Day: June 19, 2017

Essential Politics: Trump lawyer contradicts the president, says he's not under investigation – Los Angeles Times

Politics

Essential Politics: Trump lawyer contradicts the president, says he's not under investigation – Los Angeles Times

Anyone observing the Trump administration over the last few days could understandably be suffering from whiplash.

I’m Christina Bellantoni, and this is the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

The most prominent about-face was related to the probe into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, with President Trump complaining Friday it was a “witch hunt,” and suggesting he personally is under investigation. On Sunday, Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, insisted that the president’s Twitter statement did not amount to an acknowledgment that he was under investigation. And, in fact, Sekulow said, Trump definitely isn’t.

Trump’s tweet was “in response” to a Washington Post story last Wednesday indicating that the special counsel’s probe now included the president, Sekulow said in television interviews.

Trump was merely restating what the Post and other media had reported, Sekulow suggested. “Let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction,” Sekulow said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

I’ll admit I was shaken. As the former editor in chief of Roll Call, which sponsors the game and has acted as a keeper of its history since 1962, I am more familiar with what the annual tradition means to Congress.

That field was their safe space, I wrote in a perspective piece this week.

Tickets started selling fast after the shooting, and the game went on. Like times past, the lawmakers wouldn’t be mistaken for professional athletes. (Watch the highlights here.)

Sarah Wire reported from the ballpark that Congress put up a united front on and off the field, and the Democrats won 11-2. Several Californians made decisive plays.

The Congressional Women’s Softball Game will also go on next week despite the shooting, writes Wire, who plays second base on the team of journalists that faces off against lawmakers.

TRUMP COULD SPARE POWERFUL CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY

Earlier this year, Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent shockwaves through the national environmental community by suggesting the administration could try to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver. The waiver allows California to set tougher rules on cars and trucks than the federal government. Because other states can decide to emulate California’s rules, Sacramento regulators have outsized influence over vehicle policies around the country. Keeping that authority has been a key goal of environmentalists, especially since Trump is pulling back from the fight against global warming.

It turns out they may be able to rest easy. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told U.S. House lawmakers on Thursday that the Trump administration was not reviewing California’s waiver, and he even praised the state’s leadership on air quality issues. Chris Megerian and Halper analyze the news and what it means for states’ efforts to tackle climate change.

CALIFORNIA GETS A CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT CARD

Every year state regulators release new data on California’s progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If it was an elementary school report card, it might say “needs improvement.” The state chipped away at its emissions in 2015, the latest data available, but much steeper cuts will be necessary to meet its targets in the future. In addition, emissions from passenger vehicles increased. Joe Fox and Megerian crunch the numbers.

STATE BUDGET ROUNDUP

Gov. Jerry Brown will begin the process of reviewing more than a dozen bills sent to his desk last week that constitute the various parts of a new state budget.

— Sacramento bureau chief John Myers breaks down exactly where the budget dollars will go.

— Nearly $50 million in the California state budget was earmarked for expanded legal services for immigrants.

— Another budget proposal earmarked $1 million for the California Department of Justice to monitor conditions at immigrant detention centers across the state.

— Lawmakers traded biting criticisms and accusations during budget debates last week on two side deals that were included in the spending plan: a proposal that will dramatically downsize the duties of the state Board of Equalization and one to revamp the state’s recall election rules.

— And speaking of those multiple bills that make up the spending plan: Myers takes a look in his weekly Political Road Map column at how they’ve become, over the course of three decades, a perfect place to hide concessions to lawmakers and interest groups alike.

— George Skelton also tackled the topic in his Monday column. The recall election provision tucked in the budget stinks, but then again so does the recall attempt, he writes.

— This week’s California Politics Podcastnot only takes a deeper dive into some of the budget’s key details but looks at the bitter debate waged over some of the bills during floor sessions under the state Capitol dome.

SCIENTISTS BECOMING A TREND

California could determine whether Democrats are able to wrestle control of the House from Republicans in 2018. Their problems in the past have been twofold: candidates and enthusiasm. Judging by street protests and animosity to Trump, enthusiasm may not be a problem next year. And the party’s candidate lineup is also coming into focus.

On Thursday, Cathleen Decker reported that a renowned stem cell scientist and entrepreneur, Hans Keirstead, plans to join a pack of Democrats running against Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the 48th Congressional District. Rohrabacher, first elected in 1988, has beat back other challenges, and easily: His narrowest victory, 10 points, occurred in 2008. Some national and California Democrats encouraged Keirstead to run, hoping his mixed science and business backgrounds will be a good fit for the coastal Orange County district.

And The Times’ science team has started a project tracking the candidates for office with science backgrounds — whether chemists or doctors. There are several hopefuls in California.

A DISRUPTED INDUSTRY

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) is one of the leaders in the Legislature who is thinking about the future of Uber, Lyft and the ride-hailing industry. Low, who co-founded the Legislature’s tech and millennial caucuses, now has a bill aimed at easing regulations for taxis to make them more competitive.

Liam Dillon interviewed Low about his motivations for supporting ride-hailing and whether the state is set up to oversee all the changes, including autonomous vehicles, heading to the industry.

LIBERALS LEAVE SAFE TURF TO TRY TO FLIP A GOP HOUSE SEAT

How badly do Democrats want to oust Rep. Steve Knight?

Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from the Westside of Los Angeles, is already paying for buses and vans to ferry volunteers over the Sepulveda Pass into Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley to reinforce local Democrats as they start up voter registration drives. Organizers say they have registered 80 voters over three trips so far.

California may offer Democrats a lopsided advantage as a whole, but this patch of the state — where the suburban sprawl of Los Angeles comes to an end and the Mojave Desert begins — is still a bastion for the Republican Party.

Javier Panzar reports from two recent weekend trips into the district that the task is grueling but uplifting work for some Democrats feeling guilty they did not do enough in 2016 to help their party.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

— Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she’s concerned that Trump will try to fire the special prosecutor appointed to investigate Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election, and the deputy attorney general who appointed him.

— Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, a venture capitalist from Rancho Santa Fe, poured another $2 million of his own money into his campaign. That comes on top of the $1-million check he wrote to kick off his candidacy.

— Citing an epidemic of opioid overdose deaths across the country, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Friday he is joining with more than 26 other states to investigate whether drugmakers have used illegal marketing and sales practices. Becerra said the probe will focus on whether drug manufacturers have played a role in creating or extending the opioid problem.

— Mike Memoli rounds up the complicated financial disclosure form Trump filed Friday. Check out all 98 pages for yourself.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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Game Plan For The Week – Cramer's Mad Money (6/16/17)

Finances

Game Plan For The Week – Cramer's Mad Money (6/16/17)

Stocks discussed on the in-depth session of Jim Cramer’s Mad Money TV Program, Friday, June 16.

The market is yet to digest the $13.7B acquisition of Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) by Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). The next week will also have some key events which will impact the market. Cramer discussed those in his game plan.

Monday

The Paris Air Show starts on Monday where aircraft companies usually reveal their order numbers. Cramer expects huge order book from Boeing (NYSE:BA). United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) will also hold their analyst meeting. “Greg Hayes, the CEO of United Technologies, will be talking about his fuel-saving engine which he gets fired up about and I bet he tells a real tremendous story,” said Cramer.

Tuesday

General Electric (NYSE:GE) analyst meeting along with Lennar (NYSE:LEN) and Federal Express (NYSE:FDX) earnings.

GE will hold an analyst meeting and talk about their management shakeup. Lennar’s earnings will determine how the house market is playing. “I hope Lennar can solve some of the conundrum about whether the consumer’s weak, like the bond market says, or strong, like the unemployment rate says,” said Cramer.

When FedEx reports earnings, Cramer expects good numbers from them along with their take on e-commerce.

Wednesday

Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE), Carmax (NYSE:KMX) and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) will report earnings.

Adobe’s post-earnings report brings selling and hence investors should wait for the stock to show weakness before buying. Carmax, on the other hand, will give clarity on the state of the auto industry. “I’m going to listen to the call, but only to find out the state of the industry, as I, too, am worried about whether autos have become a big drag on the economy and that used cars have lost a lot of their value,” added Cramer.

Oracle could benefit as industries move to the cloud. Cramer expects that to show in the report.

Thursday

Accenture (NYSE:ACN) and Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY) will report earnings.

Accenture also drops after every earnings report and this time will be no different either.

Bed, Bath & Beyond is facing the brunt of competition from Amazon and its performance will be no different than any other retailer. Avoid the stock.

Friday

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) and Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) rig count

BlackBerry has been able to monetize its intellectual property. If the stock trades above $10, Cramer cannot recommend a buy.

Cramer will be watching the rig count closely to check if oil will bottom at $43 or if there is more pain ahead.

Amazon’s merger with Whole Foods

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a disruptive merger according to Cramer. He added that the magnitude of this purchase cannot be understated. “Today is a day that will live in infamy for everyone who sells groceries in this country. This merger changes everything,” said Cramer.

Amazon’s terrific delivery system combined with Whole Foods will do to the supermarket what they did to the mall. Whole Foods’ footprint is relatively small with 400 locations, but the plan is to triple it and with Amazon’s backing, it will happen. “I know anyone in grocery was crushed by this today and that makes sense, at least initially. Yes, it’s that much of a disruption to have the company that wanted to clothe and entertain you decide that that’s not enough. Now it wants to feed you, too,” he added.

The combination of the merger will allow Amazon to deliver fresh products with a distribution platform and well-known brand. Both these companies will emerge as winners from the deal as Amazon’s technical know-how will make shopping at Whole Foods a lot simpler and Whole Foods shareholders have already gained 30%.

There will also be losers from this deal. Grocers Supervalu (NYSE:SVU) and Kroger (NYSE:KR) will suffer as they will struggle to compete. Target (NYSE:TGT) will have issues in re-igniting its grocery business. Grocery store suppliers like United Foods (NASDAQ:UNFI) and Hain Celestial (NASDAQ:HAIN) will have to squeeze their margins.

“In some ways, I feel it’s too small to really just talk about these individual companies, though, because it, frankly, throws you off the much larger scent. I think the grocery industry has gone from being a not-so-hot area to invest in to basically hideous overnight,” said Cramer. Most stocks have shown some rebound but investors should be cautious. “The revolution is here. Amazon’s desire to clothe and feed and entertain every American cannot be denied. It will be realized. And things will not end well for all of Amazon’s competitors because cavalry? Let’s just say it never had much hope against tanks,” he concluded.

Coach (NYSE:COH)

The stock of Coach is up 32% since Cramer last recommended it a year ago. Cramer thinks the company is getting its groove back and the stock has more room to run. The new CEO Victor Luis has been relatively quick in turning around the company considering that retail turnarounds take time.

Luis made several changes by closing under-performing stores, re-modelling existing ones, installing shop managers at other department stores and restored the brand’s ‘aspirational touch’. He also bought luxury shoemaker Stuart Weitzman which revived Coach’s growth prospects.

The numbers stated improving in 2016 but the company received a downgrade with a note saying they are too promotional and are squeezing their margins. They also bought Kate Spade in May. “So it’s not like Coach needed to do a deal; Wall Street was already plenty interested in the stock regardless. Still we learned that Coach would buy Kate Spade for $2.4B. Here, we got a sense of Luis’ new vision: he wants to create a house of modern luxury lifestyle brands,” said Cramer.

They believe that the Kate Spade deal will yield synergies of $50M in three years. Coach will also re-invent the brand the way they re-invented themselves. The stock trades at 19 times 2018 earnings, but Cramer thinks it’s worth a premium.

Praxair (NYSE:PX) merger

Amazon and Whole Foods merger is not the only winning combination. Cramer pointed to the merger of Praxair with German Linde Group (OTCPK:LNEGY) which will combine the second and third players in the industrial gas suppliers industry to become the top player.

The merger is expected to close in 2018 and the company will have a combined annual revenue of $30B. It will have a global footprint including 43% in North America and 26% in EMEA. They expect to have synergies of $1.2B due to cost reductions as their core competencies are the same.

Cramer thinks Praxair can still be bought.

Viewer calls taken by Cramer

Shopify (NYSE:SHOP): They are more immune than most as they are an e-commerce platform.

J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM): Cramer likes the company but they are in the middle of strong cross-currents. Wait till it comes in lower before buying.

Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU): It did have a good quarter but the stock did not rise. It can be bought at $52.

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Editor’s Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major U.S. exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

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Technology as a 'margin pressure reliever' – Retail Detail Europe

Technology

Technology as a 'margin pressure reliever' – Retail Detail Europe

Technology is able to improve productivity of retailers in various sections within their operations, according to McKinsey. The options are numerous: shelf-stacking robots, back office/workflow process automation, delivery via drones and so on.


Improving productivity

Jessica Moulton and Louise Herring, both retail analysts for McKinsey, state that there is a downward price spiral in the European food retail sector, especially in the UK. High fixed costs and price pressure from discount retail formats are impacting the profitability of the more service-oriented chains. 
 

One of the ways to reverse this downward spiral is the so-called ‘supersuiting’ of employees. This means improving their productivity, basically through technology.  Herring: “There are a whole range of technologies available. It’s not just in those immediately obvious places. For example, automation and robotics is a powerful lever to pull both in the back office as well as in stores. If I start with the back office as an example, robotic process automation, which is where code is used to run repetitive, rule-driven work, has been a big trend in financial services.”
 

Shelfstacking robots

Apparently, there are also possibilities for head-office and retail functions. McKinsey states that 30 to 60 per cent time savings on applicable tasks are feasible. “So when you combine that with advanced analytics and the rise in technologies there, that actually gives employees the supersuit that we refer to, and a chance to really focus on what matters”, Moulton says.

“There are a number of retail-specific functions at head-office level that could be transformed by this as well. Obviously, a lot of category-management organisations are dealing with repetitive, time-consuming processes. If they could automate a higher percentage of those, they could spend a greater percentage of their time on things that would add value to the business and their customers.”

At store level, there are numerous technologies becoming available as well. For example, shelf-stacking robots and store-cleaning robots, the types of technologies trialed through Amazon Go. Herring: “The returns are all available there, but retailers are in the process of thinking through how to plug those into their IT infrastructures and their road maps. And really, to work out, do they want to be leaders or followers in that game?”

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Chipotle Is A Buy – Cramer's Lightning Round (6/16/17)

Finances

Chipotle Is A Buy – Cramer's Lightning Round (6/16/17)

Stocks discussed on the Lightning Round segment of Jim Cramer’s Mad Money Program, Friday, June 16.

Bullish Calls

Chipotle (NYSE:CMG): It’s almost 18 months since the health scare and Cramer recommended investors to buy.

Synergy Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SGYP): It’s a speculative stock. Cramer said it’s worth speculating around $4.

Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX): “I have liked Blackstone very much. I think it’s absolutely terrific. If that IPO market were to open up, it would be even better. I want you to stick with it.”

Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA): “I work for Comcast, they’re the parent company of this network. They have unbelievable cash flow. They’ve got absolutely terrific growth in that cash flow, so I am a buyer. My charitable trust owns it.”

Bearish Call

Sierra Wireless (NASDAQ:SWIR): The stock has moved up a lot. It’s too late to buy in.

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