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Breakfast Briefing: Cobalt, Bridgewater Shorts and Tether Demand

Apple Turns to Cobalt

Sources confirm that the company is looking to buy cobalt straight from miners.

Editor’s Remarks: Cobalt, a key element in electric vehicle batteries, is in the crosshairs of the world’s biggest company. Apple presently uses cobalt in the batteries of its devices but so far has outsourced the actual purchasing of the metal to its battery suppliers. This latest move is designed to hedge against anticipated cobalt shortages driven by the surge in popularity of electric vehicles. Although Apple has not yet given comment on its talks with cobalt miners, Glencore’s CEO last year confirmed that Apple was indeed one of the companies he was in talks with.

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Tether Demand Soars

Tether, whose founders say is pegged against the dollar, is seen as a stable cryptocurrency.

Editor’s Remarks: Demand for Tether is soaring as crypto investors search for a decentralised asset that is free of the volatility that typifies the market for virtual currencies. However, the coin is currently the focus of US regulators who want to ascertain whether the currency is in fact backed up by an appropriate dollar reserve. Tether has so far not had its accounts audited or provided clear evidence that it does indeed have ample reserves. A similar token, TrueUSD, was also released in January and can also be used to hedge against bitcoin’s price swings.

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North Korean Hacker Threat

“Reaper”, the North Korean cyber-spy group, is now considered a serious global threat.

Editor’s Remarks: Reaper, also known as APT370, has been confirmed as conducting spy operations far beyond the Korean Peninsula. So far, targets have included Japan, Vietnam and the Middle East; the range of industries that have been attacked include everything from electronics to healthcare to aerospace. A report produced by cybersecurity firm FireEye documented the allegations relating to Reaper, which confirms worldwide worries that North Korea’s cyber operations are expanding. North Korea’s better known Lazarus hacking unit has also been linked to a number of high profile attacks, including the 2014 Sony data theft.

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Bridgewater Shorts Europe

The world’s largest hedge fund divided opinion by shorting a number of European companies.

Editor’s Remarks: Last week, Bridgewater unveiled a series of positions against European multinationals and Italian banks that amounted to $22bn. So far, the move has divided opinions amongst market watchers who feel its contradicts Bridgewater’s usual broad bets on macro movements, particularly when the European economy is performing well on the whole. Some feel that the bets might even be hedged against a different position, which could in fact meany that the firm is not short on Europe as has been widely documented. Furthermore, even though the companies in question are European, most generate the majority of their revenues from outside the continent.

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Trump Acts on Guns

The White House has moved to ban rapid-fire gun components after the Florida shooting. 

Editor’s Remarks: Amid protests calling for tougher gun laws across the nation in the aftermath of a school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida, President Donald Trump has called for a ban on bump stocks, which boost semi-automatic weapons’ rate of fire. Trump called on attorney-general Jeff Sessions to crack down on the attachments. The National Rifle Association, the pro-gun lobbying group, has also called fro restrictions on bump stocks in a presumable bid to bolster its reputation among the US public. Many, however, feel that Trump’s actions are simply too little, too late.

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