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Alcohol seemed to be doing just fine in its traditional, liquid form, but apparently that made it inconvenient for some people because now powdered alcohol is a thing that exists, and somehow it has actually been approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade bureau.
According to BevLaw, the TTB has given approval to a patent-pending product called Palcohol, for powdered alcohol.
According to the current version of the Palcohol website, each pouch of powder is equivalent to one shot of alcohol. Right now they are working on powdered rum and powdered vodka. The powdered rum and vodka can be mixed with five ounces of water, or with five ounces of one’s favorite mixer, like cranberry juice to create an instant vodka cranberry. The pouches will also have cocktail flavors that come in Lemon Drop, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, and Mojito flavors, so a person could get a lemon drop the same way one used to mix up a water bottle full of powdered lemonade or fruit punch.
Of course, a lot of people enjoy eating powdered lemonade right out of the packet like candy. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that someone will try that with Palcohol when it gets to market. People have already been theorizing about the product’s snortability, leading the company to quickly ask everyone to please not do that.
“We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don't do it! It is not a responsible or smart way to use the product. To take precautions against this action, we've added volume to the powder so it would take more than a half of a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose. You would feel all pain for little gain. Just use it the right way.”
According to Gawker, an earlier version of the website’s text said that snorting Palcohol was possible and would get a person drunk almost instantly. The company says the earlier version of the website was not ready for public viewing and that it hopes the product will be used in a responsible and legal manner.
UPDATE: A representative for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has informed the Associated Press that Palcohol's label approvals were issued in error. In response, Palcohol has announced that it will resubmit the labels for approval.
Sage gets U.S. approval for first postpartum depression therapy
March 19 (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm633919.htm Sage Therapeutics Inc's drug for postpartum depression, marking the first approval of a treatment specifically developed for the condition that affects a new mother's ability to care for herself or her baby.
The company said the list price for the treatment, to be sold under the brand name Zulresso, would be $7,450 per vial resulting in a projected average cost of $34,000 per patient before discounts. Sage shares rose more than 4 percent to $163 in extended trading.
The drug, which is administered as a single 60-hour intravenous infusion, is chemically identical to the hormone allopregnanolone.
"You're talking about someone coming into the hospital or treatment center on a Friday and go home Sunday night," Sage's Chief Executive Officer Jeff Jonas told Reuters ahead of the approval.
Postpartum depression affects one in nine women and is a common complication of childbirth, with onset typical during pregnancy or within four weeks of delivery.
In severe cases, the mother may have suicidal tendencies, may not want to nurse her child and might even harm the baby.
Existing treatments include conventional antidepressants that require weeks to take full effect, psychotherapy and even shock therapy, none of which have been specifically approved for postpartum depression.
Zulresso's label will include a so-called black box warning flagging risks of excessive sedation and sudden loss of consciousness, and will only be made available through a restricted distribution program at certified facilities where the patient can be monitored for these side effects, the FDA said.
Patients will be advised to avoid activities such as driving until feelings of sleepiness have gone away.
Zulresso is designed to reduce depression symptoms by targeting receptors of the neurotransmitter known as GABA, helping restore the normal balance in the brain that is disrupted around the time of childbirth.
During clinical trials, the drug was shown to reduce depression symptoms within hours, with patients maintaining the benefit for up to a month and a half, Jonas said, adding the "one and done" treatment will require no maintenance doses.
Guggenheim analyst Yatin Suneja expects Zulresso peak sales of about $300 million to $400 million.
But the inconvenience of a lengthy hospital stay for the required 60-hour infusion may limit sales.
"I do not see Zulresso having significant uptake given the requirements for IV infusion and duration of the infusion," Dr. Sanjay Mathew, a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, told Reuters.
Sage has another drug for postpartum depression under development, SAGE-217, that will be in far more convenient pill form. In clinical trials, it has appeared to be effective in rapidly reducing symptoms without the loss of consciousness side effect.
Although inconvenient, Zulresso is likely worthwhile for mothers suffering from the disorder who face dangerous obstacles in caring for their newborn, said Dr. Marla Wald, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University. (Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru and Gabriella Borter in New York Editing by Bill Berkrot and Sriraj Kalluvila)
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China Braces for $1.3 Trillion Maturity Wall as Defaults Surge
(Bloomberg) -- Even by the standards of a record-breaking global credit binge, China’s corporate bond tab stands out: $1.3 trillion of domestic debt payable in the next 12 months.That’s 30% more than what U.S. companies owe, 63% more than in all of Europe and enough money to buy Tesla Inc. twice over. What’s more, it’s all coming due at a time when Chinese borrowers are defaulting on onshore debt at an unprecedented pace.The combination has investors bracing for another turbulent stretch for the world’s second-largest credit market. It’s also underscoring the challenge for Chinese authorities as they work toward two conflicting goals: reducing moral hazard by allowing more defaults, and turning the domestic bond market into a more reliable source of long-term funding.While average corporate bond maturities have increased in the U.S., Europe and Japan in recent years, they’re getting shorter in China as defaults prompt investors to reduce risk. Domestic Chinese bonds issued in the first quarter had an average tenor of 3.02 years, down from 3.22 years for all of last year and on course for the shortest annual average since Fitch Ratings began compiling the data in 2016.“As credit risk increases, everyone wants to limit their exposure by investing in shorter maturities only,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV. “Issuers also want to sell shorter-dated bonds because as defaults rise, longer-dated bonds have even higher borrowing costs.”The move toward shorter maturities has coincided with a Chinese government campaign to instill more discipline in local credit markets, which have long been underpinned by implicit state guarantees. Investors are increasingly rethinking the widely held assumption that authorities will backstop big borrowers amid a string of missed payments by state-owned companies and a selloff in bonds issued by China Huarong Asset Management Co.The country’s onshore defaults have swelled from negligible levels in 2016 to exceed 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) for four straight years. That milestone was reached again last month, putting defaults on track for another record annual high.The resulting preference for shorter-dated bonds has exacerbated one of China’s structural challenges: a dearth of long-term institutional money. Even before authorities began allowing more defaults, short-term investments including banks’ wealth management products played an outsized role.Social security funds and insurance firms are the main providers of long-term funding in China, but their presence in the bond market is limited, said Wu Zhaoyin, chief strategist at AVIC Trust Co., a financial firm. “It’s difficult to sell long-dated bonds in China because there is a lack of long-term capital,” Wu said.Chinese authorities have been taking steps to attract long-term investors, including foreign pension funds and university endowments. The government has in recent years scrapped some investment quotas and dismantled foreign ownership limits for life insurers, brokerages and fund managers.But even if those efforts gain traction, it’s not clear Chinese companies will embrace longer maturities. Many prefer selling short-dated bonds because they lack long-term capital management plans, according to Shen Meng, director at Chanson & Co., a Beijing-based boutique investment bank. That applies even for state-owned enterprises, whose senior managers typically get reshuffled by the government every three to five years, Shen said.The upshot is that China’s domestic credit market faces a near constant cycle of refinancing and repayment risk, which threatens to exacerbate volatility as defaults rise. A similar dynamic is also playing out in the offshore market, where maturities total $167 billion over the next 12 months.For ING’s Pang, the cycle is unlikely to change anytime soon. “It may last for another decade in China,” she said.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Exxon Activist Battle Turns Climate Angst Into Referendum on CEO
(Bloomberg) -- An unprecedented fight over who should sit on the board of Exxon Mobil Corp. is turning into a referendum on Chief Executive Officer Darren Woods as a decades-long struggle by climate campaigners comes to a head.Activist investor Engine No. 1 LLC wants to replace one-third of Exxon’s board in an effort to force the Western world’s largest oil explorer to embrace a transition away from fossil fuels and end a decade of what it calls “value destruction.” Shareholders are set to gather — virtually — for their annual meeting on May 26.The stakes are high. Under Exxon’s bylaws, a victory for any dissident director would mean an incumbent must step down, equating to a zero-sum proxy contest: of 16 candidates, only 12 will prevail. Any dilution of Woods’s influence over the board could derail his long-term plans and force strategic and tactical changes he has previously rejected.Although Engine No. 1 hasn’t targeted Woods for removal, even a partial victory for the activist would be a serious, and perhaps fatal, blow to his leadership, according to Ceres, a coalition of environmentally active investors managing $37 trillion.“I don’t see how Darren Woods remains as CEO if one of the dissidents, let alone all four, are elected,” said Andrew Logan, director of oil and gas at Ceres. “It would be such a sign of fundamental dissatisfaction with the status quo that something would have to change. And that starts with the CEO.”Exxon's engagement with environmental activists was once characterized by a sense of bemusement — under former CEO Lee Raymond, Greenpeace protesters outside its annual meetings were offered donuts. But as worries about climate change have gone mainstream in the investment world, the clash has evolved into a confrontation over boardroom seats.In other corners of the commodities sector, shareholders this year have already shown frustration with executives’ reluctance to embrace tough environmental goals. DuPont de Nemours Inc. suffered an 81% vote against management on plastic-pollution disclosures, while ConocoPhillips lost a contest on adopting more stringent emission targets.Exxon’s meeting this year threatens to be one of the stormiest on the U.S. corporate calendar, made all the more remarkable for being instigated by a newly formed fund that only has a $54 million, or 0.02%, stake in the oil behemoth. Investor dissatisfaction with the company largely centers on two issues that are becoming more interlinked: climate change and profits. The oil giant envisages a profitable, long-term future for fossil fuels, but sees no point in investing in traditional renewable energy businesses. It also refuses to commit to a net-zero emissions target, unlike European rivals.Climate concerns are are resonating more deeply with investors at the same time that Exxon’s status as a financial powerhouse crumbles after multiple corporate missteps, some of which preceded Woods’s elevation to CEO in 2017. Returns on invested capital are a fraction of what they were in Exxon’s heyday a decade ago and debt ballooned 40% last year as Covid-19 paralyzed economies and energy demand around the world. Under mounting pressure and concerns over Exxon’s ability to pay the S&P 500’s third-largest dividend, the CEO slashed an ambitious $200 billion expansion program by a third late last year. It was a relief to some investors who had questioned both the cost and the need for such projects at a time when policymakers — and even rivals like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc — are planning for the twilight of the petroleum era.Still, Engine No. 1 says Exxon needs higher-quality directors who are willing to challenge management. Exxon missed key industry trends such as the shale revolution, “the shift to focusing on project returns over chasing production growth, and the need to gradually prepare for rather than ignore the energy transition,” according to the San Francisco-based activist.After receiving early backing from major state pension funds, Engine No. 1’s campaign gathered momentum this month as two prominent shareholder-advisory firms, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co., threw their partial support behind the activist’s efforts. ISS wrote a scathing rebuke of Exxon’s climate strategy, saying the company had only taken “incremental steps to prepare for the inevitable.”Top 20 shareholder Legal & General Investment Management, a previous critic of Exxon, is also backing Engine No. 1 and has pledged to vote against Woods. However, the voting intentions of some other major investors, such as Vanguard Group, BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. aren’t clear — all three declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News. Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund said late last week that it would support the reelection of most Exxon directors, but not Woods, part of its long-standing push to separate the roles of CEO and chairman at Exxon.With such animosity brewing, the usual course of action would be for Exxon’s board to meet with the activists and hash out a compromise. But that has yet to happen, and both sides appear to be entrenched.Exxon said in a May 14 letter to shareholders its board “listens and responds to shareholder feedback,” but that Engine No. 1, founded only a few months ago, wasn’t interested in engaging and “is trying to replace four of our world-class directors with unqualified nominees.'' The company added that the activist fund's plans would “derail our progress and jeopardize your dividend.”For its part, Engine No. 1 said Exxon refused to meet its nominees: Gregory Goff, former CEO of refiner Andeavor environmental scientist Kaisa Hietala private equity investor Alexander Karsner and Anders Runevad, ex-CEO of power producer Vestas Wind Systems A/S.Exxon did talk with another investor, hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., which built a stake in an effort to push for change. Those discussions led to the appointment of the new directors, including activist investor Jeff Ubben. The oil company has also announced new emissions targets, started a low-carbon business, and supported policies that will help technological innovations like carbon capture.In some respects Exxon is in a better position that it was at the start of 2021. Its stock has rallied more than 40% as oil prices rebounded and lockdowns are eased. Engine No. 1 points to its involvement as the turning point, while Exxon claims the market is rewarding prudent cost cutting and high-return investments made over the last couple of years. The forthcoming vote will help to determine which side of the debate other investors lean toward.“There’s a governance challenge at Exxon,” said John Hoeppner, head of U.S. sustainable investments at Legal & General. “How seriously is the current board questioning management’s business model? It’s important to add urgency to the debate.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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Zara owner Inditex to close all stores in Venezuela, local partner says
Inditex, owner of brands including Zara, Bershka and Pull & Bear, will close all its stores in Venezuela in coming weeks as a deal between the retailer and its local partner Phoenix World Trade has come under review, a spokesperson for Phoenix World Trade said. Phoenix World Trade, a company based in Panama and controlled by Venezuelan businessman Camilo Ibrahim, took over operation of Inditex stores in the South American country in 2007. "Phoenix World Trade is re-evaluating the commercial presence of its franchised brands Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear in Venezuela, to make it consistent with the new model of integration and digital transformation announced by Inditex," the company said in response to a Reuters request.
Summers Says Crypto Has Chance of Becoming ‘Digital Gold’
(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said cryptocurrencies could stay a feature of global markets as something akin to “digital gold,” even if their importance in economies will remain limited.Speaking at the end of a week in which Bitcoin whipsawed, Summers told Bloomberg Television’s “Wall Street Week” with David Westin that cryptocurrencies offered an alternative to gold for those seeking an asset “separate and apart from the day-to-day workings of governments.”“Gold has been a primary asset of that kind for a long time,” said Summers, a paid contributor to Bloomberg. “Crypto has a chance of becoming an agreed form that people who are looking for safety hold wealth in. My guess is that crypto is here to stay, and probably here to stay as a kind of digital gold.”If cryptocurrencies became even a third of the total value of gold, Summers said that would be a “substantial appreciation from current levels” and that means there’s a “good prospect that crypto will be part of the system for quite a while to come.”Comparing Bitcoin to the yellow metal is common in the crypto community, with various estimates as to whether and how quickly their total market values might equalize.Yassine Elmandjra, crypto analyst at Cathie Wood’s Ark Investment Management LLC, said earlier this month that if gold is assumed to have a market cap of around $10 trillion, “it’s not out of the question that Bitcoin will reach gold parity in the next five years.” With Bitcoin’s market cap around $700 billion, that could mean price appreciation of around 14-fold or more.But Summers said cryptocurrencies do not matter to the overall economy and were unlikely to ever serve as a majority of payments.Summers is on the board of directors of Square Inc. The company said this month that sales in the first quarter more than tripled, driven by skyrocketing Bitcoin purchases through the company’s Cash App.Summers’ comments were echoed by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who doubted crypto’s value as a medium of exchange or stable purchasing power, but said some forms of it may continue to exist as an alternative to gold.“Are cryptocurrencies headed for a crash sometime soon? Not necessarily,” Krugman wrote in the New York Times. “One fact that gives even crypto skeptics like me pause is the durability of gold as a highly valued asset.”Summers also said that President Joe Biden’s administration is heading in the “right direction” by asking companies to pay more tax. He argued policy makers in the past had not been guilty of pursuing “too much antitrust” regulation although he warned it would be “badly wrong” to go after companies just because of increasing market share and profits.Returning to his worry that the U.S. economy risks overheating, Summers said the Federal Reserve should be more aware of the inflationary threat.“I don’t think the Fed is projecting in a way that reflects the potential seriousness of the problem,” he said. “I am concerned that with everything that’s going on, the economy may be a bit charging toward a wall.”(Adds Summers is on Square’s board in 8th paragraph)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Crypto miners halt China business after Beijing cracks down, bitcoin dives
SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Cryptocurrency mining operators, including a Huobi Mall and BTC.TOP, are suspending their China operations after Beijing stepped up its efforts to crack down on bitcoin mining and trading, sending the digital currency tumbling. A State Council committee led by Vice Premier Liu He announced the crackdown late on Friday - the first time the council has targeted virtual currency mining, a big business in China that accounts for as much as 70% of the world's crypto supply. Crypto miners use increasingly powerful, specially-designed computer equipment, or rigs, to verify virtual coin transactions in a process which produces newly minted crypto currencies such as bitcoin.
First Warning Sign in the Global Commodity Boom Flashes in China
(Bloomberg) -- One pillar of this year’s blistering commodities rally -- Chinese demand -- may be teetering.Beijing aced its economic recovery from the pandemic largely via an expansion in credit and a state-aided construction boom that sucked in raw materials from across the planet. Already the world’s biggest consumer, China spent $150 billion on crude oil, iron ore and copper ore alone in the first four months of 2021. Resurgent demand and rising prices mean that’s $36 billion more than the same period last year.With global commodities rising to record highs, Chinese government officials are trying to temper prices and reduce some of the speculative froth that’s driven markets. Wary of inflating asset bubbles, the People’s Bank of China has also been restricting the flow of money to the economy since last year, albeit gradually to avoid derailing growth. At the same time, funding for infrastructure projects has shown signs of slowing.Economic data for April suggest that both China’s economic expansion and its credit impulse -- new credit as a percentage of GDP -- may already have crested, putting the rally on a precarious footing. The most obvious impact of China’s deleveraging would fall on those metals keyed to real estate and infrastructure spending, from copper and aluminum, to steel and its main ingredient, iron ore.“Credit is a major driver for commodity prices, and we reckon prices peak when credit peaks,” said Alison Li, co-head of base metals research at Mysteel in Shanghai. “That refers to global credit, but Chinese credit accounts for a big part of it, especially when it comes to infrastructure and property investment.”But the impact of China’s credit pullback could ripple far and wide, threatening the rally in global oil prices and even China’s crop markets. And while tighter money supply hasn’t stopped many metals hitting eye-popping levels in recent weeks, some, like copper, are already seeing consumers shying away from higher prices.“The slowdown in credit will have a negative impact on China’s demand for commodities,” said Hao Zhou, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG. “So far, property and infrastructure investments haven’t shown an obvious deceleration. But they are likely to trend lower in the second half of this year.”A lag between the withdrawal of credit and stimulus from the economy and its impact on China’s raw material purchases may mean that markets haven’t yet peaked. However, its companies may eventually soften imports due to tighter credit conditions, which means the direction of the global commodity market will hinge on how much the recovery in economies including the U.S. and Europe can continue to drive prices higher.Some sectors have seen policy push an expansion in capacity, such as Beijing’s move to grow the country’s crude oil refining and copper smelting industries. Purchases of the materials needed for production in those sectors may continue to see gains although at a slower pace.One example of slowing purchases is likely to be in refined copper, said Mysteel’s Li. The premium paid for the metal at the port of Yangshan has already hit a four-year low in a sign of waning demand, and imports are likely to fall this year, she said.At the same time, the rally in copper prices probably still has a few months to run, according to a recent note from Citigroup Inc., citing the lag between peak credit and peak demand. From around $10,000 a ton now, the bank expects copper to reach $12,200 by September.It’s a dynamic that’s also playing out in ferrous metals markets.“We’re still at an early phase of tightening in terms of money reaching projects,” said Tomas Gutierrez, an analyst at Kallanish Commodities Ltd. “Iron ore demand reacts with a lag of several months to tightening. Steel demand is still around record highs on the back of the economic recovery and ongoing investments, but is likely to pull back slightly by the end of the year.”For agriculture, credit tightening may only affect China’s soaring crop imports around the margins, said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agribusiness Consultant Co. Less cash in the system could soften domestic prices by curbing speculation, which may in turn reduce the small proportion of imports handled by private firms, he said.The wider trend is for China’s state-owned giants to keep importing grains to cover the nation’s domestic shortfall, to replenish state reserves and to meet trade deal obligations with the U.S.No DisasterMore broadly, Beijing’s policy tightening doesn’t spell disaster for commodities bulls. For one, the authorities are unlikely to accelerate deleveraging from this point, according the latest comments from the State Council, China’s cabinet.“Internal guidance from our macro department is that the country won’t tighten credit too much -- they just won’t loosen further,” said Harry Jiang, head of trading and research at Yonggang Resouces, a commodity trader in Shanghai. “We don’t have many concerns over credit tightening.”And in any case, raw materials markets are no longer almost entirely in thrall to Chinese demand.“In the past, the inflection point of industrial metal prices often coincides with that of China’s credit cycle,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie Group Ltd. “But that doesn’t mean it will be like that this time too, because the U.S. has unleashed much larger stimulus than China, and its demand is very strong.”Hu also pointed to caution among China’s leaders, who probably don’t want to risk choking off their much-admired recovery by sharp swings in policy.“I expect China’s property investment will slow down, but not by too much,” he said. “Infrastructure investment hasn’t changed too much in the past few years, and won’t this year either.”Additionally, China has been pumping up consumer spending as a lever for growth, and isn’t as reliant on infrastructure and property investment as it used to be, said Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance Securities Hong Kong. The disruption to global commodities supply because of the pandemic is also a new factor that can support prices, he said.Other policy priorities, such as cutting steel production to make inroads on China’s climate pledges, or boosting the supply of energy products, whether domestically or via purchases from overseas, are other complicating factors when it comes to assessing import demand and prices for specific commodities, according to analysts.More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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Hong Kong Exchange’s New CEO Is Put on Cleanup Duty
(Bloomberg) -- The veteran JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker who’s taking the helm at Hong Kong’s exchange has been put on cleanup duty.Chairman Laura Cha has handed Nicolas Aguzin, who takes charge Monday, the task of reviewing the exchange’s practices after a bribery scandal and censure from the regulator, according to people familiar with the matter. The 52-year-old former head of JPMorgan’s international private bank is seen by Cha as having the experience to force a cultural shake-up given his background at a heavily regulated bank, said the people, asking to remain anonymous discussing sensitive issues.Aguzin takes over as the bourse is delivering record earnings. His predecessor, Charles Li, oversaw a doubling of revenue during his decade in charge through acquisitions, loosened listing rules and, most importantly, trading links with mainland China. The easier oversight allowed the listing of Chinese technology giants such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and positioned it as the exchange-of-choice for mainland firms amid tensions with the U.S.But there has also been criticism that investor protections were sacrificed to win business. Over the past years, there has been a steady stream of flareups between the bourse and the regulator over IPO quality, the proliferation of shell companies and whether to allow dual class shares.“The HKEX has done a great job in market development, and has introduced measures to improve investor protection,” Sally Wong, CEO of Hong Kong Investment Funds Association, said in an email. “But it seems that issuers’ voices tend to prevail over that of the investors. We very much look forward to working with the new CEO to see how to strike a more appropriate balance to better safeguard investor interests.”Spokespeople for the exchange and the Securities and Futures Commission as well as Aguzin declined to comment.In a review released last year after the former IPO vetting co-head was arrested for bribery, the SFC discovered “numerous ambiguities” in the Chinese Wall between its listing and business divisions. Other issues highlighted last year include keeping track of share options and following up on complaints on withdrawn IPO applications.Cha had begun to tighten internal checks and balances for senior managers toward the end of Li’s tenure as well as assert more board control over hiring, people familiar have said. The exchange has halted the interactions between its listing and business units, according to the SFC review. Last week, in a joint statement with the SFC, the bourse vowed to better police its frothy IPO market, citing concerns about companies inflating their values, market manipulation and unusually high underwriting fees.Aguzin is expected by the board to prioritize the exchange’s role as a regulator alongside its growth ambitions, people familiar said.David Webb, a former HKEX director, investor and corporate governance activist, is skeptical the bourse will institute any meaningful reforms. “HKEX has, with government approval, lowered its standards to attract business, for example, by listing second-class shares with weak voting rights,” he said in an email. “It shows no sign of raising them again.”Investors have also urged the exchange to set rules requiring company boards to have a lead outside board member or an independent chair, according to Wong. “But it seems that the HKEX is not ready to even bring them up for market consultation.”The government is on board with Aguzin’s appointment, which comes at a fraught time after Beijing has tightened its grip on the city, raising questions about its continued status as an international financial hub.Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui said the three-tiered regulatory system comprising his department, the SFC and HKEX has worked well. Aguzin’s appointment embodies the city’s openness and its role as a gateway between China and the world, he said. “This is exactly what we will pursue.”Further deepening connections to China is seen as key to growth for the bourse, which also faces stiffer competition from mainland exchanges as China opens its financial markets.While Aguzin has worked in Asia for the past decade -- also serving as JPMorgan’s CEO of Asia Pacific from 2013 to 2020 -- he will be the first non-Chinese CEO of a bourse that often needs to deal with Beijing.Cha is well connected in China, having served as vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. She has signaled that she sees the bourse’s role as serving Beijing’s interests and avoiding competition with the mainland, a person said familiar with the matter said last year.The push toward the mainland is not all welcome in China. Expanding the link to include several benchmark stocks has proved difficult, with one sticking point being whether to include shares like Alibaba Group, which are dual listed and with weighted voting rights.Even so, Cha said at the time of the appointment that Aguzin’s remit will include further strengthening the link to the mainland.Another board member, Fred Hu, said in an interview that “Aguzin is well positioned to take HKEX into the future, to further deepen the connectivity with China but also connectivity with the rest of the world.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Away From the Big Crypto Blaze, Another Market Tension Eases
(Bloomberg) -- A bear market in Bitcoin. A bull market in Bitcoin. Taper talk, or talk thereof. The biggest pop for meme stocks of the season. A lot just happened, and yet when the history of this week is written, it’s possible a much quieter development will be the lead.After intensifying earlier this month, inflation anxiety appears to be easing. Rates on 10-year breakevens dropped by the most on a weekly basis since September, capping any rise in Treasury yields. Meanwhile, a surge in raw materials continued to sputter, with the Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index sinking for a second straight week.That was enough to comfort investors in big tech. The Nasdaq 100 posted its first weekly gain in over a month, after being rattled by warnings that soaring prices would eat into future cash flows and shine a harsh light on expensive valuations. And while minutes from the Federal Reserve’s April meeting signaled an openness to discussing a scaling back of asset purchases, comments that it would “likely be some time” until the economy recovers to that point helped prevent any knee-jerk reactions.“Inflation is really only a problem for stocks if it’s going to bring the Fed off the sidelines,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen. “If you see interest rates falling, if you see inflation expectations receding, if you see the Fed continuing to come out with overall dovish minutes, it tends to be a pretty friendly environment for tech.”Whether or not the U.S. economy has seen peak growth, a series of weaker-than-expected reports have helped quell inflation fears. Last month’s housing starts were lower than anticipated, while the pace of mortgage applications slowed from the prior month. On Thursday, data from the Philadelphia Fed showed manufacturing activity in the region eased in May from a 48-year high the prior month.As a result, Citigroup Inc.’s economic surprise gauge -- which measures the magnitude to which reports either beat or miss forecasts -- briefly dropped into negative territory for the first time since June 2020 this week.The Nasdaq 100 held onto a 0.1% gain this week as inflation expectations ebbed, snapping a four-week losing streak. Tech eked out a gain as cryptocurrencies ricocheted, with Bitcoin dropping 12% on Friday alone after China reiterated its intent to to crack down on mining.Still, some warn that it’s too early to signal the all-clear on inflation risks. Anxiety around price pressures in the coming months should be a boon for defensive sectors and particularly favor financials, while eating into growth stocks with duration-sensitive cash flows, according to State Street Global Advisors.“Because there’s so much disagreement on how inflation may unfold, that disagreement in the market will inevitably lead to volatility,” said Olivia Engel, chief investment officer of SSGA’s active quantitative equity team. “If you look at the aggregate market, it’s hiding some of that market rotation -- that’s where you can see much bigger moves.”(Updates Bitcoin price in seventh paragraph.)More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Bitcoin Volatility Puts Weekend Traders on Stomach-Churning Ride
(Bloomberg) -- Bitcoin’s extreme volatility carried into the weekend as the world’s largest cryptocurrency continued to whipsaw investors with double-digit percentage moves.Bitcoin traded at $33,052, down 13%, as of 3:45 p.m. in New York, holding below its 200-day moving average other cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum and Dogecoin, also slumped, according to CoinGecko.com. Earlier in the weekend, Bitcoin had climbed more than 8% to move back above $38,000 following a tweet from Elon Musk.A measure of implied volatility on Bitcoin comparable to the U.S. equity market’s VIX indicator sits above 130, higher than the stock version has ever gotten in 30 years. Thirty-day historical volatility in the coin is about 100, some seven times more than the S&P 500 and surpassing the comparable measure in lumber futures, and an ETF designed to pay twice the daily return in crude oil.Investors in Bitcoin are experiencing one of its rockiest weeks ever after a string of negative headlines, with prices swinging as much as 30% in each direction Wednesday alone, when it fell as low as $30,016, the least since January. Even with the gyrations, Bitcoin is still up more than 250% in the past year.The turbulent stretch began after Musk said Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment for its electric vehicles, citing the coin’s intensive energy use. Another blow came Friday when China reiterated a warning that it intends to crack down on cryptocurrency mining as part of an effort to control financial risks.“Bitcoin has two problems, ESG and decreasing reliance on China, both of which could take some time” Edward Moya, senior market analyst with Oanda Corp., wrote in a note.Other cryptocurrencies also slumped on Sunday, with Ethereum briefly trading below $1,900 and satirical token Dogecoin dropping more than 16%, according to Coinmarketcap.com.Read more: Musk Tweets He Supports Crypto in Battle Against Fiat CurrenciesThe latest warning from Beijing followed a statement earlier in the week disseminated by the People’s Bank of China that financial institutions weren’t allowed to accept cryptocurrencies for payment.China has long expressed displeasure with the anonymity provided by Bitcoin and other crypto tokens. The country is home to a large concentration of the world’s crypto miners who use vast sums of computing power to verify transactions on the blockchain.“It is no surprise that governments are not inclined to give up their monetary monopolies. Throughout history, governments first regulate and then take ownership,” Deutsche Bank macro strategist Marion Laboure wrote in a May 20 report titled “Bitcoin: Trendy Is the Last Stage Before Tacky.” “As cryptocurrencies begin to seriously compete with regular currencies and fiat currencies, regulators and policymakers will crack down.”‘Higher Stakes’A mid-week report from blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis showed over half of the $410 billion spent on acquiring current Bitcoin holdings occurred in the past 12 months. About $110 billion of that was spent on buying it at an average cost of less than $36,000 per coin. That means the vast majority of investments aren’t making a profit unless the coin trades at $36,000 or higher.“The stakes are much higher now than they were in the past,” Philip Gradwell, chief economist at Chainalysis, said in an email. “This week’s price fall means that a lot of investments are now held at a loss. This is going to be a serious test for recent investors, but so much is at stake now that there is the incentive and resources to address the problems in crypto that prevent it from becoming a mature asset.”Weekends tend to be particularly volatile for crypto assets which -- unlike most traditional assets -- trade around the clock every day of the week. Before this weekend, Bitcoin’s average swing on Saturdays and Sundays this year comes in at 5.14%.That type of volatility is owing to a few factors: Bitcoin’s held by relatively few people, meaning that price swings can be magnified during low-volume periods. And the market remains hugely fragmented with dozens of platforms operating under different standards. That means cryptocurrencies lack a centralized market structure akin to that of traditional assets.“When noise is accompanied by a huge amount of speculation and the noise can be interpreted negatively, you get these huge swings,” said Eric Green, chief investment officer of equity at Penn Capital. “What goes straight up is going to come down at some point.”More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Dollar near 3-month low, weighed by prospects of dovish Fed
The dollar stood near its lowest level in three months against a resurgent euro, struggling for traction as investors pared earlier bets the U.S. Federal Reserve may soon be ready to taper its stimulus. Minutes from the Fed's April policy meeting released last week showed a sizable minority of policymakers wanted to discuss tapering bond purchase. Still, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's repeated warnings that it is not yet time to discuss a reduction in quantitative monetary easing has led many investors to believe it will be months before the central bank actually tweaks policy.
Huobi Scales Back Due to China Crackdown Bitcoin Falls Below $32K, Ether Past $2K
The exchange made the move on the heels of a series of crackdown notices from Bejing in recent weeks.
Inside the Race to Avert Disaster at China’s Biggest ‘Bad Bank’
(Bloomberg) -- It was past 9 p.m. on Financial Street in Beijing by the time the figure inside Huarong Tower there picked up an inkbrush and, with practiced strokes, began to set characters to paper.Another trying workday was ending for Wang Zhanfeng, corporate chairman, Chinese Communist Party functionary—and, less happily, replacement for a man who very recently had been executed.On this April night, Wang was spotted unwinding as he often does in his office: practicing the art of Chinese calligraphy, a form that expresses the beauty of classical characters and, it is said, the nature of the person who writes them.Its mastery requires patience, resolve, skill, calm—and Wang, 54, needs all that and more. Because here on Financial Street, a brisk walk from the hulking headquarters of the People’s Bank of China, a dark drama is playing out behind the mirrored façade of Huarong Tower. How it unfolds will test China’s vast, debt-ridden financial system, the technocrats working to fix it, and the foreign banks and investors caught in the middle.Welcome to the headquarters of China Huarong Asset Management Co., the troubled state-owned ‘bad bank’ that has set teeth on edge around the financial world.For months now Wang and others have been trying to clean up the mess here at Huarong, an institution that sits—quite literally—at the center of China’s financial power structure. To the south is the central bank, steward of the world’s second-largest economy to the southwest, the Ministry of Finance, Huarong’s principal shareholder less than 300 meters to the west, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, entrusted with safeguarding the financial system and, of late, ensuring Huarong has a funding backstop from state-owned banks until at least August.The patch though doesn’t settle the question of how Huarong makes good on some $41 billion borrowed on the bond markets, most incurred under Wang’s predecessor before he was ensnared in a sweeping crackdown on corruption. That long-time executive, Lai Xiaomin, was put to death in January—his formal presence expunged from Huarong right down to the signature on its stock certificates.The bigger issue is what all this might portend for the nation’s financial system and efforts by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to centralize control, rein in years of risky borrowing and set the nation’s financial house in order.“They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” said Michael Pettis, a Beijing-based professor of finance at Peking University and author of Avoiding the Fall: China’s Economic Restructuring. Bailing out Huarong would reinforce the behavior of investors who ignore risk, he said, while a default endangers financial stability if a “chaotic” repricing of the bond market ensues.Just what is going on inside Huarong Tower? Given the stakes, few are willing to discuss that question publicly. But interviews with people who work there, as well as at various Chinese regulators, provide a glimpse into the eye of this storm.Huarong, simply put, has been in full crisis mode ever since it delayed its 2020 earnings results, eroding investor confidence. Executives have come to expect to be summoned by government authorities at a moment’s notice whenever market sentiment sours and the price of Huarong debt sinks anew. Wang and his team must provide weekly written updates on Huarong’s operations and liquidity. They have turned to state-owned banks, pleading for support, and reached out to bond traders to try to calm nerves, with little lasting success.In public statements, Huarong has insisted repeatedly that its position is ultimately sound and that it will honor its obligations. Banking regulators have had to sign off on the wording of those statements—another sign of how serious the situation is considered and, ultimately, who’s in charge.Then there are regular audiences with the finance ministry and the other powerful financial bureaucracies nearby. Among items usually on the agenda: possible plans to hive off various Huarong businesses.Huarong executives are often kept waiting and, people familiar with the meetings say, tend to gain only limited access to top officials at the CBIRC, the banking overseer.The country’s apex financial watchdog—chaired by Liu He, Xi’s right-hand man in overseeing the economy and financial system—has asked for briefings on the Huarong situation and coordinated meetings between regulators, according to regulatory officials. But it has yet to communicate to them a long-term solution, including whether to impose losses on bondholders, the officials said.Representatives at the People’s Bank of China, the CBIRC, Huarong and the Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to requests for comment.Focus on BasicsA mid-level party functionary with a PhD in finance from China’s reputed Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Wang arrived at Huarong Tower in early 2018, just as the corruption scandal was consuming the giant asset management company. He is regarded inside Huarong as low-key and down-to-earth, particularly in comparison to the company’s previous leader, Lai, a man once known as the God of Wealth.Hundreds of Huarong staff, from Beijing division chiefs to branch employees in faraway outposts, listened in on April 16 as Wang reviewed the quarterly numbers. He stressed that the company’s fundamentals had improved since he took over, a view shared by some analysts though insufficient to pacify investors. But he had little to say about what is on so many minds: plans to restructure and shore up the giant company, which he’d pledged to clean up within three years of taking over.His main message to the troops: focus on the basics, like collecting on iffy assets and improving risk management. The employees were silent. No one asked a question.One employee characterized the mood in his area as business as usual. Another said co-workers at a Huarong subsidiary were worried the company might not be able to pay their salaries. There’s a widening gulf between the old guard and new, said a third staffer. Those who outlasted Lai and have seen their compensation cut year after year have little confidence in the turnaround, while new joiners are more hopeful about the opportunities the change of direction offers.Others joke that Huarong Tower must suffer from bad feng shui: after Lai was arrested, a bank that had a branch in the building had to be bailed out to the tune of $14 billion.Dark humor aside, a rough consensus has begun to emerge among senior management and mid-level regulators: like other key state-owned enterprises, Huarong still appears to be considered too big to fail. Many have come away with the impression—and it is that, an impression—that for now, at least, the Chinese government will stand behind Huarong.At the very least, these people say, no serious financial tumult, such as a default by Huarong, is likely to be permitted while the Chinese Communist Party is planning a nationwide spectacle to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding on July 1. Those festivities will give Xi—who has been positioning to stay in power indefinitely—an opportunity to cement his place among China’s most powerful leaders including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.What will come after that patriotic outpouring on July 1 is uncertain, even to many inside Huarong Tower. Liu He, China’s vice premier and chair of the powerful Financial Stability and Development Committee, appears in no hurry to force a difficult solution. Silence from Beijing has started to rattle local debt investors, who until about a week ago had seemed unmoved by the sell-off in Huarong’s offshore bonds.Competing InterestsHuarong’s role in absorbing and disposing of lenders’ soured debt is worth preserving to support the banking sector cleanup, but requires government intervention, according to Dinny McMahon, an economic analyst for Beijing-based consultancy Trivium China and author of China’s Great Wall of Debt.“We anticipate that foreign bondholders will be required to take a haircut, but it will be relatively small,” he said. “It will be designed to signal that investors should not assume government backing translates into carte blanche support.”For now, in the absence of direct orders from the top, Huarong has been caught in the middle of the competing interests among various state-owned enterprises and government bureaucracies.China Investment Corp., the $1 trillion sovereign fund, for instance, has turned down the idea of taking a controlling stake from the finance ministry. CIC officials have argued they don’t have the bandwidth or capability to fix Huarong’s problems, according to people familiar with the matter.The People’s Bank of China, meantime, is still trying to decide whether to proceed with a proposal that would see it assume more than 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) of bad assets from Huarong, those people said.And the Ministry of Finance, which owns 57% of Huarong on behalf of the Chinese government, hasn’t committed to recapitalizing the company, though it hasn’t ruled it out, either, one person said.CIC didn’t respond to requests for comment.The banking regulator has bought Huarong some time, brokering an agreement with state-owned lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. that would cover any funding needed to repay the equivalent of $2.5 billion coming due by the end of August. By then, the company aims to have completed its 2020 financial statements after spooking investors by missing deadlines in March and April.“How China deals with Huarong will have wide ramifications on global investors’ perception of and confidence in Chinese SOEs,” said Wu Qiong, a Hong Kong-based executive director at BOC International Holdings. “Should any defaults trigger a reassessment of the level of government support assumed in rating SOE credits, it would have deep repercussions for the offshore market.”The announcement of a new addition to Wang’s team underscores the stakes and, to some insiders, provides a measure of hope. Liang Qiang is a standing member of the All-China Financial Youth Federation, widely seen as a pipeline to groom future leaders for financial SOEs. Liang, who arrived at Huarong last week and will soon take on the role of president, has worked for the three other big state asset managers that were established, like Huarong, to help clean up bad debts at the nation’s banks. Some speculate this points to a wider plan: that Huarong might be used as a blueprint for how authorities approach these other sprawling, debt-ridden institutions.Meantime, inside Huarong Tower, a key item remains fixed in the busy schedules of top executives and rank-and-file employees alike. It is a monthly meeting, the topic of which is considered vital to Huarong’s rebirth: studying the doctrines of the Chinese Communist Party and speeches of President Xi Jinping. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
Is Buying Bitcoin Right Now a Smart Idea?
It’s no longer news that Bitcoin’s dramatic fall on Thursday weighed on market sentiments relatively but Willy Woo a top crypto analyst, still believes the curtain call for Bitcoin’s overall upward rally has not occurred yet.
Will Biden cancel massive student loan debt? Suddenly, that's looking doubtful
New signs indicate the president may be shying from forgiving even $10,000 per person.
What you need to know about powdered alcohol
The "Tang" of alcohol may arrive soon in a store near you.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved a new product Wednesday called Palcohol. It's a dried form of alcohol that can be mixed with water to create liquid alcohol. Some have compared it to the sugary, orange-flavored powdered drink Tang.
One packet of Palcohol equals one shot, according to the company's website. Each packet weighs 1 ounce and turns into liquid when mixed with 6 ounces of water.
What flavors will be available?
The Phoenix-based company plans to release five flavors: vodka, rum, cosmopolitan, powderita (which is like a margarita) and lemon drop.
When does it hit the market?
The product is expected to be available in stores starting this summer, according to the website.
Why make powdered alcohol?
The creator of Palcohol, Mark Phillips, wanted to create an alcohol that would be lightweight and easy to carry on-the-go, Phillips told USA TODAY Network.
"When I hike, kayak, backpack or whatever, I like to have a drink when I reach my destination. And carrying liquid alcohol and mixers to make a margarita for instance was totally impractical," Phillips says in a video he posted on YouTube.
In addition to having a drink on a camping trip, there's also other applications for the product.
"We've had many medical people contact as about using it as a antiseptic especially in remote locations," he said. It could also be used an alternative fuel source, according to Phillips.
"It would not be the exact same product, but the science to create powdered alcohol would be applied the same way," he said.
Concerns over safety have already led several states, including South Carolina, Louisiana and Vermont, to ban powdered alcohol and other states are considering legislation, KPNX-TV in Phoenix reported. Some critics are concerned people may try to snort the powder or mix it with alcohol to make it even stronger or spike a drink.
"We anticipate that allowing powdered alcohol onto the market will have grave consequences for our nation's young people," David Jernigan from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told USA TODAY Network in a statement.
Powdered alcohol can be concealed and therefore easier for youth to access and consume, he said.
"If used as intended, it's as safe as alcohol," Frank Lovecchio, the co-medical director of the Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center, told KPNX-TV. However, people rarely use things as intended, he added.
"It's very easy to put a couple packets into a glass and have super-concentrated alcohol," Lovecchio said.
Phillips dismissed concerns saying that they don't make sense if you think it through.
"People unfortunately use alcohol irresponsibly. But I don't see any movement to ban liquid alcohol. You don't ban something because a few irresponsible people use it improperly," he said. "They can snort black pepper. Do you ban black pepper?"
Palcohol has a patent pending and the company will not share any information about the process, according to Phillips.
Among U.S. religious groups, Biden’s approval ratings are mirror image of Trump’s
Donald Trump and Joe Biden in their first presidential debate in September 2020. (Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP)
America’s religious groups are deeply divided about President Joe Biden’s performance so far, just as they were about President Donald Trump throughout his term. In fact, Biden’s approval ratings today are nearly a mirror image of Trump’s four years ago.
Religious groups that tended to disapprove of Trump’s performance as president, including Hispanic Catholics, Black Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated, mostly approve of Biden’s performance now, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted April 5-11. By contrast, groups that approved of Trump in his early days, primarily White evangelicals, now rate Biden negatively.
For example, seven-in-ten religiously unaffiliated adults (71%) say they approve of how Biden is handling the job of president, compared with three-quarters (76%) who said they disapproved of Trump’s performance in April 2017.
As President Joe Biden concludes his first 100 days in office, a majority of Americans have said they approve of the way he has handled the job of president. This post explores how views of Biden break down by religion. For this analysis, we surveyed 5,109 U.S. adults from April 5-11, 2021. Everyone who took part in this survey is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology.
At the other end of the spectrum, three-quarters of White evangelical Protestants (75%) say they disapprove of the new president’s performance so far, which is about equal to the share who approved of Trump’s performance four years ago (73%).
Catholics are not quite as unified. Around two-thirds of Catholics (64%) say they approve of Biden’s handling of his job, driven by strong support from Hispanic Catholics, 80% of whom grade Biden favorably. White Catholics are almost evenly divided in their approval of Biden, much as they were in their early evaluations of Trump.
Biden’s strongest supporters are Black Protestants, 89% of whom say they approve of the job he is doing so far. The April 2017 survey did not include enough interviews with Black Protestants or Hispanic Catholics to provide an early read on their evaluations of Trump, but their backing of Biden so far has aligned with broader partisan patterns, and they were consistently among the religious groups least approving of Trump over the course of his presidency.
Black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans – also known as religious “nones” because they describe themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular – have long been staunchly Democratic constituencies. White evangelical Protestants are among the most solidly and consistently Republican religious group in the U.S., and they have grown even more uniformly Republican in recent decades. White Catholics and White Protestants who are not evangelical also have shifted in a Republican direction in recent years.
Biden is Catholic and often talks about his faith, but his fellow Catholics are divided along party lines in their views about his religious beliefs. Biden said in 2020 that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s right to abortion nationwide should be upheld, which has prompted some Catholics to argue that he should be denied Holy Communion.
Abortion isn’t the only divisive issue for Biden. Among White Christians in particular, fewer express solidarity with Biden’s positions on policy issues than did so with Trump’s. For instance, whereas 43% of White Catholics say they agree with Biden on many, almost all or all issues, 58% said same about Trump in February 2020 (before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic). Among White Protestants who are not evangelicals, one-third (34%) say they generally agree with Biden on the issues, compared with 56% who said this about Trump. And whereas just 15% of White evangelical Protestants say they agree with Biden on many, almost all or all issues, fully three-quarters (76%) said they backed Trump on many or all issues.
However, traditionally Democratic groups like Black Protestants and religious “nones” are indeed far more likely to say they agree with Biden on many or all issues than to have said this about Trump.
Job ratings and issue positions aside, Biden is doing better than Trump among most religious groups when it comes to views about his conduct.
Across all the religious groups analyzed – aside from White evangelical Protestants – more people say they like the way Biden conducts himself as president than said this about Trump when Pew Research Center last asked this question in February 2020.
This pattern is most pronounced among traditionally Democratic groups: The share of Black Protestants who say they like the way Biden conducts himself is 75 percentage points higher than the share who said the same about Trump in February 2020 (81% vs. 6%), and the share of religious “nones” who say they like Biden’s conduct is 47 points higher (55% vs. 8%).
But even less traditionally Democratic groups give Biden higher marks for his conduct. The difference among White Catholics, for instance, is 22 points in favor of Biden (46% vs. 24%), and among White Protestants who are not evangelical it is 16 points (36% vs. 20%).
White evangelical Protestants are the major exception to this pattern. Only 14% of White evangelicals say they like the way Biden conducts himself, compared with 31% who said this about Trump in February 2020. White evangelical Protestants were Trump’s strongest supporters throughout his four-year term.
Note: Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology.
BofA gets U.S. approval to repay its $45-billion TARP debt in full
Bank of America Corp. has received government permission to pay back $45 billion in taxpayer aid that helped the company survive the financial crisis, a step that would terminate the federal pay restrictions that have inhibited its search for a new chief.
Although several banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., have repaid capital handed out by the government last fall, Bank of America would be the first recipient of so-called extraordinary federal assistance to repay taxpayers completely. The other companies that received large-scale government investment include Citigroup Inc., General Motors, GMAC and Chrysler.
Bank of America Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis, who is scheduled to retire at the end of the year, said the repayment showed the strength of the company and the improving health of the broader economy.
“It is a milestone indicating that public policy has succeeded in helping our industry and the economy begin to recover,” Lewis said in a statement Wednesday announcing government approval of the company’s plan to repay the money it received under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Although Bank of America didn’t say exactly when it would pay back the funds, it said doing so would affect the company’s accounting for the current quarter, suggesting the transaction could take place this month.
The Obama administration has said that it won’t accept TARP repayments unless it is sure the banks will remain in good health. Many financial analysts had not expected Bank of America to be in such a position until next year.
BofA said Wednesday it would raise additional capital from private sources to allay any concern about its health.
“We are pleased that Bank of America is moving ahead with plans to pay the taxpayers back in full,” a Treasury Department spokesman said Wednesday. “As banks replace Treasury investments with private capital, confidence in the financial system increases, taxpayers are made whole, and government’s unprecedented involvement in the private sector lessens.”
The company’s search for a new CEO has been hampered by conditions imposed on it by the federal government. Banking regulators have subjected the company to increased scrutiny, demanding improvements in risk management and the addition of people with financial experience to the board of directors.
In addition, the government’s “pay czar,” Kenneth R. Feinberg, has the authority to approve or veto compensation for senior executives at Bank of America and other recipients of exceptional assistance.
Some candidates to replace Lewis said they would not work under those conditions, according to a person familiar with the search.
Repaying the government in full would allow Bank of America to pay its next chief executive any amount the board sees fit.
Bank of America entered the financial crisis with a reputation as one of the nation’s strongest and best-managed banks. In September 2008, however, Lewis made a fateful decision to buy troubled investment bank Merrill Lynch. In the next several months, as losses spiraled at Merrill and problems grew at Bank of America itself, the government gave the Charlotte, N.C., company $45 billion in capital and agreed to absorb some of the company’s losses on a portfolio of $118 billion in troubled loans.
Bank of America said Wednesday that it would repay the government with $26.2 billion in cash on hand and $18.8 billion it plans to raise by selling securities that would eventually be converted into common stock.
One benefit: BofA would no longer be required to pay $3.6 billion in annual dividends on the federal aid.
The Treasury Department still holds warrants to purchase Bank of America stock issued in connection with the federal aid. Bank of America said it would not seek to repurchase those warrants, leaving the government free to sell them at auction.
Appelbaum writes for the Washington Post. David Cho contributed to this report.
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Airbus gets U.S. approval to sell planes to Iran
Airbus announced Wednesday that the U.S. government approved its first sale of 17 planes to Iran after last year's nuclear agreement eased a decades-long economic embargo.
Airbus received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, Airbus spokesman Mary Anne Greczyn said.
“In a country of nearly 80 million people, it is accepted by the industry that there is a market need for some 400 to 500 new commercial planes to replace Iran’s existing, aging fleet and meet growing travel demand,” she told USA TODAY. “Airbus has been working with the relevant authorities for some time to ensure all activities are undertaken in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations.”
Boeing, a Chicago-based manufacturer, has also received a license to sell 80 planes to Iran, the company told USA TODAY in a statement Wednesday. But talks continue about actually selling the planes to the national airline Iran Air, as outlined in a memorandum of agreement signed in June to provide up to $25 billion in aircraft.
"Any final sales agreement would have to adhere to the license we’ve been issued," Boeing said in the statement.
The Airbus planes from the manufacturer based in France will be a combination of A320 and A330 aircraft, another Airbus spokesman, Justin Dubon, said. The A320s list for $98 million each, and the A330-200s start at $231 million, but manufacturers often discount those prices.
A second license for more planes is expected to be granted in the coming weeks, Dubon said. Airbus has an agreement to sell Iran more than 100 planes.
Although Airbus is based in Europe, it still needed to get approval from the U.S. Treasury Department because at least 10% of Airbus components are of American origin, according to the Associated Press.
The aircraft deal followed the agreement last year between the world powers and Iran, which lifted sanctions in exchange for the country curbing its nuclear facilities and allowed the purchase of aircraft and parts. The sanctions followed the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, which took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
In a June letter to Congress, Boeing described its agreement to sell Iran Air 80 planes, with deliveries beginning in 2017 and running until 2025. The models comprise six 737NG, 40 737 MAX, 15 777-300ER, 15 777-9X and four 747-8i aircraft.
In addition, the agreement expressed Boeing's intent to help Iran Air find an additional 29 new 737NG aircraft from leasing companies, bring the total plans involved in the deal to 109.
Boeing's license came after Airbus's because the department completed them in the order received, and Airbus filed first.
The House of Representatives voted in July to block aircraft sales by both Airbus and Boeing to Iran, but the Senate has not yet acted. The legislation sought to block the Treasury Department from licensing the sales and to prevent loans from U.S. institutions to finance the deals.
Republican Reps. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Jeb Hensarling of Texas wrote a joint letter in June to Boeing arguing that Iran uses commercial aircraft to transport weapons, military parts, rockets and missiles to U.S. enemies around the world.
“Iran’s commercial aviation sector is deeply involved in supporting hostile actors,” the lawmakers wrote.
Where did 11% come from?
The post attributes the approval rating to reporting by the Daily Caller about a Gallup poll.
On Jan. 26, the Daily Caller published a story about a separate Gallup poll that asked Americans how they felt about the direction of the country. About 11% of respondents said they are “very” or “somewhat satisfied” with the direction of the country, the lowest satisfaction rate since 2011.
That poll is separate from Gallup’s measurement of presidential approval ratings. The “Mood of the Nation” poll was conducted from Jan. 4-15, before Biden’s inauguration but during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The all-time low in the satisfaction poll was 7% in 2008, according to Gallup.
“The COVID-19 pandemic gripping the nation is clearly a factor in the very low satisfaction reading – as are the tensions caused by President Donald Trump’s failure to recognize the election results and the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol, and the fact that the January reading came at a time of transition in the transfer of power,” according to Gallup's analysis of the poll.
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Anheuser-Busch Gets U.S. Approval to Buy Modelo
) -- The Department of Justice Friday reached a settlement with Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and Grupo Modelo SAB de CV allowing the companies to go through with their proposed $20.1 billion merger.
The agreement settles a DOJ lawsuit brought against the merger January 31.
The agreement requires the companies to divest Mexico City-based Modelo&aposs entire U.S. business -- including licenses of Modelo brand beers, its most advanced brewery, Piedras Negras, its interest in Crown Imports LLC and other assets -- to Constellation Brands Inc., in order to go forward with their merger.
The department said the proposed settlement will maintain competition in the beer industry nationwide, benefitting consumers.
The department&aposs lawsuit against the merger alleged that the deal as originally proposed would substantially lessen competition in the market for beer in the United States as a whole and specifically in 26 metropolitan areas across the United States, leading to higher prices for beer and would also limit the introduction of new beer brands. AB InBev and Modelo are the largest and third-largest beer sellers in the U.S., respectively, and combined they control about 46% of annual sales in the U.S. AB InBev is the brewer of Budweiser, Stella Artois, Beck&aposs and many other brands.
"The proposed settlement announced today will create an independent, fully integrated and economically viable competitor to ABI," said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ&aposs antitrust division. "This is a win for the $80 billion U.S. beer market and consumers. If this settlement makes just a one percent difference in prices, U.S. consumers will save almost $1 billion a year."
The settlement is roughly the same as one ABI and Modelo offered in February but contains additional binding commitments to the revised transaction, which the DOJ said are designed to ensure a prompt divestiture of assets by AB InBev to Constellation, the necessary build-out of Modelo&aposs Piedras Negras brewery by Constellation, as well as certain distribution guarantees for Constellation in the United States.
The Mexican Competition Commission approved the revised transaction in early April, and the transaction is expected to close in June.
The settlement requires ABI and Modelo to divest Modelo&aposs entire U.S. business to Constellation for $2.9 billion or to an alternative purchaser if the transaction with Constellation is not completed. Specifically, ABI and Modelo must divest the Piedras Negras brewery, Modelo&aposs newest, most technologically advanced brewery perpetual and exclusive licenses of the Modelo brand beers for distribution and sale in the U.S. Modelo&aposs current interest in Crown -- the joint venture established by Modelo and Constellation to import, market and sell certain Modelo beers into the United States and other assets, rights and interests necessary to ensure that Constellation is able to compete in the U.S. beer market using the Modelo brand beers, independent of a relationship to ABI and Modelo.
The brands to be licensed to Constellation include all seven brands that Modelo currently offers in the U.S. -- Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Modelo Light, Pacifico and Victoria -- as well as three brands not yet offered in the United States, but currently sold by Modelo in Mexico -- Pacifico Light, Barrilito and León.
Corona Extra is the best-selling imported beer in the U.S., and Corona Light is the leading imported light beer. Modelo Especial is the third largest and the fastest-growing major imported beer brand.The licenses also include rights that are intended to give Constellation the ability to adapt to changing market conditions in the United States.
For its part, Constellation has committed to expand the capacity of Piedras Negras in order to meet current and future demand for the Modelo brands in the United States, a commitment that is a condition of the proposed settlement. The settlement also sets milestones for the expansion of the Piedras Negras brewery. In order to enable Constellation to compete in the United States during the time it takes to expand the Piedras Negras brewery&aposs capacity to brew and bottle beer, the settlement requires ABI to enter into interim supply and transition services agreements with Constellation. These agreements are time-limited to ensure that Constellation will become a fully independent competitor to ABI as soon as practicable.
The settlement must by approved by Judge Richard Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Ray Jacobsen, partner at McDermott Will & Emery and antitrust counsel to Constellation, said that the spin off of the brewery, licensing rights and other assets combined to make the divestiture order the largest in history. "This was a very innovative settlement and the first time a buyer for a divested asset was required to build out a facility, but
Constellation is happy to do it.
He said the settlement was a win-win for all sides. "The DOJ got a new competitor in the market, we got the brewery and the Modelo brands and AB InBev got its deal done."
Jacobsen said talks over the settlement did not begin until the DOJ filed its lawsuit. "We worked intensively -- nearly 24/7 since the lawsuit to put this together."
AB InBev was represented in the antitrust by a team from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP that included partners Ian John, Steve Sunshine, James Keyte, Karen Hoffman Lent and Clifford Aronson. Modelo was represented by a Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP team led by partners David Mercado, Christine A. Varney and Yonatan Even.
ABI and Modelo originally proposed selling Modelo&aposs stake in Crown to Constellation and entering into a 10-year supply agreement to provide Modelo beer to Constellation to import into the United States.
The department said it rejected that purported fix because it would have eliminated the Modelo brands as an independent competitive force in the United States beer market. Unlike the companies&apos original proposal, which left Constellation with no brewing assets and beholden to ABI for the supply of beer, the proposed settlement ensures that Constellation, or an alternative purchaser, will have independent brewing assets and the ownership of the Modelo beer brands for sale in the United States in perpetuity. As a result, Constellation will fully replace Modelo as a competitor in the United States.
ABI is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Belgium, with headquarters in Leuven, Belgium. ABI brews and markets more beer sold in the United States than any other company, with a 39% market share nationally. ABI owns and operates 125 breweries worldwide, including 12 in the United States. It owns more than 200 different beer brands, including Bud Light -- the best-selling brand in the United States -- and other popular brands such as Budweiser, Busch, Michelob, Natural Light, Stella Artois, Goose Island and Beck&aposs.
Modelo is the third-largest brewer of beer sold in the United States, with a 7% market share nationally. Modelo&aposs Corona Extra is the top-selling beer imported into the United States. ABI currently holds a 35.3% direct interest in Modelo and a 23.3% direct interest in Modelo&aposs operating subsidiary Diblo.