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DJ Cash, Plastic or Hand? Amazon Envisions Paying With a Wave
By AnnaMaria Andriotis Inc. wants to make your hand your credit card.

The tech giant is creating checkout terminals that could be placed in bricks-and-mortar stores and allow shoppers to link their card information to their hands, according to people familiar with the matter. They could then pay for purchases with their palms, without having to pull out a card or phone.

The company plans to pitch the terminals to coffee shops, fast-food restaurants and other merchants that do lots of repeat business with their customers, according to some of the people. Amazon declined to comment.

Amazon, like other tech companies, is trying to further integrate itself into consumers' financial lives, leaving banks and card networks on edge. Apple Inc. introduced a credit card last year, and Google is rolling out checking accounts. If the Amazon terminals succeed, they could leapfrog mobile wallets such as Apple Pay while expanding Amazon's already-extensive access to consumer data.

Amazon's projects are closely watched both by tech and financial companies, which are increasingly colliding in payments. Amazon has been experimenting with payments at its Amazon Go stores, where customers can walk out without stopping to pay. It has also been building out Amazon Pay, a digital wallet that consumers can use to make payments at online merchants not owned by Amazon. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has stressed the importance of financial services and payments to some senior executives, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.

The plans for terminals are in early stages. Amazon recently began working with Visa Inc. to test transactions on the terminals and is in discussions with Mastercard Inc., according to some of the people.

Amazon has discussed the project with card issuers. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and Synchrony Financial have expressed interest in enabling consumers' card accounts to work with these terminals, according to some of the people.

Card companies are trying to figure out whether tech giants such as Amazon intend to be collaborators or competitors, though some believe it is safer to participate in big tech's payments ambitions than risk being left out. Amazon, for its part, wants the card companies' expertise in safeguarding consumers' card accounts.

Still, Amazon will have to allay the concerns of card issuers and networks, including how the terminals would detect fraud. The company will also have to win over customers wary of providing even more personal information and navigate a climate in which regulators are increasingly skeptical of big tech.

Amazon envisions that customers would first use the terminals to link their debit or credit card information to their hands, the people said. The company is weighing a few options for how to do so, one of the people said. For example, customers might insert cards into a terminal and then let the terminal scan their hands. From then on, they would only need to place a hand over the terminal to pay at a participating merchant.

Amazon recently filed a patent application for what it described as a "non-contact biometric identification system" that includes "a hand scanner that generates images of a user's palm."

Data that would pass through the terminals, including where consumers shopped and when, would be stored on Amazon's cloud, according to some of the people. The company would like to integrate this data with consumers' spending, those people said. That could give Amazon more leverage to charge higher prices to advertisers based on the idea they can better predict what customers are likely to buy.

The New York Post earlier reported that Amazon was testing a payments system that would let consumers use their hands to pay at Amazon's Whole Foods chain.

Amazon has had limited success with another payments project pitching bricks-and-mortar merchants on accepting its Amazon Pay digital wallet. One roadblock: Stores didn't want to remind their customers about Amazon and risk encouraging them to buy there instead. That could be a challenge with the new terminals as well.

In the near term, Amazon wants to nudge card issuers and networks to innovate along with it, according to people familiar with Amazon's strategy. Some payments companies worry that in the long term, tech companies including Amazon could just cut them out.

Card companies have raised concerns about the potential for fraud with the terminals, including how to catch people who try to link their hands to a stolen card. Amazon has said it could blacklist people who use the system fraudulently, some of the people said. But that might not stop cheaters from making one-time purchases of electronics or other big-ticket items.

Card issuers are also asking how consumers would be able to add more than one account to their palms and how they would be able to choose between those cards when they pay.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2020 08:00 ET (13:00 GMT)

DJ A Big Contrarian Investor Bought Up Boeing Stock --
By Ed Lin

Hexavest, a Montreal-based investment manager partially owned by Eaton Vance, features a choice quote from Vital Proulx, its co-chief investment officer, on its website: "A good dose of contrarian opinion helps us avoid the traps occasionally set by the comfort of consensus."

Buying Boeing stock (ticker: BA) in the fourth quarter in the face of negative headlines about the company was certainly a contrarian move. Hexavest more than doubled its investment in the embattled aerospace giant. The firm also bought up Home Depot (HD), Intel (INTC), and Walmart stock (WMT) in the quarter.

Hexavest, which managed $8.2 billion in U.S.-traded equities as of Dec. 31, disclosed the investment changes, among others, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It didn't respond to a request to comment on its stock trades. The firm is 49% owned by Eaton Vance (EV).

Hexavest's contrarian take hasn't paid off in recent years. The firm's composite U.S. equities strategy had generated returns of 15.65% in Canadian dollars for 2019 through Nov. 30 compared with 24.12% in the S&P 500. The three-year annualized return to that point was 9.88% for Hexavest compared with 14.41% in the S&P 500.

The team that formed Hexavest in 2004 has worked together managing money since at least May 1, 1991. The annual return since then is 10.47%, nearly even with the index's 10.51%.

So far in 2020 year to date, only one of the four fourth-quarter stock purchases mentioned above is beating the S&P 500's 3.1% advance,

Boeing stock has slipped 0.5% so far this year through Friday's close. That may be surprising, considering that there has been a steady stream of negative headlines, including a story in The Wall Street Journal last week that noted employees had joked about the safety of its planes. Also last week, a Boeing plane was shot down, by mistake, by Iran,

Hexavest bought 113,858 Boeing shares in the fourth quarter, raising its investment to 193,582 shares.

The investment firm also bought 425,862 additional Home Depot shares in the period. Hexavest only owned 50 Home Depot shares on Sept. 30.

The home-improvement retailer reported disappointing third-quarter revenue in November, sending the stock tumbling. In December, management reduced its forecast for 2020 sales. Home Depot stock was hobbled but still ended 2019 with a 27% gain, behind the S&P 500's 28.9% rise. At least one analyst in December thought in December that Home Depot stock presented a good buying opportunity.

Home Depot stock is sporting a 6.2% gain for 2020 so far.

A strong third-quarter earnings report lifted Intel stock in October, putting shares on a path for a 27.5% gain by the end of the year. Shares of the chip giant have slipped 0.4% so far this year, after a preview of its Tiger Lake laptop processors didn't spark a rally.

Hexavest bought 309,048 Intel shares in the fourth quarter to end the year with 1.85 million shares.

The investment firm bought 123,938 Walmart shares in the quarter, lifting its investment in the retailing giant to 548,281 shares.

Walmart stock rose 27.6% in 2019, but it has slipped 3.3% so far in 2020. Late in December, Walmart lost a top e-commerce executive to Michaels (MIK).

Media reports have said Grubhub (GRUB), the food-delivery company, is for sale (although the company denies it). Walmart is reportedly an interested buyer.

Inside Scoop is a regular Barron's feature covering stock transactions by corporate executives and board members -- so-called insiders -- as well as large shareholders, politicians, and other prominent figures. Due to their insider status, these investors are required to disclose stock trades with the Securities and Exchange Commission or other regulatory groups.

Write to Ed Lin at and follow @BarronsEdLin.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2020 06:59 ET (11:59 GMT)