Five takeaways from the Google antitrust lawsuit #SootinClaimon.Com

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Five takeaways from the Google antitrust lawsuit

Biz insightsOct 21. 2020

By The Washington Post · Heather Kelly · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY 
Whether you want to look up facts about the moon or find the lowest prices on sweatpants, Google’s search engine is unavoidable. That’s a problem for consumers, said the U.S. government in a new, long awaited antitrust lawsuit filed against the company Tuesday.

In the 64-page complaint, the Department of Justice lays out its case against Google’s alleged search monopoly by focusing on one part of its business. It looks at all the deals Google has struck to be the path of least resistance for most consumers. Years of partnering with other companies, expanding its own line of products, and user complacency have made it the default search engine everywhere from our laptops to smartwatches.

Here are five interesting takeaways from the lawsuit.

– – –

Google’s search competitors aren’t very competitive

Google has a search monopoly, says the lawsuit, because it has 88% of the search market in the U.S. According to the complaint, there are only three other search providers worth mentioning: Bing, Yahoo! and the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine, launched in 2009, makes up 7% of the market. Microsoft can make Bing the default search engine on its own products, but since discontinuing its own competitor to the Android and iOS mobile operating systems, Microsoft Phone, it doesn’t have an advantage in the mobile market.

With less than 4% of the market, Yahoo! isn’t even really a full search engine, says the filing. Instead of crawling the web for search results, it purchases them from Bing.

– – –

It sees Apple as a key enabler

Two of the largest tech companies, Apple and Google, are often viewed as direct competitors. But the relationship between the two companies is far more complicated, according to the lawsuit.

Their smartphone operating systems, Android and iOS, are the two most dominant options in the world, with third options barely registering as a blip in the U.S. Globally, Android is the dominant mobile operating system, but in the U.S. they are much closer in market share. They have competing smart assistants, Siri and Google Assistant, as well as rival smart speakers, smartwatches, streaming platforms, cloud services and more.

Apple, however, doesn’t do search.

That’s how Google came to pay Apple to be the default search option on its Safari browser on Mac computers, iPhones and iPads. It started in 2005 when Google gave Apple a percentage of ad revenue from searches from Apple devices, and Apple made Google the default search engine. It expanded from Macs to mobile devices and eventually Siri and Spotlight searches. Between its own Chrome browser and Safari, Google is the default search engine on more than 90% of mobile browser searches, says the lawsuit.

“Today, Google’s distribution agreement with Apple gives Google the coveted, preset default position on all significant search access points for Apple computers and mobile devices,” says the complaint.

Offering Google is a very lucrative business for Apple. The lawsuit says Apple’s share of Google’s ad revenue is between $8 and $12 billion a year, and that it makes up as much as 20% of Apple’s net income.

– – –

The ghost of Google in Amazon’s smartphone flop?

In 2014, Amazon launched a smartphone called the Fire phone. The device didn’t last long and was the e-commerce giant’s final attempt at a traditional smartphone. The DOJ’s lawsuit floats a possible factor in its failure after one year: it used Bing as its default search engine. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The Fire phone ran a “forked” version of Google’s Android mobile operating system, meaning it started with Android and customized it for its own products. Amazon installed its own apps and app store instead of the usual Google offerings, and went with Microsoft’s search engine.

“Google’s anti-forking provisions and policies limited the growth of Amazon’s mobile phone, and of Fire OS, because major manufacturers declined to support Amazon’s phone out of fear doing so would risk their lucrative deals with Google,” says the lawsuit.

Fire OS, Amazon’s customized operating system, is still used on products like Amazon’s Fire tablets.

– – –

Easy access to Google causes consumer harm, lawsuit says

The lawsuit goes into why consumers, who are presumably getting answers to their Googled questions without much thought, should care about its business practices. The government points out what it says are some potential ways they are being harmed. For example, if you always accept Google as your default browser, you are also accepting its controversial privacy approaches, such as the way it collects and uses user data.

“American consumers are forced to accept Google’s policies, privacy practices, and use of personal data; and new companies with innovative business models cannot emerge from Google’s long shadow,” says the filing.

Having the dominant search engine also means Google can reduce the quality of search services. An example the lawsuit gives of innovation happening, but not reaching many consumers, is DuckDuckGo. It has a subscription based search option, which doesn’t rely on advertising. Google is already everywhere, argues the lawsuit, and a court order is needed to make room for other options.

– – –

The government is worried about how we’ll search in the future

The lawsuit primarily focuses on the dominant way Google is used now: for typing search terms into a smartphone or computer. But the DOJ is worried about a possible future monopoly on how people will search in the years to come and what Google’s advantages will be.

It names smartwatches, TVs and connected cars, but voice searches are one of the fastest growing search areas right now. Most people are familiar with Amazon’s Alexa’s voice-assistant, which lets you ask questions instead of typing them in. Amazon is still the market leader in the smart speaker market, followed by Google with Apple trailing in third place. But those voice assistants are gaining users outside of speakers. Google’s Assistant, for example, is already built into other products like Android and smartwatches as the default voice interface.

“Google is positioning itself to control these emerging channels for search distribution, excluding new and established rivals,” says the filing.

Apple’s new 5G iPhones may be left on the shelf #SootinClaimon.Com

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Apple’s new 5G iPhones may be left on the shelf

Biz insightsOct 09. 2020Shoppers stand in line at the Apple store at the Queens Center shopping mall in the Queens borough of New York, on Sept. 9, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Peter Foley.Shoppers stand in line at the Apple store at the Queens Center shopping mall in the Queens borough of New York, on Sept. 9, 2020. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Peter Foley. 

By Syndication Washington Post,  Bloomberg Opinion · Tae Kim · OPINION, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY, OP-ED, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS, RETAIL 
APPLE-COMMENT
Apple has been in the spotlight lately, between antitrust scrutiny of its mobile operating system and the legal battle it’s waging with Fortnite-maker Epic Games over its App Store.

Those developments pale, however, in comparison to the company’s main event next week: the unveiling of its latest iPhones.

For all the talk about Apple’s shift to services and subscriptions, the tech giant’s business is still dependent on its core hardware products, so Tuesday’s presentation will be a must-see for investors. There could be a problem this year, though. The lineup’s most vaunted feature — fifth-generation wireless capability — may not be ready for prime time. 

The Cupertino, California-based company is expected to unveil four new iPhone models with 5G capabilities as well as a different physical design and a wider choice of screen sizes, Bloomberg News reported last month. Apple is already touting the new technology’s attributes: Earlier this week, it sent the press an invitation to Tuesday’s event with the cheeky pun “Hi, Speed” as the subject line, referencing the fast new 5G networks.

Investors are betting the iPhones will be a blockbuster success and spur consumers to upgrade. Shares of Apple have risen more than 50% this year and now trade at roughly 31 times the next four quarters’ earnings, nearly double its historical five-year average of 16. And those earnings estimates also have high embedded assumptions. To take one example, Morgan Stanley forecasts Apple’s iPhone sales will grow by 28% in its fiscal year ending in September 2021. That would mark a dramatic turnaround from the 14% sales drop in fiscal 2019 and the estimated 7% decline for 2020.

An elevated valuation would be fine if the new iPhones sell well, but the lackluster reality surrounding the current state of 5G networks could lead to underwhelming demand. PC Mag found the new wireless technology was often slower than 4G after it recently conducted tests in 26 U.S. cities, adding “5G results were disappointing all around on every carrier.” The Washington Post had similar conclusions and found no speed improvement for 5G phones and in many cases slower numbers. There are several technical reasons for the weak results, ranging from the more prevalent use of the slower “mid-band” 5G spectrum to the anemic coverage buildout of the faster 5G millimeter wave service. Bottom line, the 5G experience for U.S. wireless carriers in most circumstances isn’t better than 4G right now. It will take time, so why shell out hundreds of dollars for an upgrade now?

Key industry figures are already lowering expectations. A few weeks ago, AT&T CEO John Stankey said demand for the 5G iPhone may not be as strong as anticipated owing to the economic uncertainty from the pandemic and the less dramatic wireless speed improvements. Before that, Hock Tan — CEO of iPhone chipmaker Broadcom — answered a question on near-term trends for 5G on a call with the investors by saying, “To be honest about this, we don’t know how fast the ramp on 5G will occur.” It’s pretty telling when the leader of one of Apple’s largest wireless chip suppliers seems hesitant to extol the promise of his industry’s most-talked about growth driver.

Even if 5G network coverage was amazing, there is another problem. Almost all the most-used mobile apps, including TikTok, Instagram and FaceTime, work fine on 4G networks. There simply isn’t a need for 5G right now. Yes, there will be new killer apps some day that will require faster speeds, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Amid the anticipation and excitement going into Tuesday’s product event, Apple investors may want to reassess their risks.

– – –

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. 

Economy’s cracks deepened as Washington fumbled relief talks in recent months #SootinClaimon.Com

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Economy’s cracks deepened as Washington fumbled relief talks in recent months

Biz insightsOct 09. 2020David J. Lynch David J. Lynch 

By The Washington Post · David J. Lynch · NATIONAL, BUSINESS, POLITICS 

ECON-ANALYSIS

Katie Button has put her bar stools into storage, laid off about half of her 130 employees and learned how to run a half-empty restaurant. But she remains at the mercy of Washington, D.C.

With the recession having blown a $3 million hole in her business, Button, 37, was counting on the federal government to provide one more round of financial aid to get Curate, her Asheville, N.C., restaurant, through the winter.

The coronavirus pandemic already has permanently shuttered 24 eateries in her scenic town of about 93,000 people. Button is trying desperately to avoid becoming the 25th.

“They can’t just walk away and go home to campaign,” she said. “It’s getting worse and worse…We need help.”

Button’s plight illustrates the economic consequences of Washington’s failure, after months of intermittent negotiation, to deliver a fresh economic stimulus package. Negotiations between President Donald Trump’s team at the White House and congressional Democrats have been on and off for months, though they appeared to be on again as of Thursday evening.

The president and his congressional adversaries picked a bad time for gridlock. Job growth is slowing, businesses are closing, and cooler weather is driving people inside where the virus flourishes. In September, for the first time since the pandemic began, the Homebase gauge of small business activity declined, signaling weakness ahead.

Failure now to agree on new help for struggling workers, companies and public agencies risks greater misery for millions of Americans, lower future living standards and a longer, slower road back to prosperity, economists said.

“It is completely avoidable, if they would just provide some stimulus. It is so obvious what needs to be happening,” said Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, Ohio, who confronts a $10 million budget gap that will likely force cuts to police and fire services.

When the coronavirus shutdowns began in March, the White House and Congress quickly agreed to spend nearly $3 trillion to help the economy through the worst of the pandemic. But much of that aid lapsed months ago, leaving households and businesses exposed.

The expiration this summer of enhanced unemployment payments triggered a decline in August’s disposable income reading. On again, off again negotiations between the administration and lawmakers failed to reach agreement on new measures to contain the virus and repair the economic damage.

In recent days, companies that endured the pandemic’s first half-year without permanentjob losses — such as Walt Disney, Houghton Mifflin and Allstate — announced layoffs. United Airlines, American Airlines and other air carriers hurt by the collapse of travel have also begun tens of thousands of cuts.

Earlier this week, the owner of Regal Cinemas announced it would close all of its 663 movie theaters in the U.S. and United Kingdom, imperiling 45,000 jobs. And state and local governments, which already have trimmed 1.2 million workers over the past year, face budget shortfalls that will require additional pink slips.

Furloughs once billed as temporary have hardened into permanent job loss for an increasing number of workers. And almost 11 million Americans who had jobs in February remain unemployed, even as the labor market is slowing.

A total of 661,000 people were hired in September, down sharply from June’s 4.8 million.

At last month’s hiring pace, it will take until early 2022 to regain February’s number of jobs.

In Bowling Green, Ky., Amy Perry, 51, a former loan company customer service representative, filed for unemployment on June 1. But more than four months later, state backlogs mean she’s still waiting for her first check.

“I have not gotten a penny of unemployment. I get a robo-call every two or three days, saying I’m in the queue,” she said. “I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to do.”

She and her husband, Jonathan, 49, have secured six months of forbearance on their mortgage payments. And they expect to cover their other bills with his salary as a driver for UPS.

“We’re like everyone else,” she said. “We have a mortgage. We have bills to pay. It’s been hard.”

Perry has autoimmune disorder, and her employment prospects amid a contagion are slim. She and her husband plan to sell their home in the spring and downsize to a smaller place. Even if Washington eventually provides additional help, she worries about the long run.

“How long can they continue the stimulus packages?” she said. “Our country is so much in the hole. I worry about what we’re leaving our children.”

The unique nature of this recession also worries some economists. The U.S. failure to contain the coronavirus has interrupted the education of millions of American schoolchildren and caused a sizable labor force exodus of women who lack adequate childcare.

“This could be permanently damaging,” said Lisa Cook, an economics professor at Michigan State University, who worked in the Obama White House. “The whole economy is going to be worse off because these kids are worse off. We are losing our future labor force. We’re settling for lower living standards in the future.”

To be sure, after suffering the sharpest plunge in recorded history during the second quarter, when output contracted at an annual rate of 31 percent, the economy has bounced back stronger than many economists anticipated in the dark days of March.

Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist for RBC Capital Markets, cites a steady decline in the total of continuing claims for unemployment benefits as a sign of genuine progress. From a peak of 22.8 million in early May, the number of those receiving jobless benefits has been cut in half, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet at year end, the U.S. economy is still expected to be smaller than it was a year ago. And nearly 98,000 businesses have permanently closed their doors, according to Yelp, the online review site.

“The economy needs a bridge and the bridge is fiscal stimulus,” he said. “There is absolutely a need.”

Without immediate pump-priming, the economy may come dangerously close to “stall speed” in the last three months of the year, according to Oxford Economics. Economist Michael Feroli of JPMorgan Chase is more upbeat, projecting annualized growth of 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

The president’s abandonment of talks with Pelosi sent the Dow Jones industrial average sharply lower on Tuesday into a nearly 600-point plunge on Tuesday. Investors Wednesday took solace from late-night Trump tweets backing separate measures for a new round of $1,200 individual checks or an airline industry bailout, which already have been rejected by Democrats who favor a comprehensive approach.

The importance of fiscal support was evident this summer, when Walmart credited government stimulus checks for delivering a more than 9 percent gain in same-store sales compared to the same period in 2019.

But in July, the final month of the company’s second quarter, that increase dipped to 4 percent, as customers retrenched in anticipation of the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, executives told investors.

The earlier benefits were critical to supporting consumer spending at a time of high unemployment. By halting support, at least for now, the administration and Congress are defying increasingly loud pleas for help from the Federal Reserve.

Earlier this week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told an audience of economists that the Fed had “deployed the full range of tools at our disposal,” but needed those who control government spending to act.

“There is still a long way to go,” he said. “…Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses.”

To some economists, a premature end to government support risks repeating mistakes made after the 2008 housing bubble collapse. Layoffs then by cash-strapped state and local agencies delayed the return to pre-recession unemployment rates by four years, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The current recession is gouging similar holes in public accounts, forcing officials to ax teachers, recreation aides and first responders. Such belt-tightening only hurts the local economy, depressing tax revenue and requiring further layoffs, officials said.

In Dayton, Whaley said she already has laid off “dozens” of workers at the city’s airport and closed two of the three municipal golf courses. Further cuts are likely in police and fire services.

“These are real tough decisions we’re going to have to make. There’s no fat left here,” she said.

In Asheville, with the state limiting indoor dining, Curate’s revenue is stalled at just 40 percent of last year’s figure. But Button’s loss is not her problem alone. Her customary payments to area workers and farmers have dropped by $2.5 million.

Button, who owns two successful eateries, got a government-backed small business loan that she says helped her navigate the pandemic’s first months. But she’s watched in frustration as lawmakers and administration officials spent months debating additional economic aid even as public health officials warn Americans to be cautious about venturing into restaurants.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition, an industry group, hoped for a $120 billion bailout in any final stimulus measure.

“You can’t say we’re not different from other industries,” she said. “Ninety to ninety-fie percent of every dollar that we take in is going right back out the door into our communities. The risk of doing nothing is far greater than the risk of giving restaurants what they need.

—-

David J. Lynch is a staff writer on the financial desk who joined The Washington Post in November 2017 after working for the Financial Times, Bloomberg News and USA Today.

How will Thailand’s new e-services tax impact your online business? #SootinClaimon.Com

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How will Thailand’s new e-services tax impact your online business?

Biz insightsOct 07. 2020

By Nu To Van, Sukanok Suthinan
Special to The Nation

The following article explains the key principles of the proposed e-services tax, scheduled to come into effect in Thailand in mid-2021.

First, a short recap: the e-services tax will be in the form of VAT imposed on online activities. Companies that are covered by the e-services tax need to register for VAT (either as service provider or electronic platform) and pay VAT electronically through a new simplified monthly return.

Due to the broad definition of digital services and its expected broad coverage, in this article we will focus on practical questions companies may have once the e-services tax is implemented. For example, what type of services will be covered, does it make any difference to whom the services are provided, etc.

To illustrate the different tax treatment and implications, we will use a fictitious case study and examples of transactions to highlight whether or not these transactions would be covered under the e-services tax.

Case study – ‘In The Cloud Services’

Our fictitious company “In The Cloud Services” (“ITCS”) is based in the US and is trying to increase its online business footprint in Thailand. The company’s physical servers are all located in the US and the company does not have any office or staff in Thailand.

The company has a variety of online businesses and provides them to customers in Thailand – both to businesses (B2B) and consumers (B2C), including the following:

1. Online cloud storage services and providing digital content streaming services

2. Selling products through their US-based platform

3. Platform services to online sellers

So, does ITCS have to be worried about the new e-services tax?

Let’s go through the company’s online services one by one.

1. Provision of online cloud storage and digital content:

The company provides online cloud storage and digital content streaming services to its customers in Thailand who are both Thai consumer (B2C) and Thai VAT-registered entities (B2B). Customers in Thailand simply subscribe for these online services through ITCS’ website and pay online for these services by monthly subscription.

Although the services and the fees charged to its customers are the same, the tax implications and treatment of both transactions are different, as illustrated by the pictures below.

a. B2C as a service recipient

b. B2B as a service recipient

2. Online sale of products:

ITCS operates an online platform selling a wide range of products to both Thai consumers and Thai entities.

Once products are ordered online, ITCS arranges the shipments, clearance in Thailand, and delivery to its customers (both consumers and companies) in Thailand. The customs clearance and delivery of products is carried out by a local Thai company.

Selling of goods online is currently not covered by the proposed e-services tax. However, there may be other considerations relevant to ITCS, such as whether or not the Thai local company might be considered an agent from a VAT perspective, which could lead to a taxable presence in Thailand.

3. Use of its platform:

ITCS also allows other online retailers to sell their products online to both Thai consumers and Thai entities through its platform. In return for using its platform, ITCS charges these online retailers a service/commission fee. The tax implications and treatments are illustrated below.

What should companies do to prepare themselves prior to the enforcement of e-services tax?

Based on the above simplified scenarios, it is clear that different transactions may lead to different tax treatments. For our fictitious company, it would mean that for the B2C services that they provide to their customers in Thailand, they need to register for VAT purposes in Thailand once the e-services tax is implemented. This could mean that going forward, ITCS may need to make a commercial decision and choose whether or not to potentially upset its customers (by increasing its selling prices) or accept lower profits due to higher tax costs.

There is still time for companies to prepare as the supplemental regulations have not yet been published. Facilities such as simplified registration and monthly VAT return submission are expected to be available at the Thai Revenue Department (TRD)’s website in order to encourage more registration from foreign digital service providers.

However, foreign digital service providers may be more or less likely to comply with the requirements depending on how strongly the TRD enforces the new e-services tax.

The current penalty for non-compliance is two times the VAT shortfall plus a 1.5 per cent monthly surcharge and imprisonment not exceeding one month or a fine not exceeding Bt5,000, or both. The question is whether or not companies will be allowed a certain transition/grace period (similar to what has happened in Malaysia) or whether the TRD will start enforcing the new tax very strictly as it searches for more revenue sources.

Adding to the complexity are other potential tax implications and considerations, such as whether or not the registration of the company for VAT purposes will trigger risk from a corporate tax perspective or whether the company has to obtain a (online) business licence in Thailand.

Although there is still time before the e-services tax is implemented, it would be prudent for foreign service providers/platforms to already start mapping out their online service activities and determine which ones are affected by the new e-services tax, since it is very likely that some (if not all!) of their activities will be caught by the e-services tax net.

Nu To Van and Sukanok Suthinan are, respectively, partner and senior manager for Tax & Legal Services at Deloitte Thailand.

Trump just crushed stimulus talks, endangering U.S. economy and 26 million on unemployment #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Trump just crushed stimulus talks, endangering U.S. economy and 26 million on unemployment

Biz insightsOct 07. 2020President Donald Trump watches Marine One from the Truman Balcony on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as he returns to the White House after receiving treatments for covid-19. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford
President Donald Trump watches Marine One from the Truman Balcony on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as he returns to the White House after receiving treatments for covid-19. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford 

By The Washington Post · Heather Long · BUSINESS, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS
ECON-ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s surprise move Tuesday to shut down all negotiations on another big relief package until after the Nov. 3 election threatens to stall the U.S. economic recovery – or even trigger a backslide.

Many economists and business leaders were quick to dub the move disheartening and irresponsible. The stock market immediately sold off after the news, with the Dow Jones industrial average ending the day 376 points down. Companies from airlines to energy firms to restaurants have warned in recent days that they will have to undertake massive layoffs without more government aid. At least 75,000 layoffs were announced by major corporations at the end of last week alone, and Boeing has sharply pulled back its forecasts for airplane sales for years.

In short, the U.S. economy is about half recovered, meaning there is still a long way to go. For weeks, economists and business leaders have warned that the next phase of the recovery will likely be harder and it would be a huge mistake for politicians to think their job is done.

Even some right-leaning economists were calling for stimulus.

“If there isn’t more stimulus, the recovery is in danger of collapsing. It’s that simple,” said Peter Morici, an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland who has supported Trump’s reelection. “Waiting until after the election is waiting too long.”

There’s growing concern among economists about a downward spiral. As businesses cut more jobs, people have less money to spend, which means they buy less at stores, restaurants and other companies, putting those businesses and workers at risk.

Trump has tried to portray this recovery as a rapid bounceback – a “super V” shape when considered on a line chart – but there’s growing fear it could turn into more of a “W” shape with a second dip if layoffs and business closures escalate in the coming weeks.

“Corporations were holding off on laying off employees in the hopes of further stimulus,” said Peter Atwater, an adjunct lecturer in economics at the College of William & Mary. “With this afternoon’s news, I expect that we will see businesses capitulate and begin to announce large scale layoffs.”

This new wave of layoffs will add more to the ranks of the 26 million Americans who were receiving unemployment compensation. Many unemployed people say they no longer have enough money to pay for rent, cars, utilities or even food. The average unemployment-benefit payment fell from $900 a week to just over $300 at the end of July, a sharp reduction that makes it hard for many families to survive. As these people stop paying renting and car payments, it hurts landlords, firms and banks waiting for the money.

Hours before Trump’s tweet, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell urged Congress to act quickly and go big on more aid, saying the risk was far greater of backsliding for inaction than doing too much.

“Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses,” Powell said at an event hosted by the National Association for Business Economics.

These fears are growing as the United States tries to contain the novel coronavirus, which causes the deadly illness covid-19. More than two dozen states have reported increases in cases in recent days. As case counts rise, people typically stay home and curtail spending. Rose and Sparrow Salon, a top rated hair salon in the District of Columbia, has seen a pickup in cancellations as people worry about venturing out, said owner Amie Adkins.

Trump tweeted that “the Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment also coming back in record numbers,” but the reality is that about half the jobs lost in the spring, during the initial spike of the public health crisis, have returned.

Economists have warned for weeks that jobs that have returned are the low-hanging fruit and getting the rest of the jobs back will be more difficult, much like running the second half of a marathon.

Trump’s own treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, told Congress during a recent hearing that another round of stimulus was needed for small businesses and the unemployed.

“We should act quickly because they need the support now,” Mnuchin said told the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 24. “They don’t need the support next year.”

Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., were close to a deal for over $1.6 trillion in aid. The major disagreements were over how much help to give cash-strapped states, cities and the unemployed, but many felt a deal was within reach.

The momentum in negotiations came after the September jobs report. Permanent job losses are rising as people have been out of work for half a year. While the nation did add jobs in September, the gains were the slowest since the recovery and nearly a quarter of restaurant and hospitality jobs remain wiped out. State government and the education sector lost jobs in September, a red flag of what lies ahead for many states, cities and municipalities are running low on funding.

Fred Warf runs a small barbershop and salon called Hair FX in Chicago with his wife. Like many small business owners, he was really hoping for another round of government grants or loans like the Paycheck Protection Program that went to more than 5 million businesses.

Warf did receive a loan over the summer, but that money is long gone. He has been able to reopen, but like many “high contact” businesses, it’s nothing like before. Some clients still have not returned. His costs are up for all the protective gear and cleaning that he has to do in between clients. And a lot of people are still on edge. The business staff is down to him and his wife, but he’s still struggling to pay his landlord.

“My business has to change to make profitability, but what else can we cut?” said Warf, who is 62. “This was supposed to be my golden years to make money and it certainly is not.”

Warf says he’s staying in business largely because of his blue-collar clients. They still have to go to work in factories and warehouses, and they are willing to come in for regular haircuts. Yet, many of his white-collar Chicago office workers are “leery” to come in. As winter approaches, he’s worried about whether he can make it without more aid or more customers coming back.

The National Restaurant Association warned that 40% of restaurants are in danger of closing in the next six months without more aid. The American Hotel & Lodging Association warned thousands of hotels can’t pay toward their mortgages right now, putting them in danger of closing. Overall, 21% of small business warn that they will have to shut permanently if something doesn’t change in the next six months, according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey in August.

Economists, including those at the Fed, have built more government stimulus into their projections about the economic recovery. Without it, they warn the economy is likely to sputter again or even backslide.

“My forecast is, it may take until the end of 2021 to recover all of the economic output losses and three years to recover all the job losses,” said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University. But she predicted a sharp “drop in economic activity” without more government stimulus.

Trump risks the nation backsliding economically, putting more jobs and business in danger of going away. He wanted a V-shaped recovery, but a W is looking more likely.

China announced new climate goals. But it can’t quit coal just yet. #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

China announced new climate goals. But it can’t quit coal just yet.

Biz insightsSep 30. 2020

China's President Xi Jinping

China’s President Xi Jinping

By Special To The Washington Post · Joanna Lewis · WORLD, ASIA-PACIFIC 
CHINA-ANALYSIS

China’s President Xi Jinping announced new climate targets during his Sept. 22 address to the U.N. General Assembly, including the nation’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

China’s international climate leadership seems to be in direct conflict with Beijing’s continued promotion of fossil fuel projects at home and abroad, however – so why did Xi make this announcement? Here’s what you need to know about its political and scientific implications.

– The timing of China’s announcement is strategic

It’s a big year for the 2015 Paris agreement – by year-end 2020, countries are supposed to submit their second round of “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs), as well as their long-term strategies. Current NDCs target the 2025-2030 time frame, while long-term strategies target mid-century goals. Both are self-designed pledges tailored to each country’s circumstances.

Xi’s announcement suggests that, administratively, China expects to fulfill both 2020 requirements on time, a goal few other countries will probably meet. China is also on track to achieve its original Paris goals ahead of schedule. This lends some new credibility to China’s claim to climate leadership.

China is finalizing its 14th Five-Year Plan, which analysts anticipate will include new climate and energy targets for 2021-2025 that build upon those in previous Five-Year Plans. Since the Paris agreement has minimal enforcement mechanisms, it essentially relies on domestic policy to back up the goals pledged internationally. The 2020 Paris agreement deadline coincides with China’s domestic planning horizon, effectively giving the international community a look under the hood to understand how China plans to meet its international goals.

– External politics may factor into China’s plans

Making this announcement before the U.S. election could be a sign that China anticipates scaled-up U.S. pressure and demands on climate action if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins in November. A new U.S. NDC would come sometime in 2021 at the earliest, so an early announcement from China would preclude the possibility of another round of coordinated U.S.-China climate targets, giving Beijing more autonomy this time.

The announcement may also appease the European Union. The EU has been increasing bilateral engagement with China in an attempt to fill the void left by the United States, which has dramatically reduced cooperation with China on energy and climate over the past four years. During a mid-September leader’s summit, the EU urged China to “to strengthen its climate commitments in terms of peaking carbon dioxide emissions and setting the goal of climate neutrality domestically,” and agreed to launch a new high-level dialogue in advance of the COP 26 major international climate summit, which has been postponed until November 2021.

China faces an uphill battle to reduce its carbon emissions

Beijing relies on high-level climate and energy goals to compel local governments to act. National targets become provincial targets, which become municipal-level targets, and so on – and meeting these targets affects the evaluation of local officials.

Sometimes this can create perverse incentives, such as the time people were left without heat in the winter so provinces would not violate national coal heating restrictions. But on the whole, targets are important levers in what is still primarily a top-down political system. Without stringent climate targets, local governments under pressure to stimulate the economy after the covid-19 slowdown will face few constraints on energy demand or infrastructure approvals.

Despite calls for a green recovery, China’s post-outbreak stimulus focuses primarily on promoting high-carbon energy and infrastructure projects. China has an estimated 249.6 gigawatts of coal power capacity under construction or in the planning stages – more than the entire coal capacity of the United States (246.2 GW) or India (229 GW).

This includes 40.8 GW of new coal capacity proposed in the first-half of 2020 alone, of which 17 GW is already permitted for construction. Despite rampant overcapacity and low utilization rates in existing plants, as well as record low prices for the renewable energy technologies that China leads the world in deploying, pressure to boost GDP figures combined with antiquated pricing mechanisms means that officials are pushing through approvals for projects that make little economic sense.

China has also played a prominent role in supporting coal-fired plants elsewhere. Increasingly, China has become the lender of last resort as countries such as Japan and South Korea join other countries and multilateral banks in restricting overseas coal investments. Studies have found that the majority of China’s overseas energy investment is going to finance coal plants, and these plants tend to use less efficient technology than the plants they are building at home.

Increasingly, however, China is under pressure to undertake more dramatic changes in its domestic and overseas coal activities – the EU, for example, urged that Beijing place a moratorium on building new plants at home and abroad, and Biden has vowed to make similar demands if elected.

What does this mean for the global climate?

The Climate Action Tracker estimates that China’s pledge of climate neutrality by 2060 could reduce global temperature by about 0.2 to 0.3°C by the end of the century – that would be the single biggest reduction ever estimated by this European modeling tool, which translates country pledges into climate impacts. As the world’s largest carbon emitter and energy consumer, China transitioning away from a carbon-based energy system would have a huge global impact.

Of course, there are all sorts of methodological issues with making estimates of the impact of climate goals on global temperature – especially China’s goals, which as my research has shown, tend to operate with their own set of metrics and assumptions. And there are many ways to interpret what carbon neutrality might actually mean for China.

Ultimately, having a long-term goal for carbon neutrality is only meaningful today if it influences action now. For China, phasing out fossil fuel use in key sectors – and keeping the economy growing – will require far more ambitious measures. Meanwhile, making this pledge buys China some increased leverage in the climate negotiations, and perhaps even some global goodwill at a time of mounting concern over China’s actions at home and abroad.

– – –

Lewis is provost’s distinguished associate professor of energy and environment and director of the Science, Technology and International Affairs Program at Georgetown University. She is the author of “Green Innovation in China: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy” (Columbia University Press, 2015). 

As Trump moves closer to Pelosi in economic aid talks, House speaker must decide next move #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

As Trump moves closer to Pelosi in economic aid talks, House speaker must decide next move

Biz insightsSep 18. 2020House Speaker Nancy PelosiHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi

By The Washington Post · Rachael Bade, Erica Werner · NATIONAL, HEALTH, CONGRESS, HEALTH-NEWS 
STIMULUS-ANALYSIS

WASHINGTON – House Democrats were starting to squirm earlier this week, fretting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s risky gamble in economic relief talks would backfire and they would go into the November elections without any new stimulus package.

But President Donald Trump scrambled that calculus Wednesday when he cast aside the Republican negotiation position and told his party to embrace a much larger spending bill, including stimulus checks, to give Americans more money. In short, he moved closer to Pelosi’s position after a month-long showdown.

Now the California Democrat faces a crucial decision: Does she try to negotiate an agreement with a White House that suddenly seems ready to deal, or continue to hold her ground and make Trump, facing his own election woes, swallow the sweeping $2.2 trillion bill she has long demanded. 

Early signs suggest Pelosi’s still not ready to budge. 

“Great, call me when he’s at $2.2 trillion,” Pelosi told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a private call Wednesday, referring to Trump. 

Holding her ground with Trump may be the easy part. It also means facing down an insurrection from the very members she’s long tried hardest to protect, the swing-seat Democrats whose victories in GOP-leaning districts returned Democrats to the House majority last year.

These centrist Democrats, fearful of constituent blowback, are pushing Pelosi to return to the negotiating table and strike a deal with Trump on an expansive relief package – even if she can’t get the $2.2 trillion she wants. Congress has already approved roughly $3 trillion in emergency spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and Pelosi has called for much more. The latest Republican offer, the one Trump dismissed, was closer to $300 billion.

There’s a palpable fear among Democrats that voters will blame them on Election Day should they appear to be putting their own reelections ahead of what’s good for Americans.

“We should have that same level of urgency that we had when we were dealing with this in March and April,” said Rep. Andy Kim, who flipped a GOP district in New Jersey last election. “And I don’t really get that sense that that type of just timeliness and that urgency is underlying what everybody here is feeling right now.” 

The infighting has created an odd situation whereby Pelosi’s centrist members have applauded the position of a president they voted to impeach just months ago. Some of these moderates offered kudos for Trump on Wednesday after he praised a $1.5 billion bipartisan coronavirus deal put forward by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 50 pragmatic-minded Republicans and Democrats in the House — and tweeted that his own party should consider “much higher numbers,” signaling his openness to a deal. 

“The tweet that Trump just sent out saying that he was open to more resources for the American people is a good thing because they need more resources,” said Blue Dog Coalition leader Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. “We can argue about what the specifics of a plan should look like, but the important thing is that we get back to the negotiating table and hammer out a deal that can be passed into law.” 

Pelosi, meanwhile, had dismissed the Problem Solvers pitch, having her top policy chairmen put out a statement saying the proposal “falls short” and “leaves too many needs unmet.” 

The diss by senior House Democrats infuriated many frontlines eager to work with the GOP. Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., a vulnerable New York Democrat from a district Trump carried in 2016, called their statement “laughable,” “idiotic” and “representative of why everyone hates this place.” 

“That does not speak to what they should be doing as party leaders,” Rose said. “Sit down. Work something out. We have a bipartisan road map right here. Then you put the ball in [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s’ court.”

Republicans have sought to exploit the Democrats’ divisions.

“I think knowing her well, she cares more about politics than she does about the people,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif,) said Thursday. “And that’s unfortunate. That’s why she should not be fit for that job.”

But underscoring the complex calculations at play for everyone involved, McCarthy is simultaneously quelling a rebellion of his own, one that could undercut his criticism of Pelosi. 

A group of conservative House Republicans have begun discussing trying to use an obscure House procedure to try to force a vote to boot Pelosi from the speakership, known as “a motion to vacate the chair,” first reported by Politico. The action, they believe, would require moderate Democrats to decide whether they want Pelosi as speaker, putting them on the spot at a moment of internal tension.

McCarthy has made clear his concerns that it would only backfire by giving vulnerable Democrats a chance to separate themselves from Pelosi just ahead of an election where she’s unpopular in some of the GOP-leaning districts they represent.

“I’m in favor of defeating Nancy Pelosi,” McCarthy said in an interview Wednesday night with conservative host Laura Ingraham. “The real challenge would be we’re four weeks away from election. These Democrats could vote against Nancy Pelosi, use it in their campaigns to say they’re not with her even though they vote with her 95 percent of the time.” 

At the same time such a move by conservative Republicans would almost certainly make Pelosi stronger, unifying Democrats behind her and pushing their own internal skirmish to the back burner. Despite her current predicament with moderates, Pelosi, many Democrats believe, is stronger than ever as speaker. Notably, many moderates upset with Pelosi have refused to call her out by name – and make it a point criticize both GOP and Democratic leaders for the coronavirus talk standoff. 

Pelosi has served as speaker during two different stints, first from 2007 until 2011 and then retaking the gavel in 2019. She is expected to continue in her role next year if Democrats retain control the House.

Privately, some House Democrats eager to return home in early October with something concrete in hand have echoed GOP speculation that Pelosi and Schumer don’t want to negotiate because a deal could help McConnell, R-Ky., keep the Senate, giving cover to his vulnerable GOP members in tough reelections. 

Pelosi, for her part, flatly denies that politics has anything to do with her negotiating tactics. The GOP’s proposals thus far, she has argued for months, would do little to stem the hardship faced by Americans struggling amid the pandemic. 

Last week, the Senate GOP tried to advance a relief package that was a mere fraction of what House Democrats have demanded, ringing in at just around $300 billion in new spending. Senate Democrats blocked the bill, which excluded any new stimulus checks and did not include money for rental or nutrition assistance that Pelosi has demanded.

Still, the game of chicken between Pelosi and moderate Democrats is striking. While liberal in her own beliefs, the speaker has routinely put the needs of her so-called Majority Makers over the desires of the left. For two years she has eschewed demands for a Medicare for All vote that centrist worried would repel swing voters in their GOP-leaning districts. She has kept the left’s beloved Green New Deal at arm’s length too, as moderates fret about blowback. 

For the first nine months of 2019, Pelosi also stood firm against liberals’ calls to impeach the president, even after a majority of her caucus demanded his ouster – all in the name of her frontliners. And even after the Ukraine scandal forced her hand, she took the advice of her moderate members over some of her own investigative chairmen, including calls to keep articles narrow and focused on Trump’s bid to pressure the nation to investigate his political rival. 

Yet on coronavirus, the gap between the frontlines and Pelosi has only widened in recent days, as her moderate members call to reopen talk and pass legislation closer-aligned to what Republicans would accept. 

The matter will come to a head in a matter of days. Congress is set to leave town the first week of October and not return until after the election. Pelosi, in a nod to the pressure from moderates, has vowed that the House won’t adjourn until they pass something addressing he virus. But the promise was vague and perhaps a bit misleading: The House can technically stay in session even if members return home to their districts, on standby to come back to Washington to vote if needed – and Pelosi hasn’t committed to making members physically stay in town. 

Some moderates hope Pelosi will come around and make a deal — particular now that the Problem Solvers Caucus has laid out a bipartisan blueprint. 

“It seems like all sides are willing to go back to the table to get something done,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., the leader of the Problem Solvers Caucus who helped negotiate their recent proposal. “It’s unconscionable to go home before the election without helping families and small businesses, and I think there’s a deep recognition that now, at this point, that it’s simply impossible to go home without getting something done.” 

Some senior Democrats agree House Democrats’ current position is untenable. Pelosi’s No. 2, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has already made clear that he is sympathetic to the frontliners’ concerns. Those close to him believe he would be fine with having a vote on another package before they leave town, even if it’s smaller than the plan Pelosi wants. 

But the speaker has been known for her iron grip on her caucus — and despite the standoff with her frontliners, that has not diminished. 

In a news conference on Thursday, Pelosi once again touted House Democrats’ $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed the House in May, chiding the president for not doing enough to save the hundreds of thousands of American lives that have been lost amid the pandemic. 

“It didn’t have to be that way,” she said solemnly – a sign blaring the name of the House’s coronavirus relief package — “Heroes Act” — in bright blue and white lettering before the podium. 

When asked about moderates wanting her to put a new, perhaps smaller proposal on the floor, Pelosi bristled, arguing that “they didn’t say it to me.” 

“I’m very proud of the dynamism in our caucus,” she said of the lively debate. 

Some Democrats are happy with Pelosi’s positioning. Trump’s insistence that he is willing to increase the price of the package, they argue, is proof that her tactics are having results. 

“It sounds like it’s working pretty well,” said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-Pa., praising the speaker for her tough line. 

But telling that to some Democrats facing difficult reelections is another matter entirely. 

“We’re back home and every place I go people are like, ‘what’s the status of the new covid deal? Like where is it?'” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who faces a tough reelection in a Trump-carried district. “And that’s business owners wanting another [small business aid] law and that’s our food banks. That’s our teachers. I mean, it’s everybody.” 

Microsoft’s Xbox game plan has big problems #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

Microsoft’s Xbox game plan has big problems

Biz insightsSep 13. 2020An Xbox One controller sits on display below gaming passes at a Microsoft store in London on July 9, 2019. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Chris J. Ratcliffe.An Xbox One controller sits on display below gaming passes at a Microsoft store in London on July 9, 2019. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Chris J. Ratcliffe. 

By  Bloomberg Opinion · Tae Kim · OPINION, BUSINESS, TECHNOLOGY 

The latest round of the gaming console wars has officially begun. Following a protracted standoff between Microsoft and Sony over which company would share their plans first, Microsoft blinked first, revealing its Xbox launch details this week. Of note, the software giant is releasing two tiers of devices at different price points. It’s an unprecedented move, but will it pay off? I am not sure.

Responding to industry speculation, Microsoft confirmed on social media the existence of the long-rumored next-generation Xbox Series S console, along with its low $299 price and Nov. 10 release date. At the same time, the company also will roll out a higher-end Xbox Series X for $499. As of yet, Sony hasn’t revealed pricing or release date details for its next-generation PlayStation 5.

The stakes couldn’t be bigger for the two console rivals. The video-game industry has already thrived amid the pandemic as an attractive option for in-home entertainment. As consumer habits get more ingrained, analysts believe the sector may offer one of the brightest growth prospects over the next few years. And it is a enormous opportunity. Research firm Newzoo projects the overall gaming market will grow to nearly $200 billion by 2023 from an estimated $160 billion this year. Even entertainment executives that have long downplayed gaming are increasingly intrigued. In an interview with Variety, Netflix Inc. CEO Reed Hastings said video games were one of the key categories his company is looking at entering in the future.

So, what is Microsoft trying to do with its new strategy? With the two-pronged device offering, the company is hoping it can gain share by attracting hard-core gamers – who crave the best performance – with the Xbox Series X, while also accommodating the casual, price-sensitive customers with the cheaper Xbox Series S. Microsoft also plans to emphasize its Game Pass service, which gives its subscribers affordable access to a library of more than 100 games for a $10 monthly fee. 

Microsoft’s plan may seem to make sense on paper, but it has several big flaws. First, the naming convention is a confusing mess. One can imagine the poor store sales clerk, who has to explain the differences between the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and the prior generation’s Xbox One S to the average consumer. In contrast, Sony’s proposition of PlayStation 5 as being much more powerful than the PlayStation 4 is a more concise message. Second, and more importantly, success in the video-game industry has always been about which company can offer the best, exclusive gaming experiences.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, its new hardware strategy doesn’t fix this deficiency, where it lags far behind its Japanese competitor. Simply, the Sony PlayStation’s lineup of exclusive franchises is unparalleled. This year, the game maker has already generated record-breaking sales numbers for its original games such as Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima, presaging further strong results for those franchises. And Sony has already announced upcoming PlayStation 5 titles in key series such as Horizon, Gran Turismo and Spiderman. Microsoft’s lineup doesn’t have the same cachet. To add insult to injury, the company’s anchor title for its next-generation console launch, Halo Infinite, was recently delayed to next year on the back of development complications.

The existence of a cheaper Xbox console may be a critical problem in itself. Earlier this year, a Sony executive said his company believes “in generations.” What he meant was that by launching games specifically designed for the high-performance PlayStation 5, Sony could attract gamers with releases that take full advantage of the advanced technical capabilities and features of the new console. Therein lies the negative consequence of releasing the under-powered Xbox Series S console, which has one-third the graphics performance of the Series X. The inexpensive console’s anemic horsepower will force developers to dumb down their games to work on the lowest-common denominator device. That means Sony’s games will likely have better visuals and more immersive gaming worlds versus the Xbox counterparts.

Even if Microsoft was able to roughly match its rival’s attributes point-by-point, it wouldn’t be enough. Sony has the advantage of the large user base it has acquired during the current generation, which engenders an enormous switching cost for its users. According to Jefferies, the console maker has sold about 110 million PlayStation 4 consoles since 2013, compared to Microsoft’s roughly 50 million units. In its latest financial report, Sony said it had 45 million subscribers for its PlayStation Plus service, which enables online multiplayer functionality for its users. Since tens of millions of PlayStation owners have built up in-game social connections playing games on the Sony platform, they will likely upgrade to a PlayStation 5 to maintain their gaming relationships and access to their PlayStation 4 games, all things being equal. 

Bottom line, Microsoft’s two-tiered strategy that attempts to make next-generation console gaming more affordable misses the mark. The company seems to have forgotten the most important video-game industry lesson: It’s all about the games.

– – – 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. 

How tech options started juicing the stock market #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

How tech options started juicing the stock market

Biz insightsSep 10. 2020

By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Yakob Peterseil · BUSINESS 
The precipitous rise of U.S. technology stocks in 2020 left even seasoned veterans on Wall Street struggling for explanations.

Sure, many of the companies were among the select few that had prospered during the pandemic, as online shopping and working from home proliferated. But the stock gains were so stratospheric — Apple Inc. shares doubled in five months — that some market watchers began to speculate that a traditional hedging trade might be fanning the flames. Options trading — so the theory goes — had evolved from a way for investors to protect against losses to a key driver of market frenzy.

1. Why are options under the spotlight?

The options market in the U.S. has exploded this year. Trading volumes of single-stock options exceeded those of regular shares for the first time during July, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategists. Options became hugely popular with retail investors seeking to ride the technology share rally. That’s had some peculiar effects on markets, such as reversing the usual relationship between options and stock prices, which typically move in opposite directions but have been rising together. An unusually volatile Nasdaq 100 Index — it fell 4.9% or more in three straight trading sessions in early September — also hinted at the outsize influence of options.

2. How do options work?

An option is a financial contract that gives the holder the right to buy (a call option) or sell (a put option) an underlying security at a predetermined price. A contract typically references 100 shares, meaning that for a relatively small sum an investor gets exposure to a lot of stock. For example, to buy an option on Apple stock rising over the next week might cost a few hundred dollars compared to more than $10,000 to purchase 100 shares. Given how Apple shares rose for 19 of the 23 weeks from the final week of March, it’s easy to see why options became a favored trade.

3. How exactly are options moving markets?

One theory is that the explosion in demand for options fed into gains in the stocks. That’s because the people offering the contracts (options dealers) typically offset losses or gains on their positions by trading in the underlying stock. When the price of the share moves, they’re forced to adjust their hedges. For example, if a dealer sold call options to clients, they’d usually buy the underlying stock when it rises and sell when it falls. Taken together, these hedging trades can influence equity prices but by exactly how much is a matter of speculation. Some analysts say hedging by options dealers had more impact this year because of the fierce demand for short-term options in single stocks. When there’s not much time before expiration and a contract is likely to be profitable, dealers have to be more active in adjusting their positions, which can fuel volatility. Some analysts disagree and contend that the influence of such hedging trades has been overstated.

4. Who has been buying options?

Retail investors using trading apps such as Robinhood piled into bullish bets on tech shares, lured by the appeal of supersized gains from leveraged trading of popular stocks. Larger investors eventually joined the fray, too. The Financial Times reported that SoftBank Group Inc. poured billions into bets on Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Inc. using a trade known as a call spread, earning itself the moniker the “Nasdaq whale.” The trade involved simultaneously buying and selling a call option — a technique that caps possible winnings but also lowers costs. According to the FT, the Japanese investment group spent $4 billion on options focused on tech stocks. That compares with the $40 billion in call premiums paid by retail investors in a single month, according to data compiled by Sundial Capital. Whether the enthusiasm for options continues after the big tech shares tumbled in early September remains to be seen.

# Tech rallies most since April in stock rebound (Bloomberg · Katherine Greifeld, Claire Ballentine)

U.S. stocks rebounded from a three-day rout, as dip buyers poured into beaten-down tech shares to send the Nasdaq 100 to its best day since April. The dollar fell vs. major peers.

The S&P 500 Index rose the most since June, though finished well off its session highs. The Nasdaq gains followed an 11% rout took it down to the average price over the past 50 days. Tesla also bounced off that closely watched level after suffering its biggest sell-off. Computer chip and hardware makers rose, led by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Apple Inc. Shares climbed broadly in Europe.

“Dip buyers have been handsomely reward for the last 12 years,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab & Co. “There’s substantial amounts of capital on the sidelines still available to come into the market.”

Treasurys retreated and Bloomberg’s dollar index turned lower. The pound headed for its longest declining streak since March on worries that talks could collapse over changes to the Brexit withdrawal deal.

Volatility remains a feature on U.S. equity markets, where a three-day rout plunged the Nasdsaq 100 into correction before the Wednesday bounce. Investors will be on guard for any signs the selling may resume. Thursday brings the European Central Bank’s latest policy decision and weekly jobless claims data in the U.S..

“The market was sprinting so fast and it just seemed very reasonable for it to pause and catch its breath and decide what it wants to do next — and that’s where we are today,” said Lawrence Creatura, a portfolio manager at PRSPCTV Capital LLC.

Elsewhere, crude oil climbed just above $40 a barrel in London. Yields on New Zealand’s three-year bonds dropped into negative territory for the first time.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

– The S&P 500 increased 2% as of 4 p.m. EDT.

– The Nasdaq 100 jumped 3%.

– The Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed 1.6%.

– Germany’s DAX Index rose 2.1%.

– The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.8%.

Currencies

– The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.4%.

– The euro was gained 0.3% to $1.1809.

– The Japanese yen weakened 0.1% to 106.18 per dollar.

– The British pound rose 0.2% to $1.3008.

Bonds

– The yield on 10-year Treasurys climbed two basis points to 0.695%.

– The two-year rate was little changed at 0.14%

– Germany’s 10-year yield gained three basis points to -0.46%.

– Britain’s 10-year yield gained five basis points to 0.237%.

Commodities

– West Texas Intermediate crude climbed 3.5% to $38.06 a barrel.

– Gold futures rose 0.7% to $1,958 an ounce.

How AI in medical imaging is leading the way to better patient care #ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย

#ศาสตร์เกษตรดินปุ๋ย : ขอบคุณแหล่งข้อมูล : หนังสือพิมพ์ The Nation.

How AI in medical imaging is leading the way to better patient care

Biz insightsSep 09. 2020

By Weera Areeratanasak

Special to The Nation

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now transforming key areas of healthcare, helping to save lives and reducing costs across the medical ecosystem.

One of AI’s most promising applications is medical imaging. This should come as no surprise, since radiologists have always pioneered digital technology in medicine.

As a result, the use of AI in medical imaging over the last 10 years has grown faster than in other specialties, according to the US National Institute of Health.

AI is now used frequently in magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. Other uses include interventional radiology, triage, aided reporting, follow-up planning, and infrastructure planning and prediction.

Pressure from ageing populations

Medical imaging is under pressure. Patient populations are ageing, which means the volume, complexity, and resolution of images are increasing, but the size of the radiology workforce is flat or shrinking.

In the developing world, the lack of radiology expertise is widespread.

Therefore, radiology departments need to carry out more examinations with fewer personnel. AI is a precious medical tool, enabling departments to make better use of limited resources.

By providing pre-screening or pre-analysis, AI operates as a co-pilot, helping radiologists be more efficient by pinpointing critical results – or exceptions – and enabling radiology teams to focus attention on patients who need urgent care first.

Earlier disease detection

Machine learning is being applied in all areas of medical imaging – from image acquisition to analysis to reporting.

For example, a medical start-up company is developing a suite of medical imaging applications that can enable contrast reduction, up to 4x faster scans, or both. This improves patient comfort and safety while increasing the productivity of a radiology department.

Deep learning models are being developed for a wide range of conditions, promising to increase the speed and accuracy of analysis and enable earlier disease detection.

High-profile areas under study include detection of lung nodules, brain cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Some AI-powered diagnostic techniques are even moving beyond the clinic.

The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center is combining a smartphone-mounted device for retinal imaging with an AI software platform called EyeArt. This solution can determine in real time whether a diabetes patient should see an ophthalmologist for follow-up care.

Regardless of the AI application, usually the first step is collecting a data set with examples of both diseased/damaged and healthy tissue for the target condition. The data set must be prepared and, in most cases, clearly annotated. Today, annotation is still usually a time-consuming manual process.

Much of the significant AI work to date has been accelerated through the use of publicly available, annotated data sets. For example, for lung nodule studies, the Lung Image Database Consortium image collection (LIDC-IDRI) provides a set of computed tomography (CT) scans with annotated lesions. This data set was used for the Lung Nodule Analysis 2016 (LUNA16) challenge contest which concluded in early 2018 with significant results.

The big benefits

Accenture estimates that AI applications in US healthcare alone could save up to $150 billion (Bt4.7 trillion) annually by 2026. In cash-strapped community hospitals, those kinds of savings can help keep the doors open. In addition, AI has the potential to replace many of the menial tasks currently performed by radiologists, as well as integrating data mining into the electronic medical records process.

The positive, immediate impacts of AI in medical imaging can be numerous:

• Faster reporting with AI prepopulated reports that radiologists can edit for accuracy.

• Easier cohorting of studies for image or patient similarity.

• Better identification of studies with no significant findings. Many people assume AI is only good at finding abnormalities but what is proving more useful is the faster classification of normal or negative studies. This leaves the radiologist more time to review the abnormal ones.

• Better processing of electronic medical records, presenting the radiologists with timely, relevant clinical information about their patients.

• Built-in mechanisms for quality control and communication between radiologists and technologists.

AI is already impacting radiology, and more quickly than other medical fields. Any uneasiness among radiologists to embrace AI is analogous to how airline pilots were reluctant to embrace early autopilot technology. Obviously, AI is not going to replace radiologists. Instead, AI is going to help radiologists and the healthcare system in general.

Radiologists should be aware of the basic principles of how AI observations are obtained and how they should be interpreted. Datasets used to train AI models do have limitations and can potentially include bias. In this new paradigm, radiologists will need to know how to interact with AI solutions, how to flag studies that provided incorrect results or failed AI processing, and how to interact with the data scientists and IT supporting these solutions.

To this end, NetApp and NVIDIA are partnering to deliver the right AI solutions for the healthcare industry. Both companies are laser-focused on eliminating AI bottlenecks and advancing the realm of the possible at a rapid pace. NetApp’s attention to the data pipeline amplifies NVIDIA’s efforts to accelerate compute.

By combining technologies from both companies, NetApp’s ONTAP AI accelerates all facets of AI training and inference, to deliver better outcomes more quickly. The solution brings together NVIDIA DGX supercomputers, NetApp cloud-connected all-flash storage, and Cisco Nexus switches. This proven architecture simplifies, integrates, and accelerates both machine learning and deep learning algorithms, and allows you to start small and grow as needed without disruption.

The ONTAP AI Toolkit offers an array of tools and functions to simplify setup and operation, delivering immediate productivity.

Weera Areeratanasak is regional director of NetApp in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.