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Models starting to agree: South Florida is going to get a direct hit from Irma

Jacob Wohl

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—VIA JENNY STALETOVICH, MIAMI HERALD 

Hurricane Irma tightened her grip on South Florida early Friday, becoming overnight what everyone has long dreaded: a monster hurricane bearing down on Miami and a coast with 6 million people.

National Hurricane Center

Reliable forecast models projecting the storm’s path predictably began to agree on a final, fateful track, with a direct hit along the south coast Sunday, although any wobble at this point could still change the storm’s course. At two days, forecasts still have an 80 to 90-mile margin of error, National Hurricane Center forecaster Mike Brennan said.

Irma is heading west and should continue moving in that direction over the next 24 to 36 hours, forecasters said early Friday, with hurricane conditions in the Keys and mainland starting Saturday night. Tropical storm-force winds should start in the morning.

Irma was located just under 450 miles southeast of Miami at 8 a.m., forecasters said.

Irma’s eyewall began collapsing and rebuilding overnight, a common restructuring in fierce storms that can cause them to weaken slightly. In Irma’s case, the storm has rekindled with each replacement. There’s a possibility Irma weakens more if it passes closer to Cuba Friday, forecasters said, but that remains to be seen.

Once Irma hits land, it should lose intensity quickly, forecasters said. However hurricane-strength winds near the storm’s center are still expected to be widespread, with tropical storm force winds lasting at least 14 hours as it passes.

Overnight, Irma continued rolling through the Caribbean after pounding islands in the French territories. The Turks and Caicos, where communications were knocked out, reported roofs ripped off, widespread blackouts and flooding. Dangerous storm surge and heavy rain will likely continue pounding the islands through Saturday, with heavy rain also forecast for Hispaniola.

The U.S. Virgin Islands lost its 911 call lines. The small island of Barbuda reported damage to 95 percent of the island, including its hospital and airport. At least 11 deaths so far have been blamed on the storm, with dozens more injured. The number of deaths is likely to climb.

Irma should move between Cuba’s north coast and the southeastern Bahamas throughout the day Friday.

All of South Florida remains under a hurricane warning, with evacuation orders for parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties, that include 680,000 in Miami-Dade. All residents and visitors have been ordered out of the Keys. A watch has also been extended north along the east coast to Sebastian Inlet and on the west coast to Anna Maria Island, essentially putting the entire lower half of the state on alert.

The South Florida coast and Keys are also under a storm surge warning, with surge levels projected to reach between five and 10 feet.

“It could be as high as your head, or twice that high,” Brennan said. “That’s life-threatening.”

Because Biscayne Bay is so shallow, wind can easily pick up and move water, he said.

“You’re going to have water blowing up Biscayne bay. The bay responds really fast. It’s shallow. So the bay’s going to respond very quickly to that wind,” he said.

And places in the Keys may get slammed by a double whammy of storm surge.

“The Keys could get storm surge from both sides,” Brennan said. “You can get almost two separate rounds.”

While Irma compares in intensity to Andrew, Brennan said the impacts from the storms will likely be different. Andrew approached the coast perpendicularly, plowing westward over South Dade after hitting Elliott Key, and chewing up Country Walk and other neighborhoods in its path with intense winds. Irma is coming from the south, moving northward and pushing water in front of it expected to cause more surge across a wider swath, before plowing up the peninsula into Central Florida.

“Every storm is always different.” Brennan said. “The hazards are always different.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich

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Jacob Wohl is the CEO and Head of Fixed Income and Interest Rates for Montgomery Assets, a proprietary trading and asset management firm based in Los Angeles, CA. Jacob Wohl is the host of the Offended America Podcast

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Bitcoin rebounds after losing almost a third of its value

Jacob Wohl

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LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin surged on Monday, recovering more than $1,000 after losing almost a third of its value in less than four days as traders bought back into the volatile cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin tumbled in the second half of last week, falling as low as $5,555 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange on Sunday, a slide of almost 30 percent from a record high just shy of $7,900 on Wednesday.

It rebounded on Monday, trading up more than 14 percent on the day at $6,718, though that was still more than $1,000 less than last week’s record high.

Market-watchers said the fall had been driven by a decision on Wednesday to abandon a planned software upgrade that could have split the cryptocurrency in a so-called “fork” – a move that had initially had a positive impact on the digital coin, sending it to a record high of $7,888 on the view that this marked a resolution of a long-term dispute.

But some were disappointed that “Segwit2x” fork had been abandoned. It would have increased the capacity of the “blocks” transactions are processed in, thereby reducing competition to get payments processed and lowering transaction fees.

Consequently, analysts said, some of those who see low fees as important to the future of bitcoin were selling it for a clone called Bitcoin Cash that spun off from the original in August. Its block sizes are larger, and therefore transaction fees are lower.

Bitcoin Cash tripled in value at the end of the week as bitcoin slid, reaching an all-time high just below $2,000 on Sunda and briefly overtaking Ethereum as the world’s second-biggest cryptocurrency.

But traders bought back into the original bitcoin on Monday, sending Bitcoin Cash plummeting. It was trading down over 30 percent on the day at around $1,097, according to industry website Coinmarketcap.

“Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash will co-exist and serve different use cases, just like Bitcoin and Ethereum. It’s not a zero sum game,” bitcoin and security expert Andreas Antopolous said in a post on Twitter.

Bitcoin is up more than 500 percent so far this year.

(This version of the story was refiled to change headline to “claws back” from “rebounds” to avoid confusion)

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Chinese Firm Tencent Quietly Bought 12% Stake in Snapchat

Jacob Wohl

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(Reuters) – Tencent Holdings Ltd now has a 12 percent stake in Snapchat operator Snap Inc, company filings showed on Wednesday, the latest in a string of major investments in the United States by China’s new tech heavyweights.

The details of the stake, revealed by Snapchat after badly received quarterly results, came as U.S. and Chinese firms announced $9 billion in new deals on the arrival of President Donald Trump in Beijing.

It helped the U.S. company recoup a slide of almost 20 percent in pre-trading in New York after it reported third-quarter revenue and user growth well below Wall Street expectations.

Snap shares recovered to trade down 12 percent at $13.29 in premarket trading from a close of $15.12 on Tuesday.

“While such news may be initially perceived as positive by the market, one has to remember that Tencent’s holdings in Snap is the non-voting Class A shares, which makes a possible acquisition of Snap by Tencent less likely,” said Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi.

Along with Alibaba and Baidu, Tencent has poured billions of cash from a decade of growth in China into buying U.S. firms and holds 5 percent of electric car maker Tesla, as well as stakes in ride service company Lyft and augmented reality startup Magic Leap.

The largest social media and gaming company in China and owner of the popular mobile application WeChat, it had previously invested in Snap through an affiliate in 2013, and has been referred as a “role model” by Snap’s co-founder and Chief Executive Evan Spiegel.

Snap said in its quarterly report that Tencent had bought 145.8 million shares of its non-voting Class A common stock on the open market. Snap had about 1.2 billion shares outstanding, as of Oct 31.(bit.ly/2zqvybE)

“The positive side of this could be that the two companies may create business partnership of some kind or Tencent may aid Snap in expanding its reach into China,” Morningstar’s Mogharabi said.

Unlike many U.S. stock market-listed corporations, Snap is not obligated to disclose changes in Tencent’s ownership of Snap’s Class A stock. Snap said it had only received the details of the stake from Tencent this month and declined to answer further questions on the filing.

Snap, on Tuesday, reported third-quarter revenue and user growth well below Wall Street expectations, as it struggles to compete with Facebook Inc’s Instagram. The company has disappointed investors each quarter since it floated on the New York Stock Exchange in March.
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Fox held talks to sell most of the company to Disney

Jacob Wohl

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Reuters Reports Fox’s shares jumped 7.1 percent to $26.76 in afternoon trading in response. Disney shares climbed 1.7 pct to $100.33.

The two sides are not currently talking, CNBC said, but had held talks in the last few weeks, reflecting a view among Fox executives that the media company could not reach the size needed to compete with Amazon.com Inc, Netflix Inc and other major media players. cnb.cx/2hgHcPA

For Disney, a deal could bring additional programming it could use to lure audiences as the company tries to navigate consumers’ rapid migration to digital viewing and spending by technology companies pushing further into Hollywood.

Disney, which under U.S. rules could not own two broadcast networks, would not purchase all of Fox, CNBC reported. It would not seek to buy Fox’s sports programming assets for fear of running foul of antitrust laws with its own ESPN network, and would also not buy Fox News or Fox’s broadcast network or local broadcasting affiliates, the report said.

It did discuss buying Fox’s movie and TV production studios, cable networks FX and National Geographic and international assets such as Star and B Sky B, CNBC said.

Fox has bid $14.5 billion to acquire the remaining 61 percent it does not own of Sky Plc, but the acquisition has been delayed by British regulators.

Disney has been struggling with subscriber declines at ESPN, its biggest network, and is planning to launch direct-to-consumer video streaming services to reach younger audiences that have shunned traditional cable and satellite offerings.

Much of Fox’s revenue has come from its cable division, which houses Fox News, FX and other channels. Fox said in August that it expects to see high single-digit domestic affiliate fee growth every quarter in fiscal 2018.

Fox and Disney are co-owners of Hulu, a streaming service that offers on-demand and live TV packages. Hulu also is partially owned by Comcast Corp and Time Warner Inc.

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