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Virginia House committee approves Potomac Yard arena bill — but with changes

Meanwhile, the Senate finance committee has removed a companion bill from its docket......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsFeb 12th, 2024

S&P Futures Soar To 2023 High After Dovish Fed, Meta Earnings

S&P Futures Soar To 2023 High After Dovish Fed, Meta Earnings US futures and global stocks soared, and the dollar slumped as investors wagered that the Fed has reached the end of its 16-month long policy-tightening cycle. A barrage of earnings beats (sorry Mike Wilson) from high-profile companies added to the bullish momentum, propelling the Stoxx Europe 600 index 1% higher to a two-month high, while US futures pointed to a strong Wall Street session after Fed Chair Powell failed to dent market optimism during his press conference. At 7:30am Nasdaq 100 futures were up 1.3%, led by an 9% premarket surge in Facebook parent Meta Platforms which reported blowout guidance for Q3; S&P futures rose 0.6% to a fresh 2023 high at 4,623. Treasury yields dropped on the short end, while the dollar pushed lower. Oil and gold prices are up. Iron ore, meanwhile, is trading lower. Today, we will receive a slew of growth and inflation data. As Fed staff now dropped US recession forecast, today’s growth data will be important to assess the soft-landing scenario. Keep an eye on banks stocks as Fed will hold meeting at 1pm ET today to implement Basel 3 endgame agreement. In premarket trading, megacap techs are higher led by META which has soared 9% post earnings after the Facebook parent gave a revenue forecast ahead of consensus, driven by a recovery in advertising sales. Analysts note that AI-powered tools are boosting engagement and advertiser return, with several upping their price targets. Chipmakers also advanced, led by Micron Technology which highlighted its development of high-bandwidth memory products. Here are some other notable premarket movers: US airline stocks drop in US premarket trading after results from peer Southwest Air showed that rising costs weighed even as demand for travel over the summer was strong, sending its shares as much as 7.4% lower in premarket trading. American Airlines -2%, United Airlines -1.3%, Delta Air Lines -1.2%, JetBlue Airways -3.2% Comcast gained more than 4% after beating profit estimates. EBay  shares drop 5.9% after the online marketplace’s third-quarter earnings outlook missed estimates. Analysts said the beat in the company’s second-quarter results was overshadowed by the guidance, with Jefferies expressing concern that growth initiatives could result in reduced margins without an uplift in gross merchandise volume and profit. Estee Lauder shares fall 0.8%, after Jefferies downgraded the beauty products maker to hold from buy, along with peer Coty, on worries over a recovery in China. The move higher came after the Fed raised the federal funds rate to a 22-year high and while it signaled further hikes would be data dependent, many investors concluded that it’s done hiking interest rates (just tell them not to look at the soaring price of gasoline and food). They have trimmed bets on more increases this year, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell pointed to signs that higher borrowing costs are working to curb price pressures. Meanwhile, a predicted 25-basis-point rate rise later Thursday from the European Central Bank could be one of its last moves this cycle. “There is belief that the Fed is probably done,” said Timothy Graf, head of EMEA macro strategy at State Street Bank & Trust Co. “Markets are also seeing a US economy that’s held up far better than the consensus outlook. They are pricing that we have achieved a landing that everyone thought would be impossible to achieve.” What’s more, gloomy forecasts for an earnings recession have failed to materialise, according to Graf, with equity moves showing “people were under-invested in a lot of the big themes that generated returns this year.” Indeed, surprisingly strong earnings have shattered views that the US is in an earnings recession. More than half of all companies have beat analyst estimates so far, and today stands to be the busiest of the second-quarter calendar.   European stocks followed US equity futures and Asian counterparts higher ahead of the ECB decision today. The Stoxx 600 is up 1% after snapping a six-session win streak on Wednesday, with the media, technology and construction sectors leading gains. Among individual European movers, BNP Paribas SA, Nestle SA and Carrefour SA all rallied after topping estimates. On the downside, Shell Plc retreated despite pledging more buybacks as its profits fell from last year’s highs. Barclays Plc slumped on back of a 41% decline in quarterly trading revenue. Here are the most notable European movers: Nestle shares rise as much 2%, the most in six weeks, after the food giant lifted the lower end of its forecast range for full- year sales growth Universal Music Group gains as much as 12%, biggest increase on record, as its second-quarter revenue beat estimates driven by growth from its recorded music and merchandising segments BNP Paribas shares advance as much as 4.3%, second-best performer in the Stoxx 600 Banks Index, after it reported what Morgan Stanley says are a strong set of results, while RBC also notes “reassuring” cost control RELX shares jump as much as 4.3%, the biggest intraday gain since Feb. 16, after the information and analytics company reported adjusted operating profit that beat estimates Inchcape shares rise as much as 14%, the most since 2009, after the UK car dealer reported strong revenue growth for the first half, boosted by its recent acquisition of US distributor Derco Air Liquide rises as much as 1.6% after the gas company reported first-half Ebit and margins that exceeded estimates. Performance in the Americas was supported by higher prices in Industrial Merchant and strength in Healthcare, says Morgan Stanley Shell drops as much as 2.3% after the oil company’s second-quarter profit missed estimates as commodity prices trended down Neste shares plunge as much as 13%, most since March 2020, after the Finnish refiner reported adjusted Ebitda for the second quarter that missed the average analyst estimate. RBC says the company’s outlook and sales were underwhelming Airbus shares slump 2.5% as analysts voice caution over the company’s decision to remove its target for raising aircraft production past pre-Covid levels and shift the focus to a longer-term goal Barclays shares dropped as much as 6.7% as the announcement of a buyback failed to lift the mood after the UK bank’s corporate and investment bank revenues fell short of expectations for the second quarter Teleperformance shares slump as much as 12%, the most in three months, after the provider of customer-relationship management services cut its revenue growth forecast for the year, saying it expects economic challenges to continue in the second half St James’s Place shares slide as much as 12%, the biggest intraday decline since March 2020, after the investment management company reported first- half net inflows that missed estimates. Citi said the company’s flows were pressured by the macroeconomic backdrop Earlier in the session, Asian stocks climbed, with a rally in Chinese technology stocks and speculation that the Federal Reserve is nearing the end of its rate-hike cycle helping drive the regional benchmark toward its 2023 high. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index jumped as much as 1%, set for a fourth day of gains and approaching this year’s peak seen in late January. Chinese tech companies provided the biggest boost as electric-vehicle shares surged on plans by Volkswagen AG to invest in XPeng. The EV maker’s stock soared 33%, leading the rally in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Tech Index and putting it on track for a technical bull market. Equities in most of Asia’s emerging markets rose as the dollar slid following the Fed’s meeting. A weaker greenback is seen as beneficial for growth in the region’s developing economies, many of which rely on imports priced in dollars. Japanese stocks also edged higher ahead of a monetary policy decision on Friday.  KOSPI gained with the spotlight on earnings including Samsung Electronics which topped estimates. The MSCI Asia Pacific gauge is up 2.6% so far this week, boosted by a rebound in Chinese shares after authorities signaled further property easing and a consumption boost to revive a struggling economy. The regional benchmark is up 9.3% this year, versus a gain of almost 19% in the S&P 500 Index. “The near-term outlook for Asian equities is improving, with some of the macro headwinds facing the market in the past 18 months likely to turn into tailwinds,” said Soo Hai Lim, head of Asia ex-China equities at Barings. “If the second half of the year sees central-bank tightening efforts wind down and earnings to guide higher, investor sentiment toward Asian equities should also improve.” Australia's stock market was led by strength in real estate and tech. The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7% to 7,455.90, its highest close since Feb. 9, in a rally led by property and tech shares. The advance comes amid optimism the Fed is close to the end of its tightening cycle after the central bank said any further tightening would be data dependent. Read: Fed Raises Rates as Powell Keeps Options Open for Future Hikes In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index was little changed at 11,954.11 Stocks in India declined Thursday as fast-moving consumer goods firms dropped on worries over volume growth, and Mahindra led a retreat in automakers after its surprise stake disclosure in a small-sized lender.  The S&P BSE Sensex fell 0.7% to 66,266.82 in Mumbai, posting a fourth drop in five sessions, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index slid 0.6%. They gauges rose 0.5% each on Wednesday.  HDFC Bank contributed the most to the index decline, while Mahindra was the top decliner. The automaker closed 6.3% lower after analysts were surprised by its stake purchase in RBL Bank. The company’s market value dropped by $1.5 billion to $21.9 billion, wiping off its gains since start of the month. Out of 31 shares in the Sensex index, 9 rose and 20 fell, while 2 were unchanged. In FX, The Bloomberg dollar index fell for the third day, extending Wednesday’s 0.3% drop, when Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell’s comments bolstered bets that the US tightening cycle is near an end. The Swedish krona and Norwegian krone are the best performers. EUR/USD climbed as much as 0.5% to 1.1144 ahead of the European Central Bank’s policy decision later on Thursday, where it’s set to announce a 25 basis-point rate increase. GBP/USD rose for a third day, but weakened slightly against the euro. Traders trimmed wagers on further rate hikes after a report that advisers to the Treasury are increasingly concerned over the extent of UK rate hikes. Market pricing now favors a quarter-point increase in August, which on a closing basis would the first time that’s happened since last month’s half-point hike. They also continued to pare bets on how high interest rates would rise this cycle, with pricing for the terminal rate edging back below 6%. That’s down from more than 6.5% expected earlier this month. AUD/USD rose as much as 0.9% to 0.6821 as yuan gains fueled leveraged demand for the currency and put large buy stops above 0.6850 into play. In rates, treasuries mixed with short-end yields lower by 2bp-3bp as US trading day begins, extending the bull-steepening move that followed Wednesday’s Fed rate increase and Chair Powell’s evenhanded comments regarding additional hikes. Real-money buying in front end during Asian hours was a factor, Citi strategists said in a note; yields and key curve spreads remain inside ranges established over past week however. Yields beyond the 5-year are little changed ahead of 7-year note auction at 1pm New York time; $35b sale is the final coupon sale of the May-July financing quarter; Treasury Department is slated to announce auction sizes for August-October next week, and increases are broadly expected. WI 7-year yield at ~3.98% is higher than auction results since February and ~15bp higher than last month’s; yields across the Treasury curve were driven to YTD highs during the first week of July by strong employment data, but have since moderated from those levels. In commodities, crude futures advance with WTI rising 1.1% to trade near $79.60. Spot gold adds 0.3% Bitcoin is little changed in another narrow range with specifics somewhat light as broader market action remains at the whim of Central Banks and earnings, with the ECB next after the FOMC avoided shaking the boat. To the day ahead now, and the main highlight will be the ECB’s latest policy decision and President Lagarde’s press conference. Otherwise, data releases from the US include US 2Q GDP, June preliminary durable goods orders, weekly initial jobless claims, June advance goods trade balance and June wholesale and retail inventories (all at 8:30am), June pending home sales (10am) and July Kansas City Fed manufacturing activity (11am). Finally, earnings releases include Mastercard, McDonald’s, Intel and Ford. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.6% to 4,622.00 STOXX Europe 600 up 1.0% to 470.31 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.48% Euro up 0.4% to $1.1135 MXAP up 0.8% to 170.14 MXAPJ up 0.8% to 537.73 Nikkei up 0.7% to 32,891.16 Topix up 0.5% to 2,295.14 Hang Seng Index up 1.4% to 19,639.11 Shanghai Composite down 0.2% to 3,216.67 Sensex down 0.5% to 66,341.22 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.7% to 7,455.92 Kospi up 0.4% to 2,603.81 Brent Futures up 0.7% to $83.48/bbl Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,977.54 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.27% to 100.62 Top Overnight News A bill that will widen the pool of men liable to be called up to serve in the Russian army has passed through a key security committee, bringing it closer to being signed into law by president Vladimir Putin. Men aged 18 to 27 are currently eligible to be conscripted in Russia for its regular army. On Thursday, the security committee of the upper house of Russia’s parliament pushed through a bill to raise the upper age limit to 30. FT Turkey's central bank sharply revised up its year-end inflation forecast to 58% from 22.3%. New Governor Hafize Gaye Erkan is trying to restore credibility among investors after years of wildly optimistic projections. The food inflation estimate also more than doubled to 61.5%. BBG Another ECB rate hike seems almost certain today, taking the deposit rate to 3.75%, but — much like the Fed yesterday — the real focus is on what's next. Clear signals for September are unlikely given the flood of data due before then. Instead, Christine Lagarde will want to maintain maximum flexibility when she speaks after the announcement. BBG Barclays shares slump in London trading after the company reported earnings and warned of growing pressure in its UK retail bank while the investment bank missed Street expectations (the buyback was increased but this wasn’t enough to offset the lackluster results). RTRS While the world’s attention has been focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new Russian attacks against U.S. drones have made Syria a fraught arena for military competition between Moscow and Washington. WSJ US consumers insulated from Fed tightening as most rates on personal/household debt are fixed at levels far below where they currently stand. WSJ New capital rules may erase almost all of the $118 billion in excess capital Wall Street's biggest banks squirreled away over the past decade, in a potential blow to shareholder buybacks. The Fed and FDIC will vote to propose the measures at separate meetings today. BBG Federal regulators want to impose new guardrails on the way retail investment firms such as Robinhood Markets use advanced analytics to encourage customers to trade, the latest in a series of policy efforts prompted by the 2021 meme-stock craze. WSJ US economic growth probably held up in the second quarter, showing sustained resilience in the face of Fed tightening. The economy is expected to have expanded by 1.8%, bolstered by a turn higher in business investment even as consumer spending cooled. Bloomberg Economics warned that expectations of weaker demand will weigh on factory production. BBG A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk APAC stocks traded higher in the aftermath of the FOMC meeting and press conference where the Fed delivered a widely expected 25bp rate hike and Powell kept the door open for a further increase although didn’t commit to any decision and stressed a data-dependent approach. ASX 200 was led by strength in real estate and tech, while participants also digested production updates. Nikkei 225 was initially hesitant amid a firmer currency and as the BoJ kick-started its 2-day policy meeting but eventually conformed to the rally. KOSPI gained with the spotlight on earnings including Samsung Electronics which topped estimates. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp were positive with outperformance in Hong Kong despite the HKMA’s lockstep rate, as sentiment benefitted from recent support efforts and with the tech and auto industries lifted after China issued guidelines on the standardisation of intelligent connected vehicles and with regulators holding talks with major ride-hailing firms. Furthermore, XPeng shares surged over 30% in early trade after Volkswagen took about a 5% stake in the Co. and plans to jointly develop two electric models for the mid-size segment. Top Asian News Hong Kong Monetary Authority raised its base rate by 25bps to 5.75%, as expected. BoK said it will strengthen the role of the standing lending facility as a liquidity backstop for financial institutions, while it will lower lending rates, accept more collateral and extend the maturity for loans taken out from its standing lending facility. China's National Financial Regulatory Admin. says people's consumption ability is not sufficient and the willingness of consumption not strong. European bourses are in the green, Euro Stoxx 50 +1.4%; with action a continuation of the APAC upside post-FOMC and heavily influenced by the numerous earnings reports. Sectors primarily firmer with Media leading after Relx & UMG, Tech names are a close second given bullish Samsung AI remarks. Conversely, Energy lags following TotalEnergies & Shell's reports. Auto sector is mixed with Mercedes-Benz bid but Renault and Volkswagen pressured. Stateside, futures are firmer with the ES +0.6% though the NQ +1.3% outperforms following Meta's after-hours report. Top European News UK Treasury advisors are reportedly worried the BoE risks overdoing in the inflation fight, according to Bloomberg; believe that rate hikes should slow CBRT Report: Inflation forecasts revised upwards, exchange rate the main factor behind this. Click here for more detail. FX Buck bears pounce on dovish elements of FOMC statement and Powell presser after latest 25bp Fed rate hike, DXY sinks from 101.000 to 100.540. Euro and Yen take advantage of Dollar demise ahead of ECB and BoJ, EUR/USD eyes expiries at 1.1150 and USD/JPY reverses through 140.00 where expiry interest also resides. Aussie and Kiwi seize on Greenback weakness and benefit from bullish risk sentiment, AUD/USD tops 0.6800 and NZD/USD approaches 0.6275. Franc, Pound and Loonie also up against US rival and latter underpinned by hawkish-sounding BoC minutes independently; USD/CHF closer to 0.8550 than 0.8600, Cable 1.3000 than 1.2900 and USD/CAD 1.3150 than 1.3200. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1265 vs exp. 7.1468 (prev. 7.1295) Fixed Income Bonds make more headway post-Fed before pullback as spotlight shifts to ECB and top tier US data. Bunds towards base of 132.84-133.55 range, Gilts closer to 96.06 low than 96.81 high and T-note back below par between 112-07/111-26+ bounds. BTPs digesting pretty well received Italian supply after peaking early at 116.42. Commodities WTI and Brent futures are firmer intraday, with the complex propped up by the broader risk appetite and softer Dollar in the aftermath of a dovish FOMC hike, whilst Chinese stimulus hopes keeps prices underpinned. Spot gold benefits from the softer post-FOMC Dollar, with the index posting mild gains intraday thus far but ultimately above its 100 DMA (USD 1,965.89/oz) after meandering around the moving average earlier this week. Base metals also benefit from the weaker Buck, but also see tailwinds from the broader risk appetite and ongoing hopes of Chinese stimulus. Nigeria raised August Bonny Crude official selling price to a premium of USD 0.38/bbl vs dated Brent and raised Qua Iboe OSP to a premium of USD 0.75/bbl vs dated Brent, according to Reuters. Russia expects to produce 515mln tons of oil this year, according to TASS. Russia's Government to consider lawmakers' proposal of raising oil export duty, according to RIA. Elsewhere, Russian Energy Minister Shulginov says Russia is to supply 18-20mln tonnes of oil products to Africa this year, according to Tass. Russian President Putin says we will be ready in the next 3-4 months to supply grain to Africa. Geopolitics North Korea said a Chinese official delivered a letter from President Xi to North Korean Leader Kim and Kim said the dispatch of the Chinese delegation shows Xi's commitment to bilateral ties, while the official noted China is willing to contribute to regional peace and stability, as well as North Korea's prosperity and development, according to KCNA. North Korean leader Kim met with Russian Defence Minister Shoigu and they visited a missile and arms expo with senior government officials. Furthermore, North Korean and Russian defence chiefs held talks and their countries are to step up cooperation against gangster-like US hegemony, while the visit is to boost unity in the face of a common enemy and North Korea said it fully supports Russia's battle to protect sovereignty and safety, according to KCNA. French President Macron denounced "new imperialism" in the Pacific during a landmark visit to the region and warned of a threat to the sovereignty of smaller states, according to AFP News Agency. Russia's FSB says traces of explosives were detected at a vessel which was in transit from Turkey to Russia for grain shipment, via Ifx. US Event Calendar 08:30: 2Q GDP Annualized QoQ, est. 1.8%, prior 2.0% 2Q GDP Price Index, est. 3.0%, prior 4.1% 2Q Personal Consumption, est. 1.2%, prior 4.2% 2Q Core PCE Price Index QoQ, est. 4.0%, prior 4.9% 08:30: July Initial Jobless Claims, est. 235,000, prior 228,000 July Continuing Claims, est. 1.75m, prior 1.75m 08:30: June Durable Goods Orders, est. 1.3%, prior 1.8% June Durables Goods-Less Transportation, est. 0.1%, prior 0.7% June Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.2%, prior 0.3% June Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, est. -0.1%, prior 0.7% 08:30: June Wholesale Inventories MoM, est. -0.1%, prior 0% June Retail Inventories MoM, est. 0.4%, prior 0.8% 08:30: June Advance Goods Trade Balance, est. -$92b, prior - $91.1b, revised -$91.9b 10:00: June Pending Home Sales YoY, est. -16.3%, prior -20.8% June Pending Home Sales (MoM), est. -0.5%, prior -2.7% 11:00: July Kansas City Fed Manf. Activity, est. -10, prior -12 DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap It's fair to say that this was always going to be a holding hike for the Fed, and for markets, with limited new information likely to have been forthcoming or available. It's hard to review the meeting and stray from that view. We have two payrolls and two CPI prints before the next FOMC and they, amongst other things, will determine whether there's another hike in September and/or beyond. After they hiked by 25bps as expected, the FOMC statement from July was almost verbatim compared to the June statement with the emphasis being put on upcoming data. Fed Chair Powell noted in his press conference that “looking ahead, we will continue to take a data-dependent approach in determining the extent of additional policy firming that may be appropriate.” That should increase the risk premia around data releases as we go forward into late-summer/early-autumn, with the next FOMC meeting not until September 19-20. One change to the statement was the characterisation of current US growth, with the committee upgrading it from “modest” to “moderate”, and Powell said that the staff forecast no longer included a recession. During Chair Powell’s press conference, he noted that while Fed officials “welcomed” the June CPI data, they want to see a string of softer prints and more signs that inflation is cooling across a variety of leading indicators. He also noted that a strong economy could lead to further inflation down the line, seeming to reiterate the need for growth to slow further. He also noted that lending conditions are tighter, so all eyes will be on the next senior loan officer survey that’s out early next week. The overall tone was one of cautious optimism, and there was an expectation that the labour market would continue to soften. On the topic of pausing hikes in September, Powell was noncommittal and noted the data could change substantially by then. So data dependence over forward guidance at the moment. Looking forward, market pricing for a hike in September is now at 20% this morning, with a further 21% chance of a hike in November. So the market is pricing just under half a hike more this cycle, before a pivot towards rate cuts in H1 of next year. For more on the FOMC see our US Econ team’s recap here. They continue to see this as the last hike of the cycle in the face of faster disinflation and a weakening growth outlook. In terms of the market reaction, the 3m T-bill closed at a post-2001 high of 5.42%, the last time policy rates were at this level. The US 2yr yield was up just over +3.0bps before the statement was released before reversing course and moving lower through the US afternoon to finish down -2.4bps at 4.85%. 10yr yields were just above unchanged at 2pm EST when the decision was announced before moving sharply lower on the statement (-5.7bps drop) and then moderating to finish -1.8bps lower on the day at 3.87%. Overnight they’ve fallen another -1.6bps to 3.85%. The dollar index was weaker on the day already, before finishing down -0.46% - its first weakening after six consecutive gains. Equities were largely unchanged with a bias toward cyclicals. The S&P 500 (-0.02%) traded in a 0.75% range during Chair Powell’s press conference. The Dow Jones rose for a 13th session in a row (+0.23%), which is the longest run of consecutive gains since 1987, and the Russell 2000 rose +0.72%. Tech was an underperformer with the software and semiconductors S&P 500 industry groups down -2.5% and -1.4% respectively. However, media did rally +2.9%, driven primarily by Alphabet which rose +5.8% after stronger results reported the previous evening. After the bell, Meta (+1.4% yesterday and +6.8% in after-market trading) reported strong Q2 sales and increased guidance on greater engagement and cost controls. Against that background, stock futures tied to the S&P 500 (+0.33%) and NASDAQ 100 (+0.71%) are pointing higher this morning. With the Fed now out of the way, the ECB are next up today at 13:15 London time. They’re also widely expected to deliver a 25bp hike, which would take the deposit rate up to 3.75%. But once again, the big question will be what they signal about any further hikes after this one, since Governing Council members have sounded far less committed to any more hikes beyond July. In their preview for this meeting (link here), our European economists think that a further hike to 4% in September can’t be ruled out, but it’s a close call that will depend on data and events ahead of the next meeting in mid-September. As it happens, we’ll start to get some of that data from tomorrow, since the flash CPI prints for July from various countries are being released, ahead of the Euro Area-wide print on Monday. So that will be an important input to the decision. European markets had already seen a decline ahead of the Fed’s decision, with the STOXX 600 (-0.53%) ending its run of 6 successive gains. That was echoed across the continent, with France’s CAC 40 (-1.35%) one of the biggest underperformers, although Spain’s IBEX 35 (+0.85%) was the exception as it posted a solid gain. Yields on 10yr bunds (+6.0bps), OATs (+6.1bps) and BTPs (+4.3bps) all rose on the day, having closed before the subsequent rally in US treasuries. Speaking of Europe, our research colleagues on the German economics team have published a substantial update this week on how the German economy is doing at mid-year, both from a cyclical and structural perspective. It introduces their new Nowcast model for German GDP, and takes a look at the political situation as the traffic-light coalition nears its midterm point. Here’s the link to the report. In Asia, equity markets are trading higher this morning after the Fed. The Hang Seng (+1.36%) is leading the gains, but the KOSPI (+0.72%), the Nikkei (+0.69%), the CSI 300 (+0.54%) and the Shanghai Composite (+0.44%) have all moved higher as well. Overnight, we’ve also seen the US dollar index continue to weaken, with another -0.07% move lower, whilst the Japanese Yen (+0.28%) has strengthened for a 4th consecutive day against the dollar ahead of tomorrow’s BoJ decision, and is now trading beneath 140 per dollar. Finally on the data side, US new home sales fell in June for the first time in 4 months, coming in at an annualised rate of 697k (vs. 725k expected). Separately, money supply growth continued to slow in the Euro Area, with growth in M3 down to just +0.6% year-on-year (vs. +0.9% expected), marking its slowest rate since July 2010. Our European economists see the latest data as consistent with forceful but orderly pass through of ECB tightening. See their note yesterday here for more. To the day ahead now, and the main highlight will be the ECB’s latest policy decision and President Lagarde’s press conference. Otherwise, data releases from the US include the first estimate of Q2 GDP, preliminary durable goods orders for June, and the weekly initial jobless claims. Finally, earnings releases include Mastercard, McDonald’s, Intel and Ford. Tyler Durden Thu, 07/27/2023 - 07:55.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJul 27th, 2023

I spent two and a half hours with David Farnsworth, the Trump-backed candidate who defeated January 6 committee witness Rusty Bowers. Here"s what I learned about religion, "conspiracy facts," and the modern Republican party.

In a lengthy interview with Insider, Farnsworth suggested Satan was behind Trump's 2020 election laws and indulged several other conspiracy theories. Former state Sen. David Farnsworth attends a Trump rally in Prescott, Arizona on July 22, 2022.AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin Trump has endorsed former Sen. David Farnsworth to take out AZ House Speaker Rusty Bowers. Farnsworth spoke to me for 2.5 hours about why he's challenging Bowers, a prominent Jan. 6 committee witness. It was a window into how faith, conspiratorial thinking, and the conservative movement intersect. Note: A previous version of this story was published ahead of the August 2 primary. It has been updated in light of Farnsworth's victory.MESA, Arizona — Even as he was in the midst of his seventh campaign for office in Arizona, David Farnsworth insisted that he really, really, really doesn't like politics."I am confident that anywhere there's a consolidation of money and power, evil people are going to congregate there," he said. "It's unpleasant business, a lot of deal making, which just doesn't fit my personality."Farnsworth, who served in the Arizona Senate from 2013 until 2021, emerged from retirement to take on Rusty Bowers, a former colleague and the outgoing speaker of the Arizona House. The 71-year-old was recruited by Republican figures in Arizona who say the 2020 election was stolen, and who viewed Bowers — recently a star witness at a June hearing of the January 6 committee — as a turncoat who stood in the way of advancing the MAGA agenda.Sitting in his home office as his wife, Robin, looked on, Farnsworth spoke with me about his abiding faith as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, his reasons for challenging Bowers, and how those two things intertwine.Farnsworth competed against Bowers, who's term-limited from continuing to serve in the House, for the prize of representing the newly-drawn 10th legislative district in the Arizona Senate. Covering the eastern half of Mesa, the district has a strong conservative bent, and the Farnsworth is almost certainly likely to serve come January 2023.Shortly after Bowers' June testimony, Farnsworth earned the official backing of former President Donald Trump, Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, and Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, a former House Freedom Caucus chair who represents Mesa in Congress.On the plane from Washington to Phoenix earlier this month, I contacted both Farnsworth and Bowers for a story about the primary, which was shaping up to be the latest stop on an ongoing revenge war by the former president against his intra-party political foes. The election also posed an intriguing juxtaposition with the January 6 committee, given the timing of the primary just weeks after Bowers' testimony.But while the outgoing speaker would make time for a 45-minute phone call, Farnsworth invited me to his home — at least for an hour, he requested — so he could fully explain his worldview.Once I landed, I gave Farnsworth a call.Before he would fully agree to an interview, he asked what Insider's partisan leanings were (nonpartisan) and what my own opinions of Trump might have been. I replied that Trump was "certainly a consequential president" and "someone who is clearly going to continue to have significant sway over the future of the party."And before handing over his address, he had one final question."My favorite thing to do is have discussions where I mix patriotism and religion," he said. "Are you comfortable with doing that?"'We wished we were not in the race'I arrived about three hours later at Farnsworth's home in eastern Mesa, where he greeted me in front of his modest, ranch-style house along a major thoroughfare. We made our way to Farnsworth's home office, where his wife Robin offered me a glass of ice-cold water; it was roughly 115 degrees Fahrenheit outside.Outside of politics, Farnsworth has worked in real estate, including a successful career flipping houses. He mentioned that he and his wife hope to make a trip to San Diego soon."I'm hands on, I do my own work, I do my own plumbing, electrical, and sheet rock, and Robin's right there with me painting the walls," he said. "We have a little Airbnb up in Snowflake, and that's a story of its own."The former state senator sat before a bookshelf stocked with two different compendiums of Arizona state law, copies of the Book of Mormon in several different languages, "How to Get Rich" by Donald Trump, and books warning of the dangers of the United Nations, marijuana legalization, and communism.Above the shelf sat an oversized pencil emblazoned with "Making a Mark for School Choice," along with a portrait of Farnsworth with President Trump, the man whose endorsement powered him to victory.Former Sen. David Farnsworth at his home in Mesa, Arizona on July 13, 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderI recognized the shelves as Farnsworth's backdrop at a virtual debate he'd had with Bowers just days earlier. Despite the fact that many of the MAGA-aligned forces backing Farnsworth were intent on seeing Bowers fall, I had been struck by the congenial, low-key nature of the debate."I had a whole script here that would have taken it away from that," said Farnsworth. "I've known Rusty for a long time, and, well, I just made the decision not to talk about the negative."Farnsworth previously served with Bowers in the Arizona House from 1994 to 1996. "I won't say that Rusty and I were friends, but certainly pleasant acquaintances," said Farnsworth. "I mean, we sat next to each other, literally, in the House for two years."In the middle of their virtual debate, Farnsworth even displayed a caricature that Bowers once drew of him.  "I'm gonna sit in on this, is that okay?" asked his wife Robin, who later explained that she didn't want her husband to be "twisted around" by a reporter. "That's happened one time before."Farnsworth had warned me ahead of time that he's prone to giving lengthy answers to questions, a warning that he would ultimately follow through with. He began by explaining how he'd been encouraged by fellow Republicans to run for office again, and how he was viewed as the one man who could take on Bowers in a district with a strong Mormon influence. As he recounted the story of his recruitment, he took pains not to reveal the identity of the state senator who had reached out, explaining that he feared Bowers might retaliate against her.But then, he slipped up."And then I said, Kelly, I don't want to do it — oops, I slipped didn't I," he said. "Strike that, will you?"The "Kelly" in question was Sen. Kelly Townsend, another MAGA-aligned Republican who was later forthright when I asked her if she'd encouraged Farnsworth to run. "I just don't want to have to serve with him again," she said of Bowers in a phone call days later.For the Farnsworths, the campaign had been "overwhelming.""We have both questioned that decision numerous times since then, and in fact, we have expressed to each other that we wished we were not in the race," he said. "And of course, perhaps that brings up more questions than it does answers, I don't know."'My father warned me not to trust the brethren'By the time our conversation reached the one-hour mark, Farnsworth had produced a large, well-worn, marked-up copy of the Book of Mormon from his shelf, and was reciting passages from it while explaining how scripture influenced his way of thinking.He began with one chapter detailing the struggle between "freemen" and "King-men" among the Nephites, a group that settled in the Americas hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ, according to Mormon teachings. He likened that dichotomy to "freedom-loving people" and "socialists" in modern-day America. He later moved on to a section detailing "secret combinations" that "will seek to destroy the freedom of all lands," which he likened to "the insiders, One World Government people, the socialists" of the modern day. At one point during that discussion, he made a passing reference to the "Clinton Body Count" conspiracy theory.Farnsworth also said that there were "two types" of Mormons, which he suggested was the explanation for the difference between him and Bowers."There are those who look at their leaders as being infallible, almost," said Farnsworth. "And then, you've got the mindset of those that are a little more realistic about it."In a roundabout way, he said that he places himself in the latter group, pointing to teachings from Brigham Young, the first president of the church, warning of the perils of blindly following leaders."My father warned me not to trust the brethren," he said, referring to church authorities. "I believe it was really good for me, because it caused me, at a young age, to question and decide what the proper course is."It is this mode of thinking — a distrust of authority coupled with a religious conviction in the sanctity of Scripture — that seems to influence much of how Farnsworth approaches politics, whether he's discussing the official certification of the 2020 election in Arizona, public health authorities' pronouncements about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, the motivations of the Mormon-owned Deseret News, or the operating procedures of the state's Department of Child Safety.I later sought Bowers' take on some of the things Farnsworth had told me."I believe that there are conspiracies in the world," Bowers told me over the phone, making a passing reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine. "That doesn't mean every time I disagree with somebody, that they're part of a secret combination."Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers greets January 6 committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming following his testimony on June 21, 2022.Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty ImagesFarnsworth's case against Bowers was essentially two-fold. The first issue, and the reason for which Trump and others backed him, is that he believes Bowers did not do enough to ensure faith in the state's electoral processes in the wake of the 2020 election."You have to have elections that people have confidence in, or you don't have a country," said Farnsworth.The second issue is his belief that Bowers — who, like Farnsworth, is a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — strayed from church doctrine by holding a hearing on an LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that's been endorsed by the Mormon church in the most recent legislative session."Have you read about what Rusty has said on the — I don't even know the initials — L, G, B, T," he began as his wife helped him remember the rest of the acronym. Later on, she would ask me what those same letters stood for."My foundation is the doctrine of my church, and it flavors everything I do," he said, gesturing towards the books on his shelf. "I believe this is the word of God. I'm reading the Old Testament right now, three chapters every morning. Really enjoying it."Farnsworth then diverted, expounding for about 15 minutes on the history of the Mormons, his take on the Founding Fathers' conception of the separation of church and state, and the notion of free will before returning to the subject of the nondiscrimination bill."It is contrary to our church doctrine," he said, pointing to the church's 1995 proclamation stating that marriage is between one man and one woman."It lays out the doctrine of — well, you can find the same thing in the Old Testament, right?" he said. "In fact, the penalties were very severe in the Old Testament on homosexual activities, adultery, and so forth. They took you out to town and stoned you."Farnsworth added, positively, that the New Testament had put more of a "loving flavor" over the Old Testament, but maintained that the 1995 proclamation was "contrary" to the bill that Bowers held a hearing about."If you read the Deseret News, it really sounds like my church is encouraging Rusty to push that bill," said Farnsworth, referring to the LDS-backed bill. "But who owns Deseret News, and who's the one that controls them?"Later, as we wrapped up our conversation, Farnsworth added that he believes that sexuality is a choice."We love gay people, we should love them. It's the Christ-like thing to do. But we do not condone their lifestyle, we try to save them from it," he said, drawing a contrast between nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and people of color. "To give someone that same protected class because of a lifestyle choice they make? That doesn't carry the same logic."'It is a conspiracy fact'"I have two mentors, two heroes," said Farnsworth. "I kind of like President Trump, but I don't count him as one of the two."One hero that Farnsworth named was Captain Moroni, a military commander who defended the freedom of the Nephites against the "King-men" that he had mentioned before. He mentioned he owned a tie emblazoned with Moroni's image. The other hero, who Farnsworth says "warned us about the swamp," was Ezra Taft Benson.Benson, who served as President Dwight Eisenhower's secretary of Agriculture before going on to become the 13th president of the church, had ties to the right-wing John Birch Society. He was well-known for his crusade against communism, and his belief that the leftist ideology was itself a "secret combination." In 1972, he considered running on a presidential ticket with George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor."If you want to know what I believe, and how I feel, just Google Ezra Taft Benson," he said. "Because I don't disagree with anything he ever said."And Farnsworth is fond of a particular quote of Benson's."There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon — it is a conspiracy fact," Benson said in a 1972 speech entitled "Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints." The readiness with which Farnsworth will interpret events as a Satanic conspiracy may explain his position on the 2020 presidential election. During his virtual debate with Bowers, the former state senator said the "devil himself" was behind the supposed theft of the election, an exchange that Farnsworth brought up unprompted when speaking with me."This is larger than any of us, because every tyrant that ever lived has been inspired by Satan to take control over the hearts and minds and souls and bodies and lives of mankind," Farnsworth told me.A street near Farnsworth’s home in Mesa, Arizona on July 16, 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderFarnsworth also said he has "no doubt" that the 2020 election was stolen, but was up-front in declaring that he personally has no evidence to back up that assertion. Instead, he referred three separate times to "2000 Mules," the widely-debunked Dinesh D'Souza film that purports to show how ballot fraud influenced the 2020 election, which he insisted I find the time to watch. "This came out recently, but it reinforces how I already felt. I felt that the election was stolen. I believed it was stolen, because I know Arizona," he said."No, I'm not an attorney. I'm not a brilliant researcher. I can't give you the proof," he also said. "But I am confident that the election was stolen."His overall argument boiled down to this: With distrust in elections so high (in no small part due to Trump's baseless claims of a stolen election), Bowers had the responsibility to hold hearings and get to the bottom of the issue.I asked about the details of Trump's pressure campaign against Bowers, which culminated in asking the Arizona house speaker to move to decertify the state's Biden electors, according to Bowers' sworn testimony. Farnsworth says he would've understood how Bowers turned down that request, but insisted that wasn't what happened."If that's all he saw was, 'they're asking me to steal the election for Donald Trump,' and he stood against it, I'd call him a hero too," said Farnsworth. "But that wasn't the only option, and I don't believe that's what they were asking him to do."I asked him if he thought other Democrats elected statewide in Arizona in recent years, including Sen. Mark Kelly in 2020 and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018, had also been elected fraudulently."I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me. I have no evidence," he said. "I have no strong feelings one way or the other."'A shot that probably does more harm than good'Farnsworth's conspiratorial thinking took him in a variety of directions, leading him at one point to allege that a man associated with an outside political spending effort in support of Bowers was "working for Satan."He also criticized the Deseret News for its favorable coverage of Bowers, suggesting another conspiracy was afoot by a news outlet with a wide reach among members of the Church."I don't know who owns the Deseret News, but the word 'Deseret' comes from the Book of Mormon," he said. "So people view that as doctrinal. And yes, it troubles me that they have worked so hard — from what I've seen looking at their articles, it's not objective. Their intention is to make a hero out of Rusty Bowers."He wondered at several points "what happened" to his primary opponent. "You know, I would love to see inside Rusty's head to see what happened to him," says Farnsworth.And he spoke of his frustration with the closing of congregations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic."The most frustrating thing of my life was when our churches were shut down," he said. "And when we could go back, we had to wear masks, but the most frustrating thing of all, we were not allowed to sing!""If this is a real epidemic, why wouldn't we be fasting and praying that the Lord would turn it aside, rather than going after the solutions of men?" he added. "Which is a shot that probably does more harm than good."I asked, for good measure, whether he's been vaccinated. He replied that he's never even taken a COVID test.On a yard sign for David Farnsworth, an endorsement message from former President Donald Trump obscures the former state senator's middle name.Bryan Metzger/Insider'We have evil people in our church'At one point in the conversation, I had asked Farnsworth what he made of figures like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — two prominent Mormon Republicans who had been among the harshest GOP critics of Trump.His wife had interjected to say that "they're not" Mormons."There is a lot of judgment — I'll say in the world, I'm not going to pick on my own church," said Farnsworth, alluding to Trump's aggressiveness and often crude language. "To me it comes down to who really understands the truth of the doctrine."He insisted on reading from one of Ezra Taft Benson's books before I left, landing on a passage arguing that followers of the devil had been placed "within the kingdom in order to try to destroy it.""This was approved by the First Presidency when he was a prophet, so I would say this is church doctrine," he said. "This is the Prophet, the president of the Church, saying we have infiltrators, we have evil people in our church."He eventually came to liken Flake and other Trump-critical Republicans to the infiltrators of which Benson spoke, before appearing to come to grips in real time with the implications of his analogy."I'm not saying Jeff is an evil man," he insisted. "I'm not saying Rusty's an evil man."At that point, I had to leave for my next event. Farnsworth thanked me for indulging him, and I thanked him for the opportunity."I haven't done this very often," he said. "And this is obviously the longest interview I've ever had with a reporter."The Mesa Arizona Temple on July 16, 2022.Bryan Metzger/Insider'Some of the comments they made seemed logical to me'"Everybody is scared to death of Dave Farnsworth," Bowers would later tell me. "He doesn't invest intellectual capital."I had been unable to make time during my lengthy interview with Farnsworth to ask him about QAnon, a conspiracy theory that posits that Trump is engaged in an ongoing, secret war against elite, Satan-worshiping pedophiles.The Arizona Mirror had reported that Farnsworth said his "basic impression" of the conspiracy theory is that it was "credible.""I have talked to quite a few people who really believe they are good people who are trying to bring out the truth," Farnsworth once texted a friend, according to a screenshot shared with the outlet. "You are the first person I have known who doesn't think they make sense."And in his prior tenure as a senator, Farnsworth had been known for undertaking investigations of allegations of child sex-trafficking in the Department of Child Safety, which eventually led to a dust-up with a fellow Republican state senator after she told him to cut it out.I called Farnsworth again on Monday as he was driving back down to Mesa from Snowflake — a heavily-Mormon town in eastern Arizona co-founded by the great-great-grandfather of Sen. Flake — where the Farnsworths maintain an Airbnb."I know almost nothing about them. All I've seen is, you know, snatches where something would pop up on Facebook or, you know, something I couldn't avoid," he said of QAnon. "And some of the comments they made seemed logical to me."Having spent hours speaking with Farnsworth about his worldview, his explanation largely made sense to me."My philosophy is, I learn from wherever I can," he added. "If something fits into, you know, the jigsaw puzzle of understanding that we continually work on, then I don't accept or reject according to where I hear it. I accept or reject according to the logic of what is presented."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderAug 3rd, 2022

I spent two and a half hours with David Farnsworth, the man who Trump endorsed to defeat GOP Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers. Here"s what I learned about religion, "conspiracy facts," and the modern Republican party.

In a lengthy interview with Insider, the Trump-endorsed candidate offered a window into how his Mormon faith colors an often conspiratorial worldview. David Farnsworth, then a state senator, speaks during a legislative session at the Arizona state Capitol in Phoenix, on May 8, 2020.AP Photo/Bob Christie Trump has endorsed former Sen. David Farnsworth to take out AZ House Speaker Rusty Bowers. Farnsworth spoke to me for 2.5 hours about why he's challenging Bowers, a prominent Jan. 6 committee witness. It was a window into how faith, conspiratorial thinking, and the conservative movement intersect. MESA, Arizona — Even as he's in the midst of his seventh campaign for office in Arizona, David Farnsworth insists that he really, really, really doesn't like politics."I am confident that anywhere there's a consolidation of money and power, evil people are going to congregate there," he says. "It's unpleasant business, a lot of deal making, which just doesn't fit my personality."Farnsworth, who served in the Arizona Senate from 2013 until 2021, is now emerging from retirement to take on Rusty Bowers, a former colleague and the outgoing speaker of the Arizona House. The 71-year-old has been recruited by Republican figures in Arizona who say the 2020 election was stolen, and who view Bowers — recently a star witness at a June hearing of the January 6 committee — as a turncoat who stands in the way of advancing the MAGA agenda.Sitting in his home office as his wife, Robin, looked on, Farnsworth spoke with me about his abiding faith as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, his reasons for challenging Bowers, and how those two things intertwine.Farnsworth is competing against Bowers, who's term-limited from continuing to serve in the House, for the prize of representing the newly-drawn 10th legislative district in the Arizona Senate. Covering the eastern half of Mesa, the district has a strong conservative bent, and the winner of the August 2 primary is almost certainly likely to serve come January 2023.Shortly after Bowers' June testimony, Farnsworth earned the official backing of former President Donald Trump, Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward, and Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, a former House Freedom Caucus chair who represents Mesa in Congress.On the plane from Washington to Phoenix earlier this month, I contacted both Farnsworth and Bowers for a story about the primary, which is shaping up to be the latest stop on an ongoing revenge war by the former president against his intra-party political foes. The election also poses an intriguing juxtaposition with the January 6 committee, given the timing of the primary just weeks after Bowers' testimony.But while the outgoing speaker would make time for a 45-minute phone call, Farnsworth invited me to his home — at least for an hour, he requested — so he could fully explain his worldview.Once I landed, I gave Farnsworth a call.Before he would fully agree to an interview, he asked what Insider's partisan leanings were (nonpartisan) and what my own opinions of Trump might have been. I replied that Trump was "certainly a consequential president" and "someone who is clearly going to continue to have significant sway over the future of the party."And before handing over his address, he had one final question."My favorite thing to do is have discussions where I mix patriotism and religion," he said. "Are you comfortable with doing that?"'We wished we were not in the race'I arrived about three hours later at Farnsworth's home in eastern Mesa, where he greeted me in front of his modest, ranch-style house along a major thoroughfare. We made our way to Farnsworth's home office, where his wife Robin offered me a glass of ice-cold water; it was roughly 115 degrees Fahrenheit outside.Outside of politics, Farnsworth has worked in real estate, including a successful career flipping houses. He mentioned that he and his wife hope to make a trip to San Diego soon."I'm hands on, I do my own work, I do my own plumbing, electrical, and sheet rock, and Robin's right there with me painting the walls," he said. "We have a little Airbnb up in Snowflake, and that's a story of its own."The former state senator sat before a bookshelf stocked with two different compendiums of Arizona state law, copies of the Book of Mormon in several different languages, "How to Get Rich" by Donald Trump, and books warning of the dangers of the United Nations, marijuana legalization, and communism.Above the shelf sat an oversized pencil emblazoned with "Making a Mark for School Choice," along with a portrait of Farnsworth with President Trump, the man whose endorsement may power him to victory.Former Sen. David Farnsworth at his home in Mesa, Arizona on July 13, 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderI recognized the shelves as Farnsworth's backdrop at a virtual debate he'd had with Bowers just days earlier. Despite the fact that many of the MAGA-aligned forces backing Farnsworth are intent on seeing Bowers fall, I had been struck by the congenial, low-key nature of the debate."I had a whole script here that would have taken it away from that," said Farnsworth. "I've known Rusty for a long time, and, well, I just made the decision not to talk about the negative."Farnsworth previously served with Bowers in the Arizona House from 1994 to 1996. "I won't say that Rusty and I were friends, but certainly pleasant acquaintances," said Farnsworth. "I mean, we sat next to each other, literally, in the House for two years."In the middle of their virtual debate, Farnsworth even displayed a caricature that Bowers once drew of him.  "I'm gonna sit in on this, is that okay?" asked his wife Robin, who later explained that she didn't want her husband to be "twisted around" by a reporter. "That's happened one time before."Farnsworth had warned me ahead of time that he's prone to giving lengthy answers to questions, a warning that he would ultimately follow through with. He began by explaining how he'd been encouraged by fellow Republicans to run for office again, and how he was viewed as the one man who could take on Bowers in a district with a strong Mormon influence. As he recounted the story of his recruitment, he took pains not to reveal the identity of the state senator who had reached out, explaining that he feared Bowers might retaliate against her.But then, he slipped up."And then I said, Kelly, I don't want to do it — oops, I slipped didn't I," he said. "Strike that, will you?"The "Kelly" in question was Sen. Kelly Townsend, another MAGA-aligned Republican who was later forthright when I asked her if she'd encouraged Farnsworth to run. "I just don't want to have to serve with him again," she said of Bowers in a phone call days later.For the Farnsworths, the campaign has been "overwhelming.""We have both questioned that decision numerous times since then, and in fact, we have expressed to each other that we wished we were not in the race," he said. "And of course, perhaps that brings up more questions than it does answers, I don't know."'My father warned me not to trust the brethren'By the time our conversation reached the one-hour mark, Farnsworth had produced a large, well-worn, marked-up copy of the Book of Mormon from his shelf, and was reciting passages from it while explaining how scripture influenced his way of thinking.He began with one chapter detailing the struggle between "freemen" and "King-men" among the Nephites, a group that settled in the Americas hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ, according to Mormon teachings. He likened that dichotomy to "freedom-loving people" and "socialists" in modern-day America. He later moved on to a section detailing "secret combinations" that "will seek to destroy the freedom of all lands," which he likened to "the insiders, One World Government people, the socialists" of the modern day. At one point during that discussion, he made a passing reference to the "Clinton Body Count" conspiracy theory.Farnsworth also said that there were "two types" of Mormons, which he suggested was the explanation for the difference between him and Bowers."There are those who look at their leaders as being infallible, almost," said Farnsworth. "And then, you've got the mindset of those that are a little more realistic about it."In a roundabout way, he said that he places himself in the latter group, pointing to teachings from Brigham Young, the first president of the church, warning of the perils of blindly following leaders."My father warned me not to trust the brethren," he said, referring to church authorities. "I believe it was really good for me, because it caused me, at a young age, to question and decide what the proper course is."It is this mode of thinking — a distrust of authority coupled with a religious conviction in the sanctity of Scripture — that seems to influence much of how Farnsworth approaches politics, whether he's discussing the official certification of the 2020 election in Arizona, public health authorities' pronouncements about the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, the motivations of the Mormon-owned Deseret News, or the operating procedures of the state's Department of Child Safety.I later sought Bowers' take on some of the things Farnsworth had told me."I believe that there are conspiracies in the world," Bowers told me over the phone, making a passing reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine. "That doesn't mean every time I disagree with somebody, that they're part of a secret combination."Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers greets January 6 committee vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming following his testimony on June 21, 2022.Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty ImagesFarnsworth's case against Bowers is essentially two-fold. The first issue, and the reason for which Trump and others are backing him, is that he believes Bowers did not do enough to ensure faith in the state's electoral processes in the wake of the 2020 election."You have to have elections that people have confidence in, or you don't have a country," said Farnsworth.The second issue is his belief that Bowers — who, like Farnsworth, is a member of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — strayed from church doctrine by holding a hearing on an LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill that's been endorsed by the Mormon church in the most recent legislative session."Have you read about what Rusty has said on the — I don't even know the initials — L, G, B, T," he began as his wife helped him remember the rest of the acronym. Later on, she would lask me what those same letters stood for."My foundation is the doctrine of my church, and it flavors everything I do," he said, gesturing towards the books on his shelf. "I believe this is the word of God. I'm reading the Old Testament right now, three chapters every morning. Really enjoying it."Farnsworth then diverted, expounding for about 15 minutes on the history of the Mormons, his take on the Founding Fathers' conception of the separation of church and state, and the notion of free will before returning to the subject of the nondiscrimination bill."It is contrary to our church doctrine," he said, pointing to the church's 1995 proclamation stating that marriage is between one man and one woman."It lays out the doctrine of — well, you can find the same thing in the Old Testament, right?" he said. "In fact, the penalties were very severe in the Old Testament on homosexual activities, adultery, and so forth. They took you out to town and stoned you."Farnsworth added, positively, that the New Testament had put more of a "loving flavor" over the Old Testament, but maintained that the 1995 proclamation was "contrary" to the bill that Bowers held a hearing about."If you read the Deseret News, it really sounds like my church is encouraging Rusty to push that bill," said Farnsworth, referring to the LDS-backed bill. "But who owns Deseret News, and who's the one that controls them?"Later, as we wrapped up our conversation, Farnsworth added that he believes that sexuality is a choice."We love gay people, we should love them. It's the Christ-like thing to do. But we do not condone their lifestyle, we try to save them from it," he said, drawing a contrast between nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people and people of color. "To give someone that same protected class because of a lifestyle choice they make? That doesn't carry the same logic."'It is a conspiracy fact'"I have two mentors, two heroes," said Farnsworth. "I kind of like President Trump, but I don't count him as one of the two."One hero that Farnsworth named was Captain Moroni, a military commander who defended the freedom of the Nephites against the "King-men" that he had mentioned before. He mentioned he owned a tie emblazoned with Moroni's image. The other hero, who Farnsworth says "warned us about the swamp," was Ezra Taft Benson.Benson, who served as President Dwight Eisenhower's secretary of Agriculture before going on to become the 13th president of the church, had ties to the right-wing John Birch Society. He was well-known for his crusade against communism, and his belief that the leftist ideology was itself a "secret combination." In 1972, he considered running on a presidential ticket with George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor."If you want to know what I believe, and how I feel, just Google Ezra Taft Benson," he said. "Because I don't disagree with anything he ever said."And Farnsworth is fond of a particular quote of Benson's."There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon — it is a conspiracy fact," Benson said in a 1972 speech entitled "Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints." The readiness with which Farnsworth will interpret events as a Satanic conspiracy may explain his position on the 2020 presidential election. During his virtual debate with Bowers, the former state senator said the "devil himself" was behind the supposed theft of the election, an exchange that Farnsworth brought up unprompted when speaking with me."This is larger than any of us, because every tyrant that ever lived has been inspired by Satan to take control over the hearts and minds and souls and bodies and lives of mankind," Farnsworth told me.A street near Farnsworth’s home in Mesa, Arizona on July 16, 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderFarnsworth also said he has "no doubt" that the 2020 election was stolen, but was up-front in declaring that he personally has no evidence to back up that assertion. Instead, he referred three separate times to "2000 Mules," the widely-debunked Dinesh D'Souza film that purports to show how ballot fraud influenced the 2020 election, which he insisted I find the time to watch. "This came out recently, but it reinforces how I already felt. I felt that the election was stolen. I believed it was stolen, because I know Arizona," he said."No, I'm not an attorney. I'm not a brilliant researcher. I can't give you the proof," he also said. "But I am confident that the election was stolen."His overall argument boiled down to this: With distrust in elections so high (in no small part due to Trump's baseless claims of a stolen election), Bowers had the responsibility to hold hearings and get to the bottom of the issue.I asked about the details of Trump's pressure campaign against Bowers, which culminated in asking the Arizona house speaker to move to decertify the state's Biden electors, according to Bowers' sworn testimony. Farnsworth says he would've understood how Bowers turned down that request, but insisted that wasn't what happened."If that's all he saw was, 'they're asking me to steal the election for Donald Trump,' and he stood against it, I'd call him a hero too," said Farnsworth. "But that wasn't the only option, and I don't believe that's what they were asking him to do."I asked him if he thought other Democrats elected statewide in Arizona in recent years, including Sen. Mark Kelly in 2020 and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018, had also been elected fraudulently."I don't know. It wouldn't surprise me. I have no evidence," he said. "I have no strong feelings one way or the other."'A shot that probably does more harm than good'Farnsworth's conspiratorial thinking took him in a variety of directions, leading him at one point to allege that a man associated with an outside political spending effort in support of Bowers is "working for Satan."He also criticized the Deseret News for its favorable coverage of Bowers, suggesting another conspiracy was afoot by a news outlet with a wide reach among members of the Church."I don't know who owns the Deseret News, but the word 'Deseret' comes from the Book of Mormon," he said. "So people view that as doctrinal. And yes, it troubles me that they have worked so hard — from what I've seen looking at their articles, it's not objective. Their intention is to make a hero out of Rusty Bowers."He wondered at several points "what happened" to his primary opponent. "You know, I would love to see inside Rusty's head to see what happened to him," says Farnsworth.And he spoke of his frustration with the closing of congregations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic."The most frustrating thing of my life was when our churches were shut down," he said. "And when we could go back, we had to wear masks, but the most frustrating thing of all, we were not allowed to sing!""If this is a real epidemic, why wouldn't we be fasting and praying that the Lord would turn it aside, rather than going after the solutions of men?" he added. "Which is a shot that probably does more harm than good."I asked, for good measure, whether he's been vaccinated. He replied that he's never even taken a COVID test.On a yard sign for David Farnsworth, an endorsement message from former President Donald Trump obscures the former state senator's middle name.Bryan Metzger/Insider'We have evil people in our church'At one point in the conversation, I had asked Farnsworth what he made of figures like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — two prominent Mormon Republicans who had been among the harshest GOP critics of Trump.His wife had interjected to say that "they're not" Mormons."There is a lot of judgment — I'll say in the world, I'm not going to pick on my own church," said Farnsworth, alluding to Trump's aggressiveness and often crude language. "To me it comes down to who really understands the truth of the doctrine."He insisted on reading from one of Ezra Taft Benson's books before I left, landing on a passage arguing that followers of the devil had been placed "within the kingdom in order to try to destroy it.""This was approved by the First Presidency when he was a prophet, so I would say this is church doctrine," he said. "This is the Prophet, the president of the Church, saying we have infiltrators, we have evil people in our church."He eventually came to liken Flake and other Trump-critical Republicans to the infiltrators of which Benson spoke, before appearing to come to grips in real time with the implications of his analogy."I'm not saying Jeff is an evil man," he insisted. "I'm not saying Rusty's an evil man."At that point, I had to leave for my next event. Farnsworth thanked me for indulging him, and I thanked him for the opportunity."I haven't done this very often," he said. "And this is obviously the longest interview I've ever had with a reporter."The Mesa Arizona Temple on July 16, 2022.Bryan Metzger/Insider'Some of the comments they made seemed logical to me'"Everybody is scared to death of Dave Farnsworth," Bowers would later tell me. "He doesn't invest intellectual capital."I had been unable to make time during my lengthy interview with Farnsworth to ask him about QAnon, a conspiracy theory that posits that Trump is engaged in an ongoing, secret war against elite, Satan-worshiping pedophiles.The Arizona Mirror had reported that Farnsworth said his "basic impression" of the conspiracy theory is that it was "credible.""I have talked to quite a few people who really believe they are good people who are trying to bring out the truth," Farnsworth once texted a friend, according to a screenshot shared with the outlet. "You are the first person I have known who doesn't think they make sense."And in his prior tenure as a senator, Farnsworth had been known for undertaking investigations of allegations of child sex-trafficking in the Department of Child Safety, which eventually led to a dust-up with a fellow Republican state senator after she told him to cut it out.I called Farnsworth again on Monday as he was driving back down to Mesa from Snowflake — a heavily-Mormon town in eastern Arizona co-founded by the great-great-grandfather of Sen. Flake — where the Farnsworths maintain an Airbnb."I know almost nothing about them. All I've seen is, you know, snatches where something would pop up on Facebook or, you know, something I couldn't avoid," he said of QAnon. "And some of the comments they made seemed logical to me."Having spent hours speaking with Farnsworth about his worldview, his explanation largely made sense to me."My philosophy is, I learn from wherever I can," he added. "If something fits into, you know, the jigsaw puzzle of understanding that we continually work on, then I don't accept or reject according to where I hear it. I accept or reject according to the logic of what is presented."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJul 30th, 2022

After resisting a post-2020 election pressure campaign, Arizona GOP House Speaker Rusty Bowers says he"s "running against Donald Trump" in his upcoming primary

Censured by his party and facing a Trump-backed primary challenge after his Jan. 6 testimony, Bowers says he wants to stop "thugs" from taking over. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers arrives to testify before the January 6 committee in Washington, DC on June 21, 2022.AP Photo/Patrick Semansky Rusty Bowers testified at a Jan. 6 hearing about enduring pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 election. Now, he's facing a Trump-backed primary challenger: former state Sen. David Farnsworth. Bowers told Insider that he's "running against Donald Trump," who's "propping up" his opponent. MESA, Arizona — Russell "Rusty" Bowers, the Speaker of the Arizona House, testified before the January 6 committee in June about withstanding a pressure campaign from then-President Donald Trump to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in his state.Now, Bowers is hoping to withstand another Trump-driven campaign: an August 2 state Senate primary against former Sen. David Farnsworth, a fellow Mormon who's known Bowers for years.By the time Bowers testified about being pressured to take action to decertify the state's pro-Biden electors — and the harassment campaign that ensued when he refused — his primary had already been underway for a few months."I've got a former president running against me. I'm not running against David Farnsworth," Bowers told Insider this month. "I'm running against Donald Trump. It's his name that's propping up Dave Farnsworth."Term-limited in the House, Bowers is now running in the newly-drawn 10th legislative district centered on Mesa, a city of roughly half a million people just east of Phoenix. Trump endorsed Farnsworth shortly after Bowers appeared before the committee, calling the state House speaker a "longtime political operative" and someone who "must be defeated."He was also just censured by the Arizona GOP, whose chair, Kelli Ward, has referred to Bowers as "Rusty Bowels."Farnsworth, for his part, told Insider that he did not seek out Trump's endorsement personally, only saying that there were "at least a half a dozen people in Arizona that told me they were trying to get the Trump endorsement for me."With Bowers raising more than $320,000 and Farnsworth raising just $70,000 — most of which came from a $40,000 personal loan — Farnsworth will largely have to rely on Trump's appeal and antipathy toward Bowers in order to prevail."Instead of David Christian Farnsworth on his signs, now it says 'David Trump Farnsworth,'" Bowers said, referring to the placement of an endorsement message that obscures Farnsworth's middle name. "All of us look at that, and say... yeah, that says something."On a yard sign for David Farnsworth, an endorsement message from former President Donald Trump obscures the former state senator's middle name.Bryan Metzger/InsiderBowers could certainly win the race. Brad Raffensperger, who testified alongside Bowers, handily beat a Trump-backed opponent in his Republican primary for a second term as Georgia secretary of state a week before he appeared on Capitol Hill. Other Republicans, like Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, have also recently prevailed against Trump-backed challengers.But if he loses, Bowers would become the latest addition to the universe of high-profile Republicans who've been excommunicated from the party after crossing Trump, such as Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who's opted to retire rather than face a primary, or Rep. Tom Rice, who faced down a primary and lost."I would be, in one way, okay. I've lost before," said Bowers of a potential loss. "And in another way, I'm thinking 'oh my gosh, right when we need adults the most, the thugs take over.'"'They're all uniformly thankful'In June, Bowers testified before the January 6 committee about the months of harassment outside his home that he'd endured from supporters of the former president. He also described the deluge of phone and email messages registering disapproval at his refusal to bend to Trump's will.—CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 21, 2022 Now, in the throes of another political campaign, Bowers seems to be used to confrontation.Bowers now says that "nobody's come by the house of late," though he said some friends had suggested he prepare for the possibility for further demonstrations in light of Trump's recent visit to the state.And he told Insider that he's continuing to get "basically the same type of harassment online that I've gotten for the last two years," but pays it little mind."I don't Twitter," he said. "I told the President that — I don't tweet."Bowers told Insider that he's received mostly positive responses from people who've approached him about his committee testimony, particularly among fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in his neighborhood on the northern edge of Mesa."Especially in my neighborhood. Ds, Rs, Is, people from space," he said. "They're all uniformly thankful."Bowers concedes, however, that the most committed party activists in his district are incensed with him."The fix is with the district leadership and in the Republican women," said Bowers. "The fix is all in for Trump and Dave, they've been working at it for months."Bowers has increasingly irked the more right-wing members of his party. Earlier this year, he killed a so-called "election integrity" bill — which would have allowed Arizona's state legislature to overturn the will of the state's voters — by assigning it to all 12 of the chamber's committees, ensuring it wouldn't ever make it to the floor."That's why they're so angry at Rusty, because he slapped us in the face by saying, 'I'm not even gonna look at it,'" said Farnsworth."We passed 38 bills on election integrity stuff," said Bowers, seeking to defend his record on an issue of increasing importance to the Republican base. "No, we didn't take away people's fundamental right to choose the electors."Bowers' foes also accuse him of being vindictive and petty. Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Republican from Apache Junction, told Insider that she encouraged Farnsworth to run against Bowers because of long-standing difficulties in working with the speaker, particularly when the two served together in the state's lower chamber. "I have had trouble with Rusty for four years," said Townsend, a Trump-aligned figure who promotes the idea that the 2020 election was stolen who's now caught in her own contentious primary."He killed all my stuff, I had to do a lot of maneuvers just to get my bills across the board," said Townsend. "I just don't want to have to serve with him again."At a rally in Prescott Valley on Friday night, Trump slammed Bowers for his January 6 committee testimony while touting Farnsworth,"Rusty Bowers is a RINO coward who participated against the Republican Party in the totally partisan, unselect committee of political thugs and hacks," said Trump. "He disgraced the state of Arizona."—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 23, 2022'No animosity, except that he called me a swamp rat'In an interview at his home in Mesa, Farnsworth, a former state senator, spoke in religious terms as he told Insider about how his own Mormon faith had driven him to come out of retirement to challenge Bowers."The whole issue of this race, from my perspective, is that… our freedom is being destroyed," said Farnsworth as he sat with the Book of Mormon open in front of him. "And it's the people that are prophesied in this book who orchestrated the theft of the election." In Farnsworth's telling, Townsend told him that he was the "only one that can beat Rusty" because of their shared Mormon faith, and he said he was running against his one-time acquaintance largely over dissatisfaction with how he handled the 2020 election."I have no doubt in my mind that the election was stolen," said Farnsworth. "I can't show you the proof, but I grew up in Arizona, I've seen all the evidence, I've talked to all these people, and in my heart, I know the election was stolen."Farnsworth said that while he agrees that trying to appoint pro-Trump electors might have been a step too far, he thinks the former president genuinely believes he'd won the 2020 election and that it was Bowers' job to address the widespread lack of faith in the vote, suggesting that he could've held hearings to uncover evidence of fraud."Rusty, as Speaker of the House, had the responsibility as a leader in the Arizona legislature, to do whatever it took to restore that trust," says Farnsworth. "That is what this election is all about. He failed in his duty to do what he needed to do."Farnsworth said that if elected, he wants to hold hearings on the issue himself, though he made clear that he doesn't believe the election itself can be reversed."At this point, if you try to put Trump in instead of Biden, you'd probably create a civil war," he said. "It's been too long."Former Sen. David Farnsworth at his home in Mesa, Arizona on July 13, 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderFarnsworth, notably, has said that the QAnon conspiracy theory seems "credible" and said during a recent debate that "some of the things they've said made sense to me." However, he told Insider that he "definitely [does] not follow them" and has never "even googled the name to find out about them."Bowers contrasts himself from Farnsworth primarily by talking about his ability to work constructively with others."Everybody is scared to death of Dave Farnsworth, because he doesn't listen well," says Bowers. "I have no animosity, except that he called me a swamp rat."Bowers recalled an anecdote from when the two men served together in the Arizona House in the 1990s when Farnsworth voted no on a bill simply because he wasn't sure what was in it."He doesn't invest intellectual capital," says Bowers. "You have to be willing to really think things through on a lot of issues, and listen to a lot of voices, and synthesize a course of action from many different interests." The 'growing fragility of civilization' Bowers, a sculptor and painter who's now nearing age 70, has gone through a great deal of stress in recent years. His daughter, Kacey, died of a terminal illness at the end of January 2021 as Bowers dealt with protestors accusing him of being a "pedophile" outside his home.Asked why he's opted to run for another political office — given both his age and the anger he's faced from members of his own party — Bowers spoke of his "love" for Arizona."There isn't anybody in the legislature that knows more about this state than me," he said.But Bowers also warned of what he calls the "growing fragility of civilization.""The use of emotional violence as a political tool — the biggest tool in the toolbox — is now kind of common," said Bowers. "Just bully them until they can't take it anymore."He bemoaned the rise of this style of politics at a time when big challenges, including water scarcity driven by climate change, are impacting Arizona hard; when Bowers spoke with Insider, the average temperature in Maricopa County was well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit."The policies, the practical governance of a society suffers," he said. "And I'm afraid.""We are going to need to wisely move quickly to use the resources we've set aside," he continued. "And I think — I want my opponent taking those decisions?"In his testimony before the January 6 committee in June, Bowers spoke of his admiration for President Ronald Reagan.A yard sign for Rusty Bowers' state senate campaign with a "Republican in Name Only" sign placed next to it in Mesa, Arizona.Bryan Metzger/InsiderBowers even cited Reagan in a December 2020 statement declaring that he would not seek to replace the state's pro-Biden electors at Rudy Giuliani's request, quoting the 40th president in calling the peaceful transfer of power "nothing less than a miracle."But asked whether he thought Reagan still held sway with his party, Bowers demurred. "That's a good question for a sit around, fireside chat type of thing," he said.He then recounted a trip he once made to Reagan's ranch in California, remarking that he was struck to see that he had read many of the same books as the former president, and that Reagan had used "Head and Shoulders" shampoo in a plywood shower on the property."He was a very common man," said Bowers of Reagan. "Whereas now, it's like, we have a — I don't want to use the word cultic, but maybe that would be appropriate — view of these leaders."      Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJul 26th, 2022

Former ACLU lawyer running for Texas Attorney General on a pro-choice platform says her pregnancy inspired her campaign

Rochelle Garza tells Insider that her pregnancy helped inspire her bid for Texas attorney general, an office Republicans have held for 30 years. Former ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza is running to be the first Latina attorney general in Texas.Verónica G. Cárdenas for Insider Rochelle Garza tells Insider that her pregnancy helped inspire her bid for Texas attorney general.  If she wins, the former ACLU lawyer could become the first Latina elected to statewide office in Texas.  Republicans have held the office for 30 years.  In early November, former civil liberties attorney Rochelle Garza went from vying for an open congressional seat in a safe Democratic district along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas to entering the race for Texas Attorney General,  an office that Republicans have held for 30 years. A political novice, Garza is best known as the former American Civil Liberties Union attorney who successfully sued the Trump administration on behalf of a detained teenager who was seeking an abortion, and for testifying against Justice Brett Kavanagh, who had ruled against her in that case, at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.Weeks earlier, in October, Republican lawmakers in Texas had seemingly upended Garza's political prospects when they unveiled new redistricting maps that diluted the power of communities of color, which accounted for 95% of the state's population growth, and increased the number of majority-white Republican districts. The newly drawn maps made the neighboring seat more competitive, leading the Democrat who represented that district, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, to run in Garza's home turf. (In early December, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Texas over the maps, calling them discriminatory.)In response, Garza decided to aim for an even bigger job. Garza reached the decision, she told Insider, after discovering she was pregnant. "It's so much more personal. I think a lot about what the future holds and what's at stake for democracy, civil rights, the Constitution," said Garza. News of the pregnancy, which she and her husband welcomed as a "blessing," only strengthened Garza's conviction that abortion is a healthcare issue between a person and their doctor. "I don't think anyone understands pregnancy unless they have gone through it. That is a lesson learned from all the things that are happening to my body," said Garza.Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) at his 2015 swearing-in, alongside outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott (seated) who is now the Texas governor.Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty ImagesShe describes choice as an issue of respecting a pregnant person's humanity, adding, "I can't imagine what some of my clients were going through."  For decades, the Texas attorney general has been at the forefront of conservative and right-wing policy priorities nationally. Attorney General Ken Paxton, who's in his second term, has waged legal battles against vaccine and mask mandates; challenged the 2020 presidential election results, with tactics that included suing other states; and defended Texas' the states' recent abortion law, the nation's most restrictive, which bans abortion after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant, and allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids and abets" someone getting the procedure. Paxton took office in 2015 after Greg Abbott, who became Texas governor. Paxton has faced felony fraud charges for thr past six years, but has not yet faced trial. Jane Doe and the 'Garza Notice'In 2017, Garza represented a 17-year-old immigrant teenager, later known as Jane Doe, who was seeking a legal abortion while in government detention. After officials with U.S. Health and Human Services, which oversees the shelter system, refused to release her to undergo the procedure, Garza sued on the teen's behalf. A federal judge ruled in favor of Jane, but the Trump administration appealed. A panel of judges at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, but when the case was heard by the full appeals court, Garza's side prevailed.  Paxton, the Texas attorney general, would later argue to the U.S. Supreme Court that the appeals court had been wrong and that immigrants have no constitutional right to abortion. One of the judges who had ruled against Garza was Brett Kavanaugh, who argued that at issue was allowing access to "a new right" for unlawful immigrant minors. The following year, Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.Garza's client underwent the procedure. The case also led to the establishment of what is now known the "Garza notice," a government policy for informing pregnant teens in shelters and detention centers of their rights to abortion services and regulations for abiding by the court ruling in the context of Texas' restrictive abortion ban. Rochelle Garza testifying at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about how she helped an undocumented teenage girl fight for an abortion.J. Scott Applewhite/AP PhotoTo Garza, a clear line connects her work with teenage immigrants and the abortion cases the Supreme Court has considered this session."The erosion of rights begins with the most marginalized. With the Jane case, she was someone who, clearly, the Trump administration, Ken Paxton, and Brett Kavanaugh, did not think she mattered, and that her rights didn't matter, but they did," Garza told Insider. "And that's what we have to focus on, because if we don't protect someone like her who is the most vulnerable, what chance is there for the rest of us?"On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion providers could challenge the Texas law, which is considered the most restrictive in the nation, but left it in effect. A 'women's full pursuit'A recent Politico article drawn from interviews with dozens of Democratic strategists suggested that abortion rights are unlikely to galvanize the party's base "unless — and perhaps not even then — Roe is completely overturned."Until then, voters are more motivated on issues of employment and healthcare, and wealthy people in states that have blocked abortion access will be able to travel out of state for services. A recent Texas Tribune poll found that 46% of Texas voters disapproved of how "state leaders have handled abortion policy, while 39% approved. Garza disclosed her pregnancy on the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to Mississippi's abortion law, which bans abortion services after 15 weeks. Unlike the Texas law, which was written to evade federal review by placing the onus on private citizens, advocates believe the Mississippi case could lead to the court overturning Roe v. Wade. In a court briefing, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch wrote that the precedent protecting abortion "out-of-date.""Innumerable women and mothers have reached the highest echelons of economic and social life independent of the right endorsed in those cases," Fitch continued. "Sweeping policy advances now promote women's full pursuit of both career and family."Protesters march down Congress Ave outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021, after the governor signed a bill banning most abortions.Sergio Flores/Getty ImagesGarza seemingly embodies Mississippi's argument. With a supportive husband, she has leveraged her legal practice into a political career. All while pregnant.But in Garza's view, individual success does not erase the constitutional right to reproductive care or persistent systemic inequities. For Garza, abortion rights go hand in hand with expanding access to healthcare, child care,  and family leave. Texas has one of the highest rates of uninsured and one of the highest rates of children living in poverty. The maternal mortality rate is above the national average. After a state committee recommended the state expand Medicaid coverage to pregnant people from 60 days to one year, the state legislature extended coverage to six months.  At Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, Garza invoked her client, Jane Doe: "She was alone and completely under the physical control of the federal government and at the mercy of decision-makers that knew nothing of what it was like to be her." 'They have the confidence'Garza hails from one of the poorest counties in Texas, the daughter of two teachers. Her father, the son of farmers, later became a state district judge. Her great-grandmother was a mid-wife and country doctor, informally trained to attend to people living on nearby farms. At Garza's ancestral house where red chili plants bloom in the front yard and pomegranates ripen from the vine, Garza's uncle Jesus Reyes Garza, a Vietnam Veteran, searches for a thread about the women in his family, and says matter-of-factly, "legends."Garza's campaign is built around taking on what she views as the entrenched structural inequities that transfer power into the hands of the few. Jesus Reyes Garza, the candidate's uncle.Verónica G. Cárdenas for InsiderJust one Latina, Lena Guerrero Aguirre, has ever held statewide office in Texas, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials – and she was appointed. Most of the state's top officials are white, even though white and Latino Texans account for about the same percent of the population.There are structural impediments to any Latina who seeks office in Texas, and researchers have found that women of color "fare worse" in statewide contests. In addition to the redistricting maps that come from the Republican-controlled state legislature, politics experts say that Latina Democrats who run for office must also overcome a host of impediments, including from their own party. "Democratic party leaders may not coalesce around a candidate of color out of fear of alienating white voters,." she writes, Kira Sanbonmatsu, a senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics in "Why Not a Woman of Color?: The Candidacies of US Women of Color for Statewide Executive Office." Texas Democratic consultant, James Aldrete, places Garza among the small but growing ranks of Latina maverick candidates that also includes Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo, who unseated a veteran incumbent to become the administrator of a county that includes Houston. "No one encouraged Lina, no one recruited her. She won and she is amazingly talented," said Aldrete. "If we are going to change things in Texas, it's going to take courage." There are also generational differences at play that can impede Latina voters from coalescing being a Latina candidate.Sharon A. Navarro, a professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio, says some of this harkens back to the civil rights era, before Roe vs. Wade, when Latinas were expected to volunteer with grassroots causes while the men ran for political office. "When they meet older generation Latinas they often get asked the question, 'who is taking care of your children?'" she said. "The younger Latinas are ready. They have that confidence, they have law degrees. They are just the missing support and that structure."Rochelle Garza (second from right) talks to voters in Brownsville, Texas during her congressional campaign on Sept. 24, 2021.Eric Gay/AP PhotoGarza is the only woman and only Latina in a crowded March 1 Democratic primary. She is expected to face off against Galveston mayor, Joe Jaworski, who launched his campaign a year ago, and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt who represented the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was murdered by white vigilantes while he was jogging in Georgia. While right-to-life groups that have sounded the alarm about Garza's candidacy, Garza is likely the least well-known. This week, Emily's List, which supports candidates who back abortion rights, endorsed Garza.  Former state supreme court justice Eva Guzman, also a Latina, is running on the Republican ticket. Guzman has billed herself as a tough law enforcement officer whose life history is rooted in an aspirational immigrant story. She is challenging Paxton, alongside candidates that includes George P. Bush, the Latino son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the nephew of George W. Bush, the former president and Texas governor. University of Houston researcher Brandon Rottinghaus, author of the report "Six Myths of Texas Latinx Republicans," says the party has expanded its Latino constituency, in part, by side-stepping issues of inequity, to appeal to aspirational and pro-business sentiment. "Republicans never talked about racial impact of policy or how structural racism exists in many policies that exist," he said. Garza says that her pregnancy has made the disparities more evident. She noticed the pregnant women working at the grocery store, the ice cream shop, the fast-food drive thru. In them she thought about issues of access to health care, family leave, and child care that cut across class and race. "We expect women to bear children, rear children and maintain jobs," said Garza. "But we don't expect that job to be Attorney General of Texas and that's obviously wrong and that's why we get laws that are harmful to women and that's what I'm trying to change." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 12th, 2021

My husband and I decided that the American dream wasn"t for us and moved to Spain when I was 7 months pregnant

After three years of trying to have a baby, the Smiths got tired of life in the Midwest and decided to move to Spain. They found out they were pregnant right after. Jessica and Eric Smith moved to Spain with their two dogs at 7 months pregnant.Jessica SmithAfter failing to get pregnant for years, Jessica and Eric Smith decided to leave Kansas and move to Spain.A few months before the move, the couple found out they were expecting. In her third trimester, they boarded a one-way flight and have been raising their son in La Rioja for two years.Our dream of moving to Spain was almost a reality. A "For Sale" sign was firmly placed in our front yard, our visa applications had been approved, and we'd announced to just about everyone that we were moving to La Rioja, Spain, about 200 miles north of Madrid. The only thing left on our to-do list was to buy our one-way tickets.But as fate would have it, when you decide to chase your dreams, inevitably, life happens. I woke up one morning, a few months before we were scheduled to move, and something felt different. I rummaged for one of the tests I'd kept hidden under the bathroom sink. Then, after the longest two minutes of my life, a faint plus sign slowly appeared. Or was it a minus sign? It wasn't clear, so I took one more test to make sure. And just like that, we were pregnant.Not many people from the Midwest move to Spain. So when we decided to move abroad, we knew there would be many challenges to overcome. We had to sell everything including our house and our cars. Not to mention the paperwork alone was a nightmare. I mean, who actually knows how to request an FBI background check?And of course, saying goodbye to family and friends was also difficult. But never in a million years, did I expect one of our challenges would be giving birth and raising a kid in Spain.My husband and I decided that the American dream was not for us.Growing up in Kansas, the American dream was simple: Graduate from college, find a good job, get married, buy a house, and start a family. We had checked off every box except one: starting a family. Yet somehow, we still felt unfulfilled.Our days were repetitive. Go to work, come home, eat dinner while watching Netflix, and do it all over again. We knew something was missing. We thought if we checked off that final box and started a family, maybe our lives would be complete. Which was odd considering all of our friends with kids seemed to be even more stressed out.But after three years of unsuccessfully trying to have a baby, we were tired. Tired of the monthly disappointment. Tired of living for the weekend and tired of just going through the motions. We knew that we needed to make a drastic change. So we decided to put starting a family on hold and pursue our other big dream. Moving to Spain.That's why it was such a shock to find out that I was pregnant only months before our big move abroad. Nevertheless, on September 7, 2021, I boarded a one-way flight 7 months pregnant with nothing but four suitcases, two dogs, and my husband. Chasing your dreams is never easy, but neither is living with regrets.Raising a kid in Spain isn't all sunshine and sangrias.The Smith Family in SpainJessica SmithI went through 28 hours of labor in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language. The entire first year of our son's life we had no idea what we were doing, and our family was 3,000 miles away. I couldn't just pick up the phone and have Grandma come over to babysit or teach me how to change a diaper.All of our doctors' appointments, checkups, and trips to the emergency room were 100% in Spanish. We had to do it all on our own. Not to mention, trying to learn a new language, make friends, and start a business.But guess what? By getting way out of my comfort zone, I have developed more personally and professionally than I ever thought possible.The positives have outweighed any negativesJessica smith and her husband are happy with their decision to move to Spain.Jessica SmithMy mornings are spent walking my son down the narrow cobblestone streets to his day care, listening to the sound of church bells ringing out in the distance. Each time someone walks past us on the street, my son smiles, waves, and says "hola!" He is only two years old and already understands and speaks Spanish.There's also the financial aspects. We only pay 50 euros a week, or $54, for day care. I can take my son to the doctor or to the emergency room without the fear of receiving a surprise medical bill in the mail. If our son goes to a public university in Spain, he won't have to worry about a lifetime of student loan debt.But the best part about raising a family in Spain is the safety and the active social life. In the US, I felt isolated and had no real sense of community. Here in Spain, that's impossible. We walk everywhere and are surrounded by people the second we walk out our front door. I never feel alone.Jessica Smith said the best part about raising a family in Spain is the safety and the active social life.Jessica SmithI can go to the park with my son during the summer at 10 p.m. without being worried about our safety. It's normal for us to hang out with friends and other parents during the week. I'm actually more social now than I was before having a kid. That's large in part because our community here in Logroño, Spain loves kids. We always see kids playing in the streets, the parks, and just outside basically every pincho bar.I will always be proud to be an American. Thankful for the country that gave me the freedom and opportunity to chase my dreams. The country that made me who I am today. But just because you're born somewhere, doesn't necessarily mean that's where you belong.The day I moved to Spain, my mom cried because I was leaving. The first day she visited me in Spain, my mom cried because she had never seen me happier. Spain, you complete me.Got a personal essay about living abroad or parenting that you want to share? Get in touch with the editor: akarplus@businessinsider.com.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2024

More taxpayer money benefits pro sports owners amid ‘stadium construction wave’

Elected leaders continue to shower tax revenues on stadium and arena projects with the aim of recruiting or keeping teams and boosting local economies. As sports stadiums built in the 1990s show their age, many professional sports teams are looking for new facilities — and public money to pay for them. “We are just in the heating up phase of the next stadium construction wave,” said J.C. Bradbury, a Kennesaw State University economics professor who has researched the issue. “That’s part of the reason why you’re seeing a lot more stadiums happen.” Across the country, pro sports teams are gearing up to improve or build new stadiums and arenas. In Chicago, both the NFL’s Bears and the MLB’s White Sox are exploring moves. Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals are all working toward new or improved stadiums. So are the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers. Elected leaders continue to shower tax revenues on stadium and arena projects with the aim of recruiting or keeping teams and boosting local economies. But public debate is growing, as decades of research shows that taxpayers don’t see a positive return on their investment. “This is without exception,” Bradbury said. “It’s really across the board that these are really poor public investments.” That hasn’t stopped the deals from getting larger. Adjusted for inflation, stadium subsidies have risen to a median of about $500 million from a 2010 median of $350 million, Bradbury said. In 2022, New York officials approved a record $850 million subsidy to finance a new stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Then, last April, the Tennessee Titans landed more than $1.2 billion in state and local funding for a new professional football stadium in Nashville. The momentum is only growing, with governments benefiting from pandemic aid and strong economies, said Neil deMause, a journalist who has written extensively about stadium subsidies. “Stadium deals tend to beget other stadium deals,” he said. “When the Bills got their money from New York, that made it easier for the Titans to get their money from Tennessee.” Super Bowl and schools Las Vegas just hosted Nevada’s first Super Bowl at Allegiant Stadium, which was supported by a $750 million public subsidy in 2016 to lure the Raiders from Oakland, California. Now, Oakland’s baseball team, commonly called the A’s, is seeking its own stadium on the Las Vegas Strip. But Nevada teachers are challenging a 2023 law authorizing up to $380 million of public funds to relocate the A’s to Las Vegas. A political action committee backed by the Nevada State Education Association filed a lawsuit earlier this month challenging the law’s constitutionality. The group also is pushing for a ballot initiative that would allow voters to veto a portion of the public funding. “These are billionaires, right? They could do it themselves if they wanted to,” said Alexander Marks, director of strategy for the teachers union. “There’s a lot of folks who at the end of the day want to see their government dollars going towards responsible things like public education, roads and hospitals,” he said. “And any dollar we take away from that and put into a stadium is a misguided use of that dollar.” Nevada ranked 48th in per-pupil education funding, according to the National Education Association’s 2022 rankings. The same report ranks the state’s student-to-teacher ratio as the largest in the nation. Marks said state leaders frequently tell educators there isn’t enough funding available to tackle issues such as classroom sizes. He pointed out that Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed legislation last year that would have continued funding a universal free lunch program in schools. “Where are our state’s priorities?” Marks said. “The stadium is great but the school lunch bill has to get vetoed? We don’t quite understand that.” Jeremy Aguero, a Nevada consultant hired by the Raiders and the A’s to work on the football and baseball stadium projects, said the NFL stadium already is a mathematical winner. A 2023 audit of the Las Vegas Stadium Authority showed a dedicated hotel tax was collecting more money than was needed for debt payments on Allegiant Stadium. And he said bringing in major sports events has boosted state revenues. Aguero noted that Nevada’s legislature last year passed a record budget for K-12 education for fiscal year 2025, increasing per-pupil funding by more than 25%. “So from that standpoint, our schools have more money because of Allegiant Stadium,” Aguero said. “Our police and firefighters have more money because of Allegiant Stadium. Our state and local governments — for everything from social service to higher education — have more because of major events that are taking place in major event centers.” A matter of economics, identity While public subsidy amounts are growing larger in terms of dollars, they are actually growing smaller as a share of overall stadium and arena costs, said Judith Grant Long, an associate professor of sports management and urban planning at the University of Michigan who has studied the issue. Team owners and developers are increasingly pitching stadiums and arenas as wider developments that include entertainment, apartments and hotels. And elected officials are increasingly dedicating public funding toward expenses such as infrastructure and transportation, which theoretically can deliver a larger community benefit than just a venue. That dynamic, though, can put wealthy team owners in the powerful position of holding some of the most valuable real estate in their markets. Long said professional sports remain a small sliver of the overall economy. And mounds of peer-reviewed academic research shows that stadium and arena investments cost more than their economic benefits. “The prevailing economic wisdom is that, generally speaking, the economic impact, measured in jobs and taxes, does not cover the average public investment,” Long said. But these decisions aren’t always about pure arithmetic. Maintaining a major sports franchise is a point of civic pride for many leaders, particularly in smaller markets. Oklahoma City Republican Mayor David Holt said the city’s economy and identity has transformed since the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics relocated there in 2008 and changed the team name to the Thunder. “Oklahoma City was nowhere on anybody’s radar until we got the Thunder,” Holt said. “Our identity as a big-league city has become so intrinsic to how we see ourselves and so much a part of our momentum these last few decades.” Oklahoma City is among only a few cities outside of the nation’s top 40 media markets with an NBA, MLB or NFL team, Holt said. That’s why he strongly supported an initiative last year to extend a one-cent sales tax to fund a new publicly owned, $900 million arena for the Thunder. The arena will cost taxpayers about $1 billion once interest costs are factored in, the mayor said. The team has committed $50 million to the project, about 5% of the public commitment. The NBA franchise is worth more than $3 billion, according to Forbes. Its seven-member ownership group is led by Clay Bennett, a wealthy venture capitalist. In December, more than 70% of voters approved the tax extension, ensuring the team’s presence in Oklahoma City until 2050. Holt said not building the new arena — and potentially having the Thunder leave the city — would have been a gut punch not seen in the area since the oil bust of the 1980s. Wisconsin state Rep. Rob Brooks, a Republican, acknowledged the difficulty in assessing the true value of a pro sports team. Last year, as lawmakers considered legislation to fund upgrades at the Milwaukee Brewers’ American Family Field, he focused on the tangibles, particularly how much the team and visiting teams contribute to state income taxes. “I really just tied it to the tangible stuff … because everything else is hard to measure,” he said. Legislation sponsored by Brooks made about $500 million in state funds available to the stadium project, which aims to keep the team put until 2050. But that cost will be funded specifically by the team’s income tax collections, Brooks said. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed the legislation in December. “It just made sense that as long as we have a facility that has more than half of its useful life left, let’s maximize our investment that we’ve already made,” Brooks said. “Had we been making an entirely new investment, that would have been a whole different argument.” A flurry of stadium deals Justin Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, is well aware of the studies criticizing stadium and arena deals. But he thinks local taxpayers are well protected in the proposed legislative deal to move the NBA’s Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals to his city from downtown Washington, D.C. A plan championed by Virginia Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin calls for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns both teams, to invest $400 million upfront and pay ongoing lease payments to a new stadium authority. Wilson noted that the public portion of the funding will come from user fees and taxes collected within the new arena development — not from taxpayers across the city or state. “That was one of the things that we focused on from the beginning, really learning from the litany of bad sports arena and sports stadium deals that are all around the country,” Wilson said. But the plan faces political opposition — from leaders in D.C. and some lawmakers in Richmond. While legislation backed by Youngkin made it through the state House last week, it faced a setback in the state Senate, where a key committee leader said the bill was “not ready for prime time,” The Associated Press reported. The effort also faces organized opposition in Northern Virginia, where residents worry about the subsidy and local complications such as traffic and mass transit. Indiana Democratic state Rep. Earl Harris Jr. wants to lure the NFL’s Chicago Bears, who are aiming to leave longtime home Soldier Field, to northwest Indiana. Harris filed a bill that would create a new taxpayer-funded sports development commission charged with attracting a pro sports team to the area. “Maybe we can draw them over,” Harris said. “And if we can’t draw them over, maybe we can bring some attention to the area and attract another team.” The Bears, a team valued at over $6 billion, purchased and demolished hundreds of acres of property in the Illinois suburb of Arlington Heights last year. But recently the team has shifted its focus to lakefront property in Chicago. “The timeline has to be in 2024,” Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren told WGN-TV last week. “In a perfect world, I would like to have clarity in this legislative session that is coming up.” In Indiana, the legislation sponsored by Harris didn’t make it out of committee. But he said there’s still interest from state and local leaders in luring a professional team to northwest Indiana. “I’m actually still having people reach out to me,” he said. “They want to help and support this initiative. So I will bring this back next year.” Stateline is part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization focused on state policy. ©2024 States Newsroom. Visit at stateline.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC......»»

Category: topSource: chicagotribuneFeb 23rd, 2024

Lucid Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:LCID) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Lucid Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:LCID) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 21, 2024 Lucid Group, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-0.3 EPS, expectations were $-0.28. Lucid Group, Inc. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). Operator: Hello, and […] Lucid Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:LCID) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 21, 2024 Lucid Group, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-0.3 EPS, expectations were $-0.28. Lucid Group, Inc. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). Operator: Hello, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to Lucid’s Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]. Please be advised that today’s conference is being recorded. I would now like to hand the conference over to Maynard Um, Senior Director of Investor Relations. You may begin. Maynard Um: Thank you, and welcome to Lucid Group’s Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings Call. Joining me today are Peter Rawlinson, our CEO and CTO; and Gagan Dhingra, our Interim CFO and Principal Accounting Officer. Before handing the call over to Peter, let me remind you that some of the statements on this call include forward-looking statements under federal securities laws. These include, without limitation, statements regarding the future financial performance of the company, production and delivery volumes, financial and operating outlook and guidance, macroeconomic and industry trends, company initiatives and other future events. These statements are based on predictions and expectations as of today and actual events or results may differ due to a number of risks and uncertainties. We refer you to the cautionary language and the risk factors in our most recent filings with the SEC and the forward-looking statements on Page 2 of our investor deck available on the Investor Relations section of our website at ir.lucidmotors.com. In addition, management will make reference to non-GAAP financial measures during this call. A discussion of why we use non-GAAP financial measures and information regarding reconciliation of our GAAP versus non-GAAP results is available in our earnings press release issued earlier this afternoon as well as in our investor deck. With that, I’d like to turn the call over to Lucid’s CEO and CTO, Peter Rawlinson. Peter, please go ahead. Peter Rawlinson: Thank you, Maynard, and thank you, everyone, for joining us for our fourth quarter earnings call. During the first 3 years of production of Lucid Air, we’ve garnered significant industry accolades, including Car and Driver 10 Best List for 2024, The 2023 World Luxury Car of the Year and the 2022 Motor Trend Car of the Year. I can’t think of any other company that has gotten this far this fast. Our superior technology, design and performance has repeatedly been recognized. We’ve proved our technology prowess with Lucid Air. And not only did we pioneer the concept of efficient range through our technology, we also grew our lead with 4.74 miles of range per kilowatt hour for the Air Pure real wheel drive. The technology gap between Lucid and others is growing, not shrinking. We also launched the Lucid Air Sapphire, the first supersport EV Sudan as a halo product to showcase the potency of our technology. Not just the most powerful production Sudan ever, it has also been recognized as a great all-around driving car with exceptional handling and driving dynamics. Its exceptional 427 miles of EPA estimated range and fast charging truly completes the package. And now we’re embarking upon our next and most transformational phase of our development with the expansion of our vehicle lineup. The expansion of Lucid’s total addressable market starts right now with the Air Pure rear wheel drive grows with Gravity and broadens with the forthcoming midsized platform. We unveiled the Lucid Gravity at the LA Auto Show in November to tremendous early reviews. I am confident that the Lucid Gravity will redefine the electric SUV segment with incredible range, superior efficiency, fast charging speed and interior space that you have to see to believe. It will be unlike anything in its class, and it will be massive for Lucid. And for those who might be in Geneva, Switzerland next week, we welcome you to come and see us at the Geneva International Motor Show, where we will introduce the Gravity to the European market. Now turning to sales and marketing. In 2023, we increased our brand awareness. And of greater significance our awareness among EV purchasing tenders increased substantially from the beginning of the year. And this gives us confidence that our sales and marketing initiatives are making solid progress. And we’ll continue to take a science-based, data-driven analytical approach to our marketing but are also adding new initiatives. For example, our recent Saks Fifth Avenue partnership will allow us to leverage Saks luxury brand and ecosystem to generate awareness, leads and sales. Select locations will have test drive vehicles, further expanding our reach in locations which are not currently present with the studio. Of particular significance has been our recent Air Pure Stealth initiative launched just last week. We have now realized a starting price point for the Lucid Air range of $69,900. Yes, that’s right. The finest production EV in the world now starts at under $70,000. This effectively extends the scope of the Lucid Air range into a new total addressable market segment. In fact, we’re already seeing extremely promising results from this. Moreover, this is commensurate with our long-term strategy to make progressively more affordable vehicles. This remarkable value proposition has in large part been made possible by our world-leading technology. Because [indiscernible] enables our cars to go further with less batteries, the Air Pure rear wheel drive is able to achieve an EPA estimated range of 419 miles [indiscernible] further than the competition. But more significantly, it achieves this with a battery pack size of just 88-kilowatt hours. And since the cost of an EV is dominated by the cost of the battery pack, this technical advantage translates directly to profound commercial advantage. Now I believe it’s important that the full impact of this is fully comprehended. The EPA testing procedure has recently been revised, and it’s become more stringent. So Air Pure rear wheel drive is able to achieve a landmark miles of range per kilowatt hour of battery capacity, and that’s with new EPA ratings. So whilst we are currently witnessing other EV brands registering reductions in their respective range ratings, Lucid is forging ahead, growing and building upon our technology advantage, and with it, I believe our future commercial advantage. But I want to be clear, I’m also critically focused upon cost. It’s not well understood that we designed and developed our technology for true mass manufacturability at scale. And we have more coming. We have significant advancements that I believe can drive costs down further. Technology is not only about creating incredible products. It’s also about innovation to improve costs. And I’ve never been more pumped about what’s coming, what’s yet to come from our technology roadmap. We are resolutely focused upon cost whilst continuing to prudently invest for the future. Through 2023, we dramatically expanded our advanced manufacturing plant in Arizona, which we call AMP 1, and that was in preparation for Gravity. We built a state-of-the-art a general assembly line that is capable of assembling both Gravity and Air on the same line. And we’ll continue to vertically integrate where it makes the most sense in areas of stamping, , our paint shop expansion and the new powertrain facility at AMP 1. We built the first ever car manufacturing plant in Saudi Arabia for semi knockdown kits. This year we also broke ground for the manufacturing of the completely built-up cars there. These are critical long-term investments that are reflected in our cost of goods sold. Now the imagery in our earnings presentation, I hope gives you some sense of the scope and scale of what we’re doing. When you see it in person and not the different shots in the factory, you truly start to understand how we’re building a state-of-the-art factory for the future. In fact, in January of this year, we have more than 100 guests representing over 60 strategic suppliers for Gravity, Air and for potentially midsize come to our factory. The feedback and support from our suppliers was extraordinary. They highlighted our best-in-class and advanced technology and continued investment in our production facilities, which provide a material signal of our long-term commitment. My key message to them was one of growth, the critical need for obsessed partners, focused upon excellence and the importance of driving this journey together. So I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of them. Now on the R&D side, we continue to invest for future supremacy, and I’m incredibly excited about our road map, both from an innovation and from a cost perspective. In 2023, we also raised $3 billion, including unparalleled support of $1.8 billion in equity funding from our largest shareholder, the PIF. Now Gagan will talk about liquidity in further detail. We formed our technology licensing and access business through our first such deal with Aston Martin, and we’re actively exploring additional and even broader technology and supply agreements. We also have sales to a rental car company, and we’re very pleased with early results. Lucid’s range and efficiency are perfectly suited for fleets. And in fact, we saw new incremental orders from that rental car company due to demand. Of course, we haven’t yet scaled this business. We’re taking a methodical approach, which is prudent, and we’re pleased with what we’re seeing thus far. This is yet another tool to help grow our brand awareness and allow potential customers experience the car. 2023 was also a year where we made significant progress with our in-house software capabilities. Software is more than just the user interface. We have some of the best software engineers in the world, working on everything from user interface to new features, to powertrain to infrastructure. In fact, we developed and have been transitioning to our own in-house over-the-air software infrastructure. This not only helps our OTA functionality but it’s also a source of cost savings. Now building an OTA software as a service platform is no small feat. One that I believe most other car companies would simply not be able to do. And it’s another example of technology aiding costs. And of course, this is a platform that we could potentially monetize in the future. Now I want to be transparent as well. We also had some challenges. Firstly, the macroeconomic and higher interest rate environment impacted mainly in this market. And in the new markets to us, there’s been some learning. For example, in Saudi Arabia, we learned that there are different market dynamics and intricacy is unique to that market. And so we have to scale that business differently for growth. But we’ve addressed the pain points. We’re scaling up and expect good growth in the region this year. Now we’ve also faced some technical challenges with commencing production of the rear wheel drive Pure in the fourth quarter. This is normal when doing something so advanced and so efficient. As I said, a landmark achievement with a 4.74 miles of range per kilowatt hour. This is our most accessible car, and we had challenges ramping it up. But I’m delighted to say that we’ve now overcome these challenges and are now fully ramped in pure production. So as we start 2024, I’m very excited about the year ahead and beyond. We made focused improvements to further enhance our customer journey. For example, the Lucid financial services team has been working to enhance and to simplify the customer financing experience, significantly reducing the customer cycle time to finance vehicles. And we are also in the midst of implementing a new technology platform. Combined with the rollout of our accelerated delivery pilots, we were able to significantly improve the cycle times from order to delivery, improve customer satisfaction and, in some cases, increase orders. In one instance, we were able to get a customer through their purchase journey from the time they place the order to the time they completed delivery walk out in only just about 3 hours. Now this new process has been live for select markets since Q4 and for new loans and is expected to go live for all lease and other loan markets by the end of Q1 of this year. You’ll see us roll these out to more locations throughout 2024. So our total addressable market triples by doing what we always intended to do, making the Air progressively more affordable and now starting at under $70,000. A technical achievement in getting an 88-kilowatt hour battery pack in the Pure allows us to cut out battery costs but still provide an EPA estimated range of 419 miles even based upon the new and more stringent EPA testing. And Gravity will further expand our total addressable market from 2023 by more than 6x. The Gravity is scheduled for start of production late this year and numerous prototypes are already driving around. In fact, we just built more than 40 prototypes to date. You just have to see to believe it, the interior space and the sheer practicality is what every family has been craving, made only possible by our technology and design. And I’m exceptionally encouraged by the early feedback and interest. We saw more than fourfold increase in daily gravity interest sign-ups following the L.A. Auto Show unveil. And the start of production for more affordable, high-volume midsized car is scheduled for late 2026. We’ll continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with the midsized platform and the next-gen powertrain technology. And this will expand our market opportunity from 2023 to nearly 20x. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll continue to invest in our future with further vertical integration with stamping, with for Gravity with paint shop expansion and powertrain at AMP 1, an important part of our longer-term cost and quality strategy. I want also to touch on the broader market landscape and what seems to be a shift in emphasis from EVs. We have the utmost confidence in the future growth of the EV market. Environmental sustainability, energy storage improvements, regulatory forces and sheer performance superiority over internal combustion engine vehicles will drive the eventual march to an EV dominated automotive market. Emission standards are getting more stringent, and you’ve heard me say this many times. This truly is a technology race. But doing world-leading EV technology isn’t easy and not everyone can do it. And I believe that is becoming better understood now. As others are pulling back on EVs, we are here ready to help. We’ve talked about our willingness to work with other OEMs, and we’ve signed our first technology access deal with Aston Martin. And we continue to receive incremental interest from larger OEMs and others in the automotive space as well as in adjacent markets for our advanced technology. In the automotive vertical, this is not only for electric vehicles, but we are also seeing interest in our technology for use in hybrid electric vehicles. There’s nothing to announce yet today in terms of the deal, but we’re really encouraged by the level of interest. And we’re open to it because we think it’s critically important for the planet. Sustainability is at the core of who we are. It’s ingrained in our purpose and our products, and we are a technology innovation company. EVs are just the start, but we also believe in the importance of accountability and transparency, which is why I’m so proud to say that we published our very first sustainability report just last week. We have more to come in 2024 with the expansion of our total addressable market opportunity with Air Pure and Gravity, further software enhancements and significant announcements, the opening of Gravity orders, the start of Gravity test drives and, of course, start of production of Gravity later this year. Now we’ve come a long way, and we’re here to do much more. We are here to stay. We have a clear and determined strategy for growth while having a laser focus upon costs. So I’d like to close by saying thank you to our suppliers, to our partners, and to our most important asset, our employees. We’ve overcome significant challenges and I can’t think of any other people I would rather be with on this journey than the people here at Lucid. You are the core of our successes. And we are embarking upon our next transformational phase of the Lucid story, and so I’ve never been more excited about the future. And with that, I’d like to introduce Gagan Dhingra, who has stepped into the role of our interim CFO, Gagan, please provide an update on our financials. Gagan Dhingra: Thank you, Peter, and thank you to those who are taking the time to join us today. Before I get to my prepared remarks, I would also like to start by thanking the entire Lucid team. Over the past few months, I have spent even more time working closely with all the different parts of the organization. I am incredibly impressed by your perseverance, resourcefulness and teamwork. The successes we have been able to achieve is in no small part due to all of you. Turning to the business. In 2023, we made headway with our cost optimization programs, the key strategic priority for the company. We found success in areas, including freight, logistics, overhead and bill of materials. For example, we activated logistics as a part of the Phase II build-out of our Arizona factory, AMP 1, allowing us to bring the vast majority of vehicle components under the same roof as general assembly. This enabled us to realize savings from the reduction in overhead, transportation and complexity as well as better efficiency. From an inventory perspective, we drew down raw material inventory levels by high teens percent from the start of Q4 through material planning and inventory management improvements. Improvements in focus accuracy, in particular, allowed us to reduce inventory resulted in savings related to logistics and material handling labor, equipment rentals and storage cost. We also experienced a significant reduction in freight from more efficient transportation and storage planning. For vehicle direct costs, we implemented a number of initiatives that resulted in certain bill of materials cost savings, some of which is directly related to our commitment to reduce our carbon footprint. We have identified additional opportunities in cost of goods sold as well as operating expenses that we will look to operationalize over the course of 2024. Turning to our 2023 and fourth quarter financial results. We produced 8,428 vehicles in 2023, up 17% year-over-year and at the higher end of the 8,000 to 8,500 guidance we provided on our third quarter earnings call. During the fourth quarter, we produced 2,390 vehicles, up 54% sequentially. In 2023, we delivered 6,001 vehicles up 37% year-over-year and in the fourth quarter, delivered 1,734 vehicles, up 19% sequentially. We expected to deliver more vehicles in Saudi Arabia in the fourth quarter. As we mentioned last quarter, the ramp-up was taking longer than we expected. However, we believe we now have the right infrastructure and processes built out. Turning to the P&L. For Q4, revenue was $157.2 million, up 14% sequentially, driven primarily by higher deliveries. Cost of revenue in Q4 was $410 million. I want to make sure this is well understood. You cannot take this line item and divide it by the number of cars delivered to get the initial cost of making each vehicle. This is because our lower of cost or net eligible value, or LCNRV, also takes into account losses on raw materials and from purchase commitments. We have LCNRV adjustments, which write down certain inventory value to the amount we anticipate receiving upon vehicle sale after considering the future cost necessary to get the inventory ready for the ultimate sale. And we also record losses on firm purchase commitments. In addition, as we ramp up production, we expect the overhead per vehicle to improve. Our gross margin improved on a quarter-over-quarter basis primarily due to lower impairment charges in Q4 related to LCNRV. This amount was approximately $174.1 million, a 24.6% reduction from Q3. Although there are many controllable and uncontrollable variables that can affect gross margin, so we don’t typically provide specific gross margin guidance, I wanted to provide some directional color to aid in your modeling. Looking forward to the first quarter of 2024, we anticipate improvements to gross margin despite the price adjustments in the quarter for Pure and Tooling. The improvements are expected to be driven primarily by projected reductions in impairments. As we move into the back half of the year, we expect to build inventory of Gravity components ahead of start of production, and so expect an increase in LCNRV impairments from an accounting standpoint that will affect gross margin. As I noted earlier, we have identified additional opportunities in cost of goods sold and we’ll continue to focus on implementation and further areas for cost out. Now moving to operating expenses. R&D expense in Q4 totaled approximately $243 million up 5.3% sequentially due largely to higher personnel-related expenses. We believe our R&D investment into technology garners a strong return as the technology is not only used in our own vehicles but can also be leveraged as an additional revenue stream through strategic technology deals such as the one with Aston Martin. SG&A expense in Q4 was approximately $241 million, up from $189.7 million in Q3. The sequential increase was primarily related to an increase in sales and marketing spend, which is consistent with what we talked about in prior quarters related to putting more energy behind our science-based data-driven sales and marketing initiatives, professional services and personnel-related expenses related to largely geographic expansion. We ended the fourth quarter with 45 studio and service centers, excluding our temporary and satellite service centers flat from Q3. On the service side, we ended Q4 with 47 mobile vans in the fleet and 79 nationwide shops. We plan to continue to strategically expand our studio and service center footprint as well as satellite service centers, which will cost effectively provide additional locations for Lucid customers. Although we don’t provide specific guidance on operating expenses, I did want to provide some broader directional color. Looking into 2024 we expect operating expenses to be up year-over-year on an absolute basis, but expect it to decrease as a percentage of revenue. Our stock-based compensation in the quarter was $63.9 million. Total other income was $83.1 million, down from $122.3 million in Q3. The decrease was largely attributable to a lower noncash benefit of $25.3 million related to the change in fair value of our common stock warrant liability down from $60.3 million in Q3. As a reminder, this noncash impact can be influenced quarter-to-quarter by a number of factors with one of the larger factors being Lucid shared price at the end of the quarter. We also recognized $6 million in unrealized gains related to the Aston Martin stock we received in Q4 as a part of our strategic technology management. In Q4, we achieved an adjusted EBITDA loss of $604.6 million, a slight improvement from $624.1 million in Q3. Moving to the balance sheet. We ended the quarter with approximately $4.3 billion in cash, cash equivalents and investments, with total liquidity of approximately $4.78 billion. Note, this excludes the $81.5 million in value of the Aston Martin shares as of December 31. We have been able to consistently sustain a strong balance sheet over time. And as we have done for the last couple of years, we will continue to be opportunistic in exploring and diversifying access to financing sources. Accounts receivable increased to $51.8 million in the fourth quarter, up sequentially from $23.4 million in the third quarter. The increase was primarily due to vehicle sales related to EV purchase agreements with the government of Saudi Arabia, and you can expect that this mix could result in fluctuations on a quarter-to-quarter basis. Turning to inventory. Total inventory decreased 12.9% sequentially primarily due to raw material drawdown. We continue to see a box to a significant reduction in raw material days of inventory on hand as we work towards greater predictability in the transportation channel and refine our inventory management processes and systems. Capital expenditures for 2023 was $910.6 million, slightly below the $1 billion to $1.1 billion range we guided to on our third quarter earnings conference call. The lower CapEx was primarily related to developed projects into 2024. CapEx in the fourth quarter was $272.6 million, up from $192.5 million in Q3. Moving to the outlook for 2024. We forecast production of approximately 9,000 vehicles in 2024, and we’ll continue to prudently manage and adjust our production to meet our sales and delivery needs. Although we don’t typically provide quarterly forecasts, I would remind you that the North American market is typically down sequentially in the first quarter. However, we expect to deliver vehicles in Saudi Arabia that we were not able to deliver in fourth quarter of 2023. With regard to our liquidity position, we ended the quarter with total liquidity of approximately $4.78 billion. We expect this will give us runway through the start of production of Gravity and at least into 2025. Moving to CapEx. Our focus is increasing investments in our future growth initiatives, and we expect capital expenditures for 2024 to be approximately $1.5 billion, reflecting certain defers in our capital outlay, M2 expansion for completely built up unit which we broke out last month. The completion of the AMP 1 Phase II expansion for stamping, paint shop, powertrain on-premise and Gravity body in . From a product perspective, we have scheduled for Gravity starter production in late 2024, and start of production of our high-volume midsized platform is scheduled for late 2026. In closing, I would like to echo Peter’s excitement as we enter the next transformation phase of the Lucid. We gained market share in 2023 and outpaced our overall addressable market despite the challenging macro environment, and I’m excited about the significant expansion of our total addressable market opportunity with the Pure, Gravity and the upcoming midsized platform. We are confident in the growth of the EV market and that we have the right technology, people and product lineup to succeed. With that, let me turn it back to Maynard to get to your questions, Maynard. A – Maynard Um: Thanks, Gagan. We’ll now start the Q&A portion of the call. As we typically do, we’ll start with the saved retail questions. The first question is from Ed. Where are you at on production and delivery of Saudi orders? Peter Rawlinson: Well, last year, we made history in Saudi Arabia with the opening of the country’s first ever manufacturing facility. In its first phase, the factory has a capacity to assemble just 5,000 Lucid vehicles a year, and operations have been well underway. Last month, actually, we broke ground on the factory for completely built up or CBU cars and these are critical investments into our future. And we’re grateful for all the support from the government and from our partners. Gagan Dhingra: With regard to deliveries, we started deliveries to the Ministry of Finance last year. Under the terms of the agreement, the government has committed to purchase 50,000 vehicles with an option to purchase additional 50,000 over a 10-year time frame. This includes the Lucid Air as well as future models such as the Gravity and midsized platform. As I said in the opening remarks, the ramp was taking longer. We now have the infrastructure built out and have the right processes, we are scaling and expect good growth in 2024. Maynard Um: Our next question is from Paul. Do you plan to reduce time to market for new products? Gravity has delayed 1 year. Third model is now mooted as mid- to late decade to the 2025. And as shareholders were losing value due to failures and delays, what happened to the all-star team and proven track record? Peter Rawlinson: Yes. That’s a good point actually. I mean what we saw unprecedented external forces that impacted us with COVID and the global supply chain disruption. And that impacted many in the industry, not just Lucid. But I would say this. Tesla is the benchmark for engineering speed. If you look at the time taken between the start of production of Tesla Model S and X, it was just a bit over 3 years. If you look at where — I mean we’re scheduled for production for Gravity late this year, that’s going to be a very similar time period between production of Air and Gravity. And that’s despite it not being a derivative product there, a whole new platform. So I think that is a world-leading pace of engineering. And for a small team to get Gravity, a landmark product, a completely differentiated product in just over 3 years. Now midsize what we’ve done is define a schedule for it, we’re scheduling for late ’26. Very similar in time scale. It’s right there. I think this is world-class execution, frankly. Maynard Um: Thanks, Peter. We’ll go to question 3. Are there any updates regarding future partnerships with Apple? Peter Rawlinson: Well, as a general corporate policy, we don’t talk about any particular companies, particularly as it relates to the future. But as I said in my prepared remarks, we have what I believe is the best tech history. We’ve seen increased interest from others, and we’re very open to it because we think it’s critically important for the planet. As I said before, it’s super hard to do a good EV. It’s relatively easy to make a bad EV and this growing realization just how hard it is to do a world-class EV. Maynard Um: Next question is from Landon. When will Gravity reservations open? Is there a target date for first deliveries? We know what — the target date for first deliveries. Peter Rawlinson: Oh, yes, I’m hoping we’ll deliver some Gravity vehicles later this year. But naturally, you should expect the bigger volume to be around 2025. But we know the excitement around gravity is palpable. Maynard Um: Okay. And we’ll take our last saved question from Daniel. Do you plan to take a salary cut to reduce losses or plan to buy back shares to improve stock health? Peter Rawlinson: Well, many may not be aware of my founding role in this company as we know it today. I joined the company around 11 years ago, with a clear goal of making the very best electric vehicle and to drive a revolution towards sustainable transportation, which is going to benefit everyone in the planet. Around that, we would call [indiscernible]. And I guess we had around 19 employees. So in 2021, I received a onetime CEO stock grant, and this was solely determined and approved by the Board of Directors. And a significant portion of that vested due to the company achieving certain market capitalization milestones as we publicly disclosed in 2023. So I think there’s a huge misperception that this onetime grant was received as a salary and somehow we replicate it as my salary in the future. In fact, in 2023, at my request, I did not receive a bonus for 2022, nor did I receive any further equity grants in ’22 or ’23. And I just want to assure you, my mission and my dedication is still unwavering. I have not sold a single share of stock in all this time, over 10 years, except what was absolutely necessary for tax purposes. And the company stock I received from the grant remains in the form of company stock. And so I am also directly tied, personally tied, directly and hugely to the company’s performance as a key shareholder. And so I’m incentivized that way. My promise is to continue to work tirelessly, day and night, to drive brand awareness, to deliver more cars, to sign up more technology licensing and access agreements, to drive down costs and to bring the Gravity and midsized platform to market. We have an incredible team. We’re driving forward, and I’m incredibly excited about our products and moreover, our future. Gagan Dhingra: Regarding the second part of the question, we are investing in our future, but we are a growth company. We are also a technology company. and I believe our investments into areas such as our research and development is an advantage and give us the opportunity for higher returns than any other automotive company because we are monetizing the intellectual property through agreements such as the one with Aston Martin. When we feel we can’t increase value from reinvesting back into the business, we would consider returning the cash to shareholders via a repurchase program. But we don’t believe this would happen for quite some time. Maynard Um: Okay, thanks. Towanda, can we turn it over to go to questions on the call, please? Operator: [Operator Instructions]. Our first question comes from the line of John Murphy with Bank of America. See also 12 Best Ways To Leave Money To A Child and 13 Best Falling Stocks To Buy Right Now. Q&A Session Follow Lucid Group Inc. Follow Lucid Group Inc. or Subscribe with Google We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. John Murphy: Good morning, everybody — good afternoon. Sorry, long day here. Peter, as you think about the gravity, it’s really kind of showcasing your technology, not just on the powertrain but also in the body and structures of the vehicle, meaning just you have maximum material space for the footprint, is pretty impressive. As we think about the Gravity, it seems like it’s going to be a game changer for you in the market. However, it does seem like the midsize platform may be even more important. As we think about the launch of these two programs late this year and then the midsize in 2026, in relative importance, which is more important for Lucid for mid- to long-term success? And how do you kind of gauge that relative size of importance to the company? Peter Rawlinson: Thank you, John. I mean if you asked the question a year or 2 ago, people would question our technology. Today, it’s given. The world’s most — we’ve got the very best technology. What we haven’t got is scale and an economy of scale. And that is going to take place in 3 critical steps and the first step happened last week. We launched our Pure Stealth initiative. Lucid Air is now available at 69 — from $69,900, the best EV on the planet at that price. That puts us into 3x the TAM, the total addressable market because now we go into E class Mercedes territory rather than S class So step one, Pure from $69,900, 3x the total addressable market. And then scheduled for production late this year, we have Gravity, the SUV. We’re talking about 6x the TAM with Gravity. And then scheduled production late ’26, the third step on this journey, midsize, 20x for TAM. It’s all about scale. We’ve got the tech. The tech is designed for scale. It’s about achieving scale and with that, we’ll get the economies of scale and the margins and the profitability. John Murphy: So ultimately, just to interpret that, I mean we’re fighting to the position of getting to that even greater scale with the midsize, and that probably is sort of the fulcrum point and where you’ll get to escape philosophy on profitability and cash flow. Is that a fair statement? Peter Rawlinson: Today, we’re competing with Mercedes and Porsche. With midsized, we compete directly with Tesla Model Y and Model 3. That’s the best selling car in the world. John Murphy: And then just one follow-up. You mentioned the potential for hybrid technology or joining obviously a nice engine to be part of a hybrid powertrain. I mean, one, what kind of discussions are going on there? And two, I mean in layman’s terms, there’s always these positions in electric motor to be put or placed in the ICE powertrain from P0 all the way back to P4 and various positions in the middle. As you kind of envision what you could bring to the table and the potential positioning or integration with an ICE engine to make a presumably pretty efficient powertrain for hybrid, where would you land in that positioning? And have you even thought of that at this point? So if you just talk about discussions that are going on and then sort of your thought process about how you would integrate into an ICE engine. Peter Rawlinson: Yes. So we always envisaged a key pillar of our business being the technology licensing and supply where in we got the best technology, and that’s recognized. Our arrangement with Aston Martin last year has triggered an increase in interest in our technology. we’re also growing our own internal team so that we’ll be able to not just be receiving passively inquiries but actually become a little bit more proactive in the future. Actually, the application for hybrid has come as an external inquiry. Because if you look at the core capabilities of our powertrain, the unique selling price of it — proposition of it is its efficiency. Well, that applies equally to say, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle or a gasoline electric hybrid and also it’s compactness its power. And that is very relevant to the hybrid because in a hybrid, you’ve got to stuff in a gasoline engine and exhaust and all that stuff and that paraphernalia, and electric motors and battery. And it really becomes a packaging puzzle plus. And because we’ve got the most complex technology, that ideally lends itself to that. Now Lucid, it’s not going to do hybrids. We’re ready to bat for electric. We believe Pure is the solution. But certainly, the hybrid opportunity opens up a whole new market arena for our technology. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Doug Dutton with Evercore ISI. Douglas Dutton: Peter, so you mentioned a few manufacturing advancements coming to further drive down costs in 2024. I was just curious if you can quantify those or give us a couple of examples of initiatives that you have in progress right now to help on that cost side of the business. Peter Rawlinson: Right. So we’re really looking at further vertical integration, particularly in our factory in Arizona. We’re bringing stamping in-house and that is going to be right alongside the new body shop for our Gravity. So we will reduce the operational cost, we will reduce OpEx. We’ll reduce inbound logistics costs, we will actually reduce scrap as well. And there’s an internal efficiency as well by having an integrated state-of-the-art hydraulic transfer stamping line with laser blanking facility fully integrated. Then we’re actually moving our powertrain, which is already vertically integrated our world-class motors, inverters, drive units, all in-house at the moment. But that’s in a separate factor up the road so we will save those logistics costs by actually putting them under the same roof as our main factory in Arizona, so we will save operational and will be efficiencies. The other thing we’re integrating into that factory is logistics. And we’ve been able to draw down some of the cross stocks. I think all our cross stocks now virtually have been drawn down upon. So we’ve got inbound logistics cost savings. And then the other thing we’re doing is we’ve really revised the organization so that quality reports directly into me. We’re really driving down man hours per vehicle. But perhaps, Gagan, you could provide a little bit more color on some of the initiatives you’re driving leading to drive down cost. Gagan Dhingra: Yes. Thank you, Peter. So we have identified 3 initiatives, 1 scale. Scale will help us improve our margin. This is technology and volume rate. One, we took some initiatives in 2023, and we are seeing the results. But more importantly, we have identified additional opportunities that will look to operationalize in 2024. On operational efficiency, which is number three. And as Peter mentioned, we are looking multiple areas. One, freight, we made significant improvements in ’23 and looking more in 2024. Logistics specifically as we move from our LOC warehouse to implement Phase 2 general assembly. This has really helped us in reducing the cost. This is a consistent exercise. And we are looking at this very carefully. This is my #1 goal, having the cost optimization. But again, it is not easy. We are looking at consistently. And also, we have initiated a team under me specifically looking each area very carefully looking at each dollar and bring the efficiencies. But as we grow, as we scale, it will bring us efficiencies. This is a technology and volume risk. Peter Rawlinson: Yes. Scale is critical because to drive down the COGS, you’ve got that fixed cost component. And it’s the amortization of the fixed cost and overhead depreciation per vehicle. So this is a — this is the initiative to start at $69,000 is 3-step hitting our total addressable market, the scale will drive down the costs. Douglas Dutton: Excellent. I appreciate all the detail there. That’s really helpful. Just one quick one from me then. On Gravity, starting price of $80,000, obviously, not a ton of deliveries in 2024, but will that be similar to the strategy with the air where you’re starting with the higher trims and then moving downstream. Is that the right way to think about pricing and the model pending ’24 and going into ’25? Peter Rawlinson: Yes. we haven’t disclosed that yet. I do think it’s reasonable to assume Gravity is going to be in a similar competitive set as Air, it’s going to be completing more in the Mercedes arena, we’ll have to wait for midsize to come, which is scheduled for production late ’26 to have a true Tesla Model Y Model 3 competitor. I mean, the key thing with Gravity is we’re going to hit about 6x the TAM that’s going to help us hugely with this economy of scale. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Steven Fox with Fox Advisors, LLC. Steven Fox: I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about your expectations for the KSA market this year. You mentioned, first of all, that there was some unexpected nuances in ramping and I guess, production to during ’23. So how do we think about how you benefit from that market and the growth during the year. Gagan Dhingra: Yes. Thank you, Steven. We are limited to what we can say in general, and we do not specifically talk about any specific customer. But what we can say, and most of you are already aware that the government of Saudi Arabia has an initial commitment to purchase 50,000 vehicles with an option to purchase additional 50,000 vehicles. And as I said in the opening remarks, the ramp was taking longer than we expected. And we now have the right infrastructure and processes built out. There were significant administrative challenges. We have addressed most of the pain points we are scaling and expect good growth this year. And also note this government with Saudi Arabia also includes Air, Gravity and Midsize. Steven Fox: That’s helpful. And then just one clarification. You mentioned a lot of cost initiatives that are underway for ’24. In ’23, is there a way to quantify how the bill of materials came down or just directionally what it did versus ’22? Gagan Dhingra: Yes. We don’t specifically guide but what I can say that our gross margin in Q4 improved compared to Q3. And also we don’t provide a guidance, but I expect our gross margin will improve sequentially in Q1 next year. Having said that, our purchase of Gravity components ahead of start of production may have some impact on LCNRV as we progress. But as I said, the cost is a critical component. We are looking at it very carefully. We are very proud of what team has accomplished. Specifically related to the engineering team and supply chain team. They have done a tremendous job finding savings even through technology. So we are — we have identified couple of areas, and we are looking very aggressively. And this is our #1 goal, looking at the cost optimization and [indiscernible]. Peter Rawlinson: I think the other thing is that I know I keep bringing on this point that is critical. It’s a critical differentiator of us. Because we can go batteries, we can hit the biggest single cost item of ore on an EV, which is the cost of the battery. Some people are looking at these are so-called advance in technology and manufacturing, you might save $100 in a vehicle. You can say $,1000 potentially with having the ability to go further with less batteries. And we’re seeing that playing out now with the Air Pure rear wheel drive. We’ve got more range than anyone else in that sector. And with just a 88-kilowatt hour battery pack, smaller pack, say, 12-kilowatt hours of pack has potentially thousands of bucks on bill of material. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Tobias Beith with Redburn Electric. Tobias Beith: I’d like to — and maybe we’ll start with my questions for Gagan. If I exclude the inventory write-down of the $172 million from COGS in the fourth quarter, it looks like unit COGS improved by about 20 percentage points sequentially. I was wondering what was it that drove the improvement? Was it the receipt of the $98 million government grant? Or is this accounted for elsewhere? Gagan Dhingra: Yes, that’s a good question. So first of all, grant doesn’t play a role in the course as of today. What — as I highlighted, we took a couple of initiatives in 2023. Freight like very important, we made significant savings but also, more importantly, our forecast accuracy of raw materials because today, the cost of goods sold is not only related to how many cars we sell. But is also related to what raw material inventory will have and how we utilize that. So the focus, accuracy, the freight opportunities in BAM really helped us out improve our gross margin in Q4. Tobias Beith: Sure. Okay. That’s helpful. And my second question relates to the Air and the Gravity. If I put aside the differences in the interior and exterior of the vehicles, are you able to share roughly what proportion of parts and components are shared I guess the fact that these vehicles are using different platforms may impact the variable cost down assumptions. It was previously communicated that both vehicles would leverage LEAP. Peter Rawlinson: Okay. Let me cover that. If you look at the battery pack, which is the core, core part of the bill of materials of both vehicles, it is about 95% the same. It’s — they’ve both got the same number of modules, the same number of cells. They made exactly on the same line. It’s just that the two of the top modules are a different location. We move them from underneath the rear seat in Air to underneath the front seat in Gravity. This has a transformative effect upon the nature of the vehicle, which in turn leads to a much bigger TAM. We can only capture that TAM, by having a degree of differentiation. Now if you look at the core powertrain, the drive units and the inverters they’re very, very high proportion carryover, slightly different gear ratios because the wheels are bigger, and you need more tractability you have slightly lower gear ratios. Now the rest of the platform is very similar, which has meant that it saved on our R&D costs because we’ve got a learning and the process knowledge of how we rivet and glue the sheet stampings, the castings and the extrusions together. But there is a degree of difference in that platform, which I think makes a whole bunch of sense because it makes gravity a true SUV, not some sort of — soft CUV derivative. And that means we go into a whole new TAM 6 times. We would not be able to capture that TAM. And also, you need to double the tools anyway because of the extra volume. So then we look at the upper body shell of the car, they’re always going to be different anyway. So we’re talking about a very slight increase in tooling costs. But in return for that, we truly enter a massively bigger term, 6x, and this is all about economy of scale. We’ve got the technology. It’s designed for scale. We just haven’t achieved that scale yet. And so therefore, it’s not showing in our P&L. Tobias Beith: Makes sense. All right. And if I could squeeze one last one in. 2 quarters ago, I asked about the steps required to move from beta prototyping of the gravity, which is then just started to series production. I was wondering if you could provide an update on the progress today. Peter Rawlinson: So we’re writing the thick of beta prototypes. In fact, both between betas and alphas, we’ve got more than 40 prototypes built, many of which are running around right now. We’ll be finishing our run of beta prototypes over as we move now into the spring. And the next step will be to do our release candidates. That’s our preproduction run through the summer in the factory and Arizona, which will lead to our scheduled start of production late this year. Operator: Thank you. Due to the interest of time, I would now like to turn the call back over to Maynard for closing remarks. Maynard Um: Thank you. This concludes Lucid’s Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. Thank you all for joining us today, and you may now disconnect. Follow Lucid Group Inc. Follow Lucid Group Inc. or Subscribe with Google We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyFeb 22nd, 2024

US Foods Holding Corp. (NYSE:USFD) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

US Foods Holding Corp. (NYSE:USFD) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 15, 2024 US Foods Holding Corp. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.64 EPS, expectations were $0.68. US Foods Holding Corp. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). […] US Foods Holding Corp. (NYSE:USFD) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 15, 2024 US Foods Holding Corp. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.64 EPS, expectations were $0.68. US Foods Holding Corp. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). Operator: Thank you for standing by. My name is Eric and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the US Foods Fourth Quarter 2023 Earnings Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now like to turn the call over to Mike Neese, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations. Please go ahead. Mike Neese: Thank you Eric. Good morning and welcome to US Foods fourth quarter and full year fiscal 2023 earnings call. On today’s call, we have David Flitman, our CEO; and Dirk Locascio, our CFO. We will take your questions after our prepared remarks conclude. Please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. Our earnings release issued earlier this morning in today’s presentation can be found on the Investor Relations page of our website at ir.usfoods.com. During today’s call and unless otherwise stated, we’re comparing our fourth quarter and full year 2023 results to the same period in fiscal year 2022. In addition to historical information, certain statements made during today’s call are considered forward-looking statements. Please review the risk factors in our Form 10-K for a detailed discussion of the potential factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from as anticipated in those results. Lastly, during today’s call, we will refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures. All reconciliations to the most comparable GAAP financial measures are included in the schedules on our earnings press release as well as in the presentation slides posted on our website. We are not providing reconciliations to forward-looking non-GAAP financial measures. Now, I’d like to turn the call over to David. David Flitman: Thanks, Mike. Good morning, everyone and thank you for joining us today. Let’s turn to today’s agenda. I’ll start by sharing highlights from my first year at US Foods and progress against our key strategy pillars and long-range plan. Before I hand it over to Dirk to review our fourth quarter and full year 2020 financial results as well as fiscal 2024 guidance. 2023 was an exciting year at US Foods to execution of our strategy and long-range plan which underpins our company’s transformation, we accomplished many of our goals, including capturing profitable market share and enhancing margins. Following this past year’s success, I am even more confident in our ability to continue to gain profitable market share with independent restaurants, health care and hospitality customers, improved productivity, drive margin expansion and deliver double-digit adjusted EPS growth. We achieved record full year 2023 adjusted EBITDA of $1.56 billion, driven by strong case growth, including independent case growth of nearly 7% and market share gains with target customer types. This was combined with 53 basis points of adjusted EBITDA margin expansion which came as a result of the implementation of key operational initiatives we outlined at the beginning of the year. Our proprietary digital platforms, MOXe and VITALS were key drivers of our top line performance in 2023 and are enablers of further growth in 2024 and beyond. We also deployed our strong operating cash flow to reduce net leverage to 2.8x which is within our target range, repurchased approximately $300 million in shares and completed 2 accretive tuck-in acquisitions, all while investing in the business for continued organic growth. We continue to lead the industry in the digital customer experience by constantly innovating and adding new capabilities to meet our customers’ needs. Our differentiated business model, digital expertise and sustainable competitive advantages will enable us to drive continued market outperformance. The structural improvements we made in 2023 position us to win in any macro environment. My confidence comes from the strong momentum we’ve built, delivering against our long-range plan and from our 30,000 dedicated associates who bring their expertise and tireless dedication to work every day. Turning to Slide 4; our strategy guides how we operate and what we are focused on to win and comprises 4 pillars: culture, service, growth and profit. I believe these are the right areas of focus to ensure continued service improvements and sustainable top and bottom line growth. We’re excited about the progress we’ve made to accelerate each of these coming into this year. Moving to Slide 5; let’s take a look at some of our key accomplishments in 2023 that our team delivered under our 4 pillars. Our first pillar is culture. The safety of our associates remains our number 1 priority and we made significant strides in 2023 to reduce the number of vehicle accidents and associated entries across our facilities. Our injury and accident frequency rates improved from the prior year by 23% and importantly, our fourth quarter and full year 2023 safety results were our best in recent history. Additionally, creating a supportive and inclusive workplace is key to our success and we enhanced our diverse talent pipeline by filling 47% of new or open leadership roles with women or people of color, exceeding our 40% goal. We also remain responsible stewards of our planet. And in 2023, reported reducing absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 13% during the previous year, 40% of the way toward achieving our 2032 target. We continue to make progress on infrastructure design and construction to support electric vehicles and took delivery of 40 electric trucks and 8 electric yard tractors in addition to completing the delivery of 42 compressed natural gas trucks. We also continue to innovate and offer our customers more sustainable private label products many of which come under our Serve Good product portfolio. In 2023, as part of our strategic focus on fighting hunger, we donated more than $13 million in food and supplies to hunger and disaster relief partners which is the equivalent of roughly 5 million meals for more than 225 drug loads of food. As a Feeding America mission partner, US Foods provides year-round support to food banks across the country through financial and product donations. This work is supported by our associates who volunteer their time and resources to fight hunger through annual company-wide engagement campaigns. Since 2007, US Foods has donated more than 170 million pounds of product to a national hunger relief efforts. Turning to our service pillar; we continue to focus on providing a best-in-class delivery experience. We are proud to report our on-time and in-full customer service levels are now back to pre-COVID levels. We delivered the best cases per mile in our company’s history again in the fourth quarter, improving over our prior third quarter record. We launched the Dicard [ph] routing pilot in 2 markets in the fourth quarter and have taken away early learnings to apply to our national launch this year. Our routing initiative provided us with more than 5% improvement in routing effectiveness in 2023, while also focusing on further improvements in on-time deliveries enabled by the Dicard [ph] platform. As I mentioned earlier, we are also transforming the experience for our customers through our MOXe digital solutions platform that enables customers to easily place orders, manage inventory and pay bills while freeing up time for our sales teams to further accelerate growth. In short, it puts our supply chain in the hands of our customers. which will generate tremendous efficiency for both our customers and U.S. fees. MOXe is now fully embedded with our independent restaurant business and approximately 50% of our national chain business with full deployment anticipated by the second half of 2024. Our digital penetration is at an all-time high of 73% for independent restaurants. Our Net Promoter Score which is the highest in the industry among top foodservice distributors continues to increase since the launch of MOXe. We want to help our customers succeed and are giving them digital tools to make it easier for them to do business with us which we believe is a key differentiating factor in our success. Now let’s turn to our growth pillar. In 2023, we had net sales growth of 4.5% to $35.6 billion, driven by our 4.4% growth in total case volume led by a 6.9% increase in independent restaurant case volume, a 7.2% increase in health care volumes and an 8.9% increase in hospitality volumes. We exceeded our 1.5x restaurant market growth goal and have now gained market share with independent restaurants for 11 consecutive quarters. We anticipate this will continue over the course of 2024. Our volume gains in both health care and hospitality were driven largely by converting our pipeline of customers into new business through our service model and innovation, such as our highly differentiated VITALS platform for acute care and senior living facilities. This platform allows customers to increase patient satisfaction and reduce labor and staffing costs. This improves revenue flow and bolsters operations through more effective pricing strategies, staff training and menu planning. We also continue to differentiate ourselves through our fresh, on-trend and labor savings Scoop product innovations, such as our recently launched Chef’s Line exclusive brand of Kim Chi Fried Rice and a unique team-based selling model featuring our expert chefs and restaurant operation consultants, these are significant competitive differentiators that our customers have grown to value. Our hard work and commitment to constantly innovate was recognized as one of Fortune’s most innovative companies that are transforming industries from the inside out. Companies were ranked based on an assessment of 4 dimensions of innovation, product, process, culture and revenue growth. We believe our products will continue to be industry-leading as we use our in-house expertise, market research and supplier relationships to deliver value to our customers. We also expanded Pronto which is our differentiated and flexible small truck delivery model aimed at improving customer service in targeted dense geographies. Today, Pronto has the presence in 35 markets and we plan to launch it in another 5 markets in 2024. Pronto has been a great addition to our customer service model and has accelerated independent restaurant case growth in markets where we have added it. Much opportunity remains for continued growth in both existing and new markets. The real machine behind our growth pillar is our sellers. Last quarter, I highlighted that we were working on revisions to our territory manager sales compensation plan. I want to provide a bit more context on the changes that we’ve made. Why change now? We had our current sales compensation trends for several years and last made modifications during the early portion of the pandemia. We wanted to ensure our sales teams are aligned and accelerating profitable growth and that requires effectively incentivizing our sellers for that profitable growth. A few highlights; we made more of our sellers compensation variable with a variable component now uncapped and focused on accelerating profitable growth and private label penetration. We have signed individual volume targets and higher-margin private label targets for sellers that roll up to our company business plan. ensuring we are all working together to achieve our profit and market share growth goals. Finally, we have implemented a more disciplined approach to route splitting to ensure our territory sizes are manageable. We are confident this plan better positions us for success and ensures we are growing together across the organization. In 2023, we increased seller head count by 6%. We’re having great success in finding the right sales talent to ensure that our profitable growth continues well into the future. We continue to believe adding sales head count in the low to mid-single digits is the right model for US Foods going forward. Turning to M&A; to bolster our local footprint in select markets, we executed two tuck-in acquisitions last year, renting foodservice and Saladino’s food service. And this morning, we’re excited to announce that we’ve signed an agreement to purchase IWC Food Service which serves the greater Nashville area, one of the fastest-growing markets in the country. This acquisition fills an important gap in our footprint and allows us to expand into the Central Tennessee market. IWC has approximately 220 associates and $200 million in annual sales. More than half of their business is in the growing independent restaurant space. We’re excited to welcome the IWC associates to the US Foods team and are targeting to close the transaction in the second quarter. Finally, let’s move to our profit pillar. Driving margin, productivity and optimization of our business are the key tenets of this pillar, addressing cost of goods sold proactively managing pricing to help neutralize commodity volatility and healthy volume growth with target customer types all contributed to enhancing our margins. As a result of our improving execution, we grew adjusted EBITDA 19% to a record $1.56 billion and delivered record EBITDA per case, while expanding adjusted EBITDA margin by over 50 basis points to 4.4% and growing adjusted EPS by 23% to $2.63. Adjusted gross profit grew 9% in 2023 to $6.1 billion. We drove further progress on initiatives such as cost of goods sold by working collaboratively with additional vendors. We addressed approximately 60% of COGS last year and continue to look for additional cost savings in 2024 as we deliver on the remaining 40% of our vendor spend that has not yet been addressed. We are also focused on growing our private label brands where our penetration was up 40 basis points to over 50% with independent restaurants. Adjusted operating expenses grew less than gross profit, resulting in operating leverage. Our flexible scheduling initiative is now live at over half of our locations and we continue to receive positive feedback. We will roll out the remaining appropriate locations in 2024. We continue to see significant improvements across our network, especially in our pilots, including year-over-year reduction in turnover that is approximately twice the rate of improvement versus our other locations. 33% improvement in safety and continued improvement in productivity. As a result of our supply chain initiatives, we delivered more than 5% improvement in both delivery and warehouse productivity. We began to see early results with our indirect spending initiative late last year and expect to accelerate those savings in 2024. We have identified a number of opportunities which will favorably and permanently impact operating expenses. This work is an important enabler to achieving our target of 3% to 5% overall annual productivity savings in 2024. Before I hand it over to Dirk, I would like to highlight one of our talented associates. Soon, we will be celebrating associates who ignite excellence in our first-ever CEO awards. Out of hundreds of associates nominated across the company, Mike Talmadge, our night warehouse manager in Albany is 1 of our 25 semi-finalist nominations. Mike’s leadership has driven significant improvements in safety, associated engagement, quality and profit at the local level. His efforts have quickly become a benchmark for excellence within the company, influencing customer service and our ability to grow profitably. Mike has one of thousands of our associates who strive for greatness within US Foods and we appreciate his leadership and the dedication of each of our associates. I am pleased with our progress in 2023 as we gained momentum, executing against the 4 pillars of our strategy which is driving improved safety, service, productivity and profitability. Even considering this tremendous progress, we have a long runway of profitable growth. The team and I look forward to sharing our next long-range plan during our Investor Day in June and we hope you will join us. Let me now turn the call over to Dirk to discuss our fourth quarter results and our 2024 guidance. Dirk Locascio: Thank you, Dave and good morning, everyone. I’ll cover 3 topics with you this morning. First, I’ll discuss our fourth quarter and full year 2023 results. Second, I’ll provide an update on capital deployment. And finally, I’ll discuss our first quarter and full year 2024 guidance. Turning to Slide 7. I’ll walk you through our fourth quarter results in greater detail. The fourth quarter was a strong finish to 2023 as our full year adjusted EBITDA margins increased double digits and we continue to grow our margins. Net sales increased 4.9% to $8.9 billion, driven by total case volume growth of 5.6%. Food cost inflation was essentially flat, while mix was a headwind of 70 basis points. We drove strong volume growth in each of our target customer types again this quarter. Volume increased 7.3% for independent restaurants, including approximately 100 basis points of growth from acquisitions. Healthcare growth was 8.1% and hospitality was 5%. Health care and hospitality continued to deliver strong profitable growth, driven in large part by healthy net new business. We remain focused on expanding within our target customer types and expect to continue that momentum in 2024. Chef store volume in November and December had low single-digit case growth which was in line with our expectations. We continue to expect accelerated growth in 2024. This quarter, we moved Chef store cases to all other and thus, they are no longer included in independence. We made this change to be consistent with how third-party providers such as Carcano, formerly known as MPD, report market share data and it better aligns with how peers communicate their broadline growth. All periods have been up for consistency. During the fourth quarter, adjusted gross profit increased 6% to $1.5 billion, while adjusted operating expenses increased 4% to $1.2 billion. Our adjusted gross profit continues to grow faster than adjusted OpEx. Adjusted EBITDA was $388 million or 11% growth from the prior year. We expanded adjusted EBITDA margins by nearly 25 basis points to 4.3%. Finally, adjusted diluted EPS grew 16.4% to $0.64 per share, demonstrating our continued growth of EPS faster than adjusted EBITDA. Turning to Slide 8; we made significant progress on a per case basis in 2023 which we believe emphasizes the strong execution of our strategy. Our adjusted gross profit per case increased 4.5% in 2023, while our adjusted operating expense per case was up 1%. Importantly, our adjusted EBITDA per case was $1.93 for the full year. up 14% year-over-year and represents 4.3% compound annual growth rate since 2019. We have demonstrated strong leverage through the P&L with operating expense per case growing at a slower rate than gross profit per case and we expect to maintain that operational discipline in 2024 and beyond. Moving to Slide 9; our strong operating cash flow creates flexibility to deploy capital strategically to enable growth. Our 2023 operating cash flow was $1.1 billion with free cash flow of over $800 million. We invested $309 million in cash CapEx. We continue to focus on — to expand our fleet and invest in capacity and technology to enable organic growth. Our ongoing cash CapEx target is approximately 1% of net sales and we will remain disciplined in our approach. Following the successful closing of [indiscernible] in Q3, we closed the Saladino’s acquisition in December for a purchase price of $56 million. We remain committed to returning capital to shareholders as we repurchased 1.6 million shares in the fourth quarter for $65 million. We have $192 million remaining on our $500 million share repurchase program. Before moving on to guidance, I want to highlight the significant progress we made in reducing our leverage in 2023. We ended the year at 2.8x levered which is a 0.7 turn reduction versus 2022. We were steadfast in our approach to lowering our leverage last year which we accomplished through disciplined debt paydowns and EBITDA growth. We expect to remain in our net target leverage range between 2.5x and 3x for 2024. Our balance sheet is in solid shape which informs our capital allocation framework. We will continue to invest in the business, repurchase shares given the current valuation of our stock price and evaluate tuck-in M&A opportunities. Now, I’ll discuss our guidance on Slide 11. Importantly, there are several assumptions on this slide. For full year 2024, we expect total company net sales to be $37.5 billion to $38.5 billion. an increase of approximately 5% to 8%. We believe we can grow our total cases by 4% to 6% and we expect slight inflation of 0.5% to 1.5%. Our tuck-in M&A from last year, combined with the IWC announcement will add approximately 2 percentage points to our case growth. We expect our independent restaurant case growth to continue running higher than our overall case growth. As a result of good faith barging efforts, our agreement with the union Investa bill that represents our drivers was gratified at February 3. US Foods has a long-standing record of our being in good faith and reaching agreements with the union. From the start, we took a principal approach and provided a fair offer to the union before and after the expiration of the contract on December 29th. We are pleased that the agreed upon proposal largely reflects the economics outlined in that offer. The 5-year agreement provides wage and benefit increases that builds on the highly competitive offerings are drivers [indiscernible] currently receive. It also includes safety enhancements aligned with the very high priority we place on associate safety. There was an increased cost to us for business continuity and labor relations to serve our customers. as well as weather-related issues across the country which have been noted by several others in our industry. As a result, we expect an approximate $20 million negative impact to adjusted EBITDA for the first quarter, primarily driven by incremental costs during the labor disruptions. We believe the first quarter adjusted EBITDA will be in a range of $340 million to $355 million. Even with the labor disruption and the weather-related issues that we experienced in January, we remain confident in achieving our full year guidance. We expect adjusted EBITDA to be $1.69 billion to $1.74 billion and adjusted diluted EPS to be $3.20. This translates into double-digit growth on the bottom line from the combination of profitable growth and margin expansion as we expect gross profit per case to grow faster than OpEx. In closing, 2023 was a strong year. I feel very good about the opportunity in front of us. the momentum we are generating and our growth potential this year, as outlined in our 2024 guidance. I’ll now pass it back to Dave for his closing remarks. David Flitman: Thanks, Dirk. As we move into 2024, we will continue to execute our strategy and maintain our disciplined approach to capital deployment to drive long-term value creation for our shareholders. Before we head into Q&A, I would like to comment on our long-term growth prospects. As I’ve said before, our 2024 adjusted EBITDA target is not a ceiling for this company. and we are confident that we will continue to grow adjusted EBITDA in the high single to low double-digit range over the next several years. And we will continue to grow adjusted EPS even faster through a combination of earnings growth and share repurchases. Stay tuned. There’s more to come at our Investor Day on June 5. We are in a great position today and I believe we have sustainable competitive advantages to outperform the market well into the future as we continue to do what we do best, helping our customers make it every day. Thank you for your continued trust and confidence in US Foods. I have never been more excited about our future. With that, Eric, please open up the line for questions. See also Top 30 Developing Countries in the World in 2024 and 10 Exclusive Dating Sites and Apps for Professionals. Q&A Session Follow Us Foods Holding Corp. (NYSE:USFD) Follow Us Foods Holding Corp. (NYSE:USFD) or Subscribe with Google We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: [Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Lauren Silberman with Deutsche Bank. Lauren Silberman: Congrats on the quarter. If I could just start with capital allocation. It looks like you’ll get close to $1 billion in free cash flow this year. not your target leverage, even with acquisitions, it looks like you have a lot of cash left over. Can you just talk about how you’re thinking about capital allocation appetite to further pay down debt versus buybacks or even the potential for a dividend? Dirk Locascio: This is Dirk. So yes, we were excited to strong cash flow. We do expect that to meaningfully grow as you point out, as we grow earnings. And as our debt is already well within our target range, what we expect in 2024 as to have a reduction in leverage but more from earnings growth as opposed to much more on debt pay down. So that means that in addition to investing in the business, it will be around share repurchases and opportunistic M&A. So we’re very excited about the IWC announcement this morning and we would expect over the course of the year to increase the amount that we allocate for share repurchases. Lauren Silberman: Great. Very helpful. And then if I could just ask on case growth. And there’s a lot of noise is whether in some of the idiosyncratic factors you called out in 1Q. Any color on what you’re seeing more recently as things began to normalize and just the confidence in the 4% to 6% case growth for the year? David Flitman: Yes. Thanks for the question, Lauren. As you’ve heard from others, there were a few other disruptions across the country in January. That’s no surprise. But we were pleased actually with the recovery that we’ve seen since we’ve got past the labor disruption and those weather events, notwithstanding what happened on the West Coast last week and a little northeastern earlier this week. And really, really pleased with the team’s work around the labor disruption. I’ve been doing this for a long time in many industries and I’ve seen labor disruptions before. I will tell you that we are as well prepared going into that event, as I’ve ever seen. We came out with a very strong plan to go get our volume back. And so I’m pleased to see the progress that we’ve made and largely in those non-labor disrupted markets, we’ve seen our volumes get back to basically the trajectory we saw in the fourth quarter which was very strong, as you heard this morning. So really feeling good about that. And just a little bit more color I can give you is the early read on the [indiscernible], formerly MPD, as Dirk said, we maintained our market share in January and I was quite pleased to hear that. So all in all, more work to do but feel really good about our trajectory and certainly our team’s focus to continue to drive that growth. Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Brian Harbour with Morgan Stanley. Brian Harbour: When you think about sort of the productivity and OpEx opportunity this year, what do you think will be most impactful kind of that’s different than what you did in ’23? David Flitman: Well, I think largely, Brian, you will see us continue to lean in on the areas that we’ve been focused on and I was pleased. It’s kind of the tale of 2 halves last year. We spent a lot of time in the first half of the year really honing our focus in on the needle-moving activities and really pleased with the trajectory that you saw us deliver in the back half of the year resulting in those productivity improvements that I quoted. And look, there’s more work to do in all of those areas, whether it’s in COGS and the work we’ve done with our suppliers the pricing optimization work and certainly the supply chain productivity. Really pleased with the progress we’re making at routing but there’s a lot more to do there. So largely the same. You heard my comments earlier about indirect spend. that’s a piece of work that we started to talk about in the back half of last year and really started to see some traction really in the back half of the fourth quarter. So that was very good to see. And I think we will ramp up that effort significantly in the first half of this year and deliver significant productivity improvement there as well. So largely a lot of the same work, just a lot more to do and a few new things. Brian Harbour: Okay. And when you kind of talk about low to mid-single-digit increases in headcount, as I think it sounds like the typical rate, how does that usually flow through to case growth? Or do you have like a certain target that like this should drive ex flow-through to case growth? David Flitman: Yes. I think largely it depends on the mix of talent that you’re bringing in. We have had great success in finding strong sales talent with industry experience and not all that’s coming directly from competition. Others in foodservice that understand the market and the industry and have a sales background fit really well in our model. We spend a lot of time training people, as you know. And I think long term, Brian, the right way to think about that is we should be able to grow our cases 30% to 50% faster than our head count additions. But again, there’s a ramp-up period for that. So as we get into the cycle of kind of a stable single to mid — low to mid-single-digit growth, that’s what you should expect over the long run. Operator: Your next question comes from the line of Kelly Bania with BMO Capital Markets. Kelly Bania: Just wanted to ask, as we think about that 2% to 4% organic case growth target for ’24, can you talk about the channels in more detail? It sounds like you’re definitely still planning for those independents to outpace the total. But maybe within health care and hospitality, are there — is there any outsized growth left there for those channels? Or maybe just help us think about what you’re seeing in terms of the new business pipelines for health care hospitality? David Flitman: Yes. For sure, we will continue to maintain our focus in the independent space. It’s the most profitable segment of the business. It plays to our strengths in terms of our product and sales portfolio. So that’s clearly a very strong focus for us. And what we saw last year, to your question, in hospitality and health care, largely a strong recovery from an industry perspective which provided some tailwinds. And importantly, as we talked about last year, we believe we’re differentiated in health care with our VITALS platform and some of the other things we have on the technology front. We’ve got a very strong pipeline in both health care and hospitality that we expect will deliver outsized growth again this year. Maybe not at the rate that we saw last year, just given the recovery is largely intact but we expect to continue to drive growth at or above market in both of those segments. Kelly Bania: Great, that is helpful. Can I just also ask about the sales compensation. It sounds like you’re making some tweaks there. Can you just remind us the timing of that change? And — and what you’re seeing across the — across the space from kind of the other private players? Is this kind of a broad change happiness across the industry as we’ve kind of normalized in growth? Or is this just maybe unique to US Foods and a couple of others? David Flitman: Yes. I really can’t comment on what others are doing relative to their sales comp. I think my color this morning largely gave in our prepared remarks where we really haven’t made any significant changes to our plan since some tweaks that were made in the pandemic which was largely aimed at maintaining our sales head count and providing what we needed to, to keep folks in the company as volumes decline. And as we get back on this aggressive profitable growth plan, those tweaks that we talked about there are really [indiscernible] giving our sellers the incentive they need to accelerate growth. The couple of things around shifting to more variable compensation, uncapping that portion of their pay, I want our sellers to make as much money as they possibly can if that means great things for our growth and for the company’s future. So again, I kind of foreshadowed this last quarter saying these were tweaks, not significant overhauls of our comp plan and it’s been well received. Answer your question, that all went into effect here in the first quarter. Operator: Your next question comes from the line of John Heinbockel with Guggenheim Securities. John Heinbockel: Dave, I wanted to start with the investment in account facing folks, when you think about business managers, territorial guys specialists. Where do you want to — how do you want that investment to shake out? And then curious the impact that would have on new account additions versus wallet share, right? Is there — what’s your strategic thrust there? David Flitman: Yes, good question, John. We’re focused on adding territory managers to continue to drive growth. But to your point, we have to have the right support around them. So the right number of specialists new business managers go out and target new opportunities, sometimes on their own, largely in parallel in partnership with our TMs. And then as we continue to grow our size and scale the sales force, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right management team in place as well. And the right number of districts and we add district managers when that makes sense, too, to make sure that we don’t overload our leadership. So all that is embedded in that 6% growth number, some of those pieces are growing at a slower rate, obviously, than the TMs. But when I think about that low to mid-single digits, that’s really comprehensive of all those rules. John Heinbockel: Okay. And then maybe as a follow-up, right? So when you think about — and obviously, you’ll lay this out in June but when you think about the biggest low-hanging fruit, where do you think that is functionally right? I don’t know if that’s productivity. You talked about stem miles. There is productivity in the warehouse. And as you roll out the day cart, how much do you think you can further improve cases per mile? David Flitman: Yes. So the first part of your question, I think we largely believe that the existing long [indiscernible] plan that we’re finishing up this year, feel really good about our progress. As we commented previously, I think we had outsized improvement in the first couple of pillars of that, the profit and the growth pillars and largely supply chain activity has lagged since the pandemic. I was pleased with the progress that we made in the back half of the year. However, I think largely that portion of our improvement has still lagged the other 2 areas. And so I see the greatest opportunity for productivity gains largely coming out of the supply chain. That’s why I get so excited about our flex scheduling the card platform despite all the improvements that we’ve made in routing efficiencies last year with some record cases per mile......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyFeb 16th, 2024

When I became a "DINK," my apartment in NYC got a major upgrade. I"m paying $150 less a month on rent and now have a backyard.

Becoming a DINK — someone in a double-income household with no kids — changed Joey Hadden's lifestyle in NYC, which you can see in photos. Clifford Prince King for BII recently became a DINK when I moved in with my partner in New York City."DINK" describes someone who lives in a double-income household with no kids.I'm paying $150 less in rent for a more spacious apartment with a backyard and a basement.This is part of our series Splitting the Difference, which examines the financial lives of couples.I'm a DINK, which means I live with my partner and we have double income, no kids.Living in New York, I can see how much your life can change when you couple up. Before I lived with my partner, I was typically spending nearly half my income on rent, and I couldn't afford to save for big purchases.But moving in with my partner allowed us to get a bigger place for less money. And I'm finally able to buy things that add so much value to my life.See for yourself.In 2021, I moved into a New York apartment by myself for the first time.The author snapping a selfie after signing her lease.Joey Hadden/Business InsiderI'll never forget my 24th birthday — the day I signed a lease by myself for the first time.After two years of living in a shared three-bedroom apartment in New York where my roommates changed every few months, I was finally getting my own place. For $1,650 a month, I had a 500-square-foot space with one bedroom on the third floor of a walk-up building. It was far from perfect, but it was mine.About a year later, in 2022, my long-distance partner and his dog moved in with me, and we renewed the lease together for one more year to save up for a larger home.By splitting rent in half, my partner and I were able to successfully save up for an upgrade. But sharing the limited space was difficult, especially since I was used to living in the apartment by myself.Two years later, I've coupled up and moved into a much larger space with my partner. This "double income, no kids" lifestyle makes me a DINK.The author enjoying her new home.Joey Hadden/Business InsiderIn May 2023, it was finally time to find a new place. We scoured the internet and toured several apartments before we found the perfect one.For $2,975 a month, we now have a 1,200-square-foot one-bedroom apartment with 1.5 bathrooms, a basement, and a backyard.Cut the rent in half and I'm spending about $160 less than when I lived in the smaller apartment by myself.These are the perks of a DINK lifestyle.My new apartment has upgraded my daily life in many ways: The kitchen has more room, I now have outdoor space, and I have more money each month.In my previous apartment, I had just a fire escape outside my bedroom.The author's fire escape in her previous apartment.Joey Hadden/Business InsiderHaving a way to get fresh air without leaving my building was a necessity for me when I was finding my solo apartment.But reality set in when I started looking within my budget. At the time, the only outdoor space I could afford was a fire escape outside my bedroom window.The fire escape was just big enough for me to sit crisscross applesauce, and I even found some free cushions on a nearby stoop to upgrade the space.When I lived there, I'd climb out my window several times a day to feel the wind on my face and look down at the street. It was cramped, but it was still peaceful.Now I have a fenced-in yard with a patio, a firepit, and plenty of grass for my small dog to hop around in.The author's backyard in her current apartment has a patio and a fire pit.Joey Hadden/Business InsiderI never dreamed I'd have my own backyard in Brooklyn, but here we are.When we put our money together, my partner and I were able to find a ground-level apartment with a 1,000-square-foot yard. Our dog loves it. She can run around whenever she wants, without waiting for us to take her for a walk.Every morning, rain or shine, I wake myself up by stepping into my backyard and feeling the air on my face.I also eat and work outside when the weather is nice — thanks to the previous tenant, who left behind patio furniture and a firepit. Having a dining table for six makes it easier to host friends. And I love sitting around the fire with our pals on cooler evenings.My previous apartment had a modest kitchen with wooden cabinets.The author's kitchen in her previous apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderMy previous apartment's kitchen was simple. It had a stove, an oven, a fridge, and a shallow sink that made washing dishes challenging.Without a pantry or ample storage space in the cabinets, I used a bookshelf to store most of my dishes.There wasn't a dining area, either, so I added a kitchen island with stools that I used for cooking and eating.My new kitchen looks modern and has more appliances.The author's kitchen in her current apartment has a dishwasher and a microwave.Joey Hadden/InsiderMy new kitchen has stainless-steel appliances and two amenities the previous one didn't have — a microwave and a dishwasher — which has made cooking and cleaning so much easier.The ceilings are taller, and so are the cabinets. I no longer need the extra shelving I used in my previous apartment.To the right of my kitchen is a dining space with a small table and chairs, too.In my previous apartment, the bathroom felt cramped.The author's bathroom in her previous apartment.Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe bathroom in my old apartment was so small that I couldn't take a landscape photo of it. It consisted of a toilet, a shower, and a small vanity with limited storage space.My new bathroom feels twice as big and has modern finishings. I have an additional half bath in the basement.The full bathroom in the author's apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderMy new bathroom has a larger vanity, a roomier shower, and more floor space. This makes getting cleaned up less stressful and more relaxing.Down in the basement we have an additional half bathroom, which is especially helpful when we have friends over.In my old place, I spent about $200 a month on laundry services.The author's dog sitting on a pile of laundry in her previous apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderNew Yorkers know how hard it is to find an apartment with a washing machine and dryer. In fact, you'd be lucky to get a place with laundry services in the building.In my previous apartment, there were no laundry machines on-site. I decided early on that my time was valuable enough to pay for pickup and delivery services from a laundromat.I had my laundry picked up every two weeks. Including tip, it cost me just under $100 each time.But now I have a washer and dryer in my apartment. In New York, this is a huge deal.The author's laundry machine in her current apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderWhen I tell my friends who live outside New York that my new place has a washer and dryer, they don't understand why I'm so excited.But in this city, I rarely see apartments in my price range that include this amenity. So for me, being able to wash and dry my clothes and sheets whenever I want is a taste of luxury.I'm saving $200 a month by doing my own laundry. Add that to my rent savings, and I'm pocketing about $360 more each month than I did when I lived alone in my previous apartment.In my previous apartment, my bedroom doubled as my office.The author's office in her previous apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderMost days I work from home. When I'm deciding where to put my office, I go for the room with the most natural light, which can be a mood booster and natural de-stressor.In my previous apartment, only the bedroom had full-sized windows, so I put my desk in the corner next to a window. It was a pleasant workspace, but I had a hard time shifting out of work mode at night.Therapists say that having your home office in the same space where you relax can make it harder to separate work time and chill time.Now my office fits in my kitchen.The author's office in her current apartment is next to the back door.Joey Hadden/InsiderIn my new apartment, my office space is next to the dining area in the open-floor-plan kitchen, where sunlight beams in from a tall window and a windowed door to my backyard.Working in the kitchen as opposed to my bedroom makes me feel more active and motivated. And I have an easier time relaxing in bed at night.My favorite part of my office space is that I'm right next to the back door, so I can take quick breaks outside.In my old place, the living room was cramped into the kitchen.The author's living room in her previous apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderI had an open floor plan in my previous kitchen, too. I used the additional space as a living room.But it wasn't ideal. The space was tight and narrow. My couch barely squeezed between the fridge and the wall. And there was no room for a coffee table between the couch and the TV.Now I have a basement big enough for a living room and a guest bed.The author's basement in her current apartment has enough space for a coffee table and a guest bed.Joey Hadden/InsiderMy basement is a huge upgrade from my previous apartment. It's the same size as the first floor — doubling the living space.Down there, I have a living room large enough for a couch, a love seat, and a coffee table. The back of the room houses my full-sized guest bed.Having this much extra room in my apartment makes my place the go-to spot among my friends. I love playing board games and watching movies with my buddies — especially when I don't feel cramped.My previous apartment had two tiny rooms that couldn't fit much furniture.One of two tiny rooms in the author's old apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderMy previous apartment had an odd layout. Known as a railroad apartment, it was the shape of a train car — all the rooms were in a row, with the kitchen at the front, the bedroom at the rear, and two tiny rooms in between that could barely fit anything in them.I used one of these tiny spaces as a guest room with a full-size bed and a bookshelf, but I couldn't fit a nightstand in there.In the other small room I had my love seat — which didn't fit in the living room — and my electric drum kit, an alternative to a real acoustic kit that wouldn't fit in the space and that I couldn't afford with my savings.I've been drumming in bands since I moved to New York nearly five years ago, so having to settle for this practice tool over the real thing was challenging — I've had to rent practice spaces with shared drums and use house kits at venues that have to be vastly adjusted for my size. (I'm 5-foot-3, which usually makes me the smallest drummer on the bill on any given night.)There's enough room in my basement now for a full drum kit.The author's new kit in her current apartment.Joey Hadden/InsiderThe combination of the basement space and the money I was saving in my new apartment meant that after five years of gigging in New York, I could finally purchase a real drum set. I hadn't had my own kit since high school, so this was a huge deal for me.Having a kit to call my own rather than playing on random sets in practice rooms means I can customize it to my liking, from the size to the tuning. And while I can't play too loud, I can practice whenever I want and play new beats as soon as they pop into my head.The drums, amenities, and backyard in my new place make me feel happier and more relaxed on a daily basis.I sometimes miss my previous apartment. It was so lived in and filled with memories. It's where I figured out how to live on my own. But I'm also happy to have moved on with my partner and my dog. The new apartment has created a better life for all three of us.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 7th, 2024

Hong Kong Set To Pass Article 23, Further Tightening Beijing’s Control

Hong Kong Set To Pass Article 23, Further Tightening Beijing’s Control Authored by Julia Ye and Angela Bright via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The prospect of Basic Law Article 23, which rocked Hong Kong in 2003, is now becoming a reality under Beijing-controlled Hong Kong authorities. A riot police officer stands guard as Hong Kong police conduct a clearance operation during a demonstration in a mall in Hong Kong on July 6, 2020. Hong Kong's new national security law made political views, slogans, and signs advocating Hong Kong's independence or liberation illegal. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images) “While the society as a whole looks calm and very safe, we still have to watch out for potential sabotage and undercurrents that try to create trouble, particularly some of the ‘independent Hong Kong’ ideas are still being embedded in some people’s minds,” John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong’s chief executive, said at a press conference on Jan. 30. Article 23, outlined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law enacted after its handover from British rule in 1997, mandated that Hong Kong write its own national security code. An attempt to do so in 2003 led to massive protests, leading the government to shelve the proposal. After pro-democracy protests brought hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers to the streets in 2019, Beijing imposed a national security law to punish four major crimes: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces. Now, under an administration hand-picked by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Hong Kong is once again looking to pass Article 23, which authorities say will fill loopholes left by the national security law. A four-week comment period will precede a vote on the law by Hong Kong’s Beijing-aligned legislature. The new national security law will cover five offenses: treason, insurrection, theft of state secrets and espionage, destructive activities endangering national security, and external interference. The newly added ordinance on “external interference” will prohibit any person from cooperating with foreign powers to interfere with Hong Kong’s elections, legislature, and judiciary. To the question of “Why now?” Mr. Lee responded, “The threats to national security—they are real. We have experienced all these threats. We have suffered from them badly. We were all very heartbroken. We still remember the pain and the sorrow. We don’t want to go through that painful experience again.”  The chief executive referred to foreign agents who “may still be active in Hong Kong.” “We can’t afford to wait,” Mr. Lee said. “It’s for 26 years we have been waiting.” Explainer: What Is Article 23? The Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 set out the conditions under which Hong Kong would be transferred to China control and for the city’s governance after the handover. The treaty guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong, enshrined in the Basic Law, a mini-constitution that was the blueprint for the “one country, two systems” arrangement. After the signing of the treaty, the CCP was eager to establish a legal framework for the resumption of its sovereignty over Hong Kong. Article 23 of the Basic Law was part of that legal framework, stipulating that Hong Kong must enact legislation on its own to prohibit seven types of acts that endanger national security, including “treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets.” However, the mandated legislation has not been realized since the handover of Hong Kong’s sovereignty in 1997. In 1985, the CCP’s rubber stamp legislature set up a 59-member “Hong Kong Basic Law Drafting Committee.” However, the first draft of the Basic Law was regarded as too vague and wide-ranging. The drafting committee added the words “to legislate on its own” to the second draft so that the Hong Kong authorities could legislate only when it considered necessary. The drafting of the relevant provisions coincided with the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989. To strengthen its control over the Asia financial hub, the CCP reintroduced the offense of subversion and added a provision concerning political organizations to the re-draft. The CCP has continued to push for the completion of Article 23 legislation. However, the legislative process that was initiated has aroused great controversy, and disputes have abounded. A Broader Scope than the National Security Law Some may wonder why, since the national security law had already been imposed when Mr. Lee came to power as chief executive in 2022, he should be so eager to legislate Article 23. “One reason is that recently, the whole international society is targeting the Hong Kong national security law. Many Western countries are questioning Hong Kong’s human rights situation,” current affairs commentator Wang Anran told The Epoch Times. Mr. Wang said he believes that, given the negative attention garnered by the national security law, Article 23 may be an alternative. While the national security law was implemented in 2020, of the seven items to be covered under Article 23, it only covered two: secession and subversion of state power. Therefore the two laws are expected to work together. It is expected that if the legislation on Article 23 is completed, the scope of its coverage will be wider than initially planned. For instance, its definition of state secrets will be broader and more in line with China’s vague laws on espionage and state secrets. The proposal for the law deemed Hong Kong’s current definition of state secrets to be “not broad enough.” People queue outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts during the hearing of the 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law, in Hong Kong, on Feb. 6, 2023. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters) There are concerns that Article 23 will cause the business environment in Hong Kong to continue to deteriorate. The law would include economic matters in its definition of national security. “If a business or organization has a certain connection with a foreign government, it may be arrested,” said Simon Ngai Man Young, a professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law. “On top of that, even if it is a business enterprise or a joint venture, the source of funds may have to be checked more carefully.” Chung Kim-wah, deputy chief executive of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Research Institute, argued that Hong Kong authorities are now expanding the scope of Article 23 to include soft counter-opposition, cybersecurity, and false information. “The current implementation of the national security law has resulted in the criminalization of everything, and the introduction of Article 23 is an additional tool and weapon for [the] violent regime to suppress the public,” he told The Epoch Times. Was 2003’s Legislation Targeted at Falun Gong? Sources familiar with top CCP officials have said that in 2003, when authorities pushed for Article 23, their intended target was Hong Kong’s Falun Gong community. Hong Kong’s first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, openly made negative comments about Falun Gong in 2001. The following year, Mr. Tung initiated the legislation to implement Article 23. The legislation of Article 23 at the time was seen as a political mission given to Mr. Tung by late CCP leader Jiang Zemin, who initiated the persecution of Falun Gong. Former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa attends a closing session in Beijing, on March 20, 2018. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images) During the SARS outbreak in 2003—a time when Hong Kong’s economy was in the doldrums, coupled with the introduction of the consultation paper on Article 23 legislation—worries about the future and dissatisfaction with Mr. Tung reached an unprecedented high. The law was set to be passed on July 9, 2003. As the date approached, the Civil Human Rights Front, a pro-democracy group, called for a protest. On July 1, over 500,000 people took to the streets to oppose Article 23 and to demand that Mr. Tung step down. Authorities withdrew the bill on Sept. 5 to “allay the public’s concern.” More than a year later, Mr. Tung stepped down. Consolidating Control: Reciprocal Enforcement Article 23 is now on the fast track to legislation, but it remains to be seen whether it will be shelved again. Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities have introduced a law that allows for the mutual recognition of judgments in civil and commercial cases between China and Hong Kong. On Jan. 29, the Mainland Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Reciprocal Enforcement) Ordinance came into effect. According to a statement by Hong Kong’s Department of Justice, the arrangement reduces the need to re-litigate the same dispute in Hong Kong courts and China.  Despite the description of the law as “reciprocal,” the legislation is clearly aimed at the Hong Kong judiciary, said political commentator and Epoch Times contributor Ji Da. “The purpose is for Hong Kong to recognize China’s judicial system. Judgments in mainland China are also valid in Hong Kong,” Mr. Ji told the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times. CCP Eager to Re-control HK for Strategic Reasons The Mainland Judgments ordinance, coupled with the CCP’s actions surrounding the legislation of Article 23, shows that the CCP is eager to regain control of Hong Kong in the face of the current tense international situation, Mr. Wang said. In the international arena, friction continues between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu Islands by China). In addition, conflicts may arise at any time in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea. Concerned that Hong Kong could be another source of unrest, the CCP is enacting Article 23 at this time as a strategic consideration, according to Mr. Wang. Japanese Coast Guard vessel and boats (rear and right) sail alongside a Japanese activists’ fishing boat (center) near the disputed Senkaku Islands,  in the East China Sea, on Aug. 18, 2013. (Emily Wang/AP Photo) “When Hong Kong experienced a major upheaval in 2019, the CCP was very worried about these unstable factors, especially when it recognized that Hong Kong has always been an anti-communist base linking the mainland and overseas. The CCP was taking precautions by launching Lee Ka-chiu, the police chief, as the chief executive,” he said. Hong Kong authorities expect to complete Article 23 legislation before the legislative council adjourns in July. The short consultation period has led to public concern that the comment period is only a formality. Public consultation on Article 23 will remain open until Feb. 28. Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 20:20.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytFeb 5th, 2024

Maine Kid-Smuggling Transgender Bill Killed In Committee

Maine Kid-Smuggling Transgender Bill Killed In Committee Authored by Jackson Elliott via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), A bill that would have allowed people to take children from parents to get transgender procedures in Maine was killed in committee. The Capitol building in Augusta, Maine, on July 29, 2023. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times) Late in January, Maine’s House judiciary committee unanimously voted down the bill, with one member absent. This unanimous vote likely indicates Democrats weren’t willing to debate the bill in the House, Maine state Rep. Katrina Smith, a Republican, told The Epoch Times. “If it was a divided report, then there could be a chance,” Ms. Smith said. “They’ve done this a lot to us.” “The bill was 100 percent, maybe I'll say 99 percent, killed because of the public outcry,” Ms. Smith said. “We got an incredible amount of media attention.” In an election year, people notice bills like this one and their likely consequences, and the politicians who supported it may face consequences in November, Ms. Smith said. She expects Democrats will continue to introduce similar bills, “if they’re in the majority.” “If they’re in the minority, it will have no chance and will be crushed,” she said. However, Democrats currently control Maine’s state house, state senate, and governor’s office. Ms. Smith said the bill would have violated parental rights, increased the number of child gender transitions, and likely have resulted in a flood of lawsuits from parents whose children were taken away to Maine for child gender transition. It is almost certain Democratic Maine legislators will brave those hazards at a later date, she said. Many Maine Democrats see allowing child gender transition as a moral issue on par with ending segregation, Ms. Smith said. “They certainly do believe that,” she said. The Epoch Times contacted the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Laurie Osher, a Democrat, but received no comment by publication time. Ms. Osher provided written testimony supporting the bill, in which she says there’s “a coordinated national attack on gender-affirming care.” “For transgender and non-binary young people, the most important thing the adults in their lives can do is to be supportive,” Ms. Osher said, advocating for parents to support medical and surgical interventions in their children. Maine Mother Alicia Lawson, a Maine mother whose daughter briefly identified as transgender. (Courtesy of Alicia Lawson) The bill would have allowed Maine to take transgender-identifying children from parents within the state. It also allowed anyone to take a child from a state that banned child gender transition medical procedures into Maine. Maine wouldn’t consider this action to be child kidnapping under the bill. Maine mother Alicia Lawson believes the state would have been able to take Ms. Lawson’s child from her under the proposed bill. She said the pediatrician could have called up the Department of Health and Human Services and said, “'This mom is not allowing her child to have this care that she needs.” In 2020, Ms. Lawson’s teenage daughter identified as transgender. “She wanted to get on hormones,” Ms. Lawson told The Epoch Times. “While she wanted top surgery, she didn’t want bottom surgery.” She talked extensively with her daughter about the transgender feelings, and in a few years, her child grew out of them, Ms. Lawson said. These feelings were complicated because her daughter is autistic, she said. To navigate this topic, Ms. Lawson took her daughter to a pediatrician, who said signing her daughter up for gender transition surgery now would help her get through the long wait list for the procedure. “By the time she’s 18 to make her own choice, then she won’t have to wait on the waitlist,” the pediatrician said. Ms. Lawson said she refused this offer. Today, her daughter no longer wonders if she is a man, Ms. Lawson said. Transgender Industry There are also major financial reasons for Democrats to support bills that would allow gender transition surgeries on children in Maine, according to Heather Sprague, a Maine conservative activist. “I believe the bottom line is the money,” she said. “They profit off the money from these surgeries.” Heather Sprague, a Maine conservative activist. (Courtesy of Heather Sprague) Groups such as Planned Parenthood support and provide transgender procedures and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, supports many Democrat campaigns nationwide. Maine Health, a not-for-profit integrated group of hospitals and health services, supports child gender transition, according to its website. “The Gender Clinic is dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of transgender, gender diverse, and questioning people across Northern New England,” the group’s online page on transgender services states.  “We offer treatment to patients of all ages with both pediatric and adult services.” Some of Maine Health’s medical treatments include puberty blockers, cross-sex hormone use, and surgery to make people appear like the opposite sex. Many transgender surgeries are expensive. Transgender breast amputation or creation surgery costs between $10,000 and $20,000. Genital transgender surgery can cost up to $150,000.  Costs vary widely for facial feminization or masculinization surgery. Cross-sex hormones can cost between $30 to $100 per month. Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 15:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 5th, 2024

83 Million!?

83 Million!? Authored by Victor Davis Hanson, Donald Trump in furor stormed out of a New York courtroom for a while, in the defamation suit brought by author and dating/boyfriend/sex-advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. It was just settled against Trump for $83.3 million! The Carroll suit was largely subsidized by Reid Hoffman the billionaire capitalist, and mega-donor to the Democratic Party and leftwing causes. The subtext of Trump’s rage, aside from the outrageous monetary size of the defamation ruling, is that he was facing—and angered - a leftwing claimant, a quite hostile leftwing judge, and a leftwing New York jury. The civil suit serves as a mere preview of four additional leftwing criminal prosecutions, leftwing judges, and leftwing juries to come - all on charges that would never had been filed if Trump either had not run for president or been a liberal progressive. Yet here we are. The E. Jean Carroll case is the most baffling of all five. She, the alleged victim, did not remember even the year in which the purported sexual assault took place, nearly three decades ago. Observers have pointed out dozens of inconsistencies in her story. It was never clear what were the preliminaries that supposedly (Trump denies meeting her) led both, allegedly, willingly to retreat together to a department store dressing room, where during normal business hours the alleged violence took place. Moreover, the sexual assault complaint came forward decades post facto—and only after Trump was running for and then president. Carroll eventually sued him for battery, but well after the statute of limitations had expired and thus the case seemed defunct. Her claims of defamation injuries arise from being fired from her advice column job at ELLE magazine. She claimed that Trump’s sharp denials and ad hominem retorts led to her career ruin. But the loss for anyone of a column at 76 does not seem such a rare occurrence, and the absence of a salaried job in one’s late seventies for four years does not seem to equate to a $83 million hit. And note the allegation that her dispute with Trump led to her firing was strongly denied by the very magazine that cut her loose. But then another strange thing happened. In 2022, a new law (“The Adult Survivors Act”) was passed in the New York legislature. It also post facto established a twelve-month window (beginning six months from the signing of bill) that permitted survivors of long ago alleged sexual assaults suddenly to sue the accused long-ago perpetrator—regardless of the previous statute of limitations. That unexpected opening suddenly gave Carroll’s prior unsuccessful efforts a rebirth. And she quickly refiled with the help of arch-Trump hating billionaire Hoffman. Yet the bill may have been introduced with Trump particularly in mind—given the legislator who introduced it, Brad Hoylman-Siga, was known as another Trump antagonist. More interestingly, he had earlier introduced and had passed another Trump-targeted bill. That “TRUST” act had empowered particular federal Congressional committees to have access to the New York State once sealed tax returns of high-ranking government officials—such as Trump. That bill’s generally agreed subtext was a green light for anti-Trump members of Congress to obtain legal access to Donald J. Trump's tax returns. So there is an eerie feeling that the New York legislature may have abruptly passed legislation that was aimed at the past conduct of Donald Trump but only after he entered the political arena. While these are not quite bills of attainder, there is something unsettling if they are post facto laws aimed at targeting the most famous and controversial man in America and the leading candidate for the presidency. In essence they were targeted statutes designed to make Trump’s prior legally unactionable behavior suddenly quite legally actionable. Trump will be subject to such special treatment all summer and fall. Prosecutors Bragg, James, Smith, and Willis will synchronize their court business for maximum effect. Trump again will face leftwing prosecutors, judges, and juries on charges that are politically driven, involving alleged behavior that is either usually not criminalized or not to the same degree as Trump’s case. (Do we remember the nearly $375,000 federal fine belatedly leveled at an exempt Obama but only five years after his 2008 illegal garnering of, and not reporting, foreign campaign contributions?) The stakes are higher each day as Trump closes in on the nomination and thus becomes the hope of half the country to end the Biden madness. Somehow Trump will have to stay calm, give no opening to his legion of hostile prosecutors, while conducting a nonstop campaign against Biden (and for a while Hayley), and while fighting to keep his name on various state ballots. So what we are witnessing is not even the extralegal efforts of Steele/Fusion GPS, Perkins Coie/DNC/Hillary Clinton in 2016, or the 2020 “Russian disinformation” ruse/change the voting laws/infuse half a billion dollars to absorb the work of the registrar machinations against Trump. We are way beyond all that. The legal system itself, hand-in-glove with leftwing politicos (compare campaign boasts of James and Willis, or prosecutorial visits to the January 6 committee and the White House) is turning the process of balloting and elections into an embarrassing farce. Still, Trump will have to soldier on. He must stay controlled amid the tsunamis, not play into the hands of his accusers, and remember that he may soon be the only eleventh-hour hope to stop this mockery of American law, customs and traditions. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/28/2024 - 19:50.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 28th, 2024

France"s Le Pen Hails New Immigration Bill As "Ideological Victory"

France's Le Pen Hails New Immigration Bill As "Ideological Victory" Authored by Denes Albert via ReMix News, Aid to non-EU migrants will be subject to a five-year residency requirement... An ad-hoc committee of the French legislature came to a compromise regarding the country’s new immigration bill, which the right hailed as an “ideological victory.” Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally, welcomed the agreement and announced that her MPs would vote in favor of the bill. “We are celebrating an ideological breakthrough, an ideological victory for the National Alliance, as this law now enshrines the national priority of giving French citizens an advantage over foreigners in our country in access to certain social benefits,” said Le Pen. The bill’s key elements are a five-year residence requirement before non-EU migrants can receive state welfare aid — or 30 months if they are employed. It also contains provisions that dual nationals who have committed a crime in France can lose their citizenship and be repatriated. The law also features migration quotas, and makes it more difficult for the children of immigrants to become French citizens. After the French Senate rejected the government’s original watered-down proposal last week, a joint committee of the two houses debated the issue for four days. Eventually, last night, the assembly passed the bill, which many analysts say is a cornerstone of Macron’s second term in office, which began last May. “Today, strict measures are necessary,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said after the vote in the lower house. “It’s not by holding your nose in central Paris that you can fix the problems of the French in the rest of the country.” Meanwhile, right-wing parties, whose more stringent proposals have been incorporated into the bill, are celebrating the vote as their own victory. The left has described the proposals as “radical.” Éric Ciotti, leader of the center-right Republicans, said “This is our text” and indicated that the group would vote in favor. But Socialist leader Boris Vallaud, in agreement with other left-wing forces, condemned “a great moment of shame.” ... Read more here... Tyler Durden Thu, 12/21/2023 - 02:00.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 21st, 2023

Why The Pentagon Is A Multi-Trillion Dollar Fraud

Why The Pentagon Is A Multi-Trillion Dollar Fraud Authored by Scott Ritter, The US Department of Defense has failed its sixth annual audit in a row, but taxpayer money will keep going down that drain.. Recently, the Pentagon admitted it couldn’t account for trillions of dollars of US taxpayer money, having failed a massive yearly audit for the sixth year running. The process consisted of the 29 sub-audits of the DoD’s various services, and only seven passed this year – no improvement over the last. These audits only began taking place in 2017, meaning that the Pentagon has never successfully passed one. This year’s failure made some headlines, was commented upon briefly by the mainstream media, and then just as quickly forgotten by an American society accustomed to pouring money down the black hole of defense spending. The defense budget of the United States is grotesquely large, its $877 billion dwarfing the $849 billion spent by the next ten nations with the largest defense expenditures. And yet, the Pentagon cannot fully account for the $3.8 trillion in assets and $4 trillion in liabilities it has accrued at US taxpayer expense, ostensibly in defense of the United States and its allies. As the Biden administration seeks $886 billion for next year’s defense budget (and Congress seems prepared to add an additional $80 billion to that amount), the apparent indifference of the American collective – government, media, and public – to how nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer dollars will be spent speaks volumes about the overall bankrupt nature of the American establishment.  Audits, however, are an accountant’s trick, a series of numbers on a ledger which, for the average person, do not equate to reality. Americans have grown accustomed to seeing big numbers when it comes to defense spending, and as a result, we likewise expect big things from our military. But the fact is, the US defense establishment increasingly physically resembles the numbers on the ledgers the accountants have been trying to balance – it just doesn’t add up. Despite spending some $2.3 trillion on a two-decade military misadventure in Afghanistan, the American people witnessed the ignominious retreat from that nation live on TV in August 2021. Likewise, a $758 billion investment in the 2003 invasion and subsequent decade-long occupation of Iraq went south when the US was compelled to withdraw in 2011– only to return in 2014 for another decade of chasing down ISIS, itself a manifestation of the failures of the original Iraqi venture. Overall, the US has spent more than $1.8 trillion on its 20-year nightmare in Iraq and Syria.  These numbers are mind-numbingly large – so large that they become meaningless to the average person. The US defense enterprise is so massive that it is literally a mission impossible to speak of balancing the books. The American people might be willing to shrug off an accounting error or two. But the defense budget equates to American military power and the perceptions of national worth that translate into notions of American exceptionalism. The fact of the matter is that our cavalier approach to defense spending has resulted in fraud of a massive scale. The American people were sold a bill of goods – a military capable of projecting power world-wide to sustain the so-called “rules based international order” upon which the notion of American exceptionalism has been premised. As it turns out, the US military is as hollow as the numbers on the Pentagon ledgers. The American people have bought an apparatus that is incapable of fighting and winning a major war against any of the potential opponents arrayed against it. We failed to defeat Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban. And we are not able to defeat either China or Russia, let alone regional powers like North Korea and Iran. And yet we will simply continue to invest, in seemingly unquestioning fashion, into this enterprise, expecting somehow that a system that cannot pass an audit will somehow magically produce a different result despite the fact that we, the American people, are doing nothing to demand such a result. In short, the defense budget is the equivalent of “pay-to-play,” in which the American people pay the US government to produce the results necessary to sustain their overinflated sense of self-worth. We Americans have become so accustomed to being the biggest, baddest bully in the global arena that we assume that simply by pouring money into a system that had produced the desired results for more than seventy years that we could keep the good times rolling. But when you allocate money to a system that has been allowed to become conditioned to operate without accountability, don’t be surprised when the shiny mansion on the hill you thought you were buying turns out to be little more than a house of cards. Tyler Durden Mon, 12/18/2023 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 19th, 2023

Futures Drop On China Weakness As Gold Soars To 6 Month High

Futures Drop On China Weakness As Gold Soars To 6 Month High US equity futures and global markets are in the red, amid a broader risk-off tone to start the week as a renewed slowdown in China’s industrial profits growth dented sentiment in global financial markets, as they were seen as a sign of weak domestic demand and a reminder of the country’s economic slowdown. As of 7:35am, S&P and Nasdaq futures were both down 0.1%, off the worst levels of the session. 10-year TSY yields climbed as much as five basis points to 4.51%, the highest in more than a week, before reversing the entire move; gold climbed to the highest since May, rising over $2,100 while the dollar was little changed and bitcoin slumped under $37,000. Oil was down a fourth day before this week’s delayed OPEC+ meeting. Retail Sales numbers for Black Friday showing +2.5% YoY gain with online sales +7.5% to a record $9.8bn; this could be driven by discount/bargain hunting. Today we will get the October new home sales data, with economists expecting a decline after September’s surprise surge in sales volumes as higher mortgage rates and increased inventories of existing homes weigh on sales. The Dallas Fed manufacturing activity index is also due later for November. In premarket trading, Foot Locker dropped 3% after the sports apparel retailer was downgraded to sell at Citi, which sees third-quarter earnings per share missing estimates. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Crown Castle gains 4% after a report that activist investor Elliott Investment Management plans to push for changes at the wireless tower owner. Shopify jumps 4% after the e-commerce company said merchants set a Black Friday record with a combined $4.1 billion in sales. GE HealthCare Technologies drops 3% as UBS gives the stock its only sell rating. Today's cautious start comes despite the VIX index falling belkow 13, its lowest level since January 2020, as markets have been buoyed by a growing assumption that further interest-rate hikes from the Fed and ECB are unlikely. In earnings due this week, Crowdstrike Holdings Inc. will underscore how businesses are prioritizing cybersecurity after recent high-profile corporate hacks, while Salesforce and Dell are expected to post slower sales growth as overall corporate expenditure tightens. A slowdown in China’s industrial profit growth added to concern about deflation in the world’s second-largest economy. Fresh economic data this week will help traders gauge whether the gains for stocks and bonds seen so far this month can extend into December. Statistics include euro-zone inflation figures, China PMIs and US personal consumption numbers on Thursday, and US and euro-area PMIs on Friday. “There’s not much fundamental reason for high market optimism,” said Ulrich Leuchtmann, head of currency strategy at Commerzbank AG. “A lot of clients I am talking to are getting more pessimistic about long-term growth prospects.” Meanwhile, after the bounce back in Treasuries this month, many US debt watchers say the path is clearing for a real revival in the market. The Bloomberg US Treasury Index is showing a positive return for the year after spending chunks of 2023 underwater, helped by of slowing inflation and measured jobs growth. In Europe the Stoxx 600 was down 0.1% as traders brace for inflation data due later in the week. Energy stocks are the worst performers, tracking losses in oil prices as Brent crude futures fall 1.8% to trade below $79.20. Real estate and telecom stocks are the biggest gainers, while energy and autos shares lag. BASF drops after a downgrade from Morgan Stanley while Bpost slumps after Belgian newspaper L’Echo reported the company is set to lose its newspaper and periodical delivery contracts. Turkish banks got a boost after Bank of America issued a broad buy reconmmendation on the group. Here are some of Monday’s biggest movers: Rightmove shares rise as much as 7% after the real estate portal said its revenue is tracking marginally ahead of expectations since July, helped by higher revenue by per advertiser. That’s despite a becalmed UK housing market, analysts noted. Its long-term revenue and profit guidance met analyst expectations. Elior shares rise as much as 7.7%, to the highest since July, after Deutsche Bank upgraded the French caterer to buy from hold, saying “the worst is probably over” and the focus is shifting to accretive growth and de-leveraging. Shaftesbury shares gain as much as 2.6% after the London landlord said customers reported sales in aggregate 12% above 2022 levels and 16% above 2019 levels in the period from July 1 to Nov. 15, according to a trading update. Turkish Banks’ shares surged the most in a month after Bank of America issued an across-the-board buy recommendation on major private-sector lenders, predicting they would benefit from the central bank’s pivot back to orthodox monetary policy. Julius Baer shares fall as much as 2.9% after the wealth manager said it is reviewing a lending business after confirming an exposure of 606 million Swiss francs to a single client. BASF shares fall as much as 2.9% after being cut to underweight from equal-weight at Morgan Stanley. The broker highlights a structural shift in the global chemicals cost curve that it says doesn’t appear to be fully discounted. BPost shares fell as much as 14% after L’Echo newspaper reported on Saturday that the company was set to lose its newspaper and periodicals delivery contracts. Frontier Developments shares sink as much as 24% after the UK video-game maker cut its revenue forecast for the fiscal year ending May next year, saying sales from a newly released real-time strategy game missed projections. Entain shares fall as much as 2.9% as Goldman says its buy rating on the Ladbrokes bookmaker parent was “wrong” and changes it to sell. Goldman is only sell-rated firm among 21 tracked by Bloomberg. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks fell, led by declines in China after data showed profit growth at the nation’s industrial companies slowed, adding to concerns over the region’s largest economy. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.4%, with TSMC and Alibaba among the biggest drags. Stocks in Japan, Taiwan, Australia and Singapore also slipped. Markets in India and the Philippines were closed for holidays. China’s benchmark CSI 300 Index fell more than 1% after a report that industrial profit growth slowed for a second-straight month. The nation’s economy remains fragile despite continued measures from authorities to stimulate consumption and support the ailing real estate sector. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp declined following soft Chinese Industrial Profits and amid shadow banking concerns after Chinese authorities opened a probe into struggling shadow bank Zhongzhi, while the PBoC’s notice to strengthen financial support for private companies did little to spur risk sentiment. Nikkei 225 wiped out its opening gains after hitting resistance just above the 33,800 level and as participants digested Japanese Services PPI which showed a slight acceleration. ASX 200 finished lower as weakness in the defensive and mining-related sectors overshadowed the gains in tech. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index slipped 0.1%, edging closer to a 2 1/2-month low touched last week; USD/JPY fell as much as 0.4% amid month-end trading flows, with market participants citing possible month-end demand for yen from Japanese exporters. In rates, treasuries were little changed; the 10-year yield was flat at 4.465% after edging up as much as 5bps higher to 4.51%, its highest in more than a week. US TSYs trailed bunds and gilts outperforming by 4bp and 2.5bp in the sector; curve spreads are also within 1bp of Friday close levels. Core European bonds outperform, led by gilts after dovish comments from BOE Governor Andrew Bailey, who said recent inflation figures were “very good news.” Main focal point of US session is supply as two coupon auctions are slated — 2-year and 5-year notes.  Compressed auction cycle begins with $54b 2-year note sale at 11:30am and $55b 5-year at 1pm; WI 2-year yield is around 4.910%, 14.5bp richer than last month’s, which stopped on the screws; WI 5-year at around 4.46% is ~44bp richer than previous. In commodities, oil fell for a fourth day as traders looked ahead to this week’s delayed OPEC+ meeting. Gold closed above $2,000 an ounce on Friday, capping a second weekly gain and bolstering confidence that higher prices are justified. The metal has been lifted in the second half of November by weaker US economic data that added to expectations for early rate cuts by the Fed next year.  The narrative for iron ore keeps swinging between China property stimulus (bullish) and Beijing’s resolve to clamp down on speculation (bearish). Today’s macro data focus is new home sales and Dallas Fed; later this week we receive consumer confidence, GDP/PCE, and ISM-Mfg. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures down 0.2% to 4,558.00 STOXX Europe 600 down 0.2% to 458.86 MXAP down 0.3% to 161.05 MXAPJ down 0.3% to 501.89 Nikkei down 0.5% to 33,447.67 Topix down 0.4% to 2,381.76 Hang Seng Index down 0.2% to 17,525.06 Shanghai Composite down 0.3% to 3,031.70 Sensex little changed at 65,970.04 Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.8% to 6,987.64 Kospi little changed at 2,495.66 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.64% Euro little changed at $1.0947 Brent Futures down 0.9% to $79.89/bbl Brent Futures down 0.9% to $79.89/bbl Gold spot up 0.7% to $2,015.01 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 103.33 Top Overnight News Taiwan’s presidential election coming up on Jan 13 risks reigniting tensions with China as opposition parties more friendly to Beijing fail to unite, clearing a path for the current pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party to stay in power. WaPo The Beijing Stock Exchange has de facto implemented a new policy that prevents major shareholders of companies listed on its bourse from selling stock, worried that such sales could douse a long-desired rally, three people familiar with the matter said. RTRS US and Germany are starting to place pressure on Ukraine to negotiate an end to the war with Russia based approximately on the current battlelines. London Times Russia launched its largest drone attack of the war in the early hours of Saturday morning, targeting Kyiv in what Ukrainian officials fear is the start of a winter campaign aimed at destroying the country’s energy infrastructure. FT OPEC+ is close to resolving a dispute over 2024 production quotas with certain African members, potentially paving the way for incremental action on curbing supply at the upcoming 11/30 meeting. RTRS Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey suggested that interest-rate cuts are unlikely for the “foreseeable future” as he warned that the second half of the inflation battle will be “hard work.” BBG A healthcare hiring boom is helping offset weaker job growth in other areas of the softening U.S. economy, boosting its chances of skirting a recession. The industry could serve as a strong job generator for years to come as an aging population and Covid-19 fuel widespread worker shortages and greater needs for healthcare services. WSJ An upcoming sale of shares in OpenAI is set to test how much the past week’s leadership chaos has cost the company and its backers, though big investors are bullish about securing a high valuation. The employee stock sale, which had been planned before the sacking last week of chief executive Sam Altman and expected to value the company at $86bn, will continue as planned, according to two investors with direct knowledge of the matter. FT Mastercard said overall spending rose ~2.5% Y/Y (ex-autos) on Black Friday, with in-store up a bit more than 1% while online climbed 8.5% (the 8.5% online spending increase isn’t that far from the +7.5% number published by Adobe). CNN A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk APAC stocks declined heading into month-end and after newsflow over the weekend was mainly dominated by geopolitical headlines with a question mark hanging over whether the Israel-Hamas truce will be extended beyond the initial four-day agreement. ASX 200 finished lower as weakness in the defensive and mining-related sectors overshadowed the gains in tech. Nikkei 225 wiped out its opening gains after hitting resistance just above the 33,800 level and as participants digested Japanese Services PPI which showed a slight acceleration. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp declined following soft Chinese Industrial Profits and amid shadow banking concerns after Chinese authorities opened a probe into struggling shadow bank Zhongzhi, while the PBoC’s notice to strengthen financial support for private companies did little to spur risk sentiment. Top Asian News PBoC issued a notice to strengthen financial support for private companies and will encourage institutional investors to actively and scientifically allocate private companies business process modelling, development and support. PBoC said it is to support private enterprises in listing and financing, mergers and acquisitions and restructuring, while it also said to use monetary policy tools and fiscal subsidies to incentivise financial institutions to service private companies and will reasonably meet the financing needs of private property companies. China's Global Times noted multiple central government departments pledged to support private enterprises' growth and outlined 25 concrete measures to ensure their financing needs and bolster their technological innovations. Chinese authorities opened a probe into struggling shadow bank Zhongzhi after it recently warned of severe insolvency. Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa said they sought an immediate lifting of the Japanese maritime product ban by China in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang and were able to have a meaningful exchange on common challenges such as climate change and North Korea. They also shared the common view that Japan and China should hold security talks in the near future, while it was also reported that China, Japan and South Korea agreed to boost ties and seek a summit, according to Reuters. Australia’s government will introduce a bill this week that would give the RBA’s independent expert members more responsibility for setting interest rates with a new specialist monetary policy board. Furthermore, the bill would implement the recommendations of the RBA review announced in April including switching to fewer meetings in a year and a dual mandate of price stability and full employment, according to Reuters. In relevant news, Australia named BoE's Andrew Hauser as RBA Deputy Governor who is expected to start before the first RBA board meeting next year, according to Reuters. China to hold CCP Politburo meeting on November 27th, according to state media. Beijing Stock Exchange has reportedly de facto implemented a new policy preventing major shareholders of Cos from selling stock, via Reuters citing sources; amid concerns that sales could extinguish the desired rally. European bourses are in the red, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.2%, with trade ultimately indecisive; whilst the FTSE 100 -0.3% underperforms amid energy action. Sectors are mixed, but with a clear negative tilt; Energy resides at the foot of the pile hampered by crude benchmarks while Telecoms outperform. Stateside, futures are subdued with clear underperformance in the Russell -0.5% vs. -0.1% in the ES & NQ. Black Friday US online sales rose 7.5% Y/Y to USD 9.8bln, while shopper traffic to physical stores rose 2%-5% Y/Y, according to CNBC citing Adobe Analytics. Online sales are boosted by demand for electronics, smartwatches, TVs and audio equipment, according to Bloomberg; UK Retail footfall +7.9% W/W in Black Friday week, +2.0% Y/Y, via MRI Software. Deutsche Bank sees the S&P500 ending 2024 at 5,100 (vs Friday's close of 4,559.34). Top European News UK PM Sunak reportedly eyes more tax cuts in spring as he weighs the UK election date, while he also stated in an interview that claims the UK is headed for austerity are unfounded, according to Bloomberg. UK PM Sunak is to highlight almost GBP 30bln of investment pledges by international companies at the Global Investment Summit on Monday which will create thousands of jobs across the UK in the most innovative sectors, including tech, life sciences, renewables, housing and infrastructure, according to the UK government website. UK Lords’ economic affairs committee is advocating for a revision in the accountability mechanisms for the BoE, according to the Times. This call for change is driven by the significant expansion in the Bank's powers and objectives since it gained operational independence 25 years ago. National Infrastructure Commission chair Armitt warned that UK PM Sunak’s funding plan to get private developers to fund an expensive tunnel under London to connect the HS2 line to Euston is set to fail and that the government needs to be ready to fund the core civil engineering for the final miles of the project, according to FT. ECB’s Nagel called on the German government to resolve the budget situation and create budget clarity soon, according to Bloomberg. Nagel also said the ECB's rates were slowing inflation but added that inflation is not yet back down to a level where they want it. EU’s commissioner for jobs and social rights Schmit said EU consumers will have to pay higher prices to cover the costs to provide better rights for gig workers but added that price increases will not kill the industry’s business model, according to FT. BoE Governor Bailey says a lot of the recent fall of inflation is due to the unwinding of energy cost surge, according to ChronicleLive; getting inflation back down to 2% will be hard work. FX Greenback remains top heavy, but DXY derives some support from firmer US Treasury yields within a 103.22-53 range. Loonie undermined by renewed weakness in oil as USD/CAD climbs from 1.3623 to 1.3661. Aussie probes 200-DMA vs Buck and touches 0.6600 on hawkish RBA vibes, Sterling regains 1.2600+ status after another pushback against rate cuts by BoE Governor Bailey. Euro consolidates gains on 1.0900 handle and Yen pares declines from 149.67 in the wake of a pick-up in Japanese producer prices. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1159 vs exp. 7.1461 (prev. 7.1151). Fixed Income Bonds regain recovery momentum after a pull-back and bout of consolidation. Bunds pick up the baton from Gilts within 130.56-16 and 95.90-39 respective ranges. T-note lags between 108-14/06 parameters ahead of front-loaded refunding auctions, US new home sales data and the Dallas Fed Manufacturing Business Index. German gov't spokesperson expects the Cabinet to agree on a supplementary 2023 budget this afternoon. Commodities Crude benchmarks continue to slump, with light newsflow unable to change sentiment; Energy Intel’s Bakr reports African states have not reached a resolution yet with regards to their baselines ahead of the OPEC+ meeting on Thursday. WTI & Brent Jan'24 are under marked pressure, at session lows of USD 74.07/bbl and USD 79.13/bbl respectively. Base Metals are mixed with overall sentiment tentative, whilst Precious Metals remain propped up, with spot Gold holding above the USD 2000/oz level. Iraq’s Oil Ministry said UAE-based Crescent Petroleum won the rights to two oil fields in the country’s 5th oil and gas leasing round, while another company won rights to the Howaiza oil field, according to Reuters. African states have not reached a resolution yet with regards to their baselines and the OPEC+ meeting is still due to take place on November 30th, according to Energy Intel's Bakr. Panama’s Trade Ministry said Canada’s First Quantum sent notifications of intent to begin arbitration proceedings amid protests demanding to scrap the miner’s contract to run a key mine. China's State Planner conducts a survey on price indices for steel and iron ore. Geopolitics Israeli authorities released 39 Palestinian prisoners including 6 women and 33 children as part of the exchange deal with Hamas and Hamas released 17 hostages on Saturday, while it was also reported that more Palestinians were released from Israeli prisons and that Hamas released another 17 captives including 14 Israeli civilians on Sunday which took the total number of prisoners released by Israel to 117 and the total number of captives released by Hamas to 58. The release of hostages was reportedly delayed by seven hours on Saturday after allegations from Hamas including that Israel was not allowing humanitarian aid to reach parts of northern Gaza, while it was separately reported that Israeli media quoted an unnamed security source on Saturday that had warned the military offensive in Gaza would resume unless hostages were released by midnight. Israeli PM Netanyahu spoke with US President Biden and told him Israel will resume the Gaza operation in full force at the end of the truce but would welcome extending the truce if it facilitated the release of ten additional hostages daily, according to Reuters. Hamas announced in a statement on Sunday that it is seeking to extend the truce with Israel if there are serious efforts made to increase the number of Palestinian detainees released from Israel, according to Reuters. Hamas armed wing said on Sunday that 4 of its leaders were killed including the commander of the North Gaza brigade. It was separately reported that the Palestinian Red Crescent said a Palestinian farmer was killed and another was injured on Sunday after they were targeted by Israeli forces in the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza, while the Palestinian health ministry said two Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupation forces in Nablus and Jenin early on Sunday. US President Biden said a 4-year-old American hostage was released by Hamas and they expect additional Americans to be released by Hamas but do not have firm news, while he noted that his goal is to keep the pause in fighting going beyond Monday. US Secretary of State Blinken held a call with Egypt’s Foreign Minister to discuss obstacles threatening Israel’s truce with Hamas and ways to reach a comprehensive ceasefire, according to a statement by Egypt’s foreign ministry cited by Reuters. Qatar’s PM said Hamas must locate dozens of more hostages held in Gaza by civilians and gangs to extend the truce, according to FT. Turkish President Erdogan and Iranian President Raisi discussed in a phone call the importance of taking a stance against Israeli brutality in Palestinian territories, according to Reuters. Syria’s army said air defences intercepted Israeli missiles flying from Golan Heights which put Damascus Airport out of service, according to Reuters. Unidentified armed individuals have seized an Israeli-linked tanker carrying a cargo of phosphoric acid in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, according to Reuters citing the vessel management company and a US official. It was later reported that a US warship responded to a distress call from a chemical tanker taken in the Middle East and the tanker is now safe, while Houthis reportedly fired two ballistic missiles at a US destroyer on Sunday evening which failed to hit the target following the US Navy rescue of the Israeli-linked tanker. Israeli PM Netanyahu's office confirms receipt of the list of detainees held by Hamas to be released in the fourth batch; notes of major problems in the list of those scheduled to be released and intensive negotiations to change it, Al Arabiya reports. Subsequently, Israel is waiting for Hamas' response to extend the truce for two days in exchange for the release of 20 Israelis, via Al Arabiya. "The Israeli army opened fire east of the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip", according to Al Arabiya (Translated via Google); US Event Calendar 10:00: Oct. New Home Sales MoM, est. -4.7%, prior 12.3% 10:00: Oct. New Home Sales, est. 723,000, prior 759,000 10:30: Nov. Dallas Fed Manf. Activity, est. -16.0, prior -19.2 DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap I went out to play golf yesterday and came back to find the house fully decorated for Xmas. A bit early but we're off skiing in only 2 and a half weeks. I also learnt that a fortune has been spent on a new posh huge artificial tree. I've been told that over the long-run it will be more economical. I've entered it all into a spreadsheet and I think the break even point is 2033! My best hope of an earlier breakeven is a burst of tree hyperinflation. From 2033 to 2024, and this morning we've just published our 2024 World Outlook entitled "The Race Against Time...". See it here. Over the last 2-3 years we’ve had a fairly consistent macro narrative, viewing this as a classic policy-led boom-bust cycle that would culminate in a US recession towards the end of 2023. We think our narrative still holds even if the exact timing is more uncertain. Monetary policy famously operates with lags which are highly uncertain in their timing and impact. A US recession before this point would have been early historically relative to the start of the hiking cycle. T he race against time narrative refers to the fact that funding has dried up or tightened considerably over the last couple of years for various parts of economies as rates have risen. Can lending standards loosen, and can yields fall, quickly enough to avoid a funding accident that could see contagion? Non-linearity risk that can turn a mild downturn into a deeper recession remains high . We expect global growth at 2.4% in 2024 (from 3.2% in 2023), with 2.5% generally seen as the upper bound of being deemed to be in a global recession. Even this pace of global growth relies heavily on the EM world with India (+6.0%) and China (+4.7%) big contributors. The lag of policy will help trigger a mild US recession in H1 2024 with 175bps of Fed cuts and 0.6% GDP expected in 2024. The Euro Area is on course for nearly two years of stagnation by mid-2024 when the recovery slowly starts (2024 GDP of 0.2%). The ECB will likely cut 100bps from June to YE 2024. Germany’s 2024 growth has been downgraded around half a percent to -0.2% in the week of this publication due to the Constitutional Court hearing. We also have all our 2024 asset class forecasts updated in the doc. While our economic forecasts for the DM world suggest a sober outlook at best, the next 12 months could see more evidence that AI will revolutionise productivity growth later this decade. So the medium-term future looks more promising than it has done for some time. So try to remember that as the world flirts with recession in 2024. This week has a few data points that will sharpen the forecasts further for economists especially in the US where the personal income and spending data (Thursday) will include the all i mportant core PCE which is of course the Fed's preferred measure of inflation. Elsewhere in the US the highlights are the second reading of Q3 GDP on Wednesday, the ISM manufacturing and Auto Sales (Friday), and Chicago PMI (Thursday). There's also a 2 and 5yr auction today and a 7yr equivalent tomorrow. Supply has been a big mover in recent weeks in both directions so although this is relatively short duration it will give some idea of demand, something that will be consistently needed over the next few months and quarters. In Europe, all eyes will be on the preliminary CPI reports for November on Wednesday and Thursday. There will also be labour market data across key economies in the region on Thursday, and a few sentiment gauges, including consumer confidence indices for Germany and France (tomorrow), as well as the final manufacturing PMIs on Friday. In China, the most important releases will be the November PMIs on Thursday as well as the Caixin manufacturing gauge on Friday after the October prints disappointed. Consensus only expects a slight pick up. It's a busy week in Japan with various labour market and economic activity gauges that you can see in the day-by-day calendar at the end as usual. Central bank speakers include Fed Chair Powell (Friday), ECB President Lagarde (today) and BoE Governor Bailey (Wednesday). More are noted in the day-by-day calendar. Elsewhere the delayed OPEC+ meeting that was expected yesterday is now planned for Thursday. That follows oil price volatility in recent weeks with Brent crude currently hovering near $80.5/bbl, down from nearly $97/bbl at the end of September. Also on Thursday, COP28 will kick off in Dubai, lasting a couple of weeks. So expect plenty of climate headlines. Finally expect more reports of how Black Friday and Cyber Monday went in terms of US retail sales. So far for Black Friday, Mastercard have said sales (ex-autos) were 'only' up +2.5% YoY but split +1.1% for in-store and +8.5% for online. Adobe have confirmed the online sales momentum by suggesting they were up +7.5% and at a record. The only thing i would say is that I've been receiving so many pre-Black Friday emails alerting me to early -60% discounts here and -40% discounts there. So I suspect these sales are happening earlier than they use to so you probably have to look at sales across a longer period now. Asian equity markets are largely lower at the start of the week with the CSI 300 (-1.20%) leading losses followed by the Hang Seng (-0.99%) and the Shanghai Composite (-0.76%) driven by weakness in China’s property stocks. In addition, Chinese industrial profits decreased -7.8% in the January-to-October period from a -9.0% decline in September. The YoY number fell to +2.7% from +11.9% previously. This was probably a bit disappointing given the base effects were impacted by Covid a year ago. Elsewhere, the Nikkei (-0.51%) and KOSPI (-0.20%) are also lower alongside S&P 500 (-0.28%) and NASDAQ 100 (-0.45%) futures. Yields on 10yr USTs (+2.7bps) have moved higher, trading at 4.495% as I type. Finally in terms of Asia data, Japan’s services PPI hit a 45-month high of 2.3% y/y in October (v/s +2.1% expected) after a downwardly revised rate of +2.0% the previous month. Looking back at last week now and markets continued their strong performance with risk assets advancing across the board. In fact, a global 60:40 portfolio of equities and bonds is on track for its best monthly performance in three years since we got the positive vaccine news in November 2020. And on Friday we even saw the VIX index of volatility close at a post-pandemic low of 12.46pts, which gives you a sense of how buoyant markets are right now. In several respects it was a quiet week, with US markets closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, followed by a half-day on Friday. But there was no sign of the more positive sentiment abating, with the S&P 500 up +1.00% (+0.06% Friday) to a 3-month high, whilst the STOXX 600 was up +0.91% (+0.33% Friday) to a 2-month high. Likewise in credit, US HY spreads tightened for a 5th week running, falling -14bps (-5bps Friday) to 375bps. Meanwhile in Europe, the iTraxx crossover index fell -12.2bps (-0.4bps Friday) to its tightest level since April 2022 . The boost in risk appetite meant that the sovereign bond rally stumbled by the end of last week, with investors growing a bit more doubtful about the prospect of near-term rate cuts. That wasn’t helped by the latest US data prints, with the University of Michigan’s indicator of long-term inflation expectations remaining at a 12-year high of 3.2% on the final numbers for November. That doubt about rate cuts was then given further support on Friday from the US flash PMIs, with the composite reading for November remaining at 50.7 (vs. 50.4 expected). Alongside that, central bankers themselves continued to push back on the chance of easier policy anytime soon, and markets lowered the chance of a Fed rate cut by May from 77% to 51% over the week . Against this backdrop, US Treasury yields moved higher last week, with the 10yr yield up +3.1bps (+6.2bps Friday) to 4.47%. There was a similar selloff in Europe too, with yields on 10yr bunds up +5.6bps (+2.5bps Friday) to 2.64%, whilst 10yr gilts saw a sizeable +17.9bps move (+2.7bps Friday) to 4.28%. That followed a fiscal easing from the UK government in the Autumn statement, an upside surprise in the flash PMIs, and then a stronger-than-expected reading on Friday in the GfK’s consumer confidence data. Meanwhile in Germany, the Ifo’s business climate indicator for November came in at a 4-month high of 87.3 (vs. 87.5 expected). However the shock of the Constitutional Court ruling last week will likely impact this going forward and as we saw at the top, this has led our economists to downgrade growth 0.5pp for 2024 versus their thoughts prior to this. Finally, in commodities, oil lost ground for a 5th consecutive week, with Brent crude down -0.04% (-1.03% Friday) to $80.58/bbl. That comes ahead of this week’s meeting of the OPEC+ group, which is now set to happen on Thursday as discussed above. WTI also lost ground, falling -0.46% (-2.02% Friday) to $75.54/bbl. Tyler Durden Mon, 11/27/2023 - 08:21.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytNov 27th, 2023

NewLake Capital Partners, Inc. (PNK:NLCP) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

NewLake Capital Partners, Inc. (PNK:NLCP) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 9, 2023 NewLake Capital Partners, Inc. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.28, expectations were $0.25. Operator: Good morning. I’ll be your conference operator today. At this time, I’d like to welcome everyone to NewLake Capital Partners Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. Today’s […] NewLake Capital Partners, Inc. (PNK:NLCP) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 9, 2023 NewLake Capital Partners, Inc. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.28, expectations were $0.25. Operator: Good morning. I’ll be your conference operator today. At this time, I’d like to welcome everyone to NewLake Capital Partners Third Quarter 2023 Earnings Conference Call. Today’s call is being recorded. I will now turn the call over to Valter Pinto, Managing Director of KCSA Strategic Communications. Please go ahead. Valter Pinto: Thank you, operator. Good morning, and welcome, everyone, to NewLake Capital Partners third quarter 2023 earnings conference call. I’m joined today by Gordon DuGan, Chairman; Anthony Coniglio, President and Chief Executive Officer; Lisa Meyer, Chief Financial Officer; and Jarrett Annenberg, Senior Vice President and Head of Investments. Before we begin, I’d like to remind everyone that statements made during today’s conference call may be deemed forward-looking statements within the meaning of the safe harbor of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and actual results may differ materially due to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors. For a detailed discussion of some of the ongoing risks and uncertainties in the company’s business, I refer you to the press release issued this morning and filed with the SEC on Form 8-K as well as the company’s 10-K, 10-Q and other reports filed periodically with the SEC. The company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. FFO and AFFO are supplemental non-GAAP financial measures using the real estate industry to measure and compare the operating performance of real estate companies. A complete reconciliation containing adjustments from GAAP net income attributable to common shareholders to FFO and AFFO and definitions of terms are included at the end of our press release. Please refer to that release for more information. The company’s guidance is based on current plans and assumptions and subject to risks and uncertainties, more fully described in the company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This outlook reflects management’s view of current and future market conditions, including assumptions such as the pace of future acquisitions and dispositions, rental rates, occupancy levels, leasing activity, uncollectible rents, operating, and general and administrative expenses, weighted average diluted shares outstanding and interest rates. With that, it’s my pleasure to turn the call over to Mr. Gordon DuGan. Gordon, please go ahead. Gordon DuGan: Thank you, Valter, and thank you, everyone, for joining our call today. During a period of volatility in the markets broadly in the cannabis industry specifically, we are pleased with our 2023 third quarter results, which were in line with the guidance we provided last quarter. For the quarter, we maintained our dividend of $0.39 per share, which was well covered with a payout ratio of 82% for the quarter. After a period of increasing our dividend since going public in 2021, we have maintained our dividend during 2023 as we navigate the challenging environment for the cannabis industry. Also during 2023, we have maintained our payout ratio within our previously stated range of 80% to 90%. Our balance sheet remains very strong. Today, we are operating effectively with no leverage and ample capacity to invest in the cannabis sector when we determine that the risk profile and the return dynamics will create value for our investors. Until then, we have taken the opportunity to create value for our shareholders by investing in our own stock at accretive prices during the quarter and authorizing a second $10 million tranche of capital to continue doing so at these levels. We continue to believe in the long-term investment opportunities around cannabis real estate, but we’ll continue to seek opportunities to create value through our repurchase program. It is important to note that we recently announced an amendment with one of our tenants, Revolutionary Clinics. I’m pleased the team was able to diligently work through the issues to get a good outcome for our shareholders. Jarrett will provide more details in a moment. But as we have commented many times, we know there will always be the potential for portfolio issues in the net lease business in general and in the cannabis net lease business specifically and coming up with solutions is important to maximizing value for our shareholders. That’s what we’ve done in the case of Revolutionary Clinics we believe, and we’re pleased to see this property once again generating income for our shareholders and brought to a successful conclusion at this point. More broadly, though, the cannabis industry continues to work through this period of retrenchment. And I applaud those tenants of ours that have worked hard to address not only their cost structure, but near-term debt maturities and in one case, issuing equity to pay off debt. I continue to believe this period of difficulty will serve to separate the wheat from the chaff and the survivors will be long-term winners in this sector. While headwinds remain, I continue to believe in the long-term growth prospects for the industry and see potential catalysts in the form of DEA rescheduling and the recently filed lawsuit, by the industry challenging the federal government’s ability to regulate interstate commerce for cannabis. While these initiatives take time, it is undeniable that the march towards a more constructive federal regulatory scheme continues. With that, I’ll turn it over to Anthony. Anthony Coniglio : Thank you, Gordon, and welcome, everyone. I’m very pleased with our Q3 results and in particular, our recent announcement regarding Revolutionary Clinics, where we had a choice to either evict and retenant the building or find a path forward with the tenant. Revolutionary Clinics is one of the wholesalers in Massachusetts and has some of the leading brands to distribute, particularly Kiva, a leading edibles brand, not to mention two new adult use dispensaries opened in the past 6 months. We believe a revitalized Revolutionary Clinics with a fresh third-party capital that they have raised is the path that will provide the best return for our investors. Notably, we have the opportunity to participate in equity upside in Revolutionary Clinics via the warrants we own as a result of the transaction. We also announced today that while Calypso did not make its weekly October rent payments, they have resumed their weekly payments in November. And Jarrett will discuss more on this in a moment. Turning to our quarterly results. During the third quarter, we generated AFFO of $10.1 million or $0.47 per diluted share. As Gordon mentioned, we bought approximately $9.3 million of our own stock and now have authorization for another $10 million to continue doing so. Our stock purchases thus far this year have resulted in more than 3% accretion to book value and AFFO per share. For our shareholders, myself and our insiders included, we would obviously prefer that our stock reflects the value of our portfolio. However, at these levels, we will continue to take advantage of the opportunity to create value by investing in our own stock. Turning to some developments on the federal front. United States Department of Health and Human Services responded to President Biden’s request by recommending to the DEA a rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3. If this does occur, the onerous taxation on cannabis industry in the form of IRS Code 280E would be removed. This would provide significant cash flow relief for the industry moving forward, which in turn would be a meaningful improvement in the credit profile of our tenant base. It’s hard to predict the outcome or the timing of this taking in place. Therefore, we’re not basing any decisions on this potential catalyst. But we do share the industry’s optimism that this could become a reality in 2024. On previous calls, we’ve discussed the SAFE Banking Bill. That bill has since been revised and is now known as the SAFER Banking Bill. During late September, the Senate Banking Committee passed the bill out of committee on a bipartisan basis. While SAFE had passed the house seven times, this is the first time the cannabis banking legislation passed out of a Senate Committee. This is a positive step for sure, but we still see a difficult path for the bill to become law before next year’s election cycle. I actually think one of the more interesting developments in the cannabis sector is the lawsuit recently filed on behalf of a group of industry participants against the federal government. The lawsuit challenges the ability of the federal government to use the Controlled Substances Act to regulate intrastate commerce regarding cannabis. I won’t go into detail here, but I do invite you to consider this lawsuit in the context of cannabis cases in some of the circuit courts, including a pending case in Florida. Given this activity and potential conflicting opinions amongst federal circuit courts, we actually believe that there’s a viable chance cannabis makes it to the Supreme Court. And in fact, Justice Thomas seems to invite the challenge in a statement he wrote in connection with the court’s decision not to hear a cannabis case in 2021 where Justice Thomas said that the federal ban on cultivation and use of marijuana within states may no longer, in his words, “May no longer be necessary or proper.” And he also noted that the inconsistent enforcement led to traps for marijuana businesses. So this legal strategy for sure will take time to play out, but it is another important opportunity for the industry to close that state and federal gap, without waiting for action from the legislative branch. Additionally, I’d like to comment about Ohio. Ohio held a ballot referendum yesterday on Tuesday to approve adult use cannabis sales in the state. The measure passed with nearly 57% of voters supporting the measure. Ohio will become the 24th state to legalize adult use and we expect the program to launch in late 2024 or early 2025. This outcome shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that Gallup announced yesterday that 70% of U.S. adults believe cannabis should be legal. Consider that in the past 12 months, you have had Missouri, Maryland and now Ohio approve adult use, adding a combined population of 24 million people to the adult use market. Today, more than half of our country resides in a state with adult use cannabis. The march towards a legalized market is firmly in place, which will only serve to strengthen the credit quality of our tenant base and expand our growth opportunities. And with that, I’ll turn the call over to Jarrett. Aerial view of a neighborhood with houses and a real estate brokerage office. Jarrett Annenberg: Thanks, Anthony. I’ll be covering our current portfolio, including further details on Rev Clinics and Calypso as well as activity in the third quarter and outlook for the rest of the year. In regard to our current portfolio, I’ll start with Revolutionary Clinics. As Anthony and Gordon noted, we finalized the lease amendment and forbearance agreement subsequent to quarter end on the 145,000 square foot property we own in Massachusetts. To provide more color, under the terms of the agreement, the lease was extended by 5 years. NewLake received $480,000 of previously unpaid rent and applied the remaining $315,000 of security deposit to rent, all of which will be recognized as income in the fourth quarter. Additionally, NewLake has received the reduced contractual rent payments for October and November. While we do not disclose individual lease terms, the reduced rental payments will represent approximately 6.1% of scheduled fourth quarter contractual income. The rent payments may escalate in the event Rev Clinics hits certain gross revenue metrics. Under the forbearance agreement, NewLake provided forbearance for approximately $2 million of back rental income. These amounts come due and payable in the event of a future default. Lastly, we received 9.95% of equity in Rev Clinics in the form of warrants. Anthony also mentioned that Calypso did not pay weekly rent in October, but is back to paying on a weekly cadence in November. As we’ve noted, each of the past few quarters, Calypso has been weathering a difficult Pennsylvania market for independent operators and has been paying rent on a weekly schedule since the first quarter to better match their cash flow. While we still believe that the Calypso sale will be finalized, we are also encouraged by the recent movement in the Pennsylvania legislature with a bill that would provide dispensaries to independent operators in the state. This verticality would be very helpful for Calypso and has already driven additional interest in the asset in the event the currently proposed transaction is not executed. One additional portfolio update is the sale of an industrial facility that was leased to The Mint in Massachusetts. This was a mutual decision made with The Mint in response to the difficult environment in Massachusetts and Mint’s desire to focus on its existing footprint, including growth in their home state of Arizona, where they have 6 operational stores. Our basis in the Massachusetts property was $1.95 million and we sold the property for $2 million. The remaining $3 million in TI allowance that was to be used for the build out of Massachusetts was moved to The Mint’s cultivation facility in Phoenix earlier this year. As a refresher, we purchased a property in Phoenix, Arizona with The Mint for the build out of 100,000 square foot cultivation and processing facility. As of quarter end, we’ve invested $15.3 million of the $21 million committed to the property, with construction scheduled to be completed during the first quarter of 2024. As of September 30th, we have committed a total of $425 million across 17 dispensaries, 14 cultivation facilities in 12 states with 13 tenants, inclusive of one tenant that has been provided with the loan along with the sale leaseback, representing approximately 1.6 million square feet covered. Our basis in the retail properties is $389 per square foot and cultivation properties is $252 per square foot. Both metrics are well below replacement cost. 64% of our fully committed capital is with publicly traded operators. 92.5% is committed to properties in which the tenant is vertically integrated in the state. EBITDA coverage for the latest available quarter at our properties was 4x for cultivation and 9.8x for dispensaries. While these are decreases from the previous quarter of 0.5x and 1x, respectively, they are within the standard deviation over the past 6 quarters. Please note that we use estimates where appropriate given each company reports slightly differently on a property level basis. Moving to capital deployment. In the third quarter, we disbursed $2.6 million of tenant improvement allowance. As of September 30th, we had approximately $20.2 million in unfunded commitments, which is almost entirely comprised of The Mint and C3 transactions. As I mentioned, we expect The Mint, which represents $5.7 million of TI outstanding, to be finished in Q1 and C3, which represents $13.7 million to be completed over the next 9 months. Taking a step back, the industry continues to work through growing pains as operators work on efficiencies and focused on balance sheet management. That said, we are encouraged to see stabilization in states that saw significant price compression and new markets showing signs of strength. The U.S. average wholesale price for indoor flower is now closer to $1,400 per pound, up from just over $1,300 per pound last quarter. As far as new markets, Maryland launched adult use sales in July and total sales in the state for the third quarter were over $270 million. Missouri, which commenced adult use sales in February and where we own 2 cultivation facilities, is on pace to eclipse $1.2 billion in total sales for 2023. Both markets were set up for success, with medical operators transitioning to adult use, providing proper supply and retail outlets for consumers. We also continue to see growth in states that were slower to start, like Connecticut, which crossed the $25 million a month in sales in September. We expect to see continued growth as more dispensaries come online, combined with Connecticut’s recent increase on sale limitations per customer. For potential new markets, as Anthony mentioned, voters in Ohio voted in favor of adult use sales, making it the 24th state to do so. On Tuesday, Virginia’s House and Senate both turned Democratic, which could revive the adult use market in the state. Additionally, in Kentucky, Andy Beshear won his reelection campaign for governor. Governor Beshear signed a law back in March for medical use in Kentucky with the program slated to start in 2025. All that said, our capital deployment continues to be at a slower pace, given that operators are focused on existing operations, states have been slower to launch and the interest rate environment has continued to put pressure on the cost of capital. With that, I’ll hand it over to our CFO, Lisa Meyer, to walk through our financial results in more detail. Lisa Meyer : Thank you, Jarrett. For the third quarter of 2023, our portfolio generated total revenue of $11.5 million, a decrease of 4.9% compared to the same period in 2022. The decrease was mainly driven by the nonpayment of rent from Revolutionary Clinics during the third quarter, which was approximately $1.3 million and we applied 25% or $315,000 from their security deposit to partially offset the decrease in rental revenue. As mentioned earlier on the call, the company entered into a lease amendment and a forbearance agreement after quarter end, and Revolutionary Clinics is current on its rental payments under the amended lease. The decrease in total revenue for the third quarter of 2023 when compared to the same period in 2022 was partially offset by $600,000 of rental income generated from property acquisitions, tenant improvement allowances at existing properties, including the development and expansion of our Arizona and Missouri cultivation facilities, as well as annual rent escalation. Net income attributable to common shareholders for the third quarter of 2023 decreased to $6.1 million, a decrease of 8.4% when compared to net income attributable to common shareholders of $6.6 million for the same period in 2022. On a sequential basis, our financial results in the third quarter of 2023 were relatively flat from the second quarter of 2023. Our rent collection for the third quarter of 2023 was in line with our guidance of 92%, reflecting Revolutionaries Clinic’s delinquency. Our portfolio continues to perform well and in line with our expectations, which is a direct result of the quality of our investments. For the third quarter of 2023, our portfolio generated FFO of $9.6 million or $0.45 per diluted share, AFFO of $10.1 million or $0.47 per diluted share. We are maintaining our AFFO guidance for the full year of 2023 of $39.8 million to $40.8 million. We declared a cash dividend of $0.39 per common share, and our dividend was fully supported by the earnings power of our portfolio with Q3 payout ratio of 81.6%. The dividend was paid on October 13 of 2023 to stockholders of record at the close of business on September 30, 2023, equivalent to $1.56 per share of common stock. Also, in the third quarter, to improve shareholder value, pursuant to our stock repurchase program, we acquired 608,152 shares of common stock. We amended our existing program to repurchase an additional $10 million of our outstanding common stock and extended the program through December 31, 2024. As of September 30, 2023, we acquired 713,831 shares of our common stock at an average price of $12.96 per share. The remaining availability under the program at September 30, 2023 was approximately $10.7 million. On September 30, 2023, we continued to have a strong balance sheet with $403 million in gross real estate assets and a total debt of only $2 million. We have $89 million available on our revolving credit facility, and we believe the company is well positioned to execute on our business strategy to grow earnings for investors as we deploy that capital. And now I will turn the call over to the operator for Q&A. See also 10 Best Performing Small Cap ETFs in 2022 and 12 Defensive Healthcare Dividend Stocks. Q&A Session Follow Newlake Capital Partners Inc. Follow Newlake Capital Partners 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 is from Pablo Zuanic with Zuanic & Associates. Pablo Zuanic : Anthony, obviously on the reform front, a lot of good news, right, tailwinds and you highlighted them all. Something that’s new to some extent. Is that some companies including some of your clients are speaking publicly about changing the way they think about their tax liabilities. So they are going to pay the corporate tax and other 280 tax and they will even ask for rebates for prior years. And people are thinking about that in different ways obviously. But I’m just thinking from your perspective, how do you think about that from a credit evaluation perspective or you’re just agnostic to that? Anthony Coniglio: No. We’re certainly not agnostic. When we underwrite, we look at those liabilities and we have to assume that those liabilities will come due. We haven’t seen anybody in their published results actually state that they have a lower tax liability. I think that might be going a step too far. But we consider the full federal 280E liability in the way we underwrite the sector. Pablo Zuanic : And now, in terms of a share repurchase program, yes, nice to see that going on, but it’s also a reflection of the opportunities out there, right? So to some extent, given all these tailwinds that you highlighted and more states going recreational, I would assume that there’s more better quality opportunities out there. So you have more opportunities to deploy capital in new loans as opposed to repurchasing shares. Can you just try to reconcile the two? Anthony Coniglio: Yes. Our guiding light and our guiding principle is creating value for shareholders. And when we look at the evolving cost of capital for us and everyone across the industry and relative to the risk profile of the opportunities we’re looking at, we’re going to consistently look to make sure we’re making the right decision to create that value for shareholders. And right now with such volatility in capital markets, although I think it is difficult to have a high degree of confidence that with some of the recent lowered expectations for pricing out of the industry because they think that hope is around the corner for federal reform, it’s hard in some cases to see the pricing on the opportunity to meet the pricing for us to create value relative to the share buyback program that you mentioned. Pablo Zuanic : One last one. I mean given all that and given the context where we are, right, which is still challenging, but let’s say light at the end of the tunnel, and a lot of positive tailwinds. I’m just trying to understand the competition that you face, say, in a place like Maryland that’s supposed — obviously sales more than double, right, potential for reforming in Pennsylvania and Ohio, how the operators there that supposedly some of them will want to expand and are looking for capital, when they talk to you in terms of your niche, in terms of lending, are you in a better position compared to other types of lenders out there that follow, let’s say, a different model or in a weaker position? Just trying to understand the competitive dynamics in terms of your model versus others in the current context when you’re pitching to someone saying in Maryland, which would be an attractive state with good economics, of course, and growth potential? Anthony Coniglio: Yes. There have been relatively no new entrants into what we do, or providing capital around real estate opportunities in the cannabis sector. No new entrants for at least 12 to 24 months that that I’m aware of any scale. And so from a competitive standpoint, there are only a couple of us that do what we do and can do it in scale. And when we look at the amount of available capital out there for whether it be sale leaseback or even loans, it’s a fairly limited set of providers. So when opportunities exist, I can’t say that we see every opportunity in the industry, but we see just about every opportunity in the industry. As far as funding some of these new growth markets, you’re absolutely right. We spent a lot of time quantifying what the needed cultivation square footage is on a state by state basis as well as the need for retail, capacity on a state by state basis......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyNov 11th, 2023

Student-loan forgiveness and cheaper monthly payments are on the line as the GOP"s plan to slash Education Department funding moves forward

House Republicans are proposing to cut Federal Student Aid's budget by $264 million. It would pose even more hurdles to student-loan borrowers. President Joe Biden is joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesHouse Republicans proposed a bill to cut funding for the Education Department.It would strain already tight resources to facilitate the new income-driven repayment plan.It could also heighten repayment challenges like poor customer service.Funding cuts could be coming for the Education Department, and key programs for student-loan borrowers are at risk.So far, the House Appropriations Committee has passed seven of its 12 bills to fund federal agencies in the upcoming fiscal year. The committee released details for one of the remaining bills — the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill — and the proposed budget cuts are significant.When it comes to Federal Student Aid specifically, which oversees student-loan repayment and servicing, the committee's cuts could put programs many borrowers rely on at risk. The committee wants to fund FSA at $1.8 billion, which is $264 million below its current level and nearly $884 million below what Biden requested.The committee targeted a range of the Education Department's recent initiatives to provide relief to borrowers, including streamlining the process for borrower defense to repayment, which is a program that allows borrowers to file claims if they believe they were defrauded by the school they attended, and if approved, their loans would be wiped out. The GOP lawmakers said their bills includes legislative language "prohibiting funding" for improving that process.Similarly, the committee said it would not include more funding to facilitate the department's new SAVE income-driven repayment plan intended to make monthly payments cheaper for borrowers.These funding cuts would come just over a month into federal student-loan borrowers' return to repayment after an over three-year pause. In October, borrowers' bills starting becoming due again, and millions of them have been faced with a range of errors including late billing statements and inaccurate information on their accounts.Both servicers and the Education Department have previously noted that increased funding for FSA is crucial to ensure there are sufficient resources to manage the unprecedented transition back into repayment. The GOP appropriations lawmakers, however, wrote that the "Department diverted taxpayer resources for its partisan, costly student loan policies, when it needed to be preparing for an orderly resumption of Federal student loan payments.""The Department repeatedly delayed the return to loan repayment, which generated uncertainty and undermined a timely and orderly restart of loan payments," they wrote.Top Republican on the House education committee Virginia Foxx also previously told Insider she did not think FSA needed more funding to ensure things run smoothly for borrowers, saying that "the department needs to live within its means and be fortunate that it has the funding that it has right now because every department in the federal government is overfunded, in my opinion."Regardless, the issue of funding remains a top concern. Deputy Under Secretary of Education Ben Miller said during a debt relief negotiation session on Tuesday that "the department's been seeking funding increases for Federal Student Aid and we are not in the position where we have significant resources to add large numbers of staff, either in house or on a contract basis, to do lots of additional work streams."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 8th, 2023

Republicans are desperate for attention — and it"s decimating their ability to govern

"What's actually going on is that we live in a new media ecosystem," Sen. JD Vance told Insider. "Is it good for governance? I don't know." Chelsea Jia Feng/InsiderIf only they cared.In the end, the only man who could unify House Republicans behind him was a relatively little-known and mild-mannered evangelical Christian from Louisiana.But the 22 days that led up to Rep. Mike Johnson's election as speaker were anything but calm, bringing fresh convulsions and drama with each passing day as the cantankerous GOP conference forced three successive nominees to withdraw their candidacies.With a speaker now safely in place, the House is quickly getting back to its old ways: taking up resolutions to censure and potentially even expel its members as soon as next Wednesday.As the speaker saga wore on, it provoked questions among some House Republicans: How could it be that they had failed to elect a speaker for so long? Why wasn't winning the party's nomination enough to claim the gavel? And why did it feel like there were no consequences for stepping out of line in the first place?Many of them laid the blame squarely on Rep. Matt Gaetz. When the Florida congressman took what felt like an unimaginable step — triggering a successful vote to boot Kevin McCarthy from the speakership — it typified the kind of attention-hungry bomb-throwing that has become routine in certain corners of Congress."It's disgusting," an infuriated Rep. Garrett Graves of Louisiana declared in a floor speech, brandishing a fundraising appeal from the Florida congressman on his phone. —The Recount (@therecount) October 3, 2023 While Gaetz maintains otherwise, his angry GOP colleagues have plenty of evidence to make their case that it was an attention ploy. The Florida congressman records a podcast called "Firebrand" on a near-weekly basis, occasionally guest-hosts right-wing news shows, and shamelessly fundraises off of his hardline tactics in Congress.The chaos that parked itself in the Speaker's chair was, for the nihilists among us, entertaining. But it also underscored an unavoidable conclusion: lawmakers have come to relish their roles as carnival barkers, building their schedules around cable news TV hits while integrating theatrics and fundraising pitches into what's supposed to be the mundane work of legislating."You see it every day here, right?" Sen. Thom Tillis told me. "You see it in the made-for-TV comments in committee meetings that have, oftentimes, little or nothing to do with the subject matter of the meeting."The North Carolina Republican played a major role in last year's effort to primary Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who infamously told colleagues that he "built my staff around comms rather than legislation." Tillis fretted that attention-grabbing has "become part of a business model for people here."Rep. Matt Gaetz surrounded by reporters and cameras after the House voted to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesRepublicans in particular seem to increasingly prefer the influence that comes through online virality and media coverage over the institutional power that can take years of hard work to accrue. And it's corroding the party's ability to govern.As crises erupted or continued overseas, and the mid-November deadline for averting a government shutdown drew ever closer, the party busied itself with defenestrating speaker nominee after speaker nominee."The 24-hour news cycle," Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina lamented on Twitter, "has destroyed Congress." 'A worthy topic of consideration'"I'm wearing the scarlet letter," Rep. Nancy Mace recently declared after exiting a GOP conference meeting, eagerly turning toward the assembled reporters with a wide smile on her face. The bright red "A," she explained, represented her plight: "Being a woman up here, and being demonized for my vote and for my voice."One week earlier, the South Carolina congresswoman voted to oust McCarthy, and she had received more ridicule than the other seven Republicans who did the same thing. But during her nearly three years in Congress, Mace has mastered the art of generating media coverage for herself, most often by telling reporters outside the House chamber that her party's latest major legislative initiative was too extreme, only to walk inside and vote with the party anyway. The giant red "A" emblazoned across her shirt was simply the latest stunt.To hear her tell it, however, she never meant to make such a splash. "I'm actually surprised it got the amount of attention it did," she told me as we walked down a basement hallway beneath the Capitol. It was a firetruck red "A," I told her. Of course it was going to draw attention."I know, but not — it got way more than it should have," she said. Then she was gone, rounding the corner towards the latest House Republican conference meeting, where a throng of reporters and cameras awaited.Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters while wearing a bright red “A” across her shirt on October 10, 2023.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesIt's part of the playbook: Deny you are doing what you are very clearly, in fact, doing. And Mace isn't the only lawmaker guilty of it. "That sounds like a worthy topic of consideration," Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — a frequent presence on Fox News who parlayed his infamous January 6 election objection into a gangbuster fundraising quarter — told me when I asked him how he thought about his party's relationship with the media. "I can't say I've given it much."For decades, a celebrity industrial complex has slowly developed around the GOP. Ronald Reagan, after all, was a Hollywood actor before he became the governor of California. Though it has become somewhat trite to talk about Donald Trump's presidency as the culmination of that model of politics, the simple fact is that he demonstrated its success — at least electorally.The revolving door — the method by which lawmakers use their political platforms to set themselves up for success after they leave office — isn't new. (Hello, Nicole Wallace and a large chunk of the Obama administration.) But for Republicans, there's much to be gained from having one's name in the headlines, including invitations to conservative conferences where you're treated like a rock star, the chance to write books that make you a fat chunk of change, and the possibility that whenever you get bored with the hard work of governing, there may be an empty seat prepared for you in conservative media.In other words, it provides an alternative set of benefits that encourage a retreat into the echo chamber rather than attempts to actually do the work.'Is it good for governance? I don't know'There's also a more immediate reason to pursue this route: raising money.For years, the Republican Party has relied on what Sen. JD Vance of Ohio called the "traditional, old-guard fundraising base" — wealthy industry titans, corporate PACs, and other business-aligned entities. It's a system that does not require its participants to possess a massive celebrity platform, but rather a willingness to quietly advance the interests of whoever's footing the bill.But as the party continues in its populist, Trumpian direction, those relationships have begun to fray, and Republicans are increasingly doing what Democrats have long successfully done: seeking out more modest contributions from a broader swath of ideologically driven donors."What's actually going on is that we live in a new media ecosystem," Vance told me. "That media ecosystem influences a very new and different fundraising environment that's more built around small-dollar donors than large-dollar donors, so there's a lot of political disruption." Vance is saying the quiet part out loud: the theatrics and stunts that characterize much of the activity taking place within the Capitol are about fundraising.Sens. Ted Cruz and JD Vance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March 2023.AP Photo/Jose Luis MaganaThere's evidence to suggest that the small-dollar donor economy is driving radicalization on the right. One recent study even found a negative correlation between corporate PAC contributions and election denialism — the more corporate cash they got, the less likely they were to object to the 2020 election results on January 6. What someone like Mace is doing, then, is clumsily trying to adopt the fundraising model that made Reps. Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene the biggest Republican fundraisers outside of party leadership during the 2022 cycle."You're damn right I'm fundraising off of this," Mace told Fox News during a television hit from inside the Cannon House Office Building, "because the establishment is coming after me for taking a principled stand." (The South Carolina congresswoman went on to violate House ethics rules by asking viewers to contribute to her campaign.)"Is it good for governance? I don't know," Vance said of the new viral fundraising paradigm. "I think it's inevitable, so we have to figure out how to make it good for governance." 'Attention is not an end'Republicans have a monopoly on neither splashy fundraising nor the pull of celebrity. Democratic senators infamously fundraised off of the 2018 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and former Biden administration officials like Jen Psaki and Symone Sanders secured shows on MSNBC before the president's first term was even over.The attention economy doesn't preclude an ability to govern — an effective politician might seek to harness their celebrity towards worthy ends. But it's been far more disruptive for Republicans than Democrats.  "Attention is not an end, it's a means," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told me. "I think what they struggle with is understanding what their ends are."Even a single tweet from Ocasio-Cortez has the potential to generate headlines, yet she has remained a team player for Democrats, to the chagrin of some on the left. Generally speaking, the congresswoman tries to be intentional about how she wields that influence."Everything about this place is about choosing when you're going to fight and choosing when you're going to conserve," she told me. "For that to happen, you need to have things that really matter to you."Republicans would, perhaps rightly, protest that they do have things that matter to them, and things that they hope to change about the country. At the same time, the only major policy change that the party was able to muster during its most recent shot at unified government was a modest set of changes to the tax code.Perhaps it's simply a matter of identity: Republicans are dispositionally less interested in the proper functioning of the government. Reps. Kelly Armstrong and Adam Schiff do simultaneously TV hits from the Cannon rotunda in July 2021.Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesAhead of last month's potential government shutdown, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia said at a press conference that "most of what we do up here is bad anyway" and that most people "won't even miss it if the government is shut down temporarily." And speaking recently in a Twitter Space, Gaetz said that the protracted nature of the quest to find a new speaker — which had stalled any movement of legislation through the House — had a "silver lining" in that it prevented more Ukraine aid from getting approved.'How to be more relevant'As I made my way around the Hill, chasing after lawmakers to ask them whether members of their party had become too camera-hungry, it often felt like there was a breaking-the-fourth-wall dynamic at play. Many Republican lawmakers immediately flipped my questions back toward me, arguing that the media itself is the problem."I guess I shouldn't be talking to you, then," Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado quipped, while Hawley deadpanned that "you guys are generally a very negative influence.""If you guys continue to give airtime and platform to folks like that, don't be shocked then that that's what people do," Rep. Mike Lawler of New York said.Yet Republicans have agency in all of this, and what has happened over time is not simply a story of well-meaning people responding to perverse incentives, but of Republicans seeing those incentives and consciously deciding to take advantage of them."They're doing it for the purposes of exposure and money," Tillis said. "If there is a long-term goal in mind, boy, I'd like them to reveal it at some point, because I've been here for eight and a half years, and I've seen people like them come and go."Rep. Ken Buck speaks to reporters outside the Capitol on May 31, 2023.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesSome have adapted to the terrain better than others. Take Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for example — a failed presidential candidate who created an entire media ecosystem and brand around himself, the crown jewel of which is a thrice-weekly podcast called "Verdict" that Cruz once told me is a "critical part of the job.""I think we have a responsibility to engage in the arena of ideas," said Cruz. "That being said, simply being in the media for publicity's sake is not a worthwhile goal." (Unfortunately, Cruz didn't name names.)Buck, one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, raised eyebrows last month after the New York Post reported that he was eyeing a gig as a CNN contributor. The Colorado congressman had become an outspoken opponent of the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, and ditching Capitol Hill for cable news seemed to fit with the narrative that he's becoming the next Liz Cheney.Buck denied the framing of that story, telling me that he simply wanted to know how to get booked on TV "if I've got an important point I want to make.""I talked to executives, producers, others about how to get on TV more, and how to be more relevant," he said. "And then I also said, at some point, I'm gonna be leaving Congress. And you know, what does that look like?"Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 28th, 2023

Home prices are dropping in Las Vegas. Here are 5 of the cheapest homes for sale right now — all under $300K.

While Las Vegas saw a large amount of growth in recent years, the median home price there has fallen over the last year. There are some affordable homes in Las Vegas, Nevada right now, as prices have fallen over the last year.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock Las Vegas home prices are finally starting to drop, following a pandemic real estate boom. The median listing home price as of August 2023 was $456,848, down 2.7% from August 2022. There are two and three-bedroom homes available for well under $300,000. Home prices are finally starting to drop in Las Vegas, as the real estate market cools down after a pandemic boom.The housing market in Las Vegas defied projections during the pandemic, thriving when many analysts predicted that it would plummet. Out-of-state buyers, many from California, drove up home prices, while government aid helped keep foreclosures low.Now the moment has come for prospective buyers looking at Vegas real estate who've just been waiting for prices to drop. The median listing home price as of August 2023 was $456,848, down 2.7% from August 2022, Insider previously reported.That's not to say that buyers aren't interested in moving to Vegas, though. The city recently came out on top of a list of most popular destinations for relocating homebuyers in a study by real estate company Redfin, while other major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York saw the biggest outflow. And according to Redfin, a typical home in Las Vegas costs costs less than half as much as one in San Francisco, Seattle, or LA, the most common cities that relocating buyers are from. Though the median home price was about $450,000 in Las Vegas, there are plenty of much less expensive options for those on a tighter budget. Read on to see five of the cheapest homes on the market in Las Vegas right now, all under $300,000.1. Three-bed, two-bath — West Las Vegas: $289,999The home has an attached two-car garage.TrinaMarie Shaw, Signature Real Estate Group/Keith Diamond PhotosStarting off the list is this three-bedroom, two-bath single story home in the West Las Vegas neighborhood. It's located in a gated community, which has a communal pool, jacuzzi, and clubhouse, as well as a patrolling security guard. The home has only had one other previous owner, according to the agent's description on Realtor.com, At 1,096 square feet, it's also the largest of the homes on this list.  The entry area connects to the living room, which has lots of natural light.The living room is airy, with lots of natural light.TrinaMarie Shaw, Signature Real Estate Group/Keith Diamond PhotosThere are ceiling fans throughout the home to help you beat the Las Vegas heat — temperature highs in the summer can hit well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A heat wave this past July sent some people to the hospital just for touching the pavement. The living room connects to the kitchen.The kitchen has ample counter space.TrinaMarie Shaw, Signature Real Estate Group/Keith Diamond PhotosIf you're not eating out at one of Las Vegas' popular all-you-can-eat buffets, there's plenty of room at home to cook (or heat up food in the microwave).The primary bedroom is spacious, with a walk-in closet.The primary bedroom also has an en suite bathroom.TrinaMarie Shaw, Signature Real Estate Group/Keith Diamond PhotosThe home is within 20 minutes driving distance from the Las Vegas Strip, which includes classic attractions like casinos, massive hotels, botanical gardens, aquariums, and venues for shows. It's also close to Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, and T-Mobile Arena, home of the city's NHL team.The home has a covered patio area outside and a backyard.When it's not too hot out, there's plenty of space to spend time outside.TrinaMarie Shaw, Signature Real Estate Group/Keith Diamond PhotosFor when you decide to travel, the home is also not far from the North Las Vegas airport.2. Two-bed, 2 1⁄2-bath — Alexander Park: $289,990The two-story home is in a gated community.Motion PropertiesThe second home on this list is 1,017 square feet and newly remodeled, with new flooring, carpets, and fresh coats of paint throughout the home. It has an attached one-car garage, and is in a gated community. The kitchen is separated from a living or dining space by a half wall.The living space adjacent to the kitchen has a door to the patio outside.Motion PropertiesLas Vegas has a buzzy dining scene, from high-end fine dining restaurants to more casual spots to eat — there are hundreds of restaurants to choose from on the Las Vegas strip alone.The upstairs has a balcony that overlooks the neighborhood.There's a view of the surrounding neighborhood and mountains from the upstairs balcony.Motion PropertiesAnd of course, Las Vegas is famous for its nightlife, from nightclubs (and dayclubs) to its many shows and concerts.3. Two-bed, two-bath — Whitney: $290,000The home is located in a gated 55+ community.Joan Kilton, Keller Williams Realty Las Vegas/Wild Dog DigitalThis one story home is located in the gated 55+ Silver Springs community, which has a clubhouse with a fitness center and entertainment space, along with a pool and spa. It's located next to Clark County wetlands park, which has walking trails, ponds, and areas for bird watching. The house also has solar panels on the roof. The kitchen and living room have an open-concept floor plan.The kitchen has relatively new appliances.Joan Kilton, Keller Williams Realty Las Vegas/Wild Dog DigitalThe home is also a relatively close drive from Lake Mead, which has seen receding water levels over the last few years.The primary bedroom has a walk-in closet and en suite bathroom.The bathroom has a walk-in shower and granite countertops.Joan Kilton, Keller Williams Realty Las Vegas/Wild Dog DigitalWhen the weather isn't too hot, there are plenty of places to spend time outdoors, both in Las Vegas and in the state of Nevada. There's Great Basin National Park and Spirit Mountain, a sacred Indigenous site in Nevada that was designated a national monument earlier this year. In addition to the community's outdoor space, the home has its own patio and yard in the back.There's a private space for grilling and entertaining.Joan Kilton, Keller Williams Realty Las Vegas/Wild Dog DigitalNevada is a popular state for retirees: it saw more than a 57% increase in its senior population from 2007 to 2017, Insider previously reported, which might be in part due to the state's generous tax policies.4. Two- bed, 1 1⁄2-bath — Sunrise Manor: $279,900The home is located in the Sunrise Manor neighborhood.Realty ONEThis is the most affordable home on this list — at just under $280K, it's not much more than half the median price of homes in the city. It features recent upgrades, according to the listing agent, and stainless steel appliances. At the back of the house is a patio and additional outdoor space.The home has an open kitchen and living space, with easy access to the patio outside.The living room is open-concept.Realty ONELas Vegas gets most of its water from the Colorado River, which is at historically low levels — to balance economic growth with water conservation, the city is asking new and expanding businesses to show how much water they plan to use before green-lighting them. There are ceiling fans throughout the home, and washer/dryer units.The bedrooms are relatively spacious.Realty ONEThe tourism, gaming, and entertainment industries make up a big part of the Las Vegas economy. One prominent investment manager, Jim Chanos, previously told Insider that Las Vegas Strip revenue is a pretty good economic indicator for the behavior of US consumers. In other words, if Americans are still hitting the casinos, that could be a sign that the US economy is still solid.Both bathrooms have clean layouts with lots of storage.The house has 1 1⁄2 bathrooms.Realty ONESome jobs in Las Vegas might soon face automation, though — AI is being used instead of humans for some jobs at restaurants, bars, casinos, and other attractions, Insider previously reported. 5. Two-bed, one-bath — Crestwood: $289,000This home is in the Crestwood neighborhood of Vegas.Very Vintage Vegas RealtyThis ranch-style home is the closest to Downtown Las Vegas and the Las Vegas strip. It doesn't have a garage, but there's a carport to protect your car from the hot sun.The living room features a ceiling fan, fireplace, and colorful green and yellow walls.The living room of the home is spacious.Very Vintage Vegas RealtyA new dome-shaped entertainment arena recently opened near the Strip called the Sphere — it has massive internal and external screens that offer wild visuals and optical illusions. It's 366 feet tall and 516 feet wide, has 168,000 speakers, and features a wrap-around LED screen for immersive visuals, Insider previously reported. It's just a 16-minute drive away from this home.The bedrooms are also decorated in bright, cheerful colors.There are ceiling fans throughout the home.Very Vintage Vegas RealtyLas Vegas is home to some of Yelp's most photographed restaurants, a list that includes Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen, the Bacchanal Buffet, Vanderpump à Paris, and Catch.The home has a large outdoor space with a covered patio area, yard, and shed.The backyard is shaded by neighboring trees.Very Vintage Vegas RealtyThere are plenty of things to do in Las Vegas as a local though, away from the tourists at the Strip. There's the botanical garden at Springs Preserve, where you can wander the paths and learn about native plants and wildlife, Lake Las Vegas, and plenty of restaurants and nightlife that don't involve the strip.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 26th, 2023