The local government in Berlin has agreed to freeze rents in the German capital for five years as the city is battling with skyrocketing housing prices.
The Berlin Senate’s majority, which is composed by the Social Democrats, Greens and the Left party, approved the decision last week after months of discussions.
The plans will be sent to parliament this month, where they are expected to be approved and to take effect in January 2020. They also include measures to cap subletting contracts.
“We’re entering new territory,” said Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller. “Others talk about it, but we’re actually doing it.”
The clamp down on rent rise, one of the most extreme decisions taken by a Western capital in recent times, is being followed with close interest by other world cities.
The plan was initially proposed by the Left party. Katrin Lompscher, the party’s head of urban development and housing, said the intention was to “ease the burden” on tenants after a property boom which saw rents doubling over the last 10 years.
German house-builders’ and property companies’ shares were hit hard on October 21st. Deutsche Wohnen, Berlin’s largest private landowner, saw its shares fall by 4.6%. Shares of Vonovia SE, the largest property company in the country, fell as much as 1.6%.
I am a business reporter focusing on real estate, retail and technology. I am currently Chief Investigative Reporter at Property Week, where I lead the magazine’s investigations unit. I have been nominated as Best Print Writer at the BSME Awards in 2019 and 2018 and as Best Journalist – Infrastructure, Development and Construction at the British Journalism Awards in 2017. Prior to that, I worked as a freelance for a number of publications across the U.K., France and Italy including The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and La Repubblica. I hold an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University of London and an MA in French literature from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
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Last week’s announcement by Trump of more tariffs coming for everything shipped to the U.S. from China and Monday’s move by Beijing to allow for a weaker yuan begins Act III in the trade war.
Here’s the plot twist:
Treasury just hit China with currency manipulator status after market hours on Monday. It came at a time when nothing was trading. Investors were stuck in the Twilight Zone. Tuesday morning is going to be a madhouse rush for “sell China” orders by the algos. Wait for it.
As one hedge fund manager told me, “we’ve just thrown gasoline on the fire.”
Currency manipulator status gives Beijing less wiggle room because if they weaken the yuan to make up for tariffs, tariffs will likely go up to compensate.
We are in unchartered waters. At risk is what amounts to sanctions on key U.S. commodities like soybeans and pork by the Chinese government, and political risk involving Hong Kong as civil unrest continues there, putting its special trade status in the crosshairs of a China-bashing American Congress.
In isolation, a 10% tariff on $300 billion in combination with a 10% yuan depreciation would be functionally equivalent to Chinese households writing a check for $30 billion to the U.S. Treasury. “Trump may not have gotten Mexico to pay for its border wall, but he is getting China to pay (the government) for its tariff wall,” says China bear Brian McCarthy, chief strategist for Macrolens, a big picture investment research firm.
Currency manipulator status makes the trade war worse for China.
Meaningful and enduring negative feedback about China will lead to extreme financial market volatility in Asia, especially in China’s mainland equity market where a gambler’s approach to trading by the dominant retailer investor class there might cash out. And why not? China’s mainland stock indexes are up over 20% this year and this may be seen as the time to take money off the table.
Short sellers shouldn’t discount the possibility of the People’s Bank of China pumping money into the A-shares this week.
It’s too early to start expecting widespread defaults on China’s corporate dollar-denominated debt (which some firms estimate to be around $800 billion). A default would deal a harsh blow to foreign investors who have been big buyers of Chinese bonds as that market opens up and joins the major indexes.
The transmission mechanism from yuan devaluation to global securities is expressed more obviously through Europe and other emerging markets, especially those heavily linked to China — such as South Korea and Brazil. Both currencies had an ugly looking chart on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Fed can potentially isolate the U.S. economy from any economic fallout by cutting rates. Though this opens up a whole other can of worms, namely rates sinking to zero in the event of a recession.
The yuan settled at 7.05 to the dollar today after the central bank set the daily rate at just over 6.9 to the dollar. The currency is allowed to trade within 4% of that daily fixed rate. The yuan is now at its weakest level in over 10 years.
“These moves represent a significant escalation in the trade war,” says Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist for RSM, a global financial advisory firm.
“There is a specific logic and order of operations with respect to the tit-for tat retaliation likely to play out that will not result in longer-term inflation, but will instead create conditions for deflation and negative nominal interest rates along the U.S. maturity spectrum if a longer-term trade compromise cannot be reached,” he says.
I’ve spent 20 years as a reporter for the best in the business, including as a Brazil-based staffer for WSJ. Since 2011, I focus on business and investing in the big emerging markets exclusively for Forbes. My work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Nation, Salon and USA Today. Occasional BBC guest. Former holder of the FINRA Series 7 and 66. Doesn’t follow the herd.
Facebook, which has been under fire for not doing enough to combat misinformation, said Thursday that it took down hundreds of fake accounts that had ties to the government of Saudi Arabia and that posed as news outlets and criticized rival countries.
The social media giant has previously announced takedowns of fake accounts associated with other countries, such as Russia. But the company typically stops short of directly linking fake accounts to a government.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found links to individuals associated with the government of Saudi Arabia,” Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said in a blog post.One of the fake accounts tied to Saudi Arabia posted about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman kissing the head of a wounded soldier
The government of Saudi Arabia didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Overall, Facebook pulled down 217 Facebook accounts, 144 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups and 31 Instagram accounts it said were tied to Saudi Arabia. These accounts spent $108,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads while raking up more followers, Facebook said. About 1.4 million accounts followed at least one of these Facebook Pages.
The social network removed these accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” which means they misled others about who they were and the purpose behind the account.
Separately, Facebook also found another network of fake accounts tied to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, but it didn’t specify government involvement in those cases. The social network removed 259 Facebook accounts, 102 Facebook Pages, five Facebook Groups, four Facebook Events and 17 Instagram accounts associated with those two countries.
“We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge,” Gleicher said.
Accusing Beijing of “reneging” on commitments it made in earlier talks, the nation’s top trade negotiator said Monday that the Trump administration will increase tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods Friday, a sharp escalation in a yearlong trade dispute.
At the same time, a Chinese trade delegation is expected to arrive in Washington to resume negotiations on Thursday, a day later than originally planned.
At a briefing with reporters, neither U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer nor Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered details of China’s alleged backsliding, and there was no immediate response from Beijing.
Mnuchin said Trump officials learned over the weekend that Chinese officials “were trying to go back on some of the language” that had been negotiated in 10 earlier rounds of talks.
The U.S. officials said that at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time Friday, the administration will raise the tariffs from 10% to 25%. President Donald Trump had announced those plans via Twitter on Sunday, expressing frustration with the pace of negotiations. The hit list includes such varied products as baseball gloves, vacuum cleaners and burglar alarms.
The reiteration Monday of the president’s threat from high-level Trump officials reinforced the administration’s determination to put Beijing on the defensive.
By threatening to raise taxes on Chinese imports, Trump is throwing down a challenge to Beijing: Agree to sweeping changes in China’s government-dominated economic model — or suffer the consequences.
The unexpected ultimatum shook up financial markets, which had expected the world’s two biggest economies to resolve a yearlong standoff over trade, perhaps by the end of the week.
“It’s a significant change in the president’s tone,” said Timothy Keeler, a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown and former chief of staff for the U.S. Trade Representative office. “It certainly increases the possibility that you’ll have no deal.”
For weeks, Trump administration officials had been suggesting that the U.S. and Chinese negotiators were making steady progress.
Suddenly on Sunday, Trump said he had lost patience: “The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” he tweeted.
Trump also said he planned “shortly” to slap 25% tariffs on another $325 billion in Chinese products, covering everything China ships to the United States.
The two countries are engaged in high-stakes commercial combat over China’s aggressive push to establish Chinese companies as world leaders in cutting-edge fields such as robotics and electric vehicles.
The United States accuses Beijing of predatory practices, including hacking into U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets, forcing foreign firms to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market and unfairly subsidizing Chinese firms at the expense of foreign competitors.
The Trump administration has imposed 10% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and 25% tariffs on another $50 billion. The Chinese have retaliated by targeting $110 billion in U.S. imports.
Global stock markets sank Monday on Trump’s tweetstorm. But shares in the United States regained some of the lost ground on news that Chinese officials were planning to go ahead with this week’s meetings in Washington. Still, the Chinese government did not provide details on exactly when talks would resume and who would be on China’s negotiating team.
U.S. officials said they expected that China’s delegation would be led again by Vice Premier Liu He, a confidante of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Beijing is wrestling with an internal conflict: It is eager to end a trade fight that has battered Chinese exporters, but it doesn’t want to look like it’s bowing to the Trump administration’s demands for far-reaching concessions.
Trump’s threat makes going ahead with talks “very difficult politically” for Xi’s government, said Jake Parker, vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council. He said the Chinese public might “view this as a capitulation” if Beijing reached an agreement before Trump’s Friday deadline.
The conflict is testing how far Beijing is willing to go in changing a state-led economic model it sees as the path to prosperity and global influence — and how much power Washington will have to enforce any agreement.
Beijing is willing to change industrial plans that provoke foreign opposition but wants to preserve the ruling Communist Party’s dominant role in directing economic development, said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Chinese officials have said they are willing to let foreign companies participate in plans that call for government-led creation of global competitors in robotics and other technologies. But they have yet to release details, and it is unclear whether the concessions will satisfy Trump.
Xi is “adamant about party-state control over major sectors of the economy,” Lam said. “If they give this up, then China in effect ceases to be a socialist country.”
Beijing agreed early on to narrow its trade surplus with the United States — a staggering $379 billion last year — by purchasing more American soybeans, natural gas and other exports.
At the same time, Xi’s government has announced a steady drumbeat of promises to open markets — in businesses that include auto manufacturing and banking. But none of the moves directly addresses American complaints.
The negotiators are also looking for a way to hold Beijing to any commitments it makes. The Trump administration wants to keep tariffs on Chinese imports to maintain leverage over Beijing.
“Trump wants a certain amount of tariffs to remain in place just in case the Chinese don’t honor their promises,” Lam said. “The Chinese refuse to give the Americans the right to penalize them.”
The Chinese are also skittish about allowing Washington to dictate changes to industrial policy and subsidies, said Raoul Leering, a trade specialist for Dutch bank ING. They see that as “having another country decide your economic policy.”
Trump also seems to be calculating that Xi needs a deal more than he does. The Chinese economy is decelerating. “Trump believes he can bully the Chinese,” Lam said. “Trump realizes the Chinese economy is facing a rough patch, and Xi Jinping is under pressure from his own people.”
But Trump also has an incentive to reach a deal. The trade war is creating uncertainty for businesses trying to decide where to buy supplies, locate factories and make investments. And it’s been weighing on a strong U.S. stock market, which the president likes to tout as evidence that his economic policies are working.
The Philippines is beginning to pay the price for President Rodrigo Duterte’s South China Sea policy flip-flops in the form of repeated challenges to the country’s sovereignty by Beijing.
China considers the South China Sea its own sea, all of it. And it seems to be prepared to do whatever it takes to assert control over every tiny island, natural and artificial, in it — as evidenced by the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near a Philippines-administered island in the South China Sea in recent weeks.
That’s certainly bad news for neighboring countries — like the Philippines — which have competing claims in these territories. And bad news for the future of the economic integration of the region, as it raises geopolitical risks that could eventually turn away foreign investments.
Philippines Shares Have Underperformed Emerging Markets
Philippines External Debt
The trouble is that Manila doesn’t have a clear and consistent policy to deal with China’s aggression, as evidenced by several flip-flops in Duterte’s administration. Why? Perhaps out of fear of war or the appeal of the Chinese money that is expected to finance his ambitious infrastructure projects.
Back in April of 2018, President Duterte backed off his earlier decision to raise the Philippine flag in disputed islands, following Beijing’s “friendly” advice.
Manila’s 2018 flip flop came two years after the 2016 policy flip-flop. Back then, the Philippines and its close ally, the U.S., won an international arbitration ruling that China has no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea. What did Duterte do? Rather than teaming up with the US to enforce the ruling, he walked the other way. He sided with Beijing on the dispute, and sought a “divorce” from the U.S.
Apparently, Beijing had offered Manila a couple of promises, as was discussed in previous pieces here. Like the promise to finance Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” initiative, and the promise of peace and a partnership for prosperity.
Instead, Philippines is starting to pay the cost for President Duterte’s flip-flops. For example, China continues to assert its control over Thitu island, also known as Pag-asa island in the Philippines, according to a CNN report. And that renews the threat of war between the two nations.
Beijing’s recent move comes shortly after America had assured the Philippines that it would come to that nation’s defense if it comes under attack in the South China Sea. That’s according to reports in early March, when Washington reaffirmed a defense code that Manila had sought to revise.
But apparently Washington assurances haven’t been sufficient to deter China’s aggression in the South China Sea.
Now, President Duterte is threatening to send his troops on a “suicide mission” if Beijing doesn’t “lay off” a Manila-occupied island in the South China Sea.
Another policy flip-flop? Hard to say.
Meanwhile, the Philippines is beginning to suffer consequences of the flow of Chinese money into the country, as was discussed in a previous piece here.
Gallery: Midas List 2019: Top China Investors
My recent book The Ten Golden Rules Of Leadership is published by AMACOM, and can be found here.
A series of incidents have driven relations between Japan and South Korea to new lows. Frustration has mounted as each government has blamed the other for the sorry state of affairs. Though domestic politics is partially to blame, the real problem is more deeply rooted. Each country sees the other as the cornerstone of its own national identity, and their respective self-images make conflict inevitable. While the U.S. can help the two countries address this problem, only courageous and inventive leadership in Tokyo and Seoul can resolve it…………….
Liu Qiangdong, better known as Richard Liu here, is already a billionaire. At the 7-Fresh grocery store in Beijing, not far from Liu’s JD.com, there’s this fruit stand that looks awfully similar to anything an American would find at a Trader Joe’s or Wholefoods. It’s organic. It’s small farm friendly. But here at 7-Fresh you can scan a barcode and find out where the apples came from, thanks to a blockchain system they’re running. Meanwhile, over my head is a small assembly line of green shopping bags filled with online food orders. It’s the Jetsons. I don’t think they have this at Wholefoods………….
Blockchain may soon become the new cornerstone of democracy, because of its key characteristics – safety, security, transparency and inalterability of recorded data. The distributed ledger technology could ensure the integrity of election systems at all levels, claim the experts of the ICOBox’s International Blockchain Research Center (IBRC).
Last week, voting through blockchain was piloted in the US. US citizens located in 29 countries were able to vote in midterm elections using mobile app Voatz.
The process went as follows: voters had to register in the app and upload a picture from their state-issued ID. Then they recorded a short video, where their face was clearly visible. Next, the system compared the photo and the video and matched them to the voter database. Once the voter was verified, she or he received a virtual ballot, which they completed and confirmed their selection with a fingerprint or facial recognition. And then all the voting data was kept in the blockchain-based distributed ledger, which is essentially a sort of digital safe. It was only unlocked to count votes after the elections were over.
This was not the first attempt to carry out polling in this format. Last July, the first ever election using the distributed ledger technology took place in municipal elections in the so-called Crypto Valley in the Swiss canton Zug. This was a trial, no results were tracked, and the experiment’s primary goal was to test the performance of the digital ID system.
Another blockchain election was implemented last September in Japan, where local residents were asked to evaluate proposed social policies using blockchain. Interestingly enough, while in Switzerland the trial run was pronounced successful in every respect, in Japan the process encountered certain roadblocks: many voters could not confirm whether their vote was accepted. But this is likely more of an error on the part of the app interface developers rather than the failure of the blockchain technology itself.
“Some may ask, why make things so difficult? We already have a well-established election system which took ages to build. But the reality is that even in the US it is cumbersome and not entirely transparent. Voters in different states vote differently: in some parts of the country they can cast their vote by mail and in others they have to go to their polling stations. Some states count votes automatically or semi-automatically, and others use the good old way, doing it by hand. And most importantly, American citizens do not vote directly for the President – their votes go to Electoral College, which then elects the candidates for the top office,” explains Daria Generalova, Managing Partner at ICOBox.
“By moving its elections on the blockchain, a state would gain a secure and transparent voting system, which would be virtually immune to potential tampering and fraud. Blockchain election apps may also serve to drive up voter participation by letting people vote literally from their comfy couches. We can talk about the true values of democracy till the end of time, but in order for it to work, we must also walk the walk. And blockchain, I believe, may become the very foundation that would ensure the democracy of the future.”
The Bail Bloc initiative has started using cryptocurrency raised through charity to help people get out of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pretrial incarceration, according to a tweet posted by a Bail Bloc co-founder Nov. 15. ICE is a law enforcement agency of the federal government of the U.S, the mission of which is to monitor cross-border crime and illegal immigration. In 2017, the agency conducted 143,470 overall administrative arrests, 92 percent of which resulted in a criminal conviction or a pending criminal charge.
It has been a turbulent two days in British politics, and the economy is already looking nervous as a result. Sterling fell by 1.8% against the Euro on Wednesday as Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to convince a skeptical government to accept the proposed Brexit deal. While the rest of the world looks on bemused, reactions from the industry are mixed, with appetite for blockchain still vociferous – something a borderless Brexit won’t change. I spoke with industry leaders to find out just what worries them about the proposed withdrawal bill.Borders and trade agreements are on the mind of a many a U.K. business owner as details of the proposed agreement are revealed………………..