Author Archives: Lenore Hawkins & Chris Versace

About Lenore Hawkins & Chris Versace

Lenore Hawkins serves as the Chief Macro Strategist for Tematica Research. With over 20 years of experience in finance, strategic planning, risk management, asset valuation and operations optimization, her focus is primarily on macroeconomic influences and identification of those long-term themes that create investing headwinds or tailwinds. Chris Versace is Tematica's Chief Investment Officer and editor of Tematica Investing newsletter. All of that capitalizes on his near 20 years in the investment industry, nearly all of it breaking down industries and recommending stocks.
What to Do When the Stock Market Drops

What to Do When the Stock Market Drops

History books and record books will study the first half of 2020 with intense interest. From an investor’s perspective alone, we’ve had a number of major market events that we’re still grappling with, and ongoing issues have injected huge amounts of uncertainty into the markets. A global pandemic, caused by the coronavirus, led to the brutal severity of the early spring pullback and the widening disparity between the equity and bond markets. The global economy went into free-fall; the staggering number of jobs lost in so short a time is without precedent, and many small businesses are under strain. And what happened next? A record-breaking market rebound despite a resurgence in virus cases and no vaccine as of yet.

That sharp rebound is reflected in the CNN Money Fear and Greed Index, which jumped into Greed territory compared to Neutral several weeks ago, indicative of the emotion driving the market. Times of Greed or Extreme Greed can be a precursor to more volatile times ahead, but since one data point can’t paint a full picture, it’s wise to examine a multitude of data points for confirmation.

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The ECB warns banks to prepare for coronavirus related jump in cybercrime

The ECB warns banks to prepare for coronavirus related jump in cybercrime

Never underestimate people’s ability to take advantage of a crisis, including the current coronavirus as cyber-criminals have been quick to take advantage of the understandable levels of fear. This morning NortonLifeLock (NLOK) sent an email to its clients warning about a phishing email going around that uses the logo of the CDC Health Alert Network claiming to provide a list of local active infections. Recipients are asked to click a link where they are then to enter email login credentials, which are then stolen.

Also this morning, the European Central Bank warned banks that there may be a jump in cyber attacks as hackers look to exploit virus-related chaos.

The watchdog urged banks in a letter this week to test the capacity of their technology systems “also in light of a potential increase of cyber-attacks and potential higher reliance on remote banking services.”

The outbreak has prompted lenders to ask more employees to work from home or spread them across different offices, while more clients may choose online banking over going to branches. While banks have improved defenses against hackers in recent years, the ECB has called cybercrime and technology deficiencies some of the top risks for the industry this year.

The ECB letter is part of efforts to ensure banks can keep functioning in case they’re directly affected by the coronavirus outbreak that’s rippling through the global economy.

These warnings follow a recently published blog post by Fortinet (FTNT) on how it has seen a significant increase in malicious activity surrounding the coronavirus. In the post, the company shared it has found reports appearing from “trusted sources, such as governmental agencies, news outlets, etc. that were actually malicious.” Fortinet goes on to point out the World Health Organization (WHO) is contending with malicious activity as “criminals are disguising themselves as WHO to steal money or sensitive information.”

We suspect in the coming months we are likely to see a spike in companies reporting cyber attacks and data privacy violations, which will not only shortcomings but also spur demand for companies found in the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity & Data Privacy IndexOur advice is to wash your hands frequently and be wary of what you click on and where you click. It’s a viral world.

Source: Banks Told to Prepare for Cybercrime Jump in Coronavirus Fallout – Bloomberg

Disclosure: NortonLifeLock (NLOK) and Fortinet (FTNT) are constituents in the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Index

 

GRU’s Grand Day Out and MGM’s Bad Privacy Luck

GRU’s Grand Day Out and MGM’s Bad Privacy Luck

In the last twenty-four hours, we’ve had two powerful reminders of the growing need for cybersecurity and digital privacy solutions. The first was the announcement from gaming and hospitality giant MGM Resorts International (MGM) that it had been the victim of a data breach in 2019. The second was a statement from the US State Department blaming the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU for the cyberattacks that hit Georgia last October and disrupted “several thousand Georgian government and privately-run websites and interrupted the broadcast of at least two major television stations.” 

As the digital world becomes increasingly pervasive so too does the need for cybersecurity and data protection solutions. The passage of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act are both driving spending on security measures as companies race towards compliance with these new personal data privacy regulations.

In the case of the MGM breach, the personal details of more than 10.6 million guests of the resort chain were published on a hacking forum, including information from driver’s licenses, passports, and military ID cards. While the company doesn’t have any current operations in California, it does have operations in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. All three of those states introduced new privacy laws in 2019, which are pending in Maryland and Massachusetts but active in New York as of January 2020. 

Those new laws and a growing number of similar legislative acts emerging in other states are intended to increase the cost to companies of data breaches compared. As we noted in “A Whitepaper on Cybersecurity and Privacy”, fines associated with privacy law violations can be $100-$750 per user, which could be financially devastating. If a company doing business in California experienced an attack similar in size and scope to MGM’s, it would be staring down a potential fine between $1-$8 billion. For some perspective, the MGM breach paled in comparison to the 2018 breach at Marriot International (MAR) that exposed data of up to 500 million guests. 

Luckily for MGM, this data breach occurred in 2019 before new privacy laws were enacted this year. Even so, in response to the attack, MGM retained two cybersecurity forensics firms to conduct an internal investigation into the server exposure and has “strengthened and enhanced the security of our network to prevent this from happening again.”[1] That means spending on cybersecurity and data privacy solutions. Given the evolving nature of attacks, this will not be a one-time investment. MGM, and all companies facing such risks, will need to be perpetually vigilant in safeguarding their networks especially customer data. 

Threat intelligence firm KELA identified the culprit behind the MGM attack as a member of the GnosticPlayers[2], a hacking group responsible for the hacks of more than 45 companies and the leaking of over one billion user records throughout 2019. The new privacy laws in the US and the European Union expand the potential damage such hacking groups can inflict on companies, increasing the need for cyber protection lest they leave themselves vulnerable to attacks and privacy-related fines. The new privacy regulations increase the potential financial harm to a company from hacking, creating yet another powerful incentive for preventative security spending. 

While the attack on MGM was a clear example of the need for better corporate cybersecurity and data privacy, the cyberattack on Georgia, is one of cyber warfare. The Georgia attack knocked out thousands of government, private sector, and media websites, and interrupted broadcasts of at least two major television stations.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), concluded, “with the highest level of probability, “the attacks, aimed at web-hosting providers, were carried out by the GRU (a Russian military spy agency) in a bid to destabilize the country. The GRU is also believed to be behind NotPetya, a June 2017 cyberattack that invaded global corporate networks crashing many systems worldwide, disrupting business for companies including “Maersk, pharmaceutical giant Merck, FedEx’s European subsidiary TNT Express, French construction company Saint-Gobain, Mondelez, and Reckitt Benckiser. “[3]

In terms of the size of the NotPetya attack, “According to confirmation received by WIRED from former Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert, the result of this attack was more than $10 billion total loss in damages.”[4] That compares to losses of $4-$8 billion associated with the WannaCry virus in May 2017.

While the attack on Georgia is gaining renewed exposure, the reality is it is just the latest in a growing number of cyber warfare attacks; a list of such attacks is being compiled by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. 

The bottom line is in a world of increasing connectivity that brings ever greater accessibility, companies, governments, and institutions are facing a cyber arms race that will generate continual and growing demand for evolving cyber defense solutions. If a company opts not to secure itself, it risks devastating fines. We suspect the more prudent companies will instead engage with cybersecurity and data privacy companies that comprise the Foxberry Tematica Research Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Index.


[1] ZDNet, “Exclusive: Details of 10.6 million MGM hotel guests posted on a hacking forum”, 2020. Available at https://www.zdnet.com/article/exclusive-details-of-10-6-million-of-mgm-hotel-guests-posted-on-a-hacking-forum/

[2] ZDNet, “Exclusive: Details of 10.6 million MGM hotel guests posted on a hacking forum”, 2020. Available at https://www.zdnet.com/article/exclusive-details-of-10-6-million-of-mgm-hotel-guests-posted-on-a-hacking-forum/

[3] NS Tech, “Russia’s GRU launched cyberattacks aimed at destabilising Georgia, says NCSC”, 2020. Available at https://tech.newstatesman.com/security/russia-gru-cyber-attacks-georgia-ncsc

[4] Business Standard, “NotPetya: How a Russian malware created the world’s worst cyberattack ever”, 2018. Available at https://www.business-standard.com/article/technology/notpetya-how-a-russian-malware-created-the-world-s-worst-cyberattack-ever-118082700261_1.html

Daily Markets: Markets Feverish Again Over Contagion Fears

Daily Markets: Markets Feverish Again Over Contagion Fears

Yesterday US investors were surprised to see the market suddenly drop around midday, the Dow falling almost 400 points at one point, with no one clear, obvious catalyst. The suspected culprit was a report of new coronavirus cases at a Beijing hospital combined with other reports of the outbreak accelerating outside of China.

The coronavirus is once again front and center for investors today with stocks in Asia closing mostly in the red except for the major Chinese indices on word that the return to work is accelerating in the major foreign trade provides. The Shenzhen Composite gained 1.1% and the Shanghai Composite 0.3%. South Korea, on the other hand, saw its Kospi drop 1.5% after reporting the first confirmed death in the country from COVID-19 on top of having the highest number of people infected with the virus outside of mainland China.

The major European indices were all in the red…

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Daily Markets: Morgan Stanley (MS) to Buy E-Trade for $13 Billion

Daily Markets: Morgan Stanley (MS) to Buy E-Trade for $13 Billion

The main equity indices closed mostly in the green in Asia today after China cut its 1-year loan prime rate (LPR) by ten basis points and its 5-year by five basis points. This move comes after the People’s Bank of China had earlier cut the rate on $28.65 billion worth of 1-year medium-term lending facility loans to financial institutions from 3.25% to 3.15% on Monday. The rate cut was widely anticipated and is another layer in China’s efforts to limit the economic impact of the coronavirus.

As of yesterday, China’s National Health Commission had reported an additional 114 deaths from COVID-19, and 394 confirmed new cases for a total of 2,118 deaths and 74,576 cases. The number of new cases dropped dramatically, giving investors hope that we may have seen the worst of it, a hope that was furthered by the announcement from Foxconn today that it is cautiously restarting production at its primary plants in China. The Hubei province has asked that work not resume before March 11 – suspension for many firms was previously due to end February 21. South Korea reported 22 new confirmed cases with a potential first death from the virus that remains under investigation.

Shares in Europe were modestly in the red as of midday trading with US futures pointing to a slightly lower open after the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 closed at new highs yesterday.

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Daily Markets: Investors Aren’t Bugged By This Virus

Daily Markets: Investors Aren’t Bugged By This Virus

The major equity indices in Asia bounced back from their recent slides shrugging off a growing list of companies warning over the impact of the coronavirus as all but the Shanghai composite closed in the green today. By midday, the main European equity indices were also in the green and US equity futures point to a slight rise at the open after yesterday’s opening dip that reversed into a new record high for the Nasdaq Composite while the S&P 500, Dow and Russell 2000 closed down 0.3%, 0.6% and 0.2% respectively.

US Treasury yields are falling across the board…

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Daily Markets: Apple (AAPL) Reveals Coronavirus Will Affect Revenue Expectations

Daily Markets: Apple (AAPL) Reveals Coronavirus Will Affect Revenue Expectations

Last Friday we noted traders would likely take a cautious stance heading into the long weekend that saw US equity markets closed yesterday in observation of Presidents’ Day and we were correct in our thinking as stocks gave back most of their gains to finish the day little changed. That concern proved to be on the nose as Apple (AAPL) pre-announced that it would not meet its revenue expectations for the current quarter that it laid out on Jan. 28, which was wider than usual as the company looked to account for the impact of the coronavirus – see more in Stocks to Watch. 

As we’ve all come to realize in recent weeks, the scope of the virus’s impact has been far greater than many initially expected and even as China looks to get back to work, that resumption has been slower than expected. This morning we are seeing that play out in the latest ZEW Indicators for both the Eurozone and Germany, and as we point out in today’s Data Download China is a larger trading partner for the US than Germany, and likely means we will be hearing more reports like the one from Apple in the coming days. 

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Disclosures

Daily Markets: Cupid’s Arrow Missing Today’s Markets

Daily Markets: Cupid’s Arrow Missing Today’s Markets

Love may be the theme for today’s Valentine’s day, but the markets are mostly feeling, “I think I’ll just throw on my comfy sweats, grab a pint of ice cream and go for a Netflix marathon.” Or maybe that’s just us.

Yesterday investors continued to reassess risk concerning COVID-19, leaving the major US indices little changed. Today Asia closed mostly in the green, albeit just slightly, except for Japan’s Nikkei, which closed down just over 0.5%. Markets in Europe were mixed by mid-day trading, but little changed either way. US equity futures point to a slight increase at the open – another day with little direction.

Perhaps cupid and his arrows have investors distracted ahead of the long weekend in the US? Given Presidents’ Day in the US is Monday, markets will be closed so we wouldn’t be surprised to see traders taking a cautious stance into the weekend to avoid any COVID-19 surprises before markets re-open on Tuesday.

The tariff reductions agreed to as part of the phase one U.S-China trade deal…

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Daily Markets: Stocks Kick Into High-Gear Risk-On Mode

Daily Markets: Stocks Kick Into High-Gear Risk-On Mode

Stocks continued to shrug off concerns over the coronavirus and kicked into high-gear risk-on mode. The Nasdaq 100 and Nasdaq Composite both hit new all-time highs. The VIX dropped 10% yesterday alone and the yield on the US 10-year rose 7 basis points. Absent from the party were WTI crude, which fell another 1% to hit a new 52-week low, and Utilities, the only sector to finish the day lower.

That risk-on mode continued today in Asian equities, which moved higher including those in China despite the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China exceeding 24,000 and the death count approaching 500. While the World Health Organization said this morning that there is still no known treatment at this time, there were reports that scientists are making breakthroughs with a vaccine for the coronavirus. Speculation continues to point to further stimulus moves by the People’s Bank of China as it looks to offset the impact of the coronavirus, including lowering its loan prime rate on Feb. 20, and cut banks’ reserve requirement ratios in the coming weeks.

We think we can safely place “don’t fight the PBoC” alongside the popular investor mantra that is “don’t fight the Fed.”

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Daily Markets: China Stimulates Markets, the Iowa Debacle and Trump’s State of the Union

Daily Markets: China Stimulates Markets, the Iowa Debacle and Trump’s State of the Union

Yesterday the major indices reversed a bit of the decline since fears over the coronavirus began. The Nasdaq 100 lead the major US indices, gaining 1.5%, the Nasdaq Composite 1.3%, the S&P 500 0.7% and the Dow 30 0.5% while the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) lost 4.6%. The oil market continues to suffer with estimates that China’s oil consumption could decline by as much as 20%. 

Despite a second coronavirus death being reported outside of China and the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China exceeding 20,000 with the death count surpassing 400, the speed of the virus’s international increase appears to have slowed compared to last week, This potential good news coupled with another round of stimulus from the People’s Bank of China — another $71.2 billion of liquidity via reverse repo agreements on top of the $143 billion injection on Monday — led Asian markets to end the day higher, including a rebound in the Shanghai Index today.  European equities have followed suit and are up across the board while US equity futures point to a vibrant market open. 

If you were expecting to read about the results of the Iowa Caucuses, we are sorry to inform you that an “election debacle” unfolded yesterday as the Democratic Party found “inconsistencies in the reporting.” According to Mandy McClure, the state party’s communications director, “The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.” Results could be released as soon as late today. 

While this could make for some interesting barbs as we get ready for tonight’s annual State of the Union Address…

Read more herehttps://www.nasdaq.com/articles/daily-markets%3A-china-stimulates-markets-the-iowa-debacle-and-trumps-state-of-the-union

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