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US and UK Intelligence Agencies Issue Joint Warning

The US National Security Agency (NSA), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), have released a joint report cautioning users to remain vigilant against recently discovered malware that is being deployed to target crypto wallets and exchanges.

The advisory report unveiled a malware campaign conducted by Russian cyber actors against the Ukrainian military.

Russian State-Sponsored Malware

A new strain of malware designed to target Android devices used by Ukrainian military personnel. This malware, known as Infamous Chisel, allows unauthorized access to compromised devices and is specifically engineered to scan files, monitor network traffic, and periodically extract sensitive data from breached mobile devices.

The malware has been linked to the operations of Sandworm, a cyberwarfare unit working under the GRU, operating under Russia’s military intelligence agency.

The stolen data includes information from directories of Binance and Coinbase exchange applications, as well as the Trust Wallet app. The report also highlighted that all files within these listed directories are being exfiltrated indiscriminately, regardless of their file type.

CISA Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Eric Goldstein said that the US government has been calling out Russian actors who have been involved in various malicious cyber activities aimed at US and allied partners for “cyber espionage and potential disruptive actions.” The official further stated,

“Today’s joint report reflects the value of deep collaboration across our international cyber defense partners, the need for all organizations to keep their Shields Up to detect and mitigate Russian cyber activity, and the importance of continued focus on maintaining operational resilience under all conditions.”

Besides, the report discovered that the components of Infamous Chisel exhibit a low to medium level of sophistication and seem to have been created with minimal attention to evading detection or concealing malicious actions.

Even though the components lack basic obfuscation or stealth techniques to disguise activity, the actor might have found such measures unnecessary, given that many Android devices lack a host-based detection system, the report explained.

Russian Military Secures $20 Million in Crypto Funding

The fundraising groups in Russia have amassed $20 million in cryptocurrencies despite sanctions imposed by the US and other countries.

Over 80% of the funds associated with sanctioned pro-Russian entities were traced to centralized crypto exchanges, indicating that they were the most common venue for the assets. In addition to these centralized platforms, the entities also interacted with DeFi protocols, including cross-chain bridges, NFT services, and DEXes.


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Five Key Charts to Watch in Global Commodity Markets This Week

After a late summer lull, the event calendar is starting to fill up again in the world of commodities. Singapore will host the three-day APPEC oil and energy industry conference starting Monday as well as the four-day Gastech 2023 Conference starting Tuesday. Meanwhile, natural gas investors will be focused on the Australian labor disputes that have roiled markets over the past month with work stoppages slated to begin at two Chevron Corp. facilities as soon as Thursday.

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(Bloomberg) — After a late summer lull, the event calendar is starting to fill up again in the world of commodities. Singapore will host the three-day APPEC oil and energy industry conference starting Monday as well as the four-day Gastech 2023 Conference starting Tuesday. Meanwhile, natural gas investors will be focused on the Australian labor disputes that have roiled markets over the past month with work stoppages slated to begin at two Chevron Corp. facilities as soon as Thursday.

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Here are five notable charts to consider in commodity markets as the week gets underway.

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September may be in its early days, but the rally in oil appears to have finally secured solid footing. Both West Texas Intermediate and Brent futures are positive on the year, having posted three straight monthly advances thanks in large part to a tightening market amid production cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia. Industry experts and traders will convene at APPEC for a series of sessions focused on the most critical issues facing the sector, oil’s role in the future energy mix and growth opportunities.

Natural Gas

Workers at Chevron’s liquefied natural gas export plants in Australia are planning to strike for up to 11 hours a day beginning Thursday, threatening to disrupt production in one of the world’s biggest producers. Unions will start a week of so-called work stoppages at the Gorgon and Wheatstone Downstream plants, according to documents seen by Bloomberg. Shorter strikes are planned at the Wheatstone Platform facility, the documents said. The plants made up roughly 7% of global LNG supply last year.

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Spot prices of lithium carbonate — a refined form of lithium — have been on a wild ride. They surged to a record in November as efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector boosted consumption, before plunging this year as supply pressures eased. Even so, the appetite for the indispensable metal in the making of electric-vehicle batteries is set to grow. Chile — host of a lithium forum on Wednesday in Santiago — has the world’s largest reserves and is the No. 2 supplier, after Australia. According to BloombergNEF, demand for the metal will be 16 times the total lithium in use today by 2040, potentially outrunning supply by more than 40%.


Retail diesel costs are rapidly rising in the US much earlier than usual this year, potentially inflating the cost of farming, heating, trucking and construction. That’s a cautionary flag as just about everything that makes up the economy runs on diesel in some way. The culprit? Excessive heat partly led to a slew of refinery outages across key regions in the US Gulf Coast and Europe, where stockpiles were already low. After a relatively calm start to 2023, large daily price gains have been the norm since mid-July, leading to a 9.3% surge in August and the first back-to-back monthly advance since last summer. 

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With the Atlantic hurricane season heading into its most-active period, it’s a good time to take a look at Florida’s power market, which often takes a hit from natural disasters. Over the past two decades, natural gas-fired generation has accounted for an increasing share of the electricity mix, from 31% in 2002 to 75% last year, according to US Energy Information Administration data. The shift has come at the expense of coal- and oil-fired generation, which made up just 6% and 1%, respectively, of the total in 2022. Looking ahead, planned plant additions and retirements will continue to change the generation mix in the Sunshine State, with solar expected to grab a growing foothold.

—With assistance from Stephen Stapczynski and Chunzi Xu.

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More support needed for infrastructure’s post-pandemic recovery

More support needed for infrastructure’s post-pandemic recovery

By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Reporter

THE government will need to create a more enabling environment for investments to support the infrastructure sector’s post-pandemic recovery, analysts said.

“On the national front, hard-earned gains might still be lost and global opportunities missed. For instance, our failure to build the manufacturing sector, made worse by the government’s inability to lower energy costs and cut the bureaucratic red tape, has made a lot of investors look elsewhere for opportunities,” Megaworld Corp. First Vice-President for Marketing and Sales Noli D. Hernandez said in a Viber message.

Infrastructure development is one of the Marcos administration’s priority areas. The government is targeting to spend 5-6% of gross domestic product (GDP) on infrastructure annually.

This year, the government plans to spend 5.3% of GDP on infrastructure, equivalent to about P1.29 trillion.

From 2010 to 2018, developing countries used only about 70% of infrastructure investment budgets, according to the World Bank.
A recent note by Nomura Global Markets Research said Philippine infrastructure development is seen to accelerate in the medium term.

“We remain optimistic that infrastructure development in these countries will accelerate in the next few years. Despite the recent improvement, there remains substantial scope for more progress, and governments are setting more ambitious targets to narrow this gap, building on earlier successes,” Nomura said.

Colliers Philippines Research Director Joey Roi H. Bondoc said the construction sector has yet to return completely to pre-pandemic levels.

“Construction activities have yet to revert to pre-pandemic levels but we are definitely seeing glimmers of hope. In our view, return to pre-pandemic construction levels will likely hinge on interest rate movements, prices of construction materials,” he said in an e-mail.

Mr. Bondoc said that external headwinds will also continue to have an impact on the recovery of construction activities.

“Colliers also believes that overall recovery in demand will also partly rely on sustained business and consumer confidence across the Philippines. The country’s growth trajectory presents enormous opportunities for developers with office, residential, retail, and leisure footprint,” he added.

Sustained growth in government spending will be crucial for the rebound for the sector.

“The most important underlying reason for the recovery of the infrastructure sector has been the sustained and broadening government spending on public infrastructure in the last few years,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convenor of think tank InfraWatch PH, said in an e-mail.

Infrastructure spending rose by an annual 7.8% to P507.2 billion in the first half. Overall infrastructure disbursements in the first six months were equivalent to 5.3% of GDP.

“Despite the coronavirus pandemic and economic headwinds, the government has continued to spend on new roads, bridges and flood control projects in various parts of the country,” he added.

Under the proposed 2024 National Expenditure Plan, the “Build, Better, More” program has been allocated P1.418 trillion. The bulk will go to physical connectivity infrastructure such as seaports, airports, and mass transport.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board has approved 197 flagship infrastructure projects worth P8.71 trillion.

“The government’s massive infrastructure program should benefit the Philippine property market and developers should seize opportunities by strategically launching more office projects, residential enclaves, and hotels in major growth areas,” Mr. Bondoc said.

However, the government’s massive infrastructure commitments are not enough to support the rest of the construction sector.

There is still a need to expedite permitting processes, cut red tape, and create a more enabling environment for investments.

“The challenge of the government is not about allocating the budget, but I think it’s implementation of projects. Some of the projects we are doing today were approved even during Marcos Sr.’s time, and we’re only doing it now,” Phinma Corp. Executive Vice-President Eduardo A. Sahagun said in a Zoom call interview.

“If it takes the same amount of time to do it, we will lag behind. I hope that’s where the bottlenecks must be addressed, how to speed up implementation of projects,” he added.

The government should pursue more public-private partnerships (PPPs) and joint ventures (JVs) to accelerate the implementation of projects.

“The openness towards public-private partnerships has been an important reform in the infrastructure sector. It is bearing fruit today with the decision to implement a P170-billion solicited bidding for the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA),” Mr. Ridon said.

The government recently invited local and foreign investors to bid for the PPP project to upgrade and operate the NAIA. This will be under a rehabilitate-operate-expand-transfer arrangement, as provided for under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.

“Local developers should explore firming up JVs with other homegrown players or even foreign property firms. In our view foreign players benefit from their partnership with local players given the latter’s experience in tapping and catering to the preferences of the domestic market,” Mr. Bondoc said.

“What’s notable is that these JVs are likely to result in a more competitive Philippine property landscape, eventually benefiting Filipino investors and end-users,” he added.

The government is hoping to attract more foreign investments after recent economic reforms allowed full foreign ownership in telecommunications, airlines, railways and renewable energy projects.

Meanwhile, companies involved in infrastructure are looking to revamp their internal processes to integrate post-pandemic strategies.

“One of the lessons we’ve learned coming out of the recent downturn, indeed coming out of all the previous downturns, is the primacy of a resilient, innovative, customer-centric and forward-thinking company culture, which fosters not just the aggressive seeking of opportunities but the creation of those opportunities where they seem nonexistent,” Megaworld’s Mr. Hernandez said.

Phinma’s Mr. Sahagun said firms should decentralize their decisions.

“We have to develop internal capabilities. As a company, we have to be agile in adapting to change. The first thing we did was to delegate authorities in different areas so they could make decisions on their own. If you’re just centralized in (one) office, you have no people on the ground, it will be difficult for you to continue doing business,” he added.

The shift to digitalization is also key in the post-pandemic recovery.

“Like most companies, we believe that the only way forward is to leverage our strengths with more human innovation and technological adoption and advances, either by leaps or small increments,” Mr. Hernandez said.

“The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) will definitely and definitively revolutionize and transform not just the way we do things, but ultimately determine exactly what things we are able to do and to what degree of sophistication. In the end however, AI or any other systems or technologies will only always be a tool. The key will always be the company’s culture,” he added.

The impact of climate change should also be considered in infrastructure planning, according to Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities Director for Urban Development Maria Golda P. Hilario.

“The Philippine infrastructure industry must proactively address the risks and projected impact of climate change in its entire supply and value chain. It is important to not only acknowledge the threats posed by extreme weather events — such as typhoons — but also to factor in the creeping impacts of slow onset events — such as sea level rise and increasing temperature,” she said in an e-mail.

The Philippines is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world, experiencing typhoons, flash floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Philippines ranked first globally in terms of disaster risk, based on the World Risk Index 2022.

A study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that developing Asia will need to invest $26 trillion from 2016 to 2030, or $1.7 trillion annually in infrastructure to maintain its growth momentum, eradicate poverty, and adapt to climate change.

“Infrastructure designs especially in urban areas must also be responsive to the risks and projected creeping impacts of slow onset events. Infrastructure development must already look at innovative and sustainable solutions such as green and energy efficient buildings and build around nature-based solutions, such as trees as temperature regulators to trap urban heat, and sinks to arrest flooding,” Ms. Hilario added.

The public, particularly the most at-risk and vulnerable to climate change, should also be included in the process of designing resilient infrastructure.

“The industry must also welcome the voice and participation of the public, especially the most vulnerable and most affected sector in the design, as well as be more responsive in ensuring that infrastructure projects contribute to the broader goal of connecting more people, rather than creating barriers,” she said.

“Sustainability can only be fostered through partnerships not just between the industry, private sector, and the government, but with the buy-in of the Filipino public, who are the main users of infrastructure projects in the long-run,” she added.

#support #needed #infrastructures #postpandemic #recovery

Below the line – The Hindu BusinessLine

Special Session

All eyes are now on Parliament with a Special Session having been convened by the government from September 18-22. It now transpires that there will be no question hour, zero hour and even Private Members business on those five days!

Now the question uppermost on Parliament observers’ mind is: will the all five days be used only for discussing proposed ‘One Nation One Election’ Bill? Or will the government label this Bill too as a Money Bill to ensure smooth passage in Parliament? Interesting times, these.

A unique request

Celebration of 100 years is a significant event for the stakeholders in any company. In this regard, there was a unique request by a shareholder at the 99th annual general meeting (AGM) of Karnataka Bank recently. Congratulating the bank for entering the 100th year of its service, the shareholder urged the bank management to arrange for some goodies to the shareholders also through online food delivery platforms.

Such a move would make them happy, said the shareholder. The 99th AGM was conducted through videoconferencing.

Onam from Manchester

English Premier League team Manchester City wished Malayalis across the world ‘Happy Onam’ over social media by displaying the greetings in Malayalam. The team’s Instagram picture has gone viral, cheering the club’s fan base in Kerala.

The image focuses on superstar Erling Haaland in blue jersey biting into a fried pappadam in the background of two houseboats lined up close to a green plot of land defined by coconut trees.

Kerala Tourism reposted the image on Facebook, saying the team with 32 major honours in the English Premier League wishes all Malayali’s a happy Onam. Manchester City has quite a dedicated Malayali following all over the world.”

With football has for long been part of the State’s sporting culture, the Instagram picture is effectively a token of the club’s gratitude towards Kerala, adds Kerala Tourism Minister PA Mohamed Riyas.

Langur cutouts

The monkey menace is being taken seriously in Delhi, especially ahead of G20 summit. All government offices — especially around Central Delhi — have put out brand new cut outs of langurs and some of these are reportedly being put around the G20 meeting venue too.

The central ridge is said to be a natural habitat of monkeys who roam the streets. A handful of people have also been hired to mimic langur sounds to scare the primates away.

A senior bureaucrat pointed out that the problem remains because the simians are smart enough to figure out the difference between “langurs” and “langur cut-outs”. “Cut outs don’t smell like a langur. Nor move like one. So after some initial trepidation, you will see the monkeys run around those cut outs, if not pull them down.”

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Bitcoin continues to outperform Warren Buffett’s portfolio, and the gap is set to widen

Warren Buffett, the renowned investor and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, celebrated his 93rd birthday on Aug. 30. Throughout his lengthy career, he has adhered steadfastly to a value investing strategy that bears some resemblance to the “buy and hold” approach often associated with cryptocurrencies. 

However, Buffett’s focus is on assets with strong earnings potential and investing in companies and sectors where he and his team possess a deep understanding of the associated risks, competition and advantages.

The question is whether such a laser-eyed strategy can outperform Bitcoin (BTC) in the long run. Moreover, investors should question why one of the greatest stock pickers of all time currently holds cash and short-term bonds as the second-largest position in his portfolio.

An interesting example of his approach is Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holding, Apple (AAPL) shares. Berkshire initially acquired these shares in early 2016 when Apple was already valued at over $500 billion, so the firm was far from being an early investor. Notably, Berkshire Hathaway continued to add to its AAPL investment in 2022, even though the stock had rallied over 500% since its initial purchase. This illustrates Buffett’s commitment to long-term investment strategies, regardless of recent price movements.

Buffet downplays nonproductive commodities as a store of value

In a February 2012 shareholder letter, Berkshire Hathaway expressed concerns about the devaluation of paper currency and discussed the limitations of gold as a store of value. It argued that gold lacks practical utility, with demand for industrial and jewelry purposes falling short of production, and its price is largely driven by fear-based sentiment, which leads to only temporary price increases. In contrast, investments in productive companies generate substantial dividends and returns.

Berkshire Hathaway also noted that regardless of whether the future currency is based on gold, seashells or paper, people will always be willing to exchange a portion of their income for goods and services.

Regrettably for Buffett, Bitcoin’s price surged by 683% in the 12 months following his critical comments on the viability of nonproductive commodities as a store of value. Moreover, on a four-year horizon, Bitcoin’s gains amounted to a staggering 9,014%.

To compare the performance of Berkshire Hathaway’s stock holdings to Bitcoin, considering Buffett’s focus on earnings and yield, which is fundamentally different from the characteristics of commodities like gold or Bitcoin, this analysis calculated Berkshire Hathaway’s stock performance using a factor of three to simulate a leveraged position.

Berkshire (BBRK.B) by a factor of 3 vs. Bitcoin/USD index (orange). Source: TradingView

If an individual had invested $1,000 in Bitcoin (spot) and initiated a leveraged long position in Berkshire Hathaway shares in early 2019, the investor would have observed a return of $7,020 in BTC compared with $5,623 in Buffett’s holding company.

Berkshire (BBRK.B) by a factor of 3 vs. Bitcoin/USD index (orange). Source: TradingView

Similarly, for an investment starting in 2017, it would have resulted in $3,798 in BTC, as opposed to $1,998 using the leveraged long strategy in Berkshire Hathaway’s shares.

The apparent inconsistency in Buffett’s strategy is bullish for Bitcoin

It’s important to note a potential loophole in Buffett’s investment thesis: Berkshire Hathaway is currently maintaining a record-high $147 billion in cash equivalents and short-term investments, representing 18.5% of the company’s total market capitalization. This raises questions about whether it is waiting for better entry points into selected stocks or if it deems the 5.25% returns on fixed-income investments to be satisfactory.

This scenario highlights that even the most accomplished stock market investors may have reservations about deploying their cash. It also prompts questions about whether some of the funds currently on the sidelines, including the $5.6 trillion in money market funds, might seek alternative forms of protection if inflation makes a resurgence.

Bitcoin may not be a perfect store of value, and its volatility has been a subject of concern. Additionally, it’s essential to acknowledge that Bitcoin has yet to face a global economic recession, making it premature to pass definitive judgment.

However, the consistent outperformance of Bitcoin’s price compared to Berkshire Hathaway shares suggests that investors are increasingly viewing it as a viable alternative store of value.

In light of this, Berkshire Hathaway’s substantial cash position serves as a potential cautionary note for those skeptical about Bitcoin. With Bitcoin’s total market capitalization currently standing at $500 billion, it signals significant and untapped potential for it to play a larger role in the financial landscape.