Morning Read 4/24: French voters say ‘Non!’ to normal politics

Marine Le Pen, whose father has been accused numerous times of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, was one of two big winners in yesterday's French presidential election [Antoine Bayet]
Marine Le Pen, whose father has been accused numerous times of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, was one of two big winners in yesterday’s French presidential election [Antoine Bayet]

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INTERNATIONAL


MAINSTREAM POLITICS SHUT OUT AS LE PEN, MACRON WIN IN FRANCE

PARIS (AP) — French voters shut out the political mainstream from the presidency for the first time in modern history, and on Monday found themselves being courted for the runoff election between populist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.

French politicians on the moderate left and right, including the Socialist and Republicans party losers in Sunday’s vote, immediately urged voters to block Le Pen’s path to power in the May 7 contest.

Voters narrowed the presidential field from 11 to two. Both that vote and the May 7 runoff are widely seen as a litmus test for the populist wave that last year prompted Britain to vote to leave the European Union and America to elect Donald Trump president.

The defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to back Macron, and Le Pen’s National Front is hoping to do the once unthinkable and peel away voters historically opposed to a party long tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.

“The voters who voted for Mr. Melenchon are angry voters. They can be in agreement with us,” Steeve Brios, a vice president of Le Pen’s National Front party, told The Associated Press. He said they express a choice “outside the system.”

Choosing from inside the system is no longer an option. Voters rejected the two mainstream parties that have alternated power for decades, in favor of Le Pen and the untestedMacron , who has never held elected office and who founded his own political movement just last year. Turnout was 78 percent, down slightly from 79 percent in the first round of presidential voting in 2012.

Both center-right and center-left fell in behind Macron, whose optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders is a stark contrast to Le Pen’s darker, inward-looking “French-first” platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc. Le Pen on Monday called her opponent “weak” against Islamic terrorism.

European stock markets surged as investors welcomed the first-round results, with Macron favored to win. German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Macron “all the best for the next two weeks.” [AP]

U.S. carrier group heads for Korean waters, China calls for restraint

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for all sides to exercise restraint on Monday in a telephone call about North Korea with U.S. President Donald Trump, as Japan conducted exercises with a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group headed for Korean waters.

Trump sent the carrier group for exercises in waters off the Korean peninsula as a warning, amid growing fears North Korea could conduct another nuclear test in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

Angered by the approach of the USS Carl Vinson carrier group, a defiant North Korea said on Monday the deployment was “an extremely dangerous act by those who plan a nuclear war to invade”.

“The United States should not run amok and should consider carefully any catastrophic consequence from its foolish military provocative act,” Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary on Monday.

“What’s only laid for aggressors is dead bodies,” the newspaper said.

Two Japanese destroyers have joined the carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific, and South Korea said on Monday it was also in talks about holding joint naval exercises.

The United States and its allies fear North Korea could be preparing to conduct another nuclear test or launch more ballistic missiles.

China is North Korea’s sole major ally but has been angered by its nuclear and missile programs and is frustrated by Pyongyang’s belligerence.[REUTERS]

US DEFENSE SEC’Y MATTIS IN AFGHANISTAN TO DISCUSS WAR NEEDS

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived unannounced in Afghanistan on Monday to assess America’s longest war as the Trump administration weighs sending more troops.

Kabul was the final stop on a six-nation, weeklong tour Mattis said was intended to bolster relations with allies and partners and to get an update on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan. He is the first member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to visit Afghanistan.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Kabul, recently told Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to keep Afghan security forces on track to eventually handling the Taliban insurgency on their own.

As part of the administration’s review of Afghan policy, Trump’s national security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to consult with Nicholson and with Afghan officials. [AP]

North Korea detains US citizen as tensions rise

(CNN)North Korea detained a US citizen for unknown reasons as he was planning to fly out of Pyongyang International Airport on Saturday morning.

Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, was teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a statement from the school said.

The detention comes amid a buildup of tension on the Korean Peninsula, with a North Korean newspaper saying Sunday that Pyongyang was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier conducting drills in the region.

Kim is the third US citizen in North Korean custody. The school said he was detained by authorities at the airport “after several weeks of service, teaching at PUST.” [CNN]

Israel denies US request to extradite teen arrested for JCC bomb threats

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Justice Ministry reportedly denied a U.S. Justice Department request to extradite the Israeli-American teen charged with making threats against Jewish community centers throughout the United States.

The State Attorney’s Office in Israel told its American counterpart that although the 18-year-old computer hacker has is suspected of committing crimes in 10 countries, he will be tried in Israel, Israel’s Channel 2 first reported Sunday. The report added that the United States has not backed off its request and that Israel’s denial has not caused a rift in the relationship.

The teen from Ashkelon in southern Israel, who was arrested in Israel last month for making over 100 threats against Jewish sites in the United States, has been named in the United States. But he cannot be named in reports originating from Israel.

Israel’s State Prosecutor’s Office is expected to file a serious indictment against the teen on Monday, Channel 2 reported, including charges of extortion with threats, causing panic and money laundering.

The Justice Department said Friday it was charging the teen with 28 counts of making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

“Today’s charges into these violent threats to Jewish community centers and others represent this department’s commitment to fighting all forms of violent crime,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Friday.

The teen’s parents and attorney have said he has a benign brain tumor that affects his behavior.

Israel has complied with requests to extradite Israelis since the 1990s, given that those sentenced to serve in prison can do so in Israel, according to Haaretz. [JTA]


NATIONAL


NEW ORLEANS TAKES DOWN 1ST OF 4 CONFEDERATE STATUES

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Workers in New Orleans removed the first of four prominent Confederate monuments Monday morning, becoming the latest Southern institution to sever itself from symbols viewed by many as a representation racism and white supremacy.

The Liberty Monument, which commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans, was taken away in pieces around 5:35 a.m. after a few hours of work.

The removal happened early in the morning in an attempt to avoid disruption from supporters who want the monuments to stay, some of whom city officials said have made death threats.

Workers who took the monument down Monday could be seen wearing bulletproof vests, military-style helmets and scarves that obscured their faces. Police were also on hand, including officers who watched the area from atop the parking garage of a nearby hotel.

Three other statues to Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis will be removed in later days now that legal challenges have been overcome.

“There’s a better way to use the property these monuments are on and a way that better reflects who we are,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press. [AP]

Ex-Illinois Governor Blagojevich loses bid to cut prison term

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich lost his latest bid for leniency as a federal appeals court refused to shorten his 14-year prison term in a vast public corruption case, including an effort to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago dismissed arguments that Blagojevich deserved a lesser punishment because he had been a “model prisoner” in the five years he has already spent in prison and because some counts in his original 2011 conviction had been thrown out.

Friday’s 3-0 decision came three days after oral arguments, suggesting little or no disagreement.
It likely ends Blagojevich’s chances at shortening his sentence. The one-time contestant on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” could ask the entire 7th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case, but both are long shots.

Leonard Goodman, a lawyer for Blagojevich, did not respond to requests for comment. He told the Chicago Tribune the decision was “incredibly sad and disappointing.” The office of acting U.S. Attorney Joel Levin in Chicago declined to comment. [REUTERS]

Power outage cripples San Francisco for seven hours

A massive power outage threw San Francisco into chaos for most of the work day on Friday, knocking out traffic signals, paralyzing businesses and halting the city’s famed cable cars.

The power outage, which was triggered by a fire in a PG&E Corp. utility substation, disrupted San Francisco’s normally bustling financial district, home to banks and technology companies.

The blackout started just after 9 a.m. (noon ET/1600 GMT) and at one point affected nearly 90,000 customers, according to PG&E. The cause of the fire was a circuit breaker failure at the substation, PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said.

Office workers unable to access elevators or use their keycards spilled out onto the sidewalks, some wandering the streets in search of an open cafe or sunny spot to enjoy a rare warm San Francisco day.
Others simply went home, with long lines forming for ferries. For many, there was little to do but wait.

Traffic was snarled and emergency workers responded to 20 elevator rescues, according to the city’s fire department, but there were no reported deaths or major injuries.

San Francisco International Airport remained operational, and a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said there was no evidence of terrorism. The spokesperson requested anonymity, citing department policy.

“This had nothing to do with cyber,” said Joe Weiss, an expert on control system cyber security who has testified to Congress about structural weaknesses in grid components.

“The real question is how could one substation take out, effectively, San Francisco?”

An FBI spokesman said the agency monitored the incident but is not investigating. [REUTERS]


LOCAL


3 children among several killed in raging house fire

Five people — including three children — were killed Sunday when they became trapped in a burning Queens home as stricken relatives and neighbors screamed helplessly from the street, “Get the kids! There’s kids inside!”

“My babies! My babies!’’ sobbed a woman who neighbors said lost her 2-year-old son and 9-year-old brother in the inferno.

One man was forced to jump from a second-floor window to escape the shooting flames and thick black smoke, fire officials said, describing him as 46 years old.

Before he leaped, he stood on the porch roof, frantically shouting, “That’s my grandson!’’

“This is a devastation of a family you rarely see, but it has happened here in Queens Village today,” Mayor de Blasio said at a press conference near the house Sunday evening.

“We don’t have all the answers that we want to have about what happened here,’’ the mayor said. “We do know five lives have been lost including some young children. And our hearts go out to this family, and I’m asking all New Yorkers to keep this family in your prayers.”

It was the city’s largest death toll from a fire in the past two years, he said.

Sunday’s blaze may have started when a car parked in an alley between two houses caught fire, police sources said.

The flames broke out at about 2:36 p.m. at a two-story home at 112th Avenue and 208th Street and eventually jumped to an adjacent building, which was unoccupied at the time, officials said. [NYP]

National Democrats aiming to help turn New York state Senate to the left

ALBANY — National progressives are jumping into the battle to help claim the state Senate for the Democrats in 2018.

New York is considered one of several statehouses nationally that the left believes can be turned completely Democratic in advance of the next round of congressional redistricting.

Toward that end, state Senate Deputy Democratic Minority Leader Michael Gianaris, who heads his conference’s campaign operation, recently met with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about the need to flip New York to total Democratic control, sources say.

Holder is heading up the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that will focus on trying to help the party win statehouses before the new congressional lines are drawn in 2021. Democrats in the New York Assembly easily control the chamber while Republicans in the Senate maintain a slim majority.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the newly named deputy chairman of the National Democratic Committee, will headline a June 9 New York City fund-raiser for the state Senate Dems. [DN]

Sessions praises NYPD after calling city ‘soft on crime’

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Jeff Sessions backtracked Sunday on his smear campaign against New York City and instead praised the NYPD as a model police department.

“For four decades, New York has been a fabulous city for law enforcement,” Sessions told ABC’s “This Week.” “They have developed some of the best techniques ever. They are so far ahead of many other cities. I think we all should study the tactics that have been developed.”

In a press release Friday to announce threats to the Big Apple and eight other jurisdictions to withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities, Sessions’ justice department besmirched New York as “soft on crime.”

The statement drew a quick rebuke from NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill who called the characterization “insulting” and made his “blood boil.”

Sessions clarified Sunday he meant no disrespect to the police department but believes if New York wants to be even safer it should get rid of sanctuary city policies that prevent police from turning over low-level offenders to federal agents for deportation.

“We want to improve law enforcement in America. Half of the murders in New York are gang-related. Many of those are people – gangs who have illegal aliens involved in them,” Sessions said. “So why would you not want to deport those and make the city even safer?”

The Justice Department on Friday sent letters to New York City, California, Chicago, Philadelphia and other localities asking for proof they are following federal immigration laws or else their federal grant funding could be revoked. [NYP]


POLITICS


Trump’s 100 days: what we’ve learned

When President Trump took the oath of office three months ago, one question loomed above the others: How would the most unconventional presidential candidate in recent memory govern?

Here is what we have learned about Trump’s approach to the presidency as he nears the first 100 days of his administration on Saturday, April 29.

He’s willing to change his mind

Besides of his get-tough stances on trade, immigration and crime, Trump entered politics with very few deeply held political beliefs. And he’s not been afraid to change his views depending on his circumstances.

Earlier this month, Trump put on a dizzying display by flipping on four policies in one day: Fed chief Janet Yellen, the NATO alliance, China’s currency practices and the Export-Import Bank.

He backed off his promise to label China a currency manipulator during his first 100 days, decided to keep the Ex-Im bank after criticizing it during the campaign, and warmed up to Yellen.

“I said it was obsolete,” Trump said recently of NATO. “It’s no longer obsolete.”

Perhaps his biggest change was his decision to launch cruise missiles at Syria, a major change from campaign rhetoric that saw Trump decry the perils of American military intervention in the Middle East.

The rapid-fire changes have given some Trump supporters, while others call it a positive development.

“It’s a sign of maturity. He’s got his team around him now and is fully briefed on the consequences of his policy decisions and appears to be getting to the right place on almost everything,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce political analyst Scott Reed.

Winning is everything

“Loser” — It’s Trump’s insult of choice and one he’s lobbed at his opponents hundreds of times. It’s also a label no president wants, but Trump might fear it more than most.

Trump faces the very real prospect of finishing his first 100 days in office without any major legislative achievements to claim. And while that might not be a sign his presidency is doomed to failure, it’s a benchmark for success Trump himself set with an ambitious list of promises during his campaign.

Trump has followed through on several of his first-100-day promises, including filling Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court with another conservative judge.

But he has backed off others, while his attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare foundered in the face of opposition from his own party. And the travel ban, Trump’s most consequential executive action, has been repeatedly blocked by courts.

That thin record could explain why Trump and his staff are pushing Congress to hold another vote on healthcare next week, right before his 100th day. But they’re unlikely to get that win next week — House GOP leaders have indicated they won’t hold a vote on a proposal that doesn’t have enough votes to pass.

Governing is harder than it looks

During the campaign, Trump often boasted that his skills as a dealmaker in the business world would make him a great president.

Three months into his presidency, though, Trump has found out the hard way that governing the country is the toughest job than he’s ever held.

Trump has marveled at the complexity of the thorny issues he’s tackled as commander in chief, from Syria and China to his effort to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system.

“Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated,” Trump proclaimed in February.

The president has been unusually candid about his learning curve on North Korea’snuclear program. Trump has repeatedly demanded that Beijing solve the problem, only to back off after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea … But it’s not what you would think.”

Candidate Trump is President Trump

In his first 100 days, Trump has modulated some of his foreign policy positions and received a wake-up call about the complexities of dealing with Congress.

But Trump has mostly refused to alter his style.

Trump still publicly feuds with critics and those in his way, whether that’s “Apprentice” host Arnold Schwarzenegger or the House Freedom Caucus members that torpedoed the GOP healthcare plan.

He still tweets with reckless abandon, even when it damages him politically. Trump’s claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, presented without evidence, generated weeks of controversy.

And Trump remains sensitive over his public image, which fuels his on-and-off war with the media.

It’s as if the campaign never ended. And it hasn’t – Trump has hit the trail for campaign-style rallies to bask in the adulation of his supporters, who continue to turn out for him by the thousands.

Trump’s mercurial management style frustrates Washington insiders. But to Trump’s supporters, it’s evidence of his authenticity.

“America would be a lot better off if more politicians continued to behave the same way between the time their elected and their first day in office,” said Frank Cannon, the president of the conservative think tank American Principles Project.

Family first

Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have emerged as two of Trump’s most trusted advisers.

Kushner, 36, handles an increasingly ambitious portfolio of responsibilities from a West Wing workspace only steps from the Oval Office.

Trump has tasked his son-in-law with — among other things — leading a White House office on technology infrastructure, fighting opioid addiction and handling veterans’ issues.

Meanwhile, the White House has backtracked on a commitment that Trump’s children would not receive security clearances.

The president has made an exception for Ivanka Trump, who was recently given a West Wing office on the second floor next to the president’s other female advisers, Kellyanne Conway and Dina Powell.

Ivanka Trump’s portfolio is loosely defined, but she is a regular at high-profile White House events and is said to advise her father on a vast array of topics. [THEHILL]

Trump eyeing second Supreme Court seat

Talk is already heating up that President Trump could have a chance to appoint a second person to the Supreme Court.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week that another opening could come as soon as this summer, and there have been rumors that Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing voter on the court, could retire soon.

Kennedy, 80, was nominated to the court by President Reagan. [THEHILL]

Sanders: Democratic Party’s model is ‘failing’

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that the model of the Democratic Party is failing.

Sanders cited President Trump’s win, the GOP-controlled Congress, and Republican victories in state legislatures as reasons why Democrats are in trouble.

“Clearly the Democratic Party has got to change. And in my view, what it has got to become is a grassroots party, a party which makes decisions from the bottom on up, a party which is more dependent on small donations than large donations,” Sanders said.

“The Democratic Party has got to take the lead, rally people, young people, working people, stand up to the billionaire class,” said Sanders.

“And when we do that, you’re going to see voter turnout swell. You’re going to see people coming in and running for office. You’re going to see Democrats regain control of the United States Congress.”

His comments come after the senator last week maintained that he is an independent, not a Democrat, despite the fact that he was traveling the country with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez for a series of Democratic unity rallies. [THEHILL]

Trump sets U.S. tax reform announcement, orders tax rule review

President Donald Trump on Friday promised a big announcement about tax reform next week and ordered an administration review of Obama-era tax rules written to discourage U.S. companies from relocating overseas to cut their tax bills.

“We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform. The process has begun long ago, but it really formally begins on Wednesday,” Trump said during a visit to the U.S. Treasury Department.

A White House official said the impending announcement could come later than Wednesday, adding: “The president was saying what we’ve been saying all along, that he wants to do tax reform as quickly as possible while still doing it right.”

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump initially issued a plan that proposed deep cuts in tax rates for individuals and corporations, a reduction in the number of tax brackets to four from seven, repeal of the estate tax, an offshore profits repatriation tax holiday for multinationals and a cap on the deductibility of business interest. He later revised the number of tax brackets to three.

The plan partly resembled one developed by House Speaker Paul Ryan. [REUTERS]

Donald Trump’s Push for Border-Wall Funding Muddies Budget Talks

WASHINGTON — Less than a week before the federal government could run out of money, White House officials said President Donald Trump wants any spending deal to include some funding for a border wall, despite little appetite among congressional Republicans for risking a partial shutdown over the issue.

Given the complications and tight timeline, few, if any, of Mr. Trump’s legislative ambitions are likely to be realized by Saturday. That means GOP lawmakers would face the uncomfortable choice of denying or deferring some of Mr. Trump’s wishes, such as funding the wall, before the symbolic 100th day, or triggering a showdown with Democrats.

House Republicans held a weekend conference call where GOP leaders said they would focus first on striking a deal to keep the government funded.

Administration officials said Mr. Trump wants the spending bill to include funding to begin building the wall along the southern border. However, they haven’t threatened that he would veto a bill that excluded it. [WSJ]

Trump says Mexico ‘eventually’ will pay for border wall

President Donald Trump said on Sunday he expected Mexico to pay for the wall he has promised to build along the southern border, resuscitating a campaign promise that roiled U.S. relations with Mexico in the first week of his presidency.

“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Trump returned to his Mexico demand on a morning in which he simultaneously tried to pressure congressional Democrats to include funding for the border wall in must-pass spending legislation needed to keep the U.S. government open beyond Friday.

A spokesman for the Mexican president’s office said President Enrique Pena Nieto has repeated that Mexico will not pay for the wall. [REUTERS]


CULTURE


Trump condemns anti-Semitism on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day

U.S. President Donald Trump said anti-Semitism should be defeated and called the Holocaust the “darkest chapter of human history” in a video address on Sunday, following two missteps by his administration regarding statements about genocide during World War Two.

“The mind cannot fathom the pain, the horror and the loss. Six million Jews, two-thirds of the Jews in Europe, murdered by the Nazi genocide. They were murdered by an evil that words cannot describe, and that the human heart cannot bear,” Trump said in a speech to the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in New York on Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“On Yom HaShoah, we look back at the darkest chapter of human history,” Trump added. “We mourn, we remember, we pray, and we pledge: ‘Never again.'”

Trump’s four-minute message included somber references to Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, a commitment to support Israel and a rebuke of prejudice and anti-Semitism.

“We must stamp out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found. We must defeat terrorism, and we must not ignore the threats of a regime that talks openly of Israel’s destruction,” Trump said in an apparent reference to Iran. [REUTERS]


FINANCE


French election relief sends Europe soaring

Euro zone stocks headed for their best day in almost two years on Monday and the euro briefly vaulted to five-month peaks, after the market’s favored candidate won the first round of the French election, reducing the risk of another Brexit-like shock.

The victory for pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron, who is now expected to beat right-wing rival Marine Le Pen in a deciding vote next month, sent the bluechip STOXX 50 index up 3.7 percent, France’s CAC40 over 4 percent and bank stocks .SX7E up more than 6 percent. [.EU]

Traders top-sliced some of the euro’s overnight gains, but it was still up more than 1 percent on the dollar, more than 2 percent against the yen and 1.3 percent on the pound ahead of the U.S. session.

“It (the first round result) has come out in line with the market’s expectations so you have something of a risk rally as there was a bit of a risk-premium built into all markets,” said James Binny, head of currency at State Street Global Advisors. [REUTERS]

Robert Wolf, Joseph Tabak land $85M loan for Rheingold site

Robert Wolf’s Read Property Group and Joseph Tabak’s Princeton Holdings landed an $85 million loan for a piece of their Rheingold Brewery site in Bushwick.

LoanCore Capital Credit REIT provided the loan for the property at 930 Flushing Avenue, the Commercial Observer reported.

The loan consolidates a $55 million gap mortgage along with previous debt including a 2014 loan from Signature Bank for $30 million, property records show.

Wolf and Tabak had spent years assembling the Rheingold site and in late 2013 secured approval for a rezoning paving the way for a 10-building, 977-unit residential complex.

They sold off several parcels to Simon Dushinsky’s Rabsky Group and Yoel Goldman’s All Year Management, [TRD]

Against All Odds, the U.S. Tobacco Industry Is Rolling in Money

Far fewer Americans are smoking, and yet U.S. tobacco revenue is soaring, thanks to years of steady price hikes. Americans spent more at retail stores on cigarettes in 2016 than they did on soda and beer combined, according to independent market-research firm Euromonitor International. Consolidation and cost cutting are boosting profit. Big Tobacco shares are on a roll.

The number of cigarettes sold in the U.S. fell by 37% from 2001 to 2016, according to Euromonitor. Over the same period, though, companies raised prices, boosting cigarette revenue by 32%, to an estimated $93.4 billion last year. An average pack in the U.S. cost an estimated $6.42 in 2016, up from $3.73 in 2001, according to TMA, an industry trade group.

The operating profits of U.S. tobacco manufacturers have grown 77% since 2006 to $18.4 billion in 2016, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research. Industry executives and analysts now figure the country generates more tobacco profits than any other market in the world outside China, where a state-run monopoly controls sales and prices. [WSJ]

04/24/2017 12:00 PM by David Kinzer
Tags: Morning Read

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