Deadly virus in China causes the biggest decline in Chinese stocks. As result the world shares fell on Thursday.
With millions of Chinese preparing to travel for the Lunar New Year, the potential the disease to spread, along with the tendency of traders to reduce their exposure before holidays, left markets struggling.
Safe options like Japan’s yen and government bonds rose, while European stocks followed Asia lower [.EU]. The threat to airline travel and an increase in supply pushed oil prices to seven-week lows.
“Ultimately, the coronavirus is a slow-burning but important story for markets that is likely to last for months rather than just a few days,” said TD Securities’ European head of currency strategy, Ned Rumpeltin. “And the natural go-to currencies when there are headlines like these are the yen and the Swiss franc.”
The Swiss franc rose to a near three-year high against the euro overnight CHF, but it was trading little changed as the focus in Europe turned to its central banks.
Norway’s central bank had already left its interest rates unchanged. The European Central Bank holds its first meeting of the year later on Thursday, where it’s expected to outline its first formal policy review in 17 years.
It will probably last for most of the year and span topics from the inflation target to digital money and the fight against climate change.
“Quite a lot has happened in the last 17 years,” Rumpeltin said. “They are due for a rethink.”
As the virus took hold, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 1.07%. Chinese shares .CSI300 dropped 3.1%, the biggest daily decline since May, when U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of additional tariffs on Chinese goods rocked financial markets.
Hong Kong .HSI shares ended down 1.5% and Japan’s Nikkei index .N225 slid 1%.
Among major currencies, the Chinese yuan fell to a two-week low, on course for its worst week since August. The Japanese yen climbed 0.2% to secure a third day of gains.
Gold and U.S. Treasuries also rose as China blocked travel to and from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak originated. Gold later recovered in Europe.
Deaths in China from the coronavirus rose to 17 on Wednesday, with nearly 600 cases confirmed. The outbreak has evoked memories of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003, another coronavirus that broke out in China and killed nearly 800 people worldwide.
“The coronavirus has introduced some caution,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. “There is no reason to expect a global pandemic now, but there is some repricing in financial markets.”
When our video creation company (https://inovitagency.com) first launched, explainer videos were a fairly new concept on the internet. We like to think of ourselves as pioneers of explainer videos – after all, as people tend to think of our company when they come up. We love making explainer videos just as much as our clients love our work.
As an aspect of our movement to establish stronger connections with clients, we spent the year 2019 focused on becoming a real video partner. A company that aids clients in achieving their goals by way of live-action and animated videos.
This is something we have done through multiple long-term project relationships. As of late, though, we have been fortunate enough to create a number of “video series.” We work on numerous videos that fit under that same visual style, goal, and title, warranting a grouped package. Some of them even have unique episode titles. This has been an exciting endeavor.
What makes commercial video series marketing’s next big trend?
Video continues to make waves throughout every aspect of the internet. You can see it on search engines, websites, and social media. A number of digital publications are also utilizing video lately, as well. Companies regularly seek out innovative approaches to engage with audiences over the long run, as videos can become outdated and ineffective with time.
Are you interested in releasing new videos online on a regular basis? Ensure you know what your target market’s expectations are before you do. Whether it entails informing customers about a different video to be released every week, or creating internal videos to keep staff updated at the end of each week, developing a timetable and sticking to it is crucial.
Whether people are followers of yours on Instagram, subscribe to a YouTube channel you have, or engage in an educational program online, consistently building a “fan base” has never been easier.
Making a series of commercial videos is easier said than done, though. It’s not the same thing as creating a single video. Several things need to be taken into consideration, such as scale, establishing when episodes will be rolled out, and a strategy to retain the interest of viewers.
We worked several video series in 2019, and have put together this list of best practices for the creation of a commercial video series.
Flexible and scalable video concepts
When developing a high-level idea or framework for a commercial video series, our company endeavors to factor in a couple of things. To begin with, ideas must be scalable enough to remain within budget. For instance, a series of stop-motion videos is possible, but the visual approach will be labor-intensive, creating potential roadblocks. This isn’t beneficial when you are trying to film one video after another as part of a series.
Another aspect to keep in mind is binge-watching. What if someone opts to watch the whole series – one video after another – instead of one at a time? Will each video look and feel exactly like the one before it? Will viewers remain engaged and entertained for more than a minute? What about after 90 seconds? Through the use of different intro devices, unique techniques for voiceovers, or simply listing episode titles upfront, you’re able to separate each episode from one another. Minor tweaks make a big difference.
Retain your sanity by staggering the production
Don’t try to get everything done at once. Create the storyboards for the initial episode, then begin writing the second. Stick to the staggered method for every subsequent episode.
This will be beneficial in keeping things organized and ensures that the project starts off well. Learn the best practices from your original videos before applying them to ones to be created. This will make latter production steps faster and smoother because everyone is of the same mind.
Weekly production status recap
This is integral for all videos produced. For the development of a series, though, a number of timelines and deliverables are to be factored in. A weekly email or phone call status recap allows everyone to get up to speed on each video’s status during production.
A recap each week can also maintain the schedule of production if adjustments are warranted. Maybe video #2 isn’t moving as fast as video #1 did, or maybe video #3 will wind up becoming video #2. You shouldn’t be shifting videos around regularly, but some freedom in your schedule can be quite fortuitous.
Early creation of schedules
With regards to schedules, you should hold out until videos are complete before creating a publishing timetable. Work in collaboration with the video producers to get one developed. When is the initial episode set to debut? Where will it be seen? How will you intend to have the rest of the series rolled out after episode #1 debuts?
As intimidating as this sounds, a publishing schedule can push the whole project forward. Each person will be contributing towards a mutual goal, bypassing potential confusion about deadlines.
When sharing the video series, you are encouraged to publish a couple of episodes at once for your big “premiere.” In doing so, audiences will understand that these videos are chapters, and that more videos can be expected moving forward.
Simplify the process of binge-watching and track your results
There are plenty of ways to make your videos binge-able. Auto-play is one of those options. Each episode can be embedded on a single website page. Hyperlinks can be inserted through annotations so that the episodes play sequentially.
Much like with web design, a viewer should be able to flow seamlessly through episodes in a single sitting. Strive to reduce any “stickiness” of the commercial video series. Netflix auto-plays episodes once credits start to roll for a reason.
If you are a marketing professional considering the development of a video series, or are dipping into multiple video production for the first time, we think that you’ll find use in our company’s best practices.
The late-night talk at Davos yesterday was dominated by the explosive revelation that the Amazon chief’s phone might have been hacked using a WhatsApp account tied to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
People pulled out their phones at Anthony Scaramucci’s wine-tasting event — a staple of the Davos party circuit — to read The Guardian’s report that Mr. Bezos’s device had probably been compromised in 2018 after receiving malware from a WhatsApp account linked to Prince Mohammed.
Mr. Bezos’s phone had begun sending “unusually large volumes of data,” the NYT reports, citing a person familiar with the inquiry. Investigators hired by Mr. Bezos believed Prince Mohammed was used as a conduit “because the message would not raise suspicions if it came from him.”
Consultants for Mr. Bezos have accused the Saudis of hacking the billionaire’s phone, possibly leading to the seizure of compromising photographs and text messages that later appeared in The National Enquirer.
The Saudi Embassy to the U.S. called the accusations “absurd” on Twitter last night. U.N. investigators were set to release a statement this morning “addressing serious allegations” about the hacking.
What’s probably on other corporate leaders’ minds: Are they compromised, too? Business Insider notes the long list of people Prince Mohammed met during his 2018 tour of the U.S., including Tim Cook of Apple, Mike Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch. (There’s no indication that they’ve been hacked.)
Trump makes the rounds at Davos
President Trump was a big draw at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland yesterday, and he used the opportunity to glad-hand with corporate chieftains, report Annie Karni, David Gelles and Peter Baker of the NYT.
• He chatted with C.E.O.s like Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet and Marc Benioff of Salesforce, congratulating them on their companies’ stock prices.
• “After his speech, he met with the International Business Council, and personally greeted every chief executive, according to attendees. The meeting was less about substance than socializing, one attendee said, as Mr. Trump grilled corporate leaders about whether they liked his speech.”
• What didn’t come up: the impeachment trial that started in earnest in the Senate yesterday.
• One bit of gossip: Mr. Trump had breakfast this morning with Tim Cook of Apple and other corporate leaders.
Greta Thunberg rebuked Mr. Trump, albeit indirectly, in a speech that followed his yesterday. She dismissed critics of her climate-change activism, including those who say, “Don’t be so pessimistic” — a reference to a line in Mr. Trump’s address.
The Davos roundup:
• The Swiss police said they had detained two Russians in August on suspicions that the men, posing as plumbers, were spies trying to plant surveillance equipment.
• An official at the gathering urged The Economist to drop Philip Morris International as the sponsor for one of its events there, saying that “nicotine-peddling death cults” skulked around the edges of the event in search of “reputation laundering opportunities.”
• Mr. Benioff of Salesforce said that “stakeholder capitalism,” in which companies consider more than just shareholder returns in their business decisions, was at a “tipping point.”
• Meet the man who runs the World Economic Forum’s kitchens.
• Does Davos have a credibility problem?
The fight over European digital taxes isn’t over
France may have reached a truce with the U.S. over a proposal to tax American internet companies, but other European countries haven’t, and that could lead to more trans-Atlantic trade battles.
Paris officials suspended their plans for a digital tax on the likes of Amazon and Facebook. In return, Washington postponed retaliatory tariffs on a range of French goods, including luxury items, in what some had taken to calling the “handbag war.”
But France is not the only European country unhappy with American tech giants’ avoiding taxes on local operations by shifting profits. Britain and Italy appear to be moving ahead with their own digital tariffs, and London plans to introduce one in April. (It’s expected to raise about 500 million pounds, or about $650 million, a year.)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned London and Rome that they would “find themselves faced with President Trump’s tariffs” if they moved ahead, the WSJ reports.
The 737 Max may not fly again anytime soon
Boeing said yesterday that it did not expect regulatory approval for the troubled plane until at least June or July, Natalie Kitroeff of the NYT reports. That’s further acknowledgment from the plane maker that its troubles are far from over.
The announcement came after the discovery of more potential problems with the 737 Max, including with wiring, on top of the problematic software suspected to have played a role in two deadly crashes.
But Boeing is being conservative here, Ms. Kitroeff writes, citing three people familiar with the matter, to placate airline customers who have been annoyed with previous missed deadlines. If the F.A.A. finds no more problems with the 737 Max, the plane could technically start flying again in the spring.
What needs to happen next for that to materialize:
• Flight simulator tests by international regulators.
• A certification test flight with the F.A.A., which could happen by the end of February.
• More flight simulator training, even after regulatory approval.
A teeth-straightening company’s tough legal tactics
SmileDirectClub has gained prominence for its direct-to-consumer teeth-straightening kits, riding its popularity to a $1.3 billion I.P.O. last year. But the company maintains its sterling reputation with hardball legal tactics, Erin Griffith and Peter Eavis of the NYT report.
• When some customers requested refunds because the company’s devices didn’t work, SmileDirectClub asked them to sign confidentiality agreements.
• “The agreement prohibited the customers from telling anyone about the refund and required them to delete negative social media comments and reviews,” Ms. Griffith and Mr. Eavis report.
• “SmileDirectClub’s actions underline the risks of ordering products from young companies that are bringing start-up-style ‘disruption’ to health,” the reporters note.
A top shareholder activist passes the torch
Jeff Ubben, the founder of ValueAct Capital, is stepping down as the company’s C.E.O., Lindsay Fortado of the FT reports. It’s a changing of the guard at one of the biggest activist hedge funds around.
Mr. Ubben will hand off to his longtime protégé, Mason Morfit. He already gave Mr. Morfit the title of chief investment officer nearly three years ago.
The departing C.E.O. will still oversee the ValueAct Spring Fund, a roughly $1 billion fund that promotes social change.
Mr. Ubben is regarded as one of the most influential activist investors, having taken aim at Citigroup, Microsoft and others. The bankers and lawyers who defend boardrooms against activists have also praised him over the years, telling Michael that they respected his more constructive, less shouty approach.
The speed read
• Xerox is reportedly considering nominating up to 11 candidates for HP’s 12-member board, in what would be a sharp escalation of its hostile takeover bid. (WSJ)
• A C.E.O. of the European tech giant SAP said companies could face more activism from employees and consumers. (Bloomberg)
• The venture capital firm Lux Capital is fighting a court battle against early investors over a deal in which they sold back their stakes in the company. (FT)
Politics and policy
• The Supreme Court denied requests by Democratic lawmakers to speed up the appeals process for challenges to the Affordable Care Act. (WSJ)
• President Trump said he planned to expand his travel ban to include countries such as Nigeria and Belarus. (NYT)
• Meet Representative David Cicilline, the House Democrat taking on tech giants like Facebook and Google. (Politico)
• Britain unveiled tougher regulations for children’s online privacy, overriding objections from internet giants. (NYT)
• Netflix’s subscriber increases in the U.S. fell below expectations in the fourth quarter, but international growth exceeded them. (NYT)
• The British food delivery service Deliveroo is in limbo as a $575 million investment from Amazon remains under regulatory scrutiny. (FT)
• Officials in Suzhou, China, used facial recognition software to shame people who wore pajamas in public. (NYT)
Best of the rest
• The U.S. reported its first case of the coronavirus that has swept through China and other Asian countries. (NYT)
• German prosecutors are investigating Mitsubishi over accusations of cheating on emissions tests. (NYT)
• How the chicken producer Tyson is fighting back against the rise of plant-based protein makers like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. (Bloomberg)
• David Solomon is Goldman Sachs’s C.E.O. He’ll also be the D.J. at Sports Illustrated’s Super Bowl party. (Bloomberg)
We’d love your feedback. Please email thoughts and suggestions to [email protected].
A deadline extension and an aggressive effort to track down victims have doubled the number of damage claims against Pacific Gas & Electric over California wildfires started by its equipment.
A filing Tuesday related to the giant utility’s bankruptcy case said more than 80,000 people were now seeking to tap into a relief fund projected to total $13.5 billion.
In his report, a court-appointed accountant charged with identifying and finding additional wildfire victims attributed the increased number of claims to, among other things, “grass-roots campaign efforts of the fire victims themselves.”
Less than three weeks before the previous Oct. 31 deadline, The New York Times reported that about 31,500 victims had filed claims but that 70,000 others could lose out on benefits if they did not act quickly.
Judge Dennis Montali, who is presiding over the bankruptcy case, extended the deadline to Dec. 31. And Judge James Donato of United States District Court, who is responsible for estimating how much PG&E owes wildfire victims, said: “It would be a heartbreaking shame if even 10 percent of the eligible victims don’t file claims for whatever reason. If we’re talking about 50 percent not filing, that’s — that’s intolerable.”
Judge Donato suggested that “someone should be going door to door” to get victims to file claims.
The court appointed Michael Kasolas, an accountant, to do just that. He visited churches, attended community meetings, attached fliers to pizza boxes and ran advertisements in the hardest-hit areas to spread the word.
Steven Skikos, a court-appointed lawyer representing victims’ interests, said fire victims had met and decided to help ensure that others were included in the compensation pool.
“Their relentless outreach to unincluded community members and the displaced fire victims helped change the dynamic of this case,” Mr. Skikos said. “I don’t think many realize how powerful a united fire victim community can be to bring positive change.”
PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection last January after several years of extreme wildfires that were caused by the utility’s equipment. The company estimated its liability in the tens of billions of dollars. The deadliest fire, the 2018 Camp Fire, killed 85 people and destroyed the Northern California town of Paradise.
PG&E’s shareholders and bondholders, along with insurance companies, federal agencies and victims’ representatives, have argued over how much each party should collect out of the bankruptcy case and who should pay the bills.
A hearing in the bankruptcy case is scheduled on Thursday. A significant part of the case has focused on determining how much is owed to victims.
Among the remaining issues is whether the funds set aside for victims will be entirely in cash or partly in PG&E shares. In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is seeking to recoup up to $3.9 billion in federal and state emergency services related to wildfires caused by PG&E’s equipment in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
FEMA has made similar requests of utilities in the past, but typically the funds recovered come off the company’s bottom line. In this case, the issue has become wrapped up in the overall equation under which PG&E will emerge from bankruptcy.
The agency said last week that it did not seek to draw on the $13.5 billion expected to be set aside for wildfire victims in the bankruptcy. But it said those receiving benefits from the federal government and from another source for the same losses could be required to repay FEMA.
“FEMA is not seeking to take money away from wildfire survivors,” Bob Fenton, the agency’s regional administrator, said in an email.
Asian shares took a sudden lurch lower on Tuesday as mounting concerns about a new strain of pneumonia in China sent a ripple of risk aversion through markets.
Safe-haven bonds and the yen edged higher as investors were reminded of the economic damage done by the SARS virus in 2003, particularly given the threat of contagion as hundreds of millions travel for the Lunar New Year holidays.
“It’s an essential enough development that markets will monitor it on the risk radar, as if things turn critical it could provide a massive blow to the airline industry and a knockout punch to local tourism,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiCorp.
The mood change saw MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slip 1% after a steady start. Hong Kong, which suffered badly during the SARS outbreak, saw its index fall 2%.
Japan’s Nikkei lost 0.8% and Shanghai blue chips 1.5%, with airlines under pressure. The caution spread to E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 which eased 0.4%, while EUROSTOXX 50 futures lost 0.3%.
The mood has already been guarded after the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts, mostly due to a surprisingly sharp slowdown in India and other emerging markets.
There had been some relief as U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to have struck a truce over a proposed digital tax.
The two agreed to hold off on a potential tariffs war until the end of the year, a French diplomatic source said.
Trump is due to deliver a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos later on Tuesday, and trade and tariffs could be on the agenda.
In a tweet late on Monday, Trump said he would be bringing “additional Hundreds of Billions of Dollars back to the United States of America! We are now NUMBER ONE in the Universe, by FAR!!”
ALL STEADY AT BOJ
Also due later is the outcome of the Bank of Japan’s latest policy meeting.
Richard Grace, head of international economics at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, expects no further easing in policy in part because the government has launched a fresh fiscal package worth around 1% of GDP.
“Also, Japan’s 10-year government bond yield has been steadily lifting since declining to ‑29bp in late August 2019, and at 0.00%, is at a more than a twelve‑month high,” he added. “It suggests a reasonable outlook for Japan’s economy.”
Japan’s yen picked up a bid on the safe-haven move and the dollar dipped to 109.92 from an early 110.17. It also gained on the euro, leaving the single currency flat on the dollar at $1.1092.
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was steady at 97.599, just off a four-week high of 97.729.
Spot gold edged up to $1,566.71 per ounce, and back toward a seven-year peak of $1,610.90 reached last week.
Oil prices hesitated, having earlier gained on the risk of supply disruption in Libya. [O/R]
Brent crude futures eased 31 cents to $64.89 a barrel, while U.S. crude fell 5 cents to $58.49.
After Britain leaves the EU Facebook will hire around 1,000 people in London in roles such as product development and safety. As known the company continues to grow its biggest engineering center outside the United States.
Over half of the new jobs will be in technology, including software engineering and data science, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said in an interview.
Other roles will be in the “community integrity” team, which makes products to detect and remove harmful content from platforms like Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Mendelsohn said London’s appeal was not only in its technology ecosystem but also the strength of its creative industries.
She said that while Facebook’s enthusiasm for London was undimmed, like other tech companies it wanted certainty about Brexit.
“The Johnson government has been very clear about what that looks like, and so we will continue to invest here in London,” she said.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Facebook’s growth was “great news”. “We are committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online, alongside being one of the best places for technology companies to be based,” he said.
Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg will announce the new jobs, which will take its total UK employees to more than 4,000, on Tuesday before traveling to the World Economic Forum in Davos with Mendelsohn, where they will meet global leaders, regulators and other business chiefs.
The company is trying to rebuild trust in its platforms after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, in which a British political consulting firm collected data from Facebook for voter profiling and targeting.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s public affairs chief and a former British politician, said on Monday that the company will do a better job of preventing bad actors from manipulating this year’s U.S. presidential election than it did four years ago.
Mendelsohn said trust would take time to rebuild.
“We also understand that this is an ongoing important conversation – we want to be part of that conversation,” she said. “We want to be working with policymakers in this area to get to thoughtful policy.”
Facebook has commissioned research to show the economic benefits its platforms bring to businesses in Europe.
The study by Copenhagen Economics, which questioned 7,7320 businesses across 15 countries, estimated Facebook apps helped create 208 billion euros ($230 billion) of economic value last year.
“When you extrapolate that further, what you see is that has resulted in 3.1 million jobs in Europe as a result of people utilizing our platforms,” Mendelsohn said.
SpaceX and NASA declared the blast a success.
Usually the destruction of a rocket means a failed mission. But on Sunday, SpaceX was demonstrating a crucial safety system of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, a capsule that is to carry astronauts for NASA to the International Space Station.
There was no one on board during Sunday’s flight. The passengers this time were two test dummies with sensors to measure the forces that real astronauts would experience if the capsule’s escape system were ever needed. The system proved itself, even during a phase of the flight when atmospheric forces on the spacecraft are most severe. About nine minutes after the test, the intact capsule landed in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Overall, as far we can tell thus far, it was a picture-perfect mission,” said Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, during a news conference after the test.
This accomplishment may set the stage for opening a new era in spaceflight. For more than eight years since the last space shuttle flight, no person has launched to orbit from the United States. Instead, NASA has had to rely on Russia for the transportation of its astronauts.
Now SpaceX and Boeing, the companies hired by NASA, are nearly ready for their first crewed flights, and probably not just of NASA astronauts.
“We’re on the cusp of commercializing low-Earth orbit,” said Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator. “I want to see large amounts of capital flowing into activities that include humans in space. And those activities could be industrialized biomedicine. It could be advanced materials, and it could be people that want to go to space for tourism purposes.”
Boeing and SpaceX may not be the only companies taking people to space from the United States. Two companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, seem to be on track to carry their first customers on expensive, short-hop space tourism flights soon. The number of people heading toward space could surge, even if most experience weightlessness for just a few minutes.
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The abort test was postponed one day because of rough seas and gusty winds on Saturday at the planned splashdown site. On Sunday, the waves were beginning to calm, but a storm was moving toward the launchpad.
At 10:30 a.m., conditions on both land and sea were good enough to allow the Falcon 9 rocket to blast off into the sky.
At 84 seconds after liftoff, powerful thrusters on the Crew Dragon pushed the spacecraft away from the rocket quickly, reaching a speed of more than twice that of sound. The rocket then exploded.
Mr. Musk said the capsule, with its heat shield, should be able to survive fiery conditions that erupted before the capsule made its escape.
“It could quite literally look like something out of Star Wars, fly right out of a fireball,” he said. “We want to avoid doing that.”
Coasting to an altitude of more than 130,000 feet, the capsule then performed a carefully designed choreography — jettisoning the bottom of the spacecraft, firing small thrusters and deploying its parachutes — before it splashed into the ocean about 20 miles from where it started.
The next Crew Dragon mission is to take two NASA astronauts, Douglas G. Hurley and Robert L. Behnken, to the space station.
Mr. Musk said that flight would likely occur in the second quarter of the year, between April and June. The Falcon 9 rocket and a new Crew Dragon capsule for that flight will be ready in Florida by the end of February, he said, but safety reviews will take some time.
The crew on the space station is to drop to three in April when three astronauts currently there return to Earth on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The mission for Mr. Hurley and Mr. Behnken is currently scheduled to last two weeks, but could be extended, which would prevent a drop-off in scientific research at the station. For a longer stay, the astronauts would need additional training.
“So far on space station, our responsibility is to take care of ourselves while we’re there, not make a mess,” Mr. Behnken said.
Mr. Bridenstine said that a decision on whether Mr. Hurley and Mr. Behnken would stay longer would be made in a few weeks. He also said that NASA was still negotiating to buy an additional seat on a Soyuz.
“I think it’s important we have options,” Mr. Bridenstine said.
A slow trek back to orbit
The last time NASA astronauts launched from the United States was July 8, 2011, when the space shuttle Atlantis blasted off on its last flight from Florida.
Thirteen days later, it glided to a landing back at the Kennedy Space Center, where it is now a museum piece. Since then, astronauts from NASA and other nations flying to the space station have been hitching rides on Russian Soyuz rockets, at a current price of more than $80 million each.
From Alan Shepard’s first flight in 1961 through the Apollo moon landings to the space shuttles, NASA was in charge of designing, building and operating its rockets and spacecraft.
After the retirement of the shuttles, NASA planned to continue that approach with the Constellation program started under President George W. Bush. NASA aimed to develop the Ares 1 rocket to take astronauts to the space station.
But costs for Ares 1 and the accompanying Orion capsule kept rising and the schedule slipped repeatedly. The Obama administration canceled the program.
To replace Ares 1, NASA turned to commercial companies, the approach it uses for launches of satellites, cargo to the space station and robotic planetary probes. But relinquishing the transportation of astronauts was a bigger shift for the space agency.
When NASA awarded the commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX in 2014, the hope was that the flights carrying astronauts would begin by the end of 2017. The contracts set fixed prices, unlike earlier big NASA contracts where contractors were reimbursed for costs with an additional fee.
Watchdogs in government have questioned the management and costs of the program, and both Boeing and SpaceX have suffered technological setbacks along the way. SpaceX successfully sent an uncrewed Crew Dragon to the space station a year ago, and the company was gearing up to conduct the in-flight abort test.
But in April, during a ground test, the capsule that was to be used for the abort test — the same one that had gone to orbit — exploded. No one was injured, but that pushed back SpaceX’s schedule as it figured out what happened and how to fix it.
In December, Boeing launched one of its Starliner capsules without crew, but the mission ended early, without going to the space station, because of a problem with the spacecraft’s clock.
Many space enthusiasts hope that the commercial crew program will spur new business in space.
Last June, NASA announced that it would allow space tourists to make trips to the space station, and one company, Axiom Space, says it has one passenger signed up already for a 10-day trip that will cost $55 million. An Axiom mission could launch as soon as summer 2021.
However, another company, Bigelow Space Operations, which also said it planned to launch space tourists to the station, backed away a few months later.
“NASA still has a substantial amount of work to do,” said Robert T. Bigelow, the founder and chief executive of the company. “We learned last year when we secured a SpaceX launch and options for three others that unfortunately it was premature. So, therefore, we had to cancel those agreements.”
NASA is also expected to soon announce the winner of a competition to attach a commercial module to the International Space Station, providing more room for visitors.
Still, putting people in orbit will most likely remain a small slice of the money invested on space ventures.
“There’s certainly a business to made with human spaceflight,” said Chad Anderson, chief executive of Space Angels, an investment firm focused on start-up space companies. But, he added, his company saw human spaceflight more as a high-profile catalyst than a big business.
The areas of major growth, he said, will be global positioning systems, earth observation and communications, none of which require astronauts.
Closer to the ground, another pair of American companies could take passengers on brief trips to the edge of space.
The spacecraft built by Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic basically just go up and down like a big roller coaster and never accelerate to the speeds needed to reach orbit. Virgin’s officials are optimistically saying that commercial flights will begin this year. Blue Origin has not yet carried any passengers.
Neither company’s trip to space will be in financial reach of the average person. Virgin Galactic charges $250,000 for a seat. Blue Origin has not yet said what it will charge.
But the companies could greatly increase the number of people who travel to space. In the nearly 59 years since Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, fewer than 600 people have followed him there.
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The tapioca pearls at Fred Liu’s bubble teahouse are springy and fresh, just like the fish balls at Elaine Lau’s noodle shop. But that is not the only reason customers flock to these eateries in Hong Kong’s bustling Causeway Bay shopping district.
Both are members of the so-called yellow economy, shops that openly support the democracy movement remaking Hong Kong as it strives to protect the freedoms differentiating the territory from the rest of China.
After seven months of street protests against Beijing’s assault on these liberties, Hong Kong is color-coded — and bitterly divided. The yellow economy refers to the hue of umbrellas once used to defend demonstrators against pepper spray and streams of tear gas. That is in contrast to blue businesses, which support the police.
Families and businesses have cleaved, sometimes forcefully, between those who believe Beijing must be compelled to carry out promised reforms and those who worry that the democracy crusade is destroying Hong Kong’s reputation as a stable financial capital.
A middle ground between the blue and yellow factions barely exists.
“I’m yellow, but my parents are blue,” said Ms. Lau, the fish ball noodle seller. “A lot of families are like that.”
“Luckily, I control 90 percent of the restaurant,” she added, as diners slurped down bowls of soup. “So I can do what I want here.”
Both Ms. Lau’s noodle shop and Mr. Liu’s teahouse are plastered with Post-it notes of encouragement for pro-democracy forces, mimicking the Lennon Wall in Prague where messages of dissent proliferated under Soviet domination. Maps and apps showing businesses’ perceived leanings help guide customers their way.
“We want to show the Chinese Communist Party that Hong Kong people can be economically self-sufficient through the yellow economic circle,” Mr. Liu said. “We want to put pressure on blue shops to close.”
Devoid of natural resources and crowded onto limited land, Hong Kong has flourished because of its people, mostly entrepreneurial immigrants who left China for better prospects in the former British colony.
Hong Kong residents advanced up the economic ladder, as sweatshop laborers rose to become bosses with factories on the mainland and even real estate or shipping tycoons. Today, the territory, which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, ranks behind only New York and London as a nexus of global finance.
Yet months of unrest, along with the trade war between the United States and China, have battered Hong Kong’s economy, which entered recession last year. In the central business district, police officers fired live bullets and arrested unarmed schoolgirls. On university campuses, students lobbed firebombs with homemade catapults. Tear gas has been unleashed in all but two of Hong Kong’s 18 districts.
On Sunday the violence flared again as two police officers were beaten when officials tried to halt a pro-democracy rally in the Central district.
Tourists from mainland China, a vital source of income for local businesses, have stayed away because of the turmoil. Retail sales have plummeted.
Small-business owners, whose operations make up the bulk of Hong Kong’s enterprises, are bearing the brunt of the downturn, even as they contend with some of the highest rents in the world. Economic analysts fear for the city’s future.
“A deterioration of the sociopolitical situation and delays in addressing structural challenges of insufficient housing supply and high income inequality could further weaken economic activity and negatively affect the city’s competitiveness in the long term,” the International Monetary Fund warned last month.
Amanda Leung’s family has sold dried seafood for three generations. In recent years, mainland visitors concerned about the safety of the domestic food supply have been some of her biggest customers, she said. They bought fish maw and mollusks, abalone and sea cucumber.
“They have stopped coming,” she said.
Still, Ms. Leung said she understood the frustrations that have kept the protest movement going, from peaceful marches of more than a million people demonstrating against a now-withdrawn extradition bill to the passions of a hard core of brick-throwing youth.
“China should leave Hong Kong alone,” she said. “We can do business our own way.”
As tempers have flared, businesses on both sides of the color divide have been attacked. Down the street from Mr. Liu’s tea shop, vandals lobbed red paint at a food stall known as a yellow establishment, while a nearby snack food store considered to be pro-Beijing was damaged.
The battle has gone online, too. Ken Leung helped create WhatsGap, a popular app in Hong Kong that maps businesses that are considered yellow, helping them draw customers.
This month Google removed the app from its online store, saying it violated its policies related to sensitive events, but critics said the company might have been acting to placate China. Apple pulled a similar service from its app offerings last year.
“The divide in Hong Kong society has only increased, not lessened,” Mr. Leung said.
But in November, pro-democracy candidates won a landslide victory in district council elections, the first time that Hong Kong voters had a chance to express their positions on the protests since this movement began.
The yellow economy was backed up by the ballot box.
“There’s a perception that Hong Kong businesspeople are not sympathetic to the protests, but look at the silent majority that spoke in large peaceful marches or in the district council elections,” said Todd Darling, an American restaurateur who has lived in Hong Kong for 16 years.
As the protests gathered force last year, Rocky Siu watched as an orderly column of demonstrators, miles long, marched past one of his ramen restaurants. When the police cracked down, he opened his doors, offering half-price bowls of noodles and free saline solution to wash the tear gas from protesters’ eyes.
“I’m losing money, but that’s not the point,” he said. “We have to support our young people.”
Mr. Siu’s father was born in China and came to Hong Kong to seek a better life. But he owns a jewelry factory on the mainland and is, as Mr. Siu puts it, “deep blue.”
“I tell him I don’t understand. You escaped China but now you’re supporting them,” Mr. Siu said. “To me, it’s not yellow or blue. It’s black and white, right and wrong.”
After the Wall Street extended Asia shares run of record peaks on solid U.S. economic data and lashes of liquidity from the Federal Reserve, its neared a 20-month top on Monday.
Oil prices jumped as oilfields in southwest Libya began shutting down after forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar closed a pipeline, potentially reducing national output to a fraction of its normal level.
Early turnover in Asian shares was light with U.S. stock and bond markets closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan firmed 0.1%, after notching its highest close since June 2018. Japan’s Nikkei added 0.2% to be near its highest in 15 months.
Chinese shares opened firm with the blue-chip CSI300 index up 0.2%.
Australia’s main index scored another all-time peak and South Korea was near its best level since October 2018. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 edged up 0.1%.
Eyes will be on U.S. corporate earnings with Netflix Inc, Intel Corp and Texas Instruments Inc set to report this week, while central banks in the European Union, Canada and Japan hold policy meetings.
Sentiment was supported by the relentless run of record highs on Wall Street. Only three weeks into the new year, the S&P 500 has gained just over 3% and the NASDAQ almost 5%.
Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, suspects the strength on Wall Street owes much to the Federal Reserve’s decision in September to rein in rising repo rates by flooding markets with cash.
“The relationship between the size of the Fed’s balance sheet, now some 11% bigger than where it was in late September, and the performance of U.S. risk assets is uncanny,” he said, noting the balance sheet had just hit a three-month top of $4.18 trillion.
Analysts at BofA Global Research noted global stock market capitalization had ballooned by $13 trillion since its September lows and the S&P was only 5% away from marking the biggest bull run in history.
“We stay irrationally bullish until peak positioning and peak liquidity incite a spike in bond yields and a 4-8% equity correction,” they said in a note.
The Fed’s buying binge on Treasury bills has kept bonds bid even as stocks surged and economic data stayed healthy. Yields on two-year notes are dead in line with the overnight cash rate at 1.56%, compared to 2.62% this time last year.
The string of mostly solid U.S. data has underpinned the dollar, particularly against the safe-harbor yen. The dollar stood at 110.19 yen on Monday, having hit an eight-month peak of 110.28 last week.
The euro was stuck at $1.1095, while sterling idled at $1.3000 after poor British economic news fanned speculation about a cut in interest rates.
Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was flat at 97.616, moving away from the recent trough of 96.355.
Spot gold stood at $1,557.75 per ounce, having hit a seven-year top earlier this month of $1,610.90 at the height of Iran-U.S. tensions.
Concerns about a cut in supply from Libya sent oil prices higher. [O/R]
Brent crude futures rose 76 cents to $65.61 a barrel, while U.S. crude jumped 61 cents to $59.15.
The CEO of Bank of America Corp Brian Moynihan said the bank could double its consumer market share in the United States despite fears about the power of the country’s largest banking institutions.
“Our market share in consumer is probably 12, 13, 14 percent, depending on who counts . … The reality is, you could double that,” Moynihan said on.ft.com/2NEtMda in an interview with the Financial Times, pointing out that some auto, soft drink and beer companies had massively more consumer share than Bank of America.
Moynihan did not provide a time frame in his interview for doubling the bank’s consumer market share.
“If we do a good job for the customers and clients and we’re fair in our pricing, I think that’s good because … the scale that we have enables us to do more for the customers,” he was quoted as saying, when asked whether greater concentration in banking was good for customers or likely to garner more scrutiny from regulators.
With deposits growing above the industry rate, a low risk loan portfolio and a strong balance sheet with billions in excess liquidity, the pieces were in place for the bank to continue taking market share, he told the FT.
The CEO of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender added that he would not look overseas for retail growth, as it would take years for the bank to achieve a market share capable of giving it material deposits or revenue.
Bank of America is the second largest bank in the United States, with consumer banking its biggest business.