Dow closes above 23,000 for first time; IBM soars

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 23,000 for the first time on Wednesday, driven by a jump in IBM after it hinted at a return to revenue growth.

The Dow hit 22,000 on Aug. 2, only 54 trading days earlier and roughly half the time it took the index to move from 21,000 to 22,000. This marks the fourth time this year the Dow has reached a 1,000-point milestone.

“Retail investors continue to pour into the marketplace, and with each headline about a new record, and especially round numbers like that, people tend to feel like they’re missing out and you kind of suck more people into the market,” said Ian Winer, head of equities at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“Ultimately, the only way you’re going to top is by getting everybody all in. And we’re getting close.”

Investors globally pulled $33.7 billion from U.S. equity funds during the third quarter, according to Thomson Reuters’ Lipper research unit. The funds are on course to post net outflows for the full year.

Shares of IBM, which beat expectations on revenue, jumped 8.9 percent and accounted for about 90 points of the day’s 160 point-gain in the blue-chip index.

Solid earnings, stronger economic growth and hopes that President Donald Trump may be able to make progress on tax cuts have helped the market rally this year.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also hit record closing highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 160.16 points, or 0.7 percent, to end at 23,157.6, the S&P 500 gained 1.9 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,561.26 and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.56 point, or 0.01 percent, to 6,624.22.

“Today the catalyst is clearly IBM … which appears to have turned the corner. It gave the Dow the boost to stay over 23,000,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

The Dow had briefly surpassed the all-time peak on Tuesday but closed just shy of it.

The financial index jumped 0.6 percent, led by bank stocks recovering from recent post-earnings losses. Bullish calls by brokerages helped to support the bank shares.

Bank shares had run up ahead of recent results, which resulted in some selling following the news, Krosby said.

Investors await news on Trump’s decision on the Federal Reserve chair position. The White House said Wednesday Trump will announce his decision in the “coming days.”

Abbott rose 1.3 percent after the company’s profit beat estimates on strong sales in its medical devices business.

After the bell, shares of eBay fell 4 percent following its results.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.32-to-1 ratio favored advancers. About 5.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 5.9 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

 

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Florida University Braces for Speech by White Nationalist, Protests

The University of Florida campus in Gainesville was on edge Wednesday, a day before white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak there.

The school has called in hundreds of law enforcement officers from federal, state, county and city sources in an effort to avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that erupted in August at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The University of Florida initially denied Spencer’s request to speak there but later university president Kent Fuchs said the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution required it to allow the event.

Fuchs estimates the school will spend $600,000 on security for Spencer’s speech Thursday.

The National Policy Institute, which is run by Spencer, is paying $10,564 to rent space for the speech.

“I fully understand freedom of speech cannot be burdened legally with the full cost of this, but on the other hand we’re being burdened,” Fuchs said Wednesday. “So taxpayers are subsidizing hate speech.”

In anticipation of trouble, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Monday, saying a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, where the school is located.

In his order, Scott cited several Spencer appearances that have resulted in violence and “civil unrest,” including in Charlottesville where a counterdemonstrator was killed.

Carrying torches, Spencer’s supporters were joined by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis at the “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They clashed with local law enforcement officials as well as counterprotesters that included the so-called antifa movement (short for anti-fascists).

After Scott’s emergency declaration, Fuchs said the school received many calls from parents concerned about safety.

“Parents want to know, ‘Why is the governor declaring a state of emergency and yet you, President Fuchs, are saying my son or daughter should be going to class?’ That (announcement) elevated that tension, locally with parents and brought a national visibility to this,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs said he hopes the event will end up bringing the community closer together, and that it can be used to create a dialogue about race.

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Top GOP Consultant Charged With Illegal Lobbying, Conspiracy

A top Republican political consultant and two former state representatives have been indicted in a corruption scheme in South Carolina’s Legislature.

Solicitor David Pascoe announced Wednesday the State Grand Jury had indicted Richard Quinn with criminal conspiracy and failure to register as a lobbyist. Former Reps. Tracy Edge and Jim Harrison face several charges, including criminal conspiracy and misconduct.

Grand jurors also issued new indictments for two lawmakers already charged. Rep. Rick Quinn, the elder Quinn’s son, was charged with criminal conspiracy. Sen. John Courson was charged with statutory misconduct in office. Both men already faced other misconduct charges.

Richard Quinn is a longtime political consultant who has advised some of South Carolina’s top Republicans. In March, state police agents raided a Columbia office that housed his consulting shop.

 

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Mike Pence’s Brother Plans to Run for Congress

Greg Pence, one of Mike Pence’s older brothers, has filed a tax document indicating he will seek the eastern Indiana congressional seat that the vice president and former governor represented for 12 years.

He formed the Greg Pence for Congress Committee on Monday, according to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service that was obtained by The Associated Press.

Greg Pence, who once ran the family’s now-bankrupt chain of Tobacco Road convenience stores, previously said he had been courted to run for the district, which covers a broad swath of central and southeastern Indiana, including Muncie and Columbus.

As the vice president’s brother, he is likely the hands-down favorite to win in the overwhelmingly Republican district. He has a famous name, owns an antique business in the area and even bears a striking resemblance to his brother, with a close-cropped head of white hair.

It’s likely he will also be able to tap into the same fundraising network his brother enjoyed in the state — if not nationally.

 

Bob Grand, a major Republican fundraiser and powerbroker in Indiana politics, previously told the AP that Greg Pence would be an ideal candidate.

 

“He’s a community leader, he’s been involved in this community, he’s obviously got good name ID. I think all those things are positive,” Grand said in June when Greg Pence’s name was first floated as a possibility.

 Greg Pence lives in Columbus, Indiana. That’s the same town the family grew up in after the Pence’s father, Edward, relocated from Chicago and later built a gas station empire.

 

Greg Pence eventually took over the company, Kiel Brothers Oil Co., from his father. But the business, which operated a chain of convenience stores under the name Tobacco Road, went bankrupt under Greg Pence’s watch in 2004.

 

That wiped out more than $673,000 of Mike Pence’s net worth, according to Pence’s 2006 tax filings, which he has publicly released.

 

 

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A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks More Support

Every month, Fatma Ahmed sends $200 of the earnings she makes in London to her family in Somalia.

“It’s for daily life. For rent, for buying grocery things, to live over there. Because actually in Somalia, that much we do not have,” she said.

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. However, analysts warn that the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks, putting the welfare of millions of people at risk.

The two million Somalis living overseas send an estimated $1.3 billion back home every year. With no formal banking system in Somalia, most of the diaspora use remittance services.

Technology makes that possible, says Abdirashid Duale, CEO of Dahabshiil, one of Africa’s biggest remittance services.

“Now, it is so instant, where we have the latest technology, with the internet, secure channels that we can use to send money back home,” Duale said. “Or we use mobiles … smartphones, technology where it will help us to deliver money quickly, but less costly. Technology is supporting us also with the compliance issue.”

Remittance companies rely on global banks to route the money, and those banks must comply with regulations on money laundering and the financing of crime and terrorism.

Citing those concerns, many banks have chosen to withdraw from the market. Such a move is unnecessary, says remittance industry expert Laura Hammond of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“Very often, it is not based on any kind of empirical evidence that shows that money is going into the wrong hands,” Hammond said. “The fear is just there is a conflict in Somalia, there’s the al-Shabab movement. And so there is a problem in a sense, a real precarious nature of the Somali remittance industry.”

The industry received a high-profile boost last month as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $1 million using the remittance firm Dahabshiil, along with mobile phone companies Somtel and eDahab, with the money transferred “live” to 1,000 families suffering the drought in Somalia.

The technology is moving fast. However, the cooperation of the global banking system remains key, and the remittance industry wants regulators to do more to support this lifeline. 

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A Lifeline for Millions in Somalia, Money Remittance Industry Seeks Support

Remittances from overseas diaspora constitute a vital part of the economy of many developing nations, none more so than Somalia, where the inflows add up to more than foreign aid and investment combined. But analysts warn the industry is poorly understood by regulators and banks — and its precarious nature puts the welfare of millions of people at risk. Henry Ridgwell reports.

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Teens Overwhelmingly Prefer Snapchat to Facebook, Study Finds

Teenagers are turning away from traditional social media like Facebook and increasingly turning to Snapchat to communicate with their friends, according to a new study released Wednesday.

According to Piper Jaffray’s semi-annual “Taking Stock with Teens” research survey, 47 percent of teenagers said Snapchat is their favorite social media platform, compared with just nine percent who said Facebook was their favorite.

The results show a sharp spike in the number of teens who said Snapchat is their favorite platform, up from 24 percent when the survey was given in the spring of last year.

In addition to Snapchat and Facebook, 24 percent of teens said they preferred Instagram – virtually unchanged from 2016 – and seven percent said they prefer Twitter, down from 15 percent last year.

For the report, Piper Jaffray interviewed 6,100 teens in 44 states, with an average age of 16.

While Snapchat is the most popular social medium used by teens, it is also the most harmful for them, according to a study released earlier this year by the British Royal Society for Public Health.

The study, which ranked the psychological impact of various social media on teenagers, showed Snapchat, along with Instagram, to cause the largest number of “health and well-being” issues among those surveyed.

Those issues include anxiety, depression, quality of sleep, body image, loneliness and real-world friendships and connections.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the RSPH, said Snapchat and Instagram likely cause the most mental health issues among teens because “both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

To combat the negative influence of social media, the researchers recommend adding pop ups that warn users of heavy usage, which was supported by 71 percent of the people surveyed.

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Twitter Vows New Crackdown on Hateful, Abusive Tweets

Twitter vowed to crack down further on hate speech and sexual harassment, days after CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet-storm that the company was “still” not doing enough to protect its users.

The policy changes were specifically aimed at protecting women who unknowingly or unwillingly had nude pictures of themselves distributed online or were subject to unwanted sexual advances. They would also aim to shield groups subject to hateful imagery, symbols and threats of violence.

In an email Twitter shared with The Associated Press Tuesday, Twitter’s head of safety policy outlined the new guidelines to the company’s Trust and Safety Council, a group of outside organizations that advises the company on its policies against abuse.

The company said it would enact the changes in the weeks ahead. News of the policy changes was first reported by Wired.

Among the changes, Twitter said it would immediately and permanently suspend any account it identifies as being the original poster of “non-consensual nudity,” including so-called “creep shots” of a sexual nature taken surreptitiously. Previously, the company treated the original poster of the content the same as those who re-tweeted it, and it resulted only in a temporary suspension.

It said it would also develop a system allowing bystanders to report unwanted exchanges of sexually charged content, whereas in the past it relied on one of the parties involved in the conversation to come forward before taking action.

Twitter also said it would take new action on hate symbols and imagery and “take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause,” though it said more details were to come.

While it already takes action against direct threats of violence, the company said it would also act against tweets that glorify or condone violence.

On Friday, Dorsey foreshadowed the coming policy changes in a series of tweets, saying the company’s efforts over the last two years were inadequate.

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Significant Differences Remain After 4th Round of NAFTA talks End in Washington

Trade ministers from the United States, Canada and Mexico wrapped up a contentious fourth round of talks this week, aimed at modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the Trump administration’s proposals to reshape NAFTA have some trade analysts wondering if the 23-year-old trade pact can survive. Mil Arcega has more.

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