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Daily Scan: The Pope has landed; Stocks fall
Capital Markets
<p>September 22</p> <p>Good afternoon,</p> <p>Stocks fell Tuesday as investors showed worry about global growth. And who knows what's going on in the Fed's mind? The Dow dropped 1.1%, recovering ever so slightly from further losses midday. The Nasdaq lost 1.5%, and S&amp;P 500 fell 1.2%. The Volkswagen scandal hit European markets hard as markets swing from optimism to pessimism on the outlook for economic expansion. The dollar gained overnight on hopes that the things are getting better while the Stoxx Europe 600 skittered more than 3% lower. It was a one-two punch. Auto stocks got crushed as the VW scandal blows up. Commodity currencies got hit hard after oil retraced much of its recent gains. We can only conclude: Markets are in a less-than-healthy frame of mind.  The next catalyst for market volatility: Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart speaks at 7 p.m. ET.</p> <p>Here's what else you need to know:</p> <p>Pope Francis is in the U.S. The pope kicks off his historic visit with a trip to D.C. and a chat with Congress. Next up, his holiness will visit Philadelphia and New York City before the weekend.</p> <p>Brian Moynihan gets to keep his jobs. Bank of America's Chairman and CEO survived a vote of confidence, allowing Moynihan to keep both CEO and Chairman roles at the firm. Moynihan has led the bank for six years. Shareholders, including CalPERS, questioned why Moynihan needed both jobs. Wall Street Journal</p> <p>General David Petraeus will apologize to the Senate. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the retired general will apologize for his extramarital. The Daily Beast</p> <p>Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein diagnosed with lymphoma. Blankfein announced via email that he will be undergoing chemotherapy treatments over the next several months in New York. He says his form of lymphoma is highly curable, and he will be able to work as normal. Blankfein added that he will cut back on some planned travel. Politico</p> <p>China's Xi lands in U.S. at controversial moment. President Xi Jinping comes to the U.S. on his first official visit as the Chinese economy wobbles,and the stock market sits 38% below its peak --  challenging his iron grip back home. Xi begins his visit in Seattle where he will meet with high tech giants at the Microsoft campus. China has been charged with massive cyberattacks, which Xi has denied. Back in China, Xi has tightened its grip on the Internet, moving to censor activity aggressively. Xi will visit Washington, D.C., where he will meet President Obama in what is bound to be testy conversations. Xi will then go to the United Nations to address the General Assembly. USA Today</p> <p>Volkswagen scandal could affect 11 million vehicles. The carmaker is now the subject of global criminal probes involving software designed to lie about emissions in its diesel cars. It has set aside $7.27 billion to cover potential liabilities. On Monday, the stock plunged 23% and slid another 19% on Tuesday. VW owns Porsche, Audi, and Skoda. Wall Street Journal (paywall)</p> <p>More than 3,000 rape kits go untested in Kentucky. The state blames a lack of resources for allo</p>
Billionaire's whole family struck with Lyme disease
Lifestyle, 4:01
<p>British billionaire John Caudwell announced that he and his entire family have been diagnosed with Lyme disease.</p> <p>Caudwell, a business man and founder of Phones 4u, recently revealed that his 20-year-old son Rufus has a possibly fatal strain of Lyme disease, reports the Daily Mail. Now, Caudwell says that he, as well as his two daughters and ex-wife, have all tested positive for the disease. Lyme disease is known to spread through infected ticks, but the Caudwell case suggests it could also spread from person to person.</p> <p>Rufus had been diagnosed with mental health problems including panic attacks and agoraphobia, but Caudwell says those symptoms are linked to the Lyme disease. Rufus is currently bed-ridden as the disease has progressed.</p> <p>Caudwell says his family is fortunate that it can afford treatment outside of the National Health Service, as the NHS provides little treatment for the disease. He initially kept the diagnosis private, but as the entire family will be treated, Caudwell decided to draw attention to the disease in the U.K.<br /> Photo: John Tann</p>
Goldman jumps on ETF bandwagon
Asset Management
<p>It's official. Everybody's doing it.</p> <p>Goldman Sachs Asset Management has launched its first exchange traded fund in attempt to grab assets in the growing strategy's space, reports the Financial Times. Retail and institutional investors alike are pouring money into ETFs, as a cheap and easy option for tracking a market. GSAM's first ETF launched with $50 million and tracks the Goldman "ActiveBeta" index, which weighs equities according to value, earnings, and volatility. The firm plans to launch similar products "in the coming months."<br /> “Our clients asked us to apply our investment expertise to exchange traded funds,” Michael Crinieri, GSAM’s global head of ETF strategies, said in a statement.<br /> Moody's has called this "smart beta"-ETF space "the next battleground for asset management dollars." The ratings agency says that it expects the biggest passive asset managers and the most innovative managers to be the winners.</p> <p>Earlier this month OppenheimerFunds acquired VTL Associates to break into the ETF space. Legg Mason bought QS Investors last year, and Franklin Templeton is also eyeing the space. The multi-boutique Legg Mason requested regulator approval for its first four ETFs earlier this month.</p> <p>According to ETFGI, ETFs posted net inflows of $219.7 billion globally during the first eight months of 2015, a 16% increase from the same period in 2014.<br /> Photo: WorldSeriesBoxing</p>
Video: 'The Big Short' trailer is out
Lifestyle, 4:01
<p>The movie trailer for "The Big Short" has been released. The film, based on Michael Lewis' book about the subprime housing crisis, is in theaters in December. Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt star. It's like the "Wolf of Wall Street," but less sexy.</p>
When an easy Fed doesn't help stocks (and when it does)
Asset Management
<p>Last week, the Federal Reserve chose to do nothing to move short-term interest rates away from zero after nearly 6 years of extraordinary policy distortion. As detailed below, the inaction of the Fed, and the failure of the stock market to advance in response, follows the script that I detailed in February. Policy makers at the Fed actually appear to believe – contrary to historical evidence and contrary even to the recent experience of numerous countries around the world – that activist monetary policy has meaningful and reliable effects on subsequent economic activity. It’s lamentable that otherwise thoughtful policy makers, much less journalists who cover these actions, show no interest in how weak these correlations are in actual data, and seem incapable of operating even the most basic scatterplot. Despite the spew of projectile money creation around the world, the global economy is again deteriorating. The main defense of the Fed’s inaction seems to be that years of zero interest rate policy have been hopelessly ineffective, so continued zero interest rate policy is necessary.<br /> As we’ve demonstrated previously, there’s no statistical evidence in the historical record to suggest that activist monetary policy has any relationship to actual subsequent economic activity (see The Beauty of Truth and the Beast of Dogma). Historically, monetary policy variables themselves can be largely predicted by previous changes in output, employment and inflation. That “systematic” component of monetary policy does have a weak correlation with subsequent economic changes. It’s unclear whether that’s purely incidental, or whether those systematic changes in monetary variables (such as short-term interest rates) are actually necessary for the weak effects that follow. I should be careful to note that monetary policy also seems to weakly influence confidence expressed in certain survey-based questionnaires. But that correlation emphatically does not translate into changes in actual output, income, or employment. Put simply, massive activist deviations from systematic monetary policy rules provide no observable economic benefit, but instead create fertile ground for speculative bubbles and crashes.<br /> Despite its wild grandiosity, Fed intervention was not what ended the global financial crisis. Recall that the global financial crisis ended – and in hindsight ended precisely – on March 16, 2009, when the Financial Accounting Standards Board abandoned FAS 157 “mark-to-market” accounting, in response to Congressional pressure from the House Committee on Financial Services on March 12, 2009. That change immediately removed the threat of widespread insolvency by making insolvency opaque. This might not have meant much if regulators had continued to insist on mark-to-market when evaluating bank solvency. But with regulators willing to go along, the global financial crisis ended with the stroke of a pen.<br /> Those who hail the March 2009 replacement of mark-to-market with mark-to-unicorn as a “necessary” response miss the point (though Iceland has actually done quite well relative to the rest of the world, despite initial disruption, by insisting on massive bank restructuring rather than playing extend-and-pretend). The point is that Fed intervention did not end the </p>
Forum Global Opportunities up 107% YTD on big short yuan bet
Hedge Funds
<p>China’s losses have been one hedge fund’s gain – big time.</p> <p>Forum Global Opportunities Fund, the global macro hedge fund run by Ray Bakhramov, jumped 60.21% in the month of August. It is now up 106.71% year-to-date, putting it on track to post its first year in the green since 2011, according to a letter to investors reviewed by ValueWalk.</p> <p>The increase was driven by a 38.2% gain in the fund’s forex investments. The firm has a long-standing bet against China’s yuan, which the country devalued last month. It also won on short bets against the Taiwanese and Singapore dollars as well as the S&amp;P 500, DAX and Nikkei indices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The firm has operated in recent years under the belief that high levels of intervention from central banks has created severe distortions within financial markets, suppressing volatility and posing a flight risk to assets. It has held that at some point, the markets would enter a normalization phase in which distortions would correct – essentially, what happened in August. And Forum doesn’t think the ride is over yet.<br /> Forum Global Opportunities on yuan bet<br /> “Given our high conviction that certain asset prices had become massively inflated as investors piled into risk assets, volatility was suppressed to record lows, and underlying macroeconomic fundamentals continued to deteriorate, we heavily weighted our portfolio with long volatility, highly convex structures that would perform well as we moved into a normalization period that we believed would be characterized by sharp and abrupt adjustments,” the firm wrote in its August note to investors. “While our portfolio has been able to capture these recent market moves as evidenced by our recent performance, we believe the recent spate of volatility is merely the first adjustment in a longer normalization period for global markets. We expect to see continued heightened volatility in the current market cycle, punctuated by discrete waves of adjustment as these distortions correct.”</p> <p>Forum makes the argument that the current normalization process will be “significantly larger and longer” than previous cycles. It points to the acceleration of causal factors behind adjustments – slowing emerging market growth, commodity-led deflationary pressures and diverging global monetary policies – and uses China as an example:<br /> In China, intervention to slow the yuan’s depreciation has tightened financial conditions and accelerated capital outflows requiring further intervention. Cutting policy rates to offset financial tightening only increases fund flows to state-owned enterprises in over-supplied sectors, deepening deflationary pressures and pushing real rates higher. Across commodities, aggressive monetary easing has lowered cost curves via easy credit and local currency depreciation, boosting supply growth and negatively impacting pricing.</p> <p>Forum Global Opportunities on a changing market<br /> The fund also says market structure has transformed, with emerging markets nearly doubling their share of global GDP from 1997 to 2013, and that algorithmic and hedge fund trading “have changed market funding and behavior by linking multiple market segments into single trading strategies and amplifying ‘herding’ effects and liquidity-driven market imbalances during computer stampedes.”</p> <p>Founded in 2001, Forum is one of the leading investmen</p>
21 Inc's bitcoin computer seeks to redefine the internet
<p>Cryptocurrency startup 21 Inc. unveiled its latest project, a bitcoin computer that went on sale Monday and will ship in November. The computer, which sells for $400, is able to mine a constant stream of bitcoins and allows users to buy and sell "anything to anyone." The computer is the first of its kind, and though 21 Inc. says it represents a unique opportunity for bitcoin enthusiasts, the firm is hoping that the machine will pave the way for more of its kind and eventually rework the way people use the Internet.<br /> Adding Bitcoin ...<br /> Full story available on<br /> Photo: Antana</p>
Highlights from the FinTech O2O keynote speech
<p>More than 200 people gathered in Hong Kong for the inaugural Fintech Initiative meet-up at Cyberport. Chris Dark, President International of the fintech juggernaut C2FO, gave the keynote speech. The initiative aims to nurture the fintech ecosystem in Hong Kong and was co-sponosred by NexChange, publisherof this app, and Cyberport.</p> <p>Highlights:</p> <p>Chris Dark ,Pres Int'l, C2FO: "You have to take risks - the real disrupters are the risktakers" #fintech #fintechO2O<br /> — NexChange (@NexChanger) September 22, 2015</p> <p>"Rule number 1 for #startups is to focus" -Chris Dark from @C2FO #fintechO2O @NexChanger @cyberport_hk — W Hub (@WHubhk) September 22, 2015</p> <p>"Do things 10 times better than everyone, otherwise, go home" - Chris Dark, CEO of @C2FO at #FinTechO2O</p> <p>— (@NestIdeas) September 22, 2015</p> <p>Chris Dark, Pres Int'l, C2FO: "Banking is not going away, they are not the enemy, and you can work with them" #Fintech #FintechO2Oup — NexChange (@NexChanger) September 22, 2015</p>
Fintech expected to pull in big bucks even as stock market collapses
<p>The stock market may be in a sad, dark place right now, but fintech is riding high.</p> <p>In the week ending August 20, 25 fintech companies raised $1.63 billion, reports Finovate. Lending company Sofi was the biggest winner, bringing in a whopping $1 billion and edging toward a $4 billion valuation. Avant and Dianrong were runners up, raising $340 million and $220 million respectively. And fintech doesn't want to slow down any time soon.</p> <p>"Fintech is such a big market, and it's still so early in terms of some of these companies gaining traction, there's still room to grow," says Matthew Wong, research and data analytics at venture capital database CB Insights. Startups in general don't seem to be slowing down, and fintech is one of the hottest areas right now. Lending companies like Sofi, payments, and personal wealth management are all popular, says Wong. And investors especially love technology that appeals to millennials, such as easy apps. Funding is expected to continue to be strong for the rest of the year. Andreessen Horowitz's recent hire of a young, startup-founding partner is a prime example of where venture capitalists are looking in the future.</p> <p>Mobile payment provider Square moving to IPO will be a good lightening rod for the industry, and one that everyone will be watching, says Wong. If the IPO isn't well received, it may show that valuations for fintech are too high.</p> <p>Fintech firms are taking on the big banks and each other, but there's limited direct competition that is seen in other industries. Fintech firms typically carve out a niche, focusing on wealth management for instance, and not trying to be a giant bank. And the banks aren't stupid. Goldman Sachs has jumped fully into investing in fintech, particularly data driven companies like Motif Investing. Other banks, including JPMorgan, are close behind, looking at fintech opportunities to enhance their own businesses and show them what competition is coming. "We are seeing more banks invest now in these companies and trying to see what this technology is looking like," says Wong.<br /> Photo: Joe Ross</p>
Culture: An essential ingredient in success. Just ask any startup. Or Amazon
<p>"Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk." -- Bob Olson, former Amazon employee who worked in books marketing</p> <p>The New York Times<br /> Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows this for sure: culture matters. Over the weekend, The New York Times published a major expose on the culture at Amazon, depicting a workplace pushing employees to achieve unreasonable goals. The piece garnered 4,264 comments (and counting). As is the way of the digital world, the story has spawned a mini-publishing ecosystem. Amazon employee Nick Ciubotariu published a post on LinkedIn dismissing the Times story as half-truths and nonsense. That in turn prompted an assessment by Inc.: Who is right? Nick or the Times writers?</p> <p>And then what should happen to land in my inbox this afternoon? "The 3 Ways Culture Enables Startups To Scale," by Tomasz Tunguz, a partner at venture capital firm Redpoint (which has funded one of my favorite fintech companies, Expensify). To someone betting their money on a new venture, culture is not just a point of philosophical debate. It is a guiding light, a window into the likelihood of success.</p> <p>Tunguz explains that culture influences who a company is more likely to hire and daily decisions as well as the direction of a business. Tunguz writes:<br /> Contrast Google’s notion “Fast is better than slow” with Apple’s “Don’t ship until it’s perfect.” Neither philosophy is superior to the other, but they will attract different types of people. One encourages risks, while the other champions craftmanship. Google’s culture works for the web, where code pushes are immediate. Apple’s fosters better results in hardware where small mistakes can cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Each philosophy works to maximize the advantages of the company given their constraints.<br /> Can you summarize your culture in one sentence? Do you know its strengths and weaknesses? At NexChange collaboration is a key tenet of our workplace. Let us know in the comments the philosophy drives your business.<br /> Photo: Dennis Skley</p>