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Today’s Business and Markets News: Live Updates


Stocks that experience major volatility as a result of social media attention — often called meme stocks — have not threatened broader financial stability so far but could open the door to vulnerabilities, the Federal Reserve said in a new report.

The Fed’s twice-yearly update on America’s financial system included a special section on the meme stock phenomenon. It attributed the trend, in which attention on Twitter, Reddit and other platforms encourages rapid inflows into or out of buzzy stocks, to new trading technologies including mobile apps and to changing demographics, as younger people enter the retail trading market.

“Along with the rise in risk appetite and the growing share of younger retail investors, access to retail equity trading opportunities has expanded over the past decade,” the report said.

Social media can pump up interest in stocks, and it can also create an echo chamber, one in which “investors find themselves communicating most frequently with others with similar interests and views, thereby reinforcing their views, even if these views are speculative or biased.”

Still, internet-inspired pile-ons do not necessarily create conditions that will spur a broad market crash, the Fed’s report suggested.

“To date, the broad financial stability implications of changes in retail equity investor characteristics and behaviors have been limited,” the Fed said. The central bank specifically assessed what happened to shares of AMC Entertainment and GameStop in January, noting that activity and volatility in those stocks came alongside high activity on Twitter.

While the report concluded that “recent episodes of meme stock volatility did not leave a lasting imprint on broader markets,” the Fed said a few trends “should be monitored.”

The report pointed out that young and debt-laden investors may be more vulnerable to stock price swings, especially since they are now using “options,” which allow traders to place bets on whether prices will rise or fall and which can magnify leverage and potential losses.

The Fed also warned that “episodes of heightened risk appetite may continue to evolve with the interaction between social media and retail investors and may be difficult to predict,” and that financial firms may not have calibrated their risk-management systems to reflect the volatility and losses that meme stock episodes might trigger.

“More frequent episodes of higher volatility may require further steps to ensure the resilience of the financial system,” it said.

Looking across a broader range of asset classes and recent trading activity, the Fed’s financial stability analysis generally suggested that the vulnerabilities have moderated compared with earlier in the pandemic — but it did flag high asset prices and a number of lingering risks.

Stock prices have increased “notably,” the report said, and prices relative to forecast earnings remain near historical highs. Home prices have climbed, it noted, though mortgage lending standards have not deteriorated too badly. When lenders start to lower their standards, that can make the market more vulnerable.

The Fed noted that “corporate bond issuance remained robust, supported by low interest rates,” also pointing out that “across the ratings spectrum, the composition of newly issued corporate bonds has become riskier.”

And while many markets show signs of investor optimism, some lingering financial strains from the pandemic shock persist.

Some commercial real estate sectors continue to face challenges because “office vacancies are elevated and hotel occupancy rates remain depressed,” the report noted. Plus, “structural vulnerabilities persist in some types of money market funds,” which could amplify a future shock to the system.

Money market mutual funds melted down during the pandemic and required a Fed rescue for the second time in a dozen years, and regulators are now looking at how to reform them to make them more resilient.

The report also warned that life insurers might struggle to raise cash in a pinch.

And it delved into climate risks. The central bank is among regulators now trying to understand what risks climate change might pose to banks, insurers and the broader financial system.

“The Federal Reserve is developing a program of climate-related scenario analysis,” the report noted. “The Federal Reserve considers an effective scenario analysis program, which is designed to be forward looking over a period of years or decades, to be separate from its existing regulatory stress-testing regime.”

Credit…Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Randal K. Quarles, a Federal Reserve governor who spent four years overseeing bank supervision, will step down from the Fed in December — opening an additional seat that will allow the Biden administration to reshape the central bank’s leadership.

Mr. Quarles’s role as vice chair for supervision expired in October, but his term as governor was set to last until early 2032. The Trump appointee was widely expected to stay on until his time as head of the Financial Stability Board, a global monitoring and standard-setting body, ended in December. It was an open question whether he would stay after that.

“I intend to resign my position as a governor of the Federal Reserve during or around the last week of December of this year,” Mr. Quarles wrote in a letter to the White House, which the Fed released on Monday.

The announcement that he will step down is likely to be greeted warmly by Democrats, many of whom have been critical of Mr. Quarles’s push to relax some postcrisis financial regulations. Many Democrats have been calling for the administration to nominate a diverse set of leaders to the central bank.

President Biden already has one open spot on the central bank’s seven-seat Board of Governors to fill, and will have another when Richard H. Clarida, the Fed’s vice chair, sees his term as governor expire early next year. This will give the administration at least three open spots.

Jerome H. Powell’s term as the Fed’s chair is also scheduled to expire early next year, though his term as governor lasts until early 2028. Fed chairs typically leave their unexpired governor seats if they are not reappointed to their leadership roles, though that has not always been the case.

It is not clear when Mr. Biden will announce his central bank nominees, including whether he plans to reappoint Mr. Powell. He said last week that the decision would come “fairly quickly.” Both Mr. Powell and Lael Brainard, a Fed governor who is widely viewed as the other front-runner to lead the institution, were seen leaving the White House last week.

Mr. Powell was initially chosen as a Fed governor by President Barack Obama, but he was elevated to chair by President Donald J. Trump.

While he has been focused on interpreting the Fed’s full-employment goal expansively, something Democrats typically support, he has come under fire for voting for Mr. Quarles’s regulatory decisions, which in many cases made bank oversight less onerous. Ms. Brainard regularly cast dissenting votes against those moves and issued statements warning about relaxing rules that forced banks to behave more cautiously.

Mr. Powell has said he defers to whoever is in the job of vice chair for supervision, since Congress has confirmed that person to oversee banking matters. Fed governors are nominated by the White House and then confirmed by the Senate.

“The vice chair for supervision is charged with setting the regulatory agenda,” he said in September. “I respect that authority. I respect that that’s the person who will set the regulatory agenda going forward.”

But Mr. Quarles’s departure may help defang another argument some progressive groups have been making when arguing against keeping Mr. Powell as chair: that with Mr. Quarles still at the Fed, governors who were appointed or elevated by Mr. Trump continued to dominate the board.

The logic was that Mr. Quarles, Governors Christopher Waller and Michelle Bowman, and Mr. Powell could together prevent more aggressive action on bank regulation, climate-related matters and other issues.

Now, the decks will tilt toward Democrats, between the three open positions and the fact that Ms. Brainard, an Obama appointee, is already on the board.

“I will admit that I am surprised,” said Jeff Hauser, director of the watchdog group Revolving Door Project and an opponent of keeping Mr. Powell, said of the news. He later added that “it definitely takes away one of the many arguments” against reappointing Mr. Powell.

The Board of Governors has regulatory powers over big banks, and it sets interest rate policy alongside the Fed’s 12 regional branch presidents, five of whom vote on monetary policy at any given time. Regional bank presidents rotate through their voting seats, although the New York Fed is granted a constant vote. Governors have a constant vote.

Video

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, recommended businesses move forward with plans to implement the administration’s Covid-19 vaccination or weekly testing requirements after a federal appeals court put a temporary block on them.CreditCredit…Sarah Silbiger for The New York Times

The Biden administration last week set Jan. 4 as the deadline for companies with 100 or more employees to mandate Covid vaccinations or enact weekly testing of workers. The mandate, in the works for some time, quickly faced legal challenges, and on Saturday, a federal appeals panel temporarily blocked the measure.

The court, in a two-page order, directed the Biden administration to respond by 5 p.m. Monday to a request for a permanent injunction.

The administration is “prepared to defend” the rules, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said on Sunday. “The president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary,” Dr. Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Dr. Murthy pointed to the nation’s history as precedent: George Washington required troops to be inoculated against smallpox in 1777. The mandate would allow for medical or religious exemptions, and companies that fail to comply may be fined.

One coalition of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several states filed a petition on Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana, arguing that the administration overstepped its authority.

On Saturday, a panel of the court temporarily blocked the new mandate, writing that “the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, said at a news conference on Monday that the administration was recommending that businesses move forward with vaccination and testing plans, regardless of any possible delays in federal enforcement stemming from the court’s action.

“Do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.

The stay does not have any immediate impact, because the first major deadline for complying with the mandate does not arrive until Dec. 5, when companies with at least 100 employees would have to require unvaccinated employees to wear masks indoors.

Asked why the broad requirements of the mandate were necessary now, Ms. Jean-Pierre cited the number of people who have been dying from the coronavirus recently — an average of 1,217 deaths a day as of Sunday, according to a New York Times database.

“That should not be the number that we’re looking at,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “We believe that in order to get this pandemic behind us, we need to get more people vaccinated.”

Union members at Wirecutter, a product review website owned by The New York Times Company, said on Monday that they were prepared to stop work during the busy shopping period around Black Friday if a deal for a contract was not reached.

Staff at Wirecutter unionized in 2019, and the Times Company voluntarily recognized the union. In the two years since, the union has been negotiating with the company for a collective bargaining agreement.

The Wirecutter union said it was seeking higher salary minimums and guaranteed raises.

“The business has grown quite extensively during the pandemic,” Nick Guy, the chair of the union, said in an interview. “We’re now on the front page of the New York Times website daily, and even throughout all of that we haven’t seen meaningful increases to wages.”

The union is seeking a $58,000 minimum salary and guaranteed annual increases of at least 3 percent, Mr. Guy said. The company has offered guaranteed annual raises of 0.5 percent, he said.

More than 90 percent of the approximately 70 employees in the union, who work remotely, have pledged to not work during the holiday shopping period after Thanksgiving if a deal is not reached by Black Friday on Nov. 26, Mr. Guy said. The union, which did not say how long the stoppage would last, will also ask supporters not to shop through the site from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, Nov. 29.

“It has just dragged on for so long, and the progress we’re seeing has slowed,” Mr. Guy said of the negotiations, adding: “Without action like this, I don’t think we’ll be able to reach a contract we’ll be happy with.”

A spokeswoman for the Times Company said: “We look forward to continuing to work toward an agreement with the Wirecutter union in our standard process at the negotiating table.”

“Our compensation proposal is more generous than what they’ve described and seeks to maintain a similar compensation structure for Wirecutter employees with programs in place for others at the Times Company,” she added.

The Times is facing labor fights on two other fronts. A group of tech workers, including software engineers and product managers, announced the formation of a union in April. That union has filed for an election through the National Labor Relations Board after The Times declined to voluntarily recognize it. And the Times Guild, which has been in place since 1940 and represents about 1,300 reporters and editors at The Times, is bargaining for a new contract. The unions representing technology workers, Times journalists and Wirecutter employees are affiliates of the NewsGuild of New York.

Credit…Jan Haas/Picture-Alliance/DPA, via Associated Press

Deep Nishar, a former top investor at SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund, is joining General Catalyst, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm known for its successful bets on start-ups including Airbnb and Snap.

Mr. Nishar said last month that he would leave SoftBank by the end of 2021, ending a six-year stint at the Japanese tech conglomerate. He is the latest senior executive to leave the Vision Fund, which struggled after soured bets on WeWork and other companies; at least four others have left in the past two years.

SoftBank’s founder and chief executive, Masayoshi Son, hired Mr. Nishar to rebuild the firm’s presence in the United States after it was forced to scale back when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. Mr. Nishar, who previously worked at Google and LinkedIn, made successful investments in companies such as Guardant Health, which uses big data to detect and treat cancer early. Shares of Guardant, which went public in 2018, now trade at more than five times their initial price.

In an interview, Mr. Nishar, 52, said he was proud of what he had helped build at the SoftBank fund. “Four years ago, no one believed you could build a $100 billion investment platform,” he said. Mr. Nishar and Mr. Son remain close, he added, saying the two men “continue to talk every day.”

At General Catalyst, which was founded in Massachusetts and has been building its Silicon Valley presence, Mr. Nishar will both invest in start-ups and help the firm build its own companies. In addition to Airbnb, General Catalyst was an early investor in Warby Parker and helped build the travel search engine Kayak. The firm was also one of the earliest investors in Stripe, the financial technology firm that raised private funding this year at a $95 billion valuation. Stripe’s I.P.O. is widely expected to be among the largest in history.

Hemant Taneja, General Catalyst’s managing partner, who is based in San Francisco, said he had tried to recruit Mr. Nishar in 2015, before Mr. Nishar joined SoftBank. Mr. Taneja said he wanted to bring Mr. Nishar on board to help the firm go after big, broad ideas that cut across fields, including those at the intersection of technology, health care and life sciences.

Over years of long walks around Silicon Valley, Mr. Taneja finally succeeded in wooing Mr. Nishar, who will start his new job in January.

Credit…Punit Paranjpe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

With stocks on a tear in India, the parent company of Paytm, a leading digital payments app, went public on Monday with hopes of becoming the country’s largest initial public offering.

The company, One97 Communications, aims to raise about $2.5 billion in a three-day offer that ends on Wednesday. It has already drawn huge institutional investors like Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund, the Texas teachers’ pension fund and the University of Cambridge, which have invested more than $1 billion.

Paytm was founded in 2010 as a payments transfer business. It now allows users to send money to friends, buy small items like coffee or clothing, and finance big-ticket items like cars.

All but ubiquitous in India’s biggest cities, Paytm commands more than 40 percent of India’s digital payments market. The company has yet to turn a profit, but it is benefiting from a surge of interest from foreign and Indian investors looking for a stake in India’s surging internet economy. The I.P.O. could value the company at $20 billion.

“Paytm is evolving into a marketplace in itself,” said Amit Khurana, an analyst with Dolat Capital in Mumbai. “There is a lot of appetite to allocate money to this kind of model because it’s seen as the business of the future.”

Investors, in general, have been increasingly bullish on the Indian economy’s recovery from the pandemic and a series of related lockdowns that slashed industrial activity and consumer spending sharply.

India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has steadily cut interest rates, encouraging banks to lend more and consumers — particularly young, savvy online shoppers — to spend more.

“We are now in a sweet spot, where the bank recovery is coinciding with the demographic transition, which in turn is coinciding with the digital revolution,” said Madhavan Narayanan, an economist in India. “All these three are making the sun and the moon and the stars align for young India.”

With coronavirus infections in India low and foot traffic returning to brick-and-mortar stores, newly sanitation-sensitized shoppers may prefer to scan QR codes rather than handle cash.

The pandemic has helped a trend in India toward a cashless economy that began with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden demonetization in 2016. The policy, meant to tamp down on money laundering, banned the most widely circulated currency notes, wiping out families’ savings and shuttering businesses overnight. But five years later, it appears to have also created some winners, digital payments companies like Paytm among them.

Competition is heating up. Google offers Google Pay. India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, began a joint venture with Facebook last year to offer digital payments over WhatsApp, India’s most popular messaging service.

Paytm’s share offering is the latest in a series of oversubscribed I.P.O.s in recent months, among a bevy of so-called unicorns backed by e-commerce giants like China’s Alibaba and its financial affiliate, Ant.

In July, institutional and foreign investors also flocked to the initial public offering of India’s food delivery app, Zomato, which was oversubscribed by 38 times the available shares.

The Reserve Bank of India predicted in an August report that 2021 “could well turn out to be India’s year of the initial public offering.”

Paytm’s push to become India’s biggest initial public offering has overshadowed another sizable offering. The parent company of Nykaa, an online beauty products retailer, was publicly listed on Monday, seeking a $7.4 billion valuation.

Sameer Yasir contributed reporting.

A newborn in Miami met his grandmother from Brazil at the airport. A woman in a wheelchair arrived in San Diego from Mexico to travel to a medical appointment. And a retired couple in Canada was heading to Arizona to spend the winter basking in the desert sun.

The United States reopened its borders for fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries on Monday, ending more than 18 months of restrictions on international travel that left families separated from loved ones and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism revenue.

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S. if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under the age of 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a test within one day of travel.

The shift has come in time for the holiday season, when the beleaguered tourism industry is eagerly awaiting an influx in international visitors, especially in popular big-city destinations like New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The extended ban on travel from 33 countries — including European Union members, China, India and Iran — devastated the sector and resulted in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than one million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

At Miami International Airport, a major hub for travel to and from South and Central America, Natalia Vitorini, a 28-year-old student living in Miami, waited for her parents to get off the morning’s first arriving flight from São Paulo, Brazil, with her 3-week-old son.

Her mother, Debora Vitorini, and her husband, Sergio, arrived a little after 6 a.m. The last time they had seen each other was in March 2020. “I was waiting for the border to open so my mom can come to see my baby,” Natalia Vitorini said.

In San Ysidro, Calif., Yadira Perdomo, and her sister Hannah Perdomo got in line at 3 a.m. on Monday to enter the U.S. The sisters, who are from Colombia, moved to Baja California two months ago to wait for the day that the border opened to tourists.

“I feel very happy to be able to move forward with my life,” said Yadira Perdomo, who was being pushed in a wheelchair by Hannah, and was seeking medical treatment.

For the Calva family, it was a teary-eyed reunion at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Dayanna Patino Calva of Danbury, Conn., rushed to her sister’s 8-month-old baby, who was being pushed in a stroller, and kissed him.

“It had just been too long,” Ms. Calva’s sister, Belinda Calva, said in Spanish about why she and her son arrived on the first day on a flight from Brussels.

And thousands of Canadians — “snowbirds,” typically retirees — are already on their way to Florida, Arizona and California, among other warm destinations, with campers and boats in tow.

“We’re ready to enjoy what the United States has to offer,” said Wayne Peters of Kelowna, British Columbia, who is about to embark on a 1,520-mile journey south to Yuma, Ariz., with his wife for five months of hiking, golfing and playing pickle ball.

Airlines saw a big spike in online searches and ticket bookings for international travel. Delta Air Lines said that many of its international flights on Monday were fully booked. The carrier’s first flight into the United States under the looser restrictions, DL106, arrived from São Paulo, Brazil in Atlanta on Monday, just before 10 a.m. Eastern time. By the end of Monday, Delta expects to fly 139 mostly full planes from 38 countries into the U.S.

But the new rules also created some confusion. Travelers from Colombia had not faced restrictions, but as of Monday, they too must be fully vaccinated. Juan David Peláez, 43, who owns an insurance company in Bogotá, his wife and son, his parents, and his brother and sister-in-law had been set to arrive on Monday.

But Mr. Peláez said that though he is vaccinated with Moderna, he has not yet received an official vaccine certificate from the government and worried about being able to provide proof. He switched his own ticket, as well as that of his wife, who is also vaccinated, and that of his young son, to arrive on Sunday, a day before the rest of the group.

Hotels across the country, particularly those in cities, also felt the impact of the reopening announcement, with increased bookings and interest over the holiday season. Hyatt, the hotel group, said that approximately 50 percent of its bookings by international travelers to the U.S. for the week of Nov. 8 came after the date was announced in mid-October, with travelers flocking to top cities.

The chef Daniel Boulud, who owns several restaurants in New York City, said that customers from overseas had already started to call for reservations or to go on a waiting list.

With the continued risks of coronavirus variants and uncertainty of the course of the pandemic, the U.S. Travel Association does not expect international inbound travel to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.

Credit…Annice Lyn/Getty Images

Shares of several drug makers in Asia fell sharply on Monday in response to Pfizer’s announcement that its antiviral drug was highly effective in treating Covid-19.

CanSino Biologics, the Chinese maker of a Covid-19 vaccine, dropped by 17 percent during trading in Hong Kong. Shanghai Fosun, which has marketing rights in greater China for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, saw its Hong Kong shares drop by 7 percent before rebounding somewhat to end 2 percent lower.

WuXi Biologics of China, which is developing Covid vaccines and antibodies, fell by 9 percent in Hong Kong. And shares of Japanese pharmaceutical firm Shionogi & Co., which is also developing a Covid treatment drug, dropped 6 percent in Tokyo.

Pfizer said Friday that when its new pill was given within three days of the start of Covid symptoms, hospitalizations and deaths were reduced by 89 percent. The company said it planned to submit the drug for Food and Drug Administration approval as soon as possible. A panel of experts had recommended not enrolling any more candidates in the trial because it had already shown such effectiveness, the company said.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

Last winter was warmer than average, which led to relatively low residential energy bills. Even if the coming winter is not severe, heating costs could rise to levels not seen a decade.

Several factors — lower global fuel inventories, incentives for producers to let prices rise and a mismatch between supply and demand as economies emerge from the pandemic — may combine to push bills higher, The New York Times’s Talmon Joseph Smith reports.

After plunging during the pandemic as the global economy slowed, energy prices have been climbing. Natural gas, used to heat almost half of U.S. households, has roughly doubled in price since this time last year. The price of crude oil — which strongly affects the 10 percent of households that rely on heating oil and propane during the winter — has soared by similarly eye-popping levels.

And those costs are being quickly passed through to consumers, who have become accustomed to cheaper energy prices in recent years and find themselves with growing concerns about inflation this year.

Credit…Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

Monday

  • Facebook whistle-blower: Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager, will testify at a European Parliament hearing. In previous appearances before American and British lawmakers, Haugen called for stronger regulations for Facebook, which recently renamed itself Meta.

  • Roblox earnings: The popular online gaming platform, which went public in March, recently suffered an outage that lasted several days.

  • AMC earnings: The world’s largest movie theater chain could be the latest business to report rising fortunes as Americans return to prepandemic life. In a sign that movie theaters may be on the rebound, the sci-fi film “Dune” recently surpassed $300 million at the worldwide box office.

Tuesday

  • Rivian I.P.O. pricing: The electric truck maker backed by Amazon and Ford Motor is closer to pricing an initial public offering that could value it at more than $60 billion. If Rivian prices its I.P.O. on Tuesday, it would begin trading Wednesday.

Wednesday

  • Consumer Price Index: The Labor Department will release inflation data for October. Costs for everything from food to furniture have been climbing fast as strong demand and supply chain snarls have pushed prices higher.

  • Disney earnings: The Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest entertainment company, will report its fiscal full year and fourth quarter earnings after the market closes.

Thursday

  • Singles Day: The online shopping event created by the e-commerce giant Alibaba kicks off. China reported slower economic growth last month, though retail sales have been a bright spot.

Friday

  • Warby Parker earnings: The direct-to-consumer eyewear company will announce earnings for its third quarter, the company’s first report since it went public in September.

  • SoftBank on Monday reported a net loss of $3.5 billion in the last quarter, reflecting the impact of China’s regulatory crackdown on its investments. The Japanese tech conglomerate recorded a $10 billion hit to its Vision Fund caused by declines in the share prices of its portfolio companies.

  • Elon Musk polled his Twitter followers over the weekend about whether he should sell 10 percent of his stake in Tesla, his electric car company, with a majority voting “yes.” Mr. Musk may have already been compelled to sell a sizable portion of his Tesla shares: He holds nearly 23 million stock options awarded in 2012 that have since vested and will expire in August. And it’s likely that much of his 2012 options don’t qualify for a preferential tax treatment. Tesla shares were down about 4 percent in premarket trading on Monday.

  • Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by Warren Buffett, on Saturday reported a sharp decrease in earnings in the third quarter, reflecting the turmoil in financial markets and the broader slowdown in U.S. economic growth. Profits fell by two-thirds to $10 billion, down from $30 billion in the same three months of 2020, when the economy was still in the process of reopening from pandemic shutdowns.





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