FB - Facebook, Inc.

NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real Time Price. Currency in USD
217.94
-1.82 (-0.83%)
At close: 4:00PM EST
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Previous Close219.76
Open220.80
Bid217.20 x 1100
Ask217.75 x 900
Day's Range216.11 - 221.77
52 Week Range143.43 - 222.75
Volume11,905,824
Avg. Volume13,671,508
Market Cap621.51B
Beta (5Y Monthly)1.06
PE Ratio (TTM)34.84
EPS (TTM)N/A
Earnings DateN/A
Forward Dividend & YieldN/A (N/A)
Ex-Dividend DateN/A
1y Target EstN/A
  • World About to Learn If $1 Trillion Tech Rally Was a Good Idea
    Bloomberg

    World About to Learn If $1 Trillion Tech Rally Was a Good Idea

    (Bloomberg) -- Companies in the Nasdaq 100 are headed into earnings season with momentum that approaches the unprecedented, their value up by more than $1 trillion since October.Now the world finds out if the rally made any sense.Twenty-six constituents are due to report quarterly results next week, including three of the four biggest U.S. companies, over one blistering 48-hour stretch starting Tuesday. With trillion-dollar-plus market capitalizations and a doubling in Apple Inc. since 2018 to account for, it’s possible investors will be in a less-forgiving mood than usual.As things stand now, Nasdaq stocks are perched at the highest forward valuation since 2007 and investors are getting progressively less patient with failure. Already this reporting season, companies in the broader market whose sales and earnings trailed analyst estimates have seen their shares pummeled the next day by the most in five quarters.“The market isn’t going parabolic, but some of these tech stocks really have,” said Randy Frederick, a vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “If you miss the bar, you’re going to get punished, no question about that.”A four-day week before the landing of big tech earnings saw the Nasdaq 100 slip 0.4% as stocks wavered amid concern over the spread of a virus that started in China. Seven straight weeks of gains have pushed the index to 23 times its forecast earnings, about 30% higher than its 10-year average. That valuations are stretched doesn’t mean stocks can’t rally further. It does raise the drama headed into earnings season.The latest leg of the bull market has come at a time when overall earnings have stopped rising for most industries -- the reason valuations have swelled so much. While the index rose every quarter of 2019 in terms of price, profits fell in two and are now forecast to contract in a third. Given the Nasdaq surged 38%, investors have obviously been OK looking past those numbers. But any indication that 2020’s expectations are optimistic may be taken poorly by stock bulls.That dynamic is writ large in the tech industry, where earnings have dropped 3% or more in each of the past three quarters. Computer and software makers are expected to post a 0.8% profit contraction in the three months through December. Early returns have been encouraging. Texas Instruments, a bellwether for chip stocks, posted results that topped estimates. Intel Corp. reported sales guidance that came in above industry trends.Despite the recent quarterly hiccups, combined net income of five largest tech companies -- Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet and Facebook -- totaled $40 billion in the third quarter, 38% above the same period two years ago.“Multiples have expanded, but quarter-over-quarter these companies continue to grow earnings and that’s the whole key,” said Gary Bradshaw, a Texas-based portfolio manager at Hodges Capital Management, who owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. “It’s one of the areas in the marketplace where you’re seeing good growth. This isn’t 1999 or 2000 when you were valuating those tech stocks on eyeballs.”The cost of falling short has risen as well. A broader gauge of tech, online retail and Internet services stocks dropped 0.9% the day after reporting a miss on second-quarter sales and earnings per share, data compiled by Credit Suisse show. In the third quarter, the average slump was 6.8%.Apple will release quarterly figures on Tuesday, and analysts are focused on how the firm fared during the holiday season and dealt with uncertainty around tariffs. Microsoft, up 62% since the start of 2019, reports Wednesday. Investors will see whether the demand for its cloud-computing programs remains strong. Facebook, which has rallied 66% over that stretch, reports the same day.“I’d expect a little more leadership out of value-oriented sectors, more economically sensitive parts of the market,” Jeff Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Schwab Center for Financial Research, said by phone. “I think investors seem to be comfortable with sticking with the leaders that got them here, at least for the time being,”\--With assistance from Wendy Soong.To contact the reporters on this story: Elena Popina in Hong Kong at epopina@bloomberg.net;Sarah Ponczek in New York at sponczek2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brad Olesen at bolesen3@bloomberg.net, Chris Nagi, Richard RichtmyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Previewing Tech Sector Earnings
    Zacks

    Previewing Tech Sector Earnings

    Previewing Tech Sector Earnings

  • Facebook (FB) to Report Q4 Earnings: What's in the Cards?
    Zacks

    Facebook (FB) to Report Q4 Earnings: What's in the Cards?

    Facebook's (FB) fourth-quarter 2019 results are likely to reflect continued subscriber growth, driven by rapid adoption of Stories and Gaming endeavors.

  • Global Elite Upbeat While Climate Activists Rage: Davos Update
    Bloomberg

    Global Elite Upbeat While Climate Activists Rage: Davos Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.The rich and powerful are in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting, and the gathering is being closely watched to see how the global elite aims to tackle problems they helped create, above all climate change.The economy was in focus on the final day, and many delegates signaled optimism on the outlook for this year. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told Bloomberg TV that investors shouldn’t assume current monetary policy is locked in just because officials are reviewing their strategy.Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who called a climate strike for Friday near the forum, slammed delegates for failing to treat global warming as a crisis.To get all the highlights delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Davos Diary newsletter. Here’s the latest (time-stamps are local time in Davos):Davos Endorses Fiscal Boost With Mnuchin Touting Tax Cuts (1:30 p.m.)Top financial officials from the major global economies used the forum’s final day to tout the benefits of government spending as a way to lift growth and reduce reliance on overloaded central banks.U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin labeled the U.S. a “bright spot” and attributed that to President Donald Trump’s tax cuts -- along with his rollback of regulations and his trade deals. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said his nation, where fiscal and monetary policies are aligned, is seeing “very strong” business investment.The International Monetary Fund‘s chief, Kristalina Georgieva, said the global economy is “in a better place” than last year for three reasons -- an easing of trade tensions, synchronized interest-rate cuts, and a bottoming out in industrial production. “We have to see fiscal policy being more aggressive,” she added.‘Things Going Pretty Well’: Bain’s Pagliuca (1:20 p.m.)Bain Capital Co-Chair Stephen Pagliuca joined other Davos delegates in expressing optimism about the economy, saying “things are going pretty well.”“It’s kind of chugging along,” Pagliuca told Bloomberg TV. “Our businesses are doing well, record low unemployment in the U.S., we’ve had kind of an oil dividend for six or seven years now, oil’s very cheap, energy’s very cheap. And so restaurants are full, planes are full and things are going pretty well.”Mnuchin Sees 20-Year Bonds Extending Average Maturity (1:39 p.m.)Mnuchin sees the U.S.’s new 20-year bond extending “slightly” the average maturity on government debt as his department prepares to launch that security and limit the cost of financing a budget deficit set to reach $1 trillion this year.Issuing ultra-long bonds, those due in more than 30 years, is “no longer on the near term -- our focus for the moment is issuing the 20-year,” Mnuchin said in an interview.“If you look at the number of 20-year bonds that we’ll raise, this will slightly extend” the average maturity, he said, declining to predict by how much. “This isn’t going to be a massive extension.”Kurz Sees German Greens in Government (1 p.m.)Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expects his German conservative peers to follow his lead and team up with the Greens after the next election.Kurz said that he hopes the era of “grand coalitions” between conservative and center-left mainstream parties is over in Europe.“I’m almost ready to bet that there can be a similar government in Germany after the next election,” he said in an interview. “I’m skeptical of those ‘grand coalitions,’ which had their justification after World War II but became just mutual blockade in recent years.”Mnuchin Says Technology Will Make a Carbon Tax Redundant (12:55 p.m.)U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said technological developments would make carbon tax redundant, going against the grain of other participants.“If you want to put a tax on people, go ahead and put a carbon tax. That is a tax on hard working people,” Mnuchin said, speaking on a panel alongside Lagarde. “I personally think the costs are going to be a lot lower 10 years from now because of technology.”“I don’t mean to minimize this issue, there’s lots of other issues we could talk about,” Mnuchin said. “The world is dependent upon having reasonable-priced energy for the next 10 or 20 years, or we’re not going to create growth, we’re not going to create jobs.”South Africa Must Push Reforms, Mboweni Says (12:53 p.m.)South Africa’s government will press ahead with structural reforms to kick-start the economy and needs to talk with labor unions to get them on board, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said.Investors and business lobby groups have expressed frustration at the slow pace of reforms that were promised when Cyril Ramaphosa became president in February 2018. While the delays are often thought to be due to policy disagreements within the ruling party and government, Mboweni told reporters in Davos that there’s unanimity within cabinet to push structural reforms.“There’s a need for a long conversations with the trade union movement in South Africa about structural reforms,” he said. “There are some areas where they do not agree, therefore conversations have to be held.”Scholz Doesn’t See Negative Brexit Impact on EU (12:10 p.m.)German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said Britain’s exit from the European Union will hurt the U.K. economy but won’t have a negative impact on the rest of the bloc.“There is a task left, which is to now to get an agreement about the further relationship, but if this is also managed I’m absolutely confident that, especially on the continent, there will be no negative effect of this development,” Scholz said during a panel discussion.“It will be more difficult for the U.K., obviously, because this business model must be reorganized,” he said, adding that he’s “relatively confident” about prospects for a U.S.-EU trade agreement.U.S., China Trade Spat Is World’s “Greatest Danger,” Frenkel Says (12:10 p.m.)Jacob Frenkel, head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s international unit and a former governor of the Bank of Israel, described the trade war between the U.S. and China as “the greatest danger to the growth of the world economy.”The “skirmish” between the two countries has affected expectations, mood and capital investment plans and placed in danger “the bridges that connect the various parts of the global economy,” Frenkel said in a Bloomberg TV interview.Frenkel added that interest rates close to zero has “exhausted its benefits” and is causing damage to the financial industry.Japan Still ‘Far Away’ From Inflation Goal: Kuroda (11:55 a.m.)The Bank of Japan will maintain its “accommodative” monetary policy stance for the time being as it strives to lift inflation closer to its target, according to Governor Kuroda.“We are still far away from the 2% inflation target so that the Bank of Japan will continue accommodative monetary policy for some time,” Kuroda said during a panel discussion. Domestic demand is fairly strong in Japan and strength in business investment will likely continue, Kuroda added.Trade Deals Reduce Uncertainty, Lagarde Says (11:50 a.m.)Lagarde said the outlook for the euro region is mixed but an easing of trade tensions has made downside risks less pronounced.“I see some positive signs, and I see some concerning signs as well,” the ECB president said during a panel discussion. “We are delighted to see trade agreements or truces being negotiated and concluded because we believe it will remove uncertainty the world over.”“Brexit is a little bit less uncertain, but we still have that possible cliff edge in December 2020,” Lagarde added, referring to the deadline for Britain and the EU to negotiate a trade agreement.Thunberg Protest Urges “System Change” (11:40 a.m.)Thunberg marched with a great swarm of media to join a group of more than 50 protesters near the forum. With placards that read “planet over profit” and “stop (f)lying to us,” demonstrators chanted “system change not climate change” and “oceans are rising and so are we.”Onlookers and media outnumber the climate activists by about two to one.At the press conference earlier, one of the activists said that there was an international group of climate strikers in Davos who had been sleeping outside in tents to experience the discomfort we all need to face to stop the use of fossil fuels.No End in Sight to Plastics Crisis (11:15 a.m.)Only a small fraction of all plastic produced is recycled, and much of the rest often ends up affecting wildlife in oceans and forests, according to participants in a panel discussion developed with QuickTake by Bloomberg.Reducing use of plastics needs to be a broad-based effort, but is critical for consumer goods companies, according to Tak Niinami, chief executive officer of drinks maker Suntory Holdings Ltd. “We industry want to be liked by society, otherwise we can’t survive,” he said.The use of plastics has doubled in the last two decades, and it’s expected to double again in the next two. “We cannot allow it,” said former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.‘We’re in a Better Place’: Goldman’s Patel (11:15 a.m.)Sheila Patel, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said the global economy is “certainly in a better place than we were a year ago at Davos.”“A year ago you had everyone worried about liquidity, extremely worried about where the markets would head and we were counseling calm,” Patel told Bloomberg TV.“Today you have people worried about liquidity given the mix of public to private that they have in their portfolios, particularly the way that various investors have leaned in to things like private credit,” she added.Thunberg Says Davos Has Failed on Climate (10:46 a.m.)Thunberg used a Friday press conference to declare the forum a failure on addressing the case for climate action she first made at Davos last year.“Before we came here, we had a few demands for the WEF, and the demands have been completely ignored,” she said. “Of course we expected nothing less,” the 17-year-old said.“We must remember that as long as we don’t treat this crisis as a crisis, as long as science is ignored, we won’t be able to solve this crisis,” she said, speaking alongside other young climate activists.She interjected during remarks by one of her fellow activists to specify that the urgency they all felt around climate action didn’t mean the end is near. “Of course, this is not the last year we have,” she said.Germany Maintaining ‘Strong’ Investment: Scholz (10:40 a.m.)German Finance Minister Scholz said the country has “a very expansionary fiscal policy” and last year’s budget surplus will give Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government room to maintain strong investment.“We are already doing a lot of things which will help to expand investments,” Scholz said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Now with the surplus we have all the possibility to be strong in this field as anyone asks us to be and as we really want ourselves.”A trade deal between the U.S. and the European Union is possible “really soon,” although it will require “very hard work,” Scholz said.“It is absolutely important that we do not build trade barriers,” he added. “The wealth of the nation is better when we have a rules-based free trade.”Villeroy Calls for Flexible, Credible Inflation Target (10:31 a.m.)The ECB should ensure in its strategic review that its inflation target is “symmetric, flexible and credible,” Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau said.To be credible the ECB must explain its inflation target to households and businesses and listen to them about their inflation expectations, Villeroy said in a Bloomberg TV interview. The strategic review should go beyond market professionals to households and businesses because they are price makers and wage-setters, he added.Centeno Sees Germany Stepping Up Spending (10:10 a.m.)To spur economic activity, euro-area countries that can spend more need to, and Germany is showing signs that it is ready to play its part, according to Eurogroup President Mario Centeno.“We know that some countries have more space than others to act,” Centeno said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “Germany is one of those countries that can act, and actually we see some action from the German side.”Recent investment in the rail sector “goes precisely in that direction,” Centeno added. “It’s public investment, connected with climate action. I expect more of those actions to be taken in the course of 2020, so that 2020 can finally see this acceleration of the global economy, and Europe can also play a role in that.”EU, China, Brazil Form Trade-Dispute Alliance (10 a.m.)The European Union and a group of 16 nations that includes China and Brazil are forming an alliance to settle trade disputes among themselves using an interim appeal-arbitration mechanism at the World Trade Organization.“We will work towards putting in place contingency measures that would allow for appeals of WTO panel reports in disputes among ourselves,” according to a copy of a joint declaration obtained by Bloomberg.The development marks an advance of the EU’s backup plan for settling international trade disputes now that the WTO appellate body is paralyzed. WTO delegates meeting in Davos are expected to announce the arrangement later Friday.“We believe that a functioning dispute settlement system of the WTO is of the utmost importance for the rules-based trading system, and that an independent and impartial appeal stage must continue to be one of its essential features,” according to the document.ESM Chief Sees More People Now in Favor of Stronger Euro Role (9:05 a.m.)The international role of the euro is becoming increasingly the focus of debate in Europe, according to European Stability Mechanism Managing Director Klaus Regling.“More people are now in favor of having a stronger role for the euro which is partly the answer to the U.S. current administration withdrawing from multilateralism,” Regling said in a Bloomberg TV interview.”Europe believes in multilateralism, and one way to strengthen European sovereignty is the international role of the euro.”Tech CEOs Dodge Issues by Warning About AI (9 a.m.)Technology’s most influential leaders have a new message: It’s not us you need to worry about -- it’s artificial intelligence.Two years ago big tech embarked on a repentance tour to Davos in response to criticism about the companies’ role in issues such as election interference by Russia-backed groups; spreading misinformation; the distribution of extremist content; antitrust violations; and tax avoidance. Uber Technologies Inc.’s new chief even asked to be regulated.These problems haven’t gone away, but this time executives warned that AI that must be regulated, rather than the companies themselves.“AI is one of the most profound things we’re working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity,” Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in an interview. Comparing it to international discussions on climate change, he said, “you can’t get safety by having one country or a set of countries working on it. You need a global framework.”German Health Minister Says China Virus Less of a Threat (8:45 a.m.)China is more transparent and more aggressive in attempting to control the coronavirus outbreak compared with SARS, and that’s helping the international community better prepare to deal with the situation, according to German Health Minister Jens Spahn.“We are prepared and keep on preparing, but at the same time I think we have to put into perspective,” Spahn said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “There’s a big difference to SARS.”Coronavirus the ‘New Norm’: Axa’s Buberl (8:30 a.m.)Axa SA Chief Executive Officer Thomas Buberl said outbreaks like the coronavirus are the “new norm” and there will be more viruses popping up due to climate change.“We always learn in these emergency situations and then forget again when it’s gone,” Buberl told Bloomberg TV.“We need to remind ourselves that the environment is changing, it is getting warmer everywhere and therefore new viruses will pop up,” he added. “Going forward, the implication of climate on health is something that we need to study more and need to understand better.”VW’s Diess Upbeat on Battle With Tesla (8:10 a.m.)Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said he’s optimistic the German car giant can keep pace with Tesla Inc. in the electric-car market and even overtake Elon Musk’s company at some point.“I think it’s an open race” to define the car of the future, Diess told Bloomberg TV. “I would take Tesla more seriously than Google and there are also from our peers some very competitive companies like Toyota.”This year will be “very difficult” for automakers, with global demand “basically flat” and tighter emissions regulations coming into force in Europe, Diess said. “We’re basically optimistic, but it will be a very demanding year for the industry,” he added.Lagarde: ECB Policy Not Necessarily on Autopilot (7:30 a.m.)Lagarde said that market observers should not assume that the ECB’s monetary policy will be on “autopilot” for the next two years.“To those who think that it’s autopilot, I think that’s ridiculous,” Lagarde said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Francine Lacqua. “There is a forward guidance, which is strong, which is setting a very clear timetable that is fact dependent. But let’s look at the facts. Let’s look at how the economy evolves.”Lagarde added that if markets are interested in what happens over the next 12 months, “they should not pay too much attention” to the ECB’s strategy review.“To those who say it’s going to be completely static and stable for 12 months I say watch out, because things change and we might have different signals and we might reconsider,” she said. She conceded that the goal of completing the review by the end of this year is “ambitious.”Carrie Lam Courts Elite With Dim Sum (5:39 a.m.)Carrie Lam hosted 200 business and political leaders for dim sum and cocktails at a Swiss ski resort to reassure them that Hong Kong’s future is bright.The city’s leader said that Hong Kong is still open for business, despite paralyzing protests and an economy in recession. She also said that officials back home are working to contain the coronavirus that’s killed more than two dozen people in China and infected hundreds of others. Hong Kong has identified two cases.In a room decorated with gold candles and red Chinese lanterns for Lunar New Year, Lam said her government “will safeguard Hong Kong’s fundamentals, including the rule of law.” She was also “fully confident of the city’s future,” according to a readout from her office.Singapore Leader Says Rebound Depends on Calm (1:57 a.m.)Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the city state’s economy could improve in 2020 only if any number of global risks don’t materialize, particularly emanating from the U.S.Lee said that he’s “relieved” that Singapore’s economy escaped recession in 2019. The government’s growth forecast for this year -- anywhere from 0.5%-2.5% -- indicates “we really don’t know” how things will pan out, he said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.“That’s the range of what our economy is capable of, but whether we realize that capability, that potential, depends on international conditions,” Lee said. “If there’s a blowout between China and America, or if there’s something happening in the Middle East, either with Iran or with Syria, then all bets are off.”Soros: Facebook Conspiring to Re-Elect Trump (00:18 a.m.)Billionaire George Soros said that nothing is keeping Facebook Inc. from spreading disinformation and the company may be in cahoots with Trump to get him re-elected.“I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” Soros, 89, said Thursday. “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020.”Soros didn’t offer any evidence for his claim. “This is just plain wrong,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in response.\--With assistance from Shelly Banjo, Dandan Li, Michelle Jamrisko, Katia Porzecanski, Sarah Frier, Francine Lacqua, Geraldine Amiel, Haslinda Amin, Viktoria Dendrinou, Giles Turner, Bryce Baschuk, Joao Lima, Aaron Rutkoff, Javier Blas, Akshat Rathi, Donal Griffin, Boris Groendahl, Jill Ward, Saleha Mohsin and Paul Gordon.To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Reiter in Berlin at creiter2@bloomberg.net;Iain Rogers in Berlin at irogers11@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net;Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Tech CEOs in Davos Dodge Issues by Warning Audiences About AI
    Bloomberg

    Tech CEOs in Davos Dodge Issues by Warning Audiences About AI

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Technology’s most influential leaders have a new message: It’s not us you need to worry about -- it’s artificial intelligence.Two years ago big tech embarked on a repentance tour to Davos in response to criticism about the companies’ role in issues such as election interference by Russia-backed groups; spreading misinformation; the distribution of extremist content; antitrust violations; and tax avoidance. Uber Technologies Inc.’s new chief even asked to be regulated.These problems haven’t gone away -- last year tech’s issues were overshadowed by the world’s --- but this time executives warned audiences that AI that must be regulated, rather than the companies themselves.“AI is one of the most profound things we’re working on as humanity. It’s more profound than fire or electricity,” Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Wednesday. Comparing it to international discussions on climate change, he said, “You can’t get safety by having one country or a set of countries working on it. You need a global framework.”The call for standardized rules on AI was echoed by Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.“I think the U.S. and China and the EU having a set of principles that governs what this technology can mean in our societies and the world at large is more in need than it was over the last 30 years,” Nadella said.It’s an easy argument to make. Letting companies dictate their own ethics around AI has led to employee protests. Google notably decided to withdraw from Project Maven, a secret government program that used the technology to analyze images from military drones, in 2018 after a backlash. Researchers agree.“We should not put companies in a position of having to decide between ethical principles and bottom line,” said Stefan Heumann, co-director of think tank Stiftung Neue Verantwortung in Berlin. “Instead our political institutions need to set and enforce the rules regarding AI.”The current wave of AI angst is also timely. In a few weeks the EU is set to unveil its plans to legislate the technology, which could include new legally binding requirements for AI developers in “high-risk sectors,” such as health care and transport, according to an early draft obtained by Bloomberg. The new rules could require companies to be transparent about how they build their systems.Warning the business elite about the dangers of AI has meant little time has been spent at Davos on recurring problems, notably a series of revelations about how much privacy users are sacrificing to use tech products. Amazon.com Inc. workers were found to be listening in to people’s conversations via their Alexa digital assistants, Bloomberg reported last year, leading EU regulators to look at more ways to police the technology. In July, Facebook Inc. agreed to pay U.S. regulators $5 billion to resolve the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. And in September Google’s YouTube settled claims that it violated U.S. rules, which ban data collection on children under 13.Read more: Thousands of Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell AlexaPrivacy DebateInstead of apologies over privacy violations, big tech focused on how far it has come in the past few years in terms of looking after personal data.Facebook Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday that the company has rolled out standards similar to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation in other markets.“Let’s be very clear, we already have regulation, GDPR,” Mendelsohn said in response to a question about the conversations Facebook is having with regulators. “We didn’t just do it in Europe where it was actually regulated. We thought it was a very considered and useful way of thinking about things so we actually rolled a lot of that out around the world as well.”Keith Enright, Google’s chief privacy officer, also spoke at a separate conference in Brussels this week about how the company is working to find ways to minimize the amount of customer data it needs to collect.“We’re right now really focused on doing more with less data,” Enright said at a data-protection conference on Wednesday. “This is counter-intuitive to a lot of people, because the popular narrative is that companies like ours are trying to amass as much data as possible.”Holding on to data that isn’t delivering value for users is “a risk,” he said.But regulators are still devising on new laws to protect user data. The U.S. is working on federal legislation that calls for limits on sharing customer information and, similar to GDPR, require companies get consent from consumers before sharing data with third parties. Facebook, Amazon, Apple Inc. and Microsoft all increased the amount they spent on lobbying in Washington last year, with some of those funds going to pushing industry-friendly privacy bills.And even though tech executives called for AI rules, they still cautioned against regulating too much, too fast. Pichai reminded lawmakers that existing rules may already apply in many cases. Lawmakers “don’t need to start from scratch” he said.\--With assistance from Nate Lanxon and Stephanie Bodoni.To contact the reporters on this story: Amy Thomson in London at athomson6@bloomberg.net;Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Jillian WardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Google Ban Fails to Stamp Out Short-Term Payday Lending Apps
    Bloomberg

    Google Ban Fails to Stamp Out Short-Term Payday Lending Apps

    (Bloomberg) -- In August, Google announced a global crackdown on Android apps that offer short-term loans, saying it wanted to protect consumers from what it called “deceptive and exploitative” terms.But five months later, payday-style applications offering fast money for one or two weeks are still easy to find in many countries on Google Play, the company’s marketplace for Android apps. Some charge interest rates that can exceed 200% annualized.Lending apps are particularly popular in developing nations such as Nigeria, India and Kenya, where millions of people don’t have bank accounts or credit cards but do have mobile phones. The epicenter is Kenya, where an explosion in mobile lending and little government oversight has effectively made Google the arbiter of which apps customers can choose.Despite the ban on loans that have to be repaid in fewer than 61 days, many apps available through the Google Play store are offering shorter terms to Kenyans. Some lenders appear to be ignoring the rule, hoping Google, a division of Alphabet Inc., doesn’t notice. But there’s also confusion about whether the policy really prohibits short-term lending.Dan Jackson, a Google spokesman, declined to explain why short-term lending apps are still featured. “When violations are found, we take action,” he said in a statement. He wouldn’t say how many such actions have been taken.Customer ComplaintsBranch International Ltd., a San Francisco-based startup that’s a major Kenyan lender, said it was told it could comply by offering both a longer-term option and a shorter-term one for each loan. “The 62-day loan is just one option, and they can choose shorter loans if they want,” said Mojgan Khalili, a Branch spokeswoman. Another California-based lender with a large Kenyan business, Tala, has a similar policy that it says complies with Google’s rules.But Jackson insisted that the policy prohibits any apps offering short-term loans.Other financial technology companies appear to have dealt with the new policy by adding language to their Google Play descriptions stating that they offer loans two months or longer. But users often post complaints on the site saying they can’t borrow for nearly that long.Of the 10 most popular free Google Play apps in Kenya on Jan. 15, five were lending apps, according to a SimilarWeb ranking. All five claimed to offer loans of at least 61 days, and all of them fielded complaints from users about being offered much shorter terms.One customer of the top-ranked app, iPesa, complained in January that while the Google Play description promised loans of more than 60 days, he was offered a shorter term. “You can’t keep repayment period at 14 days,” the customer wrote. “Who are you guys kidding?”Nairobi-based iPesa didn’t respond to an email, a Facebook message or an inquiry through its customer-service phone line.OKash ReportAnother top-10 app, OKash, came under attack last week by investment firm Hindenburg Research. The firm issued a report asserting that the app and others made by Opera Ltd., the Norwegian developer of the Opera web browser, violate Google’s policy because they offer only short-term loans, despite claims that longer terms are available. The report also says that Opera’s apps charge rates that can exceed 300%.Opera is employing “deceptive ‘bait and switch’ tactics to lure in borrowers and charging egregious interest rates,” wrote Nate Anderson, Hindenburg’s founder, who said he is betting on Opera’s stock to fall.Oslo-based Opera, controlled by Chinese tech billionaire Zhou Yahui, said the report contained unspecified errors and that all of its apps comply with the policy because they offer repayment terms of more than 60 days.Google declined to comment on the Opera apps. At least one of them disappeared from Google Play after the Hindenburg report, but it has since been restored.Even on the Google Play site itself, lenders sometimes openly acknowledge offering only short-term loans. “You can select 1 up to 30 days,” wrote a representative of Nairobi-based Zenka Finance Ltd. in December to a customer who asked about repayment terms.Zenka, fifth in the SimilarWeb ranking, disappeared from Google Play last week but was later restored. Duncun Motanya, Zenka’s Kenya country manager, said via email that he didn’t know the reason and that Zenka complies with Google’s policy. “I suppose, with all the fuss around finance apps, Google scrutinize us more,” he wrote.Google PolicyGoogle unveiled its new policy in August and gave lenders one month to comply. In the U.S., it also set a maximum annual interest rate of 36%. The company imposed similar restrictions on web search results for lenders in 2016.“Our Google Play Developer Policies are designed to protect users and keep them safe,” said Jackson, the company spokesman.Google’s policy reflects the growing power of big technology companies to shape global commerce, Matt Flannery, Branch’s co-founder and chief executive officer, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. He called the company the “Central Bank of Google.”Countries have radically different lending markets, so a single global two-month rule doesn’t make sense, Flannery wrote. After Branch began offering the two-month option to comply with its understanding of Google’s policy, few Kenyans chose the longer repayment term, but in India, where Branch also operates, one-third of new customers did, he said.“Instead of iterating on a single global rule for the world’s lenders,” he wrote, Google “should just defer to the actual central banks.”Credit BoomKenya’s digital credit boom was made possible because a large share of the country’s population uses mobile-money accounts for daily payments and expenses. The most popular service, M-Pesa, was started more than a decade ago. That created an opening for online lenders pitching short-term loans that could be funded and repaid through phones.Over the past few years, dozens of loan apps have sprung up in the east African nation. They offer short-term loans of as little as a few dollars at high interest rates to everyone from office workers in Nairobi to village street vendors. Millions of Kenyans have borrowed.A September study by MicroSave Consulting said that 91% of loans in Kenya in 2018 were digital. The apps are controversial, criticized by politicians for taking advantage of poor people.“What the mobile lenders are doing is ripping off Kenyans,” Jude Njomo, a member of Kenya’s Parliament, said in an October interview. “Who could ever do business paying the high interest rates?”In Kenya and other nations where mobile lending is popular, many users have never borrowed from a bank before and have little experience with financial contracts. Google’s policy was aimed at pushing developers to longer-term loans, which are often easier for borrowers to manage.“People go for the loans out of desperation for money,” said Gilbert Kiprono, 28, who works for a mobile-phone company in Kitale, in western Kenya, and has borrowed from mobile lenders. “They are easily available but highly exploitative.”\--With assistance from David Herbling.To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary R. Mider in New York at zmider1@bloomberg.net;Zeke Faux in New York at zfaux@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Robert Friedman at rfriedman5@bloomberg.net, Joe SchneiderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Singapore Prime Minister Defends Fake News Law Amid Criticism

    (Bloomberg) -- Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has defended the city-state’s new “fake news” law amid criticisms that his government has been using it to target opposition leaders and critics.Singapore’s legislation “deals with a very narrow problem, which is when untrue, deliberate untruths are posted online which have public policy implications, public order implications and which are false,” Lee said in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait. The main function of the law requires online platforms to post a government-issued correction alongside the original allegation, while providing the offender an outlet to challenge the directive in court.“People can make up their minds which is which and the truth will out, I hope,” he said. “One could hardly ask for greater transparency.”As governments around the world struggle to moderate the flow of disinformation in elections, Singapore in October moved to introduce the law. With general elections expected well before the April 2021 deadline, Lee’s government has said the law is not aimed at stifling free speech and is enforced independently of the election cycle.‘Outrageous Allegations’Since the law passed, the Southeast Asian city-state has invoked it in five cases involving the likes of Facebook and Yahoo!, requiring the companies publish correction notices alongside the posts. Any company found in breach of the law and refuses to comply with corrective orders issued by the government could face fines of up to S$1 million (US$740,631), while individuals may serve up to 10 years in prison.In the most recent use of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act on Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs ordered “correction directions” against Malaysia-based group Lawyers for Liberty regarding its statement about Singapore’s protocol for handling executions. The order was also sent to digital media giant Yahoo! and two other parties that shared the “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations.”“It made outrageous allegations about how executions are supposed to be taking place,” the 67-year-old leader said in the interview.The government ordered internet providers to block access for users in Singapore to the statement on Thursday, after the group did not comply with the correction directive.N. Surendran, the co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty, rejected the government’s characterization of his organization’s statement and said he was “disappointed” with the orders.Foreign InterferenceSingapore’s government is also considering a separate bill targeting foreign interference that would give authorities “powers to make targeted, surgical interventions” to investigate hostile information campaigns from abroad, Law Minister K Shanmugam said during a speech in September.Foreign interference legislation has been passed in Taiwan and Australia to stop reported meddling by China and other nations, while Canada passed a similar law last year aimed at protecting its democratic institutions.Operations such as those Russia is alleged to have carried out in the U.S. presidential election or in Britain during the Brexit referendum may be “exacerbating existing fault lines and weaknesses in order to sharpen conflicts and contradictions and stoke social disorder,” Lee said. “It happens.”To contact the reporter on this story: Philip J. Heijmans in Singapore at pheijmans1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Joyce KohFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bitcoin Slumps in Wake of Chinese New Year Slowdown Warning
    Bloomberg

    Bitcoin Slumps in Wake of Chinese New Year Slowdown Warning

    (Bloomberg) -- Bitcoin traders appear to be heeding a warning of a demand slowdown ahead of China’s lunar New Year.The largest cryptocurrency slumped as much as 4% to $8,281, while altcoins such as Ethereum Classic tumbled more than 11% to $8.18 in New York trading.Arthur Hayes, co-founder and chief executive officer of BitMex, a cryptocurrency exchange, predicted in a post on Twitter late Wednesday that it’s time for “volatility and volumes to nose dive.”Cryptocurrencies have been under pressure this week. The price of Bitcoin has dropped more than 6% since Friday, while the Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index -- which tracks some of the major digital currencies -- has slumped about 5.7%.“Bitcoin and the entire crypto space are under pressure as uncertainty over regulatory scrutiny is expected to intensify and investor skepticism grows for the short-term outlook for risky assets,” said Ed Moya, a market analyst with OANDA. Investors “saw central banks unite and begin a review on digital currencies, fading optimism that a Bitcoin ETF will occur, and amid the China coronavirus worries, a flight-to-safety to the bond markets and not cryptocurrencies.”Twenty of the top 50 crypto exchanges are based in the Asia-Pacific region and accounted for about 40% of Bitcoin transactions in the first half of last year, according to data from Chainalysis. Within the region, the most exchanges are in China, the research firm found.A number of technical indicators are flashing sell signals. Earlier this week, for instance, a measure of upward and downward movements of successive closing prices flashed a sell signal, the first such sign since Bitcoin’s peak in June of last year. Should Bitcoin’s price drop further, the GTI Vera Convergence-Divergence indicator could also generate such a signal.(Updates prices)\--With assistance from Kenneth Sexton.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Vildana Hajric in New York at vhajric1@bloomberg.net;Claire Ballentine in New York at cballentine@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeremy Herron at jherron8@bloomberg.net, Dave Liedtka, Randall JensenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Intel Gains as Data Center Revival Fuels Revenue Growth
    Bloomberg

    Intel Gains as Data Center Revival Fuels Revenue Growth

    (Bloomberg) -- Intel Corp. gave bullish quarterly and full-year revenue forecasts, driven by a surge in demand for chips that power large cloud-computing centers. The shares jumped as much as 7.8% in late trading.Sales in the current quarter and in 2020 will be well above what analysts had predicted and are outpacing normal industry trends, the chipmaker said on Thursday. Fourth-quarter revenue and profit also topped Wall Street’s highest estimates. As the biggest provider of server chips, Intel is benefiting from a rush to build capacity in data centers operated by companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc’s AWS.“We’re well ahead of our expectations in the quarter and it’s continuing into this year,” Chief Financial Officer George Davis said in an interview. “That’s just a great dynamic.”Revenue from cloud-service providers, which offer computing power and storage via the internet, surged 48% in the fourth quarter, fueling a gain in sales of the company’s most lucrative chips. A spike in demand from these buyers is helping to ease concerns that Intel was losing its technology leadership in computer processors and faced a competitive threat from customers’ own development efforts. Some high-end server chips cost more than compact car.Revenue in the current period will be about $19 billion, and profit will be $1.23 a share, excluding certain items, Intel said. That compares with average analysts’ projections for $17.2 billion and $1.04 a share. Sales in 2020 will be about $73.5 billion, the company said late Thursday in a statement. Analysts were looking for $72.2 billion on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The company’s annual forecast implies growth will abate in the second half of the year, Davis said. Big purchases from data-center owners tend to come in lumps, followed by slower periods when the components are being built into computers.“The hard part is forecasting when they’re going to slow down and digest,” he said.Fourth-quarter sales rose 8% to $20.2 billion, the Santa Clara, California-based company said. Analysts on average had predicted $19.2 billion. Net income was $6.9 billion, or $1.58 a share, compared with estimates for $1.23 a share. Gross margin, or the percentage of sales remaining after deducting the cost of production, was 58.8% in the quarter.The largest U.S. chipmaker has fallen behind rivals in semiconductor-manufacturing technology, sparking concern on Wall Street about sales growth and future profit. In November, the company told PC customers inventory remained tight because of limited manufacturing capacity. Still, executives have said that Intel is targeting a broader range of markets and the company has plenty of room to expand in new areas, such as networking and the auto industry.Intel will increase spending on new plants and equipment to $17 billion in 2020 in part to boost production to a point where it’s not only able to fill all customer orders, but build inventory, Chief Executive Officer Bob Swan said on a conference call. After again failing to meet all demand in the fourth quarter, avoiding a repeat of that mistake is one of his biggest priorities, he said.The company’s struggles with its move to advanced 10-nanometer production are beginning to ease, Swan said. Intel plans to have server chips built with that technique available in the second half.Demand for personal computers held up well in the recent period, Davis said. Global PC shipments rose 2.3% from a year earlier in the December period as companies upgraded to a new version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Intel expects the market this year for PCs to be flat from 2019 as that replacement cycle comes to an end.Intel has more than 80% market share in PC processors, and it controls even more of the server-chip market. In that business, semiconductor rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has fielded new products, and companies such as Amazon have said they’re designing some chips on their own -- leading some analysts to predict Intel would begin to lose business and struggle to grow this year. Intel executives said that part of the reason they’re predicting less growth for the second half is the expectation that competition will intensify.So far, there’s no sign of that hurting the company’s performance. In the fourth quarter, Intel’s data center unit reported a sales increase of 19% to $7.2 billion. PC-chip sales gained 2% to $10 billion. The company’s programmable-chip unit was the only division to post a decline. Sales at the Mobileye unit, which makes chips used to help vehicles pilot themselves, grew 31% to $240 million.(Updates with comment from CEO in 10th paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Tech Daily: Netflix Earnings, Analyst Opinion, iPhone Demand, More
    Zacks

    Tech Daily: Netflix Earnings, Analyst Opinion, iPhone Demand, More

    Netflix Earnings, Analyst Opinion, iPhone Demand and much more is covered in this digest.

  • George Soros Says Facebook Is Conspiring to Re-Elect Trump
    Bloomberg

    George Soros Says Facebook Is Conspiring to Re-Elect Trump

    (Bloomberg) -- Billionaire George Soros said that nothing is keeping Facebook Inc. from spreading disinformation and the company may be in cahoots with President Donald Trump to get him re-elected.“I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” Soros, 89, said Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020.”Soros didn’t offer any evidence for his claim. “This is just plain wrong,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in response.Soros has used his annual Davos speech as a platform to criticize the social media giant in the past. In 2018, he compared Facebook to a gambling company that fosters addiction among users, and last year reiterated the need to regulate technology firms.Facebook has come under increased scrutiny from governments worldwide on multiple fronts, but especially related to the Russian misinformation campaign that ran undetected on the social network in the months prior to the 2016 election.The company has since worked to improve its technology for taking down what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” -- efforts by foreign governments to manipulate public conversation. But critics argue that Trump is helped anyway by Facebook’s very nature: the platform rewards content with the potential to go viral, and Trump has a tendency to say incendiary things.After public backlash, Facebook debated whether to take down political ads that contain lies. The company decided earlier this year that it would not, with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg citing first amendment values and saying it shouldn’t be up to a corporation to determine what political messages are true or false.That message assuaged Republicans, who have interrogated the company about a perceived anti-conservative bias. Still, the company’s algorithm may tilt the scales, giving rise to more shocking messages.“Facebook basically has only one guiding principle: maximize your profits irrespective of what harm it may do to the world,” Soros said Thursday.After Soros’s 2018 Davos speech, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg asked staff to look into whether Soros had a financial incentive to criticize the company through his holdings or trading activity. The company also hired an opposition research firm to examine whether Soros financially supported anti-Facebook groups. The decision was later uncovered in a New York Times report about Sandberg’s mishandling of crises.(Updates with Facebook’s statement in third paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Katia Porzecanski in New York at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net;Sarah Frier in San Francisco at sfrier1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sam Mamudi at smamudi@bloomberg.net, Alan MirabellaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt notch nearly $20M in impressions from viral SAG moment, data shows
    Yahoo Finance

    Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt notch nearly $20M in impressions from viral SAG moment, data shows

    Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt went viral after a backstage moment between the exes was captured at the 2020 SAG Awards.

  • What Investors Can Expect from Microsoft's Q2 Earnings & Beyond
    Zacks

    What Investors Can Expect from Microsoft's Q2 Earnings & Beyond

    Microsoft shares have surged 55% in the last year. Here's what investors can expect from the tech giant's Q2 fiscal 2020 earnings results and beyond...

  • NYC Startups Celebrate City’s Tech Cred by Ringing NYSE Bell
    Bloomberg

    NYC Startups Celebrate City’s Tech Cred by Ringing NYSE Bell

    (Bloomberg) -- A handful of local technology startups gathered to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, celebrating the city’s evolution as an international tech hub in recent years.“Ten years ago, tech in New York was people who would meet in Central Park and play soccer and now tech in New York is ringing the bell in the stock exchange,” said Serkan Piantino, co-founder and chief executive officer of Spell, an artificial intelligence company in New York.New York’s tech industry accounted for 333,000 jobs as of 2019, and counts more than 9,000 startups, according to Tech:NYC’s annual report. In addition to home-grown companies, the giants of Silicon Valley are increasingly expanding in the Big Apple. Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which already has more than 8,000 employees in New York could surpass 14,000 by 2028, while Facebook Inc. intends to double its headcount in the city. Many of the biggest tech companies are gobbling up real estate in Manhattan, seeking to tap the city’s highly skilled and diverse workforce.@TechNYC celebrates tech startups in NYC https://t.co/CBrUHdTsaJ— NYSE (@NYSE) January 23, 2020 Companies find that they can recruit people in New York for many different disciplines that are becoming fundamental to the industry, such as artificial intelligence, data science, and computer vision, said Ro Gupta, CEO of Carmera Inc., which makes real-time maps for autonomous driving.It’s that kind of growth and opportunity that has made the tech industry in New York “incredibly bullish” about its future, said Julie Samuels, executive director of Tech:NYC, a network of more than 800 tech companies in the city. However, it’s becoming harder to hire mid-level and senior employees in the industry, according to a 2019 survey by Tech:NYC and Accenture Plc.Tech has become a part of the city’s identity, said Aaron Block, co-founder of MetaProp NYC LLC, a venture capital firm focused on real estate technology. “It’s great to see New York embrace this in a way that is going to continue to fuel the growth of the industry locally,” Block said.To contact the reporter on this story: Nikitha Sattiraju in New York at nsattiraju@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at mschuetz9@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Tech Daily: AAPL Bug, AMZN JEDI Motion, Music Subs, UK Digital Tax, More
    Zacks

    Tech Daily: AAPL Bug, AMZN JEDI Motion, Music Subs, UK Digital Tax, More

    The top stories here are Apple's ITP vulnerability, Amazon's motion to stop work under the JEDI contract, Amazon's soaring music subs and the UK digital tax.

  • Earnings from Comcast, Airlines & More, Plus a Cheap Tech Stock to Buy - Free Lunch
    Zacks

    Earnings from Comcast, Airlines & More, Plus a Cheap Tech Stock to Buy - Free Lunch

    Quarterly earnings results from Comcast, Southwest, American Airlines, and more. And a look at why Pure Storage, Inc. (PSTG) is a Zacks Rank 1 (Strong Buy) stock right now, as it trades under $20 a share...

  • Reuters

    More central banks look to issue own digital currencies - BIS

    A rising number of central banks are likely to issue their own digital currencies in the next few years, research by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) showed on Thursday, as interest in the technology heats up. Some 20% of 66 central banks surveyed by the BIS said they were likely to issue a digital currency within the next six years, up from around 10% a year earlier. In all, 80% of central banks said they were looking at the technology, up from seven in ten surveyed last year.

  • Central banks see ‘impending arrival’ of their own digital currencies
    Yahoo Finance

    Central banks see ‘impending arrival’ of their own digital currencies

    A cohort of central banks said Thursday that a fifth of the world's population could see central bank-issued cryptocurrencies in the next three years.

  • Merkel, Mnuchin Diverge on Generation Thunberg: Davos Update
    Bloomberg

    Merkel, Mnuchin Diverge on Generation Thunberg: Davos Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.The rich and powerful are in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s 50th annual meeting, and the gathering is being closely watched to see how the global elite aims to tackle problems they helped create, above all climate change.Germany’s Angela Merkel called on world leaders to work together to fight global warming and take the views of concerned young people seriously, saying time is running out to protect the planet.U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, questioned whether Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is qualified to talk about economic issues linked to climate change and told 17-year-old to go and study the subject in college.Thunberg has called a climate strike for Friday at 11 a.m. local time near the forum.To get all the highlights delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Davos Diary newsletter. Here’s the latest (time-stamps are local time in Davos):RBC Says Fossil Fuels Necessary in Green Shift (5 p.m.)Royal Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer David McKay said any shift to a more climate-friendly economy still depends on fossil fuels.“We have a longer-term transition as we change the energy source, we move to a greener economy, but it is a transition,” McKay told Bloomberg TV. “You need fossil-based fuels to make that transition -- they’re not going away overnight.”U.S. Has ‘Perfect’ Justification for Auto Tariffs: Ross (4:35 p.m.)The U.S. wants to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union but will apply tariffs on car imports from Europe if deemed necessary, according to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.“We have a perfect justification to put tariffs on if we wish to,” Ross said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “The president had decided it was better to negotiate. We’ve had very constructive negotiations with the German car manufacturers, with the Koreans and with the Japanese.”“If people do silly things, if they do protectionist and discriminatory things like the pillar one of the digital service tax, we’re obviously going to respond,” Ross said, referring to plans by France. “The clear intent was to be discriminatory. We have other laws that also enable us to retaliate against discriminatory behavior. If there is discriminatory behavior, we will fight back.”Booms and Busts Are Not Dead: Solomon (3:25 p.m.)David Solomon, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said the U.S. economy is “in good shape” and Davos delegates he has spoken with are generally upbeat about the outlook for this year.“I would say that there will be booms and busts again at some point, although I don’t see one anytime soon,” Solomon told Bloomberg TV.“I’d say I see and I hear what I call kind of a confident, middle-of-the-road view of the current economic environment,” he added. “The overwhelming likely scenario is that the economy chugs along this year.”Merkel Says Recession Danger Receding (3 p.m.)The danger of Germany slipping into recession is receding thanks to an easing in tensions between major global trading partners, Merkel said.“I think we should be happy that the first phase of a trade deal between the U.S. and China has been agreed,” she said during a Q&A session after her speech.“With each step -- an orderly British exit from the European Union, with trade deals and no trade war, less protectionism -- we are reducing the danger of a recession,” Merkel added. “At a time when we have a lot of trade conflicts, you see that global economic growth slows.”Europe can contribute to growth and stability and foster confidence in the euro by completing the integration of its banking system and capital markets, the German leader said.Merkel Rejects Excluding Suppliers from 5G (2:55 p.m.)Excluding individual suppliers, like China’s Huawei Technologies Co., from fifth-generation mobile networks would not necessarily make them more secure, Merkel said.“I don’t think I make myself particularly secure if I shut out an entire supplier and don’t know how they are developing,” she said during a Q&A session.“To be honest, we have already dealt with spying and industrial espionage in former times, and in that sense I wouldn’t change the equipment completely,” she added. “But we do have to be careful.”NATO Chief Urges Europe, U.S. to Stick Together to Meet China Challenge (2:50 p.m.)China’s rise makes it even more important that Europe and the U.S stay together, NATO Secretary General said in a Bloomberg TV interview, in a thinly-veiled plea for a de-escalation in the transatlantic trade spat. As long as Europe and the U.S. cooperate “then we are safe and secure” and can meet any potential challenge, Jens Stoltenberg said.“There are opportunities, but also some challenges, because China is now the second largest defense spender in the world and they are investing heavily in new very advanced weapon systems,” Stoltenberg added.NATO’s chief stopped short of calling China a strategic adversary or calling for an outright ban of Chinese companies from the procurement of 5G network equipment. He did, however, warn that a cyber attack against an ally could trigger NATO’s collective defense clause, which obliges all member states to respond to the attacker.Standard Chartered Says Anxiety “Very High” Over China Virus (2:50 p.m.)Standard Chartered Plc is taking extra precautions to protect Chinese staff from an outbreak of the SARS-like coronavirus, according to Chief Executive Officer Bill Winters, who had intended to travel next week to Wuhan, a city that has been locked down by authorities trying to halt the spread.“When someone gets a cold now, question is whether it’s something much worse,” he said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “We are staying close to our clients and helping them understand exposures.”The bank is “identifying working capital needs if things progress as they have done over the past 24 hours,” given that “tourism and transportation industries are at some risk coming into Chinese new year”Tackling Climate Change ‘Matter of Survival’: Merkel (2:45 p.m.)German Chancellor Merkel said meeting emissions-reduction goals could be a “matter of survival” for Europe and young activists pushing for change should be taken seriously.“The question of achieving the Paris Agreement goals could be a matter of survival for the whole continent and that is why there is pressure to act,” Merkel said in a speech. “Time is pressing, and we must be careful as the older members of society that we treat the impatience of youth in a positive and constructive way.”The German leader said she was concerned about the conflict between campaigners for a cleaner planet and those who don’t believe in global warming. She said the scientific evidence is clear, and emotions should not be confused with facts.Mitsotakis Says Turkey-Libya Deal Unacceptable (2:34 p.m.)Turkey’s maritime border agreement with Libya is unacceptable and illegal, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, amid growing tension in the eastern Mediterranean.“Turkey has been difficult to deal with,” Mitsotakis said in a Bloomberg interview. “There’s a constant state of provocation, which leads Turkey nowhere.”“We don’t need Turkey’s permission” to supply Europe with Cypriot, Israeli or potential Greek gas, Mitsotakis said earlier in Davos. The pact signed by Libya and Turkey has an impact for the planned EastMed pipeline project, he said.Time is ‘Worry’ in EU, U.K. Trade Talks: Dutch PM (1:45 p.m.)The clock is ticking for the EU and the U.K. to hammer out a trade deal by the end of the year, according to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.To agree on a trade deal “we need to agree on level playing field and all the other issues,” the Dutch leader said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “It’s an awfully short amount of time so I hope that coming next summer, June, July, that Boris Johnson will at least contemplate extending, if necessary, this transition phase.”Coming to an arrangement is “very difficult and there is still the risk that you will have a cliff edge scenario’ like we had experienced last year.”U.S., China Must Adjust for Stable World: Singapore PM (1:30 p.m.)Both the U.S. and China must make adjustments if they are going to reach a lasting phase-two trade deal that benefits the rest of the world, according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.The U.S. must decide whether to create rules that allow “the best man” to win or only let America come out on top, Lee said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.“America First means you do the best for the United States,” Lee added. “So do you do the best by prospering in the world, and there are other countries who are doing well, or do your best by being a big country in a troubled world? And I’m not sure that the second is a very good answer.”Maersk Sees Flat Global Trade Growth in 2020 (1:24 p.m.)Global trade will likely expand in line with 2019’s growth of “slightly less than 2%,” A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S Chief Executive Officer Soren Skou said in a Bloomberg TV interview.The reason why freight rates have “gone up quite substantially” since October is mainly the introduction of new more environmentally friendly fuel. “Many of our customers recognize that it’s good for everybody that we go to a cleaner fuel,” Skou said.Trump Policies Good for Business, Moelis Says (1:21 p.m.)U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies and deregulation moves have been good for business and generated “substantial rewards,” Moelis & Co. founder Ken Moelis said in a Bloomberg TV interview.Trump has done a good job of telling the story of how the U.S. economy is booming, with low unemployment, Moelis said, adding that despite “a lot of hand-wringing” in the U.S., the country remains a “tremendous place” with great laws, great capital markets and innovation.Men’s Hiring Bias Slammed by Finnish PM (1:04 p.m.)Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said it’s now clear that women need laws to protect them from discrimination in the work place and the issue can’t be left in the hands of the private sector.“You need laws and structures that lead the way to gender equality,” 34-year-old Marin said during a panel debate. “It doesn’t just happen by itself.” The concern is that an unconscious bias kicks in, steering men in a position to hire toward “similar-minded and similar-looking people” who are deemed to be “more qualified.”Dutch Finance Minister Says Brexit Risks EU Power (1 p.m.)After Brexit, the EU risks becoming a weak player in global politics, because the U.K.’s departure offsets the bloc’s balance, according to Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra.“When there is a balance between France, Germany, and the U.K., we in the Netherlands are at ease,” Hoekstra said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “That balance is now gone, and for the European Union, both in economic terms, but also in geopolitical terms, Brexit is very bad news.”Saudi Arabia Must Act on Emissions: Minister (12:30 p.m.)Saudi Arabia must advocate for solutions to tackle climate change as one of the world’s largest energy producers, according to Energy Minister Abdulaziz Bin Salman.“We cannot sit on our hands as a producer without advocating for something that brings a solution to the emissions issue,” he said during a panel discussion. “We can’t see all components of sustainability and market stability without also being involved in the other debate which has to do with climate change.”Facebook Says Bezos Hack May Highlight Phone Vulnerabilities (12:13 p.m.)The hack of Amazon.com Inc. billionaire Jeff Bezos’s phone, allegedly via a WhatsApp message, brings to light potential security weaknesses in smartphone operating systems, according to Facebook Inc. Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn.The company would take allegations that its service was used in a hack very seriously and would look into it, Mendelsohn, who helps run Facebook’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business, said in a Bloomberg TV interview.The Idea of a Waste-Free Global Economy Is Catching On (11:50 a.m.)When British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur was promoting the idea of the circular economy on the sidelines of Davos in 2012, the big attraction was curiosity about what she was up to after her sailing career.Eight years on, firms such as Adidas AG, Unilever NV, and BlackRock Inc. are embracing MacArthur’s vision. Her foundation is pushing an economic system where product lifespans are extended and components used repeatedly. The idea is to replace the “linear” model of growth -- extraction, production and disposal -- and reduce the strain on the planet’s limited resources.“We had our own event in one of the hotels, and to be honest most people came because they were intrigued about what I might be doing,” said MacArthur, who once held the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. “Things have changed enormously since then.”Deutsche Bank Expects ECB Review to Be ‘Constructive’ (11:07 a.m.)Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing is “hopeful” that the planned strategy review by the European Central Bank will lead to change.The ECB’s decision to cut interest rates below zero was right at the time, but “we missed the exit,” he said on a panel. Negative rates are leading to a widening gap between winners and losers as only a small share of the population benefits, Sewing said, adding that monetary policy is “reaching its limits.”U.S.-Europe Risk Trade Flare-Up Over Cars, Digital Tax (10:43 a.m.)The U.S. and Europe looked set for a renewed clash over everything from car tariffs to digital taxes in a sign that a new American focus was emerging following President Donald Trump’s trade truce with China.Commerce Secretary Ross said the U.S. was still considering slapping levies on European auto imports even as it hopes for a “peaceful resolution” of differences. Mnuchin declined to say if he was still pushing for an optional digital tax after an agreement for a global framework was reached with France on Wednesday.Mnuchin Tells Thunberg to Go to School (10:35 a.m.)Mnuchin questioned whether Thunberg is qualified to talk about economic issues linked to global warming.Asked at a press conference to comment on the debate over the economics of climate change spurred by the teenager, Mnuchin quipped: “Is she the chief economist?” He then said: “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can go back and explain that to us.”Mnuchin has repeatedly clarified the U.S.’s climate stance after Trump took a swipe at environmental “alarmists” in his speech Tuesday. “There’s a misinterpretation as to what our view is,” Mnuchin said. “The U.S. administration very clearly believes in clean air and clean water.”Canada in Strong Fiscal Position: Morneau (10:30 a.m.)Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said low interest rates mean central banks have less room to maneuver and suggested fiscal policy needs to play a greater role in addressing economic challenges.“I think we have to be realistic” about expectations of central banks, Morneau said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Their ability to be effective in the case of challenges is different than it was in the last real challenge.”Canada is managing its “fiscal framework very well,” which makes it “resilient in the face of challenges,” Morneau added.“What we see is that Canada has taken a very responsible approach,” he added. “Whether you’re a rating agency or someone looking at our ability to deal with financial issues or concerns, we’re in a particularly strong position. Probably the strongest position among G-7 countries because of our very strong balance sheet to start with.”Allow Venezuela to Unleash Its Potential: Guaido (10 a.m.)Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s opposition leader, called for a return to democracy in the South American nation so that it can fully exploit its oil reserves and “unleash” its potential.“What we want is a free Venezuela, a democratic Venezuela which respects human rights, where you can invest, where we can also make the most of our oil reserves and so that we can really unleash the potential that we have,” Guaido said in a speech. “We want to mobilize people despite the terror unleashed by the dictatorship.”Nigeria Says OPEC Ready to Cut Further (9:49 a.m.)OPEC’s production cuts are enough for now to avoid an oversupply, but ministers will convene again in March and will be ready to make further cuts if necessary, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva said in a Bloomberg TV interview, adding that the country would like to see oil prices between $60 and $70 a barrel.“We see a lot of optimism in the market” amid easing of trade tensions between U.S. and China,” Sylva said. “If the U.S. and China are able to consummate a good deal at the end of the day, we expect that there’ll be demand growth.”Cantor’s Jain Concerned by Negative Rates (9:38 a.m.)Cantor Fitzgerald LP President Anshu Jain said there are long-term adverse consequences linked to investing in trillions of dollars of negative yielding debt.“If you wind up investing at negative yields in effect locking in a loss, that will have repercussions,” Jain said in an interview. “Of greater concern for me is repercussions for insurers and pension funds, and these will be felt for years to come.”Italian Coalition is Stable, Gualtieri Says (9:20 a.m.)The stability of Italy’s ruling coalition will not be affected by Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio stepping down as head of his party, according to Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri.“Di Maio will remain the foreign affairs minister and the parties have said they are strongly committed to the stability of the government. So nothing will change,” Gualtieri told Bloomberg TV.“What we can have is a continuation of this alliance or a strengthening of this alliance, these are the only two options,” he added. “We have very strong numbers in the parliament in both chambers and the government will continue until the end of the legislative term.”Kaeser’s Wish for Trump: Listen to the Kids (8:45 a.m.)At a Tuesday dinner that Donald Trump held with business executives, Siemens AG Chief Executive Officer Joe Kaeser said he told the U.S. president he had three things to say: a compliment, a request, and a wish.The compliment was on how Trump has spurred U.S. Economic growth. The request was for Siemens to be treated like a U.S. company on government projects because of its 50,000 American workers. His request was to urge the president to listen to young people’s demand to protect the climate.“They may not be able to help us. They’re young people -- they have a problem and they don’t know how to solve it, but shouldn’t we bring them to the table,” Kaeser said he told Trump, adding that his daughter Ivanka Trump responded that it was something that they might look into.Merkel Succession Team to Be Decided This Year (8:42 a.m.)Germany’s Christian Democrats want to assemble their team to succeed Chancellor Merkel by the end of this year, the party’s chairwoman said in a Bloomberg TV interview.Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also Merkel’s defense minister, said that now isn’t the time for a cabinet reshuffle as proposed by a party ally earlier in the month.“For 2021, the CDU needs a new team for the future, with new faces, and we’ll put that in place this year. For me, that’s a more important perspective than a short-term change,” she said.Debt Buildup Reaching Danger Point: Georgieva (8:40 a.m.)IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned that debt in some countries is at dangerous levels.“The buildup of debt is reaching a point where for some borrowers it’s a present danger -- for example poorer countries,” Georgieva told Bloomberg TV. “43% of low income countries are already at or close to debt distress.”Low interest rates “means high, high appetite for yield,” Georgieva said, adding that “high appetite for yield means high appetite for risk.”The global economy is in a better place than in October, when the IMF published its latest forecasts, and central banks have done what they can to support growth so it’s up to governments to step up, Georgieva said.Germany Must Spend Cash More Quickly: AKK (8 a.m.)Germany needs to speed up the process of spending government funds, and surplus cash should be invested “sensibly” in infrastructure and the military, according to German Defense Minister Kramp-Karrenbauer.“If we look at our budget and our investment right now, then we see that we have no problem with money, we have enough money,” Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also the head of Chancellor Merkel’s party, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.“The problem is that we are too slow and too complicated in the process. Not enough is invested as a result and this is the construction site we need to work on,” she said.Merkel’s government agrees that surpluses “shouldn’t be tucked away for a rainy day” but instead directed toward “investment in technologies of the future, in our infrastructure,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added.Coronavirus Only ‘Real Threat’ to Markets: Prince Max (7:45 a.m.)There is nothing “really threatening” on the horizon for markets, with the possible exception of the coronavirus, according to Prince Max von und zu Liechtenstein, chief executive officer of LGT Group Foundation.“I think there is a little bit more downside risk than upside chances,” Prince Max said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “But the market has been resistant so hopefully we will enjoy a good market for a little bit longer.”LGT is hoping for the long-term trend of negative rates to eventually reverse, Prince Max added. “But realistically our expectations for this year for a significant rate change is not there,” he said. “So we are not too optimistic on that front.”\--With assistance from John Follain, Birgit Jennen, Craig Stirling, Cagan Koc, Yuliya Fedorinova, Javier Blas, Fergal O'Brien, Oliver Sachgau, Patrick Donahue, Jenny Leonard, Saleha Mohsin, Viren Vaghela, Haslinda Amin, Francine Lacqua, William Horobin, Reema Alothman, Matthew Martin, Philip J. Heijmans, Sotiris Nikas, Nikos Chrysoloras and Doug Alexander.To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Rogers in Berlin at irogers11@bloomberg.net;Chris Reiter in Berlin at creiter2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net;Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Why neighborhood social network Nextdoor banned national politics
    Yahoo Finance

    Why neighborhood social network Nextdoor banned national politics

    Nextdoor, a ZIP code-curated and vetted social network, does not allow discussions about U.S. politics — even during an election year. Here's why.

  • Facebook Points Blame at Smartphone Vulnerabilities in Bezos Hacking
    Bloomberg

    Facebook Points Blame at Smartphone Vulnerabilities in Bezos Hacking

    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.The hack of Amazon.com Inc. billionaire Jeff Bezos’s phone, allegedly via a WhatsApp message, brings to light potential security weaknesses in smartphone operating systems, Facebook Inc. vice president Nicola Mendelsohn said.“One of the things that it highlights is actually some of the potential underlying vulnerabilities that exist on the actual operating systems on phones,” Mendelsohn said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Francine Lacqua at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.Bezos’s iPhone may have been hacked after he received a message via Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform, from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to a November 2019 report by FTI Consulting Inc., a business advisory firm, which was published by Vice.The message included a 4.22 MB video. Within hours of receiving it, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’s phone began,” according to the report. The Saudi Embassy has denied involvement in the hack, calling the allegations “absurd.”Apple Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Read more about the Bezos hack here.Mendelsohn, who helps run Facebook’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business, said that the company would take any allegations that its service was used in a hack very seriously and would look into it, but said the company couldn’t “comment on any individual story.”It’s not the first time WhatsApp’s been drawn into a hacking controversy. WhatsApp in November sued Israeli spyware maker NSO Group, accusing it of infecting phones of some users through the messaging app. The lawsuit said that NSO Group used a vulnerability in WhatsApp, since patched, to secretly deliver its surveillance software to users. NSO denied the claims in the lawsuit and said it would “vigorously fight them.”To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Thomson in London at athomson6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Nate LanxonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Why the Saudi Crown Prince Needs Cyberweapons

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s hard to overestimate just how much damage Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has done to his country in the last 15 months. Yet it’s also difficult to see how the U.S. can defend its interests in the region without his cooperation.The damage became visible on Oct. 2, 2018, when a Saudi hit team lured Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to murder him. The latest revelation is a hacking campaign against Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com Inc., who also owns the Washington Post. As a UN report released Wednesday notes: “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.”A security consultant for Bezos made a version of this claim last year. The UN report fills in more details. It says that Bezos and the crown prince, known as MBS, attended a dinner on April 4, 2018, where the two men exchanged their WhatsApp contact information. On May 1, a video was sent to Bezos from MBS’s account that included malware that allowed the Saudis to keep tabs on his phone. More than six months later, on Nov. 8, MBS trolled Bezos, sending him a photo of a woman that resembled his paramour. This was months before the National Enquirer published a story about Bezos and his extramarital affair.UN reports are not always reliable, of course. The Wall Street Journal reported last March that the Enquirer got its scoop about the Bezos affair from his lover’s brother, to whom it paid $200,000. That said, the specifics of the report support what’s widely known about the Saudis’ extensive cyberespionage operation. In November, for example, the Justice Department charged two former employees of Twitter and a Saudi national with spying for Saudi Arabia. In October, Facebook sued an Israeli company, alleging it had compromised the accounts of 1,400 users of WhatsApp, which Facebook owns. That company has also sold its products to Saudi Arabia.The company, the NSO Group, issued a statement Wednesday saying its technology “cannot be used on U.S. phone numbers” and “was not used in this instance.” And the UN report, it should be noted, does not explicitly say that it was, noting that the hack “likely was undertaken” by the use of spyware “such as the NSO Group’s Pegasus-3 malware.”It’s worth paying attention, however, to something else in the NSO Group’s statement. These kinds of hacks “put a strain on the ability to use legitimate tools to fight serious crime and terror.”This is an understatement. Saudi Arabia has already shown that it cannot be trusted with powerful cybertools such as those developed by the NSO Group. Technology that is vital to combating jihadist groups should never be used to target dissidents — or the owners of U.S. newspapers, for that matter.A straightforward response to the latest episode of this Saudi scandal would be to ban any exports of advanced cyberweapons to the regime. And it’s a tempting proposition.Before Western governments take that step, they might recall that it took years after the Sept. 11 attacks to get Saudi Arabia to fully commit to fighting the jihadist groups its religious leaders had inspired and some of its wealthiest citizens had financed. MBS represents a departure from this double game. His reforms infuriate not just the liberal activists he jails and disappears, but the reactionaries who prospered under the previous system.If it were just another dictatorship, it would be easy enough to quarantine Saudi Arabia until it reforms. Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia remains a vital partner against Iran and the jihadists in the Middle East. Its enemies are also the West’s enemies. For now, as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Bobby Ghosh notes, the challenge is to press MBS to stop acting like the thugs he’s fighting.To contact the author of this story: Eli Lake at elake1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Spyware Is Getting So Smart Even The Billionaires Aren’t Immune

    (Bloomberg) -- Researchers still aren’t sure exactly what infected the billionaire’s handheld. Tasked with diagnosing a suspected cyberattack on an iPhone owned by Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, forensics experts detected a massive spike in data being siphoned from the device hours after he received a WhatsApp message from a Saudi royal. Yet the malware behind the hack remains a mystery.What’s clear, though, is that Bezos was hit by a potent combination: advanced code, capable of grabbing gobs of information quickly, along with an encrypted delivery system that helped it evade detection. Over the last decade, spyware has gained wider acceptance, become more lucrative and, when transmitted via encryption, increasingly effective. It has evolved from a surveillance tool available for download on the dark web, often by consumers seeking to pry into a partner’s private life, into a pricey product passed off as a way for law enforcement to root out illegal behavior. The market for mobile surveillance technology is valued at about $12 billion and remains less than 10% penetrated, according to Moody’s.The alleged attack on Bezos would be one of the most high-profile examples of spyware being used by government officials against an individual, and it has elicited calls for greater regulation of the industry. The two United Nations experts -- Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression -- said they want a moratorium on the sale and transfer of surveillance technology from private companies. They also called the allegations involving Bezos’s phone “a concrete example of the harms that result from the unconstrained marketing, sale and use of spyware.”“Surveillance through digital means must be subjected to the most rigorous control, including by judicial authorities and national and international export control regimes, to protect against the ease of its abuse,” they wrote in a report released Wednesday.The UN experts and the forensic analysis of Bezos’s mobile phone, which was published by Vice, identified two electronic surveillance companies that could have developed the technology used to execute the hack. Israel’s NSO Group and Italy’s Hacking Team both sold products to Saudi officials before the 2018 attack, according to FTI Consulting Inc., which did the analysis. Saudi Arabia spent $55 million in 2017 for NSO’s Pegasus software, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in November.Hacking Team didn’t respond to requests for comment, and NSO denied involvement in the attack.“Our technology was not used in this instance; we know this because of how our software works and our technology cannot be used on U.S. phone numbers,” the company said in a statement, while declining to say whether it has done business with Saudi Arabia. “Our products are only used to investigate terror and serious crime.”As the industry has grown in profitability, so has its reputation as a clean and credible business, said Jack Cable, an independent security researcher and a student at Stanford University. Even so, software makers can’t guarantee that their products won’t be used for ill intent, he said.“We need look no further than the advertising of companies like NSO Group to see that they sell themselves as protecting human rights for their exploit services,” Cable said. At the same time their products have been employed by authoritarian governments accused of human rights abuses.Spyware is essentially a type of malware that is unwittingly loaded on the device and then takes over.Once it’s installed, spyware like NSO’s Pegasus can begin sending back the phone user’s private data, including passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages and live voice calls from mobile messaging apps, according to the Pegasus manual. In some cases, the operator of the spyware can use the phone’s camera or microphone to take photographs or record audio without the target’s knowledge.On its website, NSO Group notes that terrorists, drug traffickers, pedophiles and other criminals have access to advanced technology that makes them harder to monitor and track. “NSO Group develops best-in-class technology to help government agencies detect and prevent a wide-range of local and global threats.”Milan-based Hacking Team, founded in 2003, has sold surveillance technology to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in dozens of countries, according to company documents. Hacking Team promotional materials describe how the company’s technology -- its flagship system is called “Galileo” -- was designed to gain access to people’s Skype calls, social media messages, mobile phone locations, text messages and other data. The company said in a video posted online that the technology could be “deployed all over your country” and could hack devices belonging to “hundreds of thousands of targets.”There is a constant cat-and-mouse game played between spyware developers and the companies responsible for mobile operating systems and applications. When a new spyware tool is discovered, developers from companies like Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. work to release a software patch that blocks the tool from working. Then the surveillance manufacturers will work to upgrade their tools to bypass the latest security updates.In recent years, however, there have been a number of cases in which spyware has been used to hack the phones or computers of journalists, activists, politicians and ordinary civilians.Activists and researchers say they have identified over 100 cases where NSO Group’s technology has been abused to target dissidents, lawyers and enemies of oppressive regimes. WhatsApp and its parent company, Facebook, sued NSO Group in October alleging that the Israeli company used malware to hack into the mobile phones of 1,400 people and conduct surveillance. NSO group disputed the allegations and vowed to fight them vigorously.Amnesty International is supporting a lawsuit in Tel Aviv court against the Israeli Ministry of Defense seeking revocation of NSO’s export license. The lawsuit was filed in May 2019 by a group of non-profit groups claiming NSO’s technology prioritizes profit over human rights.From 2017 to 2019, NSO Group’s technology was linked to hacks on a British lawyer, a Canada-based Saudi dissident, and multiple U.S. citizens.In 2012, Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights advocate in the United Arab Emirates was targeted with spyware produced by Italy’s Hacking Team. Since then, similar cases have been reported in countries including Morocco, Egypt and Bahrain.Meanwhile, in Italy, prosecutors are currently probing a company named eSurv, whose employees developed spyware for law enforcement agencies, but then allegedly used the technology to hack the phones of hundreds of innocent Italians.And the work on Bezos’s phone aimed at getting to the bottom of the hack, FTI says, is still under way.To contact the reporters on this story: William Turton in New York at wturton1@bloomberg.net;Ryan Gallagher in Edinburgh at rgallagher76@bloomberg.net;Kartikay Mehrotra in San Francisco at kmehrotra2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Martin at amartin146@bloomberg.net, Tom GilesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.