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S-Oil Swung to Third-Quarter Net Profit After Two Quarters of Losses
   By Kwanwoo Jun 
 

S-Oil Corp. swung to a net profit in the third quarter after two consecutive quarters of losses, helped by a gradual recovery in oil demand and prices.

Net profit for the quarter ended Sept. 30 was 30.28 billion Korean won ($26.8 million), snapping a two-quarter losing streak, the South Korea-based oil refiner said Wednesday.

That result, still down 41% from net profit of KRW51.59 billion a year earlier, missed a FactSet consensus forecast for net profit of KRW98.81 billion.

Revenue fell 38% to KRW3.899 trillion.

The company posted an operating loss of KRW9.25 billion, versus an operating profit of KRW230.74 billion a year earlier.

The company said oil-refining margins still remained suppressed amid the pandemic in the third quarter and may improve in the fourth quarter.

S-Oil, however, cautioned that a resurgence of Covid-19 cases could limit the expected recovery.

Shares rise 0.2% after the company released quarterly results.

Write to Kwanwoo Jun at kwanwoo.jun@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 21:35 ET (01:35 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Global Markets News of the Day
Dow, S&P 500 Slide After Big Selloff 
 

Rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook.

 
Proposal Would Broaden Transactions Recorded Under Anti-Money-Laundering Rule 
 

A proposed anti-money-laundering rule change would lower the threshold for when information on senders and receivers of international financial transfers is collected and passed along to other financial institution.

 
WTO Is Poised to Pick First Female Leader 
 

The World Trade Organization is set to pick its first female leader in coming days, offering a fresh start to a body weakened by fights between the U.S. and China at a time of global economic crisis.

 
Trump Weighs Executive Order to Show Support for Fracking 
 

President Trump is considering issuing an executive order mandating an economic analysis of fracking, according to senior administration officials, who say the initiative is aimed at highlighting his support for the energy industry in battleground states.

 
U.S. Election Adds to Turkish Lira's Bumpy Ride 
 

Traders already wary of Turkish assets are concerned that a victory for Joe Biden in the U.S. presidential election could increase the chance of sanctions against Turkey.

 
France Emerges as Covid-19 Epicenter as Cases Surge Across Europe 
 

French hospitals are bracing for a surge of new patients and the government is weighing new restrictions as the country emerges as the epicenter of the second wave of coronavirus infections now sweeping much of Europe.

 
New U.S. Coronavirus Cases Near 70,000 
 

Two key Covid-19 metrics have been rising in the U.S. for days, and in some cases weeks, pointing to a fresh surge in infections in a majority of states.

 
U.S. Home-Price Growth Accelerated in August 
 

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 5.7% in the year that ended in August.

 
Durable-Goods Orders Rise for Fifth Consecutive Month 
 

Orders for long-lasting factory goods increased in September, the latest sign manufacturing companies are rebounding from supply-chain disruptions and shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

 
SEC Corporation Finance Director William Hinman Plans to Step Down This Year 
 

The exit is part of the usual wave of departures from federal regulatory agencies at the end of a presidential term.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 21:15 ET (01:15 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Company News of the Day
Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud 
 

The software company said total sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year.

 
Bayer, BASF Weedkillers Cleared by EPA for Another Five Years 
 

The agency said its reapproval of dicamba herbicides, which have been blamed for damaging millions of acres of crops in recent years, would provide clarity to farmers who say they need the spray to combat hard-to-kill weeds.

 
Revlon Warns of Possible Bankruptcy Reorganization if Bond Swap Flops 
 

The beauty-products maker warned bondholders about the substantial risk of a bankruptcy restructuring if they don't participate in a proposed debt exchange.

 
Visa's Planned Purchase of Plaid Faces Antitrust Scrutiny at the Justice Department 
 

The DOJ, making preparations for potential litigation, could soon decide whether it will sue to block Visa's purchase of the fintech firm.

 
Eli Lilly Earnings, Halted Covid-19 Drug Trial Disappoint Investors 
 

The drugmaker reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings due to pricing pressure on top products. It said it would proceed with plans to introduce a new coronavirus antibody treatment despite a recent setback.

 
Purdue Creditors Committee Criticizes U.S. Deal With Sackler Family 
 

The federal government's proposed settlement with the Sackler family members who own OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma ran into opposition from company creditors worried that less money will be left over for them.

 
SoCal Edison Says It May Have Caused Orange County Wildfire 
 

The Silverado Fire has consumed more than 11,000 acres of tinder-dry brush in the foothills above Irvine and other cities south of Los Angeles.

 
Beam Suntory to Pay $19 Million to Settle Bribery Probe 
 

Beam Suntory Inc. has agreed to pay $19 million to resolve a criminal probe into bribes the maker of spirits allegedly paid to sell a line of its products in India, the U.S. Justice Department said.

 
Raytheon Shrinks to Fit Jet Downturn 
 

The biggest aerospace supplier by sales said it is cutting 20,000 jobs this year-up from a previously announced 15,000-as it adjusts to the shrinking airline industry and the sharp drop in jetliner orders and deliveries.

 
T-Mobile Makes Another Bid for Pay-TV Viewers 
 

The cellphone carrier unveiled a new wireless TV service that will stream channels like CNN and ESPN in bundles costing between $10 and $60 a month.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 21:15 ET (01:15 GMT)

Malaysia Glove Maker Supermax Seeks Dual Listing on Singapore Exchange
   By Chester Tay 
 

Supermax Corp. Bhd. is looking to widen its shareholder structure base via a dual listing on the Singapore Exchange.

The proposed SGX listing is still in the initial stages and the structure hasn't been finalized, the glove maker said in a stock exchange filing late Tuesday.

Supermax said the proposed listing would expand and diversify its shareholder base and serve as a platform for it to pursue growth opportunities by opening up additional fundraising channels.

Write to Chester Tay at chester.tay@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 20:48 ET (00:48 GMT)

Huaneng Power's 3Q Profit More Than Doubled on Lower Expenses

Huaneng Power International Inc. said third-quarter net profit more than doubled as lower operating and financing costs offset a drop in power prices and demand in China.

Net profit for the quarter was 3.40 billion yuan ($507.0 million) compared with CNY1.56 billion a year earlier, the Beijing-based company said late Tuesday.

Operating revenue fell 2.6% from a year earlier to CNY42.70 billion.

For the first nine months of the year, profit rose 69% to CNY9.13 billion, while revenue fell 4.3% to CNY121.82 billion, largely due to a decrease in power sales and prices in China, the company said.

Write to Singapore editors at singaporeeditors@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 20:28 ET (00:28 GMT)

Bayer, BASF Weedkillers Cleared by EPA for Another Five Years
By Jacob Bunge 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will extend its approval of controversial weedkillers for another five years, a victory for agriculture companies Bayer AG and BASF SE.

The agency said Tuesday its reapproval of dicamba herbicides, which have been blamed for damaging millions of acres of crops in recent years, would provide clarity to farmers who say they need the spray to combat hard-to-kill weeds. Tighter nationwide rules around when and where the herbicide can be sprayed on farms will help limit injury to crops and residential gardens, the agency said.

"We have reached a resolution that is good for our farmers and our environment," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

The dicamba weedkillers are paired with soybean and cotton seeds that have been genetically engineered to withstand the spray. The companies pitch the combination as a way for farmers to defeat costly weeds like palmer amaranth and marestail that have developed resistance to other common farm herbicides, like Bayer's Roundup.

However, dicamba has divided farmers since the companies released the products about four years ago.

The chemical is prone to evaporating and drifting on the wind, potentially threatening nearby fields, and state agriculture departments have received thousands of farmer complaints of crop damage linked to dicamba. The chemical companies and some farmers have defended dicamba, saying that their formulations of the herbicide are less prone to evaporation, and that the sprays can be controlled by following manufacturers' directions.

In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the EPA overlooked risks to other crops when the agency last approved the herbicides in 2018, and revoked those approvals. While that ruling came after many farmers were done spraying dicamba for the year, it raised pressure on the EPA as the agency considered granting new dicamba approvals, which were scheduled to be decided by late 2020.

To help protect vulnerable crops, the EPA said Tuesday it would prohibit the dicamba herbicides from being applied to soybeans after June 30, and on cotton after July 30. Those dates are intended to protect vulnerable crops and vegetation in the middle of the growing season. The agency also expanded buffer zones around fields where dicamba is sprayed, and will require farmers to mix the herbicides with an additional chemical agent designed to better hold dicamba where it is sprayed.

BASF's U.S. Crop Vice President Scott Kay said the ruling will help farmers keep their fields clear of weeds and save them money.

Alex Zenteno, dicamba product manager for Bayer, said that adding the new chemical agent would help farmers keep control over dicamba, and that the company would train farmers on the new requirements.

Bayer in June agreed to pay up to $400 million to settle dicamba-related damage claims.

The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, two environmental groups behind the legal challenge to the EPA's prior dicamba approval, said they would likely challenge this one, too.

Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the new restrictions proposed by the EPA were unlikely to curb damage, partly because many farmers are already done spraying dicamba by the EPA's new cutoff dates.

"It doesn't seem like the EPA has learned their lesson, and it doesn't seem like they are complying with the order of the court," Mr. Donley said.

Write to Jacob Bunge at jacob.bunge@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 19:49 ET (23:49 GMT)

Lawmakers Want to Protect Local Newspapers From Google, Facebook -- 2nd Update
By Keach Hagey 

Some Senate Democrats are seeking to enable regulators to protect local news outlets, accusing tech giants such as Google and Facebook of "unfair business practices," according to a new report by members of a key committee that will hear from the top industry executives this week.

Released on the eve of the Senate Commerce Committee's hearing Wednesday with the chief executives of Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., the report argues that local journalism is in a crisis -- badly exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic -- partly because of alleged anticompetitive behavior on the part of the tech platforms that ought to be policed by the Federal Trade Commission.

"They are facing unfair practices," Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.), the ranking member on the committee, said in an interview. "We think Congress and the FTC should address those unfair practices."

A Google spokeswoman said the report "distorts the reality around Google's role in the online news ecosystem and the value that we provide to publishers who face challenges in transitioning to the digital world."

Facebook took issue with the report's allegation that tech giants take local news content and data for their own sites, a practice known as scraping. "The accusation that we scrape news articles is simply not true," a Facebook spokesman said.

The report also proposed a range of other legislative changes, including a law that would force tech platforms to negotiate with local news outlets to ensure those organizations are paid for their content, in much the same way that local TV broadcasters are paid by cable and satellite companies for distributing their content.

Painting a grim portrait of the state of the local U.S. news industry, the report noted that it had lost 70% of its revenue in the past two decades, while today Google and Facebook control 77% of local digital ad revenue.

The report argued that the FTC needs new authority now so it can force Google and Facebook to change their practices, given that the Justice Department's current antitrust lawsuit against Google could take years to be resolved.

Democrats don't currently control committee business in the Republican-controlled Senate. Criticism of the tech platforms has been bipartisan lately, though Republicans tend to be more focused on fears that the platforms are silencing conservatives.

Senate Republicans have been critical of the tech platforms' influence over the publishing landscape. During a Senate hearing last month, Republican senators including Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) asked tough questions of a Google executive about the search giant's dominant market power in the ecosystem of tools that connect web publishers and advertisers. "This looks like monopoly upon monopoly," Mr. Hawley said at one point.

The Senate Commerce Committee minority report cited practices such as Google's requirement that publishers agree to put their content on Google-hosted Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, to receive a decent search ranking on mobile. Publishers have complained the technology deprives them of customer data and hurts subscription rates.

The report also argued that Google search, by using local publishers' headlines and snippets without compensation and increasingly answering queries on Google without pushing users through to publisher websites, was abusing the original intent of copyright law's notion of "fair use."

Publishers have complained about similar "take it or leave it" dynamics with other Google products, such as Google News and Google Discover, a feed of recommended content. In a report this summer, the News Media Alliance, the news publishers' trade group, alleged that Google's overwhelming market power has effectively deprived publishers of the ability to enforce the copyrights to their own material, since in effect there is no substitutable competitor they would work with instead if they don't like Google's terms.

The Google spokeswoman said Google sends traffic to news websites and its ad products help publishers make money. Google also has reached agreements with selected publishers around the world to license news content.

Citing multiple Wall Street Journal articles on the topic, the report notes that while Facebook has made deals to pay license fees to some publishers, they only cover about a quarter of the local news services whose content Facebook displays in its news tab.

The Facebook spokesman said the company gives "news organizations the ability to post news on Facebook free of charge, and they have full control over how that content is accessed and monetized." He also said Facebook has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on programs and partnerships to help local news.

Wall Street Journal parent company News Corp has been among the companies that have called for Google and Facebook to pay organizations that provide quality news.

The report called on the Senate to pass a set of coronavirus-relief measures similar to what the House passed earlier this year, which would expand the kinds of local news outlets that could qualify for Paycheck Protection Program funds.

It also argued Congress should consider requiring tech platforms to negotiate with local news outlets for use of their content, in much the same way that Congress required cable operators to get permission from broadcasters -- known as "retransmission consent" -- before carrying their programming as part of the 1992 Cable Act. Today the fees that local TV stations get from cable and satellite companies are the engine of their growth, making up more than 40% of their revenue, according to Moody's.

Local newspapers are "just too important a part of our democracy and our economy to let continue to disappear," Ms. Cantwell said.

Write to Keach Hagey at keach.hagey@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 19:37 ET (23:37 GMT)

Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud, Videogaming -- 3rd Update
By Aaron Tilley 

Microsoft Corp. expects the pandemic-era surge in demand for cloud-computing services, videogaming and computers that delivered a solid quarter to persist at least through the rest of the year.

The software company on Tuesday said sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations on revenue and profit for the quarter ending in September.

Revenue from Azure, the company's massive cloud-computing service that has underpinned its financial success in recent years, increased 48% from the year-ago period.

"Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year, " Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said.

Microsoft's personal computing business -- which includes licensing revenue from PC sales, the Xbox gaming platform and Surface laptops -- saw sales advance 6% to $11.8 billion. The gaming content business saw a 30% jump in sales over the previous year.

The company this quarter will release its new Xbox Series X gaming console into one of the hottest videogaming markets. "We expect very strong demand following the launch of our next generation Xbox Series X and S consoles," Ms. Hood said.

Chief Executive Satya Nadella is doubling down on the company's gaming effort. Microsoft last month said it would spend $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc., the owner of game developer Bethesda Softworks as well as the Doom videogame franchise. The deal came shortly after Mr. Nadella's failed bid to buy parts of the popular short-form video app TikTok from Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

Microsoft forecast record-breaking sales for the current quarter. But its projection for $13.2 billion to $13.6 billion in revenue for the segment that included its gaming business fell short of Wall Street's lofty expectations, sending the stock down more than 1.5% in after-hours trading.

Throughout the pandemic, Microsoft has enjoyed a boost to its cloud services, including its workplace-collaboration software package Teams that offers features that compete with Slack Technologies Inc. and video-teleconferencing service Zoom Video Communications Inc.

Teams, Mr. Nadella said, now has more than 115 million daily active users, up from 75 million daily active users disclosed in April. He added that many of the changes made during the pandemic to how people work are expected to last.

"It's clear that people will need more flexibility in when, where and how they work," Mr. Nadella said. "The next decade of economic performance for every business will be defined by the speed of their digital transformation."

The shift to the cloud is expected to be a continuing focus for companies. Research firm International Data Corporation Tuesday said that by the end of next year it expects 80% of enterprises will put a mechanism in place to shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications -- a rate twice as fast as before the pandemic.

Strong demand for long-term Azure contracts swelled commercial bookings in the quarter, Microsoft said. They rose 23% year-over-year, far ahead of the 7% and 12% increases the Redmond, Wash.-based company saw in the previous two quarters during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Azure is now a bigger source of Microsoft revenue than its iconic Windows software package, said Brent Bracelin, an analyst at Piper Sandler. The company doesn't break out Azure sales figures.

Sales from commercial cloud, a broader metric of its cloud business, reached $15.2 billion in the most recent quarter, compared with $11.6 billion in the year-ago period.

And with people working from home and many students still stuck learning remotely, laptops and tablets have been selling strongly. Microsoft said sales of its Surface computing devices grew 37%.

"Enterprises are transitioning from Covid-19 triage to starting to renew their digital transformation plans with a focus on hybrid work. Microsoft is taking advantage of this phenomenon," said Patrick Moorhead, president of the technology-industry analysis firm Moor Insights & Strategy.

The increase in cloud demand hasn't been pain free, though. Microsoft has at times struggled to keep its cloud services running smoothly. An outage last month resulted in its cloud software tools being inaccessible for hours.

Microsoft also could see its search-engine business, Bing, gain momentum after the Justice Department filed an antitrust case against Alphabet Inc.-owned Google for its practices in search and advertising. Bing has less than 7% market share in the U.S. search-engine market, little changed since it launched in 2009. The Google case, though, is expected to take years to play out. Microsoft's ad businesses, meanwhile, remains under pressure as companies cut back on spending during the pandemic. Ad sales, the company said, fell 10%.

Write to Aaron Tilley at aaron.tilley@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 19:33 ET (23:33 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Global Markets News of the Day
Dow, S&P 500 Slide After Big Selloff 
 

Rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook.

 
Proposal Would Broaden Transactions Recorded Under Anti-Money-Laundering Rule 
 

A proposed anti-money-laundering rule change would lower the threshold for when information on senders and receivers of international financial transfers is collected and passed along to other financial institution.

 
U.S. Home-Price Growth Accelerated in August 
 

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 5.7% in the year that ended in August.

 
WTO Is Poised to Pick First Female Leader 
 

The World Trade Organization is set to pick its first female leader in coming days, offering a fresh start to a body weakened by fights between the U.S. and China at a time of global economic crisis.

 
Durable-Goods Orders Rise for Fifth Consecutive Month 
 

Orders for long-lasting factory goods increased in September, the latest sign manufacturing companies are rebounding from supply-chain disruptions and shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

 
SEC Corporation Finance Director William Hinman Plans to Step Down This Year 
 

The exit is part of the usual wave of departures from federal regulatory agencies at the end of a presidential term.

 
Bipartisan Retirement Bill Offers Later Withdrawals, Paths to Lost Accounts 
 

A new proposal contains a broad mix of measures to encourage retirement savings, with a grab bag of incentives and relaxed restrictions.

 
These Real-Estate Loans Require a New York State of Mind 
 

Investors have questioned the health of some New York City real-estate loans amid the pandemic, but the situation for now often isn't as dire as it might seem.

 
South Korean Economy Returns to Growth 
 

South Korea's gross domestic product rose 1.9% during the July-to-September period from the previous quarter, shaking off the pandemic's worst effects.

 
U.S. Election Adds to Turkish Lira's Bumpy Ride 
 

Traders already wary of Turkish assets are concerned that a victory for Joe Biden in the U.S. presidential election could increase the chance of sanctions against Turkey.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 19:15 ET (23:15 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Company News of the Day
Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud 
 

The software company said total sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year.

 
SoCal Edison Says It May Have Caused Orange County Wildfire 
 

The Silverado Fire has consumed more than 11,000 acres of tinder-dry brush in the foothills above Irvine and other cities south of Los Angeles.

 
Revlon Warns of Possible Bankruptcy Reorganization if Bond Swap Flops 
 

The beauty-products maker warned bondholders about the substantial risk of a bankruptcy restructuring if they don't participate in a proposed debt exchange.

 
Eli Lilly Earnings, Halted Covid-19 Drug Trial Disappoint Investors 
 

The drugmaker reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings due to pricing pressure on top products. It said it would proceed with plans to introduce a new coronavirus antibody treatment despite a recent setback.

 
Visa's Planned Purchase of Plaid Faces Antitrust Scrutiny at the Justice Department 
 

The DOJ, making preparations for potential litigation, could soon decide whether it will sue to block Visa's purchase of the fintech firm.

 
Raytheon Shrinks to Fit Jet Downturn 
 

The biggest aerospace supplier by sales said it is cutting 20,000 jobs this year-up from a previously announced 15,000-as it adjusts to the shrinking airline industry and the sharp drop in jetliner orders and deliveries.

 
T-Mobile Makes Another Bid for Pay-TV Viewers 
 

The cellphone carrier unveiled a new wireless TV service that will stream channels like CNN and ESPN in bundles costing between $10 and $60 a month.

 
Callaway Golf to Buy Rest of Topgolf 
 

Callaway Golf agreed to buy the rest of Topgolf Entertainment Group in a deal that values the driving-range operator at $2 billion and brings the maker of golf balls and clubs into sports entertainment.

 
Coronavirus Prompts Rent the Runway to Think Beyond Rentals 
 

The startup is raising a new round of financing and is focusing on selling clothes, not just renting them, after the startup suffered a near-fatal blow from a coronavirus pandemic that has kept women home for most of the year.

 
A Broken Up AIG Would Still Have Work to Do 
 

AIG's property-and-casualty unit could fetch a better valuation on its own, but it will likely still trail its rivals for now.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 19:15 ET (23:15 GMT)

Justice Department Cites Treatment of Hunter Biden Articles in Call to Change Law Protecting Online Platforms
By Brent Kendall and Aruna Viswanatha 

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said it was concerned that Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. restricted access to recent New York Post stories about the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, telling lawmakers the department supported bipartisan interest in changing a law providing legal protections to online platforms.

The department made the comments Tuesday in a letter to Capitol Hill leaders ahead of a high-profile Senate hearing Wednesday in which Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will testify.

The letter, signed by Stephen E. Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, said online platforms "hold tremendous power over information" and must "be honest and transparent with users about how they use that power. And when they are not, it is critical that they can be held accountable."

"For example, the decision by two social media companies to restrict access to news content of significant public interest from the New York Post, a widely distributed journalism publication, is quite concerning," the department wrote.

The letter didn't mention Facebook, Twitter or the Biden family by name, but suggested the department didn't believe such conduct is covered under the legal protections afforded online platforms and signaled a willingness to get involved in future litigation over the issue.

The New York Post's articles cited emails it said were written and received by Hunter Biden and had been provided by allies of President Trump, who trails the former vice president in polls. The Trump allies said they received the emails from a computer-repair person who found them on a laptop.

One article included a copy of an email said to have been sent to Hunter Biden apparently describing a meeting between his father and an executive at Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served. Efforts by Mr. Trump to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens and Burisma led to the president's impeachment by the House last year.

The Biden campaign has said that Joe Biden engaged in no wrongdoing and that no such meeting took place. The Wall Street Journal hasn't verified the claims made in the New York Post's articles. News Corp, the corporate parent of Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co., also owns the New York Post.

Mr. Boyd's letter comes a month after the Justice Department sent a legislative proposal that calls for Congress to curb longstanding legal protections for online platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Those provisions give them broad latitude to police their sites and shield them from legal liability related to users' actions, except in relatively narrow circumstances.

The department has argued previously that platform companies must shoulder more responsibility for managing content on their sites in fair and consistent ways.

In prepared testimony for Wednesday's hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, reviewed by the Journal, Messrs. Zuckerberg and Dorsey said removing Section 230 immunity could make it harder for them to engage in basic content moderation to address harmful content and protect people online, though they appeared to signal openness to moderate changes.

"Our Twitter Rules are not based on ideology or a particular set of beliefs," Mr. Dorsey said in his prepared remarks. "We believe strongly in being impartial."

Mr. Zuckerberg said Facebook wanted "to be a platform for ideas of all kinds" and was ready to work with Congress on issues related to regulating "harmful content, privacy, elections, and data portability."

The Justice Department said it saw legislation as necessary to give potential victims avenues to seek recourse from online platforms and to more clearly limit the immunity they currently enjoy for the content shared on their platforms. "This broad interpretation of immunity has left online platforms free to moderate lawful content without transparency or accountability. Unfortunately, these concerns are not merely hypothetical, as demonstrated by the actions of certain platforms over the past several weeks," the letter said.

Earlier this month, both Twitter and Facebook took the unusual step of slowing the spread of the New York Post articles about Hunter Biden, saying the articles ran afoul of company policies.

Twitter initially cited the possibility that the materials had been hacked, and later said the articles also violated its policies on displaying private information like email addresses and phone numbers without a person's permission. Facebook said its actions were in keeping with rules the company announced last year to prevent election interference, especially through misinformation.

Republicans immediately criticized both platforms, saying they were engaging in censorship. Amid the backlash, Twitter soon changed its policies and apologized for how it initially handled the articles.

The Twitter account for the New York Post, which has 1.9 million followers, has been deactivated since the tech platform determined that the posts about the Hunter Biden stories violated its rules at the time of posting and began hiding those messages from users. Twitter has told the publication that its account would be reactivated once it deletes the tweets, as others who posted about the articles have done, including Trump press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A representative for the Post declined to comment.

Having since altered its stance, Twitter will now allow posts about the Hunter Biden stories, but the social network is still requiring the Post to delete the messages, saying they violated its rules at the time of posting.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee last week authorized the panel's chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), to issue subpoenas to Messrs. Zuckerberg and Dorsey for their testimony on the issue, and later announced that the two men would testify voluntarily before that panel on Nov. 17, after the election.

The two tech CEOs will appear along with Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai in Wednesday's Commerce Committee hearing about their policies for moderating content on their platforms.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com and Aruna Viswanatha at Aruna.Viswanatha@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 18:36 ET (22:36 GMT)

Afterpay More Than Doubles 1Q Underlying Sales to A$4.1 Billion--Update
   By Stuart Condie 
 

SYDNEY--Afterpay Ltd. said first-quarter underlying sales more than doubled on a year earlier as it added 1.3 million new customers since the end of fiscal 2020.

The buy-now-pay-later provider on Wednesday reported underlying sales of 4.1 billion Australian dollars (US$2.9 billion) for the three months through September, compared with A$1.9 billion a year earlier. It said unaudited merchant revenue margins performed in-line with those recorded in fiscal 2020 and that gross losses continued to trend lower.

Afterpay said it had 11.2 million active customers, up from 5.7 million a year ago and from 9.9 million at the end of fiscal 2020. It had 6.5 million customers in the U.S., where it launched in 2018.

Afterpay and its rivals have experienced a surge in popularity after coronavirus restrictions prompted shoppers to turn to ecommerce in increasing numbers, many attracted by the lower cost to consumers than traditional payment methods.

The company said active merchants rose 70% on year to 63,800 after retailers with more than A$10 billion of total addressable online sales went live in the U.S. during the quarter. It said that helped improve customer acquisition at the start of 2Q, with the October daily average number of new customers up 18% compared with the 1Q average.

Afterpay said its Canada launch was progressing well, while in-store sales in Australia and New Zealand represented about 20% of the region's A$2.2 billion underlying sales as coronavirus restrictions eased.

It said a move into Asia was progressing but did not give details.

The U.S. showed A$1.6 billion in underlying sales. Stripping out the effect of the stronger Australian dollar, Afterpay said it achieved double-digit percentage growth on the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020.

Analysts have cautioned that Australian regulators could extend surcharging rules currently applicable to payment methods including credit cards to buy-now-pay-later providers such as Afterpay. They say that could undermine Afterpay's model, which charges merchants for the service and prevents them from passing the cost on to consumers.

The country's financial regulator is also updating its 2018 report into the installment-payments industry for likely release before the end of 2020. Afterpay said on Wednesday the buy-now-pay-later industry's self-compiled code of practice is expected to be finalized after that report.

Write to Stuart Condie at stuart.condie@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 18:35 ET (22:35 GMT)

Afterpay More Than Doubles 1Q Underlying Sales to A$4.1 Billion
   By Stuart Condie 
 

SYDNEY--Afterpay Ltd. said first-quarter underlying sales more than doubled on a year earlier as it added 1.3 million new customers since the end of fiscal 2020.

The buy-now-pay-later provider on Wednesday reported underyling sales of 4.1 billion Australian dollars (US$2.9 billion) for the three months through September, compared with A$1.9 billion a year earlier. It said unaudited merchant revenue margins performed in-line with those recorded in fiscal 2020 and that gross losses continued to trend lower.

Afterpay said it had 11.2 million active customers, up from 5.7 million a year ago and from 9.9 million at the end of fiscal 2020. It had 6.5 million customers in the U.S., where it launched in 2018.

Write to Stuart Condie at stuart.condie@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 18:07 ET (22:07 GMT)

Coles 1Q Supermarket Sales Rise 10% Amid Pandemic
   By Mike Cherney 
 

SYDNEY--Australian supermarket chain Coles Group Ltd. said sales grew in the fiscal first quarter as consumers continued to spend more time at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Coles said overall sales across supermarkets, liquor stores and convenience stores grew more than 10% to 9.6 billion Australian dollars (US$6.8 billion). The supermarket division constituted the bulk of sales, at roughly A$8.5 billion, and posted nearly 10% growth. Convenience store sales grew about 10% and liquor sales lifted about 17%.

Comparable sales growth was roughly the same as overall sales growth across the three businesses.

Online sales surged, with supermarket online sales up 57% and liquor online sales up 80% in the quarter, which ran from June 29 to Sept. 27.

"As we head into summer and Christmas, Coles is ready to play an inspiring part in lowering the cost of the many smaller celebrations that will take place as Australians reunite with their friends and family," Chief Executive Steven Cain said.

"As we enter a new Covid normal, Coles will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our customers and team members throughout our store network and supply chain," he added.

During the quarter, Coles said it launched more private-label products, implemented a refreshed liquor strategy, worked on its digital transformation toward more personal marketing and rolled out paperless operations to digitize entry and exiting of distribution centers.

Write to Mike Cherney at mike.cherney@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 18:02 ET (22:02 GMT)

Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud, Videogaming -- 2nd Update
By Aaron Tilley 

Microsoft Corp. posted another quarter of strong earnings fueled by pandemic-era demand for cloud-computing services, videogaming and computers.

The software company on Tuesday said sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations on revenue and profit for the quarter ending in September.

Revenue from Azure, the company's massive cloud-computing service that has underpinned its financial success in recent years, increased 48% from the year-ago period. Sales from commercial cloud, a broader metric of its cloud business, reached $15.2 billion, compared with $11.6 billion in the year-ago quarter.

"Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year, " Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said.

Microsoft's personal computing business -- which includes licensing revenue from PC sales, the Xbox gaming platform and Surface laptops -- saw sales advance 6% to $11.8 billion. The gaming content business saw a 30% jump in sales over the previous year. The business is also expected to further benefit later this year with the release of the new Xbox Series X gaming console.

Chief Executive Satya Nadella is doubling down on the company's gaming effort. Microsoft last month said it would spend $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc., the owner of game developer Bethesda Softworks as well as the Doom videogame franchise. The deal came shortly after Mr. Nadella's failed bid to buy parts of the popular short-form video app TikTok from Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

Throughout the pandemic, Microsoft has enjoyed a boost to its cloud services, including its workplace-collaboration software package Teams that offers features that compete with Slack Technologies Inc. and video-teleconferencing service Zoom Video Communications Inc.

"The next decade of economic performance for every business will be defined by the speed of their digital transformation," Mr. Nadella said.

Microsoft shares were little changed following the earnings release, after rising 1.51% in regulator trading.

The shift to the cloud is expected to be a continuing focus for companies. Research firm International Data Corporation Tuesday said that by the end of next year it expects 80% of enterprises will put a mechanism in place to shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications -- a rate twice as fast as before the pandemic.

Strong demand for long-term Azure contracts swelled commercial bookings in the quarter, Microsoft said. They rose 23% year-over-year, far ahead of the 7% and 12% increases the Redmond, Wash.-based company saw in the previous two quarters during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

And with people working from home and many students still stuck learning remotely, laptops and tablets have been selling strongly. Microsoft said sales of its Surface computing devices grew 37%.

"Enterprises are transitioning from Covid-19 triage to starting to renew their digital transformation plans with a focus on hybrid work. Microsoft is taking advantage of this phenomenon," said Patrick Moorhead, president of the technology-industry analysis firm Moor Insights & Strategy.

The increase in cloud demand hasn't been pain free, though. Microsoft has at times struggled to keep its cloud services running smoothly. An outage last month resulted in its cloud software tools being inaccessible for hours.

Microsoft also could see its search-engine business, Bing, gain momentum after the Justice Department filed an antitrust case against Alphabet Inc.-owned Google for its practices in search and advertising. Bing has less than 7% market share in the U.S. search-engine market, little changed since it launched in 2009. The Google case, though, is expected to take years to play out. Microsoft's ad businesses, meanwhile, remains under pressure as companies cut back on spending during the pandemic. Ad sales, the company said, fell 10%.

Write to Aaron Tilley at aaron.tilley@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:47 ET (21:47 GMT)

Utilities Shares Trade Nearly Flat, Beating Broader Market -- Utilities Roundup

Shares of power producers were flat, with U.S. Treasury yields falling as investors grew pessimistic on the economic outlook and lawmakers abandoned efforts to reach an agreement on a new round of fiscal spending before the Nov. 3 elections.

Tropical storm Zeta roiled Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula Tuesday morning and was forecast to restrengthen to a hurricane as it enters the Gulf of Mexico and takes aim at the Louisiana coast. Zeta is forecast to strike the U.S. as a Category 1 hurricane late Wednesday along a stretch of the central Gulf Coast that has been hammered by storms this season.

Power company Southern California Edison told state regulators that its equipment may have ignited one of a pair of fast-moving wildfires in Orange County, Calif., that have prompted evacuation orders for 80,000 people.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:35 ET (21:35 GMT)

LIVESTOCK HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

TOP STORIES

Breakfast Sales Struggle for Burger King -- Market Talk

09:14 ET - Burger King-parent Restaurant Brands International says it's trying to improve its breakfast options as morning sales remain slow due to the pandemic. Late-night sales are also struggling as the pandemic has curbed nightlife. "The pandemic continues to have a pronounced effect on consumer behavior," CEO Jose Cil says in 3Q earnings. US same-store sales down 3.2% in 3Q at Burger King. (heather.haddon@wsj.com; @heatherhaddon)

STORIES OF INTEREST

Wheat Slides Amid Election Jitters

Wheat for December delivery fell 0.7% to $6.15 3/4 a bushel, on the Chicago Board of Trade Tuesday, dropping for a second straight day as grains traders were cautious in trading ahead of next week's U.S. general election.

Soybeans for January delivery fell 0.6% to $10.76 1/2 a bushel.

Corn for December delivery fell 0.4% to $4.16 a bushel.

Soybeans for January delivery fell 0.6% to $10.76 1/2 a bushel.

Corn for December delivery fell 0.4% to $4.16 a bushel.

Some Grain Traders Opt For Caution -- Market Talk

13:34 ET - Grain futures are lower as some traders take a cautious approach on commodities ahead of next weeks' presidential election. "There is an 'air' of correction in the marketplace," says AgResource. "The risk vs. reward amid improving South American, US and Black Sea weather forecasts is not there with a major US election in a week." (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

Ethanol Figures Expected to Drop Further -- Market Talk

12:10 ET - US ethanol production and inventories are expected to drop again this week, says Terry Reilly of Futures International, which forecasts ethanol production to fall 6,000 barrels per day to 907,000 barrels per day, which would be the lowest they've been since mid-September. Meanwhile, the firm forecasts ethanol inventories to fall by anywhere from 100,000 barrels to 300,000 barrels--which could potentially put ethanol inventories at their lowest levels since December 2016. An inventory drop combined with higher production would be a hopeful sign for grains traders looking to see US ethanol domestic demand rebound. Corn futures trading on the CBOT are down 0.2% Tuesday. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

FUTURES MARKETS

Hog Futures Inch Lower as Herd Expected to Shrink -- Market Talk

15:11 ET - Lean hog futures trading on the CME finished down 0.2% at 67.65 cents per pound, amid speculation that US hog herds may contract in 2021. "Months of disappointing returns will drive a modest contraction in the herd in 2021," says Christine McCracken, a senior analyst with Rabobank. Longer term, the rebound of China's hog herd from devastation due to African swine fever is expected to eventually lessen the export market potential for US pork. "Although the reestablishment of China's breeding herd and production assets is a multi-year process, it is now apparent that China is confident in its ability to manage additional virus events," says McCracken. Live cattle futures, meanwhile, closed trading up 0.6% to $1.0405 per pound Tuesday. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

CASH MARKETS

 
Estimated U.S. Pork Packer Margin Index - Oct 27 
 
 This report reflects U.S. pork packer processing margins. The margin indices 
are calculated using current cash hog or carcass values and wholesale pork 
cutout values and may not reflect actual margins at the plants. These 
estimates reflect the general health of the industry and are not meant to 
be indicative of any particular company or plant. 
Source: USDA, based on Wall Street Journal calculations 
All figures are on a per-head basis. 
 
Date     Standard Margin       Estimated margin 
         Operating Index         at vertically - 
                             integrated operations 
 
Oct 27       +$ 47.71            +$ 61.81 
Oct 26       +$ 55.10            +$ 68.01 
Oct 23       +$ 60.18            +$ 69.79 
 
* Based on Iowa State University's latest estimated cost of production. 
A positive number indicates a processing margin above the cost of 
production of the animals. 
 
Beef-O-Meter 
This report compares the USDA's latest beef carcass composite 
values as a percentage of their respective year-ago prices. 
 
                                  Beef 
          For Today              Choice   90.7 
      (Percent of Year-Ago)      Select   94.0 
 
USDA Boxed Beef, Pork Reports 

Wholesale choice-grade beef prices Tuesday fell $1.13 per hundred pounds, to $206.70, according to the USDA. Select-grade prices rose 18 cents per hundred pounds, to $188.67. The total load count was 175. Wholesale pork prices fell $2.88, to $87.82 a hundred pounds, based on Omaha, Neb., price quotes.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:34 ET (21:34 GMT)

GRAIN HIGHLIGHTS: Top Stories of the Day

TOP STORIES:

Wheat Slides Amid Election Jitters

Wheat for December delivery fell 0.7% to $6.15 3/4 a bushel, on the Chicago Board of Trade Tuesday, dropping for a second straight day as grains traders were cautious in trading ahead of next week's U.S. general election.

Soybeans for January delivery fell 0.6% to $10.76 1/2 a bushel.

Corn for December delivery fell 0.4% to $4.16 a bushel.

STORIES OF INTEREST:

Some Grain Traders Opt For Caution -- Market Talk

13:34 ET - Grain futures are lower as some traders take a cautious approach on commodities ahead of next weeks' presidential election. "There is an 'air' of correction in the marketplace," says AgResource. "The risk vs. reward amid improving South American, US and Black Sea weather forecasts is not there with a major US election in a week." (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

Ethanol Figures Expected to Drop Further -- Market Talk

12:10 ET - US ethanol production and inventories are expected to drop again this week, says Terry Reilly of Futures International, which forecasts ethanol production to fall 6,000 barrels per day to 907,000 barrels per day, which would be the lowest they've been since mid-September. Meanwhile, the firm forecasts ethanol inventories to fall by anywhere from 100,000 barrels to 300,000 barrels--which could potentially put ethanol inventories at their lowest levels since December 2016. An inventory drop combined with higher production would be a hopeful sign for grains traders looking to see US ethanol domestic demand rebound. Corn futures trading on the CBOT are down 0.2% Tuesday. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

Corn And Soybean Harvests Nearing Finish Line -- Market Talk

09:23 ET - The US harvest for corn and soybeans is solidly ahead of the usual 5-year pace, the USDA said in its crop progress report released yesterday--pegging the corn harvest at 72% finished and soybean harvest at 83% done. "These are both at levels where trade will quickly put the year to rest and focus instead on what will be done with the new inventory," says Karl Setzer of AgriVisor. Corn futures on the CBOT traded up 0.3% overnight, while soybeans fell 0.1%. Wheat, meanwhile, is up 0.5% as the report showed a big drop-off in winter wheat crop quality from last year, with only 41% of the crop in good or excellent condition, versus 56% at this time last year. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

THE MARKETS:

Hog Futures Inch Lower as Herd Expected to Shrink -- Market Talk

15:11 ET - Lean hog futures trading on the CME finished down 0.2% at 67.65 cents per pound, amid speculation that US hog herds may contract in 2021. "Months of disappointing returns will drive a modest contraction in the herd in 2021," says Christine McCracken, a senior analyst with Rabobank. Longer term, the rebound of China's hog herd from devastation due to African swine fever is expected to eventually lessen the export market potential for US pork. "Although the reestablishment of China's breeding herd and production assets is a multi-year process, it is now apparent that China is confident in its ability to manage additional virus events," says McCracken. Live cattle futures, meanwhile, closed trading up 0.6% to $1.0405 per pound Tuesday. (kirk.maltais@wsj.com; @kirkmaltais)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:34 ET (21:34 GMT)

Communications Services Shares Move Higher -- Communications Services Roundup

Communications services companies were higher as investors hedged their bets on the implications of an accelerated spread of Covid-19 in the U.S. and Europe.

T-Mobile US is launching a new home television service aimed at the millions of U.S. households that have cut the cable cord in recent years, jumping into the already crowded streaming video market. The country's No. 2 cellphone carrier said that its long-planned TV service will start next week with three tiers, including TVision Vibe, a bundle with nonsports channels like BET and Comedy Central for a $10 monthly fee.

Omnicom Group said the sharp decline in sales caused by the coronavirus pandemic eased somewhat in the third quarter, but warned that budget cuts and a decrease in demand for marketing services will continue to weigh on its business. The New York-based advertising holding company, which owns agencies including BBDO, DDB and OMD, said world-wide revenue in the third quarter decreased 11.5% to $3.21 billion from $3.62 billion in the same period a year earlier.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:33 ET (21:33 GMT)

Eli Lilly Earnings, Halted Covid-19 Drug Trial Disappoint Investors -- Update
By Peter Loftus 

Eli Lilly & Co. reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings due to pricing pressure on top products, while the drugmaker said it would proceed with plans to introduce a new Covid-19 antibody treatment despite a setback in one of several clinical studies of its uses.

The Indianapolis-based company said it would continue pursuing U.S. authorization for an antibody drug to treat Covid-19 patients in the early course of illness and with a mild to moderate version of the disease. That comes after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said late Monday that it would close a study of a different use of that drug, later in the course of the disease in hospitalized patients. The institute concluded the antibody drug didn't provide a clinical benefit to hospitalized patients.

Eli Lilly Chief Executive David Ricks said Tuesday that the halted study doesn't signal significant concerns for LY-CoV555's safety. "We've learned antibodies are more likely to work early in the disease and are less likely to be effective in later stages of the disease," he said in an interview after the company reported its third-quarter results.

A separate study had shown that the antibody drug reduced hospitalization rates in people with mild to moderate Covid-19, and this is the basis for Lilly's request for U.S. regulators to authorize its use. Eli Lilly plans to continue testing the drug in other studies, in patients early in the course of their disease, and in people at risk of infection, including staff and residents at nursing homes.

Lilly shares dropped 6.9% to $131.90 Tuesday, which analysts attributed to investor disappointment in the antibody study halt as well as third-quarter results that missed expectations. The company lowered its profit guidance for 2020, though it projected continued recovery in the health-care sector despite the continuing pandemic.

The company said it expects new prescriptions for patients to continue to recover in the U.S. Company executives also expect general health-care activity to accelerate following a slump earlier in the pandemic as providers shift to telehealth.

Jared Holtz, a health-care equity strategist at financial-services firm Jefferies, called the quarterly results slightly disappointing and said the setback for the Covid-19 antibody drug makes Lilly a less formidable player in the hunt for treatments.

Drugmakers and health officials believe antibody-based drugs may fill a treatment gap for Covid-19 and provide temporary protection, even before any Covid-19 vaccine becomes available. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. is developing an antibody treatment that has been shown to reduce virus levels and improve symptoms in Covid-19 patients who weren't hospitalized.

The study of Eli Lilly's drug that the NIAID halted was testing whether adding the LY-CoV555 antibody to standard treatment -- including the antiviral drug remdesivir -- would improve outcomes in hospitalized Covid-19 patients versus standard treatment alone. The study was designed to isolate the effect of the Lilly antibody.

Enrollment in the study of the drug combination had been paused earlier this month over a potential safety concern stemming from a difference in the clinical status between Covid-19 patients who received the Lilly drug and those who got a placebo. An independent board overseeing the trial that identified the disparity later said it found no significant differences in safety outcomes between those two sets of patients. The board instead decided to recommend that no more trial participants be given the Lilly drug because of "lack of clinical benefit" in hospitalized patients, according to the NIAID.

Mr. Ricks said it was reassuring that the board didn't find safety differences between the patients who got the antibody treatment and those who didn't. He said he couldn't predict the timing of an FDA decision, but "from a public health perspective we certainly could use the therapy right now in early disease to reduce hospitalization risk."

Lilly and federal researchers continue to test the antibody in several different ways, including whether it can prevent disease in staff and residents of nursing homes where an outbreak has started.

Lilly has also requested U.S. authorization of its rheumatoid-arthritis drug Olumiant as a treatment for Covid-19, based on a study showing it helped hospitalized patients recover more quickly.

The company Tuesday reported a third-quarter profit decline to $1.21 billion, or $1.33 a share, from $1.25 billion, or $1.37 a share, in the same three-month period a year earlier. On an adjusted basis excluding certain items, Eli Lilly's profit was $1.54 a share. Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast an adjusted profit of $1.71 a share.

Revenue rose 5% to $5.74 billion from $5.48 billion a year earlier, but was short of the analysts' forecast of $5.88 billion.

The revenue shortfall came primarily from lower-than-expected sales of Lilly's top drug, the diabetes treatment Trulicity. Lilly said that although it made modest list-price increases in the U.S., it had lower realized prices due to changes in its estimates of rebates and discounts for the drug. As a result, sales growth was lower than prescription volume growth.

Overall, lower realized prices reduced sales growth by 5 percentage points for the quarter, Lilly said. Higher research-and-development expenses in the third quarter also weighed on earnings, including $125 million for potential Covid-19 therapies. Eli Lilly said it expects its full-year expenses for research and development related to Covid-19 to be $400 million.

The company reiterated its forecast of full-year revenue of $23.7 billion to $24.2 billion, but said it would need moderate revenue from potential Covid-19 treatments to hit the higher end of the range, which is possible but not certain.

The drugmaker said it expects full-year earnings per share to be $6.20 to $6.40 a share. The company's previous forecast foresaw earnings per share of $6.48 to $6.68. On an adjusted basis, Lilly reiterated a forecast of $7.20 to $7.40 per share.

--Matt Grossman contributed to this article.

Write to Peter Loftus at peter.loftus@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:31 ET (21:31 GMT)

Technology Shares Rise Amid Deal News -- Tech Roundup

Shares of technology companies rose amid big deal news.

Advanced Micro Devices agreed to buy rival chip maker Xilinx in a $35 billion all-stock deal, adding momentum to the consolidation of the semiconductor industry that has only accelerated during the pandemic. AMD also said it expects better-than-anticipated revenue in the final quarter of the year. The company issued guidance of roughly $3 billion of sales in the current quarter, which, like its third-quarter results, came in ahead of Wall Street expectations.

AMD now expects 2020 revenue to grow by approximately 41% compared with 2019, up from prior guidance of 32%, with non-GAAP margins as expected.

After the closing bell, Microsoft reported results that easily topped earnings and sales expectations, as all three of its core segments grew strongly amid demand for cloud services and personal computers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:30 ET (21:30 GMT)

Shares of Banks and Lenders Fall Amid Concerns About Economic Recovery -- Financials Roundup

Shares of banks and other lenders and money managers were lower amid concerns about the economic recovery.

Visa's $5.3 billion deal to buy a key player in the financial-technology space is in jeopardy because of antitrust concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The Justice Department could decide soon whether it will sue to block Visa's acquisition of Plaid, a firm that provides the technological infrastructure underpinning an array of next-generation financial apps. After spending the better part of the year scrutinizing the deal, the department is concerned it could limit nascent competition in the payments sector, people familiar with the matter said.

Two large international banks struck a hopeful note as they reported third-quarter earnings. London-based, Asia-focused HSBC Holdings took fewer provisions for bad loans, beat earnings estimates, and said it might pay a conservative dividend.

Banco Santander, based in Spain but with big operations in Latin America, the U.S. and U.K., also lowered its bad-loan charges and posted better-than-expected profit for the period, saying it was confident it could resume cash dividends once regulators allow it.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:28 ET (21:28 GMT)

Dow, S&P 500 Slide After Big Selloff
By Mischa Frankl-Duval and Amber Burton 

U.S. stocks wobbled Tuesday, attempting to stabilize after worries about the coronavirus pandemic sent markets tumbling to start the week.

Rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook. The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. reached a record Monday, while a number of countries in Europe, including Italy, Spain and Russia, tightened restrictions on activity to try to curb the spread of the virus.

One factor that has helped stocks bounce back from selloffs in the past: evidence that parts of the economy have started to recover from disruptions and shutdowns related to the pandemic.

Orders for long-lasting factory goods increased for the fifth consecutive month in September, Commerce Department data showed Tuesday. Orders rose 1.9% in September from August.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 222.19 points, or 0.8%, to 27463, down four of the past five trading days. The blue chips are down 3.8% for 2020. The S&P 500 lost 10.29 points, or 0.3%, to 3390.68. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 72.41 points, or 0.6%, to 11431.35.

Technology stocks were a relative bright spot in Tuesday's market, buoyed by Advanced Micro Devices' planned $35 billion acquisition of Xilinx, a fellow chip maker. Xilinx shares rose $9.80, or 8.6%, to $124.35. AMD fell $3.35, or 4.1%, to $78.88.

Despite uncertainty due to the rise in Covid-19 infections, Craig Fehr, an investment strategist at Edward Jones, said he remains optimistic about the market's recovery heading into next year.

"I think there are still more gains that can be seen in 2021. We're probably likely to see the stock market produce both volatility and returns that are a bit more consistent with historical norms," he said.

Some investors also are betting that authorities will avoid the stringent lockdown measures put in place in the spring to slow the spread of the virus, which brought the global economy to a jarring halt.

"At the moment, the market is discounting for further lockdowns and for the economy to suffer dramatically again, and I just don't see that," said Patrick Spencer, managing director at U.S. investment firm Baird. "We're in a V-shaped recovery."

A string of earnings results drove swings across the stock market.

Shares of Eli Lilly fell $9.80, or 6.9%, to $131.90, after the drugmaker lowered its profit guidance for 2020. Shares of Caterpillar fell $5.29, or 3.2% to $157.91, after the company reported profits and revenue fell during its most recent quarter.

After the closing bell, Microsoft reported higher sales fueled by pandemic-era demand for cloud-computing services. Shares ticked up 0.3% after hours. Other big tech companies, including Apple and Amazon.com, are set to report later this week.

Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.9%.

In Asia, most major equity benchmarks posted tepid declines. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index retreated 0.5% and Japan's Nikkei 225 was little changed, while the Shanghai Composite Index ticked up 0.1%.

Write to Mischa Frankl-Duval at Mischa.Frankl-Duval@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:23 ET (21:23 GMT)

Consumer Shares Slip as Consumer Confidence Wanes -- Consumer Roundup

Shares of retailers and other consumer companies slipped as consumer confidence waned in October.

The index of consumer confidence dipped to 100.3 this month from a pandemic high of 101.3 in September, the Conference Board said.

The decline was slightly bigger than Wall Street expected. Meanwhile, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 5.7% in the year that ended in August, up from a 4.8% annual rate the prior month. Sales of previously owned homes, which make up the bulk of the housing market, rose 2% in August from a month earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low mortgage-interest rates and a desire for more space lured buyers into the market.

A shortage of homes for sale has led to competition among buyers and pushed home prices higher.

In deal news, Callaway Golf is nearing a deal to buy the rest of driving-range operator Topgolf, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter, in a move that would bring a company known for its clubs and golf balls into the fast-growing sports-entertainment business. The companies are discussing a deal that would value closely held Topgolf at more than $2 billion, the people said.

Amazon.com said it plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers in the U.S. and Canada heading into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays ahead of an expected surge in online orders. The company will report third-quarter results on Thursday.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:21 ET (21:21 GMT)

Health Care Shares Fall Amid Earnings Reports -- Health Care Roundup

Health-care companies fell as coronavirus treatments and vaccines remained in focus.

Pfizer logged a smaller profit year over year in the latest quarter as reduced demand during the coronavirus pandemic dragged on the company's sales. The company also said a global late-stage trial evaluating its Covid-19 vaccine is almost fully enrolled with participants, but the drugmaker hasn't conducted the first review of whether it works safely.

Eli Lilly reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings due to pricing pressure on top products, while the drugmaker said it would proceed with plans to introduce a new Covid-19 antibody treatment despite a setback in one of several clinical studies of its uses.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said late Monday that it would close a study of that drug, named LY-CoV555, being tested in combination with other treatments. The institute concluded the antibody drug didn't provide a clinical benefit to hospitalized patients. Eli Lilly Chief Executive David Ricks said Tuesday that the halted study doesn't signal significant concerns for LY-CoV555's safety.

Merck & Co. said its profit and sales for the September quarter rose as it continued to work on treatments and vaccines for Covid-19, while Novartis said its third-quarter net profit fell while sales grew, and the Swiss pharmaceutical major raised its 2020 outlook for core operating income.

Meanwhile, a large English study showed the number of people with Covid-19 antibodies declined significantly over the summer, suggesting that getting the virus might not confer long-lasting immunity from future infection.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:17 ET (21:17 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Global Markets News of the Day
Dow, S&P 500 Slide After Big Selloff 
 

Rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook.

 
U.S. Home-Price Growth Accelerated in August 
 

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 5.7% in the year that ended in August.

 
WTO Is Poised to Pick First Female Leader 
 

The World Trade Organization is set to pick its first female leader in coming days, offering a fresh start to a body weakened by fights between the U.S. and China at a time of global economic crisis.

 
Durable-Goods Orders Rise for Fifth Consecutive Month 
 

Orders for long-lasting factory goods increased in September, the latest sign manufacturing companies are rebounding from supply-chain disruptions and shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

 
SEC Corporation Finance Director William Hinman Plans to Step Down This Year 
 

The exit is part of the usual wave of departures from federal regulatory agencies at the end of a presidential term.

 
Bipartisan Retirement Bill Offers Later Withdrawals, Paths to Lost Accounts 
 

A new proposal contains a broad mix of measures to encourage retirement savings, with a grab bag of incentives and relaxed restrictions.

 
These Real-Estate Loans Require a New York State of Mind 
 

Investors have questioned the health of some New York City real-estate loans amid the pandemic, but the situation for now often isn't as dire as it might seem.

 
South Korean Economy Returns to Growth 
 

South Korea's gross domestic product rose 1.9% during the July-to-September period from the previous quarter, shaking off the pandemic's worst effects.

 
U.S. Election Adds to Turkish Lira's Bumpy Ride 
 

Traders already wary of Turkish assets are concerned that a victory for Joe Biden in the U.S. presidential election could increase the chance of sanctions against Turkey.

 
Why the U.S. Can't Replicate South Korea's Impressive Economic Recovery 
 

South Korea's recession ended in the third quarter of the year with the economy growing 1.9% from the second quarter. The country's commendable control of Covid-19 has helped-but like China, its pre-existing economic structure was also key.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:15 ET (21:15 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Company News of the Day
Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud 
 

The software company on Tuesday said sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year.

 
SoCal Edison Says It May Have Caused Orange County Wildfire 
 

The Silverado Fire has consumed more than 11,000 acres of tinder-dry brush in the foothills above Irvine and other cities south of Los Angeles.

 
Eli Lilly Earnings, Halted Covid-19 Drug Trial Disappoint Investors 
 

The drugmaker reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings due to pricing pressure on top products. It said it would proceed with plans to introduce a new coronavirus antibody treatment despite a recent setback.

 
Visa's Planned Purchase of Plaid Faces Antitrust Scrutiny at the Justice Department 
 

The DOJ, making preparations for potential litigation, could soon decide whether it will sue to block Visa's purchase of the fintech firm.

 
Raytheon Shrinks to Fit Jet Downturn 
 

The biggest aerospace supplier by sales said it is cutting 20,000 jobs this year-up from a previously announced 15,000-as it adjusts to the shrinking airline industry and the sharp drop in jetliner orders and deliveries.

 
T-Mobile Makes Another Bid for Pay-TV Viewers 
 

The cellphone carrier unveiled a new wireless TV service that will stream channels like CNN and ESPN in bundles costing between $10 and $60 a month.

 
Callaway Golf to Buy Rest of Topgolf 
 

Callaway Golf agreed to buy the rest of Topgolf Entertainment Group in a deal that values the driving-range operator at $2 billion and brings the maker of golf balls and clubs into sports entertainment.

 
Coronavirus Prompts Rent the Runway to Think Beyond Rentals 
 

The startup is raising a new round of financing and is focusing on selling clothes, not just renting them, after the startup suffered a near-fatal blow from a coronavirus pandemic that has kept women home for most of the year.

 
A Broken Up AIG Would Still Have Work to Do 
 

AIG's property-and-casualty unit could fetch a better valuation on its own, but it will likely still trail its rivals for now.

 
Etsy Bet on Face Masks. So Far It Is Paying Off. 
 

The online marketplace, which reports earnings Wednesday, has seen profit swell from demand for masks and home décor.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:15 ET (21:15 GMT)

Dow, S&P 500 Slide After Big Selloff
By Mischa Frankl-Duval and Amber Burton 

U.S. stocks wobbled Tuesday, attempting to stabilize after worries about the coronavirus pandemic sent markets tumbling to start the week.

Rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook. The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. reached a record Monday, while a number of countries in Europe, including Italy, Spain and Russia, tightened restrictions on activity to try to curb the spread of the virus.

One factor that has helped stocks bounce back from selloffs in the past: evidence that parts of the economy have started to recover from disruptions and shutdowns related to the pandemic.

Orders for long-lasting factory goods increased for the fifth consecutive month in September, Commerce Department data showed Tuesday. Orders rose 1.9% in September from August.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 222.19 points, or 0.8%, to 27463, down four of the past five trading days. The blue chips are down 3.8% for 2020. The S&P 500 lost 10.29 points, or 0.3%, to 3390.68. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 72.41 points, or 0.6%, to 11431.35.

Technology stocks were a relative bright spot in Tuesday's market, buoyed by Advanced Micro Device's planned $35 billion acquisition of Xilinx, a fellow chip maker. Xilinx shares rose $9.80, or 8.6%, to $124.35. AMD fell $3.35, or 4.1%, to $78.88.

Despite uncertainty due to the rise in Covid-19 infections, Craig Fehr, an investment strategist at Edward Jones, said he remains optimistic about the market's recovery heading into next year.

"I think there are still more gains that can be seen in 2021. We're probably likely to see the stock market produce both volatility and returns that are a bit more consistent with historical norms," he said.

Some investors also are betting that authorities will avoid the stringent lockdown measures put in place in the spring to slow the spread of the virus, which brought the global economy to a jarring halt.

"At the moment, the market is discounting for further lockdowns and for the economy to suffer dramatically again, and I just don't see that," said Patrick Spencer, managing director at U.S. investment firm Baird. "We're in a V-shaped recovery."

A string of earnings results drove swings across the stock market.

Shares of Eli Lilly fell $9.80, or 6.9%, to $131.90, after the drugmaker lowered its profit guidance for 2020. Shares of Caterpillar fell $5.29, or 3.2% to $157.91, after the company reported profits and revenue fell during its most recent quarter.

After the closing bell, Microsoft reported higher sales fueled by pandemic-era demand for cloud-computing services. Shares ticked up 0.3% after hours. Other big tech companies, including Apple and Amazon.com, are set to report later this week.

Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 slipped 0.9%.

In Asia, most major equity benchmarks posted tepid declines. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index retreated 0.5% and Japan's Nikkei 225 was little changed, while the Shanghai Composite Index ticked up 0.1%.

Write to Mischa Frankl-Duval at Mischa.Frankl-Duval@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:13 ET (21:13 GMT)

Industrials Sink as Earnings Show Weak Demand -- Industrials Roundup

Shares of industrial and transportation companies tumbled as results from sector giants Caterpillar and 3M showed demand from commercial customers is on shaky ground as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt work routines and commerce.

Big manufacturers are logging lower sales to businesses ranging from cruise-ship builders to medical offices. Caterpillar said that revenue fell by at least a fifth in the latest quarter in each of its three global segments: construction, mining and energy and transportation. 3M said sales were down in about half its business lines from a year earlier and that demand for its products for nonemergency medical and dental procedures wasn't likely to recover through next year. But 3M said sales for personal products are booming as hospitals buy face masks to protect health workers from Covid-19 and people sheltering at home purchase more cleaning supplies and painters' tape.

Raytheon, the biggest aerospace supplier by sales, said it is cutting 20,000 jobs this year - up from a previously announced 15,000 - as it adjusts to the shrinking airline industry and the sharp drop in jetliner orders and deliveries. The company, which supplies engines, aircraft seats and other parts to airlines and plane makers, said the cuts include a 20% reduction in its commercial arm. It is also reducing its office and factory space by as much as a quarter in response to pandemic-driven changes in demand and working conditions.

In economic data, orders for long-lasting factory goods increased for the fifth consecutive month in September. New orders for durable goods - products designed to last at least three years - rose 1.9% in September compared with August, the Commerce Department said.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:12 ET (21:12 GMT)

Visa's Planned Purchase of Plaid Faces Antitrust Scrutiny at the Justice Department -- 2nd Update
By AnnaMaria Andriotis, Brent Kendall and Peter Rudegeair 

Visa Inc.'s $5.3 billion deal to buy a key player in the financial-technology space is in jeopardy because of antitrust concerns, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department could decide soon whether it will sue to block Visa's acquisition of Plaid Inc., a firm that provides the technological infrastructure underpinning an array of next-generation financial apps. After spending the better part of the year scrutinizing the deal, the department is concerned it could limit nascent competition in the payments sector, people familiar with the matter said.

The Justice Department has been making preparations for potential litigation, including lining up potential witnesses for a trial, some of the people said. No final decision has been made.

Representatives of Visa, Plaid and the Justice Department declined to comment.

The Justice Department has recently placed new emphasis on antitrust enforcement in the financial sector. The department's top antitrust official, Makan Delrahim, in August announced a shake-up of internal operations to improve how the department evaluates financial-sector competition, saying the government needed to "take a fresh look" at how new technologies are changing competitive dynamics in the financial-services industry.

At the same time, the Justice Department and Washington broadly are taking a closer look at big tech companies that dominate the way people shop, work and communicate. The Justice Department last week filed a blockbuster antitrust lawsuit against Google, alleging the company used its dominance to stifle competition, allegations the search giant denies.

Any cases filed this late in the Trump administration's first term will fall to whoever wins next week's presidential election. Antitrust enforcement is not likely to subside if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins. He has said economic concentration "threatens our American values of competition, choice, and shared prosperity."

Plaid has been viewed by fintech companies and merchants as a platform that could one day enable consumers to make purchases without having to rely on debit and credit cards.

The San Francisco-based startup has said it provides connections between more than 11,000 banks and financial-services companies and more than 200 million consumer accounts.

Visa, which announced the planned acquisition in January, is the largest U.S. card network, handling $2.2 trillion of credit, debit and prepaid-card transactions during the first half of 2020, according to the Nilson Report, a trade publication. Its closest competitor, Mastercard Inc., handled $942 billion in card transactions during the same period.

The Justice Department is also reviewing Mastercard's nearly $1 billion deal for fintech firm Finicity, a startup similar to Plaid, as well as Intuit Inc.'s roughly $7 billion deal for personal-finance portal Credit Karma Inc.

Visa initially said it expected the Plaid acquisition to close by the summer, pending regulatory approval. In the summer, Visa said it was expecting to close by the end of the year.

Plaid makes software that allows banks and fintechs to plug into consumers' various financial accounts, enabling those companies, with users' permission, to aggregate spending data, look up balances and verify other personal financial information. Its clients and partners include Venmo, the digital money-transfer service owned by PayPal Holdings Inc.; stock-trading app Robinhood Markets Inc.; and mortgage-software startup Blend Labs Inc.

Visa and Mastercard have been concerned about getting left behind if more people change how they make payments and use apps that, for example, enable bank-account-to-bank-account payments that essentially bypass the card networks.

Both companies have been buying firms in recent years that enable new types of payments.

Merchants, meanwhile, have been hoping that fintech companies such as Plaid would eventually help facilitate these new types of payments. That could allow merchants to avoid the swipe fees that are set by networks such as Visa and Mastercard, which have long been a point of contention.

Plaid doesn't currently operate a payments network like Visa's, but Plaid's software can see if a consumer is the owner of a given bank account and can look up how much money is in that account.

The Justice Department has spoken with merchant trade groups, people familiar with the matter said. It also has spoken with companies that work with Plaid, including PayPal; Stripe Inc., which allows internet companies to accept credit cards; and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. PayPal was an early investor in Plaid.

Some of those interviewed told the department they were worried the acquisition could harm fintech companies' ability to provide services, including limiting their ability to interact with banks on behalf of customers, those people said.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com, Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com and Peter Rudegeair at Peter.Rudegeair@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:10 ET (21:10 GMT)

Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud, Videogaming -- Update
By Aaron Tilley 

Microsoft Corp. posted another quarter of strong earnings fueled by pandemic-era demand for cloud-computing services and videogaming.

The software company on Tuesday said sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations on revenue and profit for the quarter ending in September.

Revenue from Azure, the company's massive cloud-computing service that has underpinned its financial success in recent years, increased 48% from the year-ago period. Sales from Commercial Cloud, a broader metric of its cloud business, reached $15.2 billion, compared with $11.6 billion in the year-ago quarter.

"Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year, " Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said.

Microsoft's personal computing business -- which includes licensing revenue from PC sales, the Xbox gaming platform and Surface laptops -- saw sales advance 6% to $11.8 billion. The gaming content business saw a 30% jump in sales over the previous year. The business is also expected to further benefit later this year with the release of the new Xbox Series X gaming console.

Chief Executive Satya Nadella is doubling down on the company's gaming effort. Microsoft last month said it would spend $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc., the owner of game developer Bethesda Softworks as well as the Doom videogame franchise. The deal came shortly after Mr. Nadella's failed bid to buy parts of the popular short-form video app TikTok from Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd.

Throughout the pandemic, Microsoft has enjoyed a boost to its cloud services, including its workplace-collaboration software package Teams that offers features that compete with Slack Technologies Inc. and video-teleconferencing service Zoom Video Communications Inc.

"The next decade of economic performance for every business will be defined by the speed of their digital transformation," Mr. Nadella said

With the increase in demand, the company has at times struggled to keep its cloud services running smoothly. An outage last month resulted in its cloud software tools being inaccessible for hours.

Microsoft also could see its search-engine business, Bing, gain momentum after the Justice Department filed an antitrust case against Alphabet Inc.-owned Google for its practices in search and advertising. Bing has less than 7% market share in the U.S. search-engine market, little changed since it launched in 2009. The Google case, though, is expected to take years to play out. Microsoft's ad businesses, meanwhile, remains under pressure as companies cut back on spending during the pandemic. Ad sales, the company said, fell 10%.

Write to Aaron Tilley at aaron.tilley@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:08 ET (21:08 GMT)

Materials Shares Fall Amid Rising Covid-19 Cases -- Materials Roundup

Producers of metals and other raw materials slipped as rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook.

The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. reached a record Monday, while a number of countries in Europe -- including Italy, Spain and Russia -- tightened restrictions on activity to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Gold futures made only modest moves higher but posted their sixth gain in seven sessions amid ongoing uncertainty around the 2020 presidential election set for Nov. 3.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:07 ET (21:07 GMT)

Stock Investors' Bets Eye a Biden Victory, Robust Stimulus -- Update
By Gunjan Banerji 

Despite the recent stock-market selloff, investors appear to be positioning for a speedy outcome to the presidential contest and dwindling volatility through the end of the year.

U.S. stocks, particularly those in sectors most sensitive to higher economic growth, have ascended in October, while Treasury yields have jumped as bond prices have fallen. Bets on volatility falling through the end of the year in the derivatives market picked up, after months of investors positioning for rocky markets into January.

Value stocks -- shares of companies that typically trade at a low multiple of their book value, or net worth -- have outperformed. The S&P 500 Value index advanced 1.6% in October through Monday, beating the S&P 500 Growth index's 0.8% gain. The value index was on track to beat its counterpart for the second consecutive month, something that hasn't happened all year.

Those market moves suggest investors are taking their cues from polls showing former Vice President Joe Biden with a steady lead over President Trump, which increases the chances of a decisive victory. They also see a robust fiscal stimulus plan in the cards. Although other dynamics are at play in markets, ranging from the Covid-19 caseload to the vigor of the global economic recovery, many investors say increased expectations for an orderly U.S. election season have been among the key developments in recent weeks.

"They no longer think the election is going to be something that takes us a long time to figure out," said Amy Wu Silverman, a managing director at RBC Capital Markets. "People are expecting good news out of the fiscal stimulus as well as the vaccine."

Many investors had been betting on prolonged uncertainty after the election in anticipation of a surge in mail-in voting that would leave the outcome undecided for weeks.

On Monday, as U.S. stocks fell sharply and the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, climbed, some investors positioned for its fall through bearish options on the gauge, Trade Alert data show. A bearish bet on the VIX is akin to a bullish bet on the S&P 500 because the two tend to move in opposite directions. The S&P 500 continued to slip on Tuesday as worries about the coronavirus pandemic weighed on markets.

"It's been a very popular trade to position for volatility to go lower after the election," said Christopher Murphy, co-head of derivatives strategy at Susquehanna Financial Group, adding that these bets appeared resilient even during the stock-market selloff on Monday.

The recent jump in the stock market's laggards, including financial shares, comes as analysts have said that a Democratic sweep of the White House and Congress could benefit the economy and markets. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts said earlier this month that a Democratic sweep could be a positive for stocks. UBS Group AG echoed that sentiment Friday, saying a "blue wave or status quo outcome would likely be modestly better for stocks because it would lead to larger fiscal support."

Business leaders have also embraced the prospect of a Biden presidency, despite his push to increase taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. Their stances highlight the importance of fiscal stimulus and how the coronavirus pandemic's impact on the economy supersedes many other factors. Democratic lawmakers in Congress have been pushing a $2.2 trillion stimulus package to combat the virus, much larger than Republicans' proposal.

Republicans are often thought to be friendlier to the stock market because of their policies on lower taxes, though stocks have tended to go up regardless of which party controls Washington. Mr. Trump's tax cuts, for example, helped boost the stock market early in his presidency. But that calculus has shifted ahead of the coming election, in part because many believe that more fiscal stimulus is needed to help the economic recovery.

In some cases, investors say the idea of a speedy resolution to the election is more comforting than a lead in the polls by a particular candidate. Still, there remain countless unknowns about how the election will affect policy on everything from taxes to climate change and financial regulation.

The recent trading activity also highlights investors' confidence in such polling, despite several political surprises in 2016, such as Mr. Trump's victory and Brexit.

"There's been kind of a revisiting of the sense that the objective read of the polling is the right way," said Josh Younger, a managing director at JPMorgan Chase & Co. "The wider the gap, the more decisive the victory."

Mr. Younger said it has recently gotten cheaper to pick up options around the presidential election.

Other traders caution anxiety surrounding the election hasn't dissipated entirely, and the VIX has remained elevated even as stocks have climbed this month. On Monday, it jumped to the highest level since early September.

Even some investors who had piled into exchange-traded funds that would benefit from a victory for Mr. Biden appear to be hedging their bets. Solar stocks and other alternative energy shares had surged in recent weeks, partly thanks to the expectation that they would benefit from Mr. Biden's $2 trillion package to combat climate change.

But bearish put options outstanding tied to the Invesco Solar ETF recently surged to the highest level of the year, Trade Alert data show, while the fund fell the most in a single day since March. Such contracts allow investors to sell the shares at a given price, later in time and are often used as hedges.

The chance that "there is a more chaotic outcome -- that probability hasn't gone away," said Parag Thatte, a strategist at Deutsche Bank. "The fear of that outcome has gone down."

Write to Gunjan Banerji at Gunjan.Banerji@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:06 ET (21:06 GMT)

Energy Shares Fall as Earnings Reports Roll In -- Energy Roundup

Shares of energy companies fell as earnings reports for sector giants began to roll in.

The declines came even as oil futures finished higher as another major storm cut energy output in the Gulf of Mexico by roughly half, though worries that the impact on demand from the ongoing rise globally in COVID-19 cases continues to hang over the market.

BP reported a fifth-consecutive quarterly loss, providing the first glimpse of how major oil companies navigated the third quarter amid a prolonged slump in demand triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. The loss follows one of the worst second quarters ever for the sector, in which BP halved its dividend and cut jobs. BP's earnings also suffered from lower refining margins and weaker trading results.

Other major oil companies are expected to report another weak quarter. Shell is due to report its earnings on Thursday, followed by Chevron and Exxon on Friday. President Trump is considering issuing an executive order mandating an economic analysis of fracking, according to senior administration officials, who say the initiative is aimed at highlighting his support for the energy industry in election battleground states such as Pennsylvania.

 Write to Amy Pessetto at amy.pessetto@dowjones.com 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 17:03 ET (21:03 GMT)

Microsoft's Earnings Continue to Ride Pandemic-Fueled Demand for Cloud, Videogaming
By Aaron Tilley 

Microsoft Corp. posted another quarter of strong earnings fueled by pandemic-era demand for cloud-computing services and videogaming.

The software company on Tuesday said sales rose 12% to $37.2 billion, generating a net profit of $13.9 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations on revenue and profit for the quarter ending in September.

Revenue from Azure, the company's massive cloud-computing service that has underpinned its financial success in recent years, increased 48% from the year-ago period. Sales from Commercial Cloud, a broader metric of its cloud business, reached $15.2 billion, compared with $11.6 billion in the year-ago quarter.

"Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year, " Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said.

Microsoft's personal computing business -- which includes licensing revenue from PC sales, the Xbox gaming platform and Surface laptops -- saw sales advance 6% to $11.8 billion. The gaming content business saw a 30% jump in sales over the previous year. The business is also expected to get a boost later this year with the release of the new Xbox Series X gaming console.

Write to Aaron Tilley at aaron.tilley@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 16:52 ET (20:52 GMT)

Chubb's Net Income Increases

By Allison Prang

Chubb Ltd.'s earnings increased in the third quarter.

Chubb's profit for the third quarter increased to $1.19 billion, or $2.63 a share. A year earlier, its earnings were $1.09 billion, or $2.38 a share.

Core operating income, net of tax, was $2 a share. According to FactSet, analysts were expecting $2.19 a share.

Net premiums written at the property and casualty insurance company rose more than 5% to $8.47 billion.

Write to Allison Prang at allison.prang@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 16:32 ET (20:32 GMT)

U.S. Stocks Finish Mixed
By Mischa Frankl-Duval and Amber Burton 

U.S. stocks wobbled Tuesday after worries about the coronavirus pandemic sent markets tumbling to start the week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.8%. The S&P 500 wavered for most of the day but finished 0.3% lower, and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.6%.

Rising Covid-19 infection levels around the world are compounding worries about the global economic outlook. The seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. reached a record Monday, while a number of countries in Europe, including Italy, Spain and Russia, tightened restrictions on activity to try to curb the spread of the virus.

One factor that has helped stocks bounce back from selloffs in the past: evidence that parts of the economy have started to recover from disruptions and shutdowns related to the pandemic.

Orders for long-lasting factory goods increased for the fifth consecutive month in September, Commerce Department data showed Tuesday. Orders rose 1.9% in September from August.

Craig Fehr, an investment strategist at Edward Jones, said despite uncertainty due to the rise in Covid-19 infections he remains positive about the market's recovery heading into next year. "I think there are still more gains that can be seen in 2021. We're probably likely to see the stock market produce both volatility and returns that are a bit more consistent with historical norms," he said.

Some investors also are betting that authorities will avoid the stringent lockdown measures put in place in the spring, which brought the global economy to a jarring halt.

"At the moment, the market is discounting for further lockdowns and for the economy to suffer dramatically again, and I just don't see that," said Patrick Spencer, managing director at U.S. investment firm Baird. "We're in a V-shaped recovery."

A string of earnings results drove swings across the stock market.

Shares of Eli Lilly slipped 6.9% after the drugmaker lowered its profit guidance for 2020. Shares of Caterpillar slipped 3.3% after the company reported profits and revenue fell during its most recent quarter.

Results from Microsoft, due after the closing bell, may give investors additional cues on the strength of the largest U.S. technology firms. Those companies have been responsible for much of the stock market's strength this year.

"For a lot of companies, mainly big tech, where the expectations are pretty high, we need to see them meet those expectations," said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors. Investors are going to be particularly focused on forward-looking projections, and any sense that companies anticipate further pain in 2021 could damage sentiment, she said. "The greatest concern is going to be the guidance, because it's [the fourth quarter] that's been the real concern."

Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 ticked down 0.9%.

Shares of HSBC rose nearly 4% after the bank set aside $785 million in provisions for bad loans in the September quarter, less than one-third of the amount set aside in the previous three months.

In Asia, most major equity benchmarks posted tepid declines. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index retreated 0.5% and Japan's Nikkei 225 was little changed, while the Shanghai Composite Index ticked up 0.1%.

Write to Mischa Frankl-Duval at Mischa.Frankl-Duval@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 16:19 ET (20:19 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Financial Services News of the Day
Visa's Planned Purchase of Plaid Faces Antitrust Scrutiny at the Justice Department 
 

The DOJ, making preparations for potential litigation, could soon decide whether it will sue to block Visa's purchase of the fintech firm.

 
HSBC, Santander Signal Cautious Optimism 
 

The two global lenders are the latest to strike an upbeat tone despite the continuing pandemic impact.

 
Lenders Cracking Down on Delinquent Mall Owners 
 

As many landlords struggle amid the pandemic and miss payments, some banks and other lenders think it is time to start cracking down on delinquent mall owners.

 
A Broken Up AIG Would Still Have Work to Do 
 

AIG's property-and-casualty unit could fetch a better valuation on its own, but it will likely still trail its rivals for now.

 
SEC Corporation Finance Director William Hinman Plans to Step Down This Year 
 

The exit is part of the usual wave of departures from federal regulatory agencies at the end of a presidential term.

 
Bipartisan Retirement Bill Offers Later Withdrawals, Paths to Lost Accounts 
 

A new proposal contains a broad mix of measures to encourage retirement savings, with a grab bag of incentives and relaxed restrictions.

 
Global Banks in Hong Kong Breathe Easier Over U.S. Sanctions 
 

U.S. sanctions over Hong Kong are likely to pose fewer headaches for international banks operating in the financial hub than first feared, lawyers say.

 
Santander Plans Deeper Cost Cuts 
 

Santander said it would cut an additional EUR1 billion in costs from its European operations in the next two years after reporting an above-forecast net profit of EUR1.75 billion in the third quarter.

 
Your Holiday Present's Arrival Could Depend on These Fund Managers 
 

Pain at the shopping mall is throwing up a moneymaking opportunity for fund managers. For the bet to pay off, retailers on the edge of going bust must actually survive.

 
U.S. Election Adds to Turkish Lira's Bumpy Ride 
 

Traders already wary of Turkish assets are concerned that a victory for Joe Biden in the U.S. presidential election could increase the chance of sanctions against Turkey.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 16:15 ET (20:15 GMT)

News Highlights: Top Energy News of the Day
Trump Weighs Executive Order to Show Support for Fracking 
 

President Trump is considering issuing an executive order mandating an economic analysis of fracking, according to senior administration officials, who say the initiative is aimed at highlighting his support for the energy industry in battleground states.

 
U.S. Crude-Oil Stockpiles Likely to Rise in DOE Data, Analysts Say 
 

U.S. crude-oil stockpiles are expected to increase by 800,000 barrels while gasoline stockpiles are expected to decrease by 400,000 in data due Wednesday, according to a survey of analysts and traders.

 
Oil gains as Tropical Storm Zeta forces shutdown of roughly half of U.S. Gulf output 
 

Oil futures finish higher Tuesday as another major storm cuts energy output in the Gulf of Mexico by roughly half, though worries the impact on demand from the ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases globally continue to hang over the market.

 
BP Posts Fifth Straight Quarterly Loss 
 

U.K. energy company BP reported a fifth consecutive quarterly loss, providing the first glimpse of how major oil companies navigated the third quarter amid a prolonged slump in demand.

 
Energy & Utilities Roundup: Market Talk 
 

The latest Market Talks covering Energy and Utilities

 
Robert Murray, Stubborn U.S. Coal Titan, Dies at Age 80 
 

Robert E. Murray, who used an aggressive acquisition strategy to build Murray Energy into a coal-mining giant even as falling prices drove rivals out of business, died Sunday.

 
PG&E Cuts Power to Hundreds of Thousands 
 

PG&E said it was pre-emptively cutting power to about 361,000 customers in northern and central California in an effort to prevent wildfires, marking the largest such shut-off it has reported this year.

 
Auto Makers Shift Hydrogen Focus to Big Rigs 
 

Auto makers have spent decades developing hydrogen fuel cells as a green alternative for cars with little to show for it. Now, they are shifting their attention to the trucking industry.

 
Fed's Purchase of Energy Company Debt Continues to Raise Questions 
 

The Federal Reserve's purchase of bonds issued by energy companies continues to draw scrutiny, even as central bank officials say it is part of their broader efforts to support corporate borrowing and is intended to help the economy navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

 
Galp Earnings Fall as Upstream Suffers 
 

Portugal's Galp reported a sharp drop in third-quarter underlying earnings hit by a lower contribution from its upstream segment and refinery, reflecting weaker commodity prices and market conditions.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 16:15 ET (20:15 GMT)

Pfizer Says Covid-19 Vaccine Late-Stage Trial Almost Fully Enrolled -- 3rd Update
By Jared S. Hopkins and Matt Grossman 

Pfizer Inc. said a global late-stage trial evaluating its Covid-19 vaccine is almost fully enrolled with participants, the company said, as its chief executive called for patience as researchers advance in collecting trial results.

The drugmaker hasn't yet conducted the first review of whether its experimental vaccine works safely.

Pfizer's Phase 3 trial seeking 44,000 volunteers needs fewer than 2,000 people to be fully enrolled, the company said Tuesday while announcing third-quarter earnings. The New York-based company also said that nearly 36,000 people in the trial received their second injection of either the two-dose vaccine or a placebo.

Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine, which it is developing in partnership with Germany's BioNTech SE, is among the most advanced shots from pharmaceutical companies working to help stem the global pandemic.

"We have reached the last mile," Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on a conference with analysts discussing earnings. "Let's all have the patience required for something so important for public health and the global economy."

Mr. Bourla reiterated the time line he laid out earlier this month for the vaccine's potential rollout. He said Pfizer could file for an emergency authorization to put the vaccine into initial public use in late November, assuming positive trial results -- suggesting shots could be made available in the U.S. before the end of the year.

He also sought to provide assurances that vaccine development won't be politicized. Mr. Bourla called the upcoming U.S. presidential election "an artificial milestone" and asked for patience as trial data is collected, analyzed and potentially filed to regulators. "This is going to be not a Republican vaccine or a Democratic vaccine. It would be a vaccine for the citizens of the world," he told investors.

He added, "I know how much stress levels are growing. I know how much a vaccine is needed for the world."

An outside panel of experts hasn't performed the first review of whether the vaccine works safely, known as an interim analysis, which was planned once 32 study participants become infected with symptomatic Covid-19, Pfizer said Tuesday. The review is performed by an outside group of experts known as the data safety monitoring committee. "We don't have the 32 events right now," Mr. Bourla said.

In an interview, Mr. Bourla said it is "extremely unlikely" any efficacy data about the vaccine would be made public before Nov. 3, partly because once the company gets the data it would take about a week to thoroughly analyze it.

In Pfizer's study, half the participants get a two-dose regimen of the vaccine three weeks apart, with the rest getting placebo shots. A week after subjects receive their second shot, researchers begin checking whether the vaccinated group develops symptoms more or less frequently than those who weren't vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration is requiring two months of observational safety data of vaccinated study participants.

President Trump has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be available before election day. Pfizer's development time line, as well as those of the other top Covid-19 vaccine developers, make a pre-election greenlight highly unlikely.

Pfizer has already spent nearly $2 billion on its Covid vaccine program. AstraZeneca PLC, Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson also have vaccines in advanced development.

Mr. Bourla said that Pfizer, which is ramping up manufacturing capabilities, will be able to meet its commitment to provide 100 million doses in the U.S. by March, and to deliver about 40 million by the end of this year.

He also said the company plans to provide the Covid-19 vaccine to developing and low-income countries, such as some in Africa, on a "not for profit" basis. The company's price in the U.S. has tracked to about $20 a dose, although the government purchased the initial doses and plans to provide them to people free of charge.

Sales for the vaccine are estimated at $3.5 billion next year before steadying at $1.4 billion annually, according to analysts at SVB Leerink LLC. Revenue from the vaccine would be included in 2021 guidance announced during fourth-quarter earnings, Chief Financial Officer Frank D'Amelio said in an interview.

Pfizer recorded third-quarter sales of $12.13 billion, compared with $12.68 billion in the same three-month period last year. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast $12.31 billion of sales

The company's biopharma revenue grew by 3% to $10.22 billion as sales expanded for drugs such as blood thinner Eliquis, rare-disease drug Vyndaqel and arthritis treatment Xeljanz. Revenue from the company's Upjohn segment, which focuses on off-patent and generic drugs, declined by 18% to $1.92 billion.

Pfizer plans to spin off Upjohn in a combination with U.K.-based Mylan NV that will be called Viatris. In September, Pfizer and Mylan won approval from the European Commission for the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

Pfizer said the pandemic dragged down its third-quarter revenue by approximately $500 million, or 4%, as it disrupted demand for some products in China and scrambled U.S. health-care visits that aren't related to the viral disease. Reduced doctor visits have thrown off prescribing patterns for some products, according to the company.

Pfizer's profit in the third quarter was 39 cents a share, compared with $1.36 a share in last year's third quarter. On an adjusted basis, its profit was 72 cents a share. Analysts had anticipated an adjusted profit of 70 cents a share.

The company said it expects to report full-year revenue between $48.8 billion and $49.5 billion, and an adjusted profit of $2.88 to $2.93 a share. The guidance doesn't assume revenue contributions from its Covid-19 vaccine.

Write to Jared S. Hopkins at jared.hopkins@wsj.com and Matt Grossman at matt.grossman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 27, 2020 15:59 ET (19:59 GMT)