Dimon, other CEOs talk jobs and economic growth at private White House dinner with Trump

In this 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump stands next to Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., left, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington.


J. P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon attended a private dinner with President Donald Trump on Thursday as part of a small delegation of corporate chiefs representing the Business Roundtable.

Eastman Chemical’s Mark Costa and Cummins’ Tom Linebarger also attended, a spokeswoman for the Business Roundtable confirmed to CNBC. The CEOs used the opportunity to talk about “strong, sustained economic growth and job creation.”

The Business Roundtable is a group of 200 corporate leaders formed to promote pro-business policy in Washington. Dimon, Costa and Linebarger are members of its board of directors. Last year, the lobbying group brought former George W. Bush White House chief of staff Josh Bolten on board to be president and CEO.

The group was outspoken in favor of the GOP tax cuts enacted last year and plans for infrastructure spending but it has pushed back at some other Trump agenda items, including a threat to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The executives at the dinner also discussed economic issues important to American business including tax reform, smart regulation across industries, infrastructure and international trade, Jessica Boulanger, the Business Roundtable spokeswoman, told CNBC.

Five reasons 2018 could be the best year yet for cryptocurrencies

Ethereum and Bitcoin

In an earlier piece for CNBC, I explained why a potential cryptocurrency bubble could burst in 2018. Many people asked me afterward: If I’m so skeptical about the space, why am I invested in it?

Let me clarify. I’m someone who always calculates the potential upsides and downsides, and I think many people take unnecessary risks: They either invest too much or too little because they don’t do proper analysis.

So I want to highlight five reasons why 2018 might be the best ever year for cryptocurrencies and why I’m heavily invested in them.

1. The work on scaling issues

Bitcoin (BTC) is the most important cryptocurrency. Most government-backed money that goes in and out of crypto goes through bitcoin, so what happens to the original cryptocurrency affects the entire market.

The token’s market dominance stood at about 40 percent as of Wednesday. By my estimates, however, it’s clear bitcoin’s market dominance should return to 75 percent of the entire space.

I actually see a 150 percent potential upside in bitcoin for 2018.

Why? Well, BTC is still dominant. It has the biggest user base and the biggest industry. Still, it faces a challenge in scaling up for wider use.

Bitcoin now can’t handle more than six or seven (or, with the “Segregated Witness” protocol upgrade, it’s 12 to 14) transactions a second. Compare that with credit cards, which involve thousands of transactions per second, so the criticism about bitcoin’s ability to be useful at larger scales is understandable.

The scalability challenge results in high fees as well.

What is the solution? It is the so-called second-layer peer-to-peer off-chain networks. To cite an example, look at the Lightning Network. Created by Blockstream, the Lightning Network allows for transactions off the blockchain, thereby decreasing the transaction costs almost to zero and increasing the speed and scalability almost infinitely. And it’s just getting started. As you can see from this map, more and more nodes as well as channels are being established. It is growing exponentially.

In the coming months, we will see a sharp uptick in transactions and the use of more bitcoin in these channels. What’s more, the Lightning Network doesn’t have any fee.

In other words, second-layer networks solve the problems bitcoin faces — scalability and lack of liquidity. That could be a key reason why bitcoin surges this year.

At the end of 2017, I foresaw that bitcoin would drop as low as $5,000 — but it could potentially climb to as high as $60,000. Lightning Network will have a big impact on the potential upside.

There are also other second-layer projects like Rootstock that would allow computations similar to those of ethereum (a blockchain-based computing platform that supports another cryptocurrency named ether) to be done through bitcoin.

Exciting projects such as those could cause a significant spike in BTC. I would dare say in the realm of 60 to 70 percent with the potential upside of 100 percent — and maybe even more.

2. Large scale and more legitimate ICOs

Like last year, initial coin offerings (ICOs) will impact the ethereum network because ICOs usually require plenty of ether. That will buttress the demand for the platform’s digital coin. More legitimate ICOs will lead to greater interest in ether as we are already seeing with the billion-dollar ICO of messaging app provider Telegram and that of Kodak.

That means we could see a rise in the market cap of ethereum to $200 billion by the end of the year from less than $90 billion on Wednesday. The cryptocurrency’s price could possibly double to $2,000.

Though other platforms could see similar gains, I believe ethereum will be the main focus.

3. Regulation

Many believe regulations hurt markets, but that is a short-sighted perspective. In the long run, companies require rules for the sake of legal stability and certainty. Regulation gives users and institutional clients the confidence to invest.

We saw something similar when Japan started regulating bitcoin. The market dropped initially, but it rose eventually. Ditto in Australia.

Other countries could follow the same rule book — I think we are going to see something like that with South Korea and probably many others — but the market’s fate will be no different than after what played out in Japan and Australia.

4. A lot of execution and usability

There are several start-ups like my own that offer debit cards to help people spend their cryptocurrency holdings.

That means the number of users and merchants is set to increase sharply in 2018.

This would burnish the reputation of cryptocurrencies, with more and more companies trusting them. The firms that execute well this year will stand out and create a survivorship bias — where a few companies thrive and others fail, but people focus on the winners and ignore the losers.

Most start-ups bomb, but the spectacular successes of companies such as Facebook and Airbnb help mask those failures. Likewise, the success stories of a few entities in the cryptocurrency space will overshadow the negative news of several going bankrupt.

5. Institutional investors

The last reason why 2018 will be a stellar year for cryptocurrencies is that this will be the first year of solid institutional money flowing into the ecosystem.

It is estimated that $10 billion to $12 billion has so far flown into the crypto ecosystem, but that’s nothing compared to what institutional funds could invest. Since those first funds propped up the market to around $500 billion, the next $10 billion to $12 billion, which is peanuts for some funds, could double the market cap this year.

Warren Buffett’s bet on airlines lost more than $700 million in sector sell-off

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

A bet on airline stocks by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway lost more than $700 million in value in a sector-wide rout, fueled by worries of an upcoming fare war between carriers.

The value of the Berkshire’s stakes in United, Delta, Southwest and American was worth more than $11 billion as of Tuesday’s close, but fell by about $727 million in Wednesday’s sharp selloff, based on Berkshire’s latest disclosure of its holdings in November.

Berkshire was not immediately available for comment.

The sharp decline in the airline sector started after United Airlines executives outlined an aggressive expansion plan that outpaced economic growth and that of some competitors. The plan aimed to gain the confidence of investors that the airline could expand its profit margin and increase revenue, but instead stoked fears of low fares and higher costs.

United shares fell more than 11 percent on Wednesday, while American lost 6 percent and Southwest and Delta each shed around 5 percent.

In late 2016, Berkshire revealed a surprise bet on the sector, which Buffett had previously shunned. Years of post-bankruptcy consolidation among carriers and a decline in fuel prices has helped airlines rake in record profits in recent years.

The Berkshire CEO told CNBC in February that airlines “had a bad first century.” They’re kind of like the Chicago Cubs,” he said. “And they got that century out of the way, I hope.”

Now airlines are facing more competition from low-cost rivals as well as rising fuel prices, but strong economic growth and strong business travel demand is expected to be a tailwind for the sector.

Investors will next focus on American Airlines and several of its competitors, including JetBlue and Southwest, which are scheduled to report their quarterly profits on Thursday morning.

State pensions and fund companies feel heat over their investments in gun makers

Guns on display in a gun shop

A fresh wave of scrutiny is washing over big state employee pension funds and money managers that invest in shares of gun makers one week after the deadly shootings in a Florida high school.

New Jersey state lawmakers on Thursday moved to restrict the state’s public pensions from investing in the stocks of gun manufacturers. The world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, which is among the biggest shareholders of gun makers, said it would “engage” with the companies on their response to recent events.

State pensions that own stocks of gun makers, and to a lesser extent, gun retailers, came under criticism after the Feb. 14 shooting, in which 17 people died. Florida’s State Board of Administration, which manages $191.5 billion for the Florida Retirement System pension and other funds, has small stakes in Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands, according to FactSet.

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It is an issue that has come up before, notably after 20 children were killed at a Connecticut elementary school in late 2012. After the mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas last year, California Treasurer John Chiang urged the state’s teacher and public employee pensions to sell their holdings of companies that sell assault weapons, ammunition and gun accessories.

Those pensions are examining the issue.

Groups have pushed corporate America and the investment industry in the past to dump stocks to achieve other social goals, including campaigns to divest in fossil fuel companies, tobacco and apartheid-era South Africa.

Any association with the gun industry is becoming a heated topic again. First National Bank of Omaha said it won’t renew a contract to issue a National Rifle Association-sponsored credit card after “customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA.”

Amy Domini, whose company developed the first index with standards that exclude gun makers, tobacco companies and others, said the issue may be seeing a turning point given the national outcry after the Florida shootings. “You get the sense that finally people are beginning to look at every tool in their toolbox.”

A spokesman for the Florida state board told CNBC on Thursday that most of the pension’s gun-maker stake is a result of its index investments. Out of $2.7 million in gun stocks it owns, $1.7 million is the result of investments in the Russell 3000 index, which holds stocks of gun makers.

Asset managers such as BlackRock have pinned the blame on the companies that develop the indexes fund companies track. “Index providers are responsible for the construction of their indices. As a fiduciary, we have a responsibility to replicate the indices our clients choose to invest in. As a result, we invest in a company as long as that company is in the relevant index,” the company said Thursday.

Often big pensions ask a fund manager to block certain investments if they want to avoid them. BlackRock said it has $200 billion of assets in portfolios customized to exclude weapons makers.

John Kuczwanski, the Florida state board’s spokesman, said while the pension blocks investments in federally sanctioned countries such as Libya it doesn’t have any restrictions on investing in gun makers. And while divesting gun stocks from the pension has been brought up in the debate about guns over the last week, it’s not in the works.

“As fiduciaries our sole responsibility is to the plan beneficiaries,” he said.

In New Jersey, state Sen. Vin Gopal introduced a bill modeled after a recent law barring the state’s pension from investing in businesses that boycott or otherwise harm Israel.

Gopal told CNBC gun makers shouldn’t benefit from state investment in them if they aren’t part of the solution to responsible gun ownership. “We want to send a message.”

The bill would bar the state from investing assets of any pension or annuity fund in companies that make firearms or ammunition. New Jersey’s pension isn’t listed as an owner of Sturm Ruger or American Outdoor Brands, according to data by FactSet. But the New Jersey Division of Investment is listed having a 0.08 percent stake in Vista Outdoor.

In New York, there have been efforts to divest from gun makers with mixed results. In New York City three of five public pensions sold their gun-maker stocks, while New York State Teachers Retirement System continues to hold shares of gun makers because its investments track indexes.

Anbang is just the latest in China’s insurance industry clean up, says expert

The troubles surrounding Chinese insurer Anbang are part of a “house-cleaning” that was “well overdue,” an industry expert said Thursday.

Last week, Anbang — best known for its 2015 purchase of New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel — said its chairman, Wu Xiaohui, was no longer able to fulfill his duties. The brief statement cited unspecified personal reasons for the move, and it came after the China Insurance Regulatory Commission said in April that its head, Xiang Junbo, was being investigated for suspected disciplinary violations.


“This is part of an effort to clean house in the insurance industry. Ever since the chairman of the CIRC got detained, everybody saw this coming,” said Sam Radwan, partner and co-founder of Enhance International.

“It’s not just Anbang they are looking at; they are probably looking at other companies,” he added in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Radwan’s management consultancy advises the CIRC and Chinese insurers China Life, Sunshine and Taikang.

As part of the concerted effort to clean up the insurance industry, particularly the life insurance business, authorities are sending the message that “you’re not in the business of wealth management, you’re in the business of providing insurance protection,” he said.

Chinese flag

Getty Images
Chinese flag

The Chinese government had tried to send the same signal in 2016, cracking down on high-yield life insurance products, but “without a whole lot of luck,” said Radwan.

In May this year, issues about such products resurfaced when the CIRC suspended Beijing-based Anbang from issuing new products for three months as it singled out one of the insurer’s product designs it said “deviates from the fundamentals of insurance.”

“They were very concerned about the product that was created by Anbang that appeared to be a protection product, but was really a wealth management product disguised as an insurance product,” said Radwan.

Anbang had a high risk appetite, with 20 percent of life insurance assets invested into equities — against 2 percent among peers in the U.S., noted Radwan.

“If you look at their balance sheet, it looks more like a balance sheet of a hedge fund as opposed to a balance sheet of an insurance company,” he said.

“It was a very aggressive investment approach that they took with their balance sheet.”

Despite its troubles, Anbang is still a “very cash-rich company” and despite short-term revenue risks, there is likely to be little immediate risk from a financial perspective, Radwan said.

Online Business Success Tips Without Capital

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Internet users in Indonesia have been increasing year by year. Based on data published by WeAreSocial, there are now 88.1 million Indonesians using the internet from a total population of 261 million.

Looking at the data above, looks a very big opportunity for you who want to have income from cyberspace. You can take advantage of these opportunities by way of online business.

Online business today has become one of the jobs that many people in demand. With an online business / having an online store means you’ve created your own “money machine”.

There are many ways for you who want to start this online business , such as making online store in marketplace like Tokopedia, Bukalapak, Shopee, and so on. Or you can also create online stores in social media like Instagram, Facebook, or others.

“Then what kind of business online without the capital?”
Without capital here does not mean you do not spend a penny. His name is also business, surely you need a fee to buy these online business purposes, such as mobile phones , laptops, promotional costs and other purposes.

Without the capital in question is you do not need to prepare stock of goods, and spend a lot of money to rent stores / warehouses. So you are only busy with marketing and selling things you want to sell.

From the above explanation, it seems we will lead to dropship business. Yeah right, maybe for those of you who have limited capital, dropship could be one of your choice to start an online business.

Dropship system is a system where you ask your seller / supplier to deliver goods / products to your customer by including your name, address, and mobile number as the sender.

By becoming a dropshipper , you can sell online a little more “relaxed” because your focus (in general) just looking for suppliers and selling goods. There are several advantages of this dropship business, including:

1. Practical
Called practical because your work just copy & paste the product along with the description to your online store.

2. You do not have to stock goods
Stock of goods has become a supplier affair. Your focus is only to market the goods and serve your customers .

3. No need to rent store / warehouse
Yes, because you are running an online business.

4. No need to bother packing and sending goods
This is a supplier affair as well.

5. Can be run anywhere
You have a flexible time and place to work. Because your work is just uploading photos of goods and waiting for orders that can be done anywhere.

Where there are advantages, there must be shortcomings, here are some shortcomings of the dropship business.

1. Small profit
Some suppliers usually provide a very small profit for dropship. Another case if you are a reseller .

2. Info stock items less update
Since you do not have a stock of goods, you may be difficult when asked about the stock of goods. Therefore, communication between you and suppliers must be maintained, not to lose contact.

3. One online business system that the risk of getting a big complaint
This is because you can not control the stock of goods and condition of goods. It could be that the stock of goods is exhausted, even though the customer has paid, or the condition of the goods requested by your customer not in accordance with that sent by the supplier, and so forth. In this case, you should be more careful.

Then whether by being a dropshipper just enough to make you successful? There are still many things you should learn about this dropship, ranging from techniques to finding honest and competent suppliers, product marketing techniques, and other knowledge about online business.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips for starting bandar judi tangkasnet an online business “without capital”? If you wish to share your experience in the comments field, thank you.

The Fed needs to ‘stop talking’ so much

In the wake of the Great Recession, the Fed needed every policy tool it could find. Quantitative easing, forward guidance of policy goals and targets, and lowering interest rates to 0 percent are the most obvious examples. Now, QE has ceased, and the Fed funds rate is back above 1 percent. In contrast, forward guidance is more active than ever and there do not appear to be plans to wind it down. But, with many of the crisis era measures already scaled back, it is time to taper forward guidance too.

There is no question forward-guidance can be useful. Following the financial crisis, it was utilized to steer market participants toward the “lower for longer” mantra and then keep them there. Markets could be confident that the Fed would stick to its policy prescriptions because it said so. Monetary policy became contingent on economic outcomes that the Fed made explicit. By sticking to its forecasts some credibility was gained for forward guidance. There was confidence in the Fed’s willingness to follow through on what it said.

Jerome Powell, governor of the U.S. Federal Reserve

There have also been problems with the concept of forward guidance. The dot plot is a perfect example. The dot plot is the Fed’s way of communicating the path of future fed funds policy, and its accuracy has been suspect at best. Instead of providing insight into future Fed policy, it could be more accurately described in practice as the idealized path of the fed funds rate. It has been inaccurate to the point of uselessness most of the time. For example, in September 2014, the Fed predicted the fed funds rate would be 3.75 percent at the end of 2017. It is widely expected that the Fed will raise rates to the 1.25 percent – 1.5 percent range by December. The Fed over-estimated its ability to raise rates by 2.25 percent.

“The dot plot is the Fed’s way of communicating the path of future fed funds policy, and its accuracy has been suspect at best.”

At a recent conference, Fed Chair Janet Yellen defended the forward guidance as useful, though she warned against overuse. Yellen, in bringing up the number of voices and opinions from the Fed, shed some light on the problem of forward-guidance and transparency: Too many economists with too many opinions and no useful guidance. Yellen correctly sees this as a problem and makes the distinction between a useful tool and an abused tool. She is defending a precision tool of gentle market guidance, not the tool of mass opinion dissemination that it has become.

There are few reasons to suspect a slowdown in the near-term, but there should be a concerted effort to reduce the amount of Fed noise in the future and maximize the amount of signal, i.e., the useful information regarding the direction of future policy, not useless blather.

That is exactly what the Fed should do—stop talking. There is little reason to have regional Fed presidents be celebrities. The Fed’s current policies are not difficult to communicate. The balance sheet is on an autopilot schedule for reduction, and rate hikes are highly dependent on inflation developments in 2018. Granted, there is a substantial differential between the number of hikes the Fed is forecasting and the number the market anticipates in 2018. But does this gap necessitate constant updates from the Fed? After all, the Fed is on track to give more speeches this year than ever before. With most of the speeches at least giving an opinion on how monetary policy would unfold.

Certainly, there are reasons forward-guidance should be maintained. For instance, eliminating forward guidance might be taken as a pseudo-tightening by a trigger-happy market. But there is also the need to wind it down. The Fed cannot simply stop providing forward-guidance. It will need to ease its way out.

Few better times will appear than the present to taper forward guidance. The incoming Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, deserves the ability to shape monetary policy the way he sees fit. Forward guidance effectively corners the new Fed Chair into a continuation of the current monetary policy. Continuity should not be disparaged, having predictable and steady monetary policy is positive. But it also leaves precious little room to operate.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard suggested an interesting place to start the taper—the Summary of Economic Projections issued quarterly. The SEP contains the dot plot and Fed projections of inflation and GDP growth. Bullard’s idea is to replace the SEP with a quarterly report, that contains information less susceptible to large errors. It would at least be a start. But the Fed should go one step further. The Fed should cap the number of speeches that its members can give, and cease the practice entirely relatively soon.

With the Fed pulling back from the majority of its post-crisis measures, it is time to look at its communication policy. I don’t see any reason for the Fed to be guiding incessantly at this point. It might be great job security for economists, but it makes little sense to have every regional Fed president and governor giving their opinion on the economy. At this point, the Fed’s transparency is probably doing more harm than good.

China clamps down on online micro lending; US-listed shares plunge

A paramilitary police officer stands guard in front of red flags at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China.

China took steps to rein in the rapidly growing and lightly regulated market for online micro-lenders in the government’s latest crackdown on internet finance, sending shares of U.S.-listed Chinese financial firms into a tailspin.

A top-level Chinese government body issued an urgent notice on Tuesday to provincial governments urging them to suspend regulatory approval for the setting up of new internet micro-lenders, sources who had seen the notice told Reuters.

The multi-department body, tasked by the central government to rein in risks in the internet finance sector, also told local regulators to restrict granting of new approvals for micro-loan firms to conduct lending across regions, according to the sources.

The information office of the State Council, or Cabinet, referred Reuters to the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) and other regulators when asked to comment. The PBOC has yet to respond to a faxed request for comment.

Beijing started a relentless crackdown on the internet finance sector last year, issuing guidelines and rules to regulate online financial activity following a spate of scandals, frauds and high-profile peer-to-peer (P2P) failures.

The clean-up has led to the creation of a top-level body comprising government entities that include the central bank and the banking regulator.

The crackdown on micro-lenders comes as authorities warn about rising household debt, which includes mortgages and consumer loans.

Unsecured consumer lending via Chinese online platforms more than tripled last year to almost $140 billion, according to a recent report by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance.

Plunging Nasdaq shares

On Tuesday, shares in Chinese online lender Qudian sank nearly 20 percent on Nasdaq, before recovering some ground to end 3.8 percent lower at $19.31.

Qudian, backed by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial and became profitable last year, operates a website that allows college students and young white-collar workers to buy laptops, smartphones and other consumer electronics in monthly installments.

The company went public at $24 per share, raising about $900 million in an initial public offering that priced above expectations, driven by robust U.S. investor demand for fast-growing Chinese companies.

On Tuesday, shares of China Commercial Credit ended down 8.8 percent and PPDAI Group slumped 14 percent. Jianpu Technology, which also debuted just this month, finished 10.8 percent lower.

Shares of China Rapid Finance, a P2P platform and a loan provider, fell before closing 3.3 percent higher.

There was no apparent reaction in Chinese mainland stocks, which were broadly up on Wednesday’s morning trade led by the finance sector.

Companies providing small loans, especially on the internet, have expanded rapidly in the past year, partly due to loose government rules.

Such firms meet the demand for credit from individuals who have been shunned by Chinese banks, which typically prefer big corporate clients.

Loan amounts span from a few hundred yuan to tens of thousands, with borrowers typically without steady incomes or any credit history.

Interest rates on these small loans can be more than 35 percent per annum, some even higher, and are not often appreciated by individuals who are drawn to the easy terms and conditions.

Some borrowers also take loans from one lender to refinance loans from other credit providers, causing a spike in their debts. Local media have also reported cases of oppressive and sometimes violent loan-collection methods in a sector that has thrived under little supervision.

Tuesday’s move came just days after LexinFintech filed a $500 million IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the latest in a series of offerings from the sector.

Autumn Budget: UK slashes growth projections, sets aside £3 billion for Brexit

Britain slashed its official projections for economic growth Wednesday and anticipates it will need to borrow sharply over the coming years.

Finance Minister Philip Hammond delivered the U.K. government’s official Autumn Budget at a time when the ruling Conservative party is facing challenging political and economic circumstances.

The non-partisan Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast Britain’s gross domestic product (GDP) would grow by 1.5 percent in 2017 before slipping gradually to 1.3 percent over the next three years. The U.K. had been forecast to grow by 2 percent in 2017.

The OBR also revised down productivity growth and business investment. Britain’s changing economic condition has stirred fierce debate over how much should be attributable to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Hammond promised to set aside £3 billion ($3.9 billion) over the next two years for Brexit contingency planning.

“The negotiations on our future relationship with the European Union are in a critical phase,” Hammond said.

“We have already invested almost £700 million in Brexit preparations and today I am setting aside over the next two years another £3 billion,” he added.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond poses for pictures with the Budget Box as he leaves 11 Downing Street in London, on November 22, 2017, before presenting the government's annual Autumn budget to Parliament.

BEN STANSALL | AFP | Getty Images
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond poses for pictures with the Budget Box as he leaves 11 Downing Street in London, on November 22, 2017, before presenting the government’s annual Autumn budget to Parliament.

Britain’s finance minister had been facing mounting pressure ahead of the budget speech, with lawmakers from all sides urging him to increase spending amid austerity fatigue from the British electorate.

Budget deficit

The OBR — an organization that is a non-departmental public body that gives estimates to the finance ministry — said inflation would fall towards 2 percent later this year, from a peak of 3 percent.

The group said annual borrowing would be around £49.9 billion in 2017, more than £8 billion lower than forecast in March.

On debt, the OBR said it would peak at 86.5 percent of GDP this year, before falling over subsequent years to 79.1 percent by 2023.

“We understand the frustration of families where real incomes are under pressure,” Hammond said, as he welcomed the OBR’s forecast of debt as a share of GDP falling over the coming years.

On Tuesday, figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed Britain’s deficit rose to £8 billion last month — a rise of nearly 7 percent when compared to the same period a year earlier. Analysts had anticipated a figure of around £7 billion.

The widening budget deficit, which is the gap between government spending and tax receipts, pointed to a weaker picture than previously thought for the U.K.’s public finances.

Budget to recover 4.8 billion by 2023


Hammond has pledged to achieve a budget deficit of less than 2 percent of GDP, from 2.6 percent for 2016/17, by 2020 with the goal of eliminating the deficit by the mid-2020s. Before the Brexit vote in 2016, the U.K. had been hoping to post a budget surplus by the end of this decade.

Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent as Hammond delivered the Autumn Statement, while sterling dipped to a session low of 1.3213 against the dollar.


Hammond pledged to build 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s on Wednesday and said the ruling party would address inefficiencies in the property market. He said including loan guarantees £44 billion would be made available in government support to boost construction skills.

House affordability has been a hot topic of debate on both sides of the political spectrum and Prime Minister Theresa May wanted to make it front and center of this budget given that youth home ownership has been on the decline since the Conservatives came into government.

Hammond also said:

  • Tax-free personal allowance would increase to £11,850 in April 2018
  • Higher-rate 40 percent tax threshold to start at £46,350
  • Stamp duty abolished for first-time buyers purchasing homes worth up to £300,000
  • People buying homes worth up to £500,000 will have no stamp duty on first £300,000
  • Investment of £20 billion of new investment in U.K. technology industries
  • £540 million to invest in growth of electric vehicles
  • £500 million to be invested in 5G mobile networks, artificial intelligence and fiber broadband
  • Tobacco duty to rise by 2 percent above Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation
  • Duty on wine, spirits, beer and most ciders to be frozen.

Stock trading using just your voice is not too far away

Traders could be buying and selling stocks with just a voice command in the near future, Sandler O’Neill analysts predicted.

It is “not too far off where ‘voice recognition’ technology is combined with ‘voice identification’ to produce the fully ‘automated voice trade’ (with no interaction with a customer service representative),” wrote Sandler O’Neill analysts Richard Repetto and Collin Cook in a note Wednesday.

Voice recognition technology is being adopted widely right now. Devices such as the Amazon Echo speaker let users play music, listen to a rundown of the top news of the day, and shop, for example, with just a voice command.

Repetto and Cook said they believe taking up a more automated approach to trading — one in which traders can execute transactions with just a voice command — “could become more popular.”

As it stands now, Fidelity and Charles Schwab are the only retail brokers that allow traders to make transactions using their voice, but the process is not fully automated. Both companies use a so-called voice print to identify the person trying to execute the transaction. Voice prints work similarly to fingerprints or face prints, two technologies currently used to unlock cell phones.

Here’s how it works: After registering their voice print, traders must dial in, enter their account number and talk to a customer services representative. Once those steps are completed, traders are allowed to make trades or withdraw money from their accounts with voice commands.

A more automated approach, which would skip human interaction, could be implemented as voice recognition technology is further adopted, Repetto and Cook said.

“We believe fully automated voice recognition, identification, and trading could open the door to other retail voice activated technological advancements in the banking & brokerage area,” they said, adding it could “marginally increase trades, over time.”