H7N9 bird flu may have infected twice as many people as the 105 cases reported, Hong Kong researchers say

H7N9 Cases May Be Double Known Figure, Hong Kong Researchers Say

H7N9 bird flu may have infected twice as many people as the 103 cases reported, an analysis by researchers at the University of Hong Kong showed. There may be 90 to 120 ill adults who haven’t been detected because their infections are mild, Benjamin Cowling, associate professor at the university’s public health research center, said today. The researchers’ analysis suggests risk of serious illness from the virus rises substantially with age, with more than half of reported cases age 60 or older, he said. Flu specialists including those from the World Health Organization are investigating how people are catching the H7N9 virus, with no evidence yet of sustained human-to-human transmission. Disease trackers haven’t been able to figure out why another deadly bird flu strain known as H5N1 afflicts mostly younger people in their 20s and 30s, while H7N9 mainly targets the elderly. “One thing that is very striking is the age distribution of the cases,” Cowling said at a briefing at the university’s medical school today. “They’re very different from the confirmed infections of H5N1.”

Read more of this post

Chili Peppers Seen Helping 36 Million Migraine Sufferers; “We’re all looking for the next magic pill.”

Chili Peppers Seen Helping 36 Million Migraine Sufferers

Chili peppers and migraines have traits in common, a fact scientists are exploiting to develop drugs capable of preventing the debilitating headache’s painful symptoms before they attack.

The link between how skin reacts when rubbed with chili oil and what happens in the brain during a migraine has attracted the world’s largest biotechnology company, Amgen Inc. (AMGN), and other companies seeking to create medicines for the more than 36 million Americans who suffer from migraines.

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, dizziness and sensitivity to touch, yet treatment options are limited. Some pharmaceutical companies that have tried recently to develop migraine therapies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) and Merck & Co. (MRK), have abandoned their efforts while the few drugs on the market are ineffective for many people and carry the danger of serious side-effects for those at risk of heat attack or stroke.

“Migraines are an extremely common disorder, and it effects people really in the prime of their lives,” Rob Lenz, who is leading Amgen’s migraine drug development, said in an interview. Still, no drugs have been “developed specifically for the treatment of migraines,” he said. “They were developed as anti-epileptics, or blood pressure lowering agents.”

That may soon change. Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, California, and other biotechnology companies such as Alder Biopharmaceuticals Inc., Arteaus Therapeutics LLC, and Labrys Biologics Inc. are targeting a chemical released during a migraine that carries a “pain” signal from nerve to nerve. By blocking a receptor from receiving the message, these companies aim to create drugs that cut off developing migraines before symptoms start. Read more of this post

China says new bird flu case found in northeastern Shandong province, the first case found in the province, bringing the total number of infected victims in China to 105

China says new bird flu case found in northeastern China

7:26am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) – A man in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong has been infected by a new strain of bird flu, the first case found in the province, state news agency Xinhua said on Monday, bringing the total number of infected victims in China to 105.

The H7N9 virus has killed 20 people in China. But it is not clear how people are becoming infected and the World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no evidence of the most worrying scenario – sustained transmission between people. Read more of this post

The end of macro magic; Economists lose faith in once-trusted policies.

The end of macro magic

By Robert J. Samuelson, Monday, April 22, 7:53 AM

The International Monetary Fund recently held a conference that should concern most people despite its arcane subject — “Rethinking Macro Policy II.” Macroeconomics is the study of the entire economy, as opposed to the examination of individual markets (“microeconomics”). The question is how much “macro” policies can produce and protect prosperity. Before the 2008-09 financial crisis, there was great confidence that they could. Now, with 38 million unemployed in Europe and the United States — and recoveries that are feeble or nonexistent — macroeconomics is in disarray and disrepute.

Among economists, there is no consensus on policies. Is “austerity” (government spending cuts and tax increases) self-defeating or the unavoidable response to high budget deficits and debt? Can central banks such as the Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank engineer recovery by holding short-term interest rates near zero and by buying massive amounts of bonds (so-called “quantitative easing”)? Or will these policies foster financial speculation, instability and inflation? The public is confused, because economists are divided. Read more of this post

Cal Newport: The Secret To Success Is The “Craftsman’s Mindset”

Interview – Author Cal Newport on how you can become an expert and why you should *not* follow your passion

by eric barker


Cal Newport holds a PhD from MIT and is an assistant professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University. He runs the popular blog Study Hacks (which I highly recommend) and is the author of four books including, most recently, So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Cal and I talked about the secrets to becoming an expert, how deliberate practice works and why following your passion can be a *bad* idea. My conversation with Cal was over 45 minutes, so for brevity’s sake I’m only going to post edited highlights here.

Don’t Follow Your Passion


I set out to research a simple question:  How do people end up loving what they do? If you ask people, the most common answer you’ll get is, “They followed their passion.” So I went out and researched: “Is this true?” From what I found, “Follow your passion” is terrible advice. If your goal is to end up passionate about what you do, “Follow your passion” is terrible advice. So the first fundamental misunderstanding is this idea that we all have a pre-existing passion that’s relevant to a career, and if we could just discover it, then we would be fine. Research says actually most people don’t have one. The second problem is that it’s built on this misbelief that matching your work to something you have a very strong interest in is going to lead to a long-term satisfaction and engagement in your career. It sounds obvious that it should be true, but actually the research shows that’s not at all the reality of how people end up really enjoying and gaining great satisfaction and meaning out of their career. If you study people who end up loving what they do, here’s what you find and if you study the research on it, you find the same thing: Long-term career satisfaction requires traits like a real sense of autonomy, a real sense of impact on the world, a sense of mastery that you’re good at what you do, and a sense of connection in relation to other people. Now, the key point is those traits are not matched to a specific piece of work and they have nothing to do with matching your job to some sort of ingrained, pre-existing passion.

The Secret To Success Is The “Craftsman’s Mindset”


My advice is to abandon the passion mindset which asks “What does this job offer me? Am I happy with this job? Is it giving me everything I want?” Shift from that mindset to Steve Martin’s mindset, which is “What am I offering the world? How valuable am I? Am I really not that valuable? If I’m not that valuable, then I shouldn’t expect things in my working life. How can I get better? Like a craftsman, you find satisfaction in the development of your skill and then you leverage that skill once you have it to take control of your working life and build something that’s more long-term and meaningful… When I talk about the habits of the craftsman mindset, it’s really the habits of deliberate practice. So someone who has the craftsman mindset is trying to systematically build up valuable skills because that’s going to be their leverage, their capital for taking control of their career and they share the same habits you would see with violin players or athletes or chess players.

The craftsmen out there are not the guys checking their social media feeds every five minutes. They’re not looking for the easy win or the flow-state. They’re the guys that are out there three hours, pushing the skill. “This is hard but I’m going to master this new piece of software. I’m going to master this new mathematical framework.” That’s the mindset, the habit of the craftsman.

How To Become An Expert At Something


What you need is a clearly identified sort of skill you’re working on. You need some notion of feedback. So you have to have some notion of, “How good am I at this now, and am I any better now that I’ve done this versus not doing it?” So that’s sort of the coaching aspect of things. And then when actually working, you have to work deeply, which means you have to sort of work on the skill with a persistent, unbroken focus, and you have to try to push yourself a little bit beyond where you’re comfortable. So you should not really be able to easily get to the next step in what you’re doing. At the same time, you should, with enough strain, be able to make some progress.

What You’re Doing Wrong When Trying To Become An Expert


I think when people want to get better at something the biggest mistake they make is seekingflow. It’s a very enjoyable state. It’s where you’re lost in what you’re doing, you’re applying your skills seamlessly and fluidly, and you feel like you have control.

But we know from research on how people actually gain expert levels of performance that the actual state in which you’re getting better is one of strain, and that’s different than flow. It’s a state where you actually feel like you’re being stretched. It’s uncomfortable. You’re doing things beyond your current abilities. It’s not fluid. You’re not necessarily lost. Your mind might be saying, “This is terrible. This is terrible. Check your e-mail. This is terrible. What if there is something on Facebook?

We avoid that for the most part, but we know that if you just keep doing what you know how to do already, you’ll hit a plateau almost immediately. So I think the avoidance of strain is the biggest mistake people make in trying to get better. Read more of this post

Busy is the new lazy




“Going on about how busy you are isn’t conversation and doesn’t lead anywhere,” writes iDoneThis CCO Janet Choi on her company blog, “except making your conversation partner bored, or worse, peeved.” No one wants to be peeved. So why do we keep doing all this humblebragging about how busy we are? It’s a question Choi investigates thoughtfully: She observes that people who are “legitimately occupied” with work or family rarely play the “too busy” card (clearly, we don’t know the same people)–or, may even go out of their way to make a connection becausethey’ve been so swamped. To Choi, when we say “busy,” we’re really trying to say something else–although what exactly that might be depends on the harried soul that’s complaining. She supplies some translations:

I’m busy = I’m important.
Being busy gives people a sense they’re needed and significant, Choi says. It’s also a sign saying that you’re about to be on-ramped into somebody’s misguided ego trip.

I’m busy = I’m giving you an excuse.
Saying that you’re busy is a handy way to outsource your responsibility to your irresponsibility. Since you’re always distracted, you don’t have to do anything for anybody.

I’m busy = I’m afraid.
Look above at the “I’m important” part. Whether the speaker knows it or not, complaining of busyness is a subtle cry for help, one that reassures us that yes, we are in demand.

As Choi says, we’ve begun to regard busyness as a virtue. It’s maybe second to exhaustion when it comes to being cool at work. All this shows a major error in perspective, she says, one that takes us away from meaningful work:  It’s easy, even enticing, to neglect the importance of filling our time with meaning, thinking instead that we’ll be content with merely filling our time. We self-impose these measures of self-worth by looking at quantity instead of quality of activity. In this way, busyness functions as a kind of laziness. When we fill our schedules with appointments and hands with phones, we divest ourselves of downtime. When we’re endlessly doing, it’s hard to be mindful of what we’re doing.

How to eradicate busyness

Of course, it’s a interdependent issue. It’s hard to have downtime if your bosses subscribe to what Anne Marie Slaughter calls our time macho culture, “a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, travel around the world and bill the extra hours that the international date line affords you.” But don’t let that excuse suffice. You can convince your bosses–if you know how to approach the conversation.

USA Today Founder Neuharth Dies at 89

April 19, 2013, 9:09 p.m. ET

AL NEUHARTH 1924-2013

USA Today Founder Neuharth Dies at 89


Al Neuharth was an irascible and ambitious newspaper baron who founded USA Today, at one time the largest-circulation daily paper in the country and still the largest in print.


Al Neuharth, shown in 2003, founded USA Today in 1982 with the idea of creating a national-circulation daily filled with bite-sized stories.

Mr. Neuharth, who died Friday in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at age 89, was the longtime chairman and chief executive of Gannett Co., a chain of local newspapers that he transformed into a diversified media conglomerate by his retirement in 1989. Mr. Neuharth founded USA Today in 1982 with the idea of creating a national-circulation daily filled with bite-sized stories. Though derided in some publishing circles at its founding, USA Today not only found a big audience but also became widely influential with its color photographs and infographics that included a vivid national weather map. A native of Eureka, S.D., Mr. Neuharth edited his high-school and college newspapers and held editing jobs at newspapers in Miami and Detroit before going to work for Gannett in 1963. He also was founder of the Newseum, the Washington, D.C., museum of the history of journalism.

Dirce Navarro de Camargo, Brazil’s Wealthiest Woman Who Controlled a Fortune of $13.8 Billion, Dies at 100

Dirce Navarro de Camargo, Brazil’s Wealthiest Woman, Dies

Dirce Navarro de Camargo, who became Brazil’s richest woman after inheriting the Camargo Correa SA industrial conglomerate, has died. She was 100.

Camargo died April 20, according to a spokesman, who asked not to be identified, citing company policy. He didn’t provide additional details. Her age was disclosed by an executive close to the family who asked not to be named because the matter is private. She controlled a fortune valued at $13.8 billion, making her the 62nd-richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Founded in 1939 by her late husband, Sebastiao Camargo, the conglomerate has played a key role in developing Brazil’s infrastructure. It participated in the construction of Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, in the 1950s. Today, its interests include publicly traded cement maker Cimpor Cimentos de Portugal SGPS and Sao Paulo-based Alpargatas SA (ALPA4), which manufactures Havaianas flip-flops.

Camargo’s three daughters — Regina de Camargo Pires Oliveira Dias, Renata de Camargo Nascimento and Rosana Camargo de Arruda Botelho — are poised to inherit the family fortune. They hold an equal share of the Participacoes Morro Vermelho SA holding company, which controls Sao Paulo-based Camargo Correa, according to filings with Brazil’s securities regulator. Read more of this post

Entrepreneurs shine through in gloomy times; winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are a showcase for the country’s ability to create innovative products and services and sell them around the world.

April 22, 2013 12:43 am

Entrepreneurs shine through in gloomy times

By Brian Groom

Five years into the most prolonged economic downturn of modern times, British business could do with cheering itself up. A glance through this year’s winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise should help.

From a maker of mass spectrometers to a nail bar chain, from a maker of milking equipment to a supplier of food supplements to improve fertility, the winners of the awards – first handed out in 1966 – are a showcase for the country’s ability to create innovative products and services and sell them around the world.

The 2013 list, published to mark the Queen’s birthday on April 21, contains 152 business awards, mixing FTSE companies with subsidiaries of foreign-owned groups and private businesses. Read more of this post

David Tran of the Sriracha sauce with $60 million in revenue: “I make sauce good enough for the rich man that the poor man can still afford.”



David Tran, the 68-year old creator of Sriracha.

“Tran started Huy Fong in a tiny office in L.A.’s Chinatown, grinding jalapeño peppers by hand. It took him only a few days to come up with his recipe—a blend of jalapeños, vinegar, sugar, salt, and, of course, garlic—and it hasn’t changed much since. He figured he’d sell it to fellow Asian immigrants. “I had no idea Americans would ever even eat spicy food,” says Tran, and he determined from the start to keep the price low. It’s about $4 per 28-ounce bottle. As he likes to say, “I make sauce good enough for the rich man that the poor man can still afford.””

My Favorite Entrepreneur Story In A Long Time

MARK SUSTERposted yesterday

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Mark Suster (@msuster), a 2x entrepreneur, now VC at GRP Partners. Read more about Suster at his Startup Blog, BothSidesoftheTable.

If you don’t like it hot, use less,” he said. “We don’t make mayonnaise here.” 

This morning I was reading my social media and came across an article that Christine Tsai had posted on Facebook.

It was about the founder of Sriracha sauce, David Tran, displaced from Vietnam when the North’s communists took power.

As the son of an immigrant myself, I am a sucker for an immigrant story.

Moving to the U.S. with nothing but hard work and ambition. Having a strong sense of values. And wanting to build for the next generation.

It is of course why immigrants power so many successful businesses in the US and why we need to embrace them. They have nothing to lose. They bring new ideas, new cultures, new business practices. But they mostly want to be – AMERICAN. That’s all my dad ever wanted for us. Even while he clung to his native traditions and culture himself. Read more of this post

Wahaha’s Zong Qinghou and China’s richest businessman: work, tea and cigarettes

April 21, 2013 2:27 pm

Zong Qinghou: work, tea and cigarettes

By Simon Rabinovitch

Drinks king: Zong Qinghou’s products range from bottled water to milk

Despite being one of China’s most prominent businessmen, Zong Qinghou still uses the gritty metaphors that bear the mark of a youth spent tilling rural fields during the Cultural Revolution.

When discussing the succession plans at his multibillion-dollar Wahaha empire, he notes that Kelly Zong, his 31-year-old daughter, has already taken over some of the corporate responsibilities, before adding: “If she has any problems, I’ll go and wipe her butt.”

However, with or without the earthy Chinese phrase, talk of succession is much too premature for the 67-year-old beverage tycoon. Ranked as China’s wealthiest man, with an estimated fortune of $13bn according to the Hurun Rich List, Mr Zong has no desire to let go of the company he founded in the near future. Outside of work, he says with a raspy laugh, his only hobbies are drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. Read more of this post

The Inheritance Conversation. Ugh. Telling heirs how much they will inherit is one of the trickiest issues a parent faces.

Updated April 19, 2013, 3:56 p.m. ET

The Inheritance Conversation. Ugh.

Telling heirs how much they will inherit is one of the trickiest issues a parent faces.


WE-AA485_INHERI_G_20130419113459WE-AA479A_INHER_G_20130419145405 Read more of this post

China Bird Flu Death Roll 20, Total H7N9 Cases 102, WHO Experts Visiting Shanghai and Beijing

China Bird Flu Death Roll 20, Total H7N9 Cases 102, WHO Experts Visiting Shanghai and Beijing

Apr 21, 2013 09:14 PM EDT    | Staff Reporter

China confirmed six more cases of H7N9 human avian influenza during last 24 hour period ending at 4.p.m on Sunday April 21. Five new cases in Zhejiang and one in Jiangsu. The National Health and Family Planning Commission counted total of 102 H7N9 cases in China and 20 cases that led to death. Read more of this post

HUSSMAN: The Cover Of The Latest Barron’s Is A Screaming Sign Of A Stock Market Top

HUSSMAN: The Cover Of The Latest Barron’s Is A Screaming Sign Of A Stock Market Top

Joe Weisenthal | 39 minutes ago | 145 | 

This weekend we mentioned the latest Barron’s cover, which is about the paper’s professional investor survey, which shows record high bullishness and a widespread belief that the Dow is going to go to 16,000. John Hussman, the famously bearish mutual fund manager, sees this as screaming sell signal, as he invokes the ol’ contrarian magazine cover indicator. He writes:

The Barron’s Big Money Poll is typically bullish, on balance. This is Wall Street, after all. But variations in the tone and extent of that bullishness can be informative, especially when the consensus is extremely optimistic at new highs of mature bull markets, and defensive at new lows of mature bear markets. I can’t really throw stones about 2009, as I had my own concerns at the time (relating to the need to stress-test against Depression era outcomes, despite our favorable views of valuation). But it’s worth noting that the 2009 Big Money Poll questioned the advance from the March lows, noting “good reason not to jump in with both feet yet.” The 2003 Big Money Poll – already well into a new bull market – was bullish on balance, and up from just 43% bulls in an October 2002 poll near the market lows. Still, the 2003 poll noted “the bulls’ views have been tempered by the market’s losses in recent years. Consequently their expectations for the Dow, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, and the Nasdaq Composite have been ratcheted down from past surveys.”

This certainly isn’t a criticism of Barron’s itself. I grew up on Barron’s Magazine, and will remain a devoted reader at least as long as Alan Abelson provides a worthy counterbalance to the more short-sighted views of Wall Street and the Market Lab section remains in print. Still, the Big Money Poll is most useful as a contrary indicator. Rule o’ Thumb: When the cover of a major financial magazine features a cartoon of a bull leaping through the air on a pogo stick, it’s probably about time to cash in the chips. Anyway, this chart from Hussman says it all.


Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault

April 20, 2013

Danes Rethink a Welfare State Ample to a Fault



Robert Nielsen, 45, said proudly last year that he had basically been on welfare since 2001.

COPENHAGEN — It began as a stunt intended to prove that hardship and poverty still existed in this small, wealthy country, but it backfired badly. Visit a single mother of two on welfare, a liberal member of Parliament goaded a skeptical political opponent, see for yourself how hard it is. It turned out, however, that life on welfare was not so hard. The 36-year-old single mother, given the pseudonym “Carina” in the news media, had more money to spend than many of the country’s full-time workers. All told, she was getting about $2,700 a month, and she had been on welfare since she was 16. In past years, Danes might have shrugged off the case, finding Carina more pitiable than anything else. But even before her story was in the headlines 16 months ago, they were deeply engaged in a debate about whether their beloved welfare state, perhaps Europe’s most generous, had become too rich, undermining the country’s work ethic. Carina helped tip the scales.

With little fuss or political protest — or notice abroad — Denmark has been at work overhauling entitlements, trying to prod Danes into working more or longer or both. While much of southern Europe has been racked by strikes and protests as its creditors force austerity measures, Denmark still has a coveted AAA bond rating. But Denmark’s long-term outlook is troubling. The population is aging, and in many regions of the country people without jobs now outnumber those with them. Some of that is a result of a depressed economy. But many experts say a more basic problem is the proportion of Danes who are not participating in the work force at all — be they dawdling university students, young pensioners or welfare recipients like Carina who lean on hefty government support. Read more of this post

Tomorrow always knows: How Xiao Jianhua, founder of the low-profile but powerful Beijing-HQ Tomorrow Holdings, came to control RMB1tn

Tomorrow always knows: How Xiao Jianhua came to control RMB1tn

Staff Reporter



Xiao Jianhua, founder of Tomorrow Holdings. (Internet photo)

Xiao Jianhua, founder of the low-profile but powerful Beijing-headquartered Tomorrow Holdings, controls nearly 1 trillion yuan (US$160 billion) of assets ranging from banks to securities houses. His success is founded on his company’s ability to handle rich networks and be sensitive to market information, the Shanghai-based First Financial Daily reports.

The daily said Xiao has been quick to follow every trend in China’s economic reforms, sensing the trend in every new regulation governing securities, banks, insurers and financial leasing companies.

According to New Fortune magazine, Tomorrow Holdings controls nine listing companies holding shares in 30 financial institutions, including 12 city commercial banks, six securities companies, four trust firms, four insurers, two mutual fund companies, one futures firm and one asset management company, with total assets nearing 1 trillion yuan. Yet Tomorrow itself has been almost invisible. Read more of this post

‘Gourmet coffee prince’ Liu Minghui aims high

‘Gourmet coffee prince’ Liu Minghui aims high

Staff Reporter



An ad for Aini Coffee. (Photo/CFP)

Liu Minghui, founder of high-end Chinese coffee company Aini Coffee, is continuing his pursuit to promote beans grown in southwestern Yunnan province and raise the company’s profile overseas. Aini Coffee opened its first store last year at the Pu’er Simao Airport, selling coffee machines and coffee beans grown in the Yunnan city of Pu’er. Liu is now seeking to create his own brand in the competitive market of coffee shop chains and instant coffee, focusing on a niche market selling high-end beans to independent coffee shops, offices and families. Opting to avoid direct competition with established brands, the company no longer supplies to Walmart and Carrefour. Liu instead advertises his products online through Taobao and Amazon. Read more of this post

Nestle’s Nespresso Growth Hit by Swiss Contender Migros: Retail

Nestle’s Nespresso Growth Hit by Swiss Contender Migros: Retail

In kitchens across Switzerland, a supermarket retailer is staking a claim on the world’s biggest food company’s growth, one coffee capsule at a time.

The popularity of knock-off coffee pods sold by Migros, the second-biggest retailer in a country with a population smaller than New York City, contributed to a slower start to the year for sales of single-serve Nespresso, said Nestle SA (NESN)’s investor relations chief Roddy Child-Villiers. Nespresso has been among the fastest-growing major brands at Nestle over the past decade.

Migros’s capsules, on sale since May, probably squeezed Nespresso’s quarterly sales growth to 8 percent, the slowest pace in the brand’s history, according to Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Capital Markets in Zurich. Nespresso faces increased competition throughout Europe as food companies seek to tap the expanding $8 billion single-serve segment of the global coffee market. Nestle has sued rivals after they introduced capsules compatible with Nespresso machines.

“The introduction by a big competitor locally is meaningful and local legal cases have so far not gone Nestle’s way,” Cox said. Migros’s entry could result in “flat sales” this year for Nespresso in Switzerland, which Cox estimates accounts for about one-fifth of Nespresso’s annual revenue of 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.3 billion). The country is Nespresso’s second-biggest market, according to Kepler. Read more of this post

Commodities slump sends slow ripples through world economy

Published: Monday April 22, 2013 MYT 4:26:00 PM

Commodities slump sends slow ripples through world economy

LONDON: Lower airfares, cheaper food and rising profit margins are among the benefits that should flow from tumbling oil and commodity prices – but only after a long lead time. Having poured $400 billion into commodities over the past decade, many investors are now selling. Their confidence that risky assets could only float higher on a rising tide of cheap central bank money has crumbled as the global economy fails to respond to the stimulus. Even China, an important buyer of natural resources, is slowing. Inflation, against which gold in particular is a classic hedge, is falling nearly everywhere.

Read more of this post

How Twitter is becoming your first source of investment news

How Twitter is becoming your first source of investment news

By Barry Ritholtz, Published: April 20

On Monday afternoon at 2:56 p.m., three hours after the fastest runner of the Boston Marathon crossed the finish line, my Twitter feed lit up. Someone in the office yelled “Two explosions at the Boston Marathon, may be terrorism.” Within seconds, there were first hand reports, photos and even video circulating.

Not on CNN or Reuters or the Associated Press. On Twitter.

There was no other news reports for what seemed like a very long time. Nothing on Google News. Nothing else on the Web. It felt like a full 15 minutes before CNN reported it on cable (NPR seemed to have some early radio coverage). But in the 10 minutes after, Twitter had the only firsthand accounts of the tragedy in real time.

A quick intro: Twitter is a social-networking site where users share short texts limited to 140 characters (the cell phone text limit in the pre-smartphone days). There are now more than 200 million active users who crank out 400 million Tweets a day.

Twitter has become the “new” news wires. It has supplanted AP, Dow Jones and Bloomberg for breaking news. Even the Boston police confirmed “at least 22 injured, two dead” — by Tweeting it at 4:05 p.m. Read more of this post

Hollywood blockbusters appeared poised last year to take over China’s box office, but something unexpected happened on the way to the bank: demand tapered off sharply. “They want to see films that challenge them”

April 21, 2013

U.S. Box Office Heroes Proving Mortal in China


LOS ANGELES — Hollywood’s global business strategy, which counts on huge ticket sales in China for high-budget fantasies in 3-D and large-screen Imax formats, is coming unhinged.

Last year, helped by a high-level deal that expanded the number of foreign films for release there, American blockbusters like “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” led the Chinese box office for 23 straight weeks, and received a disproportionately large share of their ticket sales from China.

More big releases were on the way, and the floodgates in the world’s second-largest film market appeared ready to swing open.

But something unexpected happened on the way to the bank: demand tapered off sharply. Read more of this post

Consumer Loans Surge Across Asia; Banks From Around the World Target Middle Class With Financing for Autos, Home Appliances; debt burdens relative to individual income are up to 30% higher compared with the U.S

Updated April 21, 2013, 6:38 p.m. ET

Consumer Loans Surge Across Asia

Banks From Around the World Target Middle Class With Financing for Autos, Home Appliances



HONG KONG—Lenders from around the world are fueling a boom in short-term loans across Asia, helping push debt to record levels as a burgeoning middle class strives for a better lifestyle and banks look to diversify away from the slow-growing West.

Companies ranging from Citigroup Inc. C -0.13% to Japan’s big banks to a Dutch consumer-finance provider that built its business in Central and Eastern Europe are issuing credit cards or stepping up lending for cars, motorcycles and home appliances from India to Indonesia.

Nonmortgage consumer credit in Asia outside of Japan rose 67% in the past five years to $1.66 trillion by the end of 2012, according to data provider Euromonitor International. In the U.S. the rise was only 10% during the same period as consumers cut back on debt following the financial crisis.

The lenders are targeting Asia’s middle class, which is expected to grow by an average of more than 100 million people each year. They are pitching everything from credit cards to short-term installment loans for motorcycles and appliances. Interest rates can range from 15% for secured auto loans to as much as 40% for unsecured loans, appliances and electronics, driven by high demand for loans and little or no credit history for the borrowers. Loans are typically paid back over six months to five years. Read more of this post

Spain’s Startups Leave in Search of Venture Capital; “There’s just no culture of investing in someone’s ideas rather than real estate.”

Spanish Preference for Property Over Startups Deepens Woe: Tech

After finishing his MBA at Columbia University in New York, Luis Sanz decided not to return home to Spain to launch his Web startup, Olapic.

Sanz says he stayed in New York because his homeland lacks an entrepreneurial culture and has virtually no venture capital industry. Last year, he raised $1 million for Olapic, which helps companies collect photos posted by their customers on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

“In Spain it’s just harder to get funded unless you’re already a big name,” said the 32-year-old telecommunications engineer from Zaragoza. “The U.S. is way more appealing.”

Olapic, which serves about 70 corporate clients ranging from EBay Inc. (EBAY) to the New York Giants football team, mirrors other startups founded by engineers fleeing Spain to start businesses in more promising locations. The exodus is crimping the country’s technology industry and threatens the long-term vitality of an economy suffering from a six-year slump and record unemployment.

The number of new businesses created in Spain annually has dropped by almost 100,000 over the past six years, to 334,516 in 2012 from 426,321 in 2007, according to the National Statistics Institute. Over the same period, more than 2 million businesses have closed. Read more of this post

Hong Kong Home Prices to Decline as Much as 25%, Bernstein Says

Hong Kong Home Prices to Decline as Much as 25%, Bernstein Says

Hong Kong home prices will fall as much as 25 percent after the government stepped up measures to curb an asset bubble and as banks raised mortgage rates, according to Sanford C. Bernstein H.K. Ltd.

The number of new apartment sales will “remain largely subdued” with developers shifting their focus to cheaper and smaller units to boost sales, analysts led by Kenneth Tsang wrote in a report today.

An index tracking home prices dropped the most in almost three years in the week ended April 14 after the government introduced its toughest yet measures to cool prices on Feb. 22. Prices could fall as much as 20 percent over the next two years, Deutsche Bank AG said in a report last month.

Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd. (1), which last month lowered prices by almost 10 percent at a project in response to the government curbs, may introduce more price cuts to boost sales, said the Bernstein analysts. The builder is controlled by Li Ka-shing, the city’s richest man. Read more of this post

Carbon-Intensive Investors Risk $6 Trillion ‘Bubble,’ Study Says

Carbon-Intensive Investors Risk $6 Trillion ‘Bubble,’ Study Says

Investors in carbon-intensive business could see $6 trillion wasted as policies limiting global warming stop them from exploiting their coal, oil and gas reserves, according to a report.

The top 200 oil, gas and mining companies spent $674 billion last year finding and developing fossil fuel resources, according to research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and a climate-change research unit at the London School of Economics. If this rate continues for the next decade some $6 trillion risks being wasted on “unburnable” or stranded assets, according to the report, released today.

Banks, funds and institutional investors are seeking clarity from government and central banks about how greenhouse- gas emissions may affect the value of their investments. The Bank of England said last year it will evaluate whether the U.K.’s exposure to investments in polluting industries poses a risk to financial stability after a group of more than 20 investors called for a such a probe.

“If the markets carry on regardless, with the regulators looking the other away, they’re just asleep on their watch,” James Leaton, research director at Carbon Tracker, a project by non-profit Investor Watch, said in an interview in London. “The longer it goes on, the bigger the bubble will get.” Read more of this post

In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution Are Fizzling

April 21, 2013

In Europe, Paid Permits for Pollution Are Fizzling


LONDON — On a showery afternoon last week in West London, a ripple of enthusiasm went through the trading floor of CF Partners, a privately owned financial company. The price of carbon allowances, shown in green lights on a board hanging from the ceiling, was creeping up toward three euros. That is pretty small change — $3.90, or only about 10 percent of what the price was in 2008. But to the traders it came as a relief after the market had gone into free fall to record lows two days earlier, after the European Parliament spurned an effort to shore up prices by shrinking the number of allowances. “The market still stands,” said Thomas Rassmuson, a native of Sweden who founded the company with Jonathan Navon, a Briton, in 2006.

Still, Europe’s carbon market, a pioneering effort to use markets to regulate greenhouse gases, is having a hard time staying upright. This year has been stomach-churning for the people who make their living in the arcane world of trading emissions permits. The most recent volatility comes on top of years of uncertainty during which prices have fluctuated from $40 to nearly zero for the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide. More important, though, than lost jobs and diminished payouts for traders and bankers, the penny ante price of carbon credits means the market is not doing its job: pushing polluters to reduce carbon emissions, which most climate scientists believe contribute to global warming. The market for these credits, officially called European Union Allowances, or E.U.A.’s, has been both unstable and under sharp downward pressure this year because of a huge oversupply and a stream of bad political and economic news. On April 16, for instance, after the European Parliament voted down the proposed reduction in the number of credits, prices dropped about 50 percent, to 2.63 euros from nearly 5, in 10 minutes. Read more of this post

Tata Faces Crisis as $20 Billion Spent on Water: Corporate India

Tata Faces Crisis as $20 Billion Spent on Water: Corporate India

India, the world’s second-most populous nation, is doubling spending on water management to a record as conglomerates from the Tatas to Adani face shortages that the United Nations calls an impending crisis.

The federal and state governments have set aside 1.1 trillion rupees ($20 billion) for sewage treatment, irrigation and recycling for the five-year period ending March 2017, G. Mohan Kumar, special secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, said in an interview. The nation with 1.2 billion people, which treats only 20 percent of its sewage, is pouring more money as inadequate clean water is threatening to stunt growth in industrial and farm output.

Disputes with farmers demanding rights to their irrigated land have stalled about $80 billion of investment by companies including Posco and ArcelorMittal (MT) as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeks to revive an economy growing at the slowest pace in a decade. Tata Steel Ltd. (TATA), India’s biggest maker of the alloy, is setting annual targets to cut water usage as two-thirds of the country faces a scarcity, H.M. Nerurkar, managing director said in an April 11 interview.

“Water availability is a very big issue and in the coming days this will be a far bigger issue,” A.P. Choudhary, chairman of Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd., India’s second-biggest state-run steelmaker, said in an interview. “Water is critical for the steel industry’s growth and no company is comfortably placed.” Read more of this post

Triple A-rated Netherlands on Edge of Economic Crisis; Unemployment Surges as Home Prices Collapse

Netherlands on Edge of Economic Crisis; Unemployment Surges as Home Prices Collapse

Posted: 21 Apr 2013 12:05 PM PDT

Netherlands is underwater in more ways than one. Der Spiegel reports Underwater: The Netherlands Falls Prey to Economic Crisis

More than a decade ago, the Dutch central bank recognized the dangers of [the housing] euphoria, but its warnings went unheeded. Only last year did the new government, under conservative-liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte, amend the generous tax loopholes, which gradually began to expire in January. But now it’s almost too late. No nation in the euro zone is as deeply in debt as the Netherlands, where banks have a total of about €650 billion in mortgage loans on their books. Consumer debt amounts to about 250 percent of available income. By comparison, in 2011 even the Spaniards only reached a debt ratio of 125 percent.  The Netherlands is still one of the most competitive countries in the European Union, but now that the real estate bubble has burst, it threatens to take down the entire economy with it. Unemployment is on the rise, consumption is down and growth has come to a standstill. Read more of this post

Canadians Surpass Americans in Net Worth, But Will it Last?

April 18, 2013, 2:30 PM

Canadians Surpass Americans in Net Worth, But Will it Last?

By Don Curren

They’ve been known to get pretty excited when a new, big-name discount retailer comes to town, but thanks to a booming housing sector, Canadians are more affluent than their American neighbors.

At least for the moment, that is.

Canada’s net worth was at a healthy 648% of gross domestic product in the final quarter of 2012, according to a report from independent economic research firm Capital Economics, which has gained something of a profile for its bearish views on Canada’s economy, and particularly its housing market.

By contrast, U.S. net worth was a more modest 550% in the same period.

The catch is that Canadians’ wealth advantage is built mostly on the big run-up in housing prices in recent years, and that’s a very shaky foundation, at least from Capital Economics’ point of view. Read more of this post

ASEAN looking a bit like ’97

ASEAN looking a bit like ’97

APR 22, 2013

This is an abridged translation of an article from the April issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic scenes.

An economic upturn always has the potential for crisis. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appear to be blessed with an economic boom. But there is a feeling of deja vu as current circumstances closely resemble those on the eve of the Asian financial crisis, which started in July 1997. Read more of this post

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