Pliskova and Kvitova give Czechs commanding lead over Germany

April 21, 2018

(Reuters) – Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova won their opening singles matches to give Czech Republic a commanding 2-0 lead in their Fed Cup semi-final against Germany in Stuttgart on Saturday.

Kvitova powered past German number one Julia Goerges 6-3 6-2 before Pliskova produced a sublime display to record a 7-5 6-3 victory over Angelique Kerber.

Pliskova, who had lost in her previous three encounters with Kerber, fired 15 aces and faced no break points as she subdued the home fans in Stuttgart.

“No one expected it,” Pliskova said after the German failed to win a set on day one.

Kvitova recorded her 29th Fed Cup victory on the back of a strong serve and a string of blistering groundstrokes.

World number 11 Goerges was stronger in the opening exchanges and raced to a 3-1 lead in the first set before Kvitova rediscovered her rhythm to level things up.

The 28-year-old Czech claimed nine of the last 11 games and dropped just two points on her serve to seal the victory on the stroke of an hour.

The 10-time champion Czechs are looking to reach the Fed Cup final after a one-year absence. The last time Germany won the Fed Cup title was in 1992 in Frankfurt.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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EU edges closer to new Iran sanctions ahead of Trump deadline, envoys say

April 18, 2018

By Robin Emmott and John Irish

BRUSSELS/PARIS (Reuters) – European Union governments are showing more support for the idea of new sanctions on Iran proposed by Britain, France and Germany as a way of dissuading U.S. President Donald Trump from pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal, diplomats say.

London, Paris and Berlin angered their EU partners in March when they tried to move quickly with a proposal to impose sanctions on 15 senior Iranian officials, military figures and companies, before a May 12 deadline set by Trump.

But assurances from U.S. government officials that such sanctions could influence Trump, who has given Europe until next month to “fix” what he says is “the worst deal ever negotiated”, as well as a less confrontational approach by London, Paris and Berlin, appear to be winning other EU members over.

Diplomats also said EU governments were under more pressure to protest against Iran’s role in Syria’s civil war following an April 7 suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus which the West blames on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“It’s not a ‘done deal’ but several states have dropped their resistance,” one diplomat said, citing Spain, Austria and Sweden which had recently joined a majority in favor.

Following meetings in Washington, Luxembourg and Brussels over the past week, Britain, France and Germany have agreed to take a more consensual approach to winning over the other 25 EU governments, which must all agree to the measures, envoys said.

That now includes a formal study of the potential political and economic impact of the proposed travel bans, asset freezes and other steps.

That could be followed by a final round of debate among EU envoys in Brussels, or, if all countries see only a modest sanctions’ impact, a formal document bringing the measures could come into effect in the next few weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are both due to meet Trump in separate visits to Washington next week and are expected to discuss the Iran deal.


New EU sanctions are part of a multi-pronged approach being negotiated with senior U.S. government officials to show Trump that scrapping the pact between Iran and six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – could be devastating for the Middle East. 

However, Italy, which January signed a 5-billion-euro ($6 billion) investment deal with Tehran in January, fears sanctions could damage efforts to rebuild a business relationship with Iran that once made Tehran the EU’s second-biggest oil customer.

Following inconclusive elections in Italy last month, diplomats say the caretaker government in Rome may tell its EU partners it cannot support any new sanctions.

Italian diplomats also questioned whether sanctions would really sway Trump, as some U.S. officials believe they could.

But agreeing sanctions before Trump’s May deadline may be less important than actually getting them approved. The European Union wants to show its anger at Tehran’s support for Assad.

“What is crucial is that there is a goal that has been set and that the Europeans share concerns on Iran’s ballistic and regional activity,” a second diplomat said.

According to the sanctions proposal sent to EU capitals and seen by Reuters, Paris, Berlin and London are also concerned by Iran’s ballistic weapon program, accusing Tehran of “transfers of Iranian missiles and missile technology” to Syria and allies of Tehran in Yemen and Lebanon.

Iran says its missiles are for defensive purposes only.

(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Facebook fuels broad privacy debate by tracking non-users

FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Zuckerberg testifies before a U.S. Senate joint hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

April 15, 2018

By David Ingram

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Concern about Facebook Inc’s <FB.O> respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.

Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by U.S. Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.”

Lawmakers and privacy advocates immediately protested the practice, with many saying Facebook needed to develop a way for non-users to find out what the company knows about them.

“We’ve got to fix that,” Representative Luján, a Democrat, told Zuckerberg, calling for such disclosure, a move that would have unclear effects on the company’s ability to target ads. Zuckerberg did not respond. On Friday Facebook said it had no plans to build such a tool.

Critics said that Zuckerberg has not said enough about the extent and use of the data. “It’s not clear what Facebook is doing with that information,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington advocacy group.


Facebook gets some data on non-users from people on its network, such as when a user uploads email addresses of friends. Other information comes from “cookies,” small files stored via a browser and used by Facebook and others to track people on the internet, sometimes to target them with ads.

“This kind of data collection is fundamental to how the internet works,” Facebook said in a statement to Reuters.

Asked if people could opt out, Facebook added, “There are basic things you can do to limit the use of this information for advertising, like using browser or device settings to delete cookies. This would apply to other services beyond Facebook because, as mentioned, it is standard to how the internet works.”

Facebook often installs cookies on non-users’ browsers if they visit sites with Facebook “like” and “share” buttons, whether or not a person pushes a button. Facebook said it uses browsing data to create analytics reports, including about traffic to a site.

The company said it does not use the data to target ads, except those inviting people to join Facebook.


Advocates and lawmakers say they are singling out Facebook because of its size, rivaled outside China only by Alphabet Inc’s <GOOGL.O> Google, and because they allege Zuckerberg was not forthcoming about the extent and reasons for the tracking.

“He’s either deliberately misunderstanding some of the questions, or he’s not clear about what’s actually happening inside Facebook’s operation,” said Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a senior staff technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Zuckerberg, for instance, said the collection was done for security purposes, without explaining further or saying whether it was also used for measurement or analytics, Gillmor said, adding that Facebook had a business incentive to use the non-user data to target ads.

Facebook declined to comment on why Zuckerberg referred to security only.

Gillmor said Facebook could build databases on non-users by combining web browsing history with uploaded contacts. Facebook said on Friday that it does not do so.

The ACLU is pushing U.S. lawmakers to enact broad privacy legislation including a requirement for consent prior to data collection.

The first regulatory challenge to Facebook’s practices for non-users may come next month when a new European Union law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), takes effect and requires notice and consent prior to data collection.

At a minimum, “Facebook is going to have to think about ways to structure their technology to give that proper notice,” said Woodrow Hartzog, a Northeastern University professor of law and computer science.

Facebook said in its statement on Friday, “Our products and services comply with applicable law and will comply with GDPR.”

The social network would be wise to recognize at least a right to know, said Michael Froomkin, a University of Miami law professor.

“If I’m not a Facebook user, I ought to have a right to know what data Facebook has about me,” Froomkin said.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Peter Henderson and Richard Chang)

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Trump says Syria attack ‘could be very soon or not so soon’

A man walks with his bicycle at a damaged site in the besieged town of Douma
A man walks with his bicycle at a damaged site in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 30, 2018. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

April 12, 2018

By Makini Brice, Guy Faulconbridge and Vladimir Soldatkin

WASHINGTON/LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump cast doubt on Thursday over the timing of his threatened strike on Syria in response to a reported poison gas attack, while France said it had proof of Syria’s guilt but needed to gather more information.

Fears of confrontation between Russia and the West have been running high since Trump said on Wednesday that missiles “will be coming” after the suspected chemical weapons assault in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, and lambasted Moscow for standing by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” the U.S. president said in his latest early morning tweet on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France has proof the Syrian government carried out the attack, which aid groups have said killed dozens of people, and will decide whether to strike back when all the necessary information has been gathered.

“We have proof that last week … chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” Macron said, without offering details of any evidence.

“We will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective,” he told broadcaster TF1.

Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to convene a special cabinet meeting at 1430 GMT to weigh whether Britain should join the United States and France in a possible military action.

May recalled ministers from their Easter holiday to debate action over what she has cast as a barbaric poison gas attack in Douma, then rebel-held, just east of the capital Damascus.

There were signs, though, of a global effort to head off a direct confrontation between Russia and the West. The Kremlin said a crisis communications link with the United States, created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.

“The situation in Syria is horrific, the use of chemical weapons is something the world has to prevent,” Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis said.

“But also it’s a very, very delicate circumstance and we’ve got to make this judgment on a very careful, very deliberate, very well thought-through basis.”

There was no direct word from Russian President Vladimir Putin on the crisis, though he discussed the situation with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan by phone on Thursday, Interfax news agency said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow sought no escalation of the situation, but that it could not support “dishonest accusations” and it had found no evidence of a chemical weapons attack in Douma.

Statements from Washington have been militaristic, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, and threats by the United States and France were a violation of the U.N. charter.


Syria’s military has repositioned some air assets to avoid missile strikes, U.S. officials told Reuters. Locating them alongside Russian military hardware might make Washington reluctant to hit them.

Russian ships had left the Tartus naval base in Syria, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian lawmaker as saying. Vladimir Shamanov, who chairs the defence committee of the lower house, said the vessels had departed the Mediterranean base for their own safety, which was “normal practice” when there were threats of attack.

For its part, the Russian military said it had observed movements of U.S. Navy forces in the Gulf. Any U.S. strike would probably involve the navy, given the risk to aircraft from Russian and Syrian air defences. A U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.

Moscow’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, warned on Wednesday that any U.S. missiles unleashed at Syria would be shot down and the launch sites targeted.

Russia, Assad’s most important ally in his seven-year-old war with rebels, said it had deployed military police in Douma on Thursday after the town was taken over by government forces.

“They are the guarantors of law and order in the town,” RIA news agency quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying.

Assad said any Western action “will contribute nothing but an increase in instability in the region, threatening international peace and security”, Syrian state TV reported.

The Syrian conflict has increasingly widened the rifts between Moscow, Washington and European powers and inflamed the bitter rivalries that run across the Middle East.

Syria, Russia and Iran say reports of the attack were fabricated by rebels and rescue workers in Douma and have accused the United States of seeking to use it as a pretext to attack the government.

Nervous world stock markets showed signs of recovery after Trump signaled military strikes might not be imminent.


Syria and its allies Russia and Iran say Israel was behind an air strike on a Syrian air base on Monday that killed seven Iranian military personnel, something Israel has neither confirmed nor denied.

Russia’s Putin spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday and urged him to do nothing to destabilize Syria. Netanyahu’s office said: “The prime minister reiterated that Israel will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.”

Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said the Western threats were “based on lies” about the poison gas assault, after meeting Assad. He said later he hoped Syria’s army and its allies would drive U.S. troops out of eastern Syria, and take Idlib in the northwest from rebels.

May has ordered British submarines to move within missile range of Syria in readiness for strikes against the Syrian military that could begin as early as Thursday night, London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper said on Wednesday.

The BBC reported that May was ready to give the go-ahead for Britain to take part in military action. She would not seek approval from parliament, the BBC said.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said parliament must be consulted.

Parliament voted down British military action against Assad’s government in 2013 in an embarrassment for May’s predecessor, David Cameron. That then deterred the U.S. administration of Barack Obama from similar action.

(Additional reporting by Angus McDowall in Beirut, William James in London, Andrew Osborn, Maria Kiselyova and Jack Stubbs in Moscow, John Irish in Paris and Graham Fahy in Dublin; Writing by Andrew Roche; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Richard Balmforth)

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Merck’s Keytruda helps lung cancer patients live longer in trial

Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda. REUTERS/via Merck

April 9, 2018

By Tamara Mathias

(Reuters) – Merck & Co’s <MRK.N> blockbuster drug Keytruda helped previously untreated lung cancer patients live longer in a late-stage trial, potentially cementing its position as the dominant player in the lucrative lung cancer market.

Shares of the drugmaker were up 3.1 percent at $55.07.

Merck is already considered the frontrunner in the space and Keytruda is expected to earn peak sales of over $10 billion in 2023, according to Credit Suisse.

Keytruda is already approved in the U.S. to treat patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have not received prior therapies and whose tumors show PD-L1 protein levels of 50 percent or greater.

If the company can show that the new data benefits patients whose PD-L1 expression is between 1 and 49 percent, it would expand Keytruda’s market and raise the competitive benchmark for rivals Bristol-Myers Squibb <BMY.N> and AstraZeneca Plc <AZN.L>, BMO Capital Markets analyst Alex Arfaei said.

An independent data monitoring committee determined the trial, which tested Keytruda as a monotherapy to treat NSCLC, extended the lives of patients significantly compared to chemotherapy.

Additional data from Merck, as well as results from trials of competitors, could eventually determine which companies will snatch the largest slice of the pie for the lung cancer market.

“I think the market still believes that there could be other players in the lung cancer market, which would combat overall sales of Keytruda in this setting,” Guggenheim Securities analyst Tony Butler told Reuters.

“Because we don’t know the full data set we don’t know the survival benefit here.”

Based on a recommendation from the committee, the trial will continue to evaluate a secondary goal on whether the treatment can delay the disease from progressing.

“While it is still unclear whether Keytruda and (Bristol-Myers’) Opdivo are truly different in some way, it is crystal clear that Merck has done a much better job designing trials and developing their drug. This will solidify their lead,” said Brad Loncar, chief executive officer of Loncar Investments, which runs the Loncar Cancer Immunotherapy ETF.

Keytruda, which is approved to treat several other forms of cancer including skin and blood cancer, racked up $3.81 billion in revenue in 2017.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and is expected to kill over 154,000 people this year, the American Cancer Society says. NSCLC accounts for about 85 percent of all lung cancer cases, Merck said.

Shares of Bristol-Myers fell 2.3 percent to $59.43.

(Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Bernard Orr)

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Apple says repeal of EPA carbon plan would threaten investments

April 6, 2018

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Apple Inc <AAPL.O> said on Friday it opposes any repeal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the Clean Power Plan, which is a priority of the agency’s Administrator Scott Pruitt and would reverse an Obama-era program to curb greenhouse gases.

Repealing the plan would jeopardize the country’s position in the race for investments in clean energy, particularly its competition with China, Apple said. It was the first public comment by a company on the proposed repeal of the plan, which has never been implemented because of legal challenges.

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan will subject consumers like Apple and our large manufacturing partners to increased investment uncertainty,” the California-based company said in a filing to the agency.

Apple, which says it runs its U.S. operations fully on renewable energy such as wind and solar power, added that repeal of the plan would also threaten development and investments that have already been made in renewable power.

Lisa Jackson, who was the EPA’s chief from 2009 to 2013 under former President Barack Obama, runs Apple’s program to address climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The opposition from one of America’s biggest and best known companies to Pruitt’s planned repeal comes as the EPA head is battling allegations about his ethics, including that he leased a room in a Washington townhouse co-owned by the wife of energy industry lobbyist.

Pruitt proposed last October to repeal the Clean Power Plan, a set of standards for U.S. states intended to cut pollution from power plants, the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In December, the EPA launched a comment period for a possible replacement of the plan.

Under Pruitt, the EPA has said the Clean Power Plan was illegal and exceeded the agency’s statutory authority. The plan never went into effect after it was suspended by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The EPA has not indicated whether or when it would propose a new rule to regulate the emissions.

The proposed repeal is part of Trump’s broader effort to support the coal, oil and natural gas industries and to boost exports of the resources to cut trade deficits.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a response to Apple’s filing that the agency appreciates all public feedback and will be considering the comments as part of the rulemaking process.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Automakers’ March U.S. sales rise, lifted by strong economy

April 3, 2018

By Nick Carey

DETROIT (Reuters) – Detroit’s automakers posted sales gains in new vehicles in March on the back of a strong U.S. economy, sending shares in both General Motors Co <GM.N> and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV <FCHA.MI> <FCAU.N> up in early trading.

GM posted a 16 percent jump in new vehicle sales from the previous March, led by a 14 percent increase in higher-margin retail sales to consumers. Fiat Chrysler (FCA) reported a 14 percent increase in sales in March. FCA said it saw a 45 percent spike in sales of its popular Jeep models, giving the brand its best sales month on record.

The strong results for March followed a weak performance in February.

Last year, U.S. auto sales fell 2 percent after hitting a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. Sales are expected to fall further in 2018 as interest rates rise and push up monthly car payments. Also, millions of nearly new vehicles will return to the market this year after coming off lease, providing a lower-cost alternative for consumers.

GM, the No. 1 U.S. automaker saw double-digit sales increases across all of its brands in March, with particularly strong gains for its SUV and pickup truck models.

“March was an exceptional month for us,” GM’s U.S. head of sales Kurt McNeil said in a statement. “A growing economy and strong new products helped us execute a very successful plan to conquest customers from other brands.”

GM also reduced its dealer inventory of unsold vehicles – a key metric for analysts – to 72 days from 85 days at the end of February.

But while GM said its average transaction price was up $900 in the first quarter, the company’s consumer discounts as a percentage of transaction prices hit 14.5 percent in March.

Industry analysts consider discounts of over 10 percent to be unhealthy as they undermine resale values.

FCA’s retail sales to consumers outstripped those of No. 2 U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co <F.N>.

But FCA also saw a 22 percent increase in lower-margin fleet sales to rental car companies and government agencies. Over the past year FCA has pursued a policy of cutting fleet sales.

Ford reported a 3.4 percent increase in overall sales for March, led by an 8.7 percent rise in fleet sales. Retail sales were up just 0.8 percent in the month.

Ford said sales of its best-selling F-Series pickup trucks were the best since 2000.

Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> reported a 3.5 percent increase in sales in March, with double-digit increase in SUV and pickup truck sales offsetting a 6.1 percent decrease in sedan sales. Sales of the company’s completely-revamped flagship Camry sedan fell 1.1 percent.

In morning trading, GM shares were up 2.6 percent at $36.68, while FCA shares rose 5.2 percent to $21, and Ford shares were up 1.2 percent at $11.

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Sierra Leone heads to the polls to seek successor to Koroma

March 31, 2018

By Umaru Fofana

FREETOWN (Reuters) – Sierra Leone voted on Saturday in a poll delayed by fraud allegations to choose a successor to President Ernest Bai Koroma who leaves a country still struggling after the Ebola epidemic.

The face-off between opposition leader Julius Maada Bio and ruling party standard-bearer Samura Kamara was supposed to take place on Tuesday but was rescheduled after a complaint about fraud in the first round of voting this month from a member of Kamara’s All People’s Congress.

The successor to Koroma, who is stepping aside after his maximum two five-year terms in office, faces an uphill struggle to overturn years of hardship caused by a slump in the price of its commodity exports and Ebola.

Voting got under way early in peaceful conditions, according to witnesses, though some complained that a heavy police presence inside polling stations was deterring people from casting their ballot.

Staff at two polling stations said turnout in the morning was lower than in the first round. Many were forced to walk to their nearest voting station because of a driving ban imposed on election day for security reasons.

“There is low turnout in different parts of the country because of the huge presence of security forces,” Julius Maada Bio said after voting in Freetown.

President Koroma also noted the low turnout when he spoke in Freetown, and urged people to head to their polling stations.

Concern about policing comes after the National Electoral Commission last week said that police had tried to intimidate staff in the run-up to the election.

Speaking to the media, army spokesman Major Paow Kagbo said the military personnel were there to ensure the election was “free and fair”.

Politics in the West African country of over seven million people has been dominated by two parties since independence from Britain in 1961: the ruling All People’s Congress, now fielding ex-foreign minister Samura Kamara, and the Sierra Leone People’s Party behind Julius Maada Bio, who briefly ruled as head of a military junta in 1996.

The first round of voting was marred by allegations of fraud in some districts. In some districts, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds after a dispute over voting irregularities.

But the generally peaceful nature of the election, and the fact Koroma is stepping down while some other African presidents seek to extend their mandates, is seen as a positive sign for Sierra Leone that was ripped apart by a 1990s civil war.

The Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015 and the global commodities downturn slowed the economy, which shrank by a fifth in 2015.

(Additional reporting by Christo Johnson; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Amazon, Apple weigh on Nasdaq

A woman passes by the Nasdaq Market Site in Times Square in New York
A woman passes by the Nasdaq Market Site in Times Square in New York City, U.S., February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 28, 2018

By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) – The Nasdaq Composite index fell on Wednesday, dragged down by losses in Amazon and Apple, while gains in healthcare stocks propped up the Dow and the S&P 500.

Amazon fell more than 5 percent after reports that President Donald Trump is looking to target the company by changing its tax treatment.

Apple dropped 1.6 percent after Goldman Sachs analyst cut sales estimate for iPhone for March and June quarters, citing weak demand.

However, Facebook’s shares rose more than 2 percent after the company said it was giving users more control over their privacy by making data management easier and redesigning the settings menu.

The social network has lost more than $100 billion in market value since March 16, when it first acknowledged that user data had been improperly harvested by a consultancy firm.

“We had Facebook making some announcements. That’s obviously taking some pressure off the stock at the moment,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director of New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

“It’s enough to get some short covering, but as far as pouring in, most investors will wait until the dust settles.”

Broader markets have suffered this month on a back-and-forth between the United States and China on tariffs and fears of rising interest rates. The main indexes are on track for their worst month since January 2016.

Comments from top officials in the United States and China had given a sense that both the countries would negotiate over President Donald Trump’s move to impose tariffs on Chinese goods.

China is expected to soon announce a list of retaliatory tariffs on US exports, its state-run Global Times reported on Wednesday.

At 9:55 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 90.99 points, or 0.38 percent, at 23,948.7 and the S&P 500 was up 5.87 points, or 0.22 percent, at 2,618.49.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 18.60 points, or 0.27 percent, at 6,990.21.

The S&P healthcare index was up nearly 1 percent on gains in Allergan, Celgene and Incyte.

Tesla dropped about 4.4 percent after the U.S. government said it would investigate a fatal crash and vehicle fire of a Model X in California.

Lululemon Athletica surged 8.8 percent after the Canadian athletic apparel maker posted a surprisingly strong fourth-quarter profit and forecast further growth in the first quarter.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE for a 1.41-to-1 ratio and for a 1.06-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Keep shouting, don’t become anesthetized, pope tells young people

The Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis blesses faithful gathered to attend the Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican, March 25, 2018 REUTERS/Tony Gentile

March 25, 2018

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, starting Holy Week services leading to Easter, urged young people on Sunday to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices or anesthetize their idealism.

Francis spoke a day after hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month’s Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States to demand tighter gun laws.

He did not mention the demonstrations. Catholic News Service (CNS) said Gabriella Zuniga, 16, and her sister Valentina, 15, both students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 people were killed in February, attended the service with their parents.

CNS posted a photo of the two holding up signs in St. Peter’s Square, with one reading, “Protect Our Children, Not Our Guns.”

The 81-year-old Francis led a long and solemn Palm Sunday service before tens of thousands in the square, many of them young people there for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.

Carrying a woven palm branch known as a “palmurello,” Francis led a procession in front of the largest church in Christendom to commemorate the day the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a savior, only to be crucified five days later.


Drawing on biblical parallels, Francis urged the young people in the crowd not to let themselves be manipulated.

“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass.

“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said.

“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he told young people, urging them to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later.

“It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”

The young people in the crowd shouted, “Yes!”

While Francis did not mention Saturday’s marches in the United States, he has often condemned weapons manufacturing and mass shootings.

Palm Sunday marked the start of a hectic week of activities for the pope.

On Holy Thursday he is due to preside at two services, including one in which he will wash the feet of 12 inmates in a Rome jail to commemorate Jesus’ gesture of humility toward his apostles the night before he died.

On Good Friday, he is due to lead a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession at Rome’s Colosseum. On Saturday night he leads a Easter vigil service and on Easter Sunday he delivers his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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