World leaders head to Davos as uncertainty darkens the global outlook

A demonstrator holds a 'Stop The Shutdown' sign during a rally with union members and federal employees to end the partial government shutdown outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A demonstrator holds a ‘Stop The Shutdown’ sign during a rally with union members and federal employees to end the partial government shutdown outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

As a legion of heads of state and business leaders head to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) next week, world affairs are as unpredictable and unstable as ever.

In the 12 months since the last forum, global trade relations and diplomacy as well as domestic politics have been fractious, to say the least.

Since President Donald Trump first announced tariffs on a selection of Chinese imports last January, the U.S. and China have gone on to impose tariffs of $250 billion and $110 billion on each other’s goods, respectively. Washington is currently witnessing its longest ever shutdown because of an impasse over funding for a border wall and Brexit remains as chaotic and unclear as ever just weeks before the U.K.’s departure from the EU.

The forum released a “Global Risks” report Wednesday in which it noted that “global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking.”

In continental Europe over the last year, we’ve seen a populist government take charge in one of Europe’s major economies, Italy, and a demise of mainstream politicians that could lead to a power vacuum — and moral crisis — in the region.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced in October that she is to retire from politics and her party continues to cede voters to the left and right, meanwhile an increasingly unpopular French President Emmanuel Macron is dealing with ongoing and often violent protests on the streets of Paris.

John Drzik, president of Global Risk and Digital at risk management firm Marsh, told CNBC that cybercrime, critical infrastructure and environmental threats, as well as changes in geopolitics, are among the biggest risks facing the world right now.

“The rise of nationalist agendas around the world is creating friction among states as well as weakening multilateral institutions,” he told CNBC’s Joumanna Bercetche.

“It’s not just in the U.S., here in the U.K. you have Brexit, but in Brazil, Italy, Austria and Hungary there are lots of populist political figures who are getting elected and changing the agenda to be more protectionist and more nationalist and, as a result, weakening the multilateral bonds that were there and that’s expected to continue into 2019.”

The global economy is not looking too great either as trade concerns continue to concern business and rattle financial markets.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cited trade tensions when it downgraded its global growth forecast for 2019 last October. The IMF expects global growth of 3.7 percent in 2019, down 0.2 percentage points from an earlier forecast in its World Economic Outlook report.

The World Bank, meanwhile, sees global growth at 2.9 percent in 2019 amid tightening financial conditions. The European Commission is also downbeat about the region’s growth, forecasting a lackluster 2 percent growth in the EU in 2019.

Globalization 4.0

Against this backdrop, there’s plenty to talk about at this year’s Davos then when the heads and officials of over 100 governments meet, as well as top executives from over 1,000 global companies. Designed to foster private and public cooperation, the forum’s main objective is “to improve the state of the world.” This year’s theme is focused on “Globalization 4.0.”

WEF’s founder Klaus Schwab said in November that the world is experiencing “an economic and political upheaval that will not cease any time soon” adding in a WEF editorial that “the forces of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have ushered in a new economy and a new form of globalization.”

Schwab said that a slow and uneven recovery since the global financial crisis meant “a substantial part of society has become disaffected and embittered, not only with politics and politicians, but also with globalization and the entire economic system it underpins.”

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He said populist discourse had confused globalization, which has been seen to have negative connotations in some populist narratives, with globalism.

“Globalization is a phenomenon driven by technology and the movement of ideas, people, and goods. Globalism is an ideology that prioritizes the neoliberal global order over national interests. Nobody can deny that we are living in a globalized world. But whether all of our policies should be ‘globalist’ is highly debatable.”

Put simply, Schwab said the challenge for global leaders is “to restore sovereignty in a world that requires cooperation.” He advised that rather than closing off economies through protectionism and nationalist
politics, a new social compact is needed between citizens and their leaders, so that everyone feels secure enough at home to remain open to the world at large.”

“Failing that, the ongoing disintegration of our social fabric could ultimately lead to the collapse of democracy,” he said.


Microsoft’s Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

email insights search

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Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you want.

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant.

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane

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The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

Why this matters: Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.

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Outlook for Android, iOS Gets Evernote, Facebook, Wunderlist Calendar Integration

Outlook for Android, iOS Gets Evernote, Facebook, Wunderlist Calendar Integration

Microsoft on Thursday in its blog post announced that it is integrating Wunderlist, Facebook and Evernote into the Outlook app for Android and iOS, as ‘Calendar Apps’. This means that users would now be able to see their notes, Facebook RSVP events, and to-do lists from these apps inside the dedicated Calendar tab in the Outlook email app.

Inside the tab, users can swipe right and tap on the add icon besides the Calendar Apps to connect their Wunderlist, Facebook, and Evernote accounts inside the overflow menu and see all of them at a single place, says the Redmond-based tech giant.

Once connected, user’s all Wunderlist to-do tasks will show up in the Outlook calendar app in the All Day section. One can tap on the to-do list to view the details as well. Any extra tinkering with the list will prompt users to open the task directly in the Wunderlist app. Microsoft also points users to the recentlyreleased Wunderlist add-in for users of the new, Outlook 2013/2016, and Outlook on the Web for Office 365.

Similarly, users can connect their Facebook accounts from inside the overflow menu. Once connected, the Outlook calendar will show the events users are invited to or have accepted on Facebook. It would also show their Facebook friend’s birthdays. Tapping on a Facebook event inside the calendar section will let them RSVP an event and view its details as well. For any additional information, the page would ask users to directly open the Facebook app.

As for the Evernote service, the Outlook calendar tab will show users reminders they have set in the Evernote app, along with the link to the note. Like the other integrations, any additional changes would fire up the Evernote app.

Microsoft added that the Sunrise team has been responsible for this integration. “Since the Sunrise team joined Outlook, we’ve been hard at work bringing all the goodness and extra features from their app directly into our calendar to give you a single, powerful app for managing your personal and professional life. Calendar Apps, along with a two-week mini-calendar, three-day view and iOS calendar widget, have already made it to Outlook, with Connected Calendars up next,” the blog post adds.

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Tags: Android, Apple, Apps, Calendar, Evernote, Facebook, Internet, Microsoft, Microsoft Outlook,Microsoft Outlook Calendar, Outlook, Outlook App, Outlook Calendar, Wunderlist

Bullish outlook for edible oils

Kunal Shah

The global edible oil market was supported by the Chinese appetite for oilseeds, edible oils and oilmeals in the previous crop year. Surplus production from the US and South America was absorbed without impacting prices significantly. This year, too, we believe the oilseeds market won’t be left to starve, as produce from Argentina and Brazil will keep markets well-supplied. China will also continue to buy a major chunk of the produce. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Attache Report stands proof that while China is likely to witness a record import of 84.5 million tonnes (mt) in 2016-17 due to rising incomes, urbanisation and the modernisation of the domestic feed and livestock sectors, its domestic oilseed production is set to decline to 52.7 mt.

However, the major oilseeds market in India doesn’t seem to paint a rosy picture. The production of rabi oilseed (rapeseed/mustard seed) seems to be higher than the previous year, but is below the average. At present, initial trade reports suggest a possible decline in the kharif oilseed acreage (which is likely to commence after the initial monsoon showers). Meanwhile, India’s foreign purchase of palm oil and its constituents have rendered the domestic edible oil market highly uncompetitive. The cheaper palm oil derivatives have flooded the domestic market and the trend continues. With France leading the EU to impose palm oil taxes, it is quite likely that the island nations will lose a major market, but Indian imports will continue to support prices. Indian oilseeds and edible oil demand is likely to outpace supply as in the previous year.

Soy complex: Soybean prices will witness a moderate uptrend in the near term, on account of decline in stockpiles and stable demand aided by festivals. However, exports of oil meals haven’t depicted a major recovery, which is a matter for worry. Soybean oil prices may find support due to the oil demand. We expect soybean to trade at around Rs 3,800- Rs 4,200 per tonne in the near term, and soybean oil to trade at around Rs 610-625 per 10 kg, in the near term. The upward trend may be capped by the rabi oilseed arrivals. Also, it is advised to trade keeping a check on the imports of soy oil from South America, which can lead to a correction in prices.

Rape-mustard seed: We estimate rapeseed production to be higher than the previous year at 5.9 mt this season. Fresh produce has started to hit the markets with prices trading at Rs 3,700-3,900 per tonne (spot market, Bharatpur). We expect the future prices to correct and trade in the range of Rs 3,800-3,900 per tonne in the near term. Once the arrival pressure subsides, the market can witness mustard seed to trade at around Rs 4,200 per tonne.

Palm oil: Taking a cue from the momentum in crude oil, the bio-fuel blending might gain momentum in Indonesia. The El Niño-induced drought has lessened output from the island nations, while prices are expected to remain supportive above Rs 500/10 kg (Multi Commodity Exchange) levels, due to increased imports from India. The deficit in production coupled with increased outflows from Malaysia and Indonesia (and, if it happens to be, the bio-fuel programme of Indonesia) will tighten the supply of palm oil and its constituents. We expect palm oil to trade at around Rs 510-545 levels in the near term.

However, the heavy influx of soybean oil from South America is to be monitored with caution. A dip in soybean oil prices could also drag down the palm oil.