News Archive


Apple could drop Qualcomm components in next year’s iPhones, iPads -sources

(Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has designed iPhones and iPads that would drop chips supplied by Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), according to two people familiar with the matter.

The change would affect iPhones released in the fall of 2018, but Apple could still change course before then, these people said. They declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The dispute stems from a change in supply arrangements under which Qualcomm has stopped providing some software for Apple to test its chips in its iPhone designs, one of the people told Reuters.

The two companies are locked in a multinational legal dispute over the Qualcomm’s licensing terms to Apple.

Qualcomm told Reuters it is providing fully tested chips to Apple for iPhones. “We are committed to supporting Apple’s new devices consistent with our support of all others in the industry,” Qualcomm said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Apple could drop Qualcomm chips Monday.

Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said Apple’s move is not totally unexpected.

Though Qualcomm has for several years supplied Apple’s modems – which help Apple’s phones connect to wireless data networks – Intel Corp (INTC.O) has provided upward of half of Apple’s modem chips for iPhones in recent years, Rasgon said. Intel recently acquired a firm that would let it replace more of Qualcomm’s chips in iPhones, Rasgon said.

Rasgon said it’s too early to say definitively whether Apple fully intends to drop Qualcomm next year because Apple can likely make multiple contingency plans for different supplier scenarios.

“Apple is big enough that if they want to support multiple paths, they can do that,” Rasgon said. “Samsung (Electronics Co (005930.KS)) did this too. A couple of years ago, Samsung designed Qualcomm out, but Qualcomm didn’t even know until it was close to time to ship” Samsung’s phones, Rasgon said.

(Refiles to add dropped word in paragraph 10.)

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in Bengaluru and Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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Kellogg’s surprise sales increase cheers investors

(Reuters) – Kellogg Co (K.N) surprised investors on Tuesday with its first quarterly sales increase in more than two years, showing it was turning a corner after massive cost cuts and a shift to healthier products, sending its shares up 7 percent.

The stock, which has declined 16 percent in the past year, was set for its best day since the 2009 financial crisis.

Kellogg’s legacy cereals business has suffered for several years as people reach for healthier breakfasts items, prompting the company to reduce sugar and artificial ingredients and come out with newer products.

Revenue from Kellogg’s U.S. morning foods unit, which includes cereals, fell 3 percent. Sales at Kellogg’s snack business, which encompasses Cheez-It crackers and Pringles chips, were down 4.5 percent in the latest quarter, partly due a change in its distribution model.

The company has stopped distributing products directly to stores and switched to its more widely used warehouse model to lower expenses.

Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Lavery said the drop in the snack business was not as drastic as he had expected.

“US snacks weathered price cuts and disruptions from its (direct-store delivery) transition better than we had expected,” wrote Lavery, who had estimated a 14 percent drop in snack sales.

The quarter benefited from a 4.5 percent increase in sales in the unit that includes its Kashi whole grain cereals and snack bars as well as frozen foods such as Eggo waffles and Morningstar Farms burger patties.

Kellogg’s net sales rose 0.6 percent to $3.27 billion, while analysts on average had expected it to drop 1.4 percent to $3.21 billion.

Kellogg has also kept a tight lid on costs, through jobcuts and production optimization. Selling and general costs dropped 10 percent in the third quarter.

Net income rose to $297 million, or 85 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, from $292 million, or 82 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, earning were $1.05 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of 94 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Kellogg also raised its full-year adjusted profit forecast to $4.00-4.06 per share, up from its previous forecast of $3.97-4.03, citing a smaller impact from currency translation than previously anticipated.

Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/XAtcspOhBis/kelloggs-surprise-sales-increase-cheers-investors-idUSKBN1D01L5

U.S. business group worries Trump unprepared for commercial talks with China

BEIJING (Reuters) – A top U.S. business lobby in China said on Tuesday it was concerned U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration was not making sufficient preparation for talks on imbalances in the bilateral economic relationship ahead of his November visit.

Little advance work has been done for the visit, said William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. He was referring to meetings by working level officials to negotiate outcomes on commercial issues for Trump’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

“From what I understand, there really hasn’t been much of that for this visit, which makes us a bit concerned that there may not be much discussion on the structural issues,” Zarit told reporters in Beijing.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will bring a business delegation to Beijing during Trump’s visit. Some in the U.S. business community are worried that deals announced on the trip could distract from solutions to long-standing complaints over discriminatory Chinese policies and market access restrictions.

Zarit said he hoped proposed deals from the business delegation “do not overshadow the real need for structural changes in the economic relationship”.

Trump, who will stop in five Asian countries on his first visit to the region as president, will arrive in Beijing on Nov. 8.

‘MASTER NEGOTIATORS’

U.S. officials were “still waiting” for a Chinese response to issues raised during the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue in July, Zarit said, though he did not give specifics.

He called Chinese officials “master negotiators” and said the U.S. government and business community had long suffered from a less strategic view of the economic relationship.

“And I think there is no exception with this administration,” Zarit said.

He added that it was “not unreasonable” to expect more progress 10 months into Trump’s presidency.

Ross, has said the United States will be looking for “immediate results” and “tangible agreements” during Trump’s visit, but has acknowledged that market access, intellectual property rights, and tariffs are more complex and will take a longer time to negotiate.

Washington and Beijing launched a 100-day economic plan during Trump’s first meeting with Xi in April, including some industry-specific announcements, such as the resumption of American beef sales in China. But U.S. business groups have expressed disappointment over the extent of the outcomes.

XI VOWS REFORMS

Xi vowed on Monday that China would take more measures to open up the economy. He made the remarks at a meeting with members of an advisory board to Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management, including Apple Inc (AAPL.O) chief executive Tim Cook and Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) Mark Zuckerberg.

China will make joint efforts with the United States to “take each other’s interests and concerns into consideration, resolve disputes and contradictions, and engage in win-win cooperation”, Xi said according to the official China Daily newspaper.

But such frequently made pledges have done little to assuage foreign companies’ concerns over ownership caps in key sectors, such as autos, securities, insurance, and information technology.

U.S. business lobbies argue that their members are restricted in those industries while Chinese companies operate freely in the U.S. market. They have also criticized Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” plan, which offers government backing for sectors the Chinese government deems strategic.

Particularly galling to foreign tech firms are a slate of new national security and cyber security regulations that mandate companies store crucial data within China and pass security reviews they argue could put business secrets at risk.

“Basically, when we look at that, what it boils down to for us is it’s a company competing against a country,” Zarit said.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Bill Tarrant

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/vb02mCz59ys/u-s-business-group-worries-trump-unprepared-for-commercial-talks-with-china-idUSKBN1D00W6

Google ditched autopilot driving feature after test user napped behind wheel

ATWATER, Calif. (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) self-driving car unit stopped developing features that required drivers to take control in dangerous situations, its chief executive said Monday, as autopilot reliance left users prone to distractions and ill-prepared to maneuver.

The decision followed experiments of the technology in Silicon Valley that showed test users napping, putting on makeup and fiddling with their phones as the vehicles traveled up to 56 mph.

John Krafcik, the head of Waymo, which was formed in 2009 as a project within Alphabet’s Google unit, told reporters that about five years ago the company envisioned technology that could autonomously drive cars on highways as a quick way to get on the market.

Other self-driving automakers include similar autopilot features for highway-driving in vehicles, but they require drivers to take over the steering wheel in tricky situations. Waymo planned to do the same.

“What we found was pretty scary,” Krafcik said on Monday during a media tour of a Waymo testing facility. “It’s hard to take over because they have lost contextual awareness.”

Krafcik said the company determined a system that asked drivers to jump in at the sound of an alert was unsafe after seeing videos from inside self-driving cars during tests.

The filmed tests were conducted in 2013, with Google employees behind the wheel. The videos had not been publicly shown until Monday’s event, Waymo spokeswoman Lauren Barriere said.

The company decided to focus solely on technology that didn’t require human intervention a couple of days after the napping incident, said Krafcik, who joined as CEO in 2015. It has also since argued against allowing “handoffs” between automated driving systems and people.

“Our technology takes care of all of the driving, allowing passengers to stay passengers,” the company said in report this month.

The two drive controls provided to passengers in Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans are buttons for starting a ride and asking the vehicles to pull over at their next chance.

Waymo is running a ride-hailing pilot program around Phoenix, Arizona that chauffeurs an undisclosed, but growing number of users in self-driving cars. The service area is limited to well-mapped roads on which Waymo has extensively tested.

Krafcik declined to specify when the company would expand beyond the small experiment, saying only that such a moment is getting “close.”

He reiterated that the company is simultaneously also identifying ways to launch self-driving trucks, municipal transit services and partnerships with carmakers.

“We see four potential applications, whether it’s Waymo branded or not,” he said.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Sam Holmes

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/QiPdjMkLmZk/google-ditched-autopilot-driving-feature-after-test-user-napped-behind-wheel-idUSKBN1D00MD

Australia’s Westpac was a lead actor in rates rigging, regulator tells court

(Note strong language in the 9th paragraph)

By Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Australian corporate regulator accused Westpac Banking Corp (WBC.AX) of playing a leading role in the widespread manipulation of an important financial trading rate as it took the country’s No. 2 lender to court on Tuesday.

In an opening address to the Federal Court, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) laid out its case against Westpac, saying the bank was motivated to influence the Bank Bill Swap Rate, a crucial rate for the Australian finance system usually referred to as BBSW, because billions of dollars worth of its products were affected it.

ASIC has accused Westpac and rivals National Australia Bank Ltd (NAB.AX) (NAB) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ.AX) (ANZ) of rigging the BBSW to inflate profits from 2010 to 2012.

All three banks have denied wrongdoing but NAB and ANZ agreed to settle soon before hearings began, leaving Westpac to defend itself alone in a civil hearing. Westpac has been accused of 16 counts of unconscionable conduct, fewer than the others.

A Westpac spokesman said it could not comment on the case as it was before the court.

ASIC’s lawyer, Philip Crutchfield, said Westpac was a major contributor to BBSW rigging, on some days dominating 100 percent of bank bill purchases at a time when a growing range of its products were priced with reference to the benchmark rate.

“The temptation to manipulate the rate became greater because much more of Westpac’s book was riding on these derivative products,” Crutchfield told the court.

Crutchfield said that rather than hedge its position, Westpac actively sought to manipulate the sensitive rate-setting processes, playing the court what he said were recordings of Westpac traders discussing their bill purchases.

In one recording, a man Crutchfield identified as a Westpac trader could be heard saying, “I‘m going to fuck the rate set.”

In another recording, a woman Crutchfield identified as a Westpac trader could be heard saying, “In our team here we manage BBSW and the rate set so we actually… we kind of manage and monitor where BBSW gets set”.

Whether Westpac ever succeeded in manipulating a BBSW was immaterial, Crutchfield told the court, adding that ASIC would only seek to prove that Westpac planned to manipulate it.

The rate-rigging allegations, which have already drawn lawsuits from U.S. funds, are but one of several scandals engulfing Australia’s highly-concentrated banking sector.

Like the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), a global interest rate benchmark used to price financial contracts worth $350 trillion, BBSW sets the base pricing for a broad range products such as bonds, home loans and credit cards.

Banks have been fined billions of dollars for trying to manipulate the Libor benchmark, with U.K. regulators now considering an alternative for the index.

The Australian hearing continues.

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Writing by Byron Kaye; Editing by Sam Holmes

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Hevkq1RjYE0/australias-westpac-was-a-lead-actor-in-rates-rigging-regulator-tells-court-idUSKBN1D00ED

Apple could drop Qualcomm components in next year’s iPhones, iPads: sources

(Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has designed iPhones and iPads that would drop chips supplied by Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O), according to two people familiar with the matter.

The change would affect iPhones released in the fall of 2018, but Apple could still change course before then, these people said. They declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

The dispute stems from a change in supply arrangements under which Qualcomm has stopped providing some software for Apple to test its chips in its iPhone designs, one of the people told Reuters.

The two companies are locked in a multinational legal dispute over the Qualcomm’s licensing terms to Apple.

Qualcomm told Reuters it is providing fully tested chips to Apple for iPhones. “We are committed to supporting Apple’s new devices consistent with our support of all others in the industry,” Qualcomm said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that Apple could drop Qualcomm chips Monday.

Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said Apple’s move is not totally unexpected.

Though Qualcomm has for several years supplied Apple’s modems – which help Apple’s phones connect to wireless data networks – Intel Corp (INTC.O) has provided upward of half of Apple’s modem chips for iPhones in recent years, Rasgon said. Intel in 2015 acquired a firm that would let it replace more of Qualcomm’s chips in iPhones, Rasgon said.

Rasgon said it’s too early to say definitively whether Apple fully intends to drop Qualcomm next year because Apple can likely make multiple contingency plans for different supplier scenarios.

“Apple is big enough that they want to support multiple paths, they can do that,” Rasgon said. “Samsung (Electronics Co (005930.KS)) did this too. A couple of years ago, Samsung designed Qualcomm out, but Qualcomm didn’t even know until it was close to time to ship” Samsung’s phones, Rasgon said.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in Bengaluru and Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Stephen Coates

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/EfQMSEelv0o/apple-could-drop-qualcomm-components-in-next-years-iphones-ipads-sources-idUSKBN1D0099

China-backed buyout fund founder charged in U.S. insider trading case

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The founder of a private equity firm with Chinese state backing has been charged with insider trading related to the attempted acquisition of Lattice Semiconductor Corp (LSCC.O), U.S. authorities said on Monday.

The charges against Benjamin Chow represent a major blow to the buyout firm he created just last year, Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, with capital from China Reform Holdings, a Chinese state-back fund. Chow denies wrongdoing, his attorney said.

The indictment comes as Chow’s fund Canyon Bridge seeks to close its 550 million pound ($737 million) acquisition of British chipmaker Imagination Technologies Group Plc (IMG.L), after its $1.3 billion takeover of Lattice was blocked by U.S. President Donald Trump last month over national security concerns.

The Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday that Chow had conspired to commit securities fraud by sending material nonpublic information regarding the Lattice deal to an unnamed friend and former colleague.

A separate indictment by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February against that former colleague of Chow identified him as Michael Yin, a former Hong Kong-based private equity executive who had become a hedge fund manager.

Chow, a U.S. citizen born in China, is accused in the new indictment of tipping off Yin, who allegedly reaped $5 million of profit thanks to knowledge that the deal was in the works. Yin and China Reform Holdings could not be reached for comment.

The prosecutors say that Chow, 46, passed along information to Yin at in-person coffee meetings in Beijing, voice messages and text exchanges ahead of the announcement of CanyonBridge’s deal to buy Lattice.

“Benjamin Chow is a true American success story, and the charges against him are baseless and unprecedented. He is not alleged to have made a dime from the scheme, and he had no possible motive to enrich those who traded. He stood to lose enormous amounts if traders purchased the stock and drove up the company’s share price in the midst of his own negotiations,” Chow’s attorney George Canellos, a partner at law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley McCloy LLP, said in a statement.

A Canyon Bridge spokesman said in a statement that it was aware of the indictment and that it is focused on completing its planned acquisition of Imagination.

Imagination did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lattice declined to comment.

The indictment also said that Chow lied to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in response to inquiries in April about possible insider trading.

The charges against Chow carry a potential prison sentence and maximum fines of $5 million.

Canyon Bridge’s funding can be traced back to China’s State Council, the top decision-making body of the government, Reuters has previously reported. For a graphic, click tmsnrt.rs/2gegSQc

Canyon Bridge has been trying this year to attract investors from outside China. The indictment against its founder could represent a hurdle to these efforts.

Another Canyon Bridge partner, Ray Bingham, has also faced problems. The tech veteran joined Canyon Bridge last year but had to leave the boards of several tech companies, including Oracle Corp ORCL.O, due to concerns about his involvement with a firm with links to the Chinese state. Bingham could not be reached for comment Monday.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/Qf9Sx6K_wz0/china-backed-buyout-fund-founder-charged-in-u-s-insider-trading-case-idUSKBN1D00AB

Samsung Electronics to boost returns after record third-quarter profit

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean technology giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS) promised to return $26 billion to shareholders over the next three years as it reported record third-quarter profit on the back of the global boom in memory chips.

The world’s biggest maker of semiconductors, televisions and smartphones said it would double dividends next year to 9.6 trillion won and keep them at that level until 2020, as it responds to investor pressure to share its vast cash reserves and catch up with some of its more generous peers.

It also said 2017 capital expenditure would be its biggest ever, climbing 81 percent to 46.2 trillion won ($41 billion) as it builds new chip factories and clean-rooms to stay ahead of demand for servers and devices with ever greater memory.

“The current record earnings are born out of such massive investments in the past, and the outsized capex is a sign that Samsung will continue investing for future results,” said Greg Roh, analyst at HMC Investment Securities.

“Next year’s capex could be similar for Samsung to keep this momentum.”

Operating profit nearly tripled in the third quarter from the same period a year earlier, to 14.5 trillion won ($12.91 billion), Samsung said in a regulatory filing, matching its earlier estimate.

Revenue jumped 29.8 percent to 62 trillion won, also in line with its earlier estimate.

The shareholder return policy for the next three years ramped up guidance to a level higher than its current range of 30-50 percent of free cash flow to 50 percent over three years.

Samsung’s holdings of cash and cash equivalent stood at 76 trillion won at the end of September, eight percent higher than the previous quarter thanks largely to strong earnings that have more than paid for massive capital expenditure.

While the dividend policy builds on the investor-friendly trend Samsung started in 2015, it was not as generous as some investors had hoped, analysts said.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has paid nearly 22 cents for every dollar it earned over the past five years, while Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) has shared 53 cents. Meanwhile Samsung has paid just 11 cents, according to Reuters data.

South Korean family-run business empires like Samsung Group have a reputation for low dividend payouts and other governance practices that favor controlling shareholders at the expense of ordinary investors.

In a bid to change that perception, Samsung Electronics is one of about 70 listed firms that has promised to adhere to a governance code adopted by the Korea Stock Exchange this year.

Its shares were up 1.3 percent, while the Kospi benchmark share price index .KS11 rose 0.4 percent. The stock has risen 67 percent over the past 12 months.

MOBILE REBOUNDS

Samsung said the earnings outlook was positive thanks mainly to the chip business, with conditions in that market likely to “remain favourable” in 2018. It also forecast greater sales of flexible OLED screens used in smartphones.

The chip business was Samsung’s top earner in the third quarter as it booked a record 10 trillion won operating profit, from 3.4 trillion won from the previous corresponding period.

Profits from mobile devices jumped to 3.3 trillion won compared with just 100 billion won at the same time last year, when the company booked the costs of the withdrawal of its fire-prone Note 7 gadget.

The record earnings come amid ongoing management upheaval at the company following the arrest of group heir apparent Jay Y. Lee on bribery charges.

CEO and Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun announced on Oct. 13 that he planned to step down from management, leaving several key roles vacant including head of the components business.

Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates

Article source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/businessNews/~3/cm1bi4J5YD0/samsung-electronics-to-boost-returns-after-record-third-quarter-profit-idUSKBN1CZ2U8

Asia sluggish after Wall Street slips, dollar sags on White House woes

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks were mostly sluggish on Tuesday after weakness on Wall Street, while the dollar sagged following news that investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election had charged President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

Data showing a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China’s October factory growth also curbed regional investors’ appetite for riskier assets.

Beijing’s war on winter air pollution is forcing many northern steel mills, smelters and factories to curtail production, adding to uncertainty amid early signs of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

Shanghai shares .SSEC lost 0.3 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI retreated 0.35 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 lost 0.3 percent, Australian shares were effectively flat and South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 added 0.3 percent.

Wall Street pulled back from record-high territory on Monday, weighed down by a drop in drugmaker Merck (MRK.N) and a report that U.S. lawmakers are discussing a gradual phase-in corporate tax cuts rather than reducing it all at once. [.N]

“The report of the gradual corporate tax cut option came when equities were strung high, so it served as a catalyst for markets to adjust,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.

“Expectations were for the corporate tax to be cut in one go. But even if the cut is implemented gradually, it still is a reduction and that won’t be bad news in the long term.”

The dollar hovered near a 10-day low of 113.02 yen JPY= struck overnight.

The greenback lost about 0.4 percent against the yen overnight on investor caution following news of President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort facing charges.

Manafort and another aide, Rick Gates, were charged with money laundering on Monday by Federal investigators.

“It’s weighing on dollar/yen a little bit. I think there’s a little bit of uncertainty,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading in Asia-Pacific for Oanda in Singapore, adding the yen drew some support as risk sentiment was looking a bit wobbly.

The U.S. currency was also pressured as Treasury yields slipped on reports that President Trump is likely to appoint Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell, who is viewed as more dovish than other contenders, as the next head of the Federal Reserve.

The 30-year Treasury bond yield US30YT=RR fell to its lowest in a week after Bloomberg quoted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying the government does not see a lot of demand for ultra-long bonds.

The dollar index against at basket of six major currencies .DXY steadied at 94.596 after slipping overnight from a three-month high of 95.150.

The euro was little changed at $1.1635 EUR=. It had pulled back overnight from a three-month low of $1.1574 on Friday.

European markets got a lift on Monday after an opinion poll showing waning support for independence soothed investors’ concerns over a Catalan secession from Spain.

Crude oil prices managed to hold just below their recent peaks after being boosted by expectations OPEC-led production cuts would be extended beyond March.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 was down 0.05 percent at $60.87 a barrel after rising to $61 overnight, the highest since July 2015.

U.S. crude CLc1 was 0.2 percent lower at $54.05 a barrel after touching $54.46, highest since late February.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Addtional reporting by Masayuki Kitano in Singapore; Editing by Kim Coghill

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