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Facebook Testing a Way to Let You Move Photos to Rival Sites

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LONDON — Facebook is trying to make it easier for users to move photos from the social network to rival online services, reacting to European privacy laws and criticism from regulators that its size and control over data hinders competition.

On Monday, Facebook said it would begin testing a “data portability” tool in Ireland that would allow users there to move photos and videos from Facebook to Google Photos. Critics immediately said the initiative did not go far enough.

Facebook’s control over personal data has been central to ongoing antitrust investigations in Washington and Europe. Authorities say Facebook holds so much information about its users, data it uses to fuel its digital advertising business and improve its services, that it creates a competitive imbalance that rivals can’t match.

The company has long benefited from so-called network effects, where the value of its services increases as more people join. But many users have felt they can’t leave Facebook because transferring photos and videos elsewhere was too difficult. To foster more competition, officials have debated how to make companies let users take their content and data to other services.

Facebook is starting the project in Ireland with Google, hardly a small upstart, but said that it would expand it to other photo services and other parts of the world by June.

Facebook said the photo-moving service came after discussions with officials in countries including Brazil, Britain, Germany and Singapore.

“We’ve learned from our conversations with policymakers, regulators, academics, advocates and others that real-world use cases and tools will help drive policy discussions forward,” the company said in a blog post.

A Google spokesman said that the company had offered data portability tools since 2007, and also pointed to the company’s founding role in the Data Transfer Project, which enables direct platform-to-platform portability.

Critics responded quickly, saying more must be done to crimp Facebook’s power. The European Union’s privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, already requires Facebook and other companies to make data portable to other services.

Michael Veale, lecturer in digital rights and regulation at the University College London, said a better way to encourage competition would be to allow non-Facebook users to interact with those who are on the social network, for actions like messaging and organizing events. “Being able to port your data does not threaten Facebook,” said Mr. Veale, who has filed a privacy complaint against Facebook in Europe for not giving him access to data that the network holds about him.

Martin Husovec, an assistant professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands who has written about data portability, said authorities were debating whether to require Facebook to make more of its real-time data available to competitors. In Britain, regulators now require banks to provide access to certain financial data, allowing smaller companies to offer digital banking services that are becoming popular with customers.

“Data gives companies power, that’s why it becomes an important resource,” Mr. Husovec said. “If you force a company to share the information perhaps you reduce the competitive advantage and level the playing field.”

Agustín Reyna, the chief competition officer for the European Consumer Organization, a consumer-rights group, said Facebook’s announcement was a “halfway solution.”

“The market of social networks is far too concentrated partly because of the strong network effects which lock in consumers within Facebook’s ecosystem,” he said. “The fact that you might be able to transfer your pictures to another service will not change that situation.”

Control of data has become a central issue in the ongoing antitrust debate about the power of the world’s largest technology platforms. Authorities in the United States and Europe have been exploring whether companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google use data to box out competitors.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s top antitrust regulator, said last week that the use of data could provide many benefits, “but not if that data is monopolized by a few companies, and used to drive out competition.”

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U.S. and China Reach Initial Trade Deal

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BEIJING — The United States and China have agreed to an initial trade deal that will result in a reduction of tariffs and purchases of American farm goods, marking a significant de-escalation in the 19-month battle that has rattled the world economy.

“We have agreed to a very large Phase One Deal with China,” President Trump said in a tweet. “They have agreed to many structural changes and massive purchases of Agricultural Product, Energy, and Manufactured Goods, plus much more.”

Mr. Trump said the United States would reduce its overall tariff rate on Chinese goods to 7.5 percent, down from the current rate of 25 percent and that a round of tariffs scheduled for Sunday would be cancelled.

Wang Shouwen, China’s vice commerce minister, said at a news conference in Beijing that the two sides had made “significant progress” and that the agreement would result in the United States removing some of the tariffs it has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods. Those tariffs would come off “phase by phase” and the United States would agree to exempt more Chinese products from being taxed, he said.

“This will create better conditions for China and the United States to strengthen cooperation,” Mr. Wang said.

The agreement includes a commitment by Beijing to buy more American agriculture products and to strengthen laws protecting foreign companies operating in China, as well as beefing up intellectual property rules and providing more transparency around currency movements. Mr. Wang said both sides have agreed to complete legal reviews as quickly as possible and that an official signing was still being worked out.

Some advisers to the White House said the Chinese had agreed to buy $50 billion worth of American farm products next year but China has so far not confirmed that figure. Officials on Friday said that imports of American agriculture products would increase by a “considerable margin” to meet China’s needs for goods like soybean and pork.

The deal came as a relief of investors, who have been haunted by the steady drumbeat of tariffs that have depressed business sentiment and stirred economic uncertainty. The S&P 500 was up slightly in early-morning trading.

An agreement will also give Mr. Trump another trade win that he can tout heading into his re-election campaign and as Congress forges ahead with his impeachment. The agreement came on the same week that the administration agreed with House Democrats to revise the terms of a trade pact with Canada and Mexico.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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What the U.K. Election Result Means for London’s Future as a Financial Hub

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LONDON—The U.K. capital’s financial center cheered Boris Johnson’s emphatic election victory for alleviating the Brexit uncertainty that has hung over the British economy’s key engine for 3½ years.

Banks and financial firms have been preparing for a disruptive Brexit, collectively spending billions of pounds to protect themselves, while also suffering revenue and margin declines as their customers hoarded cash and held back on investments.

London’s status as Europe’s only truly global financial center came under threat as cities including Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam vied to attract firms and talent from the U.K. capital. But the City, as London’s financial center is known, has weathered the uncertainty, relying on its cosmopolitan atmosphere and critical mass of workers and companies as a bulwark. So far, the exodus of financial workers that many predicted after the U.K. voted to exit from the European Union has been more of a trickle.

On Friday, the City’s mood was one of relief after Mr. Johnson’s Conservatives quashed a challenge by the opposition Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn. The victory gave the party the parliamentary majority needed to pass Mr. Johnson’s Brexit deal before the end of next month.

“It is a vote for clarity and action after a long period of uncertainty,’’ said William Jackson, managing partner of London-based private-equity firm Bridgepoint Group, which manages about $22 billion of assets. “Whatever your view, it now provides a business environment in which intelligent investment decisions can be taken.”

The pound jumped and U.K. stocks rose after Prime Minister Boris Johnson scored a decisive election victory on the promise of delivering Brexit. But despite investor optimism, the British government still faces a number of challenges. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg News

For months, bankers have complained that investors and companies have been on the sidelines, waiting for a Brexit resolution. One senior banker on Friday said he expects U.K. deal activity to pick up, with investors plowing more heavily into some assets given the renewed confidence.

But the banker said he thinks the euphoria will be short-lived, given the lack of an agreement with the European Union on financial services, and added he is bracing for the “slow decline in the U.K. compared to the EU.”

A potential recession and interest-rate cut in the country, which many analysts expect, would add to pressure on bank earnings and stock prices.

Under the latest Brexit deal secured by Mr. Johnson, banks will lose their ability as soon as the end of next year to “passport” into the EU to sell services or set up branches in the bloc.

After that, financial-services firms would have to work under a principle known as equivalence, a piecemeal approach allowing market access if the rules of a third country pass muster with Brussels regulators. But equivalence can be revoked by the EU at any time, and a framework for it still needs to be created to cover various financial activities.

Overall, Mr. Johnson’s vision is seen as embracing low-regulation, free-trade and finance-friendly policies, in contrast with Mr. Corbyn’s agenda to raise taxes on companies and the ultrawealthy.

Skyscrapers stand on the skyline in the City of London.


Photo:

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News

The clarity brought by the result comes after years of work undertaken by banks, insurers and asset managers to prepare for a life post-Brexit. They hired lawyers, consultants and lobbyists to figure out where their staff and client business would have to be based.

Banks have typically each spent between $100 million and $500 million on Brexit planning, according to company filings, public statements and people familiar with the matter. Some spent as much as half of their Brexit costs on consultants.

Over the past few years, financial-services firms have picked new cities on the continent to conduct their business from and funnel resources, applying for broker-dealer licenses or creating new entities. That activity has boosted locations including Frankfurt, Dublin, Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich and Luxembourg.

Yet most firms had been waiting for firmer guidance before sending more employees to new locations. Consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP predicts that around 7,000 financial-services jobs could ultimately move, along with around £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) worth of assets. The firm says around 1,000 jobs at the investment banks it monitors have moved. The number of potential moves still pales compared with the number of finance and insurance employees in Greater London, which totaled more than 400,000 as of June, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Bank of America Corp. has spent $400 million preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit, moving its European legal headquarters and more than 100 people from London to Dublin, on top of relocating 300 people to a new investment-banking hub in Paris. The bank has no plans to bring people back if the U.K. leaves with a ratified agreement, said a person familiar with the matter. Bank of America now sees some benefit in having more bankers on the ground in continental Europe, where it is easier for them to meet clients.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has sent around 200 staff to other European cities including Paris and Frankfurt in preparation for Brexit and has taken out new office space in cities such as Madrid, Warsaw and Copenhagen. The bank plans to keep building out its presence on the continent regardless of how the U.K. leaves the EU. “Brexit got us thinking perhaps we are a bit too concentrated in London,” a person familiar with the matter said, adding that it was helpful for some bankers to be closer to their clients.

Morgan Stanley has moved staff and hired in Paris and Frankfurt, while also adding back-office staff in Dublin for its asset-management unit. Meanwhile, Barclays PLC is now Ireland’s biggest bank after moving €190 billion ($212 billion) in assets to Dublin.

Luxembourg, which draws thousands of commuters daily from neighboring France, Belgium and Germany, is marketing itself as the new gateway for private-equity firms and family offices—a role long held by London.

“The Brexit vote has opened up Pandora’s box to reveal there are places other than London,” said Rajaa Mekouar-Schneider, the head of Luxembourg’s private equity and venture-capital association. Swedish private-equity firm EQT AB has consolidated its fund management unit in Luxembourg from London and other cities, for example.

Yet London is still expected to retain its global hub status, at least for now, City workers and observers say.

Banks that are moving senior staff are keeping junior-level employees in the city. Goldman, for example, is moving people at the vice president level upward, or from around age 35, partner Massimo Della Ragione said last month. Mr. Della Ragione said the bank imparts its “best practices” to its junior people in London before they move to other offices.

“In the short to medium term, it’s hard to see a rival for London in terms of liquidity or products or people, or any sort of competitor arising anywhere in the EU,” said Andrew Pilgrim, an associate partner in financial services at EY. “There’s assuredness around short-term certainty, but now we’re setting eyes a little further to the horizon.”

Write to Julie Steinberg at julie.steinberg@wsj.com, Simon Clark at simon.clark@wsj.com and Margot Patrick at margot.patrick@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Dow Jones Futures: China Trade Deal Buzz Fuels Stock Market Rally; Adobe, Broadcom, Costco, Oracle Are Earnings Movers

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Dow Jones futures pared gains early Friday, along with S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures, despite continued China trade deal optimism and U.K election results. The stock market rally spiked Thursday to record highs on President Donald Trump’s positive tweet and reports that a China trade deal has been reached. Adobe (ADBE), Broadcom (AVGO), Costco Wholesale (COST) and Oracle (ORCL) reported earnings after the close. Recent IPO Datadog (DDOG) announced a new integration with Microsoft (MSFT) Azure.




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In extended trading, Adobe stock jumped, signaling a breakout. Broadcom stock reversed lower after moving into a buy zone during Thursday’s session. Costco stock and Oracle stock fell modestly. Datadog stock climbed after closing right at key levels.

Adobe stock is on the IBD 50. Costco stock is on IBD Leaderboard.

Dow Jones Futures Today

Dow Jones futures were 0.2% above fair value, bouncing back after abruptly erasing gains around 8 a.m. ET. S&P 500 futures advanced 0.1% and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.2% after both briefly turned negative. Remember that overnight action in Dow futures and elsewhere doesn’t necessarily translate into actual trading in the next regular stock market session.

It’s not clear why Dow Jones futures slashed gains.

President Trump is expected to unveil a “phase one” China trade deal Friday that will include a partial rollback of existing tariffs and suspending tariffs set for Dec. 15. Beijing will agree to buy some amount of agricultural goods over an unspecified time. Keep in mind that the U.S. has provided no official confirmation of a finalized China trade deal, while Beijing has said little.

The pound rose on a big Conservative parliamentary majority in U.K. elections. That should let Prime Minister Boris Johnson push through a Brexit deal, ending that long-running fight and uncertainty.


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Current Stock Market Rally

The current stock market rally started strong and finished well.

President Trump, shortly after the opening bell, tweeted, “Getting VERY close to a BIG DEAL with China.” Other reports during the day said the U.S. and China had agreed on “phase one” trade deal terms, pending Trump’s final approval. The U.S. would suspend the Dec. 15 tariffs, avoiding a China trade war escalation that would hit the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and many consumer goods for the first time. Both countries would roll back many existing tariffs under the China trade deal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite rose more than 1% intraday, all hitting record highs. Despite some volatile intraday action, the Dow Jones today closed up 0.8%, the S&P 500 index 0.9% and the Nasdaq 0.7%.

The Innovator IBD 50 ETF (FFTY) slid 0.8%, hit by key components such as RH (RH) and InMode (INMD). The iShares Expanded Tech-Software Sector ETF (IGV) climbed 0.4%.

The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) soared 2.9% after popping 2.1% on Wednesday.

The chip sector is the clear hot sector, while some medicals, software and IPO stocks that had been moving higher have run into trouble recently. While chip leadership is great news for a stock market rally, you don’t want to see only chips — and other 5G plays — rising.

Adobe Earnings

Adobe earnings grew 25% to $2.29 a share with revenue up 21.5% to $2.99 billion. It was the second straight quarter of faster Adobe earnings growth. Wall Street expected Adobe earnings of $2.26 a share with sales at $2.976 billion.

Adobe stock rose 2.5% to 313.50 in Friday’s premarket, signaling a move above a 310.10 cup-with-handle buy point, according to Marketsmith. Shares rose 0.7% to 297.34 Thursday. Adobe stock hit a record 313.11 on July 19.

Not only would an Adobe stock breakout be good by itself, but it’s positive for the software sector, which has lost some momentum. It’s good news for the chip-heavy stock market rally as well.

Broadcom Earnings

Broadcom earnings slid 8% to $5.39 a share as fiscal Q4 revenue climbed 6% to $5.78 billion. Analysts forecast Broadcom earnings per share of $5.37 on revenue of $5.755 billion. Broadcom also hiked its dividend by 23%.

Broadcom revenue guidance was above consensus, but analysts may not have factored in the Symantec (SYMC) deal. Also, the chipmaker sees weakness in some wireless products.

Broadcom stock initially rose late Thursday, but reversed to trade down 2.1% at 321 early Friday. Shares jumped 2.3% to 327.17 on Thursday, moving above various buy points, including 325.77.

However, Broadcom stock has not been leading the chip rally.

Costco Earnings

Costco earnings rose 7.5% to $1.73 a share as fiscal Q1 revenue grew nearly 6% to $37.04 billion. Core same-store sales climbed 5% Analysts expected Costco earnings of $1.70 a share on sales of $37.33 billion. Same-store sales excluding gas and foreign exchange impact were seen rising 4.8%.

Costco stock dipped 0.6% before the open. Shares edged up 0.7% to 297.34, staying just below its 50-day line. If Costco stock can move above its 50-day line and perhaps the 300 level in strong volume, investors could use that as an entry point. A more conventional buy point would be 307.20.

The relative strength line for Costco stock is at four-month lows. The RS line, the blue line in the charts provided, track a stock’s performance vs. the S&P 500 index.

Oracle Earnings

Oracle earnings per share rose 13% to 90 cents a share as revenue edged up 0.5% to $9.61 billion. Analysts expected fiscal Q2 Oracle earnings of 88 cents a share on revenue of $9.882 billion.

Oracle stock fell 2.3% before the open, signaling a move back to its 50-day line. Shares climbed 0.3% to 56.47 on Thursday. Oracle stock has a 60.60 buy point from a cup base, though the area just above 57 appears to be a resistance area.

Datadog Teams Up With Microsoft Azure

Datadog announced a new partnership with Microsoft’s cloud-computing business. Users will now be able to troubleshoot Azure DevOps processes.

Datadog stock rose 1.6% before the open. Shares edged up 0.5% on Thursday to 35.73, just above their 50-day line but slightly below the 10-week. Datadog stock soared after it reported earnings last month, ultimately hitting 44.09 on Nov. 25 before pulling back. Datadog stock is well off weekly lows.

Meanwhile, Microsoft stock edged higher Friday morning. Microsoft stock climbed 1% on Thursday to 153.24, clearing a three-weeks-tight entry for the Dow Jones giant.

Please follow Ed Carson on Twitter at @IBD_ECarson for stock market updates and more.

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