US rate rise really looming. There are only two job reports between the first rise in official US interest rates and a continuation of the current policy after the July meeting of the US Federal Reserve overnight. The post-meeting statement made it clear the central bank wants to see “some” (the new word of the moment for financial markets) improvement in the jobs market. So all it needs will be some solid jobs growth in the labour market reports for July (out a week tomorrow) and August (out in a month’s time). And guess what, that growing reality didn’t worry anyone, just as every subtle tightening of US monetary policy since early 2013 has triggered mini sell-offs and market swoons. The two-day meeting of the Fed on September 16 and 17 remains the best possible date for a rate rise, given the updated economic forecasts will be released at the same time and Fed chair Janet Yellen will hold a media conference on the second day of the September meeting. — Glenn Dyer

Twitting away. Everyone was busy tweeting and twittering overnight about life in general, murdered lions, dopey politicians, silly speakers, shot-down airliners, the rotten first day’s play in the third Ashes test, the US Fed, Adam Goodes and anything else that sprang to mind after a red wine or three. But increasingly Twitter is a closed community, a group of people, with very little new blood (customers) entering the tweeting arena. Twitter said it had 304 million core users in the second quarter, up from 302 million in the prior quarter. And that’s worrying the company and the market, so much so that US investors whacked the company’s shares 14%, or more than US$3 billion in market value in trading overnight after the earnings data was released after trading had ended on Tuesday. Twitter’s revenue growth was solid in the quarter, but it’s not the focus for investors — it’s the near-static growth in user numbers. The difficulties of the company’s rather clunky technology, especially for first-time users, has become a big barrier to growth, so changes are promised, but they have been promised now for the best part of a year. Revenue is growing, but not enough to keep it in the same class as Apple, Facebook or Amazon. — Glenn Dyer

Facebook rules, OK #233. The contrast to Facebook’s earnings report 24 hours later was startling and underlined Twitter’s woes. Facebook sales jumped 39% in the June quarter to US$4.04 billion, with mobile advertising accounting for more than US$2.9 billion (and to think back in 2012 no one thought Facebook could manage this growth in mobile). Profits fell 9% to US$719 million. Adjusted for certain one-off items, Facebook said it earned US$1.4 billion. The Marketwatch blog pointed out there were some rather big spends in the quarter: R&D spending jumped 175% year-over-year; cost of revenue was up 31%; marketing and sales were up 64%; and general/administration spending was up 97%. No wonder total costs and expenses jumped 82% to US$2.77 billion in the June 30 quarter. You have to keep revenues rising at a hectic pace to meet these costs, but that’s just what Facebook is doing.

Facebook hired 900 people last quarter and now employs more than 10,000 people — that’s up 52% from a year ago! Nearly 1.5 billion people now use its applications (1.3 billion on Facebook alone). Facebook said its mobile daily average users were 844 million, an increase of 29% year-over-year, up from 798 million in the March quarter. Facebook added more new users in its saturated North American market than Twitter added globally in the June quarter. — Glenn Dyer

China powers on, slowly. Here’s a good indicator for the weak health of the Chinese economy — the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) this week forecast that power use would rise 3% to 5.7 trillion kWh in 2015, which is not only well short of the forecast 7% growth rate in GDP, but also more than double the weak 1.3% growth seen in the six months to June. In fact, according to stories on Chinese government websites, the NEA forecast energy consumption will grow 3% from next year to 2020. That means the NEA is banking on a very sharp improvement in economic activity in the next five months. And the NEA also said this week that power produced from non-fossil fuel sources rose 16% in the June half-year. The agency said the amount of hydropower generated increased by 13.3% in the June half-year, while nuclear power rose nearly 35%, and wind power jumped 16%. The NEA said that 22.9% of the total electricity generated in the country was from non-fossil energy, up 3 percentage points on the June half-year in 2014. That accounted for 11.3% of all energy sources in the June half against the target of 30% by 2030, and an awful lot of coal. — Glenn Dyer

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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