July 27, 2021

Inflation Has Arrived, but Washington Isn’t Racing to Limit Price Pops

Prices have risen by more than Fed officials expected, based on both their public statements and their economic projections from earlier this year.

Why the big jump? Some of it owes to temporary data quirks, which were expected to push inflation higher this year. Part of it has come as prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms and other pandemic-affected purchases rebound from last year, also as anticipated. But the surprisingly large part of the increase has come from a surge in consumer demand that is straining delivery routes and outstripping available supply for electronics, housing, and laundry machines.

That portion of the inflation is more tied to government policies, which put money into consumers’ pockets — and its future trajectory is a lot less predictable. Economists think the bottlenecks will fade, but by how much and how long it will take is uncertain.

Whether today’s inflation matters and warrants a response will depend on several factors.

If, as the White House predicts, quick price gains fade as the economy returns to normal, they shouldn’t be terribly problematic. Households will likely have to spend a little bit more on some goods and services but may also find that they are earning more. Workers are now seeing decent wage gains, though not quite enough to outpace price gains, and the labor market is expected to continue strengthening as inflation fades.

The biggest price gains have also been concentrated in just a few categories, like used cars. Most families do not buy automobiles that often, so the hit from higher costs will not be as salient for consumers as an across-the-board rapid rise in prices for everything consumers buy, like clothing and milk.

But if consumers and businesses come to expect higher prices and start accepting bigger price tags and demanding higher wages, that could broaden inflation and keep it elevated. That would be a problem. Rapid inflation makes life hard for people who live on savings, like retirees. If it outstrips pay gains, it can erode a consumer’s ability to buy goods and services. And if inflation becomes hard to predict, as it did in the 1970s and 1980s, it makes planning for the future hard for businesses and households.

There are real reasons to worry that inflation could stick around. Supply chain snarls are expected to fade with time, but new Covid variants and renewed lockdowns in some countries could keep global trade chains from getting back to normal. That could keep prices for goods elevated. (On the flip side, Jason Furman at Harvard points out that renewed lockdowns would also probably drag down consumer demand, which could lead to softer price pressures.)

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/business/economy/inflation-rise.html

Pop Smoke’s Second Posthumous Album, ‘Faith,’ Hits No. 1

“Faith,” the second album by the Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke to be released since he was shot and killed in February 2020 at the age of 20, tops the Billboard chart this week, just as the previous one did.

But the difference in listenership was stark: “Faith” opened with 88,000 equivalent album units, including 113 million streams and 4,000 in sales, according to MRC Data, Billboard’s tracking arm, while “Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon,” from last July, was nearly three times more popular in its opening week, earning the equivalent of 251,000 albums sold, with 268 million streams and 59,000 in sales (including now-restricted merchandise bundles).

“Faith” received tepid album reviews, with some questioning its posthumous assembly and the inclusion of more than 20 guests (Dua Lipa, Kanye West, Chris Brown) across the album’s 20 tracks. A deluxe edition adding four more songs was released on July 21, the day before the chart week ended.

Pop Smoke, born Bashar Jackson, once a leader of Brooklyn’s rising drill movement, was killed last year during a home invasion in the Hollywood Hills after inadvertently revealing his address on Instagram. Los Angeles police officers said at a hearing in May that five teenagers had plotted to rob the rapper, coming away only with a watch that they sold for $2,000.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/arts/music/pop-smoke-faith-billboard-chart.html

Philip Morris claims it wants to ‘solve the problem of smoking’ by ending cigarette sales in UK

Philip Morris’ CEO Jacek Olczak said on Sunday that the plan was part of the company’s strategy to phase out conventional cigarette smoking in the country.

“I want to allow this company to leave smoking behind. I think in the UK, ten years from now maximum, you can completely solve the problem of smoking,” Olczak told the Daily Mail. He noted that the Marlboro brand in particular “will disappear,” leaving consumers the choice between quitting the habit or switching to alternatives, such as electronic cigarettes or heated tobacco devices. 

Under the cover of Covid: Outdoor smoking bans in UK are the next phase of an authoritarian project launched 20 years ago Under the cover of Covid: Outdoor smoking bans in UK are the next phase of an authoritarian project launched 20 years ago

“Philip Morris can see a world without cigarettes – the sooner it happens, the better it is for everyone,” the tobacco giant that sold more than a quarter of all cigarettes worldwide last year, said in a statement on Monday, echoing Olczak’s remarks.

The company’s vice-president, Dr. Moira Gilchrist, told the BBC that Philip Morris would welcome a government ban on conventional cigarettes, while stating that “strong regulation” is needed to “help solve the problem of cigarette smoking once and for all.” She also indicated that the company is ready to focus on producing “better alternatives” to conventional cigarettes.

In 2019, UK authorities unveiled a plan to make the country ‘smoke-free’ by 2030 in a move to tackle the causes of preventable health problems. However, two years from the announcement, critics say the plan can hardly work unless tobacco manufacturers themselves fund the strategy.

Britain’s smoking rate dropped by half over the past 35 years, however, according to a House of Lords report, being smoke free means cutting the number of smokers in the population to 5%, while it’s currently about 15%.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/530269-marlboro-uk-disappear-10-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

UK looks to ban Chinese nuclear firm from country’s energy projects – reports

The move could see China General Nuclear (CGN) kicked out of a French-Chinese consortium which is planning to build the £20 billion ($27.6 billion) Sizewell C nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast and another one in Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

Also on rt.com London gives go-ahead for £20bn nuclear plant to secure UK’s energy future, reopens talks with French electricity giant EDF

According to both Bloomberg and the Independent, unnamed sources have confirmed a recent report by the Financial Times that first brought to light the UK government’s stance on China’s participation in the projects.

There isn’t a chance in hell that CGN builds [Sizewell C],” a source cited by the Financial Times claimed, noting that “given the approach we’ve seen to Huawei, [UK authorities] aren’t going to be letting a Chinese company build a new nuclear power station.” The source also revealed that UK authorities were already in talks with the main developer of Sizewell C, the French state-backed company Électricité de France S.A. (EDF), regarding chances to find new partners for the project. CGN didn’t respond to requests for comment on the report, while EDF declined to give any.

Also on rt.com UK government begins purge of China’s Huawei from country’s 5G rollout

The UK and China have been cooperating on nuclear power projects since a deal reached by former Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. CGN is an investor with a 33% share in the Hinkley Point C nuclear facility in Somerset, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK, currently under construction.

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian called China and the UK “important trade and investment partners” at a briefing on Monday, noting that as it is in everyone’s interests to cooperate “in the spirit of mutual benefit” the UK should “provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.

Also on rt.com China is right to expose Britain’s rank hypocrisy, London can’t adopt the moral high ground AND demand special trade deals

The British government has been increasingly critical of China’s policies of late, namely with regard to its stance on Hong Kong, the alleged mistreatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, and the handling of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan province. Boris Johnson’s administration recently blocked China’s Huawei Technologies from taking part in the set up of the UK’s 5G wireless network, while Britain’s national security adviser ordered an investigation into the takeover of the UK’s major chip producer by the Chinese firm Nexperia NV.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/530251-china-uk-ban-nuclear-projects/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Bitcoin bulls back as world’s top crypto surges towards $40,000

The cryptocurrency pared some of the gains, trading at about $38,300 as of 9:00am GMT, after briefly topping $39,000 for the first time since mid-June. Bitcoin fell below $30,000 last week amid a global stock sell-off, raising concerns that the crypto could fall even further.

With the latest surge, more than $700 million of bitcoin short positions were liquidated on Monday, the most in at least the past three months, data from Bybt.com showed. Bitcoin futures also surged, with over 1,000 contracts traded within 10 minutes.

Also on rt.com Bitcoin plunges below $30,000 amid broader cryptocurrency market sell-off

Bitcoin’s gains were followed by other cryptocurrencies, with the second-most valuable crypto ethereum up around 8% to above $2,300. The entire cryptocurrency market has added over $114 billion in value as of Sunday evening, according to Coinmarketcap.com.

Experts explain the bullishness with several factors, including recent uplifting comments from Twitter, Tesla, and Ark Invest CEOs at a bitcoin conference called ‘The B-Word’. Elon Musk said that Tesla may once again begin accepting bitcoin for its vehicle purchases, adding that both Tesla and space exploration company SpaceX own bitcoin, while he personally has bought bitcoin, ethereum, and dogecoin.

Also on rt.com Russian central bank warns domestic stock exchanges against crypto-related funds

Also, Amazon Inc. has recently listed a job posting for a digital currency and blockchain expert, seen as a sign the e-commerce giant plans to work with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. An Amazon spokesperson said the company is “inspired by the innovation happening in the cryptocurrency space,” and is “exploring what this could look like on Amazon,” as cited by Bloomberg.

The crypto market has recently been hit by concerns over the carbon footprint and energy consumption of bitcoin mining, a regulatory crackdown on the crypto in China, and criticism coming from European and US officials. Bitcoin is still around $27,000 off its mid-April high of nearly $65,000. However, some experts believe that the stresses bitcoin has been under are starting to wear off, indicating a return to the bullish crypto market.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/530222-bitcoin-surges-bullish-crypto-market/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Ted Lasso Leads a New Era of Sincere TV

I am, of course, using a broad brush, the only size available to anyone painting cultural trends. Take several steps back, and you can see the pattern; step closer, and you will find plenty of exceptions. The “Sopranos” era also had the heartfelt “The West Wing” and “Friday Night Lights.”

You can also see some interesting cases in the series that fall between the two eras. “Girls,” which began in 2012 and ended in 2017, is arguably a series made in the spirit of the first period that often ran afoul of the expectations of the second one.

Lena Dunham had a nuanced view of Hannah Horvath, the budding-writer protagonist she created and played on the show. Hannah was packed with ambitions and flaws; she was smart and off-putting, righteous and self-centered, struggling and privileged, sinned against and sinning.

But because “Girls” was also marketed as a generational watershed — underlined by Horvath’s hunger to be “a voice of a generation,” a transparently comic line whose irony got lost in quotation — it was often treated as a kind of sincere cultural ambassador for millennials. And when its characters failed to be role models, it went through backlash after backlash focused on their “likability,” something the show’s satire could not be less interested in. (Compare “Broad City,” a great but very different female-friendship Brooklyn-com that premiered a couple years later, which saw its central duo’s stoner-slacker recklessness as straightforwardly liberating.)

“Schitt’s Creek,” last year’s Emmy winner for best comedy, took the opposite journey. It began as a tart, “Arrested Development”–style sitcom about a wealthy family forced to earn their own livings in a small town. But it came into its own — and found a devoted audience — when it shifted into a warm, earnest mode, in which the rich fishes-out-of-water embraced their community, finding purpose and love.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/arts/television/ted-lasso-the-office.html

QR Codes Are Here to Stay. So Is the Tracking They Allow.

In the United States, the technology was hampered by clumsy marketing, a lack of consumer understanding and the hassle of needing a special app to scan the codes, said Scott Stratten, who wrote the 2013 business book “QR Codes Kill Kittens” with his wife, Alison Stratten.

That has changed for two reasons, Mr. Stratten said. In 2017, he said, Apple made it possible for the cameras in iPhones to recognize QR codes, spreading the technology more widely. Then came the “pandemic, and it’s amazing what a pandemic can make us do,” he said.

Half of all full-service restaurant operators in the United States have added QR code menus since the start of the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. In May 2020, PayPal introduced QR code payments and has since added them at CVS, Nike, Foot Locker and around one million small businesses. Square, another digital payments firm, rolled out a QR code ordering system for restaurants and retailers in September.

Businesses don’t want to give up the benefits that QR codes have brought to their bottom line, said Sharat Potharaju, the chief executive of the digital marketing company MobStac. Deals and special offers can be bundled with QR code systems and are easy to get in front of people when they look at their phones, he said. Businesses also can gather data on consumer spending patterns through QR codes.

“With traditional media, like a billboard or TV, you can estimate how many people may have seen it, but you don’t know how people actually interacted with it,” said Sarah Cucchiara, a senior vice president at BrandMuscle, a marketing firm that introduced a QR code menu product last year. “With QR codes, we can get reporting on those scans.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/26/technology/qr-codes-tracking.html

Russia inks deals worth over $3.5 BILLION during MAKS 2021 Air Show

Major domestic aviation deals included the sale of Sukhoi Superjet 100 and IL-114-300 aircraft, as well as Mil helicopters. Other agreements included deliveries of unmanned aerial vehicles, engines, aviation electronics, radars, aircraft munitions, and armored and motor vehicles.

Russia’s state defense conglomerate, Rostec, announced agreements worth over $3 billion for the delivery of 161 aircraft, both military and civilian. State arms exporter Rosoboronexport alone signed 13 contracts totaling $1.2 billion during the event.

Also on rt.com Russia’s Rostec inks over $3 billion in deals to supply 160+ aircraft at MAKS 2021 Air Show

MAKS has become Russia’s premier showcase of the latest developments in domestic aviation, both civilian and military. Nearly 500 products were presented to the public this year, including 50 newly developed aircraft models. Among the state-of-the-art developments unveiled at the show was Sukhoi’s new single-engine supersonic stealth fighter, Checkmate. Around 30,000 people came to see it live.

Russia also unveiled the new MC-21-310 medium-haul airliner, as well as a regional turboprop IL-114-300 and the Baikal light multipurpose aircraft. Russian Helicopters presented its upgraded Mi-171A3 choppers for operation on offshore oil platforms, new avionic equipment, and a new firefighting system. United Engine Corporation presented projects for shaft-turbine engines and a demo version of a new engine core.

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Foreign aircraft producers were also given the opportunity to exhibit their products, including some never before seen in Russia. Among those were the wide-body long-haul Airbus A350-1000, medium-haul Airbus A220-300 and the turboprop Pilatus PC-12NGX.

A US company took part in the show for the first time. Cirrus aircraft manufacturer presented two aircraft.

Overall, a total of 831 companies from 56 countries took part in the event, both online and offline, the organizers said.

“The 15th MAKS 2021 aerospace show has exceeded the results of 2019 in terms of the number of contracts signed and the scale of the business program,” they stated. Russia’s previous MAKS 2019 air show brought the country around 250 billion rubles.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/530221-russia-maks-airshow-deals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Global central banks to boost share of Chinese yuan while reducing US dollar holdings – survey

According to the Global Public Investor survey, published by the London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), 30% of central banks plan to increase their yuan holdings over the next 12-24 months, up from only a 10% increase last year.

Also on rt.com China cheers Russia’s move away from US dollar in favor of yuan

OMFIF claims the yuan’s rise is likely to be a global trend, but may be especially strong in Africa, where nearly half of central banks are set on boosting their yuan reserves.

The findings also showed that 20% of the world’s central banks want to reduce their US dollar holdings in the coming months, while 18% plan to cut their euro reserves and 14% their holdings of euro-zone sovereign debt.

In one such move, Russia has fully eliminated the US dollar from its National Wealth Fund, reducing its share from 35% to zero. Meanwhile, the country raised the amount of Chinese yuan in the fund to 30.4%, which put it in second place after the euro with 39.7%. 

Also on rt.com Ditching dollars: Russia dumps $5 BILLION from its oil fund in favor of yuan euro

According to OMFIF data, central banks, sovereign wealth funds and public pension funds currently control a total of $42.7 trillion in assets. Central bank reserves globally jumped some $1.3 trillion in 2020 to a new peak of $15.3 trillion. The majority of global central banks insist that financial markets depend on their monetary policies. However, only 40% believe these policies need to be actively updated.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/530034-china-yuan-holdings-boost-survey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

VC firms are pouring billions of dollars into green tech

ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing: it’s in every media outlet and on every bank’s business plan. A rush to what many call alignment of values with investment goals has led to a flourishing new industry with funds popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Green-tech startups are the new dotcoms, it seems, and the danger of a bubble seems distant—for now.

Interestingly enough, things were very different just a few years ago, as the Wall Street Journal’s Scott Patterson noted in a recent article. The past decade, he wrote, saw a pullout of investors from the green energy technology field after a couple of notable demises—one of solar company Solyndra back in 2011 and one of battery maker A123 Systems a year later.

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From today’s standpoint, this is ancient history. Now, hardly a week goes by without a breakthrough of some sort in batteries, solar power tech, or, say, hydrogen. Most of these breakthroughs have to do with cost and efficiency, which are the two things that can guarantee a product a long life. Yet, most of these breakthroughs never make it to the consumer. They never make the leap across the so-called valley of death between the lab and the market. Especially if funding is scarce and hard to come by.

Venture capital funds are changing this, the WSJ’s Patterson writes, citing data from PitchBook, a private capital market research provider. According to PitchBook, venture capital funds are seen completing $7.7 billion worth of green tech deals this year, which would be up from $1 billion ten years ago.

It’s not just venture capitalists, either. JP Morgan earlier this month launched not one but three new sustainability investment funds. This was only the latest move in a rush to set up clean energy investment funds to take advantage of growing investor appetite for environmental, social, and governance, commonly known as ESG, investing.

The floods in Germany show how fear-mongering about climate change is preventing us from combating actual disasters    The floods in Germany show how fear-mongering about climate change is preventing us from combating actual disasters  

Demand for new investment opportunities by a new generation of investors is one driver of this trend. Another, more important driver is government support for low-carbon technology. The European Union has tied its post-pandemic recovery funding program to commitments by national governments to invest a solid portion of the funds in low-carbon energy. This is effectively an open invitation to anyone doing anything in green tech. The Biden administration has also opened up the US federal purse for green tech startups.

Now, the EU and the US are discussing something they are calling a green technology alliance. In a joint statement, the two said, “We intend to lead by example through becoming net-zero greenhouse gases (GHG) economies no later than 2050 and implementing our respective enhanced 2030 targets.”

With such solid support, investment in green tech has become a lot less risky for investors… except in the part where a technology simply has no chances of survival as happens to an awful lot of breakthroughs that sound so groundbreaking in the lab but never cross the valley of death. However, this is a risk inherent in any startup investment.

We’ve seen some instances of this risk materializing in the EV space recently. First, EV and hydrogen vehicle startup Nikola suffered a major share price drop when a report from a short-seller revealed that the company’s CEO had overstated the company’s progress on its flagship model. The revelation cost Nikola a huge deal with GM, too. Another EV maker, Lordstown, recently teetered on the brink of collapse as the company ran out of money before it started commercial production of its Endurance truck.

Many more startups, not just in the EV space but also in other green tech fields, will go under if their products don’t live up to the hype. But at least now they have access to abundant funding, unlike a few years ago. Then, it was a buyers’ market. Now, it’s a sellers’ market, and buyers are lining up, eager to take part in the energy transition. How long before the situation escalates into a bubble? That would depend on how many more Solyndras and A123 Systems there are out there.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/530045-venture-capital-investing-green/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS