Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Crown Resorts takes out newspaper ads in attack on ‘deceitful campaign’

August 1, 2019

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian casino giant Crown Resorts <CWN.AX> issued full-page newspaper ads on Thursday describing recent media reports that alleged it pressured officials to fast-track visas for Chinese gamblers as a “deceitful campaign”.

Following the reports by several news outlets, Attorney General Christian Porter said on Tuesday he had referred the allegations to an anti-corruption body that investigates federal agencies, since they related to government officials.

After days of issuing brief statements denying wrongdoing, Crown circulated a letter signed by its board late on Wednesday, accusing the papers of waging a “deceitful campaign” that had unfairly attempted to damage its reputation.

“Much of this unbalanced and sensationalized reporting is based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods,” the directors said in the letter.

Signatories included Crown Executive Chairman John Alexander, former finance department head Jane Halton, former communications minister Helen Coonan and Geoff Dixon, the former chief executive of Qantas Airways <QAN.AX>.

That statement appeared as full-page advertisements in papers owned by News Corp on Thursday. However, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age newspapers, which published the articles, said they had refused to run the advertisements and instead carried a line-by-line response to Crown’s statement.

“The stories were carefully sourced using Crown’s internal documents, former employees, credible commentators, dozens of sources from the industry, law enforcement and elsewhere, and careful verification,” the newspapers wrote in response to the Crown’s letter.

The papers, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Holdings <NEC.AX>, added that they had asked Crown for an interview and sent 63 questions days before the reports, to which Crown responded “with a short statement” declining to comment on individuals.

Crown shares have fallen 6.4% in three trading days since the papers, and Nine’s “60 Minutes” television news program started running the reports.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye in SYDNEY and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in BENGALURU; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Trump discusses Siberian wildfires, trade in call with Russia’s Putin

August 1, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss wildfires in Siberia and trade between their two nations, the White House said.

Spokesman Hogan Gidley said Trump talked to Putin “and expressed concern over the vast wildfires afflicting Siberia.”

“The leaders also discussed trade between the two countries,” he said in a brief statement.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Paul Tait)

Taipei mayor to form political party in challenge to Taiwan president’s re-election

August 1, 2019

TAIPEI (Reuters) – The mayor of Taipei said on Thursday he will form a political party to run in Taiwan’s 2020 elections, a move that could complicate President Tsai Ing-wen’s re-election and shake up the political landscape amid heightened tension with China.

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je said he will set up the Taiwanese People’s Party in a bid to run in the island’s legislative elections in January but has not officially declared his intentions on whether to run in the presidential race.

The self-ruled island is also set to hold its presidential election in January at a time of precarious relations with China, which considers it a wayward province and has never ruled out the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee and Jeanny Kao; Editing by Paul Tait)

Crystallex would need sanctions waiver to seize Citgo shares: Guaido adviser

August 1, 2019

By Luc Cohen

CARACAS (Reuters) – Canadian gold mining company Crystallex would need to request an exemption to U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA before seizing shares in its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, an adviser to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said on Wednesday.

On Monday, a U.S. court ruled that Crystallex International Corp could attach Citgo shares to collect on a $1.4 billion arbitration award as compensation for Venezuela’s expropriation of its mining assets in the country.

But the United States slapped sanctions on PDVSA in January as part of its bid to choke off government revenue and pressure socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down, which the adviser, Alejandro Grisanti, said would complicate any effort to seize Citgo shares.

The ruling “clearly establishes that Crystallex will need a license to be able to execute the asset,” Grisanti, also a member of a parallel ad-hoc board of directors Guaido appointed to PDVSA, said in a telephone interview.

In the ruling, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote that any effort to attach PDVSA’s shares in Citgo’s parent company “would likely need to be authorized by the Treasury Department.”

Guaido in January invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro is usurping the presidency based on a fraudulent 2018 election. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.

“It is a huge international operation to steal resources from Venezuela,” Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in a state television broadcast on Wednesday about the court decision.

She argued that ever since the United States decided to no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president, the country “cannot take action or have representation in the United States.”

Crystallex declined to comment. Monday’s court ruling cited a Crystallex statement saying it “will seek clarification” on the license. The Treasury Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Crystallex is not the only threat to Venezuela’s ownership of Citgo. PDVSA pledged half of Citgo’s shares as collateral for its 2020 bond <VE151299784=>, and failure to make a $913 million payment due in October could allow bondholders to attempt to seize Citgo.

The other half of Citgo’s shares was pledged as collateral for a $1.5 billion loan granted by Russia’s Rosneft.

Grisanti said his representatives in the United States had requested the Trump administration issue an executive order protecting Citgo from seizure. No such order has been granted.

“We want the American government to understand that the worst that can happen for the end of the usurpation is to not protect Venezuela’s assets,” he said.

Later on Wednesday, Venezuelan Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab said his office was opening a criminal investigation into Jose Ignacio Hernandez, a Venezuelan lawyer living in the United States whom Guaido has designated as his overseas legal representative.

Court records show that Hernandez in 2017 provided Crystallex’s lawyers with expert testimony on the relationship between PDVSA and Venezuela’s government. In a statement, Saab’s office said this amounted to “a conflict of interest that violates all judicial ethics” and “treason toward his fellow citizens.”

In a statement, Guaido’s office said Hernandez had recused himself from the case in March. When asked for comment by Reuters, Hernandez said Saab had “no authority.”

“He was appointed by the fraudulent constituent assembly,” Hernandez said, referring to a pro-government legislature created in 2017 that the opposition considers illegitimate. “Therefore, he cannot open a criminal investigation.”

(The story corrects name of judge in paragraph five to Thomas Ambro, not Leonard Stark.)

(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Shaylim Valderrama in Caracas; editing by Marianna Parraga, Susan Thomas and Cynthia Osterman)

Pemex agrees salary rises with oil workers union

August 1, 2019

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s state oil company Pemex said on Wednesday that it had agreed with the oil workers union to raise salaries and benefits while seeking to manage the heavily indebted company’s delicate financial situation.

“Taking into consideration the project that is rescuing the company that belongs to Mexicans, a 3.37% increase of ordinary salaries and a 1.80% increase of benefits was agreed,” Pemex said in a statement.

Pemex is the world’s most indebted oil company, with $104 billion of financial debt, $66 billion of which is made up of reserves for employee benefits. It has been teetering on the brink of losing its investment grade rating.

The company said both parties had agreed to “harmonize the company’s expenses…to remain within the austerity framework that distinguishes the current administration”, but gave no further details.

Mexican consumer prices rose 3.95% in the year through June, down from the previous month, the national statistics agency said earlier this month.

(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

U.S. envoy slams Germany after reluctance on Hormuz mission

August 1, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to Germany launched a scathing attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on Thursday for its reluctance to join a naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, saying Europe’s biggest economy must assume more global responsibility.

Relations between the United States and Germany have soured since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, due to disagreements on a range of issues from defense spending to trade tariffs, the NordStream 2 gas pipeline and Iran.

On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ruled out German participation in a planned U.S.-led naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz, close to Iran, after the U.S. said it had made a formal request. He said Germany wanted to ease tensions with Iran and everything should be done to avoid an escalation.

Expressing frustration about that decision, Ambassador Richard Grenell said Germany had a duty to fulfil and told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper:

“Germany is the biggest economic power in Europe. This success brings global responsibilities.”

He said the United States had been trying to get support from Germany for weeks for the military mission in the Strait of Hormuz, and that while one minister spoke of looking at the requests, the foreign minister had rejected it.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had said in Brussels that Germany was “reviewing” the request, striking a softer tone than Maas.

On the front line of the Cold War, West Germany was one of the United States’ closest allies, embraced as a bulwark against Communism after the World War Two defeat of Nazi rule.

“America has sacrificed a lot to help Germany remain part of the West,” Grenell told the newspaper, adding Americans were paying huge sums for 34,000 soldiers to be stationed in Germany.

Grenell has courted controversy since arriving in Berlin last year with his outspoken views and criticism of Germany.

On another issue that has caused friction, a U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday passed a bill to slap sanctions on companies, including several German firms, and individuals involved in building the NordStream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Frances Kerry)

BOJ’s Amamiya says Fed rate cut positive for Japan’s economy

August 1, 2019

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Masayoshi Amamiya said on Thursday the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to cut interest rates would likely have a positive effect on the global and Japanese economies by keeping U.S. growth on a solid footing.

He also said the BOJ, like other central banks, stood ready to ramp up stimulus “without hesitation” to pre-empt risks of the economy losing momentum toward achieving its price target.

“Japan’s economy is sustaining its momentum to achieve our price target,” Amamiya said in a speech to business leaders in Kagoshima, southern Japan. “But we need to guard against the risk of this momentum being lost.”

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

China factory activity shrinks again in July, pressure eases slightly: Caixin PM

August 1, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Pressure on China’s factories eased a little in July thanks to growth-boosting steps from the government, but overall manufacturing activity remained in contraction as a trade war with the United States dented export orders, a private survey showed on Thursday.

The readings were largely in line with an official gauge that showed factory activity last month shrank at a slower-than-expected pace.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for July rose to 49.9 from 49.4 in June, and just below the neutral 50-mark dividing expansion from contraction on a monthly basis.

That was slightly above economists’ expectations of 49.6, according to a Reuters poll.

“China’s manufacturing economy showed signs of recovery in July. Policies such as tax and fee reductions designed to underpin the economy had an effect,” Zhengsheng Zhong, Director of Macroeconomic Analysis at CEBM Group, wrote in a note accompanying the data.

The moderate improvement seen in the survey was partly driven by a recovery in domestic demand, with July factory output growing marginally after a brief drop in the previous month.

New orders also swung back to expansionary territory at 50.2 but remained much weaker compared with the historical average.

The still-soft conditions were underscored by new exports orders shrinking again in July amid deteriorating global demand. While the slump was less severe than in June, the outlook remained clouded with survey respondents citing the China-U.S. trade dispute for dampening sales to foreign customers.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators ended a brief round of trade talks on Wednesday with little sign of progress and agreed to meet again in September. It was their first in-person talks since a G20 truce in June as both sides try to find a way out of the year-long dispute.

Earlier in the week, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Beijing against waiting out his first term to finalize any trade deal, saying if he wins re-election in the November 2020 U.S. presidential contest, the outcome will be worse for China.

While the latest survey showed business confidence for the year ahead picked up from June’s record low to a three-month high in July, some companies surveyed anticipated that the trade dispute will weigh on future output.

Factory gate prices also declined for the first time since January, which could rekindle worries about deflation and prompt more aggressive stimulus from Beijing.

China’s top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday that government will step up efforts to boost demand and support the economy, but will not use the property market as a form of short-term stimulus.

The labor market remained sluggish in a sign of broadening stress across key industries. Manufacturers shed jobs for the fourth straight month, the quickest pace since February, the survey showed.

So far, Beijing has relied on a combination of fiscal stimulus and monetary easing to support an economy growing at its slowest pace in nearly 30 years, including hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure spending and tax cuts for companies.

But the economy has been slow to respond, and business confidence remains shaky, weighing on investment.

China observers have said that Beijing’s recent growth-boosting measures will take time to filter through to the broader economy, and many analysts are of the view that further stimulus is needed to prevent a deeper downturn and to help stabilize growth.

People’s Bank of China (PBOC) Governor Li Gang said recently that current interest rate levels are appropriate, but traders are speculating that China could trim rates soon after the U.S. Federal Reserve cuts its main benchmark rate.

As widely expected, the Fed on Wednesday eased policy for the first time since the financial crisis, but doused market views that it would embark on a lengthy easing campaign.

(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam; LushaZhang1@thomsonreuters.com; 8610-66271276)

China central bank skips OMO as markets wait to see if it will follow Fed

August 1, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s central bank said it will skip open market operations on Thursday, but gave no sign of whether it will immediately follow an overnight interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said banking system liquidity was “reasonably ample”, according to a statement posted on its website.

The Fed cut its benchmark rate on Wednesday, as expected, but the head of the U.S. central bank said the move might not be the start of a lengthy easing campaign to shore up the economy against risks including global weakness.

The interest rate on seven-day China reverse bond repurchase agreements via open market operations stood at 2.55 percent in the previous operation.

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Kim Coghill)

UK’s Pearson notifies thousands of U.S. students of data breach

August 1, 2019

(Reuters) – British education company Pearson Plc <PSON.L> on Thursday said it has notified customers of a data breach that resulted in unauthorized access to about 13,000 school and university accounts, mainly in the United States.

The exposed data was limited to first names, last names, and in some instances dates of birth as well as email addresses, the company said.

“While we have no evidence that this information has been misused, we have notified the affected customers as a precaution,” the company said in an emailed statement, adding that the vulnerability leading to the incident has been fixed.

The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported https://on.wsj.com/333azYP that Pearson was notified about the data incident by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March.

The FBI did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

(Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Lima organizers battle to keep Pan Am Games rolling

August 1, 2019

By Steve Keating

LIMA (Reuters) – Peru may be enjoying their best ever Pan Am Games on the medal table but the Lima organizing committee is not winning any awards yet as transportation foul-ups and other issues continue to challenge the two-week showcase.

Early glitches are expected at every multi-sport event from the Olympics to the Asian Games but the Lima organizing committee has faced mounting problems, particularly from a creaky transport setup.

The glow from a spectacular opening ceremony and a dream start that included two marathon golds on the first day of competition have begun to fade as the realities of staging the largest ever sporting event in Peru hit home.

Lima organizers quickly corrected issues with the results management system but transport remains a headache.

“We have encountered some early challenges, as many major sports events often do,” Lima 2019 spokesperson Carlos Manuel Lazarte, told Reuters in an email.

“But overall Lima 2019 is very pleased with how the Pan American Games have been delivered and with the running of the competitions.

“Transport is always a challenge, we have been working around the clock.”

Almost from the moment Lima was awarded the Pan Am Games, organizing transportation in a city notorious for chaotic traffic was identified as a major potential trouble spot.

Getting around a city of close to 10 million with an aging infrastructure and a meager mass transit system is a challenge at the best of times but during the Games even the shortest trip can take hours, leaving both locals and visitors frustrated.

As bad as the traffic has been, Lima is bracing for worse next week as two of the biggest sports, athletics and swimming, get underway at the same complex all while the cycling events bring more road closures.

“We hired over 100 additional drivers, increased the frequency of buses, optimized the transport timetable with the competition schedule, and established a transport help desk,” said Lazarte. “We have seen significant improvements in the service today, but we will continue to monitor and make further changes as needed.

“Similarly, we identified the issues with the results system very early on and have since rectified them.”

Adding to logistical issues, venues are spread over a vast area with some difficult to access.

The Villa Maria Del Triunfo sports complex, which stages rugby sevens, field hockey and other events, is sandwiched between two towering favelas — the impoverished neighborhoods offering a stark contrast to the sparkling new facilities.

Just prior to the opening of the Games last Friday, both the United States and Canada re-issued travel advisories warning against non-essential travel to parts of Peru.

The U.S. State department cautioned citizens to exercise increased caution in Peru due to crime in and around Pan American/Parapan American Games.

“The safety and security of every participant at these Games is our number one priority,” said Lazarte.

“While independent transportation and areas outside the Games venues are out of our control, we are working hand-in-hand with all relevant security authorities to ensure everyone can enjoy the Games safely, and over 23,000 police officers have been deployed throughout the city.”

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

MLB trade roundup: Astros stun baseball, land Greinke

August 1, 2019

When the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline passed Wednesday, the biggest names in the rumor mill in recent days hadn’t gone anywhere and the new July 31 drop-dead cutoff seemed to be a dud. Then the Houston Astros stepped in.

While Madison Bumgarner remained in San Francisco, the Mets held on to starter Zack Wheeler, and Pittsburgh never came down from its asking price enough for a team to deal for closer Felipe Vazquez, the Houston Astros in the closing minutes before the deadline acquired Zack Greinke from the Arizona Diamondbacks, part of a late surge in which they also got Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini from Toronto.

The Diamondbacks got four prospects for Greinke, including the Nos. 3, 4, and 5 prospects in the Houston system per MLB Pipeline. But the Astros held onto their two most prized prospects, outfielder Kyle Tucker and right-hander Forrest Whitley. The Blue Jays also sent the Astros minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson, getting outfielder Derek Fisher from the Astros in their deal.

For good measure, the Astros sent catcher Max Stassi to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for minor league outfielders Rainier Rivas and Raider Uceta.

Greinke, 35, is in the midst of another stellar season. He is 10-4 with a 2.90 ERA after Wednesday’s start against the Yankees. The six-time All-Star won a Cy Young Award with Kansas City in 2009.

–The Atlanta Braves acquired heavily pursued All-Star closer Shane Greene from the Detroit Tigers in the final hour before the trade deadline. The Braves gave the Tigers their No. 7 prospect, left-hander Joey Wentz, along with outfielder Travis Demeritte in the deal.

Greene, 30, has 22 saves and a 1.18 ERA in 38 games this season, after saving 32 games in 2018. The Braves later announced a trade for reliever Mark Melancon from San Francisco in exchange for righties Dan Winkler and Tristan Beck. After battling injuries for a couple seasons, the 34-year-old Melancon has thrown 46 1/3 innings in 2019, going 4-2 with a 3.50 ERA.

–The Nationals also added bullpen help with three acquisitions. First, the team got Daniel Hudson from the Toronto Blue Jays, sending pitching prospect Kyle Johnston in return. Then, the team acquired left-handed reliever Roenis Elias and righty Hunter Strickland from Seattle in exchange for three prospects: 26-year-old left-hander Taylor Guilbeau, 20-year-old right-hander Elvis Alvarado and for 23-year-old left-hander Aaron Fletcher.

–The biggest name among the position players to move was first baseman Jesus Aguilar, whom the Tampa Bay Rays acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for pitcher Jake Faria. Aguilar, 29, is hitting just .225 with eight home runs in 94 games this season, but last season smashed 35 home runs with 108 RBIs.

The Brewers also added left-hander Drew Pomeranz and reliever Ray Black from San Francisco in exchange for minor league prospect Mauricio Dubon.

–The Chicago Cubs made a trio of moves, as well, most notably getting outfielder Nicholas Castellanos from the Detroit Tigers in a deal for two pitching prospects, including 2017 first-round pick Alex Lange. The Cubs also sent catcher Martin Maldonado to the Astros for utility man Tony Kemp, and gave the San Diego Padres right-handed reliever Carl Edwards Jr. in exchange for left-hander Brad Wieck.

–Among the bigger names to move Wednesday:

The Oakland Athletics bolstered their starting rotation by acquiring right-hander Tanner Roark from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for minor league center fielder Jameson Hannah, the A’s second-round selection in the 2018 MLB Draft.

Pittsburgh sent 30-year-old outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for international signing bonus money and a player to be named later.

The Giants reportedly acquired former All-Star second baseman Scooter Gennett from the Reds receiving either cash considerations or a player to be named later in return.

–The Los Angeles Dodgers also made two moves, first acquiring infielder Jedd Gyorko, international cap space and cash considerations from St. Louis in exchange for left-handed pitcher Tony Cingrani and right-handed pitcher Jeffry Abreu. Then the team got left-handed pitcher Adam Kolarek from Tampa Bay in exchange for minor league outfielder Niko Hulsizer.

–The Diamondbacks made a few more moves at the deadline, acquiring right-hander Mike Leake from the Seattle Mariners for minor league infielder Jose Caballero and getting 23-year-old right-hander Zac Gallen from Miami in exchange for top-rated shortstop prospect Jazz Chisholm. The team also sent catcher John Ryan Murphy to Atlanta in exchange for cash considerations.

-¬-The Minnesota Twins acquired right-hander Sam Dyson from the Giants in exchange for three prospects: outfielder Jaylin Davis and right-handers Kai-Wei Teng and Prelander Berroa. The right-handed Dyson was 4-1 with two saves and a 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances for the Giants this season.

–The Texas Rangers acquired right-handed reliever Nate Jones, international slot compensation and cash considerations from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Jarneski and Ray Castro.

–Field Level Media

Romine’s blast helps Yankees defeat Diamondbacks

August 1, 2019

Austin Romine hit a go-ahead two-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning as the New York Yankees beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-5 Wednesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Romine homered approximately 30 minutes after the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline passed without a major deal for the Yankees and his blast gave New York a 4-3 lead. He put a jolt into a crowd that sat through a 36-minute rain delay and thunderstorms when he hammered a first-pitch breaking ball from Yoshihisa Hirano (3-5) into the left-field seats.

Mike Tauchman also hit a two-run homer in the second off Arizona starter Zack Greinke, who was later dealt to the Houston Astros for four prospects. Tauchman singled off left-hander Andrew Chafin before Romine hit his fourth homer.

New York added three runs in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Didi Gregorius, a run-scoring double by Gleyber Torres and an RBI single by Cameron Maybin.

The Yankees won for the fourth time in 10 games on a day in which Masahiro Tanaka slogged through four-plus innings. Coming off allowing 12 runs in Boston on Thursday, Tanaka allowed two runs on five hits.

He was lifted after allowing consecutive singles in the fifth to Jarrod Dyson and Wilmer Flores. Arizona then scored three times off Chad Green.

Arizona’s first run scored on a fielder’s choice by Eduardo Escobar. Dyson scored when Escobar’s fly ball dropped in front of Maybin in right but the Yankees recorded the force at second on Flores.

The Diamondbacks tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Jake Lamb that scored Escobar. They took the lead when center fielder Aaron Hicks overthrew the ball to third baseman Gio Urshela for an error, allowing David Peralta to score.

Green kept it a one-run game by getting Nick Ahmed on a warning track fly ball. Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and Zack Britton pitched a scoreless inning apiece.

Ottavino (4-3) was credited with the win when Romine homered. Aroldis Chapman allowed an RBI double to Peralta but converted 27th save in 32 chances after Nestor Cortes Jr. allowed a homer to Tim Locastro to start the ninth.

Greinke allowed two runs and two hits in five innings and did not return after play was halted in the middle of the sixth. Shortly after the 36-minute delay ended, reports surfaced that the Diamondbacks traded him while also acquiring Mike Leake from the Seattle Mariners.

The Diamondbacks lost for the eighth time in 13 games and were unable to sweep the four-game season series from the Yankees.

–Field Level Media

Oil drops as Fed signals rate cuts may be limited

August 1, 2019

By Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices fell more than $1 on Thursday, declining for the first time in six days, after the U.S. Federal Reserve dampened hopes for a string of rate cuts and Sino-U.S. trade talks ended without progress.

The drop came despite a bigger-than-expected decline in inventories in the U.S. and a drop in crude production among OPEC members, along with Libya cutting exports, typically bullish drivers for the market.

Brent crude, <LCOc1> the international benchmark, fell $1.06, or 1.6%, to $63.99 a barrel by 0037 GMT, while U.S. crude was down 93 cents, or 1.6%, at $57.65 a barrel, having fallen more than $1 earlier.

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Wednesday, but against expectations the head of the U.S. central bank said the move might not be the start of a lengthy series of cuts to shore up the economy against risks including global economic weakness.

“Although the remarkably bullish U.S. inventory reports (are) providing a very encouraging backdrop for oil markets, oil prices sagged, as whatever forward-looking monetary policy support from the Fed has pretty much evaporated,” Stephen Innes, managing partner, VM Markets Pte said in a note.

Meanwhile, negotiators from the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies, wrapped up a round of trade talks on Wednesday without visible signs of progress and put off their next meeting until September.

Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell for the seventh straight week, declining to their lowest levels since November even as production rebounded and net imports increased, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.

Crude inventories <USOILC=ECI> fell 8.5 million barrels in the week ended July 26, far exceeding analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.6 million barrels.

Oil output among members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) hit an eight-year low in July as a further voluntary cut by top exporter Saudi Arabia deepened losses caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran and outages elsewhere in the group, a Reuters survey found.

Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp declared force majeure on loadings of crude from the country’s largest oil field on Wednesday.

A Reuters monthly poll showed oil prices are expected to be range-bound near current levels this year as slowing economic growth and the protracted trade dispute between the U.S. and China curb demand.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Richard Pullin)

NHL notebook: Rangers buy out Shattenkirk’s contract

August 1, 2019

The New York Rangers made a big salary-shedding move Wednesday by buying out defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s contract, multiple outlets reported.

The 30-year-old had two years remaining on a four-year, $26.6 million extension he signed in July 2017.

The buyout will save the Rangers $5.17 million this season, with $1.48 million counting against the salary cap, according to CapFriendly.com. The cap hit balloons to more than $6 million in 2020-21, however.

Shattenkirk, a first-round pick by Colorado in 2007 and an All-Star with St. Louis in 2015, tallied two goals (a career low) and 26 assists in 73 games in 2018-19. He has 349 points (75 goals, 274 assists) in 609 career games with the Avalanche, Blues, Washington Capitals and Rangers.

–The Colorado Avalanche signed 21-year-old defenseman Samuel Girard to a seven-year contract extension that extends through the 2026-27 season.

According to reports, the contract averages $5 million per season and has a total value of $35 million.

Girard played in all 82 regular-season games for Colorado in 2018-19, extending his consecutive games streak to 150. He tallied 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) and finished sixth on the club in average ice time (19:53).

–The New Jersey Devils re-signed defenseman Will Butcher to a three-year, $11.2 million contract.

According to general manager Ray Shero, the 24-year-old Butcher will earn $3.5 million in 2019-20, $3.6 million in 2020-21 and $4.1 million in 2021-22.

Butcher tallied four goals and 26 assists in 78 games last season, finishing second among New Jersey’s defensemen with 30 points. In 2017-18, he tallied 44 points (five goals, 39 assists) in 81 games and made the NHL All-Rookie Team.

–Field Level Media

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 leak shows it in all colors

Samsung is making the Galaxy Watch Active 2 official on August 5, as teased yesterday. In the meantime, how about some newly leaked official-looking press renders of the upcoming wearable? The latest batch comes from two different sources no less. First off, let's take a look at what are said to be all the color versions of the watch - at least initially, upon launch. More options might become available in the future. So there's going to be a black/silver model, a pale blue/grey one, and a pink/gold/beige looking thing too. Next up, there's going to be a special Under Armour edition...

Penn National makes major sports betting push with new deals

August 1, 2019

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Casino operator Penn National Gaming Inc on Wednesday announced a spate of partnerships with sports book operators, including with digital sports media company theScore Inc., giving the partners access to sports betting markets across the United States in exchange for fees, equity and a share of betting revenues.

Through the agreement, theScore will be able to operate its soon-to-launch mobile app in 11 states where sports wagering is now or will soon be legal.

In addition, Penn National will give new partners DraftKings Inc, PointsBet USA Inc and The Stars Group Inc access to certain states where Penn National operates.

Kambi Group plc was selected to run Penn National’s own land-based and online sportsbooks.

TheScore, a newcomer to sportsbook operations based in Toronto, is the only media outlet in North America to say that it will become a bookie itself. It is on track to launch its sportsbook this fall in New Jersey before football season begins.

Other media companies have stepped somewhat more cautiously into the sports betting space since a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May 2018 that overturned a federal ban on the activity in most places outside of Nevada. Ten states now offer live, legal sports betting, with more to come.

AT&T Inc’s Bleacher Report and Walt Disney Co’s ESPN both said this year that they will open studios at Caesars Entertainment Corp’s Las Vegas casinos.

In May, Fox Sports, a unit of Fox Corp, said it was investing $236 million for a nearly 5 percent stake in gaming provider The Stars Group as part of a deal to launch its Fox Bet-branded wagering platform later this year.

But the Penn National deal gives theScore, with 4 million monthly users, a chance to become a big player in the nascent U.S. sports betting industry and a challenger to fantasy sports sites DraftKings and Flutter Entertainment PLC’s FanDuel, whose sportsbook apps dominate the New Jersey market.

“I can’t wait to go after that,” John Levy, theScore’s founder and chief executive, said of the fantasy sites’ market share, in an exclusive interview with Reuters. “We’re staking our whole brand on this.”

The company will privately place $10 million of shares, with $7.5 million going to the newly created Penn National subsidiary Penn Interactive Ventures LLC (PIV), which will get a 4.7 percent stake in theScore. Other investors include Levy’s family holdings.

PIV said it will also take a 5.28% equity stake in PointsBet.

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Leslie Adler)

Dollar hits two-year high vs euro as Powell rules out prolonged easing cycle

August 1, 2019

By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar rose to a two-year peak against the euro and hit a two-month high versus the yen on Thursday as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell ruled out a lengthy easing cycle after delivering the first rate cut since the financial crisis.

In a widely expected move, the U.S. central bank cut rates by 25 basis points to shore up the economy against risks including trade friction.

At a press conference after the Fed’s decision, Powell said “it’s not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts.” At the same time, he said, “I didn’t say it’s just one rate cut.”

Traders still see one more rate cut this year. Powell’s remarks, however, slashed expectations the Fed is prepared to lower rates well into next year.

“The comments by Powell were not particularly dovish, so this is confirmation that this is a small insurance cut,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

“This outcome limits the dollar’s downside from here. Rate cuts will be on the small side, but this still strengthens the case for a prolonged U.S. economic expansion, which is positive for the dollar long term.”

The dollar index <.DXY> against a basket of six major currencies was last quoted at 98.516, close to a two-year high of 98.683 reached on Wednesday.

The euro <EUR=EBS> fell 0.2% to $1.1052 early in Asian trade to reach the lowest since May 16, 2017.

Graphic: World FX rates in 2019 – http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

While financial markets had widely expected the Fed to reduce its key overnight lending rate by 25 basis points to a target range of 2.00% to 2.25%, many traders had looked for clearer confirmation of more rate cuts from Powell.

A day prior to the Fed’s meeting, traders had forecast a 35% chance of three cuts by the end of the year. On Wednesday afternoon that figure had fallen to 12%, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Against the yen the dollar rose 0.4% to a two-month high of 109.165 yen.

Elsewhere in currency markets, sterling fell against the dollar toward a two-year low on the growing risk of a no-deal Brexit, but the focus will shift to a Bank of England meeting later on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters are almost certain that the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee will vote 9-0 to keep rates on hold at 0.75%. But it is less clear how Governor Mark Carney will tackle the challenge posed by the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union without provisional trading agreements.

Sterling <GBP=D3> was down 0.3% at $1.2142, near a two-year low of $1.2120. Sterling tumbled 4.2% last month, its worst monthly performance since October 2016, due to growing speculation Britain will go through with a no-deal Brexit.

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Japan July manufacturing contracts for third month, output fall deepens – PMI

August 1, 2019

TOKYO, August 1 – (Reuters) – Japanese manufacturing deteriorated for a third month in July, a revised survey showed on Thursday, offering another sign of how trade protectionism and slower global growth are denting the economy.

The final Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was up a notch at a seasonally adjusted 49.4 compared to 49.3 in June, but stayed below the 50.0 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for a third month.

The July final reading edged down from the preliminary 49.6.

Factory output contracted for a seventh month and slipped at the fastest pace in four months, suggesting the production slump hitting the export-reliant economy was firmly taking hold.

“Forward-looking survey indicators suggest that manufacturers in Japan are set for another difficult quarter, as firms scaled down stocks and input purchasing to keep a lid on costs,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

The weakening July reading fits with official figures, such as for industrial production and exports, showing the economy is feeling the pinch from the U.S.-China trade standoff, slower Chinese growth and demand weakening globally.

Individual items in the PMI report further underlined the gloomy outlook for the world’s third-largest economy.

Total new orders and new export orders again showed shrinkage, at 48.1 and 47.6 respectively, though at a reduced pace compared with June.

Firms’ purchasing levels were at a three-year low due to the weakening output requirements and already-sufficient stock volumes.

“More signs that the manufacturing downturn has now become deeply rooted was apparent in prices data,” said IHS Markit’s Hayes.

“Output charges were reduced at the fastest pace in nearly three years amid increasing efforts to stimulate sluggish demand.”

Employment offered a slightly brighter picture, with the jobs index edging up to a three-month high, though backlogs of work hovered just off more than six-year lows touched in June.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Australia’s Qantas says it will not trim Alliance stake despite competition concerns

August 1, 2019

(Reuters) – Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd <QAN.AX> said it had no plan to cut its stake in Alliance Airlines, after the competition regulator raised concerns over its acquisition of 19.9% in its rival.

The regulator said Brisbane-based Alliance competed with Qantas in Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia states, and was Qantas’s only competitor on certain domestic passenger routes.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims said Alliance was a “close, important and growing competitor to Qantas”, both directly and through citing its partnership with domestic rival Virgin Australia Holdings <VAH.AX>.

“We consider this shareholding has the potential to impact Alliance’s future growth and its ability to be a strong competitor,” Sims said in a statement on Thursday.

Qantas had not sought informal merger clearance from the regulator for the deal, he added.

Qantas said it was a “passive investor” in Alliance and rejected the commission’s concerns about competition.

“We do not believe there is any evidence of a lessening of competition as a result of our minority stake, nor any reasonable prospect that there will be,” the airline said in a statement.

The ACCC said Qantas had indicated it would not acquire any further stake in Alliance until the antitrust regulator had completed its investigation into the original acquisition.

Qantas said in February it had acquired 19.9% of Alliance Airlines, a unit of Alliance Aviation Services Ltd <AQZ.AX>, for A$60 million ($41.1 million).

(Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Beyond Meat’s secondary stock offering priced at $160 per share

August 1, 2019

(Reuters) – Meat alternatives company Beyond Meat Inc said on Wednesday a secondary offering of 3.25 million new shares would be priced at $160 per share, an 18.6% discount to the stock’s closing price.

With the new offering, of which 250,000 shares are being offered by the company, Beyond Meat is looking to raise $40 million in new capital to expand manufacturing facilities and pay for marketing investments.

The sale came just three months after the company went public and sent Beyond Meat’s shares tumbling over 12% went it was announced on Monday.

The El Segundo, California-based company’s shares have surged nearly 690% since its May IPO as the company’s meat alternatives gained a place on the menus of restaurants such as Carl’s Jr and hit the shelves of grocers, including Kroger Co.

Shares of Beyond Meat, known for its plant-based burgers and sausages, fell 6.2% to $184.27 in extended trading on Wednesday.

The company said some of the selling stockholders have granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 487,500 shares at the public offering price.

Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, J.P. Morgan and Credit Suisse are serving as lead book-running managers for the offering, expected to close on or about Aug. 5.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

State AGs fighting T-Mobile, Sprint merger request new trial date in Dec

August 1, 2019

(Reuters) – An attorney for the state attorneys general who filed a lawsuit in hopes of stopping T-Mobile U.S. Inc’s <TMUS.O> $26 billion merger with Sprint Corp <S.N> has requested a new trial date for the case.

In a letter to Magistrate Judge Robert Lehrburger dated July 31, attorney Glenn Pomerantz said the states are requesting a new trial-ready date of Dec. 9, adding that the Oct. 7 trial date proposed earlier is “unworkable”.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Brazil’s Vale dam disasters trigger $2 billion in fresh writedowns

August 1, 2019

By Christian Plumb

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian miner Vale SA <VALE3.SA> on Wednesday said it swung to a quarterly loss as the company announced more than $2 billion in fresh writedowns related to two deadly dam bursts suffered by the company over a period of less than four years.

In late January, the collapse of a Vale tailings dam storing muddy mining waste near the town of Brumadinho killed nearly 250 people, less than four years after a deadly disaster at the company’s Samarco joint venture with BHP Group <BHP.AX>.

The world’s largest iron ore exporter has since been grappling with the fallout, which has forced it to shake up its board, replace its CEO and made it the target of various criminal and regulatory probes.

The company’s newly installed Chief Executive Eduardo Bartolomeo said in a statement that Vale’s key priority, in addition to beefing up safety efforts, was to “reduce uncertainties” and “deliver sustainable results.”

Vale said it took $1.5 billion in writedowns for the cost of environmental measures and agreements related to the Brumadinho disaster as well as a $257 million charge to shut down its Germano dam. It also set aside $383 million for the Renova foundation, which is supposed to distribute funds to the victims of the Samarco disaster.

Those charges came on top of $4.95 billion in first quarter writedowns for payments to victims and other settlements as well as a plan to shut down dams to avoid a recurrence of the disasters.

As a result, Vale reported a net loss of $133 million after a year-ago profit of $76 million and compared with a Refinitiv mean forecast for earnings of $2.84 billion.

Revenue rose 6.6% from a year earlier to $9.19 billion, shy of a forecast of $9.59 billion, lifted by higher iron ore prices, offset by declining nickel and copper prices.

“The bottom line is that we view today’s results as another weak quarter, though we are encouraged by Vale’s plans to restart additional iron ore capacity,” Clarksons Platou Securities analyst Scott Schier said in a research note, adding that he expected its shares to fall slightly as a result.

Vale shares are down 2.3 percent for the year to date, although they have rebounded from a sharp drop following the dam burst.

Higher iron ore prices triggered in part by Vale’s woes have bolstered key global rival Anglo American <AAL.L>, which last week reported stronger-than-forecast first half results and boosted its dividend and share buyback program. Rio Tinto Ltd <RIO.AX> is expected on Thursday to report its biggest first-half profit in at least six years.

Vale reported last week that iron ore output in the quarter tumbled by more than a third because of various dam and mine shutdowns triggered by January’s disaster.

(Reporting By Christian Plumb; Editing by David Gregorio, Diane Craft and Sonya Hepinstall)

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

China July factory activity shrinks for third month: official PMI

July 31, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s factory activity shrank for the third straight month in July, an official survey showed on Wednesday, underlining the need for more stimulus to support an economy hit hard by the bruising trade war with the United States.

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was at 49.7 in July, slightly higher than 49.4 in June, the survey from the statistics bureau showed. The 50-point mark separates expansion from contraction on a monthly basis.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast the PMI would remain in contraction territory, edging up only marginally to 49.6 and pointing to persistent downward pressure on the economy.

(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Mylan reaches $30 million settlement in SEC’s EpiPen probe

July 31, 2019

(Reuters) – Mylan NV has reached a tentative agreement to pay $30 million to resolve a probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission related to its emergency allergy shot EpiPen, which became the center of a firestorm over price increases.

The drugmaker in a regulatory filing on Monday disclosed that it had reached an agreement-in-principle with the SEC’s enforcement staff to resolve the investigation that dated back to 2016. Mylan said it will neither admit nor deny wrongdoing as part of the accord. (http://bit.ly/2ym0CaO)

The EpiPen, which Mylan acquired in 2007, is a handheld device that treats life-threatening allergic reactions by automatically injecting a dose of epinephrine.

Mylan came under fire in 2016 after raising the price of a pair of EpiPens to $600, from $100 in 2008, enraging consumers and putting it in the center of the ongoing U.S. debate over the high cost of prescription medicines.

In 2017, the drugmaker finalized a $465 million settlement resolving U.S. Justice Department claims it overcharged the government for EpiPen.

The deal resolved claims that Mylan avoided higher rebates to state Medicaid programs by misclassifying EpiPen as a generic product, even though it was marketed and priced as a brand-name product.

In 2016, Mylan revealed the SEC had launched its own investigation related to EpiPen and sought copies of its communications with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and documents related to the Medicaid rebate program.

Mylan said the settlement with the SEC is subject to approval by the agency’s commissioners.

Separately on Monday, Mylan confirmed that it would merge with Pfizer Inc’s off-patent branded drugs unit, a move that will help it diversify its business as it continues to be pressured by falling prices of generic drugs in the United States.

Shares of generic drugmakers have suffered over the past several years and, this year alone, Mylan shares had lost one-third of their value through Friday, before news broke of the Pfizer tie-up.

The companies are also in talks to transfer a Pfizer manufacturing unit that makes EpiPen to the newly created business, although it remains unclear whether this will address an ongoing shortage of the product.

(Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

Android Auto updated with new launcher, auto resume, missed notifications, and assistant badges

Today, Google released a blog post outlining a bunch of new changes coming to vehicles with official Android Auto support. To start, there's a new app launcher. It is streamlined with more apps are visible at once. The most frequently used apps can be found at the top row. In addition, new Google Assistant badges will give you pertinent information on your calendar or news, for instance, without having to take your eyes off the road. Once connected to Android Auto, your device could now automatically resume whichever song or podcast was being played earlier. The app must...

Xbox Live Server Status latest as problems hit Xbox movies not working



XBOX LIVE users are still reporting issues watching movies tonight following an earlier Xbox One server outage.

China’s service sector activity grows at slower pace in July: official PMI

July 31, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s services sector activity grew at a slower pace in July, an official survey showed on Wednesday, heaping pressure on Beijing which is counting on the sector to help weather a sharp hit to its manufacturers and the economy from the Sino-U.S. trade war.

The official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 53.7 from 54.2 in June, but stayed well above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction.

Services account for more than half of China’s economy, and rising wages have increased Chinese consumers’ spending power in recent years. But the sector softened late last year along with a slowdown in the economy.

The official July composite PMI, which covers both manufacturing and services activity, rose fractionally to 53.1 from June’s 53.0.

(Reporting by Lusha Zhang and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

NFL notebook: Bengals’ Green has surgery, out Week 1

July 31, 2019

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green will miss the start of the season after having clean-up surgery on his left ankle Tuesday.

“He’s gonna miss some regular-season games,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “How many, I don’t know that. Very hopeful that he’s back at the beginning of the regular season and it’s not more than a couple games.”

Previous optimism that Green could be ready for Week 1 faded after the surgery.

“When they got in there and got the surgery done, they realized it’s going to be a little bit longer,” Taylor said.

–Ryan Fitzpatrick grabbed the lead in the Miami Dolphins quarterback competition with Josh Rosen.

“It’s pretty clear to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the way,” head coach Brian Flores said. “He’s done that in a lot of areas, from leadership to production on the field to the meeting rooms to the walk-throughs. This is an ongoing competition, but right now he’s leading the way.”

Flores had previously labeled the competition as even and wide open. Fitzpatrick has far outnumbered Rosen in overall reps, especially with the starting offense.

–With a calf injury lingering three months later, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missed practice and will sit out at least two more days.

Head coach Frank Reich and Luck both stressed that the quarterback will be ready for Week 1. Reich said if there were a “big game” this Sunday, Luck would likely play.

Luck told reporters he is feeling pain in his ankle, but all tests have shown his Achilles tendon is not at increased risk. He added that while surgery has been discussed at times over the last few months, it was deemed unnecessary.

–Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones told reporters he’s not monitoring other wideouts’ contract negotiations as he seeks his own extension.

“I’m not waiting on Michael Thomas, I’m not waiting on Amari Cooper,” Jones said. “It’s just us going back and forth right now and negotiating. But that’s it.”

Jones also said he will not play in the preseason for the second straight year.

–A lawsuit seeking $20 million in damages has been filed against Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys alleging the team worked with police to cover up the severity of a 2017 car accident, TMZ reported.

The accident, which happened four days before the Cowboys faced the Green Bay Packers in a divisional playoff game, occurred when Elliott’s Yukon SUV ran a red light, according to 911 calls from witnesses.

The lawsuit is being brought by Ronnie Hill, whose BMW sedan was hit in the accident.

–Seattle Seahawks first-round defensive end L.J. Collier was carted off the practice field with a reported right ankle sprain.

NFL Network reported the injury will keep Collier out of the preseason. ESPN reported it’s a high-ankle sprain, which typically requires a longer recovery than a low-ankle sprain.

–Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill sustained a bruised quadriceps after a hard hit from cornerback Bashaud Breeland.

Hill limped off the field and was carted to the team’s medical tent. He spent several minutes in the tent but will be considered day-to-day.

–The injury bothering Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is a strained calf that could sideline him for about two weeks, ESPN reported.

Henry has yet to participate in camp and was seen Friday in a walking boot, but head coach Mike Vrabel declined to provide details.

–Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Marquise “Hollywood” Brown passed his physical and could practice for the first time Wednesday.

Brown has been on the active/non-football injury list as he recovers from Lisfranc surgery in February.

–New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder is fine after Monday’s injury scare and will practice Wednesday.

The team announced Crowder has been medically cleared, a day after he had an MRI and additional tests on his injured foot.

–Offensive tackle Donald Penn agreed to a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins.

Washington has been without starting left tackle Trent Williams, who is holding out of camp.

–The Houston Texans gave cornerback Johnathan Joseph a pay raise, according to multiple reports.

In the final year of his contract, Joseph will receive $6 million instead of $4.5 million.

–San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward returned to practice, three months removed from breaking his collarbone.

–The New Orleans Saints signed running back Rob Kelley and moved on from free agent signee Buck Allen.

Head coach Sean Payton told reporters that Allen, who had yet to practice in training camp due to injury, would go to injured reserve.

–The Arizona Cardinals signed former Miami Dolphins linebacker Andre Branch to a one-year contract.

–A statue of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham will be unveiled by the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sept. 7.

–Field Level Media

Hong Kong’s second-quarter GDP growth seen firmer, but trade war, protests to bite

July 30, 2019

By Kevin Liu and Donny Kwok

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s economic growth is expected to have picked up in the second quarter, analysts say, but the outlook is being clouded by the protracted Sino-U.S. trade war and spiraling social unrest.

Protests against the city’s government and China are erupting almost daily, disrupting business, scaring off tourists and threatening to tarnish Hong Kong’s international reputation as a stable financial hub.

While preliminary data on Wednesday (0830 GMT) is expected to show economic growth picked up in April-June, most market watchers do not expect it will last, with no quick resolution seen for either the bruising U.S.-China trade dispute or local political unrest.

The average forecast from five economists is for second-quarter gross domestic product to rise 1.6% from a year earlier, firming from 0.6% growth in the first quarter, which was the city’s slowest pace in nearly 10 years.

The expected improvement “is not reflecting better economic activity but resulting from a strong comparison base in Q1 in 2018 when the economy was strong,” said Paul Tang, chief economist from Bank of East Asia <0023.HK>.

“Going forward, the Sino-U.S. trade war impact is expected to have a more material impact than that from protests.”

While the port of Hong Kong has lost some business to new Chinese ports, the territory remains a key middleman in global trade with China and finance.

Hong Kong’s total exports fell the most in nearly three and a half years in June, hurt by China’s economic slowdown and Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

Tang said his bank may cut its 2019 growth forecast again if the sharp decline in exports persists. It earlier lowered the forecast to 1.5% from 2%.

Washington and Beijing have levied billions of dollars of tariffs on each other’s imports, disrupting global supply chains and shaking financial markets.

“Unlike some regional peers, Hong Kong has not benefited from diverted U.S. demand,” Standard Chartered said, adding the long-term strategic rivalry between the United States and China is likely to continue to cloud sentiment.

Standard Chartered has lowered its 2019 Hong Kong economic growth view to 1.4%, from 2.2%, and to 2% in 2020 from 2.6%.

The government maintains the economy will grow by 2 to 3 percent this year.

PROTESTS TAKING BIGGER TOLL

Domestic economic pressure is also growing, with mass demonstrations posing the greatest political challenge to the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

What started three months ago as rallies against an extradition bill that would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial, has now morphed into a wider backlash against the city’s government and its political masters in Beijing.

Retailers saying they expect sales for July and August to drop by double-digits from a year earlier, while hoteliers are bracing for a wave of cancellations.

“Hong Kong is facing an unprecedented political crisis,” Kevin Lai, chief economist for Asia ex-Japan of Daiwa Capital, wrote in a research note.

Lai said a lot of “capital and talent may also exit Hong Kong” if martial law or an emergency state is implemented.

So far this month, the number of organized tours to the city has dropped 20% to 30% from the same period a year earlier, the Hong Kong Inbound Travel Association estimated.

“External uncertainties persistently cloud the local economy, and the recent social events have further weakened the economy. It is difficult to describe (the outlook for Hong Kong’s economic development) as optimistic in the short run,” Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his blog on Sunday. (https://bit.ly/2LMo75u)

(Reporting by Kevin Liu and Donny Kwok; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Kim Coghill)

Oil prices rise for fifth day after U.S. stocks decline

July 31, 2019

By Aaron Sheldrick

TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices rose for a fifth day on Wednesday, buoyed by a bigger than expected drop in U.S. inventories and as investors awaited a widely expected cut in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, the first in more than 10 years.

Brent crude <LCOc1> was up 33 cents, or 0.5%, at $65.05 a barrel by 0044 GMT.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude <CLc1> gained 28 cents, or 0.5%, to $58.33 a barrel.

For the month, however, both contracts were set to ease due to ongoing worries about oil demand, with Brent heading for a decline of about 2.3% and WTI down slightly.

Still U.S. inventories have been falling in recent weeks suggesting demand concerns are overstated.

Stocks fell again last week, along with gasoline and distillate inventories, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Tuesday.

“There is a definitive seasonal trend emerging as inventory draws continue to beat analysts’ expectations by a mile suggesting analysts have grossly underestimated consumption and the breadth of seasonal demand this year,” VM Markets Pte said in a note.

Crude inventories fell by 6 million barrels in the week ended July 26 to 443 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations in a Reuters poll for a decrease of 2.6 million barrels, the API dta showed.

Gasoline stocks fell by 3.1 million barrels, compared with analysts’ expectations for a 1.4 million-barrel decline.

Distillate fuels stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 890,000 barrels, compared with expectations for a 1 million-barrel gain, the API data showed.

If confirmed by U.S. government data on Wednesday morning, the decline would put crude stocks down for a seventh week in a row. That would be longest stretch since they fell for a record 10 consecutive weeks ending in January 2018, according to Refinitiv data going back to 1982.

Total crude stockpiles, however, would still be about 3% higher than the average for the five years between 2014-2018 average for this time of year. <USOILC=ECI>

Central bankers in the United States began their two-day meeting on Tuesday and were expected to lower borrowing costs for the first time since the depths of the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Richard Pullin)

‘We may lose Christmas’: escalating Hong Kong protests taking bigger toll on shops, economy

July 31, 2019

By Kevin Liu and Vimvam Tong

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Months of increasingly violent protests in Hong Kong are taking a growing toll on the city’s economy, weighing on confidence and scaring away tourists from one of the world’s most vibrant shopping destinations.

Economists say the impact of anti-government protests over the past eight weeks is already worse than in 2014, when a so-called “Umbrella revolution” paralyzed the city’s financial district for 79 days.

Demonstrations are more spread out across the city this time and violence has been more intense, prompting local and foreign shoppers to avoid certain areas. Stores and even bank branches have been forced to close for prolonged periods.

Many businesses in the port city on the southern Chinese coast are already facing strains from China’s economic slowdown and fallout from the year-long Sino-U.S. trade war.

Various strikes are planned in coming weeks, while disruptive civil disobedience actions are taking place almost daily and look set to continue for months. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters blocked train services, causing commuter chaos.

The main retail association has warned members expect a double-digit drop in sales in July and August. The government will release June sales data on Thursday.

“Hong Kong’s retail industry will be affected both internally and externally,” said Angela Cheng, economist at CMB International Capital Corporation Limited, adding she had revised her 2019 retail sales forecast to as much as a 10% drop, twice as deep as her previous estimate.

Brokerage CLSA downgraded local jeweler Chow Tai Fook <1929.HK>, one of the city’s most popular brands with mainland tourists, to ‘sell’ from ‘outperform’ on July 23, saying the protests could cause permanent long-term damage.

Luxury group Richemont <CFR.S> warned in July that protests hurt its sales, while Swiss watchmaker Swatch <UHR.S> said political turbulence contributed to a double-digit decline in sales in Hong Kong, one of its most important markets globally.

Around the Admiralty district, where much of the protests have centered, staff at several restaurants and shops told Reuters on Monday that patrons have dropped by a third from a month earlier.

BUSINESS AND MORALS

Bobby Tang, a 21-year-old sales representative at a Gucci store in the Causeway Bay shopping district, where protest barricades were raised for the first time on Sunday, supports the civil movement.

He says the government has failed to respond to any of its demands, which at first were focused on withdrawing a controversial China extradition bill, but have morphed into a much wider pro-democracy struggle.

But he also worries about his job at the French luxury group. Prior to the protests, the store had one client per minute, he said, but now it was 3-4 per hour and daily sales have fallen to HK$20,000 ($2,560) from HK$100,000.

“If the protests last until October, I worry if I can earn enough salary,” Tang said.

Shopping malls are often being used for rest breaks by protesters wearing helmets and goggles and sometimes carrying makeshift weapons.

The protesters have been largely respectful of the premises, but on one occasion one mall turned into a battle ground. As police tried to disperse crowds in the Sha Tin working class district on July 14, it ended up chasing them into a shopping center managed by Sun Hung Kai Properties <0016.HK>.

Fighting erupted and scenes of regular shoppers with bulky bags running away while trying to maintain balance on bloody, slippery floors were broadcast worldwide.

Tourism, especially from mainland China, has dropped markedly. Britain, Japan, Singapore and others have issued travel alerts.

Hong Kong’s Federation of Trade Unions said hotel occupancy rates fell 20% in June year-on-year, and probably 40% in July.

A local tour manager who gave only his surname Yu said around two-thirds of his mainland clients have canceled bookings.

LONG-TERM RISKS

Fitch Ratings said in a note on Tuesday the unrest could damage business confidence and the quality of governance. It also raised longer-term concerns about policy paralysis and erosion of the rule of law.

A 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act allowing Washington to have a different customs regime with Hong Kong than with mainland China was also crucial for the stability of the Chinese-ruled city.

For it to stand, U.S. authorities need to see Hong Kong as sufficiently independent from Beijing, therefore they will scrutinize the latter’s every step during the protests.

Fitch affirmed Hong Kong’s AA+ rating on June 11.

“Evidence of a permanent loss of confidence in public institutions or tangible reduction of the territory’s semi-autonomy as granted under the Basic Law, would … be grounds to review the ratings,” Fitch said.

The American Chamber of Commerce warned that international businesses were feeling pessimistic on short-term prospects and that the government should take immediate actions to address the root causes of the demonstrations.

“The protests have a chance to last until the end of the year. We may even lose on Christmas, which should be the best sales season,” said Fung, a sales assistant for a skin care company who only gave her last name.

(Additional reporting by Felix Tam and Donny Kwok; Writing by Farah Master; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Kim Coghill)

Most populous post