Getting Updated

Why does software need to be updated all the time?

Source: Sellmymobile.com

I recently went through another update on my iPhone and it was excruciating. After it was done—and you never know how long that will take—it wouldn’t synch properly with my computer. It would sit connected by its little white cord and stay on the step six of six forever, never finishing. After trying all the interim options—checking message boards, rebooting the phone, rebooting my computer—I succumbed to the inevitable, and restored my iPhone from its backup.

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Pass/Fail Test?

Could Russia become a failed state?

Source: Socialist Organizer

Almost a century ago the Russian people rose against their leaders. The feckless Romanoff dynasty had presided over a brutal conflict with Germany, mass poverty at home, and brutal repression of dissent. An economic and political crisis forced the Czar to abdicate and a power struggle ensued, ending with the Bolshevist takeover in October 1917. Are there parallels to today?

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The Wages of an Oil Bust?

Could falling oil prices delay the Fed’s rate hike?

Source: Federal Reserve

Among economists the current consensus is that the Fed will begin to raise interest rates sometime in mid-2015. There’s discussion about their official statement which explains that they expect to maintain the current rate regime for a “considerable time” following the end of their asset-purchase program, which ran out in October. A change in the statement would continue to prepare the markets for higher rates—something the Fed wants to do. Gone are the days of Alan Greenspan’s creative obfuscation. Now the Fed wants to gradually guide the markets’ expectations. The best surprise is no surprise.

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Russian Winter?

What’s happening in Russia?

Global Market Update - Red Square

Source: Fanpop

At 1 am today the Russian Central Bank raised its deposit rate from 10.5% to 17%. Emergency interest rate hikes announced in the middle of the night are not a sign of strength. Their goal is to stop the collapse of the Ruble, which has fallen from 35 to almost 70 to the dollar. A collapsing currency, international sanctions, and plunging oil prices are overwhelming their economy. It’s reminiscent of the collapse of 1998, when Russia defaulted on its debt and devalued its currency. But their economy has almost tripled in size since then.

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Go Code

Looking for work?

Global Market Update - Programmers

Source: Wikipedia

One area of the job market growing exponentially is computer programming, or coding. And it isn’t just tech firms that are hiring. As firms automate processes from human resource management to marketing to product manufacturing, they need people to write and maintain the code that makes everything work. And cyber-security is every bit as important as physical security: a recent study showed 97% of all company networks have been hacked in some way.

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A Wounded Bear

Are there any problems with lower oil prices?

Global Market Update - Grizzly Bear

Source: Wildernessarena.com

Some economies benefit from lower oil prices, and some are hurt. Among the winners are India and China, since agriculture and manufacturing are so energy-intensive. Also, China has become the world’s largest car market. Among the losers are Iran and Russia, whose budgets depend on significantly higher oil prices. And Russia is the second largest oil exporter in the world, shipping 7 million barrels per day.

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Getting Some Gas?

Will lower oil prices boost the economy?

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Source: Reuters/BRIAN SNYDER

Most economists think so. Some estimate that the recent 40% plunge will provide a $1.5 trillion windfall to consumers around the world. Of course, that’s $1.5 trillion less for producers. But instead of going into the coffers of OPEC, that money will be in consumers’ pockets, who are more likely to recycle it into their economies.

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Contagion & Confidence?

Whatever happened to the muni meltdown?

Global Market Update - Los Angeles Fire

Source: NPR

Four years ago there was mounting hysteria regarding municipal finance. Jefferson County, Alabama; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and Stockton, California—places with hundreds of thousands of residents—were in or near bankruptcy. Investors from Warren Buffet to Felix Rohatyn commented on the many problems states and municipalities were facing—especially pension problems—in the aftermath of the Financial Crisis. And they had a point: pensions are what finally brought Detroit down.

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Reviewing Risk and Return

What’s your tolerance for risk?

Global Market Update - Victorian Risk Assessment

Source: Flikr

Some people see risk and see only danger: lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Others look at risk as an opportunity for an adrenaline-rush: backflips off cliffs into mountain lakes, bungee-jumping off bridges and buildings. Risk is an integral part of finance. Different asset classes have different levels of uncertainty regarding their underlying cash-flow. This uncertainty translates into a risk-profile.

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Douglas Tengdin's Global Market Update