Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Shipping: "Maersk Could Lose Biggest Carrier Crown"

From the Loadstar via gCaptain, October 17:
MSC is on course to overtake alliance partner Maersk as the biggest ocean carrier by capacity within the next two years.
A new order for five 23,000 teu ULCVs from the South Korean Daewoo yard will take the Geneva-based carrier’s orderbook to 16 vessels, for a massive 305,352 teu, according to Alphaliner data.
A disclosure from Daewoo this week valued the order at $152m per ship, with delivery of the five by August 2021.

This will propel MSC’s fleet, including current chartered tonnage, to just under 4m teu, a capacity level Maersk has said it wants to stick at.

During the second-quarter earnings call in August, Maersk chief executive Soren Skou confirmed this, adding: “We want to remain disciplined on capacity and stick to our guidance of around 4m teu of deployed capacity because it helps us drive utilisation up and unit costs down.”.......MORE

Maersk on Monday:
Shipping: Maersk Raises Full-Year Forecast

And MSC:
August 31
As The World's Largest Container Ship Completes Its Maiden Voyage from China to Europe, A Call For Even Bigger Behemoths

August 15
Shipping: "MSC Gulsun Departs Port of Tanjung Pelepas with Record-Breaking 19,574 TEUs"

March 7
Container Shipping: "MAN Hired for World’s First Megaship Conversion to LNG Fuel"
I am not familiar with this "Megaship" nomenclature. ULCS or ULCV but not the "Megaship.

Hong Kong's Orient Overseas Container Line is currently running the largest capacity container ships at 21,400 TEU with a couple of COSCO's ships also over 21,000 TEU.
CMA CGM's flagship, the Antoine de Saint Exupery clocks in with capacity of 20,950 TEU and Maersk has a fleet over 20,000 TEUs.
Those might be "Megaships". And the 23,350 TEU behemoths that MSC has on order definitely. would have to be...

January 15
Shipping: "MSC to Close Capacity Gap on Maersk in 2019"
September 2018
Shipping: "MSC Announces New Bunker Surcharge to Help Cover $2 Billion Per Year Low Sulphur Fuel Costs"
*The latest Lloyd's 100 Most Influential People in Shipping (Edition Eight, Dec. 2017) has the Aponte famiglia at #10, just behind the Saadé family (CMA CGM) now led by Rodolphe after his father's death this summer, at #9.

Canadian Central Bank Exploring Digital Currency To Better "Track People's Spending Habits"

Beg pardon?

The Canadian central bank is reportedly considering launching a proprietary digital currency.
Digital currency could share info with police and tax authorities
On Oct. 16, news outlet The Logic reported that the Bank of Canada is exploring the possible opportunities and challenges related to launching its own digital currency. The central bank purportedly believes that a public central bank digital currency (CBDC) could be the answer to the direct threat that cryptocurrencies apparently present.

The document, titled “Central Bank Money: The Next Generation,” was reportedly prepared for the current Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz, for a September 2018 board meeting and was presented as part of a two-year research project on whether or not the bank should launch its own CBDC.

On Oct. 17, an internal source at the Bank of Canada confirmed to Cointelegraph that the presentation did in fact happen. The author of the document, Stephen Murchison, wrote at the time:
“We need to innovate to stay in the game. [...] the CBDC would have all the benefits [of a central bank-backed asset] and all the convenience and security of wireless, electronic payments.”
According to the document, one of the benefits to the Canadian central bank of launching its own digital currency would be the ability to collect more information on its citizens than is possible when people use cash. These personal details wouldn’t be shared with the payee, but could be shared with police or tax authorities, the document reads....MORE 

"Overthinking can shorten your life, according to a new study"

From Mashable, Oct. 21:
It's a curse that many of us can't seem to break, but, it turns out that overthinking is actually really bad for your health.

A study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that excessive brain activity could lead to a shorter life. Researchers used a sample of people ranging in age from 60s and 70s and compared their brains to those who lived to be 100 years or older. The results showed study that those who died at younger ages had significantly lower levels of a protein called REST (RE-1 Silencing Transcription), which quietens brain activity. In short, excessive thinking causes excessive brain activity, leading to a depletion in the protein REST.

REST itself has also been studied and results determined that it can protect against Alzheimer’s disease....

Adios Charismatic Megafauna: The Guardian is Dropping the Polar Bear as a Symbol of Global Warming

Knut, we hardly knew ye.*

From The Guardian:
Why we're rethinking the images we use for our climate journalism 
Guardian picture editor Fiona Shields explains why we are going to be using fewer polar bears and more people to illustrate our coverage of the climate emergency

At the Guardian we want to ensure that the images we publish accurately and appropriately convey the climate crisis that we face. Following discussions among editors about how we could change the language we use in our coverage of environmental issues, our attention then turned to images. We have been working across the organisation to better understand how we aim to visually communicate the impact the climate emergency is having across the world.

Our goal is to provide guidelines for anyone working with images at the Guardian. We are also asking the agencies and photographers we work with to provide images that are appropriate to the changing narrative.

The concern over how best to depict the climate emergency led us to seek advice from the research organisation Climate Visuals, who have found that “images that define climate change shape the way it is understood and acted upon”...MORE
Unfortunately, two of the photos chosen to communicate the climate emergency are:
Smog in China

Smog is made up of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, particulates and secondary ozone (Los Angeles style) or sulfur dioxide and fog (old-school London style) none of which have much to do with global warming.

And steam from a power plant in Wales:

I know it's hard to take a picture of CO₂ but still. 

* Like an ursine VH1 Behind the Music, Knut had his highs and lows.
January 2007
The Arctic: Boating Paradise
Knut's got that death threat licked.

August 2007
Fatty Knut Put on Strict Diet 
Knut, the world's most famous polar bear, is off the scales after eating too many snacks and has been put on a diet. The Berlin Zoo said Knut's handlers have been told to stop feeding him extra rations of croissant, fish and meat.
"Knut has become noticeably round," zoo vet Andreas Ochs said. "So we shall be feeding him restrictively."

September 2007
Knut Feigning Sore Paw to Get Attention
Knut sticking out his tongue at visitors last week.
Knut sticking out his tongue at visitors last week.
Knut the celebrity polar bear has been receiving get-well messages from around the world ever since he slipped on a wet rock and hurt his paw last Friday -- but his keeper at Berlin Zoo thinks he's only pretending to be in pain because he likes the attention.

September 2007
Looking more like a furry Sumo wrestler each day.
Looking more like a furry Sumo wrestler each day.
December 2007
Knut the Polar Bear's Birthday
He even did a bit of break dancing!
He even did a bit of break dancing...

January 2008 
Knut Signs $5 Mil. Hollywood Deal: Series, Idol in the Wings?
The on-screen version of Knut will be every bit as friendly as the real-life Knut.
The on-screen version of Knut will be every bit as friendly as the real-life Knut.
February 2008
Polar Bear Trademark Battle Grips Nuremberg

March 2008
First Solar and Knut the Polar Bear (FSLR)
Still Think I'm Cute?

Fangs for the memories: Knut is separated from this little boy by six inches of glass
One year on, cuddly Knut has turned into a 22st killing machine

May 2009
In Today's Polar Bear News...
Berlin - Berlin's famous zoo resident, Knut the polar bear, was the subject of financial wranglings Tuesday, as zoo chiefs tried to agree on the sale of the bear from Neumuenster Zoo to Berlin Zoo, where he was born and gained worldwide fame. Peter D...

Courtroom wranglings over price of famous Berlin polar bear Knut
Berlin's famous zoo resident, Knut the polar bear, was the subject of financial wranglings Tuesday, as zoo chiefs tried to agree on the sale of the bear from Neumuenster Zoo to Berlin Zoo, where he was born and gained worldwide fame.

Peter Druewa, the chief executive of Neumuenster Zoo which owns Knut, said he was not prepared to sell the bear for less than 700,000 euros (944,000 dollars), while Berlin Zoo refused to pay "a cent more" than 350,000 euros.

March 2011
UPDATED: Knut the Polar Bear has Died 
But by then the world had moved on, Knut went into croissant rehab and the Hollywood deal fell through.

"Understanding Commodity Financialization (and Why it Matters to Everyone)"

Trading commodities involves a high degree of risk, you will lose everything at least once.
That said, the “crimson thread of suicide”* that was alleged to run through the history of the Chicago Board of Trade was refuted by one of the longer-tenured Secretaries of the exchange:

"There are less cases of suicide arising among members of this board than in any other class."
—George  F. Stone, quoted in Donahoe's Magazine, Volume LIII, Jan. - Jun. 1905, pp. 510

On that reassuring note...

From SteelHedge via Medium, April 13, 2019:
In December 2018, a leading European bank sent its customers investing tips for the next year. To navigate “an increasingly challenging investment environment” — among the assets that had been around for ages — real estate, bonds, equities — one could find something refreshing:
“The latter stages of the economic cycle have historically been one of the better times to invest in commodities. Overall demand tends to stay high while inventories run low.”
Invest in raw materials? What does it mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines investment as “the outlay of money usually for income or profit.” In economics, investment activities are usually directed at adding value. How can raw materials help in this respect?

Until recently, commodities interested mostly those who produced, traded, or consumed them (except precious metals, which is a different story). Commodity derivatives (futures, options, swaps) were invented to help farmers (and, later, miners and the industry) mitigate market risk through harvesting and economic cycles, and had been predominantly used for this purpose since the nineteenth century. Derivatives speculation was mostly confined to insiders: merchants, brokers, and other intermediaries with information advantage, resources, or clout for contrarian financial bets.

The situation changed in the 1990s, when the investment community realized that prices of hydrocarbons, metals, and crops moved asymmetrically to financial markets, providing a safe harbour in stormy weather (acting as a store of value) or a source of speculative income from their price fluctuations, as exemplified by aluminium in Figure 1. The derivatives came in handy, allowing the building and unwinding of trading positions without the physical ownership of barrels, bars, and sheaves.
Figure 1: Aluminium as an investable asset
Initial investments in commodities were reserved to specialized hedge funds. As the news spread, large institutional investors (banks, insurers, pension and mutual funds) started to pile in, ultimately followed by ordinary folk. For exchanges and brokers that facilitate such transactions, it was a gold mine. Commodity derivatives were previously mostly traded by market participants for risk management — but their hedging needs and therefore the size of a related derivative market were limited by production, trade, and consumption. Speculative trading — and the income it generates — are literally unlimited. The more commodity derivatives were traded, the more money flowed to investors, exchanges, and brokers, incentivizing the creation of a whole new ecosystem.

Take crude oil as an example. In 1995, when the oilmen pumped 22.8 bn bbl globally, trading in NYMEX WTI and ICE Europe Brent futures, the world’s two most popular crude derivatives, accounted for 33.5 bn bbl. Last year, production increased to 30.2 bn bbl, but these futures markets alone swelled to 541.6 bn bbl, becoming eighteen times bigger than the global physical output (Figure 2). This is without taking into consideration all other derivatives: other categories (e.g., options, swaps), other oil grades (e.g., Medium Sour, Urals), derivatives for products of oil refining (e.g., gasoline, fuel oil), other exchanges (e.g., MCX, TOCOM), and cross-trading (the same derivative may be traded on several exchanges, e.g., ICE Europe WTI, and, bilaterally, over the counter). On the whole, the derivative market has grown beyond comparison with its physical cousin. Nobody really knows its size and fully understands the interplay between the two (see Box 1).
Figure 2: Oil physical and derivative markets
Considering that revenues of commodity exchanges and brokers depend on trading volumes, the incentives are obvious. In the early days, the exchanges were not-for-profit organizations controlled by their members. For example, two of the forebears of CME Group, the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Butter and Egg Board, were founded in 1848 and 1898 as voluntary associations of prominent merchants. (This setup didn’t guarantee orderly trading, though, as various instances of market manipulation, such as the Ferruzzi soybean scandal of 1989, indicate). In the 2000s, both exchanges demutualized, turned into for-profit stock corporations, and merged. Today, most prominent commodity exchanges are for-profit companies. According to CNN, last year institutional investors owned around 87 percent of CME Group and 92 percent of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), the two bourses reining in the Western commodity markets.

In less than three decades, commodity investing has turned from exotic to mainstream. It is marketed by any broker and investment advisor worth their salt, and exchanges vie for global dominance in commodity futures and related services, which has become a big business.

From 2003 to 2017, a combined net income of CME Group and ICE jumped twenty-nine times, from $175 million to more than $5 billion, with profit margins around 60 percent. In 2017, CME Group alone cleared more than four billion derivatives worth more than $1 quadrillion, which is a 1 with 15 zeros. Both exchanges report trading and clearing fees together, but if the London Stock Exchange is any guide, the latter may rake in more than the former because of increased regulation. The rise of quantitative funds, automated and high-frequency trading (now over half of CME Group volume), and passive investing increase demand for data feeds and services, which already bring to LSE twice as much revenue as trading.

According to the Futures Industry Association, global trading in futures and options grew from 188 million contracts in 1984 to 30.3 billion contracts in 2018. Having made 17.3 percent of this market last year, commodities are on course to become the second-most traded derivative category ahead of equities (Figure 3). Most part of that trading had nothing to do with the needs of the real economy — that is, the original purpose of risk reduction the derivatives were originally invented for.....

HT, by a circuitous route, the Financial Times' Neil Hume  who highlighted a much shorter version of this piece that was run as an opinion piece in the FT.

"WeWork postpones layoffs because it can't afford to pay severance"

From the WSJ's confrères at Fox Business:
The latest issue to plague the cash-strapped communal office-space company WeWork: It can’t afford to cut costs, The Wall Street Journal reported.

WeWork, which pulled its initial public offering amid scrutiny of its debt and mounting financial losses, delayed layoffs of thousands of employees because it didn't have the cash for their severance pay, the Journal reported, citing sources it didn't identify.

Just days after withdrawing a proposal to take the company public in late September, WeWork alerted staff of far-reaching job cuts expected to hit by the end of October, Bloomberg reported earlier this month.

While executives didn’t specify how many jobs were on the line, people familiar with the plans told Bloomberg the cuts would affect about 2,000 employees, or 16 percent of the workforce. Affected workers include product managers, engineers and data scientists, according to The Information....MORE

Singapore Bans Fake News, Up To 10 Years In Prison For Disturbing "Public Tranquility"

The law came into effect October 1:
From The Guardian, October 2:

'Chilling': Singapore's 'fake news’ law comes into effect 
Legislation gives government power to order social media sites to put warnings next to posts authorities deem to be false

Singapore’s new law to combat “fake news” has come into effect despite criticism from tech giants and activists, who labelled the tough rules a “chilling” attempt to stifle dissent.

The law gives government ministers powers to order social media sites to put warnings next to posts authorities deem to be false, and in extreme cases get them taken down.

Facebook, Twitter and Google – who have their Asian headquarters in Singapore – were given temporary exemptions from a handful of provisions in the act to give them time to adapt....MORE
Back in April when the legislation was introduced, the Straits Times (also on blogroll at right)  had a seven-point explainer of the proposed law which included:
"...It does not cover opinions, criticisms, satire or parody, which the public can continue to upload and share.
The Bill lists several definitions of public interest: Singapore’s security; to protect public health, public finances, public safety or public tranquility; Singapore’s friendly relations with other countries; to prevent influence on the outcome of an election or a referendum; to prevent incitement of feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between different groups of people; or to prevent a diminution of public confidence in public institutions...."

Chartology: Consumer Discretionary Is Taking On Some Leadership Attributes

Relative Rotation Graphs are a handy way to distill a lot of market information onto a single plane surface. What are the leading groups, what's lagging, and will the consumer come bouncing back to save the day?
So we'll leave it to the reader to see if they are useful and jump ahead to what they are saying.
From StockCharts:

Consumer Discretionary On the Verge of Crossing Over Into The Leading Quadrant on RRG
The RRG chart above shows the relative position for US sectors based on last Friday's close.
The sector that stands out most at the moment, at least for me, is Consumer Discretionary. After initially rolling over inside the improving quadrant, this sector "hooked" back on track during the second half of the week.

These "hooks" are simply clockwise rotations that went so fast that they do not show up on this particular timeframe. This is a daily chart, the shortest that we can run here on StockCharts.com; we would need to go to hourly or 30-minute charts to see the rotational pattern showing up again.
The good news is that the rotation is going in a positive direction and the Consumer Discretionary sector is gaining on both axes. As of last Friday's close, the sector is on the verge of crossing over into the leading quadrant.

The price pattern developing since June can be seen as an ascending triangle. Three subsequent higher lows and two peaks around the same level indicate that sellers are present in the range between $123-124, while buyers are coming in at higher levels each time. This shows a rising support line, connecting these three lows....MORE, including the RRG chart
Just as we said about the transportation stocks on Friday, you don't see this type of action going into a recession:
"The Broader Market Is Setting Up For A Move Higher"

And Monday:
FT "Boeing is dragging down the US economy" (BA)
"Boeing Drags Down Dow, Short-Squeeze Sends Small Caps Soaring"

Monday, October 21, 2019

"Germany's cyber-security agency recommends Firefox as most secure browser"

From ZD Net:
Firefox is the only browser that received top marks in a recent audit carried out by Germany's cyber-security agency -- the German Federal Office for Information Security (or the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik -- BSI).

The BSI tested Mozilla Firefox 68 (ESR), Google Chrome 76, Microsoft Internet Explorer 11, and Microsoft Edge 44. The tests did not include other browsers like Safari, Brave, Opera, or Vivaldi....

There is a downside for publishers  when people de-Googlefy..
From Digiday, September 25:

German publishers wrestle with Firefox’s latest anti-tracking changes
German publishers have been hit hard by Mozilla Firefox’s latest anti-tracking update, which blocks third-party cookies by default for all the browser’s users.

Publishers have experienced a detrimental drop in programmatic ad revenues since the changes three weeks ago. Axel Springer is among those to have seen a drop, but the issue is marketwide, according to media sources. Average revenue rate drops have been up to 15%, according to publisher sources. But average bid rates, which is how frequently buyers choose to bid on a piece of inventory, are down almost 40% on Firefox in Germany, according to ad exchange Index Exchange. Meanwhile, the average price of Firefox inventory has dropped between 15% and 25% in Germany.

The Enhanced Tracking Changes, rolled out Sept. 3, are Mozilla’s equivalent to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari, which have made it impossible for publishers to monetize ads programmatically on Safari. While U.K. and U.S. publishers have seen a negligible effect from the Firefox changes, Germany has a far greater number of Firefox users, estimated by industry sources between 20% and 30%....MORE

"Why France is eyeing nuclear power again"

From MIT's Technology Review, Oct 16:

The nation asked its major utility to make plans for six huge reactors.
After years of backing away from nuclear power, France suddenly wants to build six huge reactors.
This week Le Monde reported that the government asked EDF, the country's main state-controlled energy company, to work up plans to build three new nuclear plants, each with a pair of its EPR reactors. The third-generation design produces enough electricity to supply 1.5 million people, and automatically shuts down and cools in the event of an accident.

It doesn’t appear that any developments are final—or even funded—at this stage. But energy experts were surprised by the news because it seemed to suggest France is adjusting its stance on nuclear. Plus early efforts to build the same style of pressurized-water reactor have been plagued with cost overruns and repeated delays

The nation produces more than 70% of its electricity from nuclear power, the highest share of any nation in the world. But sentiment shifted after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
French nuclear regulators pushed for safety upgrades to existing plants, and in 2015 the government voted to cut the share of nuclear in the nation’s energy supply to 50% by 2025 (a date later pushed out to 2035)....

Lesson from Fukushima: If you are going to build your nukes in an earthquake zone that can experience a 9.1 magnitude quake (2011 Tōhoku), don't site them so close to the coast that they are at risk of the 14-metre tsunami overtopping the 6 metre seawall and flooding everything just as the typhoon season is revving up with the first cyclone to strike the area two months after the earthquake and tsunami.

Shipping: Maersk Raises Full-Year Forecast

From FreightWaves:

Improved ocean freight results boost Maersk’s 2019 outlook
In a rare bit of good news for container shipping, Maersk said full-year operating earnings will come in better than originally forecast.

The world’s largest ocean carrier on Monday said earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) for 2019 will be between $5.4 billion and $5.8 billion, compared with an earlier forecast of $5 billion.

The Copenhagen-based company increased its forecast thanks to better-than-expected performance in its ocean freight segment. Despite lower freight rates and slower global demand growth, ocean freight’s results were “driven by strong reliability and capacity management combined with lower fuel prices.” Maersk also said it saw improved margins in the terminal and towage business.

Maersk said third-quarter revenue came in at $10.05 billion, down slightly from a year earlier but up 4% sequentially....MUCH MORE

"The $68,000 Fish: The future of salmon in the Pacific Northwest"

From Harpers Magazine, November 2019 issue:
Letter from the Columbia River 
Just beyond the high pass into Stanley, Idaho, at the end of a very long day, I ran out of gas. It was 1997, and I still remember the sound of the engine on my father’s thirsty old Bronco, first sputtering, and then dying. But I was somewhere around seven thousand feet in the Sawtooth mountains and had gravity on my side. I managed to keep rolling downhill for miles, taking the long curves in silence, fast enough at first, then slower, then slow. It was already getting dark, and when I finally coasted to a stop on the gravel shoulder, I heard, rather than saw, the river.

It was called, like so many others, the Salmon River. All across the 260,000-square-mile Columbia River watershed, stretching across seven states and one Canadian province, tens of millions of salmon had once coursed upstream from the Pacific Ocean each year, completing a typical life cycle of two to four years by breeding in the same freshwater streams where they were born. But in the 1860s, gold mining and timbering had begun to silt up the high mountain spawning beds, covering and suffocating their eggs. And by the 1880s, massive canneries at the Columbia’s mouth in Astoria, Oregon, were tinning a million salmon a year. The Columbia salmon population began to plummet. Between 1938 and 1979, the construction of eight huge hydroelectric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers deepened the collapse to extinction levels.

But there, in the river, was one of them. In the dusk, standing beside the Bronco, I heard a tremendous splash in the shallows. I ignored it, but moments later it happened again, and in disbelief I stalked slowly up the bank. A monster was there, in the curve of the shallows, a dark shape against the light gravel of the riverbed. At first I could only see the thrashing splashes of her tail, but as I approached, I began to make out the mottled flesh of a four-year-old sockeye hen, struggling to clear an area for a redd, or nest.

Against the odds, despite a century and a half of human interference, she had managed to swim 900 miles and climb 6,200 feet into the Sawtooths. The pure, oxygenated water and lack of predators here were ideal for reproducing. If a male had made the same journey, and could find her, they would send hundreds of thousands of tiny smolts downstream in the spring.

The final moments of life are never pretty. The sockeye’s skin was peeling away, its flesh lumpy and gray. Literally falling apart, the hen nevertheless summoned the energy to sweep away the silt that might choke her eggs. Every few minutes, she felt the spur of her DNA, and gave one more abrupt splash of the tail, one more heave.

Eventually an old RV came squeaking down the hill. The driver gave me a gallon of gas and, reluctantly, took my money.

Twenty years later, I jumped over a chain-link fence outside Riggins, Idaho, into a salmon hatchery on the banks of the Rapid River, a tributary of the Salmon. The facility was unimpressive, mostly corrugated sheds and a few pieces of heavy equipment scattered around. It was closed, barely—the posted visiting hours had just expired—but I had been hopping a lot of fences with my trout rod recently, and it felt Western-normal. Anyway, I really needed to see a $68,000 fish.

Back in 1875, when salmon runs first started to crash, the Smithsonian scientist and U.S. fish commissioner Spencer Fullerton Baird was hired by the Oregon legislature to draft a plan. He knew and identified the real problems: overfishing, the degradation of high mountain streams, and an overabundance of dams, many with no fish passage. But Baird, calculating that there was no political will to solve the underlying problems, proposed a cheaper solution: hatcheries. The salmon life cycle would be reproduced by scientists, the eggs fertilized and sown into rivers like wheat into fields. For just $15,000 a year in operating costs, he promised an unlimited harvest, and Oregon and the rest of the Columbia watershed set about building hatcheries that cranked out billions of fertilized eggs over the course of the next century....

Lab Grown Fish: "Wild Type Announced a $12.5M Series A for Cell Cultured Salmon"

From Global AgInvesting:
Cultured seafood production got another vote of investor confidence as Wild Type announced it has closed a $12.5 million Series A led by CRV, and including Maven Ventures, and return investors from the startup’s Seed round, Spark Capital and Root Ventures. This round marks the first Series A secured by a cell-cultured seafood startup.

Founded in San Francisco by former U.S. diplomat Justin Kolbeck and aspiring cardiologist Arye Elfenbe in 2016, Wild Type’s initial goal was to  “address the most pressing challenges of our generation: climate change, food security, and health.” To achieve this, the company’s team of food scientists, engineers, biologists, and biomedical engineers have developed cell-cultured salmon that can meet global demand while also increasing transparency and traceability in a global industry that has had a long history of discrepancies in its often opaque supply chain.

This round brings the company’s funding to $16 million following a $3.5 million Seed round in April 2018 led by Spark Capital, and including Root Ventures, Mission Bay Capital, and a group of angel investors....MORE
The writer goes on to name some other lab-grown food companies but does not answer the question:
What is an aspiring cardiologist?

"Boeing Drags Down Dow, Short-Squeeze Sends Small Caps Soaring"

Following on this morning's "FT "Boeing is dragging down the US economy" (BA)".

From ZeroHedge:
More trade deal "progress" headlines, Kudlow jawboning, Brexit deal optimism fades, continued weakness in macro data but a squeeze proves everything is awesome in stocks as the S&P is lifted back above 3000...

Chinese stocks were mixed on the day with small caps/tech on the losing side and bigger cap names leading (thanks to two buying-panics)...
Source: Bloomberg
European markets ended the day higher, led by Germany (and UK's FTSE rebounded from a weak open)...

Source: Bloomberg
While Boeing weighed down the Dow...
Small Caps and Trannies surged out of the gate and accelerated again after the EU close...
The S&P 500 once again battled with the 3,000 level as various repetitive trade progress headlines attempted to defend the Maginot Line... First close above 3k sine 9/18...


Friday: "The Broader Market Is Setting Up For A Move Higher"

October 21 Crop Progress Report: "Corn Harvest Only 30% Complete, USDA Says"

From Successful Farming:

Soybean harvest pace is less than half finished. 
DES MOINES, Iowa -- A lot of U.S. crops remain in the fields, according to Monday’s USDA Crop Progress Report.

Many farmers continue to wait on the sidelines to get into the fields. With freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall, and high winds hitting the northern Plains, the corn in North Dakota is only 4% harvested. South Dakota corn farmers have picked 9%, while Minnesota farmers have completed just 11% of their harvest.

Iowa farmers have only 15% of their corn out of the fields, while Illinois and Indiana growers’ activity ranks in the 30s’ percentile range.

In its weekly Crop Progress Report, the USDA pegged the U.S. corn harvest at 30% complete, up just 8 points from a week ago and below the 47% five-year average.

The overall condition of the corn crop is rated at 56% good to excellent in the top 18 corn producing states vs. 55% a week ago and 68% a year ago.... 

From the USDA:
14 page PDF

Sources: SoftBank to take Control of WeWork; In Talks To Acquire U.S. Treasury

First up, from CNBC:
  • SoftBank is in very advanced talks to take control of embattled work space company WeWork, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • The deal will value WeWork between $7.5 billion to $8 billion on a pre-funding basis and could be announced as soon as Tuesday.
  • SoftBank exec Marcelo Claure will be involved in the company’s management, while former CEO Adam Neumann’s stake will fall to low double digits.
SoftBank is in very advanced talks to take control of embattled work space company WeWork, according to people familiar with the matter.

SoftBank, led by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, plans to spend somewhere between $4 billion and $5 billion on new funding and existing shares, sources say.

The deal will value WeWork between $7.5 billion to $8 billion on a pre-funding basis and could be announced as soon as Tuesday. It is SoftBank itself taking control, not the start-up focused Vision Fund. After the move, Softbank would then have as much as 70% or more control of WeWork....MORE
SoftBank In Talks To Acquire U.S. Treasury
In what some on Wall Street are calling the biggest blockbuster deal in the history of the financial sector, SoftBank confirmed today that it was in talks to acquire the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to SoftBank spokesperson Jonathan Hestron, the merger between SoftBank and the Treasury Department is "a good fit" because "they're in the business of printing money and so are we."

The SoftBank spokesman said that the merger would create efficiencies for both entities: "We already have so many employees and so much money flowing back and forth, this would just streamline things."...
I apologize, that is fāke news, I couldn't help myself.
It's actually a rewriting of a 2009 bit of genius from Andy Borowitz, then scribing for the Huffpo and now at the New Yorker.

I was thinking of the above because of a couple news stories on SoftBank....MORE

"Unprecedented movement detected on California earthquake fault capable of 8.0 temblor"

Via the military news mavens at Stars and Stripes:
A major California fault capable of producing a magnitude 8 earthquake has begun moving for the first time on record, a result of this year’s Ridgecrest earthquake sequence destabilizing nearby faults, Caltech scientists say in a new study released in the journal Science on Thursday.

In the modern historical record, the 160-mile-long Garlock fault on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert has never been observed to produce either a strong earthquake or even to creep — the slow movement between earthquakes that causes a visible scar on the ground surface. But new satellite radar images now show that the fault has started to move, causing a bulging of land that can be viewed from space.

“This is surprising, because we’ve never seen the Garlock fault do anything. Here, all of a sudden, it changed its behavior,” said the lead author of the study, Zachary Ross, assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech. “We don’t know what it means.”

The observations reported are another piece of evidence that illustrates a widely persistent myth that circulates in California and beyond — that quakes like the Ridgecrest temblors are somehow a good thing that makes future quakes less likely. In fact, generally speaking, earthquakes make future earthquakes more likely. Most of the time, the follow-up quakes are smaller. But occasionally, they’re bigger....MUCH MORE
Also at Stars and Stripes:
Residents of northeast Syria city throw potatoes at departing US troops

FT "Boeing is dragging down the US economy" (BA)

Following up on Friday's "The Broader Market Is Setting Up For A Move Higher"
A very smart piece in the Financial Times a few hours ago:
The decision on whether to let the 737 Max fly again may yet be an economic turning point

US Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell says the cross-currents dragging on the US economy include trade and weak foreign demand. But there’s a less obvious item he might add to the list: Boeing. The woes of the aircraft manufacturer do not just drive news headlines, they drive American economic data as well. 

The grounding of the 737 Max jet after two tragic crashes has quietly lowered US growth, reduced productivity and trimmed earnings at a number of American companies. Boeing is no ordinary company. It is the largest manufacturing exporter in the US and a very large private employer. Its products cost hundreds of millions of dollars and require thousands of suppliers. It is no surprise that benching Boeing’s fastest-selling aircraft is having ripple effects throughout the economy. 

Private economists put the drag on growth from Boeing at around 0.25 percentage points in the second quarter. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the damage was even greater: Boeing’s troubles cut gross domestic product from March through June by 0.4 percentage points. ...MUCH MORE

Meanwhile, continuing the thesis of the Friday post MarketWatch a half-hour ago:
Dow’s rises toward record but gains capped by 100-point drag from Boeing’s stock

Dow Industrials      26,774.55  +4.35 (+0.02%)
Dow Transports      10,643.84+135.10 (+1.29%)
S&P                         2,998.06 +11.86 (+0.40%)

If interested see also "For Company and For Country: Boeing and US-China Relations (BA)" from last March. 
BA is a pretty big deal.

So You Want To Do Business In China Do You? "China’s New Cybersecurity Program: NO Place to Hide"

We mentioned the National Security Law (and the cybersecurity law and the NGO law) back in July,* anyone doing business in China WILL comply, here's a deeper dive.
From China Law Blog:
The Chinese government has been working for several years on a comprehensive Internet security/surveillance program.  This program is based on the Cybersecurity Law adopted on 2016. The plan is vast and includes a number of subsidiary laws and regulations. On December 1, 2018, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security announced it will finally roll-out the full plan.

The core of the plan is for China’s Ministry of Security to fully access the massive amounts of raw data transmitted across Chinese networks and housed on servers in China. Since raw data has little value, the key to the Ministry’s success will be in processing that data. Seeing that this is the key issue, the Ministry has appointed Wang Yingwei to be its new head of the Cybersecurity Bureau. Wang is a noted “big data” expert and he will be tasked with making sense of the raw data that will be gathered under the new system.

The plan for the new system is ambitious and comprehensive. As explained by Guo Qiquan, the chief cheerleader for the plan, the main goal of the new system is to provide “full coverage”.  As explained by Guo, “It will cover every district, every ministry, every business and other institution, basically covering the whole society. It will also cover all targets that need [cybersecurity] protection, including all networks, information systems, cloud platforms, the internet of things, control systems, big data and mobile internet.”

This system will apply to foreign owned companies in China on the same basis as to all Chinese persons, entities or individuals. No information contained on any server located within China will be exempted from this full coverage program. No communication from or to China will be exempted. There will be no secrets. No VPNs. No private or encrypted messages. No anonymous online accounts. No trade secrets. No confidential data. Any and all data will be available and open to the Chinese government. Since the Chinese government is the shareholder in all SOEs and is now exercising de facto control over China’s major private companies as well, all of this information will then be available to those SOEs and Chinese companies. See e.g. China to place government officials inside 100 private companies, including Alibaba. All this information will be available to the Chinese military and military research institutes. The Chinese are being very clear that this is their plan....
HT: The Register 

*"How the state runs business in China"
.... The author rather blithely skips over the National Security Law.
Here via China Law Translate:

There is not a lot of wiggle room in Article 7

Article 7: All organizations and citizens shall support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts in accordance with law, and shall protect national intelligence work secrets they are aware of.
The State protects individuals and organizations that support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.
All means all, including foreign companies operating in China.
Ditto articles 14:
Article 14: National intelligence work institutions lawfully carrying out intelligence efforts may request that relevant organs, organizations, and citizens provide necessary support, assistance, and cooperation.
And 16:
Article 16: When national intelligence work institutions staff lawfully perform their tasks in accordance with relevant national provisions, with approvals and upon the presentation of relevant identification, they may enter relevant restricted areas and venues; may learn from and question relevant institutions, organizations, and individuals; and may read or collect relevant files, materials or items.
And then there's The Cybersecurity Law and the Foreign NGO Law (2016) and the Counter-espionage Law (2014) and all worded vaguely enough that the laws can mean whatever the Party and the authorities want them to mean.

Making a bit of a straw man argumentum ad absurdum, the top Canadian spinmeister for one of the companies subject to the National Security Law said:

‘At Huawei, we’re not attaching laser beams to the heads of sharks’
—Alykhan Velshi, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Huawei Technologies Canada, Markham, Ont.
Letter to the Editor, Maclean's Magazine, published July 23, 2019

Personally I think laser-enhanced sharks would be kind of cool, it's the required handing over of data should the Chinese government request it that gives one pause.

The quibble on the importance of the National Security Law aside, my Mandarin speaking friends say the Guardian article is a fair representation of Xi and how he is shaping China.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

"The blob is real: Paris zoo showcases self-healing organism with 720 sexes"

I smell a pronoun fight.

You could have 26 different alphabets with 26 different letters and still not have enough descriptors for all the sexes.

From United Press International:
The star attraction at a zoo in Paris defies expectation. It looks like a fungus, but it acts like an animal. Technically, the organism known as the "blob," is neither. It also doesn't belong in the plant or bacteria kingdoms.

The strange organism is a slime mold, a type of protist, but the creature defies both classification and expectations. Though the blob is without a brain, it can solve problems. It has no eyes or mouth, but the blob can find and digest food. If it's cut in half, the blob quickly repairs itself.

This particular slime mold, a bright yellow species named Physarum polycephalum, was first discovered in Texas in 1973, according to CNN.

Several decades later, scientists published research showing the blob can learn to avoid toxic substances and recall their learned behavior as long as 12 months later. And when they fuse with other molds, the knowledge of their chemical adversaries gets shared.

Scientists at the Paris Zoological Park, where the blob is currently on display, suggest the organism can make it's way through mazes and solve basic problems....MORE, including video

"Merkel says German multiculturalism has failed"

Jeez Mutti, this seems like a sorta big story.
From Reuters:
Germany’s attempt to create a multicultural society has “utterly failed,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, adding fuel to a debate over immigration and Islam polarizing her conservative camp.

Speaking to a meeting of young members of her Christian Democrats (CDU), Merkel said allowing people of different cultural backgrounds to live side by side without integrating had not worked in a country that is home to some four million Muslims.

“This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed,” Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, south of Berlin.

Merkel faces pressure from within her CDU to take a tougher line on immigrants who don’t show a willingness to adapt to German society and her comments appeared intended to pacify her critics.
She said too little had been required of immigrants in the past and repeated her usual line that they should learn German in order to get by in school and have opportunities on the labor market....MORE
Here's the URL so you can see this is actually Reuters and not the Onion or something:

"Who Owns the Arctic?"

Well, there was this last June:
 Canada Makes A Move In The Arctic, Claims The North Pole: "Santa is Canadian eh" which had a few other claims we had gathered:

...Russia planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole 
(and were promptly reminded it was no longer the 16th century and things were done differently these days)


And the U.S. even disputes Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage much less the Pole, meanwhile submitting photographic evidence of humanitarian aid at the Pole:


That's the U.S. Coast Guard's icebreaker Healy in the background.

The Canadians have done this before, also citing spurious "evidence":
"Santa Claus lives and pays taxes in Canada, government affirms"
But this is just an extension of Canadian perfidy in other areas.
See also: 
False Bacon of Hope: "150 Years of Canadian Culinary History"

The Danes, Norway and Sweden have made individual claims to the Arctic and may go full Viking one of these days with a joint claim.
Britain has been quiet about the Arctic despite claiming a chunk of Antarctic seabed, more on that after the jump.

And the headline story, from LiveScience, October 13:

It's been called the "new Cold War," but what's really going on in the Arctic?
In August, President Donald Trump made international headlines when he voiced an interest in buying Greenland, the world's largest island, which teeters on the edge of the icy Arctic Ocean. As it turns out, Greenland isn't for sale, and Trump was widely ridiculed for his diplomatic blundering. Yet, many wondered what could be behind this unprecedented move —and if it might have something to do with the United State's growing interest in owning a slice of the Arctic.

The U.S. is one of eight nations surrounding the Arctic — along with Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden — that are all currently jostling for ownership of the region's frozen seas. Several of the countries have already submitted formal papers to a United Nations body, claiming portions of the vast Arctic seabed. Climate change is also opening up the Arctic's formerly ice-locked waters, making the region more accessible than ever before. "Based on current trends, the predictions of the Arctic being completely ice-free are [that it will happen] around 2040 or 2050," said Richard Powell, a polar geographer at the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

This surge of interest in the region has been dubbed the "scramble for the Arctic," or more sensationally, "the new Cold War," because Russia and the United States are big players. But despite the opportunities the region presents, can the Arctic Ocean really be owned by anybody? And why do so many countries want a stake in this landscape of drifting icebergs and polar bears?
Related: Why Is There So Much Oil in the Arctic?
There's a straightforward answer to the second question: The Arctic possesses massive oil and gas reserves. The seabed beneath the Arctic Ocean houses an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil — about 13% of the world's undiscovered oil reserves — and an estimated 30% of the planet's untapped natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

A century ago, this immense mineral wealth would have been unreachable, because we lacked the technology to exploit it. Back then, countries were limited to exploring only a thin sliver of sea along their coasts, while areas of remote ocean, like the deep Arctic, were designated as high seas that belonged to no country. But with huge technological advancements in recent decades, remote stretches of ocean have become increasingly accessible. That's forced international lawmakers to play catch-up and expand the definitions of where countries can legally explore.

Currently, under a treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), signatory countries can exploit resources from the seabed out to 370 kilometres off their shorelines. But if a country can provide evidence that particular geological features on the seabed located farther out from that 200-mile limit are connected to the nation's continental landmass, then the country's jurisdiction can be expanded deeper into the sea.

"[Countries] compile the data, make the claim, then the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf [a U.N.-appointed body] rule as to whether they accept the reasoning or not," Powell told Live Science.

In the Arctic, this approach puts large swathes of once-untouchable ocean up for grabs by the surrounding nations, known as the "Arctic 8." Many of their claims now focus on the Lomonosov Ridge, a huge, deep-sea geological feature that stretches across the Arctic Ocean. Several nations posit that this ridge is an extension of their continental shelf, a claim that could grant them access to larger areas of Arctic seabed, and thus, vast mineral wealth.

The long game
All this points to a future in which different nations will indeed own chunks of the Arctic Ocean, each with varying degrees of power. Russia and Canada, for instance, are staking the two largest claims, which would inevitably give these nations more regional influence. 
However, the divvying up of the Arctic isn't likely to happen very soon. For one thing, gathering evidence about the seafloor, crafting detailed reports and wading through the intricate science of nations' claims is an intensive procedure that's only just begun. ...

Back to the other end of the planet, and back to 2007, there must have been something in the air 'cuz there was a whole lotta claimin' goin' on:

Brazil, Norway claim Antarctica; Ireland-Bay of Biscay
As we said last week:
Britain to claim a million square km of Antarctica: Here We Go Again

When I saw this yesterday I thought there was some material for "The Onion" in here somewhere. No need. The real headlines are pretty good.
Now come reports Ireland, Norway, France, Australia. Spain and Brazil have claims too. From the Daily Mail's This is London:
(Does anyone else see Mickey Mouse?)
Antarctica graphic

The Foreign Office has already submitted a joint claim with France, Spain and the Irish Republic for part of the Bay of Biscay. 

And there are talks with Iceland, Ireland and Denmark on a joint claim in the Hattan-Rockall area off Scotland, and a further claim to extend around the Falklands, South Georgia and Ascension Island....MORE

What's This? "Xi Jinping's daughter has returned to US to resume studies at Harvard, Chinese leader may have agreed to let Xi Mingzhe leave China to keep her out of danger"

From the Taiwan Times:
...Some observers also consider the move to be a potential safeguard. Sending his daughter back to the U.S. might be considered a diplomatic measure to signal trust in Washington and also a means for Xi to remove his daughter from harm if factional struggles within the Communist Party were ever to threaten Xi’s grip on power....

And why are Grand Pianos Shaped That Way?

From Fermat's Library's Twitter feed:

CERN: "A new run of the CLOUD experiment examines the direct effect of cosmic rays on clouds"

Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way. 
I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it's cloud illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.... 
-Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now, 1967
From Phys.org:
CERN's colossal complex of accelerators is in the midst of a two-year shutdown for upgrade work. But that doesn't mean all experiments at the Laboratory have ceased to operate. The CLOUD experiment, for example, has just started a data run that will last until the end of November.

The CLOUD experiment studies how ions produced by high-energy particles called cosmic rays affect particles, clouds and the climate. It uses a special cloud chamber and a beam of particles from the Proton Synchrotron to provide an artificial source of cosmic rays. For this run, however, the cosmic rays are instead natural from cosmic objects such as exploding stars.

"Cosmic rays, whether natural or artificial, leave a trail of ions in the chamber," explains CLOUD spokesperson Jasper Kirkby, "but the Proton Synchrotron provides cosmic rays that can be adjusted over the full range of ionisation rates occurring in the troposphere, which comprises the lowest ten kilometres of the atmosphere. That said, we can also make progress with the steady flux of natural cosmic rays that make it into our chamber, and this is what we're doing now."...MUCH MORE
Here's CERN's explanation of what they do:

nerd, yo
And some of our posts on cosmic rays:
"We still don’t know where cosmic rays are coming from"
Inside The Mind of Stephen Hawking: Electro-Cosmic Dance Party 
"Alien particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on personal electronic devices"
Space Weather (and beyond) 
Attn: Flight Attendants, Pilots, Frequent Flyers: Cosmic Rays Can Kill You

From October 20, 2014's
Earth's Magnetic Field May Be About to Flip 
"About to" is relative. In geologic terms it is imminent. In biological, maybe within a lifetime.
I plan to be around to see what effect the uptick in solar and cosmic radiation will have on CERN's CLOUD experiment results.
From the University of California-Berkeley....

To last night's ""How To Prove Einstein's Relativity In The Palm Of Your Hand"" which has directions for making your own cloud chamber.

"1 in 5 IT security professionals fear their connected toilets will be hacked"

Parents, don't let your kids grow up to be security or risk managers.*
From ZD Net:

It's remarkable the personal tidbits you can find in a serious study of IT security professionals and their fears about lack of security in the Internet of Things.

 And suddenly your toilet begins to do strange things.
There are surely few more stressful jobs than those in IT security.
There are too many moving parts.
At any point, anyone of those moving parts can move -- or be moved -- in a crooked manner so that your company's data, your data, and your very life are exposed for all to see.

No company can ever be sufficiently secure. Hackers seem to see the latest precautions coming and prepare for the latest phase of a never-ending game with an entertained smile upon their faces.
Surely, then, IT security professionals are nervous people.

This seems clear from a new survey perpetrated on the part of the hardware security company nCipher.
The surveyors asked 1,800 IT security professionals in 14 countries about vital elements such as the increased use of IoT products in businesses such as retail, agriculture, healthcare, and manufacturing.

Sixty-eight percent of these professionals worried that hackers will simply alter the function of an IoT device. Fifty-four percent are concerned that IoT devices will come under the remote control of people with nefarious purposes or merely cruel senses of humor.

Somehow, though, when asked to name the five most important IoT security capabilities, these same nervous sorts placed delivering patches and updates to IoT devices, well, last.

Some mutter that it isn't clear who should be responsible for the Public Key Infrastructure and keeping up with all these updates and the security challenges IoT presents.
This is unfortunate, as some studies show that a mere 28% of IoT devices enjoy encryption, as do a mere 25% of IoT data repositories.
You'd think there was enough angst about security for it to be a priority. But it's like insurance, isn't it? Many companies just take the chance that they'll never need it, or they worry about the cost for so long that it's too late.

I plowed through this data with some desperation. It's as if IT security professionals know what should be done, yet don't believe their organizations will ever evince the responsibility and forethought to do it.
I discovered, though, that the IT security professionals were also asked personal, as well as professional questions. Here's where the true fears came out....MORE
HT: fudzilla

* Mamma's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Risk Managers 
It could permanently twist their view of the world.

The current headlines at AgroInsurance:...