Week InReview
Friday | Oct 8, 2021
I work, therefore I am.
Photo: Dominic Bugatto/WSJ
WE PUT in too many hours; we don’t take vacation; we can’t say no to that 6 a.m. conference call. Underneath it all is something bigger: an emotional attachment to our jobs that exhausts us and squeezes out the other parts of our identities. For years, we were told to find meaning and purpose at work, while other parts of modern life, like church, receded. Then came the pandemic.

Boundaries gone, meetings multiplying, many say work has taken over their lives during the pandemic. Can we learn to care less? (Ideally, without having a brush with death?) What happens if we let go, just a little? Here’s how to gain perspective and take back control.

— The Wall Street Journal
let's recap...
Industry data suggests primary dealers, the banks that are tasked with providing a stream of prices for Treasuries, pulled back from the market in February and March last year before the Fed stepped in.
Photo: Financial Times
U.S. government bond specialists are starting to fret over how the world’s most important market will cope when the Federal Reserve pulls back its pandemic-era support. The $22tn Treasuries market forms the basis for pricing other assets around the world. It is famed for its liquidity — a broad term meaning it is easy to hop in and out of trades. But on several occasions since Covid-19 first hit, gaps in liquidity have appeared, creating jerky price movements. (Financial Times | Oct 7)

The U.S. Senate has voted to extend the debt ceiling until December 3, providing short-term relief to investors and executives who had fretted about a government default as soon as this month. The upper chamber of Congress voted late on Thursday along party lines, 50-48, to extend the public borrowing limit by $480bn and avoid a default for the next two months. (Financial Times | Oct 7)

Wall Street’s new overseer has outlined an aggressive regulatory agenda that threatens to squeeze the financial industry’s profit margins. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler is working on tougher rules for high-speed trading firms, private-equity managers, mutual funds and online brokerages. Mr. Gensler, less than six months on the job, says he wants to make the capital markets less costly for companies raising money as well as for ordinary investors saving for retirement. His main targets are what he says are profits and salaries earned above what a purely competitive market would allow, known as economic rents. (The Wall Street Journal | Oct 5) see also SEC chief says the U.S. won’t ban cryptocurrencies (Bloomberg Markets | Oct 5)

Two infamous stock volatility strategies on Wall Street look set for a comeback — with protective buffers this time round. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has approved rule changes that pave the way for a pair of ETFs from Volatility Shares LLC to list and trade. The two products will offer leveraged bets on the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX. (Bloomberg Markets | Oct 5)

Treasury Department officials are debating whether the U.S., the International Monetary Fund’s largest shareholder, should ask Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to resign amid an ethics scandal. The Treasury’s deliberation continues as the Washington-based fund said its executive board met with Georgieva on Wednesday as part of its ongoing review of an investigation by law firm WilmerHale, commissioned by the World Bank. (Bloomberg Politics | Oct 6)
SEC may issue new rules for leveraged and inverse ETFs: Gensler
Gary Gensler
(Oct 4) — U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler says the regulator may write new rules for complex exchange-traded products.
  • Gensler said in a Monday statement that he’s asked staff to study possible risks related to the products
  • He adds that some products “can potentially create system-wide risks by operating in unanticipated ways when markets experience volatility or stress conditions”
  • The agency’s two other Democratic commissioners, Allison Herren Lee and Caroline Crenshaw, also issued a statement calling for an update to rules for ETPs
  • The commissioners say in their statements that the SEC voted on Oct. 1 to approve two ETFs based on VIX futures.

Source: Ben Bain/Bloomberg Government
the cyber cafe
Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
White House to enlist 30 countries to fight ransomware
The White House plans to enlist 30 other countries to join forces in the fight against increasingly frequent ransomware attacks and other kinds of cybercrime, including the illegal use of cryptocurrency. The first meeting will be this month, hosted by the U.S. and held virtually. The so-called “Counter-Ransomware Initiative” is meant to be an informal mechanism to boost cooperation and target the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments, the officials said.

Assessing insider threats
The Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA) published a tool to help companies determine the level of risk they face from employees violating cyber rules. The tool also offers guidance for creating a plan to decrease vulnerabilities.

CIA director creates unit focusing on China
The Central Intelligence Agency says as a result of an organizational review it will form a China Mission Center, a Transnational and Technology Mission Center and create a new chief technology officer position.
  • The China Mission Center will unify “our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government,” CIA Director William Burns said in statement
  • The new chief technology officer position and Transnational and Technology Mission Center will “address global issues critical to U.S. competitiveness, including new and emerging technologies, economic security, climate change”: Burns
  • NOTE: From August: CIA weighs creating special China unit in bid to out-spy Beijing
— Nasdaq
binge reading disorder
Le Bernardin (New York) is one of only 5 U.S. restaurants in the top 50.
Photo: Daniel Krieger
These are the 50 best restaurants in the world
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list has been around since 2002, when it appeared in the U.K. magazine Restaurant. It is organized and compiled by William Reed Business Media. It is created from the votes of over 1,000 restaurateurs, chefs and food writers as well as that amorphous group known as ‘foodies.’ 

America’s pandemic is now an outlier in the rich world
The U.S., at 2,000 Covid-19 deaths a day, is only 40% below the country’s January peak. But the true death toll is even worse. The Economist’s excess-deaths model, which estimates the difference between the actual and the expected number of deaths recorded in a given period, suggests that America is suffering 2,800 pandemic deaths per day, with a plausible range of 900 to 3,300, compared with 1,000 (150 to 3,000) in all other high-income countries, as defined by the World Bank. Adjusting for population, the death rate is now about eight times higher in America than in the rest of the rich world.

Facebook Is weak
Facebook is in trouble. Not financial trouble, or legal trouble, or even senators-yelling-at-Mark-Zuckerberg trouble. It's a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize. It’s a cloud of existential dread that hangs over an organization whose best days are behind it, influencing every managerial priority and product decision and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out. Insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues.
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