News Archive


Oil languishes after OPEC fails to deepen supply cuts, Asia stocks retreat


SINGAPORE Crude prices remained subdued early on Friday after an agreement by OPEC to extend existing supply curbs disappointed many who had hoped for larger cuts.

Asian stocks dropped, turning away from Wall Street’s strong performance overnight.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and some non-OPEC producers agreed at a meeting in Vienna on Thursday to extend supply cuts of 1.8 million barrels per day until the end of the first quarter of 2018.While OPEC’s move had been expected, some oil market investors had hoped producers would agree to longer or deeper cuts to drain a global glut of oil. Talk around extending the cuts had driven crude futures higher in recent days, with the confirmation prompting profit-taking.

“This seems like a clear case of buy the rumor, sell the fact, which was touted to be the reaction,” James Woods, global investment analyst at Rivkin Securities in Sydney, wrote in a note.

U.S. crude CLc1 prices were flat at $48.88 early on Friday, after losing 4.8 percent overnight, set to end the week 2.8 percent lower.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS, which closed at a two-year high on Thursday, fell 0.2 percent, shrinking its weekly gain to 1.5 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 also slipped 0.2 percent, on track for a 1 percent increase for the week.

Overnight on Wall Street, the SP 500 .SPX and the Nasdaq .IXIC closed at record highs after strong earnings reports from retailers.

The strong performance helped lift MSCI’s global stocks index .MIWD00000PUS to a record close overnight.

Sterling fell 0.3 percent on Friday to $1.2906, after a YouGov poll showed Britain’s opposition Labor Party had cut the lead of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives to five points less than a fortnight before national elections also weighed on sterling.

Sterling declined 0.3 percent on Thursday after data showed Britain’s economy slowed more than previously thought in the first quarter of this year.

“The UK is now beginning to look like the sick man of Europe,” said Kathleen Brooks, research director with City Index in London.

The dollar pulled back 0.1 percent to 111.68 yen JPY= on Friday, and was set to end the week up 0.2 percent.

The dollar index .DXY, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major peers, was steady and poised for a 0.1 percent gain in the week.

U.S. unemployment data that showed a tightening labor market was offset by a widening goods trade deficit in April and news of declining inventories, prompting analysts to pare their second-quarter economic growth estimates.

The euro EUR=EBS was flat at $1.121.

Gold XAU= was steady at $1,254 an ounce, poised for a 0.1 percent loss for the week.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Additional reporting by Patrick Graham; Editing by Eric Meijer)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/-MwpXxYg0Hk/us-global-markets-idUSKBN18M02B

Big drop in U.S. oil stocks finally on the way, traders say


NEW YORK Oil traders and analysts are expecting large volumes of crude to draw from storage tanks across the United States in coming weeks, in what would be the most tangible sign of an inventory overhang reduction that has punished prices over the last two years.

A reduction would show the market is finally reversing course after years of stock builds that left a worldwide overhang of half a billion barrels of crude oil and refined products.

Supplies have remained stubbornly high for months, disappointing traders who were expecting OPEC cuts to help rebalance the market. But traders interviewed said seasonally unusual spring drawdowns in the United States, record refining runs, and big exports to Asia and Latin America as signals that sharp declines in crude stocks could be coming.

Some traders said that they expect as much as 10 million barrel per week in draws soon, although others forecasted three to four million barrels a week. U.S. crude stocks peaked at 533 million barrels in March, and were at 516 million as of last week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Forecasts can vary depending on unexpected events like unplanned refinery or pipeline outages, but traders agreed the draws would be substantial.

“I think we’ll easily get below 500 million barrels over the next six to eight weeks, or eight to 10 to be conservative,” said Andrew Lebow, senior partner at Commodity Research Group in Darien, Connecticut.

On Thursday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with non-members, decided to extend cuts of around 1.8 million barrels per day for nine months to curb output. Prices fell sharply, on worries that it would not do enough to reduce supplies.

So far in 2017, inventories have remained stubbornly high. Heavy growth in U.S. shale production, along with imports, kept U.S. inventories at levels above last year, even though more opaque storage spots were starting to draw.

That may have already started to accelerate. Between April and May, U.S. crude draws averaged 3.4 million barrels every week, on track for the first decline for that period since 2008.

U.S. refiners are churning crude at near-record levels. Refinery utilization was at the highest level seasonally in two years last week even ahead of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday, the de facto start of peak gasoline demand.

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said on Thursday that the seven weeks of U.S. stock draws, along with a drop in floating storage, is “excellent news,” adding that exports to the United States were dropping measurably.

The primary offsetting factor is U.S. production, which sits now at 9.3 million barrels a day, 550,000 barrels higher than a year ago, according to EIA data. [EIA/S]

“I expect any curtailment of OPEC exports will be matched by further increases in U.S. shale production, as evidenced by current data on the continued increase of drilling rigs and permits,” said Josh Sherman, a partner at consulting firm Opportune LLP in Houston.

However, U.S. exports of crude and products remain strong, with some 10 million barrels of U.S. crude en route to Asia, according to shipping data and trade sources.

One crude analyst at a trading house said that he expects draws to be close to 20 million barrels a month from the Gulf Coast through the summer on “massive” levels of exports.

That could also drain inventories at the U.S. storage hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, where stocks sit at 65.6 million barrels; Standard Chartered expects that figure to fall to below 60 million by the end of the summer.

“At the pace sustained since the start of March, the crude surplus would be totally gone by end-December,” Standard Chartered analysts said in a note this week.

(Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/82A9RFqUOFE/us-opec-oil-inventories-idUSKBN18L2Q1

OPEC, non-OPEC extend oil output cut by nine months to fight glut


VIENNA OPEC and non-members led by Russia decided on Thursday to extend cuts in oil output by nine months to March 2018 as they battle a global glut of crude after seeing prices halve and revenues drop sharply in the past three years.

Oil prices dropped more than 4 percent as the market had been hoping oil producers could reach a last-minute deal to deepen the cuts or extend them further, until mid-2018. [O/R]

OPEC’s cuts have helped to push oil back above $50 a barrel this year, giving a fiscal boost to producers, many of which rely heavily on energy revenues and have had to burn through foreign-currency reserves to plug holes in their budgets.

Oil’s earlier price decline, which started in 2014, forced Russia and Saudi Arabia to tighten their belts and led to unrest in some producing countries including Venezuela and Nigeria.

The price rise this year has spurred growth in the U.S. shale industry, which is not participating in the output deal, thus slowing the market’s rebalancing with global crude stocks still near record highs.

“We considered various scenarios, from six to nine to 12 months, and we even considered options for a higher cut. But all indications discovered that a nine-month extension is the optimum,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said.

He told a news conference he was not worried by what he called Thursday’s “technical” oil price drop and was confident prices would recover as global inventories shrink, including because of declining Saudi exports to the United States.

In December, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed its first production curbs in a decade and the first joint cuts with 11 non-OPEC producer nations, led by Russia, in 15 years.

The two sides decided to remove about 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) from the market in the first half of 2017 – equal to 2 percent of global production, taking October 2016 as the baseline month for reductions.

On Thursday, OPEC and non-OPEC agreed to extend cuts by the same 1.8 million bpd. The exact split between OPEC and non-members will likely be different after Equatorial Guinea joined the organization on Thursday, reducing the number of participating non-OPEC nations to 10.

“WHATEVER IT TAKES”

Despite the output cut, OPEC kept exports fairly stable in the first half of 2017 as its members sold oil from stocks.

OPEC produces a third of the world’s oil. Its production reduction of 1.2 million bpd was made based on October 2016 output of around 31 million bpd, excluding Nigeria and Libya.

Falih said OPEC members Nigeria and Libya would still be excluded from cuts as their output remained curbed by unrest.

He also said Saudi oil exports were set to decline steeply from June, thus helping to speed up market rebalancing. He added that cuts could be extended further when OPEC and non-OPEC producers next meet in Vienna on Nov. 30.

“Russia has an upcoming election and Saudis have the Aramco share listing next year so they will indeed do whatever it takes to support oil prices,” said Gary Ross, head of global oil at PIRA Energy, a unit of SP Global Platts.

OPEC has a self-imposed goal of bringing stocks down from a record high of 3 billion barrels to their five-year average of 2.7 billion.

“We have seen a substantial drawdown in inventories that will be accelerated,” Falih said. “Then, the fourth quarter will get us to where we want.”

OPEC also faces the dilemma of not pushing oil prices too high because doing so would further spur shale production in the United States, the world’s top oil consumer, which now rivals Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s biggest producer.

“Less OPEC oil on the market enhances the opportunity for American energy to fill needs around the world, and will help us achieve energy dominance,” Ryan Sitton from the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the large Texan oil industry, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar, Vladimir Soldatkin and Shadia Nasralla; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Dale Hudson, Pravin Char and Sonya Hepinstall)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/krY2FNcY-fA/us-opec-oil-idUSKBN18L0S8

GM is accused in lawsuit of cheating on diesel truck emissions


General Motors Co (GM.N) was accused in a lawsuit on Thursday of rigging hundreds of thousands of diesel trucks with devices similar to those used by Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE), to ensure they pass emissions tests.

The proposed class-action lawsuit covers people who own or lease more than 705,000 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups fitted with “Duramax” engines from the 2011 to 2016 model years.

It said GM used at least three “defeat devices” to ensure that the trucks met federal and state emission standards, even if they generated more pollution in real-world driving. The complaint was filed in the federal court in Detroit.

“These claims are baseless and we will vigorously defend ourselves,” GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

He added that the trucks comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards and California’s own tough emissions standards.

The lawsuit alleges violations of racketeering and consumer protection laws, and seeks remedies including possible refunds, restitution for lost resale value, and punitive damages.

It adds to legal problems for Detroit-based GM, which has already paid about $2.5 billion in penalties and settlements over faulty ignition switches linked to 124 deaths.

GM joins VW, which has admitted to cheating, and at least four other automakers whose diesel emissions have been scrutinized by regulators or consumers.

They include Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI), Peugeot SA (PEUP.PA) and Renault SA (RENA.PA)

GM shares were down 74 cents, or 2.2 percent, at $32.46 in afternoon trading, after earlier falling as much as 3.8 percent.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak estimated that one-eighth of GM’s full-sized pickups have diesel engines, and said “negative publicity” from the lawsuit could steer prospective buyers to Ford Motor Co (F.N) or Fiat Chrysler’s Ram division.

EXCESS POLLUTANTS

According to the lawsuit, “on-road” emissions testing conducted for the plaintiffs found that Duramax-engined trucks produced nitrogen oxide pollutants two to five times higher than allowed, and “many times” higher than gasoline-engined trucks.

Modifying the engines to meet emissions standards would reduce performance, horsepower and fuel economy, the 184-page complaint said.

Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL] was also named as a defendant for having allegedly helped develop the defeat devices, in an “unusually close” collaboration with GM.

Bosch spokeswoman Alissa Cleland said that company will not discuss matters being investigated or litigated.

The named plaintiffs are Andrei Fenner of Mountain View, California and Joshua Herman of Sulphur, Louisiana.

They said they would not have bought, or would have paid less for, their respective 2011 Sierra and 2016 Silverado trucks had they known about the alleged rigging.

Their law firms include Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, which helped reach multibillion-dollar settlements for VW owners and dealers and has brought similar claims over GM’s diesel-equipped Chevrolet Cruze.

Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, which handles many GM ignition switch lawsuits, also represents the plaintiffs.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit accusing Fiat Chrysler of using software on 104,000 diesel vehicles sold since 2014 to evade emission standards.

Fiat Chrysler has denied wrongdoing. It also faces a separate Justice Department criminal probe on emissions.

The case is Fenner et al v General Motors LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, No. 17-11661.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Chicago; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman and Alana Wise in Detroit; Editing by G Crosse and Lisa Shumaker)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/uuJPgd0vOPY/us-gm-lawsuit-idUSKBN18L25Y

Ballooning Chinese dollar borrowing a dilemma for index trackers


LONDON/HONG KONG Record-breaking dollar bond sales from Chinese companies are steadily increasing China’s weight in global indexes, raising concerns about overexposure among investors who track them.

Corporates’ rapid move onto offshore bond markets, partly a response to the crackdown on runaway credit growth at home, highlights China’s multi-faceted indebtedness, a growing worry for investors.

Overall debt is approaching 300 percent of annual economic output (GDP) and Moody’s said it was the reason for cutting China’s credit rating for the first time in 30 years.

Stripping out maturing debt and coupon payments, year-to-date bond sales from companies in emerging markets total $65 billion including $54 billion from China, JPMorgan estimates. In gross issuance terms, almost half this year’s emerging market corporate bond sales are from Chinese firms, the bank said.

Company debt issuance in other emerging markets has been subdued by commodity and growth slumps. Some indexes cap the weight they give to each country but most are committed to broadly representing the market.

This means that the indexes have to increase the weighting they give to China and investors whose portfolios track or benchmark an index must adjust accordingly.

“It poses a challenge for global portfolios. You don’t want to have too much of a good thing,” said Greg Saichin, head of emerging debt at AllianzGlobal Investments.

China today comprises around 20 percent of the Markit iBOXX emerging market corporate index versus 0.5 percent in 2007.

In JPMorgan’s CEMBI Broad index too, China is 21 percent, up from less than 4 percent in 2010, though in the iBoxx corporate dollar bond index which also includes developed countries and is dominated by U.S. names, China’s weight remains around 0.8 percent. It has risen however from 0.074 percent five years ago.

Chinese firms should this year easily surpass the $108 billion debt raised in 2016 and $116 billion in 2014. In 2010, just $14 billion was issued.

“It’s just a juggernaut of issuance,” said Guy Stear, co-head of fixed income research at Societe Generale in Paris. “It’s so large that it’s a game changer in terms of EM corporates… it’s not just commodity companies, its cement, materials, internet companies, there’s a broad range.”

The Chinese deals are mostly welcomed by money managers who need to invest the money pouring into their funds. Also, Chinese state-run firms still carry investment grade ratings, unlike issuers from many big emerging economies such as Russia, Turkey, and Brazil.

“Relative to rating Chinese debt pays relatively decent yield…against that people are conscious that if you are running an EM credit fund you have very very high exposure to one part of the world,” Stear said.

ALLOCATION CONUNDRUM

One popular solution for the allocation dilemma is “unconstrained” debt funds that are less committed to representing the market.

Morningstar data showed 10 such funds focused on Asian fixed income were launched already this year by asset managers. More than 40 launched in 2016.

“We are already seeing clients and investors wanting a diversified approach rather than just seeking exposure to a broad emerging market bond index,” said Bryan Collins, a portfolio manager at Fidelity International in Hong Kong.

Such funds can opt for less China exposure. Or they can delve down the credit curve and away from state-run firms whose close correlation with sovereign yields offers less prospect of outperformance, Collins said.

Other commonly used indexes cap China’s weight – JPMorgan’s CEMBI Broad Diversified limits the weight each country can have, while Citigroup and Bloomberg have recently launched index variations capping China exposure.

“We stay with the Broad Diversified and we are comfortable with China at 8-10 percent,” said Steve Cook, co-head of emerging debt at PineBridge Investments in London.

Cook noted that the $400 billion-plus market was still a fraction of the $5.7 trillion outstanding in U.S. investment grade credit. Corporate dollar bonds also comprise a small proportion of the country’s overall debt, estimated by some to be as high as $28 trillion.

COOLING DOWN

Chinese authorities were trying to cool the dollar bond boom even before the Moody’s rating downgrade. Property firms for instance no longer receive new issuance quotas, Reuters has reported.

Their efforts could accelerate after the Moody’s downgrade and subsequent rating cuts for state-run firms should also raise borrowing costs.

But bond sales are unlikely to grind to a complete halt. For one, raising cash overseas can allow companies to sidestep curbs that are in place to combat capital flight.

Second, companies’ total debt repayments in 2017 are estimated at 5.5 trillion yuan ($797.36 billion) by ratings agency China Chengxin. For investment-grade Chinese firms, dollar borrowing works out some 90 basis points cheaper than on domestic markets where interest rates have risen.

The spread between JP Morgan’s China index and onshore AA-rated corporate debt is at its widest in two years, this chart shows: tmsnrt.rs/2rxmkUI

“If you are laden with debt, interest rates are rising and you need to roll over debt, you find the money wherever you can,” Stephen Jen, CEO of Eurizon SLJ Capital, said.

(This version of the story corrects China’s weight in global corporate bond index in paragraph 9)

(To view a graphic on ‘Chinese corporate dollar debt’ click here)

(To view a graphic on ‘China in EM corporate debt index’ click here)

(Additional reporting by Umesh Desai in Hong Kong; Graphic by Ritvik Carvalho in London; editing by Anna Willard)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/hLRABmFBrbg/us-china-corpbonds-dollars-analysis-idUSKBN18L23L

New Ford CEO relies on veterans to reboot profits


BENGALURU/DETROIT Ford Motor Co (F.N) on Thursday reshuffled senior management and brought back a former executive from Uber Technologies Inc, signaling its new chief executive officer will rely on tested company veterans to turn Ford around rather than outside talent.

James Hackett, named CEO on Monday, has said he wants to streamline Ford’s hierarchy and speed up decision-making, as the No. 2 U.S. automaker faces threats from Silicon Valley’s self-driving technology and resurgent rival General Motors Co (GM.N) in its traditional markets.

Ford said it hired Sherif Marakby as its new vice president in charge of its autonomous and electric vehicle efforts. Marakby had been hired away from ride-hailing company Uber [UBER.UL], where he was vice president of global vehicle programs. Prior to joining Uber last year, Marakby was at Ford for more than 25 years and worked on hybrid and electric vehicles.

The automaker said it will also combine its purchasing and product development operations under Hau Thai-Tang, previously head of global purchasing. Thai-Tang, 50, will have the task of simultaneously accelerating vehicle development and reining in costs as rival GM unleashes a volley of models aimed at the heart of Ford’s product lineup.

Raj Nair, currently Ford’s executive vice president of product development and chief technical officer, will take over as president, North America, effective June 1, the company said. He will be responsible for operations that generate about 90 percent of Ford’s global profits.

In other moves, Ford named Steven Armstrong as head of Europe, Middle East and Africa and Peter Fleet as chief of Asia Pacific and China.

Armstrong is currently chief operating officer for Ford of Europe, while Fleet is in charge of sales and marketing for the Asia-Pacific region.

Last week, the company announced plans to cut 1,400 white-collar positions and is expected to make significant cost cuts in the coming months.

Hackett, who replaced Mark Fields, is the latest in a line of non-family CEOs given a mandate to change the management culture at one of the auto industry’s oldest institutions.

Ford shares fell 1.7 percent to $10.77. The stock is down about 36 percent since Fields took over three years ago at the peak of the U.S. auto industry’s recovery from the crisis of the last decade.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Rigby)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/yVG-e5xNj84/us-ford-management-idUSKBN18L1EZ

Exclusive: Bankrupt Westinghouse ends pensions for ex-CEOs, executives


WILMINGTON, Del Bankrupt Westinghouse Electric Co LLC, the U.S. nuclear technology firm owned by Toshiba Corp (6502.T), has stopped making pension payments to former executives, according to a letter seen by Reuters, removing a benefit that has helped the company retain top talent.

The move comes as the company scrambles for cash and works to extract itself from two U.S. power plant projects, the first new nuclear plants in three decades, which are years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

Westinghouse notified former senior managers that the company will no longer make payments under the Executive Pension Plan, according to an April letter seen by Reuters.

Westinghouse spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said in a statement that in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company is not permitted to make pension payments to retired executives because it is a non-qualified plan.

Unlike “qualified” plans for rank-and-file workers that are funded from money set aside in a trust, Westinghouse’s executives receive their payments from the company’s ongoing operations.

The pension was considered a major perk. Steve Tritch, who was CEO of Westinghouse from 2002 to 2008 and is among those who lost their pension payments, told Reuters the company may struggle to keep top talent without the plan in place.

Many employees “resisted opportunities from outside the company because they were counting on those pensions,” he said.

The plan covers around 75 former managers, according to a court filing by Ronald Gellert, a Delaware lawyer who was hired to represent the plan participants. It includes retired senior vice presidents, directors, regional presidents and at least two former chief executives, Aris Candris and Tritch.

Gellert declined to comment.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy and has said it cannot afford to finish construction of the Plant Vogtle nuclear project in Georgia or the V.C. Summer project in South Carolina.

The plants were the first in the United States to use Westinghouse’s innovative AP1000 design, but construction has been dogged by missteps, litigation and regulatory hurdles.

Westinghouse has warned in court filings that its workforce is highly specialized and the loss of employees could complicate relationships with government agencies and customers, and could jeopardize its reorganization.

“Westinghouse is very focused on retaining our talented employees during this time and our training and development programs continue,” said Cassella, the Westinghouse spokeswoman.

Under the pension plan, the amount each former executive received was based on service with the company and final salary, according to three former executives, who asked not to be identified because they may pursue Westinghouse in court.

The three former executives told Reuters the plan also allowed them to defer compensation and take that money as part of their pension, which helped reduce taxes. The former executives who deferred compensation are losing their pension as well as money they could have received when they were still working, according to these former executives.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Nick Zieminski)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/ofCRr8sJdYY/us-toshiba-accounting-westinghouse-pensi-idUSKBN18L2AF

Wilbur Ross seeks bigger budget for trade enforcement


WASHINGTON U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that a $5.5 million increase requested for the agency’s enforcement budget this year will have a “real impact” in cracking down on unfair trade practices and export security violations.

Ross told a House Appropriations subcommittee that an additional $4.5 million requested by the Trump Administration for the International Trade Administration’s enforcement and compliance section will fund 29 new positions whose primary focus will be the self-initiation of antidumping and antisubsidy investigations.

Ross has pledged to have the Commerce Department take the lead in launching trade cases on behalf of industries that lack the resources or the organization to pursue them.

“We will ensure that no country or foreign corporation can take unfair advantage of U.S. markets,” Ross said.

The enforcement increases are contained in the Trump administration’s fiscal 2018 budget requests, which propose deep cuts to food assistance, health care and other social programs along with increases in military spending.

Commerce also would get a $1 million increase in funding for the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the division that enforces export controls on sensitive technologies. Ross said this would fund 19 new special agents at the division that took the lead in an investigation that led to a criminal fine of $1.19 billion against China’s ZTE (000063.SZ) for violating trade sanctions on Iran and North Korea.

“BIS took the lead in cracking this case open. So I am confident that these 19 additional agents, and the bandwidth they represent, will have real impact,” Ross said.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by David Gregorio)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/b8v0GrnwiJY/us-usa-trade-ross-idUSKBN18L28H

S&P, Nasdaq open at record levels after Fed minutes


The SP 500 and Nasdaq Composite opened at record highs on Thursday after minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting showed policymakers expected the economy to pick up momentum.

While policymakers expected they would raise interest rates sooner rather than later, they agreed they should hold off until it was clear a recent slowdown in the economy was temporary.

Federal funds futures imply traders see an 83 percent chance of a rate hike in June, unchanged from before the minutes, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

However, the odds of a further increase this year dipped to 46 percent, from roughly 50 percent late on Tuesday.

“I think the markets are pretty okay at this point with a June rate hike,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“The Fed made it pretty clear that the economic slowdown is transitory and as long as the economic data picks up, we should see a rate hike next month. The only hurdle to that could be employment numbers,” said Brown, referring to the data for May due next week.

While recent economic data has been mixed, with signs of a dip in consumer sentiment and spending, the job market continues to strengthen.

That was reinforced by the jobless claims data, which showed that claims rose less than expected last week and the four-week moving average of claims fell to a 44-year low.

At 9:37 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 51.51 points, or 0.25 percent, at 21,063.93.

The SP 500 .SPX was up 4.66 points, or 0.19 percent, at 2,409.05, easing after hitting a record of 2,409.96.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 16.16 points, or 0.26 percent, at 6,179.18. The index hit an all-time high of 6,183.02.

Eight of the 11 major SP 500 sectors were higher, with the consumer discretionary index’s .SPLRCD 0.55 percent rise leading the advancers.

Retailers, which have been posting disappointing results, were set for an odd bright session.

Sears (SHLD.O) jumped 19 percent to $8.74 after posting its first quarterly profit in nearly two years.

Best Buy (BBY.N) surged 12 percent as its comparable sales unexpectedly increased, making it the biggest boost on the SP.

Tommy Hilfiger-owner PVH (PVH.N) rose 5 percent and Guess (GES.N) jumped nearly 14 percent after issuing strong results and forecasts.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,693 to 790. On the Nasdaq, 1,408 issues rose and 781 fell.

The SP 500 index showed 49 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 54 new highs and 14 new lows.

(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/qrylw_jhGdQ/us-usa-stocks-idUSKBN18L1HC