News Archive


U.S. jobless claims fall more than expected


WASHINGTON Nov 25 – The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, drifting back to near 42-year lows as labor market conditions continue to tighten.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 260,000 for the week ended Nov. 21, the Labor Department said on Wednesday.

The prior week’s claims were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported. Claims have now held below the 300,000 threshold for 38 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch in years, and remain close to levels last seen in the early 1970s. Claims below this level are usually associated with a healthy jobs market.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dipping to 270,000 last week. A Labor Department analyst said there were no

special factors influencing the data and only claims for Louisiana had been estimated.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it strips out week-to-week volatility, was unchanged at 271,000 last week.

The claims report showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 34,000

to 2.21 million in the week ended Nov. 14. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 15,250 to 2.18 million. The continuing claims data covered the period during which the government surveyed households for November’s unemployment rate.

The four-week average of continuing claims rose 8,750 between the October and November survey periods, suggesting the

unemployment rate will likely hold at a 7-1/2-year low of 5 percent this month.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci; ((Lucia.Mutikani@thomsonreuters.com; 1 202 898 8315; Reuters; Messaging: lucia.mutikani.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)))

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Big brands don’t mind live Periscope stumbles to reach millennials


NEW YORK When Benefit Cosmetics, a San Francisco-based maker of skin care and makeup, used Twitter’s Periscope live-streaming video service to make a product demonstration, a heckler became part of the live show, typing to the presenter, “I can see down your top” even though there was no wardrobe malfunction.

During BMW of North America’s (BMWG.DE) debut of its M2 coupe on Periscope last month, the sound dipped in and out as the driver talked about how the car handled. And one of Royal Caribbean International’s (RCL.N) first video streams was disrupted by a viewer posting the alphabet one letter at a time, in an attempt to clog the comment feed. Still, the company was happy with the 30,000 viewers the campaign attracted, said Kara Wallace, the cruise operator’s vice president, North American marketing.

While glitches like those would be unthinkable in a produced, controlled advertising environment, big brands such as Royal Caribbean, BMW and Benefit are going ahead with plans to use live-streaming video to attract some of the most finicky consumers, young millennials who ignore many traditional and online ads. “There is an authenticity to this kind of campaign,” Wallace said. “This is going to be the future of marketing.” Periscope, which Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) bought earlier this year, allows anyone to live-stream an event through a mobile phone, while viewers can participate by sending cartoon hearts across the video feed and typing comments that scroll across the screen for all to see. Some viewers love the chance to interact, with results that can surprise the advertisers. It is still early days for Periscope, which currently does not charge advertisers, and had 10 million accounts as of August, compared with more than 300 million at Twitter.

Some brands are not sure about using Periscope to market to consumers. Snack and beverage company Mondelez International Inc (MDLZ.O) has experimented with it a bit, but has not decided if it wants to make it a staple part of its marketing, said Cindy Chen, global head of e-commerce. “Periscope isn’t really set up right now to accommodate brands,” said Dustin Callif, managing director, digital at Tool North America, which produced the Royal Caribbean streams. “It’s an experiment which is fun for a brand, but it is also risky.”

WORKING ON THE FLY

While brands are well-versed in handling outside comments that come with all social media, live streaming video is extra tricky as everything is real-time, executives said. Even Twitter was caught off guard on a Periscope stream of an earnings call when a watcher asked CEO Jack Dorsey if he was single, sending a flood of cartoon hearts across the screen. “The biggest sort of potential headache of Periscope is that it is a live event and you can’t script anything,” said Pete Harmata, digital innovations manager at BMW of North America. “You have to adjust on the fly, which can be pretty strenuous.”

BMW pulled a 24-hour teaser of its M2 coupe, showing just the front of the car, after a few minutes, when impatient viewers demanded to see the vehicle immediately. Hours later, the automaker debuted the M2, streaming a test drive while taking questions and comments from viewers. The debut drew 5,000 viewers, a drop in the bucket compared with television, but it was a lot cheaper, and it reached its biggest fans, said Dan Kelleher, co-chief creative officer at kirshenbaum bond senecal + partners, or kbs, which created the campaign.

Benefit, owned by luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH (LVMH.PA), has at least one person ready to block inappropriate comments during each stream, said Claudia Allwood, director of U.S. digital marketing. Benefit’s Periscope streams have averaged 2,000 viewers per stream. Similarly, thousands viewed Royal Caribbean’s Periscope streams, which showed scenes of everything from customers riding a zip line on the island of St. Kitts to chefs preparing meals on its ships. The Miami-based company streamed the clips live on Periscope and ran them on 80 digital billboards across New York City after a slight delay. To prepare for any potential problems, Royal Caribbean had ads ready to run on the billboards if the Periscope stream went down or something unsavory happened.

While it did not need to run the replacement ads, some issues arose. A video from a natural water slide in Puerto Rico had so many viewers that after a few minutes commenting was shut down, said John Kearse, creative director at Boston-based Mullen Lowe Group, which worked on the campaign. With the delay between the live stream and digital billboards, the company had time to strip out the alphabet comments that delayed its stream. They prepared for worse. “We had to know what the F-bomb was in Russian,” Kearse said.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Additional reporting by Anjali Athavaley in New York and Yasmeen Abutaleb in San Francisco. Editing by Peter Henderson and John Pickering)

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China police cracks $4.5 billion underground bank: Xinhua


BEIJING Chinese police have busted an underground banking network that handled $4.5 billion worth of illegal transactions at Agricultural Bank of China Ltd (AgBank)(601288.SS)(1288.HK) alone, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Fourteen suspects in four gangs were arrested by police in the northeastern city of Dalian in Liaoning province, Xinhua said, the latest crackdown in the country’s fight against outflows of “gray capital”.

Each gang’s daily illegal transactions exceeded $100,000.

The police found illegal transactions amounting to 28.8 billion yuan ($4.51 billion) from 1.4 million foreign exchange trading records, after investigating more than 2,000 accounts at AgBank, China’s third-biggest lender by assets, the state agency said.

China’s economic slowdown and market volatility have sparked a wave of capital outflows running into hundreds of billions this year, triggering alarms for China’s foreign exchange management system.

Beijing started cracking down on underground banks in April and has so far uncovered more than 170 cases of money laundering and illegal fund transfers, involving more than 800 billion yuan and arresting more than 400 suspects.

Earlier this year, Chinese police, the central bank and the foreign exchange regulator busted the country’s biggest-ever underground banking case involving transactions totaling $64 billion.

In the Dalian case, suspects worked with criminal groups spread in Beijing, Shandong province and Jilin province to conduct illegal foreign exchange trading across China and offered gambling services in Macau and South Korea to obtain illegal gains, Xinhua reported.

($1 = 6.3877 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting By Shu Zhang and Matthew Miller; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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European stocks up, oil slides as concerns ease over Russia-Turkey tension


LONDON The euro and euro zone bond yields sank on Wednesday after Reuters reported that central bank officials are weighing up how to ease monetary policy further in the coming weeks, including staggering charges on banks hoarding cash or buying more debt.

Two-year yields in Germany and France – already well below zero – plunged to new lows, the euro hit a seven-month trough and the rally in stocks moved up a gear.

The widening gap between euro zone and U.S. yields helped propel the dollar to its highest level on a broad index basis since March, which pushed oil and commodity prices sharply lower.

These sweeping moves ahead of the European Central Bank’s policy meeting next week overshadowed the reverberations of Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet this week, which had earlier somewhat tempered investors’ risk appetite.

“The ECB leaks the bazooka?” said Josh O’Byrne, currency strategist at Citi in London.

“Following the very dovish speech from (ECB) President Mario Draghi last week targeting higher inflation as quickly as possible, an ECB overwhelm looks on the cards,” he said.

The ECB meets on December 3 and is widely expected to loosen policy via a further cut in the deposit rate or extending and expanding its bond-buying stimulus to stave off the threat of deflation.

The two-year German yield fell to -0.41 percent EU2YT=RR and the two-year French yield to -0.33 percent FR2YT=RR. The gap between two-year U.S. and German yields moved out to 134 basis points, the widest spread in over nine years.

All German government bond yields out to seven years are now below zero.

The euro slid over a cent to a seven-month low of $1.0580 EUR=, and the dollar index against a basket of major currencies .DXY rose to an 8-month high of 100.07.

CRUDE AWAKENING

European stocks rallied further, and at 1210 GMT the FTSEuroFirst 300 index of leading shares was up 1.3 percent at 1,500 points .FTEU3 and Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE was up 1 percent at 6,337 points.

Germany’s DAX was up 1.5 percent at 11,097 points, almost doubling its gains after the euro zone central banks report.

U.S. stock futures pointed to a rise of around 0.2 percent at the open on Wall Street ESc1, while earlier in Asia MSCI’s index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside of Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS slipped a mere 0.05 percent.

The shooting down of the Russian warplane by Turkey on Tuesday was not too far from investors’ minds, although they drew some comfort from the lack of escalation in tensions between Russia and Turkey on Wednesday.

“The geopolitical issue has rapidly lost its importance outside the Turkish borders as the risks of an escalating military interaction are very low at this stage,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, strategist at London Capital Group.

Russia said on Wednesday it will send an advanced air defense system to reinforce its air base in Syria and consider cancelling a raft of joint business projects with Ankara after one of its warplanes was downed.

The news from Turkey briefly sparked oil supply fears and sent crude prices surging overnight to two-week highs. But the market slumped in Europe as the dollar rallied.

U.S. crude CLc1 and Brent crude LCOc1 futures fell around 2 percent to $42.09 and $45.16 a barrel, respectively.

Prices of metals such as zinc and copper resumed their recent downtrend as the dollar rallied. This makes dollar-denominated metals more expensive for buyers. [MET/L]

Industrial metals are seen remaining under pressure in the long run with an expected Federal Reserve interest rate hike in December likely to underpin the dollar.

In Britain the focus was on finance minister George Osborne’s latest push to lower the country’s budget deficit through a series of massive spending cuts.

This follows comments earlier this week from top Bank of England officials that added weight to the view that interest rates will be kept lower for longer.

“The fiscal squeeze is one reason the financial markets expect such a time lag between a (U.S.) Fed rate increase and an increase from the BOE,” said Derek Halpenny, senior currency strategist at BTMU in London.

“If Osborne sticks to his guns the pound may well remain under downward pressure over the near-term.”

Sterling was down slightly against the dollar at $1.5080 GBP=.

(Editing by Richard Balmforth; To read Reuters Global Investing Blog click here; for the MacroScope Blog click on blogs.reuters.com/macroscope; for Hedge Fund Blog Hub click on blogs.reuters.com/hedgehub)

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Exclusive: Three Goldman bankers leave for Uber as tech world raids Wall Street talent


NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO Three mid-level bankers in Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s (GS.N) technology investment banking group in San Francisco have left to take positions at ride service company Uber Technologies Inc in recent months, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The bankers are the latest to leave Wall Street banks for Silicon Valley startups, where the lure of more flexible hours – and in some cases stock options and share grants – can be hard to resist. For tech companies, having bankers on staff can help smooth the path to an initial public offering and other capital raisings.

Uber, currently valued at around $51 billion, said in August that it expected an IPO within 18 to 24 months. It has already raised $7.4 billion from multiple financing rounds, and is the biggest so-called “unicorn” – the term for privately held tech startups worth $1 billion or more – that has yet to go public.

Goldman does not disclose attrition figures, but it has lost enough employees to startups, private equity firms, and other companies in recent years that it announced earlier this month a series of changes designed to help it retain more junior employees at the analyst and associate level, including promoting them faster. It has also set up a task force to help it retain mid-level employees who hold the vice president title.

Spokespeople for Goldman and Uber both declined to comment.The increasing attraction of other fields for Wall Street bankers underscores how increased regulation after the financial crisis has weighed on employees’ potential earnings from careers in the sector.

There is a lack of publicly available data documenting how many people have left the big banks, but there have been a series of high profile exits, including Ruth Porat, former chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley (MS.N), who earlier this year took a similar role at Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL.O), and Michael Evans, former vice chairman and head of Asia at Goldman, who became president of China e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding (BABA.N) in August.

A vice president in Wall Street investment banking can get paid $500,000, including bonus, while a mid-level corporate development employee at a technology company like Uber might earn closer to $200,000, recruiters said. The banker’s salary will often fluctuate depending on how the deals and capital raising areas are doing in a particular year. Bankers may take pay cuts to move to Silicon Valley, but there is often the appeal of a better work-life balance and the opportunity to work at fast-growing private companies that can offer shares or stock options, and therefore the possibility of big IPO paydays for senior staff. Those gains can sometimes more than make up for the reduced salaries.

HARVARD PIPELINE

Some younger workers who would have been expected to head to Wall Street in the past are avoiding banks altogether. At Harvard Business School, for example, 20 percent of graduating students from the class of 2015 said they were taking jobs at technology companies, up from 11 percent in 2011, according to the school’s employment report.

While 31 percent of students said they were going to work for financial services companies, about three quarters of that group went into venture capital, private equity and leveraged buyout firms. The numbers going into investment banking and sales and trading, the traditional focus of firms like Goldman, halved to 5 percent, from 10 percent in 2011.

Banks may not like losing employees, but they would rather lose them to clients than to competitors, said Noah Schwarz, a senior recruiter at headhunters Korn Ferry. A banker that goes to a client is “viewed as a ‘good leaver,'” Schwarz said.

The three Goldman employees who joined Uber – Ian Kleinfield, Prabir Adarkar, and Chris Lapointe – did not return emails and LinkedIn messages seeking comment.

Uber has hired a number of senior employees from Goldman’s technology investment banking group before, including finance chief Gautam Gupta and corporate development head Cameron Poetzscher.

The ride service company often hires bankers for corporate development. They focus on plotting the company’s strategy and handling financial transactions including capital raising.Some of the bank’s employees would know Uber’s finances well as Goldman helped it to raise $1.6 billion by selling convertible securities to Goldman wealth management clients this year.

Former Goldman employees on the engineering side have also played key roles in creating the formulas that Uber uses to determine how much it should charge for rides at any given time based on demand, recruiters said.

Uber has relationships with a number of other Wall Street banks. They include Morgan Stanley, which was the lead arranger of a $2 billion line of credit for the company, also this year.

BANKERS OR CONSULTANTS

Uber is growing very rapidly, and now has about 5,000 employees, up from only about 550 at the beginning of 2014. The company has expanded to dozens of new cities in the past two years, and now spans 68 countries.

Chelsea Cooper worked at Goldman for four years before leaving the banking world behind during the financial crisis for a career in technology. She was hired at Uber in 2012 as general manager of the company’s United Kingdom operations, where she launched the service. For employees on the business side, “Uber really hired from two pools: from bankers or consultants,” said Cooper, who left Uber in 2013 and is now head of technology at recruiting firm Hired. Goldman ranks in the top 10 companies that Uber recruits from, ahead of even large technology firms like Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), Oracle Corp (ORCL.N) and Intel Corp (INTC.O), according to LinkedIn. Tech companies like Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Facebook (FB.O) are bigger sources for hiring than Goldman.

Other Silicon Valley companies have also been hiring former Goldman employees. The bank is one of the most sought-after for technology companies, who believe that Goldman screens and trains its employees rigorously, recruiters said. “If someone has made it through the Goldman Sachs process, you know they are a high-caliber hire,” said Dave Carvajal, founder and CEO of Dave Partners, a tech recruiting firm.

Goldman’s expertise in technology banking helps too. Its technology team, which is one of the bank’s largest investment banking groups, has advised technology companies on more merger deals than any other bank in the world so far this year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

(Reporting by Olivia Oran in New York and Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Editing by Dan Wilchins and Martin Howell)

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Lufthansa cabin crew union calls off this week’s strike


BERLIN The main cabin crew union at Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) has called off a strike planned for this week after progress was made in talks with management over retirement and pension benefits.

Relations between the two sides had soured over recent months as Lufthansa sought to push through cost cuts, resulting in cabin crew staging the longest ever strike in the history of the German carrier earlier this month.

The cabin crew union, UFO, had on Monday threatened to hold further walkouts from Thursday in the long-running and bitter row.

But the union and the airline said on Wednesday that they had agreed on a basic concept for retirement and pensions benefits that could be used to reach an agreement, plus planned to enter mediation on how to achieve growth and secure jobs at its main Lufthansa brand.

Cabin crew and management will also work with two other unions representing Lufthansa pilots and ground staff to prepare a meeting on Dec. 2, at which jobs will be discussed. The cabin crew union had criticized Lufthansa for dictating the timing and agenda of the meetings.

However, the union cautioned on Wednesday that further agreements on jobs needed to be achieved by that date in order to prevent further strikes.

Lufthansa shares extended gains after the strike was called off and were up 2.1 percent a 0852 GMT.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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Toyota to replace Takata airbag inflators previously deemed safe


TOKYO Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) on Wednesday said it would replace Takata Corp (7312.T) airbag inflators in 1.6 million cars in Japan that had previously been recalled after concluding that they may still be unsafe.

The decision was prompted after a passenger in a Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) vehicle was injured this year when an airbag ruptured, despite the inflator having been checked in an earlier inspection.

Nissan this month reissued recalls for around 310,000 vehicles in Japan due to the incident.

In earlier inspections, automakers had checked the inflators using ammonium nitrate for air leaks and deemed some safe enough not to be replaced. But Toyota said in emailed comments that it would now replace all of those inflators. The replacement parts will be made by Takata.

The recall affects around 20 domestic models produced between 2004 and 2008, including the Vitz compact. The initial recalls were conducted in May and June.

Information on how this may affect recalls outside Japan was not immediately available.

U.S. regulators have linked Takata inflators using ammonium nitrate, which can explode upon deployment and spray shrapnel, to eight deaths, triggering the recall of tens of millions of vehicles worldwide.

This month, Toyota, Nissan and other major car manufacturers said they would stop using ammonium nitrate inflators manufactured by Takata in new models. Takata says it has yet to determine the root cause of the defect.

The embattled airbag maker was fined $70 million by U.S. regulators, which also ordered the company to stop using the potentially dangerous propellant.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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New agonies, alliances as Fed debates post-liftoff plan


NEW YORK Federal Reserve officials, who are expected to raise interest rates next month, are already sketching out positions for a post-liftoff debate that may blur the lines between inflation “hawks” and “doves” and make the Fed’s policy less predictable.

With unemployment steadily falling, Fed policymakers have been waiting for a return of healthy price and wage increases. But those have yet to appear, prompting some within the central bank to begin doubting whether their tried and tested economic models still work.

Fed officials’ private and public comments show that the debate now centers on whether the U.S. economy is returning to its old robust self, or whether tepid growth and resulting weak inflation and slow wage increases have become the new norm after the deep recession of 2007-2009. The Fed’s 17 policymakers are also wide apart on the question how high interest rates should go and how quickly to get there.

The debate will effectively determine how far U.S. rates will diverge from those in other major economies that are still in an easing mode and how far the dollar may rise, possibly triggering an emerging markets sell-off and hurting U.S. exports.

Uncertainty as to who will prevail in the debate may also sow confusion among investors, adding to market volatility.

Now even some of the hawks, who would typically worry more about inflation risks than weak economic growth, are weighing a possibility that they may face a long spell of sub-par growth and low inflation. Others, such as Fed Chair Janet Yellen, have held to a tried and true approach of trying to preempt any pick up in prices, which they anticipate next year.

“Some of our fundamental assumptions about how U.S. monetary policy works may have to be altered,” St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, a hawk, told a conference this month.

Reflecting such doubts, minutes from the Fed’s Oct. 27-28 meeting showed that even as they geared up for a first rate rise in a decade several officials felt it would be prudent to plan for other ways to stimulate the economy if low rates become entrenched.

Those in the more orthodox camp like Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, say a 5 percent unemployment, close to its long-run average, makes them pretty confident inflation will return to the Fed’s 2 percent target, especially if oil prices stabilize.

Others worry that the U.S. economy is not behaving in a familiar way in an increasingly complex world where weakness elsewhere threatens to spill quickly into the United States. They advocate keeping borrowing costs low until the Fed better understands how price expectations are formed in the wake of the deep recession, and amid demographic changes and technological breakthroughs.

The battle lines overlap, to an extent, with those dividing hawks and doves in the past. They are not identical, though.

For example, William Dudley, the dovish head of the New York Fed, and Bullard both expect inflation to rise toward target by the end of next year, sooner than forecast by the majority of their colleagues.

Differences in their inflation outlooks and the degree of confidence in the predictive power of relationships between jobs, wages and prices, are reflected in the Fed policymakers’ predictions.

Their September forecasts for the central bank’s key rate range from less than zero to 3 percent by the end of next year, and from 3 percent to 4 percent in the long run.

Yellen, Fischer and others at the Fed insist that any tightening is likely to be gradual. Policymakers acknowledge, however, that they have yet to agree what gradual means and this uncertainty has been reflected in increased volatility in short-term Treasury markets in recent months.

TRAIL OF TEARS

Fed policymakers say confidence that inflation will rebound should be enough to pull the trigger on rates for the first time, most likely at their Dec. 15-16 meeting. The second move may need more proof that prices are in fact rising, so its timing will offer a better clue to how the tightening cycle will unfold.

It may also show to what extent the Fed still relies on the theory of an unemployment-inflation trade-off commonly known as the Phillips curve.

“You hear arguments inside and outside the (Fed’s policy) committee that in this circumstance you should just look at inflation by itself,” Bullard, who will vote on rates next year, said. “Maybe it is the appropriate thing to do in this environment,(but)if we are really going to give up on the Phillips Curve at the heart of central banking that would be a major change,” he told Reuters from his St. Louis office.

San Francisco Fed President John Williams, a Yellen ally, argues there is a “strong case” for a December rate rise. But he has warned that declining estimates of neutral rates – those that neither accelerate nor slow the economy – are a “red flag” that the economy could have become more vulnerable.

The very fact that the Fed is debating a tightening while Europe, Japan and China continue monetary easing, is giving some policymakers, such as Fed Governor Lael Brainard or Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, a pause.

One fear is a repeat of what happened to the European Central Bank and Sweden’s Riksbank. Both raised rates in 2011 because of inflation concerns only to reverse those the following year when a nascent recovery went into reverse.

“We have had different points in time since the downturn where certain regions of the world thought they could de-link against the rest of the world,” Evans said this month. “There’s often a trail of tears that follows that hope that their own area is stronger.”

(Additional reporting by Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir; Editing by David Chance and Tomasz Janowski)

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Boeing says to roll out first 737 MAX in early December


Boeing Co (BA.N) said it plans to roll out its first 737 MAX jetliner on Dec. 8 from its Renton factory in Washington.

Boeing, which has almost 3,000 orders for the 737 MAX, is on track to deliver the jetliner in the third quarter of 2017, the Chicago-based company said in an emailed statement.


(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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