Book Bits | 19 January 2019

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
By Shoshana Zuboff
Review via Los Angeles Review of Books
Silicon Valley’s Phoenix-like resurrection is a story of ingenuity and initiative. It is also a story of callousness, predation, and deceit. Harvard Business School professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff argues in her new book that the Valley’s wealth and power are predicated on an insidious, essentially pathological form of private enterprise — what she calls “surveillance capitalism.” Pioneered by Google, perfected by Facebook, and now spreading throughout the economy, surveillance capitalism uses human life as its raw material. Our everyday experiences, distilled into data, have become a privately owned business asset used to predict and mold our behavior, whether we’re shopping or socializing, working or voting.
Zuboff’s fierce indictment of the big internet firms goes beyond the usual condemnations of privacy violations and monopolistic practices. To her, such criticisms are sideshows, distractions that blind us to a graver danger: By reengineering the economy and society to their own benefit, Google and Facebook are perverting capitalism in a way that undermines personal freedom and corrodes democracy.
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Macro Briefing: 18 January 2019

Trump blocks Pelosi’s overseas trip, citing gov’t shutdown: WSJ
Trump-Pelosi feud dims prospects for quick end to gov’t shutdown: Bloomberg
Key dates to watch for monitoring partial gov’t shutdown: CNBC
N. Korea and US planning to discuss possibility of 2nd Trump-Kim summit: Reuters
Signs of progress on US-China trade dispute support global stock markets: Reuters
BuildFax data suggests US housing starts fell in Dec: MW
US jobless claims fell more than expected last week: CNBC
Philly Fed Mfg index strengthens in January: MW
Global Economic Policy Uncertainty Index surged in 2018: Axios

Will Shutdown Risk End This Year’s Equity Sector Rallies?

The partial government shutdown could be a slow-moving train wreck for the US economy, but for the moment the crowd’s inclined to reprice the major equity sectors higher in the new year following 2018’s haircut. With the exception of utilities, year-to-date returns are positive across the board through yesterday’s close (Jan. 16), based on a set of sector ETFs.
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Macro Briefing: 17 January 2019

Pelosi urges Trump to delay State of the Union address: WSJ
UK’s May survives no-confidence vote: BBC
Jack Bogle, who launched index fund revolution, dies at age 89: CNBC
ISIS attack on US forces in Syria refocuses attention on US withdrawal: CNBC
US economy is ‘flying blind’ due to partial gov’t shutdown: Brookings
Half of debt in investment-grade bond funds are rated just above junk: WM
Business inflation expectations fell to 8mo low of 2.0% in Jan: Atlanta Fed
Import prices for US fell in Dec–largest drop since 2016: CNBC
Fed’s Beige Book: Concern among US businesses rising: WSJ
US homebuilder sentiment rises in Jan following 3-year low: MW

Macro Briefing: 16 January 2019

UK’s May faces confidence vote after crushing Brexit defeat: BBC
Economic headwinds increasing for US as gov’t shutdown drags on: NY Times
China injects record amount of money into economy to support growth: CNBC
Death from opiods more likely than dying in car crash in US: USA Today
Antarctica losing ice at an increasingly rapid rate, threatening coastlines: Axios
Henry Kissinger: US-China trade dispute will likely be resolved: KraneShares
US wholesale inflation fell in Dec but annual pace steady at +2.5%: MW
NY Fed Mfg Index: mfg sector posted sharply softer growth in Dec: Reuters

US GDP Growth Remains Set For Moderate Slowdown in Q4

Economic output is still on track to decelerate to a moderately slower pace in the government’s fourth-quarter report on gross domestic product (GDP) due later this month, based on based on the median estimate for a set of nowcasts compiled by The Capital Spectator. Today’s update reflects a slightly firmer gain vs. the previous estimate published two weeks ago.
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Macro Briefing: 15 January 2019

Polls suggest Trump is losing public support for gov’t shutdown: Fox
Officials preparing for nightmare scenarios if shutdown continues: Bloomberg
Goldman Sachs: US growth will slow but avoid recession in 2019: CNBC
Prime Minister May faces crushing defeat on Brexit vote: Bloomberg
German economic growth slowed to 5-year low in 2018: BBC
China set for more stimulus to counter economic slowdown: Reuters
The Chinese investment boom into US has nearly vanished: CNN
US GDP growth for Q4:2018 on track to slow to 2.6%, according to survey: WSJ
Consumer outlook for inflation in Dec for year ahead was steady at 3%: NY Fed