Amazon To Buy Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion

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Amazon announced on Friday that it would buy Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at $13.7 billion, and pay $42 a share for Texas-based grocery store chain in an all-cash deal that includes the group’s debt.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey will stay as the CEO of the grocery store chain after the deal closes, and the store, the organic grocer that was founded in 1978, will keep operating under the Whole Foods brand as the deal is expected to be done in the second half year.

“This partnership presents an opportunity to maximize value for Whole Foods Market’s shareholders, while at the same time extending our mission and bringing the highest quality, experience, convenience and innovation to our customers,” Mackey said in a statement.

The deal sent a shocking reaction across both the online and brick-and-mortar industries, uniting two brands that weren’t seen as clear partners. But Whole Foods came under pressure to find a buyer this year after activist investor Jana Partners LLC acquired a stake and started pushing for a deal. Jana’s move annoyed Mackey, who has stated Whole Foods as his “baby.” With Amazon in the play, he gets to keep his job as CEO of the grocery chain.

In Whole Foods, it is acquiring a company that has recently come under pressure from investors for its lagging performance. Whole Foods, whose stores now numbers more than 430 locations, has struggled to appeal more mainstream consumers as Walmart and other large chains have stepped up their sales of natural and organic products.

“Millions of people love Whole Foods Market because they offer the best natural and organic foods, and they make it fun to eat healthy,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades – they’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”

Mackey said the he agreed to the deal because it is “an opportunity to maximize value” for the company’s shareholders.

Moreover, Amazon’s biggest acquisition so far came in 2014, when it agreed to buy video-game service Twitch Interactive Inc. for $970 million in cash. The Seattle-based company had about $21.5 billion of cash and equivalents at the end of March, the data show.

Whole Foods closed at $33.06 on Thursday. It opened at $34.85, with a session high of $34.97 and a session low of $32.97. Shares were halted in pre-market trading. Meanwhile, Amazon opened at $958.7 and closed at $964.17, with a session high of $965.73 and a session low of $950.86. Shares of Amazon rose 1.5% to $978.88 in pre-market trading.

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Nokia Rolls Out The World’s Fastest Routers

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Nokia rolled out the world’s fastest routers on Wednesday, giving its existing network business a boost and marking a breakthrough into the core router market dominated by rivals Juniper and Cisco.

The new traffic routers can handle the greater demands of virtual reality programming, cloud-based internet services and next-generation mobile communications, the Finnish company said.

They will also serve Nokia’s existing base of telecom operator customers who want speed, but still must contend with legacy gear needed to run existing services, as they are backward compatible with older products.

Nokia’s new products, which grew out of its 15.6 billion-euro ($17.5 billion) 2016 acquisition of Alcatel and its IP network gear business, should help it win business from companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, for whom transmission speed is everything and who are still increasing spending on network gear, unlike its traditional base of telecoms customers.

“With this announcement, Nokia will have the highest-performance system capacity in the market, and a lot of those web-scalers, they just want speed,” said Ray Mota, a principal analyst, in an interview. “That gives them an opportunity to approach the core network market with more credibility and gain some traction there.”

Telecom operators’ capital spending is increasing by just 2-3% a year which means Nokia is turning to web-scale players whose spending on new network gear is rising by double-digits.

The former Alcatel IP networks business is already the world’s No. 2 player in edge routers behind Cisco, having displaced Juniper Networks, which is now No. 3.

Nokia’s Petabit-Class Routers

Nokia’s latest FP4 silicon chipset is capable of processing data at 2.4 terabits per second. It’s based on the FP3 chip Nokia already uses, but combines several of them into a single package. The new chipsets will be shipped in the fourth quarter, with routers running FP4 chips ready in the first quarter of next year.

These will be built into routers to operate both ultra high-speed “core” networks at the heart of the biggest internet services and also “edge” networks that connect datacenters to front-line customer services on mobile or fixed-line networks.

Pack several of these on the same circuit board and the end result is a line card capable of 12 Tbps. In a new router, these cards can handle six times the traffic of the model they replace, but according to Steve Vogelsang, CTO for Nokia’s IP and optical business, they can be put into routers up to 10 years old as well.

FP4 chips, which are manufactured for Nokia by Taiwan’s TSMC are designed using circuits as narrow as 16 nanometers apart, skipping 22- and 28-nanometer-sized circuits compared to the prior FP3 processor built at 40-nanometer scale, Nokia said.

Nokia is introducing the 7950 petabit-class router aimed at the core routing market to help it win business from customers such as Apple and Facebook. A petabit can transmit 5,000 two-hour-long high-definition videos every second. For edge network customers, Nokia is introducing its 7750 router, offering the highest traffic capacity on the market.

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Pound Dives After UK Election Upset

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Britain’s pound took a battering dive on Friday, staying at its two-month lows, after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in elections, plunging the country into potential political chaos days before the start of Brexit negotiations.

Sterling fell 1.6% to $1.2748 after sliding as much as 2.5% to $1.2636 in early European trade , its weakest level since April 18.

With no clear winner emerging from Thursday’s election, Prime Minister Theresa May was fighting to hold on to her job on Friday as she faced calls to quit after her election gamble to win a stronger mandate she had sought to conduct exit talks with the rest of the European Union failed, leaving no single party with a clear claim to power just 10 days before the start of negotiations on Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

Lee, Hardman, a currency strategist in London, said the market wants more clearness now as far as who will be the next Prime Minister, what kind of form will the government take and eventually how all that feeds through into upcoming Brexit negotiations are concerned.

“In the near term the increased political uncertainty and the risk of more disorderly Brexit negotiations should enforce pound weakness.”

The surprise of a result that raised questions about how Britain will go on with its plan to leave the EU, and whether any party can form a stable government, sent the pound to eight-week lows against the dollar and its lowest levels in seven months versus the euro.

After falling sharply on an exit poll released when polls closed at 21:00 GMT, which showed Britain was set for a hung parliament, the pound had steadied a little in Asian trading. However, it fell sharply again as London traders arrived at their desks, as it became clear that no party had won a majority.

Another currency strategist in London, Viraj Patel, said that the pound’s nightmare scenario would always be the failure to have a safe political stability and the result of a hung parliament.

“Hopes that political uncertainty would decrease substantially under a more stable Conservative government…(have) been all but dashed,” said Patel.

“With the two-year Article 50 clock ticking, the passage of time is sterling-negative,” he added, referring to the formal Article 50 process by which Britain is set to leave the EU. “A working government is needed as soon as possible to avoid a further drop in the pound.”

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European Stocks Mixed in Cautious Trading

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European stocks were mixed in cautious trade on Wednesday amid a rare credit downgrade for China and the rising security condition in United Kingdom, wherein Prime Minister Theresa May raised the level of terrorist threat to “critical” last night and warned that a new attack is possibly imminent, keeping investors in a caution mood as markets were still recovering from the Manchester bombing.

The region-wide Stoxx Europe 600 index held onto a modest 0.14% gain to 392.59 while the Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.19% to 3590.50. But regional benchmarks, including France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX 30 performance index both edged down modestly, 0.11% to 5,342.35 and 0.2% to 12,633.25 respectively.

Financial stocks were mixed as well,  as BNP Paribas surged 0.66% to 66.62, and Societe Generale added up 0.54% to 50.27, while Commerzbank slipped 0.16% to 9.605, as well as Deutsche Bank at 0.82% to 16.980.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo dropped 0.82% to 2.670. Unicredit, however, edged back up 0.18% to 16.9000. Spanish banks BBVA slipped 0.28% to 7.458, while Banco Santander surged 0.24% to 5.851.

Elsewhere, Daimler AG NA O.N. saw decline in shares 2.5% to 65.510 after German prosecutors said they would look for 11 offices and sites of the company as part of an investigation into possible diesel emissions fraud.

On the downside, Nokia slipped back 1.53% to 5.785 after jumping 1.01% following its agreement with Apple in regards to a number of the Finnish company’s patents, with many pertaining to healthcare and fitness products.

 

In London, FTSE 100 went up 0.35% to 7,511.75, weighed by Kingfisher, whose shares plummeted 6.68% after the company reported a first-quarter decline in sales due to a slowdown in its French market.

Babcock International Group PLC rallied back, as shares were barely up 0.05% to 968.00, as the infrastructure company reported a 9.7% climb in pre-tax profit to £362.1 million for the financial year ended March 31.

Marks and Spencer Group PLC was also on the positive side, with shares going up 2% to 394.60, even after the retailer announced a 64% decline in annual profit.

Mining stocks were mostly lower on the commodity-heavy index. Shares in Glencore retreated 1.35% and Randgold resources tumbled 0.76% to 7190.00, while Fresnillo and Rio Tinto plummeted 0.63% and 0.89% respectively.

In the financial sector, stocks were broadly higher as HSBC Holdings edged up 0.43% to 669.80 and Lloyds Banking rose 1.23% to 73.05, while the Royal Bank of Scotland climbed 1.74% to 269.30, as well as Barclays with shares went back up 0.61% to 215.59.

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Bitcoin Rallies to All-Time High, Options Exchange Increases

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Bitcoin surpassed the $2,100-level for the first time to hit a fresh new high, as a monster rally continues amid upbeat noises around the future of the cryptocurrency, and as Ledger Holdings, the New York-based parent company of bitcoin options exchange LedgerX, said it raised $11.4 million in funding on Monday.

The cryptocurrency giant surged to a daily peak of $2,105.00 on the New York-based itBit exchange at one point, its highest on record. It was last at $2,100.00 by 4:10 AM ET, up about 5% on the day. Currently, Bitcoins are trading at $2,148.58 that totally puts the market cap at $35.11 billion. The total supply of Bitcoins currently sits at 16,343,288.

At the end of April, Bitcoin was trading for about $1,300 per coin. In just three weeks, the valuation has climbed by about 50%, as Bitcoin surpassed the $2,000 mark this week. About 12% of that significant gain was in the past week alone.

Since the start of the year, the price of bitcoin has soared 116%, taking the total value of the cryptocurrency in flow to more than $37.5 billion.

Bitcoin first broke the $1,000 barrier in November 2013 but slipped significantly shortly after. It wasn’t until early this year that its value returned to the $1,000 range.

Meanwhile, the parent company of bitcoin options exchange operator LedgerX closed $11.4 million in funding led by  Miami International Holdings Inc and Huiyin Blockchain Venture Investments that supports LedgerX’s plan to operate a regulated exchange and clearing house for bitcoin and other digital currencies.

LedgerX is awaiting regulatory approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to operate the first U.S. regulated exchange and clearing house for bitcoin options. On approval, participating institutions can use the LedgerX platform to obtain and hedge bitcoin using exchange-traded and centrally cleared options contracts.

“In the short term, these investments will further our application to become a regulated exchange and clearing house for bitcoin options,” Paul Chou, chief executive officer of LedgerX LLC, said in a statement.

“In the long term, these strategic investors will help us enter additional marketplaces and territories,” he added.

Bitcoin, a virtual currency that can be moved like money around the world quickly and anonymously without the need for a central authority, can be used to purchase goods and services from stores and online retailers.

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Toyota To Make Its Cars Autonomous, Teamed Up with NVDIA

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Toyota will use Nvidia’s Drive PX artificial intelligence platform for its autonomous vehicles planned for market introduction following Nvidia’s announcement that the Japanese automaker teamed up with them to use their artificial intelligence technology to develop self-driving vehicle systems planned for the next few years.

The partnership is yet an another huge step in Toyota’s efforts on bringing autonomous cars, as it looks to develop the technology along a somewhat different path than its competitors.

NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang announced the partnership during his keynote speech at NVDIA’s GPU Technology Conference in San Jose, California. He said Toyota aims to implement NVIDIA’s technology in production cars “in the next few years.”

The artificial intelligence platform will be used to better break down the massive amount of data produced by the sensors on its cars, and use it to develop self-driving systems that work in a wide range of scenarios.

Needless to say, autonomous cars will produce huge amounts of data. Cameras, combined with radar and LiDar sensors are all essential to work out what’s going on with the traffic, and all that information needs to be processed and understood within fractions of a second.

“Toyota has worked on autonomous driving technologies for over 20 years with the aim of reducing traffic fatalities to zero as an ultimate goal, achieving smoother traffic, and providing mobility for all,” says Ken Koibuchi, Executive GM at Toyota.

“Through this collaboration, we intend to accelerate the development of autonomous driving systems that are even more safe and capable.” The NVIDIA CEO, Jensen Huang, saying these sentiments concerning safe and efficient personal transport. He asserted that the newly announced deal with Toyota was a significant sign that an autonomous future will become real.

NVIDIA began working on autonomous vehicles several years ago and has made partnerships with dozens of automakers and suppliers racing to develop self-driving cars, including Telsa (TSLA), Audi, Mercedes and Volvo. Basically, Toyota isn’t the first automotive company to use Nvidia’s chips to power self-driving vehicles.

“Now we’ve got the biggest [auto company] in Japan using our drive platform,” said Danny Shapiro, senior director of NVIDIA’s automotive group.

 

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Japan Stocks Increases at Close of Trade; Nikkei 225 Increase 0.23%

After the close on Thursday, Japan stocks increased as gains in the Construction, Paper & Pulp and Services sectors led shares higher.

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After the close on Thursday, Japan stocks increased as gains in the Construction, Paper & Pulp and Services sectors led shares higher.

The Nikkei 225 increased 0.23% at the close in Tokyo.

The poorest performers of the session were DeNA Co Ltd (T:2432), which decline 5.45% or 138.0 points to trade at 2392.0 at the close. The Japan Steel Works, Ltd. (T:5631) dropped 2.44% or 46.0 points to end at 1843.0 and Concordia Financial Group Ltd (T:7186) declined 1.90% or 10.3 points to 531.7.

The top performers of the session on the Nikkei 225 were Toshiba Corp. (T:6502), which increased 6.75% or 13.1 points to trade at 207.2 at the close. Temporarily, Tokai Carbon Co., Ltd.(T:5301) added 4.20% or 20.0 points to end at 496.0 and Nippon Meat Packers, Inc.(T:2282) increased 3.39% or 105.0 points to 3205.0 in late trade.

Decreasing stocks outnumbered progressing ones on the Tokyo Stock Exchange by 1634 to 1383 and 325 ended unaffected.

The Nikkei Volatility, which gauges the implied volatility of Nikkei 225 options, increased  19.63% to 18.65.

Delivery of crude oil for May increased 0.50% or 0.24 to $48.28 a barrel.

Somewhere else in commodities trading, delivery of Brent oil in May increased 0.45% or 0.23 to hit $50.87 a barrel, although the April Gold Futures contract drop 0.21% or 2.65 to trade at $1247.05 a troy ounce.

USD/JPY increased  0.01% to 111.17, while EUR/JPY declined 0.01% to 120.01.

The US Dollar Index Futures increased 0.04% at 99.52.

On Additional News

Taiwan stocks increased after the close on Thursday, as increases in the  Construction, Electricity and Textile sectors led shares higher.  At the close in Taiwan, the Taiwan Weighted increased 0.08%.

The top performers of the session on the Taiwan Weighted were I-Hwa Industrial Co Ltd (TW:1456), which surge 10.00% or 1.15 points to trade at 12.65 at the close. In the meantime,Lung Hwa Eltrs (TW:2424) added 10.00% or 3.00 points to end at 33.00 and Champion(TW:1806) increased 10.00% or 0.79 points to 8.69 in late trade.

Increasing stocks outnumbered dropping ones on the Taiwan Stock Exchange by 426 to 332 and 121 ended unmoved.

The poorest performers of the session were Hiwin (TW:2049), which declines l 7.33% or 15.00 points to trade at 189.50 at the close. Zhen Ding (TW:4958) dropped 5.32% or 4.10 points to end at 73.00 and Falcon Power Co Ltd (TW:1516) declined 5.00% or 1.10 points to 20.90.

Shares in Lung Hwa Eltrs (TW:2424) increased to 52-week peaks; increasing 10.00% or 3.00 to 33.00. Shares in Champion (TW:1806) surge  to 52-week peaks; up 10.00% or 0.79 to 8.69.

USD/TWD declined 0.04% to 30.481, while TWD/CNY increased 0.04% to 0.2261.

The US Dollar Index Futures was unchanged 0.00% at 99.48.

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