September 11, 2017
Last week, the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and potency of Hurricane Irma dominated hearts and minds, but there were some diversions and some welcome news, too.
The NFL kicked off its 2017 season with the Chiefs’ win over the Patriots. The men’s U.S. soccer team tied Honduras to stay in the running for a World Cup spot. And, Sloane Stephens made the jump from 957th best on the women’s tennis tour to U.S. Open Champion.
Also, last week, President Trump signed a bipartisan bill authorizing relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey. The damage from Harvey has been estimated at about $50 billion, reported Yahoo! Finance, and the damage from Hurricane Irma may be even greater.
The signed bill also raised the debt ceiling, avoided a U.S. Treasury default, and funded the government for three months. These aspects of the legislation may have been more important to stock markets, according to a source cited by Barron’s:
“Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, head of U.S. equity strategy and global quantitative research at JPMorgan, observes that the S&P 500 has dropped about 2 percent when hurricanes make landfall, as sectors that get slammed – think insurance companies, hotels, and cruise lines – are offset by ones that benefit, like autos, energy and equipment services, and basic materials for construction. A failure to raise the debt ceiling or pass a budget, though, has typically caused the market to drop 3 percent to 5 percent. ‘In essence, the market risk associated with the failure of passing the budget and addressing the debt ceiling has been pushed out for now…'”
Major U.S. stock markets finished the week slightly lower. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index remains less than 1 percent below its all-time high.
Last week, Equifax, one of three major consumer credit reporting agencies, was hacked. The New York Times reported the company had data on more than 820 million consumers and more than 91 million businesses worldwide. Estimates suggest 143 million Americans may have been affected.
It’s no surprise new ways to safeguard personal data are on the horizon. Some involve blockchain technology, which underlies cryptocurrencies but has many other potential applications. PCMag.com described it like this:
“People often get bogged down in technological complexity when trying to understand blockchain, but the basic concept is a simple and universal one. We have facts and information we don’t want accessed, copied, or tampered with, but on the Internet, there’s always a chance it could be hacked or modified. Blockchain gives us a constant – a bedrock we know won’t change once we put something on it and where a transaction will be verified only if it follows the rules.”
In July, The Economist reported startup companies have begun using blockchain to register valuable assets, manage personal information, and provide ‘truth’ services that ensure research data integrity. Governments are embracing blockchain applications to manage land registries and corporate recordkeeping, among other things. Another potential application for blockchain is maintaining immutable personal data:
“One of the first things done for a baby could be to give the newborn an entry in a blockchain, the crypto-equivalent of a birth certificate. This sounds Orwellian, but it does not have to be. On the contrary, if people’s identity is anchored in one or several blockchains, this would give them more control over it and their personal data.”
If blockchain applications are successful, it may become easier to keep personal data safe online.