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Dow, S&P 500 trade flat as stock market wrestles with North Korea's hydrogen-bomb threat

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 10:07

U.S. stock benchmarks saw muted trade early Friday as geopolitical tensions re-emerged after North Korea threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean this weekend. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6 points, or less than 0.1%, at 22,354, the S&P 500 index gave up less than a point at 2,500, while the Nasdaq Composite Index was little changed at 6,423. North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said late Thursday at a United Nations meeting that his country might consider a nuclear bomb of "unprecedented scale" in the Pacific. For the week, the Dow is set to post a gain of 0.4%, the Nasdaq is aiming for a gain of 1.8%, while the S&P 500 is looking at a decline of 0.1%. In corporate news, shares of Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. were active on reports that a merger announcement between the two was imminent. And Apple Inc. was on track to have its worst weekly decline on the same week of a new iPhone release ever.

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CFTC accuses company of running bitcoin Ponzi scheme

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 09:58

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission accused a New York firm of running a bitcoin-related Ponzi scheme, the regulator's first anti-fraud enforcement action involving the cryptocurrency. In a civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Thursday, the CFTC charged Gelfman Blueprint Inc. and its chief executive and head trader, Nicholas Gelfman, with fraud, misappropriation, and issuing false account statements in connection with solicited investments in bitcoin. The complaint alleges that from January 2014 through approximately January 2016, the firm and Gelfman fraudulently solicited more than $600,000 from around 80 persons that were purportedly to be placed in a pooled commodity fund using an algorithmic trading strategy. The CFTC alleges the strategy was fake and that performance reports were false, with payouts of supposed profits to the firm's customers coming instead from other customers' funds.

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GrubHub's stock falls toward 7-week low after Amazon teams up with rival Olo

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 09:53

Shares of GrubHub Inc. sank as much as 7.3% just minutes after Friday's open before recovering slightly, fellow online food ordering company Olo said it was teaming up with Amazon.com Inc. , making it easier for Olo's customers to integrate with Amazon Restaurants. GrubHub's stock was down 3.4%, on track to close at a 7-week low. New York-based Olo's clients include Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. , Shake Shack Inc. and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. In 2011, GrubHub and Olo had entered a business partnership, in which GrubHub said it would integrate Olo's list of restaurant menus on its site. GrubHub's stock has rallied 11.6% over the past three months, while the S&P 500 has gained 2.6%.

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U.S. dollar rallies against loonie after weaker-than-expected Canadian inflation report

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 09:03

The U.S. dollar early Friday pared previous losses against the Canadian dollar following a report on inflation in Canada for August that came in weaker than expected. Canada's headline consumer-price index showed a rise of 1.4% on an annualized basis, compared with consensus expectations of 1.5%, according to average estimates of economists polled by FactSet. Core inflation, which strips out more volatile components, stood at 0.86% on annualized basis in August, versus expectations of 1.5%. One dollar bought C$1.2304 after the report, versus an intraday low of C$1.2260.

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Ascendis Pharma shares surge 42% on competitor's flop

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 08:45

Ascendis Pharma shares surged 42% in premarket trade Friday after news that competitor Versartis Inc.'s late-stage clinical trial missed its primary endpoint. Both companies are developing human growth hormone therapies. Wedbush analyst Liana Moussatos raised Ascendis Pharma's price target nearly 81% to $65 on Friday, calling Versartis' human growth hormone product "no longer a threat." Ascendis Pharma's treatment for pediatric growth hormone deficiency is expected to finish enrollment in a late-stage trial in the fourth quarter of this year, and the company also plans to start two trials in the second half of this year, Moussatos said, with results expected in the second half of next year and applications for Food and Drug Administration approval in the first half of 2019. Ascendis Pharma shares have surged 20.5% over the last three months and Versartis shares have surged 25.6%, compared with a 2.7% rise in the S&P 500 .

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Wal-Mart testing delivery service that will bring items into your home

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 08:09

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing a program that will deliver items, not just to your doorstep, but into your house. The retail giant has partnered with August Home, a provider of smart locks and smart home accessories, for the test. Customers place their order online, and a third-party driver from Deliv will bring the items to a shopper's home, using a one-time passcode that's been pre-authorized by the shopper to allow entry. The driver will then leave boxes by the door and put grocery items in the kitchen, even the refrigerator, before leaving. Customers can watch the process on the August Home app, and will receive confirmation that the door has been locked behind them. The test is being conducted in Silicon Valley using a few August Home customers, according to a blog post from Sloan Eddleston, vice president of Walmart e-Commerce Strategy and Business Operations, posted on the company website. Wal-Mart shares are nearly flat in Friday premarket trading, and up 15.8% for the year so far. The S&P 500 index is up 11.7% for the year so far, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 13.1% for the period.

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Phillips 66 Partners to buy assets from Phillips 66 in deal valued at $2.4 billion, including debt

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:57

Phillips 66 Partners LP said Friday it has reached an agreement to acquire assets from Phillips 66 in a deal worth $2.4 billion including debt. Phillips 66 Partners is a master limited partnership that was set up by Phillips 66 to own, operate and acquire crude oil and other energy assets. The MLP is acquiring a 25% interest in two joint ventures, Dakota Access LLC and Energy Transfer Crude Oil Co. LLC, as well as a 100% interest in Merey Sweeny L.P. The deal is expected to be immediately accretive to unitholders in the MLP and to close in early October. The $2.4 billion value includes $625 million of pipeline debt and another $100 million of Merey Sweeny LP debt. The deal will be financed with a mixture of debt, proceeds from a private placement of equity units, and PSXP units issued to Phillips 66, said the companies. "The Bakken Pipeline complements our strategy to expand current systems that are integrated with Phillips 66 refineries and terminals, while MSLP provides another reliable source of cash flow generation to the portfolio," Phillips 66 Chief Executive Greg Garland said in a statement. Shares were not active premarket. The MLP units have lost 0.3% of their value in 2017, while the S&P 500 has gained 12%.

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CarMax shares rise after earnings and revenue beat expectations

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:56

CarMax Inc. shares rose 1.5% in Friday premarket trading after the used car retailer reported earnings and sales that beat expectations. CarMax's second-quarter net income was $181.4 million, or 98 cents per share, up from $162.4 million, or 84 cents per share, for the same period last year. The FactSet consensus was 95 cents. Revenue totaled $4.39 billion, an increase from $4.00 billion last year and ahead of the $4.26 billion FactSet consensus. Same-store sales were up 5.3%, beating the 5% FactSet consensus. CarMax's six Houston locations were closed most of last week due to Hurricane Harvey, "which had a modest adverse effect" on same-store sales, the company said. Used vehicles average selling price was $19,667 for the quarter, up from $19,530 for the same period last year. Wholesale vehicle average selling price was $4,957, down from $5,119 last year. CarMax shares are up 7% for the year so far while the S&P 500 index is up 11.7% for the period.

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Sprint, T-Mobile US shares jump premarket on report companies are close to merger terms

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:46

Shares of Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. jumped in premarket trade Friday, after Reuters said the companies are close to agreeing tentative terms on a merger, citing people familiar with the matter. Japan's Softbank Group Corp. , Sprint's majority shareholder, will own 40% to 50% of the combined entity, Reuters reported. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom AG will own a majority stake. Sprint shares rose 4.4%, while T-Mobile shares were up 1.3%. S&P 500 futures were down 0.2%.

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Finish Line's adjusted profit misses expectations, shares fall

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:16

Shares of Finish Line Inc. fell 2.4% in premarket trade Friday, after the athletic shoe and apparel retailer reported fiscal second-quarter profit and sales that missed expectations. Net income for the quarter to Aug. 26 fell to $2.8 million, or 7 cents a share, from $22.1 million, or 53 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. In an Aug. 28 profit and sales warning, the company said it expected earnings per share of 8 cents to 12 cents. Excluding non-recurring items, adjusted EPS for the latest quarter was 12 cents, missing the FactSet consensus of 14 cents. Revenue declined to $469.4 million from $485.2 million, while the FactSet consensus was $470.5 million. Same-store sales declined 4.5%. On Aug. 28, the company had cut its full-year EPS outlook to 50 cents to 60 cents from $1.12 to $1.23. The stock has tumbled 27.6% over the past three months, while the SPDR S&P Retail ETF has gained 3.2% and the S&P 500 has tacked on 2.7%.

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Transocean to book $1.4 billion charge to cover costs of retiring 6 rigs

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 07:08

Offshore drilling company Transocean Ltd. said Friday it will take an impairment charge of $1.4 billion in the third quarter to cover the costs of retiring six rigs. The ultra-deepwater rigs to be retired are GSF Jack Ryan, Sedco Energy, Sedco Express, Cajun Express, Deepwater Pathfinder, and the deepwater floater Transocean Marianas, the company said in a statement. The rigs will be put up for sale and recycled. Shares have fallen 38% in 2017, while the S&P 500 has gained 12%.

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Uber's license to operate in London won't be renewed

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 06:34

Uber London Ltd.'s license to operate won't be renewed, London's transportation regulator said Friday. Transport for London said its review of the service found Uber demonstrated a lack of corporate responsibility in a number of issues, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offenses. "TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence," TfL said in a statement. Uber's license to operate as a private hire service is set to expire on Sept. 30. Uber may appeal the decision, said TfL.

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U.S. stock futures ease back after North Korea H-bomb threat

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 01:06

U.S. stock futures pointed to opening losses for Wall Street on Friday, after North Korea reportedly threatened to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean. Speaking in New York at a United Nations meeting, North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said late Thursday his country might consider a nuclear test of "unprecedented scale" in the Pacific. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures slid 61 points, or 0.3%, to 22,271, while S&P 500 futures lost 7.1 points, or 0.3%, to 2,493.75. Nasdaq 100 futures fell 27 points, or 0.5%, to 5,918.50. The losses were in line with weaker Asian markets, where the South Korean Kospi index fell 0.7%. Gold , an asset that grows attractive in times of geopolitical tension, pushed back above the $1,300-an-ounce level, gaining $6.80, while the Japanese yen, another haven asset, surged against the dollar to ¥111.76 from ¥112.47 in late North American trade on Thursday. U.S. stocks retreated from record levels on Thursday as the Dow industrials snapped a nine-day winning streak.

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All 50 state Medicaid directors oppose Obamacare repeal bill

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 22:37

All 50 state Medicaid directors have come out against Senate Republicans' latest bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, joining the chorus of opposition from health and insurance groups. In a statement Thursday, the bipartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors warned the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill would place a huge financial burden on states. "Taken together, the per-capita caps and the envisioned block grant would constitute the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country's history," the group said. NAMD also said the bill vastly underestimates the ability of states to create their own health-care programs in just two years, as the bill requires. "The vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities," they said. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week. Almost every major health-care organization, key Republican governors and a major insurance lobby have come out opposing the bill.

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Yen surges as North Korea says it may test nuclear bomb in Pacific

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 21:30

North Korea's foreign minister said late Thursday the country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, according to a report by South Korea's Yonhap news agency. Speaking in New York at a United Nations meeting, Ri Yong Ho said North Korea might consider a nuclear test of "unprecedented scale" in the Pacific, although he said he did not know leader Kim Jon Un's exact thoughts. The news sent the Japanese yen, a haven asset, surging higher. The U.S. dollar, which was as high as 112.55 yen before the announcement, fell as low as 112.20 yen after. As of 9 p.m. Eastern, the dollar was trading at 112.26 yen . The dollar rose against the South Korean won, last at 1,133.89 won from an earlier low of 1,131.28.

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Manafort's FBI surveillance began after he left Trump campaign: report

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 19:45

Paul Manafort was placed under FBI surveillance after he left the Trump campaign in August 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday, citing U.S. officials familiar with the matter. On Monday, CNN reported the FBI had wiretapped Trump's former campaign chairman as late as this year, but did not say when the surveillance began. The Journal said the surveillance -- which had been approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court -- did not include listening to Manafort's phone calls in real-time. Manafort's spokesman told the Journal that he may have gotten caught in the crossfire of a politically motivated investigation. "It's unclear if Paul Manafort was the objective," Jason Maloni said. "Perhaps the real objective was Donald Trump." Manafort's home was raided by the FBI in July, and his his spokesman, Maloni, has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election-meddling. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that while Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman, he had offered to give private campaign briefings to a Russian billionaire with close ties to Vladimir Putin.

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Hewlett Packard Enterprise to lay off 5,000 workers, Bloomberg reports

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 19:29

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. plans to cut about 10% of its staff, or 5,000 workers, Bloomberg News reported Thursday evening based on anonymous sources. HPE has been in constant flux since Chief Executive Meg Whitman split the former Hewlett-Packard in two in 2015, creating the business-focused company she runs and HP Inc. , the consumer-focused printer and personal-computer business. After HPE's most recent earnings report, which came on the heels of a spin-off of much of HPE's software business, Whitman said HPE was about to enter into a new program called HPE Next to “simplify how we work.” HPE shares gained 0.7% in late trading Thursday, after closing with a 1.2% gain at $13.79.

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Tom Price's trips on private jets cost taxpayers more than $300,000: report

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 18:33

Tom Price, President Donald Trump's secretary of health and human services, has flown private jets for government travel at least 24 times since May, costing taxpayers more than $300,000, according to a report by Politico on Thursday. Citing inside sources and HHS documents, Politico found that flying private jets rather than commercial flights has become the norm for Price. While Price's office said he only flies private jets when commercial flights are not feasible, Politico found a number of regular commercial flights to Price's travel destinations, at a fraction of the cost. His immediate HHS predecessors -- Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius -- regularly flew commercial, Politico reported. "This shows a complete disregard for the expense to the taxpayer," Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics told Politico. Price has publicly vowed to crack down on wasteful government spending. And Price is apparently not the only top Trump administration official regularly taking private charter flights. A spokesperson for Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration, told Buzzfeed she occasionally uses private jets, and the Associated Press reported Education Secretary Betsy DeVos uses her personal private jet for work, at her own expense.

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Billion-dollar database software startup MongoDB files for IPO

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:50

MongoDB Inc. , a subscription-based database software startup valued at more than $1 billion, filed for its initial public offering, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission late Thursday. Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Barclays are listed among the underwriters. MongoDB said it seeks up to $100 million in the IPO, but that figure is generally used as a placeholder in initial filings. The New York City-based company was last valued at $1.6 billion by venture capitalists with more than $300 million in total VC funding, according to The Wall Street Journal. For the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2017, MongoDB reported revenue of $101.4 million, a 55% rise from the previous year, for a net loss of $86.7 million, or $3.55 a share. The company plans to list under the ticker symbol "MDB" on the Nasdaq.

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Versartis shares down 82%

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 17:04

Shares of Versartis Inc. plummet 82% late Thursday after the biopharmaceutical company said its drug somavaratan failed to meet its primary endpoint in a phase 3 trial. The drug, a form of human growth hormone that seeks to treat growth-hormone deficiency, failed to demonstrate superiority to Genotropin, an offering from Pfizer Inc. , in a study focusing on pediatric growth-hormone deficiency. "We are very surprised and disappointed to learn the outcome," Chief Executive Jay Shepard said in Thursday's announcement, adding that the company planned to provide a corporate update later this year. Versartis shares have gained 27% in the past three months, more than 10 times the gains for the S&P 500 Index in the same period, and nearly 45% so far this year.

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