Why the Facebook Plunge Matters for Stock Investors

Tech sector inflows. Look at how much money has been pouring into technology in 2017 and 2018.
Look at how much the SPDR Technology sector ETF (XLK) has outpeformed the S&P 500 Index (SPY) (ratio chart).
Prior spikes in technology stocks have led to sharp reversals and a lot of investors rushed into technology stocks at all-time high prices.

Framework for Social Credit System Already Exists in USA

A lot of people rightly fear China's social credit system, not because they care what happens in China, but because creating a similar system anywhere in the world is relatively easy. The only places where it wouldn't work is places where physical cash and anonymous transactions still dominate the economy. It is hard to imagine how a system like China's won't come to the West though, unless there is a determined public effort to ban it or a strong enough private force to get around it.

Even though there's no system yet in the West, there's already the framework for it in place. In the wake of the Charlottesville protests last summer, many technology companies shut off right-wing websites including PayPal and domain registration companies. Some of those cut off were involved in the protests or had direct ties, others were vaguely connected and some had nothing to do with them at all.
A few days ago, Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, a frequent contributor to MercatorNet, learned that credit card donations to her organisation, the Ruth Institute, had been cut off. Vanco Payment Solutions – “unlock the power of generosity” -- sent her a curt note saying that it was a hate group.

The “hate group” label had been pasted on the Ruth Institute by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), probably because it has opposed same-sex marriage. But the job of the Ruth Institute is healing the effects of family breakdown, not denigrating homosexuals. This appears to be another sign of LGBT corporate tyranny: if you don’t agree with us, get lost.
There's no practical difference between China's "once untrustworthy, always restricted" system run by the government, and a U.S. version of "once right-wing, always restricted" run by private companies in conjunction with political groups like the SPLC. (In some ways the private system is more insidious in the West because many people think, "It's a private company, they can do what they want." If the Trump or Obama administration announced a social credit system, it would be soundly rejected by a vast majority of Americans.) The main difference in the United States is that people can build alternative companies and systems. The rise of cryptocurrencies accelerated in the wake of PayPal's moves because it became clear that even payment companies could become political weapons.

More broadly, political fracturing and "secession" are already happening in America, but it's taking place first in the economic sphere. As social mood trends negative there will be increased conflict, not less. Even though it won't be by the hand of government (yet), there will be increasing levels of censorship and authoritarian controls placed on users by private companies. This will come in two forms. One will be a "fair" censorship system that targets behavior. It might stray into some actual censorship or merely try to deal with bad behavior caused by rising negative mood. Amazon is actually a good example of the latter with their targeting of fake book reviews. The other will be "unfair" censorship that relies on political advocacy group definitions of "hate speech" or internal systems mostly likely dominated by left-of-center people in Silicon Valley. Authoritarians drift into whatever system allows them social control. Now that systems targeting user behavior exist, any company without strict policies on how they are used will eventually be subverted by political ideologies with penchant for thought control.

Endgame for Facebook?

Update: FTC Probing Facebook for Use of Personal Data, Source Says
Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.

Spokesmen for Facebook and the FTC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

If the FTC finds Facebook violated terms of the consent decree, it has the power to fine the company thousands of dollars a day per violation.
50 million violations.

During the 2012 campaign, the media praised President Obama's social media strategy. It was part of an overall youth narrative, while the Romney campaign, representing older voters, was using outdated methods. That was all true to a degree, but what has now been revealed is the Obama team (or any consultants they hired) didn't need to scrape data from Facebook (FB) like Cambridge Analytica. Facebook opened up all their data to them.

IJR: Ex-Obama Campaign Director Drops Bombshell Claim on Facebook: 'They Were on Our Side'
A former Obama campaign official is claiming that Facebook knowingly allowed them to mine massive amounts of Facebook data — more than they would’ve allowed someone else to do — because they were supportive of the campaign.

In a Sunday tweet thread, Carol Davidsen, former director of integration and media analytics for Obama for America, said the 2012 campaign led Facebook to “suck out the whole social graph” and target potential voters. They would then use that data to do things like append their email lists.
ZH: Obama's Former Campaign Director Makes Bombshell Claim: Facebook Was "On Our Side"
Cambridge Analytica bought data harvested using a personality app called "thisisyourdigitallife," created by two psychology professors. When CA was asked to stop and delete all of the harvested data, they did - however Facebook banned Cambridge Analytics and their parent company SCL after an anonymous source which Facebook won't disclose reported that not all of the data had been deleted.

So the 2012 Obama campaign was scraping data from Facebook, got caught, and was specifically told they were allowed to do things "they wouldn't have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side."

Davidsen then tweeted "I am also 100% positive that Facebook activity recruits and staffs people that are on the other side."
What other side?
Turns out one of the two founding directors of Global Science Research (GSR), which sold the data to Cambridge Analytics, is employed by Facebook!

...And as the broader public has merely scratched the surface of the tangled webs politicized social media platforms weave, Facebook's Chief Security Officer has already decided to get the hell out of dodge. One can only imagine what some real digging would unveil.
Facebook is between 5 and 7 percent of many technology and Internet funds, including the S&P 500 technology sector and the Nasdaq 100, and the tracking ETF (QQQ).


$2 Trillion Fine for Facebook

The media may have wrecked Facebook (FB) in its zeal to find some dirt on Donald Trump. There was no "hack" of Facebook in the sense of breaching data servers, all Cambridge Analytica did was figure out how to obtain the publicly exposed data. It exposed reality to hundreds of millions of clueless users who don't realize their Facebook data is insecure.

Endgadget: Facebook may have broken FTC deal in Cambridge Analytica incident
Facebook, for its part, said that it "reject[s] any suggestion" that it violated the consent decree. It maintained that it "respected" users' privacy settings.

If the FTC did find violations, Facebook could be on the hook for some very hefty fines -- albeit fines that aren't likely to be as hefty as possible. The decree asks for fines as large as $40,000 per person, but that would amount to roughly $2 trillion. Regulators like the FTC historically push for fines they know companies can pay, which would suggest fines that are 'just' in the billion-dollar range. Given that there are already multiple American and European investigations underway, any financial penalty would be just one piece of a larger puzzle.
Only last week there was a flaw that exposed partial payment data from user accounts.

Security Week: Facebook Flaws Exposed Friend Lists, Payment Card Data
Facebook users can prevent others from seeing their friends, but the vulnerability discovered by Franjković could have been exploited to obtain this information regardless of the targeted user’s privacy settings.

GraphQL is an open source data query language designed by Facebook for its mobile applications. GraphQL queries can only be used for Facebook’s own applications—only whitelisted query IDs are allowed—and they require an access token.

Franjković discovered that he could use the client token from the Facebook app for Android, and he could bypass the whitelist by sending a request containing a “doc_id” parameter instead of “query_id.”
The list of things he obtained with this query:
first 6 card digits (BIN), identifies the bank that issued the card

last 4 digits

expiry month and year

card type

cardholder first name

zip code and country
Social media through the mid-2010s was a peak social mood industry. Users still willingly give tons of personal information that is exposed to the public, including anyone who might want to use it. Platforms such as Facebook also aren't walled. Friends, family and acquaintances are all lumped together. This is a peak social mood format because at peak mood people are more open and outgoing, all the way through political arrangements (the euro launched right as mood peaked in the year 2000). As social mood turned more negative, conflict increased on social media, particularly on open platforms such as Facebook. (One interesting data point to chart would be the number of blocks/mutes per user on social meia, I suspect the chart might look similar to Bitcoin over the past couple of years.) In response, Twitter, Facebook and others are regularly banning users for content because users upset with content were leaving. Advertisers getting blow-back because their ad appearing next to objectionable content (objectionable being whatever might get a few dozen people on social media worked up about) also complained. Now users are leaving because of censorship, exacerbated by a clear political bias in what gets deemed to be abusive content.

Back to Big Tech and social media: the tide is turning against these firms. The public is growing weary of their power and the potential for abuse. The Internet was supposed to be a decentralized and open technology connecting the world, but a handful of companies sit at the crossroads and control what content is seen by users. The companies themselves are turning authoritarian in their control, another sign of increasingly negative social mood. Social media is suffering because its users are fracturing along with the culture and media. There is no longer a "mainstream" in America. When people are pushed together on social media in a time of negative mood, it increases tensions. These companies are almost in a no win situation, the only way out may be to do as consumer companies do and segment their customers with multiple brands. Otherwise, they can't win. Censorship free, open platforms causes users to quit. Censorship causes users to quit. An angry public will increasingly call for regulation of the industry.

The outlook for big social media is negative unless it can successfully fracture its market and appeal to all users. Otherwise, it will break apart as it becomes hated by everyone.

Chinese Home Prices Momentum at 2-Year Low

Chinese new home prices rose 0.25 percent in February. 44 cities saw rising prices, 10 were flat, 16 fell. This is the bottom end of the range for home price momentum across China over the past two years. On average, home prices fell in the first-tier cities and the "formerly hot" second tier cities.

Existing home prices rose 0.20 percent nationally, with 49 cities seeing rising prices.

NBS: 2018年2月份70个大中城市商品住宅销售价格变动情况


Chinese Homebuyers Losing Their Firepower

iFeng: 中国家庭购房能力逐年减弱 房价不会快速上
“After 40 years of reform and opening up, after 20 years of housing reforms, today's development-led real estate wave is basically slowing down.” On the afternoon of March 5, Yang Xianling, president of the Chain Home Research Institute, bought a house in Beijing in 2018. At the home improvement trend conference and the signing ceremony of the Shell Financial Control Strategic Partnership, the signing ceremony of the rapid increase in domestic house prices and the large-scale development stage has passed. The ability of Chinese families to purchase homes has been weakening year by year, and China’s economic growth and household wealth growth have become worse. The harder it is to support rising house prices.

Since 1998, China's real estate market has been for 20 years. However, its property of “living” has been diluted by the “investment” property in recent years. Real estate has become the favorite investment category of Chinese investors. “The house is used to live, not used for speculation.” After the repositioning, the market has undergone drastic changes in 2017 and the drastic changes in 2018 have continued.
Investing in Chinese real estate for income is also increasing as rents rise faster than home prices. Goodbye 1% yield!
The “China Housing Market Development Monthly Analysis Report” released by the project team of the Institute of Financial Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Center for Urban and Competitiveness Research of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on March 2 showed that due to short-term and long-term policies, the short-term and short-term policies tighten the financing environment. It is expected that housing prices in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai will continue their current decline in the short-term, and it is difficult for them to rebound strongly.

However, rent has shown an upward trend. According to the Economic Observer Online reporter, through information on the chain's official website, in April last year, the rent of a 50 square meter apartment in a certain district outside Beijing's East Fourth Ring was about 5,000 yuan per month, and it has now risen to about 6,000 yuan, and it has risen about 20%.

“From the data point of view, housing prices are hard to rise again, and rents have been rising steadily. I believe the overall market space is relatively large, because now the central indicator of the development of the (leasing) market is that the return rate of funds is too low. In fact, Rents are rising every year, with a relatively stable curve, probably about 5% to 8% per year.” Yang Xianren said that there is a large lease gap in the current market, and the rent, inventory, old, broken, small Renovation, supply of bed products and other aspects of a relatively large rental gap. Beijing's rental population is 7.31 million, but the number of leased houses in Beijing is 3 million, a gap of 4.31 million, Shanghai's 5.86 million, and Shenzhen's 2.23 million. This is a very large supply gap. In 2017, the overall turnover of the housing leasing market was 1.3 trillion, and the market will increase to three trillion in the next five years.

Nationalists Rising: Tax Cuts for Immigration Reductions in Australia?

The Liberals want corporate tax cuts, but Australia's One Nation party says no more tax cuts for business and they hold the balance in the Senate.
Macrobusiness: The One Nation/Coalition deal that could rock Aussie politics
The upside for ON and the Coalition in this deal very obvious:

it would hand Pauline Hanson a spectacular win, consolidating her support;

but it would also position the Coalition right along side her, recapturing some big slice of ON preferences, without them having to get their hands dirty;

moreover, it would deliver a gigantic wedge to the Labor reform agenda as it handed the Coalition a housing affordability platform, a stronger wages platform, a growth platform, a fairness platform and the upper hand in environmental values, as well as strategic policy. Plus it would preserve negative gearing for the faithful.

Everything that Labor is campaigning on would come under extreme stress and every reform loser become a natural Coalition voter.

Yen Gains Momentum, Trouble Brewing for an Asian Currency?

I track long-term relative momentum for lots of ETFs. In the international group, CurrencyShares Japanese Yen (FXY) popped up strongly this past week. The last time it climbed out of the bottom and to this level was July 2015. A month later China devalued the yuan.
What's going on right now? The Hong Kong dollar is approaching the limits of its peg.