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China isn’t happy about its newest internet stars: Teenage moms

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It was not Yang Qingning’s millions of social media followers or her political beliefs that made the young woman the scorn of Chinese state media recently.

It was her tiny baby.

Two of China’s most popular video platforms disappeared from app stores this week after the state broadcaster CCTV accused them of promoting underage pregnancy. A segment last week on CCTV featured what it said were teenage women whose videos — chronicling the joys and tribulations of motherhood, complete with images of swollen bellies — had attracted millions of followers and viewers. A stern but unspecific rebuke from China’s top media regulator followed a few days later.

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The slapdown — which comes as China’s government extends its internet controls to encompass not only what it finds politically subversive, but also what it deems unwholesome or pornographic — prompted quick declarations of remorse from the video apps’ creators.

“Content appeared on the platform that shouldn’t have been there, and it has had an extremely bad influence on society,” Su Hua, the chief executive of the company that operates Kuaishou, one of the apps, wrote in a statement. “I am very grateful to CCTV and other media for criticizing Kuaishou, so that I could clearly see my own deficiencies.”

The company behind the other app, Huoshan, wrote: “Thanks to CCTV’s supervision, Huoshan feels a deep sense of responsibility.” The creators of both apps said that they would strengthen their systems for screening videos.

It was not clear whether or when the apps would be returned to stores. Spokeswomen for Kuaishou’s and Huoshan’s parent companies declined further comment.

Online video has become a fierce battleground for Chinese technology firms. Kuaishou (pronounced KWAI-show) says its app is used by 100 million people every day. The parent of Huoshan (hwaw-SHAN) is Beijing Bytedance Technology, which says its flagship news app, Jinri Toutiao, has 120 million daily users. The attention of big-name Silicon Valley investors such as Sequoia Capital has helped Bytedance become one of the most highly valued tech start-ups in the world, with a recent valuation of $30 billion.

Kuaishou has a huge following outside of China’s megacities. The platform, which shares features in common with Instagram, Snapchat and Periscope, has become a way to exchange glimpses — often bawdy and free-spirited — of ordinary lives in China. It has made celebrities out of people as varied as train conductors, ice fishermen, female welders in shipyards and would-be guitar heroes in ramshackle hamlets.

The democratizing possibilities of such services have not gone unnoticed by China’s censors.

As they have taken a harder line on online discourse, media regulators have made targets of celebrity gossip blogs, ranting rappers and more. Updates to several sections on Toutiao, Bytedance’s news app, were halted for 24 hours recently after regulators accused it of spreading “vulgar information.” Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like forum, had to take several features offline for a week after it was scolded for similar transgressions.

Adolescent motherhood is a subject that arouses special alarm in China. Even as economists warn of a demographic emergency caused by the “one child” policy, which was ended in 2015, unwed mothers — even those of legal age — are stigmatized and face legal bias. What is more, sex education has struggled to keep up with changing mores, increasing the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies.

Last week’s CCTV segment begins with a young man and woman sitting together on a bed, their faces digitally blurred, as bouncy pop music plays in the background. “What do you think of when you see this video?” a narrator says. “Someone showing off their family’s cute children? Wrong. These two children already have their own children. This mother is not even 16.”

Over images of another young woman with strawberries digitally superimposed on her cheeks, the segment continues: “Perhaps this sweet young girl is obediently helping her parents take care of her little brother. You’re wrong again. This is another 16-year-old young mother.”

China does not allow men to marry before the age of 22, and women not until 20, the segment says. The young mothers on these apps, according to the segment, mostly live in rural areas and have dropped out of school. “Their lives are dull, and they crave attention,” the narration says.

The segment says that several such women had been vying, on the video apps, to be crowned the internet’s youngest mother. One went by the username “14 years old and already have my little cutie.”

After you have viewed the Kuaishou account of one teenage mother, CCTV says, the app even recommends other teenage mothers whose videos might be of interest.

An expert interviewed in the segment warns that such technology could cause young viewers to be drawn into a self-reinforcing spiral of “negative influence.” “She will think that in her world, this kind of abnormal or illegal behavior is normal,” the expert says.

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Stock moves, currencies, China inflation data

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Reflections of pedestrians on an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo, Japan.

Toshifumi Kitamura | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific stocks fell in early Tuesday trade, following a sell-off in tech stocks that weighed down major U.S. indexes overnight.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 declined around 0.97% while the Topix moved 0.6% lower. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.57%.

In Australia, the ASX 200 inched down 0.43%.

U.S. markets fell overnight as investors exited Big Tech stocks including Microsoft and Apple. The Nasdaq Composite suffered the largest loss, falling by 2.5%.

China’s inflation data for April will be on investors’ watchlist. Analysts polled by Reuters expect Chinese consumer prices rose 1% last month from a year ago, accelerating from 0.4% in March.

China is also expected to release results of its once-in-a-decade population census.

Elsewhere in the region, Southeast Asian countries Malaysia and the Philippines are scheduled to report first-quarter gross domestic product data.

Analysts in a Reuters poll expect Malaysia’s economy to shrink 2% in in the January-to-March quarter compared with a year ago and the Philippine economy to contract 3% in the same period.

Currencies and oil

In the foreign exchange market, the U.S. dollar was at 90.238 against a basket of its peers in early Asia trade.

The Japanese yen changed hands at 108.87 per dollar, while the Australian dollar strengthened around 0.11% against the greenback to $0.7838.

In oil markets, U.S. crude futures dipped 0.06% to $64.88 per barrel, while global benchmark Brent was down 0.1% to $68.25 per barrel.

CNBC’s Thomas Franck contributed to this report.

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Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation ETF falls to new low for the year

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Cathie Wood’s flagship fund Ark Innovation hit its lowest point of the year on Monday amid further selling in innovation stocks.

Ark Innovation‘s 5% drop on Monday dragged the “disruptive innovation” ETF below its March low, a level that many investors are watching as a barometer for the larger tech sector.

Ark Innovation is now nearly 35% off its most recent high: $159.70 on Feb. 16.

Wood’s core ETF is now down more than 13% this month and more than 16% year to date.

Some of Ark Innovation’s top holdings took big hits on Monday as the Nasdaq Composite dropped more than 2.5%. Tesla fell 6.4% and Teladoc Health dropped 6.6%. Square and Roku fell 7.3% and 4.9%, respectively. DraftKings declined 6.4% and Zillow lost 5.1%.

Wood told CNBC on Friday that she loves the setup for her ETFs following the most recent sell-off in technology stocks. She said she envisions her strategies posting a compound annual rate of return of 25% to 30%.

“I love this setup,” Wood said Friday on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” “The worst thing that could have happened to us is to have the market narrowly focus on just our ilk of stock — the innovation space.”

However, more than $1.1 billion of fund flows have left Ark Innovation this month. Ark Invest — including its five core ETFs — has lost about nearly $2 billion in investor dollars in May, according to FactSet.

200-day moving average long gone

Ark Innovation broke below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level watched by traders that is essentially the average of the past 200 closing prices.

“The issue with ARKK and other speculative growth ETFs is that short-term rallies have been aggressively faded for three months now,” Frank Cappelleri, Instinet executive director, told CNBC. “The ETF will have to do more than just bounce for a few days to convince traders otherwise.”

“In other words, simply getting back above the 200-day moving average won’t mean much without upside follow through. That continues to be the biggest concern,” Cappelleri added.

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Ford names new F-150 electric pickup Lightning with plans to reveal it May 19

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Ford’s all-electric F-150 will be called Lightning. The all-new F-150 Lightning will be revealed May 19 at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn and livestreamed.

Ford

DETROIT – Ford Motor’s upcoming all-electric F-150 pickup truck will be called Lightning, a name used by the automaker for street performance trucks in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ford released the name Monday along with plans to unveil the truck at 9:30 p.m. EDT on May 19. The reveal will take place at the company’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. It will be broadcast across social media platforms as well as 18 high-profile public spaces such as Times Square in New York City and Las Vegas Boulevard, the company said.

All-electric pickups are expected to be important growth areas for automakers in the coming years, particularly for commercial business to rental fleets, companies and governments. Ford has promised its pickup will be a true work truck in an attempt to differentiate it from other competitors such as the Tesla Cybertruck or GMC Hummer EV.

Ford CEO Jim Farley gave a nod to Tesla as well as Toyota Motor for their contributions to electrification in a press release on Monday announcing the company’s plans.

“Every so often, a new vehicle comes along that disrupts the status quo and changes the game … Model T, Mustang, Prius, Model 3. Now comes the F-150 Lightning,” Farley said in a statement. “America’s favorite vehicle for nearly half a century is going digital and fully electric.”

Farley said the F-150 Lightning will be able to “power your home during an outage; it’s even quicker than the original F-150 Lightning performance truck; and it will constantly improve through over-the-air updates.”

Production of the pickup is scheduled to begin next spring at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan, Ford said. It’s expected to arrive in dealerships by mid-2022.

The F-150 Lightning is due out months after other electric pickups such as the GMC Hummer EV, Tesla Cybertruck and start-ups such as Rivian and, potentially, Lordstown Motors. All of the vehicles aside from Lordstown’s Endurance pickup, which is targeted at fleet customers rather than individual consumers, are expected to be “lifestyle” vehicles rather than work trucks. General Motors also has confirmed plans for an electric Chevrolet pickup that’s expected to be focused more on traditional truck customers than lifestyle buyers.

Correction: Ford used the Lightning name for street performance trucks in the 1990s and early 2000s. A previous version of this article misstated when it was last used.

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