December 13, 2018
SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of El Salvador’s capital, has maintained his wide lead in the run-up to the Feb. 3, 2019, presidential election in the crime-ridden Central American country, according to a new poll released on Thursday.
Bukele, a 37-year-old businessman of the right-wing Great Alliance for National Unity party (GANA) has a 24-point advantage over his nearest rival with 44.1 percent of voter intentions, according to a poll conducted by Central American University (UCA).
His lead in polls marks the first time in three decades that a candidate from an outsider party has a real shot of winning the presidency.
“For the first time, the power held by two sides that were confronted in war and of two political (coalitions) that have taken turns in power since the peace accords is being challenged,” UCA Vice Chancellor Omar Serrano said.
Bukele has gained support for his harsh criticism of traditional politicians and for revamping infrastructure works during his term as mayor of San Salvador.
The incumbent leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) has been in power since 2009, after the country’s main right-wing party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), ruled for two decades.
Businessman Carlos Calleja of ARENA has 19.7 percent support in the poll. The candidate for the FMLN, former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, has 10.6 percent.
To win the presidency in El Salvador a candidate must get over 50 percent of the vote, otherwise a second-round runoff is required.
The former San Salvador mayor was kicked out of FMLN in October 2017, accused of dividing the party as well as throwing an apple at and insulting a female member of the party. Bukele denies the incident ever occurred.
He joined GANA after time had run out to register his own political party.
Rampant gang violence, a sluggish economy and high-profile corruption cases will likely be key voter issues.
UCA pollsters interviewed 1,806 people in the survey, which was conducted between Nov. 16 and Dec. 2.
(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, writing by Anthony Esposito, editing by G Crosse)
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December 13, 2018
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he has five people on his short list to become the White House chief of staff when John Kelly leaves the post at the beginning of the new year.
Trump is in search of his third chief of staff after Kelly and Reince Priebus. “We are interviewing people now for chief of staff,” said the president at the White House. He said the candidates were “really good ones” and “terrific people.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Doina Chiacu)
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December 13, 2018
By Uday Sampath Kumar
(Reuters) – Instacart said on Thursday it will stop delivering groceries for Whole Foods next year, ending a partnership that has been under stress since Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> acquired the upmarket grocer last year.
Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods rocked the U.S. grocery space in 2017 and the ecommerce giant has since steadily increased the speed of delivery throughout its system, including by expanding one-day and one-hour delivery.
“Amazon’s intent from day one when it first announced its desire to acquire Whole Foods was to integrate Whole Foods with its own grocery-delivery efforts such as Amazon Fresh and Prime Now,” Tom Forte, an analyst with D.A. Davidson said.
The delivery partnership with Whole Foods in 2014 made Instacart popular among young consumers who increasingly wanted milk and eggs delivered straight to their doorsteps.
In 2016, the companies deepened their relationship, entering into an exclusive, five-year agreement to delivery perishables.
It is still not clear what, if any, penalties Amazon incurred for ending the partnership early.
For Instacart, Whole Foods was among the more lucrative grocery client, given the relatively high-dollar purchases from its stores which made it a favorite for many delivery drivers of the startup.
Edward Jones analyst Brian Yarbrough said Instacart will find it difficult to recover from the separation as the delivery space becomes more crowded.
Instacart clients such as Kroger Co <KR.N> and Walmart Inc <WMT.N> both have started in-house delivery services.
Meanwhile, Instacart has sought to find more ways to earn revenue, building up a business of coupon sales and promotions sponsored by packaged-goods brands such as Nestle <NESN.S>, General Mills<GIS.N>, Coca-Cola<KO.N>, which are displayed in the app and target consumers based on shopping habits.
It has also added about 100 retail partners this year. Reuters reported in November Instacart had raised $271 million from investors, including Tiger Global Management, bringing the company’s valuation to $7.87 billion.
Instacart Chief Executive Officer Apoorva Mehta said on Thursday about 350 of its 1,415 part-time delivery employees at 76 Whole Foods locations will be laid off once the divorce begins in February 2019 and winds down in the following months.
All other employees will be transferred to service other retailers, the company said.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath, Vibhuti Sharma and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Editing by Arun Koyyur)
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December 13, 2018
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. federal government ran a $205 billion deficit in November, according to data released on Thursday by the Treasury Department.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a $188 billion deficit for last month.
Treasury said federal spending in November was $411 billion, up 18 percent from the same month in 2017, while receipts were $206 billion, down 1 percent compared to November 2017.
The total deficit for the first two months of the current fiscal year has widened 51 percent, to $305 billion, compared to $202 billion in the first two months of the prior fiscal year.
(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao)
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December 13, 2018
The Cleveland Indians on Thursday traded slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the Seattle Mariners for Carlos Santana as part of a three-team deal that also includes the Tampa Bay Rays, the Indians confirmed.
Santana, 32, has been traded for the second time in a span of 10 days. The Mariners acquired the first baseman as part of the trade for shortstop Jean Segura on Dec. 3. The slugger returns to Cleveland, where he spent the first eight years of his career.
It’s another cost-saving move for the Mariners, who trade away two years left on Santana’s current deal for just one year remaining on Encarnacion’s. Further, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Mariners may turn around and deal Encarnacion in the near future.
As part of the deal, the Rays send 23-year-old first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers to the Indians in exchange for Cuban third baseman Yandy Diaz and right-handed pitcher Cole Sulser, according to the Indians.
The Mariners also get Cleveland’s 2019 Competitive Balance Round B First-Year Player Draft selection (77th overall), and all three teams are exchanging cash. The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported that the Rays are sending the Mariners $5 million and the Mariners are sending the Indians $6 million.
Encarnacion spent the past two seasons with the Indians, slugging 70 total home runs and driving in 107 runs each year. The 35-year-old has hit 380 home runs during a 14-year career that began with the Cincinnati Reds.
Santana owns a lifetime .247 average and 198 home runs. His best year with Cleveland came in 2016, when he clubbed career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (87).
Bauers played in 96 games for the Rays in 2018, batting .201 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs.
Diaz, 27, has played in 88 games over parts of two seasons with the Indians, hitting just one home run and batting .283 with a .727 OPS.
–Field Level Media
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December 13, 2018
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has a fractured vertebra in his back that may keep him out of Sunday’s game, multiple outlets are reporting.
Wentz underwent an MRI exam and other tests on Thursday to discover the source of his discomfort and soreness. A CT scan on Wednesday had come back inconclusive, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Eagles are in the process of determining the risk of Wentz continuing to play this season. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Wentz will not require surgery.
Wentz did not practice Wednesday and it appears he will miss Thursday’s practice, as well, as he wasn’t suited up for the start of it.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday that Wentz had “a little bit of back soreness, a little tightness.”
Pederson said he would not make a decision on Wentz’s status until after the further tests were done.
“Again, we’re going to focus on today, get through today, and see where he’s at the end of the day,” Pederson said on Wednesday.
The Eagles travel to play the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night.
Rapoport reported Wentz is not likely to play Sunday and may not play again in 2018 as the team continues to gather information on his health.
Without Wentz, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles would take over for the Eagles (6-7). Foles started the first two games of the season as Wentz recovered from ACL surgery. He completed 65.9 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception in the Eagles’ 1-1 start.
Wentz has passed for 3,074 yards and 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions this season. He was sharp during Sunday’s 29-23 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys as he completed 22 of 32 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
–Field Level Media
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December 13, 2018
By Matt Scuffham
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s biggest banks are tightening their grip over the country’s C$1.5 trillion ($1.1 trillion) mortgage market as new rules designed to cut out risky lending make it harder for borrowers to switch lenders, with some analysts betting on more gains for the country’s biggest two banks.
The rules, which stress-test borrowers’ ability to make repayments at 200 basis points above their contracted rates, had been expected to hurt profitability at the banks’ domestic businesses by resulting in them turning away more customers.
However, the country’s biggest five banks, which account for about two-thirds of the Canadian mortgage market, are reporting higher rates of renewals by existing customers concerned they will not qualify for a mortgage with another bank.
The rules, known as B-20 and introduced in January, do not apply when borrowers are renewing mortgages with their current lender, creating an uneven playing field.
“B-20 has created higher renewal rates for the big banks, driving volumes and goosing their growth rates,” said Eight Capital analyst Steve Theriault. “It’s had the unintended consequence of reducing competition.”
Royal Bank of Canada <RY.TO> (RBC), the country’s biggest lender, said last month that mortgage renewal rates ranged between 90 and 92 percent in the second half of its fiscal year compared with 87 to 88 percent before the new regulations were implemented.
RBC said that is due in part to the B-20 regulations and also to improvements it has made to make it easier for customers to renew.
FLAT INDUSTRY GROWTH
DBRS analyst Robert Colangelo said RBC and Toronto Dominion Bank <TD.TO> could exceed their targets for mortgage sales growth of 3 to 5 percent and 4 to 6 percent, respectively, next year, given the high retention rates.
“We may see a bit of an uptick in mortgage growth above the guidance that the banks have provided,” he said. “Borrowers have tended to stay with their institutions and not go looking for a bank that might be offering a flashy rate.”
Ron Butler, owner of Toronto-based brokerage Butler Mortgage, said the changes leave borrowers with less choice.
“Even if they are up-to-date with their repayments, borrowers may find they don’t qualify with other lenders so they’re stuck with their bank at whatever rate it offers,” he said.
Senior Canadian bankers such as RBC Chief Executive Dave McKay and TD’s CEO, Bharat Masrani, voiced their support for the new rules prior to their introduction, saying rising prices were a threat to Canada’s economy. [nL2N1MS0HE]
TD increased its residential mortgage book, including home equity loans, by 6.5 percent during its latest fiscal year to Oct. 31, while RBC expanded its book by 4 percent. The overall market grew by just 1 percent during that time.
In contrast, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce’s <CIBC.TO> mortgage book, including home equity loans, was flat during the year. The bank has reined in lending after a period of aggressive growth, during which it expanded its team of mortgage advisers and outperformed the market.
While analysts say RBC and TD are expected to benefit from higher-than-normal retention rates in 2019, not everyone is sure borrowers will benefit.
“The banks are becoming more sophisticated in targeting borrowers who would fail the stress test and they can charge them higher rates at renewal knowing they can’t move elsewhere,” Butler said.
($1 = 1.3344 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Matt Scuffham in Toronto; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
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December 13, 2018
By Aislinn Laing
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Europe’s biggest utility Enel and Chinese electric vehicle giant BYD on Thursday marked the arrival of 100 electric buses in Chile and said they would work together on similar plans for three other Latin American nations.
Enel <ENCH.SN> provided the financing for Chile to acquire the buses from BYD <0285.HK> for the capital Santiago, as well as the charging stations.
Chile represents a jumping off point into Latin America for two companies both seeking to dominate a green car revolution that is projected to see electric and hybrid vehicles account for 30 percent of the global market by 2030.
Alberto Piglia, Enel’s global head of e-mobility, told Reuters that BYD and Enel were talking to the governments of Brazil, Peru and Colombia as well as private firms with a view to offering the same model.
“This is a starting point for us and we will continue to work as we are doing in Chile and across the region,” he said. “There will be an imitation game – others will see how good this is and adapt it to their local markets.”
He said Enel X, Enel’s “e-Solutions” division, would invest more than 300 million euros ($340 million) in electromobility next year, including extending its 30-million euro investment in Chile this year to other parts of Latin America.
Chile’s ambitious plan involves rolling out electric scooters, cars, taxis and trucks to increase the number of electric vehicles tenfold by 2022.
Stella Li, BYD’s vice-president, said there was no need to wait to 2050. “We can do that in the next five to ten years if they want,” she said. “Shenzhen, the fourth-largest city in China, (where BYD is headquartered) electrified all its buses in three years.
“If you bring the finance model, you don’t need government to put a lot of money in, just to provide the policy and utility and private companies will figure it out.”
Piglia said Enel was looking at financing more buses, and also tackling Chile’s infrastructure shortages for electric vehicles by rolling out car charging stations in supermakets, shopping malls and cinemas “by the end of next year”.
BYD’s Li said it would be bidding to provide more buses for Santiago. She said BYD recently signed a deal with Corpus Saneamento e Obras Ltd (Corpus) to provide refuse and forklift trucks for Indaiatuba, Brazil, and confirmed joint talks with Enel with the governments of Brazil, China and Peru on “tenders, public-private partnerships and battery leasing” for public transport.
(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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December 13, 2018
By Nichola Saminather and David Ljunggren
TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was detained in Beijing earlier this week, is a fluent Mandarin speaker with a great love of China who has traveled to some of the most sensitive parts of the Asian country, people who have worked with him said.
Kovrig is one of two Canadians being investigated on suspicion of harming China’s security. They were picked up shortly after Canada arrested a senior Chinese executive at the request of the United States.
Stationed at the Canadian embassy in Beijing from 2014 to 2016, Kovrig served under former ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques, who described him as an excellent political officer.
Kovrig has visited the western Xinjiang region, site of mass detentions and strict surveillance of the ethnic Uighur minority and other Muslim groups, and dealt with other sensitive issues, said Saint-Jacques.
“When you meet with dissidents, you get the attention of the Chinese security establishment,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
At the end of his two-year posting, Kovrig told the envoy he wanted to stay on because “he loves China so much.” He joined the Hong Kong-based International Crisis Group, a think tank focused on conflict resolution.
“He really is passionate about China, its language and its culture,” said Karim Lebhour, head of ICG’s North American communications in Washington, who said he had met Kovrig a few months ago. “He struck me as very professional, very easy to engage with and a brilliant foreign policy mind.”
One area Kovrig focused on was North Korea, where Michael Spavor – the other detained Canadian – was also active.
Kovrig is still technically employed by the Canadian foreign affairs department but because he took a leave of absence, he does not have diplomatic immunity.
“The fact that Mr. Kovrig is an employee of my department means a lot of us know him and that adds another layer to the concern,” Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on Wednesday.
Joanna Chiu, a reporter for the Toronto Star, wrote in the paper on Tuesday that she had met and befriended Kovrig while she was working in Beijing four years ago.
“Michael is emotionally very open. Many in his social circle knew that he struggled with his decision to take a leave of absence from work as a diplomat in 2016,” she wrote.
“He chose to do so because he didn’t want another posting somewhere else. He wanted to stay in China and keep learning more about the country.”
Kovrig’s most recent social media post was on Sunday. His family heard about his detention on Tuesday morning, his cousin Kate Kovrig said in a message on LinkedIn on Tuesday.
Kovrig began his diplomatic career in 2014 as the first secretary and vice-consul at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, following two years of Mandarin training, his LinkedIn profile showed.
Most of his Twitter posts are China-related, including several on Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer. Retweeting an FT opinion piece last week arguing that Huawei should be kept out of Britain’s 5G networks for security reasons, he commented: “Sensible cautionary advice on Huawei.”
(Reporting by David Ljunggren, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
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December 13, 2018
(Reuters) – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) will offer greater protection to the rankings of mothers returning to the tour after giving birth, British media reported on Thursday.
Players returning from maternity leave or injury will now be able to use their previous ranking to enter 12 tournaments over a three-year period.
However, Serena Williams’ request for returning mothers to be seeded in line with their rankings has not been approved.
The 23-times Grand Slam champion made a comeback in February after giving birth to her daughter last year.
Her world ranking had fallen to 451 when she was not seeded at the French Open. She was, however, seeded 25th at this year’s Wimbledon despite being ranked outside world’s top 32 players.
The BBC reported that the WTA had also clarified its regulations around clothing to ensure Williams would be able to wear the black catsuit which attracted the ire of the French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli.
The WTA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for confirmation.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)
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