Cloud Hosting is The Architecture of Cloud Computing Techniques

Cloud Hosting Technique

Cloud Hosting is The Architecture of Cloud Computing Techniques

Cloud Hosting is The Architecture of Cloud Computing Techniques

provides the hosting services in the form of a single virtual machine and is implemented through the use of cloud computing and cloud architecture. It dynamically distributes data and processes across the small servers of the system for processing. The cloud hosting system is divided into many virtual machines. The services offered by a loud hosting service provider are located at its premises and these can be accessed by using client software.

The cloud hosting allows the users to get their applications up and running much faster and enables the quick readjustment of virtual resources to meet the dynamic demands like increased data rate, traffic size and storage requirements. The users can assess the cloud using different client devices like desktops, laptops, tablets and phones. Some of the user devices require real time cloud computing for running their applications, while others can interact with a cloud application via web browsers. Some cloud applications only support specific client software dedicated for these applications. Some legacy applications are also supported through screen sharing technology. The internet giants such as Google and Amazon are using this state of art hosting technology successfully for their servers.

Cloud hosting can be offered in three different modes i.e. infrastructure as a service(IaaS) , platform as a service(PaaS) and software as a service(SaaS). The basic mode IaaS , offers the services in the form of physical or virtual machines ( computers & other processing devices), raw/block storage , firewalls , load balancing mechanism and networks .The IaaS mode services provider supply these resources from a large deployed pool of resources in data centers andthis also include provisioning of local area networks and  IP addresses. The PaaS mode cloud hosting services provider offers a cloud computing platform  that include an operating system, programming execution environment, database and server. The PaaS application software can be developed and run on a cloud platform and does not involve cost and complexity of buying and managing the hardware and software layers. The (SaaS) mode cloud hosting services provider  install and operate application software in the cloud and cloud users access the software from cloud clients and the cloud platform in this case is not managed by the clients. Clouds hosting can be physically deployed in the form of public cloud, personal cloud, hybrid cloud and community cloud.

Cloud hosting has greatly reduced the website operational cost. In older versions of servers, the clients used to pay for a specific bandwidth irrespective of the traffic on that server. The cloud hosting has tackled this problem through the skillful use of variable costing method, where the cost will increase with the traffic and as the load/traffic reduces the cost will be automatically decreases.

The cloud hosting has a great advantage in terms of its security, as it operates in isolated environment and only the host has the access to it. One of the biggest advantages of cloud hosting is that the cloud platform manageability, maintenance and upgrades can be easily and remotely accomplished, as it does not require any physical/hardware maintenance repair and replacement.

Call Centers Tap Voice-Analysis Software to Monitor Moods

We all know how it feels to be low on energy at the end of a long work day. Some call-center agents at insurer MetLife are watched over by software that knows how it sounds.

A program called Cogito presents a cheery notification when the toll of hours discussing maternity or bereavement benefits show in a worker’s voice. “It’s represented by a cute little coffee cup,” says Emily Baker, who supervises a group fielding calls about disability claims at MetLife.

Her team reports that the cartoon cup is a helpful nudge to sit up straight and speak like the engaged helper MetLife wants them to be. The voice-analysis algorithms also track customer reactions. When call agents see a heart icon, they know the software has detected a heightened emotional state, either positive or negative. Baker says that emotional sixth sense can be helpful when talking with people adjusting to life’s most stressful events. “If a call becomes not so positive, it lets the associate to know to offer a little bit of hope,” she says.

Voice-controlled virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa are becoming common in homes. MetLife is part of a quieter experiment using the same underlying technology to create superhuman helpers that are still part human. In workplaces, though, deploying smarter software will yield consequences more complex than just “Algorithms in, humans out.” A McKinsey report last year concluded that many more jobs will be transformed than eliminated by new technology in coming years.

Call centers have often been on the frontline of changes in labor and technology. A wave of US companies outsourced call centers to cheaper countries such as India and the Philippines beginning in the 1980s. More recently, voice recognition technology has been enthusiastically embraced to automate simple tasks that once required a human on both ends of the line, such as checking a bank balance or confirming a medical appointment.

Anyone who’s spent time with Siri or Alexa knows that computers are far from good enough with language to replace a human customer service agent. But MetLife and other early adopters say call center workers become more empathetic and efficient when they have a machine-learning powered wingman that can recognize words and traces of emotion.

At State Collection Service, this notification appears on a call agent’s screen when software judges based on tone and words that a customer may be becoming unhappy.

State Collection Agency

MetLife’s empathy adviser was developed by MIT spin-out Cogito. CEO Josh Feast says his software can detect signs of distress and other emotions in a customer’s voice thanks to Pentagon-funded research at the university’s Media Lab.

In a project intended to help veterans with PTSD, the Department of Defense paid for medical staff to interview patients with psychological problems and annotate audio files of the data to mark changes in emotional state. That provided the perfect feedstock for machine-learning software now used in industries including healthcare and financial services, says Feast. Cogito applied deep-learning algorithms like those behind the improved speech recognition in assistants like Alexa to the Pentagon’s data, and audio from call centers and other sources.

In addition to nudging call agents to pep up their tone, or respond to distress in a caller’s voice, Cogito’s software listens to the pace and pattern of calls. Agents see a notification if they start speaking more quickly, a caller is silent for a long time, or the caller and agent talk over each other. Humans can notice all those things, but struggle to do so consistently, says Feast. “We’re trying to help someone doing 60 calls a day, and who may be tired,” he says.

Eavesdropping by corporate, emotionally aware software, may bother some consumers, even those used to being watched by cameras and online tracking. Analyzing a customer’s voice doesn’t require additional disclosure beyond the familiar line advising that calls may be monitored. “I’m habituated to that warning but this feels different,” says Elaine Sedenberg, a graduate researcher and co-director of the Center for Technology, Society & Policy at the University of California Berkeley. “I’m not expecting that extra layer of analysis.”

Sedenberg also questions whether technology like Cogito’s works equally well across different groups of people, which could lead to disparities in service between different social or ethnic groups. The company says it has tested the software on a range of demographics, and that non-verbal cues are more reliable across languages than analyzing the words people say. As well as US customers like MetLife and Humana, Cogito is used by Zurich Financial, where the primary language is German. Cogito does not provide guidance to customers on what it would consider inappropriate uses of the product, but says it is designed to only deliver insights that improve customer relations.

MetLife says it’s already seeing Cogito’s insights paying off. The company has deployed the technology in three customer-call teams in different parts of the business, and is planning a wider rollout. Kristine Poznanski, executive vice president of customer solutions, says that the initial deployments have driven customer satisfaction up, and the average duration of calls down.

State Collection Service, which handles collections for many healthcare companies from three call centers in Wisconsin, reports similar gains from deploying a competing product. The company has customized a real-time call monitoring tool from CallMiner, based in Waltham, Massachusetts. It is based on speech analysis technology from Nuance, which for a time powered the speech recognition capabilities of Apple’s Siri.

Employees at State Collection see messages of congratulation and cute animal photos when software suggests a customer is satisfied, for example. When tone and language suggest a caller is getting worked up, employees see a suggestion to “Calm down” and a list of soothing talking points. If a worker omits legally required disclaimers, the system sends a reminder.

Chief operating officer Tracy Dudek estimates that a worker might see three to five notifications a minute during a typical call. That might sound like a lot, but she says call agents like it because it helps them in their job, boosting their chances of a performance-related bonus. The system has helped bring about a significant jump in the number of cases resolved in a single call, and increased revenue per call agent, Dudek says.

As you might expect, making some workers more productive can mean there’s less work for others to do. A few years ago, State Collection introduced a system that uses speech recognition to retrospectively transcribe every call. Since then, Dudek says the company has reduced the number of people and amount of time dedicated to reviewing calls for quality assurance. The newer, real-time voice analysis has helped the company increase the number of call agents overseen by a single supervisor, she says.

The technology has also led to new hires. The CallMiner system can spot shifts in tone or stress in a person’s voice, but it doesn’t automatically decide which phrases are most important to a specific business. So State Collection hired a new employee to identify signals and phrases for the software to watch for. One finding: A person saying “This is ridiculous” is the most reliable indicator they are becoming dissatisfied. Dudek also credits the call monitoring system with helping State Collections grow its business, which has led to more hiring.

As AI-assisted call agents become more common, expect companies to find new ways to use their powers. MetLife is deploying Cogito into a sales team pitching auto and home insurance. Poznanski says she’s interested in using the technology to spot when a person is about to say something signaling a lack of interest so the salesperson can get in first. “When a customer is potentially uninterested we could pick that up sooner to help position the value that MetLife brings,” Poznanski says.

Cogito is also working with the Veterans Administration to test an app that analyzes voice recordings and tries to give health staff a forewarning of major shifts in a patient’s mental health. Some of those who have experienced the technology in the call center could imagine it being useful in more casual situations, too. MetLife’s Baker says she’s thought it could help during presentations. When WIRED asked if she was using the software during a recent interview, she laughed, then turned thoughtful. “I wish I could, I’d love to know how I was doing.”

AIs to Watch Over You

Watch a Robot 'Hen' Adopt a Flock of Chicks

I don’t want to tell these baby chickens how to live, but they’re going about their business all wrong. The cylindrical robot in their pen looks nothing like a hen, and it makes decidedly un-hen-like beeps, yet the chicks trail it obsessively, as if it’s their mother. Where the PoulBot goes, so too go the yellow little fluffs. Beep beep beep, says the robot. Chirp chirp chirp, say the chicks.

Courtesy of José Halloy/Unit of Social Ecology, ULB, Brussels and Alexey Gribovskiy/Robotic Systems Laboratory, EPFL, Lausanne

The idea behind this pairing, developed by researchers from several European universities, isn’t to give the chicks a complex—I promise—but to parse the extreme complexities of animal behaviors, especially as those behaviors manifest in groups. The ultimate goal is to develop robots that behave with the complexity of living beings so they can interact more realistically with actual animals.

The secret is imprinting. Around 5 hours after they hatch, chicks begin to grow deeply attached to their mother. It’s such a strong instinct that if something, anything, moves, chances are a chick will form a bond with it. That’s why farmers—at least the small-scale ones—go out of their way to bond themselves to their birds. It makes the critters more managable.

And researchers can use imprinting to trick chicks into falling in love with robots. First they put the chicks in little plexiglass boxes from which they watch PoulBot scoot back and forth. All the while the robot calls out, though not with pre-recorded hen sounds. “If you start to emit real sound, you have to understand what those real sounds mean, and you have to translate chicken language,” says Université Paris Diderot physicist José Halloy, co-author of a new paper detailing the process. So the robot makes sounds that are chicken-ish, which helps the creatures bond to it.

Now the chicks are ready to meet their adopted mother face-to-face in a little pen. PoulBot isn’t programmed to act like a classical chicken mom, though. Instead, it leads the chicks to a particular spot in the pen, constantly monitoring who’s following. “If someone is missing you have to go back and fetch them, stimulate the chicks to follow, and then go back to the target,” says Halloy.

An overhead camera tracks each chick, and PoulBot has a special covering around its base so the animals don’t get their toes squished in the tracks. (Tracks instead of wheels, by the way, so the works don’t get gunked up with chick crap. It’s a tank on a battlefield of excrement.) The researchers also programmed PoulBot with a behavior called avoid-running-over-chick. “If a chick has fallen asleep during the experiment and hence lies below the level of the sensors,” they write in their paper, they don’t want it to be in danger. PoulBot must not kill its fuzzy babies! So it uses accelerometer readings to tell if it’s no longer on flat ground, and will back up accordingly. “The results are not very interesting if you destroy half of your animals during your experiments,” says computer engineer and study co-author Alexey Gribovskiy of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

Now, while the majority of chicks imprint on the robot, they imprint on it to different degrees, which is important because that influences the dynamics of the group. “Obviously if you have only strongly imprinted chicks, you get the military march,” says Halloy. “Everybody follows the leader. If you have a bunch of mixed weakly imprinted and strongly imprinted and in-between chicks, you have some kind of organized chaos there.”

Some chicks follow the robot and some chicks follow other chicks, creating a dynamic mob that’s tracked by the overhead camera. Algorithms even calculate their speed and acceleration, classifying every chick by how it’s behaving. This tells the researchers not only how well the robot is indoctrinating the subjects, but how chicks can vary in their acceptance of a fake mother.

Now, developing animal behavior models to power robots is hard. I can’t do it, and you probably can’t do it. “It takes a PhD to build a model, which means four years of work,” says Halloy. The PoulBot speeds that process up. “The idea was to use robots and artificial intelligence to automate as much as possible to produce a model faster,” Halloy adds. That’s right—postdocs aren’t safe from automation either.

Unravel the intricacies of flocking behavior and figure out what cues a robot needs to send to get an animal to accept it as a mother, and you can build robots that get animals to do certain tasks. “I could imagine scenarios where robots act to lead animals to a food source or a medical treatment area without stressing them,” says ecologist and biomimetic roboticist David Bierbach, who wasn’t involved in the research.

The shepherds on the farms of the future, then, may well be robots. Robots on tracks, not wheels, of course.

More Weird Wired Robots

This MLP Still Looks Attractive After The FERC's Policy Revision

By the Sure Dividend staff

Master limited partnerships are an interesting asset class for high-yield investors. There are a number of reasons why.

First of all, they have distribution yields that are well above the average dividend yield in the S&P 500. This makes MLPs an attractive asset class for retirees and other income-oriented investors.

In addition to their high yields, MLPs are notably tax efficient. Since a portion of MLP distributions are composed of a return of capital, MLP investors can defer a portion of their distribution taxes until they actually sell the security.

MLPs also offer reasonable diversification opportunities. Many investors are surprised at how many publicly-traded MLPs trade on the major stock exchanges. In fact, there are currently 128 MLPs in our investment universe. You can see our full list of MLPs here.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides to investing in MLPs is their (sometimes) elevated levels of stock price volatility.

This was seen on March 15th, when the entire MLP sector took it on the chin in response to a notable policy revision from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. More specifically, the FERC published a press release stating that they will no longer allow MLPs that operate interstate pipelines to recover an income tax allowance in the calculation of their cost of service rate agreements.

Fortunately, not all MLPs are created equal. While the FERC’s new decision will certainly impact some partnership’s, others will be barely impacted.

In fact, several MLPs countered the FERC’s announcement by publishing their own press releases and stating that they expect to experience no material impact from the policy revision.

This article will discuss one such master limited partnership – Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). More specifically, this article will provide a detailed analysis of the FERC’s decision and Energy Transfer Partners’ response before concluding with an update on the partnership’s expected total returns.

Inside The FERC’s Press Release

The FERC’s press release is surprisingly short (especially when you consider the impact that the press release had on the unit prices of various MLPs). Because of its brevity, we believe that the best way for investors to understand the press release’s implications is to read the publication in its entirety.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today responded to a federal court remand by stating it no longer will allow master limited partnership (NYSE:MLP) interstate natural gas and oil pipelines to recover an income tax allowance in cost of service rates.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in United Airlines, Inc. v. FERC, (827 F.3d 122 (D.C. Cir. 2016) held that FERC failed to demonstrate there was no double recovery of income tax costs when permitting SFPP, L.P., an MLP, to recover both an income tax allowance and a return on equity determined by the discounted cash flow methodology.

The Commission today acted in response both to the court remand and comments filed in response to an inquiry issued after the court ruling. FERC will now revise its 2005 Policy Statement for Recovery of Income Tax Costs so that it no longer will allow MLPs to recover an income tax allowance in the cost of service.

The revised policy statement explains that, while all partnerships seeking to recover an income tax allowance will need to address the double-recovery concern, the application of the United Airlines court case to non-MLP partnerships will be addressed as those issues arise in subsequent proceedings.

In Docket Nos. IS08-390-008 and IS08-390-009, the Commission denies SFPP an income tax allowance and determines a real return on equity of 10.24 percent (Agenda Item G-3). In Docket Nos. IS09-437-008, et al., FERC accepts SFFP’s compliance filing, subject to the company submitting a further compliance that, among other things, removes the income tax allowance in SFPP’s East Line cost of service and calculates refunds (Agenda Item G-4).”

Source: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Website

This press release is chock full of legal jargon, so we’d like to simplify the terminology a bit for you.

There are two types of fee structures that pipeline MLPs can use to determine the fees they charge to their customers:

  • Cost of service agreements, under which service fees are calculated based on the expenses incurred by the pipeline
  • Other agreements, which are calculated based on other criteria

Cost of service agreements have historically included income tax as an expense. Under this new ruling, this will no longer be permitted, which means that only companies that use cost of service agreements will be impacted by this new FERC ruling.

An article from Bloomberg on this topic had a very concise summary. The passage is so insightful that we’ve decided to include it in this analysis:

“[I]t’s unclear how much the ruling will impact different assets, Selman Akyol, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. wrote in a note Thursday. That’s because these pipelines can charge rates based on different agreements — there are “cost of service” rates, which will be affected, as well as market-based rates or negotiated ones, which won’t be impacted. What’s more, “cost of service” rates are partly built on aspects that have nothing to do with taxes — including maintenance and depreciation costs for the pipeline.”

Source: Bloomberg

Energy Transfer Partners is one example of a master limited partnership that does not use cost of service rate agreements. Accordingly, the partnership’s irrational price decline after the FERC’s press release has only amplified its expected returns and created a compelling buying opportunity for today’s investors.

Before discussing Energy Transfer Partners’ expected total returns, however, we’d like to provide you with some information on the partnership’s response to the FERC’s press release.

Energy Transfer Partners’ Response

Like the FERC’s press release, Energy Transfer Partners’ response is short – in fact, even shorter than the original publication. The partnership’s single-paragraph response to the FERC’s press release is quoted below:

“Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (NYSE: ETP) is aware of revisions the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) is proposing to its 2005 Policy Statement for Recovery of Income Tax Costs, which if adopted after a public comment period, would no longer allow interstate pipelines owned by master limited partnerships to recover an income tax allowance in the cost of service. These revisions are not expected to have a material impact to ETP’s earnings and cash flow. Many of ETP’s rates are set pursuant to negotiated rate arrangements or rate settlements that it believes would not be subject to adjustment, or would be limited in terms of adjustment. In addition, many of its current transportation services are provided at discounted rates that are below maximum tariff rates, many of which it believes would not be impacted by a change in the maximum tariff rate.”

Source: Energy Transfer Partners, emphasis our own

As you can see, Energy Transfer Partners’ rate agreements are largely structured outside of cost of service rate agreements. This means that the partnership will experience no meaningful impact under the FERC’s new policy revision.

With this in mind, we believe that Energy Transfer Partners continues to look attractive here. To conclude this article, we’ll provide an update on the partnership’s expected total return profile.

Valuation & Expected Total Returns

Like most MLP’s, Energy Transfer Partners distributes the vast majority of its cash flow as distributions to its unitholders. Accordingly, the partnership’s distribution yield is the most notable component of its expected return profile.

Energy Transfer Partners currently pays a quarterly distribution of $0.565, equivalent to an annualized distribution payout of $2.26. Using the company’s March 16th closing price of $16.97, Energy Transfer Partners is currently priced at a distribution yield of 13.3%.

The following diagram compares the MLP’s current distribution yield to its long-term historical average.

ETP Energy Transfer Partners Distribution Yield History

Source: YCharts

As you can see from the chart above, Energy Transfer Partners’ current distribution yield is noticeably above its long-term average.

Here’s what the numbers look like: Energy Transfer Partners has traded at an average distribution yield of 9.0% over the last 5 years and an average distribution yield of 14.5% over the last 10 years.

While the partnership’s current yield is lower than its 10-year average, this includes a prolonged period of noticeably undervaluation that drove its dividend yield above 50%.

Accordingly, we believe that the MLP is undervalued today. It is likely that some rationality will return to this MLP’s unit price. Valuation expansion should be a positive contributor to future total returns.

With that in mind, some modest valuation expansion combined with the partnership’s underlying business growth and its 13.3% distribution yield mean that the MLP has a very, very good chance of delivering total returns that are superior to those of the broader stock market.

With that said, these returns are highly dependent on the partnership’s ability to continue its current distribution payment. Distribution safety is paramount for Energy Transfer Partners and all other MLPs.

Fortunately, Energy Transfer Partners’ current distribution appears very safe. In the most recent quarter, the partnership reported a distribution coverage ratio of 1.30x. This equivalent to a payout ratio (using distributable cash flow as the denominator) of 77%.

Taking a longer-term view, the partnership’s distribution payments through the entirety of fiscal 2017 was also covered by its cash flows. Energy Transfer Partners reported a distribution coverage ratio of 1.20x, equivalent to a cash flow payout ratio of 83%.

In any case, Energy Transfer Partners’ distribution payments are covered by its cash flows. This means that the most important component of its total return profile – its distribution yield – is safe for the time being.

Final Thoughts

The FERC’s announcement that it had revised its income tax allowance policy for interstate pipelines that operate under cost of service rate agreements had a profound impact on master limited partnerships through the energy sector.

With that said, we believe that the price movements were largely an overreaction. Many MLPs operate the majority of their pipelines outside of these cost of service rate agreements, which means they will not be materially impacted by the FERC’s policy revision.

Energy Transfer Partners is one example of such an MLP. Despite the FERC’s policy revision, our opinion on the partnerships remains unchanged – the MLP is a buy at current prices, particularly for investors who are looking to generate current portfolio income.

Disclosure: I am/we are long ETP.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

The Die Has Been Cast

The financial markets seem locked in a tug of war amongst a goldilocks global economy, accelerating growth with muted inflationary pressures, and geopolitical risks, which has led to rising volatility and a lack of direction in the markets.

No one can argue against Trump’s success. He has passed his pro-growth, pro-business America First agenda but the political infighting in his administration has muddied the waters. It did not help that the Republicans lost an election last week in Pennsylvania but the media has framed the loss incorrectly as the Democratic winner, Conor Lamb, ran away from his “liberal” party platform and supported the Republican agenda for the most part. If he becomes the norm for future Democratic Party candidates then we have little to fear that the next administration will reverse current economic policies.

The market seems to hang its hat on each reported monetary statistic. Remember how the market freaked out when the Atlanta Fed earlier forecasted first quarter GNP growth of 5.4% with wage pressures accelerating? Well, now, the Atlanta Fed is forecasting first quarter growth beneath 2% with moderating inflationary pressures. We said then, and continue to recommend, that you don’t hang your hat and make any investment decision based on any one or two economic data points. A successful investor must pause and reflect on any shifts that have occurred and then, look to where we are going; not where we have been.

The die has been cast. Our economy will benefit dramatically from tax and regulatory reform as well as Trump’s America First Policies. Can you really argue against free, fair trade with reciprocal tariffs, if any at all, in today’s global economy? Can you argue against protecting our intellectual property? It is generally acknowledged that the Chinese have pirated away hundreds of billions of dollars of our IP demanding significant ownership in any foreign corporation wanting to operate in China.

Peter Navarro made a lot of sense to me when interviewed last week on CNBC. He advocates free and fair trade. And who could argue against Larry Kudlow replacing Gary Cohn as head economic advisor to Trump? He is a pro-growth supply side economist who will monitor the stock market as does Trump for measuring the success of their programs!

We often say that the pendulum swings too far to either side as a new course is charted like on foreign trade. Yes, there are risks, but taking them may be better than maintaining the status quo where we, as well as our closest foreign partners, are greatly taken advantage of by the Chinese. They are not our friends. Remember The Godfather, when Don Corleone said “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer?” That may be Trump’s strategy dealing with the Chinese. The U.S and its allies are in an economic war with China and thank heaven Trump is taking a firm stand against unfair trade rather than kicking the can down the road as past Presidents did. Our future and that of our children are at stake.

Do you believe that the U.S. economy is getting better or not when last month we added over 300,000 more jobs, consumer confidence hit a 14-year high and industrial production rose a surprisingly strong 1.1%?

Do you believe that tax and regulatory reform will lead to accelerating corporate profits, employment and capital spending? Do you believe that Trump’s trade policy, including steel and tax tariffs, will lead to foreign producer building plants here hiring American workers? All of this will boost wages and consumer spending. And higher capital spending will lead to accelerating productivity gains holding down unit labor costs and future inflation. Not a bad scenario but none of this happens overnight so be patient and invest accordingly as there will be clear winners and losers, too.

Concerns over China’s growth evaporated last week after it was reported that industrial output accelerated 7.2% over January/February with fixed capital investments expanding 7.9% led by the technology sector. The government is focusing on growth in consumer demand and technology rather than industrial production. We have as well with investments in Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), to name two that we have made in China.

Growth has remained strong in the ECB and Japan with inflation moderating somewhat from prior periods. We were pleased that Kuroda was reappointed head of the Bank of Japan for another five years. He pledged to maintain an overly accommodative policy at least through the end of 2019. As long as inflation remains benign and the euro strong, we expect the ECB to keep its overly accommodative policy too. Don’t worry about the higher union wage hikes in Germany as rising productivity and competitive forces will hold down reported inflation.

The bottom line is that the global economic environment has never been better than now. Yes, we are concerned and watching closely discussions about trade policies here and abroad. But we believe that it is about time that our government, along with our closest partners, faces this problem that has only been kicked down the road by past administrations. Change is in the air and there will be clear winners/losers by regions, industries and companies.

The die has been cast.

Invest looking through the proverbial windshield by finding and investing in the beneficiaries of the longer-term trends mentioned above and short the losers. For instance, it is clear that our domestic steel and aluminum industries will benefit. Maybe not overnight but certainly over the next few years.

Other long term beneficiaries of these trends include financials who benefit from growth and deregulation; industries/companies that will benefit from a surge in domestic capital/infrastructure spending over the next few years including capital goods and low cost industrial commodity companies; technology companies where growth far outstrip GNP and special situations where internal changes will boost earnings, margins and future valuation. Stay long the market, as it remains undervalued and short bonds. But not all markets or stocks are equal. Herein lies our strength. Paix et Prospérité continues to outperform all indices.

Our success over our 40+year career managing the leading hedge funds like the Quantum Fund has been in part correctly identifying investable long-term trends just like our former partner, George Soros. And we know when to close ranks and go to cash or be net short. Now is not that time! It is next to impossible trading this market. How many very wealthy traders do you know?

Stay the course!

Review all the facts; pause, reflect and consider mindset shifts; analyze your asset mix and risk controls; do independent research and… Invest Accordingly!

Of The California Utilities, Take Sempra

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (or “FERC”) divides the country into 10 electricity districts:

California – save for a small sliver at the top of the state – is its own market. Before looking at the major utility companies, let’s take a look at the state’s economy, which is one of the largest in the U.S., accounting for 14.21% of total U.S. GDP. The state has been growing at a decent pace:

In the last five years, California has grown between 2.5% and 2.75% Y/Y. According to the latest GDP data from the BEA, the state grew at a 3.4% GDP annual rate in 3Q17:

The state’s four largest metropolitan areas have grown for the last five years:

The state’s population is growing:

This points to future growth: potential GDP = population growth + productivity growth.

And the unemployment rate is below 5%.

The California Energy market is managed by CAISO. Natural gas, hydro, wind and solar are the primary sources of power generation:

The region has a strong commitment to green technology:

It currently has 21,668MW of power coming from its alternative sources.

The state has three main power companies:

The biggest issue facing these companies right now is dealing with the long-term damage caused by recent wildfires. Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE:PCG) suspended its dividend at the end of last year. As I noted in my write-up of Southern California Edison (NYSE:EIX), the company has a $1 billion insurance policy for fire damage. The company has also stated it will begin a large capital improvement program soon, so it’s possible that some of the physical capacity it was going to improve was destroyed by the fire. Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE) (San Diego Gas & Electric) wasn’t in the area of the wildfires last year. However, the CPUC denied Sempra’s request to recover $379 million from the 2007 wildfires (emphasis added):

Moody’s also issued a public comment on December 20, 2017 regarding recent wildfires in northern California and Ventura County, California indicating that the December 6, 2017 decision issued by the CPUC denying SDG&E’s request to recover approximately $379 million of pretax costs associated with the 2007 wildfires (based on the CPUC’s finding that SDG&E did not reasonably operate the facilities involved in the wildfires) is credit negative for SDG&E, for Sempra Energy and for other California utilities seeking to recover costs from wildfires.

That decision may be isolated due to the CPUC’s finding that SRE “did not reasonably operate the facilities involved in the wildfire.”

Let’s take a look at the companies in geographic order from north to south, looking at their chart and relevant financial data for dividend investors.

Pacific Gas & Electric

PCG’s stock chart has taken it in the teeth the last six months:

We see two large drops. The first one occurred in mid-October and one again in December when it suspended its dividend. While it’s understandable that it did so, it’s also a shame because the company has wonderful financials for dividend investors (data from; author’s calculations):

Note the five-year increase in the company’s gross, operating, and net margins. It has ample interest coverage and a conservative debt/asset ratio. However, we can also see why the company suspended its dividend; it saves slightly over $1 billion/year, which it may need to rebuild its physical plant.

Edison International

For utility investors, EIX’s stock price has a familiar pattern:

Edison was hit by a double-whammy at the end of last year: the Treasury market sell-off, which eventually hit the broader market, and the California wildfires. The good news from a technical perspective is EIX has broken through the shorter EMAs with a rising MACD.

Here is the relevant information from the company’s financial statements:

Unlike PCG, EIX has had fairly constant margins for the last five years, save for the drop in net income last year. It has ample interest coverage and its debt/asset ratio is well contained.


Sempra is in the best technical shape; its price has moved through the 200-day EMA and the MACD is positive. Its better position is probably due to the company having no exposure to the recent wildfires.

It has solid financials:

The company had a solid increase in gross income last year. The net income took a hit due to the one-time write-down of the wildfire losses. However, other aspects of its financials are solid.

Take Sempra. Pacific Gas & Electric currently has no dividend. While Edison International has insurance, it also has wildfire exposure.

This post is not an offer to buy or sell this security. It is also not specific investment advice for a recommendation for any specific person. Please see our disclaimer for additional information.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

?Linus Torvalds slams CTS Labs over AMD vulnerability report

CTS Labs, a heretofore unknown Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity startup, has claimed it’s found over a dozen security problems with AMD Ryzen and EPYC processors. Linus Torvalds, Linux’s creator, doesn’t buy it.

Torvalds, in a Google+ discussion, wrote:

“When was the last time you saw a security advisory that was basically ‘if you replace the BIOS or the CPU microcode with an evil version, you might have a security problem?’ Yeah.”

Or, as a commenter put it on the same thread, “I just found a flaw in all of the hardware space. No device is secure: if you have physical access to a device, you can just pick it up and walk away. Am I a security expert yet?”

They’ve got a point.

CTS Labs sprang out of nowhere to give AMD less than 24 hours to address these “problems.”

AMD investigating chip security flaws after less than 24 hours notice | CNET: AMD allegedly has its own Spectre-like security flaws

The startup has jazzed up its discoveries with a research paper, a video describing the vulnerabilities, and, of course, fancy names for them: Ryzenfall, Master Key, Fallout, and Chimera.

CTS Labs claimed in an interview they gave AMD less than a day because they didn’t think AMD could fix the problem for “many, many months, or even a year” anyway.

Why would they possibly do this? For Torvalds: “It looks more like stock manipulation than a security advisory to me.”

These are real bugs though. Dan Guido, CEO of Trail of Bits, a security company with a proven track-record, tweeted: “Regardless of the hype around the release, the bugs are real, accurately described in their technical report (which is not public afaik), and their exploit code works.” But, Guido also admitted, “Yes, all the flaws require admin [privileges] but all are flaws, not expected functionality.”

It’s that last part that ticks Torvalds off. The Linux creator agrees these are bugs, but all the hype annoys the heck out of him.

Are there bugs? Yes. Do they matter in the real world? No.

They require a system administrator to be almost criminally negligent to work. To Torvalds, inflammatory security reports are annoying distractions from getting real work done.

This is far from the first such case. A recent Linux “vulnerability,” Chaos, required the attacker to have the root password. News flash: If an attacker has the root password, your system is already completely hosed. Everything else is just details.

Torvalds believes “it’s the security industry that has taught everybody to not be critical of their findings.”

He also thinks, “there are real security researchers.” For many of the rest, it’s all about giving even the most minor security bug. In Torvalds’ words: “A catchy name and a website is almost required for a splashy security disclosure these days.”

Torvalds thinks “security people need to understand that they look like clowns because of it. The whole security industry needs to just admit that they have a lot of sh*t going on, and they should use — and encourage — some critical thinking.”

This rant is far from the first time Torvalds has snarled at people or companies for focusing too much on what he sees as on the wrong end of security.

As he wrote on the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) in 2008: “I refuse to bother with the whole security circus … It makes “heroes” out of security people, as if the people who don’t just fix normal bugs aren’t as important. In fact, all the boring normal bugs are _way_ more important, just because there’s a lot more of them. I don’t think some spectacular security hole should be glorified or cared about as being any more ‘special’ than a random spectacular crash due to bad locking.”

More recently, he doubled down on this position, saying last year about a proposed Linux kernel change, “Some security people have scoffed at me when I say that security problems are primarily ‘just bugs’. Those security people are f**king morons.”

What Torvalds really wants from security programmers and researchers, as he spelled out recently, is:

  • the first step should *ALWAYS* be “just report it.” Not killing things, not even stopping the access. Report it. Nothing else.
  • “Do no harm” should be your mantra for any new hardening work.

Do that, and you’ll make Torvalds, and a lot of other people who care about practical security, much happier.

Related Stories:

?Meet the Scarlett Johansson PostgreSQL malware attack

More security news

It’s not the first time an image has been used to give a victim malware, but it may be the first time it’s been used so narrowly. According to the security firm Imperva, their StickyDB database management system (DBMS) honeypot has uncovered an attack that places malware, which cryptomines Monero, on PostgreSQL DBMS servers. Its attack vector? An image of Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson.

Now, you might ask, “How many PostgreSQL DBMS servers are out there on the internet to be attacked?” The answer: “More than you’d expect.” A Shodan search revealed almost 710,000 PostgreSQL servers ready to be hacked. It appears there are so many of them because it’s way too easy, especially on Amazon Web Services (AWS), to set up PostgreSQL servers without security.

Cryptocurrency malware attacks are becoming increasingly more common. Why not? They’re profitable. The Smominru miner alone has infected at least half a million machines, mostly Windows servers, and has made at least $3.6 million.

While Smominru used the relatively sophisticated EternalBlue exploit to speak, this method of attack, steganography, the hiding of data or malware in an image, is older than the hills. In this attack, what appears to be a G-rated image of Scarlett has a malware payload.

Once a victim downloads the image it tries to brute force its way into your DBMS. Since a PostgreSQL instance shouldn’t be simply sitting on the internet in the first place, chances are good that it hasn’t been secured in other ways either. A compromised system then uses PostgreSQL to run invoke Linux or Unix shell commands to install a Monero cryptocurrency miner.

Besides trying to spread itself to other targets and hide itself, the program starts looking to see if your server has access to a GPU. Without one of those, your server, whether bare-metal or virtual, is going to be doing a cryptominer much good.

If it is successful, the first thing you’ll know about it is when your monthly cloud bill is far higher than expected. According to Impervia, most antivirus programs fail to detect this attack.

So, what can you do? Impervia recommends:

  • Watch out of direct PostgreSQL calls to lo_export or indirect calls through entries in pg_proc.
  • Beware of PostgreSQL functions calling to C-language binaries.
  • Use a firewall to block outgoing network traffic from your database to the internet.
  • Make sure your database is not assigned with public IP address. If it is, restrict access only to the hosts that interact with it (application server or clients owned by DBAs).

In other words, once more the best security recommendation is to practice server security 101, and you should be immune to such attacks. And, if you must ogle the lovely Ms. Johansson, make sure you only look at safe pictures.

Related Stories:

JPMorgan invests in fixed-income data startup

(Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co has made a strategic investment in Mosaic Smart Data, a company that has developed technology to help banks make their fixed-income sales and trading businesses more profitable.

A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files

The bank, whose fixed-income revenue slumped last year, has taken a minority stake in the London-based startup, the companies said in London on Wednesday.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Mosaic will use the funding to double its headcount and expand its platform to cover additional asset classes for new and existing clients, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The investment comes after JPMorgan revealed in October that it had signed a multiyear deal to use Mosaic’s technology globally.

Mosaic sells technology that collects and analyzes data from the fixed-income trading divisions of banks to help them make more informed decisions and secure more deals.

The platform helps visualize data and can be used traders to figure out which clients are more likely to be interested in a given deal. It can also be used by bank bosses to determine which trading desk or trader has been performing better.

The investment comes as financial institutions look to adopt more technology that can help them take advantage of the vast amounts of data they store.

Banks have also been looking for ways to deal with a liquidity crunch in fixed-income markets. Tougher post-financial crisis capital requirements have made it more expensive for them to act as market makers in some fixed-income assets, leading their fixed-income divisions to slump.

Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

How To Delete Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat

Social Networks walk a fine line between being a useful tool and a crippling addiction. Whether you want your free time back, or don’t like your information scattered about on the internet, you may be considering deactivating some accounts. Wanting to delete your account is one thing, but actually being able to hit the delete button is another story. Social media outlets make money off of you and your information, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they don’t want to let you go. Because of this, the biggest networks have made it overly complicated to delete your account. But if you are set on getting rid of them, here’s what you’ll have to do.


You’ve had your Facebook account for about a decade, and in that time you’ve posted a little too much personal information. Maybe you’re just sick of all the baby pictures and slightly offensive status updates your friends are sharing. You’ve had enough.

If you’ve ever deactivated your account you may have noticed that everything goes back to normal the next time you log in, as if nothing has happened. That’s because deactivating your Facebook account is not the same as deleting it. When you deactivate your account, you are just hiding your information from searches and your Facebook friends. Although nothing is visible on the site, your account information remains intact on Facebook’s servers, eagerly awaiting your return.

Even so, deactivating your account is still a complex process. Go into your settings and click General. At the bottom, you’ll find Manage your Account. From there, click on “Deactivate your account” and type in your password. Before you’re completely off the hook, Facebook shows you photos of all the “friends” you’ll miss (“Callie will miss you”, “Phoebe will miss you”, “Ben will miss you”) followed by a survey asking you to detail your reasons for leaving. Get through that, click Deactivate, and you’re good to go.

Now, to permanently delete your account, you’ll need to learn where the delete option resides. The easiest way to find it is by clicking the “Quick Help” icon in the top-right corner, then the “Search” icon. When you see the search field, type “delete account.” You’ll see a list of search results. Click on “How do I permanently delete my account?” and Facebook will give you the obscure instructions to “log into your account and let us know.” In this case, “let us know” is code for “delete my account,” so click on that link. From here, the final steps are clear: Enter your password and solve the security captcha, and your request to permanently delete your account is underway.

Yes, you read that right—it’s just a request. Facebook delays the deletion process for a few days after you submit your request, and will cancel your request if you log into your account during that time period. You know, just in case you change your mind. It’s crucial that you don’t visit Facebook during this waiting period. Delete the app from your phone.

If you want to delete your account but don’t want to lose all your account information, download all your crucial data first. The information you can download includes everything from the photos and statuses you post, to the ads you’ve clicked and the IP addresses you’ve used. The list of what’s included is extensive, but you can view it in its entirety here. Also, due to the nature of this data, you’ll want to keep it in a safe place.

To download your account, go into Settings> General Account Settings > Download a copy of your Facebook data and then click “Start My Archive.” When your download is ready, Facebook will send you an email with a link to download. For added security, this link will expire after a few days, so download it quickly.


Even though it’s such a mobile-first service, Instagram doesn’t let you delete your account through the app. Instead, you’ll have to log into your Instagram account via the web in order to delete it.

Like Facebook, navigating through Instagram’s settings will only give you the option to temporarily disable your account. Disabling your account will hide your profile, photos, likes and comments from the platform. Find the disable option by clicking the person icon in the top right corner and selecting Edit Profile. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the option to temporarily disable your account.

If you want to get rid of it for good, you’ll have to enter “” into your browser’s address bar. Once you’re on that page, enter in your password and click “Permanently delete my account.”

In the past, Instagram users have reported that they are prompted to enter in their phone number when deleting their account. Luckily, it seems like this is no longer necessary.


It takes a lot of time and effort to maintain a well-curated Twitter account, but the good news is that deleting your account doesn’t require as much work.

Before you delete your Twitter account, you may want to download your archive. This will include all your tweets in a chronological order, which is great if you want to relive your first tweet, or see all those unanswered tweets you sent to celebrities. To download your archive, click your profile icon, go to Settings, then click on “Request your archive.” It’ll take some time for Twitter to get your archive ready, but when it is, you’ll be sent an email with a download link that will give you a .zip file.

Once you have your downloaded copy, you can proceed with deleting your account. Log in to your Twitter, go into your account settings, then scroll to the bottom and click “Deactivate my account.” After that, you’ll be prompted to enter your password, and once you do so your account will be deactivated.

Keep in mind that your data isn’t actually deleted for another 30 days. This window gives you the opportunity to revive your account if you choose. Once the 30 day period is up, Twitter will begin deleting your account. According to the company’s Privacy Policy, this could take a few weeks.


Maybe you’re sick of seeing who’s besties with who according to the app’s Friend Emoji guide. Maybe you’re one of many Snapchat users converting to Instagram, despite Snapchat’s radically different function. In any case, if you decide to delete your Snapchat account, here’s how.

Open the app and click on your profile icon in the top left corner. From there, go to Settings in the top-right corner. Go down to Support, which is found under More Information, and you’ll be lead to a search engine. Enter “Delete my account” and you’ll see the instructions as a search result. It’s pretty straightforward from there. Like Twitter, Snapchat allows you 30 days to reactivate your account before it’s deleted forever.

The Rest

While there are a lot of social media sites out there, few are as sticky as the ones mentioned above. If you are looking to delete any of your numerous accounts, the best places to start are in your user settings, or on the company’s support/FAQ page. From there you’ll be able to find the necessary path to deleting your account. Shortcuts for these web forms can be found here for LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.

President Trump halts Broadcom takeover of Qualcomm

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday blocked semiconductor maker Broadcom Ltd’s (AVGO.O) proposed takeover of Qualcomm Inc(QCOM.O) on grounds of national security, ending what would have been the technology industry’s biggest deal ever.

FILE PHOTO: A sign to the campus offices of chip maker Broadcom Ltd, who announced on Monday an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, is shown in Irvine, California, U.S., November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File photo

The presidential order to block Singapore-based Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for San Diego-based Qualcomm reflected concerns about the United States’ ability to set the technology standards for the next generation of mobile cell phones in the competition with Chinese companies.

San Diego-based Qualcomm has emerged as one of the biggest competitors to China’s Huawei Technologies Co in the sector, making Qualcomm a prized asset.

Qualcomm had earlier rebuffed Broadcom’s $117 billion takeover bid, which was under investigation by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a multi-agency panel led by the U.S. Treasury Department that reviews the national security implications of acquisitions of U.S. corporations by foreign companies.

A source familiar with CFIUS’ thinking had said that, if the deal was completed, the U.S. military was concerned that within 10 years,“there would essentially be a dominant player in all of these technologies and that’s essentially Huawei, and then the American carriers would have no choice. They would just have to buy Huawei (equipment).”

In a letter to the companies on March 5, CFIUS expressed concerns that Broadcom would not be willing to fund the research needed to maintain Qualcomm’s strong position on so-called 5G technology, a forthcoming standard for wireless data networks, leaving the U.S. with nowhere but China to turn for such technology.

CFIUS also said that Qualcomm has a number of military contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Shares of Broadcom rose less than 1.0 percent to $264.10 in after hours trade while Qualcomm fell 4.3 percent to $60.14. Neither company responded immediately to a request for comment.

Slideshow (3 Images)

The move by Trump to kill the deal comes only months after the U.S. president himself announced Broadcom’s decision to move its headquarters to the United States and called it“one of the really great, great companies.”

This is the fifth time ever a U.S. President has blocked a deal based on CFIUS objections and the second deal Trump has stopped since assuming office.

“The proposed takeover of Qualcomm by the Purchaser (Broadcom) is prohibited, and any substantially equivalent merger, acquisition, or takeover, whether effected directly or indirectly, is also prohibited,” the presidential order released on Monday said.

The order issued by the White House cited“credible evidence” that led Trump to believe that Broadcom taking control of Qualcomm“might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.”

Trump’s move accelerated a decision that appeared likely after CFIUS told Broadcom in a letter on Sunday that its investigation“so far confirmed the national security concerns.”

The U.S. Treasury Department letter was“obviously a poison pill,” Jim Lewis, a CFIUS expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said before the Trump order. He described the CFIUS communication to Broadcom as“unprecedented.”

The semiconductor industry is racing to develop chips that power so-called 5G wireless technology, allowing the transmission of data at faster speeds.

Broadcom had struggled to complete its proposed deal to buy Qualcomm which had cited several concerns including the price offered and potential antitrust hurdles.

The presidential decision to block the deal cannot be appealed. However, it is not clear what rules Broadcom would have to follow if it goes ahead with announced plans to move its headquarters to the United States.

Reporting by Diane Bartz and Chris Sanders in Washington; Supantha Mukherjee; Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Steve Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Peter Henderson and Clive McKeef