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How Intel plans to be top chipmaker again, beating TSMC and Samsung

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For decades, Intel was the leading maker ofthe world’s most advanced chips. Of late, the company has been unable to keep up with the pace of change that co-founder Gordon Moore forecast for the technology industry.

Moore’s Law predicted that the density of transistors able to fit on a chip would double approximately every two years.

“Intel was the Moore’s Law company and the undisputed leader,” said Christopher Rolland, an analyst at Susquehanna. “And something that was supposed to take them two years instead took them more than five. And they still struggle to get back on Moore’s Law today.”

While Intel’s newly released Alder Lake CPUs are packed with competitive features, its chip technology is behind that of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and Samsung. Fifty years after Intel debuted the 4004, the world’s first CPU, it’s been hindered by several production delays.

“We had some missteps,” said Pat Gelsinger, who took over as Intel’s CEO in February. “The strategy had become a little bit confused on the role that we’re going to play in manufacturing for the long term. And now we’re leaning back into that with clarity, with clear urgency.”

Gelsinger has an ambitious roadmap to catch and surpass Samsung and TSMC by 2025. Key to the plan is a series of massive new chip fabrication plants, or fabs, that Intel is building in the U.S., Europe and Israel. Combined, they will cost more than $44 billion to build.

“I think I have more concrete trucks working for me today than any other human on the planet,” Gelsinger said.”We have construction in Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, Ireland and Israel. And we expect to plant our next major fabs in the U.S. and Europe before the end of this year.”

Doubling down on manufacturing is one of the major moves Gelsinger has made since taking the helm. He also recently announced Intel Foundry Services, a business that opens up Intel’s fabs to make chips designed by Amazon, Qualcomm and other customers. For decades, the markets have rewarded giants like Apple and Qualcomm for being fabless. But the chip shortage has made manufacturing chips a more attractive business, allowing TSMC, for example, to raise chip prices as much as 20%.

“It takes time to build this infrastructure,” said Keyvan Esfarjani, Intel’s senior vice president of manufacturing, supply chain and operations. “But the good news is, the world is rallying behind building additional capacity.”

Intel senior vice president Keyvan Esfarjani and Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger at the groundbreaking of two new chip fabrication plants in Chandler, Arizona, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

Intel Corporation

The world’s smallest and most-efficient chips are usually referred to as 5 nanometer, a nomenclature that once referred to the width of transistors on the chip. They power cutting-edge data processing and the latest generation of Apple iPhones. TSMC and Samsung make all of these 5-nanometer chips at fabs in Asia.

“They took their eye off the ball,” said Stacy Rasgon, an analyst at Bernstein. “Once you fall off the treadmill, it’s really really difficult to get back on. It’s a very dynamic and fast-moving industry.”

In 1990, 37% of the world’s semiconductors were made in the U.S., according to industry association Semi. Last year, U.S. market share was down to 12%, according to the association. The government is hoping to change that with the CHIPS Act, which includes a proposed $52 billion in subsidies for chip companies like Intel that commit to manufacturing in the U.S.

“It also starts building up that base within the United States, so that the United States can become more self-sufficient,” said Ann Kelleher, Intel’s senior vice president of technology development .

TSMC is responsible for 92% of the world’s 5-nanometer chips, according to research group Capital Economics. This leaves the global chip supply vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and the region’s current drought. There’s also the escalating geopolitical tension between China and Taiwan, as well as the U.S.-China trade war.

“Every aspect of defense, intelligence, government operations is becoming more digital,” Gelsinger said. “And we want to rely on foreign technology for those critical aspects of our defense and national security? I don’t think so.”

The next steps in Intel’s playbook include a chip so efficient that the company didn’t measure it in nanometers but with an even smaller unit of measurement called the angstrom. Intel said the 18a, which is in development for 2025, will accelerate the company past its competitors.

“We will be the world’s largest integrated design and manufacturer of silicon for the long term,” Gelsinger said.

“It’s a tall order and it is not my expectation that he will hit that,” Susquehanna’s Rolland said. “But if he could hit that timetable, it would put them back, in my opinion, on par with TSM head to head.”

Watch the video to see CNBC’s exclusive tour inside the clean rooms of Intel’s massive chip fab in Hillsboro, Oregon, set to open early next year.

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Boeing, airline stocks tumble as new Covid variant spurs travel curbs

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Boeing, airlines and other travel stocks tumbled on Friday after several European and Asian countries announced new travel restrictions from southern Africa because of a new Covid variant.

European Union member nations on Friday agreed to suspend travel from the region, a day after the U.K. said it would temporarily suspend flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The U.S. starting Monday will bar entry to visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The Biden administration announced that decision after the stock market closed on Friday.

South African scientists detected the variant, which contains high numbers of mutations, raising concerns that it could spread quickly.

Health officials cautioned more research is needed, but the new travel restrictions highlight how quickly countries can limit travel as new variants are detected. The fast-spreading delta variant of the virus earlier this year drove down travel demand and prompted some companies to delay employees’ return to the office.

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers like Boeing have been upbeat about a rebound in travel demand, particularly from a recent drop in cases and after the U.S. lifted entry restrictions earlier this month.

Travel and aerospace shares fell more than the broader market on Friday but several pared earlier losses. Boeing shares dropped 5.4% to $199.21 during an abbreviated, post-holiday session.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are the only U.S. carriers with nonstop service scheduled to and from South Africa next month. United lost 9.6% to close at $42.26, while Delta fell 8.3% to $36.38. American Airlines dropped 8.8% to $17.75. Hotel giant Hilton dropped 6.3% to $136.21, while Marriott ended down 6.5% at $147.44.

There are 122 flights between the U.S. and South Africa scheduled for December, according to aviation consulting firm Cirium. United, which has the most scheduled service with 87 flights, is set to resume nonstop flights between its Newark, New Jersey, hub and Cape Town next month. A spokeswoman said no changes are currently planned.

Delta has 35 scheduled flights between the U.S. and South Africa in December.

“Delta will continue to work closely with our government partners to evaluate any changes to U.S. policy,” the airline said in a statement.

British Airways will operate 214 flights between London and South Africa next month, while Virgin Atlantic will operate 75, according to Cirium.

“Following the latest announcement from the Health Secretary we’re working through plans for our customers and colleagues currently in South Africa and those due to travel from the UK in the coming days,” British Airways, an American Airlines partner, said in a statement. The carrier said it would contact customers affected by the changes.

Delta’s transatlantic partner Virgin Atlantic said it would cancel flights from Johannesburg from Friday to early Sunday because of the new U.K. rules.

On Nov. 8, the Biden administration lifted a broad pandemic travel ban on most non-citizens visiting from more than 30 countries, including the U.K., the EU, South Africa and Brazil.

Though domestic travel had largely recovered from early pandemic lockdowns, international travel remained a missing piece in airlines’ recovery.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S. and generally one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.3 million people. That was the most since February 2020, though still 12% below the same day in 2019.

CNBC’s Matt Clinch contributed to this article.

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International travel: India updates rules, tells states to strictly monitor incoming passengers from these countries!

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These countries are a part of Indias list of at-risk countries

Foreign travellers in India new rules: On Thursday, the Union Health Ministry gave some new rules for foreign travellers. States were directed by the Centre that international travellers transiting via or coming from South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana needed to undergo rigorous testing as well as screening. This is because the new heavily mutated COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 is spreading in these countries with multiple cases having been reported there. Notably, India has already dealt with the severe Delta variant earlier this year in a major second wave, and so, it makes sense that the advisory was issued as soon as concerns regarding the variant started making rounds in the scientific community.

Also read | South African scientists detect new virus variant amid spike

A report in IE cited Rajesh Bhushan, the Health Secretary, as saying that as per the National Centre for Disease Control in India, Botswana has reported four cases of the new variant, Hong Kong has reported two, while South Africa has reported 22 cases. The Health Secretary also said that since the variant B.1.1.529 has a very high number of mutations, it can be a severe issue for India considering the fact that the country has been relaxing visa norms and opening up its doors to international travel after having remained shut to a large extent for over a year. These factors make it imperative that an advisory is issued to ensure that relaxed norms do not lead to an issue for public health in India.

These countries are a part of Indias list of at-risk countries, and therefore, international travellers coming from or coming via these places would need to undergo strict screening and testing procedures. Apart from this, the contacts of such travellers would also be tracked closely.

With this, if any sample from travellers tests positive for COVID-19, states would have to send it to the labs designated under INSACOG or Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium. INSACOG tracks as well as monitors the COVID-19 variants that are of concern and of interest in India for their emergence and transmission. Apart from this, the state surveillance officers would need to coordinate with INSACOG labs and follow the test-track-treat principle to prevent the variant from transmitting.

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Oil drops 13% in worst day of 2021, breaks below $70 as new Covid variant sparks global demand concerns

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Working oil pumps against a sunset sky.

Imaginima | E+ | Getty Images

Oil posted its worst day of the year on Friday, tumbling to the lowest level in more than two months as the new Covid-19 strain sparked fears about a demand slowdown just as supply increases.

The leg lower came amid a broad sell-off in the market with the Dow dropping more than 900 points. The World Health Organization warned Thursday of a new Covid variant detected in South Africa. It could be more resistant to vaccines thanks to its mutations, although the WHO said further investigation is needed.

U.S. oil settled 13.06%, or $10.24, lower at $68.15 per barrel, falling below the key $70 level. It was the contract’s worst day since April 2020. WTI also closed below its 200-day moving average a key technical indicator for the first time since November 2020.

International benchmark Brent crude futures slid 11.55% to settle at $72.72 per barrel.

Both contracts registered their fifth straight week of losses for the longest weekly losing streak since March 2020.

A decrease in travel and potential new lockdowns, both of which could hit demand, come just as supply is about to increase.

“It appears that the discovery of a Covid-19 variant in southern Africa is spooking markets across the board. Germany is already limiting travel from several nations in the affected region,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital. “The last thing that the oil complex needs is another threat to the air travel recovery,” he added.

On Tuesday the Biden Administration announced plans to release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The move is part of a global effort by energy-consuming nations to calm 2021s rapid rise in fuel prices. India, China, Japan, South Korea and the U.K. will also release some of their reserves.

“This [the sell-off] is attributable to concerns about a sizeable oversupply in early 2022 that is set to be brought about by the upcoming release of strategic oil reserves in the US and other major consumer countries, plus the ongoing steep rise in new coronavirus cases,” noted analysts at Commerzbank. “Furthermore, an even more transmissible variant of the virus has been discovered in South Africa, prompting a noticeable increase in risk aversion on the financial markets today.”

OPEC and its oil-producing allies are set to meet on Dec. 2 to discuss production policy for January and beyond. The group has slowly eased the historic output cuts it agreed to in April 2020 as the coronavirus sapped demand for petroleum products. Since August the group, known as OPEC+, has returned 400,000 barrels per day to the market each month.

The group has maintained its gradual taper despite calls from the White House and others to hike output as oil prices surged to multi-year highs. West Texas Intermediate crude futures hit a seven-year high in October, while Brent rose to a three-year high.

U.S. oil is now down more than $15 since its October high of $85.41.

“The coordinated SPR release is getting a second look, as well, especially with OPEC decrying it and asserting that the release will tip the global market back into surplus. The release is much more than just a drop in the bucket,” added Kilduff.

Energy stocks followed oil lower on Friday, and the group was the worst-performing S&P 500 sector, falling more than 4%. Devon Energy, APA and Occidental were among the biggest losers.

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