Wednesday, October 21, 2020

NOAA's La Niña Weather Forecast Winter 2020 - 2021: Cooler/Drier North; Warmer/Wetter South

 First up, the October 15 press release but if interested take a look at the maps linked in the experimental product, last year we found them to be accurate enough to guide speculations.

From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

U.S. Winter Outlook: Cooler North, warmer South with ongoing La Nina
Persistent drought dominates the Western landscape

NOAA’s winter forecast for the U.S. favors warmer, drier conditions across the southern tier of the U.S., and cooler, wetter conditions in the North, thanks in part to an ongoing La Nina. Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center — a division of the National Weather Service — are also closely monitoring persistent drought during the winter months ahead, with more than 45% of the continental U.S. now experiencing drought....

.... “With La Nina well established and expected to persist through the upcoming 2020 winter season, we anticipate the typical, cooler, wetter North, and warmer, drier South, as the most likely outcome of winter weather that the U.S. will experience this year,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

https://www.noaa.gov/image_download/74129?itok=aRM9me8o

 This U.S. Winter Outlook 2020-2021 map for temperature shows above-average temperatures are likely in the South and below-average temperatures likely in parts of the North. (NOAA Climate.gov, using NWS CPC data)

https://www.noaa.gov/image_download/74133?itok=kG5YhoxC

This 2020-2021 U.S. Winter Outlook map for precipitation shows wetter-than-average weather is most likely across the Northern Tier of the U.S. and drier-than-average weather is favored across the South. (NOAA Climate.gov, using NWS CPC data)

...MORE

And the  Experimental Unofficial Long-Lead Forecasts : Two-Class Probabilities

Here's the current U.S. Drought Monitor map from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, new map tomorrow:

https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/data/png/20201013/20201013_usdm.png

In the fall of 1972, President Nixon announced that "the rate of increase of inflation was decreasing".

Since it's election season and since the post immediately below,Solar Speculators May Have Dissapointment and Sorrow Coming Their Way (TAN)" mentions changes in the rate of increase this is probably as good a place as any for this odd little tidbit.

From the incomparable Fermat's Library

Solar Speculators May Have Dissapointment and Sorrow Coming Their Way (TAN)

 No matter who wins the election it will be difficult to match the expectations embedded in the price action of the Invesco Solar ETF (TAN):

Although we were able to catch the exact bottom for the S&P 500 futures—posted Friday evening March 20, 2020—we sure as heck didn't foresee the latest bend in the rate of ascent in this little vehicle (via FinViz):

https://charts2.finviz.com/chart.ashx?t=TAN&ty=c&ta=1&p=d&s=l

Not to say the ETF won't trade higher, just that we've crossed the event horizon from sales and earnings and cash flow investing to greater fool speculating. 

$77.73 at the close Tuesday Oct. 20.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Something Seems To Have Happened To FT Alphaville

 I'm not sure what this means:



"Public Service Announcement: It’s not you, it’s us"
Someone is elsewhere on the internet....
 
....MUCH MORE  
 
But da ville appears to have been swallowed up by the mother ship:
This:  https://www.ft.com/alphaville has replaced:
 
 
And in totally unrelated British redirects grauniad.com will bring you to the Guardian, US edition.

"The Louvre’s Secret Apartments"

 With the museum open again I wonder if they would let me hang out for a couple months?

A repost from Sunday, May 6, 2018:

We've looked at a few secret apartments over the years, some links below.
From Messy Nessy Chic:
The Louvre; or, as we’ve prefer to call it, Paris’ most exhaustingly gorgeous tourist trap. In the MessyNessy guide, Don’t Be a Tourist in Paris, there’s even a chapter called, “Anything but the Louvre” that steers folks away from its selfie-stick jungles, and into the arms of more overlooked museums in the city. But this weekend, we decided to pay a visit to the Louvre. Our self-inflicted challenge? Finding a way to visit the museum without “being a tourist”; as it turns out, there’s an entire wing that’s escaped our radar over the years: Napoleon III’s apartments. They’re ghostly, gilded, and a veritable mini-Versailles…
http://static.messynessychic.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/louvreentru-930x520.jpg
The apartments are hidden in the Richelieu Wing, and if finding them sounds intimidating, fret not; we’re here to guide you into the belly of the beast. You can try your chances at the normal queue by the pyramid, but we suggest sliding in through the Galérie du Carrousel (an underground mall that connects to the Louvre) by the arch, or through the entrance on rue de Rivoli. Once you’re in, make your way to the museum’s hub, which has escalators crawling up to different galleries (i.e. Denon, Sully). You want to aim for Richelieu.” From there, it’s a straight shot into exploring the luxurious interiors…MUCH MORE
The rooms are very French:

http://static.messynessychic.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/41AF0592-FE69-40FA-A30E-0A3CB3B6F80C-2-930x1240.jpg

Previously: 
The Apartment Inside Grand Central Terminal
Radio City Music Hall's Secret Apartment

There are more, we'll get to them.

"As the Arctic's attractions mount, Greenland is a security black hole"

Back in August we were making this very point:

The U.S. Has NO Icebreakers It Can Deploy To The Arctic This Year

What the actual hell.
Congress and the Obama administration should have ordered six heavies ten years ago.
This is dereliction of their single most important function, national defense, and borderline suicidal.

From Reuters, October 19: 

On a windy August afternoon in 2017, Akitsinnguaq Ina Olsen was relaxing in the old harbour of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, when a Chinese icebreaker sailed unannounced into the Arctic island’s territorial waters.

“I saw it by chance,” Olsen, 50, told Reuters. “My first thought was: ‘They’re already here!’ They’re pretty cheeky, those Chinese.”

She pulled out her phone and took a picture of the 167-meter long Chinese icebreaker Xue Long (Snow Dragon), before it turned around and disappeared.

The Chinese ship was one of a growing number of unexpected arrivals in Arctic waters as shrinking sea ice has fast-tracked a race among global powers for control over resources and waterways. Both China and Russia have been making increasingly assertive moves in the region, and after the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year said now is “America’s moment to stand up as an Arctic nation and for the Arctic’s future,” military activity is stepping up.

Greenland is a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark and Copenhagen runs the island’s defence through its Joint Arctic Command. On several occasions since 2006, foreign vessels have turned up unexpectedly or without the necessary protocols, in waters that NATO-member Denmark aims to defend, Greenland residents and military sources in Denmark and the United States told Reuters.

Copenhagen and its Arctic neighbours have tried in recent decades to keep the region what they call a “low tension” area. But each event underscores new challenges for Denmark and its allies.

The main problem: It’s hard to see what’s going on there.

Greenland, which U.S. President Donald Trump offered unsuccessfully to buy from Copenhagen last year, is largely an ice sheet with a rocky coastline of 44,000 km (27,000 miles) - longer than the earth’s equator. It’s hidden by almost complete darkness in the winter months.

Beneath its rocks and ice are abundant resources of minerals and rare earth metals used in equipment from smartphones to electric vehicles and military jets, as well as uranium and potentially vast resources of oil and natural gas.

Greenland offers more than resources. The island, which is nearer to New York than New York is to Los Angeles, is also a strategic window onto space....

....MUCH MORE

HT: gCaptain

It's probably best the U.S. didn't try to do some Kelo eminent domain thing:

"President Trump Eyes a New Real-Estate Purchase: Greenland"

Possibly related:
June 9
Chinese Investment In Greenland and Iceland
May 17
Sand from Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheet Could Bring in Business 
November 2018 
"How the Greenland ice sheet fared in 2018"
September 2018 
Greenland Passes On the Opportunity To Be Part Of China's One Belt, One Road  

And then there's the whole Hans Island thing.

French Oil & Gas Major, Total, Delivers First ‘Carbon Neutral’ LNG Cargo

 From gCaptain:

French energy giant Total says it has delivered its first carbon neutral liquefied natural gas cargo to China.

The loading operation was carried out at the Ichthys liquefaction plant in Australia, and the shipment was delivered to Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) at the Dapeng terminal in China on September 29.

The carbon neutrality of the LNG shipment was achieved through offsets using “Verified Carbon Standards” emissions certificates financing two projects: the Hebei Guyuan Wind Power Project in northern China and the Kariba REDD+ Forest Protection Project in Zimbabwe.

The term “carbon neutral” means that Total and CNOOC offset the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent associated with the whole carbon footprint of the LNG cargo, including the production, liquefaction, shipping, regasification, and end-use through VCS certified emission reduction projects....

...MORE

"Zig-zag pattern. Reduced speed. A Russian nuclear-powered cargo ship steaming outside Africa towards Antarctic attracts attention"

I admit it, I am obsessed with this weird-a** ship.

From The Barents Observer, October 20:

The "Sevmorput" carries modules for the new huge Vostok research station for Antarctica.  

Sevmorput” left St. Petersburg on October 5, steaming south at steady 18 knots. Until this weekend. In the Atlantic, about 500 nautical miles west of Africa, the aged nuclear-powered freighter suddenly reduced speed and turned around for a northbound course. All Sunday, the 260 meters long vessel sailed back-and-forth.

Tracks of the voyage can be seen on VesselFinder.com and MarineTraffic.com, based on the automatic identification system (AIS).

Later on Sunday, “Sevmorput” ended the back-and-forth sailing, but instead of setting course towards Antarctica, she kept a northwest route all Sunday night and Monday morning. At a slow-speed of 6 to 7 knots.

Monday by noon (CET), another 180 degrees turn brought “Sevmorput” back on a southbound pattern, but still at a speed of only 6-7 knots. The ship still sail at the speed Tuesday afternoon. 


Zig-zag route in the South-Atlantic west of Africa on Sunday.

Rosatomflot, the Russian state enterprise operating the fleet of civilian nuclear-powered icebreakers, has not been forthcoming about the mysterious zig-zags routes and reduced speed over the last few days....

....MUCH MORE

Among our previous posts:
September 2020
Russia's Creaky Old Nuclear Containership Is Back To Running Fish In the Arctic
I'm starting to think this is some sort of "Dead Hand" weapon, probably pointed at Helsinki as retribution for the Winter War.
Let it go Russki dudes, let it go.

May 2020
Putin Wants to Haul More Fish Along the Northern Sea Route
I'm not sure what the Russians are up to with this but I'm pretty sure that it's not because moving our finny friends thousands of miles by ship suddenly got more economical. And especially not if they use the ancient nuclear-powered container ship pictured in the story.
As noted in one of last years posts (they are multiple) on the topic:

February 2010
Shipping: This Is Just Weird—Russia's Nuclear Powered Container Ship Going To Antarctica
We've looked at this ship a few times and can't figure out what the Russians are up to.
And now Antarctica? In winter?

Cold's a'comin and even the icebreakers, the American Polar Star, heading for home port and China's Xuelong 2 , currently dropping off supplies for a couple of their southern research stations are wrapping up the season.
Or will it sail in six months? If so why advertise the voyage now?

eptember 3, 2019
"The Nuclear Powered Container Ship Sevmorput Is Going to Haul Salmon Along the Northern Sea Route (and Norway and Denmark)"

This is an odd story. First off the Sevmorput is old. It went into service in 1988.
Secondly, although I haven't asked about the costs, you would have to assume a nuclear cargo ship would have to carry some high value cargo to pay the freight, so to speak.

Last March the ship was carrying construction materials and equipment from Archangel to Novatek's LNG 2 project off the Ob river and we were going to do a post on this oddball ship and its five day trip.
That at least made sense: high-value cargo short distance, entirely within Russian waters....
September 11, 2019
"Norway Would Like To Know If Russia Plans To Make More Salmon Hauling Trips With Their Nuclear Container Ship":
....If only there was some sort of land based transportation mode that could make the trip, something that crossed Siberia, Trans-Siberian if you will, that was comprised of individual cars that could be hooked up in train.  And get the damn salmon to Moscow in days not weeks.

Maybe put 'em on a boat in Petropavlovsk and sail them across the Sea of Okhotsk to Sovetskaya Gavan, whose harbormasters are (reputedly) eminently bribable and will speed your multi-modal perishables on their way west to wind up in some fat mafioso's belly. Ditto for Vladivostok but you'll need to wave a bit more cash to get anyone's attention.
November 11, 2019 
Russian Plan For Second Salmon Hauling Voyage With Their Nuclear-Powered Container Ship Cancelled
Ya think?
They were transporting fish on a nuclear powered ship.
The long way. (vs land transport):
Seriously what are the Russians up to with this?
 
I'm starting to think this is some sort of Bond-villain caper, with the propeller story just a ruse to cover for the fine-tuning of the under-hull submarine docking chamber.
Or something.

Maybe it's related to the submarine disaster last July that killed 14 high ranking officers (captains and commanders).
We had quite a few links to that Russian oddity:
Just What Was That Stricken Russian Submarine Carrying?

Tragedy at Sea: The Russian Submariners Could Have Been Saved
Still unanswered are the two questions raised almost immediately after the July 1 incident:
1) What were so many senior officers practicing on the deep-diving submersible?
2) Why did the "High Ranking Military Official" say at the funeral service:
“Today we are seeing off the crew of a research deep water apparatus, who died while performing a combat mission in the cold waters of the Barents Sea. Fourteen dead, 14 lives,” he is quoted as saying. “At the cost of their lives, they saved the lives of their comrades, saved the ship, did not allow a planetary catastrophe.
So who knows?

"Google to Donate Its Search Engine to the American Public" (GOOG)

 This is fāke news. The real news is after the jump.

From the Huffington Post:

Gift, valued by donor at over $1 trillion, is said to be the largest ever
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - In a stunning announcement, Eric Schmidt, head of Alphabet, Inc., the holding company that owns Google, said today in a press conference at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, that at midnight on New Year’s Eve of this year, the iconic Google search engine will become property of a new nonprofit organization called Unlimited Years of Search, or UYS. 
“We consider this to be a well-earned gift to the American public,” said Schmidt. “We don’t own the internet, after all, and our search engine is just an index to what’s out there - just a kind of library catalogue. That catalogue should be owned by the public, not a private company. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it.”

In a joint statement issued by Stephanie Hannon, former Google executive and Chief Technology Officer for Hillary Clinton, and Megan Smith, former Google executive and Chief Technology Officer for Barack Obama, Schmidt’s announcement drew strong praise.
“Google has always given away everything for free without asking for anything in return except of course a trivial amount of information about its users (LOL),” wrote Hannon and Smith. “Now it’s making the ultimate contribution to society. It’s breathtaking and overwhelming and it really makes us want to cry, both together, like at the same time.”
Valued by the donor at $1.15 trillion, Schmidt said this is the largest charitable gift ever given by any corporation or individual anywhere in the world. Other large charitable gifts by Microsoft founder Bill Gates or Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al-Waheed bin Talal are in the mere tens of billions of dollars and pale in comparison to Google’s.
Asked specifically about Mr. Gates’ $10 billion gift to provide vaccines for people in Africa, Schmidt said, “Gates is an ass who doesn’t know how to dress, and everyone knows it.”....MORE

And from FT Alphaville:


The USA vs. Google
The first big tech antitrust lawsuit has landed.

Today marks the beginning of a war that everyone’s seen coming.

The Department of Justice, along with eleven Republican state attorneys, has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, a little-known business owned by a company called Alphabet. It’s the first in what’s widely expected to be a set of historic antitrust cases against the tech giants, which may threaten the dominance of these businesses as we know them today....
 
Yesterday: 

Meanwhile in New Jersey: "Truck Pulling Trailer Full Of Monkeys Catches Fire On I-287"

No monkeys were injured in the mayhem.

Part of an occasional series on stories that make 2020, 2020.

From Patch NJ, Sept. 25:

A pickup truck pulling a trailer full of monkeys caught on fire on I-287 in Bridgewater on Thursday....

...The trailer did not catch on fire and no monkeys were injured, Marchan said.

It's not known where the monkeys were coming from, or how many there were....MORE

 

The Future of New York: The Panic Attack of Realty Power Brokers

A major piece from New York Magazine via Curbed, October 13:

The city’s “permanent government” has always built its way out of crisis. But what if it can’t?

This article was featured in One Great Story, New York’s reading recommendation newsletter. Sign up here to get it nightly.

One late-August morning, I met former New York governor Eliot Spitzer at Hudson Yards, the lavishly subsidized $25 billion real-estate development that will one day house Facebook offices, investment funds, and the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer. I found him at the base of an unfinished skyscraper, where a marketing banner draped across the scaffolding read RESET EXPECTATIONS.

Spitzer was wearing a mask, a green gingham shirt, and bookish horn-rimmed glasses. The former governor is now a builder, having returned to his family’s real-estate business after self-destructing in politics. He had been talking to me intermittently since the middle of the summer, analyzing the pandemic as someone with a deep personal investment in the health of the city. “I don’t know when people are coming back to these buildings,” Spitzer said as we strolled north toward the site of a mixed-use project he is constructing in partnership with the Related Companies, the main developer of Hudson Yards. “At first, the optimists were saying, ‘This will be a three-week shutdown, and by Labor Day it will be back to normal.’ ” Now the emergency evacuation had settled into a state of semi-permanent dispersal.

That day, the city would record just 281 cases of COVID-19, close to its low since the pandemic began, and life in the city’s residential neighborhoods had returned to a pleasant rhythm, with people dining on the sidewalks and Instagramming sunsets in the park. But the whirring core of Manhattan still felt weird and abandoned. It was a little before 11 a.m. on a weekday, and there was not a single office worker in sight. Chairs were stacked on tables inside the Maison Kayser sandwich shop at Hudson Yards, where a sign on the door read CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. The chain was bankrupt. So was Neiman Marcus, which had recently announced it was abandoning the 50-year lease on the department store it had just opened in the Hudson Yards mall. Only 8 percent of Manhattan’s 1 million office workers were now estimated to be back at their desks, compared with 20 or 25 percent in other U.S. metro areas. Around Times Square, where almost a quarter of the retail locations were available for lease this spring, disorder and vagrancy had crept into the negative space.

The present crisis encompasses aspects of every challenge New York has faced in recent memory. Like Sandy, it is a natural disaster. Like the 2008 financial crisis, it has caused a surge in unemployment and poverty. Like 9/11, it is a mass-casualty event and a psychological trauma. As in the 1970s, the city government faces a fiscal crisis with tax revenue projected to plummet. And it is all wrapped around an unprecedented crisis of authority, which confounds any attempt to organize a response.

“We presume that since New York has been the epicenter for as long as we can recall, that there is an inevitability to that fact,” Spitzer told me. “And yet there isn’t. This is the first moment when I seriously worry about the city’s place — economically, culturally, socially — because the social fabric of the city is being torn apart.”

Spitzer led us to West 35th Street, where concrete mixers were churning outside his development site. “See the foundation walls?” he said, as we peered through a little window in the plywood barrier surrounding the construction. “That is going up 50 stories, and a year and a half thereafter, this building will be occupied.” Phase one of the project is a residential tower. Phase two is the office building; it will need to sign an anchor tenant in order to go forward. For now, that part of the site was occupied by a white tent: a COVID testing center.

Construction is one of the few industries that have continued mostly unabated, but history shows it to be a lagging indicator. Real-estate projects take years to design, finance, and build, and they can be overtaken by unexpected events. Spitzer said he was “shoring up the bulwarks” at his company, slowing down future developments until the economy strengthens. “If there’s a 10 percent drop in office demand,” Spitzer said, “it’s going to ripple through the market in a very real way.”

In past crises, the city has tended to build its way out of its problems, offering substantial subsidies to developers and corporate tenants to revive Times Square and reconstruct the World Trade Center. When the 2008 crash hit, the city spent hundreds of millions of dollars to backstop the finances of Hudson Yards, ensuring that the most expensive real-estate development in American history would continue forward.

Government officials saw projects like Hudson Yards as necessary engines of the city’s prosperity. “If you believe that growth is good, Hudson Yards is spectacular,” Spitzer said. Launching new office construction when almost no one is going to offices every day may seem ludicrous, but that is the way New York’s political class has always approached the process of recovery, assuming that the city — and demand — will inevitably rebound. That premise is now up for question. The longer all those skyscrapers remain empty, the less essential they seem. At the same time, a new class of progressives is successfully crusading against corporate power and megadevelopments. As the largest contributor to the city’s tax base, and a major campaign contributor, real-estate developers have grown accustomed to having sway over issues of economic development. But the insurgents were opening the Overton window and shoving them right out.

As a Democrat and a developer, Spitzer was stunned by the reversal. “What’s wrong with building a building?” Spitzer asked, as we watched a crane lift a piece of steel up the face of the new Pfizer headquarters. “Where did this city come from?”

If the entire real-estate industry is filled with anxiety, there’s still a hierarchy of distress. The multigenerational family companies, like Spitzer’s, tend to be less heavily leveraged, which should allow them to ride out the pandemic. (Or so they say — they’re extremely private companies, so who knows?) The public real-estate companies are more exposed to market forces. SL Green Realty, which opened a $3 billion office tower next to Grand Central in September, has seen its stock price fall by nearly half since the pandemic hit, and its latest SEC filings warn that the “severe disruptions” from COVID could continue to depress rents.

More imperiled still are the adventurous investors — the ones who are building condo towers catering to foreign billionaires or who borrowed heavily to buy high on speculative trends. Spitzer broke down the math: “If you bought a building presuming that you’re getting paid $100 a square foot — presumed the next year the rent was going to be $110, went to a bank and borrowed based upon the $110, and then suddenly your rents go down to $70 and you need $80 in rent just to pay your mortgage and operating expenses — you’re finished.”

Also finished, in all probability: anyone dependent on restaurants, shopping, or tourism. Jared Kushner’s family firm, for instance, is in danger of losing the retail space it owns in the old New York Times Building on West 43rd Street. The state of the hotel industry, which has come to almost a complete halt, is ruinous. “How long can people stay submerged without running out of oxygen?” asked Vijay Dandapani, the president of the Hotel Association of New York City. Around 140 of the city’s 700 hotels have been rented to the city as homeless shelters, Dandapani said. Many have closed, and he estimates that “well over 100” will never reopen. Broadway theaters, a major tourism driver, are dark. The industry’s trade association announced last Friday that it was shifting the target date for reopening to the end of the spring; a source familiar with the plans said even that was unrealistic, given the unique challenges presented by live theater. “Believe me,” he said, “we are far from theaters being opened by June 1.”

Office landlords are in a comparatively insulated position, since the industry practice is to sign long-term leases. But some are more vulnerable than others. In recent years, many older buildings have been repositioned for co-working, which has been devastated by the pandemic. Many small firms and start-ups have been unable to pay rent. “There’s been a lot of pain, a lot of unpleasant conversations,” says a landlord with a large number of troubled start-up tenants. “It’s a weird responsibility for me. You’re dealing with hundreds of these people. You don’t have any real information about how to do it. On the one hand, it’s not my job to be a philanthropist, and I’m not their partner. On the other hand, it’s in my interest for them to survive.” He says if there’s “realistically zero or close to zero” chance of renting the space for the foreseeable future, “giving them a big rent break might be psychologically scarring but totally rational.”

“If they don’t come up with a stimulus package now, the smaller tenants are all going under,” says Jeffrey Gural, a prominent office landlord who told me that, like many landlords, he is now willing to negotiate. “The market has changed, and I have to accept that.”

For the large corporate tenants that populate Manhattan’s premier office buildings, there is less flexibility. “One of the great fictions out there right now is that leases contain trapdoors,” says Mary Ann Tighe, the head of the New York region office for the commercial brokerage CBRE. Short of declaring bankruptcy, as Neiman Marcus did, there is little way for tenants to extricate themselves from their legally enforceable leases.

That hasn’t stopped some companies from trying. Condé Nast recently told the New York Post it was shopping around for new space as it asked its landlord at One World Trade Center to bring its rent “into line with current market conditions.” (The negotiations appear to have gone nowhere.) In July, the law firm Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett sued its landlord for $8 million in a dispute over rent of its unoccupied offices. There has been an increase in “shadow” office space available for subleasing — around 14 million square feet currently, according to CBRE — although its share of the overall available market, 25 percent, has not yet reached the glut levels seen during the 2008 financial crisis.

“It’s phenomenal how much companies can spend on their real estate,” says Joel Steinhaus, a former executive at Citigroup and WeWork. In New York, according to one study, businesses may allocate as much as $25,000 a year per employee for space. What could be taking shape is a system in which desks are optional perks that companies offer to their employees, rather than entitlements that come with a job. The New York technology entrepreneur Kevin Ryan, speaking by phone from a vacation home in France, tells me that at the height of the city’s lockdown, he closed an acquisition without one in-person meeting. (Ironically, the company in question was Meetup.) Already, two of the start-ups in his portfolio have given up their office leases in Manhattan. “There is zero question that the demand for commercial real estate is going to go down, and prices are going to go down dramatically,” Ryan says. “They are kidding themselves if they think it’s not going to be devastating. Devastating.”....

.....MUCH MORE

ICYMI: SEC Cracks Down On Earnings Smoothing and other "Beat by a Penny" tricks

Jack Welsh weeps.* Well, he's dead but he would be weeping if he could.

From the Securities and Exchange Commission, September28:

SEC Charges Companies, Former Executives as Part of Risk-Based Initiative
Interface and Two Former Executives Charged With Accounting and Disclosure Violations; Fulton Financial Corporation Charged With Disclosure Violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2020-226

Washington D.C., Sept. 28, 2020 —

The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed settled actions against two public companies for violations that resulted in the improper reporting of quarterly earnings per share (EPS) that met or exceeded analyst consensus estimates.  The actions are the first arising from investigations generated by the Division of Enforcement’s EPS Initiative, which utilizes risk-based data analytics to uncover potential accounting and disclosure violations caused by, among other things, earnings management practices.

The SEC’s order against Interface Inc., a Georgia-based modular carpet manufacturer, finds that in multiple quarters in 2015 and 2016, the company made unsupported, manual accounting adjustments that were not compliant with GAAP.  These adjustments were often made when Interface’s internal forecasts indicated that the company would likely fall short of analyst consensus EPS estimates.  The order finds that the adjustments boosted the company’s income, making it possible for Interface to consistently report earnings that met or exceeded consensus estimates.  According to the order, Interface’s former Controller and Chief Accounting Officer Gregory J. Bauer directed the unsupported adjustments, including those made to management bonus accruals and stock-based compensation accounts.  The order also finds that Interface’s former CFO Patrick C. Lynch caused Bauer to direct some of the unsupported entries. 

The SEC’s order against Fulton Financial Corporation, a Pennsylvania-based financial services company, finds that the company inaccurately presented its financial performance in late 2016 and early 2017.  During two quarters in which Fulton was on track to meet or beat analyst consensus EPS estimates, the order finds that Fulton’s public filings included a valuation allowance for its mortgage servicing rights that was at odds with the valuation methodology described in the same filings.  The order finds that in mid-2017 Fulton belatedly reversed the valuation allowance, increasing its EPS by a penny in a quarter when it otherwise would have fallen short of consensus estimates.  As set forth in the order, Fulton’s disclosures created the misleading appearance of consistent earnings across multiple reporting periods....MORE

*From a 2010 post:

I haven't owned GE since '99. I was fortunate to not own this stock for the last decade; as of the open on Friday the stock was down over 50% during Immelt's nine-year tenure. Friday's 3.22% up-move got the loss down to 48%.
In the late '90's a very wealthy and very smart investor said to me:

"GE's phony-baloney earnings smoothing is going to have to end, it's approaching the level of a joke, in addition to violating the '33 act"....
https://api.wsj.net/api/kaavio/charts/big.chart?nosettings=1&symb=ge&uf=0&type=2&size=2&sid=2148&style=320&freq=2&entitlementtoken=0c33378313484ba9b46b8e24ded87dd6&time=20&rand=1140861661&compidx=aaaaa%3a0&ma=0&maval=9&lf=1&lf2=0&lf3=0&height=335&width=579&mocktick=1
BigCharts (also on blogroll at right)

"How to Talk When a Machine is Listening: Corporate Disclosure in the Age of AI"

 From Columbia Law School's CLS Blue Sky blog:

The annual report, like other regulatory filings, is more than a legal requirement; it provides an opportunity for public companies to communicate their financial health, promote their culture and brand, and engage with a full spectrum of stakeholders.  How readers process all this information affects their perception of, and hence participation in, the business in significant ways.  More and more companies are realizing that the target audience for disclosures is no longer just human analysts and investors, but also robots and algorithms that recommend what shares to buy and sell after processing information with machine learning tools and natural language processing kits.

This development was probably inevitable, given technological progress and the sheer volume of disclosure materials.  In any event, companies that wish to communicate and engage with stakeholders need to adjust how they talk about their finances and brands and make forecasts in the age of AI.  That means heeding the logic and techniques underlying the language- and sentiment-analysis facilitated by large-scale machine-learning computation. An example of that sort of computation is a process that identifies positive, negative, and neutral opinions in, say, all disclosures by a company, a task that is beyond the processing ability of human brains. While the literature is catching up to and guiding investors’ use of machine learning and computational tools to extract qualitative information from disclosure and news, there has been no analysis of the feedback effect: how companies adjust the way they talk while knowing that machines are listening.  Our new paper fills this void.

We start with a diagnostic test that connects the expected extent of AI readership for a company’s SEC filings on EDGAR (measured by Machine Downloads) with how machine-friendly its disclosure is (measured by Machine Readability).  The first variable, Machine Downloads, is constructed with historical information by tracking IP addresses that conduct downloads in batches.  We deem Machine Downloads a proxy for AI readership, both because a  request by a machine request is a necessary condition for machine reading, and because the sheer volume of machine downloads makes it unlikely that human readers alone can process them. The second variable builds on the five elements identified by recent literature as affecting the ease with which a machine can parse, script, and synthesize.

We show that, in the cross-section of filings, a one standard deviation change in expected machine downloads is associated with 0.24 standard deviation increase in the Machine Readability of the filing. On the other hand, other (non-machine) downloads do not bear any meaningful correlation with machine readability, validating Machine Downloads as a proxy for machine readership. We further validate that Machine Downloads and Machine Readability are reasonable proxies (for the presence of machine readership and the ease for machines to process) by showing that trades in a company’s shares happen more quickly after a filing becomes public when Machine Downloads is higher, with even stronger interactive effect with Machine Readability. Such a result also demonstrates the real impact of machine-process on information dissemination.

After establishing a positive association between a high AI reader base and more machine-friendly disclosure documents, we further explore how firms manage “sentiment” and “tone” perceived by machines.  It is well-documented that corporate disclosures attempt to strike the right tone with (human) readers by conveying positive sentiments and favorable tones without being explicitly dishonest or noncompliant.  Hence, we expect a similar strategy tailored to machine readers.  While researchers and practitioners had long relied on the Harvard Psychosociological Dictionary to construct “sentiment” as perceived by (mostly human) readers by counting and contrasting “positive” and “negative” words, the publication of Loughran and McDonald in the Journal of Finance in 2011, (“LM” hereafter) presents an instrumental event to test our hypothesis pertaining to machine readers.  This is because not only Loughran and McDonald (2011) presented a new, specialized finance dictionary of positive/negative words and words that are informative about liability and uncertainty, but also the word lists that came with the paper has served as a leading lexicon for algorithms to sort out sentiments in both the industry and academia.

As a first step, we establish that firms which expect many machine downloads avoid LM-negative words but only after 2011 (the year of publication of the LM dictionary).  Such a structural change is absent with respect to words deemed negative by the Harvard Dictionary, which was known to human readers for many years. As a result, the difference, LM – Harvard Sentiment, follows the same path as the LM Sentiment, suggesting that the change in disclosure style is indeed driven by the publication of the LM dictionary....

....MORE

Monday, October 19, 2020

"Pain, brioche, and the language of taxation"

We made mention of the Irish court ruling as the outro from another post on Irish Whiskey:

And in other news from Ireland, from The Journal.ie:
Subway sandwiches contain 'too much sugar' to legally be considered bread, Supreme Court rules

The sugar is equal to 10% of the weight of the flour which probably caramelizes nicely but puts the stuff near the range of confection.

And here's a language lesson from  Canadian econ blog Worthwhile Canadian Initiative:

Ireland's Supreme Court recently ruled that the buns Subway uses in its sandwiches contain too much sugar to be considered "bread", and are thus subject to Value Added Tax (VAT). The decision lead to headlines and discussion along the lines of "Irish High Court Rules Subway’s Sandwich Bread Is Not Legally Bread" or "Ireland declares that Subway’s bread is basically cake". The emphasis was on how "confused" and "bizarre" the entire debate was, and the cost and arbitrary nature of distinctions made in tax legislation: "Having moral distinctions between foodstuffs in your tax regulations turns out to be an awfully expensive thing".

Yet the discussion of whether or not Subway buns are bread is only confused and bizarre in English, with our barren culinary language. In French, the discussion would not seem peculiar. French distinguishes between three broad categories of baked goods: unsweetened bread is "pain", sweetened bread (often made with eggs and milk) is "brioche", and cake is "gâteau." Hence the expression "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" is (somewhat misleadingly) translated as "let them eat cake", because there is no English word for sweetened bread.

...MORE

Montreal is the fourth largest French speaking city in the world, something I should have mentioned in last year's: 

 I'm putting the odds of Montreal passing Abidjan for the #3 spot at 0%.

Production Hypercars: There Is A New World Speed Record

 From New Atlas, October 19:

SSC Tuatara sets 316-mph record to become world's fastest production car 

Thirteen years after it made a name for itself with its first world speed record, SSC has done it again, absolutely blowing the field away with a new official world speed record. On Saturday, October 10, on a dry, sun-drenched stretch of state highway outside Las Vegas, pro driver Oliver Webb took the wheel of the 1,750-hp SSC Tuatara and pushed it past the elusive 300-mph (483-km/h) barrier ... and just kept going. The Tuatara averaged an incredible 316.11 mph (508.73 km/h) on its official two-way run, hitting a mind-blowing 331.15 mph (532.93 km/h) on the return leg and forever cementing its place in automotive history.  

Leading up to this huge world record leap, a handful of elite hypercar builders were slowly inching closer and closer to 300 mph. Bugatti held the world record for the bulk of the last decade with its 267.81-mph (431-km/h) record in 2010, in spite of a little elbowing from Hennessey. Eventually Koenigsegg put an end to any debate with a 277.87-mph (447.19-km/h) run in 2017....

....MUCH MORE 

It's a pretty big deal in some circles.
Don't care? 
Also at New Atlas:

Dyson Sells Singapore Penthouse For $46 Million (USD)

It wasn't that long ago (8:34 am PDT, October 23, 2018) that we were posting: 

"Dyson chooses Singapore for first electric car plant"

I like Singapore although it is a bit authoritarian.
The people are bright, usually the highest average I.Q. in the world, sometimes #2 to Hong Kong.
In the case of Singapore the I.Q. thing is especially interesting as their average is higher than that of any of the genetic pools the city-state draws from: the Chinese, Malay and Indian.

As a Malaysian Chinese businessman I know has told me, "We should never have let Singapore get away."

Another back-and-forth with Hong Kong is income/wealth. HK has more billionaires but Singapore has a higher average income.
And then there are the Gurkhas. More after the jump.....

But then he pulled the plug, so to speak, on the car project and now this, from Malaysia's The Star:

Dysons sell Singapore three-storey penthouse for S$62m 

SINGAPORE: Billionaire vacuum-cleaner mogul James Dyson and his wife are selling their Singapore penthouse for S$62 million ($46 million) -- less than the record S$73.8 million they paid for it a year ago -- the Business Times reported, without saying where it got the information.

Singapore’s tallest penthouse, on the top three levels of the 64-story Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar, fetched about S$3,000 per square foot, the Times said. It comes with its own infinity pool and private lift lobby from the basement car park.

The Dysons’ purchase of the Wallich Residence penthouse last year set a record for Singapore penthouses. Before he bought it, the apartment, which overlooks the central business district and the city’s historical shop houses, was listed for S$108 million....

....MORE 

As far as I know he is still planning to relocate the company's head office to Singapore next year.

Fish Farming—"Unlikely champions of aquaculture: Alexandra Cousteau"

From The Fish Site:

The scion of the Cousteau dynasty discusses the benefits of restorative aquaculture, the importance of connecting consumers with aquatic farmers and her new initiative, Oceans 2050.

What inspired you to devote your life to the wellbeing of the oceans?

I probably have a bit of a unique perspective in the ocean space, because I've literally grown up in it. I could swim before I could walk and learned to dive with scuba from my grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, at the age of seven. Though I have seen the degradation of the marine environment, I believe that we can aspire to leave our children an ocean abundant with life and reverse the flow of plastic away from the ocean. My work now consists of public speaking, advising nonprofits, government and industry, as well as collaborating with communities, the media, and forward-thinking brands. It was this drive that led me to form Oceans 2050.

We will lean heavily on our scientific adviser. Everything that we will do will be based heavily on science and what science says is possible. Our goal is to democratise the ability to create change within the ocean community. This is essential because right now it's dominated by a few big players, and they're doing good work, but we really need an army of solutions for an army of problems. There are so many other players out there who are doing really good work. Ocean 2050’s goal is to enable and accelerate their work and their leadership, to bring visibility to their efforts and get support for them.

We're not a traditional nonprofit that focuses on funding our programmes and producing an annual report. We're not a business for hire. We're foundation-owned, a social business focused on social and environmental good.

We've already launched a project for developing the Voluntary Carbon Protocol for seaweed aquaculture and have 20 farms participating, including a 300-year-old Japanese seaweed farm and we’d love to have other farms participate.

One thing we will be drilling into is figuring out how much carbon a seaweed farm sequesters. We are going to do DNA testing to see how the farms, once they were established, changed the biodiversity of the area. This is a place where we can develop a market for public good – one that spurs seaweed aquaculture and makes it easier for them to get social licence and investment to scale around the world.

One key ingredient missing is compensation. These farmers have to be compensated for their work. Oceans 2050 wants to bring compensation to stewardship rather than exploitation. That's really important. We need to create a powerful shift and create catalytic tools that bring transformative change.

What are the most crucial issues facing the oceans?

Coral reefs are extremely urgent. They are the source of biodiversity for the oceans. They are the most critical ecosystems on the planet. With business as usual on our part, they will likely collapse. The clock is ticking in the race to find solutions to rebuild and restore our coral reefs, obviously fighting against climate change and all these other negative impacts. We're looking at new technologies that can give us solutions. There are a lot of exciting new technologies out there for coral reefs, such as ocean afforestation – whether it's seaweed aquaculture or wild ocean forests. We urgently must use them to accelerate that transformation.... 

....MUCH MORE

"Shifting Trends in Global Tree Nut Markets"

Although the almond market is currently in oversupply* if done right this can be a very profitable area.

From Global AgInvesting, October 19:

Tree nuts have experienced robust demand growth over the past two decades, as they have increasingly been incorporated into diets across the globe. In the period 2004-2019, global tree nut production sustained a relatively steady expansion at a growth rate of 4.6 percent per year, but market growth has varied dramatically among the different tree nuts. Understanding the underlying demand/supply dynamics for the different major tree nut types is important to effectively evaluate opportunities and incorporate these important permanent crops into a diversified portfolio of agricultural properties.

The nine major tree nuts – almonds,  Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts – have a combined annual production value of $36 billion,[1] which represents just 1 percent of the total global agriculture production value of about $3.7 trillion. Demand and resulting production of these crops has grown faster than most other major permanent and annual crops.[2] Almonds and walnuts grew nearly 6 percent annually during the period 2004-2018, while the leading row and non-nut permanent crops grew in the range of 3 to -4 percent annually.

Global Tree Nut Production Expands at a 4.6% CAGR 2004-2019

Chart 1: Global Tree Nut Production (Million Metric Tons, Shelled Basis, except Pistachios Inshell)[3]

Chart1_nuts

 

Largest Tree Nuts Grow Faster than Largest Row or Permanent Crops

Chart 2: Global Production Growth of Crops by Production Volume, 2004-2018 CAGR[4]

Chart2_nuts

 

Consumption

Tree nut demand has grown as consumer food choices have expanded with the development of larger retail stores, international trade, and most recently, through additional online grocery delivery. Globally, per capita consumption of tree nuts across the major varieties has steadily moved higher at a robust pace since 2004 as illustrated in Chart 3.

Almonds, Walnuts, Cashews and Pistachios Drive Increased Total Tree Nut Consumption

Chart 3: Global Per Capita Tree Nut Consumption (Annual Kilograms per Capita)[5]

Chart3_nuts

Growth in tree nut consumption is occurring in both developed and emerging markets. While Europe remains the top consumption region (26 percent share), North America and Asia have been experiencing more pronounced increases in per-capita consumption and are closing the gap with Europe. North America and Asia now represent 23 percent and 20 percent, respectively, of global tree nut consumption.[6] Almonds are the most consumed nut by a wide margin (30 percent), followed by walnuts (20 percent), cashews (16 percent), pistachios (16 percent), hazelnuts (12 percent) and pecans (3 percent).[7] All other tree nuts combined comprise just 3 percent of total global tree nut consumption.[8]

Almonds Are the World’s Most Valuable Tree Nut Crop....

....MUCH MORE

*Almonds: Production Up 18%, Exports Up 4% Means Cheaper Nuts For U.S. 

All those trees planted in 2014 - 2015 have yet to begin producing in size, so this situation could stick around for another two to four years.

Platts "Commodity Tracker: 6 charts to watch this week"

Two of the six have the same general topic so we'll go with them as the exemplars.

 From S&P Global Platts, October 19:

Libyan oil flows have resumed but their stability remains uncertain, while India’s coal powered generation has dipped, granting gains to renewables. S&P Global Platts editors and analysts also discuss the latest Chinese actions on coal imports, Norwegian gas flows to Europe, and separate challenges faced by power markets in the UK and California. 
*****
....4. Norwegian gas flows rebound after setbacks

Norway gas exports to Europe UK

What’s happening? Norwegian gas flows have rebounded following the end of strike action in early October, with exports now back at highs not seen since the end of March. It has been a volatile few weeks for Norwegian gas, with the strike impacting some 40 million cu m/d of supply, a heavy maintenance schedule in September and a fire at the Hammerfest LNG plant that forced its closure.

What’s next? Norwegian flows to Europe are traditionally higher in the peak-demand winter months, and with day-ahead prices having recovered to Eur14/MWh in recent weeks from their lows below Eur4/MWh in May, operators may look to maximize flows. How Norwegian gas fares in the coming weeks may depend, however, on the reliability of its offshore assets and whether any unplanned outages could impact flows.
*****
....6. … while in UK loss of CCGTs, ageing nuclear pose risks to winter supply

 

UK power price spikes October 2020

What’s happening? The Winter Outlook for UK power supply is generally comfortable, according to National Grid in its annual update Oct. 15. While generation capacity margins are down year on year, they remain well above government guidelines based on a loss of load risk of three hours a year. The reassuring tone of the report, however, was at odds with the state of the system Oct. 15-16, when tight margins due to low wind, rising demand, reduced generation availability and reduced import capacity pushed hourly prices up dramatically, spiking over GBP180/MWh for the evening peak.

What’s next? Power traders believe any recurrence of high pressure weather systems this winter, reducing wind speeds across regions, will prompt further bouts of scarcity pricing similar to those seen last week and in mid-September. For the UK the problem has been exacerbated by Calon Energy’s decline into administration, taking two large CCGTs out of the market at short notice. Add to this an ageing, unreliable UK nuclear fleet and delays to new interconnection capacity, and the expectation is for more capacity warnings from the Grid at short notice, initiating a scramble for flexible supply from gas and, if prices rise over GBP100/MWh, diesel gensets....

....MUCH MORE

 HT: ZH

Soooo...replacing combined-cycle gas turbines with diesel? That's not very green.

Lithium: Political Heir to Former Leader Evo Morales Appears To Have Won Presidency In First Round

 "Kid, the next time I say, 'Let's go someplace like Bolivia,'
let's go someplace like Bolivia." 
—Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969)

Via AFP's timeline:

Bolivia is the world's largest producer of lithium.
Butch Cassidy was a real bank robber.
We have a lot of stories on lithium.  

July 2017
January 2010
 
After the next coup the ruling party can take solace in:

Meanwhile, In Washington State: "After a corpse fell on the former Coulee City Police Chief’s head in 2012, she claimed workers’ compensation"

From the Spokane Spokesman-Review:

After a corpse fell on the former Coulee City Police Chief’s head in 2012, she claimed workers’ compensation. But an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries alleges she was really working as a pinup model during that time.

Brenda Lynn Cavoretto, 47, was charged with two counts of making false or misleading statements to collect more than $67,000 in workers’ compensation benefits.

After a corpse fell on the former Coulee City Police Chief’s head in 2012, she claimed workers’ compensation. But an investigation by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries alleges she was really working as a pinup model during that time. .

....MORE

People are so creative. 


Private Equity as Hospital Owners

There's a lot to dislike about PE owning critical infrastructure.

From the NYT via the Chicago Tribune, October 13:
 
A $52,112 Helicopter Ride: Coronavirus Patients Battle Surprise Medical Bills

Congress was close to a solution before getting hit with millions of dollars of ads from private-equity firms. Then the pandemic struck.

An intubated coronavirus patient was declining rapidly when doctors decided to airlift her to a hospital with better critical care resources.
“It’s life or death,” the family of the 60-year-old woman recalled being told when it happened in April. “We have to transfer her now.”

The patient was flown by helicopter from one Philadelphia hospital to another 20 miles away. She spent six weeks at the new hospital and survived. When she came home, a letter arrived: The air ambulance company said she owed $52,112 for the trip.

Last year, Congress abandoned its attempt to prevent surprise bills like this one, and coronavirus patients are now paying the price. Bills submitted to The New York Times show that patients often face surprise charges from out-of-network doctors, ambulances and medical laboratories they did not pick or even realize were involved in their care.

The plan to ban these kinds of bills was popular and bipartisan, and it was backed by the White House. It fell apart at the 11th hour after private-equity firms, which own many of the medical providers that deliver surprise bills, poured millions into advertisements opposing the plan. Committee chairs squabbled over jurisdictional issues and postponed the issue. Then the pandemic struck.
‘How am I going to pay this all off?’

The Pennsylvania patient had no way of knowing that her helicopter, which transported her between two in-network hospitals, did not have a contract with her health insurance plan. Nor could she have known that the air ambulance service, owned by a private-equity firm, faces multiple lawsuits over its billing tactics.
 
Her health plan, Independence Blue Cross, initially said it would pay $7,539 of the bill, according to billing documents reviewed by The Times, but then rescinded the money. The patient, housebound because of lingering coronavirus symptoms, was left with the full amount.
 
“She was intubated and on a ventilator when her providers felt it was necessary that she be transferred,” said Leslie Pierce, a division chief at the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, who handled the complaint that the patient submitted to the agency. “She had no decision in the selection process.”....

....MUCH MORE

Venture Capital: Bezos-Backed Vertical Farmer Raises Another $140m in Series D round led by Driscoll’s and SoftBank

As noted in July 2019's "U.S. vertical farms are racing against the sun": These are not scrappy little startups, it's big, big money. 

From AgFunder, October 15:

Vertical farming startup Plenty has closed a $140 million Series D round led by existing backer SoftBank and new investor Driscoll’s. This round brings the startup’s total funding to $500 million.

“We looked at other vertical farms, and Plenty’s technology was one of the most compelling systems we’d seen for growing berries,” said J Miles Reiter, chairman and CEO at fruit firm Driscoll’s, in a statement. 

“We got to know Plenty while working on a joint development agreement to grow strawberries. We were so impressed with their technology, we decided to invest.”

The funds will be used to help with Plenty’s expansion plans, which include a series of commercial collaborations with retail group Albertsons and Driscoll’s. The Albertson’s deal was announced earlier this year and will see Plenty’s branded packaged salad greens stocked at 430 Albertson’s stores.

Its partnership with Driscoll’s will involve R&D around strawberry cultivation. Plenty has been working on the fruit — as well as tomatoes and other crop varieties — for a couple of years, according to Nate Storey, the startup’s co-founder and chief science officer....

....MUCH MORE

Driscoll's itself is no slouch. Privately held, it controls around 35% of the U.S. berry biz, ~$2 billion.

Previously on Plenty:
October 2017
Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup—UPDATED
January 2018
Bezos/SoftBank-Backed Indoor Farming Powerhouse Plenty Planning for 300 Farms in China
March 2019
Former Twitter CFO Joins SoftBank-Backed Farming Startup Plenty
March 2020
"SoftBank-Backed Farming Startup Plenty Is In Talks to Raise Cash"
If you are like me, you look back fondly to the days when you woke up hoping to hear about ear rot or vomitoxin in the corn.
But no, it's coronavirus and Softbank for the foreseeable future....

And many more, use the 'search blog' box upper left if interested.  

Venture Capital 2020: Funding For Mental Health Startups Is Booming

 From PitchBook, October 14:

Driven by pandemic demand, mental health startups surpass 2019 funding

Totaling $1.37 billion through the third quarter, venture capital funding of US mental health startups this year has already outpaced the $1.06 billion invested in 2019, according to PitchBook data.

Moreover, investments in the space have more than quadrupled since 2015.

In what could be the second-largest mental health VC deal of the year, Calm is reportedly in talks for a $150 million funding round that could value the meditation app maker at $2.2 billion. 

Early investors in the San Francisco-based company reportedly may be allowed to sell shares in the deal, Bloomberg reported. Calm's existing backers include TPG, Insight Partners and Lightspeed. It was valued at $1 billion last year after raising an $88 million Series B.

"Mental health cases, obviously, are on the rise in large part due to this pandemic," said Katherine Andersen, head of life science and healthcare relationship banking at Silicon Valley Bank. In a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in June, around four in 10 Americans reported struggling with a mental or behavioral health condition.

"I do think we're going to see a lot of investment and activity generally across mental and behavioral health going forward," Andersen added....MORE

"Glencore in talks with carmakers and battery makers about nickel, CEO says"

The Financial Times' Neil Hume was moderator at last week's FT Commodities event. For the cognoscenti and other folks who might be interested, his Twitter timeline is after the jump. 

From Reuters, October 16:

Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg said on Friday that the company is talking with carmakers and battery makers about nickel - a key component in electric vehicle batteries which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has asked miners to produce more of.

“A lot of the automobile guys and the battery guys are talking to us about nickel,” Glasenberg said, speaking during the Financial Times Mining Summit. Glencore this year signed an agreement with Tesla to supply it with cobalt from the Congo.

Glencore produced 121,000 tonnes of nickel in 2019 and sold 181,000 tonnes through its marketing business. Glencore owns nickel mines in Australia, Canada and New Caledonia and a nickel refinery in Norway.

The miner already supplies German carmaker BMW with cobalt metal from its Murrin Murrin nickel-cobalt mine in Australia....MORE

When I say cognoscenti I mean fans, as in fanatics. Mr. Hume is an FT Alphaville alumnus and here is an example of the madness he inspires:

voiceover: Bryce Elder has been singlehanding Markets Live but on this November day in 2017 has a visitor:

BE This is Markets Live, FT Alphaville's daily thing with the typing and etc.

BE And good news! I'm not solo today.


BE Because joining me is Neil Hume.

NH Hola

BE Neil's FT's commodities editor these days. Though you'll probably know him better as founding member of the AV team and the editor for two years through the sov debt crisis.
erlkin  neil hume rocks
  AAAA  bonjour les amis !
                               Boncoeur  crikey, Neil Hume is in da house!

NH Mining and Commodities - they gave me more work to do

BE Yes, that. And, unusually, it appears the system works. Good to have you with us Neil.

NH It's been a while


NH I think I remember how everything works

GBKrona Hola - welcome back @NH

 The rabble were roused from their existential dread of facing another day of toil in the equity mines.

 Take a look and see why:  https://twitter.com/humenm