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
1) The CLEAN Future Act, a nearly 1,000-page piece of legislation, is meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution that’s emitted from the petrochemical facilities that produce plastics or the raw materials used to make plastics. More significantly, the bill would impose a temporary pause on air pollution permits needed for approval of new plastics production facilities. But Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that provisions in the sweeping climate bill from top house democrats would stifle the plastics industry. The EPA regulations also require any permit for a plastics production facility to be accompanied by an ‘environmental justice assessment’, which would include consulting with the people living in the region where the facility is located.
2) Canadian Pacific Railway announced its plan to acquire the Missouri-based Kansas City Southern Lines rail company, which operates railroads in Mexico, Panama, and the United States. The new agreement will result in the first ever rail network to span the length of the North American continent to create the first rail network spanning from Canada to Mexico. The CP values KCS at $29 billion dollars and agrees to assume $3.8 billion in outstanding debts as part of the agreement. The deal awaits final approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.
3) President Biden’s economic advisers are preparing to recommend spending as much as $3 trillion dollars aimed at boosting the economy, reducing carbon emissions and narrowing economic inequality, including a giant infrastructure plan that may be financed in part through tax increases on corporations and the rich. Rather than trying to push a mammoth package through Congress, Biden has separated his plan into legislative pieces. The bill includes money for rural broadband, advanced training for millions of workers and 1 million affordable and energy efficient housing units. Additionally there is nearly $1 trillion dollars in spending on the construction of roads, bridges, rail lines, ports, electric vehicle charging stations and improvements to the electric grid and other parts of the power sector. But Republican support will depend in large part on how the bill is paid for.
4) Stock market closings for – 23 MAR 21:
Dow Jones 32,423 down by 308.05 NASDAQ 13,228 down by 149.85 S&P 500 3,911 down by 30.07
1) The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the practices of renowned credit card company Visa regarding debit-card transactions. The DOJ is looking into the rules for routing transactions, both in stores and online. In its suit against Visa last year, the Justice Department claimed Visa already possesses monopoly power in the market for online debit-card transactions, arguing that roughly 70% of such transactions in the U.S. are routed over the firm’s network. At the heart of the Justice Department’s issues with Visa is the 2010 law known as the Durbin Amendment, which requires banks to include two networks on their debit cards. Merchants are then supposed to be given the choice of routing over a major network versus a smaller alternative such as Pulse, Star or NYCE. Those alternative networks can be cheaper for merchants.
2) The Federal Reserve stated that while the U.S. economy has been steadily rebounding from the pandemic recession, the recovery is far from complete and needs continued support from the Fed. About half the 20 million jobs that were lost to the pandemic have been recovered, and the outlook is brightening as vaccinations are more widely administered. The central bank’s policymakers forecasts are sharply upgraded, with the economy expected to accelerate quickly this year. At the same time, their forecast showed that the benchmark rate remains near zero through 2023, despite concerns in financial markets about potentially higher inflation.
3) Flipping houses in America is an easy way to make a quick buck. With the real-estate market red hot, profits on flips are at a record high, averaging some $66,000 per home. There are more than 60 banks and other financing companies catering to flippers. Memories of the 2007 real-estate bust are fading, and with interest rates on most fixed income investments still so paltry, lenders are desperate for anything that provides higher returns. The 7.9% average annual rate on a fix-and-flip loan is more than twice the 3.09% rate that a bank can earn on a 30-year mortgage. But there aren’t that many houses to purchase, the inventory of existing homes for sale is at its lowest since 1999, so now more flippers are chasing fewer transactions. Almost 68% of all home flippings last year sold for $300,000 or less.
4) Stock market closings for – 19 MAR 21:
Dow 32,627.97 down by 234.33 Nasdaq 13,215.24 up by 99.07 S&P 500 3913.10 down by 2.36
1) One part of the U.S. infrastructure that America can invest in now is the recycling infrastructure. The recycling infrastructure and related new technologies hasn’t been updated for roughly 20 years, in particular the massive growing plastics waste problem. Several years ago, China’s National Sword policy ended its role as a recipient of western waste, leaving the west with a seriously growing waste problem. Some consider the up coming bill on infrastructure upgrade will present an opportunity to leap ahead of the plastic problem with money for developing new technologies.
2) As if the American economy hasn’t suffered enough with the pandemic and record snow storms across the land, one more massive snow and ice storm system is sweeping across the nation again. Not only is there heavy snow, torrential rain and severe weather, but also there were 14 reported tornadoes, and additionally, wind gusts reaching as high as 87 mph in the Texas Panhandle with the region experiencing baseball-sized hail. Over 6 inches of rain has been reported in southern Missouri and over 4 inches of rain reported in Kansas and Nebraska, with all three states seeing flooding due to the storm. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour in Colorado and Wyoming, with up to 4 inches per hour locally in the foothills and mountains, closing highways and freeways. Totals of 1 to 4 feet of snow is expected in parts of the Rockies from this storm with 6 to 12 inches from Denver to Rapid City.
3) The microchip shortage continues with GM forced to shut down its Chevy Camaro Production. The global microchip shortage will force some automakers to prioritize the production of only their most important models. For GM, this means that Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac CT4 and CT5 production must be temporarily paused. Whatever microchips GM has access to, will be diverted to those factories remaining in production, leaving other lines to fight for what’s left. This problem comes just when automakers are trying to climb out of the financial disaster from the pandemic, when makers are needing to make every auto sale they can get, to bring in much needed revenues. Many automakers are now delaying or pausing their development programs, the debut and on-sale dates receding, thereby further aggravating long range revenues. The microchip shortage was caused by semiconductor production stoppages early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Automakers underestimated the rate at which sales would recover, and so, it left them behind all the other companies that rely on microchips. It’s unclear when the shortage will end. Many major automakers, from Honda to Mercedes-Benz have had to either pause or cut production over these shortages, so GM isn’t unique here.
4) Stock market closings for – 16 MAR 21:
Dow 32,825.95 down by 127.51 Nasdaq 13,471.57 up by 11.86 S&P 500 3,962.71 down by 6.23
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
1) There is an insatiable global appetite for sand, one of the world’s most important but least appreciated commodities. The problem, however, is this resource is slipping away. It is the world’s most consumed raw material after water and an essential ingredient to our everyday lives. Sand is the primary substance used in construction when using concrete. Sand, is used to make the glass found in every window, computer screen and smart phone. Even the production of silicon chips uses sand. The world consumes roughly 40 to 50 billion tons of sand on an annual basis, which has tripled over the last two decades, far exceeding the natural rate at which sand is being replenished. Desert sand grains are too smooth and rounded to bind together for construction purposes, instead sand from rivers and ocean shores is needed.
2) The oil giant Exxon is looking to enter the carbon-capture technology business, and Exxon says it’s ready to go all-in. This is a business of capturing carbon dioxide and storing it underground, which is far easier for a company like Exxon than building out renewable energy capabilities, as its European competitors are doing. The main use of captured CO2 is to extract more oil out of the ground, anyway. Exxon’s strategy is to cut emissions but pared back capital spending and a low breakeven price for oil. Experts have raised questions about the economics of carbon capture technology. Exxon has had to slash its operations budget last year to stay afloat, which resulted in job cuts that several employees described as haphazard. Morale inside the company has suffered as a result.
3) Fears are growing that the national average cost of gasoline could hit $3 a gallon by Memorial Day. With OPEC’s decision not to meaningfully boost oil production despite rising demand, the price at the pumps will soon breach $3 a gallon. Early in the coronavirus pandemic, OPEC slashed its oil production as demand for gasoline fell sharply. Presently, the national average price of gasoline is $2.76, up 30 cents from $2.46 a month ago. Last week gasoline demand reached the highest level in nearly a year, rising 15% from the prior week and now close to pre-pandemic demand. President Biden’s recent decisions to cancel the Keystone XL oil pipeline while also halting new drilling on federal land are playing no role in rising gas prices. There is no shortage of pipeline capacity and U.S. producers have little incentive to install new rigs on federal land since some existing wells remain shut down. With the economy improving, demand for gasoline has been rising, so with oil production not increasing, gasoline prices must rise.
4) Stock market closings for – 9 MAR 21:
Dow 31,832.74 up by 30.30 Nasdaq 13,073.82 up by 464.66 S&P 500 3,875.44 up by 54.09
1) U.S. retail sales surged in January, the most in seven months, beating all estimates. This suggests fresh stimulus checks helped spur a rebound in household demand following a weak fourth quarter. The value of overall sales increased 5.3% from the prior month after a 1% decline in December, and was the first monthly gain since September with all major categories showing sharp advances. The jump in retail sales could further embolden Republican opposition to President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, which the GOP considers too big. Even so, the Democrats can most likely pass the package without Republican votes, while the data might be evidence of how critical relief payments are to the economy and jobs.
2) The IRS has sent out all $600 stimulus payments, delivering more than 147 million second round stimulus checks, worth over $142 billion dollars. Some payments may still be in the mail, but otherwise, eligible Americans who did not receive the first or second payment can claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax returns, which will be on line 30 of the 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. The agency also noted that its ‘Get My Payment’ tool, which updated taxpayers on the status of their stimulus checks or deposits, was updated in January and will not be refreshed again for the second check.
3) The automaker Kia seems to be in quite a predicament. The automaker’s online services appear to have been severed from the outside world, with customers unable to start their cars remotely via Kia’s apps or even log into the company’s financing website to pay their bills. All signs pointed to a potential cyber attack against Kia, a ransom ware attack most likely, which is exactly what a new report is claiming. A report by information security news site Bleeping Computer seems to solidify that theory, as the publication shared a screenshot of an alleged ransom note asking Kia for the hefty tune of $20,000,000 to decrypt its files. The infection is believed to be the work of a group called DoppelPaymer by Crowdstrike researchers in 2019. Such threat actors routinely hunt big game for large pay outs, according to a security bulletin released by the FBI late last year. The note left behind mentions that the malware not only encrypted live data, but also the company’s backups, which more sophisticated attacks of this sort often prevent an easy restoration.
4) Stock market closings for – 18 FEB 21:
Dow 31,493.34 down by 119.68 Nasdaq 13,865.36 down by 100.14 S&P 500 3,913.97 down by 17.36
1) As President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus bill is debated by law makers and the press, Biden says he’s no longer afraid to spend big on economic relief. It’s not just smart fiscal investments, including deficit spending, it’s the return on investments in jobs, in racial equity that will prevent long-term economic damage with the benefits far surpassing the costs. But the national debt has soar by more than $7 trillion dollars during the last four years, and for the last quarter, the federal budget deficit was $572 billion, which is up more than 60% from the same period a year earlier. Fears are growing over the now massive national debt, a debt larger than at the end of World War II (as percent GDP), plus many other western and even third world nations have similar huge debts. There are real fears that if one of those nations economy collapses, then other economies will be dragged down, including Americas. Biden supporters counter that the low interest rates make it more palatable to borrow, with the rate on the 10-year Treasury bond hovering around 1.1%.
2) A new way to manipulate the stock market made the news, that uses modern computer technology and the internet to drive stock prices up and down. Called a “pump and dump” scam, it has pitted the professional stock traders of Wall Street against amateurs trading on the internet (also known as non-professional individual investors) with apps like Robinhood and Reddit. The scammers buy up the shares cheap, then spread rumors that drive the stock price higher while encouraging other investors to get in on the supposed windfall. When the stock hits a high point, the scammers dump their shares, leaving unsuspecting investors holding the bag. In addition to other stocks, the stock for GameStop is the main name in stories this week. The stock started at $4 a share six months ago, rising to $483. Short traders had determined that GameStop was a failing company that would not survive, and so were buying up the stock planning to sell short, which they had bought up on credit. The amateurs, using the internet and social apps started talking up how great the stock was as they also bought up stock, both driving up the price. As the stock price became excessively high, the short sellers were force to actually buy the stock at a price above the short price, resulting in huge losses for the Wall Streeters. The amateurs then sold off their stocks to the unsuspecting, causing the stock to tumble down.
3) General Motors announces its goal to eliminate selling all their gas and diesel vehicle models by 2035 and be completely carbon neutral by 2040. California had announced that it will no longer allow the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035.
4) Stock market closings for – 28 JAN 21:
Dow 30,603.36 up by 300.19 Nasdaq 13,337.16 up by 66.56 S&P 500 3,787.38 up by 36.61