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Ukraine tycoon crows ‘I won’ after PrivatBank nationalization ruled illegal

FILE PHOTO: Women use PrivatBank ATM machines in Kiev, Ukraine
FILE PHOTO: Women use PrivatBank ATM machines in Kiev, Ukraine November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

April 18, 2019

By Polina Ivanova and Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian tycoon Ihor Kolomoisky won a major victory on Thursday in his battle with the government over the nationalization of the country’s largest bank as a court ruled the change of ownership was illegal.

The ruling is a big setback for the government, which wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky, a co-founder of the bank, in December 2016.

PrivatBank was nationalized as part of an clean-up of the banking system backed by the International Monetary Fund, which supports Ukraine with a $3.9 billion loan program.

Ukraine’s dollar-denominated Ukraine bonds fell more than 1 percent after the ruling by a Kiev court as President Petro Poroshenko said in a televised address that overturning nationalization threatened “default and a new economic crisis.”

He has previously said that any backsliding on PrivatBank would spark a “deep crisis in relations with the IMF.”

The central bank said it was impossible to reverse the nationalization and it would appeal against the ruling.

After taking over the bank the government had said it wanted to recover money it says was siphoned out while Kolomoisky owned it. It has shored up the lender with billions of dollars since it was nationalized.

Kolomoisky denies any wrongdoing and says the bank was forcibly nationalized without proper justification.

“That means I won. I won the lawsuit,” Kolomoisky said after Reuters told him the news of the court’s decision, which was announced while Reuters was conducting a phone interview with him. “Well, excellent,” he added.

Kiev’s Western backers in a coordinated statement said they were “closely monitoring” the situation and that it was important for the authorities to continue efforts to recover losses from former owners and related parties of failed banks.

The fate of PrivatBank has also loomed over Ukraine’s ongoing presidential election campaign.

Kolomoisky has publicly supported the candidacy of Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the frontrunner to beat the incumbent Poroshenko at an election run-off this Sunday. Zelenskiy has repeatedly denied that he would seek to hand PrivatBank back to Kolomoisky if elected.

Thursday’s ruling could boost Kolomoisky’s chances of winning compensation or retrieving the bank.

The finance ministry also said it would appeal the ruling. Kolomoisky suggested that instead the central bank should admit defeat and “submit a confession about how they did everything unlawfully.”

“I don’t call it a nationalization, I call it an expropriation because people receive compensation after a nationalization. They don’t receive anything after an expropriation. And we didn’t receive anything. So I want a legal assessment,” he added.

BLOW TO IMAGE

The authorities have spent nearly $6 billion since the nationalization to plug a hole in PrivatBank’s balance sheet, caused by what the government says were fraudulent lending practices and money laundering.

Kolomoisky disputes that assessment of the bank’s health when it was nationalized. The case led to hundreds of lawsuits and the authorities see it as a test of their fight against corruption.

Deputy Central Bank Governor Kateryna Rozhkova told a briefing she saw no grounds for PrivatBank’s former owners to be compensated.

“Our international partners do not accept this decision and do not understand the arguments of the court,” she said, adding that she expected the current central bank’s leadership to stay in place after the election.

Lawsuits challenging the nationalization of PrivatBank “deal irreversible damage to Ukraine’s international image,” the central bank said in a separate written statement.

The finance ministry said it had followed the law in nationalizing PrivatBank and said making sure banks met capital requirements “is crucial for ensuring the stability of the banking system and supporting public confidence.”

Zelenskiy, a 41-year-old comedian with no prior political experience, has had to fend off accusations from Poroshenko that he is a puppet of Kolomoisky, whose TV channel airs Zelenskiy’s shows. Zelenskiy insists his relationship with Kolomoisky is strictly professional.

“All this just underscores that the biggest risk of the Zelenskiy presidency is the relationship with former oligarch Kolomoisky and the unresolved issue of PrivatBank,” said Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management after Thursday’s court ruling.

“Indeed, whether or not he gets the bank back, he is still being pursued for the losses which the state had to cover in the bank resulting from the nationalization.”

Zelenskiy’s campaign sought to make political capital out of Thursday’s ruling, pointing to the fact that it had happened while Poroshenko was still in charge of the country.

“This is Poroshenko’s judicial reform in action,” it said in a statement on Facebook. “Instead of defending the interests of the state, the NBU (central bank) loses the court decision on PrivatBank. One question: so who is a puppet of Kolomoisky?”

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova, Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk; writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Source: OANN

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Nets player: Embiid’s laughing apology over elbow ‘disrespectful’

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Apr 15, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) warms up before game two of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets at Wells Fargo Center. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

April 18, 2019

Some Brooklyn Nets players are unhappy with the laughing apology given by Philadelphia center Joel Embiid over the elbow he delivered in Game 2, calling it “disrespectful.”

Embiid was whistled for a Flagrant 1 foul after a vicious elbow that caught the jaw of Brooklyn’s Jarrett Allen during the 76ers’ victory. Embiid apologized for the elbow during the postgame press conference but broke into laughter with teammate Ben Simmons doing it.

“We didn’t really like that,” Nets guard Caris LeVert said Wednesday. “We thought that was kind of disrespectful, especially after the elbow he threw. There’s no love lost. It’s a playoff series. We expect that.”

Embiid said Simmons laughed because “I’m not usually humble,” an explanation accepted by the Nets’ Jared Dudley as Embiid being a “silly guy.” However, Dudley didn’t full excuse it.

“I felt a certain type of way for it just because you’re laughing and someone could have really gotten hurt,” Dudley said. “That’s been Embiid’s personality, but just because it’s your personality doesn’t mean it’s right. So, for us, you can either get even however you want to do it, but the biggest thing for us to get even is winning Game 3.”

Game 3 is Thursday night in Brooklyn with the series tied 1-1.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

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Explainer: Betting on the past? Europe decides on connected car standards

FILE PHOTO: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess address a news conference in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Volkswagen in Berlin, Germany February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

April 18, 2019

By Douglas Busvine

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Commission’s push to implement a Wi-Fi standard for connected cars has won the support of lawmakers in a victory for Germany’s Volkswagen, although competitor BMW and other backers of a rival technology still hope to overturn the decision.

Advocates of the alternative C-V2X standard – which stands for Cellular Vehicle to Everything – say their technology is already viable and will only improve as next-generation 5G mobile networks are rolled out.

The apparently dry debate over acronyms has divided the car and telecoms industries and will influence which continent ends up dominating automated driving technologies that promise to be safer than people behind the wheel.

There are around 25,000 annual road fatalities in the EU and another 135,000 serious injuries. The Commission wants to halve both by 2030 as part of a long-term ‘Vision Zero’ goal to virtually eliminate them by 2050.

China, the world’s biggest car market, is already pressing ahead with C-V2X, which is designed to work with 5G but is incompatible with Wi-Fi. Ford will deploy C-V2X there in 2021 and has committed to install it in all its new cars and trucks in the United States from 2022.

The European Council, the intergovernmental part of the EU’s decision-making process, is due to take a decision by mid-May.

Here’s an explainer of what’s at stake and how the process is likely to play out:

WHAT IS THE COMMISSION PROPOSING AND WHO BACKS IT?

The European Commission has proposed a legal act to regulate so-called ‘Cooperative-Intelligent Transport Systems’ (C-ITS). This backs the ITS-G5 Wi-Fi standard that has already been adopted by much of the auto industry and is already certified.

The most prominent supporter of ITS-G5 is Volkswagen, which says it will start fitting the Wi-Fi technology to vehicles this year.

VW argues that viable C-V2X technology is years away, while Commission researchers could not find any commercially available C-V2X gear to test, according to a document seen by Reuters.

Also backing ITS-G5 are Renault, Toyota, VW truck units MAN and Scania, chip maker NXP, road-toll company Kapsch and technical standards umbrella group VdTueV.

WHY DO OTHER AUTO MAKERS AND TELECOMS PREFER 5G?

Supporters of C-V2X have grown rapidly in number since eight companies – Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ericsson ERICb.ST>, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm – founded an alliance in 2016.

The group, the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), now counts more than 100 members who argue that C-V2X is better than Wi-Fi in terms of security, reliability, range and reaction time.

5G advocates object to a review process foreseen by the Commission that would allow other technologies to be admitted later to C-ITS, once certified. They say such interoperability is impossible because Wi-Fi and cellular radio technologies are incompatible.

“It’s like putting a DVD into a VHS player and trying to make it work,” Mats Granryd, head of the GSMA telecoms industry group, wrote in a letter to EU lawmakers this week.

WHICH IS THE BETTER TECHNOLOGY?

Participants in the debate agree that C-V2X running on 5G networks will be the better technology – even Volkswagen is a member of the 5GAA – but they differ on when it will be ready for prime time.

C-V2X could, for example, help a connected car spot a person on foot carrying a smartphone before the driver does, making it possible for automated systems to hit the brakes and alert the pedestrian to the danger – a potential lifesaver.

Wi-Fi is cheaper, because 5G operators would charge for data. On the other hand, regulated mobile networks would likely be safer, says independent technology analyst Richard Windsor: “Would you trust your vehicle to be driven by a home router?” he asked.

Other markets led by China are meanwhile pressing ahead with C-V2X, potentially burdening European auto makers with the expense of developing and installing different systems in cars for the home market and for export.

WHO’S LIKELY TO PREVAIL IN THE END?

European lawmakers passed the Commission’s legal act by a narrow majority on Wednesday and the matter now goes before the European Council.

Here, opponents of the Commission’s proposal would need the backing of a so-called qualified majority of the EU’s 28 member states – 16 countries representing 65 percent of its population – to block it.

That will be a tall order, but 5G backers are hoping that a skeptical opinion expressed by the Commission’s own legal advisory team will bolster their case, say sources. A Council working party meets again on May 3 and May 10 to review that advice.

The government of EU heavyweight Germany says it has taken note of those reservations and has yet to make up its mind. A decision in the Council is due by May 13, although the review period may be extended.

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Kirsten Donovan)

Source: OANN

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South Africa’s Shoprite cuts chairman Wiese’s voting influence

FILE PHOTO: Shoppers leave the Shoprite store in Daveyton
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers leave the Shoprite store in Daveyton, South Africa May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

April 18, 2019

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African grocer Shoprite is to buy back deferred shares held by its chairman Christo Wiese to simplify its voting structure but substantially curbing Wiese’s influence in the company he helped turn into an African powerhouse.

Besides ordinary shares, Shoprite’s capital structure includes deferred shares which carry about 32.3 percent of the voting rights at Shoprite. The deferred shares are held by Weise’s investment vehicle, Thibault Square Financial Services Proprietary Ltd.

Under the deal, Titan – another one of Wiese’s entities – will receive 20 million new ordinary shares from Shoprite, in exchange for deferred shares which Shoprite will buy for 265,000 rand ($18,836.41) and cancel, the retailer said in a statement.

The proposed deal will see Wiese’s voting interest reduced to 17.8 percent from 42.3 percent, while his direct shareholding will increase to 17.8 percent from 14.8 percent, Shoprite said.

Following the issuance of the new shares, the total voting interest of minority shareholders will increase from nearly 60 percent to more than 80 percent, while their shareholding will be diluted by 3.5 percent, it added.

Wiese has been instrumental in Shoprite’s transformation from just six outlets in South Africa in the 1970s to 2,800 shops across Africa, dwarfing rivals including Walmart Inc’s South African unit Massmart.

Shoprite, which also sells furniture and medicine, said the deal is expected to result in a potential once-off reduction in earnings and headline earnings of 3.3 billion rand, based on a 30-day-volume-weighted-average price of 165.35 rand per share as at April 17.

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Source: OANN

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Trump declares victory as Mueller report drops: ‘No collusion, no obstruction’

President Trump and his legal team declared victory Thursday as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report was released -- with the president repeating his "no collusion" mantra and saying “this should never happen to another president again.”

“I’m having a good day, too, it’s called ‘no collusion, no obstruction,’” he said in remarks for the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride, at the White House. “There never was by the way, and there never will be.”

READ THE ROBERT MUELLER REPORT

“This should never happen to another president again, this hoax, it should never happen to another president again,” he added.

He also promised “to get to the bottom of these things,” hinting at calls for the origins of the two-year investigation to be reviewed.

Mueller’s report dropped at 11 a.m., spanning over 400 pages. Attorney General William Barr, who had issued a four-page summary of its findings last month, held a press conference Thursday morning and repeated his conclusions that the investigation found no evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials in the 2016 presidential election.

The report itself said: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

As for allegations of obstruction of justice, the report recounts 10 episodes involving Trump and, Barr said, “discusses potential legal theories for connecting these actions to elements of an obstruction offense.” But Barr said the White House “fully cooperated” with the investigation, and that he concluded that the evidence is not sufficient to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense by Trump.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly declared victory even as Democrats have indicated that they intend to continue their own investigations, and are seeking to question Mueller and to challenge the decision by the Department of Justice to redact parts of the report.

EX-FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR ON MUELLER REPORT: 'WE NEED TO TAKE A LOOK AT HOW THIS STARTED'

Trump himself tweeted that it was “game over” for his political opponents on Thursday, while his legal team issued a lengthy statement, describing the report as a “total victory for the President.”

“The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning -- there was no collusion -- there was no obstruction. After a 17-month investigation, testimony from some 500 witnesses, the issuance of 2,800 subpoenas, the execution of nearly 500 search warrants, early morning raids, the examination of more than 1.4 million pages of documents, and the unprecedented cooperation of the President, it is clear there was no criminal wrongdoing," the statement said.

"This vindication of the President is an important step forward for the country and a strong reminder that this type of abuse must never be permitted to occur again," it said.

CLICK TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Rudy Giuliani, one of the members of that team, appeared on "America's Newsroom" and brushed off questions about obstruction, saying that "the big victory is no collusion with the Russians."

“You’re not going to find a darn thing [in the report] that President Trump or anyone on his campaign had anything to do with whatever the Russians were doing," he said.

Fox News' Shannon Bream contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News Politics

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Zoom starts trading at $65 per share, 80 percent above IPO price

Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Communications takes part in a bell ringing ceremony at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York
Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Communications takes part in a bell ringing ceremony at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York, New York, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

April 18, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Video conferencing company Zoom Video Communications opened at $65 per share on Thursday, 80.6 percent above its initial public offering price, in its debut on the Nasdaq.

Zoom priced its IPO on Wednesday at $36 per share, above its target range of $33-$35 per share.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak and Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

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AG Barr seemed more like counselor to Trump than attorney general, was ‘making a case for the president:’ Chris Wallace

Attorney General William Barr’s statements to the press before the redacted Mueller report on the Russia investigation was released to the public made him appear as though he was a counselor to the president rather the attorney general, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Thursday.

Barr offered a staunch defense of President Trump on Thursday morning during the press conference where he previewed the report’s findings and explained why he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded that the president had not obstructed justice.

READ THE ROBERT MUELLER REPORT

He also said it was important to consider the “context” for Trump’s actions during the past two years.

“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office and the conduct of some of his associates,” Barr said. “At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion.”

WATCH: AG BARR SPARS WITH A REPORTER DURING NEWS CONFERENCE AHEAD OF MUELLER REPORT RELEASE

Reacting to the news conference, Wallace told "America's Newsroom" Barr "seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president."

"The Attorney General seemed almost to be acting as the counselor for the defense, the counselor for the president, rather than the attorney general, talking about his motives, talking about his anger, his feeling that this was unfair," he told anchors Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith. “Really, as I say, making a case for the president.”

Wallace went on to say that Democrats will come down hard on the portions regarding obstruction laid out in the report.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

The Department of Justice released the redacted report to lawmakers and the public soon after the press conference.

Source: Fox News Politics

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The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. building at 1 Wall St. is seen in New York's financial district
FILE PHOTO: The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. building at 1 Wall St. is seen in New York’s financial district March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

April 17, 2019

(Reuters) – Bank of New York Mellon Corp missed analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit on Wednesday, as lower client activity and a fall in assets under management pressured fee revenue.

A 9 percent drop in fee revenue to $3.03 billion pulled down overall revenue by 6.7 percent to $3.90 billion.

Asset servicing revenue fell 7.4 percent to $1.41 billion, while asset management revenue plummeted 17 percent to $637 million, the company said.

BNY blamed asset under management outflows and lower client activity for a decline in its fee revenue.

The bank said net income applicable to common shareholders fell to $910 million, or 94 cents per share, in the first quarter ended March 31, from $1.14 billion, or $1.10 per share, a year earlier. (https://reut.rs/2ZlhuuP)

Analysts were expecting earnings of 96 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“While the current expectations for the yield curve will likely negatively impact our revenue growth for the next several quarters, we will remain disciplined on expenses..,” said Chief Executive Officer Charlie Scharf.

The New York-based custodian bank said it incurred provisions for credit losses of $7 million due to the bankruptcy of a California utility.

(Reporting by Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Shailesh Kuber)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Former Peruvian president Alan Garcia talks to the media as he arrives at the National Prosecution office in Lima
FILE PHOTO: Former Peruvian president Alan Garcia talks to the media as he arrives at the National Prosecution office in Lima, Peru March 27, 2018. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo/File Photo

April 18, 2019

By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – Alan Garcia was the charismatic chameleon of Peruvian politics, once popular enough to be elected president twice. But his terms were filled with ups and downs and he eventually became caught up in the Odebrecht bribery scandal that rocked Latin America.

Garcia, 69, fatally shot himself in the head on Wednesday at his home in Lima as police waited in another room to arrest him in the Odebrecht case, which has ensnared three other former Peruvian presidents.

Garcia had denied the corruption allegations that had long dogged him until the end, saying he was victim of political persecution.

“Others might sell out, not me,” he told journalists in some of his last public comments on Tuesday, repeating a phrase he used often as his foes became ensnared in the bribery investigation into Brazilian builder Odebrecht in recent years.

The son of an accountant and a schoolteacher, Garcia became one of Latin America’s greatest orators and governed Peru as a firebrand leftist from 1985-1990. He remade himself as a champion of foreign investment and free trade to win another five-year term in 2006.

Garcia benefited from his family’s connections with Victor Raul Haya de La Torre, the founder of Apra, which was once Peru’s largest and most powerful political party.

After earning a law degree in Lima and studying political science in Madrid, he won a seat in Congress and in 1985 became Apra’s first president at age 36. He had promised to bring historically excluded Peruvians into the political fold and extend the country’s vast minerals wealth to the millions who lived in desperate poverty.

He once enjoyed tremendous support – near 90 percent at his height – and was touted as Peru’s John F. Kennedy.

But the popularity soon began to crack. In June 1986, security forces killed hundreds of rioting guerrilla inmates in Lima jails, putting in doubt Garcia’s reputation as a defender of human rights.

His approval sank further when he tried to nationalize banks in 1987 and refused to pay foreign debt, alienating the business class and sparking a deep recession.

The end of his term was marred by an escalating war with Shining Path guerrillas, hyperinflation surpassing 2,000,000 percent and accusations of widespread corruption.

In July 1990, he left office in disgrace.

A SECOND CHANCE

Garcia was down but not out.

After spending nine years abroad to avoid corruption probes, he eventually returned to Peru and charmed his way back into politics by convincing voters he had returned older and wiser.

He ran and lost the 2001 presidency but succeeded in re-creating his image. This time, Garcia promised, he would avoid of the mistakes of his first presidency and would control spending, attract investment and handle insurgent rebels with a heavy hand.

In 2006, Garcia again ran for the presidency and eked out a win, defeating Ollanta Humala, who had spooked investors and was closely connected in many voters’ minds with the socialist politics of Venezuela’s late former president Hugo Chavez.

In his second term, a visibly pudgier Garcia oversaw explosive economic growth. He brought billions of dollars of mining and energy investment to Peru and is credited with opening its economy to the world.

The country became a darling of global investors under his watch but his popularity continued to sink after he left office in 2011, in part due to thousands of pardons his government granted to drug traffickers in his second term.

Garcia, who had six adult children, ran for president again in 2016 but came in a distant fifth in a race of 10. He resigned as president of Apra and urged members to revamp the party without him.

Garcia was one of nine people whom a judge had ordered arrested in connection with the bribery investigation into Odebrecht on Wednesday. But he shot himself after police arrived to arrest him and died at a hospital hours later.

President Martin Vizcarra, who Garcia had accused of trying to silence him, ordered Peru’s flags to be flown at half staff.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; Editing by Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Bank Hapoalim, Israel's biggest bank, is seen at their main branch in Tel Aviv, Israel
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s biggest bank, is seen at their main branch in Tel Aviv, Israel July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

April 15, 2019

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Bank Hapoalim CEO Arik Pinto will step down when his term is up at the end of the year, Israel’s largest lender said on Monday.

Moroccan-born Pinto will retire after 40 years at the bank, including the last four when he served as CEO.

“I never thought I would work at a bank for 40 straight years and I feel this is the right time for me to look back with pride and satisfaction and fulfill additional dreams and challenges in the future,” Pinto said.

In the past few years Hapoalim has been embroiled in an U.S. tax evasion investigation regarding its clients and has set aside more than $600 million to cover a potential settlement.

“I plan to do everything in my power to bring an end to this and reach a settlement before I finish my term,” said Pinto, who has been dealing with the matter from the beginning of his term as CEO.

Two other banks, Leumi and Mizrahi Tefahot, have reached settlements with U.S. authorities.

Last week Hapoalim sold 65.2 percent of Isracard, the country’s largest credit card company, for 1.8 billion shekels ($506 million) in an initial public offering.

This followed the passing of a law in 2017 requiring Hapoalim and Leumi to sell their credit card units by 2020 in a bid to reduce concentration in the lending market and lower credit costs.

(Reporting by Tova Cohen; Editing by Steven Scheer and Louise Heavens)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

April 17, 2019

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Labor markets remained tight across the United States as businesses struggled to find skilled workers and wages grew modestly, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday in its latest report on the economy.

The U.S. central bank’s “Beige Book” report, a glimpse of the economy based on conversations with business contacts across all 12 of the Fed’s districts, found economic activity grew at a slight-to-moderate pace in March and early April. A few districts reported some strengthening in economic growth.

Prices have risen modestly since the last Beige Book, with tariffs, freight costs and rising wages often cited as key factors, the Fed said. It added that consumer spending was mixed but suggested sluggish sales for both general retailers and auto dealers.

Wages grew moderately in most districts for both skilled and unskilled workers, with only three reporting slight growth in workers’ pay, the Fed said.

Businesses in most districts reported shortages of skilled workers, mainly in manufacturing and construction, but also in technical and professional roles. Companies have responded to the tight labor market by boosting bonuses and benefits packages, along with raising wages moderately, according to the report.

Employment increases were most highly concentrated in highly-skilled jobs.

In terms of the manufacturing sector, the Fed said contacts in many districts reported that trade-related uncertainty was weighing on activity.

Several Fed districts said flooding and severe weather in the Midwest was affecting agricultural production. The Kansas City Fed reported that recent blizzards and flooding could weigh on the farming sector in the coming months, as it had resulted in damaged infrastructure and losses of cattle and crops.

The impact of the 35-day U.S. government shutdown that began in late December appeared muted. The Richmond Fed reported a few federal contractors saw business starting to return to normal and the San Francisco Fed saw higher-than-expected retail sales once the government reopened.

The Fed held interest rates steady at its last policy meeting in March, sticking with the “patient” approach adopted by policymakers in January, given little sign of rising inflation and the growing concerns about trade tensions and slowing global growth.

The Beige Book gives the Fed a sense of what central bank officials are hearing in their own districts, which in turn could inform their thinking when it comes to the economy and the Fed’s stance on rates.

The latest Beige Book was prepared by the St. Louis Fed based on information collected on or before April 8, 2019.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder Editing by Paul Simao) ((Pete.Schroeder@thomsonreuters.com; 202-310-5485)

Source: OANN

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a press conference standing next to the calligraphy 'Reiwa' which was chosen as the new era name at the prime minister's office in Tokyo
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a press conference standing next to the calligraphy ‘Reiwa’ which was chosen as the new era name at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, April 1, 2019. Franck Robichon/Pool via Reuters

April 17, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House on April 26, a month ahead of Trump’s planned visit to Tokyo in late May, an administration official said on Thursday.

Trade and U.S.-led efforts to contain North Korea’s nuclear program are likely to be high on the agenda for the meeting.

Abe is one of Trump’s closest allies on the world stage. Japan was the first stop on the president’s November 2017 Asia tour and the two leaders played golf there.

A similar golf outing could be in the offing for Abe’s visit to Washington.

Trump is planning to visit Tokyo in late May to greet Crown Prince Naruhito, who will become emperor on May 1, a day after the abdication of his father, Emperor Akihito.

That visit could include a Trump-Abe visit to a sumo championship.

The White House declined to comment.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN



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