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Markets suffer worst year since global financial crisis

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Traders will be glad to see the back of 2018. Nearly $7 trillion has been wiped off world stocks, emerging markets have been trampled flat by a charging dollar and even gold and U.S. government bonds have lost money.

A grisly combination of U.S.-China trade tensions, central banks turning off the money taps and cooling growth in former hot spots has wiped 10 percent off MSCI’s 47-country world stocks index .MIWD00000PUS — its first double-digit loss in any year since the 2008 global financial crisis.

Many places have fared far worse. Top Chinese shares .CSI300 have fallen 25 percent into ‘bear’ territory, export bellwether Germany .GDAXI has shed 16 percent, and Turkey and Argentina have led emerging markets losses, down 45 and 50 percent respectively.

Add in a wild 35 percent plunge in oil prices LCOc1 since September, rises in Italian, Greek and now French borrowing costs that show euro zone worries remain alive, and a full scale cryptocurrency collapse, and it has been unequivocally brutal.

“After 10 years of low interest rates and quantitative easing I think we have to understand how some of this leverage in the market can unwind,” said Allianz Global Investors fund manager and global strategist Neil Dwane.

“What was a virtuous circle on the way up can become a vicious one on the way down.”

A fair bit of the year’s pain has stemmed from swift move up in U.S. interest rates and a pumped-up dollar .DXY, which has had its best year in three years.

As a result, the euro EUR=, pound GBP=, Canadian and Aussie dollars CAD=AUD= and Swedish crown SEK= have all lost between 5 and 10 percent and though the Japanese yen JPY= comes out largely unscathed, emerging markets certainly haven’t.

Argentina’s peso ARS= and Turkey’s lira TRY= have slumped 50 and 30 percent, while India’s rupee IDR=, South Africa’s rand ZAR=, Brazil’s real BRL= and Russia’s rouble RUB= are all down between 10 to 15 percent. China’s yuan CNYUSD=R is in the red for a fourth year in five.

Emerging market shares meanwhile have hemorrhaged almost 17 percent .MSCIEF and JP Morgan’s EM local currency bond index has lost nearly 8 percent. tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

Dalton Investments emerging market portfolio manager Pedro Zevallos said the big falls meant many markets, including China were now cheap. “But right now it honestly feels like catching a falling knife.”

“And my concern going into next year is that the dollar will continue to strengthen.”

TECH PROBLEMS

As well as the escalation in global trade tensions this year there has been the realization among investors that the big central banks aren’t thinking about stimulating the economy anymore — they’re trying to rebuild their arsenals in case of recession.

But the year hasn’t been a complete write-off everywhere.

While the S&P 500 and Dow Wall Street bellwethers are down the most since 2008, at around 5 percent their losses aren’t too bad, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq .NDX is clinging on for its 10th consecutive year of gains.

The FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) have had rollercoaster year. As a group, they are ending 2018 worth roughly $2.8 trillion — more or less where they started it, but down some $800 billion or 24 percent from their late August peak.

There has been a big parting of the ways too. While Amazon (AMZN.O) and Netflix (NFLX.O) have surged 33 and 45 percent, repeated scandals over data misuse and fake news propagation have slashed 19 percent off Facebook (FB.O) shares.

Asia, Europe stocks slide after Fed rate hike

Asia’s equivalent BAT group, made up of Badia (600865.SS), Alibaba (BABA.K) and Tencent (0700.HK), have all down somewhere between 18 and 25 percent.

CRYPTOCOLLAPSE

With China also the biggest consumer of industrial commodities, its misfiring economy has contributed to the respective 17 and 23 percent declines in the price of copper CMCU3 and zinc CMZN3, used in things like pipes and galvanized steel.

The big cryptocollapse has seen Bitcoin BTC=BTSP crash 72 percent. There are now over 2,000 other digital currencies in circulation but their value has plummeted to $128 billion from over $800 billion in January.

But even traditional safe-havens have failed to provide much in the way of protection.

Another four U.S. interest hikes have cost Treasury bond holders US10YT=RR nearly 2 percent despite a better last few months and the euro’s fall puts German Bunds down 2.3 percent in dollar terms. Gold is 4 percent less precious.

Italy’s government bonds meanwhile have plunged 9 percent after an anti-establishment government took charge in Rome and the European Central Bank confirmed its huge bond-buying program will end this year.

“The question as we look into 2019 and 2020 is how much worse the trade/tech cold war and Brexit get,” Allianz’s Dwayne said. “That could tells us that maybe we are not going to see a traditional downturn but a significant one.” -Reuters

– Marc Jones

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South Africa aims to finalize long-term energy plan next month: minister

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South Africa is aiming to finalize a long-term plan for the country’s energy mix next month, and once that is done it will launch another round of renewable energy deals, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said on Wednesday.

“We are aiming for February,” Radebe told Reuters, when asked when the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) would be completed. “Straight away after that we will launch more renewable energy contracts,” he added. -Reuters

-Alexander Winning

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The Happiest Companies To Work For In 2018

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Companies that keep employees happy aren’t just helping their workers—they’re helping themselves, since satisfied workers are more productive. In fact, a mutual fund that invests in companies with positive workplace ratings, Parnassus Endeavor, has beaten the market handily over the past 10 years.

What are the organizations with the happiest employees? Careers site CareerBliss launched its eighth-annual list of the happiest companies in America. It surveyed tens of thousands of workers and asked them to rate their employers on ten key factors, such as their relationship with management, workplace environment, compensation, satisfaction with job function and growth opportunities.

To see the top 10 happiest companies to work for, open the gallery below. For the full list of 50, see the end of this article.

Keller Williams Realty takes the top spot. The Austin, Texas company has 175,000 agents across more than 900 metro areas and claims to be the world’s largest real estate franchise by agent count. A Keller Williams Realty employee wrote on CareerBliss.com, “One of the greatest benefits is how our company promotes from within. All employees are encouraged and supported to be in control of their growth and career paths.”

Sneaker king Nike ranks second. It remains one of the most valuable brands in the world, and it’s navigating a big transition as more consumers shop online. In June it announced its “NIKE Direct” initiative—the company is trying to sell more of its products directly to consumers through its website and own stores, rather than rely on traditional retailers like Foot Locker.

Adobe is the fourth happiest company, according to CareerBliss. The Silicon Valley tech giant invented PDFs and launched them 1993. It claims PDFs have led to a 91% reduction in environmental impact and 90% cost savings when compared with paper-based processes. And Adobe’s Photoshop software is used by 90% of creative professionals. “The atmosphere is highly collaborative and energizing. People have always been friendly and helpful; very professional,” wrote one employee on CareerBliss.com.

Pharmaceutical giant Amgen ranks fifth. Arthritis drug Enbrel is its top-selling product, bringing in nearly $6 billion in sales last year. “The work-life balance is great, fantastic daycare on campus, lots of smart co-workers,” wrote one CareerBliss reviewer. “Working for Amgen was very rewarding to see the positive impact we made in patients’ lives,” reported a West Coast employee.

Full List: The Happiest Companies to Work for in 2018

  1. Keller Williams Realty
  2. Nike
  3. Total Quality Logistics
  4. Adobe
  5. Amgen
  6. Chevron
  7. Intuit
  8. Bristol-Myers Squibb
  9. PNC Financial Services Group
  10. TruGreen
  11. CIGNA
  12. Starbucks
  13. Apple
  14. Quicken Loans
  15. Leidos
  16. Qualcomm
  17. iGATE
  18. The Vanguard Group
  19. Citrix Systems
  20. Kaiser Permanente
  21. Chase
  22. Pfizer
  23. Fidelity Investments
  24. American Income Life Insurance Company
  25. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
  26. American Express
  27. GE Capital
  28. Merck
  29. American Airlines
  30. Microsoft
  31. Cisco Systems
  32. Nordstrom
  33. Exxon Mobil
  34. Alcatel-Lucent
  35. CenturyLink
  36. Bank of America
  37. The Walt Disney Company
  38. Wells Fargo
  39. Oracle
  40. Citigroup
  41. Broadcom
  42. Farmers Insurance Group of Companies
  43. DirecTV
  44. Dell
  45. Symantec
  46. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
  47. ABC News
  48. CareFusion
  49. Spectrum
  50. Verizon Communications
    – Jeff Kauflin

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5 Questions You Should Never Ask During A Job Interview

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So, you think you’re acing your job interview.


Your interviewer seems to like you. You like your job interviewer. The camaraderie couldn’t be better.

Then comes the proverbial: “So, what questions do you have for me?”

Whether you’re interviewing for a job at Google or joining your local small business, the questions that you ask your interviewer matter. It’s your opportunity to showcase your talents, knowledge, and judgment.

Here are 5 questions that you should never ask during a job interview (and three more that you should).

1. “So, how much will I get paid?”

This seems like a no-brainer, but for some reason, interviewees still think the question is fair play.

That said, it is a fair question. After all, you need to know how much you’ll be paid before you take the job. While that’s true, the interview is not the time to discuss salary.

If you receive a job offer, you can discuss salary at that time.

2. “How much vacation time will I get?”

Again, your vacation and personal time might be an important part of your calculus when deciding to take a job offer.

However, asking how much vacation time you’ll get demonstrates you’re focused more on time off than working.

Like salary, your vacation and other benefits should be reflected in the job offer. You can ask all the questions related to salary and benefits at that time. You can also schedule a follow-up session with the human resources department for a benefits deep-dive.

3. “How quickly can I get promoted?”

Climbing the ladder of your potentially new organization is admirable.

However, don’t assume during the interview that you have the job. It’s important to understand options for movement – both upward and lateral – within the organization. If you plan to work at this organization, it’s essential to understand your career trajectory.

You don’t want to come off as entitled. This question may convey to the interviewer that you think you already have the job (when you don’t).

4. “Why did the company fire so many people last month?”

It’s never a good sign to read about layoffs.

This is especially true when you may be joining an organization after a big headcount reduction.

It’s a fair question, and you should understand the details. However, the job interview is the wrong time.

When you receive your job offer, you can have a frank conversation with your manager about the layoffs, the rationale, whether additional layoffs are expected and other related information to fortify your understanding.

Before accepting a job, make sure to understand if the headcount reduction is expected to be ongoing or if it was a one-time occurrence.

5. “So, who do you consider your competition?”

Instead of asking your interviewer about the competition, spend the time asking questions that demonstrate your interest in the company and also show that you’ve done research prior to your interview.

Before the interview, you should have conducted due diligence on the competitive landscape.

That includes understanding key competitors, relative strengths and weaknesses, the supply chain, key opportunities and threats, barriers to entry and other pertinent market dynamics.

You’re better off weaving this information into the interview, rather than asking during the question period.

3 Questions That You Can Ask During An Interview

Here are three potential questions that you could ask during your job interview:

1. “What are the best attributes of the company’s culture?”

  • Show your interest in company culture.
  • Understand the key values that set this company apart.
  • Learn more about the company’s mission and value proposition.

2. “How much is collaboration across departments encouraged?”

  • Determine whether collaboration is promoted internally.
  • Learn more about ways in which collaboration helps create value for employees and customers.
  • See if the interviewer can share concrete examples to further your understanding.

3. “What would you like the person that you hire to accomplish over the next 6-12 months?”

  • Learn about your interviewer’s goals for the position.
  • Understand expectations.
  • This will give you insights because the question is specific to the role and shows your ability to think longer-term.
  • -Zack Friedman

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