Top Twitter users lose thousands of followers as policy changes


A Twitter policy change on Thursday to increase the service's credibility cost its 100 most popular users about 2pc of their followers, on average, according to social media data firm Keyhole.

Twitter is no longer counting as followers any accounts that have been locked because of suspected fraud, Chief Executive Jack Dorsey posted on Thursday.

Locked accounts had already been kept out of Twitter's daily and monthly active user figures.


The accounts are locked if Twitter detects unusual behavior such as a burst of activity after months of dormancy.

The new policy could be substantial for some Twitter users because follower totals serve as a top selling point when celebrities and so-called social media influencers negotiate deals with advertisers.

For other users, follower counts are a point of pride.

As the change went into effect, Twitter's "@Twitter" account lost 12.4pc of its followers compared with Wednesday, the steepest drop among the top 100 accounts by followers, according to Keyhole data.

Tech executive Elon Musk saw the smallest dip, 0.3pc, or about 71,000 followers.

The median decline in the top 100 was about 734,000 followers, according to the data.

Twitter said its service-wide average drop was expected to be four followers.

Twitter declined to provide additional data.

Keyhole specializes in capturing data from Twitter and Instagram and selling reports to businesses.

Pop music artist Katy Perry, whose account is the most followed, lost more than 2.8 million followers on Thursday, a 2.6pc fall from the day earlier.

Other musical artists in the top 100, including Pink, Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Eminem, all saw drops of more than 3pc.

Financial analysts have applauded Twitter's efforts to better limit misuse, saying that it could pay off with greater usage long term.

ECB reveals it wanted to strike balance on rate-rise guidance

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European Central Bank officials wanted to balance precision with latitude when they offered investors new guidance on when interest rates could begin to rise.

At their meeting in June, a milestone event dominated by an announcement that net asset purchases would end this year, policymakers also said that borrowing costs would remain at record lows at least through the summer of 2019.

In the account of that gathering, the governing council said that was a "good balance between providing sufficiently precise guidance and maintaining adequate flexibility".

While summer 2019 is still a year away and there's any number of events that could change the outlook, economists and market participants have tried to translate the ECB's vague language into a specific point in time. Bloomberg reported last week that some policymakers were unhappy with investors' perception that the first hike would come only at the end of 2019.

In their view, a move in September or October next year is more likely on the cards.

The governing council's broad aim at the June meeting was to reiterate their policy would remain accommodative, using a slightly more dovish stance on rates - investors had expected a first hike in the middle of the year before the meeting - to cushion the impact of expiring bond buying.

"As remaining uncertainties surrounding the inflation outlook still called for caution, it was widely felt that monetary policy had to remain patient, prudent and persistent," the ECB said in the account published yesterday.

"It was argued that credible and effective forward guidance should be provided on the use of the remaining policy instruments."

The euro was little changed after the report and traded at $1.1677 at 3:22pm Frankfurt time.

The summary of the meeting also showed that officials were keeping a close eye on market developments to avoid negative surprises.

Announcing the end of net purchases was "widely regarded as following the gradual and predictable pattern of past recalibrations of the monetary-policy stance".

A reference was made that the ECB's signature longer-term loans have contributed "notably" to credit growth, exceeding initial expectations "somewhat".

Other economic data have also started to recover after repeatedly missing forecasts since the start of the year. Still, concerns over a trade spat between the US and China - the world's two biggest economies - have weighed on investor confidence in both Germany and the euro area.

Policy makers expressed concern that this could lead to a general decline in sentiment and saw risks to global growth on downside, according to the account.

ECB President Mario Draghi urged governments earlier this week to push back against rising protectionism, which he singled out as the main risk for the region's economic expansion.

Citigroup profit beats on consumer banking but revenue disappoints


Citigroup's quarterly profit topped Wall Street estimates on strength in its consumer banking business, but revenue missed expectations, weighed down by lower debt underwriting.

The third-largest US bank by assets, like its peers, has benefited from a cut in income tax rates and an expanding US economy that has fueled demand for loans.

The bank's total loans rose 5pc in the second quarter. Bigger rival JPMorgan Chase & Co reported a 7pc rise in average core loans earlier on Friday.

Citigroup's shares were down 1.5pc in premarket trading.

Overall, revenue rose about 2pc to $18.47bn but came in slightly below the average expectation of $18.51bn.

Debt underwriting revenue fell 20pc in the wake of rising interest rates.

The bank's fixed income trading revenue fell 6pc, while equity trading revenue rose 19pc. Total markets and securities services revenue fell 1pc.

Last month, Chief Financial Officer John Gerspach said he expected trading revenue to be "flattish" compared with a year earlier.

Net income rose 16pc to $4.49bn in the second quarter ended June 30, driven by a 14pc jump in net income for its global consumer banking.

Earnings per share rose to $1.63 from $1.28 and topped analysts' average estimate of $1.56, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Chief Executive Michael Corbat said in a statement on Friday that given the results he remained confident of achieving the financial targets set last year.

Corbat had last year outlined an ambitious plan to grow profit and return at least $60bn to shareholders.

At its first investor day in nine years in July last year, Citigroup executives detailed ways they intend to generate more revenue, cut unnecessary costs, use capital more wisely and get back to building businesses after a long period of divestitures.

The bank's provision for income tax fell by $351m in the reported quarter, following President Donald Trump's corporate tax rate cuts.

Through Thursday, Citigroup shares are down 7.9pc for the year, compared with the 1pc drop in the broader KBW Bank Index.

JPMorgan Chase & Co's quarterly profit topped Wall Street's expectations on Friday, as trading revenue came in much higher than expected and demand for loans increased on the back of a strengthening US economy.

Halfords poaches from Waitrose top team to replace finance chief


Halfords has poached from Waitrose's top team to replace outgoing finance chief Jonny Mason.

The car parts and bikes retailer has appointed Loraine Woodhouse, who has been finance director at Waitrose since 2015, as its new chief financial officer.

Ms Woodhouse, who has also held finance director roles at Hobbs, Costa Coffee and Intu, will succeed Mr Mason on November 1.


She also has experience in finance and investor relations at Kingfisher, owner of B&Q and Screwfix.

Halfords chief executive Graham Stapleton said: "I am delighted that Loraine will be joining Halfords as CFO and look forward to working with her.

"She has extensive finance leadership within service-based retail and will be a great addition to the senior team.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Jonny Mason and to wish him every success in the future."

Halfords' annual profits fell in 2017-18 after the retailer was forced to stomach rising costs linked to the Brexit-hit pound.

The group booked a 6pc fall in full-year pre-tax profit to £67.1m in the year to March 30, while revenue rose 3.7pc to £1.13bn.

Halfords outlined £25m in additional costs as a result of the weaker pound against the US dollar, knocking the group's share price by 14pc.

Petroneft review explores sale of Russian oil asset


Irish oil and gas explorer Petroneft is exploring the sale of an oil-producing asset in Russia.

The company told the market yesterday that it was "examining a number of options in relation to maximising shareholder value".

"This process is at a very early stage and there is no certainty that any transaction will be completed. Further announcements will be made in the event of a material development," Petroneft said.

The company moved to clarify the matter after a report in Russian newspaper 'Kommersant' that the asset sale was being explored. The asset in question is known as Licence 61 and is 50pc owned by Petroneft, with the other 50pc being owned by Oil India.

In full year results for 2017, Petroneft said the licence had produced an average of 2,237 barrels of oil per day (bopd). This was a drop on the prior year but Petroneft said it was ahead of expectations.

The company was previously the subject of a boardroom battle as largest shareholder Natlata clashed with management over the direction of the business.

Eventually an agreement was reached which saw Natlata's ultimate beneficial owner Maxim Korobov join the Petroneft board.

Mr Korobov is a former member of the Russian parliament for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. He is also a former Russian soldier who was wounded in the Soviet-Afghan War.

Oil prices steadied yesterday, but did not recover from sharp losses in the previous session despite the International Energy Agency's (IEA) warning that the world's oil supply cushion "might be stretched to the limit" due to production losses.

"The market was still nervous," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures group.

After US crude briefly traded above $71 a barrel, traders exited positions, leading the market lower to test below $70 a barrel, he said.

The announcement that Libya's National Oil Corporation would reopen four oil export terminals, ending a standoff that had shut down most of Libya's oil output, was a key catalyst for a dramatic sell-off on Wednesday, analysts said.

The reopening will allow the return of up to 850,000 barrels per day of high-quality crude oil to markets.

JPMorgan 18.3pc rise in profit tops Wall Street's expectations

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JPMorgan Chase & Co's quarterly profit topped Wall Street's expectations on Friday, as trading revenue came in much higher than expected and demand for loans increased on the back of a strengthening US economy.

US banks are benefiting from a cut in corporate tax rates, hikes in interest rates and a growing economy that is driving demand from borrowers while holding down loan loss rates.

"We see good global economic growth, particularly in the U.S., where consumer and business sentiment is high," Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said.

Overall, the bank's revenue rose 6.5pc to $28.39bn and topped the average analyst estimate of $27.36bn, driven by growth in all four of the bank's businesses.

Shares of the largest US bank by assets were up 1pc in premarket trading.

JPMorgan's quarterly reports are closely watched for signs about the health of consumers and businesses as the lender plays a major role in several businesses, such as home mortgages, commercial lending and asset management.

Average core loans, which include consumer credit and loans to the biggest corporations, were up 7pc compared with the year-earlier quarter.

Analysts and economists are watching loan demand at banks for signs of any impact from international trade tariffs on their business and expansion plans.

Investors have also been looking for signs that the corporate tax cuts have given companies new confidence to borrow, a phenomenon that bankers have said might not show up before the second half of the year.

Earlier this week, Dimon was quoted in an Italian newspaper saying that U.S. business executives have warned US President Donald Trump that the impact of trade tariffs on economic growth could offset the benefits of tax cuts.

Trading revenue, which makes up about a fifth of JPMorgan's total revenue, was up 13pc, compared with a 1pc gain expected by Credit Suisse analyst Susan Roth Katzke.

In May, the bank's corporate and investment bank chief, Daniel Pinto, said second-quarter markets revenue was likely to be flat compared with a year earlier.

Net interest income rose 10pc as the U.S. Federal Reserve raised benchmark interest rates four times since the second quarter of 2017.

Net income rose 18.3pc to $8.32bn, or $2.29 per share, in the second quarter ended June 30, from $7.03bn, or $1.82 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts expected the bank to earn $2.22 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Citigroup Inc and Wells Fargo & Co, the third- and fourth-largest banks by assets, are also set to report results on Friday.

China's US surplus hits record as tariffs loom


China's monthly trade surplus with the US rose to a record high in June, underlining the imbalance at the heart of an escalating trade war between the world's two largest economies.

The trade surplus with the US stood at $28.97bn (€24.9bn), the highest of any month in data going back to 1999. Exports climbed to $42.62bn, also a high, the customs administration said yesterday.

While multiple factors will have influenced the data, including a rush by some manufacturers to sell goods before tariffs imposed this month hit, there's little sign that the US deficit with China will improve any time soon. As tax cuts fuel the US expansion and a slowing Chinese economy may cool domestic demand, the gap will continue to provide the backdrop to the standoff.

"The record bilateral surplus shows exactly that the US economy is robust while that of China is weakening," said Wang Jian, a Shanghai-based economist at Shenwan Hongyuan Group.

"China's domestic investment is softening due to funding strains, while consumption is not particularly strong either."

Both China and the US imposed 25pc tariffs on $34bn of the other's imports last week, and Beijing has vowed to fight back against proposed tariffs on an additional $200bn in Chinese goods.

"The effects of the trade war on China's exports are likely to be more pronounced from July," said Bloomberg's China economist Fielding Chen. "The hit to growth from the current US tariffs though, is likely to be limited."

The yuan's decline in June was the worst in any month since 1994, dropping more than 3pc against the dollar. While that ought to help exporters in the longer run, the yuan's fall now is a sign of growing concern as the trade war arrives at a time when the economy is already slowing.

President Xi Jinping may ultimately have to choose between softening his multi-year campaign to control debt levels, or letting growth dip below the target of 6.5pc.

The trade data comes ahead of the GDP report for the second quarter, which should give a more complete picture of how the world's second-biggest economy did in the first half. Economists are forecasting a slight slowing of the quarterly growth pace to 6.7pc from 6.8pc.

"Both imports and exports have seen robust growth in the first half as companies front-load orders ahead of the trade war, resulting in nice-looking year-to-date trade data, but the momentum is hardly sustainable in the future," said Ding Shuang, chief economist of Greater China & North Asia at Standard Chartered Bank.

He said China still has solid domestic demand despite the decline in import growth. 

Australian Market Rises


The Australian stock market is rising on Monday, the first trading day of the new financial year, following the modest gains on Wall Street Friday even as worries about trade tensions persisted. U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are expected to take effect later this week.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 12.50 points or 0.20 percent to 6,207.10, off a high of 6,213.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 14.00 points or 0.22 percent to 6,303.70.

The major miners are mostly higher. Rio Tinto is rising 0.5 percent and Fortescue Metals is advancing more than 1 percent, while BHP Billiton is declining almost 1 percent.

Yancoal Australia said it has applied for a dual listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to increase liquidity in its shares and diversify its investor base. The coal miner's shares are rising more than 7 percent.

Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.7 percent, while ANZ Banking is edging down less than 0.1 percent.

Gold miners are weak despite higher gold prices. Evolution Mining is down 0.7 percent and Newcrest Mining is lower by 0.2 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly lower despite crude oil prices rising to a four-year high. Oil Search is edging down 0.1 percent and Santos is lower by 0.5 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is rising 0.4 percent.

Automotive Holdings Group said that China's HNA Group has pulled out of a A$280 million deal to buy its refrigerated logistics business after failing to obtain Australian regulatory approval. Shares of Automotive Holdings are losing almost 9 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will provide June figures for job ads, the inflation forecast from TD Securities and the Performance of Manufacturing Index from AiG.

In addition, the Reserve Bank of Australia will see June results for its commodity price index.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is slightly higher against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was trading at US$0.7408, up from Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks pared initial gains to closed modestly higher on Friday. Strength in the financial sector helped to drive the markets higher early in the day after most of the nation's largest banks passed the Federal Reserve's annual stress test. The late-day pullback may have reflected lingering concerns about the global economic impact of recent trade disputes between the U.S. and other major economies.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq briefly dipped into negative territory but inched up 6.62 points or 0.1 percent to 7,510.30. The Dow edged up 55.36 points or 0.2 percent to 24,271.41, and the S&P 500 crept up 2.06 points or 0.1 percent to 2,718.37.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.9 percent and the German DAX Index jumped by 1.1 percent.

Crude oil prices continued to surge Friday, marking a 20 percent year-to-date increase in crude oil prices. WTI crude added $0.70 or nearly 1 percent to settle at $74.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange - the highest in four years.