February 19, 2018 Market Outlook

U.S. Mulls Steep Tariffs on Steel

The U.S. Commerce Department recommended to U.S. President Donald Trump a broad range of trade options, including across-the-board tariffs, meant to bolster the domestic steel industry. Should Trump decide on imposing steep tariffs on steel, it would be a direct shot at China. However, its implications could also affect the entire global trading system.

Trump has until April to decide on which option to take. A similar set of recommendations on aluminum is also on his desk. Limiting or imposing taxes on steel imports would also hit countries like Brazil, Canada, Russia, and South Korea.

Social Media Firms Under Pressure to Stop Info Warfare

Facebook, Inc. (FB), Twitter Inc. (TWTR), and other social media companies are feeling intense pressure to find ways to stop the “information warfare” that has been raging online. U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller made extensive use of records from Facebook and Instagram to indict 13 Russian nationals last Friday.

It has been confirmed that some Russians designed an operation to influence and even tamper with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The group used a combination of old-school espionage tactics and 21st-century technologies. Although the methods have been exposed, experts are saying they won’t be easy to stop.

As revealed during the indictment, the group used shell corporations, stolen IDs, and deployed of virtual private networks to avoid online detection and payments to unknowing Americans.  U.S. spy agencies warn that Russia might try to use social media again to spread propaganda and interfere in the 2018 midterm elections.

China’s Tech Giants Gear Up for Market Supremacy

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) and Tencent Holdings Ltd., China’s tech giants, are locked in fierce battle to win over retailers and shoppers. Chinese merchants are now forced to choose which side they’re going to pledge allegiance. There are a few retailers left that are neutral and almost all need to pick one in order to survive.

Alibaba is currently China’s top e-commerce player while its affiliate Ant Financial is the leader in mobile payments. Tencent’s strengths lie in digital payment, gaming, and social media. It also has a major stake in the second-largest online retailer, JD.Com where U.S. retail giant Walmart (WMT) has a stake.

Ethereum Founder Say Cryptos Can Drop to Near Zero

Vitalik Buterin, the founder of blockchain network Ethereum, warned over the weekend that cryptocurrencies could fall sharply at any time. He reminded investors through a tweet on Saturday that being a nascent asset class, a cryptocurrency is a hyper-volatile asset class too.

The ethereum founder said, “Don’t put in more money than you can afford to lose.” He added: “If you’re trying to figure out where to store your life savings, traditional assets are still your safest bets.”

After losing as much as $100 billion in market value in a single day, cryptocurrencies have recovered slightly from a massive sell-off. The popular Bitcoin climbed above the $10,000 mark last week after dropping to a low of $5,947.40 the prior week.

Iconic Guitar Brand Gibson on the Verge of Bankruptcy

According to a report, guitar company Gibson is facing bankruptcy. Many generations of musicians, including stars such as Bob Marley, Carlos Santana, and Slash are some of the well-known personalities who are using or have used Les Paul and SG instruments manufactured by this iconic company which was founded in Michigan more than 100 years ago.

The annual revenues of Gibson is more than $1 billion but they have maturing senior secured notes worth $375 million. On top of that, the company has $145 million outstanding bank loans that will be due immediately if the senior secured notes are not refinanced by mid-July.

CEO Henry Juszkiewicz is racing against time. He needs to decide whether to exchange the company’s debt, pay it off using his equity or declare bankruptcy. The U.S.-based guitar company hired investment bank Jeffries to help with its current financial situation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *