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Is China’s ‘Real’ Economy Crashing?

Is China’s ‘Real’ Economy Crashing?

Tyler Durden on 03/15/2013 09:55 -0400

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As Marc Faber noted, we hardly expect China to report GDP growth rates that do not perfectly fit the goal-seeked solution for utopian society, but under the covers, there appears to be some considerably more ugly real data. One of the hardest to manipulate, manage, or mitigate for a centrally planned economy is Electricity production. The year-over-year drop in China’s electricity production is the largest since the slump in Q1 2009; and the seasonal drop (associated with the New Year) is the largest on record at 25.3%! So on one hand China is discussing tightening monetary policy amid inflation anxiety and a potential real estate bubble – thanks to the rest of the world pumping free money – and on the other hand Chinese officials are faced with the reality of a drastically slowing ‘real’ economy. At the same time, we note that it appearsChina’s export-import data appears overstatedRock meet hard place. Biggest seasonal drop ever in China electricity production and worst YoY drop since the crash in 2009… And as Bloomberg notes today: Widening differences in bilateral trade data reported by China and Hong Kong suggest export-import activity is being overstated by the mainland as companies report inflated figures, according to Mizuho Securities Asia Ltd. The chart below compares China’s data on monthly exports to Hong Kong the past two years, with counterpart figures from the city on imports.  

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China’s numbers were 47 percent higher than Hong Kong’s in January, compared with a 13 percent difference two years earlier. The lower panel shows reports during the same period for China’s overseas shipments to the U.S., using each nation’s official statistics, where the differential has remained more consistent. Exaggerated trade figures would mean that China’s new leaders, who take over the government at the National People’s Congress this week, are failing to get the boost from global demand that the data indicate as they try to sustain a rebound in the world’s second-biggest economy. Hong Kong passed the U.S. in November to become the biggest export market in China data. Exports to Hong Kong from China rose 60.9 percent in the first two months of 2013 from a year earlier, compared with last year’s 20.7 percent gain for the full year. “This seems inconsistent with the pictures of the final demand in both Hong Kong and the countries for Hong Kong re-exporting,”  Read more of this post

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Innovator: Martin Riddiford’s Gravity-Powered Lamp to replace hazardous kerosene lamps still used in many developing countries

Innovator: Martin Riddiford’s Gravity-Powered Lamp

By Caroline Winter on March 14, 2013

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Hazardous kerosene lamps, still used in many developing countries, are a major expense for many of the world’s estimated 1.5 billion families without electricity. Poor households typically spend at least 10 percent of their income on kerosene, as much as $36 billion a year worldwide, according to the World Bank. So far, efforts to use solar energy to power lights in developing nations have run up against cost and technical challenges. Attempts to use hydroelectric microgrids or repurpose old car batteries have also been problematic, says Joe Hale, president of the nonprofit Global BrightLight Foundation. Gravity could help. British industrial designer Martin Riddiford has created a pineapple-size lamp powered by a 25-pound weight that falls about six feet in a half-hour. That may not sound like much, but it’s enough to drive a silent motor at thousands of rotations per second. The GravityLight, which shines slightly brighter than most kerosene lamps, requires a certain amount of elbow grease: Once the weight reaches bottom, it must be manually lifted to repeat the process.

Riddiford, 57, a co-founder of London-based product design firm Therefore, got the idea four years ago after leaving a meeting with a charity interested in solar tech. “I just sort of had this vision of, well, why can’t you use human power and store it as potential energy rather than in a battery,” he says. The designer, whose Brinlock Abacus calculator was the first with number-shaped buttons, and whose firm has developed products for Toshiba, Samsonite, and Nike (NKE), says he regrets not having done charitable work overseas in his youth and hopes to make up for it with his light. The first prototype, a large-scale contraption involving a bicycle wheel and a windup LED flashlight, was refined over four years into its current cheap yet durable plastic version. “It’s technically quite tricky to get it so it doesn’t jam, but we solved that problem through lots of experimentation,” Riddiford says. GravityLight will have its first field tests this summer in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Once Riddiford’s team works out the final kinks, the basic model will retail for about $5. Therefore is also weighing development of a brighter version with more settings for camping and emergencies, and may eventually use its gravity-based technology to develop a cell phone charger. In December, Therefore pitched the lamp on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help cover production costs, and in a month received $400,000, far more than the $55,000 it sought. Bill Gates called GravityLight “a pretty cool innovation,” and Therefore says donors and potential partners range from soda companies to the U.S. Department of Defense. “It’s such a clean source of light, and it’s easy to operate,” says Global BrightLight Foundation’s Hale. “The market is unlimited for them.” Still, before GravityLight goes to market, Riddiford says, “It will have to stand the test of four continents trying to kill it, trying to stamp on it, destroy it, and use it and abuse it.”

Problem: Kerosene light is a big cost for 1.5 billion families worldwide

A solution: A $5 lamp powered by a 25-pound falling weight

Early response: Plaudits from Bill Gates, interest from the Pentagon

History Channel’s ‘The Bible’ Is a Marketing Miracle

History Channel’s ‘The Bible’ Is a Marketing Miracle

By Bilge Ebiri on March 14, 2013

It’s a tense night in Sodom. God’s judgment has arrived, and fire rains down from the skies. The beleaguered, henpecked Lot, a nephew of Abraham, shuffles two mysterious Jedi-like figures into his home. A group of armed Sodomites soon bursts through the door and demands that the men be given up. One of the “Jedis” unsheathes two swords and swiftly dismembers the men.

The scene ends the first episode of a new, 10-part miniseries on the History Channel called The Bible, which garnered 14.1 million viewers last week—more than any other show on cable television in 2013. Produced by Mark Burnett, the reality-TV pioneer best known for SurvivorThe Apprentice, and Shark Tank, and his wife, Touched by an Angel actor Roma Downey (who also plays the Virgin Mary), the miniseries appears to have been conceived primarily for religious audiences—or at least those knowledgeable of scripture. It’s also packaged with enough bloodlust to capture channel surfers. In that regard, the series resembles Mel Gibson’s 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, a movie bloggers called The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre—and which raked in more than $600 million at the box office. Read more of this post

Men’s Nail Polish Joins the Cosmetics Market; Former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Chuck Liddell famously sported dainty pink fingernail polish in fights

Men’s Nail Polish Joins the Cosmetics Market

By Joel Stein on March 14, 2013

A few years ago, Josh Espley, a former marketing exec for a sex toy company called Fleshlight, noticed that his kickboxing friends were wearing polish to cover their banged-up nails. The practice was becoming popular, he noted, with the mixed martial arts crowd: Former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Chuck Liddell famously sported dainty pink fingernail polish in fights. Espley occasionally reads Us Weekly—to help him chat up women, he says—and saw polish on male celebrities such as Zac Efron, Jared Leto, Dave Navarro, and Johnny Depp. So in 2009, as a way to supplement his income, he created Blakk Cosmetics. Its first product was Alpha Nail paint, which the company sold in $12 pens in colors like “cocaine” (creamy white), “burnin’ rubber” (dark navy), and “gasoline” (charcoal gray). Read more of this post

Sparking Innovation and More: “Eureka moments are overrated. ‘Innovations must assume that their plans are partly right and partly wrong. And then work hard at figuring out which part of the plan is wrong.”

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HE SHOULD HAVE FINISHED HIS SMOOTHIE: How One VC Passed On A 2,500X Return; At SXSW, Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, reminisced about the difficulties of building a business.

HE SHOULD HAVE FINISHED HIS SMOOTHIE: How One VC Passed On A 2,500X Return

Megan Rose Dickey | Mar. 15, 2013, 8:51 AM | 1,908 | 1

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky InterviewAt SXSW, Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, reminisced about the difficulties of building a business.

Airbnb, an online marketplace for renting out rooms and homes, is a $2.5 billion company, according to Bloomberg.

But in the company’s early days, Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky had a hard time convincing investors to back his company.

At one point, Chesky was asking for $100,000 in exchange for a 10 percent stake in the company, Bloomberg’s Adam Satariano reports. But Chesky couldn’t seem to get anyone to bite. In fact, one investor even walked out mid-pitch, leaving his half-finished smoothie behind.

Today, that investment would be worth roughly $250 million — a 2,500x return.

Earlier this year, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimated that Airbnb booked 12 million to 15 million nights in 2012. He thinks that could increase to 100 million nights, whereby Airbnb could generate $1 billion a year in revenues. Read more of this post

Before growing into a global fashion business with high-profile collaborations and over $112m in revenue, Acne Studios began as a boutique creative consulting firm that played by a few counterintuitive rules—ones it still stands by today.

March 14, 2013, 2:08 p.m. ET

How to Succeed in Fashion Without Trying Too Hard

Before growing into a global fashion business with high-profile collaborations, its own culture magazine and an ever-evolving product line, Acne Studios began as a boutique creative consulting firm that played by a few counterintuitive rules—ones it still stands by today.

By LYNN YAEGER

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THE BRAND PLAYED ON | Mikael Schiller, left, the executive chairman of Acne Studios, and creative director Jonny Johansson, at the Acne store in Tokyo, which opened in December.

WHILE HE WAS WORKING ON Acne’s spring 2013 collection—the long, floaty parachute-fabric skirts and T-shirts emblazoned with the word “music” that are in stores now—Jonny Johansson listened to a lot of Emmylou Harris. “It was a bit surreal. She talks about women, the difference between a woman who has experience and a woman who is young and free. She was painting pictures in a sense,” he says dreamily. “I could see this woman, in a white dress.”

Johannson, the cofounder and designer of Acne Studios, is sharing this reverie in a lofty room in the company’s world headquarters, a spectacular art nouveau former bank building on an almost ridiculously picturesque cobblestone street in Stockholm’s Old Town. Vintage copies of Flair are enshrined under plexiglass near the entrance; a grand staircase still shows off its original gilded wood paneling and stained glass. The uniformly youthful staff is clad in the kind of clothing that has become the company’s hallmark: edgy and slightly twisted, managing to walk a tightrope between slightly avant-garde and eminently wearable—or, put another way, unthreateningly bohemian.

In an era when every high street from Altoona to Zanzibar is crammed with identical chain stores selling identical merchandise, Acne is perceived as different: Its legions of fans think of it as a brand with integrity, a company that makes principled aesthetic decisions and never resorts to marketing tricks, even though they have hundreds of outlets.

If the most difficult challenge in the fashion industry is to remain relevant and desirable in an ever more crowded marketplace—and the whole project of predicting what customers will want in any given season is at best an ephemeral enterprise—Acne’s ability to play the game while appearing to remain mysteriously above the fray is a deeply impressive accomplishment. The company was founded in 1996 by four guys who threw 10,000 euros into a pot and launched a multidisciplinary digital film–design–creative consulting collective in Stockholm, an enterprise that, by a combination of frankly nutty decisions and shrewd business practices, has become a highly profitable business—$112 million in revenue last year alone—encompassing men’s and women’s ready to wear, footwear, accessories and premium denim. Read more of this post

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