Crumbling Oil Prices and Collapse of Russian Rouble: Is there a Conspiracy?

oil-russia

RUSSIA’S national economy is on the verge of major collapse, hit by the double-edged sword of crumbling oil prices and debilitating western sanctions. Many feel the US is behind the silent war with Russia, and that the present crisis is all a section of a larger strategy to push the Russian financial system into crisis.

Ever since June’ 14, the international oil price has gone down by almost 50 per cent, from a high of $US114 a barrel to below $60 early this week.

The rouble has mostly chased the oil price, crumbling to a low of 80.1 to the US dollar earlier this week, notwithstanding a crucial attempt by Russia’s Central Bank to end the sell-off with an emergency interest rate lift. The locals are lined up to buy imported goods and to convert currencies as the rouble is depreciating at a rapid rate. Currency exchanges are flooded with customers.

The Central Bank has cautioned that in case the oil price remains below $60 a barrel, Russia’s economy will shrink by almost 5 per cent the following year. It has been projected that for every $10 drop in the oil price, the country’s GDP will go down by 2 per cent.

At the same time, due to western sanctions imposed to counter Russia’s role in Ukraine, businesses are not able to refinance their debts in foreign markets, resulting in currency selling to pay off debts well before they end up unsustainable.

“This is an extremely unsafe situation. We are only a few days away from a bailout situation of banks. If the currency crisis in not tackled immediately, the banking structure will require robust emergency treatment,” as reported in news daily Vedomosti.

Conspiracy Theory

Vladimir Putin has charged the west for the present crisis, and he’s not the only one. While common public in general have related it to an “economic war”, some western commentators agree with that view. Not too long ago, back when oil was still selling for about $88 a barrel, a New York Times columnist pointed the finger straight at the US for the break down.

The “conspiracy theory”, broadly recognized in Russia, is that the US and Saudi Arabia are working together to maintain production purposely high to chase the price lower. Even earlier, US and Saudi Arabia have acted together against the leaders of Soviet Union and this is just the continuation of the past.

The net outcome has actually been to make daily living challenging for Russia and Iran. Not to forget that Saudi Arabia and US are facing each other under a hostile situation in Syria.

US has officially made its stand clear saying that lower oil price would stimulate oil dependent economies like Japan, Germany and China.

Some experts are of the view that Saudi Arabia is doing this to maintain its market share and the role of US is much hyped than it is. Rouhani of Iran, has said that Saudi Kingdom is capable of withstanding the revenue losses and so it’s acting against the interest of people in Iran and other oil producing regions.

Google Android to Hit Car Dashboard

car-dashboard

Google has already started working on play for the Android Auto dashboard, but the next edition of its operating system is being created to eliminate the phone totally which means that it can find an everlasting home in cars.

The base software to enable that capability will probably be built into the upcoming release of Android – M, or 6.0 – expected in 2015.

While Android Auto lets people with supported gadgets to play music, use Google Maps, and voice commands, setting it up in main unit is an innovative new theme for Google. With the new system the drivers would enjoy the power of web without plugging smartphones. With Google integration, the OS could take charge of the camera, fuel gauge, and sensors that are present in new car models. Google has got a treasure of related services to sell once the integration is complete.

Other than challenges privacy issues, Google also has to focus on the stability and booting speed of the OS. The system has to be turned on simultaneously when ignition is turned on. No more lazy loading screens.

The potential of the new initiative is both attractive and intimidating to automakers. They may also gain from the Android ecosystem and could re-skin the software to suit diverse brands and aesthetics. However, it is still not clear on who owns and manages the data, and it is expected that Google will clear these issues soon.

Recently, Honda partnered with NVIDIA to launch Android in their latest Euro-Civic. Google needs to convince car makers to make sure their software is perfectly tied up with the car. Google is slowly strengthening its position and grabbing more and more market share of the infotainment industry.

Facebook Stake in Instagram Zooms 50x: $715 million to $35 billion

fb-instagram

Many raised eyebrows when Mark Zuckerberg decided in April’ 12 to bet with $1 billion on Instagram. That was approximately $33 for every single user at that time. Many analysts screamed “it’s a blunder and there’s no business model at all!” Now in little less than three years Citigroup comes out saying Instagram is worth about $35 billion. That’s a mind blowing figure. It’s almost 50 times bigger than the $715 million that Facebook paid, after the stock price crash. So what went wrong with analysts and what worked GREAT! for Facebook?

What Made it Happen?

To put it short it is “Ads” that made it happen. The other main factor was the rising number of Instagram users. There has been about 40% increase in users over the year. During the last quarter alone it spiked up by almost 50%. Analysts believe the monetization potential of Instagram through Ads is much more. So what about the users?

Now it’s more than a year since ads were introduced in the Instagram application. By more revenue it doesn’t mean you’re going to be flooded with ads popping ever now and then. Instagram values every user more than ever before. As per Citi, Instagram can reach ad revenue of $1.48 per 1000 hits, though it’s less compared to what Twitter makes. With a rapidly fast-growing user base, Instagram would be able to bring in more prospective advertisers at better rates.

Facebook’s Monetization Strategy

Facebook is not interested in filling every page with ads that may annoy users. Instead the focus is shifted to target sponsored posts. By making using of Instagram Favorites, they are finding out suitable ads for conversion. Facebook linked Instagram accounts will further help in targeting ads based on profile, likes and user interest. So far Instagram has managed it well. A 70yr old won’t be annoyed with Alpine skiing ads. The ad-monetization strategy might look as a difficult task to accomplish, but Facebook has consistently proved.

Drinking Alcohol Before Bedtime Affects Sleep, New Study

alcohol-sleep

Nearly one in five Americans turn to alcoholic drinks more often than not to help them fall asleep, however this can lead to sleep troubles later in the night, a new study finds.

The reason being alcohol hampers the brain’s structure for supporting a person’s desire for sleep, researchers identified.

“The existing belief was that alcohol aids sleep by varying an individual’s circadian pattern — the human body’s built-in 24/7 clock,” said by author Mahesh Thakkar, director of research in the neurology department at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

Thakkar further added that “Nonetheless, we found out that alcohol simply promotes sleep by affecting a person’s sleep homeostasis — the brain’s built-in function that regulates your sleepiness and wakefulness.”

The effect on sleep homeostasis caused by alcohol can lead to poorer quality sleep, in accordance with the study reported in the journal named Alcohol.

Dr. Pradeep Sahota, co-author of the study clearly stated that, “Established by our results, it is evident that alcohol is not meant to be used as a sleep aid.” He also comes from the same neurology department at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

“Alcohol disturbs sleep and of course the quality of sleep is reduced. Moreover, alcohol has a diuretic effect, which raises your need to go to the wash room and causes you to get up earlier than usual,” Sahota mentioned in the press report.

Thakkar remarked that sleep is an important area of study. “Nearly one-third of our life is exhausted sleeping. Paired with studies that show 20 per cent of people consume alcohol to sleep, it’s essentially significant that we learn how they interact with each other,” he said.

“When you’re going through difficulty sleeping, don’t use alcoholic drinks. Consult with your doctor or a sleep medicine specialist to understand what issues are restraining you from sleeping. These factors can then be treated with specific therapies,” Thakkar advised.

Warren Buffett’s 5 Lessons: For Every Investor

buffett

You get what you pay for. This is what had been said for so long time. But this is incorrect with Warren Buffett. He’s been providing great investing wisdom for several years that are priceless and precious. Throughout his live he has proved that value is what you get and price is what you pay for. Buffett’s value investing principles have stunned people across the globe. The annual letters of Buffett are a must-read for every investor. Buffett is one peculiar investor who doesn’t care about the activities of market on a day-to-day basis. Buffett is a real bargain hunter who will never chase stocks.

Here are some of the best investing lessons from Buffett:

1. Stock Buy Backs

Stock buy backs are done mostly at the expense of stock holders. Companies do this to boost the option values. A management is no better than an individual in making investments. When Berkshire made buyback in 2012, it was because the intrinsic value of the stock went much beyond the book value. The buyback price was set at 120% of book value. Such buy backs are beneficial to long-term stock holders and also the company.

2. Always Bullish on US

Buffett and Charlie have always considered investing in US as a “safe bet”. They never had an iota of doubt about it. The growth of American in the last 230 years starting from 1776 is humongous. The growth stats are too astonishing to believe. Buffett feels that the dynamic American economy will continue its magic and the future looks better than ever before. Buffett had instructed his trustee to invest the money he leaves for his wife, in a S&P 500 index fund and some short term government bond funds.

3. Buy Businesses, Not Stocks

If you get a chance to buy a gas station business, you would probably analyse the growth potential, assets, liabilities, and financial status of the company. Then why not do the same for stocks? Why most investors fail is because they are carried away by the stock price movements and they don’t study about the real business and financials. Market participants are simply struck in the buy-sell ticker. To win a game, a player needs to focus on the field, and not on the scoreboard. Good investing is a pleasure to be experienced. According to Buffett, an investor is buying a piece of business not a piece of stock.

4. Per-Share Growth is Key

In every annual letter, Buffett stresses the importance of per-share performance of company. Buffett wants his company growth and per-share return to rise together. Many companies in the past have expanded in size without per-share growth. Buffett and Charlie continuously work on building Berkshire’s per-share value in following ways

  1. Improving the earning potential of subsidiaries
  2. Safe acquisitions
  3. Growth of investees
  4. Buy backs at meaningful discounts
  5. Rare big acquisitions

5. Bull Markets End Badly

Buffett is always conscious when the market rises beyond its value and the buying interest is too much. He has once said “Bull markets are simply like sex. You will fell the pleasure the moment before it ends.” Anyway he is not worried at current levels. May be in the future if stocks continue to run at same pace he might change his view.

Yoga or Strength Training: Which is Better?

strength-training

Is yoga training helpful for building muscles? Assuming you are a gym enthusiast who spends several hours lifting huge weights, you could have a hard time believing that it certainly will do.

Our muscular structure is an exceptional thing. Precisely what our muscle groups are capable of doing is amazing. The muscle tissues can further be improved by strengthening them, and increasing flexibility. If you regularly train with weights, your muscles will surely turn big.

You would have spotted individuals who have developed gigantic muscles; but they are unable to do a simple namaskar properly. They cannot even bend down. It’s because of the high rigidity of the body. The basic purpose of exercise is to make the body flexible and not rigid.

Be a Beast or Human

If you simply want muscles that appear strong, nowadays you can find easier methods to do that. You could possibly get bicep implants. Breast isn’t the only place for silicon; it can just go into your biceps and calf muscles as well. You don’t need to sweat out hours and hours at the gym to get those blocks all over the body; there are cortisones and hormones readily available. There are a lot simpler ways, if it’s merely about looking good.

Of course, you can gain enormous strength with body-building. However you can build the equivalent strength in a totally different way and also you don’t have to appear like a beast. You can continue to stay human and make yourself flexible. Even if you love to strength train, it is always good to stretch you body post workout to relax your muscles.

Angamardana

Yoga is all about using your own body weight to do workouts. Angamardana is actually this: by means of one’s own body weight to do all the exercises. So you don’t have to give reasons saying that there was no fitness center or gym around. You will be able to stretch out and exercise at any place. This is just as effective in building the body as any resistance or strength training is, and additionally it helps to cleanse the system without adding any stress to it. But one thing, if you’re intention is to look like a beast and not concerned about your health, then yoga will not work. It will make you look like a wise human being and also make you really strong. Yoga focuses a lot more on strengthening nerves, which most of the strength training techniques doesn’t do.

No More Weights?

So, do I put an end to lifting those weights? Not necessarily, as physical exertion and activity have been swiped out from our daily routine by use of modern technologies. In these modern days, except iPhone we don’t carry much, so it’s good to lift some weights. But make sure you don’t overdo.

A well-being of an individual comprises of different things: health, mental strength, energy, and spiritual belief. By investing 30 minutes a day in yoga regularly, you could definitely achieve all these over a period of time.

3 Smart Home Gadgets For Your Security

smart-home

Property owners are progressively looking for technology for home security solutions, to reduce heating and air conditioning costs and not to mention to assist them cook an awesome steak.

As a matter of fact, nearly 46 per cent of buyers recently polled by ERA Real Estate and HGTV mentioned it was vital for their present or new home to include smart home technology. And 55 per cent of the property developers polled said they’d definitely consider setting up smart home technology to make it more attractive to prospective buyers.

Smart home technology is basically about a home that is connected to the internet. It doesn’t matter whether you’re inside or 500 miles away from your home, you can still monitor and have control over it.

An important reason smart home technology is becoming more common: “They’re making things so convenient to use, so it’s simple for people to get into the new technology,” said by a real estate broker. Additionally it is getting more and more budget friendly, so it attracts first-time buyers, he further added.

Let’s see some of the top smart home products.

Smart Home Thermostats

Programmable thermostats are not new to most people. People don’t spend enough time to use theme effectively to cut-down heating and cooling bills. A well programmed thermostat can reduce costs by nearly 20 per cent. The advanced new-generation thermostats can be programmed much easier than the old ones. The Nest Learning Thermostat is one such product that can store your temperate preferences over a period and then program itself to suit your requirements. You can monitor it from your mobile. Honeywell HON is another efficient Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat that’s more or less similar to Nest.

Smart Smoke Detectors

Nest, the manufacturer of thermostats also make smart smoke detectors. Birdi is a competitor product with promising features and it is expected to be launched soon.

No more usual beep sound, latest smart smoke detectors can recognize and clearly let you know exactly the problem and point whether you’re in immediate danger or not. Nest detectors can connect with the Nest thermostat to close down the gas furnace when carbon monoxide reaches cut-off level. When you’re away, the detector system sends out an alerts message to your mobile phone. A smoke detector that senses a fire could switch on lighting to steer people away from home and flash outside lights to ensure the house is visible to the fire department.  The new Birdi system can also measure the quality of air, which includes dust and humidity.

There are many advanced and robust systems with lot more helpful functions. For setting up advanced systems a programmer would be required and you need time to understand all its features.

Easy-to-use webcams

The instant Dropcam has a 2-way chat function that enables you to talk with people directly when you’re seeing them and, further you can be alerted when movement is observed in specific areas of home. It also comes with a recording feature to see the complete footage when you get back.

But there needs a caution. Hackers may take control over your systems and monitor your home. Professional assistance is required to check for any holes in system and thereby prevent virtual intrusion.