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Aug 4, 2020

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Twitter, Alphabet, Regeneron, Sony & more

Peter Schacknow

Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket:

Edgewell Personal Care (EPC) – Edgewell reported quarterly profit of 66 cents per share, short of the 82 cents a share consensus estimate. Revenue was also well below forecasts. The company behind Schick razors and Edge shaving cream said its sales were significantly impacted by the pandemic, although the declines moderated during the third month of the quarter. Separately, Edgewell announced a deal to buy men’s grooming products company CREMO for $235 million.
Vornado Realty Trust (VNO) – Facebook (FB) is leasing all 730,000 square feet of office space in Vornado’s landmark Farley building in New York. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Emerson Electric (EMR) – Emerson posted quarterly profit of 80 cents per share, beating the 60 cents a share consensus estimate. Revenue also beat forecasts. The engineering products and services company said sales were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, but aggressive cost actions allowed it to generate better-than-expected profits, and it has raised its full-year outlook.
AMC Networks (AMCX) – The company behind entertainment channels like AMC and Sundance reported quarterly profit of $2.39 per share, well above the $1.23 a share consensus estimate. Revenue also came in above Wall Street forecasts. AMC said despite a challenging environment, it is in a solid financial position and is making significant progress with its new digital initiatives.
CyberArk Software (CYBR) – The cybersecurity company beat estimates by 15 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 42 cents per share. Revenue was above forecasts as well, helped by record bookings in its “software as a service” offerings.
Hyatt Hotels (H) – Hyatt lost $1.80 per share for its latest quarter, wider than the loss of $1.32 a share that analysts were expecting. Revenue also came in below forecasts. Hyatt said it continues to contend with the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel and hotel demand.
Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) – Take-Two Interactive saw profit nearly double and sales more than double in its latest quarter, as its videogame business gets a boost from people sheltering at home due to Covid-19. The company behind franchises like “NBA 2K” and “Grand Theft Auto” also raised its full-year sales forecast.
Chegg (CHGG) – Chegg reported quarterly profit of 37 cents per share, 5 cents a share above estimates. Revenue also came in above Wall Street forecasts. The maker of online learning platforms for students also raised its guidance for the full year, and noted that it had more subscribers during the second quarter than it had in all of 2018.
Mosaic (MOS) – Mosaic earned 11 cents per share for its latest quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of a 1 cent per share loss. The fertilizer producer’s revenue also topped estimates, with a global emphasis on agriculture and food security limiting any Covid-19 related impact on its business.
AIG (AIG) – The insurer beat estimates by 16 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 66 cents per share. Profit was down 56% from a year earlier, however, partly due to higher catastrophe losses.
Sony (SNE) – Sony reported better-than-expected profit for its second quarter, boosted by a surge in demand in its gaming business as consumers stayed at home during lockdowns.
BP (BP) – BP slashed its dividend in half after the energy producer reported a $6.7 billion second-quarter loss.
Diageo (DEO) – Diageo reported a larger-than-expected decline in quarterly sales, with the world’s largest spirits maker seeing a drop in demand in all its markets except for North America.
Boeing (BA) – The Federal Aviation Administration released its guidelines for a return to service by Boeing’s grounded 737 Max jet, including four key design and operating changes. The proposals do match what had been expected by Boeing and industry analysts.
Twitter (TWTR) – Twitter said it may have to pay a fine of up to $250 million, after the Federal Trade Commission accused it of violating a 2011 consent order involving the user of consumer data in ad targeting. The accusation, however, remains unresolved.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) – Regeneron said a drug cocktail involving two monoclonal antibodies both prevented and treated Covid-19 in animals. The treatment is currently being studied in late-stage clinical trials involving human patients.
Alphabet (GOOGL) – Alphabet borrowed $10 billion in the investment-grade corporate debt market, its largest-ever bond issue. The Google parent’s debt offering included $1 billion in 5-year debt at a coupon rate of just 0.45 percent.

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Mail voting could delay election results. But that doesn't mean it's suspect as Trump claims

Joseph Marks

Rather, delays are often the result of officials taking the time to count results properly amid a slew of challenges posed by a global pandemic.
They’re also the result of huge gaps in the personnel, machines and other infrastructure that would be necessary to count mail votes quickly — and which the federal government has done little to help fill. Congress allocated $400 million to help election officials in the early days of the pandemic but a Democratic push to deliver another $3.6 billion has been stymied by Republicans.
The criticism also comes as states continue to struggle with a large volume of mail ballots they never imagined before the pandemic. Michigan voters reported not having received mail ballots they requested just days before today’s primary there and election officials urged voters to return mail ballots to drop boxes rather than risk relying on the Postal Service, Elise Viebeck and Kayla B. Ruble report.
We need to know with confidence who the winners are and who the losers are, and in the middle of a global pandemic that’s going to take a little longer,” Marian Schneider, president of Verified Voting and a former Pennsylvania state election official, told me. “Accuracy is more important than speed…And we can alleviate this with the proper resources.”

Election officials and experts have found themselves caught in an asymmetric battle with Trump as November nears. 

Their careful explanations about how Postal Service delays, a dearth of high-speed scanners and the rigors of verifying absentee voters’ identities can prolong vote counting are often no match for the presidential megaphone.
During just five minutes at a news conference yesterday, Trump declared mail voting will be “a great embarrassment to our country” and speculated about limiting such voting with an executive order. Te president has extremely limited authority over state elections.
Trump also promised a lawsuit against a Nevada plan to mail ballots directly to voters. It’s not clear whether that suit would come from the White House or the Republican National Committee, which is suing over a similar plan in California.
Trump also urged rerunning a New York congressional primary where the result has been delayed for six weeks because of a surge in mail ballots officials weren’t remotely prepared for. And he suggested without evidence the vote was affected by fraud. A Washington Post analysis found possible voter fraud cases in states that vote primarily by mail accounted for just about one out of every 39,000 ballots cast in 2016.
Trump has repeatedly insisted that any delays in counting mail votes are unacceptable.
Those on the other side, meanwhile, are left struggling to assure voters that just because it takes longer to count mail ballots doesn’t mean anything nefarious is going on.
“We’re not going to know the full election results on election night and there’s no reason we should,” Lawrence Norden, director of the Election Reform Program at New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, told me. “As long as the process is secure and transparent, almost everybody would agree it’s more important to have accurate results than fast results. The fact results will take longer is only ensuring they’re accurate.”

In fact, there are four big reasons mail ballots will take longer to count.

None of them provide extra opportunities for fraud as long as the ballots themselves are kept secure along their journey. But all of them could be alleviated with more funding from Congress for personnel or machines or by legislative changes aimed at easing the process.
Late-arriving ballots: Some states require mail votes to arrive by Election Day to be counted, but many will accept them for days or even weeks after Nov. 3 provided they’re postmarked by Election Day. A surge in mail ballots coupled with a major backlog and funding shortfalls at the U.S. Postal Service could mean large numbers of votes are still arriving long after the election.
Identity verification: States have an array of methods to verify voters are who they say they are, including matching signatures on privacy envelopes holding the ballot with other signatures on record and using smart bar codes voters can also use to track ballots. Those verification processes take time and money, both of which are in short supply. Many states also allow candidates to challenge ballots’ validity, which can be difficult and time consuming, especially during the pandemic. Some states are also barred from beginning this process until Election Day or several days before, which can delay things further.
Sorting ballots: This step involves ensuring ballots are organized so they're scanned by machines programmed to capture votes for all the right contests, including local races for city council and school board. It can be an onerous process if voting districts don’t have high-powered sorting machines or enough staff. In some smaller jurisdictions, that sorting will have to be done manually. Some states are also legally barred from doing this before Election Day.
Scanning ballots: This is the final step in the process. It can take a long time — especially if election offices only have access to polling place scanners accustomed to handling a few ballots a minute versus high-speed scanners capable of reading tens or hundreds of thousands of mail ballots. In some small jurisdictions, officials don’t have any scanners and must count mail ballots by hand. And states are often barred from scanning any votes before Election Day. A study released yesterday by Verified Voting found most jurisdictions could handle this process — if they have sufficient time and resources.

These processes are roughly similar across the nation — though some states and localities have a lot more experience and better tools than others.  

The president has repeatedly drawn a distinction between “absentee voting," which he considers good, and “universal mail voting,” which he considers bad. But that distinction is misleading if not outright false.
“Absentee ballots are great," he said during yesterday's news conference. “They have to request them. They go through a process. But the universal mail-in ballots have turned out to be a disaster.” Trump also praised the absentee voting system in Florida, where he voted by mail himself this year. 
In fact, there are no states where 100 percent of people vote by mail. In the five states where the vast majority of people vote by mail, officials have gone to great lengths to regularly verify voters' identity and are voting from known addresses.
California, Vermont and Nevada have announced plans to mail ballots to all registered voters this year. But many states where the president has attacked mail voting, such as Michigan, are still requiring voters to request mail ballots and go through a separate verification process.
And the states likely to face the longest delays in counting mail ballots are those that have historically avoided the practice rather than those that have embraced it.
New York, which struggled with mail voting during the primaries, for example, traditionally requires an excuse for people to vote by mail and only 4 percent of voters cast ballots that way in the 2018 midterms, according to a tally from NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. In Florida, 31 percent of voters cast ballots by mail that year.

The keys

Trump wants the government to get a cut if Microsoft buys TikTok.

The White House has set a Sept. 15 deadline for Microsoft or another U.S. company to acquire TikTok's U.S. assets from Chinese parent company ByteDance. Trump said he will ban the company for posing a national security threat if no sale occurs by then.
Whether it's Microsoft or somebody elsethe United States couldshould get a very large percentage of that price because we're making it possible, Trump told reporters. We make it possible to have this great success. TikTok is a tremendous success.
It would be highly unusual for the government to get a large payout when one private company acquires another. Trump did not clarify which party in the deal was expected to pay.
“Whatever the number is, it would come from the sale,” the president said. “Which nobody else would be thinking about but me. But that’s the way I think.”
Trump's order for ByteDance to sell off TikTok's U.S. operations follows a Treasury Department-led review into national security concerns. Lawyers familiar with the review process told The Post that Treasury typically collects a small fee from companies for the review. 
A Treasury Department representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A White House spokesman also did not immediately return a request for an explanation.

Republicans want a classified briefing on the dangers of other Chinese apps. 

The lawmakers cited possible national security concerns from facial recognition company DeepCam and subsidiaries of China's TCL, which they say develop and offer apps with spyware and malware designed to harvest user data and send it back to China.
“While we remain deeply concerned with TikTok, such concerns extend beyond the popular short-form video app, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Energy and Commerce Committee ranking Republican Greg Walden (Ore.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Trump plans to act soon on a broad array of national security concerns about Chinese software, Pompeo told Fox News Sunday.
Trump's threat of banning TikTok has sparked nationalist outrage in China
“Stop politicizing economic and trade issues, stop abusing the concept of national security and stop pursuing policies of discrimination and exclusion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular briefing, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Chat room

Trump's unusual proposal for the government to profit off the TikTok deal has sparked confusion and criticism.

The Verge's Adi Robertson:
Marketplace's Molly Wood:
It's possible Trump will seek another deal:

Global Cyberspace

Russian hackers probably were behind a document leak aimed at influencing the 2019 U.K. election.  

The Kremlin was already widely suspected of leaking those documents about U.S.-U.K. trade negotiations, but it wasn’t clear how they got them. The hackers accessed an email account of former trade minister Liam Fox multiple times between July and October of last year, Jack Stubbs and Guy Faulconbridge at Reuters report
Sources declined to name which group was behind the attack but said it seemed like a Kremlin-backed operation. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab stated last month that Russian actors were behind amplifying the stolen government documents. Reuters could not determine which one of Fox's accounts had been compromised. 
Russia has repeatedly denied allegations of election interference by the United States, Britain and other countries. The Russian government also attempted to sway a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 and a 2016 vote on leaving the European Union, a British Parliament report concluded last month. Representatives for Fox declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the British government also declined to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

Hackers targeted members of the political opposition and religious leaders in Togo using NSO spyware.

It's the latest case of the Israeli spyware company's software being used against human rights activists and dissidents, according to a new report from Internet rights watchdog Citizen Lab, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai at Motherboard reports
The Togolese targets were four of nearly 1,400 WhatsApp users whose accounts were breached by governments using NSO software. WhatsApp owner Facebook is suing NSO Group for facilitating the hacks.
Citizen Lab could not conclusively attribute the spying to the Togo government, but evidence suggests the hacking software was used by security forces in the country. 
NSO Group says it only sells its tools to help governments fight crime and terrorism. “As we have also made clear before, we are not privy to who our authorized and verified sovereign government clients target using our technology, though they are contractually obliged to only do so against terrorists and criminals,” NSO told Motherboard in a statement.
More international cybersecurity news:

Hill happenings

Intel officials will brief the Senate on foreign efforts to influence the election this week. 

More Hill news:

Industry report

Twitter could face a fine of up to $250 million from the FTC for misusing personal user data.

Twitter disclosed the potential loss in an SEC filing, Salvador Rodriquez at CNBC reports. The Federal Trade Commission's complaint related to the company targeting ads with data from users'  phone numbers and email addresses provided for security purposes. Twitter ended the practice in September, calling the use of the data “inadvertent.”
The FTC says the practice violated a  2011 agreement barring the company from misleading consumers about its privacy practices. 
The new filing also notes a recent hack of 130 high-profile accounts including those of Joe Biden and Barack Obama could “impact the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures." It notes "people may lose trust and confidence in us, decrease the use of our products and services or stop using our products and services in their entirety.”
More industry news:


  • Black Hat will take place virtually through Thursday.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing “Secure, Safe, and Auditable: Protecting the Integrity of the 2020 Elections” today at 10 a.m.
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing to examine the findings of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission today at 2:30 p.m.
  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine federal and industry efforts to improve cybersecurity in the energy section Wednesday at 10 a.m.
  • DEF CON will take place virtually August 5-8.

Secure log off

A TikTok explainer on TikTok:

News | Business | Travel: The Caribbean Dilemma

Nina Burleigh

Many islands are open to American travelers. Going could mean bringing coronavirus to places ill prepared to deal with it. Not going could mean deepening economic woes. How do you choose?

Credit...Ricardo Arduengo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Last year, more than 31 million people visited the Caribbean, more than half of them from the United States. I was one of them. Together, we contributed $59 billion to the region’s 2019 gross domestic product — accounting for a whopping 50 to 90 percent of the G.D.P. for most of the countries, according to the International Monetary Fund.
I admit that in moments of pandemic weariness I have been one of those people eyeing cheap tickets to the Caribbean, wondering when I might feel ready to jump on a flight.
Now, though, our business comes with a mortal threat — that for the sake of a vacation we will bring the coronavirus to islands that are ill prepared to handle a major outbreak. But staying home could be equally ruinous. The Covid-19 lockdown — and the severity of the epidemic in the United States — has been a disaster beyond any hurricane for the Caribbean economy. The pandemic has closed airports and cruise ship docks, shut down restaurants and dive shops and deprived the Caribbean of tens of billions of dollars.
“To not have visitors arriving for any period of time, but particularly for an extended period of time, has brought immense hardship to a number of people throughout the Caribbean,” said Hugh Riley, the former head of the Caribbean Tourism Office, and a partner with Portfolio Marketing Group, which represents some islands. “Caribbean countries face an important dilemma: Try to hermetically seal their borders from visitors until there’s an effective vaccine, or tackle the risks of restarting tourism now. It is the classic risk/reward decision,” he said.
As of August 3, 23 islands in the region have reopened to tourism, with 15 allowing visitors from the United States — with negative Covid-19 tests and, usually, periods of quarantine. It has not always gone smoothly: The Bahamas allowed Americans to visit beginning in July, slammed the door shut as coronavirus cases surged in that nation, then reopened again, indicative of the efforts to manage a moving crisis. Puerto Rico opened to Americans from the mainland on July 15, but pushed that date back to August 15 after a weekend of viral videos showing incoming visitors ignoring mask and social distancing rules. On the other end of the spectrum, Barbados is offering a 12-month visa to any American interested in moving a work-from-home office to the island.
Tourists looking to escape to a coronavirus-free tropical island have a responsibility to weigh the risks and take precautions.
So does the airline industry, says Allen Chastanet, the prime minister of St. Lucia and a former airline executive nominated by CARICOM, the 20-nation Caribbean consortium, and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to develop recommendations for reopening the region. Mr. Chastanet has been urging the airlines to push for the development and implementation of rapid preboarding airport testing for all passengers.
“You have to have testing sites, the way you have a Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk in every airport,” he said. “The airlines in many ways acted like they had ostrich syndrome, and said it is somebody else’s problem, but ultimately it is their problem. They have to use their advocacy strength to make it happen.”
Tourism has always been a two-edged sword for the region. It brought money for some, but also brought corruption, environmental degradation and unchecked development. No tourist who steps outside an “inclusive” resort can fail to notice the incredible disparity of wealth on the islands: palatial walled estates are often a stone’s throw from cement block shacks. Crime is such a problem on some Caribbean islands that websites are devoted to statistics to help worried travelers shop for the safest destinations. (I can attest to this problem, having been burglarized in Tobago and Vieques.) The BBC once called Jamaica “the murder capital of the world,” to howls of outrage from the Jamaicans.
As Caribbean tourism exploded and got cheaper, local tour operators raked in money, but faced unexpected problems. Tropical infrastructure, local police and medical systems were overwhelmed on some islands even before the virus. One island friend, a divemaster at a major site, who asked that his name not be used for fear of losing his job, told me he has seen increasingly obese, relatively unhealthy American tourists who feel entitled to be squished into neoprene suits and taken to the depths as cruise lines and cheap tours market scuba diving — once reserved for scientists, Navy SEALs and the ultrawealthy and sporty — to all.
The Caribbean is the biggest source of business for the global cruise industry, which is notoriously callous about the environment. Cruise lines were the first global heralds of the coronavirus disaster and will likely be the last travel industry to come back once the virus is under control.
The cruise industry always had the upper hand on the islands. When a cruise ship docks and thousands of people are disgorged, the impression of prosperity is illusory. Most of the islands pay a per head fee to the cruise lines for each passenger who disembarks, the cruise ships are notoriously bad for reefs, and they have a stranglehold on the discretionary dollars their passengers are spending.
“Everything that can be sold on board is already sold, and anyplace on the island that could benefit has already made arrangements with the cruise company,” said Noel Mignott, a former deputy director of tourism for Jamaica and a founding partner of Portfolio Marketing Group. “If one good thing could come of Covid, I would be encouraged to see governments take this opportunity to renegotiate the relationship with the cruise lines. And if I was a cruise line, I would wave that green flag and try to be as good as I can to the environment — if only to say we are not dumping our garbage in the ocean two miles off Ocho Rios.”
The Dutch island of Bonaire is one of the ports of call for behemoth and often super-discounted cruise ships plying the Caribbean. In the last few years, two building-size ships have daily disgorged up to 4,000 passengers at a time during the cruising season. The ships have sometimes sparked food shortages by taking up dock space needed for cargo.
Now, in the pandemic lull, tour providers, officials and some citizens have been quietly discussing what to do about the ships when they return. Facebook groups like Bonaire Future Forum: Opportunity From Crisis are debating whether the island should limit access to specific ships that cost more and are therefore more selective in their choice of passenger.
The island has one of the most pristine reefs in the Caribbean, and animal behavior has changed since the number of daily human divers dropped from thousands to the single digits. Local divers are noticing animals come closer, and the elusive seahorse has been a common sight these last months.
The pandemic has already changed life by necessity. The Caribbean has a “ridiculously high” food import bill because of an assumption that tourists don’t want to eat local food, Mr. Riley said. The pandemic may change that. “We have been laboring under the misconception that tourists want something other than what we have. We think people want hamburgers and hot dogs. Now that we are consuming what we have, I think this will lead to an increased variety in what we produce locally,” he said.
Sven Olof Lindblad, the chief executive of Lindblad Expeditions, which offers high-end, small-ship, environmentally conscious cruises around the world, sees the pandemic as a moment in which destinations can seize control of the downside of overtourism and demand changes. “This clearly is a time to rethink — but it won’t be led by businesses who are, by and large, too fat and happy with the way it is. Create working groups to totally rethink the relationship of tourism focused on value — and not just financial value.”
Stepping out of an aluminum tube in the dead of winter and into a blanket of tropical humidity is, in my view, one of life’s singular pleasures. And I’ve endured many a discount middle seat to get some “last-minute” sun and sand in the Caribbean.
But these jaunts have sometimes come with a measure of self-loathing. Quaffing wintertime margaritas poolside at an inclusive Jamaican resort next to my fellow pasty North Americans while our sunburned kids went sugar-mad refilling plastic cups at a Willy Wonka-style eternal soda fountain is not a look I’m proud of.
More, I can never fully repress the awareness that these trips are not ecologically friendly. Even before flight-shaming, the rampant construction of resorts, the ribbons of new roads and the abomination of air conditioning all struck me as a blight on the natural beauty of the islands.

Everyone I talked to about a post-Covid Caribbean mentioned one thing: a hope that the pandemic might result in a different kind of tourist: a traveler, not necessarily richer in money, but more conscious, more of an explorer and less of a sybarite. It is a hope shared by many overtouristed spots around the globe, from Venice to the beaches of southern Thailand. For the Caribbean, a long history of being seen as a playground for visitors from the mainland United States might make things harder.
The tourist industry itself trained Americans to think of the Caribbean as “sun, sand and sea,” and to think of the diverse islands as interchangeable, Mr. Mignott said. Other than the sea they share, the islands are different, each with a unique geological and human history. The older islands to the west, including Cuba, are formed of limestone and billions of shells and skeletons of ancient marine life, while the black cliffs and crags of the younger islands along the eastern edge — where the Caribbean and the Atlantic tectonic plates grind against each other — are relics of violent prehistoric volcanic events.
In my years exploring the Caribbean, I’ve visited Guadeloupe, Bonaire, St. John, Vieques, Jamaica and Tobago, and met people who have in common that they were born with the sound of the sea in their ears, but otherwise possess unique traditions, history, language and culture, that reward visitors with a little curiosity.
The Caribbean tourism industry could take this opportunity to differentiate the islands, and maybe even put responsibility on travelers to go beyond the resort walls or cruise ship all-inclusives and explore local food and culture.
Can it happen? As airlines and cruise ships reduce capacity, and the tourist industry consolidates, the islands need to act deliberately, said Mr. Riley. “Are we going to leave it to happenstance or are we going to plan for more socially responsible tourism and put policies in place that redress and undo damage to the environment?” he asked.
The premier of the island of Nevis, Mark Brantley, said the pandemic has taught the Caribbean that overreliance on tourism is not the best model and that Covid-19 could mark the end of the era of cheap tourism and mega cruises. “Jurisdictions are going to pivot to more tourism pitched at the luxury market, with smaller numbers of people and arguably a better yield,” he said. Additionally, he predicted that local industries, especially agriculture and agri-processing, will become more important sectors of the Caribbean economies. “Countries will be trying to diversify, where tourism continues to be important, but not the only game in town anymore.”
Mr. Chastanet said that when the pandemic struck, St. Lucia was already midway into a national program to promote what he called “village tourism,” sprucing up hamlets with new infrastructure and training and providing seed money for resort workers and hotel chefs to open up their own small-scale, boutique operations. “The things we were doing just got reinforced by Covid,” he said.
“We really hope if one good thing happens from the pandemic, it will be that travel is more thoughtful, and travelers are more conscious about the environment,” said Mr. Mignott, the former deputy tourism director for Jamaica. “We don’t think people are just going to go back like Covid never happened. We really think it will be different.”
I will regret the end of cheap, mass Caribbean tourism, if it comes, but I understood its downside long before the coronavirus. I have also been another kind of island traveler — a temporary resident. I spent most of my seventh month of one pregnancy floating like a turtle in the sea outside an old-time resort called Arnos Vale in Tobago, traditionally known as a destination for birders. We couldn’t afford to lodge there, but we swam on the beach and spent time under the slow flapping porch fan where a talking parrot held court.
A year later, we moved our family into a Tobago rental for six weeks. We lived simply on peanut butter sandwiches, the daily fish catch and Betty Crocker box cakes. Every day I rode my bike past a ruined pink plantation and through a hilltop hamlet impossibly named “Whim.”
In Whim, Tobagoans lived in simple wood shacks perched on cliffs overlooking crashing surf, poor in money, but the owners of stupendous, million-dollar views.
When we returned to the island a few years later we found newly paved roads, traffic jams, and a new mood — the hum and honk of progress drowning out the hummingbirds and the cackle of the national bird, the cocrico, at dawn. I know Whim is still on the map, but I wonder who owns those little shacks.

US Market | Futures Indicator: U.S. stock futures little changed after Monday's tech-powered rally

Fred Imbert

U.S. stock futures traded near the flatline early Tuesday morning after the major averages logged in sharp gains to start the new month on Monday.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated a loss of fewer than 50 points at the open. S&P 500 traded in negative territory while the Nasdaq 100 futures posted marginally positive moves.
The Dow closed Monday’s session up more than 200 points, or 0.9%. The S&P 500 rallied to its highest level since Feb. 21 and the Nasdaq closed at a record high. The S&P 500 also ended the session less than 3% below the intraday record set on Feb. 19.
Those gains came after Microsoft and Apple powered the S&P 500 tech sector to an all-time high, rising 5.6% and 2.5%, respectively. Tech has been by far the best-performing sector this year, rising more than 23% in that time period.
“Tech stocks have captured considerable attention for their gaudy, relative total return performance, but what is less appreciated is how ‘consistent’ they have been,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group, in a note to clients. Paulsen pointed out the S&P 500 has outpaced the broader market 57% of the time in 2020.
“What valuation is warranted by a sector whose business grows faster for reasons that are less dependent on overall economic conditions, and whose members generate remarkable excess returns with superior frequency, compared to any other sector in the stock market?”
Sentiment on Wall Street also got a boost after Eli Lilly started a late-stage trial for its coronavirus antibody treatment.  The trial will explore whether LY-CoV555 can prevent the virus from spreading between nursing home residents and staffers.
To be sure, investors continue to monitor negotiations over a new stimulus package as lawmakers struggle to make progress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows held “productive” discussions on Monday, but added there are several issues still outstanding.
“We are moving down the track,” Pelosi said, but “still have our differences.”
Both sides have indicated they agree on another $1,200 stimulus check, but remain deadlocked on additional unemployment assistance.

News | Business | Energy | Companies: BP reports second-quarter loss after major write downs, halves dividend

Sam Meredith

A BP company logo at a gas station in London, U.K.
A BP company logo at a gas station in London, U.K.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Energy giant BP reported a significant loss for the second quarter on Tuesday, after downgrading the value of some of its assets on expectations of lower commodity prices.
Second-quarter underlying replacement cost profit, used as a proxy for net profit, came in at a loss of $6.7 billion, meeting expectations of analysts polled by Refinitiv. That compared with a net profit of $800 million in the first quarter of the year.
BP also announced that it had halved its dividend to 5.25 cents per share for the quarter, compared to 10.5 cents per share for the first three months of the year.
The reported loss for the quarter was $16.8 billion, which includes a post-tax charge of $10.9 billion for non-operating items. It compares to a loss of $4.4 billion over the first three months of 2020.
The breakdown of this figure included $9.2 billion in impairments across the group, largely due to BP’s revised forecast for oil and gas prices over the next 30 years, and $1.7 billion of exploration write-offs.
The U.K.-based oil and gas company said last month that it could incur non-cash impairment charges and write-offs in the second quarter, estimating an aggregate range of $13 billion to $17.5 billion after tax. At the time, BP said the “enduring” impact of the coronavirus pandemic had prompted the firm to lower its oil and price forecasts through to 2050.
“These headline results have been driven by another very challenging quarter, but also by the deliberate steps we have taken as we continue to reimagine energy and reinvent bp,” Bernard Looney, CEO of BP, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“In particular, our reset of long-term price assumptions and the related impairment and exploration write-off charges had a major impact. Beneath these, however, our performance remained resilient, with good cash flow and – most importantly – safe and reliable operations,” he added.
Shares of BP are down more than 40% year-to-date.

‘BP has woken up’

International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $44.02 a barrel on Tuesday morning, down more than 0.3%, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures stood at $40.89, around 0.3% lower.
Analysts had anticipated that “Big Oil” companies, referring to the world’s largest energy majors, were likely to report “horrendous” second-quarter results as coronavirus lockdown measures coincided with an unparalleled demand shock and significantly weaker oil and gas prices.
However, some companies have been able to limit the damage as their trading divisions have capitalized on heightened market volatility.
It is a decision that we wholeheartedly believe is in the long-term interest of our stakeholders.
Alongside BP’s second-quarter earnings, the energy giant announced a new strategy that it says will help the firm shift to clean energy in line with its plan to become a net-zero-carbon company by 2050 or sooner.
The company said that, within 10 years, it plans to raise its annual low carbon investment 10-fold to around $5 billion a year. It also aims to have developed around 50 gigawatts of net renewable generating capacity by 2030 – a 20-fold increase from 2019.
“We believe that what we are setting out today offers a compelling and attractive long-term proposition for all investors — a reset and resilient dividend with a commitment to share buybacks; profitable growth; and the opportunity to invest in the energy transition,” BP’s Looney said in a press release.
“I want to acknowledge the impact the reset dividend will have on many – whether individual retail investors or large holders,” Looney said. “However, it is a decision that we wholeheartedly believe is in the long-term interest of our stakeholders.”
BP also committed to lower oil and gas production by 40% from current levels by the end of the decade “through active portfolio management” and said it would “begin no exploration in new countries.”
In response to BP’s new strategy announcements, Mel Evans, senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “BP has woken up to the immediate need to cut carbon emissions this decade.”
“Slashing oil and gas production and investing in renewable energy is what Shell and the rest of the oil industry needs to do for the world to stand a chance of meeting our global climate targets,” Evans continued. “BP must go further, and needs to account for or ditch its share in Russian oil company, Rosneft. But this is a necessary and encouraging start.”
Shell was not immediately available to comment when contacted by CNBC on Tuesday.

News | Business | Markets | Europe: European equities rise after Nasdaq strikes record

Naomi Rovnick and Hudson Lockett 

European equity markets opened higher on Tuesday, extending a bout of exuberance that began in the US overnight.
While London’s FTSE 100 traded flat, Germany’s Dax rose 0.8 per cent, France’s CAC 40 was 0.6 per cent higher and the Euro Stoxx 600 gained 0.4 per cent.
Europe’s gains were led by industries that have been among the biggest victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Within the Euro Stoxx index, automotive shares rose 2 per cent, travel shares gained 1 per cent and the oil and gas segment rose 1.7 per cent.
Investors’ willingness to take more risk followed rises in Asian equities on Tuesday. Japan’s benchmark Topix index climbed 1.9 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.8 per cent in Asia-Pacific trading on Tuesday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.8 per cent while China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks was little changed.
This came after Donald Trump dropped his opposition to Microsoft acquiring the US operations of the popular mobile video app from its Chinese parent, ByteDance. Microsoft shares rose 5.6 per cent, lifting the tech-focused Nasdaq 1.5 per cent to a record, and sending a wave of optimism across Asian markets.
The S&P 500 rose 0.7 per cent overnight following the release of better than expected US manufacturing data. The Institute for Supply Management said on Monday that US manufacturing activity hit its highest level in almost 18 months in July, as orders rose despite a resurgence in new coronavirus infections.
The US dollar, which had its worst month in a decade in July because of concerns about the ability of the coronavirus-scarred economy to lead a global recovery, bounced around a two-year low.
The dollar index, which measures the performance of the US currency against those of trading partners, drifted from a reading of 93.54 to 93.457. The index has declined more than 6 per cent in the past three months.
Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, said the US currency’s weakness was “likely to persist” in the near term as the withdrawal of emergency unemployment benefits weighted on the US economic recovery.
“We are already starting to see a stalling of economic data and families losing their benefits could make August’s data even worse,” she added. “However, the US Senate still seems far from reaching a deal on fiscal stimulus.”
The price of gold, which has surged to an all-time high in recent weeks as investors sought out haven assets, was steady at $1,973 per troy ounce.
Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, dropped 0.6 per cent to $43.87 per barrel ahead of the American Petroleum institute releasing data that will show how much unsold oil inventory is idling in US warehouses.
Oil major BP cut its dividend 50 per cent on Tuesday morning, the first time the group has lowered its payout to shareholders since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, as it unveiled a record $6.7bn quarterly loss.