The Global Rally Has Completely Collapsed

Charts

Global stock markets and emerging market currencies have gone from gains to losses in the span of the morning.

Efforts by emerging market central banks to stem the bleeding have already failed, as traders have faced rate hikes in Turkey and South Africa.

S&P 500 futures are down nearly 1.0% heading into the start of North American trading. The U.S. dollar-Japanese yen exchange rate is also falling sharply, indicative of fears over global liquidity.

Meanwhile, 10-year U.S. Treasury futures are rallying, currently up 0.3%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is 2.71%, down 4 basis points from yesterday’s close, and gold futures are up 1.3%, trading at $1,267 an ounce.

The charts below show the action in various markets. Across the top from left to right are S&P 500 futures, the dollar-yen exchange rate, and the euro-dollar exchange rate. Across the bottom from left to right are gold futures, 10-year U.S. Treasury futures, and June 2016 eurodollar futures.

Last night, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey announced massive rate hikes at the conclusion of an emergency meeting to shore up the Turkish lira, which has been plummeting to new all-time lows over the past several trading sessions. The lira surged on the announcement, but has since given up all of its gains and then some.

U.S. Treasury and S&P 500 futures have been correlated with the dollar-lira exchange rate since the CBRT announcement. When the lira goes down, it seems that S&P 500 futures are going down and Treasury futures are going up.

The lira took a big hit at 8:20 a.m. ET this morning, when the South Africa Reserve Bank unexpectedly announced that it would hike interest rates as well.

“The question is why the response to these moves is so aggressive and so negative,” says Steven Englander, global head of G-10 FX strategy at Citi.

“It is possible that investors fear that the EM central banks have fired their last shot, and will be unable to follow through with more tightening, or that their economies/politics are too weak to support rate hikes.”

Emerging markets have been suffering portfolio outflows since the Federal Reserve floated the idea of winding down its quantitative easing program last summer, and the pain has intensified since it actually began the tapering process in December.

The big event today is the announcement of the Fed’s latest monetary policy decision at 2 p.m. ET. Economists expect the Fed to move forward with another $10 billion reduction in the monthly bond purchases, despite recent weakness in emerging markets.

Furthermore, some expect the Fed to modify its forward guidance on the likely future path of short-term interest rates.

“What is in play at today’s FOMC is the forward guidance language and reference to EM tensions,” says Englander.

“With respect to domestic economic conditions and monetary policy, the market is now focused both on whether the first policy hike will be sooner than indicated and whether the subsequent hikes will be quicker. Today there is no particular need to change the language. The FOMC may be mindful of the concentration of market risk on the side of sooner and faster, and away from its baseline. If it changes the language it would probably to emphasize how shallow the upward path of rates will be.”

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China, Japan and America – Face-off

China, Japan and America – Face-off

THE announcement by a Chinese military spokesman on November 23rd sounded bureaucratic: any aircraft flying through the newly designated Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea must notify Chinese authorities in advance and follow instructions from its air-traffic controllers. America’s response was rapid. On November 26th Barack Obama sent two B-52 bombers to fly through the new zone without notifying China (see article). This face-off marks the most worrying strategic escalation between the two countries since 1996, when China’s then president, Jiang Zemin, ordered a number of exclusion zones for missile tests in the Taiwan Strait, leading America to send two aircraft-carriers there.

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Site lets Swedes snoop on friends’ criminal past

A new Swedish website that lets people check out their neighbours’ criminal records has privacy experts up in arms, warning the site could breach the country’s privacy and slander laws.

The new Lexbase.se service allows people in Sweden to look up a friend’s, colleague’s or neighbour’s criminal record, and to get an overview of their neighbourhood, with red dots signaling the presence of convicted criminals on a map.

The service has defended its new product as an extension of Sweden’s right to public information law, but critics said on Monday that it may breach not only privacy laws, but also legislation on slander.

“I think the business idea is dead in the water,” law professor Mårten Schultz told the TT news agency. “It sounds like it contravenes the personal information law and will be taken down.”

Lexbase.se spokesman, lawyer Pontus Ljunggren, said the service was in line with the times and suits Swedes’ desire for information. He argued that the website could help women on the dating scene, as they might want to know if their prospective date had any previous convicts for rape or assault.

“The underlying idea with the right to information act (Offentlighetsprincipen) is that transparency is a good thing. We are just making it more modern,” he told TT.

Ljunggren added that the company could not take responsibility for how information on site was used.

“It can, just like anything else, be abused. But we can’t take responsibility for what people do. They can get the same information from their local district court,” Ljungman said.

On Monday, the site was temporarily offline due to a flood of traffic.

Lawyer Johan Åberg, who specializes in libel and slander cases, said how people use the information from Lexbase was relevant.

“If my neighbour has five convictions and I download the verdicts and then canvas the neighbourhood to tell people, I could be guilty of slander,” Åberg told TT.

The issues of privacy and right to information are not new in Sweden. In 2009, authorities moved to close down a website where parents swapped information about convicted rapists and sex offenders, in particular crimes involving minors.

“We consider the publication to be a serious breach of privacy laws. That is why we are now reporting the site to the police,” said Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen) head Göran Gräslund said at the time.

Legal experts have outlined fear that the spread of such information could spark vigilante or mob justice.

“In a democracy it is of great interest that the state retains a monopoly on the administration of justice and that there is not some form of private punishment,” said retired state prosecutor Sven-Erik Alheim to Crime News.

Schultz, meanwhile, said that services such as Lexbase illustrated the ease of spreading information.
“There have been discussions all the way up to the European level about the fact that the internet makes it so cheap to store this kind of data,” he told TT. “The right to information law was not meant to work this way.”

How Cryptocurrency, Crowdfunding And A Little Internet Altruism Saved Jamaica’s Hopes For Bobsled Gold

Just in case you missed it, a heart-warming story unfolded this week involving an unlikely combination of bobsled, Jamaica, virtual currency, crowdfunding and generosity. It has all the makings of an inspiring Disney movie — er, an inspiring Disney sequel. Last Sunday, news began trickling out that a two-man bobsled team from the island nation of Jamaica had qualified for the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The country’s official Twitter account for the 2014 games announced the news that the team had qualified, including an image that appeared to be a reference to Cool Runnings, the John Candy-led cult film that loosely chronicled Jamaica’s debut in bobsled for the 1988 Olympic Games in Alberta, Canada.

The world apparently loves a sequel. In a plot twist seemingly right out of Cool Runnings, despite qualifying for the 2014 Olympics, team captain Winston Watts told the New York Times that the team hadn’t been able to raise the necessary funds to make it to Russia. Watts said that he had essentially been self-funding the team’s efforts thus far, and had even dug into his personal savings to fly the team to the U.S. for the bobsledding qualifiers. Nevertheless, after finding little help from the Jamaican Olympic Association or private investors, the team was forced to turn elsewhere.

In the world of bobsled, and perhaps sports in general, there has never been a more quintessential underdog story. First of all, the Jamaican bobsled team is from, well, Jamaica. Second, the team is competing against teams with significant some financial backing (and actually hail from more arctic climes). Not only that, Winston Watts came out of retirement to lead the 2014 bobsled team, and if the team were to compete in Sochi, Watts would be second-oldest bobsled pilot in Olympic history at age 46.

Luckily, the citizens of the Internet are sympathetic to an underdog story and were not about to let the team sit this one out due to lack of funding. And that’s when Jamaican bobsledding had its first introduction to the altruistic power of both virtual currency and digital crowdfunding proponents alike. Fittingly, it was a joke currency — or a virtual currency inspired by a dog meme — that came to the rescue. Yes, the very peer-to-peer cryptocurrency loved by Lassie, the world’s pooches and geeks alike, and the very currency that began as a joke but has since been hailed as a potential successor to Bitcoin: The noble, Dogecoin.

In a movement that began on Reddit, the Dogecoin Foundation seized the opportunity to promote its virtual currency on the world stage and help send the Jamaican bobsled team to Sochi. Over a matter of days, the Dogecoin community raised over 27 million Dogecoins, the equivalent of $30,000 for those without a canine cryptocurrency analyst on hand.

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That, in and of itself, is something to behold, but the Internet wasn’t done yet. Just as the Dogecoin campaign began to hit full steam, word of the Jamaican bobsled team’s plight got to the founders of Y Combinator-incubated, group-funding platform,Crowdtilt. A Jamaican bobsled fan launched a campaign on Crowdtilt to pool funds for the team from sympathetic fans and, before long, the startup got wind of the campaign, as did the team’s president, Chris Stokes, and founding member of the original “Cool Runnings” team, Devon Harris.

The team made the Crowdtilt effort its “official fundraising campaign,” and the Crowdtilt founders worked with the Dogecoin Foundation to convert the $30K raised in Dogecoin (from 1,600 Dogecoin supporters) into Bitcoin and then combine it with the money raised on Crowdtilt.

As one might expect, the campaign quickly surpassed its goal and then some. After three days live, the campaign raised just under $130K ($129,587, to be precise) — more than 12 times the campaign’s goal — including the contribution from the Dogecoin community.

Crowdtilt co-founder James Beshara tells us that it was one of the fastest campaigns to reach its goal in the platform’s history and there were points when as much as $3,000 was donated in 60 seconds. The average donation was $34.60, with nearly 3,000 individuals contributing to the campaign from 50 states and 52 countries.

Because of the outpouring of support, the Jamaican bobsled team will now be able to make its flight to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. In a message posted to Crowdtilt, Devon Harris said that the money raised will be used to “cover training expenses (food, board, traveling, track fees, etc), and equipment purchases as the team completes its final preparation for the Games … And funds will also be earmarked to ship the sled and related equipment to Russia.”

This is the kind of stuff that makes one proud to live in a world where generous people from all over the world can leverage digital currency and crowdfunding — and technology in general — to help those in need. It’s just one example of millions of underdog stories out there deserving of our time and consideration, and hopefully it becomes an example to a whole new generation of the tools we now have at our disposal — and how they can be used to benefit the greater good. Or at least give bobsled a story that’s worth following …

Either way, we look forward to seeing Cool Runnings 2 come to theaters near us in 2015. After all, it’s clearly the follow-up to The Social Network that we’ve been waiting for.

Blocking doesn’t work: Dutch court lifts Pirate Bay ban

Dutch anti-piracy group that brought the case has one appeal left.

The Dutch Court of Appeals in The Hague has now confirmed (Google Translate) what the Internet has long known: blocking The Pirate Bay is ineffective. The court ruled Tuesday that the Pirate Bay block at Dutch ISPs XS4ALL and Ziggo must be lifted immediately.

The case against The Pirate Bay had initially been brought back in 2009 by BREIN, a Dutch intellectual property rights group.

“[The decision] is good for Dutch citizens, good for the Internet, and good for ISPs who can keep fulfilling their role neutrally,” XS4ALL spokesperson Niels Huijbregts said in a statement, as translated by PCWorld.

The ruling was informed by academic studies from Dutch research group TNO, Tilburg University, and the University of Amsterdam. The Tilburg and Amsterdam study, from August 2013, examined self-reported survey data from over 2,000 Netherlands-based Internet users showing that only a tiny amount have changed their ways as a result of the official ban.

“Overall, between 4 to 6 percent of all consumers have decreased their downloading as a result of the blocking, whereas for 94 to 96 percent of the population the blocking has had no effect on their behavior,” the researchers wrote.

In short, those who were downloading illegally before have likely either found legal alternatives, are downloading through other channels (cyberlockers and the like), or have figured out how to use a VPN or another tool to circumvent the ban.

BREIN said in a statement that it is considering whether it will file its final appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court.

“The verdict of the court is negative for the development of the legal online market because it needs protection against illegal competition,” BREIN Director Tim Kuik said in the statement. “The purpose of the blocking of The Pirate Bay of course is to decrease the infringements via The Pirate Bay. It is contradictory that the court finds that this goal indeed is achieved but then still rejects the blocking because users can go to other sites.”

The FBI is using captured TorMail emails in criminal investigations

On Aug. 2, 2013, the FBI hit the Deep Web with a sledge hammer. Now, thanks to recent court filings, it’s clear that the pain won’t be over any time soon.

In August, the bureau arrested the Irishman Eric Eoin Marques and shut down Freedom Hosting, an anonymous hosting service responsible for a unknowably large portion of the hidden services on the Tor network. Criminal enterprises dropped quickly, including hacker bazaars and the world’s biggest child pornography websites.

In the chaos of all those websites falling, so too did the Internet’s most trusted anonymous email service: TorMail.

TorMail, which was hosted in France, was used by a wide variety of people, including some of Silk Road’s most successful drug dealers, journalists and activists with an interest in anonymity, and average users with a healthy distrust of services like Gmail.

Now all of those emails are being read by the FBI and used in unrelated investigations, Wired reports.

The bureau has been using TorMail since the bust, court filings show. A Florida man busted for allegedly selling counterfeit credit cards was using “platpus@tormail.net” to take orders for the cards. The FBI obtained a warrant to search the TorMail databases, which the agency already owned due to the August bust.

This revelation comes at an interesting time for Silk Road 2.0, a new version of the black market trying to build itself into a worthy successor in 2014. After two top administrators were arrested last month based on information reportedly obtained from Ross Ulbricht, the site’s alleged original owner, the community surrounding Silk Road hoped that all ties had finally been cut from the original market.

Instead, it’s clear that the FBI has in its possession a vast trove of emails that includes thousands of emails from some of Silk Road’s biggest vendors and customers. There’s no doubt that sensitive data, such as names and addresses, is spelled out in unencrypted messages.

Silk Road was infamous for becoming the first Deep Web service to hit the mainstream, attracting users who ranged from tech literate to ignorant. Many users, including some of the biggest money on the site, believed so strongly in Silk Road’s immunity that they didn’t bother learning about and using encryption tools, like Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), that would render TorMail’s messages unreadable to the FBI.

It’s been six months since the Freedom Hosting bust, but for Silk Road users—and thousands of TorMail’s clientele—it’s starting to look like the busts of 2013 were only the beginning.”

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