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GLOBAL ECONOMIC WEEKLY - August 30, 2016

Global markets spent the whole of last week waiting for Fed Chairman Yellen to speak at this year’s meeting of the

Kansas City Fed’s Jackson Hole Symposium, which began on Friday morning and continued through Saturday.

The main focus had been on when (or whether) the Fed would restart its interest rate ‘normalisation’ programme. Based

on hints from other senior Fed figures, the odds on an increase perhaps as early as September had increased – though,

ahead of Yellen’s speech, the majority opinion was still that the Fed would not tighten before December (at the earliest).

It is worth noting that, although the focus was on Yellen (who didn’t speak last year), Jackson Hole is more than just an

opportunity for the Chairman to pontificate. Although it is no longer open to bankers (or Wall St economists) as such,

there are always quite a few academics at the meeting, as well as central bankers from other countries. And their

concern this year was to widen the discussion to cover:

- whether a single focus on inflation is appropriate for central banks today;

- whether (if the answer is Yes) the inflation target should be raised from 2% to 3% (or even

- what is likely to turn out to be the “equilibrium” funds rate.

 

More fundamentally, several of the academics wanted to broaden the discussion to ask what central banks are for. The

old consensus that they should concentrate on inflation is finally being challenged - though, for them moment, central

bankers themselves are resistant.

The meeting was also a chance for Yellen to boost her own slightly battered authority. A recent poll showed that only

38% of Wall St economists had confidence in her – down from 70% in the case of Alan Greenspan (though that

confidence was clearly misplaced).

So, what did she say?

Most of her speech was a defence of the Fed’s recent actions, but the general tone was surprisingly bullish. In her

opinion, the case for an interest rate increase has strengthened sharply in recent months, the economy is now putting in

a “solid performance”, and the US is close to reaching full employment. Indeed, she said, 2% inflation is well within

range – especially as the fall in oil prices washes out of the data. As a result, markets are being forced to focus even more

intently on a September or December increase in the funds rate.

The initial impact of the speech was a sharp increase in the dollar and in US equities, though the dollar subsequently lost

some of its gains (though it closed solidly up for the day)...

 

Read more of the article here.

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Insights from industry breaking disruptors

Century old industries are being turned on their head as disruptive organisations find new and innovative ways to operate and succeed in our new digital-driven world.

In a roundtable discussion at a recent ANZ event, Quartz Asia Correspondent Heather Timmons, Tesla Motors Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Regional Director Isabel Fan and Palantir Technologies Business Development Manager Samhita Jayanti sat down to discuss the issue.

Each from businesses which have changed the sector they are in, they began by talking about the role their disruptive organisations have played.

Timmons: The journalism industry has gone through the most-incredible upheaval thanks to technology over the past 20 years. When I started as a journalist there was no internet.

I tell that to my millennial colleagues and they look at me and say “Oh my god, how old are you?”  But when I had to do reporting about a bank for instance and I needed some numbers from two years ago, I’d go through a pile of annual reports.

The internet has changed how we get out information in journalism and has made it a whole lot faster and easier for us. But at the same time it did that, something funny happened.

Everyone started websites, and every journalism outlet started putting the information they used to charge hundreds of dollars for on a website for free. There are still people in the industry saying “wow, how did we mess that up so badly?”

Things have changed so radically. I left the New York Times to join an organisation,Quartz, which was just starting, which has always been a digital publication, because that’s where I saw the future of the industry.

Jayanti: Palantir was really founded with one foundational idea at its heart, which was to liberate data within an organisation. The only way that could be done effectively was with a combination of humans and a powerful piece of software. 

So the fundamental insight was: computers on their own are not good at solving problems with big data, and neither are people on their own. But the combination of the two together is “one plus one equals three”.

Fan: Tesla is a technology company which just happens to make cars. Founder Elon Musk’s mission is to support the shift toward simple transport and simple energy by making great cars.

We have a very ambitious goal of producing one million cars by 2020. In Hong Kong in particular we have one million cars on the road today. Of those, five per cent are electric vehicles.

Musk sold Paypal and put every penny into Tesla to do one thing: to prove EVs are no longer a golf cart. It can be a great car and you don’t have to compromise your lifestyle to drive one.

Timmons: I think a lot of us are trying to figure out how to digitise and transform our companies. I can share an idea I know that doesn’t work:  hiring someone to be head of digital, leaving them in a corner and giving them no support. Don’t do that.

If you have people inside your organisation loudly complaining about wanting to do things the old way, but they are valuable and respected employees, you have to win them over. When you do they take other sceptics with them.

Jayanti: A very fashionable thing nowadays is for large companies to come through Silicon Valley on innovation tours. They visit a number of tech companies, some large and some small, but they all ask the same question: how can they replicate the Valley’s culture of innovation and disruption?

I think a culture of innovation is very hard and takes a long time to incorporate into the DNA of a company. It must begin with the business leaders responsible for the profits and loss of that company. It’s only then that innovation is put into practice quickly and effectively.

It only works when teams are actively empowered to disrupt the existing methodology and are effectively paid to take risk. When teams have the confidence they can fail and know there won’t be a cost to failure.

Fan: Cultural innovation is very critical for business development. For Tesla, we are still a startup, even though we are 13 years old. With all these entrenched competitors, we need to do not only a little better, but a lot better. 

To do so, we look for the best talent available and provide them with the environment where we can retain them. At the same time, we expect innovation from day one.

Jayanti: The world over every year or so there’s a soul search about how one can foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Valley is a very unique ecosystem where there’s some degree of collaboration between government and the private sector on innovative technologies or methods. Not only is it fostered, but it’s encouraged and supported, and in some cases even happening within the government.

Read more here.

Credit: ANZ Blue Notes

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GLOBAL ECONOMIC WEEKLY - July 11

Although the global commentariat still hasn’t recovered from the shock of our own referendum, which is being blamed for

everything from sterling’s weakness to a Swedish housing bubble, it is by no means the only problem that the global

economy is having to cope with. True, even I would admit that it isn’t making anything easier, but the really important

issues are probably:

- the continuing (and unprecedented) fall in official interest rates, with JGB yields now negative out to 20 years

and a total of around US $11.7 trillion of sovereign debt now yielding less than zero;

- the problems this is causing for banks, with a great deal of concern now focussed on Italy, where the

government’s attempt to bail out the banks (Monte Paschi, in particular) is meeting fierce resistance from the

Bundesbank;

- China’s foreign exchange policy, with the renminbi falling again, and suggestions that capital flight may be

picking up;

- IMF MD Lagarde’s latest warnings about protectionism – and what she called the ‘anti-trade’ policies being

espoused by the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump (though, to be fair, Hillary

Clinton has been almost as anti-trade as The Donald); and

- a potential slowdown in the US – though Friday’s unexpectedly strong payrolls data for June may provide

some relief in this area at least (it may also change the market’s assumptions about US interest rates).

 

Together with ‘Brexit’, these constitute a fairly toxic mix for global policymakers to handle.

 

‘Brexit’ (cont.): I am a bit reluctant to bang on about this, but (having listened to the Sunday talk shows) there is clearly a

limitless appetite for Euromasochism. So, here goes.

 

First of all, it is not clear yet (at least, to me) that ‘Brexit’ will indeed happen – regardless of the outcome of the

referendum.

I acknowledge that (given what most politicians are saying) this seems counter-intuitive - or even anti-democratic. But

there are many commentators within the Westminster bubble (and several newspapers, including the FT and the Evening

Standard) who argue either for a second referendum (on the grounds that those who voted to Leave the EU did not

appreciate the consequences) or for Parliament to overrule the vote (on the grounds that it was only “advisory”).

Mishcon de Reya is being funded by a shadowy group of businessmen to make the latter case, and I note this morning

that “over one thousand” barristers have sent a letter to Downing Street supporting this view. There are also those

(perhaps including Boris Johnson) who still feel that the best outcome would be a “semi-detached” status for the UK that

would fall some way short of total separation.

We shall see. So far, neither of the two remaining candidates to succeed Cameron (the Home Secretary, Theresa May,

and, more surprisingly, the Energy Secretary, Andrea Leadsom) has said anything to suggest that she would try to

overturn the decision to Leave. But May, in particular, campaigned for the Remain side – and she is the strong favourite.

I share the view that Leadsom’s candidacy is a bit of a mystery. She was virtually unknown prior to the referendum

campaign (in which she played a rather minor role), was never considered a rising star in Westminster, and massively

bigged up the jobs she had in the City before she decided to go into politics. On top of that, her views on social issues

and religion are a good bit to the right of UK public opinion, even within the Conservative party. And then she went and

slagged off nulliparous women as seriously disadvantaged when it comes to empathy... Not smart. I wouldn’t be at all

surprised if she actually quit ahead of the vote, even if her views are probably closer to those espoused by regulars at the

local golf club that those of Mrs May.

In the meantime, it transpired last week that (to its considerable discredit) the government was serious when it said,

during the campaign, that the Treasury had not done any contingency planning in the event of a ‘Brexit’ vote – which

means that the new ‘Brexit’ Unit, headed by the Twin Olivers, has a lot of work to do.

 

Read more by subscribing here.

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Barton Deakin Brief: 2016 Federal Election – Coalition Victory

Yesterday the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull claimed victory for the Coalition after Opposition Leader Bill Shorten conceded the 2016 election. This decision was based on the latest count of seats in the House of Representatives. Counting to determine the composition of the Senate continues, and final results will emerge over the coming weeks. On current counting, the primary vote for the Coalition was 42.1 per cent, representing a swing against the Government of 3.4 per cent since the 2013 election. The primary vote for the Labor Party is at 35.1 per cent, reflecting an increase in their primary vote of 1.8 per cent. In the 150-seat House of Representatives, 76 seats are required to form Government. Latest estimates indicate that the Coalition will likely win 77-78 seats, to Labor’s 67-68. The Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team won a single seat each, while three seats were won by independents.

Click here for the entire article report.

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Barton Deakin Brief: Liberal Campaign Launch 2016

On 26 June 2016, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull officially launched the Coalition Campaign for the 2016 Election. The election will be held on 2 July 2016 and pre-poll voting is currently underway. Building on a number of commitments already made in the campaign so far, the key policy points announced during the campaign launch include:

  •  A $48 million scholarship program to support disadvantaged students and school-leavers transitioning to work or further education under the Smith Family’s Learning for Life program; and
  •  Further investment of $192 million in mental health support services which incorporates support for the lead trial of ten Primary Health Network centres focused on innovative support systems, the establishment of twelve suicide prevention centres across regional Australia, funding for ten additional Headspace locations, and financial support for the digitisation of these services; and
  •  A $31 million commitment to promoting higher rates of female participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields of study and industry through PhD internships under the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute and the development of a new National Education Career Strategy; and
  •  The introduction of a $50 million digital literacy program for senior Australians to improve digital communication skills and secure their safety online; and
  •  A commitment of $64 million to enhance the capabilities of the National Anti-Gang Squad and the Australian Federal Police in efforts to stop the illegal trafficking of firearms and gang activity.

For the Barton Deakin Brief on the Coalition’s policy commitments during the campaign so far, click here.

To read more about the current state of play in marginal seats, please read our Barton Deakin Brief here.

For further information, please contact Grahame Morris on +61 411 222 680, David Alexander on +61 457 400 524 or Christopher Reside on + 61 400 829 933.

 

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Government Australia Advisory Board

Simon Crean MP

John Brumby 

Kristina Keneally

Mark Vaile

Nick Greiner

Alexander Downer

Peter Charlton

Trevor Rowe

Warwick Smith

 

Bob Carr