David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - General

    Facebook's AI Chief Researching New Breed of Semiconductor

    This article by Jeremy Kahn for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    "We don’t want to leave any stone unturned, particularly if no one else is turning them over," he said in an interview ahead of the release Monday of a research paper he authored on the history and future of computer hardware designed to handle artificial intelligence.

    Intel Corp. and Facebook have previously said they are working together on a new class of chip designed specifically for artificial intelligence applications. In January, Intel said it planned to have the new chip ready by the second half of this year.

    Facebook is part of an increasingly heated race to create semiconductors better suited to the most promising forms of machine learning. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which has created a chip called a Tensor Processing Unit that helps power AI applications in its cloud-computing datacenters. In 2016, Intel bought San Diego-based startup Nervana Systems, which was working on an AI specific chip.

    In April, Bloomberg reported that Facebook was hiring a hardware team to build its own chips for a variety of applications, including artificial intelligence as well as managing the complex workloads of the company’s vast datacenters.

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    Kuroda Says Stronger Yen Could Force BOJ's Hand on Stimulus

    This article by Henry Hoenig for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

    In a rare explicit coupling of policy and the yen, Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the Bank of Japan would have to consider additional stimulus if the exchange rate affected Japan’s inflation and economy.

    He was responding to a lawmaker’s question about the BOJ’s options if the yen rose further. The yen fell afterward, trading at 110.70 versus the dollar at 1:29 p.m. in Tokyo.

    Former BOJ officials have warned in recent weeks of more yen strength, saying there would be little the BOJ could do about it.

    Speaking to parliament on Tuesday, Kuroda said the BOJ’s options included lowering bond yields and increasing asset purchases. He told lawmakers that currency manipulation isn’t a goal of BOJ policy, but Japan’s trading partners might not be convinced if the BOJ does act to offset a stronger yen.

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    Walmart Allays Retail Jitters With Best Holiday Quarter in Years

    This article by Matthew Boyle for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    This was the first holiday season for Walmart’s redesigned website, plus its expanded home delivery and curbside pickup options. E-commerce sales in the U.S. rose 43 percent, in line with the gains most analysts had been expecting, helped by a broader assortment of brands and increased online grocery sales.

    But some of the gains in the quarter were more related to timing: The early release of government food-stamp payments that were supposed to have become available to American shoppers in February boosted U.S. same-store sales by 0.4 percentage points
    in the quarter, the company said.

    The company reiterated the full-year sales and profit guidance it gave in October, including same-store sales growth at U.S. Walmart stores of between 2.5 and 3 percent -- a slight slowdown from the fiscal year that just ended. Retailers are bracing for a pullback in consumer demand this year, especially if the U.S. follows through on its threat to more than double tariffs on many Chinese goods, forcing retailers to raise some prices in
    response.

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    Central Banks and other institutions

    This article from the World Gold Council may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Central bank net purchases reached 651.5t in 2018, 74% higher y-o-y. This is the highest level of annual net purchases since the suspension of dollar convertibility into gold in 1971, and the second highest annual total on record.1 These institutions now hold nearly 34,000t of gold.

    Heightened geopolitical and economic uncertainty throughout the year increasingly drove central banks to diversify their reserves and re-focus their attention on the principal objective of investing in safe and liquid assets. 

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    China Stock Rally Accelerates as Momentum Hits Three-Year High

    This article from Bloomberg news may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    A rally in Chinese equities steepened Monday as bumper credit figures for January added to signs of increased stimulus.

    The Shanghai Composite Index jumped 2.7 percent by the close, taking its rebound since a Jan. 3 low to 12 percent, as turnover on mainland exchanges reached a 10-month high. The small cap ChiNext index in Shenzhen, typically the most speculative part of the market, soared more than 4 percent. The surge weighed on government bonds, with the 10-year yield climbing the most in two months.

    The nation’s equities, which were the world’s worst performing in 2018, are starting to take off as the new securities regulator eases curbs on trading and an economic slowdown spurs monetary easing. In a sign of how broad the rally has been, the relative strength of four major indexes have all climbed above 70 -- a level that signals to some traders an asset may be overheating. The last time that happened was May 2015, when the equity market was in a bubble.

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    Germany Bans New Wirecard Short Sales in Unprecedented Move

    This article by Nicholas Comfort and Karin Matussek for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Germany’s financial regulator took the unprecedented step of temporarily banning short sales of Wirecard AG shares following reports of suspicious accounting practices, while prosecutors in Munich expanded their investigation to include a Financial Times journalist.

    Investors globally are immediately prohibited from taking new short positions or increasing existing ones through April 18, according to watchdog BaFin. That’s the first time it has banned short-selling on a single stock and harks back to the financial crisis, when the regulator prohibited naked short sales on 11 financial firms.

    The short-selling ban was coordinated with Munich prosecutors, who have already launched a probe over potential market manipulation in Wirecard shares. In a statement Monday, the prosecutor said it was investigating a complaint by an investor against an FT journalist.

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