In Brief – N.42 – January 6, 2017

Populist candidate Norbert Hofer has lost Austria’s presidential election. On Facebook, he described himself as “infinitely sad” and congratulated Alexander Van der Bellen, former head of the leftist Greens, on his victory. This poll had been seen as a sign of how well populist candidates might do elsewhere in Europe.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced that he would resign after exit polls showed a heavy defeat in his referendum on constitutional reforms. The projected result was in line with what opinion polls had been indicating up until November 18, 2016, after which the media were banned from publishing survey results.

As Donald Trump’s mandate has yet to start, US Vice-President Joe Biden said he could run for president in 2020. “I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening,” said the departing VP who will be 78 at the time of the next election and was first elected as a US Senator in 1973, winning reelection six times.

EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that “time will be short” for Brexit negotiations because the proposed deal needed to be ratified as part of the two year process set to be triggered in March 2017.

Senior defense officials suppressed a Defense Business Board (DBB) study documenting USD 125 billion worth of administrative waste at the Pentagon out of fears that Congress would use its findings to cut the defense budget, the Washington Post reported.

The European Commission (EC) has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft. The decision is conditional on compliance with a series of commitments aimed at preserving competition between professional social networks in Europe.

Whereas a Californian judge has condemned Samsung in 2012 to pay USD 399 million to Apple for violation of patents in the manufacturing of the iPhone, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has finally reversed the ruling, in favor of Samsung.

President-elect Donald Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). His official biography calls Pruitt “a leading advocate against the EPA”s activist agenda,” after he has repeatedly challenged the agency’s rules in court. Trump’s decision could put the Paris Agreement at risk.

Chinese exports bettered expectations in November 2016, a positive sign for the global economy, new figures showed. China exports broke a seven-month losing streak, rising a forecast-beating 0.1% year-on-year to USD 152.2 billion in November 2016, government data showed.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been officially stripped of power after being impeached by National Assembly. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn now steps in as acting President until the country’s Constitutional Court deliberates on whether to formally end her presidency or reinstate her. The court has up to 180 days.

A second investigation led by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren and commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has revealed that more than 1,000 athletes were allegedly involved in a state-run doping system in Russia. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians,” said McLaren.

Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures (QE), the ECB decided to continue its purchases under the asset purchase program (APP) at the current monthly pace of EUR 80 billion until the end of March 2017. From April 2017, the net asset purchases are intended to continue at a monthly pace of EUR 60 billion until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary.

Italy‘s 62-year-old Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has been named the country’s new Prime Minister following Matteo Renzi’s resignation in the wake of a referendum defeat. “There is an urgent need for a fully functioning government,” Gentiloni wrote in a statement.

The European Union (EU) and Cuba signed a normalization accord long blocked by human rights concerns as one of the world’s last Communist-ruled states faces a future without revolutionary icon Fidel Castro.

Kevin Lee Co, 45, from Sacramento, California (USA) went on a USD 1 million spending spree on the Game of War app after stealing USD 4.8 million from his employer between 2008 and 2015. It is estimated players spent USD 550 on average last year on Game of War.

Donald Trump apparently seeks to rebuild the US economy by cutting public spending too. After he questioned the USD 4.2 billion cost of the future Air Force One built by Boeing, Trump has deemedout of control” the cost of the stealth fighter F-35 program led by Lockheed Martin.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Reid Hoffman, and a long list of other deep-pocketed corporate luminaries have announced plans to form a USD 1 billion investment fund specializing in clean technology. The fund — Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) — is set to last 20 years, and will focus on energy-producing technologies that don’t emit any greenhouse gases.

Global oil markets will swing from surplus to deficit in the first half of 2017 as OPEC and other producers follow through on an agreement to cut supply, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Deputies of France‘s National Assembly have given the green light to extend for fifth time the state of emergency which has been in force since the November 2015 Paris terror attacks. Critics argue that the measure curtails freedoms. This has been the longest state of emergency since Algerian War.

The UK has a “moral” duty to guarantee the status of EU nationals living in the country ahead of negotiations over its exit, a group of peers has said. The question of what will happen to the estimated 2.9 million citizens of other EU countries who have made their home in the UK in recent years is one of the most controversial arising from the Brexit.

Japan and the European Union (EU) have held last-ditch talks this week in order to reach a broad free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of the year, Japanese government officials said. Japan is seeking cuts in EU tariffs on Japanese autos, auto parts and electric devices.

A US think-tank (AMTI) report that China has installed weapons on islands it has built in the South China Sea is raising the stakes in a regional dispute as US President-elect Donald Trump signals he is ready to confront Beijing on territorial issues.

Yahoo disclosed a new security breach that may have affected more than one billion accounts. The breach dates back to 2013 and is thought to be separate from a massive cybersecurity incident announced in September 2016.

Described by Chair Janet Yellen as a “vote of confidencein economy, the Fed raised rates for the second time in 10 years, boosting their short-term interest rate target by a quarter point from 0.50 to 0.75%. The Fed also surprised markets by forecasting three interest rate hikes next year (2017).

BP agreed deal with Kosmos Energy to partner on world-class discoveries in Mauritania and Senegal and cooperate on future exploration. The deal will give BP a leadership position in an emerging world-class, low-cost gas basin with advantaged access to global gas markets.

Europe’s biggest economy appears to have found a higher gear as the year-end approaches. Despite all the shocks of 2016, German businesses could be the source of pleasant economic surprises as 2017 gets under way, according to the latest Ifo figures.

During the vote of the Electoral College, 2 finally renounced to vote for Donald Trump but more unexpectedly 5 renounced to vote for Hillary Clinton. Exasperated by the anti-Trump campaign and threats, it appears the Electoral College was even more convinced in its vote.

Two major terrorist attacks took place on December 19, 2016. First, the Russian Ambassador to Ankara (Turkey) Andrey Karlov was assassinated. Second, dozens were either killed or wounded at Berlin (Germany)’s Christmas market by a terrorist driving a large truck.

French group Bolloré has announced the installation of its car-sharing service Autolib’ in Los Angeles (USA) whereas the Autolib’ would not be profitable and the group failed to install its national network of electric charging stations across France according to a study by 6t.

As people from Georgia will now be able to travel to the European Union (EU) visa-free, the European Commission (EC) has prolonged economic sanctions till July 31, 2017 against Russia.

Wall Street maven Carl Icahn will advise President-elect Donald Trump on matters of regulatory reform, giving the famed investor a key say in how his own industry is monitored. Icahn will help America to get rid of “the strangling regulations that our country is faced with.”

Britain’s economy suffered no hit to its growth in the immediate aftermath of the June 2016 Brexit vote, according to GDP figures just released, but the areas of economic growth have changed sharply.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said that NATO exists only “to serve Washington’s objectives,” and that she planned to hold a Brexit-style referendum, in an interview with a Greek newspaper.

President-elect Donald Trump won several districts in crucial Rust Belt States that Barack Obama had won. “I am confident in (my) vision because I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama said in an interview.

Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has been charged over corruption allegations. Fernandez served two terms from 2007 to December 2015 and is one of the main leaders of the opposition to the center-right government of Mauricio Macri.

China’s internet regulator issued the country’s first cyber strategy, emphasizing the necessity of securing critical infrastructure and the government’s right to control cyberspace in Chinese territory.

In a year 2016 when voters reshaped power and politics across Europe and the US, the world’s wealthiest people have ended 2016 with 237 billion dollars more than they had at the start. Billionaires like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Bernard Arnault topped the Bloomberg’s list.

“The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors,” reiterated US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The US State Department declared persona non grata 35 Russian officials operating in the United States who “were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status.” These sanctions are “aimed directly at undermining Russia-US bilateral relations. They won’t be left unanswered,” replied the Russian government.

The US government authorities CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) and DDTC (Directorate of Defense Trade Controls) have cleared Chinese Midea’s 5 billion dollars take-over of German Kuka Aktiengesellschaft.

Publishing a photo of your boarding pass on the Internet would allow anyone to access and modify flight information. This is the worrying discovery revealed by experts in cybersecurity gathered this week in Germany.

Burundi‘s environment minister Emmanuel Niyonkuru was shot dead in the capital Bujumbura, police said, the first killing of its kind since the country was plunged into political turmoil two years ago.

One of the most violent years in Chicago history ended with a sobering tally: 762 homicides, the most in two decades in the city and more than New York and Los Angeles combined.

From 1 January 2017, workers have ‘right to disconnect’ as France seeks to establish agreements that afford work flexibility but avoid burnout. An employment law entered into force that obliges organizations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones.

Finland has started a radical experiment: it’s giving 2,000 citizens a guaranteed income amounting to 560 euros (587 dollars), with funds that keep flowing whether participants work or not. The program, which kicks off this month, is one of the first efforts to test a universal basic income.

Iran has published a list of 29 major companies from Europe and Asia including French group Total approved to bid for oil and gas projects after the lifting of sanctions over its nuclear program.

Will 2017 be the Year virtual reality (VR) gets real? 2016 has seen the launch of every major VR platform, from high-quality tethered systems like HTC’s Vive and Facebook’s Oculus Rift, through to cheap-and-cheerful smartphone-based platforms like Google’s Daydream and Samsung’s Gear VR.

Paris’ Court of Appeal allegedly summoned Natixis, a subsidiary of French banking group BPCE, to reintegrate a “whistleblower” sacked in 2008 and to pay him/her compensation worth around 334,000 euros.

Germany’s unemployment rate remained at 6% in December 2016, a historically low level since reunification in 1990. The German good figures have been confirmed for several years with unemployment rate progressively decreasing from 6.9% in 2013 to 6.7% in 2014 and 6.4% in 2015.

US Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced a resolution on the first day of the 115th Congress that provides a path to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law (Obamacare).

US Secretary of State nominee and former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson struck an agreement with his ex-employer that will give him a revised 180 million dollars severance package designed to meet federal conflict of interest requirements.

US President-elect Donald Trump nominated Wall Street Lawyer Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a strong signal that financial regulation in the Trump administration will emphasize helping companies raise capital in the public markets over tightening regulation.

On average, American workers in 2015 put 6.8 percent of their salaries into 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, according to a recent survey of more than 600 plans. That’s up from 6.2 percent in 2010, the Plan Sponsor Council of America found.