Business

FILE PHOTO: Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh and CFO Harmit Singh ring bell during IPO on floor of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York
FILE PHOTO: Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh rings a bell as CFO Harmit Singh looks on during the company’s IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 21, 2019

By David Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Levi Strauss & Co’s is betting it can convince investors there is still plenty of global growth left for the 165-year old company, but fund managers fret the iconic blue jeans maker’s stock may be too pricey to generate a decent return.

The San Francisco-based company returned to the public markets Thursday for the first time since it went private through a leveraged buyout in 1985 with a stock debut that sold $587 million worth of shares and gave it a market value of more than $8.7 billion .

In its prospectus, Levi’s said it plans to expand its women’s clothing line and grow in markets such as China, which represented just 3 percent of its net sales in 2018. Levi’s shares jumped more than 30 percent, which has mutual fund managers questioning whether a long-term investment in the denim company would be profitable.

“It’s a mature company that already has broad distribution and its customer base is shrinking because department stores are shrinking,” said Chris Terry, a portfolio manager at Dallas-based Hodges Capital Management.

Unlike companies like Under Armour Inc, whose shares are up nearly 22 percent year-to-date, Levi’s does not “have a ton of room to expand the brand” because it is already so well-known, Terry said.

The newly-public company would also face increased competition for fund managers’ attention if VF Corp spins off Western jeans brand Wrangler’s, as expected in the first half of 2019. Wrangler’s also sells apparel, including cowboy hats, shirts, and jackets.

“With Wrangler, you get Western wear, which is probably a larger secular growth opportunity” than denim alone and has only one other major competitor in Boot Barn Holdings Inc, Terry said. Year-to-date, shares of Boot Barn are up more than 56 percent.

Robert Bacarella, portfolio manager of the Monetta Fund, said concerns over Levi’s expansion plans outweigh the attractiveness of its brand name at its current price.

“We’re all sitting around here asking, ‘Where’s the growth?’” he said. “If they can come out with a plan to show that they can grow market share and not be as dependent on retail stores then it becomes a lot more interesting.”

With its long history, the company comes to the public markets at a time when the most anticipated initial public offerings are technology companies tied to the growth of the smartphone.

The average age of companies that have debuted so far in 2019 is four years, according to Kathleen Smith, principal at Renaissance Capital.

Fellow Bay Area companies Lyft, Uber Technologies Inc, AirBnb Inc and Pinterest, which are all expected to go public this year, have all been founded in the last 11 years.

Concerns about Levi’s growth rate would have been alleviated if its shares had remained near the $15 initial midpoint of the IPO pricing, or roughly seven and a half times its earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization, said Arun Daniel, a portfolio manager at J O Hambro Capital Management.

“They could see double-digit growth in the women’s category by taking share from competitors like Guess, which would be interesting because then you’re getting both the brand and growth and it becomes an attractive story for 3 to 5 years,” Daniel said. “But it all comes down to price.”

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Nick Carey)

Source: OANN

The Lyft Driver Hub is seen in Los Angeles
The Lyft Driver Hub is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

March 21, 2019

By Joshua Franklin and Ross Kerber

NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) – Union pension fund adviser CtW Investment Group said on Thursday Lyft Inc “faces an all-but-insurmountable barrier” to profitability due to issues with the ride-hailing company’s pricing strategy and new regulations driving costs higher.

The comments come four days into the roadshow for Lyft’s much-anticipated initial public offering (IPO), in which it is seeking to raise around $2 billion at a valuation of up to $23 billion.

Investor demand has been strong so far, with the IPO book oversubscribing after just two days, making it more likely that Lyft will hit or even exceed its valuation target, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

This is despite Lyft not having yet turned a profit, reporting a loss of $911 million in 2018, wider than its $688 million loss in 2017.

In a letter to potential investors in the IPO, CtW argued Lyft can only become profitable by reducing the share of revenue received by its drivers. CtW said Lyft’s larger rival Uber Technologies Inc pursued this strategy.

“Over the past three years, Lyft has mimicked Uber’s pay compression strategy, and IPO investors face the risk that the far smaller company will not be capable of sustaining low pay any longer than the market leader could,” CtW Research Director Richard Clayton wrote in the letter.

CtW said challenges for Lyft would also come from local politicians, including a move by New York City to set a minimum wage for drivers.

CtW works with union pension funds affiliated with Change to Win and which it says collectively manage $250 billion in assets.

Asked why CtW was commenting on Lyft ahead of the IPO, Clayton said in an emailed statement the group wants to make sure decision makers managing workers’ retirement savings take a careful look at Lyft before deciding whether to buy into the IPO. CtW also represents drivers unions which could be affected by the rise of ride-hailing services.

A spokesman for Lyft declined to comment.

In meetings with investors this week, Lyft executives said the company would be profitable much sooner were it not for investments in areas such as its scooter business, Reuters has reported. Lyft executives also said they expect the costs of processing transactions to come down.

Lyft is scheduled to price its IPO on March 28 and begin trading on the Nasdaq the following day.

(Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York and Ross Kerber in Boston; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Quote of the Day:

“And here he is demonstrating how it’s possible to be an asshole and a crybaby at the same time.”

— former Rep. Joe Walsh (R), now a radio host, on President Trump‘s latest jabs at the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Trump told a crowd at an Ohio tank factory on Wednesday that he never got “a thank you” for allowing McCain to have the funeral he wanted. McCain died from an intense form of brain cancer eight months ago. One Q: Was McCain supposed to thank him for that before or after he was six feet under?

Journo wants #MeToo movement for fake claims 

“Saw @TPAIN last night and a woman behind me shoved me 3 different times because she couldn’t see (she was maybe 5’2, it was general admission w/ no seating). When I turned around to tell her to stop, she claimed I grabbed her breast. Is there a #MeToo for fake sex claims?” — Eddie Scarry, The Washington Examiner.

The shoving continues… 

“Also, at what point is it okay to physically retaliate when you’re being very aggressively shoved? It was very literally bullying because of the power dynamic: I, male, had no power to act. She, female, knew that and kept shoving me #MeToo.”

“First incident was prior to the show starting. She asked me and friend to move apart so she could see. Obviously not, given we were there together and it was general admission. So she literally used her weight (she was… what’s the word I’m looking for… fat) to move me #MeToo.”

Other women start yelling at her 

“I told her she could stand somewhere up closer but that she couldn’t just take my spot using her weight. I s*** you not, she said to me, ‘I just did.’ Two women who saw what happened started yelling at her and told her she should have gotten here earlier #MeToo.”

“A guy, I assume her bf, eventually took hold of this tiny big girl and pulled her back. She screamed at him for an hour about not being able to see. When show started, that’s when she began, at random, shoving me forward. #MeToo.”

Uh oh…

“The first time it happened, I turned around and she pretended not to even see me. Second time, I turned around and she screams ‘STOP TOUCHING ME!’”

“And btw, this whole time, out of bitterness for being short but large, she held her hand up with her phone in it, camera on. THAT’S how she was viewing the stage and her arm was hitting my head over and over. #MeToo.”

BTW, the concert was great! 

“Each time, her bf would hold her back, as if she was a celebrity he was protecting. Felt embarrassed for him. Why not either leave your violent little gf there alone or maybe take her away? The concert otherwise was great! #MeToo.”

To Mirror readers: I can vouch for Eddie Scarry that he would never grab a woman’s breast.

Joe and Mika are gaga over Pete Buttigieg, campare him to Barack Obama 

“Mika and I have been overwhelmed by the reaction @PeteButtigieg got after being on the show. The only other time in twelve years that we heard from as many people about a guest was after @BarackObama appeared on Morning Joe.” — Joe Scarborough, co-host, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Reaction to the McCain kerfuffle: What the hell, Lindsey Graham? 

“Trump says about McCain that he gave him the kind of funeral he wanted but didn’t get thanked. This is all about the fact that Trump wasn’t invited to McCain’s funeral and that Meghan McCain was clearly talking about him in her eulogy. He’s not over it.” — Yashar Ali, HuffPost, New York Mag.

“I assume he means a thank you from the family. Trump may be a moron but he does understand that dead people can’t talk.” — Jonathan Chait, New York Mag.

“Trump has usually gotten a positive reception at his rallies when he has gone after McCain. But today, at an army tank plant in Lima where POTUS said a third of the workforce is comprised of veterans, there was a very quiet response.” — Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent, NYT.

“Whether it’s right or wrong, Trump has never paid any sort of political price for attacking John McCain, no matter how low or scurrilous the attack. I’m kind of bewildered at folks who think he will start paying one now.— Leon Wolf, managing editor, TheBlaze. (RELATED: If You’re Obsese, Sitting Next To A Journo On An Airplane May Be Unwise) 

Former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri): “I can’t understand how @LindseyGrahamSC can remain silent when his best friend in the world is trashed by POTUS. For gosh sakes Lindsey.” 

Meghan McCain recently pointedly explained on ABC’s “The View” that it is ex-Sen. Joe Leiberman (D-Conn.) who is her father’s real “best friend.” She shook her head adamantly no when one of the ladies suggested that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was his best friend.

McCain, the talkshow host, then urged her co-host, Joy Behar, to keep talking as she bashed Graham. Graham has tweeted tepidly kind things about Sen. McCain in recent days, but has not condemned or even named Trump when tweeting about the late senator. Trump is supporting Graham in his reelection efforts.

On Wednesday, Graham FINALLY told NBC News, “I think the president’s comments about Sen. McCain hurt him more than they hurt the legacy of Sen. McCain … I don’t like it when he says things about my friend John McCain.”

As we witnessed in the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Graham is capable of far greater emotion than this. (RELATED: Sen. Graham Explodes On Senate Committee Over Kavanaugh Process) 

Journo accepts his fate amid Trump’s power  

“Trump is gonna be shit talking John McCain and the pee dossier til the day I die and there’s nothing any of us can do about it, and he will be a major force in Republican politics and a kingmaker and a conservative media star long after he’s done presidenting.” — Asawin Suebsaeng, reporter, The Daily Beast.

Journo Love

FNC’s Janice Dean: Dear @MeghanMcCain, I love you. [heart emojis]

ABC “The View” co-host Meghan McCain: Love you too. [heart emoji]

Twitter recommends that a journo follow himself 

This is deep. 

“Pretty sure Twitter just suggested I follow me. Refreshed page too quickly and now can’t get it back. It just happened again. It was suggestion me as a ‘revenant person.’” — Josh Greenman, op-ed editor, New York Daily News.

Daddy gets in NYT for cow news

12-year-old son: I got a 97 on my math test.

Me: That’s nice. Daddy’s in the New York Times for helping a cow get twitter followers.

Andy Lassner, executive producer, The Ellen Show.

Separated at Birth: Pete Buttigieg and Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens

Gossip Roundup

Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo really grilled Kellyanne Conway on Trump calling her husband a “whack job.” Here.

Jenny McCarthy recalls the “Mommy Dearest” treatment she endured while working for ABC’s “The View” under Barbara Walters. How will the current ladies react to these memories? McCarthy made the claims in Ramin Setoodeh‘s impending book, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Story Inside ‘The View.’  Here. The excerpts were published in Vulture.

Journo Britni de la Cretaz writes about BDSM and finding God. Just before midnight Wednesday, she expressed her fear about publishing this. She wrote, “The most personal thing I’ve written is publishing tomorrow and I might vomit when it does.” Here.

John Hickenlooper, a former Democratic Colorado Governor and now a 2020 hopeful, once took his mom to see Deep Throat. CNN’s Dana Bash asked him about it during a CNN town hall Wednesday night. He was mortified, but answered the question. Here.

Katie Couric once went on a date with Corey Booker. She dished to Wendy Williams about it.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Middle East summit in Warsaw
FILE PHOTO: White House adviser Jared Kushner looks on during the Middle East summit in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic head of a U.S. congressional investigative panel on Thursday pressed the White House for information on whether President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, used the unofficial WhatsApp messaging tool to communicate sensitive or classified information with foreign leaders.

U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings made the request in a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, which was seen by Reuters.

In the letter, Cummings noted that Kushner’s lawyer had told Congress in December that Kushner used WhatsApp as part of his official duties but did not say whether such messages included classified information.

The congressman also said the lawyer told his committee that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and Kushner’s wife, continued to receive emails related to official business on a personal email account.

Cummings said in his letter that a law governing presidential records prohibits top White House officials, including the president and vice president, from using non-official electronic messaging accounts.

Cummings said that when it was under Republican control in March 2017, his committee started investigating whether White House officials were using personal email and messaging accounts to conduct official business.

He said that Trump’s White House had so far failed to provide documents and information and was “obstructing” his committee’s efforts to investigate possible violations of White House policy and the presidential records law.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

A sign advertises homes for sale in a new housing development in Dickinson
FILE PHOTO: A sign advertises homes for sale in a new housing development in Dickinson, North Dakota January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

March 21, 2019

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve’s decisive statement this week that interest rates are unlikely to rise this year sends a signal to U.S. households: keep buying stuff.

The Fed tries to guide the U.S. economy by controlling the interest rate banks charge one another for overnight loans. Moving this rate up lifts other rates in the economy, making it costlier for people to use their credit cards or to buy homes and cars. Higher rates also make companies rethink investments.

A solid majority of Fed policymakers on Wednesday said higher rates are unlikely this year, leading investors to bet the economy might slowing enough for the Fed to actually cut rates.

The following are some possible consequences for American households:

EASY CREDIT

The Fed’s signal on its interest rate outlook led key market rates to fall, including the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds. That is a sign that rates are also falling for loans used to buy houses and cars. Interest rates for credit cards may also drift lower. Mortgage rates have been falling since November when Fed policymakers made clear they would be patient about rate decisions.

GRAPHIC-Falling mortgage rates: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UOhJvq

SAVING DISCOURAGED

Lower rates also encourage spending by taking the shine off some common ways to save money. Low yields reduce the return on money in savings accounts as well as in funds made up of safe-haven government bonds. This poses a problem for retirees who depend more on their income from savings and who take a hit from lower rates on Treasury bonds. The Fed has argued that retirees benefit from actions taken to support the broader economy.

GRAPHIC-Weak returns on deposits: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HwPA9n

RETIREMENT BOOST

Rising stock prices comprise the flip side of lower bond yields. That boosts the value of private retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, particularly those of young people whose accounts tend to be weighted toward stocks.

The benchmark S&P 500 stock index surged after the Fed’s decision, reflecting the view that cheaper borrowing costs would help company profits. It is possible that stock market gains could boost consumer spending because people sometimes loosen their purse strings after a rise in perceived wealth.

GRAPHIC-Rate pressure: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UNxaEj

BUOYANT LABOR MARKET

The U.S. jobless rate is near its lowest level in 50 years although lately there have been signs of softening in the labor market. Hiring slowed sharply in February and the number of new jobless claims every week has also been ticking higher. The Fed’s action aims to keep the labor market solid. That could help encourage more people to rekindle job searches they had given up when the economy was still weak following the 2007-09 financial crisis.

GRAPHIC-U.S. employment picture: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HAXkad

(Reporting by Jason Lange, editing by G Crosse)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lighthizer testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies at a House Ways and Means Committee on U.S.-China trade in Washington U.S., February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 21, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s plans for trade negotiations with the United States fall far short of what is required and any idea of delaying formal talks would not work, the U.S. ambassador to the EU said on Thursday.

The European Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 28 EU countries, has presented two negotiating mandates to governments for approval, one on reducing tariffs on industrial goods, the other on making it easier for companies to clear their products for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The mandate that is being circulated falls far short of what even (Commission) President Juncker and President Trump discussed in July in Washington. The idea was to have a wide-ranging conversation about all aspects of our relationship,” Gordon Sondland told an AmCham business conference in Brussels.

The EU and the United States ended months of standoff in July when President Donald Trump agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker not to hit EU car imports with extra tariffs while the two sides worked on improving economic ties.

EU governments have failed so far to agree on launching formal trade talks, Germany pressing for a quick start, and France bidding for more time.

Stalling, said Sondland, would have consequences.

“The more the EU leadership plays the delay game the more we will have to use leverage to realign the relationship,” he said.

Some in Europe, he said, believed they could simply wait for a new U.S. president, but this tactic would not work.

“The (U.S.) Democrats disagree with President Trump on many issues…. but when it comes to fixing our trade imbalance with the EU there is no daylight between (us), none,” he said.

A key part of the July agreement was to remove import duties on “non-auto industrial goods”. The EU has said cars should be included and rejected Washington’s demand that agriculture should feature in talks too.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that discussions were at a “complete stalemate”.

The EU says progress has been made – its two negotiating mandates, discussions of possible regulatory cooperation and the doubling of U.S. soybean imports into Europe since July, although mainly because they are cheaper than rival imports.

Sondland repeated the U.S. line that agriculture had to be part of trade discussions, but acknowledged that the two sides could build up deals piece by piece, as long as they did move though the issues.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Caribbean tour
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, attend a reception at the Prime Minister’s official residence, in Kingstown, St Vincent and Grenadines, March 20, 2019. Jane Barlow/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) – Prince Charles and his wife Camilla arrive in Cuba on Sunday as part of a Caribbean tour, the first British royals to visit the Communist-run nation even as ally the United States seeks to isolate the country.

The royal couple were asked by the UK government to add Cuba to their tour of former and current British territories in hopes of boosting commercial relations and political influence.

The plans were made before the Trump administration intensified efforts this year to end what it views as Latin America’s “troika of tyranny”: the socialist governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. It has warned foreign companies away from doing business with Cuba, continuing its reversal of Trump predecessor Barack Obama’s detente with the island.

“The visit shows a fresh willingness by the UK to engage with Cuba in the Diaz-Canel era,” said Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who lectures at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.

“The UK has long seen the U.S. trade embargo as the wrong way to produce greater openness and tolerance of new ideas in Cuba,” he said.

The visit will be welcomed on the island, which has seen a decline in high-profile visits since the likes of Pope Francis, then-U.S. President Obama and the Rolling Stones graced its shores just a few years ago.

“This visit means a lot because it shows the world that Cuba is a safe country and at the same time, in spite of economic and political adversities, it continues as a country of social interest,” culture ministry employee Mariela Gonzalez, 42, said on the streets of Havana.

The royal couple will dine with Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro a year ago. They first met last November on Prince Charles’ 70th birthday, when the Cuban president was visiting London.

There are no plans for Charles to meet Raul Castro, who remains head of the Communist Party, though that could change, according to Britain’s embassy.

The royals’ schedule through Wednesday, when they depart for the Cayman Islands, includes a tour of Havana’s restored colonial district, visits to community and green energy projects, a meeting with young entrepreneurs, reviewing a parade of antique British cars, and various cultural activities.

Former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta, who returned to his native land in 2015 to start a dance company, termed the visit “great” and said he hoped it would strengthen relations.

“I was formed here and for many years I was in the UK and built my career, so these two nations are very important to me,” said the world-renowned Acosta, who will take over direction of England’s Birmingham Royal Ballet next year.

BREXIT AND TRUMP

Britain has worked through its embassies worldwide to strengthen bilateral commercial relations since a referendum three years ago to exit the European Union. 

Plans for high-level officials to accompany the Prince of Wales were scuttled by the political drama playing out in London over how best to leave the EU before a March 29 deadline.

British trade with Cuba was less than $100 million last year. However, some 200,000 British tourists vacation there annually.

Insurer Lloyds of London and British-based accounting firm Ernst and Young do a brisk business on the island, as do lubricants manufacturer Castrol and Aberdeen Standard Investments, which manages Cuba-focused real estate firm CEIBA Investments Ltd

A handful of well-known British corporations have investments in Cuba through subsidiaries, for example Imperial Brands Plc, British-American Tobacco Plc and Unilever.

These and other British companies may eventually become targets of lawsuits by Cuban-Americans if Washington presses ahead with a tougher stance on foreign investment.

The Trump administration has threatened to activate a dormant law as soon as next month that allows American citizens to go to court against foreign companies “trafficking” in their nationalized and confiscated properties taken at the time of Cuba’s 1959 Revolution.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

March 21, 2019

By Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers see a U.S. economy that is rapidly losing momentum. They predict inflation will miss their 2 percent target for yet another year, despite rising wages, and they expect unemployment to increase.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s view of it all? He calls these fundamentals “very strong,” says the economy is in a “good place and sees the outlook as “favorable.”

Welcome to the new normal.

Powell’s upbeat assessment of a deteriorating economy shows how completely the Fed has embraced a world of stubbornly weak inflation, permanently slower growth and chronically low interest rates that give the central bank precious little room for conventional policy easing when the next downturn arrives.

It is a situation that poses risks to the Fed’s credibility, given the long-running failure to lift inflation to a target first specified in 2012 in hopes of guiding the economy upward. It also raises the stakes over an evolving debate about the need for fiscal, social and other policies that may be targeted to pick up the slack.

“It feels like the Fed has come to Jesus on this topic,” said University of Oregon economics professor Tim Duy, who believes the abrupt revisions to Fed forecasts show the Fed may have already raised interest rates too far. “The secular stagnation story, some part of it, must in fact be a reality.”

Powell delivered his message on Wednesday as the Fed signaled it is likely finished with the interest rate increases it started back in 2015, and hinted that should the outlook worsen, a rate cut may be next.

“We are very mindful… of what the risks are,” Powell said after the Fed held its target range for short-term rates steady at 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. “We don’t see data coming in that suggests we should move in either direction… We should remain patient and let the situation clarify over time; when the time comes, we will act appropriately.”

DOWN IN THE DUMPS?

At least nine and perhaps as many as 15 of the Fed’s 17 policymakers slashed their interest rate forecasts, with most seeing no rate hikes this year. As a group they now believe the economy has lost perhaps a third of its momentum compared with last year, and will grow around 2.1 percent in 2019.

What about the idea they would need to boost rates high enough to brake growth and actually curb inflation, a feature of their outlook in 2018? A thing of the past.

If anything, the Fed’s concern has shifted in the other direction, toward inflation remaining so low it undermines business and household expectations about the future, another potential drag on growth if either sector becomes more cautious in spending.

To some analysts, the abrupt revisions sound like a warning.

“What does the Fed know that it’s not saying?” asked Marvin Loh, global macro strategist at State Street.

“I think we are bracing for another shoe to drop,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco.

That was also the view of financial markets, with short-term interest-rate futures quickly pricing in a rate cut next year.

Powell noted risks to his positive outlook include a slowdown in Europe and ongoing trade tensions with China.

RISK OF THE LESS-LIKELY OUTCOME

To others, however, it seemed like confirmation of an inconvenient truth: that global growth may have peaked, leaving countries stuck in slow-growth mode and reliant on fiscal policy to keep from grinding to a halt. In addition, they will have to carry the load of recovery should a recession occur.

“Even once this episode is past, what do things look like? In the Fed’s view it is a world of sub-2 percent growth” over the long run, said Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income and a former U.S. Treasury official. “By U.S. historical standards, it is not great.”

Central banks in Japan and Europe are in a similar fix, fueling a global debate about whether, given chronically low interest rates, it makes sense for larger and economically more dynamic nations to borrow more for investments in infrastructure, education, climate adaptation and other endeavors that would have a clear public return.

“It is a different world,” former International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard said in a meeting with reporters recently at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “We are going to be in a world where monetary policy is highly constrained and fiscal (policy) will become central.”

Originally skeptical of the secular stagnation argument that low growth in developed nations is hardwired into the long-term outlook by aging populations that over-save, he said he now views that as the “more likely” state of affairs.

The issue now is whether the current slow-growth expansion will continue indefinitely in the hoped-for “soft landing” that the Fed foresees in its current projections.

There are arguments to the contrary. The recently released Economic Report of the President projected growth will remain near 3 percent this year and could edge up in coming years if, for example, the now-temporary household tax cuts approved in 2017 are made permanent. Resolution of current global trade frictions could also raise the global outlook.

But 2018, a year that began with U.S. and world officials heralding an era of synchronized global growth, may also prove the outlier.

Said Bank of the West’s Anderson: “Even with the U.S. pausing, it might not be enough to stop a global downturn.”

(Reporting by Ann Saphir and Howard Schneider; Editing by Dan Burns and Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

March 21, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah are harming Lebanon as a whole, President Michel Aoun said on Thursday ahead of a visit to the country by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The United States deems the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group a terrorist organization and has been steadily increasing financial sanctions against it as part of efforts to counter Iran.

Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah has a large armed militia that has helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his eight-year war against rebels, but it is also a political party in Lebanon with seats in the parliament and cabinet.

“Lebanon is within the siege that has been imposed on others, particularly on Iran. And it is passing, as a result of that, through a big crisis,” Aoun told Russian media in Lebanon, the Lebanese Presidency office said.

Sanctions against Hezbollah introduced since 2016 raised fears among Lebanese that U.S. correspondent banks might deem Lebanese banks too risky to do business with, harming a major part of Lebanon’s economy.

However, Lebanon’s Central Bank has repeatedly said that the banking sector is fully compliant with sanctions and that foreign institutions are satisfied with how it implements regulation.

“We don’t expect more measures against the banks,” Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said.

But he said the “negative impact of the siege on Hezbollah afflicts all Lebanese, as it does the Lebanese banks”.

“Every Lebanese bank has uncertainty about dealing with a depositor, fearing that he has a link with Hezbollah … This mutual fear does not build an economy and sound trade relations,” he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo is due to visit Lebanon on Friday and Saturday after trips to Kuwait and Israel. In Israel, Pompeo described Iran-backed Hezbollah as a risk to the Lebanese.

Aoun is scheduled to visit Russia over March 25-26 after being invited by President Vladimir Putin, Aoun’s office said.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is pictured at the LABACE fair in Sao Paulo
FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is pictured at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition fair (LABACE) at Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 14, 2018. Picture taken August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

March 21, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing Co will mandate a previously optional cockpit warning light as part of a forthcoming software update to the 737 MAX fleet that was grounded in the wake of two fatal crashes, two officials briefed on the matter said Thursday.

Boeing previously offered the AOA DISAGREE alert, which warns pilots when the “angle of attack” (AOA) readings do not match, but it was not required by regulators. Boeing will now retrofit older planes with the light that did not initially receive it, the officials said. Boeing did not immediately comment Thursday.

There has been a long-running industry debate about how much information should be displayed in the cockpit, notably about the angle at which the wing is slicing through the air.

Federal prosecutors, the Transportation Department’s inspector general and U.S. lawmakers are investigating the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of the 737 MAX.

The FAA declined to comment on the software upgrade Thursday but said last week it planned to mandate “design changes” coming from Boeing in its software upgrade by April for the 737 MAX.

Indonesia’s Lion Air did not install the warning light. Lion Air Fight 610 crashed in October minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 onboard. The company told Reuters in November it did not install it because it was not required.

The angle is a key flight parameter that must remain narrow enough to preserve lift and avoid an aerodynamic stall. A faulty AOA reading led the doomed Lion Air jet’s computer to believe it was stalled, prompting the plane’s anti-stall system, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), to repeatedly push down the plane’s nose.

The planemaker has come under fire in the wake of the Lion Air crash for not outlining the automated system, MCAS, in the flight manual for the 737 MAX.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Sweta Singh in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Eric Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Source: OANN

A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City
FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Wells Fargo’s board is in talks with Harvey Schwartz, the former president and co-chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, to take over as the bank’s next chief executive, the New York Post reported on Thursday, citing people briefed on the talks.

Schwartz is up against another serious candidate for Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan’s job, whose identity couldn’t immediately be learned, the newspaper reported citing one source close to the situation.

Shares of Wells Fargo pared some losses to trade down 1.5 percent at $49.62. The stock was earlier down 2.4 percent.

The bank was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen at a groundbreaking ceremony of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai
FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen at a groundbreaking ceremony of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a former engineer at the company, claiming he copied the source code for its Autopilot technology before joining a Chinese self-driving car startup in January.

The engineer, Guangzhi Cao, copied more than 300,000 files related to Autopilot source code as he prepared to join China’s Xiaopeng Motors Technology Company Ltd, the Silicon Valley carmaker said in the lawsuit filed in a California court.

Separately, Tesla lawyers on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against four former employees and U.S. self-driving car startup Zoox Inc, alleging the employees stole proprietary information and trade secrets for developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations.

Cao, Xiaopeng and Zoox could not be immediately reached for comment.

Tesla is building a vehicle assembly facility in Shanghai, putting it in direct competition with Xiaopeng and other Chinese companies in the world’s largest electric vehicle market.

Its Autopilot is a driver assistance system that handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel, although the company stresses it still requires driver supervision and does not make the vehicle autonomous.

Cao’s LinkedIn profile shows he has been working with Xiaopeng since January as “head of perception”.

Xiaopeng, which debuted an electric car in Las Vegas last year, counts Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Foxconn Technology Co Ltd among its investors.

The company, also known as Xpeng Motors, employs at least five former Tesla employees, the U.S. carmaker alleged in the lawsuit.

Apple Inc last year accused one former employee of stealing trade secrets related to self-driving cars and joining Xiaopeng’s U.S. subsidiary.

Several companies are racing to develop the technology required to make cars drive on their own and lawsuits against former employees have become common as firms strive to keep proprietary information in-house.

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo self-driving vehicle unit took Uber Technologies to court after a former employee stole thousands of confidential documents and became chief of Uber’s self-driving car project. Uber later paid $245 million to settle the case.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Bernard Orr)

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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO - The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London
FILE PHOTO: The HSBC bank logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

March 21, 2019

By Lawrence White

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC has signed a deal to offer BlackRock’s Aladdin investment management software to the bank’s wealthy customers, in a boost to the U.S. asset manager’s plans to squeeze money from technology by selling it to rivals.

Aladdin began as an internal tool at BlackRock before becoming the linchpin of Chief Executive Larry Fink’s plan to increase revenues from technology. It is used by investment managers to help to oversee risks and make investment decisions.

Robert Goldstein, chief operating officer at BlackRock, said HSBC’s scale would mean many more advisers would have access to capabilities previously only available to institutional investors.

The partnership between Europe’s largest bank and the world’s biggest asset manager comes as both industries are battling to use technology to increase profits and improve service.

Guilherme Lima, HSBC’s group head of wealth management, said the software would help investors to understand hidden risks in their portfolios by acting as an ‘X-ray’ that could look through a mix of individual stock holdings, mutual funds and index trackers to reveal that all of them are exposed to a single stock, for example, or macro-economic risk.

That will help HSBC to respond to growing demand from wealthy customers for their banks to offer advice rather than simply selling products.

“It’s about being able to have a detailed conversation with the client and provide more value added advice,” Stuart Parkinson, global head of product, investments and collaboration in HSBC’s private bank, said.

BlackRock’s Fink has said he aims to increase revenues from technology to 30 percent of the firm’s total by 2022, as the broader stockpicking business has come under pressure from lower cost index funds.

More than 200 institutions and around 25,000 investment professionals use Aladdin and its risk analytics, BlackRock says.

Some market participants have questioned whether this presents a systemic risk, as the growing number of firms using the software for investment decisions could make portfolios more correlated and hence exposed to market shocks.

BlackRock executives have downplayed this idea, saying customers use Aladdin in different ways to suit their own purposes.

HSBC has already begun to roll out the platform in the United States and in Hong Kong, the bank said. Over the next 2-3 years Aladdin will eventually be offered to all customers who hold $1 million or more with the bank.

HSBC’s retail bank and its private bank which serves wealthier customers both chose Aladdin independently of each other after running a lengthy procurement process, HSBC’s Parkinson said.

(Reporting By Lawrence White. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

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Simone Biles smiles during warm-ups at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston
FILE PHOTO: Simone Biles smiles during warm-ups at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

March 21, 2019

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – Simone Biles believes U.S gymnastics is moving in a positive direction after the “dark place” it found itself in a year ago following a sex-abuse scandal.

The Texas-based 22-year-old, winner of a record-equaling four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, was one of more than 100 gymnasts who say they were abused by former Gymnastics USA doctor Larry Nassar who was jailed last year.

Gymnastics USA was criticized for failing to safeguard the welfare of its athletes and the subject of dozens of lawsuits by victims of Nassar.

Speaking ahead of the Superstars of Gymnastics event taking place in London on Saturday, Biles, who said next year’s Olympics in Tokyo will “definitely” be her last, said she was encouraged by their response.

“We are all very hopeful that they (Gymnastics USA) are making the right decisions so that we can kind of get out of that dark place,” Biles told Reuters close to the O2 Arena which will host Saturday’s event.

Biles received widespread admiration when going public about being abused by Nassar and was, along with other victims, awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage award.

“The response has been good and encouraging, knowing that its kind of relateable in a way,” she said. “But you know, you have to pick and choose your battles wisely.

“I think my actions have given other athletes a way to know that they are not alone and (abuse) does happen, so they don’t have to be in the dark about everything.”

Biles, heralded as the greatest gymnast of all time, will perform exhibition routines at the Superstars of Gymnastics event, with her role chiefly as part of the judging-panel that will use an “out of 10” scoring system.

It will be a light-hearted distraction before the serious business of the countdown to Tokyo.

She admits to tough times since returning to action from a two-year break although her four golds at the world championships in Doha showed she was back to her dazzling best.

“The muscle memory is there, but it was a little bit difficult to keep up at times,” she said.

“There were times I wanted to give up. In the end I knew what the goals were and it paid off.

Biles will be 23 in Tokyo, relatively old for female gymnastics, but feels the age demographic is changing.

“Even after the Olympics we had the oldest American team with an average age of 19, but we were also the most successful,” she said. “So I feel the age is changing just a little bit, so hopefully the peaking age is not 16 any more!”

“I hope I make the team,” she said. “This time it will be smaller with just four in 2020 so that’s more difficult.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

Source: OANN

Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh on floor of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) during company's IPO in New York
FLevi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh is seen during the company’s IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 21, 2019

By Diptendu Lahiri

(Reuters) – Shares in Levi Strauss & Co surged 31 percent in their debut on Thursday, giving the U.S. jeans maker a market value of $8.7 billion and indicating a strong investor appetite ahead of much-awaited listings from Lyft and Uber Technologies.

The 165-year-old company’s return to the public market comes at a time when stocks are near all-time highs and the popularity of denim is surging, driven by the resurgence of the 90s styles such as high-waist and pinstriped jeans.

The self proclaimed inventor of the blue jeans, which has grown to become one of the world’s most recognized denim brands, hopes to use a part of the proceeds from the share offering to expand further into emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India.

“Denim continues to prove prevalent in streetwear and on the runway, so we’re not expecting it to go anywhere any time soon,” an analyst at retail analytics firm Edited said.

“That’s why now is a great time for Levi’s to capitalize on this momentum.”

Levi first went public in 1971. It sold a total of 1.27 million shares at $47 each and the stock opened at $60, according to a New York Times report.

After 14 years as a public company, it was taken private by the Haas family, the descendants of founder Levi Strauss, in a $1.6 billion leveraged buyout.

Levi’s second IPO was priced at $17 on Wednesday, above the expected range, in an oversubscribed offering. The Haas family will retain 80 percent voting control of the public company. The market capitalization of the company is based on outstanding shares of about 390 million, which includes the over-allotment option.

“There is a lot to like when it comes to Levi Strauss the brand and its outlook moving forward,” said Jeff Zell, senior research analyst and partner at IPO tracking firm, IPO Boutique.

“The company and the underwriters targeted a reasonable valuation to start and allowed the true investor demand to dictate price which ultimately came one-dollar above range.”

The company reported a 14 percent rise in revenue to $5.6 billion in 2018, a majority of which came from men’s denim. Its biggest market is Americas, which accounts for about 55 percent of total revenue.

The San Francisco, California-based company sells in 110 countries through 50,000 retail stores and its rivals include Gap Inc and VF Corp’s Lee and Wrangler brands.

To attract young customers, Levi’s is planning to expand its tailor shop and print bar that allow consumers to customize and put their own designs on the company’s branded jeans and T-shirts.

Levi’s market splash also marks the start of what could be a blockbuster year for IPOs with several high profile companies expected to list their shares.

Ride-hailing service provider Lyft Inc kicked off the investor road show for its market debut on Monday and larger rival Uber is expected to go public in April.

The line-up also includes photo-posting app Pinterest, home-renting service provider Airbnb and business messaging app Slack.

(Reporting by Diptendu Lahiri and Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Writing by Sweta Singh; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Source: OANN

The IMF logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S., as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund supports the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to halt its campaign to raise interest rates as a prudent move amid economic uncertainty, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday.

“Given the range of global uncertainties facing the U.S. economy, we support the Fed’s decision to be patient in determining future changes to the Federal Funds rate,” Rice told a regular biweekly news conference. “The Federal Reserve’s continued adherence to the principles of data dependence and clear communication, we believe, will help to minimize any market disruptions and spillovers from its policy decisions.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, abandoning projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown, and said it would halt the steady decline of its balance sheet in September.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Source: OANN

Michael Cohen’s business partner on the failed Trump Tower Moscow project will testify publicly before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 27, the committee announced.

Felix Sater will testify “about his business ventures with the Trump Organization and the potential Trump Tower Moscow deal,” according to a Thursday press release from the committee.

The committee will also have an open hearing on March 28 on “Putin’s Playbook: The Kremlin’s Use of Oligarchs, Money and Intelligence in 2016 and Beyond.”

The hearings are the first under Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff’s tenure.

Sater, a real estate executive who has worked as an informant for the U.S. government for decades, worked with Cohen beginning in late 2015 to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. (RELATED: Bruce Ohr Testimony Undercuts Adam Schiff’s Theory About FBI’s Handling Of Dossier)

Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks about President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, during an interview with Mike Allen of Axios, on Jan. 31, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sater sent several text messages touting the project and pledging to get the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also came up with the idea to offer Putin a $50 million penthouse as part of the negotiation to secure the deal. Sater said the offer was part of a “marketing conversation” he had with Cohen.

Cohen pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s probe to lying to Congress about the timeline of his work on the Trump Tower project. He claimed that negotiations ended in January 2016, before the beginning of the 2016 primaries. Cohen acknowledged in his Nov. 29 plea agreement that he continued his efforts through June 2016.

Sater, who has known Cohen since childhood, has said he saw no evidence of election-related collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Schiff, a California Democrat, has shifted his focus recently from the question of collusion to whether Russia or other foreign countries have compromised President Donald Trump through lucrative business deals.

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FILE PHOTO: Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers, Algeria, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi and Aidan Lewis

ALGIERS/CAIRO (Reuters) – Protests that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets in Algeria over the past month led President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to scrap plans to run for a fifth term.

He postponed an election originally set for April and announced that experts would oversee a transition to a “new system” in coming months. Protesters say this is not enough.

WHAT CAUSED THE PROTESTS?

The immediate cause was Bouteflika’s candidacy. Calls for protests spread after it was confirmed on Feb. 10. Mass rallies began on Feb. 22, and numbers rose over the following two Fridays. After Bouteflika abandoned plans to stand but stopped short of stepping down — raising the prospect that he would stay in power for the rest of the year — the protests swelled.

More broadly, protests drew on frustration among millions of Algerians who feel politically and economically excluded, and resentment against an aging and secretive elite that has controlled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

President since 1999, Bouteflika became a symbol of an independence generation that clung to power. He oversaw a return to stability after a civil war in the 1990s but in his second decade in power was incapacitated and mostly absent from public life, fuelling a sense of drift and decline.

Plans to diversify the economy away from oil stalled in a sclerotic system many saw as corrupt and riven with cronyism.

HOW DID BOUTEFLIKA SURVIVE SO LONG?

Major Islamist groups were discredited by the 1990s war and along with a liberal opposition were coopted or excluded when it ended. As the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) reasserted itself, political apathy set in and election turnouts dropped.

When uprisings swept the region in 2011, Algeria used a heavy security and oil money to curtail demonstrations.

There were frequent local protests, but these demanded state resources, not political change. Factional battles played out in the domestic media, relatively free by regional standards. Then, as now, neither ruling elite factions nor Bouteflika and his entourage appeared able to agree on a succession plan.

WHO HAS BEEN RUNNING THE COUNTRY?

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, but by then he had already sidelined or outlived the generals who brought him to power. General Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene, head of military intelligence and the man widely seen to be the real center of power in Algeria, departed in 2015.

While the army remained Algeria’s most powerful institution, an informal clique around the presidency amassed more influence, including Bouteflika’s younger brother Said. An emerging business elite profiting from surging oil income also benefited.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS NOW?

Bouteflika announced that an “independent and inclusive” national conference would draft and new constitution and set a date for elections, and should conclude its work by the end of the year. An interim, technocratic government is being formed.

But this plan has been cast into doubt as Bouteflika’s position has weakened. Protesters want him to step down when his five-year term ends in April and say their goal is sustain pressure and prevent infiltration from “Bouteflika’s system”.

Chief of staff Gaed Salah has said the army should take responsibility for solving the crisis but so far it has been waiting in the wings. The army is more reluctant to intervene directly than in the past. Its decision to cancel parliamentary elections in 1992 that Islamists were poised to win triggered the conflict that left up to 200,000 people dead.

Islamism is in decline, and a new leader may come from the political mainstream. Ahmed Benbitour, a former prime minister, and Mustapha Bouchachi, a rights activist and lawyer, are among those emerging as protest leaders.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO PROTESTERS FACE?

Protesters are trying to remain peaceful. From the start, they have worried that factions within the security forces may provoke violence to discredit protesters, or that demonstrations could turn violent when protesters’ demands are not met.

Another challenge is to find leaders with enough experience and broad support — those who served under Bouteflika may be discredited in the eyes of protesters.

Protesters fear that factions holding power and associated patronage networks will look to survive even as they abandon Bouteflika. Most observers believe that while Bouteflika and his clique will leave power, the system around them will remain.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Algeria is Africa’s biggest country by landmass and has a population of more than 40 million. It is a major oil and gas producer and OPEC member, and a top supplier of gas to Europe.

Western states see Algeria as a counter-terrorism partner. It is a significant military player in North Africa and the Sahel, and diplomatically involved in crises in Mali and Libya.

Algeria also backs the Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara, in opposition to its neighbor Morocco.

(Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

A sign marks a Biogen facility in Cambridge
FILE PHOTO: A sign marks a Biogen facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Biogen and partner Eisai Co Ltd are ending two late-stage trials testing an Alzheimer’s drug, they said Thursday, marking the latest setback for an industry keen to develop treatments for the memory-robbing disease.

Shares in Biogen slid 25 percent to $81.60 in premarket trading.

The decision to discontinue the trials testing drug aducanumab was made after an independent data monitoring committee reported the drug was unlikely to be successful, the companies said. The recommendation was not based on safety concerns, they added.

After dozens of experimental Alzheimer’s drugs have failed in the recent past, there is a desperate need for a treatment that works.

The disease is the most common form of dementia that affects nearly 50 million people worldwide and is expected to rise to more than 131 million by 2050, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.

Biogen said it would continue to develop other treatments for Alzheimer’s.

“This disappointing news confirms the complexity of treating Alzheimer’s disease and the need to further advance knowledge in neuroscience,” Biogen Chief Executive Officer Michel Vounatsos said.

“We will continue advancing our pipeline of potential therapies in Alzheimer’s disease.”

The companies, however, for now will also discontinue a mid-stage study and a long-term extension study of aducanumab.

(Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Source: OANN

Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston
Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to still strong labor market conditions, though the pace of job growth has slowed after last year’s robust gains.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 221,000 for the week ended March 16, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

The Labor Department said no states were estimated. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 225,000 in the latest week. Claims have been drifting in the middle of their 200,000-253,000 range this year.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 1,000 to 225,000 last week.

The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday and its policymakers abandoned projections for further rate increases this year, noting that “the labor market remains strong but growth of economic activity has slowed from its solid rate in the fourth quarter.”

The unemployment rate is 3.8 percent and annual wage growth in February was the strongest since 2009.

The claims data covered the survey week for the nonfarm payrolls portion of March’s employment. The four-week average of claims fell 11,000 between the February and March survey periods, suggesting a pickup in job growth after hiring almost stalled last month.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 20,000 jobs in February, the fewest since September 2017. The slowdown followed big gains in December and January.

Average job growth has moderated to about 165,500 per month from 223,250 per month in 2018, reflecting a shortage of workers and softening economic growth as the stimulus from a $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.

A trade war between the United States and China, as well as slowing global growth and uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union, are also hurting domestic economic activity.

Thursday’s claims report showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid decreased 27,000 to 1.75 million for the week ended March 9.

The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 6,000 to 1.77 million.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – One of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s few remaining allies in the face of mass protests, business leader Ali Haddad, is facing pressure to quit as head of Algeria’s main business association, a move that would further weaken the embattled head of state.

Bouteflika’s long-time strategic partners, from members of the governing FLN party to trade unionists, have abandoned the president, peeling away layers of his ruling elite.

The 82-year-old president also relied on influential figures like Ali Haddad, who has made billions through public works projects awarded by the government and investments in the media.

He also funded Bouteflika’s election campaigns and heads the FCE, a top business association whose leaders have been long-time supporters of the president.

The forum for entrepreneurs has been hit by a series of resignations from members who have turned their backs on Bouteflika since the protests began on Feb 22.

“Voices inside the FCE exist and they have publicly called for an extraordinary General Assembly to replace Ali Haddad,” said Laid Benamor, former vice president of the organization, who resigned from it after the demonstrations began.

“He is today associated with cronyism and favors. The union must return to its original purpose, an apolitical economic space, to regain credibility.”

Haddad was not immediately available for comment.

A second businessman, Ourahmoune Nabil, described Haddad as one of the symbols of Bouteflika’s system of rule and added that he must go, echoing public sentiment.

“There won’t be a real change if Bouteflika leaves and Haddad stays,” he said.

The FCE was not immediately available for comment.

NO CLEAR SUCCESSOR

Bouteflika, 82, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term.

But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His move failed to placate Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to step aside so a new generation of leaders can create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.

Even if Bouteflika quits, Algerians could face a new crisis. There is no clear successor who has won the backing of the army and is younger than 70.

One option, experts say, is to create a high council of state that will set a date for general elections.

Bouteflika and his inner circle have built a multi-layered network of power over the years that includes the military — which often orchestrates politics from behind the scenes.

On Wednesday, army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah threw his weight behind protesters, saying they have expressed “noble aims”.

The ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN, has also sided with the demonstrators, leaving Bouteflika more vulnerable than ever.

(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: File photo of city workers walking past the Bank of England in the City of London
FILE PHOTO: City workers walk past the Bank of England in the City of London, Britain, March 29, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

By Andy Bruce and David Milliken

LONDON, March 21 – The Bank of England kept interest rates steady on Thursday and said most businesses felt as ready as they could be for a no-deal Brexit that would likely hammer economic growth and jobs.

The BoE said its nine rate-setters voted unanimously to keep interest rates on hold at 0.75 percent, just days before the world’s fifth-biggest economy could leave the European Union without a deal to smooth its way.

“The economic outlook will continue to depend significantly on the nature and timing of EU withdrawal,” the BoE said.

The central bank again said rates could move in either direction if there is a no-deal Brexit, as a sharp fall in the value of the pound could generate inflation pressure in addition to the broader economic shock.

Separately, the BoE published a survey of just under 300 companies that showed around 80 percent feel they are “ready” for a no-deal, no-transition Brexit — up from 50 percent in January.

A disorderly Brexit on March 29 remains possible as Prime Minister Theresa May waits to hear from Brussels on her request to delay Britain’s departure from the European Union by three months, to allow her to get her deal though parliament.

Many companies reported that there were “limits to the degree of readiness” that were possible in advance of a possible no-deal scenario, the BoE said.

“Indeed, the March survey also showed that respondents – even those that felt ‘ready’ – still expected output, employment and investment over the next 12 months to be significantly weaker under a ‘no deal, no transition’ Brexit,” the BoE said.

The minutes from the March meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) showed little change in tone since the central bank published its latest economic outlook in February.

Brexit uncertainty had created volatility in British asset prices and sterling, and was hurting businesses confidence and investment, the central bank said.

“The news in economic data has been mixed, but the MPC’s February … projections appear on track,” the minutes said.

“The broad-based softening in global GDP and trade growth has continued. Global financial conditions have eased, in part supported by announcements of more accommodative policies in some major economies.”

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, abandoning projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

And earlier this month, the European Central Bank announced new stimulus measures to prop up a still-fragile economy, promising to put off raising rates and to give banks access to more multi-year loans.

Last August the BoE raised rates for only the second time since before the global financial crisis.

On Thursday it stuck to plans for a further gradual increases in borrowing costs, but only once it has a clearer idea of what Brexit will mean for the world’s fifth-biggest economy.

Some members of the Monetary Policy Committee, including Governor Mark Carney, have said they would probably vote to cut rates if Britain leaves without a deal.

Most economists polled by Reuters expect rates to rise later this year if Brexit goes smoothly.

Private-sector business surveys suggest the economy has slowed sharply in the run-up to Brexit and as the world economy lost momentum.

Inflation in Britain is running just below the BoE’s 2 percent target but pay growth is running at its highest level in more than 10 years. The BoE said signs of strength in inflation pressure in the labor market were “notable”.

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the central bank brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, and released details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Shares of U.S. lenders, which are sensitive to interest rates, took a hit after the statement.

Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell between 0.10 and 0.47 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

“The decision by the Fed to go all in on the dovish pivot caught markets off guard, with investors expecting a more cautious and gradual approach from a central bank that typically errs on the more hawkish side,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, wrote in a note.

“Whether this is a sign that policy makers are genuinely concerned about the economy in 2019 or that they’ve finally bowed to external pressure, it’s certainly a bold move.”

A dovish Fed and hopes of a resolution to the ongoing trade war between United States and China have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now about 4 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as U.S. trade delegates travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.07 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.14 percent.

Among stocks, Micron Technology Inc rose 3.6 percent after the chipmaker said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

Boeing Co slipped 0.4 percent after pressure mounted on the world’s largest planemaker in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

Economic data on tap includes initial claims for state unemployment benefits, which are expected to have fallen to 225,000 in the week ended March 16 from 229,000 in the previous week. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the central bank brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, and released details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Shares of U.S. lenders, which are sensitive to interest rates, took a hit after the statement.

Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell between 0.10 and 0.47 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

“The decision by the Fed to go all in on the dovish pivot caught markets off guard, with investors expecting a more cautious and gradual approach from a central bank that typically errs on the more hawkish side,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, wrote in a note.

“Whether this is a sign that policy makers are genuinely concerned about the economy in 2019 or that they’ve finally bowed to external pressure, it’s certainly a bold move.”

A dovish Fed and hopes of a resolution to the ongoing trade war between United States and China have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now about 4 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as U.S. trade delegates travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.07 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.14 percent.

Among stocks, Micron Technology Inc rose 3.6 percent after the chipmaker said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

Boeing Co slipped 0.4 percent after pressure mounted on the world’s largest planemaker in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

Economic data on tap includes initial claims for state unemployment benefits, which are expected to have fallen to 225,000 in the week ended March 16 from 229,000 in the previous week. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed “Green New Deal” to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 21, 2019

By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. solar and wind power companies may have the most to gain from the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal backed by several Democratic presidential candidates to end U.S. fossil fuel consumption within a decade.

But do not expect the renewable energy firms to endorse it.

Representatives of America’s clean energy companies are withholding their support for the climate-fighting plan, calling it unrealistic and too politically divisive for an industry keen to grow in both red and blue states.

The cool reaction reflects the difficulty that progressive politicians vying for the White House may have in selling aggressive global-warming policy to the business community and more moderate voters.

It also underscores a new reality for U.S. solar and wind power companies long associated with the environmental left: As they have improved technology and lowered prices, their growth is shifting from politically liberal coastal states to the more conservative heartland, where skepticism of climate change and government subsidies runs high.

“If you just broadly endorse the Green New Deal, you are liable to upset one side of the aisle or the other. And that’s not constructive,” said Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower Corp, one of the nation’s biggest solar power companies.

“The idea that you could go 100 percent (clean energy) in 10 years would require a lot of things happening perfectly, simultaneously,” he said. “You’d have to have bipartisan support, 52-state support.”

The Green New Deal was introduced last month by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat Congresswoman from New York, along with fellow Democrat Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. It has since become the center of a renewed debate in Washington about how vigorously the government must act to address climate change.

The Congressional resolution, which has no force of law, calls for the federal government to make investments to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in a decade by meeting 100 percent of America’s power demand with clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, or geothermal energy.

It also calls for massive investments in green infrastructure projects like “smart grids” to improve efficiency, along with a guarantee of millions of high-wage jobs with paid vacations, medical leave and retirement security. The resolution does not get into detail about how subsequent legislation would achieve these goals.

So far, at least eight Democratic presidential hopefuls – including senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – have endorsed the plan as they seek to stand in stark opposition to the pro-drilling policies of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s fellow Republicans have widely panned the Green New Deal, saying it would cost trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, may be technically unfeasible, and smacks of radical socialism.

Rhiana Gunn Wright, founder of the think tank New Consensus, which is drawing up Green New Deal policies, said her group will not estimate costs of the plan until it is more fully drafted next year. She said opponents’ estimates are premature and do not account for the benefits of climate action and the costs of inaction.

The feasibility of the proposal has been a source of concern for the clean energy industry, too.

“We love the enthusiasm the Green New Deal has brought to the climate issue … but we need to operate in political reality,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry’s main lobby group.

Another concern is the fact that the plan extends beyond energy and climate policies to include guarantees of jobs, training and healthcare for communities affected by climate change, said Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a non-profit organization promoting renewable energy industries.

“It creates controversy and complexity, tying this to issues that are not in our sphere,” he said.

Representatives of renewable energy firms Sunrun and Sunnova Energy said they were happy the Green New Deal was drawing so much attention to clean industry but stopped short of endorsing the plan.

“The Green New Deal has sparked an important conversation, and we’re excited to be part of it,” said Alex McDonough, Vice President of Public Policy at Sunrun.

INROADS IN TRUMP COUNTRY

The U.S. solar and wind industries have expanded over the last decade, thanks to lucrative government subsidies, and now employ some 350,000 workers nationwide – more than four times more than the coal sector, according to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report released this month.

While the growth began in liberal-leaning regions such as California and New England, it has more recently come in states that voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016, including Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and SEIA.

That has helped strengthen the industry’s appeal to Republican lawmakers, allowing it to rebrand as a jobs engine in addition to a tool for combating global warming. And during the last election cycle in 2018, solar and wind companies contributed significantly more money to Republican candidates than to their traditional Democratic allies.

“We have raised these industries above science experiments and feel-goodery, and we are now real businesses and can’t just play to one half of the country,” said one renewable sector lobbyist, who asked not to be named discussing the topic.

“Staying out of the line of fire is the goal of most companies and trade associations,” said another clean energy industry representative. “There will be a real danger for our industry and companies if they are shouting out about the Green New Deal from the rooftops.”

The Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group that brought the Green New Deal into the national spotlight by holding demonstrations and confronting lawmakers on video, said it was aware of the reticence of green energy companies to back their proposal.

“We’ve met with companies and industries who could have a lot to gain from the Green New Deal, but the politics at this stage are too difficult to navigate,” Sunrise co-founder Evan Weber said.

He said Sunrise had met with the SEIA and AWEA, along with other executives.

Weber said industry support for the Green New Deal would be welcomed but is not vital: “We don’t expect all of them to be a strong advocate for the Green New Deal until the politics shift.”

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed “Green New Deal” to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 21, 2019

By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. solar and wind power companies may have the most to gain from the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal backed by several Democratic presidential candidates to end U.S. fossil fuel consumption within a decade.

But do not expect the renewable energy firms to endorse it.

Representatives of America’s clean energy companies are withholding their support for the climate-fighting plan, calling it unrealistic and too politically divisive for an industry keen to grow in both red and blue states.

The cool reaction reflects the difficulty that progressive politicians vying for the White House may have in selling aggressive global-warming policy to the business community and more moderate voters.

It also underscores a new reality for U.S. solar and wind power companies long associated with the environmental left: As they have improved technology and lowered prices, their growth is shifting from politically liberal coastal states to the more conservative heartland, where skepticism of climate change and government subsidies runs high.

“If you just broadly endorse the Green New Deal, you are liable to upset one side of the aisle or the other. And that’s not constructive,” said Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower Corp, one of the nation’s biggest solar power companies.

“The idea that you could go 100 percent (clean energy) in 10 years would require a lot of things happening perfectly, simultaneously,” he said. “You’d have to have bipartisan support, 52-state support.”

The Green New Deal was introduced last month by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat Congresswoman from New York, along with fellow Democrat Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. It has since become the center of a renewed debate in Washington about how vigorously the government must act to address climate change.

The Congressional resolution, which has no force of law, calls for the federal government to make investments to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in a decade by meeting 100 percent of America’s power demand with clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, or geothermal energy.

It also calls for massive investments in green infrastructure projects like “smart grids” to improve efficiency, along with a guarantee of millions of high-wage jobs with paid vacations, medical leave and retirement security. The resolution does not get into detail about how subsequent legislation would achieve these goals.

So far, at least eight Democratic presidential hopefuls – including senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – have endorsed the plan as they seek to stand in stark opposition to the pro-drilling policies of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s fellow Republicans have widely panned the Green New Deal, saying it would cost trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, may be technically unfeasible, and smacks of radical socialism.

Rhiana Gunn Wright, founder of the think tank New Consensus, which is drawing up Green New Deal policies, said her group will not estimate costs of the plan until it is more fully drafted next year. She said opponents’ estimates are premature and do not account for the benefits of climate action and the costs of inaction.

The feasibility of the proposal has been a source of concern for the clean energy industry, too.

“We love the enthusiasm the Green New Deal has brought to the climate issue … but we need to operate in political reality,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry’s main lobby group.

Another concern is the fact that the plan extends beyond energy and climate policies to include guarantees of jobs, training and healthcare for communities affected by climate change, said Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a non-profit organization promoting renewable energy industries.

“It creates controversy and complexity, tying this to issues that are not in our sphere,” he said.

Representatives of renewable energy firms Sunrun and Sunnova Energy said they were happy the Green New Deal was drawing so much attention to clean industry but stopped short of endorsing the plan.

“The Green New Deal has sparked an important conversation, and we’re excited to be part of it,” said Alex McDonough, Vice President of Public Policy at Sunrun.

INROADS IN TRUMP COUNTRY

The U.S. solar and wind industries have expanded over the last decade, thanks to lucrative government subsidies, and now employ some 350,000 workers nationwide – more than four times more than the coal sector, according to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report released this month.

While the growth began in liberal-leaning regions such as California and New England, it has more recently come in states that voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016, including Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and SEIA.

That has helped strengthen the industry’s appeal to Republican lawmakers, allowing it to rebrand as a jobs engine in addition to a tool for combating global warming. And during the last election cycle in 2018, solar and wind companies contributed significantly more money to Republican candidates than to their traditional Democratic allies.

“We have raised these industries above science experiments and feel-goodery, and we are now real businesses and can’t just play to one half of the country,” said one renewable sector lobbyist, who asked not to be named discussing the topic.

“Staying out of the line of fire is the goal of most companies and trade associations,” said another clean energy industry representative. “There will be a real danger for our industry and companies if they are shouting out about the Green New Deal from the rooftops.”

The Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group that brought the Green New Deal into the national spotlight by holding demonstrations and confronting lawmakers on video, said it was aware of the reticence of green energy companies to back their proposal.

“We’ve met with companies and industries who could have a lot to gain from the Green New Deal, but the politics at this stage are too difficult to navigate,” Sunrise co-founder Evan Weber said.

He said Sunrise had met with the SEIA and AWEA, along with other executives.

Weber said industry support for the Green New Deal would be welcomed but is not vital: “We don’t expect all of them to be a strong advocate for the Green New Deal until the politics shift.”

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – For two years, financiers at Mexico’s biggest annual banking bash issued veiled warnings about the risk of veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador taking power.

Now he is president, they and industry bosses have changed tack, pledging support for the popular new leader and his plans to revive the economy from the bottom up.

Bank bosses have used the run-up to the banking convention in Acapulco beginning on Thursday to signal approval for Lopez Obrador’s plans to tackle chronic inequality via welfare handouts, ramp up financial inclusion and lift economic growth.

“The financial sector has been and will continue to be committed to Mexico’s development, which is why he celebrate and go along with the measures … announced by the Mexican government,” Marcos Martinez, head of the Mexican banking association (ABM), said at a recent event with Lopez Obrador.

Martinez and other bankers hope the president will meet pledges to tackle corruption and gang violence in Latin America’s No. 2 economy, buttressing growth with the rule of law.

Still, skepticism about his economic credentials is widespread in business circles. So far executives have reasoned they have more to gain by working with him than picking a fight with a president whose approval ratings run close to 80 percent.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, wiped billions of the value of Mexican financial assets when he canceled a new Mexico City airport on Oct. 29. Proposals floated by his MORENA party in Congress to curb bank fees also spooked markets.

Yet even as he rolls out welfare schemes across Mexico, he has promised to run a tight budget to protect the country’s investment-grade credit rating and says he can achieve average annual growth of 4 percent during his six-year term.

At this week’s conference in Acapulco, Mexico’s banks would likely deliver a clear message to the president that they will work with him to achieve his goals, said a senior financial industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That could unlock funds for Lopez Obrador’s plan to create jobs via infrastructure spending, and complement the goal of employers’ federation COPARMEX to lift the spending power of the lowest paid by tripling the minimum wage by 2024.

Cooperating with Lopez Obrador to encourage an expansion of the Mexican middle class could become a major driver of growth, and help curb the president’s worst instincts, a senior industrialist said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stating Mexico had “more financial resources than there are projects”, the new head of Mexico’s powerful CCE business lobby, Carlos Salazar, said last month it would work to end extreme poverty by the end of Lopez Obrador’s term.

By then, the ABM aims to get 30 million more people to use banking services – nearly three-quarters of those estimated to be without an account – and to support domestic demand by boosting lending to small businesses, homebuyers and families.

Deputy finance minister Arturo Herrera told Reuters the government would push hard on financial inclusion at the banking convention, where Lopez Obrador is due to speak on Friday.

However, for the president to make the most of the goodwill in boardrooms, he must work harder to undo the damage caused by poor decisions such as the scrapping of the airport, said Gustavo de Hoyos, head of employers’ lobby COPARMEX.

Business wanted to invest, but right now, the government scored only about “50 percent” on investor confidence, he added.

“If the president and his team can take advantage of these strengths,” de Hoyos told Reuters, “I think we could see really big progress in the course of this administration.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – For two years, financiers at Mexico’s biggest annual banking bash issued veiled warnings about the risk of veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador taking power.

Now he is president, they and industry bosses have changed tack, pledging support for the popular new leader and his plans to revive the economy from the bottom up.

Bank bosses have used the run-up to the banking convention in Acapulco beginning on Thursday to signal approval for Lopez Obrador’s plans to tackle chronic inequality via welfare handouts, ramp up financial inclusion and lift economic growth.

“The financial sector has been and will continue to be committed to Mexico’s development, which is why he celebrate and go along with the measures … announced by the Mexican government,” Marcos Martinez, head of the Mexican banking association (ABM), said at a recent event with Lopez Obrador.

Martinez and other bankers hope the president will meet pledges to tackle corruption and gang violence in Latin America’s No. 2 economy, buttressing growth with the rule of law.

Still, skepticism about his economic credentials is widespread in business circles. So far executives have reasoned they have more to gain by working with him than picking a fight with a president whose approval ratings run close to 80 percent.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, wiped billions of the value of Mexican financial assets when he canceled a new Mexico City airport on Oct. 29. Proposals floated by his MORENA party in Congress to curb bank fees also spooked markets.

Yet even as he rolls out welfare schemes across Mexico, he has promised to run a tight budget to protect the country’s investment-grade credit rating and says he can achieve average annual growth of 4 percent during his six-year term.

At this week’s conference in Acapulco, Mexico’s banks would likely deliver a clear message to the president that they will work with him to achieve his goals, said a senior financial industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That could unlock funds for Lopez Obrador’s plan to create jobs via infrastructure spending, and complement the goal of employers’ federation COPARMEX to lift the spending power of the lowest paid by tripling the minimum wage by 2024.

Cooperating with Lopez Obrador to encourage an expansion of the Mexican middle class could become a major driver of growth, and help curb the president’s worst instincts, a senior industrialist said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stating Mexico had “more financial resources than there are projects”, the new head of Mexico’s powerful CCE business lobby, Carlos Salazar, said last month it would work to end extreme poverty by the end of Lopez Obrador’s term.

By then, the ABM aims to get 30 million more people to use banking services – nearly three-quarters of those estimated to be without an account – and to support domestic demand by boosting lending to small businesses, homebuyers and families.

Deputy finance minister Arturo Herrera told Reuters the government would push hard on financial inclusion at the banking convention, where Lopez Obrador is due to speak on Friday.

However, for the president to make the most of the goodwill in boardrooms, he must work harder to undo the damage caused by poor decisions such as the scrapping of the airport, said Gustavo de Hoyos, head of employers’ lobby COPARMEX.

Business wanted to invest, but right now, the government scored only about “50 percent” on investor confidence, he added.

“If the president and his team can take advantage of these strengths,” de Hoyos told Reuters, “I think we could see really big progress in the course of this administration.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: A Volkswagen logo is seen on a new car model at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

March 21, 2019

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Volkswagen and Swedish battery maker Northvolt and other companies as well as science labs are joining forces in battery cell research, the German carmaker said in a statement on Thursday.

Starting in early 2020, the so-called European Battery Union (EBU) aims to accumulate know-how on battery cell production, including research on raw materials, cell technology but also the recycling of used batteries.

“All the partners will step up their investments as a result of the planned additional research activities,” Volkswagen said, adding that they could seek funds from the German economy ministry.

Germany has earmarked 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) to support a consortium looking to produce electric car cells and plans to fund a research facility to develop next-generation solid-state batteries.

More than 30 companies have applied for the program to support the production of battery cells, the Economy Ministry said earlier this month.

(Reporting by Arno Schuetze; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Source: OANN

Logos of Tencent are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China
Logos of Tencent are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong, China March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

March 21, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings said on Thursday net profit for the quarter ended December fell a sharper-than-expected 32 percent, the most on record for a quarter, as a regulatory review weighed on its gaming business.

Net profit at Asia’s second-most valuable listed company for the September-December quarter was 14.2 billion yuan ($2.12 billion), against the 18.3 billion yuan average estimate of 16 analysts, according to Refinitiv data.

Revenue in the quarter rose 28 percent to 84.9 billion yuan, slightly ahead of an average estimate of 83 billion yuan from 19 analysts. Tencent attributed that in part to strong growth in sponsorship advertising revenue.

Tencent declared a final dividend of HK$1.00 per share versus HK$0.88 in 2017.

(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Christian Sewing, CEO of Deutsche Bank AG, addresses the media during the bank's annual news conference in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: Christian Sewing, CEO of Deutsche Bank AG, addresses the media during the bank’s annual news conference in Frankfurt, Germany, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/File Photo

March 21, 2019

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Christian Sewing, the chief executive of Deutsche Bank, believes there is a strong case for a merger with rival Commerzbank, according to a person with direct knowledge of his thinking ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the supervisory board, setting the stage for a showdown with unions fearing massive job cuts.

Sewing sees multiple benefits of a merger, including “clear” dominance in its home market, scale, and shared technology costs, the person said.

Deutsche’s CEO also believes that a combined entity would improve the cost of funding, with “the best funding ever”, the person said. Jobs would be cut with or without a merger, the person said.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

(Reporting by Tom Sims and Andreas Framke; Editing by Riham Alkousaa)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Reliance Industries is pictured in a stall at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show at Gandhinagar
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Reliance Industries is pictured in a stall at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show at Gandhinagar, India, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave

March 21, 2019

By Nidhi Verma and Marianna Parraga

NEW DELHI/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – India’s Reliance Industries is selling fuels to Venezuela from India and Europe to sidestep sanctions that bar U.S.-based companies from dealing with state-run PDVSA, according to trading sources and Refinitiv Eikon data.

Reliance had been supplying alkylate, diluent naphtha and other fuel to Venezuela through its U.S.-based subsidiary before Washington in late January imposed sanctions aimed at curbing the OPEC member’s oil exports and ousting Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

At least three vessels chartered by the Indian conglomerate supplied refined products to Venezuela in recent weeks, and another vessel carrying gasoil is expected to set sail to the South American nation as well, according to the sources and data.

A Reliance spokesman wrote to Reuters in an email and said: “Reliance is and will remain in compliance with the sanctions and shall work with the concerned authorities.”

He also said “the volume of products supplied to and crude oil imported from Venezuela have not increased.”

Reliance, an Indian conglomerate controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has significant exposure to the financial system of the United States, where it operates subsidiaries linked to its oil and telecom businesses, among others.

The Indian market is crucial for Venezuela’s economy because it has historically been the second-largest cash-paying customer for the OPEC country’s crude, behind the United States.

Additional sanctions against Venezuela are possible in the future, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has not yet tried to prevent companies based outside the United States from buying Venezuelan oil, a strategy known as “secondary sanctions.”

Refinitiv Eikon trade data shows that Reliance shipped alkylate, a component for motor gasoline, to Venezuela on vessels Torm Mary and Torm Anabel in recent weeks. Those originated in India and passed through the Suez Canal.

It also shipped a gasoline cargo using tanker Torm Troilus to Venezuela and is preparing to send 35,000 tonnes of gasoil in a vessel called Vukovar to the South American nation.

“Reliance is also supplying some products from its Rotterdam storage,” a source familiar with Reliance’s operation said.

PDVSA did not reply to a request for comment.

In a statement last week, Reliance said its U.S. unit has completely stopped all business with PDVSA. Reliance also halted all supply of diluents including heavy naphtha to Venezuela and does not plan to resume such sales until sanctions are lifted, according to the release.

Venezuela has overall imported some 160,000 barrels per day of fuel and diluents for its extra heavy oil output since the U.S. measures were imposed, according to PDVSA and Refinitiv data, below levels prior to the sanctions but still enough to supply gas stations and power plants.

Reliance is among the biggest buyers of Venezuelan oil, although the company has recently said it has not increased crude purchases from Venezuela. In 2012, Reliance signed a 15-year deal to buy between 300,000 to 400,000 bpd of heavy crude from PDVSA.

Ship tracking data obtained by Reuters showed that Reliance’s average purchases from Venezuela were less than 300,000 bpd in 2018 and in the first two months of this year.

Venezuela continues to supply at least some oil to India. A very large crude carrier (VLCC) is anchored off Venezuela’s Jose port waiting to load oil bound for India, and at least six other vessels of the same size are underway to India’s Sikka and Vadinar ports, according to the Refinitiv data.

PDVSA’s second-largest customer in India is Nayara Energy, partially owned by Russian energy firm Rosneft, one of PDVSA’s primary allies.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma in NEW DELHI and Marianna Parraga in MEXICO CITY; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Tom Hogue)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Roche tablets are seen positioned in front of a displayed Roche logo in this photo illustration
FILE PHOTO: Roche tablets are seen in front of a Roche logo in this photo illustration shot January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

March 21, 2019

ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche is seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages and compensation in a U.S. lawsuit against former executives of a Utah-based company, the Swiss drugmaker’s latest case targeting what it calls fraudulent schemes involving its diabetes test strips.

“Defendants caused Roche to wrongfully pay over $87 million in rebates and to lose a similar amount of sales of retail strips,” according to Roche’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey on Tuesday against more than a dozen defendants including Jeffrey C. Smith, chief executive at Utah’s Alliance Medical Holdings until 2017.

Smith did not immediately return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)

Source: OANN

Skram of Buddy Electric car dealer company shows the charging of a second-hand Fiat 500e in Oslo
Maiken Skram of Buddy Electric car dealer company shows the charging of a second-hand Fiat 500e, imported from California, U.S., in Oslo, Norway March 15, 2109. Picture taken March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Alister Doyle

March 21, 2019

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) – On the outskirts of Oslo, a row of Fiat 500es imported from California stand parked in the snow outside the Buddy Electric dealership, part of a global flow of pre-owned electric cars to Norway powered by green subsidies elsewhere in the world.

The company’s production manager, Tor Einar Hanssen, said it had sold about 110 in the past year and a half, making a small profit on the cars, most of which had been used for a few years by U.S. leasing companies.

“They’re surprisingly good in cold weather,” he said.

A gleaming blue Fiat 500e is on sale for 129,000 Norwegian crowns ($15,000) with 24,000 km (15,000 miles) on the clock. It costs about 20,000 crowns($2,300) to import and adapt each Fiat, Hanssen said.

On U.S. used car websites, similar Fiats in California are advertised for about $10,000.

Norway has the world’s highest rate of electric car ownership in the world, partly thanks to long-term perks such as free or discounted road tolls, parking and charging points, which boost the appeal of second hand models unwanted elsewhere.

The government also exempts electric vehicles from taxes on traditional vehicles that are very high in a country which does not have its own fossil fuel car industry to lobby against them. Rebates offered by other countries are another part of the equation.

In California, residents who own a new battery electric car for at least 30 months can get a rebate of up to $4,500, said John Swanton, of the California Air Resources Board.

The Fiats show how varying incentives around the world to promote electric cars, spurred by efforts to combat climate change and limit air pollution, can affect trade flows.

They can also distort national goals for shifting from fossil fuels, although U.S. exports to Norway of 4,232 used electric cars in the past two years are tiny compared with U.S. sales. The state of California alone aims to have five million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030.

The issue has a bigger impact in some European countries, which may be over-estimating the greenness of their domestic car fleets due to exports to Norway, where top plug-in cars include Nissan Leafs, Volkswagens <Vow g_p.de>, BMW and Tesla.

“We’re getting a certain amount of vehicle electrification for free, paid by other countries,” said Lasse Fridstroem, a senior research economist at the Norwegian Center for Transport Research.

“But perhaps it won’t last,” he said of the used e-car imports. He and some car dealers say demand for electric cars elsewhere in Europe is picking up, and that Norway could swing to be a net exporter of used electric cars in coming years.

(For a graphic on ‘Second-hand electric vehicles in Norway’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hy4lsB)

BOTTLENECK

At the moment, long waiting lists for new electric cars in Norway mean that people who obtain a new model in high demand, such as a Tesla Model 3 or Hyundai Kona, can potentially re-sell it above list prices that are already higher than elsewhere.

Part of the reason is a bottleneck in new e-car imports. This is caused, to some extent, by incentives for car makers to sell electric cars in the European Union, of which Norway is not a member, even if they are immediately exported to Norway.

To tackle this issue, from January 2019, sales of new cars in Norway are included in a broader EU calculation of the greenness of each manufacturer’s European-wide car fleets, a target the carmaker must meet to avoid large penalties.

This could reduce Norway’s demand for imports but may also mean its EU neighbors record fewer sales.

Last year, plug-in electric cars accounted for 31.2 percent of new car registrations in Norway, the highest in the world, and the share rose to 34.2 percent when including second-hand imports, according to the Norwegian Road Federation (OFV). The two figures surged to 40.7 and 43.5 percent in February 2019.

Statistics Norway said 11,913 used electric cars and vans were imported last year, up from 9,063 in 2017 when it started to compile data of the second-hand trade.

They came from countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain and South Korea, bringing some of the benefits of cleaner air and less noise intended for their citizens to Norway, where the environment is already far cleaner than in many other countries.

Trod Sandven, a Jaguar Land Rover dealer in Bergen in west Norway, bought 250 new Kia Soul cars last year in countries including Germany. After registering them for a day so that they counted towards manufacturers’ green goals under the EU rules, he exported them undriven to Norway to sell as “second hand”.

“They’re brand new, with the plastic still on the seats. The only thing we do is the paperwork,” said Sandven. He said he received no German subsidies, since that would require owning the cars for several months in Germany.

“Now it’s changing again, now we are exporting cars to other countries,” he said. “Norway is crowded with used electric cars and Europe is screaming for electric cars. It’s changing every year.”

SWEDEN MOVES

Stockholm tightened subsidy rules last July after finding that about 10 percent of all electric and plug-in hybrids were exported within five years. Eighty percent of those exports ended up over the border in Norway.

“It is problematic that some of the used electric vehicles, that have been subsidized by Swedish tax payers, are exported,” said Jakob Lundgren, spokesman for Sweden’s Environment Minister Isabella Lovin.

Under the new system from July 2018, Swedes have to own a new electric car for six months before receiving a 60,000 Swedish crowns ($6,398.50) rebate. Previously, they got a 40,000 crown discount on buying the car.

Lundgren said there were no data yet to show if the rule change had made an impact.

With just five million people, Norway bought 46,143 new battery electric cars in 2018, making it the biggest market in Europe ahead of Germany with 36,216 and France on 31,095, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

EU rules in effect from 2020-21 will force new cars sold in Europe, including Norway, to average no more than 95 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometer, with carmakers facing hundreds of millions of euros in potential fines for non-compliance.

Other nations tend to hand out subsidies to make e-cars cheaper but lag in infrastructure, such as charging points. Norway wants all new cars to be zero emissions by 2025. Among other nations, Britain and France have similar goals for 2040.

Electric cars depreciate less quickly in Norway than elsewhere, partly due to the ongoing benefits, which include low-cost ferry trips and use of bus lanes to avoid congestion.

“Norway has become a magnet for the rest of Europe to ship used battery electric vehicles,” Matthew Harrison, executive vice president Toyota Motor Europe, said at the Geneva motor show this month. “Frankly there is no used-car demand for battery electric vehicles” elsewhere in Europe, he said.

Among sources of second hand imports, Fridstroem and other economists said they were baffled by those from Britain. Norway imported 2,147 electric cars from Britain in 2017, and 133 in 2018, according to Statistics Norway.

The steering wheel in British cars is on the right, the wrong side for driving in mainland Europe, making them unattractive in Norway.

A spokesperson for the British Department for Transport said the main conditions for plug-in car grants, of up to 3,500 pounds ($4,624.55), were that buyers have an address in Britain and register the vehicle in the country.

The Department did not comment when asked if some dealers might be buying electric cars made in Britain but designed for mainland Europe. That might be a loophole allowing dealers to pocket the grant and export the car to Norway, although it was not clear why the number of exports had dropped.

(With extra reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Laurence Frost in Geneva; graphic by Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport in Washington
FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight from Los Angeles approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport shortly after an announcement was made by the FAA that the planes were being grounded by the United States in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Tracy Rucinski and Jamie Freed

CHICAGO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Pressure mounted on Boeing Co in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets, even as the world’s biggest planemaker worked to return the grounded fleet to the skies.

A Senate panel plans to schedule a hearing with Boeing at an unspecified date, officials said, the first time a U.S. congressional committee has called the company’s executives to appear for questioning over the crashes.

The same panel, the Senate Commerce subcommittee on aviation and space, will also question FAA officials on March 27, likely about why the regulator agreed to certify the MAX planes in March 2017 without requiring extensive additional training.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 that killed all 157 on board has set off one of the widest investigations in aviation history. Initial reports from investigators say there are clear similarities between the crash and the Lion Air accident that killed all 189 crew and passengers in November.

While no direct link has yet been established, the MCAS flight control software and related pilot training are at the center of the investigation, and U.S. lawmakers are questioning the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of MAX’s safety.

Boeing has promised a swift update to the MCAS, and the FAA said the installation of new software and related training was a priority.

However, extra computer-based training will be required after the software update, the pilot union of MAX’s biggest customer, Southwest Airlines Co, said on Wednesday, becoming the first major airline union to comment.

Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association said it had previewed the proposed Boeing training, including a required test, which would be mandatory for Southwest pilots before flying the 737 MAX again.

A Boeing spokeswoman said training on the software update would be provided by the manufacturer, but declined to disclose further details.

Regulators in Europe and Canada have said, however, they will seek their own guarantees of the MAX’s safety.

MOUNTING SCRUTINY

The Ethiopian Airlines crash has shaken the global aviation industry and cast a shadow over the Boeing model intended to be a standard for decades to come.

Investigators examining the Lion Air crash are weighing how the MCAS system ordered the plane to dive in response to data from a faulty sensor and whether the pilots had enough training to respond appropriately to the emergency, among other factors.

MCAS is meant to prevent a loss of lift which can cause an aerodynamic stall and send the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way.

The pilots of the doomed Lion Air flight scrambled through a handbook to understand why the jet was lurching downwards in the final minutes before it hit the water, three people with knowledge of the cockpit voice recorder contents said.

Indonesian investigators have said the cockpit voice recorder information was leaked to the media and they plan to hold a news conference at 0830 GMT on Thursday.

Boeing has said there was a documented procedure to handle the problem.

The company was sued on Wednesday in federal court in Chicago by the estate of one of the Lion Air crash victims in which the plaintiffs referred to the Ethiopian crash to support a wrongful death claim against the company.

A Boeing spokesman said the company does not respond to, or comment on, questions concerning legal matters.

The Seattle Times reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation was joining the investigation into the MAX’s certification. An FBI spokeswoman in Seattle would neither confirm nor deny that it was a part of any investigation.

Criminal prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department, who are also investigating the FAA’s oversight of Boeing, have issued multiple subpoenas to Boeing, CNN reported, citing sources briefed on the matter.

Bloomberg said U.S. officials started investigating the FAA’s approval of the MAX software linked to the Lion Air plane crash last year within weeks after the accident, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Pentagon Inspector General said it would investigate a complaint that Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, violated ethical rules by allegedly promoting Boeing while in office.

Facing high-profile scrutiny, Boeing reshuffled executives in its commercial airplanes unit to focus on its response.

FINAL MOMENTS

Before the Lion Air flight crashed, sources told Reuters the Indian-born captain, aged 31, was quiet, while the Indonesian officer, 41, said “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is greatest”.

A different crew on the same plane the previous evening had the same situation but resolved it after running through three checklists, though they did not pass on the information to the doomed Indonesian crew, a preliminary report in November said.

As with the Indonesia flight, the Ethiopian crew radioed about control problems shortly after take-off and sought to turn back. Ethiopia’s civil aviation head Wosenyeleh Hunegnaw said he expected a report on the investigation within 30 days.

For now, more than 350 MAX aircraft are grounded, and deliveries of nearly 5,000, worth more than $500 billion, are on hold. Boeing’s shares have fallen 11 percent since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, wiping $26 billion from its market value.

(For a graphic on ‘Boeing 737 Max deliveries in question’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv2btC)

(For a graphic on ‘Ethiopian Airlines crash and black boxes’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Jamie Freed in Singapore; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, David Shepardson in Washington, Tim Hepher in Paris, Jonathan Stempel in New York, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Cindy Silviana in Jakarta, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

A screen displays a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during trading on the floor of the NYSE in New York
A screen displays a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Lawrence Delevingne

NEW YORK (Reuters) – On the morning of July 11, Paul Pittman was on a corn farm in Western Illinois, unaware his company had taken a devastating hit.

Just before the stock market opened, an anonymous short seller named “Rota Fortunae” posted on Twitter and financial website Seeking Alpha that Pittman’s small real estate investment trust, Farmland Partners Inc, had engaged in dubious transactions and risked “insolvency.”

The posting pushed shares down enough to make thousands of previously-purchased stock options profitable, according to a later expert analysis, in turn causing more selling by those on the other side of the trade who committed to buy shares at a higher set price. The accelerating losses were probably compounded by high-frequency trading algorithms activated by price swings and negative keywords, according to that analysis.

Pittman’s stomach churned when he checked his smartphone around noon: Shares were off almost 40 percent. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HyuFCE)

“The game was rigged,” Pittman, 56, told Reuters.

What followed exemplified a new, ugly phase in a war between companies and activist short sellers, with businesses fighting back against social-media fueled attacks and investors accusing executives of trying to muzzle critics.

Farmland sued Rota Fortunae – Latin for “wheel of fortune” – and other unnamed individuals alleging a “malicious scheme” to profit from the spread of false information and well-timed stock options. The short seller, a Texas-based individual whose identity has been kept secret, sent a statement to Reuters via an attorney that the litigation aimed to “intimidate and choke critical opinion” and that the idea of crashing the stock through “sophisticated trading” was “utter hogwash.” It is all under the watch of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which has been briefed on the matter.

The stand-off reflects a broader debate over how to balance the desire to keep public companies accountable with concerns over market manipulation.

Short selling, said to be as old as stock markets, used to be a low-profile affair where bearish investors relied on the media, analysts or regulators to take the lead in exposing over-valued companies. New tools such as Twitter and Seeking Alpha changed that, creating a small but prominent group of brash public activists.

Successful campaigns that exposed corporate fraud or dubious practices, including Carson Block’s Sino-Forest Corp takedown and Andrew Left’s shorting of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc, underscored short sellers’ role as market watchdogs. Such victories, coupled with elevated stock valuations, helped spur record numbers of short campaigns, according to industry tracker Activist Insight.

Activist Insight data show such campaigns can have a noticeable impact on stock prices. A 2017 working paper by researchers Yu Ting Forester Wong and Wuyang Zhao also showed they weigh on target companies’ investments, dividends and access to financing.

Block, Left and other prominent short sellers interviewed by Reuters say they do thorough research and help keep companies honest.

Yet targeted businesses say many short campaigns waged this decade amount to “short and distort” schemes. They accuse some activists of spreading false or misleading information to drive a stock down and then quickly cash out, a mirror image of “pump and dump,” where unscrupulous investors promote speculative stocks before selling out at the top.

Cases against short sellers are rare, though, given free speech protections and companies hesitant to put themselves under the microscope of regulators, lawyers say.

SHORT IDEAS AND OPTIONS

Recent research provides fresh fodder for the debate. Columbia Law School securities expert Joshua Mitts said in a working paper that he had looked at 1,720 pseudonymous short idea posts on Seeking Alpha between 2010 and 2017 and found that 86 percent were preceded by “extraordinary” options trading.

Mitts told Reuters his review of the posts found that, like with Farmland, many short sellers appeared to use fast-expiring put-options bought before the release of a report to spur more selling by underwriters.

“Shorts have to rely on good research, not trading tricks, to punish a stock,” said Mitts, whose work has led to paid consulting for Farmland and other companies.

He has also found other unusual trading patterns, including dozens of cases of “spoofing” and “layering,” illegal trading strategies of placing and canceling orders to create a false impression of demand or supply. Mitts said, however, that high-frequency traders were probably responsible, not activists.

Prominent activists deny engaging in practices described by Mitts and say they rarely use options. Instead, they would typically borrow stocks and immediately sell them in anticipation of a price drop, so they can buy them back for less and pocket the difference.

“I’m sure there are a few anonymous guys out there doing tricky stuff, but it’s not a systemic problem,” Left said.

One smaller short seller said he used put options in conjunction with Seeking Alpha posts to make larger bets given limited capital, but emphasized making unfounded claims could backfire.

“With options you can get totally destroyed,” said the investor, who requested anonymity. “A bad thesis can be debunked almost instantly.”

Activist Insight, which has analyzed hundreds of campaigns, found many cases where target share prices went up, not down.

So far Mitts is virtually alone in analyzing trading activity around short campaigns, but his findings have already drawn the attention of a top U.S. regulator.

SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson told Reuters the research was “important” and challenged his agency to “identify folks who are dancing a very fine line between trading and market manipulation.”

The question, Jackson said, was whether the regulator would go after short sellers who engage in fraud as forcefully as it investigates companies for bad behavior.

“I hope the answer to that question will be yes.”

A hint came last September, when the SEC brought a rare “short and distort” case against hedge fund manager Gregory Lemelson for making false claims about Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc, an allegation which Lemelson has denied.

Jackson said, however, laws on anonymity and free speech could limit any steps that went beyond straightforward cases involving false information.

On March 12, for example, a New York state judge dismissed a lawsuit against short sellers by Indian media company Eros International PLC, noting their opinions on Seeking Alpha and elsewhere were substantiated and therefore protected.

Still, companies are increasingly retaliating with lawsuits, hiring private investigators and using other aggressive tactics, according to some activists. Block, for example, said he has faced “constant” legal threats, at least one undercover operative, and a failed $50 million investigation to discredit his research.

“More than ever, bad companies are trying to shoot the messenger through any means available,” Block said.

FARM WAR

In the days after Rota’s post, Farmland issued a public rebuttal and Pittman, a former farmer and financial executive, said the company had to go on an “‘I am not a crook’ tour” in meetings and calls with investors and business partners.

Most were sympathetic, Pittman said, including farmers who had traded land for stock, but Farmland lost a potential partnership and had to cut staff from 17 to 13.

George Moriarty, executive editor of Seeking Alpha, said that courts have respected the site’s status as a neutral platform and that its staff vetted all posts. In this case, Rota made “limited factual corrections” after Seeking Alpha contacted him about Farmland’s rebuttal.

Still, shares have never quite recovered, and Rota told Reuters that Farmland has yet to substantively address his concerns.

Stock analysts said Rota’s language was dramatic relative to the underlying issues and instead focused on broader business challenges and the potential costs of fighting back. Farmland recently reported about $1.6 million in extra expenses over 2018, before insurance, citing Rota’s campaign. That included defending against a related shareholder class-action and legal costs from its suit against the short seller.

Mitts has submitted his opinion on put options in the case, a pattern he said he discovered independently during his academic research.

The short seller behind the Rota moniker told Reuters he planned to challenge Mitts’ assertions and would continue his defense of first amendment rights. Farmland’s lawyers said Rota’s free speech argument was undercut by his acknowledgement of payments received for research on Farmland.

Whatever happens in court, the SEC is watching. Rota submitted his Farmland analysis to the agency’s whistleblower hotline, while Farmland later briefed SEC staff on its side.

The SEC declined to comment, but on Jan. 29 it denied Farmland’s request for records on Rota and options trading because, according to a letter revealed in a court filing, related information was in an “investigative file” from an “on-going law enforcement proceeding.”

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne. Editing by Neal Templin and Tomasz Janowski.)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Geely Automobile Holdings logo is pictured at the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: The Geely Automobile Holdings logo is pictured at the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing, China April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

March 21, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd said on Thursday higher sales drove its 2018 net profit up 18 percent, even as growing political uncertainty affected overall domestic demand.

The company, which is China’s most globally high-profile car maker thanks to the Geely group’s investments in European manufacturers Volvo and Daimler, posted a full-year net profit of 12.55 billion yuan ($1.88 billion), up from the previous year’s 10.63 billion.

That compared with the 12.8 billion yuan average estimate of 34 analysts, according to Refinitiv data.

Total revenue for the year was 106.60 billion yuan, up from 92.76 billion yuan in 2017, it said. That slightly missed the 108.59 billion yuan estimated by analysts, according to Refinitiv data.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Lion Air jet sits on the tarmac of Tjilik Riwut Airport in Palangkaraya, central Kalimantan, Indonesia
FILE PHOTO: A Lion Air passenger plane sits on the tarmac of Tjilik Riwut Airport in Palangkaraya, central Kalimantan, Indonesia November 1, 2015. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Indonesian carrier Lion Air has started working on $1 billion domestic initial public offering (IPO), Bloomberg reported on Thursday citing sources, as it seeks to move past the crash in October last year that killed 189 people on board.

The company is working with advisers on the planned IPO, which could take place as soon as this year, Bloomberg reported.

Lion Air has mentioned about its IPO plan in the past but has never gone through it.

In 2014, the company floated plans for an IPO to raise up to $1 billion but it did not work. Later Lion Air delayed the IPO in 2016 due to weak market conditions.

Lion Air Could not be immediately reached for comment. (The story refiles to correct dateline to March 21, day in first paragraph to Thursday)

(Reporting by Bhanu Pratap in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

Source: OANN

Charles Kushner, the father of President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, argued in a rare opinion piece his family real estate business is healthy and took several steps to prevent a conflict of interest when Jared Kushner joined the Trump administration more than two years ago.

Writing for The Washington Post, Charles Kushner made the case his son helped steer Kushner Companies down the path to massive success as CEO from 2008-2017. He focused on the company's 2007 purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. in New York City for most of his piece.

"Critics of our 666 Fifth Ave. purchase often focus their attacks on my son Jared Kushner, who became chief executive in 2008. That criticism is also baseless," the elder Kushner wrote. "You wouldn't know it from the way his nine-year stewardship of the company has been portrayed, but before he resigned to join the Trump administration in 2017, Jared led major property acquisitions worth more than $5 billion, and the company grew from about 50 employees to more than 700.

"We now have more than $7 billion of assets under management."

Kushner then outlined some of the steps the company took as his son was preparing to work in the White House.

"When he left the company, Jared took several steps to preclude conflicts of interest. At the recommendation of his legal counsel, in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, he divested from more than 80 partnerships, including 666 Fifth Ave., at a substantial financial sacrifice," Kushner wrote.

"We walled off Jared from receiving information on the company, and he resigned as the controlling partner in more than 100 entities. This was all done out of an abundance of caution."

Source: NewsMax

Charles Kushner, the father of President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, argued in a rare opinion piece his family real estate business is healthy and took several steps to prevent a conflict of interest when Jared Kushner joined the Trump administration more than two years ago.

Writing for The Washington Post, Charles Kushner made the case his son helped steer Kushner Companies down the path to massive success as CEO from 2008-2017. He focused on the company's 2007 purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. in New York City for most of his piece.

"Critics of our 666 Fifth Ave. purchase often focus their attacks on my son Jared Kushner, who became chief executive in 2008. That criticism is also baseless," the elder Kushner wrote. "You wouldn't know it from the way his nine-year stewardship of the company has been portrayed, but before he resigned to join the Trump administration in 2017, Jared led major property acquisitions worth more than $5 billion, and the company grew from about 50 employees to more than 700.

"We now have more than $7 billion of assets under management."

Kushner then outlined some of the steps the company took as his son was preparing to work in the White House.

"When he left the company, Jared took several steps to preclude conflicts of interest. At the recommendation of his legal counsel, in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, he divested from more than 80 partnerships, including 666 Fifth Ave., at a substantial financial sacrifice," Kushner wrote.

"We walled off Jared from receiving information on the company, and he resigned as the controlling partner in more than 100 entities. This was all done out of an abundance of caution."

Source: NewsMax

Charles Kushner, the father of President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, argued in a rare opinion piece his family real estate business is healthy and took several steps to prevent a conflict of interest when Jared Kushner joined the Trump administration more than two years ago.

Writing for The Washington Post, Charles Kushner made the case his son helped steer Kushner Companies down the path to massive success as CEO from 2008-2017. He focused on the company's 2007 purchase of 666 Fifth Ave. in New York City for most of his piece.

"Critics of our 666 Fifth Ave. purchase often focus their attacks on my son Jared Kushner, who became chief executive in 2008. That criticism is also baseless," the elder Kushner wrote. "You wouldn't know it from the way his nine-year stewardship of the company has been portrayed, but before he resigned to join the Trump administration in 2017, Jared led major property acquisitions worth more than $5 billion, and the company grew from about 50 employees to more than 700.

"We now have more than $7 billion of assets under management."

Kushner then outlined some of the steps the company took as his son was preparing to work in the White House.

"When he left the company, Jared took several steps to preclude conflicts of interest. At the recommendation of his legal counsel, in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics, he divested from more than 80 partnerships, including 666 Fifth Ave., at a substantial financial sacrifice," Kushner wrote.

"We walled off Jared from receiving information on the company, and he resigned as the controlling partner in more than 100 entities. This was all done out of an abundance of caution."

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: A worker pushes a trolley loaded with goods past a construction site in the central business district of Sydney
FILE PHOTO: A worker pushes a trolley loaded with goods past a construction site in the central business district (CBD) of Sydney in Australia, March 15, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

March 21, 2019

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s jobless rate fell to a near eight-year low in February as a bumper run in employment extended, sending the local dollar sharply higher on expectations the country’s central bank won’t cut interest rates any time soon.

A total 4,600 net new jobs were created in February with all of the increase led by part-time work, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report on Thursday.

Although February’s performance was a pale shadow to the downwardly revised 38,300 employment growth recorded the previous month, the data showed the overall trend in the labor market was still positive.

Australia is creating jobs at a brisk annual pace of 2.3 percent, faster than the 1.6 percent rise in population.

Even so, the participation rate fell to 65.6 percent from 65.7 percent as fewer people went looking for work. That sent the jobless rate to the lowest since June 2011 at 4.9 percent.

The Australian dollar jumped 0.6 percent to $0.7155, near a one-month high as the data tempered market expectations that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) would cut the benchmark interest rate from its current record low.

The employment report has become increasingly important for monetary policy as the country’s central bank is counting on labor market strength for a long-awaited pick up in wage growth and inflation in the face of a property market downturn.

The RBA has held the cash rate at an all-time low of 1.50 percent for 2-1/2 years now and just last month switched away from its long-held tightening bias to a more neutral stance.

Yet, leading indicators of labor demand point to a slowdown in employment growth. Business confidence and conditions have pulled back from peaks touched last year and the number of job advertisements have declined.

Separate data out on Wednesday showed an index of vacancies released by Australia’s department of jobs and small business eased in February for the second consecutive month, although there still was a healthy 179,100 skilled job vacancies advertised across the country.

For now, the RBA will take solace from the lower unemployment rate and still-strong jobs growth, even though the overall economy has hit a soft patch.

(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco
Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia that attempts to capitalize on the company’s cloud technology and global network of data centers, at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

March 21, 2019

By Paresh Dave

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A Google executive offered new details on Wednesday about the company’s upcoming video game streaming service, telling Reuters that game makers may use competing cloud providers and must avoid some inappropriate content.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, unveiled Stadia on Tuesday, saying the service launching this year would make playing high-quality video games in an internet browser as easy as watching a movie on its YouTube service.

The game would operate on Google’s servers, receiving commands from a user’s controller and sending video streams to their screen. Player settings, leaderboards, matchmaking tools and other data related to the game would “not necessarily” have to reside on Google’s servers, Phil Harrison, a Google vice president, said in an interview.

Hosting the data elsewhere, however, could lead to slower loading times or less crisp streaming quality, he said.

“Obviously, we would want and incentivize the publisher to bring as much of their backend as possible” to Google servers, he said. “But Stadia can reach out to other public and private cloud services.”

The approach could limit Google’s revenue from Stadia. It has declined to comment on the business model for the new service, but attracting new customers to Google’s paid cloud computing program is one of Stadia’s aims.

If a game publisher was using Amazon for some tools, “the first thing I would do is introduce you to the Google Cloud team,” Harrison said.

In addition, Stadia will require games to follow content guidelines that build upon the system of Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a self-regulatory body, he said.

“We absolutely will not have A-O content,” Harrison said, referring to the ESRB’s moniker for the rare designation of a game as adult-only because of intense violence, pornography or real-money gambling.

He said Stadia’s guidelines would not be public.

Asked about growing public concerns about game addiction, Harrison said Stadia would empower parents with controls on “what you play, when you play and who you play with.”

Google views Stadia as connecting its various efforts in gaming, including selling them on its mobile app store, Harrison said. But game streaming, he said, is an opportunity to tackle among the most complex technical challenges around and potentially apply breakthroughs to other industries.

“We think we can grow a very significant games market vertical,” he said. “And by getting this right we can advance the state of the art of computing.”

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

Scott Morefield | Reporter

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs criticized Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and other Republican critics of President Donald Trump’s latest comments about late Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Speaking with former Reagan’s campaign director Ed Rollins on Wednesday evening about the president’s recent positive polling within the Republican Party, Dobbs gave GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel “great credit” before ripping Trump’s GOP critics.

WATCH:

“These are better numbers than Reagan had and Nixon had when they both had 49 state victories,” Rollins said, referring to the fact that 78 percent of Republicans are enthusiastic about Trump. “I am not predicting that, but I’m simply predicting there are a lot of Republicans out there ready for the fight. They are proud of this president. They want this president reelected.”

“We’re starting to see some movement within the party,” Dobbs noted. “And by the way, I think Ronna McDaniel deserves great credit, the chair of RNC, for holding the line and supporting this president with full support, when there are people like, say, Mitt Romney for example, undercutting this president because he made some nasty remarks about John McCain. There is a reason for those nasty remarks. There is a history between those two men. And the people who are attacking him, including Mitch McConnell attacking the president for his views on John McCain, is asinine.” (RELATED: Trump Says John McCain Put Him In ‘Jeopardy’ By Giving Dossier To FBI)

Romney tweeted Tuesday his criticism of Trump’s McCain comments, writing:

Dobbs and Rollins ended the segment with a discussion about McCain’s Obamacare vote and the “bad history” between Trump and the late senator.

“I knew John well, and liked him over the years,” said Rollins. “But the reality is Trump did what he had to do and won a big, big election …”

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Source: The Daily Caller

A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai
A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 21, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s antitrust regulator has lowered a decade-old penalty imposed on U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc by 18 percent to $200 million, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said on Thursday.

The cut comes after the Supreme Court in January overturned one of several lower court rulings against the U.S. firm for abusing its dominant market position.

In 2009, the KFTC fined Qualcomm 273 billion won ($242.6 million) for abusing its market power in CDMA modem and radio frequency chips, which were then used in handsets made by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and LG Electronics Inc.

The KFTC said it had reset the penalty to reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling, adding however that a “monopolist enterprise’s abuse of its market position cannot be tolerated”.

The fine is the latest in a series of antitrust rulings and investigations faced by Qualcomm from regulators across the globe.

In a separate case, the South Korean regulator fined Qualcomm $854 million in 2016 for what it called unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales.

Qualcomm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk past in front of an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk past in front of an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 21, 2019

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Shares in Asia rose on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve took a more accommodative stance at its policy meeting, but concerns over slowing global growth and U.S.-China trade talks are expected to limit gains.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.5 percent in early trade. Australian shares were last down 0.1 percent.

Markets in Japan are closed on Thursday for a public holiday.

The rise in the broad Asian index followed a wobbly session on Wall Street overnight, as growth and trade concerns overcame an initial shift toward more risk-taking sparked by the Fed’s dovish shift.

In comments at the end of a two-day policy meeting Wednesday, the Fed abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown, and said it would halt the steady decline of its balance sheet in September.

But while investors cheered the Fed’s new approach, the reasons behind it sparked concern. Lingering worries about China-U.S. trade talks, which are set to resume next week, also weighed on the investment mood, with U.S. President Donald Trump warning that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure Beijing’s compliance with any trade deal.

“What the Fed is doing is trying to engineer a soft landing. What the market is hearing though is things have gotten so weak so quickly … and the earnings outlook is so dire that real money managers don’t want to chase this rally,” Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro wrote in a morning note to clients.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.55 percent to 25,745.67, the S&P 500 lost 0.29 percent to 2,824.23 and the Nasdaq Composite added less than 0.1 percent to 7,728.97.

The Fed’s comments pushed yields on benchmark U.S. Treasurys lower, with 10-year notes yielding 2.5245 percent compared with a U.S. close of 2.537 percent on Wednesday.

The abandonment of plans for more rate hikes this year pushed the two-year yield, sensitive to expectations of higher Fed fund rates, to 2.3982 percent, down from a U.S. close of 2.4 percent.

After falling on Wednesday, the dollar steadied, with a basket tracking the currency against major rivals flat at 95.910.. It was up a hair against the Japanese currency, buying 110.70 yen.

The euro was up 0.14 percent on the day at $1.1427, while sterling rebounded from a sharp drop Wednesday after British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU to delay Brexit until June 30, a shorter extension than some in the market had been expecting. May later said she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further.”

The pound was up 0.11 percent at $1.3211.

In commodity markets, oil prices, which had jumped Wednesday on supply concerns, retreated.

U.S. crude fell 0.1 percent to $60.17 a barrel after touching four-month highs on Wednesday. Brent crude was a touch lower at $68.47 per barrel.

Gold gained on the weaker dollar, with spot gold up 0.27 percent at $1,315.72 per ounce. [GOL/]

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Office workers are seen in the London Place business district near Tower Bridge in central London
FILE PHOTO – Office workers are seen in the London Place business district near Tower Bridge in central London February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British private-sector employers expect to give staff a basic annual pay rise of 2.5 percent this year, the same as in 2018, though some will delay awards until after government Brexit plans are clearer, an industry survey showed on Thursday.

British wage growth rose to its highest in a decade at the end of last year at 3.5 percent, and the Bank of England sees only a slight slowdown in 2019 as employers struggle to find staff in the face of the lowest unemployment in decades.

XpertHR, a company that collates data on pay settlements at large employers, said firms it surveyed expected on average to award pay rises of 2.5 percent this year.

Before 2018, 2 percent was the standard pay rise offered.

Britain’s official measure of average weekly earnings growth usually exceed typical pay settlements as it also includes pay rises workers get through job moves and promotions.

“Based on the pay activities of employers so far this year and the increases planned, 2.5 percent looks set to be the benchmark pay award across the economy for 2019,” XpertHR pay and benefits editor Sheila Attwood said.

The BoE cites a tight labor market and weak productivity growth as the main reasons why it will need to raise interest rates over the medium term, though for now Brexit is keeping its rate rise plans on hold.

XpertHR said firms were offering higher pay in order to match their competitors and to tackle recruitment and retention issues, while higher mandatory employer pension contributions and Brexit uncertainty were factors weighing on pay.

“Some (staff) will have to wait until beyond their normal review date as a number of employers are delaying a decision until the impact of Brexit on their business can be fully assessed,” the report said.

Prime Minister Theresa May asked the European Union on Wednesday to allow Britain to delay Brexit until June 30 and EU leaders are expected to discuss the matter at a summit on Thursday. The decision must be taken unanimously by all remaining 27 EU members.

(Reporting by David Milliken, editing by Andy Bruce)

Source: OANN

People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels
People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will discuss a more defensive strategy on China on Thursday, potentially signaling an end to the unfettered access that Chinese business has enjoyed in Europe but which Beijing has failed to reciprocate.

Caught between a new U.S.-Chinese rivalry for economic and military power, EU leaders will try to find a middle path during a summit dinner in Brussels, the first time they have discussed at the highest level how to deal with Beijing.

“We are fully open,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said of the EU’s economy. “China is not, and it raises lots of questions,” Katainen told Reuters, arguing that the world’s second-largest economy could no longer claim special status as a developing country.

Meeting as Chinese President Xi Jinping starts a tour of France and Italy, EU leaders – who have often been divided over China – want to present a united front ahead of an EU-China summit on April 9.

According to a draft April summit statement seen by Reuters, the EU is seeking to set deadlines for China to make good on trade and investment pledges that have been repeatedly pushed back, although Beijing must still agree to the final text.

That was a message delivered to State Councillor Wang Yi by EU foreign ministers on Monday. It marked a shift toward what EU diplomats say is a more “assertive and competitive mindset”.

“In the past, it has been extremely difficult for the EU to formulate a clear strategy on China, and past policy documents have not been strategically coherent,” said Duncan Freeman at the EU-China Research Centre at the College of Europe. “There is now a clear effort to do that.”

In a document to prepare the EU summit, the European Commission called China a “systemic rival”.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign to warn against Huawei telecommunications equipment in next-generation wireless networks has accelerated EU discussions about its position.

The deepest tensions lie around China’s slowness to open up its economy, a surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and an impression that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

GERMANY IS KEY

With over a billion euros a day in bilateral trade, the EU is China’s top trading partner, while China is second only to the United States as a market for European goods and services.

Chinese trade restrictions are more severe than EU barriers in almost every economic sector, according to research firm Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Unlike the United States, which has a naval fleet based in Japan to wield influence over the region, the EU lacks any military power to confront China, so its approach is technical.

But any new EU policies could prove complicated to implement, as EU capitals continue to court Chinese investment. Italy plans to join China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure project, while free-traders Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands are wary of any restrictions on commerce.

Germany’s views will be important as Berlin has at times pressed for a tougher response to unfair competition from Chinese rivals but also championed a closer relationship with Beijing.

“Their position needs to stabilize. At the moment it changes on almost every day of the week,” the senior envoy said.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Powell holds news conference following two-day policy meeting in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference following the two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 21, 2019

By Dan Burns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve will remain the top holder of U.S. Treasuries for the foreseeable future after the central bank said it would stop shrinking its $4 trillion balance sheet by the end of September.

So just what is inside this vast holding of assets?

Before the financial crisis struck in late 2007, the Fed’s balance sheet was less than a quarter of its current size and consisted almost entirely of Treasury securities.

Then, to help foster an economic recovery, the Fed went on a buying binge that ran from the end of 2008 to late 2014 in three phases, a program known as quantitative easing (QE). It bought a mix of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and over those six years its balance sheet mushroomed nearly five-fold.

Today, Treasuries account for just 55 percent of the assets on the Fed’s balance sheet. The other big chunk is MBS at about 40 percent. The remainder is a hodge-podge of other assets, including gold.

The Fed would like to get back to a balance sheet consisting mostly of Treasuries.

(GRAPHIC: The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet – https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULcay0)

But not all Treasuries are the same. These securities range in maturity from 1-month bills to 30-year bonds, and the Fed has held a different mix of these over time.

Ahead of the crisis, its preference was for short-term securities such as T-bills, which mature in a year or less, and shorter-dated notes, typically maturing in no more than five years.

The needs of the QE program changed that, and the program’s priorities also shifted over time. The result was that the composition of the Treasuries portfolio is markedly different today than it was a decade ago.

(GRAPHIC: How the Fed’s Treasury portfolio has changed – https://tmsnrt.rs/2HzaYdX)

Before the crisis, for instance, notes maturing between five and 10 years accounted for just 7 percent of the Fed’s Treasury holdings, and the longest-term securities, maturing in 10 years or more, were around 10 percent of that portfolio.

The five-to-10 year sector shot up to as much as 52 percent of the portfolio by early 2013 when the Fed was making a concerted effort to lengthen its maturity profile to pressure long-term bond yields lower and boost the housing market. The longest-dated bonds grew to account for 25 percent, and its holding of T-bills dropped to effectively zero.

Today, the Fed’s stash of five-to-10 year paper is again its smallest bucket, just over 11 percent. Interestingly it has kept its holdings of long-dated bonds steady, and as the balance sheet has shrunk the share has risen to nearly 30 percent.

(GRAPHIC: The Fed’s Treasury holdings by maturity – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv6Iwd)

In his press conference detailing the Fed’s plans for its balance sheet over the long term, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he would like to see the overall balance sheet continue to shrink a bit more relative to the U.S. economy.

At its peak, the balance sheet was the equivalent of roughly 25 percent of annual U.S. economic output compared with around 6 percent before the crisis.

As a percentage of nominal gross domestic output, the balance sheet today is just 20 percent of the nearly $21 trillion U.S. economy.

Powell and his colleagues at the Fed would like to see it get down to about 17 percent, at which time they would likely begin growing the portfolio again at a pace to maintain that balance sheet-to-GDP ratio over the long term.

(GRAPHIC: The Fed’s balance sheet was a quarter of GDP – https://tmsnrt.rs/2HvdrGt)

(Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Chris Reese)

Source: OANN


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