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Jul 16, 2018

Looking Through the Eyes of China’s Surveillance State I Business I DealBook I NYT

nytimes.com

Looking Through the Eyes of China’s Surveillance State



Zhengzhou Dispatch
Paul Mozur, a New York Times reporter, tried on a pair of facial recognition glasses in a train station in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou. He said they were not exactly slick or all that functional.CreditDong Fangzhong
ZHENGZHOU, China — They perch on poles and glare from streetlamps. Some hang barely visible in the ceiling of the subway, and others seem to stretch out on braced necks and peer into your eyes.
Surveillance cameras are everywhere in China.
I pass more than 200 on my 30-minute commute in Shanghai. After a while, they mostly blend into the background. But when spotting a new one, I wonder about them. Is anyone watching? Is a computer parsing the feed? Is it even on?
Trying to get to the bottom of these questions can be infuriating. Chinese people are often unwilling to talk about their run-ins with the police. And the authorities are usually under standing orders not to talk to foreign journalists about much of anything, let alone cutting-edge technologies that snoop on criminals.
[Read more on China’s efforts to assemble a vast national surveillance system.]
So when I got the chance to see the world through the eyes of a police camera, it was oddly exhilarating. As it goes with reporting in China, often you just have to show up, camp out and hope for the best. In my case, patience and a hefty dose of luck paid off.
The opportunity arose during a reporting trip to the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou several months ago. A colleague and I had traveled there to try to learn about facial recognition glasses that the police had been experimenting with ahead of the big Chinese New Year holiday.
When we first got to the city’s train station, a police officer gleefully likened the specs to a pair in “Mission Impossible.” But then press officials rebuffed requests to try them. The glasses had been on display, but no longer, they said.
We roamed the cavernous train station, hoping to catch a glimpse of them while taking in the scenes. Often in China, the mundane contains a bit of the absurd.
On the second floor, the military was decamped to help with crowd control ahead of the holiday. Their green camouflage tents, pitched inside the building, stuck out inside the drab gray station. Outside the camp was a sign warning all who approached that they were entering a battlefield. Below, on the departures floor, janitors had attached mops to the front of motorized scooters, cleaning the large marble floors with the efficiency of a Zamboni.
Within a few hours, we spied Shan Jun, a deputy police chief, who was demonstrating the glasses amid the crowds of travelers heading home for the holiday. It turned out they were still on display for news media, just the state-run kind that Beijing controls.
Image
A crosswalk in Xiangyang is monitored by cameras linked to facial recognition technology. An outdoor screen displays photos of jaywalkers alongside their names and national identification numbers.CreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times
We tagged along and caught a break. Mr. Shan, who was affably holding court, gladly handed over the device to try.
One of the more dystopian tools of China’s burgeoning surveillance-industrial complex, it was not exactly slick or really all that functional. A small camera is mounted to a pair of sunglasses. The camera is then connected by wire to a minicomputer that looks and works a bit like an oversize smartphone. The device checks the images snapped by the camera against a database. In essence, it’s a moving version of the photo systems that some countries have at customs checkpoints.
With a bit of squinting and adjustment I found my right eye looking through a view finder like one on an old video camera. First I was instructed to aim it at a female officer. A small rectangle appeared around her head, and after a few seconds, the screen displayed her name and national identification number. I then repeated the process on Mr. Shan.
Emboldened, I tried the glasses out on a group standing about 20 feet away. For a moment, the glasses got a lock on a man’s face. But then the group noticed me, and the man blocked his face with his hand. The minicomputer failed to register a match before he moved. Seconds later, the people scattered.
Their reaction was somewhat surprising. Chinese people often report that they’re comfortable with government surveillance, and train stations are known to be closely watched. The logic often expressed is that those who are law abiding have nothing to fear.
The men fleeing from my techno-enhanced gaze clearly felt differently — and I assume they weren’t criminals on the lam.
Having a foreigner like me leering at them was certainly unusual. But later, as I watched the police continue to demonstrate the device, I noticed a similar pattern, if less exaggerated. The curious clustered to check out this brave new tech, but plenty of others strode quickly away, faces turned.
In some ways, a lack of information has conditioned such behavior. The abilities and intentions of the authorities here are rarely clear, and uncertainty is part of the point. The less people know, the more they need to use their imagination. China’s surveillance state is far from perfect, but if people don’t know where it excels and where it breaks down, there’s a better chance they’ll assume it’s working and behave.
Later, we learned that the press officer had initially rejected our request to see the glasses to avoid unmasking too much about the databases that powered it. Someone from Beijing, the press officer said, had called and said the exposure could show gaps in their new methods for tracking criminals.
With so much obscurity, many Chinese people see the authorities for what they are — erratic, unrestrained and now equipped with unpredictable new powers. The group in the train station was simply making a prudent choice and giving the police, their goofy electronic glasses and their strange foreign friend wide berth.
Many critics call China’s surveillance ambitions Orwellian, and they are. But for China today, the world imagined by Franz Kafka offers a closer vision: bureaucratic, unknowable and ruled by uncertainty as much as fear.
Follow Paul Mozur on Twitter: @paulmozur.
Carolyn Zhang contributed research.
A version of this article appears in print on

Bill Shorten says Labor will legislate to stop 'unfair' labour hire company practices | Australia news I The Guardian

theguardian.com

Bill Shorten says Labor will legislate to stop 'unfair' labour hire company practices | Australia news

Katharine Murphy


Bill Shorten will promise Labor will legislate if it wins the next federal election to ensure workers employed through a labour hire company get the same pay and conditions as workers hired directly by companies.
The Labor leader will confirm the new policy while campaigning in Queensland on Tuesday with the shadow workplace relations minister, Brendan O’Connor, ahead of a speech he will deliver to the ACTU congress in Brisbane in the evening.
Shorten says he will consult labour hire companies, host employers, unions and other stakeholders on proposed changes to legislation and any transitional arrangements – and, anticipating a business backlash, Labor will exempt small business using labour hire firms to source temporary or specialist workers from the change.
In a statement issued ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, Shorten said: “Our policy is based on a simple principle: if you are doing the same job, you should get the same pay.
“At the moment, there are too many workers in Australia subject to unfair labour hire practices, often treated like second-class citizens with lower wages, worse conditions and no job security.
“For some workers, labour hire and casual work is a pathway into a permanent job but for too many workers it has become a way of life.
“While there are workers who like the flexibility that labour hire provides, too often it’s used purely as a mechanism to pay workers less, or to deprive them of conditions and security.”
Labor has already telegraphed its intention to strengthen the workplace relations framework if it wins government, and the trade union movement is campaigning for extensive changes to existing rules and regulations.
In January, Labor suggested changes were needed to the minimum wage-setting process to ensure a “living wage” for award-reliant workers and the opposition is looking at methods to help low-paid workers access collective bargaining to lift themselves off minimum award rates.
The opposition has already announced that it will impose a new labour hire licensing scheme in an effort to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation.
Labor says companies that are based overseas and supply labour to Australian firms, either directly or through other companies, will also have to be licensed to do business in Australia.
Both Shorten and the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will spend the coming fortnight focussed on byelection contests in several states, with the critical contests in the Queensland seat of Longman and the Tasmanian seat of Braddon.

Renewables will replace ageing coal plants at lowest cost, Aemo says | Australia news I The Guardian

theguardian.com

Renewables will replace ageing coal plants at lowest cost, Aemo says | Australia news

Katharine Murphy


Australia’s energy market operator says the future of power generation in Australia will be renewables with storage, and gas, with those technologies able to replace the power currently supplied by coal generators at least cost.
A new forecast by the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) notes 30% of Australia’s coal generators will approach the end of their technical life over the next two decades, and it says it is important to avoid premature departures if the looming transition in the national energy market is to be orderly.
But while some in the Turnbull government have been campaigning to bolt new coal-fired power into the system, backed with government subsidy or underwriting, Aemo is clear about where the future lies, and it is not with coal.
It says the future of power generation in Australia is renewables with storage, pumped hydro and flexible gas-powered generation.
The market operator says in a forecast to be released on Tuesday that when existing coal resources retire “the modelling shows that retiring coal plants can be most economically replaced with a portfolio of utility-scale renewable generation, storage, distributed energy resources, flexible thermal capacity, and transmission”.
While some in the government have sought to portray new coal generation as a low-cost option for consumers concerned about high power prices, Aemo’s new forecast completely debunks that argument.
It says the lowest-cost replacement options for retiring coal plants “will be a portfolio of resources, including solar (28GW), wind (10.5 GW) and storage (17 GW and 90 GWh), complemented by 500 MW of flexible gas plant and transmission investment”.
The energy market operator concludes that mix of generation can produce 90 terawatt hours of energy per annum, “more than offsetting the energy lost from retiring coal-fired generation”.
It says the increasing penetration of rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources is having a profound effect on the power system, and it says a growing proportion of supply will come from this form of generation rather than baseload.
The new assessment also suggests Australia’s electricity transmission infrastructure will need to be reinforced to ensure the grid performs optimally after the shift.
It says targeted investment in new transmission “will minimise the overall cost and support consumer value by making better use of existing plant, including distributed energy resources, lower fuel and operating costs and operating risk by a more inter-regionally connected system, and provide system access to the least-cost supply resources that can replace the retiring coal plant”.
The forecast says the cost of replacing the retiring generators with new assets is “significant and unavoidable” – somewhere between $8bn and $27bn, depending on assumptions made around economic growth and rate of industry transformation.
But it says targeted investment in transmission infrastructure, rather than power generation, would create efficiency gains, with cost savings between $1.2bn and $2bn, as well as creating a more robust, resilient, flexible and adaptable network.
The report lays out a three-stage program of investment. A failure to invest in transmission infrastructure would increase consumer costs and risks, Aemo says.
Aemo’s chief executive, Audrey Zibelman, says Australia’s energy market is experiencing “an unprecedented rate of change”.
“We are witnessing disruption across almost every element of the value chain,” Zibelman says. But she says the looming transition will require careful planning “to manage this transformation in order to minimise costs and risks and maximise value to consumers”.

Wall Street After The Bell: Stocks making Biggest Moves after Hours: NFLX, AMZN & more I CNBC I After The Bell

cnbc.com

Stocks making biggest moves after hours: NFLX, AMZN & more

Miguel Pineda


The Netflix app on an Apple iPad mini tablet computer. Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Netflix app on an Apple iPad mini tablet computer.
Check out the companies making headlines after the bell:
Netflix stock sank nearly 14 percent in extended-hours trading. Netflix only added 674,000 subscribers in the US during its second quarter, well below the analysts' expectations of 1.23 million.The popular streaming service earned $3.91 billion in revenue, missing the analysts' expectations of $3.94 billion.
Shares of Amazon fell more than 1 percent in after-hours trading. The company held its annual Prime Day, but ran into trouble as its website experienced glitches. Many users trying to take advantage of Amazon's Prime Day deal only saw an error page featuring the "dogs of Amazon," while others were stuck in a loop of pages urging them to "Shop all deals."
Facebook and Alphabet were also down more than 1 percent after hours, while Twitter and Spotify both dropped more than 2 percent. Major tech companies tumbled as the Invesco QQQ Trust exchange-traded fund, which tracks the Nasdaq 100 index, dropped 0.7 percent in after hours trading.

Carbonite tumbled more than 6 percent in extended-hours trading. The cloud-storage company announced it was offering 4 million shares of its common stock. In addition, David Friend, the co-founder of the company, is selling about 520,000 shares. The company will not see any proceeds from Friend's sale.

CFTC Issues Customer Advisory on Digital Tokens I CFTC.

cftc.gov

CFTC Issues Customer Advisory on Digital Tokens



July 16, 2018

New Guidance Alerts Customers to Use Caution and Research before Purchasing Virtual Coins or Tokens
 

Washington, DC — The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today issued a Customer Advisory warning customers to use caution and do extensive research before purchasing virtual coins or tokens, including those that are self-described as “utility coins,” or “consumption coins.” This is the fourth advisory about virtual currencies the CFTC has issued to give customers a greater understanding of virtual currencies.
“This advisory is part of the CFTC’s education and outreach efforts to help educate and inform market participants, who, given the pace of technology-driven change, will increasingly come in contact with new financial products and services,” said Erica Elliott Richardson, Director of the Office of Public Affairs and Office of Customer Education and Outreach. “The CFTC’s Office of Customer Education and Outreach closely coordinates with LabCFTC in order to keep pace with developments in the markets the CFTC regulates, and we look forward to staying ahead-of-the-curve in providing customers the information they need to protect themselves against fraud or manipulation in the marketplace.”
The advisory, titled “Use Caution When Buying Digital Coins or Tokens,” warns customers to view any promises or guarantees of future value as a “red flag.” Since this market is still very new, there is no commonly accepted standard to assigning a value on a particular virtual coin or token. This is an important reason to beware of coins or tokens sold today with the claim that they can buy goods, services, or platform access in the future. Also, businesses that are still in the proposal stage may use funds from coin sales to start or grow their ventures.  The advisory provides important factors for customers to weigh that could impact the current or future value of a coin or token.
Protect Yourself: Do Your Research
Above all, the advisory emphasizes research.  A customer’s best protection is to thoroughly research both the digital coins or tokens and the individuals, entities and affiliates who are offering the products. If information about the product offeror is not easily and readily available, the customer should be wary because purchasing these products can be considerably risky.
*   *   *  
The CFTC maintains general anti-fraud and manipulation enforcement authority over virtual currency cash markets as a commodity in interstate commerce.  For more information about virtual currencies, including Customer Advisories, Podcasts, Primers and more, visit CFTC.gov/Bitcoin.
CFTC Customer Advisories on Virtual Currencies:
  • Beware Virtual Currency Pump-and-Dump Schemes highlights virtual currency pump-and-dump schemes that occur in the largely unregulated cash market for virtual currencies and digital tokens, and typically on platforms that offer a wide array of coin pairings for traders to buy and sell.
  •  Beware of “IRS Approved” Virtual Currency IRAs is designed to encourage investors to be cautious of sales pitches touting “IRS approved” or “IRA approved” virtual currency retirement accounts. Virtual currency prices sometimes experience wild price swings. This volatility is not reduced or limited just because the virtual currencies are held in an IRA.
  • Customer Advisory: Understanding the Risks of Virtual Currency Trading informs the public of possible risks associated with investing or speculating in virtual currencies or recently launched Bitcoin futures and options.
The CFTC has also issued several customer protection Fraud Advisories that provide the warning signs of fraud covering Commodity Pools, Precious Metals, Foreign Currency, and Binary Options, among other areas.
Customers can report suspicious activities or information, such as possible violations of commodity trading laws, to the CFTC Division of Enforcement via a Toll-Free Hotline 866-FON-CFTC (866-366-2382) or file a tip or complaint online.

FCC chairman has ‘serious concerns’ about the Sinclair-Tribune merger and could seek to block the deal I The Washington Post News.

washingtonpost.com

FCC chairman has ‘serious concerns’ about the Sinclair-Tribune merger and could seek to block the deal




The headquarters of the Sinclair Broadcast Group in Hunt Valley, Md., which is the largest owner of local television stations in the United States. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)
(A previous version of this story said that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made his statement on Thursday. Pai spoke on Monday. This version has been corrected.)
Sinclair Broadcasting’s proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media has raised “serious concerns” at the Federal Communications Commission about the amount of control the combined company would have over the U.S. television market, said Ajit Pai, the agency’s chairman.
Pai said Monday that he intends to send key parts of the deal to review by an administrative law judge, which is typically the first step the FCC takes when it seeks to block a deal.
The merger would consolidate Sinclair’s position as a major conservative broadcasting entity, adding dozens of media stations to its roster. Its original merger proposal, if approved, would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of television households in America, far surpassing a national ownership cap of 39 percent.
Sinclair had proposed spinning off a number of stations to get beneath the cap. But a number of the new, prospective owners had close ties to Sinclair, which critics said would allow Sinclair to stay in control of the stations it sold.
Pai said Monday he found those arguments persuasive.
“The evidence we’ve received," said Pai, "suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law.”
The announcement is an unusual step for Pai, whose tenure leading the FCC has been marked by multiple efforts to relax regulations on TV broadcasters. In February, Pai reportedly came under investigation by the FCC’s own inspector general seeking to determine whether he inappropriately pushed for rule changes that could help Sinclair’s deal pass regulatory muster.
The FCC’s stance on Sinclair has taken on broader significance amid a wide-ranging debate over free speech rights in a politically volatile time.
“In general, this kind of media ownership concentration is dangerous for our democracy,” said Victor Pickard, a media scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. “Americans are still very reliant on local television news.”
Critics of the deal say it could limit the number of independent voices on the air, after news reports of programming on Sinclair-owned stations being dictated from its Maryland corporate headquarters.
Sinclair has been known to write scripts in the past that local anchors are required to read; in April, an online video of such a performance went viral — showing dozens of TV hosts intoning against the dangers of “fake news" and warning that other members of the media “use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.” The company also requires its stations to run conservative commentary by Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump White House official, as often as nine times a week.
Sinclair didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In the past, Sinclair chief executive Chris Ripley has said the deal will create “a leading broadcast platform with local focus and national reach.”
To satisfy regulators, Sinclair said earlier this year it was willing to sell TV stations in a number of major media markets, including WGN in Chicago and WPIX in New York. Sinclair said it would spin off WGN to Steven Fader, a business associate of Sinclair chairman David Smith. WPIX would go to Cunningham Broadcasting Corp., a media company said to have family ties to Smith. The company later said WPIX would not be spun off, but that Cunningham would still be buying at least two other stations.
“The divestitures are really key to the deal going through," said Matt Wood, policy director for the advocacy group Free Press. “There’s no way Sinclair can sit under the national ownership cap without them.”
While only those parts of the deal could be sent to the administrative law judge, Wood added, it doesn’t rule out the rest of the merger ultimately getting drawn in.
Pai’s proposal already has the necessary three votes to move foward. Brendan Carr, a Republican FCC commissioner, voted in favor, according to an FCC official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency deliberations. Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also said in a statement she intends to support the recommendation.
“Too many of this agency’s media policies have been custom built to support the business plans of Sinclair Broadcasting," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "With this hearing designation order, the agency will finally take a hard look at its proposed merger with Tribune.”
Brian Fung Brian Fung covers business and technology for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic. Follow
Dow 25,059.78
Today 0.16%
NASDAQ 7,805.27
Today 0.26%
Last Updated:4:00 PM 07/16/2018

Bonds I CNBC

cnbc.com

economic data, Putin-Trump summit in focus

Alexandra Gibbs, Thomas Franck




The yield on the benchmark two-year Treasury note reached its highest level since August 2008 Monday after the government reported that U.S. retail sales posted a strong gain in June.
The two-year note yield hit a high of 2.611 percent, its highest level since Aug. 6, 2008, when the note yielded as high as 2.606 percent.
Increased purchases of motor vehicles helped contribute to a 0.5 percent uptick in retail sales last month, with data for May revised higher to show sales rising 1.3 percent instead of the previously reported 0.8 percent gain, the Department of Commerce reported Monday.
May's rise in retail sales was the largest since September 2017.
Excluding volatile automobile, gasoline, building materials and food services components, retail sales were unchanged last month. These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was higher at around 2.855 percent at 4:18 p.m. ET, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury bond was in the black at 2.96 percent. Bond yields move inversely to prices.
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki, Finland on Monday, to discuss a range of topics including the fragile relationship between their two nations and security issues.
The meeting comes three days after the U.S. Justice Department announced that special counsel Robert Mueller had secured an indictment charging a dozen Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democrats to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and with stealing information of around half a million U.S. voters.
Elsewhere, investors will be keeping a close eye on the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and major economies including China and the European Union.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell will speak in front of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee about the state of the economy starting on Tuesday. The central bank is widely expected to hike the federal funds rate 25 basis points in its September meeting in what would be its third hike so far this year.
Some worry that the central bank may be too aggressive in its plans to raise borrowing costs. The so-called yield curve between two-year Treasury note yields and 10-year note yields is moving closer and closer to zero, meaning that there is less payoff for investors willing to hold debt for a longer period of time.
At the latest reading, the spread between the yield on the 10-year note and the two-year note was 24.63 basis points, down from above 90 basis points early in the year.
When the yield on a shorter duration security rises above a longer duration security, or inverts, it is seen as a recession warning. An inverted yield curve has proven to be a reliable indicator over the years.
—CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

Netflix Q2 2018 earnings I CNBC News

According to CNBC: Netflix falls more than 9%

cnbc.com

Netflix Q2 2018 earnings

Michelle Castillo


Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Ethan Miller | Getty Images
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings
Netflix missed its subscriber addition projections for the first time in five quarters, leading shares to tumble more than 13 percent.
The company reported second-quarter earnings after the market closed on Monday. Despite beating estimates on revenue, Netflix posted a huge miss on subscriber additions. The company only added 5.15 million subscribers, about one million less than forecast. Domestic additions were only a little more than half than projected, while it just added 4.5 million subscribers internationally.
Netflix reported:
  • Revenue: $3.91 billion vs. $3.94 billion estimated, according to a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate.
  • Domestic subscriber additions: 670,000 vs. 1.23 million subscribers estimated, per FactSet and Street Account
  • International subscriber additions: 4.5 million subscribers vs. 5.11 million subscribers estimated, per FactSet and Street Account
  • Earnings per share (EPS): 85 cents (including $85 million in non-cash unrealized gain)
Some analysts were worried the company could not sustain its share price growth, which is over 100 percent year-to-date. They also raised concerns as competitors like Amazon ramp up their streaming efforts, while others like Disney and AT&T are prepared to invest in more digital content. Netflix is expected to spend up to $8 billion this year on 700 original series.
Netflix also issued a weaker guidance for the third quarter than expected, saying it is expecting to add 5 million subscribers total compared to an analyst estimate of more than 6 million. It is projecting 650,000 new subscribers in the U.S. and 4.35 million internationally.
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

NFLX Stock Price - Netflix Inc. Stock Quote (U.S.: Nasdaq) I MarketWatch News.

marketwatch.com

NFLX Stock Price - Netflix Inc. Stock Quote (U.S.: Nasdaq)

by Ciara Linnane

Dow logs third straight gain, but Nasdaq, S&P 500 sink as energy slump offsets bank rally

The Dow Jones Industrial Average marked its third gain in a row on Monday, but the broader market finished slightly lower as the sell-off in the energy sector weighed on the market. The Dow closed up about 45 points, or 0.2% at 25,064 (on a preliminary basis),. The S&P 500 index fell 0.1% at 2,798, with the energy sector falling 1.2% amid a rout in crude-oil futures , while the banking sector enjoyed a bounce as Treasury rates climbed. Higher rates can be beneficial to a bank's business model. Investors focused on second-quarter results, and a summit between President Donald Trump and Russian Vladimir Putin, which drew rebukes from Democrats and Republicans, for treating Putin like an ally. In corporate news, shares of Amazon.com Inc. finished up 0.5% as the online retailer's website was down at the start of its Prime Day, one of its higher sales volume periods of the year. Separately, consumer-discretionary giant Netflix Inc. saw its shares in focus ahead of its release of second-quarter results, which were slated for after the close of Monday trade. Netflix's shares rose 1.2% at the close on Monday.
  • Jul. 16, 2018 at 4:10 p.m. ET
  • by Mark DeCambre

Currencies I CNBC

cnbc.com

Dollar retreats as investors reset bets ahead of Powell's testimony

CNBC


Matt Cardy | Getty Images
The dollar fell on Monday after posting its largest weekly gain in a month last Friday, as investors pared back their long bets on the greenback and rebalanced their positions ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's first congressional testimony.
Investors are awaiting Powell's semiannual testimony on the economy and monetary policy before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. Powell is likely to reiterate the Fed's gradual monetary policy tightening, but any suggestion of caution on trade could unravel the market's appetite for risk again, analysts said. "The market is just paring back its long dollar positioning, looking to go neutral ahead of Powell's testimony," said Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist at TD Securities in New York.
The dollar has benefited from expectations of further interest rate increases this year as well as a growing belief that the United States is better placed than it major rivals to withstand a potential disruption in global trade.
"While a trade war is unlikely to produce any winners, the U.S. economic and monetary policy cycles are likely less sensitive to risks around trade than the euro zone, UK, and Asian economies," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.
Outstanding U.S. dollar bets are at their highest levels since March 2017, with the latest weekly data showing yet another increase in positions. Speculators were net long dollars for a fourth consecutive week, after being net short for 48 straight weeks.
The dollar fell 0.25 percent against a basket of six major currencies to 94.51, sliding for a second straight session. The dollar briefly pared losses after data showed U.S. retail sales rose 0.5 percent in June, as households boosted purchases of automobiles and a range of other goods.
The uptrend on the dollar remained intact. Since hitting a more than three-year low against a basket of six major currencies in February, the dollar has gained nearly 8 percent. The dollar's growing inverse correlation with global risk appetite has also fueled a near 6 percent rise in the greenback over the last three months.
Monday's bounce in European stocks led by strong results from Deutsche Bank, snapped that trend. A rebound in global risk appetite on Monday, despite some tepid Chinese economic data, has dampened fears about an escalating trade conflict between Beijing and Washington and boosted higher-yielding currencies. The euro rose 0.23 percent against the dollar to $1.1712 after weakening half a percent last week.

Wall Street at Close Report I CNBC

cnbc.com

Financials lead Dow higher after better-than-expected earnings from Bank of America

Fred Imbert, Alexandra Gibbs


Bank of America shares rose sharply on Monday, leading financial stocks higher, while the broader market struggled for gains as the corporate earnings season kicked into full swing.
The banking giant's stock rose 4.2 percent and was on track for its best day since March 26, when it gained 4.35 percent. Bank of America gained after the company reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue. Financials rose 1.7 percent. The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) rose 1.2 percent.
The major stock indexes, meanwhile, chopped around the flatline as other large U.S. companies released their quarterly results.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose just 25 points with Caterpillar, Chevron and Exxon Mobil as the biggest laggards and J.P. Morgan Chase outperforming. The S&P 500 slipped 0.1 percent as a decline in energy stocks offset gains in financials. The Nasdaq Composite traded 0.3 percent lower as Amazon gave back most of its gains amid glitches at the start of Prime Day.
NYSE Trader on the floor Spencer Platt | Getty Images
NYSE Trader on the floor
BlackRock reported second-quarter earnings and revenue before the bell, along with J.B. Hunt Transport Services. BlackRock's earnings were driven in part by a lower corporate tax rate, while J.B. Hunt's results were helped by higher rates and increased volume.
However, BlackRock shares slipped 0.6 percent. J.B. Hunt fell nearly 0.3 percent after rising as much as 6.7 percent.
Wall Street has high hopes for this earnings season, with analysts expecting second-quarter profits to have grown by 20 percent from last year, according to FactSet. Earnings for the first quarter grew by 24 percent.
“A lot of people are expecting a beat on earnings growth for the quarter,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth. “But I think there are some questions about growth moving forward.”
So far, just 5.7 percent of S&P 500 companies have reported second-quarter results. Overall, 86 percent of those companies have posted better-than-expected earnings, with profits growing by 20.1 percent, FactSet data shows.
Stocks posted strong gains last week despite increasing trade tensions, with the major indexes rising . Last week, the Trump administration unveiled a list Chinese goods it will potentially target with a 10 percent tariff. The list added up to $200 billion worth of items. The announcement came just days after both nations imposed $34 billion worth of tariffs on each other.
"Last week, we had some strength in the face of trade concerns and it seems like we're taking a break after that," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial. "A lot of this is priced in, but we need some sort of positive resolution" for the market to move back to all-time highs.
Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in June, in line with expectations, the Commerce Department said Monday.
Energy stocks dropped nearly 1.5 percent after crude prices fell sharply. West Texas Intermediate futures dropped 4.2 percent after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said some importers could receive waivers to keep buying supplies from Iran.
—CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report

Weekly National Rates and Rate Caps I FDIC

fdic.gov

FDIC: Weekly National Rates and Rate Caps

On May 29, 2009, the FDIC Board of Directors approved a final rule making certain revisions to the interest rate restrictions applicable to less than well capitalized institutions under Part 337.6 of the FDIC Rules and Regulations. The final rule redefined the "national rate" as a simple average of rates paid by U.S. depository institutions as calculated by the FDIC. The national rates and rate caps for various deposit maturities and sizes are provided below.
For more information. see Financial Institution Letter FIL-25-2009
Rates updated July 16, 2018

Non-Jumbo Deposits (< $100,000)

Deposit Products National Rate 1 Rate Cap 2
Savings 0.08 0.83
Interest Checking 0.05 0.80
Money Market 0.13 0.88
1 month CD 0.09 0.84
3 month CD 0.15 0.90
6 month CD 0.24 0.99
12 month CD 0.41 1.16
24 month CD 0.59 1.34
36 month CD 0.75 1.50
48 month CD 0.85 1.60
60 month CD 1.06 1.81

Jumbo Deposits (≥ $100,000)

Deposit Products National Rate 1 Rate Cap 2
Savings 0.08 0.83
Interest Checking 0.05 0.80
Money Market 0.20 0.95
1 month CD 0.11 0.86
3 month CD 0.17 0.92
6 month CD 0.27 1.02
12 month CD 0.46 1.21
24 month CD 0.65 1.40
36 month CD 0.79 1.54
48 month CD 0.90 1.65
60 month CD 1.10 1.85
The FDIC began posting the National Rate and Rate Cap on May 18, 2009. Data is not available prior to May 18, 2009. This historical data can be accessed at Previous Rates
1 National rates are calculated based on a simple average of rates paid (uses annual percentage yield) by all insured depository institutions and branches for which data are available. Data used to calculate the national rates are gathered by RateWatch. Savings and interest checking account rates are based on the $2,500 product tier while money market and certificate of deposit are based on the $10,000 and $100,000 product tiers for non-jumbo and jumbo accounts, respectively. Account types and maturities published in these tables are those most commonly offered by the banks and branches for which we have data - no fewer than 45,000 locations and as many as 81,000 locations reported. The deposit rates of credit unions are not included in the calculation.
2 The rate cap is determined by adding 75 basis points to the national rate. To determine conformance with the regulation, compare rates offered by the institution, based on size and maturity of the deposit, to the rate caps. For accounts less than $100,000 use the applicable rate cap under the non-jumbo column, and for accounts $100,000 and over, use the rate caps under the jumbo column. Interpolation should be used for deposits with maturities not listed above.

Oil Prices At Close Report I CNBC

cnbc.com

Oil tumbles as Mnuchin says oil buyers may get Iran sanctions waivers

Tom DiChristopher


Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaks during a TV interview at the White House in Washington, May 21, 2018. Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin speaks during a TV interview at the White House in Washington, May 21, 2018.
Oil prices extended early losses on Monday, dropping about $3 a barrel, after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said some crude importers may receive waivers to continue buying supplies from Iran, despite U.S. sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.
"We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but in certain cases if people can't do that overnight, we'll consider exceptions," Mnuchin told reporters on Friday while traveling to Mexico, Reuters reported. The comments were under embargo until Monday morning.
Mnuchin told the reporters the Trump administration wants to avoid roiling global oil markets as it seeks to pressure Iran to make concessions on its nuclear program, ballistic missile tests and its role in regional conflicts. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and restored sanctions on Tehran in May.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices ended Monday's session down $2.95, or 4.2 percent, at $68.06. WTI has fallen for two weeks in a row, dropping from a 3½-year high above $75 a barrel.
Brent crude oil was down $3.41 per barrel, or 4.5 percent, to $71.92by 2:22 p.m. ET, after touching a three-month low at $71.52.
The Trump administration sent oil prices soaring three weeks ago after a senior State Department official told reporters the agency had been pushing Europeans to cut their oil purchases from Iran to zero by Nov. 4. The tougher-than-expected deadline raised concerns about shortages of oil at a time when supply and demand are finely balanced.
The State Department later signaled some leeway on the policy, and last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration will consider granting sanctions relief to a "handful of countries."
The Trump administration now appears to be moving towards the approach followed by President Barack Obama. When the Obama administration expanded sanctions on Iran, it allowed importers to continue buying Iranian crude so long as the purchasing country's overall imports fell by 20 percent every 180 days.
"The State Department has the ability to issue waivers around significant reductions in the oil markets, that's something that Treasury and State will be doing," Mnuchin said on Friday.
The United States can use its influence over the global financial system to apply so-called secondary sanctions on foreign companies that continue to do business with Iran. However, administration's aggressive policy threatens to raise oil prices and leave Americans paying more at the pump ahead of midterm elections in November.
The Trump administration is actively considering releasing oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to tame fuel prices, multiple news agencies reported on Friday. The Department of Energy did not return a CNBC request for comment on the reports.
Oil prices slipped earlier on Monday as concerns about supply disruptions eased and Libyan ports reopened, while traders eyed potential supply increases by Russia and other oil producers.
Russia and other oil producers may raise output by 1 million barrels per day (bpd) or more if shortages hit the market, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said.
"If we need more than 1 million bpd, I don't rule out that we can quickly discuss it and make a quick decision," Novak told reporters on Friday.
OPEC, Russia and several other oil-producing nations agreed last month to raise output to tame rising crude prices. That partly unwound the producers' 18-month policy of limiting output following a prolonged price slump.
A Norwegian union for workers on offshore oil and gas drilling rigs stepped up a six-day strike on Monday that has hit oil output.
Production at Libya's giant Sharara oilfield was expected to fall by at least 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) after two staff were abducted in an attack by an unknown group, the National Oil Corporation said on Saturday.
— Reuters contributed to this report.

Gold Prices at Close Report I CNBC

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Gold steadies as weak physical demand, higher U.S. rates weigh

CNBC


gold_bars_140.jpg Stockbyte
Gold steadied on Monday as weak physical demand in top-consuming regions and the expectation of higher U.S. interest rates weigh, despite the bullion-priced U.S. dollar losing steam.
Spot gold lost 0.03 percent at $1,240.61 per ounce.
U.S. gold futures for August delivery settled down $1.50 at $1,239.70.
A lower U.S. currency makes dollar-denominated gold cheaper for holders of other currencies, which typically boosts bullion demand. However, low physical demand in top gold-consuming countries China and India and the continued expectation of the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates pressured bullion, traders said.
"It seems the second quarter Chinese figures are putting a damper on the metals," said George Gero, managing director of RBC Wealth Management.
China's economy expanded at a slower pace in the second quarter as Beijing's efforts to contain debt hurt activity, while June factory output growth weakened to a two-year low.
India's gold imports fell for a sixth month in June to 44 tonnes as a drop in the rupee lifted local prices to their highest in nearly 21 months, curtailing demand.
"Indian and China retail consumption has been hindered by depreciating local FX," Citi analysts said in a note. "Investors may favor gold again, especially if trade friction rises further and becomes a more sizable threat to economic growth and to the decade-long equity market bull run."
The U.S. dollar fell as investors pared back long bets on the greenback and rebalanced their positions ahead of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's first congressional testimony on Tuesday. He is expected to reiterate the Fed's gradual monetary policy tightening. Gold does not earn any interest or dividends and costs money to store and insure.
Meanwhile, holdings for the largest gold-backed exchange-traded-fund New York's SPDR Gold Trust, have fallen more than 8 percent since late April to less than 26 million ounces, showing fading investor interest in bullion.
Silver gained 0.06 percent at $15.789. Platinum slipped 0.27 percent at $823.50. Palladium declined 2.13 percent at $917.00, earlier dipping to $914.75, its lowest since April 9. Analysts expect palladium prices to remain supported.
"Our indicators suggest that palladium remains the tightest it has been in about 20 years -- and is expected to remain in deficit," Citi analysts said, adding they expect a palladium market deficit of 458,000 ounces this year and a 608,000 shortfall next year.


Trump and Putin joint press conference in Helsinki - watch live I Guardian News Video

European Markets at Close Report I CNBC

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European stocks close lower as Trump and Putin meet; earnings in focus

Silvia Amaro, Ryan Browne


European shares closed lower on Monday as investors focused on earnings and monitored a meeting between the United States and Russia.
 
FTSE FTSE 7600.45 -61.42 -0.80% 604099698
DAX DAX 12561.02 20.29 0.16% 100110833
CAC CAC 5409.43 -19.77 -0.36% 58397245
IBEX 35 --- --- --- --- --- ---

This quarter, are you expecting earnings to...

Total Votes:
Not a Scientific Survey. Results may not total 100% due to rounding.
Trade and political concerns could weigh on Germany’s economic performance. Bundesbank Governor Jens Weidmann told the German government at a cabinet meeting that there are increasing risks of an economic slowdown due to trade and political events. The central bank cut its growth forecasts for this year last month, Reuters reported.
In terms of data, the euro zone narrowed its trade surplus in May for the third month in a row. The surplus stood at 16.9 billion euros ($19.77 billion) in May from 18 billion euros in April.
Meanwhile, oil prices dipped after U.S Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration would consider waivers for some countries to allow them to continue buying oil from Iran. Trump withdrew from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal and restored sanctions on Iran earlier this year.

Tory Eurosceptics say they have 'killed off' Theresa May's Brexit compromise after she backs down The Telegraph News

telegraph.co.uk

Tory Eurosceptics say they have 'killed off' Theresa May's Brexit compromise after she backs down

Jack Maidment, Political Correspondent Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor


Theresa May has bowed to the demands of Tory Eurosceptics by accepting amendments which they believe will will off the Prime Minister's Brexit plans.
The Government confirmed that it is accepting four amendments to the Customs bill, including one which would stop the UK from collecting duties on behalf of the EU post-Brexit unless it agrees to do the same.
Tory Eurosceptics believe that the amendment will "kill off" the Prime Minister's Chequer's compromise because Brussels will not be prepared to collect tariffs on behalf of the UK.
However Downing Street insisted that the deal was not dead and that the amendments are "compatible" with the Prime Minister's Brexit paper.  

China watches as Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin I CNBC News

cnbc.com

China watches as Donald Trump meets Vladimir Putin

Justina Crabtree


President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, July 16, 2018.  Mikhail Metzel | TASS | Getty Images
President Donald Trump (L) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin talk during a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, July 16, 2018. 
As President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin prepare for a head-to-head on Monday, nearby superpower China will be paying the most attention to the relationship dynamic between the two leaders, analysts told CNBC.
The Trump-Putin summit taking place in Helsinki, Finland, this week “could present China with important strategic opportunities as well as offering valuable lessons for its own relationship with the U.S. president,” John Ferguson, director of global forecasting at analysis firm Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via e-mail.
The U.S. president’s hot-and-cold relationship with traditional allies, combined with his willingness to open bilateral dialogues with countries known historically for their rockier relationship with the White House, is an ongoing narrative of his presidency.
Trump’s potential to cede to Putin on issues such as Russia’s presence in Crimea or NATO’s exercises in the Baltic region could, therefore, set a precedent for Beijing’s furthering of its own geopolitical ambitions, Ferguson said. This includes control over the South China Sea and the sovereignty of Taiwan.
Though China doesn't have a seat at the table this time around, it will be front and center of the Trump-Putin bilateral. "We'll be talking a little bit about China (and) our mutual friend President Xi," said Trump as he faced reporters with Putin on Monday.
Any indication of U.S.-Russian collaboration over denuclearizing North Korea, a country with which both China and Russia share a border, could diminish Beijing’s influence in the ongoing saga.
“China is a central player in the Korean Peninsula, but if Mr Trump can increase Russian leverage over North Korea, it will lessen his need to rely too heavily on China's support,” Ferguson suggested.

China ultimately unfazed by Trump-Putin summit

But while Beijing could be paying attention to Trump’s diplomatic style, it is unlikely to be worried by any developments in U.S. economic and foreign policy, according to two other experts.
For Kent Kedl, a senior partner at consultancy Control Risks specializing in Asia, Monday’s summit will have little impact on the U.S.-China trade war that is currently roiling markets. Kedl told CNBC via telephone that he did not see the U.S. president trying to rally a coalition against trade adversary China, as “Trump’s way is to divide and conquer.”
China views Russia as a useful decoy while it serves its own interests, according to Kerry Brown, associate fellow of the Asia-Pacific Programme at think tank Chatham House. “China doesn’t see Russia as a geopolitical threat,” he told CNBC via telephone, but instead views the country as a “useful idiot” whose service is “distracting the West.”
Though geographically huge, Russia’s economy is dwarfed by the U.S.’ and China’s, which are the world’s largest and second largest respectively. This contributes to Brown’s argument that ultimately, Russia is a “marginal player in U.S.-China relations.”
But for Ferguson, despite Russia’s only “peripheral” involvement in the ongoing global trade war, American openness to strike deals with Russia could inform China’s own approach.
Beijing’s own hosting of Trump last November was domestically lauded as a success, indicating that despite trade war worries, it considers itself capable of dealing with the volatile president.
But, “no-one knows the trajectory after a Trump summit,” Kedl said