevens (retired associate justice of US Supreme Court) 3/27

NYT – New Leadership Has Not Changed Uber – Steven Hill 3/26

  • “The problem with Uber was never that the chief executive had created a thuggish ‘Game of Thrones’-type culture, as Susan Fowler, an engineer, described it in a blog post. The problem was, and still is, Uber’s business model: Its modus operandi is to subsidize fares and flood streets with its cars to achieve a transportation monopoly. In city after city, this has led to huge increases in traffic congestion, increased carbon emissions and the undermining of public transportation.”
  • Most customers who love Uber don’t realize that the company subsidizes the cost of many rides. This is likely a major factor in Uber’s annual losses surging from 2.8 billion in 2016 to $4.5 billion in 2017. This seemingly nonsensical approach is actually Uber’s effort to use its deep pockets to mount a predatory price war and shut out the competition. That competition is not only taxis and other ride-sharing companies, but public transportation.”
  • Ridership on public transportation is down in nearly every major American city, including New York City (which recorded its first ridership dip since 2009). This is hurting the revenue that public transportation needs to sustain itself. Uber passengers and public transportation users alike now find themselves stuck in heavy traffic for far longer because of what’s been called ‘Uber congestion.’ In Manhattan, there are five times as many ridesharing vehicles as yellow taxis, which has caused average speeds to decline by 15% compared with 2010, before Uber.
  • “Ride-sharing services could potentially add something positive to our transportation options, but only if they are regulated properly.”
  • “First, regulators should limit the number of ride-sharing cars. Traditional taxis already have a sensible limit to minimize congestion. A balance must be found between having enough taxi-type vehicles but not so many that the streets are choked with traffic. Fix NYC, a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, has called for all Ubers, Lyfts and taxis to be outfitted with GPS technology to track congestion and to charge a fee on for-hire vehicles that could help reduce traffic and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for public transportation.”
  • “Second, Uber should be prohibited from subsidizing its fares. It should be required to charge at least the true cost of each ride. If Uber refuses, a ‘fairness fee’ should be added to each fare.”
  • “Third, ride-sharing companies and their vehicles should be required to follow the same laws as traditional taxis, especially in terms of background checks for drivers and insurance requirements.”
  • “Fourth, Uber should be required to share its data with regulators, including information about its drivers and their contact information, so that members of this ‘distributed work force’ can more easily contact one another and organize collectively if they choose.”
  • “Finally, regulations should ensure that Uber treats its drivers fairly. Mr. Khosrowshahi asserts that drivers’ wages are adequate, but according to one study, more than half of Uber drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state, and some even lose money once the costs of driving are taken into account. That helps explain why, according to Uber’s own internal study, half of its drivers leave after a year.”

WSJ – Turkey Is the One to Watch for Emerging Markets Risk – Richard Barley 3/26

WSJ – How a Tiny Latvian Bank Became a Haven for the World’s Dirty Money – Drew Hinshaw, Patricia Kowsmann, and Ian Talley 3/26

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Libor’s Rise Accelerates, Squeezing Short-Term Borrowers – Ben Eisen and Chelsey Dulaney 3/27

  • “The three-month London interbank offered rate climbed to 2.29% in the U.S. on Monday, its highest since November 2008. Libor measures the cost for banks to lend to one another and is used to set interest rates on roughly $200 trillion in dollar-based financial contracts globally, from corporate loans to home mortgages.”
  • “Libor has been rising for the last 2½ years as the Federal Reserve lifts its key policy rate, but recently the pace has picked up. It has climbed nearly a full percentage point in the last six months—outpacing the Fed—and could rise further with the approaching end of the quarter, typically a time of elevated demand for short-term funds in the banking sector, analysts say.”
  • “Demand for dollars at the end of the first quarter could send Libor up an additional 0.2 percentage point in the coming days, market analysts say, as investors rebalance their portfolios and banks rein in their balance sheets. The end of March also marks the finish of Japan’s fiscal year, potentially compounding the moves as big investors bring money back to Japan.”
  • “Libor has already sprinted ahead of the rates indicated by central bank policies, an acceleration that has baffled economists and traders. That widening gap has alarmed those who watch it as a signal of stress in the financial system. Others have pinned it on a series of technical factors, such as rising short-term debt sales by the U.S. government and new corporate tax policies.”
  • “Other markets that can be tapped for dollars—including through the swaps market and liquidity lines maintained by global central banks—aren’t yet showing a big dollar squeeze.”

Real Estate

The Big Picture – WeWork: Manhattan’s 2nd-biggest Private Office Tenant – Barry Ritholtz 3/27

FT – House prices falling in two-fifths of London postcodes – James Pickford 3/26

  • “House prices are falling in two out of five London postcodes, according to research that underlines the growing divergence between prices in southern English cities and those elsewhere in the UK.”
  • “The average annual rate of price growth in the capital has slowed to 1%, down sharply from 4.3% a year ago, meaning it is at its lowest level since August 2011, according to research by Hometrack, a housing market analyst. This stands in contrast to UK-wide average house price growth of 5.2% in the year to February 2018, up from 4% a year ago.”
  • “Prices are under greatest pressure in central London, where owners of the most expensive types of property began cutting prices in 2015 responding to the impact of higher taxes. In the past year, however, the trend has deepened in areas beyond the prime zones of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. The boroughs that saw the greatest drop in value were the City of London, Camden, Southwark, Islington and Wandsworth, according to Hometrack’s research.”
  • “Hometrack is predicting that the number of areas of the capital experiencing falling house prices will multiply during this year as trapped sellers reduce their asking prices to drive through transactions. ‘The net result will be a negative rate of headline price growth for London by the middle of 2018,’ the research said.”
  • “Outside southern England, house prices are more likely to be rising, in some places at a substantial pace. Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester are adding more than 7% a year to their average house price, Hometrack found, with Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield pegging rises of 6% or more.”
  • “The laggards in the 20-city index were Aberdeen (down by 7.7%), Cambridge (down by 1.5%) and Oxford (up by just 0.5%).”

NYT – Grocery Wars Turn Small Chains Into Battlefield Casualties – Michael Corkery 3/26

WSJ – Homeowners Ditch Refinancings as Mortgage Rates Rise – Christina Rexrode 3/26

  • “Last year, 37% of mortgage-origination volume was because of refinancings, according to industry research group Inside Mortgage Finance. That is the smallest proportion since 1995, and the number of refinancings is widely expected to shrink again this year. In 2012, refinancings were 72% of originations.”
  • “While purchase activity has climbed steadily from a post-financial-crisis nadir in 2011, growth in 2017 wasn’t enough to offset a $366 billion decline in refinancing activity. The result: The overall mortgage market fell around 12%, to $1.8 trillion, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.”
  • “What’s more, there are fewer homeowners eligible to refinance because of rising rates. The number of borrowers who could benefit from a refinancing is down about 37% from the end of last year, estimates Black Knight Inc., a mortgage-data and technology firm. At 2.67 million potential borrowers, this group is at its smallest since 2008.”
  • “Home-purchase activity has so far been holding up. Sales of previously owned homes in February rose 1.1% from a year earlier, countering worries that a downturn the previous month signaled a peak for the market.”
  • “Still, rising interest rates, a shortage of housing inventory and higher home prices are all long-term threats to purchase activity.”
  • “For refinancings, rising rates are a more immediate worry. Freddie Mac said last week that the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.45%, up from 3.95% at the beginning of the year.”
  • “The Mortgage Bankers Association expects mortgage-purchase volume to grow about 5% in 2018 but refinancing volume to drop 27%. Refinance applications fell 5% in the week ended March 16 from the prior one, according to the group.”

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Bloomberg – Fewer Americans Hold Cryptocurrencies Than You Probably Think – Olga Kharif 3/16

  • “More than 90% of American adults don’t own cryptocurrencies – and most have a lot of concerns about the coins, a new survey from Finder found.”

Fishing

Bloomberg – Maine’s Lobster Tide Might Be Ebbing – Justin Fox 3/23

  • “The numbers came in earlier this month on Maine’s 2017 lobster harvest. By historical standards, the 110.8 million-pound, $434 million haul was pretty spectacular. But it was a lot lower than 2016’s 132.5 million-pound, $540 million record, and it was another sign that the Great Lobster Boom that has surprised and delighted Maine’s lobster fishermen since the 1990s — and brought lobster rolls to diners from coast to coast — may be giving way to … something else.”
  • “The lobster boom does not seem to be the result of overfishing; Maine’s lobster fishermen figured out a set of rules decades ago that appear to allow them to manage the catch sustainably. There are just lots and lots more lobsters off the coast of Maine than there used to be. Why? In a column last spring, I listed four reasons that I’d heard during a trip to Maine:”
    • “Warmer temperatures in the Gulf of Maine.”
    • “A collapse in the population of cod, which eat young lobsters.”
    • “Reduced incidence of a lobster disease called gaffkemia.”
    • “Increased effort and efficiency on the part of lobstermen, who go farther offshore and can haul in more traps in a day than they used to.”
  • “Given how quickly the lobster harvests grew, though, especially from 2007 through 2012, it’s hard not to wonder whether they might not eventually collapse. They already have in several states farther down the Atlantic coast. Lobster landings were still on the rise as of 2016 (data aren’t available yet for 2017) in New Hampshire and Massachusetts but peaked in Rhode Island in 1999, Connecticut in 1998, New York in 1996 and New Jersey in 1990.”
  • “So that’s some evidence for the warming-ocean-temperatures theory of the lobster boom. This would imply that eventually even the oceans off Maine will get too warm, although it doesn’t give much of a hint as to when.”
  • Canada has been benefiting as well.

 

March 22, 2018

Perspective

NYT – The Population Slowdown in the Outer Suburbs of the East and Midwest – Robert Gebeloff 3/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Headline Risk – Ben Carlson 3/21

Bloomberg Gadfly – The Saudi Aramco IPO Math Problem: Cash > Barrels – Liam Denning 3/15

  • “Getting to a $2 trillion valuation requires some heroic assumptions.”

Bloomberg View – Before You #DeleteFacebook, Try Taking Control – Barry Ritholtz 3/21

  • “A precept from the 1970s, said originally about television (back when TV was free), is applicable to technology and media: If you are not paying for a product, then you are the product.”

FT – Hard-headed deterrence is the antidote to Putin’s poison – Philip Stephens 3/14

FT – The low-paid workers cleaning up the worst horrors of the internet – Gillian Tett 3/16

  • “A new film (The Cleaners) tracks outsourced workers in grim little cubicles watching the depravity that exists online.”

NYT – Trump Hacked the Media Right Before Our Eyes – Ross Douthat 3/21

  • “…the business model of our news channels both assumes and heightens polarization, and that it was ripe for exploitation by a demagogue who was also a celebrity.”

NYT – Fox News Analyst Quits, Calling Network a ‘Propaganda Machine’ – Michael M. Grynbaum 3/20

NYT – Toys ‘R’ Us Case Is Test of Private Equity in Age of Amazon – Michael Corkery 3/15

Pragmatic Capitalism – Why are Money Managers Paid so Much? – Cullen Roche 3/20

  • “Salesmanship. The answer is salesmanship. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that asset management is mostly about selling the hope of superior returns in exchange for the guarantee of high fees.  The problem for the average person is that they don’t actually know enough about the asset management business to quantify whether their investment manager is worth the fees they pay. And in fairness, a big part of that is due to the fact that you have to compare yourself to a counterfactual that doesn’t exist since paying 1.6% per year to invest in a crappy active mutual fund is probably a better result than sitting in cash all the time because you’re too scared to get fully invested. Investment managers, as expensive as they are, at least keep you in the game and you need to be in the game to score any goals.”

Rational Radical – Royal commission shatters housing bubble façade – Matt Ellis 3/21

  • Commentary on the Australian Housing market (read bubble)

The Verge – China will ban people with poor ‘social credit’ from planes and trains – Sean O’Kane 3/16

  • “Starting in May, Chinese citizens who rank low on the country’s burgeoning ‘social credit’ system will be in danger of being banned from buying plane or train tickets for up to a year, according to statements recently released by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.”
  • “With the social credit system, the Chinese government rates citizens based on things like criminal behavior and financial misdeeds, but also on what they buy, say, and do. Those with low ‘scores’ have to deal with penalties and restrictions. China has been working towards rolling out a full version of the system by 2020, but some early versions of it are already in place.”
  • “The new travel restrictions are the latest addition to this growing patchwork of social engineering, which has already imposed punishments on more than seven million citizens. And there’s a broad range when it comes to who can be flagged. Citizens who have spread ‘false information about terrorism,’ caused ‘trouble’ on flights, used expired tickets, or were caught smoking on trains could all be banned, according to Reuters.”

Wolf Street – Then Why Is Anyone STILL on Facebook? – Wolf Richter 3/20

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Nomura – Valuations of FANG-type stocks 3/20

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bianco Research – Breaking Down US Household Retirement Assets 3/21

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Venezuelan Crude Oil Output 2/28

Finance

FT – John Paulson takes an axe to his struggling hedge fund – Robin Wigglesworth 3/16

  • “Struggling hedge fund magnate John Paulson has taken an axe to his once-imperious firm, with several top executives departing in a ‘rightsizing’ this week after a string of heavy losses.”
  • “Mr Paulson rose to fame after the crisis, when Paulson & Co made billions of dollars from predicting the US housing crisis and astute bets on complex credit derivatives. The hedge fund firm’s assets under management hit a peak of $38bn in 2011.”
  • “But since then Paulson & Co has suffered a string of losses across most of its hedge funds, with its flagship merger arbitrage fund — Mr Paulson’s specialty — losing 18.1% and 23% in 2016 and 2017, respectively, according to the performance update of a mirror fund offered by Schroders.”
  • “Paulson & Co’s assets have now shrunk to about $9bn, of which two-thirds is Mr Paulson’s own money, and this week the hedge fund manager let a string of employees go.”
  • “Since making one of the biggest financial hauls in the industry’s history — Mr Paulson personally made almost $4bn from the financial crisis — the firm has made a series of ill-fated investments, such as on healthcare stocks, banks and gold and by betting against German bonds.”
  • “The most high-profile recent mis-step was a big bet on drug maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Paulson & Co is the drug maker’s single biggest shareholder, but the stock has tumbled from a high of $262.50 in 2015 to just $16.80 this week — a loss of more than 93% over the period.”
  • “Paulson & Co’s biggest public holdings, according to regulatory filings, are pharma companies Mylan, Shire, Valeant and Allergan, as well as an exchange-traded fund that tracks the price of gold. The gold ETF has lost about 32% of its value since the hedge fund’s investment peaked at $4.6bn in 2011.”

Health / Medicine

WSJ – Daily Shot: AEI – Geographic Variation in the Cost of the Opioid Crisis – Alex Brill 3/20

Other Interesting Links

FT – Wine’s Wild West: a tasting tour of Arizona – Horatia Harrod 3/16

  • “In Scottsdale’s bars and out on the state’s grassy uplands, an industry wiped out by Prohibition is being revived.”

February 6, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

Economist – Pyramid schemes cause huge social harm in China 2/3

  • “The authorities call them ‘business cults’. Tens of millions of people are ensnared in these pyramid schemes that use cult-like techniques to brainwash their targets and bilk them out of their money.”
  • “Many countries suffer from Ponzi schemes, which typically sell financial products offering extravagant rewards. They pay old investors out of new deposits, which means their liabilities exceed their assets; when recruitment falters, the schemes collapse. China is no exception. In 2016 it closed down Ezubao, a multi-billion-dollar scam that had drawn in more than 900,000 investors. By number of victims, it was the world’s largest such fraud.”
  • “Chinese pyramid schemes commonly practice ‘multi-level marketing’ (MLM), a system whereby a salesperson earns money not just by selling a company’s goods but also from commissions on sales made by others, whom the first salesperson has recruited. People often earn more by recruiting others than from their own sales. Since 1998 China has banned the use of such methods, although it does allow some, mostly foreign, MLM companies to do business in China as ‘direct sellers’. This involves recruiting people to sell products at work or at home.”
  • “The distinguishing feature of the Chinese scams is the way they combine pyramid-type operations with cult-like brainwashing.”
  • “Many perfectly legal companies try to boost morale by getting staff to sing company songs or organizing awaydays. China’s business cults, however, combine such techniques with violence.”
  • “Business cults seem to be growing. In the first nine months of 2017 the police brought cases against almost 6,000 of them, twice as many as in the whole of 2016 and three times the average annual number in 2005-15. This was just scratching the surface. In July 2017 the police arrested 230 leaders of Shan Xin Hui, a scheme that was launched in May 2016 and had an estimated 5m investors just 15 months later. In August 2017, after the government launched its campaign against ‘diehard scams’, police in the southern port of Beihai, Guangxi province, arrested 1,200 people for defrauding victims of 1.5bn yuan ($223m). One scheme in Guangxi, known as 1040 Project, was reckoned to have fleeced its targets of 600m yuan.”
  • “The scale of the scams worries the government. Their cultish features make it even more anxious. The Communist Party worries about any social organization that it does not control. Cults are especially worrisome because religious and quasi-religious activities give their followers a focus of loyalty that competes with the party.”
  • “The authorities will find it hard to curb the scams for three main reasons. First, in order to encourage cheap loans for industry, the central bank keeps interest rates low. For years they were negative, i.e, below inflation. That built up demand among China’s savers for better returns. With gross savings equal to just under half of GDP, it is not surprising that some of that pool of money should be attracted to schemes promising remarkable dividends.”
  • “Second, it is often hard for consumers to spot frauds. In 2005 China legalized direct selling, arguing that there was a distinction between that practice and the way that Ponzi schemes operate. But Qiao Xinsheng of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law argues that the difference is often ‘blurred’ in the eyes of the public. Scammers can easily pass them themselves off as legitimate. Dodgy companies exploit government propaganda in order to pretend they have official status. For example, they may claim to be ‘new era’ companies, borrowing a catchphrase of China’s president, Xi Jinping.”
  • “Third, argues Mr Li, business cults manipulate traditional attachments to kin. Companies in America often appeal to individual ambition, promising to show investors how to make money for themselves. Those in China offer to help the family, or a wider group. Shan Xin Hui literally means Kind Heart Exchange. It purported to be a charity, offering higher returns to poor investors than to rich ones. (In reality everyone got scammed.) Business cults rely on one family member to recruit another, and upon the obligation that relatives feel to trust each other. This helps explain why investors who have lost life savings continue to support the companies that defrauded them.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – Why sub-zero interest rates are neither unfair nor unnatural – Free exchange 2/3

NYT – Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built – Nellie Bowles 2/4

NYT – Amazon Asked for Patience. Remarkably, Wall Street Complied. – Michael Corkery and Nick Wingfield 2/4

  • “In a business environment that demands, and rewards, quarterly profits and short-term strategic thinking, Amazon showed extraordinary resolve in focusing on long-term goals, somehow persuading investors to go along.”
  • “Over its first decade in existence, including long stretches where it consistently reported losses, Amazon enjoyed a luxury afforded few companies: leeway.”
  • “Amazon has reported an annual profit in only 13 of the 21 years that it has operated as a publicly traded company, according to FactSet, a financial data firm.”
  • “And its profit margins, already low by some measures, have fluctuated from year to year — hardly moving in the straight upward line that Wall Street usually likes to see.”
  • “Yet investors have rewarded Amazon for plowing its profits back into growing its businesses, whether in online retail, cloud computing or, most recently, in grocery stores, with the acquisition of Whole Foods Market.”

Vanity Fair – Twitter’s Dirty Secret – Nick Bilton 2/2

  • “Twitter knew about all its fake followers, and always has – eliminating just enough bots to make it seem like they care, but not enough that it would affect the perceived number of active users on the platform.”

WSJ – China Shows How It Will Fight a Trade War – Nathaniel Taplin 2/5

  • “U.S. agriculture will be in China’s crosshairs if a trade war erupts.”

Real Estate

The Real Deal – Everything must go: Chinese investors sell off their foreign RE holdings – Erin Hudson 2/3

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bankrate.com US 30-Yr Fixed Rate Mortgage Rate 2/2

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Home Equity Loans 2/5

  • “Home equity loan balances continue to slip as Americans remain uneasy tapping this form of credit.”

Finance

Reuters – JGBs pare losses as Bank of Japan offers “unlimited” buying to curb rising yields – Hideyuki Sano 2/1

WSJ – What Markets Are Really Telling Us About Higher Rates – Richard Barley 2/5

  • “Companies are paying slightly more to borrow, but higher risk-free yields haven’t fed through fully. This is significant.”
  • “…the ECB, is still at play. The ECB’s bond-buying actions have a twist: in the first four weeks of January, corporate purchases as a share of government purchases stood at 27%, versus 11.5% when the program was running full-tilt at €80 billion a month, according to Deutsche Bank . In other words, corporates are still getting decent support from ECB purchases.”
  • “One snag is that corporate-bond spreads are already so tight there is little room for error. In Europe, the investment-grade ICE BofAML corporate index yield premium over government bonds is just 0.74 percentage points, its lowest level since August 2007.”
  • “Investors should watch closely if spreads do widen significantly. It would mean either companies are making riskier, top-of-market types of bets or investors are getting concerned about growth and underlying cash flows. For now, the message from higher interest rates is, don’t sweat it.”

Cryptocurrency

FT – ‘Crypto crazy’ Japanese mystified by virtual heist – Leo Lewis and Robin Harding 2/2

  • “The $500m theft of XEM coins by an anonymous hacker is threatening the country’s faith in cryptocurrencies.”

FT – Bitcoin investors find tax demands are not virtual – Ben McLannahan and Vanessa Houlder 2/4

  • “Cryptocurrency traders in many jurisdictions may be liable for hefty capital gains tax bills.”

NYT – Making a Crypto Utopia in Puerto Rico – Nellie Bowles 2/2

Reuters – Bitcoin extends slide, falls below $7,000 – Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss 2/5

  • “Digital currency bitcoin BTC=BTSP fell more than 15% on Monday to a nearly three-month low amid a slew of concerns ranging from a global regulatory clampdown to a ban on using credit cards to buy bitcoin by British and U.S. banks.”
  • “On the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, bitcoin fell as low as $6,853.53 in early afternoon trading in New York. That marked a fall of more than half from a peak of almost $20,000 hit in December.”
  • “Bitcoin has fallen in six of the last eight trading session.”
  • “The currency, which surged more than 1,300% last year, has lost about half its value so far in 2018, as more governments and banks signal their intention for a regulatory crackdown. Last week bitcoin suffered its worst weekly performance since 2013.”

Tech

NYT – Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built – Nellie Bowles 2/4

Health / Medicine

Economist – A revolution in health care is coming – Leaders 2/1

Asia – excluding China and Japan

WSJ – Samsung Heir Lee Jae-yong Freed From Prison by Appeals Court – Eun-Young Jeong 2/5

China

The Sydney Morning Herald – China said to mull legal gambling on Hainan – Keith Zhai and Daniela Wei 2/4

India

Bloomberg Businessweek – India’s Phantom Flats Leave Homebuyers’ Dreams in Tatters – Pooja Thakur Mahrotri, Upmanyu Trivedi, and Dhwani Pandya 1/30

  • “Across the metropolitan area that surrounds New Delhi, a string of real-estate developers including Unitech, Jaypee Infratech Ltd. and Amrapali Group have been dragged to court by irate homeowners who shelled out payments for apartments that have yet to be completed. Many of these firms took money from a stream of buyers. As sales slumped and the once red-hot market cooled, their businesses unraveled — leaving them grappling with debt.”
  • “The fallouts from the shakeup in the $126 billion property market are reverberating across companies, markets and the broader economy. Unitech, once India’s largest developer, has plunged to a fraction of its previous valuation. Jaypee is in insolvency court. State-owned banks — the lifeblood of the economy — are grappling with a pile up of bad loans from the industry. Indian families, who have long poured their life savings into real estate, are now pulling back.”
  • “Indian real-estate businesses expanded as long as firm were able to draw new buyers for planned projects. But as the economy slowed and demand softened, many firms were left short of cash and struggling to manage their debt. The downturn only worsened last year after the government tightened regulations to protect homebuyers and separately introduced a new services tax across all industries. India’s residential sector appears to have shrunk to a fraction of its size in less than a decade, according to Shishir Baijal, managing director of Knight Frank India.”
  • “Prices dropped 3% on average across the top six cities, according to Knight Frank, with some declining as much as 15% after accounting for developer discounts. And in the capital region, last year’s prices were 9% below their 2015 peak. The outlook remains bleak.”
  • “The property developers are adding to a pile-up of bad loans in India’s banking sector, which is already struggling to manage a spike in stressed assets across several industries.”
  • “India’s government has stepped in to regulate the real-estate industry with new laws, including one that forces developers to use at least 70% of sale proceeds to complete residential projects, rather than funnel money to different jobs. Other measures prevent them from pre-selling apartments before all building approvals are obtained.”
  • “The pain hasn’t been restricted to the North. India’s financial capital, Mumbai, last year witnessed a decline in residential property prices for the first time in a decade. New residential launches across eight Indian cities dropped 41% last year and were down 78% from their peak in 2010, Knight Frank data show.”

South America

Bloomberg Businessweek – Venezuelan Pirates Rule the Most Lawless Market on Earth – Jonathan Franklin 1/30

Economist – China moves into Latin America – Bello 2/1

  • “The Asian giant is taking advantage of other powers’ lack of interest in the region.”

January 26, 2018

Perspective

statista – Is Airbnb Really Cheaper Than A Hotel Room? – Niall McCarthy 1/24

Visual Capitalist: TitleMax – A Decade of Grocery Prices for 30 Common Items – Jeff Desjardins 1/24

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Dalio Says Bonds Face Biggest Bear Market in Almost 40 Years – Nishant Kumar and Erik Schatzker 1/24

CNNMoney – Here’s how much money Americans think you need to be wealthy in 10 major US cities – Kathleen Elkins 1/24

Economist – Why armed intervention is Venezuela is a bad idea – Bello 1/18

NYT – Apple Can’t Resist Playing by China’s Rules – Chen Guangcheng 1/23

  • This is in regard to providing its users’ (in China) data to Big Brother.

WSJ – GE Looks Ugly in Its Underwear – Spencer Jakab 1/24

  • “GE’s new transparency is welcome, but a focus on cash shows the company is probably no bargain even after its swoon.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Central Bank Net Asset Purchases 1/25

WSJ – A Shortage of Trucks Is Forcing Companies to Cut Shipments or Pay Up – Jennifer Smith 1/25

Cryptocurrency

CNBC – Ratings firm issues first grades on cryptocurrencies, sparking outrage online and a cyberattack – Evelyn Cheng 1/24

WSJ – Hedge Funds Grow Wary of Cryptocurrency Mania – Gregor Stuart Hunter and Laurence Fletcher 1/24

Tech

FT – Germany threatens curbs on Facebook’s data use – Guy Chazan 1/24

  • “Antitrust investigation puts social network’s business model under scrutiny.”

Environment / Science

Economist – How China cut its air pollution 1/25

  • “The biggest polluters are state-owned, so government efforts to reduce concentrations of the smallest polluting particles have been effective.”

Health / Medicine

Economist – Obesity: not just a rich-world problem 1/24

  • YouTube video

Shipping

WSJ – A Brief History of Shipping – Costas Paris, Thomas Di Fonzo, and Liliana Llamas 1/24

  • Video

Britain

FT – ‘Sixty per cent of older buy-to-let loans will become loss making’ – James Pickford 1/24

  • “Tax relief changes will have a huge impact on landlords’ mortgages, report finds.”

China

Economist – China is getting tougher on Taiwan – Banyan 1/18

South America

WSJ – Daily Shot: Buenos Aires Stock Exchange Merval Index 1/24

  • Reforms in Argentina have been working.

January 24, 2018

Perspective

A Wealth of Common Sense: 180 Years of Stock Market Drawdowns – Ben Carlson 1/22

  • “A reader sent me a link to a video of a presentation given by former hedge fund manager and quant Robert Frey (whose firm was actually bought out by legendary hedge fund manager Jim Simons in the 90s) called 180 Years of Market Drawdowns.”
  • “Frey discusses the many changes that have taken place in the stock market over the years — the creation of the Fed, monetary policy, fiscal policy, the end of the gold standard, tax rates, valuations, the industry make-up of the markets and a number of other things.”
  • “But there has been one constant going back all the way to the early 1800s — risk. More specifically, drawdowns or losses. Frey presented a couple of different charts on the market to make his point. First, here’s the long-term growth of the stock market with losses shaded in red:”
  • “Now here are those losses visualized in another way without the benefit of a log scale chart:”
  • “Obviously, the crash during the Great Depression stands out here, but look at how consistent losses have been over each and every decade or economic environment. Losses are really the one constant across all cycles.”
  • “Frey says in his talk that in stocks, ‘You’re usually in a drawdown state’.”
  • “Stocks don’t make new highs every single day, so most of the time you’re going to be underwater from your portfolio’s high water mark. This means there are plenty of chances to be in a state of regret when investing in stocks.”
  • “This makes sense when you consider that stocks are positive just a little over half the time when looking at returns on a daily basis, but it can be difficult to wrap your head around this fact.”
  • “I used monthly total returns on stocks for these numbers and found that an investor would have been down from a prior peak over 70% of the time. The majority of your time invested in stocks could be spent thinking about how you coulda, shoulda, woulda sold at that previous high price (which of course gets taken out to the upside eventually).”
  • “Over the last 90 years or so the market have been in a bear market almost one-quarter of the time. Half the time you’re down 5% or worse. It’s difficult to appreciate this fact when looking at a long-term log scale stock chart that seems to only go up and to the right.”
  • “This is why stocks are constantly playing mind games with us. They generally go up but not every day, week, month or year.”
  • “No one can predict what the future returns will be in the market. No one knows what the future holds for economic growth. And we certainly can’t predict how investors will decide to price corporate cash flows at any given point in time out into the future.”
  • “But predicting future risk is fairly easy — markets will continue to fluctuate and experience losses on a regular basis. As an investor in stocks you will spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself because your portfolio has fallen in value from a previously seen higher level.”
  • “Market losses are the one constant that don’t change over time — get used to it.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Teachable Moment – A Goon Squad of Charlatans, False Prophets and Mercenaries – Anthony Isola 1/23

NYT – What if a Healthier Facebook Is Just … Instagram? – Kevin Rose 1/22

Markets / Economy

FT – No stealth taper from Bank of Japan – Robin Harding 1/23

  • “BoJ governor says bank has not started thinking about exit from monetary easing.”

FT – High-spirits as Bacardi swallows Patron tequila for $5.1bn – Jude Webber 1/22

Energy

FT – Trump’s 30% tariffs on solar imports anger global sector – Ed Crooks 1/23

  • “The Solar Energy Industries Association said it expected the tariffs to cost about 23,000 jobs, based on modeling by IHS Markit, the research group. That is about 9% of the estimated US solar workforce of about 260,000.”

FT – Trump raises temperature with new tariffs in China trade battle – Shawn Donnan and Ed Crooks 1/23

  • Beijing and Seoul are not happy.

Finance

FT – Private equity: flood of cash triggers buyout bubble fears – Javier Espinoza 1/22

  • “The buyout sector is on a tear as investors hunt for higher returns. But as competition and valuations increase, some fear a dangerous new cycle.”

Cryptocurrency

Bloomberg Businessweek – Startups Are Raising Billions Using Initial Coin Offerings – Yuji Nakamura 1/22

FT – The $3bn ICO question – Don Weinland 1/23

  • “Where has the $3bn raised in ‘initial coin offerings’ over the last year and a half actually gone?”
  • “A group of academics led by experts from the University of Luxembourg and the European Banking Institute, have been pondering that very question for months. And what they found out could alarm investors who have been buying into companies using an instant digital ledger (aka blockchain) and cryptocurrencies instead of investing on the stock markets with hard cash.”
  • “On the crucial question of who is ‘behind’ an ICO, the researchers found that 21% of the 300 ICO deals in their database ‘failed to convey any information at all about the issuing entity’. About 52% of the issuers did not provide valid postal addresses.” 
  • “The authors stress that they have only looked at 300 ICOs, and therefore their findings should not be taken as ‘any more than very broadly indicative, given that the total universe of ICOs’ is more than 1,000.”
  • “Regulators around the world have found ICOs’ rise troubling, especially since the rewards promised by ICO issuers are often obtuse and can range from use of their product (in exchange for the tokens investors buy) to a share in profits. In some cases, investors hold on to the tokens hoping for a Bitcoinesque rise in value.” 
  • “Despite the high level of regulatory uncertainty, most issuers have so far done little to make things clearer for buyers.”
  • “Nearly 83% of the ICOs give no regulatory status for the offerings, the report says. That means the buyer does not know under what laws the ICO is regulated, or what their legal rights are after making a purchase. The researchers could not determine in what jurisdiction 93 of the ICOs, were based.”

WSJ – The Programmer at the Center of a $100 Billion Crypto Storm – Paul Vigna and Jim Oberman 1/23

  • “How a top source of bitcoin data contributed to a sudden plunge in digital currencies.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 1/22

Tech

FT – WeChat launches alternative to Apple App Store – Yuan Yang 1/9

  • “WeChat, China’s most frequently used mobile app, today started offering ‘miniprograms’ within the app from third-party developers. Users can now book a shared ride with Didi, order a gift from JD.com, or rent a bicycle from Mobike — and use over 100 other ‘apps within the app’ — without leaving the WeChat platform.”
  • Note that WeChat now has over 580,000 apps within its universe – up from 100 when it started.
  • “The new miniprogram function makes WeChat, or Weixin in Chinese, the first big platform to provide an alternative to the App Store from Apple, which has tightly controlled what programs can be installed on an iOS device.”
  • “The miniprograms can be used almost instantly and provide stripped-down functions compared to the original full apps.”
  • “Rather than the 30% cut that Apple takes from App Store purchases, developers have not been asked to give any cut to WeChat, according to Matthew Brennan of the tech consultancy ChinaChannel.”
  • “In addition, miniprograms are ‘device-neutral’, meaning they will run in exactly the same way on Android and iOS.”
  • “WeChat’s captive audience makes it a more plausible candidate to crack open in-app app distribution. The platform accounts for 35% of all time spent on mobiles in China, according to QuestMobile, the tech research lab. More than 750m people log into WeChat daily, and half of them use it for more than an hour and a half each day.”
  • “’Tencent is winning the mobile war. Miniprograms will come to have a material impact on Apple’s App Store revenues; around 15% of China’s mobile market are iOS users. Tencent is Apple’s number one source of income from the App Store globally,’ said Mr Brennan.”

Health / Medicine

WSJ – Why Our Mental Health Takes a Village – Elizabeth Bernstein 1/22

  • “Different people can help us manage different moods. Psychologists explain how to build a portfolio of supportive allies.”

China

NYT – China’s Housing Market Is Like a Casino. Can a Property Tax Tame It? – Keith Bradsher 1/22

  • “Now the Chinese government is considering adopting something that, while familiar to homeowners in the United States and elsewhere, could dramatically reshape the world’s second-largest economy: a property tax.”
  • “Living in a place without property taxes may sound appealing, but a growing number of experts and policymakers in China say the absence of one has helped destabilize a vast and crucial part of the Chinese economy.”
  • “Many investors snap up homes — in China, they are mostly apartments — hoping to ride a price surge. In the biggest cities, property prices on average have at least doubled over the past eight years. But vast numbers of apartments in many cities lie empty, either because the buyers have no intention of moving in or renting out, or because speculators built homes that nobody wants.”
  • “A property tax could have a profound impact on a crucial part of the nation’s economy. Real estate makes up nearly three-quarters of the assets of Chinese households, according to the Survey and Research Center for China Household Finance, an academic institute in Chengdu, in southwestern China. That compares with a bit more than one-third for United States households. Roughly a fifth to a quarter of China’s annual economic output comes from property and related industries, like furniture making.”
  • “But housing is also the source of some of the country’s biggest booms and busts. Local investors — many of whom do not trust the country’s stock markets and are forbidden by Beijing to move most of their wealth abroad — simply throw money at housing. Real estate broker fees, often as low as 1%, are a small fraction of the typical 6% in the United States. Mortgage lending has leapt over the past two years, adding to the potential for financial turbulence.”