Category: Stories of Interest (page 1 of 112)

“Two-Sided Marketplaces” Continue To Make Deeper Disruptions

For the first time ever, more people are using Uber in New York than the city’s fabled yellow cabs. Data released form July shows Uber recorded an average of 289,000 rides each day compared with 277,000 taxi trips. A similar pattern has emerged in other cities, including San Francisco, Chicago and Houston, with the demand for Uber services starting to more widely expand out into the suburbs. Other ride-hail apps, like Lyft and Via, are also finding increased customer interest outside the main urban sprawl. The ride-hail apps have not only benefited passengers but also are creating good income for those needing part-time opportunities. According to a national study, 80% of Uber’s partner drivers work fewer than 35 hours a week across 20 of our largest markets, and more than half only drive between one and 15 hours each week. From what I’ve personally read and understand, most ride-share drivers are averaging between $15 and $22 per hour after you break it all down. Which is great for people that need the extra income. Bottom-line, two-sided marketplaces continue to gain in popularity and are clearly going to disrupt almost all industries. The define two-sided marketplaces as those that allow suppliers and customers to interact directly with one another and creates value through an intermediary platform. Uber in the transportation industry, and or Airbnb in housing and rental space are prime examples. Even the arts and crafts industry is getting disrupted by platforms like Etsy, which helps artist and crafters sell handmade and vintage goods to niche customers. To think this isn’t going to happen inside your industry is a delusion. Make sure you paying close attention and thinking about all of the moving pieces that surround you… (Source: Forbes; NYTimes, Money)

Dinner Is Served… From The “Bioreactor”

A Finnish research team has taken steps toward producing food from electricity. The process is actually quite simple, only requiring the addition of water, carbon dioxide, and microbes which are placed into a bioreactor then turning it on. After the ingredients are exposed to electrolysis, the end result is a powdery sub​s​​t​ance consisting of more than 50% protein and 25% carbohydrates. I’m told you can even change the texture by altering the microbes inputted. The synthetic food produced is part of the Food From Electricity Project, which is a collaboration between Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Many feel approaches like these will combat current greenhouse gas production that are a result of the agriculture and livestock industries. At present, it is believed that the meat industry alone accounts for around 15% of global emissions of greenhouse gasses. Researchers argue that using electrolysis allows them to completely automate the process to produce food as well as animal feed. And it’s worth noting that this method also would avoid the use of pest-control chemicals, avoiding much-debated runoff issues. Interestingly, at this time the process takes about two weeks to produce one gram of protein, which is generated in equipment the size of a coffee cup. The goal of course, is to scale up the process, which I’m told will have the result of being 10 times more energy efficient than photosynthesis. As I understand it, the study will continue for another three years, and in that time the team plans to fine-tune the reactor, improve efficiency and develop the system for commercialization. Obviously, there are practical applications the team hopes to see achieve beyond the environmental benefits. As you can imagine, the potential impact of food production using only electricity and other easily accessible raw materials would provide a source of food for the world’s starving populations in areas that are not suited to agricultural production. I suspect in the near future we will continue to see processes and products that will develop in an attempt to provide sustainable and environmentally friendly food. Keep in mind that within only the last year we have seen numerous solutions presented to the current issues. For instance, already in production are lab-grown meats as well as the beginnings of insect farming. Who really knows what will stick and what won’t but the menu certainly looks to be changing for the future. ​There is a cool ​infographic about what that might look like HERE. (Source: Futurism, Newatlas)

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The Stock Market Crash Of 1987

Thirty years ago today, global financial markets experienced their first meltdown of the contemporary era. Known as “Black Monday​”​, October 19, 1987, saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) drop 22.6%, which to this day remains the second-largest percentage loss in its history (a 1916 loss of -24.39% holds the top spot). The crash was proceeded by a strong bull market during the first part of 1987, gaining +44% by late August. Concerns about a “bubble” began to build and beginning in mid-October, a string of events began to unfold. The problems started with U.S. data that showed a larger-than-expected trade deficit, which sent the dollar tumbling. Stock markets around the world began experiences significant losses on October 14. On the 15th and 16th, Iran struck two separate tankers with silkworm missiles, both of which had U.S. ties. Also on Friday the 16th, London markets were unexpectedly closed due to what became known as the Great Storm of 1987. Over the following weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker voiced concerns about the market declines that were being witnessed around the world, and also threatened to devalue the U.S. dollar in order the narrow the country’s trade deficit. Before Wall Street opened on Monday, Asian markets had already taken a deep dive. U.S. traders had sell orders already lined up before the market even opened, which sent the Dow into a downward spiral. It ended down -508 points. Markets around the world also experienced deep losses, including New Zealand (-60%), Hong Kong (-45.5%), Australia (-41.8%) and Canada (-22.5%). It was at this point in contemporary history that the financial industry realized how “globalized” the world had truly become. “You learn how interrelated we all are and how small we are,” said Donald Marron, chairman of Paine Webber, at the time a prominent investment firm. “Nowhere is that exemplified more than people staying up all night to watch the Japanese market to get a feeling for what might happen in the next session of the New York market.” The crash was partially blamed on a new product in the U.S. known as “portfolio insurance”, which involved the extensive use of options and derivatives. Market losses triggered “program selling”, or what we today refer to as algorithms. Further stock losses led to more computerized selling, creating a downhill snowball effect. Afterward, some economists theorized the speculative boom leading up to October was caused by program trading, and that the crash was merely a return to normalcy. A surge in international investors also caught part of the speculative bubble blame. Regulators also identified some structural flaws which the​y​ worked to fix in the aftermath. At the time of the crisis, stock​s​, options, and futures markets used different timelines for trade settlements, which ​during periods of rapid trading could lead to negative trade balances and force liquidations. The markets also didn’t have any rules to halt trading temporarily in the face of ​steep price declines, known now as “circuit breakers.” For example, under current rules, the New York Stock Exchange will temporarily halt trading when the S&P 500 stock index declines 7 percent, 13 percent, and 20 percent in order to provide investors “the ability to make informed choices during periods of high market volatility.” Despite the very scary sell-off, markets rebounded over the following two sessions, regaining 288 points. It did however take almost two years for stocks to surpass their pre-crash highs. (Sources: Federal Reserve, Wikipedia)

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Inside Look At Argentina’s Recent Flooding

The most recent GAIN report out of the Buenos Aires USDA attache indicates heavy rains during August and September has caused noteworthy damage across Argentina’s main crop areas. Local reports estimate anywhere between 12.5 to 25 million acres have been flooded or severely damaged due to these rains. While these rains have impacted the winter crop (wheat, barley, etc.), current conditions indicate that they should not ultimately affect soybean, peanut, and sunflower planting intentions but may cause a delay in plantings. This flooding not only affected rural areas and their local economies but has had serious consequences on the entire Argentine economy, including government receipts and exports. According to the newspaper La Nacion, the flooding has led to an economic loss of around $1.7 billion, as well as creating a drop in government revenues due to declines in tax receipts. This flooding damage is not exclusive to crop agriculture but also affected the beef and dairy sectors, with economic losses estimated at over $550 million. This same analysis also estimates approximately 3 million acres of crop area have been lost due to this flood damage. However, USDA contacts indicate that it is too early to definitely measure area losses. The Buenos Aires Post continues to believe that if conditions do not worsen, there will not be a significant change in soybean area. In addition, there is a possibility of perhaps higher soybean area as many producers who may end up incurring losses due to flood damage, will look to go with a cheaper and quicker alternative. (Source: USDA, GAIN report, Buenos Aires, Argentina October 2017)

Below is a Precipitation Map for South America showing the deviation from normal rainfall for the month. As you can see, the purple indicates heavy, above average rain in parts of Argentina.

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An Olympic Protests In 1968… To Taking A Knee

Everyone know my stance on this subject and how it sickens me to watch the continued kneeling during the National Anthem. There’s been enough in the press on both sides of the argument for us to digest so I’ve tried as of late to avoid adding to the noise. I thought it was appropriate though as this, October 17th, 1968 is the day in history that Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith (winner of the 200-meter dash) and bronze medalist John Carlos were forced to return their awards because they raised their fists in a black-power salute during the medal ceremony. In a press conference the next day, International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage deplored the athletes’ “outrageous stance”, he said, “it repudiated the basic principles of the Olympic games.” The AP photograph of the ceremony is one of the most familiar and enduring images of a tumultuous era. What’s interesting however is that even during this highly racially charged era of the late 60’s, American’s of all color joined together to vilify their protest and disrespect for the flag. Fast forward to today and we have a wave of millionaires “taking a knee” kneeling during the National Anthem to protest social injustice. I’ve listened to arguments both for and against and have tried to keep an extremely open mind. I’ve even listened intently and carefully to the veterans who have served and said they were ok with the kneeling as it is the very freedoms they had fought for…still I can’t get my head around it. Why protest during the National Anthem? Why protest during a period of time that honors our forefathers who have sacrificed so much? From my perspective, I was always told that the National Anthem was a moment in time to pay respect to the people who have risked their lives, been injured, or died defending the United States. Again, I’m not against the message or protesting about social injustice, but I’m strongly against the delivery and timing of doing it during this sacred moment. It just seems so counterproductive and a step in the wrong direction. It creates even greater division inside our nation. My ultimate question is how long can the “PRINCIPLES” that have bound us together in this great nation remain larger than the “PRINCIPLES” that are dividing and tearing us apart? I’ve always liked the the thought that life, much like football, is a game of inches. Those small “inches” when added together ultimately tell the story. From my perspective, it seems like there’s been a lot of “inches” the past 10-years added towards dividing our nation rather than bringing us closer together. FYI, the NFL has a meeting scheduled today between NFL management, ownership, and the NFL Players Association to discuss ways to curtail the demonstrations and channel the player passions. It is at least the third such meeting, but none have completely ended the protests. Television is now trying to shield the protests from viewers as networks cut away to commercials before right before the National Anthem can be viewed. Interestingly, the number of protesters has dramatically declined. After nearly 200 sat or knelt three weeks ago in response to criticism from President Trump, fewer than a dozen did so on Sunday, an indication that even the players may be ready to move on. Lets hope this is the case…

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