Dear Moneyist,

My mother passed away in May 2019.

I last saw my mother on Memorial Day Weekend. My sisters fought about how the staff at the hospice was caring for my mother. My mother was left in a comatose state. I was called to my mother’s bedside from Arizona on the Friday before she died.

My mother was in bad shape. She had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease after living for three years with my oldest sister in a dirty house and horrible conditions. She was left alone frequently. My sister was laid off from work and claimed it was because of our mother.

Don’t miss: I want to marry my boyfriend, but he has $25,000 in credit-card debt and leads a financially reckless lifestyle

A few days later, my older sister contacted me to say that our mom’s wishes were to be cremated and her ashes be distributed off the California coast. California law requires a permit that says ashes should be scattered at least three miles off the coast line. My sister said we had to pay for it!

I asked my sister if there was a will. She gave a brutal response in a threatening voice mail: “No will! No money!” She said that our mother had told her that there would be no inheritance for me. However, I understood my mother had made a will when she lived in Texas.

My sister is selling all of my mother’s belongings in the absence of a will. My oldest sister told my younger sister that our mother gave everything to her and that she would not have to worry about money every again. I don’t believe her. How should I proceed?


Dear Distraught,

It’s time to fight ire with ire. Or fire with fire. Either way, take action.

A person typically becomes power of attorney when a person is alive. But that responsibility ends when the individual who needs help dies. If there was a will, your sister would be executor of your mother’s will and there should be proof that you were cut out of the will. Without one, she is administrator of your mother’s estate.

Your mother cannot cut you out of a will that doesn’t exist. Even if a will did exist, your mother would have to explicitly disinherit you to avoid the will being challenged; otherwise, you could argue in court that your mother merely omitted to mention you. What’s more, your mother would also have to be of sound mind.

If you believe your sister is either incompetent or dishonest or both — it appears to be the case that she is both — file a petition with the probate court to say your sister is not distributing the assets of your mother’s estate. Your sister is not permitted under the law to sell your mother’s belongings or, indeed, plunder her bank account(s).

Also see: My sister told our father to change his will before he died, then forced my mother to sign over power of attorney

Is there a will? Your mother may have filed a will in the probate court in the county in Texas where your mother lived. You need to contact the probate court and the court clerk’s office with her and the date she died to see if there was a will that was filed in Texas or California. Sometimes, this can be done online. The court must then rule whether the will is valid.

You may also want to contact a family attorney or financial adviser, who should have information on life insurance, deeds of your mother’s home (if she owned one) and any retirement accounts. There should be information on her old bank accounts that could help. A policy locator service could also be useful for policies made after 1996.

I’m sorry that your mother was living in squalid conditions before she died. It’s difficult to know whether your sister was incapable of taking care of herself and/or your mother, or whether she acted out of malice or neglect. I can only speak to the law in California. All three sisters are legal heirs and your mother’s assets should be distributed equally.

You can counter your sister’s dubious moves with far more effective legal ones.

Do you have questions about inheritance, tipping, weddings, family feuds, friends or any tricky issues relating to manners and money? Send them to MarketWatch’s Moneyist and please include the state where you live (no full names will be used).

Would you like to sign up to an email alert when a new Moneyist column has been published? If so, click on this link.

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas: inheritance, wills, divorce, tipping, gifting. I often talk to lawyers, accountants, financial advisers and other experts, in addition to offering my own thoughts. I receive more letters than I could ever answer, so I’ll be bringing all of that guidance — including some you might not see in these columns — to this group. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

More from MarketWatch

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Health insurance was a source of contention in the first Democratic debate Wednesday night, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren leaving no space between her and her most formidable liberal rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, by not seeing a role for private insurers.

At the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates in Miami, Warren said she fully supported Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation, saying one of the big reasons people go broke is because of medical bills, even for those who have health insurance.

Read: Democrats spar over economy, immigration, health care at Miami debate: Live blog recap

“I understand that there are a lot of politicians who say, ‘oh, it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it,’” Warren said. “What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights.”

Like Warren, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also raised his hand when asked by NBC’s Lester Holt whether they would abolish private health insurance, and later attacked former Rep. Beto O’Rourke for allowing a role for private insurers.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota responded why she sees a role for private insurers. “I think it’s a bold approach,” Klobuchar said. “It’s something that Barack Obama wanted to do when we were working on the Affordable Care Act, and that is a public option. I am simply concerned about kicking half of America off their health insurance in four years, which is what this bill says.”

Klobuchar said she wanted to reduce costs by taking on pharmaceutical companies.

“I think we should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken,” added former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, a proponent of private insurers having a continued role. “Doesn’t that make sense?”

About half of Americans get their health insurance through an employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Health-insurance stocks have had a rough year, in part on concerns over Medicare-for-All. UnitedHealth

UNH, -1.69%

  has dropped 2% and Humana

HUM, +0.04%

 has dropped 9%, while the broader S&P 500

SPX, -0.12%

  has climbed 16%.

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Asian markets gained in early trading Thursday, as investors focused on optimistic signs ahead of Saturday’s meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit.

The meeting is undoubtedly the economic highlight of the summit, held in Osaka, Japan, on Friday and Saturday. Investors hope that the presidents will move toward resolving a trade dispute that has raised business costs and weighed on global financial markets.

Trump has said he was prepared to place tariffs on $300 billion more in Chinese imports, covering everything China ships to the United States, if the talks with Xi don’t end in progress.

“The Chinese economy’s going down the tubes,” he said in an interview with Fox Business Network on Wednesday. “They want to make a deal more than I do.”

Early Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary said a trade deal with China was “90% of the way there,” and that he was confident Trump and Xi would make inroads to restarting negotiations. On Thursday, the South China Morning Post reported the U.S. and China have tentatively agreed to a tariff truce in order to resume trade talks, and that an official announcement would be made before Trump and Xi meet in Osaka.

Japan’s Nikkei

NIK, +0.93%

  rose 1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

HSI, +1.08%

  gained 1.1%. The Shanghai Composite

SHCOMP, +0.96%

  advanced 0.9% while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite

399106, +1.37%

  rose 1.1%. South Korea’s Kospi

180721, +0.84%

  gained 0.7% and benchmark indexes in Taiwan

Y9999, +1.21%

 , Singapore

STI, +0.72%

  and Indonesia

JAKIDX, +0.59%

  advanced as well. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200

XJO, +0.20%

  edged up 0.1%.

Among individual stocks, Japan Display

6740, +18.33%

  skyrocketed in Tokyo trading after a report that Apple

AAPL, +2.16%

  will invest $100 million into the beleaguered company. SoftBank

9984, +3.08%

 , Toyota

7203, +0.71%

  and Mitsubishi UFJ

8306, +1.03%

  also gained. In Hong Kong, casino operators Sands China

1928, +2.48%

  and Galaxy Entertainment

27, +3.47%

  rose, along with AAC

2018, +2.91%

  and Sunny Optical

2382, +2.43%

 . Samsung

005930, +2.54%

  advanced in South Korea and Taiwan Semiconductor

2330, +2.77%

  gained in Taiwan. BHP

BHP, +1.70%

  and Rio Tinto

RIO, +3.00%

  rose in Australia.

Stephen Innes of Vanguard Markets believes the upcoming talks at the G-20 will be a “formality at best.”

“Although Mnuchin suggested we are 90% there to a trade deal, that reaming 10% has always been the gap too far to bridge — especially that trust gap where the U.S. wants to keep existing tariffs in place to ensure China compliance,” he added.

Wall Street made early gains Wednesday on optimism over the talks. But the rally fizzled and most major benchmarks were lower at the closing bell.

The S&P 500 index

SPX, -0.12%

  eased 0.1% to 2,913.78 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -0.04%

  shed less than 0.1% to 26,536.82. The Nasdaq composite

COMP, +0.32%

  added 0.3% to 7,909.97.

Benchmark U.S. crude

CLQ19, -0.52%

  lost 16 cents to $59.22 a barrel. It picked up $1.55 to settle at $59.38 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude oil

BRNQ19, -0.38%

 , the international standard, shed 21 cents to $65.48 a barrel. The contract gained $1.41 to $65.69 a barrel in the previous session.

The dollar

USDJPY, +0.29%

  rose to 107.97 yen from 107.79 yen late Wednesday.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms waits to speak at the Atlanta Press Club luncheon, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Atlanta.

Andrea Smith | AP

City governments are under assault from ransomware, malicious software that infects entire computer networks, freezing up important files and equipment until the organization pays for a key to unlock the information.

Baltimore and two cities in Florida have fallen victim to ransomware in recent weeks, and Atlanta’s mayor advocated for more federal help in protecting against ransomware in Congress Tuesday. Atlanta and Baltimore are each spending spend millions on the clean-up from their attacks. In Florida, Riviera Beach paid $600,000 and Lake City almost $500,000 to get their data unlocked, according to representatives from those cities.

Cities may have been caught off guard by the attacks, but corporations have been quietly battling the problem for years.

These attacks have given the public the opportunity to examine the problems associated with ransomware, where corporations — not obligated to disclose these attacks — have mostly handled them behind closed doors. These issues include the moral objections to paying off criminals, the practical risks of not paying and the lack of federal support to help mitigate risk.

A young crime is growing up

Ransomware was little known before 2014, when some of the first, very rough versions of the malicious software began circulating more widely through corporations. It took criminal organizations about a year to refine their approach and make the attack style ubiquitous across corporations.

According to FBI statistics, ransomware was an almost immediate success, and incidents exploded in late 2015 and through 2016. It’s continued rising steadily, with criminal organizations further refining their techniques to target the most valuable data and pull higher payouts, according to Molly Arranz, a partner in the data privacy, security and litigation practice group at law firm Smith Amundsen.

In the early years of ransomware, organizations were skeptical of paying, Arranz says, because they weren’t sure the criminals would provide the necessary keys to unlock the files. This changed as some criminal enterprises gained a reputation for “reliably” providing the right keys, making it possible for companies to do a more practical risk-benefit analysis, and in some cases, for insurance companies to pick up the cost, she said.

Arranz said the $600,000 paid by Riviera Beach was a lot, but that six-figure ransoms are not uncommon. There even have been rumors of seven-figure payouts in recent years, she said, but only one confirmed case: a South Korean internet service provider in 2017.

“The companies that are paying the ransom amount, if they don’t pay for it, that information is lost forever,” she said. “Therefore, it’s money well spent.”

As cities pay these larger ransoms, criminals will get new insight into how to extract the maximum dollar value out of their attacks, said Mark Orlando, chief technology officer of defense industrial company Raytheon’s Cyber Protection Solutions group.

“We definitely can expect more high-dollar payouts,” said Orlando.

“Ransomware is, by far, much more lucrative today. It’s become commoditized, and you can get a pre-built, customizable toolset for it. It’s a tried and true business model. [Criminals are] asking for the maximum amount that they think the victim will pay before they try to just go and rebuild the network on their own. They’ve reached a new high-water mark.”

The moral, practical and reputational hazard

Lake City mayor Stephen Witt told a local news station Wednesday: “I would’ve never dreamed this could’ve happened, especially in a small town like this.”

His surprise may seem unepected, given the boom in ransomware. But the topic has stayed quiet until recently because private businesses aren’t required to report them to shareholders or regulators.

“That’s why you’re not hearing of more of these, and it’s not because companies are hiding the ball,” Arranz said. “They’re complying with what’s legally required of them.”

Companies have strong incentives to keep the attacks private. At best, any organization that pays a ransom or negotiates with those making demands is dealing with criminals. At worst, they could be making a blind payoff to a rogue nation-state like North Korea or a terrorist group. The FBI has traditionally given blanket warnings not to pay ransoms.

But if organizations don’t pay, they’re betting that customers will stick around through days or weeks of downtime while they rebuild, Orlando said. That’s a risky calculation.

Having back-ups that work, or segmented networks — built so parts of the network can be cordoned off from the wider network in the event of an attack– can help, but even these tactics are limited in their effect, Orlando explained.

“On the enterprise side, some equipment is purpose-built to do certain things. Equipment — especially in health care and manufacturing — those are not just files that are stored somewhere else that you can replace, like you replace the data you backed up on your cell phone. Back-ups aren’t silver bullets, in terms of time loss and service loss,” Orlando said.

Looking for support, but not finding it

If a bank is robbed by criminals, or a city attacked by terrorists, there are clear lines of response from federal agencies.

This isn’t the case with ransomware, as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms discovered when Atlanta was hit by a ransom attack in March 2018. The incident has so far cost the city $7.2 million, including a $52,000 ransom demand, she told Congress on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Bottoms requested Congress consider giving cities and small towns greater access to information on protecting threats.

“Fortunately, our mission-critical services such as fire, police and ambulance were not affected. Neither was our water supply. However, some departments and government entities suffered irreparable damage,” Bottoms said of the March attack.

“The federal government should … expand programs that share real-time threat information, which is often critical in avoiding and mitigating threats. We should also have federal programs in place to provide cybersecurity disaster-relief funding. This will help offset recovery costs borne locally,” Bottoms said.

Insurance companies, consulting firms, law firms and cybersecurity companies have largely filled the recovery gap left by law enforcement. These businesses offer services, including direct negotiation with criminals, verification of whether the attackers are “legitimate,” intelligence on whether attackers can provide adequate support to unlock the ransomed files and coverage for damage or the cost of the ransom payment. In the case of Riviera Beach, the city said its $600,000 ransomware payment would be covered in large part by insurance.

“Hallmarks of a good cyber insurance plan or policy would include not only coverage for damage to systems or damage to data, but fraud coverage, extortion coverage, coverage for breach response, public relations expense,” said Jonathan Meyer, partner at law firm Sheppard Mullin and former deputy general counsel in the Department of Homeland Security.

“It’s not a simple, off-the-shelf thing. It’s a place where insurance companies are still figuring out how to tailor their coverage, where there is that uncertainty out there,” Mullin said. “Just as it is becoming more and more important.”

WATCH: Why JPMorgan Chase spends $600 million a year on cybersecurity threats

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Ulrich Baumgarten | Getty Images

International researchers say there’s “strong evidence” the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer and should be expanded to boys and adults, according to a World Health Organization study published Wednesday in The Lancet.

“Because of our finding, we believe the WHO call for action to eliminate cervical cancer may be possible in many countries if sufficient vaccination coverage can be achieved,” Marc Brisson, a professor at Canada’s Laval University and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

Three vaccines are currently available to protect against HPV, particularly the cancer-causing types. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends both girls and boys receive the vaccine at age 11 or 12.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are many different strains, with some causing cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer in women, according to WHO. The public health agency last year set eliminating cervical cancer as one of its main priorities.

Researchers analyzed data from 14 high-income countries, covering more than 60 million people over eight years. They found cases of HPV infections, two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers, anogenital warts and precancerous cervical lesions — possible precursors to cervical cancer — all declined since the vaccine was introduced.

Among all countries studied after five to eight years of vaccination, cases of the two types of HPV that cause 70% of cervical cancers, HPV 16 and 18, plummeted 83% among girls ages 13 to 19 and 66% in women ages 20 to 24, researchers found. Diagnoses of precancerous lesions, which can develop into cancer, decreased 51% among screened girls ages 15 to 19 and 31% among screened women 20 to 24, researchers said.

The study also identified a 67% decrease in anogenital wart diagnoses among girls between 15 and 19 and a 31% decrease among women between 25 and 29. They also saw a 48% decrease in boys 15 to 19 and a 32% decrease in men 20 to 24.

“Our results provide strong evidence that HPV vaccination works to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings as both HPV infections that cause most cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions are decreasing,” Melanie Drolet, a senior research associate at Laval University and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

The review updates an initial study published in 2015, adding more research and for the first time measuring precancerous cervical lesions, which can develop into cervical cancer.

However, the authors note the findings are not conclusive because the analysis is based on ecological studies. They say the results “strongly suggest the decreases can be largely attributed” to the HPV vaccine because they saw “larger and faster decreases” among groups that are targeted and in countries with higher vaccination rates. They also point to larger decreases since the vaccine was introduced and that results are consistent across countries and conditions studied.

Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology at New York University who was not involved in the study, said the results provide “strong evidence” to suggest the HPV vaccine reduces cervical cancer-related outcomes. Even though the outcomes measured can lead to cervical cancer, the study did not measure the vaccine’s effect on the disease.

“For me, I think [the study] represents a large population of people, 60 million individuals across these studies [analyzed], so I think they have compelling evidence this is an impactful vaccine,” she said.

WHO and grants from Fonds de recherche du Quebec-Sante and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded the study. Researchers from the CHU de Quebec Research Center, Laval University, Canada and 45 institutions across Europe, North America and Australia conducted the study.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on April 30, 2019 in San Jose, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said the U.S.’s weak response to the 2016 Russian election interference has resulted in similar activity from more nation states like Iran.

“The signal that was sent to the world was that ‘O.K. We’re open for business,'” Zuckerberg said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “Countries can try to do this stuff and our companies will try their best to try to limit it, but fundamentally, there isn’t going to be a major recourse from the American government.”

Facebook prohibits the coordinated use of a network of accounts to spread misinformation on its services, or what the company refers to as “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

On the eve of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Facebook removed more than a hundred Facebook and Instagram accounts connected to a Russian troll farm for this type of activity. The company took similar steps against groups from Russia, Iran, Macedonia and Kosovo in March.

Following the 2016 election, the Obama Administration in December 2016 ejected 35 Russian intelligence operatives from the U.S. and imposed sanctions against Russian intelligence services in retaliation. President Donald Trump in July 2018 met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, afterwards telling reporters, “He (Putin) says it’s not Russia. I’ll tell you this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Here is Zuckerberg’s comment in full:

As a private company we don’t have the tools to make the Russian government stop. We can defend as best as we can, but our government is the one that has the tools to apply pressure to Russia, not us.

One of the mistakes that I worry about is that after 2016 when the government didn’t take any kind of counteraction. The signal that was sent to the world was that “O.K. We’re open for business.” Countries can try to do this stuff and our companies will try their best to try to limit it, but fundamentally, there isn’t going to be a major recourse from the American government.

Since then, we’ve seen increased activity from Iran and other countries, and we are very engaged in ramping up the defenses. The amount that we spend on safety and security now as a company is billions of dollars a year. It is greater than the whole revenue of our company was when we went public earlier this decade.

We’ve ramped up massively on the security side, but there’s very little that we can do on our own to change the incentives for nation states to act. That’s something that is a little bit above our pay grade.

WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off

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Analysts are predicting slightly lower U.S. new-vehicle sales in June, with the market showing some resilience due to sales incentives by car makers.

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets, however, forecast steep declines for General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. sales this month, and also predicted some trouble for sales of the companies’ perennially popular pickup trucks.

In a note Wednesday, the RBC analysts, led by Joseph Spak, said they forecast a seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales of 16.9 million vehicles in the U.S., which would compare with May’s 17.4 million SAAR and June 2018’s 17.2 million. They forecast about 1.48 million vehicles sold in the month.

See also: Ford stock ‘underappreciated’ by Wall Street

Sales at GM

GM, +1.58%

 are likely to drop 7% year-on-year, and fall 8% at Ford

F, +0.76%

the analysts said. GM pickup sales “could be challenged” in terms of volume, but “profit should look strong,” they said.

For Ford, the analysts expect “outsized passenger car weakness” as the company has moved away from sedans in U.S. The company is trying to manage its inventory of its best selling SUVs, the Ford Explorer and the Ford Escape, ahead of new models coming to market, the analysts said.

Related: Tesla’s second-quarter sales are as good as it gets, Goldman Sachs says

Analysts at TrueCar Inc’s analytics unit, ALG, also called for sales of 1.48 million vehicles in June, and predicted a 17 million SAAR for the month. Excluding fleet sales, ALG expects U.S. retail deliveries of new cars and light trucks to be 1.20 million units, a decrease of 6.3% from a year ago.

“Increased incentive spending by several auto makers in June in tandem with sustained strength in the underlying macro-economic indicators is helping drive resilient sales for both the month and quarter,” ALG Chief Economist Oliver Strauss said in a statement. ALG kept their expectations for 2019 at 17 million SAAR.

Ford reports monthly sales, but GM and Tesla Inc.

TSLA, +0.20%

 report quarterly sales. Tesla shares have recovered some ground in recent sessions on expectations that second-quarter sales could be a banner three months for the Silicon Valley car maker.

Read more: Elon Musk says there’s no demand problem for Tesla

GM and Ford stock have gained 15% and 30% this year, while Tesla stock has fallen 33%. That compares with gains of 17% and 14% for the S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.07%

 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

DJIA, +0.19%


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Beyond Meat Inc., the maker of plant-based meat products, said Wednesday it’s launching its new ground Beyond Beef product later this week, sending its stock higher.

The Beyond Beef product is designed to taste and look like traditional ground beef — it even has marbling — for tacos, Bolognese sauce and more. It’s made from a combination of pea, mung bean and rice proteins. A four ounce service contains 20g of protein, according to Beyond Meat

BYND, +4.06%

Founder and Chief Executive Ethan Brown.

The new product will be available at select stores later this week and will then be rolled out to others in the coming weeks, including Inc.’s

AMZN, +0.69%

 Whole Foods, supermarket chain Alberstons, Kroger

KR, -1.67%

 and Safeway, among others.

Beyond Meat already offers a Beyond Burger, that’s already formed into a patty, plus Beyond Sausage and Beyond Beef Crumbles. Its products are available at restaurant chains, including TGI Fridays, Del Taco, Bareburger, Carl’s Jr. and A&W.

See also: Alternative meat market could be worth $140 billion in 10 years, Barclays says

The stock has been on a tear, ever since the company went public in early May. The stock is trading at $155.20, more than six times its IPO price of $25, giving it a market capitalization of more than $9 billion.

In case you missed it: Beyond Meat goes public with a bang: 5 things to know about the plant-based meat maker

In its first earnings report published in early June, the company posted $40.2 million in net revenue, compared with forecasts in its IPO prospectus for $38 million to $40 million. Analysts were modeling $38.9 million. A year earlier, Beyond Meat generated $12.8 million in revenue.

See this: Del Taco now has a vegetarian burrito — what consumers need to know about meatless fast food’s cost and calorie count

The company was still in the red, posting a net loss of $6.6 million for the quarter, compared with $5.7 million a year ago. On a per-share basis, Beyond Meat lost 95 cents, compared with 98 cents in the year-ago quarter. The company posted pro-forma per-share losses of 14 cents, compared with 13 cents a year earlier, which is a non-GAAP measure.

Beyond Meat said it expects revenue to top $210 million for the full year, ahead of the $205 million analysts were then forecasting.

Read: Beyond Meat is a ‘disrupter’ as plant-based meat industry sales poised to reach $100 billion

Analysts have become more cautious about the stock following its extraordinary run and as a range of new competitors emerge. The average rating of analysts polled by FactSet is a hold with an average stock price target of $106, that is well below its current level.

Beyond Meat is competing with privately held Impossible Meat and its Impossible Burger, as well as new alternative proteins from Tyson Foods Inc., and smaller companies including Before the Butcher; Rebellyous Foods, makers of plant-based chicken nuggets; and Good Catch, makers of plant-based tuna.

Beyond Meat shares were last up 3.4%, while the S&P 500

SPX, +0.06%

 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.18%

 were both up 0.1%.

See now: Beyond Meat at risk as competitors like Impossible Burger take root

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The biggest and oldest refinery on the U.S. East Coast plans to shut down permanently following an explosion and fire late last week, likely leading to tighter supplies of gasoline in the region and a potential spike in prices at the pump.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions intends to close its South Philadelphia refinery within the next month, the city’s Mayor Jim Kenney said Wednesday, according to news reports. That followed a report of the planned closure from Reuters late Tuesday.

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions spokeswoman was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning.

With 335,000 barrels per day of crude oil processing capacity, “the Philadelphia refinery is a major supplier of gasoline and diesel into U.S. east coast markets, yielding approximately 125,000 b/d of gasoline and 110,000 b/d of diesel,” said Marc Amons, senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie, in a comment emailed to the media.

The closure could make the PADD 1—East Coast region—gasoline supplies “quite tight,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told MarketWatch. The region is “going to be reliant on imports of gasoline, mainly from Europe and or the Gulf Coast. As a result, they could be subject to more pricing volatility in the months and years ahead.”

Still, the “shutdown won’t always be felt directly, but during maintenance season and the run up to summer, PADD 1 may feel more West Coast style pricing volatility and jumps.

On Wednesday afternoon, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline stood at $2.687, down 14.3 cents from last month’s average of $2.83, according to GasBuddy. The average in Pennsylvania stood at $2.852 Philadelphia, while drivers in California pay an average of $3.712.

NYMEX futures prices for reformulated gasoline rallied Wednesday, with the July contract

RBN19, +4.61%

 trading up 8.4 cents, or 4.5%, at $1.961 a gallon. Prices got an additional boost after the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported a second-straight weekly decline in U.S. gasoline inventories. Prices had climbed 3.9% Friday after news of the refinery explosion and fire. They trade at their highest level since May.

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Check out the companies making headlines midday Wednesday:

A FedEx plane is parked at Ontario International Airport on February 4, 2019.

Micron Technology — Micron jumped 15% after the chipmaker beat expectations in its fiscal third-quarter report. The company reported adjusted earnings of $1.05 per share on revenue of $4.79 billion. Analysts polled by Refinitiv expected a profit of 79 cents per share and revenue of $4.69 billion. Micron CEO Sanjay Mehrotra also told analysts that the company had resumed shipments to Chinese technology company Huawei.

FedEx — FedEx shares rose 1.2% after the company reported adjusted quarterly profit of $5.01 per share, beating a Refinitiv estimate of $4.85. Its revenue also outpaced expectations. Gains were kept in check, however, as the company warned the U.S.-China trade dispute and the end of its contract would hurt its numbers moving forward. — Shares of, a service that helps connect people with care services like babysitters and elder care, fell 17.3% after the company announced Tuesday its chief financial officer, Michael Echenberg, would resign from the company. Echenberg will leave the company Aug. 30.

Fox — Fox shares rose 0.9% after Goldman Sachs initiated the television broadcaster as a conviction buy, citing expectations that it will increase its affiliate fee contracts and an early advantage in the U.S. sports betting market.

Slack — Shares of messaging app Slack rose 2.4% after Baird initiated coverage of the stock with an outperform rating, citing its early market penetration.

BlackBerry — BlackBerry shares tumbled more than 9% after the tech company reported a weaker-than-expected revenue for its biggest business. The company said its Internet of Things revenue in the previous quarter totaled $137 million. Analysts polled by Refinitiv expected the segment to haul in $151.4 million in sales.

General Mills — The Cheerios maker reported a quarterly revenue that disappointed investors, sending its stock down more than 5%. General Mills said fiscal fourth-quarter sales totaled $4.16 billion, missing a Refinitiv estimate of $4.24 billion.

AbbVie — AbbVie shares climbed 2.8% after an analyst at Leerink upgraded them to outperform from market perform. The analyst expects AbbVie to “extract more synergies from Allergan” than have been suggested.

Paychex — Shares of the payroll services company dropped 3% after an analyst at Bank of America downgraded them to underperform from neutral, citing an “excessive valuation ” and lackluster fundamentals.

—CNBC’s Jesse Pound and Marc Rod contributed to this report.

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