Trump declares himself a ‘nationalist’

President Donald Trump called himself a “nationalist” on Monday while stumping for Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston, Texas. Trump has increasingly been using the same type of “us versus them” rhetoric that he used during the presidential campaign to encourage his sup…
Read More

Oil dips as Saudi Arabia pledges to play ‘responsible role’ in market

Oil prices dipped on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia pledged to play a “responsible role” in energy markets, although sentiment remained nervous in the run-up to U.S. sanctions against Iran’s crude exports that start next month.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $79.62 a barrel at 0427 GMT, down 21 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $69.26 a barrel, dropping 10 cents from their last settlement.

U.S. sanctions against Iran’s oil exports are due to kick off on Nov. 4.

Top crude oil exporter Saudi Arabia has pledged to keep markets supplied despite its increasing isolation over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

There has been concern that just as markets tighten with the start of the U.S. sanctions against Iran, Saudi Arabia could cut crude supply in retaliation for potential sanctions against it over the Khashoggi killing.

Trying to dismiss such worries, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday that “there is no intention” for such action, and that Saudi Arabia would play a “constructive and responsible role” in world energy markets.

Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Singapore, said a Saudi cutback would be self-defeating as “Saudi Arabia would… risk losing market share to other exporters while losing its reputation as a stable actor in the market.”

Despite this, Sukrit Vijayakar, director of energy consultancy Trifecta, said “markets are… weary of the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil sector,” estimating the sanctions “could impact up to 1.5 million barrels per day of supply.”

J.P. Morgan said it raised its 2019 Brent price forecast by a whopping $20.50 per barrel to $83.50 saying this “bullish argument is strongly driven by tighter supply due to Iranian sanctions and declining spare capacity”.

Not everyone is so bullish. Shipping brokerage Eastport said crude prices were “expected to decline in coming months, as rising production in the U.S. offsets increasing global demand”.

U.S. crude oil production has climbed by almost a third since mid-2016 to around 11 million barrels per day, and rising drilling activity points to further increases.

Reflecting a cautious outlook, traders have been curbing their exposure to oil markets by shutting long positions in crude futures, with fund managers cutting their combined positions by a total of 187 million barrels in the last three weeks, according to exchange and regulatory data.

Read More

Check those taquitos. Possible salmonella contamination causes massive Ruiz recall

More than 2.4 million pounds of frozen taquitos are being recalled due to possible contaminations.

The ready-to-eat meat and poultry taquitos from Dinuba-based Ruiz Food Products Inc. were were produced from July 1 through Oct. 10 and shipped nationwide, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said in a statement Friday.

The diced onions used in the products may be contaminated with salmonella and listeria, the USDA said.

Affected by the recall are:

  • 4.5-pound cardboard cases containing 24-count Go-Go Taquitos “Beef Taco and Cheese Taquito,” with a case code 86183 printed on the label.
  • 4.5-pound cardboard cases containing 24-count Go-Go Taquitos “Buffalo Style Cooked Glazed Chicken Taquitos” with a case code 86006 printed on the label.
  • 4.5-pound cardboard cases containing 24-count Go-Go Taquitos “Chipotle Chicken Wrapped in A Battered Flour Tortilla” with a case code 86019 printed on the label.

The products will have the establishment numbers “17523A or P-17523A” and “45694 or P-45694” in the USDA mark of inspection. Symptoms of salmonellosis (from Salmonella) include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating. Listeriosis (from listeria) can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions, mostly in older adults of those with weakened immune systems.

There have been no confirmed reports of illness due to consumption of these products, but the USDA suggests anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider. And, as always the USDA, urges anyone who have bought these products to throw them away.

Read More

Walmart to expand shipping perks for shoppers ahead of the holidays

In the fight for shoppers’ holiday dollars, retailers are increasingly touting perks like free shipping and easy returns.

Walmart said Tuesday it’s expanding two-day shipping and in-store returns to many items sold by third parties on its website next month, just ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.

The move comes as Amazon and Target, two top retail rivals, have been improving their own shipping perks to convince shoppers to pick them over the competition. When it gets down to the last minute, shoppers who procrastinate later this year will be flocking to the retailers that can get items to them fastest before Christmas.

And after all those packages have been opened, many consumers will be heading back to stores to return unwanted gifts and are looking for as painless of an experience possible. Some $90 billion worth of goods was returned last holiday season.

For the past two years, Walmart has offered free two-day shipping on millions of items on its site without a membership fee, on orders of $35 or more. This latest step will add “millions of additional items” to this perk, according to Walmart. The retailer currently has more than 75 million items available for sale on its website. It doesn’t break out how many of those are sold by Walmart versus third parties.

The discount retailer also on Tuesday confirmed the steps it’s taking to making returning products sold by third-party sellers even easier, which is starting to roll out this month. CNBC reported these expected changes in August.

Shoppers will now be able to print out a return label directly from Walmart’s website and mail unwanted items back to sellers, the company said. Or, they can bring a package back to the services desk at Walmart locations, and Walmart will mail boxes back to sellers. Walmart said it will make this option available at all of its 4,700 stores.

“A great product return experience is a top contributor to overall customer satisfaction and repeat purchases,” Scott Hilton, the chief revenue officer of Walmart’s e-commerce division, said in a blog post.

For comparison, Target earlier this year began offering its credit-card holders free two-day shipping. The retailer’s REDcard also takes 5 percent off all purchases. Target shoppers without the credit card can still receive free two-day shipping with a purchase of more than $35, similar to Walmart. Amazon meanwhile offers free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members, which costs $119 a year.

“Retailers realize they are fighting for convenience,” Rod Sides, head of Deloitte’s retail practice, told CNBC. “At the end of the day, they have to bring everything to you.”

Read More

Amazon, Super Micro Join Apple in Demanding Retraction of Bloomberg Story on Hacked Server Boards

Networking cables in a server room in New York (stock photo).
Photo: Michael Bocchieri (Getty Images)

A report earlier this month from Bloomberg Businessweek alleging 17 unnamed sources had confirmed Chinese spies infiltrated the supply chain of microchip manufacturer Super Micro, installing tiny espionage chips that allowed them to wiretap systems belonging to almost 30 U.S. companies, has earned denials from Homeland Security, Apple, and Amazon. Now executives from Super Micro and Amazon are following Apple CEO Tim Cook’s lead and publicly demanding a retraction of the story, the Verge reported Monday.

Apple has repeatedly denied the story, including in letters to Congress. Cook told BuzzFeed News there was “no truth” in the story last week, saying “They need to do the right thing” and retract the piece. Now Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy as well as Super Micro CEO Charles Liang have issued similar calls.

“@tim_cook is right. Bloomberg story is wrong about Amazon, too,” Jassy tweeted. “They offered no proof, story kept changing, and showed no interest in our answers unless we could validate their theories. Reporters got played or took liberties. Bloomberg should retract.”

“Bloomberg should act responsibly and retract its unsupported allegations that malicious hardware components were implanted in our motherboards during the manufacturing process,” Liang told CNBC’s Steve Kopack. “…Bloomberg has not produced a single affected motherboard, we have seen no malicious hardware components in our products, no government agency has contacted us about malicious hardware components, and no customer has reported finding any malicious hardware components, either.”

In a separate letter from Super Micro to the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained by the Wall Street Journal, the company added, “despite the lack of any proof that a malicious hardware chip exists, we are undertaking a complicated and time-consuming review to further address the article.”

Super Micro’s stock plummeted following the original story.

While the denials are unusually strong—and skepticism has built in some quarters about the allegations—Bloomberg has stood by the story, publishing an additional account from security expert Yossi Appleboum that he had discovered a bugged Super Micro ethernet connector in the server of a major telecom. (Appleboum, though, also said he had found similar gear before and that such security holes affect the entire “Chinese supply chain.”) Bloomberg also insisted that the DHS denial was not ironclad because a separate agency, the FBI, ran the investigation into the bugged equipment, the Register wrote:

That is a plausible explanation. It is also possible that Apple and Amazon have walled-off security arms that do not communicate with the larger corporate body and it is they that discovered the spy chip and worked with intelligence agencies. Such a corporate disassociation would provide a buffer that enables executives to deny their activities or findings.

Just as likely however is that Bloomberg’s reporters made mistakes in their reporting and the organization failed to adequately fact check the article. Or that they stumbled on an intelligence misinformation campaign and have been effectively reporting its effectiveness within certain groups of people.

No physical examples of the allegedly bugged equipment have yet turned up.

The original report seemed to match up with other concerns from Western governments and companies that Chinese manufacturers could be compromised by intelligence operatives. Best Buy, for example, stopped selling Huawei devices earlier this year, and Chinese companies may be shut out of bidding on U.S. 5G network expansion contracts. U.S. lawmakers have also warned that networking equipment produced by Huawei and ZTE pose a national security threat, though the companies involved have denied the allegations.

Chinese hackers allegedly stole trade secrets from U.S. companies for years before a 2015 international agreement seemed to cool the trend. (According to Axios, CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch said the cyberattacks seem to have picked up again starting last year.) But many of the more recent allegations have come at a time when Donald Trump’s decision to start trade war has already strained relations with China, and the primary short-term impact of the espionage allegations has been to add fuel to the fire. In that sense, it’s been difficult to separate accusations founded in truth from those that may be bluster.

With the major companies involved united in demanding a retraction, the battle over the Super Micro hacking allegations is likely to continue. In a statement to the Journal on Monday, a Bloomberg spokesperson wrote that 17 different people “confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks…. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.”

[The Verge]

Read More

Philip Morris unveils new smokeless cigarettes in a bid to rev up sales

With the iQOS 3, like older models, users must put the device back in the case to charge after each time they use it. The new iQOS 3 Multi can be used 10 times before needing to be recharged. It’s bulkier than the traditional iQOS device, but executives say consumers also requested this change.

“In today’s world, you need to update the product and integrate consumer feedback and insights,” CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said in an interview with CNBC. “So for people who have been with the current version of iQOS, clearly it’s about time we have something new. But the key objective here is also to convince more people in Japan and around the world to switch out of cigarettes and into iQOS…”

Calantzopoulos said introducing the iQOS 3 Multi eliminates competitors’ advantage. Some brands, including British American Tobacco‘s Glo and KT&G’s Lil, advertise themselves as superior to iQOS because they can be used multiple times without needing a charge, he said.

In Japan, PMI will introduce HEETS, a less expensive line of heatsticks for iQOS devices in an attempt to woo consumers who may have felt switching from cigarettes to iQOS was too pricey. Currently, only Marlboro-branded heatsticks are available in Japan. The addition of HEETS makes Japan the first market to offer both a premium and a value brand.

PMI originally planned to introduce HEETS in the first quarter of next year but sped up the launch as growth has started to stall.

Japan has been such a successful market for PMI that it’s become somewhat of a proxy for the company’s prospects in pivoting toward smoke-free products and new revenue streams. When PMI in April said growth in Japan had “plateaued,” the company’s stock plummeted 16 percent to its worst day since spinning off from Altria in 2008.

PMI shares are up nearly 5 percent over the past week after showing progress in most iQOS markets in the third quarter.

Executives said they expected sales to slow at some point once they converted early adopters and innovators but hadn’t quite attracted older, more traditional cigarette smokers. They hope the new products will appeal to both existing iQOS users and new ones.

In the third quarter, iQOS captured 15.5 percent of the entire tobacco market in Japan, up from 11.9 percent in the year before but down slightly from 15.8 percent in the first quarter of this year. In Korea, iQOS represented 7.4 percent in the third quarter, up from 2.5 percent from the year-ago quarter but only slightly higher than the 7.3 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Calantzopoulos said investors can expect to see how the new devices are affecting the company’s financial results by the end of the first quarter next year.

PMI is awaiting a decision from the Food and Drug Administration on whether it can sell iQOS in the U.S. If approved, the device would not be the new ones.

Read More