USGS warns of 8 California volcanoes

  • USGS has classified California volcano hazard zones
  • Very-high threat: Mount Shasta, Lassen Volcanic Center and Long Valley Volcanic Region
  • High threat: Clear Lake Volcanic Field, Medicine Lake Volcano and Salton Buttes
  • Moderate threat: Ubehebe Crater and Coso Volcanic Field

The International Volcanology Assembly is meeting August 14-18 with planned fieldtrips to some volcanic hot spots along with symposia covering a broad variety of volcanological fields with plenary speakers emphasizing integrative and intersecting themes. There will be much discussion over the very high threat volcanoes in the area.

The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 shut down European airspace for a week. The International Air Transport Association estimated that the impact was $200 million per day and the total loss for the industry was around $1.7 billion. Over 95,000 flights were cancelled during this time.

Can your business continue to function with air travel disruptions? Do you have alternate transportation available? These are questions that should be asked when establishing a Business Continuity Plan. California businesses should take this time to revise their list of BCP risks. An eruption could disrupt business travel and impact airlines and their supply chain.

If your small business does not have a Business Continuity Plan, now is a great time to get started. Contact us today to speak to one of our implementation specialists.

Initial Coin Offerings Hold New Risks

  • Almost $50M in ETH stolen in a month
  • SEC rules crypto currencies are securities
  • ICOs now need securities registration

Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain hold many potential benefits in the economy of tomorrow. Businesses may choose to accept payment in Cryptocurrency as an alternative to credit cards, checks, or ACH. Ethereum is a decentralized computing platform and blockchain. Within Ethereum there is a crypto currency, Ether. There is also a way of issuing smart contracts.

Thieves love anything of value. Almost $50M in ETH has been stolen in multiple incidents. One recent trend is to exchange Cryptocurrency for future services in an Initial Coin Offering. The SEC announced today that ICOs are securities.

The SEC said in its report it has decided not to bring civil charges at the end of its probe into The DAO, but instead use the case as a cautionary tale for the market.

Cryptocurrencies and ICOs are a new frontier. This newness means that risks are still unknown. Where there is great risk there is great reward. Remember to tread carefully in this new territory.

Defend against Industrial Espionage if laptop ban extended

Homeland Security has banned laptops in the cabins of US bound flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. Rumors are circulating that the ban will extend to European airports. This will be a major inconvenience to business travelers, but can also result in losses to companies.

Valuables such as laptops or camera equipment should not go in checked luggage. Airport employees, including those in security, are known for stealing from checked luggage. Trust European airport employees as you would their US counterparts. Theft of company equipment is annoying and costly for a large cap corporation, but could be crippling for a microcap company.

Another downside of a potential laptop ban is the loss of billable hours. Over half of employees prefer to work on the plane. The National Trade and Tourism Office reports 4.9 million passengers flew overseas and 1.9 million travelled to Europe. If they were unable to work on the plane, the total number of billable hours lost at an average of $76/hr. could be as high as $500M.

Productivity issues are small compared to FBI information that says economic espionage costs US businesses nearly $500B per year. Laptops transported in checked luggage are excellent targets for IP theft. The FBI and other officials know that US allies have a history of spying on private sector companies. The French version of the CIA enabled France to win a $1B contract to supply military equipment to India by learning about competing bids. Stealing bid pricing is convenient, but marketing plans, customer lists, supplier lists, and other material could give a competitor an edge or a new competitor could enter the market if certain information fell into the wrong hands.

No commercial measures are foolproof, but these are some hints to help you prevent foreign officials from accessing your data:

  • Do not have data on your computer that could someone could access in the luggage screening area
  • Your hard drive can be copied by authorities
    • If your drive is unencrypted they now have all your files
    • If your drive is encrypted they try to break the encryption or guess your password
  • Consider carrying a “burner” laptop for your business trip
    • Chromebooks or Windows 10S systems that use only a web browser are a better option
    • Do not have the browser remember your password
    • Do not check “remember me” when logging into a site
    • If authorities decide to keep your laptop it’s only a financial inconvenience
  • Enable BitLocker encryption on Windows
  • Enable FileVault encryption on MacOS
  • Forensic tools can recover deleted files or a formatted hard drive
    • Delete files using a multi-pass tool
    • Commercial and open source options available
  • Keep your antivirus and security patches up to date
    • Antivirus only works on known viruses
    • Governments may have unique variants
    • There are places on your computer antivirus cannot reach
  • Hardware added to your computer can log your keystrokes or take pictures of your screen
    • Antivirus will not protect you

Large companies will always be the primary target, but small businesses may be a target of convenience. A little advance planning can go a long way to securing your assets from professional spies.

FRB FOMC Statement Leaves Interest Rates Unchanged

Today the Federal Open Market Committee announced.

  • Inflation measured on a 12-month basis is close to the Committee’s 2% objective.
  • Slow growth in Q1 is likely Transitory
  • Ex food and energy, consumer prices declined in March.
  • Target range for fed funds rate will remain at 0.75% to 1%.
  • Near-term risks are roughly balanced
  • Monetary policy is accommodative

Uncertainty Ahead of French Election

Polls show a small gap between the front runners with National Front leader Marie Le Pen tied with François Fillon. A populist win would be a threat bigger than Brexit to the Euro and the EU. Frexit is a possibility along with dropping the Euro and moving to a “nouveau franc” to make exports competitive. National debt would convert to the new currency which would likely be a default. There is high anxiety about the election since polls were wrong about the US Presidential election and Brexit.

The Euro has been on a one month slide against the Japanese Yen. This indicates that Japan is a safer economy than Europe. The Euro recently recovered against the Yen, but is facing resistance. This may change if Marie Le Pen begins to slip in the polls.

EUR/JPY Chart
EUR/JPY

 

There has also been as safe flight to the US Dollar over the past month.

EUR/USD
EUR/USD

Along with increased demand in the 10-year Treasury Note.

US-T 10Y
10 Year US Treasury

US companies doing business in France have FX exposure the Euro and potentially high impact exposure to introduction of a devalued currency. US companies may wish to insure accounts receivable against further erosion through forward contracts, futures, or options.

Delta Increases Compensation for Overbooked Flights

A Delta Airlines (NYSE: DAL) spokesperson informed CNN Money that supervisors will now offer up to $9,950, up from $,1350, for passengers who are bumped from overbooked flights. Gate agents may now offer up to $2,000, up from $800. The changes will benefit business and leisure travelers. More flyers will consider Delta as an option among the big carriers. This will contribute to seat shortages where travelers can cash in. If you’re a small business traveler and can score a quick $2000 on a return flight, do it! That is free money for future business travel or for vacation.

United has not announced any changes to compensation for travelers on overbooked flights. American Airlines (NYSE: AAL) spokesperson, Ross Feinstein, said American will work “to ensure we set compensation amounts properly … to obtain the correct number of volunteers.”

Delta’s quick response to the PR nightmare that United (NYSE: UAL) is suffering shows that management is in a clear position to manage upside risk. Some Wall Street analysts have upgraded Delta to “Strong Buy” because of Delta’s aggressive action.

Won Continues Slide as Warships Deploy to Korean Peninsula

The US Dollar and Japanese Yen continue their week long bullish run against the Korean Won. On April 3, US President Donald Trump stated that the US would act unilaterally if necessary. The statements and deployment of US warships to the region are worrying markets.

USD/KRW Chart
USD/KRW Spot
KRW/JPY Chart
KRW/JPY Spot

China and South Korea agreed to place sanctions on North Korea of it tests a nuclear or long range missile. US Secretary of state Rex Tillerson said a response is likely if other countries pose a danger. A Japanese defense ministry source said it is probably not realistic for the US attack. Per Japanese reports no coordination with US forces for military action has taken place.

We see the situation as headline worthy, but not disruptive to trade and business in the region. Barring any unusual activities by the Federal Reserve we also expect the Won to gain strength after the showdown is over.