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Making of a Computer-Generated Influencer

In this Instagram post, an image of the CGI-based personality Lil Miquela was placed into a seemingly real photo from an Oct. 12 event at the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Tarrytown, N.Y. The image was posted to the character’s Instagram account on Oct. 15.

In this Instagram post, an image of the CGI-based personality Lil Miquela was placed into a seemingly real photo from an Oct. 12 event at the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Tarrytown, N.Y. The image was posted to the character’s Instagram account on Oct. 15.

Miquela Sousa, who recently graced billboards from London to Japan as part of an Ugg advertising campaign, ticks off all the boxes for a model of the moment: She is exotic, attractive and huge on Instagram.

She is also entirely fake, a computer-generated character who—despite what she says on Instagram—can’t feel the pain of a hangover or appreciate how hard it is to walk in stilettos.

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Lucy Peng to Step Down as CEO of Alibaba’s Lazada

Lucy Peng in New York at a forum in 2017.

Lucy Peng in New York at a forum in 2017.


Photo:

European Pressphoto Agency

BEIJING—Longtime

Alibaba Group Holding
Ltd.


BABA -0.01%

executive Lucy Peng is stepping down as chief executive of the e-commerce giant’s Lazada Group after nine months on the job, as the company faces growing competition in Southeast Asia.

Ms. Peng, a co-founder of Alibaba, has been replaced by Executive President Pierre Poignant, the company said Thursday in a statement. She will stay on as executive chairman.

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Japan’s SoftBank to replace Huawei equipment, Nikkei reports

Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank will be replacing its hardware from Chinese tech giant Huawei in its 4G telecommunications network infrastructure over the next few years — and will instead be using equipment from Ericsson and Nokia, Nikkei Asian Review reported on Thursday.

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SoftBank is also expected to place orders with the two European companies for its 5G networks, Nikkei reported. SoftBank is the only telecom carrier in Japan that uses Huawei equipment, according to the news outlet.

The 5G network is the next telecommunications standard that facilitates quicker transfer of data, and allows more devices to connect to the internet.

"It's extremely important to avoid buying equipment that includes malicious functions like stealing or destroying information or halting information systems," Nikkei reported Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as saying.

SoftBank's decision comes days after reports that the Japanese government is planning to stop buying equipment from China's Huawei Technologies and ZTE for its offices and military forces.

SoftBank's latest move reflects rising concerns about security leaks and other issues.

Last week, British multinational telecoms company BT confirmed it has been removing Huawei equipment from the core of its 3G and 4G networks since 2016, and will be excluding the Chinese company when selecting vendors for its 5G core.

Australia and New Zealand have also banned Huawei from participating in building their 5G networks.

Read Nikkei Asian Review's story on SoftBank's decision to remove Huawei equipment.

Source: Business News

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Walmart is keeping the faith in its $16 billion bet to take on Amazon

Despite a tricky few months, Walmart is sticking by its $16 billion bet to help it win the online retail war.

Walmart stock has slipped almost 5 percent in value.

Bad news surrounding the financials was compounded in November when Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal resigned after an accusation of sexual assault led to an internal investigation into “serious personal misconduct.”

But amid the controversy surrounding Bansal’s resignation, Walmart quietly increased its stake from 77% to 81.3%, offering another sign of its conviction that India’s online retail market is primed for growth.

The Indian e-commerce market as a whole is forecast in a Indian government report to quadruple to $200 billion dollars in the next eight years, and by 2034 it’s predicted to surpass the U.S. as the second largest e-commerce market in the world.

Last week Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC that acquisitions such as Flipkart were crucial to the continuing health of his company and its global ambitions.

“You see the rise and fall of Sears and others,” McMillon said. “It’s just a reminder that this can happen to us too.”

Walmart has also got started on restructuring parts of Flipkart. 150 to 200 employees of Myntra and Jabong, two online fashion retailers under the Flipkart Group have been laid off. Since then senior executives have resigned from the company.

And the American retail giant is still convinced by Flipkart’s data analytics and tech expertise and is planning to globally deploy it’s knowhow into progressive web applications that they hope will provide a seamless shopping experience.

“In Flipkart’s case, we know they have a number of systems they have innovated on that we are interested in.” said Jeremy King, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Walmart in a interview with The Economic Times.

“We are going to build these things and then others who want to build that will work together,” he added.

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Trump faces pushback after saying he may intervene in arrest of Huawei executive

U.S. President Donald Trump is facing pushback for saying on Tuesday that he might intervene in a legal case involving the chief financial official of Chinese telco giant Huawei Technologies — if such a move would help Washington secure a trade deal with Beijing.

interview with Reuters where he reportedly said he would intervene in the case if it helped secure a trade deal with Beijing.

Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 where she is facing extradition to the U.S. amid claims she misled multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating American sanctions.

Meng has said she is innocent. She was released on bail on Tuesday and is due to appear before a judge on Feb. 6.

In a wide-ranging interview with Reuters, Trump said: “If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Freeland said Wednesday that Meng’s lawyers would have the option of raising Trump’s comments if they decided to fight extradition.

Back in the U.S., Senator Richard Blumenthal said at a Senate hearing on Chinese espionage that he was worried about Trump’s comment as it made it look like U.S. law enforcement was “a tool of either trade or political or diplomatic ends of this country.”

In response, Assistant Attorney General John Demers affirmed that the Justice Department is not “a tool of trade.”

“What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” Demers said.

Some analysts said the Huawei incident could cloud the U.S.-China tariff talks. Beijing has been infuriated by the developments and has protested the arrest.

China “has made clear its stern position to the Canadian side and the U.S. side respectively on this matter, demanding them to immediately clarify the reason for the detention and release the detainee, and earnestly protect the legal and legitimate rights and interests of the person involved,” said Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman last Thursday.

On Monday, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. A second Canadian man, Michael Spavor, has gone missing and is feared to have been detained.

Canadian officials told Reuters that China had so far not linked Kovrig’s detention to Meng’s arrest. But Canadian diplomatic experts have said they have no doubt the two cases are linked, according to the news agency.

Lu Kang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said repeatedly at a scheduled press briefing on Wednesday that he had no information to offer about Kovrig’s situation and that the two countries “maintain normal communications on consular affairs.”

However, it is clear that Meng’s arrest has affected China-Canada relations at a time when Ottawa is trying to boost bilateral trade.

State news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Sunday that Canada had “hurt the Chinese people’s feelings” — a phrase registering state displeasure. Chinese state media reflects official thinking.

Many observers have also questioned Trump’s comments in the incident.

“Is it really the job of the president to start intervening or interfering in judicial matters?” asked David Kuo, CEO of The Motley Fool Singapore, a financial services firm.

After all, it’s for the courts and the judiciary to decide if Huawei has done anything wrong, Kuo told CNBC on Thursday.

And if it has, “the company has to bear the brunt of it,” said Kuo. “If they haven’t done anything wrong, then they should be acquitted, and so, therefore, they would say there is no case to answer.”

“We’re not talking about a president who can intervene in everything — it’s not a banana republic after all,” said Kuo.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

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Cramer Remix: To ignore this trend is to miss a huge opportunity

Digital media is becoming the best vehicle for retailers to get more traffic to their stores and websites, and that’s brightening the outlook for the stock of embattled social media giant Facebook, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Wednesday.

“Mad Money.”

And with more and more money pouring into digital advertising, “I think Facebook, the stock, is ready to bottom. Maybe it already has. Maybe it can go higher,” Cramer said.

Boosting online advertising is “mentioned over and over and over again on practically every retail conference call I’ve been on,” he noted as Facebook’s stock gained 2.5 percent intraday before settling up 1.7 percent.

And while Facebook’s namesake platform is losing steam as consumer tastes evolve, Instagram — which Facebook bought in 2012 — is still drawing advertising dollars, he said.

Click here to read more of Cramer’s take.

Several key market sectors would get a boost if trade talks between the United States and China proceed without a hitch, Cramer said Wednesday as stocks rallied on renewed hope for a deal between the countries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed more than 458 points intraday after a Wall Street Journal report said China was working to foster better access to foreign companies in an effort to improve relations with the United States. All of the major averages closed modestly higher, but well off their midday highs.

“Why did almost every stock fly up on the news today, even though they gave up some of the gains in the afternoon? Because without a trade war, our whole stock market is actually worth more, hence why so many buyers went for the S&P 500,” Cramer explained. “This is a market where everything goes up on one day, and then tomorrow, we’re going to get more selective.”

The “Mad Money” host expected a couple of stock groups to benefit from improved trade talks on Thursday, beginning with the technology space.

Click here to see his favorite plays.

The global rules of engagement for cyberspace have unraveled in recent years as rogue nations took advantage of their ability to hack companies like Sony Pictures, FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia told CNBC on Wednesday.

“What I’ve seen over the last three years is the rules of engagement have broken,” Mandia, whose firm is partnered with more than 60 governments, told Cramer in an exclusive interview. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen next for many nations with a modern capability.”

The FireEye chief broke down how these unofficial rules have been eroded: in 2014, North Korean actors scrubbed the data at Sony Pictures after the studio released the controversial film “The Interview.” In 2015, Russian hackers broke into the Pentagon’s computers. In 2016, documents leaked by foreign hackers were center to a presidential election. In 2017, Iranian actors performed more cyber-intrusions on U.S. systems than ever before.

“In 2018, we’re all figuring out: where’s the boundaries? Where does it end? How do we have rules?” Mandia said.

Click here to watch and read more about his interview.

While many retailers are focused on creating websites that serve as counterparts to their physical stores, Signet Jewelers has a “competitive advantage” in its end-to-end omnichannel system, CEO Gina Drosos told Cramer on Wednesday.

“[For] a lot of retailers, people can just go online and buy things, and that’s absolutely fine. In the jewelry business, people want a connected omnichannel journey,” Drosos, who is leading her company on a three-year turnaround she calls a “Path to Brilliance,” said on “Mad Money.”

“So, for example, 40 percent of people start their search online for bridal jewelry or for gifting, but for bridal, certainly, more than 90 percent of the sales actually happen here in the store with our expert consultants,” she said.

Click here to watch her interview and learn more about the prospects for the Kay Jewelers, Zales and Jared parent.

With 140 million registered users across 190 countries, Wix.com is continuing on its mission to help “the small guys fight against the big companies” with “amazing,” personalized websites, the company’s co-founder, Chairman and CEO, Avishai Abrahami, told Cramer on Wednesday.

Ascend, a suite of products to help small businesses get more traffic to their websites and communicate better with prospective customers, will cost customers between $20 and $40 a month depending on the offering, the CEO said.

“It’s a way for you to bring more traffic to your website, and then it’s a small CRM and communication tools to talk with your customers. Basically, we took what would normally be 20 different products and integrated them into one consistent experience,” Abrahami said.

Click here to watch his full interview.

In Cramer’s lightning round, he flew through his responses to callers’ stock questions:

Southwest Airlines Co.: “That stock acts badly, I’ve got to tell you. It’s down 22 percent. I really think [CEO] Gary Kelly is too good to tell you to sell that stock down here, but oh, man. Other people like United [Continental Holdings] a lot better.”

United States Steel Corp.: “I want you to sell U.S. Steel and just keep Nucor. Nucor’s got a good dividend policy [and a] very, very good balance sheet. I can’t say that about letter X.”

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Facebook.

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‘Facebook’s stock is bottoming here’ as Instagram keeps drawing ad dollars: Jim Cramer

Shares of Facebook could be nearing a trough as Instagram continues to attract advertisers and the company adds to its share buyback program, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Wednesday.

“Mad Money,” noted as Facebook’s stock gained 2.5 percent intraday before settling up 1.7 percent.

And while Facebook’s namesake platform is losing steam as consumer tastes evolve, Instagram — which Facebook bought in 2012 — is still drawing advertising dollars, he said.

“I’m not saying it’s the only game in town,” Cramer said. “But if you want to hit influencers, if you want to get the word out, you’ve got to do it with Facebook.”

To better explain why Facebook could bottom amid scandals surrounding privacy concerns and data use, Cramer took a more comprehensive look at the industry.

These days, it’s difficult for retailers to drive traffic to their websites on their own, so they need to advertise online. But, interestingly, their choices are few and far between: Twitter was not “all that successful” with ads last quarter, Snap is falling behind its competitors, Google is “clogged with ads” and Amazon, while effective, is a retail rival, he said.

“There are only so many places to get the word out on the web, and Facebook owns two of them,” the “Mad Money” host said. And even though Instagram is a lower-margin business, it continues to rack up huge amounts of daily active users.

So even though bad publicity, questionable management tactics and competition from Amazon are still weighing on Facebook’s stock, the social media giant’s advertising power is not to be discounted, Cramer argued.

“Look, I know Facebook’s been a hideous investment ever since its stock peaked at $218 near the end of July,” Cramer said. “But, man, if a chain of stores wants to bolster its digital presence, a major chunk of that spending will go to Facebook, along with Amazon and Alphabet.”

“That’s why I think Facebook’s stock is bottoming here. The company’s got a mighty buyback that’s been all but ignored all the way down,” the “Mad Money” host continued. “I think they can start turning things around, and I’ve got to tell you, I think you can buy this stock next time the market takes a header.”

Disclosure: Cramer’s charitable trust owns shares of Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet.

Questions for Cramer?
Call Cramer: 1-800-743-CNBC

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GM CEO Is Under Fire From Trump, Lawmakers Over Restructuring

General Motors CEO Mary Barra faces bipartisan anger in Washington as she defends plans to cut jobs and close manufacturing plants amid robust profits. She spoke to reporters after a Dec. 5 meeting with Ohio senators.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra faces bipartisan anger in Washington as she defends plans to cut jobs and close manufacturing plants amid robust profits. She spoke to reporters after a Dec. 5 meeting with Ohio senators.


Photo:

J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Mary Barra was in a bind as the Thanksgiving weekend came to an end. The

General Motors Co
.

chief executive had planned to inform White House staffers the next day about the auto maker’s plans to cut thousands of jobs and close four U.S. plants, according to people familiar with the matter.

Instead, on Sunday evening, Ms. Barra found herself hurriedly dialing President Trump as pieces of the plan began to leak, inviting his wrath and sending her on a multiday tour of Washington to defend GM’s actions to lawmakers, the people familiar with the matter said.

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U.S. Soybean Farmers Work to Loosen China’s Grip

Soybeans are harvested in Tiskilwa, Ill.

Soybeans are harvested in Tiskilwa, Ill.


Photo:

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

CHICAGO—U.S. soybean farmers worked for decades to make China their biggest foreign customer. Now they face a tougher challenge: weaning themselves off the market.

As trade tensions cut deeply into exports, U.S. soybean farmers, industry groups and government officials are seeking a stronger foothold in international markets beyond China, including Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Scientists Skeptical About Gene-Edited Baby Experiment

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—When a Chinese scientist last month claimed to have created the first gene-edited babies, scientists around the world were stunned and alarmed, saying the research had been done without proper disclosure or oversight.

Now, scientists who examined the very limited available data from the experiments are questioning whether the gene edits the scientist claimed he made were even successful. One prominent scientist has called for a moratorium on genetically editing human embryos to create a pregnancy until technical,…

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