Stock Losses Deepen in Asia With Oil Below $40; Won, Kiwi Weaken

Asia stocks extended their drop as oils selloff revived concerns over global growth and after Japans fiscal stimulus package fell short of what some investors had expected. High-yielding currencies retreated.

Japans Topix index slipped for a third day after the yen, which typically moves at odds with local shares, jumped 1.5 percent last session. Crude halted losses below $40 a barrel before an update on U.S. oil inventories, while gold was near its highest price since July 11. The Korean won weakened with the Malaysian ringgit as New Zealands currency also slipped.

A four-week advance in global equities has faltered as crude descended into a bear market. With investors looking to central banks and governments around the world to shore up growth, Japans announcement Tuesday that it would boost spending by 4.6 trillion yen ($45 billion) in the current fiscal year failed to ignite optimism that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe can revive the worlds third-biggest economy. The Bank of England is projected to cut rates Thursday.

After all the build-up, its a disappointment, Shane Oliver, a global investment strategist at AMP Capital Investors Ltd. in Sydney, which manages more than $110 billion, said by phone, referring to Japans fiscal stimulus announcement. This will be negative for Asian stocks Wednesday, reflecting the negative response weve already seen in the U.S. and Europe overnight, he said.

A slew of services purchasing managers indexes are due Wednesday, with figures from China showing a slower pace of expansion in July than in June. Thailand is projected to hold benchmark rates in a policy review.

Stocks

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index sank 1.2 percent as of 10:50 a.m. Tokyo time, set for its lowest close in almost a week, as all 10 industry groups declined.

Australias S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.8 percent amid losses in banks. The Kospi index in Seoul slid 1 percent. Hong Kongs Hang Seng Index sank 1.6 percent as trading resumed after the market was shut on Tuesday because of a storm. The Topix lost 1.4 percent, and is down more than 3 percent this week.

A risk-off mood is coming to the forefront, said Chihiro Ohta, a senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. in Tokyo. In Japan, where many companies, especially in the auto sector, are easily affected by currency moves, the strength in the yen weighs on the overall profits for listed firms.

E-mini futures on the S&P 500 retreated 0.1 percent to 2,151.25 after the underlying index slipped 0.6 percent Tuesday, led lower by retailers and industrial stocks. The S&P 500 Index notched its first back-to-back declines since the aftermath of the U.K.s decision to quit the European Union.

Currencies

The yen weakened 0.3 percent to 101.24 per dollar, after touching 100.68 on Tuesday, its strongest level since July 11.

The governments plan incorporates 13.5 trillion yen of fiscal measures — including 7.5 trillion yen in new spending starting this year, and 6 trillion yen in low-cost loans.

For more on Japans fiscal stimulus boost, click here.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, a gauge of the U.S. currency against 10 major peers, added 0.1 percent, after sliding 0.6 percent in the previous session amid waning bets on the Federal Reserve raising interest rates in 2016.

The kiwi retreated 0.6 percent to 72 U.S. cents after jumping 1 percent last session, while the ringgit and the won were down at least 0.4 percent.

Bitcoin tumbled after one of the largest exchanges halted trading because hackers stole about $65 million of the digital currency. Bitcoin slumped 4.2 percent against the dollar, bringing its three-day drop to 18 percent.

Bonds

Australian notes due in a decade yielded 1.92 percent, up 10 basis points after they slid to an all-time low on Tuesday. The Reserve Bank of Australia delivered its second quarter-point cut for 2016 on Tuesday, taking the cash rate to a record-low 1.5 percent, as expected by a majority of economists and investors.

Yields on 10-year New Zealand debt added three basis points to 2.2 percent, while rates on similar maturity Treasuries held at 1.56 percent, following a two-day advance of about 10 basis points.

Bill Gross, the former chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., reiterated his warning on government debt Tuesday after yields touched all-time lows in the past month. The danger of the unprecedented rally, as Gross sees it, is that any reversal will be painful for investors.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude added 0.8 percent to $39.81 a barrel, after falling 5 percent over the past two sessions.

The decline is not totally unexpected, but the speed and severity of the fall has been a surprise, said Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. in Sydney. Disruptions tightened the market during the second quarter and the sustainability of those was always going to be relatively short lived. There are still relatively high inventories but the market is approaching a balance.

U.S. oil inventories dropped by 1.34 million barrels and gasoline stockpiles fell, the American Petroleum Institute was said to have reported. Government data out Wednesday is forecast to show crude and motor fuel supplies decreased.

Gold for immediate delivery was little changed at $1,364.78 an ounce.

Read more: www.bloomberg.com

Why the world should worry about North Korea’s cyber weapons

(CNN)North Korea’s hackers have been accused of carrying out some of the most audacious cyber attacks of the past few years, from siphoning millions of dollars to stealing state secrets.

Analysts say cyber capabilities have become a key asset in North Korea’s war chest, used for a wide range of purposes including hacking adversaries like South Korea and pilfering money.
Pyonyang’s increasingly bold attacks in the virtual space have come in tandem with the hermit nation’s rapidly progressing ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
    “North Korea’s cyber weapons are as destructive as its conventional weapons,” Lim Jong-in, a cyber security professor at Korea University, told CNN. “Tomahawk missiles can paralyze a major country’s power grid and financial system. So do North Korea’s cyber weapons.”
    In the latest revelation, a member of the South Korean ruling party said Tuesday that North Korea stole classified military documents from a South Korean Defense Ministry database in September 2016. They included a document that included plans to “decapitate” the North Korean leadership.
    And cybersecurity firm FireEye said Tuesday that it detected and stopped an attack on US electric companies by people with links to the North Korean government.
    The hackers’ skill is all the more surprising considering they come from a reclusive country where internet use is heavily restricted.
    Inside North Korea, citizens only have access to a government-run, heavily censored intranet rather than the full depths of the world wide web.
    But that hasn’t stopped its hackers from becoming some of the best in the business.
    “North Korea almost certainly has the capability to conduct disruptive and potentially destructive attacks, as well as more traditional cyber espionage operations,” Bryce Boland, the chief technology officer for Asia-Pacific at FireEye, told CNN.

    How big a security threat is North Korean hacking?

    North Korea’s cyber capabilities are yet another dangerous arrow in a quiver that includes chemical weapons, nuclear warheads and the world’s fourth-largest standing army.
    “Cyber experts say North Korea should be ranked among the top 5 in the world. I believe North Korea can steal anything they want through cyber espionage. No country is safe from its cyber espionage,” Lim said.
    South Korea said in December that Pyongyang had broken into the South Korean military intranet and leaked confidential information.
    South Korea has strong cyber security defenses, but North Korea’s isolation gives it an unexpected advantage, Boland said.
    “North Korea has little connectivity and relatively limited reliance on technology, making it less vulnerable to attacks,” he said.
    And the latest revelations from South Korea allege that North Korean hackers stole some 235 gigabytes worth of data, including a joint South Korea-US wartime operational plan.
    “If the North Koreans in fact accessed the US/South Korean defense plans, this is a treasure trove of information and presents a real danger,” said CNN military analyst Lt Col Rick Francona.
    “The only good thing about it is that we know that it happened and when. That at least allows us to do damage control — mitigate the damage done to national security.”

    What tactics do they use?

    Boland said spear phishing — messages which appear to be from a trusted source or about a topic specific to the person being targeted but in fact conceal malware or another way for a hacker to attempt to gain access to computers — is a favorite tactic of the North Koreans.
    “Once the victim organization has been comprised, we see additional tools being deployed,” he said.
    Another tactic they’ve been caught using, Boland said, is called a “watering hole attack.” That involves compromising websites that people visit and placing weaponized content there for them to click.
    Top South Korean government officials’ smartphones were also hacked in 2016, according to the country’s spy agency. Seoul accused North Korea of stealing text messages and voice communications by “sending enticing text messages.”
    Pyongyang is also suspected of turning 60,000 computers in South Korea into “zombies,” or computers that have been compromised by hackers and can then be used for cyberattacks. South Korea’s spy agency estimated that Pyongyang took control of 10,000 computers in a single month in 2015.
    Whatever the type of attack, North Korea will conduct reconnaissance and research ahead of time and tailor it to the specific organization or victim they’re targeting, Boland told CNN.

    How do they operate?

    Child prodigies are sought from a young age and recruited, according to Kim Heung-kwang, a North Korean defector who worked as a computer science professor in Pyongyang before escaping in 2004.
    The country has established about 250 elite schools for computer education, Kim told CNN Wednesday. From there, authorities select 500 of the most talented students for even more advanced training in cyber combat at two schools in Pyongyang.
    Once their studies are done, some are assigned to cyber units for hands-on training. Others end up working in places like Shenyang, China, where a secret network of hackers called “Bureau 121” operates, Kim explained.

      The secret hideout for North Korea’s hackers

    Kim, in a 2015 interview with CNN’s Will Ripley, said Shenyang offers hackers good internet infrastructure and the ability for North Koreans to work secretly.
    However, a recent move by Russia to provide North Korea a new internet connection increases the bandwith available in country. According to FireEye’s Boland, that also carries risks for the regime.
    “It gives Russia a stake, influence in North Korea it didn’t previously have. Russia can also track North Korea’s internet to potentially identify the targets picked up by North Korea,” he said.
    Previously, North Korean internet traffic was funneled through one sole link, provided by Chinese telecommunications firm China Unicom, according to experts.

    Who does North Korea target?

    Whatever the methods are, North Korea has been accused of some of the most damaging hacking operations of the 21st century.
    They include the Sony hack of 2014, in which servers were brought down, movies were leaked and a trove of emails, Social Security numbers and employee salaries were released. The finger was pointed at North Korea due to the fact that Sony was about to release “The Interview,” a comedy about a plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

      North Korea’s cyber wars

    In February 2016, $101 million was fraudulently transferred out of the Bangladesh central bank’s account at the New York Federal Reserve and eventually made its way to the Philippines.
    Researchers found that the hackers responsible for the theft carefully routed their signal through France, South Korea and Taiwan to setup their attack server, but made a critical mistake that established a connection to North Korea.
    Most of the funds have not been recovered.
    Analysts say North Korea has been preparing similar operations targeting cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as international sanctions make it harder for North Korea to use the dollar.
    UK and US intelligence agencies also linked this year’s WannaCry cyber attack to North Korea.

    Read more: www.cnn.com

    Asia Stocks Mixed in Subdued Trading; Yen Declines: Markets Wrap

    Stocks in Asia were mixed in subdued trading as investors deferred placing bets following the recent run-up to record highs and ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting this week. The yen fell to its lowest in a month.

    Equity benchmarks fluctuated in Tokyo and were little changed in Sydney and Hong Kong. Volumes were at least 20 percent below their 30-day average on the Nikkei 225 Stock Average and the Kospi index. Data showed hiring increased by more than forecast in November and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low, paving the way for another U.S. interest-rate increase this week. The S&P 500 Index and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at all-time highs on Friday in light volume.

    The dollar held on to last week’s gains as President Donald Trump prepares to give a closing argument for the proposed tax reform on Wednesday. Bitcoin futures began trading in Chicago, while the spot price gyrated.

    Investor optimism was already bouncing back after the U.S. government averted a shutdown and tax reform negotiations made progress. With global equities trading near record highs, many money managers earlier this month were booking profits prior to the end of the year amid an equity rotation and waning risk sentiment. While traders see an interest-rate increase by the Federal Reserve as pretty much a done deal this week, there remains a furious debate about the pace of hikes next year.

    China’s inflation pressures moderated slightly in November, giving policy makers another reason to stick to tougher financial regulations to tackle debt and less cause to boost borrowing costs. A rise in producer prices matched estimates, but slowed from October, while consumer-price gains eased as food costs dropped. Money supply and new-loan data are due this week.

    Trading in bitcoin futures started on the Cboe Global Markets, the first major U.S. exchange to offer a product pegged to the cryptocurrency. Bitcoin surged more than 1,500 percent this year. As of 7:36 p.m. New York time, contracts expiring in January were priced at $15,800, or about 3 percent higher than bitcoin itself, according to data compiled by Bloomberg

    Terminal customers can read more in our Markets Live blog.

    Here are some of the key events scheduled for this week:

    • Fed policy makers are projected to raise the target range for their benchmark interest rate against a backdrop of continuing robust U.S. economic conditions, a vibrant labor market and forecasts for inflation to pick up.
    • The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank also set monetary policy.
    • Among top U.S. economic reports next week are consumer inflation and retail sales for December.
    • European lawmakers continue to debate Brexit and weigh moves on the next step, while North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiators meet again.

    And these are the main moves in markets:

    Stocks

    • The Topix index and the Nikkei 225 Stock Average were little changed as of 10:32 a.m. in Tokyo.
    • Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fluctuated as did South Korea’s Kospi index.
    • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 0.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index was little changed.
    • Futures on the S&P 500 were flat. The underlying gauge gained 0.6 percent on Friday.
    • The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added less than 0.1 percent.

    Currencies

    • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was steady. It ended last week up 1.1 percent.
    • The yen was down 0.2 percent to 113.64 per dollar.
    • The euro traded at $1.1775.
    • The pound was flat at $1.3396.

    Bonds

    • The yield on 10-year Treasuries was steady at 2.38 percent.
    • Australia’s 10-year yield rose almost three basis points to 2.56 percent.

    Commodities

    • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.3 percent to $57.19 a barrel.
    • Gold lost 0.1 percent to $1,247.67 an ounce.

      Read more: www.bloomberg.com

      New Bitcoin ATMs

      A new step for Bitcoins, a Bitcoin ATM is coming out and this time in Asia. This new ATM will be based in Hong Kong , more specifically Mongkok area, and according to the operators it will be functional by the March-April time period.

      The adapters of this new Bitcoin ATM concept announced they will be offering the best Bitcoin price through a partnership with Bitcashout.com an established exchange.

      The ATM will provide a comfortable user-end, fast transactions, and security to provide the most customer-friendly service.

      This new ATM will offer the ability to purchase Bitcoins using fiat with ease, rather than wasting time waiting for bank-wire and other less advanced methods.

      The operators of this new Bitcoin ATM decided to use an innovative and a low-cost bounty system, awarding Bitcoins for different contributions from the crypto-community for such as articles,video and similar.

      What is Bitcoin?

      Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money.

      Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open source; its design is public,nobody owns or control Bitcoin and everyone can take part.

      Through many of its unique properties, Bitcoin allows exciting uses that could not be covered by any previous payment system.