• One market watcher's warning to Saudi Aramco: 'The future is not oil'
    Yahoo Finance Video

    One market watcher's warning to Saudi Aramco: 'The future is not oil'

    The Schork Report editor Stephen Schork joins Yahoo Finance to discuss Saudi Aramco's mega-IPO.

  • Bloomberg

    Fed Is Sick of Being Held Hostage by Trade Wars

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and his colleagues sent a message with their final interest-rate decision of 2019: Don’t expect us to be subject to the whims of America’s ever-shifting trade policy in the year ahead.The Federal Open Market Committee, in its first unanimous decision since May, kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged in a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. The median projection in the central bank’s “dot plot” calls for no movement in the fed funds rate during the next 12 months, with 13 of 17 central bankers expecting to hold steady. All of this conforms with market expectations — after last week’s blockbuster jobs report, fed funds futures began to price out additional interest-rate cuts in 2020.How the Fed opted to reword its statement heading into the New Year was perhaps the most striking takeaway from a decision that otherwise went as expected. Notably, it says “the committee judges that the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate to support” its goals and no longer contains the phrase “uncertainties about this outlook remain.” The central bank will continue to monitor “global developments” — its way of saying “trade wars” — but no longer views them as detrimental to the U.S. economy.“This was a telling change given there is still no clarity on the trade front,” Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets, wrote after the decision. “Perhaps Powell is also suffering from ‘trade drama fatigue?’”It has been quite a year for Powell. At the beginning of 2019 he effectively told markets the Fed would be on hold just weeks after policy makers predicted two additional interest-rate increases in the coming 12 months. By June, bond traders were convinced the central bank would begin dropping interest rates in the following month. Now the fed funds rate is 75 basis points lower than in January. “That wasn’t in the plan in any kind of specific way in the beginning,” Powell noted in his press conference.Powell may never say it, but the Fed was pushed around in a large way by the Trump administration’s trade policy. He said that “we try to look through the volatility in trade news” and that “monetary policy is not the right tool to react in the very short term to volatility and things that can change back and forth.” Either way, the central bank seems to believe it offset any threat that posed to the U.S. economy through its interest-rate cuts.But heading into a U.S. presidential election year, the Fed truly wants to be on hold. And with this decision, it sought to make clear that it’s going to take more than just escalating trade rhetoric to get policy makers to change that view — in Powell’s words, only “if developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly.”Now, whether markets take this stance seriously is anyone’s guess. But it’s worth looking back at previous election years to see how resistant the Fed has been to abruptly changing course.Many market observers seem to think the Fed doesn’t move interest rates one way or the other during an election year. That’s not entirely correct. Sure, the central bank did nothing in 2012, but in 2008 it dropped the fed funds rates by 225 basis points in the first half of the year and raised interest rates in both early 2000 and starting in mid-2004. As Carl Riccadonna of Bloomberg Economics put it: “A fundamental law of physics proves to be a useful rule of thumb for Fed policy in election years: Objects at rest will stay at rest and objects in motion will remain in motion.”Here’s more from Riccadonna’s analysis:“While the Fed is averse to any appearance of influence over political outcomes, it is not unprecedented to adjust policy in election years. What is unusual is a change of course or velocity of adjustments. … Policy makers attempt to maintain the status quo on policy through elections. If they were on hold in the preceding period, they remain on hold; if they are hiking gradually and predictably, they continue to do so, and so forth.”Of course, the Fed has never faced the level of persistent attacks from a U.S. president as it has with Donald Trump. In some ways, it’s almost too late to avoid politicizing the central bank.    But there’s long been a theory in financial markets that Trump would keep escalating trade tensions with China, which would cause the Fed to further drop interest rates, and then the president would strike a deal at the last minute and cause a stock rally to buoy his re-election chances. Powell is acutely aware that markets are obsessed with these trade talks. “What’s been moving financial markets? It’s been news about the negotiations with China,” Powell said. With this decision, Powell is telling Trump and traders that they can’t have it all in 2020. The economy is in a good place, thanks to the Fed’s decisive action to lower rates three times. If the president wants to keep the good times going in 2020, the ball is in his court. The central bank will be watching from the sidelines.To contact the author of this story: Brian Chappatta at bchappatta1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Brian Chappatta is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering debt markets. He previously covered bonds for Bloomberg News. He is also a CFA charterholder.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • SoftBank Vision Fund’s Praveen Akkiraju Is Stepping Down
    Bloomberg

    SoftBank Vision Fund’s Praveen Akkiraju Is Stepping Down

    (Bloomberg) -- SoftBank Vision Fund managing partner Praveen Akkiraju is stepping down from the behemoth investment vehicle to explore working with early stage startups in either an operational or investment role.Akkiraju joined SoftBank in April 2018 and was previously the chief executive officer of Viptela, a cloud software company that was acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. His departure was confirmed by a Vision Fund spokeswoman.Axios earlier reported Akkiraju’s exit. The outlet noted that Deep Nishar, a senior managing partner, will assume many of Akkiraju’s responsibilities including his board seat at Automation Anywhere. SoftBank’s Vision Fund invested $300 million in the San Jose, California-based robotic process automation company last November.SoftBank has raised roughly $2 billion for its second Vision Fund so it can start making new investments, people familiar with the matter said last month.Akkiraju’s departure follows the resignation of London-based Vision Fund partner David Thevenon.Akkiraju didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.(Updates with second Vision Fund details. A previous version of this story corrected the size of first fund in story link.)To contact the reporters on this story: Giles Turner in London at gturner35@bloomberg.net;Gillian Tan in New York at gtan129@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Goldstein at agoldstein5@bloomberg.net, Robin Ajello, Jillian WardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Robinhood Launches Its Cash Management Service, a Year After Botched Launch

    (Bloomberg) -- Robinhood Markets Inc. has finally launched its take on a bank account, albeit a very different version of the service it once hoped to offer. On Wednesday, the online brokerage firm rolled out Cash Management to a subset of users. The product will sweep the money customers don’t currently have in stocks into a separate account with 1.8% interest.The introduction comes after a debacle for the company last year, when Robinhood, known for popularizing free stock trading, announced a product called Checking & Savings that drew swift backlash. The startup has spent much of the past 12 months retooling how it would offer cash management services and making sure that this time, it wouldn’t raise any red flags with industry watchdogs or regulators.The product is part of a larger effort at Robinhood to broaden its business model. “Our entire business was built knowing we weren’t going to be charging trading commissions,” said Co-Chief Executive Officer Vlad Tenev. “We’ll still have existing revenue streams, and in addition we’ll add revenue from interchange on debit card transactions. As we launch even more products covering even more needs of customers, that revenue stream will continue to diversify.”Cash Management will offer bank-like services—including debit cards and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. coverage on deposits— through a partnership with an existing bank, unlike Checking & Savings, which did not have such a partnership. The product represents a scaling back of banking ambitions for the startup, which had originally planned to become a bank itself. But last month, the company withdrew its application for a national banking charter. Being granted such a license would have allowed the company to offer checking accounts, debit cards and similar services on its own. No fintech startup has so far successfully won a charter.The debut of Cash Management comes after several other financial technology startups have rolled out their own banking services, leading to an increasingly crowded field. Betterment LLC and Wealthfront Corp. also have their own versions of cash management services, as do more traditional competitors like Charles Schwab Corp. At the same time, Robinhood’s main business of free stock trading is also seeing more competition. Over the last several months, Charles Schwab, E*Trade Financial Corp. and TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. all eliminated trading fees for U.S. stocks, exchange traded funds and options.To contact the author of this story: Julie Verhage in New York at jverhage2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Anne VanderMey at avandermey@bloomberg.net, Mark MilianFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Semiconductor-General Stock Outlook: 2020 Prospects Lifting Shares
    Zacks

    Semiconductor-General Stock Outlook: 2020 Prospects Lifting Shares

    Semiconductor-General Stock Outlook: 2020 Prospects Lifting Shares

  • Cisco Enters Chip Market, Supplying Microsoft, Facebook
    Bloomberg

    Cisco Enters Chip Market, Supplying Microsoft, Facebook

    (Bloomberg) -- Cisco Systems Inc. has started supplying switch chips to major data-center operators, including Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc., opening up a new avenue to win orders from some of its largest networking-equipment customers.Cisco Silicon 1 is a switch semiconductor that’s already being used by Microsoft and Facebook in crucial networking equipment, the companies said Wednesday at an event in San Francisco. San Jose, California-based Cisco is now offering the chips, which it says are the fastest in the industry, to all of its customers, regardless of whether they buy its networking machinery. Previously Cisco’s chips were only available as components of its machines.The shift toward standalone chip sales is another departure from the business model that made Cisco one of the biggest companies in the technology industry. Cisco’s expensive proprietary combinations of hardware and software make up the backbone of much of the internet and corporate networks, and these products generate the bulk of the company’s revenue. The new initiative has the potential to attract business from customers who want to build their own machines instead of buying whole packages. It also puts Cisco in direct competition with its suppliers, Intel Corp. and Broadcom Inc., which also make switch chips that the networking equipment maker uses in some of its products.“From today -- and this is something that some of you never thought we’d do -- some of our customers will buy our silicon and build their own products if that’s what they choose to do,” Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins said at the event. “We really want our customers to consume this technology in any way they want.”As the internet infrastructure business moves away from suppliers who provide all the needs through locked-down combinations of hardware and software, Robbins has been pushing Cisco to adapt by becoming a bigger supplier of networking services and software. On his watch, software has risen to provide about 11% of revenue. Hardware still generates more than half of sales.Cisco shares rose less than 1% to $44.24 at 2:02 p.m. in New York. The stock gained 1.8% this year through Tuesday’s close.The move into selling components is an attempt to win orders from the hyperscalers, such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon.com Inc.’s AWS, a group that has increasingly turned away from Cisco’s offerings and equipped their data centers with computers and networking gear designed in house. Those big cloud-computing vendors contribute as little as 2% of Cisco’s total sales, according to Raymond James analyst Simon Leopold.Switch chips perform the crucial function of deciding where packets of data should go in a network of computers. They are designed to handle that task at great speed, and only a few companies have been successful in the market. Broadcom is the biggest provider of this type of chip as an individual component and has as much as 80% share, Leopold said. Intel took a bigger interest in the market in June when it bought startup Barefoot Networks.Cisco’s new offering will combine the attributes of both switch and routing chips, the company said. It’ll be able to move data very quickly and still be programmable, carrying the ability to have its function changed. Routing, directing traffic among networks, is typically conducted by groups of chips that bring other attributes but are unable to direct data fast enough for modern internet traffic loads. One chip providing all of the functions will simplify the operation of networks by eliminating the need for different layers of software, Cisco executives said.Offering up what was previously guarded as a proprietary advantage shows a flexibility at Cisco that has been increasing as Robbins works to transform the company. Analysts predict the build-it-yourself approach to networking, pioneered by the large cloud-service operators, over time will be copied by companies looking to reduce the cost of their data-center spending. That corporate market is one of Cisco’s biggest sources of revenue.Cisco’s equipment, including its chips, is designed by the company and manufactured by a third party, which it hasn’t identified.The company also announced a new router machine at the event, designed to better serve as the backbone for new fifth generation, or 5G, cellular networks. The Cisco 8000 will be based on the new chip. The company also unveiled plans for products that will support faster data transmission speeds over fiber-optic cables. Like the rest of the networking industry, Cisco is positioning itself to be a main provider of equipment for the predicted surge in internet traffic and data created by the proliferation of mobile systems.(Updates with comment from Cisco CEO in the fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • 3 Semiconductor Stocks to Buy Right Now for 2020 on Chip Comeback
    Zacks

    3 Semiconductor Stocks to Buy Right Now for 2020 on Chip Comeback

    We found three semiconductor stocks with the help of our Zacks Stock Screener that investors might want to consider buying for 2020...

  • Chevron Ushers in Oil’s Era of the Sober-Major
    Bloomberg

    Chevron Ushers in Oil’s Era of the Sober-Major

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Along with never invading Russia or getting into a Twitter argument, we can add another golden rule — this one specifically for U.S. oil majors: Never buy a shale-gas business.Chevron Corp.’s $10-11 billion impairment, announced late Tuesday, relates mostly to the Appalachian gas assets it picked up in 2011’s $4.9 billion acquisition of Atlas Energy Inc. Back then, the Permian basin was not a regular topic on the business channels, nor was it a central pillar of Chevron’s spending plans. But now it is, and simultaneously plowing billions into a Permian oil business that spits out gas essentially for free while running a dry-gas business in the Marcellus shale is like flooring it with the parking brake on.Chevron joins the ranks of Exxon Mobil Corp. — which paid $35 billion for XTO Energy Inc. less than a year before the Atlas deal and has been haunted by it ever since — and ConocoPhillips, which bought Rockies gas producer Burlington Resources Inc. way back in 2006 for $36 billion and then wrote most of that off in 2008.But there is far more to this than just mistimed forays into the graveyard of optimism that is the U.S. natural gas market — and not just for Chevron.Big Oil just had a forgettable earnings season. Chevron announced cost overruns on the giant Tengiz expansion project in Kazakhstan. Exxon continued borrowing to cover its dividend. Across the pond, BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc flubbed resetting expectations on dividends and buybacks. What ties all of these together are weak returns on capital. Chevron’s problems in Kazakhstan are echoed in its impairment of another asset, the Big Foot field in the Gulf of Mexico. This is another mega-project that went awry and, in an era when producers can no longer count on an oil upswing to save the economics, is found wanting. Chevron is also ditching the Kitimat LNG project in Canada that it bought into in 2013.All this is a particularly sore spot for Chevron given its problems with Australian liquefied natural gas mega-projects earlier this decade. CEO Mike Wirth’s decision to clear the decks seems intended in part to signal that, unlike the experience of his predecessor with Australian LNG development, he will drop big assets that don’t make the cut financially.Discovering, financing and developing mega-projects is why the supermajors were created at the end of the 1990s. Today, when investors are interested at all, they’re leery of capital outlays, aware the outlook for oil and gas markets is challenged in fundamental ways. So tying up money in big, risky, multi-year ventures is a good way to crush your stock price.Wirth isn’t abandoning conventional development; Big Foot aside, the Gulf Of Mexico has several new projects in the pipeline, for example. But to offset the drag on returns from the extra spending at Tengiz, he must streamline the rest of the portfolio. This is the story of the sector writ large. “Too much capital is chasing too few opportunities,” as Doug Terreson of Evercore ISI puts it. Conoco, which remade itself radically after the Burlington debacle, set the tone with its recent analyst day, emphasizing the need to get the industry’s long-standing spending habits under control and focus on returns to win back investors who are free to put their money into other sectors. Chevron’s write-offs and shareholder payouts (38% of cash from operations over the past 12 months) are of a piece with this. While the company has laid out guidance for production to grow by 3% to 4% a year, that is very much subject to the returns on offer. Capital intensity — as in, shrinking it — is what counts.Chevron’s move throws the spotlight especially on big rival Exxon. While Exxon has taken some impairment against its U.S. gas assets, that represented a small fraction of the XTO purchase. Exxon also sticks out right now for its giant capex budget (bigger than Chevron’s by more than half), leaving no room for buybacks or even to fully cover its dividend.In the first decade of the supermajors, when peak oil supply was a thing, big projects with big budgets to match were something to boast about. As the second decade draws to an end, only the leanest operators will survive. Chevron won’t be the last oil major to rip off the band-aid, just as we haven’t yet seen the full extent of the inevitable restructurings and consolidation among the smaller E&P companies. On this front, there’s another golden rule: Better to get it done sooner rather than later. To contact the author of this story: Liam Denning at ldenning1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Liam Denning is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering energy, mining and commodities. He previously was editor of the Wall Street Journal's Heard on the Street column and wrote for the Financial Times' Lex column. He was also an investment banker.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • AUD/USD Price Forecast – Australian Dollar Rallies Again
    FX Empire

    AUD/USD Price Forecast – Australian Dollar Rallies Again

    The Australian dollar rallied pretty significantly during the trading session on Wednesday, reaching towards the resistance near the 0.6850 level again.

  • Cenovus to Increase 2020 Capital Investment & Production
    Zacks

    Cenovus to Increase 2020 Capital Investment & Production

    Cenovus Energy (CVE) expects 70% of 2020 capital spending to be used for sustaining production levels, primarily at the Foster Creek and Christina Lake oil sands operations.

  • Financial Times

    Paytm pain: India’s biggest unicorn hits headwinds

    FT subscribers can click here to receive Tech Scroll Asia by email. Hi everyone — Paytm, Asia’s biggest unicorn outside China, looks to be in trouble, with implications for its investors SoftBank and Alibaba. A fintech revolution is hurtling through south-east Asia as Indonesia is seized by an e-money craze.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Spark Energy, Vertex, ResMed, Prologis and Boston Beer
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Spark Energy, Vertex, ResMed, Prologis and Boston Beer

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Spark Energy, Vertex, ResMed, Prologis and Boston Beer

  • Pound’s World-Beating Rally Susceptible Even If Johnson Wins
    Bloomberg

    Pound’s World-Beating Rally Susceptible Even If Johnson Wins

    (Bloomberg) -- The pound’s rally on bets for a win by the ruling Conservative party in this week’s U.K. election leaves it looking vulnerable to the actual result.It wouldn’t take much of a swing by undecided voters on Dec. 12 to turn a strong Conservative majority into a weak one, with a lot of areas set to come down to narrow margins. The risk is real, as demonstrated by a YouGov poll on Tuesday that successfully predicted the 2017 vote.Sterling slipped from an eight-month high after the poll suggested Boris Johnson’s party will win by a smaller majority than previously forecast, trimming the currency’s world-beating advance in recent months. Options show increased demand to hedge an unexpected election outcome, with bets on the pound weakening at the highest since the aftermath of the June 2016 Brexit referendum.“Broadly speaking, we believe that markets have gone a bit far ahead of themselves in pricing a robust Tory majority,” said Mark Dowding, chief investment officer at BlueBay Asset Management, which closed a long position in the pound against the euro this week. “This election remains pretty unpredictable and although a majority for Johnson seems the most likely outcome, we don’t think we can rule out surprises on Thursday evening.”The pound has been the market barometer of political risk since the June 2016 Brexit vote. After touching an almost three-year low in early September, it has recovered on expectations that Johnson’s gamble to call a snap poll could pay off by getting his deal to leave the European Union through Parliament.Polls have consistently suggested the Conservatives are on track for a win, yet the latest YouGov survey forecast a majority of 28 seats, down from a bigger majority of 68 predicted in its poll two weeks ago. Toronto-Dominion Bank assigns a 55% probability to a large victory for the ruling party, but sees this base case as priced in by markets.“Confirmation of a solid Tory majority may see a knee-jerk move higher in cable, but is vulnerable to ‘sell the fact’ profit taking and a shakeout of stale positions once the elections result is known,” wrote Ned Rumpeltin, the bank’s European head of currency strategy, in a note referring to the pound-dollar currency pair.The pound traded 0.1% weaker at $1.3150 by 12:00 p.m. in London, after falling as much as 0.4% following the YouGov poll. The median forecast in Bloomberg currency surveys is for a climb to $1.35 by the end of 2020, but predictions wildly diverge depending on how analysts see the election result and what that means for the Brexit process.For strategists already betting on a Tory victory, it now comes down to how many seats they can gain: the bigger the majority, the less likelihood Parliament is once again trapped in a stalemate and unable to pass legislation. Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, lacking a majority, stepped down after seeing her Brexit deal repeatedly fail to convince lawmakers.“A small Conservative majority would probably allow Johnson’s Brexit deal to pass, but the prime minister might not have the political latitude to extend the transition period,” wrote Andrew Wishart, an at Capital Economics, in a research note. “In that case, the prospect of a no deal at the end of 2020 would drag down the pound.”There is also the possibility that the ruling party doesn’t win a majority at all in a hung Parliament, opening the door to opposition Labour to form a coalition with the smaller U.K. parties. A Bloomberg pound survey last month put the chances of this scenario at 29%, versus just 5% for an outright Labour win.Demand for options to sell sterling over the next week has gained traction, with pound-dollar risk reversals moving to as much as 470 basis points in favor of puts, the most bearish sentiment for the U.K. currency since June 2016. Bets on swings in the next week are also elevated.Some market participants see a Labour-led coalition as ultimately good for the currency, as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU and put a new exit deal to a second referendum, but his left-wing policies mean in the short-term the currency could take a hit. For Societe Generale SA strategist Kenneth Broux, this scenario could see the currency drop to $1.28.(Updates throughout.)\--With assistance from Eddie van der Walt and Vassilis Karamanis.To contact the reporter on this story: Charlotte Ryan in London at cryan147@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Dana El Baltaji at delbaltaji@bloomberg.net, Neil ChatterjeeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • AUD/USD and NZD/USD Fundamental Daily Forecast – Optimism over Trade Deal Underpinning Aussie; Profit-Takers Hitting Kiwi
    FX Empire

    AUD/USD and NZD/USD Fundamental Daily Forecast – Optimism over Trade Deal Underpinning Aussie; Profit-Takers Hitting Kiwi

    The Australian Dollar is trading higher on Wednesday despite a bearish report from Westpac. This suggests traders are likely being influenced by optimism over U.S.-China trade relations. The New Zealand Dollar could be weakening on profit-taking after a big seller continued to successfully defend the major technical level at .6567.

  • AUD/USD Forex Technical Analysis – .6832 Potential Trigger Point for Upside Breakout
    FX Empire

    AUD/USD Forex Technical Analysis – .6832 Potential Trigger Point for Upside Breakout

    The nearest upside target is a downtrending Gann angle at .6832. Since the main trend is down, sellers could come in on the first test of this angle. Taking it out, however, could trigger a breakout to the upside into the next downtrending Gann angle at .6847.

  • GBP/USD – Pound Flat as All Eyes on Election
    FX Empire

    GBP/USD – Pound Flat as All Eyes on Election

    The pound remains in a holding pattern, ahead of the election on Thursday. Polls are predicting a Conservative win, but that could change and cause some stronger movement from GBP/USD.

  • Its Never Over Till It’s Over : Brexit And Trade War
    FX Empire

    Its Never Over Till It’s Over : Brexit And Trade War

    In the race for Number 10, the massively awaited poll from YouGov predicts a majority Tory victory, although the race has tightened considerably.

  • The FED and U.S Inflation Figures Put the Dollar Front and Center
    FX Empire

    The FED and U.S Inflation Figures Put the Dollar Front and Center

    Geopolitics and the FED will keep the markets busy today.

  • White House Says Trump Warned Russian Against Election Meddling
    Bloomberg

    White House Says Trump Warned Russian Against Election Meddling

    (Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday against interference in U.S. elections, the White House said in a statement after an Oval Office meeting between the two men.But Lavrov suggested in a news conference at the Russian Embassy in Washington that Trump delivered no such warning. Lavrov said he brought up elections during the meeting but only to protest a warning from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier in the day.The meeting came hours after House Democrats unveiled articles of impeachment alleging the president sought to coerce a foreign leader to help his bid for re-election, and it was the first encounter between Trump and Lavrov May 2017, when the U.S. president boasted to the Russian about firing then-FBI Director James Comey and reportedly shared classified information.“Just had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and representatives of Russia. Discussed many items including Trade, Iran, North Korea, INF Treaty, Nuclear Arms Control, and Election Meddling,” Trump tweeted after the meeting as he traveled to a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania.The last time Trump met with a Russian -- President Vladimir Putin, at the Group of 20 summit in Japan in June -- he appeared to mock the idea of warning his counterpart against election interference.“Don’t meddle in the election, president,” Trump then told Putin, pointing his finger at his Russian counterpart. “Don’t meddle in the election,” he repeated. Putin laughed after Trump’s admonition was translated, and Trump smiled.Tuesday’s White House gathering, in which Pompeo also participated, was even more loaded with tension. Earlier in the day, House Democrats announced articles of impeachment that include a finding Trump damaged U.S. national security by withholding military aid to Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists, in hopes of forcing its government to undertake an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.Immediately before the White House meeting, Pompeo and Lavrov sparred in front of reporters over U.S. findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.In a summary of their discussion, the White House said Trump also urged Russia to resolve its conflict with Ukraine. Trump expressed support for an arms control agreement that would include both Russia and China, and asked for Russian support in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ensuring that North Korea reduces its own stockpile.Biden and other Democrats routinely criticize the U.S. president for showing deference to Vladimir Putin. They frequently reference a news conference in Helsinki in which Trump said he believed the Russian leader’s claims more than the findings of his own intelligence services.Separately, the Justice Department inspector general released a report on Monday finding no political bias in the FBI investigation into allegations of Russian collusion, a conclusion that counters Trump’s contention that he and his campaign had been unfairly targeted. The report, however, cited significant missteps by the bureau as it sought a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser.And just last week, Trump attended a NATO summit in London, where other leaders expressed concern about Russia -- not just its annexation of Crimea but also its tightening grip on Syria after Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops.Revealing Intel SourceThe 2017 meeting came just a day after Trump fired Comey over frustration with the probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia. It darkened the cloud of controversy related to Russia that still looms over Trump’s presidency, even after federal investigators found no evidence he was involved in Moscow’s efforts to influence the U.S. elections.Lavrov arrived at the White House at about 2:20 p.m. in Washington and left about an hour later. The meeting was closed to reporters and none of the participants made any public remarks.After their first meeting, the Russian state news agency Tass released pictures of Trump and Lavrov laughing in the Oval Office. White House officials then rushed members of the American media into the room, but the Russian delegation had already departed.Only official U.S. government photographers were allowed into Tuesday’s meeting, according to a White House official who asked not to be identified because it was private.The White House said after the 2017 meeting that it had been misled by Russian officials and believed the Tass photographer was there on behalf of the Kremlin.In the following days, the Washington Post reported that Trump revealed highly classified information during the meeting and may have jeopardized a source considered crucial to the battle against Islamic State. Subsequent reports identified the source of that intelligence as Israel. Trump denied ever explicitly revealing the source to Russia, but concerns remained that he had given the Russian officials enough information to determine it for themselves.“Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel,” Trump said during a 2017 trip to Jerusalem. “Never mentioned it during that conversation. They’re all saying I did, so you have another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.”Putin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Paris on Monday. That summit led to an agreement to exchange prisoners and the withdrawal of some troops, but no permanent resolution to the ongoing conflict in the disputed Donbas region. More than 13,000 people have died in the conflict over the 500-kilometer (310-mile) contact line over the past four years.North Korea, VenezuelaTrump is also eager to enlist Russia to help pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program amid worrying signs that his efforts may be failing.Kim Yong Chol, Chairman of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, called Trump a “heedless and erratic old man” in a statement to the state-run Korean Central News Agency earlier this week. On Sunday, Trump warned that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risked voiding “his special relationship with the President of the United States” amid reports that North Korea had conducted a key test at a missile site.“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way,” Trump tweeted.Trump has also said he wants to broker a replacement deal for the New START treaty, which limits the production of nuclear weapons and expires in February 2021. Trump said last week he’s eager to expand the deal to include other nations like China, and want to see “a cessation on nuclear and nuclear creation.”“It’s -- in my opinion -- the biggest problem the world has today,” Trump said.The White House didn’t say whether Trump raised concerns over Russia’s backing of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro. Vice President Mike Pence led a meeting last week with other White House officials to re-examine the administration’s push to empower Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader and Maduro opponent who declared himself interim president of Venezuela with American backing earlier this year.But Guaido has failed to push out Maduro, and Trump is losing confidence that the opposition leader will ever topple the regime. The administration officials have instead discussed a possible partnership with Russia to ease the leader out of power.\--With assistance from Jordan Fabian and Nick Wadhams.To contact the reporter on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Joshua GalluFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Oracle Conference Leaves San Francisco, Costing City $64 Million

    (Bloomberg) -- Oracle Corp. will move its marquee annual user conference to Las Vegas, abandoning its longtime venue of San Francisco due to the rising cost of visiting the city and its homeless crisis.Oracle’s OpenWorld will be held in Las Vegas beginning next year, the San Francisco Travel Association said Tuesday in a statement. The travel group, in an email reported earlier by CNBC, said the software company committed the conference to Las Vegas for three years, costing San Francisco an estimated $64 million. Oracle, headquartered about 22 miles south of San Francisco in Redwood City, California, told the travel authority that its conference guests were unhappy with San Francisco’s dirty streets and costly hotel rates, according to CNBC.Las Vegas is a key destination for technology conferences. Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud-computing arm, Dell Technologies Inc., Adobe Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. are just a few of the companies that host conferences in the desert city -- drawn to its large venues and inexpensive hotel room rates.Oracle declined to respond to requests for comment on the move.Oracle also holds OpenWorld conferences in Dubai, London, Singapore and Sao Paulo. The company encourages customers and partners to “register for an OpenWorld near you,” reducing the importance of the San Francisco gathering, where the company unveils new software products. The San Francisco OpenWorld generally attracted about 60,000 attendees. For years, the conference has been overshadowed by Dreamforce, rival Salesforce.com Inc.’s annual confab that the company describes as the world’s largest software conference. Dreamforce had more than 170,000 registered attendees in November.San Francisco hasn’t been a happy home for OpenWorld or Dreamforce for years, with residents complaining about street closures caused by the conferences and a surge of pedestrian traffic downtown. Local hotels swell room rates in anticipation of demand among attendees.Oracle held the first official OpenWorld conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center in 1996, according to its website. The company’s user gatherings date back to 1982, when 50 attendees gathered for International Oracle Users Week at a hotel in San Francisco.To contact the reporter on this story: Nico Grant in San Francisco at ngrant20@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack, Robin AjelloFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • Intel Is First to Share Detailed Pay Disparities. It’s Not Flattering.
    Bloomberg

    Intel Is First to Share Detailed Pay Disparities. It’s Not Flattering.

    (Bloomberg) -- It’s not really a surprise that white and Asian men dominate the top pay tiers among Intel’s U.S. workforce. That’s been true in the tech industry for years. What’s unusual is the excruciating level of detail about pay disparity the chipmaker is releasing Tuesday to the public—information it could have kept secret.In addition to its annual update on the outlook for women and people of color at the company, Intel on Tuesday released the results of a new report it sent to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that gives unprecedented pay, race and gender data for about 51,000 U.S. workers. Intel is the first company to release the otherwise private data.The results are not flattering. Among 52 top executives at Intel, who all earn more than $208,000—the top pay band the EEOC tracks—29 are white men, 11 are Asian men and 8 are white women. The remaining tally is 1 each for Asian women, Hispanic women, black women and black men, with no Hispanic men among executives in that top tier.The ratio was similarly skewed across manager, professional and technician job classifications, with white and Asian men dominating top pay groups and women and people of color clustered in the lower bands. One in four white men at Intel are in the top salary tier, earning at least $208,000, a higher share than any other group. Rates are far lower for women and underrepresented minorities; less than 10% of black employees are top earners. “It’s difficult to really fix what you aren’t being transparent about,” said Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and a vice president in human resources. The chipmaker is making itself “very vulnerable,” she says, to “do the right things,” and she hopes her peers will follow and share pay information, too. “These are industry-wide problems,” Whye said. “They are going to require industry-wide solutions to resolve them.” So far, no other companies have said they’ll do the same.  Intel joins a small but growing number of companies that have released gender and racial pay data, often under pressure from investors. The transparency may be laudable, but it is often overshadowed by what is revealed. Annual diversity reports from the biggest tech companies from the last half decade have shown scant progress in advancing the numbers of under-represented workers.Companies that choose to release this kind of information risk backlash. Citigroup this year faced criticism after it voluntarily released median pay data that showed women at the bank earn 29% less than men do.Intel’s report finds that within job types—not just at the top—white men dominate the highest salary band. Two-thirds of employees fall into a job group called “professionals,” which includes includes non-managerial office workers and programmers. Nearly all earn at least $80,000 per year, but white and Asian men have the highest salaries. Black, Hispanic and other minorities are overrepresented in the bottom half of the pay ranges.  Even if the numbers look bad, companies will ultimately benefit more from leading on disclosure than they would from dragging their heels, said Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital, which pressures companies to disclose gender pay data. The point is not to beat up on organizations for telling the truth, she said. “It's much more important to have an accurate reflection of reality than to glaze over the simple truth,” she said. “These companies are not as diverse and equal as they could be.”In 2015, Intel set a goal to have women make up at least 26% of its workforce by 2020. The company met that last year and is working to increase the percentage of women among top executives now to 26%, too, Whye said. Intel says representation among its total U.S. workforce and for technical employees has improved—underrepresented workers make up 15.8% of the company up from 14.6% last year. Women as a percentage of the workforce fell slightly to 26.5% from 26.8%.Intel announced in January that it had met its goal of equal pay for men and women who do the same work. This EEOC data does not measure that.Overrepresentation of white men in the highest-paying jobs contributes to the nation’s wage gap: American women earn 20% less than men do, and the gap is even wider for women of color. Intel’s disclosure shows that these disparities can’t be fixed simply by raising the salaries of women and minorities. Whye said the company’s task is to help underrepresented groups get promoted into more lucrative roles and keep them there. The data provided to the EEOC covered 2017 and 2018 and was collected from nearly all U.S. companies for the first time this fall under an initiative started by President Barack Obama. By law, the forms stay private unless a company makes them public.  This could be the only time the EEOC collects worker pay broken down by race, sex and ethnicity, making Intel’s disclosure a unique window into company compensation, and how it results in wage gaps. The agency has been soliciting the data since July and could continue to do so until January under a federal judge’s order. But the EEOC has said it won’t pursue future collections in this form. In the U.K. where companies are required to publicly report wage gaps between male and female workers, the disclosures have shown the benefits and limits of transparency, said Harini Iyengar, a lawyer who advocates for equal pay in Britain. “A lot of members of the public who don't pay an interest generally in labor market issues are quite shocked at the scale of the pay disparity,” she said. “So that's been very positive because people are genuinely shocked.” But so far the nationwide initiative has not resulted in measurable change, she said: “What I'm seeing is collective hand-wringing about, ‘Oh no, this is not good enough. But look everyone else in our industry sectors is in the same boat. So that's all right then.’” (Corrects top executives chart to reflect that values show the total number of executives rather than the share. Updates third paragraph with context about highest paid Hispanic executives. )\--With assistance from Lucy Meakin and Paige Smith.To contact the authors of this story: Jeff Green in Southfield at jgreen16@bloomberg.netHannah Recht in New York at hrecht@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net, Rebecca GreenfieldFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.