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The week ahead is packed with several central bank meetings and important high-frequency economic data.  The week begins off with China’s April PMI over…

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The week ahead is packed with several central bank meetings and important high-frequency economic data.  The week begins off with China's April PMI over the weekend.  The world's second-largest economy is being hit by the lockdowns as part of the policy response to the outbreak of Covid. However, the economic impact seems somewhat milder than when the pandemic first arose in Q1 20, and the economy shrank by 10.3% quarter-over-quarter.  Still, more stimulus measures from Beijing and the PBOC seem likely. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia meets on May 3. The market's perception of the likelihood of a hike increased markedly after last week's stronger than expected Q1 CPI.  It rose to 5.1% year-over-year from 3.5% in Q4 21 and was above the 4.6% median (Bloomberg survey) forecast.  The underlying measures quickened to above 3% and more than expected.  Before the inflation report, the cash rate futures implied a 1-in-4 chance of a 25 bp hike.  Now there is about there was about a 60% chance of a such a move, but a 15 bp move is fully discounted.  Previously, the conventional wisdom was that the RBA would wait for June after the May 21 elections.  Like other central banks, Governor Lowe emphasized developments in the labor market. Perhaps, the pullback in the Australian dollar (~4.2% in April) provides extra encouragement, but it should not be over-emphasized. The RBA's trade-weighted index did pull back after approaching last year's high, but it is still relatively firm and near mid-March levels, almost 6% above the late January low.  

The Federal Reserve meets on May 4.  A 50 bp hike is a foregone conclusion.  The Fed funds futures market has priced a 50 bp hike not only at this meeting but also at the following three meetings (June, July, and September).  The Federal Reserve will also announce its balance sheet roll-off strategy. The forward guidance has suggested a short ramp-up period in June and reaching a maximum of $95 bln a month.  Investors (and reporters) may have some questions about the bill holdings and if the Fed would consider selling some MBS outright to achieve its goals. The market has shown a recent pattern by which it reacts one way to the Fed's statement and reverses it during Chair Powell's press conference.  The economic highlight is the April employment report at the end of the week.  The early estimate is for around a 400k gain in nonfarm payrolls.  Under normal circumstances, it would be regarded as robust.  However, if the forecast is accurate, it would be the smallest increase since last April. Subject to revisions, job growth averaged 562k in Q1 22.  Still, and even if average earnings growth slows, Powell's assessment that the labor market is strong (perhaps "too strong") will not interrupt the Fed's "expeditious" course to neutrality.  

The Bank of England and Norway's Norges Bank meet on May 5. Despite some poor economic data, including the squeeze on the cost of living that has seen retail sales, excluding gasoline, falling in nine of the past 11 months, the market is confident that the BOE will deliver its fourth hike in the cycle that began in December.  That will lift the bank rate to 1.0%.  The swaps market is looking at another 100-125 bp hikes this year.  Also, on May 5, England and Wales hold local elections.  The Tories do not appear to be doing well.  Prime Minister Johnson will come under pressure, but a compelling alternative does not jump out now that Chancellor Sunak's support has waned.  Note that Sein Fein looks poised to oust the Democratic Unionist Party to lead Northern Ireland's Assembly. The Norges Bank has also lifted rates three times already, and the deposit rate stands at 0.75%.  The underlying rate of inflation, which excludes energy and adjusts for tax changes, stood at a relatively mild 2.1% in March.  The krone has been no match for the dollar, but it is appreciated against most of its major trading partners this year.  The recent weakness is unlikely to be sufficient to spur the Norges Bank into faster action. After hiking last September, December, and March this year, it will likely wait for the June meeting to hike again. 

Tokyo's April CPI will be reported at the end of next week.  Tokyo's CPI is reported ahead of the national figures but provides a good economic tell.  The April report is important because the cut in mobile service prices last April drop out of the 12-month comparison.  This means that Tokyo, and by extension, Japan's consumer price measure, will jump.  The phone charges are thought to be worth around one percentage point, and this is what the market is anticipating. As a result, the headline pace rises to 2.3% from 1.3%, and the core rate, which excludes fresh food, may increase to 1.8% from 0.8%.  It means that the measure that excludes fresh food and energy will turn positive for the first time since March 2021. However, the BOJ will see through it, and the new fiscal measures are projected to reduce consumer inflation by around half of a percentage point in the May-September period. 

Four other central banks of note meet next week, two from South America and two from central Europe.  With next week's hikes, Brazil and Chile are maybe 1 or 2 hikes away from being done.  A 100 bp hike in the Brazilian Selic rate brings it to 12.75%.  The latest CPI reading puts inflation slightly above 12% year-over-year.  The swaps market looks for rates to peak near 13.5%.  Chile's CPI is closer to 9%, and its policy rate is 7%.  The last two hikes, January and March, were 150 bp each, and before that, the central bank hiked twice by 125 bp. It raised rates by a total of 100 bp in June and July last year.  The swaps market envisions 155 bp tightening over the next six months for the peak. 

Poland and Czech central banks have wood to chop, with March inflation around 11% and 12.7%.  Poland's central bank has hiked rates at each of the last seven meetings for a total of 440 bp.  It hiked by 100 bp in April, and another hike of that magnitude appears likely.   The swaps market looks for a peak near 6% next year.  The Czech repo rate is at 5.0%.  The central bank has also hiked rates at its last seven meetings for 475 bp in total.  It dialed back its hikes after 125 bp, and 100 bp moves last November and December to 75 bp and 50 bp in February and March.  A 50 bp hike is the most likely scenario.  The market also looks for the Czech rate to peak near 6% next year. 

Turning now to the price action in the foreign exchange market despite or because of naysayers is trading new multi-year highs against the euro and sterling.  The greenback may begin consolidating the gains that took it to 20-year highs against the yen.  Chinese efforts to slow the yuan's descent appear to have done the trick and broken the strong downside momentum.  The unusual Politburo statement ahead of the weekend and extended holiday is conducive of a consolidation phase.   After a sharp decline, and with signals of policy support forthcoming, Chinese stocks may draw some new attention. 

Dollar Index:  The six-day rally ended before the weekend with the help of China's allusion to more economic support for the world's second-largest economy.  The modest pullback was only the third decline since March 30.  It barely slipped through the previous day's low and was marginally inside the upper Bollinger Band (~103.35).  The momentum indicators are stretched but do not appear to rule out a new high.  It may take a break of the 101.80-102.35 band to signal a correction instead of a flattish consolidation.  April's nearly 5% net gain is the largest monthly rise since January 2015.  

Euro:  The euro bounced ahead of the weekend to snap a six-day fall that took it from around $1.0850 to almost $1.0470, its lowest level since early 2017.   The momentum indicators are over-extended but do not appear poised to turn higher yet.  The squeeze that carried the single currency to almost $1.06 before the weekend was met with new selling and it settled in the middle of the day's range.  There is more talk about a test on $1.00 (parity). Ahead of it, the 2017 low ($1.0340) may offer the next target. Given the sharpness of the euro's decline, a move above the $1.0650-$1.0700 area is needed to cause the bears any pain.  

Japanese Yen: The BOJ's signals of its intent to defend the 0.25% cap on the 10-year cap indefinitely broke the dollar out of the pennant or flag formation and sent it to JPY131.25.  BOJ Governor recognized that rapid moves are not helpful for businesses but saw the weaker yen as a net positive force for the economy overall.  The Finance Minister's rhetoric is gradually strengthening, but intervention ahead of what is expected to be a 50 bp Fed hike is highly unlikely.  Ahead of the weekend, and with Tokyo markets closed for a holiday, the dollar found support near JPY129.40.  Some lighter activity during the holiday period may be conducive for consolidation.  Maybe the lower end of the range may be in the JPY128.60-JPY129.00 area.  On the other hand, a move toward JPY135 would likely coincide with US 10-year yields pushing above 3%.  

British Pound:  Sterling dropped like a rock too.  Since reaching a high a little shy of $1.31 and reversing lower on April 21, sterling nearly seven cents to almost $1.24 on April 28. It has not been lower since July 2020.  The six-day slide ended before the weekend amid the broader dollar pullback.  Before the bounce, sterling had settled five consecutive sessions below the lower Bollinger Band.  The MACD looks poised to turn higher and appears to be a little ahead of the Slow Stochastic.  The next important chart point is around $1.2250.  Meanwhile, the $1.2670 area offers the nearby cap. A bout of short-covering could lift sterling further ahead of the BOE meeting.  The swaps market has a 25  bp hike fully discounted now and another at the June meeting.  The market appears nearly evenly divided between a  25 bp and 50 bp move at the  August meeting.

Canadian Dollar: The US dollar was extended its pullback into a third session ahead of the weekend, when the dramatic declinein US equities turned it around.  The greenback's small correction stalled near CAD1.2720, the (38.2%) retracement of the advance from the April 21 low (~CAD1.2460).  The MACD and Slow Stochastic are still rising, suggesting a re-test of the CAD1.2880-CAD1.2900 ceiling.  Canada has a solid macroeconomic story, but it has been overshadowed by the broad gains for the greenback, the unwinding of the commodity currency theme as questions raised over Chinese demand, and the risk-off mood.  The correlation between changes in the exchange rate and the S&P 500 over the last 30 sessions is about -0.60, which is about twice the inverse correlation with oil (~-.30).  A break of CAD1.27 could spur a move into the CAD1.2620-CAD1.2640 area.  

Australian Dollar:  The Aussie has fallen out of bed.  Coming into this month, it appreciated in seven of the past eight weeks. Starting with the week ending April 1, it has fallen for five consecutive weeks. The latest leg down was brutal.  After peaking near $0.7460 on April 21, the Australian dollar fell by about 5.25% to the low on April 28 `by $0.7055.  That was the lowest level since early February.  The pre-weekend bounce stalled around $0.7180.  It must get above $0.7200 to be meaningful.  It seems more likely to retest the year's low set in late January near $0.6970. The risk of a deeper decline toward $0.6850 may be growing. The MACD looks like it can turn higher soon, but the Slow Stochastic may take longer.  The RBA meets, and if it does not hike the cash target rate by at least 15 bp, the Aussie may be vulnerable to a new bout of selling.  The swaps market has discounted about 245 bp of tightening this year.  That seems too aggressive, and an adjustment could also leave the currency vulnerable. 

Mexican Peso: When everything is said and done, the Mexican peso proved itself relatively resilient in April to the greenback's surge.  The peso fell by about 2.6% in the month, less than all the major currencies but the Canadian dollar.  The dollar recouped half of what it lost from the early March high near MXN21.4675. It stalled after reaching almost MXN20.64.  The initial pullback found slightly below MXN20.29.  This seems like a rather shallow pullback, warning of the risk of a new attempt higher next week.  That said, the momentum indicators may be poised to turn lower in the coming days.  A break of MXN20.20 would undermine the dollar's technical tone. 

Chinese Yuan:  The dollar gapped higher against the yuan on April 25 and has not looked back.  The gap would be particularly significant in a less controlled currency because it appears on the weekly charts.  The dramatic losses in the euro and yen put downward pressure on the yuan, which the PBOC says is managed against a trade-weighted basket.  The PBOC's 1% cut in required reserves for foreign currency deposits was seen as a tepid protest, more a warning.  The dollar's surge extended to CNY6.65 before the Politburo's pledge of more economic support, which sent it to about CNY6.5850. With mainland markets closed for the first three sessions next week, CNH will be monitored more closely.  As typically happens when the yuan falls, the offshore yuan falls faster.  The spread between the two is the largest of the year (e.g., the dollar settled at CNY6.6080 and CNH6.6400).  Consolidation over the next few days may serve nearly everyone's interest. Arguing backward from the 20th Party Congress later this year, where China's Xi is expected to take a third term, there must be a desire to provide a good economic backdrop. It is partly a function of the Covid response and partly a function of the economic stewardship. 


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Economics

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

A…

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Majority Of C-Suite Execs Thinking Of Quitting, 40% Overwhelmed At Work: Deloitte Survey

Authored by Naveen Anthrapully via The Epoch Times,

A majority of C-suite executives are considering leaving their jobs, according to a Deloitte survey of 2,100 employees and C-level executives from the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Almost 70 percent of executives admitted that they are seriously thinking of quitting their jobs for a better opportunity that supports their well-being, according to the survey report published on June 22. Over three-quarters of executives said that the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected their well-being.

Roughly one in three employees and C-suite executives admitted to constantly struggling with poor mental health and fatigue. While 41 percent of executives “always” or “often” felt stressed, 40 percent were overwhelmed, 36 percent were exhausted, 30 percent felt lonely, and 26 percent were depressed.

“Most employees (83 percent) and executives (74 percent) say they’re facing obstacles when it comes to achieving their well-being goals—and these are largely tied to their job,” the report says. “In fact, the top two hurdles that people cited were a heavy workload or stressful job (30 percent), and not having enough time because of long work hours (27 percent).”

While 70 percent of C-suite execs admitted to considering quitting, this number was at only 57 percent among other employees. The report speculated that a reason for such a wide gap might be the fact that top-level executives are often in a “stronger financial position,” due to which they can afford to seek new career opportunities.

Interestingly, while only 56 percent of employees think their company executives care about their well-being, a much higher 91 percent of C-suite administrators were of the opinion that their employees believe their leaders took care of them. The report called this a “notable gap.”

Resignation Rates

The Deloitte report comes amid a debate about resignation rates in the U.S. workforce. Over 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in April, with job openings hitting 11.9 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In the period from January 2021 to February 2022, almost 57 million Americans left their jobs.

Though some are terming it the “Great Resignation,” giving it a negative connotation, the implication is not entirely true since most of those who quit jobs did so for other opportunities. In the same 14 months, almost 89 million people were hired. There are almost two jobs open for every unemployed person in the United States, according to MarketWatch.

In an Economic Letter from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco published in April, economics professor Bart Hobijn points out that high waves of resignations were common during rapid economic recoveries in the postwar period prior to 2000.

“The quits waves in manufacturing in 1948, 1951, 1953, 1966, 1969, and 1973 are of the same order of magnitude as the current wave,” he wrote. “All of these waves coincide with periods when payroll employment grew very fast, both in the manufacturing sector and the total nonfarm sector.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 20:30

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Government

Doctors’ Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Doctors’ Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch…

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Doctors' Group Urges Biden Administration To End Quarantine, Vaccine Recommendations For Children

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A group of doctors is urging top government officials to quickly reverse recommendations that have left children in isolation for days and advice that virtually every child get a COVID-19 vaccine.

We strongly urge you to revise the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines with regards to testing, isolation, and vaccine recommendations for children to ensure that public health policies are not doing more harm than good,” the group, Urgency of Normal, wrote in a June 21 open letter to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks in Washington on June 16, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The CDC’s guidelines say that people, including children, who are exposed to COVID-19 should quarantine for at least five days, and encourage widespread COVID-19 testing.

The agency also recommends that all children 6 months of age or older get a COVID-19 vaccine, following the recent authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer shots for kids under 5.

The doctors noted that many European countries, U.S. states, and other areas have updated COVID-19 policies to greatly reduce periods of quarantine, COVID-19 testing frequency, and forced vaccination.

They’re asking U.S. officials to adapt to a “test-to-treat” approach, which would focus on recommending vaccination and treatments to those at the highest risk from COVID-19, which are primarily the elderly and others with serious underlying health conditions.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/25/2022 - 17:30

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Spread & Containment

This Week in Apps: Twitter Notes, Instagram age verification, Spotify’s Live Events

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy….

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Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record number of downloads and consumer spending across both the iOS and Google Play stores combined in 2021, according to the latest year-end reports. Global spending across iOS, Google Play and third-party Android app stores in China grew 19% in 2021 to reach $170 billion. Downloads of apps also grew by 5%, reaching 230 billion in 2021, and mobile ad spend grew 23% year over year to reach $295 billion.

Today’s consumers now spend more time in apps than ever before — even topping the time they spend watching TV, in some cases. The average American watches 3.1 hours of TV per day, for example, but in 2021, they spent 4.1 hours on their mobile device. And they’re not even the world’s heaviest mobile users. In markets like Brazil, Indonesia and South Korea, users surpassed five hours per day in mobile apps in 2021.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours, either. They can grow to become huge businesses. In 2021, 233 apps and games generated over $100 million in consumer spend and 13 topped $1 billion in revenue. This was up 20% from 2020, when 193 apps and games topped $100 million in annual consumer spend and just eight apps topped $1 billion.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place, with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions and suggestions about new apps to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

Instagram to verify users’ ages in new test

Image Credits: Instagram

Instagram announced this week it’s testing a new set of features for verifying users’ ages in the app, including things like video selfies, vouching from adult friends and providing an ID. The tests, which will begin in the U.S., will apply to users who try to change their age to 18 or over after being previously set to under 18. These users may be trying to correct an earlier mistake or they could be teens trying to circumvent the app’s newer age-appropriate restrictions.

If users are prompted to provide an ID card, like a passport or driver’s license, Meta will store it on its servers for 30 days before deletion. If users choose the social vouching option, they’ll need at least three other adult friends to vouch for their age — and Instagram will choose a list of six people randomly who meet the criteria. Those users can’t have a new account or be vouching for others at the same time.

The company also said it’s using AI that can estimate users’ ages in video selfies. The company is working with the London-based digital identify firm Yoti which will examine the file, make an estimate, then delete the file.

Age verification is an increasingly common feature in social apps used by younger users as a result of tighter regulations. Another company catering to Gen Z users, Yubo, recently rolled out its own age estimating tech as well.

Twitter goes long form

TechCrunch broke the news that Twitter was testing a long-form writing feature called Twitter Notes. The next day after our report went live, Twitter announced it officially.

The news is one of Twitter’s more significant changes since doubling the character count from 140 to 280 characters, as it will allow users to write on Twitter directly, as if it’s a blogging platform. With Twitter Notes, users are able to create articles using rich formatting and uploaded media, which can then be tweeted and shared with followers upon publishing. The company also said it would merge its newsletter service, Revue, into Twitter Notes.

Users with access can create Twitter Notes from the “Write” link in Twitter’s navigation. For the time being, Twitter is testing Notes with a small group of writers in the United States, Canada, Ghana and the United Kingdom. The Notes can be up to 2,500 words in length.

The feature could encourage users to rely on Twitter Thread (tweetstorms) less in order to share their longer thoughts, ideas or stories with their Twitter followers, Community or Circle. It could also put an end to using a screenshot from the Notes app to tweet something longer than 280 characters. Meanwhile, Twitter Notes can tap into the potential for viral distribution that comes with posting to the platform. Like tweets, the Notes would have their own link and could be tweeted, retweeted, sent in DMs, liked and bookmarked. They can also be reported and must comply with Twitter’s rules.

It’s worth noting (ha!) that Twitter Notes also gives the company a new business and potential revenue stream as it further develops the product. The feature may allow the social platform to compete with established services, like Medium for blogging, or Substack’s newsletters.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

E-commerce

Image Credits: Twitter/Shopify

  • As part of its ongoing efforts to expand into e-commerce, Twitter announced a new partnership with Shopify. The deal will see Twitter launching a sales channel app that will be made available to all of Shopify’s U.S. merchants through its app store. The app allows merchants to onboard themselves to Twitter’s Shopping Manager, the dashboard offered by the social media company where sellers can access product catalog tools and enable other shopping features for their profiles. Merchants will be able to use the new sales channel app to connect their Twitter account to their Shopify admin then get set up with Twitter’s Shopping Manager and other free tools Twitter built for “Professionals.” This includes Twitter’s launch of a new feature called Location Spotlight, which allows local businesses in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia to display information like their street address, contact info and operating hours directly on their profile.

Augmented Reality

  • Walmart gave its app an AR upgrade with the launch of View in Your Space, which allows customers to see home décor and furniture in their own homes. The feature will be rolled out to over 300 items on Walmart’s iOS app by early July.
  • Tim Cook may have hinted at Apple’s AR headset plans when he told a Chinese state-run news outlet to “stay tuned” to see what Apple had in store next for AR in an interview. A later investor note by Ming-Chi Kuo also suggested the new hardware could arrive as soon as early 2023.
  • IKEA launched a new in-app design experience, called IKEA Kreativ, that lets U.S. shoppers visualize furniture in their own spaces using AR and AI. The feature can also remove the existing furniture from your room so you can better imagine the changes.
  • Snap shared some data about AR shopping trends, noting that there was a 32% increased use of shoppable AR during the pandemic and that 69% of consumers believed AR was a part of shopping’s future.

Fintech

  • Coinbase is shutting down its standalone Pro service by year’s end and replacing it with Advanced Trade across its website and app. The latter offers comparable features to the Pro service, which had lowered fees to traders who interacted directly with the Coinbase Exchange order book.
  • Facebook Pay formally rebranded to Meta Pay. The change had already been announced but is now rolling out in the U.S. before expanding globally.

Social

Image Credits: Twitter

  • Snapchat announced its first accelerator program for emerging Black creators, which will see 25 selected participants receive $10,000 per month to launch their careers across a total $3 million investment.
  • Instagram has been experimenting with a new feature that would allow users to leave notes for their friends at the top of the DM inbox. The feature could help users share urgent or more important messages that could be overlooked in Stories or in messages.
  • Meta announced more ways for creators to make money on Facebook and Instagram and the expansion of other monetization tools to more creators. The company will keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges and its upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2024, instead of 2023, as it had said before. Meta is also testing a designated place on Instagram where creators can get discovered by brands for partnerships; will launch a way for users to subscribe to Facebook Groups even for those who have paid for access on another platform; and is expanding the Reels Play Bonus program to more creators and making Facebook Stars available to all.
  • Twitter announced the return of its developer conference, Chirp. The event was first held in 2010 but was then canceled the next year. At the time, the event had been a reflection of Twitter’s attitude toward its developer community in general — disorganized and constantly in flux as the company’s business initiatives changed. Times have since changed and Twitter has been trying to woo back developers with its new API, even by promoting some apps on Twitter itself.

Messaging

  • Telegram said it now has over 700 monthly active users and announced Telegram Premium, a subscription that gives users access to exclusive features like doubled limits, 4 GB file uploads, faster downloads, exclusive stickers and reactions, improved chat management and more.

Photos

Dating

  • Match-owned Hinge added a new feature that allows users to share their “Dating Intentions” — meaning whether they’re looking for long-term, short-term, open relationships and more. The update changes Hinge’s focus as the company has historically been the app designed to connect people looking for more serious relationships, while Match-owned Tinder was aimed at those seeking casual encounters.

Streaming & Entertainment

Image Credits: Spotify

  • Spotify revamped its concert discovery feature with the launch of a new Live Events Feed. The personalized feature will allow users to find favorite artists’ events in your area and will now include artist imagery and more tour details. Local events will also be highlighted while streaming and soon, in other places in the Spotify app.
  • Clubhouse is testing a new feature called Houses, per Bloomberg, which are private rooms aimed at encouraging social interactions where anyone can unmute themselves and speak.
  • Reddit Talk, the company’s live audio Clubhouse-like feature, announced its Host program would launch on July 11th. The program will promote hosts’ audio across the site. Reddit Talk also gained new features like a soundboard and topic selector for discovery purposes.
  • Apple Music raised the price of its student plan in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In the United States and Canada, the price for the plan has increased from $4.99 to $5.99. In the United Kingdom, the price has increased from £4.99 to £5.99.

Gaming

  • Epic Games has come up with a new system for game ratings. While these changes apply to its own online games store, it’s an example of why alternative app stores could be useful to provide competition with Apple’s own — they can be a ground to test out new ideas. In Epic’s case, random players who have played a game for over two hours will be asked to rate the game on a five-point scale. Over time, these will create the game’s Overall Rating. The system, which relies on random sampling, could cut down on review bombing and reviews left by those who aren’t actual players, the company notes.
  • China’s regulation of the mobile gaming market may be leading to declining use of the App Store in the country, according to Morgan Stanley. The firm’s latest analysis estimated that the App Store only saw 1% growth in June so far, compared with 6% growth in May.

Health & Fitness

  • Fitbit added a new premium feature, “Sleep Profile,” which will allow users to track their sleep patterns across 10 key metrics, including new data points like bedtime consistency, the time before sound sleep and disrupted sleep. The feature is rolling out to the Fitbit app’s Premium users and supports devices including Sense, Versa 3, Versa 2, Charge 5, Luxe or Inspire 2.

Travel & Transportation

  • Apple is planning to expand its CarPlay experience to China, according to a job posting.
  • Polestar has now added Apple CarPlay to its all-electric Polestar 2 sedan via an over-the-air software update, after previously only supporting Android Auto.
  • Car rental apps saw their MAUs grow 19% year-over-year in the U.S. in May, reported Apptopia, despite rising gas prices.

Image Credits: Apptopia

Government & Policy

  • TikTok offered a series of commitments in the EU to improve user reporting and disclosure requirements around ads/sponsored content as well as an agreement to boost transparency around its digital coins and virtual gifts. The agreement follows a series of complaints over child safety and consumer protection complaints filed back in February 2021.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice today entered into an agreement with Meta to resolve a lawsuit that alleged Meta engaged in discriminatory advertising in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). As a result, Meta has agreed to develop a new system for housing ads and will pay a roughly $115,000 penalty, the maximum under the FHA.

Reading & News

  • India-based VerSe Innovation rolled out its news aggregator Dailyhunt in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, with over 5,000 content partners in the region.

Security & Privacy

  • Google Chrome for iOS gained a number of new features in a recent update, including access to Enhanced Safe Browsing to protect users from dangerous websites and malware, as well as the ability to make Google Password Manager your Autofill provider. Other additions include Chrome Actions (typed commands in the URL bar) and access to Google’s Discover feed on the main page.
  • Daycare apps including those from Brightwheel, HiMama and others were found to lack 2FA and other privacy protections, in an analysis.
  • Google threat researchers detailed a commercial spyware system called Hermit, used in Kazakhstan and Italy, which targeted both Android and iOS. The iOS version had six exploits, including two zero-days. Targeted victims are tricked into installing a malicious app — which masquerades as a legitimate branded telco or messaging app — from outside the app store.

Funding and M&A

Courier raised $35 million in a Series B funding round led by GV. The company provides an API for sending notifications across multiple channels, including email, text, web and mobile.

Ghana-based fintech Fido raised $30 million in equity investment and some undisclosed debt funding in a Series A round led by Israel-based private equity fund Fortissimo Capital. The round brings the total equity investment raised to date to $38 million. The startup says it’s adding savings and payment products to its portfolio later this year and will enter Uganda.

Twitter asked its shareholders to approve the $44 billion Elon Musk acquisition. At the time of its SEC filing, Twitter’s share price was around $38.12 — lower than Musk’s offer price of $54.20 a share. The company’s market cap had also dropped below $30 billion, making a $44 billion deal look very good.

Downloads

WatchTube

Image Credits: WatchTube

Well, here’s something kind of crazy: 9to5Mac this week highlighted the new app WatchTube, which lets you watch YouTube videos directly on your Apple Watch. Yes, really!

The app is not the best experience for watching videos, as you may have guessed, but it is pretty wild that it actually works. The app by default shows you top trending videos, but you can customize this so the videos that appear are selected from a particular genre, like Music, News, Gaming, Movies and more. While it would be enough to just accomplish bringing YouTube to the Watch, the developer also added other features like the ability to search for videos, save videos to the app’s local Library and subscribe to Channels. When you get back to your other devices, you can also scan a QR code to share the video back to your iPhone or iPad.

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