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

    Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018

    This article by Monica Anderson and Jingjing Jiang for the Pew Research center may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Until recently, Facebook had dominated the social media landscape among America’s youth – but it is no longer the most popular online platform among teens, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Today, roughly half (51%) of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    This shift in teens’ social media use is just one example of how the technology landscape for young people has evolved since the Center’s last survey of teens and technology use in 2014-2015. Most notably, smartphone ownership has become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life: 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

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    Multiyear Plan for Energy Sector Cybersecurity

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report which may be of interest. Here is a section:

    Anticipating and reacting to the latest cyber threat is a ceaseless endeavor that requires ever more resources and manpower. This approach to cybersecurity is not efficient, effective, nor sustainable in light of escalating cyber threat capabilities. We must recognize today’s realities: resources are limited, and cyber threats continue to outpace our best defenses. To gain the upper hand, we need to pursue disruptive changes in cyber risk management practices.

    DOE’s cyber strategy is two-fold: strengthen today’s energy delivery systems by working with our partners to address growing threats and promote continuous improvement, and develop game-changing solutions that will create inherently secure, resilient, and self-defending energy systems for tomorrow. 

    Meaningful public-private partnership is foundational to DOE’s strategy. Facing an ever-evolving threat landscape requires a coordinated approach to improving risk management capabilities, information sharing, and incident response. The federal government has also historically funded innovative research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) that cannot be economically justified in private-sector markets. Today, this includes game-changing RD&D that will build cyber resilience into energy systems for tomorrow.

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    Dollar Tantrums, Original Sin

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Maybank which may be of interest. Here is section:

    The Original Sin index ranges from zero (“sinless”) to one (“sin-full” or fully dependent on foreign currency debt). We focus on sovereign and corporate bond issuance in ASEAN and India, and track how the index behaved during the Quantitative Easing periods and after the taper tantrums. 

    We detect increases in “original sin” in Indonesia and the Philippines in recent years, but find no visible increase in Thailand, Malaysia or India (see Figures 4 to 9). 

    Indonesia’s original sin index has been steadily rising, with a peak of 0.41 as of May 2018 (see Fig 5). This suggests that Indonesia corporations and the sovereign are borrowing more in foreign currencies in recent years, as the Fed normalizes policy rates. For Philippines, the original sin index rebounded in 2018 to 2009 levels after declining for the past two years (see Fig 7). This suggests that the financial stress is a more recent phenomenon, as investors are more worried about the peso risks (on higher inflation and widening current account deficit). 

    On the other hand, Malaysia and India have seen a decline in their original sin index, suggesting a gradual reduction in their foreign currency exposure in recent years (see Figures 6 & 9). Thailand’s index has been very low since the early 2000s, barely reaching 0.1, reflecting its low interest rates and abundant domestic liquidity, given the massive current account surplus (see Fig 8).

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    U.S. Oil Poised for Weekly Loss as Record Output Weighs on Price

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

    While hedge funds invested in U.S. oil are betting pipeline bottlenecks will make Texas crude even cheaper, trading giants are seeing an opportunity to export millions of barrels as shale output continues to surge. For now, American price moves have favored the financial players. Meanwhile, Brent climbed last month following President Donald Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and as Venezuelan output plunged amid an economic crisis.

    Also at the forefront of investors’ minds is OPEC and the allies’ next step on output cuts. Saudi Arabia and Russia said last week that they are considering boosting production to ease potential supply disruptions in Iran and Venezuela after a global surplus was eliminated. Most producers weren’t consulted about the proposal, and officials from several producers said they disapproved of raising output.

     

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    In Gold We Trust

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report from the team at Incrementum which may be of interest. Here is a section:

     

    A

    Also most relevant for the price of gold is the turning of the tide in terms of monetary policy. We find it quite remarkable that the gold price (in USD terms) bottomed out exactly at the beginning of the current rate hike cycle. When it became clear in 2015 that administered US interest rates would soon be raised, many market participants and observers sotto voce predicted a precipitous slump in the gold price. In the same year, we pointed out to our readers that rising interest rates could actually prove to be positive for the gold price. Market developments in recent years are testifying to the fact that this assessment was correct.

    In addition to hiking interest rates since late 2015, the Fed began reducing the size of its balance sheet starting in Q4 2017, a process that has been dubbed “quantitative tightening” (QT). From our perspective, most market participants are currently massively underestimating the likely consequences of the QT process. The “everything bubble” which we discussed at length in last year’s In Gold we Trust report6 is at grave risk of bursting as more and more liquidity is withdrawn. The monthly contraction in Fed assets is gradually ratcheted up and will reach USD 50bn per month from October 2018 onward. In total, the balance sheet is to be reduced by USD 420bn in 2018 and by USD 600bn in 2019. However, we believe this monetary normalization plan is unlikely to survive a significant decline in even one, let alone several asset classes (equities, bonds, real estate). 

    lso most relevant for the price of gold is the turning of the tide in terms of monetary policy. We find it quite remarkable that the gold price (in USD terms) bottomed out exactly at the beginning of the current rate hike cycle. When it became clear in 2015 that administered US interest rates would soon be raised, many market participants and observers sotto voce predicted a precipitous slump in the gold price. In the same year, we pointed out to our readers that rising interest rates could actually prove to be positive for the gold price. Market developments in recent years are testifying to the fact that this assessment was correct.

    In addition to hiking interest rates since late 2015, the Fed began reducing the size of its balance sheet starting in Q4 2017, a process that has been dubbed “quantitative tightening” (QT). From our perspective, most market participants are currently massively underestimating the likely consequences of the QT process. The “everything bubble” which we discussed at length in last year’s In Gold we Trust report6 is at grave risk of bursting as more and more liquidity is withdrawn. The monthly contraction in Fed assets is gradually ratcheted up and will reach USD 50bn per month from October 2018 onward. In total, the balance sheet is to be reduced by USD 420bn in 2018 and by USD 600bn in 2019. However, we believe this monetary normalization plan is unlikely to survive a significant decline in even one, let alone several asset classes (equities, bonds, real estate). Also most relevant for the price of gold is the turning of the tide in terms of monetary policy. We find it quite remarkable that the gold price (in USD terms) bottomed out exactly at the beginning of the current rate hike cycle. When it became clear in 2015 that administered US interest rates would soon be raised, many market participants and observers sotto voce predicted a precipitous slump in the gold price. In the same year, we pointed out to our readers that rising interest rates could actually prove to be positive for the gold price. Market developments in recent years are testifying to the fact that this assessment was correct.

    In addition to hiking interest rates since late 2015, the Fed began reducing the size of its balance sheet starting in Q4 2017, a process that has been dubbed “quantitative tightening” (QT). From our perspective, most market participants are currently massively underestimating the likely consequences of the QT process. The “everything bubble” which we discussed at length in last year’s In Gold we Trust report6 is at grave risk of bursting as more and more liquidity is withdrawn. The monthly contraction in Fed assets is gradually ratcheted up and will reach USD 50bn per month from October 2018 onward. In total, the balance sheet is to be reduced by USD 420bn in 2018 and by USD 600bn in 2019. However, we believe this monetary normalization plan is unlikely to survive a significant decline in even one, let alone several asset classes (equities, bonds, real estate). 

    Also most relevant for the price of gold is the turning of the tide in terms of monetary policy. We find it quite remarkable that the gold price (in USD terms) bottomed out exactly at the beginning of the current rate hike cycle. When it became clear in 2015 that administered US interest rates would soon be raised, many market participants and observers sotto voce predicted a precipitous slump in the gold price. In the same year, we pointed out to our readers that rising interest rates could actually prove to be positive for the gold price. Market developments in recent years are testifying to the fact that this assessment was correct.

     

    In addition to hiking interest rates since late 2015, the Fed began reducing the size of its balance sheet starting in Q4 2017, a process that has been dubbed “quantitative tightening” (QT). From our perspective, most market participants are currently massively underestimating the likely consequences of the QT process. The “everything bubble” which we discussed at length in last year’s In Gold we Trust report6 is at grave risk of bursting as more and more liquidity is withdrawn. The monthly contraction in Fed assets is gradually ratcheted up and will reach USD 50bn per month from October 2018 onward. In total, the balance sheet is to be reduced by USD 420bn in 2018 and by USD 600bn in 2019. However, we believe this monetary normalization plan is unlikely to survive a significant decline in even one, let alone several asset classes (equities, bonds, real estate). 

     

    My view – Rather than think so much about a risk to the dollar’s position as the reserve currency, perhaps the bigger point is that China has a well-telegraphed decision intention to internationalise the renminbi. That holds out the long-term prospect of a true bi-polar world where competing economic bloc compete against one another.

     

    If one were to think about a truly bullish case for gold that kind of scenario is definitely high in the realm of possibilities to drive investor demand. The gold price is currently holding in the region of $1300 but the medium-term pattern is one of a saucering pattern similar to the base put in during the early 2000s. However, a sustained move above $1400 will be required to confirm a return to medium-term demand dominance.

     

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    Email of the day on Italy

    I have read with interest many comments regarding the difficult situation that has developed in Italy, and I feel I have to make a couple of points which I hope will help clarifying some aspects of it:

    1/ of the 2 so called populist parties (Lega and M5S) only the former had an explicit anti-EU bias during the election campaign, while the latter had moved to a pro-EU stance; the alliance formed past the elections included a marked anti-EU stance (specifically through the appointment of an anti-Euro candidate to the Ministry of Finance); This is of course unacceptable (the coalition has no anti-EU mandate), hence the decision to appoint someone else with a short mandate to take the country to new elections where Italy's position in the EU is openly and explicitly debated. Was an anti-EU coalition to be elected of course they would be in power, there is no shadow of doubt about that. So, no democratic deficit here, in fact there is an extremely robust democratic process in place.

    2/ There is no doubt the current events are an existential threat to the Euro area; it will be difficult to navigate, as a "quitaly" would have an extremely dramatic impact on the lives of many people in the country. I hope qualified majorities will be required to take the most important decisions, but given the pressure from financial market I doubt it will be possible; on the other hand, was a government to unilaterally pull the plug on the Euro and re-introduce the Lira, I think it would be nothing short of a coup.

    With no further EU reforms, I think the spreads we have seen opening between BTPs and Bunds are deemed to stay. The ECB won't add additional risk to that already present into its balance sheet. However, I do not see how any reform could take place given the current anti EU climate. I am very pessimistic.

    Finally, 2 interesting articles I wanted to share with you, one from the FT suggesting there is convenience for leaving the Euro (I share this view 100%, completely absurd), and another suggesting some reforms the EU could do. I hope they can be of interest.

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    Euro-Area Inflation Picks Up to Fastest in More Than a Year

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

    Euro-area inflation hit the fastest pace in more than year, some good news for European Central Bank officials debating the future policy path just as turmoil in Italy revives memories of the debt crisis.

    The 1.9 percent rate, effectively in line with the ECB’s goal, was up from just 1.2 percent in April and above the 1.6 percent reading forecast by economists. The core measure rose to 1.1 percent, also better than anticipated.

    Stronger-than-anticipated figures in Germany and Spain on Wednesday hinted at an upside surprise, with the rate in the former reaching a 15-month high. The euro stayed higher after the euro-zone data, and was up 0.1 percent to $1.1681 as of 12:24 p.m. Frankfurt time.

    While higher oil prices played a part, the inflation pickup is welcome news for the ECB, which holds its next policy meeting in exactly two weeks’ time.

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    Nickel Poised for Best Month Since December as Supplies Tighten

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

    Nickel’s rally has been underpinned by resilient demand from the traditional stainless-steel industry, as well as predictions that it stands to benefit from growing use in the emerging electric-vehicle sector. This month, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. gave the metal a ringing endorsement over the next half-decade, although the bank cautioned prices may retrace near term. Stockpiles tracked by the SHFE and the LME have slumped to multi-year lows.

    “Stockpiles kept falling,” said Wu Xiangfeng, an analyst at Huatai Futures Ltd. in Shanghai, adding that environmental checks in China are also reducing the output of nickel pig iron, a low-grade alternative to refined metal. “Prices can only rise if there’s no new supply.”

    The market will remain in deficit this year as destocking is seen in both Shanghai and London, Ricardo Ferreira, head of market research at the International Nickel Study Group, told a conference in Shanghai on Tuesday. Even after the recent rally, the metal’s yet to reach a price that’ll incentivize new investment in class 1 primary production, he said.

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