Brent oil prices dips on rising supply, global market woes

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Brent oil prices dipped on Tuesday, weighed down by ongoing weakness in global stock markets and by signs of rising global supply despite looming sanctions on Iran’s crude exports.

FILE PHOTO – An employee holds a gas pump to refill a car at a petrol station in central Seoul April 6, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were at $77.05 a barrel at 0428 GMT, down 29 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were firmer, however, at $67.16 a barrel, up 12 from their last settlement.

Oil has been caught up in broad financial market slumps this month, with stocks falling again on Monday after reports Washington was planning an additional $257 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods if upcoming talks between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping fail to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

High oil prices are hurting consumers and could dent demand, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.

“There are two downward pressures on global oil demand growth. One is high oil prices, and in many countries they’re directly related to consumer prices. The second one is global economic growth momentum slowing down,” said IEA chief Fatih Birol.

Oil was also being weighed down by signs of rising supply from top producers.

“A Saudi pledge to produce as much oil as possible, and the stock market rout, have sharply reduced concerns about the Nov. 4 implementation of U.S. sanctions against Iran,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Russia has also indicated that it will provide enough oil to meet demand once U.S. sanctions hit Iran from next week.

In a sign that oil supply remains ample despite the looming U.S. sanctions against Iran’s petroleum exports, crude output from the world’s top 3 producers, Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia, reached 33 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time in September, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

That’s an increase of 10 million bpd since the start of the decade and means that these three producers alone now meet a third of global crude demand.

Hedge fund managers continued to liquidate former bullish positions in oil last week, with signs of short-selling appearing for the first time in over a year.

Despite that, Hansen said “given the yet unknown impact on Iran’s ability to produce and export (amid sanctions) … we could see some speculative buying emerge ahead of Nov. 4.”

Iran’s seaborne crude exports, by contrast, have fallen from a 2018-peak of just over 2.5 million bpd in May to around 1.5 million bpd in September and October, Eikon data showed.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Joseph Radford

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Ian Small, former head of TokBox, takes over as Evernote CEO from Chris O’Neill

Former TokBox head Ian Small is replacing Chris O’Neill as CEO of Evernote, the note-taking and productivity app company said this morning. In a blog post, Small said that the leadership change was announced to employees this morning by Evernote’s board. “We are all hugely appreciative of the energy and dedication Chris has shown over the last three years, and in particular for putting Evernote on solid financial footing so we can continue to build for the future,” he wrote.

Small added, “When Stepan Pachikov founded Evernote, he had a vision for how technology could augment memory and how an app could change the way we relate to information at home and at work. Evernote has been more successful at making progress towards Stepan’s dreams than he could have imagined, but Stepan and I both think that there is more to explore and more to invent.”

O”Neill had been Evernote’s CEO since 2015, when he took over the position from co-founder Phil Libin. Small previously served as CEO of TokBox, which operates the OpenTok video calling platform, from 2009 to 2014, and then as its chairman from 2014 to July of this year.

O’Neill’s departure as CEO is the latest significant leadership shift for Evernote, which has withstood several key executive departures over the last few months. In early September, we reported that the company had lost several senior executives, including CTO Anirban Kundu, CFO Vincent Toolan, CPO Erik Wrobel, and head of HR Michelle Wagner, as it sought funding in a potential down-round from the unicorn valuation it hit in 2012. According to TechCrunch’s sources, Evernote had struggled to grow its base of paid users and active users, as well as enterprise clients, for the last six years.

Then a few weeks later, Evernote announced that had to lay off 54 people, or about 15 percent of its workforce. O’Neill wrote a blog post about the company’s future growth strategy, including streamlining specific functions like sales so it could focus on product development and engineering.

Walmart kicks off U.S. holiday season with faster checkout, digital store maps

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it will offer faster checkout at its stores and easier navigation with digital maps indicating exact locations of products, as it gears up to grab a larger share of shoppers’ gift budgets this holiday season.

FILE PHOTO: A credit card terminal is shown at a self checkout kiosk for a new Walmart Super Center prior to its opening in Compton, California, U.S., January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The retailer is also comfortable with the amount of inventory it has in stock, said Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer at Walmart. Online sales suffered during the same period last year when Walmart added more holiday merchandise like electronics, toys and gifts, but did not stock enough everyday items.

Walmart announced its plans for the November and December holiday shopping season at a media briefing. The last two months of the year are critical for retailers, when they book an outsized portion of their annual sales and profits.

Walmart’s new “Check out with Me” feature will allow customers to bypass the checkout lines and pay for items in the product department where they are shopping.

The company will also stock a broader assortment of toys, electronics, fashion and home products in its stores and on its revamped website, which the retailer is hoping will boost sales.

Walmart has added over 2,000 brands online, Scott Hilton, chief revenue officer, Walmart e-commerce, U.S., told reporters. Content on the website will range from a new deals hub to gift guides and the monthly Ellen’s List from talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, he said.

Walmart will also offer free-two day shipping on orders over $35. This will qualify millions of items it sells directly to shoppers and products that are sold by its third-party marketplace sellers.

Rival Target Corp one-upped rivals last week when it announced it will offer free two-day shipping on items from Nov. 1 to Dec. 22 with no order minimum or membership.

In August, Walmart said it significantly increased the selection of toys in its stores and online for the holiday season. It added 30 percent more new toys to its stores and expanded its online selection by 40 percent.

Bratspies said the company has permanently expanded space to stock toys in 235 stores this year after the collapse of Toys R Us.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler

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U.S. go-go growth stock days are gone, value back in play

NEW YORK (Reuters) – One undeniable fact has underpinned the latest leg of the long-running U.S. bull market: Paying up for growth stocks at any price paid off, hugely.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Paying a premium for shares of fast-growing companies like Amazon Inc (AMZN.O) and Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) over those viewed as good value for the money has been a recipe for success for more than five years. Growth stocks have beaten their value rivals by a margin of more than two-for-one in that span.

Until now.

In the last month, the wheels have fallen off that profit vehicle. The Russell 1000 Growth Index .RLG, which features stocks that trade at high prices relative to their earnings, has sunk more than 10 percent so far in October, its poorest performance since the financial crisis. In that same period, the Russell 1000 Value Index .RLV is down just 7 percent.

That shift was cast into sharp relief last week after major revenue shortfalls reported by both Amazon and Alphabet triggered the largest drops in their stock prices in years. Nasdaq .IXIC, stacked with growth names from the tech sector in particular, is in a full-fledged correction – the term for a fall of at least 10 percent from the most recent peak.

Heading into the month, the gap in performance between the Russell’s growth and value indexes hit the widest level in at least 40 years. Previous instances of such a widening led to a comeback in value stocks, which include names such as JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), and has fueled rotation speculation.

“When the rotation started to go back the other way, sort of reversion to the mean, value went on to outperform growth for several years. It was a longstanding reversion-to-the-mean kind of a trade,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors, in New York.

The S&P 500 .SPX is now down about 9 percent from its Sept. 20 high, with some of the year’s best-performing and heavily weighted sectors, such as technology .SPLRCT and consumer discretionary .SPLRCD, contributing to the decline.

Both of those sectors have fallen for three straight weeks and include growth stocks such as Amazon, and Alphabet, leading some market participants to believe a full-blown rotation into value stocks is under way.

Technology accounts for a weighting of nearly 35 percent in the Russell 1000 growth index, followed by an 18.8 percent weighting in consumer discretionary, according to FTSERussell data.

Even with the recent downturn, growth stocks remain expensive on a forward price-to-earnings ratio basis, making the argument for value stocks more persuasive given investor concerns that have fueled the sell-off.

Steve DeSanctis, equity strategist at Jefferies in New York, said there are sound reasons to own value stocks now.

“We are starting to see earnings accelerate faster for value than for growth, and if GDP is going to be north of 3 percent, we should see a pretty good earnings backdrop,” DeSanctis said.

Third-quarter gross domestic product reported on Friday came in at a 3.5 percent annualized growth rate.

Still, questions remain over whether the shift to value will be a full rotation as the bull market enters its late-cycle stages, or merely a temporary defensive play during a selloff, similar to what happened earlier this year when the S&P 500 tumbled into correction territory in February.

One thing distinguishing the current environment from earlier this year is that the Federal Reserve seems more determined than previously to keep pressing interest rates higher, said Julian Emanuel, chief equity and derivatives strategist at BTIG, in New York. That has resulted in higher yields on U.S. Treasury securities.

“Investor psychology has shifted to the idea that long-term yields are rising. When that happens it’s an implicit negative for high-multiple stocks, which tend to reside in the growth category,” Emanuel said.

Along with the Fed’s raising rates, investor concerns have included a slowing China and a stronger dollar, which in turn hurts emerging markets and corporate earnings for large multinational companies.

“The Fed is saying we are moving ahead, steady rate hikes. That in the face of the weak global issues is what has people spooked and what has value outperforming,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell in New York.

Still, investors may be missing out on gains by moving too heavily into value now, should the pendulum swing back before the cycle starts to end.

Not all market participants are convinced the end is near for growth stocks.

“If you think value’s going to outperform, you’re thinking more at the end of the cycle,” said Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. “As far as consistent meaningful outperformance by value, that’s not going to happen until we’re halfway through the next recession.”

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak and Sinéad Carew; Editing by Leslie Adler

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METALS-Shanghai metal prices slide on report of fresh U.S. tariffs

 (Adds comment, updates prices) BEIJING, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Shanghai base metal prices fell
on Tuesday after a report that the United States is planning
potential tariffs on an additional $257 billion of Chinese
goods. Prices have been weighed down by tit-for-tat tariffs imposed
by the world's top two economies this year amid concerns the
trade row will hurt demand for industrial metals. "Falling inventories and rising premiums continue to
indicate the fundamentals remain positive for ... metals," ANZ
wrote in a note. "However, rumours of more U.S. tariffs on
Chinese goods triggered a sell-off." Any signs of weakening global economic growth from data out
this week "would see commodity markets come under further
pressure", the bank added. FUNDAMENTALS * LME COPPER: Three-month copper on the London Metal
Exchange had slipped 0.2 percent to $6,145 a tonne by
0338 GMT, having ended the previous session flat with support
from tumbling inventories. * COPPER PREMIUMS: The premium for the cash over the
three-month LME copper contract CMCU0-3 was last at $18.50 a
tonne, having hit a three-year high of $47 a tonne on Friday in
a sign of immediate market tightness. * SHFE COPPER: The most-traded December copper contract on
the Shanghai Futures Exchange had fallen by 0.2 percent
to 49,780 yuan ($7,144.09) a tonne by the end of the morning
session. * OTHER METALS: Zinc was hit hardest, dropping as much as
1.6 percent in London to a two-week low of $2,580.5 a
tonne. The metal used to galvanise steel also fell as much as
2.4 percent in Shanghai to 21,675 yuan a tonne, the
weakest since Oct. 9, as China's ferrous complex also moved
lower. * BHP: The world's biggest miner BHP Billiton has trimmed its expectations of global growth for next
year and 2020 due to a "lose-lose" result from the U.S.-China
trade conflict, a senior executive said on Tuesday. * COLUMN: Lead, the bull market no-one wants to buy into:
Andy Home. * For the top stories in metals and other news, click or MARKETS NEWS * Asian shares came under pressure on Tuesday with Chinese
markets and the yuan falling, hurt by fresh worries about the
intensifying Sino-U.S. trade war and tracking losses in Wall
Street indexes. DATA AHEAD (GMT) 0630 France Preliminary GDP Q3 0645 France Consumer spending Sep 0855 Germany Unemployment rate Oct 0900 Italy Preliminary GDP Q3 1000 Euro zone Preliminary GDP Q3 1000 Euro zone Business climate Oct 1000 Euro zone Consumer confidence final Oct 1300 U.S. S&P/Case-Shiller housing index Aug 1300 Germany Consumer prices Oct 1400 U.S. Consumer confidence Oct PRICES BASE METALS PRICES 0335 GMT Three month LME copper 6147 Most active ShFE copper 49780 Three month LME aluminium 1988 Most active ShFE aluminium 14110 Three month LME zinc 2606 Most active ShFE zinc 21895 Three month LME lead 1967.5 Most active ShFE lead 18405 Three month LME nickel 11845 Most active ShFE nickel 98860 Three month LME tin 19095 Most active ShFE tin 146180 BASE METALS ARBITRAGE LME/SHFE COPPER LMESHFCUc3 87.37 LME/SHFE ALUMINIUM LMESHFALc3 -1976.2 LME/SHFE ZINC LMESHFZNc3 184.49 LME/SHFE LEAD LMESHFPBc3 1634.39 LME/SHFE NICKEL LMESHFNIc3 2077.58 ($1 = 6.9680 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph
Radford) 

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The Democrat In One Of The Biggest Senate Races Barely Mentions Trump. The Republican Is Betting Her Whole Campaign On Him.

Leah Millis / Reuters

Trump and Blackburn during a rally at Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., May 29, 2018.

Republicans running statewide in Trump country are hugging the president close, making his obsessions their obsessions and happily turning their elections into referendums on the president. Democrats in those races often are fixated on localizing their campaigns, and trying to get voters past their party identification.

Nowhere is that as pronounced as in Tennessee.

Marsha Blackburn is running for Senate explicitly as a proxy for President Donald Trump. The conservative Republican is spending the final days of her campaign warning voters about a caravan of asylum-seeking Central American migrants headed for the US and about a cavalcade of Trump-hating liberals eager to take over Washington, DC.

The way Blackburn frames it, the only thing standing between her party and political catastrophe is this race.

If she doesn’t win the seat, she warns, Chuck Schumer could well wind up as Senate majority leader. “But let me tell you, I don’t think Tennesseans are going to be the state that hands the US Senate to the Democrats,” Blackburn said last week while visiting the Dixie Cafe, a popular gathering place in this small town six miles from the Kentucky border.

The race between Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen, a moderate former governor and Nashville mayor, is one of several Senate toss-ups at stake in next week’s midterm elections as Republicans cling to a one-seat majority in the chamber. Blackburn is counting on a nationalized message to carry her, even as Democrats’ chances of gaining control appear to be fading. “I’ve never thought it was likely,” Bredesen said of Democrats’ chances in an interview with BuzzFeed News, “and I think in the past month or two it’s become impossible.”

Blackburn mentioned Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader from New York, at least 11 times in her first debate with Bredesen last month. Trump, who staged a rally for her earlier this month, is expected to return to the state this weekend. And Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who emerged as one of the party’s top national surrogates after his spirited public defense of new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, campaigned for her Sunday in Nashville.

Bredesen, in contrast, is running a hyperlocal campaign, with the state’s opioid epidemic — and Blackburn’s cosponsorship of a House bill that weakened federal drug enforcement policies — a top issue. He hosted a party Saturday inside the club seating lounge at Nissan Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, to highlight his role in bringing professional football and hockey to Nashville two decades ago. About the only dose of national celebrity his campaign has indulged: an endorsement from Tennessean pop music icon Taylor Swift.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Trump and Blackburn during a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium, May 29, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Outgoing Sen. Bob Corker, a moderate Republican who isn’t shy about criticizing the president, is retiring, opting not to test voters’ loyalties in a state Trump won by 26 points. Bredesen, 74, rarely mentions Trump, and when he does, it’s usually to insist he will find ways to work with him if he goes to Washington. He is trying to turn back the clock, to a time when a pragmatic, mild-mannered Democrat could win statewide office (Bredesen was the last, 12 years ago). Blackburn, 66, is trying to plunge Tennessee deeper and irrevocably into Trumpism.

The strategy lines up with how Tennesseans think of the president. A CBS News/YouGov poll this month found 61% of the state’s voters approve of how Trump is handling his job, and that 44% of people who planned to vote this year said their vote would be in support of Trump. Only 26% of voters said they would vote in opposition to Trump, and 30% said their vote would not be about him.

“I am what you call a principled conservative,” Blackburn said during an interview with BuzzFeed News at the Dixie Cafe. “And what Tennesseans want to see is someone who is going to be there to support President Trump and somebody that is going to get things done that they want to see done: Securing the border, lowering taxes, lessening regulation, funding our military, honoring our veterans, reducing and doing something about the federal debt.”

Blackburn got to the point quickly while addressing a lunchtime crowd of 30, many of them digging into bowls of chili or nibbling on crinkle-cut fries.

“We know Tennesseans don’t want Dianne Feinstein as head of the Judiciary Committee,” Blackburn said, teeing up a list of Democrats loathed on the right and positioned for promotions if Republicans lose the Senate. “Elizabeth Warren would be chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Bernie Sanders would be chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Tennesseans would never go to the polls and vote for Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris.”

“We know Tennesseans don’t want Dianne Feinstein as head of the Judiciary Committee.”

She waved a thick stack of printed cards warning about such Republican doomsday scenarios on one side and bragging of the party’s accomplishments with Trump on the other.

“I’ve got some little handouts here, little palm cards,” Blackburn said. “I want y’all to take all these and pass them out, because we need every vote we can get. The media and the money is all with Phil Bredesen. But let me tell you something. The people, the policies, and the prayers? They’re with us. And we just really need your help to win this race.”

The Dixie customers channeled Trump, too.

“We said we don’t want no fake news here,” one elderly woman cracked to a local state legislator as she laughed and playfully gestured to the reporter interviewing him.

“Glad to have you,” she added hospitably before recommending the pie.

The lawmaker, Kelly Keisling, fumbled a bit when asked what issues would shape the Senate race. “I don’t know,” he replied. “There’d be a short list. I think it’s just we’re very conservative, and we’re anti-abortion. Again, there’s a shortlist.”

Others responded similarly, listing conservative judges and cultural conservative issues as their top priorities. No one mentioned the opioid crisis central to Bredesen’s campaign as a motivating issue. Overdose deaths from heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain medications have surged in Tennessee, one of the hardest-hit states. When asked about the epidemic specifically, voters at the Dixie treated it as more of a local problem that the next governor — not the next senator — will have to fix. “I don’t know that it’s a priority for local voters going to polls,” said John Keisling, the state lawmaker’s son.

Bredesen probably needs it to be.

He is hammering Blackburn for promoting a 2016 law favorable to the industry and a hindrance to Drug Enforcement Agency efforts to stop suspicious narcotics shipments, all while accepting campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. One Bredesen TV ad starred a former DEA agent featured last year in the joint 60 Minutes and Washington Post investigation that shed light on the law and on Blackburn’s role. A radio ad in heavy rotation last week urged listeners to look for the report online.

“If you want to see the swamp in action, here it is,” Bredesen told BuzzFeed News after speaking at a Saturday prayer breakfast in Memphis. “But it also is a much larger issue than that. It’s a serious issue in Tennessee in general, and it’s a really serious issue in the eastern part of the state — some of the more rural and poorer parts of the state.”

The confusing back-and-forth can also be swampy for voters trying to follow along. Blackburn deflects criticism by noting the bill passed without opposition and was signed by then-president Barack Obama. She also notes her support for tougher opioid legislation signed last week by Trump. The Bredesen team fires back that Blackburn was absent when a final version of that bill cleared the House. Her allies ask why Bredesen didn’t do more as governor to address the emerging problem.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Bredesen at a groundbreaking event for a new Tyson Foods chicken processing plant, May 30, 2018 in Humboldt, Tennessee.

At the prayer breakfast, a mostly black audience heard from spiritual leaders who vouched for Bredesen’s credentials. “He has a track record for saving our state money and improving our state on both a commercial and educational front,” the Rev. Kia Moore said. Another pastor took a shot at Blackburn on the opioids bill.

Bredesen, who prefers to steer clear of the daily national outrages that Trump helps nurse, looked slightly uncomfortable whenever a speaker bashed the president, tenting his hands together over his mouth as he sat at the head table.

“I’m not here to be against Donald Trump or for anybody or anything else,” he said in his remarks. “If the president is trying to do something that I think is good for Tennessee and Tennesseans, I need to be there with him to try and do something.”

Afterward, Bredesen assessed his candidacy in candid strategic terms.

The fact that a Senate majority looks far less likely “actually helps me tremendously,” he said. When asked if Blackburn’s nationalization of the race frustrated him, Bredesen indicated he wasn’t surprised, because his own polling showed that the “biggest negative I have … is that I’m a Democrat.” So what does it mean, to him, to be a Democrat? Bredesen talked about a “muscular party” focused more on the working-class before shrugging off his party affiliation as some incidental detail. (Corker, one of his Republican friends, had encouraged him to consider running as an independent, the New York Times reported last week.)

“I’m just sort of pushing the fact that I’m a Democrat as an attribute — it’s kind of like being tall or something else, tall or short.”

“I’m a guy who’s got a worldview … that worldview overlaps more with the Democratic Party than it does with the Republican Party, and that’s why I’m a Democrat,” Bredesen said. “But the overlap is not complete to the Democratic Party, and there’s some overlap with the Republican Party. So I’m just sort of pushing the fact that I’m a Democrat as an attribute — it’s kind of like being tall or something else, tall or short. It’s an attribute, not this sort of defining characteristic that says how I have to believe about every particular issue that’s out there.”

Blackburn isn’t buying it. Her campaign has been attacking Bredesen for saying that the approaching migrant caravan doesn’t pose a serious threat to the US. Last week, she called attention to video footage of a sympathetic encounter that Laura Zapata, Bredesen’s communications director, recently had with an undocumented immigrant. Blackburn mischaracterized the exchangewith help from the pro-Trump Breitbart News — as an offer to undocumented immigrants to work on the Bredesen campaign.

She also mocks Bredesen’s declaration that he would have supported Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination as a political calculation made only after Senate confirmation appeared solid. And she and her allies dismiss Bredesen’s pledge not to back Schumer for Democratic leader.

“I want to win big,” Graham, the South Carolina senator, said at Blackburn’s rally Sunday, alluding to the millions of dollars a group aligned with Schumer has spent on the Tennessee race. “I want even Chuck Schumer to know that he wasted his money.”

Graham’s presence helped create precisely the kind of national spectacle Blackburn wants her race to be. He was there to remind Republicans that Senate control delivered them two new Supreme Court justices, including Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct accusations that dominated TV news for weeks.

“If you’re a Republican,” Graham said, “between Kavanaugh and the caravan, if you’re not excited about voting, you’re legally dead.”

The event, held at a country music cabaret in Nashville, also drew protesters.

“Marsha Blackburn is a white supremacist!” a young woman — one of several hecklers forcibly removed from the venue after disrupting the rally — shouted two seconds into a moment of silence Blackburn asked for to remember the victims of Saturday’s deadly mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The demonstrations allowed Blackburn to latch onto another message Trump has been pushing as the midterm elections approach.

“This Sunday afternoon, the liberal angry mob made it clear they are active in Tennessee and will stop at nothing to disrupt civil political discourse,” she said in a statement her campaign issued after the rally. “They yelled ‘Impeach Trump.’ They kicked. They punched. They resisted law enforcement, and they interrupted a moment of silence for the victims in Pittsburgh. Never in my life have I heard of people interrupting a moment of silence. Phil Bredesen is their leader, and their behavior is despicable.”

The Bredesen campaign responded by calling the protests “a shame” while also accusing Blackburn staffers of disrupting his events.

Trump may get the last word. He’s due back in Tennessee on Nov. 4 — two days before Election Day — for a rally in Chattanooga, according to Axios. Details of the event had not been finalized Sunday afternoon, but local reporters peppered Blackburn with questions about what was then a rumored visit.

“Anytime the president wants to land Air Force One in Tennessee,” Blackburn said with a knowing smile, “I’ll welcome him.”

Death of chairman adds to King Power uncertainty as Thai duty-free changes loom

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The death of Leicester City soccer club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha adds to challenges his King Power International empire faces as its dominance of the lucrative Thai duty-free industry comes under scrutiny.

A man lays flowers in front of King Power’s head office, after the company’s owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four other people died in a helicopter crash in England, Bangkok, Thailand October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Vichai, the founder of King Power, was killed on Saturday along with four others when his helicopter crashed and exploded outside the King Power Stadium in the central England city after a Premier League match.

His death comes just weeks before Thailand plans to hold an auction for its duty-free and commercial concessions, threatening to end King Power’s near monopoly of the sector.

State-owned Airports of Thailand Pcl (AOT), which grants the concessions, may consider awarding licenses to multiple operators, analysts said. Unlisted King Power currently controls more than 90 percent of Thailand’s duty-free market, being a sole operator with concessions in all major airports in the country until 2020.

AOT also plans to expand Bangkok’s main airport, which will increase commercial and duty free space up for auction by around 70 percent, increasing competition among retailers.

Tourism is booming in Thailand, which received nearly 35 million visitors last year, most funneled through the airports where King Power is ubiquitous. But public debate has increased over the single duty-free operator structure.

“If there is more competition from others and this new generation of leadership (at King Power) is not as effective as Vichai’s generation, then there could be changes (in the way the licenses are granted),” a senior government official told Reuters, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the subject.

“AOT has not been convincing enough in defending this model so it will be a tough sell for them to come up with a bidding terms or process that limits competition.”

AOT, which has said the current system is important to provide continuity, declined to comment on the bidding process.

“(King Power) has a successful history in duty free retailing and the travel industry, now the question is how effective King Power can be in engaging the government other stakeholders without Vichai’s leadership, especially in upcoming auction for concessions in Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Samut Prakan,” said Nattabhorn Juengsanguansit, Director at Asia Group Advisors, a government affairs consultancy.

“Winning the upcoming bid is crucial for King Power’s business and the future of Leicester football club.”

Retail rivals including Central Group, the Mall Group and South Korea’s Hotel Shilla are interested in bidding, analysts said.

The companies declined to comment.

SUCCESSOR

While it is not immediately clear who will take over from Vichai, analysts and sources say Aiyawatt, Vichai’s youngest son and chief executive officer of King Power, and his widow Aimon are most likely to run the family business. Aiyawatt’s nickname is Top.

“Top has been his father’s apprentice for more than 10 years so he must have learnt a lot of his trade,” said a politician who has close ties with the Srivaddhanaprabha family.

King Power declined to comment on who will succeed Vichai as group chairman. Vichai’s four children and his wife are part of the executive team of the company.

A descendant of Chinese immigrants, Vichai founded what became the King Power empire in 1989 with a store in Bangkok selling duty free goods and souvenirs.

His business took off in 2006 when it was granted a concession at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport under the government of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Even after Thaksin’s ouster that year, Vichai’s close relationship with the royal family and a knack for winning people over helped King Power navigate political turmoil. Vichai became the country’s fifth-richest person with an estimated net worth of nearly $5 billion.

For the group, which has been expanding into sports, winning the upcoming duty-free license auction has become more crucial to get steady cash flow and fund heavy investments to acquire athletes and managing staff.

It bought Leicester City in 2010 and also owns Belgian soccer club Oud-Heverlee Leuven.

While Vichai has been public face of Leicester City, he entrusted the task of running the team to Top, his 32-year-old son.

Top admitted he made some big mistakes while managing the team, but also learned from them.

“If I didn’t make those mistakes, I wouldn’t be here,” he told a TEDx Talk show in 2016, referring to his decision to fire three team managers and buy expensive players who did not perform well.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Top said the team’s failure to get promoted to the Premier League in 2012/13 season was “torture” but three years later, Leicester City beat odds of 5,000/1 to win the Premier League title.

Whether he can hit a similar jackpot with the group’s duty-free business remains to be seen.

“I don’t know how good Vichai’s son is,” the senior government official said. “If he is as skilful as his father then there is no problem, but we simply do not know.”

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng, Panu Wongcha-um, and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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UPDATE 1-Indonesia hunts for victims, wreckage of air crash; survivors seen unlikely

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia on Tuesday stepped up a search for an airliner that plunged into the sea with all 189 aboard feared dead, deploying underwater beacons to trace its black box recorders and uncover why an almost-new plane crashed minutes after take-off.

Rescue team members prepare to dive at the location where Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the sea, in the north coast of Karawang regency, West Java province Indonesia, October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia, one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, has a patchy safety record. With the now almost certain prospect of all on board having died, the crash is set to rank as the country’s second-worst air disaster.

Ground staff lost contact with flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air 13 minutes after the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft took off early on Monday from the airport in Jakarta, the capital, on its way to Indonesia’s tin-mining region.

“Hopefully this morning we can find the wreckage or fuselage,” Soerjanto Tjahjono, the head of a national transport safety panel, told Reuters, adding that an underwater acoustic beacon was deployed to locate the main body of the plane.

The search and rescue agency added that four sonar detectors were also being used in areas where aircraft debris was found a day earlier off the shore of Karawang, West Java, and 15 vessels were scouring the sea surface.

A helicopter circled over five rubber boats carrying about 36 rescuers, as some donned rubber suits, readying to dive.

Earlier, however, Yusuf Latif, the spokesman of the national search and rescue agency, had said finding survivors “would be a miracle”, judging by the condition of the recovered debris and body parts.

In a statement, Lion Air said human remains were collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the site of the crash, in waters about 30 to 35 meters (98 to 115 ft) deep roughly 15 km (nine miles) off the coast to the northeast of Jakarta.

The bags were taken to a hospital for identification, with more expected overnight, authorities told broadcaster Metro TV.

On tarpaulins at Jakarta’s port, officers laid out items retrieved from the sea, ranging from oxygen bottles to personal effects such as wallets, a mobile telephone, cash and backpacks.

Although searchers halted efforts overnight, sonar vessels and an underwater drone kept up the hunt for the wreckage, where many victims were feared trapped, officials said.

A witness in Karawang said he had heard an explosion from the beach around the time the aircraft went down.

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“I thought it was thunder, but it was different from thunder – ‘Boom!’ – It was loud,” said Dadang Hambali.

On Monday, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Boeing Co (BA.N) said they were providing assistance in the crash investigation.

(For details of search, crash inquiry, please click on)

The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer’s workhorse single-aisle jet.

Privately owned Lion Air, founded in 1999, said the aircraft, which had been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having amassed 11,000 hours of flying time.

The pilot of flight JT610, which was bound for Pangkal Pinang in the Bangka-Belitung tin-mining region, had asked to return to base (RTB) shortly after take-off about 6.20 a.m., with landing set for 7.20 a.m. in the city of Pangkal Pinang.

“An RTB was requested and had been approved but we’re still trying to figure out the reason,” Tjahjono told reporters on Monday.

No distress signal was received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter, search and rescue agency head Muhmmad Syaugi told a news conference.

The aircraft suffered a technical problem on a flight from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta on Sunday night but it was “resolved according to procedure”, Edward Sirait, chief executive of Lion Air Group, told reporters.

Sirait declined to specify the nature of the issue but said none of the airline’s other aircraft of that model had the same problem. Lion had operated 11 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and it had no plan to ground the rest of them, he said.

Indonesia’s worst air disaster was in 1997, when a Garuda Indonesia A300 crashed in the city of Medan, killing 234 people.

Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Gayatri Suroyo, Fransiska Nangoy, Fanny Potkin and Fathin Ungku in JAKARTA, Tabita Diela in PANGKAL PINANG, Fergus Jensen in PAKISJAYA, Jamie Freed in SINGAPORE and Tim Hepher in HONG KONG; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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CORRECTED-GLOBAL MARKETS-Asian stocks fragile as U.S.-China trade tensions escalate

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares came under pressure on Tuesday with Chinese markets and the yuan falling, hurt by fresh worries about the intensifying Sino-U.S. trade war and tracking losses in Wall Street indexes.

FILE PHOTO – A pedestrian stands to look at an electronic board showing the stock market indices of various countries outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged down 0.3 percent. The index has declined more than 12 percent this month and is on track for its biggest October decline since 2008, the year of the global financial crisis.

Shanghai shares .SSEC fell 0.6 percent in early trade while Japan’s Nikkei average .N225 rose 0.7 percent, clawing back earlier losses in a volatile session.

Major U.S. indices fell steeply after a Bloomberg report that the United States is preparing to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports by early December if talks next month between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping falter.

The CBOE Global Markets volatility index .VIX, known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge”, jumped to as much as 27.86 points, its highest since Oct. 11 and the second highest since the volatility shock of early February.

“The probability of global stocks turning to a bear market is increasing,” said Masanari Takada, cross-assets strategist at Nomura Securities.

“While some investors who look at fundamentals buy stocks on dips, there are other players who keep selling automatically in response to heightened volatility. Buyers will be overwhelmed if we have negative headlines on tariffs at time like this.”

China’s yuan slipped further to near two-year lows in offshore trade after the central bank set its official yuan midpoint at the lowest fixing in more than a decade.

In the onshore trade, the yuan slipped 0.1 percent to 6.9698 per dollar CNY=CFXS, hitting a 10-year low, stirring speculation over whether the central bank will tolerate a slide beyond the key level of 7 per dollar.

The dollar index .DXY edged higher and was just below its 10-week high it hit on Friday. The index gained on a decline in the euro after news German Chancellor Angela Merkel would not seek re-election as head of her CDU party.

Merkel said she would not seek re-election as party chairwoman, heralding the end of a 13-year era in which she has dominated European politics.

Oil prices edged lower overnight after Russia signaled that output will remain high and as concern over the global economy fueled worries about demand for crude. [O/R]

The West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 and Brent crude futures LCOc1 last traded at $66.87 and $76.92 a barrel, respectively.

(This story corrects to clarify yuan hit two-year low in offshore trade in paragraph 8 and a 10-year low in onshore trade in paragraph 9)

Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Sam Holmes

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