Trump’s State of the Union Charts Uncertain Path

Presidents come and go, but the annual State of the Union address endures. It’s mostly an opportunity for political grandstanding but can offer insight into an administration’s goals for the year.

President Trump delivered his first official entry into this historic canon Tuesday. In typical fashion, he took the occasion to celebrate his achievements—major tax legislation, extensive deregulation, the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq—and call for national unity and bipartisanship.

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Mr. Trump Goes to Davos

The idea of Donald Trump attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is a bit like mixing oil and water.

Like many on the Davos guest list, the U.S. president is both a prominent world leader and billionaire businessman. Unlike most of them, he also champions nationalism and economic protectionism, views that rarely receive a platform at the world’s largest annual celebration of globalization and the global elite who love it.

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Looking For Interest In Smaller Places

Interest rates on certificates of deposit at small banks, internet banks and credit unions are now a full 1 to 1.5 percentage points higher than at big banks. While all financial institutions have raised the lending rates they charge their borrowers in response to Federal Reserve rate hikes, only the smalls have been raising deposit rates.

Previously, most financial institutions were reluctant to raise deposit rates because their profit margins had been so squeezed by the ultralow rates that prevailed before the Fed finally started hiking at the end of 2016. But now, competitive pressures to attract deposits are forcing small banks, internet banks and credit unions to raise their full range of CD deposit rates in line with the increase in Treasury bill rates (though offerings on lowly savings accounts are still paltry). Continue reading “Looking For Interest In Smaller Places”

What’s Fueling Oil’s Big Rally?

If you follow the energy markets at all, you already know that crude oil is enjoying an epic price rally. In mid-July of last year, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude was trading at $45 per barrel. Six months later, WTI has zoomed to $64 per barrel: A heady 40% advance, which makes the stock market look positively pedestrian by comparison.

So, what gives? And more importantly, can the rally continue? Continue reading “What’s Fueling Oil’s Big Rally?”

Control of Congress Rests on Handful of Critical Variables

It’s too early to make a definitive call on the midterm elections, but here are some key factors shaping the campaign landscape.

The Generic Congressional Ballot: This poll asks people which party they would support in a congressional election, without mentioning any specific candidate. So far, Democrats have a clear advantage. RealClearPolitics, a political polling and news aggregator, shows the party with an average lead of 9 points on the generic ballot, based on polling data dating back to January 2017.

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Tech Companies are Racing to Fix a Chip Bug, But Threats Will Linger

A major computer chip security flaw will continue to roil the tech industry for years to come. The problem affects a staggering amount of modern information technology around the globe, including PCs, smartphones and servers that run widely used cloud computing apps. The issue stems from processors from Intel, AMD and ARM, which are at risk of exposing sensitive data to hackers, such as passwords and encryption keys.

The vulnerabilities were discovered in June by security researchers at Google, who quickly reported it to the chipmakers and other hardware and software companies, prompting a rapid behind-the-scenes company response. The problem was made public on January 3 by the tech website The Register, causing tech firms, particularly Intel, to scramble to disclose more information. Continue reading “Tech Companies are Racing to Fix a Chip Bug, But Threats Will Linger”

North Korea’s Nuclear Drive will Upend Detente

2017 was a groundbreaking year for North Korea’s nuclear program. This year will bring more provocations intended to challenge the United States and bolster Pyongyang’s claim of being a full-fledged nuclear power.

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for National Interest, already dubbed 2018 “the year of the North Korean missile.” But North Korea’s next move is on hold while it engages in talks with South Korea to ease tensions ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, which open in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month. Seoul and Washington suspended annual joint military exercises until after the Olympics as a sign of good faith.

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Iranian Protests Unlikely to Topple Anti-American Regime

Forecasting political developments in the Middle East is a fool’s errand—doubly so when the country is Iran.

On New Year’s Eve 1977, President Carter famously called it “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world,” only to watch revolutionary students hijack the U.S. embassy in Tehran a year later, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days and crippling his presidency.

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Trump Sets China in his 2018 Sights

Sino-American relations will take a turn for the worse in 2018, as the Trump administration makes good on its trade threats and North Korea undermines President Trump’s positive relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

Despite his long-held skepticism about China’s trade practices, Trump spent his first year in office trying to woo Xi—Beijing’s most powerful leader in decades—in hopes of convincing him to take a harder line on Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations.

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Key Technology Trends to Watch in 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to look ahead to a new year in technology. Some of the key tech trends that bear watching closely in 2018 follow. We’ll be covering these topics—and many others—next year in our Alerts. As always, please send along any questions or comments about technology and I’ll do my best to answer. Continue reading “Key Technology Trends to Watch in 2018”