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Alberto Fernandez at a polling station during the Primary, Open, Simultaneous and Mandatory elections (PASO), in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 12 August 2019. Argentines vote for pre-candidates to be defined in the general elections of October 27.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The favorite to be the Argentina’s next leader has claimed that a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot be paid back.

Argentine assets cratered last week after a shock primary poll indicated that a left-wing ticket of Alberto Fernandez and former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will win elections in October and defeat current leader Mauricio Macri.

In particular, the bond and currency markets reflected investor unease at the move away from Macri’s market-friendly policy agenda. Macri borrowed $57 billion from the IMF last year on the agreement he would implement austerity measures to trim the country’s huge debt and make the repayments.

In a weekend article published by newspaper Clarin, Fernandez suggested that if he becomes leader, he would look to renegotiate the deal.

“I would say that there is only one incontrovertible reality and that is that Argentina in these conditions is not able to repay the debts it took on,” he said.

Argentina’s peso and bonds crumble

The peso ended last week more than 17.5% weaker than the dollar, rising to 55 pesos versus the greenback by Friday, despite support by the country’s central bank. On the same day, Fitch Ratings and S&P Global downgraded Argentina’s debt further, raising fear levels over a sovereign debt default.

On Monday morning, the cost of insuring Argentinian debt via a five-year CDS (credit default swap) rocketed 319 basis points, according to financial data specialist IHS Markit. A CDS is a financial agreement that the seller of the CDS will compensate the buyer in the event of a default.

Meanwhile, the Argentine stock exchange was closed for a public holiday on Monday.

Fernandez told the paper that he would help Macri renegotiate the terms of repayment with the IMF, adding that the current terms were “harmful” to the country.

He said that the relationship with the Washington-based institution had to change to one of “respect” and not “submission.”

Fernandez said as leader he would put heavy emphasis on boosting exports in order to earn U.S. dollars that can pay down debt. He added that he would look to negotiate repayment terms for those investors that already hold debt issued by the Argentine government.

Argentina’s new finance minister

Hernan Lacunza replaced Nicolas Dujovne as Argentina’s finance minister over the weekend as the latter took the bullet for the country’s precarious finances.

Dujovne, who was the main negotiator for the IMF deal, said in his resignation letter that there needed to be “significant renewal in the economic area.”

Lacunza, who was acting as economy minister for the province of Buenos Aires, officially takes the job on Monday. Teneo Intelligence said in a note that he has two days to prepare for a visit from an IMF team on Wednesday.

Teneo’s Latin American analysts added that while Macri may look to limit further changes ahead of the October elections, cabinet chief Marcos Pena could find himself replaced as the president’s campaign manager.

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Alibaba Group thwarts 300 million hack attempts per day



Alibaba’s company logo at its office in Hong Kong on February 22, 2012.

Aaron Tam/Stringer | Getty Images

Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group is the target of some 300 million attempted cyber attacks per day, according to the company’s founder and former executive chairman, Jack Ma.

Ma said he was “proud” that despite the tirade of subterfuge, Alipay — the group’s payments arm which reports close to 1 billion users and processes $50 billion worth of transactions per day — has yet to lose “one cent” to hackers.

“For Alibaba Group, we have over 300 million hacking attempts per day. Every day. But we deal (with) it. We don’t have even one problem,” Ma said at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on Tuesday.

By way of contrast, embattled Chinese technology giant Huawei is subject to around 1 million daily cyberattacks, according to its security chief. Until now, other technology companies have been less forthcoming in revealing their cyber attack vulnerabilities.

Give my data to a machine. I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.

Jack Ma

Alibaba founder and former executive chairman

Alibaba faced a sweeping cyber attack attempt in February, which threatened to compromise the accounts of 20 million users on its Taobao e-commerce site. The company said it detected the attack “in the first instance.”

Ma cited the company’s advanced tech capabilities, which he dubbed “AI: Alibaba Intelligence,” for its continued success rate, noting that machines are superior to humans in using logic to thwart malicious online behavior.

“We teach the machine all the ways people (are) cheating,” said Ma. “The machine remembers over millions of ways of cheating, so when we start the cheating, (the) machine already knows you are cheating. In this way we are protecting all the technology.”

Jack Ma (right), co-founder and former executive chair of Alibaba Group, speaks next to Steve Forbes (left), chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes media, during the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on October 15, 2019.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

To achieve that degree of accuracy, however, Ma noted the company must collect vast swathes of customer data. He argued that doing so allowed Alibaba to develop safeguards to detect bad human actors.

“Give my data to a machine,” said Ma. “I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.”

“I give my data to people, I worry about that. People say ‘ah, this is Jack Ma, I want to know about him.’ Machine(s) don’t care if you’re Jack Ma or Jack Lee. Machine cares whether you do good things or bad things.”

Ma retired from Alibaba last month, 20 years after the company’s founding. At the conference in Singapore, he was honored with the Malcolm S Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for his “outstanding” contributions to entrepreneurship.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam annual policy address interrupted



Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves her annual policy address due to disruptions by pro-democracy lawmakers in the Legislative Council on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

Pro-democracy lawmakers shouted at Hong Kong embattled leader Carrie Lam on the floor of the legislature as she was set to deliver her annual speech on Wednesday.

Lam’s remarks were initially suspended amid disruption. As she was set to begin her address a second time, pro-democracy lawmakers interrupted her and some even threw objects at her. 

The proceedings were adjourned as the six democratic lawmakers were escorted out of the room. Lam also left the legislature’s chambers.

Lam was set to formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked nearly five months of sometimes violent protests in the city.

She was expected to also focus on land and housing initiatives in a bid to restore confidence in the city’s future after months of anti-government protests that have crippled the city and dampened investor sentiment in the Asian financial hub.

Pro-democracy lawmakers wearing masks with the image of Chinese President Xi Jinping disrupt proceedings during the annual policy address of Carrie Lam on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

The semi-autonomous city battles to overcome its greatest political turmoil since 1997, when the former British colony was handed over to China. Hong Kong now operates under the “one country, two systems” principle, in which Beijing grants Hong Kong citizens financial and legal independence from the mainland.

This is breaking news. Please check back updates.

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US charges Turkish bank tied to Giuliani client with evading sanctions



People walk past a branch of Turkish bank HalkBank in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images

Federal prosecutors in New York announced charges on Tuesday against a Turkish bank with ties to a gold trader connected to Rudy Giuliani, accusing the financial institution of a multi-billion dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The six-count indictment for fraud, money laundering and sanctions offenses comes a year after a former executive at the bank, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, was sentenced to prison for working with international gold trader Reza Zarrab, whom Giuliani has represented, to hide transactions involving Iran.

“As alleged in today’s indictment, Halkbank’s systemic participation in the illicit movement of billions of dollars’ worth of Iranian oil revenue was designed and executed by senior bank officials,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

“The bank’s audacious conduct was supported and protected by high-ranking Turkish government officials, some of whom received millions of dollars in bribes to promote and protect the scheme,” he said.

Giuliani’s involvement with Zarrab has recently been in the news. The former New York mayor, along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had pressed President Donald Trump to drop a case against Zarrab after he was detained during a trip to the U.S. in 2016, Bloomberg reported last week.

Zarrab ultimately pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Atilla.

Bloomberg also reported that, in 2017, Trump asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to get the Justice Department to drop Zarrab’s case. Tillerson refused, according to the outlet.

Giuliani’s attempts to influence American foreign policy have come under scrutiny in recent weeks also in connection to Ukraine.

In the whistleblower complaint that spurred Democrats’ impeachment efforts, Giuliani was accused of being a “central figure” in Trump’s July 25 request that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “look into” unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

A representative for Giuliani didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Markets blow off US sanctions

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