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Zuckerberg staying at Meta helm for years ‘makes sense’: Clegg

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Nick Clegg says it makes sense for Mark Zuckerberg to be at the helm of Facebook parent Meta for 'many, many years'
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Mark Zuckerberg’s presence at the helm of Facebook parent Meta for “many, many years” would be perfectly natural, his global affairs director has told AFP, even as the founders of many tech companies hand off to fresh blood.

Succession at the mega company has been in the headlines in recent weeks with the announcement of the departure of Sheryl Sandberg after 14 years as the firm’s number two.

But while the founders of companies like Amazon, Twitter and Google have all moved on, Zuckerberg has shown no sign of giving up the reins — despite raging criticism over privacy scandals and the rampant spread of misinformation across Facebook.

Now as Meta rolls out its plans for the metaverse — the immersive virtual world that it considers the future of the internet — there’s no reason for the 38-year-old to go anywhere anytime soon, said Nick Clegg, the company’s director of global affairs. 

“It’s a multi-year project. It would make sense to me that Mark Zuckerberg would want to continue, to build this new chapter of the company, and that’s going to last for many years, many years,” Clegg told AFP on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

“He is the founder of the company, of Meta, but he is also the architect of the new chapter, of this construction, of these augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.” 

Facebook bought virtual reality headset maker Oculus in 2014 and launched a social VR platform.

The technology has taken off in the gaming industry, and become popular among players of Fortnite and Roblox.

But Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister, said the metaverse promised great opportunities in the fields of education and medicine, as well as entertainment.

For example, he said, teachers can take their students on a virtual trip through ancient Greece, and medics can learn sophisticated surgical techniques.

And, he said, as hardware improves, the need for specialist equipment will diminish.

“In years to come, people will be able to access these new technologies through their phones,” he said. 

“We are exploring how we can increase access to everyone and not just people who can afford the new and latest hardware.”

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W.House expects May inflation to be ‘elevated’

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US President Joe Biden departs the White House in Washington on June 8, 2022
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The White House said Wednesday it expects US inflation was still “elevated” in May despite guarded hopes a key data report due for release later this week will show price increases had cooled.

Consumer prices in the world’s largest economy have soared by the fastest pace in more than four decades, with gas prices at the pump hitting new records daily amid the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as ongoing supply chain challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Labor Department is due to release consumer price data for May on Friday, and economists expect the monthly increase to accelerate after slowing in April, when CPI posted an 8.3 percent increase over last year.

“We expect the headline inflation number to be elevated,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with President Joe Biden on Air Force One.

Biden has made fighting inflation his top domestic priority, but is finding he has few tools to directly impact prices.

The Federal Reserve has begun raising interest rates aggressively to combat inflationary pressures, saying the goal is to sustain economic expansion while avoiding a recession.

Biden has stuck to an upbeat message about the overall outlook.

“We continue to believe that the economy can transition from what has been a historic recovery … to stable steady growth,” Jean-Pierre said.

But she acknowledged that the impact of the war in Ukraine has continued to push some prices higher, including airfares.

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US regulator favors revamp of stock market trading system

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SEC Chair Gary Gensler endorsed a revamp of the trading system following the Gamestop frenzy
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Citing equity market trading defects revealed in last year’s GameStop saga, a top US securities regulator on Wednesday endorsed a broad revamp of the stock market trading system. 

In a speech billed as a first step towards a possible update in the rules likely to rile financial firms, Gary Gensler, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said he favored restructuring the system in order to better protect retail investors.

“It’s not clear… that our current national market system is as fair and competitive as possible for investors,” Gensler said in a virtual address at a conference hosted by Piper Sandler.

The speech marks the SEC’s latest action in response to frenzied trading in early 2021 during which extreme volatility in GameStop, AMC Entertainment and a handful of other equities rocked the market and led brokerages to implement sudden trading restrictions that angered investors and spurred congressional probes.

Gensler said the current system routes “the vast majority” of stock trades orders to electronic trading wholesalers such as Citadel Securities and Virtu Financial. 

In some cases, these firms pay the brokerages, an arrangement known as “payment for order flow” that can allow brokerages such as Robinhood Markets to offer commission-free trades to individual investors.

But Gensler is skeptical that this arrangement protects retail investors and believes the payment for order flow system creates conflicts of interests and encourages “gamification” on online platforms to increase trading volumes.

Gensler has asked SEC staff to consider steps to “enhance order-by-order competition,” potentially through auctions. He has also asked staff for recommendations to mitigate the risks with payment for order flow and to provide more transparency.

The SEC head described the speech as a starting point towards possible regulation that will include extensive public comment and discussion with other SEC commissioners.

Doug Cifu, chief executive of Virtu, disputed Gensler’s characterizations, telling CNBC that most of the broker dealers with which his firm trades do not accept payment for order flow.

“The chair with all due respect is conflating the issue of payment for order flow with the ecosystem that has evolved in this country for retail trading, which has really enabled retail investors to have instantaneous execution and essentially zero commission on 8000 listed names,” Cifu said.

“You know, the cliche that markets have never been better is actually factually correct.”

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Twitter to share data at heart of Musk deal dispute: report

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Elon Musk is demanding access to Twitter's trove of internal data to check for fake accounts, but analysts wonder if it is a ruse to back out of the $44 billion deal to buy the global online stage.
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Twitter will yield to Elon Musk’s demand for internal data central to a standoff over his troubled $44 billion bid to buy the social media platform, the  Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The news comes just days after the Tesla chief threatened to back out of his deal to purchase Twitter, accusing it of failing to provide data on fake accounts.

The Post cited an unnamed source familiar with the negotiations as saying Twitter’s board decided to let Musk access its full “firehose” of internal data associated with the hundreds of millions of tweets posted daily at the service.

“This would end the major standoff between Musk and the board on this hot button issue which has paused the deal,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a tweet.

Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal has said that fewer than five percent of accounts active on any given day at Twitter are bots, but that analysis cannot be replicated externally due to the need to keep user data private.

About two dozen companies already pay to access the massive trove of internal Twitter data, which includes records of tweets along with information about accounts and devices used to fire them off, according to the Post.

Twitter declined to comment on the Washington Post report but has defended its responsiveness to Musk’s requests, and vowed to complete the deal on the original terms.

The mercurial Musk agreed to buy Twitter in a $44 billion deal in late April.

He began making significant noise about fake accounts in mid-May, saying on Twitter he could walk away from the transaction if his concerns were not addressed.

Some observers have seen Musk’s questioning of Twitter bots as a means to end the takeover process, or to pressure Twitter into lowering the price.

The potential for Musk to take Twitter private has stoked protest from critics who warn his stewardship will embolden hate groups and disinformation campaigns.

US securities regulators have also pressed Musk for an explanation of an apparent delay in reporting his Twitter stock buys.

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