Discover more from The Signal
Data aborts privacy
Also in today’s edition: RBI springs a surprise; Elon Musk may take Twitter public; Jeera could get dearer; Media biz eye TV
Good morning! NFTs as an anti-censorship tool… who’d have thought? Reuters says that’s the use case in Shanghai, where citizens battle draconian Covid-19 lockdown measures and are policed for voicing dissent online. Determined to record and preserve their hardships, enterprising people are minting photos, videos, and other creations for marketplaces such as OpenSea. Now that’s contemporary art.
The Market Signal*
Stocks: The RBI's surprise repo rate hike triggered a heavy sell-off across sectors. The US Fed raised its benchmark policy rate by half a percentage point. Although expected, the move will ripple through markets worldwide. Riding on a global commodity boom, Tata Steel, meanwhile, beat TCS to become the most profitable company in the Tata Group.
Early Asia: The Nifty was trading -0.52% lower at 7.30 am in early Singapore trade. The Nikkei 225 slumped to -0.11% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index surged.
Your EMIs Will Go Up
After holding off a rate hike in the face of red hot prices for several months, the RBI finally bit the bullet. It hiked the repo rate—the key benchmark that signals to banks that money is getting dearer—by 40 basis points from 4% to 4.4%. That means banks will now pay an interest rate of 4.4% when they borrow from the RBI.
EMIs to go up: Naturally, the knock on effects will be felt by banks’ customers. Home loans, car loans and personal loans will all carry stiffer interest rates. So will loans for business and industry. The rise comes close on the heels of banks raising interest rates last month.
Runaway prices: The rate hike was not a question of if but when, as inflation showed no signs of abating. The RBI is comfortable when inflation stays within the band of 2%-6%. But it breached the upper limit three months ago and in March shot up to a 17-month high of 6.95%.
Twitter May Go Public… Again
That’s what Elon Musk told potential investors. Musk, whose $44 billion Twitter deal is yet to get regulatory approval, wants the platform to be IPO-bound in three years.
Coterie: The New York Times sheds light on Musk’s insiders—including personal lawyer Alex Spiro and fixer Jared Birchall—and a mercurial, micro-management leadership style that leaves staff scrambling to execute his ad-hoc, public declarations.
Brain fog: But Musk’s impulsiveness won’t bode well for his neurotech company. Unlike Tesla and SpaceX, Neuralink has to contend with the ethics- and regulation-heavy medical sector. Neuroscientists are questioning Musk’s tall claims of “solving” brain injuries and achieving “human/AI symbiosis” with Neuralink’s 1,024-electrode implants.
Postscript: The billionaire seemingly supports the EU’s antitrust complaint against Apple Payments, which was spurred in part by PayPal. He’s also mulling a fee for Twitter’s corporate and government accounts.
America’s Conservative Crusade Weaponises Location Data
This might sound like an American story. But it is not. This is about data, privacy and political action getting enmeshed. And what begins in the US often does not stay there.
Location data firm SafeGraph is selling information on abortion clinic visits in the US at just over $160. The datasets include details on frequency and duration of visits, location, and device information. The availability of such data in the context of the US Supreme Court potentially overruling Roe v. Wade is disconcerting.
Vigilantism: Texas, Oklahoma, and Idaho have ‘Heartbeat Acts’ that not only criminalise abortion after six weeks of pregnancy but authorise citizens to sue anyone who “aids and abets” abortion. Missouri is considering a law that’d bar residents from crossing state lines for such services. Location data will be indispensable in such instances.
Roe v. Wade is seminal not only because it established abortion rights in the US, but because it did so by invoking individual right to privacy. Since privacy was also invoked for marriage equality and contraceptive rights, there are fears that overruling Roe v. Wade could have implications for same-sex marriage. That’s because the largely-conservative apex court—in a draft opinion leaked yesterday—said rights not expressly mentioned in the Constitution must be “rooted in history and tradition”. In the US, privacy is a right under various Amendments.
America’s apex court insists that its reading applies only to abortion. But given the country’s federal structure (where states codify their own legal interpretations) and queer dating apps like Grindr unabashedly selling user data, everyone’s expecting the worst.
🎧The recent disclosure of the Roe v. Wade draft leaks has sparked worries that overturning it could spark ramifications for the LGBTQ community. Find out the TL;DR here.
Brace For A Jeera-less Tadka
The humble jeera, a mainstay in your tadka could get expensive. It’s likely to see a whopping 30%-35% jump in prices due to a sharp decline in production of the spice in the country.
Seeds of uncertainty: One of the main reasons is jeera-growing acreage has shrunk by a fifth. Farmers in key producing states, Gujarat and Rajasthan have swapped cumin for more lucrative commodities such as mustard and gram. Unseasonal rainfall also affects the productivity of the spice. It’s also why the weather gave expensive lemons not too long ago.
Global effect: Jeera is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper. The low yield in India will affect global prices as it is the largest producer of jeera in the world. Its output is estimated to have declined about 35% year-on-year to 558 million tonnes in 2022.
🎧 In some not-so-good news, climate change is coming for jeera. Find out why.
TV Is Here To Stay
Even as video streaming is the new black, Indian media businesses have their finger in every pie. The TV remote can’t catch a break any time soon.
Lights, camera, action: Viacom18 launched a movie channel Colors Cineplex Superhits in April to cater to urban and rural Hindi-speaking markets. Disney Star will now extend its regional footprint to Odisha with Star Kirano, a GEC by June.
Ring up the curtain: While streaming platforms had their moment in the sun in the pandemic, cable viewing remains the primary source of consumption among Indians. The trend may not fade away any time soon. Streaming services are also becoming victims of inflation, with consumers reconsidering their spending habits. And oh, Indians aren't quite into paying for OTT services. So, family-friendly content will rule the small screen.
By the by: Paramount+ will make an India debut in 2023 in a joint venture with Viacom 18. Netflix, which aims to include 50 titles in its roster by this year, has added Relic Hunters: Rebels to its growing gaming catalogue.
Sold out: Volkwagen has no more electric cars to sell in the US and Europe this year. New customers ordering its cars will get delivery only in 2023.
Big blow: Tiger Global is a good indicator of the severity of the market correction. The hedge fund has lost $15 billion of $35 billion in equities in 2022.
Chip warriors: The ministry of information technology is planning to train 85,000 engineers in chip design.
Strict: German authorities have categorised Facebook-parent Meta as “a company with outstanding cross-market importance for competition”. As a result, the company is expected to face tougher rules in the country.
Pivot to government: Google’s new public policy head in India will be a former Niti Aayog official, Archana Gulati. Gulati joins other former bureaucrats who have taken up similar roles in companies such as Meta, which hired Rajiv Aggarwal last year.
OnlyFans for Prez? Congressional candidate and former stripper Alexandra Hunt isn't ashamed of her past. So when a troll hit back at her, the 29-year-old decided to join OnlyFans to remove the stigma around sex work, and fund her campaign. The stunt worked. Her account has raised more than $33,000 from her supporters on the subscription-based content platform.
Ditch the (dog) tropes: Dog lovers already knew this but now there’s proof. According to a new study, a dog's breed doesn’t necessarily reflect its personality. After comparing the behaviour and ancestry of more than 18,000 dogs, and analysing genomes of about 2,150 dogs, the verdict is out: Every dog is unique.
Taste of crypto: Restaurants and pubs in Singapore have an increased appetite for crypto, what with a host of pubs accepting bitcoins, and slapping on a few freebies to inspire patrons. Maison Ikkoki, an 80-seat restaurant in Singapore is one of the many restaurants to accept cryptocurrencies as payment for its services. But as of now, it has a few takers. Owners are hoping their prospects pay off.
Want to advertise with us? We’d love to hear from you.
Write to us here for feedback on The Signal.