Monday, March 7, 2016

Oil hits $40 amid commodities comeback; Japan economy shrinks 1.1% in Oct-Dec; Chris Poole is Google's latest hire

1 Oil hits $40 amid commodities comeback (BBC) The oil price has gone above $40 a barrel for the first time this year as commodities continue to rally. Brent crude, used as an international benchmark, rose more than 5% to trade at $40.83 a barrel.

Oil dropped below $28 in January, but has since risen as part of a wider recovery in energy and metal prices. The price of iron also shot up, rising 20% amid greater optimism about Chinese economic growth and demand for the metal in the country's refineries.

The price of Brent crude has now gone up more than 40% from the low it reached in January, although it remains 70% below its peak in the summer of 2014. The rise is being put down to talks taking place between oil-producing countries in an effort to curb production.

Meanwhile, ratings agency Fitch said oil prices would remain at an average of $35 a barrel this year. Iron ore rose 20%, its biggest increase in eight months, on expectations that China was cutting production. The slowing Chinese economy has led to a fall in demand for iron ore, which has partly led to a global glut. China is one of the biggest consumers of steel in the world.

2 Japan economy shrank 1.1% in Oct-Dec (San Francisco Chronicle) Japan's GDP contracted at a 1.1 percent annualized pace in the last quarter in further evidence the world's third-largest economy is failing to gain traction despite unprecedented efforts by the central bank to spur more growth.

The revised figures compared with a 1.4 percent expansion in the July-September quarter. They showed a modest improvement over the previous estimate of a 1.4 percent contraction in October-December.

But the latest data suggest Japan's growth has remained tepid in early 2016, raising the likelihood of further government action to help boost growth. That could include further moves by the Bank of Japan to encourage lending, extra government spending and possibly a second delay in a sales tax hike scheduled for April 2017. Japan's economy grew 0.5 percent in 2015 after flat-lining in 2014.

3 Chris Poole is Google’s latest hire (Julia Carrie Wong in The Guardian) Google has hired Christopher Poole, the founder of the notorious and controversial internet image-board 4chan. Poole announced the move in a post on Tumblr, writing that he planned to “contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities” to the internet behemoth.

Poole’s reference to “online communities”has led many to speculate that Poole will help Google tackle social media, one of the few areas of the internet where Google has failed to compete. In November 2015, Google announced the latest redesign of its lackluster social network, one that aimed to emulate Reddit and Pinterest more than social king Facebook. But the site has remained an afterthought in the social conversation.

Whether Poole’s magic touch can change that is an open question. Described by Rolling Stone as the “Mark Zuckerberg of the online underground”, Poole founded 4chan in 2003 when he was just 15 years old. Today the site claims to attract 22 million unique visitors per month.

The sprawling, anarchic community spawned some of the internet’s most popular and creative memes – LOLcats and Rickrolling were both born there. But 4chan has also gained a reputation as a breeding ground for abuse, trolling and online harassment. The site was at the center of the 2014 hack of private photographs of more than 100 female celebrities.

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