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Soros Says Google, Facebook Are Near-Monopolies That Spur Addiction

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George Soros
  • Soros Says Google, Facebook Are Near-Monopolies That Spur Addiction

George Soros struck at social media giants Facebook Inc. and Google, declaring them monopolies that foster addiction, threaten independent thinking and risk empowering state-sponsored surveillance.

“They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide,” Soros said in a speech in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday. “This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents.”

Soros compared the internet platforms to gambling companies, and said they may be permanently damaging human attention. Soros also said he’s extremely concerned that some social media and technology companies may fall into “unholy marriages” with regimes in Russia and China, creating a “web of totalitarian control.”

Facebook and companies from Twitter Inc. to Apple Inc. have been confronting a mounting backlash against technology and social media, as the public grapples with a constantly connected life in which they are exposed to fake or biased news and cyber-bullying.

Soros said the “network effect” that has propelled companies such as Facebook to dominance is “unsustainable,” and predicted that Facebook will “run out of people to convert in less than three years.”

New Model

Soros Fund Management, his family office, owned some shares of Facebook and Google parent Alphabet Inc. as of Sept. 30. George Soros isn’t involved in the day-to-day management of that organization.

As the industry changes, a new business model at social media companies is emerging based not only on advertising revenue but on selling products to users, Soros said. The money manager warned that they exploit the data they control, bundle services and use “discriminatory pricing,” which enhances their profitability but undermines “the efficiency of the market economy,” he said.

A representative from Facebook had no comment on the remarks. A Google representative didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Soros believes the monopolistic dominance of these companies will soon be broken by regulation and taxation, and that European Union competition chief Margrethe Vestager “will be their nemesis.”

Vestager said in an interview earlier this month that allowing advertisers to tailor political content to personal tastes on social media such as Facebook is a danger to democracy, according to interview in Vienna’s Der Standard newspaper.

“The fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access,” Soros said.

It’s only a matter of time before the global dominance of these monopolies is broken and “Davos is a good place to announce that their days are numbered,” he said.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Top Five US Oil and Gas Firms Lost $307bn in Market Value Amid COVID-19 Crisis

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Market Value of US Five Largest Companies Decline by $307bn in 2020

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the oil and gas industry was faced with slumping prices. However, with a record collapse in oil demand amid the coronavirus lockdown, the COVID-19 crisis has further shaken the market, causing massive revenue and market cap drops for even the largest oil and gas companies.

According to data presented by StockApps.com, the top five oil and gas companies in the United States lost over $307bn in market capitalization year-over-year, a 45% plunge amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Market Cap Still Below March Levels

Global macroeconomic concerns such as the US-China trade war and the oil overproduction set significant price drops even before the coronavirus outbreak. A standoff between Russia and Saudi Arabia in the first months of 2020 sent prices even lower.

After global oil demand plunged in March, Saudi Arabia proposed a cut in oil production, but Russia refused to cooperate. Saudi Arabia responded by increasing production and cutting prices. Shortly Russia followed by doing the same, causing an over 60% drop in crude oil prices at the beginning of 2020. Although OPEC and Russia agreed to cut oil production levels to stabilize prices a few weeks later, the COVID-19 crisis already hit. Statistics show that oil prices dropped over 40% since the beginning of 2020 and are hovering around $40 a barrel.

Such a sharp fall in oil price triggered a growing wave of oil and gas bankruptcies in the United States and caused a substantial financial hit to the largest gas producers.

In September 2019, the combined market capitalization of the five largest oil and gas producers in the United States amounted to $674.2bn, revealed the Yahoo Finance data. After the Black Monday crash in March, this figure plunged by 45% to $373bn. The following months brought a slight recovery, with the combined market capitalization of the top five US gas producers rising to over $461bn in June.

However, the fourth quarter of the year witnessed a negative trend, with the combined value of their shares falling to $367bn at the beginning of this week, $6.2bn below March levels.

Exon Mobil`s Market Cap Halved in 2020, Almost $155bn Lost YoY

In August, Exxon Mobil Corporation, once the largest publicly traded company globally, was dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average after 92 years. As the largest oil and gas producer in the United States, the company has suffered the most significant market cap drop in 2020.

Statistics indicate the combined value of Exxon Mobil`s shares plunged by 52% year-over-year, falling from almost $300bn in September 2019 to $144bn at the beginning of this week.

Phillips 66, the fourth largest gas producer in the United States by market capitalization, witnessed the second-largest drop in 2020. Statistics show the company`s market cap dipped by 49.6% year-over-year, landing at $22.9bn this week.

The Yahoo Finance data revealed that EOG Resources lost over $21bn in market cap since September 2019, the third-largest drop among the top five US gas producers.

Conoco Phillips witnessed a 42% drop in market capitalization amid the COVID-19 crisis, with the combined value of shares plunging by almost $30bn year-over-year.

Statistics show Chevron witnessed the smallest market cap drop among the top five companies. At the beginning of this week, the combined value of shares of the second-largest US gas producer stood at $141.5bn, a 36.9% plunge year-over-year.

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Gold Hit 26.8% ROI YTD, the Highest Increase in Value Among Top Assets

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Gold Delivers 26.8% Return on Investment Year-t-Date

As the world’s earliest form of currency, gold has long been considered a reliable store of value. Unlike banknotes, stock, or other assets, the precious metal managed to preserve the investors’ wealth throughout the years, especially in times of turmoil in the financial markets.

According to data presented by AksjeBloggen, gold hit a 26.8% YTD return on investment, the highest increase in value among top assets.

Gold Return Rate 8.5% Higher than in 2019

Investors tend to focus on gold in times of market volatility, considering it to be a ‘safe haven’ in crises like the coronavirus. In 2019, the value of gold increased by 18.3%, revealed the Blackrock data. The precious metal continued the impressive performance in 2020 with a 26.8% YTD return, 8.5% more than in 2019.

Statistics show that last year, the S&P 500 index increased in value by 31% but was outperformed by Nasdaq, which grew by 35.2%. The MSCI Europe index rose by 26.1% in 2019. China A-shares followed with a 22.3% ROI.

However, the COVID-19 crisis had a massive impact on popular assets, causing a sharp fall in their values during the first half of 2020. The Blackrock data revealed the Nasdaq YTD return hit 23.9%, 11.3% below the 2019 performance. China A stocks reached 10% ROI YTD, much under the 22.3% return in 2019.

Statistics show the S&P 500 index had an 8.4% value increase in the nine months of 2020, almost four times less than in 2019. MSCI Emerging Market Index reached a 4.9% value increase in the same period, compared to 13% in 2019.

The Blackrock data show that crude oil, FTSE 100, and MSCI Europe index witnessed the most significant drop in the nine months of 2020, with their values falling by 34.6%, 22.4%, and 11.5%, respectively.

Global Demand for Investment Gold Surged by 100% YoY

Although many investors value gold as an important portfolio asset, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in global demand for the precious metal.

The World Gold Council data showed the global demand for investment gold increased significantly since the beginning of the year.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, it amounted to 279.2 metric tons. By the end of March, this figure jumped by more than 93% to 539.6 metric tons. The increasing trend continued in the second quarter of the year, with global demand for investment gold hitting 582.9 metric tons, an almost 100% jump year-over-year.

Statistics indicate the global demand for gold for investment purposes hit a record-breaking 1,152 metric tons in the first half of 2020, the highest figure so far.

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Oil Prices News: Oil Gains Following Drops in US Crude Inventories

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Oil Prices Gain Following Drops in US Crude Inventories and OPEC High Compliance Level

Global oil prices extended their 2 percent gains on Thursday after data showed U.S crude oil inventories declined last week.

The price of Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is measured, gained 0.2 percent or 7 cents to $43.39 a barrel as at 12:10 pm Nigerian time. While the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude appreciated by 8 cent or 0.2 percent to $41.12 barrels.

Oil prices extended their three days gain after the American Petroleum Institute said the U.S crude inventories declined by 5.4 million barrels in the week ended October 9.

The report released after the market closed on Wednesday revealed that distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, declined by 3.9 million barrels. Those stated drawdowns almost double analysts’ projections for the week.

Much of the fall is due to the effects of Hurricane Delta shuttering U.S. production in the Gulf of Mexico, and as such, will be a transitory effect,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA.

“Therefore, I am not getting too excited that a turn of direction is upon markets, although both contracts are approaching important technical resistance regions.”

Also, the report that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, referred to as OPEC+ attained 102 percent compliance level with their oil production cuts agreements bolstered global oil outlook. Suggesting that demands for the commodity are likely not growing and could drag down prices in few weeks, especially when one factor in the reopening of Libya’s Sharara oil field, workers returning to operation in Norway and the Gulf of Mexico.

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