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Inflategate Strikes Again

 

Inflation is getting so bad Arizona might have to raise the price of its iced tea above $0.99.

Okay, it’s not that horrific yet, but consumer prices did surge 5.4% in June from a year ago, the biggest increase in 13 years.

What happened: As the US reopened for business, consumers swiped their credit cards with fury. Combine that with supply shortages across the economy and massive government stimulus, and you get sweeping price increases.

But there are nuances

The WSJ’s David Harrison divided the inflation report into four categories to show that price hikes aren’t occurring uniformly across the economy. In some sectors…

  • Prices that plummeted early in the pandemic and are surging to catch up. Think airfares (24.6% annual increase in June) and hotels (16.9%).
  • Prices that are booming thanks to supply shortages. Used cars are the star of this category, with their price increases accounting for more than a third of June’s total price hikes. Economists expect prices to return to normal levels when supply chain wrinkles are ironed out.
  • Prices that will remain higher permanently. You could be paying more at restaurants over the long term thanks to an extended labor shortage and higher wages.
  • Prices that aren’t increasing that much. Rents are inching upward at a rate of 1.9% per month. For comparison, rents on a primary residence rose at a nearly 4% rate before the pandemic.

As always with inflation stories, we must close by turning to the Fed, whose main job is to keep prices stable. Will June’s inflation boom change Chair Jerome Powell’s view that price hikes are transitory?

Probably not. As we mentioned, the bulk of the price increases were in sectors battered by the pandemic (hospitality) or those battling supply shortages (used cars). Higher inflation might stick around a little longer than initially expected, but investors are betting more typical price growth will return, just like the handshake.

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Hackers are infecting gamers’ PCs with malware to make millions from crypto

Cyber criminals are targeting gamers with “mining malware” as they look to get crypto-rich, according to research published by security firm Avast.

The so-called “Crackonosh” malware is being hidden in free versions of games like NBA 2K19, Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 5, The Sims 4 and Jurassic World Evolution, which are available to download on torrent sites, Avast said on Thursday.

Once installed, Crackonosh quietly uses the computer’s processing power to mine cryptocurrencies for the hackers. The malware has been used to generate $2 million worth of a cryptocurrency known as monero since at least June 2018, according to Avast.

Avast researcher Daniel Benes told CNBC that infected users may notice that their computers slow down or deteriorate through overuse, while their electricity bill may also be higher than normal.

“It takes all the resources that the computer has so the computer is unresponsive,” he said.

Some 220,000 users have been infected worldwide and 800 devices are being infected every day, according to Benes. However, Avast only detects malicious software on devices that have its antivirus software installed so the actual number could be significantly higher. Brazil, India and the Philippines are among the worst affected countries, while the U.S. has also seen many cases…read more.

 

I remember my very first time walking into a Costco store. I was curious but also a little bemused by the displays, and I didn’t know quite what to make of the throngs of oversize shopping carts that had formed around a table of sweatpants. As a kid, I went on trips with my mom to our local BJ’s Wholesale Club, but this wasn’t the same. On top of that, years of carless, walk-up-apartment living in New York had altered my idea of what shopping was. Many suburban Americans swore by Costco, but I just didn’t get it. Why were diamond rings placed next to packages of sunscreen? And who is buying this many pickles? It was like standing in the center of Disney World during spring break, except instead of kids flocking to costumed characters, very eager grownup customers had swarmed a Costco worker offering samples of pot stickers.

It wasn’t long before I, too, began buying the sweatpants, the sunscreen, the pickles and the pot stickers.

Whether it was my move to the suburbs that inspired my appreciation for Costco or the other way around is a real chicken-and-two-dozen-pack-of-eggs question. For the more than 2 million other Americans who became first-time homebuyers last year — especially the large numbers of millennials for whom low interest rates and remote-work flexibility made homeownership attainable — a Costco Wholesale Corp. membership might be their next addition. The Costco team, led by CEO Craig Jelinek, has done everything it can to make it a necessity. And its success at doing so has been a boon for the company and its shareholders.

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Norway Leads the Pack on Rate Hikes

Norway’s central bank has once again cemented itself as a hawkish outlier in the G10 policymaker arena. Norges Bank is now penciling in its first rate hike in September, and its rate projection indicates that may well be followed by another in December and March of next year. In total there are four hikes in by the end of next year, and another couple by the end of 2024.

In a sense none of this is too surprising. The Norges Bank had already been signaling at least one hike this year, and in effect the latest rate path just adds in one additional hike over what was in the March profile. The bounceback in Norwegian activity, coupled with slightly higher oil prices and a weaker NOK (relative to what the central bank says it would expect given energy price levels), all contributed to the higher rate path.

At this stage, there’s little reason to doubt that these rate hikes will materialize, barring further Covid-19 surprises. But does this tell us much about what other central banks might do? We suspect it doesn’t. Remember back in 2019, the Norges Bank hiked interest rates three times, while the Fed was busy cutting… CLICK for complete article and charts

 

New York (CNN Business)Peloton users are being warned of a new security threat relating to the touchscreen on their Bike+ that could potentially be controlled by hackers.

In a report released Wednesday, cybersecurity company McAfee discovered a vulnerability that allows hackers to access Peloton’s bike screen and potentially spy on riders using its microphone and camera. However, the threat most likely affects only the $2,495 bike used in public spaces, such as in hotels or gyms, because the hacker needs to physically access the screen using a USB drive containing a malicious code.
According to McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research team, a hacker can discreetly control the stationary bike’s screen remotely and interfere with its operating system. That means hackers could, for example, install apps that look like Netflix or Spotify and steal the users’ log-in information. Perhaps more alarmingly, the cybersecurity team was able spy on users via the camera and microphone, which is normally used for video chats with other users.
“As a result, an unsuspecting gym-goer taking the Peloton Bike+ for a spin could be in danger of having their personal data compromised and their workout unknowingly watched,” the report said. It also warned the hacker could configure this spyware at any point, including during the supply chain or delivery process, without the owner knowing.
Internet-connected devices, whether they are bikes, computers or even refrigerators, are all susceptible to hacks. Cyberattacks have increasingly caught the public’s attention, with high-profile companies including McDonald’s, Microsoft and Electronic Arts publicly revealing recent security breaches.
McAfee said it pored over Peloton’s software with a “critical eye” to find vulnerabilities and warn users. The two companies worked together to “responsibly develop and issue a patch.”