Bob Corker won’t say whether or not Trump should be primaried in 2020 – Axios

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), nearing the end of his time in the Senate after his decision to retire, was mum on whether or not he’d support a primary challenge against President Trump in 2020 during an interview on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC,” saying instead, “We’ve got to remember what the Republican Party is.” He added, “What is happening right now is not the standard Republicanism that we’ve had in our country for many, many years.”

Flashback: Corker got into a verbal sparring match with Trump in October 2017, calling the White House “an adult day care center” after Trump blasted him on Twitter for deciding not to seek re-election after asking for the president’s endorsement.

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Asian shares on defensive on mounting signs of a global slowdown – Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian share markets began the week on a cautious note after soft economic data from China and Europe added to evidence of cooling global growth and reinforced anxiety over the broadening impact of international trade frictions.

An investor sits in front of a board showing stock information at a brokerage office in Beijing, China, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.1 percent in early Monday trade, led by losses in China and Hong Kong. The CSI 300 of Shanghai and Shenzhen share index dropped 0.9 percent

Other markets showed some resilience. Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.5 percent while U.S. stock futures ticked up 0.2 percent. Taiwan also gained 0.3 percent.

On Wall Street on Friday, the S&P 500 lost 1.91 percent to 2,599.95, marking its lowest close since April 2.

The benchmark has dropped 11.3 percent from its Sept. 20 record close – the worst performance since it fell more than 14 percent between May 2015 and January 2016.

The biggest drag was Johnson & Johnson, which tumbled 10 percent for its biggest drop since 2002, after Reuters reported that the pharma major knew its baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.

The market’s retreat also reflected a worsening global economic outlook, with the latest evidence of slackening momentum coming from China and Europe.

IHS Markit’s Flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index slumped to 51.3, its weakest since November 2014, from a final November reading of 52.7. That was well below even the most pessimistic forecast in a Reuters poll where the median expectation was for a modest rise to 52.8.

The survey showed euro zone businesses ended the year in a gloomy mood, expanding their operations at the slowest pace in over four years as new orders growth all but dried up, hurt by trade tensions and violent protests in France.

The discouraging economic news came after China reported a batch of soft indicators, with retail sales growing at their weakest pace since 2003 and industrial output rising the least in nearly three years.

China’s economy has been losing momentum in recent quarters as a multi-year government campaign to curb shadow lending put increasing financial strains on companies in a blow to production and investment.

Investors are now looking to a major speech by President Xi Jinping on Tuesday to mark the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.

In the currency market, the dollar held firm after having touched a 19-month high against a basket of six other major rivals on Friday as the U.S. economy appeared to be in better shape than others.

U.S. retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services rose 0.9 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.7 percent increase in October.

Against that backdrop, the U.S. Federal Reserve is seen as almost certain to raise interest rates at its two-day policy meeting starting on Tuesday, further enhancing the dollar’s yield attraction.

At the same time, many market players also expect the Fed to lower its projections for future interest rate hikes given increasing headwinds to the economy.

“You could argue that if the Fed lower estimates, that could be taken as a further sign of economic slowdown,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities.

“But given the fragile market sentiment, I would think it would be more dangerous if the Fed sticks to the view that it would raise rates three times next year.”

The euro traded at $1.1307, having fallen to $1.1270 on Friday, its lowest level since Nov. 28.

Sterling hovered near its 20-month low touched last week, as concerns grew that Britain was headed for a chaotic exit from the European Union.

With just over 100 days until Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, Brexit remains up in the air with growing calls for a no-deal exit, a potentially disorderly divorce that business fears would be highly damaging, or for a second referendum.

The pound traded at $1.2580, about a cent above Wednesday’s low of $1.2477.

The yen was little moved at 113.48 per dollar.

The biggest mover was the Mexican peso, which gained after Mexico’s new leftist government avoided major surprises in its closely watched first budget, sticking to fiscal promises made earlier to investors.

The peso rose 0.8 percent to 20.094 on the dollar, edging near a key resistance of 20.

Oil prices licked wounds after Friday’s falls on concerns about the global economy.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures stood flat at $51.22 per barrel, after a loss of 2.7 percent last week.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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Giant Eagle removes some leaf lettuce from shelves amid E. coli concerns – Tribune-Review

Updated 4 hours ago

Giant Eagle Inc. on Sunday said it voluntarily removed some red and green lettuce sold at 70 Giant Eagle and Market District locations due to possible E. coli contamination.

The lettuce in question was sold at stores in Western Pennsylvania between Dec. 3 and Dec. 14.

The company initially said a limited supply of lettuce was removed Sunday. In response to a Tribune-Review question, spokesman Dick Roberts clarified that the lettuce, all from Adams Bro. Farming Inc. alone, actually had been removed Friday, one day after the supplier Adams Bros. issued a news release .

“If you bought it, throw it away,” Roberts said on Sunday.

In a Thursday release, Adam Bros. Farming, Inc. based in Santa Monica, CA warned about possible E. coli contamination of its red and green lettuce sold during the 11-day period.

“There have been no illnesses,” said Adams Bros. spokeswoman Krista Peters. She wasn’t available for comment Sunday.

It’s unclear just where the possibly tainted lettuce was harvested.

“Giant Eagle is conducting this voluntary recall out of an abundance of caution. There are no reported illnesses among Giant Eagle customers to date associated with this recall. The affected products can be identified with PLU 4076 (green leaf lettuce) and PLU 4075 (red leaf lettuce),” the company said in a statement.

The illness caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli O157:H7 can cause diarrhea that often with bloody stools. Most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, but some people can develop a form of kidney failure called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), the company warned.

“HUS is most likely to occur in young children and the elderly. The condition can lead to serious kidney damage and even death,” it said.

Customers who have purchased the impacted product should dispose of it or return it to their local Giant Eagle or Market District. Customers may also bring in the qualifying receipt to receive a refund on their purchase of the affected product.

For more information about the recall, customers may visit GiantEagle.com/Product-Recall . Customers may also contact their local Giant Eagle or Giant Eagle Customer Care via GiantEagle.com/contact or at 1-800-553-2324. Giant Eagle’s Customer Care service hours are Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Also, Giant Eagle Advantage Card holders who purchased the lettuce will be notified by phone if there is a an updated telephone contact number on file.

According to published reports, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, and cauliflower harvested November 27-30, 2018 were recalled by Adams Bros. Farm after sediment from the farm’s agriculture water reservoir tested positive for E. coli. In a separate romaine lettuce outbreak, 59 people in 16 states have so far fallen ill from E. coli bacteria. The tainted romaine lettuce may have come from the same California farm.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, cbiedka@tribweb.com or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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Driving Audi’s beautiful E-Tron GT concept car – Engadget

The all-wheel-drive (AWD) E-Tron GT has (or will have) 590 horsepower and do zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds. During my time behind the wheel, I never even got close to experiencing the full force of the dual motors blasting me silently forward.

Instead, I had a chance to leisurely drive around downtown Los Angeles with a police escort. Turns out, it was one-of-a-kind and a fender bender would have been disastrous. Plus, potholes were also an issue. The car’s low profile was great for show-floor photographs. Not so much the ruts peppering the streets of LA.

Other than needing me to cautiously avoid road holes more than your typical car, the E-Tron GT was surprisingly close to being a final product. Audi said it’s 95 percent done. Most of the major features worked. The transmission, the climate controls, the push button ignition on the wheel and the power seats all worked the same as they would in a production vehicle.

Audi E-Tron GT concept car

Even the impressive recuperative braking system that uses the motors to slow the car down and replenish the brakes when the stopping force is below 0.3Gs worked. In a typical car, depressing the brakes immediately engages the brake calipers around the rotors. Audi’s system delays that action and instead, the electric motors slow the vehicle down under certain conditions. On the E-Tron SUV, it’s great and I suspect it’ll be just as good on GT.

But concept car drives are really just a tiny sample of the final product — the equivalent of licking a spoon covered in batter before enjoying the finished cake. It’s a guilty pleasure and potential insight into the final product, but little else. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get back behind the wheel when (if) the car goes into production and test out all that EV power on the open road without worrying about potholes.

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Startup now worth more than $1B seeks incentives, is moving headquarters to Memphis – USA TODAY



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Startup darling Indigo Ag announced that they will be bringing hundreds of new jobs to Downtown, Memphis.
Michael Schwab, Memphis Commercial Appeal

MEMPHIS — By the end of the week, an agriculture technology startup could be approved for millions in grants and tax breaks from Tennessee and local economic development entities in return for moving its North American headquarters from Boston.

The move would bring about 700 Indigo Ag jobs to Memphis with average pay topping $90,000, a coup in a city where the U.S. Census Bureau puts per capita income at less than $24,000 and median household income is a little more than $38,000.

“It’s the biggest new headquarters announcement in Memphis in my memory,” Mayor Jim Strickland said.

On Monday, the Tennessee State Funding Board considers $4.5 million in incentives for Indigo Ag, which began in 2015. On Wednesday, company officials will be seeking a $150,000 grant, $110,000 in property-tax savings and commuting incentives from Memphis-area agencies.

► Dec. 12: A food recall every day? That shouldn’t stop you from eating
► Nov. 26: Midwest dairy farmers barely hang on in crisis with no end in sight
► Oct. 16: For startups with a vision, ‘T-Pain’s School of Business’ now in session

“We chose to establish and grow Indigo’s headquarters for North American commercial operations in Memphis because of the proximity to our customers and Indigo Research Partners, the pro-business climate, access to world class talent, and the collaborative relationship between state and city government leaders,” David Perry, Indigo president and chief executive, said this past Wednesday in a news release.

As the interest in healthy food rises, Indigo is positioning itself to be a global leader in that industry while making crops more productive for growers. Memphis has been the largest city in the heart of the farm-rich Mid-South for at least 150 years.

Technology from the company, which said it won’t be cutting any jobs in Boston and plans to expand research and development there, coats seeds with naked-to-the-eye microbes such as bacteria and fungi. These friendly microbes help protect crops against drought, pests, and disease, among other plant killers. 

► Oct. 3: Tiny rare fruit tastes like pineapple, could hit stores thanks to gene editing
► Sept. 30: Will America run short of seafood? This ocean farm could save us

A coating of beneficial microbes on cotton seeds yielded its first commercial success — 10 percent more harvest, including in drought conditions — Indigo Ag said in July 2016. The treated seeds also can lessen the need for pesticides.

So far, the company has seeds on the market for corn, cotton, rice, soybeans and wheat, according to The Boston Globe. The private company has raised $650 million from venture capitalists in four years, is valued at $1.4 billion and is gearing up for $10 billion in projected worldwide sales. 

Indigo first began its operations in Memphis in 2016, and since August 2018, the company has increased its employees in Tennessee from 60 to 175.

► Sept. 18: Business groups urge U.S., China to settle trade dispute
► Aug. 15: Drones to help farmers trap feral swine under FAA program

When its North American headquarters in Memphis is officially established at what is now called Toyota Plaza, the highest paid employees — 90 managers — will earn an average of $180,960. The lowest paid positions — 358 office employees — will earn an average of $64,480, according to an application submitted to the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County board. 

Indigo’s Memphis headquarters will include finance, human resources, legal, general and administrative staff; plus sales, logistics, information technology, research & development, marketing and operations. Top executives also will be based here.

The company also has offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sydney, Australia; São Paulo, Brazil; and Durham, North Carolina. 

► July 5: These farmers are trying to make produce healthier
► June 15: Agriturismo, American style: 8 farm and food tourism experiences

Anonymous Indigo employees on Glassdoor, an online job board and company review site, regularly noted the company feeds its employees healthy meals several days a week and offers excellent health insurance. Glassdoor also ranked the company No. 47 in its 2019 Best Places to Work list.

The company plans to fill the 700 jobs within three years.

Contributing: Phillip Jackson and Micaela Watts, The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. Follow Desiree Stennett on Twitter: @desi_stennett

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2018/12/16/indigo-ag-incentives-memphis-headquarters/2330836002/

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The Media Votes Against AMLO – Jacobin magazine

On December 1, before a heaving crowd of supporters packed into the Zócalo in the heart of Mexico City, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) launched Mexico’s “Fourth Transformation” — an ambitious project of political, social, and ecological reform that aims “to purify public life.”

At the inauguration of this transformational project, a record number of women entered into political office, indigenous rites were incorporated into presidential ceremonies for the first time, and AMLO forfeited more than half of his presidential salary — as well as selling off his presidential plane. “We’re going to lower the salaries of those on the top because this way we can save in order to attend to the demands of justice,” he said.

But if millions of Mexicans were filled with hope for the AMLO presidency, international commentators were filled mostly with despair. They depict a “throwback to an age of caudillos, or populist strongmen that the region had seemingly left behind.” They claim AMLO is “indifferent to – if not contemptuous of – democratic process.” They warn that he is already “spooking foreign investors.”

Indeed, the hope of the Mexican people appears directly proportional to the dread of this commentariat. Rather than celebrate AMLO’s democratic mandate — as evidence of the people’s shared vision of change, as the basis for a legitimate transition out of violence and corruption and toward a brighter future — they fear it. “AMLO will be the most powerful Mexican president in decades,” the Economist warns. “López Obrador is bigger threat to liberal democracy than Bolsonaro,” the Financial Times concludes.

But these reports reveal far more about their authors — and the attitude of the international commentariat toward democracy in the global south, more broadly — than they do about the Mexican situation.

Let’s begin with the basic argument that AMLO is a danger to Mexican democracy. “Can [Mexico’s] young democratic institutions withstand an executive who aspires to centralize power in the same way the legendary Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) did in the 20th century?” asks the Wall Street Journal.

This portrait of Mexican politics — an authoritarian AMLO banging down the doors of Mexico’s democratic institutions — is odd for one simple reason: Mexico doesn’t have democratic institutions.

The Mexican experiment in democratization has been an unmitigated disaster: local governments have been captured by cartels, police forces have been weaponized against the people they were designed to protect, and political candidates are regularly slaughtered by their opposition in the run-up to elections. Were it located elsewhere in the world, we might be tempted to call Mexico a failed state. The country reported more than 30,000 homicides last year — the highest number in its history, and nowhere near the total number, given Mexico’s severe problem of underreported crime.

So when the Wall Street Journal warns us to brace for a “significant strain on the rule of law,” we must honestly ask: Have they ever been to Mexico?

In the context of this crisis, then, a tepid approach to reform would be woefully insufficient. Anything short of a full-scale “transformation” will enable the country to slide further into the abyss, with unimaginable casualties along the way.

The severity of the Mexican crisis has created what I call “AMLO’s double bind”:

If he succeeds in his effort to reconstruct the Mexican state and introduce wide-ranging reforms, he will be slandered as authoritarian, centralizing power to realize his platform a Mexican Chavez. If he fails to follow through on his ambitious platform, however, he will be slandered as a false prophet.

The Economist’s post-election portrait of AMLO sets out this dilemma perfectly. On the one hand, they lambast AMLO’s transformational ambitions: “What looks like extra accountability is, in fact, a way of amassing power,” they say of his political reforms. On the other, they demand that AMLO follow through on this ambitious program, or lose all legitimacy: “AMLO will have no excuses for failure,” they write. In other words, they set the bar impossibly high for the new Mexican administration — and then protest its efforts to clear it.

But this commentary points to something more profound than mere anti-AMLO sentiment. It reveals a much deeper disregard for the democratic will in countries of the developing world.

Time and again, politicians who introduce unpopular free-market reforms are celebrated as courageous and tough, doing the dirty work of economic modernization, even if it comes at the sacrifice of their public image. When thousands of people demonstrated in the streets against the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012, for example, the Economist waved them away, claiming that his election “was always likely to attract protest,” while dismissing the protestors as “masked youths [smashing] the windows of banks and hotels.”

In contrast, when AMLO and his Morena party swept into power — ousting corrupt administrations up and down the country — they wrung their hands. “Critics have gone quiet,” they complained (perhaps one of the strangest formulations of “people are generally excited” that one could imagine). This is where the “populist” tag finds its true purpose: a clever way to dismiss AMLO’s popularity as the manipulation of voter discontent.

Many commentators will claim the AMLO earns his title as a populist because he makes promises he cannot keep. But this is another double standard. Back in 2014, the Economist lauded Peña Nieto’s wide-ranging intention to “shake up the economy.” “Few governments can truly claim to be radical. The administration of Enrique Peña Nieto is on its way to joining this rare breed.” Four years later, they excoriate AMLO for his own ambitions. “Andrés Manuel López Obrador has retreated from pragmatism,” they wrote. “The markets are worried.”

Here, the commentariat shows its cards. Their key concern is not the will of the people, but the will of the markets. When the Wall Street Journal warned of a “strain on the rule of law,” they were not referring to slaughtered students, disappeared women, or rampant corruption at all levels of Mexican government. They were worried primarily about property rights.

Hence the ubiquitous concern — in all the coverage of AMLO’s inauguration — about the Mexico City airport, a $13 billion project that AMLO has sought to halt on the basis of widespread local opposition and concern for its harsh ecological impact. “If this were only about a bad airport decision, Mexicans might relax,” wrote the WSJ. “But a president who believes he can tear up contracts and rule by decree won’t stop at cancelling new runways.”

AMLO’s democratic mandate terrifies these commentators because it removes the possibility of market discipline. When a president is clinging to power, the markets can bully him around: poor growth prospects fuel opposition, so he must appeal time and again for the approval of international investors. Strong support among voters, by contrast, frees an administration to pursue their policy goals and — hopefully — to challenge international investors’ claim to Mexico’s land and resources.

The new administration is far from perfect. The Mexico City airport affair was, by all accounts, poorly managed. And Morena still revolves too closely around the personality of AMLO himself.

But the dominant narrative around AMLO’s administration has been written backwards. By focusing so narrowly on issues like the Mexico City airport, it portrays property rights as the foundation of Mexican democracy. But in reality, existing property rights are the primary barriers to Mexican democracy, protecting an indefensibly unequal and disastrously unsustainable status quo. When international outlets depict investor confidence as the canary in the coalmine for AMLO’s authoritarian ambitions, they reveal their allegiance to markets over the needs — and democratically mandated desires — of Mexicans themselves.

We should be watchful that AMLO’s popularity does not slide into cheap populism. But given the strength of his double bind, let us judge this administration on the merits of its policy agenda, the satisfaction of the people — and never the approval of the Wall Street Journal.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai says AI fears are ‘very legitimate’ – Fox News

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said last week that concerns about harmful applications of artificial intelligence are “very legitimate.”

In a Washington Post interview, Pichai said that AI tools will need ethical guardrails and will require companies to think deeply about how technology can be abused.

“I think tech has to realize it just can’t build it and then fix it,” Pichai, fresh from his testimony before House lawmakers, said.  “I think that doesn’t work.”

Tech giants have to ensure artificial intelligence with “agency of its own” doesn’t harm humankind, Pichai noted.

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The tech executive, who runs a company that uses AI in many of its products, including its powerful search engine, said he is optimistic about the technology’s long-term benefits, but his assessment of AI’s potential downsides parallels that of critics who have warned about the potential for misuse and abuse.

Advocates and technologists have been warning about the power of AI to embolden authoritarian regimes, empower mass surveillance and spread misinformation, among other possibilities.

SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk once said that AI could prove to be “far more dangerous than nukes.”

Google’s work on Project Maven, a military AI program, sparked a protest from its employees and led the tech giant to announce that it won’t continue the work when the contract expires in 2019.

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Pichai said in the interview that governments worldwide are still trying to grasp AI’s effects and the potential need for regulation.

“Sometimes I worry people underestimate the scale of change that’s possible in the mid- to long-term, and I think the questions are actually pretty complex,” he told the Post. Other tech companies, such as Microsoft, have embraced regulation of AI — both by the companies that create the technology and the governments that oversee its use.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before the House Judiciary Committee to be questioned about the internet giant's privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai appears before the House Judiciary Committee to be questioned about the internet giant’s privacy security and data collection, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. 
(AP)

But AI, if handled properly, could have “tremendous benefits,” Pichai explained, including helping doctors detect eye disease and other ailments through automated scans of health data.

“Regulating a technology in its early days is hard, but I do think companies should self-regulate,” he told the newspaper. “This is why we’ve tried hard to articulate a set of AI principles. We may not have gotten everything right, but we thought it was important to start a conversation.”

Pichai, who joined Google in 2004 and became chief executive 11 years later, in January called AI “one of the most important things that humanity is working on” and said it could prove to be “more profound” for human society than “electricity or fire.”

However, the race to build machines that can operate on their own has rekindled fears that Silicon Valley’s culture of disruption could result in technology that harms people and eliminates jobs.

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‘That’s What Christmas Is All About’: Newlyweds Take Guests To Target To Shop For Kids In Need – LEX18 Lexington KY News

ORLANDO, Fl. (WESH-TV) – A couple’s tradition of giving to others every year extended to their wedding day, with their guests taking part.

NBC affiliate WESH-TV reports that Brad and Jessica Bond’s love story starts with their first date seven years ago.

Brad Bond said he wanted to do something special, because he knew even then that she was the one.

“So we pulled in the parking lot of Target,” Brad Bond said. “I explained my parents have always made Christmas special for me.”

“It’s something that has been a tradition for us, like, ever since we started dating,” Jessica Bond said.

The newlyweds invited their entire wedding party to Target on Saturday to shop for the Toys for Tots program.

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps that brings toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts.

“So if we can make some kids smile on Christmas, didn’t matter if it was one day, or a relationship, it was successful,” Brad Bond said.

“I think it’s wonderful. I’ve never seen this done before. It’s a great benefit for all the kids. There are so many that are in need,” Eric LaRoche, Brad Bond’s best man, said.

Guests were given red envelopes with a $10 gift card inside, though they’re spending much more.

“I’m sure the kids are going to enjoy this, and that’s what Christmas is all about, you know?” Jessica Bond’s mother, Emy Pargas, said.

“I have the most amazing wife on the planet, so if we (are) able to give back and share our blessing with others, then what better can we do on our wedding day?” Brad Bond said.

This story originated from WESH-TV.

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Time goes on a hiring spree under new ownership – CNN

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CNN’s Christine Romans reports. “,”descriptionText”:”The November jobs report was weaker than expected but still a sign of a strong labor market. 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Oil Prices: Is the Bear-Market Mauling Finally Over? – Motley Fool

Oil prices have plummeted 30% since early October. The global oil benchmark, Brent, which topped $86 a barrel at the start of the fourth quarter, tumbled back down to $58 a barrel in just 37 days. Fears that there wouldn’t be enough oil to meet growing demand evaporated overnight after the U.S. allowed Iran to continue exporting oil to several of its key buyers even after imposing new sanctions, and oil traders started worrying that there would be too much crude sloshing around the global market.

The bear-market mauling of oil prices, however, could be over. At least, that’s the view of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its latest oil market report, in which it noted that actions from several major oil-producing nations could have put a floor under oil prices in the near term.

Barrels of oil rising in height with an upward-pointing red arrow in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Drilling down into the oil market

The IEA’s latest outlook for oil demand hasn’t changed from the previous month. It still anticipates that global consumption will expand by 1.3 million barrels per day (BPD) in 2018 and another 1.4 million BPD next year. While that’s a slower pace than its view from earlier in the year due to a slowing global economy, it’s still healthy growth.

What has changed is the supply picture. The IEA noted that OPEC — along with 10 nonmember nations, dubbed OPEC+ — agreed to reduce output by 1.2 million BPD starting in January to address the growing surplus of crude on the market. In addition to that group’s decision, the Canadian province of Alberta issued a mandated production cut due to that region’s constrained pipeline capacity. Alberta, which sits in the heart of Canada’s oil sands region, ordered its producers to cut production by 8.7% starting in January, which amounts to 325,000 BPD. That output reduction will last until regional storage levels begin draining, at which time the mandated cut will drop to an average of 95,000 BPD until the end of next year.

Those production curtailments should push supplies slightly below demand during the first quarter of next year, with the gap widening in the second quarter, which will allow the market to start burning off some of the excess inventory it built up over the past few months. The IEA noted that this would help the market achieve some sense of relative stability and bring it back toward balance. As such, the IEA stated that “the Brent crude oil price seems to have found a floor” at around $60 a barrel, while the U.S. oil benchmark, WIT, has stabilized near $52 a barrel. However, it did warn that only “time will tell how effective the new production agreement will be in rebalancing the oil market.”

Oil pumps at night.

Image source: Getty Images.

Digging through the wreckage

If the price of crude has found its footing, that provides investors with a reference point to use when considering oil stocks, which have plummeted over the past few months. Several big-name drillers have nosedived more than 35% from their October highs, which gives investors some interesting names to consider.

Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO), for example, has shed 36% of its value during the recent oil market sell-off. While the company’s cash flow will fall along with oil prices, it’s well positioned to handle an environment in which WTI oil is around $50 a barrel. At that oil price point, Marathon can generate the $2.3 billion in cash flow necessary to grow its production by more than 10% while also funding its $170 million dividend outlay. Meanwhile, thanks to higher oil prices earlier in the year as well as the proceeds from asset sales, Marathon Oil had more than $1.5 billion of cash on its balance sheet. That gives it a nice cushion to handle lower oil prices as well as the funds to continue buying back its stock.

Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN), meanwhile, has tumbled about 35% from October’s peak. However, the oil company is also well suited to handle $50 WTI oil in 2019. Devon currently expects to invest $2.4 billion to $2.7 billion on drilling new wells next year, which should grow its oil production 15% to 19% from 2018’s rate. The company can fund that plan with cash flow as well as cash on the balance sheet, which stood at more than $3.1 billion at the end of the third quarter. Devon also plans to use about $1.3 billion of those funds to finish its industry-leading $4 billion stock buyback plan. It can now retire a larger portion of its outstanding shares since they’re cheaper following the recent sell-off.

Looks like a good time to go oil stock shopping

If the IEA is correct that oil should find a floor around its current level, then now seems like a good time for investors to consider doing some bargain hunting for beaten-down oil stocks that are set up to prosper at current prices. That means seeking companies that can grow their production at a fast clip on the cash flows produced at $50 to $60 oil while also having cash-rich balance sheets to provide them with some cushion should crude fall further as well as the funds to repurchase their beaten-down stock. Oil stocks with those characteristics should be able to easily maneuver through any near-term challenges while potentially generating outsized returns on the next oil price rally.

Matthew DiLallo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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