Leaders at Uber, Nike, and Disney on the Simple Ways You Can Curb Workplace Gender Gaps

Despite recent gains to shrink the gender wage gap, women are still woefully underestimated at work–in terms of their job titles, leadership roles, and more. But pushing those limits is indeed possible. Getting there is the question.

At a recent Women’s History Month event in New York City, female leaders from Disney Streaming, Dow Jones, Nike, and Uber converged at General Assembly’s co-working space to debate how professional women can resist common practices that reinforce the gender gap in today’s workplace.

Here are five key takeaways that apply to any leader, no matter your gender:

1. Shoot for jobs or projects you’re not fully qualified for but passionately want.

“Men apply for jobs when they meet 60 percent of the qualifications, where women apply when they meet 100 percent,”said Ali Levitan, head of General Assembly’s enterprise media practice.

Indeed, Sheryl Weaver, senior human resources manager at Uber, agreed and refers to this as the “confidence gap.” She added that “if [women] are really transparent about what that gap is but are so passionate about that opportunity,” they’ll get the training they need to do the job effectively. Encourage managers to look for passion and not just a checklist of qualifications. 

The same is true for entrepreneurs. Plenty of females founders have failed to go after a client because they think it’s too big or they think they don’t have the resources to serve it. Or they accept the project for far less than what they should be paid. That is waning confidence talking. 

2. Hire diverse teams–without bias.

When you’re in a position to hire, be cognizant of potential unintended biases. For starters, ask all the same questions to every job applicant, suggested Raakhee Mirchandani, head of diversity and inclusion at Dow Jones. “It seems so basic–but how many people really do this?” she added. 

By standardizing all interview questions across your candidate pool, you eliminate the potential for bias in the interviewing process, Mirchandani said. You’ll then compare information by way of a common denominator.

To curb bias further, Uber’s Weaver suggested making sure the interview panel is also diverse. 

3. New opportunities can come to you, if you sell yourself right.

“There is so much passive recruitment that organizations do now because people are not applying to jobs,” said Trina Maynes, lead human resources partner at Nike. That passive search may also involve companies looking for professional service and other resource providers.

So, invest in your company’s Linkedin profile. Ask those you’ve worked with to add testimonials on your page, and ensure your headshot is powerful, Maynes suggested.

4. Help empower the coming generations of women.

If you are in a leadership position, give back. Weaver suggested joining Built by Girls, a New York-based nonprofit organization offering young women in high school and college mentor opportunities. Mentees may also access exclusive business events, internships, and career opportunities.

“There is a power in a mentor and a champion who knows your vision. We are all in a position to receive that and give that,” Maynes said.

5. Bring men into the conversation.

“The truth is that the majority of executive leaders are men,” said Ally Tubis, senior director of retention analytics at Disney Streaming. Often, they are unaware of the work imbalances women face–so educate them, she advised. Consider joining a networking organization or a local chamber of commerce to increase the likelihood you’ll connect with men in leadership roles. Even if nothing materializes for your business, the work you do to improve empathy amongh this group might help future generations of women entrepreneurs.

More Than 150 Companies Are Hoping This Woman Can Fix Their Diversity Problems

For three days in February, 6,000 of people coursed in and out of the Castro Theater, a 1920s movie palace in San Francisco. They came to hear from Laurene Powell Jobs, Susan Wojcicki, and leaders from Amazon and Uber. They came to network. And a pithy marquee on the theater summed up their unifying mission: “Queer. Inclusive. Badass.”

The sixth-annual Lesbians Who Tech + Allies Summit was the largest LGBTQ event in the world. The attendees were roughly 80 percent queer women–but sexuality was just one element of diversity. Of those who spoke on stage, half were women of color, 30 percent were black or Latinx, and 15 percent transgender or gender non-conforming. 

“We are 100 percent about providing value to queer women. We just don’t have this type of community anywhere else in the world,” said Leanne Pittsford, the founder of Lesbians Who Tech. “That we can do this and be visible and also host a damn good tech conference–that inspires people.”

The Summit is not only a place where leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg and Hillary Clinton fly in to speak, but also the physical gathering of just a fraction of the 50,000 members of the parent organization, Lesbians Who Tech, a social enterprise that Pittsford founded in 2013 and which has grown to 42 cities. In 2019, the organization is entering an inflection point, as what was once a conference-media business with a charitable arm aims to become a scalable technology company. “We already work with more than 150 companies looking to retain or recruit diverse talent,” Pittsford said. “Our partners were asking: How do we track hires? How do we actually hold ourselves accountable?” Now, she and LWT are building Include.io, a digital tool that aims to do precisely that.

Before Pittsford dreamed up her organization, she had been analyzing data and building online fundraising tools for a group opposing Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that would have eliminated rights of same-sex couples to marry. She says she was shocked to discover that the people funding the LGBTQ movement were majority white cisgender men, a term that refers to men who identify with the gender with which they were born. “It was a clear wake-up call for me. The people who would benefit from the movement weren’t funding it. Even the women with the money weren’t spending it,” she said.

Simultaneously, she realized that tech events for the queer community in and around San Francisco always seemed to be 90 percent male. “There’s nothing for us,” she said. No cohesive community, no gathering, no movement, no money spending–even for those women who identified as queer in lucrative Silicon Valley jobs. She wondered: could someone or something change that? Could she change that?

Finding a Purpose, and an Audience

Pittsford grew up in a conservative military family in San Diego, and in the early 2000s was living in San Francisco with her brother. As adults, they still struggled with having been taught as kids that all gay people were going to hell. With support from her brother, and working for a pro-LGBTQ human rights organization, Pittsford became more comfortable with her sexuality. Then, one Tuesday morning in 2010 she arrived home to discover that her brother–the only supportive person in her life–had died in his sleep of cardiomyopathy. “My heart was just broken,” she says. “It gave me a sense that I should take risks, give back and do something larger than myself.”

Pittsford’s grief was heavy that year, in which she left her comfortable job doing policy work at Equity California. “I was close to [starting my own venture], but that moment really sped it up for me,” she said. She started working independently, doing data work, and building websites and tools for other businesses.

In the evenings, she subverted her introversion and began networking, and throwing small happy hours for queer women. In 2014 she decided to host what she dubbed a “Summit” for her burgeoning organization, Lesbians Who Tech. It was to be part networking with like-minded people, part technology conference, and part social-justice rally. “I thought it wouldn’t work,” she said. “Because lesbians never show up, they never go out.” 

Megan Smith, a vice president at Google who would soon be tapped to be the chief technology officer of the United States by President Barack Obama, walked in the door at 7 a.m. Next, Smith’s then-partner Kara Swisher walked in. Eight hundred people bought tickets–and a few big companies sponsored it. Pittsford was floored: “It was the first time I thought it could be a real thing.”

Over the past six years, the conferences have gained a cult following among queer technologists and executives. LaFawn Davis, the head of inclusion and culture at Twilio, has attended multiple LWT conferences, and adores them so much she jokes they are “lesbian Disneyland.” For her, the long weekends are a chance to immerse herself in a community that is still rare in the tech world. “I get to be surrounded by queer executives! Queer engineers! Imagine!” And over the years she’s also built a network and found job candidates through it.

The Lesbians Who Tech parent organization, though, is an unusual enterprise: it’s part 501(c)(3) and part LLC; a community organization that offers substantial coding scholarships to women, and a mission-driven media business that puts on conferences. 

By 2017, Pittsford realized she needed to solve LWT’s messy structural issue. The organization would need real profits to grow, and to give its now-massive network significant value outside of the conferences. “I came from the nonprofit space, and it’s not the most scalable path,” she said.

Holding Tech Accountable

Aside from ticket sales, the conferences generated revenue through sponsors such as Google, Amazon, and Slack, who also would send speakers and attendees to the events. LWT became a natural recruiting tool for them–but it was totally informal. Once executives at these companies started asking Pittsford how they could improve their diversity hiring and retention and track it, she saw the future of her business before her eyes.

LWT could offer a hiring platform featuring its members, which the organization describes as mid-level and executive LGBTQ women, non-binary, and trans techies–many of whom are also people of color–as well as their allies. The platform could help companies track their ongoing progress in diversity hiring. Pittsford envisioned Include.io, which has 10,000 beta users, as a way to “scale access to direct referrals” from a different pool of talent than the existing employees at large tech companies.

“We are trying to find a way to get referrals to, say, the talented self-taught female programmer in New Orleans who might not know anyone in San Francisco,” Pittsford said. 

“Things like unconscious bias training aren’t working,” she added. “You have to fight it every day–with intention–and this product lets companies do that.”

Include.io has been in beta since June of 2018, and Pittsford says 200 companies have signed up to use it once it’s live later this year. But she has some structural work to do before launch. The company’s Oakland office hasn’t attracted or retained enough tech talent itself to scale Include.io, so she’s setting up a development team in New York, hoping to add three to five more people to the scrappy staff of nine. She says San Francisco is the “Wild West of talent poaching,” where small organizations can’t compete for developers who can command salaries approaching $200,000.

“This has been the hardest year of my professional life,” she said. She’s running a mission-driven organization at the speed of a startup, trying to figure out how fast it can grow and scale without burning out her team–or herself.

Being part of the solution to tech’s diversity problem, however, is what keeps her going every day. Pittsford says she hopes once Include.io is out to the public, it will make executives more comfortable about their own abilities to recruit, hire, and maintain a diverse workforce.

“I still would love to see a CEO say, ‘we are going to be 30 percent black and Latinx by X year,'” she said. “We really feel like something has got to change. Something has got to give.”

Western Balkan countries agree to cut, then abolish roaming prices

FILE PHOTO: Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic attends a conference in Minsk, Belarus, October 31, 2018. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko/File Photo

BELGRADE (Reuters) – The six Western Balkan countries agreed on Thursday to lower and ultimately abolish roaming costs for mobile telephony and internet users by 2021 to try to harmonize the regional telecoms market.

The agreement envisions a 27 percent cut starting from July 1 this year and the abolition of all roaming costs from July 2021.

It was signed by the representatives of Serbia, Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia during a regional conference in Belgrade. The six countries have over 20 million cell phone users combined.

Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic hailed the decision of Serbia and Kosovo, which both agreed to sign the deal, despite their tense relations.

“We will do everything possible to give region a chance to be prosperous,” she said at the signing ceremony.

Under the deal, the cost for a minute of a cell phone call and a unit of data transfer should not be more than around $0.2 indexed in national currencies, without VAT sales tax.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Keith Weir

Bayer points finger at Chinese-based group after blocking cyber attack

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Bayer, Germany’s largest drugmaker, said it had contained a cyber attack on its computer networks it believes was hatched in China, highlighting the risk to big business of data theft and disruption.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Bayer AG is pictured at the annual results news conference of the German drugmaker in Leverkusen, Germany February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Bayer found the infectious software early last year, covertly monitored and analyzed it until the end of last month and then cleared the threat from its systems, the company said on Thursday.

“There is no evidence of data theft,” the statement said, although a spokesman added that the overall damage was still being assessed and that German state prosecutors had launched an investigation.

“This type of attack points toward the ‘Wicked Panda’ group in China, according to security experts,” the spokesman said, citing DCSO, a cyber security group set up by Bayer in 2015 with German partners Allianz, BASF and Volkswagen.

Bayer said the infection also bore the hallmarks of a hacker group known as Winnti, an umbrella term for groups that are believed to include Wicked Panda.

Third-party personal data was also not compromised, the spokesman said.

Bayer, the world’s largest agricultural supplies company thanks to its takeover of Monsanto, said it could not determine exactly when the incident started.

Winnti attacked computer systems at German technology group ThyssenKrupp in 2016, according to media reports at the time.

Manufacturing groups across the globe are expanding their data networks, as sensors, processing chips and analytical tools become more advanced and cheaper.

Germany has experienced a big increase in the number of security incidents hitting critical infrastructure such as power grids and water suppliers, the country’s cybersecurity agency said in February.

German broadcasters BR and NDR initially reported the incident.

Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Patricia Weiss; Editing by Dale Hudson and Keith Weir

CMC shares hit record low on profit warning as finance chief plans exit

(Reuters) – Shares in CMC Markets slid more than 10 percent to a record low on Wednesday after the online trading firm forecast a drop in income in the year to March as new rules curbed client activity, and its finance chief decided to depart.

Dealers work at their desks whilst screens show market data following a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit ‘plan B’ at CMC Markets in London, Britain, January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

The profit warning dragged down shares in Britain’s biggest online trading firms IG Group and Plus500 Ltd.

Regulators are tightening rules on products that allow anyone with a bank card to make highly leveraged bets on financial markets through apps and online platforms.

CMC Markets said it expected net operating income of 131 million pounds ($172.17 million) for the year to March 31, compared with 187.1 million pounds a year before.

It also forecast a 37 percent drop in revenue to 110 million pounds for the unit that offers complex financial products to retail clients.

“We know that calendar 2019 (year to date) has been weak for retail leveraged trading, but this is more than just industry conditions,” Liberum analyst Ben Williams said.

“They are losing share. It is now a loss-making business and full year 2020 estimates are too high.”

For a graphic on CMC Markets and rivals face tighter regulation, see – tmsnrt.rs/2UYExc5

Separately, the company said its chief operating and financial officer Grant Foley would leave the company to pursue other opportunities.

Britain’s financial watchdog said last week it will permanently ban the sale of binary options, which are complex derivative products, to retail consumers to protect them from large and unexpected trading losses.

That is similar to a temporary ban the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has in force across the European Union. ESMA also has temporary curbs on contracts for difference (CFDs).

Binary options allow people to bet on whether the price of a share, currency or index will go up or down within a certain timeframe. CFDs give an investor exposure to price movements in securities without owning the underlying asset.

CMC said the new rules had led to retail clients trading less and using more of their cash to fund margin needs, or needing to deposit more funds with CMC to trade at previous levels. It said however trading showed “signs of stabilizing”.

For a graphic on CMC Markets and rivals face tighter regulation, see – tmsnrt.rs/2UZ5In4

Peel Hunt analysts said the final quarter had turned out to be worse than expected. They cut their annual pretax profit forecast by 2.3 million pounds to 6 million pounds.

The sector has also been plagued by persistent low volatility in financial markets.

The CBOE volatility index, seen as Wall Street’s fear gauge, has slipped from its December peak as investors stayed on the sidelines awaiting clarity around China-U.S. trade talks and the Brexit process.

For a graphic on UK online trading platforms feel pinch from regulation, low volatility, see – tmsnrt.rs/2I9ITJQ

Reporting by Muvija M and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Bernard Orr and Jan Harvey

Bilibili launches $621 million offering, as China techs tap markets after IPOs

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese video platform Bilibili launched on Tuesday a convertible bond sale and a follow-on share offering that could raise around $621 million combined, in a return to the capital markets just over a year after it went public in New York.

Bilibili, one of China’s leading online video sharing and entertainment platforms, announced the fundraising on Tuesday but did not disclose detailed terms.

The company is selling a $300 million seven-year convertible bond and 17.1 million shares, of which 10.55 million are primary and the rest come from an existing shareholder, according to a term sheet seen by Reuters.

The follow-on offering could raise around $321 million based on Bilibili’s closing price of $18.8 on Monday. Its shares have risen 32 percent so far in 2019.

This year has already seen other U.S.-listed Chinese companies return to the capital markets to raise additional funding, be it through convertible bonds or follow-on offerings, as they seek more growth capital.

Chinese electric vehicle maker NIO, video streaming company iQIYI and e-commerce firm Pinduoduo, all 2018 IPOs, have come back to the market to raise funds.

Bilibili’s convertible bond is being marketed with a coupon range of between 1.375 percent and 1.875 percent, while the conversion premium – the price at which buyers can convert their bond holding into the company’s shares – will fall between 32.5 percent and 37.5 percent, the term sheet showed.

Convertible bonds are a cheaper funding avenue due to their lower coupons in exchange for giving the bondholder the option of converting the debt into shares at a set price in future.

Tech companies find them particularly attractive as normal debt is more expensive for them, especially if they are still unrated, like Bilibili.

Qiming Venture Partners is the selling shareholder in Bilibili, according to the term sheet.

The firm raised $483 million in its Nasdaq initial public offering (IPO) in March last year.

Bilibili plans to use the proceeds from Tuesday’s offering to enrich content offerings, research and development and potential strategic acquisitions, investments and alliances.

The deal will price after U.S. markets close on Tuesday.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are joint bookrunners for Bilibili’s offering.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Ignore The Yield Curve, They Said…

A Run For The Highs

Friday wrapped up the first quarter of 2019, and it was the best quarterly performance since 2009. As shown in the chart below, if you bought the bottom, you are “killing it.”

However, you didn’t.

Despite all of the media “hoopla” about the rally, the reality is that for most, they are simply getting back to even over the last year.

That is, assuming you didn’t “sell the bottom” in December, which by looking at allocation changes, certainly appears to be the case for many.

If we deconstruct the ratio, we can see the rotation a bit better

Not surprisingly, historically speaking, investors had their peak stock exposure before the market cycle peak. As the market had its first stumble, investors sold. When the market bounces, investors are initially reluctant to chase it. However, as the rally continues, the “fear of missing out or F.O.M.O” eventually forces them back into the market. This is how bear market rallies work; they inflict the most pain possible on investors both on the bounce and then on the way back down.

However, for the moment, we are still in the midst of a bear market rally. This will be the case until the market breaks out to new highs. Only then can we confirm the previous consolidation is complete and the bull market has been re-established.

The good news is on a very short-term basis, the market IS INDEED bullishly biased and coming off an extremely strong first-quarter rally. The current momentum of the market is strong as bullish optimism has regained a foothold.

But, as we noted for our RIA PRO Subscribers last week, complacency has moved back to extremes which suggests that a further rally isn’t “risk free.”

“The graph below is constructed by normalizing VIX (equity volatility), MOVE (bond volatility) and CVIX (US dollar volatility) and then aggregating the results into an equal-weighted index. The y-axis denotes the percentage of time that the same or lower levels of aggregated volatility occurred since 2010. For instance, the current level is 1.91%, meaning that only 1.91% of readings registered at a lower level.

“Beyond the very low level of volatility across the three major asset classes, there are two other takeaways worth pondering.

The peak-to-trough-to-peak cycle over the last year was measured in months not years as was the case before 2018.

Secondly, when the index reached current low levels in the past, a surge in volatility occurred soon after that. This does not mean the index will bounce higher immediately, but it does mean we should expect a much higher level of volatility over the next few months.”

Nonetheless, the markets are close to registering a “golden cross.” This is some of that technical “voodoo” where the 50-day moving average (dma) crosses above the longer-term 200-dma. This “cross” provides substantial support for stocks at that level and limits downside risk to some degree in the short term.

Over the next couple of weeks, you are going to see a LOT of commentary about “the Golden Cross” buy signal and why this means the “bull market” is officially back in action. While “golden crosses” are indeed bullish for the markets, they are not an infallible signal. The chart below shows the 2015-2016 market where investors were whipsawed over a 6-month period before massive central bank interventions got the markets back on track.

The next chart shows the longer-term version of the chart above using WEEKLY data. The parameters are set for a slightly longer time frame to reduce the number of “false” indications. I have accentuated the moving averages to have them more clearly show the crosses.

The one thing that you should notice is the negative “cross over” is still intact AND it is doing so in conjunction with an extreme overbought weekly condition and a “negatively diverging” moving average divergence/convergence (MACD) indicator. This combined set of “signals” has only been seen in conjunction with the previous market peaks. (As noted, the corrections of 2012 and 2015-16 were offset by massive amounts of central bank interventions which are not present currently.)

From a portfolio management standpoint, what should you do?

In the short term, the market remains bullishly biased and suggests, with a couple of months to go in the “seasonally strong” period of the year, that downside risk is somewhat limited.

Therefore, our portfolio allocations:

  • Remain long-biased towards equity risk;
  • Have a balance between offensive and defensive sector positioning; and
  • Are tactically positioned for a trade resolution (which we will sell into the occurrence of).

However, the analysis also keeps us cautious with respect to the longer-term outlook. With the recent inversion of the yield curve, deteriorating economic data, and weaker earnings prospects going forward, we are focused on risk management and capital controls. As such, we are:

  • Continuing to carry slightly higher levels of cash;
  • Overweight bonds;
  • Have some historically defensive positioning in portfolios;
  • Continue to tighten-up stop-loss levels to protect gains, and;
  • Have outright hedges ready to implement when needed.

Ignore The Yield Curve… They Said

In the World War II real-time strategy (RTS) game Company of Heroes, released on September 12th, 2006, the engineer squad would sometimes say:

“Join the army they said. It’ll be fun they said.”

Since then, the statement has become a common meme on the internet to espouse the disappointment derived from various actions from doing the laundry to getting a job.

Well, the latest suggested action, which will ultimately lead to investor disappointment, is:

“Ignore the yield curve they said. It’ll be fun they said.”

Last week, Mark Kolanovic of J.P. Morgan stated:

“Historically, equity markets tended to produce some of the strongest returns in the months and quarters following an inversion. Only after [around] 30 months does the S&P 500 return drop below average,”

While the statement is not incorrect, it is advice that will ultimately lead to disappointment.

In 1998, for example, as the bull market was running hot. There was “no recession in sight,” and investors were repeatedly advised to ignore the yield curve because “this time was different.”

After all, at that moment in history, it was perceived to be a “new paradigm.” The internet was changing the world and making old metrics, like earnings, relics of the past. It was even suggested at the time that “investing like Warren Buffett was like driving Dad’s old Pontiac.”

Over the next two years, that advice held true as bullish optimism seemed well founded. It was in early 2000 that Jim Cramer issued his Top 10-Stock Picks for the next decade.

The problem is that no one ever said “sell.”

While it was great that gains were made during the period between the initial yield curve inversion and the peak of the market, all of those gains, plus much more, were wiped out in the ensuing decline. Values in portfolios were returned to where they were roughly a decade earlier by the time the decline was officially over.

Since the majority of mainstream financial advice never suggest selling, investors had no clue that if they had gone to cash in 1998, they would have saved themselves both a lot of grief and years of losses needing to be recovered.

It was just an anomaly.

That was the belief at the time. Following the “Dot.com” crash, the entire tragic event was considered an anomaly; a once-in-a-100-year event which would not be replicated anytime again soon.

But just 4 years later, in 2006, investors were once again told to ignore the yield curve inversion as it was a “Goldilocks economy” and “sub-prime mortgages were contained.” While many of the individuals who had told you to stay invested leading up to 2000 peak were mostly gone from the industry, a whole new crop of media gurus and advisors once again told investors to “ignore the yield curve.”

For a second time, had investors just sold when the yield curve inverted, the amount of damage that would have avoided more than paid off for the small amount of gains missed as the market cycle peaked.

This quad-panel chart below shows the 4 previous periods where 50% of 10 different yield curves were inverted. I have drawn a horizontal red dashed line from the first point where 50% of the 10-yield curves we track inverted. I have also denoted the point where you should have sold and the subsequent low.

As you can see, in every case, the market did rally a bit after the initial reversion. However, had you reduced your equity-related risk, not only did you bypass a lot of market volatility (which would have led to investor mistakes anyway) but ended up better off than those trying to just ride it out.

That’s just history

Oh, as we noted last week, we just hit the 50% mark of inversions on the 10 spreads we track.

This time is unlikely to be different.

More importantly, with economic growth running at less than 1/2 the rate of the previous two periods, it will take less than half the amount of time for the economy to slip into recession.

While I am not suggesting you sell everything and go to cash today, history is pretty clear that you will likely not miss much if you did.

What Can You Do?

I don’t disagree that the markets could certainly rise from here, in the short term. I answered this question last week:

“Are we going to hit new highs you think, or is this a setup for the real correction?”

The answer is “yes” to both parts.

The mainstream media’s advice is simply:

“Since you don’t know when a bear market will start, you just have to ride it out.”

This is the problem with the mainstream media and the majority of the financial advice in the world today.

It is not required that you know precisely when one market cycle ends and another begins.

Investing isn’t a competition. It is simply a game of survival over the long term. While it is critically important we grow wealth while markets are rising, it is NOT a requirement to obtain every last incremental bit of gain there is. Staying too long at the poker table is how you leave broke.

We wrote in early 2018 the bull market had come to its conclusion for a while. That correction process is still intact as shown in the chart below.

There are three important things worth pointing out:

  1. The top panel is GAAP earnings (what companies REALLY earn) and nominal GDP.
  2. The black vertical line is when the markets begin to “sniff out” something is not quite right.
  3. The red bars are when “expectations” are disappointed.

Pay attention to these longer-term trend changes as historically they signify bigger issues with the market.

It is unlikely this time is different. There are too many indicators already suggesting higher rates are impacting interest rate sensitive, and economically important, areas of the economy. The only issue is when investors recognize the obvious and sell in the anticipation of a market decline.

The yield curve is clearly sending a message which shouldn’t be ignored and it is a good bet that “risk-based” investors will likely act sooner rather than later. Of course, it is simply the contraction in liquidity that causes the decline which will eventually exacerbates the economic contraction. Importantly, since recessions are only identified in hindsight when current data is negatively revised in the future, it won’t become “obvious” the yield curve was sending the correct message until far too late to be useful.

While it is unwise to use the “yield curve” as a “market timing” tool, it is just as unwise to completely dismiss the message it is currently sending.

See you next week.

Market & Sector Analysis

Data Analysis Of The Market & Sectors For Traders

S&P 500 Tear Sheet

Performance Analysis

ETF Model Relative Performance Analysis

Sector & Market Analysis:

Be sure and catch our updates on Major Markets (Monday) and Major Sectors (Tuesday) with updated buy/stop/sell levels

Sector-by-Sector

Looking at sectors on a “relative performance” basis to the S&P 500, we have seen some rotations in leadership over the last week.

Improving – Energy

Energy began to improve its performance as oil prices perked back up last week. With oil back to the higher end of its trend range, this is likely a good time to harvest some profits from the sector.

Current Positions: 1/2 Position in XLE

Outperforming – Technology, Industrials, Discretionary & Communications

Discretionary particularly picked up performance last week and joined the small group of sectors where the 50-dma has crossed bullishly. Industrials also gained ground on continued hopes for a trade resolution with China. These sectors are all overbought, so take some profits, but remain long for now.

Current Positions: [[XLI]], XLY, XLC, XLK – Stops moved from 50- to 200-dmas.

Weakening – Real Estate & Utilities

Lately, Utilities and Real Estate have been on a parabolic advance. Not surprisingly, they are taking a breather as money rotated to more offensive sectors last week. We have previously recommended taking profits in these sectors for now, which remains the advice again this week.

Current Position: [[XLU]]

Lagging – Healthcare, Staples, Financials & Basic Materials

Financials have been struggling as of late due to the inversion of the yield curve which impacts their profitability. Healthcare and Staples also weakened a bit this past week as money rotated from defense to offense in the market. Take profits and reduce back to portfolio weight as needed.

Current Positions: [[XLB]], XLF, XLV, XLP – Stops remain at 50-dmas.

Market By Market

Small-Cap and Mid Cap – Both of these markets remain confined within the context of a broader downtrend. As we have noted over the last several weeks, these two sectors are more exposed to global economic weakness than their large-cap brethren so caution is advised. Take profits and reduce weightings on any rally next week until the backdrop begins to improve.

Current Position: None

Emerging, International & Total International Markets

As noted last week, Emerging Markets pulled back to its 200-dma after breaking above that resistance. We did add 1/2 position in EEM to portfolios three weeks ago understanding that in the short term, emerging markets were extremely overbought and likely to correct a bit. That corrective action is continuing and we need a breakout above the current consolidation to become more aggressive on the holding.

Major International & Total International shares DID finally break above their respective 200-dmas on hope the worst of the global economic slowdown is now behind them. The pullback last week has brought the market back to test its 200-dma. It is critical that support holds next week. Keep stops tight on existing positions, but no rush here to add new exposure.

Stops should remain tight at the running 50-dma which is also previous support.

Current Position: 1/2 position in EEM

Dividends, Market, and Equal Weight – These positions are our long-term “core” positions for the portfolio given that over the long term, markets do rise with respect to economic growth and inflation. Currently, the short-term bullish trend is positive and our core positions are providing the “base” around which we overweight/underweight our allocations based on our outlook.

Core holdings are currently at target portfolio weights.

Current Position: [[RSP]], VYM, IVV

Gold – Despite the reversal of the Fed, the collapse of the yield curve, and concerns about global economic growth, gold sold off last week and broke the rising trend of the 50-dma. Gold is oversold currently, but has really struggled to advance. There isn’t a compelling reason to add more to our holdings at this juncture. A move above $125 will make things more interesting.

Current Position: [[GDX]] (Gold Miners), IAU (Gold)

Bonds

The big move two weeks ago was in bonds. If you have been following our recommendations of adding bonds to portfolios over the last 13 months, this portion of the portfolio has performed well in offsetting market volatility. As noted previously, intermediate duration bonds remain on a buy signal after increasing exposure last month. However, they are now extremely overbought, so look for a pullback that holds 2.50% on the 10-year Treasury to increase exposure.

Current Positions: [[DBLTX]], SHY, TFLO, GSY

High yield bonds, representative of the “risk on” chase for the markets, popped higher last week with the move higher in equities. International bonds, which are also high credit risk, are running akin to the markets. If you are long high yield or international bonds, take profits now and rebalance risk back to normal portfolio weights. The current levels are not sustainable and there will be a price decline which will offer a better entry opportunity soon.

The table below shows thoughts on specific actions related to the current market environment.

(These are not recommendations or solicitations to take any action. This is for informational purposes only related to market extremes and contrarian positioning within portfolios. Use at your own risk and peril.)

Portfolio/Client Update:

There were no changes to portfolios last week:

With rising concerns over economic weakness, the markets have consolidated over the last couple of weeks. With earnings season fast approaching, we are reviewing holdings to take profits, tighten up stops, and reduce risk.

A bad announcement or forecast can have an immediate and sharp impact on company stocks prices. However, in most cases, we are carrying underweight exposure so we may get opportunities in some of our holdings to buy at cheaper prices as long as trends are holding.

  • New clients: Will begin the onboarding process this coming week if the market continues to hold support at 2,800.
  • Equity Model: No changes – Reviewing for rebalancing as needed.
  • ETF Model: No changes. – Reviewing for rebalancing as needed.

Note for new clients:

It is important to understand that when we add to our equity allocations, ALL purchases are initially “trades” that can, and will, be closed out quickly if they fail to work as anticipated. This is why we “step” into positions initially. Once a “trade” begins to work as anticipated, it is then brought to the appropriate portfolio weight and becomes a long-term investment. We will unwind these actions either by reducing, selling, or hedging, if the market environment changes for the worse.

THE REAL 401k PLAN MANAGER

A Conservative Strategy For Long-Term Investors

There are 4 steps to allocation changes based on 25% reduction increments. As noted in the chart above, a 100% allocation level is equal to 60% stocks. I never advocate being 100% out of the market as it is far too difficult to reverse course when the market changes from a negative to a positive trend. Emotions keep us from taking the correct action.

Rebalance To Targets

As noted above, the bullish backdrop of the market remains currently, and the recent consolidation process has alleviated some of the short-term overbought condition.

With earnings season getting ready to kick off, there is support for the markets over the next month. However, with that said, the economic risk is also rising as well, so we still want to remain cautious for the time being.

Over the last couple of months, we have repeatedly suggested to rebalance risk, align portfolios with the target, and be patient until the market gives us an all-clear sign. That advice has worked well in reducing portfolio volatility while allowing for participation to the markets.

That same advice remains this week.

  • If you are overweight equities – take some profits and reduce portfolio risk on the equity side of the allocation. However, hold the bulk of your positions for now and let them run with the market.
  • If you are underweight equities or at target – just sit tight for now and let’s see what happens next.

Current 401-k Allocation Model

The 401k plan allocation plan below follows the K.I.S.S. principle. By keeping the allocation extremely simplified, it allows for better control of the allocation and a closer tracking to the benchmark objective over time. (If you want to make it more complicated, you can; however, statistics show that simply adding more funds does not increase performance to any great degree.)

401k Choice Matching List

The list below shows sample 401k plan funds for each major category. In reality, the majority of funds all track their indices fairly closely. Therefore, if you don’t see your exact fund listed, look for a fund that is similar in nature.

Editor’s Note: The summary bullets for this article were chosen by Seeking Alpha editors.

4 Differences Between an ICO and a Penny Stock

The coins sold by small companies in Initial Coin Offerings are often compared to penny stocks. Like penny stocks, they’re cheap. Penny stocks cost less than five bucks; a new coin released at an ICO can literally cost a penny or less. They also have the potential for huge returns. Monster Beverage, a drinks company, was selling at around 60 cents a share at the start of 2005. It’s now worth nearly $60 a share. If you had bought $100 of those shares fourteen years ago, you’d now be sitting on nearly $10,000. That’s not as high as the returns earned by early Bitcoin investors but it’s still worth having. There are some important differences between penny stocks and cheap coins from ICOs though. Here are four of them:

  1. An ICO Doesn’t Give You a Company

Penny stocks might be cheap but they’re still stocks. They give you a share of a company, possibly with voting rights. An ICO only releases a product whose value you hope will rise. It’s like a new casino raising funds by selling its unique poker chips cheaply. If the casino is popular those chips could be worth a lot of money. But if the casino is never built, you’ll be left with a pile of useless discs.

  1. You Can Research the People Behind the ICO

One reason that a penny stock is such a high risk is that there’s often very little information about the company or the people behind it. You might not know who the managers are, what they did before they launched the company or whether they’re serious. You might know no more than the price of the stock and the name of the business. The rest is a shot in the dark.

Before launching an ICO, cryptocurrency firms release white papers. Those white papers will explain the background of the people launching the firm. You can often contact them on Telegram and ask them questions. That doesn’t mean that you can find all the information you want, or always get the answers you need. There will always be gaps and risks. But ICOs can provide details about the people behind them.

  1. You Can Research the Business Idea

The white paper should also explain what the company is doing and how it plans to do it. Again, that doesn’t mean that the company will actually do what it says. It doesn’t mean that the managers have the skill or the competence to do what they intend. But you should be able to assess their idea and decide for yourself whether or not you think it has legs. A bet on an ICO is a bet on a business idea.

  1. Coins Are Easier to Buy and Sell than Penny Stocks

Penny stocks are usually bought and sold through brokers. The markets are illiquid, the commissions are high and the process isn’t straightforward. The products of ICOs aren’t always sold on major cryptocurrency exchanges but you can usually buy them directly from the companies and if the coin is a success, you can expect it to be listed in the future.

“Easier” isn’t the same as “easy” though. Trading volumes will still be small. Not all coins will be listed on an exchange and those that are listed, often find themselves on small exchanges.

Like penny stocks, buying a small coin at an ICO is a high risk venture. But you can keep your losses low, and who knows, you might just strike it big!

Published on: Mar 31, 2019

Leaky Databases Are a Scourge. MongoDB Is Doing Something About It

MongoDB, a database software provider whose stock has been on a tear recently, just hired its first-ever chief information security officer. The appointment, which came Friday, signals that the company plans to take security more seriously even as it faces stiffened competition from the likes of Amazon and other tech giants.

The new boss is Lena Smart, a Glaswegian cybersecurity professional. Smart formerly held the same title at IPO-bound Tradeweb, a financial services firm that supplies the technology behind certain electronic trading markets. Prior to Tradeweb, she headed security at the New York Power Authority, where she worked for more than a decade. A cellist in her spare time, Smart told me in her Scottish brogue that her priority in the new job will be “knowing what the crown jewels are—that’s our customer data—and making sure that’s always protected.”

People leaving MongoDB and other databases unsecured on the web has been a persistent source of data-leaks over the years. Just this month, a security researcher discovered one such sieve that exposed to public view a trove of sensitive information, including location data, on millions of people in China. The misconfigured repository appears to have originated from SenseNets, a Shenzhen-based company that is likely providing the Chinese government with crowd-surveilling, facial recognition technology to track the country’s muslim Uyghur population. This is just the latest leak example; there are innumerable others.

Despite the frequency of these leaks, the situation seems to be improving. Most of these inadvertent leaks have sprung, in fairness, from people using outdated instances of the company’s so-called community edition software, a free, barer-bones version of the database product. Mark Wheeler, a MongoDB spokesperson, conceded that the 12-year-old company “struggled in its early years to find the right balance with security.” But he avers that updates to the default settings of MongoDB’s software over the past few years, plus key security team hires—including guardians Davi Ottenheimer, Kenn White, and now Smart—are changing the equation.

As Smart’s scope involves securing the totality of MongoDB’s business, the data-spillage issue ultimately falls to her. She says she’ll continue educating customers in best practices when it comes to security. She says she will also aim to imbue the company’s product development process with security, quality assurance, and testing from the earliest stages. “If we can get in at the very start” of the software development lifecycle, Smart says, it will “save us time and money and make our products more reliable and secure.”

The leaky database issue is one that extends well beyond MongoDB. It’s also a problem for rivals such as Amazon, particularly its S3 buckets, Elastic, and others. Like so many companies, these database-makers are looking now to shore up their software in the hopes of turning a historical weakness—cybersecurity—into a competitive strength. As Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB’s president and CEO, tells Fortune: making the company’s products as secure as possible “is critical to our business.”

Indeed, it’s critical to MongoDB and, increasingly, every business.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

5 Quick Numbers That Tell the Story of Amazon (and Why Some Politicians Want to Break it Up)

Amazon is enormous, and an easy target for politicians who are thinking about getting into the trust-busting business, 21st-century style. 

Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, came out explicitly for the idea, with a post on Medium titled, “It’s time to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” Warren wrote. “They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else.”

Against this backdrop, Bloomberg’s Matt Day and Jackie Gu have put together an interesting set of graphics focusing on Amazon, and showing just how dominant it is any particular industry. 

It’s the world’s largest online retailer, and the #1 seller of books (its first foray), period. But it’s also a tech company and an entertainment company and an infrastructure company — and while it’s a heavy player in every industry it enters, and leverages success in each one to prop up its efforts in the others, it’s not always number one.

“In just about every market Amazon has entered, it encounters well entrenched competitors, including some retailers who are finding success by blurring the line between online and offline commerce,” the Bloomberg report says.

Still, the numbers. From 2018:

  1. 807 million books sold, plus another 560 million ebooks.
  2. $524 billion in total ecommerce. That puts it at 45 percent of the entire industry. eBay is second at 6.8 percent; Walmart is third at 4.0 percent.
  3. 100 million Prime subscriptions, putting it behind only Netflix, which has 139 million subscribers.
  4. $80.4 billion in cloud computing, good for 32 percent of the industry. The #2 is Microsoft, at 17 percent.
  5. $70 billion in online apparel sales, putting it at 35 percent of the market. The #2 is Macy’s, at 8.7 percent.

They also have total dominance in e-readers (84 percent market share) and with the acquisition of Whole Foods, they’re the fifth largest grocer in America.

None of this is shocking, but it’s striking to see it all in one series of charts like this. And it just goes to show why Amazon will continue to be mentioned first among equals in any conversation about antitrust concerns as we approach the third decade of the 21st century.

Here’s what else I’m reading today:

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ZTE Corp shares surge 14 percent, forecasts first-quarter rebound

FILE PHOTO: People walk next to ZTE booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shares of ZTE Corp rose as much as 14 percent on Thursday after the company forecast a first quarter profit of up to 1.2 billion yuan ($178.18 million) as it recovers from U.S. sanctions.

The Chinese telecommunications equipment maker said in filings late on Wednesday it expected to make a net profit of 800 million to 1.2 billion yuan in the first quarter of 2019, up from a net profit of 276 million yuan in the December quarter.

ZTE, the world’s fourth-largest telecommunications equipment maker by market share, was forced to stop most business between April and July last year due to U.S. sanctions.

The sanctions were lifted after ZTE paid $1.4 billion in penalties. The company reported its worst half-year loss of 7.8 billion yuan in August..

That resulted in a 2018 full year loss of 7 billion yuan, just within its guidance range of 6.2 billion yuan to 7.2 billion yuan, but deeper than the average 6.2 billion yuan loss estimated by 10 analysts, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Hong Kong-listed shares of ZTE jumped as much as 14 percent to HK$25, while Shenzhen-listed shares rose by the daily maximum limit of 10 percent.

ZTE said its revenue for the quarter ending in December was 26.7 billion yuan, while its full-year revenue dropped 21.4 percent to 85.5 billion yuan, against an average estimate of 87 billion yuan by 12 analysts.

($1 = 6.7233 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Sijia Jiang and Hong Kong newsroom; Editing by Stephen Coates and Darren Schuettler

When Facebook Goes Down, Don't Blame Hackers

It happened again. Facebook went down in several pockets around the world for several hours Wednesday, as did Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp. The outage inspired the usual existential jokes—and rush to news sites to fill the void—but it also gave rise to conspiracy theories that hackers were the cause. As is almost always the case, those theories are wrong.

Facebook confirmed as much in a tweet, saying that while it was still investigating the root cause of its woes, it had ruled out a distributed denial of service attack. On the surface, DDoS makes for a reasonable enough suspect; as a class of attack, its whole purpose is to bring sites down. But assumptions that hackers would hobble not just Facebook but also Instagram and WhatsApp with a DDoS attack rely on a shaky grasp of what that would entail and how prepared companies are to stop them.

For its part, Facebook has provided vague guidance as to what actually did happen. “We are currently experiencing issues that may cause some API requests to take longer or fail unexpectedly,” the company wrote on a developer status page. “We are investigating the issue and working on a resolution.” That could indicate a wide range of culprits, from routine maintenance gone awry to a Domain Name System issue. What it’s not, though, is hackers.

“I can confirm that it has nothing to do with outside hacking efforts,” wrote Facebook spokesperson Tom Parnell in an email to WIRED. But you don’t even have to take Facebook’s word for it.

“There’s no collaborating evidence of any kind to indicate a malicious attack,” says Troy Mursch, a security researcher who runs Bad Packets Report, which keeps close tabs on the activity of botnets and network attacks that cause actual harm. “In regards to an actual attack or any widespread attack, we can confirm that is not the case there.”

Which is not to say that hackers don’t try to compromise Facebook every day. They do! They’ve even succeeded at least once, compromising account data of a whopping 30 million users. But Facebook’s value for criminals rests in its data. Taking it offline doesn’t serve any obvious ends. And even if it did, it’s unclear who might be able to pull it off.

ThousandEyes

At its most basic level, a DDoS works by throwing more traffic at a site or service than it can handle. By overwhelming servers, a successful DDoS will make it impossible for anyone to pull up a page or refresh their app. They’ve also gotten huge; in 2018, network security firm NetScout spotted a DDoS that funneled 1.7 terabits per second of data at a single target. Around that same time, GitHub got slammed with a 1.35 Tbps attack. What those assaults have in common, aside from their girth? Neither of them succeeded.

DDoS itself isn’t a solved problem, especially as perpetrators have found clever ways to incorporate so-called memcached servers and ransomware into the mix—Netflix even DDoS’d itself once, to demonstrate a novel technique. “It’s always an arms race between the attackers and the defenders,” says Roland Dobbins, a principal engineer at NetScout. “That’s the nature of the beast. It’s what we’ve seen over the last 25 years or so of DDoS attacks on the public internet.”

But while roughly 20,000 DDoS attacks take place every single day on the public internet, Facebook makes for an exceedingly unlikely target. “If you’re a DDoS attacker and you’re trying for a big target, and you want to have a big impact, you would probably look for an organization or a brand that doesn’t have as much connectivity to begin with,” says Alex Henthorn-Iwane, vice president at network security firm ThousandEyes. “A Facebook, a Google—those kinds of companies—are so massive, and their bandwidth and interconnectivity is so huge, that they can effectively absorb large-scale attacks on their own. And they undoubtedly have architected their internet connectivity to do just that.”

Think of DDoS targets as wells and data as water. The smaller the well, the less water you need to overflow it. To flood Facebook, you’d need to drain Lake Erie.

That’s why truly disruptive DDoS attacks have focused on boring infrastructural corners of the internet. A 2016 blast that shut down the internet for much of the East Coast didn’t hit individual sites but, rather, a company called Dyn, which handles the relatively data-light chore of DNS services. (It was also part of a Minecraft-related scheme. No, really.)

None of the network security experts WIRED spoke with had seen any evidence of DDoS activity related to Wednesday’s outage, or to similar issues Google services faced yesterday. Dobbins suggests that the real problem could be any number of things, including a “nontrivial” disruption of internet routing that occurred Wednesday afternoon, of which Facebook may have been collateral damage. ThousandEyes suggests it was likely an internal issue. Either way, as with every other time Facebook has gone down, it wasn’t hackers.

The knee-jerk assumption that it is, though, has potentially corrosive effects. “When stuff like this happens, affecting large infrastructure organizations like Facebook, it’s going to be prone to conspiracy theories,” Mursch says. “That kind of stuff is frustrating when we’re trying to establish or present something that’s factual, when you see social media spread that disinformation.”

The idea of nation-state hackers taking down the world’s biggest social network has plenty of appeal, both for its easy explanation of a prolonged inconvenience and for the touch of schadenfreude. But jumping to that conclusion only muddles an already confusing issue. Hackers will continue to target Facebook. DDoS attacks will continue to take down sites. But those two truths are much further from intersecting than the more paranoid corners of the internet would have you believe.


More Great WIRED Stories

Facebook Will Crack Down on Anti-Vaccine Content

As Clark County, Washington, combats an ongoing measles outbreak, Facebook announced Thursday that it’s diminishing the reach of anti-vaccine information on its platform. It will no longer allow it to be promoted through ads or recommendations, and will make it less prominent in search results. The social network will not take down anti-vaccine posts entirely, however. The company also said it was exploring ways to give users more context about vaccines from “expert organizations.”

The decision was widely anticipated: Facebook, along with YouTube and Amazon, has faced criticism from journalists and lawmakers in recent weeks for allowing vaccine misinformation to flourish on their sites. Facebook also told media outlets in February that it was looking into how it should address anti-vaccination content.

Last month, Adam Schiff, a Democratic representative from California, sent letters to the CEOs of YouTube and Facebook demanding they answer questions about the spread of anti-vaccine information on their company’s platforms. He followed up with a similar letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last week. On Wednesday, an 18-year-old from Ohio testified before the Senate that his mother primarily read misinformation about vaccines on Facebook and opted not to inoculate him. (A major study released Monday found no link between the MMR vaccine—which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella—and autism.)

In a blog post written by Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, Facebook said it will begin rejecting ads that include false information about vaccinations. The company also removed targeting categories such as “vaccine controversies” from its advertising tools. Last month, the Daily Beast reported that more than 150 anti-vaccine ads had been bought on Facebook, which often targeted women over 25. Some of the ads were shown to users “interested in pregnancy.” In total, they were viewed at least 1.6 million times. YouTube similarly announced last month that it would begin preventing ads from running on videos featuring anti-vaccine content.

Facebook will also reduce the ranking of pages and groups that spread misinformation about vaccines in search results and in its News Feed. In February, The Guardian found that anti-vaccination propaganda often ranked higher and outperformed accurate information from more reliable sources on Facebook.

The social network’s effort to fight vaccine disinformation extends to Instagram, where the company says it will stop recommending content that includes vaccine misinformation on the app’s Explore page. Instagram will also stop displaying vaccination misinformation in hashtag search results. It’s not clear how long these new controls will take to roll out: An Instagram search for #vaccine Thursday afternoon surfaced the hashtag #vaccineskill as the number one result, for instance. Last month, Pinterest received praise for its decision to stop displaying search results for vaccines entirely, even if they are medically accurate. (In 2017, Pinterest previously banned “anti-vaccination advice” from its platform.)

As The Atlantic has pointed out, the majority of anti-vaccination content on Facebook appears to originate from only a handful of fringe sources. It likely won’t require a herculean effort for Facebook to tackle this strain of misinformation. The question is why the company waited until it became the subject of media reports and criticism from lawmakers to finally act.

Facebook increased its efforts to fight false information more broadly on the platform in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, including with initiatives like third-party fact-checking. The company admits it won’t catch everything, and demonstrably fake stories still do go viral. While there is little public data about user behavior on Facebook, researchers have found signs that the reach of fake news declined between 2016 and 2018 midterm elections. (Though they also say there remains plenty to be concerned about when it comes to misinformation.)

It’s not yet clear whether the proliferation of anti-vaccination content online has led to a significant decrease in vaccination rates in the United States. Unscientific information about vaccines has been circulating on- and offline for well over a decade. But as Slate has pointed out, the number of children under 3 who have received their first dose of the MMR vaccination has remained steady for years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy one of its “ten threats to global health in 2019,” but cites “complacency and inconvenience in accessing vaccines” as two of the key reasons why people choose not to vaccinate, in addition to “lack of confidence.”

There’s still little doubt that social media platforms like Facebook, but also YouTube and Amazon, have indeed made anti-vaccination talking points more accessible to wider audiences. Its proponents were aided by recommendation and search ranking algorithms, which often promoted anti-vax content to the top of the pile. Facebook’s announcement today is further acknowledgment of its role in that ecosystem, and the idea that free speech is not the same as free reach.


More Great WIRED Stories

An Email Marketing Company Left 809 Million Records Exposed Online

By this point, you’ve hopefully gotten the message that your personal data can end up exposed in all sorts of unexpected internet backwaters. But increased awareness hasn’t slowed the problem. In fact, it’s only grown bigger—and more confounding.

Last week, security researchers Bob Diachenko and Vinny Troia discovered an unprotected, publicly accessible MongoDB database containing 150 gigabytes-worth of detailed, plaintext marketing data—including 763 million unique email addresses. The pair are going public with their findings today. The trove is not only massive but also unusual; it contains data about individual consumers as well as what appears to be “business intelligence data,” like employee and revenue figures from various companies. This diversity may stem from the information’s source. The database, owned by the “email validation” firm Verifications.io, was taken offline the same day Diachenko reported it to the company.

While you’ve likely never heard of them, validators play a crucial role in the email marketing industry. They don’t send out marketing emails on their own behalf, or facilitate automated mass email campaigns. Instead, they vet a customer’s mailing list to ensure that the email addresses in it are valid and won’t bounce back. Some email marketing firms offer this mechanism in-house. But fully verifying that an email address works involves sending a message to the address and confirming that it was delivered—essentially spamming people. That means evading protections of internet service providers and platforms like Gmail. (There are less invasive ways to validate email addresses, but they have a tradeoff of false positives.) Mainstream email marketing firms often outsource this work rather than take on the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters, or lowering their online reputation scores.

“Companies have email lists and want to start emailing them, but they’re not sure how valid they are,” says Troia, who founded the firm Night Lion Security. “So they go to a company that will essentially send out spam.” Troia speculates, but has not confirmed, that the database may be so large and varied because it comprises all of Verification.io’s customers’ data. WIRED was unable over the course of several days to contact the company or CEO Vlad Strelkov. On Monday, the entire Verifications.io website went offline and has not been restored since.

Record Setter

In general, the 809 million total records in the Verifications.io trove include standard information like names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses. But many also include things like gender, date of birth, personal mortgage amount, interest rate, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts associated with email addresses, and characterizations of people’s credit scores (like average, above average, and so on). Meanwhile, other records in the collection seem related to generating sales leads at businesses, including company names, annual revenue figures, fax numbers, company websites, and industry identifiers for categorizing companies called “SIC” and “NAIC” codes.

The data doesn’t contain Social Security numbers or credit card numbers, and the only passwords in the database are for Verifications.io’s own infrastructure. Overall, most of the data is publicly available from various sources, but when criminals can get their hands on troves of aggregated data, it makes it much easier for them to run new social engineering scams, or expand their target pool.

In the exposed database, the researchers also found evidence of test email accounts, hundreds of SMTP (email sending) servers, the text of emails, anti-spam evasion infrastructure, keywords to avoid, and IP addresses to blacklist. Diachenko suggests that in the Verifications.io work flow, customers would upload an Excel spreadsheet listing the email addresses to validate, and then Verifications.io would run their tests and return lists of clean addresses and ones that bounced back. It’s possible, given the piecemeal nature of the data and evidence that it was imported from numerous different Excel files, that Verifications.io also retained some or all of the data it received from customers after concluding its email address checks.

The researchers validated samples of the data with companies listed as Verifications.io customers. Troia says his own information appears in the database. WIRED spoke to the proprietor of an email marketing firm who confirmed the validity of a segment of the data. WIRED also checked for four individuals, but did not find them listed. Diachenko and Troia also note that they have no way to know whether anyone discovered and downloaded the Verifications.io data while it was publicly available and fully exposed.

“I have no idea if anyone else accessed this besides us,” Troia says. “But it was definitely out there for anyone to grab.”

‘Another Day on the Internet’

Much remains unknown about the database and Verifications.io, because the company is difficult to track. When the researchers initially contacted the company through a messaging portal on its site to disclose the database exposure, someone responded with an unsigned note. “Thank you for reporting the issue. We appreciate you reaching out and informing us,” the reply said. “This is our company database built with public information, not client data. We were able to quickly secure the database. Goes to show, even with 12 years of experience you can’t let your guard down.”

Much of the data in the database is publicly available, though it’s not clear that all of it is. When the researchers asked in the portal for the name of the owner of the company and the legal name of the company, someone wrote back declining to answer.

It is also unclear where Verifications.io is based. Most of its materials list Boca Raton, Florida, but some of its web assets are registered in California and Delaware. The Verifications.io website lists addresses in Estonia, but some of those matched up with what appear to be a museum and a government building.

Security researcher Troy Hunt is adding the Verifications.io data to his service HaveIBeenPwned, which helps people check whether their data has been compromised in data exposures and breaches. He says that 35 percent of the trove’s 763 million email addresses are new to the HaveIBeenPwned database. The Verifications.io data dump is also the second-largest ever added to HaveIBeenPwned in terms of number of email addresses, after the 773 million in the repository known as Collection 1, which was added earlier this year. Hunt says some of his own information is included in the Verifications.io exposure.

“The main takeaway for me is that this is just another case where someone has my data, and hundreds of millions of other people’s data, and I’ve absolutely no idea how they got it,” Hunt says. “I’d never heard of the company until now and I certainly can’t ever recall consenting to their use of my data. Of course, it’s entirely possible that buried in some other service’s terms and conditions it says they’re allowed to pass my data around in this fashion, but that’s not really consistent with my expectations of how my data should be used.”

As with recent data exposures from the business data aggregator Apollo and the marketing firm Exactis, there’s not a lot you can do to individually protect yourself when vast repositories of data compiled from both public and private sources leak. Check HaveIBeenPwned to see if your data was in the Verifications.io exposure, and continue your general vigilance about using strong, unique passwords, monitoring your financial statements, and giving out your Social Security number as infrequently as possible. But also know that none of those measures provide a full solution to this society-scale problem.

The disjointed nature of the exposed Verifications.io data speaks to the chaotic state of the data industry overall. People’s personal information is shared by massive companies like Facebook, bought and sold by shady marketers, or stolen from data giants and doomed to circulate endlessly in the purgatory of criminal forums. The churn makes it difficult for consumers to control who has their data and where it ends up. As Hunt puts it, “Sadly, it’s just another day on the internet.”


More Great WIRED Stories

Britain's Hunt promises 'doctrine of deterrence' against cyberattacks on democracy

LONDON (Reuters) – British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt will set out on Thursday a “doctrine of deterrence”, including economic and diplomatic counter-measures, to prevent cyberattacks that threaten to turn elections into “tainted exercises”.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is seen outside of Downing Street in London, Britain, March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Britain will try to prosecute those responsible for cyber crimes, part of a growing response by the West against countries that hope to influence elections through disinformation and voter manipulation, he will say in a speech in Glasgow.

“We will always seek to discover which state or other actor was behind any malign cyber activity, overcoming any efforts to conceal their tracks,” Hunt will say, according to pre-released extracts of his speech.

Western countries issued coordinated denunciations of Russia in October for running what they described as a global hacking campaign. Russia has denied the allegations.

In the United States, a federal special counsel is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign. Moscow has denied any meddling and the U.S. president has said there was no collusion.

Hunt will say there has been no evidence that foreign states have interfered with British votes but that unnamed hostile states are intent on using cyberspace to undermine Western democracies.

“Events have demonstrated how our adversaries regard free elections – and the very openness of a democratic system – as key vulnerabilities to be exploited … authoritarian regimes possess ways of undermining free societies that yesterday’s dictators would have envied,” he will say.

The British response could include the public naming and shaming of any perpetrator together with allies, exposing how the action was carried out and prosecuting those responsible to show they are not above the law.

Hunt will also say that Britain, as part of the European Union, agreed last year to impose sanctions to stiffen its response to cyberattacks and to rush through new curbs on online campaigning by political parties.

“After Brexit, the UK will be able to impose cyber-related sanctions on a national basis,” he will say.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Frances Kerry

Uber not criminally liable in fatal 2018 Arizona self-driving crash: prosecutors

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc is not criminally liable in a March 2018 crash in Tempe, Arizona, in which one of the company’s self-driving cars struck and killed a pedestrian, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators examine a self-driving Uber vehicle involved in a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., March 20, 2018. National Transportation Safety Board/Handout via REUTERS

The Yavapai County Attorney said in a letter made public that there was “no basis” for criminal liability for Uber, but that the conduct of the back-up driver, Rafael Vasquez, should be referred to the Tempe police for additional investigation.

Police said last year that Vasquez was streaming a television show on a phone until about the time of the crash and called the incident “entirely avoidable.”

An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment on the letter.

Vasquez could face charges of vehicular manslaughter, according to a police report last June. Vasquez has not previously commented and could not immediately be reached on Tuesday.

The Maricopa County Attorney, whose jurisdiction includes Tempe, referred the case last year to another office because of a conflict. In Tuesday’s letter Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk said its investigation concluded that “the collision video, as it displays, likely does not accurately depict the events that occurred.”

The letter said an “expert analysis” is needed to “closely match what (and when) the person sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle would or should have seen that night given the vehicle’s speed, lighting conditions, and other relevant factors.”

The National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are still investigating the fatal crash.

The Uber car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, but the company, like other self-driving car developers, requires a back-up driver inside to intervene when the autonomous system fails or a tricky driving situation occurs.

The Tempe police report said Vasquez repeatedly looked down and not at the road, glancing up a half second before the car hit Elaine Herzberg, 49, who was crossing the street at night.

Police obtained records from Hulu, an online service for streaming TV shows and movies, which showed Vasquez’s account was playing the TV talent show “The Voice” for about 42 minutes on the night of the crash, ending at 9:59 p.m., which “coincides with the approximate time of the collision,” the report said.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office did not immediately comment on Tuesday.

In December, Uber resumed limited self-driving car testing on public roads in Pittsburgh, nine months after it suspended the program following the Arizona crash.

The company is now testing with two employees in the front seat and more strictly monitor safety employees. The company also said last year it made improvements to the vehicles’ self-driving software.

In March 2018, authorities in Arizona suspended Uber’s ability to test its self-driving cars. Uber also voluntarily halted its entire autonomous car testing program.

The NTSB has said Uber had disabled a manufacturer-installed automatic emergency braking system in the 2017 Volvo XC90 while the car was under computer control in order to “reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Grant McCool

Former Cisco Employee Arrested, Charged With $9.3 Million Wire Fraud

An ex-employee at Cisco Systems was arrested on Tuesday at San Francisco International Airport, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The charge? Allegedly defrauding the San Jose, Calif.-based hardware conglomerate to the tune of more than $9.3 million.

Prithviraj R. Bhikha was arrested on one very expensive count of wire fraud. Bhikha, whose employment with Cisco ended in 2017, is accused of using his previous position as a director of the company’s global supply chain division to establish a new program under his leadership. The project reportedly entailed identifying and commissioning third-party vendors to negotiate deals on parts used in Cisco product manufacturing.

According to the allegations, after establishing several overseas entities on his own, Bhikha was responsible for directing and approving Cisco contracts with those companies. Cisco (csco) wired roughly $6.5 million to one of the entities, and around $2.8 million to another. Colleagues eventually became suspicious of Bhikha’s actions, and according to the Chronicle‘s report, at one point, he allegedly enlisted one coworker to help him create fraudulent documentation for his project. It is not clear if others have or will be charged in the case.

Bhikha was released on a $3 million bond, according to the Chronicle. If convicted, he faces a fine of up to $250,000 and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

These Amazon Employees Reportedly Did Something Very Selfish. Now It Just Seems Stupid. (And Lots of People Are Laughing at Them)

My fellow Americans, we live in a divided time. Yet, there are moments when we can all come together as one.

Most of us, anyway.

It’s controversial. Some New Yorkers are rejoicing. These are the ones who thought the whole thing was just a lopsided, secretive sweetheart deal, orchestrated by a massive company owned by the world’s richest man are rejoicing.

Other think it’s New York’s loss for not getting the 25,000 promised jobs, and are swearing the city’s people will rue the day it didn’t welcome Amazon with open arms.

But, there’s one thing we can agree on. And it has to do with schadenfreude.

Defined as “pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune,” in this case, it’s about the one group we can be almost sure, without a doubt, will be big losers as a result of Amazon’s Hamlet routine.

At least two Amazon employees made these kinds of purchases according to the Wall Street Journal, although a company spokesperson later said it did not have evidence the employees had advance knowledge of the location selection.

Regardless, this kind of alleged “real estate insider trading”– perfectly legal, it turns out, even if it seems very selfish, sketchy and exploitative–became one of the symbols of the deal.

Of course, it’s also clear that in the days after the deal, there was a mad rush to snap up condos in a section of the city that is up-and-coming, but that many Americans outside the local area had probably never heard of just days before.

“This is like a gift from the gods for the Long Island City condo market,” a real estate agent told the Journal at the time.

Some buyers were reportedly Amazonians who thought they’d be relocating. Others were pure speculators — people who might have had nothing to do with Amazon personally, but who hoped to swoop in and quickly make big profits.

It would all have been at the expense, it has to be said, of fairly ordinary, working people who would have then bought the condos from them at inflated prices, or rented them.

Now the speculators likely to be left holding the bag, having bought condos at what might well have turned out to be the peak of the market.

And those Amazon employees who bought with the intent of moving, only to hear their company say in so many words, “Fugetaboutit,” can thank the speculators and alleged insider traders among their fellow employees for helping to kill the deal.

The rest of us on the outside? We can’t help but laugh at the people who thought they could outsmart everyone else, and lost. 

And I mean, literally laugh. 

I pointed this out to a group of friends who all live just outside New York City on Thursday, some of whom were actually disappointed that Amazon wasn’t coming.

Their reaction: Real, loud, “HA HA HA HA HA!!!!” kind of laughter.

The sort of thing that gets other people around you looking over and smiling, wondering what’s so funny.

Aw, man. It’s funny. But it also gets you thinking.

Nashville apparently thinks it’s going to be next in line to get the other half of HQ2, since it got the consolation prize of 5,000 jobs in the last announcement.

So here’s a question: Earlier this week, did Tennessee real estate agents get a sudden influx of clients from Seattle?

Exclusive: Volkswagen, Ford far apart on investment in Ford autonomous unit – sources

(Reuters) – Partners Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co are at odds over how much the German automaker will invest in the No. 2 U.S. automaker’s self-driving vehicle unit, with Ford seeking at least $500 million, people familiar with the negotiations said. Analysts and investors have focused on the potential savings their alliance could generate, so any sign of problems in the negotiations is not welcome news.

FILE PHOTO: The President and CEO of Ford Motor Company Jim Hackett, poses with Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Klayman/File Photo

VW has resisted agreeing to invest in Ford’s autonomous vehicle unit, instead preferring to announce the companies will simply work together in that area, according to the people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified. Some of the hesitation centers around questions about Ford’s technology, one person said.

Ford, on the other hand, wants VW to invest at least $500 million after earlier seeking $1 billion, eyeing deals its larger rival General Motors Co reached with Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd that raised $5 billion combined and valued GM’s Cruise self-driving vehicle unit at $14.6 billion, the sources said.

VW and Ford declined to discuss details of the talks.

“We are still in ongoing negotiations with Ford, which we are conducting constructively and openly,” VW said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Our talks with Volkswagen continue,” Ford said in a statement. “Discussions have been productive across a number of areas. We’ll share updates as details become more firm.”

STICKING POINTS

In January, the companies announced they would join forces on commercial vans and pickup trucks, and also signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on electric and self-driving vehicle technology, actions meant to save the automakers billions of dollars. The companies first disclosed they were discussing such a deal in June 2018 and subsequently said it would expand beyond that.

VW Chief Executive Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett both voiced optimism last month that the deal involving electric and autonomous vehicles would be finalized, but provided no timeline.

Another issue in the talks is how the companies value VW’s autonomous technology assets that will be added to the joint effort, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the companies also have been negotiating Ford’s use of VW’s MEB EV platform, including the volume involved, where VW would provide it and how much Ford would pay for its use, the sources said. However, Ford cannot use the platform until 2024 at the earliest, the people said.

Ford’s president of global markets, Jim Farley, suggested during the taping of Detroit television show “Autoline Detroit” on Monday there were challenges around the use of VW’s EV platform, saying the MEB was primarily designed for use in Europe and China, and for different consumer needs.

The talks around teaming up on EVs and AVs have advanced together so far, but are not necessarily linked, the sources said. Ford would walk away from a deal it felt was unfair, a second person said.

The discussions have dragged on for months, but there is no deadline and a third person said they could be resolved shortly. Shares of both companies were each down less than 1 percent on Wednesday afternoon.

Sources previously said the framework of a deal would include VW investing in Ford’s AV operations, including its Argo AI business. VW, Europe’s largest automaker, has earmarked $50 billion to develop electric cars, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023.

CHALLENGES

The efforts by VW and Ford to expand their alliance highlight the growing pressure on global automakers to manage the billions of dollars necessary to develop electric and self-driving vehicles, as well as technology to meet tougher emissions standards for millions of internal combustion vehicles they will sell in coming years.

There has been significant investment activity in the industry over the past year around autonomous vehicles, a segment in which Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving unit is considered the leader.

VW has been open about its desire to work with other companies around self-driving cars and when the Ford alliance was announced Diess said teaming up with an American company made sense given the more advanced U.S. regulatory environment.

Interest in the sector remains high. On Tuesday, sources said GM and Amazon.com Inc were in talks to take minority stakes in electric automaker Rivian Automotive, potentially tapping in to the startup’s vehicle platform. The previous day, driverless delivery startup Nuro said it raised $940 million from SoftBank.

On Feb. 7, startup Aurora, whose CEO earlier led Alphabet’s self-driving program, raised more than $530 million in funding, including from Amazon. Aurora has contracts to help VW, Hyundai Motor Co Ltd and China’s Byton develop AVs.

SoftBank bought its stake in GM’s Cruise unit for $2.25 billion in May 2018, and last October SoftBank and Toyota Motor Corp said they would jointly develop self-driving car services. Honda followed SoftBank last October, agreeing to invest $2.75 billion in Cruise.

Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit, David Shepardson in Washington and Jan Schwartz in Hamburg, Germany; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis

T-Mobile, Sprint executives face skeptical House panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Executives from T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp faced questions from lawmakers on Wednesday about how the companies’ planned merger would affect prices and jobs, especially in rural America.

The deal to combine the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers, struck in April, was approved by both companies’ shareholders in October and has received national security clearance, but still needs approval from the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.

Representative Mike Doyle, who chairs the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee panel holding the hearing, raised worries about the deal because the U.S. wireless market has just four main carriers. The industry leaders are AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

“It’s hard to think of one (deal) where consolidation did not result in people losing their jobs, prices going up and innovation being stifled,” Doyle said.

Representative Billy Long, a Republican, expressed concern about lost jobs in his Missouri district. Representative Dave Loebsack, a Democrat, pointed to job losses in Iowa after T-Mobile’s acquisition of Iowa Wireless last year and said T-Mobile’s plan to buy Sprint made him “very concerned” about potential negative effects on Iowa.

Representative Frank Pallone, a Democrat, said T-Mobile had sent call center jobs overseas in 2012 and asked for legally enforceable assurances that the new jobs touted by T-Mobile US Chief Executive John Legere would not be sent offshore once the deal wins approval.

Legere defended the $26 billion deal, arguing that it will create jobs and help with the construction of the next generation of wireless networks. He said the merged company would have more capacity which would lead to a push to lower prices.

“This is a unique merger in that there will be a significant increase in supply,” Legere said. To win support for the deal, T-Mobile previously said it would not increase prices for three years.

T-Mobile US CEO John Legere checks his phone before testifying before a U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing in Washington, U.S. February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

Legere was not without supporters. Representatives Anna Eshoo, a Democrat, and Steve Scalise, a Republican, asked questions that indicated support for the deal.

In prepared remarks released on Tuesday, Legere pointed to the company’s history of aggressive pricing, said it would need 11,000 new employees by 2024 and pledged to compete hard on building the next generation of wireless, called 5G.

He also pledged to create 5G without using networking equipment from Huawei Technologies Co Ltd or ZTE Corp, two Chinese telecommunications firms distrusted by U.S. national security experts.

T-Mobile has run into criticism from unions and consumer advocates, but rural operators have been the fiercest opponents.

Carri Bennet, general counsel at the Rural Wireless Association, said the merger “will force rural Americans to pay more money for wireless services,” especially if they contract with a mobile virtual network operator who buys wholesale access to Sprint’s network and re-sells it.

She said that Sprint is the only one of the four national carriers that offers anything approximating commercially reasonable roaming rates to rural carriers. “It (the merger) should be denied,” she said.

Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton told the committee the deal would “kill American jobs, lower wages, and raise prices.”

Consumer advocates have said that the poorest wireless customers were likely to be disproportionately hurt by the deal since Sprint and T-Mobile have a big market share in prepaid plans.

Slideshow (6 Images)

A group of eight Democratic U.S. senators and independent Senator Bernie Sanders urged the Justice Department and FCC on Tuesday to reject the deal, saying monthly bills could rise as much as 10 percent.

Lawmakers who signed the letter include potential or confirmed presidential candidates Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Rigby and Meredith Mazzilli

Twitter revenue beats Wall Street as video ad sales surge

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Twitter Inc reported a better-than-expected 24 percent increase in fourth-quarter revenue on Thursday, helped by growth in its video advertising business.

FILE PHOTO – A 3D-printed logo for Twitter is seen in this picture illustration January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The social media company posted a decline in monthly active users, due in part to its campaign of deleting millions of abusive accounts after facing criticism it was being used as a platform for political influence operations and hate speech.

Overall revenue rose to $909 million in the quarter, beating Wall Street’s average estimate of $868.2 million.

Total advertising revenue rose 23 percent to $791 million. More than half that revenue came from video ads placed by corporate clients.

Revenue from data licensing and other non-advertising businesses rose 35 percent from a year earlier to $117 million.

Twitter reported quarterly profit, excluding some items, of 31 cents per share. Analysts had expected 25 cents, on average, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The number of average daily active users exposed to Twitter ads, a new figure disclosed by the company, rose to 126 million in the fourth quarter from 115 million a year ago and 124 million in the previous quarter.

Monthly active users totaled 321 million. That was in line with analysts’ forecasts, but down from 330 million a year earlier and 326 million in the third quarter. Twitter said that after the current quarter it would stop disclosing monthly active users, a statistic that has become standard among internet companies over the last decade.

For the current quarter, Twitter said it expected total revenue to be between $715 million and $775 million. Analysts are expecting about $765 million, on average.

Twitter said it expects operating expenses to rise about 20 percent year-on-year in 2019 due to efforts to improve its service, above analysts’ average estimate of 12 percent.

It expects capital expenditures to be between $550 million and $600 million, well above analysts’ average estimate of $415 million for 2019.

Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Jim Finkle and Bill Rigby

China hacked Norway's Visma to steal client secrets: investigators

LONDON (Reuters) – Hackers working on behalf of Chinese intelligence breached the network of Norwegian software firm Visma to steal secrets from its clients, cyber security researchers said, in what a company executive described as a potentially catastrophic attack.

A man holds a laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration picture taken on May 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration

The attack was part of what Western countries said in December is a global hacking campaign by China’s Ministry of State Security to steal intellectual property and corporate secrets, according to investigators at cyber security firm Recorded Future.

China’s Ministry of State Security has no publicly available contacts. The foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment, but Beijing has repeatedly denied any involvement in cyber-enabled spying.

Visma took the decision to talk publicly about the breach to raise industry awareness about the hacking campaign, which is known as Cloudhopper and targets technology service and software providers in order reach their clients.

Cyber security firms and Western governments have warned about Cloudhopper several times since 2017 but have not disclosed the identities of the companies affected.

Reuters reported in December that Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and IBM were two of the campaign’s victims, and Western officials caution in private that there are many more.

At the time IBM said it had no evidence sensitive corporate data had been compromised, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise said it could not comment on the Cloudhopper campaign.

Visma, which reported global revenues of $1.3 billion last year, provides business software products to more than 900,000 companies across Scandinavia and parts of Europe.

The company’s operations and security manager, Espen Johansen, said the attack was detected shortly after the hackers accessed Visma’s systems and he was confident no client networks were accessed.

“PARANOIA HAT”

“But if I put on my paranoia hat, this could have been catastrophic,” he said. “If you are a big intelligence agency somewhere in the world and you want to harvest as much information as possible, you of course go for the convergence points, it’s a given fact.”

“I’m aware that we do have clients which are very interesting for nation states,” he said, declining to name any specific customers.

Paul Chichester, director for operations at Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, said the Visma case highlighted the dangers organizations increasingly face from cyber attacks on their supply chains.

“Because organizations are focused on improving their own cyber security, we are seeing an increase in activity targeting supply chains as actors try to find other ways in,” he said.

In a report here with investigators at cyber security firm Rapid7, Recorded Future said the attackers first accessed Visma’s network by using a stolen set of login credentials and were operating as part of a hacking group known as APT 10, which Western officials say is behind the Cloudhopper campaign.

FILE PHOTO: A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

The U.S. Department of Justice in December charged two alleged members of APT 10 with hacking U.S. government agencies and dozens of businesses around the world on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security.

Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future and a former intelligence officer at the U.S. National Security Agency, said the hackers’ activity inside Visma’s network suggested they intended to infiltrate client systems in search of commercially-sensitive information.

“We believe that APT 10 in this case exploited Visma networks to enable secondary operations against Visma’s customers, not necessarily to steal Visma’s own intellectual property,” she said. “Because they caught it so early they were able to discourage and prevent those secondary attacks.”

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by William Maclean

In 1980 IBM Built The PC In Secret, Today It Is Betting on Collaboration to Create the Next Big Thing: Quantum Computing

In 1980, IBM was at an impasse. Having already missed the market for minicomputers, now it was seeing a new cadre of competitors emerge. Fledgling companies like Apple and Commodore were selling stripped down computers for personal use and the market was growing quickly. It looked like IBM would miss out again.

So the company’s leadership authorized Don Estridge and Bill Lowe to set up a skunk works in Boca Raton, FL and begin work on what was to become the PC. Working largely in secret and eschewing many of IBM’s traditional standards and processes, the team would bring the PC to market in just a year and change computer history.

Today, the computer industry is at a similar impasse. As Moore’s Law comes to an end, there is an urgent need to introduce new computing architectures, one of the most promising being quantum computing. However, this time, rather than working in secret, it has embarked on a highly collaborative journey to advance the technology and bring it to market.

Building The Quantum Experience

While the parallels between the PC and quantum computing are interesting, the two technologies are very different. “When we were developing the PC, the challenge was to build a different kind of computer based on the same technology that had been around for decades,” Bob Sutor, VP – IBM Q Strategy and Ecosystem, told me.

“In the case of quantum computing, the technology is completely different and most of it was, until fairly recently, theoretical,” he continued. “Only a small number of people understand how to build it. That requires a more collaborative innovation model to drive it forward.”

So in 2016 the company launched its Quantum Experience program, allowing anyone who wanted to access an early prototype quantum computer. The initiative has been a major success. To date, over 100,000 users have run over seven million experiments, ranging from just fooling around (at least in my case) to serious scientific inquiries.

Yet the Q network is not about pure altruism. IBM has learned a lot from it, such as which logical functions are in high demand, how to make the system more stable and how to improve user experience. The company has also replaced that early prototype with more powerful versions that allow it to learn even more.

A Quantum Network of Partners

To say that quantum computers are different almost understates the case. They operate according to different logical rules and require new programming languages and algorithmic approaches. That’s exciting, because it allows quantum computers to do things that no other computers can, but it also means that nobody really knows how to use them very well yet.

“Quantum doesn’t replace traditional computing, it’s complementary and we’ve shown that we can make the machines work,” Sutor told me. “The challenge now is to make quantum computing useful. The Q Network allows us to work directly with people who understand the problems that need to be solved and we can help them apply our technology and expertise to the problem.”

Developing Applications Through Intense Collaboration

This January, IBM announced that it was expanding its effort to include new scientific partners as well as ExxonMobil. Historically, the company has used computer technology to help it analyze seismic data to find and recover oil in the safest and most economically responsible way. Yet Dr. Vijay Swarup, VP of Research and Development at the company, expects that quantum computing will bring that partnership to a new level.

“The enormously large computing spaces that quantum computing makes possible will allow us to simulate physical systems on an atomic level,” he told me. “We hope that will help us design better chemical catalysts and materials to build systems for things like carbon capture, chemical conversion and other things.”

“We joined the Q network to get on the ground floor and open up a new avenue for intense scientific collaboration,” Swarup then continued. “We hope to come up with relevant problems that IBM and ExxonMobil can solve with quantum computers so that our scientists and engineers can then scale those solutions and apply them to real market opportunities.”

He also stressed to me that he considers quantum technology to still be in a very nascent stage and doesn’t expect immediate results. However, he believes that by making this commitment early on, Exxon will not only be able to stay ahead of the competition, but remain there for years, if not decades, to come.

Innovation Is Never a Single Event

It’s becoming increasingly clear that, much like with the launch of the PC in 1981, we are now on the cusp of a new era. We now not only have working machines, but an increasing base of users and organizations devoted to applying quantum technology to solve important problems.

Still, as I explain in my book, Mapping Innovation, innovation is never a single event, but a process of discovery, engineering and transformation. Quantum computing is now deep into the engineering phase, but the transformation phase has just begun. That’s what IBM is focused on now, helping its customers learn to harness the power of the technology to impact the world.

“Over the next few years we expect the machines to get more powerful and we hope to get a much better feel for the areas in which quantum computers can have the most impact,” Sutor says. “As the community develops, we hope that will open the door for learning and knowledge sharing among those in the community, which is how you advance a field.”

“There are so many problems we have today, such as in artificial intelligence, chemistry, biology and other things,” he continues “in which the complexity becomes so great that the problems become intractable. The exponentially larger computing spaces that quantum computers make possible may allow us to attack some of these areas in completely new ways.”

American Airlines Just Admitted It Has a Massive Problem. It's Either Funny Or Tragic

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When I offer my occasionally skeptical thoughts about American Airlines, its customers cascade abuse upon my ignorance, my being and even my Twitter feed.

No, that’s a joke.

What actually happens is that I get messages from yet more American Airlines employees and customers telling me that things at the airline aren’t too perfect.

Of course, it’s often the whiners who choose to make most noise. 

For some time, though, American has made decision after decision that seems unhelpful to its customers.

The airline, though, has always insisted that its customer satisfaction scores were holding steadier than you would be doing, should you be standing in one of those bathrooms.

It’s a source, then, of considerable discomfort that the airline admitted it has a big problem. 

During its latest earnings call it admitted that customer satisfaction scores for the airline as a whole have now gone down.

Yes, passengers appear to be bothering to express a little displeasure even on the airline’s survey forms.

You might think that — as well as the tiny bathrooms — reducing legroom in First Class as well as Economy Class wouldn’t necessarily endear American to its customers.

You might even think that executives at American realize this.

However, as Skift reports, American’s president Robert Isom believes passengers are unhappy for a different reason.

He said no, no, they’re entirely happy with the actual product American offers: 

People are very pleased with what they’re getting in terms of service and in terms of the amenities and fleet and airports.

For Isom, though, passengers have just one itty-bitty issue:

They want a reliable airline. They want to be certain they get what they pay for.

You mean like with baggage fees?

Isom’s view rhymes perfectly with the opinions of the airline’s CEO, Doug Parker.

He recently insisted that by far the most important thing to customers is to get to their destination on time.

I fear he and Isom may not, for once, be correct.

But as it forced more and more of its planes into its so-called Project Oasis (seriously) cramped configuration and it flies more and more narrowbody planes stuffed with more and more seats over longer distances — yes, a narrowbody nightmare to Brazil! — passengers are going to notice.

American’s Flight Attendants regularly tell me they don’t feel the sort of motivation they’d like to, given what they see as management’s indifference to anything other than the lure of lucre.

Why, Isom himself declared last year that the airline won’t make anything better for passengers unless it can make a profit out of it.

At some point, your customers can see what you’re doing and decide they really don’t like it.

At some further point, they’re going to tell you.

It was a hauntingly pleasant experience, one that the airline is phasing out.

Is it really any wonder that its customers are now less satisfied?

Bing outage in China was technical error, not censors' block: source

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Search engine Bing’s outage in China last week was a technical error, rather than an intentional censorship block, a source familiar with the matter said, although Chinese authorities and Microsoft have not commented on the topic.

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the Microsoft Bing logo is displayed against the backdrop of a Chinese flag in this picture illustration taken January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

From a technical perspective, a person at Microsoft Corp told Reuters, the site appeared to have been blocked in a manner similar to sites blocked by the government.

But the company had received no prior notice from authorities, and the disruption was not intentional on the part of the government, added the person, who declined to be identified, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment on Monday. Last week, although it confirmed the outage, it declined to give details.

The Cyberspace Administration of China did not respond immediately to a faxed request from Reuters seeking comment.

Starting from Thursday, Internet users in China attempting to access cn.bing.com, the search engine’s domestic URL, found themselves directed to an error page.

Attempts to log on to Facebook, Google search, or other sites blocked by China’s Great Firewall, encountered the same fate.

Service had resumed by late on Friday, however.

Engineers at ExpressVPN, a provider of virtual private network (VPN) software allowing internet users in China to access censored websites, ran tests during the outage to determine its origin.

They found that rather than domain name service (DNS) poisoning, the most common means for blocking sites under the Great Firewall, Bing’s outage appeared to employ a technique known as “black-holing”.

With this method, rather than re-directing to a dummy server traffic headed for a specific website, the traffic is simply cut off en route, usually at the internet service provider (ISP) level.

Express VPN Vice President Harold Li said blackholing boosts the likelihood of an accidental block, versus the more typical DNS poisoning, though he added that the company could not confirm the exact nature of the outage.

“We have no idea if it was an accident or not, but it’s much easier to make the mistake of blocking Bing when you’re blocking a set of IP addresses,” he said, referring to website addresses.

Bing has long been the only major overseas search engine accessible in China, which blocked access to Alphabet’s Google search platform starting in 2010. Microsoft alters Bing’s results to avoid politically sensitive topics, in line with government policy.

Bing’s outage came a day after a widely read article by a Chinese journalist criticizing the quality of search results from Baidu Inc, the dominant domestic search engine.

That led some internet users to speculate the two incidents were related. The company has endured regular public backlash since 2016, when a Chinese student died after seeking treatment at a hospital that advertised on Baidu.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz and Cate Cadell; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

How to Write Emails That Super Busy People Will Actually Read

Apart from traffic, stubbed toes and spoiled milk, there are few things in life more frustrating or discouraging than cold email outreach. More often than not, you’ll either rejected outright or receive no response at all.

These outcomes become even more likely when reaching out to key decision makers, public figures or any other busy person , with no reply almost being a guarantee. Yet, while getting a hold of high-profile people is difficult – whether they’re the top influencers in your industry or the publisher you’ve been trying to connect with for years –it certainly isn’t impossible. 

In fact, by applying a handful of simple, battle-tested tips and strategies to your outreach emails and messages, your chances of reaching your prospect will sky rocket.

Here are six of them.

1. Get to the point.

A friend of mine who worked in the sales department at Oracle showed me the sales template they typically use for cold outreach. To my surprise, it was only four sentences long. The same was true for a buddy of mine who works in sales at a well-known Fortune 500 company.

In short, these emails have a quick intro, a sentence explaining why they’re reaching out to the target, a blurb on the value their product or service can bring to their business and wraps up with a question asking to hop on a quick phone call, with a few suggested days and times included.

This was a game-changer for me. Before seeing these templates, I felt compelled to close the deal all within the email itself. Instead, by waiting to do the “selling” on your initial phone call, once you’ve built trust and rapport, my average response rates increased threefold.

2. Prove your the “real deal” right off the bat.

One of my most successful email campaigns (in terms of open rates) included my title as an Inc.com Columnist in the email subject line itself, and read: “Quick Question From an Inc.com Columnist”.

No matter if you’re a CEO of a fast-growing startup, an author or someone who’s just getting started, we all have something of value to offer, some form of social proofing, so be sure to make it known right away.

Additionally, include a link to what I call your “home run proof point”. If you’re a blogger trying to get on a top notch publication, this could be an article that drove a ton of comments and shares. By proving you’re not just another spammer, you’ll instantly start to build trust between you and the prospect. 

3. Personalize it.

Remember: busy people are always on the prowl for reasons not to respond to an unsolicited pitch. 

Did this cold email get my name wrong? Is this cold email relevant to my business at all? Was this cold email clearly copy and pasted?

If there’s any semblance of you not doing your due diligence when it comes to research, editing and more, your chances of getting a response are close to nothing. 

The solution? Show you did your homework by personalizing and tailoring your message to fit specifically to the person you’re reaching out to.

4. Timeliness and relevance is key.

Wherever possible, be sure to include some sort of relevant reason as to why you’re reaching out to the person. 

Has your target recently published a book, secured venture capital or received a noteworthy award? Then congratulate them on it. Show them you care. This will warm them up and increase the chance they’re more receptive to what you’re proposing.

5. Self-serving people finish last.

This might be the most important point of all – stay out of it. Meaning, make the email and the reason you’re reaching out all about the contact person. Make sure it’s crystal clear how taking the action with what you’re proposing will add nothing but value to their lives. 

No matter how busy a person is, if there’s enough value at stake, they’ll make the time to respond.

6. Make the options simple.

Within consumer psychology, a common practice to drive customers to take action is to eliminate the number of options they can make in the first place. The same applies to email outreach. By decreasing the number of decisions your target has to make, they’ll be more likely to make the leap.

Is your call-to-action hopping on Skype? Then use a tool like Calendly to eliminate any back-and-forth and streamline the scheduling process.

Is your call-to-action subscribing to your newsletter? Then link it, in bold, at the bottom of your email. 

Getting no response from a noteworthy person can get discouraging – believe me, I’ve been there. Yet, by applying the tips laid out in this article to your outreach, you’ll dramatically increase the chances of reeling them in. Best of luck.

China's Fujian Jinhua to file complaint to be taken off U.S. export control list

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese chipmaker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co Ltd said on Friday it has notified the Unites States that it plans to file a complaint to be taken off the export control list, according to a statement on social media.

The firm added that it does not pose any security risk to the United States.

Earlier this month, the company said it had pleaded not guilty to U.S government charges that it stole trade secrets.

The U.S Justice Department had last year launched an indictment against Fujian Jinhua and United Microelectronics Corp (2303.TW), alleging they attempted to steal trade secrets from memory chip maker Micron Technology Inc (MU.O).

The U.S. Commerce Department had put Fujian Jinhua on a list of entities that cannot buy components, software and technology goods from U.S. firms.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Himani Sarkar

GE urges speedy fix for power turbine blades, says blade broke in 2015: sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) – General Electric Co is advising some buyers of its big power turbines to switch out faulty blades sooner than expected and has disclosed that a blade broke in 2015, according to a presentation reviewed by Reuters and people briefed on the matter.

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian walks past a General Electric (GE) facility in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

The second blade break, which has not been previously reported, involved an earlier turbine model and was similar to a break last September that severely damaged a turbine in Texas and shut it down for two months of repairs.

The defective blade issue affects GE’s newest turbine technology, which cost billions of dollars to develop, and is among the challenges facing new Chief Executive Larry Culp as he tries to revive the profits and share price of the 127-year-old conglomerate.

GE’s advice for fixing the problem can curb turbine use by utilities, according to the sources and utilities that use GE turbines, potentially threatening the revenue streams at the power plants.

At private meetings in Florida and London last month, GE executives said the company is offering extended warranty coverage and making spare parts available to ease concerns of insurers, lenders and utilities interested in buying turbines, according to a GE executive’s slideshow presentation and three people who attended the meetings. Some said they signed non-disclosure agreements.

GE told participants that turbines with at-risk blades should run for fewer than about 7,000 hours depending on individual plant circumstances, before shutting down for blade replacement, according to two people who attended the meetings. GE said it had advised customers of the change. GE’s previous guidance for blades was after 25,000 hours.

The executives also said in the meetings that the blade that broke in 2015 at an undisclosed power plant was in a GE 9FB turbine, which has similar technology to the HA turbine that broke in Texas. The 2015 break prompted GE to work on new protective coatings and alter a heat treatment process for the parts, a second presentation showed.

(GE turbine outage data: tmsnrt.rs/2Rs5mU3)

GE told Reuters that after the blade broke in 2015, GE did not know at first that the problem would also afflict its HA models.

“The HA components were in development before the initial 9FB issue occurred, and the HA units began to ship while the root-cause analysis was in process and before it was determined that it was a component issue that impacted the 9FB fleet and the HA,” GE said in a statement to Reuters.

GE declined to provide more detail about the 2015 blade break or usage restrictions, saying some of the information is proprietary.

“We are executing the plan we laid out to fix the (blade) issue,” GE said in a statement to Reuters. “The feedback from customers has been positive, and they continue to choose the HA, which remains the fastest-growing fleet of advanced technology turbines in the world today.”

The details from GE’s meetings come as GE is installing new blades in about 50 9FB and 52 HA turbines, according to a person familiar with the matter, fewer than the 130 estimated after the blade break in Texas prompted it to warn that other turbines are at risk for blade failure.

Reuters previously reported that GE found an oxidation problem, not a break, in 2015 and developed a fix before the failure in Texas.

Scaling back use of GE turbines reduces how much electricity they produce, a threat to revenues and profits for Exelon Corp, PSEG Power LLC, Chubu Electric Power Co Inc and others with the 400-ton GE machines that form the core of modern gas-fired power plants, according to utilities and industry experts.

Japan’s Chubu Electric said it learned about the blade problem with its six new GE turbines last October. It is restricting operation time at one of the two plants that use GE’s HA turbines, but expects to have “enough reserve capacity to generate sufficient electricity to meet demand during this winter,” a spokesman told Reuters. He said Chubu will tally the financial impact “depending on how long the plants would be shut down” to replace blades. It expects repairs to be completed by the end of February.

PSEG Power and Exelon, based in the United States, declined to comment on how restrictions would affect them.

GE is continuing to sell turbines in a slumping market for big power plants, where it has lost share to rivals Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems and Siemens AG. GE has said it booked orders for three large turbines last month.

GE’s share price fell after GE revealed a blade issue in Texas on September 19, saying such “teething problems” are not uncommon with new technology and would require “minor adjustments” to fix. GE has said it would set aside $480 million for repairs and warranty claims.

Three days after the break in Texas became known, Electricite de France SA shut down its HA turbine to replace blades. EDF did not respond to requests for comment.

At the London meeting, about 100 insurance industry people gathered in the oak-paneled Old Library room of Lloyd’s of London on December 13, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.

Slideshow (2 Images)

GE power executives Marcus Scholz and Tom Dreisbach gave presentations about GE’s turbine technology. In its turbine documentation, GE has advised its power customers to inspect turbines with so-called “Generation 1” blades after 25,000 hours of use. GE said its improved blades, known as “Generation 2,” are designed to last 25,000 hours or more before being replaced.

According to page 11 of his presentation, Dreisbach said the Generation 1 blade that broke in 2015 failed after 22,000 hours. New parts treated with a special coating were inspected by technicians after about 12,000 and 16,000 hours and “cracking (was) still observed,” the presentation said.

GE inspected other turbines at about 7,000 hours and “early stages of cracking (were) observed,” the presentation said.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; Editing by Joe White and Edward Tobin

'AI' to hit hardest in U.S. heartland and among less-skilled: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Midwestern states hit hardest by job automation in recent decades, places that were pivotal to U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, will be under the most pressure again as advances in artificial intelligence reshape the workplace, according to a new study by Brookings Institution researchers.

FILE PHOTO: Jean Pierre “JP” Bolat demonstrates Movia Robotics educational software for children with autism on an Avatarmind iPal robot during the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/File Photo

The spread of computer-driven technology into middle-wage jobs like trucking, construction, and office work, and some lower-skilled occupations like food preparation and service, will also further divide the fast-growing cities where skilled workers are moving and other areas, and separate the high- skilled workers whose jobs are less prone to automation from everyone else regardless of location, the study found.

But the pain may be most intense in a familiar group of manufacturing-heavy states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa, whose support swung the U.S. electoral college for Trump, a Republican, and which have among the largest share of jobs, around 27 percent, at “high risk” of further automation in coming years.

At the other end, solidly Democratic coastal states like New York and Maryland had only about a fifth of jobs in the high-risk category.

The findings suggest the economic tensions that framed Trump’s election may well persist, and may even be immune to his efforts to shift global trade policy in favor of U.S. manufacturers.

“The first era of digital automation was one of traumatic change…with employment and wage gains coming only at the high and low ends,” authors including Brookings Metro Policy Program director Mark Muro wrote of the spread of computer technology and robotics that began in the 1980s. “That our forward-looking analysis projects more of the same…will not, therefore, be comforting.”

The study used prior research from the McKinsey Global Institute that looked at tasks performed in 800 occupations, and the proportion that could be automated by 2030 using current technology.

While some already-automated industries like manufacturing will continue needing less labor for a given level of output – the “automation potential” of production jobs remains nearly 80 percent – the spread of advanced techniques means more jobs will come under pressure as autonomous vehicles supplant drivers, and smart technology changes how waiters, carpenters and others do their jobs.

That would raise productivity – a net plus for the economy overall that could keep goods cheaper, raise demand, and thus help create more jobs even if the nature of those jobs changes.

But it may pose a challenge for lower-skilled workers in particular as automation spreads in food service and construction, industries that have been a fallback for many.

“This implies a shift in the composition of the low-wage workforce” toward jobs like personal care, with an automation potential of 34 percent, or building maintenance, with an automation potential of just 20 percent, the authors wrote.

Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci