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IKEA explores IA to connect with customers

The New York Times commented that technological innovation has allowed Sweden-based furniture retailer IKEA to “explore options for using artificial intelligence and virtual reality to connect with consumers”.  Whatever this means…  The NYT quoted IKEA’s CEO Jesper Brodin saying that "like most retailers, we don't know exactly where we will land at the end of it but our curiosity and willingness to create will be a guide for us." Doesn’t strike us like a solid base for investment.

Walmart aims to cut 1000 employees by 2019

According to Bloomberg, Walmart trimmed between 400 and 500 head office jobs.  "We've been looking at our structure for some time as we explore ways to operate more effectively," Walmart said in a statement.  They aim to remove a total of about 1,000 people by 2019.  Our maths indicate that these are strange moves.  1,000 people at (even) @ 100,000 USD per annum equates to a mere $100 million.  Compare this to the billions of dollars Walmart spends on their computer systems and you have to wonder whether the staff had to be cut to pay for the gold-plated computers.

Will the Chinese economic miracle fade?

Oxford Analytica pointed out that in 2002 there were Communist Party groups in 17% of foreign-funded enterprises in China. Today 70% have Party groups.  Clearly, the Chinese government prefers to have Soviet-style control over private enterprises, rather that free market dynamics and creativity.  It looks like the Chinese economic miracle will be gradually fading…  Senior management duality caused massive issues in the Soviet Union, why wouldn’t it do the same to China?

Steven Mnuchin has more punch than Trump

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin implied in Davos that he preferred a weaker dollar, but President Trump countered this with a subsequent comment that he wants to see a strong dollar.  Today 1 AUD buys you 81 US cents, so it seems that Steven has more punch than Donald.

US complains about unfair trade

The International Monetary Fund official gave credence to US complaints about unfair trade, urging the rest of the world—and in particular China—to take note.  Distortive trade practices and massive trade imbalances cause issues in multinational relations and internally.  

Starbucks to pass tax savings on to employees

Starbucks in the US announced that $250 million from the tax savings under the new taxation regime in the US will be passed on its employees in various forms of payments.  It will be interesting to see what this continuing tax flow on effect will have on the US economy.  With already low unemployment rate (around 4%), could the US economy overheat as a consequence?

Michael Hill to exit US

Inside Retail reported that Jewellery retailer Michael Hill (MHJ) is exiting the US.  This doesn't surprise us.  The US is a very tough market for foreign retailers.  One more reason to admire those who were able to successfully establish themselves in the US - companies such as Cotton On and Rodd and Gunn.

Bitcoin holders: lock in your profits

The Australian Financial Review published a sobering comment from Michael Glennon (from Glennon Capital) who referred to Bitcoin as a quasi-ponzi scheme, selling something that has no value.  Michael reiterated our earlier sentiment (expressed a few days ago) that Bitcoin is a ‘currency’ that doesn’t do anything, is not backed by any sovereign nation, is not accepted in most places, is hard to buy and sell, and has no fundamentals to support it.  His advice to Bitcoin holders is to ‘lock in your profits’ and get out, considering yourself lucky you have made profit in the greatest bubble in recent times.

About 45% of Americans get their news from … Facebook

About 45% of Americans get their news from … Facebook.  Scary statistics, considering that Facebook doesn’t have to abide by the principles applicable to official networks and their journalists.   With Facebook’s stated intention to make the data flowing through its environment more people-driven, the level of unverified, opinionated data will go up.  Expect even more polarised societies in the years to come.