U.S.-based non-domestic stock funds attract 10th week of inflows: Lipper

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors poured $6 billion into U.S.-based non-domestic stock funds in the week ended April 15, marking their 10th straight week of inflows into the funds, data from Thomson Reuters’ Lipper service showed on Thursday.

U.S.-based domestic-focused stock funds posted net withdrawals with $5.8 billion, their third straight week of outflows, Lipper said.

Tom Roseen, head of research services at Lipper, said investors are shunning domestic portfolios because many are anticipating a poor first-quarter earnings season and a slowdown in U.S. economic growth.

Roseen said after the Federal Reserve minutes were released that there were a few hawks indicating they still think an interest rate increase could come as soon as June.

“With those items in the background, the underperforming European markets look attractive especially with the European Central Bank’s successful role with its quantitative easing program,” he said.

U.S.-based European stock funds saw their 12th straight week of inflows, according to Lipper data. It said Japanese stock funds attracted $644 million of inflows, their 10th straight week of inflows in the latest week.

The fierce hunt for yield boosted bond funds again.

U.S. based taxable bond funds had $1.6 billion of inflows in the week ended April 15, their fifth straight week of inflows, Lipper said.

High-yield bond funds attracted $792 million to mark their fourth straight week of inflows, while investment-grade bond funds posted $384 million in outflows to mark their first outflows of 2015.

Money market funds posted $31 billion in withdrawals to mark their biggest outflows since April 2014.

“I do think that Uncle Sam is creating a little havoc in the money market arena,” Roseen said. “In addition, many corporations use money markets to park money that might be used to cover other payable obligations, quarterly funding of 401ks, normal bills and the like.”

(Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Gunna Dickson)

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BlackRock’s Fink favors equities in Europe over U.S.: CNBC

n”>(Reuters) – BlackRock Inc’s chief executive officer Larry Fink said on Thursday that he is bullish on European equities and believes that Europe’s GDP will beat that of the U.S. in the first quarter.

“Europe is going to be the surprise for the year,” he said on CNBC.

Fink said the lower valuation of the euro has given European companies a big competitive advantage over their U.S.-based counterparts. That along with low oil prices and a more stable European banking system means that European equities are poised to outperform U.S. equities, he said.

“I like European and Asian equities more than U.S. equities,” he said.

Given the three-year run that U.S. equities have had, “it’s catch up time,” he said.

Already, Fink has seen clients pouring into its European equity funds as investors look for yield in the low interest rate environment, he said.

Low interest rates in Europe are “truly harming” European pension funds and insurance companies, he said.

“This is one of the areas where I don’t believe that central banks appreciate what negative rates do,” he said.

Going forward, Fink believes oil prices will stay between $60 to $80 per barrel as there continues to be more supply pressure than demand.

Fink also discussed his recent letter to the CEOs of the 500 largest publicly listed U.S. companies urging them to resist short-term activists.

Fink said that not all activists are short-term and noted that BlackRock has voted with activists about 55 percent of the time.

(Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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The New HowAboutWe Will Let You Order A Date On Demand

HowAboutWe, five years old and recently acquired by digital dating giant IAC, is relaunching its mobile app today with a bevy of new features and updated pricing. The most notable update comes in the form of Tonight, a feature that allows users to essentially order a date on-demand.

With Tonight, users can opt-in for a date tonight, put in a specific time, and HowAboutWe will search through your potential matches for people who’ve also opted in for a date tonight. In about five minutes, according to the company, HAW will send a push notification asking users to look at their potential dates and double-tap on the ones that they’d like to go out with.

Once all interested parties have made their selections, HAW matches them up with the best fit based on various factors and sends both users into a text conversation. All messages go through a HAW number so that users’ phone numbers aren’t automatically shared.

But Tonight isn’t the only new feature in the re-launch.

Alongside the usual swipe-based feed for matches (now called Pool), HowAboutWe also launched Connections, which are a daily set of highly-targeted potential matches, as well as targeted search (letting users filter by height, religion, etc.).

But perhaps more important is the revamped pricing model, which lets users send and receive messages with mutual matches for free. Previously, all HowAboutWe users needed to upgrade to a paid membership before they were able to send and receive messages.

With the new version, people who’ve expressed interest in each other get free messaging, access to Tonight, as well as access to the pool. If users would like to message folks they haven’t yet matched with, or run a targeted search, they’ll need to upgrade.

Depending on the length of the membership, the price ranges from $10/month to $20/month.

This represents a new start for HowAboutWe, which was acquired by IAC in June of last year. Cofounder Brian Schechter explained that we’re heading into a post-Tinder era, where the overloaded inbox and back-and-forth messaging become more annoying than effective.

You can check out the new HowAboutWe right here.

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Rendeevoo Is A Dating App That Cuts Straight To Cocktails

Dating apps like Tinder fix the problem of finding someone to go on a date with. But the knock-on effect of that is needing to invest time making small talk on dating apps in order to acquire a date.

U.K. startup rendeevoo, which makes an iOS dating app, aims to ‘fix’ both of these issues in one cocktail-fueled swoop — provided you aren’t someone who relies on that real-time chatting component of dating apps to, y’know, assess whether you actually want to spend any time in the same room as this other person or not.

If you screen dates at the spelling and grammar stage, rendeevoo is not for you. But if you couldn’t care less about how many lols, !!!!s and emojis infest a prospective date’s IMspeak — or indeed what they talk about — instead choosing to select a date based purely on their photos, age and profile, then read on…

Billing itself as an ‘Uber for real life dates’, rendeevoo cuts to the chase by cutting out the chat element. “We want to allow people enjoy their real life instead of wasting time in front of their screens chatting with others asynchronously,” says co-founder George Christoforakis, who came up with the idea for the app back in 2011, pre-Tinder, after signing up for a dating site for the first time.

“I quickly realised that asynchronous communications is an obstacle to the ones who prefer to know someone in person rather than through their screen. I also faced the usual threats that exist in such environments, like fake profiles and spammers/scammers, and started questioning the ethics of these big dating providers whose business models highlight a paradox: they promise to match me with the person of my dreams, but they earn money if I don’t.”

Users of rendeevoo browse profiles and when they like the look and description of a prospective date they can place ‘an order’, just like they would check-out any other e-commerce item, by selecting when and where they want the date to take place, and then paying for it. Specifically they are paying for one cocktail at one of the handful of East London bars that rendeevoo has partnered with thus far.

Once — or, let’s be honest, if — the prospective date also pays for their own drink the date is confirmed. Both parties have to confirm before the transactions are processed. And it is still possible to cancel a date up to 30 minutes before without being penalized, so this app isn’t a perfect fix for being stood up at the last minute.

Users are authenticated via their Facebook profile, and also need to provide card details to pay for drinks (with payments processed via Stripe), so Christoforakis claims there’s “no risk of being catfished or spammed” — something he reckons is “common” on existing dating platforms.

The app soft launched in April 2014, but officially launched in beta last month and is now stepping up marketing activity in its East London target area.

We came across rendeevoo pitching at our Barcelona mini meet-up, back in February. The London-based startup has raised just under $150,000 over the past 10 months, with around $50,000 pulled in from crowdfunding (via Seedrs), and the rest from two angel investors (Georgios Markakis and Cedric van der Haert).

Usage thus far is small, as you’d expect, with less than 1,200 active users at this point, and only five Shoreditch bars to choose from — although the startup says it should have doubled that by the end of the month.

How many rendeevoo dates have people actually gone on thus far? A mere 13, says Christoforakis. The current usage also skews 1:3 in favor of male users. And therein, perhaps, lies the rub.

Rendeevoo — yet another dating app designed by men — appears to be fixated on fixing more of a male problem (quick date acquisition), and it’s tackling that by removing the screening element which — I’d wager — pretty much any female (or indeed any discerning person) would tell you is an integral part of deciding whether to bother wasting time going on a date in the first place.

Sure in-app IMing may be time-consuming, but what’s far more tedious is being stuck in a bar with a moron.

Still, the app isn’t only targeting straight dating. And given its current gender skew it may well be proving more of a hit with men seeking likeminded men — although Christoforakis says it has no strong bias in any direction at this nascent stage.

“Our main user is not particularly male or female, straight or not. Of course the value proposition addresses more male users’ needs, but there is an increasing number of female users who find our product as a great solution to their socialising needs,” he says, when I ask who the app is for.

“A busy young professional, irrespectively of their sex or sexuality, will find rendeevoo as a great choice for a cheeky drink with someone new. We enforce that perception by not promising a great ‘match’. We limit our expertise to the overall experience that is a convenient way to meet someone at a great place today. Even if there’s little chemistry between two users, they still had a great time at our partnering bars enjoying a tasty cocktail,” he adds.

If rendeevoo can locate enough trendy East London quick-after-work-drink seekers to drive significant traction it’s aiming to monetize the app via commissions charged to partnering bars for each booking. After that Christoforakis says it would look to add complementary services (such as taxi rides) to expand its revenue generating potential, as well as seeking commercial sponsorships with drinks brands.

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Periscope’s Kayvon Beykpour Will Go Live At Disrupt NY In May

Periscope and Meerkat have a lot in common. They’re both livestreaming platforms. They’re both integrated with Twitter in some fashion. They both launched in the past couple months. And last but certainly not least, they’ll both be making an appearance at Disrupt NY in May.

We’re incredibly pleased to announce that Periscope cofounder Kayvon Beykpour will join us for the upcoming conference at the historic Manhattan Center in New York City, where we’ll discuss all things Periscope, Twitter, and of course, live broadcasting as a whole.

Previously the founder of Terriblyclever (acquired by Blackboard in 2009), Beykpour has spent most of his time recently building out Periscope. In January, Twitter acquired the company before it ever launched and went heads down prepping for a big roll-out.

In March, Meerkat (a direct competitor led by Ben Rubin, also speaking at Disrupt) launched at SXSW and picked up huge traction among early adopters. Twitter turned off some of Meerkat’s social graph access and soon after launched Periscope, which admittedly has a far superior design. The apps differ in some ways — Meerkat’s expire where Periscopes can live on, and Meerkat comments are public where Periscope’s don’t hook into Twitter, among other things.

But what will likely be far more interesting than the initial race is how the mainstream user will adopt live broadcasting as a medium. For example, on UpClose, a betaworks-backed live broadcasting competitor, a younger demographic of users are broadcasting with a use-case very similar to behavior we see on YouTube.

Hopefully Kayvon will be able to shed some light on what to expect out of live broadcasting as the head of the app most poised to capture the mainstream market.

Kayvon Beykpour will join other notable Disrupt NY speakers, including Tinder’s Sean Rad, Joanne Wilson, and Vine’s Jason Mante.

The show runs May 4-6 at the historic Manhattan Center. Tickets are available here.

Our sponsors help make Disrupt happen. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact sponsors@techcrunch.com.

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CEO says BTG Pactual overseas expansion showcases diversification

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Grupo BTG Pactual SA’s push to grow outside Brazil is an attempt to seize opportunities created by the retreat of global investment banks, not the result of the economic woes plaguing its home market, Chief Executive Officer André Esteves said.

Last year’s $1.7 billion purchase of Switzerland’s BSI Group Inc as well as BTG Pactual’s foray into global commodities sales and trading will bolster the Brazilian investment bank’s profit resilience and stability in coming years, Esteves, 46, said in an interview with Reuters late on Thursday.

When the BSI acquisition is completed, about 45 percent of BTG Pactual’s revenue will stem from asset and wealth management, providing the bank with more stable proceeds and returns, he added. Income from both segments currently represent about a quarter of revenue.

The shift in BTG Pactual’s revenue mix toward money management means that the share of principal investments – or income from using the bank’s own money in real estate, hedge funds and private equity investments – will shrink relative to other areas, Esteves added. The BSI purchase is “helping accelerate that trend,” he said.

Despite a gloomy economic outlook, sluggish capital markets activity and rising borrowing costs in Brazil, Esteves is confident that BTG Pactual will continue to deliver annual return on equity around 20 percent. And while Brazil will remain a key market for BTG Pactual, its non-Brazilian operations will account for most of its income and staff once the BSI deal is finalized.

“There is no correlation between a good Brazil or a bad Brazil with a more international BTG Pactual,” Esteves said. “The retreat of global lenders” after the 2008 financial crisis “is what gave us the opportunity to expand our activities in commodities, in Latin America, to buy BSI.”

The conclusion of the BSI transaction is expected in the next two months.

RISK TAKING

BTG Pactual has faced criticism for what some in the marketplace saw as excessive risk taking in sectors highly exposed to Brazil’s economic malaise or to firms linked to a corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA.

Rapid growth following its initial public offering three years ago and problems in a small sample of the bank’s private-equity investments prompted some analysts to question whether proprietary investments could drag down return on equity.

Esteves rebuffed those concerns, stressing that BTG Pactual has cut assumed market risk in recent quarters. Value at risk, or the maximum amount that a bank can lose in a trading session, fell to 0.46 percent of BTG Pactual’s capital in December, about half what it was three years ago.

“The results of the past three years showcase the diversification of our revenues, in a geographical and in a product bases,” Esteves said. “The amount of headlines about the principal investments line is disproportionate to the risk and revenue they represent for BTG Pactual.”

Oil rig supplier Sete Brasil Participações SA and drugstore chain Brasil Pharma SA have been singled out in newspaper reports as potential setbacks for BTG Pactual’s merchant banking investment portfolio. The bank has made hefty profits with other investments, including the sale of a stake in Spain’s Tunels de Barcelona i Cadí last year.

He declined to discuss investments on a case-by-case basis.

“We’ve done well and we’ve made mistakes in our merchant banking business, but what really matters in the end is that the overall results of the portfolio are broadly positive, even with the economic downturn” in Brazil, Esteves said.

BTG Pactual’s stock has recouped some losses this month, a sign that investors are more comfortable with its investments. The stock had shed 26 percent between mid-October, when the Petrobras scandal gained traction, and late March.

LATIN AMERICA

Esteves stood by his pledge that he does not want BTG Pactual to compete with the likes of Goldman Sachs Group Inc on their home turf. He believes that the global investment banking business model is under test, since tougher regulations in developed markets make it harder to deploy capital efficiently.

“We don’t see ourselves doing investment banking outside of Latin America, or if the deal has nothing to do with the region,” he said.

He said the acquisition of BSI was well timed because it took place when Swiss regulators moved to dismantle a business model based on tax secrecy. Esteves hopes BTG Pactual’s strong focus on product diversification will allow BSI to outperform rivals in the changing landscape.

“This transition from the secrecy-oriented model to the services-oriented model in Switzerland is offering us the opportunity to do what we do best: to offer our products in a differential way,” he said.

(Editing by Todd Benson)

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Following Merger With Addvocate, Trapit Launches A Combined Product For Social Sharing

Trapit, the combined company created from last year’s merger of startups Addvocate and Trapit, is unveiling the main result of that merger today — a set of tools for “employee advocacy and social selling” that includes features from both companies.

In other words, Trapit now offers a product where you can find relevant content (as you could in the original Trapit) and then pass it on to your employees for sharing on social media (as you could in Addvocate).

Co-founder and CEO Hank Nothhaft, Jr. gave me a demo of the new product, which divides teams into two groups. There are the curators, who create “traps” to find stories around different topics, and they go through those traps to select the content that they want other employees to share. Then there are the advocates, who receive recommendations from the curators, either through the Trapit website, iOS app or email digest, and can share as they see fit.

Advocates can of course personalize the posts, and they can set up a timer so that different posts go up throughout the day.

Nothhaft contrasted Trapit’s approach with other employee advocacy products, which he said don’t have real content-curation technology. Finding the stories and videos worth sharing is particularly important, he argued, so that employees can create “a differentiated stream of content that’s valuable and interesting, not just more yelling into the echo chamber with something that everyone’s seen a million times already.”

He also emphasized the idea of “authenticity,” a word that he acknowledged is overused: “The term ‘authenticity’ is losing its authenticity.” Nonetheless, he argued that Trapit increases authenticity (defined in this case as “removing layers of abstraction between the buyer and the seller”) by allowing employees to promote their companies without turning into complete “corporate shills.”

Still, when I think about authenticity, employees sharing content recommended by their social media teams isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Nothhaft said that like any “flexible system,” Trapit can be used in the wrong ways, but he’s hopeful that we won’t see many cases where employees just share everything blindly.

“This is voluntary, right?” he added. “It’s not compulsory. Everything’s posted to your own account and it’s hopefully on your own behalf.”

Nothhaft also said that Trapit has declined to work with some “less progressive, stodgier” companies that only want to share white papers and other content that they’ve created themselves.

“That’s just their worldview; they don’t believe in curated content,” he said. “We opt out of those opportunities. There are so many companies that do embrace this that we can’t waste our time.”

Customers already using new the tools include Microsoft, Everbank, HD Vest Financial and SGI.

Oh, and since I had Nothhaft on the phone, I also asked him about his new job title. He was originally chief product officer of the combined company, but he was named CEO last month after the departure of the previous chief executive, Gary Griffiths. Nothhaft described this as “a mutual decision,” reached after examining how the product would need to evolve.

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