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Customers browse produce during the grand opening of the Lidl Ltd. store in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Benjamin Boshart | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Customers browse produce during the grand opening of the Lidl Ltd. store in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

World food prices declined in November to their lowest level in more than two years, led down by much weaker vegetable oil, dairy and cereal prices, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 160.8 points last month, down from a revised 162.9 in October, reaching its lowest level since May 2016.

The October figure was previously given as 163.5.

FAO said global cereals output in 2018/19 was seen at 2.595 billion tonnes, down marginally from the previous forecast and 2.4 percent below last year’s record high production.

FAO’s forecast for world wheat production in 2018/19 was 725.1 million tonnes, 2.8 million tonnes lower than the previous forecast.

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WeWork reportedly expected to lay off 2,000 workers as soon as this week



A WeWork logo is seen at a WeWork office in San Francisco, September 30, 2019.

Kate Munsch | Reuters

WeWork is expected to lay off at least 2,000 people, about 13% of its staff, as soon as this week, the Guardian newspaper reported.

WeWork staff told the Guardian that they believe the cuts will not stop there, suggesting more of the company’s 15,000 person workforce could be sacked. The Information reported in September that executives and bankers have discussed cutting up to a third of those workers. The embattled start-up is attempting to turn its fortunes around with painful cost reduction measures.

Employees also told the Guardian that little to no work is getting done at the company and new projects have been put on hold.

WeWork declined to comment to the Guardian. Representatives for the company did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for additional comment.

Last month, the start-up pulled the plug on plans to go public. Its much-anticipated IPO prospectus in August revealed a massive $900 million loss in the first six months of 2019 and drew skepticism over its corporate governance. WeWork had a private market valuation of about $47 billion but its potential value in the public market had been slashed significantly.

There has also been a showdown between former CEO Adam Neumann and SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son, who has invested billions into the start-up. Neumann stepped down last month. It was also reported that SoftBank has readied a financing package to take control of the company and further sideline Neumann, who is also a co-founder.

WeWork rents out office spaces to start-ups, freelancers and enterprises by investing in real estate in some of the most expensive markets around the world. It makes money back over time as companies and individuals pay their rent or membership fees.

Read more about the Guardian’s report on WeWork’s plans to sack 2,000 staff here.

CNBC’s Alex Sherman and Lauren Feiner contributed to this report.

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Hong Kong central bank cuts lenders’ cash reserves to support economy



The Hong Kong Monetary Authority is displayed outside Two International Finance Centre in Hong Kong on June 19, 2013.

Jerome Favre | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has cut the amount of cash that banks must keep as reserves, releasing an extra HK$200-300 billion ($25.50-38.24 billion) into the broader economy which has been hit by months-long protests and the U.S.China trade war.

The central bank late on Monday announced a reduction of the Countercyclical Capital Buffer (CCyB) ratio of banks to 2.0% from 2.5%, with immediate effect, particularly aimed at boosting credit to the struggling small and medium enterprises. It was the first cut in the CCyB ratio since it was introduced in 2015.

“Economic indicators and other relevant evidence have signalled that the economic environment in Hong Kong has deteriorated significantly since June 2019,” HKMA chief executive Eddie Yue said in the statement.

“Lowering the countercyclical capital buffer at this juncture will allow banks to be more supportive to the domestic economy and help mitigate the economic cycle,” Yue added.

Hong Kong, which has been rocked by four months of often huge and violent protests against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the Chinese-ruled city, is facing its first recession in a decade.

The economy shrank 0.4% in April-June from the previous quarter, revised government data showed on Friday, and conditions have sharply deteriorated since then.

The Asian financial center, which also has one of the world’s busiest ports, was already under intense pressure from the escalating U.S.-China trade war and China’s biggest economic slowdown in decades.

HKMA has recently denied rumors, circulating on social media platforms and messaging apps, which have raised concerns about the monetary and financial stability of Hong Kong.

“We have emphasised many times that Hong Kong’s banking system is robust and sound, with strong capital positions, ample liquidity and good asset quality,” Yue said in his blog on Monday. “It is well positioned to withstand market shocks.”

The CCyB was introduced in line with international standards in 2015, ensuring adequate capital buffer for banks which can be deployed during an economic downturn to boost credit growth.

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Berkshire shareholder sells stake, accusing Buffett of ‘thumb-sucking’



Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., May 4, 2019.

Scott Morgan | Reuters

David Rolfe, a longtime Berkshire Hathaway shareholder and chief investment officer at Wedgewood Partners, is fed up with Warren Buffett.

Rolfe told clients in a letter he sold the firm’s stake in Berkshire after decades of being shareholders, noting his frustration with the conglomerate’s massive cash hoard, lackluster investments and what he thinks are missed investment opportunities by the Oracle of Omaha and his team during the current bull market.

Berkshire Hathaway shares have lagged the S&P 500 over the current bull run, which started March 2009. In that time, Berkshire’s Class A stock is up 323% while the broad index has gained 334%.

“Thumb-sucking has not cut the Heinz mustard during the Great Bull Market,” Rolfe wrote in the third-quarter letter to clients. “The Great Bull could have been one helluva of an astounding career denouement for Messrs. Buffett and [Vice Chairman Charlie] Munger.”

Not that Buffett will miss Rolfe much, the RiverPark/Wedgewood Fund owned 48,000 shares of the Berkshire B class of stock, amounting to about $10 million. And Rolfe’s performance throughout the bull market has not been the best, either. His fund’s annualized returns, net of fees, are 13.6% over the past 10 years through the second quarter, according to a factsheet found in the Wedgewood Partners website. In that time, the S&P 500 has posted an annualized return of 14.7%.

Berkshire’s cash pile swelled up to more than $120 billion by the end of the second quarter of 2019, a record for the company. In his annual letter to shareholders, Buffet said he wanted to make an “elephant-sized acquisition” but noted prices were “sky-high.” Rolfe thinks so much cash is a “considerable impediment of growth” for the company.

Rolfe also grew frustrated with some of Berkshire’s investments during the current bull market. He highlighted IBM and Kraft Heinz, among others.

Buffett revealed his $10.7 billion IBM stake in the fourth quarter of 2011. But by early 2018, he had sold the entire stake. In that time, IBM shares dropped more than 20%.

Kraft Heinz is another investment that hasn’t panned out for Berkshire, especially since 2018. The stock has lost about two-thirds of its value in that time.

These moves “do not inspire confidence that Buffett & Co. are still at the top of their game,” Rolfe said.

Buffett and Munger are 89 years old and 95 years old, respectively, and questions over who will succeed them have been percolating for years now. At the company’s annual shareholder meeting, Buffett said longtime executives Greg Abel and Ajit Jain could one day join him and Munger on stage to answer questions, hinting at Abel and Jain’s succession potential.

Rolfe also noted Berkshire missed two major opportunities at the start of the bull market by not investing big in credit-card companies Mastercard and Visa. During the bull market, Mastercard has surged more than 1,800% while Visa is up over 1,300%. Berkshire has stakes in both companies, but they make up a tiny portion of the company’s equities portfolio.

“These two stocks should have been layups for Buffett,” Rolfe said.

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