Economy & Finance

Facebook's unveils its new digital cryptocurrency, Libra

Despite being heavily criticized over the past few years over its handling of personal data and privacy, Facebook says its new global digital currency, Libra, will be a currency that “works for everyone” and that people may be able to use it as early as 2020.

Some say the move into cryptocurrency could be a way to offset advertising losses. Facebook is also creating a subsidiary company, Calibra, that will offer digital wallets to spend the new currency. The wallets will be connected to other applications such as Messenger and WhatsApp.

Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be based on real assets, or what's known as a ‘stable coin’ that has either a traditional currency or government debt backing it, making it less volatile than, for example, Bitcoin. The independent association governing the currency from Geneva, Switzerland will be made up of representatives from an initial group of 28 companies including Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, Uber, Vodafone, Thrive Capital, and Spotify to name a few. Those companies will also contribute to the currency and each run a part of the currency's network.

The idea behind cryptocurrencies is to create a politically independent currency that would not be printed by any existing government. There are currently thousands of different cryptocurrencies in the world. A cryptocurrency is a type of virtual or digital currency designed to be secure for financial transactions, and isn’t run by a single bank or institution but instead by a computer network. It is built on a blockchain which is a distributed database, or ledger, that keeps track of who owns what that runs on, in some cases, thousands of computers.

VP Pence visits Canada to support new NAFTA agreement

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced Bill C-100, the “Canada United States Mexico Agreement Implementation Act” (USMCA), in Parliament this week to implement the renegotiated NAFTA deal that was reached eight months ago. The legislative amendments apply the new trade rules and leaves flexibility for the government to ensure the text is aligned with the result of the ongoing ratification processes in the United States and Mexico.

The Conservatives are expected to support passing Bill C-100, but Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said, "There is quite literally nothing about this deal that is better than the one before it." Mr. Scheer said that if his Conservative party forms government after the fall election he will work on mitigating the damage he believes this deal will cause. The New Democrats (NDP) voted against a motion that allowed the bill to be tabled and are therefore unlikely to support the bill.

United States Vice President Mike Pence, who made a state visit to Ottawa this week, said he believes that the USMCA will pass in Congress. He met with PM Trudeau and Canada's advisory council on NAFTA, which includes former Conservative minister James Moore, AFN Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde, and Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff.

The two leaders spoke positively about the prospect of it being ratified in both Canada and the US by the summer, however President Donald Trump’s announcement to impose a new tariff on Mexican imports as pressure to crack down on Central American migrants might slow USMCA progress in Mexico.

Daniel Lacalle: Why Central Banks May Trigger the Next Crisis

In a new interview with Hedgeye, chief economist Daniel Lacalle described his long term view on the issues impacting the global economic cycle. Mr. Lacalle said the current global cycle reflects debt saturation, a prolonged recovery that leads to slower growth in the face of slowdown after years of stimulus measures, as evidenced by lower productivity, higher debt, and challenges of demand side policies, where the failure of many of them are driving lower levels of growth. This is most evident in economies that relied the most on monetary policies compared to fiscal policy, including China and the European Union.

The Chinese slowdown has nothing to do with trade wars

The realization is that all of the stimulus projects since 2008 have driven the economy to be less dynamic, including the aforementioned debt saturation, excess capacity, and malinvestment directed by government policies and regional government policies, resulting in China’s economic slowdown. Industrial production and exports are showing the competitive capacity of the economy is rapidly weakening, and the economy is not as robust as the government portrays it to be. China is now a trade deficit country, with manipulation of its GDP numbers, so a trade war with the United States is simply being used as an excuse to justify the evidence of internal and external demand weakening, which has been taking place for two years now.

European Union challenges. Low growth, high interventionism.

Mr. Lacalle says the issue of the Eurozone is very simple: it is missing the technology revolution completely, it’s not addressing the issues of productivity because it continues to subsidize the obsolete sectors while penalizing sectors of high productivity with overly aggressive fiscal wedges, the problem of demographics (which the central banks always ignore), and very high debt due to very high government spending. He calls the Eurozone slowdown as a case of “reality versus magic” amid an aging population, massive government spending, and huge tax rates.

He says he told the European Central Bank – who were unaware of the figure and how to deal with it – that 80 percent of gross capital formation was actually recycled capital and therefore once could not expect productivity growth improvement in the underlying economy and real wages strengthening fundamentally. What the Eurozone is experiencing is not unlike Japan in the late 1980s, where it disguised its structural problems with liquidity that generated a placebo effect upon a fundamental belief in the risk of the Euro collapsing. This resulted in the inflation of financial assets and negative yielding bonds in nearly all Eurozone economies and massive inflation in sovereign bonds, but the transfer of monetary policy has not gone to the real economy.

The US economy is more robust, but slowdown is inevitable.

The difference with the United States economic cycle is that the mechanism of transmission of the monetary policy is much better. It’s relative, but what is keeping the economy strong is whilst in the Eurozone 80 percent of the real economy is financed through the banking system, in the United States this is about 20 percent and therefore a much more dynamic economy with a better system of cleaning up problems.

The underlying trends are much different in the U.S. than the Eurozone and China because the impact of government spending and itself in the economy is much smaller. Productivity and wage growth are better, capital expenditure is poor but only due to the fact that companies do not need to spend more since the American economy is much more regional and much less externally dependent. Also, U.S. energy independence, where they are currently producing as much as Saudi Arabia, is an integral factor in the difference between the U.S., China, and the Eurozone.

 Watch the full interview

American and Canadian airline companies end Boeing 737 Max 8 flights following Ethiopia crash

Last Sunday saw the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 157 passengers from 35 countries, the second fatal flight for a Boeing 737 Max 8 in less than six months. More than 40 countries, including the United States and Canada, have now grounded the planes or refused them into their airspace.

After holding out for several days, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency order grounding the planes Wednesday, saying they had new satellite data and evidence that showed the movements of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were similar to those of Lion Air Flight 610, the flight that crashed into the Java Sea off Indonesia in October 2018 and killed 189 people.

Officials at Lion Air said the sensors on their plane had produced erroneous information on its last four flights, triggering a terrifying automatic nose-down command that the pilots were unable to overcome on its final voyage. Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said its pilots had received special training on how to deal with that problem, and Boeing sent further instructions for pilots after the Lion Air crash.

The 737 Max was supposed to boost Boeing's fortunes for years to come. In addition to the planes that have been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog. There are about 370 Max jets in circulation. Impacted airlines also may come knocking on Boeing's door claiming damages. Norwegian Airlines said it would pursue reimbursement from Boeing for lost business and if other carriers follow suit, which could be costly.

Canada’s Transport Minister Marc Garneau relayed his government’s decision to American counterparts before the announcement that the country would deny all Boeing 737 Max 8 flights in Canadian airspace. Hours later, American President Donald Trump announced that the United States would follow suit. President Trump said he had told American Airlines about the decision, as well as Boeing, and all agreed with his administration's decision. Any planes in the air will be grounded upon landing and remain on the ground until further notice while Boeing works on a fix to the aircraft's software.

Air Canada, Southwest, and American Airlines had been the major outliers in resisting a grounding of the planes. Air Canada has 24 Max 8 aircraft (out of 184 in its main fleet), which it uses mainly for domestic and U.S. routes. The U.S.-based Boeing had said it had no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies and did not intend to issue new recommendations about the aircraft to customers.

Google’s wage gap study finds the company is actually underpaying men

Despite internal allegations and the general persistence of the now disproven wage gap between women and men, Google conducted a new study aimed at addressing this alleged gap among its employees. The result discovered that in most cases, men were being compensated less than their female peers.

In 2017, Google was sued by three former female employees who claimed the company systematically discriminated against women by paying them less than men. A New York Times analysis found at the time that the company paid women less than men on average, but Google countered that the analysis was flawed because it did not take into account factors like tenure, location, or job performance.

In addition to the lawsuit alleging Google discriminates against women, the company is facing accusations it discriminates against men. Former engineer James Damore filed a suit in January 2018 alleging Google discriminates against white men and conservatives after he was fired for a memo questioning the company's diversity effort. A recruiter at YouTube, a Google subsidiary, sued two months later, claiming the company discriminates against white and Asian men.

With the results of its study, Google is vindicated. The latest version of its annual pay analysis that shows more men than women were receiving less money for doing similar work. A disproportionate amount of USD $9.7 million in additional compensation allotted to employees to address pay disparity will end up going to men.

Google's lead analyst for pay equity Lauren Barbato told the mainstream news outlet that it was a "surprising trend that we didn’t expect." Ironically, the anti-male pay gap was likely the result of intentional efforts by Google to target female employees for increased discretionary funds the year prior.

Ms. Barbato noted that one of the largest group of employees to have their pay adjusted this year were coded Level 4 Software Engineers. "Within this job code, men were flagged for adjustments because they received less discretionary funds than women," she wrote in a corporate blog post.

Amazon walks away from plans to build New York City headquarters due to the political climate

On Thursday, Seattle-based technology company Amazon announced it has ditched plans to build its second headquarters in New York City, saying it is "disappointed to have reached this conclusion." Senior economic analyst for Bankrate, Mark Hamrick, warned, ‘For those who didn’t want Amazon to bring the promised 25,000 new jobs and added economic vitality to the area: Be careful what you wish for.”

In a statement released by the company, Amazon said, "After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City."

According to a December Quinnipiac University poll, 57 percent of New York City residents support Amazon’s arrival, compared to just 26 percent who oppose the deal. Announcing its intended investment last November, Amazon’s HQ2 would've brought 25,000 jobs and USD $2.5 billion in corporate investment, with an eventual 8 million square feet of office space to Long Island City. Amazon said it would have generated "incremental tax revenue of more than $10 billion over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon’s investment and job creation."

However, the decision came after relentless opposition from politicians, most notably newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is currently the most high-profile progressive and anti-corporate politician in Congress. Political opposition against HQ2 has been mounting since a New York City Council meeting in December where Amazon’s executives were hounded and jeered and refused to support unionization of its workers, a progressive pillar of the region at all levels of government. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Amazon was reconsidering its plans for its New York office, which led to cheers from Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted, "Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations? Yes, they can."

When the deal was first announced, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had touted the benefits of HQ2, which included a pledge from Amazon to create 25,000 jobs, paying an average of USD $150,000 per year in exchange for a USD $3 billion incentive package that included city and state tax breaks and subsidies. The top issue for progressives is disallowing big corporations to benefit from what they consider to be at the expense of regular people. Yet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who presents himself as the leader of the progressive movement, signed onto the deal, though he later backed off when faced with massive progressive opposition. Concerns were also raised over how HQ2 could impact already rising real estate prices in the area. On this issue, Amazon had primarily negotiated with Governor Cuomo, who only has authority over the executive branch of state government and none over the state legislature, the City Council, or the congressional delegation.

"We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process," the company continued in the statement. In response, Mayor de Blasio said, “You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.”

Amazon said it would proceed as planned with the second part of its HQ2, which will be built in Northern Virginia, as well as its distribution center that it said it would open in Nashville. It will also continue to "hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada."

Report shows Canadian insolvencies increased 5.2% in November from the prior year

In the face of five interest rate increases during the past year and a half, the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada released a report showing the number of consumer insolvencies in November 2018 rose by 5.2 percent from a year ago, accounting for 97.2 percent of total insolvency filings, while business insolvencies increased by 8.9 percent.

Business insolvencies decreased by 0.6 percent compared with the 12-month period a year prior, with the mining, oil, and gas extraction and manufacturing sectors falling the most, while construction and retail insolvencies sustained the greatest increases. Last year, the federal government’s fall economic statement projected two percent growth for 2019, which many predict will be lower due to low oil prices.

The number of insolvencies rose in all provinces except Nova Scotia in November compared with the same period a year earlier. Newfoundland and Labrador's filings rose 11 percent, followed by Alberta at 8.3 percent. Quebec and Ontario grew by less than 1 percent.

The combination of high household debt, rising interest rates, and slowing wage growth has been "terrible" for about half a year since early in 2018, said Director of Economics for the Conference Board of Canada Matt Stewart. He said higher interest rates have delivered a hit to household spending, which has been the primary driver of Canada's good economic fortunes. "It's been a long time since we've had a recession. As of yet, I think most of the news is still positive, but there is a growing amount of risks," he added.

Therefore, business investment is seen as the next critical source of growth, however Mr. Stewart said the transition has yet to materialize because investment has underperformed, likely due to competitiveness concerns; businesses aren't sure whether Canada's the best place to put their money.

Malaysia charges Goldman Sachs and ex-bankers in USD $2.7 billion probe


Malaysia will seek jail terms and billions of dollars in fines from Goldman Sachs and four other individuals who allegedly diverted about USD $2.7 billion from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), the country’s Attorney General Tommy Thomas said in a statement. The 1MDB scandal was a major reason for former Premier Najib Razak’s election defeat in May 2018, who has been charged with corruption over the scandal and pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Thomas said criminal charges under securities laws were filed on Monday against Goldman Sachs, its former bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, former 1MDB employee Jasmine Loo, and financier Jho Low in connection with the bond offerings. “The charges arise from the commission and abetment of false or misleading statements by all the accused in order to dishonestly misappropriate $2.7 billion from the proceeds of three bonds issued by the subsidiaries of 1MDB, which were arranged and underwritten by Goldman Sachs,” Mr. Thomas said in a statement. He said the offering circulars filed with the regulators contained statements that were false, misleading, or with material omissions, and “Having held themselves out as the pre-eminent global adviser/arranger for bonds, the highest standards are expected of Goldman Sachs. They have fallen short of any standard.

Prosecutors would seek fines against the accused “well in excess” of the allegedly misappropriated $2.7 billion bond proceeds plus $600 million in fees received by Goldman Sachs. Malaysia will seek jail terms of up to 10 years for each of the individuals accused, Mr. Thomas said, and that the four individuals are charged of conspiring to “bribe Malaysian public officials in order to procure the selection, involvement and participation of Goldman Sachs in the bond issuances.

This is the first time Goldman Sachs, which has consistently denied wrongdoing, has faced criminal charges in the 1MDB scandal. Goldman Sachs has been under scrutiny for its role in helping raise $6.5 billion through three bond offerings for 1MDB, which is the subject of investigations in at least six countries. The United States (U.S.) Department of Justice has said about $4.5 billion was misappropriated from 1MDB, including some money that Goldman Sachs helped raise, by high-level officials of the fund and their associates from 2009 through 2014.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman said the charges were “misdirected” and the bank would vigorously defend them and continue to cooperate with all authorities in their investigations. U.S. prosecutors filed criminal charges against the former Goldman Sachs bankers, Mr. Leissner and Mr. Ng, last month. Mr. Leissner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Mr. Ng is detained in Malaysia and facing extradition to the U.S.

EU – Japan free trade deal cleared for early 2019 start

The European Union (E.U.) and Japan will launch the world’s largest free trade zone early next year after their economic partnership cleared a final hurdle on Wednesday. Approximately 70 percent of European Parliament lawmakers backed the agreement which will account for nearly a third of global gross domestic product (GDP). Japan’s parliament approved the deal on Saturday. The trade deal follows widespread anti-globalization protests. Critics say the agreement will give too much power to multinationals and could undermine environmental and labour standards.

The agreement will remove E.U. tariffs of 10 percent on Japanese cars and 3 percent for most car parts. It will scrap Japanese duties of some 30 percent on E.U. cheese and 15 percent on wines, as well as open access to public tenders in Japan. It will also open up services markets, such as financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, and transport.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom claimed the deal would bring clear benefits to EU companies and farmers, saying, “If all goes well, it should be able to enter force on February 1. The agreement is not only sending a signal to the world. It is also extremely advanced when it comes to opening markets.”

Japan had been part of the multi-lateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), comprised of twelve nations, which American President Donald Trump stated he would not participate in when he took office as it did not offer advantageous terms to the United States (U.S.). Without the economic capital of the U.S., there was little advantage to the TPP trade pact, therefore Japan and the other nations involved sought new bi-lateral trade deals with potential partners. A similar scenario played out between the U.S. and the E.U. when negotiations stalled in 2016 regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Both the E.U. and Japan want the new trade deal in place before Britain leaves the E.U. at the end of March 2019. Japan, whose many car makers serve the E.U. market from British bases, had wanted it to then apply to a Brexit transition period until the end of 2020, although that period is uncertain due to political turmoil in Britain.

Canada unearths the largest diamond ever found in North America

A 552-carat yellow diamond was found at the Diavik mine in the Northwest Territories, Canada and is nearly three times the size of the next largest stone ever found in Canada. Diavik and the neighbouring Ekati mine are known to produce some very high-quality diamonds, though not normally the size of those found in southern African mines.

The discovery is the seventh-biggest this century and among the thirty largest stones ever unearthed. The biggest was the 3,106-carat Cullinan, found near Pretoria in South Africa in 1905. It was cut into several polished gems, the two largest of which (the Great Star of Africa and the Lesser Star of Africa) are set in the Crown Jewels of Britain.

Yellow diamonds typically sell at a discount to Type IIa top white diamonds, often found in the best African mines, but can still sell for a premium. Dominion Chief Executive Officer Shane Durgin said the diamond is gem quality, meaning it’s suitable for jewelry, but regarding its could not determine an estimate. Mr. Durgin said it was somewhat of a “miracle” that the stone survived the mining process, as “It’s very unusual for a diamond of this size in this part of the world. So, it’s a very unique discovery.

Diamond mining in this area of Canada’s sub-arctic is incredibly difficult because there are no permanent roads, meaning the only access is by air or, for a few months a year, ice roads that have to be rebuilt each winter. The diamond market has also been under pressure, especially for smaller and lower quality stones and there’s currently an oversupply of such diamonds. A weaker Indian rupee has put pressure on manufacturers in the country, where 90 percent of gems are cut and polished. Major cutting centres have also been squeezed by low margins and a drop in trade finance.

Hong Kong and Singapore lead the world in economic freedom: report

Hong Kong and Singapore have again been ranked as the most economically free jurisdictions in the world, with the United States (U.S.) back in the top ten, according to the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World report for 2018. The Fraser Institute produces the annual Economic Freedom of the World report in cooperation with the Economic Freedom Network, a group of independent research and educational institutes in nearly one hundred countries and territories. It’s the world’s premier measurement of economic freedom.

While Hong Kong is still the most economically free, there is a valid concern that interference from mainland China—which ranks 108th in economic freedom—will ultimately lead to deterioration in Hong Kong’s top position, particularly in rule of law, which helps ensure equal freedom for all,” said Fred McMahon, Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom with the Fraser Institute.

Rounding out the top ten are New Zealand, Switzerland, Ireland, the United States, Georgia, Mauritius, the United Kingdom, and Australia and Canada tied at tenth place. The United States is ranked at sixth, entering the top ten most-economically free countries for the first time since 2009.

The report measures the economic freedom—the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions—by analyzing the policies and institutions of 162 countries and territories. These include regulation, freedom to trade internationally, size of government, sound legal system and property rights, and government spending and taxation. The 2018 report is based on data from 2016, the last year of available comparable statistics.

Where people are free to pursue their own opportunities and make their own choices, they lead more prosperous, happier and healthier lives,” Mr. McMahon said.

Read the full report

Fashion labels fail to adequately combat forced labour in the global supply chain

Today, an estimated 24.9 million people around the world are victims of forced labour, generating USD $150 billion in illegal profits in the private economy. In the wake of forced labour abuse revelations in global supply chains, companies are increasingly expected by consumers, investors, media, and governments to maintain transparent and responsible supply chains. Although more fashion companies are implementing changes to support vulnerable workers, a new report argues that there is still significant room for improvement.

In KnowTheChain’s 2018 Apparel and Footwear Benchmark Findings Report, luxury companies Hermès, LVMH (Louis Vuitton), Salvatore Ferragamo, and Prada were among the firms the scored the lowest for fighting forced labor. Fashion companies are operating increasingly widespread and complex supply chains, which has made overseeing the rights of the labour force more complicated, opening the door for more risk of exploitation. Out of a possible score of one hundred, the forty-three brands benchmarked by KnowTheChain received a fifty-six. This was up from the previous report from 2016, in which the average was forty-nine. Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, and Kering all improved their scores by more than ten points. Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, and Burberry all scored above fifty points.

"Many luxury good companies have taken meaningful action on environmental issues and animal rights," KnowTheChain Project Director Kilian Moote said, "However, currently there is a lack of acknowledgement and acceptance that forced labor, and labor conditions more broadly, are something that impact the luxury industry.”

According to the United States (U.S.) Department of Labor, labour exploitation occurs in everything from raw material harvesting for cotton and rubber to production of apparel and footwear. About two-thirds of the international fashion workforce is female, and much of the industry is also made of migrant workers. This adds to the risks surrounding labour violations, as workers face gender or socioeconomic discrimination, making them more vulnerable to mistreatment and less apt to know about their rights or take action.

The score for engaging with workers within the supply chains is also lower, at an average of 26. This includes educating laborers, allowing them to organize and unionize and providing outlets for those working in the supply chain to communicate grievances. In China, Burberry works with a non-governmental organization (NGO) to provide a confidential hotline for workers. "The mistreatment of workers is obviously a brand business risk, but it’s also a moral imperative," Mr. Moote said, "Luxury brands are falling short in some of the areas that most of the other companies we evaluated are, which unfortunately impact workers’ lives the most. Most notably, on ethical recruitment practices.”

Country of origin is a key positioning tactic for luxury products, but growing globalization in the fashion industry is making it more difficult to differentiate the geographic source of goods. Fashionbi's "Mystery of 'Made-in' in Fashion" report notes that rather than accepting what is told to them by brands, consumers today conduct their own research into brands’ production processes. Consumers are also becoming more aware of the social and environmental impact of their clothing.

#MeToo leads to a men’s mentorship blackout with young women in the workplace

Senior executives on Wall Street are icing out younger female colleagues to protect themselves against potential false, career-ending sexual harassment claims. Bloomberg interviewed nearly three dozen senior executives who work for hedge funds, law firms, banks, private equity firms, and investment-management firms about how their interactions with younger female staff have changed a year after the #MeToo movement brought to light workplace sexual harassment in Hollywood, media, and other industries.

According to a new Bloomberg report, men on Wall Street have adopted defensive strategies intended to head off potential career-ending allegations including: avoid one-on-one meetings with female employees or meetings in rooms without windows; no more dinners with female colleagues; avoid work travel with female colleagues; avoid sitting beside female colleagues on flights; book hotel rooms on different floors; keep distance from female workers in elevators; and eliminate social functions like after parties. Even hiring women now carries fear and risk.

Employment attorney Stephen Zweig warns men against taking such precautions, noting, “If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment, those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”

The Wall Street report is only one example of widespread sentiment across industries. The #MeToo backlash against women in the workplace has created an anxious work environment and reduced opportunities for young women in particular to move ahead in their careers by limiting professional development and networking opportunities. It doesn’t help the situation when individual Millennials fail to handle constructive feedback and criticism in a professional manner, which has been discussed at length over the years as poorly reflecting on the generation as a whole and paints all Millennial women as overly sensitive and fragile.

Amazon's First Popup Shop Challenges Luxury Brands

E-commerce giant Amazon is investing in the fashion and luxury sectors and aims to dominate market share. Amazon already accounts for nearly half of all online purchases in the United States, and with their purchase of Wholefoods last year, Amazon ventured into physical stores and has now opened its first pop-up shop on Baker Street in London.

Luxury brands have long held the advantage of crafting a high-end customer experience in-store, and in spite of the sustained growth of shoppers preferring to place their orders online, luxury brand numbers of in-store visits have actually increased forty percent over the past three years, according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey. Yet attracting these customers means luxury retailers have made significant investments into curating bigger and better experiences for customers to buy into, in addition to the actual products, by turning their shops into restaurants, spas, and galleries. Amazon has been paying attention, offering live music, free makeovers, a beauty panel, juice bars, and yoga classes during their week-long pop-up on Baker Street. A recent survey by Swedish bank Klarna surveyed two thousand shoppers, of whom 31 percent said they like to make purchases after they have left the store, where 61 percent said they find e-commerce to be tedious without allowing them to touch or see items.

Amazon Go stores in the United States have no cashiers nor checkouts. Customers walk in, pick something off a shelf, and walk out because thousands of sensors monitor each item and automatically bill the customer’s Amazon account. Amazon plans to rollout more of these stores in the U.S. and into the U.K. In the pop-up shop, Amazon Fire Tablets were held by assistants who could scan, view, compare, and purchase every product online; items could only be bought in the pop-up shop through the app.

Amazon has launched five of its own fashion labels within the past year, all of which were on display in its pop-up. Amazon owns a photo studio in Shoreditch, another trendy part of London, where stylists and photographers take over half a million images a year for its website.

General Motors announces the closing of eight manufacturing plants globally


General Motors has announced its intention to close eight manufacturing facilities and cut 15 percent of its workforce next year as part of its global restructuring and an effort to free up USD $6 billion per year in cash by 2020. Five of the factories are located in North America, including Oshawa, Canada, Detroit and Warren in Michigan, Warren, Ohio, a site near Baltimore in Maryland, plus one in South Korea, and two additional undisclosed international locations.

GM’s rationale follows rising costs, including from new tariffs on materials such as steel, and slower car sales as buyers in North America have turned away from smaller cars to bigger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks, which now make up nearly 70 percent of total car purchases in the United States (U.S.), and investment in electric and autonomous vehicles, which are expected to drive future industry growth.

Ohio’s Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown called the decision "corporate greed at its worst" while the state’s Republican Senator Rob Portman said he was "deeply frustrated". U.S. President Trump said he thought pressure on GM would lead it to direct new work to the plants, at least in Ohio. Labour unions in Canada and the U.S. also said they would press the company to allocate more work to the factories, instead of closing them.

During the 2009 global financial crisis, the Canadian federal government offered automakers a CAD $10.8 billion bailout in loans, share purchases, and subsidies. Some of that money was paid back, however the net loss is between CAD $4 billion to $5 billion, including a CAD $1 billion loan write-off. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he expressed his "deep disappointment" in the closure of the Oshawa GM plant, which is sixty-five years old and currently employs 2,522 works, compared to nearly 23,000 thirty-five years ago. The plant accounts for 6 percent of total vehicle production in Canada, according to Scotiabank economist Juan Manuel Herrera, who publishes the bank's monthly Global Auto Report, and said production in Oshawa was set to decline next year by 40 percent from current levels because the vehicle models made there aren't big sellers.