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May 2019

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Amazon announces expansion of the Home Services into 20 new metropolitan areas ahead of the holiday season

Christmas season is just around the corner and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is busy preparing for yet another solid quarter. In fact, US’s largest online retailer announced today that it is expanding its Amazon Home Services into 20 new metropolitan areas within the country. The areas include Ann Arbor, MI, Boulder, CO, Cleveland, OH, Indianapolis, IN, Las Vegas, NV, Milwaukee, WI, Raleigh, NC, San Antonio, TX, and Trenton, NJ.

Amazon Home Services General Manager, Nish Lathia, said in a press release: “We’re thrilled to be offering more Amazon customers access to our network of trusted pros throughout the U.S. Today, customers can search over 1,200 unique services from pros in over 60 professions – from house cleaning, to lawn work and beyond.”

He added that the Home Services available in more American cities implies that more customers can swiftly find and schedule the help they require at home before the holiday season. It features “handpicked pros offering upfront pricing” on hundreds of useful home services.

Amazon customers requiring installation or assembly of any purchased product can mention the service during the checkout or schedule service through www.amazon.com/services. The services are supported by customer service, free verified purchased review, and Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee program to ensure customers that their job will be completed on time.

Investors and analysts are confident that the e-commerce company will perform well in the holiday season again but its stock has been sliding over the last three trading session. Donald Trump’s election is being seen negatively by Wall Street because of his focus on traditional industries that could create jobs. Additional, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos previously said that he wants to banish Mr. Trump to Mars on a Blue Origin rocket.

Facebook rolls out a ‘fake news detector’ giving warning labels on faulty news

Facebook has taken multiple measures to cope up with the issue of ‘fake news’ on its platform. It is currently testing all possible solutions to understand which of them are effective. Ever since the US presidential elections, the company has been scrutinized for providing users with false information.

One of the most prominent measure is that the company now leaves warning labels on the links in users’ News Feed. The company has also been conducting the warning flags test for over a week now. These flags are being reported to disappear right after appearing on some users’ News Feed. Other rumors say that Facebook is not just blocking specific articles from news websites but blocking the websites entirely.

For now, Facebook is simply putting up warning labels on articles and links that are not authentic. These labels will say, “This website is not reliable news source. Reason: Classification Pending or state-sponsored news.”  However, it seems that the company has been very discreet about these tests, which are being conducted on a small chunk of users. In any case, Mark Zuckerberg is keeping his promise and doing everything possible to combat fake news problems on the social media platform.

In the past few years, social media companies have stepped into hybrid news and media platforms too. This has become problematic as the authenticity of news on these platforms is inaccurate in most cases, because users are the editors and reporters, unlike professionals. Social media is no longer a new terminology, but it has grown into an uncontrollable situation for some, while it has become difficult to tame for others.

Initially, Mark Zuckerberg refused to admit claims that fake news helped Mr. Donald Trump get elected and that if fake news was even a major problem. However, recently, the CEO’s opinion has not only changed but also specific measures are now being taken to combat the problem. The company may soon need to make a choice between freedom of speech and authenticity, as transparency will no longer exist. However, if the social media network works with third parties such as academic institutions and others, it can differentiate fake news relatively faster and easily. And even then, if something goes wrong, Facebook won’t be held entirely responsible.

Qualcomm dominates the market for high end smartphone chips, but as growth in mobile slows the company needs to look to VR as the next big platform

Qualcomm is back at the top of the roost as the leading chipmaker for mobile phones with a name quality association that makes companies like Xiaomi, use the fact that it has a Snapdragon chip on their flagship, its main marketing gimmick. After its mistakes with the Snapdragon 810, the company has made a strong comeback with the 820 which has won laurels from the industry at large, but that doesn’t check the reality of slowing global smartphone sales. On the other hand, VR has recently exploded onto the scene and Qualcomm has already provided its 820 chips and software development kits to developers and gotten started with a move into the segment. If it’s not already heading there, virtual reality and augmented reality are segments that Qualcomm must become a central part of, if it wants to future proof its technology.

Mobile phones have been Qualcomm’s bread and butter for a long time now, but after years of exponential growth the slowdown has arrived. In 2014, shipment volumes grew 24% but in 2015 there was only 13% growth. More importantly, the entire demographic of demand shifted to lower end devices with high end phones dominated by Qualcomm’s chips feeling the squeeze from slowing sales.

 However Qualcomm is not just a chipmaker. It’s an innovator with a wealth of technology patents at its disposal which are already slingshotting it into automobiles as driverless systems take off and demand for wireless charging increases as electric cars roll out onto roads. Qualcomm creates small, power efficient, flexible systems essentially and this is why it is a perfect contender for the VR market.

The VR and AR markets are headed towards an explosion with analysts guiding for $30 billion and $ 90 billion in annual revenue respectively by 2020. 97 million of 441 million wearables sold in 2020 will be virtual reality or augmented reality headsets. Intel has already jumped into the more profitable AR market with Microsoft’s Hololens. Qualcomm however seems to be playing the longer game with partnerships in the more populated VR industry. By becoming the center of VR, Qualcomm can quickly partner with a large number of companies like Oculus which will undoubtedly move into AR. For Qualcomm, the first mover advantage of Intel is insignificant and the game is all about selling the most units. Even if it gets a fraction of the business for those 97 million units in 2020, based on its current ASPs the company could easily add hundreds of millions to its revenue. Of course that’s based on a 100 million units in 2020, but VR and AR have the potential to grow so much bigger than that.
 

After reported a miss on its third quarter consensus estimates and a downbeat full year 2016 guidance, US Steel stock slides 8.66% after-hour

United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) stock slumped 3.26% during yesterday’ trading session and was down another 8.66% during the after-hour trading session. The company missed estimates for third quarter fiscal year 2016 (Q3FY16) earnings along with lower full year guidance as compared to consensus estimates. The stock price was expected to decline; investors lost confidence in the stock based on its current performance and future estimates, based on slowdown in the industry.

The company reported consolidated operating revenues at $2.67 billion, and missed the estimates by $150 million. Moreover, it reported earnings per share (EPS) of $0.40 and missed the estimates by $0.40 for the quarter. Industry analysts believe that the company could have beaten both the estimates for the quarter if it had announced further decline in its operating expenses that would have improved the bottom figures.

Total operating expenses were reported at $2.55 billion, down as compared to 3QFY15, when it reported $3 billion. Based on reduced operating expenses, net income of $51 million was reported this quarter, up compared to net loss of $173 million during the same quarter last year.

Furthermore, the company reported that is the main factors, such as import volumes, customer demand, spot prices, supply chain inventories, energy prices, and rig count, remains same till the end of this year. The company expects to report full year 2016 net loss of $355 million, or $2.26 loss per share. This full year guidance was lower as compared to the consensus of $0.99 loss per share for full year 2016 that further lost investors’ confidence in the stock.

Furthermore, the company reported its adjusted EBITDA for full year 2016 at approximately $475 million. This was much lower compared to its previous outlook of $850 million reported in July. Considering the full year guidance, industry experts believe that the company expects to face continuous slowdown in the industry volumes that is expected to result in reduced demand during the Q4.

Baird’s Ben Kallo believes new hardware should improve safety and functionality, and keep Tesla in the driving seat

Having the best autonomous driving features in the industry, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) is already said to be the leader in the self-driving vehicle segment. On Wednesday evening, the automaker’s “unexpected” product unveiling suggested that it is increasing its lead with the second generation self-driving hardware suite which will shorten the time period to reach full autonomy.

Following the event, Robert W. Baird analyst Ben Kallo sent a letter to his clients, maintaining an Outperform rating on Tesla stock with a price target of $338. He also reaffirmed his bullish thesis on the electric vehicle (EV) maker.

He highlighted that now all Tesla cars coming out of its manufacturing facility in Fremont, CA are standard with the new self-driving hardware suite, which is capable of Level 5 (full autonomy) autonomous driving. The automaker said that it expects to roll out the technology in the coming months after software improvements and regulatory approval, and to demonstrate a “full autonomous cross-country drive by the end of 2017.”

Now the design studios of the Model S and Model X include autonomous driving options: Enhanced Autopilot for $5,000 and Full Self-Driving Capability for $3,000. To get the new technology, Tesla customers require $8,000 paying extra because to get the latter, they need to have the former.

The research firm believes that eight cameras, ultrasonic sonar sensors, and magnified computing power should improve the system’s functionality and safety. It noted that Tesla has the most autonomous driving miles data and improved hardware required “to maintain its status as the best autopilot system.”

Mr. Kallo added that Tesla, in his view, has the leading autonomous driving technology on the road and the new full self-driving capable hardware will “reinforce its technological advancement.”

Despite such a major product announcement, Tesla shares opened the market on a lower note and were trading down 2.69% at $198.07 as of 10:13 AM EDT.

By the time England’s Powerpack project opened on Wednesday, Ireland’s Powerpack project was already completed

In September, The Country Caller reported that Camborne Energy Storage, a British energy storage developer, announced that it has started working on first Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Powerwpack grid-scale project in Europe. Energy Storage Newsreported today that first Powerpack European project located in England has opened and the first Powerpack commercial-scale system has been installed in Ireland.

First, the British Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville Rolfe, visited the project location in Somerset, England and gave the official seal of the government approval on Wednesday.  She also met Chris Roberts, managing director at Poweri Systems, the project’s energy performance certificate (EPC) provider, as well as Camborne Managing Director, Dan Taylor, and Tesla Powerpack UK Sales Manager, Edward Sargent.

The Somerset project includes storage system of 500kWh and solar system of 500kWp. Poweri will offer firm frequency response for the microgrid and enable solar and wind integration.

Ms. Baroness Neville-Rolfe said in a statement: “We welcome this exciting project from Tesla and Camborne. Innovation in storage technologies will help manage our electricity grid more efficiently, support greater energy security and, crucially, drive down consumer bills.”

While the government has repealed support for renewable energy over the past year, the minister said that their upcoming industrial strategies will ensure that the US is on “the forefront of low-carbon technology, creating the conditions for future success.” Second, Boston Scientific, a Massachusetts-based healthcare devices manufacturer, installed the first Irish Powerpack system of 100kW/190kWh in Galway. Kingspan ESB, an Irish renewable energy company, executed the project partly funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

The agency paid €183,317.85 (US$197,900) for the projects installation which totaled at €407,373.40. The Galway project is expected to complement with a proposed PV system of 160kW. Kingspan General Manager Ferguson did not reveal details of the project, but cleared that batteries will be used to integrated domestic clean energy and offer grid services.

The PC space will get the ultimate HDR gaming experience

NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) has officially announced G-Sync HDR this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017. HDR has been a buzzword in the television space and many of the advancements seen this week heavily revolves around it, but the tech is now coming to PC in a grander fashion.

Partners Asus and Acer have announced world’s first 4K HDR monitors: Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and Acer Predator XB272-HDR. Both monitors represent the pinnacle of technology, featuring 4K 144Hz, HDR, DP1.4, and HDMI 2.0 ports. And did I mention they are Quantum Dot displays with full-array backlighting? NVIDIA says the two monitors feature 384-zone backlights that can be controlled individually. The monitors have full HDR10 support and have a 25% larger color space than sRGB and is “close to the DCI-P3 standard.”

And with the inclusion of G-Sync, you can expect to have a visual experience that is not only visually stunning, but also responsive and tear-free. NVIDIA touts that its G-Sync HDR displays have “near-zero” input latency compared to the best of televisions that fall between 22-41ms.

Asus ROG Switch PG27UQ is expected to arrive in third quarter (3Q), being priced at $1199. However, there is currently no word on price for Acer’s monitor.

The pay-cuts across Apple’s executive team reflects the company’s first decline in revenues

Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook, among other top-level executives, has been docked his pay by about $1.5 million, as a result of Apple missing its annual sales targets for 2016. Other executives to face a pay-cut include Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri, Senior VP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, and general counsel Bruce Sewell among others.

Part of the compensation package devised for Apple’s top-brass is cash rewards based on performance, and that is where the dock in pay has come into effect for the company’s top-level executives. Therefore, it was revealed in an account to the Securities and Exchange Commission of U.S that “this performance resulted in a combined payout at 89.5 percent of target for each named executive officer,”.

It was also noted that the payout under performance-based incentives was “significantly less” than that paid out last year, as a result of “strong pay-for-performance alignment” in the contracts that was observed during 2016. Cook’s basic salary stands at $3 million for 2016 but the total compensation reaches $8.7 million, which is $1.5 million less than 2015.

As for the reason in numbers for docked pays, Cook has to make sure that the next time annual sales and income are reported, they don’t read Net Sales down by 7.7 percent and Operating Income down by 15.7 income, as they did for 2016, which makes it a year to forget for both Apple and its top execs.

A peak into Apple’s new found goals

Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) sudden investment in China’s biggest ride hailing service seems to come out of the blue but there is a much bigger play here than what’s obvious. The $1 billion investment in Didi Chuxing is one of Apple’s biggest to date and the deal was executed in haste in just 22 days. It seems that for Apple, this was an opportunity that they just couldn’t miss and putting the pieces together points to Apple turning its services genius to cars and car services.

With global mobile sales growth slowing, it was only a question of time for Apple before it had to look for its next hit product. After a quarter in which the company reported its first iPhone sales decline in a decade, that eventuality now seems imminent. For months now the prospect of Apple’s entering into auto making and transport has been a very real possibility. Tesla CEO called Apple’s car ambitions an open secret but there has been no proof of this until now with the massive investment in Didi Chuxing that indicates that Apple will soon open up about its transport ambitions.

Apple is increasingly growing to think of itself as a services company much like other Silicon Valley giants instead of simply a phone maker. Its ecosystem is proficiently monetized and fast growing, thanks to its premium product mix. Its services segment has therefore grown to become the second largest division inside the company behind iPhone. It seems that Apple is now considering using its hardware software packaging approach with cars. Apple’s aim might well be to create a self-driving vehicle, as cutting edge companies like Tesla and Google are trying to do but beyond that, the company wants to bring its services to these cars. Self-driving paves the way for a huge improvement in the transport system which will probably start with companies like Uber or Didi Chuxing and their network of drivers which will be catered to by self-driving fleets. China remains a growth market for all; Apple, transport industry, and ride sharing, so it makes sense that Apple is pairing up with a local company such as Didi. An investment in Didi could also lead to a closer understanding with Chinese authorities, a lack of which has shut down some of the company’s services in the country recently.

Chief executive of the firm blames hedge funds for unusually high level of short positions

Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive, Tidjane Thiam wrote a memo which stated that hedge funds are wrong to assume that the Swiss lender needs additional capital, as stated by Bloomberg. Investors are taking more short positions as speculated in the market. Mr. Thiam is not impressed by the market sentiment created by the hedge funds.

Hedge funds are speculating that the company needs additional capital to cover restructuring and operational costs. It is stated by Mr. Thiam as incorrect and tells the staff that they shouldn’t expect additional capital raise.

Last week, Credit Suisse stock hit fresh all-time low as the share price is headed south by ‘an unusually high level of short positions’. The stock tanked almost 42% in the beginning of the year during a market sell-off, which was the lowest since 1989, according to Bloomberg data. This kind of decline has been noted in the 39-member Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index as the sixth worst performer, sliding almost 21%.

Since taking over the office in July last year, Mr. Thiam has been seeing struggling earnings quarters and a declining stock price. He has struggled to bring profitability to the company due to several macroeconomic issues from China’s slowdown, negative interest rates and market volatility. It has eroded almost half of the company’s total market value since he joined. In response, Mr. Thiam has raised almost $6.3 billion in capital reserves, by eliminating jobs, shutting down business lines and taking a pay cut for himself. As a part of his strategy, he cut down on investment banking and has looked to focus more towards wealth management, especially in Asia.

According too Markit Ltd data, short interest of Credit Suisse stock accounted to 13% of the total outstanding shares, which increased from 9% at the end of last month. Moreover, hedge funds and investors are looking for potential profit from the stock decline.

There has not been much change in the risk-weighted capital ratio of 11.4%, as it has been stable for the past three months. In comparison, UBS has a higher ratio of 14%. According to SNB’s report on financial stability, both UBS and Credit Suisse are to increase extra $10 billion to meet the new leverage requirements.