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Former VP Biden mulling another run for presidency

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Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential presidential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides.

Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn’t need to yet, according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it by those who did.

Biden also expressed interest in bringing those in the room onto his team if he decides to launch a campaign. At the same time, he gave them an out: There would be no hard feelings if they decided they were content in their current roles outside of government, said the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

The political world has long tried to game out Biden’s plans for 2020. After all, he came close to running last time only to see President Donald Trump pull off a victory that many Democrats openly suggest wouldn’t have happened had he, not Hillary Clinton, been their nominee. Several people came away from the meeting with the impression that if no strong Democratic candidate emerges in the next year or so, Biden would feel strongly compelled to run.

A presidential candidate twice before, Biden would be 78 on Inauguration Day if elected in 2020, a concerning prospect for some Democrats even though he’s only a few years older than Trump. One possibility that Biden’s longtime advisers have discussed privately is that he could announce his intention to serve only one term, clearing the path for his running mate to take over in 2024 and potentially setting up Democrats for a 12-year White House stretch.

Biden’s brief discussion about his 2020 deliberations came as he brought foreign policy staffers together to set the 2018 agenda for the newly opened Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement — where many of them are now working, including Colin Kahl, his vice presidential national security adviser, and Steve Ricchetti, his former chief of staff. Eli Ratner, his former deputy national security adviser, and Mike Carpenter, the former Pentagon and State Department official who’s now the center’s senior director, also attended, as did Julianne Smith, a Biden adviser in the Obama administration’s first term who now works at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank.

A Biden spokesman declined to comment. But in a recent NBC News interview, Biden said he’d decide on running in 2020 based on whether it was “the right thing to do.”

“I’m focused on one thing: electing a Democratic Congress to stop this erosion of the core of who we are,” Biden said. “I’ll look at that a year from now. I have plenty of time to consider whether or not to run.”

The meeting was one of several signs that Biden is beginning to position himself as an alternative to Trump. Biden has started denouncing the current president’s leadership more frequently in public, as he crisscrosses the United States and beyond to promote his new book, his cancer initiative, his new domestic policy institute in Delaware, the diplomacy center and his new political action committee, American Possibilities.

He’s also been gearing up to play a major role campaigning for Democrats seeking to retake the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms.

“Donald Trump’s looking out for Donald Trump. Republicans are looking out for Donald Trump. Who’s looking out for everyone else? Democrats,” Biden wrote in a recent fundraising pitch to the PAC’s supporters. He said in 2018, he would “beat a path all across this country to stand up for leaders who will stand up for all of us.”

In 2015, Biden’s face was plastered across cable news channels and newspaper front pages for months as he carried out a lengthy deliberation about whether to challenge Clinton for the nomination. Ultimately, he decided he and his family weren’t in position to run so soon after his son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, died from brain cancer earlier that year. Yet many Democrats have argued that his “everyman” brand and blue-collar appeal would make him particularly well-suited to challenge Trump.

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U.S. stock futures in positive territory after Monday’s rally

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People walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near One World Trade Center, the Freedom Tower, in lower Manhattan during commemoration ceremonies for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on September 11, 2020 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

U.S. stock futures ticked slightly higher early Tuesday morning after the market kicked off the week with a broad-based rally. 

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 64 points. Futures tied to the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 also both traded in positive territory.

The move in futures follows a bounce-back session for Wall Street on Monday. Fresh off its worst week since March, the Nasdaq Composite led the way with a 1.9% gain as major tech stocks found their footing. The Dow and S&P 500 both gained more than 1% as well, with advancing stocks outnumbering declining ones nearly 5-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Sentiment was boosted on Monday by positive news on the vaccine front, with AstraZeneca resuming its phase three trial in the United Kingdom and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla saying over the weekend the company should be able to present key data from its trial to regulators by the end of October

Optimism about the United States getting a better handle on the virus was a major reason that LPL Financial raised its year-end target for the S&P 500 to a range of 3,450–3,500 on Monday, said Jeff Buchbinder, an equity strategist at the firm. That target implies an upside of roughly 2% for the market over the rest of the year.

Buchbinder said that Monday’s rally was also fueled by the announcement of major deals in the tech space, including Nvidia’s move to buy Arm Holdings from Softbank for roughly $40 billion

“Regardless of the situation, regardless of the sector, big commitments and big mergers tend to show confidence, and we would take those as positive signs,” Buchbinder said. 

The tech sector could generate more market-moving headlines on Wednesday, with Apple expected to announce new products at a digital-only event. The company is not expected to release a new iPhone, however. 

The strong session followed a slide for tech stocks in recent weeks that brought the Nasdaq Composite into a correction, which means that the index fell more than 10% below its record high.

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China’s retail sales rise for the first time in 2020

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People shop at a mall in Beijing on August 14, 2020.

Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images

BEIJING — Chinese consumers stepped up their spending in August, in a sign of further economic recovery from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

Retail sales rose 0.5% in August from a year ago, the first positive report for the year so far, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. Notably, sales of communication equipment rose 25.1% from a year ago and that of autos rose 11.8%.

Retail sales for the first eight months of the year were down 8.6% from a year ago, the bureau said. Online retail sales of physical goods grew by 15.8% during that time, the data showed.

The unemployment rate as measured by the official survey of cities was 5.6%, 0.1 percentage points lower than July, the bureau said.

Industrial production grew 5.6% in August from a year ago.

Fixed-asset investment declined 0.3% for the first eight months of the year. It was not immediately clear what the year-on-year figure for August was.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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TikTok hopes Trump will back off statements to approve Oracle deal

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ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok website is displayed on a smartphone in an arranged photograph.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Of the many questions still revolving around the fate of TikTok, the biggest one may be if the Trump administration will approve a restructuring plan that keeps China-based ByteDance in control, both financially and operationally, in the U.S.

If you go by his words, President Donald Trump has already ruled this option out. 

“I set a date of around September 15 at which point it’s going to be out of business in the United States,” Trump said in an Aug. 3 press conference. “But if somebody — whether it’s Microsoft or somebody else buys it, that’ll be interesting…So it’ll close down on September 15 unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so that the Treasury of the United States gets a lot of money.”

Yet, according to people familiar with the matter, the proposal that ByteDance and Oracle have sent to the U.S. government would keep TikTok together under ByteDance’s operational control. Oracle’s role will be as a “trusted technology partner,” storing and securing the data within U.S. premises. TikTok has also said it’s planning to disclose its algorithm to third parties. 

ByteDance is having discussions with both Oracle and Walmart for stakes in the U.S. business, according to people familiar with the matter, but the sale will not be for 100% of U.S. assets. That’s a departure from the deal that was nearly completed several weeks ago at a value of $20 billion to $30 billion. That transaction fell apart at the 11th hour after China pushed back, saying it would need to approve a deal that involves exporting artificial intelligence technology used by TikTok.

ByteDance has submitted a proposal that avoids selling the U.S. assets or all of TikTok — which Trump said was necessary to avoid a ban — because of conversations with CFIUS and Treasury officials, according to people familiar with the matter. ByteDance believes its proposal with Oracle addresses CFIUS concerns based on precedent and the nature of the U.S. government’s concerns with data sharing, one of the people said.

The White House declined to comment. TikTok declined to comment, and Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s still unclear if the Trump administration will accept the ByteDance deal proposal. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC Monday the U.S. government plans to review the deal this week.

“I will just say from our standpoint, we’ll need to make sure that the code is, one, secure, Americans’ data is secure, that the phones are secure and we’ll be looking to have discussions with Oracle over the next few days with our technical teams,” Mnuchin said on “Squawk Box.”

Kevin Mayer’s plight

If Trump does abandon his previous stance, allowing the application to keep running in the U.S. without a full sale, former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer will serve as an unfortunate casualty of Trump’s hyperbole.

Mayer had planned to announce his resignation from TikTok in conjunction with a deal announcement, according to people familiar with the matter. But when news leaked to The Financial Times that he planned to step down when a sale was announced — which was imminent at the time — he preempted the deal announcement and said he was stepping down immediately.

Mayer’s reasoning for quitting was that he had signed up to run a global company with U.S. operations, the sources said. The deal on the table called for either Oracle or Microsoft to acquire and run TikTok in the U.S. Mayer didn’t want to run a U.S.-only company as a division of either Microsoft or Oracle, and he didn’t want to be CEO of TikTok without the U.S. (Mayer lives in Los Angeles.)

“I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the U.S. administration’s action to push for a sell off of the U.S. business,” Mayer wrote in a letter to employees when he resigned.

It’s possible now that TikTok will remain a global company under ByteDance control, meaning Mayer would have had no reason to step down. 

There’s further irony for Mayer: He was part of a team that was instrumental in bringing Oracle to the table as a competitive bidder against Microsoft, which first entered talks to acquire the TikTok U.S. assets in July, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The U.S. government became interested in a potential ban of TikTok after India shut down the application in late June. After ByteDance started talks with Microsoft to take over U.S. assets to avoid a ban, Mayer held talks with Safra Catz, the chief executive of Oracle, about a potential deal, the people said. Catz is on the Walt Disney board of directors. Mayer spent more than 20 years at Disney and departed the company for the TikTok CEO job in May. 

Oracle emerged as ByteDance’s partner of choice given the company’s close ties to the Trump administration and willingness to accept a deal where it didn’t buy 100% of the assets, two of the people said. 

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