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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Thursday 10th of September 2020

"I could easily see 5%-10% inflation," Stan Druckenmiller said, speaking on @CNBC @SeekingAlpha
World Of Finance

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has "created a massive asset bubble," Druckenmiller said, adding he could envision 3%-4% deflation.

The combined efforts of Fed and the Treasury Department in dealing with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has created a "massive mania in Wall Street," he said.

"Inevitably after a big party, there's a hangover."

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08-JUN-2020 :: Anybody can be decisive during a panic It takes a strong Man to act during a Boom.
World Of Finance

“The businessman bought at ten and was happy to get out at twelve; the mathematician saw his ten rise to eighteen, but didn’t sell because he wanted to double his ten to twenty.”

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Morgan Stanley expects US budget #deficit to hit 24% and 13% of #GDP this year and next. That is just massive. @jsblokland
World Of Finance

Morgan Stanley expects US #GDP to reach pre-#Covid19 levels as early as Q2 2021 as a result of addition fiscal #stimulus. Hence, the budget #deficit is expected to hit 24% and 13% of #GDP this year and next. That is just massive.

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Interestingly, @Google real-time mobility indicators have been very good at predicting relative year-to-date GDP performances @PkZweifel
World Of Finance

Interestingly,  @Google real-time mobility indicators have been very good at predicting relative year-to-date GDP performances, which showed huge dispersion: from -2% (Taiwan) to more than 30% (Peru)

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'Play it down': Trump admits to concealing the true threat of coronavirus in new Woodward book @CNN
Law & Politics

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious and "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his new book "Rage."

"This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7.

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. "Pretty amazing," Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times "more deadly" than the flu.

Trump's admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time insisting that the virus was "going to disappear" and "all work out fine."

The book, using Trump's own words, depicts a President who has betrayed the public trust and the most fundamental responsibilities of his office. In "Rage," Trump says the job of a president is "to keep our country safe." But in early February, Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was, and in March, admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.

"I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. "I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic."
"The virus has nothing to do with me," Trump told Woodward in their final interview in July. "It's not my fault. It's — China let the damn virus out."

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Xi: Virus victory proof of party’s ‘superiority’ @asiatimesonline
Law & Politics

Chinese President Xi Jinping extolled the Communist Party’s “superiority” as well as tenacious leadership on Tuesday morning as he proclaimed China’s “resounding success” in the epic struggle against Covid-19. 

Xi told a packed auditorium inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that the fact the pandemic was successfully contained in China, while the novel coronavirus continued spread through other countries, was compelling proof of the merits of China’s socialist system. 

The leader said China’s political and social systems had been put to the test in a speech at a top-level commendation ceremony also attended by Premier Li Keqiang, all other standing members of the party’s high-powered Politburo as well as more than 3,000 representatives. He said the way the party and the nation had mobilized people, ramped up the production of vital supplies and coordinated the effort to fend off the disease and save lives showcased the manifold advantages of the party’s approach.

“China is the first major economy to have recuperated from the crisis and achieved economic recovery, a testimony to its resilience and vibrancy… China has emerged stronger and its people are more confident and patriotic than ever,” said Xi, to a thunder of applause from the audience as seen in a simulcast by state broadcaster China Central Television. 

In his speech, Xi also jabbed “certain countries” for seeking to “besmirch China’s efforts and goodwill and shift the blame of their own undoing in fighting Covid.” 

He argued that China had been “transparent all along” in sharing pandemic information with the world, which “helped save tens of millions of lives around the world.”

In the thick of the contagion back in January and February, few could have envisaged that China would so swiftly suppress the virus and restore commerce and business throughout the country. 

Having squashed sporadic resurgences hitting Xinjiang, Liaoning and Beijing and whittled down infections within the span of a few weeks, the situation nationwide has improved to the point that a big gathering of cadres, scientists and medical workers under one ceiling for an honor and award ceremony was safe enough to be held without VIP attendees needing to wear masks or space themselves apart.  

Beijing thinks it is high time it laid claim to being the first major power to have won the fight against the pathogen, with all regions across mainland China sustaining a month-long streak of no local infections. 

Beijing’s victory is also borne out by official statistics: among the 339 cities across the country that have reported confirmed cases since the outbreak, only five of them still have locally infected patients being treated as of Tuesday. 

All of the 10 new cases reported on Monday were imported. Wuhan and the rest of the central province of Hubei, the original ground zero of the plague, is on a 31-day run of zero cases.   

However, contrary to previous expectations, Xi did not announce at the event the launch of a Chinese vaccine, despite state media trumpeting the imminent arrival of four indigenous vaccines that had been nearing the end of their third-stage human trials. 

The highlight of Tuesday’s feel-good victory celebration was China’s top pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan being feted by Xi on the central rostrum of the Great Hall of the People, for his sterling leadership when heading an expert panel advising the central government on its response.

Zhong received a top-honor medal from Xi while three other awardees, including Major General Chen Wei from the People’s Liberation Army’s Military Sciences Academy, who led the military’s quest for a vaccine, also received medals from the leader. 

There was no mention, however, of whistleblower Li Wenliang, a doctor who was among the first in Wuhan to be silenced for raising the alarm about the outbreak and later died from the disease.

Also, contrasting Xi’s speech, which was imbued with an extra dose of pride and patriotism, Zhong’s nationally televised remarks were a sobering reminder of the risks lurking.  

Zhong warned of complacency when he was invited to address the gathering after receiving his medal from Xi. 

“We cannot afford to slack off as the victory we now have is a partial one and breakthroughs must be made on multiple fronts, like finding the origins of the virus, breaking the chain of infections and developing and mass-producing vaccines,” said Zhong.  

In December, Zhong rushed to Wuhan following the emergence of mysterious infections there and sounded the alarm about human-to-human transmission in January, when China’s Center for Disease Control was appealing for calm.

Also, the 84-year-old epidemiologist previously cautioned that a fresh wave may hit the northern hemisphere in the winter and said China must beef up its vigilance, noting that many people were no longer wearing masks because they thought the epidemic was almost over. 

Still, ordinary Chinese see Tuesday’s event as Beijing’s clearest signal that Covid-19 is under control, as they take pride in the triumph and get out and about to spend and travel. 

Lui Puen-kum, a senior lecturer at the Hong Kong Baptist University’s School of Journalism, said China’s victory over the virus was at most a pyrrhic one. 

“The chest-thumping ceremony in Beijing cannot gloss over all the botched response and cover-ups, especially during the onset of the crisis in Wuhan. When the nation honors scientists and medical workers, whistleblowers like Dr Li are forgotten in the official discourse, and officials responsible for all the rampant underreporting and the initial widespread of the virus are all let go lightly,” said Lui.

He said Beijing had again put a positive spin on a still-evolving crisis and portrayed its draconian anti-virus measures as highly successful to reinforce its rule and smother dissidents. 

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On average, emerging market and developing economies went into the #COVID19 pandemic with more debt than they had prior to the global financial crisis @WorldBank
World Of Finance

On average, emerging market and developing economies went into the #COVID19 pandemic with more debt than they had prior to the global financial crisis, which is now making them more susceptible to financial stress.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1826

Dollar Index 93.165

Japan Yen 106.07

Swiss Franc 0.9106

Pound 1.3013

Aussie 0.7271

India Rupee 73.34

South Korea Won 1185.72

Brazil Real 5.3095

Egypt Pound 15.7579

South Africa Rand 16.65 

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This is the Turkish currency (getting weaker and weaker) vs the Egyptian pound .. strong presidents in both, but in Egypt, authorities advance market friendly reforms with IMF support, while in Turkey, the president thinks markets are morons.
World Currencies

This is the Turkish currency (getting weaker and weaker) vs the Egyptian pound .. strong presidents in both, but in Egypt, the authorities advance market friendly reforms with IMF support, while in Turkey, the president thinks markets are morons. Investors prefer the former ..

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“We forecast growth of 1.5% in 2020 in large part due to agriculture'' -Renaissance Capital @David_Indeje
Kenyan Economy

“We forecast growth of 1.5% in 2020 in large part due to agriculture. The sector was the largest contributor to growth in the quarter with a year on year growth of 4.9 percent in 1Q20 from 3.9 percent in 1Q19 due to favorable rains. -Renaissance Capital

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Kenyan borrowers shamed by debt collectors chasing Silicon Valley loans @financialtimes
Kenyan Economy

Dorcas Mazune was walking home through Kawangware, the low-income neighbourhood in Nairobi where she works, when her phone pinged. 

It was a notification about a $20 loan she had taken out last year from Branch International, a Silicon Valley-based personal credit start-up, when she was short for her rent. “Dorcas, we will report you to the CRB tomorrow unless you pay Ksh 1,103 . . . by midnight TODAY,” it said, in a reference to Kenya’s Credit Reference Bureau. 

Later her boyfriend said he received a surprise call from a debt collection agent who said he should urge his girlfriend to pay back the money. Ms Mazune, 21, who earns about $100 a month, had not told Branch about her boyfriend or given anyone his number. 

“That was really weird,” Ms Mazune said, sitting in a red swivel chair at the barbershop where she works. “I paid it and then deleted the app.”

Four other borrowers in the Kenyan capital also said that collection agents had pursued them to recover Branch loans, either by informing their friends and family using contact information scraped from their phone or, in two cases, by threatening to tell their employers. 

These tactics, known as debt-shaming, have become highly controversial in Kenya, where a flood of small loans, once championed as a way to lift people out of poverty and enable hard-working borrowers to fund businesses or cover unexpected costs, has also created a market for unscrupulous debt collection. Kenya’s banking regulator says the practice has already led to at least one suicide.

“They said: ‘We will come, we will come and get you, no matter how far you are and how hidden you think you are’,” said Victor Anzel, 29, a mechanical engineer, who said he was chased by Skywave, a Kenyan debt collection agency, when he was eight weeks late on repayment of a $200 Branch loan. “We will come and auction your stuff, we will track you through your boss, we have your details,” the Skywave agents said, according to Mr Anzel.

He shared several intimidating text messages with the Financial Times, including one in which Skywave warned him not to “push” the agency to contact his employer. “That’s when I thought this can’t be the right way to collect debt,” he said.

Branch — which says its lending in emerging markets is intended to “spur human potential” — said it did not engage in “any aggressive practices to seek repayment of loans” and that it had granted extensions on loans during the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t ever shame, share contacts or add calendar reminders for loan repayment purposes,” the company said. 

It confirmed it used debt collection agents to chase unpaid loans but said this was common practice in the lending industry, adding that it vets its agents carefully and monitors their activity weekly. Skywave did not respond to emailed questions regarding the allegations. When contacted by telephone a Skywave representative declined to comment.

But interviews with former employees at Branch and two collection agencies suggested that debt shaming tactics like those described by Ms Mazune and Mr Anzel were often used by collection agents, who are generally paid only with a percentage of the loans they recoup.

Branch is one of more than 100 digital lending platforms operating in Kenya. The sector, an evolution of the microfinance industry often championed as a “silver bullet” to end poverty, has ballooned in the past five years, fuelled by the country’s vibrant technology start-up scene — worth an estimated $1bn — and the penetration of the Kenyan mobile money service, Mpesa, used by more than 25m citizens — almost half the population.

Since 2016, Branch said it had processed over 15m loans to 2m Kenyans. Its app, which offers loans of between $2 to $700 at annual interest rates of between 22 per cent and 240 per cent, analyses a borrower’s smartphone to judge creditworthiness.

With offices in India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and Tanzania, Branch is one of the world’s leading digital microlenders. The company has raised $250m in investment since it was founded in 2015 from blue-chip venture capital firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, as well as from Visa and the World Bank’s international finance corporation, which promotes “responsible debt collection in emerging markets” and stipulates that lenders should not outsource unethical practices to other debt collectors.

The number of debt collection agencies in Kenya has grown rapidly in line with the expansion of digital lenders, which provide collection agents with as much as 70 per cent of their business. Branch has used Nimble Group Kenya, Skywave Management and at least three other debt collection agencies to chase loan repayments in Kenya, according to a Branch employee who left this year. Branch declined to comment on the debt collectors it uses, for privacy reasons.

Some of Branch’s debt collectors are also used by other lenders such as Tala, another Silicon-Valley funded app, and Opesa and Okash, owned by the Norway-headquartered software company Opera. In June, Branch, Tala and more than dozen other digital lenders in Kenya issued a public statement singling out Opesa and Okash for allegedly using customers’ contact lists to shame borrowers into making repayments, and sought to distance themselves from the practice. Opesa and Okash both denied the allegations.

Branch’s borrowers give consent for the Branch app to access their contact list, call and SMS logs, Facebook friends, location and photo library, among other things. In Kenya, as the app works by transferring credit into a borrower’s M-Pesa account, it can also see the user’s balance and how they have been using it.

Branch denies using that data to then chase a borrower’s friends, family or employer, if that borrower fails to repay the loan. “Branch only shares basic information for debt collection purposes: customer name, phone number and loan information,” it said.

But a former employee at the collection agency Nimble Group Kenya said it was still possible for a collection agent working on a Branch loan to track down family members, since borrowers are often registered on several apps, enabling agents to retrieve contact information from lenders that did share borrowers’ address books.

“If I have a phone number that has borrowed [from] Branch, Tala and Opesa, the [debt agency’s] system has three accounts linked to the same phone or ID number,” the former Nimble employee said, asking not be identified. “Collection is challenging, so sometimes, because you really want the commission, you have to figure out a way to get a customer to pay.”

One Branch borrower who requested to remain anonymous said he was contacted by Nimble regarding an outstanding Branch loan of $180 in May 2019. In a text message, seen by the FT, Nimble threatened to begin “skip trace and field recovery” — an industry term meaning to locate someone’s whereabouts. The collection agents went on to contact his mother, even though the borrower said he had never provided her telephone number to Branch.

According to the former Nimble employee, Branch knew that some of the Nimble collection agents were using such methods, since it introduced a system in December 2018 to punish Nimble for over-aggressive collection practices by lowering its fee. Nimble did not respond to a request to comment on the allegations.

Branch was also aware of similar collection practices at least one other of its collection agencies. Branch held a meeting with that agency, Skywave, in 2017, following customer complaints and told the company to cease the aggressive tactics, according to a former Branch employee who said they attended the meeting.

Branch declined to comment on the specific allegations relating to Skywave and Nimble, saying that it did not publicly discuss business matters involving third parties. “We take serious measures including termination or suspension if agencies participating in debt collection practices are not aligned with our values,” Branch said.

In April, with public outrage building over the conduct of digital lenders, the Central Bank of Kenya ended the access of app-only lenders like Branch to the country’s Credit Reference Bureau database. A new law under review in the Kenyan parliament would also require digital lenders to seek approval from the central bank for changes to interest rates or to launch new products.

“People have suffered,” the central bank governor, Patrick Njoroge, told the FT. “People who have gotten a phone call from their local priest deep in their rural areas asking them why they haven’t paid . . . It’s never too soon to do the right thing and that’s what we intend to do.”

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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September 2020

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