Nikkei Kicks Off New Year With Sharp Gains

Japan equities started the new year sharply higher on Wednesday, amid a robust outlook for the U.S. economy and a positive signal for Japanese manufacturing, as well as expectations of continued yen weakness.

The Nikkei Stock Average ended up 2.5% at a 13-month closing high, helped by gains in financial and export-oriented stocks, as trading resumed after a four-day holiday weekend. It was the first time since 2013 that the index…

Carnival Corp.’s new ‘smart ships’ know your name, what you want and where you want it

Imagine a future world defined by technology so subtle you hardly know its there.

Servers know what you want ahead of time, so your food is ready when you sit down. The “what should I do today?” question is answered by a list of curated options based on your personal interests. Standing in line is a remnant of a life long ago. And perhaps best of all, the technology works so smoothly that no users’ manual is required.

But this isn’t some distant, Trekkie future. Within months, passengers will find these features aboard Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess.

For the last 18 months, in a boxy building across from a Doral cow field, Carnival Corp. — parent of Princess and 9 other lines — has been imagining and then devising a seagoing smart city. In November, it will be introduced first on Royal Princess in Fort Lauderdale, creating a world in which the crew and even the ship itself respond to each guest’s needs — often before anyone asks.

The Doral-based cruise company is set to announce its futuristic innovation at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday, delivering what it promises will be the idea that changes how companies approach not only cruising, but the hospitality industry altogether.

It’s the first time that a company can know who you are, it can know what you want, it can know where you are, it can at least make a good guess at what mood you’re in and take everything on the ship and customize it to your individual need at this time. Joe Pine, co-author of the “Experience Economy”

The project directly addresses the argument that cruises are floating behemoths that carry thousands of people like they’re cattle and not individuals with specific needs, said Joe Pine, co-author of the “Experience Economy,” which theorized in 1998 that what consumers truly want are personalized experiences rather than goods.

Carnival is hoping its new approach reduces or even eliminates the major gripes surrounding cruising — both for those who have and haven’t traveled on a cruise ship before — such as crowding, queues to get on and off the ship, impersonal experiences and a lack of authenticity.

“It’s the first time that a company can know who you are, it can know what you want, it can know where you are, it can at least make a good guess at what mood you’re in and take everything on the ship and customize it to your individual need at this time,” Pine said.

What Carnival’s new system does well, he said, is maximize the time a vacationer spends on the things they enjoy, while minimizing the tedious logistics that can cut into their precious leisure experience.

Lines? No more; travelers will be able to book slots to disembark and skip the line when it’s time to get off. Crowded spaces? Services will come to the cruisers, rather than forcing them to congregate in one space while they wait for a drink or to book a shore excursion. Impersonal experience? Every cruiser will be addressed by name and crew members will know details about them even if they’ve never met. And lack of authenticity? Not so lacking in this smart world where activities are catered around individuals and not mass groups.

How it works

Don’t let the idea of super-smart tech overwhelm you. For the guest, Carnival’s new technology is deceptively simple.

It starts with a medallion, a quarter-sized disc weighing just under 2 ounces emblazoned with a traveler’s name, ship and sail date. Guests need only carry it around, or purchase a wristband or necklace to carry it in.

This medallion is like a starship room key embedded with information on the individual cruiser. Like card keys and bands on some other ships, the medallion helps travelers unlock doors and pay for goods. But here it does much more. It can alert crew to know who guests are as they approach. Guests preferences — such as dietary restrictions and dining reservations — will also be part of the information crew members see on tablets populated with information from the medallions.

The more cruisers do, the more the medallion knows what they like and the more customized their experience becomes.

We think once it’s actually executed in those first sailings in November on Princess, when people experience it, it’s going to be transformational. Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp.

Remind you of something? Part of the team behind Disney’s MagicBand, a wrist band that unlocks similar features at Disney parks, has been entrusted to create Carnival’s iteration. And they’ve kicked the experience up a few notches.

“Frictionless” is the word Carnival’s chief experience and innovation officer (and MagicBand’s creator) John Padgett uses to describe it.

“The millisecond it’s not perfect in its function, it becomes technology,” Padgett said during a tour of cruise company’s innovation center in early December. The experience, he said, is designed to be seamless.

With Carnival’s medallion for instance, guests don’t have to raise their hands to a sensor — as they do with the MagicBand — to open a door. Instead, the room already knows they’re coming — so it will also know to change the temperature of the cabin depending on the weather outside — and will open only for its occupants.

The medallion system isn’t that different from a smart phone and its operating system. Imagine the phone is the ship and the medallion is iOS or Android. The phone knows only to open for your pass code — and it knows your preferences, what apps you enjoy, what sites you frequent.

This medallion helps travelers unlock doors, pay for goods, communicate with crew members, book excursions and set up time slots to embark and disembark the ship.

But for the medallion to know you — just as with a phone — you have to start by inputting information. Travelers are prompted prior to their vacations to plug in some simple background information, such as interests and credit card information, in a companion app called the OceanCompass. The OceanCompass can be accessed on a phone, computer or tablet and is also available on thousands of interactive screens — or “portals” — around the ship. The medallion does the rest.

“On the medallion, you don’t have to do anything, you just have it,” Padgett said. “It eliminates all action, unlike MagicBand.”

Based on information entered into the app and past choices (such as excursion purchases), the portal will analyze each guest’s interests (Do you like adventure and discovery? Fitness? Relaxation? All of the above?) and offer a selection of activities on board and at ports. Those offerings are based solely on guest interests, says Padgett, not on what makes money for the cruise line.

Thanks to location technology in the medallion, guests’ selection of options change as they move around the ship.

At the sports deck? Maybe a game of volleyball then or pick-up basketball. Near the bar? How about a wine tasting?

But there’s no need to worry about schedule conflicts; if guests already have booked something on their schedule, the OceanCompass won’t show options for that time slot. No need to for cruisers to feel stressed by running from place to place or worse, that sensation of missing out on something.

Ordering will be easier, too. Goods and services ordered through a mobile device or onboard portal will find guests, rather than the other way around. A traveler could order a drink via the app at the pool deck and then walk away. The server would be able to find them wherever on the ship they go.


“I think initially most people won’t comprehend it. And they will say, ‘We have stuff like that,’ and they are wrong. They don’t,” said Arnold Donald, Carnival’s president and CEO, in an interview. “We think once it’s actually executed in those first sailings in November on Princess, when people experience it, it’s going to be transformational.”

Stewart Chiron, a 27-year veteran of the industry, said Carnival’s technology is unlike any new project he’s ever seen in cruising.

Many previous shipboard innovations were adapted from concepts already available on shore, such as surfing simulators on Royal Caribbean or bowling alleys on Norwegian Cruise Line. Carnival Corp.’s new system is truly a first.

“This is a whole new level and it’s just not for cruising, it’s for hospitality. This kind of tech can be licensed anywhere,” Chrion said.

This is a whole new level and it’s just not for cruising, it’s for hospitality. This kind of tech can be licensed anywhere. Stewart Chiron, cruise industry expert

But the project does include some features cruisers may find invasive, Chiron said. For instance, the digital photo wall will mine the medallion’s location technology to project images of other cruisers who have passed within five feet of you on a voyage. Travelers can see photos of the couple they sat with at dinner or the family next to them at the pool that afternoon.

In staterooms, too, sensors alert crew to come back later when cruisers are occupied in their cabins.

Still, the ease of use will likely win detractors over, Chiron said.

He likens it to storing credit card information on a frequently used website, or the SunPass automated toll payment system. At first people were skeptical.

“Now people don’t care,” he said. “We are so advanced in technology today that they don’t have to recreate the mistakes from yesterday.”

The differentiator, said author Pine, is that when information demonstrably improves a customer’s experience, the concern of intrusion falls away.

It’s revolving around information about this individual, living, breathing person and using the information you gather to benefit that person. When you do that you have a powerful competitive advantage. Joe Pine, co-author of the “Experience Economy”

Pine predicts others companies will likely follow as they have with the MagicBand (Royal Caribbean International, for instance, has a band that opens doors when tapped against a pad on the door), but says it may take them years to catch up.

That’s thanks to the learning relationship the new technology fosters with its wearer. The information on what a cruiser likes is retained for the next time he or she sails and continues to evolve as the wearer’s needs evolve.

“It’s revolving around information about this individual, living, breathing person and using the information you gather to benefit that person. When you do that you have a powerful competitive advantage,” Pine said. “Even if a competitor comes along that has the same capabilities, what are the chances I would go to that competitor? Because I would have to teach a competitor all over again what Carnival already knows [about me] today.

“…It is revolutionary.”

Accelerating economic activity, inflation sustain investors’ festive fizz

LONDON Upbeat global economic data and growing signs that inflation on both sides of the Atlantic is accelerating fueled a second day of 2017 gains across world stock markets on Wednesday, and lifted the euro and oil prices.

A batch of reports from Europe showed that French consumer confidence hit a nine-year high, business activity across the euro zone rose at the fastest pace in more than five years and inflation in the euro zone is its highest in over three years.

This followed similarly upbeat reports this week on U.S., British, Chinese and Japanese business activity and helped steer investors toward riskier assets that benefit from higher interest rates – such as equities – and away from lower-yielding assets, including bonds.

“Over the month, confidence increased in the manufacturing sector and stabilized in services, amid solid new orders and businesses, strong optimism and elevated backlog of works,” said Apolline Menut, economist at Barclays.

“This suggests that euro area activity is poised for a strong start in 2017,” she said.

Economists at HSBC on Wednesday raised their 2017 and 2018 forecasts for global growth and inflation, the first time in nearly five years they have upped these outlooks over a two-year horizon.

At midsession in Europe on Wednesday, Europe’s index of leading 300 shares was flat at 1,445 points, supported by a 0.5-percent rise in financials but capped by the strength of the single currency.

The FTSEuroFirst 300 hit a 1-year high on Tuesday.

One of the biggest movers on major European bourses was UK retailer Next. Its shares fell as much as 14 percent after a profit warning. The stock has lost nearly 40 percent over the past year.

MSCI’s benchmark global index rose for a second day to trade 0.3 percent higher, and its index of major Asian shares excluding Japan rose for a seventh consecutive day, gaining 0.4 percent.

U.S. futures pointed to a higher opening of up to 0.2 percent on Wall Street, priming the Dow Jones for another test of the 20,000-point mark.


The potential for further U.S. rate hikes this year ensured profit-taking on the dollar’s run on Tuesday was limited to 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies.

The dollar’s strength in Asian trading helped Japan’s exporter-heavy stock market rally toward its biggest daily increase for almost two months.

In its first trading day of the year, the Nikkei climbed 2.50 percent and looked set for the highest close since December 2015. It was further aided by domestic data showing factory activity had expanded at the fastest pace in a year.

The euro rose 0.3 percent to $1.0435, and the dollar gave up earlier gains against the yen to trade little changed at 117.75 yen.

The continued grind higher in euro zone inflation is lifting inflation expectations closer to the European Central Bank’s target of just below 2 percent. This offers some welcome relief to ECB policymakers who for years have struggled to lift growth and inflation.

The focus for investors now turns to the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting last month, when it raised rates.

“It will be interesting to see just how much the (incoming Trump administration’s) fiscal stimulus plans contributed to the interest rate forecasts from Fed policymakers in December and whether there is potential for the pace to be faster still,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda.

U.S. Treasury yields inched up marginally, rising almost two basis points to 2.47 percent before easing back, but German and UK yields were down a basis point at 0.25 percent and 1.31 percent , respectively.

Germany’s 10-year yield had hit a two-week high of 0.29 percent on Tuesday.

In commodity markets, oil prices recovered from a fall of more than 2 percent on Tuesday. U.S. crude bounced back 0.5 percent to stand at $52.58 a barrel, while Brent futures rose 0.5 percent to $55.74.

Gold took advantage of the dollar’s slip to trade 0.6 percent higher at $1,165 an ounce.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Wall Street set to open higher, Fed minutes eyed

Wall Street looked set for a second day of gains on Wednesday as oil prices edged up slightly, and investors awaited the minutes of Federal Reserve’s December meeting in which it raised interest rates.

The Fed cited strength in the labor market and a slight uptick in inflation among reasons for its move. Investors will pore over the minutes to assess policymakers’ view on the incoming administration.

The minutes of the Dec. 13-14 meeting are expected at 2:00 p.m. ET.

With just over two weeks left before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, investors are waiting for the finer details of his proposed policies such as tax cuts and higher fiscal spending.

Some analysts have warned of a potential correction in a post-election rally, which has helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI to come within a hair’s breadth of 20,000.

“I think the market has gotten ahead of itself and is probably primed to give something back,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth.

“When it could happen and how long it lasts depends on the new administration’s ability to pass some of the initiatives that they pushed for during the election.”

The SP 500 is trading at 17.5 times forward 12-month earnings, well above the 10-year median of 14.7 times, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were up 43 points, or 0.22 percent at 8:26 a.m. ET, with 16,031 contracts changing hands. SP 500 e-minis ESc1 were up 5.75 points, or 0.26 percent, with 106,101 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 were up 10.75 points, or 0.22 percent, on volume of 12,897 contracts.

Automakers will report U.S. sales for December and the full year. Encouraging data could push the Dow to the elusive 20,000 mark. The Dow closed at 19,881.76 on Tuesday.

Wall Street ended the first trading of the new year with sharp gains as increases in technology stocks helped offset a decline in oil prices.

Oil, which hit an 18-month high on Tuesday before reversing course due to a strong dollar, was up marginally at $55.67 on Wednesday.

The dollar fell to profit-taking and was down 0.27 percent, a day after its index .DXY rose to a 14-year high.

Tesla (TSLA.O) shares fell 1.2 percent to $214.50 premarket after the electric carmaker reported a 9.4 percent decline in quarterly deliveries.

Agile Therapeutics (AGRX.O) lost 64 percent of its value in heavy trading and is set to open at a record low after the company provided an update on its contraceptive patch trial.

Depomed (DEPO.O) soared 12.5 percent to $22.89 after the NY Post reported that KKR Co was still interested in buying the drugmaker.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Tillerson and Exxon part ways; $180M retirement package

FILE - In this Friday, March 27, 2015, file photo, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on the release of a report by the National Petroleum Council on oil drilling in the Arctic, in Washington. Tillerson, the nominee of President-elect Donald Trump for secretary of state, is severing ties with Exxon Mobil through a $180 million retirement package ahead of his Senate confirmation hearing. Photo: Evan Vucci, AP / Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

NEW YORK (AP) — Rex Tillerson, the nominee of President-elect Donald Trump for secretary of state, is severing ties with Exxon Mobil through a $180 million retirement package one week before his Senate confirmation hearing begins.

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Trump thanks Ford for halting Mexico plant

Mark Fields_ford_Getty.jpg

Ford CEO Mark Fields said his company had not cut a deal with Trump, but that the president-elect’s promises to make America more business friendly had played a role in the company’s decision. | Getty

One day after criticizing General Motors for manufacturing cars in Mexico, President-elect Donald Trump sung the praises of its chief competitor, Ford Motor Company, for abandoning plans to build a new Mexican plant and build instead in Michigan.

“Thank you to Ford for scrapping a new plant in Mexico and creating 700 new jobs in the U.S. This is just the beginning – much more to follow,” Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning.

Story Continued Below

Ford announced on Tuesday that it will invest $700 million into a plant in Michigan and eliminate plans to build a new facility in Mexico. Ford CEO Mark Fields said his company had not cut a deal with Trump, but that the president-elect’s promises to make America more business friendly had played a role in the company’s decision.

“We see a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under President-elect Trump and the pro-growth policies he’s talking about,” Fields said Tuesday at the Michigan factory that will get the new investment. “This is a vote of confidence for president-elect Trump and some of the policies he may be pursuing.”

Trump campaigned hard on his promise to rebuild America’s base of manufacturing jobs, promising to impose a 35 percent tariff on companies that move jobs overseas and then import products back into the U.S. He railed against trade agreements like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, vowing to tear them up and renegotiate more favorable conditions for American workers.

Trump’s praise for Ford came one day after he attacked General Motors for building its Chevrolet Cruze models in Mexico and the importing them back into the U.S. He said the automotive manufacturer should “make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!” In a statement released in response to Trump, GM said it makes all of its Cruze sedans in Ohio and makes some hatchback models in Mexico, most of which are sold internationally although some are brought back into the U.S.

Euro-Area Inflation Outpaces Expectations as Oil Surges

Euro-area inflation accelerated in December at the fastest pace since 2013, suggesting that a debate about the appropriate degree of European Central Bank stimulus is about to gather momentum.

Consumer prices rose 1.1 percent from a year earlier, following a 0.6 percent gain in November, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said on Wednesday. That’s above a median forecast of 1 percent in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Core inflation, which excludes volatile items such as energy and food, increased to 0.9 percent last month.

The data follow the ECB’s decision to prolong quantitative easing to guarantee a sustained pickup in inflation in a year that could see economies hit by political uncertainty. Surprisingly strong accelerations of headline rates in Germany and Spain, mainly driven by a surge in the cost of oil, may strengthen the central bank’s focus on weakness in underlying price pressures as it assesses policy in coming months.

“It could certainly make for a tricky meeting in the first quarter and when the ECB presents staff projections in March, because by then we’ll have January and February inflation data which will very likely be higher than today,” said Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd in Newcastle. “The ECB has already preempted the situation by changing its focus to core inflation.”

Germany’s inflation rate unexpectedly jumped to 1.7 percent in December in the largest increase since European Union harmonized numbers were first published in 1997. Spain reported price growth of 1.4 percent, while Italy and France both saw inflation pick up for a second consecutive month, though at a slower pace.

The unexpectedly strong acceleration in both regional and national inflation rates follows a 12.6 percent surge in Brent crude last month. ECB President Mario Draghi said in December that price growth remained weak, even as Executive Board member Benoit Coeure told Boersen-Zeitung last week that inflation could face upside risks.

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, one of the ECB’s most hawkish officials, has argued in favor of a swift unwinding of stimulus once price growth allows, while Ifo President Clemens Fuest said in an interview published Tuesday the central bank may want to consider ending asset purchases as early as March.

The ECB extended QE last month until at least the end of 2017, while reducing the monthly pace to 60 billion euros ($63 billion) starting in April from the current 80 billion euros.

Euro-area inflation data come after a report showed that the region’s economy finished 2016 with the strongest momentum in more than 5 1/2 years. A composite Purchasing Managers’ Index climbed to 54.4 in December from 53.9 in November, with expansions in both manufacturing and services supported in part by a weaker euro, according to IHS Markit.

“There are several hawks on the ECB council who are bound to point to these numbers as an indication that the ECB shouldn’t be continuing its policy support, certainly shouldn’t continue buying such large quantities of assets right until the end of the year,” said Jennifer McKeown, chief European economist at Capital Economics in London. “But I think the consensus will be to continue to look through these increases. They are largely energy-related.”

Garmin announces three variants of updated Fenix 5 GPS watch

The next generation of Fenix wearables was unveiled at CES on Wednesday, when Garmin took the wraps off three new versions of the company’s popular line of GPS-enabled watches. The updated Fenix 5 is thinner, lighter, and more versatile than its predecessor, though it offers the same cutting-edge functionality that has made previous versions of watch so popular with outdoor athletes. The latest edition of the Fenix brings a host of new functionality as well, including daily activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, and extended battery life to keep up with an active lifestyles.

The standard Fenix 5 received a design overhaul, and now features a thinner, more compact body. The device is a mere 47mm thin, yet offers the same functionality found in previous generations, including the popular Fenix 3HR. And thanks to the new QuickFit bands, users can give the watch an entirely new look in just a matter of seconds. QuickFit bands will be available in leather, metal, and silicone, and can be replaced without the use of tools of any kind.

More: Polar Team pro shirt allows coaches to track their entire team’s performance

The new Fenix 5S is another redesign of the classic Fenix watch, but this time it has been built specifically with the ladies in mind. At just 42mm, the 5S  has been made to fit comfortably on more petite wrists without compromising any of the device’s multisport features. The standard model comes in silver with either a white, turquoise, or black silicone band. The 5S Sapphire model includes a scratch-resistant sapphire glass lens, and is available in black with a black band, champagne with a water-resistant gray suede band, or champagne with a metal band. All Sapphire models also come with a sporty, silicone QuickFit band.

The third new addition to the Fenix family is the 5X, which is a bit larger than the standard Fenix 5 at 51 millimeters, but adds some extra functionality to make up for the larger size. The 5X comes preloaded with topographic maps for the United States, and has routable cycling and running maps, too. It even features options for a “Round Trip Run” or “Round Trip Ride,” with the watch suggesting a host of appropriate courses. Once the wearer starts his or her workout, the watch will provide cues for approaching turns, ensuring that athletes always stay on course. The 5X also includes an “Around Me” feature that provides information about points of interest and waypoints that are nearby. A Sapphire version of the 5X is also available with a scratch-resistant lens.

Each of the Fenix 5 models comes equipped with a multisport toolset for running, cycling, swimming, hiking, and other outdoor activities. They also feature Garmin Elevate, the company’s proprietary heart rate monitoring technology, which works without the need to wear a bulky chest strap. All three versions of the Fenix 5 include daily activity tracking and they offer support for both GPS and GLONASS satellite navigation, too. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also an onboard 3-axis compass, gyroscope, and barometric altimeter for even more precise tracking of movement, including vertical gain and loss.

The Fenix 5, 5S, and 5X can serve as a smartwatch, too. When paired with a smartphone, users can receive notifications of text messages, emails, and missed calls right on their wrist, with alerts being displayed on the watch’s screen. These latest editions of the Fenix are also compatible with Garmin’s ConnectIQ, which gives the wearer the ability to customize their watch with apps, widgets, and custom faces as well. All Sapphire models of the Fenix 5 also have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, which allows them to upload workout data to Garmin Connect independent of another device.

As you would expect with an active lifestyle watch, all versions of the Fenix 5 are water resistant down to 100 meters and are built to withstand life in the outdoors. Garmin says that the standard Fenix 5 gets about two weeks worth of battery life when in smartwatch mode, and roughly 24 hours when its GPS tracking features are turned on. For the 5X those numbers drop slightly to 12 days in smartwatch mode and 20 hours of GPS usage, while the smaller 5S can get up to eight days of battery life in smartwatch mode and 13 hours while using the GPS features.

All version of the Fenix 5 will be available in the first quarter of 2017, with the standard model and the 5S both carrying an MSRP of $600. The Fenix 5 Sapphire, 5S Sapphire, and the 5X will be priced at $700. For more information, visit

This is Samsung’s next premium TV line: The QLED Smart TV

Samsung has brand new TVs for you, though you’ll have to wait a while to get your hands on one. Unveiled at CES 2017, the new QLED TVs are supposed to offer an overall better experience as they will become the company’s new flagship TV series, ready to replace the SUHD family.

The QLED TVs are supposed to be even smarter and better connect to all your TV devices. The operating system should recognize what they are and let you control them with the default Samsung Smart Remote.

When it comes to picture quality, the QLED models should offer users a few noticeable improvements, including better viewing angles, better colors including better blacks, and brighter HDR (high dynamic range) performance.

The new TVs use what Samsung calls a “metal Quantum dot material that allows for dramatically enhanced color performance, as well as the expression of very deep blacks and rich details in all viewing environments.”


The new TV family comes in two flavors, including Q8 Curved and Q9 Flat, with Samsung showing off 65-inch versions at the show.

What’s interesting about the flat models is that you can hang them on a wall just like a painting. They sit flush with the wall thanks to a new mounting mechanism. Digital Trends also reveals there’s a new component to help, a nearly invisible cable management system that uses fiber-optic to move the video signal from a special box that would be hooked up with all your TV-related devices. Power still needs to be provided to the display from a regular power outlet.

Pricing details and launch dates aren’t yet available for Samsung’s QLED screens.