NEW YORK, January 15 -- When Apple lowered its revenue guidance for the Christmas quarter a couple of weeks ago, Tim Cook explained Apple’s rare miss in a letter, providing several interesting details about the company’s financial performance for the period.
iPhone sales weren’t as strong as Apple would have hoped, thanks to several reasons. Among them, Cook highlighted the affordable iPhone battery replacement program that Apple offered buyers last year, in response to the iPhone throttling issue that came to light in late 2017. Now we have an idea of how many batteries Apple replaced last year thanks to an insider. Eleven million iPhone batteries were replaced in 2018, compared to the anticipated 1-2 million. At the time some people thought it was strange for Cook to include battery replacements in the letter because the argument could further fuel that crazy conspiracy theory that says Apple intentionally slows down its iPhones so that users buy new gear.
Commenting on the battery replacement program effect on Apple’s Q12019 numbers, Jean-Louis Gassée speculated on the number of replacements Apple performed last year, concluding initially that the $29 battery program may not have been enough to affect iPhone sales. He later updated the post to acknowledge the fact that his estimates might be too low, and that Apple had full knowledge of the battery replacement numbers when it issued its guidance for the first quarter. Looking at Gassée’s take on the matter, Apple insider John Gruber actually provided a figure for the battery program. According to him, Cook explained during the all-hands meeting that took place on January 3rd that 11 million iPhone batteries were serviced under the $29 replacement program, but Apple only anticipated about 1-2 million battery replacements. Gruber says that while the all-hands meeting was reported in the press, the contents of the meeting were secret, except for the number of replacements that he just provided. Gruber also said that the number of battery replacements, even if known to Apple, was significant enough to prevent some iPhone buyers from upgrading to an iPhone XR or iPhone XS, which hurt Apple’s numbers for the holiday quarter.
Recent reports revealed that Apple is already taking steps to improve iPhone sales in key markets, including China, Japan, Europe, and the US. In China, Apple reportedly slashed the iPhone price for retailers. In other major markets, Apple is offering buyers a limited trade-in program that lets them turn in older iPhones for a new iPhone XS or XR.
ROTTERDAM, January 15 -- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is a supporter of international organizations such as the European Union.
But he also thinks President Trump has some legitimate complaints about multilateralism — and he apparently has little patience for some of Trump’s Dutch critics. “It pisses me off when I hear white-wine-sipping Amsterdam elites say that Trump is so wrong,” Rutte said Sunday in an interview on Buitenhof, a Dutch TV program. “In NATO, lots of things are not good. In the [World Trade Organization,] lots of things are not good. In the European Union, lots of things are not good,” he said. “So let’s make use of the presence of someone like Trump, who sometimes rightly says, ‘Guys, this is not good.’ ”
Rutte singled out E.U. policy as an area where there is not enough coordination between groups. “Eastern Europe does nothing at all and leaves it to the Netherlands and Germany to decide,” he said.
Rutte also pushed back on talk that he might be the next president of the European Council, suggesting that he had never been asked. The Dutch prime minister went on to say that upcoming European Parliament elections, in which the far right may make big gains, are not that important, especially given that turnout is “so low.” (E.U. data shows that voter turnout for the last election, held in 2014, was 42.6 percent).
Rutte’s comments drew criticism from some Dutch citizens, especially those based in Amsterdam. Zeeger Ernsting, a member of the city council for the GroenLinks party, tweeted a picture of Rutte sharing a glass of white wine with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
NEW YORK, January 13 -- In an interview with Fox News, US President Donald Trump said he had never tried to conceal anything about his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The statement came in response to the recent Washington Post article, which says that the US leader has gone to what it described as "extraordinary lengths" to keep the details of those meetings secret. The paper cited current and former US administration officials as saying that in one of such instances, Trump confiscated his interpreter’s notes and prohibited him from discussing the details with other officials in his administration. Commenting on the report, the US president said: "I’m not keeping anything under wraps." "We had a great conversation. We were talking about Israel and securing Israel and lots of other things," he went on, adding that his one-on-one meetings with Putin were just the same as with any other leader.
Trump also reiterated that he had been tougher to Russia than any of his predecessors.
BANGKOK, January 11 -- The baht's value is projected to appreciate in the medium to long term because of slower interest-rate normalisation in the US and adverse effects from the US-China trade dispute, says the Federation of Thai Capital Market Organisations (Fetco).
Capital flows are expected to return to emerging markets in the next few months as the US economy suffers the double whammy of a slower pace of rate hikes and weaker growth momentum caused by the trade spat, said Fetco chairman Paiboon Nalinthrangkurn. The anticipated developments will cause the dollar to depreciate, Mr Paiboon said. Foreign fund flows are expected to move into the domestic bond market, he said, as there were net inflows worth about 190 billion baht registered last year in Thai bonds. Investment projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor and the upcoming general election are positive factors boosting investor confidence, Mr Paiboon said. The local currency's value is forecast at 32-33 against the greenback this year, according to Fetco.
Nonetheless, the baht is likely to experience a short-term depreciation as a result of lower growth in tourism and exports and higher merchandise imports, Mr Paiboon said. The local currency's value on Thursday rose to a seven-month high of 31.91 against the dollar, up 1.8% year to date. Bank of Thailand governor Veerathai Santiprabhob said domestic demand will be the pillar supporting Thailand's economic growth as external growth drivers play a lesser role this year. The outlook will result in a lower current account surplus for Thailand, alleviating pressure on the baht, Mr Veerathai said. For the Thai stock market in 2019, high financial volatility is expected to continue amid several uncertainties, but the general election will provide a boost of confidence for investors, said Prinn Panitchpakdi, country head of CLSA Securities Thailand.
"The stock market is projected to peak before the election," Mr Prinn said. "There will be an uncertainty in domestic politics after the election, as it is anticipated that no political party would take a majority of the vote." The Stock Exchange of Thailand index is forecast at 1,782 points by year-end 2019 and 1,682 at the end of the first quarter, according to the Investment Analysts Association. In related news, Fetco's investor confidence index for the next three months declined for a third straight month, by 5.3% to 92.75. The confidence of retail investors dropped into bearish territory and a 39-month low.
An index below 80 points is considered bearish, 80-120 is neutral and over 120 is bullish. Investors are concerned about risks from US trade policy and fund flow movements driven by rising interest rates, Mr Paiboon said.
LOS ANGELES, January 11 -- Toyota Motor North America has announced a fuel cell trucks collaboration with Kenworth Truck Company at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2019) in Las Vegas.
Together, the companies will develop 10 Kenworth T680s powered by Toyota hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrains. The project is part of larger efforts to increase the adoption of hydrogen fuel vehicles in Los Angeles.The fuel cell trucks project is part of Los Angeles’s (LAs) efforts to add more fuel cell vehicles and fueling facilities around the greater LA area. More specifically, the collaboration is part of a $41 million Zero and Near-Zero Emissions Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) grant that has been preliminary awarded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The Port of Los Angeles is the prime applicant.
The grant is actually part of a larger $82 million program that aims to make fuel cell electric tractors, hydrogen fueling infrastructure, and zero emissions cargo handling equipment operational in the California’s city’s ports and basin in 2020. The fleet of fuel cell trucks will transport cargo across the Los Angeles basin.Once developed and operational, the hydrogen fuel trucks will transport cargo across the LA basin, including to inland cities, such as Ontario and San Bernardino. The trucks will generate no emissions, other than water and steam, due to their all electric hydrogen fuel cell powertrain.
The electricity generated by the fuel cells power electric motors to move the trucks, while at the same time charging the lithium-ion batteries to optimize performance as necessary. Additionally, power management systems will distribute the electrical power from the fuel cells to the trucks’ motors, batteries, brake air compressor, electrified power steering and other components. The fuel cell electric powered Kenworth T680s are expected to have a range of more than 300 miles under normal drayage operating conditions. “The goal is to make a difference in society. To remove pollution and improve the air quality in and around the Port of Los Angeles,” Toyota Motor North America Executive Vice President, Bob Carter, said in a statement, reported Green Car Congress.
In addition to the new fuel cell trucks fleet, the program will also fund the development of foundational hydrogen fuel infrastructure, including two new hydrogen fueling stations.
BAGHDAD, Januari 11 -- The US-led military coalition in Syria has begun the process of withdrawing troops from Syria, a US military official said Friday, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements.
Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said the US started “the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria.” “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific time lines, locations or troops movements,” he said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
SHANGHAI, January 11 -- Exports are picking up momentum, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises that are using big data to create products shaped precisely to customers' needs, according to Alibaba.com, the nation's largest wholesale trade site.
The number of new customers at the portal hit nearly 6,000 in December, logging the biggest number of single-month new entrants since its founding in 1999, said Yu Yong, vice-president of Alibaba Group and co-general manager of Alibaba.com. "While traditional big corporations are struggling with the economic uncertainty, forward-thinking smaller players are definitely seeing and grasping opportunities," Yu said. The trends accord with upbeat trade readings from China and help to dispel worries over lingering stagnancy in the global economy. According to company figures, Alibaba.com serves 150 million registered users around the world, by giving suppliers the tools essential to reaching a global audience, and helping buyers target products and suppliers in an efficient manner.
In late December, the site announced the launch of a "one-stop" digitalization solution for Chinese exporters, helping sellers with match making, branding, payment and escrow service, logistics and cross-border supply chain. The service is set to make its market debut during the ongoing 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Under the initiative, sellers can leverage Alibaba's extensive database to work out the latest market trends and customize products for overseas buyers. "Using the digital tool, we managed to notice surging interest from the United States in bathroom cabinets that are longer and narrower than our existing models," said Ding Gefeng, general manager of Hangzhou Home Dee Sanitary Ware Co Ltd. "That has prompted us to devise new models to secure new orders."
Also available is the Pay Later service that extends buyers' payment period for up to six months. While consumer finance has been commonplace across individual online shoppers, escrow and credit services in wholesale trade are still a novelty, largely due to the potential high costs should a default occur. But with artificial intelligence and big data at play, the site can use a buyer's procurement history to build a credit profile in real time, helping streamline the traditional process of loan applications to just minutes, Yu noted.
"With Trade Assurance - a free order protection service - I know Alibaba is behind my purchase, and that if something goes wrong, Alibaba will jump in and help me solve problems with manufacturers, making doing business faster and easier," said Ez Karpf, founder of toy set seller My Family Builders. The evolving export pattern indicates China is substantially moving up the value chain in global trade, said Wei Hao, head of the department of international trade and economics at Beijing Normal University. "Improved product quality and dynamic sales and distribution channels are contributing to the enhanced profit margin per unit for exports," he noted.
NEW YORK, January 9 -- Brent crude oil has returned to $60/barrel while WTI has moved back above $50/b as hopes of a deal between the US and China on trade continues to build.
Yesterday, US President Trump tweeted: “Talks with China are going very well” and that was followed by news of an unplanned extension of the talks into Wednesday. These developments have supported a continued recovery in global stocks following a miserable December. Adding to this are a softer dollar and ongoing production cuts from the Opec+ group, which have all supported the current change in sentiment.
A trade deal between the US and China, however, is likely to slow but unlikely to reverse the deterioration seen recently in forward-looking economic data from the US to Europe and China. On that basis the upside at this stage may be limited to the upper area of the mentioned consolidation area for Brent at $64/b and WTI at $55/b.
Another reason why the bulls may need to be patient can be seen in the developments of the forward curve and the open interest in the two major oil contracts of WTI and Brent. A rally driven by fundamentals, such as the outlook for a tightening, would normally trigger a flattening of the forward curve, as the contango – the prompt months discount to deferred – begins to narrow.
As per the chart below we find that the six months spread between February (CLG9) and August (CLQ9) has hardly moved since December. Hedge funds would normally during a rally cut short positions while adding fresh longs. However, since the December 24 low the open interest in WTI has only risen by 61k lots while in Brent it has only risen by 36k lots. This could indicate that the rally has been short covering more than fresh longs entering the market.
REDWOOD, January 9 -- Microsoft has issued its first Patch Tuesday for this year to address 49 CVE-listed security vulnerabilities in its Windows operating systems and other products, 7 of which are rated critical, 40 important and 2 moderate in severity.
Just one of the security vulnerabilities patched by the tech giant this month has been reported as being publicly known at the time of release, and none are being actively exploited in the wild. All the seven critical-rated vulnerabilities lead to remote code execution and primarily impact various versions of Windows 10 and Server editions. Two of the 7 critical flaws affect Microsoft's Hyper-V host OS that fails to properly validate input from an authenticated user on a guest operating system, three affect the ChakraCore scripting engine that fails to properly handle objects in memory in Edge, one affects Edge directly that occurs when the browser improperly handles objects in memory, and one impacts the Windows DHCP client that fails to properly handle certain DHCP responses.
The publicly disclosed flaw but not exploited in the wild, identified as CVE-2019-0579 and rated as important, concerns a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in the Windows Jet Database engine that could be exploited to execute arbitrary code on a victim's system by tricking him into opening a specially-crafted file. Other "Important" vulnerabilities are addressed in the .NET framework, MS Exchange Server, Edge, Internet Explorer, SharePoint, the Office suite, Windows Data Sharing Service, Visual Studio, Outlook, and Windows Subsystem for Linux.
One of the MS Office flaws patched this month is an information disclosure bug (CVE-2019-0560) which exists when Microsoft Office improperly discloses the contents of its memory. Attackers can exploit this vulnerability by tricking a user into opening a specially crafted Office document. Successful exploitation could allow an attacker to obtain information from the Office memory that can later be used to compromise a victim's computer or data. Microsoft credited Tal Dery and Menahem Breuer of Mimecast Research Labs for this vulnerability. To know more details about their findings, you can head on to an advisory and a blog post published by Mimecast.
Lock Screen Bypass Flaw in Skype for Android Also Patched
Another notable bug patched by Microsoft this month is a privilege vulnerability (CVE-2019-0622) vulnerability in Skype for Android that could have allowed hackers to bypass the lock screen and access personal data on an Android device—by merely answering a Skype call to that device. The Skype flaw has been rated as 'moderate' and requires an attacker to have physical access to your device. A patch for this vulnerability was included in the December 23 release of Skype, but Skype for Android users need to manually update the app from Google Play. Although Microsoft does not list this as publicly known, the researcher posted a YouTube video demonstrating the vulnerability back on December 31.
Though not part of this months patch update, users are also recommended to download the latest update to patch a memory corruption vulnerability (CVE-2018-8653) in Internet Explorer that Microsoft addressed by releasing an out of band patch in December, as the flaw continues to be exploited in the wild. Users and system administrators are strongly recommended to apply the latest security patches as soon as possible to keep hackers and cybercriminals away from taking control of their systems. For installing the latest security patch updates, head on to Settings → Update & Security → Windows Update → Check for updates, on your computer system or you can install the updates manually.
One of the top authors of The Peet Journal is Pete McGea. As a native born Scotsman, Pete
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