ECB adds half a trillion euros in stimulus; Japan growth revised down; We are to blame for giraffe decline and only we can save them

1 ECB adds half a trillion euros in stimulus (San Francisco Chronicle) The European Central Bank will pour another half-trillion euros ($579 billion) in newly printed money into the eurozone economy to support its recovery as the currency union heads into what could be a tumultuous election year.

The bank’s 25-member governing council extended the duration of its bond-buying stimulus program by at least nine months, from March until December next year. But the council startled markets by reducing the monthly amount of bonds it will buy after March, to 60 billion euros ($64 billion) from 80 billion euros currently.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the reduction did not mean the bank was tapering, or phasing out, the stimulus. He said the central bank could increase the monthly purchases if needed and that there is still no firm end date for the stimulus program. He noted, however, that the economy could get by with less monthly stimulus now because the danger of deflation — falling prices that kill off growth and investment — had passed.

The bond purchases pump freshly created money into the banking system in hopes of increasing weak inflation and encouraging growth. The flood of cash also helps keep financial markets calmer as Europe faces elections in the Netherlands and France next year where anti-EU, populist candidates are expected to do well.

2 Japan growth revised down (BBC) Japan’s economy grew much slower than initially estimated in the third quarter of the year, figures have revealed, as business investment fell. The Cabinet Office said the economy grew 1.3% in the three months to the end of September, compared to the same period a year ago. However, that was sharply lower than the previous estimate of 2.2%.

The new data indicated that investment by companies in the quarter had been weaker than initially estimated. Just over a quarter of the growth came from net exports. Economists are hopeful that exports will pick up following the rise in the value of the dollar since Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Japan’s economy has been struggling for several years, raising questions about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s strategy to revive the Japanese economy. Mr Abe took office in late 2012, launching a growth plan that included three main elements – pumping more money into the economy, boosting government spending and cutting red tape.

3 We are to blame for giraffe decline and only we can save them (Jules Howard in The Guardian) Imagine entering a museum of the future. You are in the shadow of an enormous towering skeleton of an extinct creature which stands almost 20ft high, with a long neck upon which a horny skull sits, within which would have been a tongue almost as long as a human arm.

“On whose watch did such a creature face extinction?” those future museum visitors might ask. Our watch. For today is the day giraffes first became listed as a threatened species, the day we learned from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature that giraffes are to be listed as “vulnerable” in their international Red List update. And the day we have to start doing something more to help.

According to the IUCN, giraffe populations have fallen from about 157,000 in 1985 to 97,500 today – a population drop of almost 40%. But the causes of these declines are nothing new: they include the conversion of grasslands to farmland, deforestation and the impact of civil wars, not forgetting the occasional crazed American tourist with a big gun fetish.

Giraffes are now split across Africa into discreet populations that no longer mix – they are nine isolated islands of life being increasingly squeezed from all sides. This year’s IUCN Red List does not only include giraffes; there are a host of creatures threatened by similar fragmentation. They include the African grey parrot and the spectacular sunset lorikeet and the eastern gorilla, as well as (my personal favourite) the geometric tortoise.

But this is a day for us to consider giraffes. Theirs is a story, quite frankly, that few conservationists (including me) saw coming. I am the first to admit that yesterday, before the IUCN update, I had giraffes pegged as beautiful food for lions. Now they, like so many others, have become more; they have become food for thought.

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Glencore, Qatar buy 20% of Rosneft; India’s indebted power retailers; After ISIS’ fall in Sirte

1 Glencore, Qatar buy 20% of Rosneft (BBC) The Kremlin has announced that commodities trader Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund are together buying a 19.5% stake in Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company. “It is the largest privatisation deal, the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016,” President Vladimir Putin said.

The surprise move sees Glencore and Qatar paying $11.3bn for the stake in Rosneft, where BP already owns 19.75%. Moscow will keep the controlling stake. The long-planned sale is part of the Russian government’s efforts to sell some state assets to help balance the budget amid a two-year recession caused by a drop in global oil prices and Western sanctions.

The deal also marks a turnaround for London-listed Glencore, which had seen a collapse in its share price amid a plan to sell assets and cut its huge debts. The Qatar Investment Authority is one of the biggest investors in Glencore.

It had been thought that US and EU sanctions imposed on Russia following the Ukraine conflict would deter huge investment in Russia, although companies were not explicitly prohibited from participating in the Rosneft sale. The election of Donald Trump as US president has, however, raised speculation of a thaw in relations with Moscow.

2 India’s indebted power retailers (Straits Times) India’s money-losing state power retailers may be scaring off power plant investors, according to Sembcorp Industries, compounding the industry’s woes that have left about 20 per cent of the country without electricity.

Delayed payments by the distributors and their reluctance to sign long-term purchase contracts are risks for investors, said Mr Vipul Tuli, chief executive of the Singapore company’s India unit. Sembcorp joins Spanish wind power producer Acciona and Goldman Sachs Group-backed ReNew Power Ventures in voicing concerns about the precarious business environment in India’s power industry.

Sembcorp, which is controlled by Temasek Holdings, has 2,748 megawatts of installed generation capacity in India, including three coal- based units of 660 megawatts each. One of those units has yet to find long-term buyers for its power. A fourth unit, also without a contract, is yet to be commissioned, Mr Tuli said.

Long-term purchase commitments are not available for almost 22 gigawatts of India’s thermal plants, about 7 per cent of the country’s total power generation capacity, according to a member of the Central Electricity Authority, the planning wing of India’s power ministry. That is forcing generators to sell in short-term markets where tariffs are lower.

Most of India’s provincial electricity retailers lose money on electricity sales, selling below cost to the poor and agricultural customers and losing revenue to people who illegally tap into power supplies. Subsidy payments from state governments and higher tariffs to rich households and industrial users partially compensate for the losses, but still leave retailers financially vulnerable.

3 After ISIS’ fall in Sirte (San Francisco Chronicle) The Islamic State group this week lost the city of Sirte, its only foothold in Libya, essentially ending its ambition to expand its self-styled “caliphate” into the North African nation, at least for now.

But that victory only opens the door for Libya’s multiple armed factions to turn on each other in a new showdown. It could be over control of oil, the North African nation’s only real source of revenue.

A UN-brokered peace deal was reached a year ago, trying to establish a unity government to end the chaos that has plagued Libya since the ouster and death of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 civil war. Instead, the country remains divided roughly between east and west, there is still no effective government and rival factions and militias — each side with backing from foreign countries — threaten a new chapter of violence.

The loss of Sirte is a significant reversal of how things looked in the summer of 2015 when IS took the city. This week, the last IS positions were taken. However, many of the estimated 2,500 militants likely escaped.

It is feared that potentially hundreds of IS fighters will find refuge in Libya’s lawless south and regroup, able to carry out attacks and re-emerge as player at any time. Al-Qaida-linked extremists already have bases in Libya’s vast desert regions, building ties with local tribes. With IS out of the way for the moment, Libya’s rival domestic powers are face to face with each other.

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New ‘global wallet’ from Singapore; Italy as the sick man of Europe; Behind the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya

1 New global wallet from Singapore (Straits Times) A fast-growing e-commerce and digital payments company listed on the Singapore Exchange has launched a new electronic payment “wallet”. YuuZoo Corporation said the “YuuWallet” is designed for global use, in both developed markets and countries where many people do not have credit cards.

It said, “YuuZoo’s YuuWallet enables fast, easy and secure payments without credit cards. In addition to use for payments, YuuWallet also can be used for sending, receiving and withdrawing money payments and money transactions, from large amounts to micro, for example digital content payments.”

YuuZoo has rapidly emerged as a leading social e-commerce and payments firm. The huge gaming market is a big part of its business. The company added: “With franchisees and partners covering consumers, YuuZoo reaches a huge global audience through smartphones, computers and TV sets, and through its recent investment into one of the world’s largest independent movie studios Relativity Media soon also through the movie screen.”

Mr Yoav Elgrichi, chief executive of YuuZoo’s fully owned payment subsidiary YuuPay said in the satement: “While e-commerce is booming globally, many countries still lack convenient payment solution that can be used by the entire population and not only those holding credit cards.”

2 Italy as the sick man of Europe (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) On New Year’s Day in 2002, Italians gathered in Rome to throw their lire into the Trevi fountain. There were celebrations as Italians took possession of the new euro notes and coins that became legal tender as the clocks struck midnight.

But hopes that the advent of the single currency would provide a fresh start for Italy’s economy were misplaced. The growth performance of the eurozone as a whole has been poor, but Italy’s has been dismal.

National output per head in Italy is only 4% higher than it was 15 years ago. The economy is still smaller than it was in 2008. Unemployment is at 11.6%, labour market participation is low, and its birthrate in 2014 was the lowest since the modern Italian state was founded in 1861. If there was a contest for the unwanted title of the sick man of Europe in the 21st century, Italy would walk it.

The eurozone’s third biggest economy has one central problem: the goods and services it produces are more expensive than those of its rivals. This lack of competitiveness means that it has suffered the biggest drop in export market share of any developed country.

There are three reasons for this. Firstly, Italy’s manufacturing sector has traditionally been dominated by small companies, many of them family-owned. These businesses have been reluctant to invest, poor at innovation, and were slow to take advantage of the new information technology when it came on stream in the 1990s. Productivity has increased less rapidly than in Germany or France.

Secondly, Italy has tended to specialise in low-cost manufactured goods, a segment of the global economy that has been dominated by China since it gained membership of the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

Italy’s competitiveness problem is not new. But up until it joined the euro, Italy was able to restore competitiveness by devaluing the lire, which made exports cheaper. With that option no longer available, Matteo Renzi has been trying a different approach: structural reforms of Italy’s labour market. These, though, have proved unpopular, and explain why Renzi’s constitutional changes were heavily defeated in the referendum.

3 Behind the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya (San Francisco Chronicle) Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority face discrimination and violence from the Buddhist majority in the Southeast Asian country. Their plight generally goes unnoticed by the world at large, even though some rights activists say their persecution amounts to ethnic cleansing. Here are several things to know about the group:

Although Rohingya — a Muslim ethnic minority of about 1 million among Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist 52 million people — have lived in Myanmar for generations, most people in the country view them as foreign intruders from neighboring Bangladesh.

“The Rohingya are probably the most friendless people in the world. They just have no one advocating for them at all,” Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in 2009.

Almost all Rohingya live in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where the military has stepped up operations since November, when nine police officers were killed in attacks on posts along the border with Bangladesh. The identity of the perpetrators remains unclear.

In 2012, violence between Rohingya and the Buddhist community killed hundreds and forced about 140,000 people — predominantly Rohingya — to flee their homes to camps for the internally displaced. About 100,000 remain in the squalid camps and dependent on charity.

There has been great disappointment that Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose political party took power in Myanmar this year after decades of military rule, has failed to ease the plight of Rohingya despite her reputation as a fighter for human rights. Speaking out for Rohingya rights is an unpopular political position in Myanmar.

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Euro sinks to 20-month low on Italy PM’s exit; Too late to worry – globalization is dead; Why plastic credit cards are on their way out

1 Euro sinks to 20-month low on Italy PM’s exit (Straits Times) The euro sank to 20-months lows in Asia on Monday after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he would resign in the wake of a stinging defeat on constitutional reform that could destabilise the country’s shaky banking system.

The single currency dived as far as $1.0505 in thin trade, after starting around $1.0645 earlier. It was the sharpest fall since June and opened the way to a retest of the March 2015 trough around $1.0457. Dealers said Italian bonds were set to come under pressure as top-rated US Treasuries and German bunds gained.

Investors and Europe’s politicians fear victory for the opposition “No” camp could cause political instability and renewed turmoil for Italy’s banks, pushing the euro zone towards a fresh crisis. Ultimately, the danger is that Italy holds a vote on whether to leave the euro, possibly triggering a break-up of the entire bloc.

Analysts at RBCCM argued that, based on what happened in 2012 at the height of the Greek crisis, such a risk could see the euro trade as low as $0.8000. “It may sound extreme, but if a second euro zone crisis were to hit, with the US dollar at a much stronger starting point, EUR/USD could arguably trade lower still,” they wrote.

2 Too late to worry – globalization is dead (Bob Swarup in The Guardian) Today’s paradigm is globalisation and free trade is its evangelical mantra. But this narrative has become worn and no longer fits the facts. In recent months, there has been a backlash, accompanied by emotive talk about the reversal of globalisation and the battle for society’s future. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development used its latest health check on the global economy to warn of the costs of protectionism.

The hand-wringing is half a decade too late, because globalisation is already dead and we are already some miles into the journey back. Donald Trump and Theresa May are not flagbearers in the distance, they are catapults battering at the walls. Trump’s stated intent to pull the US out of the TPP on his first day in office underlines the new reality we inhabit, as does the European Union’s recent troubles closing a trade agreement with Canada thanks to Wallonia’s obstinance.

Today, we have a new meme – deglobalisation – as people turn their backs on an interconnected world economy and societies turn iconoclastic. It is not for the first time. Globalisation may be defined as when trade across nations is growing faster than GDP.

Proto-globalisation (1820-1870): Rapid global trade growth, thanks to the Industrial Revolution and the spread of European colonial rule. Globalisation 1.0 (1870-1913): Empire building became the norm. Rapid advancements in transport and communications grew trade. But rapid change also meant volatile bouts of economic obsolescence and crisis.

Deglobalisation 1.0 (1913-1950): Limited growth, unequal outcomes and a huge debt overhang from previous decades stoked economic nationalism and protectionism. Trade fell and a collective failure to tackle deeper structural issues led to the 1930s. Globalisation 2.0 (1950-2010): Since then, we have been on a tearaway expansion with unparalleled growth of both global trade and GDP.

Deglobalisation 2.0 (2010-?): The last financial crisis focused policymaker attention inwards and crystallised the growing sense of social disenfranchisement. A toxic mix of suppressed wages, rocketing debt and political myopia have largely destroyed the allure of globalisation.

This is more than a sense of ennui. Global trade today is not slowing down but has plateaued – hardly a barometer of rude global health. After their peak in January 2015, global exports fell -1.6% by the end of August 2016. The blame lies not with commodity price falls, but shifts in trade policy. Protectionism is en vogue.

3 Why plastic credit cards are on the way out (Kevin Peachey on BBC) Imagine strolling into your local supermarket, popping your essentials into a basket, heading to the bagging area – where no items are unexpected – and walking out with your weekly shop. There is no need to make a payment, no fiddling with coins, and no placement of a debit or credit card in a terminal. In fact, there is no till at all.

This is not casual shoplifting but a realistic prospect of the future way to pay – when technology recognises your presence, scans your shopping, and invisibly takes payment from your account. Amer Sajed, the chief executive of Barclaycard, says it will spell the steady demise of the physical plastic credit card, which his company introduced to the UK 50 years ago.

At a display for Barclaycard staff, he shows off a plastic ring, a bracelet and a keychain which all contain a chip allowing the shopper to make payments on credit. This, he says, is just a bridge to technology that will see customers identified by their eye or fingerprint, located via their smartphone, and able to shop without queuing up at a checkout.

A link in the background between the individual and the payment system is required for any of this to work. This already happens with shopping portals like Amazon and services such as Uber allowing a single-click transaction because bank or credit card details are loaded when the customer first signs up.

The UK Cards Association predicts there will be almost 21 billion “card” transactions in the UK in 2025, up from 12.6 billion last year. Of these, 3.6 billion will be credit card purchases compared with 2.5 billion last year. The association says the long-term effect of this is difficult to judge, but – with a revolution in the way we pay for things – the future will hold many more unknowns for the credit card industry.

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US jobless rate at 9-year low; Trump dials Taiwan, irks China; Oil prices unlikely to take off

1 US jobless rate at nine-year low (BBC) The US unemployment rate fell to a nine-year low in November, adding to expectations that US interest rates will rise later this month. Figures from the Labor Department showed the US economy created 178,000 jobs in November, while the jobless rate fell to 4.6% from 4.9% in October.

The data adds to recent evidence of healthy growth in the economy, although wage growth was weaker than expected. Most analysts think the Federal Reserve will raise rates at its next meeting. The Federal Reserve will hold its next two-day policy meeting on 13-14 December.

Last month, the chair of the Fed, Janet Yellen, indicated that the US central bank could raise interest rates “relatively soon”, adding that the US economy was “making very good progress”. Recent figures indicated that the US economy grew at an annual pace of 3.2% in the third quarter of the year.

2 Trump irks China by dialing Taiwan (Tom Phillips, Nicola Smith & Nicky Woolf in The Guardian) Donald Trump looked to have sparked a potentially damaging diplomatic row with China on Friday after speaking to Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on the telephone in a move experts said would anger Beijing.

The call is thought to be the first between the leader of the island and the US president or president-elect since ties between America and Taiwan were severed in 1979, at Beijing’s behest.

The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically-ruled island which Beijing considers a breakaway province – in the late 1970s following the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.

Since then the US has adhered to the so-called ‘one China’ principle which officially considers the independently governed island part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland. Trump’s transition team said Tsai, who was elected Tawain’s first female president in January, had congratulated the billionaire tycoon on his recent victory.

Experts said the unanticipated call would infuriate China’s leaders, even before Trump took office. Trump adviser Peter Navarro, an economics professor, travelled to Taiwan in the first half of this year at the invitation of its ministry of foreign affairs.

Paul Haenle, the head of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in Beijing, said the call would serve as “a reality check” for many in Beijing who had expected Trump would be transactional and pragmatic leader who might begin a US retreat from Asia and would not challenge China on issues such as human rights.

Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway defended the president-elect’s unorthodox move. “I’m pretty certain that president-elect Obama spoke to world leaders in preparation for taking over as commander-in-chief,” she said. Pressed that Obama never broke with US diplomatic policy in this way, Conway said that Trump was “fully briefed and fully knowledgeable about these issues.”

3 Oil prices unlikely to take off (Wong Wei Han in Straits Times) Oil prices may have surged after Opec’s move to curb production, but investors should not expect a longer-term explosive recovery, leading analysts said.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries struck a deal to cut production. The news sent two key oil benchmarks, Brent crude futures and West Texas Intermediate (WTI), surging almost 10 per cent overnight, with WTI briefly rising above the $50-per-barrel level.

Credit Suisse investment strategy head Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe believes the recovery is sustainable – to some extent. “We see only limited chances of (WTI) going way above $60. Above this level, many US shale projects will turn profitable again and the production will just restart… Our 2017 target is somewhere in the upper $50s.”

A better way for investors to benefit from the Opec-related sentiment is through currencies, particularly the Russian rouble and Norwegian krone, Credit Suisse senior Asia-Pacific currency investment strategist Heng Koon How added.

Credit Suisse expects the US economy to grow 2 per cent next year, up from the forecast 1.5 per cent growth this year. But the Wall Street bull run may taper off, and US equities are set to offer just about 3 per cent of total return next year, as “the market has already priced in all the good news”, Ms Hechler-Fayd’herbe said.

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World population up, girls struggle; Australian boys recreate life-saving drug, cheap; Eager to work at 89

1 World population up, girls struggle (San Francisco Chronicle) The world’s population grew slightly to 7.4 billion in 2016, the UN has said, with a substantial youth bulge challenging political and social systems across the planet.

The United Nations Population Fund released its 2016 State of the World Population report in Amman, Jordan. Daniel Baker, regional humanitarian coordinator, highlighted the potential fallout — and gains — to be had by overcoming the world’s clear gender inequality in the half of the world’s population under the age of 24.

“Failing to invest in girls is nothing less than planned poverty. Unless we invest in girls, we’re planning to have a poorer future,” Baker said. The report said the world’s population grew 1.1 percent to 7.433 billion from 7.349 billion the previous year.

The report focuses on the well-being of 10-year-old girls as indicators of development success or failure. It says 89 percent of the world’s 125 million 10-year-olds live in developing countries where girls face obstacles to equal education, healthcare and safety.

The report estimated that developing countries could generate or lose at least $21 billion depending on their investments in the health and education of their 10-year-old girls today. UNFP goodwill ambassador, Princess Basma Bint Talal, said the fate of the world’s young girls rests in international commitment to equality.

2 Australian boys re-create life-saving drug, cheap (Greg Dunlop on BBC) The man who sparked outrage last year by hiking the price of a life-saving drug may have met his match in some Australian schoolboys. US executive Martin Shkreli became a symbol of greed when he raised the price of a tablet of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750.

Now, Sydney school students have recreated the drug’s key ingredient for just $20. Daraprim is an anti-parasitic drug used by malaria and Aids patients. The Sydney Grammar boys, all 17, synthesised the active ingredient, pyrimethamine, in their school science laboratory.

“It wasn’t terribly hard but that’s really the point, I think, because we’re high school students,” one boy, Charles Jameson, said. The students produced 3.7 grams of pyrimethamine for $20. In the US, the same quantity would cost up to $110,000. In most countries, including Australia and Britain, the drug retails for less than $1.50 per pill.

The boys said they conducted the year-long experiment to highlight the drug’s inflated cost in the US. “It seems totally unjustified and ethically wrong,” student James Wood said. Developed in the 1950s, Daraprim is the best treatment for a relatively rare parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis.

Mr Shkreli, also known as “Pharma Bro”, was chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals when it acquired exclusive rights to Daraprim. Its decision to increase the cost by more than 5,000% in August last year drew international condemnation. Mr Shkreli has argued the Daraprim price increase was warranted because the drug is highly specialised.

But the firm eventually agreed to lower the price to something more affordable. Mr Shkreli was arrested in December on allegations of securities fraud. He subsequently stepped down as the head of Turing. His trial is set for 26 June, 2017.

3 Eager to work at 89 (Alexandra Topping in The Guardian) An 89-year-old has found a job after placing an advert in his local paper asking for part-time work to stop him “dying of boredom”. Joe Bartley, from Paignton, south Devon, is due to start work at a cafe in the town after the owners of the family-run business spotted his request.

“No matter what your age or your background, you deserve a chance,” said Cantina Bar and Kitchen’s co-owner Sarah Martin. “Most people have got something to offer and Joe is someone who is keen, who is putting himself out there. What is not to like about that?

“A lot of people who come here don’t just come for coffee, they come for a chat, so Joe is perfect.” Bartley, who was a member of the 6th Airborne division and served in Palestine after the second world war, put an advert twice last month. It read: “Senior citizen, 89, seeks employment in Paignton area. 20hrs+ per week. Still able to clean, light gardening, DIY and anything. I have references. Old soldier, airborne forces. Save me from dying of boredom!”

He said he had been overwhelmed by the response to the advert, which he described as “not unusual, just an old guy looking for work”, adding: “The owner phoned me and said she was interested, and asked me to come in. So I arrived at the cafe and we’ve had a bit of a chat with the owner, and shook hands.”

He said he had lived alone since his wife, Cassandra, died two years ago, and had been lonely. “When you live on your own there is no one to speak to. Since she died I’ve moved into a flat and it’s a big block. Once you walk into that flat it’s like solitary confinement,” he said.

Bartley will get a lift to work with his new employer on Sunday, but will take a bus the rest of the week. “He is delighted, and we are looking forward to it,” said Martin. “We think about these things all the time. We are never going to be rich, but we like to give something back, so when we saw the advert there was no question – the minute we saw it we knew we’d give him a job.”

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Gold set for worst month in three years; First oil output cut since 2008; Big Mac creator dies

1 Gold set for worst month in three years (Cecilia Jamasmie in Gold prices are on track to make of November the metal’s worst month in over three years as strong US economic data boosted the dollar, rising expectations of an interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve next month.

Gold for February delivery, the most active contract, was recently down 1.48% at $1,173.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Exchange. Sharp gains in the crude oil market after the OPEC agreed to cut production by about 1.2 million barrels per day, or about 4.5% of current output, did little to help the gold bulls.

A Federal Reserve interest-rate increase next month is now as definite as death and taxes, according to the latest poll of investors. They see the likelihood of a rates hike as 94% certain, according to Fed fund futures tracked by CME. Higher interest rates are typically negative for gold and other precious metals as they don’t pay interest.

Gold has shed nearly 8% this month, the deepest monthly drop since June 2013, hurt by a rally in the US dollar on surging Treasury yields as investors believed President-elect Donald Trump’s policies would invoke faster inflation.

2 First oil output cut since 2008 (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The price of oil has surged by 8% after the 14-nation cartel Opec agreed to its first cut in production in eight years. Confounding critics who said the club of oil-producing nations was too riven with political infighting to agree a deal, Opec announced it was trimming output by 1.2m barrels per day (bpd) from 1 January.

The deal is contingent on securing the agreement of non-Opec producers to lower production by 600,000m barrels per day. But the Qatari oil minister, Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada, said he was confident that the key non-Opec player – Russia – would sign up to a 300,000 bpd cut.

Russia’s oil minister, Alexander Novak, welcomed the Opec move but said his country would only be able to cut production gradually due to “technical issues”. A meeting with non-Opec countries in Moscow on 9 December has been pencilled in.

Brent crude was trading at just over $50 a barrel following the completion of the Opec meeting in Vienna – an increase of almost $4 on the day. Saudi Arabia will bear the brunt of Opec’s production curbs, having agreed to a reduction in output of just under 500,000 bpd. Iraq has agree to a 210,000 bpd cut, followed by the United Arab Emirates (-139,000), Kuwait (-131,000) and Venezuela (-95,000).

Smaller countries are also reducing output, but Iran – which has only recently returned to the global oil market after the lifting of international sanctions – has been allowed to continue raising output. Indonesia has suspended its membership because, as a net importer of oil, it wanted the price of crude to stay as low as possible and declined to cut output.

3 Big Mac creator dies (San Francisco Chronicle) Michael James “Jim” Delligatti, the McDonald’s franchisee who created the Big Mac nearly 50 years ago and saw it become perhaps the best-known fast-food sandwich in the world, died Monday at home in Pittsburgh. Delligatti, who according to his son ate at least one 540-calorie Big Mac a week for decades, was 98.

Delligatti’s franchise was based in Uniontown, not far from Pittsburgh, when he invented the chain’s signature burger in 1967 after deciding customers wanted a bigger sandwich. Demand exploded as Delligatti’s sandwich spread to the rest of his 47 stores in Pennsylvania and was added to the chain’s national menu in 1968.

“He was often asked why he named it the Big Mac, and he said because Big Mc sounded too funny,” his son Michael Delligatti said.

However, McDonald’s in 1985 honored Esther Glickstein Rose with coming up for a name for the burger and presented her with a plaque etched with a likeness of the best-selling sandwich and french fries between the Golden Arches. She was a 21-year-old secretary for the company’s advertising department in 1967 when, the story goes, a harried executive dashing to a board meeting asked her for a name nomination.

Jim Delligatti’s family disputes that Rose came up with the idea. The company didn’t immediately clear up the dispute. Delligatti told The Associated Press in 2006 that McDonald’s resisted the idea at first because its simple lineup of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes was selling well.

McDonald’s has sold billions of Big Macs since then, in more than 100 countries. When the burger turned 40, McDonald’s estimated it was selling 550 million Big Macs a year, or roughly 17 every second. Delligatti received no payment or royalties for coming up with the burger, the company said.

Ann Dugan, a former assistant dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business and an expert on business franchises, said Jim Delligatti’s genius was simple: He listened to customers who wanted a bigger burger.

“In franchising, there’s always this set playbook and you have to follow it. Jim saw an opportunity to go outside the playbook because he knew the customer,” Dugan said. “He persevered and (McDonald’s) listened, and the rest is history.”

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