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The Weekly Recap 2/3/19

Daniel Chase

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Congratulations, comrades, we’ve managed to make  it through yet another week in this dog-eat-dog existence we call “life.” I, for one, did everything I could to squeeze every drop of effort out of this week, that way, by the time the weekend hits, I feel ready to take the time I need. As I’ve suggested before, there is nothing quite like sharing delicious meals with friends, and having pleasant conversations whilst enjoying those savory bites. If you ever feel at a loss for what to discuss, might I make one suggestion? I highly recommend touching on the highlights and lowlights of the previous week because it accomplishes two goals: you have an opportunity to relive the good parts of your week, and learn from your mistakes in a supportive environment. 

Without further adieu, here’s your weekly recap. 

For The People

About a week or so ago, Sen. Kamala Harris let the world in on a secret that has since become public knowledge; she’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination in the upcoming 2020 election. Earlier this weekend, Harris held her first rally in her hometown of Oakland, California, where she dropped a pretty decently-sized truth bomb on the American people. Harris said that the “American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before. We must answer a fundamental question: who are we as Americans? So, let’s answer that question — to the world, to each other, right here, right now. America, we are better than this.”

It doesn’t take a political scientist to recognize that Harris is calling out President Donald Trump for laying waste to true American democracy, and for being the reason we —as Americans — are struggling with our national identity. We’ll have to see if she continues with this underlying message throughout the campaign process. 

Brexit Be Trippin’

If you haven’t heard the news, PM Theresa May failed to secure enough votes to pass Brexit — a deal that would allow the UK to essentially leave the European Union — and has since been trying to come up with some semblance of a plan to get her country back on track. According to recent reports, the British government is considering enacting martial law as well as declaring a state of emergency if no concrete plan comes about. 

“The very need for the backstop in the first place was because of the UK’s red lines, that it wanted to leave the customs union and the single market as well as the European Union. Ireland has the same position as the European Union, I think, when we say that  the backstop is part go a  balanced package that isn’t going to change. The European Parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement without a backstop in it. It’s as simple as that.”

Simon Coveney, Irish Tanaiste 

Rain Drop, Dropbox

Today, Dropbox announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire HelloSign, an eSignature and document workflow platform with over 80,00 customers. 

“With over an exabyte of data on our platform, millions of people already use Dropbox as a place to collaborate on their most important content. We’re thrilled to welcome HelloSign’s talented team to Dropbox and add their capabilities to our product suite. HelloSign has built a thriving business focused on eSignature and document workflow products that their users love. Together, we can deliver an even better experience to Dropbox users, simplify their workflows, and expand the market we serve.”

Drew Houston, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dropbox 

Under the terms of the agreement, described in the official press release, Dropbox will acquire HelloSign for $230 million in cash, subject to customary purchase price adjustments and closing conditions. While many see Dropbox’s motivation as less-than-exciting because HelloSign, at first glance, seems to be a platform built to allow consumers to attach electronic signatures to documents, HelloSign is actually a pretty extraordinary company, and the acquisition is huge for Dropbox users. 

Starbucks For President 

When Trump was elected president, a belief was catalyzed, suggesting that individuals interested in running for office no longer needed previous political experience, they need only speak their mind and remain unafraid to tweet some hot takes here and there. With the 2020 election season growing closer each day, we’ve already started to see potential presidential candidates come out of the woodwork. 

After double-checking to make sure he placed his latte and spinach feta wrap down safely, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told several media outlets on Sunday that he is heavily considering running for president as a “centrist independent” in the upcoming election. 

“We’re living at a most fragile time. Not only the fact that this President is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics. I want to see the American people win. I want to see America win. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person who will embrace those ideas because I am not, in anyway, in bed with a party.”

Howard Schultz

An Apple & Aetna A Day Keeps The Doctor Away 

People have often said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but rarely, if ever, has anyone interpreted this to have any connection to Apple and its accompanying devices. However, the common interpretation of this painfully inaccurate adage may be subject to change following news released today describing corporate decisions from fruit-based tech giant. 

Apple today announced plans to collaborate with health insurance provider Aetna to launch a new wellness-based app called Attain which will use Apple Watch data to allow Aetna patients to observe their health statistics. According to TechCrunch, the partnership began back in 2016 when the two companies conducted tests during which 90% of participants reported a health benefit from using their Apple Watch. 

“We believe that people should be able to play a more active role in managing their well-being. Every day, we receive emails and letters from people all over the world who have found great benefit by incorporating Apple Watch into their lives and daily routines. As we learn over time, the goal is to make more customized recommendations that will help members accomplish their goals and live healthier lives.”

Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer, Apple 

Get Out Of Huawei

Following the fiscal ceasefire agreement, which was set into place back in December, it seemed that peace between the U.S. and China had been temporarily restored. This was true for the geopolitical equivalent of roughly four minutes before the Trump administration elected to file criminal charges against Huawei, one of China’s largest telecom companies, for committing money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice, just to sweeten the judicial pot. 

As for the individual named in Huawei’s recent charges, the Company’s chief financial officer, Wanzhou Meng, will have the distinct honor of being indicted by Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Rumors suggest he is quite warm and friendly when processing an indictment, but that’s just hearsay. 

The official indictment, filed with the United Stated Eastern District Court of New York, stated that:

“…Since in or about July 2007, Huawei repeatedly misrepresented to the U.S. government and to various victim financial institutions…that, although Huawei conduced business in Iran, it did so in a manner that did not violate U.S. law, including the ITSR (Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations). In reality, Huawei conducted its business in Iran in a manner that violated applicable U.S. law, which includes the ITSR.”

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York 

Cash Me If You Can

According to a 2017 survey conducted by CNBC, 50% of respondents said they carry cash with them less than half of the time when they are out, and if they do, 76% said they keep less than $50 on hand. This trend has driven consumers to shift towards the use of debit cards, and because millennials were somehow never taught the difference between a debit and credit card, they have used these plastic demons to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. 

Well, it wouldn’t be America if someone didn’t start a company in response to the misfortunes of thousands of people, and a new mobile banking startup called Step wants to assist the next  generation in understanding the value of a dollar. 

The Company, founded by CJ MacDonald and Alexey Kalinichenko, former execs from the mobile gift card platform Gyft, started Step to help the some 75 million children and young adults under the age of 21 in the U.S., who are burdened by having to use cash for all their purchases. Step is banking on (apologies for the pun) the youthful spirit of todays’ teenagers who are hot to buy items on Amazon,com or purchase in-app downloads on their smartphones but are too young to have a debit/credit card. Step CEO Macdonald says the market for the startup isn’t based on the “unbanked,” it’s the “pre-banked.” 

“We’re building an all-in-one banking solution that primarily focuses on teens and parents. We want it to be a teen’s first bank account. We want to be a teen’s first spending card. And we want to teach financially literacy and responsibility firsthand.”

CJ MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer, Step

Pandora Radio Is Getting Sirius

In September of last year, Sirius XM Holdings INC and Pandora Media, Inc announced a definitive agreement under which SiriusXM would acquire Pandora in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.5 billion. For those unfamiliar with Sirius, the Company offers subscription-based satellite radio service with hundreds of curated channels, and no commercials. Since the deal closed, consumers and shareholders have waited patiently to see hear about Sirius’ plans for its newest asset. Sirius XM CEO James Meyer — speaking to investors on their most recent earnings call this week — said that the Company has plans in place: 

“…to capitalize on cross-promotion opportunities between SiriusXM’s more than 36 million subscribers across North America and Pandora’s approximately 70 million monthly active users. In early February, we will begin a targeted promotion to SiriusXM subscribers and Pandora listeners Select Pandora listeners will receive an offer to obtain a unique $5 a month ‘Mostly News,’ ‘Mostly Music’ or ‘News Talk’ [SiriusXM subscription] package in their satellite-equipped vehicle.”

James Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, Sirius XM 

To put Meyer’s words into something a little easier to get down, SiriusXM will began offering a $5 per month streaming plan within the Pandora Radio smartphone app. According to TechCrunch, roughly have of the owners of SiriusXM-enabled vehicles have used Pandora over the course of the last two years, and Sirius plans on taking advantage of this fact by employing cross-promotional strategies. Meyer believes that by utilizing Pandora’s radio-streaming platform, the Company will be able to create “new, unique audio packages that will bring together the best of both services creating a powerful platform for artists to reach their fans and create new audiences.”

Moving Forward 

Perhaps the most significant news, in terms of preparing for next week, is President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States will formally begin the process of withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era armistice agreement with Russia that has served as the most significant piece of anti-nuclear proliferation legislation in recent history. Pompeo said that “Russia has refused to take any steps to return to real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days,” and because of this, the U.S. wants out. 

“To this day, Russia remains in material breach of its treaty obligations not to produce, possess or flight test a ground-launched intermediate range cruise missile system…The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty effective February 2, and we will provide Russia and other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty effective in six months pursuant to Article 15 of the treaty.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 

We’ll have to just wait and see how this plays out in the coming weeks. 


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Fed Announces No Rate Cuts, But Sees A Cut In The Future

Joe Samuel

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For the past couple of years, the United States Federal Reserve has been in the middle of a lot of speculation. The trade war between the United States and China has created a clamor for cuts in interest rates.

But on Wednesday, the Fed held the interest rates as they were. Furthermore, the Fed officially announced that no cuts in interest rates were forthcoming in 2019. It’s interesting to note that the markets are betting heavily on a forthcoming rate cut from the Fed. Some even expect the cuts to be formalized in July.

Rate Cut Ahead?

The Fed has ruled out the possibility of any cuts this year (allegedly). But many market watchers believe that a lot depends on how the market conditions evolve over the coming months. The uncertainty regarding the trade war with China is a major problem.

Yet experts believe that if it turns into a prolonged skirmish, then the Fed might reconsider its position. The United States President Donald Trump has led been campaigning for lower rates from the Fed for some time.

After having delivered his statement on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell seemed to imply that rate cuts could not be completely out of the question in 2019.

“Many participants now see the case for a somewhat more accommodative policy has strengthened.”

The decision by the Fed was possibly one of the most-watched events in recent times. Long-term ramifications are the main concern.

Market participants had been calling for multiple cuts. But the Fed voted to keep benchmark rates within the 2.25% and 2.5% range. It was the range that had been back in December when the Fed had controversially raised the interest rates. The voted had been passed 9-1 in favor of holding the rate.

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Trade Talks Fail, What’s Next For The Market?

Jon Phillip

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The trade war between the United States and China has probably been the biggest economic and diplomatic development since the turn of the year. Although the world’s two biggest economies were locked in talks for months over a new trade deal, it all unraveled quickly.

This happened when US President Donald Trump stated that the Chinese went back on their word. He then imposed tariff hikes on Chinese goods last Friday. The tariffs were raised to an astonishing 25% on goods worth $200 billion. Although Trump might believe this might bully the Chinese into submission, many experts believe that might not be the case.

Difficulty in Completing Deal

The President had imposed these tariff hikes right before the Chinese delegation was supposed to show up at Washington. This was for which many had believed was going to be the last round of talks. However, experts now feel that the escalation of tensions between the two countries following the latest developments will make it difficult to reach a deal that could be considered a win for the US. As soon as the tariffs kicked in, Beijing announced that it was looking at countermeasures as well. However, there were no specifics on the nature of these measures.

Last year, the two nations had been embroiled in a damaging retaliatory tariff war and it could lead to a protracted trade war, if the Chinese decided to resort of the same tactics. The Chinese delegation is going to be in Washington this week to engage in another round of talks but it is believed that a binding trade deal is unlikely to be signed.

Is A Trump Win Likely?

One of the biggest reasons why the deal might not be signed anytime soon is perhaps the fact that the US President needs to be able to claim it as a win for himself. The President has staked his personal weight behind a favorable deal for the US. But with every passing day, it is looking increasingly unlikely that it is going to happen.

If that is to happen, then China’s entire way of doing business will need to change. This is starting at intellectual property theft and expands to technology transfers by force from US companies. If those things are not part of the deal, then it would not be the sort of deal that can be claimed as a win for the US. It doesn’t help that today, China came in with its own tariffs. China will raise tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods, the Chinese Finance Ministry said Monday.

And in true Trump fashion, the U.S. may not be done retaliating. The U.S. President has threatened to put 25% tariffs on $325 billion in Chinese goods that remain untaxed. The president has signaled he is content leaving the duties in place, arguing they will damage China more than the U.S. What are your thoughts?

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Can 102 Words Really Impact Stock Prices?

Joe Samuel

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In short, the answer is yes.  We’ve witnessed, first hand, this week how just a few words can drastically impact the stock market.  If you’re just tuning in, at the beginning of the first full week of May, U.S. President Donald Trump Tweeted out a 102-word post that ended up triggering a sell-off costing the global markets around $1.36 TRILLION…with a “T”!

The “Trump Tweet” expressed that he would once again increase tariffs on Chinese goods by the end of this week. What followed has been a shock to the global markets with futures pointing at dramatic declines every day this week.  Though some say that the decline are all but a speed bump, it still hasn’t helped the fact that this drop is one of the worst seen all year. People like Kerry Craig of JPMorgan Asset Management think that a trade deal can still be reached.  The expectations, however, have been readjusted to reflect a more long-term time horizon.

Eyes Turn Toward The Second Half Of The Week

Other analysts like Oanda Asia Pacific’s Jeffrey Halley feel that investors are prudently “lightening their loads.” Halley said, “My feeling is that investors are lightening their portfolios as a precaution.”

All eyes are on the second half of this week.  As we reported on May 7th, Vice Premier Liu He, China’s top trade negotiator will be heading to the US to talk trade this week.  

“Liu will be in the U.S. from May 9-10. The invite comes from both the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.” Regardless of what “will happen,” what has happened thus far has been an emotionally charged & very fragile global market. As this story develops we will continue to follow with more updates.

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