Tuesday, March 22, 2016

IMF Says World at Risk of 'Economic Derailment’


Global Economy Faces Rising Risk of Economic Derailment - IMF

The International Monetary Fund – IMF has advised that the global economy tends to face a rising risk of economic derailment. David Lipton, Deputy Director has called for urgent steps to increase global demand. He had mentioned in his speech to the National Association for Business Economics in Washingtonrecently, that they are clearly at a delicate juncture. He warned that the IMF’s latest reading of the global economy indicates once again a weakening baseline.

His comments have come up after weaker than expected trade figures from China portrayed that the exports had plunged by a quarter from a year ago, in February. With the second largest economy of the world often stated as `the engine of global growth’, weaker global demand for its goods seems to be read as an indicator of the general global economic climate. IMF have already mentioned that it would be likely to downgrade the present forecast of 3.4% for global growth when it tend to release in April, the economic predictions. International lender had warned last month, that the world economy seemed to be highly susceptible and had called for new efforts to spur growth.

Downside Risks Clearly Pronounced

Ahead of last month’s Shanghai G20 meeting, in a report, the IMF had mentioned that the group need to plan a co-ordinated stimulus programme since the world growth had reduced and could be derailed by market turbulence, the oil price crash as well as geopolitical conflicts. In his speech in Washington, Mr Lipton had stated that the burden to lift growth falls more squarely on advanced economics which tend to have fiscal room to move.

He added that the `downside risks are clearly much more pronounced than earlier and the case for more forceful and concerted policy action has become more compelling. Moreover risks seemed to have increased further with volatile financial markets and low commodity prices creating fresh concern about the health of the global economy’. A swing of weak economic data had lately been added to these apprehensions and the US ratings agency Moody’s had downgraded its outlook for China from `stable’ to `negative’.

Time to Support Economic Activity

The rising unemployment is also another worry as Beijing tends to slowly shift its economy from over dependence on manufacturing and industry to more services and consumer spending. The economy of China seems to be growing at the slowest rate in 25 years which has resulted in considerable uncertainty in the financial markets all over the world leading to sharp falls in commodity prices.

Lipton has commented that `together with bank repair wherever needed and with adequate targeting on infrastructure, this approach could create jobs and probably reduce public debt-to-GDP ratios in the medium term by motivating nominal GDP as well as support credit and financial stability. On strengthening the global outlook, this coordinated action could hurry healing in the banking sector and prevent continent liabilities for the government which appear in case of inaction.

 Moreover it would also have considerable positive spill-overs to susceptible emerging economics comprising of commodity exporters which would be unable to participate in the fiscal expansion, directly. He added that at the recent G20 meetings in China, he thinks that `there was broad recognition of these risks and priorities and now is the time to support economic activity and put the global economy on a sounder footing’.

40 Banks Test Bitcoin Tech for Trading Bonds


Consortium of 40 Banks Test Using Blockchain

A consortium of 40 main banks comprising of Goldman Sachs and Barclays tested a way to trade fixed income assets by using the blockchain, which is a technology that tends to strengthens bitcoin in an attempt to emphasize how serious the biggest lenders in the world are regarding the technology.

R3 CEV, the financial technology firm that had brought the banks together last year to work on blockchain applications had made the announcement recently.Blockchain tends to work like a large decentralized ledger for the digital currency bitcoin, records each transaction and stores the information on a global network which cannot be tampered. But most of the experts agree that the technology does not seem close to mass adoption and is in the trial stage.

The technology could be applied to wide selection of uses and especially for financial firms; the most interesting parts would involve the clearing of trades. Experts state that the blockchain would enable a huge number of transaction settlements in a matter of minute or even in seconds together with it being very secure since each transaction tends to be recorded and is unable to be tampered. Presently some trades tend to take day in the settling process.

Smart Contract – Computer Code

Supporting this is the idea of `smart contracts, a computer code which would only perform when the terms of a contract are fulfilled. For instance, a trade may be carried out once the money from the buyer is received,all of which would be done automatically and there would not be any dispute since the same has been recorded in the blockchain.

A number of distributed ledger companies had worked with the banks for this test namely Chain, Eris Industries, Ethereum, IBM and Intel. The institutions had done an assessment of each smart contraction solution to trade fixed income of the company.

David Rutter, R3 CEO and a former executive at London based electronic brokerage ICAP had stated in a statement that `this development tends to support the belief of R3 that close collaboration among global financial institutions and technology providers will create significant momentum behind the adoption of distributed ledger solutions across the industry. R3’s website mentioned that its mission is `building and empowering the next generation of global financial services technology’.

Blockchain – Probable Disruptive Force in Finance

These technologies represent a new frontier of innovation and would dramatically improve the way the financial services industry operates, in the same way as the advent of electronic trading decades ago delivered huge advancement in efficiency, transparency, scalability and security’.Banks do not seem to be the only ones interested in technology. Nasdaq used the blockchain, last month to enable international resident of Estonia to vote in shareholder meeting while they were abroad and tested the blockchain for trading shares.

Bitcoin could have risen to more than 35% this year, though it is the fundamental technology behind the crypto currency which is moving the world’s main banks. Blockchain has been indicated as a probable disruptive force in finance by main institutions which tend to claim bitcoin as just the opening act in something bigger.

Friday, March 18, 2016

How Robots will Kill the 'Gig Economy

Gig Economy

Gig Economy – Cease to Exist in 20 Years

According to new report from venture backed start-up Thumbtack, an online marketplace which tends to help skilled workers locate customers, the so-called gig economy would cease to exist in 20 years. The study has forecast that logistic companies from start-ups like Uber right to tech giants like Amazon would be replacing drivers as well as delivery workers with autonomous vehicles and drones.

The study discovered that extremely skilled workers like lawyers and accountants would no longer be assured of jobs at big firms - will be the new gig economy workers. Jon Lieber, chief economist at Thumbtack and Lucas Puente, an economic analyst at the firm had mentioned in a report that `the gig economy known will not last.

 In the past few years, analysts and reports have obsessively focused on transportation technology platforms such as Uber and Lyft and delivery technology platforms like Instacart and the workers required for these on-demand services. The fine focus on low-skilled `gigs’ tends to miss a larger story. The rather commoditized, interchangeable services seem to supplement income, not generating middle class lifestyles. Besides, these jobs are probably going to be automated over a period of time and performed by self-driving cars and drones'.

Autonomous Driving Technology – Reduce Death/Transportation Affordable

Uber had been frank with regards to its plans in replacing drivers with robots over a period of time. An Uber spokesperson informed CNBC that `autonomous driving technology has the ability to drastically reduce deaths in cars, making transportation even more affordable. That it is an exciting future and one Uber plans to be part of, but that transition for technical, regulatory as well as adoption reasons, at scale, would take some time. The spokesperson stated that `in the meanwhile, the focus is providing flexible work opportunities for many people in the world as possible’.

According to Oxford academics Car Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, around half of U.S. jobs seem to be at high risk of computerization over the next 20 years. Their discoveries had been published in 2013 and are unchanged, but there are some limitations like resistance from stakeholders and relative wage levels which would determine if a job is in fact automated, according to Osborne.

Estimates on how many jobs robots will ultimately displace would vary widely. Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder mentioned in a report that `forecast of 16% of jobs would disappear owing to automation technologies between now and 2025.

Supervised by `Robo-Boss’ by 2018

However that jobs equivalent to 9% of present day’s jobs would be created. Physical robots need repair and maintenance professional, one of the several job categories which would grow around in a much automated world’. From the global point of view, over 3 million workers would be supervised by a `robo-boss’ toward 2018, as predicted late last year by research and advisory firm Gartner.

Osborne has stated that jobs which are least likely to be automated initially are those which need a high level of creativity or emotional intelligence. For instance, school teacher jobs seem to be comparatively safe due to the elevated level of social intelligence needed to teach as well as mentor children.

 The Oxford study found positions which seem mostly susceptible to automation comprise of telemarketers, watch repairer, tax preparers, insurance underwriters, cargo and freight agents and others. In each category, some jobs would be automated very soon. Osborne states that `this gig economy is being pursued via digital platform and is actually getting individuals to automate themselves out of a job by delivering data back to the platform which could be utilised in providing an automated substitute.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Asian Shares Slip, Though China Ekes Out Gain


Shares of China Eked Gains

Shares of China have eked out gains though most of the Asian markets have reviewed some of their latest rally, with traders assimilating weaker than expected trade data from the mainland. A market analyst at IG, Angus Nicholson had informed sources that plenty of the latest rally in stocks had been driven by major reversal or short covering in financials, materials as well as energy. However, he mentioned that momentum decreasing in the other sectors have now been falling in these sectors also.

The trade data of China that was released at about 10.30 a.m. SIN/HK time was also not positive for sentiments with the February exports dropping to 25.4% in terms of U.S. dollar, while imports fell by 13.8%, with the drops wider than anticipations. Since 2009, the decline in exports had been the largest on year drop according to Reuters.

 The Chinese markets ended higher with the Shanghai composite ending up 2.57, or 0.1% at 2,899.91 with the Shenzhen composite up 8.89 points or 0.51% at 1,750.56. Nicholson had noted that the foreign exchange reserves data of China, released overnight would probably have totally reassured markets around the prospect for further Yuan devaluation.

Official Data Released – Marked Fourth Straight Month of Decline

An official data released recently after the market close, portrayed foreign currency reserves on the mainland dropped to $3.2 trillion towards the end of February, declining from $3.23 trillion the earlier month, thus marking the fourth straight month of decline. However, the pace of outflows slackened substantially and the February figure was in line with analysts’ potentials portrayed in Reuter’s poll.Among other markets, benchmark of Japan, Nikkei 225 closed down 128.17 points or 0.76 percent at 16,783.15 extending Monday’s drop of 0.6%.

Reuters had reported revised government data, before the market opened, showing Japan’s economy had shrank at an annualized 1.1% in the final quarter of 2015 which was revised up from a initial reading of 1.4% contraction. Through the Korean Strait, the Kospi had closed down 11.75% or 0.60% at 1,946.12 while in Hong Kong; the Hang Seng index had closed down 148.14 points of 0.73% to 20,011.58.

Main Miners – Australia, Given up on Early Gains

The main miners in Australia had given up on early gains with Rio Tinto closing at 2.60% BHP Billiton less by 1.83% with iron ore producer Fortescue dropping 9.42% after surging almost 24% on Monday. Fortescue had announced before the market open that it had been in talks with Vale in order to work together to blend iron ore to meet up the demands of its consumers.

 According to the announcement there was a possibility of seeing the Brazilian miner take a 5-15% minority stake in Australian miner. On the other hand, Gold miners saw an uptick with the shares of Newscrest closing at 1.30% while Alacer Gold added 0.72%. HK/SIN time spot gold traded high at $1,269.57 for an ounce though below the Friday peak of $1,279.60, which was the highest since February 3, 2015 as of 3.13 p.m. U.S. gold for April delivery had gained overnight by 0.5% to $1,269.90 an ounce.

Suzuki Motor, Japanese automaker had closed at 3.76% after a report in the Nikkei stating that the company would issue 200 billion yen in zero-coupon convertible bonds, using most of the profits in spreading its setup in India.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Bitcoin Could Help Cut Power Bills


Accenture a multinational service and consultancy firm has created a smartplug which tends to leverages blockchain technology in seeking the lowest tariff possible thus saving money by reducing the electricity costs whenever it is possible. Research recommends that the technology behind the Bitcoin virtual currency could be helpful in reducing electricity bills.

A blockchain based smart plug has been created by technologist at Accenture which tends to adjust power consumption every minute. The blockchain is the automated ledger which tends to underpins Bitcoin, tracking where the coins are spent and swapped. The plug shops for various power suppliers and would sign up for a low-priced tariff it comes across one.

Accenture has mentioned that the smart plug can help people on low incomes who may pay directly for power. According to Emmanuel Viale, head of the Accenture team at the firm’s French research lab which tends to work on the plug, has commented that the smart plug tends to adapt the basic Bitcoin blockchain technology in making it more active.

 Rather than just resolving and confirming the records of transaction, Accenture work helps in changing the blockchain in permitting it to negotiate deals on behalf of its owner. Mr Viale has mentioned that `it is about how one puts more business behaviour or logic in the blockchain and that this essentially embeds a `smart contract’ in the digital ledger.

Searches for Energy Price When Demand is High/Low 

The smart plug model tends to work with the other gadgets in the house which monitors the power use. It tends to search for energy prices when the demand is high or low and then utilises the modified blockchain in order to switch suppliers if it finds a cheaper source.

Mr Viale had said that so far the Accenture system was just a proof of concept though it could help several people on lower incomes who seem to pay for their power through a meter. With the capability of shifting suppliers, it could save this group with over £660m in the UK annually,recommend Accenture research. Blockchain-based system which tends to act on behalf of its owner could also be useful as the Internet of Things becomes more universal according to Mr Viale.

He adds that handling of several various gadgets could be complicated without a much centralised system. A mobile services expert at analyst firm CCS Insight, Martin Garner stated that blockchains were beginning to crop up in various areas inclusive in share trading, fishing rights databases as well as land registry claims. He said that they had two main attractions for the Internet of Things.

Substantial Ventures in Exploring/Investing in Blockchain 

He further added that they avoid dependence on any particular supplier or ecosystem. Some users seem to have concerns regarding the possible dominance of key internet players developing for instance, the Google-of-Things or the Amazon-of-Things.

The second attraction is a means of enabling autonomous trading between things like the appliances in your home being set up to re-order supplies from a pre-approved list of suppliers. As the leading independent services firm in the world, Accenture has made substantial ventures in exploring as well as investing in blockchain or distributed ledger technology recently.

Moreover, the company also became one of the investors in blockchain-startup, Digital Asset in January. A new partnership following its investment with Digital Asset would also see blockchain solution together with ideas offered and organized to the global client base of the consulting firm. Accenture has been servicing 42 of the top 50 financial institutions worldwide, thus making its blockchain attempt, a substantial one to the Bitcoin technology.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pensions still the most effective savings option, says IFS


Pension – The Most Tax-Efficient Kind of Savings

Pensions still tends to be the most tax-efficient kind of savings, inspite of the tax changes, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – IFS. It seems to be the big winners since they are subject to various tax advantages. The pension contributions are taken out of untaxed income resulting in paying into a pension that actually lowers the income tax bill.

Moreover, the returns on your investments are not taxed though one tends to pay tax on withdrawals. Besides this one tends to take 25% of the pension as a lump sum without having to pay a penny in tax. According to IFS, `pension saving is in effect subsidised’.

 The IFS had made a comparison of saving in a pension with buying a house, putting funds in an Individual Saving Account –Isa, or investing in buy-to-let property. The foremost motive is that under the auto enrolment programme, employers tend to match employee contributions resulting in workers getting 60% increase to their pension, according to IFS. According to the report, since the employers seldom make equivalent offers matching employees’ contribution, for instance in an Isa or a house, it tends to make savings in a pension more attractive comparative to other assets.

Personal Savings Allowance – PSA

The research took into accountthe new Personal Savings Allowance – PSA as well as the changes to dividend taxation which will be effective in April and probable changes to pension taxation. The government had earlier mentioned that any such changes would motivate people in saving. When the PSA tends to become effective, basic rate taxpayer would not pay tax on the first £1,000 of their saving income while higher rate taxpayers would be getting an allowance of £500.

IFS have mentioned that due to this, the 16m people would stop paying any interest on their income savings and 95% of the people would no longer have their savings taxed. But the report has stated that the change would weaken the incentive for several people in saving in an Isa.

It stated that for most of the people, the ordinary bank account would in effect be tax-free just the same way as cash Isas and there would be little incentive in saving in a cash Isa. Moreover, the PSA would also mean an end to tax deduction at source on the saving accounts that would be of certain help to pensioners.

The research also observed that people desiring to invest in property would make a much better tax-efficient choice by investing in their own home instead of becoming buy-to-let landlords. The report further states that `investment in owner occupied housing is significantly more tax-advantaged than the investment in property to-let, prior to recently announced changed to the treatment of mortgage interest for landlords.

There have been plenty of talks regarding further changes to pension that would be announced in the next month’s Budget. The present thinking seems to be that the government would be setting a flat rate of around 30% and this would essentially represent a further increase to pension saving for basic rate taxpayers who tend to currently enjoy tax relief of 20% on their contribution.

 However, it will dip the appeal of pensions to higher rate as well as additional rate taxpayers who tend to enjoy tax relief of 40% and 45% presently.

The current thinking seems to be that the government will set a flat rate of somewhere around 30%. This will actually represent a further boost to pension saving for basic rate taxpayers, who currently enjoy tax relief of 20% on their contributions, but will dent the appeal of pensions to higher rate and additional rate taxpayers who enjoy tax relief of 40% and 45% at the moment.