Mastercard says plastic credit cards should go green

Mastercard says plastic credit cards should go green

Over the last few months, we’ve seen a growing intolerance for plastic. From cups to containers and straws, companies from Starbucks to Marriot International and Hyatt are ditching plastic straws catering to consumers that are increasingly focused on our Clean Living investing theme. With 6 billion plastic credit and debit cards pushed out each year, that is a lot – A LOT – of plastic that credit card issuers are putting in the hands of consumers. Mastercard recognizes this and is putting forth an agenda to reduce the use of PVC plastic in card manufacturing. Unlike what we’ve seen straw replacements, that have included paper, bamboo, metal and even pasta replacements, these debit and credit cards need a replacement material that can handle the transactional and security technologies enclosed inside the cards as well as one that is ample and cheap to manufacture.

We see this as the beginning of the conversation, and it will take some time to see if this catches fire in the industry or if it’s just a lot of talk with little action.

 

 

The world has a plastic problems — a fact illustrated earlier this week when researchers from the Environment Agency Austria and the Medical University of Vienna jointly presented evidence that there is so much plastic in the environment that we’ve actually begun to inadvertently eat it. Scientists are now looking for more funding to get a better understanding as to how so much plastic has made it into human digestive tracts worldwide — but the big takeaway, Mastercard President of Cyber And Intelligence Solutions Ajay Bhalla told PYMNTS, is pretty obvious.

To push that goal, Mastercard — in partnership with the world’s three largest card manufacturers, Gemalto, Giesecke & Devrient and IDEMIA — has officially launched the Greener Payments Partnership to establish environmental best practices and reduce first-use PVC plastic in card manufacturing.

“Going green, historically, in cards has been linked to purchases, If the customer spends X amount in dollars, the card donates a set amount to an environmental cause. We have yet to take the next step, which is in changing the actual materials that are used,” he said.

Making that change, though, will be difficult, Bhalla acknowledged, because plastic is standard, easy and cheap. Attempts have been made at finding some alternatives (corn-based plastics have been used), but these efforts are not nearly large enough to really draw any conclusion. The goal, he said, is not to make 100,000 cards, but to find a replacement material that will work for the literal billions of cards out there, and work as well as those cards do today.

Consumers, he noted, love their plastic cards — study after study has demonstrated they like being able to pull them out and use them at will. That means changing the make of those cards has to preserve the experience that customers favor.

Source: Mastercard: Plastic Credit Cards To Go Green | PYMNTS.com

Mastercard Files More Blockchain Patent Apps 

Mastercard Files More Blockchain Patent Apps 

There has been much talk this year about the rapid rise and fall of Bitcoin. We here at Tematica have long said the far more interesting disruptor is Blockchain, and as Bitcoin has fallen hard in recent weeks, we’ve seen a flurry of renewed news flow for blockchain, including a growing number of patent filings from MasterCard, IBM, Alibaba, and others. We see those firms as looking to establish a firm position in a technology that could very well upend the financial and transactional markets. Like most other disruptors, ranging from 5G to augmented reality, this renewed blockchain newsflow could lead to a frenzy of activity in the near-term that will likely give way to a longer than expected development time. Still, blockchain is one the radar screen for our Disruptive Innovators investing theme.

 

Blockchain has been receiving attention well beyond cryptocurrencies, and the focus has shifted in part to patent filings. Though it may seem that China has dominated patent filing activity in recent weeks, a number of firms (not Alibaba) have been making their own way across the patent landscape.

In the latest news germane to intellectual property and blockchain, Mastercard has filed three patent applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as reported this week. Amid those patent filings came details that the payments giant has developed a blockchain-based system, which aims to streamline high-volume B2B transactions. The patents are titled “Method and System for Recording Point-to-Point Transaction Processing.”

In those filings, Mastercard noted that the infrastructure underpinning B2B payments is unwieldy and still focuses on individual payment transactions. The number of transactions/settlements is on the rise, though, and there is strain on current infrastructure. The company’s embrace of digital ledger technology (DLT) can help data related to those transactions to be stored and used securely.

Recent news also follows earlier patent activity, where Mastercard patent filings seek to utilize digital signatures in signing blockchain transactions. In more patent activity in July, Mastercard filed a patent application that had been titled “Blockchain-Based Asset Bonding System to Fiat Currency Accounts,” which would pave the way for bitcoin transactions on credit cards.

Source: Mastercard Files More Blockchain Patent Apps | PYMNTS.com

Visa & Mastercard mandating contactless payment terminals

Visa & Mastercard mandating contactless payment terminals

New technology adoption can be driven, primarily, by two forces – bubbling up based on consumer demand or pushed down due to a mandate from companies or the government. With contactless payments, we’ve seen consumer uptake grow as mobile payments, like Apple Pay, have come to smartphones and wearables. Now Mastercard  (MA) and Visa (V) are mandating payment terminals to include contactless payments by 2020. This should deliver a pronounced step up in contactless payments, but it also means an upgrade wave coming to payment terminals from Verifone (PAY), First Data (FDC), Ingenico and others.

Apple Pay should get a major lift within the next five years from a pair of factors, according to new research, most notably contactless support demanded by credit card giants Visa and Mastercard.

By 2020, both companies will require payment terminals in many markets to offer the technology, Juniper Research noted. The lack of compatible sales terminals has been a consistent obstacle in U.S. Apple Pay adoption, such that some retailers —like Anthropologie —have promised support for years without delivering.

Growth may also be aided by shoppers wanting to avoid the slower speeds of chip card transactions, which are presently replacing magnetic swipes.

U.S. contactless payments at retail are forecast to rise from 2 percent this year to 34 percent by 2022, Juniper said. Globally, figures are predicted to rise from 15 percent to 53 percent, reflecting the technology’s greater popularity in countries like Poland, Japan, and the U.K.

Source: Apple Pay likely to get boost from Visa & Mastercard mandating contactless payment terminals

Tencent scales thematic investments in payments, AI and cloud

Tencent scales thematic investments in payments, AI and cloud

Our Content is King theme isn’t the only one getting a lot of attention this week as more companies look to invest not only in payments, which we see as Cashless Consumption but also artificial intelligence, a slice of our Disruptive Technologies theme. As we look at these moves, we are reminded of the global nature of our investing themes. This means that Amazon (AMZN), MasterCard (MA), Visa (V), Facebook (FB), Alphabet (GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), PayPal (PYPL) and the like need to be aware of moves made by Tencent (TCHEY), Alibaba (BABA) and other players outside the US.

Tencent, the Chinese mobile games and social media company, is gearing up to increase its investments in online payments, cloud services and artificial intelligence.Still, with competition on the rise in the digital payments market, the investments are necessary. “We think there is still a lot of growth potential from Tencent’s cloud and payment business,” BOCOM International Analyst Connie Gu said in the Reuters report.

China’s Tencent isn’t only investing in artificial intelligence, payments and cloud services. Earlier this month, it showcased how it is also investing in other areas. Essential Products, the smartphone company that was started by Andy Rubin — the creator of the Android mobile operating system — raised $300 million in venture funding from a cadre of investors, including Tencent. According to a news report in The Wall Street Journal, the company announced the list of investors betting it can take on Apple and Samsung Electronics in the smartphone market, reported the paper.

Source: Tencent Increases Investments In AI, Payments | PYMNTS.com

Tematica’s Take on the February Jobs Report, and What It Means for the Fed and Stocks

Tematica’s Take on the February Jobs Report, and What It Means for the Fed and Stocks

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics published the February Employment Report. One of the last few indicators economists, market watchers and the Fed will get ahead of next week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting came in better than expected on several fronts. Over the last few week’s we’ve seen a rising expectation for a March rate hike, but more recently we’ve gotten conflicting signals in a variety of data points. While the February reports for the both the Producer and Consumer Price Indices and Retail Sales will be published early next week, barring any major snafus in those reports the February Employment Report clears the way for the Fed to nudge interest rates higher next week.

 

The details of the February Employment Report how it stacked up against expectations

 

 

Nonfarm payrolls came in at 235K besting expectations for 190K-200K depending on the source, and the Unemployment rate held steady at 4.7 percent.  A nice beat, but job growth slipped month over month compared to the 238K revised number of jobs created in January. Overall payrolls are up around 1.6 percent over the past year as we’ve seen the 12-month trend slowing over the past few years, which is to be expected in the later stages of this cycle. Job gains were reported in in construction, private educational services, manufacturing, health care, and mining, which was offset by job losses in retail.

 

 

In looking at several other metrics in the report, the Labor Force Participation Ratio edged up a tick month over month to hit 63.0 percent in February and we saw another sequential decline in the Not in Labor Force category. The percent of Americans actually working has reached 60 percent for the first time since 2009. In our view, those metrics are moving in the right direction.

 

We also like seeing the median duration of unemployment has been continually declining since its peak in 2010. Today that number has dropped to around 10 weeks.

 

 

Since the recovery, job growth has been concentrated primarily in lower-paying jobs in sectors such as retail, hospitality, education and food service. Recently we have seen higher-paying sectors such as manufacturing and construction posting material gains. While every sector outside of retail and utilities experienced gains, manufacturing grew 28,000, the largest increase in that sector since August 2013. Construction also surged by 58,000 jobs which was the biggest gain since March 2007 and has now added 177,000 to payroll in the past six months, a likely positive sign for housing.

If we were to pick one fly in the jobs report ointment it would be the sharp increase in the number of people with multiple jobs, which climbed to 5.3 percent of total employed, up from 5.0 percent a year ago. To us, this signals that more people are under the gun when it comes to helping make ends meet due to higher health care costs, soaring student debt levels or the need to boost savings levels, especially for retirement. From a thematic perspective, we see the pick up in multiple jobholders as a confirming data point for our Cash-strapped Consumer investing theme. More about that in a few paragraphs.

 

So what do all these employment “tea leaves” tell us about what the Fed might be thinking?

As Team Tematica discussed on this week’s Cocktail Investing Podcast, retail job losses were anticipated given the growing number of store closing announcements over the last several weeks from the likes of  Macy’s (M), Kohl’s (KSS), JC Penney (JCP), hhgregg (HGG), Crocs (CROX) and others. All of these companies are contending with the downside of our increasingly Connected Society that has consumers increasingly shifting toward digital shopping.  Given the relatively mild winter weather, the pick up in construction work likely bodes well for the housing market, which is one we keep tabs on as part of our Rise & Fall of the Middle Class investing theme. From an exchange traded fund perspective, the mix of jobs created in February likely means a higher share price for SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) and PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction Portfolio ETF (PKB) are to be had while SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) get left behind.

As Tematica’s Chief Investment Officer, Chris Versace, reminds his graduate students at the NJCU School of Business, the Fed has a dual mandate that focuses on the speed of the economy AND inflation. The one item that is bound to catch the Fed’s attention is wage growth, which rose even though hours worked remain unchanged in February vs. January. Per the report, “In February, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 6 cents to $26.09, following a 5-cent increase in January.”

While that wage growth likely reflects some impact from rising minimum wages, the mix shift in job creation toward higher paying jobs in mining, construction and manufacturing and away from lower-paying retail jobs was the primary driver. If we had to guess the one line item that could get some attention at the Fed, it would be the combined January-February wage growth, which equates to a 2.8 percent increase year over year – near the fastest pace of growth during the current expansion, and better than the expected 2.7 percent, but still well below the rate of growth prior to the financial crisis.

However, on a monthly basis, average hourly earnings for private-sector workers rose 0.2 percent during February, which was below expectations for 0.3 percent. If we dig a bit deeper, that 2.8 percent year-over-year growth is an overall number. Wages for nonsupervisory and production employees comprise about 80 percent of the workforce and that group saw their hourly and weekly wages rise by about 2.48 percent on a year over year basis – this group isn’t getting quite the gains that their supervisors are enjoying. Additionally, this metric is not adjusted for inflation and guess what….the most recent inflation rate as measured by the consumer price index was (drum roll) … 2.5 percent. So post-inflation, no real gains. Once we again, it pays to read more than just the headlines when deciphering a report like this.

That being said, in our view, this month Employment Report helps pave the way for the Fed to nudge interest rates higher next week. We expect financials, including shares of banks such as Wells Fargo (WFC), Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C) to name a few to trade higher today and lead the market higher. It goes without saying that means Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF) shares are likely to trade higher.

As the likelihood of higher interest rates are upon us, we have to consider what the incrementally higher borrowing costs could mean to consumers that have taken on considerably more debt in 2016? Team Tematica touched on this and what it likely means in this week’s podcast. While we’ve seen decent wage growth thus far in 2017, a new study from WalletHub shows that “US consumers racked up $89.2 billion in credit card debt during 2016, pushing outstanding balances to $978.9 billion, which is roughly $3 billion below the all-time record set in 2007.” This would certainly help explain the year over year increase in multiple jobholders we talked about several paragraphs above.

For an economy whose growth is tied rather heavily to consumer spending, higher interest rates could crimp the health of that economic engine when consumers start to look at their credit card interest rates. Add in higher gas prices and odds are Cash-strapped Consumers will be with us once the euphoria of today’s February Employment Report dies down. We’ll be watching credit card transaction levels at Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) to gauge consumer debt levels and whether average transaction sizes are shrinking.

— Tematica’s Chief Macro Strategist, Lenore Elle Hawkins contributed to this article. 

Mastercard Data Show Chip Cards Are Worth the Wait When it Comes to Card Fraud

Mastercard Data Show Chip Cards Are Worth the Wait When it Comes to Card Fraud

 

While we may not be enthused with the longer check out times associated with the move to chip cards, data from MasterCard shows a few more minutes is making all the difference when it comes to credit card fraud.

Credit card fraud is down by more than 60% at Mastercard’s top five EMV-enabled merchants since chip cards were introduced late last year, according to the company.

Mastercard reports that 8 out of 10 of its U.S. cardholders have chips and counts 1.7 million chip-active merchants on its network — about 30% of total U.S. retailers. During a similar appraisal in May, Visa estimated 1.2 million stores were chip enabled.

Source: Mastercard: Chip cards cut fraud by 60% | Chain Store Age

China opens its markets to foreign bank card companies 

China opens its markets to foreign bank card companies 

Poised to be the largest population by 2020, Cashless Consumption is poised to get a big boost as global payment processing firms tap the China market. Analyzing how this impacts consumption and debt levels will factor into our Rise & Fall of the Middle class thinking.

China will allow foreign payment card companies to operate in the country under rules issued on Tuesday, potentially giving groups like Visa Inc (V.N) and MasterCard (MA.N) access to its 55-trillion-yuan ($8.4 trillion) card payment market.Visa and MasterCard, the world’s two largest credit and debit card companies, have been lobbying for more than a decade for direct access to China’s cards market, which is projected to become the world’s biggest by 2020.Bank card consumer transactions reached 55 trillion yuan in 2015, accounting for 48 percent of total social consumption, the People’s Bank of China said in a statement. The market is dominated by state-run China UnionPay Co Ltd.

Source: China opens its markets to foreign bank card companies | Reuters