News Archive

Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and Lilly named in patients’ price fixing suit

NEW YORK Three of the biggest makers of diabetes treatments, Sanofi SA (SASY.PA), Novo Nordisk (NOVOb.CO) and Eli Lilly Co (LLY.N), were named in a class action lawsuit about price fixing filed by a group of patients.

The suit, filed in a federal court in Massachusetts, says that the companies during the past five years have simultaneously hiked the price of insulin by over 150 percent.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Ford, Goldman CEOs criticize Trump travel curbs

The chief executives of Goldman Sachs Group and Ford Motor Co joined the criticism of President Donald Trump’s order to halt arrivals from several Muslim-majority countries, as equity markets fell and the dollar slipped on Monday.

The initial response over the weekend from U.S. corporate leaders to Trump’s order curtailing travel from seven Muslim-majority countries had been fragmented and muted outside the technology sector.

However, on Monday, after a weekend of confusion over how the travel restrictions would be enforced, more companies and unions went public with concerns, although most avoided direct attacks on Trump’s policy.

United Parcel Service Inc, for example, said it “supports policies that enable the legal movement of people across borders, while also understanding the need to protect national security.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein was the first major Wall Street CEO to weigh in against the administration’s travel ban. Other financial industry leaders followed on Monday with expressions of concern about the travel order.

“This is not a policy we support, and I would note that it has already been challenged in federal court, and some of the order has been enjoined at least temporarily,” Blankfein said in a voicemail to employees on Sunday. If the temporary freeze became permanent, he said, it could create “disruption” for the bank and its staff, according to a transcript seen by Reuters.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Chief Executive Mark Fields said in a statement to employees that the company does not support what it called a new U.S. travel ban.

“We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company,” they said, adding that Ford is not aware of any employees directly affected by the policy.

General Motors Co’s head of human resources told employees in a memo that a few GM employees are from countries affected by the travel order, and added, “at General Motors, we value and respect individual differences.”

Equity markets sold off amid uncertainty over what broader impact the travel ban and the disruption it created could have. The dollar fell more than 1 percent against the Japanese yen.


Trump has focused on the auto industry to promote more manufacturing jobs in industrial states that were critical to his electoral college victory. He met with the heads of the Detroit Three automakers, including Fields, last week.

Ford’s situation illustrates the balancing act for companies in many sectors. Ford – like Wall Street banks and other big manufacturers – has much to gain from working with Trump to overhaul the federal tax code and revamp regulation. Fields has cited those potential gains in explaining Ford’s decisions to cancel investments in Mexico that Trump had attacked.

Fields met twice with Trump last week to talk about economic issues. Trump harshly Ford criticized during the campaign for moving some production to Mexico, but he has praised the automaker in recent weeks for announcing new U.S. investments.

However, Ford has employees who could be affected by immigration curbs, and does business in countries that are majority Muslim, or whose leaders have expressed disapproval of Trump’s policy. Ford is based in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab-American populations in the United States.

Separately, the head of the United Auto Workers union, Dennis Williams, said on Monday the UAW “denounces any policy that judges people based on their religion or nation of origin.” Williams, who represents Detroit Three factory workers, has previously supported Trump’s moves to renegotiate or scrap open trade deals.

Tesla Motors Inc CEO Elon Musk asked followers to read the immigration order and propose “specific amendments.” He said he would seek a consensus among members of a business advisory council that is expected to meet with President Trump this week.

In a response to a comment on his Twitter feed, Musk wrote, “There is no possibility of retraction, but there is possibility of modification …”

Starbucks Corp Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz took a different approach to the travel ban, saying on Sunday that the coffee shop chain planned to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in 75 countries.

The hiring efforts would start in the United States by initially focusing on individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in countries where the military has asked for such support, Schultz said.

Some big industrial companies and financial industry players stayed clear of the controversy.

The U.S. hedge fund industry was virtually silent on the immigration restrictions. Representatives for most major firms —including Bridgewater Associates, Renaissance Technologies, Millennium Management and Two Sigma Investments — did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

Private equity firms, including Blackstone Group LP, whose CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, chairs Trump’s advisory panel of business leaders, also would not comment on the travel ban.

Fiat Chrysler Group NV, Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co declined to comment on the immigration order.

(Reporting by Olivia Oran in New York and David Shepardson in Washington. Additional reporting by Richa Naidu in Bengaluru and Lawrence Delevingne, David Henry and Trevor Hunnicutt and Devika Krishna Kumar in New York; Editing by Joseph White, Martina D’Couto and Nick Zieminski)

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U.S. inflation getting Trump lift: Wall Street strategist

NEW YORK Long hibernating price inflation is taking center stage in America’s economy, in part because President Trumps’ anti-migrant policies are fueling already rising wages, a top Wall Street asset strategist said on Monday.

Richard Bernstein, a celebrated asset allocator who oversees $3.1 billion at investment firm Richard Bernstein Advisors LLC, also told the Reuters Global Markets Forum that U.S. corporate profits reflected economic growth, that equities will outperform fixed income assets in 2017, and that few investors are prepared for a migration from deflation (global deflation ending).

The following are edited excerpts from the conversation:

Question: Are President Trump’s immigration and border security policies affecting prices in the US economy and prospects for investors?

Answer: Inflation is indeed the risk going forward. Just look at bond investors’ attitudes. Immigration is an important part of the U.S. labor market, and wages are already rising. In addition, businesses report having increased trouble hiring qualified workers. Removal of a global workforce will cause wage rates to rise further, I think.

Q: You applaud corporate earnings and favor cannot be maintained because very easy Federal Reserve policies are ending. Is that a risk?

A: Not as much as many would lead you to believe. The role of monetary policy has always been to let investors take more risk by lowering the hurdle rate of the economy. This cycle was no different. In addition, what many totally ignore is that corporate profit became the largest percent of GDP ever in U.S. history in this cycle. So, the notion that the only reason the stock market is up is because of the Fed is totally incorrect because it ignores the surge in profitability.

Q: Will a surge in plant investments in the United States be a big boon, as President Trump argues?

A: Relocating production to the U.S. isn’t a panacea for the U.S. economy. You will simply be replacing higher productivity with lower productivity. So consumer prices are likely to increase.

People forget that the US economy is roughly 70 percent consumption based. Manufacturing is about 10 to 15 percent. Will politicians really hurt the 70 percent to benefit the 15 percent? Especially with midterm elections again on the horizon.

Q: Are investors ready for higher inflation?

A: Global deflation is ending. Not ended, past tense, but ending. Investors are NOT positioned for that at all, if you ask me. Our portfolios are very overweight equities and underweight FI (fixed income). We also have some gold/gold miners in our portfolios.

(This interview was conducted in the Reuters Global Markets Forum, a chat room hosted on the Eikon platform. For more information on the forum or to join the conversation, follow this link: here)

(Reporting By Michael Connor in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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Trump signs executive order to slash regulations

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump signed an order on Monday that will seek to dramatically pare back federal regulations by requiring agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new rule introduced.

Trump’s latest executive action will prepare a process for the White House to set an annual cap on the cost of new regulations. For the rest of fiscal 2017, the cap will require that the cost of any additional regulations be completely offset by undoing existing rules.

“There will be regulation, there will be control, but it will be normalized control,” Trump said as he signed the order in the Oval Office, surrounded by a group of small business owners.

Trump, a businessman turned politician, campaigned on a promise to reduce federal regulations that he said burdened American businesses.

During a meeting with the small business owners earlier on Monday, Trump said regulations are keeping businesses from expanding and banks from lending money.

“Dodd-Frank is a disaster. We’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank,” Trump said, referring to the 2010 Wall Street reform law.

Implementing the new policy may be difficult alongside the Trump administration’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, said Tom Bulleit, head of the healthcare practice in the Washington D.C. office of law firm Ropes Gray.

As the Congress passes new legislation on healthcare, there will need to be new rules, Bulleit said.

“There’s a great deal of regulation that is either expressly required by legislation or is necessary to make the legislation work,” he said.

Consumer groups and environmentalists slammed the push to peel back regulations, arguing that it would block important protections for the public.

Major regulations are typically reviewed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before they are issued. That review will continue under this new measure, but agencies will also have to identify what two regulations will be repealed to offset the costs of any new rule.

Harvard Law School Professor Jody Freeman said the new order was “entirely unnecessary,” given similar cost-benefit regulatory directives made by past presidents and existing agency processes for reviewing older rules to make sure they are still needed.

“Even it is fairly toothless in the end, it will be a weapon that OMB can use to harass agencies and slow regulation,” Freeman said.

The new order does not require that the repeal of the two regulations be done simultaneously with the release of additional rules.

“This vests tremendous power and responsibility in the OMB director to ensure the president’s direction in how we manage this across the government,” a White House official told reporters ahead of the signing of the order.

Certain categories of regulations will be exempt from this new policy, including those dealing with the military and national security. The OMB director will also have the ability to waive this policy in certain instances.

Trump has tapped U.S. Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to lead the OMB.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Caroline Humer and Doina; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum)

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Short sellers giving up on Twitter trade

SAN FRANCISCO Short sellers have been closing their bets against Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) so far in 2017, possibly frustrated by a lack of volatility in the social network’s stock price.

Following takeover talks in October that failed to lead to an acquisition of Twitter, the company’s share price so far in 2017 is up about 3 percent, helped by a 1.2 percent rise on Monday.

By comparison, the SP 500 .SPX has gained 1.5 percent year to date.

Short interest against Twitter has dropped by about a fifth so far in 2017 to $733 million, with short sellers who bought and sold in recent weeks incurring net losses of about $11.5 million, said Ihor Dusaniwsky, managing director of research at financial analytics firm S3.

Last year, traders made a net profit of $160 million by short-selling Twitter’s stock, Dusaniwsky said.

About 44 million Twitter shares were sold short in mid-January, equivalent to about 6.2 percent of the company’s outstanding stock, according to Nasdaq data. That is down from 9.5 percent at the end of October.

The money-losing micro-blogging service has failed to grow as quickly as Facebook Inc (FB.O) and other rivals, despite aggressive spending on product development and marketing in recent years.

Many investors last year bet Twitter would be acquired, but talks with potential suitors failed to produce a deal.

The company will report its quarterly results on Feb. 9.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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U.S. can withhold some documents in Fannie, Freddie case: court

A federal appeals court on Monday narrowed the range of documents that the U.S. government must turn over to investors suing over its August 2012 decision to seize the profits of mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNMA.PK) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.PK).

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals said four documents could be withheld from Fairholme Funds and other investors on the basis of presidential privilege, and four other documents were protected by privilege of the deliberative process. It said eight other disputed documents were not privileged.

Monday’s decision is a mixed ruling for investors suing the government over its sweeping of the mortgage companies’ profit to the U.S. Treasury Department, which they called an unconstitutional taking of private property.

Fairholme and its lawyer Charles Cooper were not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for U.S. Department of Justice said the agency is reviewing the decision.

The government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008 as mortgage losses mounted, and put them into a conservatorship under the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Both have since become profitable, and according to court papers have returned roughly $68 billion more to the government than they drew down during the financial crisis.

Fairholme, overseen by Bruce Berkowitz, said such profit belonged to stockholders such as itself. Its 2013 lawsuit focused on the companies’ preferred stock, which threw off 10 percent dividends before being eliminated.

In October, Judge Margaret Sweeney of the Court of Federal Claims ordered the government to turn over 56 documents sampled from roughly 12,000 it had withheld on privilege grounds.

The Obama Administration’s appeal focused on 16 of these documents. It said Sweeney’s ruling “casts a cloud” over whether all 12,000 documents were properly withheld, and in practice could chill White House deliberations on sensitive subjects.

Writing for the appeals court, Circuit Judge Kathleen O’Malley said Sweeney did not abuse her discretion in ordering most of the disclosures.

Citing the 1974 Supreme Court decision in the Nixon tapes case, however, O’Malley said disclosing documents subject to presidential privilege could impede the president and his advisers from shaping policy “in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately.”

O’Malley also said Fairholme showed “no particular need” for the four documents covered by that privilege.

The other four documents ordered withheld concerned proposed legislation to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, draft memoranda outlining housing reform proposals, and an internal FHFA presentation on deferred tax assets.

The case is Fairholme Funds Inc et al v. U.S., U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 2017-104.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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Trump tweets drive day trading but leave math, computer whizzes sidelined

NEW YORK Day traders love making bets on tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump, but some of the most prominent quantitative strategists from hedge funds and banks are not quite ready to make big, bold trades on his social media musings.

The president’s active Twitter presence has lifted volatility in financial markets, which is good for day traders who capitalize on price fluctuations in highly liquid markets. Such traders, who have a short-term horizon, have struggled the last few years as market moves have become steadier and more predictable amid a low interest-rate environment.

“Trump’s tweets are a good opportunity for a short-term discretionary trader,” said Patrik Safvenblad, a partner at the $1.7 billion systematic macro hedge fund Harmonic Capital Partners in London. But he said it is not the right strategy for his firm since quantitative managers need data going back at least five to 10 years to establish a pattern.

Quants track patterns or trends in trading behavior and asset prices and create formulas to predict future market movements. These are entered into powerful computers that buy and sell automatically based on signals generated by algorithms.

For these gifted bunch of mathematicians, Trump’s tweets are way too sporadic to serve as a meaningful trading strategy. “Trump’s tweets are episodic,” said Joseph Mezrich, head of equities quantitative strategies at Nomura in New York. “The way I look at data is that I have to look at what happens with sufficient sample. You have one or two events on Twitter … and it doesn’t provide much reliability.”

First Quadrant, another asset manager that uses computer models to crunch data with about $22 billion in assets, does not look at Trump’s tweets for investment opportunities.

“As a fundamental manager, we are really looking for just that: fundamental change,” said Jeppe Ladekarl, a partner at First Quadrant in Pasadena, California.

Algorithmic trading makes up about 55 percent of U.S. equity trading volume, according to the latest research from Greenwich Associates. In the global currency market, that figure rises to 65-70 percent, according to research from Aite group.

The quants’ lukewarm response to Trump’s tweets should ordinarily keep volatility under control. But given the many policy unknowns under the new administration, there should be continued price swings in the market, analysts say.

Richard Benson, co-head of portfolio management at currency management firm Millennium Global in London, thinks Trump’s Twitter feed has created more noise than meaningful volatility.

Oftentimes, the noise in the data drowns out the trading signals, resulting in uncertain outcomes, analysts say.

At best, Trump’s tweets can create short-term sentiment signals about specific companies which can be useful in the equity space, Benson said. “But the tweet is still subject to interpretation,” and he is not sure it can actually predict anything.

Millennium manages about $16 billion in assets and has one systematic fund, which Benson said has no plan to use Trump’s tweets.


It is a different story in the day trading world where Trump’s tweets have delivered a spike in volume for some of the online retail brokers.

Robinhood, a commission-free trading app for retail investors, has experienced surges in volume based on Trump’s Twitter activity, the company’s spokesman said.

Transaction volumes on Robinhood hit record-breaking levels of more than $1 billion in the week following Trump’s victory. The trading app, which has 1 million users, is backed by leading venture capital firms Google Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz as well as U.S. rapper Snoop Dogg and actor Jared Leto.

Volume also increased in November at FXCM Inc, one of the leading U.S. retail currency brokers, due partly to the U.S. presidential election, said company spokeswoman Jaclyn Sales. Trump’s disparaging comments on Mexico and China on Twitter have boosted the dollar’s trading volume the last two months based on FXCM’s real-time volume indicator.

At U.S. broker TD Ameritrade Holdings Corp, fiscal first-quarter average daily trading volume rose 11 percent from a year earlier, the company said on its website, attributing part of that increase to Trump.

During an earnings call about the quarter ended Dec. 31, Ameritrade Chief Executive Officer Tim Hockey said Trump’s social media activity could continue to drive trading volume.

“Every day we wake up hoping Trump will tweet something,” Hockey told CNBC a few weeks ago.


Trump’s fondness for tweeting brings business opportunities for technology vendors, some of whom have developed models to help companies profit from the U.S. president’s Twitter comments.

New York-based startup Trigger, for instance, which notifies retail investors about social media comments, has created an alert called “trigger,” that tips off investors when Trump tweets about a listed company.

Rachel Mayer, Trigger’s chief executive, said the “Trump Trigger” has become by far the most popular alert on the platform, with subscriptions from around one-third of its total users.

“I don’t see these (Trump’s tweets) stopping,” said Mayer.

(Editing by Megan Davies, Ed Tobin and Matthew Lewis)

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U.S. consumer spending, housing data bolster economic outlook

WASHINGTON U.S. consumer spending accelerated in December as households bought motor vehicles and cold weather boosted demand for utilities amid a rise in wages, pointing to sustained domestic demand that could spur economic growth in early 2017.

There are also signs that inflation firmed last month. The growth outlook was further bolstered by other data on Monday showing a jump in contracts to buy previously owned homes. A strengthening economy, rising price pressures and tightening labor market could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at least three times this year.

“Consumers keep on spending to help the economy grow and inflation is stirring,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. “The economy is at full employment. Time for the Fed to hoist sail on interest rates.”

The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased 0.5 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in November. The rise was the biggest in three months and in line with economists’ expectations.

Consumer spending increased 3.8 percent in 2016 after a 3.5 percent rise in 2015. With domestic demand firming, inflation showed some signs of picking up last month. The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose 0.2 percent after edging up 0.1 percent in November.

In the 12 months through December the PCE price index advanced 1.6 percent, the biggest increase since September 2014. That followed a 1.4 percent increase in November.

Excluding food and energy, the so-called core PCE price index ticked up 0.1 percent after being unchanged in November. The core PCE price index increased 1.7 percent on a year-on-year basis after a similar gain in November.

The core PCE is the Fed’s preferred inflation measure and is running below its 2 percent target. However, other inflation measures are above the PCE price indexes. The consumer price index (CPI) is currently at 2.1 percent on a year-on-year basis and the core CPI is up 2.2 percent.

“Inflation will gradually accelerate over the next couple of years due to higher energy prices and stronger wage growth that leads firms to raise prices,” said Gus Faucher, deputy chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh.


The consumer spending and inflation data was included in the fourth-quarter gross domestic product report published last Friday. It was released ahead of the Fed’s two-day policy meeting that begins on Tuesday.

The U.S. central bank, which has forecast three rate hikes this year, is not expected to raise rates at this week’s meeting. The Fed lifted its benchmark overnight interest rate in December to a range of 0.50 percent to 0.75 percent.

U.S. stocks were trading lower amid nervousness over President Donald Trump’s order to curb travel and immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, which led to demonstrations in U.S. cities and at airports.

Prices for most U.S. government bonds edged up, while the dollar .DXY was little changed against a basket of currencies.

In a separate report, the National Association of Realtors said its pending homes sales index surged 1.6 percent in December. These contracts become sales after a month or two. Last month’s jump suggested a rebound in existing home sales after they tumbled 2.8 percent in December.

While the housing market continues to recover and support the economy, it remains constrained by a dire shortage of properties available for sale. Economists see a modest impact on home sales from higher mortgage rates as the tightening labor market starts to boost wage growth.

The economy grew at a 1.9 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, restrained by a wider trade deficit. Private domestic demand, however, increased at a solid 2.8 percent rate. The economy expanded at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter.

Consumer spending could get a boost from the Trump administration’s promise to cut taxes. While Trump’s has offered few details on his economic policy, consumer confidence has surged and the stock market has rallied to record highs.

Consumer spending last month was buoyed by a 1.4 percent jump in purchases of long-lasting manufactured goods such as automobiles. Spending on services, most likely utilities, increased 0.4 percent.

Personal income advanced 0.3 percent last month after nudging up 0.1 percent in November. Wages and salaries rebounded 0.4 percent after slipping 0.1 percent in November. Income increased 3.5 percent in 2016 after rising 4.4 percent in 2015.

Savings fell to $768.4 billion last month, the lowest level since May 2015, from $791.2 billion in November.

“The gradual downward trend in the household savings confirms that households were on a solid footing by the end of the fourth quarter and precautionary savings are not a concern,” said Blerina Uruci, an economist at Barclays in Washington.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Snap selects New York Stock Exchange for IPO: source

Snap Inc, the owner of the popular messaging service Snapchat, has chosen Intercontinental Exchange Inc’s (ICE.N) New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) for its initial public offering (IPO), a person familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The selection comes as Snap prepares to make its earnings public this week ahead of the IPO that is expected in March. It represents a setback for Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O), which had also vied to host the listing.

The source asked not to be identified because the matter is not public. Snap, Intercontinental Exchange and Nasdaq declined to comment. CNBC first reported on Snap’s NYSE selection.

Snap is hoping its IPO could value it at as much as $25 billion, sources have told Reuters. It could be the biggest U.S. technology company IPO since Facebook Inc (FB.O) in 2012.

Snap’s listing would likely only generate a few hundred thousand dollars in annual fees for NYSE. Yet it carries prestige that could help the exchange land more business, and follows other similar wins by NYSE over Nasdaq, which used to be seen as the natural choice for technology IPOs.

Nasdaq commanded 85 percent of technology IPO proceeds in 2012, but by 2014 its share had plunged to just 11 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. The drop was largely due to a glitch in Facebook’s Nasdaq IPO in 2012.

The last high-profile U.S. internet company to go public, Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), chose NYSE in 2013. Other large technology companies are expected to seek IPO venues in the coming years, including peer-to-peer lodging company AirBnB Inc and streaming music service Spotify Ltd.

NYSE and Nasdaq had been courting Snap in public and behind the scenes. Last November, Nasdaq hired a helicopter to film Manhattan’s skyline using Snap’s new video-camera sunglasses, and sent the aerial footage to its social media followers.

NYSE in October draped a large, bright yellow banner outside its Lower Manhattan building to invite Snapchat followers, the same month media reported Snapchat had hired underwriters. Such banners are usually used to celebrate the first listing day of companies.

(Reporting by Lauren Hirsch in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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