Thursday, November 15, 2018

With NVIDIA Down 18% After-Hours (NVDA)

Miss on the top line, slight beat on the bottom line, guidance = yuck.
Gotta run, more mañana.
$164.36 down $38.03 (-18.79%)

Shocking Nat Gas Price Swings Prompt "Emergency Action" By CME"

Two quick points on the post below.

1) Both ZH and Macro Tourist have written about the natural gas/oil ratio and I frankly don't know what they are talking about. Except for both commodities being hydrocarbons and often times being found in the same field the two are not fungible. They don't make a rational hedge, dirty or otherwise or even a pair trade much less an arbitrage. It seems similar to the folks who talked about a correlation between solar stocks and oil. Huh? Unless you are burning oil to produce electricity—and I don't think anyone does anymore—there is no end user substitution effect and thus no connection between the two markets.
Both oil and gas can be traded at the same shop but ther is no reason to think the positions are linked.

2) I explained why we weren't saying much about natty a few weeks ago:
We haven't been posting on U.S. natural gas futures because, at least as far as blogging goes, it has been untradeable. It might be doable if the blog was posted in machine-readable format and delivered via ultra-high-speed microwave relays with ultra low latency. Maybe.

So instead we've been focusing on second and third derivative stuff like freight rates or shipping company stocks when what the world is craving is highly leveraged (accurate) directional bets.
Or something.

Look at this:

The amount of natural gas in storage is not only lower than the 5-year average, it's been setting new five-year, year-on-year, lows. You would think the futures would be at least $5.00. Instead:
They can't seem to get much above $3.25.

There is a lot of gas around, in the U.S., unconventional (shale) supplies have gone from 5% to 40% of total production in just over a decade, the last of the Australian mega-projects just started delivering this week and Russia's Yamal gas is ramping up fast but still....$3.25?...
Yesterday the December futures top-ticked at 4.929, close to the 5.00 wild-ass guess.
Today's settle 3.901 -0.936.

From ZeroHedge:
Yesterday's furious short squeeze in natural gas has seen an equal and opposite sell off today, with Natgas now unchanged from before yesterday's sharp ramp that sent the front contract higher by 20% only to see a 15% drop today.
In addition to pairing [sic?] of positions, Thursday’s decline was likely exacerbated by a report showing that producers had injected 39 billion cubic feet of gas into underground storage last week, higher than consensus estimates, bringing total stocks to 3.247tn cu ft. Still, stocks remained at the lowest level for this time of year since 2005, leaving the market vulnerable to fears about a weather-induced shortfall.

While the catalyst behind the furious spike has yet to be confirmed, the severity of the price action prompted analysts and traders to speculate if one or more hedge funds were liquidating positions during a frantic week in global energy markets that saw gains for gas as crude oil prices took a dive.

As we noted yesterday, the recent turmoil in the two commodities was likely due to a massive bearish positions in gas offset by longs in crude oil and "the unwinding of positions in one of these two commodities could potentially have triggered the opposite effect on the other commodity," Citigroup said.
Indeed, as shown in the chart below, the 2-week rate of change in natgas vs WTI was the highest going back nearly 15 years.
And as Bloomberg reported, for nat gas traders, Wednesday's price rally was so extreme that some were left comparing it to the turmoil that followed the notorious Amaranth blow-up 12 years ago. Gas futures rocketed up as much as 20 percent while  there was an even bigger surge in the so-called widowmaker spread between two longer-dated contracts -- in effect a play on how big stockpiles will be at the end of winter. It’s the dramatic move in the spread that’s leading observers to draw parallels with the 2006 implosion of hedge fund Amaranth Advisors, which lost $6.6 billion following wrong-way nat gas trades by Brian Hunter. While so far there’s no suggestion of losses of that magnitude this time around, the gyrations set commodities markets abuzz.

Whatever the reason behind the trade unwind, the CME took what it called "emergency action" to widen price  fluctuation limits for eight nat gas futures contracts “in light of recent natural gas price movements."...

Here's our link to the Macro Tourist on Wednesday:

Was A Large Energy Fund Just Crushed?

The last two weeks action From FinViz:

And if interested the last big natural gas fund self-immolation:
The man who lost $6 billion (Brian Hunter, Amaranth)

Ahead of Today's NVIDIA Earnings Report (NVDA)

Well, I've stalled long enough.
The stock is up $5.87 (+2.98%) at $203.06

The pattern is called a megaphone, it's usually bad for longs but I think we've already seen that, eh what?
Here's TheStreet, Nov. 14/updated Nov. 15 with some things they will be looking for: 

...1. Early Turing Gaming GPU Demand
Nvidia unveiled the first gaming GPUs based on its Turing architecture in late August; the two most powerful GPUs in the lineup, the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080, began shipping in September, while the less powerful RTX 2070 began shipping in October.... 

...2. Inventories, CPU Shortages and Tariffs
Nvidia said in August that it's "projecting no contributions" going forward from sales of GPUs meant specifically for cryptocurrency miners. However, like rival AMD (AMD) , some of Nvidia's gaming GPUs also wound up being used by crypto miners. And with AMD having stated in October that a drop-off in crypto-related GPU demand has led to elevated graphics card inventories at channel partners, it's possible that Nvidia is seeing a similar dynamic play out... 

...3. Datacenter Segment Sales
The October quarter was likely another strong one for Nvidia's Datacenter segment: The consensus is for Datacenter revenue to be up 64% to $820 million, after having grown 83% to $720 million in the July quarter.

Giant investments by cloud giants in AI training and (to a lesser extent) inference systems containing Nvidia server GPUs have helped out. Enterprises, meanwhile, have been both upping their AI training investments off a relatively small base and continuing to spend more on GPU-powered high-performance computing (HPC) systems in fields such as chemistry, fluid dynamics and medical research. Nvidia announced earlier this week that 127 supercomputers on the latest Top500 list feature its GPUs, up from 86 a year ago....

If interested see also November 13's:

Susquehanna Says Nvidia's Earnings Report Will Disappoint This Week But Gives It An Upgrade Anyway (NVDA)

"Yes, ‘Monopoly for Millennials’ is a thing – this is how it works"

A few quick comments from millennial media.

From Thrillist:

You Can’t Buy Property in Monopoly for Millennials Because ‘You Can’t Afford it Anyway’
Up next in the roster of tired millennial-targeted jokes is Millennial Monopoly -- a deeply unappealing board game presented by a concerningly small old white guy with a monocle.
Complete with a tagline that reads, "Forget real estate, you can't afford it anyway," the game promises to be even more divisive than your classic Monopoly edition, which has already earned itself a reputation for being the sort of game that shatters families, alters wills, and primes couples for divorce.
"Money doesn't always buy a great time, but experiences, whether they're good -- or weird -- last forever," the product description reads. "The Monopoly for Millennials game celebrates just that."...MORE
From BoingBoing:

"Monopoly for Millennials" recommends playing in your parents' basement

Global News Canada:
Yes, ‘Monopoly for Millennials’ is a thing – this is how it works
“According to Hasbro’s own market research, only 28 per cent of younger players could identify the purpose of a thimble outside the context of the game and just 15 per cent could understand the concept of ever affording their own home. These findings helped shaped the updates for Monopoly’s new Millennial Edition, which include raising the minimum rent charge to $1,500 and having each player start the game with $20,000 of student debt,” according to the CBC.
AV Club: 
Monopoly For Millennials is here, as condescending as you’d expect

From heavy, a very 2018 headline:

Monopoly for Millennials: Angry Millennials React on Twitter

And finally, from the decidedly non-millennial Readers Digest

It's probably all based on this poor (uncompensated) schlub at reddit a year ago: 
"There should be a millenial edition of Monopoly where you just walk round the board paying rent, never able to buy anything."

Want To Get China To The Trade Negotiating Table? Here's How You Get China To The Trade Negotiating Table


From NBC News:
Americans are pigging out on bacon as Trump's trade war cuts chicken demand
"The shift from chicken to beef and pork has been far more pronounced than anyone had imagined," said one industry analyst.
Americans are losing their taste for chicken and eating more beef and pork as President Donald Trump's trade wars reduce U.S. pork exports to China and Mexico and leave cheaper bacon and ribs at home.

An expansion in the number of U.S. hogs and cattle is contributing to the change in diets by boosting supplies of pork and beef. Restaurants are seizing on the increases to promote hamburgers instead of chicken, while grocery stores have featured pork.

The shift is set to end an unprecedented streak of 27 profitable quarters for chicken producers such as Tyson Foods, which reports results on Tuesday, and Sanderson Farms, said Bill Roenigk, an agricultural economist and consultant for the National Chicken Council trade group. He said the chicken sector would generally lose money or break even in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The pain for chicken producers and the increased appetite for pork are ripple effects of Trump's trade disputes, which have also reduced shipments of U.S. soybeans and sorghum to China.
"With all that pork on the market," Roenigk said, "it has spilled over to affecting consumers' demand for chicken."

Pork prices have fallen as retaliatory duties of 62 percent in China and up to 20 percent in Mexico have curtailed U.S. exports to those countries....

Our original plan was to surround China with grills gently wafting the aroma of cooking bacon across the country.
However, a quick look at the map shows a few problems with that idea:

It might be tough getting permission from Bangladesh and the 'stans to cook up a bunch-o-bacon on their territory.
North Korea would probably just confiscate the King of the salted and cured meats for lil Kim.

Russia might be a go but bribing the local mafiosos could be ruinous.
Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar have prevailing wind issues which pretty much leaves India, Bhutan and Myanmar. A long way from saturation.

An alternative would be bacon bombardments from Japan and South Korea-based drones but that seems self-defeating if the goal is to tease and seduce.

So those are some of the issues. However, if you can overcome those obstacles you may be able to solve one of the thorniest issues in modern diplomacy and possibly line up a shot for next year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Société Générale's Albert Edwards Sees 'Grey Rhinos', Regales With Tales of Other Members of The Bestiary (also sectoral balances)

From ZeroHedge:
At the start of his latest note, SocGen's Albert Edwards highlights a recent warning by the Chinese central bank that that financial risks associated with “grey rhino” events - highly obvious yet ignored threats - may surface next year, and reminds readers that going into the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, many of the massive macro imbalances and credit bubbles that ultimately sunk the global economy were all too apparent.

Yet, with his usual gloomy irony, Edwards notes that back then these "grey rhinos" were dismissed as serious threats by mainstream commentators - the same way they are being dismissed now - "in large part because they had been in plain sight for a long time, and yet the global economy had continued to go from strength to strength. Hence naysayers, such as myself – who had correctly identified the extent of the credit bubbles and global imbalances, and hence the likely depth of the coming crisis – were dismissed as stopped clocks (and I still am)."

The SocGen strategist takes this trip down memory lane for two reasons: first to point out that it is not angst about the unknown that gets traders killed - it is complacency about what is obvious to everyone that is the real danger:
I remember being told many years ago on a South African game reserve that the buffalo was the most dangerous of the big five game animals. In large part, this is because of the complacency shown towards them relative to the other, more obviously dangerous big five game animals (ie the lion, leopard, rhino and elephant). It's also a fact that unlike the other big five, the buffalo gives no warning of an imminent charge (see link). It’s complacency that gets you killed, and the same goes for investors with the macro-risks. We all know what the big macro-imbalances are out there, caused by years of loose money, but investors continue to ignore them at their peril.
The second reason is to give the context for his report, in which Edwards shifts away from his usual observation subjects, to focus on what he believes may be two potential epicenters of the next crisis, to wit:
We spend most of our time on these pages focusing on the two biggest threats to the global economy - the US and China, but Japan, the eurozone and UK certainly have glaring macro imbalances and financial bubbles that might burst at any time. The UK probably has one of the worst and most obvious problems, caused by years of easy money, but Brexit has diverted attention from the slump in the saving ratio.
Looking at the collapse in the UK savings rate, a topic he has discussed previously, Edwards writes that despite the slump in savings, the UK economy has actually decelerated substantially below 2%, and while most mainstream market commentators have attributed this weakness to Brexit uncertainty, Edwards believes there is "a far simpler explanation": namely fiscal tightening.
Two years of massive UK public sector fiscal tightening, in both 2016 and 2017, removed some 1¼% from both years' GDP growth (see chart below). Without that savage fiscal tightening, UK GDP would have quite happily skipped along at a 3% rate, well in excess of the eurozone, where the fiscal impulse was neutral. Contrary to what most mainstream economists would have you believe, weak UK GDP had little to do with Brexit uncertainty.

"Salesforce CEO Asks Musk To Dig Tunnel Under San Francisco"

If, and that is a very big if, if The Boring Company doesn't go broke on the Chicago airport tunnel it very likely could command deca-corn status and become Musk's third ultra-mega-unicorn, along with SpaceX and the marijuana automobile company.*

From OilPrice, November 7:
Salesforce’s chief executive, Marc Benioff asked in a tweet Elon Musk to dig a tunnel under San Francisco, days after the Tesla CEO, who is also head of The Boring Company, tweeted the tunnel under Los Angeles had been completed and will launch officially next month.

Would this turn into another actual business deal that started on Twitter, like Tesla’s energy storage project in Australia, which became reality after a direct exchange between Musk and Australia’s Prime Minister last year, remains to be seen but Musk has been vocal about the benefits of tunnel transport as a way of alleviating traffic jams in some of the world’s business cities.

The pilot tunnel in L.A. is “disturbingly long”, according to another tweet by Musk, at 2 miles. Its construction started last year and now the tunnel extends from the headquarters of SpaceX in Hawthorne to a suburb of Los Angeles. It will, according to plans laid out in late 2017, be part of a network of tunnels, with one central “artery” and several branches into different parts of the city. The “artery” will be 40 miles long.

Cars will descend into the tunnel in elevators and will then be put on electric “sleds” and move at speeds of 150 mph. The tunnels will also feature mass transit pods. The pods, according to a simulation video on The Boring Company’s website, will move at speeds of 124 mph....MORE
*Mr. Musk's best 'bud' Peter Thiel has very large interests in ganja, ranging from a stake in weed-focused private equity firm, Privateer Holdings, grower/dealer Tilray, which for a while had a larger market cap than Twitter and a couple others whose names escape me.

"Look at issuing digital currency, IMF head tells central banks"

These depraved, power-drunk elitists will stop at nothing to implement their New World Order.
See 2014's "Oh Dear God: The IMF's Christine Lagarde Will Belly-dance to Achieve Her Goals" for the full horror.*

HT up front to the FT for the headline and pointer to the goings-on at NWO IMF World HQ.

From the International Monetary Fund:

Winds of Change: The Case for New Digital Currency
November 14, 2018
As prepared for delivery 
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen—good morning and thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important event.

In Singapore, it is often windy. Winds here bring change, and opportunity. Historically, they blew ships to its port. These resupplied while waiting for the Monsoon to pass, for the seasons to change.
“Change is the only constant,” wrote the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus of Ephesus.
Singapore knows this. You know this. It is the true spirit of the Fintech Festival—opening doors to new digital futures; hoisting sails to the winds of change.

And yet change can appear daunting, destabilizing, even threatening. This is especially true for technological change, which disrupts our habits, jobs, and social interactions.
The key is to harness the benefits while managing the risks.

When it comes to fintech, Singapore has shown exceptional vision—think of its regulatory sandbox where new ideas can be tested. Think of its Fintech Innovation Lab, and its collaboration with major central banks on cross-border payments.
In this context, I would like to do three things this morning:
  • First, frame the issue in terms of the changing nature of money and the fintech revolution.
  • Second, evaluate the role for central banks in this new financial landscape—especially in providing digital currency.
  • Third, look at some downsides, and consider how they can be minimized.
1. The changing nature of money and the fintech revolution
Let me begin with the big issue on the table today—the changing nature of money.
When commerce was local, centered around the town square, money in the form of tokens—metal coins—was sufficient. And it was efficient.

The exchange of coins from one hand to another settled transactions. So long as the coins were valid—determined by glancing, scratching, or even biting into them—it did not matter which hands held them.

But as commerce moved to ships, like those that passed through Singapore, and covered increasingly greater distances, carrying coins became expensive, risky, and cumbersome.
Chinese paper money—introduced in the 9th century—helped, but not enough. Innovation produced bills of exchange—pieces of paper allowing merchants with a bank account in their home city to draw money from a bank at their destination.

The Arabs called these Sakks, the origin of our word “check” today. These checks, and the banks that went along with them, spread around the world, spearheaded by the Italian bankers and merchants of the Renaissance. Other examples are the Chinese Shansi and Indian Hundi bills.

Suddenly, it mattered whom you dealt with. Was this Persian merchant the rightful owner of that bill? Was the bill trustworthy? Was that Shanxi bank going to accept it? Trust became essential—and the state became the guarantor of that trust, by offering liquidity backstops, and supervision.

Why is this brief tour of history relevant? Because the fintech revolution questions the two forms of money we just discussed—coins and commercial bank deposits. And it questions the role of the state in providing money.

We are at a historic turning point. You—young and bold entrepreneurs gathered here today—are not just inventing services; you are potentially reinventing history. And we are all in the process of adapting.

A new wind is blowing, that of digitalization. In this new world, we meet anywhere, any time. The town square is back—virtually, on our smartphones. We exchange information, services, even emojis, instantly… peer to peer, person to person.
We float through a world of information, where data is the “new gold”—despite growing concerns over privacy, and cyber-security. A world in which millennials are reinventing how our economy works, phone in hand.

And this is key: money itself is changing. We expect it to become more convenient and user-friendly, perhaps even less serious-looking.
We expect it to be integrated with social media, readily available for online and person-to-person use, including micro-payments. And of course, we expect it to be cheap and safe, protected against criminals and prying eyes.

What role will remain for cash in this digital world? Already signs in store windows read “cash not accepted.” Not just in Scandinavia, the poster child of a cashless world. In various other countries too, demand for cash is decreasing—as shown in recent IMF work. And in ten, twenty, thirty years, who will still be exchanging pieces of paper?

Bank deposits too are feeling pressure from new forms of money.
Think of the new specialized payment providers that offer e-money—from AliPay and WeChat in China, to PayTM in India, to M-Pesa in Kenya. These forms of money are designed with the digital economy in mind. They respond to what people demand, and what the economy requires.
Even cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple are vying for a spot in the cashless world, constantly reinventing themselves in the hope of offering more stable value, and quicker, cheaper settlement.

2. A case for Central Bank Digital Currencies
Let me now turn to my second issue: the role of the state—of central banks—in this new monetary landscape.

Some suggest the state should back down....

*For what it's worth, Mme Lagarde was a member of the French national synchronized swimming team and is probably in better shape than I.
But I don't go threatening to belly dance to achieve my dreams of world domination either.

If interested see also:

Casting Light on Central Bank Digital Currencies
Publication Date:
November 12, 2018
Electronic Access:
Free Full Text. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file
Digitalization is reshaping economic activity, shrinking the role of cash, and spurring new digital forms of money. Central banks have been pondering wheter and how to adapt. One possibility is central bank digital currency (CBDC)-- a widely accessible digital form of fiat money that could be legal tender. This discussion note proposes a conceptual framework to assess the case for CBDC adoption from the perspective of users and central banks. It discusses possible CBDC designs, and explores potential benefits and costs, with a focus on the impact on monetary policy, financial stability, and integrity. This note also surveys research and pilot studies on CBDC by central banks around the world.
Staff Discussion Notes No. 18/08

New York City’s Infrastructure Is Crumbling. So It Will Build A Helipad For Bezos (AMZN)

From the Huffington Post:

New York Taxpayers Are Buying A Helipad For The Richest Man In The World
Jeff Bezos won’t be taking the subway to Amazon’s planned new headquarters in Queens.
New Yorkers, take note: While you commute in dilapidated and decaying subways, know that Jeff Bezos will be able to rely on a more upscale mode of transit to get to Amazon’s forthcoming New York City headquarters in Queens.
That’s because New Yorkers are buying a helipad for Bezos, the richest man in the world.
Buried in the 32-page, $1.5 billion agreement between New York’s various economic development agencies and Amazon is a promise by the city to help the company secure rights to a helipad on, “or in reasonable proximity to,” the company’s new site in Long Island City.
(Amazon’s other recently announced headquarters, in Virginia, also includes a clause for a helipad).....

Watch out Elon—VW to convert three German plants to build electric cars

And whatever you do, Don't mention the shorts.
From Reuters:
Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) will convert three German factories to build electric cars, as Europe's largest automaker by sales starts mass producing zero-emission vehicles in a major strategy shift following its emissions cheating scandal.

The German company said on Wednesday its plant in Emden, which currently builds the VW Passat, would build electric cars from 2022 onwards, while its factory in Hannover would start making them the same year.

The Hanover plant will maintain some production of combustion-engined vehicles in addition to building battery driven cars, VW said.
"We are moving at full speed into the production of electric vehicles. Emden and Hanover are to be further model plants in Germany. Together with Zwickau, they will form the largest network for the production of electric vehicles in Europe,” Gunnar Kilian, VW board member responsible for personnel, said.

VW has provided job guarantees until 2028 for employees at the Emden and Hanover factories, and will spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) training workers at Zwickau, it said.
The Zwickau plant in eastern Germany will start building electric cars for three of the group's in-house brands from late 2019 onwards, VW added. ...MORE

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Imminent Bitcoin Cash schism triggers cryptocurrency selloff"

Avignon vs Rome!
Let's get ready to rumble!
To set the mood: 'Y'all ready for this?'

Sorry. I get carried away.

From Ars Technica:

Bitcoin's value falls below $5,500 for the first time since 2017.
Bitcoin's price has fallen more than 12 percent over the last 24 hours to $5,400, the lowest price for the popular cryptocurrency in more than a year.
Bitcoin's plunge is part of a broader cryptocurrency sell-off. Ethereum has fallen more than 15 percent over the last 24 hours, while Bitcoin Cash is down 18 percent.

Cryptocurrency markets are jittery ahead of a high-stakes "hard fork" of Bitcoin Cash. Rival factions are pushing different, mutually incompatible versions of the spinoff cryptocurrency, and the two versions are scheduled to create separate, competing versions of the blockchain starting on Thursday.

The schism could create confusion among users and damage the reputation of the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin Cash itself was created through another acrimonious hard fork last August. That schism was motivated by a disagreement about the size of blocks in bitcoin's blockchain. Most of bitcoin's developers favored retaining the 1 megabyte block-size limit that was in effect at the time (a hack called segregated witness has increased the effective block size since then). The hard limit contributed to severe congestion on the bitcoin network, pushing transaction fees up to a median of $34 in mid-December. Bitcoin Cash supporters created their own version of bitcoin with a much higher 8 megabyte block size limit (later raised to 32 megabytes)—allowing this rival version of bitcoin to process many more transactions per second with negligible transaction fees.

Now Bitcoin Cash's camp of big-block dissidents is about to divide once again....MORE

"Uber posts $1 billion loss in quarter as growth in bookings slows"

From Reuters:
Uber Technologies Inc said on Wednesday that growth in bookings for its ride-hailing and delivery services rose 6 percent in the latest quarter, the third quarter in a row that growth has remained in the single digits after double-digit growth for all of last year.

The San Francisco-based firm lost $1.07 billion for the three months ending Sept. 30, a 20 percent increase from the previous quarter but down 27 percent from a year ago, when the company posted its biggest publicly reported quarterly loss on the heels of the departure of Uber co-founder and former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.

Uber is seeking to expand in freight hauling, food delivery and electric bikes and scooters as growth in its now decade-old ride-hailing business dwindles. The company, valued at $76 billion, faces pressure to show it can still grow enough to become profitable and satisfy investors in an initial public offering planned for some time next year.

Its adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $592 million, down from $614 million last quarter and $1.02 billion a year ago.

"We had another strong quarter for a business of our size and global scope," said Nelson Chai, Uber's chief financial officer, who joined in September after the job had been vacant for three years. He emphasized the "high-potential markets in India and the Middle East where we continue to solidify our leadership position."

Broader economic conditions and sustained losses could also push Uber to merge with rivals in India and the Middle East, particularly as Uber and India-based Ola share an investor in SoftBank Group Corp (9984.T).

Uber's gross bookings were $12.7 billion, up 6 percent from the previous quarter and up 41 percent from a year ago. In late 2016, Uber's quarterly bookings growth approached 30 percent, and in early 2017 it still sustained double-digit growth quarter-over-quarter. At the start of this year, however, bookings growth slid into the single digits.

As a private company, Uber is not required to publicly disclose financials, but last year started releasing selected figures.

Since CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took the helm than a year ago, Uber has retreated from foreign markets where it had suffered heavy losses and shuttered certain pricey ventures including self-driving trucks. But Khosrowshahi has plowed the savings back into its freight-hauling, food-delivery, and electric scooter and bikes businesses.

An investment by SoftBank that closed in January, which gave the Japanese investor a 15 percent stake in Uber, included a provision that requires Uber to file for an IPO by Sept. 30 of next year, or the company risks allowing restrictions on shareholder stock transfers to expire. That could create a mess for Uber's ownership structure and equity value, and pose regulatory problems....MORE
As noted in March 7's: "Uber Spent $10.7 Billion in Nine Years. Does It Have Enough to Show for It?"
Back in December 2016 one of the authors of this piece, Eric Newcomer, came dangerously close to mansplaining Uber, Uber's losses and Uber in China to the FT's Izabella Kaminska.*
His central fallacy (besides arguing in public) was that Uber, having ditched the money-sucking black hole that was their China operation was now heading for the broad sunlit uplands of  taxi service (thanks Winston). He was wrong.
*Besides the fact Izabella was one of the first journos—along with Pando founder Sarah Lacey who had the advantage of being the target of an Uber smear campaign funded to the tune of a mil. to tip her off that something was not right over on Market St., San Francisco, CA, USA—besides the fact Ms Kaminska was on the story back in 2014 she has additionally posted more on the Ubester than most folks alive.
Here is part of the to-ing and fro-ing:
There's more, here's one of the threads. [oops, looks like he deleted the tweets]

A couple months later we recapped the story in:
Notes to Self If Arguing With The FT's Izabella Kaminska: Uber and the Multi-Billion Dollar Losses Edition
The denouement in that piece was epic.

The Fly On Today's Market Action: CRASH, BOOM, CRASH — EXHAUSTION

From The Fly at iBank Coin:
Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:37pm EST
It was a nice rally. I was in line at Whole Foods judging people in front of me very harshly. I peered into their little wagons and reverse engineered what they were having for supper — very disgusting and chaotic, believe me.
I’m back the turret now, having missed out on that spring. But truthfully, it’s best I wasn’t around to bear its witness. Too much churning at House Fly. This isn’t what I do best. I specialize in building systems, structures, portfolios, and momentum trading. When markets swing to and fro without rhythm, I get dis-jarred. When I get dis-jarred, I fucking lose lots of money.

I’ve made my bed, see? I’m in retail and some tech, and SOXL, 20% cash, trying to believe in the way of the future. There’s lots to take in, cross-currents to ingest. The short squeeze in natty is mind blowing and I feel it can trade to $7 soon — but I won’t take a position. If I had some healthy gains to speak of, perhaps. But it’s not for me.

The crypto markets have been bludgeoned to death, down in the deep double digits today. Total market cap is now $182b, down from $800b. You do the math....MORE

Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:51pm EST
Crash mode sequence initiated. This is the part when everyone gets sold on the idea that we really are gonna crash — because the new, oh, it’s so damned bad....MORE

"How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control"

Ummm, told you.
Over and over again.
To such a degree that yours truly risked exemplifying Churchill's definition of a fanatic:
"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."
A major investigation from Reuters, November 14:

Chinese telecoms giant ZTE is helping Venezuela build a system that monitors citizen behavior through a new identification card. The "fatherland card," already used by the government to track voting, worries many in Venezuela and beyond
(En español)
In April 2008, former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez dispatched Justice Ministry officials to visit counterparts in the Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen. Their mission, according to a member of the Venezuela delegation, was to learn the workings of China’s national identity card program. 

Chávez, a decade into his self-styled socialist revolution, wanted help to provide ID credentials to the millions of Venezuelans who still lacked basic documentation needed for tasks like voting or opening a bank account. Once in Shenzhen, though, the Venezuelans realized a card could do far more than just identify the recipient.

There, at the headquarters of Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corp, they learned how China, using smart cards, was developing a system that would help Beijing track social, political and economic behavior. Using vast databases to store information gathered with the card’s use, a government could monitor everything from a citizen’s personal finances to medical history and voting activity.

“What we saw in China changed everything,” said the member of the Venezuelan delegation, technical advisor Anthony Daquin. His initial amazement, he said, gradually turned to fear that such a system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government. “They were looking to have citizen control.”

The following year, when he raised concerns with Venezuelan officials, Daquin told Reuters, he was detained, beaten and extorted by intelligence agents. They knocked several teeth out with a handgun and accused him of treasonous behavior, Daquin said, prompting him to flee the country. Government spokespeople had no comment on Daquin’s account.

The project languished. But 10 years after the Shenzhen trip, Venezuela is rolling out a new, smart-card ID known as the “carnet de la patria,” or “fatherland card.” The ID transmits data about cardholders to computer servers. The card is increasingly linked by the government to subsidized food, health and other social programs most Venezuelans rely on to survive. 

And ZTE, whose role in the fatherland project is detailed here for the first time, is at the heart of the program.

As part of a $70 million government effort to bolster “national security,” Venezuela last year hired ZTE to build a fatherland database and create a mobile payment system for use with the card, according to contracts reviewed by Reuters. A team of ZTE employees is now embedded in a special unit within Cantv, the Venezuelan state telecommunications company that manages the database, according to four current and former Cantv employees.

The fatherland card is troubling some citizens and human-rights groups who believe it is a tool for Chávez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro, to monitor the populace and allocate scarce resources to his loyalists. 

“It’s blackmail,” Héctor Navarro, one of the founders of the ruling Socialist Party and a former minister under Chávez, said of the fatherland program. “Venezuelans with the cards now have more rights than those without.”

In a phone interview, Su Qingfeng, the head of ZTE’s Venezuela unit, confirmed ZTE sold Caracas servers for the database and is developing the mobile payment application. The company, he said, violated no Chinese or local laws and has no role in how Venezuela collects or uses cardholder data.
“We don’t support the government,” he said. “We are just developing our market.”

An economic meltdown in Venezuela is causing hyperinflation, widespread shortages of food and medicines, and a growing exodus of desperate citizens. Maduro has been sanctioned by the United States and is criticized by governments from France to Canada as increasingly autocratic.
In that, critics say, Maduro has an ally. The fatherland card, they argue, illustrates how China, through state-linked companies like ZTE, exports technological know-how that can help like-minded governments track, reward and punish citizens.

The database, according to employees of the card system and screenshots of user data reviewed by Reuters, stores such details as birthdays, family information, employment and income, property owned, medical history, state benefits received, presence on social media, membership of a political party and whether a person voted....

In a slightly different context we offered our services:
The dream of any right-thinking change agent is to mandate that people use your product.
If that approach is not feasible the fallback is to tax the competition

Here at Totalitarian Marketing Group we supply strategies for the power-mad while making life easier for the top 0.0000001%. TMG, when nudge just isn't fast enough....
If interested see also:
"How China’s AI Technology Exports Are Seeding Surveillance Societies Globally"
Secretly Hankering to Be a Totalitarian? "How to Invest in the China Social Credit Score" 

Potemkin AI: Many instances of 'artificial intelligence' are artificial displays of its power and potential
One of the problems with artificial intelligence and its presentation to society is the image of omnipresence that many of its detractors ascribe to what is currently a not-so-advanced technology.
That image is also presented by proponents as a means to cow citizens—see China's totalitarian internal propaganda—into a version of Martin Seligman's learned helplessness. Resistance is futile, might as well just curl up in a ball, etc.

I don't have a lot of time for Howard Zinn's approach to history but one of his ideas seems to bear on this point:
“If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves.”
If you think you are always being out-thought by folks with access to all-powerful A.I. you will comport yourself differently than if you don't think the stuff is omnipotent....
And more directly tech related
UPDATED—NVIDIA Wants to Be the Brains Behind the Surveillance State (NVDA)
The company just rolled out a $399,000 two-petaflop supercomputer that every little totalitarian and his brother is going to lust after to run their surveillance-city smart-city data slurping dreams.

The coming municipal data centers will end up matching the NSA in total storage capacity and NVIDIA wants to be the one sifting through it all. More on this down the road, for now here's the beast....

Was A Large Energy Fund Just Crushed?

From The Macro Tourist:
Crude oil. Ugly move lower over the past two weeks.
The market pundits will try to explain the price action. They will offer evidence of President Trump’s tweet as the catalyst for the sell off.
Or they will point to the decline resulting from market participants’ belief the global economy is about to roll over.

And if they don’t use that excuse, they will trot out the breakout in the US Dollar Index.
Either way, the chart looks about as attractive as my moldy 30-year old hockey equipment.
Although I don’t deny these three factors played a role in oil’s recent demise (especially the global slow-down narrative), I contend that these were just excuses.
The truth of the matter is that there is a Behemoth out there that was long crude oil against short nat gas (along with short nat gas spreads).
Don’t believe me?
Although I acknowledge it has become mildly colder over the past couple of weeks, do you really believe that is was enough to spike the front nat gas future from $2.75 to $4.03?
A 46% increase in a couple of months. C’mon - that’s not weather.
Still don’t believe me that someone is offside? If you can come up with a fundamental reason for the March / April 2019 Nat Gas spread to spike like this, then by all means, please pass it along.
Look closely at that chart. The spread has bounced around 25 and 40 cents for the past three years. Now, in November, a full 3 months ahead of the front month coming due, they have decided it should trade at an 82 cent premium?

Norway Getting Ready to Lift Sinking Frigate

Fortunately, what with the offshore oil platforms and everything, Norway has some experience lifting and moving heavy stuff.

From World Maritime News:

BOA Management Readies to Lift Norwegian Sinking Frigate
There's a ship under here

Norwegian offshore service provider BOA Management has started preparatory work for the salvage of now almost completely submerged Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad.
The work is said to be supported by DNV GL as an external consultant.
The plan is to gradually lift the vessel and transfer it to one of semi-submersible barges of BOA Management.

The salvage operation is expected to last around three weeks. The frigate is expected to head for Haakonsvern, the main base of the Royal Norwegian Navy and the largest naval base in the Nordic area, at the beginning of December.

However, the overall salvage operation is dependent on many conditions including weather, stability of the vessel and environmental considerations, the Norwegian Navy said.

Once lifted, it would be possible to conduct thorough damage assessment of the vessel.
As World Maritime News reported, Helge Ingstad almost completely sank on November 13, despite being anchored to the land, with only the vessel’s radar tower protruding above the water.
According to the navy, there is still a risk that the vessel might slide further into the water. Activities are underway to stabilize the vessel....MORE
Earlier (Nov. 8): "Norway's Equinor Announced They Restarted Operations at the Kollsnes Gas Facility, Britain Will Get Its Methane (and the ship that wouldn't sink)".

We've looked at heavy lift barges and ships a few times, most recently in 2016's "Sometimes You Need A Helping Hand". Because of the size of the load and proximity to the destination the Norwegians won't need one of the heavy lift ships, as noted above a barge should do the trick.

However, should the need arise...see the last photo below.

When the US Navy had their rash of collisions involving destroyers, ships larger than the Helge Ingstad, there were many stories on the ships that haul ships. Here's the MV Transshelf:
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) departed Pier 9 at Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka, December 1, 2017. U.S. Navy Photo

Here's the MV Treasure bringing the USS John S McCain back to the United States:
Both photos via gCaptain

And then there's the Pioneering Spirit.

Pioneering Spirit Sets World Lifting Record
The giant offshore installation and commissioning vessel Pioneering Spirit has set the new world lifting record with the successful removal of Shell’s 24,000 tonne Brent Delta platform in the North Sea in a single lift.
 Lifting of the Delta topsides. Credit: Allseas
Pioneering Spirit’s owner Allseas confirmed the safe and successful completion of the topsides removal operation on April 28....
Yeah, it's basically two oil tankers strapped together catamaran style.

"A superstar ex-Facebook and Google exec is trying to upend a $6 billion industry with devices that spot disease sooner"

From Business Insider:
  • A brush with death inspired ex-Facebook and Google executive Mary Lou Jepsen to embark on her latest initiative as the founder of a San Francisco-based startup called Openwater.
  • Jepsen is working on devices that are akin to portable, miniature MRIs which could do everything from observing the effects of a medication in real time to monitoring a breast cancer tumor to decide if surgery is necessary.
  • Her startup is currently running experiments on rats in a lab in the San Francisco area, she told Business Insider.
Former Google and Facebook executive Mary Lou Jepsen was in her 20s when she went home to die. What began with terrible headaches developed into fatigue so severe she had to use a wheelchair. She'd lost control of movement in half of her face. 

It took several months and a handful of doctors before someone recommended that Jepsen get an MRI — a procedure that that lets clinicians peek inside the brain, but that can cost thousands of dollars and is performed exclusively on a two-ton machine in a special room, often at a hospital. The pricey devices use radio waves and strong magnets to create pictures of organs and structures inside the body. 

Thanks to Jepsen's MRI, she was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor just in time to save her life.
Jepsen's brush with death drove her to create a startup called Openwater. 

Its mission is to make portable, miniature imaging machines that everyone can afford — machines that she dreams will one day harbor the power to do everything from detect tumors in any organ to allow for brain-to-brain communication. If it works, her technology could disrupt the roughly $6 billion annual MRI market. ...MORE

"New York City Announces Subway Just For Amazon Employees Now"

From AFNS, Nov. 13:
NEW YORK—Championing the decision as a necessary step to make the “Big Apple” more tech-friendly, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the subway is just for Amazon employees now. “All 8.6 million New York City residents not employed by Amazon or an Amazon subsidiary are prohibited from using MTA trains, effective immediately,” said de Blasio, adding that the transit system’s 27 subway lines will now exclusively serve as shuttles for the roughly 25,000 Amazon employees to commute through the five boroughs....MORE
Also at AFNS:

‘You Are All Inside Amazon’s Second Headquarters,’ Jeff Bezos Announces To Horrified Americans As Massive Dome Envelops Nation

"...Is Tesla Stock The Best-Looking Big Tech Right Now?" (TSLA)

As the man said:
"I don't care who you are, that's funny right there." 
Interesting chart:

$344.89 up $6.16 (+1.82%)
From Investor's Business Daily, Nov. 13

...Tesla Stock: Don't Laugh!
Tesla stock is holding above its 50-day moving average as it builds the right side of a base. That's something Apple stock, FANG stocks and most chips can only dream of right now. Two of Apple's Dow Jones peers, Microsoft (MSFT) and Cisco Systems (CSCO), aren't too far from potential buy points but have fallen below the 50-day. Other large-cap techs — such as Intel (INTC), Nvidia (NVDA), (CRM) and Adobe (ADBE) — are generally in repair or disarray right now....MUCH MORE

"Not Your Typical Short Seller: The Stigler Center Hosts Fahmi Quadir"

Note: this event was held November 12 and this post is a placeholder/aide-mémoire until I can get my hands on a transcript.
From the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business' ProMarket blog, Nov. 9:

Quadir, known for betting against Valeant in 2015, will discuss short selling, exposing corporate fraud and thriving in a sometimes-reviled industry lacking diversity in a conversation with Luigi Zingales.
In the summer of 2015, Valeant Pharmaceuticals—a name now synonymous with corporate greed—was still the darling of Wall Street. At one point a small and struggling pharmaceutical company, Valeant had managed to propel itself into a $90 billion market cap by doing away with the traditional pharma business model, which typically involves heavy R&D spending. Instead, the company went on an acquisition spree, purchasing dozens of smaller drug manufacturers and then drastically hiking the prices of their existing drugs.

For a while, this strategy paid off for Valeant. Its stock rose by more than 4000 percent between 2008 and 2015, peaking at $262. Prominent investors, among them Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman, bet billions of dollars on the company and championed its CEO, J. Michael Pearson, with some even comparing him to Warren Buffett. Other companies began emulating Valeant’s strategy of acquiring smaller rivals, slashing R&D spending and subsequently ordering exorbitant price increases. Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals is the most notorious example, but far from the only one. 

Fahmi Quadir, then a 25-year old equity analyst at the New York hedge fund Krensavage Asset Management, didn’t buy the hype. Quadir, who in college majored in mathematics and biology, recognized the unsustainable nature of Valeant’s business model and, in June 2015, pushed her employers to short the stock. While Valeant’s stock peaked that August, by October it was in free fall: Valeant’s price-gouging tactics had caught the attention of politicians and the press (Hillary Clinton famously railed against Valeant’s prices hikes during her presidential campaign, promising to “go after” the company if elected), with Congress and the SEC launching investigations into its drug pricing strategy and its ties to a mail-order pharmacy called Philidor. The attention also brought increased scrutiny to Valeant’s shoddy accounting, ultimately leading to criminal investigations and convictions. The stock has fallen by more than 90 precent since then and Ackman, having lost more than $4 billion on his Valeant bet, ended up calling his involvement a “huge mistake.” Earlier this year, the beleaguered company attempted a rebranding by changing its name to Bausch Health Companies, but it is still mostly known as the “Enron of pharma.” ...

"Worst-Case Wednesday: How to Open a Bottle of Wine with a Broken Cork"

Let's say that after reading yesterday's "Investment Obscura: Spear's Top High Net Worth Advisers Working in Art, Wine and Classic Cars in 2018" you think collecting wine will be your new hobby.
And let's say that after 24 hours you get bored with the idea and decide the thing to do is crack open that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti you were intending to lay down for a couple decades.

And...the cork breaks.

Never fear! From Quirkbooks:

The holidays are over, New Year's Eve is in the past, but all that leftover wine... it sits their in your fridge (or not, depending on the kind of wine), waiting to be finished. And perhaps, just perhaps in the midst of your revelry, you broke a cork or two. It happens.

Never fear! The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays has you covered.

Examine the cork.
If the cork has broken due to improper corkscrew use, treat the broken cork as if it were whole. If the cork is pushed too far into the bottle, push it all the way in using any long, thin implement and proceed to "Make a filter," blow.

Reinsert the corkscrew.
Six half turns of the corkscrew will usually be enough to allow you to remove a full cork, but you may need fewer for a partial cork. Turn the corkscrew slowly to prevent further breakage.

Pull the cork out.
Pull up steadily on the corkscrew, being careul not to jerk the cork out of the bottol. If the cork remains in the bottle, bore a hole through the center of the cork, using the corkscrew as a drill.
If you've had to push the cork into the bottle:

Make a filter.
Place a piece of clean, unwaxed unbleached cheesecloth over the mouth of a decanter and secure it tightly with a rubber band. If no cheesecloth is available, use a coffee filter (preferably unbleached). Do not use a T-shirt or any article of clothing you have washed in detergent—the detergent can affect the taste of the wine...MORE
Or, let's say during the decorking operation you somehow splash the wine on the assembled multitude.
Never fear!
Worst-Case Wednesday: How to Survive a Wine Spill Emergency
And seriously, don't be using that grotty old t-shirt as a filter.

UPDATE: "Why the Russian Navy Could Be in Serious Trouble"

Following up on October 30's "Russia's only aircraft carrier damaged after crane falls on it—and the drydock sank".
Ever since Tsar Peter went to England in 1698* Russia has wanted a blue-water navy. Maybe they don't need one. Maybe coastal/littoral is fine.

From The National Interest, November 9:

How one recent events could help force some serious changes.
The sinking of the Russian navy’s biggest dry dock could spell trouble, and change, for the world’s third-biggest navy.

PD-50, a huge floating dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo, Russia, accidentally sank on Oct. 29, 2018 after an electrical malfunction resulting in pumps overfilling the dock’s ballast tanks.
Four shipyard workers were hurt.

Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, was aboard PD-50 at the time of the sinking. The carrier remained afloat but suffered damage from a collapsing crane.It could take years for the Kremlin to make up for PD-50’s loss. In the meantime, the Russian fleet will lack a floating repair facility for the 60,000-ton-displacement Kuznetsov and potentially other large warships of Cold War-vintage.

Dry docks lift ships out of the water, allowing workers to access their lower hulls for deep maintenance.

Even before PD-50’s sinking, the Russian fleet was slowly replacing big, old ships with much smaller new ones that can’t sail as far or carry as much weaponry, but which are cheaper and easier to operate and repair than the old vessels are.

The Kremlin bought four new, small warships in 2018. The Russian fleet numbers some 300 vessels, most of them displacing just a few thousand tons of water. For comparison, the U.S. Navy has roughly the same number of ships, but they are, on average, much larger.

Before, Moscow planned on extending the service lives of its carrier and other warships from the 1980s in order to complement the newer vessels. For long-range deployments across the Atlantic or to war zones such as Syria, Russia tends to send Kuznetsov and equally aged, Soviet-built destroyer and cruisers.

Newer corvettes, which are a fraction of the size of a Cold War cruiser, have tended to remain close to home. In recent years, corvettes from the Caspian Sea fleet have fired long-range Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Syria — all without ever leaving Russian waters....MORE
*I've mentioned his visit a few times, usually in reference to a well-known and almost certainly apocryphal anecdote. Here's one version:

It was a different Admiralty and a different country, a different time and a different place, the past is a foreign land etc, etc.
At any rate, an old tale about Peter the Great's trip to England in 1698 and repeated in Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics:
From his British trip the following story is well known, though it is almost certainly apocryphal. Staying at John Evelyn's country house outside London, Peter marched into the drawing room one day with a shotgun over his arm and announced, in thick English, "I haff shot a peasant." "No, no, my dear fellow." replied his host, laughing. "You mean a pheasant." "Nyet," said Peter, shaking his head. "It voss a peasant. He voss insolent, unt so I shot him." 
Great story but not borne out by the facts. Pete stayed at Evelyn's home in Deptford which was handy to the naval dockyard (an Admiralty Yard) where the Tsar went incognito to learn the tricks of the navy biz.
Not that it is impossible the writer and the Tsar visited the country place but describing it as Evelyn's is wrong and shows a certain fast-and-loose approach to the truth. 

Evelyn didn't inherit the family estate from his brother until 1699 by which time Peter had returned to Russia and begun building his navy, but this story was told to me almost word-for-word the first time I was described as insolent.
So I looked it up.

And for some reason recalled it in a post about Crispin Odey.