United moves deeper into Latin America with Avianca, Copa tie-up

CHICAGO, SAO PAULO (Reuters) – United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.O) on Friday said it had finalized a three-way joint venture with carriers Avianca Holdings SA AVT_p.CN of Colombia and Copa Airlines of Panama, giving the U.S. airline a deeper foothold in Latin America where travel demand is rising.

FILE PHOTO: A customer is reflected in a screen showing the schedule times of United at Newark International airport in New Jersey , November 15, 2012. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

Like its main U.S. rivals, No. 3 U.S. carrier United has been eyeing untapped potential for leisure and business travelers in Latin America, where many still travel long distances by car and bus.

United, Avianca and Copa are already codeshare partners and Star Alliance members, but a joint venture will allow them to plan routes and fares together and share revenues on those routes.

Shares in each of the three carriers ended higher on Friday.

Under the deal, United said it would provide a $456 million term loan to cash-strapped Avianca’s top shareholder, Synergy Group Corp. Loss-making Avianca has a roughly $4 billion debt pile, of which 40 percent is due within the next two years, according to recent financial statements.

Latin American airlines in general have experienced a turbulent few years, hit by a double whammy of high oil prices and devaluing currencies in local markets, which make it more expensive to cover dollar-denominated costs like fuel and aircraft rent.

Travel has also suffered in the dominant regional economy Brazil, which has suffered from its deepest recession in decades but remains the largest aviation market in the region, and one of the biggest in the world.

United, which already owns an 8 percent stake in Brazilian carrier Azul SA, said it was exploring the possibility of adding the country to its joint partnership with Avianca and Copa.

The three carriers’ agreement is subject to regulatory approval in the United States and several jurisdictions in Central and South America. Copa Airlines said in a press release that process would take between 12 and 18 months.

However, a similar deal between American Airlines Group (AAL.O) and Chile’s Latam Airlines Group (LTM.SN) signed in January 2016 only received Chilean antitrust approval last month.

United’s deal with Avianca, long in the works, had undergone significant legal back-and-forth after the Colombian flagship carrier’s No. 2 shareholder Kingsland Ltd tried to halt negotiations between United and Synergy. The parties eventually came to an agreement.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; additional reporting by Marcelo Alonso Rochabrun in Sao Paulo and Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Tom Brown

Exclusive: Boeing eyes Lion Air crash software upgrade in 6-8 weeks

SEATTLE/PARIS (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) is weighing plans to launch a software upgrade for its 737 MAX in six to eight weeks that would help address a scenario faced by the Lion Air crew during last month’s deadly crash in Indonesia, two people briefed on the matter said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A Boeing 737 MAX 8 sits outside the hangar during a media tour of the Boeing 737 MAX at the Boeing plant in Renton, Washington December 8, 2015. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight/File Photo

Crash investigators are focusing on the possibility that a new anti-stall system that repeatedly pushed the Lion Air jetliner’s nose down was being fed by erroneous data from a faulty sensor left in place after a previous hazardous flight.

Boeing has said cockpit procedures that were applied on the previous flight are already in place to tackle such a problem, and that its 737 series remains safe to fly.

But U.S. regulators have said Boeing is also examining a possible software fix, after coming under fire for not outlining recent changes to the automated system in the manual for the 737 MAX, the latest version of its best-selling passenger jet.

While plans for the possible fix are not final, Boeing’s software upgrade could block the recently modified anti-stall system, known as MCAS, from continuously running until the plane hits its nose-down limit, the sources said.

The MCAS function would be disabled if the crew counteracted it by trimming or adjusting settings in the opposite direction, according to two people briefed on Boeing’s proposals.

“When the crew makes the adjustment, that would essentially disengage MCAS unless it got new data,” one of the people said.

Data from the Lion Air flight recorder suggests the pilots sought to correct the system more than two dozen times before the jetliner plunged into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, killing all 189 people onboard.

Attention has focused on the role of a suspect “angle of attack” sensor used to drive alerts on stall or loss of lift.

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While each 737 has two of these blade-shaped vanes, the plane’s anti-stall system relies on data pulled from just a single vane during each flight, compared with a three-sensor “voting” system on rival Airbus (AIR.PA) jetliners.

Boeing’s software update would come as an emergency measure from Boeing and Federal Aviation Administration, the sources said.

SECOND PROBE

The specific system for preventing stalls was not originally designed to monitor both probes because regulators assumed risks of a mishap were small and would be further reduced by the presence of a trained crew and power switches on errant systems.

Now, however, Boeing is examining whether the anti-stall system should also check data from the second probe before engaging, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Boeing declined comment on the proposed changes.

“As part of our standard practice following any accident or incident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, issue bulletins and make recommendations to operators to further enhance safety,” a Boeing spokeswoman said.

“Boeing continues to evaluate the need for software or other changes as we learn more from the ongoing investigation.”

The FAA has repeatedly said it will “take further action if findings from the accident investigation warrant.”

A decision to update the software has not been finalised and Boeing could choose a different strategy, the people said.

The world’s largest planemaker has 4,542 of the upgraded 737 MAX on order from airlines, worth over half a trillion dollars at list prices, or about half that after typical discounts.

Boeing has delivered 241 of the jets to customers since it entered service last year, according to its website.

Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Tim Hepher in Paris; Additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago, David Shepardson in Washington and Jamie Freed in Singapore; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Trump studying new auto tariffs after GM restructuring

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that new auto tariffs were “being studied now,” asserting they could prevent job cuts such as the U.S. layoffs and plant closures that General Motors Co (GM.N) announced this week.

FILE PHOTO: A sign for General Motors Warren Transmission Operations plant is seen in Warren, Michigan, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

Trump said on Twitter that the 25 percent tariff placed on imported pickup trucks and commercial vans from markets outside North America in the 1960s had long boosted U.S. vehicle production.

“If we did that with cars coming in, many more cars would be built here,” Trump said, “and G.M. would not be closing their plants in Ohio, Michigan & Maryland.”

The United States currently has a 2.5 percent tariff on imported cars and sport utility vehicles from markets outside North America and South Korea. The new North American trade deal exempts the first 2.6 million SUVs and passenger cars built in Mexico and Canada from new tariffs.

Several automakers said privately on Wednesday they feared GM’s action could prompt Trump to take action faster than expected on new tariffs.

GM did not directly comment on Trump’s tweets, but reiterated that it was committed to investing in the United States. On Monday, the company said it would shutter five North American plants, stop building six low-selling passenger cars in North America and cut up to 15,000 jobs. The company has no plans to shift production of those vehicles to other markets.

The administration has for months been considering imposing dramatic new tariffs on imported vehicles.

The U.S. Commerce Department has circulated draft recommendations to the White House on its investigation into whether to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts on national security grounds, Reuters reported earlier this month.

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters before boarding the Marine One helicopter to begin his travel to Mississippi from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“The President has great power on this issue – Because of the G.M. event, it is being studied now!” Trump said.

The prospect of tariffs of 25 percent on imported autos and parts has sent shockwaves through the auto industry, with both U.S. and foreign-brand producers lobbying against it and warning that national security tariffs on EU and Japanese vehicles could dramatically raise the price of many vehicles.

‘ALL AVAILABLE TOOLS’

Trump has also harshly criticized GM for building cars in China. The United States slapped an additional 25 percent tariff on Chinese-made vehicles earlier this year, prompting China to retaliate.

China currently imposes a 40 percent tariff on U.S. automobiles, while the United States has a 27.5 percent tariff on Chinese vehicles.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Wednesday that he “will examine all available tools to equalize the tariffs applied to automobiles.”

Additional tariffs on Chinese-made vehicle and parts would have a limited impact, said Kristin Dziczek, an economist at the Center for Automotive Research. She noted only a small number of vehicles were exported from China to the United States annually.

The White House previously pledged not to move forward with imposing national security tariffs on the European Union or Japan as long as it was making constructive progress in trade talks.

Trump wants the EU and Japan to buy more American-made vehicles. He wants the EU and Japan to make trade concessions including lowering the EU’s 10 percent tariff on imported vehicles and cutting non-tariff barriers.

The White House in recent weeks has reached out to the chief executives of German automakers including Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), BMW AG (BMWG.DE) and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) about meeting to discuss the status of auto trade.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Peter Cooney

Single word keeps some farmers from getting Trump’s aid to offset tariffs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Republican lawmaker wants to change a single word in the Trump administration’s farm aid program saying some soybean growers in Louisiana cannot qualify for the payments designed to offset farmers’ losses from tariffs against China.

FILE PHOTO: Meagan Kaiser shows off a Soybean plant around 45-days before harvest on her farm near Norborne, Missouri, U.S., August 28, 2018. Picture taken August 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dave Kaup/File Photo

Representative Ralph Abraham said his bill would allow the $12 billion in farm aid payments to be made based on “planted acres” instead of “harvested acres.”

With China not buying U.S. soybeans and storage costs rocketing or silos completely full, some farmers have been forced to let their crops rot in the field.

“They can’t harvest it because it is too wet and even if they can, they can’t take it anywhere because the elevators are full,” Abraham said. “We have nowhere else to store the soybeans until they’re loaded onto a boat and go somewhere else in the world.”

    China and other top U.S. trade partners had zeroed in on American farmers with retaliatory tariffs after President Donald Trump imposed duties on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods earlier this year as part of his vow to cut the U.S. trade deficit with China.

Beijing slapped a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans in retaliation. That effectively shut down U.S. soybean exports to China, worth around $12 billion last year.

With China typically taking around 60 percent of U.S. supplies, the loss of that export market has left farmers struggling with a supply overhang.

In Louisiana, up to 15 percent of the oilseed crop is being plowed under or is too damaged to market, according to data analyzed by Louisiana State University staff.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has paid out nearly $840 million as of mid-November as part of the program but many industries complain the payments are not even a fraction of their losses.

    Louisiana farmer Richard Fontenot is among about 1,000 grain growers that Abraham estimates are being impacted. He said he and his neighbors met with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue this fall, during a farm tour.

Perdue was sympathetic, Fontenot said, but clear: It is up to Congress to change the law and allow USDA to pay aid for planted – rather than harvested – acres.

“I am confident that we will get support from other members of the Congress. We are just starting to work that arena now,” Abraham said.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Washington and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Wall Street rallies as Cyber Monday shoppers log on

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street bounced back on Monday as bargain hunters returned in force after last week’s sell-off and expectations of a flurry of holiday cyber-spending drove up shares of retailers.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 1.5 percent, while the Nasdaq advanced more than 2 percent. All three indexes posted their biggest percentage gains in nearly three weeks. On Friday the S&P 500 closed 10.2 percent below its record high, confirming a correction for the second time this year.

An online spending frenzy was expected as retailers tempted customers with a blizzard of discounts and free shipping. Cyber Monday spending is seen reaching an all-time high of $7.8 billion in the United States, according to Adobe analytics.

“What we’re seeing today is a relief rally,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “It’s Cyber Monday shopping on Wall Street.”

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

E-commerce bellwether Amazon.com (AMZN.O) rose 5.3 percent, providing the biggest boost to both the Nasdaq and the S&P Retail index .SPXRT, which was up 3.1 percent.

Crude oil prices LCOc1 posted their biggest percentage jump in five months, driven higher by plunging U.S. stockpiles and increasing supply worries. That pushed energy shares up 1.7 percent. Brent crude prices have dropped nearly 30 percent since early October.

Meanwhile, General Motors Inc (GM.N) announced it would cut production, ax low-selling models and slash its North American headcount in the automaker’s biggest restructuring since emerging from bankruptcy a decade ago. The stock ended the session up 4.8 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 354.29 points, or 1.46 percent, to 24,640.24, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 40.89 points, or 1.55 percent, to 2,673.45 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 142.87 points, or 2.06 percent, to 7,081.85.

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All 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 advanced, with consumer discretionary .SPLRCD and tech .SPLRCT seeing the biggest percentage gains.

The technology sector rose 2.3 percent and provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500, following a slide of more than 6 percent last week, its worst drop in eight months.

Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) gained 5.6 percent after Credit Suisse initiated coverage of the chipmaker with a bullish outlook.

Zafgen Inc (ZFGN.O) shares plummeted 40.5 percent after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put a hold on U.S. trials of the company’s experimental diabetes drug, citing safety concerns.

The third-quarter reporting season is largely over, with nearly 97 percent of companies in the S&P 500 having reported, 78 percent of which beat analyst expectations, according to Refinitiv data.

Investors looked ahead to the G20 Summit convening in Buenos Aires on Friday and Saturday, with U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping expected to meet regarding their two countries’ escalating tariff dispute.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.50-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 5 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 101 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.68 billion shares, compared to the 8.02 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by Stephen Culp, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Breakthrough or breakdown: G20 sets trade war turning point

PARIS (Reuters) – The United States and China have in the coming week what may be their last chance to broker a ceasefire in an increasingly dangerous trade war when their presidents meet in Buenos Aires.

With global growth increasingly suffering from frictions between the two biggest economies, tensions will come to a head when Donald Trump and Xi Jingping meet on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina.

Washington is set to raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to 25 percent from 10 percent in January if there is no agreement.

“We are optimistic about the summit as an opportunity to avoid further escalation, but not to pull back already announced tariffs,” UBS economists wrote in a research note.

They said that time was simply running out before the end of the year to come up with a different tariff schedule.

Washington accuses Beijing of not playing fairly on trade while China says the United States is being protectionist.

“If no deal is reached, investors should come to realize that tariffs are no longer a bargaining chip to bring China to the negotiation table,” Daiwa Capital Markets analyst Kevin Lai wrote in a research note.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Saul Loeb, Pool

“Rather, tariffs are becoming part of a longer-term strategy to unplug China from globalization, contain its economic power (and hence its soft and hard power altogether) and give the US greater strategic advantage,” he added.

The OECD warned this week that a full-blown trade war between China and the United States could knock global growth 0.8 percent lower by 2021, and even more for the two countries.

“Trade is the biggest threat to our economic outlook and the lack of dialogues is a very high concern to us,” OECD chief economist Laurence Boone said as she presented a downgraded global growth forecast on Wednesday.

BREXIT WORRIES

Though the fallout from the China-U.S. standoff is hitting other regions as well, in Europe Brexit will also occupy minds as British Prime Minister Theresa May struggles to win backing for Britain’s EU withdrawal treaty.

Securing the backing of the 27 other European Union governments in Brussels on Sunday is only a first hurdle, as a bigger obstacle looms in early December when May will seek the UK parliament’s backing.

“This conclusion – that the base case is that the (House of) Commons will vote against the deal – is rapidly becoming something approaching a consensus in London,” TS Lombard analyst Constantine Fraser wrote in a research note.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets British Prime Minister Theresa May at the beginning of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. REUTERS/Bernd Von Jutrczenka/POOL

As geopolitical factors such as trade frictions and Brexit cloud the economic outlook, central bankers’ speeches next week will be scrutinized for any hint of a rethink about their monetary policy paths.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is due to speak on Wednesday in New York and the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, takes his turn on Thursday in Frankfurt.

With little in the way of market-moving data during the week, news headlines are more likely to drive the risk appetite of investors, already on the defensive after recent bouts of market volatility.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Gareth Jones

Exclusive: Rosneft’s Sechin flies to Venezuela, rebukes Maduro over oil shipments

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The head of Russian oil company Rosneft (ROSN.MM), Igor Sechin, flew to Caracas this week to meet Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and complain over delayed oil shipments designed to repay loans, two sources briefed on the conversation said on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin attends the talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo

The visit, which was not publicly disclosed, is one of the clearest signs of strain between crisis-stricken Venezuela and its key financier Russia.

Over the last few years, Moscow has become Venezuela’s lender of last resort, with the Russian government and Rosneft handing Venezuela at least $17 billion in loans and credit lines since 2006, according to Reuters calculations.

State oil company PDVSA is repaying almost all of those debts with oil, but a meltdown in its oil industry has left it struggling to fulfill obligations.

Sechin and a large delegation of executives met with officials at PDVSA in a Caracas hotel this week. Sechin also met with Venezuela’s leftist leader Maduro, and chided him overoil-for-loans shipments that are behind schedule.

“He brought information showing that they were meeting obligations with China but not with them,” said one source with knowledge of the talks.

“They’re running around in PDVSA because of this,” added the source, asking to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to media.

The country’s oil production has fallen to just 1.17 million barrels-per-day, a 37 percent drop in the last year, according to reports from secondary sources to OPEC, leaving itstruggling to ship Russian entities the roughly 380,000 bpd it has agreed to send, according to PDVSA documents seen by Reuters.

The closing of a dock at Venezuela’s main oil export port, through which the vast majority of shipments to Rosneft transit, has delayed millions of barrels in crude since August.

Sechin handed Maduro graphics about oil shipments to Russian entities compared with China, the two sources said.

Top financier China, which has ploughed more than $50 billion into Venezuela, also gets reimbursed in oil.

According to Reuters calculations based on PDVSA data, the Caracas-based company delivered around 463,500 bpd to Chinese firms between January and August, a roughly 60 percent compliance rate. That compares with around 176,680 bpd to Russian entities, or a 40 percent compliance rate.

Rosneft and PDVSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the sources with knowledge of Sechin’s visit, as well as two separate sources, said a Chinese delegation was also in Caracas this week.

CHINA, RUSSIA VIE FOR VENEZUELA OIL

As of early 2017, PDVSA began to fall months behind on shipments of crude and fuel under the loan deals with China and Russia due to problems in its oil industry, home to the world’s biggest crude reserves, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

The problems include operational mishaps, such as refining outages and delayed cleaning of tanker hulls, and financial disputes with service providers owed money by PDVSA.

This April, Rosneft and PDVSA signed a refinancing agreement designed to allow the Venezuelan company to catch up on delayed loan payments by delivering more crude to Rosneft. Under the refinancing, PDVSA has to provide Rosneft with some 380,000 bpd, up from around 310,000 bpd, according to Reuters calculations.

The Russian company was planning on using Jose’s South dock to pick up the cargoes, before an August tanker collision delayed exports to Rosneft. PDVSA reopened the dock earlier this month, sources said.

China agreed to use ship-to-ship (STS) operations to avoid Venezuela’s clogged ports. However, the clients to whom Rosneft sends Venezuelan crude, Russian-backed Indian refiner Nayara Energy and Indian conglomerate Reliance, did not agree to STS transfers, likely heightening delays.

Additional reporting by Corina Pons, writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Susan Thomas

Black Friday deals lure U.S. shoppers, biggest sales gains online

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Shoppers across the United States snapped up deep discounts on toys, clothing and electronics both online and at stores on Black Friday, giving retailers a strong start to their make-or-break holiday season.

A healthy economy and rising wages gave people the confidence to splash out on retailers’ annual raft of bargains.

“The prices today are very good,” said Jose Manuel Cruz Hernandez, 59, who hit the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, California, with his sister Paulina Cruz, 66, who comes every year from Mexico City to shop.

The pair spent $120 on princess dolls and other toys at the Walt Disney Co store, where items were 20 percent off. They spent a similar amount at Gap Inc, where items were discounted by about 55 percent.

Cruz Hernandez, a foreman at an aerospace firm, said he was comfortable with the U.S. economy and his own finances and plans to spend another $1,000 on holiday gifts – about the same as last year.

A similar story played out online, where shoppers spent $643 million by 10 a.m. ET, up 28 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at most of the top U.S. online retailers. Smartphone sales in particular contributed to gains.

Foot traffic looked healthy at stores offering discounts, although detailed numbers on brick-and-mortar holiday sales will not be available for several days.

“Overall, Black Friday doesn’t have the sense of urgency as in the past and feels more like a busy regular weekend day in many of the stores,” said Dana Telsey at Telsey Advisory Group.

“Many of the promotions were available for the past couple of weeks,” Telsey said. “We haven’t noticed desperation from any retailer.”

Shares of Macy’s Inc, Kohl’s Corp, and Target Corp all closed down on Friday and weighed on the broader S&P 500 retailing index, which closed down 0.56 percent.

Investors are concerned retail sales growth may have peaked in the second quarter and business will slow down as comparisons get tougher, said Brian Yarbrough, retail analyst with Edward Jones.

Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands, Walmart Inc and American Eagle Outfitters rose. J.C. Penney Co Inc ended flat and Amazon.com Inc closed slightly lower.

The overall stock market finished a shortened session with losses.

STRONG ONLINE SALES

Early numbers showed overall retail sales, both in stores and online, were in line with expectations, according to Mastercard Inc’s SpendingPulse retail report. The firm expects overall Black Friday sales to top $23 billion this year, up from $21 billion last year.

Mastercard combines sales activity in its payments network with estimates of cash and other payment forms. It said cold weather in the eastern United States and wet weather in the west may be pushing more consumers online. 

Online spending is on track to hit $6.4 billion on Friday, Adobe said. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day were up 28 percent at $3.7 billion.

The National Retail Federation forecast U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years.

About 38 percent of American consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed last week.

People shop during the Black Friday sales shopping event at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York, U.S., November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Very cold weather in the U.S. Northeast may have kept some shoppers at home, although industry analysts also reported added demand for coats and other warm clothing. An Athleta clothing store in Tysons, Virginia, provided hot chocolate with marshmallows to women in line for the dressing room.

DEAL FRENZY

Shoppers picked up big-ticket items such as TVs, Apple Inc iPads and Watches at Target, while phones, toys, gaming consoles and cookware were top sellers at Walmart Inc.

Many shoppers sought out air fryers, which do not use oil to deep fry food and Instant Pots. Kohl’s Chief Executive Michelle Gass told CNBC the company was selling 60 Instant Pots per minute online on Thanksgiving Day.

While most retailers have not changed their deals and discounts year-over-year, many have moved their start dates earlier and offered more teasers, according to deal site RetailMeNot.

The deepest discounts in apparel and accessories were offered by Michael Kors, which ran a 60 percent discount sale; Gap, which offered 50 percent off site-wide; and Nordstrom, which gave away up to 60 percent on merchandise.

Other deals included:

* An H&M store in Manhattan offered 30 percent off everything in-store and online.

* Macy’s in Herald Square, Manhattan, sold a Coach designer wallet, originally $225, for $53. Coach bags there, originally $259, were half off.

* Midtown Comics was taking 25 percent off everything at its three Manhattan locations until noon.

* An Eddie Bauer in Chicago offered 50 percent off all items.

* At a Chicago-area Pandora, which sells popular charm bracelets that can cost up to $1,000, jewelry was 35 percent off before 10 a.m. and 25 percent off for the remainder of the day.

* J Crew clothing was 50 percent off. Its site experienced some technical difficulties.

* Walmart was selling a Google Home mini for $99.

REPLACING A TOY STORE

Many retailers, reacting to the bankruptcy of the Toys ‘R’ Us chain, are catering to parents.

Target said in October it planned to dedicate nearly a quarter of a million square feet of new space to its toy business across 500 of its stores.

“Toys ‘R’ Us had better quality for toys,” said Ashley Drew, 29, shopping for her 5-year-old daughter at a Los Angeles-area Walmart, next door to the empty shell of a Toys ‘R’ Us store.

Department store JC Penney, known for its mid-priced apparel, has also made a push into toys.

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Carolyn Pertette from Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, shopped in the early morning at the Waterfront Mall in Pittsburgh.

“I’m concerned about where I’m going to get toys,” she said.

Additional reporting by Shannon Stapleton in Long Island; Lewis Krauskopf, Melissa Fares, Jennifer Ablan and Anna Irrera in New York; Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Richa Naidu in Chicago; Margaret Rice in Tysons, Virginia; and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Writing by Nick Zieminski; editing by Patrick Graham, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Bill Rigby

Oil falls on rising U.S. inventories, OPEC talk of cut limits loss

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices dipped on Thursday after U.S. inventories swelled to their highest level since December adding to concerns about a global crude glut but OPEC talk of an output cut limited losses.

A maze of crude oil pipe and equipment is seen with the American and Texas flags flying in the background during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Benchmark Brent fell 96 cents last trading at $62.52 a barrel at 1840 GMT, edging back from a more than $1 drop in early European trading. U.S. WTI fell more than a $1 before easing back to settle down 78 cents at $53.85.

Trading was thin due to Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo said oil was helped off its lows by a weaker U.S. dollar, making dollar-denominated crude cheaper for holders of other currencies. “Additional support has probably come from lower Iranian exports,” he said.

Iran’s exports have dropped by several hundred thousand barrels per day (bpd) this month, a leading tanker-tracking company said on Thursday, suggesting U.S. sanctions that kicked in this month have scared off many buyers.

But prices remain under pressure from rising U.S. crude inventories, which climbed by 4.9 million barrels to 446.91 million barrels last week, their highest since December, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

U.S. crude oil production also stayed at a record 11.7 million barrels per day (bpd), the EIA said.

Tamas Varga, analyst at PVM brokerage, said the market trend remained bearish. “The question is what OPEC will do in December, will they cut, and if so, by how much?” he said.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is worried about the emergence of a glut. But OPEC’s biggest exporter Saudi Arabia is under U.S. pressure not to take any action on cutting output that would push prices higher again.

“Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy!… Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

More U.S. crude could be heading to market as U.S. pipeline bottlenecks are cleared in the second half of 2019. Rising U.S. oil output has outpaced capacity to transport the extra crude.

To counter the surge in supply, OPEC is considering a deal to cut production when it meets on Dec. 6, although OPEC member Iran is expected to resist any voluntary reduction. Russia, an ally of OPEC, has also shown no sign it would join any cut.

Reporting by Julia Payne in London, Henning Gloystein in Singapore and Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Jane Merriman and Sandra Maler

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Wall Street climbs as tech, internet stocks bounce back

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday after a brutal two-day selloff, led by a rebound in beaten-down internet, technology and energy shares ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Santa Claus pays a visit on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid

The pressure on technology stocks appeared to have eased, with the S&P technology index rising 1.1 percent after three sessions of declines, while internet shares bounced back as well.

Facebook Inc, Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc all rose, while Netflix Inc edged lower.

The S&P energy index rose 1.9 percent as oil prices steadied after a 6 percent plunge the previous day.

Retailers also bounced back, with the S&P retail index on track to break an eight-session string of losses, as Foot Locker Inc surged 14.8 percent after the footwear retailer’s quarterly same-store sales trumped expectations and boosted other sports retailers.

Worries about slowing global growth and peaking corporate earnings have sapped risk appetite in recent months, throwing into doubt the longevity of the decade-old bull run for stocks.

“This is not a bad economy,” said Phil Blancato, chief executive of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management in New York. “The data on the economy should support a higher market going into the end of the year.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 99.38 points, or 0.41 percent, to 24,565.02, the S&P 500 gained 17.49 points, or 0.66 percent, to 2,659.38 and the Nasdaq Composite added 89.75 points, or 1.3 percent, to 6,998.57.

Shares of Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc, Hibbett Sports Inc and Nike Inc, a Foot Locker supplier, all gained.

Gap Inc rose 5.3 percent after several Wall Street brokerages took positively to Chief Executive Arthur Peck’s more aggressive plan to close underperforming stores, which is expected to eliminate significant losses.

Gains in Foot Locker and Gap helped push the S&P consumer discretionary index 1.2 percent higher.

Autodesk Inc jumped 10.3 percent after the software company reported third-quarter results above analysts’ estimates and announced an $875 million deal to buy cloud-based software company PlanGrid.

A report by capital markets-focused MNI saying the Federal Reserve may pause its interest rate-hiking cycle as early as spring could also be supporting the markets, some market experts said.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.34-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.17-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted six new 52-week highs and three new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 11 new highs and 75 new lows.

Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and James Dalgleish

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