GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks cheered by trade deal hopes but caution prevails

GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks cheered by trade deal hopes but caution prevailsAsian stocks jumped on Friday, lifted by White House comments that suggested the possibility of an imminent trade deal between Washington and Beijing, which revived hopes that their tariff war may be nearing an end. The buoyant mood looked set to extend to Europe, where pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures rose 0.57% to 3,705, German DAX futures climbed 0.53% to 13,253.5, and FTSE futures inched up 0.36% to 7,322. U.S. S&P 500 e-mini stock futures also rose, adding 0.35% to 3,107.8 after the S&P 500 index finished at a record closing high on Thursday.


Hong Kong's cash pool tightens as Alibaba primes for $13 billion listing

Hong Kong's cash pool tightens as Alibaba primes for $13 billion listingAlibaba Group's $13.4 billion Hong Kong listing is shrinking cash levels in the protest-wracked financial hub, with short-term borrowing costs shooting back towards a decade-high marked in July. Large IPOs and share sales typically hoover up cash in Hong Kong's relatively small banking system, albeit temporarily. "Timing wise, it's not good for the liquidity to get sucked out of the system as there's a bit of capital outflow happening due to the protests," said a Hong Kong-based senior banker at a European bank, who asked not to be identified.


China Injects Cash Into Banking System as Growth Slows

China Injects Cash Into Banking System as Growth Slows(Bloomberg) -- China’s central bank unexpectedly added liquidity to the banking system Friday to help lenders through the tax season, a move that analysts saw as a sign that larger-scale stimulus is unlikely in the near term.The People’s Bank of China offered 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) of one-year loans to banks Friday. It kept the interest rate unchanged at 3.25%, showing restraint in monetary policy after this week’s worse-than-expected economic data. Liquidity in the banking system is at a “reasonable, sufficient” level as the operation offsets companies’ need for funding to pay tax, the PBOC said in a statement.The central bank also released a further 40 billion yuan on the day, as a previously-announced reduction to banks’ reserve ratios came into effect, taking the total injection to 240 billion yuan. The authorities have refrained from adding cash via open-market operations for 15 straight days, citing ample liquidity.The moderate injection indicates the central bank remains committed to restraint in monetary easing, even with the economy slowing further in October on weak investment and demand. Policy makers this week loosened the capital requirements for investing in infrastructure projects, another incremental measure aimed at propping up output.Earlier this month, the PBOC reduced the cost of 1-year funds to banks for the first time since 2016, seeking to calm markets nervous amid a plunge in government bonds and a slowing economy.“It’s another operation of marginal easing, as the liquidity unleashed from the reserve ratio cut might not be enough to cover the funding demand during tax payments,” said Peiqian Liu, China economist at Natwest Markets Plc in Singapore.Liu also pointed to a pattern that the PBOC has tended to conduct medium-term lending operations around the middle of the month since July -- ahead of the announcement of the loan prime rate, the de facto benchmark interest rate for banks’ new loans. The mid-month operation could become “regular” in the future, as the PBOC uses it as a tool to push the loan prime rate lower, she said.The yield on China’s 10-year government bonds was little changed at 3.26%, while the Shanghai Composite Index was flat as of the mid-day break.What Bloomberg’s Economists Say“A slowdown in credit expansion may be another motivation for the PBOC’s operation -- the slump in aggregate social financing in October was far beyond the typical seasonal pullback. The PBOC may want to provide more longer-term funds to banks to help accelerate credit expansion.”\-- David Qu, Bloomberg EconomicsFor the full note click here“I don’t think the central bank wants to send any strong signal,” said Stephen Chiu, Asia FX and rates analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “They always have an eye on containing financial risks, so will be super cautious when doing easing.”(Update to add economist comments, background)\--With assistance from Tian Chen and Claire Che.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Heng Xie in Beijing at [email protected];Xize Kang in Beijing at [email protected];Wenjin Lv in Shanghai at [email protected];Yinan Zhao in Beijing at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Richard Frost at [email protected], Jeffrey Black, Sofia Horta e CostaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Qantas completes "double sunrise" test flight from London to Sydney

Qantas completes "double sunrise" test flight from London to SydneyQantas Airways Ltd completed a 19 hour 19 minute non-stop test flight from London to Sydney on Friday as it nears a decision on whether to order planes for what would be the world's longest-ever commercial route. "We saw a double sunrise," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said after stepping off the flight, which followed a similar one from New York to Sydney last month. The event included speeches from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder.


Cybersecurity expert Alex Stamos on what scares him most about the upcoming U.S. presidential election

Alex Stamos rose to fame as the former chief security officer for Yahoo and then Facebook. But today he’s the director of Stanford’s Internet Observatory, where he’s immersed in teaching and research safe tech — and understands better than most the threats that the U.S. is facing, particularly as we sail toward the next U.S. presidential election.

Last night, at a StrictlyVC event in San Francisco, he talked with New York Times cybersecurity correspondent Sheera Frenkel about a small number of these massively impactful issues, first by revisiting what happened during the 2016 president election, then catching up the audience on whether the country’s defenses have evolved since. (The short version: they haven’t. If there’s any good news at all, it’s that the federal and state governments are at least aware now there’s an issue, whereas they appeared largely blindsided by it the last time around.)

What worries Stamos most are “direct attacks on our election infrastructure” because there’s been so little to bolster it. In fact, a big theme of the interview was the growing inability of the public sector to protect Americans or U.S. democracy against actors who would do the country harm.

As it relates to election infrastructure specifically, Stamos used a hyperlocal example to underscore what the U.S. is dealing with right now. As he told Frenkel, “I live in San Mateo County. I’ve met the CIO of San Mateo County. Really nice guy. I’m sure he has a staff of very hard-working people. The idea that the CIO of San Mateo County has to stand up and protect himself against the [Russian military intelligence agency known as the] GRU or China’s Ministry of State Security or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or the Lazarus Group of North Korea . . . that’s frickin’ ridiculous. Like, we don’t ask the San Mateo County Sherriff’s department to get ready to repel an invasion by the People’s Liberation Army, but we ask for the cyber equivalent in the United States.”

Put into perspective, San Mateo County is one of about about 10,000 local governments in the United States that are involved in elections, said Stamos. “Nobody else in the world runs their elections this way.”

In fact, in nearly every conceivable way, “responsibilities that were once clearly public sector responsibilities are now private sector responsibilities,” he told Frenkel during a later part of their discussion. He would know, having seen it first-hand.

“When I was the chief security officer at Facebook,” he told the audience, “I had a child safety team. We probably put more bad guys away than almost any law enforcement agency outside of the FBI or [Homeland Security Investigations unit] in the child safety realm. Like, there’s no local police department in the United States that put away more child predators than the Facebook child safety team. That is a crazy stat.

Facebook also has a counter terrorism team — which not everyone realizes — and which has become in many ways the country’s first responder, he suggested. Indeed, Stamos said that “there are several terrorist attacks that you’ve never heard of because they didn’t happen because we caught them. Now, there’s some local law enforcement agency took credit for it, but it was actually our team that found it and turned it over to them with a bow on it.”

Americans might shrug off this continuing shift in who is tackling what, but they do it at their peril, suggested Stamos — who managed to keep the crowd laughing, even as he painted a bleak picture. As he noted, the big tech “companies are exercising this power without any kind of democratic oversight.” Consider, he said, that “[Facebook’s] authorization is the terms of service that people click through and never read when they join Facebook or Instagram. That’s a bizarre set of rules to be bound by when you have such incredible power.”

Another huge blind spot, said Stamos, is the apparently inability — as well as the collective lack of determination required — of the public and the increasingly powerful private sector to coordinate their work.  Here, he offered another broad example to make it accessible. “Say you had an organized group in the United States that’s running a bunch of Facebook ads, but their money is coming from bitcoin from St. Petersburg,” said Stamos. “That is completely invisible to Facebook. That is perhaps visible to FBI . . .but they don’t have access to that actual content [on FB]. And figuring out a way for these two groups to work with each other without massively violating the privacy of everybody on the platform turns out to be super hard.”

Yet it’s worse than even that sounds, he continued. The reason: there’s no decision-tree in part because the issue has grown so unmanageable that no one wants to own what goes awry. “There’s effectively nobody in charge of this right now, which is one of the scariest things we’re facing as a country. Almost nobody is in defense of cyber, and certainly nobody is in charge of the big picture, [meaning] how do we defend against election [interference] both from a cybersecurity perspective and a disinformation perspective.”

Stamos even referred to “pockets of people in the U.S. government who are effectively hiding from the White House and trying very, very hard” to escape its attention. He referred to “one of the last semi-confirmed people in the Department of Homeland Security” who was “hiding in Los Angeles” when Stamos happened to reach him by text. Stamos said this person jokingly wrote back that he hoped it wasn’t the White House that had discovered his whereabouts.

Of course, all kidding aside, with no one at the helm and “no real cross-agency process, there’s really nobody in charge,” said Stamos.

That means the “tech companies are effectively the coordinating body for this. And that’s actually really screwed up.”

VoltServer adds a data layer to electricity distribution in a move that could help smart grid rollout

Stephen Eaves, the chief executive of a new startup which promises to overlay data on electricity distribution has spent years developing data management technologies.

Eaves’ first company, the eponymous Eaves Devices focused on energy systems in aerospace and defense — they converted the military’s fleet of B2 bombers to use lithium ion batteries.

The second company he was involved in was developing modular array devices to install in central offices and cell towers and conducted early work on electric vehicle development.

His goal, Eaves says, was to “make electricity inherently safe”.

VoltServer is the latest company from Eaves to pursue that goal. Eaves makes transmission safer by breaking electrical distribution into packets and those packets are sent down transmission lines to ensure that are not faults. If there’s a break in the line, the equipment stops transmitting energy.

“We take either AC or DC electricity into a transmitter and the transmitter breaks the electricity into packets and the receiver takes the packets and puts them back together and distributes it as regular AC/DC current,” Eaves explains.

The architecture is akin to a router. There’s digital signal processing in the transmitter powered by a semiconductor that’s a gateway for the electricity. “It’s like the devices you find in solar power converters,” says Eaves.

Already roughly 700 stadiums, large offices, and indoor grow facilities have deployed the company’s technology. And the traction was enough to attract the attention of Alphabet subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, which led a recent $7.4 million financing into the company. To date, the company has raised $18 million from a clutch of investors including: Marker Hill Capital, Slater Technology Fund, Natural Resources Capital Management, Clean Energy Venture Group, Angel Street Capital and Coniston Capital.  

“We’re kind of a combined hardware and software company,” says Eaves. “[Customers] buy the boxes and the company has third parties that install it.. There are software applications to track energy usage to assign processes for what to do in an outage.”

Typical installations can be anywhere from $30,000 to $1 million and the company is targeting three core markets — intelligent building infrastructure, communications, and indoor agriculture, according to Eaves. In fact, the company’s largest installation is a lettuce farm in Florida. “You’re in a very constrained environment and you want a very safe transmission technology. And we’ve developed a lighting product. It removes a lot of the conversion electronics that would normally be in the growth space,” says Eaves.

The technology certainly slashes the cost for power transmission in a stadium. Traditional power transmission can cost roughly $36 per linear foot, while VoltServer can cut that cost to less than $10 per foot, according to the company.

VoltServer isn’t the only startup that’s looking to add data controls to electricity distribution. Companies like Blueprint PowerBlue Pillar, and monitoring companies like Enertiv and Aquicore are all looking at ways to monitor and manage distribution. At the grid scale, there’s Camus Energy which looks to provide energy “orchestration” services.

“Electricity powers our world, but the fundamental danger inherent in AC or DC electricity makes today’s electrical systems expensive to install or change,” said Sidewalk Labs chairman and chief executive, Dan Doctoroff in a statement. “[This technology] is a breakthrough, offering a less expensive, safer and more efficient way to distribute electricity that can make buildings more affordable and flexible.  Over time, that can make cities more affordable, sustainable, and adaptable as our needs change.”

For some investors in the energy sector, these kinds of distribution and transmission technologies are a critical component of the next generation of grid technologies needed to bring the world closer to 100% renewable transmission.

“What is relevant is internet-connected, controllable energy assets that you can control from some centralized dispatch,” says one investor active in energy investing. 

UPDATE 1-Alibaba praises Hong Kong at start of retail campaign for $13 bln listing

UPDATE 1-Alibaba praises Hong Kong at start of retail campaign for $13 bln listingAlibaba Group Chairman Daniel Zhang said Hong Kong's "future is bright" as the ecommerce giant kicked off the retail campaign for its secondary listing in the city gripped by increasingly violent protests and recession. In a first for the Asian financial hub, Alibaba said the listing would be fully automated and paperless to reflect its environmental standards, confirming an earlier Reuters story.


AWS confirms reports it will challenge JEDI contract award to Microsoft

Surely just about everyone was surprised when the Department of Defense named Microsoft as the winner of the decade long, $10 billion JEDI cloud contract last month, none more so than Amazon, the company everyone assumed all along would be the winner. Today the company confirmed earlier reports that it was challenging the contract award in the Court of Federal Claims.

The Federal Times broke this story.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson suggested that there was possible bias and issues in the selection process. “AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts. We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence.

“Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified,” an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch.

It’s certainly worth noting that the president has not hidden his disdain for Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, who also is owner of the Washington Post newspaper. As I wrote in Even after Microsoft wins, JEDI saga could drag on:

Amazon, for instance, could point to Jim Mattis’ book where he wrote that the president told the then Defense Secretary to “screw Bezos out of that $10 billion contract.” Mattis says he refused, saying he would go by the book, but it certainly leaves the door open to a conflict question.

Oracle also filed a number of protests throughout the process including one with the Government Accountability Office that was later rejected. It also went to court and the case was dismissed. All of the protests claimed that the process favored Amazon. The end result proved it didn’t.

The president interjected himself in the decision process in August, asking the Defense secretary, Mark T. Esper to investigate once again if the procurement process somehow favored Amazon, and the week the contract was awarded, the White House canceled its subscription to the Washington Post.

In October, the decision finally came and the DOD chose Microsoft . Now Amazon is filing a challenge in federal Court, and the JEDI saga really ain’t over until it’s over.

 

Homeis adds community tools for Mexican immigrants

Homeis, a startup building networking tools for immigrant communities, officially launched its community for Mexican immigrants this week.

Co-founder and CEO Ran Harnevo (pictured above) previously founded video syndication company 5min, which was acquired by AOL, where he served as the global president of the company’s video division. (AOL also bought TechCrunch and then was acquired, in turn, by Verizon.)

The company’s goal is to create networks that are focused on the needs of specific immigrant communities — starting with Israeli, French and Indian Communities — helping them find things like new friends and job opportunities.

In the launch announcement, the startup says that its Mexican community will “address specific pain points for Mexican immigrants,” for example by helping them find trusted immigration lawyers.

And if building tools for immigrants seems like a political act in 2019, that’s something Harnevo (an Israeli immigrant himself) seems to be embracing.

“It’s our personal mission to empower immigrants, and that has never been more critical,” he said in a statement. “The increased tension and hostility towards immigration has made it clear that tech companies must step up. With the launch of our Mexican community, we are able to share our technology and resources with the largest immigrant community in the U.S. As immigrants ourselves, that means a lot to us.”

Homeis raised a $12 million Series A led by Canaan Partners and Spark Capital earlier this year.

Microsoft announces its xCloud streaming service and a truckload of new games are coming in 2020

Microsoft has announced a vague intention to launch its xCloud game streaming service sometime in 2020, and dropped a double handful of new titles that will arrive on it and the existing Game Pass subscription. It seems that next year will indeed be the opening battle in the streaming wars to come.

The announcements came at XO19, the company’s Xbox-focused event, which is taking place in London. They seem calculated to take the wind out of Google’s sails; the opening lineup of Stadia, Google’s entry in the game streaming world, was finalized earlier this week and is rather barebones. Microsoft is hoping Google’s first-mover advantage will be nullified by the expected confusion around payments, features, titles, and other issues Stadia is still working out.

Game Pass is currently in a preview period on PC. Although Microsoft did not supply a hard release date, saying only that 2020 is the plan. That year will also bring Windows 10 support, PC game streaming, and potentially an expansion beyond Android for mobile streaming.

The price too is TBA — Google’s proposition is remarkably complicated, and it will take time for consumers to figure out what they’re willing to pay for, what the real costs are, and so on. So Microsoft is probably going to wait and see here.

But what is known about xCloud is that gamers will get access to all the games currently available on Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription — well over a hundred PC and console titles right now, with more being added regularly. That makes it easier to commit to for a lot of gamers.

New controllers will be supported soon, including Sony’s DualShock 4, which comes with the PlayStation 4; that’s a real olive branch to Microsoft’s arch-rival. And new countries will be brought into the fold soon as well: Canada, India, Japan, and “Western Europe.”

Game Pass will also be receiving dozens of titles old and new throughout 2020, including Final Fantasy 7 through 15, Darksiders 3, Flight Simulator, and a bunch of newly announced games as well, such as Obsidian’s new “Honey, I Shrunk the Survival Game” title, “Grounded.”

Several brand new properties and gameplay for known but unreleased games were also teased at XO19. Check them out below:

Everwild is a new IP from Rare that appears to involve a lot of sneaking around a lush forest and either avoiding or interacting with fantastical animals. It’s still early days, but the team wants to create “new ways to play in a natural and magical world.” I’m just here for the solar-powered dino-deer.

Tell Me Why is a new one from Dontnod, makers of Life is Strange starring a pair of twins with some kind of paranormal connection. Notably one of the twins is transgender, not common among game protagonists, and the company worked with GLAAD to make sure the representation of the character is genuine.

Age of Empires 4 got an only slightly satisfying gameplay reveal. Real-time strategy buffs will want more than this, but no doubt they’re excited to see this venerable franchise getting a modern sequel.

You can catch up on the rest over at the Xbox official blog post.