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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Japan’s Abe becomes longest serving PM as scandal allegations persist

November 20, 2019

By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became Japan’s longest-serving premier on Wednesday, a remarkable feat for a leader who once quit in humiliation, but the day was marred by questions about possible election law violations and worries about the economy.

Abe, 65, who served his first term for just one year before quitting in 2007, made a comeback in December 2012, promising a stronger military and a revamped economy while aiming to revise Japan’s post-war, pacifist constitution.

Pointing to such challenges as Japan’s ageing population and constitutional revision – a divisive topic – Abe vowed to push ahead in the last two years of his term as Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader, which ends in September 2021.

“I want to tackle policy issues with my heart and soul, with a sense of treading on thin ice and staying on my toes, not forgetting the spirit with which I began,” Abe told reporters.

Abe has won relatively high marks for his diplomacy. His warm ties with U.S. President Donald Trump may have averted worst-case scenarios in trade feuds, although scant progress has been made on a territorial row with Russia and relations with South Korea are frigid.

Wednesday marked Abe’s 2,887th day in office over his two stints as prime minister. That broke the record set by Taro Katsura more than a century ago.

Abe has led his ruling coalition to six national election victories since returning, surviving allegations of cronyism and scandals over falsified data by bureaucrats.

Those victories were aided by a fragmented opposition and unpleasant memories of the rocky 2009-2012 rule by the novice Democratic Party of Japan.

But since a cabinet reshuffle in September, two ministers – both close allies of Abe – have resigned over allegations of election campaign law violations.

Now Abe is under fire over accusations he not only favored supporters with invites to a state-funded cherry blossom viewing party but may have broken campaign laws by subsidizing backers’ attendance at a reception the night before.

Abe has denied wrongdoing. On Wednesday, he said that it was up to the public to assess his accountability but that he would answer more questions in parliament.

A Nov. 16-17 Asahi newspaper poll showed 68% weren’t convinced by his explanations, though support was steady at 44%.

Concerns the economy is headed for recession also cloud Abe’s future. Japan’s exports tumbled at their quickest pace in three years in October amid weakening demand from the United States and China.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Nadal sparks Spanish comeback, Canada into last eight

November 20, 2019

By Martyn Herman

MADRID (Reuters) – Shortly before midnight on Tuesday in Madrid’s La Caja Magica, Rafa Nadal punched the air as chants of “Rafa, Rafa” echoed around the arena and the Davis Cup Finals burst into life.

After generally disappointing attendances so far at the glitzy new version of the 119-year-old competition, a sell-out crowd in the cavernous 12,500-seat stadium roared the world number one to a 6-3 7-6(7) win over Russia’s Karen Khachanov.

While the reaction to Nadal’s victory sounded like Spain had won the old trophy for a sixth time it actually just leveled the Group B tie at 1-1.

The victory would come shortly before 2 a.m. when veteran duo Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers beat Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 6-4 7-6 to clinch a 2-1 win.

With Russia having beaten defending champions Croatia 3-0 on Monday there was some anxiety on the Spain bench when Rublev surged back to beat Wimbledon semi-finalist Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6 6-3 7-6(0) and put them ahead.

That left the 33-year-old Nadal with no margin for error against dangerous world number 17 Khachanov. But if ever there is a man for a crisis it is Nadal.

He had won his last 24 Davis Cup singles rubbers since losing on his debut in 2004 and was not about to stop now — not on home soil with his country depending on him.

Khachanov stretched him to breaking point at times, especially in the second set, but the 19-times Grand Slam champion fought off a set point before claiming victory.

Afterwards he said the new format, with ties consisting of three rubbers rather than the traditional five, made things dangerous for the fancied nations.

“The format makes things very difficult because every mistake puts you in a position that you don’t want to be,” Nadal told reporters, anxiously peering at the television to keep track of his compatriots playing doubles.

“The atmosphere has been amazing. The only negative thing in my opinion is we are just starting the last match at 1 a.m. That makes big trouble for us, for the players and the people who come to the stadium because tomorrow is a work day.”


Canada’s tennis resurgence continued as they became the first nation through to the last eight after beating the United States for the first time in 16 attempts.

Vasek Pospisil, ranked 150th in the world, edged youngster Reilly Opelka 7-6(5) 7-6(7) before Denis Shapovalov beat Taylor Fritz. The Canadians’ second 2-1 win, having beaten Italy on Monday, sealed top spot in Group F.

“Right now, Canada is really in the best place it’s been in

tennis history,” Pospisil said.

Canada could face Australia in the last eight after Nick Kyrgios returned from a two-month lay-off to put his team on their way to a 3-0 win over Colombia in Group D.

Australia face Belgium in a group decider on Wednesday.

Top seeds and last year’s runners-up France had a close shave as they beat Japan 2-1 — Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert winning the decisive doubles 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 against Ben McLachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama.

There were no French fans there to watch it, however.

The Les Bleus supporters club has boycotted the event in protest at radical changes that have largely replaced the 10-month long home and away knockout format with an 18-nation season-ender in a single city, played over seven hectic days.

“Actually, it was pretty special because it was the first time I hear myself singing La Marseillaise,” Herbert joked.

Argentina beat Chile 3-0 in Group C while in Group E Kazakhstan edged the Netherlands 2-1.

The six group winners and two best-placed runners-up progress to the quarter-finals.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

China central bank cuts lending benchmark slightly, as expected

November 20, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s central bank cut its new benchmark lending rate on Wednesday for the third time since its debut in August, as widely expected, as the authorities move to lower financing costs to the real economy.

The one-year loan prime rate (LPR) <CNYLPR1Y=CFXS> was lowered by five basis points to 4.15% from 4.20% at the previous monthly fixing. The five-year LPR <CNYLPR5Y=CFXS> was also lowered by the same margin to 4.80% from 4.85%.

All 64 respondents in a Reuters snap survey on Tuesday expected a reduction in the one-year LPR. Thirty-seven respondents also expected another cut in the five-year LPR.

The LPR is a lending reference rate set monthly by 18 banks. The People’s Bank of China revamped the mechanism to price LPR in August, loosely pegging it to the medium-term lending facility rate.

(Reporting by Winni Zhou and John Ruwitch; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Options narrow for last Hong Kong campus protesters as arrests take a toll

November 20, 2019

By Marius Zaharia and Jessie Pang

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The last band of anti-government protesters trapped inside a besieged Hong Kong university were weighing a narrowing range of options early on Wednesday as police outside appeared ready to simply wait them out.

Reuters witnesses said fewer than 100 protesters remained inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University after more than 1,000 were arrested since late on Monday.

Some simply surrendered, while others were nabbed in escape attempts that included trying to clamber down ropes onto waiting motorbikes or sneak through sewer pipes.

Police searched for potential escapees overnight with spotlights rather than using the tear gas and rubber bullets that had marked clashes in recent days, heeding calls from Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam for a humane end to a siege that saw the most intense clashes since the protests escalated more than five months ago.

They also tightened barricades in the streets surrounding the university, making them secure enough to be visited late on Tuesday night by the force’s new commissioner, Chris Tang, at the end of his first day on the job.

Tang earlier urged the support of all citizens to end the unrest triggered by fears that China’s central government is stifling the former British colony’s freedoms and extensive autonomy guaranteed in its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.

Chinese leaders say they are committed to the “one country, two systems” formula and have accused foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, of stirring up trouble.

The unrest marks the most serious popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

Some protesters emerged as the sun rose above the campus after a night spent sleeping on yoga mats to express a range of feelings, from defiance to uncertainty.

Others mulled hiding in the maze of campus buildings, as they said a teacher had advised them to do.

“I already know where I will hide,” a 19-year-old student, who gave his name only as Paul, said as he emerged in a hoodie, shorts and slippers to ask about breakfast in the canteen.

“I have enough food for at least a week and then will see what happens,” he said.

Two protesters in full body armor, wielding metal rods, were going to get some sleep in the library after their night shift watching police movements outside.

“We need some energy to get ready for the big fight. Now that there’s not many of us left they may want to come in,” said a former student named Marc, 26.

“We know this place, it’s our home and it is a maze. And we have weapons. We’re not going to give up now, it’s too late for that,” he said.

Protesters still have stocks of petrol bombs, bows and arrows and other makeshift weapons after a weekend of fiery clashes.

One protester practiced firing arrows at a campus tower shortly after dawn.

The university on the Kowloon peninsula is the last of five that protesters had occupied to use as bases from which to disrupt the city over the past 10 days, blocking the central Cross-Harbour Tunnel outside and other arteries.

“It’s still incredible we defended it for such a long time,” said a 21-year-old student named Ricky. “Since the police have taken control, many started to feel afraid and left and now many of us feel desperate and unhappy because we lost some support.”

(Reporting by Marius Zaharia and Jessie Pang; Writing by Greg Torode; Editing by Paul Tait)

Blazers’ Anthony to start; Lillard (back) sidelined

November 20, 2019

Forward Carmelo Anthony officially joined the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, while star guard Damian Lillard sat out with back spasms.

“Carmelo is an established star in this league that will provide a respected presence in our locker room and a skill set at a position of need on the floor,” said Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.

The Trail Blazers activated Anthony prior to Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coach Terry Stotts told reporters Anthony would start at power forward and play about 20 minutes.

“If he was ready to start, he was going to start,” Stotts said.

Lillard was scratched due to the back soreness he has dealt with for close to a week. Lillard is just 10-for-46 shooting over the past three games.

It wasn’t immediately known whether Lillard will miss more than one game. He is averaging 28.6 points and 7.1 assists in 14 games.

According to reports, Anthony’s one-year, non-guaranteed contract is worth up to $2.15 million.

The 10-time All-Star has not played a game in the NBA since Nov. 8, 2018 with the Houston Rockets. Houston traded him to Chicago on Jan. 22 and the Bulls waived him on Feb. 1.

Anthony, 35, holds career NBA averages of 24.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.02 steals in 1,064 games (1,056 starts) over 16 seasons with Denver, New York, Oklahoma City and Houston.

The Blazers granted Anthony’s request to return to the league in uniform number 00 and he is expected to provide offense for Portland.

–Field Level Media

Dollar, yen supported as caution prevails on mixed trade signals

November 20, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar and the safe-haven yen found support on Wednesday as a lack of clarity on U.S.-China trade talks kept investors cautious ahead of the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting.

Moves were slight as jaded traders again weighed mixed messages on trade, with more upbeat reports offset by U.S. President Donald Trump delivering yet another warning of more tariffs if talks fail.

After falling overnight, the greenback rose a little on the Australian dollar <AUD=D3> to $0.6824 and on the New Zealand dollar <NZD=D3> to $0.6426.

It was marginally higher against the euro <EUR=> at $1.1077 and against a basket of currencies <.DXY> the dollar last traded a little stronger at 97.862.

The yen <JPY=>, regarded as a safe-haven by virtue of Japan’s status as the world’s biggest creditor, touched 108.37 per dollar, its highest since Friday.

“It’s a very slightly risk-averse day,” said Westpac FX analyst Imre Spiezer. “There’s a slightly cautious tone and mixed messages from the trade war negotiations.”

The United States and China have been locked in tit-for-tat tariff hikes that have dented the global economy.

Hopes for progress on the dispute had risen overnight when Bloomberg reported that negotiations, which failed in May, would be considered a baseline in deciding what U.S. tariffs on China would be rolled back.

However, speaking at a cabinet meeting at the White House overnight, Trump noted that China was “moving along,” but any deal would need to be one he liked.

“If we don’t make a deal with China, I’ll just raise the tariffs even higher,” he told a room filled with senior U.S. officials.

The U.S. Senate’s unanimous passage of a bill aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong amid a crackdown on demonstrations was also seen likely to raise tensions between the negotiating parties.

The Chinese yuan – the currency most sensitive to the trade dispute – dropped to a two-week low of 7.0335 per dollar in offshore trade <CNH=> early in the Asian day.

Traders and analysts also widely expect China will cut its new benchmark lending rate when it is fixed at 0130 GMT.

Elsewhere, the British pound <GBP=> fell slightly overnight after an inconclusive election debate between Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who leads in the polls, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It was steady at $1.2919 in Asian trade.

The release of the Fed minutes from October are the next major scheduled event for markets, with investors looking for insight into the reasoning for last month’s rate cut.

“In particular, clues for whether October was a ‘hawkish cut,’ with a high bar for any further easing, or a ‘dovish pause’ with a bias for more easing…will be sought,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy for Mizuho Banlk in Singapore.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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Such focus, such discipline, such good boys. via /r/aww

Black kitten via /r/aww

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MLB’s Manfred addresses ‘thorough’ investigation of Astros

November 20, 2019

As Major League Baseball continues to investigate the scandal involving the Houston Astros, commissioner Rob Manfred feels confident that they’re the only team involved and the 2019 American League champions could face harsh penalties once the extent of their wrongdoing has been determined.

Regarding an ongoing and “really, really thorough investigation,” Manfred, commenting publicly from the owners meetings that began Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, said, “Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

The Astros are alleged to have stolen signs electronically throughout the 2017 season, according to a report first made last week by The Athletic. Former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers alleged the 2017 champions used a camera stationed in the outfield at Minute Maid Park to steal signs during home games.

Though the 2017 Astros are the focus on the investigation, ESPN, citing sources, has indicated there have been questions involving more recent Houston teams.

Last week, MLB made a statement to The Athletic to point out that other teams have been previously accused of sign-stealing.

“As a result of those concerns, and after receiving extensive input from the General Managers, we issued a revised policy on sign stealing prior to the 2019 season,” the statement read. “We also put in place detailed protocols and procedures to provide comfort to Clubs that other Clubs were not using video during the game to decode and steal signs. After we review this new information we will determine any necessary next steps.”

An undisclosed fine was handed out to the Boston Red Sox after they were caught using an Apple Watch to steal signs in 2017. The same year, the St. Louis Cardinals received a $2 million fine and had to give up two first-round draft picks after a team employee hacked into the Astros’ proprietary database earlier this decade.

Regarding the Astros’ possible punishment, Manfred said, “I’m not going to speculate on what the appropriate discipline is. That depends on how the facts are established at the end of the investigation. The general warning I issued to the clubs, I stand by. It certainly could be all of those [past disciplinary actions], but my authority under the major league constitution would be broader than those things as well.”

Manfred, who on Tuesday toured Globe Life Field, the new stadium where the Texas Rangers will begin play in 2020, did not indicate when the investigation might be completed but said, “I certainly would hope that we would be done before we start playing baseball again.”

The owners meetings continue through Thursday.

“Any allegations that relate to a rule violation that could affect the outcome of a game or games is the most serious matter,” Manfred said. “It relates to the integrity of the sport. In terms of where we are, we have a very active — what is going to be a really, really thorough investigation ongoing. But beyond that, I can’t tell you how close we are to done.”

–Field Level Media

UK home prices to lag inflation on Brexit uncertainty: Reuters poll

November 20, 2019

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Annual home price rises in Britain won’t keep pace with already-low inflation until 2021, a Reuters poll found, and will fall in the capital London this year as uncertainty around the country’s departure from the European Union continues to deter buyers.

Britons voted in a June 2016 referendum to leave the EU but there is still no clarity about how, when or even if the two sides will finally part ways.

That uncertainty is likely to continue even if Britain leaves by Jan. 31 as is currently scheduled as there is another tight deadline – by the end of 2020 – for both parties to hammer out a new trade deal, though many doubt that target can be met.

Prices in London, for decades a magnet for foreign investors and speculators, will fall 1.5% this year and only hold steady in 2020, the Nov. 5-18 Reuters poll found.

But highlighting the ambiguity, forecasts for this year ranged from -3.0% to no change. For 2020, the range was even wider, from -2.0% to +5.0%.

“Until we have greater certainty regarding the political environment it isn’t possible to forecast what might happen in London with the greatest accuracy,” said Rod Lockhart at property finance hub LendInvest.

“We do not anticipate a material price rebound in London until at least 2022, although we may experience some recovery from 2021 – if and when the political ‘dust’ begins to settle.”

London-focused real estate agent Foxtons Group <FOXT.L> reported a fall in third quarter revenue late last month and said ongoing political uncertainty continued to weigh on volumes and prices in the London residential sales market.

For a graphic on the UK housing market outlook, click

Nationwide, home prices will rise 1.0% this year, 1.5% in 2020 and 2.3% in 2021, the poll of 27 property market specialists predicted. Inflation is forecast for those years at 1.9%, 1.9% and 2.0% respectively.

“Regardless of what happens with Brexit in the months ahead, a revival in the housing market is unlikely,” said Hansen Lu at Capital Economics.

“Indeed, even if a Brexit deal is implemented soon, we expect to see only a small improvement in housing market transactions and house price growth over the next two years.”

Based on recent public opinion polls, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks set to win a Dec. 12 election and secure the backing in parliament he needs to get his new Withdrawal Agreement passed and take Britain out of the EU on Jan. 31.

Johnson’s Conservative Party has extended its lead over the opposition Labour Party during the past week, an opinion poll by ICM for Reuters showed on Monday.


Economists in another Reuters poll last week overwhelmingly said Britain would eventually strike a free-trade deal with the EU. The second-most likely resolution was Britain remaining a member of the European Economic Area.

But third most likely in the poll of economists was the country leaving the EU without a deal and trading under World Trade Organization rules – something the housing market experts polled by Reuters said unanimously would have the most deflationary impact on home prices.

Economists said the least likely outcome was Brexit being canceled. Housing watchers – again, unanimously – said that outcome would be the most inflationary for house prices in the coming year.

Rising prices would not be welcomed by first-time buyers struggling to get on the property ladder since, despite very low borrowing costs, scraping together the minimum 10% deposit demanded by most lenders poses a huge challenge.

The average asking price nationally for a home was 302,808 pounds ($391,652) this month, property website Rightmove said, around ten times the average British salary. The average price was double that in London.

When asked to describe the level of London house prices on a scale of 1 to 10 from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, the median response was 8. Nationally they were rated 6.

“While house prices in London and the surrounding regions have been falling over recent months, prices are still significantly higher than elsewhere in the country, making buying a property in the capital unaffordable for many people,” said Jamie Durham at PwC.

“But this affordability problem is not constrained to just the capital, and house prices are high relative to wages right across the country.”

(Polling by Sarmista Sen and Khushboo Mittal; Editing by Ross Finley/Mark Heinrich)

Xiaomi announces Xiao Ai 3.0 and expands earthquake alerts with MIUI 11

Xiaomi's Xiao Ai voice assistant is getting a major update. Announced during Xiaomi's own MIDC develop conference, Xiao Ai 3.0 brings a male voice option, and adds "naturally continuous dialogue" for smartphone users. This is much like how you can speak to Google Assistant and ask it follow up questions with the previous answers as context. As per GizChina you'll be able to speak to the voice assistant and interrupt it to start a new command. Currently, it's only supported by the Xiaomi Mi 9 Pro 5G and Xiaomi Mi 9. Xiaomi has continually invested in R&D for its voice platform...

Argentina´s president-elect tells IMF he has sustainable plan to repay debt

November 20, 2019

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Argentina’s president-elect, Alberto Fernandez, has a “sustainable” plan to meet creditor obligations as well as maintain growth, he told the International Monetary Fund´s managing director Kristalina Georgieva, his office said.

On Tuesday, Fernandez told Georgieva there was no room for more fiscal adjustment due to an “enormously complex domestic economic situation”, his office said in a statement.

“We want to make a commitment that we can keep,” the incoming Argentinian president added.

The Fernandez camp statement said Georgieva told him she wanted to see Argentina leave behind “boom and bust cycles” to achieve a trajectory of sustainable growth.

She added that she wanted to work with Fernandez to tackle dual issues of inflation and promoting growth, it said.

In its statement, the IMF said Georgieva assured Fernandez, a Peronist elected last month, of the IMF´s “readiness to engage” with his government and work towards “paving the way for sustained growth and poverty reduction.”

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

A hospital and clean water: China on the charm offensive in Sri Lanka

November 20, 2019

By Shihar Aneez and Sanjeev Miglani

POLONARRUWA, Sri Lanka (Reuters) – Amid the lush paddy fields of central Sri Lanka, a large, state-of-the-art hospital rises between the cranes and cement mixers.

Its perimeter walls are adorned with pictures of China’s president Xi Jinping and prime minister Li Keqiang, along with Sri Lankan leaders hailing the $67 million gift from Beijing.

The hospital, specializing in kidney-related diseases, is helping China gain popular support in a country where its mega-projects have added to rising debt and raised concerns about excessive economic and political leverage.

Water plants and a Chinese radio station promoting its economic and social programs are part of the campaign to win over doubters.

China has invested an estimated $11 billion in Sri Lanka, around $8 billion in the form of loans related to Xi’s signature “Belt and Road Initiative” designed to boost trade and transport links across Asia.Chinese firms, employing thousands of local workers, have built a giant port and plan to construct power stations and expressways as well.

But the terms of some of those projects have drawn criticism from politicians in Sri Lanka and overseas and led to policy reversals that have stalled China’s ambitions on the Indian Ocean island.

“We … expect our companies to help the Sri Lankan people with donations and corporate social responsibility work,” China’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cheng Xueyuan, said last month after inviting local journalists on a tour of the big Chinese investment projects on the island.

The charm offensive may pay dividends.


This month’s presidential election, won by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, puts Beijing back in the driving seat in Sri Lanka.

Gotabaya’s brother, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, courted China in the aftermath of the 26-year civil war against Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.

Much of the world shunned Sri Lanka, accusing the Rajapaksas of widespread human rights violations during the conflict – allegations which they deny.

China seized the opportunity to develop a vital staging post to much of Asia, Africa and beyond.

Ties soured in 2015 with the election of Maithripala Sirisena as president. Wary of growing Chinese influence and mounting debt, he suspended all Chinese investment projects, citing allegations of corruption and overpricing.

Sirisena eventually allowed projects to resume the following year, although he demanded changes to some terms.

At his inauguration on Monday, Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka didn’t want to be drawn into a regional quest for influence. China’s expansion has come at the expense of India, traditionally Sri Lanka’s economic and diplomatic champion.

“We want to remain neutral in our foreign relations and stay out of any conflicts amongst the world powers.”

But shortly before his election, adviser Palitha Kohona told reporters that Rajapaksa would “restore the relationship (with China) to where it was.

“I suppose the thinking was if we upset China, the West would come to us with endless bags of gold … But the bags of gold never materialized.”


At Polonarruwa, where the kidney hospital is due to open early next year, families say their struggle to get treatment should ease once they have an alternative to over-stretched local hospitals.

“It is really a good project because of the number of people who are suffering in this area. At the moment, we are struggling for routine checkups and dialysis,” said Lakmal Prasad, 27, a former state employee who’s already had a kidney transplant.

China has also completed two water facilities in a parched part of the island, while a third, the biggest, is nearing completion and will supply clean drinking water to villages in the Puttalam area.

But China’s biggest interest lies in mega-projects. The new southern port of Hambantota, near one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, cost $1.4 billion and kicked off a major post-war construction boom.

It also raised fears of a “debt trap”. When Sri Lanka was unable to pay back the loan on the port, it was forced to hand over control to China on a 99-year lease in 2017.

Ambassador Cheng said China’s construction spree had created as many as 100,000 jobs across the island of 22 million people and there were more opportunities opening up.

To help spread the message, a Chinese state-run radio station broadcasts reports about Chinese-backed economic and social programs in Sri Lanka in the local Sinhalese language.

It also offers lessons in Chinese language to help the growing number of Sri Lankans working with Chinese, from grocers to bank managers.

Last week, it featured a story about a Sri Lankan man who started working with Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei in Sri Lanka a few years ago and the company moved him to Shanghai.


The next big-ticket projects that China wants to develop include a $1 billion central highway connecting the capital Colombo with the central Kandy district, a 15,000-hectare investment zone in Hambantota and oil refineries.

China Harbour Engineering Company is already building a $1.4 billion port city next to Colombo port that is designed to be a financial center with hotels, marinas and even a motor racing track on land reclaimed from the sea.

“Their focus has been unrelenting; even over the last few years their projects have all gone through. There’s no one stopping them, in the end,” said an Asian diplomat. “But they are also doing a lot more of soft-power diplomacy.”

To explain the sheer scale of the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing has taken Sri Lankan politicians, journalists and local residents on tours to China.

Muhshi Rahmathullah, a former councillor in the northwestern town of Puttalam where China Machinery Engineering Corporation built a 900 MW coal-fired power station, said he was among a group of 15 people who went on a company-funded tour of China.

The Puttalam plant meets half of Sri Lanka’s electricity demand, but some residents have opposed it, saying it had caused air and noise pollution.

“They showed us power plants and said that there won’t be any environmental impact,” Rahmatullah said of his trip. “They wanted to show how power plants help develop the country.”

($1 = 180.5000 Sri Lankan rupees)

(Additional reporting by Aditi Shah and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Asia shares numbed by trade noise, oil takes a spill

November 20, 2019

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares lumbered lower on Wednesday as the Sino-U.S. trade talks produced nothing but a stream of conflicting messages, while concerns about a glut of supply saw oil prices suffer their biggest spill in seven weeks.

Figures from the American Petroleum Institute out late Tuesday showed a far larger rise in crude stocks than expected. That followed reports Russia was unlikely to deepen its cuts to crude output.

Brent crude <LCOc1> futures stood at $60.91 a barrel early on Wednesday, after sliding 2.6% overnight, while U.S. crude <CLc1> recouped a single cent to $55.22.

Action in share markets was subdued with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> off 0.25%. Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> eased 0.2% and South Korea <.KS11> 0.4%. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 <ESc1> lost 0.1%.

Hopes for progress on the U.S.-China dispute had risen on Tuesday when Bloomberg reported that the previous talks that failed in May were being considered as a benchmark on what U.S. tariffs on China would be rolled back.

But later, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to raise tariffs further if China would not agree to a deal that he liked.

The aggressive tone unsettled Wall Street and the Dow <.DJI> ended Tuesday down 0.36%, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 0.06% and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> added 0.24%.

Dour forecasts from retailers Home Depot and Kohl’s fueled worries about consumer spending, while the energy sector <.SPNY> was the S&P’s biggest loser as oil slid. [.N]


“The immediate focus remains on the U.S.-China trade talks, and markets seem reluctant to move much in either direction until they are resolved,” wrote analysts at ANZ in a note.

“It was noticeable that fixed income markets rallied despite equity markets being stable, suggestive of a market that remains cautious about the growth outlook.”

Yields on U.S. 10-year Treasuries <US10YT=RR> dropped to a two-week trough at 1.77%, with a marked flattening of the curve hinting at a possible return of recession fears.

The dip in yields nudged the dollar down on the safe-haven Japanese yen and it was last at 108.43 <JPY=>, though still within the 107.87 to 109.48 range of the last five weeks.

The euro inched up to $1.1077 <EUR=>, but faced chart resistance at $1.1090. The dollar was steadier on a basket of currencies at 97.829 <.DXY>.

Investors are now awaiting minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting where it cut interest rates and signaled a pause for the time being.

“The minutes will elaborate on the Fed’s view that the downside risks to the U.S. economy have eased, and that a “material reassessment” of the economic outlook will be needed for it to cut rates again,” said Joseph Capurso, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“We see the FOMC now on hold until March, 2020.”

The market has all but given up on the prospect of an easing in December, which is now priced at just 0.8%. A move in March is put at a probability of around 42%. <FEDWATCH>

The risk-off tone helped spot gold firm 0.1% to $1,474.14 per ounce <XAU=>.

(Editing by Stephen Coates)

Human rights situation in Nicaragua ‘critical,’ regional body says

November 20, 2019

By Ismael Lopez

MANAGUA (Reuters) – The Organization of American States said on Tuesday that Nicaragua was experiencing a “critical human rights situation” that had upset the country’s constitutional order, following President Daniel Ortega’s crackdown on opponents.

Major demonstrations last year left some 300 people dead. Protests – including two hunger strikes by mothers of detained activists – have started up again in recent days, leading to clashes with Ortega supporters and arrests.

The report by a commission of the Washington-based OAS followed United Nations criticism earlier in the day of the arrest of 16 anti-government protesters on charges it said seemed “trumped-up.”

The OAS recommended a special session of its general assembly be convened immediately to review affairs in the country.

“It is clear that Nicaragua is experiencing a critical human rights situation that urgently demands the attention of the Inter-American community and the world at large,” the OAS said.

The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously dismissed the creation of the OAS commission, viewing it as an attempt to interfere in its affairs.

On Monday, Nicaraguan authorities said the 16 detainees were suspected of planning terrorist attacks in the Central American country.

Those detained include prominent student protesters such as Nicaraguan and Belgian national Amaya Coppens, who has been arrested previously.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman in Geneva for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters the arrests looked like an attempt to silence criticism of the government.

“We are very concerned that these apparently trumped-up charges may constitute a renewed attempt to stifle dissent,” said Colville.

He also urged the government to respect the rights of a separate group of hunger strikers in Managua’s cathedral.

The Roman Catholic Church on Monday accused groups linked to the government of beating a priest and violently taking control of the cathedral.

“We condemn these acts of desecration, harassment and intimidation, which are not contributing to the peace and stability of the country,” the Church said in a statement.

On Monday, seven mothers of people detained earlier by authorities had said they would begin a hunger strike in the cathedral to demand the release of their children before Christmas.

Colville said everyone who may have been “arbitrarily detained” in the country should be released.

“The government must end the persistent repression of dissent and the ongoing pattern of arbitrary arrests,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Ismael Lopez in Managua, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Japan’s exports post worst fall in three years as shipments to U.S., China slide

November 20, 2019

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports tumbled at their quickest pace in three years in October, threatening to tip the trade-reliant economy into recession as weakening demand from United States and China darkened the outlook.

Ministry of Finance data out on Wednesday showed Japan’s exports fell 9.2% year-on-year in October, a bigger decline than the 7.6% drop expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

The feeble results, driven by plummeting shipments of cars and aircraft engines to the United States and plastic materials to China, marked the longest run of declines in exports since a 14-month stretch from October 2015 to November 2016.

In volume terms, exports slumped 4.4% in the year to October, the third consecutive month of declines.

The data comes after a preliminary reading of gross domestic product last week showed Japan’s economy saw the worst growth in a year in the third quarter due to soft demand.

Lawmakers have called on the government to boost spending by as much as 10 trillion yen ($92.08 billion) for the current fiscal year to support the economy, which many fear is facing additional pressure from a sales tax hike that took effect in October.

The government has said it plans to compile a stimulus package as soon as possible as a pre-emptive measure against heightening overseas risks.

By region, exports to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, slipped 10.3% year-on-year in October, down for the eighth month as shipments of plastics and car parts declined.

Exports to Asia, which account for more than half of Japan’s overall exports, tumbled 11.2% in the year to October, down for the 12th month.

Japan’s exports to the United States dropped 11.4% in the year to October, hurt by reduced shipments of 2,000 to 3,000 cc cars, aircraft engines and car parts.

Japan’s lower house of parliament approved on Tuesday a limited trade deal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed with the United States, clearing the way for tariff cuts next year on items including U.S. farm goods and Japanese machine tools.

The nation’s overall imports sank 14.8% year-on-year, a smaller decline than the median estimate for a 16.0% decrease.

The trade balance came to a surplus of 17.3 billion yen, versus a 301.0 billion yen surplus seen by economists.

(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Morgan Stanley pushes advisers to boost revenue in 2020 pay plan: sources

November 20, 2019

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Morgan Stanley <MS.N> told financial advisers on Tuesday that they could be paid less if they do not generate more revenue or get customers to sign up for comprehensive financial plans next year, people familiar with the bank’s 2020 compensation plan said.

Morgan Stanley made several changes to the incentive structure, including its 16-tier “pay-out grid” that determines what percentage of fees and commissions brokers get to take home.

Some brokers who generate less than $5 million in annual revenue will have to deliver another 10% to reach the payout they received in 2019, according to material reviewed by Reuters. For instance, someone who was generating toward the low end of $300,000-$360,000 revenue tier this year will need to generate a figure in the range of $330,000-$400,000 next year to get the same payout.

The rates range from 28% of commissions and fees at the lowest tier to 55.5% at the highest. Advisers generating above $5 million will not see any change.

Other features of the plan incentivize advisers to target wealthier customers, grow their asset books and lend more. It will also pay them less for households that do not enroll in a comprehensive financial plan or have less than $100,000 in assets and liabilities with the bank.

The changes underline themes Morgan Stanley and other big wealth managers have been pushing for years in terms of the types of clients and advisers they want associated with their firms.

The 2020 compensation plan could affect as much as half of Morgan Stanley’s advisers, said compensation consultant Andy Tasnady of Tasnady & Associates. As of Sept. 30, that headcount stood at 15,553, down from more than 18,000 a decade ago.

The pay-out grid is closely watched by advisers, especially those in lower tiers. Tasnady compared the grid to a flight of stairs.

“They basically raised the heights of all the stairs,” he said. “If you do the same thing you did last year, there will be many people who get a payout that is one step lower.”

(In third paragraph, corrects that pay changes will only affect some brokers, not all)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Lisa Shumaker)

Ethiopia’s Sidama vote on autonomy in latest test for restive regions

November 20, 2019

By Giulia Paravicini

HAWASSA, Ethiopia (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Sidama people vote on self-determination in a referendum on Wednesday closely watched by other restive ethnic groups also seeking more autonomy since reforms by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed shook up the national power balance.

The special vote for the Sidama, mostly based in the south and comprising about 4 percent of Ethiopia’s 105 million population, comes ahead of a national election next year and has brought fears of renewed violence.

At least 17 people died in clashes in July between security forces and Sidama activists after the government delayed the poll by five months. [L8N24L09S]

If the referendum passes as expected, the Sidama will control local taxes, education, security and laws in a new self-governing region that would be Ethiopia’s tenth.

The Horn of Africa nation’s regions are emboldened by a more open political climate – and weaker ruling coalition – since Abiy took office in 2018 and eased predecessors’ iron rule.

However, that has also brought a surge of long-repressed rivalries between Ethiopia’s 80 plus ethnic groups, forcing more than 2 million people out of their homes and killing hundreds, according to the United Nations and monitoring groups.


“Should there be irregularities and should autonomy not be declared, that would be a danger for Ethiopia itself because of course there will be violence,” said Dukale Lamiso, head of the Sidama Liberation Front, an activist group.

Around 2.3 million voters are registered at nearly 1,700 polling stations, the national electoral board said.

Polling stations open at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) and close at 6 p.m. (1500 GMT). Preliminary results are due on Thursday.

Sidama people have been proudly carrying their voter cards and told Reuters they are overjoyed at the chance to vote for statehood. One businessman in Addis Ababa said he had provided transportation for his family and employees to travel back home to vote.

More than a dozen other ethnic groups are considering or already campaigning for region status.

The vote will also be closely watched for its tone prior to next year when Abiy has promised a free and fair national poll. Previous elections going back to 2005 were marred by irregularities, violence and clampdowns by security forces.

A potential Sidama homeland would be carved out of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP) region, the most ethnically diverse part of Ethiopia, a rural region of around 20 million people that borders Kenya and South Sudan.

The Sidama people want the multiethnic city of Hawassa, located 275 km (170 miles) from Addis Ababa, to be their capital.

The city, located on a lake and surrounded by farmland, is home to the country’s first industrial park, opened in 2017, where Western and Asian companies are producing clothes for export as part of Ethiopia’s ambitious industrialization drive.

(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Andrew Cawthorne)

Golf: Injured Ko gears up for crack at record women’s $1.5 million first prize

November 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Women’s world number one Ko Jin-young is still worried about her injured ankle as she prepares for this week’s CME Group Tour Championship, where a record first prize will serve as extra motivation.

The winner will receive $1.5 million and be crowned champion of the season-long Race to the Globe points competition, and Ko, 24, is in a race against time to be fully healthy for the no-cut event at Tiburon in Naples, Florida.

She injured her left ankle making a swing at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA on Nov. 1 and withdrew from the final two tournaments of the autumn Asia Swing.

The ankle is still tender, but not enough to keep her from competing this week.

In a year that has been dominated by youth, with the average tournament winner aged 24, Ko has been in a class of her own on the LPGA Tour.

She has four wins, including two majors, and at one stage went 114 successive holes without dropping a shot.

With prize money of $2,714,281, she has a lead of more than $700,000 over second-ranked Lee Jeong-eun. More than half of Lee’s earnings, $1 million, came courtesy of her U.S. Women’s Open victory.

So big is first prize this week that 10 players are mathematically capable of topping the money list, and as much as Ko would love to win the money title, she is more concerned with how her ankle holds up.

She had an injection after returning home to Seoul from Taiwan.

“Then I practise maybe just one or two days on Monday and Tuesday and then I was here,” she said.

While the LPGA Tour Championship has been modeled on the PGA Tour’s equivalent, there are a couple of notable differences.

The LPGA field is twice as large, and all 60 players begin on the same score, unlike the Tour Championship, which this year used a staggered scoring system, with the top seed starting a whopping 10 strokes clear of the bottom seed in an effort to reward season-long performances.

Whoever is crowned winner on Sunday, Ko will be Player of the Year, calculated by accruing points for top-10 finishes.

She is certainly grateful and not only for her success.

“I’m happy because I’m alive,” she said.

“I want to thank everything about being alive.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Toby Davis)

U.S. housing outlook improves but not breaking new ground: Reuters poll

November 20, 2019

By Hari Kishan

BENGALURU (Reuters) – The rise in U.S. home prices will continue to outpace consumer inflation until at least 2022, albeit at a slower pace than forecast three months ago, despite a majority of analysts polled by Reuters predicting an improvement in activity in the coming year.

While the possibility of a U.S.-China truce in their prolonged trade dispute has pushed U.S. stocks into record territory, that optimism is yet to translate into a better economic outlook, including in the laggard property market, a lynchpin to the world’s largest economy.

The Nov. 4-18 poll of over 40 analysts predicted U.S. house prices will end 2019 with a 3.0% rise – the lowest in seven years – and then slow to 2.9% and 2.8% over the next two years, a downgrade from 3.2% and 3.3% respectively in August’s poll.

Those predicted rises for the next two years were similar to findings in a February poll, taken before the Federal Reserve delivered three quarter-point interest rate cuts in succession to 1.50-1.75%.

“Just a little bit faster than inflation, but more in line with income growth….we’re not expecting another big upswing in the housing market, nor do we expect pronounced weakness, just steady as she goes,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO.

After outrunning consumer inflation and wages for more than half a decade, growth in house prices has been on a steady decline for about a year and a half.

The latest S&P Case-Shiller Index, which measures house prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan cities, showed an annual 2.0% rise in July and August, the weakest pace in more than seven years.

A tight supply of homes, which has for years kept many buyers on the sidelines and played a major role in putting a lid on price rises, is not expected to improve any time soon.

Existing home sales, which make up for nearly 90% of all homes sold in the U.S., are forecast to average around the current annualized rate of five million units over the coming year, according to the Reuters poll.

“Demand for housing is going to be strong, but it’s still going to be a supply issue. It’s going to be quite a while before that really rectifies…we are probably two or three years out at least,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James.

However, nearly 60% of 32 analysts who answered an additional question predicted U.S. housing market activity would rebound over the coming 12 months.

A major relief to home buyers came this year from falling mortgage rates as the Fed cut the federal funds rate. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hit a near nine-year high of over 5.0% last November but has since dropped to around 4.0%.

They are forecast to rise marginally to average 3.8% next year and 3.9% in 2021.

While a slim majority of analysts – 17 of 32 – who answered an additional question said further interest rate cuts would go a long way in stimulating U.S. housing market activity and prices significantly, over 45% disagreed.

“Much as the fall in mortgage rates over 2019 did nothing to boost mortgage applications for home purchases, we doubt any further fall in interest rates will raise existing home sales significantly,” said Matthew Pointon, property economist at Capital Economics.

The U.S. housing market continues to struggle from a dearth of properties for sale but may get some benefit from increased construction of single-family homes.

A strong majority of analysts, 25 of 31, said the pick-up in construction of single-family homes – which has risen for four months straight – was likely to continue in the coming year.

“We expect further, but modest gains, in single-family housing starts. Builder sentiment is upbeat, but they continue to face supply-side constraints, including shortages of lots and labor. Builders have gotten some relief on the cost of building materials, particularly for lumber,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

(Polling by Indradip Ghosh and Manjul Paul; Editing by Ross Finley and Bernadette Baum)

Vodafone extends tech partnership with Ryanair

November 20, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Vodafone <VOD.L> has secured a seven-year technology partnership with Ryanair <RYA.I> to handle services including online booking, passenger boarding and in-flight transactions for the Irish airline in Europe.

The two companies said on Wednesday they had extended an existing partnership for Vodafone Business to support 300 Ryanair sites and some 153 million passengers across 40 countries.

As part of the agreement, the British mobile company will help Europe’s biggest budget airline to speed up the time it takes to connect a new airport or site for use. It should also lead to a faster turnaround of planes.

“Airline passengers will demand even more in the coming years, and we will work alongside Ryanair to help them prepare for the future using our full portfolio of products and services,” said Vinod Kumar, head of Vodafone Business.

Vodafone Business is the mobile operator’s enterprise arm that offers cloud IT services and the connection of unlimited devices on its Internet of Things network for small and multinational companies.

Vodafone Business accounted for 30% of group service revenue in its financial year ending March 31, 2019.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Mark Potter)

Monday, 18 November 2019

NBA fines Hield $25K for kicking ball into stands

November 19, 2019

Buddy Hield paid the price for a Sunday night celebration.

The Sacramento guard kicked the ball into the stands after the Kings held on for a win over the visiting Boston Celtics, and the NBA handed him a $25,000 fine Monday.

It was the same penalty assessed to Patrick Beverley last month after the Los Angeles Clippers guard underhanded the ball into the stand following a win by his team.

On Saturday, the Kings survived when a last-second shot by Boston’s Marcus Smart rolled off the rim at the buzzer, sealing Sacramento’s 100-99 victory.

When the ball came down, Hield punched it to half court, then chased after it and booted it into the crowd.

NBA players are not allowed to “intentionally throw, kick, or send the ball into the stands for any reason.” A technical foul is to be assessed if such an action occurs during a game, but the Sunday contest was already over by the time Hield showed off his kicking leg.

Hield, 26, was instrumental in the win, producing game highs with 35 points and four steals. He is averaging 19.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals through 12 games this season.

–Field Level Media

BOJ conducting research on digital currency: Kuroda

November 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday the central bank has no plans now to issue digital currencies, but is conducting research in case the need to do so heightens in the future.

He also said stable coins should not be issued unless there is a sufficient framework in place to ensure governance and risk management.

“If stable coins backed by companies with a huge customer base are issued globally, that could have an impact on monetary policy and financial system stability,” Kuroda told parliament.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

U.S. watchdog backs Bezos’ protest over key Pentagon launch program

November 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. watchdog on Monday backed a protest from Jeff Bezos’ space company that challenged the Pentagon’s military space launch procurement strategy, showing support for one of the Amazon billionaire’s disputes with major agency procurement programs.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained part of a bid protest from Blue Origin that argued the Air Force’s decision to pick just two of four competing rocket companies to launch the country’s next lineup of defense satellites for the next five years is “flawed”.

Bezos’ Inc <AMZN.O> also challenged the Pentagon’s recent decision to award a $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft Corp <MSFT.O>, claiming politics spoiled a fair contracting process.

Blue Origin, founded by Bezos in 2000, filed its protest in August, claiming the Air Force program “contains a number of flaws preventing offerers from intelligently preparing their proposals” and “squashes nascent competition by locking out non-selected providers for over 5 years.”

The total contract value for the program, called Launch Services Procurement (LSP) Phase 2, is unknown but is expected to be worth billions of dollars, assigning the Pentagon’s next 34 launches of defense satellites from 2022 to 2027 to two companies.

The GAO said Monday the Air Force program’s “basis for award is inconsistent with applicable procurement law and regulation” and recommended the agency change the rules of its solicitation.

If the Air Force disagrees with the GAO’s recommendation, it would be the first time an agency did so since 2015, setting the stage for the U.S. Congress to intervene. Of the nearly 2,000 protest affirmations from the GAO since 2015, only one agency formally declined to implement GAO’s recommendations.

The Air Force has said it “does not plan to revise the terms of the LSP solicitation due to this protest,” believing its current approach is best for national security and open competition.

Congress in 2014 moved to wean the U.S. off its dependency on rockets using Russia’s RD-180 engine for military launches before 2022 by initiating the Air Force LSP, which expects to pick the two award winners by the end of 2020.

United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing Co <BA.N> and Lockheed Martin Corp <LMT.N> whose Atlas 5 rocket uses the RD-180, has long dominated the military launch market, lofting the bulk of U.S. defense satellites to space since its formation in 2006.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX sued the government in 2014 over a multi-billion dollar ULA deal with the Air Force for 36 launches. SpaceX dropped the lawsuit after the Air Force agreed to open up competition.

Northrop Grumman Corp <NOC.N>, SpaceX and ULA have also submitted rocket proposals to the Air Force which is expected to make a final decision by the end of 2020.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Realme 5 arrives in Europe on November 21, in time for Black Friday

Realme's recent entry into European markets debuted with the Realme X2 Pro last month, along with the Realme 5 and Realme 5 Pro. Today, Realme announces that the Realme 5 will become available in European markets starting on November 21, just in time to make sales this upcoming Black Friday (November 29). The Realme 5 is an entry-level quad-camera smartphone. The handset uses a 6.5-inch LCD display with 720p resolution protected by Gorilla Glass 3+. Driving that large display is Android 9 Pie with Color OS layered on top and powered by the Snapdragon 665AIE paired with 3GB or 4GB...

Oil slips as lack of U.S.-China trade talk progress frays investor nerves

November 19, 2019

By Seng Li Peng

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – U.S. oil prices fell for the second straight day on Tuesday amid market jitters over limited progress between China and the United States on rolling back trade tariffs, exacerbated by a rise in U.S. inventories.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude <CLc1> fell 10 cents or 0.18% to $56.95 a barrel by 0148 GMT, falling again from an eight-week high hit last Friday when hopes for the trade deal rose.

Brent crude futures <LCOc1> were down 12 cents, or 0.19%, at $62.32.

A Chinese government source was quoted by broadcaster CNBC on Monday as saying there was gloom in Beijing about prospects for a trade deal, with Chinese officials troubled by U.S. President Donald Trump’s comment that there was no agreement on phasing out tariffs.

“We had reports overnight that the mood in Beijing was pessimistic,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at brokerage CMC Markets in Sydney. “The lack of announcement is really concerning for the demand outlook … the market is very nervous about the trade talks.”

The lingering trade battle that has seen the world’s two biggest economies impose tit-for-tat tariffs on each other has hit global growth prospects and clouded the outlook for future oil demand.

Meanwhile a preliminary Reuters poll on Monday showing U.S. crude oil stockpile were seen rising for the fourth straight week also squeezed prices.

“Unless we get further concrete signs of global growth rally or an extension in production cuts by OPEC+ (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and associated producers including Russia), WTI will struggle to attempt to recapture the $60-a-barrel mark,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

(Reporting by Seng Li Peng; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Bike Rack Effort Ramps Up in Tandem with Safety

Bike Rack Effort Ramps Up in Tandem with Safety

New bike corral at 16th Street and Sanchez

On Monday, SFMTA staff installed a new bike corral at the corner of Sanchez and 16th Street in an existing red zone, with the support of Supervisor Mandelman. This corral is part of a city-wide commitment to expand bike parking, and an effort to assess how bike racks can help to supplement pedestrian safety efforts like daylighting at intersections.

“We’re hard at work to make it easier and safer for people to get out of cars and onto bikes or scooters instead,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “The installation of this new bike corral will add much-needed bike and scooter parking, while also supporting pedestrian safety. I’m looking forward to seeing more corrals installed throughout the city.”

With more emerging mobility options, like scootershare and bikeshare, along with a general increase in bicycling, demand for racks is growing. Stationless permits include a rack fee based on operator fleet sizes. These funds are going towards labor and materials for more racks. Working with the Mayor's office, our agency has committed to installing 100 racks per month, both by requests and proactively in high demand areas. Corrals like this one, which place bike racks in the street against the curb, ensure that more scootershare and bikeshare trips start and end in the street, which encourages users to avoid riding on the sidewalk altogether.

“When we add options to get around our city, we need to make sure we’re adding capacity to safely secure bikes and scooters,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “The commitment announced today is a good start, and I look forward to working with the SFMTA and bicycle and pedestrian advocates to add racks everywhere they are needed in San Francisco.”

This effort will also look at how to optimize daylighting red zones with bike parking. The increased visibility with red zones at intersections can sometimes be obstructed by illegal vehicle parking, and it can allow vehicles to turn closer to the curb than desired. Combining racks and daylighting could simultaneously help to address these issues while increasing the number of racks.

Bikeshare and scootershare aim to provide mobility options that supplement transit as a real alternative to private vehicle trips. Bike racks are a big part of organizing these modes to keep sidewalks clear. If you’d like to request a bike rack or a bike corral, you can make a request here.

Published November 18, 2019 at 07:27PM

Carl Icahn urges U.S. SEC to ‘rethink’ proposed rule change for proxy advisers

November 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn on Monday urged the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to rethink a proposed rule change for proxy adviser firms, saying it would make activist investing “even more difficult and expensive to practice.”

The SEC earlier this month put forward new rules that would require proxy adviser firms to give companies a chance to review proxy materials before they are sent to shareholders.

“I believe the current proposal – which would subject proxy advisory firms to onerous regulations – is a dangerous misstep that will have disastrous repercussions for the U.S. economy,” Icahn wrote in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.(

“This odd arrangement would allow corporations to interfere with advisers’ research – a recipe for disaster,” Icahn wrote, asking the regulator to “rethink” the proposal.

Proxy advisory firms tell investors how to vote on governance issues in corporate elections and cast ballots on behalf of some asset managers. The role of proxy advisers has gained more attention in recent years as the firms have become more influential.

(Reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)

China private firms shun U.S. as investment, IPO destination, survey shows

November 19, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese private firms are shunning the United States in their overseas expansion, and generally prefer a home listing to a U.S. initial public offering (IPO), a private survey showed on Tuesday, highlighting the trade war’s impact on executive decision-making.

The survey is released at a time when U.S. politicians are calling for tighter scrutiny over Chinese investment and capital-raising, while Beijing is encouraging domestic listings by Chinese companies.

Last week, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) proposed measures restricting U.S. capital flows toward Chinese companies.

Despite the trade tensions, Chinese CEOs remain committed to global expansion, but have shifted their focus from the U.S. to Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa, according to a survey conducted jointly by China’s prestigious Tsinghua University and Marcum Bernstein and Pinchuk LLP (MarcumBP), a leading auditor for U.S.-listed Chinese companies.

The survey of more than 1,200 business leaders across China also found that 66% of the respondents see China as the most attractive listing venue, compared with just 18.7% who favor the U.S. market. Hong Kong, even with the city’s violent protests, is also ahead of the U.S as a preferred IPO destination.

“Most executives looking forward are veering away from the United States,” said Drew Bernstein, co-managing partner of MarcumBP.

But he predicted that U.S. investors’ interest in fast-growing Chinese tech Unicorns won’t diminish, and many Chinese companies still need access to the deep and liquid U.S. capital markets for funding.”

“We’re not political people. We’re just business people,” said Bernstein, who also provides advisory services to Chinese companies. “The truth is that there’s not a lot of space in business for politics.”

According to the survey, fielded at the start of the third quarter, 71% of the Chinese CEOs said they’re “very willing to consider mergers and acquisitions” as part of their growth strategy, with acquiring advanced technology being the most important factor in such activities.

USCC, in its 2019 report to Congress last week, said that sustained Chinese investment in cutting-edge sectors in the U.S. raises concern for U.S. policymakers.

USCC recommends that Congress enact legislation to preclude Chinese companies from issuing securities on U.S. stock exchanges if their disclosure is inadequate and doesn’t conform to U.S. rules.

“I think there are going to be steps taken to try to improve and ensure the reliability of financial statements of these companies,” Bernstein said, adding, though, that the move was not necessarily politically-driven.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen and John Ruwitch; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Kuroda says BOJ will keep easy monetary policy bias

November 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Tuesday the central bank will keep its monetary policy bias toward additional easing, given overseas risks that cloud the country’s economic outlook.

“Japan’s economy is expected to continue expanding and inflation will gradually head toward our 2% target. But we need to remain vigilant to downside risks, particularly those regarding the global economy,” Kuroda told parliament.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

This pitbull pulled out his teddy to show it to the dog of the other car. via /r/aww

Sermons with saline: Hong Kong pastor offers protesters aid, prayers

November 19, 2019

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Wearing cross and clerical collar, Hong Kong pastor Alan Keung says he brings God’s love to the masses in a different way these days, using saline to wash away tear gas fired at crowds of protesters on tumultuous streets, or helping injured police.

Five months of anti-government demonstrations have pulled Hong Kong residents from all walks of life into the often-violent protests. Keung is among other clergy offering care and prayer to all who need it.

(Click to see a picture package of Keung.)

Wearing a black helmet emblazoned with the word “Pastor” in English and Chinese, the 28-year-old is one of a group of volunteer medics helping people scrub from their faces the traces of gas, and bringing relief from its sting.

“My mission is to bring God’s love to the crowd,” he said. “To let them know that there’s a pastor who is willing to be together with all of them.”

Amid volleys of tear gas, Keung ran up a pavement in the Chinese-ruled city, offering pedestrians and protesters squirts of saline solution from a large plastic bottle.

“Sometimes we will even help injured police officers who need our assistance,” he said. In July, his group surrounded police officers to shield them from angry passengers after an attack by white-shirted men at a train station.

Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula adopted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Keung has been a pastor for seven years and his congregation of about 30 consists mostly of young people at his Christianity Mission, in a neighborhood in the northwest of the territory.

Floppy hair swept across his forehead and round-framed glasses give Keung a boyish appearance, but he is resolute in offering support at the demonstrations, where he takes hold of protesters’ hands to say a short prayer.

“I am not someone who merely stays in the church and talks about humanity, justice and morality, and ignores what’s going on at the frontline,” he said.

“This is not what I want to do. I want to show my companionship at the frontline and to be in the crowd when I’m needed.”

Keung said he had woven into his preaching some lessons he learnt from the protests.

“Don’t feel like you’re not part of this,” he told a recent church gathering, as uniformed children listened wide-eyed. “Every one of you is the future of Hong Kong and the world. Every one of you is involved.”

(Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Gett’s Juno ends NYC ride-hailing services, citing regulation

November 19, 2019

By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) – Israeli transportation company Gett said it will end its New York City ride-hailing business Juno on Monday, citing “misguided regulations” enacted to combat city congestion earlier this year.

The company told Juno users on Monday its service would cease to operate that evening, directing riders instead to former competitor Lyft Inc, which it has struck a strategic partnership with. Beginning in 2020, users of the Gett taxi app will be able to request Lyft-operated rides.

Gett and Lyft declined to provide financial details of their partnership.

Gett said it would increasingly focus on the corporate transportation sector.

The company faced growing pressure as regulation damaged ride volumes, making profitability a distant and difficult prospect.

New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) last year implemented several laws challenging the way ride-share companies operate in North America’s largest city, one of the industry’s biggest markets.

Since January, private ride-hailing trips below Manhattan’s 96th Street are taxed at $2.75, while shared rides are charged 75 cents. The charge must be passed on to passengers and cannot be taken out of drivers’ pay, the law says.

New rules also cap the number of app-based, for-hire cars and established minimum pay for the city’s 80,000 ride-share drivers based on how much time they spend transporting passengers.

Beginning next year, the law also limits time drivers spend “cruising” – driving to or waiting to pick up new passengers.

Juno, which launched its NYC ride-hailing service in 2016, marketed itself as retaining happier drivers by taking a smaller commission from every ride. Gett acquired the company in 2017 for $200 million.

“Juno’s closure in New York City is further evidence that the TLC’s approach has created an uneven playing field that reduces choice for riders and drivers,” Lyft said in a statement on Monday.

Asked about the impact of NYC’s regulation, Uber Technologies Inc Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi told investors during a third-quarter earnings call on Nov. 4 that significant price increases were slowing down trip growth, but that the business overall was “quite resilient to the environment around it.”

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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