Week InReview
Friday | Mar 5, 2021
A gin-adjacent gimlet
The spirit is in fashion, driven by cocktail culture and an interest in botanical flavors. Varieties have proliferated, including gins that change color when mixed with tonic and others flavored with Brussels sprouts, seaweed, fresh cream and beef.

Nicholas Cook, director general of Britain’s Gin Guild, which was spun off from the centuries-old Worshipful Company of Distillers, has been willing to accept all of those. But there’s a simple rule he won’t bend: beverages labeled gin must be at least 37.5% alcohol by volume in Britain, and 40% in the U.S.

“If it’s not gin in the bottle, a brand should not put gin on the bottle,” is his mantra.

He makes his point over and over, often with a dash of bitters: “No no no #thisisnotgin” he writes on Twitter while pointing out offending beverages.

— The Wall Street Journal
let's recap...
U.S. flags fly out in front of the New York Stock Exchange in New York.
Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters
“Today we’re still a long way from our goals of maximum employment and inflation averaging 2% over time,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Thursday. His remarks came at his last scheduled public event before the Fed’s next policy meeting on March 16-17. He said the central bank will maintain ultra-low interest rates until its employment and inflation goals have been met and it will continue hefty asset purchases until “substantial further progress has been made." He said he expected it would take “some time” to meet the conditions for considering a rate increase, but declined to be more specific about an anticipated time frame. (The Wall Street Journal | Mar 4) see also Fed chair fires a shot across the bow of the Treasury market (Bloomberg Economics | Mar 4)

Bond traders have been saying for years that liquidity is there in the world’s biggest bond market, except when you really need it. Last week’s startling gyrations in U.S. Treasury yields may offer fresh backing for that mantra, and prompt another bout of soul-searching in a $21 trillion market that forms the bedrock of global finance. While stocks are prone to sudden swings, such episodes are supposed to be few and far between in a government-debt market that sets the benchmark risk-free rate for much of the world. (Bloomberg Markets | Mar 3) see also U.S. Treasury bond wobble heightens concerns over health of $21tn market (Financial Times | Mar 3)

A climate and ESG task force was created by the Securities and Exchange Commission in its division of enforcement, to develop initiatives to proactively identify ESG-related misconduct. Initial focus will be to identify any material gaps or misstatements in issuers’ disclosure of climate risks under existing rules. The task force will also analyze disclosure and compliance issues relating to the ESG strategies of investment advisers and funds. (Securities and Exchange Commission | Mar 4) see also ESG risks top the list of near-term concerns for bank executives (Bloomberg Green - Finance | Feb 1)

After a sharp sell-off last week, U.S. Treasuries have stabilized with bond market indicators and derivatives positioning pointing to near-term calm, but an improving economy could trigger another slide in their prices. The benchmark U.S. Treasury yield hit a one-year high of 1.614% on Thursday in what investors called a “tantrum without the taper.” (Reuters | Mar 2)

Anxiety about inflation is at a fever pitch, among economists and in markets, where long-term interest rates have been grinding higher since President Biden unveiled plans for huge new fiscal stimulus. Though slack in the economy and a vigilant Fed currently keep prices well in check, some economists say political pressure and new emphasis on maximizing employment could test central bank’s resolve. (The Wall Street Journal | Mar 1)
5 takeaways from SEC, CFPB nominees' confirmation
U.S. Senate chamber
(Mar 2) — Here are five key takeaways from the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for the nominees to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • SEC nominee Gary Gensler committed to looking at payment-for-order-flow, the system where retail brokerages such as Robinhood sell their orders to big market makers like Citadel Securities to execute trades. The system underpins zero-commission trading, but critics say retail investors might not be getting the best execution.
  • CFPB nominee Rohit Chopra said he backs the U.S. making its own real-time payment system to give consumers faster access to and better control over their own dollars. That could pose a challenge to the real-time payment system the largest U.S. banks created a few years back.
  • Gensler said he will seek to ensure cryptocurrency markets are free of fraud and manipulation, comments that sent the price of Bitcoin to its lowest levels of the day.
  • Chopra, asked how he’d protect veterans as head of the CFPB, said he would be on the lookout for banks and financial institutions that take advantage of veterans – who often have complex finances – and see whether any problems are tied to those banks not properly maintaining internal controls.
  • Both Gensler and Chopra are expected to be confirmed. Senators have until Friday to submit additional questions to both men before the process begins moving ahead.

Source: Jenny Surane/Bloomberg Government
the cyber cafe
DHS issues emergency warning on Microsoft eMail software
The Department of Homeland Security has issued an emergency warning to U.S. government agencies over Microsoft Exchange email software after the computer giant warned customers that state-sponsored hackers in China had attempted to exploit vulnerabilities to break into some email accounts.

Government must update identity management standards for cloud ops: CISA
Jay Gazlay, technical strategist at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said the government must establish an updated guidance on identity management following the SolarWinds large-scale data breach.

SolarWinds says it's cooperating with probes by SEC and Justice
SolarWinds Corp. said it’s cooperating with numerous investigations – including by the U.S. Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and various state Attorneys General – into a massive cyber-attack by suspected Russian hackers that targeted its software.
binge reading disorder
Photos: Getty Images
How to decode office body language while working from home
We were once fluent in the nonverbal cues of the physical office. Slumped shoulders or a downcast look were enough to know when the boss was disappointed or a colleague stressed. A cryptic email often only necessitated rotating our chairs 180 degrees to get clarification from the sender. There are still plenty of ways to read nonverbal cues if you know where to look.

'Vaccine passports' could be coming
Governments around the world are warming up to the idea of requiring proof that travelers are vaccinated or don't have Covid-19, with both the European Union and China signaling they would move ahead with "vaccine passport" plans.

The 3 kinds of intuition you need to make tough decisions
Some of the world’s most successful leaders and innovators intentionally tap into their intuition before making critical decisions.
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