DAILY MARKET REPORTS
- U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday after the Trump administration said it would use a strengthened security review process to deal with threats from Chinese investments in domestic technologies, instead of imposing China-specific restrictions.
- The Treasury Department has recommended that Trump use the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), whose authority would be enhanced by new legislation in Congress, to control transactions.
- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on CNBC the changes do not target China, and he does not expect any significant economic effect from the enhanced review process.
- After the latest news from the Trump administration, U.S.-listed shares of Chinese tech companies, which were in the red earlier, reversed course to trade higher. Alibaba was up 0.3%, while JD.com gained 1.4%.
- Conagra dropped 6.8% after the company said it would buy Pinnacle Foods for about $8.1 billion in cash and stock. Pinnacle Foods fell 4% after the widely anticipated deal announcement.
US FINANCIAL MARKET
General Mills to Cut 625 Jobs
- The maker of Cheerios and Nature Valley granola bars reported an increase in sales, but a drop-in profit due to restructuring costs and impairment charges.
- Sales at General Mills rose 2.2% to $3.89 billion. Net sales for the company’s U.S. meals and baking division fell 2% in the quarter, but rose by 2% in both its U.S. snacks and cereal divisions.
- Profit declined 13% to $354.4 million as the company recorded more than $150 million in charges. Just over $49 million of the company’s impairment costs for the entire year were related to the cost-cutting plans that include the more than 600 job cuts.
- General Mills also cut profit and sales expectations for three smaller brands it has bought over the last six years, showing how food companies have sometimes struggled to make the right deals to drive growth. It expects cost-cutting plans to be finished by the end of fiscal year 2019.
Comcast Hunts for Additional Cash in Pursuit of 21st Century Fox Assets
- Comcast is exploring tie-ups with other companies or private-equity investors that could provide additional cash as the cable giant pursues a costly acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.
- Comcast, which is bidding for the coveted media assets against rival Walt Disney, has no immediate plans to tap such funding sources. But it may look to do so should the bidding reach extremely high levels—in the $90 billion range or so.
- Disney and Fox reached a $52.4 billion all-stock deal in December, which Comcast topped June 13 with a $65 billion all-cash offer. Disney took pole position once again last week, agreeing to a revised merger pact with a $71.3 billion price and a target of 50% stock consideration.
Conagra Brands to Buy Pinnacle Foods for $8.2 Billion
- Conagra Brands agreed to acquire Pinnacle Foods for $8.2 billion in cash and stock, as the owner of the Healthy Choice brand looks to build on its recent frozen-food growth by adding Birds Eye products.
- The Pinnacle acquisition would add frozen-food brands such as Hungry-Man TV dinners, Celeste pizza and Mrs. Paul’s fish products, along with other notable labels like Duncan Hines, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Vlasic and Wish-Bone. Conagra’s other brands include Reddi-wip, Orville Redenbacher’s and Hunt’s tomato products.
- The deal values Pinnacle at $68 a share, a slim premium to the stock’s close Tuesday of $67.86 amid reports of a possible deal. Under the deal’s terms, Pinnacle shareholders will swap each share for $43.11 in cash and 0.6494 Conagra shares.
U.S. Toughens Stance on Future Iran Oil Exports
- The U.S. threatened to slap sanctions on countries that don’t cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by Nov. 4, part of the Trump administration’s push to further isolate Tehran both politically and economically, a senior U.S. State Department official said.
- Buyers of Iranian crude had expected the U.S. would allow them time to reduce their oil imports over a much longer period, by issuing sanctions waivers for nations that made significant efforts to cut their purchases.
- But the senior State Department official said that President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t plan to issue any waivers and would instead be asking other Middle Eastern crude exporters over the coming days to ensure oil supply to global markets.
- Governments are being cautioned that the Secretary of State and White House “aren’t kidding about this,” the official said.
- China and India, two of the largest buyers of Iranian crude, “will be subject to the same sanctions that everybody else is if they engage in those sectors of the economy.”
Battery in fatal Florida Tesla crash reignited twice: NTSB report
- A Tesla Model S involved in a May 8 fatal high-speed crash in Florida reignited twice after firefighters extinguished a fire in the electric vehicle, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a preliminary report on Tuesday.
- The report said the vehicle was traveling 116 miles per hour seconds before it crashed into a metal light pole. The Fort Lauderdale Fire Department found the vehicle fully engulfed in flames and extinguished the vehicle fire.
- The report said during removal of the car from the scene, the battery reignited and was quickly extinguished. Tesla declined to comment on the report, but has said its vehicles are much less likely to catch fire than gasoline-powered vehicles.
- There have been other reported cases of crashed Tesla battery packs reigniting, including after a fatal Tesla crash in March in California. The battery reignited five days after the crash in an impound lot and was extinguished by the Fire Department.
Tesla’s Busy and Worrisome Week
- When the electric car manufacturer announces second-quarter delivery results next week, investors will likely focus on whether Tesla hit its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 sedans in a single week.
- Reaching that goal would certainly qualify as good news.
- The deadline to reach the weekly milestone has been rolled back several times. Wall Street analysts now expect about 138,000 Model 3 deliveries this year, compared to about 228,000 last August.
- More important, Moody’s Investors Service, which downgraded Tesla’s credit rating in March, said meeting production targets was necessary to avert further downgrades.
- Reports of Model 3 quality problems have plagued the company. That in turn can hurt its fragile finances.
- If Tesla can’t reverse that trend, the growth story that has captivated its bulls looks flimsier than ever. The company has already announced plans to cut 9% of its workforce and scaled back its capital spending forecast.
Put on probation, Uber wins London license to avoid ban
- Uber Technologies won a probationary license to operate in London in a partial victory for its new chief executive after it made changes to ease strained relations with city authorities.
- The new license was subject to strict conditions, however, and came with a warning to prove it had changed to retain its right to operate in London, the heart of its biggest European market.
- Uber overhauled its policies and personnel in Britain after Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew its license in September for failings in its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.
- The license is much shorter than the five-year license it was denied in September, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan was clear that the court ruling was no carte blanche for Uber in London.
Instagram Unveils New Long-Form Video Hub
- Facebook’s Instagram launched a new hub for long-form video, the company’s latest attempt to tap into growing demand among consumers and advertisers for mobile video.
- The new hub, called IGTV, is both a stand-alone app and a section of the primary Instagram app that will allow users to post high-definition videos.
- Each of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly active users will be able to view the video by swiping through a section in the app.
- IGTV initially won’t feature ads and the company isn’t paying creators directly to use the feature. But Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said he expects the company eventually will introduce ads and potentially provide a share of that revenue to creators who post on the site.
Facebook’s Latest Problem: It Can’t Track Where Much of the Data Went
- Facebook’s internal probe into potential misuse of user data is hitting fundamental roadblocks: The company can’t track where much of the data went after it left the platform or figure out where it is now.
- One problem is that many of the app developers that scooped up unusually large chunks of data are out of business, according to developers and former Facebook employees. In some cases, the company says, developers contacted by Facebook aren’t responding to requests for further information.
- Facebook is now trying to forensically piece together what happened to large chunks of data, and then determine whether it was used in a way that needs to be disclosed to users and regulators.
- Facebook said in May it has suspended 200 apps for potentially violating its rules, yet declined to provide a detailed update on the status of the investigation or identify the 200 apps that were suspended thus far.
US ECONOMY & POLITIC
U.S. Durable Orders Slipped in May for Second Straight Month
- Orders for durable goods—products designed to last at least three years, such as washing machines and fighter jets—declined 0.6% from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $248.755 billion in May, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
- Economists had expected a 1% decrease for the month. Orders also fell in April, though the drop was revised to a narrower 1% decline from a previous estimate of down 1.6%.
- Wednesday’s report showed orders in the often-volatile civilian–aircraft segment fell 7% in May. Orders for motor vehicles and parts declined 4.2% from the prior month. Excluding cars, planes and other transportation products, orders were down 0.3%.
- Orders for defense capital goods, another choppy category, increased 15.1%.
- Excluding military demand, durable orders were down 1.5%.
- Demand for U.S.-made primary metals, including steel and aluminum, decreased 0.4% on the month but was up 15.8% through the first five months of the year, compared with the same period last year.
U.S. House backs tighter foreign investment rules amid China worries
- The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Tuesday to tighten foreign investment rules, spurred by bipartisan concerns about Chinese bids to acquire sophisticated U.S. technology.
- The bill, passed 400-2, is one of a series of measures being considered by the Trump administration and Congress to address national security concerns as well as what they see as China’s unfair trade and intellectual property practices.
- The House bill, and a Senate version, address worries that Chinese companies, many with links to the government, have tried to buy U.S. semiconductor manufacturers and other technology firms. The U.S. Defense Department also fears losing America’s technological edge in warfare.
- The House bill passed on Tuesday would allow CFIUS to expand its reviews to minority stakes in U.S. companies. It also puts a focus on investments that may expose sensitive data about Americans to foreign governments or reveal information about critical infrastructure, like the telecommunications network.
Pending home sales drop for fifth straight month in May
- A monthly index of so-called pending home sales from the National Association of Realtors fell 0.5% compared with April and was 2.2% lower than May of 2017. The expectation was for a 0.5% gain.
- Sales have now fallen on an annual basis for five straight months. Pending home sales are a forward indicator of closed sales in June and July.
- Regionally, pending home sales in the Northeast rose 2.0% for the month but were 4.8% below a year ago. In the Midwest, sales rose 2.9% monthly and fell 2.5% annually.
- Sales in the South declined 3.5 monthly and were unchanged from a year ago. The index in the West rose 0.6% compared to April but was 4.1% lower than a year ago.
U.S. Rental Rates Flatten in Major Cities as Supply Floods Market
- The U.S. apartment market suffered its worst spring since 2010, near the depths of the housing crisis, as a flood of new supply and weakening demand resulted in rising vacancy rates and little or no rent increases in many major cities.
- Rents rose 2.3% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, the weakest annual increase since the third quarter of 2010. Rental growth was flat in major cities with otherwise strong economies due to large amounts of new supply.
- The national vacancy rate ticked up to 4.8% from 4.3% in the second quarter of 2017. The number of additional units that were rented fell to just over 37,000 from nearly 53,000 a year earlier, suggesting demand was weaker.
- There are signs renter demand is starting to wane because millennials are marrying, having children and buying homes or moving into single-family rentals.
- The U.S. added 1.3 million owner households in the first quarter over the same period last year and lost 286,000 renter households, according to U.S. Census data released in April.
Automakers warn U.S. tariffs will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, hike prices
- Two major auto trade groups warned the Trump administration that imposing up to 25% tariffs on imported vehicles would cost hundreds of thousands of auto jobs, dramatically hike prices on vehicles and threaten industry spending on self-driving cars.
- The Alliance said its analysis of 2017 auto sales data showed a 25% tariff on imported vehicles would result in an average price increase of $5,800, which would boost costs to American consumers by nearly $45 billion annually.
- Both automotive trade groups cited a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics that the cost to U.S. jobs from the import duties would be 195,000 jobs and could be as high as 624,000 jobs if other countries retaliate.
- On Friday Trump threatened to impose a 20% tariff on all imports of EU-assembled cars. On Tuesday Trump said tariffs are coming soon.
Newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Unseats Incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in New York Primary
- In a major upset for the Democratic Party establishment, Rep. Joe Crowley of New York lost his primary election Tuesday, unseated by a young progressive newcomer who reflects restiveness in the left wing of the party.
- The Associated Press declared Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders organizer, the winner of the race for New York’s 14th congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx.
- It was a signal victory for the party’s progressive insurgents after their candidates have lost out to more-centrist, establishment-backed candidates in many primaries.
- In major contested primaries, candidates endorsed by Mr. Trump prevailed in South Carolina, New York and Utah.
Republican primary voters chose an early Trump loyalist, incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster, in the South Carolina GOP primary runoff. In a contested New York House primary, voters chose Rep. Dan Donovan over former Rep. Michael Grimm.
EUROPE & WORLD
Putin-Trump summit on agenda as John Bolton holds Moscow talks
- U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton held talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian officials ahead of a meeting with Vladimir Putin, part of an effort to lay the ground for a summit between the Russian president and President Donald Trump.
- Bolton, a lifelong hawk who warned last year before his own appointment that Washington negotiated with Putin’s Russia at its peril, is due to give a news conference at 1630 GMT, where he might name the date and location of a summit.
- Relations between Washington and Moscow are languishing at a post-Cold War low. They are at odds over Syria, Ukraine, allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and accusations Moscow was behind the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain in March.
- Expectations for the outcome of any Putin-Trump summit are therefore low, even though Trump said before he was elected that he wanted to improve battered U.S.-Russia ties.
U.S., Russian officials discuss sanctions, Russian gas pipeline plans
- Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia and Moscow’s plan to expand its Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany, which has irked Washington, in talks with U.S. Treasury and Energy Secretaries.
- Russia is one of the world’s biggest crude oil and natural gas producers, and the United States has been urging global energy producers to boost output to stem an increase in prices.
- Novak said other discussions with U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry covered Russia’s Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline. Plans to double the capacity of the pipeline to 110 billion cubic meters per year have riled both Washington and Brussels, which is trying to cut its reliance on energy supplies from Russia.
- Washington believes the pipeline would give Russia, which has at times frozen deliveries to parts of Europe over pricing disputes, more power over the region and the administration of President Donald Trump has followed that of Barack Obama in opposing the Nord Stream 2 project.
TODAY in HISTORY
- President Harry S. Truman ordered the Air Force and Navy into the Korean War. (1950)
- The world’s first atomic power station opened at Obninsk, near Moscow. (1954)
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