Wilbur Ross seen imposing Mexico sugar deal over industry objections


WASHINGTON U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is likely to impose a new sugar trade deal with Mexico even if final revisions to it fail to win support from the U.S. industry, trade lawyers and experts say.

After announcing a deal this week that would dramatically cut the amount of refined sugar that Mexico ships to the United States, officials from the two countries are working with their industries on final language that would govern its operation.

At issue is a new right of first refusal granted to Mexico to supply all U.S. sugar needs not met by domestic suppliers or other foreign quota holders.

A coalition of American sugar cane and beet farmers and a major refiner want a more explicit guarantee that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not Mexican producers, will dictate what type of sugar fills that gap. They are worried that a flood of refined sugar will pour in, rather than the raw sugar needed to keep U.S. mills running.

The final sticking point stands in the way of resolving a years-long dispute over Mexican access to the highly regulated U.S. sugar market, which is protected by a complex web of subsidies and rationed quotas for foreign producers.

The sugar industry is known for its sway in Washington. But its point of view on Mexican imports is not shared by sugar users such as confectioners and soda makers.

The Trump administration wants to clear away the sugar dispute and a lumber trade row with Canada before starting full-scale negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement.

An industry rarely objects to a government-negotiated settlement of its anti-dumping case, and U.S. sugar producers could do little to stop the Commerce Department from implementing a final deal after a two-week comment period, said Seattle-based trade lawyer William Perry, who previously worked at Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

While the industry could ask the International Trade Commission to overturn the settlement that suspends anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duty orders issued in 2014, chances for success look slim. The panel in 2015 rejected a challenge by two sugar refiners to the previous U.S.-Mexico pact.

“Petitioners are never entirely happy with suspension agreements like this,” Perry said. “They would rather have anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders with rates high enough to shut out imports.”

A Commerce spokesman said that Ross hoped the U.S. sugar industry would ultimately endorse the final agreement.

Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the administration was probably willing to compromise on some industry-specific concerns to help reach its larger NAFTA goals of reducing U.S. trade deficits.

The U.S. sugar industry must probably present evidence of new Mexican dumping before going back to Commerce for more changes to the deal, said Daniel Pearson, a senior fellow of the libertarian Cato Institute and former International Trade Commission chairman.

“They would do well to take this agreement and run with it and see how it works,” Pearson said, noting that it raises prices and keeps U.S. refiners well-supplied with raw sugar.

Mexico made major concessions to maintain its access to the lucrative U.S. market, agreeing to ship no less than 70 percent of its quota volume as raw sugar to U.S. refineries. It gave ground on nearly all of the U.S. producers’ demands.

American Sugar Alliance spokesman Phillip Hayes said the final hurdle should be easy to address by making clear that the USDA, not Mexico, can dictate the type and purity level of any additional imports.

But Juan Cortina, head of Mexico’s main sugar trade group, said there was no problem with the language because any additional needs would filled with raw sugar, as Mexican producers would have to keep higher inventories of that grade.

(Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera in Mexico City and Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qefLGEEZdnk/us-usa-trade-mexico-sugar-idUSKBN1902JS

Apple dips after report that future iPhone modems could lag rivals


Shares of Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fell more than 3 percent on Friday after Bloomberg News reported that iPhones launched later this year will use modem chips with slower download speeds than some rival smartphones.

Apple is widely expected to upgrade its iPhone this year, which marks the device’s 10th anniversary, and suggestions that its technology will lag the performance of high-end smartphones running Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Android system could hurt its sales.

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple supplier Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) sells modems capable of downloading data at cutting-edge 1 gigabit speeds, but rival chipmaker Intel Corp’s (INTC.O) modem technology does not yet have that capability, according to the Bloomberg report.

Since Apple is traditionally reluctant to rely on just one supplier, it is using modems from both companies, but capping download speeds of the quicker Qualcomm modems so that all of the new iPhones perform the same, Bloomberg reported, citing unnamed sources.

Shares of the Cupertino, California company have surged 29 percent so far in 2017, largely in anticipation of the iPhone upgrade. The stock on Friday declined 3.5 percent to $149.60.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/iCKRsyCTbTQ/us-apple-stocks-idUSKBN1902ON

Tech stocks tumble, backing Wall Street away from highs


Technology stocks sold off on Friday, wounding the Nasdaq and holding down other major Wall Street indexes, which had touched record highs earlier in the session.

The technology sector .SPLRCT, which has soared this year and led the market’s rally, dropped 3.6 percent.

Apple (AAPL.O) shares fell 4.8 percent and were the biggest weight on the three major indexes, after a report that upcoming iPhones launched will use modem chips with slower download speeds than some rival smartphones.

Microsoft (MSFT.O), Facebook (FB.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) all were off more than 3 percent, while chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA.O) traded down 8.8 percent at $147.60 after Citron Research said the stock could trade back to $130.

Shares of software company Cloudera (CLDR.N) tumbled 16.7 percent after its earnings report.

“Tech has been on a tear for a very, very long period of time,” said John Praveen, managing director for Prudential International Investments Advisers in Newark, New Jersey, adding that investors may be using the earnings report as “an excuse to take some profits.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 17.02 points, or 0.08 percent, to 21,165.51, the SP 500 .SPX lost 15.88 points, or 0.65 percent, to 2,417.91 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 166.89 points, or 2.64 percent, to 6,154.87.

Countering tech’s slide, financials .SPSY rose 1.4 percent and energy shares .SPNY gained 2.3 percent as oil prices moved higher.

Investors were also digesting major political and economic events this week in the United States and Europe.

U.S. stocks had started the session strong after the results of the UK election, where British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority.

Investors also viewed former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Thursday as not damaging enough to Donald Trump’s presidency.

Market watchers were concerned result of the Congressional hearing could derail Trump’s plans for lower taxes, fiscal spending and looser regulations, which have helped drive the SP 500 up more than 13 percent since his election.

Focus was turning to the Federal Reserve’s meeting next week, when the U.S. central bank is overwhelmingly expected to raise interest rates.

“Markets are probably expecting that the Fed will raise rates, but they will be very gradual in removing monetary accommodation,” Praveen said.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.50-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

(Additiona reporting by Tanya Agrawal and Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/iWhkCY3a-O0/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN1901LX

Jobless claims drop; labor market slack shrinking


WASHINGTON The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, unwinding half of the prior period’s jump and suggesting the labor market was tightening despite a recent slowdown in job growth.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 245,000 for the week ended June 3, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The report followed data on Tuesday showing job openings at a record high in April.

“There is no sign of a pickup in the rate of layoffs. Against this backdrop of high job openings, firms appear to be holding on to their workers,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

Claims surged by 20,000 in the prior week, with California, Tennessee, Kansas, and Missouri accounting for the bulk of the increase. Some of that increase was related to school summer breaks in which bus drivers and cafeteria workers were left temporarily unemployed.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 118 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits falling to 240,000 in the latest week. The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 2,250 to 242,000 last week.

The dollar rose against the euro after the European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold but cut its forecasts for inflation and said policymakers had not discussed scaling back the central bank’s massive bond-buying program. Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell, while stocks on Wall Street were slightly higher.

SKILLS MISMATCH

Low layoffs and record high job openings suggest a deceleration in job growth in May was likely because companies could not find suitable workers. The economy created 138,000 jobs in May, well below the average monthly 181,000 jobs gained over the prior 12 months.

The Labor Department reported on Tuesday that job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased by 259,000 to a seasonally adjusted 6.0 million in April, the highest level since the government started tracking the series in 2000.

“Labor market supply constraints are expected to bite into job creation but should also help to keep a lid on jobless claims as employers focus on retaining talent, so long as the economy continues to chug along,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Economists believe that labor market tightness could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its June 13-14 policy meeting. The U.S. central bank lifted its benchmark overnight interest rate by 25 basis points in March.

“The Fed will continue to view the labor market data as signalizing that the economy remains at or near full employment,” said Michael Gapen, chief economist at Barclays in New York.

Thursday’s claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 2,000 to 1.92 million in the week ended May 27. The so-called continuing claims now have been below 2 million for eight straight weeks, pointing to diminishing labor market slack.

The four-week moving average of continuing claims slipped 750 to 1.91 million, the lowest level since January 1974.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/u6bl2twO4U4/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN18Z1OZ

Verizon plans to cut 2,000 jobs at Yahoo, AOL: source


Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) is expected to cut about 2,000 jobs when it completes its $4.48 billion acquisition of Yahoo Inc’s (YHOO.O) core assets next week, a person briefed on the matter said.

The cuts are expected to come from Verizon’s AOL and Yahoo units and represent about 15 percent of the staff at the two units. About 14,000 people work at AOL and Yahoo.

Many of the jobs are in California and some are outside the United States, according to the source, who asked not to be identified because the matter is not yet public.

Yahoo shareholders on Thursday approved the company’s sale, according to preliminary results from a shareholder meeting, and it is expected to be completed on Tuesday.

The No. 1 U.S. wireless operator is combining Yahoo’s search, email and messenger assets as well as advertising technology tools with its AOL unit, which it bought in 2015 for $4.4 billion. Verizon expects mobile video and advertising to be new sources of revenue outside the oversaturated wireless market.

Verizon shares are down 15 percent this year.

The acquisition marks the end of the line for Yahoo as a standalone company, a storied Web pioneer once valued at more than $100 billion.

Verizon is rebranding AOL and Yahoo as part of a new venture called Oath, led by AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong.

Verizon is betting it can use data from more than 200 million unique monthly visitors to Yahoo sites and combine it with data on 150 million unique monthly AOL users and its own user base of over 100 million wireless subscribers to offer more targeted services for advertisers.

The Yahoo deal came after activist investors led by Starboard Value LP lost faith in Yahoo Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, who was hired in 2012, and forced the sale of the company’s core assets. Mayer is not expected to remain at Yahoo after the sale is completed.

Yahoo is still one of the largest properties on the internet, with hundreds of millions of customers using its email, finance and sports offerings, and a heavily trafficked home page. In February 2016, Yahoo announced it was cutting 1,600 employees, or 15 percent of its staff.

The deal’s closing was delayed as the companies assessed the fallout from two Yahoo data breaches.

Yahoo disclosed in December that data from more than 1 billion user accounts was compromised in August 2013, making it the largest breach in history. This followed a separate disclosure that at least 500 million accounts were affected in a 2014 breach.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Bernadette Baum)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/IpA3iUCZPB4/us-verizon-jobs-idUSKBN18Z2EF

‘Trump trade’ comeback not enough to boost Wall Street


NEW YORK The ‘Trump trade’ made a comeback on Thursday on Wall Street but major indexes were in and out of negative territory as former FBI director James Comey said President Donald Trump fired him to undermine an investigation into Russian meddling into last November’s U.S. election.

Traders had been on tenterhooks ahead of Comey’s testimony to a Senate committee, his first since being fired by Trump on May 9. His prepared remarks had been made public Wednesday.

The market’s concern on the issue is whether the Trump administration can put the investigation behind it and revive momentum for their agenda of lower taxes and looser regulations. Bets on that agenda are partly behind a rally that has taken stock indexes to record highs.

The Trump ‘reflation trade’ that favored banks and sectors linked to infrastructure spending, among others, was back Thursday, with the SP 500 financial sector .SPSY up 1.2 percent.

The SP 1500 construction and engineering index .SPCOMCSE rose 1.5 percent and a gauge of construction materials’ stocks .SPCOMCEMT added 1.4 percent.

“If there was something (damning) that’s going to come out, as leaky as things seem to be, we would have heard something more than what we’ve been hearing so far,” said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute in St. Louis, Missouri.

Also supporting infrastructure stocks, specifically steel companies, was an announcement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that a national security review of the U.S. steel industry will seek to protect the interests of both domestic steel producers and consumers.

In his statement, Comey said the president lied in describing their encounters and that he had no doubt that Russia interfered with the election, but was confident that no votes had been altered.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 19.19 points, or 0.09 percent, to 21,154.5, the SP 500 .SPX lost 2.87 points, or 0.12 percent, to 2,430.27 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 11.27 points, or 0.18 percent, to 6,308.65.

Other analysts were not so rosy about the effect on Comey’s testimony on the Trump agenda.

“It leaves us where we were before. It becomes that much more difficult for the Trump administration to put together a fiscal stimulus package,” said John Canavan, market strategist at Stone McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey.

“Anything they could put together with tax reform and infrastructure spending would be a lot smaller than had been expected. You are also pushing back the timing on any fiscal stimulus into 2018, possibly in 2019.”

Utilities stocks fell the most on the SP 500 as Treasury yields rose, tracking German Bund yields, after European Central Bank upgraded its growth forecast for the euro zone even as it suggested its stimulus plan will remain in place as inflation remains subdued.

The SP utilities sector .SPLRCU was down 1.3 percent, the most for any day since early March.

Traders kept an eye on the UK as Britons voted in a snap election predicted to give Prime Minister Theresa May a larger parliamentary majority, which she hopes will strengthen her hand in looming divorce talks with the European Union.

Among specific stocks, Nordstrom (JWN.N) jumped 8.6 percent to $43.95 after the department store operator said that some members of the controlling Nordstrom family have formed a group to consider taking the company private.

Alibaba shares (BABA.N) were up 12.9 percent to $141.82 after the company said it expects revenue growth of 45-49 percent in the 2018 fiscal year.

The largest percentage gainer on the SP 500 was Yahoo (YHOO.O), which rose 9.7 percent, while the largest decliner was Advance Auto Parts (AAP.N), down 3.4 percent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.22-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.96-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Richard Leong and Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/g0SHYmZnjyY/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18Z1J1

If Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You


This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Gal Gadot in a scene from Wonder Woman.


By

Published on June 8, 2017

The new superhero movie Wonder Woman is blowing away expectations and crashing through glass ceilings with an opening weekend that brought in $100 million domestically — a record for a movie directed by a woman.

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did re-shoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

Because by five months (especially with your second child), your belly is likely extended to support a baby that is about the size of a banana from head to rump. From sore muscles to headaches and heartburn, it is understandable that pregnant women might not feel like superheroes, but their contribution to America’s future is crucial.

According to Mollie Ziegler Hemingway in The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Culture and Opportunity, America’s fertility rate — the average number of children a woman has over her lifetime — has been on the decline for the past decade.

In addition to posing risks to the general economy, a declining fertility rate poses risks to our military, entitlement state, and even the growth and vitality of houses of worship and community health centers.

With many millennial women delaying marriage and even having children, it is important they see successful peers not letting careers stop them from taking on one of the toughest jobs out there — the job of physically bearing a child and rearing it.

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal






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Article source: https://stream.org/wonder-woman-can-get-job-done-pregnant-can/

Bernie Sanders Just Applied a Religious Test to a Christian Nominee for Public Office

The U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of a “religious test” for any office or public trust. But Bernie Sanders got very close to doing just on Wednesday. It was during the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. 

During Russell Vought’s confirmation hearing, Sanders took issue with an article Vought wrote for conservative website The Resurgent in January 2016, reported The Atlantic. In his article, Vought defended a Christian school that had fired a professor for expressing solidarity with Muslims. Sanders objected to Vought’s statement in the article: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.”

Sanders objected. “In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee at the hearing. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”

Later Sanders asked Vought, “Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?” “Absolutely not, Senator,” said Vought. “I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith.”

Sanders continued to berate and interrupt Vought. “I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America, I really don’t know, probably a couple million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?” Vought replied that he was a Christian, but Sanders quickly cut him off. “I understand you are a Christian. But this country is made up of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”

Vought tried to explain the concept of imago dei to Sanders. “As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals … .” Sanders cut him off again and asked Vought if his comments were respectful of other religions. Vought reminded Sanders that the article he wrote was as a Christian about a Christian university, which “has a statement of faith that speaks clearly with regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.”

In response, Sanders told the committee: “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.”

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention responded to Sanders’ religious test in the hearing.

Senator Sanders’ comments are breathtakingly audacious and shockingly ignorant — both of the Constitution and of basic Christian doctrine. Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office in defiance of the United States Constitution. No religious test shall ever be required of those seeking public office. While no one expects Senator Sanders to be a theologian, we should expect far more from an elected official who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

Article source: https://stream.org/bernie-sanders-just-applied-religious-test-christian-nominee-public-office/

Exclusive: Toshiba aims to name buyer of $18 billion chips business on June 15


TOKYO/SAN FRANCISCO Toshiba Corp (6502.T) aims to name a winner for its prized semiconductor business next week, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, as a row with one of the bidders over the sale appeared to escalate.

Sources told Reuters the choice has narrowed to one bid from U.S. chipmaker Broadcom Ltd (AVGO.O) and U.S. tech fund Silver Lake and another from Toshiba chip partner Western Digital Corp (WDC.O) and Japanese government-related investors.

Toshiba is rushing to find a buyer for the world’s second-largest producer of NAND chips, which it values at $18 billion or more, to cover billions of dollars in cost overruns at its now-bankrupt U.S. nuclear business Westinghouse Electric Corp.

The laptops-to-nuclear giant will hold a board meeting on June 15 to decide on the preferred bidder, two sources said.

Western Digital, which jointly operates Toshiba’s main chip plant in Yokkaichi, western Japan, has complicated the sale effort with a legal challenge, accusing Toshiba of a serious breach of contract over the joint venture.

It argues that the unit cannot be sold without its consent and has demanded exclusive negotiating rights.

But in a letter seen by Reuters, Toshiba struck back, again asking Western Digital to stop challenging the plans.

“Toshiba encourages Western Digital to redirect the considerable efforts that it has put into disrupting Toshiba’s sale process into more productive channels.”

Toshiba and Western Digital did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Broadcom-Silver Lake bid is attractive because of its higher price of 2.2 trillion yen ($20 billion), sources have said.

This compares with an offer of less than 2 trillion yen from Western Digital, which could also face antitrust hurdles because the firm is the third-largest maker of NAND flash-memory chips.

“Naturally, for the Toshiba corporate side, Broadcom is the best choice,” one source said. .

Other bidders include U.S. private-equity firm Bain Capital with South Korean chipmaker SK Hynix Inc (000660.KS), and Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW) with its Japanese unit Sharp Corp.

(Additional reporting by Taro Fuse in TOKYO; editing by William Mallard/Alexander Smith)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/P3OIdRbg2Q8/us-toshiba-accounting-western-digital-idUSKBN18Y27O

Abu Dhabi port eases restrictions on oil tankers going to and from Qatar


SINGAPORE/DUBAI Abu Dhabi port authorities have eased restrictions on oil tankers going to and from Qatar, according to industry sources and shipping circulars seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Abu Dhabi Petroleum Ports Authority issued a new circular on Wednesday removing previous restrictions on non-Qatar owned, flagged or operated vessels sailing to and from Qatar.

This effectively allows direct trade between the two ports and co-loading of crude cargoes, a Singapore-based shipbroker said.

A Middle East-based industry source said there had been no official notification on halting the co-loading of crude cargoes.

The ban on vessels carrying the Qatari flag and vessels owned or operated by Qatar is still in place, according to the circular.

But given there are few Qatari-flagged or owned vessels, this is unlikely to have as big an impact on the market as the previous circular, the shipbroker added.

Reuters reported on Wednesday two very large crude carriers (VLCCs), which can each carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, loaded Abu Dhabi grades on Wednesday, despite having taken Qatari crude in an earlier leg of the voyage.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia’s Ports Authority told shipping agents not to accept vessels flying the Qatari flag or ships owned by Qatari companies or individuals, it said on its Twitter account, adding that Qatari goods would be barred from unloading in Saudi ports.

On Wednesday, Saudi’s Ras Tanura oil port issued a notice stressing the restrictions issued earlier by the Saudi Ports Authority, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

Another industry source said the notice indicated co-loading of crude cargoes at Saudi ports would be allowed.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties including all air, land and sea transport links with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Doha denies the accusation.

(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan, Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore, Rania El Gamal in Dubai and Reem Shamseddine in Khobar; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/NhZ6Akug5JI/us-gulf-qatar-oil-idUSKBN18Y1DY

Wall St. slips as oil weighs; Thursday’s events awaited


U.S. stocks slipped in early afternoon trading on Wednesday, weighed down by a fall in oil prices, while caution reigned ahead of Thursday’s major political and economic events.

Oil prices fell more than 4 percent due to an unexpected rise in U.S. crude inventories and took a toll on the energy sector .SPNY, which dropped 2.1 percent. [O/R]

Exxon’s (XOM.N) 0.7 percent fall and Chevron’s (CVX.N) 1.3 percent fall were among the biggest drags on the SP 500 and the Dow.

Investors are also keeping a watch on Britain’s general election, the European Central Bank’s policy meeting and former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before a Senate panel on Thursday.

Opinion polls have shown British Prime Minister Theresa May’s lead over the opposition Labor party narrow over the last three weeks, with some even suggesting she could fall short of a majority government.

The election could determine whether the country has a smooth or hard exit from the European Union.

“If the Conservative party extends its majority, markets will be pretty calm, but anything less than that is going to have people worried about how we approach the Brexit negotiation,” said Luke Hickmore, senior investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management.

Comey’s first public appearance since he was fired by U.S. President Donald Trump might shed more light on a probe by the FBI into alleged Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

Any damaging revelation in Comey’s testimony could dampen already flagging momentum for Trump’s pro-business fiscal agenda.

“I think the Comey news led to an initial surprise but the rebound was equally swift,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab Co.

“I’m not sure that unless Comey says something completely shocking or he suggests something that there’s no way the House can’t consider obstruction of justice … aside from that I don’t see his testimony as market moving.”

The ECB will also hold its policy meeting on Thursday and is expected to reiterate its plan to extend the money-printing scheme at least until the end of the year.

At 12:53 p.m. (1653 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 13.5 points, or 0.06 percent, at 21,122.73 and the SP 500 .SPX was down 3.46 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,425.87. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 5.79 points, or 0.09 percent, at 6,269.27.

Seven of the 11 major SP 500 sectors were higher, with the financial index’s .SPSY 0.78 percent rise leading the advancers.

Shares of Navistar International (NAV.N) were down 4.2 percent at $28.68 after the truck and engine maker posted a quarterly loss.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,526 to 1,283. On the Nasdaq, 1,444 issues rose and 1,343 fell.

(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/1xVgFvKfelQ/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18Y1GG

Realtors® Survey: Led By China, Foreign Investment in U.S. Commercial Real Estate on the Rise

WASHINGTON (June 6, 2017) — One-fifth of surveyed Realtors® practicing in commercial real estate closed a sale with an international client in 2016, and as foreign investors flock to smaller-sized commercial properties in secondary and tertiary markets, many Realtors® are confident that increased sales and leasing activity will occur in 2017.  

This is according to the 2017 Commercial Real Estate International Business Trends survey released today by the National Association of Realtors®, which analyzed cross-border commercial real estate transactions made by Realtors® during 2016. Most Realtors® who specialize in commercial real estate reside in smaller commercial markets where the typical deal is less than $2.5 million.   

Similar to NAR survey findings on foreign purchases of residential real estate in recent years, China was the top country of origin in both buying and selling commercial real estate in 2016, and Florida was the top destination of choice for international clients. NAR’s 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate is scheduled for release this summer.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the appetite for U.S. commercial real estate property was strong from foreigners last year and shows little signs of slowing in 2017.

“Multiple years of steady job growth and the strengthening U.S. economy – albeit at a modest pace – makes commercial property a safe bet for global investors looking to diversify their portfolios and generate returns outside their country of origin,” he said. “While Class A asset prices in many large markets have surpassed pre-crisis levels, Realtors® in many middle-tier and smaller markets stand to benefit from the increased interest from foreign and domestic commercial property investors.”

Added Yun, “Forty percent of Realtors® expect an increase in foreign buying clients this year. The healthy labor markets and lower property prices in smaller markets are poised to make up a larger share of activity.”   

Of the 69 percent of Realtors® who indicated they completed a commercial real estate transaction last year, 20 percent reported closing a deal for an international client. Realtors® completed a median of one buyer-side international deal and two seller-side international transactions. The typical buyer-side sales price was $1,000,000, and the median seller-side price was $550,000. 

Additionally, 22 percent of Realtors® said they completed a lease agreement on behalf of a foreign client. The median gross lease value for international lease transactions was $105,000, with most space typically under 2,500-square-feet.

Nearly two-thirds of commercial foreign buyer and seller clients were non-resident foreigners. The top countries of origin for buyers were China (17 percent), Mexico (14 percent) and the United Kingdom and Venezuela (both at 7 percent), while sellers were typically from China (17 percent) or Brazil, Canada, France and Mexico (all at 10 percent). 

Florida and Texas were the top two states where foreigners purchased and sold commercial property last year, with California being the third most popular buyer destination and Michigan ranking as the third top state where foreigners sold real estate.

The survey also found that foreign buyers of commercial property typically bring more cash to the table than those purchasing residential real estate. Sixty percent of international transactions were closed with cash, while NAR’s 2016 residential survey found that exactly half of buyers paid in cash. For those not using all cash, 34 percent of commercial deals involved debt financing from U.S. sources. An overwhelming majority of buyers either purchased commercial space for investment purposes or acquired it for business use.

“Nearly half of Realtors® reported that they experienced a greater number of international clients looking to buy commercial space over the past five years,” said Yun. “Economic expansion has slowly chugged along since the downturn, but in comparison to the rest of the world, the U.S. remains one of the most attractive and safest bets for investors. There’s little evidence this will change anytime soon.”

NAR’s second quarter Commercial Real Estate Outlook, released last month, offers overall projections for four major commercial sectors and analyzes quarterly data in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets.

The NAR commercial community includes commercial members, real estate boards, committees, subcommittees and forums; and NAR commercial affiliate organizations – CCIM Institute, Institute of Real Estate Management, Realtors® Land Institute, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, and Counselors of Real Estate.

Approximately 70,000 NAR members specialize in commercial real estate brokerage and related services including property management, counseling and appraisal. In addition, more than 200,000 members are involved in commercial transactions as a secondary business.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/narnewsreleases/~3/uW6e1w3s5vg/realtors-survey-led-by-china-foreign-investment-in-us-commercial-real-estate-on-the-rise

Uber fires 20 employees after harassment probe: source


SAN FRANCISCO Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] told staff on Tuesday that it had fired 20 employees following an internal investigation into harassment and related claims by law firm Perkins Coie, a person familiar with the matter said.

The law firm, which is investigating in parallel with a broader probe by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, investigated 215 harassment complaints going back as far as 2012, employees were told.

Uber told staff it had taken remedial action in 58 cases and decided no action was needed on 100 more. Other investigations are continuing, the person said.

The company also told staff it would expand its employee relations unit to better investigate claims and that it would dramatically increase management training since most Uber managers were first-time bosses, the person said.

Bloomberg reported some of the details earlier on Tuesday and said that Bobbie Wilson, an attorney at Perkins Coie, gave the assessment to a meeting of Uber’s more than 12,000 employees.

Uber did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Additional reporting Heather Somerville in San Francisco, Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Peter Henderson and Bill Rigby)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/9_8t6smtpC4/us-uber-sexual-harassment-idUSKBN18X2GZ

U.S. job openings hit record high; skills mismatch rising


WASHINGTON U.S. job openings surged to a record high in April and employers appeared to have trouble finding suitable workers, pointing to a tightening labor market that could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates next month.

The Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, published on Tuesday also suggests that a recent moderation in job growth could be the result of a skills mismatch rather than easing demand for labor.

“These data underscore the difficulty in hiring new workers, which we think is increasingly likely to be a factor restraining payroll growth going forward,” said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York. “The Fed becomes somewhat uneasy when the labor market becomes too tight and this report supports the Fed’s case to nudge rates higher next week.”

JOLTS is one of the metrics on Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s so-called dashboard of labor market indicators. It came ahead of the U.S. central bank’s June 13-14 policy meeting, at which it is expected to raise its benchmark overnight interest rate by 25 basis points.

Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 259,000 to a seasonally adjusted 6.0 million in April, the highest since the government started tracking the series in 2000.

The monthly increase was the largest in just over a year and pushed the jobs openings rate to 4.0 percent, the highest since last July, from 3.8 percent in March.

Hiring, however, decreased by 253,000 jobs to 5.1 million. That lowered the hiring rate to a one-year low of 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent in March.

The gap between job openings and hiring points to a growing skills mismatch. A report from the National Federation of Independent Business last week showed the share of small business owners reporting job openings they could not fill in May was the highest since November 2000.

FULL EMPLOYMENT

The economy created 138,000 in May, well below the average monthly job gains of 181,000 over the prior 12 months.

Economists believe tightening labor market conditions could soon unleash a faster pace of wage growth. Wage gains have remained sluggish even as the unemployment rate has tumbled to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

The JOLTS report also showed 1.6 million people were laid off in April, little changed from March. The layoffs and discharges rate was unchanged at 1.1 percent for five straight months. The number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs fell by 111,000 to 3.0 million in April.

As a result, the quits rate, which the Fed looks at as a measure of job market confidence, dipped to 2.1 percent from 2.2 percent in March.

“The economy has already reached the nirvana of full employment. At full employment the focus shifts from worries about the demand for labor to concerns about the supply of labor,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

“There aren’t enough workers to man the factories and stock the store shelves. The supply demand imbalance is only likely to grow worse as the baby boom generation retires.”

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Chizu Nomiyama)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/WTgUZ6LSY3c/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN18X1S7

Wall Street slightly lower as UK vote, Comey testimony loom


U.S. stocks were slightly lower in early afternoon trading on Tuesday as investors shunned riskier assets ahead of what is expected to be a busy Thursday, when Britain goes to the polls and former FBI director James Comey testifies before Congress.

Comey, who was investigating a possible collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 U.S. election, was fired in May.

His testimony could dampen already flagging momentum for Trump’s legislative agenda of rolling back healthcare reforms and overhauling the tax code.

Investors will also watch out for the European Central Bank’s meet, where policymakers are expected to take a more benign view of the economy, according to sources.

“We have a relatively light week in terms of economic data and investors are awaiting Thursday’s events,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

“The market’s reaction to Comey’s testimony would depend on if he says something new that nobody knows about, although, a lot of what he might be asked could be classified information.”

Safe havens were in favor, with gold XAU= touching its highest in about seven weeks and U.S. 10-year Treasury yields falling to their lowest levels since the days following the November election.

At 12:35 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 20.17 points, or 0.1 percent, at 21,163.87 and the SP 500 .SPX was down 3.28 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,432.82.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 3.97 points, or 0.06 percent, at 6,291.72.

Six of the 11 major SP 500 sectors were lower, with the consumer discretionary .SPLRCD and financial indexes .SPSY leading the decliners.

Walt Disney’s (DIS.N) 1 percent fall weighed the most on the consumer discretionary sector.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores (WMT.N) fell 1.8 percent to $78.85, dragging down the Dow and the SP.

Amazon.com (AMZN.O) said it would offer Prime subscription service at a discount to its U.S. customers on government aid, taking aim at a key customer base of the discount retailer. Amazon was up 0.2 percent.

HD Supply Holdings (HDS.O) plunged 19 percent to a near seven-month low of $33.41 after the industrial distributor said it would sell a unit to private equity firm for $2.5 billion. The stock was the second-biggest drag on the Nasdaq.

Michaels Cos (MIK.O) fell as much as 9 percent to a three-year low of $18.05 after the crafts and home decor retailer slashed its forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,633 to 1,182. On the Nasdaq, 1,788 issues fell and 989 advanced.

The SP 500 index showed 28 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 70 new lows.

(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/bRyYTsCIeGg/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18X1D8

D-Day 73rd Anniversary: Remembering the Brave and FDR’s Prayer

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. 

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. 

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. 

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. 

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts. 

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. 

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. 

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. 

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. 

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Article source: https://stream.org/anniversary-of-the-normandy/

Seattle Passes Massive ‘Job-Killing’ Tax on Sugary Drinks


In this May 18, 2015, file photo, a Coca Cola truck is seen driving through downtown Seattle.


By

Published on June 6, 2017

Officials in Seattle passed the second largest Soda Tax in the U.S. Monday in an effort to close “the food security gap” and dissuade residents from buying sugary drinks.

The Seattle City Council approved the measure in a 7-1 vote, placing a 1.75 cents per ounce tax on beverages containing sugar. Councilman Tim Burgess, who sponsored the tax after Democratic Mayor Ed Murray proposed the idea in February, argues soda and other drinks are a threat to public health.

“Liquid sugar has zero nutritional benefits,” he said, according to The Washington Post.

The tax will be implemented at the distribution level, meaning that retailers will likely be forced to pass on the extra cost to consumers. It is second only to Boulder, Colo., as the city with the highest soda tax in the U.S.

“The City Council turned its back today on small business owners and working families with this job-killing tax that will drive up costs and further increase income inequality in Seattle,” said a statement from the business coalition Keep Seattle Livable for All. “Those who can afford this tax the least will be hurt the most.”

Critics argue it will disproportionately impact minority communities and low-income families by spiking the cost of hundreds of popular drinks. Activists in favor of the tax said it is a victory that will go towards “closing the food security gap.” The revenue raised by the tax will be invested in programs that help working-class families buy healthy food.

The city is following the example of Philadelphia, which imposed a 1.5 cents per ounce soda tax in January, drawing the ire of business owners and residents. By the end of February, beverage sales had cratered 30 to 50 percent and forced layoffs to offset the new costs.

Many residents are now going shopping for their beverages out of the city to avoid the onerous tax.

 

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Copyright 2017 Daily Caller News Foundation






Comments ()

  • Big Brother has spoken!!!!!!!!


Article source: https://stream.org/seattle-passes-massive-soda-tax/

Realtor® Volunteering Works Program Announces 2017 Mentoring and Grant Recipients

The 2017 recipients of Volunteering Works grants and mentoring are:

Karen Cunningham, Fontana Realty, Ocala, Florida

Since 2013, Cunningham the board president of Marion Therapeutic Riding has helped provide therapeutic horseback riding for children and adults with mental, physical and emotional disabilities including autism, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Cunningham’s goal is to create a steady source of revenue by establishing two major annual fundraising events. She will receive guidance from her mentor, 2014 Good Neighbor Gail Doxie of RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers, Florida, about creating compelling fundraising events and engaging board members.

Priyanka Johri, Woodlands Eco Realty, The Woodlands, Texas

In 2008, Johri founded Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary after Hurricane Ike left many pets injured and homeless. She runs a no-cage shelter for dogs that are sick, older or injured – often taking in dogs that other shelters are unable to care for – and finds them permanent homes. Johri’s goals include training domestic violence survivors to be pet sitters or dog groomers and taking in dogs whose elderly owners are going into assisted living facilities. She will receive guidance from her mentor and 2013 Good Neighbor Brenda Breit of the Empowered Team, LLC in Scottsdale, Arizona and co-founder of Lost Our Home Pet Foundation.

Vickie Lobo, RE/MAX Champions, Upland, California

For the last three years, Lobo’s Community Miracle Makeover has facilitated home makeovers for people in need, including people with cancer or disabilities, or people moving out of a homeless shelter into an apartment. She recruits volunteers willing to work on these projects and donate furniture. Lobo’s vision is to rent a storage facility to hold donations to enable her to help more families. Lobo will seek advice from 2016 Good Neighbor Cindy Barrett of Keller Williams Realty in Spartanburg, South Carolina, co-founder of Christmas In Action, on obtaining nonprofit status and fundraising more effectively.

Janet Tanner, RE/MAX Premier, REALTORS®, West Hartford, Connecticut

In 2014, Tanner founded Real Estate Agents Recycle, which picks up unwanted household items from home sellers and donates them to local nonprofits. The effort keeps waste out of landfills, employs several people, and supplies nonprofits like Salvation Army and Habitat ReStore with household goods to help the people they serve. Tanner’s goal is to build the base of participating real estate practitioners and generate consumer demand. Tanner will seek guidance from 2014 Good Neighbor Beth Smoot of NextHome City of Oaks in Raleigh, North Carolina and founder of the Green Chair Project, on marketing, recruiting and training volunteers.

Kimberly Watson, Lions Realty Group, Quartz Hill, California .

In 2014, Watson founded Project Joy Inc., which fills gaps in services to meet the needs of homeless shelters and underfunded schools. She has provided winter coats, holiday meals, Christmas gifts, and college scholarships that have impacted 4,000 children. Watson’s goal is to properly brand and secure funding for core programs and to create an annual signature fundraising event. Watson will be advised by 2016 Good Neighbor Ed Liebzeit of Jackson Hole Sotheby’s International Realty in Jackson, Wyoming, board president of Community Safety Network, on creating a new fundraising event, restructuring her web page and incorporating social media.

To learn more about Volunteering Works or the Good Neighbor Awards, go to www.nar.realtor/gna.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is the nation’s leading originator and servicer of residential mortgages, offering home loans to consumers through the country’s largest network of mortgage locations and bank branches, online, and via phone. With more than 7,500 Home Mortgage Consultants across the country and robust digital capabilities, Wells Fargo is committed to meeting Realtor® expectations and homebuyer needs. Focused on a culture of caring for communities, Wells Fargo is a proud new sponsor of the Volunteering Works grant and mentoring program to recognize the extraordinary contributions made by Realtors® in the communities where we, together, live and serve.

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Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/narnewsreleases/~3/6QaUwferapw/realtor-volunteering-works-program-announces-2017-mentoring-and-grant-recipients

U.S. services, factory data point to moderate economic growth


WASHINGTON U.S. services sector activity slowed in May as new orders tumbled, but a jump in employment to a near two-year high pointed to sustained labor market strength despite a deceleration in job growth last month.

The moderation in services industries production, together with other data on Monday showing orders for manufactured goods falling in April for the first time in five months and worker productivity unchanged in the first quarter, suggest limited scope for faster economic growth.

“The economy is neither accelerating nor slowing, but the labor market is looking up,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its non-manufacturing activity index fell six-tenths of a percentage point to a reading of 56.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

Services industries reported a 5.5 percentage points dive in new orders last month. Prices paid by non-manufacturing industries for materials and services declined after increasing for 13 straight months.

But a measure of services sector employment surged 6.4 percentage points to its highest level since July 2015, suggesting labor market strength even as nonfarm payrolls increased 138,000 in May after rising 174,000 in April.

The drop in prices paid by services industries could attract attention from some Federal Reserve officials when they meet on June 13-14 to deliberate on monetary policy.

The U.S. central bank is expected to raise its benchmark overnight interest rate by 25 basis points at that meeting after a similar increase in March.

GRADUAL RATE HIKES

“Most inflation comes from services rather than goods sitting on store shelves, so if services prices are in decline, the Fed has little hope of achieving its 2 percent inflation objective,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MFUG in New York.

“We will see if this alters their gradual pace of rate hikes later on this year when they provide their latest interest rate forecasts at the upcoming meeting.”

U.S. stocks were trading lower, while the dollar rose against a basket of currencies. Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell.

In a separate report on Monday, the Commerce Department said factory goods orders dropped 0.2 percent in April after jumping 1.0 percent in March. Orders rose 4.4 percent from a year ago.

Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy, is being supported by a recovery in the energy sector that has led to demand for oil and gas drilling equipment.

“The slow growth narrative for the manufacturing sector and business spending outlook remains intact,” said Tim Quinlan, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

A third report from the Labor Department showed nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, was unchanged in the last quarter. It was previously reported to have declined at a 0.6 percent annualized pace.

Productivity has increased at an average annual rate of 0.6 percent over the last five years, below its long-term rate of 2.1 percent from 1947 to 2016, indicating that the economy’s potential rate of growth has declined.

Economists blame low capital expenditure, which they say has resulted in a sharp drop in the capital-to-labor ratio, for the weakness in productivity. There are also perceptions that productivity is being inaccurately measured, especially on the information technology side.

“The result is an economy that is still stuck on a shallow growth track,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief U.S. economist at Mizuho in New York.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/svvm_o7rJhE/us-usa-economy-productiviy-idUSKBN18W1N6

Amazon Prime Video to come to Apple devices


Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Monday that Amazon Prime Video would be available on Apple TV and other Apple devices starting later this year.


Apple has about 50 media partners that supply content to its Apple TV and on the television app on its popular iPhone. But Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) service, which includes hit shows like “Transparent,” has been a notable absence from Apple’s hardware.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/9DlMlmozG00/us-apple-developer-amazon-idUSKBN18W2AM

Apple pushes Siri to the fore at annual developer conference


Apple Inc (AAPL.O) kicked off its annual developer conference on Monday by unveiling a “Siri face” for the Apple Watch that will enable the voice-activated assistant to provide users with information like commute times for upcoming appointments.

Analysts and investors are watching the conference this year for signs of what the company’s next blockbuster product might be a decade after the introduction of its iPhone.

The company was expected to introduce iOS 11, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone and iPad. Developers will keep an eye out for hints about new capabilities in the next iPhone, such as so-called augmented reality, in which digital information is overlaid on real-world images.

Apple was also expected to unveil improvements to Siri, its digital voice assistant that competes with Amazon.com Inc’s Alexa (AMZN.O) and the Google Assistant helper.

The Siri face for the Apple Watch was the first step in that direction, blending users’ calendar information with other useful details, like airline tickets they may have booked. While Siri was previously available on the Apple Watch, the assistant’s ability to automatically show information was limited.

The company is also reportedly working on a home speaker powered by Siri that could be unveiled during the conference, which would be a rarity for an event that traditionally features software and minor updates to hardware such as its Mac laptops.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook also announced on Monday that content from Amazon Prime Video, long absent from the Apple TV product, would come to Apple devices such as the TV, iPhones and iPad later this year.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/OlzR2VoDKBs/us-apple-developer-idUSKBN18W2D2

Deutsche Bank’s Baenziger not in bonus clawback talks: paper


FRANKFURT Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) is not in advanced talks over frozen bonus payments, former board member Hugo Baenziger told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Baenziger’s remarks run counter to comments made by the bank’s current chairman Paul Achleitner who said the lender was in talks to persuade former board members to make a financial contribution toward the costs of paying for the bank’s involvement in past misconduct.

“What Achleiter is referring to, I do not know. Until the annual general meeting I had not been in contact with him for nine months,” Baenziger was quoted as saying.

Deutsche Bank’s current and former board members have not been found guilty of personal misconduct. But the lender chose to freeze some bonus payments for senior bankers, in a bid to persuade shareholders that managers are being incentivised to stop any misconduct at the bank.

Baenziger, a former risk manager at Deutsche Bank, also told the newspaper he saw no legal basis for action against former board members. Baenziger could not be reached for comment.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Baenziger’s remarks but referred to comments made by Achleitner when he told shareholders the bank was exploring legal ways for the bank to get former board members to take personal and collective responsibility for the bank’s legal troubles.

(Reporting by Tom Sims; Writing by Edward Taylor. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/T3t4o1JZFh8/us-deutschebank-bonuses-baenziger-idUSKBN18V0RJ

Audi CEO may not stay until end 2022 due to board pact: sources


BERLIN Embattled Audi Chief Executive Rupert Stadler only got a five-year contract extension last month because of an agreement among supervisory board members that he would not serve out his full term, two sources close to the company’s supervisory board told Reuters.

How long Stadler will remain in his current position remains unclear, the sources said. Stadler’s contract was extended on May 17 this year until end-2022.

Since his contract was extended, Stadler has come under further pressure after it emerged that Munich prosecutors had widened an investigation into the premium carmaker and after Germany’s transport ministry accused Audi of cheating on emissions tests.

Munich prosecutors have been investigating Audi on suspicion of fraud and criminal advertising in the United States, where parent Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) emissions scandal broke in September 2015.

They have expanded the inquiry to include vehicle sales in the brand’s home region, a spokesman for prosecutors said earlier this week.

Audi is a division of Volkswagen Group.

Volkswagen’s former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn came under similar pressure after the diesel emissions cheating scandal broke on September 18, 2015. Despite receiving a contract extension on September 2, 2015, he was out by September 23, 2015.

VW has said its executive board did not learn of the software violations until late August 2015 and formally reported the cheating to U.S. authorities in early September that year.

Winterkorn has refused to say when he first learned about systematic exhaust emissions cheating but said it was no earlier than VW has officially admitted.

He has denied personal involvement in the scandal.

Audi and Volkswagen were not immediately available for comment. Stadler’s office had no immediate comment late on Saturday.

(Reporting by Andreas Cremer; Writing by Edward Taylor; Editing by Georgina Prodhan)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yUSrSwj7HR0/us-volkswagen-emissions-audi-ceo-idUSKBN18V0EE

Exclusive: Trump administration concerned about U.S. firms giving financial ‘lifeline’ to Venezuela


WASHINGTON The Trump administration is concerned about any action by U.S. companies that provides a financial lifeline to Venezuela’s government, senior White House officials told Reuters, after Goldman Sachs Group Inc came under fire for purchasing $2.8 billion of state oil company bonds at a steep discount.

Venezuela’s political opposition and some U.S. lawmakers have condemned the purchase of so-called “hunger bonds” as a way to prop up President Nicolas Maduro’s cash-strapped government, accused of being behind food shortages affecting millions of Venezuelans in a worsening crisis.

The New York-based investment bank said last week that it never transacted directly with Venezuelan authorities when it bought the bonds of oil firm PDVSA for pennies on the dollar.

“We’re concerned by anything that provides a lifeline for the status quo,” one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. “I would prefer them not to.”

A second administration official said U.S. companies making Venezuela investments should “think morally about what they’re doing.”

The officials said they did not know whether the Trump administration had made its case directly to Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request for comment.

Julio Borges, head of Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress, accused Goldman Sachs on Monday of “aiding and abetting the country’s dictatorial regime.”

In a letter to Goldman Sachs President Lloyd Blankfein, Borges said Congress would open an investigation into the transaction and he would recommend “to any future democratic government of Venezuela not to recognize or pay these bonds.”

Eliot Engel, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, urged President Donald Trump on Friday to condemn Goldman Sachs for the bond purchase.

The Trump administration, which has several former Goldman Sachs executives in senior roles, has yet to officially comment on the issue.

Engel said the bond purchase allowed Maduro and his associates to “regularly abuse the human rights of Venezuelan citizens while at the same time blocking their access to much-needed food and medicine.”

Venezuela’s opposition won control of the legislature in a 2015 election, but the pro-government Supreme Court has annulled all its measures and essentially stripped its powers. The country has been engulfed in two months of anti-government unrest, which has left more than 60 people dead on both sides.

Maduro’s government says the United States and Venezuela’s opposition are seeking to oust him from power.

With Venezuela’s inefficient state-led economic model struggling under lower oil prices, Maduro’s unpopular government has become ever more dependent on financial deals or asset sales to bring in coveted foreign exchange. Venezuela’s international reserves rose by $749 million on Thursday and Friday, reaching around $10.86 billion, according to the central bank.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Girish Gupta; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Mary Milliken)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/HZFwviXyY4s/us-venezuela-goldmansachs-exclusive-idUSKBN18V096

Political Correctness Won Trump the Presidency

It’s been seven months. Still many of us are trying to understand how Trump won the election last fall. I sure didn’t see it coming. All the surveys predicted a Clinton victory. Trump did plenty to make him unattractive to large groups of voters. Racism was a special concern, due to his comments about Hispanic “rapists,” his flirting with white nationalism and his talk of Muslim bans.

Political Correctness: The Underlying Cause?

I have been, and I still am, concerned with the way Trump handles racial issues. So I was not surprised to see The Nation reporting research by Sean McElwee and Jason McDaniel suggesting racism as a major reason explaining support for Trump. But a further look at this claim is not convincing, since I knew there were large numbers of previous Obama supporters who voted for Trump in 2016.

I remember talking to Trump supporters who wanted to “burn it down.” This confused me at the time, but now I believe they just hated Political Correctness.

So I thought a better answer could probably be found elsewhere. Looking around, I found this Clearer Thinking analysis of 138 factors that might have influenced voters to choose one candidate over the other. I have questions about the methods, but we’ll bypass those.

The key is that other than belonging to the Republican Party, the best predictor of whether a person voted for Trump was whether he or she hated political correctness (PC). More than half (54 percent) of Trump’s vote came from those who totally agreed that there is too much PC in America. This is in contrast to racial issues, such as immigration, for example. Only 21 percent of Trump’s vote came from those who totally agreed that immigrants threaten American customs and values.

This makes sense to me. The way Trump offended certain groups supported the idea that he would fight PC. I remember talking to Trump supporters who wanted to “burn it down.” I was confused by this at the time, but now I think what they wanted was to burn down PC rules. These were not racists, they were people who hated PC.

Can This Explain the Perceived “Racial Resentment”?

Of course there were still some Trump voters who were attracted to the white nationalist message they believed he was presenting. So I want to be clear: I am not saying racism played no effect in any of Trump’s support. But I fear that some researchers and reports overstate its importance in his election.

For people who truly think that we have defeated racism, efforts to keep on addressing it can seem like “PC”.

Concerns over PC also help to explain research supporting McElwee and McDaniel’s racial resentment argument. They created what they call a “racial resentment” measure, which they describe (rather abrasively) as, “Racial resentment measures dog-whistle or color-blind forms of racism, such as the belief that black people need to simply ‘try harder’ to be successful in America.”

I have my own criticism of colorblindness. I do not think we will advance our race relations by ignoring the effects of racism in our history, or the ways it still impacts people of color today. But when I debate the merits of colorblindness with others, I don’t usually see them as having racial resentment.

Questions about colorblindness may tap into hostility against PC rules, though, since many people think society is fair as it is, and that PC makes it unfair. For people who truly think that we have defeated racism, efforts to keep on addressing it can seem like “PC”. People who voted for Obama five years ago, and Trump last year, did not suddenly turn and start resenting blacks. But they may have grown tired of PC rules over that period of time.

Did Racism Put Trump in the White House?

Research shows that anti-PC attitudes explain whites’ support for Trump better than racism or anti-black resentment.

Now, in the past I have attacked Trump for race-baiting. I’ve argued that Christians were wrong to support him in view of his connection with the alt-right. One may wonder, then, why I criticize the argument about racism. Am I backing down from my own arguments? Not really. I still think Christians are going to pay a price for supporting Trump. It will become more difficult to reach socially conservative people of color. We’ve also badly damaged our witness by tying ourselves to the white nationalism that buttresses Trump. So I have not changed: I have been a critic of Trump in the past and will be one in the future.

But the truth and honesty remain vitally important. The research shows that anti-PC attitudes explain whites’ support for Trump better than racism or anti-black resentment.

I know that many liberals want to tie Trump’s election to racism. I would have no problem doing so if I thought the evidence warranted it. But it does not.

Article source: https://stream.org/political-correctness-trump-presidency/

Here Come the Drag Queens

Make no mistake about it. From the moment gay activists came out of the closet in America, their agenda was clear: Society must get over its anti-gay sentiments and embrace everything gay — and I mean everything.

That’s why many of them were so brazen. They chanted, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”

That’s why gay pride parades were marked by the most offensive elements of the gay community, even if they were not representative of the whole.

That’s why it was drag queens who led the way in the 1969 Stonewall Riots. They were part of the frontline resistance, and they were out, proud and unashamed.

The “Self-Policing Social Code”

To be sure, some gay leaders in the 1980’s realized that this was a self-defeating strategy. If gay activism was to achieve its goals, it would have to put forth a different image, a more family-oriented, less-promiscuous, less-bizarre image.

Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen articulated some of this new strategy in the book After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s (New York: Penguin, 1989, p. 145). They wrote, “The effect of presenting a bigot with an extreme instance of his stereotypic picture/label pair is to augment the strength of the bigotry.”

In other words, we were the bigots, and to present us with the most extreme images of the gay community was to confirm and even heighten our bigotry.

So, Kirk and Madsen called for a “Self-Policing Social Code,” with words of advice like this: “If I’m a Pederast or a Sadomasochist, I’ll Keep It Under Wraps, and Out of Gay Pride Marches.”

They also called for the “conversion of the average American’s emotions, mind, and will, through a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda fed to the nation via the media” (p. 153).

And what would this propaganda look like?

Rather than exposing “bigots” like us to images of drag queens in their weird outfits or gay men gyrating in their underwear, we’d be bombarded by images of couples like Dan and Don, who’ve been together for 30 years, along with their adopted son Jason, and their pet dog Molly.

Do such gay couples exist? Of course. Are they more common than drag queens? Maybe so.

But statistics weren’t the issue. Image was the issue. And gay strategists fully understood that America would not embrace their goals as long as the most extreme elements of their society were at the forefront.

Transgender activists understood this strategy as well. That’s why they made a clear distinction between themselves and drag queens. “No, we’re not like them, and this has nothing to do with sexual orientation. We’re just normal people trapped in the wrong body, like little Sammy who’s really Sally.”

Americans could embrace that before they could embrace “Little Hot Mess” the drag queen.

But now that so many of the goals of LGBT activism have been realized, there’s no reason to push some of their own to the back of the bus, so to say.

And what does this mean, practically speaking? It means here come the drag queens.

Here Come the Drag Queens

It was drag queens who put pressure on Facebook in 2014 to change one of its fundamental policies, which required that you had to use your real name, not a made-up name. Before this time, drag queen John Doe could not use the name “Big Suzie Q,” which in his mind was his real name. Facebook apologized and changed its policy.

But that was minor compared to what’s happening today.

A concerned parent from Bloomington, Indiana wrote to me, saying, “Our local library always has a summer reading program for children.” Included was a link with this announcement for parents of children ages 2-6: “Learn about someone new! Local drag queens present stories and encourage us all to embrace our uniqueness.” Yes, for children ages 2-6!

This is perverse and outrageous. “Parents, bring your toddlers and little children to the library where local homosexual men who dress up as flamboyant women will read stories to them.” Here come the drag queens!

But it gets even worse. Much worse.

The Gyrating Drag Queen at a Grade School Talent Show

As Todd Starnes reports, “Parents are furious after children as young as 5-years-old were exposed to an erotic drag show performance at what was supposed to be a school district talent show.”

How bad was it? Take a moment to read some excerpts from the article.

The New York Daily News described the lewd performance as ‘complete with gyrations, tongue gymnastics and a flashed G-string.’” (If this seems vulgar to read – and it is – can you imagine being there with your little kids?)

“The May 25th performance shocked and enraged parents who could not believe the school district would allow a grown man to spread his legs and display his crotch to wide-eyed children.”

One parent “filmed the seven-minute routine on her cell phone and provided me with a copy. It’s jaw-dropping, folks. And when the drag queen dropped to the floor and began writhing in a sexually-suggestive manner, the auditorium erupted.”

Did you get that? This perverse performance was 7 minutes long. In front of 5-year-olds. I’m shocked some parents didn’t walk right up to the stage and shut the whole thing down.

And what happened when this drag queen started writhing on the floor in a sexually-suggestive manor?

“Once he got to that part it was chaos,” parent Raquel Morales said. “People were yelling and leaving. A lot of parents were saying had they known this was going to happen they would have taken their kids out after they had performed.” I would hope so! This is absolute madness.

And how did such a degraded performance take place at all?

“The talent show was emceed by District 4 Superintendent Alexandra Estrella. And the individual who performed in drag was identified as the president of the Public School 96 Parent Association” (my emphasis).

This is sick, and this man needs serious help. (If you’re offended by my saying this, be offended. Truth is sometimes offensive.) The district superintendent needs serious help too. How can these people be trusted with such positions of authority?

The Cat is Out of the Bag

Now, I believe there are gay readers who are also upset as they read this account, saying, “That drag queen does not represent me. What he did is just plain filthy.”

Unfortunately, the cat is now of the bag, and if it’s gay (or trans), it’s got to be good.

That means if a gay couple is monogamish rather than monogamous, we’ve got to embrace it. Gay love is good!

And that means when a boy who identifies as a girl beats the girls at a track meet, we’ve got to celebrate it. You go boy-girl!

And that means when a drag queen wants to read stories to your two-year-old or, better still, gyrate and flash his G-string in front of your 5-year-old, you must show your appreciation.

In other words, our sentiments should be, “You’re here, you’re queer, and we’re used to it. In fact, we love it.”

Count me out of that one, friends. Enough is simply enough.

Article source: https://stream.org/here-come-the-drag-queens/

Wal-Mart reassures employees as it touts tech investments


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) executives on Friday reassured workers they remained integral to the company’s success as they highlighted investments in online sales and other technology to compete with rivals like Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O).

Wal-Mart is successfully using e-commerce to boost sales but does not want to alienate workers who have helped drive gains with improved customer service and higher morale following a rise in base pay to $10 an hour.

“We will compete with technology, but win with people,” Chief Executive Doug McMillon said at Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting where all the company’s board member nominations were approved. “We will be people-led and tech-empowered.”

The nod to store employees and the retail workforce was a departure from past years when the company focused shareholder presentations on the technology it was adopting to close the online gap with Amazon and beat other competitors.

The shift followed complaints by labor groups that Wal-Mart had to do more for workers, despite the company’s $2.7 billion investment in employee training and wages in 2015 and the 2016 wage increase to $10.

McMillon’s comments capped a three-day media event during which the company announced initiatives like a test program that allows store workers to deliver packages ordered on the retailer’s website and the use of blockchain technology to ensure safety in its food supply chain.

Wal-Mart’s investments in technology helped deliver a 63 percent rise in first quarter online sales, up from 29 percent growth in the fourth quarter and 20 percent in the third quarter.

Its results have also outshined rivals like Target Corp (TGT.N), department-store chains and apparel retailers.

CHAIRMAN PROPOSAL REJECTED

The shareholders meeting at the Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas, 30 miles from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, was packed with 14,000 people, including workers from around 27 countries and shareholders. The company tapped Blake Shelton to host the show which included pop stars like Gwen Stefani, Mary J. Blige and Rachel Platten.

Wal-Mart’s shareholders approved all 11 company-recommended board members and voted in-line with company wishes. None of the four shareholder proposals put forward were approved. One from Making Change at Wal-Mart, part of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, called for an independent chairman to act in the interests of Wal-Mart’s hourly workers.

“How can any Wal-Mart associate build a better life when they have been with the company for five years or more and they make $9 or $10 an hour,” said Amy Ritter from the labor group, who presented the proposal.

For years, influential proxy advisory firms have recommended shareholders vote in favor of an independent board chairman without ties to management or the founding family, ever since bribery allegations several years ago exposed serious board oversight failures.

About 51 percent of Wal-Mart’s stock is controlled by the Walton family and current Chairman of the Board Greg Penner is married to the grandaughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yEJd2Wnu17o/us-walmart-shareholders-idUSKBN18T2Y1

Toyota sells all shares in Tesla as their tie-up ends


TOKYO Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said on Saturday it had sold all shares in Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) by the end of 2016, having canceled its tie-up with the U.S. luxury automaker to jointly develop electric vehicles.

Japan’s biggest automaker had bought around a 3 percent stake in the Palo Alto-based automaker for $50 million.

Toyota spokesman Ryo Sakai said the company had sold all of its shares in Tesla as of the end of 2016, part of a regular, periodic review of its investments, after it had initially sold down a portion in 2014.

“Our development partnership with Tesla ended a while ago, and since there has not been any new developments on that front, we decided it was time to sell the remaining stake,” he said.

In November, the Japanese automaker appointed its president to lead their newly-formed electric car division, flagging its commitment to develop a technology that it has been slow to embrace.

The department comprises a new in-house unit to plan Toyota’s strategy to develop and market electric cars as part of the company’s efforts to keep pace with tightening global emissions regulations.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu, Writing by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Q3vwQOlirE0/us-toyota-tesla-idUSKBN18U05E

As large cap gets larger, can the tech rally continue?


NEW YORK Technology shares have led U.S. stocks to record highs and are expected to continue to rise, but as market value becomes concentrated in the largest companies, some are beginning to look for the next rally leader.

The technology sector of the SP 500 .SPLRCT has risen roughly 20 percent so far in 2017, led by Apple (AAPL.O), Alphabet (GOOGL.O), Facebook (FB.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O).

The only other company with comparable gains in market value this year is Amazon (AMZN.O), a market darling not in the tech sector despite being a big player in cloud services and data storage.

“These are the dominant players in their specific spaces and the hottest areas in tech,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Company in Atlanta, highlighting their exposure to the cloud and artificial intelligence.

“You will continue to see money flowing into those names. People want to be exposed to the hottest areas,” he said.

(To view a graphic on ‘The Five Horsemen: growing influence of largest technology companies’ click reut.rs/2sntpYb)

Active funds have continued to throw their money behind the leaders with a record overweight on the technology sector, according to BofA/Merrill Lynch data going back to 2008.

But more than a third of the 2017 gains in the SP 500 have come from these five companies, and the concentration of the advance has some investors jittery.

“Given how significant the (large cap) leadership has been year to date, I kind of think you need to find another group to produce that leadership,” said Jim Tierney, chief investment officer of concentrated U.S. growth at AllianceBernstein in New York.

Echoing Dell[DI.UL], Cisco (CSCO.O), Intel (INTC.O) and yes, Microsoft itself, the leaders of the Y2K tech boom, these new “five horsemen” have added more than $612 billion in value to the stock market this year. Their 2017 gains alone could buy the 85 smallest companies of the SP 500.

Their combined value, near $3 trillion, is not far from the market value of all the other components of the Nasdaq 100.

NOT THAT EXPENSIVE, BUT…

This tech rally has come hand in hand with heightened expectations for profits. Investors are currently paying $18.50 for every $1 in earnings expected over the next 12 months in the sector, compared to the more than $40 they paid during the dot-com bubble and even the $20-plus seen during the most recent market peak in 2007.

Tech sector earnings are expected to grow 11 percent in the second quarter after rising near 21 percent in the first, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

However, with gains of more than 33 percent for Apple, Facebook and Amazon, near 25 percent for Alphabet and 15 percent in Microsoft, compared to a gain of 8.5 percent for the SP 500, the room for more upside is declining.

Despite expecting gains upward of 20 percent for the rest of the year on the so-called FANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet – and their ilk, analysts at Fundstrat recommended in a Friday note balancing portfolios by scooping up the year’s underperformers: banks, energy and telecoms.

They are not alone in searching for exposure outside technology.

“We’re most overweight in technology but I don’t want to stay too long at the party,” said Alan Gayle, director of asset allocation at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta.

“What I’m watching for is an opportunity to lighten up on tech exposure and put it into some of the more cyclical areas,” he said. “Financials are going to be catching a tailwind.”

AllianceBernstein’s Tierney bets beyond tech on healthcare .SPXHC, the second-largest sector weight on the SP 500.

“Healthcare has really lagged the last 18 months or so. They could certainly pick up the mantle.”

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Sinead Carew and Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/ygQfvClkLHo/us-usa-stocks-weekahead-idUSKBN18T330

Big U.S. companies stay on White House panel despite climate jolt


WASHINGTON Several major U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) and IBM Corp (IBM.N), on Friday said their CEOs will remain in an influential presidential advisory group despite objecting to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Citing the need to stay engaged with the administration, business leaders said they would remain in their advisory roles to continue working to influence White House policies.

Trump, a Republican, on Thursday said he would pull the United States from the landmark 2015 global agreement to fight climate change, drawing anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry.

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) CEO Robert Iger reacted by leaving White House advisory councils after Trump’s move.

“Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world,” Musk said in a Twitter post on Thursday. He is a member of the business advisory group, known as the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum. He also belongs to Trump’s manufacturing jobs council.

However, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N), the largest U.S. retailer, said on Friday that Chief Executive Doug McMillon would remain on the business council.

McMillon said in a Facebook post late on Thursday he was “disappointed in today’s news about the Paris Agreement. We think it’s important for countries to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty will remain on the council, the company said on Friday as it reaffirmed its support for the Paris accord.

“IBM believes we can make a constructive contribution by having a direct dialogue with the administration – as we do with governments around the world,” a company spokeswoman said.

Cleveland Clinic Chief Executive Toby Cosgrove will also remain on the council, a spokeswoman said.

Another prominent chief executive, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase Co (JPM.N), criticized Trump’s decision, but suggested in a statement on Friday that he would not step down from Trump’s business group.

“I absolutely disagree with the administration on this issue, but we have a responsibility to engage our elected officials to work constructively and advocate for policies that improve people’s lives and protect our environment,” Dimon said.

PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N) Chief Executive Indra Nooyi is expected to remain on the council. The company said in a statement on Friday that while it is “disappointed with the announcement, we hope there is a way for the accord to move forward with the U.S. at the table.”

‘LET’S GET A BETTER DEAL’

Other chief executives also issued statements criticizing the decision to withdraw from the accord, including the heads of Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and General Electric Co (GE.N). GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt, is on Trump’s manufacturing council.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who is also on Trump’s manufacturing council, called the withdrawal “a failure of American leadership.” A union spokesman said on Friday that Trumka intends to remain on the council to serve “as a voice for working people.”

Trump administration officials pushed back against company criticisms in television interviews on Friday.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn dismissed concerns about potential economic fallout from the climate deal withdrawal, such as the potential of other countries slapping tariffs on American manufacturers.

In an interview on CNBC on Friday, Cohn said the move was part of the administration’s efforts to boost U.S. economic growth and help companies by increasing demand for U.S. goods, along with other efforts targeting regulations, taxes and infrastructure.

“If we can grow our economy, we’re going to consume more and more products,” he said. “We’re going to need more manufacturing in the United States just to deal with domestic consumption.”

The issue could resurface later this month when, according to an administration spokesman, the White House plans to hold a June 19 meeting with technology leaders.

Kellyanne Conway, a White House senior adviser, said on Fox News the deal would have “a statistically insignificant impact on the environment.”

“If you really cared about that piece, and you’re one of these CEOs crowing today, then you would say ‘let’s get a better deal,'” she said in the interview on Friday, adding that Trump had said he was open to future negotiations.

Trump created the business advisory group in December before taking office to assist him in making policy decisions. The council is led by Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of Blackstone Group LP (BX.N).

Blackrock Inc (BLK.N) Chief Executive Larry Fink said on Thursday he would continue to serve on Trump’s business forum, despite reservations about the White House climate decision because he believes he can add to policy discussions and be a voice for investors.

General Motors Co (GM.N) said Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra also would remain on the presidential advisory panel, while it remained unclear whether Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) new chief executive, James Hackett, would join the group.

In February, Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] CEO Travis Kalanick quit the business advisory council amid internal pressure over Trump’s immigration policies.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/2bBT7VKxqdc/us-usa-climatechange-ceos-idUSKBN18T2MC

U.S. job growth slows; unemployment rate drops to 4.3 percent


WASHINGTON U.S. job growth slowed in May and employment gains in the prior two months were not as strong as previously reported, suggesting the labor market was losing momentum despite the unemployment rate falling to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 138,000 last month as the manufacturing, government and retail sectors lost jobs, the Labor Department said on Friday. The economy created 66,000 fewer jobs than previously reported in March and April.

Last month’s job gains could still be sufficient for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at its June 13-14 policy meeting. The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

“While the message was a little muddied today, the evidence generally suggests the labor market is cyclically tightening, and the Fed will need to continue to lean against that,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

“We still believe it is very likely that the Fed will hike later this month. Perhaps more in question is the signal coming out of that meeting regarding subsequent hikes.”

Details of the employment report were weak. Though the unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to its lowest level since May 2001, that was because 429,000 people dropped out of the labor force.

The survey of households from which the unemployment rate is derived also showed a drop in employment. The jobless rate has declined five-tenths of a percentage point this year.

Average hourly earnings rose four cents or 0.2 percent in May after a similar gain in April, leaving the year-on-year increase in wages at 2.5 percent.

Job growth has decelerated from the 181,000 monthly average over the past 12 months as the labor market nears full employment. There is growing anecdotal evidence of companies struggling to find qualified workers.

Economists also believe that companies might be holding off hiring amid worries political scandals engulfing President Donald Trump could imperil his economic agenda, including tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

“Political uncertainty in Washington is another factor holding back the job market,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo. “The probability that any of the Trump stimulus would become reality has decreased significantly in recent weeks.”

Economists had forecast payrolls increasing by 185,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate holding steady at 4.4 percent. U.S. financial markets are almost pricing in a 25 basis point increase in the Fed’s benchmark overnight interest rate this month, according to CME FedWatch.

The dollar fell to seven-month lows on views the jobs data could portend diminished chances for a Fed rate hike in the second half of the year. Long-dated U.S. Treasury yields fell to nearly seven-month lows, and short-dated yields touched their lowest in more than two weeks, but U.S. stocks edged up to new highs. [MKTS/GLOB].

SHRINKING LABOR MARKET SLACK

The modest payrolls gain could temper expectations of a sharp acceleration in economic growth in the second quarter after gross domestic product increased at a tepid 1.2 percent annualized rate at the start of the year.

While consumer spending picked up in April, a second report on Friday showed the trade deficit widening 5.2 percent to $47.6 billion. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting GDP increasing at a 3.4 percent pace in the second quarter.

There was some good news in the employment report. A broad measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 8.4 percent, the lowest since November 2007.

As a result, the spread between the jobless rate and this broad unemployment gauge, considered a better measure of labor market slack, was the smallest since early 2008.

But the labor force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, fell two-tenths of a percentage point to 62.7 percent. The volatile 16-24 age group accounted for much of the drop in the participation rate last month, suggesting a rebound is likely.

Manufacturing employment fell by 1,000 jobs last month as payrolls in the automobile sector dropped 1,500 amid declining sales. Ford Motor Co (F.N) said last month it planned to cut 1,400 salaried jobs in North America and Asia through voluntary early retirement and other financial incentives.

Construction payrolls rose 11,000 last month after decreasing by 1,000 jobs in April. Retail employment fell 6,100, declining for a fourth straight month, with department stores shedding 3,700 jobs.

Department store chains like J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N), Macy’s Inc (M.N) and Abercrombie Fitch (ANF.N) are struggling against stiff competition from online retailers led by Amazon (AMZN.O). Nonstore retailers, including online merchants, hired 2,900 workers last month.

Government employment decreased 9,000 last month, with state and local governments accounting for all the decrease.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/FJUokWW9G-k/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN18T0BT

Wall St. at record levels despite tepid jobs report


U.S. stocks were trading at record levels on Friday as gains in industrial and technology stocks more than offset the impact of weak jobs data.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 138,000 last month, below the 185,000 expected by economists. Data for both March and April was revised to show 66,000 fewer jobs were created than previously reported.

Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent in May, following a similar gain in April, but unemployment rate fell to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent in the previous month.

While last month’s job gains could still be sufficient for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month, the modest increase could raise concerns about the economy’s health after GDP growth slowed in the first quarter.

The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. Job gains are slowing as the labor market nears full employment.

Odds of a rate hike at the Fed’s June 13-14 meeting stood at 93.5 percent, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

“I do believe that the June rate hike is already priced in so it probably doesn’t change what the Fed wants to do,” said Neil Massa, senior equity trader at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.

“I think what it would change, if anything, was the possibility of them accelerating the rate hikes. After this I think it makes them more likely to stay the course than to accelerate.”

At 12:39 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 66.32 points, or 0.31 percent, at 21,210.5. The index hit a record of 21,221.33.

The SP 500 .SPX was up 6.55 points, or 0.269541 percent, at 2,436.61. It hit an all-time high of 2,437.62.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 44.10 points, or 0.71 percent, at 6,290.93, easing slightly from its record high of 6,294.15.

Eight of the 11 major SP sectors were higher, with the industrial .SPLRCI sector’s 0.89 percent rise leading the gainers, followed by technology’s .SPLRCT 0.71 percent gain.

The financial .SPSY and energy .SPNY sectors were the main losers.

Shares of banks, which benefit from higher interest rates, fell as much as 0.9 percent, before paring some losses to trade down 0.2 percent. Bank of America (BAC.N), JPMorgan (JPM.N), and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) fell between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent.

Brent oil tumbled below $50, heading for a second straight week of losses, on worries that President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon a climate pact could spark more crude drilling in the United States, worsening a global glut. [O/R]

Broadcom (AVGO.O) rose as much as 8.2 percent to hit an all-time high of $253.75, after the chipmaker’s quarterly results beat analysts’ expectations.

Lululemon Athletica (LULU.O) jumped 12.4 percent to $54.72 after the athletic apparel maker’s quarterly profit beat estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,803 to 1,025. On the Nasdaq, 2,001 issues rose and 793 fell.

The SP 500 index showed 28 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 70 new lows.

(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Q4R38LNI1Ro/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18T1JE

Defense Sec’y Mattis Seeks Continuity in Policy Toward Asia

SINGAPORE (AP) — The Trump administration is aiming for continuity in Asia policy, sticking broadly with the approach its predecessors have taken by emphasizing diplomacy and cooperation with allies, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.

Mattis outlined the Trump administration’s approach in remarks to reporters traveling with him to Singapore, where he will deliver a policy speech at an international security conference Saturday and meet with several Asian counterparts.

He spoke of “reinforcing the international order” while seeking a “peaceful, prosperous and free Asia” — echoes of the traditional U.S. policy goals — without mentioning the narrower challenges of a nuclear North Korea and a rising China. He is expected to discuss North Korea and China in his Saturday speech.

Upon arriving in Singapore, Mattis scheduled meetings Friday with Singorean and Asian officials.

President Donald Trump raised doubts in Asia when he took office following a campaign in which he sharply criticized Japan and South Korea for not pulling their weight as treaty allies. So far, however, the administration has been more supportive.

“As a Pacific nation, we have enduring interests and commitments in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mattis said aboard his aircraft, referring in part to U.S. defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines.

“Accordingly, we are demonstrating the priority this administration places on maintaining stability alongside our allies and partners,” he added. The Pentagon’s role, he said, is to reinforce alliances, strengthen U.S. military capabilities to deter war in Asia, and help enable countries to sustain their own security.

Mattis is mindful of emerging threats in Asia, starting with North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles with sufficient range to deliver nuclear strikes on U.S. territory.

Trump has said he is leaning more heavily on China — North Korea’s only significant ally — to contain that threat. At the same time, the administration has repeated the Obama’s administration’s criticisms of China for reclaiming land in areas of the South China that several other nations claim as their own. It’s unclear how far China will go to help on North Korea in the face of South China Sea tensions.

Trump also has used gunboat diplomacy by speaking of a U.S. naval “armada” within range of North Korea and noting the presence of U.S. nuclear submarines in the region.

The U.S. Navy has two aircraft carrier strike groups in waters off the Korean Peninsula, and on Thursday those groups — led by the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan — began three days of joint exercises, the first in that area since the 1990s.

David Helvey, Mattis’ senior adviser on Asia policy, told reporters on the way to Singapore that the dual carrier exercise is not intended as a provocation. He called it routine but acknowledged that it is the first of its kind in about 20 years.

The exercises are intended to reassure allies, he said, and to keep U.S. forces ready for any crisis.

“This is not about sending a message directly to North Korea,” Helvey said, adding, “I don’t expect this to change North Korea’s behavior.”

In line with Mattis’s emphasis on helping allies defend their own territory while strengthening U.S. military muscle in the region, the U.S. has deployed a missile defense system in South Korea known as a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system. It is intended to protect South Korea from a potential North Korean missile strike.

The new South Korean government has complained that it was not aware of the extent of THAAD deployments on its territory in recent weeks, but Helvey said the U.S. had consulted with Seoul “throughout this process” of deploying the THAAD.

Mattis’s trip is his second to Asia since he took over the Pentagon Jan. 20. He has put heavy emphasis on nurturing alliances and building new partnerships in Asia, echoing the approach of the Obama administration, which built closer ties to India, Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam, and began a rotation of Marine contingents in Australia.

Article source: https://stream.org/defense-secy-mattis-seeks-continuity-policy-toward-asia/

Pentecost2017: The Churches I Love, Because Their People Love

In “Pentecost2017,” Stream editors share personal stories of the ways their fellow believers have changed their lives. Here associate editor Nancy Flory writes about her search for a church home and what the love of others has done for her.

I guess I’m not a stickler for denomination, although I love my church family at St. Michael’s Catholic Church down the street. For part of my childhood I went to the Baptist church. Then my folks decided to have home church for several years. When I was seventeen, we attended a charismatic nondenominational church.

My parents stayed there. I went looking for a church that felt like home. It took me years.

What I Found Out

My journey for a church home was not a straightforward one. I attended a Messianic Jewish Synagogue, a Baptist church, a Covenant church, a Lutheran Church … you get the picture. One day, a girlfriend invited me to a program her church offered for people interested in the Catholic Church. I liked the program and stayed to find out more about it. I loved the Church’s rich history and the servant’s heart I found in many of my new Catholic friends. But I found out more about myself than anything.

I realized that I couldn’t find a church home because it wasn’t about the building. It wasn’t about the denomination. It wasn’t about how far it was from my home. It was about the people.

My brothers and sisters in Christ. They were the catalyst that brought Christianity to life for me. They were the hands and feet of Jesus. They were his love in action.

When I was pregnant and scared, a leader at that church went to the ultrasound with me and held my hand. She expressed joy at the sight of my unborn child. “Sweet baby,” she whispered to me. She didn’t make me feel like I was crazy for being scared. She just walked with me through a difficult time.

Some ladies at another church I attended knew I was struggling financially. They directed me to a food bank, then gave me school supplies for my sons. They ushered me in to see the priest, who prayed with me and comforted me. They talked with me about my situation, without judgment, and helped me where I had a need.

Years later, I attended a protestant church during a particularly difficult time in my life. My husband and son left home for different reasons and I never thought I’d get them back. I began attending one of its small groups. One night I broke down and bawled like a baby. Although it wasn’t protocol, one woman stopped the meeting and asked if everyone could pray for me at that moment.

My brothers and sisters there were a lifeline to me. They brought food, kept me company, babysat my toddler and provided financial help and bodies to help me move across the metroplex. They cried with me. They prayed with me. They loved me.

My Church Home

And that’s the kind of church home I was looking for.

I wanted to be involved and make a difference in the lives of others who were hurting or needed help. I wanted to be part of a community that was committed to loving others even in the worst of times. I once organized a Christmas cookie bake and caroling event for a nursing home because I was inspired by those around me who were changing lives for the better every day. Some of the residents were so lonely they just wanted someone to talk to. I was honored to listen.

It isn’t where you go, or how big the building is. It’s people who love Jesus working to meet the needs of others. It’s loving the people around us.

It’s being the hands and feet of Christ to those in need: the Body of Christ.

Now I’m home.

Article source: https://stream.org/church-love-people-love/

Voice for Real Estate 68: Hill Visits, BOD Decisions

Congress hears from REALTORS® on tax reform

NAR’s board wants to curb rent control

And homes are selling faster than ever

Hi, I’m Stephen Gasque with the National Association of REALTORS®.

More than 9,000 REALTORS® traveled to Washington in May to meet with their members of Congress. Their message: tax reform must not place an unfair burden on our nation’s homeowners.

[QUOTE]

REALTORS® favor tax reform, especially changes that will ease the burden on small businesses. But they raised a red flag when the Trump administration released a plan that would do away with many of the deductions homeowners take, including real estate taxes and other state and local taxes. Even if owners can still deduct mortgage interest, the loss of those other deductions, in combination with other changes under consideration, would lead to a more than 800-dollar increase in taxes on average for middle-income homeowners, who earn between $50,000 and $200,000 a year.

[QUOTE]

In hundreds of meetings with lawmakers, REALTORS® were armed with research commissioned by NAR that found home prices would drop by an average 10.3 percent across the nation if the Administration’s plan were to take effect. That reform proposal would consolidate individual tax brackets from five to three, lower rates, double the standard deduction, and eliminate all itemized deductions except those for mortgage interest and charitable giving.

Homeowners would end up losing almost one trillion dollars in tax savings, a drop of more than 80 percent.

NAR’s position is: That’s an unfair burden to place on our nation’s homeowners, who already pay more than 80 percent of all personal income taxes in the United States.

You can access all of the research findings by searching “impact of tax reform options” on nar.realtor.

[SWOOSH]

The Capitol Hill visits by REALTORS® were just part of the action in Washington during the NAR’s legislative meetings. There were hundreds of education classes, committee sessions, and forums over the course of the week.

And at its meeting capping off the event, NAR’s board of directors voted on new policy positions in support of the nation’s REALTORS®.

First, the board voted to reaffirm NAR’s commitment to maintaining a federal guarantee for conventional mortgage financing. NAR also will continue to advocate for making loans receiving federal guarantees assumable. That would protect homebuyers, including move-up buyers, from seeing their buying power eroded by rising interest rates.

Other positions the board voted on:

  • Opposing the rise in rent control measures by state and local governments
  • Maintaining its support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which helps combat fraud and abuse in the lending
  • industry. But NAR also wants the agency to be overseen by a five-person commission rather than a single director.
  • And removing federally backed reverse mortgages from the way FHA calculates the amount of reserves it maintains in its
  • main insurance fund.

[SWOOSH]

A minor pause in home sales last month.

NAR’s existing-home sales figures for April declined by about 2 percent to a 5.57 million sales pace. That’s still one of the highest levels over the last 12 months, and there’s no sign of any let-up in demand. In fact, the number of days the typical listing is on the market has fallen from 34 days to 29 days. That’s the first time that days-on-market fell below a month. Dannielle Hale, NAR’s managing director of housing research, has more.

[QUOTE]

We’ll have more on how home sales are doing across the country next week when NAR releases its forward-looking pending home sales index.

[SWOOSH]

Before we leave you, a special thank-you to the thousands of REALTORS® who traveled to Washington this month. You’re doing important work when you take time out from your business to make your voice heard at our nation’s Capitol.

And that’s our show for the week of May 29. You can get more on everything we talked about at the Voice for Real Estate page on nar.realtor. Thank you for joining us. And we hope to see you again next time, as we bring you all the latest news, on the Voice for Real Estate!

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/RealtororgGovernmentAffairsHeadlines/~3/O2XWbqK9aJ8/voice-for-real-estate-68-hill-visits-bod-decisions

‘Axis of love’: Saudi-Russia detente heralds new oil order


MOSCOW A meeting between the two men who run Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil empires spoke volumes about the new relationship between the energy superpowers.

It was the first time that Rosneft boss Igor Sechin and Saudi Aramco chief Amin Nasser had held a formal, scheduled meeting – going beyond the numerous times they had simply encountered each other at oil events around the world.

Their conversation also broke new ground, according to two sources familiar with the talks in the Saudi city of Dhahran last week who said the CEOs discussed possible ways of cooperating in Asia, such as Indonesia and India, as well as in other markets.

The sources did not disclose further details, but any cooperation in Asia between Russia and Saudi Arabia – the world’s two biggest oil exporters – would be unprecedented.

State oil giant Aramco confirmed the meeting took place but declined to give details of the closed-door talks, which took place on the same day as OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia led a global pact to extend a crude output cut to prop up prices. Kremlin oil major Rosneft declined to comment.

The meeting – which also saw Nasser give Sechin a tour of Aramco’s HQ, according to the sources – gives an insight into the newfound, unexpected and fast-deepening partnership between the two countries. It is one that will be closely watched by big oil consumers around the world which have long relied on the hot rivalry between their top suppliers to secure better deals.

Such a detente between Moscow and Riyadh would have been almost unthinkable in the past.

Up until a year ago, the two sides had virtually no dialogue at all, even in the face of a spike in U.S. shale oil production that had led to a collapse in global prices from mid-2014. Sechin was strongly opposed to Russia cutting output in tandem with OPEC.

In a sign of their white-hot Asian rivalry, Rosneft outbid Aramco to buy India’s refiner Essar last year and boost its share in the world’s fastest growing fuel market.

Fast forward a matter of months, and Moscow and Riyadh have become the main protagonists of the pact to cut output – agreed in December and extended last week – and are even discussing possible cooperation in their core Asian markets.

“It is a new ‘axis of love’,” one senior Gulf official said of the relationship.

On Tuesday, Putin welcomed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Kremlin and both men said they would deepen cooperation in oil and work on narrowing their differences over Syria, where Moscow and Riyadh are backing opposing sides in a civil war.

“The most important thing is that we are succeeding in building a solid foundation to stabilize oil markets and energy prices,” said Prince Mohammed.

Putin said the countries would work together to resolve a “difficult situation”.

WHY NOW?

The first attempt at cooperation between the two countries failed spectacularly with both sides unable to agree joint actions at an OPEC meeting in December 2014, six months after oil prices began tumbling from above $100 a barrel.

To add insult to injury, Sechin pledged to keep pushing output higher, even if prices fell to $20 per barrel. Saudi’s then oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, retaliated by saying the Russian oil output would collapse as a result of low prices, a prediction that turned out to be wrong.

Much has changed since then, however, economically and politically – and the unlikely partnership between Moscow and Riyadh has been born out of necessity.

When oil prices collapsed, both economies were driven into deficit after years of high spending and are only now slowly recovering. With Russia heading for a presidential election in early 2018, and Prince Mohammed having pledged to reform the Saudi economy and publicly list Aramco, neither country can afford another oil price shock.

The ousting of veteran minister Naimi and his replacement with the more pragmatic Khalid al-Falih last year also appeared to have helped, with their dialogue facilitated by OPEC’s new secretary general Mohammad Barkindo.

“If minister Falih says something, I know it will be done,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said last week in Vienna after Russia and OPEC agreed to extend output cuts.

Novak is looking to organize a trip for Falih to a Russian Arctic field, having visited Aramco’s facilities in the Empty Quarter desert himself last October. “Last year, minister Falih took us to a desert – we want to show him an ice desert,” Novak joked last week.

Barkindo told Reuters: “They (Saudi Arabia and Russia) are the leading lights of the Declaration of Cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC which has opened a new chapter in the history of oil.”

‘SPASIBO’

On Tuesday, Novak and Falih reiterated in Moscow they would do “whatever it takes” to stabilize oil markets, borrowing a famous phrase used by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi five years ago to defend the euro.

They also discussed the outlook for non-OPEC production including U.S. shale output, which has resumed growing over the past year as private American producers have cut costs and adapted to lower prices.

U.S. crude is now being exported all over the world and the chances of private producers agreeing to cooperate with OPEC are minimal because of tough U.S. anti-monopoly legislation.

“Both Russia and the Gulf countries are interested in some type of oil price stabilization and they hope that they can achieve this without undertaking a sort of massive cuts which they had to do back in the 1980s,” said Paul Simons, a former U.S. diplomat now serving as deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency.

Saudi Arabia and Russia say they will remain in partnership long after the current output reduction deal expires.

“It is necessary to work out new framework principles for continued cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC even after the expiration of the Vienna agreements,” Novak said on Wednesday.

Falih, for his part, ended his speech by thanking Novak in Russian: “Spasibo.”

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal, Reem Shamseddine, Nerijus Adomaitis and Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Pravin Char)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/cwA0-JtG5rI/us-oil-opec-russia-saudi-idUSKBN18S3Y3

‘Axis of love’: Saudi-Russia detente heralds new oil order


MOSCOW A meeting between the two men who run Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil empires spoke volumes about the new relationship between the energy superpowers.

It was the first time that Rosneft boss Igor Sechin and Saudi Aramco chief Amin Nasser had held a formal, scheduled meeting – going beyond the numerous times they had simply encountered each other at oil events around the world.

Their conversation also broke new ground, according to two sources familiar with the talks in the Saudi city of Dhahran last week who said the CEOs discussed possible ways of cooperating in Asia, such as Indonesia and India, as well as in other markets.

The sources did not disclose further details, but any cooperation in Asia between Russia and Saudi Arabia – the world’s two biggest oil exporters – would be unprecedented.

State oil giant Aramco confirmed the meeting took place but declined to give details of the closed-door talks, which took place on the same day as OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia led a global pact to extend a crude output cut to prop up prices. Kremlin oil major Rosneft declined to comment.

The meeting – which also saw Nasser give Sechin a tour of Aramco’s HQ, according to the sources – gives an insight into the newfound, unexpected and fast-deepening partnership between the two countries. It is one that will be closely watched by big oil consumers around the world which have long relied on the hot rivalry between their top suppliers to secure better deals.

Such a detente between Moscow and Riyadh would have been almost unthinkable in the past.

Up until a year ago, the two sides had virtually no dialogue at all, even in the face of a spike in U.S. shale oil production that had led to a collapse in global prices from mid-2014. Sechin was strongly opposed to Russia cutting output in tandem with OPEC.

In a sign of their white-hot Asian rivalry, Rosneft outbid Aramco to buy India’s refiner Essar last year and boost its share in the world’s fastest growing fuel market.

Fast forward a matter of months, and Moscow and Riyadh have become the main protagonists of the pact to cut output – agreed in December and extended last week – and are even discussing possible cooperation in their core Asian markets.

“It is a new ‘axis of love’,” one senior Gulf official said of the relationship.

On Tuesday, Putin welcomed Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Kremlin and both men said they would deepen cooperation in oil and work on narrowing their differences over Syria, where Moscow and Riyadh are backing opposing sides in a civil war.

“The most important thing is that we are succeeding in building a solid foundation to stabilize oil markets and energy prices,” said Prince Mohammed.

Putin said the countries would work together to resolve a “difficult situation”.

WHY NOW?

The first attempt at cooperation between the two countries failed spectacularly with both sides unable to agree joint actions at an OPEC meeting in December 2014, six months after oil prices began tumbling from above $100 a barrel.

To add insult to injury, Sechin pledged to keep pushing output higher, even if prices fell to $20 per barrel. Saudi’s then oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, retaliated by saying the Russian oil output would collapse as a result of low prices, a prediction that turned out to be wrong.

Much has changed since then, however, economically and politically – and the unlikely partnership between Moscow and Riyadh has been born out of necessity.

When oil prices collapsed, both economies were driven into deficit after years of high spending and are only now slowly recovering. With Russia heading for a presidential election in early 2018, and Prince Mohammed having pledged to reform the Saudi economy and publicly list Aramco, neither country can afford another oil price shock.

The ousting of veteran minister Naimi and his replacement with the more pragmatic Khalid al-Falih last year also appeared to have helped, with their dialogue facilitated by OPEC’s new secretary general Mohammad Barkindo.

“If minister Falih says something, I know it will be done,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said last week in Vienna after Russia and OPEC agreed to extend output cuts.

Novak is looking to organize a trip for Falih to a Russian Arctic field, having visited Aramco’s facilities in the Empty Quarter desert himself last October. “Last year, minister Falih took us to a desert – we want to show him an ice desert,” Novak joked last week.

Barkindo told Reuters: “They (Saudi Arabia and Russia) are the leading lights of the Declaration of Cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC which has opened a new chapter in the history of oil.”

‘SPASIBO’

On Tuesday, Novak and Falih reiterated in Moscow they would do “whatever it takes” to stabilize oil markets, borrowing a famous phrase used by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi five years ago to defend the euro.

They also discussed the outlook for non-OPEC production including U.S. shale output, which has resumed growing over the past year as private American producers have cut costs and adapted to lower prices.

U.S. crude is now being exported all over the world and the chances of private producers agreeing to cooperate with OPEC are minimal because of tough U.S. anti-monopoly legislation.

“Both Russia and the Gulf countries are interested in some type of oil price stabilization and they hope that they can achieve this without undertaking a sort of massive cuts which they had to do back in the 1980s,” said Paul Simons, a former U.S. diplomat now serving as deputy executive director of the International Energy Agency.

Saudi Arabia and Russia say they will remain in partnership long after the current output reduction deal expires.

“It is necessary to work out new framework principles for continued cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC even after the expiration of the Vienna agreements,” Novak said on Wednesday.

Falih, for his part, ended his speech by thanking Novak in Russian: “Spasibo.”

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal, Reem Shamseddine, Nerijus Adomaitis and Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Pravin Char)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/cwA0-JtG5rI/us-oil-opec-russia-saudi-idUSKBN18S3Y3

U.S. factory activity edges up; private payrolls surge


WASHINGTON U.S. factory activity ticked up in May after slowing for two straight months and private employers stepped up hiring, suggesting the economy is regaining speed after struggling at the start of the year.

The signs of renewed vigor in the economy and labor market tightness could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this month.

“The economy is moving forward at an acceptable pace and the Fed is likely to hike rates in June, but there is a cloud over the path of rates later on this year,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity ticked up to a reading of 54.9 last month from 54.8 in April. The index hit a 2-1/2-year high of 57.7 in February amid optimism over President Donald Trump’s pro-business policy proposals.

It had declined for two consecutive months as concerns mounted in the business community that political scandals could derail the Trump administration’s economic agenda, including its push to cut corporate and individual taxes.

A reading above 50 in the ISM index indicates an expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy. The manufacturing recovery remains underpinned by the energy sector as steady increases in crude oil prices boost drilling activity, fueling demand for machinery.

The ISM survey’s new orders sub-index increased to 59.5 last month from 57.5 in April. A measure of factory employment jumped to a reading of 53.5 from 52.0 in April. Manufacturers of food and fabricated metals products reported difficulties finding qualified workers.

Manufacturers continued to steadily increase inventories and still viewed their customers’ stocks as too low, according to the survey. While raw materials prices rose for a 15th straight month, the pace of increase slowed sharply in May.

U.S. stocks were trading higher on Thursday, while U.S. Treasury debt prices fell. The dollar .DXY rose against a basket of currencies.

The ADP National Employment Report showed private payrolls increased by 253,000 jobs last month, beating economists’ expectations for a gain of 185,000 jobs. Private payrolls rose by 174,000 jobs in April.

The ADP report is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics and was released ahead of the Labor Department’s more comprehensive nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.

The ADP report, however, is not a good predictor of the private payrolls component of the employment report. According to a Reuters survey of economists, payrolls likely increased by 185,000 jobs in May after a gain of 211,000 in April. The unemployment rate is forecast to be unchanged at a 10-year low of 4.4 percent.

ECONOMY FIRMING

Still, the ADP report added to data this week showing an acceleration in consumer spending in April.

The economy grew at a 1.2 percent annualized rate in the first quarter. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product increasing at a 3.8 percent pace in the second quarter.

Minutes of the Fed’s May 2-3 policy meeting, which were published last week, showed that while policymakers agreed they should hold off hiking rates until there was evidence the growth slowdown was transitory, “most participants” believed “it would soon be appropriate” to raise borrowing costs.

The U.S. central bank hiked rates by 25 basis points in March. It is expected to do so again at its June 13-14 policy meeting.

In a third report on Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 248,000 for the week ended May 27.

It was the 117th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.

A Labor Department official said claims for California and seven other states were estimated because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, which could have distorted the data.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose only 2,500 to 238,000 last week.

“While the claims report put a damper on what has been a pretty upbeat run for most of the recent labor market data, we still have a fairly favorable view of labor market conditions,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

The Fed said on Wednesday in its Beige Book report of anecdotal information on business activity collected from contacts nationwide that labor markets continued to tighten from early April through late May.

It also said “most” districts had cited worker shortages across a broadening range of occupations and regions.

A fourth report by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray Christmas showed layoffs announced by U.S.-based employers surged 41 percent to 51,692 in May. Nearly 40 percent of the job cuts were announced by Ford Motor Co (F.N), according to the report.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Dan Burns in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/joli4LmwGJs/us-usa-economy-unemployment-idUSKBN18S53H

U.S. factory activity edges up; private payrolls surge


WASHINGTON U.S. factory activity ticked up in May after slowing for two straight months and private employers stepped up hiring, suggesting the economy is regaining speed after struggling at the start of the year.

The signs of renewed vigor in the economy and labor market tightness could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this month.

“The economy is moving forward at an acceptable pace and the Fed is likely to hike rates in June, but there is a cloud over the path of rates later on this year,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity ticked up to a reading of 54.9 last month from 54.8 in April. The index hit a 2-1/2-year high of 57.7 in February amid optimism over President Donald Trump’s pro-business policy proposals.

It had declined for two consecutive months as concerns mounted in the business community that political scandals could derail the Trump administration’s economic agenda, including its push to cut corporate and individual taxes.

A reading above 50 in the ISM index indicates an expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy. The manufacturing recovery remains underpinned by the energy sector as steady increases in crude oil prices boost drilling activity, fueling demand for machinery.

The ISM survey’s new orders sub-index increased to 59.5 last month from 57.5 in April. A measure of factory employment jumped to a reading of 53.5 from 52.0 in April. Manufacturers of food and fabricated metals products reported difficulties finding qualified workers.

Manufacturers continued to steadily increase inventories and still viewed their customers’ stocks as too low, according to the survey. While raw materials prices rose for a 15th straight month, the pace of increase slowed sharply in May.

U.S. stocks were trading higher on Thursday, while U.S. Treasury debt prices fell. The dollar .DXY rose against a basket of currencies.

The ADP National Employment Report showed private payrolls increased by 253,000 jobs last month, beating economists’ expectations for a gain of 185,000 jobs. Private payrolls rose by 174,000 jobs in April.

The ADP report is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics and was released ahead of the Labor Department’s more comprehensive nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.

The ADP report, however, is not a good predictor of the private payrolls component of the employment report. According to a Reuters survey of economists, payrolls likely increased by 185,000 jobs in May after a gain of 211,000 in April. The unemployment rate is forecast to be unchanged at a 10-year low of 4.4 percent.

ECONOMY FIRMING

Still, the ADP report added to data this week showing an acceleration in consumer spending in April.

The economy grew at a 1.2 percent annualized rate in the first quarter. The Atlanta Fed is forecasting gross domestic product increasing at a 3.8 percent pace in the second quarter.

Minutes of the Fed’s May 2-3 policy meeting, which were published last week, showed that while policymakers agreed they should hold off hiking rates until there was evidence the growth slowdown was transitory, “most participants” believed “it would soon be appropriate” to raise borrowing costs.

The U.S. central bank hiked rates by 25 basis points in March. It is expected to do so again at its June 13-14 policy meeting.

In a third report on Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits jumped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 248,000 for the week ended May 27.

It was the 117th straight week that claims were below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.

A Labor Department official said claims for California and seven other states were estimated because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, which could have distorted the data.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose only 2,500 to 238,000 last week.

“While the claims report put a damper on what has been a pretty upbeat run for most of the recent labor market data, we still have a fairly favorable view of labor market conditions,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York.

The Fed said on Wednesday in its Beige Book report of anecdotal information on business activity collected from contacts nationwide that labor markets continued to tighten from early April through late May.

It also said “most” districts had cited worker shortages across a broadening range of occupations and regions.

A fourth report by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray Christmas showed layoffs announced by U.S.-based employers surged 41 percent to 51,692 in May. Nearly 40 percent of the job cuts were announced by Ford Motor Co (F.N), according to the report.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Additional reporting by Dan Burns in New York; Editing by Paul Simao)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/joli4LmwGJs/us-usa-economy-unemployment-idUSKBN18S53H

Wall St. rises as strong private jobs data boosts confidence


U.S. stocks were higher in late afternoon trading on Thursday, with the SP 500 and Nasdaq hitting record highs, as better-than-expected private sector hiring pointed to strength in the labor market.

The ADP private sector employment report showed that 253,000 jobs were added in May, well above the 185,000 jobs estimated by economists polled by Reuters.

The report acts as a precursor to the much-awaited nonfarm payrolls data, due on Friday, that includes hiring in both public and private sectors.

“The ADP numbers were good today and often times, but not always, they are a good indication of the monthly jobs data,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

Another report showed factory activity ticked up in May, after slowing for two straight months, and suggested the economy was regaining speed after struggling at the start of the year.

San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said on Wednesday that while he sees three interest rate hikes this year as his baseline scenario, four rate increases would also be appropriate if the economy got an unexpected boost.

Fed Governor Jerome Powell, an influential policymaker, told CNBC that he expects three rate hikes this year.

Forecasts from Fed officials suggest that a median of two more hikes are planned before the end of the year.

Traders priced in a 96 percent chance of a rate hike in the upcoming Fed meeting on June 14, and a 50 percent chance of a hike before the end of 2017, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

At 12:33 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 50.22 points, or 0.24 percent, at 21,058.87.

The SP 500 .SPX was up 9.43 points, or 0.39 percent, at 2,421.23. It had hit a record of 2421.88.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 28.42 points, or 0.46 percent, at 6,226.94, slightly easing from its all-time high of 6228.18.

Nine of the 11 major SP 500 sectors were higher, with the health .SPXHC and materials sectors .SPLRCM leading the gainers.

Deere’s (DE.N) shares were up 2.1 percent at $125.08 after the farm and construction major said it would buy privately held German road construction company Wirtgen Group for $5.2 billion, including debt.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N) fell 6 percent to $17.67 after the company reported a steep fall in its quarterly revenue.

Palo Alto Networks (PANW.N) jumped as much as 18 percent to a more than four-month high of $139.97 after the cybersecurity company’s profit forecast topped expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,261 to 589. On the Nasdaq, 2,101 issues rose and 669 fell.

The SP 500 index showed 28 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 70 new lows.

(Reporting by Sweta Singh and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/22A7fgR6BLo/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18S4W5

Wall St. rises as strong private jobs data boosts confidence


U.S. stocks were higher in late afternoon trading on Thursday, with the SP 500 and Nasdaq hitting record highs, as better-than-expected private sector hiring pointed to strength in the labor market.

The ADP private sector employment report showed that 253,000 jobs were added in May, well above the 185,000 jobs estimated by economists polled by Reuters.

The report acts as a precursor to the much-awaited nonfarm payrolls data, due on Friday, that includes hiring in both public and private sectors.

“The ADP numbers were good today and often times, but not always, they are a good indication of the monthly jobs data,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

Another report showed factory activity ticked up in May, after slowing for two straight months, and suggested the economy was regaining speed after struggling at the start of the year.

San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said on Wednesday that while he sees three interest rate hikes this year as his baseline scenario, four rate increases would also be appropriate if the economy got an unexpected boost.

Fed Governor Jerome Powell, an influential policymaker, told CNBC that he expects three rate hikes this year.

Forecasts from Fed officials suggest that a median of two more hikes are planned before the end of the year.

Traders priced in a 96 percent chance of a rate hike in the upcoming Fed meeting on June 14, and a 50 percent chance of a hike before the end of 2017, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

At 12:33 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 50.22 points, or 0.24 percent, at 21,058.87.

The SP 500 .SPX was up 9.43 points, or 0.39 percent, at 2,421.23. It had hit a record of 2421.88.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 28.42 points, or 0.46 percent, at 6,226.94, slightly easing from its all-time high of 6228.18.

Nine of the 11 major SP 500 sectors were higher, with the health .SPXHC and materials sectors .SPLRCM leading the gainers.

Deere’s (DE.N) shares were up 2.1 percent at $125.08 after the farm and construction major said it would buy privately held German road construction company Wirtgen Group for $5.2 billion, including debt.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE.N) fell 6 percent to $17.67 after the company reported a steep fall in its quarterly revenue.

Palo Alto Networks (PANW.N) jumped as much as 18 percent to a more than four-month high of $139.97 after the cybersecurity company’s profit forecast topped expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,261 to 589. On the Nasdaq, 2,101 issues rose and 669 fell.

The SP 500 index showed 28 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 70 new lows.

(Reporting by Sweta Singh and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Anil D’Silva)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/22A7fgR6BLo/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18S4W5

Pending Home Sales Scale Back 1.3 Percent in April

WASHINGTON (May 31, 2017) — Pending home sales in April slumped for the second consecutive month and were down year-over-year nationally and in all four major regions, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Only the West saw an increase in contract signings last month.  

The Pending Home Sales Index,* www.nar.realtor/topics/pending-home-sales, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, decreased 1.3 percent to 109.8 in April from a downwardly revised 111.3 in March. After last month’s decline, the index is now 3.3 percent below a year ago, which is the first year-over-year decline since last December and the largest since June 2014 (7.1 percent).   

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says contract activity is fading this spring because significantly weak supply levels are spurring deteriorating affordability conditions. “Much of the country for the second straight month saw a pullback in pending sales as the rate of new listings continues to lag the quicker pace of homes coming off the market,” he said. “Realtors® are indicating that foot traffic is higher than a year ago1, but it’s obviously not translating to more sales.”  

Added Yun, “Prospective buyers are feeling the double whammy this spring of inventory that’s down 9.0 percent from a year ago2 and price appreciation that’s much faster than any rise they’ve likely seen in their income.”  

Unfortunately, Yun believes there is little evidence these astoundingly low supply levels are going away soon. Homebuilding activity has not picked up enough this year and too few homeowners are listing their home for sale.

“The unloading of single-family homes purchased by real estate investors during the downturn for rental purposes would also go a long way in helping relieve these inventory shortages,” said Yun. “To date, there are no indications investors are ready to sell. However, they should be mindful of the fact that rental demand will soften as the overall population of young adults starts to shrink in roughly five years.”

Yun forecasts existing-home sales to be around 5.64 million this year, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2016 (5.45 million). The national median existing-home price this year is expected to increase around 5 percent. In 2016, existing sales increased 3.8 percent and prices rose 5.1 percent.

The PHSI in the Northeast decreased 1.7 percent to 97.2 in April, and is now 0.6 percent below a year ago. In the Midwest the index fell 4.7 percent to 104.4 in April, and is now 6.1 percent lower than April 2016.

Pending home sales in the South declined 2.7 percent to an index of 125.9 in April and are now 2.3 percent below last April. The index in the West jumped 5.8 percent in April to 100.0, but is still 4.2 percent below a year ago.  

Members of the media are invited to attend the upcoming Sustainable Homeownership Conference on June 9 at University of California’s Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. In celebration of National Homeownership Month, the conference brings together experts to examine housing trends and real estate’s positive impacts. Yun, NAR’s 2017 President William E. Brown and Berkeley Hass Real Estate Group Chair Ken Rosen are among the prominent experts scheduled to speak. To register contact Adam DeSanctis, 202-383-1178 or adesanctis@realtors.org. 

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

1 According to April’s Realtors® Confidence Index, the Buyer Traffic Index registered at 75 in April 2017 (74 in March 2017; 70 in April 2016).

2 Total housing inventory at the end of April climbed 7.2 percent to 1.93 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 9.0 percent lower than a year ago (2.12 million)

3 First-time buyers were 34 percent of sales in April, which was the highest since last September and July 2012.

* The Pending Home Sales Index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed, though the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, which was the first year to be examined. By coincidence, the volume of existing-home sales in 2001 fell within the range of 5.0 to 5.5 million, which is considered normal for the current U.S. population.

NOTE: Existing-Home Sales for May will be reported June 21, and the next Pending Home Sales Index will be June 28; all release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/narnewsreleases/~3/99pZATfw95w/pending-home-sales-scale-back-13-percent-in-april

Bank of America CEO talks down second-quarter expectations


Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) second-quarter earnings will be hurt by a drop in trading revenue, lower-than-expected interest rates and the sale or shuttering of certain assets, according to comments from Chief Executive Brian Moynihan on Wednesday.

Speaking at an industry conference, Moynihan said trading revenues are on track to be some 10 percent to 12 percent lower than the second quarter of 2016 because last year’s quarter was especially strong. He said first-half trading revenues will still be up by roughly 3 percent to 4 percent versus a year ago.

Revenues will also be hurt by lower-than-anticipated interest rates and the fact that the bank closed the sale of its UK credit card business a month ahead of schedule, reducing net interest income for the quarter. The two factors together should lower net interest income by $100 million to $110 million, Moynihan said.

Bank of America shares were down 2.4 percent in mid-morning trading.

The bank will also take a $300 million charge as it sells or shutters data centers, Moynihan said. Bank of America is moving much of its data to the cloud. The switch will save the bank money over time, Moynihan said.

(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/CX0vmjBcoDs/us-usa-banks-conference-moynihan-idUSKBN18R2A8

Exxon shareholders approve climate impact report in win for activists


DALLAS Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) shareholders on Wednesday approved a proposal calling for the company to disclose the impact of compliance with global climate change guidelines on its business, an issue central to probes by two state attorneys general.

A preliminary tally showed the non-binding proposal passed with 62.3 percent of ballots cast, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company said. The increase from last year’s 38 percent support for a similar report signaled that the non-binding proposal was backed by at least some of Exxon’s top institutional shareholders.

Exxon had opposed the proposal, saying it already tests its business for impacts from changing technology and energy demand using a range of scenarios. It also stepped up efforts this year to defeat the proposal by calling and lobbying shareholders.

Immediately after the votes were disclosed, Exxon Chief Executive Darren Woods said the board would review the request, the only of the nine shareholder proposals to receive more than a majority of votes cast.

Exxon faces probes by Massachusetts and New York Attorneys General into whether it misled the public and investors by soft-pedaling climate change risks. Exxon has said suits are politically motivated and intended to force it and others to change their positions on climate change.

Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church of England, one of the proposal’s sponsors, called for Exxon to report on the business impact of achieving the Paris agreement’s carbon reduction targets.

He aimed his remarks at Exxon directors whose had either personally endorsed or served on boards of other companies that had publicly backed carbon emissions reduction.

The report would require Exxon to assess the risks to its business if carbon emissions were held to a level that would keep average global temperature increase to under 2 degrees Celsius, one of the Paris agreement’s goals.

“Do you leave your understanding of climate change at the door when you attend Exxon Mobil board meetings?” Mason asked, mentioning four of the company’s outside directors by name.

Earlier, Exxon’s Woods had said the company supported the goals of many of the proposals, including two other climate-related items, but disagreed with the methods.

“They’re going to have to comply with (shareholder sentiment)” and report on the risk of oil and gas producing assets becoming uneconomical due to emissions restrictions, said Bob Litterman, chairman of the risk committee at Kepos Capital LP, a New York investment firm with $3 billion in assets.

Litterman holds derivatives positions that would benefit from oil companies underperforming the benchmark SP 500 index.

He said of the climate report, “we believe the risks of climate change are serious and warrant action, thoughtful action,” citing steps the company is taking to reduce emissions and advance biofuels and green technology.

A separate proposal calling for a report on Exxon’s efforts to reduce emissions of methane, another greenhouse gas, in its operations received support by 38.7 percent of ballots cast.

Another proposal calling on the company to increase shareholder payouts “in light of the climate change related risks of stranded carbon investment,” was approved by less than 4 percent of ballots cast. Exxon had opposed both proposals.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Fg4TJ3e0gZs/us-exxonmobil-climate-idUSKBN18R0DC

Wall Street falls as bank stocks skid, oil dips


U.S. stocks were down on Wednesday as financials tumbled after JPMorgan and Bank of America hinted at revenue weakness in the current quarter and oil prices fell to a three-week low.

JPMorgan (JPM.N) blamed lower volatility for the decline in trading revenue, while Bank of America (BAC.N) said trading revenue in the second quarter was on track to be 10-12 percent lower than last year.

Measures of market volatility are at rock-bottom, hitting trading desks at big banks. The U.S. stock market’s main gauge of investor anxiety .VIX closed at its lowest level in over two decades on May 8.

“There is a choppy sideways market due to the fact that fundamentals are largely unchanged and expectations of market friendly policies in the U.S. are being pushed to 2018,” said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist, North America, Russell Investments.

Financials, which have largely outperformed the broader market on bets of fiscal stimulus and simpler banking regulations under President Donald Trump, are on track to decline 0.7 percent so far this year.

JPMorgan (JPM.N) was down 2 percent on Wednesday. Goldman Sachs (GS.N) fell 3 percent and was the biggest drag on the Dow. Bank of America (BAC.N) was down 2.5 percent.

Adding to the pressure, oil prices fell as rising Libyan production fueled concerns that OPEC-led output cuts are being undermined by several countries that are excluded from the deal. [O/R]

“With oil also down, the thoughts of an economic slowdown start to come up in people’s minds and has created a pause in the market euphoria,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardville, New Jersey.

Seven of the 11 major SP sectors were lower, with the financial index’s .SPSY 1.13 percent fall leading the decliners.

At 12:31 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 30.8 points, or 0.15 percent, at 20,998.67, the SP 500 .SPX was down 5.1 points, or 0.21 percent, at 2,407.81 and the Nasdaq Composite index .IXIC was down 16.44 points, or 0.26 percent, at 6,186.75.

Shares of Michael Kors (KORS.N) fell 9.9 percent to $32.69 after the luxury fashion retailer gave a bleak full-year forecast and said it would shut more than 100 full-price retail stores in the next two years.

Mallinckrodt (MNK.N) was down 1.4 percent at $43.04, after sources said the drugmaker is exploring a sale of its generic drug unit, in a deal that could fetch as much as $2 billion.

Analog Devices (ADI.O) rose 2.5 percent to $86.91 after the chipmaker’s quarterly results came in above expectations.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,706 to 1,122, for a 1.52-to-1 ratio on the downside. On the Nasdaq, 1,678 issues fell and 1,057 advanced for a 1.59-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The SP 500 index showed 28 new 52-week highs and 11 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 82 new highs and 70 new lows.

(Reporting by Sweta Singh; Additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/74fUxJyCEtM/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18R1HV

The Nonexistent Case for the Paris Accord

For a bull in the china shop, President Donald Trump has so far gingerly stepped around the Paris climate accord. That dance could end as soon as this week, with Trump deciding whether to stay in or opt out.

Window Dressing

“Out” should be the obvious answer. No U.S. interest is served by remaining part of the accord, which even its supporters say is mostly an exercise in window dressing — that is, when they aren’t insisting that the fate of the planet depends on it.

The treaty’s advocates, hoping to forestall a Trump exit, are trying to save the accord by arguing that it is largely meaningless. In this spirit, a piece on the liberal website Vox explained, the Paris accord “asks participants only to state what they are willing to do and to account for what they’ve done. It is, in a word, voluntary.” In other words, “Nothing to see here, just us climate-change alarmists playing pretend.”

For a bull in the china shop, President Donald Trump has so far gingerly stepped around the Paris climate accord.

Climate Virtue Signaling

And there is indeed much to be said for the worthlessness of Paris. Beijing pledges that China’s emissions will “peak around 2030.” By one estimate, this is when its emissions would peak regardless. So the world’s largest emitter is using the accord as a platform for climate virtue-signaling.

According to Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute, even if Paris is fully implemented and you accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s model for how emissions affect warming, it will produce a rounding error’s worth of decline in the global temperature by 2100 — .17 of a degree Celsius.

If Paris is such a nullity, why shouldn’t we simply pull out? This is where its supporters reverse field and contend that it will be a global disaster if the U.S. leaves. Supposedly the moral suasion involved in countries coming up with voluntary targets and having to defend their performance meeting them will drive an ever-escalating commitment to fight global warming.

Witness how hard it is to pull out of the Paris accord now, when it went into effect only last November. In another couple of years, it will acquire the sanctity of the Peace of Westphalia.

Once upon a time, Paris was portrayed as a tool for steadily tightening restrictions on fossil fuels. The Obama team referred to one provision in the accord as “ratcheting up ambition over time.”

Trump Should Get Out Now

Whatever their opportunistic salesmanship at the moment, this clearly is still the goal of the treaty’s supporters and a reason why Trump should get out while the getting is good. International agreements acquire a dead-weight momentum of their own. Witness how hard it is to pull out of the Paris accord now, when it went into effect only last November. In another couple of years, it will acquire the sanctity of the Peace of Westphalia.

The treaty may be notionally voluntary, but climate-change activists will surely hunt for a judge willing to find a reason that the U.S. emission target in the accord is binding. Trump’s unhappy experience in the courts with his travel ban should make him highly sensitive to this judicial threat.

Trump should say farewell to Paris on his own, and never look back.

In the context of Trump’s handling of other international agreements, getting out of Paris shouldn’t be a close call. To have pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free-trade agreement with tangible strategic benefits in Asia — and stay in Paris would be a travesty. To irk our European allies with less than explicit restatements of our commitment to NATO, then placate them by standing by Paris, would be strategic folly.

The shrewdest option would be to submit the agreement to the Senate for ratification, where it certainly would be rejected. President Barack Obama pretended that the treaty was an executive agreement — even though it involves 195 countries, and purports to bind future U.S. presidents — precisely so he could do an end run around the Senate. Honoring the Senate’s constitutional role in considering such a treaty would make it that much harder for the next Democratic president simply to sign on again unilaterally.

Failing that, Trump should say farewell to Paris on his own, and never look back.

 

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com

Copyright 2017 by King Features Syndicate

Article source: https://stream.org/the-nonexistent-case-for-the-paris-accord/

Group Sues Mayor, Police, for Details of Seth Rich Murder Investigation

An independent group investigating the July 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich is suing the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser for information connected to the murder investigation.

The Profiling Project filed the lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court Wednesday morning, asserting that MPD has mismanaged the murder investigation. The group said that MPD’s stonewalling is unjustified.

“The release of this crucial material will help bring peace to the victim’s family, and it will help to either confirm or refute the various theories that swirl about this important murder case,” Washington, D.C. lobbyist and attorney Jack Burkman, who is leading The Profiling Project, asserted in court documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF).

The complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief requests the disclosure of three specific pieces of information in the case; surveillance video footage from a nearby second-floor camera, the Medical Examiner’s report, and the forensic ballistic report.

Rich, 27, was the voter expansion data director at the DNC, according to Roll Call, and had been employed for two years. Rich also worked on a computer application to help voters locate polling stations, and had just accepted a job with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

According to MPD reports, officers patrolling the Bloomingdale neighborhood heard gunshots around 4:20 a.m. on the morning of July 10, 2016. Officers discovered a “conscious and breathing” Rich at 2100 Flagler Place in northwest Washington, D.C.

Police have not yet solved the case, and Burkman asserts that the case has gone cold.

“MPD began their investigation of the Seth Rich murder on July 12, 2016 and has not released any new information since October 16, 2016,” Burkman asserted. “The case is now clearly a cold case.”

The Profiling Project specifically demanded the release of surveillance footage from a second-floor camera on the Flagler Market, which is just a block north of the murder scene.

Burkman pushed back against the police department’s assertion that release of the information would impede their investigation .

“MPD essentially terminated their efforts in late October 2016. As such, the release of the desired information would not and could not harm MPD’s efforts in any way, as there is no continuing effort,” he argued in the complaint.

MPD has a history of regularly releasing surveillance video to the public pertaining to unsolved criminal investigations. A quick look at the police department’s YouTube channel reveals that they post video footage in cases involving a person of interest. MPD has published 12 videos in the last week alone, to include unsolved murder investigations. Their habit for transparency with unsolved cases raises the question as to why they’ve been so tight-lipped about the Rich case.

MPD surmised that Rich was a victim of a botched robbery (robberies and unsolved acts of violence make up the lion’s share of released MPD videos). Police said that they found his wallet, credit cards and cellphone on his body. The band of his wristwatch was torn but not broken. The current theory maintains that the shooters panicked after shooting Rich and immediately fled the scene.

Burkman teamed up with professors and student volunteers from George Washington University’s Student Association for Forensic Psychology to start The Profiling Project. He said that the group is working with independent professionals on the case.

While Burkman held a press conference with the parents of Seth Rich in November, he is no longer connected to the family.

“The family would like to reiterate that Jack Burkman has no connection to the family, does not represent them or their wishes and that his efforts are completely independent,” Brad Bauman a spokesman for the family, told TheDCNF. “The family remains completely confident in the Metropolitan Police Department’s handling of the case and ability to solve Seth’s murder.”

Despite the confidence, the family itself has called on police to publicize details of the murder investigation after 10 months of mystery. 

In January, Burkman told TheDCNF that he was representing the Rich family in a pro-bono capacity.

“The objective here really is just to get closure for this family,” Burkman said. “This is a young kid in our profession. This could have happened to any of the young people who work for me.”

“While the family still have confidence in the Metropolitan Police Department’s ability to investigate Seth’s murder, of course, they are frustrated with the lack of evidence, leads and credible information about the case,” Bauman told TheDCNF last week. “They desperately want to find Seth’s murderers and bring them to justice as quickly as possible.”

The family wants answers and has been frustrated by the wide range of theories surrounding their son’s death.

Fox News retracted a story May 23 that claimed Rich may have been behind a breach of the DNC’s email servers, where Wikileaks obtained thousands of internal email communications that it leaked to the public.

Rod Wheeler, a Washington-based private investigator that the Rich family agreed to hire at the behest of a wealthy friend, suggested that there was tangible evidence that Rich had communicated with WikiLeaks before his death. The next day, Wheeler seemed to backtrack on those claims, and local police said that his assertions were “unfounded.”

The Rich family, according to the New York Times, now regrets okaying the hire of Wheeler, and has publicly objected to his claims.

Burkman, asserting that the records sought are specific to the MPD’s handling of the murder investigation and are crucial to the public’s understanding of the MPD’s conduct during its investigation, staged a press conference outside of MPD headquarters in Downtown Washington, D.C. at 2 pm ET Wednesday.

TheDCNF reached out to the Rich family for comment. They did not respond by press time.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Article source: https://stream.org/attorney-file-lawsuit-seth-rich-murder-mystery/

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