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We tested out this hotel robot in Singapore: Aura at M Social



But during a separate trip in which CNBC followed AURA from its charging station in the lobby to the hotel room, things weren’t completely smooth.

AURA has the ability to wirelessly call for an elevator (the staff says it has a preferred one), but this time it hesitated to enter an opened elevator with several guests already inside with large luggage waiting to go to their rooms. The robot delayed the lift, and then waited outside as the doors closed without it.

The guests inside waited for the elevator to ascend, but it didn’t.

The doors opened again and the guests walked out annoyed, while AURA made its way in — in their place. This time the doors closed and ascended up with AURA ready to make its delivery.

Later, while cruising down the hallway, the robot got distracted by a housekeeping cart and hesitated to go inside the open room, before continuing on its journey to our room, where the delivery was completed.

But, AURA still gets the job done despite the minor quirks. In fact, maybe small flaws are simply part of the design to make it feel more … human?

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Facebook to invest $1 billion in news over next three years



Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University in a ‘Conversation on Free Expression” in Washington, DC on October 17, 2019.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook announced Wednesday that it plans to spend at least $1 billion in the news industry over the next three years.

The announcement comes just days after a heated debate with the Australian government over how much Facebook should pay news publishers for content.

“We’ve invested $600 million since 2018 to support the news industry, and plan at least $1 billion more over the next three years,” Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Facebook, said in a blog published Wednesday.

“Facebook is more than willing to partner with news publishers,” added Clegg. “We absolutely recognize quality journalism is at the heart of how open societies function — informing and empowering citizens and holding the powerful to account.”

Last month, Facebook announced deals with a number of publishers in the U.K., including The Guardian, Telegraph Media Group, Financial Times, Daily Mail Group and Sky News. As a result, the publishers will see their content featured in Facebook News, which is a dedicated section within the Facebook app that features curated and personalized news from hundreds of national, local and lifestyle publications.

Clegg said similar deals have been reached with publishers in the U.S. and that Facebook is in negotiations with publishers in Germany and France.

Facebook blocked news pages in Australia last Wednesday after the Australian government said it was going to introduce a new law that would require Facebook to pay publishers for linking to their stories.

The ban was short-lived, however, with Facebook cutting a deal with the Australian government on Monday that will see it add news pages back to its platform.

Google is also planning to spend $1 billion on news over the next three years.

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Buy the dips as stocks experience a long overdue correction, strategist says



Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.


A correction in many stock markets has been overdue, but strong fundamentals and company earnings mean the current wobble is a buying opportunity, according to Mehvish Ayub, senior investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

Wall Street recovered its losses Tuesday after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said inflation was still “soft” and committed to the Fed’s current accommodative policy.

Powell’s comments seemed to assuage some of the concerns about impending inflation that have driven a sharp rise in the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields, and brought stock markets down from near record highs over the past week.

Investors have been worried that a spike in prices due to an impending federal stimulus package, the reignition of the economy and pent up consumer demand, could force the central bank to raise short-term borrowing costs.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Wednesday, Ayub noted that the shift in financial conditions and improvement in growth and inflation expectations had led the U.S. 10-year yield to simply retrace some of the steep decline it saw between December 2019 to June 2020, when the Covid-19 crisis took hold.

“I think the important thing to note is that the Fed has not anywhere in its policy suggested it will suppress all financial conditions. It has a target for price stability and for employment,” Ayub said.

She noted that core inflation — which excludes food and energy prices — is still somewhat lower, indicating that the current rise in short-term inflation expectations is “likely to be transient.”

“We were ripe for a correction in some instances, if you think about the speed and the magnitude of the moves that we have seen across global equity markets,” Ayub said. A correction is generally referred to as a 10% drop in an asset or market from its most recent high.

Many of the tech megastocks which saw stratospheric share price rises power the stock market recovery after the March 2020 downturn have been victims of the recent shift, with investors looking toward more cyclical stocks which tend to align with economic conditions.

Mikhail Zverev, head of global equities at Aviva Investors, told CNBC Wednesday that many of these growth stocks — those of companies operating a significant and sustainable positive cash flow, with greater future earnings and faster-growing revenues than industry peers — had benefited from the low interest rate environment

“There are a number of high growth names which had a spectacular 2020, and some of that surely was fundamentals, but a lot of that was positioning based on the lower for longer interest rate view, and some unwind to that, I think, is long overdue.”

Tesla was one such example, losing 8.55% on Monday for its worst day since September 2020 and leaving the stock down slightly since the turn of the year. Tesla shares are still up 162.5% from their March 2020 low, however.

“Over the last few weeks, if anything we have actually had very good fundamentals,” Ayub pointed out. “We have had really good earnings, particularly if we look at the S&P 500.”

With around 80% of companies on Wall Street’s flagship blue-chip index having reported earnings at this stage, the vast majority have met or exceeded profit expectations.

“The fundamentals there remain good, and if anything, I think this is an opportunity to buy on the dip,” Ayub concluded.

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J&J single-shot Covid vaccine endorsed by FDA for emergency use



The Food and Drug Administration’s staff endorsed Johnson & Johnson‘s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, a critical step in bringing a third shot to the U.S. marketplace.

The staff report released Wednesday is meant to brief the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which will meet Friday to review J&J’s request for emergency use authorization.

During similar requests by Pfizer and Moderna, the agency authorized those companies’ vaccinations one day after the committee of outside medical advisors backed emergency use authorization. The committee is expected to recommend J&J’s vaccine. The FDA doesn’t have to follow the committee’s recommendation, but it often does.

The FDA staff said it determined that the clinical trial results and safety data were “consistent with the recommendations set forth in FDA’s guidance Emergency Use Authorization for Vaccines to Prevent COVID-19.”

J&J submitted its Covid vaccine data to the FDA on Feb. 4. The vaccine’s level of protection varied by region, J&J said, with the shot demonstrating 66% effectiveness overall, 72% in the United States, 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa, where the B.1.351 variant is rapidly spreading. The company said the vaccine prevented 100% of hospitalizations and deaths.

As of Feb. 5, there were seven Covid-19 related deaths in the study in the placebo group and no Covid-19 related deaths in the vaccine group, the FDA said.

There were no reports of anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, according to the report. The FDA said the most common side effects reported were headache and fatigue, followed by muscle aches, nausea and fever.

Vaccine effectiveness was similar across age, race and people with comorbidities, the FDA staff said. However, the effectiveness appeared to be lower in people who were 60 years or older who also had comorbidities, like diabetes or heart disease, the agency said.

The news comes as the Biden administration works to ramp up the supply of doses after states complained that demand for the shots was rapidly outpacing supply. Roughly 44.1 million out of some 331 million Americans have received at least their first dose of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 19 million have already received their second shot.

If approved, J&J’s application would be the third Covid-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. following those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Pfizer’s vaccine was authorized on Dec. 11, and Moderna’s got authorization a week later. J&J’s vaccine requires only one dose, which would make logistics easier for health-care providers.

Such an authorization isn’t the same as a full approval, which can typically take months longer. J&J, like Pfizer and Moderna, has only submitted two months of safety data, but the agency usually requires six months for full approval. J&J is seeking authorization for use in people age 18 and older.

J&J has a deal with the federal government to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine by the end of June. Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s Covid czar, told reporters last week the company will likely not have a “big inventory” of doses ready before its U.S. launch, with only a few million doses manufactured.

The company has said it plans to ship the vaccine, which contains five doses per vial, at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers that keep it between minus 112 and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be shipped at 13 below to 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.

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