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Toyota Aims To Build More Light Trucks, Fewer Passenger Cars in USA

Toyota North America is seriously considering revamping its vehicle line-up in the United States to include more light trucks and fewer passenger cars.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Tokyo, Japan (4E) – Toyota North America is seriously considering revamping its vehicle line-up in the United States to include more light trucks and fewer passenger cars.

CEO Jim Lentz said his company is re-examining its vehicle inventory and might ditch some models in a market increasingly dominated by light trucks, or vehicles with a gross vehicle weight up to 3,860 kg and a payload capacity up to 1,815 kg.

Lentz, however, claims Toyota won’t totally abandon passenger cars. But it is looking to add other vehicle types such as convertibles and coupes.

North American wholesale deliveries slid one percent to 665,000 vehicles from July to September. On the other hand, regional operating profit rose 12 percent to $518.1 million.

“We are taking a hard look at all of the segments that we compete in to make sure we are competing in profitable segments and that products we sell have strategic value,” said Lentz,

Toyota North America has also refined its incentive strategy, making it more tailor-fit to its dealers. Lentz said Toyota brand’s average U.S. outlays are down $145 per vehicle this year and are about $1,200 below the industry average. Lexus spiffs are flat, even as the segment’s average increases.

“We’re putting dollars where we’re going to get the most bang for our buck,” said Lentz. “Most importantly today is incentivizing vehicles that are much more profitable.”

He made these statements after the parent Japanese firm reported on its operating results for the fiscal second quarter.

Toyota Motor Corporation, Japan’s biggest automaker said operating profit rose to $5.09 billion in the automaker’s fiscal second quarter ended Sept. 30. Net income grew 28 percent to $5.15 billion while revenue improved 2.3 percent to $64.3 billion.

Global retail sales increased 1.9 percent to 2.68 million vehicles in the July to September quarter. This total included sales of Toyota’s Daihatsu small-car subsidiary and Hino, its truck-making affiliate. Worldwide wholesale volume crept upwards 0.4 percent to 2.18 million vehicles.

Toyota Senior Managing Director Masayoshi Shirayanagi partly attributed the quarter’s upbeat results to a richer mix of more profitable models. Toyota is focusing on the booming global demand for crossovers, SUVs and other light trucks.

Toyota now expects operating profit to break even in 2018. It earlier predicted a 4.2 percent decline in full-year operating profit. Toyota now sees a 7.8 percent decline in net income, a less severe decrease than the 15 percent drop it originally forecast.

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Finance

Facebook Unable to Identify Who Was Behind Network of Fake Accounts

Facebook said Tuesday it had been unable to determine who was behind dozens of fake accounts it took down shortly before the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

“Combined with our takedown last Monday, in total we have removed 36 Facebook accounts, 6 Pages, and 99 Instagram accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, wrote on the company’s blog.

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San Francisco, CA, United States (VOA) – Facebook said Tuesday it had been unable to determine who was behind dozens of fake accounts it took down shortly before the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

“Combined with our takedown last Monday, in total we have removed 36 Facebook accounts, 6 Pages, and 99 Instagram accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, wrote on the company’s blog.

At least one of the Instagram accounts had well over a million followers, according to Facebook.

A website that said it represented the Russian state-sponsored Internet Research Agency claimed responsibility for the accounts last week, but Facebook said it did not have enough information to connect the agency that has been called a troll farm.

“As multiple independent experts have pointed out, trolls have an incentive to claim that their activities are more widespread and influential than may be the case,” Gleicher wrote.

Sample images provided by Facebook showed posts on a wide range of issues. Some advocated on behalf of social issues such as women’s rights and LGBT pride, while others appeared to be conservative users voicing support for President Donald Trump.

The viewpoints on display potentially fall in line with a Russian tactic identified in other cases of falsified accounts. A recent analysis of millions of tweets by the Atlantic Council found that Russian trolls often pose as members on either side of contentious issues in order to maximize division in the United States.

– Courtesy VOA

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At $50M, the ‘Pink Legacy’ Diamond Shines Brightest in Christie’s Sale

The ‘Pink Legacy’, a diamond weighing just under 19 carats, fetched a record 50.375 million Swiss francs ($50 million) as it outshone all other auction lots at Christie’s in Geneva on Tuesday.

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Geneva, Switzerland (VoA) – At $50M, ‘Pink Legacy’ Diamond Shines Brightest in Christie’s Sale

The ‘Pink Legacy’, a diamond weighing just under 19 carats, fetched a record 50.375 million Swiss francs ($50 million) as it outshone all other auction lots at Christie’s in Geneva on Tuesday.

Graded “vivid”, the highest rating for a pink diamond’s color, the gem is internally pure with a rectangular cut, and mounted on a platinum ring.

Once owned by the Oppenheimer Family, who built De Beers into the world’s biggest diamond trader, the diamond had a pre-sale estimate of $30 to $50 million. The identity of the seller was not disclosed.

Vivid colored diamonds are the most strongly saturated gems, displaying the optimum hue of the stone. Most pink diamonds of this color weigh less than one carat, the auction house – which was holding its semi-annual jewellery sale – said.

Christie’s said the ‘Pink Legacy’ achieved a new per-carat record for a pink diamond, and was the second most expensive one ever sold at auction.

($1 = 1.0073 Swiss francs)

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Wall Street Woes Continue for Second Straight Day

Stocks fell again Tuesday on unpredictable trading, not as lavishly as Monday’s bloodbath, but still bad enough for investors to warn of continuing volatility for the remainder of the year.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Neew York, NY, United States (4E) – Stocks fell again Tuesday on unpredictable trading, not as lavishly as Monday’s bloodbath, but still bad enough for investors to warn of continuing volatility for the remainder of the year.

Apple was again a major source of Wall Street’s woes Tuesday, and was joined by oil, whose price fell by more than 7%. Apple’s stocks continue to bleed from the news one of its major Chinese suppliers cut its outlook for its fiscal second quarter in 2019 because Apple predicted lower sales.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average yesterday fell 100.69 points to 25,286.49. The S&P 500 was a well of bad news, stumbling 0.2 percent to 2,722.18 for its fourth straight decline. The NASDAQ Composite closed almost unchanged at 7,200.87.

At their session highs, the Dow and S&P 500 rose more than 100 points and 1 percent, respectively. The NASDAQ had gained as much as 1.6 percent. The major indices hit their session highs after the White House confirmed reports of renewed talks between the U.S. and China on trade. But Apple and oil doused whatever optimism was generated by this seeming piece of good news on the trade front.

Yesterday, energy was the worst-performing sector after crude prices fell to their lowest levels in a year. Wall Street now appears to be held hostage by Apple. Stock again sank into the red in the afternoon after Apple tumbled on the lack of positive news.

“I’m not convinced this tech skittishness is over,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. “Normally, I wouldn’t say one sector can drag the entire market lower, but tech is the biggest sector.”

On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell an enormous 602 points in another day of extreme and unnerving volatility at U.S. equity markets.

Monday’s huge losses brought the Dow’s decline over the past two sessions to 804 points. The Dow closed at 25,387.18. The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite retreated 2.8 percent to 7,200.87 and fell back into the correction territory it first entered during the October market rout.

The S&P 500 tech sector stumbled into correction territory, dropping 2% to 2,726.22 as financials tanked, led by Goldman Sachs. Goldman shares posted their biggest drop in seven years after news broke that Malaysia’s finance minister is demanding a refund of fees paid to Goldman for its work in scandal-plagued state investment fund 1MDB.

Analysts blamed the new rout and weak investor sentiment on a sharp decline in Apple shares; a rise in the U.S. dollar and perssistent worries about global trade, especially a ramped-up U.S. trade war.

The major indices hit their lows of the day in late-afternoon trading media reported the White House had circulated a draft report on auto tariffs that plans to impose a 25% tax on all luxury cars imported into the U.S. Shares of General Motors turned negative following the report.

Apple led the rout in tech, its shares falling by 5% after Lumentum Holdings, which makes technology for the iPhone’s face-recognition feature, cut its outlook for its fiscal second quarter in 2019. Lumentum CEO Alan Lowe said one of its largest customers (Apple) asked the company to “materially reduce shipments” for its products. Shares of Lumentum plunged 33 percent at the news.

The S&P 500 tech sector is down more than 10 percent from its 52-week high. Nearly 70 percent of the stocks in the sector are in a correction. One analyst said the FAANG trade is dead and the market is struggling to find a replacement.

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