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Category: topSource: bizjournalsNov 20th, 2023

Every single celebrity who has been revealed on "The Masked Singer"

The 10th season of "The Masked Singer" kicked off in September. Demi Lovato, Tom Sandoval, and more stars have been unmasked. Tom Sandoval on season 10 of "The Masked Singer."Trae Patton / FOX The 10th season of "The Masked Singer" officially kicked off on September 27, 2023 on Fox. Stars wear over-the-top costumes and distort their voices while competing on the show. There have been 150 celebrities on the competition series. Season 10 of "The Masked Singer" kicked off in September 2023. Demi Lovato was the first celeb unmasked as Anonymouse on a special preview ahead of the show's official premiere.Demi Lovato was revealed as Anonymouse.Trae Patton / FOXLovato kicked off a pre-show to the season 10 premiere on September 10 singing "What About Love." You can watch the reveal here.Anthony Anderson was revealed on premiere night as the Rubber Ducky.Anthony Anderson is unmasked as the rubber ducky.Michael Becker/FOXCelebrity judge panelist Ken Jeong correctly guessed Anderson after his performance of "Come on Eileen."You can see him unmasked here.Fans were proven right when Tom Sandoval was unmasked as the Diver on week two.Tom Sandoval on "The Masked Singer."Michael Becker / FOX; Trae Patton / FOX"Being able to come out here and perform, behind the mask, not being judged, just being judged on my performance, it was really nice," the "Vanderpump Rules" star said. Sandoval sang "Anyway You Want It" by Journey and OneRepublic's "I Ain't Worried" during his time on the show.You can read all the reasons why people were convinced Diver was Sandoval here and you can watch his unmasking here.Comedian Michael Rappaport was revealed as the Pickle on week three.Michael Rappaport is the Pickle on "The Masked Singer."Trae Patton / FOXRappaport rocked the stage singing "Pinball Wizard" by The Who and "Beverly Hills" by Weezer.You can watch his unmasking here.Tennis legend Billie Jean King was the Royal Hen.Billie Jean King is the Royal Hen.Trae Patton / FOXThe tennis champion and equality activist performed "Philadelphia Freedom," which Elton John wrote as a tribute to her in 1974.You can watch her performance here."Teen Wolf" actor Tyler Posey was Hawk.Tyler Posey was revealed to be the Hawk.Michael Becker / FOX, composite by Kirsten Acuna/InsiderThe actor and musician electrified the crowd with performances of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright" and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police.Watch him get unmasked here."Real Housewives of New York City" star Luann de Lesseps was Hibiscus.Luann de Lesseps as Hibiscus on "The Masked Singer."Michael Becker/FOX; composite by Kirsten Acuna/InsiderThe reality star and singer performed The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" during "One Hit Wonders" night.Watch her get unmasked here.Metta World Peace was unmasked as the Cuddle Monster.Metta World Peace is revealed as the Cuddle Monster.Michael Becker/Fox; composite by Kirsten Acuna/InsiderThe basketball player was ousted on his first night after performing New Kids on the Block's "You Got It (The Right Stuff)."Watch him get unmasked here."O-Town" boy band star Ashley Parker Angel revealed himself as S'more.Ashley Parker Angel was S'more.Trea Patton / FOXThe boy band singer said goodbye on Disco Night after a performance of "That's the Way (I Like It)" by KC and the Sunshine Band.Watch him get unmasked here.The ninth season of "The Masked Singer" kicked off in February 2023. The first contestant to be unmasked was living legend Dick Van Dyke as the Gnome.Van Dyke as the Gnome.Michael Becker/FOXVan Dyke sang "When You're Smiling" by Billie Holiday.Watch him get unmasked here.Sara Evans was the Mustang.Evans as the Mustang.Michael Becker/FOXEvans performed "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake and "Diamonds" by Rihanna.Watch her get unmasked here."Deal or No Deal" host Howie Mandel was the Rock Lobster.Mandel as the Rock Lobster.Michael Becker/FOXMandel sang "SOS" by ABBA.Watch him get unmasked here.The Polar Bear was unmasked as Grandmaster Flash.Grandmaster Flash as the Polar Bear.Michael Becker/FOXHe sang "Rapture" by Blondie.Watch him get unmasked here.Michael Bolton was revealed as the Wolf.Bolton as the Wolf.Michael Becker/FOX; FOX/Getty ImagesBolton sang "Break On Through" by The Doors.Watch him get unmasked here.Malin Åkerman was unmasked as the Squirrel.Åkerman as the Squirrel.FOX/Getty Images; Michael Becker/FOXÅkerman performed "Try" by Pink, "Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down, and "Just the Two of Us" by Grover Washington, Jr. featuring Bill Withers.Watch her get unmasked here.Lele Pons was the Jackalope.Pons as the Jackalope.FOX/Getty Images; Michael Becker/FOXPons performed "Whenever, Wherever" by Shakira and "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons.Watch her get unmasked here.Alexa Bliss was unmasked as the Axolotl.Bliss as the Axolotl.Michael Becker/FOXBliss performed "Can't Fight the Moonlight" by LeAnn Rimes.Watch her get unmasked here.The Fairy was revealed as Holly Robinson Peete.Peete as the Fairy.FOX/Getty Images; Michael Becker/FOXThe "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" star sang "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt," "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons," "Angel from Montgomery" by Bonnie Raitt, and "That Don't Impress Me Much" by Shania Twain.Watch her get unmasked here."Cheers" star George Wendt was the Moose.Wendt as the Moose.FOX/Getty ImagesWendt sang "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News.Watch him get unmasked here.Christine Quinn was Scorpio.Quinn as Scorpio.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Selling Sunset" star sang "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper and "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran.Watch her get unmasked here.Dee Snider, lead singer of Twisted Sister, was unmasked as the Doll.Snider as the Doll.Michael Becker/FOXSnider sang "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by Simple Minds, "Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran, and "Jailhouse Rock" by Elvis Presley.Watch him get unmasked here.Alicia Witt was revealed as the Dandelion.Witt as the Dandelion.Michael Becker/FOXWitt sang "Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz," "(I've Got A) Golden Ticket" from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," and "Starlight" by Muse.Watch her get unmasked here.'90s icon Melissa Joan Hart was the Lamp.Hart as the Lamp.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" star performed "Venus" by Bananarama and "Rocket Man" by Elton John.Watch her get unmasked here.Season eight kicked off in September 2022. The first person unmasked was 91-year-old William Shatner as the Knight.Shatner as the Knight.Michael Becker/FoxThe TV legend, best known for his role as Captain Kirk in "Star Trek," was the first person eliminated in season eight. He sang "Puttin' on the Ritz" by Fred Astaire.Watch him get unmasked here.Next up was the comedy icon Eric Idle as the Hedgehog.Idle as the Hedgehog.Michael Becker/FoxThe Monty Python comedian performed "Love Me Do" by The Beatles.Watch him get unmasked here.Chris Kirkpatrick of NSYNC was the third contestant to be eliminated. He was the Hummingbird.Kirkpatrick as the Hummingbird.Michael Becker/FoxKirkpatrick, also the voice of Chip Skylark from "The Fairly Odd Parents," performed "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin DeGraw.Watch him get unmasked here.The Pi-Rat was revealed as comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.Dunham as Pi-Rat.Michael Becker/FoxDunham performed "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John.Watch him get unmasked here.Montell Jordan was the next unmasking as the Panther.Jordan as the Panther.Michael Becker/FoxThe "This Is How We Do It" singer performed "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone and "Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf.Watch him get unmasked here.The brothers from "The Brady Bunch," Mike Lookinland, Barry Williams, and Christopher Knight, were unmasked as the Mummies.The "Brady Bunch" brothers as the Mummies.Michael Becker/FoxIn a nod to their '60s roots, the on-screen brothers performed the theme song from "The Monkees," simply titled "(Theme From) The Monkees."Watch them get unmasked here."Shark Tank" star Daymond John was revealed as the Fortune Teller.John as the Fortune Teller.Michael Becker/FoxJohn performed the theme song from "The Jeffersons," "Movin' On Up," originally performed by Ja'Net DuBois. He also sang "Everywhere You Look," originally performed by Jesse Frederick as the "Full House" theme song.Watch him get unmasked here."Sex and the City" star Mario Cantone was underneath the Maize's mask.Cantone as the Maize.FOX/Getty ImagesCantone only sang "Heaven on Their Minds" from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" before getting eliminated.Watch him get unmasked here.Gloria Gaynor was revealed as the Mermaid.Gaynor as the Mermaid.FOX/Getty ImagesGaynor sang two songs from musicals before leaving: "Any Dream Will Do" from "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from "Evita."Watch her get unmasked here.Talk-show legend Jerry Springer was the Beetle.Springer as the Beetle.FOX/Getty ImagesSpringer sang "The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra before getting eliminated.Watch him get unmasked here.The Robo Girl was actually Kat Graham.Graham as Robo Girl.FOX/Getty ImagesGraham performed "Bad Cinderella" from the musical of the same name, "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from "Evita," "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen, and "Call Me" by Blondie.Watch her get unmasked here.Joey Lawrence was the Walrus.Lawrence as the Walrus.FOX/Getty ImagesLawrence sang "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors.Watch him get unmasked here.NFL player Le'Veon Bell was the Milkshake.Le'Veon Bell as the Milkshake.FOX/Getty ImagesThe former Tampa Bay Buccaneer performed "Jump on It" by Sir Mix-a-Lot and "What Is Love" by Haddaway.Watch him get unmasked here.George Foreman was unmasked as the Venus Fly Trap.Foreman as the Venus Fly Trap.FOX/Getty ImagesThe boxing legend only performed "Get Ready" by The Temptations before getting kicked off.Watch him get unmasked here.Parliament Funkadelic singer George Clinton was the Gopher.Clinton as the Gopher.FOX/Getty ImagesClinton sang "It's Your Thing" by The Isley Brothers and "All Star" by Smash Mouth.Watch him get unmasked here.Underneath the Bride's mask was professional wrestler Chris Jericho.Jericho as the Bride.FOX/Getty ImagesJericho sang ""All Star" by Smash Mouth and "White Wedding" by Billy Idol.Watch him get unmasked here.Adam Carolla was the Avocado.Carolla as the Avocado.FOX/Getty ImagesCarolla sang "Hit the Road Jack" by Ray Charles and "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon.Watch him get unmasked here."The Exorcist" star Linda Blair was revealed to be Scarecrow.Blair as the Scarecrow.FOX/Getty ImagesBlair sang "Abracadabra" by The Steve Miller Band before voluntarily leaving the competition.Watch her get unmasked here.Sir Bug a Boo was none other than Ray Parker Jr.Parker Jr. as Sir Bug a Boo.FOX/Getty ImagesParker performed "Devil with a Blue Dress On" by Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels and "Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell.Watch him get unmasked here.Comedian Niki Glaser came in third as the Snowstorm.Glaser as the Snowstorm.FOX/Getty ImagesGlaser sang "Thank U, Next" by Ariana Grande, "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, "Sweet but Psycho" by Ava Max, "Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell, and "Thinking of You" by Katy Perry.Watch her get unmasked here.In second place was the girl group Wilson Phillips as the Lambs.Wilson Phillips as the Lambs.FOX/Getty ImagesThe "Hold On" singers performed "Hot n Cold" by Katy Perry, "Call Me" by Blondie, "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette, "What Is Love" by Haddaway, "Need You Now" by Lady A, "Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson, "I'm Every Woman" by Chaka Khan, and "I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner.Watch them get unmasked here.And season eight's champion was Amber Riley, who was unmasked as the Harp.Riley as the Harp.FOX/Getty ImagesThe "Glee" star performed "Perfect" by Pink, "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston, "Born to Be Wild" by Steppenwolf, "Thank You for Being a Friend" from "Golden Girls," "Everywhere You Look" from "Full House," "About Damn Time" by Lizzo, "The Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga, and "Gravity" by John Mayer before winning season eight.Watch her get unmasked here.Season seven premiered on March 9, 2022, and the first person to be unmasked was celebrity pastry chef Duff Goldman as the McTerrier.Duff as the McTerrier.Michael Becker/FoxThe "Ace of Cakes" star was singing "Working for the Weekend" by Loverboy when he almost stepped off the stage and subsequently knocked off his mask while singing. He was later officially unmasked when he was eliminated.Watch him get unmasked here.Sportscaster Joe Buck was revealed as the Ram.Joe Buck as the Ram.Michael Becker/FOXAny sports fan probably recognized Buck's familiar voice coming out of the Ram's mask as he performed "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick, "Learn to Fly" by Foo Fighters, and "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver.Watch him get unmasked here.Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata was underneath the Thingamabob's mask.Jordan Mailata as the Thingamabob.Michael Becker/FOXMailata showed off his pipes, singing "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi, "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran, and "Classic" by MKTO.Watch him get unmasked here.Jorge Garcia was also knocked out during the third episode — he was revealed as Cyclops.Jorge Garcia as Cyclops.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Lost" star sang "My Sacrifice" by Creed, "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley, and "Flashdance (What a Feeling)" by Irene Cara.Watch him get unmasked here.Christie Brinkley, one of the most iconic supermodels of all time, was underneath the Lemur's mask.Christie Brinkley as the Lemur.Michael Becker/FOXBrinkley was the first person eliminated from her group, and therefore was only able to perform "I Feel the Earth Move" by Carole King before getting unmasked.Watch her get unmasked here.Famous magical duo Penn & Teller were revealed as the Hydra.Penn & Teller as the Hydra.Michael Becker/FOXThe legendary entertainers performed as the three-headed mythical beast for two episodes. They duetted on "Hey, Soul Sister" by Train, "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top, and "Two Princes" by the Spin Doctors.Watch them get unmasked here.Dog the Bounty Hunter was unmasked as the Armadillo.Dog the Bounty Hunter as the Armadillo.Michael Becker/FOXDog the Bounty Hunter (real name Duane Chapman), the star of multiple reality series, performed "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers, "I Fought the Law" by The Bobby Fuller Four, "Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas, and "Amazing Grace."Watch him get unmasked here.Jennifer Holliday was eliminated after being revealed as Miss Teddy.Jennifer Holliday as Miss Teddy.Michael Becker/FOXThe Tony Award winner was eliminated during week six. She sang "Tell It to My Heart" by Taylor Dayne, "Tell Me You Love Me" by Demi Lovato, and "Mercy" by Duffy.Watch her get unmasked here.Controversial political figure Rudy Giuliani was finally unmasked as the Jack in the Box.Rudy Giuliani as the Jack in the Box.Michael Becker/FOXGiuliani's involvement was revealed back in February, but the former NYC mayor and Trump lawyer was finally unmasked during the April 20 episode.He performed just one song: "Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers. After he was unmasked, panelists Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke walked off the stage in protest.Watch him get unmasked here.Another controversial celebrity, Kirstie Alley, was revealed as the Baby Mammoth.Kirstie Alley as the Baby Mammoth.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Cheers" alum performed "Walkin' After Midnight" by Patsy Cline, "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" by Cher, and "Me Too" by Meghan Trainor.Watch her get unmasked here.Shaggy was unmasked as the Space Bunny.Shaggy as the Space Bunny.Michael Becker/FOXShaggy sang "Jump in the Line" by Harry Belafonte, "All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" by Culture Club, and "Now That We Found Love" by Heavy D and the Boyz featuring Aaron Hall.Watch him get unmasked here.The R&B legends En Vogue were collectively the Queen Cobras.En Vogue as the Queen Cobras.Michael Becker/FOXThe girl group performed "Good as Hell" by Lizzo, "I Say a Little Prayer" by Aretha Franklin, and "Leave the Door Open" by Silk Sonic.Watch them get unmasked here.Cheyenne Jackson placed in third as the Prince.Cheyenne Jackson as the Prince.Michael Becker/FOXJackson sang "La Copa de la Vida" by Ricky Martin, "Lay Me Down" by Sam Smith, "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder, and "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay.Watch him get unmasked here.In second place was Hayley Orrantia as the Ringmaster.Hayley Orrantia as the Ringmaster.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Goldbergs" star belted out "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus, "Super Bass" by Nicki Minaj, "I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton, "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles, and "Waking Up in Vegas" by Katy Perry.Watch her get unmasked here.Season seven's winner was none other than Teyana Taylor as the Firefly.Teyana Taylor as the Firefly.Michael Becker/FOXAs this season's winner, Taylor sang "Ain't Nobody" by Chaka Khan, "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" by Michael Jackson, "God Is a Woman" by Ariana Grande, "Attention" by Charlie Puth, "Bad Girl" by Usher, and "Lost Without U" by Robin Thicke.Watch her get unmasked here.Season six ran from September to December 2021. The first reveal was NBA player Dwight Howard as the Octopus.Dwight Howard as the Octopus.Michael Becker/FOXHoward was only able to sing Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" before getting eliminated.Watch him get unmasked here.Another elimination of the two-night premiere was Vivica A. Fox, who was Mother Nature.Vivica A. Fox as Mother Nature.Michael Becker/FOXFox performed "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross.Watch her get unmasked here.The last unmasking of week one was, shockingly, Toni Braxton, as the Pufferfish.Toni Braxton as the Pufferfish.Michael Becker/FOXThe R&B legend was eliminated way too soon, only getting to sing "Say So" by Doja Cat and "Levitating" by Dua Lipa.Watch her get unmasked here.During week two, Tyga was unmasked as the Dalmatian.Tyga as the Dalmatian.MIchael Becker/FOXThe "Rack City" rapper was only able to perform one song before getting eliminated: "Beautiful" by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell.Watch him get unmasked here.The first Wild Card of the season was the Baby, who was revealed as Larry the Cable Guy.Larry the Cable Guy as the Baby.Michael Becker/FOXThe comedian performed two songs. First up, he sang "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" by Barry White. His next and final song was "Meet the Flintstones" by Hoyt Curtin.Watch him get unmasked here.Another musical legend was unmasked during episode five: Ruth Pointer as the Cupcake.Ruth Pointer as the Cupcake.Michael Becker/FOXPointer, of The Pointer Sisters, performed "Heat Wave" by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and "Finesse" by Bruno Mars before getting eliminated. She shared that she was originally supposed to perform with her sister Anita as two cupcakes, but Anita had health issues and was unable to participate.Watch her get unmasked here.Former "SNL" star Rob Schneider was underneath the Hamster's mask.Rob Schneider as the Hamster.FOXSchneider, whose daughter is Grammy-nominated singer Elle King, performed "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen, and "Sabor a Mí" by Luis Miguel.Watch him get unmasked here.Reality stars Honey Boo Boo and Mama June, aka Alana Thompson and June Shannon, were underneath the Beach Ball's smiling face.Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson and June "Mama June" Shannon as the Beach Ball.FOXThe Beach Ball was a wild card, and therefore only introduced this episode — that's why the "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" stars were only able to get "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus before getting unmasked.Watch them get unmasked here.Natasha Bedingfield was unmasked as the Pepper.Natasha Bedingfield as the Pepper.FOXThe "Unwritten" singer was introduced as a Wild Card during week three, and she performed "Jealous" by Labrinth, "No Tears Left to Cry" by Ariana Grande, and "Sign of the Times" by Harry Styles.Watch her get unmasked here.The second elimination of the night was the Jester, who was actually Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.Johnny Rotten as the Jester.FOXThe rock star was also introduced as a Wild Card, this time during week five. Rotten sang "School's Out" by Alice Cooper and "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" by Soggy Bottom Boys.Watch him get unmasked here."Duck Dynasty" star Willie Robertson gave us a massive clue when he dressed up as the Mallard.Willie Robertson as the Mallard.FOXRobertson performed "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" by Big & Rich, "My House" by Flo Rida, "Play Something Country" by Brooks & Dunn, and "Fly" by Sugar Ray.Watch him get unmasked here."Queer Eye's" resident decor expert Bobby Berk was the Caterpillar.Bobby Berk as the Caterpillar.FOXBerk entered during the fourth week as a wild card and performed "If I Were a Boy" by Beyoncé, "It's Gonna Be Me" by *NSYNC, and "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks.Watch him get unmasked here.R&B legend Faith Evans was revealed as the Skunk.Evans as the Skunk.FOXEvans performed "Diamonds" by Sam Smith, "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's, World" by James Brown, "Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight & The Pips, "Square Biz" by Teena Marie, "At Last" by Etta James, and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" by Aretha Franklin.She also performed a duet with Michael Bolton of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.Watch her get unmasked here.Married couple David Foster and Katharine McPhee were unmasked as the dynamic duo Banana Split.Foster and McPhee as Banana Split.FOXThe new parents dueted on "A Million Reasons" by Pink, "Cry Me a River" by Michael Bublé, "Let 'er Rip" by The Chicks, "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, and "Singin' in the Rain" by Arthur Freed.Foster and McPhee also performed "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" by Stevie Wonder with Robin Thicke.Watch them get unmasked here.The runner-up of season six was none other than Todrick Hall as the Bull.Hall as the Bull.Michael Becker / FOXThe multi-hyphenate performed "Drops of Jupiter" by Train, "What Hurts the Most" by Rascal Flatts, "Circus" by Britney Spears, "Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan, "Rain on Me" by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul, "A Holly Jolly Christmas" by Burl Ives, "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree, and "Invisible" by Hunter Hayes.Hall also dueted with former "Masked Singer" star Jesse McCartney on The Script's "Breakeven."Watch him get unmasked here.The season six winner was Jewel, who was the Queen of Hearts.Jewel as the Queen of Hearts.Michael Becker / FOXJewel performed "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga, "La Vie en rose" by Édith Piaf, "River" by Bishop Briggs, "She's Got You" by Patsy Cline, "Bird Set Free" by Sia, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Frank Sinatra, "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, and "Firework" by Katy Perry.Jewel also sang with panelist Nicole Scherzinger, with the two performing "Dream On" by Aerosmith.Watch her get unmasked here.With season five of "The Masked Singer," we had our first non-human reveal. The Snail was revealed to be ... Kermit the Frog.Kermit as the Snail.Michael Becker/FOXIf you, for a second, thought "The Masked Singer" had run out of surprises in its fifth season — think again. We had our very first Muppet reveal in season five's premiere, when the Snail, after performing "You Make My Dreams" by Hall & Oates, was unmasked as our very favorite frog, Kermit.Watch him get unmasked here.The second reveal of the season was Caitlyn Jenner as the Phoenix.Jenner as the Phoenix.Michael Becker/FOXJenner was only able to sing "Tik Tok" by Kesha before getting eliminated from season five.Watch her get unmasked here.Danny Trejo was unmasked as the Raccoon.Trejo as the Raccoon.Michael Becker/FOXYes, Machete himself took to the "Masked Singer" stage and performed "Wild Thing" by The Troggs and "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash.Watch the action star get unmasked here.Controversial YouTuber Logan Paul was revealed as Grandpa Monster.Logan Paul as Grandpa Monster.Michael Becker/FOXThe YouTuber (and boxer) performed "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of...)" by Lou Bega and "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett before getting the boot.Watch him get unmasked here.In a shocking twist, host Nick Cannon was unmasked as the Bulldog.Cannon as the Bulldog.Michael Becker/FOXCannon had been missing from the first four episodes due to testing positive for COVID-19, so Niecy Nash has been filling in. But during the fifth episode, Cannon made his triumphant return as the episode's wildcard, the Bulldog. He performed "Candy Girl" by New Edition.Watch him get unmasked here.Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath was revealed as the Orca.Mark McGrath as the Orca.Michael Becker/FOXMcGrath was one of four Wild Cards this season — Nick Cannon as the Bulldog was another — and was the second to be unmasked. He performed "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison before getting eliminated.Watch him get unmasked here.R&B legend Bobby Brown was revealed to be the Crab.Brown as the Crab.Michael Becker/FOXBrown, another Wild Card, performed "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers, "Give It to Me Baby" by Rick James, and "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins.Watch him get unmasked here.Tamera Mowry was unmasked as the Seashell.Mowry as the Seashell.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Sister, Sister" star performed "Listen to Your Heart" by Roxette, "Confident" by Demi Lovato, "Tell Me Something Good" by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, and "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany Darwish.Watch her get unmasked here.After weeks of misleading clues, Tyrese Gibson was finally unmasked as the Robopine.Gibson as the Robopine.Michael Becker/FOXGibson performed "Never Too Much" by Luther Vandross, "All of Me" by John Legend, "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack, "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye, and "Water Runs Dry" by Boyz II Men, reminding us all that, before "Fast and Furious," Gibson was the singer of hits like "How You Gonna Act Like That."Watch him get unmasked here.The Russian Dolls were unmasked as none other than '90s boy-band royalty Hanson.Hanson as the Russian Dolls.Michael Becker/FOXYes, all three "MMMBop" singers piled into the big Russian Doll for the reveal.The brothers sang "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson, "Wonder" by Shawn Mendes, "Want to Want Me" by Jason Derulo, "24K Magic" by Bruno Mars, "Shallow" by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, and "I'm Still Standing" by Elton John.Watch them get unmasked here.Omarion was revealed in week 10 as the Yeti.Omarion as the Yeti.Michael Becker/FOXThe Yeti was the last of the four wildcards this season, and he made it all the way to the final four.The "Post to Be" singer performed "If It Isn't Love" by New Edition, "Lonely" by Justin Bieber and Benny Blanco, "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts, and "Celebration" by Kool & the Gang.Watch him get unmasked here.One of last season's new editions was Cluedle-Doo, a chicken who danced around and gave the audience clues. During week 10, he was unmasked — and it was panelist Jenny McCarthy's husband Donnie Wahlberg.Wahlberg as Cluedle-Doo.Michael Becker/FOXYes, somehow McCarthy was unable to recognize her husband's singing voice when he sang "Return of the Mack" by Mark Morrison, or the clues that would've pointed her in the right direction.Watch him get unmasked here.In third place for season five we had Wiz Khalifa as the Chameleon.Khalifa as the Chameleon.Michael Becker/FOXKhalifa performed "Ride wit Me" by Nelly, "21 Questions" by 50 Cent featuring Nate Dogg, "Hip Hop" by Dead Prez, "Regulate" by Warren G. featuring Nate Dogg, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" by Busta Rhymes, "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell, "Oh Boy" by Cam'ron featuring Juelz Santana, and "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio featuring L.V.Watch him get unmasked here.In second place, JoJo was unmasked as the Black Swan.JoJo as the Black Swan.Michael Becker/FOXShe performed "Barracuda" by Heart, "In My Blood" by Shawn Mendes, "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston, "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon, "Do I Do" by Stevie Wonder, "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran, "Tequila" by Dan + Shay, and "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" by Michael Bolton.Watch her get unmasked here.And our season five champion was none other than Nick Lachey as Piglet.Lachey as Piglet.Michael Becker/FOXLachey sang "Speechless" by Dan + Shay, "Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah)" by Andy Grammer, "7 Years" by Lukas Graham, "The Pretender" by Foo Fighters, "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins, "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, "Bruises" by Lewis Capaldi, and "Faithfully" by Journey.Watch him get unmasked here.The first celebrity to be unmasked in season four was Busta Rhymes as the Dragon.Busta Rhymes as the Dragon.FoxThe rapper was the first contestant to get voted off season four. His lone performance was LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out." Watch him get unmasked here. In a genuinely baffling season four twist, Mickey Rourke unmasked himself as the Gremlin before he could be voted off.Mickey Rourke as the Gremlin.FoxIn an unprecedented move, the Oscar-nominated actor decided to unmask himself because he was getting too hot in the mask, therefore eliminating himself. On why he did the show, he told Nick Cannon, "I was in the neighborhood. I like the show, I watched four episodes and they asked if I'd be interested so I watched from the very beginning and all that s---."Before unmasking himself, Rourke performed "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King.Watch him unmask himself here.The Giraffe was unmasked as Brian Austin Green.Brian Austin Green as the Giraffe.Michael Becker/FOXThe former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star was nervous that his good friend Robin Thicke would be able to guess it was him, but those fears were unfounded. Thicke guessed Jaleel White, aka Steve Urkel.Green was only able to perform "Let's Get It Started" by the Black Eyed Peas and "Get Down on It" by Kool & the Gang before getting eliminated.Watch him get unmasked here.Wendy Williams, of course, was unmasked as the Lips.Wendy Williams as the Lips.Michael Becker/FOXThe legendary talk show show only performed one song before getting revealed: "Native New Yorker" by Odyssey.Watch her get unmasked here.Underneath the Squiggly Monster's mask was America's favorite dad Bob Saget.Bob Saget as the Squiggly Monster.Michael Becker/FOXThe "Full House" star was able to sing two songs before getting unmasked. He belted out "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones.Watch him get unmasked here.The Baby Alien, which took an intense amount of puppeteering to operate, was unmasked as Mark Sanchez.Mark Sanchez as the Baby Alien.Michael Becker/FOXThe former NFL quarterback was able to sing two songs before getting eliminated: "Faith" by George Michael and "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons.Sanchez also has the distinction of having the first costume that involved a puppet — he'll forever be in "Masked Singer" history.Watch him get unmasked here.The show's first-ever duo costume, the Snow Owls, were revealed as husband and wife Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black.Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black as the Snow Owls.Michael Becker/FOXIt truly has been a season of firsts for "The Masked Singer." The Snow Owls were the first two-person costume in the show's run, and it immediately became clear this should be a thing going forward.The Blacks, a legendary country music husband-wife duo, sang "Say Something" by A Great Big World, "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" by Meghan Trainor and John Legend, "The Prayer" by Andrea Bocelli and Céline Dion, and "Because You Loved Me" by Célion Dion, before getting eliminated this week.Watch them get unmasked here.In week eight, two contestants were unmasked. First up, NBA star Lonzo Ball as the Whatchamacallit.Lonzo Ball as the Whatchamacallit.Michael Becker/FOXThe New Orleans Pelicans player made it just over halfway through season four. Ball rapped "I Wish" by Skee-Lo, "Money Maker" by Ludacris and Pharrell, and "Lean Back" by Terror Squad, featuring Fat Joe and Remy Ma.Watch him get unmasked here. The second reveal was Dr. Elvis Francois, the singing surgeon, as the Serpent.Dr. Elvis as the Serpent.Michael Becker/FOXKen Jeong, also a doctor in addition to his career as a comedian, got emotional when Dr. Elvis was unmasked. The "Singing Surgeon," as he's known, first went viral for his cover of John Lennon's "Imagine" on Instagram. Now, he has over 267,000 Instagram followers and even made it into People's Sexiest Man Alive issue.As the Serpent, he performed "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers, "The Bones" by Maren Morris, and "Cool" by the Jonas Brothers.Watch him get unmasked here.Legendary performer Paul Anka was unmasked as the Broccoli.Paul Anka as the Broccoli.Michael Becker/Getty ImagesAnka sang a mashup of "House is Rockin" by Stevie Ray Vaughn and "Whole Lotta Shakin Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis, "Hello" by Lionel Richie, "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger, and "Take Me Down" by Alabama.Watch him get unmasked here.In the season four semi-final, three celebs were unmasked. First, the Seahorse was revealed to be Tori Kelly.Tori Kelly as the Seahorse.Michael Becker/FOXThe former "American Idol" contestant and Grammy nominee made it far into the competition, though plenty had already guessed it was her underneath the mask.As the Seahorse, she sang "Only Girl (In the World)" by Rihanna, "My Heart Will Go On" by Céline Dion, "...Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears, and "That's What I Like" by Bruno Mars.Watch her get unmasked here.Second up was Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim as the Jellyfish.Chloe Kim as the Jellyfish.Michael Becker/FOXThe gold medalist showed off impressive vocal chops when she performed "Big Girls Don't Cry" by Fergie, "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, "Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa, and "Stay" by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko.Watch her get unmasked here.The final reveal of the semi-finals was Taylor Dayne as Popcorn.Taylor Dayne as the Popcorn.Michael Becker/FOXDayne is one of the most successful dance artists of the '80s and '90s. She's even had multiple Grammy nominations and a No. 1 song on the Hot 100.Dayne sang "What About Us" by Pink, "Falling" by Harry Styles, "Domino" by Jessie J, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams, and "Better Be Good to Me" by Tina Turner.Watch her get unmasked here.In third place in season four was Nick Carter as the Crocodile.Nick Carter as the Crocodile.Michael Becker/FOXThe Backstreet Boy made it all the way to the finals in season four, before coming in third place. He performed "It's My Life" by Bon Jovi, "Toxic" by Britney Spears, "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," by Aerosmith, and "Open Arms" by Journey.Watch him get unmasked here.Season four's runner-up was Aloe Blacc as the Mushroom.Aloe Blacc as the Masked Singer.Michael Becker/FOXThe "I Need a Dollar" singer stunned the panelists all season long. During his tenure, he sang "This Woman's Work" by Maxwell, "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher, "Unconditionally" by Katy Perry, "A Song for You" by Donny Hathaway, "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse, and "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder.Watch him get unmasked here.After dominating all season long, the Sun was crowned as season four's winner. Underneath the sunny mask was LeAnn Rimes.LeAnn Rimes as the Sun.Michael Becker/FOXThe Grammy Award-winning singer took home the coveted first place trophy on this season after bringing the judges to tears multiple times and performing "Cuz I Love You" by Lizzo, "Praying" by Kesha, "Piece of my Heart" by Janis Joplin, "When the Party's Over" by Billie Eilish, and "The Story" by Brandi Carlile.Watch her get unmasked here.The first celebrity to be eliminated from season three, which premiered after the Super Bowl in 2020, was Lil Wayne as the Robot.Lil Wayne as the Robot.FOX/Getty ImagesThe rapper only got to sing one song before getting axed: "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz.Watch him get unmasked here.Next up was Drew Carey as the Llama.Drew Carey as the Llama.FOX/Getty Images; FoxThe game show host and comedian performed in one of the more outlandish costumes in the show's history, the four-legged Llama. He sang "She Bangs" by Ricky Martin and "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones.Watch him get unmasked here.Miss Monster was revealed as Chaka Khan.Chaka Khan as Miss Monster.FOX/Getty ImagesChaka Khan was the first professional singer — excluding rapper Lil Wayne, which is a different skill set — to be kicked off season three. The legendary singer performed "Something to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt, "Fancy" by Bobby Gentry, and "You Don't Own Me" by Lesley Gore.Watch her get unmasked here.Tony Hawk was unmasked as the Elephant.Tony Hawk as the Elephant.FOX/Getty ImagesThe famous skateboarder tried his hand at music during "The Masked Singer." Hawk was the first member of Group B to be eliminated, so he only sang "Friday I'm in Love" by The Cure before leaving.Watch him get unmasked here.The Mouse was revealed to be Dionne Warwick.Dionne Warwick as the Mouse.FOX/Getty ImagesWarwick only lasted for two episodes, surprisingly — she's one of the most prolific singers in Billboard history. She performed "Get Here" by Oleta Adams, and. "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" by Natalie Cole.Watch her get unmasked here.Tom Bergeron was unmasked as the Taco.Tom Bergeron as the Taco.FOX/Getty ImagesBergeron is best known as the former host of "Dancing with the Stars" and "America's Funniest Home Videos." As the Taco, he performed "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra, "Bossa Nova Baby" by Elvis Presley, and "Can't Help Myself" by Four Tops.Watch him get unmasked here.The next week, Sarah Palin was surprisingly unmasked as the Bear.Sarah Palin as the Bear.FOX via Getty Images; FoxYes, the former vice presidential candidate and Alaskan governor competed on "The Masked Singer." Though she only lasted a single round, she made a big impact on Twitter. Palin performed "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot.Watch her get unmasked here.Bella Thorne was revealed as the Swan.Bella Thorne as the Swan.FOX/Getty ImagesThe former Disney Channel star, singer, and director was revealed as the Swan on March 18. Thorne sang "Fever" by Peggy Lee and "I Hate Myself for Loving You" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts before getting eliminated.Watch her get unmasked here. T-Rex was unmasked as none other than the biggest child star on the planet, JoJo Siwa.JoJo Siwa as the T-Rex.FOX/Getty ImagesThe teenage superstar paused her world tour to appear on "The Masked Singer." She sang "So What" by Pink, "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa, and "Jai Ho! You Are My Destiny" by A. R. Rahman and the Pussycat Dolls, featuring none other than judge Nicole Scherzinger.Watch her get unmasked here. NFL star Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski was unmasked as the White Tiger.Rob Gronkowski as the White Tiger.FOX/Getty ImagesNone of Gronks' four performances required much singing. He performed "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, "We Will Rock You" by Queen, and "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred, before getting knocked out of the show.Watch him get unmasked here.Reality TV star and model Jordyn Woods turned out to be the Kangaroo.Jordyn Woods as the Kangaroo.FOX/Getty ImagesWoods made it to the first round of the finals before getting eliminated. During her tenure on the show, she sang "Dancing On My Own" by Robyn, "You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse, "Diamonds" by Rihanna, "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks, "No Air" by Jordin Sparks, and "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer.Watch her get unmasked here.Poison front-man and "Rock of Love" star Bret Michaels was revealed as the Banana.Brett Michael as the Banana.FOX/Getty ImagesMichaels, of "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" fame, was unmasked on "The Masked Singer." He revealed that his unmasking took place on the 10th anniversary of his brain hemorrhage.On the show, Michaels sang "A Little Less Conversation" by Elvis Presley, "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus, "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers, "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan, and "Brick House" by The Commodores.Watch him get unmasked here.Country star Hunter Hayes was the next professional musician to be unmasked. He was the Astronaut.Hayes as the Astronaut.FOX/Getty ImagesThe "I Want Crazy" singer lasted through the playoffs. He performed "You Say" by Lauren Daigle, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" by Stevie Wonder, "Shape of You" by Ed Sheeran, "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, "If I Can't Have You" by Shawn Mendes, "Bye Bye Bye" by NSYNC, and "Story of My Life" by One Direction.Watch him get unmasked here.Former "America's Got Talent" runner-up Jackie Evancho was revealed as the Kitty.Evancho as the Kitty.FOX/Getty Images; FoxThe former child star — now 20 years old! — was unmasked during this season's quarterfinals. As the Kitty, she performed "Dangerous Woman" by Ariana Grande, "Mercy" by Brett Young, "Mama's Broken Heart" by Miranda Lambert, "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" by Celine Dion, "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper, "Unstoppable" by Sia, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" by Marilyn Monroe, and lastly, "Back to Black" by Amy Winehouse.Watch her get unmasked here. Former pitcher and World Series champion Barry Zito was the Rhino.Zito as the Rhino.FOX/Getty ImagesThe former San Francisco Giant proved he had vocal chops — he came in fourth place overall!Zito performed "Have a Little Faith in Me" by John Hiatt, "Nice to Meet Ya" by Niall Horan, "Tracks of My Tears" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, "What a Man Gotta Do" by the Jonas Brothers, "10,000 Hours" by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, "Die a Happy Man" by Thomas Rhett, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by the Righteous Brothers, and "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw.Watch him get unmasked here.In third place, we had the Frog, aka rapper Bow Wow.Bow Wow as the Frog.FOX/Getty ImagesThe rapper formerly known as Lil Bow Wow made it all the way to the finale. Along the way, he performed "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer, "In da Club" by 50 Cent, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by The Gap Band, "Jump" by Kriss Kross, "Fireball" by Pitbull, "Whatever It Takes" by Imagine Dragons, "Bust a Move" by Young MC, "Hip Hop Hooray" by Naughty by Nature, and "Bad Boy for Life" by Black Rob, Mark Curry, and P. Diddy.Watch him get unmasked here.The runner-up, the Turtle, was revealed to be Jesse McCartney.McCartney as the Turtle.FOX/Getty ImagesThe former teen idol and "Beautiful Soul" singer almost took first place, but he came up short. He performed "Kiss from a Rose" by season two competitor Seal, "Say You Won't Let Go" by James Arthur, "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back" by Shawn Mendes, "Higher Love" by Steve Winwood, "Let It Go" by James Bay, "Stay" by Alessia Cara, "Fix You" by Coldplay, "Jealous" by Nick Jonas, and "Before You Go" by Lewis Capaldi.Watch him get unmasked here.The Night Angel was crowned the season three winner. Underneath the mask was "Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Kandi Burruss.Burruss as the Night Angel.FOX/Getty ImagesBefore her time on "RHOA," Burruss had established herself as a musician to be reckoned with — she was part of the girl group Xscape, and won a Grammy for co-writing TLC's smash hit "No Scrubs." Now, she can add the first female winner of "The Masked Singer" to her lengthy resume.She sang "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi, "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga, "Shout!" by the Isley Brothers, "Rise Up" by Andra Day, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain, "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles, "Last Dance" by Donna Summer, "How to Love" by Lil Wayne, and "River Deep, Mountain High" by Tina Turner.Watch her get unmasked here.Season two premiered in September 2019. The first singer revealed was Johnny Weir as the Egg.Johnny Weir as the Egg.FOX Image Collection/Getty Images; FOX/Getty ImagesThe Olympic ice skater only lasted for an episode during season two. As the Egg, he sang "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga and "One Way or Another" by Blondie.Watch him get unmasked here.The next week, Tyler Blevins, better known as Ninja, was unmasked as the Ice Cream.Ninja as the Ice Cream.Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; FOX/Getty ImagesNinja, best known for his exploits on the streaming platforms Twitch and Mixer as a video game player, also only lasted for an episode. He sang "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, and "Whip It" by Devo.Watch him get unmasked here.The Panda was none other than Laila Ali.Laila Ali as the Panda.FOX/Getty ImagesAli, the daughter of boxing icon Muhammad Ali and a talented boxer in her own right, lasted for a single show as the pastel-hued panda. She performed "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson and "All I Do Is Win" by DJ Khaled.Watch her get unmasked here.Star of "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew," Drew Pinsky, was revealed to be the Eagle.Dr. Drew as the Eagle.FOX/Getty ImagesPinsky, a media personality and radio host, also only lasted for a week in the competition, singing, "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meatloaf, and "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Nancy Sinatra.Watch him get unmasked here.Paul Shaffer was the Skeleton.Paul Shaffer as the Skeleton.FOX/Getty ImagesShaffer, who was seen on TV every night for 33 years as the musical director and sidekick on "Late Night with David Letterman" and "Late Show with David Letterman," lasted for two rounds in season two. He sang "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang, "Hard to Handle" by Otis Redding, and "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet.Watch him get unmasked here.Sherri Shepherd was outed as the Penguin in week five.Sherri Shepherd in the Penguin.FOX/Getty ImagesShepherd is probably best known now for her seven years as a co-host of "The View." She currently hosts "Best Ever Trivia Show" on the Game Show Network. On "The Masked Singer," she sang a total of three songs: "The Middle" by Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey, "Worth It" by Fifth Harmony, and "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor.Watch her get unmasked here.Raven-Symoné was unmasked as the Black Widow.Raven-Symoné as the Black Widow.FOX/Getty ImagesThe former Disney Channel star, and one of two former Cheetah Girls on this season, was eliminated surprisingly early on in the competition. She sang "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston, "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood, and "Believe" by Cher.Watch her get unmasked here.And the Ladybug was revealed to be Kelly Osbourne.Kelly Osbourne as the Ladybug.FOX/Getty ImagesOsbourne, of course, comes from a musical family, so it's no surprise that she made it pretty far into the season. She sang "Holding Out for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler, "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar, "Juice" by Lizzo, and "Youngblood" by 5 Seconds of Summer, before getting eliminated.Watch her get unmasked here.Patti LaBelle was eliminated in a week seven upset, and was revealed as the Flower.Patti LaBelle as the Flower.FOX/Getty ImagesLaBelle is commonly referred to as the "Godmother of Soul" — so it was a huge shock when the famous singer only made it to week seven. During her time as the Flower, LaBelle took on "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, "Cheap Thrills" by Sia, "Amazed" by Lonestar, "Alone" by Heart, and "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor.Watch her get unmasked here.The next week, Michelle Williams was revealed as the Butterfly.Michelle Williams as the Butterfly.FOX/Getty ImagesWilliams, who is most famous for her time in Destiny's Child, was one of the contestants that fans had figured out before the season even aired. The singer performed "Bang Bang" by Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj, "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi, "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones, "Sorry Not Sorry" by Demi Lovato, and "Believer" by Imagine Dragons.Watch her get unmasked here.Ana Gasteyer was the Tree.Ana Gasteyer as the Tree.FOX/Getty ImagesThe former "SNL" star has released an album and appeared in musicals before, so it's not too shocking that she exhibited her vocal talent on stage on this show. She sang "High Hopes" by Panic! at the Disco, "Think" by Aretha Franklin, "No Excuses" by Meghan Trainor, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, and "The Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga.Watch her get unmasked here.In the penultimate episode, Victor Oladipo was revealed to be the Thingamajig.Victor Oladipo as the Thingamajig.FOX/Getty ImagesThe NBA star has also released music of his own, including an album, "V.O.," in 2018. He made it to the penultimate episode of season two as the Thingamajig. He sang "Easy" by the Commodores, "Rainbow" by Kacey Musgraves, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by The Temptations, "Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Bublé, "Caught Up" by Usher, "Ordinary People" by John Legend, and "Winter Wonderland" by Bing Crosby.Watch him get unmasked here.Also eliminated in that episode was Seal, who was unmasked as the Leopard.Seal as the Leopard.FOX Image Collection/Getty Images; FOX/Getty ImagesThe "Kiss from a Rose" singer made it to the penultimate episode, and took on some difficult songs during his tenure. He sang "Somebody to Love" by Queen, "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, "Stitches" by Shawn Mendes, "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry, "September" by Earth, Wind & Fire, "Don't Cha" by the Pussycat Dolls and Busta Rhymes, "We Are Young" by Fun., and "Big Spender" by Shirley Bassey.Watch him get unmasked here.In third place was Adrienne Bailon as the Flamingo.Adrienne Bailon as the Flamingo.FOX/Getty ImagesBailon, the second Cheetah Girl in season two, came in third place as the Flamingo. Bailon sang "Sucker" by the Jonas Brothers, "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins, "Never Enough" by Loren Allred, "Lady Marmalade" by fellow contestant Patti LaBelle, "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac, "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley, and "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner.Watch her get unmasked here.The runner-up was the Rottweiler, who turned out to be Chris Daughtry.Chris Daughtry as the Rottweiler.FOX/Getty ImagesDaughtry added another singing competition to his resume, after his star-making turn on "American Idol" in 2006. The "It's Not Over" singer performed "Maneater" by Hall & Oates, "Love Runs Out" by OneRepublic, "Castle on the Hill" by Ed Sheeran, "Grenade" by Bruno Mars, "Someone You Loved" by Lewis Capaldi, "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers, and "Alive" by Sia.Watch him get unmasked here.Season two's champion was Wayne Brady as the Fox.Wayne Brady as the Fox.FOX/Getty ImagesBrady is a true multi-hyphenate: actor, comedian, talk show host, game show host, singer, Broadway star, and now, "Masked Singer" winner. As the Fox, he sang "This Love" by Maroon 5, "Hey Look Ma, I Made It" by Panic! at the Disco, "Every Little Step" by Bobby Brown, "Tennessee Whiskey" by Chris Stapleton, "Blame It" by Jamie Foxx and T-Pain, "This Christmas" by Donny Hathaway, and "Try a Little Tenderness" by Otis Redding.Watch him get unmasked here.The first celebrity to ever be unmasked on the show when it premiered in January 2019 was Antonio Brown, as the Hippo.Antonio Brown as the Hippo.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesBrown used to be a wide receiver in the NFL, but he was accused of sexual misconduct in September 2019. He turned himself into the police in January 2020 after he was charged with felony burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, and criminal mischief. On the show, he performed "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown.Next up was Tommy Chong as the Pineapple.Tommy Chong as the Pineapple.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesChong is best known for being half of the comedic duo Cheech & Chong. He also played the recurring character Leo on "That '70s Show."His sole performance on the show was Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."Watch him get unmasked here.Then came the Deer, who was revealed to be Terry Bradshaw.Terry Bradshaw as the Deer.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesThe four-time Super Bowl champion sang two songs: "Thunder" by Imagine Dragons and "Get Your Shine On" by Florida Georgia Line.Watch him get unmasked here.In the fourth week of season one, Margaret Cho was unmasked as the Poodle.Margaret Cho as the Poodle.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesThe comedian also sang two songs during her time on "The Masked Singer" before getting unmasked. Cho sang "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar and "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper.Watch her get unmasked here.The next week Tori Spelling was revealed as the Unicorn.Tori Spelling as the Unicorn.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesSpelling, whose claim to fame is her role as Donna Martin on "Beverly Hills 90210," won her first battle of the competition with her rendition of "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten. She then performed "Oops!... I Did It Again" by Britney Spears, and "I Love It" by Icona Pop and Charli XCX before getting eliminated.Watch her get unmasked here.Underneath the Raven's mask was Ricki Lake.Ricki Lake as the Raven.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesLake is best known for her role as Tracy Turnblad in the original "Hairspray" film, and for her daytime talk show, "Ricki Lake," that aired from 1993 to 2004.Her performances were: "Rainbow" by Kesha, "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga, and "Brave" by Sara Bareilles.Watch her get unmasked here.La Toya Jackson was revealed as the Alien.La Toya Jackson as the Alien.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesJackson is, of course, part of the Jackson musical dynasty. She's released nine albums over the course of her career.On "The Masked Singer," she performed "Feel It Still" by Portugal. The Man, "Lovefool" by the Cardigans, "Happy" by Pharrell Williams, and "Ex's & Oh's" by Elle King.Watch her get unmasked here.In week eight, Rumer Willis was unmasked as the Lion.Rumer Wilson as the Lion.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesWillis comes from a talented family — her mother is Demi Moore and her father is Bruce Willis. She's also an actress and a musician in her own right.As the Lion, she performed "Feeling Good" by Nina Simone, "California Dreamin'" by Sia, "Diamond Heart" by Lady Gaga, and "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" by Stevie Wonder.Watch her get unmasked here.Also in week eight, Joey Fatone was unmasked as the Rabbit.Joey Fatone as the Rabbit.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesThe former *NSYNC member made it far into the competition. Fatone performed "Livin' la Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin, "Wake Me Up" by Avicii and Aloe Blacc, "Poison" by Bell Div DeVoe, and "My Girl" by The Temptations.Watch him get unmasked here.In third place was Gladys Knight as the Bee.Gladys Knight as the Bee.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesKnight, also known as the Empress of Soul, was named one of the 100 Best Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone — so it's no surprise that she made it to the finals.As the Bee, she sang "Chandelier" by Sia, "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars, "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus, "What's Love Got to Do with It" by Tina Turner, and "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt.Watch her get unmasked here.The first runner-up of "The Masked Singer" was Donny Osmond as the Peacock.Donny Osmond as the Peacock.Fox; FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesOsmond, one of the most beloved teen idols of all time, Vegas star, voice of Li Shang in "Mulan," and "Dancing with the Stars" champion placed second on "The Masked Singer."During his tenure on the show, he sang "The Greatest Show" by Hugh Jackman, "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic, "All of Me" by John Legend, "Can't Feel My Face" by The Weeknd, "Let's Go" by Calvin Harris and Ne-Yo, and "Shake a Tail Feather" by The Five Du-Tones.Watch him get unmasked here. The winner of "The Masked Singer's" first season was none other than T-Pain, as the Monster.T-Pain as the Monster.FOX Image Collection/Getty ImagesKing of Auto-Tune T-Pain surprised us all with his real singing ability. T-Pain can add "Masked Singer" champion to his list of accomplishments, along with his two Grammys.The Monster sang "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, "I Don't Want to Be" by Gavin Degraw, "American Woman" by Lenny Kravitz, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith, and "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan.Watch him get unmasked here.Read more:Paula Abdul told us everything we need to know about the 'Masked Singer' spin-off, 'The Masked Dancer'12 things you didn't know about 'The Masked Singer' judgesThe most iconic reality TV stars of all time — and where they are now15 surprising things you didn't know about 'The Masked Singer' Read the original article on Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 30th, 2023

Sam Altman is back as CEO of OpenAI with a new board that includes Microsoft. Here"s everything we know about the chaotic coup.

Sam Altman's ousting from OpenAI set off a dramatic chain of events, resulting in his eventual return. Here's what we know. Sam Altman got pushed out of OpenAI.Toby Melville/Getty ImagesOpenAI CEO Sam Altman was suddenly ousted by the company's board earlier in November.Within a week, he was back and a new board that included lead investor Microsoft was announced.The tech world is still wondering what led to the shock firing.Sam Altman is back in control of OpenAI and the CEO has a brand new board.The tech boss was fired in a shock board decision earlier this month, kickstarting a chaotic week for the company.The move initially shocked the tech community and OpenAI investors, including Microsoft. Reports quickly started circulating that the board was wavering on its controversial decision and actively trying to get Altman back.Three days later, it all appeared to have fallen apart. Former Twitch CEO and cofounder, Emmett Shear, was named interim CEO of the company, and Altman had joined Microsoft.But the chaos was far from over.Most employees who returned to work after the weekend were less than impressed with the new company leadership.Staffers staged a revolt in the form of an open letter demanding the board's resignation and the reinstatement of their former chief. By the end of the day, nearly all employees at the company had added their names.Negotiations between OpenAI and Altman were restarted and last week the company announced he was set to return as CEO. Altman's return also came with a new board that included lead investor Microsoft.Here's a timeline of everything we know so far:Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decisionAltman was immediately ousted from OpenAI in a dramatic board decision on Friday. The nonprofit board of the company announced it no longer had "confidence in his ability to continue leading."A timeline provided by fellow OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman showed that Altman received a text from board member Ilya Sutskever asking to talk at midday Friday.When Altman joined the meeting, the whole board, excluding Brockman, was on the call and he was told by Sutskever he was being fired, per Brockman's post.OpenAI staffers resignedBrockman, the former OpenAI president and cofounder, quit his role at the company shortly after the news broke. He said he was told that he was being removed from the board and that Altman had been fired at about the same time OpenAI published a blog post about the incident.Brockman said he was originally told he was "vital to the company and would retain his role," but decided to part ways with the company shortly after.The tech community was shocked by the decision, and at least three other OpenAI researchers followed the former president in giving up their roles.The OpenAI board was optimistic about getting Altman backInvestors, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, were reportedly blindsided by the decision to remove Altman.Several investors began pushing the board members to reverse their sudden leadership decision, Bloomberg reported.In an internal memo cited by The Information, OpenAI's chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, wrote to staff late Saturday night, saying the company remained optimistic that it could bring back Altman and other senior employees who had left.Microsoft chief Nadella reportedly led the high-stakes talks on Altman's return over the weekend.On Sunday, the former OpenAI chief returned to the company's HQ. He posted a picture of himself wearing a guest badge captioned, "First and last time I ever wear one of these."Discussions fell apart and a new CEO was announcedThe Information reported that on Sunday night, Sutskever told OpenAI staffers that Altman would not return, prompting several more employees to quit.Discussions to bring Altman back had reportedly fallen apart, per The Verge. The board then named former Twitch CEO and cofounder Emmett Shear as interim CEO. Shear took over the role from OpenAI's former CTO Mira Murati, who had publicly supported Altman.Altman and Brockman joined MicrosoftIn a dramatic twist, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella scooped up Altman and Brockman to lead "a new advanced AI research team" at Microsoft.In a post on X, Brockman said the new Microsoft team would comprise him, Altman, Aleksander Madry, Szymon Sidor, and Jakub Pachocki. He said the team planned to "build something new" and "incredible."Nadella announced on Monday the company remained "committed to our partnership with OpenAI" and had "confidence in our product roadmap."A key board member said he regretted ousting AltmanOpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said on Monday he deeply regretted his involvement in firing Altman.Many had theorized that Sutskever had a major role in the decision, with reports highlighting the differing priorities between Altman and the nonprofit board."I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI," Sutskever said in an X post Monday. "I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."The chief scientist also added his name to an open letter calling for the board, which he sits on, to resign.Employees staged a revoltMost employees returning to work on Monday were unhappy with the chaos the OpenAI board had kickstarted.Former CTO Mira Murati was installed as interim CEO, following Altman's departure. CEO Emmett Shear, who cofounded Twitch, then took over from her. This meant the company had three CEOs in as many days.The majority of OpenAI staffers just wanted Altman back.By the end of the day, nearly the entire OpenAI staff had threatened to quit and join Altman at Microsoft. They signed a letter calling the board to resign, accusing members of undermining the company.Altman's return rumoured to still be on the cardsDespite publically joining Microsoft that morning, by Monday evening, Altman was reportedly still considering returning to his old post at the AI lab.The Verge reported that Altman and Brockman were considering going back to OpenAI if the board members who ousted Altman stepped down.Multiple sources told the outlet that Altman, along with Brockman and OpenAI's investors, were trying to find a plan for board members to exit the company.Altman and Brockman set to return to OpenAIOn Tuesday night Pacific Standard Time, OpenAI confirmed that Altman was set to return as CEO.The ChatGPT said in a post on X they "reached an agreement in principle" for Altman's return.Shortly after OpenAI broke the news, Altman reflected on his decision to join Microsoft, saying he thought "it was clear that was the best path for me and the team."He continued: "With the new board and w satya's support, i'm looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft."Nadella also commented on the move, adding Microsoft was "encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board."OpenAI also announced a "new initial board" consisting of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. Taylor, a former Salesforce executive, will serve as board chair.Microsoft snags a board seatMicrosoft announced on Wednesday that the company was getting a non-voting board seat.There had been speculation that Satya Nadella would seek more control over OpenAI following the board's failed coup.The CEO was reportedly frustrated by the board's lack of communication during the firing and re-hiring of Altman, later telling journalist Kara Swisher he did not plan to be surprised by the company again.In a message to employees posted on the company's website, re-instated CEO Altman said: "We clearly made the right choice to partner with Microsoft and I'm excited that our new board will include them as a non-voting observer."One board member speaks outFormer OpenAI board member Helen Toner announced her resignation from the company on Wednesday.In a post on X, Toner sought to quell rumors the board was attempting to slow some of OpenAI's work.She said: "To be clear: our decision was about the board's ability to effectively supervise the company, which was our role and responsibility. Though there has been speculation, we were not motivated by a desire to slow down OpenAI's work."Several reports had pointed to a mysterious new OpenAI model known as Q* as a potential trigger for the chaos. The model is said to have sparked concern at the startup.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytNov 30th, 2023

On the eve of Tesla"s next major release, Elon Musk gave a bizarre, long-winded interview about everything but the Cybertruck

The Tesla CEO's 90-minute interview featured an at-times confrontational Elon Musk, who raged against advertisers who left X. Elon Musk sat down for a long-winded rollercoaster of an interview on Wednesday, during which he barely mentioned Tesla's Cybertruck.Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesElon Musk didn't have much to say about the Cybertruck during an interview the day before its launch.He did have words about pretty much everything else, including telling advertisers who fled X to "Go fuck yourself."Here's a look at Musk's 90-minute interview that was at times confrontational, thoughtful, and bizarre.Tesla has its biggest product launch in four years on Thursday — the Cybertruck delivery event — and you'd never guess that if you listened to Elon Musk's hour-and-a-half-long interview at the DealBook Summit on Wednesday evening.The interview, which was at times philosophical, confrontational, and political, barely touched on the new vehicle.Musk has previously called Cybertruck Tesla's "best product ever," and millions of fans have been waiting for the launch since 2019."It will be the biggest product launch of anything by far on Earth this year," the billionaire told the conference's host, journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin. (Musk has previously attempted to temper expectations, and a Tesla exec said the company will only release 10 Cybertrucks at the delivery event on Thursday.)That was more or less it for his thoughts on the electric pickup truck — though he had plenty to say on everything else.Musk's panel started nearly 15 minutes late, leaving the audience — including the likes of hedge fund titan Bill Ackman and X CEO Linda Yaccarino — waiting.Even before he arrived, he was a topic of conversation, looming over the summit, which featured Vice President Kamala Harris, Disney CEO Bob Iger, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon as guests."I'm not here to talk about people," Harris quipped when Sorkin mentioned Musk."He's obviously a brilliant human being and making unbelievable contributions to mankind. But he, you know, comes with pluses and minuses," Dimon responded when Sorkin asked his thoughts.When the man of the hour did arrive, the mood on stage quickly turned tense.Sorkin — whom Musk called both "a friend" and the misnomer "Jonathan" in the same sentence — brought up X's recent advertiser exodus, which followed Musk's post that seemed to endorse antisemitism on X.Musk immediately got confrontational and hot-headed — a version of the billionaire that is all too familiar to the readers of his recent biography."Go fuck yourself," he said to the advertisers, including Disney, IBM, and Apple, who have fled the platform, adding that he did not care if the advertisers withheld their dollars and "killed" the company he bought for $44 billion only one year ago."Is that clear?" Musk asked. "I hope it is. Hey, Bob," he added, singling out Disney CEO Iger, who had been asked about pulling advertising from X earlier in the day.Musk later apologized for his tweet, calling it "foolish," but he never backtracked on his feelings toward advertisers — nor did he say sorry to Yaccarino, who has to clean up the mess.But after more than 20 minutes of defensive posturing, his mood shifted when Sorkin brought up Musk previously calling his mind "a storm."Thoughtful and somber, the 52-year-old paused before pointing to his "difficult childhood" and a lifelong struggle to find happiness."I did have this existential crisis when I was around 12 about: 'What's the meaning of life? Isn't it all pointless? Why not just commit suicide? Why exist?'" said Musk, who has previously commented on the tenuous relationship he has with his father and being the victim of bullying.The introspection made way for a discussion about the foundations of his philosophy — "one should not read Nietzsche as a teenager" — before he turned to a couple of his greatest hits, like extending life beyond Earth, figuring out the meaning of the universe, and opining about the dangers of technology.One of those technologies is artificial intelligence, about which Musk, a cofounder of OpenAI, has previously expressed worry. While Musk said he doesn't know why Sam Altman was ousted as CEO of the firm, he's "concerned" that the company discovered "some dangerous element of AI.""I have mixed feelings about Sam. The ring of power can corrupt," Musk — who had avoided questions about his own accumulation of power just minutes before — said.The CEO and richest man in the world ended the talk with some politics — he's still bitter about not being invited to the White House for the electric vehicle summit and is against unions — and a sidebar about how neuralink, his mad-scientist brain chip company that has faced criticism from an animal rights group, has built a "monkey paradise."Elon the fighter, philosopher, and questionable friend may have showed up on stage Wednesday. But Elon the Cybertruck hypeman seems to have been MIA. Maybe that's what X is for.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 30th, 2023

Sam Altman is set to return as the CEO of OpenAI after he was dramatically fired last week. Here"s a full timeline of the chaos.

Sam Altman's ousting from OpenAI set off a dramatic chain of events, resulting in his eventual return. Here's what we know. Sam Altman got pushed out of OpenAI.Toby Melville/Getty ImagesSam Altman got pushed out as OpenAI CEO last Friday.He was ousted by the company's board, kickstarting days of chaos.On Tuesday, OpenAI announced Altman was coming back. Here's a timeline of the events at OpenAI. Sam Altman is heading back to OpenAI after a chaotic few days.The tech boss was fired in a shock board decision on Friday, kickstarting a chaotic weekend.The move shocked the tech community and OpenAI investors, including Microsoft. Initial reports quickly started circulating that the board was wavering on its controversial decision and actively trying to get Altman back.By Monday, it all appeared to have fallen apart. Former Twitch CEO and cofounder, Emmett Shear, was named interim CEO of the company, and Altman had joined Microsoft.But the chaos was far from over.Most employees who returned to work on Monday were less than impressed with the new company leadership.Staffers staged a revolt in the form of an open letter demanding the board's resignation and the reinstatement of their former chief. By the end of the day, nearly all employees at the company had added their names.Negotiations between the OpenAI and Altman were restarted and by Tuesday night the company had announced he was set to return as CEO.Here's a timeline of everything we know so far:Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decisionAltman was immediately ousted from OpenAI in a dramatic board decision on Friday. The nonprofit board of the company announced it no longer had "confidence in his ability to continue leading."A timeline provided by fellow OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman showed that Altman received a text from board member Ilya Sutskever asking to talk at midday Friday.When Altman joined the meeting, the whole board, excluding Brockman, was on the call and he was told by Sutskever he was being fired, per Brockman's post.OpenAI staffers resignedBrockman, the former OpenAI president and cofounder, quit his role at the company shortly after the news broke. He said he was told that he was being removed from the board and that Altman had been fired at about the same time OpenAI published a blog post about the incident.Brockman said he was originally told he was "vital to the company and would retain his role," but decided to part ways with the company shortly after.The tech community was shocked by the decision, and at least three other OpenAI researchers followed the former president in giving up their roles.The OpenAI board was optimistic about getting Altman backInvestors, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, were reportedly blindsided by the decision to remove Altman.Several investors began pushing the board members to reverse their sudden leadership decision, Bloomberg reported.In an internal memo cited by The Information, OpenAI's chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, wrote to staff late Saturday night, saying the company remained optimistic that it could bring back Altman and other senior employees who had left.Microsoft chief Nadella reportedly led the high-stakes talks on Altman's return over the weekend.On Sunday, the former OpenAI chief returned to the company's HQ. He posted a picture of himself wearing a guest badge captioned, "First and last time I ever wear one of these."Discussions fell apart and a new CEO was announcedThe Information reported that on Sunday night, Sutskever told OpenAI staffers that Altman would not return, prompting several more employees to quit.Discussions to bring Altman back had reportedly fallen apart, per The Verge. The board then named former Twitch CEO and cofounder Emmett Shear as interim CEO. Shear took over the role from OpenAI's former CTO Mira Murati, who had publicly supported Altman.Altman and Brockman joined MicrosoftIn a dramatic twist, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella scooped up Altman and Brockman to lead "a new advanced AI research team" at Microsoft.In a post on X, Brockman said the new Microsoft team would comprise him, Altman, Aleksander Madry, Szymon Sidor, and Jakub Pachocki. He said the team planned to "build something new" and "incredible."Nadella announced on Monday the company remained "committed to our partnership with OpenAI" and had "confidence in our product roadmap."A key board member said he regretted ousting AltmanOpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said on Monday he deeply regretted his involvement in firing Altman.Many had theorized that Sutskever had a major role in the decision, with reports highlighting the differing priorities between Altman and the nonprofit board."I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI," Sutskever said in an X post Monday. "I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."The chief scientist also added his name to an open letter calling for the board, which he sits on, to resign.Employees staged a revoltMost employees returning to work on Monday were unhappy with the chaos the OpenAI board had kickstarted.Former CTO Mira Murati was installed as interim CEO, following Altman's departure. CEO Emmett Shear, who cofounded Twitch, then took over from her. This meant the company had three CEOs in as many days.The majority of OpenAI staffers just wanted Altman back.By the end of the day, nearly the entire OpenAI staff had threatened to quit and join Altman at Microsoft. They signed a letter calling the board to resign, accusing members of undermining the company.Altman's return might still be on the cardsDespite publically joining Microsoft that morning, by Monday evening, Altman was reportedly still considering returning to his old post at the AI lab.The Verge reported that Altman and Brockman were considering going back to OpenAI if the board members who ousted Altman stepped down.Multiple sources told the outlet that Altman, along with Brockman and OpenAI's investors, were trying to find a plan for board members to exit the company.Altman and Brockman set to return to OpenAIOn Tuesday night Pacific Standard Time, OpenAI confirmed that Altman was set to return as CEO.The ChatGPT said in a post on X they "reached an agreement in principle" for Altman's return.Shortly after OpenAI broke the news, Altman reflected on his decision to join Microsoft, saying he thought "it was clear that was the best path for me and the team."He continued: "With the new board and w satya's support, i'm looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft."Nadella also commented on the move, adding Microsoft was "encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board."OpenAI also announced a "new initial board" consisting of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. Taylor, a former Salesforce executive, will serve as board chair.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 22nd, 2023

OpenAI is in a deadlock. The coming hours will determine its fate.

Discussions over the future of OpenAI will resume Tuesday morning, as employees pile on pressure for Sam Altman to be reinstated. OpenAI CEO Sam AltmanWin McNamee/Getty ImagesThe next few hours will be crucial for OpenAI.Discussions over the future of OpenAI will resume Tuesday morning.Most OpenAI employees have signed a letter saying they will leave if Altman is not reinstated.Over the past four days, OpenAI has seen three CEOs, several resignations, and perhaps the most dramatic power struggle ever seen inside a tech company. And it's far from over.The OpenAI story, which began with Friday's ousting of CEO Sam Altman, is changing minute by minute (by the time you read this, there's a good chance there will have been several new twists). But the next few hours may be the most crucial in this saga.Extremely late Sunday, Microsoft CEO Nadella announced that Altman and OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman would join Microsoft to lead a new AI research team. Only 36 hours later, it looks like that may no longer happen. Per The Verge, Altman and Brockman are willing to return to OpenAI if the remaining board members who ousted them step aside.One problem: it really looks like those board members don't want to flip on their decision to push Altman out.OpenAI vice president of global affairs Anna Makanju told staff last night that the company was in "intense discussions" with Altman and the board that will continue Tuesday morning "when everyone's had a little more sleep," Bloomberg reported.While she acknowledged these discussions can "drag out," there's increasing pressure from OpenAI's workforce, most of whom have signed a letter announcing they will leave to join Microsoft if Altman and Brockman are not reinstated. In one of the strangest twists of the saga so far, OpenAI cofounder Ilya Sutskever, who led the charge to push Altman out, signed this letter and later said he regretted his role in pushing Altman out.All of this sets the stage for an even greater power struggle in the coming hours as investors pressure the board to bring Altman back, employees threaten to jump ship, and interim CEO Emmett Shear attempts to quell a lot of anger.Meanwhile (and bizarrely) nobody seems to know why Altman was fired in the first place. Employees were offered some vague reasons that seemed to amount to bad project management at worst, and made no sense to staff, Business Insider's Kali Hays reported. Some outlets have reported there were tensions between Altman and the board, in particular cofounder Sutskever, over the speed of developing generative AI.It's hard to predict how the rest of this saga plays out. While getting Altman and Brockman initially seemed like a boon for Microsoft, the OpenAI employee revolt has thrown all that up in the air. Let's say Microsoft ends up hiring the OpenAI employees threatening to walk, to the tune of almost 800 staff. That's a messy, expensive process and potentially throws up IP issues. What happens to OpenAI's tech? The alternative is just having Altman and Brockman lead an internal Microsoft team, while OpenAI continues separately. But that would present plenty of corporate governance headaches of its own, since OpenAI is reliant on Microsoft's compute (and money). Whatever happens, that latter dynamic will still be a factor. Nadella has made clear he thinks OpenAI's board needs to change, and he's the man writing $13 billion checks.Meanwhile, millions of developers and startup founders who use OpenAI's products are watching with bated breath. Some of OpenAI's startup customers are looking to jump ship to other AI model providers including Anthropic and Meta.Rivals are certainly poised to snap up any OpenAI talent headed to the exits. Google's DeepMind, which has delayed its highly-anticipated Gemini model, would benefit from a lot of OpenAI's talent. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has already offered to hire OpenAI employees who leave and match their compensation.But nobody truly knows what's going to happen. Just a few days ago the company was looking at an $86 billion valuation. Now it's facing a mutiny and an increasingly cloudy future. It all hangs in the coming hours.Got a tip? You can reach Hugh via encrypted email (hlangley@protonmail.com) or the encrypted-messaging apps Signal and Telegram (628-228-1836 or 07796 902273).Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 21st, 2023

Satya Nadella says it doesn"t matter where Sam Altman ends up because he"ll still be working with Microsoft anyway

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Bloomberg TV he doesn't know exactly why OpenAI's board fired Sam Altman. Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesSatya Nadella said Sam Altman will be working with Microsoft no matter where he ends up working.On Monday, the Microsoft CEO announced he hired Altman after the former OpenAI CEO's shock firing.Altman is reportedly considering returning to OpenAI if the board that fired him steps down.On Monday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced he was hiring Sam Altman. The move came after a tumultuous weekend in Silicon Valley that saw the former OpenAI CEO ousted from the artificial intelligence startup.Nadella also snapped up former Open AI president Greg Brockman, writing in a post on X that the two AI experts will be leading a "new advanced AI research team" at Microsoft.However, both Altman and Brockman are considering returning to OpenAI if board members decide to step down, The Verge reported on Monday, citing multiple unnamed sources.Still, Nadella told Bloomberg TV on Monday it doesn't matter where Altman ends up working — because "irrespective of where Sam is, he's working with Microsoft."Microsoft is an investor in OpenAI, pouring in $10 billion into the AI startup.The tech giant is also seen as the big winner in the weekend drama at OpenAI, since a new AI venture headed by Altman and Brockman could be a competitor to OpenAI.Nadella endorsed Altman in his interview with Bloomberg TV, saying he is confident in his leadership. He also said he doesn't know why OpenAI's board fired Altman."I have not been told about anything," he told the media outlet."The board has not talked about anything that Sam did other than some breakdown in communications and I was not directly told by anyone from their board about any issues," he said.OpenAI only told Microsoft about Altman's ouster a few minutes before its announcement, sources told Business Insider's Kali Hays and Ashley Stewart.OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI sent outside regular business hours.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 21st, 2023

Why you should care about Sam Altman, Microsoft, and the OpenAI CEO mess

The chaos surrounding OpenAI, its former CEO Sam Altman, and Microsoft has implications beyond the tech world. Sam Altman was forced out as the CEO of OpenAI on Friday, setting into motion a weekend of chaos for the company.Jack Guez/AFP via Getty ImagesSam Altman was forced out of his position as the CEO of OpenAI on Friday.The announcement kicked off a weekend of chaos involving Altman, Microsoft, and the firm behind ChatGPT.Here's why you should care, even if you aren't in the tech world. On Friday afternoon, the tech world reverberated with news that Sam Altman was being pushed out as the CEO of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence firm behind ChatGPT.Throughout the weekend, phones pinged, tweets were fired out, and group texts lit up as more news came: OpenAI's president Greg Brockman quit; the firm tried to bring back Altman; and in the wee hours of Monday morning, Microsoft announced that it had hired both Altman and Brockman.Now, nearly every single employee at OpenAI has signed a letter saying they will quit if Altman and Brockman are not brought back. Some outlets have reported that the pressure campaign to reinstate Altman may be working.So what's the big deal? Why should you care so much about the chaos happening at a company you may not have heard of one year ago? Why is it so important that OpenAI and Microsoft figure it all out?Beyond the existential fears of OpenAI developing potentially dangerous technology, the events of this weekend amounted to more than corporate mishegoss: The fate of ChatGPT — the AI chatbot that more than 100 million people use on the job, at school, and at home — is on the line.Just look at Microsoft's stock over the past few days, or Altman's recent post on X, which reveals how important ChatGPT and OpenAI's other AI tools are to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and a whole host of other constituents."Satya and my top priority remains to ensure openai continues to thrive," Altman wrote on Monday. "We are committed to fully providing continuity of operations to our partners and customers the openai/microsoft partnership makes this very doable."To back up: Since 2019, Microsoft and OpenAI, which was founded as a nonprofit dedicated to artificial intelligence research, have worked together. Microsoft invested $1 billion that year, wrote another check in 2021, and this year upped the ante, committing $10 billion to OpenAI.But the deal was about more than just cash. OpenAI relies on Microsoft's cloud computing infrastructure and Azure data centers to run its large language models and AI tools such as GPT-4, ChatGPT and DALL-E 3. The startup probably spends most of the money it got from Microsoft on cloud services from its main benefactor, in a kind of circular deal.Without Microsoft's supercomputers, OpenAI is basically a really well-made, technologically advanced boat without a paddle. While Microsoft is working on its own in-house large language model, it doesn't have one yet; without OpenAI's, the tech giant has some great paddles, but no boat.The two work symbiotically. If nearly everyone at OpenAI jumps ship and heads to Microsoft, what can they bring with them? Likely not ChatGPT and the large language model behind it. So that could require Altman, Brockman, and whoever else joins Microsoft to develop their own AI models from scratch, which would take at least several months and whole new pile of money.In that scenario, would Microsoft keep supporting OpenAI with all that expensive cloud infrastructure? If not, where would OpenAI go to get the chips, servers, networking and data centers to deliver ChatGPT and its other services to the masses?Even if you don't use ChatGPT as a homework helper or personal assistant, the shockwaves could be significant.There are hundreds of AI startups that have, with OpenAI's blessing, built themselves around ChatGPT. Major firms like Canva and JetBlue have integrated its AI enterprise software into their businesses.However this chaos gets resolved, the episode has done serious damage to OpenAI and has put a question mark over the future of its incredibly popular services.If this all continues to goes south, get ready to learn about Claude, Google Bard, and other rival AI offerings.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 20th, 2023

Futures Flat After OpenAI "Train Wreck" As Markets Brace For Nvidia Earnings

Futures Flat After OpenAI "Train Wreck" As Markets Brace For Nvidia Earnings US stock futures erased earlier losses to trade flat as Microsoft gained 2% in premarket trading, sending it to a new all time high, after it said Sam Altman will lead the software developer’s new in-house artificial intelligence team. The OpenAI co-founder was ousted from his startup last week. We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett… — Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023 As of 8:30am ET, S&P futures were flat at 4.525, following three weeks of gains that pushed the index nearly 10% higher and propelling it to an 11 week high. Treasuries dropped, pushing US 10-year yields up 3bps to 4.47%. The dollar extended a decline, with a gauge of greenback strength hitting its lowest level since August, amid speculation the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its rate-hike cycle. Commodities are mixed: oil is higher; base metals are lower. OPEC+ members will meet to set policy on November 26 with RTRS sources reporting that OPEC+ is set to consider whether to make additional oil supply cut. Key catalysts this week include FOMC Minutes (Tue), NVDA’s earnings (Tue), Initial Jobless Claims (Wed), PMIs (Fri) and OPEC Meeting (Sun). We will have a shortened week due to Thanksgiving, and the key event is tomorrow's NVDA earnings. As DB's Jim Reid reminds us, "Nvidia's Q1 earnings in May was probably the event that catapulted AI into the stratosphere in terms of being an important macro topic so the pace of their success will be a key driver in how rapidly AI infiltrates our daily lives." In premarket trading, Microsoft climbed as much as 2.7% after hiring OpenAI co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman to lead its in-house artificial intelligence team. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Arm Holdings climbed 0.7% as Wells Fargo initiates coverage of the chip designer with an overweight rating, saying that the company is one of the best-positioned within the S550 billion global semiconductor industry. Boeing gained 1.7% as Deutsche Bank upgrades to buy on "simple” rationale that aircraft deliveries are beginning to accelerate. Chegg shares dropped 3.5% after the edtech company was downgraded to underweight at Morgan Stanley, which sees weaker trends in October and greater competition from generative AI in the longer term. Traders are currently pricing in about a 30% chance of a first Fed rate cut in March and are awaiting publication Tuesday week of minutes of the last Fed rates meeting for further insight into Powell's thinking. "The dovish Fed narrative remains in place," said Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. "There is likely to be ongoing downward pressure on US yields and the dollar." In the biggest political news over the weekend, Argentinian libertarian candidate Javier Milei (defeated Economy Minister Sergio Massa to win Sunday's presidential runoff. Argentina's bonds rallied, while a gauge of emerging-market currencies gained along with developing-nation stocks. Elsewhere in emerging markets, Zambia's eurobonds plunged after the country said it can't implement a restructuring pact with bondholders as not all creditors supported the agreement. Securities due 2027 fell more than 2 cents in the dollar. European stocks reversed earlier gains, and traded at session lows, with the Stoxx 600 down 0.2% as a slew of negative corporate news weighed on shares. Bayer AG slumped by the most ever after the German pharmaceutical giant stopped a key drug trial and suffered a defeat in a trial related to its Roundup weed killer. American peer Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. dropped more than 4% in US premarket trading. Ashtead Group Plc plunged after the UK equipment-rental company cut its revenue forecasts. Julius Baer Group Ltd. fell as much as 12% after the Swiss bank warned of a profit decline amid rising bad-loan provisions. Here are the other notable premarket movers: Diploma rises as much as 9.7%, the most since July. The British construction components firm reported “very solid” delivery and a margins beat, according to Morgan Stanley. Analysts see upgrades to consensus Pepco jumps as much as 11% in Warsaw after its majority shareholder Ibex said it wouldn’t sell any stake at current stock price Currys shares gain as much as 5.3%, reaching the highest intraday level since September 4, after RBC Capital Markets upgraded the stock to outperform from sector perform, noting that the sale of the Kotsovolos unit in Greece has made the electronics retailer “more investable” Julius Baer shares fall as much as 12% after the Swiss bank’s 10-month results indicated a 10% downgrade to FY EPS estimates, according to Kepler Cheuvreux Ipsen drops as much as 5.4% after Jefferies downgrades to hold, citing potential pipeline risks for the French drugmaker and a lack of key catalysts. Aurubis falls as much as 3.5%, the biggest drop since Sept. 21, after the copper recycler had its stock downgraded, citing a lack of upside and “disappointing” smelter fees Endesa shares decline as much as 3% in Madrid after the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce has decided Endesa Generación must pay ~$570 million to liquefied natural gas producer as part of arbitration process AMS-Osram falls as much as 11% after the chipmaker said it will issue ~724 million new bearer shares at CHF1.07 each, a price that Vontobel says is “clearly lower” than expected Sirius Real Estate shares fall as much as 5% as the firm offers shares via Joh Berenberg Gossler & Co. KG, Peel Hunt, Panmure Gordon, PSG Capital A rise in energy costs may cloud the outlook for inflation and interest rates in Europe. Natural gas prices jumped after a vessel seized in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels renewed concerns that the Israel-Hamas war could affect vital waterways for the fuel. Benchmark European gas futures rose as much as 6.9%. The increase was also driven by colder weather forecasts and higher crude oil prices ahead of an OPEC+ meeting later this week. ECB Governing Council member Pierre Wunsch said on Monday that the Central Bank may have to raise borrowing costs again if investor bets on monetary loosening undermine the institution’s policy stance. He was the first of a number of ECB officials set to speak Monday and later this week. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks extended last week’s gain, led by a rebound in Hong Kong-listed equities after losses late last week. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed as much as 0.6%, headed for its fifth gain in six sessions. Index heavyweights Tencent and Alibaba bounced back in Hong Kong after sliding in the wake of the latter’s results announcement Friday. More broadly, risk sentiment has improved with traders adding to bets the Federal Reserve is done with rate hikes. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp outperformed amid resilience in tech and with the property sector underpinned by support pledges, while China’s latest benchmark 1-year and 5-year Loan Prime Rates were unsurprisingly maintained. Australia's ASX 200 finished marginally higher as strength in energy and financials was partly offset by losses in utilities and miners, while a quiet data calendar further added to the non-committal mood. Japan's Nikkei 225 swung between gains and losses in which an early rally saw the index climb above 33,850 and print its highest level since 1990, before wiping out all its gains and more. The index has been boosted by recent yen weakness, solid company earnings, and corporate governance reforms. Indian stocks dropped, weighed by India’s largest shadow lender Bajaj Finance, which was pressured by the central bank’s unsecured retail loan crackdown. The S&P BSE Sensex fell 0.2% to 65,655.15 in Mumbai, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index declined by a similar measure. Bajaj Finance Ltd. contributed the most to Sensex’s decline, decreasing 2.1%. In rates, Treasuries rose, pushing US 10-year yields down 2bps to 4.45%. Italian bonds outperform in Europe after Moody’s revised the outlook on the country to stable from negative. Italian 10-year yields fall 3bps. Treasury auctions resume with $16b 20-year new issue; WI yield at ~4.83% is ~42bp richer than result of October sale. Dollar IG issuance slate empty so far; volume for the week expected to be lighter than the past two weeks with around $10 billion in new bond sales projected. In FX, the dollar added to its recent decline, with the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index falling 0.4% to its lowest level since August. The Japanese yen is the best performer among the G-10’s, rising 0.9% versus the greenback. Traders are currently pricing in about a 30% chance of the first Fed rate cut in March after Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr said Friday officials are likely at or near the end of their tightening campaign. One-month BBDXY riskies stand around 16 basis points, calls over puts. If July extreme valuations were taken out, bullish sentiment for the greenback hasn’t been this weak in three years. The yen strengthened 0.9% to 148.32 amid speculation that the Bank of Japan will have to tighten policy to fight inflation. The offshore yuan strengthened after the People's Bank of China boosted its daily reference rate for the currency to the strongest since August. The nation's commercial lenders on Monday kept their benchmark lending rates unchanged, in line with the central bank's decision this month to maintain policy rates in favor of other means to support stimulus spending. Bitcoin is firmer on the session and extending further above the $37k mark, following Milei's victory in the Argentina presidential elections. US economic data includes October Leading Index at 10am (est. -0.7%, prior -0.7%); ahead this week are existing home sales, durable goods orders, University of Michigan sentiment and S&P Global PMIs. In the holiday-shortened week, jobless claims has been brought forward to Wednesday due to the holiday, and this week's data corresponds to the survey week for payrolls so given this and the fact that it has been edging up (albeit slowly) in recent weeks makes it one of the key data points at the moment Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures little changed at 4,531.00 MXAP up 0.7% to 161.94 MXAPJ up 0.9% to 505.22 Nikkei down 0.6% to 33,388.03 Topix down 0.8% to 2,372.60 Hang Seng Index up 1.9% to 17,778.07 Shanghai Composite up 0.5% to 3,068.32 Sensex down 0.2% to 65,651.53 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.1% to 7,058.42 Kospi up 0.9% to 2,491.20 STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 455.76 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.59% Euro up 0.2% to $1.0939 Brent Futures up 0.8% to $81.24/bbl Gold spot down 0.0% to $1,979.85 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.43% to 103.48 Top Overnight News China’s share of the global economy is shrinking at the fastest pace since the Mao era, reaching a peak of 18.4% in 2021 before sliding to 17% this year. FT TikTok is facing what it views as perhaps its biggest crisis yet, with the world’s most popular app facing an intense backlash over the perception it favors pro-Palestinian and, at times, antisemitic content. Citing anti-Israel posts that surfaced on TikTok since the Gaza conflict began and a decades-old Osama bin Laden letter that circulated this week, Washington lawmakers have renewed calls to ban the app in the U.S. WSJ China is creating a list of 50 property developers eligible for a range of financial support as the gov’t continues to take steps to stabilize the industry. BBG Italy secured a major win after Italy raised its outlook on the country to stable, removing the risk of a downgrade into junk territory. BBG US, Israel, and Hamas are close to a deal that would see fighting halted for 5 days in exchange for the release of women and children being held hostage. WaPo OpenAI tapped former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear to replace Sam Altman, defying calls from investors to reinstate him. Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman will join Microsoft to lead its new in-house AI team, CEO Satya Nadella said. BBG Biden’s approval rating sinks to 40%, the lowest level of his presidency, and he’s trailing Trump in a hypothetical general-election matchup. NBC News Washington is confident Arab states won’t weaponize oil and it notes prices are near the lows despite two major wars taking place (in Ukraine and Gaza). FT Citigroup plans to announce on Monday the first big round of lay-offs in a sweeping restructuring — the bank’s biggest revamp in nearly two decades — that will eventually result in thousands of positions being eliminated. FT A More detailed look at global  markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks were mostly positive albeit with gains capped amid the lack of fresh catalysts from over the weekend and as participants await this week’s key events including tomorrow's FOMC minutes release. ASX 200 finished marginally higher as strength in energy and financials was partly offset by losses in utilities and miners, while a quiet data calendar further added to the non-committal mood. Nikkei 225 swung between gains and losses in which an early rally saw the index climb above 33,850 and print its highest level since 1990, before wiping out all its gains and more. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp outperformed amid resilience in tech and with the property sector underpinned by support pledges, while China’s latest benchmark 1-year and 5-year Loan Prime Rates were unsurprisingly maintained. Top Asian News PBoC 1-Year Loan Prime Rate (Nov) 3.45% vs. Exp. 3.45% (Prev. 3.45%); 5-Year Loan Prime Rate 4.20% vs. Exp. 4.20% (Prev. 4.20%) China’s securities regulator will adopt different policies to address the risk of bond defaults by large real estate companies depending on their respective circumstances, according to Chinese financial media outlet Yicai. Taiwan’s APEC envoy Chang said he had informal interactions with US President Biden, Vice President Harris and Secretary of State Blinken but didn’t have any interactions with Chinese President Xi. China is reportedly drafting a "whitelist" of 50 developers for a financing boost, via Bloomberg; designed to guide institutions as they consider support for the industry. European bourses in the green, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.1%, with action relatively contained overall in light macro newsflow after a slightly downbeat APAC handover. Sectors are mixed with Retail, Telecom & Utilities firmer given Cinco Dias reporting that Cellnex is looking into options for various units while Healthcare, alongside the DAX 40 -0.1%, is hampered by marked pressure in Bayer -20% after several negative updates. Stateside, futures are essentially flat going into a relatively light schedule expect for a 20yr auction before Tuesday's FOMC minutes and the Thanksgiving closures, ES +0.1%; NQ outperforms slightly as MSFT (+2.0%) extends in the pre-market. Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Nadella says former OpenAI executives Sam Altman and Greg Brockman are to join Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. Top European News UK Chancellor Hunt said he will not conduct any tax cuts that would make inflation worse and that the only way to reduce personal taxes is to spend public money more efficiently, while he responded that everything is on the table regarding the Autumn Statement when asked about reports of inheritance tax cuts. Hunt also stated that the tax burden is too high which he wants to bring down, according to Reuters. It was separately reported that Hunt is ‘considering’ a cut to income tax and national insurance in the Autumn Statement but may delay a widely anticipated reduction in inheritance tax until the spring budget, according to the Independent. UK PM Sunak says we believe in cutting taxes carefully and sustainably, approach starts with controlling inflation. Tax cuts don't automatically pay for themselves, Sunak says; can only cut taxes once inflation and debt is under control. To grow the economy, will need to take five long term decisions. ECB's Wunch says bet on rate cuts risk prompting hike instead; markets are optimistic to rule out further hiking; rates should stay unchanged in December and January. German government spokesperson says court ruling on climate fund means we're stepping in to new legal territory; all special funds are being reviewed now. Hungarian PM Orban said Hungary needs to change the EU not leave it, while he also stated that they will need to correct the mistaken promise to start talks about Ukraine’s EU membership. Fitch affirmed Spain on Friday at A-; Outlook Stable, while Moody’s raised Portugal’s rating by two notches from Baa2 to A3; Outlook Stable and affirmed Italy at Baa3; Outlook revised to Stable from Negative. Javier Milei won Argentina's presidential election against Sergio Massa who conceded defeat. FX Dollar continues to retreat with DXY losing sight of 104.00 before finding some support sub-103.50 within 103.97-46 range. Yen and Yuan among main beneficiaries or architects of Buck depreciation as USD/JPY probes 148.50 from high just shy of 150.00 and USD/CNY, CNH top 7.1650 at best. Kiwi back above 0.6000 vs Greenback ahead of NZ trade data and Aussie over 0.6550 awaiting RBA speeches. Pound briefly back on 1.2500 handle and Euro reclaims 1.0900+ status PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1612 vs exp. 7.2320 (prev. 7.1728) Fixed Income Debt futures regain composure to varying degrees after soaking up more offers. Gilts bounce firmly from 96.87 to 97.28, T-note tags along within a 108-16/25 range ahead of 20 year issuance and Bunds on coattails between 130.70-131.00 bounds. BTPs outperform mostly above 114.00 after Moody's Italian outlook upgrade to stable from negative Commodities Crude benchmarks continue the rebound which began on Friday, where the contracts settled higher by circa. USD 3/bbl. Specifics have been light on Monday as participants digest Friday's/weekend OPEC+ reporting. Currently, WTI trades above USD 77.00/bbl (vs low 75.14/bbl) while Brent is just below USD 82/bbl in a USD 79.58-81.75/bbl intraday range. Energy Intel’s Bakr said she hasn’t heard of any ‘additional’ OPEC+ cuts being discussed at this time. On Friday, it was reported OPEC+ is to consider whether to deepen oil-output cuts at the next meeting on Nov 26th, according to Reuters OPEC+ sources. Additionally, on Friday, reports suggested Saudi Arabia is highly likely to extend its 1mln BPD cut at least until Spring, while an additional OPEC+ cut of up to 1mln BPD could be on the table, according to FT sources. Russia’s Gazprom and Venezuela’s PDVSA are to discuss new gas projects in Venezuela, according to RIA. Spot gold is a touch softer as yields remain higher and the DXY lifts from lows, but overall action is contained. Base metals are mostly firmer in a continuation of APAC action, where Shanghai Copper hit two-month highs. Elsewhere, Dalian iron ore extended amid Australian supply concerns around BHP train drivers taking industrial action. First Quantum, Cobre Panama Operation: Minera Panama has further ramped down operation at Cobre Panama to one remaining ore processing train. Without shipments arriving at Punta Rincon, expects to run out of on-site power plant supplies from Nov. 20th. Click here for more details. Geopolitics Israel, Hamas and the US are close to an agreement to free dozens of hostages in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting and were reported to have reached a tentative deal, according to the Washington Post. However, the White House said there is no deal yet and they continue to work hard to get a deal between Israel and Hamas. Israeli forces advanced in Gaza City as Israeli PM Netanyahu resisted calls for a ceasefire, according to FT. In relevant news, Israel’s ambassador to the US Herzog said Israel is hopeful a significant number of hostages could be freed in the coming days. US President Biden said in an Op-Ed article that a revitalised Palestinian authority should ultimately govern Gaza and the West Bank, while he added that the international community must establish a reconstruction mechanism to sustainably meet Gaza’s long-term needs. UN Secretary-General Guterres said he is deeply shocked that two UNRWA schools were struck in less than 24 hours in Gaza which killed and injured dozens of people. Guterres also said the civilian toll in Gaza is staggering and unacceptable, while he reiterated the call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell said at a joint press conference with Qatari PM Al-Thani that the UN Security Council resolution on humanitarian pauses in Gaza must be implemented. It was also reported that Qatar’s PM said challenges to the hostages deal are now very minor and that sticking points in negotiations are practical and logistical, while he is more confident now that a deal can be reached on hostages. Iran’s Foreign Minister said resistance groups are cleverly adjusting pressure on Israel and its supporters and have an 'unactivated capacity' for pressure. Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei called on Muslim states to at least cut off political ties with Israel for a limited period of time, according to TASNIM. Yemen’s Houthis said they will target all ships owned and operated by Israeli companies or carrying the Israeli flag, while the Houthis later announced that they seized an Israeli ship and took it to a Yemeni port. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the international community must act now and take effective measures to end the humanitarian disaster regarding the Gaza situation and that China fully supports the Riyadh summit call for a two-state solution. Saudi's Foreign Minister also commented that they call for an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian assistance, while he added the international community needs to shoulder the responsibility to stop Israel. Turkish President Erdogan said Turkey will make efforts to rebuild damaged infrastructure, hospitals and schools in Gaza if a ceasefire is achieved, while he added that Turkey is making a call for nuclear weapons inspections in Israel so no doubt is left on the issue, according to Turkish media. Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on basic principles of a peace treaty, according to TASS citing Armenia's PM. US Event Calendar 10:00: Oct. Leading Index, est. -0.7%, prior -0.7% Central Bank Speakers Fed’s Barkin Speaks on Fox Business DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap I can't believe its Thanksgiving week already. Next you'll be telling me Xmas is just around the corner. The holiday will mean a quiet second half of the week for markets but there is still a reasonable number of planned events throughout the week. Nvidia's earnings tomorrow will be fascinating, as will the saga at OpenAI where CEO, and Artificial Intelligence pioneer, Sam Altman was ousted on Friday night by the board but with Bloomberg suggesting there has been a subsequent movement from their investors to get him reinstated, including from Microsoft. The board have hired a new CEO overnight though. So a big week for AI. Remember that Nvidia's Q1 earnings in May was probably the event that catapulted AI into the stratosphere in terms of being an important macro topic so the pace of their success will be a key driver in how rapidly AI infiltrates our daily lives. In the US this week, jobless claims has been brought forward to Wednesday due to the holiday, and this week's data corresponds to the survey week for payrolls so given this and the fact that it has been edging up (albeit slowly) in recent weeks makes it one of the key data points at the moment. If our economists' forecast of +236k is correct, then the 4-week moving average will be just under 10% above where it was for the October survey week. So while predicting payrolls is more difficult than guessing what the weather will be this time next week here in the UK, this will be an input into models. Elsewhere in the US durable goods are also due on Wednesday with DB expecting core orders to fall slightly in the first month of Q4 after two strong months at the end of Q3. On the same day the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey will bring any revisions to what were high inflation expectations in the first read. 5-10yr expectations were at 12-year highs of 3.2%. There's usually a bit of a bias to downward revisions in the second read but we will see. Before that, today sees the latest US leading indicator index which has been negative every month since January 2022. Tomorrow sees existing home sales alongside the last FOMC minutes. We will see if it was as dovish as the market interpreted at the time. Powell's subsequent speech was deemed to be a bit less dovish so maybe he was trying to slightly alter the market's interpretation of the meeting. With financial conditions being important to the Fed at the moment, and with them swinging about of late, the bias for the committee can change over time so the minutes will already be a bit out of date as financial conditions have loosened notably since partly due to the Fed's concerns about them. So all a bit circular. Staying on the theme the ECB account of their last meeting will be out on Thursday . Widening out from the US, the global flash PMIs will be out on Thursday (Europe) and Friday (US and Japan). Germany has its PPI today and a breakdown of Q3 GDP and the latest Ifo survey on Friday. The Dutch have a General Election on Wednesday the same day as the UK autumn statement where there is some talk of a few selected tax cuts around 14 months on from the infamous mega-tax cutting budget of the Liz Truss regime. In Asia Japanese inflation on Thursday will be the key release. See the day-by-day calendar at the end for a full preview of the week. This morning Asian equity markets have carried on the recent bullish global momentum. Across the region, the Hang Seng (+1.51%) is leading gains with the Shanghai Composite (+0.52%) and the CSI (+0.41%) also edging higher following a rebound in Property stocks after Chinese regulators indicated that they would provide more policy support to the beleaguered real estate sector to help stabilise economic growth. The KOSPI (+1.06%) is also trading in positive territory while the Nikkei (-0.53%) is bucking the trend after briefly touching a 33-year high earlier in the session. S&P 500 (-0.09%) and NASDAQ 100 (-0.26%) futures are lower and 10yr UST yields are around +1.5bps higher. Coming back to China, the PBOC kept its loan prime rates (LPR) unchanged near record lows as expected. The central bank maintained 1-Yr LPR at 3.45% (the peg for most household and corporate loans) with the 5-Yr benchmark rate intact at 4.2% (the reference rate for most mortgages). In energy markets, oil has extended its gains in Asia from Friday after a tough couple of weeks (+0.71%) and ahead of an OPEC+ meeting scheduled on November 26 where the oil cartel is set to consider whether to make additional oil supply cuts . Recapping last week now and markets rallied thanks to a downside surprise in the US CPI release, which led to mounting speculation that the Fed and other central banks would soon be cutting rates. That was cemented by some other weaker data, which led investors to bring forward their expectations of future rate cuts. For instance, last week saw futures raise the chance of a cut by May from 21% to 77%, with a cut now fully priced in by June . That said, this narrative did lose a bit of steam on Friday thanks to comments from the Fed’s Collins that “I wouldn’t take additional firming off the table”, and that they “need to really stay the course”. Separately, some US data releases were also better than expected, with US housing starts rising to an annualised rate of 1.372m in October (vs. 1.35m expected) . That backdrop meant that sovereign bond yields rallied significantly over the week, although by Friday there was more of a stabilisation. That included yields on 10yr Treasuries, which ended the week -21.6bps lower (unch. Friday), whilst the 2yr yield saw its biggest weekly decline in two months with a -17.7bps move (+4.8bps Friday). Furthermore, 30yr yields were down for a 4th consecutive week, with a -17.3bps decline (-2.6bps Friday). But the prospect of rate cuts wasn’t so good news for the dollar, and the dollar index weakened -1.84% (-0.41% Friday) . Over in Europe, markets also bought into dovish narrative, albeit to a lesser extent than in the US. That meant investors were pricing in a 32% chance of an ECB rate cut by March, down from 26% at the start of the week. And on Friday, the ECB’s Villeroy said that the decline in inflation “fully justifies the halting of the sequence of rate hikes”. Given that, we saw yields on 10yr bunds fall -12.9bps last week (-0.2bps Friday), whilst those on 10yr UK gilts were down -23.1bps (-4.6bps Friday) to their lowest level since May. After the US close on Friday, we also heard from Moody’s, who raised their outlook for Italy from “negative” to “stable”. Equity markets shared in last week’s rally, with the S&P 500 posting a +2.24% advance over the week (+0.13% Friday), and reaching its highest closing level since September 1. That was mirrored by the NASDAQ, which rose +2.37% (+0.08% Friday), and the small-cap Russell 2000 surged by +5.42% (+1.35% Friday). Back in Europe, the STOXX 600 saw a +2.82% gain (+1.01% Friday), and the German DAX saw its strongest weekly performance since January as it rose +4.49% (+0.84% Friday). Finally in commodities, energy prices fell back last week, with Brent crude posting a 4th consecutive decline. That took it down -1.01% to $80.61/bbl, albeit with some big swings over the week, including a -4.63% slump on Thursday that was followed by a +4.12% recovery on Friday. That also followed a Friday report from the FT that Saudi Arabia was prepared to extend its production cuts in 2024. Elsewhere, copper rallied in line with other risk assets, posting its best week since March thanks to a +4.22% rise (+0.97% Friday). Tyler Durden Mon, 11/20/2023 - 08:38.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 20th, 2023

Sam Altman kicked off a flood of ❤️ emoji posts from OpenAI executives. Can someone just tell us if he"s coming back or not?

Altman and other OpenAI executives posted cryptic tweets amid talk that he could return as CEO. OpenAI's Sam Altman and Mira Murati at an event in October 2023.PATRICK T. FALLON/Getty ImagesSam Altman was forced out as CEO of OpenAI on Friday, in dramatic fashion.Altman and some loyalists (or those wanting to look it) have since made cryptic posts to X. Even interim CEO Mira Murati joined in posting ❤️ emojis to Altman amid rumors he may return.Emojis can contain multitudes — emotion, subtext, irony. Just ask Sam Altman.The OpenAI co-founder, who was just ousted in dramatic fashion as CEO of the company that kicked off the tech industry's obsession with generative AI, is already poised for a triumphant return to the company. Microsoft, OpenAI's biggest investor, reportedly wants him back. Other investors want him back. A lot of staffers do, too. But does Altman want to come back? Feel free to guess with the rest of us!As rumors and reports that he is in talks to come back as CEO started up about 36 hours after he was fired over Google Meet by his own board, Altman posted to X, formerly known as Twitter: "i love the openai team so much." (He remains openly hateful of capitalization, however.)Altman wrote two other tweets during the preceding 24 hours. One that was more snarky than loving: "if i start going off, the openai board should go after me for the full value of my shares." He holds none. And another that was a god-tier humble brag about how pleased he was with the impressive "eulogy" he'd received while still alive.Yet, it was the one about the OpenAI team that kicked off our current mystery. The first reply Altman received to the post was a light blue heart (ice blue, one could say?) from Mira Murati, OpenAI's CTO who was named Altman's interim replacement as CEO in the harshly worded statement from OpenAI on his ouster. She's said to have known the day before Altman that he was being ousted.Heart emoji's of various colors from OpenAI staff flooded retweets of Altman's post. Greg Brockman, OpenAI's president who was ousted from it's board amid what's been called a "coup" by some tech investors and observers, then quit in solidarity with Altman, followed up with a red heart.But he retweeted Murati's blue heart, too, posting a yellow heart of his own. Various members of OpenAI staff have liked both tweets. What?Jason Kwon, OpenAI's CSO, tweeted to Altman a red heart, as did COO Brad Lightcap, developer head Romain Huet, Aditya Ramesh, who runs DALL-E, and dozens of other leaders and rank and file technical staffers. Johnathan Lachman, who heads special projects at OpenAI, retweeted Murati's heart reply to Altman adding "our team spirit is just incredible." Even the official ChatGPT app account posted a white heart.Again, what? Is this a coded pressure campaign to bring Altman back? Did he already agree to come back to the team he loves so much? Do the colors of the hearts mean anything? Do these heart tweeters just want to signal their interest in joining Altman and Brockman's next venture?One person who hasn't participated in this digital love fest is Ilya Sutskever, the OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist whom Brockman said did the actual firing of Altman in a meeting with the rest of the board. Is that weird, or not?Can someone just tell us definitively if Altman is back? Please?If Altman does decide to refuse to return to OpenAI — let's be honest, he has all the leverage right now — and he forms a new venture, with Brockman, and perhaps most of the OpenAI staff, it will probably set the record for most multi-million dollar checks written in the shortest amount of time. Just saying. Vinod Khosla is ready and waiting.The only thing that seems to be truly certain right now: the meme of Matthew McConaughey smoking drugs in "True Detective" is working overtime.Are you an OpenAI employee or someone with a tip or insight to share? Contact Kali Hays at khays@insider.com, on secure messaging app Signal at 949-280-0267, or through Twitter DM at @hayskali. Reach out using a non-work device.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 19th, 2023

OpenAI is "optimistic" that it can bring ousted CEO Sam Altman and other senior figures back, The Information reported

A day after Sam Altman was pushed out of his role, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon told employees that the company was "optimistic" that it could bring back the ousted CEO. OpenAI CEO Sam AltmanWin McNamee/Getty ImagesOpenAI's board abruptly ousted CEO Sam Altman on Friday.In response, several senior figures, including OpenAI president Greg Brockman, left their posts.The company's investors were pushing the board members to reverse their decision, per reports.OpenAI appears "optimistic" that it can reel its ousted CEO Sam Altman back to the company just a day after he was suddenly pushed out of his role on Friday, The Information reported.Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon wrote in a memo sent to staff late Saturday night that the company remained "optimistic" that it could bring back Altman and several senior employees who left in light of the CEO's abrupt exit, sources familiar with the situation told the tech news outlet.Among those senior figures included Greg Brockman, OpenAI's co-founder and president, who announced on X that he was quitting hours after Altman departed. Three senior researchers — Jakub Pachocki, Aleksander Madry, Szymon Sidor — also had resigned, The Information reported earlier."We are still working towards a resolution and we remain optimistic," Kwon wrote, according to The Information. "By resolution, we mean bringing back Sam, Greg, Jakub, Syzmon, Aleksander and other colleagues (sorry if I missed you!) and remaining the place where people who want to work on AGI research, safety, products and policy can do their best work."Kwon said that another update will be shared on Sunday morning, according to the report.An OpenAI spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment sent on the weekend.Altman's abrupt ouster shocked those at the company and investors, including Microsoft.Less than a day after Altman, who co-founded the AI startup in 2015, was ousted, investors pushed to convince OpenAI's board to reverse the decision, according to The Wall Street Journal.Some OpenAI employees also appeared to express solidarity behind Altman by responding to a note he posted on X on Saturday evening that said, "i love the openai team so much."i love the openai team so much— Sam Altman (@sama) November 19, 2023 Several employees re-posted the note with a heart emoji.Altman's return to OpenAI could potentially mean an impending shake-up of the company's current board members and governance.A condition that Altman set for him to re-assume his CEO role is if the existing board resigned, the Journal reported.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 19th, 2023

OpenAI President Greg Brockman posted that he"s quitting following Sam Altman"s abrupt ousting

Greg Brockman, who co-founded OpenAI in 2015, announced his departure on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday evening. Greg Brockman, cofounder and president of OpenAI, said ChatGPT "made a mistake"Steve Jennings / Getty ImagesGreg Brockman co-founded OpenAI with Sam Altman and Elon Musk in 2015.Altman, OpenAI's CEO, was abruptly ousted from his role by the board on Friday.Hours later, Brockman posted on X that he was leaving the company, too. OpenAI President and co-founder Greg Brockman announced on X Friday evening that he is stepping down from his post just hours after the company's CEO Sam Altman was ousted by the board."I'm super proud of what we've all built together since starting in my apartment 8 years ago," Brockman wrote, responding to a post from Altman that addressed his departure. "We've been through tough & great times together, accomplishing so much despite all the reasons it should have been possible. But based on today's news, I quit. Genuinely wishing you all nothing but the best. I continue to believe in the mission of creating safe AGI that benefits all of humanity."Earlier on Friday, Open AI's board announced that they no longer had "confidence" Altman's ability to lead the company, saying that the companies CEO was "not consistently candid in his communications.""i loved my time at openai. it was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit. most of all i loved working with such talented people," Altman posted on X. "will have more to say about what's next later."According to tech journalist Kara Swisher, the chaotic departures at OpenAI are related to growing tensions between the nonprofit and profit arms of Open AI. Per Swisher, the nonprofit side of the company became increasingly concerned with the "speed of development," which they believed was at odds with the mission of caution and safety in developing the AI.Swisher added a caveat that while this could be true, the "tech community is also rife with rumors of all kinds."Brockman became a founding executive of OpenAI in 2015, along with Elon Musk and Altman, after leaving payment platform Stripe.Shortly after joining the team, he told Business Insider that he believed OpenAI had the ability to "unlock the next generation of breakthroughs."While at OpenAI, he helped lead projects like Dota 2, a complicated game of strategy that became popular in the e-sports world.Brockman became president of OpenAI in May of 2022, the company announced.Over the past year, Brockman has spent much of his time addressing criticisms about ChatGPT, the company's popular AI chatbot. Brockman said in March that he believed that the company made a mistake with the bot, conceding to Musk's argument that ChatGPT was too "woke.""We made a mistake: The system we implemented did not reflect the values we intended to be in there," Brockman, who serves as OpenAI's president, told The Information at the time. "And I think we were not fast enough to address that. And so I think that's a legitimate criticism of us."In 2020, Brockman and Altman faced criticism after MIT Technology Review published an investigation into the company, claiming OpenAI fostered a culture of secrecy and hid its research from the general public and competitors.Brockman was listed as one of the top 100 most influential people in AI by Time Magazine in September.Neither Brockman himself nor OpenAI responded to Business Insider's request for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 17th, 2023

Holley Inc. (NYSE:HLLY) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Holley Inc. (NYSE:HLLY) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 11, 2023 Operator: Greetings. Welcome to the Holley Third Quarter 2023 Earnings. [Operator Instructions] Please note, this conference is being recorded. I will now turn the conference over to your host, Ross Collins, Investor Relations. You may begin. Ross Collins: Thank you, operator. Good morning, and […] Holley Inc. (NYSE:HLLY) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 11, 2023 Operator: Greetings. Welcome to the Holley Third Quarter 2023 Earnings. [Operator Instructions] Please note, this conference is being recorded. I will now turn the conference over to your host, Ross Collins, Investor Relations. You may begin. Ross Collins: Thank you, operator. Good morning, and welcome to Holley’s Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. On the call with me today are President and Chief Executive Officer, Matt Stevenson; and Chief Financial Officer, Jesse Weaver. This webcast and the presentation materials including non-GAAP reconciliations are available on our Investor Relations website. From time-to-time we post new information that may be of interest or material to investors on this website. Our discussion today includes forward looking statements that are based on our best view of the world and of our business as we see them today and are subject to risks and uncertainties including the ones described in our SEC filings. This morning, we will review our financial results for the third quarter and share our guidance for the full year 2023. As always, we’ll leave time for your questions at the end. And with that, I’ll turn the call over to our CEO, Matt Stevenson. Matt Stevenson: Thank you Ross and good morning, everyone. This is now my fifth month at Holley and I continue to remain extremely impressed by the team and the incredible opportunity that exists with this great company. Not only there are tremendous prospects for growth, but we’re also finding ways to be more efficient while we’re also enhancing our service levels to both consumers and distributors. We are undergoing a comprehensive transformation of the company to unlock all these opportunities and prepare organization for extensive growth. During this call, I will highlight some of the transformation that is underway including a new organizational structure on focus on becoming even more consumer centric. The development of a robust product development cycle, increasing the engagement levels with our customers, including our great distribution partners, lowering our cost to serve by taking a holistic look at our operations and adding new leadership talent to the team. Plus while transforming the company for the long term, we are also continuing to deliver in the short term through strong alignment of internal resources and intense daily focus on meeting our commitments. All of this hard work continued to pay off as we delivered a solid third quarter. Now let’s take a look at some of the highlights from the quarter. On Slide 5 we’ve highlighted the key takeaways. Due to seasonality, the third quarter is historically our lowest for order demand. But even under those circumstances, we continue to build a path forward of our goal of gross margins of approximately 40% in EBITDA margin, is greater than 20%. Year-over-year for the third quarter, we dramatically improved gross margins by 600 basis points and increased EBITDA margins by 840 basis points. We also continue the progress of bringing down inventory and pass throughs through forecasting and operational improvements, which has enabled us to improve our free cash flow and further pay down our debt. The summer is always an exciting time for us regarding consumer engagement and it is the peak of our event season. And we have 4 amazing events in the third quarter that continue to show year-over-year increases in attendance. As part of our transformation, we also rolled out a new organizational structure focused on unlocking growth in our consumer verticals and empowering our leaders in our product categories and brands. We’ll dive into this in more detail in a few slides. On Slide 6 you can see some of the financial and ongoing business highlights from our third quarter. Net sales were $156 million, up 1% year-over-year for the quarter. Gross margins and EBITDA margins were both up significantly from the prior year. Gross margins were 37.3% and EBITDA margins were 19% as our lower fixed cost base in numerous operational improvements elevated the bottom-line year-over-year. Free cash flow was $21.7 million for the quarter, a $32 million improvement versus the prior year. This improvement was driven by solid operational performance and meaningful reductions and paths to inventory. Now on to some of the business highlights for the quarter. We continued our leadership and product innovation, introducing over 65 new products in the third quarter, including a new plug and play adapter kit for Sniper 1 owners to upgrade to Sniper 2. As you recall, Sniper 2 is our new electronic fuel injection system, which we discussed last quarter, is a marquee product for us and is our mainstream EFI offering. We also launched multiple accessories to enable enthusiast to swap the modern 7.3 liter Ford Godzilla Engine platform into classic trucks and muscle cars including high mount accessory drive and the oiling system and low profile cast intake manifold. Plus we’re expanding our offerings in modern truck, the new exhaust kits under our Flowmaster brand for the popular 2022 and up Toyota Tundra. As the leading consumer platform for automotive performance enthusiast, our events are critical for engaging consumers at the grassroots level. Summertime is the height of our event season. We held 4 major events this past quarter. All 4 of those events were held on our home turf, here in Bowling Green, Kentucky; LS Fest East, Ford Fest, Jeep Experience and MoParty. These events hosted over 75,000 enthusiasts, up over 12% year-over-year. These events give us unparalleled direct connection with our consumers and allow us to understand firsthand where the enthusiast automotive performance aftermarket trends are headed. In addition to connecting with consumers in person, visual engagement is critical to our success. And through activating on our Q3 events, we were also able to partner with popular social influencers with over 29 million followers, enabling us to continue to build up our digital community and social engagement. To promote our Sniper 2 launch, we also worked with key digital media partners such as Hot Rod Garage, HP Academy, MotorTrend, Engine Masters and FordMuscle which generated 4.8 million digital impressions. We are also bringing in new leaders to continue to elevate our customer experience, increased product innovation and drive growth. We engaged the former Chief Marketing Officer of Bridgestone to lead our customer experience marketing team. Then in our effort to increase innovation and implement a comprehensive product stage-gate system across our business, we hired a new Vice President of Product Management with extensive experience at Tier 1s like WABCO. We also see the OEM performance aftermarket as a growth vertical for us and hired a new leader with extensive OEM experience with major tire manufacturers and Fox Factory to lead this for us. As you’ll see on Slide 7, we finished up last week with a strong presence at SEMA in Las Vegas. We continued our leadership in product innovation by winning SEMA’s Best Engineered New Product award with our new Holley Easy-Level Fuel Level Sender, which uses LiDAR technology to precisely measure the depth of fuel remaining in your tank. It prevents the need to set up float-type fuel level sensors, which saves time and improves accuracy. Pictured here, accepting the award is John McLeod, the leader of our Classic Instrument in Detroit speed brand. We also took home a number of global media awards. These awards are nominated by premier journalists from throughout the world that come to the SEMA show with the purpose of identifying and discovering what new products are likely to succeed in their home countries. Included in that list were the following Holley performance products. Our Sniper 2 EFI system, our Detroit Speed 1964-1970 Mustang Front-end kit, and our Hooker Blackheart brand’s LS Swap Stainless Steel Manifolds. On the right side of the slide, you can see another project we’re really excited about. They debuted at SEMA. Through our Detroit Speed brand, we are one of the premier resto-mod builders, and that reputation gets recognized by some of the biggest celebrity names out there. Plus, it gives us a platform to promote all the possibilities that Holley can provide on your next project. At this year’s SEMA, we displayed a project we’ve been working on for comedian and actor Kevin Hart. As an avid auto enthusiast, we are delighted Kevin chose us for his build on this 1969 Pontiac GTO. In addition, our APR brand, which focuses on European platforms also won an innovation award at SEMA from one of our major customers for its direct Turbo Replacement Kit for the Audi 3.0 liter engine found on many 2018 platforms. Last quarter, we introduced you to our 3 fundamental steering principles. You can see those on the left side of Slide 8. We expect to make these principles a reality by focusing on the 4 key areas to the right. The first centers around our teammates in making Holley great place to work. The second area we focus on is enhancing our operations to not only remove nonvalue-added activities, but also ensure we have the right products available and the right inventory levels to serve the market. Plus, we must offer enthusiast consumers and distribution partners the best omnichannel customer experience in our space. The third key area is optimizing acquisitions. Holley has acquired some amazing brands and businesses over the last few years, and we realize that each of these has their nuances. We must foster these differences to enable them to continue to deliver in their distinct markets. We are working to ensure that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and that the appropriate structure is in place, leadership and accountability to make sure these businesses achieve outsized market growth in their respective areas. Finally, we are putting a focus on all customers first. This not only includes our fabulous base consumers, but also our loyal distribution partners. We are finding ways to grow and expand our sales channels in an effort to reach and serve a broader range of enthusiasts. On to Slide 9. The transformation occurring in our organization is extensive as we work to grow the company both organically and inorganically. There are 4 areas we’d like to highlight for today’s call, and they include the marketing and sales evolution, cost to serve, enhanced product development and the rollout of our new organizational structure. When it comes to marketing and sales capability, there is a comprehensive evolution happening. We’re aligning our resources around the goal of increasing our customer engagement with both our consumers and distribution partners and focusing on key areas of opportunity with the greatest impact. On the distributor side, we are finding more ways to partner with key distributors in our consumer verticals to win a larger share of their business and identify mutual growth opportunities. We have also refocused resources to be even more customer focused and have advanced what was our call center into a new customer experience and engagement center. This new path with additional resources and is rooted in providing the highest level of customer support. We are investing in our digital capabilities to offer the leading experience in our space to attract and convert more customers through our own as well as third-party consumer and distributor platforms. We are also focused on improving our cost position through a project we put in place called cost to serve. With some outside assistance by combining data sources that were previously not available, we’re able to identify by product category, the cost to serve various customer types. The focus of this project is on both the inbound cost of the sourcing of the components for a product as well as the internal and external distribution of the product and after sales support that is required for us to serve the various channels. Now not only refining low-hanging fruit and efficiencies in our operations, but at the same time, we are uncovering ways to improve our customer service. Now that’s definitely a win-win scenario. Product innovation is key to our business. And with so many great brands and categories, we needed a more refined structure and process to manage our product development efforts. This has meant installing 7 new consumer verticals with leaders to steer that development across the key platforms and categories. We’re also creating a robust product development roadmap by category and implementing a product development phase gate system with a goal of filtering out low-return projects and elevating the highest priority product launches in the organization to ensure they are receiving the necessary resources to have successful market adoption. To help unlock the potential of this great company, we are instituting a new organizational structure. This new structure better focuses on the needs of the consumer, accelerates product development, enhances customer service and drives clear accountability and responsibilities in the company. The new structure is intended to be as cost efficient as possible. Through in-depth input from our stakeholders, we settled on a matrix structure. It comprises 10 product categories that will be focused on executing a business plan developed in conjunction with our 7 consumer vertical leaders who will drive the strategy across the business as to what platforms and what products we are targeting to bring to market. Additionally, we’ve developed a support structure at the home office that ensures we are providing our leaders with the right amount of functional support and resources to execute their strategies efficiently and effectively. One of the goals of this organizational structure is to drive empowerment within our brands with guardrails of support and direction. All this change has required an extensive change management focused with greatly enhanced communication across our company. On Slide 10, you can see our new consumer verticals. These consumer verticals align very closely with how SEMA and other organizations in our space look at the market. Now legacy Holley was focused on classic truck and muscle, which we’ve shown a clear leadership position in. But the biggest areas of opportunity based on our consumer market segmentation exists in modern truck, Euro and off-road, which is informing much of our go-forward strategy. With our vertical leaders focusing more on the needs of the consumers, which includes where they shop, what vehicles they’ve purchased and what products they are interested in and allows us to become hyper-focused on delivering platform solutions. The world of the performance automotive aftermarket is vast and confusing, and consumers do not want to spend hours and hours trying to uncover who has what for the newer used vehicle they just purchased. They are increasingly going to specialists who understand the verticals and the respective platforms in them. Few companies, if any, have the opportunity that Holley does to present a comprehensive platform offering with all the product categories we cover. We have significant potential for growth by focusing and organizing our products in a manner that best resonates with the consumer. More to come on this in the future. Now I’d like to turn it over to Jesse to discuss our financial priorities and our Q3 results in more detail. Jesse Weaver: Thank you, Matt, and good morning, everyone. Matt and I were extremely pleased with the results the team was able to deliver in the third quarter. We ended the quarter with year-over-year net sales growth and strong improvements in profitability across both gross margin and adjusted EBITDA. As Matt already alluded to, we believe our team’s efforts to transform the organization and optimize our operations are taking hold and are driving improved financial performance. These efforts have had a positive impact on our ability to generate strong free cash flow and pay down debt. As a reminder, on Slide 12, our key financial priorities for the year have been restoring profitability, improving free cash flow, optimizing working capital, and deleveraging our balance sheet. These initiatives are firmly on track and are evident in our year-to-date results. So far for fiscal 2023, our cost initiatives are ahead of schedule and have delivered $30 million of year-over-year savings, which is in line with our original target, and we are now expecting to capture approximately $35 million in total for the full year. We have also delivered significant improvements in free cash flow. Year-to-date, we have generated $54 million of free cash, which is up $53 million compared to the free cash generated year-to-date in 2022. Supporting our free cash flow initiatives, the efforts to optimize working capital are also taking hold as we stabilize inventory returns from the significant headwinds we experienced in 2022. Lastly, as we have highlighted in prior calls, Holley is intently focused on paying down debt and reducing leverage. In line with this commitment, we were pleased to pay down $25 million in principal against our first lien term loan facility in September. On Page 13, we’ve laid out a summary of key income statement line items. As I mentioned earlier, we are pleased to see a return to year-over-year net sales growth and significant improvements in profitability as measured by gross margin and adjusted EBITDA. On Page 14, we’ve highlighted net sales for the quarter, which increased $2 million or 1% versus Q3 of 2022. Our net sales growth was largely driven by strong growth within our electronics category, which increased approximately 13% as the team made tremendous progress on past dues in the quarter from their proactive efforts on chip procurement. Net sales in the third quarter benefited from $8 million in the reduction of past dues across both electronics and nonelectronic categories, which can be found on Page 15. This marks the seventh consecutive quarter of past due reductions overall since the peak of $56 million in the fourth quarter of 2021. And for the first time since 2020, we made meaningful progress on electronics past dues, which were reduced by nearly 50%, down to $5.5 million. As of the end of Q3, past dues on electronics were the lowest we’ve experienced since Q4 of 2020. Turning to gross margin on Page 16. You can see that our gross margin of 37.3% is up 600 basis points compared to 31.3% last year. This strong increase was primarily driven by meaningful improvements in freight, lower warranty expense and some favorable impacts on product mix. Moving to Slide 17. Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter increased $13.3 million, which is an increase of more than 80% over the prior year. This resulted in an adjusted EBITDA margin of 19%, which is 800 basis points better than the 11% adjusted EBITDA margin from Q3 of 2022. Our year-over-year adjusted EBITDA improvement was driven primarily by operating improvements as can be seen in our gross margin results as well as lower SG&A expenses. For the third quarter of 2023, SG&A, excluding equity compensation, was $26 million, down $3 million from $29 million in the third quarter of 2022. The $3 million reduction is primarily driven by our efforts related to cost to serve and optimizing freight. SG&A excluding equity compensation at roughly 17% of sales versus 19% of sales in Q3 of ’22 remains in line with historical trends for Q3 and reinforces the team’s original commitment to cost containment coming into the year. As can be seen on Page 18, our EBITDA results for the quarter, combined with cash generation from improvements in inventory, resulted in strong free cash flow of $21.7 million. Importantly, this is a continuation of the solid cash generation we delivered last quarter and represents roughly a $32 million improvement when compared to the third quarter of last year. Moving to Slide 19. Our free cash flow has been a significant contributor to the reduction in net leverage we have experienced year-to-date. We ended the quarter with a net leverage ratio of 4.89x, which is meaningfully below the covenant that is outlined in our amended credit agreement and down from 5.58x at the end of last quarter. This is also below the original debt covenant of 5x. Our previously announced debt paydown of $25 million is directly in line with our commitment to prioritize near-term debt reduction, and at current rates, is expected to reduce our cash interest expense and benefit free cash flow by roughly $1 million on an annualized basis. While we no longer need the amendment, given our net leverage ratio is below the covenant originally put in place, we are keeping it in place to ensure we have the financial flexibility needed to continue making progress on all our strategic initiatives. In the near term, we expect continued strong free cash flow to support further debt paydown and we’ll be providing investors with more guidance on net leverage targets during our year-end call in early 2024. Moving to Slide 20. As it relates to Holley’s long-term debt profile, I would like to remind investors that we proactively entered into a costless interest rate collar earlier this year that hedges $500 million of our debt against 3 months SOFR rate fluctuations through February of 2026. Taking these steps earlier in the year, combined with our efforts to prepay our debt, has greatly reduced our exposure to Fed interest rate policy and set us up to continue making progress on both cash flow and maintaining our leverage below our original net leverage covenant of 5x. Now I’d like to cover our revised 2023 outlook on Slide 21. Given our year-to-date results, we are raising the bottom end of our net sales and adjusted EBITDA guidance. For the full year, we are now projecting net sales in the range of $645 million to $675 million and adjusted EBITDA between $123 million to $128 million. While the reduction in past dues this year is encouraging, it does provide a tailwind to results. But as we look ahead to the fourth quarter and next year, we’ll be more intently focused on order growth trends for guiding our perspective on near-term performance. With that in mind, a likely scenario could be that our full year revenue could be positioned in the bottom half of the guidance range, while efforts on operating efficiency and cost containment support our full year adjusted EBITDA to be towards the top half of the guidance range. And on a sequential basis, adjusted EBITDA would normally be expected to come down in the fourth quarter, which is consistent with historical trends. This is largely driven by the impact of our holidays promotion and the step-up in outbound freight in SG&A from an increase in sales going through our D2C channel, which has a higher percentage of small parcel freight charges. We are also narrowing our CapEx guidance range to between $6 million and $8 million from the prior range of $5 million to $10 million. Our depreciation and amortization guidance range has been adjusted to between $24 million and $26 million, and our interest expense expectation excluding the mark-to-market on the collar is unchanged and remains $58 million to $62 million. In closing, we are encouraged by the return to top line growth we saw in the quarter, supported by the significant reduction in past dues and most notably on electronics. Our year-to-date performance has been strong, highlighted by our gross margin and EBITDA margin performance, cash generation, working capital management and focus on reducing leverage. In addition, I’m even more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and the long-term growth prospects of Holley and the industry as a whole. Armed with leading brands and a strong focus on operational excellence, we look forward to continuing to build a path towards gross margins of approximately 40% and adjusted EBITDA margins greater than 20%. This concludes our prepared remarks, and we’d now like to open up the line for questions. Ross Collins: As a reminder, we ask that you please limit yourself to one question with one related follow-up as needed. Operator, please open the line for questions from our participants. See also 13 Cash-Rich Dividend Stocks To Buy Now and 20 Easiest Dental Schools to Get Into Recently. Q&A Session Follow Holley Inc. Follow Holley Inc. We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Brian McNamara with Canaccord Genuity. Brian McNamara: First, I’m curious how Sniper 2 has been received, particularly at SEMA last week, given as I believe it was the first time you did new product seminars with it. And if you care to share how revenues are trending on the product relative to your expectations. Matt Stevenson: Brian, this is Matt. I mean we’re very excited about Sniper 2. As you saw in the prepared remarks, won those global media awards and received a ton of attention at the show relative to our training sessions and both with the consumers that attended the show towards the end of the week and our distribution partners in the beginning half of that week. And it’s a product that really is going to example how we move forward on product launches in the future by really partnering with the market getting it ahead with a proper launch calendar, partnering with our distribution to make sure we have inventory in stock and are driving the right promotional and consumer engagement efforts around it. So very excited about where that’s trending. As right now, we’re going to give specific revenue on products, but we’re very excited about where it’s headed. Brian McNamara: And then secondly, I mean, I know Jesse kind of covered this a bit a few moments ago. Your implied Q4 guidance on the top line is pretty wide, I think minus 9% to plus 11%. I know the benefit of past dues lining down as part of that. But are there any other puts and takes we should be aware of? Matt Stevenson: No, Brian. I think that the main thing on the top line piece that we’re continuing to focus more and more on is we’ve done a great job on the past due side is just what the order trends look like. And I would say that in the guidance, we’re looking at flat to slightly positive on order trends. And on the past due side, we’re looking to make continued progress there. And hopefully, based on the path that we have as a team internally, get that down to $4 million by the end of the year. And so I think one of the things that we called out in this is we feel like really good about the work the team has done on cost to serve and the continued opportunities there to be able to prop up the EBITDA margin even in light of any headwinds in the range on the top line. But this is, hopefully, that gets you what you need on sort of the drivers there. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Joe Altobello with Raymond James. Martin Mitela: This is Martin on for Joe. I was just wondering if we can get a little more color around gross margin expansion? I know you said 600 bps and it included a meaningful price, some mix and lower warranty costs. Just wondering if we can get some idea around what those numbers are that bridge and whether that’s sustainable going into the New Year? Jesse Weaver: This is Jesse. The big part of this on the gross margin side, just to kind of give you some rough numbers, about nearly 550 to 600 basis points of it alone is just from freight and with the next piece of it really largely being the warranty expense. I think as a reminder, Q3 of last year, we had a pretty meaningful warranty charge as it relates to one of our key suppliers actually sending us a lot of warranty claims a little late in the process versus what we’re typically used to. So those are the big drivers. We did call out a slight benefit from product mix, but the 2 biggest ones, like I said, were freight and warranty expense. Martin Mitela: I know you mentioned you want to get down to about $4 million in past dues. Just wondering if this is evenly spread around your segments or is it going to be particularly electronics? Just trying to get an idea of that mix? Jesse Weaver: Yes. I mean I think you can see in the mix, electronics versus non-electronics. We ended the quarter with electronics at about $5.5 million. We have to make progress on all of them. We’ve traditionally seen that in Q3, Q4, we do make good progress on those. And I think one of the areas that we called out thus far in the call, that’s always been for at least a while, not always, but for the last several quarters, question mark is on the electronics procurement for chips. So seeing that, we’ve got that chip supply procured and the team is actively working very quickly to get these products created and out the door and the visibility we have on the inventory side and non-electronics, we feel like we should make progress across both big buckets to be able to get us down to [$4 million], which is generally what we would expect is an ongoing sort of sustainable level with some slight improvement from there kind of at some point next year. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of John Lawrence with Benchmark. John Lawrence: Quickly, Matt, as you talk about redesigning the organizational structure, and I know Sean has moved up into that product development. Can you talk a little bit about now that you’ve had a little bit more time to put that together. What’s the real benefit? Is it better speed to market? Is it a broader sense of priority of like the Sniper 2 of something coming to the forefront quicker to get to market, explain the process a little bit and how you think that benefits you in the next couple of years? Matt Stevenson: We’re really excited about this direction we’re headed in the organization. And I think you touched on a number of the major points. It’s really about unlocking growth and driving that speed and growth. And when you look at where Holley has been really successful in the past around classic truck, classic muscle and modern muscle, there are segments that range from really about $1 billion to $2.5 billion each in the SEMA data. When you look at really where some of the large growth opportunities are like modern truck, that’s over $14 billion. You look at euro, Asian imports, which are both over $7 billion, then off-road, which is about $6 billion. Now it’s really setting up our vertical leaders to unlock growth in these other categories, which I’d say, have not been primary focuses in the past. And at the same time, within those verticals, there are certain platforms that really people want to modify and that are the picks of the enthusiasm. And we want to make sure we’re bringing comprehensive solutions to the forefront of the market quickly to go after those platforms. And so with those changes as well as this highly structured phase gate system in the organization, we can now uncover the product innovation faster and make sure we’re resourcing it to bring it to market more quickly and prioritize those opportunities. So we’re really excited about the focus this is going to bring, bring us closer to the consumers and drive the growth. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Phillip Blee with William Blair. Unidentified Analyst: This is Sabrina [ph] on for Phil. How did the direct-to-consumer business performed during the quarter? And what was the percent of sales? Matt Stevenson: This is Matt. As we talked about on our last earnings call, our goal is to meaningfully grow D2C as well as a number of other channels in our business. But with that said, throughout our business, there’s going to be a lot of ebbs and flows relative to that D2C percentage as a total percentage of our business. And we just don’t think that indicating on a specific percentage is the best indication of the performance of the overall business. We encourage you to look at the top line and bottom line growth of Holley in the future......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyNov 12th, 2023

Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (NYSE:AGM) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (NYSE:AGM) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 6, 2023 Operator: Good day, and welcome to the Farmer Mac Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to […] Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (NYSE:AGM) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 6, 2023 Operator: Good day, and welcome to the Farmer Mac Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Jalpa Nazareth, Senior Director Investor Relations and Finance Strategy. Please go ahead. Jalpa Nazareth: Good morning and thank you for joining us for our third quarter 2023 earnings conference call. I’m Jalpa Nazareth, Senior Director of Investor Relations and Finance Strategy here at Farmer Mac. As we begin, please note that the information provided during this call may contain forward-looking statements about the Company’s business, strategies and prospects, which are based on management’s current expectations and assumptions. These statements are not a guarantee of future performance and are subject to the risks and uncertainties that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those projected. Please refer to Farmer Mac’s 2022 annual report and subsequent SEC filings for a full discussion of the Company’s risk factors. On today’s call, we will be discussing certain non-GAAP financial measures. Disclosures and reconciliations of these non-GAAP measures can be found in the most recent Form 10-Q and earnings release posted on Farmer Mac’s website, farmermac.com, under the Financial Information portion of the Investors section. Joining us from management this afternoon is our President and Chief Executive Officer, Brad Nordholm, who will discuss second quarter business and financial highlights and strategic objectives; and Chief Financial Officer, Aparna Ramesh, who will provide greater detail on our financial performance. Select members of our management team will also be joining us for the question-and-answer period. At this time, I’ll turn the call over to President and CEO, Brad Nordholm. Brad? Brad Nordholm: Thanks Jalpa. Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us. I’m pleased to report another record quarter for earnings, our sixth consecutive quarterly record. Our capital base remains strong, which along with our disciplined asset liability management and uninterrupted access to the capital markets enables our long-term strategic growth objectives while also providing a buffer against market volatility and changing credit market conditions. These results once again demonstrated the resiliency of our business model and the success of the strategic initiatives designed to grow our company profitably while and this is very important to us, while fulfilling our mission to rural America and also generating shareholder returns across changing market cycles. In the third quarter, we recorded core earnings of $45.2 million, reflecting a 35% increase over the same period last year. We achieved gross new business volume of $2.3 billion during the quarter, resulting in total outstanding business volume of $27.7 billion as of September 30, 2023. Volume growth this quarter was driven by new AgVantage Securities with existing counterparties in the wholesale financing space. Specifically, we added a $500 million AgVantage Security in Rural Utilities segment and several AgVantage Securities in the Farm & Ranch segment, which more than offset maturing securities by a net $225 million. The overall growth in wholesale financing over the last six months primarily reflects many of our institutional counterparties utilizing our wholesale financing facilities that offer their counterparties a competitive cost of funds. Also, these counterparties are layering in longer term, non-pre-payable AgVantage Securities to manage their asset liability maturity profile, given the current level of interest rates and the pricing of these securities as competitive instruments given their other market options. We entered the fourth with a strong pipeline of existing and new large financial institution counterparties. And we believe this renewed interest and wholesale financing which drives the AgVantage product, will continue well into 2024. Also contributing to our overall volume growth this quarter is an effective business development activity across more diverse business segment platforms. The agricultural finance line of business grew over $400 million in the third quarter, predominantly due to the previously mentioned AgVantage Securities growth, increases in longer-term stand by purchase commitments and incremental loan purchase volume in Corporate AgFinance. Activity has been picking up in the Corporate AgFinance segment, reflecting our commitment to build a strong reputation in the marketplace with really a first class team of people. While volume tends to be lumpy on a quarter-to-quarter basis, opportunities in this segment are generally more accretive from a net effective spread standpoint. We remain focused on this segment, which is a key component of our diversification strategy, central to our mission and impactful for earnings and continued growth. Activity in our Farm & Ranch segment continues to be moderate to flat as a result of higher interest rate environment. The prepayment rates also remain at historically low levels. The number of loan applications and approvals during the third quarter was relatively steady, reflecting borrowers’ adjustment to the new rate environment. The agricultural mortgage market has seen a shift to primarily variable rate product as borrower sentiment generally expects rates to decrease over the next 5 to 10 years. Turning to our Rural Infrastructure line of business, we saw healthy loan purchase volume growth in our Rural Utilities and Renewable Energy segments. New Rural Utility loan purchase volume this quarter was the result of our borrowers’ normal course capital expenditures related to maintaining and upgrading utilities infrastructure as well as investments in broadband infrastructure and our continued focus on telecommunication investment in rural America. Our Renewable Energy portfolio grew over $100 million during the first nine months of the year, reflecting our robust efforts and investments to grow this portfolio, and our pipeline is strong heading into year-end. Renewable Energy is both an important economic development opportunity for rural America and a business opportunity for us at Farmer Mac. As I’ve discussed in previous calls, we plan to invest additional resources that will help us further penetrate the Renewable Energy market as opportunities arise. In recent months, as the market stabilized following the regional banking crisis earlier this year. We’ve consistently presented our product offerings as a potential capital efficiency and liquidity conduit for our customers in agricultural finance and rural infrastructure lines of business. We believe that this is because of the relative value of Farmer Mac and what we bring to the agricultural and rural credit markets. We believe that it’s even greater when credit is a bit tighter, allowing us to further deliver upon our mission to build a trusted secondary market for credit to rural America. For example, we have helped customers in the farm, F-A-R-M, the farm securitization program, to achieve their return objectives by utilizing the conduit that we have created to free up capital and manage their balance sheets more optimally. As we’ve said on previous calls, securitization is a tremendous opportunity for Farmer Mac. It is highly central to our mission, and we are committed being a regular issuer in the market with a set of securitization products that align with both our borrower and investor interests. The momentum and excitement that you heard today about our record results would not have been possible without our team’s continuing dedication and commitment to our long-term strategic plan and to the alignment across our organization and with our customers to bring even greater efficiencies the agriculture and rural infrastructure sectors. Our business approach combined with a high caliber of talent across the organization is really paramount to continuing delivering consistent positive results. That is why we expanded our long-term incentive compensation program to all of our employees in the organization during the third quarter. This new incentive plan is intended to align all of our employees to the Company’s long-term performance and significant achievements, and also position each of our employees for their long-term financial success. Our underlying business model, strong capital position and uninterrupted access to the debt capital markets throughout the various market disruptions uniquely positions us to partner with our customers to help them achieve the growth of their businesses and manage the risks they face around future capital requirements and liquidity. The foundation of our strategy is our consistent financial and operational execution, coupled with proactive management of our balance sheet and funding sources. This has positioned us well in the changing credit environment and is expected to continue to create more opportunity enhance shareholder value and fulfill our mission. And so with that, I’d like to turn the call over to Aparna Ramesh, our Chief Financial Officer to discuss our financial results in more detail. Aparna? Aparna Ramesh: Thank you, Brad. Good afternoon, everyone. Our record third quarter 2023 results highlight our balanced well measured approach, continued strong credit quality, and resiliency across market cycles. We achieved $2.3 billion of gross new volume this quarter. Some of the key components included $1 billion of wholesale financing in the agricultural finance line of business, the majority of which was refinancing of existing AgVantage Securities. $500 million of wholesale financing in the Rural Infrastructure segment, $204 million of long-term standby purchase commitments, $231 million in new Corporate AgFinance loan purchases and unfunded commitments, $205 million in Farm & Ranch loan purchases, $91 million in new Rural Utilities loan purchases, $44 million of which was telecommunication loans and $17 million in new Renewable Energy loan purchases. Even after repayments and maturities, we grew approximately $900 million this quarter in our outstanding business volume and this speaks to the benefit of strategic decisions over the last few years that we have made to diversify our portfolio and create opportunities in all interest rate environments. Core earnings were $45.2 million of $4.13 per share in third quarter 2023 and this reflects a 35% year-over-year increase. This increase was driven by record net effective spread of $83.4 million in third quarter 2023 compared to $65.6 million in the same period last year. In percentage terms, our net effective spread in third quarter remained at 120 basis points and this was primarily driven by our low cost excess capital, debt funding strategies in previous low rate environments as well as our ability to redeploy both the excess capital and the lower cost debt into higher earning assets. This phenomenon was further enhanced by the continued trend towards higher spread volume that is evident in our new segments like Corporate AgFinance and Renewable Energy. The capital that we raised opportunistically when rates were at historical lows in 2020 and 2021 has reduced the need for us to raise more expensive term and callable debt in this rising rate environment. We continue to defensively hold approximately $800 million in cash and other short-term instruments in our liquidity portfolio. Not only does this help us weather potential market disruptions, our excess and highly liquid capital generates immediate returns in a high nominal rate environment. This benefit is expected to continue to create a downward pressure on our non-GAAP funding costs as the short end of the curve continues to increase with fed actions. And the reinvesting of excess capital generates additional returns with an upward repricing of our short-term investment portfolio. While the rise in short-term rates has provided an asymmetric benefit to earnings, we project a limited downside to earnings if rates decline in the future and this is due to our proactive equity capital allocation strategy where we are laddering and layering duration to minimize volatility. Specifically, we expect to retain some of this benefit over the medium-term if rates decline as we have started extending maturities in our investment portfolio. These are all practices that are consistent with our disciplined approach designed to help minimize early earnings volatility. Despite some macro headwinds, we continue to see strong access to debt capital markets and a flight to quality investments which allows us to be very well positioned to fund new asset opportunities as they arise. As Brad highlighted in his comments, we have spent and will continue to spend a significant amount of time and resources to enhance our infrastructure and engage with our customers and investors to support a robust and liquid market for our farm securitization product. Securitization has many beneficial aspects for Farmer Mac. It allows us to diversify our funding, enhance and optimize the balance sheet by efficient deployment of capital and it also enables our growth strategy by targeting new asset opportunities into our conduit. While we are closely monitoring a changing market dynamic, we expect to return to the market in the first half of 2024 with another similar farm securitization transaction as the previous three transactions. As we highlighted last quarter, our fundamental asset liability management approach where we match fund the duration and convexity of our assets and liabilities in all rate environments remains unchanged. As this practice has allowed us to successfully navigate changing market environments and contained earnings volatility. Our business has certain natural hedges that we described to you before and we have honed these over time to help insulate us from interest rate volatility. This is a key differentiator for us relative to other financial services entities especially depository institutions. For example, when interest rates rise, prepayments also tend to decline. But interest on excess cash and capital would likely increase and we would continue to have strong market access as we do not rely on deposits as a source of funding. And conversely, when interest rates decline, loan purchase volume often increases, but prepayments also tend to increase and interest earned on our liquidity portfolio usually ends. We are able to manage our interest rate risk by exercising callable issuances and maintaining our spreads, and this is the differentiator that I mentioned relative to depository institutions. Although, these natural business dynamics are not perfect offsets, they do counterbalance to mitigate volatility from changes in short-term interest rates. Our liquidity and capital positions also remain well in excess of all regulatory ratios and our projections show minimal change in our profitability and limited exposure to movement in interest rates whether market rates are projected to go up or down. As of September 30, 2023, Farmer Mac had 297 days of liquidity and this is another important data point as it validates our resiliency against short- and medium term market disruptions. Turning to operating expenses, these increased by 24% year-over-year and this is primarily due to the expenditures that are associated with a multiyear technology investment in our treasury and cash management systems to enhance our trading, hedging and reporting platform. This modernization effort is expected to position us to more effectively defend against cyber and fraud threats while also allowing us to scale our portfolio and diversify our product offerings. I’ll note this effort is not a like-for-like, but is geared to the future and aligns with our business and funding strategy. We also plan to continue to make investments in strategic focus areas such as renewable energy and we intend to modern our asset infrastructure including our servicing and loan platforms to support our growth and strategic objectives. As a result, we do expect our run rate operating expenses to increase at a pace above 2023 and historical averages and for this to continue over the next several years. Our operating efficiency was 27% through September 30th and is well below our strategic plan target of 30% primarily because revenue growth increased at a significantly higher rate than expenses. We will continue to closely monitor our efficiency ratio and manage it as we have done to stay within a band around 30%. As we make investments in our loan infrastructure and funding platforms and innovate our loan processes to accelerate growth, we may see temporary increases above the 30% level. Our credit profile remains very strong in aggregate despite economic headwinds. We saw a decrease in 90 day delinquencies from the Q2 which as of September 30 reflects 15 basis points across our entire portfolio. The total allowance for losses decreased sequentially to $18.9 million in the third quarter and this reflects a $200,000 decrease from second quarter 2023. The modest decrease was primarily attributable to a $3.8 million release from the allowance for the agricultural finance portfolio to reflect the full payoff of a single ag storage and processing loan in the third quarter and this was partially offset by a $3.6 million provision to the allowance for the rural infrastructure portfolio due to a single telecommunications loan that was downgraded to substandard during the quarter. Turning to capital, Farmer Mac’s $1.4 billion of core capital as of September 30, 2023 exceeded our statutory requirement by $581 million or 69%. Core capital increased sequentially primarily due to an increase in retained earnings. Our Tier 1 capital ratio as of September 30, 2023 improved to 16% largely due to strong earnings results and higher retained earnings. Maintaining credit standards that reflect our risk profile coupled with strong levels of capital is a fundamental part of our long-term strategy. We are anticipating overall stress in credit markets from macro headwinds and we are proactively monitoring our exposures. However, we expect a strong capital position to allow us to remain resilient and be a source of low cost liquidity for our customers and borrowers even in difficult times. So in conclusion, our entire trade team delivered strong quarterly results surpassing the key metrics that we highlight on each call while staying within our credit framework. Notably, we delivered a record 19% return on equity this quarter and stayed well below our efficiency target of 30%. We believe that our balance sheet is well positioned for uncertainty and we are more optimistic than ever to deliver on our long-term strategic plan objectives. And with that, Brad, let me turn it back to you. Brad Nordholm: Thank you, Aparna. We are extremely proud of our third quarter results, and we believe our performance provides yet another example of the dynamic and enduring nature of Farmer Mac’s business model, which continues to be well positioned to deliver earnings growth and strong profitability for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024. Our high levels of capital enable us to continue to execute our solid long-term strategic plan and remain focused on our mission to increase the accessibility of financing for American agriculture and rural infrastructure. We’re aligned across our organization and with our customers to bring even greater efficiencies and lower costs in providing financing to lenders for the benefit of their Farm & Ranch Agribusiness and Rural Infrastructure customers. And now operator, I’d like to see if we have any questions from anyone on the line today. See also 15 Biggest Renewable Energy Companies in Europe and 20 Most Valuable Financial Companies in the World. Q&A Session Follow Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp (NYSE:AGM) Follow Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corp (NYSE:AGM) We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] The first question comes from Bose George with KBW. Please go ahead. Bose George: I wanted to start with a question on spreads. So it sounds like spreads could stay closer to this elevated level at least in the medium term. In the past, you’ve discussed a normalized spread range. I think it’s 95 to 105. Is that still kind of the normalized level we should think about, and if so, how should we think of sort of the trajectory of spreads getting from here to there? Brad Nordholm: Bose, I wish, I could provide a perfect answer to that because we have contributions to that positive variance coming from both our treasury operations and how we’re funding in this higher interest rate environment as well as the increasing diversification of our business into lines that have more accretive higher spreads. So let me first, ask Zack Carpenter, our Chief Business Officer, to give you a little bit of additional color on spreads on our different commercial lines of business, and then Aparna can kind of wrap it up with further comment on treasury. Zack Carpenter: Thanks Brad. I think it’s been more apparent especially over the last 12 to 18 months, as our business lines have diversified in new areas of growth, as Brad said, are at much higher accretive spreads than our historical lines of business. Especially in this environment where our Farm & Ranch mortgages have slowed down given the interest rates, you’re seeing a much more, inclusion of volume from our Telecommunications, Renewable Energy and Corporate AgFinance lines of business, which by their nature have a larger spread, higher accretive spread than our historical overall portfolio. Those deals are lumpier in nature and larger, but also have tended to grow quicker especially in this environment where Farmer Mac has been a new and supportable use of capital, for these types of transactions. So, as we grow in these new areas, as well as growing some of our historical segments, I think you see more of a weight to these higher accretive spread, I’m going forward. But I will say as Brad mentioned, it’s very hard to predict and some of these new lines of business are spotty at times in terms of pay downs and maturities. So, just in this environment, we’ve seen a significant growth in some of those new areas. Brad Nordholm: Just to add a little bit to that. Bose, if for example, with some decline of rates, we saw a pickup in our Farm & Ranch origination activity. That, as an example, could have a slightly dilutive impact on our spreads. If we are successful accelerating the growth of Renewable Energy, it could have an accretive impact to our current spreads, which one will accelerate faster is quite difficult to predict. But I think we can confidently say that looking out a couple years, it is not our expectation that we would revert to a 90 to 95 basis point NES that we will be in north of that because of the composition of and growing diversification of the portfolio. But Aparna, can you add to that? Aparna Ramesh: Yes, absolutely. And I just want to layer in one other comment around business composition. I think it absolutely has to do with business composition, but I will also say that and Zack alluded to this, our Rural Infrastructure portfolio, if you just go back several years, the spread on that portfolio was significantly lower than it is today and that’s been a huge contributor in addition to the new lines of business. So it’s just another example of the fact that we’ve been able to be a very consistent provider of liquidity and debt financing to our counterparties and we’ve been able to do that while not just maintaining but also increasing our spread. So I just want to add that one comment. And then in terms of treasury, I’ll just say that our funding strategy has really come to fruition in this rising rate environment. And I made some of those comments, earlier on, which you likely heard both. But I’ll just note a couple of things, right? And I think a natural question is, will this sustain especially as the fed pauses or is likely to pause? We have some in book hedges within our funding strategy and one of them has to do with callable. So, we’ll actually layer in callable and we continue to do that. And that actually has the effect of being a little bit dilutive to spreads. But we do that deliberately because we do not want to be in a position where if rates dramatically trended downwards, we were caught in a situation where our funding costs outpaced our ability to put loans on. So, these callable spreads tend to come on at slightly wider margins relative to say bullet spreads. We have consistently layered that in, but it is a hedging strategy. So that’s just one thing that I’ll note more to the positive, it’s going to help us maintain that spread band of north of about 100 basis points. The second piece that I will just highlight around our funding strategy has to do with how we manage our duration. So, as we anticipate being close to or at the peak of the rate cycle, we are very systematically and have very systematically ended some of our investment portfolio while maintaining our interest rate risk profile. And that again has the effect of providing a natural hedge if rates were to trend down. So, all of this is to say both that while we try to manage to a 95 to 105 basis point NES, I think given where we are headed both from a diversification of lines of business as well as our funding strategies, I think it would be fair to say that we’d be at the upper end of that as we look up into that. Bose George: And then actually switching to the dividend, can you just remind us how you look at the dividend? Is it sort of a payout? And then just given that the returns are going are sort of above, sort of somewhat of a normalized level. Could that payout be a little bit lower just as the ROEs remain elevated to just yet philosophically how you’re looking at it? Brad Nordholm: Yes. In terms of the dividend, that’s something that I’ll look at it very seriously, as we get into February of 2024 based on year-end results. We’re quite disciplined in revisiting it annually. You have seen what has happened each year for the last X number of years, consecutive increases in dividends. Given these results, it’s very reasonable to expect further increase in the dividend, but I really, I’m not going to provide any guidance on exactly how much that may be today. The factors that have gone into it in the past have been what is our growth rate and consumption of capital? What is the outlook for earnings? And the past years, that’s resulted in dividends that have been just inside of 35% of after tax earnings......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyNov 7th, 2023

DOJ Corroborated Information From FBI Source Who Provided Biden Bribery Allegations: Official

DOJ Corroborated Information From FBI Source Who Provided Biden Bribery Allegations: Official Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), U.S. Department of Justice officials corroborated some of the information an FBI source provided to the bureau on allegations that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, were bribed, a former official who worked on the case said in newly reviewed testimony. "We did corroborate certain things" from the source, Scott Brady, the former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, told a U.S. House of Representatives panel on Oct. 23. President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on April 10, 2023. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Members of Congress obtained and released over the summer a copy of the summary from FBI agents who spoke with the source, with the source conveying comments from Burisma executives concerning the Bidens. Among them was the claim that it cost $5 million to pay one Biden and $5 million to pay another Biden. Mr. Biden worked for Burisma, a Ukrainian firm, for years while President Biden was vice president, including in 2016. That's the year the discussion involving bribery took place, the source told the FBI in 2020. Mr. Brady, appointed under President Donald Trump in 2017, told members this week he was tasked by superiors to accept and vet Ukraine-related information sent to or gathered by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which includes the FBI. "We were to assess the credibility of information and anything that we felt was credible or had indicia of credibility, we were then to provide to the offices that had predicated grand jury investigations that were ongoing," Mr. Brady, who was asked to resign by President Biden after he took office, told the House panel. Lack of Communication After working to corroborate some of the information from the interview summary, Mr. Brady said his team passed the summary and the work they'd done to multiple offices, including the U.S. attorney's office for the District of Delaware. That office is headed by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, another Trump appointee. Mr. Weiss has for years been investigating Mr. Biden for intentional tax avoidance and other crimes. Mr. Brady's team briefed Mr. Weiss' team in October 2020 on the summary, known as an FD-1023. "What we were doing was, as a part of the briefing, giving them the investigative steps that we had taken within our limited ability to corroborate the information that the [source] had provided us, and we informed them that we felt that the 1023 had indicia of credibility sufficient to merit further investigation," Mr. Brady said. "And so that's what we communicated to them." Neither Mr. Weiss' office nor any of the other U.S. attorney's offices who received the 1023 from Mr. Brady's team reached back out about the document, according to Mr. Brady. He said there was "both a skepticism of the information that we were developing, that we had received, and skepticism and then weariness of that information" from Mr. Weiss and Mr. Weiss' team. "I don't want to speculate as to why, but I know that there was no information sharing back to us about what they were—or very limited. And, at one point, the communication between our offices was so constricted that we had to provide written questions to the investigative team in Delaware, almost in the form of interrogatories, and receive written answers back," Mr. Brady said. That was not normal, he added. Mr. Weiss' office declined to comment. Ukraine Funding The FBI source was reinterviewed in 2020 by the FBI at the request of Mr. Brady, who wanted more details about the allegations regarding the Bidens. The summary that resulted was ultimately obtained and released by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). The document showed the source traveled to Ukraine and spoke with top Burisma executives, including owner Mykola Zlochevsky. The source said executives said Burisma hired Mr. Biden “to protect [the company], through his dad, from all kinds of problems" and that Mr. Biden would take care of problems "through his dad." Ukraine's president ultimately ousted Viktor Shokin, the prosecutor who was investigating Burisma, at the behest of President Biden. “I said, ‘We’re leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,'" President Biden said at a public event in 2018, relaying the interaction about a $1 billion loan guarantee he threatened to withhold. “Well, son of a [expletive]. He got fired.” The FBI has largely declined to comment on the substance of the document but said previously the summary was part of a "sensitive investigation" and should not have been released to the public. The transcripts of the recent congressional interviews with Mr. Brady and U.S. Attorney E. Martin Estrada, appointed by President Biden, were obtained and reviewed by The Epoch Times. In his interview, Mr. Estrada confirmed IRS whistleblower accounts and said he rejected Mr. Weiss' request to partner to prosecute Mr. Biden in California. Mr. Estrada also said that he believed several attorneys with Mr. Weiss' office were able to bring charges in his district, the Central District of California, and that he offered office space and administrative support if they did. Mr. Biden was ultimately charged with tax and firearm crimes in Delaware. He has not been charged in California or Washington, another district where the Biden-appointed U.S. attorney turned down a request from Mr. Weiss to partner. Mr. Weiss earlier this year was made special counsel as he continues investigating Mr. Biden. Both Mr. Weiss and Attorney General Merrick Garland, appointed under President Biden, have been unable to explain why he needed to be made special counsel if he already had what they described as the "ultimate authority" to bring charges against the target. Mark Tapscott contributed to this report. Tyler Durden Sun, 10/29/2023 - 12:50.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 29th, 2023

Bank of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ:BMRC) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Bank of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ:BMRC) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript October 23, 2023 Bank of Marin Bancorp reports earnings inline with expectations. Reported EPS is $0.33 EPS, expectations were $0.33. Operator: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Bank of Marin Bancorp’s Q3 2023 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the call over to […] Bank of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ:BMRC) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript October 23, 2023 Bank of Marin Bancorp reports earnings inline with expectations. Reported EPS is $0.33 EPS, expectations were $0.33. Operator: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Bank of Marin Bancorp’s Q3 2023 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the call over to Yahaira Garcia-Perea. Yahaira Garcia-Perea: Good morning, and thank you for joining Bank of Marin Bancorp’s earnings call for the third quarter ended September 30, 2023. I’m Yahaira Garcia-Perea, Marketing and Corporate Communications Manager for Bank of Marin. During the presentation, all participants will be in a listen-only mode. After the call, we will conduct a question-and-answer session. Joining us on the call today are Tim Myers, President and CEO; and Tani Girton, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Our earnings press release and supplementary presentation which we issued this morning can be found in the Investor Relations portion of our website at bankofmarin.com where this call is also being webcast. Closed captioning is available during the live webcast as well as on the webcast replay. Before we get started, I want to note that we will be discussing some non-GAAP financial measures. Please refer to the reconciliation table in our earnings press release for both GAAP and non-GAAP measures. Additionally, the discussion on this call is based on information we know as of Friday, October 20, 2023, and may contain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ materially from those set forth in such statements. For a discussion on these risks and uncertainties, please review the forward-looking statements disclosures in our earnings press release as well as our SEC filings. Following our prepared remarks, Tim, Tani and our Chief Credit Officer, Misako Stewart will be available to answer your questions. And now, I’d like to turn the call over to Tim Myers. Tim Myers: Thank you, Yahaira. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our third quarter earnings call. Our improved third quarter results reflect meaningful progress that we made to reposition our balance sheet out of borrowings and securities and into deposits and cash to expand our net interest margin, increase our liquidity diversification and improve our interest-free risk position. We generated 16% sequential growth in net income while maintaining comparable loan balances, strong credit quality and well-managed expenses. We further strengthened our core deposit franchise during the quarter by engaging new customers and deepening ties with existing clients through exceptional service and our local market expertise. These efforts led to strong deposit growth for the second consecutive quarter, including growth and non-interest-bearing deposits which continue to represent 48% of our total deposits. Notably, during the quarter, we added more than 1,200 new accounts, 38% of which were with new clients. While deposit costs increased in the quarter, the pace of increase slowed dramatically from the second quarter as we continued to effectively manage our deposit costs in an ongoing competitive environment. Interest-bearing deposit costs increased 31 basis points between June and September compared to 77 basis points between March and June. Historically, our overall cost of funds has trended well below pure averages, reflecting our long-term approach to customer engagement, which emphasizes building connections with a full suite of products and services rather than competing on price alone. We continue to work hard at improving our net interest margin by executing on our balance sheet initiatives, which not only include raising deposits and building our loan pipeline, but also reallocating part of our investment portfolio to cash and applying fair value hedges to other securities. Those actions enabled us to expand net interest margin by 3 basis points from the second quarter. We also substantially paid down our short-term borrowings during the quarter with cash flows from our securities and loan portfolios, as well as deposit growth as part of an ongoing strategy to reduce interest costs and support our net interest margin. While borrowings and cash fluctuate with day-to-day changes in deposits, the borrowing balance net of cash fell to 0 earlier this month. We expect our funding cost increases to remain moderate in coming quarters, given expectations that Fed rate hikes and customer migration of funds from operating accounts to interest bearing accounts will continue to slow. Our loan portfolio and loan production was relatively stable in the third quarter as we remain disciplined in our underwriting. However, our loan pipelines have expanded meaningfully and fourth-quarter loan production is shaping up to be strong, particularly in the area of commercial and industrial where we are seeing a nice diversity of attractive opportunities. We generate a momentum in the third quarter that has continued into the fourth quarter and since quarter end have funded or approved for funding amounts exceeding Q3 total originations. In most cases, our new loans are coming onto our books at meaningfully higher rates than those being paid off, and we expect this will provide further support for our NIM. David Bloom, who joined us as Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Banking in July, is emblematic of our ongoing recruiting efforts and the results that follow. A commercial banking veteran with more than 25 years of experience, David is responsible for the vision and growth of the Bank’s commercial banking division comprised of eight regional offices located throughout Northern California, including our wine practice. We believe his growing team is well positioned to drive further momentum late this year and moving into the new year. Importantly, with new commercial-client relationships comes the potential for fee-based opportunities and new deposits. We believe that this will help the bank generate improved profitability, continue robust earnings-generated capital and strong returns on behalf of our shareholders. Critically, as we pursue growth, we remain focused on prudent risk management and strong credit quality that reflects our consistent underwriting standards and customer selection across cycles. We also continue to proactively manage our credit and support our borrowers, building momentum with high quality credits while carefully monitoring our loan portfolio and rating risk appropriately. Non-accrual loans totaled 0.27% of the loan portfolio at September 30 compared to 0.1% at June 30. We moved two loans totaling $4 million to non-accrual status in the third quarter. The increase was driven by a legacy acquired bank loan and we are working with that bar to ensure the best possible outcome. All of our non-accrual loans are collateralized by real estate with no expected credit loss as of quarter end. Classified loans comprised only 1.9% of total loans at quarter end, up only slightly from the prior quarter. Looking closer at our commercial real estate portfolio which accounted for 74% of our total loan balances of September 30, 23% were owner occupied which we believe carry a different risk profile than non-owner-occupied loans in this environment. Our $364 million non-owner-occupied office portfolio is granular and consists of 142 loans with an average loan size of $2.6 million, the largest loan being $17 million. The weighted average loan to value was 56%, and the weighted average debt service coverage was 1.68 times based on our most recent data. Earlier this quarter, we conducted a review of the refinance risk in our non-owner occupied commercial real estate portfolio, the results of which can be seen on Slide 13 of the earnings presentation. We evaluated 36 loans totaling $97 million with total commitments over $1 million each that mature or reprice in 2023 or 2024. We determined that the refinance risk on these loans is manageable with weighted average debt service coverage ratios ranging from 1.28x to 2.01x across the four cohorts based on current rates. A woman signing papers with her banker for her first home mortgage. Editorial photo for a financial news article. 8k. –ar 16:9 In summary, we made important progress on both sides of our balance sheet in the third quarter and continue to make headway as we position the bank for improved profitability in the quarters ahead. Finally, the bank is pleased to welcome Cigdem Gencer to its Board of Directors, as announced in our recent 8-K. Cigdem brings extensive leadership and financial services experience to the board, including the development and execution of transformative growth, expansion, and investment strategies for organizations. In 2021, she established an executive coaching and organizational consulting firm, and which she also serves as an executive coach. With that, I’ll turn the call over to Tani to discuss our financial results in more detail. Tani Girton: Thanks, Tim. Good morning, everyone. First, I’ll start with some key highlights for the quarter. We generated net income of $5.3 million in the third quarter or $0.33 per diluted share up from $4.6 million or $0.28 in the second quarter. As Tim noted, the increase was driven by a 3 basis point increase in our tax equivalent net interest margin to 2.48% from 2.45% in the prior quarter due primarily to higher rates on interest-bearing cash balances generated from security sales and the addition of $102 million fair value hedges in the form of interest rate swaps. We recorded a $425,000 provision for credit losses on loans in the quarter compared to $500,000 in the prior quarter. The provision was due primarily to increases in qualitative factors related to trends in adversely graded nonowner-occupied commercial real estate loans and the potential impact of higher interest rates and other external factors on both our nonowner-occupied commercial real estate and construction portfolios. Non-interest income totaled $2.6 million for the third quarter down $141,000 from the second quarter. The modest decline was primarily due to a decrease in debit card interchange income. The sale of $82.7 million investment securities generated a loss of $2.8 million and that loss was offset by a gain on the sale of our remaining 10,439 vis-à-vis shares, which had a zero carrying value. Non-interest expenses of $19.7 million in the quarter were down $918,000 from $20.7 million last quarter. Contributing to the reduction was a $675,000 decrease in salaries and benefits related to decreases in accrued incentive and profit-sharing expenses and 401(k) contributions. Additionally, our annual charitable contributions grant program normally occurs in the second quarter, resulting in another $618,000 reduction quarter-over-quarter. Finally, FDIC insurance costs declined $197,000 due to a second quarter catch-up adjustment for the statutory rate increase to bolster the deposit insurance fund. These decreases were partially offset by a $533,000 net increase, other expense primarily resulting from a $688,000 increase in expenses and fees associated with our customers’ participation in reciprocal deposit networks to bolster their FDIC-insured balances. Our third quarter earnings translated into a return on assets of 0.52% and return on equity of 4.94% up from 0.44% and 4.25% in the prior quarter. The efficiency ratio improved to 72.96% from 76.91% in the prior quarter due to both higher net interest income and lower non-interest expenses. We continue to maintain a high level of capital and liquidity as well as an allowance for credit losses equal to 1.16% of total loans. All capital levels remain strong and meaningfully above well-capitalized regulatory requirements. Our total risk-based capital improved to 16.6% and 16.1% for Bancorp and the Bank respectively during the quarter. Our TCE ratio was comparable with prior quarter, despite pressure from AOCI resulting from resulting – rising interest rates in the quarter. Bancorp’s quarter end tangible common equity was down 1 basis point to 8.63%. The $7.2 million decline in AOCI resulting from after-tax marks on our AFS portfolio, net of fair value hedges was mostly offset by earnings and a reduction in tangible assets. After adjusting for $107 million in after-tax unrealized losses in our HTM securities portfolio, our TCE ratio would be 6.1% for Bancorp. Importantly, our liquidity covers all of our uninsured deposits by over 200%. Liquidity and contingent liquidity of approximately $2.1 billion at quarter-end consisted of cash, unencumbered securities and total borrowing capacity and does not include our ability to tap the brokered deposit market. Uninsured deposits remained at 29% of our total deposits as of September 30. Our largest depositor represented just 0.8% of total deposits and our combined four largest depositors represented 3% of total deposits. Our Board of Directors declared a cash dividend of $0.25 per share on October 20, 2023 which represents the 74th consecutive quarterly dividend paid by Bancorp. As we noted on last quarter’s call, the Board of Directors renewed the share repurchase program for $25 million effective through July 2025. There have been no repurchases in 2023 as we have focused on continuing to build upon our already strong capital position. We continue to believe that our emphasis on the fundamentals of relationship banking and risk management, combined with our strong liquidity and capital will continue to serve our customers and shareholders well across all interest rate and economic cycles. At Bank of Marin, we are committed to fostering a culture of excellence, effort and engagement as our teams work together on the execution of our strategies to increase operational efficiencies and improve long-term profitability. With that, I’ll turn it back to Tim to share some final comments. Tim Myers: Thank you, Tani. In conclusion, we continue to build upon our valuable core deposit franchise in the third quarter. Emphasizing our relationship-based banking model to increase deposits while maintaining an attractive deposit mix and healthy liquidity levels. We also proactively managed our balance sheet enabling us to expand our net interest margin in the quarter. We bolstered our commercial banking team and are attracting new clients that are seeking financing to pursue new opportunities and expansion plans and we are deepening our relationships with existing clients. This is enabling our lending teams to build a strong pipeline that we believe will lead to loan growth, increased interest income and ongoing margin and earnings improvement. Finally, I want to thank everyone on today’s call for your interest and your support. We will now open the call to your questions. See also 12 Biggest Dividend Cuts and Suspensions of 2023 and Best Dividend Aristocrats According to Analysts. Q&A Session Follow Bank Of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ:BMRC) Follow Bank Of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ:BMRC) We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Jeffrey Rulis from D.A. Davidson. Your line is open. Please go ahead. Jeff Rulis: Good morning. Tim Myers: Good morning, Jeff. Tani Girton: Good morning, Jeff. Jeff Rulis: Hoping to get an update on – I think you’ve identified a couple of months ago, that the percent of loans that we’re repricing in the next 12 months, I think it was around 30%. Has that meaningfully changed as of today? Tim Myers: No. There’s a slide in the deck on Page 17 on – in the investor presentation on the total, but that’s – I’ll let Tani go into some of the details on that. Tani Girton: Yes. So Jeff, the 29% in – when we discuss that in the context of our interest rate risk and where our net interest margin is headed, that includes prepayment projections, whereas what you can see on Page 17 in the deck or the presentation, if you add up the first two columns in the loan repricing schedule, that 17% there are no prepayment rates applied to that. Jeff Rulis: Got it. Okay. And as you both kind of talked about the puts and takes of the bigger picture on margin, it sounds more positive than not. High-level margin conversation, the outlook here is to continue to scratch out some expansion or kind of how do you see it as those deposit costs kind of held it big? Tani Girton: Yes, exactly. So we had talked about that on the last call. And I think for some of the factors, what we expected was what actually transpired. But again, that was absent any loan growth and also any change in deposits. Obviously, we had more growth in deposits and also the rates on the deposits went up. So that’s where you would have gotten the differential. So as we look forward from today with a static balance sheet. So similar expectations, obviously not quite as much lift, if we don’t make any changes associated, you know, last time we worked in the changes associated with the security sales, excuse me, and the interest rate swaps. This time, we have not done any of those as of yet this quarter. So, if you just look at a straight static balance sheet, with no changes in market rates, no changes in deposit rates, you know, that ranges from two to five basis points in lift on average margin in a quarter. Tim Myers: Yes. I would say, Jeff, from a, less sterile standpoint, analytically and Tani’s right as we are seeing that pace of deposit cost decelerate. When you look at the deposit campaign we did, this last quarter versus the prior quarter, the weighted average cost on that was very, very similar, almost identical. And the yield on new loans coming on was 769 in the quarter. So, I think we mentioned in the script there that we have had an acceleration of loan closings. We had expected some last quarter, but those are materializing now. And so, if we get that loan growth on top of what Tani mentioned, we’re optimistic we can continue to show that expansion barring any unforeseen circumstances there. Jeff Rulis: Great. I appreciate the color. If I could ask about the deposit side, and you talked about, I think you said 1,200 new accounts added and a large portion of those were new clients. What – if you could kind of range-bound, what the newer clients, where are they coming from? Is it from some of the struggles – or failed banks in your region? Or is it community banks? Is it larger banks? Do you get a sense for where those clients are coming from?.....»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyOct 24th, 2023

Futures, Yields Rise Amid Hopes For Diplomatic Solution To Israeli War

Futures, Yields Rise Amid Hopes For Diplomatic Solution To Israeli War US index futures are European bourses reversed earlier losses and traded higher, led by small-caps, as Treasuries resumed their slide after Friday's gains while oil dropped on hopes that a diplomatic solution may emerge to the Israel-Hamas conflict: Secretary of State Blinken has returned to Israel and Joe Biden could follow on Wednesday or Thursday according to unconfirmed reports, as they seek to avoid an escalation. As of 7:45am, S&P futures were 0.3% higher while Nasdaq 100 futs gained 0.1% after declines on Wall Street at the end of last week. The US Dollar started the session lower and commodities came for sale across all three complexes.  Brent crude oil held near $91 a barrel, after surging almost 6% on Friday. Gold fell but bitcoin surged. In premarket trading, Pfizer dropped more than 3% after the pharmaceutical giant slashed its revenue and earnings forecasts. Apple dropped as much as 1.7% after a study suggested the iPhone 15 is selling far worse in China than its predecessor. Market tracker Counterpoint Research estimated sales of the company’s new iPhone are down 4.5% compared with the iPhone 14 over their first 17 days after release. European energy stocks were boosted by recent gains in oil prices, with Shell hitting a record high. Semiconductor stocks in Europe and US underperformed after Bloomberg reported that the US plans to close the loopholes in rules restricting China’s access to advanced semiconductors and chipmaking gear. Meanwhile, crypto-exposed stocks rose tracking the Bitcoin price as the digital asset rose toward the $28,000 level. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Instacart shares advance 1.8% after a slew of brokers initiated coverage on the online grocery delivery firm with buy-equivalent recommendations. Lululemon shares rose 4.7%, putting the athletic-apparel brand on track for a seventh-straight day of gains, after S&P Dow Jones Indices announced on Friday that the company would replace Activision Blizzard on the S&P 500. Manchester United fell 9.9% amid ongoing speculation over a possible deal for the Premier League team. Bloomberg News reported that the Qatari group led by Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad J.J. Al Thani has withdrawn its bid. Trade Desk dropped 4.1% as CEO Jeffrey Terry Green reported a series of insider stock transactions amounting to $14.9 million. Pfizer fell 2.6% after the pharmaceutical giant slashed its revenue and earnings forecasts for the year after agreeing to take Paxlovid doses back from the US government amid fading demand. Chip equipment stocks including Applied Materials, KLA and Lam Research slipped after Bloomberg News reported that the US plans to close the loopholes in rules restricting China’s access to advanced semiconductors and chipmaking gear. Stocks exposed to cryptocurrencies rise in US premarket trading on Monday, tracking the Bitcoin price as the digital asset rose toward the $28,000 level. Bitcoin gains 2.3% to trade at $27,832 as of 4:53 a.m. New York time, a one-week high. Crypto stocks gaining in US premarket trading include: Riot Platforms +5.2%, Marathon Digital +5.6%, Hut 8 Mining +8.5%, Coinbase Global +2.2%, Cleanspark +6.3%, Hive Digital Technologies +6.6%, crypto miner Bitdeer Technologies +16% Markets were calmer Monday after last week’s rush into haven assets, as investors await further developments in the Middle East. As BBG notes, the war is an additional concern for traders already busy interpreting the outlook for the economy and interest rates, just as the latest earnings reporting season gets into full swing. As the earnings season ramps up, Wall Street strategists warned that the outlook for corporate profits is weakening and could remain subdued. Morgan Stanley’s Michael Wilson said earnings revisions breadth — referring to the number of stocks seeing upgrades versus downgrades — for the S&P 500 has fallen sharply over the past couple of weeks. Citigroup’s index of earnings revisions shows downgrades have outpaced upgrades for four straight weeks ahead of the reporting season. JPMorgan strategist Mislav Matejka expects this to continue. Citigroup Inc.’s index of earnings revisions shows downgrades have outpaced upgrades for four straight weeks ahead of the reporting season. JPMorgan strategist Mislav Matejka expects this to continue. That said, Geopolitics remains front and center: weekend reports that Biden is considering an Israel trip boosting hopes for a diplomatic solution as the US backchannels with Iran; meanwhile Bloomberg reported that the US continues to reduce/restrict China’s access to chips pushing Chinese stocks lower. The House is set to vote on the next speaker is tomorrow. Over the weekend US officials rushed to speak with Middle Eastern nations — including back-channel talks with Iran — to contain the conflict. President Joe Biden is weighing visiting Israel himself and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected to arrive Tuesday, according to Bild Zeitung. Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in Rome, where he’s expected to meet Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni as part of an effort to ease tensions. Elsewhere on the political front, Polish equities jumped the most since May 2022 and the zloty rallied as a bloc of pro-European opposition parties appeared on track to unseat the nationalist government. Meanwhile, the yield rollercoaster is back with big swings returning to Treasuries, where 10-year yields jumped and clawed back much of last week’s 19 basis-point drop, while those on the 30-year climbed 10 basis points. “The geopolitical tension in the Middle East remains the key focus of the market,” said Luke Hickmore, investment director at Abrdn Investment Management. “It might seem calmer now, but if the war widens to include other parts of the area then that means more pressure on oil and more uncertainty for the market to cope with. It’s going to be a big driver here.” European stocks are slightly lower with the Stoxx 600 down 0.1%. Mining and energy names are outperforming. Major markets are mostly lower with only the UK and SXXP in the green. Regional bond yields are higher helping banks outperform with energy and GLP themes also acting well. Energy prices remain the key to UK/EU recession outcomes; BOE seen on hold. In individual stock moves Monday, Manchester United Plc slumped 18% after Bloomberg News reported that a Qatari group of investors had withdrawn its bid to buy the English football club. Here are some of the most notable European movers: Salzgitter rises as much as 7.2% and SSAB advance 5.2% as JPMorgan upgrades the steel products makers, saying their relatively large exposure to European spot prices could accelerate near-term earnings momentum in an upturn Kion rises as much as 3.6% and is the biggest gainer on the Stoxx 600 industrial index after the German warehouse-equipment firm upgraded its full-year Ebit guidance, citing supply chain and pricing improvements Synthomer gains as much as 4.8% after Peel Hunt upgrades to buy to reflect potential opportunity into the recovery SoftwareOne shares rise as much as 6.9% to CHF19.29 after Reuters reported the Swiss software provider received non-binding bids last week from private equity firms Bain Capital and Apax Partners Oriola shares rise as much as 8.3% on Monday, reacting to the Finnish health-care company’s late-Friday announcement that it had agreed to offload its shares in Swedish pharmacy chain Svensk dos Warsaw’s WIG20 equity index surges as much as 4.9%, as exit polls show Poland’s pro-EU opposition is on track to win a majority in Sunday’s election Tupras fall as much as 2.3% after UBS downgrades the Turkish oil refiner to sell from neutral, citing the lack of further share-price catalysts after the upcoming 3Q results MTU Aero shares open as much as 1.5% higher before falling, after Hauck & Aufhaeuser upgrades the engine manufacturer to buy from hold, predicting “material upside” for the shares Telecom Italia shares fall after advancing as much as 3.3% in early trading after the phone company said it received a binding offer from KKR for its fixed network unit Atos shares fall after soaring as much as 22%, the most since 2007, after the French tech firm said Chairman Bertrand Meunier is stepping down amid a shareholder revolt over his turnaround plan for the company Earlier in the session, Asian stocks fell in the start of the week as a selloff in the region’s semiconductor stocks and ongoing tensions in the Middle East sap risk appetite. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell as much as 0.9%, extending losses from Friday, with Taiwan Semiconductor, and Samsung among the biggest drags. A gauge of the region’s chipmakers fell 1.9% after Bloomberg reported that the US is considering further restrictions to curb China’s access to advance semiconductors. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Gojek Tokopedia tumbles to a fresh low after its co-founder sold shares. Chinese stocks in mainland and Hong Kong declined despite fresh liquidity injection by the central bank, underscoring concerns that Beijing’s efforts may not be sufficient to revive confidence in the country’s economy. China’s property stocks are also trading close to their lowest level since 2009 while participants digested several recent developments including the PBoC’s decision to maintain the 1-year MLF rate, as expected, with the operation the largest MLF net injection since December 2020. Furthermore, it was confirmed that the US is to take steps to prevent American chipmakers from selling AI chips to China that circumvent government restrictions and that China’s securities regulator will restrict securities lending which local press suggested could help support markets as it would tighten rules for short selling. Australia's ASX 200 was subdued amid underperformance in tech, telecoms and industrials but with losses stemmed by resilience in commodity-related industries. Japan's Nikkei 225 underperformed and gapped below the 32,000 level despite the lack of fresh pertinent catalysts. Stocks in India dropped for a third straight session following global risk-off sentiment amid the Israel-Hamas war and a slump in Asia chip stocks. The S&P BSE Sensex fell 0.2% to 66,166.93 in Mumbai, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index was little changed at 19,731.75. Of the 18 sectoral indexes tracked by BSE, eight fell and 10 gained. Stocks across Asia declined. In rates, treasuries are in the red with US 10-year yields rising 9bps to 4.70% as bunds and gilts follow suit.  Treasuries were cheaper across the curve in a bear-steepening move with 30-year yields cheaper by 10bp on the day. Similar losses seen across core European rates as flight-to-quality bid from Friday is faded following diplomatic efforts to contain the Israel-Hamas conflict. Beyond Middle East conflict, focal points this week include a packed Fed speaker slate headed by Chair Powell at the Economic Club of New York on Thursday. US yields cheaper by 1.5bp-10bp across the curve with long-end-led losses steepening 2s10s, 5s30s spreads by ~7bp and ~5bp on the day; 10-year yields around 4.69% with bunds and gilts outperforming by 3bp and 1bp in the sector.  US auctions this week include $13b 20-year bond reopening Wednesday and $22b 5-year TIPS new issue Thursday In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index falls 0.1%. The Swiss franc is the weakest of the G-10 currencies, falling 0.1% versus the greenback. The kiwi rose 0.6%, leading Group-of-10 gains against the dollar climbing as much as 0.8% to an intra-day high of 0.5929 after the New Zealand center-right opposition party won Saturday’s election. EUR/CHF slipped 0.37% to 0.9513 as safe-haven flows sees the Swiss Franc inch closer to revisiting its all-time high on a trade-weighted basis; EUR/CHF one week implied volatility hit the highest since March as geopolitical risk boosted demand for tail-risk hedges EUR/PLN dropped as much as 1.8% to 4.4541, after the Polish election result saw the Polish Zloty climb the most in 18 months; investors piled cash into Poland as markets braced for a pro-EU party win In commodities, Brent futures drop 0.3% to trade near $90.60. Spot gold loses 1% to around $1,914. Bitcoin jumped but failed to breach the USD 28k mark in European hours and as such remains just shy of the early-October best around the figure. Action which follows gains in APAC trade which have been attributed by some to the SEC's decision not to appeal the Grayscale ruling. US economic data slate includes October Empire manufacturing at 8:30am the Budget Statement; data this week includes retail sales, industrial production, housing starts/building permits and existing home sales. Scheduled Fed speakers include Harker (10:30am and 4:30pm); this week includes Williams, Bowman, Barkin, Kashkari, Waller, Harker, Cook, Jefferson, Powell, Goolsbee, Barr, Bostic, Logan and Mester Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.1% to 4,362.75 MXAP down 0.9% to 155.62 MXAPJ down 0.7% to 488.82 Nikkei down 2.0% to 31,659.03 Topix down 1.5% to 2,273.54 Hang Seng Index down 1.0% to 17,640.36 Shanghai Composite down 0.5% to 3,073.81 Sensex little changed at 66,278.75 Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3% to 7,026.55 Kospi down 0.8% to 2,436.24 STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 448.79 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.78% Euro up 0.2% to $1.0533 Brent Futures down 0.5% to $90.40/bbl Gold spot down 1.1% to $1,912.24 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.16% to 106.48 Top Overnight News China’s central bank stepped up efforts to support the nation’s economic recovery and debt sales by delivering the largest cash injection since 2020 with one-year policy loans. The PBOC added a net 289 billion yuan ($39.6 billion) into the financial system via the so-called medium-term lending facility, the largest monthly injection since December 2020. At the same time, it drained a net 134 billion yuan of short-term liquidity through open-market operations. BBG China is tightening curbs on short-selling activities as authorities step up efforts to shore up a struggling stock market. The Securities Regulatory Commission said with effect from Oct. 30, hedge funds wishing to short sell a stock must hold 100% of the value of the transaction in their account while other investors need to have at least 80%. BBG President Biden is weighing a trip to Israel, adding to the US diplomatic push after Antony Blinken held a round of talks with Arab leaders to discuss the Israel-Hamas war. Blinken returns to Israel today. The US said it held back-channel talks with Iran, warning it not to escalate the conflict. BBG The Israeli military is preparing to invade the Gaza Strip soon with tens of thousands of soldiers ordered to capture Gaza City and destroy the enclave’s current leadership, according to three senior Israeli military officers who outlined unclassified details about the plan. NYT A surge in global borrowing costs, triggered by a sell-off in US Treasuries, means eurozone rate-setters have probably done enough to tame inflation, the governor of Spain’s central bank has said. FT Italy’s cabinet will approve a new budget on Mon that increases the deficit to 4.3% of GDP from 3.6% at a time when markets are pushing back against elevated sovereign issuance. RTRS A changing of the guard among the biggest buyers of US Treasuries has Wall Street veterans bracing for further pain in the world’s largest bond market. Increasingly absent are steady-handed investors including foreign governments, US commercial banks and the Federal Reserve. In their place, hedge funds, mutual funds, insurers and pensions are piling in. Market watchers are quick to note that unlike their more price-agnostic predecessors, the new buyer base is likely to demand a heavy premium to finance Washington’s spendthrift ways, especially with debt sales set to surge as deficits swell. BBG Individual investors are dialing back how much risk they are taking across markets. Some are accumulating cash or stashing it in funds tracking bonds or money markets to take advantage of yields that have soared to 16-year highs. Others are backing away from turbocharged bets on stocks, borrowing less to amplify their positions. Many have pulled money out of U.S. stocks, putting equity exchange-traded and mutual funds on track for the first year of outflows since 2020. WSJ Economists are increasingly upbeat on the prospects of US growth – the odds of a recession within the next year have fallen to 48% vs. 54% in the last WSJ poll from July. WSJ Last week HFs sold Staples at the fastest pace in 11 weeks amid the sector’s price underperformance. Last week’s short selling in Staples was the largest in 3 months and ranks in the 98th percentile vs. the past five years. The Prime book is now U/W Consumer Staples by -3.8% vs. the S&P 500 Index (versus -3.4% last week), which is in the 89th percentile vs. the past year and in the 95th percentile vs. the past five years. A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia Pacific stocks were mostly lower amid ongoing geopolitical concerns with the Israel-Hamas conflict threatening to spill over to neighbours in the region. ASX 200 was subdued amid underperformance in tech, telecoms and industrials but with losses stemmed by resilience in commodity-related industries. Nikkei 225 underperformed and gapped below the 32,000 level despite the lack of fresh pertinent catalysts. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. saw somewhat varied price action with the Hong Kong benchmark choppy and the mainland ultimately pressured as participants digested several recent developments including the PBoC’s decision to maintain the 1-year MLF rate, as expected, with the operation the largest MLF net injection since December 2020. Furthermore, it was confirmed that the US is to take steps to prevent American chipmakers from selling AI chips to China that circumvent government restrictions and that China’s securities regulator will restrict securities lending which local press suggested could help support markets as it would tighten rules for short selling. Top Asian News PBoC conducted CNY 789bln in 1-year MLF with the rate kept unchanged at 2.50% vs CNY 500bln maturing. PBoC said the number of bright spots in China’s economy is increasing and China will pay more attention to the balance between economic growth and sustainability, while China will focus on expanding domestic demand, boosting confidence and accelerating the virtuous circle of the economy, according to Reuters. PBoC Governor Pan met with IMF MD Georgieva and said China is looking forward to the timely conclusion of the 16th IMF quota review increase and realignment with the quota realignment fundamental to IMF’s governance form. PBoC’s Pan also stated the IMF’s quota realignment should reflect members’ relative weights in the global economy and strengthen the voice and representations of emerging markets and developing countries. US is to take steps to prevent American chipmakers from selling AI chips to China that circumvent government restrictions with the US efforts part of upcoming restrictions on AI chip exports to China to be announced this week. China’s securities regulator said will restrict securities lending and appropriately curb securities lending by strategic investors and senior management of listed firms, according to Reuters. Furthermore, Chinese press suggested the latest securities rule is to help support markets and cited efforts to tighten rules for short selling. EU foreign policy chief Borrell said the EU has ties with China that are independent of other nations, while it was also reported that EU’s Mora is to visit China for follow-up talks. New Zealand shifted to the right in a rejection of the Labour Party and PM Hipkins conceded defeat, while National Party leader Luxon is set to become the next PM. Japanese top currency diplomat Kanda says interest rates is merely one factor in FX; intervention is one option when excessive FX moves are seen; JPY is still perceived as a safe asset, alongside the CHF and USD. European bourses are under modest pressure as the weekend's deluge of geopolitical developments keeps tensions elevated and the tone tentative, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.2%. As such, sectors are tilting into the red overall despite an initially firmer start to European trade with the morning's main movers driven by individual updates around stocks including Telecom Italia, Atos and Ocado. Stateside, futures are slightly firmer on the session awaiting fresh catalysts with the aforementioned tentative tone capping and real action, ES +0.1%. Apple (AAPL) iPhone 15 sales -4.5% in the China debut YY, via Counterpoint. Top European News BoE Governor Bailey said he is puzzled by stubborn pay growth in the UK but added that they have had some good news on inflation recently, while he also commented that workforce dropouts hit the UK growth and stoke prices. BoE's Pill says we must not declare premature victory after mechanical fall in headline inflation; if we look at market inflation expectations, we cannot be complacent. Thinks more of BoE rate rise has been transmitted than 20-25% but not dramatically so. ECB President Lagarde said the labour market shows no real sign of weakening. ECB’s Nagel reiterated that inflation remains too high and policy is to remain restrictive for the foreseeable future. ECB's de Cos said higher borrowing costs underline governments’ need to reduce deficits next year, while the surge in global borrowing costs, triggered by a sell-off in US Treasuries means eurozone rate-setters may have done enough to tame inflation, according to FT. ECB's Wunsch (Hawkish) says that discussing PEPP is not a pressing issue, a matter of consistency. Fine with it being discussed in October or a bit later, via Econostream. On whether they are at terminal rate "maybe, maybe not". Chances of hiking after pausing are far from marginal. Polish PM Morawiecki said the ruling nationalists PiS will try to form a government if the president gives them this task after exit polls showed the ruling nationalists with 36.8% of votes and the largest opposition group Civic Coalition received 31.6% of votes, according to Reuters. Italian PM Meloni says 2024 budget contains measures worth circa EUR 24bln in tax cuts and higher spending. German Finance Minister Lindner said to the UK "If you want to intensify your trade relationship with the EU - call us!", via BBC UK government is reportedly "quietly drawing up plans to hold key trade talks with China for the first time in five years", via Politico citing officials, adding that the government is considering a range of options for strengthening ties. Fixed Income Greenback gravitates ahead of NY Fed manufacturing survey and Fed's Harker, while keeping tabs on geopolitical news, DXY towards base of narrow 106.400-610 range. Franc sags after pre-weekend safe haven advance, USD/CHF back above 0.9000. Yen pivots 149.50 vs Dollar eyeing yields and latest verbal intervention from Japan's top FX diplomate Kanda. Kiwi back on 0.5900 handle vs Buck and Zloty above 4.5000 against Euro after NZ and Polish elections. Euro flanked by decent option expiries vs Dollar at 1.0500 and between 1.0540-50. Cable straddles 1.2150 as Pound digests hawkish-leaning comments from BoE's Pill on inflation. Loonie tethered to 1.3650 against its US rival pre-Canadian data and BoC outlook survey. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1798 vs exp. 7.3121 (prev. 7.1775). Fixed Income More momentum fading in debt as Bunds test 129.00 after topping 130.00 last week, Gilts lose grip of 94.00 handle compared to 95.50+ m-t-d peak and T-note touches 107-09+ vs 108-16 pre-US CPI. BTPs also underwater within 109.76-31 range and digesting Italy's EUR 24bln budget of tax cuts and spending. Commodities WTI Nov and Brent Dec futures were subdued intraday settling higher by almost USD 5/bbl each on Friday amid the growing Middle Eastern tensions heading into the weekend; however, benchmarks have lifted incrementally off of lows with WTI edging into positive territory most recently. WTI Nov resides around USD 87.75/bbl (in a USD 87.07-87.98/bbl range) while Brent Dec sits around USD 90.75/bbl (in a USD 90.18-91.20/bbl parameter). Dutch TTF prices are softer intraday to the tune of around 2.5% at the time of writing, but prices remain around EUR 52/MWh as LNG workers in Australia are poised to resume strike action. Spot gold has reversed some of its marked upside from Friday, as we await the next set of updates on the geopolitical front; though, the yellow metal remains above the USD 1915/oz mark but has lost the 100-DMA at USD 1922/oz. Russian Deputy PM Novak says Russia and Venezuela have agreed to seek ways of boosting cooperation in oil and increasing oil output. US Event Calendar 08:30: Oct. Empire Manufacturing, est. -6.0, prior 1.9 14:00: Oct. 16-Oct. 20: Sept. Monthly Budget Statement, est. -$150b, prior -$429.8b Central bank speakers 10:30: Fed’s Harker Speaks on the Economic Outlook 16:30: Fed’s Harker Speaks About the Economic Outlook DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Morning from New York. I say morning but it’s only just gone midnight here after a late and delayed landing. That left plenty of time to write this on the plane after a busy weekend celebrating my wife’s 50th birthday. It ended with her going to see Madonna live last night while I travelled. I’m not entirely sure who got the short straw. In the overnight session there has been some relief that a ground offensive hasn't begun yet in Gaza and that diplomatic channels seems to be open for now. President Biden is considering a trip to Israel in the next week which will be an important event. For now we are retracing some of Friday's flight to quality bid as markets feared a weekend of escalation. Yields on 10yr USTs (+5.18 bps) are at 4.66% as we go to print. S&P 500 (+0.20%) and NASDAQ 100 (+0.26%) futures have edged higher with Oil stable for now after a spike on Friday. Most Asian equity markets are retreating this morning though as Friday's sentiment spills over with additional news that the US plans new tighter curbs on China's access to advanced semiconductor chips. As I check my screens, the Nikkei (-1.64%) is the biggest underperformer across the region with the KOSPI (-1.06%), the CSI (-0.80%), the Shanghai Composite (-0.56%) and the Hang Seng (-0.39%) also dropping in early trade. Outside of events in the Middle East it looks a busy week but without an obvious focal point. There is a barrage of Fed speak before their media black-out at the weekend but Powell’s speech at the Economic Club of New York on Thursday will be the highlight. We detail who is speaking in our day-by-day calendar at the end but DB’s Brett Ryan’s week ahead gives a bit more detail of their various biases here. The key data point will likely be US retail sales (tomorrow) which we expect to decline (-0.1%) after two strong months, but we also have a lot of US housing data with the NAHB (tomorrow), starts/permits (Wednesday) and existing home sales (Thursday). US weekly jobless claims (Thursday) corresponds to payrolls survey week so will be used to fine tune estimates. Staying with the US, earnings season will start to get into gear with the highlights being Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Johnson and Johnson (tomorrow), Morgan Stanley, Tesla, Netflix, ASML, and Procter & Gamble (Wednesday), TSMC (Thursday) and American Express (Friday). Tesla and Netflix probably have the most ability to move macro markets given their size. China sees its monthly activity dump on Wednesday where signs of a turnaround will be scrutinised. This is the same day as UK inflation comes out (preview here). The UK labour market data tomorrow is interesting as unemployment is now 0.8pp above the lows at 4.3% and has increased more than anywhere else in the DM world. UK retail sales is out on Friday. In Europe we have the ZEW survey in Germany (tomorrow) and the PPI report on Friday, with retail sales for France also due that day. With regards to German PPI it's expected to hit -14.2% YoY from -12.6% the previous month so crazy numbers historically after peaking at an even more crazy +45.8% YoY just over a year ago. In Japan the national CPI on Friday will be the last before the October 31st BoJ meeting where YCC is likely in our opinion to be abandoned. So an important print. Now, looking back on last week. We closed out the week with an air of nervousness surrounding events in the Middle East after it was reported on Friday that the Israeli army announced a 24-hour evacuation order for over one million civilians in north Gaza. On Friday, we also had the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment preliminary survey results for October. The headline result surprised significantly to the downside at 63.0 (vs 67.0 expected), down from 68.1 in September. 5-to-10-year inflation expectations rose to 3.0% (vs 2.8% expected), and 1-year inflation expectations jumped from 3.2% to 3.8% (vs 3.2% expected). A few months of higher energy prices seems to now be filtering through to short-run expectations and thus complicating central banks’ policy choices. Fortunately for now long-run expectations remain under some control. Ultimately, these inflation numbers were secondary to news of the Israeli army’s evacuation order. US 10yr Treasury yields fell -8.6bps on Friday and -19.0bps on the week as investors fled to quality, the largest weekly decline in yields since mid-July. 30yr yields also fell, down -21.4bps week-on-week (and -10.1bps on Friday), the largest weekly decline for 30yr yields since the first week of 2023. Interesting we had one of the largest rises in 30yr yields in the last decade on Thursday with a poor auction so there is an element that Treasuries are a bit of a reluctant flight to quality flow recipient. German 10yr bund yields followed the global picture, falling -14.8bps week-on-week (and -4.9bps on Friday) . With risk-off sentiment dominating, equities struggled at the end of the week. The S&P 500 dipped -0.50% on Friday, although it was still up +0.45% week-on-week. Technology was buffeted on Friday, as the tech-heavy NASDAQ dropped -1.23% (-0.18% on the week). Weak performance was most evident for the mega caps as the Magnificent Seven index fell -2.05% (-0.39% on the week), led by the likes of Tesla (-2.99%) and Nvidia (-3.16%). In Europe, the STOXX 600 slipped -0.98% on Friday but was up +0.96% week-on-week. Oil spiked sharply on Friday on the news in Israel, as concerns over risks to oil supply from the Middle East rose. It was also boosted by news of the US sanctioning two shipping companies for violating the price cap on Russian oil. Brent broke through the $90/bbl level, rising +5.69% to $90.89/bbl. The +7.46% weekly increase, is its largest since February. WTI crude climbed +5.77% to $87.69/bbl, and +5.92% in weekly terms. With the geopolitical backdrop increasingly fragile, the haven of gold also rose +3.28% on Friday to $1933/ounce (and +5.45% week-on-week), its greatest daily increase since the banking stress in March. However, European gas futures took the prize for the week, after prices rose +51.0% week-on-week to EUR 55.35/MWh (and +3.87% on Friday), its greatest percentage increase since March 2022 just after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tyler Durden Mon, 10/16/2023 - 08:20.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 16th, 2023

A GOP congressman says conservative hardliners who helped oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker could "very easily" cause the party to lose its House majority in 2024

"We put sharp knives in the hands of children, and they used them," Cole told The Atlantic of GOP lawmakers who backed McCarthy's removal as speaker. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteRep. Tom Cole told The Atlantic that hardliners might "very easily" cost the GOP its House majority."I think these guys materially hurt our chances to hold the majority," he told the magazine.Cole strongly vouched for McCarthy shortly before he was ousted as speaker in a 216-210 vote.Shortly before Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California was ousted as Speaker of the House last Tuesday, one of his most prominent allies stepped forward to vouch for his character.Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a veteran GOP lawmaker who chairs the House Rules Committee, touted McCarthy's leadership in the lower chamber as he rejected calls by conservative hardliners to oust their speaker, who had only been in the role since January."The overwhelming majority of my party supports the speaker that we elected. We're proud of the leadership he's shown," Cole said at the time."There is a second group, small group," he continued. "Honestly, they are willing to plunge this body into chaos and this country into uncertainty for reasons that only they really understand."Later that day, the House voted 216-210 to remove McCarthy from the speakership, with eight Republicans joining 208 Democrats in backing a motion to vacate the chair.It was an act that continues to frustrate Cole, who recently told The Atlantic that conservative hardliners "just took out our best player" as the party looks to defend its slim 221-212 House majority headed into a presidential election year.And Cole told the magazine that McCarthy's ouster could "very easily" threaten the very House majority that the GOP fought so hard to win last year after losing it following the 2018 midterms."We put sharp knives in the hands of children, and they used them," Cole said of the hardliners in their successful push to remove McCarthy."I think these guys materially hurt our chances to hold the majority," he continued. "That's just the reality."Cole, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Atlantic that the former speaker convinced many strong candidates to jump into competitive races in 2020 and 2022."This is going to cost us candidates," Cole told the magazine, again criticizing the votes of the eight breakaway GOP lawmakers."They just messed up the House," he continued. "They had no exit plan, no alternative strategy, no alternative candidate."While some have suggested Cole as a consensus candidate who could unite the House GOP conference, the congressman told the magazine that the chance of him becoming speaker was "very low, and if I have anything to say about it, zero."Currently, the leading candidates to succeed McCarthy as speaker are Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 8th, 2023

Sperry: Did Hunter Biden Lie In His Own Memoir To "Protect The Family"?

Sperry: Did Hunter Biden Lie In His Own Memoir To 'Protect The Family'? Authored by Paul Sperry via RealClear Wire, In a raft of glowing reviews, Hunter Biden’s 2019 memoir “Beautiful Things” was celebrated as an “unflinchingly honest” (Entertainment Weekly), “confession and an act of contrition” (Guardian), that was “candid” and “doesn’t hold back details” (New York Times) of his substance abuse and broken relationships.   While describing the book as an “unvarnished confessional,” the Washington Post exalted it as a “harrowing, relentless and a determined exercise in trying to seize his own narrative from the clutches of the Republicans and the press.  In the years since, testimony from a former business partner, Devon Archer, and newly disclosed emails indicate that the president’s son’s memoir was an exercise in spin rather than truth-telling, especially concerning his father’s role in his foreign business dealings, which are now the subject of a House impeachment inquiry. That evidence shows how the Bidens used the memoir to create a politically charged narrative – one largely embraced by the mainstream media – that distorted the truth to protect the family.   On page 118, for example, Hunter writes that after accompanying then-Vice President Joe Biden to China on Air Force Two in 2013, he merely introduced his father to a well-connected Chinese investor. It was a quick greeting that lasted just long enough for a handshake. “While we were in Beijing, Dad met one of Devon’s Chinese partners, Jonathan Li, in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel, just long enough to say hello and shake hands,” Hunter wrote. “Li and I then headed off for a cup of coffee.”  The account seems to comport with now-President Biden’s repeated denials that he discussed business with his son or had any substantive involvement with his partners.  However, Archer told a different story to U.S. lawmakers during a deposition earlier this year. “Jonathan Li and [Vice] President Biden had coffee,” Archer said, according to a recently released transcript of his interview with the House Oversight Committee. “They had coffee in Beijing,” he recalled, suggesting there may have been talk about their business relationship. Li would later offer Hunter a 10% stake worth potentially millions in a Chinese investment fund controlled by the state Bank of China. The fund, BHR Partners, is based in Beijing.  Archer’s testimony included other details ignored or distorted in the memoir. He said the vice president called Hunter while he was meeting with Li in Paris, and Hunter put his father on speakerphone so he could join their conversation. And in early January 2017, while Biden was still in the White House, Hunter arranged for his father to write letters of recommendation for Li’s son and daughter to Ivy League colleges.  Before committee lawyers began questioning Archer during the July 31 closed-door hearing, they warned him that providing false testimony could subject him to criminal prosecution for perjury. Hunter, in contrast, was under no such legal peril while writing his manuscript. The same Oversight panel that quizzed Archer will now lead a formal impeachment inquiry, announced this month by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to investigate whether Biden used his office to enrich his family. Investigators are weighing subpoenaing Hunter Biden, which makes examining his claims in his memoir highly instructive as to his and his father’s credibility. They're also tracing millions of dollars wired from China into a maze of accounts that ended up in the hands of Hunter and several other Biden family members, belying claims by the president that Hunter received no money from China.  Hunter also raked in millions from Ukraine while his father was “point man” for Ukraine policy as vice president.  Hunter addresses the controversy in the sixth chapter of “Beautiful Things,” describing the allegation that he traded on his father’s influence in Ukraine to land an unusually lucrative five-year stint on the board of the corrupt Ukraine energy giant Burisma Holdings as “the decade’s biggest political fable.”  He insisted neither he nor his father, who as vice president husbanded Ukraine’s new regime, did anything criminal or corrupt. “There is, in short, no there here,” Biden wrote.  Hunter then explained how he came to serve on the Burisma board, raking in $83,000 a month despite having no experience in the energy sector. Biden claimed that Archer, his international consultancy partner, brought Burisma into their business orbit after first meeting Burisma’s founder in Kyiv.  “During one such trip to Kyiv, he met Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner and president of Burisma,” Biden said. “After returning from Kyiv, Devon told me about his talk with Zlochevsky.”  But Archer, who served on the Burisma board alongside Biden, relayed a different account to Congress, testifying he first met the Russian-tied Ukrainian oligarch in Moscow, not Kyiv.  In fact, Archer said he sat down with Zlochevsky in the Russian capital on the same day that Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. “It was just me meeting [with him],” Archer added. Within days, Burisma asked him to join the board. And Hunter Biden came aboard shortly thereafter.  Archer's disclosure that their relationship with Burisma was hatched in Moscow is at odds with the political narrative President Biden has carefully crafted, demonizing Russia as Enemy No. 1 of America and NATO. Hunter’s telling of the genesis, with the initial meeting with Zlochevsky taking place in Ukraine’s capital, is far more palatable.  Hunter wrote that he only agreed to accept Zlochevsky’s offer in order to enable Ukraine to strengthen its energy independence from Russia. He said the prospect of helping build a “bulwark" against Russian oil and gas imports assuaged “whatever dissonance I might have felt between idealism and generous compensation.” He said he was more interested in “fighting" for the Ukrainian people against an aggressive neighbor, which aligns his employment with Burisma with his father’s pro-Ukraine, anti-Russia stance.  “Having a Biden on Burisma’s board was a loud and unmistakable fuck-you to Putin,” Hunter maintained.  But according to Archer’s testimony, Burisma hired them in part to help expand its energy operations outside of Ukraine – particularly in the U.S., where the energy industry is heavily regulated by the federal government, and having such politically connected Americans on the board was valuable to the oil and gas conglomerate. Plus, he and Hunter were motivated by the windfall Burisma was paying them: “It was a million dollars per year [apiece] on the board contracts,” Archer confirmed.  Hunter further contends in his memoir that his father didn’t know about his joining the Burisma board until he read about it in the Wall Street Journal on May 13, 2014. But White House emails show the vice president’s staff was coordinating damage control weeks earlier when the news first broke in the foreign press.   And Archer testified that a month earlier, he had met with Vice President Biden in his White House office with Hunter, who had arranged the meeting. Their high-level pow-wow took place on April 16, the day after records show Archer received his first payment from Burisma.  It’s not clear what the trio discussed in Biden’s office, but Hunter had emailed Archer a Burisma strategy memo just three days earlier. Also on April 13, Hunter had emailed Joe Biden’s best friend Ted Kaufman and the vice president’s then-deputy counsel Alex Mackler to discuss Ukrainian politics. On April 21, Biden visited Ukraine to offer energy and economic aid.  But that’s not the biggest whopper Hunter apparently told about Burisma in his book. On page 127, he claimed: “No one at Burisma had even hinted at wanting me to influence the [Obama-Biden] administration.”  Several Burisma emails to Hunter, along with Archer’s congressional testimony, put the lie to this claim.  On May 12, 2014, for instance, Burisma executive Vadym Pozharskyi sent an “urgent" email to Hunter – who by then was officially on Burisma’s payroll – demanding to know “how you could use your influence to convey a message / signal, etc. to stop what we consider to be politically motivated actions.” At the time, Ukrainian prosecutors were aggressively investigating Burisma for corruption.  Several months later, in the spring of 2015, Pozharskyi emailed Hunter to thank him for giving him the “opportunity to meet with your father and spent [sic] some time together.” Archer confirmed that the then-vice president sat down for dinner with the Burisma official and others at the Cafe Milano in D.C. the previous evening. The meeting, long denied by Biden officials, was held in a private room in the back of the restaurant.  In late 2015, after Viktor Shokin took over the prosecutor general’s office in Ukraine and turned the screws on Burisma, Pozharskyi again turned to Hunter Biden for assistance.  Archer testified that Hunter called his father to help deal with Shokin's investigation at both Pozharskyi’s and Zlochevsky's request following a Burisma board meeting at the Four Seasons in Dubai on Dec. 4, 2015.  “They were getting pressure and they requested Hunter, you know, help them with some of that pressure," Archer said, explaining the pressure was coming “from Ukrainian government investigations into Mykola [Zlochevsky].”  Archer suggested their benefactors wanted Hunter to use his influence with the vice president to get Kyiv to take "the heat" off Burisma. He testified he did not overhear Hunter's phone call, but noted “he called his dad.”  At the time, Hunter Biden was not registered as a foreign agent as required by federal law when lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign entity. Federal prosecutors revealed at a recent court hearing that Hunter is actively under investigation for possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that was used to prosecute several Trump advisers.   Two days after the Dubai phone call, Biden flew to Kyiv and warned the Ukrainian president that he had to fire Shokin or he wouldn't get a promised $1 billion in aid. Three months later, after withering pressure from Biden, Shokin was removed from office.  “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko fired me at the insistence of the then-Vice President Biden because I was investigating Burisma," Shokin said in a recent Fox News interview.  In his memoir, Hunter maintained that his father had Shokin ousted because he wasn’t doing enough to tackle corruption, which matches the current spin of the White House.    “A priority for my dad was the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, for his failure to adequately investigate corruption,” he wrote. “Among the high-profile companies that Shokin was criticized for not pursuing: Burisma.”  In effect, Hunter implied he relished more criminal scrutiny for his own employer, an odd position to take particularly given the millions he was getting paid. But as Archer testified, it’s simply not true. Democratic counsel for the Oversight Committee tried to get Archer to agree with the White House spin that Shokin’s firing was “bad for Burisma ... because they had Shokin under their control.”  “No,” Archer said. “Burisma never informed me of that.”  Quite the opposite, he said, Burisma viewed Shokin as a threat after the prosecutor seized its founder Zlochevsky’s assets, including his house and cars.  If Shokin was not in fact soft on Burisma and Joe Biden did not press for his ouster to better fight corruption, it would seem to leave just one possible reason for his ham-fisted demand: to protect Burisma for the sake of his son – and the millions he was hauling in.  House impeachment investigators want to know whether Biden engaged in a quid pro quo: shaking down Ukraine’s former president for a political favor that would benefit his son by threatening to withhold a U.S.-backed aid package from the country. According to one Republican staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, they also want to know if Joe Biden or his staff helped Hunter draft the chapter of his book, titled “Burisma,” or had a hand in editing it.  “Beautiful Things” was published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which had no comment. Hunter’s attorney Abbe Lowell did not reply to requests to speak about the discrepancies in his client’s book. Tyler Durden Tue, 09/19/2023 - 20:45.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytSep 19th, 2023

Elon Musk"s friends "staged an intervention" when he said he wanted to start his own rocket company and made him watch videos of rockets exploding

"They made me watch a reel of rockets exploding, because they wanted to convince me that I would lose all my money," Elon Musk told his biographer. SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty ImagesElon Musk's friends held an intervention to stop him starting a rocket company, according to a new book.His college friend made him watch videos of rockets blowing up and warned him he'd lose his money.Musk ultimately created SpaceX, with the goal of colonizing Mars.Elon Musk's friends staged an intervention when he told them he wanted to start his own rocket company in the early 2000s, according to a new biography of the billionaire."When Musk decided he wanted to start his own rocket company, his friends did what true friends do in such a situation: they staged an intervention," journalist Walter Isaacson wrote in the book, titled "Elon Musk."Adeo Ressi, Musk's friend and former housemate at the University of Pennsylvania, made a highlight reel showing videos of rockets blowing up, "and he corralled friends to fly to Los Angeles, where they gathered with Musk to talk him out of it," Isaacson wrote."They made me watch a reel of rockets exploding, because they wanted to convince me that I would lose all my money," Musk told Isaacson. But Musk had already thought this through and had decided that someone would have to invest money if they wanted any progress in space exploration.After he was ousted from PayPal in 2000, Musk shifted his focus to exploring Mars, with the lofty goal of colonizing the red planet. He attended meetings of the Mars Society and moved to Los Angeles, which was the home of aerospace companies including Lockheed and Boeing."Do we want to tell our children that going to the moon is the best we did, and then we gave up?" Musk asked Isaacson. He also thought that having a colony on Mars would ensure the survival of humanity if anything were to happen on Earth, and wanted to rekindle what he believes was a lost the spirit of adventure."To have a base on Mars would be incredibly difficult, and people will probably die along the way, just as happened in the settling of the United States," he told Isaacson. "But it will be incredibly inspiring, and we must have inspiring things in the world … that's what can get us up in the morning."He gathered rocket engineers for meetings and devised a plan to send a greenhouse to Mars, hoping this would inspire public interest in a mission to Mars.So Musk headed to Russia twice with the aim of buying rockets. But after being taunted by the unnamed Russian businesspeople he met there, Musk decided the best way to get to Mars would be by privately producing his own rockets, allowing him to keep costs down and improve the technology. He started compiling figures on how much a rocket would cost to build on his flight back from Russia in early 2002."I wanted to hold out hope that humans could be a space-faring civilization and be out there among the stars," he told Isaacson. "And there was no chance of that unless a new company was started to create revolutionary rockets."Musk ended up setting up Space Exploration Technologies, which later became SpaceX, later that year. More than two decades later, Musk is still aiming to colonize Mars, though he keeps pushing back the date that he expects the first humans to reach Mars. He's said that he wants a million people to live on the red planet by 2050.SpaceX is a NASA contractor. It also operates Starlink, a satellite internet system. Musk currently serves as CEO and chair, though Gwynne Shotwell is its president and COO.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytSep 14th, 2023

Here"s why stocks have tanked in August and what Wall Street expects to happen next

The S&P 500 has given up about a quarter of its 2023 gains this month. Rising bond yields, China's woes, and a murky economic outlook are pressuring stocks. Traders work on the floor of the NYSEThomson Reuters The S&P 500 has dropped almost 5% in August after gaining 21% in the first seven months of 2023. Wall Street firms and market commentators are divided on whether stocks will resume their rally after this month.  Bears include Michael Burry and David Rosenberg, while Goldman Sachs and Fundstrat are more optimistic. Before August, the stock market had soared all year. The S&P 500 gained 21% through seven months as investors piled into equities and Wall Street pulled back its recession forecasts.But over the last three weeks stocks have turned lower, with the benchmark index falling about 5%. For more astute market watchers, this month's weak showing probably doesn't come as a surprise. History tells us that August has been the second-worst month of the year for stocks going back more than three decades, according to data from Stock Trader's Almanac, and it's particularly bad in the year before a presidential election. But there's more to it than just seasonal woes this August.On top of downbeat historical trends, bond yields are spiking. Interest rates have been rising as investors push out their expectations for rate cuts by the Federal Reserve. After hitting a trough this past April of about 3.68%, the 10-year Treasury is at the highest level since 2007, jumping nearly 10 basis points on Monday to hit well above 4.3%. Recall that stocks, particularly high-growth tech stocks, are vulnerable in times of rising rates as higher borrowing costs dent profitability, while higher-yielding bonds means investors can get juicy returns from a much safer investment compared to stocks. Meanwhile, China's economic woes are putting a damper on global growth forecasts and prompting observers to wonder how problems in the world's second-largest economy might ultimately spill over to the rest of the world. Add Fitch's downgrade of US debt and a still-murky outlook on inflation, and the doldrums seem obvious.Here's where Wall Street firms and market commentators see the stock market headed next. Goldman SachsThe firm's strategists reiterated their year-end price target of 4,700 for the S&P 500, or about 8% higher than current levels, because they don't think there's reason to fret over August's slump.Investors still have room to "increase their exposure to equities" as the odds of a recession decline, according to Goldman, and retail activity should ramp up over the coming weeks as everyday traders turn bullish. At the same time, the bank anticipates buybacks to soar now that the second-quarter earnings season is over.JPMorganUS consumers have spent all their excess savings from the pandemic, which means they have less funds to put toward stocks, JPMorgan strategists wrote in a note last week. As a result, stocks look poised to decline further.The bank's quant guru Marko Kolanovic ultimately expects the S&P 500 to finish the year at 4,200, or about 4.4% lower than current levels. Morgan StanleyIn an August report, analysts from Morgan Stanley's Wealth Management group pointed to spiking yields as reason to choose bonds over stocks. CIO Lisa Shalett said fixed-income assets could make for a good hedge against downside risks in the stock market."Investors may want to deploy incoming cash to Treasuries with 4.5% to 5.5% coupons and decent capital gains potential in scenarios where the immaculate soft landing shows signs of vulnerability," she wrote.FundstratFundstrat's Tom Lee said Monday that investors should expect a stock rally this week thanks to two big catalysts: Jerome Powell at Jackson Hole and Nvidia's earnings. Beyond August, Lee has predicted that the S&P 500 will notch a record high this year at 4,825, and last week he said investors should be thinking about this lastest sell-off as a dip-buying opportunity.  "We see this more as 'its August' rather than the start of a larger rout," Lee said, nodding to seasonality trends around this time of year. "We don't think the market outlook has changed into year-end 2023. In fact, this will ultimately prove to be a great buying opportunity.Stifel Stifel's chief equity strategist Barry Bannister told clients earlier this month that this year's strong stock rally is over, and investors should prepare for weak returns for the rest of the year.In his words, the "no recession relief rally" has ended, and the first quarter of 2024 could still see a recession.  He expects the S&P 500 to finish the year at 4,400, which is near current levels. Michael BurryLast quarter, the investor of "Big Short" fame placed bets against two ETFs that track the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100, according to SEC filings.The two holdings could be hedges to soften the blow to Scion Asset Management's portfolio if the stock market slumps, but they could also point to outright bearishness from Burry. The two index funds are dominated by the likes of Tesla and Nvidia, and Burry has cautioned against risk-assets repeatedly in the past.Last spring he suggested that the S&P 500 could plunge more than 50% and the Nasdaq Composite could do the same.David RosenbergThe president of Rosenberg research is bracing for a repeat of last year's stock slump amid prospects of higher-for-longer borrowing costs and risks coming out of China."It would be one thing if the S&P 500 was priced for these imperfections, but instead it is priced for perfection," he said in a video last week.He said the equity-risk premium, or the expected difference in returns from stocks versus bonds, has tumbled to a two-decade low, and the S&P 500 looks overvalued.He argued that investors should ditch the "uber expensive" stock market and instead look to "undervalued and deeply shorted" Treasurys.Jeremy GranthamIn recent comments, the legendary investor and GMO founder has drawn comparisons between today's market and the dot-com bubble, and he's predicted that stocks will tumble as a recession sets in."I suspect inflation will never be as low as its average for the last 10 years; that we have reentered a period of moderately higher inflation and, therefore, moderately higher interest rates," Grantham said."In the end, life is simple. Low rates push up asset prices. Higher rates push asset prices down. We are now in an era that will average higher rates than we had for the last 10 years."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderAug 22nd, 2023