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Tech firms race to spot video violence


SINAGPORE Companies from Singapore to Finland are racing to improve artificial intelligence so software can automatically spot and block videos of grisly murders and mayhem before they go viral on social media.

None, so far, claim to have cracked the problem completely.

A Thai man who broadcast himself killing his 11-month-old daughter in a live video on Facebook this week, was the latest in a string of violent crimes shown live on the social media company. The incidents have prompted questions about how Facebook’s reporting system works and how violent content can be flagged faster.

A dozen or more companies are wrestling with the problem, those in the industry say. Google – which faces similar problems with its YouTube service – and Facebook are working on their own solutions.

Most are focusing on deep learning: a type of artificial intelligence that makes use of computerized neural networks. It is an approach that David Lissmyr, founder of Paris-based image and video analysis company Sightengine, says goes back to efforts in the 1950s to mimic the way neurons work and interact in the brain.

Teaching computers to learn with deep layers of artificial neurons has really only taken off in the past few years, said Matt Zeiler, founder and CEO of New York-based Clarifai, another video analysis company.

It’s only been relatively recently that there has been enough computing power and data available for teaching these systems, enabling “exponential leaps in the accuracy and efficacy of machine learning”, Zeiler said.

FEEDING IMAGES

The teaching system begins with images fed through the computer’s neural layers, which then “learn” to identify a street sign, say, or a violent scene in a video.

Violent acts might include hacking actions, or blood, says Abhijit Shanbhag, CEO of Singapore-based Graymatics. If his engineers can’t find a suitable scene, they film it themselves in the office.

Zeiler says Clarifai’s algorithms can also recognize objects in a video that could be precursors to violence — a knife or gun, for instance.

But there are limits.

One is the software is only as good as the examples it is trained on. When someone decides to hang a child from a building, it’s not necessarily something the software has been programmed to watch for.

“As people get more innovative about such gruesome activity, the system needs to be trained on that,” said Shanbhag, whose company filters video and image content on behalf of several social media clients in Asia and elsewhere.

Another limitation is that violence can be subjective. A fast-moving scene with lots of gore should be easy enough to spot, says Junle Wang, head of RD at France-based PicPurify. But the company is still working on identifying violent scenes that don’t involve blood or weapons. Psychological torture, too, is hard to spot, says his colleague, CEO Yann Mareschal.

And then there’s content that could be deemed offensive without being intrinsically violent — an ISIS flag, for example — says Graymatics’s Shanbhag. That could require the system to be tweaked depending on the client.

STILL NEED HUMANS

Yet another limitation is that while automation may help, humans must still be involved to verify the authenticity of content that has been flagged as offensive or dangerous, said Mika Rautiainen, founder and CEO of Valossa, a Finnish company which finds undesirable content for media, entertainment and advertising companies.

Indeed, likely solutions would involve looking beyond the images themselves to incorporate other cues. PicPurify’s Wang says using algorithms to monitor the reaction of viewers — a sharp increase in reposts of a video, for example — might be an indicator.

Michael Pogrebnyak, CEO of Kuznech, said his Russian-U.S. company has added to its arsenal of pornographic image-spotting algorithms – which mostly focus on skin detection and camera motion — to include others that detect the logos of studios and warning text screens.

Facebook says it is using similar techniques to spot nudity, violence or other topics that don’t comply with its policies. A spokesperson didn’t respond to questions about whether the software was used in the Thai and other recent cases.

Some of the companies said industry adoption was slower than it could be, in part because of the added expense. That, they say, will change. Companies that manage user-generated content could increasingly come under regulatory pressure, says Valossa’s Rautiainen.

“Even without tightening regulation, not being able to deliver proper curation will increasingly lead to negative effects in online brand identity,” Rautiainen says.

(Reporting By Jeremy Wagstaff; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/FZf-7xRxPUE/us-facebook-thailand-technology-idUSKBN17U0J6

Frugal U.S. consumers seen holding back first-quarter GDP


WASHINGTON The U.S. economy likely hit a soft patch in the first quarter as an unseasonably warm winter and rising inflation weighed on consumer spending, in a potential setback to President Donald Trump’s promise to boost growth.

Reduced business investment in inventories and government spending cuts also crimped gross domestic product growth. A Reuters survey of economists conducted last week forecast GDP rising at a 1.2 percent annual rate, but many economists lowered their estimates after the government on Thursday released advance reports on the goods trade deficit and inventories in March.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting the economy growing at only a 0.2 percent rate in the first quarter, which would be the weakest performance in three years.

The economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the fourth quarter. The government will publish its advance first-quarter GDP estimate on Friday at 8:30 a.m. The expected sluggish first-quarter growth pace, however, is not a true picture of the economy’s health.

The labor market is near full employment and consumer confidence is near multi-year highs, suggesting that the mostly weather-induced slowdown in consumer spending is probably temporary. First-quarter GDP tends to underperform because of difficulties with the calculation of data that the government has acknowledged and is working to rectify.

“The weakness is not a reflection of the underlying health of the economy, part of it is residual seasonality,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It has become more understood over the past few years, that’s why people often discount first-quarter GDP.”

Even without the seasonal quirk and temporary restraints, economists say it would be difficult for Trump to fulfill his pledge to raise annual GDP growth to 4 percent, without increases in productivity.

Trump is targeting infrastructure spending, tax cuts and deregulation to achieve his goal of faster economic growth.

On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed a tax plan that includes cutting the corporate income tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, but offered no details.

ANEMIC CONSUMER SPENDING

Economists estimate that growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, braked to below a 1.0 percent rate in the first quarter. That would be the slowest pace in nearly four years and follows the fourth quarter’s robust 3.5 percent growth rate.

The expected weakness in consumer spending is blamed on a mild winter, which undermined demand for heating and utilities production. Higher inflation, which saw the consumer price index averaging 2.5 percent in the first quarter, also hurt spending.

Government delays issuing income tax refunds to combat fraud also weighed on consumer spending. Economists said Federal Reserve officials were likely to view both the anemic consumer spending and GDP growth as temporary when they meet next week. The Fed is not expected to raise interest rates.

“The good news is that the Fed in recent years has distanced itself from the GDP numbers,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey. “A weak first-quarter GDP print should not affect the policy debate.”

After contributing to GDP growth for two straight quarters, inventory investment was likely a drag in the first quarter. JPMorgan is forecasting inventories chopping off one percentage point from GDP growth. Trade was likely neutral after being a huge drag in the fourth quarter.

But some good news is expected. Business investment likely rose further, with spending on equipment seen accelerating thanks to rising gas and oil well drilling as oil prices continue their recovery from multi-year lows.

Investment in home building is also expected to have gained momentum in the first quarter.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/jTY0J9Q-uH4/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN17U0EL

World stocks pause near record highs


LONDON Concern about global trade and U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies kept appetite for risky assets in check on Friday, setting world stocks on the path to a sluggish end to what will still be their fifth straight month of gains.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump called the five-year-old trade pact with South Korea “unacceptable” and said it would be targeted for renegotiation after his administration completes a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

Trump’s comments stunned South Korean financial markets, sending Seoul stocks and the won into reverse.

Saturday marks Trump’s 100th day in office and his attacks on free trade and scepticism about his administration’s ability to see through tax and spending campaign promises has dented some of the enthusiasm in markets that followed his election win.

“Trump is reaching the 100 day mark with nothing to show for it and these recent comments just coincide with that. They (the U.S. administration) are finding it hard to push through fiscal plans and all this rhetoric is probably related,” Kiran Kowshik, strategist at Unicredit.

The mood on Europe, however, remained relatively upbeat.

Euro zone bond yields rose across the board and the euro strengthened on Friday as economic output data from several countries reaffirmed a picture of economic strength in the bloc.

The single currency also strengthened, rising 0.1 percent against the dollar to $1.0885. while euro zone bond yields rose 1-2 basis points across the board.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch noted that the $21 billion of inflows into European equity funds over the past week were the highest since December 2015.

“The hard data for equities is earnings — and they are powering ahead. Q1 earnings season is very strong and revisions trends are positive and broad based,” said analysts at the U.S. broker.

Banking results dominated early trading with Barclays shares sliding 5 percent after weak investment banking results at the UK bank while UBS jumped 2.6 percent after it handily beat analyst expectations.

The STOXX 600 was little changed on the day and set to post a 1.6 percent gain for the month. It is up 7 percent so far this year.

In commodities, oil prices rose but were still on track for a second straight weekly loss on concerns that an OPEC-led production cut has failed to significantly tighten an oversupplied market.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was at $49.43 per barrel at 0649 GMT, up 46 cents, or 0.94 percent, from their last close. However, WTI is still set for a small weekly loss and is around 8 percent below its April peak.

Brent crude LCOc1 was at $51.91 per barrel, up 47 cents, or 0.91 percent. Brent is almost around 8.5 percent down from its April peak and is also on track for a second, albeit small, week of declines.

(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yr2Xc7w18mM/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17U050

Trump tells Canada, Mexico, he won’t terminate NAFTA treaty yet: White House


WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Wednesday that he will not terminate the NAFTA treaty at this stage, but will move quickly to begin renegotiating it with them, a White House statement said.

The announcement came after White House officials disclosed that Trump and his advisers had been considering issuing an executive order to withdraw the United States from the trade pact with Canada and Mexico, one of the world’s biggest trading blocs.

The White House said Trump spoke by telephone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and that he would hold back from a speedy termination of NAFTA, in what was described as a “pleasant and productive” conversation.

“President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” a White House statement said.

“It is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation. It is an honor to deal with both President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better,” Trump was quoted as saying in the statement.

The Mexican and Canadian currencies rebounded in Asian trading after Trump said the U.S. would stay in NAFTA for now. The U.S. dollar dropped 0.6 percent on its Canadian counterpart and 1 percent on the peso.

The White House had been considering an executive order exiting NAFTA as early as Trump’s 100th day in office on Saturday, but there was a split among his top advisers over whether to take the step.

During his election campaign Trump threatened to renegotiate NAFTA and in the past week complained bitterly about Canadian trade practices.

It was under an executive order signed by Trump on Jan. 23 that the United States pulled out of the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

News of the potential presidential action to withdraw from NAFTA earlier drove the Mexican and Canadian currencies lower.

NAFTA TRADE HAVOC

“To totally abandon that agreement means that those gains are lost,” said Paul Ferley, an economist at Royal Bank of Canada.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to pull out from the 23-year-old trade pact if he is unable to renegotiate it with better terms for America. He has long accused Mexico of destroying U.S. jobs. The United States went from running a small trade surplus with Mexico in the early 1990s to a $63 billion deficit in 2016.

Details about the draft executive order on NAFTA were not immediately available.

Trump has faced some setbacks since he took office in January, including a move by courts to block parts of his orders to limit immigration.

Withdrawing from NAFTA would enable him to say he delivered on one of his key campaign promises, but it could also hurt him in states that voted for him in the election.

“Mr. President, America’s corn farmers helped elect you,” the National Corn Growers Association said in a statement. “Withdrawing from NAFTA would be disastrous for American agriculture.”

DIVERGING OPINIONS

The first administration source told Reuters that there were diverging opinions within the U.S. government about how to proceed and it was possible that Trump could sign the executive order before the 100-day mark of his presidency.

The source noted that the administration wanted to tread carefully. “There is talk about what steps we can take to start the process of renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA,” this source said.

Mexico had expected to start NAFTA renegotiations in August but the possible executive order could add urgency to the timeline.

The Mexican government had no comment on the draft order. The country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that Mexico would walk away from the negotiating table rather than accept a bad deal.

Trump recently ramped up his criticism of Canada and this week ordered 20 percent tariffs on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, setting a tense tone as the three countries prepared to renegotiate the pact.

Canada said it was ready to come to talks on renewing NAFTA at any time.

“At this moment NAFTA negotiations have not started. Canada is ready to come to the table at any time,” said Alex Lawrence, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto, David Ljunggren in Ottawa,; Rodrigo Campos in New York and Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Writing by Jason Lange; Editing by Tom Brown, Bill Rigby and Michael Perry)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/bwVhIfUQCyA/us-usa-trade-nafta-idUSKBN17S2DG

Judge says Exxon owes $19.95 million for Texas refinery pollution


HOUSTON A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that ExxonMobil Corp should pay a $19.95 million penalty for pollution from its Baytown, Texas, refining and chemical plant complex between 2005 and 2013.

U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner issued the ruling in a citizen lawsuit brought under the U.S. Clean Air Act by two environmental groups, Environment Texas and the Sierra Club.

Environment Texas welcomed the decision in the long-running suit, which was first filed in 2010.

“We think it might be the largest citizen suit penalty in U.S. history,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. “It definitely means it pays not to pollute.”

Exxon said it would consider its legal options and may appeal the ruling.

“We disagree with the court’s decision and the award of any penalty,” Exxon spokesman Todd Spitler said in an emailed statement. “As the court expressed in its decision, ExxonMobil’s full compliance history and good faith efforts to comply weigh against assessing any penalty.”

The suit was filed under a provision of the Clean Air Act that allows citizens to sue when regulators have failed to stop pollution. The two groups had contended the penalty could run as high as $573 million, but had only sought $41 million.

In a 101-page decision, Hittner ruled there had been 16,386 days of violations and 10 million pounds (4.5 million kg) of pollutants had been released in violation of operating permits issued to Exxon for the Baytown complex.

“The court finds given the number of days of violations and the quantitative amount of emissions released as a result, the seriousness factor weighs in favor of the assessment of a penalty,” he wrote.

The decision comes about a year after the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined Hittner had errored in a 2014 ruling assessing Exxon’s liability for pollution from the refinery, chemical plant and olefins plant in the Baytown complex in the eastern suburbs of Houston.

The Fifth Circuit Court sent the case back to Hittner to reassess Exxon’s liability.

The Baytown complex, which includes the second largest refinery in the United States, is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which had fined Exxon $1.4 million for pollution. Hittner deducted that amount in determining the penalty.

The penalty will be paid to the federal government. Hittner said Exxon was liable for legal fees incurred by the two environmental groups.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Richard Pullin)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/5GeqCO79tXY/us-refinery-pollution-exxon-penalty-idUSKBN17T08H

Companies cheer Trump tax cuts, but jobs are less certain to follow


U.S. businesses would reap a windfall if President Donald Trump’s plan to cut corporate tax rates and slash taxes on cash parked overseas becomes law, but it was unclear whether they would stimulate a surge in investment and job creation in return.

Under Trump’s proposals, American companies would move from being the most highly taxed among the Group of 20 countries to among the lowest. Tax rates would fall below those of neighboring Mexico and Canada, which Trump has accused of shortchanging the United States in trade deals.

Corporate leaders and business lobbying groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday cheered the administration’s tax proposals, while allowing that the initial one-page plan left out crucial details.

The tax plan, which includes a cut in taxes on public companies to 15 percent from 35 percent, does not detail cuts in spending that would help keep the budget deficit under control.

ATT Corp (T.N) Chief Executive Randall Stephenson welcomed the tax plan but cautioned “the practical reality of getting to 15 percent is you have to get yourself reconciled to some level of deficits for a period of time as you get the economic stimulation.”

Big U.S. companies have nearly $1.8 trillion in cash stockpiled overseas, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Technology powerhouse Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has more than $200 billion of that total.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has said the company was looking to bring back offshore cash if tax rates for doing so were lower.

“What we would do with it, let’s wait and see exactly what it is, but as I’ve said before we are always looking at acquisitions,” Cook told investors on the company’s first-quarter earnings call in January in response to an analyst’s question about the company’s thinking on acquisitions.

Cook’s comment points to a big unknown for the White House and congressional Republicans, who have said business tax cuts would result in more and better jobs.

Studies of the results of past tax holidays found that most of the offshore cash brought home by U.S. companies was used to buy back shares or make acquisitions, not to fund investments in production capacity or jobs.

Under pressure from shareholders, listed companies have set high targets for return on invested capital. General Motors Co (GM.N), for example, has told investors it is aiming for 20 percent returns on its capital investments.

Many U.S. companies have been tightfisted about investing in new plants and equipment following the last recession, which left them wary of becoming overextended. Since 2014, investment in new equipment has flatlined, according to government data.

A MIXED BAG

The financial impact of the White House tax plan will vary widely by company and business sector. A proposal to cut inheritance taxes, for example, is of high interest to auto dealers, which are often family-controlled enterprises.

Many companies already pay less than the headline 35 percent tax rate. Companies in the SP 500 index paid an average tax rate of 29.06 percent for 2016, Standard and Poors said.

A change of a few percentage points in tax rates can make a big difference. Aircraft maker Boeing Co (BA.N) on Wednesday reported a 19 percent increase in first quarter profits, partly because of a 4 percentage-point drop in its tax rate.

“At the highest level we’re a big supporter of tax reform,” Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith told analysts and journalists on a call Wednesday. “It’s going to drive jobs, it’s going to drive the U.S. economy broadly speaking and it’s going to allow us to compete.”

Boeing has been cutting jobs in the United States, warning employees last week that it planned another round of cuts that would eliminate hundreds of engineering jobs.

While the tax cuts may produce a short-term boost to the economy and add fuel to a stock market rally, it falls short of the comprehensive tax reform that Trump had pledged earlier.

Regarding other parts of his agenda, his administration has been stymied in its attempts to limit immigration by the courts, while an attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare failed in Congress.

“A cynic would say this is a rushed attempt to have something big to show for President Trump’s first 100 days in office,” said Luke Bartholomew, investment strategist at Aberdeen Asset Management in London.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, David Shepardson, Diane Bartz, Steve Nellis and Tim Aeppel; Writing by Joseph White; Editing by David Chance and Bill Trott)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/3SbHv-4vNyw/us-usa-tax-business-idUSKBN17S2WF

Trump Rejected Original Letter on Iran Deal, Told State to Make it Tougher


President Donald Trump speaks at the Interior Department in Washington, Wednesday, April 26, 2017.


By

Published on April 26, 2017

President Donald Trump put his own stamp on a Department of State letter to Congress about the Iran nuclear deal, ordering a more hawkish rewrite of the first draft written by career diplomats and Obama administration holdovers.

Trump personally intervened because he thought the original version was too accommodating and ignored the Islamic Republic’s sponsorship of terrorist groups, White House officials told the Wall Street Journal.

The letter, sent April 18th by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to House Speaker Paul Ryan, announced an inter-agency review to determine if the U.S. should continue easing sanctions against Iran.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson wrote. “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led inter-agency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

Career diplomats and Obama political appointees wrote the initial version of the letter, White House sources told the WSJ. The key State Department contributors included Stephen Mull, a career foreign service officer and the U.S. coordinator for JCPOA implementation, and Chris Backemeyer, who worked at the Obama White House before his appointment as deputy assistant secretary of state for Iranian affairs.

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster wanted the first draft to have tougher language and asked Chief of Staff Reince Priebus to bring the matter to Trump’s attention, White House officials said. The president reviewed the letter and settled on a version that emphasized Iran’s role in supporting international terrorism and called for a re-evaluation of sanctions policy.

Trump also ordered Tillerson to publicly announce the policy shift, which he did the following day at a press conference.

The U.S., Iran and other major powers signed the JCPOA in 2016. The agreement restricts Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international energy and financial sanctions.

Trump’s national security team has urged a firmer hand with Tehran and made renegotiation of the JCPOA a potential option for containing Iranian ambitions in the Middle East.

Trump has made no secret of his disdain for the agreement, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated” during the campaign.

 

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Copyright 2017 Daily Caller News Foundation






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Article source: https://stream.org/trump-rejected-original-letter-iran-deal-told-state-make-tougher/

Military Photo of the Day: Cleaning the Canopy of an F-15C Eagle



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 27, 2017

A U.S. Air Force crew chief cleans the canopy of an F-15C Eagle aircraft at Leeuwarden Air Base in The Netherlands on March 28, 2017.

Thank you to this airman for serving our nation overseas!






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Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-27-2017/

Trump tax plan will sharply slash corporate tax rates


WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump is proposing to slash the corporate income tax rate and offer multinational businesses a steep tax break on overseas profits brought into the United States, officials said late on Tuesday.

With financial markets eagerly anticipating a White House tax plan, Trump will also call for a sharp cut in the top rate on pass-through businesses, including many small business partnerships and sole proprietorships, to 15 percent from 39.6 percent, an administration official said.

He will propose cutting the income tax rate paid by public corporations to 15 percent from 35 percent, and allowing multinationals to bring in overseas profits at a tax rate of 10 percent versus 35 percent now, the official said.

Trump’s proposal will not include a controversial “border-adjustment” tax on imports that was in earlier proposals floated by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives as a way to offset revenue losses resulting from tax cuts.

Trump’s tax blueprint will fall short of the kind of comprehensive tax reform that Republicans have long discussed, and serve chiefly as a guidepost for lawmakers in the House and Senate.

“We’re driving this a little bit more,” a senior White House official told a group of reporters late on Tuesday.

The plan is not expected by analysts to include any proposals for raising new revenue to offset that lost by the tax cuts, and so, if enacted, it would potentially add billions of dollars to the federal deficit.

Trump sent Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brief lawmakers on the plan to be unveiled on Wednesday afternoon, likely by Mnuchin.

Mnuchin has been leading the administration’s effort to craft a tax package that can win support in Congress, although the proposals would have a long way to go before becoming law, even with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate.

Mnuchin has said the cuts will pay for themselves by generating more economic growth but fiscal hawks, potentially some in Trump’s own Republican Party, along with Democrats, are certain to question these claims.

Trump also may cap the individual top tax rate at 33 percent, repeal the estate and alternative minimum taxes and cut taxes for the middle class, analysts said.

Whether Trump will include provisions that could attract Democratic votes, such as a proposal to fund infrastructure spending or a child-care tax credit as proposed by his daughter Ivanka, is still the subject of speculation.

CAPITOL HILL MEETING

Mnuchin and Cohn, both veterans of investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS.N), went to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Tuesday evening, where they all met with House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the chairmen of the House and Senate tax committees, Orrin Hatch and Kevin Brady, respectively.

Hatch called it a “preliminary” 30-minute meeting and participants described it as positive and productive.

As Mnuchin left the Capitol he told reporters there is “no question” the Trump administration and Republicans in the Senate and House agree on the “fundamental principles of tax reform.”

The senior White House official said Trump would like to see Congress pass tax reform by the middle of autumn.

Trump has struggled to advance his domestic agenda, including taxes. With his 100th day as president approaching on Saturday, he has yet to offer formal legislation to Congress or win passage of a major bill he favors.

Some Washington policy analysts said the White House plan could clash in some ways with a broader tax plan shaped months ago by House Republicans, and complicate the consensus-building needed for full tax reform, a political feat not accomplished since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan pulled it off.

The House Republican plan, championed by Ryan and Brady, proposed a 20 percent corporate tax rate. Many U.S. corporations, especially large multinationals, already pay well below the statutory 35 percent tax rate but have been campaigning for a formal rate cut for many years.

The Ryan-Brady plan did include “pay-fors,” including a proposed “border adjustment” tax that would favor exports and discourage imports.

When asked after Tuesday’s briefing if Republicans had ruled out including a border adjustment tax in a tax overhaul, Hatch said: “I wouldn’t say that. The House hasn’t given up on that but they’ve acknowledged it needs some work.”

Separately cutting the top tax rate for pass-through businesses, which account for most U.S. companies, could benefit Trump himself, said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, a Democratic activist group.

“In trying to slash taxes for pass-through business entities, Trump is seeking to dramatically reduce his own tax bill,” he said in a statement.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Richard Cowan and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Trott)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/SoSj5La4qAU/us-usa-tax-idUSKBN17R2KK

Asian stocks near two-year high on U.S. optimism, euro steady


HONG KONG Asian stocks extended gains for a fifth consecutive day on Wednesday, as renewed optimism about the world’s biggest economy brightened the outlook for risky assets while the euro held on to previous gains as political concerns in France ebbed.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5 percent, hovering near their highest since June 2015. Stock markets in Japan and Australia led gainers.

European markets were pointing higher in opening trades with index futures up between 0.05 and 0.1 percent.

“We are carrying on the momentum from the overnight rally in the U.S. markets and financials are in the spotlight on expectations of good earnings,” said Alex Wong, a fund manager at Ample Capital Ltd in Hong Kong, with about $130 million under management.

The outlook for Asian markets is looking favorable with the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index having broken above a technical level, suggesting more room for gains.

A strong finish to U.S. markets was the main driver for Asia. The Nasdaq Composite hit a record high on Tuesday, while the Dow and SP 500 brushed against recent peaks as strong earnings underscored the health of corporate America. [.N]

Fanning the market’s rally were reports that President Donald Trump’s tax reform proposals, due to be announced on Wednesday, would include a slashing of the corporate tax rate and lower taxes on offshore earnings stockpiled by U.S. companies overseas.

The threat of a U.S. government shutdown this weekend also receded after Trump backed away from demanding Congress include funding for his planned border wall with Mexico in a spending bill.

Financials led the Hong Kong stock market higher as fund managers bet on expectations the quality of banks’ balance sheets will likely get better on an improving economic cycle and cheaper valuations.

In Hong Kong, for example, the financial sector trades at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 8.7 times compared with traditional market darlings of technology stocks at 29 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.

In currency markets, the euro built on strong gains posted this week after business-friendly centrist Emmanuel Macron won the first round of the French vote on Sunday and opinion polls indicated less support for the eurosceptic Marine Le Pen.

While that is not expected to sway the European Central Bank into further action at Thursday’s meeting, policymakers see scope for sending a small signal in June towards reducing monetary stimulus, according to sources, another factor underpinning the single currency.

“In our view, downside risks to growth have actually decreased with the outcome of the first round of the French election…the underlying tone of the press conference should still be positive,” Holger Sandte, a strategist at Nordea markets wrote in a note.

The euro was steady at $1.09480, retaining most of Monday’s 1.3 percent gain. On Monday it posted its strongest one-day performance in 10-1/2 months, which lifted the common currency to a 5-1/2-month high.

Growing appetite for risk meant safe-haven assets fell out of favor, with U.S. 10-year Treasury yields firming to 2.34 percent from 2.23 percent on Friday.

U.S. crude futures slipped after a volatile overnight session following an industry report showing a surprise build-up in inventories. U.S. crude futures were down 0.3 percent at $49.41 a barrel.

(Additional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/5lK8gQUw698/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17S035

Wells Fargo board gets black eye in shareholder vote


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla./BOSTON Wells Fargo Co (WFC.N) shareholders showed displeasure with the scandal-hit bank’s board on Tuesday, offering scant support for a dozen directors, including Chairman Stephen Sanger, in a vote capping a contentious annual meeting.

Only three directors received more than 90 percent support from voting shareholders, a benchmark cited by Sanger as what would be the outcome of a normal vote. He received just 56 percent approval.

“Wells Fargo stockholders today have sent the entire Board a clear message of dissatisfaction,” Sanger said in a statement. “Let me assure you that the Board has heard that message, and we recognize there is still a great deal of work to do to rebuild the trust of stockholders, customers and employees.”

The meeting, which ran nearly three hours, was repeatedly interrupted by angry shareholders seeking answers about how and why thousands of bank employees were able to open 2.1 million fake accounts in customers’ names without their permission.

There was a brief recess after one shareholder made what Sanger called a “physical approach” toward a board member and was removed.

“You’re saying we’re out of order. Wells Fargo has been out of order for years!” said Bruce Marks, chief executive of Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, before being ejected.

Others were escorted out after ignoring pleas to simmer down from Sanger and Chief Executive Tim Sloan.

The directors who received weak support had faced negative recommendations from influential proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), which argued they failed in their oversight duties.

Two directors, Federico Peña and Enrique Hernandez, received even less support than Sanger, at 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively. They chair board committees related to risk, finance or corporate responsibility. All but three directors received support of 80 percent or less.

The other three received 99 percent approval, and were recent additions: Sloan, who was named CEO in October after the scandal erupted, as well as Ronald Sargent and Karen Peetz, who were newly elected to the board this year.

At most SP 500 companies, director support averages around 95 percent of votes cast, according to pay consulting firm Semler Brossy.

Six Wells Fargo directors will reach a mandatory retirement age of 72 in the coming years and are expected to leave when they do, Sanger said. He will hit that mark next year, but would not say when he planned to retire.

The bank’s guidelines require that directors offer to resign if they fail to receive a majority of votes cast. But in practice, directors who receive less than 80 percent support should consider exiting the board, said Charles Elson, a University of Delaware expert on corporate governance.

“It’s a really strong signal from shareholders, and I think they need to immediately consider refreshing that board,” he said of Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo’s board and management had said the steps taken to fix problems and punish employees responsible for abuses show there is now strong oversight, and that directors nominated deserved to be elected. But the public firestorm that hammered its shares last year and led to the resignation of then-Chairman and Chief Executive John Stumpf was not forgotten.

Sloan and Sanger reiterated those comments and apologized repeatedly to shareholders, customers and employees at the meeting on Tuesday.

“We are deeply sorry for letting you, our shareholders, down and letting down our customers, our team members and the communities that we do business in,” said Sloan. “You expect and deserve much more from us.”

Sanger tried to show patience as he was frequently interrupted, but struggled at times as speakers ignored his requests to follow the usual order of proceedings. “When I say I’m sorry … I think that speaks for all of the board,” he said at one point.

After investors had time to speak, Sloan and Sanger opened the floor to a general audience QA. Two borrowers gave emotional recountings of their ordeal with Wells Fargo’s mortgage operation, both breaking into tears. Management apologized and promised to personally look into their issues.

It was not clear how or whether the board will refashion itself in response to the vote.

Although shareholders sent a clear signal of dissatisfaction, some said it would not be wise to wipe out a nearly full slate of directors at once.

“We do want a core of directors left able to reconstitute the board,” said Anne Simpson, investment director of sustainability at Calpers, which opposed nine directors. “Simply declaring ‘off with their heads’ is not reasonable.”

(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Dan Freed; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/MvkBVxvu8EE/us-wells-fargo-accounts-meeting-idUSKBN17R0AM

World stocks rise on French vote relief, Trump tax plan talk


LONDON World stocks hit record highs on Tuesday, with investors’ relief at centrist Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round of the French presidential election supported by speculation about U.S. tax reform.

Safe-haven assets such as gold and the Japanese yen retreated as opinion polls suggested Macron would easily beat far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen in a May 7 run-off.

The yield gap between French and German short-term government bonds, a closely watched measure of political risk in the euro zone, tightened further after hitting a three-month low on Monday DE2FR2=RR.

“This (the second round) is going to be a non-event for the market,” said Commerzbank currency strategist Thu Lan Nguyen in Frankfurt.

“Markets have pretty much priced out the risk of a Le Pen victory, and rightly so, because the first round of the elections has shown that the polls in France were correct…and this increases the confidence in the polls for the second round…It’s highly likely that (Macron) is going to win.”

European shares measured by the STOXX 600 index edged up by 0.2 percent, after rising 2.1 percent on Monday. French shares .FCHI pulled back 0.1 percent, having risen 4.1 percent on Monday in their biggest daily gain since August 2012.

Euro zone bank shares .SX7E edged higher after big gains on Monday. The European Central Bank said in a quarterly survey of lenders that while banks would tighten access to credit for companies in the second quarter, lending volumes were still expected to rise.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.6 percent, hovering near its highest level since June 2015 hit earlier in the session, on its fourth straight day of gains.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 rose more than 1 percent to a three-week high. South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 also advanced 0.7 percent to its highest level since April 2015.

These gains helped push MSCI’s world stocks index, comprising shares from 46 countries .MIWO00000PUS to a fresh all-time high after chalking up its biggest rise since shortly after Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union.

The euro added to Monday’s gains against the dollar, rising 0.2 percent to $1.0884, albeit off Monday’s high of $1.0940 EUR=.

The yen, however, pulled back 0.6 percent to 110.39 per dollar. Sterling GBP=D3 rose 0.1 percent to $1.2806.

The Canadian dollar CAD= fell 0.5 percent to C$1.3561 per U.S. dollar after the United States announced new duties averaging 20 percent on Canadian softwood lumber imports.

French and German 10-year government bond yields DE10YT=RR FR10YT=RR rose and the spread between them hit its tightest since November at around 41 basis points. The two-year spread was its narrowest since late January.

TRUMP TAX TALK

With one of the year’s major risks to markets seen less acute, markets were also looking ahead to other factors, including U.S. President Donald Trump’s promise to announce on Wednesday “a big tax reform and tax reduction”.

The Wall Street Journal reported Trump wanted to cut the corporate tax rate to 15 percent. The White House budget director told Fox News on Monday Trump’s announcement would focus on principles, ideas and rates.

“I’m becoming little concerned over the President’s big announcements, especially since we haven’t seen any major legislative achievement so far and he will be marking his 100th day in the White House this Saturday,” said FXTM chief market strategist Hussein Sayed in a note.

Gold, sought as a shelter for wealth in turbulent times, fell 0.4 percent to just under $1,270 an ounce.

Copper reversed falls in Asia and headed higher, last trading 0.7 percent higher at $5,695 a tonne CMCU3.

Oil prices steadied after six straight days of losses. Brent crude, the international benchmark LCOc1, was just 4 cents down on the day at $51.59 a barrel.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets

(Additional reporting by Nichola Saminather in SINGAPORE, Jemima Kelly, Jamie McGeever, Marc Jones and John Geddie in London)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/MweI8w9kONo/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17R03Y

Trump’s push to fund wall may be delayed as government shutdown looms


WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump indicated an openness on Monday to delaying his push to secure funds for his promised border wall with Mexico, potentially eliminating a sticking point as lawmakers worked to avoid a looming shutdown of the federal government.

Trump, in a private meeting with conservative media outlets, said he may wait until Republicans begin drafting the budget blueprint for the fiscal year that starts on Oct. 1 to seek government funds for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the White House confirmed.

Trump, whose approval ratings have slid since he took office, is facing a Friday deadline for Congress to pass a spending bill funding the government through September or risk marking his 100th day in office on Saturday with a government shutdown.

“Now the bipartisan and bicameral negotiators can continue working on the outstanding issues,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement on Monday night.

Earlier on Monday, Schumer reiterated an assertion made last week that bipartisan negotiations in Congress were going well until the White House began demanding money for the wall as a condition for accepting a funding bill.

Although Republicans control both chambers of Congress, a funding bill will need 60 votes to clear the 100-member Senate, where Republicans hold 52 seats, meaning at least some Democrats will have to get behind it.

If no spending measure covering April 29 to Sept. 30 is in place before 12:01 a.m. (0401 GMT) on Saturday, government funds will halt and hundreds of thousands of the country’s several million federal employees will be temporarily laid off.

Those in jobs deemed essential such as law enforcement are expected to keep working in the hope they will receive back pay. Non-essential sectors such as national parks are liable to be closed and programs such as federally funded medical research will grind to a halt.

Failure to approve a government funding bill could also throw new doubts over Republicans’ ability to fashion a budget blueprint for the next fiscal year or to succeed in a major effort to cut corporate and individual taxes that Trump has touted.

STICKING POINTS

Congressional leaders will likely have to decide by late on Tuesday whether negotiations are progressing enough to try to pass a spending bill funding the government through September, Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the Republican leadership and Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Monday.

If negotiations have slowed or stalled, Congress could pursue a short-term extension of existing spending levels to avoid a government shutdown, giving lawmakers more time to reach a deal. Leading Democrats have said they would support such a measure only if talks are progressing.

Short-term funding measures, known as continuing resolutions that cover periods of days, have been used to avert government shutdowns in the past. But in 2013, conservative Republicans forced a 17-day shutdown in a failed attempt to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

A Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare imploded in Congress last month and the White House said on Monday that another vote could not come for weeks.

But Trump has dangled the prospect of funding some elements of the law, which enabled millions more Americans to secure healthcare coverage, in exchange for Democrats’ support in the spending talks.

The White House had offered to include $7 billion in Obamacare subsidies that allow low-income people to pay for healthcare insurance in exchange for Democratic backing of $1.5 billion in funding to begin construction of a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border.

It was unclear on Monday whether delaying wall funding until later spending negotiations would invalidate the White House pledge to include Obamacare subsidy funding for low-income people in the current proposal funding the government through September.

Trump has argued that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is needed to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into the United States. In a Twitter message on Monday, Trump wrote: “If… the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!”

Earlier on Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump’s demand that Congress include funds for the construction of the wall remained a White House priority.

“The president has made very clear that he’s got two priorities in this continuing resolution: No. 1, the increase in funding for the military and No. 2, for our homeland security and the wall,” Spicer told reporters.

The White House is confident in the direction of the talks and an announcement is expected soon, Spicer said, although he declined to say specifically whether Trump would sign a bill that did not contain money for border security and the wall.

Trump has said Mexico will repay the United States for the wall if Congress funds it first. But the Mexican government is adamant it will not provide any financing and Trump has not laid out a plan to compel Mexico to pay. Department of Homeland Security internal estimates have placed the total cost of a border barrier at about $21.6 billion.

Aside from inflaming relations with a major trading partner, the planned wall has angered Democrats. They showed no sign of softening their opposition on Monday and sought to place responsibility for any shutdown squarely on Trump and congressional Republicans.

(Additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, Julia Edwards Ainsley, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Paul Simao and Amanda Becker; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/SGMnpCYzDt0/us-usa-budget-idUSKBN17Q0VG

Not an inside job: How two analysts became SEC whistleblowers


WASHINGTON Four years ago, two analysts who liked to swap notes on numbers they thought looked odd took a fateful step and tipped off U.S. regulators about a company that one of them had watched for months.

Orthofix International NV (OFIX.O) caught one of the analysts’ attention in 2012. The Texas-based medical device maker kept hitting ambitious earnings targets and many analysts had “buy” recommendations for the stock.

But the analyst thought something was off. Its earnings reports showed it was taking longer than usual for the company to get paid by wholesale customers, invoices were piling up and executives struggled to offer a convincing explanation, saying logistical problems at foreign offices were partly to blame.

He spent months tracking quarterly reports and earning calls, and using algorithms to compare Orthofix’s ratios and patterns of sales and inventory turnover with financial data of its peers stored in databases such as Compustat.

“I am always on the lookout for something unusual, either just unusually good and under appreciated, or unusually bad,” the analyst told Reuters. “This one showed up as a company that looked like it had the potential to be unusually bad.”

In the spring of 2013, he e-mailed his spreadsheets to a fellow analyst and a friend of more than a decade, with whom he regularly chatted about companies and sectors.

“The way we work together is one person makes a suggestion and the other person challenges it,” that friend told Reuters.

“It is like a war game.”

Now both men stand to win as much as $2.5 million after Orthofix reached a $8.25 million settlement in January with the Securities and Exchange Commission and several former executives collectively paid $120,000 in penalties to resolve accounting fraud charges.

The award might even be bigger, if the SEC also credits the analysts’ tip for leading to a second civil settlement concerning foreign corrupt practices charges.

The pair declined to be publicly identified, citing concerns that it might jeopardize their current professional relations.

Referring to its January settlement with the SEC, Orthofix spokeswoman Denise Landry said the company had self-reported to the regulator and fully cooperated with the government during the investigation.

“We are pleased these matters are behind us,” she said, declining to comment further.

By entering the SEC whistleblower program the duo showed how outsiders with analytical skills and tools and time to spare can accomplish what is typically done by those with inside access to confidential information.

The program, established in 2011 under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, aimed to bolster the SEC’s enforcement program by encouraging insiders to report potential fraud.

However, since its inception through Sept. 30, 2016, just over a third of the more than $111 million awarded to whistleblowers went to outsiders such as analysts or short-sellers, according to the SEC.

“Sometimes outsiders have a particular expertise and they are able to independently piece things together that might not be as obvious to those close to the matter,” said Jane Norberg, the head of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.

“CHANNEL STUFFING”

In Orthofix’s case, what the two analysts pieced together suggested that Orthofix was goosing its earnings by “channel stuffing.”

If not disclosed to investors, the practice of flooding distributors with more products than they can use or pay for is illegal. It lets the company smooth earnings by prematurely recognizing revenue, and pushing shortfalls into the future.

As the SEC settlement later showed, Orthofix was sending various implants from its spine division to distributors in Brazil that either lacked regulatory approval, or lacked medical instruments needed to use the implants. It then was recording products that could not be resold as revenue, and also treating some of the price discounts as expenses instead of a revenue reduction, the SEC said.

(Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2pYNwgY)

Even without such details, the analysts felt they had enough to try the SEC’s program.

Their suspicions turned into near-certainty when in May 2013, Orthofix missed its first quarter earnings targets, reporting a 14 percent year-over-year drop in net sales that sent its share price tumbling 15 percent.

“That was when the light bulb really goes off,” the analyst who first started watching the company said.

By then the two had already contacted Jordan Thomas, an attorney at the law firm Labaton Sucharow, which specializes in class action litigation and also takes on a limited number of whistleblower cases.

The law firm gets paid for its services from a portion of the award, but it does not publicly disclose its share.

A TIP AND A FOLLOW-UP

In June 2013, Thomas submitted a tip to the SEC on his clients’ behalf, promising to follow up with a more detailed submission, records show. To bolster their case the analysts kept picking through the Orthofix’s financial statements, while Labaton’s investigators, led by a former FBI agent, hit the phones and scouted industry message boards looking for former Orthofix employees.

One former employee they found revealed in an interview that in order for them to “make their numbers,” the company sent large orders to distributors, only to have them returned and then reshipped to other customers, according to the updated submission Labaton send to the SEC in August.

The update included the analysts’ estimates by how much Orthofix would need to lower their earnings and sales for 2011 and 2012. Those numbers later turned out to be right in line with what the company ultimately restated in 2014 and 2015.

The SEC still does not know the identities of the two analysts, but it will find out in May, when Thomas submits a claim on their behalf asking the SEC to consider giving them an award for their tip.

The analysts, who live in different cities, said that the day the SEC charged Orthofix, they were just too far apart to get together and celebrate, but that an award would justify the trip.

“If and when the actual award settlement is disclosed, then we can meet up for champagne,” one said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Z2dhSo1ImaM/us-sec-fraud-whistleblowers-idUSKBN17R0C8

The First 100 Days to Securing America

President Donald Trump is nearing his 100th day in office. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump doesn’t spend much time on the golf course. He’s busy issuing executive orders and appointing strong conservatives. He’s busy bombing Islamist terrorists and safeguarding our borders.

Some of the president’s critics didn’t think he’d make it through the first 100 days. They imagined they could drive him away using the violent tactics that work so well to shut down debate on college campuses.

Others on the Left figured the courts would do their dirty work. Activist judges would issue a few rulings blocking his plans and he’d give up.

The Clinton crowd hoped their GOP counterparts, those more interested in making nice than fighting for the people, would kill Trump’s plans. Torpedo a bill or two and force the president to go “bipartisan.”

But President Trump proved that he’s made of sterner stuff. He’s made it clear he will not retreat from the principles that got him elected.

Keeping His Promises

His high-profile accomplishments are obvious enough. He nominated one of the best legal minds in years to the Supreme Court. Justice Neil Gorsuch is now deciding cases along with his colleagues.

Illegal immigrants are being sent home. Despite staunch opposition, he’s pressing forward to stop terrorists from entering our country. He appointed market-oriented deregulators to handle health care and environmental policy. Energy production again is a national priority, highlighted by approval of the Keystone Pipeline.

President Trump presented a plan to rebuild national defense while cutting nonessential spending. The Left is horrified at having to defend the herds of sacred cows that graze throughout Washington.

For the first time in eight years we have as the nation’s top legal official someone who respects the Constitution and the rule of law, thanks to President Trump.

On foreign policy, the president increased efforts to defeat ISIS and contain Iran. He challenged China over its support for North Korea. He reaffirmed America’s support for its Asian and European allies. And he brought home an American couple illegally imprisoned in Egypt for the last three years.

Yet some of his most important accomplishments have received far less attention.

AG Sessions: The Rule of Law Returns

Consider his appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. For the first time in eight years we have as the nation’s top legal official someone who respects the Constitution and the rule of law.

AG Sessions believes that the people’s elected representatives should make laws. Not unelected officials. And he’s determined to infuse this philosophy throughout other departments of government. In contrast, the Left believes legal and judicial interpretation can to make up for bad legislative decisions.

As noted earlier, the first Supreme Court nomination was a home run. Gorsuch is principled, qualified, and prepared. There likely will be more to come, as well as scores of appointments to the lower federal courts, which decide most cases.

Within the Justice Department the AG is appointing people similarly committed to enforcing the law. He isn’t appointing those who electively uphold or ignore rules depending upon what they say or who they affect. AG Sessions supports existing immigration law. People in America illegally should be deported. “Sanctuary cities” shouldn’t be able to thwart law enforcement while collecting federal cash. He’s prepared to cut off funding to those jurisdictions which now let criminals go free because they are here illegally.

The attorney general also believes that federal drug laws must be enforced. States are free to change their statutes. But that does not relieve the national authorities of their responsibility to uphold the law.

Under AG Sessions the Justice Department is ending frivolous and burdensome lawsuits, such as over who can use which bathroom. Some issues don’t belong in court. They should be decided by people of good will with concern for the interests of everyone, not just a chosen few.

Electoral Integrity

Even more important, AG Sessions is committed to ensuring the integrity of America’s electoral system. In this he clearly reflects the president’s interest. Although we can’t say for sure how many votes were cast illegally in 2016, we need to strive to have no illegal votes cast in the future.

Democracy requires protecting the honesty of the vote. And preventing those who are not eligible from voting. Illegal ballots negate the political voice of citizens.

The administration has elevated the safety and integrity of our electoral system to include a commission headed by Vice President Mike Pence. Across the nation voter rolls bulge with the names of people who have moved away, the dead, noncitizens and felons. Each ineligible name provides an opportunity for a fraudulent vote to be cast.

The previous Justice Department blocked states from safeguarding their ballot boxes. Its actions exposed an agenda to encourage illegal voting. The Democrats obviously know who their friends are.

A few months ago, the usual pundits said a Trump presidency was impossible. But voters had a different idea. Now we have a president who is leading from the front and delivering strong, practical, and conservative government that serves all of us.

 

Ken Blackwell serves on the Policy Board of the American Civil Rights Union and is a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council. He served as a Domestic Policy Adviser to the Trump Transition Team.

Article source: https://stream.org/first-100-days-securing-america/

South Korea, Allies Brace for North Korea Follow-up Act

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea marks the founding anniversary of its military on Tuesday, and South Korea and its allies are bracing for the possibility that it could conduct another nuclear test or launch an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.

North Korea often marks significant dates by displaying its military capability. It so far has carried out five nuclear tests.

Such a move could test the developing North Korea policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has reportedly settled on a strategy that emphasizes increased pressure on North Korea with the help of China, the North’s only major ally, instead of military options or trying to overthrow North Korea’s government.

Trump spoke by phone with both the Japanese and Chinese leaders Monday. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV quoted President Xi Jinping as telling Trump that China strongly opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and hopes “all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump agreed to urge North Korea to refrain from what Abe called provocative actions. “The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is an extremely serious security threat to not only the international community but also our country,” the Japanese leader told reporters in Tokyo afterward.

Recent U.S. commercial satellite images indicate increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, and third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un has said the country’s preparation for an ICBM launch is in its “final stage.”

South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said North Korea appears ready to conduct such “strategic provocations” at any time. South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, the country’s acting leader in place of ousted President Park Geun-hye, who has been arrested over corruption allegations, has instructed his military to strengthen its “immediate response posture” in case North Korea does something significant on Tuesday’s anniversary.

There is also a possibility that North Korea, facing potential changes in regional dynamics as Washington presses Beijing to pressure North Korea more aggressively, opts to mark the anniversary with a missile launch of lesser magnitude. North Korea separately fired what U.S. officials said were a Scud-type missile and a midrange missile earlier this month, but the launches were analyzed as failures.

While the U.S. has dispatched what Trump called an “armada” of ships to the region, including an aircraft carrier, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the administration doesn’t intend to militarily respond to a North Korean nuclear or missile test. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Monday that South Korean naval ships will conduct a training exercise with the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson.

In a statement released late Friday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused Trump of driving the region into an “extremely dangerous phase” with the dispatch of the aircraft carrier and said the North was ready to stand up against any threat posed by the United States.

With typical rhetorical flourish, the ministry said North Korea “will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the U.S. imperialists.”

Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a U.S. citizen on Saturday, bringing the number of Americans being held there to three. The reasons for the detention of Tony Kim, who taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, weren’t immediately clear.

Under Kim’s leadership, North Korea has been aggressively pursuing a decades-long goal of putting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Last year, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests, which would have improved its knowledge in making nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles. It also launched a long-range rocket last year that delivered a satellite into orbit, which Washington, Seoul and others saw as a banned test of missile technology.

On April 15, North Korea offered a look at its advancing nuclear weapon and missile programs in a massive military parade in Pyongyang honoring late state founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current ruler.

The displayed military hardware included prototype ICBMs and new midrange solid-fuel missiles that can be fired from land mobile launchers and submarines, making them harder to detect before launch.

The parade also featured previously unseen large rocket canisters and transporter erector launcher trucks, or TELs. This indicated that North Korea is developing technologies to “cold-launch” ICBMs, ejecting them from the launch tubes before they ignite in midair, which would prevent its limited number of ICBM-capable launcher trucks from being damaged and also allow the missiles to be fired from silos.

Analysts say North Korea is also likely developing solid-fuel ICBMs, and that some of the canisters might have contained prototypes.

North Korea had earlier shown signs it was working on a new ICBM.

In March, North Korean state media reported that the country successfully conducted a ground test of a new high-thrust rocket engine, which it said was a breakthrough for its space program and efforts to create “Korean-style strategic weapons.” Kim was quoted as saying “the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.”

While North Korea almost certainly needs more time to create a solid-fuel ICBM, test launches for its existing liquid-fuel ICBMs, including KN-08s and KN-14s, could come much sooner.

Experts say these missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States, although North Korea has yet to flight test them.

Article source: https://stream.org/south-korea-allies-brace-north-korea-follow-act/

French election relief sends Europe soaring


LONDON European shares opened sharply higher and the euro briefly vaulted to five-month peaks on Monday after the market’s favored candidate won the first round of the French election, reducing the risk of another Brexit-like shock.

The victory for pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron, who is now expected to beat right-wing rival Marine Le Pen in a deciding vote next month, sent the pan-European STOXX 50 index .STOXX50E up 3 percent, France’s CAC40 .FCHI almost 4 percent and bank stocks .SX7E more than 6 percent. [.EU]

Traders top-sliced some of the euro’s overnight gains, but it was still up more than 1 percent on the dollar EUR=EBS, more than 2 percent against the yen EURJPY= and 1.3 percent on the pound EURGBP= as the early flurry of deals subsided. [FRX/]

“It (the first round result) has come out in line with the market’s expectations so you have something of a risk rally as there was a bit of a risk-premium built into all markets,” said James Binny, head of currency at State Street Global Advisors.

There was also an unwinding of safe-haven trades.

Shorter-term German bonds DE2YT=TWEB saw their biggest sell-off since the end of 2015 as investors piled back into French FR10YT=TWEB as well as Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek debt [GVD/EUR].

The Japanese yen’s fall was widespread JPY=EBS, the market’s so-called fear-guage, the VIX volatility index .VIX, plunged the most since November and gold XAU= saw its biggest tumble in more than a month. [GOL/]

E-mini futures for Wall Street’s SP 500 ESc1 climbed 0.9 percent in early trade, while yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR rose almost 8 basis points to 2.31 percent.

RISK RALLY

Asia also saw a risk rally. Japan’s Nikkei .N225 jumped 1.5 percent as the yen retreated, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged up 0.3 percent.

Shanghai shares .SSEC fell 1.7 percent after state media signaled Beijing would tolerate more market volatility as regulators clamp down on riskier financing.

But Macron’s success set the tone.

The euro jumped in relief, and was last up 1.1 percent at $1.0840 EUR=, having been as far as $1.0940, the highest since early November.

The safe-haven yen slipped across the board with the euro surging as much 2.4 percent to 119.77 yen EURJPY= while the U.S. dollar gained 1 percent to 110.20 yen JPY=.

“The rise of the euro and risk appetite rebounding is understandable and this should also see yields in Europe fall, spreads to Bunds tighten and stocks rally,” said Tim Riddell, an analyst at Westpac.

“However, such gains are likely to be contained when markets reflect upon the marked shift away from the ‘establishment’ and just how effective the new president may be,” he added.

SKEPTICAL ON TAX

Wall Street on Friday had only a modest lift from news President Donald Trump would announce the broad outline of his proposed tax package on Wednesday.

“Markets are skeptical that the real details will be forthcoming,” said analysts at ANZ in a note.

“There is also plenty of conjecture about whether any tax cuts will be able to be revenue neutral, and that could affect their ease of passage through Congress.”

The Dow .DJI ended Friday down a minor 0.15 percent, while the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.30 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC fell 0.11 percent.

Investors were also keeping a wary eye on tensions in the Korean peninsula.

North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, in the latest sign of rising tension as Trump called the leaders of China and Japan to discuss the situation.

South Korea responded by asking Washington about holding joint drills with the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group as it approaches waters off the Korean peninsula.

Oil prices recouped just a little of last week’s hefty losses, still weighed by signs U.S. production and inventory growth were offsetting OPEC’s attempts to reduce the global crude glut.

Brent futures LCOc1 were up 16 cents at $52.12 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures CLc1 added 17 cents to $49.79.

(Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/pzXLmmGHjOI/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17P10G

Tesla’s big Model 3 bet rides on risky assembly line strategy


Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk took many risks with the technology in his company’s cars on the way to surpassing Ford Motor Co’s market value. Now Musk is pushing boundaries in the factory that makes them.

Most automakers test a new model’s production line by building vehicles with relatively cheap, prototype tools designed to be scrapped once they deliver doors that fit, body panels with the right shape and dashboards that don’t have gaps or seams.

Tesla, however, is skipping that preliminary step and ordering permanent, more expensive equipment as it races to launch its Model 3 sedan by a self-imposed volume production deadline of September, Musk told investors last month.

Musk’s decision underscores his high-risk tolerance and willingness to forego long-held industry norms that has helped Tesla upend the traditional auto industry. While Tesla is not the first automaker to try to accelerate production on the factory floor, no other rival is putting this much faith in the production strategy succeeding.

Musk expects the Model 3 rollout to help Tesla deliver five times its current annual sales volume, a key target in the automaker’s efforts to stop burning cash.

“He’s pushing the envelope to see how much time and cost he can take out of the process,” said Ron Harbour, a manufacturing consultant at Oliver Wyman.

Investors are already counting on Tesla’s factory floor success, with shares soaring 39 percent since January as it makes the leap from niche producer to mass producer in far less time than rivals.

There are caution signs, however. The production equipment designed to produce millions of cars is expensive to fix or replace if it doesn’t work, industry experts say. Tesla has encountered quality problems on its existing low-volume cars, and the Model 3 is designed to sell in numbers as high as 500,000 vehicles a year, raising the potential cost of recalls or warranty repairs.

“It’s an experiment, certainly,” said Consumer Reports’ Jake Fisher, who has done extensive testing of Tesla’s previous Models S and X. Tesla could possibly fix errors quicker, speeding up the process, “or it could be they have unsuspected problems they’ll have a hard time dealing with.”

Musk discussed the decision to skip what he referred to as “beta” production testing during a call last month with an invited group of investors. Details were published on Reddit by an investor on the call. (here).

He also said that “advanced analytical techniques” – code word for computer simulations – would help Tesla in advancing straight to production tooling.

Tesla declined to confirm details of the call or comment on its production strategy.

The auto industry’s incumbents have not been standing still. Volkswagen AG’s Audi division launched production of a new plant in Mexico using computer simulations of production tools – and indeed the entire assembly line and factory – that Audi said it believed to be an industry first. That process allowed the plant to launch production 30 percent faster than usual, Audi said.

An Audi executive involved in the Mexican plant launch, Peter Hochholdinger, is now Tesla’s vice president of production.

MAKING TOOLS FASTER

Typically, automakers test their design with limited production using lower grade equipment that can be modified slightly to address problems. When most of the kinks are worked out, they order the final equipment.

Tesla’s decision to move directly to the final tools is in part because lower grade, disposable equipment known as “soft tooling” ended up complicating the debut of the problem-plagued Model X SUV in 2015, according to a person familiar with the decision and Tesla’s assembly line planning.

Working on a tight deadline, Tesla had no time to incorporate lessons learned from soft tooling before having to order the permanent production tooling, making the former’s value negligible, the source said.

“Soft tooling did very little for the program and arguably hurt things,” said the person.

In addition, Tesla has learned to better modify final production tools, and its 2015 purchase of a Michigan tooling company means it can make major equipment 30 percent faster than before, and more cheaply as well, the source said.

Financial pressure is partly driving Tesla’s haste. The quicker Tesla can deliver the Model 3 with its estimated $35,000 base price to the 373,000 customers who have put down a $1000 deposit, the closer it can log $13 billion.

Tesla has labored under financial pressure since it was founded in 2003. The company has yet to turn an annual profit, and earlier this year Musk said the company was “close to the edge” as it look toward capital spending of $2-2.5 billion in the first half of 2017.

Tesla has since gotten more breathing room by raising $1.2 billion in fresh capital in March and selling a five per cent stake to Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) .

Musk has spoken to investors about his vision of an “alien dreadnought” factory that uses artificial intelligence and robots to build cars at speeds faster than human assembly workers could manage.

But there are limits to what technology can do in the heavily regulated car business. For example, Tesla will still have to use real cars in crash tests required by the U.S. government, because federal rules do not allow simulated crash results to substitute for data from a real car.

(Editing by Peter Henderson and Edward Tobin)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/ZzJJu8qR9KM/us-tesla-assemblyline-idUSKBN17Q0DE

U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief expects basic NAFTA deal by mid-2018


MEXICO CITY The United States, Mexico and Canada are likely to reach a basic accord over reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by the middle of next year, the head of the biggest U.S. business lobby group said on Sunday.

The future of the deal binding the three nations has been in doubt since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency in November pledging to ditch it if he could not rework terms in favor of the United States, clouding the outlook for Mexico in particular.

However, Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that he believed business leaders and policymakers were increasingly aware of the need to get a new deal and move on without disrupting business.

“We’re not going to be fooling around with this deal in 2018,” he said in an interview with Reuters on a visit to Mexico City where he will meet policymakers and make the case for free trade.

Trump contends that Mexico’s growth as a manufacturing power since NAFTA took effect in 1994 has cost jobs in the United States. However, defenders of the deal say it has benefited all three nations and helped American firms compete globally.

The U.S. government has yet to send a letter telling Congress that it intends to launch NAFTA negotiations in 90 days – the notification period required under the fast-track process – so the potential start of talks is now drifting into August.

Donohue said that step should follow in the next few weeks, adding neither Trump nor U.S. firms had an interest in dragging out the NAFTA talks because of the economic damage it would do.

“(Trump) is looking at how to get things done,” he added. “And I can tell you that he wants to speed this thing up.”

When asked if he thought a basic agreement on a reworked NAFTA would likely be in place by July 2018, Donohue said:

“Yes. That’s my opinion. That’s my view. The bottom line is we need to move forward on this deal. It is critical to our economic and geopolitical well-being. Period.”

Mexico, which sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States, will hold its next presidential election in July next year. President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government is hoping to wrap up the NAFTA talks before it takes place.

During his own campaign, Trump threatened to slap hefty tariffs on Mexican-made goods, including a 35 percent tax on cars, and he caused dismay in Mexico with a pledge to build a southern border wall to keep out illegal immigrants.

Since taking office, Trump’s tone has softened, though he again railed against NAFTA over the past week and returned to the issue of the wall, saying Mexico would pay for it “eventually.”

Nevertheless, Donohue said understanding was growing over the need for a deal that would accelerate, not reduce trade, and argued the prospect of punitive tariffs was receding.

“In fact, we haven’t heard of that in a long time,” he said. “Because if a country were to put a 35 percent tariff on products moving into their country, the guys you’re trading with are going to do it the next morning.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/eBrP6WIxYgs/us-usa-mexico-nafta-idUSKBN17Q0DV

IMF members set aside trade split as French vote rattles nerves


WASHINGTON International Monetary Fund members on Saturday dropped a pledge to fight protectionism amid a split over trade policy and turned their attention to another looming threat to global economic integration: the first round of France’s presidential election.

Concerns that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both critics of the European Union, could top the field in Sunday’s vote added to nervousness over U.S. trade policy at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

“There was a clear recognition in the room that we have probably moved from high financial and economic risks to more geopolitical risks,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told a news conference.

Lagarde, a former French finance minister who has warned that a Le Pen presidency could lead to political and economic upheaval, added that a policy shift from “growth momentum to more sharing and inclusive growth” was now needed.

A communique from the IMF’s steering committee on Saturday dropped an anti-protectionism pledge, adopting language from the Group of 20 nations that the Trump administration sought last month in Germany as it develops a strategy to slash U.S. trade deficits.

Earlier in the week, the IMF had warned that protectionist policies that restrict trade could choke off improving global growth.

Instead, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) statement pledged that members would “work together” to reduce global trade and current account imbalances “through appropriate policies.”

Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens, the IMFC chairman, said most countries have some trade restrictions and that protectionism was an “ambiguous” term.

“Instead of dwelling on what that concept means, we managed to put it in a more positive, more constructive framework,” Carstens told a news conference.

Some officials chose to focus on the brightening global economy instead of the risks posed by the French election, new U.S. trade barriers and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, said James Boughton, a former IMF official.

“There’s an awful lot of forced optimism about what these people are saying,” said Boughton, who is now with the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian think-tank. “Until the train goes off the tracks, everything looks fine.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called for the IMF to step up its surveillance of members’ foreign exchange rates.

President Donald Trump “believes in reciprocal trade deals and reciprocal free trade,” Mnuchin told Lagarde in an on-stage interview. “What that means is that if our markets are open there should be a reciprocal nature to other markets which should be open as well.”

CONTINGENCY PLANS

The French election presents free trade advocates with a third potential blow in less than a year after Britain’s EU referendum and Trump’s election on a platform to restrict imports and protect U.S. jobs.

Trump has voiced support for Le Pen, the National Front candidate who has promised a referendum on France’s membership in the EU.

Investors fear that a potential run-off between Le Pen and Mélenchon, who has vowed to end the independence of the European Central Bank, would roil financial markets and drive out capital.

ECB policymaker Ewald Nowotny said on Saturday that the central bank was ready to provide emergency cash to French banks if necessary.

“If there should be problems for specific French banks liquidity-wise, then the ECB has the … ELA, Emergency Liquidity Assistance, but we don’t expect, of course, any special movements,” Nowotny, who heads Austria’s central bank, told reporters at the IMF.

(Reporting by David Lawder, Leika Kihara and Francesco Canepa; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/OpIMlApGwdY/us-imf-g-idUSKBN17O0OD

Trump’s ‘big announcement’ on tax to be broad principles: official


WASHINGTON President Donald Trump’s promised “big announcement” next week on overhauling the U.S. tax code, a top campaign pledge, will consist of “broad principles and priorities,” an administration official said on Saturday.

The president unexpectedly said on Friday at a Treasury Department event that there would be “a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform.”

In a Twitter message on Saturday, he wrote: “Big TAX REFORM AND TAX REDUCTION will be announced next Wednesday.”

Asked for details, the administration official, who asked not to be identified, said, “We will outline our broad principles and priorities” on Wednesday.

Trump has struggled as president to advance his domestic policy agenda, including on taxes, even though his Republican Party controls both chambers of Congress. With his 100th day in office only a week away, he has yet to offer any formal legislation or win passage of a major bill he favors.

Most recent presidents had legislative wins under their belts by this time in their administrations.

Under U.S. law, only Congress can make significant tax law changes, though the president often drives the tax agenda by offering legislation. The administration official said, “We are moving forward on comprehensive tax reform that cuts tax rates for individuals, simplifies our overly complicated system and creates jobs by making American businesses competitive.”

As a candidate, Trump raised high expectations in financial markets and the business community for changes in the complex, loophole-riddled tax system. In his “Contract with the American Voter,” he vowed to work with Congress on tax legislation “within the first 100 days of my administration.” The action plan promised large tax cuts for the middle class and businesses, a reduction of tax brackets to three from seven, simplified tax forms and an offshore profits repatriation tax holiday.

Since then, no legislation or formal tax plan has been presented by Trump. He has at times expressed support for a plan drawn up by House of Representatives Republicans, but his views are unclear on a section that deals with taxing imports.

In February, Trump promised a “phenomenal” tax plan within a few weeks, without offering details. No plan followed.

Last month when an attempt supported by Trump to repeal the healthcare law known as Obamacare collapsed in Congress, Trump said he would refocus on taxes.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday he expected Congress to approve a tax plan this year.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Andrea Ricci)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/pKboVjqAnj8/us-usa-tax-trump-idUSKBN17O0KY

Trump tax plan may produce some short-term budget issues: Mnuchin


WASHINGTON U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Saturday that the Trump administration’s tax reform plan would produce some “short term issues” when viewed under traditional “static” budget analysis rules.

His comments during an interview by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde suggested that the plan would not be revenue-neutral and would increase deficits in the short term.

Mnuchin said that the tax plan would pay for itself when viewed through a “dynamic scoring” analysis, which accounts for the increased tax revenues that would be produced by higher growth prompted by the tax changes.

“We’re looking for reforms that will pay for themselves with growth,” Mnuchin said. “Under dynamic scoring, this will pay for itself, under static scoring, there’ll be short term issues.”

Mnuchin also said the tax plan would be aimed at helping the middle class to “get more money in their pockets” and would be much simpler.

“The tax code is way, way, way too complicated. We want to create a system where the average American can file a tax code on a big postcard,” Mnuchin said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Diane Craft)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/VguQuVfOWfg/us-imf-g20-usa-treasury-idUSKBN17O0OJ

March for Science a Dud

I am pleased to report the asinine March “for” “Science” has been a dud.

Organizers lit the fuse of what they thought was going to be an enormous stick of dynamite. Wait until you hear the boom, honey! But what they got was tiny pop from a damp ladyfinger.

Pop. No exclamation mark.

The Independent quoted some guy called Peter Lipke, who said, “I’m a science professor.” This prepped the reader, signalling some solid science was on its way. Lipke continued, “The current administration has shown complete disregard for facts and the truth.”

Now, scientifically, this is a dumb statement, because, of course, it is false. It’s not only false, it’s petulant fantasy. President Trump has only been in office a short while, and it’s not like he’s taken to television and said, “My fellow Americans. E equals M C-squared is inefficient. I propose to Make America Great Again with C-cubed.”

Everybody had exactly the same thoughts on everything. It’s science!

The most the perpetually “outraged” have on him is that his administration removed the global warming propaganda from the White House website. Big deal. Yet it was that “momentous” event that triggered the easily triggered into staging the March.

The insufferable and ever-smug Vox began its “explanation” of the March with a picture of a kid, maybe eight or so, holding the sign, “Climate change is real”.

As (ahem) I explained before, there isn’t anybody outside the walls of any medical institution that doesn’t believe that. So this poor young man could just as well held up a sign which read, “Ice is colder than steam.”

I bet he would have received a special award for that.

That’s a real problem. The tasks and decisions ahead of us are far too important to be left to scientists.

In the same Vox picture, a plain-looking woman is holding the sign, “Your global warming can’t melt this Snowflake.”

She’s right, you know. Given global-warming-of-doom has failed to materialize as predicted (over and over and over again), very few snowflakes are being melted.

Vox never disappoints. They checked the “fatuous” box by quoting a sociologist who “studies protest movements”, and she said — are you ready for more science? — “Protest is also an opportunity to create what we call ‘collective identity.’”

Who knew? I mean, who knew scientists were so smart?

That’s a real problem. The tasks and decisions ahead of us are far too important to be left to scientists. A scientist will tell you on Tuesday that, “David Hume teaches us that ought cannot be derived from is“, meaning the moral and ethical consequences of any decision do not follow from any fact, such as what the temperature outside is.

But then on Thursday, this selfsame scientist will screech in your ear “Climate change is real!” as if it is obvious what moral and ethical decisions we must make because of that fact.

Whether the scientist is right about Hume, her statement proves the real problem we’re facing is not one of science, but of philosophy (and religion). Science is tiddlywinks next to the metaphysical dilemmas gripping the West. But never mind. That subject is too much for us today.

Time magazine kindly supplied a video of high-pitched, ear-grating woo-wooing protesters (I still say the DOD was wrong to reject my proposal to weaponize the progressive female protester voice). One guy held the sign, “Climate change cannot be undone by tweeting.” But it can be by holding up an idiotic sign?

A white lady, with what looked like tape across her mouth (it could have been a pacifier), held up the science sign, “White supremacists have melanin envy.” Dude, loosen the tape and have something to eat. Your synapses are running low on glucose.

In one of the satellite marches in Los Angeles, a good handful of people showed up, one carrying the sign, “Make wind, not warming.” Flatulence jokes in a science march? Where’s the respect?

In London, another sign: “Wake Up World! *Can’t eat money *Can’t drink oil. SCIENCE for a sustainable society.” This is true and scientific. But you can use money to buy oil and use it to farm lots and lots of food. And there is nothing more sustainable than well-fed people.

Australia. “I create knowledge. What’s your superpower”. Sarcasm.

Slate has a page devoted to March signs. They do not disappoint. One read, “Knowing Stuff is good. Seriously why do I even have to march for this geez”. Should I tell him or will you?

One (perhaps prescient) lady tweeted “#TheFutureisFemale” and showed the sign “Women and the Earth have to tolerate a lot.” I wept in pity when I read that bit of science.

The Chicago Tribune tweeted the headline, “‘There is no Planet B!’ cried a 6-year-old girl during March for Science Chicago”. I cried too (the March has made me especially lachrymose), because this poor 6-year-old girl is wrong. Not only is there a planet B, but there is a C, D, … Why, there are nearly 4,000 other planets we know about!

Pagans were out in force. One lady held the sign, “I [heart] Biomimicry, Mother [earth] knows best.” In a freak coincidence, right next to her was another lady with the sign, “Mother knows best. Listen to her. #Biomimicry.”

These were the truest signs of the day. Nothing but mimicry as far as the eye could see. Everybody had exactly the same thoughts on everything. It’s science!

Update

Nye angry. Nye no like people not love science. Arrugah!

Will somebody get this man a cookie?

Article source: https://stream.org/march-science-dud/

Military Photo of the Day: Night Fighter Congratulated



By Shannon Henderson

Published on April 23, 2017

Yontan Airfield, Okinawa, April 23, 1945: Marine First Lieutenant Herbert Groff, a night fighter pilot in Marine Aircraft Group 31, receives congratulations from CBS war correspondent Tim Leimert for shooting down a Jap twin-engine bomber while on midnight combat patrol from Yontan Airfield on Okinawa. The picture was made in front of the Okinawa Press Club which is operated by public relations personnel of Marine Aircraft Group 31 commanded by Colonel John C. Mull, of Prescott, Ark.






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Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-day-april-23-2017/

United CEO Munoz will not chair board in 2018 following passenger furor


NEW YORK United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N) said on Friday Chief Executive Oscar Munoz will not become chairman in 2018, under an amendment to his employment agreement approved after an uproar over the treatment of a passenger.

In a reversal of his earlier employment agreement, Munoz has opted to leave “future determinations related to the Chairman position to the discretion of the Board,” United said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The company also said it would revise its 2017 executive compensation to more directly tie incentives to improvements in customer satisfaction. In 2016, Munoz made $18.72 million.

“United’s management and the Board take recent events extremely seriously, and are in the process of developing targeted compensation program design adjustments to ensure that employees’ incentive opportunities for 2017 are directly and meaningfully tied to progress in improving the customer experience,” the filing said.

Earlier this month, a United passenger, Dr. David Dao, was dragged from his seat off a parked plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport bound for Louisville, Kentucky, to make room for crew members.

The scene was captured on video by fellow passengers and showed Dao bloodied and disheveled in the incident.

Dao’s attorney said his 69-year-old client had incurred a significant concussion, broken his nose and lost two front teeth in the altercation with airport security, and said Dao would likely sue the airline.

Munoz, a former railroad executive who took over United in 2015, had already been pressured by activist investors to improve the airline’s performance, including in customer relations. In April 2016, United agreed with a group of investors to install airline industry veteran Robert Milton as non-executive chairman.

In initial statements following the incident, Munoz and United did not apologize to Dao for the way he had been treated, instead describing him as “disruptive and belligerent.”

Before being hauled from the flight, Dao, who emigrated from Vietnam in the 1970s, repeatedly accused the airline of discriminating against him for being ethnic Chinese, according to fellow passenger Tyler Bridges who was traveling back home from Japan.

The incident, and the company’s response, sparked global outrage. Social media users across the United States, Vietnam and China called for a boycott of the carrier.

United said on Friday it had asked a U.S. Senate panel for an extra week to answer detailed questions about the incident. Munoz wrote that he was “personally committed to putting proof behind our promise” in United’s commitment to reforms.

Committee leaders said in a joint statement that getting answers about what happened and how to prevent a recurrence was a “priority” and any further delay was “unacceptable.”

(Reporting by Alana Wise; Additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/1LtkeNU2pr4/us-ual-passenger-idUSKBN17N2H4

Two big California pension systems oppose nine Wells Fargo directors


BOSTON Officials of two large California public retirement systems said Friday they are voting against nine of 15 Wells Fargo Co directors up for election at the bank’s annual meeting next week, citing the bank’s phony-account scandal.

Leaders of the largest U.S. state pension system, known as CalPERS, said in an email it is voting about 13.9 million shares against the bank nominees, including its chairman, Stephen Sanger, ahead of the bank’s April 25 meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Wells Fargo is based in San Francisco.

“We believe these directors failed in their oversight responsibilities during the retail banking controversy at the company,” CalPERS said in a statement posted on its website.

In addition, CalPERS said some Wells Fargo (WFC.N) director nominees have tenures of 12 years or more, “which we believe could compromise director independence.”

Separately, in a statement sent by a spokesman, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or CalSTRS, said on Friday it voted its 11.6 million Wells Fargo shares against the same group of nine directors.

According to the statement, “These board members bear responsibility for the failure of oversight of sales practices at Wells Fargo.”

The comments underscore the challenge facing the country’s third-largest bank, which has struggled to move past revelations that thousands of employees created as many as 2 million accounts in customers’ names without permission in order to hit lofty sales targets.

Wells Fargo’s board and management have said steps already taken to fix problems and punish employees responsible for sales abuses show there is now strong oversight and that directors nominated deserve to be elected.

While the board has gained support from its largest investor, Berkshire Hathaway Inc, it also faces a recommendation to vote against 12 directors by leading proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services.

CalPERS is the 52nd largest shareholder of Wells Fargo and CalSTRS is the 62nd largest, according to Thomson Reuters data. While they do not command much voting clout, their public comments often can set the tone since larger mutual fund companies rarely make public their votes ahead of corporate annual meetings.

Among its other votes, CalPERS said it is voting “against” the ratification of bank auditor KPMG. Calpers said it has “concerns over a potential lapse of internal controls during the extended period of abusive sales tactics at the company.”

CalPERS also said the company should explore auditor rotation to ensure a fresh perspective.

CalSTRS said that with six directors scheduled to retire in the next four years, “Wells Fargo should expedite the board refreshment process and reach out to their shareholder base for feedback during this process. The board would also benefit from adding directors with greater banking and financial institution experience.”

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Bill Trott)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/mgtWKcIz7_8/us-wellsfargo-accounts-calpers-idUSKBN17N2MQ

Wall Street gears up for busiest earnings week in years


NEW YORK Forget about French elections or the flagging Trump trade.

Corporate America is set to unleash its biggest profit-reporting fest in at least a decade next week, with more than 190 members of the SP 500 index .SPX delivering quarterly scorecards, according to SP Dow Jones Indices data.

The lineup accounts for around 40 percent of the benchmark index’s value, or more than $7.7 trillion, and includes big names like Google’s parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N).

The onslaught could keep U.S. stock investors’ focus largely on earnings next week even as the world’s attention is likely to be drawn elsewhere.

“That would be our hope,” said Joe Zidle, portfolio strategist at Richard Bernstein Advisors in New York.

“A lot of people looked at this market and said it was the result of the Trump bump or the Hillary relief rally,” while earnings have been rebounding, he said. “The faster earnings growth is underappreciated by investors.”

Many strategists have attributed the 10 percent rally in the SP 500 .INX since Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election to optimism Trump would boost the domestic economy through tax cuts and an infrastructure spending binge.

The gains drove market valuations recently to their highest since 2004, even with little progress in Washington on the fiscal policy front. Meanwhile, other anxiety-provoking events have grabbed headlines, including unsettling relations with North Korea and this weekend’s election in France, which has a bearing on the country’s membership in the European Union and its currency, the euro.

Upbeat earnings from Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and other banks so far this reporting period cushioned those geopolitical worries, helping push the SP 500 .SPX up 0.9 percent this week, its best such performance in two months. Shares of smaller companies did even better, with SP’s benchmark indexes for small .SPCY and mid-cap .IDX stocks notching their best weeks of 2017, with gains of between 2 percent and 3 percent.

Expectations for the quarter’s profit growth have risen as well, and the first three months of the year now appear set to mark the strongest quarterly earnings growth in more than five years. In the last week alone, expected SP 500 first-quarter earnings per share growth rose to 11.2 percent from 10.4 percent, a more than 7 percent jump, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“This week definitely has proven that the Street likes earnings – it’s controllable, it’s U.S.,” said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at SP Dow Jones Indices.

The reason for the slew of reports next week is anyone’s guess, Silverblatt said, although recent holidays possibly played a role. Passover, Good Friday and Easter all fell in the previous weeks, which may have prompted some companies that typically report earlier to delay a week.

Just 76 companies reported this week compared with 134 in the comparable week a year ago, Silverblatt said.

Next week’s rush will represent a 15 percent increase from the 166 SP constituents that reported in the comparable week last year.

Thursday will be the busiest day with nearly 70 reports due, including updates after the closing bell from Alphabet, Amazon, Intel Corp (INTC.O), Microsoft and Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O).

That could make for a bang in the market on Friday, Silverblatt said, which is also the final trading day of April.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Dan Burns and Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/2eGFJzWGYZM/us-usa-results-idUSKBN17N2HM

High-stakes vote on Wells Fargo board also tests proxy adviser ISS


BOSTON A high-stakes shareholder vote at Wells Fargo Co (WFC.N) next week will determine whether the bank has done enough to retain investor confidence after its phony-account scandal, and whether a leading proxy adviser wields enough clout to help oust most of its board.

In one of its toughest shareholder notes, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended earlier this month that investors vote against 12 of the 15 directors on Wells Fargo’s ballot at the company’s annual meeting on April 25, including independent chairman Stephen Sanger. ISS argued they had all failed in their oversight duties.

The recommendation was another blow to the country’s third-largest bank, which has been struggling for months to move past revelations that thousands of employees created as many as 2 million accounts in customers’ names without permission to hit lofty sales targets. ISS’s recommendation followed one by Glass Lewis, its closest competitor, which recommended votes against six directors for similar reasons. The ball is now in the shareholders’ court. A sampling of investors who spoke to Reuters were split on how to vote.

It would be extremely unusual for most directors at a company the size of Wells Fargo to turn over suddenly, without pressure from an activist investor, but ISS’s scathing review was also rare.

According to Proxy Insight, among the 2,780 meetings held by SP 500 companies since 2012, ISS has recommended votes against 80 percent or more of directors in just seven cases besides Wells Fargo. Each involved a special circumstance, like only a few directors being up for re-election.

ISS’s Wells Fargo recommendation was “among the harshest that I can recall,” said Bruce Goldfarb, president of proxy solicitation firm Okapi Partners.

An ISS spokesman declined to comment. Wells Fargo representatives cited an April 7 statement calling the ISS recommendation “extreme and unprecedented.”

ISS is the largest proxy adviser, with about 1,700 clients versus Glass Lewis’s 1,200, and has faced concerns it wields undue influence over corporate elections. On average, directors who ISS recommends “against” receive 17 percent to 18 percent less support, according to consulting firm Semler Brossy.

Activists have criticized big fund managers for blindly following ISS. Institutional investors have built up large corporate governance departments in recent years and say they make their own judgments.

But breaking with ISS and supporting the whole Wells Fargo board could be difficult for fund firms, said Michael Goldstein, a Babson College finance professor.

“This may be one of those cases where you don’t want to have to answer a lot of questions about why did you support these people,” Goldstein said.

DONE ENOUGH?

If shareholders do vote against some of Wells Fargo’s directors, it does not mean they will immediately leave. The bank’s guidelines require directors offer to resign if they fail to receive a majority of votes cast, but leaves the board wiggle room in deciding whether to accept a resignation.

In other cases with fewer directors at risk, shareholder sentiment mattered. Some of JPMorgan Chase Co’s (JPM.N) directors resigned in 2013 when they won only narrow majorities after the “London Whale” trading scandal.

Directors who fail to win majorities are in an even weaker position buy may not leave right away. For instance, two Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N) directors received less than 30 percent support at its annual meeting in mid-2012 and offered to resign. The board accepted the resignation of one director two weeks later and did not accept the resignation of the other until the following March.

Wells Fargo’s board and management have said the steps taken to fix problems and punish employees responsible for sales abuses show there is now strong oversight, and that directors nominated deserve to be elected. In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, Wells Fargo Chief Executive Tim Sloan said ousting most of the board would be “crazy.”

The San Francisco-based bank paid $190 million in a September regulatory settlement for the unauthorized accounts, igniting a public firestorm that hammered its shares and led to the resignation of then-Chairman and CEO John Stumpf.

Since then, Sloan replaced Stumpf, and Sanger became the independent chairman. The board took steps like eliminating sales goals, revamping its compensation structure and withholding or clawing back tens of millions of dollars of bonuses.

Shareholders interviewed in recent days voiced a range of views about whether Wells Fargo’s board needs an overhaul. Top investor Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) has already voted in favor of the board. Other big shareholders, including State Street Corp (STT.N) and Vanguard Group declined to comment or did not respond to questions.

Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who oversees funds that own Wells Fargo shares, said they will vote against directors flagged by ISS.

“Directors are meant to be agents for the shareholders, and watchdogs for the investors,” he said. “Clearly that level of oversight was lacking at Wells Fargo.”

Others were supportive. Gideon Bernstein, partner at wealth management firm Leisure Capital, said he plans to back the board. He was impressed with the bank’s April 10 report describing what went wrong, and actions taken in response.

“The board has done a really good job drilling down,” he said.

Thomas Russo, managing member at Gardner, Russo Gardner, said he has not yet decided how to vote. He wants to see a smaller board with more banking experience.

“There’s an elevated sense of urgency in a smaller board and a board that has more specific knowledge,” he said.

Executives at American Century Investments also have not yet decided. Senior investment analyst Adam Krenn said the bank’s oversight and initial response was lacking. But portfolio manager Michael Liss praised the eventual response.

“Even though they were late in reacting, they certainly came down strong,” he said.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/00kqauMjaF8/us-wells-fargo-accounts-proxies-idUSKBN17N0DV

Trump targets cheap Chinese steel in probe, rallying U.S. steel stocks


WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Thursday launched a trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the U.S. market, raising the possibility of new tariffs and sending shares of some U.S. steel makers up over 8 percent.

Citing concerns about national security, Trump made the announcement at a White House ceremony with U.S. steel executives from Nucor Corp (NUE.N), United States Steel Corp (X.N) and TimkenSteel Corp (TMST.N) alongside Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire businessman who made part of his fortune investing in the steel business.

“Steel is critical to both our economy and our military,” said Trump, a Republican. “This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on foreign countries.”

Trump won many votes in industrial states like Michigan and Pennsylvania with a pledge to boost manufacturing and crack down on Chinese trade practices.

China is the largest national producer and makes far more steel than it consumes, selling the excess output overseas, often undercutting domestic producers.

The unusual step of launching an investigation comes as Trump is pressuring China to do more to rein in an increasingly belligerent North Korea. When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Trump in Florida earlier this month, Trump raised the possibility of using trade as a lever to coax China to do more.

“Everything they export is dumping,” said Derek Scissors, Asia economist at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

Ross cast the decision to initiate the probe as a response to Chinese exports of steel into the United States reaching the point where they now account for 26 percent of the U.S. market.

Chinese exports have risen “despite repeated Chinese claims that they were going to reduce their steel capacity,” said Ross, whom The Economist, a business magazine that champions free trade, in 2004 labeled “Mr. Protectionism” for his history of owning businesses protected from foreign competition.

Ross said that if the Commerce inquiry finds the U.S. steel industry is suffering from too much steel imports, he will recommend retaliatory steps that could include tariffs.

Diverging from the Obama administration’s approach to the issue, which relied largely on filing complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Trump ordered a probe under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which lets the president impose restrictions on imports for reasons of national security.

In October 2001, a Commerce Department investigation found “no probative evidence” that imports of iron ore and semi-finished steel threaten to impair U.S. national security.

Steel shares had rallied after Trump won the November election amid promises for increased infrastructure spending. On Thursday shares of Steel Dynamics Inc (STLD.O), AK Steel Holding Corp (AKS.N), Cliffs Natural Resources Inc (CLF.N), Allegheny Technologies Inc (ATI.N) and other steel makers closed between 4 percent and 8.5 percent higher.

PROFITS CITED

The United States has nearly 100 plants that make millions of tons of steel annually. The U.S. government has attempted to shield them from cheap foreign steel chiefly through the WTO, but the Trump administration said this has had little impact.

“The artificially low prices caused by excess capacity and unfairly traded imports suppress profits in the American steel industry,” the administration said in a statement.

Nucor Chairman John Ferriola said in a statement that the steelmaker welcomed the president’s move. “We look forward to continuing to work with the president and Secretary Ross to ensure our trade laws are enforced so that U.S. manufacturers can compete on a level-playing field,” he said.

Experts were skeptical about the administration’s argument that cheap Chinese steel threatened U.S. national security.

The Defense Department’s annual steel requirements comprise less than 0.3 percent of the industry’s output by weight.

“There is no doubt that steel plays a role in our national security and the manufacturing of U.S. weapons systems,” said Jeff Bialos, a partner at law firm Eversheds Sutherland, who has worked on steel trade cases in the past.

“But the Department of Defense only consumes a small portion of domestic steel output, and this has decreased over the past decade as composites technology has advanced,” Bialos said.

Some of the military’s largest consumers of steel are U.S. Navy shipbuilders Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N).

Scissors said the United States has other ways to take on China over steel trade issues, other than invoking national security.

“Talking about it as a national security issue – I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s justified,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington; and Luciana Lopez and Caroline Valetkevitch in New York; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Nick Zieminski)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yj-CclPMIOs/us-usa-trump-steel-idUSKBN17M237

Asian stocks rise as steelmakers dismiss U.S. probe, euro fretful before French vote


SINGAPORE Asian stocks were set to end the week on a positive note, unscathed by a U.S. trade probe on Chinese steel exports, while the euro remained on edge ahead of Sunday’s first round in a tight French presidential election after a shooting overnight in Paris that was claimed by Islamic State.

European stocks were headed for a more muted start, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE to open flat and Germany’s DAX .GDAXI to start the day up 0.1 percent. France’s CAC 40 .FCHI is also expected to be steady at the open, retaining most of Thursday’s 1.5 percent gain, its biggest in more than seven weeks.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS added 0.5 percent on Friday, taking its cue from Wall Street’s solid performance overnight on expectations of strong first-quarter earnings growth. It is still poised for a 0.4 percent weekly loss.

Asian steelmakers were mostly steady or higher, as investors dismissed for now any negative impact from the launch of a U.S. trade probe against Chinese steel exporters, although Chinese companies shed some of their earlier gains. The move sent their U.S. counterparts surging over 8 percent overnight.

China’s Angang Steel (000898.SZ) added 0.4 percent, while Baoshan Iron and Steel Co. (600019.SS), Beijing Shougang (000959.SZ) and Hesteel Co. (000709.SZ) inched down between 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent.

The region’s other major steel producers posted strong gains, with Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal Corp. (5401.T) jumping 1 percent, and South Korea’s Posco (005490.KS) surging 2.5 percent, its biggest daily gain in more than three weeks.

“The U.S. accounts for a small proportion of China’s steel exports,” said Yang Kunhe, steel analyst at Northeast Securities in Beijing, adding Northeast Asia and Africa have been growing markets for Chinese steel over the past few years.  

“But if Trump’s probe translates into actions, it would increase the chance of trade friction, and hurt market sentiment.” 

Only 0.8 percent of Chinese steel exports go to the U.S., according to a U.S. Commerce Department report from December.

Markets also mostly shrugged off White House comments that the U.S. may consider tit-for-tat tariffs on imports, and concerns raised by the International Monetary Fund that U.S. tax cuts could fuel financial risk-taking and increase public debt.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 advanced 0.8 percent, on track for a weekly gain of 1.4 percent.

Chinese shares in Shanghai .SSEC added 0.1 percent, set for a 2.2 percent weekly drop, their worst since mid-December. Hong Kong stocks .HSI were little changed, heading for a 0.8 percent loss for the week.

The first round of the French presidential election on Sunday kept the euro EUR=EBS on edge though it traded largely flat on Friday, holding at $1.0717.

The common currency had hit a three-week high of $1.0778 on Thursday, but fell back after a policeman was shot dead in Paris and two others in an attack that was claimed by Islamic State.

Analysts feared the latest outrage could sway French voters in what is expected to be a tight election, by working against more moderate, centrist candidates.

The euro had made the earlier high thanks to opinion polls that showed French centrist Emmanuel Macron would easily beat far-right, anti-European Union candidate Marine Le Pen in the second round on May 7.

“Let’s hope (Macron) doesn’t get squeezed out, particularly in light of last night’s terrorist attack in Paris, which given the tightness of the polls, could influence events,” Michael Hewson, chief market anaylst at CMC Markets in London, wrote in a note.

French 10-year Treasury yields FR10YT=RR slumped to a near-three-month low of 0.856 percent on Thursday, while safe-haven German bund yields DE10YT=RR jumped to 0.244 percent, their highest close in nearly two weeks.

Markets are awaiting several economic indicators from Europe later in the session, including Eurozone manufacturing and services data for April and British retail sales for March. U.S. manufacturing and services data for April and existing home sales for March were due to be released later in the global day.

Wall Street indexes closed between 0.75 percent and 0.9 percent higher on rising expectations for first-quarter corporate profits. SP 500 stock index company earnings now are expected to have gained 11.1 percent in the first quarter.

The dollar was 0.1 percent lower at 109.19 yen JPY=. It is up 0.6 percent for the week.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was little changed at 99.806, on track to lose 0.75 percent this week.

In commodities, oil drifted on Friday following Thursday’s choppy session as the tussle continued between worries over rising U.S. production and optimism over comments from leading Gulf oil producers that an extension to OPEC-led supply cuts was likely.

U.S. oil CLc1 was up 0.1 percent at $50.74 a barrel, set for a weekly loss of 4.6 percent, the most since the week ended March 10.

Global benchmark Brent LCOc1 was steady at $53.00, heading for a 5.2 percent weekly loss, also its worst performance since March 10.

Gold XAU= slipped 0.1 percent to $1,279.87 an ounce, poised for a weekly loss of 0.4 percent.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by John Ruwitch, Samuel Shen and Sadiq Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/EbAusD5um_s/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17N03H

Death Penalty Opponents are Being Dishonest in Their Arguments

The debate over the death penalty can be infuriatingly dishonest.

Consider the April 17 broadcast of Fox News Channel’s Special Report with Bret Baier (a show on which I am an occasional commentator).

Casey Stegall reported on the legal battle in Arkansas, where officials want to execute eight death row inmates in 11 days before their supply of midazolam expires. This is one of the drugs used to carry out lethal injections.

Stegall did his legwork. He talked to Susan Khani, the daughter of the woman murdered, execution-style, by Don Davis in 1990. She told Stegall the last quarter century has been agony for her, adding, “He is just a very cruel person. He needs to be put to death.”

The Arguments of the Opponents of the Death Penalty

Stegall then talked to the usual death penalty opponents. First was Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, who said, “There is a myth that family members of murder victims will get closure out of executions. In fact, for many of the family members, that does not happen.”

So let’s start there. To say that something is a “myth” is to suggest that it is untrue. The Loch Ness Monster is a myth. Bigfoot is a myth. But on Dunham’s own terms, some family members do get closure. He didn’t say, “No family members of murder victims get closure.” He said “many,” a subjective term that could mean pretty much any number short of “most.”

Stegall then talked to Stacy Anderson of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is concerned that we might execute the wrong person. “We know that 156 innocent people have been found on death row in the last 20 years,” she said.

Added Stegall: “The ACLU says cost is another driving force of the decline. Litigating death penalty cases is expensive since the condemned often spend years filing appeals and lawsuits.”

This is also true. But you know what group is arguably most responsible for raising the cost of the death penalty? The American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU is well within its rights to clog the courts with lawsuits. But there’s something remarkably cynical about barraging the courts with often frivolous complaints that raise the costs of the death penalty, then pretending that your objection is the cost.

Indeed, Arkansas is racing to use its drugs before they expire because death penalty opponents have worked tirelessly to make such drugs extremely difficult to obtain.

The same cynicism applies to concerns about innocent people being wrongly executed. I’m in favor of the death penalty. You know what? I’m also passionately opposed to executing the wrong person.

But Don Davis eventually admitted to murdering Jane Daniels in cold blood after breaking into her home, so objections that some other death row inmate might be innocent have no bearing on his case.

Ironically, immediately after Stegall’s report, anchor Bret Baier announced: “A massive manhunt is underway at this hour for a suspect who police say engaged in a heinous public crime that can truly be called a sign of the times.”

The Facebook Killer

The suspect was Steve Stephens, the so-called “Facebook Killer,” who video-recorded himself admitting that he was about to murder someone randomly. He then got out of his car, walked up to 74-year-old Robert Godwin, a father of 10 and grandfather of 14, and casually executed him. Stephens then posted the video on Facebook.

Stephens killed himself two days later. But say he hadn’t. Obviously, he would have gotten a trial. Let’s suppose he was found guilty and got the death penalty. We would still be subjected to all of the sleight-of-hand rhetoric about the risk of executing innocent people, the costs, etc., even though there would be zero doubt in this instance.

We’d probably also hear that the death penalty is “racist” — Stevens was black — despite the fact that Stevens’ victim was black as well. Meanwhile, Don Davis is white.

It is entirely legitimate and honorable to oppose the death penalty on principle. The problem is that this is a constitutionally ridiculous position given that the plain text of the Constitution itself allows for the death penalty in several places.

Acolytes of the “living Constitution” want to believe that nothing bad (as defined by them) can be constitutional. I don’t think the death penalty is bad, but if you want to get rid of it, amend the Constitution. Otherwise, opponents should stop pretending their real objection is something else.

 

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO.

(C) 2017 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC

Article source: https://stream.org/death-penalty-opponents-dishonest-arguments/

Military Photo of the Day: Blue Angels Fly Over Disney World



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 21, 2017

U.S. Navy Blue Angels fighter jets fly over Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World on April 6, 2017, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Wow. Have a magical weekend, everyone!






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Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-21-2017/

Exclusive: Buffett likely voted shares to back Wells Fargo board


NEW YORK Wells Fargo Co’s (WFC.N) largest investor, Warren Buffett, has likely already voted his shares to support the bank’s recommendations at its contentious annual shareholder meeting next week, a representative told Reuters on Wednesday, which include reinstating most of the board’s directors.

The prominent billionaire’s conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), owns nearly 10 percent of Wells Fargo and Buffett personally owns shares as well. Many investors follow Buffett’s lead because of his decades-long track record of profitable investments.

Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, has for months been embroiled in a scandal that involves thousands of former employees creating as many as 2 million accounts in customers’ names without their permission.

The matter has already subsumed former Chief Executive John Stumpf, who resigned in October. Now the board, whose members include new CEO Tim Sloan, is facing opposition in the shareholder vote next week after proxy advisers recommended rejecting many of them.

Buffett’s assistant, Debbie Bosanek, told Reuters that Buffett supports management and the board, and that he has likely voted shares held by him and Berkshire to reflect that view. Berkshire held nearly 10 percent of Wells Fargo’s outstanding shares as of year-end, but has decided to sell some to avoid breaching the 10 percent threshold that would require special regulatory permission.

Wells Fargo Chief Executive Tim Sloan recently told The Wall Street Journal that Buffett would support the board, but Buffett had not confirmed Sloan’s statement until now.

(This story corrects Reuters Instrument Code to tag story to Wells Fargo Co instead of Wayfair Inc)

(Reporting by Dan Freed; Writing by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qRJUgyyUeV0/us-wells-fargo-accounts-buffett-idUSKBN17M0BS

General Motors says Venezuela illegally seizes auto plant


CARACAS General Motors (GM.N) said on Wednesday that Venezuelan authorities had illegally seized its plant in the industrial hub of Valencia and vowed to “take all legal actions” to defend its rights.

The seizure comes amid a deepening economic crisis in leftist-led Venezuela that has already roiled many U.S. companies.

“Yesterday, GMV’s (General Motors Venezolana) plant was unexpectedly taken by the public authorities, preventing normal operations. In addition, other assets of the company, such as vehicles, have been illegally taken from its facilities,” the company said in a statement.

It said the seizure would cause irreparable damage to the company, its 2,678 workers, its 79 dealers and to its suppliers.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for information.

Venezuela’s car industry has been in freefall, hit by a lack of raw materials stemming from complex currency controls and stagnant local production, and many plants are barely producing at all.

In early 2015, Ford Motor Co (F.N) wrote off its investment in Venezuela when it took an $800 million pre-tax writedown.

The country’s economic crisis has hurt many other U.S. companies, including food makers and pharmaceutical firms. A growing number are taking their Venezuelan operations out off their consolidated accounts.

Venezuela’s government has taken over factories in the past. In 2014 the government announced the “temporary” takeover of two plants belonging to U.S. cleaning products maker Clorox Co which had left the country.

Venezuela faces around 20 arbitration cases over nationalizations under late leader Hugo Chavez.

(Reporting by Joe White and Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/liAMegaaYv8/us-gm-venezuela-idUSKBN17M08I

Asian stocks recoup losses in cautious trade; oil supports


HONG KONG Asian stocks erased early losses and edged higher on Thursday as steadying commodity prices, especially crude oil, prompted some bargain hunting by investors.

But markets cautiously stuck to well-worn trading ranges ahead of global risk events such as the first-round of French presidential elections at the weekend and continued tensions over North Korea.

Stock index futures in Europe were set to follow the broadly cautious undertone, with markets set to open flat to slightly lower. FFIc1 FDXc1

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.3 percent after declining 0.5 percent in early trades. Gains in Chinese and Japanese stocks pulled the broader market higher.

“Given the binary risk of the French presidential elections and geopolitical concerns over North Korea, investors are staying on the sidelines,” said Fan Cheuk Wan, head of investment strategy and advisory, Asia, HSBC Private Banking.

“We are looking at the opportunities in Asia, particularly. ..equities in China and India where corporate earnings are expected to be strong this year.”

Centrist Emmanuel Macron clung on to his status as favorite to win France’s presidential election in a four-way race that is too close to call, as the camp of far-right challenger Marine Le Pen ramped up its euroskeptic rhetoric in a row with Brussels.

Japanese stocks .N225 rose 0.2 percent, buoyed by data showing exports rose a stronger-than-expected 12.0 percent in March from a year earlier and a Reuters survey that showed confidence among Japanese manufacturers has risen to levels not seen since before the 2008 global financial crisis.

“Even though a technical rebound in the Tokyo market lifts stocks, the basic trend to avoid risks hasn’t changed,” said Hiroyuki Nakai, chief strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. “There is still so much uncertainty from global events.” Caution remained the overarching theme as cash levels among investors remained above the 10-year average in a monthly poll conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Weak results from index heavyweight IBM (IBM.N) pulled the SP 500 and Dow lower with falls in energy sector stocks .SPNY also weighing on the broader market. [.N]

Bonds also came in for some profit-taking after a recent rally, with yields on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR firming to 2.21 percent from a five-month low of 2.165 percent hit on Tuesday.

A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and worries that the Trump administration will struggle to push through tax cuts have quelled expectations of faster inflation.

The dollar failed to capitalize on higher U.S. yields with the greenback hugging the 200-day moving average of around 108.85 against the Japanese yen JPY= as traders preferred to trade on market technicals rather than take fresh bets.

Oil languished near a two-week low after a surprising build in U.S. gasoline inventories and a rise in domestic crude output partially offseting cutbacks by other countries trying to reduce a global glut. [O/R]

U.S. crude futures CLc1 climbed 0.22 percent to $50.55 a barrel, after posting a near 4 percent drop overnight, the biggest one-day decline since March 8.

Gold XAU= was trading at $1279.20 per ounce, below Monday’s peak of $1,295.42.

(Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Eric Meijer and Kim Coghill)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/BCAbFIMHc3I/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17M02M

Trump ‘absolutely not’ trying to talk down dollar: Mnuchin


LONDON U.S. President Donald Trump is “absolutely not” trying to talk down the strength of the U.S. dollar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s edition of the Financial Times.

Mnuchin’s remarks build on those first published in an interview with the FT late on Monday, in which he played down remarks by Trump in a Wall Street Journal interview last week when he said the dollar was “getting too strong”.


Asked if Trump’s remarks to the WSJ were an attempt to talk down the dollar, Mnuchin was quoted in Wednesday’s FT as saying “absolutely not, absolutely not”.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/iXUjxi6-MW8/us-usa-trump-mnuchin-idUSKBN17L0PF

Trump ‘absolutely not’ trying to talk down dollar: Mnuchin


LONDON U.S. President Donald Trump is “absolutely not” trying to talk down the strength of the U.S. dollar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s edition of the Financial Times.

Mnuchin’s remarks build on those first published in an interview with the FT late on Monday, in which he played down remarks by Trump in a Wall Street Journal interview last week when he said the dollar was “getting too strong”.


Asked if Trump’s remarks to the WSJ were an attempt to talk down the dollar, Mnuchin was quoted in Wednesday’s FT as saying “absolutely not, absolutely not”.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/iXUjxi6-MW8/us-usa-trump-mnuchin-idUSKBN17L0PF

Military Photo of the Day: Ready at a Moment’s Notice



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 19, 2017

Fully armed aircraft from the U.S. Air Force conduct a “no-notice” exercise on April 12, 2017, at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

Thank you to our heroes for serving our country overseas.






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Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-19-2017/

Military Photo of the Day: Ready at a Moment’s Notice



By Tom Sileo

Published on April 19, 2017

Fully armed aircraft from the U.S. Air Force conduct a “no-notice” exercise on April 12, 2017, at Kadena Air Base in Japan.

Thank you to our heroes for serving our country overseas.






Comments ()


Article source: https://stream.org/military-photo-of-the-day-april-19-2017/

Sterling gets market’s vote, stocks cold-shouldered


SYDNEY Sterling stole center stage in Asia on Wednesday amid speculation Britain’s surprise decision to call a snap election could ultimately deliver a more market-friendly outcome in its divorce from the European Union.

Safe-haven bonds also held onto most of their recent gains ahead of presidential elections in France and on escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Equities were largely sidelined with futures pointing to opening losses for German and UK bourses, while E-mini futures for the SP 500 ESc1 were all but flat.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.6 percent to the lowest since mid-March.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 managed to steady for the moment, but Shanghai .SSEC extended its recent retreat with a drop of 1 percent. The Chinese market has fallen for four straight sessions on concerns over tighter regulations. [.SS]

Sterling was just off a six-month top against the dollar having surged when British Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election for June 8, seeking to strengthen her party’s majority ahead of Brexit negotiations.

“We expect that the PM’s gamble is likely to buy her more time as well as room for maneuver in the Brexit negotiations as she will depend less on fringe groups in her own party,” said Citi’s chief global political strategist, Tina Fordham.

“That may reduce the risk of a negotiation failure and thus ‘chaotic Brexit’, but also of the UK remaining in the Single Market in the long-term or even reversing the decision to leave the EU.”

The pound was lording it at $1.2824 GBP= on Wednesday having shattered a months’ old trading range with a jump of 2.2 percent overnight. It also cleared the 200-day moving average for the first time since June, putting the squeeze on a raft of speculative short positions.

REFLATION TRADE DEFLATES

The dollar recouped just a little of its broader losses in the Asian session, rising 0.15 percent against a basket of currencies .DXY. The euro stood at $1.0718 EUR= after touching a three-week top of $1.0736.

Against the yen, the dollar was hovering at 108.65 JPY= having been as low as 108.39 earlier.

The dollar was undermined in part by an eroding interest rate advantage as U.S. bond yields dived to five-month lows. Yields on 10-year Treasury paper sank to 2.17 percent US10YT=RR, a world away from the 2.629 peak seen in March.

A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and doubts the Trump administration will progress with tax cuts have quelled expectations of faster inflation and boosted fixed-income debt.

That, in turn, has taken the steam out of Wall Street. The Dow .DJI fell 0.55 percent on Tuesday, while the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.29 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.12 percent.

Goldman Sachs (GS.N) lost 4.7 percent in the largest daily drop since June after its earnings missed expectations as trading revenue dropped.

In commodity markets, profit taking nudged gold down 0.4 percent to XAU= $1,287.10 an ounce, and away from Monday’s peak of $1,295.42.

Oil prices slipped as U.S. crude stockpiles fell by less than expected and a U.S. government report said shale oil output in May was likely to post the biggest monthly increase in more than two years.

Brent crude LCOcv1 was last down 16 cents at $54.73 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLcv1 fell 12 cents to $52.29. [O/R]

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qhT4O7tHx1M/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17L01W

Sterling gets market’s vote, stocks cold-shouldered


SYDNEY Sterling stole center stage in Asia on Wednesday amid speculation Britain’s surprise decision to call a snap election could ultimately deliver a more market-friendly outcome in its divorce from the European Union.

Safe-haven bonds also held onto most of their recent gains ahead of presidential elections in France and on escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.

Equities were largely sidelined with futures pointing to opening losses for German and UK bourses, while E-mini futures for the SP 500 ESc1 were all but flat.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.6 percent to the lowest since mid-March.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 managed to steady for the moment, but Shanghai .SSEC extended its recent retreat with a drop of 1 percent. The Chinese market has fallen for four straight sessions on concerns over tighter regulations. [.SS]

Sterling was just off a six-month top against the dollar having surged when British Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election for June 8, seeking to strengthen her party’s majority ahead of Brexit negotiations.

“We expect that the PM’s gamble is likely to buy her more time as well as room for maneuver in the Brexit negotiations as she will depend less on fringe groups in her own party,” said Citi’s chief global political strategist, Tina Fordham.

“That may reduce the risk of a negotiation failure and thus ‘chaotic Brexit’, but also of the UK remaining in the Single Market in the long-term or even reversing the decision to leave the EU.”

The pound was lording it at $1.2824 GBP= on Wednesday having shattered a months’ old trading range with a jump of 2.2 percent overnight. It also cleared the 200-day moving average for the first time since June, putting the squeeze on a raft of speculative short positions.

REFLATION TRADE DEFLATES

The dollar recouped just a little of its broader losses in the Asian session, rising 0.15 percent against a basket of currencies .DXY. The euro stood at $1.0718 EUR= after touching a three-week top of $1.0736.

Against the yen, the dollar was hovering at 108.65 JPY= having been as low as 108.39 earlier.

The dollar was undermined in part by an eroding interest rate advantage as U.S. bond yields dived to five-month lows. Yields on 10-year Treasury paper sank to 2.17 percent US10YT=RR, a world away from the 2.629 peak seen in March.

A run of disappointing U.S. economic data and doubts the Trump administration will progress with tax cuts have quelled expectations of faster inflation and boosted fixed-income debt.

That, in turn, has taken the steam out of Wall Street. The Dow .DJI fell 0.55 percent on Tuesday, while the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.29 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.12 percent.

Goldman Sachs (GS.N) lost 4.7 percent in the largest daily drop since June after its earnings missed expectations as trading revenue dropped.

In commodity markets, profit taking nudged gold down 0.4 percent to XAU= $1,287.10 an ounce, and away from Monday’s peak of $1,295.42.

Oil prices slipped as U.S. crude stockpiles fell by less than expected and a U.S. government report said shale oil output in May was likely to post the biggest monthly increase in more than two years.

Brent crude LCOcv1 was last down 16 cents at $54.73 a barrel, while U.S. crude CLcv1 fell 12 cents to $52.29. [O/R]

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qhT4O7tHx1M/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17L01W

Yahoo’s first-quarter revenue jumps 22 percent


Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) reported a 22.1 percent increase in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, ahead of the sale of its core internet business to Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N).

Yahoo said revenue from Mavens – the mobile, video, native and social advertising units that it has touted as key emerging businesses – rose 35.6 percent to $529 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

Net income attributable to Yahoo was $99.4 million, or 10 cents per share in the quarter, compared with a net loss of $99.2 million, or 10 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $1.33 billion from $1.09 billion.

Verizon in February agreed to buy Yahoo’s core business —which includes its internet search and email assets — for $4.48 billion, lowering its original offer by $350 million, in the wake of two massive cyber attacks at the internet company.

Yahoo said on Tuesday it expects the deal to close in June.

(Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/M6ylV3st2HM/us-yahoo-results-idUSKBN17K2EE

Yahoo’s first-quarter revenue jumps 22 percent


Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) reported a 22.1 percent increase in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, ahead of the sale of its core internet business to Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N).

Yahoo said revenue from Mavens – the mobile, video, native and social advertising units that it has touted as key emerging businesses – rose 35.6 percent to $529 million in the first quarter ended March 31.

Net income attributable to Yahoo was $99.4 million, or 10 cents per share in the quarter, compared with a net loss of $99.2 million, or 10 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose to $1.33 billion from $1.09 billion.

Verizon in February agreed to buy Yahoo’s core business —which includes its internet search and email assets — for $4.48 billion, lowering its original offer by $350 million, in the wake of two massive cyber attacks at the internet company.

Yahoo said on Tuesday it expects the deal to close in June.

(Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/M6ylV3st2HM/us-yahoo-results-idUSKBN17K2EE

Politics Disguised as Science: When to Doubt a Scientific ‘Consensus’

This week’s March for Science is odd. Marches are usually held to defend something that’s in peril. Does anyone really think big science is in danger? The mere fact that the March was scheduled for Earth Day betrays what the event is really about: politics. The organizers admitted as much early on, though they’re now busy trying to cover the event in sciencey camouflage.

If past is prologue, expect to hear a lot about the supposed “consensus” on catastrophic climate change this week. The purpose of this claim is to shut up skeptical non-scientists.

How should non-scientists respond when told about this consensus? We can’t all study climate science. But since politics often masquerades as science, we need a way to tell one from the other.

“Consensus,” according to Merriam-Webster, means both “general agreement” and “group solidarity in sentiment and belief.” That sums up the problem. Is this consensus based on solid evidence and sound logic, or social pressure and groupthink?

When can you doubt a consensus? Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus.

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are prone to herd instincts. Many false ideas once enjoyed consensus. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often blinds scientists to alternatives to their view. Question the paradigm, and some respond with anger.

We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there’s someone who thinks it’s all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best ignored.

So how do we distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, “between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? And how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?” Do we have to trust whatever we’re told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?

Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus. I don’t know of any complete list of signs of suspicion. But here’s a checklist to decide when you can, even should, doubt a scientific “consensus,” whatever the subject. One of these signs may be enough to give pause. If they start to pile up, then it’s wise to be leery.

(1) When different claims get bundled together

Usually, in scientific disputes, there’s more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that we are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we must transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different claims based on different evidence.

Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet and Newfoundland become a popular place to tan: That wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

There’s a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There’s even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four claims are often bundled together. So, if you doubt one, you’re labeled a climate change “skeptic” or “denier.” That’s dishonest. When well-established claims are tied with other, more controversial claims, and the entire bundle is labeled “consensus,” you have reason for doubt.

(2) When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate

Personal attacks are common in any dispute. It’s easier to insult than to the follow the thread of an argument. And just because someone makes an ad hominem argument, it doesn’t mean that their conclusion is wrong. But when the personal attacks are the first out of the gate, don your skeptic’s cap and look more closely at the data.

When it comes to climate change, ad hominems are everywhere. They’re even smuggled into the way the debate is described. The common label “denier” is one example. This label is supposed to call to mind the charge of columnist Ellen Goodman: “I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”

There’s an old legal proverb: If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have neither, attack the witness. When proponents of a scientific consensus lead with an attack on the witness, rather than on the arguments and evidence, be suspicious.

(3) When scientists are pressured to toe the party line

The famous Lysenko affair in the former Soviet Union is example of politics trumping good science. But it’s not the only way politics can override science. There’s also a conspiracy of agreement, in which assumptions and interests combine to give the appearance of objectivity where none exists. This is even more forceful than a literal conspiracy enforced by a dictator. Why? Because it looks like the agreement reflects a fair and independent weighing of the evidence.

Tenure, job promotions, government grants, media accolades, social respectability, Wikipedia entries, and vanity can do what gulags do, only more subtly. Alexis de Tocqueville warned of this almost two centuries ago. The power of the majority in American society, he wrote, could erect “formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.” He could have been writing about climate science.

Indeed, the quickest way for scientists to put their careers at risk is to raise even modest questions about climate doom (see here, here and here). Scientists are under pressure to toe the party line on climate change and receive many benefits for doing so. That’s another reason for suspicion.

(4) When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish

Though it has its limits, the peer-review process is meant to provide checks and balances. At its best, it helps weed out bad and misleading work, and make scientific research more objective. But when the same few people review and approve each other’s work, you get conflicts of interest. This weakens the case for the supposed consensus. It becomes, instead, another reason for doubt. Those who follow the climate debate have known for years about the cliquish nature of publishing and peer review in climate science (see here for example).

(5) When dissenters are excluded from the peer-reviewed journals not because of weak evidence or bad arguments but to marginalize them.

Besides mere cliquishness, the “peer review” process in climate science has, in some cases, been subverted to prevent dissenters from being published. Again, those who follow the debate have known about these problems for years. But the Climategate debacle in 2009 revealed some of the gory details for the broader public. And again, this gives the lay public a reason to doubt the consensus.

(6) When the actual peer-reviewed literature is misrepresented

We’ve been told for years that the peer-reviewed literature is unanimous in its support for human-induced climate change. In Science, Naomi Oreskes even produced a “study” of the literature supposedly showing “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”

In fact, there are plenty of dissenting papers in the literature. This is despite mounting evidence that the peer-review deck was stacked against them. The 2009 Climategate scandal underscored this: The climate scientists at the center of the controversycomplained in their emails about dissenting papers that survived the peer-review booby traps they put in place. They even fantasized about torpedoing a climate science journal that dared to publish a dissenting article.

(7) When consensus is declared before it even exists

A well-rooted scientific consensus, like a mature oak, needs time to grow. Scientists have to do research, publish articles, read about other research, and repeat experiments (where possible). They need to reveal their data and methods, have open debates, evaluate arguments, look at the trends, and so forth, before they can come to agreement. When scientists rush to declare a consensus — when they claim a consensus that has yet to form — this should give everyone pause.

In 1992, former Vice President Al Gore reassured his listeners, “Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.” In the real 1992, however, Gallup “reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.”

Seventeen years later, in 2009, Gore revised his own fake history. He claimed that the debate over human-induced climate change had raged until as late as 1999, but now there was true consensus. Of course, 2009 is when Climategate broke, reminding us that what had smelled funny was indeed rotten.

(8) When the subject matter seems, by its nature, to resist consensus

It makes sense that chemists over time may come to agree about the results of some chemical reaction, since they can repeat the results over and over in their own labs. They’re easy to test. But much of climate science is not like that. The evidence is scattered and hard to track. It’s often indirect, imbedded in history and laden with theory. You can’t rerun past climate to test it. And the headline-grabbing claims of climate scientists are based on complex computer models that don’t match reality. These models get their input, not from the data, but from the scientists who interpret the data. This isn’t the sort of evidence that can provide the basis for a well-founded consensus. In fact, if there really were a consensus on the many claims around climate science, that would be suspicious. Thus, the claim of consensus is a bit suspect as well.

(9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution

In Newsweek’s April 28, 1975, issue, science editor Peter Gwynne claimed that “scientists are almost unanimous” that global cooling was underway. Now we are told, “Scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought and diseases spreading more widely.” “Scientists say” is ambiguous. You should wonder: “Which ones?”

Other times this vague company of scientists becomes “SCIENCE.” As when we’re told “what science says is required to avoid catastrophic climate change.” “Science says” is an weasely claim. “Science,” after all, is an abstract noun. It can’t speak. Whenever you see these phrases used to imply a consensus, it should trigger your baloney detector.

(10) When it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies

Imagine hundreds of world leaders and NGOS, science groups, and UN functionaries gathered for a meeting. It’s heralded as the most important conference since World War II, in which “the future of the world is being decided.” These officials seem to agree that institutions of “global governance” need to be set up to reorder the world economy and restrict energy use. Large numbers of them applaud wildly when socialist dictators denounce capitalism. Strange activism surrounds the gathering. And we are told by our president that all of this is based, not on fiction, but on science — that is, a scientific consensus that our greenhouse gas emissions are leading to climate catastrophe.

We don’t have to imagine that scenario, of course. It happened at the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen, in December 2009. It happened again in Paris, in December 2015. Expect something at least as zany at the March for Science.

Now, none of this disproves climate doom. But it does describe a setting in which truth need not appear. And at the least, when policy effects are so profound, the evidence should be rock solid. “Extraordinary claims,” the late Carl Sagan often said, “require extraordinary evidence.” When the megaphones of consensus insist that there’s no time, that we have to move, MOVE, MOVE!, you have a right to be wary.

(11) When the “consensus” is maintained by an army of water-carrying journalists who defend it with partisan zeal, and seem intent on helping certain scientists with their messaging rather than reporting on the field as fairly as possible

Do I really need to elaborate on this point?

(12) When we keep being told that there’s a scientific consensus

A consensus should be based on solid evidence. But a consensus is not itself the evidence. And with well-established scientific theories, you never hear about consensus. No one talks about the consensus that the planets orbit the sun, that the hydrogen molecule is lighter than the oxygen molecule, that salt is sodium chloride, that bacteria sometimes cause illness, or that blood carries oxygen to our organs. The very fact that we hear so much about a consensus on climate change may be enough to justify suspicion.

To adapt that old legal rule, when you’ve got solid scientific evidence on your side, you argue the evidence. When you’ve got great arguments, you make the arguments. When you don’t have solid evidence or great arguments, you claim consensus.

Adapted from THE AMERICAN. This piece has been updated since its original publication.

 

Jay W. Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter.

Article source: https://stream.org/doubt-scientific-consensus/

Politics Disguised as Science: When to Doubt a Scientific ‘Consensus’

This week’s March for Science is odd. Marches are usually held to defend something that’s in peril. Does anyone really think big science is in danger? The mere fact that the March was scheduled for Earth Day betrays what the event is really about: politics. The organizers admitted as much early on, though they’re now busy trying to cover the event in sciencey camouflage.

If past is prologue, expect to hear a lot about the supposed “consensus” on catastrophic climate change this week. The purpose of this claim is to shut up skeptical non-scientists.

How should non-scientists respond when told about this consensus? We can’t all study climate science. But since politics often masquerades as science, we need a way to tell one from the other.

“Consensus,” according to Merriam-Webster, means both “general agreement” and “group solidarity in sentiment and belief.” That sums up the problem. Is this consensus based on solid evidence and sound logic, or social pressure and groupthink?

When can you doubt a consensus? Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus.

Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are prone to herd instincts. Many false ideas once enjoyed consensus. Indeed, the “power of the paradigm” often blinds scientists to alternatives to their view. Question the paradigm, and some respond with anger.

We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are cranks and conspiracy theorists. No matter how well founded a scientific consensus, there’s someone who thinks it’s all hokum. Sometimes these folks turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best ignored.

So how do we distinguish, as Andrew Coyne puts it, “between genuine authority and mere received wisdom? And how do we tell crankish imperviousness to evidence from legitimate skepticism?” Do we have to trust whatever we’re told is based on a scientific consensus unless we can study the science ourselves? When can you doubt a consensus? When should you doubt it?

Your best bet is to look at the process that produced, defends and transmits the supposed consensus. I don’t know of any complete list of signs of suspicion. But here’s a checklist to decide when you can, even should, doubt a scientific “consensus,” whatever the subject. One of these signs may be enough to give pause. If they start to pile up, then it’s wise to be leery.

(1) When different claims get bundled together

Usually, in scientific disputes, there’s more than one claim at issue. With global warming, there’s the claim that our planet, on average, is getting warmer. There’s also the claim that we are the main cause of it, that it’s going to be catastrophic, and that we must transform civilization to deal with it. These are all different claims based on different evidence.

Evidence for warming, for instance, isn’t evidence for the cause of that warming. All the polar bears could drown, the glaciers melt, the sea levels rise 20 feet and Newfoundland become a popular place to tan: That wouldn’t tell us a thing about what caused the warming. This is a matter of logic, not scientific evidence. The effect is not the same as the cause.

There’s a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There’s even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four claims are often bundled together. So, if you doubt one, you’re labeled a climate change “skeptic” or “denier.” That’s dishonest. When well-established claims are tied with other, more controversial claims, and the entire bundle is labeled “consensus,” you have reason for doubt.

(2) When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate

Personal attacks are common in any dispute. It’s easier to insult than to the follow the thread of an argument. And just because someone makes an ad hominem argument, it doesn’t mean that their conclusion is wrong. But when the personal attacks are the first out of the gate, don your skeptic’s cap and look more closely at the data.

When it comes to climate change, ad hominems are everywhere. They’re even smuggled into the way the debate is described. The common label “denier” is one example. This label is supposed to call to mind the charge of columnist Ellen Goodman: “I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers.”

There’s an old legal proverb: If you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have the law on your side, argue the law. If you have neither, attack the witness. When proponents of a scientific consensus lead with an attack on the witness, rather than on the arguments and evidence, be suspicious.

(3) When scientists are pressured to toe the party line

The famous Lysenko affair in the former Soviet Union is example of politics trumping good science. But it’s not the only way politics can override science. There’s also a conspiracy of agreement, in which assumptions and interests combine to give the appearance of objectivity where none exists. This is even more forceful than a literal conspiracy enforced by a dictator. Why? Because it looks like the agreement reflects a fair and independent weighing of the evidence.

Tenure, job promotions, government grants, media accolades, social respectability, Wikipedia entries, and vanity can do what gulags do, only more subtly. Alexis de Tocqueville warned of this almost two centuries ago. The power of the majority in American society, he wrote, could erect “formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.” He could have been writing about climate science.

Indeed, the quickest way for scientists to put their careers at risk is to raise even modest questions about climate doom (see here, here and here). Scientists are under pressure to toe the party line on climate change and receive many benefits for doing so. That’s another reason for suspicion.

(4) When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish

Though it has its limits, the peer-review process is meant to provide checks and balances. At its best, it helps weed out bad and misleading work, and make scientific research more objective. But when the same few people review and approve each other’s work, you get conflicts of interest. This weakens the case for the supposed consensus. It becomes, instead, another reason for doubt. Those who follow the climate debate have known for years about the cliquish nature of publishing and peer review in climate science (see here for example).

(5) When dissenters are excluded from the peer-reviewed journals not because of weak evidence or bad arguments but to marginalize them.

Besides mere cliquishness, the “peer review” process in climate science has, in some cases, been subverted to prevent dissenters from being published. Again, those who follow the debate have known about these problems for years. But the Climategate debacle in 2009 revealed some of the gory details for the broader public. And again, this gives the lay public a reason to doubt the consensus.

(6) When the actual peer-reviewed literature is misrepresented

We’ve been told for years that the peer-reviewed literature is unanimous in its support for human-induced climate change. In Science, Naomi Oreskes even produced a “study” of the literature supposedly showing “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.”

In fact, there are plenty of dissenting papers in the literature. This is despite mounting evidence that the peer-review deck was stacked against them. The 2009 Climategate scandal underscored this: The climate scientists at the center of the controversycomplained in their emails about dissenting papers that survived the peer-review booby traps they put in place. They even fantasized about torpedoing a climate science journal that dared to publish a dissenting article.

(7) When consensus is declared before it even exists

A well-rooted scientific consensus, like a mature oak, needs time to grow. Scientists have to do research, publish articles, read about other research, and repeat experiments (where possible). They need to reveal their data and methods, have open debates, evaluate arguments, look at the trends, and so forth, before they can come to agreement. When scientists rush to declare a consensus — when they claim a consensus that has yet to form — this should give everyone pause.

In 1992, former Vice President Al Gore reassured his listeners, “Only an insignificant fraction of scientists deny the global warming crisis. The time for debate is over. The science is settled.” In the real 1992, however, Gallup “reported that 53% of scientists actively involved in global climate research did not believe global warming had occurred; 30% weren’t sure; and only 17% believed global warming had begun. Even a Greenpeace poll showed 47% of climatologists didn’t think a runaway greenhouse effect was imminent; only 36% thought it possible and a mere 13% thought it probable.”

Seventeen years later, in 2009, Gore revised his own fake history. He claimed that the debate over human-induced climate change had raged until as late as 1999, but now there was true consensus. Of course, 2009 is when Climategate broke, reminding us that what had smelled funny was indeed rotten.

(8) When the subject matter seems, by its nature, to resist consensus

It makes sense that chemists over time may come to agree about the results of some chemical reaction, since they can repeat the results over and over in their own labs. They’re easy to test. But much of climate science is not like that. The evidence is scattered and hard to track. It’s often indirect, imbedded in history and laden with theory. You can’t rerun past climate to test it. And the headline-grabbing claims of climate scientists are based on complex computer models that don’t match reality. These models get their input, not from the data, but from the scientists who interpret the data. This isn’t the sort of evidence that can provide the basis for a well-founded consensus. In fact, if there really were a consensus on the many claims around climate science, that would be suspicious. Thus, the claim of consensus is a bit suspect as well.

(9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution

In Newsweek’s April 28, 1975, issue, science editor Peter Gwynne claimed that “scientists are almost unanimous” that global cooling was underway. Now we are told, “Scientists say global warming will lead to the extinction of plant and animal species, the flooding of coastal areas from rising seas, more extreme weather, more drought and diseases spreading more widely.” “Scientists say” is ambiguous. You should wonder: “Which ones?”

Other times this vague company of scientists becomes “SCIENCE.” As when we’re told “what science says is required to avoid catastrophic climate change.” “Science says” is an weasely claim. “Science,” after all, is an abstract noun. It can’t speak. Whenever you see these phrases used to imply a consensus, it should trigger your baloney detector.

(10) When it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies

Imagine hundreds of world leaders and NGOS, science groups, and UN functionaries gathered for a meeting. It’s heralded as the most important conference since World War II, in which “the future of the world is being decided.” These officials seem to agree that institutions of “global governance” need to be set up to reorder the world economy and restrict energy use. Large numbers of them applaud wildly when socialist dictators denounce capitalism. Strange activism surrounds the gathering. And we are told by our president that all of this is based, not on fiction, but on science — that is, a scientific consensus that our greenhouse gas emissions are leading to climate catastrophe.

We don’t have to imagine that scenario, of course. It happened at the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen, in December 2009. It happened again in Paris, in December 2015. Expect something at least as zany at the March for Science.

Now, none of this disproves climate doom. But it does describe a setting in which truth need not appear. And at the least, when policy effects are so profound, the evidence should be rock solid. “Extraordinary claims,” the late Carl Sagan often said, “require extraordinary evidence.” When the megaphones of consensus insist that there’s no time, that we have to move, MOVE, MOVE!, you have a right to be wary.

(11) When the “consensus” is maintained by an army of water-carrying journalists who defend it with partisan zeal, and seem intent on helping certain scientists with their messaging rather than reporting on the field as fairly as possible

Do I really need to elaborate on this point?

(12) When we keep being told that there’s a scientific consensus

A consensus should be based on solid evidence. But a consensus is not itself the evidence. And with well-established scientific theories, you never hear about consensus. No one talks about the consensus that the planets orbit the sun, that the hydrogen molecule is lighter than the oxygen molecule, that salt is sodium chloride, that bacteria sometimes cause illness, or that blood carries oxygen to our organs. The very fact that we hear so much about a consensus on climate change may be enough to justify suspicion.

To adapt that old legal rule, when you’ve got solid scientific evidence on your side, you argue the evidence. When you’ve got great arguments, you make the arguments. When you don’t have solid evidence or great arguments, you claim consensus.

Adapted from THE AMERICAN. This piece has been updated since its original publication.

 

Jay W. Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter.

Article source: https://stream.org/doubt-scientific-consensus/

Asia stocks mixed, dollar subdued amid North Korea concerns


SINGAPORE Asian stocks were mixed on Tuesday and the dollar gave up the gains it had made when the U.S. Treasury Secretary spoke in support of a stronger currency as escalating tensions around North Korea dragged sentiment lower.

Financial spreadbetters predict a mixed start for European stocks, with Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE set to open 0.2 percent lower, and Germany’s DAX .GDAXI and France’s CAC 40 .FCHI to start the day up 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS dropped 0.5 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 added 0.4 percent, shrinking earlier gains.

South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 advanced 0.2 percent.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told business leaders in Seoul that the U.S. will review and reform the five-year-old free trade agreement between the two countries, in part because South Korea imposes too many barriers on U.S. business.

The United States and South Korea pledged at the close of Pence’s visit to forge a stronger alliance. They agreed to cooperate with China to rein in North Korea, which has vowed to conduct more tests following Sunday’s failed missile launch.

Pence warned North Korea on Monday that recent American military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed President Donald Trump’s resolve should not be questioned.

Pence and South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said they would proceed with the early deployment to South Korea of the U.S. THAAD missile-defense system, in spite of China’s objections.

The Korean won KRW= weakened about 0.8 percent, with the dollar at 1,141.40 won.

“It seems the focus is now firmly on future missile tests from North Korea and whether any future tests will actually be successful,” Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note. “One suspects the concerns in North Korea have further to play out.”

Despite the tensions, Wall Street posted its first session of gains in four as investors turned their attention to first-quarter corporate earnings. All three major indexes .DJI .SPX .IXIC advanced about 0.9 percent overnight.

U.S. housing starts and building permits for March, as well as industrial production, are due later in the session.

The dollar was weighed down by worries over North Korea, Mnuchin’s comments that Trump’s promised tax reform will be delayed, and the first round of talks between Japan’s leaders and Pence on Tuesday.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, was little changed at 100.34, after rising earlier.

The dollar inched up 0.1 percent to 109.05 yen JPY=. It hit its lowest level since Nov. 15 on Monday, before closing higher on Mnuchin’s remark that a strong currency would be positive over the long term, while agreeing with Trump that it hurts exports in the short term.

Pence’s visit to Japan, the next stop on his Asia trip, is key for the currency. His talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to focus on security issues, while his meeting Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso will deal with economics.

“For dollar/yen, the main focus will be on what kind of pressure the United States could apply on Japan as basically U.S. trade policy is linked with a policy for a weaker dollar,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior forex strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

“The yen cannot simply continue weakening along with higher stocks under such conditions,” he said.

China’s CSI300 index .CSI300 was up about 0.2 percent after new home prices across China jumped 11.3 percent from a year earlier, with prices across many major cities soaring.

The Australian dollar AUD=D4 lost 0.4 percent to trade at $0.7559, and Australian shares slipped 1 percent, after minutes of the central bank’s April meeting, in which it left rates unchanged, highlighted the balancing act it faced between a subdued labor market and escalating household debt.

The euro EUR=EBS was steady at $1.06425, holding Monday’s 0.25 percent gain.

In commodities, oil prices were little changed following Monday’s losses, amid concerns over rising U.S. production.

U.S. crude CLc1 was at $52.62 a barrel, after falling 1 percent on Monday, its biggest decline in almost a month.

Global benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was at $55.38.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer and Jacqueline Wong)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/hEUo6pmK3bI/us-global-markets-idUSKBN17K02Q

Netflix shares head for new high after strong subscriber outlook


Netflix Inc made a bullish forecast for subscriber additions by mid-year, a positive sign for its push to expand around the world that sent its shares toward an all-time high.

The streaming video company pushed back the next season of its smash-hit “House of Cards,” and other programing to the second quarter, meaning it lured in fewer new subscribers in the first quarter than expected, but will likely make it up from April through June.

Subscriber rolls, the most closely watched measure of Netflix’s growth, rose by just under 5 million globally in the first quarter, behind analysts’ projection of 5.18 million, according to FactSet StreetAccount.

However, Netflix forecast 3.2 million more in the seasonally slow second quarter, well ahead of analysts’ estimate of nearly 2.4 million.

Its shares dropped as much as 3 percent in after-hours trading before rebounding to gain 1.3 percent. The late rise put Netflix stock on track to open at a record high on Tuesday.

A decade after shaking up Hollywood by delivering TV shows and movies over the internet, the company said it expects to top 100 million global subscribers this weekend.

Netflix has expanded around the world over the last few years, betting that its U.S. formula would pay off in other countries. Opening in new markets and creating shows in additional languages was an expensive proposition.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings urged investors to look at its growth over time rather than quarter-by-quarter fluctuations.

“We definitely see a big opportunity around the world,” Hastings said in an interview with analysts that was posted on YouTube.

NEW YARDSTICKS

In its quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix asked investors to judge its future success by looking primarily at revenue growth and global operating margins.

That would be a shift for Wall Street, which has focused on subscriber numbers, said Needham Co analyst Laura Martin.

“The minute you actually pivot (investors) to an income statement, you’re talking to a completely different kind of investor,” Martin said. “And that investor demands profitability. So it’s a risky business.”

The Los Gatos, California-based company said net income rose to $178 million, or 40 cents per share, compared with $28 million, or 6 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Wall Street had expected 37 cents per share.

Revenue rose 35 percent to $2.64 billion in the quarter.

The earnings beat was due to the change in timing of “House of Cards,” which helped push costs into the second quarter, boosting operating margins from January through March and reducing them in the second quarter.

For the quarter that ended March 31, Netflix added 3.53 million subscribers outside the United States. (bit.ly/2puJ1Yt) Analysts on average had estimated 3.68 million additions, according to research firm FactSet.

In the United States, the company added 1.42 million subscribers, compared with analysts’ average estimate of 1.50 million.

Up to Monday’s close, Netflix’s stock had risen nearly 19 percent in 2017, outperforming the roughly 5 percent gain in the broader SP 500 index.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza, Peter Henderson and Bill Rigby)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/N8eaaTwjiFI/us-netflix-results-idUSKBN17J1MC

U.S. business group urges Washington to ‘use every arrow’ against China


BEIJING The United States should “use every arrow” in its quiver to ensure a level commercial playing field in China, a U.S. business lobby said on Tuesday, warning that 2017 could be the toughest year in decades for American firms in the country.

China’s policies designed to support domestic companies and create national champions have narrowed the space for foreign companies, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said in its annual business climate report.

The White House has said U.S and Chinese officials are fleshing out a pledge by leaders Donald Trump and Xi Jinping for a 100-day plan to cut the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached $347 billion last year.

But the chamber said it hoped more attention would be paid to market access for American firms in China.

“Right now basically we are recommending everything you have in your quiver – please use every arrow possible, with the understanding that some of these points of leverage could be counterproductive to us,” chamber chairman William Zarit said, referring to possible backlash from Beijing.

He was speaking at a briefing on the report.

U.S. business groups want U.S. officials to take measures against Beijing on market imbalances, but not push the world’s two largest economies toward a trade war.

Nonetheless, more vociferous complaints from the American business community mark a shift from years past, when many companies eschewed the idea of forceful action by Washington for fear of retribution by China.

Foreign technology companies, in particular, fear what they see as Beijing’s plans to pump billions of dollars in subsidies into domestic competitors and push regulations that could force the surrender of key technology or hit competitiveness.

“With uncertainty stemming from political and economic transitions in both the U.S. and China, perceptions of a deteriorating investment environment for foreign companies in China, and a slowing economy, 2017 will likely be one of the most challenging years in decades for U.S. companies in China,” the chamber said in its report.

U.S. business leaders also worry that Trump’s focus on curtailing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs could undercut U.S. commercial interests in China. Last week, Trump tweeted that Beijing would get a better trade deal if it helped resolve the U.S. problem with Pyongyang.

“I’m sorry to see there is a possibility we may lose some momentum on helping to level the playing field with China in our economic relationship, due to the situation in North Korea, if there is some kind of trade-off,” Zarit said.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/mrGJK0t_fPA/us-china-usa-business-idUSKBN17K0G8

Exclusive: Saudi to shelve, reform billions of dollars of unfinished projects


RIYADH Saudi Arabia’s government is ordering its ministries and agencies to review billions of dollars’ worth of unfinished infrastructure and economic development projects with a view to shelving or restructuring them, government sources said.

Riyadh’s Bureau of Capital and Operational Spending Rationalization, set up last year to make the government more efficient, is compiling a list of projects that are under 25 percent complete, the sources told Reuters.

Many of these projects are relics of a decade-long boom of high oil prices and lavish state spending, which ended when oil began sliding in mid-2014, making it increasingly difficult for Riyadh to find the money needed to complete their construction.

Officials will study the feasibility of the projects in light of the government’s reform drive, which aims to diversify the economy beyond oil exports, and decide whether to suspend them indefinitely or try to improve how they are conducted.

“Some projects could be retendered so they can be executed in partnership with the private sector, possibly through build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts,” said one source familiar with the plan, declining to be named as the matter is not yet public.

Under BOT contracts, private investors finance and build projects and operate them for a period of time to earn a profit before eventually transferring ownership to the government. Riyadh has said it is keen to begin bringing the private sector into projects to ease pressure on state finances.

“Other projects could be suspended if they do not meet the current economic objectives,” the source said. Recommendations for some projects may be made within days, he added.

Seeking to close a huge budget deficit caused by low oil prices, the government clamped down on infrastructure spending last year. Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said in February this year that the efficiency bureau had so far saved the kingdom 80 billion riyals ($21.33 billion).

The plan to review unfinished projects suggests the government is looking for large additional savings this year. In a report at the end of last year, it estimated the cost of completing all capital spending projects currently underway at about 1.4 trillion riyals.

In a January report, consultants Faithful+Gould estimated at least $13.3 billion of government projects were at risk of being canceled in Saudi Arabia this year because of fiscal pressures and changing government priorities.

The government is likely to prioritize projects with strong social welfare and business justifications such as power and water generation, while less essential “vanity projects” such as sports infrastructure, some transport systems and perhaps nuclear energy could be cut back, it said.

(Writing by Andrew Torchia; editing by Anna Willard)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/PgF_2ZFtWlI/us-saudi-projects-idUSKBN17I0GM

Ant Financial hikes MoneyGram offer by 36 percent to outbid Euronet


BEIJING China’s Ant Financial has sweetened its bid for MoneyGram International Inc by 36 percent, beating a rival offer to gain approval from the U.S. electronic payment firm’s board, although it still faces regulatory hurdles.

Ant [ANTFIN.UL], the finance affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, increased its bid to $18 per share in cash from $13.25 to value MoneyGram at around $1.2 billion.

That compares with an offer of $15.20 per share from Euronet Worldwide Inc last month.

A successful deal would be Ant’s first major acquisition in a developed market. But first it needs to clear regulatory reviews, including one by the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), a U.S. inter-agency panel that looks at acquisitions for national security risks.

CFIUS has been a stumbling block for several Chinese deals in the United States and a deal with Euronet is likely to be more agreeable to U.S. policymakers amid rising tensions between China and the United States over trade and foreign policy.

Euronet has said that Chinese ownership could compromise the relationship between law enforcement and MoneyGram when investigating money laundering and “terrorist financing”.

Ant has sought to allay concerns and on Monday reiterated that any data collected on MoneyGram users in the U.S. will continue to reside on U.S.-based servers and that MoneyGram will operate as an independent unit. Euronet has previously countered that the location of the servers is irrelevant.

Ant and Moneygram said in a joint statement that they have made progress toward obtaining the regulatory approvals necessary to complete the transaction, including winning U.S. antitrust clearance. They are confident the deal will close this year, they added.

The news comes one day after sources said China’s Anbang Insurance Group will let its agreement to acquire U.S. annuities and life insurer Fidelity Guaranty Life. for $1.6 billion lapse, after failing to secure all the necessary regulatory approvals.

While Anbang’s acquisition had received clearance from CFIUS it could not get past some U.S. state regulators.

Dallas-based MoneyGram is one of the biggest firms in the global remittance market, offering services in around 350,000 stores across 200 countries and offers Ant a major leg-up in its plans to build a cross-border commerce network, centered in Asia.

“The promotion of global digital financial inclusion requires global infrastructure. MoneyGram offers that connectivity between developed and developing markets,” said James Lloyd, Asia Pacific Fintech leader at EY.

Last Wednesday, Ant and Indonesia’s Elang Mahkota Teknologi (Emtek) agreed to launch a joint venture to roll out mobile payments in Indonesia. The tie-up follows recent investments in payment firms in India, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines.

Ant, which is planning an IPO, was valued at around $60 billion in mid-2016, according to a source familiar with the matter. It has since had another financing round which raised $3 billion, a separate sources has said, although latest valuations were not immediately available.

(Reporting by Cate Cadell and Miyoung Kim; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Ulr3lU8AUrI/us-moneygram-intl-m-a-ant-financial-idUSKBN17J02P