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U.S. travel, dining spending is nearing full recovery

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Americans are increasingly tapping their credit lines as Covid-19 health restrictions ease and travel demand ramps back up, American Express CEO Steve Squeri told CNBC on Monday.

The payments company, known for its namesake credit card, reports seeing a near-full recovery in domestic travel bookings after the industry was hamstrung by Covid lockdowns.

“When we look at our travel numbers, our travel bookings in May were 95% of what they were in May of 2019,” Squeri said in an interview with Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.”

“We also believe that by the end of the year in the U.S. we will have a full consumer recovery from a travel perspective, and overall by the end of the year I think globally we’ll probably be about 80% of what we were in 2019,” he added.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 2.03 million people at airports on Friday, the first time in 15 months that more than 2 million passengers have passed through checkpoints in a single day.

Still, that’s just 74% of travel volumes on the same day in 2019, according to the agency.

American Express is seeing a rebound in restaurant spending, too, Squeri said, with May dining expenses totaling 85% of May 2019 levels.

“The people that are really spending a lot in restaurants [are] millennials — 130% in April of what they spent back in 2019,” he added. “We believe that that’s going to continue to move forward.”

Delinquencies at American Express are at their lowest levels in years, and personal savings have doubled, Squeri said.

“When you look at the U.S. economy right now, I think it’s really starting to come back,” he said. “Credit numbers are not like anybody thought they were going to be.”

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Dietitian shares the ‘power nutrient’ she eats to live longer—that 95% of Americans lack in their diet

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The benefits of fiber

As a dietitian, I always tell people that dietary fiber — the kind you get from foods, and not from supplements — is an essential power nutrient.

Adequate intake of dietary fiber is associated with reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain gastrointestinal disorders and type 2 diabetes, researchers have found.

There’s also evidence that fiber’s benefits extends beyond any particular ailment: Eating more of it may lower people’s mortality rate. Even diets of residents in Blue Zones, places in the world where people live the longest, include fiber as a staple nutrient, especially in foods like black beans, chickpeas and lentils.

A National Institutes of Health study found that people who consumed higher amounts of fiber, particularly from grains, had a significantly lower risk of dying over a nine-year period compared to those who consumed lower amounts of fiber.

The analysis involved about 388,000 participants who were part of a larger NIH-AARP diet and health study who were between ages 50 and 71 years old when the study began.

How much fiber should you be getting?

How to increase your fiber intake

Fiber isn’t broken down by the body. Instead, it passes through the body undigested and helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.

Fiber comes in two varieties, according to researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Soluble fiber, which can help lower glucose levels, as well as help lower blood cholesterol and insoluble fiber, which can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation.

Although you can easily take a fiber supplement, you’ll wind up missing out on all the other vitamins and minerals that whole foods provide.

The best sources of fiber are whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetableslegumes, and nuts.

Here are five fiber-rich foods I include in my diet to live a healthier, longer life — along with easy ways to enjoy them:

1. Avocados

Fiber: 10 grams per cup, sliced

Avocados

Loren Klein | Twenty20

In addition to their fiber content, avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which have been linked with improving heart health.

Avocados are so versatile, and their uses go beyond basic dishes like guacamole. I typically add some to my smoothies, which creates a creamy, thick texture. Or I’ll smear a few slices on toasted bread in place of butter or mayonnaise.

2. Raspberries

Fiber: 8 grams per cup

Raspberries

Katherine | Twenty20

Raspberries also provide a handful of beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also lower on the glycemic index, meaning they won’t spike blood sugar levels.

A 2017 study suggested that eating fresh fruit daily, especially raspberries, may decrease your odds of developing diabetes by 12%.

You can eat a handful as a quick snack or get creative and add them to your salads for some tartness. And to satisfy my sweet tooth, nothing beats yogurt topped with raspberries and crunchy oats.

3. Lentils

Fiber: 21 grams per cup

Lentils

Ilona Shorokhova | Twenty20

Lentils have an impressive amount of fiber per serving, and they’re also an excellent source of protein (about 47 grams per cup), making them a go-to for filling meals.

Research suggests that getting a daily amount of 150 grams of lentils may help improve blood lipid levels, blood pressure and inflammation.

Lentils are delicious in a hearty soup or stew, but I find they pair just as nicely as protein in salads and tacos. When I want to cut back on my meat consumption, I’ll make some lentil patties for lunch or dinner.

4. Oats

Fiber: 8 grams per cup

Oats are a gluten-free whole grain that contain fiber and other important nutrients, including iron, zinc and magnesium. They may also help you manage your blood sugar, heart health, and even your weight, studies have found.

For breakfast, oats can be used as grain substitutes in muffins and pancakes. For more savory meals like meatballs, I like to use them as breadcrumbs.

5. Chia Seeds

Fiber: 10 grams per ounce

Chia seeds

Anna | Twenty20

Even a small amount of chia seeds pack in plenty of health benefits. They’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to improvements in both brain and heart health.

These little seeds can be sprinkled in smoothies, oatmeal and salads. They gelatinize when placed in liquid, so you can easily make homemade jam with your choice of berries.

Lauren Armstrong is a dietitian and nutrition coach. She was also a nutritionist for The Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program. Lauren received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Western Michigan University and has written for several publications, including Livestrong and HealthDay.

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Zoom’s fast ascent to $100 billion made acquisitions a sudden priority

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Zoom founder Eric Yuan poses in front of the Nasdaq building as the screen shows the logo of the video-conferencing software company Zoom after the opening bell ceremony on April 18, 2019 in New York City. The video-conferencing software company announced it’s IPO priced at $36 per share, at an estimated value of $9.2 billion.

Kena Betancur | Getty Images

Salesforce needed 14 years as a public company to reach a market cap of $100 billion. Getting there required three multibillion-dollar acquisitions and four distinct revenue sources.

When Zoom topped the $100 billion mark last year, it had been public for just over 14 months. The company was reliant on a single product and had completed just one tiny acquisition.

While it’s still just a toddler on the Nasdaq, Zoom is now being forced to take on adult responsibilities for investors, thanks to its unexpectedly rapid ascent. The video chat company’s historic growth during the Covid-19 pandemic vaulted its market cap from $9.2 billion at the time of its 2019 IPO to a peak of $159 billion in October, putting it tentatively even with Cisco.

Zoom has lost about one-third of its value since then, despite reporting 191% revenue growth in the latest quarter, as investors prepare for a post-pandemic future and as competition picks up, most notably from Microsoft Teams.

Still, Zoom is among the 25-most valuable North American tech companies and the only one in that pack to go public in the last four years. Shopify and Snap, which went public in 2015 and 2017, respectively, are the only companies in the group that trade for a richer multiple to sales.

In other words, the stock market is giving Zoom the tools to become a major dealmaker. And Zoom is taking advantage, announcing earlier this week the $14.7 billion purchase of Five9, which sells cloud-based software to call centers.

“It allows them to use their currency to buy things that are impactful,” said Alfred Chuang, a partner at venture firm Race Capital who previously co-founded BEA Systems and sold it to Oracle for $8.5 billion in 2008. “I can’t imagine this will be last one.”

The Five9 deal is one of the 10 largest U.S. enterprise software transactions on record, according to FactSet, and is bigger than any acquisition ever by Amazon, Google, Oracle, Cisco or Adobe. At about 23 times Five9’s expected 2022 revenue, it’s also the second-priciest software deal on a price-to-sales basis, behind only Salesforce’s $27 billion purchase of Slack, which closed earlier this month.

Chuang, who has been friends with Zoom CEO Eric Yuan since his pre-Zoom days at WebEx, says Yuan is now in a position familiar to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, whose company has more than doubled in value since mid-2018 to $240 billion.

Both companies are set up to be cloud consolidators as automation changes the future of work and the enterprise software stack of the future gets built, Chuang said. In the three years since reaching a $100 billion market cap, Salesforce has completed four billion-dollar-plus deals, including Slack and the $15.7 billion purchase of Tableau.

“Not everything has worked out,” Chuang said, but he argues it’s important to take take big swings, even if the business is currently in good shape.

“When you have a very fast-growing company and become very successful, most people don’t want to rock the boat,” he said. “Acquisitions are not only useful to acquire customers but are super critical to satisfy a product vision you may have.”

The Cisco connection

Zoom’s initial talks with Five9 date back to last year, according to people familiar with the matter. The CEOs, who both previously worked on collaboration products at Cisco, know each other well and forged a product integration in 2019, when Zoom launched a phone offering.

Yuan was a lead engineer at WebEx when the company was acquired by Cisco in 2007, and Five9 CEO Rowan Trollope ran all of Cisco’s collaboration products, including WebEx, until taking the Five9 job in 2018. They never overlapped at Cisco — Yuan left to start Zoom a year before Trollope joined — but the connection is key as they both saw the challenges of retrofitting a legacy technology company for the cloud era.

Acquisition talks cooled for a while and picked up in the last three months, said people with knowledge of the transaction, who asked not to be named because the discussions were confidential. That’s when Goldman Sachs started advising Zoom on a deal and Five9 hired Frank Quattrone’s Qatalyst Partners.

Zoom also shuffled internal responsibilities this year, putting CFO Kelly Steckelberg in charge of business development, a job that had previously been held by operating chief Aparna Bawa, people close to the matter said. Yuan and Steckelberg drove the Five9 deal, the people said.

Bawa has assumed increased responsibilities elsewhere in the business. She oversees security, privacy and government relations, which all took center stage as Zoom became a widely-used service at large enterprises as well as in education, health care and among religious organizations.

Representatives from Zoom and Five9 declined to comment.

At a Morgan Stanley investor event in March, Steckelberg was asked about Zoom’s plans for the call center.

“Contact center is an absolutely really important part of the phone strategy,” Steckelberg said in response. “The way we approach that today is through partnering. We have great relationships with Five9. Eric and Rowan are very good friends.”

Zoom’s goal is to be not only a video service used for meetings with co-workers and clients, but to become the center of all work communication, including for customer service reps in call centers.

Yuan went a step further in June on Zoom’s quarterly earnings call. He responded to an analyst’s question about contact center expansion by telling investors, “Stay tuned, you will see something.” He followed by suggesting that details could be revealed around the time of the company’s Zoomtopia conference in September.

“I hope we will be able to do more,” he said, indicating that Zoom may go beyond integrations with call center technology providers.

Buy vs. build

A big reason why an agreement took so long to come together was because both stocks were so volatile, people familiar with the talks said. Shares of Zoom and Five9 moved 10% or more in a single week on several occasions this year, making it difficult to come to terms. Ultimately, the acquisition price was a modest 13% premium to Five9’s last closing price before the announcement.

The deal is projected to close in the first half of 2022 and Trollope will continue to run Five9 as a president of Zoom. Five9 adds a projected $650 million in revenue next year to the $4.8 billion in sales that analysts expect from Zoom, according to StreetAccount.

On the investor call following the announcement, Yuan and Trollope said that common customers have been telling them they want to count on a single vendor that can provide communications technology for internal purposes as well as customer service. Zoom could invest in building the product itself, but customers “do not want to wait,” Yuan said.

Analysts like BTIG’s Matt VanVliet said the decision to buy instead of build is the right one.

“Overall, we are encouraged by Zoom’s strategy to supercharge its platform with this acquisition rather than rely purely on its own internal R&D chops, which would have taken years to scale,” wrote VanVliet, who has a buy recommendation on Zoom, in a report on July 19.

Zoom has a long way to go before it can claim to have a portfolio of cloud software products, like Salesforce, Adobe and ServiceNow.

Late last year, the company entered the live events space with the launch of a homegrown product called OnZoom, expanding the video platform beyond the workplace and betting that online gatherings, in some form, are here to stay. In July, Zoom hired Abhisht Arora, a 21-year Microsoft veteran and Teams program manager, as its head of corporate strategy, reporting directly to Yuan.

Between development of new products and big acquisitions into parallel markets, Yuan is trying to ensure that Zoom is more than just a pandemic stock, and that its status as an enterprise giant remains long after we say goodbye to Covid-19.

— CNBC’s Alex Sherman contributed to this report.

WATCH: Zoom’s acquisition of Five9 is a ‘steal of a deal,’ says analyst

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Air conditioning and climate change: Start-ups trying to help

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This June was the hottest in American history. The 116-degree heat melted power cables in Portland, Oregon, and smashed previous temperature records. Seattle recorded an all-time high of 108 degrees, as did the Canadian province of British Columbia, at a whopping 121 degrees.

As the world warms, more people are installing air conditioning. Global energy demand for cooling has more than tripled since 1990 and could more than double between now and 2040 without stricter efficiency standards.

But air conditioning itself is a major contributor to global warming. Altogether, building operations that include heating, cooling and lighting account for 28% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the entire global transportation sector.

But SkyCool, Gradient and a number of other companies are working on the problem. They’re trying to apply new technologies to the traditionally inflexible heating and cooling industry, finance the upfront costs, communicate the value to property owners and make sure it’s all done equitably. 

Watch the video to learn more.

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