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DJ CLP Holdings 2019 Rev HK$85.69B, Down 6.3% >0002.HK

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2800)

February 23, 2020 23:08 ET (04:08 GMT)

DJ CLP Holdings 2019 Net HK$4.66B, Down 66% >0002.HK

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2800)

February 23, 2020 23:07 ET (04:07 GMT)

DJ News Highlights: Top Company News of the Day
Intuit Near Deal to Buy Credit Karma for $7 Billion

Boeing Offers More Support for 737 MAX Suppliers

Google Plots Course to Overtake Cloud Rivals

Move Over, Elliott. Argentina's New Bond-Market Nemesis Is Fidelity.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009

Vale Dam Report Faults Conflict of Interest, Compensation Structure

Dropbox Finally Doesn't Drop

Fox, Comcast Pursue Takeovers of Ad-Supported Video Services

Wells Fargo Settles With Government Over Fake-Accounts Scandal

Fox Looks to Buy Tubi

Intuit is near a deal to buy personal-finance portal Credit Karma for about $7 billion in cash and stock, pushing the company behind QuickBooks and TurboTax further into consumer finance, people familiar with the matter said.

Boeing is planning more financial and other support to its 737 MAX suppliers to prepare them to resume production of the jetliner-and dissuade some from seeking more business from Airbus.

The decision to cut jobs is the latest move in a yearlong effort to shake up the cloud unit and put greater focus on delivering growth to parent Alphabet.

Argentina's new adversary in the bond market is no highflying hedge fund. It's Fidelity Investments.

Berkshire Hathaway's earnings surged last year due to unrealized investment gains. Chairman Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors about the conglomerate's long-term future following an underwhelming year for the stock performance.

An independent report commissioned by Vale into last year's deadly mine-dam failure found conflicts of interest between the mining giant and its auditors, faulty information-sharing inside the company and a compensation structure that prioritized financial returns.

Having struggled to convince investors of its growth prospects, it was high time for Dropbox to try something new.

Fox and Comcast are each in discussions to acquire advertising-supported video services, as entertainment giants increasingly look to offer free or low-cost alternatives for consumers who don't want to pay for streaming subscriptions.

Wells Fargo will pay $3 billion to settle investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over its long-running fake-account problems.

Fox has expressed interest in acquiring Tubi, an ad-supported streaming service that carries reruns and movies, according to people familiar with the matter.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 23:00 ET (04:00 GMT)

DJ News Highlights: Top Global Markets News of the Day
Economy Week Ahead: Consumer Confidence, GDP, Household Income

China's PBOC Signals More Policy Easing Amid Coronavirus Epidemic

Switzerland's Central Bank Left in a Bind

World Economy Shudders as Coronavirus Threatens Global Supply Chains

Natural-Gas Exporters Struggle to Lock Up Buyers

Losing $450,000 in Three Days: Hackers Trick Victims Into Big Wire Transfers

ESG Funds Mostly Track the Market

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009

E*Trade, Apple, Walmart: Stocks That Defined the Week

SEC Rejects Controversial 'Speed Bump' Proposal

Data out this week could provide an early look at how the coronavirus epidemic is affecting the global economy and how U.S. consumers are faring early in the year.

China will consider additional policy easing measures to help alleviate the impact of the new coronavirus on its economy, including adjusting benchmark deposit rates, a central bank official said.

The Swiss franc has climbed to its highest level against the euro in more than four years, leaving the central bank with a dilemma: Do nothing and potentially damage the economy, or intervene and risk angering the U.S.

The last time a coronavirus outbreak hit China in 2003, the global economy emerged relatively unscathed. Now, nearly two decades later, the growth-damping effects of a similar pathogen threaten to ripple around a world transformed by China's boom.

U.S. companies have struggled to line up foreign buyers willing to sign long-term deals for liquefied natural gas as the world is experiencing a glut of the fuel.

Someone hijacked an executive's email and asked his assistant to wire thousands of dollars to a Hong Kong account. Fraudsters are stealing billions each year through this type of scam, which uses sophisticated hacking and wire transfers to efficiently move money overseas.

The push toward "sustainability" in investing so far isn't having an outsize impact on stocks, our columnist's dive into the data shows.

Berkshire Hathaway's earnings surged last year due to unrealized investment gains. Chairman Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors about the conglomerate's long-term future following an underwhelming year for the stock performance.

Here are seven major companies whose stocks moved on the week's news.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected a hotly disputed proposal to add a new "speed bump," or split-second trading delay, to the U.S. stock market.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 23:00 ET (04:00 GMT)

DJ Bharti Infratel Shares Up 2.9% After Indus Towers Merger Approval

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:55 ET (03:55 GMT)

DJ PepsiCo to Buy Chinese Online Snack Company for $705 Million
By P.R. Venkat

PepsiCo Inc. has agreed to buy Be & Cheery, an online snack company in China from Haoxiangni Health Food Co., for $705 million.

Based in Hangzhou, Be & Cheery's products include nuts, dried fruits, meat snacks, baked goods and confectionery that are mainly sold online through major e-commerce platforms in China.

The snack company had 5 billion yuan ($711.5 million) revenue last year, PepsiCo said in a statement late Sunday.

"Be & Cheery is highly complementary to our existing China business with its broad product portfolio, asset light model, and focus on e-commerce," the chief executive of PepsiCo Greater China Ram Krishnan said in the statement.

The transaction is subject to a Haoxiangni shareholders' vote, certain regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, the statement said.

Haoxiangni Health Food Co., is mainly engaged in research and development, sourcing, manufacturing and distribution of health foods. It is listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

Write to P.R. Venkat at venkat.pr@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:54 ET (03:54 GMT)

DJ Vodafone Idea Shares Up 4.6% After Bharti Infratel, Indus Towers Merger Approval

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:51 ET (03:51 GMT)

DJ AUD Unlikely to Change Its Carry-Trade Spot -- Market Talk

0351 GMT - Australian interest rates are at record lows, and AUD is trading at its lowest levels since the grim days of the global financial crisis. There has even been some talk that AUD is being looked at as a funding currency for carry trades, reversing the many decades where it has been on the opposite side of such trades. This isn't impossible, Westpac's currency strategist Sean Callow says, but the Aussie dollar is still an unlikely candidate for carry trades. There are several lower-yielding, highly liquid funding currencies such as JPY, EUR, CHF and GBP to choose from instead. (james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:51 ET (03:51 GMT)

DJ Interbank Foreign Exchange Rates At 22:50 EST / 0350 GMT
 
                           Latest       Previous   %Chg    Daily    Daily   %Chg 
Dollar Rates                               Close            High      Low  12/31 
 
USD/JPY Japan           111.51-52      111.55-56  -0.03   111.68   111.22  +2.65 
EUR/USD Euro            1.0822-25      1.0845-48  -0.21   1.0846   1.0812  -3.49 
GBP/USD U.K.            1.2938-40      1.2956-58  -0.14   1.2967   1.2935  -2.42 
USD/CHF Switzerland     0.9804-08      0.9780-84  +0.25   0.9812   0.9783  +1.35 
USD/CAD Canada          1.3264-69      1.3219-24  +0.34   1.3269   1.3224  +2.13 
AUD/USD Australia       0.6605-09      0.6622-26  -0.26   0.6628   0.6584  -5.86 
NZD/USD New Zealand     0.6319-25      0.6343-49  -0.38   0.6349   0.6311  -6.09 
 
Euro Rates 
 
EUR/JPY Japan           120.68-72      120.98-01  -0.25   121.08   120.17  -0.93 
EUR/GBP U.K.            0.8365-68      0.8371-74  -0.07   0.8376   0.8347  -1.09 
EUR/CHF Switzerland     1.0612-15      1.0612-15   0.00   1.0616   1.0602  -2.21 
EUR/CAD Canada          1.4352-62      1.4339-49  +0.09   1.4373   1.4323  -1.43 
EUR/AUD Australia       1.6379-89      1.6363-73  +0.10   1.6439   1.6372  +2.53 
EUR/DKK Denmark        7.4693-700     7.4696-703   0.00   7.4741   7.4678  -0.03 
EUR/NOK Norway        10.1256-306    10.0654-704  +0.60  10.1306  10.0665  +2.87 
EUR/SEK Sweden        10.5786-886    10.5352-452  +0.41  10.5870  10.5379  +0.78 
EUR/CZK Czech Rep.      25.016-46      25.043-73  -0.11   25.076   25.020  -1.54 
EUR/HUF Hungary       336.99-7.39    336.69-7.09  +0.09   337.35   336.87  +1.84 
EUR/PLN Poland          4.2958-76      4.2861-79  +0.23   4.2987   4.2875  +1.02 
 
Yen Rates 
 
AUD/JPY Australia        73.66-70       73.89-93  -0.31    73.91    73.25  -3.36 
GBP/JPY U.K.            144.25-31      144.51-57  -0.18   144.63   143.86  +0.11 
CAD/JPY Canada           84.04-08       84.35-39  -0.37    84.37    83.87  +0.50 
NZD/JPY New Zealand      70.47-54       70.76-83  -0.41    70.83    70.19  -3.60 
 
Other Dollar Rates 
 
USD/CZK Czech Rep.      23.102-52     23.075-125  +0.12   23.178   23.095  +2.01 
USD/HUF Hungary         311.37-77      310.41-81  +0.31   311.92   310.56  +5.51 
USD/DKK Denmark         6.9015-25      6.8859-69  +0.23   6.9085   6.8858  +3.59 
USD/NOK Norway         9.3549-609     9.2778-838  +0.83   9.3599   9.2812  +6.59 
USD/PLN Poland          3.9691-96      3.9525-30  +0.42   3.9754   3.9532  +4.64 
USD/RUB Russia         64.383-453     64.039-109  +0.54   64.418   64.061  +3.79 
USD/SEK Sweden         9.7746-836     9.7142-232  +0.62   9.7901   9.7184  +4.40 
USD/ZAR S. Africa     15.0662-962     14.9863-05  +0.53  15.1093  15.0033  +7.74 
 
USD/CNY China           7.0303-23      7.0262-82  +0.06   7.0373   7.0271  +0.98 
USD/HKD Hong Kong       7.7925-30      7.7865-70  +0.08   7.7949   7.7868  +0.02 
USD/MYR Malaysia       4.2190-240     4.1866-916  +0.77   4.2215   4.1890  +3.20 
USD/INR India           71.840-50      71.870-90  -0.05   71.943   71.845  +0.69 
USD/IDR Indonesia       13886-900       13758-72  +0.93    13893    13764  +0.07 
USD/PHP Philippines  50.980-1.010      50.875-95  +0.22   51.050   50.885  +0.56 
USD/SGD Singapore       1.4013-23      1.3968-78  +0.32   1.4028   1.3976  +4.15 
USD/KRW S. Korea     1217.03-9.03   1206.07-8.07  +0.91  1218.79  1206.96  +5.45 
USD/TWD Taiwan          30.436-66     30.385-415  +0.17   30.508   30.400  +1.80 
USD/THB Thailand       31.690-710      31.570-90  +0.38   31.780   31.560  +6.52 
USD/VND Vietnam          23216-86       23209-79  +0.03    23252    23243  +0.34 
 
USD/BRL Brazil         4.3894-924     4.3878-908  +0.04   4.3909   4.3903  +9.24 
USD/MXN Mexico        19.0605-905   18.8864-9164  +0.92  19.0925  18.9082  +0.77 
USD/ARS Argentina     61.7476-919    61.7417-859  +0.01  61.9712  61.6226  +3.15 
 
Source: Tullett Prebon 
 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:50 ET (03:50 GMT)

DJ City Developments 4Q Revenue Likey Rose -- Earnings Preview

By Justina Lee

City Developments Ltd. is scheduled to report results for the fourth quarter Wednesday. Here's what you need to know:

REVENUE FORECAST: Fourth-quarter revenue is forecast at 1.01 billion Singapore dollars (US$722.8 million) compared with S$788.3 million in the year-earlier period, according to a consensus estimate provided by FactSet.

EPS FORECAST: The Singapore-listed developer is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings per share of S$0.14, according to a FactSet poll.

WHAT TO WATCH:

--HOTELS BUSINESS: Investors are likely to keep a lookout for comments by the property developer on any possible impact of the coronavirus epidemic on its hotels business.

--ACQUISITIONS: Also in focus will be any planned acquisitions that could help City Developments increase its recurring income.

Write to Justina Lee at justina.lee@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:33 ET (03:33 GMT)

DJ Ex-Japan Asian Currencies May Weaken on Worsening Virus Shock -- Market Talk

0322 GMT - Investors should be biased toward shorting Asian currencies excluding the yen against the dollar due to the worsening coronavirus shock, Goldman Sachs says. The recent, gradual shift higher in the USD/CNY fixing is likely another reason to short these currencies. On Thailand, Goldman recently adjusted its near-term outlook on THB to bearish from neutral after the country's Tourism Authority estimated tourist arrivals might drop 13% in 2020, three times more than GS's own prediction. On South Korea, worries for KRW have broadened beyond a China demand shock with a surge in the number of confirmed domestic cases of the virus, GS says. USD/THB is up 0.5% at 31.73 and USD/KRW is up 0.9% at 1218.26. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:25 ET (03:25 GMT)

DJ CapitaLand 4Q Rev Expected to Rise Marginally -- Earnings Preview

By Justina Lee

CapitaLand Ltd. is scheduled to report results for the fourth quarter on Wednesday. Here's what you need to know:

REVENUE FORECAST: Fourth-quarter revenue is forecast at 1.63 billion Singapore dollars ($1.17 billion), compared with S$1.62 billion in the year-earlier period, according to a consensus estimate provided by FactSet.

EPS FORECAST: The Singapore-listed real estate group is expected to report earnings per share of S$0.06 in the quarter, according to FactSet, compared with S$0.05 a year earlier.

WHAT TO WATCH:

-- CHINA MARKET: Investors are interested in the company's comments on any potential impact of the coronavirus epidemic on its China business. Singapore and China markets are key contributors to the company's earnings, accounting for 75.6% of total EBIT for the third quarter, it said in a 3Q earnings press release.

-- ASSET RECYCLING: Investors are interested in whether CapitaLand will continue to sell assets, which can help it to redeploy capital into areas that may increase yields. CapitaLand sold more than S$5.2 billion worth of assets and released S$2.4 billion of net capital, according to its 3Q release.

Write to Justina Lee at justina.lee@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:24 ET (03:24 GMT)

DJ V-Shaped Recovery Unlikely for Australia's Services Exports -- Market Talk

0322 GMT - Efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus will hit Australia's education and tourism exports especially hard. St. George Bank says that worse still, there won't be much, if any, so-called catch-up demand to help the sectors rebuild. The longer travel bans and other containment measures are in place, the greater the risks of a longer-lasting impact to the services sector through damage to reputation and sentiment, St. George added. If the bank is right, the RBA's expectation of a small hit to GDP growth followed by recovery could prove too optimistic. (james.glynn@wsj.com; Twitter @JamesGlynnWSJ)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:22 ET (03:22 GMT)

DJ Charoen Pokphand Foods' Outlook Likely Positive on Higher Exports -- Market Talk

0322 GMT - Charoen Pokphand Foods' export business will likely improve this year, as the Thai food conglomerate expects to double export volume and continue supplying to KFC China through a new plant, Citi says. The company is also resuming exports to the UAE, which could help reduce the supply glut of white poultry meat, Citi notes. Impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the company, which is the main supplier of Walmart, is likely to remain muted, as Wuhan accounts for less than 10% of feed sales, Citi notes. The bank maintains a buy valuation and a stock target price of THB36. Shares are up 3.5% at THB29.75. (nailun.tan@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:22 ET (03:22 GMT)

DJ Great Wall Motor's Sales Challenge May Persist in 1Q -- Market Talk

0310 GMT - Great Wall Motor's sales growth prospects are likely to remain pressured in 1Q, as the coronavirus epidemic slows the auto market's recovery, Bocom International says. China's car sales began to rebound late last year after months of consecutive slumps, but the epidemic could dampen momentum, Bocom says, noting both consumer sentiment and production schedules are taking a hit. The car maker's aggressive production capacity expansion plans this year is another negative, as excessive capacity could lead to under-utilization and lower profitability amid demand challenges, Bocom says. The company's sales driver visibility also appears lacking with a weak model line-up, Bocom says. Shares are up 2.2% at HK$6.05 after 2019 results beat expectations. (yifan.wang@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:10 ET (03:10 GMT)

DJ Does the U.S. Need a National Digital Currency? -- Journal Report

The nature of money is changing, and central banks around the world are debating whether they need to change with it.

As electronic payments take off and private cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin seek to gain traction, governments are exploring whether to issue digital versions of their national currencies that could be used as a universal form of payment in the way physical cash is today. These conversations gained urgency for some last year when Facebook Inc. announced plans to launch a cryptocurrency called libra, sparking concern that one of the world's most powerful technology firms could become even more powerful by operating its own digital money.

So far, few countries have implemented a digital currency, though China reportedly is close and several countries have done or plan tests. Considering the dollar's key role in global markets, should the U.S. commit to such a project?

Proponents say a digital dollar managed on a single network would facilitate faster, cheaper payments and protect the Fed's ability to conduct monetary policy in a changing world. Opponents say Fed-controlled digital currency would be costlier and less efficient than many expect, and it would harm privacy by giving government the ability to track all dollar spending.

Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, makes the case for digitizing the U.S. dollar. Lawrence H. White, a professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow of the Cato Institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, argues against.

YES: Payments Would Be Easier

By Neha Narula

One would be forgiven for thinking we already have a national digital currency: My salary is directly deposited into my bank account, I use Venmo to split dinner with friends, and I haven't touched paper money in weeks.

These "cashless" payment systems may rely on digital interfaces and software, but in reality they aren't much different from paper checks. They rely on financial intermediaries, which demand compensation for the risks they take on by vouching for me as the payer. And while it might seem like these systems are free, merchants charge higher prices to cover the fees they incur from payment apps and credit- and debit-card issuers. Fees are even higher on cross-border transactions, making micropayments almost impossible, and some transactions can take days to settle as money moves across slow, outdated networks of commercial and central banks

The U.S. could help pave the way for faster, cheaper and more secure payments by allowing consumers to hold central-bank-issued digital currency outside of commercial banks. Because everyone using this e-cash would be connected to a single network operated and maintained by the Federal Reserve, it would be as fast and easy to send money to someone across the world as it is to text them photos today. And if this new form of digital currency had an open application programming interface, or API, third-party developers could create new services that use it, and financial services could better interoperate.

The government could provide such a payment protocol as a service at cost, charging only what is needed to operate and maintain the system. A public payments option would spur competition, as commercial banks would have to work harder to attract customers, perhaps by offering higher interest rates on deposits instead of charging predatory fees.

How a Fed-issued digital currency might work remains to be seen. The Fed could provide accounts directly to consumers and businesses, in much the same way it does with commercial banks today. Or maybe the Fed would operate and control the payment infrastructure, while private firms provided the customer-facing services. It also could coexist with physical cash.

A Fed-issued digital currency would need to be carefully designed, implemented and regulated to reduce the risk of fraud, protect privacy and ensure that commercial banks aren't drained of the funds they need to make loans. It would have to be built on well-tested, hardened software that puts system security and privacy first. This isn't necessarily at odds with preventing criminal activity: Recent advances in encryption can be used to keep users' identities private, while still allowing regulators to monitor certain aspects of the system.

If the U.S. doesn't embrace this opportunity, someone else will. There is exciting experimentation happening with cryptocurrencies, and it might be tempting to leave innovation to the private sector. But payments systems have network effects -- what if a small number of large companies comes to dominate and control payment, as with the internet today? These companies could collude to stifle competitors and innovation and undermine the Fed's ability to set monetary policy and regulate financial flows.

And what if another country launches a globally useful digital currency first? A survey by the Bank for International Settlements indicates that 30% of central banks say they are likely to launch a digital currency in the next six years and 10% have pilots in place. Currencies compete: Anything that makes another currency more attractive to use could cause people to shift transactions and even holdings away from U.S. dollars, undermining the U.S.'s ability to use economic sanctions as a foreign-policy tool.

We are witnessing a significant change in the way that money works. Cryptocurrencies showed us a new model where developers can create applications with money and consumers can digitally store value and make payments, all without banks. The rest of the world is embracing digital money. It's time the U.S. caught up.

Dr. Narula is the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

NO: It Would Be Costly and Inefficient

By Lawrence H. White

The U.S. government already issues paper currency, so having it issue a modern digital currency might seem like a no-brainer. But a closer look suggests it won't be a "win" for the public.

What most proponents of central bank digital currency envision isn't a currency that would circulate peer-to-peer as dollar bills or bitcoins do without the banking system's knowledge. Rather, most favor a model in which the Fed would provide households and nonbank businesses with transaction accounts on its own books, giving government the ability to track all payments and eliminating the anonymity provided by physical cash today.

Advocates say a national digital currency would make retail payments almost instantaneous, costless and secure, and safeguard the Fed's ability to conduct monetary policy. These claims are dubious, and there are easier ways to speed up payments in the U.S. The Fed could facilitate faster check settlement by expanding the operating hours of the settlement services it provides to commercial banks, a move favored by the National Automated Clearing House Association.

A central bank retail-account system cannot be costless if it hopes to provide the level of customer service that consumers expect. The Fed deals only with commercial banks, the U.S. Treasury and other central banks, and knows only how to process payments at the wholesale level. To match the level of service provided by commercial banks today, the Fed would need to invest in branch offices, ATMs, websites and phone apps, and hire tellers and service representatives to process account applications, answer customer questions and more.

Given the government's poor record on efficiency, the likely outcome would be a system that falls short on customer service or loses money at taxpayers' expense -- or both.

Consumers also want a payment system that continually improves through innovation. Entrepreneurs have launched successful digital payment platforms like PayPal and Venmo in the U.S., Alipay and WeChat Pay in China, Paytm in India and M-Pesa in Kenya. Private initiatives have introduced bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Central-bank bureaucracies? Not so much. The central bank of Ecuador launched a retail-account system in 2015, but the project failed to attract users due to poor design, poor marketing and lack of public trust in the system. It was terminated after three years.

Those who say the U.S. government needs to act to ensure the dollar doesn't lose its dominance to another nation's digital currency or a private cryptocurrency have it backward. The best way to improve the speed and convenience of dollar payments is through entrepreneurial competition, not the heavy hand of government. The dollar will reign so long as the Fed keeps the dollar inflation rate low.

Some economists are pushing a Fed retail-account system as a way to abolish most or all paper currency with less public inconvenience and complaint. Once that happens and the public can no longer cash out, the Fed will be free to impose negative nominal interest rates on all dollar-holders. This will improve monetary policy, they say. Some improvement.

A Fed retail-account system also raises serious concerns about privacy because the government would be able to track where every dollar goes. Unlike private firms that encrypt customer data, the Fed as an arm of the federal government can't be expected to protect users from surveillance. Other federal agencies -- such as the Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- would likely meet less resistance when they pressure the Fed the way they pressure commercial banks to share account information.

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:00 ET (03:00 GMT)

DJ Does the U.S. Need a National Digital Currency? -2-

Finally, moving retail accounts to the Fed would diminish funds in commercial banks, shrinking the volume of growth-enhancing small-business loans they make. In principle, that could be avoided if the Fed agreed to auction all of its retail funds back to banks with no strings attached. But given recent history, the Fed can't be expected to maintain a fair neutrality in credit allocation.

Dr. White is a professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow of the Cato Institute's Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:00 ET (03:00 GMT)

DJ Indian Morning Briefing: Asian Markets Mostly Lower as Concerns Mount Over Spread of Virus Outside China
GLOBAL MARKETS 
DJIA         28992.41  -227.57  -0.78% 
Nasdaq        9576.59  -174.37  -1.79% 
S&P 500       3337.75   -35.48  -1.05% 
FTSE 100      7403.92   -32.72  -0.44% 
Nikkei Stock  CLOSED 
Hang Seng    26931.08  -377.73  -1.38% 
Kospi         2098.29   -64.55  -2.98% 
SGX Nifty*   11956.00   -78.50  -0.65% 
*Feb contract 
 
USD/JPY 111.50-51   -0.04% 
Range   111.68   111.22 
EUR/USD 1.0828-31   -0.16% 
Range   1.0846   1.0812 
 
CBOT Wheat March $5.510 per bushel 
Comex Gold     $1,659.76   +1.0% 
Nymex Crude (NY)  $53.34   -$0.54 
 
 
U.S. STOCKS

ASIAN STOCKS

FOREX

METALS

OIL SUMMARY

TOP HEADLINES China's Central Bank Signals More Policy Easing Amid Coronavirus Epidemic PBOC Mulling Tweak to Reserve Requirement Ratio to Release Liquidity, Vice Gov. Says Swiss Franc Climbs Against Euro, Leaving Central Bank in Bind Iran's Conservatives Win Elections After Record Low Turnout, Disqualifications Bernie Sanders Looks Ahead After Nevada Caucus Win World Economy Shudders as Coronavirus Threatens Global Supply Chains G-20 Financial Leaders Warn Coronavirus Risk to Global Growth Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009 Intuit Near Deal to Buy Credit Karma for $7 Billion Boeing Offers More Support for MAX Suppliers Google Plots Course to Overtake Cloud Rivals Italy Grapples With Worst Coronavirus Outbreak Outside Asia Vale Dam Report Faults Conflict of Interest, Compensation Structure Russia Leans on Mercenary Forces to Regain Global Clout National Security Adviser Discounts Reports of Russian Interference to Help Re-elect Trump South Sudan's Fragile Power-Sharing Government Formalized

Investors dumped stocks and flocked to traditionally safer assets like gold and government bonds this week as worries grew that the coronavirus epidemic would crimp global growth.

The S&P 500 index fell 1.2% Friday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 273 points, or about 0.9%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped about 2%. All three indexes are still within 3% of their records.

Stock investors have been ebullient in recent weeks, driving major indexes to record after record, while bond investors appear to be exercising more caution, scooping up traditionally safe assets and sending yields down to record levels.

The mixed signals in markets highlight investors' struggle to assess the damage that the coronavirus epidemic will have on economic growth around the world as the sickness disrupts consumer spending, manufacturing and supply chains around the world.

Markets in Japan are closed today for a holiday.

South Korea's benchmark Kospi fell 2.2% to 2114.39 in early trade, as the worsening coronavirus epidemic stoked fear and prompted investors to shun risky assets. Stocks declined broadly, dragged by tech, tourism and retail companies. The number of coronavirus cases in the country is set to rise further after surging to 602 over the weekend, with the death toll hitting six. Authorities have delayed the start of a new school year and raised the health alert to the highest level. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics was down 2.4%.

Hong Kong stocks fell as the increasing number of coronavirus cases outside China dampened investor sentiment. The Hang Seng Index extended losses and was recently down 1.3% to 26965.89 after opening 0.7% lower. With regional currencies remaining pressured by the epidemic, funds flow would be unlikely to favor Hong Kong stocks in the near term, KGI said. Chinese oil majors are leading the declines as demand concerns drive oil prices lower. PetroChina was down 4.1%, CNOOC declined 3.0% and Sinopec was off 1.7%.

Singapore shares were down this morning, with the FTSE Straits Times Index sliding 0.7% to 3160.92 as concerns over the coronavirus continue weighing on sentiment globally. Despite that Trading Central says the short-term outlook for the Singapore market may be bullish as the STI has stayed above key support at 3129. Meanwhile no new coronavirus cases have been reported in Singapore since Sunday, leaving the total number at 89. Yangzijiang Shipbuilding was among the worst performers, falling 2.9%. Bank stocks were also broadly down, with UOB falling 1.6%, DBS 0.6% lower and OCBC dropping 0.5%. Among other stocks, Thai Beverage shed 1.8% and Singapore Press Holdings slid 1.5%.

Malaysia's political uncertainty is expected to weigh heavily on the ringgit, AxiCorp said, noting reports that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is forming a new coalition government with opposition parties that effectively prevents parliament member Anwar Ibrahim from succeeding Mahathir. "It's a sell signal" for the ringgit, said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp. "The current situation will likely mean there will be horse-trading going on." Regarding the potential economic impact, Innes said a coalition government could be more prone to increase fiscal spending rather than fiscal prudence. "The risk here is for more massive deficits," he said. USD/MYR is up 0.6% at 4.2160.

USD/KRW rose to an eight-month high as the won weakened on concerns over coronavirus cases surging in South Korea. There were 763 cases in the country as of Monday morning, a roughly 25-fold increase in only five days. Risk-off sentiment may continue to push USD/KRW upward as recent developments warrant a re-assessment of the epidemic's fallout on Korea's economy in terms of supply chain disruption and inbound tourism, Maybank said. USD/KRW's daily momentum on the technical charts is bullish, although the stochastic oscillator is in overbought territory, indicating that further gains could moderate. Initial resistance is at 1223, Maybank says. USD/KRW is up 0.8% at 1217.25 after earlier touching 1218.72, the highest level since late August, according to FactSet.

Gold prices were higher in morning Asian trade as demand for safe-haven assets continues growing amid renewed coronavirus concerns. Gold demand is likely to surge if worries over the virus further rattle financial markets, following more global cases of patients who didn't recently travel to China, AxiCorp said. South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level as the number of cases rise, while Italy has imposed quarantine measures in the north in a bid to contain the spread. Spot gold was recently up 1.0% at $1,659.76/oz.

Oil prices were lower in early Asian trade following news that Saudi Arabia is mulling breaking its oil-production alliance with Russia over output curbs disagreements. The coronavirus is fuelling demand concerns that will likely continue pressuring oil prices in the near term, as the economic disruption cause by the epidemic could trigger a massive drop in business activity around the globe, AxiCorp said. Front-month WTI was recently down 2.6% at $52.02 a barrel and Brent futures were down 2.7% at $56.90 a barrel.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 22:00 ET (03:00 GMT)

DJ Global Equities Roundup: Market Talk

The latest Market Talks covering Equities. Published exclusively on Dow Jones Newswires throughout the day.

2143 ET - United Overseas Bank's reduction of its exposure to Greater China could be beneficial amid the coronavirus epidemic, Daiwa Capital says, maintaining an outperform call on the lender's stock. UOB's management said it has shed some big accounts in North Asia, including corporate loans in Hong Kong's general commerce and manufacturing sectors, Daiwa says. UOB is now looking to capture more lending opportunities in Southeast Asia to boost growth, Daiwa says. It cuts UOB stock's target to S$27.50 from S$28.00, citing lower-than-expected 4Q net profit. Shares are down 1.4% at S$25.31. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

2142 ET - Emerging markets may be long term growth engines for Sembcorp Industries, DBS Group Research says, maintaining a hold rating with a S$2.20 price target. The company is likely to benefit from a recovery in India's power market where current peak surplus is expected to reverse by FY20, DBS says. Sembcorp is also tapping into other emerging markets including Vietnam and Myanmar which could boost its growth. Meanwhile Sembcorp's spin-off of its marine arm could re-rate its undervalued utilities business, but this event may take another year or so to materialize, DBS says. Shares are down 0.5% at S$2.00. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

2137 ET - Telekom Malaysia will likely have less room to cut costs to lift its margins going forward as significant amount of such cost savings have been reflected in FY 2019 results, says MIDF Research. The brokerage is also concerned about the telecommunication group's ability to grow revenue, especially for its broadband business. MIDF expects Telekom Malaysia to face strains on cash flow given expectations of higher capital expenditure in order to be the sole national infrastructure provider for 5G networks. MIDF downgrades its rating to sell from neutral and cuts its target price to MYR3.15 from MYR3.54. Shares were last down 3.1% at MYR3.70 (chester.tay@wsj.com)

2131 ET - OCBC is likely to stay resilient despite its exposure to the greater China region, which accounts for 25% of group loans, Daiwa Capital says. It raises its target price on the stock to S$12.60 from S$12.00 while maintaining an outperform rating. Although the bank's management projects the coronavirus epidemic to cut 2% of potential revenue in 2020, it expects consumer sentiment to rebound fully by 4Q, Daiwa notes. OCBC is also undemanding, as it has the lowest price-to-book-value ratio in the sector, Daiwa says, adding the bank might have some potential upsides in the medium term. Shares are down 0.9% at S$10.92. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

2123 ET - YTL Corp. appears to lack positive catalysts in the near term which means its unlikely to offset weakness in its property and utilities segments, says Affin Hwang Capital. The Malaysian infrastructure company may not gain from higher cement prices due to weak property demand this year, the investment bank says, trimming the stock's target price to MYR0.90 from MYR0.95 with an unchanged hold call. Affin Hwang cuts YTL's earnings per share estimates for FY 2020-FY 2022 by 15%-26% due to the weak economic environment and to account for the company's widening losses. Shares are down 2.1% at MYR0.93. (yiwei.wong@wsj.com)

2114 ET - Singapore banks are likely to generate sustainable dividends this year that could grow progressively over time due to their strong underlying profitability, Daiwa Capital says. If the coronavirus epidemic doesn't persist for the whole year, its impact on Singapore banks' 2021 earnings is likely to be limited, Daiwa says. Meanwhile the sector's annual yield is estimated to be around 4.8%-5.3% for 2020 and their sustainable yields may be a major investment attraction, it says. The Japanese investment bank names OCBC as its top sector pick, citing the strong earnings recovery of the lender's insurance business. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

2054 ET - Hong Kong stocks fall as the increasing number of coronavirus cases outside China dampens investor sentiment. The Hang Seng Index extends losses and is now down 1.3% to 26965.89 after opening 0.7% lower. With regional currencies remaining pressured by the epidemic, funds flow would be unlikely to favor Hong Kong stocks in the near term, KGI says. Chinese oil majors are leading the declines as demand concerns drive oil prices lower. PetroChina is down 4.1%, CNOOC declines 3.0% and Sinopec is off 1.7%. (martin.mou@wsj.com)

2053 ET - Voltronic Power Technology's revenue will likely be hurt by the coronavirus epidemic, Daiwa Capital says, maintaining a hold call on the Taiwan-listed company. The solar-power product maker's 1Q revenue could be materially weakened as the epidemic causes major production and supply chain disruptions, Daiwa says, predicting an on-year drop of 31%. The company's utilization rate is at just 30% in China as local authorities cap the number of workers in factories, Daiwa says, though Voltronic's management expects this will improve over time. Daiwa raises its target price to NT$745 from NT$705, citing that revenue will likely recovery once the epidemic comes under better control. Shares are down 0.9% at NT$770. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

2043 ET - Bumi Serpong Damai's valuation looks reasonable as it is currently trading at a 68% discount to its market value, UOB Kay Hian says. The property developer's 2020 outlook remains positive and UOB raises its pre-sales forecast for the Indonesia-listed group by 16% to IDR7.2 trillion. The company has also budgeted IDR4.2 trillion of capital expenditure in 2020, the brokerage says. The developer has over 80,000 square kilometers of leasable area for use this year, which could boost recurring income, UOB says. It keeps the stock at buy and lowers the target price to IDR1,800 from IDR1,850. Shares last closed 3.5% lower at IDR1,100. (yiwei.wong@wsj.com)

2035 ET - Malaysia's benchmark Kuala Lumpur Composite Index is down 1.6% at 1507.70 amid political uncertainties, while also tracking Wall Street lower, Hong Leong Investment Bank says. Blue chips mostly fall, led by Sime Darby Plantations which is 4.6% lower, followed by Malaysia Airports, down 3.7%, and IHH Healthcare, declining 2.8%. USD/MYR rises to a two-year high amid political uncertainties over the possible formation of a new ruling coalition. (chester.tay@wsj.com)

2018 ET - Singapore shares are down in morning, with the FTSE Straits Times Index sliding 0.7% to 3160.92 as concerns over the coronavirus continue weighing on sentiment globally. Despite that Trading Central says the short-term outlook for the Singapore market may be bullish as the STI has stayed above key support at 3129. Meanwhile no new coronavirus cases have been reported in Singapore since Sunday, leaving the total number at 89. Yangzijiang Shipbuilding is among the worst performers early on, falling 2.9%. Bank stocks are also broadly down, with UOB falling 1.6%, DBS 0.6% lower and OCBC dropping 0.5%. Among other stocks, Thai Beverage sheds 1.8% and Singapore Press Holdings slides 1.5%. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

2007 ET - Hap Seng Plantations could expect its earnings to rebound this year thanks to higher crude-palm-oil prices, UOB Kay Hian says. The brokerage says while higher earnings could be the next catalyst for Hap Seng, the other advantage is its operational efficiency and lower production costs compared with peers. UOB says Hap Seng's current net-cash position allows it to deliver high dividend payout. It initiates coverage on the stock with a buy rating and target price of MYR2.00. Hap Seng is down 1.8% at MYR1.63. (chester.tay@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:43 ET (02:43 GMT)

DJ UOB's Step Back From Greater China Looks Positive -- Market Talk

0243 GMT - United Overseas Bank's reduction of its exposure to Greater China could be beneficial amid the coronavirus epidemic, Daiwa Capital says, maintaining an outperform call on the lender's stock. UOB's management said it has shed some big accounts in North Asia, including corporate loans in Hong Kong's general commerce and manufacturing sectors, Daiwa says. UOB is now looking to capture more lending opportunities in Southeast Asia to boost growth, Daiwa says. It cuts UOB stock's target to S$27.50 from S$28.00, citing lower-than-expected 4Q net profit. Shares are down 1.4% at S$25.31. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:43 ET (02:43 GMT)

DJ Global Forex and Fixed Income Roundup: Market Talk

The latest Market Talks covering FX and Fixed Income. Published exclusively on Dow Jones Newswires throughout the day.

2138 ET - Malaysia's ringgit will come under selling pressure amid political uncertainties over the possibility of an imminent change in government, says AmInvestment Bank. While the continuing coronavirus epidemic will still influence the direction of USD/MYR, the pair's movement will now depend on developments in the local political environment, the bank says. Selling pressure on the ringgit might be limited, it adds, given that much of it will likely come from offshore, and offshore trading of the currency isn't recognized by Malaysia's central bank. AmInvestment Bank doesn't rule out the possibility of Bank Negara Malaysia introducing new measures to curb speculative activity should volatility rise due to domestic uncertainties. (chester.tay@wsj.com)

2135 ET - USD/KRW rises to an eight-month high as the won weakens on concerns over coronavirus cases surging in South Korea. There were 763 cases in the country as of Monday morning, a roughly 25-fold increase in only five days. Risk-off sentiment may continue to push USD/KRW upward as recent developments warrant a re-assessment of the epidemic's fallout on Korea's economy in terms of supply chain disruption and inbound tourism, Maybank says. USD/KRW's daily momentum on the technical charts is bullish, although the stochastic oscillator is in overbought territory, 9indicating that further gains could moderate. Initial resistance is at 1223, Maybank says. USD/KRW is up 0.8% at 1217.25 after earlier touching 1218.72, the highest level since late August, according to FactSet. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

2109 ET - Malaysia's political uncertainty is expected to weigh heavily on the ringgit, AxiCorp says, noting reports that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is forming a new coalition government with opposition parties that effectively prevents parliament member Anwar Ibrahim from succeeding Mahathir. "It's a sell signal" for the ringgit, says Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp. "The current situation will likely mean there will be horse-trading going on." Regarding the potential economic impact, Innes said a coalition government could be more prone to increase fiscal spending rather than fiscal prudence. "The risk here is for more massive deficits," he said. USD/MYR is up 0.6% at 4.2160. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

2037 ET - USD/MYR rises to highest in over two years on reports of political turmoil in Malaysia. Current PM Mahathir Mohamad appears to be seeking to form a new coalition with opposition parties that could mean Anwar Ibrahim, who was slated to take over from Mahathir, is unlikely to become leader, according to Nikkei Asian Review and other media. Mahathir needs a majority of 112 lawmakers out of a total of 222 to remain in power, with unofficial counts suggesting the PM has support of over 130, Nikkei Asian Review says. Speaking late Sunday, Anwar reportedly said he is aware of the developments. USD/MYR is now up 0.6% at 4.2160. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

1921 ET - The RBA has recently been signaling that it is putting more weight on financial stability risks to guide decisions on interest rates, says NAB. The point where these fears create a road block to further cuts doesn't appear to have been reached, but the market may be misreading that, it says. New loans have rebounded strongly, it notes adding that house prices have also rebounded by more than suggested by the past relationship with interest rates. The data underscores the risk that the RBA may take longer to cut rates than NAB currently expects. (james.glynn@wsj.com; Twitter @JamesGlynnWSJ)

1859 ET - Monetary policy is great for fine tuning an economy but after eight years of interest rate cuts in Australia, reliance on the central bank's singular blunt tool has gone well beyond that, says Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital Markets. The lower the interest rates, the greater the distortions to the economy both in terms of resource allocation and inequality, he says. A far better outcome in terms of a more guaranteed boost to growth would be achieved with fiscal policy. It would be a concern if the RBA cuts further and the government's purse strings are not relaxed, Mr. Oliver adds. (james.glynn@wsj.com; Twitter @JamesGlynnWSJ)

1857 ET - Nikkei futures are down 1.9% at 22840 on the SGX amid persistent concerns about the coronavirus epidemic. Japanese markets are closed today for a public holiday. A higher yen is also hurting the sentiment as it's negative for Japanese exporters. USD/JPY is at 111.54, compared with 111.95 as of Friday's Tokyo stock market close. There were reports of large numbers of new cases of coronavirus outside of China over the weekend, in such countries as South Korea and Italy. Any measures taken by the governments of Japan and other countries to contain the epidemic will be closely watched. (kosaku.narioka@wsj.com)Covid-19 anxiety has moved beyond China and takes on a global dimension with rises in reported infections from South Korea to Italy. That said, China also reported a spike in cases over the weekend. NAB says data on Friday didn't help sentiment either with U.S. PMI prints disappointing; the services sector is now in contractionary mode. Extraordinary containment measures are being implemented, which will increase the hit to the global economy, NAB adds. Worryingly too, China reported 630 new cases in Hubei with 96 deaths, effectively denting the recent narrative that China's containment efforts were effective. (james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ)Despite the global and domestic challenges, Australian company balance sheets are in strong shape, justifying the record highs achieved by the sharemarket late last week, says CommSec. Fears about coronavirus abound, but 60% of companies that have reported earnings results have seen their share prices lift on the day of earnings release. The good news for corporate Australia is that the Aussie dollar has hit 11-year lows against the U.S. dollar at the same time that commodity prices - notably iron ore, gold and cattle - are at elevated levels, CommSec adds. The AUD/USD is at 0.6593 early on Monday. (james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ)AUD/USD has dropped below 0.6600 in early trading and is at a March 2009 low. The path of least resistance is for AUD/USD to keep falling this week, says CBA. The potential impact of China's coronavirus will be the major influence on the Aussie. Thursday's release of the Australian 4Q investment survey on Thursday may have some impact on AUD. Market participants will most likely focus on the forward looking estimate for 2020/21 spending intentions. The risks are tilted to a weaker survey and AUD, CBA adds. (james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ)Expect the USD's uptrend to continue this week, says CBA. Broad USD strength is being driven by the potential global economic impact of the coronavirus. News that the virus is spreading outside of China risks further economic disruption as countries try to minimize its spread. U.S. economic outperformance is another key factor supporting USD. The U.S. economy is less at risk from China's coronavirus driven slowdown than many other major economies, CBA adds. The second reading of U.S. 4Q GDP on Friday is likely to reaffirm that the U.S. economy enjoyed solid growth at the end of 2019. (james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ)

1622 ET - New Zealand's NZX-50 share benchmark drops 0.5% to 12010.95 as the coronavirus epidemic's negative impact on company earnings becomes clearer. Virus risk aversion weighs on the kiwi dollar with NZD/USD dropping to 0.6319 from its last local close of 0.6352. Air New Zealand sheds 2.0% after lowering its full-year earnings forecast because of the virus and adding Seoul to its suspended Asian destinations. Auckland International Airport is dragged down by Air New Zealand's profit warning and sheds 1.9%. Fiber network operator Chorus adds 2.3% after raising its full-year profit guidance and reporting growth in data usage. (stephen.wright@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:38 ET (02:38 GMT)

DJ Ringgit Under Selling Pressure -- Market Talk

0238 GMT - Malaysia's ringgit will come under selling pressure amid political uncertainties over the possibility of an imminent change in government, says AmInvestment Bank. While the continuing coronavirus epidemic will still influence the direction of USD/MYR, the pair's movement will now depend on developments in the local political environment, the bank says. Selling pressure on the ringgit might be limited, it adds, given that much of it will likely come from offshore, and offshore trading of the currency isn't recognized by Malaysia's central bank. AmInvestment Bank doesn't rule out the possibility of Bank Negara Malaysia introducing new measures to curb speculative activity should volatility rise due to domestic uncertainties. (chester.tay@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:38 ET (02:38 GMT)

DJ USD/KRW Rises on Concerns of Coronavirus Cases in Korea -- Market Talk

0235 GMT - USD/KRW rises to an eight-month high as the won weakens on concerns over coronavirus cases surging in South Korea. There were 763 cases in the country as of Monday morning, a roughly 25-fold increase in only five days. Risk-off sentiment may continue to push USD/KRW upward as recent developments warrant a re-assessment of the epidemic's fallout on Korea's economy in terms of supply chain disruption and inbound tourism, Maybank says. USD/KRW's daily momentum on the technical charts is bullish, although the stochastic oscillator is in overbought territory, 9indicating that further gains could moderate. Initial resistance is at 1223, Maybank says. USD/KRW is up 0.8% at 1217.25 after earlier touching 1218.72, the highest level since late August, according to FactSet. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:35 ET (02:35 GMT)

DJ Base Metals Fall; Aluminum Upside Capped by Surplus Pressure -- Market Talk

0230 GMT - Base-metal prices are broadly lower in morning Asian trade as rising coronavirus cases outside China dampen sentiment and drag Asian equities. Aluminum prices will unlikely rise much due to ample supplies globally this year, Commerzbank says. The epidemic may weaken Chinese demand, potentially leading to the country's first supply surplus in three years, the bank adds, citing Chinese state research institute Antaike. The three-month LME aluminum contract is down 0.8% at $1,700 per metric ton while the copper contract is down 1.2% at $5,696 a ton. (martin.mou@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:30 ET (02:30 GMT)

DJ San Miguel Food & Beverage to Issue Bonds Worth PHP15 Billion
By Kosaku Narioka

San Miguel Food & Beverage Inc. said Monday that it would issue bonds worth 15 billion Philippine pesos ($294.8 million) on March 10.

The offer period for the 5-year and 7-year bonds begin Monday and would run until March 2, the Philippines food and beverage maker said in a filing to the country's stock exchange.

The 5-year bonds would have an interest rate of 5.05% and the 7-year bonds would carry an interest rate of 5.25%, the company said.

Write to Kosaku Narioka at kosaku.narioka@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:12 ET (02:12 GMT)

DJ Malaysia's Political Uncertainty Likely to Deal Blow to Ringgit -- Market Talk

0209 GMT - Malaysia's political uncertainty is expected to weigh heavily on the ringgit, AxiCorp says, noting reports that Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is forming a new coalition government with opposition parties that effectively prevents parliament member Anwar Ibrahim from succeeding Mahathir. "It's a sell signal" for the ringgit, says Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp. "The current situation will likely mean there will be horse-trading going on." Regarding the potential economic impact, Innes said a coalition government could be more prone to increase fiscal spending rather than fiscal prudence. "The risk here is for more massive deficits," he said. USD/MYR is up 0.6% at 4.2160. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:10 ET (02:10 GMT)

DJ Stock Futures Are Getting Hammered Because Coronavirus Is Still Spreading -- Barrons.com
By Ben Levisohn

9:05 p.m. Oh no. Here we go again. After dropping 228 points on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is looking set for another drop of more than 300 points as coronavirus fears grow.

Dow futures have dropped 356 points, or 1.2%, while S&P 500 futures have fallen 1.2%, and Nasdaq Composite futures have slumped 1.6%.

It's always funny how these things work out. We knew that the disease was spreading. We knew that China's data were unreliable. We even knew that Apple's (ticker: AAPL) supply chain would get disrupted by coronavirus. None of those things were a surprise. And yet it took until last week for the market to acknowledge that, Houston, we have a problem.

For JonesTrading's Michael O'Rourke, last Friday's drop was due to the market finally realizing that coronavirus would hit the global economy. "On Friday, the market finally began to acknowledge the growing global risk of the COVID-19 outbreak," he writes. "The weakness of the preliminary Markit PMIs for February finally crystallized the link between the virus and the economic outlook...This weekend, the situation continued to deteriorate as Italy quarantined towns in the Lombardy region around Milan due to a spike in cases."

The problem, however, may not be coronavirus per se, but the U.S. Federal Reserve, writes Ironsides Macroeconomics's Barry Knapp. Last week, both the minutes from the last Fed meeting and comments made by Richard Clarida showed that a rate cut in 2020 is no sure thing. With that, the market's buffer against coronavirus slowdown was severely weakened. That doesn't mean it is time to dump stocks just yet. "Equity and emerging market investors had a taste of the monetary policy normalization correction we expect to develop when the Fed tapers the $60 billion per month of Treasury bill purchases in 2Q20," Knapp explains. "It is still too early to reduce risk, but Thursday offered a preview of when the Fed tapers 'Not QE'."

Buy the dip?

Write to Ben Levisohn at Ben.Levisohn@barrons.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:06 ET (02:06 GMT)

DJ News Highlights: Top Company News of the Day
Intuit Near Deal to Buy Credit Karma for $7 Billion

Boeing Offers More Support for 737 MAX Suppliers

Google Plots Course to Overtake Cloud Rivals

Move Over, Elliott. Argentina's New Bond-Market Nemesis Is Fidelity.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009

Vale Dam Report Faults Conflict of Interest, Compensation Structure

Dropbox Finally Doesn't Drop

Fox, Comcast Pursue Takeovers of Ad-Supported Video Services

Wells Fargo Settles With Government Over Fake-Accounts Scandal

Fox Looks to Buy Tubi

Intuit is near a deal to buy personal-finance portal Credit Karma for about $7 billion in cash and stock, pushing the company behind QuickBooks and TurboTax further into consumer finance, people familiar with the matter said.

Boeing is planning more financial and other support to its 737 MAX suppliers to prepare them to resume production of the jetliner-and dissuade some from seeking more business from Airbus.

The decision to cut jobs is the latest move in a yearlong effort to shake up the cloud unit and put greater focus on delivering growth to parent Alphabet.

Argentina's new adversary in the bond market is no highflying hedge fund. It's Fidelity Investments.

Berkshire Hathaway's earnings surged last year due to unrealized investment gains. Chairman Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors about the conglomerate's long-term future following an underwhelming year for the stock performance.

An independent report commissioned by Vale into last year's deadly mine-dam failure found conflicts of interest between the mining giant and its auditors, faulty information-sharing inside the company and a compensation structure that prioritized financial returns.

Having struggled to convince investors of its growth prospects, it was high time for Dropbox to try something new.

Fox and Comcast are each in discussions to acquire advertising-supported video services, as entertainment giants increasingly look to offer free or low-cost alternatives for consumers who don't want to pay for streaming subscriptions.

Wells Fargo will pay $3 billion to settle investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over its long-running fake-account problems.

Fox has expressed interest in acquiring Tubi, an ad-supported streaming service that carries reruns and movies, according to people familiar with the matter.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

DJ News Highlights: Top Global Markets News of the Day
Economy Week Ahead: Consumer Confidence, GDP, Household Income

China's PBOC Signals More Policy Easing Amid Coronavirus Epidemic

Switzerland's Central Bank Left in a Bind

World Economy Shudders as Coronavirus Threatens Global Supply Chains

Natural-Gas Exporters Struggle to Lock Up Buyers

Losing $450,000 in Three Days: Hackers Trick Victims Into Big Wire Transfers

ESG Funds Mostly Track the Market

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009

E*Trade, Apple, Walmart: Stocks That Defined the Week

SEC Rejects Controversial 'Speed Bump' Proposal

Data out this week could provide an early look at how the coronavirus epidemic is affecting the global economy and how U.S. consumers are faring early in the year.

China will consider additional policy easing measures to help alleviate the impact of the new coronavirus on its economy, including adjusting benchmark deposit rates, a central bank official said.

The Swiss franc has climbed to its highest level against the euro in more than four years, leaving the central bank with a dilemma: do nothing and potentially damage the economy, or intervene and risk angering the U.S.

The last time a coronavirus outbreak hit China in 2003, the global economy emerged relatively unscathed. Now, nearly two decades later, the growth-damping effects of a similar pathogen threaten to ripple around a world transformed by China's boom.

U.S. companies have struggled to line up foreign buyers willing to sign long-term deals for liquefied natural gas as the world is experiencing a glut of the fuel.

Someone hijacked an executive's email and asked his assistant to wire thousands of dollars to a Hong Kong account. Fraudsters are stealing billions each year through this type of scam, which uses sophisticated hacking and wire transfers to efficiently move money overseas.

The push toward "sustainability" in investing so far isn't having an outsize impact on stocks, our columnist's dive into the data shows.

Berkshire Hathaway's earnings surged last year due to unrealized investment gains. Chairman Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors about the conglomerate's long-term future following an underwhelming year for the stock performance.

Here are seven major companies whose stocks moved on the week's news.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected a hotly disputed proposal to add a new "speed bump," or split-second trading delay, to the U.S. stock market.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 21:00 ET (02:00 GMT)

DJ Interbank Foreign Exchange Rates At 20:50 EST / 0150 GMT
 
                           Latest       Previous   %Chg    Daily    Daily   %Chg 
Dollar Rates                               Close            High      Low  12/31 
 
USD/JPY Japan           111.55-56      111.55-56   0.00   111.68   111.22  +2.68 
EUR/USD Euro            1.0827-30      1.0845-48  -0.17   1.0846   1.0812  -3.44 
GBP/USD U.K.            1.2947-49      1.2956-58  -0.07   1.2967   1.2941  -2.35 
USD/CHF Switzerland    0.9798-802      0.9780-84  +0.18   0.9812   0.9783  +1.29 
USD/CAD Canada          1.3262-67      1.3219-24  +0.33   1.3269   1.3224  +2.12 
AUD/USD Australia       0.6610-14      0.6622-26  -0.18   0.6628   0.6584  -5.79 
NZD/USD New Zealand     0.6320-26      0.6343-49  -0.36   0.6349   0.6311  -6.08 
 
Euro Rates 
 
EUR/JPY Japan           120.77-82      120.98-01  -0.17   121.08   120.17  -0.85 
EUR/GBP U.K.            0.8362-65      0.8371-74  -0.11   0.8376   0.8347  -1.12 
EUR/CHF Switzerland     1.0609-12      1.0612-15  -0.03   1.0616   1.0602  -2.24 
EUR/CAD Canada          1.4356-66      1.4339-49  +0.12   1.4373   1.4323  -1.41 
EUR/AUD Australia       1.6370-80      1.6363-73  +0.04   1.6439   1.6373  +2.48 
EUR/DKK Denmark         7.4692-99     7.4696-703  -0.01   7.4741   7.4678  -0.03 
EUR/NOK Norway         10.1142-92    10.0654-704  +0.48  10.1233  10.0665  +2.76 
EUR/SEK Sweden        10.5605-705    10.5352-452  +0.24  10.5870  10.5379  +0.60 
EUR/CZK Czech Rep.      25.015-45      25.043-73  -0.11   25.076   25.020  -1.54 
EUR/HUF Hungary         337.00-40      336.69-07  +0.09   337.35   336.87  +1.85 
EUR/PLN Poland          4.2964-82      4.2861-79  +0.24   4.2987   4.2875  +1.03 
 
Yen Rates 
 
AUD/JPY Australia        73.73-77       73.89-93  -0.22    73.91    73.25  -3.27 
GBP/JPY U.K.            144.41-47      144.51-57  -0.07   144.63   143.86  +0.22 
CAD/JPY Canada           84.08-12       84.35-39  -0.33    84.37    83.87  +0.55 
NZD/JPY New Zealand      70.50-57       70.76-83  -0.36    70.83    70.19  -3.56 
 
Other Dollar Rates 
 
USD/CZK Czech Rep.     23.091-141     23.075-125  +0.07   23.178   23.095  +1.96 
USD/HUF Hungary         311.24-64      310.41-81  +0.27   311.92   310.56  +5.46 
USD/DKK Denmark         6.8985-95      6.8859-69  +0.18   6.9085   6.8858  +3.55 
USD/NOK Norway          9.3406-66     9.2778-838  +0.68   9.3470   9.2812  +6.43 
USD/PLN Poland          3.9682-87      3.9525-30  +0.40   3.9754   3.9532  +4.62 
USD/RUB Russia         64.042-112     64.039-109  +0.01   64.077   64.074  +3.24 
USD/SEK Sweden         9.7537-627     9.7142-232  +0.41   9.7901   9.7184  +4.18 
USD/ZAR S. Africa     15.0568-868     14.9863-05  +0.47  15.1021  15.0033  +7.67 
 
USD/CNY China           7.0263-83      7.0262-82  +0.00   7.0273   7.0271  +0.92 
USD/HKD Hong Kong       7.7917-22      7.7865-70  +0.07   7.7949   7.7868  +0.01 
USD/MYR Malaysia        4.2135-85     4.1866-916  +0.64   4.2160   4.1890  +3.07 
USD/INR India           71.870-90      71.870-90   0.00   71.880   71.880  +0.74 
USD/IDR Indonesia        13851-65       13758-72  +0.68    13858    13764  -0.18 
USD/PHP Philippines     51.000-40      50.875-95  +0.27   51.020   50.885  +0.61 
USD/SGD Singapore       1.4007-17      1.3968-78  +0.28   1.4028   1.3976  +4.10 
USD/KRW S. Korea     1215.84-7.84   1206.07-8.07  +0.81  1218.54  1206.96  +5.35 
USD/TWD Taiwan         30.474-504     30.385-415  +0.29   30.508   30.400  +1.92 
USD/THB Thailand        31.730-50      31.570-90  +0.51   31.780   31.560  +6.65 
USD/VND Vietnam          23215-85       23209-79  +0.03    23250    23243  +0.33 
 
USD/BRL Brazil         4.3888-918     4.3878-908  +0.02   4.3906   4.3903  +9.23 
USD/MXN Mexico        19.0446-746   18.8864-9164  +0.84  19.0863  18.9082  +0.69 
USD/ARS Argentina     61.8673-773    61.7417-859  +0.18  61.9712  61.7579  +3.32 
 
Source: Tullett Prebon 
 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:50 ET (01:50 GMT)

DJ USD/MYR Climbs on Reports of Political Turmoil in Malaysia -- Market Talk

0137 GMT - USD/MYR rises to highest in over two years on reports of political turmoil in Malaysia. Current PM Mahathir Mohamad appears to be seeking to form a new coalition with opposition parties that could mean Anwar Ibrahim, who was slated to take over from Mahathir, is unlikely to become leader, according to Nikkei Asian Review and other media. Mahathir needs a majority of 112 lawmakers out of a total of 222 to remain in power, with unofficial counts suggesting the PM has support of over 130, Nikkei Asian Review says. Speaking late Sunday, Anwar reportedly said he is aware of the developments. USD/MYR is now up 0.6% at 4.2160. (ronnie.harui@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:37 ET (01:37 GMT)

DJ USD/JPY Touches 112.00 Level, AUD/USD Keeps Slumping -- Charting Forex

USD/JPY 1st support - 109.30 (major) 1st resistance - 112.80 (major) 2nd support - 108.35 (major) 2nd resistance - 114.10 (major)

EUR/USD 1st support - 1.0720 (minor) 1st resistance - 1.0980 (major) 2nd support - 1.0640 (minor ) 2nd resistance - 1.1090 (moderate)

AUD/USD 1st support - 0.6500 (minor) 1st resistance - 0.6760 (major) 2nd support - 0.6395 (minor ) 2nd resistance - 0.6845 (moderate)

NZD/USD 1st support - 0.6250 (major) 1st resistance - 0.6450 (major) 2nd support - 0.6170 (major) 2nd resistance - 0.6520 (moderate)

GBP/USD 1st support - 1.2870 (major) 1st resistance - 1.3110 (major) 2nd support - 1.2760 (major) 2nd resistance - 1.3210 (major)

USD/CHF 1st support - 0.9715 (major) 1st resistance - 0.9920 (moderate) 2nd support - 0.9625 (major) 2nd resistance - 1.0025 (major)

USD/CAD 1st support - 1.3175 (major) 1st resistance - 1.3325 (major) 2nd support - 1.3110 (major) 2nd resistance - 1.3385 (major)

By Trading Central

The following is a technical analysis of seven major currency pairs for this week:

USD/JPY (last 111.54): The pair, as shown on a daily chart, has surged breaching the key level of 112.00. It keeps breaching the upper Bollinger band, while the relative strength index remains at elevated levels in the 60s indicating continued upward momentum for the pair. The trailing key support has been raised to 109.30. Trading above this level, the pair should target 112.80 and 114.10 on the upside.

EUR/USD (last 1.0839): Despite the pair posting a bounce, it is still capped by a declining 20-day moving average. The relative strength index is locating at the selling zone between 30 and 50, indicating a bearish outlook. Therefore, as long as 1.0980 acts as key resistance level, we anticipate a further decline with targets at 1.0720 and 1.0640 in extension. On the other hand, only a break above 1.0980 would call for an advance with 1.1090 and 1.1170 as targets.

AUD/USD (last 0.6605): The pair has recorded a series of lower tops and lower bottoms since December 2019, confirming a bearish outlook. The downward momentum is further reinforced by both declining 20-day and 50-day moving averages. The relative strength index is below its oversold level at 30. Hence, below 0.6760, expect a drop with targets at 0.6500 and 0.6395 in extension. Alternatively, crossing above 0.6760 would trigger a technical rebound with 0.6845 and 0.6920 as targets.

NZD/USD (last 0.6322): The pair edged lower along the lower Bollinger band. The declining 20-day moving average should pressure the prices lower. The relative strength index is below its oversold level at 30. To sum up, as long as 0.6450 is not surpassed, expect a further downside with targets at 0.6250 and 0.6170 in extension. Alternatively, breaking above 0.6450 would bring a rebound with 0.6520 and 0.6590 as targets.

GBP/USD (last 1.2946): The pair remains on the downside as it has formed a lower-high. Currently, it is capped by the 20-day moving average, which stays below the 50-day one. The relative strength index stays subdued in the 40s, indicating a bearish bias. Below the key resistance at 1.3110, expect a decline to 1.2870 and 1.2760. Alternatively, a break above 1.3110 would trigger a rebound to 1.3210.

USD/CHF (last 0.9790): The pair maintains a bullish bias above the key support at 0.9715. Despite a modest pull-back, it is supported by the 20-day moving average, which has crossed above the 50-day one. The relative strength index stands above the neutrality level of 50, signaling that the bullish bias persists. Unless the key support at 0.9715 is violated, the pair should advance to 0.9920 and 1.0025. Alternatively, below 0.9715, expect a return to 0.9625 on the downside.

USD/CAD (last 1.3252): The pair remains on the upside as it has formed a higher-low. Currently, it remains trading above the 50-day moving average, which has turned upward. The relative strength index stays above the neutrality level of 50, signaling a bullish bias. As long as the key support at 1.3175 holds, expect an advance to 1.3325 and 1.3385. Alternatively, a break below 1.3175 would trigger a pull-back to 1.3110.

Any opinion offered herein reflects Trading Central's current judgment and may change without notice. This content is provided in general terms and does not take account of or address any individual user's position. Nothing contained in this publication constitutes personalized investment advice. To the extent that this article includes suggestions as to various possible investment strategies which users might consider, it does so in only general terms without reference to the personal factors which should determine any user's investment decisions; any investment decisions and associated risks are the sole responsibility of the user. The content doesn't reflect the opinion or judgment of Dow Jones, which does not warrant the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information in this article, and any errors shall not be made the basis for any claim against Dow Jones. This article does not constitute or form part of any invitation or inducement to buy or sell any security. The author has pledged not to invest in the instruments or markets cited in this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:34 ET (01:34 GMT)

DJ China Yuan Official Central Parity Rates for Monday

The China Foreign Exchange Trade System published the following official central parity rates for major currencies against the yuan Monday:

The daily central parity rate for the yuan versus the U.S. dollar is the weighted average of prices given by market makers. The highest and lowest offers are excluded from the calculation.

In each daily trading session, the central bank allows the dollar/yuan rate to move no more than 2% above or below the central parity rate, and the yuan/ringgit and yuan/ruble to move no more than 5%. It allows other currency pairs to move as much as 3% above or below the central parity rate.

Source: www.chinamoney.com.cn

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:15 ET (01:15 GMT)

Monday             Friday 
USD/CNY          7.0246             7.0210 
EUR/CNY          7.6107             7.5743 
JPY/CNY*         6.2977             6.2657 
HKD/CNY         0.90133            0.90211 
GBP/CNY          9.0963             9.0458 
AUD/CNY          4.6399             4.6450 
NZD/CNY          4.4406             4.4471 
SGD/CNY          5.0126             5.0115 
CHF/CNY          7.1757             7.1368 
CAD/CNY          5.3005             5.2962 
CNY/MYR         0.59675            0.59590 
CNY/RUB          9.1494             9.1396 
 
*per 100 yen

DJ Dollar/Yuan Central Parity 7.0246 Vs Friday Parity 7.0210

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:15 ET (01:15 GMT)

DJ USD/MYR Is Up 0.6% at 4.2160

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:15 ET (01:15 GMT)

DJ E*Trade, Apple, Walmart: Stocks That Defined the Week

E*Trade Financial Corp.

The long-predicted M&A frenzy in the wealth management industry is here. Wall Street stalwart Morgan Stanley agreed to buy discount broker E*Trade in a $13 billion deal announced Thursday. The all-stock deal is the biggest takeover by a giant U.S. bank since the 2008 crisis. Earlier in the week, money manager Franklin Resources Inc. agreed to buy rival Legg Mason Inc. for $4.5 billion in cash. E*Trade shares soared 22% Thursday.

Apple Inc.

The coronavirus is rippling through the world’s most valuable company. Apple said Monday it won’t meet its revenue projections for the current quarter, as the coronavirus has limited iPhone production and curtailed demand in China. Apple’s announcement is the most prominent example yet of the effects of the virus on global business and markets. Apple’s dependency on China’s manufacturing and consumer sectors makes the company vulnerable as the coronavirus outbreak paralyzes the country. The company said the situation in China is evolving, and it will provide more information when it holds its earnings call in April. Apple shares fell 1.8% Tuesday.

Walmart Inc.

Even the world’s biggest retailer struggled to get shoppers to spendduring the holiday season. Walmart executives said the critical period started strong around Thanksgiving but sales of toys, videogames and apparel softened in the weeks before Christmas. Chief Executive Doug McMillon said store sales suffered from a late Thanksgiving as well as some merchandising missteps, such as a lack of high-price, in-demand holiday toys and a glut of inexpensive clothes and seasonal attire. Meanwhile, Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce sales rose 35% in the fourth quarter, boosted by online grocery orders. Shares rose 1.5% Tuesday.

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.

The new CEO of Bed Bath & Belong wants to eliminate “purchase paralysis.” To do that, Mark Tritton wants to declutter stores, make aisles wider and stop piling merchandise up to the ceiling. The former Target Corp. executive laid out his vision for remaking the troubled retailer Tuesday. Mr. Tritton plans to trim inventory by more than 10% this year, part of a broader plan that calls for spending as much as $400 million on store remodels, technology upgrades and supply-chain improvements. He joined the struggling company in November after its top officials, including the founders, were ousted by an activist investor. Shares gained 5.4% Tuesday.

L Brands Inc.

Les Wexner is giving up control of Victoria’s Secret. The 82-year-old billionaire behind the lingerie brand and Bath & Body Works agreed Thursday to sell a controlling stake in the Victoria’s Secret chain to private-equity firm Sycamore Partners for $525 million. He also agreed to step down as chairman and chief executive of L Brands. His decision to part ways with Victoria’s Secret is an admission that Mr. Wexner couldn’t revive the fortunes of the troubled brand he built around shopping malls and sex appeal. The deal leaves the Victoria’s Secret business as a separate private company, and L Brands will be reduced to running one chain: Bath & Body Works. L Brands shares fell 3.6% Thursday.

ViacomCBS Inc.

ViacomCBS has a tough year ahead. The company reported a loss in the quarter as Viacom completed its merger with CBS and said it is targeting $750 million in cost cuts for the year, increasing its guidance from $500 million. The company also unveiled its three main streaming plans that will compete with Netflix Inc. and others: a free ad-supported service called Pluto TV, an expanded version of CBS All Access, and a third service anchored by Showtime that will be the most expensive option. “We believe this strategy of free, broad pay and premium pay is where the market will go,” Chief Executive Bob Bakish said. Shares plummeted 18% Thursday.

Wells Fargo & Co.

Wells Fargo has reached a settlement with the government over its long-running fake-account scandal. The nation’s fourth-largest bank agreed Friday to pay $3 billion to settle investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is a victory for Charles Scharf, the bank’s new boss who was tasked with resolving the crisis. Regulators and prosecutors could still take action against individuals involved in the debacle, in which it became public in 2016 that an aggressive sales culture led employees to open millions of possibly fake accounts. Last month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency charged eight former Wells Fargo executives over the scandal, including the former CEO. Wells Fargo shares gained 0.8% Friday.

Write to Francesca Fontana at francesca.fontana@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:10 ET (01:10 GMT)

DJ Switzerland’s Central Bank Left in a Bind

The Swiss franc has climbed to its highest level against the euro in more than four years, leaving Switzerland’s central bank with a dilemma: do nothing and potentially damage the economy, or intervene to curtail the rise and risk angering the U.S.

The Swiss National Bank has so far kept mum on its intentions and investors are torn. Some seem convinced the franc will keep rising: Hedge funds betting on further strengthening have increased their net long positions since the start of the year, according to data on futures markets from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Others warn such a gamble is foolhardy.

“If you try to play games with the SNB, it’s very dangerous for you,” said Thomas Stucki, chief investment officer at St. Galler Kantonalbank and former head of asset management at the SNB. “They will not hesitate to intervene in the market.”

Weekly data from the SNB, which analysts monitor as a proxy for currency intervention, suggest it has been acting to stem the franc’s rise already this year, buying foreign currencies and selling the franc. Its efforts have so far failed to hit its main target: The franc has risen more than 2% against the euro since the end of 2019 to €0.94.

“If they don’t really manage to turn the tide on the current trend, then they could risk having to throw in the towel,” said Andreas Steno Larsen, global foreign-exchange and fixed-income strategist at Nordea Markets.

At the same time, the franc has fallen more than 1% against the dollar to $1.02. This is a problem because the euro matters more for Swiss trade and inflation, but the dollar will matter more to the U.S. Treasury, which last month added Switzerland to its watch list of potential currency manipulators.

The franc is nearly 7.5% below its fair value to the dollar, similar to the Chinese yuan, according to Steven Englander, head of global G10 FX research and North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered.

A strong franc is a problem for the SNB because it makes imports cheaper and lowers inflation, which the central bank has been trying to stoke with some of the lowest interest rates in the world. However, a weaker franc makes exports cheaper to the U.S., its second-biggest market. That risks attracting the ire of President Trump, who has been vocal in his views that the strength of the dollar puts the U.S. at an unfair disadvantage.

Washington judges currency manipulation on three criteria: the size of a country’s trade surplus with the U.S., the size of its overall current account surplus and how much it has spent on currency intervention. The Treasury department has said Switzerland met the first two criteria.

Switzerland might not have a lot of wiggle room before it meets the third criteria. Investors pushed the franc higher after the Treasury’s report, speculating the SNB might be more hesitant to keep its currency at bay.

The main proxy for intervention is the SNB’s weekly report on sight deposits, or short-term franc deposits held at the central bank by domestic banks, the government and others. When these are growing, that is a sign that the SNB is selling francs, because the central bank would be buying foreign currencies from banks and others, who would end up holding more francs in their deposits.

Up until mid-February, these sight deposits grew by 5.5 billion francs ($5.6 billion).

The U.S. rule is that a country shouldn’t spend more than 2% of GDP on currency intervention; with Swiss GDP this year forecast to be about 700 billion francs, that suggests it can spend up to 14 billion francs on holding back its currency. Simple math suggests it might be able to spend less than 9 billion francs over the rest of 2020 before crossing the Treasury’s line in the sand.

The SNB appeared to launch a big intervention last summer: Sight deposits rose by 13.5 billion francs between mid-July and mid-September, then stopped. This was roughly equivalent to 2% of GDP, said Paul Meggyesi, a currency strategist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London.

“I don’t agree with the strand of thought that it doesn’t matter if Switzerland is labeled a currency manipulator,” Mr. Meggyesi said. “This is a U.S. administration that is prepared to use the tools at its disposal to counteract what it sees as unfair trade relations.”

It is uncertain exactly what being labeled a manipulator would mean for Switzerland. The SNB has spent much more than 2% of GDP on intervention in the past and has been on the currency watch list before. However, Mr. Trump has given American companies the power to pursue tariffs against foreign competitors who have benefited from currency manipulation in their countries.

Switzerland’s problem continues to grow because it exports more than it imports, and attracts a lot of capital that is looking for a safe home.

These pressures eased while the Federal Reserve was raising interest rates in 2018 and the European Central Bank also looked like it might start unwinding its easy money policies. That ended last year, when both central banks reversed course amid concerns about global economic growth.

The SNB could make it more costly to hold money in Swiss banks by taking rates further below the current minus 0.75% level, which is matched only by Denmark. It might have to if the ECB goes deeper into subzero territory, said David Oxley, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics.

“The SNB is focused on maintaining that gap between European interest rates and their own,” Mr. Oxley said. “They’re kind of between a rock and a hard place.”

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at caitlin.ostroff@wsj.com and Paul J. Davies at paul.davies@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:00 ET (01:00 GMT)

DJ Google Plots Course to Overtake Cloud Rivals

Google’s decision to cut jobs at its cloud-computing division is the latest move in a yearlong effort by Thomas Kurian to shake up the unit and put greater focus on delivering growth to parent Alphabet Inc.

Mr. Kurian, after joining from Oracle Corp. in November 2018, imposed hard project deadlines, riling some workers used to looser execution targets, according to former Google employees, some of whom left because of the move. The job cuts that Google disclosed last week to The Wall Street Journal were part of a restructuring aimed at improving how the company works with cloud customers, it said.

Among the objectives Google has set since Mr. Kurian joined are to become one of the top two cloud-computing providers and exceed $25 billion in sales within a few years, according to former employees. Google has room to grow—its market share in the cloud is just 4%, according to Gartner Inc. It trails Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Google wouldn’t comment on specific internal targets, and Mr. Kurian said league tables aren’t his priority. “I don’t wake up counting if we’re first, second or third biggest,” he said. “If we deliver the right product innovation, we’ll grow with [customers] and see results.”

To spur growth, Mr. Kurian has focused on six industries, including financial services and health care, to chase customers. He is also building out regional sales teams.

Mr. Kurian is also exploring ways for Google Cloud to pursue business in China, according to former employees. The size of China’s market makes it an attractive target for cloud providers, but political tensions with the U.S. present obstacles.

China is a market where Google has a difficult history. In 2010, Google pulled its search engine out of the country over the censoring of search results. When plans to resume work in China surfaced in 2018, they drew internal backlash, causing the company to abandon the effort.

“Until we see further progress in ongoing discussions between the U.S. government and Chinese government, we’re waiting,” Mr. Kurian said. “We haven’t made that decision yet.”

Cloud computing has become one of the hottest markets for tech companies as corporations shift more of their IT budgets to renting data storage and number-crunching capacity rather than buying their own hardware. Gartner estimates companies will spend more than $260 billion on cloud services this year, up more than a third from 2018.

Within Google, the cloud business has been growing in importance. The cloud generated 5.5% of Alphabet sales last year, or $8.9 billion, up from $4.1 billion, or 3.7% of total sales, two years earlier. Alphabet only began separately reporting cloud sales in the last quarter, further highlighting the growth push.

Mr. Kurian’s changes have led to tensions within Google’s cloud ranks, where engineers had largely worked unencumbered by deadlines, according to current and former employees. Engineers were often more focused on projects they deemed interesting, former employers said, rather than what customers were wanting. That meant such features as databases and identity management—which didn’t excite employees but were prized by corporate buyers—were neglected, former employers said.

Under Mr. Kurian, said a former Google Cloud engineer, “we have to build stuff we can sell. People weren’t used to having that.”

Mr. Kurian also upset some sales people when he shifted their compensation plans by lowering their base pay but offering more in bonuses for the deals they secured, former employees said. Google declined to comment.

Over the past year, the changes at Google Cloud have been noticeable to partners and customers, said Christian Rast, global head of technology at KPMG International, which teamed up with Google Cloud in mid-2018 before Mr. Kurian joined. Mr. Rast said Google Cloud has a better understanding of how to work with big legacy enterprises than it did in the past.

Google has a history of offering consumer products in the cloud, providing services such as email, documents and spreadsheets as well as selling storage and computing services to outside customers. But it began to pursue enterprise contracts with big business more formally in 2015. At the time, Google’s cloud business was led by Diane Greene, a veteran of the enterprise-software world and co-founder of software provider VMware Inc., now majority-owned by Dell TechnologiesInc.

Early progress was slowed when Ms. Greene was unable to get backing for some acquisitions to help expand in the cloud, people close to Ms. Greene said. Ms. Greene couldn’t enlist Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai to meet with GitHub executives to close a deal. Google lost out to Microsoft, which agreed in 2018 to buy the coding-collaboration site for $7.5 billion in stock, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s support.

Ms. Greene left Google in January 2019, replaced by Mr. Kurian. Since joining from Oracle, where he spent two decades in areas including product development, Mr. Kurian has said his priority is making the cloud business more responsive to corporate customers, which are the biggest cloud spenders.

Under Mr. Kurian, Google bought the data-analytics firm Looker for $2.6 billion. This past week the company announced it was buying, for an undisclosed amount, Cornerstone Technology, an IT-services company that helps companies shift their work to the cloud.

Late last year Google set up a “customer success” team to help customers achieve their objectives on the company’s cloud service, said John Jester, Google Cloud vice president for customer experience, who leads the effort. “We weren’t focused on the enterprise at the level we needed to be,” said Mr. Jester, who joined from Microsoft.

Google has picked up some marquee customers. Riot Games Inc., maker of the popular online videogame League of Legends and owned by the Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., is moving its data analytics from Amazon to Google Cloud because of the sophisticated tools Google Cloud offered, people familiar with the move said.

Google’s cloud effort under Mr. Kurian has also encountered challenges. Google teamed up with the second-largest health system in the U.S. to collect detailed information on 50 million American patients, sparking a federal inquiry and criticism from patients and lawmakers.

Despite the layoffs in other parts of its business, Google Cloud continues to bolster its sales ranks. At the end of 2019, Google Cloud had 1,500 sales people, and by the end of this year, the group plans to double to 3,000 sales people, according to a person familiar with company’s plans.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 20:00 ET (01:00 GMT)

DJ Interbank Foreign Exchange Rates At 19:50 EST / 0050 GMT
 
                           Latest       Previous   %Chg    Daily    Daily   %Chg 
Dollar Rates                               Close            High      Low  12/31 
 
USD/JPY Japan           111.65-66      111.55-56  +0.09   111.68   111.22  +2.77 
EUR/USD Euro            1.0830-33      1.0845-48  -0.14   1.0846   1.0812  -3.42 
GBP/USD U.K.            1.2943-45      1.2956-58  -0.10   1.2967   1.2941  -2.38 
USD/CHF Switzerland     0.9793-97      0.9780-84  +0.13   0.9812   0.9783  +1.24 
USD/CAD Canada          1.3253-58      1.3219-24  +0.26   1.3260   1.3224  +2.05 
AUD/USD Australia       0.6608-12      0.6622-26  -0.21   0.6628   0.6584  -5.81 
NZD/USD New Zealand     0.6321-27      0.6343-49  -0.35   0.6349   0.6311  -6.06 
 
Euro Rates 
 
EUR/JPY Japan           120.92-96      120.98-01  -0.05   121.08   120.17  -0.74 
EUR/GBP U.K.            0.8366-69      0.8371-74  -0.06   0.8376   0.8347  -1.08 
EUR/CHF Switzerland     1.0610-13      1.0612-15  -0.02   1.0616   1.0602  -2.23 
EUR/CAD Canada          1.4354-64      1.4339-49  +0.10   1.4373   1.4323  -1.42 
EUR/AUD Australia       1.6376-86      1.6363-73  +0.08   1.6439   1.6379  +2.52 
EUR/DKK Denmark        7.4694-701     7.4696-703   0.00   7.4741   7.4678  -0.02 
EUR/NOK Norway       10.0997-1047    10.0654-704  +0.34  10.1233  10.0665  +2.61 
EUR/SEK Sweden        10.5607-707    10.5352-452  +0.24  10.5870  10.5379  +0.61 
EUR/CZK Czech Rep.      25.030-60      25.043-73  -0.05   25.076   25.027  -1.48 
EUR/HUF Hungary         337.06-46      336.69-07  +0.11   337.35   336.87  +1.86 
EUR/PLN Poland          4.2959-77      4.2861-79  +0.23   4.2987   4.2875  +1.02 
 
Yen Rates 
 
AUD/JPY Australia        73.81-85       73.89-93  -0.11    73.91    73.25  -3.16 
GBP/JPY U.K.            144.52-58      144.51-57  +0.01   144.63   143.86  +0.30 
CAD/JPY Canada           84.21-25       84.35-39  -0.17    84.37    83.87  +0.71 
NZD/JPY New Zealand      70.57-65       70.76-83  -0.26    70.83    70.19  -3.46 
 
Other Dollar Rates 
 
USD/CZK Czech Rep.     23.095-145     23.075-125  +0.09   23.178   23.095  +1.98 
USD/HUF Hungary         311.14-54      310.41-81  +0.24   311.92   310.56  +5.43 
USD/DKK Denmark         6.8957-67      6.8859-69  +0.14   6.9085   6.8858  +3.50 
USD/NOK Norway          9.3237-97     9.2778-838  +0.49   9.3470   9.2812  +6.23 
USD/PLN Poland          3.9667-72      3.9525-30  +0.36   3.9754   3.9532  +4.58 
USD/RUB Russia         64.042-112     64.039-109  +0.01   64.077   64.074  +3.24 
USD/SEK Sweden         9.7499-589     9.7142-232  +0.37   9.7901   9.7184  +4.14 
USD/ZAR S. Africa     15.0538-838     14.9863-05  +0.45  15.1021  15.0033  +7.65 
 
USD/CNY China           7.0261-81      7.0262-82   0.00   7.0272   7.0271  +0.92 
USD/HKD Hong Kong       7.7914-19      7.7865-70  +0.06   7.7939   7.7868  +0.01 
USD/MYR Malaysia        4.2105-55     4.1866-916  +0.57   4.2145   4.1890  +2.99 
USD/INR India           71.870-90      71.870-90   0.00   71.880   71.880  +0.74 
USD/IDR Indonesia        13758-72       13758-72   0.00    13765    13765  -0.85 
USD/PHP Philippines     50.875-95      50.875-95   0.00   50.885   50.885  +0.35 
USD/SGD Singapore       1.4004-14      1.3968-78  +0.26   1.4021   1.3976  +4.08 
USD/KRW S. Korea     1215.32-7.32   1206.07-8.07  +0.77  1216.60  1206.96  +5.30 
USD/TWD Taiwan         30.385-415     30.385-415   0.00   30.401   30.400  +1.62 
USD/THB Thailand       31.690-710      31.570-90  +0.38   31.740   31.560  +6.52 
USD/VND Vietnam          23211-81       23209-79  +0.01    23246    23244  +0.32 
 
USD/BRL Brazil         4.3888-918     4.3878-908  +0.02   4.3906   4.3903  +9.23 
USD/MXN Mexico        19.0453-753   18.8864-9164  +0.84  19.0611  18.9082  +0.69 
USD/ARS Argentina    61.7890-8332    61.7417-859  +0.08  61.9712  61.7579  +3.22 
 
Source: Tullett Prebon 
 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:50 ET (00:50 GMT)

DJ Gold Prices Up Early On, May Surge on Fresh Coronavirus Fears -- Market Talk

0042 GMT - Gold prices are higher in morning Asia trade as demand for safe-haven assets continues growing amid renewed coronavirus concerns. Gold demand is likely to surge if worries over the virus further rattle financial markets, following more global cases of patients who didn't recently travel to China, AxiCorp says. South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level as the number of cases rise, while Italy has imposed quarantine measures in the north in a bid to contain the spread. Spot gold is up 1.0% at $1,659.76/oz. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:43 ET (00:43 GMT)

DJ Oil Prices Lower; Demand Concerns May Weigh -- Market Talk

0038 GMT - Oil prices are lower in early Asia trade following news that Saudi Arabia is mulling breaking its oil-production alliance with Russia over output curbs disagreements. The coronavirus is fuelling demand concerns that will likely continue pressuring oil prices in the near term, as the economic disruption cause by the epidemic could trigger a massive drop in business activity around the globe, AxiCorp says. Front-month WTI is down 2.6% at $52.02 a barrel and Brent futures are down 2.7% at $56.90 a barrel. (justina.lee@wsj.com)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:39 ET (00:39 GMT)

DJ Boeing Offers More Support for 737 MAX Suppliers

Boeing Co. is planning more support for suppliers for its 737 MAX jetliner program to prepare them for restarting production—and to dissuade some from seeking more business from Airbus SE.

Boeing suspended MAX production in January after building more than 400 planes it was unable to deliver. Regulators grounded the aircraft in March last year, following the second of two fatal crashes that claimed a total of 346 lives.

That has left a network of more than 600 big suppliers and hundreds of smaller firms in limbo about business that in some cases contributed half their annual sales. Many suppliers had expanded factories and hired more staff to help Boeing fill orders for more than 4,500 MAX jets it had planned to build at a rate of 57 a month. Now, analysts say, it could take three years to reach that level when production restarts after the plane is cleared to fly again.

Heading the effort is Stan Deal, who was elevated to lead the Boeing Commercial Airplanes unit last October, after the ouster of Kevin McAllister. Mr. Deal formerly ran Boeing’s services arm, but he had headed its supply-chain relations earlier in his 34-year career at the company.

The company said it plans to stockpile more parts than in the past to guarantee order flow for suppliers.

Boeing, which had set aside $4 billion for additional expenses this year, has earmarked some of those funds for cash advances and other financial support to suppliers to address MAX production fluctuations.

“Right now, it’s really liquidity and where they need help or support,” Boeing Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said at an investor conference earlier this month.

Boeing suppliers said they have been given three potential schedules for resuming production, ranging from about 100 to 300 planes this year, depending on when assembly starts. Boeing has said it doesn’t expect approval of new software and training regimens required by regulators for the plane until midyear.

The longer-term risk is that some suppliers may curb their business with the aerospace giant. Some, including Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., are already reducing their reliance on Boeing by pursuing more work for Airbus and military customers.

General Electric Co. and Safran SA, which make MAX engines in a joint venture, are also looking to expand work with Airbus, developing an engine for the A330neo jetliner that at present is powered only by Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC.

“The big risk is major suppliers don’t bid on the next Boeing aircraft,” said Kevin Michaels, managing director of AeroDynamic Advisory LLC, which counts large and small MAX suppliers among its clients.

So far, most suppliers have weathered the pause in MAX-related business. Many have continued production at lower rates, stockpiling inventory and redirecting workers to make more parts for Airbus and military jets.

“These guys are going to lay off workers unless they get support,” said Mr. Michaels.

A tight labor market for aerospace engineers and specialized assembly staff could make it tough to rehire workers when production resumes, suppliers said.

Some of Boeing’s largest suppliers said on recent earnings calls that the MAX production halt would hurt sales and profits this year. GE Chief Executive Larry Culp said last week that the company would burn about $2 billion in cash flow during the first quarter due in part to pressure on the joint venture with Safran.

Airbus has had its own problems boosting output of its rival A320neo-range jets because of shortages of parts and assembly snafus. It shares many smaller suppliers with Boeing and plans to expand its own production over the next several years.

Executives at a supply-chain conference near Seattle earlier this month said recent agreements involving Spirit and GE have provided more certainty to smaller companies that they can continue production and prepare to resume shipping parts to Boeing and other suppliers.

“Most suppliers know when production should resume and at what rates,” said John Plueger, chief executive of plane rental giant Air Lease Corp., one of the largest MAX customers.

Spirit, one of the biggest MAX suppliers, was building 52 fuselages a month before halting output at the end of 2019, with around 100 in storage awaiting shipment by rail to the Boeing plant in Renton, Wash., where the jet is assembled.

Boeing recently signed a deal for the company to produce 216 fuselages this year and will lend Spirit $225 million this quarter. Separately, GE and Safran have said they plan to make engines for around 20 MAX planes a month, half their output rate last year.

Wichita, Kan.-based Spirit in January laid off 2,800 workers, a third of whom had made fuselages and wing parts for the MAX.

An additional 300 workers have been laid off at other suppliers, including Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Precision Castparts, according to regulatory filings. Arconic Inc., which makes casts and forgings for jet engines, expects to decide in the summer whether to cut staff.

Berkshire Hathaway, which also owns stakes in three U.S. airlines hit by the MAX grounding, said in its annual report published Saturday that the halt in production may hurt demand for some of its aerospace products this year. However, it expects to make up a “substantial” portion of this from extra volume on other aircraft programs.

Boeing hasn’t laid off any staff as a result of the MAX production halt. Some 3,000 assembly workers have been redeployed to other programs and to develop practices to improve the efficiency of future MAX production, the company said.

The company isn’t budging on one part of the Partnering for Success supplier program introduced in 2012 and aimed at cutting prices: How long it takes to pay most of them, a period that in recent years extended to 90 days or more, from 30 days.

“The most useful thing Boeing could do is ease the payment terms,” said one supplier, who declined to be named to protect business with the company.

Boeing said it is evaluating the impact of the production halt on each supplier. “We continually evaluate the impact to each supplier, and depending on various factors, we are providing a range of support to at-risk businesses,” said a spokesman.

Write to Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Move Over, Elliott. Argentina’s New Bond-Market Nemesis Is Fidelity.

Argentina’s new adversary in the bond market is no highflying hedge fund. It’s Fidelity Investments.

Nate Van Duzer is a Mormon Church bishop and former West Pointer who handles “special situations” for the Boston mutual-fund giant. This month he won a standoff with Argentina’s Buenos Aires province by calling the municipality’s bluff when it said it didn’t have enough money to make a $250 million payment, people familiar with the matter said.

Argentine federal and municipal governments are preparing to restructure more than $100 billion of debt. Mr. Van Duzer took a firm line with the province to show Fidelity, one of the largest holders of the bonds, wouldn’t be steamrolled in future negotiations, they said. Buenos Aires made the payment in early February.

Fidelity’s tough negotiating drew the type of criticism from Argentine officials previously reserved for vulture investors like Elliott Management Corp. owner Paul Singer, who won a $2.4 billion judgment against the South American country and once detained an Argentine navy ship.

“There was an investment fund that had no attitude of dialogue or predisposition but of intransigence,” Axel Kicillof, governor of Buenos Aires province, said, referring to Fidelity at a news conference this month.

Once viewed as hands-off, big money managers are becoming a force to be reckoned with when governments try to force restructurings on bondholders.

Banks and hedge funds have historically steered negotiations for bondholders in large sovereign-debt defaults like Russia in the 1990s, Greece in 2012 and Argentina’s last restructuring, which dragged from 2001 to 2017. But bond mutual funds have grown dramatically since the 2009 financial crisis, and they often now find themselves owning the lion’s share of bonds when governments fail to pay.

Fidelity manages about $325 billion through bond mutual funds, and individual investments that are small fractions of overall assets can add up to big dollar figures. The firm owns approximately $1 billion in Argentine bonds in mutual funds, according to data from Morningstar. Mutual funds managed by Pacific Investment Management Co. control about $1.4 billion of the country’s bonds, according to the Morningstar data.

In some cases, money managers are using their clout to squeeze better terms out of defaulters. When Ukraine failed to pay debts in 2015, Franklin Templeton Investments was the country’s largest private creditor and took a leading role in the restructuring, which recovered 80% for bondholders.

Investors are likely to recover far less if Argentina and its municipalities default as expected this spring. Bonds of the sovereign and Buenos Aires trade between 40 and 50 cents on the dollar, according to data from MarketAxess.

The confrontation with Fidelity took shape earlier in 2020. Buenos Aires was reluctant to spend dwindling cash reserves just weeks before its expected debt restructuring alongside the federal government, the people familiar with the matter said. In mid-January, about three weeks ahead of the payment deadline, Mr. Kicillof’s administration asked bondholders to wait until May to get paid.

Members of a bondholder committee, including Greylock Capital Management, VR Capital Group and Western Asset Management Company, suspected the province would default before then and refused, the people said. The province reached a deal with the group a few days before the early February deadline, agreeing to pay 30% upfront, but it still needed consent from Fidelity as a holder of a large chunk of the debt.

A new portfolio manager of Fidelity’s largest emerging-markets bond fund, Jonathan Kelly, wanted to send a message to the province that Fidelity would bargain aggressively in the bigger restructuring to come, these people said. It was Mr. Van Duzer’s job to deliver that message.

Mr. Van Duzer grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and wrestled at West Point before doing two years of missionary work in South Africa at the end of the apartheid era. After serving in the Army Corps of Engineers, he studied law and became a bankruptcy attorney, first at a white-shoe firm, then for almost two decades at Fidelity.

“He’s a fighter, it’s hard wired into him,” said a person who knows Mr. Van Duzer. His time in South Africa proselytizing to both Afrikaner and black communities “helped him learn how to deal with difficult issues,” the person said.

Mr. Van Duzer parachutes in when Fidelity’s big bond investments go bad, representing the company in restructuring talks with borrowers that default and with other creditors. Assignments in recent years include bankrupt California utility PG&E Corp. and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht SA, as well as supermarket chain Southeastern Grocers.

He wakes for daily runs at 5 a.m. and spends most Sundays tending to Boston’s Mormon community as a bishop for the regional parish, or ward, the person who knows him said.

Mr. Van Duzer has a reputation as a forthright and thoughtful negotiator, equally capable of forging consensus or going it alone with a hard line. In the case of Buenos Aires, he chose the latter.

Fidelity thought Buenos Aires had access to the money and believed it would be neglecting its fiduciary duty if it went along with the bondholder group, the people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Van Duzer told Mr. Kicillof’s staff that Fidelity required 50% upfront, with monthly installment payments to follow, the people familiar with the matter said.

No deal emerged, and members of the bondholder group were angry with the province’s officials for risking an early default, according to these people. Buenos Aires communicated with Fidelity several times before and after launching its restructuring proposal, an official for the province said.

On Feb. 4, Mr. Kicillof held a news conference and said the province would make the payment and begin a global restructuring of its debts.

Write to Matt Wirz at matthieu.wirz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009

Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors about Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s long-term future following an underwhelming year for the conglomerate’s performance.

The 89-year-old Mr. Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive, is renowned for his long-term success as a stock investor and deal maker. But in recent years, Berkshire’s stock performance has failed to beat the market.

Berkshire’s stock rose 11% in 2019 compared with a 31.5% total return in the S&P 500, including dividends—Berkshire’s biggest underperformance since 2009.

Mr. Buffett has long said that investors should focus on companies’ long-term performance and ignore shorter-term fluctuations in the stock market.

Some investors have agitated for Berkshire to spend more of its massive cash pile buying back shares or paying a dividend. They have also asked to hear more from Ajit Jain and Greg Abel, the two Berkshire vice chairmen who are leading contenders to succeed Mr. Buffett as CEO.

In his annual letter to shareholders released Saturday, Mr. Buffett mostly skirted the issue of Berkshire’s underperformance relative to the broader market. But he said shareholders should not be worried about the future of Berkshire after he or his 96-year-old business partner, Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, die.

“Your company is 100% prepared for our departure,” Mr. Buffett said.

He also said that at Berkshire’s annual meeting in May, shareholders will be able to ask questions of Messrs. Jain and Abel. That is a change from previous meetings, when any comments by Berkshire leaders besides Messrs. Buffett and Munger have been rare.

“I’m so excited for that. I think it’s an absolutely terrific idea,” said Thomas Russo, partner at Gardner Russo & Gardner, a longtime holder of Berkshire shares. He said it would be helpful for shareholders to hear more directly from Messrs. Jain and Abel about overseeing the day-to-day operations of Berkshire’s companies.

Berkshire increased its buybacks in the fourth quarter to $2.2 billion, bringing its total repurchases for the year to $5 billion, the company said. That still barely dented the company’s huge pile of cash, which totaled $128 billion as of Dec. 31, the company said Saturday, slightly down from a record $128.2 billion at the end of the third quarter.

In his letter, Mr. Buffett lamented the difficulty of finding attractively priced acquisition targets that are big enough to move the needle for Berkshire.

“The opportunities to make major acquisitions possessing our required attributes are rare,” he said.

Berkshire’s biggest deal in 2019 was a$10 billion investmentin Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s bid to acquire Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

Some of Berkshire’s 60-odd subsidiaries completed acquisitions, but those deals tend to be small. Berkshire spent $1.7 billion on bolt-on acquisitions in 2019, the company said, up from $1 billion the prior year.

“I think there’s more capacity for buybacks,” said James Shanahan, senior equity-research analyst at Edward Jones. “It’s no doubt that the significant outstanding cash balances have been an extraordinary drag on earnings.”

The Omaha, Neb., conglomerate reported net earnings of $29.2 billion, or $17,909 per Class A share equivalent, up from a loss of $25.4 billion, or $15,467 a share, the year before. Berkshire’s earnings were mostly boosted by unrealized investment gains, while its results a year ago were dragged down by an unexpected write-down at Kraft Heinz Co.

Berkshire posted operating earnings of $4.4 billion, down from $5.7 billion a year earlier, due to lower results in insurance underwriting and some of Berkshire’s smaller operating businesses. Operating earnings exclude some investment results and Mr. Buffett has said they are more reflective of Berkshire’s performance than net earnings, which can fluctuate widely due to unrealized investment gains or losses.

Berkshire’s Class A shares closed Friday at $343,499, up 1.1% for the year. In contrast, the S&P 500 is up 3.3% this year.

Cathy Seifert, equity analyst CFRA Research, said she thought Mr. Buffett should have addressed Berkshire’s results compared with the index more directly. “It’s easy to say you’re not concerned about short-term performance,” she said. But “this short-term underperformance could turn into a longer-term underperformance.”

Mr. Buffett also used his letter to discuss corporate boards of directors, which he said are often ill-equipped to oversee companies and incentivized not to challenge executives. Noting that he has served as a director for 21 public companies over the past 62 years, Mr. Buffett complained that board members are often too reliant on their board-related income to truly function as independent overseers. He also said many board members are not experts in finance or investing.

“Almost all of the directors I have met over the years have been decent, likable and intelligent,” Mr. Buffett said. “Nevertheless, many of these good souls are people whom I would never have chosen to handle money or business matters. It simply was not their game.”

Berkshire runs a large insurance operation as well as railroad, utilities, industrial manufacturers and retailers. Its holdings include recognizable names like Dairy Queen, Duracell, Fruit of the Loom, Geico and See’s Candies.

Berkshire’s insurance business sits at the core of its moneymaking machine. Insurance brings in billions of dollars of “float,” upfront premiums customers pay and that Berkshire invests for its own gain. Berkshire also holds large stock investments, including in Apple Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Write to Nicole Friedman at nicole.friedman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Stock Underperforms the Most Since 2009

Warren Buffett sought to reassure investors about Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s long-term future following an underwhelming year for the conglomerate’s performance.

The 89-year-old Mr. Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive, is renowned for his long-term success as a stock investor and deal maker. But in recent years, Berkshire’s stock performance has failed to beat the market.

Berkshire’s stock rose 11% in 2019 compared with a 31.5% total return in the S&P 500, including dividends—Berkshire’s biggest underperformance since 2009.

Mr. Buffett has long said that investors should focus on companies’ long-term performance and ignore shorter-term fluctuations in the stock market.

Some investors have agitated for Berkshire to spend more of its massive cash pile buying back shares or paying a dividend. They have also asked to hear more from Ajit Jain and Greg Abel, the two Berkshire vice chairmen who are leading contenders to succeed Mr. Buffett as CEO.

In his annual letter to shareholders released Saturday, Mr. Buffett mostly skirted the issue of Berkshire’s underperformance relative to the broader market. But he said shareholders should not be worried about the future of Berkshire after he or his 96-year-old business partner, Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger, die.

“Your company is 100% prepared for our departure,” Mr. Buffett said.

He also said that at Berkshire’s annual meeting in May, shareholders will be able to ask questions of Messrs. Jain and Abel. That is a change from previous meetings, when any comments by Berkshire leaders besides Messrs. Buffett and Munger have been rare.

“I’m so excited for that. I think it’s an absolutely terrific idea,” said Thomas Russo, partner at Gardner Russo & Gardner, a longtime holder of Berkshire shares. He said it would be helpful for shareholders to hear more directly from Messrs. Jain and Abel about overseeing the day-to-day operations of Berkshire’s companies.

Berkshire increased its buybacks in the fourth quarter to $2.2 billion, bringing its total repurchases for the year to $5 billion, the company said. That still barely dented the company’s huge pile of cash, which totaled $128 billion as of Dec. 31, the company said Saturday, slightly down from a record $128.2 billion at the end of the third quarter.

In his letter, Mr. Buffett lamented the difficulty of finding attractively priced acquisition targets that are big enough to move the needle for Berkshire.

“The opportunities to make major acquisitions possessing our required attributes are rare,” he said.

Berkshire’s biggest deal in 2019 was a$10 billion investmentin Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s bid to acquire Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

Some of Berkshire’s 60-odd subsidiaries completed acquisitions, but those deals tend to be small. Berkshire spent $1.7 billion on bolt-on acquisitions in 2019, the company said, up from $1 billion the prior year.

“I think there’s more capacity for buybacks,” said James Shanahan, senior equity-research analyst at Edward Jones. “It’s no doubt that the significant outstanding cash balances have been an extraordinary drag on earnings.”

The Omaha, Neb., conglomerate reported net earnings of $29.2 billion, or $17,909 per Class A share equivalent, up from a loss of $25.4 billion, or $15,467 a share, the year before. Berkshire’s earnings were mostly boosted by unrealized investment gains, while its results a year ago were dragged down by an unexpected write-down at Kraft Heinz Co.

Berkshire posted operating earnings of $4.4 billion, down from $5.7 billion a year earlier, due to lower results in insurance underwriting and some of Berkshire’s smaller operating businesses. Operating earnings exclude some investment results and Mr. Buffett has said they are more reflective of Berkshire’s performance than net earnings, which can fluctuate widely due to unrealized investment gains or losses.

Berkshire’s Class A shares closed Friday at $343,499, up 1.1% for the year. In contrast, the S&P 500 is up 3.3% this year.

Cathy Seifert, equity analyst CFRA Research, said she thought Mr. Buffett should have addressed Berkshire’s results compared with the index more directly. “It’s easy to say you’re not concerned about short-term performance,” she said. But “this short-term underperformance could turn into a longer-term underperformance.”

Mr. Buffett also used his letter to discuss corporate boards of directors, which he said are often ill-equipped to oversee companies and incentivized not to challenge executives. Noting that he has served as a director for 21 public companies over the past 62 years, Mr. Buffett complained that board members are often too reliant on their board-related income to truly function as independent overseers. He also said many board members are not experts in finance or investing.

“Almost all of the directors I have met over the years have been decent, likable and intelligent,” Mr. Buffett said. “Nevertheless, many of these good souls are people whom I would never have chosen to handle money or business matters. It simply was not their game.”

Berkshire runs a large insurance operation as well as railroad, utilities, industrial manufacturers and retailers. Its holdings include recognizable names like Dairy Queen, Duracell, Fruit of the Loom, Geico and See’s Candies.

Berkshire’s insurance business sits at the core of its moneymaking machine. Insurance brings in billions of dollars of “float,” upfront premiums customers pay and that Berkshire invests for its own gain. Berkshire also holds large stock investments, including in Apple Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Write to Nicole Friedman at nicole.friedman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Intuit Near Deal to Buy Credit Karma for $7 Billion

Intuit Inc. is nearing a deal to buy personal-finance portal Credit Karma Inc. for about $7 billion in cash and stock, in a move that would push the bookkeeping-software giant further into consumer finance, according to people familiar with the matter.

The maker of TurboTax could announce a deal to buy privately held Credit Karma by Monday, assuming talks don’t fall apart, the people said. Credit Karma was valued at roughly $4 billion in a private share sale about two years ago.

The deal would mark Intuit’s largest acquisition by far in its 37-year history and the first sizable transaction under Chief Executive Sasan Goodarzi, who took over a little more than a year ago.

Credit Karma offers its customers free access to their credit scores and borrowing history, alerts to possible data breaches, credit monitoring and tax preparation and filing. Customers in turn receive offers from other companies for credit cards and loans tailored to their credit history, and Credit Karma makes money when customers use those products.

Adding the buzzy startup to its stable would give Intuit a stronger foothold in the burgeoning realm of online personal finance. In addition to TurboTax, the online software that millions of people use to file their taxes, Intuit’s offerings include QuickBooks bookkeeping software used by businesses and Mint, an online-budgeting platform that also pitches individuals financial products. Intuit has a market value of roughly $77 billion.

Under the deal being discussed, Credit Karma would operate as a stand-alone unit with its chief executive, Kenneth Lin, remaining in charge, one of the people said. But joining forces could allow both Credit Karma and Intuit to fine-tune their recommendations to customers by expanding the trove of financial data they use to make suggestions.

The move would cap a rapid rise for Credit Karma, which is backed by funders including private-equity firm Silver Lake and financial-technology venture firm Ribbit Capital. Based in San Francisco and founded in 2007 by Mr. Lin, Nichole Mustard and Ryan Graciano, Credit Karma at one point was eyeing an initial public offering no earlier than late 2019.

But the IPO market has looked more dubious after the disappointing debuts of some startups including Uber Technologies Inc. The merger market, especially for financial technology companies, has remained strong. Such deals have accounted for several of the largest transactions announced so far this year, including Morgan Stanley’s $13 billion purchase of E*Trade Financial Corp., announced this past week, and Visa Inc.’s $5.3 billion acquisition of startup Plaid Inc. announced last month.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit was founded in 1983 and went public in 1993. Best-known for its bookkeeping software, the company has said it wants to push further into the finances of the individuals and businesses it serves by adding more offerings to its platform. It is set to report its fiscal second-quarter earnings Monday afternoon.

Write to Cara Lombardo at cara.lombardo@wsj.com and Dana Cimilluca at dana.cimilluca@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Natural-Gas Exporters Struggle to Lock Up Buyers

President Trump is planning to push American shale gas when he travels to India this week. So far, U.S. gas exports have proven to be a tough sell globally.

U.S. companies have struggled to line up foreign buyers willing to sign long-term deals for liquefied natural gas as the world is experiencing a glut of the fuel.

Global buyers including India have instead turned to an increasingly liquid spot market for cheaper LNG, threatening the future of more than two dozen additional natural-gas export facilities proposed in the U.S., which need sizable advance commitments from buyers to secure the billions needed for the projects to go forward.

The U.S. has quickly become the world’s third-largest supplier of liquefied natural gas, thanks to the bonanza of fuel unlocked by the fracking boom. But American companies have struggled in recent years to sell more than spot cargoes, amid competition from rivals in Qatar, Russia and Australia.

From 2011 through 2015, U.S. suppliers struck 37 long-term sales deals with foreign buyers for a combined 67 million tons of gas a year, according to S&P Global Platts. Much of that total reflected deals to line up customers by early U.S. LNG exporters, including Freeport LNG Development LP and Cheniere Energy Inc.

From 2016 through 2019, U.S. suppliers reached 19 long-term deals with foreign buyers, covering 24 million tons of LNG a year, S&P Global Platts data shows. That total excludes a deal between Exxon Mobil Corp. and Qatar that amounted to a sharing agreement between production partners.

“The low-price environment makes it very difficult to sign long-term deals, and the market is evolving into a more commoditized market,” said Robert Fee, Cheniere’s vice president of international affairs and commercial development. “Yet there is still a clear role for long-term contracts. Some buyers may see this as an opportunity to lock in low prices.”

The Trump administration has championed LNG export deals in trade talks, with former Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other officials touting the potential of “freedom gas” and “molecules of freedom” to help Europe and Asia reduce dependence on Russian and Middle Eastern sources.

U.S. officials have aggressively pursued LNG agreements with countries including China, India, Poland and Ukraine. Thus far, however, fewer concrete deals have emerged since Mr. Trump took office. Three out of four nonbinding LNG agreements the Trump administration announced with China subsequently fell apart, and that was before a U.S. trade war with China disrupted American LNG flows to the country.

When he makes his first official visit to India this week, Mr. Trump will be joined by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, among other officials, according to a senior administration official. The trip will focus on economic and energy ties between the countries, the official told reporters.

Mr. Trump will try to lock down a prospective deal publicized when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Houston in September. At that time, Mr. Trump touted a $7.5 billion nonbinding LNG agreement between fledgling U.S. exporter Tellurian Inc. and India’s Petronet LNG Ltd.

Such a deal would put Tellurian’s proposed U.S. Gulf Coast export facility, the $27 billion Driftwood LNG project in Louisiana, closer to the total commitments it needs to move forward, and secure a trade victory for Mr. Trump.

Tellurian Chief Executive Meg Gentle, Chairman Charif Souki and other company officials are headed to India this week to continue negotiations with Petronet. In an interview, Ms. Gentle said she appreciates the president’s highlighting the role of energy in the U.S. economy and isn’t alarmed by a reduction in long-term contracting.

“I view that as a huge positive,” Ms. Gentle said. “We’re seeing fewer and fewer long-term contracts because buyers and sellers are becoming more comfortable that the market is going to be there.”

Ms. Gentle said Tellurian has roughly two-thirds of the commitments it needs to go forward with the Driftwood project, and is working toward completing a deal with Petronet by the end of March.

Some analysts believe 2020 is a pivotal year for the U.S. LNG export industry, as low-cost rivals in the Middle East and Africa decide on whether to move forward with huge export expansions that could reduce the need for U.S. projects. In addition to Tellurian, Freeport LNG, owned by founder Michael Smith, Global Infrastructure Partners, and Osaka Gas Co. Ltd., and Cameron LNG LLC, owned by affiliates of Sempra Energy, Mitsubishi Corp., Total SA, and Mitsui & Co. are planning to expand existing U.S. facilities.

Asian and European buyers are stretched to absorb the LNG circulating on ships around the globe. Some have been turned away in China, following the outbreak of coronavirus. Indian natural-gas company GAIL (India) Ltd. has resold some U.S. cargoes in the past year, according to people familiar with the matter.

“There is only so much appetite globally for supply from the furthest supplier in the world to Asian markets,” said Madeline Jowdy, senior director of global gas and LNG for S&P Global Platts.

Foreign buyers committed to long-term purchase agreements of U.S. LNG are paying almost twice as much as buyers taking cargoes from the spot market. In essence, they are potentially losing $14 million to $17 million per cargo on some contracted shipments, said Dumitru Dediu, a partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Like others, he believes the majority of export terminals proposed in the U.S. will never be built.

“We’re talking about 30 or so projects, and I think only two or three—at most, four—are likely to go ahead,” Mr. Dediu said.

With global commodities traders such as Gunvor Group and Trafigura Group playing a growing role in the LNG market, cheap prices for spot cargoes are forcing U.S. LNG firms to offer cheaper contracts.

In an effort to woo potential customers to 10-to-20 year offtake agreements, some U.S. companies have offered ultralow fees for liquefying natural gas—as little as $1.75 per million British thermal units, according to two people familiar with the matter. That price is below the $2 per-unit capital cost of liquefying the gas for some projects.

Tellurian’s Ms. Gentle remains optimistic, noting that demand for U.S. LNG has continued to grow.

“You’ll still need 75 million tons from the other projects. We really view it as, ‘All are welcome,’” she said.

Write to Collin Eaton at collin.eaton@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Vale Dam Report Faults Conflict of Interest, Compensation Structure

An independent report commissioned by Vale SA into last year’s deadly mine-dam failure found conflicts of interest between the mining giant and its auditors, faulty information-sharing inside the company and a compensation structure that prioritized financial returns. The committee that wrote the report said all these factors contributed to the disaster, which killed 270.

The report, which Vale made public this week, was the second commissioned and released by Vale into the circumstances and causes of the January 2019 dam burst. The first report focused on technical and engineering aspects of the dam, including years of drainage issues at the structure, which held back mine waste at an iron-ore mine in Brazil.

The new report focused on corporate culture and practices that an independent committee, appointed by Vale, said contributed to the disaster. Committee members included a former Brazilian supreme court justice.

A Vale spokeswoman said recommendations provided by the committee match those it has been taking since the disaster. It is making a “deeper analysis” of the report and will act accordingly, it added.

Last month, Brazilian prosecutors charged 11 Vale employees, including former Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman, with homicide. Vale has denied being aware of any critical or imminent risk to the Brumadinho dam. All individuals charged have denied wrongdoing.

The report findings mirror reporting contained in a yearlong investigation of the disaster by The Wall Street Journal.

In December, the Journal reported that negligence, coverup and a compliant state all contributed to the tragedy, citing contractors, employees, lawmakers and investigators. The Journal described a model inside the company that investigators labeled “compensation and retaliation,” in which a bonus system encouraged employees to hold down costs and muffle safety concerns.

The new report, which Vale is sharing with authorities, said the independent committee reviewed Vale’s compensation and incentive structure and found safety goals were taken into consideration for bonuses, but that often those considerations related to managers being able to obtain safety certifications from outside auditors.

The report found potential conflicts of interest between Vale and its auditors, including German firm TÜV SÜD. The Journal reported in February last year that TÜV SÜD inspectors knew of dangerous conditions at the dam but certified it as safe, in part because they feared losing Vale’s business which involved scores of other contracts.

The latest report said the committee found Vale has a “strong hierarchical culture that is resistant to the exposure of problems to higher levels of the organization.”

The report also cited findings that it said showed Vale knew about the fragile state of the dam for years. It said it found evidence that a decision by Gerd Peter Poppinga, a top Vale executive, to stop dumping waste at the dam in 2016, may have been based on concerns about the dam’s safety following discussions with an engineering consultant that was conducting stability studies at the dam.

The Journal previously reported that Mr. Poppinga cited a “doubt” about the dam in an email to subordinates and had asked deputies to look into ways to reinforce the dam. Attorneys for Mr. Poppinga previously told the Journal the doubt referred to missing documents about the construction of the dam, which was built before Vale acquired it. One of Mr. Poppinga’s attorneys said his client’s doubts about the dam were soon resolved and didn’t relate to its stability.

A lawyer for Mr. Poppinga, who hasn’t been charged, called the committee’s findings about his client “grossly untrue.” He reaffirmed his previous statement that issues raised by Mr. Poppinga weren’t related to the dam’s safety, saying documents support that assertion. He said state prosecutors already investigated the issue and opted to drop their investigation into Mr. Poppinga because of a lack of evidence of wrongdoing.

The committee that wrote the report said it found Vale’s board didn’t receive detailed information about the state of Vale’s dams, and directors were told numerous times that all dams had received a green light by auditors. But the committee found the board did receive information in 2018 of an internal audit that found delays in installing warning systems at the dam. Those systems were designed to help populations near the dams escape in the event of a burst.

The Jan. 25, 2019, dam burst released a wave of muddy mining waste that swept away nearby offices and a crowded lunchroom owned by Vale. The river of sludge also smashed into part of the town of Brumadinho, crushing residences. A siren meant to alert workers and residents of a burst didn’t go off.

“Evidence from studies and other materials reviewed indicate that the impacts of a breach at B1 [the Brumadinho dam] were known to Vale,” the report said. “Nevertheless, the adoption of concrete measures to mitigate impacts were not identified nor was the removal of the downstream administrative facilities at B1 discussed,” it added.

Write to Patricia Kowsmann at patricia.kowsmann@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Losing $450,000 in Three Days: Hackers Trick Victims Into Big Wire Transfers

In 2018, Frank Krasovec took on a $1 million personal line of credit from PlainsCapital Bank. A few months later, he went on a business trip. When he returned, $450,000 was missing.

Mr. Krasovec, the chairman of Dash Brands Ltd., which owns Domino’s Pizza Inc. franchises in China, said he soon learned that someone had hijacked his email and asked his assistant to wire the money to a Hong Kong account.

Fraudsters are stealing billions of dollars each year through this type of scam, which combines sophisticated hacking with wire transfers, an old-fashioned but efficient way to move money overseas. Banks and law-enforcement officials are struggling to curb the problem, while victims like Mr. Krasovec say they are finding it nearly impossible to get their money back.

Years ago, lenders only had to worry about real-life bank robbers. Now, the wire-transfer scam puts them in a tough position. Customers expect them to move money quickly for legitimate transactions, while also guarding against hackers that have infiltrated clients.

The largest banks are most likely to be conduits for the wire-transfer scams, according to the American Bankers Association. But community banks, with much smaller technology budgets to build their defenses, are also vulnerable.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation received reports of nearly $1.8 billion in losses from this type of scam in 2019, up from about $1.3 billion the prior year. The agency estimates total losses world-wide, which include those not reported to the agency, were $26 billion between June 2016 and July 2019. The transfers primarily go to banks in Hong Kong and mainland China, where chances of recovering the money are slim, the agency said.

Victims include “the elderly, college students, nonprofits, religious organizations, celebrities, CEOs of companies,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Zacharia Baldwin said in an interview. “It could be anybody.”

Hackers can break into a target’s email by trying out passwords made public in previous data breaches. They also may use phishing schemes like those used against political campaigns and in corporate espionage. The hackers then commandeer an account and impersonate the victim, asking assistants or colleagues to initiate a wire transfer.

Mr. Krasovec, 76 years old, isn’t sure how his email was compromised. He said he believes the fraudsters, once inside his servers, tracked his travel plans and waited until he was out of the office to message his assistant.

“Carol…please wire $150,000,” the hackers wrote Mr. Krasovec’s assistant from his email account, the executive said. It was around 11:30 p.m. in Shanghai, where Mr. Krasovec had landed hours earlier and was fast asleep, he said.

Unlike cruder scams that might ask for money in broken English, the note sounded just like him. An attachment with transfer instructions showed intimate knowledge of his accounts, he said.

The assistant asked PlainsCapital Bank to wire the money. The Dallas-based community bank had courted Mr. Krasovec’s business for months, he said, after poaching his longtime banker at Wells Fargo & Co.

PlainsCapital called his assistant to confirm the request, then made the transfer. The bank declined to comment.

Meanwhile, in China, Mr. Krasovec powered through 14-hour workdays unaware anything was amiss. The pizza chain has grown quickly there after switching to a local menu that includes seafood toppings.

Three days after the first transfer, at 10:26 p.m. local time, intruders asked Mr. Krasovec’s assistant to wire another $300,000, according to Mr. Krasovec. The hackers had changed Mr. Krasovec’s email settings so their correspondence was quickly deleted, according to Kyle Camp, a technology consultant who examined the hack for Mr. Krasovec.

A few days later, Mr. Krasovec flew home to Austin. Catching up in their offices overlooking Lady Bird Lake, his assistant mentioned she “took care of the wires.”

“What wires?” he recalls saying.

When she explained, he said he began to feel “absolutely sick.”

He frantically called his banker at PlainsCapital Bank, who said there was nothing the bank could do. Mr. Krasovec said the bank then stopped returning his calls.

He is now suing PlainsCapital, saying he shouldn’t have to repay the stolen money because the bank failed to put proper antifraud controls in place.

PlainsCapital Bank said in a court filing that the loss was “undoubtedly the fault of [Mr. Krasovec’s] own failure to implement appropriate internal controls to prevent his company and its employees from falling victim to a third-party scam.” The bank said in filings that Mr. Krasovec must repay the money with interest.

The case is continuing in the Texas court system.

Under decades-old consumer-protection laws, consumers are often entitled to refunds of unauthorized charges. But that generally doesn’t apply to wire transfers requested after a customer was tricked by hackers, according to the American Bankers Association.

Sometimes, consumers who catch the fraudulent wires can halt them by immediately calling their bank, said Don Vilfer, an investigator who works on these cases. But that isn’t certain: One law firm called Bank of America Corp. about an hour after a fraudulent request, but still lost $500,000, according to court documents. Bank of America declined to comment.

Some banks try to prevent fraud by calling the customer to confirm large wire-transfer requests. Mr. Krasovec said PlainsCapital Bank should have called him, not just his assistant. The bank declined to comment beyond its court filings.

Mr. Krasovec has put in place tougher passwords and two-factor authentication, said Mr. Camp, the technology consultant. Legal costs have added $300,000 to his already-sizable loss, and he is concerned about his reputation.

“It makes me look like a dummy,” he said of the fraud.

Write to Rachel Louise Ensign at rachel.ensign@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:30 ET (00:30 GMT)

DJ Global Equities Roundup: Market Talk

The latest Market Talks covering Equities. Published exclusively on Dow Jones Newswires throughout the day.

1921 ET - The RBA has recently been signaling that it is putting more weight on financial stability risks to guide decisions on interest rates, says NAB. The point where these fears create a road block to further cuts doesn't appear to have been reached, but the market may be misreading that, it says. New loans have rebounded strongly, it notes adding that house prices have also rebounded by more than suggested by the past relationship with interest rates. The data underscores the risk that the RBA may take longer to cut rates than NAB currently expects. (james.glynn@wsj.com; Twitter @JamesGlynnWSJ)

1900 ET - Village Roadshow's 1H result may not change anything for the two private-equity groups seeking to acquire the company, JPMorgan says. While the theme parks business attendance increased faster than JPMorgan expected in 1H, there was a big miss in the film distribution division. Village Roadshow is in the takeover cross hairs of Pacific Equity Partners and BGH Capital, which have offered A$3.90 a share and A$4.00/share, respectively. "On an unadjusted sum-of-the-parts valuation, which assumes lower multiples than recent transactions, we arrive at a value of circa A$5.00/share," JPMorgan says. It lowers the stock's rating to neutral from outperform, given the narrow difference between Village Roadshow's A$3.77 current share price and the highest offer so far. (david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)

1859 ET - Monetary policy is great for fine tuning an economy but after eight years of interest rate cuts in Australia, reliance on the central bank's singular blunt tool has gone well beyond that, says Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital Markets. The lower the interest rates, the greater the distortions to the economy both in terms of resource allocation and inequality, he says. A far better outcome in terms of a more guaranteed boost to growth would be achieved with fiscal policy. It would be a concern if the RBA cuts further and the government's purse strings are not relaxed, Mr. Oliver adds. (james.glynn@wsj.com; Twitter @JamesGlynnWSJ)

1857 ET - Nikkei futures are down 1.9% at 22840 on the SGX amid persistent concerns about the coronavirus epidemic. Japanese markets are closed today for a public holiday. A higher yen is also hurting the sentiment as it's negative for Japanese exporters. USD/JPY is at 111.54, compared with 111.95 as of Friday's Tokyo stock market close. There were reports of large numbers of new cases of coronavirus outside of China over the weekend, in such countries as South Korea and Italy. Any measures taken by the governments of Japan and other countries to contain the epidemic will be closely watched. (kosaku.narioka@wsj.com)

1853 ET - Shaver Shop Group is "too incredibly cheap to ignore" despite risks facing the consumer discretionary sector, Shaw and Partners says. Rating the stock a buy on total shareholder returns of 20%, the wealth manager hails Shaver Shop's growing margins, stronger balance sheet and cashflow. It raises the stock's target price 20% to 90 Australian cents a share, compared with the stock's last traded price of 78.5 cents, but warns risks remain high due to challenges facing the sector. Many Australian retailers have struggled amid slow consumer spending, while mall operator Vicinity Centres last week pared its annual outlook on a coronavirus-related drop in tourist numbers. (stuart.condie@wsj.com; @StuartLCondie)

1837 ET - Lithium producers had a tough year in 2019 with prices down 50% and customers pushing back on deliveries, UBS says, but things may be looking up for the sector now. "Channel checks suggest the supply chain is moving again and inventory is drawing down," it says. "Medium to longer term, positive signs are emerging as governments move to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars." UBS retains a neutral call on producer Galaxy Resources following its annual result as the Australia-listed company expects more supply to be nudged offline until the market rebalances.(david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)

OceanaGold will soon need to make the difficult decision either to move its Didipio operation in the Philippines from being on standby for a quick restart to being mothballed for longer, says UBS. The delay to the grant of a new mining license is costing OceanaGold about US$8 million-US$10 million each quarter as management have the operation in a holding pattern that would allow it to resume after a month of preparations. "If mothballed the operation would take one year to restart," UBS says. Didipio is the biggest material catalyst for OceanaGold's stock, as it is a mine capable of producing 100,000 troy ounces of gold that could contribute US$100 million in annual ebitda at spot gold prices. There is also US$50 million of concentrate at site that could be sold quickly and reduce debt quickly, UBS adds. (david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)

1828 ET - Domain's second-half earnings could be at risk if listing volumes do not respond soon to increased property prices, Morgans says. The market is basing second-half forecasts on the assumption there will be a major volume recovery, but with no hard evidence that the predicted listings J-curve has commenced, risks of downgrades are heightened, the brokerage says. First-half revenue contracted by a larger-than-expected 20% from a year earlier as listings remained in the doldrums following a near two-year home-price decline to May 2019. Morgans keeps the stock at reduce with an increased A$2.54 target price, 27% below its last traded price of A$3.48. (stuart.condie@wsj.com; @StuartLCondie)

Alumina could wring value from an expansion of its Australian refineries, says Morgan Stanley, although current market conditions may stymie plans for now. Alumina last year said the Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals, or AWAC, venture was undertaking studies to explore growth options at those refineries with an investment decision due by the end of June this year. Alcoa owns 60% of the AWAC venture with Alumina holding the rest. "Our scenario analysis of potential expansion at Alumina's Western Australian refineries suggests they are valuation accretive, with yield maintained at 2.7-3.5% despite capex through the investment phase," Morgan Stanley says. "But we don't expect expansions to proceed given the current market." (david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)

UBS flags some challenges for Ardent Leisure's theme parks in the fiscal second half, including wet weather in January and February that could lower attendance, the release of a report into a fatal 2016 accident at one of the parks, and the impact of the coronavirus epidemic that is sickening thousands across the globe. "We continue to believe Ardent is making the right strategic moves and valuation support is building, but we await the impact of potential 2H headwinds before taking a more positive view," says UBS, which keeps a neutral rating on the shares. (mike.cherney@wsj.com; @Mike_Cherney)

Childcare center operator G8 Education's shares look vulnerable to a fall after it reported lower occupancy in 2020 so far compared to a year earlier as bush fires in Australia and fears about the spread of the coronavirus take a toll. G8 said it was too early to form a clear view on its underlying occupancy performance, given continuing market volatility. A trading update will be provided in May at the annual shareholder meeting. "G8 has suffered multiple earnings downgrades over the past 2-3 years and today's weaker outlook statements are unlikely to be welcomed," says RBC, which rates G8 at sector perform. (david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)Covid-19 anxiety has moved beyond China and takes on a global dimension with rises in reported infections from South Korea to Italy. That said, China also reported a spike in cases over the weekend. NAB says data on Friday didn't help sentiment either with U.S. PMI prints disappointing; the services sector is now in contractionary mode. Extraordinary containment measures are being implemented, which will increase the hit to the global economy, NAB adds. Worryingly too, China reported 630 new cases in Hubei with 96 deaths, effectively denting the recent narrative that China's containment efforts were effective. (james.glynn@wsj.com; @JamesGlynnWSJ)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:21 ET (00:21 GMT)

DJ RBA Stability Concerns Weigh on Rate Cuts -- Market Talk

0021 GMT - The RBA has recently been signaling that it is putting more weight on financial stability risks to guide decisions on interest rates, says NAB. The point where these fears create a road block to further cuts doesn't appear to have been reached, but the market may be misreading that, it says. New loans have rebounded strongly, it notes adding that house prices have also rebounded by more than suggested by the past relationship with interest rates. The data underscores the risk that the RBA may take longer to cut rates than NAB currently expects. (james.glynn@wsj.com; Twitter @JamesGlynnWSJ)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:21 ET (00:21 GMT)

DJ USD/KRW Higher at 1215.50 Vs 1209.20 Late Friday in Seoul

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 19:07 ET (00:07 GMT)

DJ Singapore Technologies Engineering 4Q Net Up 36%
By P.R. Venkat

Singapore Technologies Engineering's fourth-quarter net profit rose 36% on year, thanks mainly to increased contributions from its aerospace and electronics units.

Net profit rose to 169.50 million Singapore dollars (US$121.31 million), ST Engineering said in a filing to the Singapore exchange Monday.

Revenue was up 29% on year at S$2.3 billion, of which its aerospace segment contributed S$941 million, while its electronics division saw a 28% rise in revenue to S$686 million.

ST Engineering said the group's order book was at S$15.3 billion as of end 2019 and it expects to deliver S$5.9 billion worth of orders this year.

Write to P.R. Venkat at venkat.pr@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 18:54 ET (23:54 GMT)

DJ Economy Week Ahead: Consumer Confidence, GDP, Household Income

Data out this week could provide an early look at how the coronavirus epidemic is affecting the global economy and how U.S. consumers are faring early in the year.

Tuesday

The Conference Board will issue its reading of U.S. consumer confidence in February. Watch to see if the coronavirus epidemic and the presidential election campaign are affecting Americans’ mood about the economy.

Thursday

The European Commission will provide a fresh assessment of how businesses in the eurozone have responded to the coronavirus epidemic, which threatens to disrupt their supply chains and sales to China and other Asian markets. Economists expect the monthly economic sentiment indicator to record a weakening of confidence during February.

The U.S. Commerce Department will issue its second estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product. Watch for revisions reflecting newly available December data, a month when the U.S. and China reached a trade truce and Congress passed a government spending measure.

Friday

China’s factory activity is likely to show a notable impact from the coronavirus epidemic. China’s official purchasing managers index, released on Saturday morning in China, is forecast to drop to 45 in February from January’s 50, according to economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. Readings below 50 indicate a contraction. The forecasted reading would be the lowest since the global financial crisis in 2008.

Earlier, the Commerce Department will publish January household income, consumer spending and inflation data.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 18:50 ET (23:50 GMT)

DJ Singapore Technologies Engineering: Expect to Deliver About S$5.9B Worth of Orders in 2020 >S63.SG

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2800)

February 23, 2020 18:45 ET (23:45 GMT)

DJ Singapore Technologies Engineering: Group Order Book as of Dec. 31 Was S$15.3B> S63.SG

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2800)

February 23, 2020 18:45 ET (23:45 GMT)

DJ Singapore Technologies Engineering 4Q Rev S$2.3B >S63.SG

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2800)

February 23, 2020 18:44 ET (23:44 GMT)

DJ Singapore Technologies Engineering 4Q Net S$169.5M >S63.SG

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires (212-416-2800)

February 23, 2020 18:44 ET (23:44 GMT)

DJ Alumina Can Boost Value with Refinery Expansion -- Market Talk

Alumina could wring value from an expansion of its Australian refineries, says Morgan Stanley, although current market conditions may stymie plans for now. Alumina last year said the Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals, or AWAC, venture was undertaking studies to explore growth options at those refineries with an investment decision due by the end of June this year. Alcoa owns 60% of the AWAC venture with Alumina holding the rest. "Our scenario analysis of potential expansion at Alumina's Western Australian refineries suggests they are valuation accretive, with yield maintained at 2.7-3.5% despite capex through the investment phase," Morgan Stanley says. "But we don't expect expansions to proceed given the current market." (david.winning@wsj.com; @dwinningWSJ)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 18:19 ET (23:19 GMT)

DJ Infigen Energy Target Price Cut 3.6% to A$0.80/Share by Morgans

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:46 ET (22:46 GMT)

DJ Senex Energy Price Target Cut 9% to A$0.50/Share by Macquarie

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:45 ET (22:45 GMT)

DJ Rio Tinto Price Target Cut 3% to A$107.00/Share by Macquarie

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:44 ET (22:44 GMT)

DJ Origin Energy Price Target Cut 3.3% to A$8.61/Share by Macquarie

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:44 ET (22:44 GMT)

DJ Senex Energy Target Price Raised 1.9% to A$0.53/Share by Morgans

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:43 ET (22:43 GMT)

DJ Sandfire Resources Target Price Raised 1.3% to A$6.02/Share by Bell Potter

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:36 ET (22:36 GMT)

DJ Sandfire Resources Upgraded to Buy From Hold by Bell Potter

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:36 ET (22:36 GMT)

DJ Senex Energy Upgraded to Outperform from Neutral by Credit Suisse

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:35 ET (22:35 GMT)

DJ Woodside Petroleum Price Target Cut 1.1% to A$34.60/Share by UBS

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:31 ET (22:31 GMT)

DJ OceanaGold Price Target Cut 3.8% to A$3.85/Share by UBS

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:31 ET (22:31 GMT)

DJ Asian Morning Briefing: Coronavirus Fears Spur Flight to Safety
MARKETS AT A GLANCE 
(Data as of approximately 5 p.m. ET) 
 
                       LAST     CHANGE   % CHG 
DJIA                28992.41   -227.57   -0.78 
Nasdaq Composite     9576.59   -174.37   -1.79 
S&P 500              3337.75    -35.48   -1.05 
Shanghai Composite   3039.67      9.52    0.31 
Nikkei 225          23386.74    -92.41   -0.39 
UK: FTSE 100         7403.92    -32.72   -0.44 
Germany: DAX        13579.33    -84.67   -0.62 
Stoxx Europe 600      428.07     -2.12   -0.49 
 
                   YIELD  YIELD CHG% 
U.S. 10-Year Note  1.476    -0.043 
U.S. 5-Year Note   1.327    -0.038 
U.S. 2-Year Note   1.358    -0.033 
Germany 10 Year   -0.429     0.014 
U.K. 10 Year       0.575    -0.006 
Japan 10 Year     -0.061    -0.022 
Australia 10 Year  0.934    -0.064 
China 10 Year      2.912    -0.005 
 
                          LAST(MID)  CHANGE  % CHG 
Australian $ (AUD/USD)     0.6622    0.0009   0.14 
Chinese Yuan (USD/CNY)     7.0272    0.0038   0.05 
Hong Kong $ (USD/HKD)      7.7874    0.0062   0.08 
Indian Rupee (USD/INR)    71.8800    0.2000   0.28 
Japanese Yen (USD/JPY)   111.59     -0.52    -0.46 
New Zealand $ (NZD/USD)    0.6349    0.0015   0.24 
S. Korean Won (USD/KRW) 1207.18      1.97     0.16 
Euro (EUR/USD)             1.0850    0.0065   0.60 
WSJ Dollar Index          92.19     -0.36    -0.39 
U.S. Dollar Index         99.33     -0.54    -0.54 
 
                      LAST   CHANGE  % CHG 
Crude Oil Futures     53.43  -0.45   -0.84 
Brent Crude Futures   58.47  -0.03   -0.05 
Gold Futures        1645.90  25.40    1.57 
 
SNAPSHOT

OPENING CALL

EQUITIES

FOREX

BONDS

OIL FUTURES:

US COMMODITIES:

TODAY'S HEADLINES Coronavirus Hits U.S. Business Activity

Saudis Weigh Breaking Oil Alliance With Russia as Virus Crimps Demand

Wells Fargo Settles With Government Over Fake-Account Scandal

SEC Rejects Controversial 'Speed Bump' Proposal

Central Banks Advised to Use Tool Kits Aggressively During Trouble

Google Resists Demands From States in Ad Probe

Deere Sees Boost From Easing of Trade Tensions

SEC Investigates Altria's Investment in Juul

HSBC Narrows CEO Race to Two

RECENT DJ EXCLUSIVES NBCUniversal in Talks To Acquire Streaming Service Vudu from Walmart Fox Looks to Buy Streaming Service Tubi Top U.S. Regulator Said to Lobby Bank CEOs on Overhaul of Low-Income Lending Rules Fed's Bostic Expects Rates to Hold Steady, Doesn't See Big Coronavirus Impact On U.S. Economy So Far EBay Moves Toward Selling Its Classified-Ads Business Criminal-Justice Reforms Are Squeezing the Bail-Bond Industry Saudis Weigh Break With Russia Over Response to Coronavirus Nissan Cuts Ex-CEO Saikawa's Exit Package Ladder Life Raises Capital From Former New York Life President's New Fund Google Resists Demand From States in Digital-Ad Probe TODAY'S CALENDAR (Times in GMT, followed by country and event) Monday, February 24, 2020 0200 NZ Jan Credit card statistics 0500 SIN Jan CPI 0800 TAI Jan Industrial output 0800 TAI Jan Employment / Unemployment 0820 TAI Jan Money Supply 0900 GER Feb Ifo Business Climate Index 1330 CAN Dec Wholesale trade 1330 US Jan CFNAI Chicago Fed National Activity Index 1530 US Feb Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey 2145 NZ Q4 Retail Trade Survey 2350 JPN Jan Services Producer Price Index N/A JPN Japan: Emperor's Birthday observed. Financial markets closed N/A CHN Meeting to decide on postponing next month's National People's Congress annual session

Worries over the global impact of the coronavirus outbreak, after cases outside of China surged, pushed U.S. stocks, Treasury yields, and oil prices lower, while pushing gold prices higher. Also denting stocks and yields was data showing U.S. business activity has slowed. Oil took an additional hit as the Saudi-Russian oil alliance seems to suffering a rift. The dollar pared recent gains.

China Railway Signal & Communication might face margin pressures in the urban transit business this year, Daiwa says, trimming the stock's target to HK$4.80 from HK$5.00. Based on the number of new projects won, Daiwa estimates the company's market share in the sector has likely fallen to about 30% from 40% due to stiffer competition. CRSC might need to adopt a more aggressive pricing strategy to win new orders this year, which would hurt profitability, Daiwa adds. On the bright side, railway order growth in 2020 might be better than expected, as Beijing could be more motivated to increase rail investment to boost the economy, Daiwa says, keeping the stock at outperform.

Investors dumped stocks and flocked to traditionally safer assets like gold and government bonds this week as worries grew that the coronavirus epidemic would crimp global growth.

The S&P 500 index fell 1.2% Friday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 273 points, or about 0.9%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped about 2%. All three indexes are still within 3% of their records.

Stock investors have been ebullient in recent weeks, driving major indexes to record after record, while bond investors appear to be exercising more caution, scooping up traditionally safe assets and sending yields down to record levels.

The mixed signals in markets highlight investors' struggle to assess the damage that the coronavirus epidemic will have on economic growth around the world as the sickness disrupts consumer spending, manufacturing and supply chains around the world.

The dollar pared some of its recent gains, making commodities denominated in the U.S. currency cheaper for overseas buyers.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of 16 other currencies, fell Friday after closing at a three-year high a day earlier.

U.S. Treasury yields extended their weeklong slump as investors worried that the economic impact of COVID-19 may not be contained to China, and is spilling over into neighboring regions.

The 10-year Treasury note yield fell 5.4 basis points to a more than five-month low of 1.470%, contributing to a weeklong decline of around 12 basis points.

The 2-year note rate slipped 4.5 basis points to a three-week low of 1.348%, extending a 7.6 basis point drop this week. The 30-year bond yield tumbled 5.4 basis points to 1.917%, sliding below its previous all-time low of 1.95%. The long bond's yield fell 12.6 basis point this week.

"Fitful spurts of Corona virus anxieties made for erratic trading in risk markets, but the bid for treasuries remained firm, especially out the curve where the long bond set a record low yield," said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist for Jefferies, in a note.

Oil futures ended with a loss, pressured by a reported rift in the crude-production alliance between Saudi Arabia and Russia, as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in China and beyond take a toll on expectations for energy demand.

Prices for the U.S. and global crude benchmarks, however, posted weekly gains, partly supported by efforts by China to stimulate the economy, which eased some concerns over the virus outbreak's impact on the economy. U.S. government data on Wednesday also revealed a smaller-than-expected weekly rise in domestic crude inventories, along with declines in gasoline and distillate stocks.

West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 50 cents, or 0.9%, to settle at $53.38 a barrel, while April Brent crude lost 81 cents, or 1.4%, to end at $58.50 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. WTI tallied a 2% weekly rise, based on the front-month contract, while Brent added 2.1% for the week.

Saudi Arabia is weighing a break from a production alliance with Russia amid a disagreement between the oil heavyweights over the effect of China's COVID-19 outbreak on global crude demand, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Gold and silver prices extended a recent surge, capping off a strong week for safe-haven assets amid investors' concerns that the coronavirus will have a long-lasting impact on global growth.

Front-month gold futures advanced 1.7% to $1,644.60 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, continuing a run that began last summer and has sent the metal to seven-year highs. Prices are up 8.2% so far this year.

In another sign of investor enthusiasm for precious metals, front-month silver futures rallied 1.2% to $18.521, also posting an outsize weekly gain.

U.S. business activity in February fell to its lowest level in more than six years as companies pulled back on fears that China's coronavirus outbreak would slow global growth, according to private survey data.

Saudi Arabia is considering a break from its four-year oil production alliance with Russia, as China's coronavirus outbreak contributes to a drop in global oil demand, according to people familiar with the matter.

Wells Fargo will pay $3 billion to settle investigations by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over its long-running fake-account problems.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected a hotly disputed proposal to add a new "speed bump," or split-second trading delay, to the U.S. stock market.

If central banks want to get the most out of crisis-era stimulus tools the next time they are needed, they should be deployed "early and aggressively" when confronting a downturn, new research claims.

The search-engine company is reluctant to surrender some documents sought by investigators looking into possible anticompetitive practices.

The farm-equipment company maintained its profit forecast for 2020 and reported better-than-expected equipment sales and profit for the latest quarter.

Securities regulators have opened a probe related to Altria Group Inc.'s investment in controversial e-cigarette startup Juul Labs Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

HSBC is in the final stages of selecting its next chief executive, people familiar with the matter said, in a race that has narrowed to interim CEO Noel Quinn and UniCredit boss Jean Pierre Mustier.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:30 ET (22:30 GMT)

DJ Galaxy Resources Price Target Raised 9% to A$1.09/Share by UBS

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:29 ET (22:29 GMT)

DJ Newcrest Mining Price Target Raised 2.9% to A$28.30/Share by Morgan Stanley

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 23, 2020 17:27 ET (22:27 GMT)