MSFT Jan 2021 92.500 call

OPR - OPR Delayed price. Currency in USD
107.68
0.00 (0.00%)
As of 3:08PM EDT. Market open.
Stock chart is not supported by your current browser
Previous close107.68
Open107.68
Bid0.00
Ask0.00
Strike92.50
Expiry date2021-01-15
Day's range107.68 - 107.68
Contract rangeN/A
Volume10
Open interestN/A
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  • Why Electronic Arts Stock Rose 23% in the First Half of 2020
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  • Covid-19 Is Turning San Francisco’s Inequality Gap Into a Chasm
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    Covid-19 Is Turning San Francisco’s Inequality Gap Into a Chasm

    (Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating wealth and racial inequalities around the world. Nowhere is that more apparent than in San Francisco.While many low-income employees in the service sector have been laid off or risk getting sick if they do go to work, the city’s high-paid tech workers have been mostly shielded. The engineers and product managers who helped push up the cost of living in the area over the last 15 years aren’t nearly as affected by the pandemic, with companies like Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. giving them cash bonuses to upgrade their home offices and organizing virtual yoga sessions to help them stay fit.Most tech employees aren’t worried about getting fired and the mostly-digital nature of software work means they can safely do their jobs from home. Many have even left the Bay Area completely.To help staff cope while working remotely, companies are rolling out perks. Salesforce.com Inc. recently sponsored a virtual talent show and is running a week-long “adventurers club” to entertain workers’ kids while they’re stuck at home, in addition to providing benefits such as six additional weeks of parental leave. Microsoft Corp. is also offering parents extra leave time amid school and camp closings.At the same time, service industry workers like Joe Grandov, who has a part-time security job at San Francisco International Airport, are struggling.Grandov, 65, says his hours have been cut by up to 20 a week since the pandemic began because he hasn’t been able to pick up overtime shifts. He also used to earn extra money driving for Lyft Inc. but said he had to stop because he was making as little as $35 a week, hardly enough to justify the health risks the gig posed. Business travel has come to a halt, which is hurting jobs like his that depend on a lively tech sector.“It’s not been easy,” said Grandov, who is a member of the airport’s local union. “We’ve been selling things we don’t need because we need the money more.”This divide between the tech and service industry is compounding the income disparities that have plagued the Bay Area for years. Since January, earnings among low-income workers in San Francisco County have fallen 52.1%, among the highest in the state, according to data from Opportunity Insights, a Harvard University research lab.“The service sector already had stagnating wages, then you introduce a pandemic, and it becomes not just an income gap but a stark divide between those who will survive versus those who can’t,” said Russell Hancock, chief executive officer of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a nonprofit that analyzes the region’s economy.The changes cut across racial lines too, deepening inequalities between White and non-White workers in the area. More than 30% of the Bay Area is Black or Latino, according to the Bay Area Equity Atlas. Fewer than 10% of Facebook and Google staff are Black or Latino, according to the companies’ latest diversity reports.The inequalities extend to the virus impact: In San Francisco, Hispanic and Latino people make up 50% of cases and about 15% of the population. In Santa Clara County, Latinos are 47% of cases and 26% of the population.Some of the companies boosting perks for their own employees are also acting to address economic and racial inequities. Salesforce is adding diversity recruiters and spending $200 million on organizations that are working to advance racial equality, and pledged to “advocate at federal, state, and local levels for policies to address the equity gap, exacerbated by Covid-19.”The effects of low-income job losses are already weighing on workers, according to Richard Garbarino, mayor of South San Francisco. While the city of about 68,000 hasn’t had major food insecurity issues in the past, it recently partnered with a food bank to distribute 750 meal boxes a week. The pandemic has hit low income families the hardest because they often rely on multiple part-time jobs, Garbarino said.Over 55% of leisure and hospitality jobs were cut between May 2019 and May 2020 in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties, the most of any industry in the area, according to data from California’s Employment Development Department. Over the same period, professional and business services, which includes computer engineering and management, saw a 2% drop.San Francisco’s economy may face even more challenges the longer tech employees stay home. Google and Facebook have told their staff to prepare to work remotely until 2021. Twitter Inc. says anyone who wants to can work from home forever.“Restaurant and service workers are currently paid really well because they’re supported by big companies. When they take their work away, or those jobs away, that ripples through the rest of the economy,” said Jay Cheng, public policy director at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. If that happens, “San Francisco is no longer going to be able to be the golden child of the United States economy.”(Adds details on Salesforce policies in fourth and 12th paragraphs.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Augmented Reality Startup Magic Leap Taps Microsoft Alum
    Bloomberg

    Augmented Reality Startup Magic Leap Taps Microsoft Alum

    (Bloomberg) -- Augmented reality startup Magic Leap Inc. has hired Peggy Johnson, a Microsoft Corp. executive, to take over as chief executive officer starting next month, as the company continues to reshape itself as a provider of business services.Magic Leap had been one of the buzziest startups in recent years. It raised more than $2 billion from high-profile investors including Alphabet Inc., largely on the promise that it would turn augmented reality into a viable consumer technology. Rony Abovitz, the company founder and CEO, became the de facto evangelist for augmented reality, with bold and colorful pronouncements of its potential.But the Florida-based company struggled to execute, and sales of its flagship product, the Magic Leap One headset, never took off after extensive delays. The company said late last year it would focus more on business applications, and cut more than half of its workforce in April. Selling to companies is a far different prospect than building a consumer product, and one Abovitz rarely showed as much enthusiasm for. He announced in May he would step down once the company found a replacement.Johnson, who spent more than two decades at Qualcomm Inc., brings extensive experience negotiating partnerships with other large businesses. She joined Microsoft in 2014 as one of CEO Satya Nadella’s first major hires, at a time when the software maker’s dealings with other companies were often contentious. As head of business development, Johnson worked to repair Microsoft’s relationships with partners like Salesforce.com Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., becoming the face of a new, friendlier company. In 2016 she started Microsoft’s venture capital arm M12.“I look forward to strategically building enduring relationships that connect Magic Leap’s game-changing technology and pipeline to the wide-ranging digital needs of enterprises of all sizes and industries,” Johnson said Tuesday in a statement.Microsoft also makes one of the main rivals to Magic Leap, the Hololens, which it has always positioned primarily as a business tool. A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is satisfied that any confidentiality issues arising from Johnson moving to a direct competitor have been addressed.Microsoft will conduct an internal and external search to find Johnson’s replacement and her duties will be assumed in the short term by Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood, who already oversees mergers and acquisitions, according to a spokesperson.(Updates with background on Johnson in the fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Vast Phishing Campaign Hits Microsoft Users in 62 Countries
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    Vast Phishing Campaign Hits Microsoft Users in 62 Countries

    (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. customers were targeted in a massive phishing campaign that has sought to defraud users in 62 countries since December. Recently, the malicious emails have evolved to capitalize on the pandemic, according to Microsoft.The attack “targeted business leaders across a variety of industries, attempting to compromise accounts, steal information and re-direct wire transfers,” Microsoft said Tuesday in a blog post. The campaign was vast, hitting millions of Microsoft Office 365 users with attempted hacks in a single week, the company said.Microsoft was able to disrupt the scheme through a recent court ruling, which allowed the company to take over domains used by the cyber criminals and prevent them from being used for cyber-attacks, according to the post.The phishing attacks were executed by hackers who posed as employers and other trusted senders in emails that were sent to users of Office 365. The messages contained attachments that, when clicked, prompted users to grant access to a web application that resembled those “widely used in organizations.” However, in this case, the “familiar-looking” applications were malicious and granting access let cyber-attackers into users’ Office 365 accounts, according to the company.“The criminals attempted to gain access to customer email, contact lists, sensitive documents and other valuable information,” the blog said.In the early part of the hacking campaign, the attachments had titles related to standard business terms, such as “Q4 Report – Dec19.” However, the hackers recently renewed their phishing efforts using attachment names related to the pandemic, such as “COVID-19 Bonus,” according to Microsoft.Coronavirus-themed phishing attacks have become so pervasive in recent months that the U.S. and U.K. governments warned about their growing use. For example, in March, the number of attempted phishing emails sent by criminals and state-linked actors more than quadrupled amid the spreading virus, the cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. reported. And, this spring, a barrage of cyberscams and hacking attempts related to the virus hit remote workers as criminals sought to profit from the pandemic.Microsoft declined to say how many users were sent phishing emails by the attackers, or how many of those emails were successful in tricking users to open their malicious payload. The company also didn’t comment on potential suspects for the phishing campaign, beyond ruling out the possibility that the criminals were sponsored by a nation state.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Dow Jones Sinks as Apple Stock Gets a Price Target Bump, Microsoft Considers a Gaming Acquisition
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  • Google, Facebook, Microsoft Pause Hong Kong Data Requests
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    (Bloomberg) -- Google, Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc. won’t process user data requests from the Hong Kong government amid concerns that a new security law could criminalize protests.Last Wednesday, when the law took effect, Google paused production on any new information requests from Hong Kong authorities, said a spokesperson for the Alphabet Inc. unit. “We’ll continue to review the details of the new law,” the spokesperson added.It’s unclear what types of actions will violate the new law, but police arrested a man last week for brandishing a Hong Kong independence flag. Protesters have rallied against the law, and the government has threatened fines and imprisonment for service providers that fail to remove messages. In response, the U.S. has revoked some trade benefits with Hong Kong related to sensitive technology. American officials have expressed fears that the new law signals Beijing’s intention to take full control of Hong Kong, which has operated with more autonomy and freedom than cities on the mainland.Zoom Video Communications Inc. and Microsoft joined their internet peers in hitting pause on data requests while they examined the new law, spokespersons for both companies said in separate statements. Microsoft said it “typically received only a relatively small number of requests from Hong Kong authorities, but we are pausing our responses to these requests as we conduct our review.”In 2019, the Hong Kong government requested data from Google users 105 times, according to the company’s reported figures.Facebook typically works with law enforcement to follow local laws where the company operates, but said it has paused sharing user data with Hong Kong authorities while it conducts a “human-rights” assessment. The pause applies to all Facebook properties, including its core social network, Instagram and WhatsApp.“Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and support the right of people to express themselves without fear for their safety or other repercussions,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We have a global process for government requests and in reviewing each individual request, we consider Facebook’s policies, local laws and international human-rights standards.”Twitter operates in much the same way and paused data requests immediately following the law’s implementation last week, a Twitter spokesperson said, adding that the company has “grave concerns regarding both the developing process and the full intention of this law.”Facebook and Twitter don’t operate in China but do in Hong Kong, where they have offices. Google has a significant presence in Hong Kong, which includes sales staff that works with Chinese companies running digital advertising outside of China.(Updates with Zoom joining the action from the fourth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Google, Deutsche Bank Agree to 10-Year Cloud Partnership
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    Google, Deutsche Bank Agree to 10-Year Cloud Partnership

    (Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Deutsche Bank AG have agreed to form a long-term partnership that will see the U.S. technology company provide cloud computing capabilities to Germany’s largest lender.“The partnership with Google Cloud will be an important driver of our strategic transformation,” Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing said in a joint statement Tuesday, confirming an earlier Bloomberg News report. “It is as much a revenue story as it is about costs.”The contract is set to last at least 10 years and Deutsche Bank expects to make a cumulative return on investment of 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) through the alliance, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified disclosing private information. The companies also plan to make joint investments in technology and share the resulting revenue, which could lead to engineers from both firms developing products together, they said.Sewing a year ago unveiled a strategy centered around deep cost cuts, including spending on information technology. He also hired Bernd Leukert, a former executive at German software giant SAP SE, to accelerate the bank’s efforts to digitize its operations.The companies declined to comment on how much Deutsche Bank will pay for Google’s services, and the bank didn’t indicate what cost savings it expects to generate from the arrangement.European banks in recent years have started pouring billions of euros in attempts to modernize their IT, frequently opting to put more of their data onto the cloud. That has lured the big U.S. providers including Google, Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc., according to a Bloomberg survey conducted earlier this year.Win for GoogleThe deal is a notable win for Google as it tries to show that its cloud business can service the financial sector. To date, Google’s only major bank customer was HSBC Holdings Plc. But Thomas Kurian, the head of Google’s cloud division, has made the financial industry one of his key customer targets since joining in late 2018.“We’re excited about our strategic partnership and the opportunity for Google Cloud to be helpful to Deutsche Bank and its clients as they grow their business and shape the future of the financial services industry,” Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in the press release.The companies have signed a non-binding letter of intent and plan to finalize the contract in the coming months, they said in the release.Google’s latest cloud pitch involves including other parts of the search giant’s empire, such as its advertising business and stable of engineers. A recent cloud deal in travel, for instance, had Google co-developing products in the sector. That’s now happening in finance, another sector that Google has tentatively worked with for years.The increasing reliance on U.S. firms has stoked concerns in Europe’s technology industry, and banking executives have called on companies in the region to develop alternatives. Sewing in 2018 called “the likes of Google” the biggest threat to traditional banks.(Adds CEO comments in second and eighth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Report: Microsoft Expresses Interest in Video Game Division of Warner Bros.
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  • Gundlach: Why the dollar and the tech rally are 'real risks' to investors
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  • Will an Ad Boycott End Facebook’s 500% Rally Over the Past 8 Years?
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  • Facebook Helps Explain Why ESG Investing Matters
    Bloomberg

    Facebook Helps Explain Why ESG Investing Matters

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If you’re not clear on Environmental, Social and Governance investing, you’re not alone. The Department of Labor appears to be just as confused. Luckily, Facebook Inc. may serve as an example to help clarify the burgeoning investing movement. The Labor Department issued a proposed rule recently that is being widely interpreted as a ban on ESG investing in retirement accounts. A news release said the rule “is intended to provide clear regulatory guideposts” for corporate pensions and 401(k) plans around ESG investing. What it’s actually doing, however, is sowing utter confusion.  “Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals or policy objectives that are not in the financial interest of the plan,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. But ESG has nothing to do with furthering social goals or policy objectives. By definition, ESG investing is strictly a financial endeavor, an attempt to improve the performance of portfolios by limiting their exposure to companies whose environmental, social or governance policies, or lack of them, are deemed risky. In that regard, it’s no different from striking a balance between stocks and bonds, investment-grade bonds and junk, stocks of large and small companies, or any number of decisions investors routinely make to manage risk and attempt to boost risk-adjusted returns. Consider Facebook. The social media behemoth has problems. A growing number of big corporate advertisers such as Coca-Cola Co., Starbucks Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are pulling their ads, fearing they might appear alongside hate speech, misinformation and other divisive content routinely posted on the platform. Facebook also faces a slew of antitrust inquiries from Congress, the Justice Department and a coalition of state attorneys general, as well as increasing bipartisan calls to remove legal protections that limit the company’s liability over content posted by users. Complaints about Facebook aren’t new. There have been widespread concerns about how the company handles user data since at least 2018, when news surfaced that Cambridge Analytica had obtained personal data of up to 87 million users. But Facebook has largely ignored its critics, mainly because co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg controls the company and doesn’t appear to share the concerns, at least not enough to do anything meaningful about them. So far, Zuckerberg has made mostly symbolic gestures, such as rolling out a new voter information hub and agreeing to meet with civil rights groups who organized the advertising boycott. Zuckerberg no doubt prefers to wield absolute power, but it’s a risky proposition for Facebook’s shareholders. There is growing evidence that companies with strong governance generally perform better and are less likely to fail than those with weak governance, which also makes them a less volatile and better-performing investment over time. The best ones have policies that hold management accountable and balance the competing demands of shareholders, creditors, workers, suppliers, customers and regulators. Suffice it to say, while Zuckerberg is on the throne, Facebook has few of those checks and balances.That’s a problem because Zuckerberg is the sole arbiter of what is and isn’t a hazard for Facebook, even if all indications are to the contrary. And clearly, not everyone at the company agrees with Zuckerberg’s sanguine outlook. Facebook employees recently staged a virtual walkout, and some senior figures publicly expressed their disapproval of Zuckerberg’s laissez-faire approach to policing content. If there were a greater diversity of opinion in Facebook’s decision-making process, perhaps it would have been more attune to the many threats it now faces.    The risk posed by Facebook’s strongman governance is the “G” in ESG. Not surprisingly, Facebook receives poor marks for governance. Institutional Shareholder Services, a leading provider of ESG ratings, gives Facebook a 10 for governance, the highest risk score on its 10-point scale. And according to various governance metrics tracked by Bloomberg, such as percentage of independent directors and board size, governance has weakened at Facebook over the last decade. For investors worried about the governance risk around Facebook, reducing their exposure to the company, or even eliminating it entirely, is a reasonable financial move — one that is consistent with, in fact prescribed by, the Labor Department’s “longstanding position” that retirement plans “select investments and investment courses of action based on financial considerations relevant to the risk-adjusted economic value of a particular investment.” It’s also the essence of ESG.Scalia and the Labor Department appear to confuse ESG with what would more accurately be called socially responsible investing, or SRI, which attempts to align investors’ portfolios with their values by excluding companies and industries that conflict with those values, regardless of financial impact. It’s no less odd that the Labor Department wants to ban SRI. While I suspect SRI investors will pay a price for mixing their money and their values, there’s little evidence so far that SRI is a drag on portfolios or that it would undermine the “retirement security of American workers,” as Scalia seems to fear. So if 401(k) participants and pension beneficiaries want their money aligned with their conscience, it’s not clear why the Labor Department should stand in the way, particularly when it’s part of an administration that professes devotion to deregulation, small government and religious freedom. But at the very least, the Labor Department should clarify that it’s targeting SRI, not ESG.If the rule stands, one silver lining is that it might promote a clearer separation between ESG and SRI, which would help investors navigate the growing social investing landscape. Funds that blend the two are a particular source of confusion. The iShares ESG MSCI USA ETF, for example, both invests in stocks with strong ESG scores and excludes tobacco and weapons companies. The Labor Department’s proposed rule would presumably disqualify it from inclusion in retirement plans, and thereby discourage more funds from mixing ESG and SRI.  However the rule shakes out, one thing should be clear: When ESG takes issue with companies such as Facebook, it’s about money, not values. If the Labor Department finds that confusing, imagine how ordinary investors must feel.  This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Nir Kaissar is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the markets. He is the founder of Unison Advisors, an asset management firm. He has worked as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell and a consultant at Ernst & Young. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Fed Is Getting Awfully Close to Backing Apple Stock
    Bloomberg

    Fed Is Getting Awfully Close to Backing Apple Stock

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It doesn’t take much imagination to see the Federal Reserve supporting the stock price of Apple Inc.The central bank’s Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility recently released details about its “Broad Market Index,” which is a roadmap for which individual bonds it will buy for its portfolio after changing the rules to avoid forcing issuers to certify they’re in compliance with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Just looking at the 13 companies with weightings of at least 1%,(2)which collectively make up almost one-fifth of the index, a few things stand out. First, there are six automobile companies, with subsidiaries of Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. and Germany’s Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG as the three largest issuers overall. In fourth is AT&T Inc., the largest nonfinancial borrower due in no small part to its $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc. Then there’s Apple. As a reminder, it’s the largest U.S. company by market capitalization at $1.57 trillion, edging out Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. Its shares have easily rebounded from the selloff caused by the coronavirus pandemic, rallying 24% so far in 2020. Yes, Apple has about $100 billion of debt outstanding, but it’s also known for having one of the largest cash piles in the world. It’s so big, in fact, that the company could repay all its obligations and still have roughly $83 billion left over.With so much cash, that naturally raises the question: Why does Apple take on debt in the first place?In each of Apple’s past three dollar-bond sales, in November 2017, September 2019 and May, the company said it would use proceeds at least in part to repurchase common stock and pay dividends under its program to return capital to shareholders. In total, the company has doled out more than $200 billion since the start of 2018. It’s easy to see why company leadership would see it as too cheap not to borrow. Apple has the second-highest investment-grade credit ratings from Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings, allowing it to issue $2.5 billion of 30-year bonds in May that yielded just 2.72%. Its $2 billion of three-year debt, within the Fed’s maturity range, priced to yield less than 0.85%.Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, said during the last quarter’s earnings call that the company has more than $90 billion in stock buyback authorization left, adding that it plans to continue the same capital allocation policy going forward.Obviously, cash is mostly fungible for large enterprises, and any number of American companies in recent years surely issued bonds for reasons other than buybacks and also repurchased shares. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. estimated some $700 billion of shares were acquired by U.S. companies in 2019, which would make them the biggest net buyer of equities.Still, Apple openly using debt sales to help finance share repurchases puts the Fed in a somewhat awkward position. Chair Jerome Powell has consistently framed questions about its secondary-market facility in the context of supporting the central bank’s full employment mandate. Workers are “the intended beneficiaries of all of our programs,” he said in a hearing last month. It’s possible Americans “are able to keep their jobs because companies can finance themselves.”And yet, the Fed’s secondary-market facility comes with no strings attached. In fact, as I noted last month, its maneuver to create Broad Market Index Bonds circumvented the CARES Act requirement that any company must have “significant operations in and a majority of its employees based in the United States.” Rather than focus on the American worker, the stated goal is to “support market liquidity for corporate debt,” and, by extension, keep borrowing costs down for creditworthy firms. So there’s every reason to expect that Apple can and will issue bonds again in the near future, at an even cheaper rate, to fund stock buybacks and dividends. That, in turn, would most likely support share prices.That shouldn’t sit well with many people. Even President Donald Trump, who has used the stock market as a barometer of his economic policies, has signaled a preference for capital projects over buybacks. On March 20, just before the S&P 500 Index fell to its lowest level of the Covid-19 selloff, he lamented that companies used the money saved from his 2017 tax cut to repurchase shares rather than build factories. He said at the time that he would support a prohibition on buybacks for companies that receive government aid.“When we did a big tax cut and when they took the money and did buybacks, that’s not building a hangar, that’s not buying aircraft, that’s not doing the kind of things that I want them to do,” Trump said. “We didn’t think we would have had to restrict it because we thought they would have known better. But they didn’t know better, in some cases.” The Fed’s strategy for buying corporate bonds is passive enough that few would equate it to receiving direct assistance from the federal government. The same can’t be said about the central bank’s Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, which as of last week is open for business. Companies that want to place bonds directly with the Fed must certify that they have “not received specific support pursuant to the CARES Act or any subsequent federal legislation” and “satisfy the conflicts-of-interest requirements of section 4019 of the CARES Act.” As my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Matt Levine described in detail last week, there’s a huge amount of paperwork for issuers, and the Fed has the right to demand its money back if the forms are wrong and companies use funds for unapproved reasons.In all likelihood, these constraints will turn almost every company away from the Fed’s primary-market facility. Instead, finance officers will reap the benefits of the central bank’s broad secondary-market interventions to issue new debt to private investors at rock-bottom rates and with no such rules, as they have for the past three months. And Wall Streeters will be happy with business-as-usual in the credit markets.To put it plainly one more time: The Fed didn’t have to loosely interpret the law to create this index of corporate debt. It was already following through on its pledge to buy exchange-traded funds and had a system in place for companies to become eligible for individual purchases. It chose this third route, encouraging headlines like  “Buying Corporate Bonds Is Almost Easy Money, Strategists Say.” What could go wrong?Now that it’s scooping up individual bonds issued for share buybacks without any stipulations, policy makers should be asked again why this program is the right way to go about supporting the recovery. The truth is likely that corporate America needs low-cost debt to survive. Apple and its shareholders are more than happy to tag along for the ride.(1) The Fed's facility has not yet purchased debt from all the companies in the index, at least according to its disclosure, which only covers the$429 million in bonds it bought on June 16 and 17. Its largest purchases were Comcast Corp., AbbVie Inc. and AT&T Inc.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Brian Chappatta is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering debt markets. He previously covered bonds for Bloomberg News. He is also a CFA charterholder.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Big Tech’s China Face-Off Risks Sparking Exodus From Hong Kong
    Bloomberg

    Big Tech’s China Face-Off Risks Sparking Exodus From Hong Kong

    (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc., Google and Twitter Inc. -- all of which are blocked in the mainland -- are now headed toward a showdown with China that could end up making Hong Kong feel more like Beijing.Hours after Hong Kong announced sweeping new powers to police the internet on Monday night, those companies plus the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Zoom Video Communications Inc. all suspended requests for data from the Hong Kong government. ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok, which has Chinese owners, announced it would pull its viral video app from the territory’s mobile stores in the coming days even as President Donald Trump threatened to ban it in the U.S.Their dilemma is stark: Bend to the law and infuriate Western nations increasingly at odds with China over political freedoms, or simply refuse and depart like Google did in China a decade ago over some of the very same issues. Much like that seismic event shook the mainland in 2010, Big Tech’s reaction now could have a much wider impact on Hong Kong’s future as a financial hub -- potentially sparking an exodus of professionals and businesses.“Google is pretty important to people here, and if that’s cut off then it’s really extremely serious,” said Richard Harris, a former director at Citi Private Bank who now runs Port Shelter Investment Management in Hong Kong. “In Hong Kong we don’t know where the boundaries are, and that’s threatening to a lot of business people.”Over the past week, Hong Kong authorities have begun explaining how they’ll enforce a law that officials in Beijing called a “sword of Damocles” hanging over China’s most strident critics. The legislation, which sparked the threat of sanctions from the Trump administration and outrage elsewhere, has had a chilling effect on pro-democracy protesters who demonstrated for months last year while also raising fresh questions for businesses.On Monday night, the Hong Kong government announced sweeping new police powers, including warrant-less searches, property seizures and online surveillance. If a publisher fails to immediately comply with a request to remove content deemed in breach of the law, police can seek a warrant to “take any action” to remove it while also demanding “the identification record or decryption assistance.”“We are absolutely headed for a showdown, and there are no indications that the Hong Kong government is particularly prepared if Facebook or another company refuses a removal request,” said James Griffiths, a journalist and author of “The Great Firewall: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet.” “These companies appear to have realized that there is no compromise they could make that would truly satisfy Beijing or make them seem trustworthy. This could make them more willing to stand up against Chinese censorship in Hong Kong.”American internet giants have made overtures toward Beijing in recent years as the market exploded, but few have so far actually acceded to China’s censorship framework.Of the rare examples, Microsoft’s LinkedIn censors content to allow it to operate a Chinese version, while Apple Inc. complies with local regulations in policing its app store and other services. Reports that Google entertained the notion of returning -- via potentially a censored version of search called Project Dragonfly -- enraged lawmakers and its own employees torpedoed the idea.Worldwide CensorshipTwitter and Facebook have never been consistently available in China, but Mark Zuckerberg also flirted with Beijing before abandoning the notion as regulatory scrutiny and a user backlash grew at home. In both instances, external factors helped scupper the feasibility of operating in the world’s No. 2 economy.“I worked hard to make this happen. But we could never come to agreement on what it would take for us to operate there, and they never let us in,” he said last year in a speech at Georgetown University. “And now we have more freedom to speak out and stand up for the values we believe in and fight for free expression around the world.”Still, the internet heavyweights are already censoring content across the world for both authoritarian regimes and western democracies, according to Ben Bland, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia. After a mass shooting last March in Christchurch, New Zealand, top social media companies joined with more than 40 countries in a concerted call to end the spread of extremist messaging online.Germany has banned online Nazi and right-wing extremist content, and most countries have blocks in place against online pornography and criminal activity. In Thailand, strict lese majeste laws lead to censorship of content deemed offensive to the royal family, while Communist-run Vietnam expunges anything deemed “anti-state.”Reputational DamageBig tech companies must gauge the importance of the markets in China and Hong Kong with possible reputational damage in other places they operate, according to Stuart Hargreaves, a law professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong who researches surveillance and privacy issues.“I do not expect to see the Great Firewall extended from mainland China to Hong Kong, at least in the medium term,” he said. “It is not necessary for Beijing’s goal of tamping down certain sentiments and would be the obvious end of Hong Kong as a global city and its particular role as an Asian finance hub.”The exit of TikTok, the viral video app that has insisted it operates independently of Beijing, could actually benefit the Communist Party by removing a forum pro-democracy protesters have used to post videos calling for an independent Hong Kong. Last year, demonstrators used the Reddit-like forum LIHKG as well as Telegram to organize leaderless protests.TikTok on Tuesday played up its U.S. ties while pushing back against comments by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who said the government is considering a ban of the short video app. Trump later said the move may be one possible way to retaliate against China over its handling of the coronavirus.“We have never provided user data to the Chinese government, nor would we do so if asked,” a TikTok spokesperson said, adding that it’s led by an American CEO.Platforms like Telegram that provide end-to-end encryption could become increasingly popular, said Joyce Nip, senior lecturer in Chinese Media Studies at the University of Sydney. Telegram said it has never shared data with Hong Kong authorities, adding that it doesn’t have servers in the territory and doesn’t store data there.‘Knife Edge’Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, didn’t answer a question Tuesday on her response to tech companies that stopped processing data requests from her government. Still, she played down any long-term impact on the city’s position as a financial hub around the same time that Pompeo released a statement blasting the Communist Party’s “Orwellian censorship” in Hong Kong.There “has been an increasing appreciation of the positive effect of this national security legislation, particularly in restoring stability in Hong Kong as reflected by some of the market sentiments in recent days,” Lam said a day after local stocks entered a bull market. “Surely this is not doom and gloom for Hong Kong.”The regulations stemmed from a new national security committee created by the law that includes Lam and Luo Huining, Beijing’s top official in the city. While China’s leaders know Hong Kong needs a free flow of information to function as a world-class financial center, “much seems to rest in the hands of the few newly empowered bureaucrats who will police the new laws,” according to Steve Vickers, chief executive officer of Steve Vickers and Associates, a political and corporate risk consultancy.“Foreign firms are on something of a knife edge here, caught between their natural affinity with freedom of information and their commercial desire to operate in the huge Chinese market,” said Vickers, a former head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Criminal Intelligence Bureau. “It is now more a matter of what is actually done, as opposed to what is being said -- by either China or the foreign IT companies -- that will be the key.”(Updates with Trump comment in third paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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