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- 12/18/18--15:05: _Banned baby names f...
- 12/18/18--15:16: _One chart shows jus...
- 12/18/18--15:17: _6 characters from t...
- 12/18/18--15:26: _FedEx just slashed ...
- 12/18/18--15:34: _Startups are taking...
- 12/18/18--15:39: _A new Intuit survey...
- 12/18/18--15:40: _A fifth of China's ...
- 12/19/18--03:47: _10 things you need ...
- 12/19/18--03:51: _Leaked document sig...
- 12/19/18--04:04: _Italy and the EU ju...
- 12/19/18--04:09: _These are the top 5...
- 12/19/18--04:18: _Taco Bell's nacho f...
- 12/19/18--04:22: _A YouTuber could fa...
- 12/19/18--04:39: _A rail-guided Tesla...
- 12/19/18--04:44: _A gross worm creatu...
- 12/19/18--04:57: _You can spot psycho...
- 12/19/18--04:59: _45 thoughtful last-...
- 12/19/18--05:00: _The first no-fee ET...
- 12/19/18--05:06: _It's not enough for...
- 12/19/18--05:14: _The Fed's next deci...
- 12/18/18--15:05: Banned baby names from around the world
- Many countries have unique naming customs that parents must follow when they are naming a child.
- Some countries outlaw symbols and numbers, while others outlaw specific names for their meaning.
From "Monkey" to "4Real," INSIDER found 20 banned names around the world.
- Tariffs are now costing US firms $6 billion a month, a sudden surge due to President Donald Trump's trade war.
- According to data from Bespoke Investment Group, tariff costs as a percentage of US GDP have doubled in the past few months.
- Tariffs as a percentage of total imports has also soared to historic levels.
- While the costs are still small, the sudden jump is another issue for US companies to handle.
- "On a 3-month average basis, September to November saw customs duties collected at a pace of 30 basis points (o.3%) of GDP,"Bespoke said.
- "Historically (since this data series begins in 1998) that number typically runs between 15 and 20 basis points (0.15% to 0.2%) of GDP, so relative to the size of the economy import tariffs are nearly twice their historic range."
- According to Bespoke, tariff costs were equal to 2.3% of the total value of goods imported into the US from September to November.
- That compares to a historical average of 1.5% over the past 20 years.
- This reboot comes 25 years after the original.
- There are some familiar characters in "Mary Poppins Returns."
- Almost all will take on new roles and cameos.
- FedEx released its 2019 Q2 earnings report today.
- FedEx won't achieve its operating income goals by fiscal 2020, the company said today.
- It's also going to start offering buyouts to eligible employees along with other cost-cutting measures.
- Executives attributed the "weakened" business to economic slowdowns in Europe and Asia.
- In the last few months, three open source software startups have made big changes to their licensing model — a defensive move against the rising power of major cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services and Alibaba Cloud.
- Their gripe: Amazon and other clouds often take free open source software and package it up as a paid service, without contributing what's considered a satisfactory amount of code back to the original project.
- Developers and activists in the open source community believe this goes against the very meaning of "open source," saying that the code should be free for anyone to use — even major cloud providers.
- Giving away free software and growing a business often contradict each other, so increasingly, more open source startups are attempting to find a middle ground.
- SMBs are a massive force in the US, which makes understanding their needs a necessity for POS terminal providers, software providers, and resellers — the US counts roughly 8 million SMBs, or 99.7% of all businesses.
- The entrance of new challengers into the payment space has put pricing pressure on the entire industry, forcing all of the players in the industry to find new solutions to keep customers loyal while also gaining a new revenue source.
- Major firms in the industry, like Verifone and Ingenico, have turned to value-added services, specifically app marketplaces, to not only build loyalty but also giving them a new revenue source — Verifone charges developers 30% of net revenue for each installed app and a distribution fee for each free app.
- According to a recent survey by Intuit, 68% of SMBs stated that they use an average of four apps to run their businesses. As developers flock to the space to grab a piece of the pie, it's likely that increased competition will lead to robust, revenue-generating marketplaces.
- And there are plenty of opportunities to build out app marketplace capabilities, such as in-person training, to further engage with users — 66% of app users would hire someone to train and educate them on which apps are right for their businesses.
- Identifies the factors that have changed how SMBs are choosing payment providers.
- Discusses why firms in the payments industry have started to introduce app marketplaces over the last four years.
- Analyzes some of the most popular app marketplaces in the industry and identifies the strengths of each.
- Breaks down the concerns merchants have relating to app marketplaces, and discusses how providers can solve these issues.
- Explores what app marketplace providers will have to do going forward in order to avoid being outperformed in an industry that's becoming increasingly saturated.
- China has an astounding housing vacancy problem.
- There are cities all over the country that are almost entirely unoccupied.
- About 50 million apartments are abandoned across the country.
- Here comes the Fed. Markets are pricing in a 62.4% chance that the central bank raises its fed funds rate by 25 basis points to a range between 2.25% and 2.50%, according to Bloomberg data.
- A missing regional manufacturing report in China is raising concerns that the economy is weaker than the government will acknowledge. A purchasing managers' index report from Guangdong, a Chinese province just north of Hong Kong, has stopped being produced as the central government deemed it "illegal" after months of trending lower.
- Facebook acknowledges allowing Netflix and Spotify access to your private messages. "Did partners get access to messages? Yes," the social-media giant said in a blog post Tuesday. "But people had to explicitly sign in to Facebook first to use a partner's messaging feature."
- GE Healthcare files a confidential IPO. A public filing is likely to happen in the spring, and the new company could have an enterprise value of $65 billion to $70 billion, according to Bloomberg.
- Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline sign a megadeal that could change the face of healthcare. The British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline will merge its consumer-health business with Pfizer to create a joint venture that will have almost $10 billion of sales, giving it a market share the two say will far exceed that of rivals such as Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and Bayer.
- FedEx says it sees a slowdown in global trade. The logistics giant slashed its 2019 outlook, saying it has seen a noticeable slowdown in Europe and Asia.
- Blue Apron falls below $1 for the first time. Shares of the meal-kit maker touched a low of $0.88 on Tuesday before settling at $0.90. They are now down 91% since their June 2017 initial public offering.
- Stock markets around the world are mostly lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng (-1.05%) led the losses in Asia, and Britain's FTSE (-1.06%) trails in Europe. The S&P 500 is set to open up 0.37% near 2,556.
- Earnings reports trickle out. General Mills and Paychex report ahead of the opening bell.
- US economic data is light. Existing-home sales will be released at 10 a.m. ET. The US 10-year yield is down 1 basis point at 2.81%.
- President Donald Trump signed a "letter of intent" outlining plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to CNN.
- The network produced what it said was a copy of the document, signed by Trump. The document was first reported on as long as a year ago.
- It appeared to contradict Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who on Sunday said "no one signed" the letter to the Russian company IC Expert Investment Company.
- Giuliani said Trump and Michael Cohen might have been discussing plans to build a tower in Moscow as late as November 2016.
- Trump's 2016 election campaign finances are still under scrutiny by the special counsel Robert Mueller.
- Trump previously denied pursuing business with Russia during his candidacy. More recently he has acknowledged the talks, which he says were "very legal!"
- Italy and the EU agree a deal on the country's budget, averting a long expected crisis in the eurozone. Stocks reacted positively to the announcement and the euro gained.
- After weeks of wrangling, the two parties have agreed to allow Italy to run a budget deficit of 2.04% next year.
- Italy had previously proposed increasing its deficit to 2.4%, which risked breaking spending rules.
- Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and self-driving technology are helping the transportation and logistics industry finally transform by cutting costs, optimizing delivery routes, and automating mundane tasks.
- Startups will be the lynchpin of this transformation because they specifically target areas of need with cutting-edge solutions.
- Business Insider Intelligence examined the top 5 startups within five key areas: digital freight services, warehouse robotics, AI for supply chain management, last-mile delivery robotics, and self-driving car software.
- Taco Bell's nacho fries are the best new fast-food menu item that debuted in 2018.
- Long mythologized, the fries immediately set themselves apart from the competition by refusing to stick to fast-food industry norms.
- More than 53 million orders of the fries were placed during the limited-time offering's original run from late January to April.
- Charges have been filed against Thai YouTuber Wanchaleom Jamneanphol after she criticized a dress designed by the daughter of Thailand's king.
- The dress was worn in the Miss Universe pageant, and Jamneanphol reportedly called it ugly in a now-deleted Facebook post.
- Thailand has notoriously strict laws, and imprisons people for insulting the monarchy.
- If charged, and ultimately convicted, Jamneanphol could face the same fate.
- She issued an apology on Monday, where she said: "I deeply regret and feel guilty for my actions."
- Elon Musk's Boring Company unveiled its first completed test tunnel on Tuesday night.
- Musk held an exclusive launch party near Los Angeles to celebrate the opening.
- It featured a speech from Musk and flamethrower-cooked marshmallows.
- A worm-like creature that can't see has been named after President Donald Trump.
- The limbless amphibian has been named "Dermophis donaldtrumpi."
- The creature has a habit of burying its head in the sand in a way that was reminiscent of Trump's attitude to climate change, the company said.
- Trump has repeatedly dismissed the effects of climate change, even contradicting the findings of its own administration.
- Psychopaths can be hard to spot.
- This is because they're not all murderers or criminals.
- Many are successful business people, surgeons, and even journalists.
- Researchers have come up with a new test for psychopathy.
- According to a new study, psychopaths' pupils do not dilate when they see something troubling or scary.
- This is probably because they do not tend to feel threatened.
- The first exchange-traded fund without fees will launch next year, predicts Todd Rosenbluth, the head of ETF and mutual fund research at advisory firm CFRA.
- Fidelity launched no-fee mutual funds this year, which drew in nearly $1 billion in flows in their first month.
- Rosenbluth highlights a few firms that could be the first to zero-fee ETFs, including Invesco and Charles Schwab.
- MORGAN STANLEY: Big asset managers are facing 'intensifying headwinds' with fees under pressure and market volatility on the upswing
- BlackRock is banking on a business that could reach $12 trillion in the next five years, according to its CEO
- Investors are fleeing active funds in the worst month for managers in nearly 2 years
- A $550 billion money manager is testing a new strategy as it fights back against cheap ETFs — and it could be the future of asset management
- The ability to conduct banking activities via a sleek mobile app is no longer enough to satisfy consumers — it's table stakes.
- Banks need to focus on deploying robust personal finance management (PFM) features that pull consumers in.
- There are three common approaches banks can take to effectively implement these tools.
- Partnering with a PFM-focused fintech: This can save the partnering banks critical time by bypassing building features themselves — enabling a quicker go-to-market strategy. However, banks must be prepared to forego the ability to implement more customized services.
- Working with a PFM technology supplier: B2B suppliers like Meniga and Personetics, on the other hand, can help banks overhaul their existing mobile apps with specially designed features. They provide the enabling infrastructure banks need to successfully offer PFM features to their customers.
- Acquiring a PFM startup: Although often more expensive, this option grants banks the ability to acquire valuable talent, as well as complete control over their integrations.
- The Federal Reserve's interest-rate-hike decision on Wednesday will be one of the most important and closely watched in recent memory.
- Monetary-tightening guidance from the central bank has been a major driver of stock-market fluctuations this year, and that's certain to continue.
- President Donald Trump is complicating matters by criticizing the Fed on Twitter in an attempt to keep it from raising rates.
- Experts across Wall Street are also torn about the Fed's path ahead and the impact its decision will have on the market.
Many countries grant parents the freedom to give their kids whatever name they want, but some have pretty rigid restrictions. In fact, there are some names that are considered illegal throughout certain parts of the world and others that are just cautioned against.
Names can be forbidden for a number of reasons. For instance, if they're offensive, difficult to remember, or downright embarrassing, it makes sense why a country would implement the regulation.
INSIDER found out some of the blacklisted names around the world.
In New Zealand, "Queen,""Duke,""Justice," and other rank names like "Princess" are off limits.
Under New Zealand's Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act section 18, you cannot register a baby name if it's an official title or rank, like "Queen" or "Duke." You also can't register a baby under an offensive or unreasonably long (more than 100 characters) name.
In 2013, New Zealand's Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages shared a list of names they've banned in the past and how many times each was rejected — "4real" was one of them.
In the US state of California, "José" needs to be spelled "Jose" with no accent.
In the US, naming laws vary state by state. In the state of California, for example, names cannot include any diacritical marks to distinguish its pronunciation, such as è, ñ, ē, ç. You also cannot use pictographs, emojis, or ideograms.
Many parents find this law to be restrictive, even unconstitutional, and there have been efforts to update it in recent years.
In Iceland, the name Cleopatra wasn't allowed because the letter "c" isn't in the Icelandic alphabet.
The country's naming restrictions are governed by a committee who has to approve any new baby name that hasn't ever been used previously.
To make matters even more complicated (or simple, depending on how you look at it) all names must adhere to the Icelandic alphabet. For example, because there is no letter "c" in the alphabet, one couple who attempted to name their child Cleopatra was rejected. (By the way, residents refer to it as "Ísland," in case you were wondering.)
Overall, parents must choose from a list of roughly 1,800 girls' names and 1,700 boys' names, according to the BBC.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
President Donald Trump's trade war is nearing its nine-month mark, and according to new data, US companies are starting to pay the price.
The US Treasury confirmed in recent data that American importers paid around $6 billion in custom duties during the month of October, double the amount during the same month a year ago. The sudden increase in tariff payments is largely a function of the Trump administration's tariffs on Chinese goods, steel, and aluminum.
One chart from Bespoke Investment Group laid out the significance of this sudden increase in tariffs in the context of the broader of the US economy and historical norms.
In addition to tariff costs growing compared to the US economy, the value of tariffs as a percentage of total imports is also on the rise:
But while the numbers have risen dramatically in the past few months, it's still a relatively small problem in context for companies at this point.
"In other words, the tax rate on imports has risen very sharply, but it’s still very small relative to, for example, sales taxes in most states," Bespoke said.
But in a time when cost pressures from rising wages and slowly rising interest rates are already putting a squeeze on US businesses, the added cost of tariffs represents another problem for these firms to manage.
That could get worse if the US and China fail to reach an agreement on a longer-term trade deal by a March 1 deadline. At that point, tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would increase to 25%, and Trump could start the process to impose tariffs on the rest of Chinese goods currently not caught up in the trade war.
A possible tariff on imported cars and trucks, another long-time threat of Trump's, also remains in the mix.
The 1964 movie-musical "Mary Poppins" has captivated viewers for multiple generations. On December 19, a new chapter in the Mary Poppins world will unfold in "Mary Poppins Returns."
The sequel is set 25 years later and has a few familiar faces as well as new actors reprising old roles. We rounded up all the original characters and actors who will appear in the new movie.
Emily Blunt will play Mary Poppins in the long-awaited sequel.
Famed singer and actress Julie Andrews played the original Mary Poppins in the 1964 classic. Her performance was beloved by many and even won her the Oscar for Best Actress in 1965.
For the sequel Emily Blunt, known for a range of films from "A Quiet Place" to "Into the Woods," will be replacing her in the iconic role.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "Mary Poppins Returns" director Rob Marshall recounts how excited Andrews was when he informed her Emily Blunt would be filling her shoes.
"Julie will always be, for me and for everybody, the most astonishing performance as Mary Poppins, winning the Oscar and bursting onto the scene so brilliantly," said Marshall. "But Emily is the perfect person to carry the torch, and I know Julie feels the exact same way. She loves her."
Ben Winshaw will portray Michael Banks as an adult.
In the original, young Michael Banks was played by Michael Garber. The sequel finds Michael as a full-fledged adult, reeling from the loss of his wife as he raises two children of his own: Anabel (Pixie Davies) and Georgie (Joel Dawson).
Ben Winshaw has been a household name in England for years for his roles in films including "Spectre,""The Danish Girl," and "The Lobster."
In an interview with Vulture, Winshaw expressed his excitement for the role. "I have seen ['Mary Poppins Returns'] and I'm really delighted by it. I'm really excited for other people to see it."
Emily Mortimer will play Jane Banks, Michael's sister.
Karen Dotrice played little Jane Banks in the first film, tagging along for adventures with Mary Poppins with her brother Michael. In the sequel Emily Mortimer will play Jane as an adult, helping her brother raise her niece and nephew.
Emily Mortimer is best known for her roles in movies like "Lars and the Real Girl" and "Match Point" as well as the HBO series "The Newsroom."
Mortimer told Hollywood Life that she had a fantastic time filming "Mary Poppins Returns" and has already seen an early version of the movie.
"I saw a little of it and it just lives up to every expectation you could have had," said Mortimer. "It was in the best hands with [director] Rob Marshall who was the perfect puppet master for the revival of Mary Poppins."
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
FedEx Express' goal of achieving an operating income of $1.5 billion by fiscal 2020 won't be achieved, the company said in its earnings report on Tuesday.
The Memphis, Tenn.-based company also dropped its 2019 earnings guidance to $15.50 to $16.60 per share. Previously, the company forecasted $17.20 to $17.80 a share. In after-hours trading, FedEx shares dropped by 6%.
"Global trade has slowed in recent months and leading indicators point to ongoing deceleration in global trade near-term," said Alan Graf, FedEx executive vice president and chief financial officer, in the report. "These trends, coupled with the change in service mix at FedEx Express, are negatively impacting the segment's financial results."
In a call to investors on Tuesday, FedEx executives highlighted economic troubles in Europe as a key reason for the company's lowered expectations. Express package volume has been lower than expected in the region.
Graf said, because of that, FedEx will cut costs and "focus on increasing efficiency across the organization."
While executives underlined FedEx's "record-setting holiday season" in the US, American employees may see some of the effects of that cost-cutting. FedEx will offer "a voluntary buyout program" to its US employees that's expected to save the company $225 million to $275 million.
Other initiatives include limiting hiring, reducing discretionary spending, and reducing international network capacity.
These mediocre earnings come after the Dec. 10 resignation of David Cunningham, previously the head of FedEx Express. Cunningham left the role after just two years, while his predecessor led the air freight division for 17 years. The sudden departure concerned investors and analysts, who called it "out of character."
FedEx CEO Fred Smith praised Cunningham's 30-year tenure at UPS in the investor call on Tuesday, calling the departure a retirement.
It is a time of great unrest in the open source software world.
Amazon Web Services, Alibaba Cloud, and the other major cloud computing platforms have come under fire for taking free open source software and repackaging it as a paid service. It's a maneuver that's legal, but not always welcome, as Amazon has a reputation for not giving back to the open source projects from which it profits.
In response, three smaller software companies behind some of the open source software that Amazon and others rely on — Confluent, Redis Labs, and MongoDB — have gone on the defensive. In recent months, they've made changes to their licensing that prevent cloud platforms from profiting from the open source code that they develop. Open source can't be "free and unsustainable R&D" for tech giants, said Confluent CEO Jay Kreps last week.
The problem, experts now warn, is that these companies' big move against Amazon and others could undermine the very concept of open source itself, which is in turn a pillar of the modern software industry. Restricting how software is used, say the critics, is antithetical to the literal definition of open source, which states that software should be free for anyone to use as they wish, even if that means selling it.
"These proponents think they're out to save open source. We don't think so," Bruce Perens, one of the founders of the open source movement and the creator of that definition, told Business Insider. "You can use whatever license you want as long as you don't call it open source."
The challenge, several experts and CEOs tell Business Insider, is figuring out how to navigate these issues in a way that preserves the core philosophy of open source, while simultaneously respecting these startups' right to make money from their own code.
Experts warn of a 'disturbing trend'
The companies that are making this stand against the tech giants all share a similar business model. They all develop an open source project — MongoDB and Redis Labs work on eponymous open source databases, while Confluent is the lead developer on Kafka, an open source streaming data analysis tool.
Amazon Web Services offers the Redis database as a service, and just announced a Kafka-based service, too. It's also expected to launch a service based on MongoDB, according to reports. Competing cloud platforms, including Alibaba Cloud, have launched similar services based on these and other open source projects.
These smaller companies' new licenses don't appear to directly impact AWS or the other big cloud platforms; they only apply to the specialized additions to the open source software that they developed in-house, while Amazon is using the original software. These companies also all sell customized versions of their software for businesses.
This, in and of itself, isn't a problem: It's common for software companies to release some of their labors as open source, and others as proprietary, commercial products.
"Not all open source is the same, and there's a long, diverse spectrum from completely free, permissive, and open to maximally expensive, restricted, and closed," Kyle Mitchell, independent business law attorney, told Business Insider. "Companies can dice up the work they do into buckets and make independent choices about each one."
However, Bradley M. Kuhn, the President of the Software Freedom Conservancy, calls the new licensing changes from these startups a "disturbing trend." Sure, these startups are protecting their business interests, but then these startups can't claim to be open source anymore — even if they do still make the source code available for free download. It's a matter of philosophy, he says.
"You should have equal rights whether you're modifying or sharing the software as a hobby or sharing it as commercial software," Kuhn told Business Insider. "Our community has long held the belief that the issue of software freedom is equal for everyone whether they're a commercial actor or not."
In other words, Kuhn says, with these licensing changes, Redis Labs and Confluent are saying that commercial providers do not deserve software freedom.
For its part, MongoDB has submitted its new license, called the Server Side Public License, for approval from the Open Source Initiative. The license gets sent out on a mailing list, and the community discusses whether the new license meets the criteria for the software to call itself "open source."
Will MongoDB's new license get approved? Perens personally thinks it's unlikely. According to the email thread, as reviewed by Business Insider, many participants have written that they are strongly opposed.
There has been pushback on Redis Labs and Confluent's licensing changes as well, although both have clarified that they don't intend for their new licenses to qualify their software as open source.
Some in the community have written blog posts criticizing these changes, and developers protested Redis Labs' announcement by taking its open code, copying it, and beginning work on a new version that will meet the criteria to be called open source.
A "lose:lose scenario"
A major beef held by these startups is that Amazon has a reputation for not contributing very much code to the projects that it's taking and selling. Indeed, in 2017, Amazon employees only contributed code to 158 of the top open source projects on GitHub.
Compare this to Microsoft — which acquired open source hub GitHub this year — where employees contributed to the 825 top projects, and Google, where employees contributed to 1,100 top projects. Despite being the #1 cloud provider, Amazon seems to give only a fraction back to the open source community.
Dor Laor, founder and CEO of open source database company ScyllaDB, says he understands why these startups are upset, but he also has concerns that the new licensing changes hurts smaller companies, which sometimes sell open source software made by others, but actually make major contributions to the code in return.
"It's a lose:lose scenario and goes against the open source spirit," Laor told Business Insider. "Another class of companies who will be hurt by this is smaller as-a service vendors and despite the fact that the may contribute back to OSS, the license will forbid them to run it...So all in all, it's not a positive trend."
'It's part of the game'
Open source startups may be founded on ideals of keeping software free and open. But when reality hits, and cloud providers make considerable profits off of software they didn't create, it can cause an identity crisis for open source companies. Do they stick to their open source ideals, or do they look after their business interests?
Heather Meeker, an open source licensing specialist who helped draft Redis and MongoDB's licensing changes, says this dilemma is becoming more common for open source businesses.
"When you're a lawyer, you do what your clients need you to do," Meeker told Business Insider. "My view is, I'm not morally opposed to proprietary software. I think open source is great and can be a hugely helpful tool in business, but companies have to think very carefully on how to have a revenue model."
And that's the issue: starting a business and creating open source software have two completely separate goals. The goal of starting a business is to make money. The mission of open source is freedom.
"The biggest question I always get is, how do I make money by making open source?" Perens said. "My answer to that is, if that's your major goal, you're probably the wrong person to make the open source. The people who are making open source should have another goal."
Laor also says that when it comes to an open source business, the possibility of others selling your software is definitely a risk, but that's just what happens when you give software away for free. For example, IBM has already been selling ScyllaDB's software for some time.
"It's not as major as the other three leading companies, and it can certainly happen," Laor said. "We believe it's part of the game. It may happen. We may lose some opportunities, but we also gain some because if that happens, the project credibility will rise. It won't necessarily be a bad thing for us."
Laor says he does not plan to pursue any licensing changes for ScyllaDB.
Ultimately, it's up to the individual startup to strike the right balance between idealism and practicality. In the meantime, MongoDB, Redis Labs, Confluent and likely more startups to come have been attempting to find a middle ground.
"For various reasons, some people desperately want to work in a software world where everything is either wide open or slammed shut," Mitchell said. "But self-described 'open core' companies are finding they need and want to experiment with different combinations and gradations, for both technical and business reasons."
In an increasingly digitized world, brick-and-mortar retailers are facing immense pressure to understand and accommodate their customers’ changing needs, including at the point of sale (POS).
More than two years after the EMV liability shift in October 2015, most large merchants globally have upgraded their payment systems. And beyond upgrading to meet new standards, many major retailers are adopting full-feature, “smart” devices — and supplementing them with valuable tools and services — to help them better engage customers and build loyalty.
But POS solutions aren’t “one size fits all.” Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don't usually have the same capabilities as larger merchants, which often have the resources and funds to adopt robust solutions or develop them in-house. That's where app marketplaces come in: POS app marketplaces are platforms, typically deployed by POS providers, where developers can host third-party business apps that offer back-office services, like accounting and inventory, and customer-retention tools, like loyalty programs and coupons.
SMBs' growing needs present a huge opportunity for POS terminal providers, software providers, and resellers. The US counts roughly 8 million SMBs, or 99.7% of all businesses. Until now, constraints such as time and budget have made it difficult for SMBs to implement value-added services that meet their unique needs. But app marketplaces enable providers to cater to SMBs with specialized solutions.
App marketplaces also alleviate some of the issues associated with the overcrowded payments space. Relatively new players that have effectively leveraged the rise of the digital economy, like mPOS firm Square, are increasingly encroaching on the payments industry, putting pricing pressure on payment hardware and service giants. This has diminished client loyalty as merchants seek out the most affordable solution, and it's resulted in lost revenue for providers. However, app marketplaces can be used as tools not only to build client loyalty, but also as a revenue booster — Verifone, for instance, charges developers 30% of net revenue for each installed app and a distribution fee for each free app.
In this report, Business Insider Intelligence looks at the drivers of POS app marketplaces and the legacy and challenger firms that are supplying them. The report also highlights the strategies these providers are employing, and the ways that they can capitalize on the emergence of this new market. Finally, it looks to the future of POS app marketplaces, and how they may evolve moving forward.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
In full, the report:
When you picture a ghost town, images of an abandoned town in the wild west probably come to mind.
In China, however, there are a surprising number of "ghost cities," or modern developments that have failed to attract residents.
The Kangbashi District in Inner Mongolia, China, for example, is a city that has been in development for the past 14 years. The district is filled with residential skyscrapers, a modern museum and library, and schools — but it is dramatically underpopulated. Developers originally intended for a million residents, though they have since lowered the goal to 300,000.
Keep reading for an inside look at China's ghost cities.
In the Yunnan Province, the Chenggong district of Kunming was filled with largely unoccupied residential skyscrapers until recently.
The city's development from farmland to urban center began in 2003.
Source: Go Kunming
However, by 2012, the city's population had not grown to match the new infrastructure.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Here is what you need to know.
A leaked business document bearing President Trump's signature shows that his lawyer Rudy Giuliani lied about Trump's plans for a Tower in Moscow on Sunday, according to CNN.
Chris Cuomo, a host on the network, on Thursday produced what he said was a "letter of intent" setting out a potential deal to explore the project between Trump Acquisition LLC and the Moscow-based IC Expert Investment Company, Moscow.
Cuomo held up the document during his show, "Cuomo Prime Time," on Thursday evening. The document is dated October 28, 2015, several months after Trump announced his candidacy.
On Sunday, Trump's lawyer Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bush that Trump never got as far as signing that letter. According to CNN, their document shows that Giuliani was not telling the truth.
It has been reported before, as long ago as mid-2017, that Trump had signed a letter of intent over the tower project, which was ultimately abandoned.
Giuliani returned to the letter on Sunday while talking about the would-be Trump Tower Moscow.
He said: "It was a real estate project. There was a letter of intent to go forward, but no one signed it." He said this despite earlier reporting that it had been signed.
Giuliani was expanding on Trump's written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller — who is investigating the president's campaign financing.
Trump did not make the plans public while he was running for office. Later he admitted that the talks took place, but said in a tweet that the talks were "very legal!"
"Up until November 2016, they [Trump and Cohen] could have had a conversation about Trump Tower Moscow, and it went nowhere," Giuliani told CNN.
Cohen pleaded guilty on November 29 to lying to Congress about his role in a plan to build a Trump Tower in Russia. He had claimed that the plan was scrapped in January 2016, but since changed this account, and said that the idea was in fact kept alive until November 2016.
During that period, Trump went from a political outlier to the official Republican nominee. During November he won the presidency.
The plans for the building, laid out in the letter produced by CNN, include "250 luxury residential condominiums," a "first class, luxury hotel" spread over 15 floors, and office space of "Class A quality."
The IC Expert Investment Company were to be the licensee of the project; able to develop it and use the "Trump" brand name, the document said.
Italy and the European Union have finally agreed a deal that will allow Europe's fourth largest economy to avoid sanctions from Brussels over its government budget for next year, averting a potential crisis in the eurozone.
Brussels and Rome had been at loggerheads over the Italian government's plans to increase both the debt and deficit in the country, pushing the deficit as high as 2.4% of gross domestic product over the coming years. Such proposals put Italy at risk of falling foul of EU limits on spending.
After weeks of wrangling, the two parties have agreed to allow Italy to run a budget deficit of 2.04% next year, higher than a previously mandated limit, but well below the Italian government's initial proposal.
The agreement will provide the "basis for balanced budgetary and economic policies in Italy," Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU's most senior official dealing with the euro and financial systems, said according to the Financial Times.
However, Italy "urgently needs to restore confidence in its economy to ease financial conditions and support investment," he added.
"Let’s be clear, the solution is not ideal."
The agreement means that Italy will no longer be subject to the so-called Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) — which has the power to fine countries within the eurozone who break spending rules within the bloc. Italy's entry into the EDP was set to be announced on Wednesday.
Markets have reacted positively to the announcement with Italy's benchmark FTSE MIB trading more than 1.7% higher on the day. It had climbed on Wednesday morning as rumours surfaced that a deal would be struck. The euro is also higher against the dollar on the day, trading at €1.1402, a gain of 0.35%.
Transportation and logistics industries have operated largely the same way for decades. But the surge in e-commerce in the last several years, combined with consumers’ appetite for same-day delivery, has brought us to a tipping point.
Delivery companies are doing all they can to get orders to customers’ doors as quickly as possible, which has facilitated wholesale changes in how they operate.
Cutting-edge digital solutions (including digital freight services, warehouse robotics, AI for supply chain management, delivery robotics, and autonomous driving software) are forcing traditional delivery companies to either evolve or see their core businesses erode.
Transportation & Logistics Startups to Watch, a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, monitors the biggest change agents in the industry to offer unique insight into the development of the transportation and logistics space at large, and shows how traditional companies are adapting to their new environment.
Want to Learn More?
Business Insider Intelligence's Startups to Watch reports give a high-level overview of the funding trends for startups in a particular coverage area, as well as a list of key startups (by function, what they do, key news, and statistics). Businesses need to understand new competitive threats, technologies, and acquisition opportunities in order to thrive. These reports provide that contextual information in an easy-to-digest manner.
In full, the Transportation & Logistics Startups to Watch report dives into the top 25 companies - five startups across five key disruption areas - that are easing shipping burdens, improving order fulfillment efficiency, optimizing delivery, and automating processes.
In the course of my life, I've eaten many a fry.
I've gorged myself on McDonald's French fries, both salty and fresh as well as lukewarm and mealy. I've preached the gospel of Arby's curly fries. I've dabbled in Chick-fil-A's waffle fries, a middling option boosted by the quality of the chain's signature sauce.
I thought I'd seen it all in the world of fries. Then, at the dawn of 2018, Taco Bell brought a new contender to the game.
I had long heard tales of Taco Bell's loaded fries, sold almost everywhere around the world except the US. In August 2017, I argued that bringing the fabled fries to the US could result in a dish that is far superior to nachos as we know them.
In 2018, my calls for international fry equality were finally answered.
In late January, the fast-food chain added $1 nacho fries to the menu for a limited time. Instead of taking the classic fast-food route, Taco Bell topped its fries with a spicy seasoning and served them with a side of nacho cheese.
The fries were everything I hoped they'd be.
It was a bit of French-fried genius to serve slightly spicy fries with nacho cheese, immediately setting the new fry on the block apart from rivals. Taco Bell's fries are fairly hefty and a bit floppy — certainly less crisp than offerings at chains like McDonald's. But the thicker cut is a smart move for Taco Bell, as it guarantees the potato can balance out the spices and rich nacho cheese.
Taco Bell also made the smart move to treat the fries as building blocks.
Lacking the icon status of McDonald's fries, Taco Bell highlighted the fact that the nacho fries could be dipped in cheese, loaded with toppings, or even put in a burrito. They were quality fries, sure — but they were also yet another ingredient in customers' arsenal for building the gut-busting fast-food extravaganza of their wildest dreams.
These fries do not win the title of fast-food menu item of the year for taste alone. They defined industry trends, such as the year's short-lived celebration of the dollar menu (fries originally cost $1 before prices were raised to $1.29 when reintroduced later in 2018).
Read more: The dollar menu is dead
Most importantly, they boosted sales.
In May, Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands reported that nacho fries served as a significant sales driver for the chain, with more than 53 million orders placed before the item disappeared from the menu in April. Taco Bell's same-store sales increased by 1% in the first quarter fries were on the menu. According to the company, roughly 25% of Taco Bell orders in the quarter included fries.
While nacho fries returned for another limited-time run over the summer, they are sadly once again off the menu. Yet, for their creativity and zeitgeisty spirit, they easily win best new menu item of the year.
Let's just hope McDonald's cheesy bacon fries — set to debut in January — can compete.
A Thai YouTuber is facing criminal charges — which could end in jail time — for criticizing a Miss Universe dress designed by the king's daughter.
Charges have been filed against Wanchaleom Jamneanphol, a popular YouTuber and TV presenter, under Thailand's notoriously strict laws, which make it illegal to say anything negative about the monarchy.
She had criticized the dress designed by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana which was worn by the Thai entrant in the Miss Universe pageant, Sophida Kanchanarin, which was held in Thailand last week.
Here is the dress in question, seen in an Instagram post by Princess Nariratana's brand:
สำหรับชุดราตรีผ้าไหมไทยที่ พระองค์หญิงสิริวัณณวรีฯ ทรงประทานให้ เดมี ลีห์เนล ปีเตอร์ส มิสยูนิเวิร์ส 2017 และ โศภิดา กาญจนรินทร์ มิสยูนิเวิร์สไทยแลนด์ 2018 สวมใส่ในค่ำคืน Thai Night นับเป็นความท้าทายอย่างหนึ่ง โดยได้แรงบันดาลใจมาจากฉลองพระองค์ของสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ พระบรมราชินีนาถ ในรัชกาลที่ 9 รังสรรค์มาในรูปแบบชุดไทยแต่สร้างเสน่ห์ความเป็นสากลได้อย่างพอดิบพอดี โดยเลือกใช้ผ้าไหมเรียบและผ้าไหมแพรวามาผสมผสานแต่เต็มไปด้วยเสน่ห์ที่มีความเป็นไทยอย่างแยบยล #Sirivannavari #SirivannavariBangkok #SirivannavariCouture #2018MissUniverse #MissUniverse #MontreePR @sirivannavari_shop
Thai millionaire businessman and aspiring politician Kitjanut Chaiyosburanato filed charges against Jamneanphol this week, The Guardian reported.
"I cannot accept that a well-known individual in the online world expressed negative opinions that affect the country’s reputation," Chaiyosburanato told reporters, describing the post as "irresponsible behavior," he told reporters.
The charges were filed and accepted by the Thai police’s technology crime suppression division, according to The Guardian. This could result in full legal proceedings.
Jamneanphol issued an apology on Facebook on Monday, where she said she "did not have any intention to insult or disrespect" the monarchy.
"I deeply regret and feel guilty for my actions," she said.
Thailand's monarchy is protected by a harsh set of laws designed to shield them from criticism in Thailand, following a principle known as lèse-majesté.
Under the laws, anyone convicted of defaming, insulting or threatening the king, queen, heir or regent faces between three and 15 years in prison on each count.
The law is routinely interpreted to include criticism that touches on any aspect of the monarchy, according to AFP.
The United Nations has previously been critical of the law.
In 2015, it attacked the "shockingly disproportionate prison terms" of 30 and 28 years which Thai military courts imposed on to two people for insulting the monarchy.
The grand opening featured a public appearance from Musk, a modified Tesla Model X, and flamethrower-cooked marshmallows.
Scroll on for the best pictures from the launch party.
The Hawthorne Tunnel is the Boring Company's first major project.
The tunnel is 12 feet in diameter, and the finished tunnel segment is just over a mile long.
It was excavated along a path that runs not through Los Angeles but beneath the tiny adjacent municipality of Hawthorne, where Musk's Boring Company and his SpaceX rocket firm are both headquartered.
Although lots of people came to witness the tunnel opening, there wasn't space for everyone.
Musk's presentation was broadcast live at 8:15 p.m. local time so people who couldn't make the exclusive launch party could tune in.
Musk gave a 30-minute presentation.
After emerging from the tunnel in a modified Tesla Model X, Musk said he hoped in the future that tunnels dug by the Boring Company could be the answer to "soul destroying" traffic.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
A worm-like creature that has a habit of burying its head in the sand was named after President Donald Trump in recognition of his attitude to climate change.
The limbless amphibian, which is in danger due to climate change, was named "Dermophis donaldtrumpi."
EnviroBuild, a sustainable building materials company, paid $25,000 to name the creature as part of a fundraiser for the Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit conservation group.
Aidan Bell, the group's co-founder, said in a statement on Tuesday: "Burrowing its head underground helps Donald Trump when avoiding scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change and also appointed several energy lobbyists to the Environment Agency, where their job is to regulate the energy industry."
"As Demorphus donaldtrumpi is an amphibian, it is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and is therefore in danger of becoming extinct as a direct result of its namesake's climate policies," he said.
"EnviroBuild is not an overtly political organization, but we do feel very strongly that everyone should do everything they can to leave the world in a better way than they found it," he added.
The company also shared an edited image of the creature with Trump-like hair on its head.
The creature was recently discovered, and the name still has to undergo a peer review.
"The name will still have to undergo peer review, something that biologists EnviroBuild have spoken to had stressed the importance of, but multiple species are named after Presidents, and this amphibian will soon join the vulnerable list," Bell said.
It is not the first animal named after Trump: in early 2017, a small moth with a yellowish-white coif of scales that looks like hair was named "Neopalpa donaldtrumpi."
Trump on climate change
In November, Trump said that he didn't believe the findings of his own administration's report on the impacts of climate change and the economic effects it is predicted to have on the US.
The report's findings were dire, stating that the average temperature could increase by as much as 11 degrees by the end of this century.
The president also contradicted the findings of his own administration earlier that month, when he said that he believes climate change can go back on its own.
He has also disputed the level of impact humans have had on the planet. "We do have an impact, but I don't believe the impact is nearly what some scientists say, and other scientists dispute those findings very strongly," he said in November.
Think you could spot a psychopath? They often blend into the background, so chances are you probably can't.
The study, published in the journal Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, involved 82 male mentally disordered offenders. The researchers examined how their pupils reacted to visual images of real-world scenes, auditory sound clips, and videos of dynamic facial expressions. Some of the pictures were nice, like puppies, and some were negative, such as bloody injuries.
Psychopaths and non-psychopaths were watched closely, and the results showed that while the pupils of non-psychopaths' eyes dilated when viewing something scary, the psychopaths' pupils did not.
Pupils can show what we're thinking
Usually, our pupils dilate when we see something that upsets or offends us, due to an adrenaline rush caused by the "fight, flight, or freeze" response. They also get bigger if we see something that excites us, which is why sophisticated card players often look at their opponents' eyes to see if they have a good hand.
As psychopaths didn't seem to have such a strong reaction to horrible imagery, it suggests they aren't so susceptible to feeling threatened or scared.
"The pupil has long been known to be an indicator of a person's arousal," said Dan Burley from Cardiff University's School of Psychology. "The pupil usually dilates when an image shocks or scares us. The fact that this normal physiological response to threat is reduced in psychopathic offenders provides us with an obvious physical marker for this condition."
Experts have sometimes suggested that psychopaths don't experience emotions like the rest of us do. For example, Adrian Raine, a professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on psychopathy, told INSIDER that psychopaths tend to have a "blunting of emotions."
"Psychopaths are more likely to be thrill seekers, and more likely to push the envelope on life," he said. "You know, do daring things. It's because they lack fear and they lack conscience. If we thought about doing something a little bit scary, we'd get scared." Psychopaths, on the other hand, don't.
The biology of a psychopath
The amygdala is the area of the brain where people process emotions. In psychopaths, this area is up to 18% smaller. When most people are given a moral dilemma to consider, such as the trolley problem, the amygdala fires up and lights up on brain scans. In psychopaths, this doesn't happen to the same degree.
"We know that there are strong genetic contributions to the brain areas, but we also know that the social environment can impact the brain," Raine said. "People who are abused early in life or who are neglected, for example, they have a reduction in the volume of the amygdala. That's at least true in children. So it can be genes and it can be the environment. Most likely, it's a combination of both."
Surprisingly, in the new study, the psychopathic offenders' pupils responded normally to positive images like happy couples and animals, which suggests psychopathy may not be associated with a complete lack of emotions, but a reduced sensitivity to threatening information.
Their pupils also dilated when seeing smiling faces, which the authors suggest could be because psychopaths are sometimes suspicious of people who appear happy.
"Many psychopathic offenders appear to be bold, confident, and can act in cold-blooded manner," said Robert Snowden from Cardiff University. "It's much easier to act bold if you have no feelings of fear, and to be cold-blooded if there is no emotion to get in the way of the act."
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No matter the holiday, everyone loves to know that they're appreciated. As our days become full of the realities of work, family, and all other aspects of our lives, it can be easy to forget to show our appreciation for the ones we love.
Of course, the best ways to show your appreciation for your loved ones can't be bought. Nothing can top showing your gratitude with patience, support, and love. When it comes to the tangible, though, gifts can enhance the gratitude we show through our actions.
So, if you feel that your wife needs to be shown some extra appreciation — on her birthday or your anniversary, or during the holidays this season — here are some thoughtful gifts you can give to show her you care.
Most of these items are available with expedited shipping, and some should arrive within a few days' time, so don't stress too hard about your last-minute shopping — just remember that the sooner you order, the better your chances of a timely arrival.
Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.
An exciting new read
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A super soft cashmere sweater
Showing your appreciation for your wife will make her feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and with this cashmere sweater, she'll feel the same way on the outside too. It's a cozy, luxurious upgrade from a regular turtleneck that anyone is bound to love.
Something small but sweet
This sweet and spicy honey will be a welcome addition to your kitchen. It's a thoughtful gift for an adventurous foodie who'll appreciate this hand-infused, locally made update to the classic sweetener.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Next year could see the first free exchange traded fund, as fees has ticked to near-zero in recent years, one industry analyst predicts.
Fidelity made waves this summer by offering the first no-fee mutual funds. Though the products came with a host of restrictions, the first funds attracted nearly $1 billion in a month.
In the ETF space, 16 US-listed funds now charge 0.04% or even 0.03% fees. Those super-low fee funds garnered $62 billion of capital this year through mid-December – about a quarter of all ETF inflows, according to research firm CFRA. Such strong fund flows could pave the way for a free ETF.
"2019 could be the year, as asset managers saw the brand awareness and asset gathering benefits Fidelity achieved following its zero-fee products," Todd Rosenbluth, the head of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA, told Business Insider in an interview. "Further, some firms such were relatively aggressive on the low-fee front in 2018 or late 2017 and could take the logical next step. The race to zero is not a sprint but requires endurance."
The five ETF providers most focused on low costs are BlackRock's iShares, Vanguard, State Street Global Advisors, Invesco, and Schwab, Rosenbluth said. While low- or no-fee ETFs don't make much money for their managers, the firms could benefit from higher volume and securities lending. Presumably, investors will also tack on less-discounted products, using that investment firm for other parts of their portfolios.
Rosenbluth pointed out that new low-cost ETFs are finding it difficult to stand out in an increasingly crowded space. Invesco, for example, launched a large- and mid-cap-focused ETF in September 2017 with a 0.04% fee. Even though the product has outperformed Schwab's comparable ETF – which has a 0.03% fee – Invesco has only picked up $3 million for its fund. Schwab, by contrast, has added $3 billion of new capital this year. If Invesco cut its fee completely, it could jump start flows, Rosenbluth said.
JPMorgan is another potential zero-fee manager. Industry observers have been speculating about the prospects of no fee for a coming product, the JPMorgan BetaBuilders US Equity ETF. Earlier this month, the firm filed paperwork for the ETF without indicating the fee.
"We think the attention and asset flows that would come with the first zero-fee ETF could help to further catapult JPMorgan, now just outside of the top 10, into the top 5 of ETF asset managers and knock an incumbent back," Rosenbluth said.
A spokeswoman for JPMorgan declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Schwab – whose president told Business Insider recently that he's focused on keeping a streamlined product lineup– could remove the small fees on one or two of its products without denting its $10 billion annual revenue, Rosenbluth said. Instead, the firm "could benefit from increased asset growth and trading volumes."
"We have learned that while some investors like the idea, others remain skeptical of the concept and prefer to have greater transparency into how they pay their asset manager and their brokerage account provider," a Schwab spokeswoman said. "We will continue to talk with investors to learn about their preferences, and monitor market activity to inform any future steps we may take – all while making sure we put clients first."
State Street has already seen the positive impact of fee reduction. The firm cut the fees of its total return ETF to 0.03% in late 2017, then saw $1.6 billion in new capital this year – still less than a comparable iShares ETF, which pulled in $3.4 billion. A free fund could help State Street recoup some of its recent market share losses to iShares and Vanguard, Rosenbluth said.
No matter which firm is the first to free, "such a move would certainly shake up the rapidly growing ETF industry and possibly drive further industry inflows," Rosenbluth said.
It’s no longer enough for banks to offer customers a sleek mobile banking app; in fact, they expect it.
And with emerging fintechs continuously creeping in on incumbents’ marketshare, legacy banks must work to provide additional tools that will keep users engaged in-app — and prevent their eyes from wandering to startup solutions.
The best opportunity banks have to do this is by introducing personal finance management (PFM) features to their existing offerings. These features empower customers to take more control over their financial lives by tracking spending, managing investments, and maintaining greater visibility into their overall financial health.
Fintech startups have already refined many of these technologies and, in turn, pressured traditional banks to achieve feature parity or lose customers. Personal Finance Management, a new research report Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has outlined the best ways for banks to catch up to the competition.
Here are three approaches banks can take to implementing PFM tools:
Want to learn more?
This is just a preview of Personal Finance Management, a new report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. The full report breaks down the different approaches banks can take to offer their customers better PFM features as competition from fintechs increases.
In full, the report provides insights into the benefits and challenges of each approach, how the industry may change in the future, and which PFM features will soon become table stakes for consumers.
The Federal Reserve is set to announce its next interest-rate-hike decision on Wednesday, and the stakes have rarely been higher.
A big part of that stems from the turbulence that has rocked the stock market in recent weeks. With major US indexes already in correction territory, one wrong step could open the floodgates for more selling.
As a result, the Fed finds itself in a difficult situation. If the central bank signals too much future monetary tightening for the market's tastes, the 10-year bull market could meet its demise. And if the Fed adopts a more dovish tone than expected, there will be speculation that it was strong-armed by politicians.
Take the February stock-market correction, for example. While a big fuss was made about the collapse of an unsustainable volatility trade, ground zero for the sell-off was the blockbuster jobs report for January.
The US economy added way more jobs than expected, and wages rose at their fastest pace in a decade. That fueled speculation that the Fed would hike interest rates at a faster pace than previously indicated, a dynamic that would make bonds more attractive compared to stocks. So equities sold off — and hard.
Then, ahead of the so-called Red October for stocks, Fed Chair Jerome Powell catalyzed another correction, this time with his words. He said the central bank was a "long way" from neutral on interest rates, sparking more concern about a faster path for rate hikes.
But Powell can also be a market ally. In late November, he said rates were "just below" a neutral level, which sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average surging 600 points, its biggest increase in eight months.
With all of that established, it's clear that the market will be hanging not just on the rate-hike decision — which is expected by the vast majority of economists to be a 25-basis-point increase — but also on the accompanying commentary.
They'll devour any bit of guidance from Powell and his colleagues for any hint of what's ahead for interest rates. And how they interpret those signals will go a long way toward deciding the direction of the stock market through the end of 2018 and into next year.
The Trump factor
The blond-haired elephant in the room when it comes to the Fed decision is President Donald Trump's continued insistence upon criticizing the Fed. He's seen the effect a hawkish Fed can have on stocks, and he doesn't want the central bank to further destabilize markets.
As such, he's made a habit out of criticizing the Fed on Twitter, an unorthodox ploy that challenges the institution's long-standing independence.
It's been happening with increased regularity in recent weeks as Trump attempts to exert influence over the Fed's decision. In late November, the president blamed the central bank for layoffs at General Motors. And this week, he fired off tweets in consecutive days, highlighting low inflation and a strong dollar — two things he thinks should preclude the Fed from tightening at all in December.
Other members of the Trump administration have also gotten in on the action. The White House trade adviser Peter Navarro echoed the president's sentiments on Monday, saying it would be ill-advised for the Fed to raise interest rates just to assert its independence.
There's no way to know just how much these pressures will affect the Fed. But regardless of what the decision ends up being, the specter of political influence will continue to loom large.
Conflicting expert opinions
As if the Fed situation weren't difficult enough, experts across Wall Street can't seem to agree on the proper way forward. They also can't come to a consensus about what the Fed's plan will be in 2019.
Last week, billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones argued that the latest market conditions would keep the central bank from raising rates after a 25-basis-point increase in December.
"There's a high probability that this hike, assuming they hike, will be the last one for a long time," he told CNBC in a December 10 interview.
Meanwhile, DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeff Gundlach — also known as the "Bond King"— doesn't think the Fed should hike at all in December.
"The bond market is basically saying, 'Fed you've got no way you should be raising interest rates,'" he told CNBC on Monday.
Kate Moore, the chief equity strategist at the BlackRock Investment Institute, doesn't have a firm view of how the Fed will continue to tighten in 2019. She's more concerned about what the side effects will be in the market. In her mind, the fate of risk assets like stocks rests largely on the shoulders of the Fed.
"I would say focusing on the Fed, and all of the language and communication they give us over the next couple of months — what their plans are in March and in June, in particular," she told Business Insider in a recent interview. "I think that will really dictate and really sort of help frame how people think about risk assets throughout the year."
How to trade the Fed in 2019
The back-and-forth is a lot to absorb, and it fails to answer the main question on the minds of investors: How on earth should you trade this sort of environment? Luckily, Goldman Sachs has an idea.
At the center of the bank's recommendation for 2019 is its belief that Fed overtightening fears are overblown.
"We think the front end of the US Treasury yield curve is currently underpricing future Fed hikes," Charles Himmelberg, the chief markets economist and head of global markets research at Goldman, said in a recent note. "In our view, the risk that the Fed gets derailed from its intended path over the next 2-3 hikes is low."
Ultimately, all of the dynamics laid out above show just how dicey the situation facing the Fed is at the moment and how small the margin of error will be. Even if the central bank manages to avoid roiling markets in the short term, it will have its work cut out going forward.
Because once the December decision has passed, everyone will start looking ahead at the next one. And we'll get to go through this process all over again.