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DEEP LEARNING: WHAT’S CHANGED?

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DEEP LEARNING: WHAT’S CHANGED?

Deep learning made the headlines when the UK’s AlphaGo team beat Lee Sedol, holder of 18 international titles, in the Go board game. Go is more complex than other games, such as Chess, where machines have previously crushed famous players. The number of potential moves explodes exponentially so it wasn’t possible for computers to use the same techniques used in Chess. In learning Go, the computer would have to create millions of games, competing against itself and discovering new strategies that humans may never have considered.

Deep learning itself isn’t that new, and researchers have been working on algorithms for many years, refining the approach and developing new algorithms. What has stimulated it recently is the convergence of massively parallel processing, huge data sets and superior performance against traditional machine learning algorithms.

How does deep learning differ from traditional algorithms?

Let’s take a few examples. A credit scoring model based on logistic regression will typically use around ten to fifteen input parameters, such as age, income, time at address etc. More complex decision trees or neural networks used to detect fraud may use hundreds of parameters. Deep learning takes this to a whole new level and may use hundreds of thousands or even millions of parameters. This can only really work when there are thousands or even millions of examples to train the models.

The internet is an ideal place to find examples. For instance, when you search for images of cats, dogs, trains, and so on it will probably be a deep learning algorithm that’s been used to classify the image. Other uses extend to natural language processing, translation, facial recognition – Google and Facebook are known to be extensive users of these algorithms. Interestingly, humans were used to classify the initial images through such techniques like Captcha® where the user confirms they’re a human by identifying which images are dogs, buildings, areas of water etc. Each batch of images would include some known images, but also some that were unknown – once a few users agree on an image, it can be marked as classified and the process repeated on new images. In this way, thousands of images can be quickly classified for use in algorithm training.

Consider also that the algorithm has no rationality when it comes to human suffering (we’re a long way off Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics).  This means it doesn’t actually care whether you get your intended results or not!

What’s next for deep learning?

Deep learning algorithms have been used in tests for self-driving cars and offer the promise of reduced casualties and fatalities on the roads. In a world where nobody drives regularly, how would a machine cope when an accident is unavoidable?

Deep learning is now tackling these jobs which had traditionally been thought of as unique to humans, such as driving, journalism, law, insurance underwriting and a whole range more.

However, it will also create new job functions, such as algorithm auditor and analysts to frame the questions in a way the algorithm can understand. (I’m reminded of the sci-fi comedy series, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where the Ultimate Question was being sought after a supercomputer revealed the Ultimate Answer – to life, the universe and everything – to be 42!!).

This area is already developing fast and over the next few years it will do so at an exponential pace.

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Energy stocks drag down FTSE 100, IG Group slides

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Energy stocks drag down FTSE 100, IG Group slides 1

By Shivani Kumaresan

(Reuters) – London’s FTSE 100 slipped on Thursday, weighed down by falls in energy stocks as oil prices slid after a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories, while IG Group tumbled on plans to buy U.S. trading platform tastytrade for $1 billion.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index lost 0.4%, while the domestically focussed mid-cap FTSE 250 index also slid 0.4%.

Energy majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell fell 3.2% and 2.5%, respectively, and were the biggest drags on the FTSE-100 index. [O/R]

“What is holding back the UK is a lack of tech stocks to capture the ‘rotation’ back into tech seen since Netflix results,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.

“Stock markets overall are much quieter today, looking so far in vain for a new catalyst for further upside.”

The FTSE 100 shed 14.3% in value last year, its worst performance since a 31% plunge in 2008 and underperforming its European peers by a wide margin, as pandemic-driven lockdowns battered the economy and led to mass layoffs.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was too early to say when the national coronavirus lockdown in England would end, as daily deaths from COVID-19 reach new highs and hospitals become increasingly stretched.

IG Group tumbled 8.5% after announcing plans to buy tastytrade, venturing into North America after a stellar year for the new breed of retail investment brokerages.

Ibstock jumped 7.3% to the top of the FTSE 250 after the company said fourth-quarter activity benefited from better-than-expected demand for new houses and repairs.

Pets at Home Group Plc rose 2.2% after reporting an 18% jump in third-quarter revenue, boosted by higher demand for its accessories and veterinary services as more people adopted pets during lockdowns.

(Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V and Mark Potter)

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Wall Street bounce, upbeat earnings lift European stocks

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Wall Street bounce, upbeat earnings lift European stocks 2

By Amal S and Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) – European stocks rose on Wednesday after Dutch chip equipment maker ASML and Swiss luxury group Richemont gave encouraging earnings updates, while investors hoped for a large U.S. stimulus plan as Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed 0.7% higher, getting an extra boost as Wall Street marked record highs.

All eyes were on Biden’s inauguration as the 46th U.S. President, with traders betting on a bigger pandemic relief plan and higher infrastructure spending under the new administration to boost the pandemic-stricken economy.

Tech stocks rallied to a two-decade peak in Europe after ASML Holding NV rose 3.0% to all-time highs on better-than-expected quarterly sales and a strong order intake for 2021.

Meanwhile, Richemont rose 2.8%, after posting a 5% increase in quarterly sales as Chinese splashed out on Cartier, its flagship jewellery brand.

Britain’s Burberry jumped 3.9% after it stuck to its full-year goals, saying higher full-price sales would boost annual margins, while Asian demand remained strong.

The pair boosted European luxury goods makers that are heavily reliant on China, with LVMH and Kering gaining between 1% and 3%.

“Any sign that retail spending is picking up in China is going to be a boost to the Western markets and those heavily exposed to it,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx.

The European Central Bank is set to meet on Thursday. While no policy changes are expected, the bank could face more questions about an increasingly challenging outlook only a month after it unleashed fresh stimulus to bolster the euro zone economy.

“With the new round of easing measures fully in place and no new forecasts to be presented tomorrow, it should be a fairly uneventful day for the euro,” ING analysts said in a note.

Italy’s FTSE MIB gained 0.9% and lenders rose 1.6% after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte won a confidence vote in the upper house Senate and averted a government collapse.

Conte narrowly secured the vote on Tuesday, allowing him to remain in office after a junior partner quit his coalition last week in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daimler AG jumped 4.2% after its Mercedes-Benz brand unveiled a new electric compact SUV, the EQA, as part of plans to take on rival Tesla Inc.

Germany’s Hugo Boss added 4.4% after Mike Ashley-led Frasers said it boosted its stake in the company.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Amal S in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Arun Koyyur and Kirsten Donovan)

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Miners lead FTSE 100 higher on earnings cheer

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Miners lead FTSE 100 higher on earnings cheer 3

By Shivani Kumaresan

(Reuters) – UK’s FTSE 100 rose on Wednesday as miners gained after a strong production forecast from BHP Group, while encouraging updates from luxury brand Burberry and education group Pearson drove optimism about the earnings season.

BHP Group Ltd climbed 2.8% after it forecast record iron ore production for fiscal 2021, helped by high prices for the commodity. Other miners Rio Tinto, Anglo American and Glencore rose more than 2%.

Global markets rallied in anticipation of more fiscal spending as Joe Biden prepared to take charge as the 46th U.S. president.

“There is a view in the markets that more spending is in the pipeline, after all, Mr Biden will want to start his presidency on a positive note,” said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

The FTSE 100 index rose 0.4% and the domestically focussed FTSE 250 index added 1.4%.

The FTSE 100 has recorded consistent monthly gains since November after the sealing of a Brexit trade deal and hopes of a vaccine-led economic recovery, but has recently lost steam as tighter business restrictions sparked fears of a slow rebound.

Burberry rose 3.9% as it stuck to its full-year goals and said higher full-price sales would boost annual margins and Asian demand remained strong.

Global education group Pearson jumped 8.6% after its global online sales grew 18% in 2020, helped by strong enrolments in virtual schools.

WH Smith Plc surged 10.4% to the top of the FTSE 250 index as its trading during Christmas was ahead of its expectations.

(Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V, William Maclean)

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