JACK MA SEEMS TO BE REDUCING HIS MAJORITY STAKE IN ANT GROUP, REPORTED BY SOURCES……..

By: Economic & Finance Report

It seems that Chairman of Ant Group, Jack Ma is reducing his majority stake in the holding company. Sources have indicated that China and Ant Group are currently working on ways for Mr. Ma to sell off his majority stake in financial holding company.

Talks started to begin in early January 2021 between Chinese authorities and Ant Group leadership, that Ma would be eventually existing the company majority control. It is still up in the air if Mr. Ma will leave the entire company, but it does seem this may be the case, though not confirmed.

Key sources would like Ma’s shares to sold to Ant Investors or Alibaba investors, keeping the shares in house, but discussions are still proceeding if this will be the case. Jack Ma’s exit is coming when Alibaba was penalized with multi billion dollars in fines by the Chinese government. -SB

Source: Reuters

Image Credit: Reuters.com

#TheCastPodcast Ep. #19 feat. Maritza Merk @Maritza_Merk: Sister Soul-jah *New Ep. Alert*

26 March 2021

1) The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous 8-0 ruling in a civil procedure case, has made corporations suffer a huge loss by making it easier to sue over defective and dangerous products. The basic thrust of the controversies is actually fairly simple in the case of Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court. The state court held that it had jurisdiction over Ford Motor Company in a product liability suit stemming from a car accident, since the accident happened in the state where suit was brought, and the victim was one of the state’s residents. Furthermore Ford did substantial business in the state with advertising, selling, and servicing the model of vehicle the suit claims is defective. Ford contends that jurisdiction is improper because the particular car involved in the crash was not sold in the state where Ford was sued, nor was it designed or manufactured there. The Supreme Court has essentially staked out two methods for bringing lawsuits against huge corporations: 1) general jurisdiction, and 2) specific jurisdiction. When minimum contacts are found to be sufficiently related to the cause of action, a given court may exercise jurisdiction over such claims.

2) Taiwan and the U.S. plan to deepen maritime security ties in view of China’s escalating ‘gray-zone’ threats. The Chinese government has made vast maritime claims in the South China Sea and also claims sovereignty over the Japanese controlled Senkaku Islands, which it calls Diaoyu. Until Beijing enacted its new coast guard law last month, the country relied on its myriad of armed fishing militia to harass the vessels of other regional claimants. However, China’s neighbors have raised concerns about the revised maritime police legislation, which allows coast guard ships to fire upon foreign vessels deemed to be intruding in Chinese territorial waters. Manila and Tokyo, both who are U.S. defense treaty allies with the U.S., have expressed concern at the potential consequences of the law.

3) Google’s systems infrastructure group calls their new Systems on Chip (SoC) the motherboard on a chip. The cloud computing giant, who is always in need of more computing power for its servers, until now relies on the motherboard as an integration point, where CPUs, networking, storage devices, custom accelerators and memory all come together. To gain higher performance and to use less power, workloads demand even deeper integration into the underlying hardware. With the SoC, the latency and bandwidth between different components can be orders of magnitude better, with reduced power and cost compared to traditional motherboards.

4) Stock market closings for – 25 MAR 21:

Dow Jones 32,619 up by 199.42
NASDAQ 12,978 up by 15.79
S&P 500 3,910 up by 20.38

10 Year Yields: up at 1.635

Oil: down at 61.84

25 March 2021

1) There is a large backup of freighters parked in the San Francisco Bay and in Long Beach, which are awaiting an opening at the Port of Oakland. This is because of a trade bottleneck, a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, thereby leaving U.S. businesses anxiously awaiting goods from Asia. The pandemic has wreaked havoc with the supply chain since early 2020, because it forced the closure of factories throughout China. The problem arose last March, when Americans stayed home, thus dramatically changing their buying habits. Instead of clothes, they bought electronics, fitness equipment and home improvement products. In turn U.S. companies responded by flooding the reopened Asian factories with orders, which then lead to a chain reaction of congestion at ports and freight hubs as the goods began arriving. Ships with as many as 14,000 containers have sat offshore, some of them for over a week, with as many as 40 ships waiting.

2) The manufacturing crisis with automakers continues to grow, with the auto industry bracing for more chip shortages after a fire at a plant owned by Japanese chipmaker Renesas. The company makes chips for Toyota, Nissan and Honda, and expects production at one of the buildings at its Naka Factory in Hitachinaka to be halted for a month. Renesas said the fire started when some equipment overheated and ignited, though it isn’t known what caused it to overheat. Renesas said two-thirds of the products made in the building could be produced elsewhere, although due to the recent increase in demand for semiconductors, the situation does not allow for all products to be immediately produced alternatively. This further reduction in semiconductor production will further reduce production of automobiles worldwide.

3) North Korea tells China they should team up as ‘Hostile Forces’. North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un reportedly praised his country’s close ties with neighboring China, looking to boost their ties to counter the hostile policies of the United States. China and North Korea’s close ties date back to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, then the outbreak of the Korean War a year later. In the war, Chinese troops supported North Korean forces with the backing of the Soviet Union, against South Korea and a U.S. led United Nations coalition. However, the fighting ended in a stalemate with an armistice but no official peace, which continues to this day. The North Korea considers that the world is now undergoing transformations rarely seen in a century, which is also overlapped by the ‘once in a century’ pandemic. What this portents for China and North Korea’s future actions . . . only time will tell.

4) Stock market closings for – 24 MAR 21:

Dow Jones 32,420 down by 3.09
NASDAQ 12,962 down by 265.81
S&P 500 3,889 down by 21.38

10 Year Yields: 1.6280

Oil: up at 64.41

19 March 2021

1) American military officials are warning that, in the next few years, China could invade Taiwan. The island nation has long been a sore subject of U.S.-China relations. China’s rapid military build-up, are recent indications that Taiwan could unilaterally declare its independence from the mainland. An invasion could throw the whole region into chaos and potentially culminate in a shooting war between China and the United States, who is treaty bound to help Taiwan defend itself against Beijing. The Chinese army’s capabilities have matured to such a degree that this is no longer a dilemma we can afford to brush off. The Biden administration must signal its willingness to ‘go to the mat’ for Taiwan and help ensure the island can defend itself, but without further spooking Beijing. China has commissioned 25 advanced new ships, including cruisers, destroyers and ballistic missile submarines, with capabilities designed to keep America and its allies, who might interfere on Taiwan’s behalf, at bay. Meanwhile, China is integrating its new equipment into an increasingly sophisticated force

2) Production at U.S. manufacturers unexpectedly declined in February, representing a pause in recent momentum as factories were beset by severe winter weather and supply-chain challenges. The 3.1% decrease in output was the first since April, following an upwardly revised 1.2% gain in January. Total industrial output reflected a 7.4% surge at utilities, that was the largest advance since March 2017, also driven by increased demand for heating. Manufacturers continue to battle supply shortages and shipping challenges, but lean business inventories, steady demand from consumers and solid capital spending should push manufacturing back up.

3) A Tesla Model Y electric car, with its Autopilot engaged, crashed into a Michigan police car that had pulled over with its lights on. The driver was using Tesla’s Autopilot system when he crashed into the police vehicle, but there were no injuries, according to police. The 22-year-old driver was issued citations for failure to move over and driving with a suspended license. Tesla’s Autopilot system allows the car to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically. The electric car maker also sells its full self-driving software as a $10,000 one-off add-on and plans to release it as a subscription model this summer.

4) Stock market closings for – 18 MAR 21:

Dow 32,862.30 down by 153.07
Nasdaq 13,116.17 down by 409.03
S&P 500 3,915.46 down by 58.66

10 Year Yield: 1.73%

Oil: down at $59.53

18 March 2021

1) Griddy Energy, the Texas power retailer, filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest casualty of the cold weather blast and sweeping blackouts that pushed electricity prices to historic highs. The company, after its customers received exorbitant power bills, blamed its downfall on Texas’s grid operator Ercot who is blamed for destroying Griddy’s business. Griddy is at least the third to file for bankruptcy. Ercot owes more than $29 million dollars, making the grid operator Texas’ largest unsecured creditor. Texas is unusual in the U.S. in that homeowners and businesses can choose from a number of power providers. Griddy charges wholesale prices instead of fixed ones, and knowing that rate structure would mean massive bills for its customers as power prices climbed, the company made the unusual move of pleading with customers to switch to another provider in mid-February, but some customers who didn’t switch in time were stuck with bills for thousands of dollars.

2) The world’s three biggest consumers of coal, the most dirty of the fossil fuels, are getting ready to boost usage so much that it’ll almost be as if the pandemic-induced drop in emissions never happened. The U.S. power plants will consume 16% more coal this year, and then an additional 3% in 2022. China and India, which together account for almost two-thirds of coal demand, have no plans to cut back in the near term. This means higher emissions, and in the U.S., the gains may undermine President Biden’s push to reestablish America as an environmental leader and raise pressure for him to quickly implement his climate agenda. Coal consumption at U.S. power plants is almost returning to 2019 levels. While in recent years, China has reduced the share of coal in their energy mix, total power consumption has risen, so its usage has also climbed. China has the world’s largest number of coal-fired power plants, so it’ll be tough to shift to alternatives. India is also a very long way from a clean grid, with coal continuing to account for around 70% of its electrical generation. Consumption at their power plants will rise 10% this year, and is set to increase every year through at least 2027.

3) Although little known to most people, sand is another natural resource becoming scarce. So China has launched a crackdown on illegal sand mining operations on the Yangtze river, which have made large parts of central China more vulnerable to drought. Sand mining in the river and its connecting lakes and tributaries has also affected shipping routes and made it harder for authorities to control summer floods.

4) Stock market closings for – 17 MAR 21:

Dow 33,015.37 up by 189.42
Nasdaq 13,525.20 up by 53.64
S&P 500 3,974.12 up by 11.41

10 Year Yield: up at 1.64%

Oil: down at $64.63

16 March 2021

1) The technology known as carbon capture and storage, a concept that has been around for at least a quarter century to reduce the climate damaging emissions from factories, is being pursued by major international oil companies. The idea sounds deceptively simple, just divert pollutants before they can escape into the air, and bury them deep in the ground where they are harmless. But the technology has proved to be hugely expensive, and so has not caught on as quickly as advocates hoped. Exxon Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell plus lesser known Norway’s Equinor, France’s Total, and Italy’s Eni are investors in capture and storage projects.

2) Reports are, that amid all the trillion dollar spending, the White House is now starting to consider how to pay for the programs meant to bolster long term economic growth with investments in infrastructure, clean energy and education. The challenges are twofold: 1) how much of the bill is paid for with tax increases and 2) which policies to finance with more borrowing. The administration hasn’t decided whether to pursue a wealth tax. With interest rates so low, U.S. borrowing costs are manageable right now. The federal government currently collects the biggest chunk of its revenue, about half in 2019, from individual income taxes, which now tops out at 37% of income above $518,000 per year. For now, there are few signs of inflationary spiral or fiscal crisis that policy makers thought would accompany debt levels like today’s. The Congressional Budget Office this month projected that the national debt would double as a proportion of gross domestic product over the next 30 years. But the cost of borrowing is rising for the government and across the economy so the large debt could mean trouble in the future.

3) India’s foreign-exchange reserves has surpassed Russia’s to become the world’s fourth largest, as India central bank continues to hoard dollars to cushion the economy against any sudden outflows. Reserves for both countries have mostly flattened this year after months of rapid increase. India’s reserves, enough to cover roughly 18 months of imports, have been bolstered by a rare current-account surplus, raising inflows into the local stock market and foreign direct investment. India’s foreign currency holdings fell by $4.3 billion to $580.3 billion as of March 5, edging out Russia’s $580.1 billion pile. China has the largest reserves, followed by Japan and Switzerland on the International Monetary Fund table.

4) Stock market closings for – 15 MAR 21:

Dow 32,953.46 up by 174.82
Nasdaq 3,459.71 up by 139.84
S&P 500 3,968.94 up by 25.60

10 Year Yield: down at 1.61%

Oil: down at $65.29

15 March 2021

1) Canoo of Los Angeles is offering a battery-powered truck, with a skateboard-style EV platform, having a highly modular, cab-forward, for a blisteringly quick utility vehicle. Similar to Ford’s F-150, it comes in about the height and two inches narrower, and with a wheelbase 10 inches shorter. Without a conventional drive train, its extended cab is far forward, thus giving it a larger bed than the Ford. With its battery and electric motor, it can generate 600 horsepower and 550 foot-pound of torque even down at zero rpm. These should make the Canoo a respectable tow rig, not to mention a capable crawler, what with its short wheelbase, skid plates front and rear, and integral tow hooks.

2) America has now administered over 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine (101.1 million). That equates to more than 35 million Americans fully vaccinated or 10.5% of the total U.S. population. Nearly 66 million, or almost 20% of the total population, have gotten at least one dose, while one-third of Americans age 65 and older are fully vaccinated. The first shot was given on December 14, and more doses have been administered in the U.S. than any other country in the world, although several smaller nations have vaccinated a higher proportion of their populations. The U.S. should have enough COVID-19 vaccine to immunize the nation’s entire adult population by this summer, with enough left over for some 172 million more people. The nationwide pace of vaccinations has quickened to an average of over 2 million doses a day. The majority of states have already vaccinated many of their front line essential workers and residents over 75 years old.

3) Rare earth elements are produced in various parts of the world, but primarily in China, who has been holding the U.S. and some other countries hostage under threat of a trade war by using these ‘must have’ minerals. But that is about to change with Noranda Alumina of Gramercy, Louisiana, who is proposing developing an $800-million dollar high tech refining center for extracting rare earth minerals from over 35-million tons of residual bauxite stored in Louisiana. Investing nearly a billion dollars on the new plant, it will create 2,000 construction jobs. Once in operation, the facility will employ 200 full time high paying jobs along with nearly 600 indirect jobs. This opportunity enables America to domestically produce these rare earth elements that go into a lot of green earth technologies, plus by recycling the residual bauxite, the extraction plant will be carbon neutral.

4) Stock market closings for – 12 MAR 21:

Dow 32,778.64 up by 293.05
Nasdaq 13,319.86 down by 78.81
S&P 500 3,943.34 up by 4.00

10 Year Yield: up at 1.64%

Oil: down at $65.56

12 March 2021

1) There are some estimated 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas well sites. To plug a well cost as much as $150,000 each. Estimates are that abandoned oil and gas wells cover more than 2 million acres in the U.S., and if that land is restored, it could deliver billions of dollars in benefit for a fraction of the cost of restoration. Cleaning up these wells and restoring the land around them would safeguard against the harmful impacts of abandoned oil and gas infrastructure such as methane leaks and groundwater contamination. Two specific ecosystem benefits are agricultural products, like food from farms, and carbon sequestration.

2) With the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, companies abruptly shuttered their offices and instructed employees to work from home indefinitely. Companies at first thought the shutdowns would last a couple months, but one year later, millions of workers are still working remotely. This has amounted to a ‘remote work experiment’ on a scale never seen before, and here’s a little of what’s been learned. Employers have become more nimble, loosening restrictions on where employees can work, and equipping them with the tools to do so. Meetings aren’t always necessary, working a standard eight-hour shift may not be the best schedule for everyone, sitting at a desk doesn’t always mean you’re being productive and perhaps you miss your coworkers more than you thought you would. Some companies plan to remain 100% remote post-pandemic, while others, including companies like Reddit and Microsoft, will take a hybrid approach, giving workers more flexibility about where they work. But companies have also found cost savings, by reducing the office space needed, which is a major cost factor for businesses.

3) Chinese imports of Iranian crude oil will hit 856,000 barrels a day in March, the most in almost two years and up 129% from last month. Crude shipments from Iran to the province of Shandong, home to a quarter of China’s refining capacity, have surged so much they’re causing congestion at ports and filling up storage tanks, according to traders and analysts. The waiting time for tankers looking to offload in Shandong is estimated to be 12 days. Most refiners and traders are reluctant to purchase Iranian crude for fear of repercussions that can include being cut off from the American banking system and having cargoes seized by the U.S. Navy. Iranian cargoes are heavily discounted due to the sanctions.

4) Stock market closings for – 11 MAR 21:

Dow 32,485.59 up by 188.57
Nasdaq 13,398.67 up by 329.84
S&P 500 3,939.34 up by 40.53

10 Year Yield: up at 1.53%

Oil: up at $65.91

11 March 2021

1) The Interior Department moved one step closer to allowing the construction of the country’s first commercial scale offshore wind project with the release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement. This is the last step before issuing a decision on whether it will approve or deny the request to build the 800-megawatt project, the amount of energy used by more than 400,000 homes, and is 12 miles from Martha’s Vineyard. But the environmental assessment notes the project is expected to negatively impact commercial fishing, a $630 million industry in Massachusetts. If approved the Vineyard Wind 1 project is expected to be completed in 2023.

2) Japan’s new supercomputer Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer in the world and now is finally in fully operational status. Now, after undergoing nearly a year of testing on projects aimed at combating the COVID-19 pandemic by using analytics, modeling and policy making to prevent similar disasters, the computer is operational. Fugaku has been at the top of the list of fastest supercomputers since mid-2020, and it continues to hold that spot in the most recent Top 500 list. With three times the computing power of the runner-up IBM Summit, Fugaku is likely to remain the supercomputer to beat until Finland’s LUMI is completed. Fugaku is powered by ARM A64FX chips, of which it has 7,630,848 cores. When tested against the HPL supercomputing benchmark, it set a world record of 442 petaflops. And against the ‘high-performance computing artificial intelligence’ workload (HPC-AI) benchmark it maxed out at 2.0 exaflops, beating the previous record (also held by Fugaku) of 1.4 exaflops set in June 2020. According to Top 500, Fugaku’s HPC-AI benchmark was the first benchmark measurements above one exaflop for any precision on any type of hardware. In terms of the type of research Fugaku will be working on, some projects have already returned results such as simulating tsunami waves to forecast flooding in Japan. Seventy-four additional projects have been selected for implementation starting in April 2021.

3) Worries continue to grow that interest rates and inflation will rise as a result of greater government borrowing- a.k.a. the just passed $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Washington doesn’t want to talk about how to pay for it, and now they’re wanting to do an infrastructure bill. The negative effects on the economy will include higher mortgage rates and car payments. There are growing fears that coming next is a massive tax increase.

4) Stock market closings for – 10 MAR 21:

Dow 32,297.02 up by 464.28
Nasdaq 13,068.83 down by 4.99
S&P 500 3,898.81 up by 23.37

10 Year Yield: down at 1.52%

Oil: up at $64.69