Monday, 30 September 2019

South Korea displays F-35 stealth jets seen by the North as a threat

October 1, 2019

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea showcased newly acquired F-35 stealth fighter jets to mark Armed Forces Day on Tuesday as President Moon Jae-in tried to allay concerns that his policy of engagement with North Korea would weaken the South’s commitment to defense.

At an event marking the founding of the South Korean military, Moon said South Korean fighter jets conducted patrol flights offshore, including over islands at the center of a bitter territorial dispute with Japan.

North Korea has criticized the South’s weapons procurements and its joint military drills with the U.S. military as undisguised preparations for war that are forcing it to develop new short-range missiles.

Moon has thrown his support behind dialogue to end the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, urging that working-level negotiations between the North and the United States be held soon. No new dates or locations have been set.

Moon marked Armed Forces Day at a ceremony at an airbase in the city of Daegu that highlighted four of the eight Lockheed Martin F-35A jets delivered this year. Forty of the aircraft are to be delivered by 2021.

During the event, an F-15K jet patrolled over the islands claimed by both South Korea and Japan and called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Moon made no direction mention of North Korea or Japan but said today’s security climate was highly unpredictable, requiring strength and innovation.

“As the recent drone attack in the Middle East region demonstrated to the world, the challenges that we will face will be entirely different from those of the past,” he said in an address to the military. “The war of the future will be a fight of science and intelligence against all elements that threaten our people’s safety and property.”

Analysts have said the F-35 stealth jets put North Korea’s anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems in a vulnerable position.

Negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have stalled since a second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke down in February over disagreements on denuclearization.

North Korea blamed the United States on Monday for a failure to restart talks, with Pyongyang’s U.N. ambassador Kim Song saying it was time for Washington to share proposals for talks that showed Washington had adopted a new “calculation method”.

South Korea and the United States have separately begun talks for a new military burden-sharing agreement to decide how much South Korea will pay for stationing what is now about 28,500 U.S. troops in the country.

Moon told Trump during a summit in New York last week what South Korea would contribute, including an increase in purchases of U.S. weapons and future purchase plans, a senior official at South Korea’s presidential office said.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Jack Kim, Paul Tait and Gerry Doyle)

Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin marry for second time

October 1, 2019

(Reuters) – Justin Bieber and his childhood sweetheart Hailey Baldwin tied the knot for a second time on Monday at a ceremony for family and friends at a hotel resort in South Carolina.

People magazine and E! News, citing sources close to the couple, said the pair exchanged vows in a religious ceremony attended by their parents and celebrities including Ed Sheeran, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Usher and Baldwin’s actor uncle Alec Baldwin.

Representatives of the pair did not return requests for comment on Monday but celebrity media and paparazzi have been closely following the two days of celebrations at the Montage Palmetto Bluff resort.

People magazine said the couple exchanged vows as the sun set at a chapel on the resort, in front of about 150 guests.

Bieber and Baldwin first married in an under the radar civil ceremony in New York in September last year.

The Canadian singer, 25, and model Baldwin, 22, first met in their early teens, attend the same church and started dating again seriously about two years ago.

Bieber rose to worldwide fame at the age of 13 but has largely retreated from public life since abruptly quitting his “Purpose” world tour in 2017, citing the need for rest.

Since then he has written several emotional social media postings chronicling his struggles with depression, drug abuse and the pressures of fame, and crediting religion and Baldwin for his recovery.

“Now I am navigating the best years of my life “MARRIAGE” !! Which is an amazing crazy new responsibility,” he wrote in an Instagram posting in early September.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Guatemalan president says some $800 mln in coca plants destroyed

October 1, 2019

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – The Guatemalan government has destroyed around 1.5 million coca plants with an estimated street value of some $800 million, President Jimmy Morales said on Monday as his government targets organized crime and the cocaine industry.

Morales told reporters at a news conference that officials had dismantled four coca-processing laboratories, one of which featured a capacity to produce between 300 and 500 kilograms of cocaine per day.

Officials discovered several large coca plantations and processing labs earlier this month after Morales’ administration and the Congress gave temporary emergency powers to the military in northeastern Guatemala in response to the murder of three soldiers.

The government has said the soldiers were ambushed by drug traffickers.

Guatemala, like other Central American countries, has for years been a major transit country for cocaine produced in South America.

But the discovery of the plantations and laboratories prompted the country’s interior minister to admit that Guatemala was now a cocaine-producing nation instead of simply a transit point for drug traffickers.

That has highlighted concerns that cocaine production is moving beyond Andean nations and closer to its biggest sources of demand in the United States.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Jane Wardell)

U.S. oil rebounds on lower output from U.S., Russia, OPEC

October 1, 2019

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – U.S. crude futures rebounded in early Asian trade on Tuesday after production at the world’s largest oil producers fell in the third quarter, partly recovering from a more than 3% drop in the previous session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude <CLc1> was up 45 cents, or 0.7 percent, at $54.52 a barrel by 0127 GMT.

Output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia fell in September while production from the United States dropped for a third month in July.

OPEC’s output fell to the lowest in eight years in September at 28.9 million barrels per day (bpd), down 750,000 bpd from August’s revised figure and the lowest monthly total since 2011, a Reuters survey found.

Saudi Aramco has restored full oil production and capacity to the levels they were at before attacks on its facilities on Sept. 14, the head of its trading arm said on Monday. Saudi Arabia pumped about 9.78 million bpd in August.

Russia’s output declined to 11.24 million bpd in Sept. 1-29, down from 11.29 million bpd in the previous month, sources said, although it’s still above the quotas set in an output deal between Russia and OPEC.

U.S. crude oil output fell 276,000 bpd in July to 11.81 million bpd as federal offshore Gulf of Mexico production slid, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration monthly report released on Monday.

Output at the world’s biggest oil producer peaked at 12.12 million bpd in April.

Oil prices are likely to remain steady, with Brent averaging $65.19 a barrel and WTI $57.96 in 2019, as flagging demand outweighs supply shocks, a separate Reuters survey showed.

(Reporting by Florence Tan; editing by Richard Pullin)

Japan proceeds with twice-delayed sales tax hike as growth sputters

October 1, 2019

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan rolled out a twice-delayed increase in the sales tax to 10% from 8% on Tuesday, a move that is seen as critical for fixing the country’s tattered finances but that could tip the economy into recession by dampening consumer sentiment.

The government has already applied measures to mitigate the pain on consumption, mindful of avoiding the effects of the last increase, in 2014, which led to a severe economic downturn.

Television broadcasters showed images of crowds buying items such as wine, cosmetics and jewelry before the increase hit.

“I was a bit worried whether I can buy this at 8% tax rate, but now I’m relieved that I made it,” a 45-year-old woman told public broadcaster NHK after buying a 70,000-yen ($647) bed at a department store in Tokyo.

When the government raised the tax to 8% from 5% in April 2014, a last-minute buying spree and a subsequent pullback in demand caused a big downward swing in consumer spending.

The bitter memory led Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to twice delay the increase to 10% until Oct. 1. But the higher tax rate will still hit an economy suffering from slowing global demand and bitter trade tensions.

The government and central bank policymakers expect the impact from the 2%-point tax hike to be much smaller than that of the previous increase.

To ease the pain on low-income households, some food and non-alcoholic beverages will be exempt from the higher tax rate.

The government has also set aside 2 trillion yen for discounts and shopping vouchers as well as public works spending. Another 300 billion yen will be spent on tax breaks for housing and car purchases.

But that may not be enough to boost consumption.

“The reduced tax rate and reward points system may limit the pain to shoppers,” said Koya Miyamae, a senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities. “Still, consumer sentiment tends to deteriorate before and after a tax hike, which will in turn dampen economic activity.”

If the pain proves bigger than expected, the government has said it is ready to deploy additional measures.

“I’ll take the initiative to check the economic situation closely and take additional economic measures flexibly, if necessary,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Monday.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

NFL notebook: Raiders’ Burfict suspended for rest of year

October 1, 2019

Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the rest of the 2019 season on Monday for repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules.

The NFL announced Burfict’s punishment for the helmet-to-helmet hit that prompted his ejection from Oakland’s 31-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

Burfict has three days to appeal, and agent Lamont Smith confirmed Monday afternoon that an appeal is coming this week. Two years ago, Burfict had a five-game suspension reduced to three games on appeal.

–Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is not expected to require surgery despite an MRI exam revealing a dislocated left shoulder and a slight labrum tear, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Trubisky will be back “sooner rather than later,” per Schefter, and will travel with the Bears (3-1) to London but is unlikely to play against the Oakland Raiders (2-2) on Sunday.

–The Buffalo Bills announced they are planning to start backup Matt Barkley at quarterback this weekend, as starter Josh Allen remains in the concussion protocol.

Barkley replaced Allen early in the fourth quarter of Buffalo’s 16-10 home loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday after Allen was knocked out of the game by a helmet-to-helmet hit from defensive back Jonathan Jones.

–The New York Jets’ Sam Darnold is cleared for non-contact work in practice as he recovers from mononucleosis, but coach Adam Gase said it “was not an ideal situation” for the second-year quarterback to be ready to play Sunday.

–Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is not expected to return to the field anytime soon, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Green, who is recovering from preseason ankle surgery, reportedly has been running and participating in workouts since shedding his protective boot.

–Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith’s high right ankle sprain is apparently not as serious as the team first thought, according to multiple media reports.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that while Smith will sit out against this weekend at home vs. the Green Bay Packers, he has not been ruled out for the Cowboys’ Week 6 contest at the New York Jets.

According to a report by ESPN, tests confirmed the six-time Pro Bowler sustained a high right ankle sprain on Sunday.

–Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb sustained a torn ACL on Sunday in Denver’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and will miss the remainder of the season.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio called the injury a “huge loss” for the winless Broncos. Chubb, 23, left the game twice on Sunday, first due to a cramp and then again when his knee locked up while engaging with a Jaguars offensive lineman.

–The Arizona Cardinals released veteran safety D.J. Swearinger, according to multiple media reports. Rookie Deionte Thompson likely will take over the starting role.

–New York Giants rookie linebacker Ryan Connelly sustained a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. The Giants placed Connelly on injured reserve after confirming the extent of the injury.

–The Los Angeles Chargers will be without Melvin Ingram for multiple games after the pass rusher sustained a hamstring injury in the team’s Sunday win over the Miami Dolphins, according to Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, the defensive end is expected to be out “likely a couple weeks.”

–The Philadelphia Eagles traded safety Johnathan Cyprien and a seventh-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for linebacker Duke Riley and a sixth-round selection on Monday. Both late-round picks are for the 2020 draft.

Riley, 25, will boost the Eagles’ special teams units after playing 78 snaps on special teams for the Falcons this season. Cyprien, 29, has two tackles this year in four games with the Eagles.

–Shortly before their home against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Chicago Bears listed linebacker Roquan Smith as inactive. On Monday, Bears coach Matt Nagy wouldn’t elaborate much, saying only that Smith’s absence was because of a “personal issue.”

It is unknown whether Smith would be available for Chicago’s game against Oakland in London.

–Packers linebacker Oren Burks returned to practice, nearly two months after sustaining a pectoral injury in his team’s preseason opener.

Burks did not offer a timeline for a return to game action but called his participation in non-padded practice “huge.” He injured his chest against the Houston Texans on Aug. 8.

–The San Francisco 49ers signed former Detroit Lions cornerback Teez Tabor to their practice squad Monday, according to Rapoport.

Tabor, 23, was waived by the Lions out of training camp and had remained a free agent since. He was a second-round pick by Detroit out of Florida in the 2017 draft.

–The Houston Texans will sign veteran safety Mike Adams to a contract, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Adams, 38, reportedly worked out with the team over the weekend.

–Field Level Media

College football notebook: Fair Pay to Play Act signed into California law

October 1, 2019

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed the Fair Pay to Play Act, which will allow college athletes in the state to profit from endorsements and their likeness in defiance of NCAA rules. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

In June, NCAA President Mark Emmert said if the bill became California law, schools in the state could be prohibited from participating in NCAA championships. This first-in-the-nation legislation could face legal challenges from the NCAA, which has about three years to consider changes to its rules on amateurism.

Both the NCAA and the Pac-12 Conference released statements Monday speaking out against the bill, though the NCAA did state it “agrees changes are needed to continue to support student-athletes,” before adding that change should happen through the NCAA and claiming the new law creates confusion throughout the nation.

The Pac-12 stated the bill “will have very significant negative consequences for our student-athletes and broader universities in California. This legislation … will likely reduce resources and opportunities for student-athletes in Olympic sports and have a negative disparate impact on female student-athletes. … We will work with our universities to determine next steps and ensure continuing support for our student-athletes.”

–Connecticut’s football game against visiting South Florida on Saturday will be moved up seven hours (to noon ET) due to the threat of a mosquito-borne virus in the state.

The state’s Department of Public Health issued a warning about mosquitos in the region and the mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus, which has led to the death of two Connecticut residents this year.

Mosquitos are most active from dusk until dawn, and UConn is recommending that all outdoor activities at night be rescheduled.

–The 13th-ranked Oregon Ducks could get back two injured wide receivers for this week’s home game against Pac-12 North rival California.

True freshman Mycah Pittman (shoulder) and senior Brenden Schooler (foot) have yet to play this season while the Ducks got off to a 3-1 start while averaging 38.5 points per game, led by senior quarterback Justin Herbert.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said he feels “really optimistic” about both players suiting up, though he is less optimistic that Penn State grad transfer Juwan Johnson, who figured to have a chance to be Oregon’s top wideout this season, will take the field. Johnson has been sidelined all season with a calf injury.

–Florida is expected to get back two key defenders for the 10th-ranked Gators’ big SEC home game against No. 7 Auburn on Saturday.

Coach Dan Mullen told reporters at his press conference that cornerback CJ Henderson and defensive end Jabari Zuniga are among the starters who will return from injuries. They each missed the past two games.

Henderson, a junior, earned second-team All-SEC honors last season, when he intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and made 38 tackles, including five for loss.

Florida is also expected to have junior defensive back Shawn Davis and senior receiver Freddie Swain available after they missed last week’s victory over FCS opponent Towson. Florida (5-0, 2-0 SEC) and Auburn (5-0, 2-0) are playing for the first time since 2011 in the SEC’s cross-division schedule. It will be the third matchup of top-10 teams in The Swamp in the past 13 seasons.

–Field Level Media

All Blacks Savea to wear protective goggles

October 1, 2019

By Greg Stutchbury

OITA, Japan (Reuters) – All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea will be donning an extra piece of equipment when his side play their World Cup Pool B match against Canada on Wednesday, protective goggles.

The decision to wear the goggles came after the 25-year-old noticed deterioration in the vision of his left eye two years ago and he went to All Blacks doctor Tony Page about the issue.

“Everything’s kind of blurry,” Savea said in a statement on Tuesday. “I told … Tony … that it was getting worse and now we’re doing something about it. 

“Doc notified me that World Rugby had some goggles that were approved and everyone has been really supportive.

“In terms of vision and seeing, it’s pretty sweet, and it’s now just a matter of getting used to them.”

World Rugby approved the use of protective goggles in May this year.

Italy flyhalf Ian McKinley wore protective goggles after he went blind in one eye in 2011.

He initially retired from rugby but took up the game again in 2014, while playing for a lower level club in Italy before he moved up the ranks and was eventually called into the Italian national squad by Conor O’Shea.

McKinley has played nine tests for Italy since his debut in 2017, including against his native country Ireland in August, but did not make the World Cup squad.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Indonesia police fire tear gas as rallies over new laws turn violent

October 1, 2019

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian police fired tear gas in several areas of Jakarta on Monday as a protest against legal reforms descended into running battles, causing traffic gridlock and chaotic scenes in parts of the central business district.

Several thousand students, activists and workers had gathered near parliament to oppose a new law that critics say undermines the fight against graft, and a new criminal code outlawing sex outside marriage, and criminalizing insulting the president’s honor.

A list of student demands that has been circulated on social media also includes stopping forest fires and removing a heavy military presence in the restive easternmost area of Papua.

Students have led the rallies across the country since last week, some of the biggest since 1998 student protests fueled unrest that led to the fall of former strongman leader Suharto.

On Monday, police fired tear gas to break up crowds, including near the Atma Jaya Catholic University in the city center, where a medical center had been set up, said Bunga Pertiwi, a bank worker who was helping injured students.

“So many cars were trapped. Many turned around. It was so chaotic,” Pertiwi said by telephone.

A subway station near Jakarta’s financial center was also closed and a commuter line halted as protesters fled from tear gas.

Earlier, police said they fired tear gas after protesters who refused to disperse and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks at officers, according to the state Antara news agency.

Asfinawati, who heads the Legal Aid Institute, condemned using tear gas near a designated medical zone.

A Twitter account that tracks the protests, @AksiLangsung (direct action), reposted several tweets saying protesters needed oxygen, water and medication.

In another spot near the commercial center of Tanah Abang, a car parked in front of a police station was torched, news website Detik.com reported, citing a firefighter.

The portal also said 37 students were taken to Pertamina Hospital for treatment, quoting a hospital official.

Monday was the last day of parliament’s session and lawmakers officially agreed to delay to its next term a vote on the criminal code bill. A new parliament will be sworn in on Tuesday.

Chief security minister Wiranto warned in a televised news conference demonstrators not to damage public facilities in expressing their criticism of the government.

“Demonstrations that break laws, demonstrations that attack officers, damage and burn stuff, are not demonstrations anymore, but a movement by rioters,” the minister said.

More than 20,000 police and military personnel were deployed to maintain security in the capital, according to media.

Students also staged protests in the cities of Yogyakarta, Solo and Bandung in Java.

More than 200 protesters in Bandung were treated in a university after clashes with police, a dozen of which had since been moved to a hospital, Detik.com reported.

Last week, President Joko Widodo said he would consider revoking the law governing the anti-corruption agency and ordered police restraint after the death of two student protesters, one of whom police said died of bullet wounds.

Sandi Saputra Pulungan, an activist with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said the protests would continue until all of their demands were met.

“We see that in Indonesia, our democracy is in danger. It’s as though we’re not in a democracy, but rather we are returning to the era of the New Order,” Pulungan said, referring to the 32-year rule of the late president Suharto, who used the army to maintain tight control and contain opposition.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Gayatri Suroyo, Stanley Widianto and Fanny Potkin; Editing by Ed Davies and Giles Elgood)

Ireland dismisses reported UK Brexit border proposal

October 1, 2019

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Britain is proposing to set up “customs clearance centers” on both sides of the Irish border after Brexit, Irish national broadcaster RTE reported on Monday, an idea Ireland’s foreign minister quickly dismissed as a “non-starter”.

The British proposal would place clearance centers, effectively customs posts, between 5-10 miles (8-16 km) ‘back’ from and on each side of the border, RTE Europe Editor Tony Connelly said on Twitter.

Connelly reported that the details came from technical papers, or so-called “non-papers”, sent from London to Brussels, of which he had seen extracts.

Citing sources, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported the clearance centers were part of new proposals British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to present to EU officials this week.

Earlier, a British government source said new proposals would be handed over to EU negotiators on Wednesday or Thursday.

How to handle the border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, has proved to be the thorniest issue in the Brexit negotiations.

The Irish and British governments and the EU all say that they want to avoid border checks and physical infrastructure on the border because those could re-ignite tensions over Northern Ireland’s political status.

But simply moving any checks away from the border has long been rejected by Dublin and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney quickly dismissed the reported proposal.

“Non-Paper = Non-Starter. Time the EU had a serious proposal from the UK Govt if a Brexit deal is to be achievable in October. NI and IRE deserves better!” Coveney said on Twitter after the RTE report.

The challenge is how to avoid physical checks on the border after Brexit, while also maintaining the integrity of the European single market.

A proposed withdrawal agreement negotiated by the EU and former British Prime Minister Theresa May – but rejected by the British parliament – contains a mechanism called a “backstop” that would come into effect if there was a failure to agree a long-term trade deal to keep the border open.

Johnson, May’s successor, says the backstop is unacceptable and should be scrapped. So far, the government in Dublin and the EU leadership in Brussels have said their position had not changed. They have asked Britain to come up with alternatives to the backstop, and have complained that no workable solutions had been put forward by London.

Johnson has vowed to lead Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, with or without an exit agreement. However, it is not clear how he plans to do that, as the British parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is agreed with the EU by Oct. 19.

(Reporting by Graham Fahy in Dublin, Elizabeth Piper in Manchester and Padraic Halpin; writing by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Jonathan Oatis, Marguerita Choy and Jane Wardell)

Global shares steady, investors pin hopes on U.S.-China talks

October 1, 2019

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters) – Global share prices ticked up on Tuesday as some investors clung to hopes that China and the United States could work towards reaching a deal on trade and other issues in the fourth quarter.

Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> rose 0.6% while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> inched up 0.11%.

Chinese markets will be shut for a week from Tuesday to mark 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

U.S. stock futures <ESc1> rose 0.16% in Asia, a day after the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 0.50%.

Technology sectors led the gains on Monday while U.S.-listed shares of Chinese firms bounced up a tad, after big balls on Friday, with Alibaba <BABA.N> up 0.75% and Baidu <BIDU.O> gaining 1.53%.

During the July-September quarter, the S&P500 gained 1.21%.

In Europe, the benchmark stock index <.STOXX> gained 2.15% in the quarter to end at 16-month high, thanks in part to a weak euro.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro dismissed reports that the Trump administration was considering delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges as “fake news,” giving short-term players an excuse to buy back risk assets.

“Whether it was a fake news or not, it is becoming harder to know exactly what the U.S. administration will be doing,” said Takashi Hiroki, chief strategist at Monex Securities.

“It’s not clear how the U.S.-China talks will progress, given there are hard-liners against China in the administration. But if there’s no further escalation in the upcoming meeting, markets will be relieved,” he added.

China and the United States are due to resume high-level trade talks next week in Washington.

While the tussle over trade and technology between the world’s two largest economies has intensified, some investors are sticking to hopes of a compromise.

A tentative deal could be reached by the end of this year considering the President Donald Trump’s administration would strive to avoid the U.S. economy falling into a recession in an election year, they say.

“While we ought not to have preconception, for Trump, not having made a deal with China could be increasingly seen as negative ahead of the election next year,” said Tomoo Kinoshita, chief global strategist at Invesco Asset Management in Tokyo.

In the currency market, the euro extended its decline on worries about sluggish growth in the currency bloc.

The euro traded at $1.0897 <EUR=>, having slipped to a near 2 1/2-year low of $1.0885 in U.S. trade on Monday.

The yen was barely changed at 108.08 yen to the dollar <JPY=>, not far from last month’s low of 108.48.

The Japanese currency showed no reaction to the Bank of Japan’s tankan survey showing business confidence at big Japanese manufacturers worsened in the three months to September to its lowest level in six years.

The Australian dollar fetched $0.6755 <AUD=D4>, near three-week low of $0.6739 touched last month ahead of a likely rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia later in the day.

A majority of 35 economists polled by Reuters expect the RBA to cut the cash rate for the third time this year.

Oil prices were under pressure, wiping out all of their gains after attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities last month, on fading concerns of supply shortfalls and conflicts in the Middle East.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude <CLc1> fell 3.3% on Monday before rise 0.39% early on Tuesday to $54.28 per barrel.

(Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Amid criticism, Colombia defends assertions that Venezuela’s Maduro supports rebels

October 1, 2019

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia on Monday publicly defended a dossier it says proves Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro supports guerrilla groups and drug traffickers but removed the armed forces’ head of intelligence after widespread criticism of the report.

Colombia has long accused Maduro of sheltering rebel fighters and crime gang members. The allegations reached a fever pitch last month when former commanders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) announced a rearmament in a video Colombian officials say was filmed in Venezuela.

President Ivan Duque said in a speech to the United Nations last week that he would give the organization a dossier of “conclusive proof” of Maduro’s support for terrorist groups.

The dossier included years-old, uncredited photos from news agencies taken in Colombia – not in Venezuela – which led Maduro to dismiss the dossier’s contents and sparked widespread criticism of Duque from media outlets and NGOs.

The armed forces’ head of intelligence, General Oswaldo Pena, was removed from his post because of the photographs, high-level government and military sources told Reuters.

A statement from the defense ministry said Pena had resigned because of “the necessity of responding for my actions.”

Colombian officials defended the report’s conclusions earlier on Monday.

“It’s just an issue of design and of giving credit at the foot of the photos,” Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told journalists. “In consequence, we are going to update using the armed forces’ exclusive photos.”

“What’s important is the grave threat of the Maduro regime to the peace and stability of Colombia…to the peace, the security and stability of the region,” Trujillo said.

The head of the national police, General Oscar Atehortua, showed photographs of three leaders from the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels he said were taken in Venezuelan cities and obtained from confiscated devices.

An ELN leader known by his nom de guerre Pablito is hiding in the Venezuelan province of Apure, officials said.

“Venezuela is serving as a sanctuary for the leaders of the ELN and (FARC dissidents),” Defense Minister Guillermo Botero said. “They have bank accounts, they launder money, they do tourism, they have properties there without the authorities doing anything at all.”

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota said in a statement it “fully backed” the report’s conclusions.

Colombia is among more than 50 countries that recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

Maduro accuses Colombia of preparing to attack Venezuela, and says Guaido is a U.S. puppet.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman)

No. 18 UCF packs potent passing for trip to Cincinnati

October 1, 2019

UCF wide receiver Gabriel Davis often watches college football’s top pass-catchers to emulate their game.

The junior’s play is starting to look like it belongs in that elite company.

Davis and the No. 18 Knights (4-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) moved up four spots in this week’s AP poll after an easy 56-21 home victory over Connecticut on Saturday.

On Friday, UCF will play its first conference road game, against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Nippert Stadium.

Davis caught three first-half scores last Saturday from freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel, including shaking off a defensive back on a 73-yard catch-and-run to help UCF race to a 42-0 halftime lead.

Davis had five catches for 119 yards and the trio of TDs against the Huskies for his fifth career 100-yard game. A week earlier, he had a career-high 10 receptions for a career-best 151 yards and two scores in a loss at Pitt.

His team-best eight touchdowns this season give him 19 for his career, eighth on UCF’s all-time list.

The 6-foot-3, 212-pounder was thinking of the standout wide receivers from Alabama and Oklahoma in the game against Connecticut.

“When I caught the ball I thought about guys like Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs (III), those guys that are making big plays like that. CeeDee Lamb just had a big 70-something-yarder today,” said Davis, who sports a bushy, peroxided hairstyle reminiscent of Cleveland Browns star Odell Beckham Jr.

“That’s literally what was going through my head as soon as I caught the ball: I had to do the same thing those guys are doing.”

He might have new company at the position as coach Josh Heupel said Monday that Notre Dame grad transfer quarterback Brandon Wimbush could “absolutely” see time at wide receiver. Wimbush was not on the depth chart at quarterback on Monday.

Gabriel (74 of 120 for 1,338 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions) took over at quarterback in Week 2, and sophomore Darriel Mack Jr. returned from an ankle injury last week. The Knights are 10th nationally with 336.0 passing yards per game.

Coach Luke Fickell’s Bearcats (3-1) found their identity on offense in Saturday’s 52-14 rout at Marshall, and UC likely will use a balanced attack to counter UCF’s quick-strike attack in its conference opener.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder directed a 19-play, 64-yard drive — only the fourth series of 19 plays in length in college football this season — that took up 8:48 on Cincinnati’s second series.

“It was a huge drive,” Ridder said. “We had some setbacks, but to be able to finish really shows who we are up front, who we are as an offense.”

Ridder went 18 of 22 for 221 yards against Marshall, tying his career high with four touchdown passes and adding 48 yards rushing. He and SMU signal-caller Shane Buechele shared the AAC’s Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday.

Ridder, a redshirt sophomore, has completed 63 of 98 passes for 815 yards, with eight touchdowns and three interceptions this season. Michael Warren leads the ground game with 262 yards on 61 carries.

The Bearcats opened the season with a 24-14 win over UCLA before being blanked 42-0 by No. 4 Ohio State. They have posted consecutive lopsided wins over Miami (Ohio) and Marshall, with Fickell saying after Saturday’s game that it was “probably the complete game we’ve been looking for.”

Last season’s matchup marked a big day for UCF, as ESPN hosted its “College GameDay” show at the Orlando school for the first time, leading to a Saturday night showdown at Spectrum Stadium. The Knights beat Cincinnati 38-13 to win the AAC’s East Division on the way to their second consecutive conference title.

–Field Level Media

Irish foreign minister says reported UK border plan a non-starter

October 1, 2019

(Reuters) – Ireland’s foreign minister said on Monday it was time the European Union received a serious proposal from the British government if a Brexit deal is to be agreed, dismissing a reported proposal for the Irish border as a “non-starter”

Irish national broadcaster RTE reported on Monday that Britain proposed in a technical, or so-called “non-paper”, to set up “customs clearance centers” on both sides of the Irish border after Brexit in order to avoid the need for checks on the border itself, an idea Dublin has long rejected.

“Non-Paper = Non-Starter. Time the EU had a serious proposal from the UK Govt if a Brexit deal is to be achievable in October. NI and IRE deserves better!” foreign minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter after the RTE report.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Google releases new #SwitchtoPixel ads anticipating Pixel 4

Google is set to announce the Pixel 4 and 4 XL on October 15 and the phone has already leaked on several previous occasions. The latest few ads posted by Google are touting the Pixel's various features. The #SwitchtoPixel campaign consists of four videos released on the ‘Made by Google' YouTube channel. Each video features customer testimonies of their experiences pertaining to Unlimited Google Photos storage, camera experience, process of transferring data, and battery life. The ‘Get it Together' video above shows a person's testimony using an older-generation Pixel,...

Dollar gains before manufacturing data, euro crumbles on German inflation

October 1, 2019

By Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar traded near its highest in almost two weeks versus the yen before the release of data that is forecast to show the U.S. manufacturing sector returned to growth, which would ease concern about the impact of the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade war.

The euro teetered near its lowest in more than two years versus the greenback as weak economic data from Germany reinforced expectations that monetary policy in the euro zone will remain accommodative for an extended period.

The Australian dollar edged lower before an expected interest rate cut from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) later on Tuesday.

A host of economic data and comments from central bankers this week will set the tone for major currencies as traders try to determine how far policymakers go to bolster growth.

“Economic data can be supportive of the dollar, and the Federal Reserve’s comments are not as dovish as some people think,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.

“An RBA rate cut and the risk of a stagnant European economy both should be positive for the greenback.”

The dollar traded at 107.85 yen <JPY=EBS> early in Asia, close to its strongest level in almost two weeks.

The yen remained weak after the Bank of Japan’s tankan showed business confidence in the third quarter slid to its lowest in six years.

Trading could be subdued in Asian time because China’s financial markets are closed until Monday for public holidays.

The dollar index <.DXY> against a basket of six major currencies rose 0.03% to 99.402, approaching the highest in more than two years.

The Institute for Supply Management’s measure of U.S. manufacturing activity due later on Tuesday is forecast to show a return to expansion in September, but just barely.

In August U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for the first time in three years due to the U.S.-China trade war.

Several Fed policymakers are scheduled to speak this week, but traders said they will focus most on comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Friday for hints about the direction of U.S. monetary policy.

The Fed has cut interest rates twice this year, but there are signs that the Fed is reluctant to ease policy further because the jobs market remains strong.

The euro stood at $1.0900 <EUR=EBS> in Asia, nursing a 0.4% decline in the previous session when it slid to $1.0885, which is the lowest since May 12, 2017.

Annual inflation in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, slowed to the lowest in almost three years, data on Monday showed.

The European Central Bank unleashed a new round of monetary easing measures on Sept. 12, but there is growing concern that the central bank is reaching the limits of what it can achieve and the burden will fall to eurozone governments to boost fiscal spending.

The Australian dollar fetched $0.6751 <AUD=D3>, down 0.02% in early trade.

Australia’s central bank is all but certain to cut its cash rate to a record low of 0.75% on Tuesday and will likely ease again in early 2020 to boost inflation and support a stuttering economy, a Reuters poll showed.

The New Zealand dollar traded at $0.6264 <NZD=D3>, which is within striking distance of a four-year low. The kiwi has taken a hit as weakening business confidence bolstered expectations for monetary easing.

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Japan September factory activity shrinks most since Feb as orders slump: PMI

October 1, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese manufacturing activity contracted at the fastest pace in seven months in September, in a sign of the broadening stress on the economy as global demand and growth slackens in the face of a bitter Sino-U.S. trade war.

The final Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to a seasonally adjusted 48.9 from a final 49.3 in the previous month, posting the quickest pace of decline since February.

The figure matched last week’s preliminary September reading.

The index has stayed below the 50.0 threshold that separates contraction for a fifth month, marking the longest run of shrinkage since a six-month stretch from March to August 2016.

“Japan continues to suffer from the trade-led global growth slowdown,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

“Crucially, the stronger deterioration comes ahead of the consumption tax hike, and suggests that manufacturing and exports are both likely to have been drags on third quarter GDP (gross domestic product).”

The sales tax hike to 10% from 8% kicked in on Tuesday, the first such nationwide tax increase by the government since April 2014. The previous hike, to 8% from 5%, severely hurt consumer sentiment and triggered an economic slump.

To ease the burden on consumers from the hike this time around, the government has put in place stimulus steps worth 2 trillion yen ($18.55 billion), and refrained from increasing the tax on food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Manufacturing activity was largely pulled lower by frail output and total new orders, both of which shrank for a ninth straight month and at a faster pace than in August, the revised survey showed.

Businesses surveyed by IHS Markit indicated that underlying demand conditions had weakened, reflecting fewer sales from both domestic and foreign markets, with order book volumes reportedly falling in China, the United States and Europe.

More negative news came from Japan’s factory output, with data on Monday showing production slipped more than expected in August in another blow to Japan’s economy, the world’s third-largest.

Separate data on Monday showed domestic demand might be stronger than thought, as retail sales climbed 2% in August from a year earlier, the sharpest rise since October last year, according to Refinitiv data.

“The service sector’s ability to weather the sales tax hike in the fourth quarter will be crucial to keeping the economy afloat into the year-end,” IHS Markit’s Hayes added.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

South Korea September factory activity contracts for fifth month; rate cut may be needed soon: PMI

October 1, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s factory activity shrank at a sharper pace in September as trade disputes and global growth uncertainties continued to weigh on the economy, prompting cutbacks in production and employment, a private survey showed on Tuesday.

The Nikkei/Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 48.0, from 49.0 in August, remaining below the 50-point level that separates contraction from growth and marking the tenth decline in the past 11 months.

Total new orders — from at home and abroad – shrank for an 11th consecutive month and at a slightly sharper pace. But new export orders rose slightly, snapping 13th straight months of contraction.

“Notably, the stabilization in export demand did not coincide with any improvement in the total new orders, which fell further, indicating that external weakness has started to spill over into domestic markets,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey.

Companies that were surveyed continued to report cooling demand especially from Japan, China and Europe, though the weakness in global demand were buffered by new product launches and the entrance into new markets.

With business conditions deteriorating, manufacturers slashed jobs at the fastest pace since May 2018, while business confidence were only marginally optimistic of a pick-up in production in the next 12 months, the survey also showed.

“Forward-looking indicators such as employment and business confidence, the only measure of sentiment within the PMI survey, both showed little hope for a recovery to ensue anytime soon,” Hayes said.

South Korea has been struggling amid falling exports and cooling inflation. Escalations in the U.S.-China trade war and a growing row with Japan have added to the pressure on Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The nation’s central bank chief said on Friday that the economic growth this year would likely miss the bank’s 2.2% forecast, which is already above projections by private-sector organizations that are as low as 1.4%.

In August, the Bank of Korea (BOK) held the benchmark interest rate <KROCRT=ECI> steady at 1.50%, which followed a surprise rate cut in July. But it is widely expected to cut rates again at its next meeting on Oct. 16.

“Overall, latest survey data suggest that if spillover effects from the global growth slowdown are manifesting themselves in the domestic economy, the BOK may soon have to follow the current global trend of looser monetary policy,” Hayes added.

(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Call of Duty Mobile Release date surprise for Android and iOS COD gamers



CALL of Duty Mobile is launching today, and the release date appears to include big news for COD gamers on Android and iOS.

Japan big manufacturers’ mood sours to six-year low: BOJ tankan

October 1, 2019

By Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese big manufacturers’ business confidence worsened to a six-year low in the July-September quarter, a central bank survey showed, a sign the bitter U.S.-China trade war is taking a heavier toll on the export-reliant economy.

The service-sector mood also deteriorated with some retailers voicing concern over the potential impact of a sales tax hike kicking off on Oct. 1, the Bank of Japan’s closely watched “tankan” survey showed on Tuesday.

The weak readings cast doubt on the BOJ’s view that robust domestic demand will offset the pain from slowing global growth. This will keep the central bank under pressure to extend more monetary support for a fragile economy.

“Manufacturers from a wide range of sectors said the U.S.-China trade tension and slowing overseas growth were hurting sentiment,” a BOJ official told reporters.

The tankan results are among key indicators the BOJ will scrutinize at its next policy review on Oct. 30-31, when it conducts a quarterly review of its price and price forecasts.

The headline index for big manufacturers’ sentiment stood at plus 5 in September, versus plus 7 in June and economists’ median estimate of plus 2 in a Reuters poll.

It marked the third straight month of decline and the lowest reading since June 2013, when it hit plus 4.

The big non-manufacturers’ sentiment index stood at plus 21, compared with plus 23 in June and a median market forecast for plus 20.

Both big manufacturers and non-manufacturers expect sentiment to worsen in the next three months, clouding the outlook for the economy.

The survey also showed big firms plan to raise their capital expenditure by 6.6% in the financial year that ends March 2020, versus economists’ median estimate of a 5.5% increase.

Capital expenditure has been among the few bright spots in Japan’s economy as non-manufacturers continue to invest heavily on automation to cope with a tight labor market, offsetting the weakness in manufacturers’ spending.

While the BOJ kept policy steady in September, it signaled the chance of expanding stimulus as early as this month by issuing a stronger warning against overseas risks.

The tankan’s sentiment indexes are derived by subtracting the number of respondents who say conditions are poor from those who say they are good. A positive reading means optimists outnumber pessimists.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Haitian journalist shot in wrist in latest round of protests

October 1, 2019

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – A journalist was wounded by gunfire in Haiti on Monday as police fired live ammunition to disperse protesters, his employer, Haitian broadcaster Radio Sans Fin (RSF) said, amid mounting anger over an escalating economic and political crisis.

Television images from the scene showed RSF video journalist Edmond Joseph Agenor with bandages wrapped around his wrist after he was shot while covering a protest in the capital.

Agenor was rushed to hospital on a motorcycle for treatment after protesters threw rocks and police responded with gun shots and tear gas.

It was the second time in a week that a journalist was shot by Haitian authorities.

A lawmaker from the ruling party of President Jovenel Moise fired a handgun during a protest last week and wounded Associated Press photographer Dieu-Nalio Chery.

Haitians are protesting against widespread food and fuel shortages, a weakening currency, double-digit inflation and graft accusations lodged against public officials in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Protesters also burnt at least a couple of cars, including a police car, in the latest round of civil unrest.

Many Haitians have called for Moise to stand down after what they describe as a failure to address Haiti’s myriad problems.

Four people have been killed in clashes over the past several days.

Protests last week were among the largest and most violent in months as witnesses reported that a special unit of the Haitian National Police was looted and another police vehicle set ablaze.

(Reporting by Andre Paultre and Robenson Sanon; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Paul Tait)

South Korea September inflation sets first negative rate, bolsters rate cut bet

October 1, 2019

By Choonsik Yoo and Joori Roh

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s annual inflation fell below zero for the first time on record in September, data showed on Tuesday, due to a plunge in farm products prices coupled with weak consumer demand.

The consumer price index slid 0.4% in September from a year earlier, the Statistics Korea data showed, just missing a 0.3% fall tipped in a Reuters survey and posting the first negative annual rate since data releases began in 1965.

The fall in consumer prices, although mostly due to plunges in farm products prices from unusually high levels last year, reinforces expectations the central bank will cut interest rates as early as later this month to support the slowing economy.

Policymakers have stressed the weak inflation was mostly due to the temporary farm products price declines and played down the risk of Asia’s fourth-largest economy falling into a broader period of deflation.

“We are not in a deflation situation, where the consumer price level persistently falls for a long period,” Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom told a scheduled meeting of senior officials from the economy-related ministries on Tuesday.

Prices rose 0.4% month-on-month in September, just shy of a 0.5% gain expected by economists.

The Bank of Korea, the central bank, cut the policy interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.50% in July for the first time in three years as the country’s trade-reliant economy was hit hard by cooling global demand.

(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Report: Jags owner preventing Ramsey trade

September 30, 2019

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is the main hurdle standing in the way of a trade involving All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Yahoo Sports reported Sunday evening.

Citing two opposing team executives, Yahoo Sports reports that Khan is not only insisting on a price tag of two “quality” first-round picks but also would rather keep Ramsey and sign him to a long-term extension. The report adds that Khan is setting the bar for a deal but is not involved directly in negotiations with other teams, frustrating potential suitors.

“The idea that nothing has changed [in the trade dynamic] is wrong,” Yahoo quoted one executive as saying. “Ownership is obviously involved and a hurdle to overcome.”

Among the teams that remain interested in Ramsey are the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, according to the report.

Not long after Ramsey’s trade demand entering Week 3, most believed the cornerback could be had for a package involving first- and second-round picks, with a deal possible as soon as Sept. 20.

Ramsey played in the Jaguars’ Thursday night game on Sept. 19, then missed practices this week due to an illness, a back injury and the birth of his daughter. He did not play in Sunday’s 26-24 victory over the Denver Broncos, the first game he’s missed in his career.

The 24-year-old reiterated his trade request this week during an appearance on Uninterrupted’s “17 Weeks” podcast on Sirius XM.

“I’m not sure if I’ve played my final game for the Jags yet or not, but my trade request still stands. For me, respect is a huge thing,” Ramsey said. “I kinda touched on it a little bit last week in last week’s podcast, but once respect is lost for both parties, I think it is time to part ways.”

Ramsey has 17 tackles and one forced fumble in three games this season. He has nine interceptions and 45 passes defensed in his career.

–Field Level Media

Hong Kong Aug home prices drop for third month, steeper declines forecast

September 30, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong private home prices fell for the third straight month in August, according to government data released on Monday, as increasingly violent street protests take a toll on the economy.

Prices dropped 1.37%, steeper than July’s revised 0.10% fall, and June’s 0.3% decline. It was the biggest percentage decline since December 2018, when prices dropped 2%.

Derek Chan, head of research at property agent Ricacorp, said the fall was within expectations.

“Home prices in September are set to fall more steeply and we may see a drop of about 2%,” Chan said, adding anti-government demonstrations and the ongoing Sino-U.S. trade war were pressuring the market.

Prices still managed to gain 8.5% in the first eight months, although analysts and property agents are forecasting anything between a rise of 5% to a drop of 5% for full-year prices.

“The property market performance this year will depend on the situation of Sino-U.S. trade tension as well as the local economy and social conditions,” said Thomas Lam, executive director of Knight Frank.

Adrian Cheng, executive vice-chairman of New World Development, said at the group’s results press conference last week he expected a high single-digit fall in this correction.

Hong Kong’s open economy is pressured by the year-long U.S.-China trade war and social unrest since mid-June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.

But the housing sector has been more resilient than others, with new launches this month selling most or all apartments as tight supply continues to keep prices high.

(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Bank of America, Morgan Stanley eye growth in employee-benefits management

September 30, 2019

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Imani Moise

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Morgan Stanley <MS.N> and Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> are expanding the employee-benefits services they offer, hoping to gain market share in the dull-but-reliable business of managing wealth for companies and employees.

The banks, which operate the two biggest U.S. wealth management firms, are focused on different parts of the benefits business, executives told Reuters. But both strategies create opportunities for the firms to market to younger and middle-class clients.

Morgan Stanley is building on its $850 million purchase of Solium Capital, which manages employee stock plans for some 3,400 companies and 2.7 million employees.

Morgan Stanley has renamed it Shareworks and is looking to roll out deferred compensation management, health savings accounts and student loan refinancing. The firm is also considering partnering with a payroll company.

Meanwhile, Bank of America has focused on retirement services, with significant growth in its 401(k)s and health service accounts businesses.

The bank now manages plans for about 30,000 companies covering 5 million people. It ranked No. 7 on PlanSponsor.com’s annual list of 401(k) record-keepers by assets last year, three notches higher than in 2017.

The two banks typically cater to older, wealthy families. By providing wealth services to companies, they hope to start relationships with young workers that could develop into one-on-one wealth management relationships later.

The investments Morgan Stanley and Bank of America are making in workplace benefits services reflect the global banking industry’s shift toward steadier, fee-driven businesses to offset a secular decline in trading revenue since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.

However, the business has become more competitive in recent years. Fidelity, Vanguard and TIAA are consistently ranked as the top three employee-benefits providers, and Charles Schwab Corp <SCHW.N> and E*Trade Financial Corp <ETFC.O> have substantial stock plan businesses.

Companies only consider changing financial institutions about once a decade, and retirement products are fairly standardized, leaving little incentive to switch.

Combined with a push to reduce investor fees and the hefty expense of operating an employee-benefits operation at scale, it could be hard for Morgan Stanley and Bank of America to succeed, analysts said.

“This is a very fee-sensitive industry,” said Anastasia Krymkowski, an associate director at research firm Cerulli Associates specializing in retirement. “It’s an even bigger deal in 401(k) plan management because you have this idea of being a good fiduciary.”

OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH

Nonetheless, executives at the two banks told Reuters in separate interviews that they see opportunity to grow revenues and gain clients through these businesses.

Bank of America believes it can pick up clients left behind by JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N> and Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N>, which both quit the 401(k) business in recent years.

And Morgan Stanley bought the most popular software platform for employee stock plans, making it difficult for rivals to compete.

Morgan Stanley has added 200 new corporate clients since the acquisition and estimates that, overall, employees on Shareworks’ platform have $1.5 trillion in other accounts.

Executives predict that, over the next decade, they can turn hundreds of thousands of employees into customers of the firm’s robo-adviser or its full-service brokerage.

“It creates value for the employer, the employee and creates a new source of potential clients for us,” said Jed Finn, chief operating officer of Morgan Stanley’s wealth unit.

Analysts said revenues earned from Shareworks will be minimal in the near-term but later could create substantial business.

Bank of America’s strategy to market a full suite of employee benefit products, including 401(k)s, equity compensation plans and health savings accounts, to existing clients in other parts of the bank also makes it money now.

Bank of America added nearly 3,000 corporate clients to its institutional retirement business in 2018, up about 50% from the prior year. So far this year, it has added another 2,190 of them. That includes 401(k)s, HSAs, employee stock and defined benefit plans.

“The vast amount of wins come from existing clients,” said Alastair Borthwick, Bank of America’s global head of commercial banking.

Still, only about 10% of Bank of America’s corporate clients use its retirement services, presenting the bank with an opportunity, Borthwick said. The institutional retirement business is hiring more retirement specialists to help pitch these products.

“Getting a company to turn on a 401(k) or a stock plan administration takes time,” said Glenn Schorr, analyst at Evercore ISI. “The good news is that they already have relationships with their target market customer and now it is up to them to convince them.”

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts and Imani Moise in New YorkEditing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Cynthia Osterman)

‘Yes we can!’ says Argentina’s Macri as vote looms. Not likely, says everybody else

September 30, 2019

By Cassandra Garrison

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina’s embattled President Mauricio Macri took to the streets on Saturday with a defiant message: “Yes we can,” he told crowds of supporters in Buenos Aires as he looks to launch an unlikely comeback ahead of general elections next month.

In spring sunshine, tens of thousands of people waving Argentine flags or banners with slogans saying “Vote for Macri” and “Together we can do it” gathered in the capital with the center-right leader, widely written off after a shock landslide defeat in a primary vote in August.

“You are waiting for me to tell you this election can be turned around. Of course it can,” Macri said to cheers at the first of 30 planned “Yes, we can” marches ahead of the Oct. 27 vote.

“We are going to defend the country that we all want together,” Macri said, promising that economic growth and jobs were coming if voters would stick with him.

The odds, however, are against him. Macri was trounced by 16 points in a primary election in August and pollsters have him even further behind main rival Alberto Fernandez, a result that would hand the Peronist challenger an easy win next month.

“The likelihood of Macri coming back and winning is so small that no-one is talking about it,” said Guido Chamorro, a portfolio manager for Pictet Asset Management in London.

“We have had a lot of surprises with elections, but that would be the biggest surprise of the year for emerging markets.”

Reading the elections is key as global trade partners and investors position themselves to deal with likely political upheaval in Latin America’s No. 3 economy, a key grains exporter that is juggling debt obligations with creditors, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), amid concerns about default.

The shock result in the primaries – a good barometer of the likely general election outcome – upended what many had seen as a close election race. Argentine markets crumbled the day after the Aug. 11 vote on fears of political turmoil ahead.

Macri was forced to roll out measures, including capital controls to protect the peso currency, and announce plans to renegotiate the country’s debts – policies many saw as a recognition from Macri that his race was already run.

“These measures were already anticipated to be adopted by an eventual Fernandez administration,” a person familiar with policymaking at Argentina’s central bank said, adding the bank had shifted to damage control mode after the primary.

A spokesman for the president’s office reiterated Macri was in the election race to win. “Not only did more than 100,000 people accompany President Macri at this start of the campaign, but we showed that we are more united than ever and we will win the election,” he told Reuters.

A central bank spokesman said the institution was an “independent body” and that “what it always did and does is care for the stability of the Argentine economy.”

‘REVERSING THE RESULT’

With sluggish growth, inflation over 50% and rising poverty, Macri’s bid for reelection was never going to be easy.

But in a country that once famously cycled through five presidents in two weeks, political analysts cautioned that the number one rule in Argentine politics was that anything was possible.

“I wouldn’t 100% rule out the possibility that there is some unexpected development and Macri makes it to a second round,” said Megan Cook, a Buenos Aires-based political and regulatory risk expert at advisory Cefeidas Group.

“But I think it is incredibly unlikely.”

If Fernandez gets over 45% of the vote or over 40% with a 10-point lead over Macri, he would win outright in the first round, without the need for a second round run-off. The primary election result suggests that is the likely outcome.

There is, however, some margin for doubt, analysts said. And even a more positive showing could have an impact, helping to give Macri’s coalition more voice in Congress even if he loses.

There are about 385,000 votes up for grabs from Argentines living abroad who are not eligible to vote in the primary. Some supporters may have skipped the primaries, while others could switch votes to Macri from fringe candidates.

It also would not be Macri’s first comeback. He lost by an 8-point gap in the 2015 primary election, closing that gap in the first round and then triumphing in the head-to-head.

Some Macri voters, like Guillermo Eugenio Bansas, 65, are also not ready to accept defeat.

“I think he can turn it around. Look at this… it’s a beautiful day. We could be anywhere else, but we are here,” Eugenio Bansas told Reuters at the Saturday march.

Macri’s backers added recent economic turmoil could harden fears about potential interventionist policies under Fernandez and his running mate, divisive populist ex-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The two are not related.

Congressman Eduardo Amadeo, a member of Macri’s party, said concerns about the “dangers” of Kirchnerism – referring to policies under Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband Nestor Kirchner – would play into the Macri’s favor.

“The marches the president is launching now will put emphasis on people’s values, and we believe that this will be positive when it’s time to vote,” Amadeo added.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; additional reporting by Nicolas Misculin, Horacio Soria and Claudia Gaillard in Buenos Aires and Marc Jones in London; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Rio Tinto scraps plans for Canadian iron ore unit sale, floatation – WSJ

September 30, 2019

(Reuters) – Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto PLC <RIO.L> <RIO.AX> has cancelled plans for the sale or floatation of its Canadian iron ore business, following unsuccessful attempts to find buyers, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Rio Tinto, which owns 59% stake in Iron Ore Co of Canada, was unable to settle on a suitable price with potential buyers, the report https://on.wsj.com/2oshOd8 said.

Several global mining companies including Rio have been selling off a string of assets in recent years to decrease their debt load and focus on operations that are more profitable.

Rio Tinto did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

(Reporting by Rebekah Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

Clippers’ George to miss start of season due to shoulder surgeries

September 30, 2019

(Reuters) – Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George will miss the start of the NBA season while recovering from off-season surgery on both shoulders, he told ESPN on Sunday.

George said he will be out until “November-ish”, which would see him miss the training camp as well as the team’s season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 22.

George, who was acquired in a trade by the Clippers during an off-season splash that also saw them sign free agent Kawhi Leonard, had surgery on his right shoulder in May and an operation on the left shoulder five weeks later.

“I had my labrum done on my left shoulder and the rotator cuff done on my right,” George told NBA.com.

“I’m not 100% but if I had to put a percentage on it, I think I’m about 85, 90ish,” he said.

“Not all the way there, still got a little bit of stuff — range to work through, strength to work through — but I’m close. I’m happy with where I am at.” The Clippers made the playoffs last season without a single star player, and will enter the new campaign as one of the NBA’s favorites to win the league title.

George, 29, was an MVP finalist in the 2018-19 season when he posted career-best averages of 28 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Osaka laughs off ‘too sunburned’ comment with plug for sponsor’s sunscreen

September 30, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka has laughed off comments by a Japanese comedy duo who said she was “too sunburned” and “needed some bleach”, turning the tables with a plug for Japanese cosmetic giant Shiseido that is one of her sponsors.

The comedians apologized after their remarks at a live event on Sept. 22, the same day Osaka won the Pan Pacific Open, although neither they nor their management company referred to Osaka by name.

“‘Too sunburned’ lol that’s wild,” Osaka said on Twitter late on Sunday. “Little did they know, with Shiseido Anessa perfect UV sunscreen I never get sunburned.”

Osaka, born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother but raised in the United States, has been embraced by Japan despite its long history as a racially homogeneous country.

She is one of a group of successful mixed-race athletes, such as U.S. professional basketball player Rui Hachimura and sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, helping to change that view.

In January, Japanese noodle company Nissin removed a commercial, in which a cartoon character depicting Osaka was shown with pale skin and light brown hair, after it prompted an outcry.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait)

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