FILE PHOTO: A man looks at an electronic board showing the Nikkei stock index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
April 25, 2019
By Tom Wilson
LONDON (Reuters) – World equity markets slipped on Thursday amid worries on global growth and as investors digested European earnings, while the Swedish crown slumped to its lowest in 17 years and the euro suffered after German data.
The Euro STOXX 600 lost 0.3 percent in early trading, with concern over prospects for global growth underscored by weak economic data from South Korea.
Energy stocks and a 10 percent drop in Finnish telecoms equipment maker Nokia dragged down European shares, with a varied bag of earnings for the region’s banks.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, also fell 0.3 percent.
Asian markets had fallen earlier in the day, losing 0.5 percent as South Korea’s economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter, giving a sharp reminder of the fragility of the world economy beyond the United States.
Shanghai’s bourse also fell sharply late in the day, losing more than 2 percent as other Chinese markets lost ground after attempts by the central bank to temper expectations for further easing of monetary policy.
Chinese officials also warned of protracted pressure on economic growth, casting a shadow over hopes for a sustained recovery in the world’s second biggest economy.
Those worries on growth also played out closer to home for European investors, with fears lingering over the state of the German economy after a survey on Wednesday showed German business morale falling.
Amid that weakness, central banks across the world have maintained ultra-loose monetary policy. The Bank of Japan on Thursday pledged to keep interest rates very low at least until early 2020, even as it retained main policy targets.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei gave a muted response, while the Japanese yen also reacted little. The yen was last up about a third of a percent, at 111.80 yen per dollar.
“You certainly have a common response (from central banks) to a global growth slowdown in terms of monetary policy,” said Peter Schaffrik, head of European rates strategy at RBC Capital Markets.
“We haven’t generally seen outright reduction, but it is easing relative to what was previously communicated to, and implied in, the markets.”
There were signs of growing strength in the U.S. dollar, which analysts said was partly a symptom of the world’s largest economy maintaining relative strength and others, such as China, faring worse.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback versus a basket of six major peers, stood at around at 98.001, near its highest since May 2017 hit on Wednesday.
“The Fed isn’t keen to hike rates, but they are the strongest of the bunch so money will gravitate toward the U.S. dollar,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets in London.
CROWN AND LIRA
The Swedish crown slumped to its lowest since August 2002, after the central bank said weak inflationary pressures meant a forecast rate hike would come slighter later than planned, holding benchmark borrowing costs unchanged.
The crown sank 1.2 percent against the euro to 10.65 – on course for its biggest daily drop in more than six months.
Monetary policy also loomed for emerging markets currencies.
Turkey’s lira weakened against the dollar, losing 0.2 percent hours before a central bank policy decision that could test its willingness to maintain tight monetary policy and support the currency in the face of recession. The rate decision is due at 1100 GMT.
The euro suffered its worst day in over six weeks, falling 0.6 percent to a 22-month following the further signs of flagging growth in Germany. It was last at $1.1141.
Also on the agenda for the single currency were Spanish elections on Sunday and economic concerns out of Italy.
Brent crude oil on Thursday rose above $75 per barrel for the first time in 2019 in the wake of tightening sanctions on Iran, while gains in U.S. prices were crimped by a surge in U.S. supply.
For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets, please click on: [LIVE/]
(Reporting by Tom Wilson in London; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
FILE PHOTO – Asbel Kiprop of Kenya reacts after winning the men’s 1500 metres final during the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, August 30, 2015. REUTERS/Phil Noble
April 20, 2019
(Reuters) – Kenya’s former Olympic 1500 meters champion Asbel Kiprop has been handed a four-year ban for doping, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) said on Saturday.
The 29-year-old, who also won three world championship golds, tested positive for erythropoietin (EPO) in November 2017.
Kiprop had argued his urine sample, which was taken out of competition, could have been tampered with by his testers, who had tipped him off about their visit and taken a payment from him.
But the AIU, an independent body managing all doping-related matters, said they were satisfied that there had been no interference.
“The panel is aware that its order will interrupt, and may even terminate, the athlete’s sporting career and cast a shadow over his impressive competitive record,” it said in a statement.
“But in its opinion the laboratory results viewed in the context of the evidential record and the regulatory framework unit admit of no other conclusion than the case against the athlete is convincingly made out.”
Kiprop was awarded the 1500m gold medal from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing after original winner Rashid Ramzi tested positive for doping. Kiprop won his three world titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; editing by Tony Lawrence)
A seller holds a piece of Gouda cheese at the cheese market in Gouda, Netherlands April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
April 19, 2019
GOUDA, Netherlands (Reuters) – Surrounded by 15-kg (33 lb) wheels of cheese ready to be carted away in horse-drawn carriages, a dairy farmer in the Dutch city of Gouda faces off against a cheese trader wearing traditional wooden clogs.
Staring each other in the eyes, they clap their hands together until they seal a deal, recreating an auction ritual that dates back to medieval times.
These days the historical cheese market — now a tourist attraction — operates under a shadow.
Two famed Dutch cheeses, Gouda Holland and Edam Holland, are among the many artisanal European products threatened with U.S. tariffs the Trump administration announced on April 8.
“If they cannot be exported to America, we will have to find another outlet,” said Jan de Goeij, a retired cheesemaker who plays the part of trader. He knows that would mean accepting lower prices.
“So we are very concerned about that threat from Trump. I hope it won’t happen.”
The United States could impose $11 billion worth of European export products with tariffs over subsidies for Airbus, and Europe threatens to retaliate over U.S. tax breaks for Boeing, a dispute that seems far removed from the Dutch cheese industry.
The Dutch, the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter after the United States, send 78 million euros ($88 million)worth of cheese products to the U.S. every year, according to Statistics Netherlands.
Ironically, Gouda gave U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra an honorary title – Waegemeester, or “Master of the Scales” – just days before the tariff threat was announced.
“I don’t think Ambassador Hoekstra should give that honorary title back,” said Gouda cheese producer Johan de Wit.
“If we now ask it back we will only get negative effects.”
Gouda and Edam cheeses can be made anywhere in the world by farmers who follow the correct processes. But the “Gouda Holland” and “Edam Holland” geographical designations can only refer to cheeses made entirely in the Netherlands.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
FILE PHOTO: Robert Mueller, as FBI director, testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
April 18, 2019
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election will be released on Thursday, providing the first public look at the findings of an inquiry that has cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency.
Attorney General William Barr’s planned release of the nearly 400-page report comes after Mueller wrapped up his 22-month investigation last month into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and questions about obstruction of justice by the president.
Its disclosure, with portions expected to be blacked out by Barr to protect some sensitive information, is certain to launch a new political fight spilling into the halls of Congress and the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as Trump seeks re-election in a deeply divided country.
The release marks a watershed moment in Trump’s presidency, promising new details about some of the biggest questions in the probe, including the extent and nature of his campaign’s contacts with Russia and actions Trump may have taken to hinder the inquiry including his 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.
It also may deepen an already bitter partisan rift between Trump’s fellow Republicans, most of whom have rallied around the president, and his Democratic critics, who will have to decide how hard to go after Trump as they prepare congressional investigations of his administration.
Barr said he would hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on Thursday to discuss the report, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.
Copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill more than an hour later, between 11 a.m. and noon (1500-1600 GMT), a senior Justice Department official said. The delay in seeing the report sparked Democratic complaints that Barr, a Trump appointee, wanted to shape the public’s views during his news conference before others had a chance to draw their own conclusions.
Mueller’s investigation, which Trump has called a “witch hunt,” raised questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and laid bare what the special counsel and U.S. intelligence agencies have described as a Russian operation to derail Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and elevate Trump, the Kremlin’s preferred candidate.
Some Democrats have spoken of launching impeachment proceedings against Trump in Congress, allowed under the U.S. Constitution to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but top Democrats have been notably cautious.
Mueller charged 34 people and three Russian companies. Those who were convicted or pleaded guilty included figures close to Trump such as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, personal lawyer Michael Cohen and national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller submitted the report to Barr on March 22. Two days later, Barr sent lawmakers a four-page letter saying the inquiry did not establish that Trump’s 2016 campaign team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia and that Mueller had not exonerated Trump of committing the crime of obstruction of justice. Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice.
‘SMEARS AND SLANDER’
Since Barr released that letter, Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration,” and condemned the inquiry as “an illegal takedown that failed.” At a March 28 rally in Michigan, Trump said that “after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead.”
Citing people with knowledge of the discussions, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House lawyers held talks with U.S. Justice Department officials in recent days about the conclusions in Mueller’s report, aiding them in preparing for its release.
Justice Department regulations gave Barr broad authority to decide how much of Mueller’s report to make public, but Democrats have demanded the entire report as well as the underlying investigative files. Barr is due to testify to Congress in public about the report in early May.
The Justice Department has been working for weeks to prepare the redactions, which will be color coded to reflect the reason material is omitted.
Barr said he would redact parts to protect secret grand jury information, intelligence-gathering sources and methods, material that could affect ongoing investigations and information that unduly infringes on the privacy of “peripheral third parties” who were not charged.
Democrats are concerned that Barr, appointed by Trump after the president fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could black out material to protect the president.
(Reporting by Sarah Lynch; Additional reporting by David Morgan, Andy Sullivan, Jan Wolfe, Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Will Dunham)
Sudanese demonstrators rest under the shadow of a tree in front of the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
April 17, 2019
By Khaled Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Deposed ex-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been moved to Khartoum’s grim high-security Kobar prison from the presidential residence, family sources said on Wednesday, and transitional military rulers announced steps to crack down on corruption.
Sudan’s military ousted Bashir after weeks of mass protests that climaxed in a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry compound. Protests are continuing and their leaders say the unrest will not cease until the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) hands power to a civilian-led authority ahead of elections.
The Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), leading the revolt, has called for sweeping change to end violent crackdowns on dissent, purge corruption and cronyism and ease an economic crisis that worsened during Bashir’s last years in power.
In initial moves to tackle graft, the TMC ordered the central bank to review financial transfers since April 1 and to seize “suspect” funds, state news agency SUNA said on Wednesday.
SUNA said the TMC also ordered the “suspension of the transfer of ownership of any shares until further notice and for any large or suspect transfers of shares or companies to be reported” to state authorities.
The TMC also decreed that all state entities disclose financial holdings within 72 hours, and warned that officials who failed to comply could be fined and face up to 10 years in prison, SUNA reported.
The decree applies to bank accounts and holdings of foreign currency as well as precious metals and jewelry inside and outside Sudan, according to the TMC.
BASHIR IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
Bashir, 75, had been detained under heavy guard in the presidential residence inside the compound that also houses the Defense Ministry, before being transferred to Kobar prison late on Tuesday, the family sources said. He was being held in solitary confinement at Kobar, a prison source said.
Kobar, just north of central Khartoum adjacent to the Blue Nile river, housed thousands of political prisoners under Bashir’s nearly 30-year rule and is Sudan’s most notorious jail.
At least some political prisoners have been freed since Bashir’s overthrow, including several SPA figures.
Awad Ibn Auf, an Islamist like Bashir, initially headed the TMC before stepping down after one day in the post. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who has engaged in impromptu dialogue with protesters in the streets of the capital, now heads the council and has promised to hold elections within two years.
REBELS SUSPEND HOSTILITIES
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), a rebel group fighting in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, announced it was ceasing all hostilities until July 31 as a “goodwill gesture” following Bashir’s overthrow.
In a statement conveyed to Reuters in Khartoum, the group’s leader Abdelaziz Adam al-Helew said the move was to help facilitate “the immediate and smooth handover of power to civilians” in Sudan.
The SPLM-N had sought to overthrow Bashir and pushed for autonomy for Blue Nile and South Kordofan states and a redistribution of wealth and political powers in the country.
Bashir ruled Sudan with an iron hand after he seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.
UGANDA MAY OFFER ASYLUM TO BASHIR
Uganda will consider offering asylum to Bashir despite his decade-old indictment by the International Criminal Court, Uganda’s state minister for foreign affairs, Okello Oryem, told Reuters. But Oryem said Bashir had yet to make any contact with Kampala.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has in the past criticized the ICC, calling it a tool of Western justice against Africans.
Bashir faces ICC arrest warrants over accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003 and led to the death of an estimated 300,000 people. He denies the allegations. Fighting in Darfur has subsided over the past three years.
The head of the TMC’s political committee, Omar Zain al-Abideen, said on Friday the council would not extradite Bashir for trial, suggesting he could be tried in Sudan instead.
In The Hague, an International Criminal Court spokesman declined comment “on hypothetical situations”. ICC member states, which include Uganda, are legally obliged to hand over indictees who enter their territory.
Bashir has defied the ICC by visiting several ICC member states. Diplomatic rows broke out when he went to South Africa in 2015 and Jordan in 2017 and both declined to arrest him for extradition to the ICC in the Netherlands.
London-based Amnesty International called for Bashir to be immediately extradited to ICC custody. “His case must not be hurriedly tried in Sudan’s notoriously dysfunctional legal system. Justice must be served,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty director for East Africa, the Horn and Great Lakes.
“Sudan must take urgent steps to rebuild its justice sector but, in the meantime, the only way victims of his alleged crimes will see progress towards justice are if Bashir faces a fair trial at the ICC,” Nyanyuki said in an Amnesty statement.
On Tuesday, TMC chief Burhan fired Sudan’s three highest-ranking public prosecutors after the SPA-led protest movement demanded an overhaul of the judiciary.
On Monday, the African Union urged the TMC to hand power to a transitional civilian-led authority within 15 days or risk Sudan being suspended from the AU.
(Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kampala and Anthony Deutsch in the Netherlands; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
Latvian Minister of Justice Janis Bordans speaks during an interview in Riga, Latvia April 11, 2019. Picture taken April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
April 12, 2019
By John O’Donnell and Gederts Gelzis
RIGA (Reuters) – A year after closing one of its largest banks for money laundering and the detention of its central bank governor for alleged bribery, Latvia is struggling to deal with the fallout from the corruption scandal.
The country’s new government, formed in January after months of political deadlock, is trying to introduce reforms ahead of a review by international money-laundering standards watchdog Moneyval, which Latvian officials fear could label the Baltic state as high risk.
The stakes are high for Latvia, tarnished by a string of money laundering and corruption scandals, including the shuttering of banking group ABLV last year.
But efforts to clean up the country’s reputation are moving slowly. Central Bank Govenor Ilmars Rimsevics is still awaiting trial 14 months on from his brief detention. A top European court has ruled that he should not have been barred from office, in an embarrassing setback for the tiny state.
“Latvia is coming to crunch time,” said Valdis Liepins, chairman of anti-corruption group Transparency International in Latvia. “The whole system is corrupt. We finally need to do something.”
Latvia’s prime minister, Krisjanis Karins, has promised to accelerate an overhaul of the banking sector but his efforts have been overshadowed by lack of progress in the Rimsevics corruption case, the biggest in the former Soviet-ruled state’s history.
Rimsevics was accused last year by Latvia’s public prosecutor of accepting an offer of a 500,000 euro ($566,100) bribe from a Latvian bank.
Rimsevics, also a top policy-maker at the European Central Bank and who led Latvia into the euro, has denied wrongdoing.
He has returned to work following the European court ruling that Latvia broke EU law by barring him from office, and travels to ECB meetings in Frankfurt.
The Rimsevics case has sparked a public row between Latvia’s justice minister and the state prosecutor over how to tackle corruption and financial crime.
Justice minister Janis Bordans told Reuters he was looking at how to reorganize work in enforcement agencies, promising radical reform after what he said was a mishandling of the case.
“This is the failure of the investigation agencies,” Bordans said, singling out the state prosecutor. “It shows that there is some lack of efficiency and professionalism.”
Bordans blamed “inefficient representatives … in legal agencies” and poor leadership.
Latvia’s prosecutor general Eriks Kalnmeiers responded that the minister had no information about the details of the case that would qualify him to comment.
Unless there are meaningful reforms, the Moneyval review, due out in coming months, could label Latvia as high risk.
The Rimsevics investigation is also being watched closely by the United States, which has become frustrated with Latvia’s often years-long probes of corruption cases.
Rimsevics is also suspected of bribery linked to ABLV, prosecutor Viorika Jirgena and Jekabs Straume, who leads Latvia’s anti-corruption agency KNAB, told Reuters.
Rimsevics told Reuters he denied these allegations.
ABLV was shut last year when U.S. authorities accused it of money laundering and U.S. sanctions breaches, plunging the country into its worst financial crisis in a decade.
Marshall Billingslea, who leads the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Treasury, will visit the country again in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, highlighting Washington’s continued concern about the country’s progress.
Corruption investigator Straume said Latvia was undertaking “thorough” reforms to avoid a so-called grey-listing in the international Moneyval audit. “We don’t want to be on any list,” he said. “We are a normal country.”
But showing how the reforms are translating into action is tough.
Morten Hansen of the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga said Latvia was at a critical juncture: “This country is still struggling to prevail as a modern country.”
($1 = 0.8832 euros)
(Reporting By John O’Donnell. Editing by Jane Merriman)
FILE PHOTO: Uber and Lyft signs are seen on a car in Redondo Beach, California, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson – RC1F359D1320/File Photo
April 11, 2019
By Joshua Franklin and David Randall
(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc may face a cooler reception from investors than expected when it prices its initial public offering next month since smaller U.S. ride-hailing rival Lyft Inc’s aggressive stock launch and subsequent fall.
Lyft’s IPO priced at the top end of its upwardly revised range last month, assigning it a valuation of more than $24 billion in an offering that raised $2.34 billion. But the stock has languished since debuting on the Nasdaq on March 29, as concerns about the startup’s potential for profitability have become more prominent.
Lyft shares ended on Wednesday down 11 percent at $60.12, well below their $72 IPO price. Lyft was the first in a string of technology IPOs expected this year, including food delivery service Postmates and smart exercise bike Peleton.
Lyft’s poor stock performance bodes ill for these IPOs, especially for companies like Uber with no profits to show.
“There’s no discernable way these companies are valued. What you’re really buying into is the long-term ability of the company to capture lots of sales and hopefully get profitable at some point,” said Brian Hamilton, founder of data firm Sageworks.
“I’m sure that the Lyft debut is going to affect both Uber and Pinterest,” Hamilton added.
Uber filed for its IPO in December with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during the same week as Lyft. But it let Lyft go first with its offering, partly because it was working on a new private fundraising round for its autonomous driving unit.
Uber is now paying the price of going second. It is planning to seek a valuation between $90 billion and $100 billion, short of the $120 billion investment bankers previously told the company it could be worth in an IPO, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Image sharing app Pinterest Inc this week also set the terms for its IPO which would value the company at up to $11.3 billion, below its latest fundraising round which valued it at $12 billion in 2017. Prior to Lyft going public, Pinterest had been weighing a valuation at or near the last fundraising round, according to a source familiar with the matter. Pinterest declined to comment.
Uber is expected to make its detailed financial results public on Thursday. It lost $3.3 billion last year, excluding one-off gains, while Lyft lost $911 million for 2018. Pinterest also lost $62.97 million in 2018.
Uber declined to comment.
Investors and analysts said technology unicorn IPOs are losing their luster, not just because more investors are asking tough questions about their prospects, but because the startups overestimated pent-up demand for their offerings.
“Lyft wanted to be first… and it got to a point where they got so aggressive with their pricing and they got kind of greedy,” said Catherine McCarthy, an Allianz Global Investors research analyst.
The pressure to become profitable will ratchet up once these companies become public, said Jordan Stuart, a portfolio manager for Federated Kaufmann funds who often purchases companies’ stock in the IPO.
“The pace of change is happening so quickly that you have to show that you can become profitable quickly,” Stuart said.
“Some of these companies could go away tomorrow because it’s just an app on my phone and I can find another one in a second to get to work or have food delivered.”
(Reporting by Joshua Franklin and David Randall in New York; Additional reporting by Jennifer Ablan in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Scientists are expected to unveil on Wednesday the first-ever photograph of a black hole, a breakthrough in astrophysics providing insight into celestial monsters with gravitational fields so intense no matter or light can escape.
The U.S. National Science Foundation has scheduled a news conference in Washington to announce a “groundbreaking result from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project,” an international partnership formed in 2012 to try to directly observe the immediate environment of a black hole.
Simultaneous news conferences are scheduled in Brussels, Santiago, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo.
A black hole’s event horizon, one of the most violent places in the universe, is the point of no return beyond which anything – stars, planets, gas, dust, all forms of electromagnetic radiation including light – gets sucked in irretrievably.
While scientists involved in the research declined to disclose the findings ahead of the formal announcement, they are clear about their goals.
“It’s a visionary project to take the first photograph of a black hole. We are a collaboration of over 200 people internationally,” astrophysicist Sheperd Doeleman, director of the Event Horizon Telescope at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, said at a March event in Texas.
The news conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Wednesday.
The research will put to the test a scientific pillar – physicist Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, according to University of Arizona astrophysicist Dimitrios Psaltis, project scientist for the Event Horizon Telescope. That theory, put forward in 1915, was intended to explain the laws of gravity and their relation to other natural forces.
SUPERMASSIVE BLACK HOLES
The researchers targeted two supermassive black holes.
The first – called Sagittarius A* – is situated at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, possessing 4 million times the mass of our sun and located 26,000 light years from Earth. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
The second – called M87 – resides at the center of the neighboring Virgo A galaxy, boasting a mass 3.5 billion times that of the sun and located 54 million light-years away from Earth. Streaming away from M87 at nearly the speed of light is a humongous jet of subatomic particles.
Black holes, coming in a variety of sizes, are extraordinarily dense entities formed when very massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle. Supermassive black holes are the largest kind, devouring matter and radiation and perhaps merging with other black holes.
Psaltis described a black hole as “an extreme warp in spacetime,” a term referring to the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time joined into a single four-dimensional continuum.
Doeleman said the project’s researchers obtained the first data in April 2017 from a global network of telescopes. The telescopes that collected that initial data are located in the U.S. states of Arizona and Hawaii as well as Mexico, Chile, Spain and Antarctica. Since then, telescopes in France and Greenland have been added to the network.
The scientists also will be trying to detect for the first time the dynamics near the black hole as matter orbits at near light speeds before being swallowed into oblivion.
The fact that black holes do not allow light to escape makes viewing them difficult. The scientists will be looking for a ring of light – radiation and matter circling at tremendous speed at the edge of the event horizon – around a region of darkness representing the actual black hole. This is known as the black hole’s shadow or silhouette.
Einstein’s theory, if correct, should allow for an extremely accurate prediction of the size and shape of a black hole.
“The shape of the shadow will be almost a perfect circle in Einstein’s theory,” Psaltis said. “If we find it to be different than what the theory predicts, then we go back to square one and we say, ‘Clearly, something is not exactly right.'”
Source: NewsMax America
Employees work at the Wilobank offices, in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 20, 2019. Picture taken March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
April 8, 2019
By Eliana Raszewski
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – María Rosales, 39, is one of millions of less affluent Argentines locked out of the traditional financial sector. The former cruise ship worker lost her job in 2015 and has relied on her family for financial support to stay afloat since.
Now her small pot of savings is in demand from a new group of lenders: digital banks on the hunt to mop up funds from the country’s huge shadow economy.
The nascent shift could shake up how people save their money in a market noticeable for a heavy reliance on cash, a paucity of bank savings and little trust in traditional banks or the volatile local peso, which lost half its value against the dollar last year.
Argentine bank deposits as a portion of gross domestic product are just 18.8 percent, according to a recent OECD report, which said the country had a “scarcity of domestic savings.”
That compares to nearly 60 percent in neighboring Brazil. In Mexico, which has also been promoting alternatives to traditional banking, it is almost 30 percent.
“I do not know if there is a sector in Argentina as behind as the financial one,” Stefano Angeli, chief executive of Rebanking, a digital bank which will start operations in May, told Reuters.
“We believe digital banking will be the way to develop this business in the long term.”
As well as start-ups, international lenders are looking at getting into Argentina’s digital banking market. Banco Santander has said its digital bank will launch in the country soon, while Brazil’s Itau Unibanco said last year it was looking at opening online-only accounts in Argentina.
When Rosales became unemployed her former bank started to charge her to keep her old account open and she did not have the paperwork such as payslips and utility bills needed to open a new one.
Instead, she turned to local digital lender Wilobank, which touts easy access and gives her some interest on her savings – important with inflation running at 50 percent annually.
“You become a client in minutes without going anywhere,” Wilobank says on its website.
Rival Brubank says, “You will need a few minutes. Have your national identity document at hand and that’s it.”
Lucas Llach, a former vice president at Argentina’s central bank who focused on financial inclusion, said the shift was logical, with so many people unable to access brick-and-mortar banks.
“There is a population that does not feel welcome (in traditional banks),” he told Reuters, adding the advent of digital lenders could help the government by bringing more funds out of the unregulated shadow sector.
“Technology lowers the costs of banking, and with these new technologies – where everything is digital – it becomes profitable to have lower-income clients.”
‘IT’S A TEST’
Firms like online auction company MercadoLibre Inc, recently invested in by PayPal, and George Soros-backed Uala are also pushing technology such as digital wallets and payment apps.
“There is a market because there are many people who are not banked, who do not want the costs of traditional banks,” Wilobank President Guillermo Francos told Reuters.
Wilobank said it has attracted 25,000 clients in its first six months of operation, and expects to hit 100,000 by the end of the year and 300,000 by late 2020.
The government has sought to help the sector, cutting red tape and making it faster to set up new banks.
A central bank official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said this could help force established lenders to become more competitive, something the bank has been pushing for to bolster savings accounts and shore up the local peso.
Digital banking heads told Reuters they were looking to reinvest deposits into the same kinds of instruments traditional banks use, including high-interest government debt that has been a boon for lenders.
Luring hard-hit Argentines back to the financial sector will not be easy, however. Many lost their savings during a major financial crisis in 2002, since when a sharp devaluation of the peso and a period of currency controls battered trust in banks.
Nicolás Cánepa, a 39-year-old scientific researcher, is wary but curious. He opened a digital account earlier this year and got a credit and debit card within a week.
“I kept the accounts I have in traditional banks because I get some benefits,” he said in a telephone interview, adding however he got a better interest rate on the new digital account.
“I did not put all my salary in. For now it’s a test.”
(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)
FILE PHOTO – Britain’s Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Departing the European Union Keir Starmer is seen outside the Cabinet Office in London, Britain, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
April 8, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s opposition Labour Party and Prime Minister Theresa May’s government have not yet found a way forward on reaching an agreement on a Brexit divorce deal, Labour’s Brexit point man Keir Starmer said on Monday.
“We haven’t found that yet,” Starmer said of finding a way forward.
“There aren’t any scheduled talks yet but I have no doubt things will develop today,” he said.
Starmer said the ball was in the government’s court.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Andrew MacAskill)