• Explainer: China’s politburo meeting leaves many economic headaches unaddressed

    Explainer: China’s politburo meeting leaves many economic headaches unaddressed

    HONG KONG, July 26 (Reuters) – China’s leadership pledged at a key Communist Party meeting this week to support the economy through a “tortuous” post-pandemic recovery, but offered very little detail on specific measures, causing mixed feelings among investors and economists.


    The goal of growing at about 5% this year was always seen as easy to reach due to favourable base effects from one of China’s worst years in half a century. Also, that level looks less impressive given China invests about 40% of its GDP per year – twice what the United States invests.

    After a strong start of the year since COVID-19 restrictions were removed, the world’s second largest economy barely grew in April-June, sparking worries it may be entering a new era of much slower growth and even Japan-like “lost decades” of stagnation.


    The main worry is the slowdown is more structural than cyclical and requires significant political will to change course on policies that have proven spectacularly successful for decades but now generate more debt than growth.

    Accounting for about a quarter of economic activity, the overextended property sector can no longer act as a key driver of growth, but allowing the bubble to deflate rapidly could destabilise the financial sector and the real economy.

    Another long-standing structural imbalance is China’s household consumption, which remains among the smallest contributors to GDP in the world. Fixing it, economists say, requires transfers to the household sector.

    Options include government-funded consumer vouchers, significant tax cuts, encouraging faster wage growth, building a social safety net with higher pensions, unemployment benefits and better, and more widely available public services.

    No such steps were flagged in the politburo readout.

    They would require indebted local governments to renounce revenue and increase expenditure, forcing the national government in Beijing, which has spent decades centralising power, to transfer resources to cities and provinces and take on some of their debts.

    Encouraging higher wages requires unleashing the private sector from tight Communist Party controls, as well as boosting workers’ bargaining power. It would also erode the export competitiveness of a sprawling manufacturing sector.

    Another headache for the Communist Party is youth unemployment surpassing 20%. The promise of prosperity has encouraged younger generations to study for advanced economy jobs, rather than the lower-end work available in the industrial and services sectors.

    The onus is on the private sector to provide those jobs, but many businesses lack confidence after years of crackdowns on the tech, financial and other industries.

    Levelling the playing field between the private and state sectors ultimately requires rule of law, analysts say. Chinese courts answer to the Communist Party.


    Economists weren’t expecting discussion of any radical shifts but looked for signs Chinese leaders were acknowledging the enormity of the task ahead and clues on their longer-term thinking, as well as more concrete details about what is in the pipeline for the near term.

    While they took the politburo’s remarks about the importance of the private sector as encouraging, economists were underwhelmed that the general proposals on how to boost consumption seemed nothing more than further plans to subsidise the autos and electronic appliances industries.

    The basket of measures to deal with local government debt flagged in the politburo readout was also welcomed by economists, but the urgency of the situation left analysts wanting for much more concrete details.

    Additionally, any investor expecting big-bang spending in response to underwhelming growth this year will have been disappointed.


    Various government agencies need to turn the politburo’s policy direction into reality, and announce specific measures in the coming weeks and months.

    That is what markets will look for to determine how well China is managing the risks it faces. In particular, investors are keen to see the package of measures on the property sector and on local government debt.

    More profound structural reforms will have to wait until a key Party conference in December.

    Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

    Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

  • China’s anti-Mario Draghi moment surprises markets

    China’s anti-Mario Draghi moment surprises markets

    For weeks now, global markets have ricocheted between excitement over a Chinese stimulus boom and disappointment that Beijing was taking its sweet time to jolt a slowing economy.

    It’s now clear that Xi Jinping’s team has settled on a strategy somewhere in between. And for the global economy, the signals from this week’s meeting of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s top decision-making body, seem short-term negative for world markets – but long-term positive.

    As Bill Bishop, long-time China-watcher and author of the Sinocism newsletter, sees it, the policy direction being telegraphed seems “fairly dovish,” but “doesn’t seem to signal much more significant stimulus incoming near-term.”

    That’s bad news for bulls betting on a new Chinese stimulus bonanza that lifts markets from New York to Tokyo. Under the surface, though, there are myriad hints that the arrival of Premier Li Qiang in March is putting reforms on the front-burner once again. In other words, Beijing cares more about avoiding boom/bust cycles going forward than just mindlessly fueling a 2023 boom.

    As “no fiscal expansion plans have been revealed so far, the impact will only be felt very progressively,” says economist Carlos Casanova at Union Bancaire Privée.

    Economist Wei He at Gavekal Dragonomics added that “the Politburo’s meeting on the economy shows that officials recognize weak demand is an issue. But the meeting mainly called for ‘precise’ policy adjustments.” As such, it “remains far from certain whether those can deliver a near-term turnaround in growth. The conservative stance points to, at best, a stabilization or weak recovery” in the second half.

    Instead of aggressive plans for massive monetary easing and fiscal pump priming — as markets had assumed — the chatter is about prudent policymaking with an emphasis on lower taxes and fees and incentivizing increased investment.

    Rather than sharp drops in the yuan to boost exports, Li’s reform squad is focused on catalyzing greater scientific and technological innovation and giving the private sector more space to thrive and create new good-paying jobs.

    In lieu of scores of top-down decrees or public jobs-creation schemes, the zeitgeist is that developing a thriving micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) sector is a more forceful way to address record youth unemployment than large-scale stimulus.

    What Xi and Li are telegraphing might be best called the “anti-Mario Draghi” approach to enlivening Asia’s biggest economy.

    Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, shown here during his tenure as European Central Bank president in 2018, has resigned. Photo: Reuters / Ralph Orlowski

    The reference here is to the former European Central Bank president’s infamous pledge “to do whatever it takes” to stabilize the financial system via powerful monetary easing.

    A year later, Draghi’s liquidity onslaught inspired then Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda to follow suit.

    Haruhiko Kuroda. Photo> Asia Times Files / JIJI Press

    On Draghi’s watch, the ECB unleashed stimulus on a level that would’ve been unfathomable to Bundesbank officials of old. In Tokyo, between 2013 and 2018, the Kuroda BOJ’s balance sheet swelled to the point where it topped the size of Japan’s $5 trillion economy.

    Neither monetary boom did much, if anything, to make the broader European or Japanese economies more competitive, productive or, broadly speaking, more prosperous. Instead, executive monetary support generated a bubble in complacency.

    Draghinomics — and Kurodanomics — took the onus off government officials from Madrid to Seoul to loosen labor markets, reduce bureaucracy, incentivize innovation, tighten corporate governance or invest big in strengthening human capital.

    China, it seems, is determined to go the other way. In the months since Xi started his third term — and Li arrived on the scene as his number two — Beijing has confounded the conventional wisdom on Chinese stimulus.

    The start of this week’s Politburo is no exception. Markets were betting on major stimulus moves. Instead, China unveiled a 17-point plan to attract more private capital its way.

    In a note to clients, analysts at Capital Economics said that “the absence of any major announcements of policy specifics does suggest a lack of urgency or that policymakers are struggling to come up with suitable measures to shore up growth.”

    One possible interpretation was that Xi’s inner circle wants to put some actions on the scoreboard before next month’s annual huddle in the resort of Beidaihe to discuss long-term policy direction. Yet the tenor of steps seems more about supply-side reforms than fiscal and monetary pump-priming that might squander progress in reducing financial leverage.

    Instead of talking about reaching this year’s 5% growth target, the government said the priority now is that “good foundation is laid for achieving the annual economic and social development targets.” Officials admitted, too, that “economic recovery will show a wavy pattern and there will be bumps during progress.”

    In other words, the instant gross domestic product gratification that investors came to expect in Xi’s first two terms has been replaced with a more pragmatic approach. While there will be “prudent monetary policy” and at times an “active fiscal policy,” the bigger objective is to “extend, optimize, improve and enforce tax cuts and fee reductions.”

    Stimulus will indeed emerge when, and where, needed. The Politburo said, for example, that it would “accelerate the issuance and use of local government special bonds.” 

    This means it’s entirely possible that local governments may be allowed to “dig into” remaining special bond quotas, including from previous years, says economist Yu Xiangrong at Citigroup, who estimates the quota to be about 1.1 trillion yuan (US$154 billion).

    But there was far more discussion of ways to “adapt to the major change in supply-demand relations in the property market,” and, in timely fashion, to “adjust and optimize real estate policies.” That, Beijing says, means steps to “increase construction and supply of low-income housing,” and “revitalize all types of idling properties.”

    To economist Zhiwei Zhang at Pinpoint Asset Management, “this is an interesting signal as the property sector downturn is arguably the key challenge the economy faces now.” As such, “it seems the government has recognised the importance of policy change in this sector to stabilize the economy.”

    Just as important, arguably, is the government saying it’s committed to “effectively prevent and resolve local debt risks, make a package of plans to resolve the debt.” The same goes for commitments to “concretely optimize private firms’ development environment” and “build and improve the routinized communication mechanism with companies.”

    Furthermore, the party’s latest phraseology includes pledges to “firmly crack down on excess fee and fine charging, resolve the receivables governments owe to companies” and “accelerate the fostering and growing of strategic emerging industries.” The plan, the party notes, is to “strengthen financial regulation, steadily push for the reform and risk resolution at small and medium-sized financial institutions of high risks” as a means to “stabilize the basic market of foreign trade and investment.”

    Such language is more the stuff of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman than Mao Zedong. More Hans Tietmeyer of Bundesbank fame than Draghi or Kuroda. One possible area of optimism is that Xi’s government is finally serious about fixing the underlying troubles in the property sector – not just treating the symptoms.

    Casanova points to the Politburo’s statement that authorities would recalibrate property policies based on the “local property market situation” and consider developments related to “demand and supply imbalances.” To him, “that last point is new, suggesting a change in the macroprudential regime, as the government now sees a structural shift, requiring bottom-up measures to better reflect local conditions.”

    That’s not to say Xi and Li won’t support demand where needed.

    Chinese Premier Li Qiang and President Xi Jinping in March 2023. Photo: Xinhua

    “We expect the government to roll out modest fiscal support in the second half of 2023, but no aggressive fiscal stimulus,” says economist Ning Zhang at UBS AG. Even so, Zhang says, “some policy room may be kept to support economic growth in 2024.”

    Additional stimulus measures that Zhang expects Beijing to prioritize: an acceleration of special local government bond sales; a resumption of policy banks’ special infrastructure investment funds; Beijing providing credit to clear up local governments’ arrears to corporate suppliers; modest property policy easing and credit support for stalled property projects; a modest credit growth rebound; and perhaps a small official rate cut.

    There also could be “some small-scale and targeted support” for selected consumption categories as well, Zhang says.

    Mostly, though, the signals coming from Beijing this week suggest a greater emphasis in increasing confidence via reform and more vibrant safety nets than runaway stimulus. Bottom line, China’s Draghi days seem over – and that’s a good thing.

  • Bryan Cranston tells Disney boss Bob Iger he’s ‘not going to take away our dignity’ in impassioned anti-AI speech

    Bryan Cranston tells Disney boss Bob Iger he’s ‘not going to take away our dignity’ in impassioned anti-AI speech

    Bryan Cranston had an unequivocal message for disney CEO Bob Iger At SAG AFTRA strike rally at New York City Tuesday (July 25).

    The strike is now in its second week after the 160,000-strong actors union voted to join striking Hollywood writers fighting for better pay and assurances that they won’t lose work to artificial intelligence (AI), among other demands.

    A few hours before the July 14 strike order, Iger said the decision by the actors and writers unions was “very disturbing to me.” causing a backlash.

    “We have a message for Mr. Iger,” Cranston, 67, said from the stage at the “Rock the City for a Fair Contract” rally.

    “I know, sir, that you look [at] things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that, to listen to us when we tell you that we will not have our jobs taken away from us and given to robots, ”said the breaking Bad star continued.

    “We will not let you deprive us of our right to work and earn a decent living. And finally, and most importantly, we will not allow you to deprive us of our dignity! We are a union from start to finish, until the end!

    Cranston’s speech drew huge cheers from the rally as he shouted, “Stay together!” We will win this fight!”

    According Varietyother actors to speak on stage at the rally included Steve Buscemi, Wendell Pierce, Christian Slater, Christine Baranski, Stephen Lang and Tituss Burgess.

    Michael Shannon, BD Wong, Brendan Fraser, Jessica Chastain, Matt Bomer, Chloë Grace Moretz and Corey Stoll were also on stage.

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    During his July 13 appearance on CNBC scream box, Iger said it was “the worst time” for a combined strike.

    The 72-year-old Disney chief said: “We have been able, as an industry, to negotiate a very good agreement with the Directors Guild which reflects the value directors bring to this great company.

    “We wanted to do the same with the writers, and we would like to do the same with the actors. There’s a level of expectation they have that just isn’t realistic.

    “And they add to the set of challenges that this business is already facing that are, quite frankly, very disruptive.”

    In response to Iger’s interview, She-Hulk writer Cody Ziglar tweeted: “The residual check from my episode of She-Hulk: Lawyer was $396.

    “It was one of the most-watched TV episodes, of one of the most-watched TV series on Disney+. Even made several ‘best episodes of 2022’ lists. My residual check was $396. That’s why we’re on strike.

    According to a 2019 Forbes estimate, Iger has a net worth of around $690m (£536m).

    Zack Arnold, Editor-in-Chief and Associate Producer of Netflix Cobra Kai, said The Independent that the strike was caused by a “perfect storm” the dominance of streaming, which has led to the erosion of residual earnings, and the advent of AI in the industry.

    Learn more about the impact of the strike here.

  • Pan Gongsheng Named Head of Chinese Central Bank

    Pan Gongsheng Named Head of Chinese Central Bank

    For nearly eight years Pan Gongsheng has overseen one of the world’s biggest pots of money: China’s $3 trillion in foreign currency reserves. Now he will run the country’s central bank, playing an even more powerful role in the Chinese economy.

    Mr. Pan, a prominent economist, was named on Tuesday as governor of the central bank, the People’s Bank of China. He had already been installed as the bank’s Communist Party secretary on July 1. It will be the first time in five years that one person holds both top jobs, giving Mr. Pan outsize policy influence over the financial system of the world’s second largest economy.

    He was appointed at a delicate time for China. The country’s postpandemic recovery is faltering, its banking system is bloated with bad loans to real estate developers and local governments, and its currency, the renminbi, is teetering near the lowest levels in 15 years. These crosscurrents are making foreign investors think twice about putting money into China and nudging domestic ones to take their investments out of the country.

    Foreign currency reserves are effectively a country’s emergency fund to be used at times of financial stress. As leader of the central bank’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, Mr. Pan stabilized the renminbi after a devaluation, aimed at strengthening exports and increasing global use of the renminbi, backfired in August 2015.

    He steadied the currency then by imposing strict limits, enforced by the police, on the ability of Chinese households and companies and even multinationals to move money out of the country. His actions stanched the outflow of capital but badly damaged the international appeal of the renminbi as an alternative to the dollar, and established a precedent for the planning now underway in Washington to limit American investments in China.

    Earlier in his career he held top posts at two of the country’s four main banks, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Agricultural Bank of China, and streamlined operations at both.

    Mr. Pan was among the officials who warned early on of the dangers posed by China’s real estate bubble, which is now deflating with widespread harm to the economy.

    Mr. Pan owes his ascent to “competence and a rare level of technical expertise, because he doesn’t appear to have any political backing from higher-ups,” said Andy Chen, a senior analyst at Trivium China, a Beijing policy consulting firm.

    But Mr. Pan’s lack of a power base within the Communist Party may be offset by his commanding the top two spots at the central bank. Since 2018, the party secretary was Guo Shuqing, who was a full member of the party’s powerful Central Committee. The central bank governor has been Yi Gang.

    Economic policy continues to be dominated by Vice Premier He Lifeng, who is a longtime ally and close friend of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping. Mr. He has overseen industrial policy and economic planning for the last seven years. This spring he was given added responsibility for international trade and finance, and he is expected to gain further clout over the domestic financial system as well.

    Yet just surviving as a senior financial official in China these days is an accomplishment, as waves of corruption investigations have felled numerous leaders. Mr. Pan’s ability to avoid legal trouble while overseeing the currency reserves is particularly notable given the agency’s troubled history.

    A director of the foreign currency agency in the 1990s, Zhu Xiaohua was sentenced soon after to 15 years in prison for corruption during a subsequent posting as a bank executive, although he was later released on bail. Mr. Zhu’s successor, Li Fuxiang, was abruptly hospitalized in 2000 and died when he fell from a seventh-floor hospital window.

    The foreign currency agency was thrown into turmoil again in 2015 when the central bank devalued China’s currency with scant initial explanation.

    Beijing pushed down the value of its currency for technical reasons, and not because of financial distress. But the Shanghai stock market had crashed two months earlier, and the devaluation so alarmed investors that China spent nearly $1 trillion in the ensuing months to stabilize the currency.

    Mr. Pan halted the renminbi’s decline with stringent capital controls. He may be called on to act on the currency again in his new job. China’s Politburo on Monday endorsed a continued emphasis on preserving a stable value for the renminbi.

    Mr. Pan’s stringent controls in 2016 on money flows out of China reversed more than a decade of efforts by Chinese policymakers to make the renminbi a globally traded currency that other central banks and big companies would want to hold.

    But some financial policymakers say Mr. Pan had little choice at the time, since restricting money from leaving China was part of a broader trend by Beijing of ever greater government controls on the economy.

    “He was an administrator, a key one to be sure, administering policies from atop,” said Mark Sobel, who was the deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury for international monetary and financial policy from 2000 to 2015.

    Mr. Pan does not come from an elite Communist Party family like Zhou Xiaochuan, who was the central bank’s governor and Communist Party secretary from 2002 to 2018. He also is not a former economics professor at an American university, like Mr. Yi, the governor for the past five years. In fact, early in his career, Mr. Pan turned down an acceptance to attend Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, staying instead in China and helping the two banks where he worked to prepare for their initial public offerings.

    People who know Mr. Pan, who turned 60 this month, describe him as a workaholic who is meticulously detail oriented. He is known to mark up memos from subordinates to correct their grammar.

    He grew up in Anqing, a flood-prone town on the Yangtze River in central China’s Anhui Province. In the 1980s, he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Zhejiang Metallurgical Economics College and taught there.

    His career began picking up speed when he moved to Beijing in 1987 to earn a master’s degree in labor relations at Renmin University followed by a doctorate in economics and later a year at Cambridge University from 1997 to 1998.

    And Harvard? He finally went there in 2011. But it was only for a couple months — not a degree program that might have deepened his understanding of the United States but would have kept him far from China’s center of power in Beijing.

    Li You contributed research.

  • Remnant 2 is a fitting showcase for Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite tech

    Remnant 2 is a fitting showcase for Unreal Engine 5’s Nanite tech

    Remnant 2 offers an interesting twist on Dark Souls-style action games, combining the core structure of that series with third-person shooter gameplay and a procedurally generated world. It’s a formula pioneered by the first Remnant game in 2019, but the sequel is more interesting on a technical level – as it’s a current-gen-only title that takes advantage of Unreal Engine 5 features and the enhanced power provided by PS5, Series X and Series S. We tested the game on each of these consoles to find out if its visuals fit its ninth-gen heritage and if its procedural systems can deliver a satisfying adventure.

    Remnant 2 certainly makes a great first impression. The game’s tutorial area offers a brief look at a Last of Us-style post-apocalyptic city, which offers satisfying visuals, with excellent artwork, detailed elements, and advanced lighting creating a fascinating, lived-in environment. However, locations beyond the tutorial area are more mixed, with some – like the dark 20th-century city of Losomn – featuring a decidedly less lavish look and relatively basic indirect lighting. These types of dark environments are often difficult to light up convincingly, and that’s certainly true here.

    This may be due to the lack of some key features of Unreal Engine 5, such as Lumen real-time global illumination or any ray tracing effects. Instead, the main UE5 technology is the Nanite virtualized geometry system, which manifests itself in a distinct lack of pop-in LOD and an excellent level of geometric detail up close. The virtual shadow maps also seem to make the cut and although the shadows are uniformly sharp, there is no visible shadow cascading – so no cutoff point where the higher resolution shadows give way to lower resolution versions farther from the camera.

    Oliver’s soft tones accompany this video presentation of our Remnant 2 coverage.

    Another factor is that the game’s locations appear to be composed of a series of pre-made environmental blocks integrated via a procedural generation system. The key areas of each location appear to be the same across multiple playthroughs, but the middle sections change for each character you create. Some of these blocks can look quite attractive, from bright and ornate fairy interiors to more sci-fi oriented environments. Interior spaces in general seem to do particularly well, with high-fidelity designs and materials. As you approach any given item, you can really appreciate the fine detail. Other environmental blocks, like the exteriors of Losomn, prove to be a little less convincing.

    To some degree, your mileage will vary depending on how the game is presented due to its extensive procedural systems. I started the game on a new character, after playing for about a dozen hours on my first one, and encountered a totally different first world with different plot elements as well. On another new character, I started again on Losomn, but this time in a different realm with a very different layout from my first run on PS5.

    This kind of replayability is welcome – especially for DF reviewers – but they make the game feel a little less consistent than other action titles. You don’t really feel a strong sense of progress as you progress through each area, and there aren’t any solid visual panels to help you track your progress. You’ll find your way through the game by mostly consulting the in-game map, which helpfully fills in as you approach each level.

    Using Nanite produces sufficiently detailed environments with high geometric complexity – but other major features of the UE5 are missing.

    There’s nothing here that seems overly ambitious, but each environment is filled with geometric detail in a way we haven’t seen in last-gen efforts – including 2019’s original Remnant, which features more restrained environments and a flatter look than its sequel. It’s hard to imagine this level of visual improvement without targeting more powerful 9th ​​Gen consoles as a baseline.

    Remnant 2 has a few minor issues though. The game makes heavy use of screen space effects, with very obvious occlusion issues when information needed for SSR and screen space shadows are removed from view. It’s not unique to Remnant, but the game relies on these techniques more than most, which can be a little distracting at times. The game’s cutscenes also have a reduced scope compared to other games, and lack realistic characters, detailed facial animation, or choreographed action scenes – a consequence of its lower production values ​​than a contemporary AAA game. Cutscenes also sometimes have weird issues, like very low-resolution shadows in one scene and weird graphical artifacts right after a cut-out camera on PS5.

    Overall though, Remnant 2 is an engaging game. The environmental art is of impressive quality and is made using generous Nanite-powered polygonal detail. Lighting is good, enemies are visually interesting and respond convincingly to gunfire and melee attacks, and player animations are responsive. The game’s motion blur also has a pleasingly long shutter speed, even when playing at 60fps. Remnant 2 may not make the most of Unreal Engine 5, but it’s a visually polished game that holds up well among the small cohort of current-gen-only titles.

    This footage demonstrates two minor flaws – fairly basic character facial animation in cutscenes, and unusual graphical artifacts on the first frame after a camera cut on PS5.

    Remnant 2 comes with three modes on PS5 and Series X: a 30fps quality mode, a 60fps balanced mode, and an unlocked performance mode. Unlike most contemporary games, these modes differ primarily in graphical characteristics rather than perceived resolution.

    Quality mode has noticeably denser foliage than the other two mode options, while screen space reflections are more detailed and consistent, even from a distance. Shadows have higher resolution, with less breakage and artifacts. It looks like there are a series of small tweaks here and there, likely corresponding to a higher Unreal Engine preset level. Meanwhile, the Balanced and Performance modes look about the same in stills, but the Performance mode runs with obvious full-screen tearing as the camera moves.

    Counting a full range of render resolutions is difficult because motion blur is always on and cinematics often feature depth of field. However, based on a limited range of samples, Quality mode on PS5 and Series X is around 1296p, Balance drops to ~792p, and Performance mode is around 720p. Dynamic resolution seems to be in play here in the quality and balanced modes, with the performance mode sticking to that 720p figure. Balanced and performance modes also seem to use upscaling at around 1440p, and given the lack of FSR 2 artifacts, I suspect Unreal’s super time resolution is being used here.

    Remnant 2 comes with three modes – Quality, Balanced and Performance – which resolve to a similar level of perceived resolution but have different graphics settings, for example the quality of distant foliage and shading.

    That does mean a bit of frame breakage in those higher frame rate mode options in typical gaming, though it wasn’t too bad in my experience sitting some distance from a large TV, and the motion blur helps hide a lot of the artifact. In stills, all modes look about the same in terms of image quality, although in motion, the quality mode provides a more stable image.

    The Series S is very similar to the other two consoles, but only has a single 30fps mode which has similar settings to the Balanced mode on the Series X and PS5 but without motion blur. The Series S renders at ~900p internally and is upscaled to 1080p, so the final resolution is noticeably less detailed – while the lack of motion blur and presentation at 30fps makes for a bit of a jerky game.

    In terms of performance, on the PS5’s balanced mode we’re often below the 60fps target, with drops down to the 30s possible in some environments and in cutscenes. 30fps Quality mode hits its frame rate target more reliably, with only occasional single frame drops for the vast duration of gameplay. Performance mode adds screen tearing but doesn’t play noticeably better than Balanced mode, making it one to avoid. Co-op play can drop frame rates further, but I haven’t had time to test it thoroughly – and most performance variations seem to be related to environments rather than on-screen action, so it might turn out better than expected.

    The Series X is basically identical to the PS5 in terms of performance, dropping frames in the same places and generally performing well despite some substantial drops. However, there is a curious difference – namely that the Series X allows the game to run in a proper 120Hz container, allowing frame rates above 60fps, which the PS5 does not. Of course, the game still suffers from intrusive screen tearing on both consoles in performance mode, regardless of refresh rate. Oddly, the VRR didn’t stop this screen from tearing in my testing, even though my TV reported that the VRR was on.

    Finally, the Series S hits its 30fps target most of the time, but it suffers from steeper versions of the same drops we see in other consoles’ quality modes – plus that choppy appearance we can attribute to the lack of motion blur.

    Consoles don’t seem to exhibit the same signature artifacts as FSR 2 on PC, so we suspect something like Unreal’s Super Time Resolution is being used instead.

    While Remnant 2 definitely has its technical flaws, one of the first Unreal Engine 5 games around it proves the capability of UE5’s Nanite technology with a level of visual complexity that surpasses last-gen software. Whether or not you like the reliance on procedural systems, it’s hard to deny that every piece of craftsmanship in Remnant 2’s environments is filled with polygonal detail and looks quite nice in-game.

    This complexity comes at a cost, with sub-par internal resolutions only being redeemed by reconstruction techniques, albeit with some moving image breakage. Remnant 2 also struggles to deliver stable performance, with framerate drops on all consoles and modes. It’s certainly a compelling current-gen effort, but it feels quite heavy at times.

    That said, I came away impressed with Remnant 2, and if the developers can fix some of the game’s frame rate issues, it’ll be a very compelling technical effort. This is an attractive, state-of-the-art, current-gen only title, which is rare so far in this generation.

  • 5 Reasons why every Small business need insurance

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    One of the most crucial and advantageous actions you can take to safeguard both you and your company is purchasing small business insurance. Any type of small company, including food trucks, photographers for weddings, estheticians, caterers, and everything in between, is vulnerable to dangers that might be extremely costly.

    Read on to discover the fundamentals of business commercial insurance, five reasons why you require it, plus a few typical forms of simply business insurance you ought to take into account. 

    What is small business insurance?

    Small business insurance shields your company against dangers and incidents that are sometimes beyond your control. It is a collection of insurances combined into a single policy with the goal of safeguarding your company and saving you money. 

    Your unique demands and business activities will determine the sorts of coverage you employ. You may frequently work with commercial insurance companies to develop customisable coverage so you only pay for what you need, saving you money on many plans. 

    Common insurance needs for most small businesses include: 

    • General liability insurance
    • Product liability insurance
    • Tools and equipment insurance
    • Damage to premises rented
    • Workers’ compensation 
  • IMF upgrades forecasts but warns global economy ‘not out of the woods’

    IMF upgrades forecasts but warns global economy ‘not out of the woods’

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    The risk of a crash landing for the global economy has receded, the IMF’s chief economist said as the multilateral lender predicted 3 per cent growth this year.

    In an interview with the Financial Times, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas said the economic outlook had improved since the multilateral lender last published its projections in April amid a bout of banking sector stress.

    “Things are moving in the right direction,” he said, adding there was now less danger of global growth slipping to 2 per cent or below, since the most acute financial risks had abated.

    The IMF considers that the UK would now avoid recession, boosted by strong spending by consumers.

    But Gourinchas cautioned that advanced and emerging economies were not “out of the woods yet”, since central banks’ efforts to temper stubbornly high inflation would still weigh heavily on growth.

    Tuesday’s forecast of 3 per cent growth for the global economy is 0.2 percentage points higher than the fund predicted three months ago.

    It follows a stronger than expected first quarter, but is a step down from last year’s 3.5 per cent and below historical averages. The IMF expects growth to remain weak over the next five years — partly because of poor gains in productivity.

    Gourinchas said the odds of a soft landing in the US — in which inflation is reduced without causing excessive job losses — had increased as price pressures had eased in recent months. The consumer price index is now running at an annual pace of 3 per cent.

    The fund was less optimistic on Germany’s economic prospects, forecasting a 0.3 per cent contraction this year — down from a smaller 0.1 per cent contraction in April, and maintained its call that China’s economy would grow by a modest 5.2 per cent in 2023.

    Debt distress across developing economies remains a top concern despite emerging countries on the whole remaining “resilient” to financial market volatility.

    A lingering fear is that, despite sharp falls in headline rates, strong labour markets and potent consumer demand will make inflation hard to fully root out. That will mean central banks will have to keep tightening their monetary policy screws.

    Gourinchas also said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the collapse of the UN-brokered deal to export Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea was likely to put “upward pressure” on global food prices.

    Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, but the deal to enable exports to continue throughout the war with Russia fell apart earlier this month after Moscow pulled out.

    On the whole, Gourinchas anticipated little reprieve from rate-setters, even as the era of “outsized hikes” comes to a close.

    “We are nearing the peak of the hiking cycle, but we’re not quite there yet,” he told the FT. “We’re going to see central banks holding where they are until they are confident enough that the economy is on the right track.”

    Further rate rises are expected from the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England over the coming days, and the IMF on Tuesday urged rate-setters to avoid any “premature easing”.

    Core inflation measures, which strip out changes in food and energy costs, will only very slowly return to the longstanding 2 per cent targets most monetary authorities home in on.

    In 2023, the fund reckons on an annual average basis, about half of economies will not have a decline in core inflation. For advanced economies, it upgraded its near-term estimates compared with April’s figures by 0.3 percentage points in 2023 and 0.4 percentage points in 2024 to 5.1 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively.

    Inflation is set to remain above target in 89 per cent of economies with such thresholds next year.

    An added risk is yet another flare up in financial markets that forces the authorities to step in.

    If central banks keep interest rates higher for longer than investors currently expect, “you might have at some point the market realising that [its expectations of borrowing costs are] a bit misaligned”, Gourinchas said.

    At the moment markets expect central banks such as the Fed to begin cutting rates around the turn of this year. If those bets prove incorrect, “that would lead to some repricing and then you could get a chain of events that creates some volatility”.

  • Meta reportedly canceled development of the Quest Pro 2 headset

    Meta reportedly canceled development of the Quest Pro 2 headset

    When Meta launched the Pro Quest headset in October last year, the company hoped to push the boundaries of virtual technology. He also hoped people would pay more for this luxury than ever before, as the headphones launched with a staggering price tag of $1,500. It seemed like a significant upgrade over the Quest 2 at the time, but we wondered if people would pay that much for a VR device. Now, just nine months later, it seems we have the answer to that question, which is a resounding “no”.

    According to a new paywall report from The Information, the company began to cut production of Quest Pro altogether. In a summary ZDNet article, it is noted that Meta told its suppliers earlier this year that it would no longer need parts for the Quest Pro. Additionally, he told his maker, Goertek, to build whatever he could with existing parts and be done with it. Additionally, the company has also canceled development of its successor, the Quest Pro 2. Both actions are a death rattle for the company’s flagship headset, which has already had its lower price from $1,499 to $999, likely due to consumer backlash and negative Comments. This was not a sufficient discount to improve sales.

    Pro Quest

    Marketing for the Quest Pro included this conversation between two virtual people, highlighting the mockery the company faced for its low-res avatars.
    Credit: Meta

    In addition to dropping plans for another expensive headset, the company is reportedly lowering its ambitions for its planned augmented reality (AR) glasses. The information reports that the company originally planned to use some sort of high-end display, but switched to an older design known as Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS). Additionally, the company reduced the field of view (FOV) from 70 degrees to 50 degrees and removed a lidar sensor from the outer puck that handles some of the unit’s calculations.

    For now, it remains to be seen if Meta will exit the high-end VR battlefield and instead focus on its line of more affordable Quest headsets. Although the Quest family offers mid-range specifications, they have been very popular with consumers, as Meta has sold more than 20 million units. It is also already announced that the Quest 3 will cost $499 and arrive in September and will likely be a hit. It looks like Meta will immediately prioritize the development of this device instead of wasting now limited resources on a future Quest Pro headset.

    Apple Vision Pro

    Apple has overtaken Meta in the high-end VR space, but it’s unclear if it’s a hit with consumers.
    Credit: Apple

    These Meta moves also come at a curious time, as interest in the Metaverse has plummeted over the past year. Despite declining interest in the technology at the heart of the company’s rebranding, one of its top executives double in March about his commitment to the Metaverse, noting that it will arrive, but not for at least a few years. It was apparently an effort to backtrack on earlier remarks from Zuckerberg, who said AI was now the company’s biggest area of ​​investment.

    At the same time, Apple has yet to officially launch its $3,500 Vision Pro helmet, which will be released next year. Zuckerberg has already said that Meta doesn’t see Apple’s device as a threat. Zuck felt the Quest line is designed for social interaction, whereas Apple’s demo showed people sitting alone on a couch. Whether he’s right or not, now that the Quest Pro line is effectively dead, Apple’s brand new VR headset is Really more of a threat.

  • AMD ‘Zenbleed’ bug can be exploited to leak Ryzen CPU passwords

    AMD ‘Zenbleed’ bug can be exploited to leak Ryzen CPU passwords

    A new vulnerability affecting AMD’s Zen 2 processor line – which includes popular processors like the budget Ryzen 5 3600 – has been discovered that can be exploited to steal sensitive data such as passwords and encryption keys. Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy revealed the “Zenbleed” bug (filed under CVE-2023-20593) on his blog this week after reporting the vulnerability to AMD on May 15.

    The entire Zen 2 product stack is affected by the vulnerability, including all AMD Ryzen 3000/4000/5000/7020 series processors, Ryzen Pro 3000/4000 series, and AMD’s EPYC “Rome” data center processors. AMD has since published its expected release schedule to patch the exploit, with most firmware updates not expected to arrive until the end of this year.

    Zenbleed can allow attackers to steal data from any software running on an impacted system, including cloud-hosted services

    According Cloudy, the Zenbleed exploit does not require physical access to a user’s computer to attack their system and can even be executed remotely via Javascript on a web page. If executed successfully, the exploit allows data to be transferred at a rate of 30 KB per core, per second. It’s fast enough to steal sensitive data from any software running on the system, including virtual machines, sandboxes, containers and processes, according to Ormandy. As TomsHardware note, the flexibility of this exploit is of particular concern for cloud-hosted services, as it could potentially be used to spy on users in cloud instances.

    Worse still, Zenbleed can fly under the radar because it doesn’t require any system calls or special privileges to operate. “I don’t know of any reliable technique to detect exploitation,” Ormandy said. The bug shares some similarities with the Spectrum class of CPU vulnerabilities in that it uses flaws in speculative executions, but is much easier to execute – which makes it more like Merger family of exploits. The full technical breakdown regarding the Zenbleed vulnerability can be found at Ormandy’s blog.

    AMD has already released a microcode patch for the second-generation Epyc 7002 processors, though the next updates for the remaining processor lines aren’t expected until October 2023 at the earliest. The company hasn’t disclosed whether these updates will impact system performance, but a statement provided by AMD to TomsHardware suggests this is a possibility:

    Any performance impact will vary depending on workload and system configuration. AMD is not aware of any known exploits of the described vulnerability outside of the research environment.

    Ormandy “strongly recommends” affected users to apply AMD’s microcode update, but also provided instructions on his blog for a software workaround that can be applied while waiting for vendors to include a fix in future BIOS updates. Ormandy warns that this workaround could also impact system performance, but at least it’s better than having to wait for a firmware update.

  • Things to Think About When Buying EV Car

    honda e

    Electric cars are becoming more and more popular as the world tries to move away from fuel-powered
    vehicles. They’re seen as a cleaner, cheaper option that can help reduce emissions and save drivers money on fuel costs. But there are still some questions about electric cars and insurance that need to be answered. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most common questions about electric cars, including their cost, range, and whether or not they’re automatic and what are car insurance quotes for electric cars . We’ll also touch on why electric cars are expensive at the moment and if they’re likely to become cheaper in the future as well as has cheap car insurance in future. By the end of this post, you should have a better understanding of electric cars and how they work.