(Bloomberg) — Oil steadied after its biggest surge since June as the OPEC cartel and its partners prepared to assess a downbeat outlook for the crude market.
Futures slid 0.1% in New York to trade near $40 a barrel. Earlier, oil joined other commodities and European stocks in moving lower as the dollar climbed, though later steadied, after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell highlighted uncertainty about the economic rebound.
The OPEC+ Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee convenes at 2 p.m. Vienna time to assess whether vast production cuts they’ve made are tackling a global oversupply.
The coalition is still working to get all members to pull their weight in an agreement to constrain supplies: The United Arab Emirates signaled that it would make up for pumping too much oil in the past two months, and Iraq is exporting more crude so far in September than its daily average in August.
“We had a strong increase in two sessions, so it’s not surprising the market will pause while waiting for signals from OPEC+,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA.
Oil had climbed back above $40 a barrel this week amid some signs of renewed tightness in the market. Inventories fell last week to the lowest level since April, according to government data Wednesday, compared with the forecast for a gain in a Bloomberg survey.
Yet prices have continued to struggle amid bearish calls for the demand outlook from the International Energy Agency and industry players such as BP Plc and Trafigura Group.
The U.S. supply picture remains mixed, despite stockpiles of gasoline falling for a sixth week and crude dropping by 4.4 million barrels. Distillate stockpiles are holding at the highest seasonal level in decades, while demand for diesel, often viewed as an economic barometer, is at the lowest since July.
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Palantir eyes $22B market debut — here’s what the secretive big-data firm does
Palantir (PLTR), the secretive big-data firm co-founded by billionaire PayPal (PYPL) co-founder and Facebook (FB) investor Peter Thiel, will make its stock market debut via a direct listing on Sept. 29 with a valuation estimated at $22 billion.
Much of what Palantir does and how it uses its troves of data is opaque to all but the most dedicated followers. Founded in 2004 with funding from the CIA’s not-for-profit venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, Palantir is named for mystical orbs in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” universe that can see both the past and present and allow users to communicate over vast distances.
That’s not exactly far afield of how Palantir itself operates. It provides customized software to clients analyzing large swaths of data for purposes ranging from finding suspected criminals to improving companies’ manufacturing capabilities.
Palantir has courted significant controversy due to its work with government agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and due to Thiel’s support for President Donald Trump. There are also still questions as to when it will turn a profit. Like many tech unicorns that have recently gone public, Palantir has yet to turn make any money, losing $580 million in 2018 and $579 million in 2019.
What is Palantir and who runs it?
Palantir has two main services that analyze data: Palantir Gotham and Palantir Foundry.
A customized option, Palantir Gotham is used by companies, government agencies, and law enforcement to combine information to uncover previously unseen patterns and identify relationships between sets of data ranging from social media posts and addresses to license plate numbers and personal relationships. The service then puts all of that content together in easy-to-understand charts and graphs.
Meanwhile, Foundry is a ready-made option focusing on clients ranging from pharmaceutical and automotive businesses to aviation companies like Airbus, and is meant to cut down on the costs associated with Gotham, such as the need for multiple on-site engineers.
Palantir offers a variety of what it calls solutions for different types of applications, whether that’s for automotive companies, the defense sector, financial compliance, insurance, intelligence operations, law enforcement, and others.
The company is guided by billionaire co-founder and CEO Alex Karp. A graduate of Stanford Law School, like Thiel, Karp has run Palantir since shortly after its inception. Prior to Palantir, Karp founded the money management firm Caedmon Group.
Karp has been vocal about his belief in the need for Silicon Valley companies to work with the U.S. government and law enforcement agencies. In a 2019 interview with CNBC, Karp had pointed words for firms like Google (GOOG, GOOGL) that have pulled out of contracts with the government.
“That is a loser position. It is not intelligible. It is not intelligible to the average person. It’s academically not sustainable. And I am very happy we’re not on that side of the debate,” he said.
Wins and controversies
Palantir says its software has assisted companies and government agencies in everything from the conviction of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff to disaster recovery to combating cyberattacks and fighting child exploitation. There’s even an apocryphal story that the firm’s technology was used to help locate Osama bin Laden.
Palantir says its technology was deployed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in 2018 alongside Team Rubicon, an organization of military veterans that respond to disaster areas. With the Palantir’s Gotham Operations module, the group identified and responded to neighborhoods in the greatest need of assistance.
Palantir also pointed to the use of its technology by the Center for Public Integrity and Georgetown University’s Journalism Program for an investigation into the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by militants in Pakistan in 2007. The company says the software helped identify 27 individuals who took part in the kidnapping and killing of Pearl, mapping their relationships and providing answers to questions surrounding his death.
The firm also claims its software helped the U.S. military track insurgents in Afghanistan planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by finding correlations between weather patterns, command wire IED attacks, and biometric information found on explosive devices.
The company says it also provided its software to the Salt Lake City Police Department, helping officers reduce the amount of time it takes to perform complex investigations by 95%.
Comparisons to ‘The Minority Report’
But Palantir has also seen its share of controversy in addition to the wins it touts. The sheer amount of information its software is capable of tracking — license plate numbers; Social Security numbers; social media accounts; addresses; bank records; interpersonal relationships — has led to comparisons with the thought crimes police in “Minority Report.”
Palantir has used that kind of predictive policing model in New Orleans, according to The Verge. But predictive policing is controversial, and, according to studies, can lead to greater policing of minority and low-income communities.
And it’s not just fear of the size of its data collection. The firm has also been targeted by demonstrators and its own employees for the work it does with ICE. After denying that it worked with ICE’s deportation arm, Karp told CNBC in January of 2020 that his firm’s software was being used to “find people in our country who are undocumented.”
Previously, in July of 2019, WNYC reported that ICE agents used Palantir’s Falcon mobile app during operations including raids on nearly 100 7-11 stores in the U.S. in 2019.
And in May of 2020, Karp told Axios that Palantir’s software has likely been used to kill people in the military realm, but wouldn’t provide any greater detail as to who or how.
In the past, according to Bloomberg, Palantir lost a number of partnerships with high-flying corporations including Hershey’s, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and American Express due to the tech firm’s high costs.
Those company defections don’t seem to be hurting Palantir’s valuation.
For all that’s still unknown about Palantir, it’s all but certain that the firm will receive plenty of attention as it tests the public markets for the first time.
An earlier version of this story ran on July 8, 2020.
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Beloved boss who will be a role model on the Supreme Court
Judge Amy Coney Barrett is a jurist of unparalleled talent and a person of remarkable character. We would know — we spent a year right down the hall from her. As her law clerks, we witnessed the qualities that make her an excellent judge and mentor, the same qualities that will make her a distinguished Supreme Court Justice.
Judge Barrett’s impact on the law began decades before she became a judge in 2017 — first as a standout student at Notre Dame Law School, then as law clerk for Judge Silberman on the D.C. Circuit and Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court, and finally at Notre Dame Law School, where she taught and mentored students, winning the “Distinguished Professor of the Year” award three times.
Despite her towering intellect, Judge Barrett always took our views seriously. As an academic, she had spent over a decade exploring the intricacies of statutory interpretation and constitutional law. By the time she joined the bench, she hadn’t just studied the various legal theories and normative arguments that underpin legal questions; she had helped shape them. And yet she engaged us with uncommon humility.
We would often look up from our desks to see Judge Barrett leaning in the doorway, ready to discuss a case. Sometimes she would spend hours sitting across from us, discussing the merits of the litigants’ various arguments. And perhaps most importantly, she created a culture in chambers where everyone was encouraged to voice their opinions, even if we thought she would ultimately disagree. She saw the value in discourse, and she encouraged us to do the same as lawyers.
But Judge Barrett’s impact on our lives runs far deeper than legal teaching and legal discourse. She showed us how to be courageous yet compassionate.
More: I’ve known Amy Coney Barrett for over 20 years. Her intellect and heart are unrivaled.
She has the rare gift of lifting everyone around her. Even on the greyest, snowiest South Bend winter mornings, Judge Barrett would greet us with her trademark smile.
Despite her busy schedule, her door was always open. She took it upon herself to mentor us — always willing to give us advice if we wanted it, be it professional or personal. And she taught us the value of hard work. Even the early-rising clerks often arrived at Judge Barrett’s chambers to find the light already on in her office.
If we were feeling unwell, she wouldn’t just give us the day off; she would offer some thoughtful gestures, like bringing in a baked treat, that made chambers feel a lot more like a family than anything else. We know that we will probably never have another boss more committed to mentoring us. Perhaps she spoiled us. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
More: After Donald Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett, Senate now must ask these questions
To put it simply: clerking for Judge Barrett and being able to call her a mentor is an honor, especially as women. The two of us come from different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds. And we don’t see eye-to-eye on every policy or political issue. But we had the same experience with Judge Barrett: we were treated with dignity and respect.
Judge Barrett elevated our thinking, writing and character, not by prescription, but simply by being herself. As a Supreme Court Justice, she would be a cherished role model for generations to come.
Amanda Rauh-Bieri served as a law clerk for Judge Barrett from 2017-2018. Pardis Gheibi served as a law clerk for Judge Barrett from 2019-2020.
You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amy Coney Barrett: Beloved boss who will be Supreme Court role model
Morgan Stanley reiterates ‘equal-weight’ rating on Zoom Video
3 Stocks Flashing Signs of Strong Insider Buying
If you really want to know which stocks the experts – and those in the know – are buying, pay attention to what they’re doing. Stock reports, company reviews, and press statements are helpful, but you’ll get significant information from watching what the insiders are up to.The insiders – the corporate officers and board members – have to disclose when they snap up shares to prevent any unfair advantages. Tracking their stock purchases can be a useful strategy because if an insider spends their own money on a stock, it could signal that they believe big gains are in store.So, investors looking for stocks that may be flying ‘under the radar,’ but with potential to climb fast, watching for insider purchases identify some sweet market plays. To make that search easier, the TipRanks Insiders’ Hot Stocks tool gets the footwork started – identifying stocks that have seen informative moves by insiders, highlighting several common strategies used by the insiders, and collecting the data all in one place.Fresh from that database, here are the details on three stocks showing ‘informative buys’ in recent days.TravelCenters of America (TA)We’ll start with a company that you probably don’t think about often, but that does provide an essential service. TravelCenters of America is the largest publicly traded owner, operator, and franchisor of full-service highway rest stops in the US. TA started out operating truck stops for rest, repair, and maintenance, and has since expanded to full-service fueling stations offering both gasoline and diesel, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and other rest stop amenities. Their network of rest stops is part of the infrastructure that makes long-distance motor transport, both private and commercial, possible in the USA.As can be imagined, the social lockdowns and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic were not good for TA. The good news is, the worst of the pandemic hit during Q1, and the first quarter is normally TA’s slowest of the year. This year, the first quarter showed a net loss of $1.81 per share. In the second quarter, when warmer weather normally leads to increased driving, the pandemic restrictions were also – at least partially – lifted, and TA reported a sudden turnaround, with a 59 cent EPS profit. Even so, that missed the forecast by almost a dime. The outlook for Q3, normally TA’s strongest of the year, is for EPS of 73 cents.Turning to the insider trades, Adam Portnoy of the Board of Directors has the most recent informative buys. Earlier this month, he purchased over 323,000 shares, laying out more than $5.32 million for the stock. Analyst James Sullivan, of BTIG makes two observations about TravelCenters. First, he points out, “The long-haul trucking industry has an approximate 71% share of total primary tonnage in the U.S. freight industry, making it the primary mode of freight transportation.” Sullivan then adds that this opens up opportunity for TA going forward: “The increasing demands of the nation’s large trucking fleets for consolidated service providers that can provide fuel and truck service on a national basis appear likely to drive additional consolidation in the industry.”Sullivan rates TA shares a Buy, and his $34 price target suggests the stock has an impressive 82% upside potential for the coming year. (To watch Sullivan’s track record, click here)Overall, shares in TA are rated a Strong Buy from the analyst consensus, based on 5 recent reviews including 4 Buys and 1 Hold. The shares are selling for $19.24, and the $22.70 average price target implies room for 18% upside growth. (See TA stock analysis on TipRanks)Highwoods Properties (HIW)The next stock is a real estate investment trust. Highwood operates mostly in the Southeast US, but also in Pittsburgh, where it acquires, develops, leases, and manages a portfolio of suburban office and light industrial properties.Where most companies reported heavy losses during the corona crisis, HIW saw revenues in 1H20 remain stable. EPS has grown sequentially into Q1 and remained flat in Q2 at 93 cents. Both quarter beat EPS expectations.Despite the solid financial results, HIW shares have still not recovered from the market collapse of midwinter. The stock is down 27% year-to-date.Through all of this, Highwoods has maintained its dividend, as is common among REITs. The company has a 17-year history of dividend growth and reliability, and the current payment of 48 cents per common share has been stable for the past 7 quarters. At this level, it annualizes to $1.92 and gives a yield of 5.8%.Highwoods’ insider trading has come from Board member Carlos Evans, who purchased 10,000 shares for $337,000 dollars last week. His move was the first informative buy on HIW in the last 6 months.Truist analyst Michael Lewis is impressed by the quality of HIW’s portfolio. He writes, “We continue to believe that HIW’s portfolio is one of the best-positioned among traditional office REITs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rent collections have been excellent and there are no large near-term lease expirations. More broadly, the portfolio should benefit from being focused in drivable, close-in Sunbelt suburbs.”In line with these comments, Lewis rates the stock a Buy. His price target, $45, indicates a 31% potential upside from current levels. (To watch Lewis’ track record, click here)Overall, HIW has a cautiously optimistic Moderate Buy consensus rating from the Street. This breaks down into 2 Buy ratings and 1 Hold. We can also see from TipRanks that the average analyst price target is $43, which implies a ~25% upside from the current share price. (See HIW stock analysis on TipRanks)VEREIT (VER)The last stock on our insider trading list is another REIT. VEREIT is major owner and manager of retail, restaurant, and commercial real estate, with a portfolio that includes over 3,800 properties worth a collective $14.7 billion. The company’s assets are 45% retail and 20% restaurants; the rest is mainly office and light industrial sites. The total leasable square footage is 88.9 million square feet.So VEREIT is a giant in the REIT sector – but size didn’t protect it from the general downturn this year. Share performance has been lackluster, and revenues have been falling off gradually since Q4 of last year. The second quarter results showed $279 million on the top line, the lowest in a year – but the quarter also saw earnings turn back upwards, reaching 17 cents per share.VER cut back on its dividend earlier this year, reducing the payment to 8 cents per share to keep it in line with earnings. That dividend has been maintained, and the next payment is set for mid-October. The current dividend yield is 4.5%, well over double the average found among S&P stocks.The big insider trade on VER comes from Board member and CEO Glenn Rufrano. He spent over $252K on a block of 40,000 shares, pushing the insider sentiment on this stock into positive territory.Covering the stock for JPMorgan, 5-star analyst Anthony Paolone sees an important strength in VER, noting that the company has been successful in collecting rents during the crisis period. “[Its] collections showed good improvement going into July, with 85% collections in 2Q and 91% in July; when considering all the abatements and deferrals, it appears that at this point about 94% of pre-COVID contractual rental revenue has been addressed, and it seems to us that a normalized run rate for this vast majority of the portfolio should take hold in early 2021; the company is making progress in working through the remaining 5-6% of non-collections,” Paolone noted.Paolone gives VER an Overweight (i.e. Buy) rating, and his $8 price target implies a 22% upside for the next 12 months. (To watch Paolone’s track record, click here)All in all, VER has drawn optimism mixed with caution when it comes to consensus opinion among sell-side analysts. Out of 5 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 3 are bullish on the stock, while 2 remain sidelined. With an 11% upside potential, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $7.25. (See VEREIT’s stock analysis at TipRanks)To find good ideas for stocks trading at attractive valuations, visit TipRanks’ Best Stocks to Buy, a newly launched tool that unites all of TipRanks’ equity insights.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment.
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