privacy changes from Apple that have hampered its ability to measure the effectiveness of ads on iPhones. TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, has stolen young audiences from Meta’s core apps like Instagram and Facebook. These challenges are coinciding with a brutal macroeconomic environment, which has pushed Apple, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to freeze or slow hiring.

a memo last month, Chris Cox, Meta’s chief product officer, said the economic environment called for “leaner, meaner, better executing teams.”

In an employee meeting around the same time, Mr. Zuckerberg said he knew that not everyone would be on board for the changes. That was fine, he told employees.

“I think some of you might decide that this place isn’t for you, and that self-selection is OK with me,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here.”

Another memo circulated internally among workers this month was titled “Operating With Increased Intensity.” In the memo, a Meta vice president said managers should begin to “think about every person on their team and the value they are adding.”

“If a direct report is coasting or a low performer, they are not who we need; they are failing this company,” the memo said. “As a manager, you cannot allow someone to be net neutral or negative for Meta.”

investment priorities” for the company in the second half of this year.

other prototypes. Bloomberg reported earlier on the smart watch.

posted an update to his Facebook profile, noting some coming changes in the app. Facebook would start pushing people into a more video-heavy feed with more suggested content, emulating how TikTok operates.

Meta has been investing heavily in video and discovery, aiming to beef up its artificial intelligence and to improve “discovery algorithms” that suggest engaging content to users without them having to work to find it.

In the past, Facebook has tested major product updates with a few English-speaking audiences to see how they perform before rolling them out more widely. But, this time, the 2.93 billion people around the world who use the social networking app will receive the update simultaneously.

It is a sign, some Meta employees said, of just how much Mr. Zuckerberg means business.

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Legal clashes await U.S. companies covering workers’ abortion costs

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June 27 (Reuters) – A growing number of large U.S. companies have said they will cover travel costs for employees who must leave their home states to get abortions, but these new policies could expose businesses to lawsuits and even potential criminal liability, legal experts said.

Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Lyft Inc (LYFT.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) were among companies that announced plans to provide those benefits through their health insurance plans in anticipation of Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that had legalized abortion nationwide. read more

Within an hour of the decision being released, Conde Nast Chief Executive Roger Lynch sent a memo to staff announcing a travel reimbursement policy and calling the court’s ruling “a crushing blow to reproductive rights.” Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) unveiled a similar policy on Friday, telling employees that it recognizes the impact of the abortion ruling but remains committed to providing comprehensive access to quality healthcare, according to a spokesman. read more

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Health insurer Cigna Corp (CI.N), Paypal Holdings Inc (PYPL.O), Alaska Airlines Inc (DKS.N) also announced reimbursement policies on Friday.

Abortion restrictions that were already on the books in 13 states went into effect as a result of Friday’s ruling and at least a dozen other Republican-led states are expected to ban abortion.

The court’s decision, driven by its conservative majority, upheld a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. Meanwhile, some Democratic-led states are moving to bolster access to abortion.

Companies will have to navigate that patchwork of state laws and are likely to draw the ire of anti-abortion groups and Republican-led states if they adopt policies supportive of employees having abortions.

State lawmakers in Texas have already threatened Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Lyft, which had earlier announced travel reimbursement policies, with legal repercussions. A group of Republican lawmakers in a letter last month to Lyft Chief Executive Logan Green said Texas “will take swift and decisive action” if the ride-hailing company implements the policy.

The legislators also outlined a series of abortion-related proposals, including a bill that would bar companies from doing business in Texas if they pay for residents of the state to receive abortions elsewhere.

LAWSUITS LOOMING

It is likely only a matter of time before companies face lawsuits from states or anti-abortion campaigners claiming that abortion-related payments violate state bans on facilitating or aiding and abetting abortions, according to Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois and expert on healthcare law.

“If you can sue me as a person for carrying your daughter across state lines, you can sue Amazon for paying for it,” Wilson said.

Amazon, Citigroup and other companies that have announced reimbursement policies did not respond to requests for comment. A Lyft spokesperson said: “We believe access to healthcare is essential and transportation should never be a barrier to that access.”

For many large companies that fund their own health plans, the federal law regulating employee benefits will provide crucial cover in civil lawsuits over their reimbursement policies, several lawyers and other legal experts said.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) prohibits states from adopting requirements that “relate to” employer-sponsored health plans. Courts have for decades interpreted that language to bar state laws that dictate what health plans can and cannot cover.

ERISA regulates benefit plans that are funded directly by employers, known as self-insured plans. In 2021, 64% of U.S. workers with employer-sponsored health insurance were covered by self-insured plans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Any company sued over an abortion travel reimbursement requirement will likely cite ERISA as a defense, according to Katy Johnson, senior counsel for health policy at the American Benefits Council trade group. And that will be a strong argument, she said, particularly for businesses with general reimbursement policies for necessary medical-related travel rather than those that single out abortion.

Johnson said reimbursements for other kinds of medical-related travel, such as visits to hospitals designated “centers of excellence,” are already common even though policies related to abortion are still relatively rare.

“While this may seem new, it’s not in the general sense and the law already tells us how to handle it,” Johnson said.

LIMITS

The argument has its limits. Fully-insured health plans, in which employers purchase coverage through a commercial insurer, cover about one-third of workers with insurance and are regulated by state law and not ERISA.

Most small and medium-sized U.S. businesses have fully-insured plans and could not argue that ERISA prevents states from limiting abortion coverage.

And, ERISA cannot prevent states from enforcing criminal laws, such as those in several states that make it a crime to aid and abet abortion. So employers who adopt reimbursement policies are vulnerable to criminal charges from state and local prosecutors.

But since most criminal abortion laws have not been enforced in decades, since Roe was decided, it is unclear whether officials would attempt to prosecute companies, according to Danita Merlau, a Chicago-based lawyer who advises companies on benefits issues.

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Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Wall St rises on gains in banks, strong retail sales data

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  • Walmart slides after cutting earnings forecast
  • April retail sales rise in line with estimates
  • S&P 500 +2.02%, Nasdaq +2.76%, Dow +1.34%

May 17 (Reuters) – Wall Street finished sharply higher on Tuesday, lifted by Apple, Tesla and other megacap growth stocks after strong retail sales in April eased worries about slowing economic growth.

Ten of the 11 major S&P sector indexes advanced, with financials (.SPSY), materials (.SPLRCM), consumer discretionary (.SPLRCD) and technology (.SPLRCT) all gaining more than 2%.

Investors were cheered by data showing U.S. retail sales increased 0.9% in April as consumers bought motor vehicles amid an improvement in supply and frequented restaurants. read more

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Recently punished shares of Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) gained between 2% and 5.1%, driving the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq higher.

Tuesday’s broad rally followed weeks of selling on the U.S. stock market that last week saw the S&P 500 sink to its lowest level since March 2021.

“The largest pockets of stocks that investors tend to buy have been essentially beaten up. They’re either in correction or bear market territory,” said Sylvia Jablonski, chief investment officer of Defiance ETF. “I think investors are looking at these opportunities to buy on the dip, and I suspect that today is a good day to do that.”

The S&P 500 Banks index (.SPXBK) jumped 3.8%, with Citigroup (C.N) climbing almost 8% after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) disclosed a nearly $3 billion investment in the U.S. lender.

Another set of economic data showed industrial production accelerated 1.1% last month, higher than estimates of 0.5%, and faster than a 0.9% advance in March. read more

“This is consistent with continued economic growth in the second quarter and not a recession underway,” said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.

The U.S. Federal Reserve will “keep pushing” to tighten U.S. monetary policy until it is clear inflation is declining, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at an event on Tuesday. read more

Traders are pricing in an 85% chance of a 50-basis point rate hike in June.

The S&P 500 climbed 2.02% to end the session at 4,088.85 points.

The Nasdaq gained 2.76% to 11,984.52 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.34% to 32,654.59 points.

S&P 500’s busiest trades

Underscoring Wall Street’s recent volatility, the S&P 500 has gained or lost 2% or more in a session some 39 times so far in 2022, compared to 24 times in all of 2021.

Walmart Inc (WMT.N) tumbled 11.4% after the retail giant cut its annual profit forecast, signaling a hit to its margins. That marked the biggest one-day percentage drop for Walmart’s stock since 1987. read more

Retailers Costco (COST.O), Target (TGT.N) and Dollar Tree (DLTR.O) fell between 0.8% and 3.2%.

United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) gained 7.9% after the carrier lifted its current-quarter revenue forecast, boosting shares of Delta Air (DAL.N), American Airlines (AAL.O) and Spirit Airlines (SAVE.N). read more

A positive first-quarter earnings season has been overshadowed by worries about the conflict in Ukraine, soaring inflation, COVID-19 lockdowns in China and aggressive policy tightening by central banks.

The S&P 500 is down about 14% so far in 2022, and the Nasdaq is off around 23%, hit by tumbling growth stocks.

U.S.-listed Chinese stocks jumped on hopes that China will ease its crackdown on the technology sector. read more

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.92-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.19-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 30 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 24 new highs and 126 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 12.0 billion shares, compared with a 13.3 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

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Reporting by Amruta Khandekar and Devik Jain in Bengaluru, and Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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As Stocks Fall, Economic Fears Rise, Along With Inflation

Broadly speaking, earnings reports have shown that profit growth continues, and results from some big firms, like Microsoft and Facebook’s parent, Meta Platforms, did briefly ease the panic on Wall Street. About 80 percent of companies in the S&P 500 to report results through Thursday did better than analysts had expected, data from FactSet shows.

But other companies have only added to the downdraft. Netflix plunged after it said last week that it expected to lose subscribers — 200,000 in the first three months of the year, and an additional two million in the current quarter. The stock dropped more than 49 percent for the month.

On Friday, Amazon slid 14.1 percent after it reported its first quarterly loss since 2015, citing rising fuel and labor costs and warning that sales would slow. Its shares fell 23.8 percent in April.

General Electric warned on Tuesday that the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would weigh on its results. Its shares fell 10 percent that day and about 18.5 percent for the month.

The war, which began in February, brought a new risk to the fragile global supply chain: Western countries’ sanctions on Russia, including a ban on oil imports from the country by the United States, and European promises to limit purchases of Russian oil and gas.

Now, executives are also assessing how the Covid-19 lockdowns in China, which has the world’s second-largest economy, could affect profit margins. Multiple Chinese cities are on lockdown, and although factories remain open, the country’s draconian “zero Covid” policy has led to interruptions in shipments and delays in delivery times.

Texas Instruments Inc. and the machinery maker Caterpillar cautioned investors this week that the lockdowns in China were affecting the company’s manufacturing operations. On Thursday, Apple also warned that the outbreak there would hamper demand and production of iPhones and other products. The company’s shares fell 3.7 percent on Friday, and ended April with a loss of 9.7 percent.

The outlook for the economy, the effects of the Ukraine invasion, the lockdowns in China and exactly how fast the Fed will raise interest rates are still not clear. Markets are likely to stay volatile until they are.

“There are definitely a lot of open-ended and unquantified risks looming,” said Victoria Greene, the chief investment officer at G Squared Private Wealth, an advisory firm. “The U.S. economy lives and dies for the consumer, and as soon as this consumer starts to slow down, I think that will hit the economy hard.”

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Activision says it is cooperating with federal insider trading probes, article with image

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April 15 (Reuters) – Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O) is cooperating with federal investigations into trading by friends of its chief executive shortly before the gaming company disclosed its sale to Microsoft Corp, it said in a securities filing on Friday.

It received requests for information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and received a subpoena from a Department of Justice grand jury, the maker of “Call of Duty” said in an amended proxy filing.

The requests “appear to relate to their respective investigations into trading by third parties – including persons known to Activision Blizzard’s CEO – in securities prior to the announcement of the proposed transaction,” it said.

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Microsoft (MSFT.O) in January agreed to acquire Activision for $95 a share, or $68.7 billion in total, in the biggest video-gaming industry deal in history. read more

The company did not name the parties, nor say whether the grand jury subpoena was directed at any employee.

The filing did not disclose when it received the subpoena or the SEC request for information.

Media moguls Barry Diller and David Geffen, and investor Alexander von Furstenberg, acquired share options after von Furstenberg met with Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and days before it disclosed the sale to Microsoft, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.

“Activision Blizzard has informed these authorities that it intends to be fully cooperative with these investigations,” the company said.

Diller told Reuters last month that none of the three had any knowledge about a potential acquisition and had acted on the belief that Activision was undervalued and had the potential for going private or being acquired. read more

The amended proxy filing that included the information on its cooperation with the SEC and DOJ came after shareholders sued the company alleging omissions to a preliminary proxy on the sale.

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Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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