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Friday, June 01, 2018

Economic Facts of Week: Tech giants killing young rivals and more June 02 2018

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Eurostat reported Thursday that the Euro Area (EA19) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 8.5% in April 2018, down from 8.6% in March 2018 and from 9.2% in April 2017. This is the lowest rate recorded in the Euro Area since December 2008. The EU28 unemployment rate was 7.1% in April 2018, stable compared with March 2018 and down from 7.8% in April 2017. This remains the lowest rate recorded in the EU28 since September 2008.

One in ten Europeans in arrears with payments

Eurostat reported that in 2016, 10.4% of the population in the European Union (EU) were in arrears with their mortgage, rent or other items, such as utility bills or hire purchase payments, which are typically paid as monthly instalments. In other words, one in ten people in the EU had such outstanding debts and delayed payments in 2016.

When focusing on arrears for mortgage or rental payments, the proportion stood at 3.5% in the EU. People living in households with dependent children (4.8%) were twice as likely to face this situation as those without dependent children (2.3%).

Arrears relating to mortgage, rent and other payments: Almost half (47.9%) the population in Greece were in arrears with mortgage, rent, utility bills or hire purchase payments, in 2016. Around one third of the population in Bulgaria (34.2%), and over a quarter in Cyprus (26.6%) and Croatia (26.4%) were also in arrears of this type.

At the opposite end of the scale, half (14 out of 28) of the member countries recorded that less than 10% of their population were in arrears with mortgage or rent, utility bills or hire purchase payments. The smallest proportions were 5.0% in the Netherlands, 4.4% in the Czech Republic and 4.2% in Germany.

Jobless rate to fall to 1980 level

The OECD, a club for mainly rich countries, said this week that the global economic expansion is set to persist over the next two years, “with global GDP projected to rise by close to 4% in 2018 and 2019. Growth in the OECD area is set to remain around 2½% per annum, helped by fiscal easing in many economies, and will strengthen to close to 5% elsewhere. Although job growth is likely to ease in advanced economies, the OECD-wide unemployment rate is projected to fall to its lowest level since 1980, with labour shortages intensifying in some countries.”

Trump's EU tariffs 'foolish' and 'damaging'

“Donald Trump's move to slap tariffs on the EU is wrong and damaging to trans-Atlantic ties, two ex-US ambassadors to Brussels under Barack Obama and George W. Bush” told DW (Deutsche Welle). They have a clear message for Europe.

Brexit

The British referendum in 2016 on leaving the European Union was a lesson in how not to carry out direct democracy, former Swiss finance minister Kaspar Villiger tells swissinfo.ch. His ‘shock attack’ on Brexit has been picked up by a British tabloid.

World No Tobacco Day

According to the Geneva-based United Nations health agency, globally one in five people over the age of 15 was a regular smoker in 2016. Over 24m children aged 13-15 smoke cigarettes, WHO said in a report released on Thursday to mark World No Tobacco Day.

Eurostat reported; “of the 5.2m deaths reported in the EU in 2015, a quarter (1.3m) were due to cancer. Of those deaths, 273,400 were caused by lung cancer, including cancer of the trachea and bronchi. In other words, lung cancer was the main type of fatal cancer in the EU, accounting for over a fifth (21%) of all cancer-related deaths. Men were twice as affected as women: 184,600 men died of lung cancer, compared with 88 800 women.”

Irish writer John Banville

John Banville: ‘the artist is the one with nothing to say’ - The Booker prize-winning Irish writer talks about multiple selves, art as art, and James Joyce’s ego in the Swiss town of Solothurn.

Loving Spain

I have no reason to lie when I tell you that everything is better in Spain”: British concert pianist James Rhodes explains why he calls Madrid and not the UK home

US drugs overdose deaths

VOX says “America has about 4% of the world’s population — but about 27% of the world’s drug overdose deaths. In 1999, fewer than 17,000 people died from drug overdoses. In 2015, that grew to more than 52,000. That’s higher than the more than 38,000 who died in car crashes, the more than 36,000 who died from gun violence, and the more than 43,000 who died due to HIV/AIDS during that epidemic’s peak in 1995.”

The Economist notes “On one hand, deaths caused by prescription opioids and heroin now appear to be falling. Yet on the other, those resulting from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—a drug 50 times more potent than heroin—continue to rise rapidly. Assuming recent trends have continued, in February the toll from fentanyl is expected to have surpassed those from prescription painkillers and heroin combined.”

Being the United States, race is also a factor in the response to the crisis.

Amid the opioid epidemic, white means victim, black means addict

This from NPR (National Public Radio):

Something that we do know is that doctors prescribe narcotics more cautiously to their non-white patients. It would seem that if the patient is black, the doctor is more concerned about the patient becoming addicted, or maybe they're more concerned about the patient selling their pills, or maybe they are less concerned about pain in that population. But the black patient is less likely to be prescribed narcotics, and therefore less likely to wind up becoming addicted to the medication. So what I believe is happening is that racial stereotyping is having a protective effect on non-white populations.

Tech giants and killing young rivals

The Economist says on the US tech giants: "Big, rich and paranoid, they have reams of data to help them spot and buy young firms that might challenge them."

Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures, who was an early investor in Twitter, uses the term “kill-zone” in respect of young firms that are seen as a threat while venture capitalists are also wary about funding those firms for fear of alienating the incumbents in online search, social media, mobile and e-commerce.  Last year the number of first financing rounds in these areas were down by around 22% from 2012.

Of all American tech firms, Alphabet (holding company of Google) has been the most active. Since 2013 it has spent $12.6bn investing in 308 startups. Startups generally feel excited about gaining expertise from such a successful firm, but some may rue the day they accepted funding, because of conflicts….In 2017 Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft allocated a combined a whopping $23.7bn to stock-based compensation. Big companies’ hoarding of talent stops startups scaling quickly. According to Mike Volpi of Index Ventures, a venture-capital firm, startups in the firm’s portfolio are currently 10-20% behind in their hiring goals for the year.

Malaysia's 92-year old PM interview with VOA

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, back in power after a 15-year hiatus, says his first 20 years in office were “fairly easy” compared to what is confronting him now — massive debt in a country with an international reputation for corruption.

Mahathir returned to power on May 9 in a spectacular election upset that saw him unite with his former opposition foes to overthrow a prime minister — Najib Razak — who is accused of helping to steal billions from his country in one of the biggest corporate frauds in history. Najib denies all the charges.

Well my first 20 years as prime minister was fairly easy. I inherited a system that is already there. All I had to do is to introduce new ideas so that we can expedite the growth and development of Malaysia,” the 92-year-old Mahathir told VOA in an exclusive interview.

“But here I am dealing with a country that has been actually destroyed. Its finances have been destroyed. The system of government has been ignored and not used and a new system, or rather an authoritarian system has been introduced,” he said.

Malaysia's new prime minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to the VOA about corruption, the economy, China and US President Donald Trump and denies he was authoritarian during his previous stint as leader.

Finfacts: A tsunami election in Malaysia after 61 years of independence