FILE PHOTO: Walmart’s logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo
February 19, 2019
By Nandita Bose
(Reuters) – A strong U.S. economy boosted Walmart Inc’s holiday-quarter sales growth to the best in a decade, lifted by consumer spending in key categories like groceries and increased e-commerce purchases.
Shares of the world’s larger retailer rose nearly 4 percent on Tuesday and were up 7 percent so far this year.
Walmart’s performance and rival Target Corp’s strong holiday sales growth reflected the health of the U.S. consumer as spending remained robust due to a strong labor market and cheaper gasoline prices.
“We still feel pretty good about the consumer. We haven’t seen much of a change,” Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs told Reuters. “The data we are seeing still looks pretty healthy. Gas prices are down year over year, which helps.”
The retailer’s performance assuaged fears about an impending slowdown in spending this year. U.S. retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years in December, the government reported last week, as receipts fell across the board, suggesting a sharp slowdown in economic activity at the end of 2018.
Overall sales for the 2018 U.S. holiday shopping season hit a six-year high as shoppers were encouraged by early discounts, according to a Mastercard report in late December.
Walmart sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose 4.2 percent, excluding fuel, in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31. The gain exceeded analysts’ expectations of 2.96 percent, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Sales were also boosted after federal officials distributed food stamp aid early, during the partial government shutdown. The demise of retailer Toys R Us helped Walmart gain toy market share, the company said.
Adjusted earnings per share increased to $1.41 per share, beating expectations of $1.33 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. But the retailer’s gross margins declined for the seventh consecutive quarter due to higher transportation costs and e-commerce investments.
Online sales jumped 43 percent in the quarter, in line with the previous quarter’s rise, helped by the expansion of Walmart’s online grocery pickup and delivery services and a broader assortment on its website.
But the company reiterated that it expected e-commerce losses to increase this year due to ongoing investments. Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said on a conference call the company was focused on getting return customer visits and strengthening product assortment.
The company has expanded a program that allows customers to order groceries online and pick them up at its U.S. stores, a move the retailer said helped expand market share in the category. It said it will have the service at 3,100 stores by next January. At the end of the fourth quarter it was offered at more than 2,100 stores.
Walmart will offer grocery deliveries to about 800 more stores by the end of the year, bringing the total to 1,600 stores.
Grocery sales currently make up 56 percent of total revenue for the retailer. Amazon.com Inc is trying to crack the food category, especially since it bought organic supermarket chain Whole Foods.
Walmart is partnering with third-party couriers and working with so-called gig, or freelance, drivers, who are cheaper than full-time employees, to push down costs, Reuters recently reported.
Google-backed Deliv, a Walmart delivery partner in Miami and San Jose, ended its relationship with the retailer, Reuters reported last week.
The U.S. retailer, which overtook Apple Inc to become the third largest e-commerce retailer last year, is likely to capture a 4.6 percent share of the U.S. e-commerce market, behind eBay Inc and Amazon, according to research firm eMarketer.
Walmart repeated its forecast that fiscal year 2020 earnings per share would decline in the low single digits in percentage terms, compared with last year. Excluding the acquisition of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart, it sees an increase in the low- to mid-single-digits.
McMillon said the company was disappointed in India’s revised e-commerce regulations, which ban companies from selling products via firms in which they have an equity interest and also bar them from making deals with sellers to sell exclusively on their platforms.
He said the Indian government didn’t consult with Walmart and other U.S. companies before it changed the rules. “We hope for a collaborative regulatory process going forward, which results in a level playing field,” he said.
Walmart expects fiscal year 2020 comparable sales growth of 2.5 percent to 3 percent, excluding fuel and online sales growth of 35 percent.
Total revenue increased 1.9 percent to $138.8 billion, beating analysts’ estimates of $138.65 billion. Walmart has recorded 18 quarters, or over four straight years of U.S. comparable sales growth, unmatched by any other retailer.
The stock rose 3.9 percent to $103.93. Target and Costco Wholesale Corp were both up more than 1 percent.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)
A view shows a new section of the border fence in El Paso, Texas, U.S., as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez
February 19, 2019
By Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coalition of 16 U.S. states led by California sued President Donald Trump and top members of his administration on Monday to block his decision to declare a national emergency to obtain funds for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California came after Trump invoked emergency powers on Friday to help build the wall that was his signature 2016 campaign promise.
Trump’s order would allow him to spend on the wall money that Congress appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall this year..
“Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
“We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theater,” added Becerra, a Democrat.
The White House declined to comment on the filing.
In a budget deal passed by Congress to avert a second government shutdown, nearly $1.4 billion was allocated toward border fencing. Trump’s emergency order would give him an additional $6.7 billion beyond what lawmakers authorized.
Three Texas landowners and an environmental group filed the first lawsuit against Trump’s move on Friday, saying it violated the Constitution and would infringe on their property rights.
The legal challenges could slow Trump’s efforts to build the wall, which he says is needed to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The lawsuits could end up at the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court.
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Michigan joined California in the lawsuit.
The states said Trump’s order would cause them to lose millions of dollars in federal funding for national guard units dealing with counter-drug activities and redirection of funds from authorized military construction projects would damage their economies.
In television interviews on Sunday and Monday, Becerra said the lawsuit would use Trump’s own words against him as evidence that there was no national emergency to declare.
Trump said on Friday he did not need to make the emergency declaration but wanted to speed the process of building the wall. That comment could undercut the government’s legal argument.
“By the president’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary,” the states said in the lawsuit. “The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter
West Virginia teachers are planning to go on a statewide strike Tuesday over an education bill they feel does not include input from educators.
Three unions — West Virginia Education Association, the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and West Virginia School Service Personnel Association — made the announcement at a Monday press conference, according to WTRF.
Bills approved by the state’s Senate and House of Delegates both help establish West Virginia’s first charter schools, The Associated Press reported. The Senate version of the bill would allow up to seven charter schools and give as much as 1,000 education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school.
Supporters of the provision believe parents will have more school choice, while the unions believe the bill will hurt traditional public schools.
It is unclear how long the strike will last or how many teachers will be striking. (RELATED: West Virginia Sees Biggest Drop In Public School Enrollment In Nearly Two Decades)
“We are watching this hour by hour,” West Virginia AFT President Fred Albert said, The AP reported.
Nearly 277,000 students across the state were left without teachers and schools were shutdown.
The teachers won 5 percent pay raise as a result of the 2018 strike, The AP reported.
West Virginia’s strike comes as Oakland, California, teachers prepare to strike on Feb. 21. The California teachers want a 12 percent raise along with smaller class sizes.
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Source: The Daily Caller
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan stood up for Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar during his Sunday speech at the NOI’s annual Saviours’ Day event. Omar recently faced backlash after accusing the pro-Israel lobby of buying congressional support for Israel.
“Ms. Omar from Somalia – she started talking about ‘the Benjamins’ and they are trying to make her apologize. Sweetheart, don’t do that. Pardon me for calling you ‘sweetheart,’ but you do have a sweet heart. You sure are using it to shake the government up, but you have nothing to apologize for,” Farrakhan stated, which was first reported by the The Washington Free Beacon.
He continued, “Israel and AIPAC pays off senators and congressmen to do their bidding, so you’re not lying, so if you’re not lying. Stop laying down. You were sent there by the people to shake up that corrupt House. Shake it up!” (RELATED: House Overwhelmingly Approves Motion To Condemn Anti-Semitism Amid Omar Fallout)
“Oh she’s just ‘young.’ She just got here. Don’t be so hard on her. My beautiful sisters, you were sent there to shake that House up. Your people voted you in, but God is the overseer,” Farrakhan continued, mocking the criticism she’s faced.
Farrakhan has been accused of promulgating anti-Semitism for decades. Last October, he posted a video on Twitter of a speech he gave, in which he compared Jewish people to termites. He has also previously accused Jews of allegedly being involved in 9/11. (RELATED: Seven House Democrats Have Direct Ties To Notorious Anti-Semite [VIDEO])
Politicians on both sides of the political aisle condemned Omar’s accusation last week. President Donald Trump called for her to resign or at least be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee, while House Speaker Pelosi said the congresswoman was using an “anti-Semitic [trope].”
After Democratic leadership condemned her, Omar issued an apology on Twitter. (RELATED: Omar Releases Statement After Backlash Surrounding Tweet Accusing AIPAC Of Buying Israel Support)
This tweet from Omar was not the first time she has been critical of Israel, while also being accused of pushing anti-Semitism. She has previously announced her for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement, previously implied that Israel is not a democracy and, back in 2012, accused Israel of “[hypnotizing] the world,” although she has since apologized for it.
Source: The Daily Caller
When Donald Trump visited Beto O'Rourke's hometown to argue that walling off the southern border makes the U.S. safer, the former Democratic congressman and possible 2020 presidential hopeful was ready.
As the president filled an El Paso arena with supporters, O'Rourke helped lead thousands of his own on a protest march past the barrier of barbed-wire topped fencing and towering metal slats that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
O'Rourke clearly hopes to make his personal experience with the border a strength if he runs for president — and the battle over billions of dollars in new fortifications may well shape the 2020 campaign.
But O'Rourke's history with the barriers that have lined the Rio Grande since he was a child actually could be a bit of vulnerability, too.
As the 2020 campaign is joined, other top Democrats can oppose Trump's call for more and larger walls as a straightforward wedge issue — something they say shows anti-immigrant feeling, intolerance and even racism.
But O'Rourke's record on border walls is complicated. Last March, he supported a spending package that other leading Democratic contenders opposed and included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. Buried in that was $44.5 million for repairs of existing fencing elsewhere — including El Paso.
O'Rourke later explained the vote as a compromise to win approval of another proposal he backed, expanding access to mental health care for military veterans who had received other-than-honorable discharges. But his action attracted criticism from people who know the border best. Scott Nicol, co-chairman of the Sierra Club's Borderlands team, called it "very disappointing."
"The things that he has said have been dead on," Nicol said. "The next step becomes what do you do."
O'Rourke's nuanced position on border barriers, sometimes willing to use them as a bargaining chip, could be politically awkward in a national campaign but it's shared in El Paso. Here, many people accept dozens of miles of existing walls as a fact of life, objecting mostly to structures so intrusive they suggest a war zone.
"People in El Paso live with the border and the ambiguities and contradictions of the border," said Josiah Heyman, director of the University of Texas at El Paso's Center for Interamerican and Border Studies.
In an interview Thursday night on MSNBC, O'Rourke said he would "absolutely" tear down El Paso's existing walls and that he believed a majority of residents would back doing so. That somewhat contradicts his past statements about opposing entirely open borders, but O'Rourke has previously backed having them porous enough to promote trade and immigrant culture. In an interview in 2006, he decried President George W. Bush's proposal for bolstering the existing walls with more surveillance technology.
Bush's barrier "didn't seem like a meaningful suggestion at all, but maybe that's because we already have it and it doesn't seem to be working," he said.
City Council member Peter Svarzbein said El Paso's character isn't based on keeping people out, but rather on tens of thousands who legally cross every day for work, school, shopping or to see bi-national relatives.
"Can you imagine having to show a passport and go through immigration when you go between Brooklyn and Manhattan?" Svarzbein asked.
Democratic analyst Colin Strother noted, "There are places that physical barriers make sense, but it does not make sense everywhere and that seems to be the big disconnect."
O'Rourke's attempts to explain his record could be difficult in a hotly contested primary campaign. His 2020 rivals could run into their own complications on the issue soon, however, after Congress approved $1.4 billion in new border wall funding as part of a deal to avoid the latest government shutdown.
In the end, O'Rourke "may have some firsthand knowledge, but I don't know if it's a winning argument," said Democratic political consultant James Aldrete, who helped conduct Hispanic outreach for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
El Paso had only limited border security before 1978 when, facing an influx of immigrants looking for work in the U.S., Congress approved chain-link fencing later dubbed the "Tortilla Curtain." A 1986 federal law granting legal status to about 2 million Mexicans in the U.S. made the prospect of heading north even more attractive.
Eventually, thousands of people were pouring into El Paso every day, sometimes paying as little as a quarter for rides on makeshift rafts over the Rio Grande.
"People could cross whenever they wanted," said Silvestre Reyes, who was chief of Border Patrol's El Paso sector in 1993 and won a congressional seat in 1996. "The city was tired of it."
Reyes ordered around-the-clock patrols and authorities repaired 100-plus holes in nine miles of fences downtown.
But when O'Rourke, then an upstart ex-City Council member, ran against Reyes in the 2012 Democratic primary, he didn't make Reyes' border crackdown an issue. Instead, O'Rourke more frequently complained of long wait times for cars crossing into El Paso from Juarez.
O'Rourke now opposes pumping any funding into new walls. Instead, he'd like to see a coalition of border Democrats and Republicans in Congress hammer out a broader immigration overhaul.
"We know that there is no bargain where we can sacrifice some of our humanity to gain a little more security," O'Rourke told an emotional El Paso rally he headlined after the Trump protest march. "We know that we deserve to, and will, lose both of them if we do."
Reyes doesn't agree with O'Rourke on much but also opposes erecting concrete walls, which Trump has supported in the past.
"We have a lot of slats where you can still see through it," he said of El Paso. "That helps Border Patrol agents, but it also is supported by people living at the border."
Source: NewsMax Politics
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, speaking to "Fox News Sunday," charged that the compromise spending bill recently signed by President Trump to avert another partial government shutdown was little more than a disguised effort by some Republicans to torpedo his 2020 presidential candidacy.
Limbaugh also rejected claims that President Trump is unduly influenced by right-wing media figures and "wackos" — an accusation that resurfaced amid the ongoing border wall funding dispute.
Late last year, a slew of prominent conservatives, including columnist Ann Coulter, excoriated Trump for appearing to back down on his threat not to sign any spending bill without wall funding. Trump responded by unfollowing Coulter on Twitter, then reversing course and insisting on money for the barrier project on the way to a historic 35-day partial government shutdown.
"It’s just another effort to continue to try to diminish the president — diminish President Trump as someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, can’t do it without guidance from the wacko right," Limbaugh told host Chris Wallace. "It’s not at all the way he’s governing, and there isn’t anybody doing what I do that has a thing to do with actually making policy for this president."
On Friday, Trump said he is declaring a national emergency on the southern border, tapping into executive powers in a bid to divert billions toward construction of a wall even as he signed a funding package to avert another shutdown that includes just $1.4 billion for border security — far short of the $5.7 billion he has long requested for the wall.
The compromise legislation, which overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate last week, contained enough funding for building just 55 miles of barricades, not the 200-plus miles the White House has sought.
The bill, which took bargainers three weeks to strike, provided additional funding for 5,000 more beds that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can use to house illegal immigrants. But in an attempt to pressure the agency to detain fewer illegal immigrants, Democrats ensured that the bill did not include funding for the 2,000 additional ICE agents requested by the Trump administration, or the 750 Border Patrol agents that were also sought.
Several Republicans, including Texas Reps. Dan Crenshaw and Chip Roy, voted against the bill, saying it didn’t properly address the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs across the border. Roy called the bill a "sham," and said the funding bill "undermines the whole point of an emergency declaration."
"We have an emergency — this is an invasion."
For his part, Limbaugh said not enough attention is being given to Democrats’ resistance to even minimal border security measures. In an interview last week, potential Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called for existing border walls to be torn down. Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she "could support" that position as well.
"We have an emergency — this is an invasion," Limbaugh said, referring to the flow of thousands of illegal immigrants — including many in organized caravans — that continue to approach the U.S. border.
"The very existence and definition of American culture, American society, the rule of law — why does nobody talk about the fact that millions and millions and millions of people are breaking the law here illegally and the Democrat Party wants that to happen?" Limbaugh asked.
The compromise spending bill will undermine the White House and won’t produce results at the border, Limbaugh added — and, he asserted, that might be what some Republicans intended.
"Both parties have people that are still trying to get rid of Donald Trump. I read this bill — this spending bill, this bill is outrageous," Limbaugh said. "The thing’s welcoming centers for newly arriving illegal aliens, and all kinds of medical care for – the purpose of this bill, I think, was eventually to be used by the Democrats and some Republicans to tell the American people, ‘See, electing President Trump was pointless, worthless, he can’t protect you, he can’t stop us, he can’t do what he said he was going to do, because we hate him so much we’re not going to allow him to do it — that’s what this bill is."
Recently unearthed efforts by the FBI and Justice Department to begin discussions about ousting Trump in 2017, Limbaugh continued, only serve to underscore his point further. Fox News first reported on Sunday that top FBI lawyer James Baker, in closed-door testimony to Congress, detailed alleged discussions among senior officials at the Justice Department about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, claiming he was told Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said two Trump Cabinet officials were “ready to support” such an effort.
The testimony was delivered last fall to the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees. Fox News has confirmed portions of the transcript. It provides additional insight into discussions that have returned to the spotlight in Washington as fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe revisits the matter during interviews promoting his forthcoming book.
"People, simply because they don’t like a guy’s hairstyle or like where he came from, decided the American people’s decision was invalid and began a systematic process to get him out of office — this is a silent coup," Limbaugh said. "These guys, if you ask me, ought to be the ones in jail."
Asked who the likely 2020 Democratic presidential nominee will be, Limbaugh sided with former Vice President Joe Biden. Although Biden has not formally announced a bid, a source with direct knowledge told Fox News on Thursday that he is virtually certain to run.
"The frontrunner would probably be right now Joe Biden, 77 years old, plagiarist, nicknamed ‘plugs’ – I think he’s the guy they are probably thinking is the leader in the polls right now," Limbaugh said. "But it’s going to be very crowded. They’re going to be knocking each other off. That’s going to be fun to watch. Incumbancy carries with it a lot of power. … They’re getting way ahead of the game, and I don’t think it’s going to be as easy as they think."
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.
The Democrats Are The Real Reason Federal Employees Have NoT Been Paid As The Shutdown pressure mounts #MAGAFirstNews with @PeterBoykin
Trump delays State of Union address until after shutdown Is This The Correct choice? #MAGAFirstNews with @PeterBoykin