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Pasig City to get Anti-Red Tape Unit



THE ANTI-RED TAPE AUTHORITY (ARTA) signed its first agreement with a local government unit (LGU), partnering with Pasig City for the creation of a specialized unit to address bureaucratic red tape.

ARTA Director-General Jeremiah B. Belgica inked the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pasig City Mayor Victor “Vico” N. Sotto to establish the Anti-Red Tape Unit, ARTA said in a statement Thursday.

The unit would notify ARTA about the formulation, modification, and repeal of regulations. It would verify the accuracy of the city’s Citizen’s Charter and its compliance with the zero contact policy and prescribed processing time.

Citizen’s charters detail each government agency’s checklist of requirements and procedures for its applications and request processes. ARTA last year set a December deadline for agencies to submit their respective charters.

“With the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding, we’re confident that Pasig will become much better in removing red tape in the coming years… [And through] this partnership, we will be able to help each other make Pasig business-friendly and make our systems and processes more efficient sa tulong po ng bawat isang nasa kwartong ito (with the help of everyone in this room,” Mr. Sotto was quoted as saying in the statement.

The MoU details the support to strengthen the implementation of the Ease of Doing Business law in Pasig from the UPPAF (University of the Philippines Public Administration Research and Extension Services Foundation, Inc.) Regulatory Reform Support Program for National Development (RESPOND) Project and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Philippines.

The Ease of Doing Business law or RA 9485 was passed in 2018 to improve efficiency in government services.

The Philippines improved its ranking in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business report to 95th from 124th a year earlier, but was still seventh among the 10 Southeast Asian nations measured.

ARTA is also set to assist Pasig City in assessing their business one-stop shop and in activating its local board assessment appeals, which hears appeals on property assessments.

The authority also presented their programs on a regulatory reform team, one-stop shops for construction permits and property registration, and regulatory impact assessment training, among others. — J.P.Ibañez

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American cruise passengers quarantined at U.S. military bases



More than 300 American cruise ship passengers, including 14 who tested positive for coronavirus, were being quarantined at military bases in California and Texas on Monday after arriving from Japan on charter flights overnight.

One plane carrying cruise passengers touched down at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California just before midnight Sunday, while another arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas early Monday. The passengers will remain at the bases for two weeks.

Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.

The U.S. said it arranged for the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the new virus that’s been spreading in Asia. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cuts short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship Feb. 5.

The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmation they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they had no symptoms. They were being kept isolated from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday that an infected person who shows minimal symptoms could still pass the virus to someone else.

It’s unclear which base the 14 who tested positive for the virus went to.

Officials said the evacuees who arrived at Travis Air Force Base will be housed at a different location from the more than 200 other Americans who were already being quarantined on the base, in a hotel. Those people have been at the base since early February, when they arrived on flights from China.

No Travis airmen will have contact with the passengers, officials said.

Now that they’re in the U.S., the cruise ship passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.

Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights of passengers. Other governments, including Canada and Hong Kong, also will require the passengers to undergo a second 14-day quarantine.

Japan on Monday announced another 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship’s total number of cases to 454. Overall, Japan has 419 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death. The United States has confirmed 15 cases within the country. Separately, one U.S. citizen died in China.

Americans Cheryl and Paul Molesky, a couple from Syracuse, New York, opted to trade one coronavirus quarantine for another, leaving the cruise ship to fly back to the U.S. Cheryl Molesky said the rising number of patients on the ship factored into the decision.

“We are glad to be going home,” Cheryl Molesky earlier told NHK TV in Japan. “It’s just a little bit disappointing that we’ll have to go through quarantine again, and we will probably not be as comfortable as the Diamond Princess, possibly.”

She sent The Associated Press a video of her and her husband boarding the plane with other Americans.

“Well, we’re exhausted, but we’re on the plane and that’s a good feeling. Pretty miserable wearing these masks though, and everybody had to go to the bathroom on the bus,” she said.

Some American passengers said they would pass up the opportunity to fly to the United States because of the additional quarantine. There also was worry about being on a long flight with other passengers who may be infected or in an incubation period.

One of the Americans, Matthew Smith, said in a tweet Sunday that he saw a passenger with no face mask talking at close quarters with another passenger. He said he and his wife scurried away.

“If there are secondary infections on board, this is why,” he said. “And you wanted me to get on a bus with her?”

He said the American health officials who visited their room was apparently surprised that the couple had decided to stay, and wished them luck.

“Thanks, but we’re fine,” Smith said he told them.

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Remittances reach record in 2019



MONEY sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) reached a record high in 2019 despite global uncertainties as higher inflows from other countries offset a decline in remittances from the Middle East.

Cash remittances grew by 4.1% to a record $30.133 billion in 2019 from the previous high of $28.943 billion in 2018, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released on Monday showed.

The growth in cash remittances last year was well above the three percent projection of the BSP for 2019.

Inflows for December alone also grew by 1.9% to $2.902 billion from $2.849 billion in the same month in 2018. The month’s level likewise surged by 22.34% from the $2.372 billion recorded in November.

Meanwhile, personal remittances, which include inflows in kind, climbed 1.9% to $3.216 billion in December from $3.157 billion a year ago. The whole year saw personal remittances expand by 4.1% to $33.467 billion from the $32.213 billion logged in 2018.

“Notwithstanding pockets of political uncertainties across the globe, cash remittances in 2019 remained strong,” the BSP said in a statement.

“This is evident in inward remittances from Asia, the Americas, and Africa, where inflows grew annually by 12.3%, 10.6% and 4.8%, respectively. The growth of inflows in these regions more than made up for the 9.8% decline in remittances from the Middle East.”

Cash remittances from both land and sea-based OFWs went up by 3.5% and 6.5% last year to $23.6 billion and $6.5 billion, respectively.

The BSP said bulk of remittance inflows in 2019 came from the United States, which comprised more than a third or 37.6% of total inflows. This was followed by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Japan, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, and Kuwait, which collectively were the source of 78.4% of the total cash remittances.

An analyst said strong growth in the US helped propel OFW remittances last year.

“This growth may be attributed to the consistent economic growth of the US, which accounts for about 37.6% of total remittances in 2019 and that has continuously experienced economic expansion since 2010,” UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion said in an e-mail.

Analysts said remittances this year may be affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from Wuhan, China as it remains uncertain when the spread can be contained.

The BSP expects remittances to climb 4% this year.

“The coronavirus is particularly worrisome as nearly a quarter of remittances come from Asia, with around one in six of total remittances coming from Macau and mainland China alone. As of now, remittance growth risk hinge on the duration and containment of COVID-19,” Security Bank Corp. Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces said in an e-mail.

ING Bank NV-Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said the virus has forced people into quarantine, which could hit consumption patterns and, in turn, affect the services industry, where most OFWs are employed.

“The recent plight of the cruise ships around the world will likely put pressure on cruise liners and the hospitality industry as a whole, making it difficult for Filipinos to send home remittances should their salaries be curtailed or they lose their jobs altogether,” Mr. Mapa said in a note sent to reporters.

He, however, noted that OFW remittances have remained strong over the years even amid global recessions or events that have affected Filipinos’ host countries.

“OFWs are deployed across the globe in several jurisdictions and in several diversified services professions, making them more able to sidestep economic downturns,” Mr. Mapa said. “Case in point, remittances from the Middle East, a mainstay source of OF remittances, have remained in contraction for last year and yet overall remittance flows have remained largely positive.”

Meanwhile, UnionBank’s Mr. Asuncion said the impact of the virus will likely be minimal as remittances from China are “relatively small compared to other source countries such as the US and Saudi Arabia.”

“The biggest downside would be the decline of inflows coming from Singapore, that has a bigger portion of inflows contribution among hosts economies. But, overall, the impact may be minimal and recovery may be quick,” Mr. Asuncion said.

He, however, warned of other risks to remittances, such as geopolitical turmoil in key remittance sources and a slowdown in US growth due to trade issues. — L.W.T. Noble

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These 3 Chip Giants Keep Hitting New Highs: Are They Still Buys?



The semiconductor industry is turning around. It’s no secret that chip stocks lost heavily in 2H18, and had difficulty regaining traction through much of 2019. But in recent months, many of the big chip makers have seen sharp gains.While individual companies will show idiosyncratic reasons for gains, the sector as a whole has been positively impacted by three major factors starting in 2H19. First, and probably most important, is the continuing expansion of 5G mobile networks. The wireless switchover requires new types of modem chips to handle the new signal bands, and chipmakers are seeing increased orders from the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Wireless handsets, routers, modems, transmitters, towers – all of these will need the new chips.The next main factor is continued demand for memory chips. Data centers are expanding, meeting an urgent need in the digital economy, and the chip makers are seeing orders for new, more powerful, memory and processing chips. Those same chips are also finding customers in the online gaming community. The memory and processing requirements for business and gaming applications frequently overlap, and gamers are notorious for wanting the best systems they can afford.Finally, on the geopolitical front, the US and Chinese governments signed off on the Phase 1 agreement of a trade deal, an important development that promises to defuse the long-running trade and tariff disputes between the world’s two largest economies. Chip makers were exposed to the ‘trade war’ on multiple fronts – as exporters from both the US and China, as suppliers of parts to reexported Chinese electronic goods, and as components in goods imported to the US. Reduced trade tensions in 2020 promises to boost the chip industry.So, we should expect to see several interesting points among the major chip stocks. They are likely to carry Buy ratings, on mixed reviews from analysts; they are likely to show modest upside, as the analysts have not yet adjusted their outlooks; and they are likely to have recent strong reviews. We’ve pulled up the data on three of the larger chip stocks, and looked at them through the TipRanks Stock Comparison tool. Here are the results.Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)AMD, the first stock on our chip list, has gained 43% in the past three months. The company is a leader in both the graphics processors and motherboard chipset segments, and its x86 microprocessors are major competitors to industry giant Intel. AMD can boast that strong sales are fueling growing revenues, despite lower guidance for Q1 2020.Did the lower forward guidance really merit a 4% share price drop at the end of January? We can get an idea by looking at the Q4 numbers. AMD reported EPS at 32 cents against a 31-cent forecast. Revenue was $2.13 billion, beating expectations, growing 18% sequentially, and showing an impressive 50% gain year-over-year. For fiscal 2019, total revenue grew $6.73 billion, or 4%.So, Q4 was strong. Looking ahead, the company guided for $1.8 billion in Q1 revenue (matching Q3 results) against an expectation of … $1.86. That 3% difference was it. And AMD shares have, since the earnings report, regained the 4% loss.One measure of AMD’s strength comes from Mitch Steves, a 5-star analyst with RBC Capital. Steves released two notes on the stock last week – and he raised his price target in both. In the first, on February 10, he bumped his target from $53 to $64, writing, “We raise our 2021 EPS estimate to $2.10 as we think share gains in PCs will continue to move into the mid-20 percent market share range and we have higher conviction in server units in both 2020 and 2021.”In the second note, on February 13, Steves revised his opinion after Nvidia (more below) released strong quarterly results. Nvidia’s results imply a healthy gaming sector, and AMD is well-positioned to capitalize on gaming sales. Steves’ current price target on AMD, backing his buy rating, is $66, implying an upside of 19%. (To watch Steve’s track record, click here)AMD’s recent sharp gains have pushed the stock’s share price well above the average price target, and analysts have not yet readjusted their outlook. As Steves’ double target upgrade show, events in the chip industry are moving quickly. AMD’s Moderate Buy consensus rating is based on mixed reviews, and includes 11 Buy and 13 Holds. (See AMD stock analysis at TipRanks)Nvidia Corporation (NVDA)In an interconnected sector like semiconductor chips, nothing happens in a vacuum. We mentioned Nvidia above, in relation to gaming chips. This company is a market leader in graphics processing units (GPUs), a key component in both professional and gaming computing systems. The memory and performance requirements of the graphic design industry run parallel to those of high-end gamers. Nvidia’s expertise with high performance memory chips has also made its products valuable in the data center market.With its foundations firm in several markets – professional designers, data centers, and gamers – Nvidia has built up a $186 billion market cap and an annual sales base near $12 billion. With that strong base, NVDA reported both earnings and revenue beats in Q4 2019.On the top line, revenue came in at $3.11 billion, up 3% sequentially, an impressive 41% year-over-year, and beating the forecast by 5%. EPS was reported at $1.89, a solid 14% over the estimate – and an eye-popping 136% year-over-year gain. The GPU segment rose 40% annually, and gaming revenues were up 56%. Nvidia’s data center business showed a 33% sequential gain and a 43% annual gain. It was good news all around, even for a stock that has seen 42% growth in the last three months, on top of 76% gains in calendar 2019.Nvidia’s strong quarter impressed Cowen analyst Matt Ramsay. Ramsay, who rates 5-stars by TipRanks and is ranked 37 overall in the analyst database, reiterated his Buy rating for Nvidia and raised his price target on the stock by 35%, to $325. His new price target implies an upside potential to the stock of 12%.In his note on NVDA, Ramsay wrote, “[We] believe the results and guidance are driven by a cloud CapEx recovery and the driving force of real-time conversational AI with the scaled ramp of Ampers still to come.” (To watch Ramsay’s track record, click here)All in all, NVDA shares hold a Strong Buy rating from the analyst consensus, based on 23 Buys and 6 Holds given in recent weeks. Shares are not cheap, selling for $289.79. The average price target is $308.85 which suggests room for a modest upside of nearly 7%. (See Nvidia stock analysis at TipRanks)Micron Technology (MU)Last on our chip list Micron, the chip industry’s fifth largest player by sales volume, with over $30 billion in annual sales. The company saw its supply chains – both for manufacturing components and finished products – highly impacted by the US-China trade dispute, but the recent Phase 1 agreement relieved that pressure. Micron compensated by lowering guidance on fiscal Q1, and now the results are in.Micron cleared the lower bar. EPS met the estimates, while revenues beat. The top line number was $5.144 billion for the quarter, 2.3% over the forecast – but, down 35% year-over-year. The annualized drop reflects the lower demand and higher costs in 2019, due to industry pressures related above. EPS, at 48 cents, was as expected, but also showed a steep yoy decline. Still Micron met the analysts expectations for the quarter, investors were satisfied, and the stock is up 7.2% since the earnings release.Micron’s position leading the DRAM chip segment gives the company a clear path to profit from the 5G switchover as the new networks expand nation- and worldwide. And, as with Nvidia and AMD, Micron boasts profitable business in the gamine and data center markets. The company’s diverse customer base should allow it to weather a period of lower earnings, while it adjusts to the new market’s new demands.In the last few days, MU shares have received two upgrades from Wall Street analysts. The first, on February 6, came from 4-star analyst Chris Caso of Raymond James. Caso sees the demand for DRAM memory chips as “likely to improve further at the year progresses.”With that in mind, Caso raised his outlook on the stock from Neutral to Buy and set a $70 price target. Caso’s target implies an upside of 19% to MU shares. (To watch Caso’s track record, click here.)The second upgrade came on February 16, from Timothy Arcuri, 5-star analyst with UBS. Arcuri also raised his outlook from Neutral to Buy, and went further with the price target. He bumped that up by 59%, from $47 to $75. The new price target indicates real confidence in the stock, along with a robust 28% upside potential.Supporting his upgrade, Arcuri writes, “After only modestly outperforming the S&P 500 over the past two years, we believe the time has finally come when Micron can materially outperform over a sustained period of time… Micron is in a much stronger position in a structurally better industry on the cusp of a cyclical upswing that, for DRAM, should last deep into C2021.” (To watch Arcuri’s track record, click here)Micron shares are selling for $58.50, and the average price target of $66.96 suggests that there is room for a 14% upside to the stock. The Strong Buy analyst consensus rating is based on no fewer than 22 Buys, against just 2 Holds and 2 Sells. (See Micron stock analysis at TipRanks)

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