News Archive

Asia shares sag on lingering tech woes, dollar retreats after surge

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks sagged on Thursday after Wall Street slumped on an extended sell-off in tech firms, while the dollar dipped as it lost some momentum after surging to a one-week high.

A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Spreadbetters expected European stocks to open mixed, with Britain’s FTSE falling 0.35 percent, Germany’s DAX rising 0.02 percent and France’s CAC gaining 0.05 percent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.1 percent lower after swerving in and out of negative territory.

Shanghai rose 0.1 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.2 percent and Australian stocks shed 0.6 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei was flat after giving back earlier gains while South Korea’s KOSPI edged up 0.1 percent.

Wall Street closed lower after a rocky session on Wednesday as gains in consumer staples and healthcare were offset by a sharp drop in Amazon shares and a continuing slide in technology stocks. [.N] nL3N1RA5QV]

Possible government regulation of the tech sector has rattled investors, with Amazon losing over $30 billion of its market value in overnight trade on a report U.S. President Donald Trump wants to rein in the growing power of the world’s largest online retailer.

“Fears of a global trade war have eased, although concerns still linger about the U.S. technology sector,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management in Tokyo.

“But equities in Asia will receive support from an easing of tensions regarding North Korea, with countries like Japan seeking a summit,” Ichikawa added.

Japan has sounded out the North Korean government about a bilateral summit, and Pyongyang has discussed the possibility of a leaders’ meeting with Japan and other countries, Japan’s Asahi newspaper said on Thursday.

Earlier, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearisation and to meet U.S. officials, Beijing said on Wednesday after Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The yen, often sought in times of market turmoil and political tensions, retraced the gains it made against the dollar earlier in the week.

FILE PHOTO: A Japan Yen note is seen in this illustration photo taken June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo

The greenback was 0.4 percent lower at 106.450 yen after it rallied 1.4 percent on Wednesday on perceived progress over the North Korea issue. It had set a 16-month trough of 104.560 on Monday.

The dollar index versus a basket of six major currencies was dipped 0.1 percent to 89.945 after reaching a one-week high of 90.147.

Global markets were shaken this month when Trump moved to impose tariffs on Chinese goods and Beijing threatened to retaliate.

The United States and South Korea agreed on Tuesday to revise their six-year-old trade pact with a side deal to deter competitive currency devaluation by Seoul and with concessions for U.S. autos and pharmaceutical companies.

Focus was on whether the Trump administration would press China for currency reassurances as part of the trade negotiations, like those secured from South Korea.

Fears of a full-blown trade war have eased on hopes that negotiations can foster a compromise, but concerns remained.

“Expansionary U.S. fiscal policy should support global trade, but markets will remain attentive to further tensions as the China-U.S. trade saga continues to unfold,” wrote economists at ANZ.

The euro was 0.15 percent higher at $1.2332 after losing 0.75 percent on Wednesday.

Sterling was effectively flat at $1.4080 after shedding 0.5 percent overnight on news British retail sales fell in March for the first time in five months.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield was at 2.773 percent after touching a near two-month low of 2.743 percent overnight on sagging Wall Street shares.

In commodities, U.S. crude futures rose 0.4 percent to $64.64 a barrel, partly recovering after dropping 1 percent the previous day when data showed U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly rose last week. [O/R]

Brent climbed 0.55 percent to $69.91 a barrel after losing 0.8 percent on Wednesday. Brent has risen more than 6 percent this month with OPEC and other suppliers expected to continue withholding output for the rest of the year and potentially into 2019.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Richard Pullin and Shri Navaratnam

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VW storing around 300,000 diesels at 37 facilities around U.S.

(Reuters) – Volkswagen has taken parking lots to a whole new level in the United States – and will not be emptying them soon.

Reacquired Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars sit in a desert graveyard near Victorville, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) has paid more than $7.4 billion to buy back about 350,000 U.S. diesel vehicles through mid-February, a recent court filing shows. The German automaker has been storing hundreds of thousands of vehicles around the United States for months.

Volkswagen has 37 secure storage facilities around the United States housing nearly 300,000 vehicles, the filing from the program’s independent administrator said. The lots include a shuttered suburban Detroit football stadium, a former Minnesota paper mill and a sun-bleached desert graveyard near Victorville, California.

VW spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said in a statement on Wednesday that the storage facility in Victorville, California, is one of many “to ensure the responsible storage of vehicles that are bought back under the terms of the Volkswagen” diesel settlements.

“These vehicles are being stored on an interim basis and routinely maintained in a manner to ensure their long-term operability and quality, so that they may be returned to commerce or exported once U.S. regulators approve appropriate emissions modifications,” she said.

In total, VW has agreed to spend more than $25 billion in the United States for claims from owners, environmental regulators, states and dealers and offered to buy back about 500,000 polluting U.S. vehicles. The buy backs will continue through the end of 2019.

The court fling said through Dec. 31 Volkswagen had reacquired 335,000 diesel vehicles, resold 13,000 and destroyed about 28,000 vehicles. As of the end of last year, VW was storing 294,000 vehicles around the country.

VW must buy back or fix 85 percent of the vehicles involved by June 2019 or face higher payments for emissions.

The company said in February it has repaired or fixed nearly 83 percent of covered vehicles and expects to soon hit the requirement.

Through mid-February VW has issued 437,273 letters offering nearly $8 billion in compensation and buybacks.

In April 2017 Volkswagen was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to three felony counts and paid $4.3 billion in federal penalties. The automaker in September 2015 admitted to circumventing the emissions control system in U.S. diesel vehicles for vehicles sold since 2009, prompting the resignation of the company’s chief executive.

Reporting by David Shepardson in New York; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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Vale Peter Munk

Hungarian-born Munk built Barrick up from modest investments in two small mines in Ontario and Quebec in 1983 to a company with operations spanning across the Americas to Saudi Arabia, Zambia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia.

Born into a prosperous Jewish family in Budapest in 1927, Munk and his family fled the invading Nazis in 1944 and arrived in Toronto with a single suitcase in 1948, when Peter was 20 years old.

In later life he donated hundreds of millions of dollars to a Toronto hospital and university, establishing the country’s premier cardiac care centre and funded a top school for global affairs.

“He was an immigrant who came to Canada with big dreams, surpassed them beyond any imagination, and shared his good fortune through historic philanthropy,” the country’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said in a tweet. “Thank you, Peter Munk, for your enormous contributions to our country. You will be missed.”

Munk built Barrick into a global powerhouse – it employs more than 10,000 people on five continents – via a string of acquisitions and with help from an innovative hedging strategy that provided Barrick with steady revenue even in tough years for the price of gold.

“He transformed the industry that made him a titan into something it had never been before — a financially sophisticated business able to compete with other industries for investment capital,” the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame says of Munk, who was inducted in 2002.

Munk was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour, in 2008.

One of the very early acquisitions Munk made snared him the services of top engineer Bob Smith and his technical team. Together they went on to develop one of Munk’s earliest successful bets, on the Goldstrike mine in Nevada, which was producing 40,000 ounces of gold a year when he bought it in 1986. The mine, located on the Carlin trend, has since produced 42 million ounces for Barrick.

But the company has also made missteps under Munk’s leadership – including the 2011 purchase and subsequent writedown of Equinox Minerals, and the spiralling cost overruns and legal wrangles at Pascua Lama that pushed Barrick to mothball the project high in the Andes straddling Chile and Argentina in 2013.

Munk retired from day-to-day operations at Barrick in 2014, when he was made emeritus chairman.

Before starting Barrick, Munk had built two previous companies: high-end stereo equipment company Clairtone, and an island resort chain.

“We have lost an iconic entrepreneur, a visionary philanthropist, and a caring friend,” said Barrick’s current executive chairman, John Thornton, as tributes poured in from Canadian business and political leaders for Munk, who was known to wear fedora hats and talk straight.

“To the very end, he had a brain as sharp as can be,” Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg said of Munk, according to the Globe and Mail. “We all dream of the kind of energy he had at his age. His big fear was not being on top of everything, of becoming an old man who couldn’t do what he wanted to do.”

Munk is survived by Melanie, his wife of 45 years; by his children, Anthony, Nina, Marc-David, Natalie, and Cheyne; and by his 14 grandchildren.


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China warns U.S. not to open Pandora’s Box, unleash trade ills on world

BEIJING (Reuters) – China warned the United States on Thursday not to open Pandora’s Box and spark a flurry of protectionist practices across the globe, even as Beijing pointed to U.S. goods that it could target in a deepening Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

FILE PHOTO: Container boxes are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port, part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai, China September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

China could target a broad range of U.S. businesses from agriculture to aircraft, autos, semiconductors and even services if the trade conflict escalates, the official China Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday.

President Donald Trump’s move last week to slap up to $60 billion in tariffs on some Chinese imports has since provoked a warning from Beijing that it could retaliate with duties of up to $3 billion of U.S. imports.

China’s biggest U.S. imports are aircraft and related equipment, soybeans and autos, with the total bill about $40 billion last year.

“The malicious practices of the United States are like opening Pandora’s Box, and there is a danger of triggering a chain reaction that will spread the virus of trade protectionism across the globe,” a commerce ministry spokesman said.

The official line from China continues to be stern even as Beijing says it is all for dialogue and negotiations. The feedback from U.S. and Chinese officials on the nature and extent of trade talks remains mixed, media reports show.

The Financial Times reported only on Monday that China had offered to buy more U.S. micro-chips and move more quickly to finalize rules allowing foreign firms to take majority stakes in Chinese securities firms, citing people briefed on the negotiations.

Chinese customs data shows the U.S. accounted for just $2.6 billion, or 1 percent, of China’s total semiconductor imports last year by value, with suppliers in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan commanding a bigger share.

But a source in the U.S. semiconductor industry said U.S. companies have slightly more than 50 percent of China’s market for chips, though export data doesn’t reflect that because much of the product is sent off-shore for low value added processing.

The source said the U.S. semiconductor industry had not asked the Trump administration to urge China to buy more U.S. chips and had been told by senior U.S. officials that the U.S. government had not made such a request to Beijing.

“We don’t need China to buy more chips,” the source said, adding that U.S. industry was concerned about being targeted by Chinese non-tariff barriers.

“It’s more about (Chinese) subsidies, IP protection, and cyber rules,” the source said, referring to concerns over Chinese retaliation.

FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen at the port in San Pedro, California, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Riha, Jr.

China has long said it would like to import more U.S. high-tech goods, including high-end chips, but has been stymied by U.S. export controls set on national security grounds.

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday the U.S. approach to trade could trigger a domino effect and U.S. trade protectionism will only hurt U.S. consumers.

While China hopes the U.S. will resolve trade conflicts with China through dialogue, it will take all possible steps to protect its interests, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told a regular briefing in Beijing.

“Negotiations must be equal, and China will not accept any consultation under unilateral coercion,” Gao said.


On Wednesday, Trump’s top trade envoy said he would give China a 60-day window before tariffs on Chinese goods take effect, but added that it would take years to bring the two countries’ trading relationship “to a good place.”

The tariff list is expected in the next several days.

The China Daily on Thursday quoted Premier Li Keqiang as telling a U.S. Congressional delegation this week that China was open to dialogue but “fully prepared with countermeasures”.

It warned that if the conflict continued to escalate “China could consider taking reciprocal measures against U.S. imports of agricultural products besides soybeans, as well as aircraft, automobiles and semiconductors.”

“And should the Trump administration further obstruct Chinese investments in the U.S., even tougher measures such as restrictions on imports of U.S. services and similar investment reviews would likely be on the table,” it said.

Separately, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that U.S. and Chinese officials had been holding talks to shield American soybeans and other agricultural products from trade sanctions.

China is still considering import curbs on U.S. soybeans, U.S. Soybean Export Council Asia director Paul Burke said on Thursday, following a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Reporting by Se Young Lee and Yawen Chen in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Michael Martina, John Ruwitch, Dominique Patton and Stella Qiu; Additional writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill

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Facebook cuts ties to data brokers in blow to targeted ads

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Wednesday it would end its partnerships with several large data brokers who help advertisers target people on the social network, a step that follows a scandal over how Facebook handles personal information.

The world’s largest social media company is under pressure to improve its handling of data after disclosing that information about 50 million Facebook users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook adjusted the privacy settings on its service on Wednesday, giving users control over their personal information in fewer taps.

Facebook has for years given advertisers the option of targeting their ads based on data collected by companies such as Acxiom Corp (ACXM.O) and Experian PLC (EXPN.L).

The tool has been widely used among certain categories of advertisers – such as automakers, luxury goods producers and consumer packaged goods companies – who do not sell directly to consumers and have relatively little information about who their customers are, according to Facebook.

“While this is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook,” Graham Mudd, a Facebook product marketing director, said in a statement.

Shares in Acxiom traded down more than 10 percent to $25 after Facebook’s announcement after the bell. Shares in other data brokers were largely unchanged.

Acxiom said late on Wednesday it did not expect this change to impact its revenue or earnings for the year ending in March. The company currently expects revenue in the range of $910 million to $915 million in the 2018 fiscal year.

However, for the 2019 fiscal year, Acxiom expects total revenue and profitability to be negatively impacted by as much as $25 million.

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Facebook declined to comment on how the change could affect its ad revenue.

Advertisers would still be able to use third-party data services to measure how well their ads performed by examining purchasing data, Facebook said.

Facebook’s website lists nine third-party data providers that it has worked with, including Acxiom, Experian, Oracle Data Cloud (ORCL.N), TransUnion (TRU.N) and WPP PLC (WPP.L).

Other companies, besides Acxiom, were not available for comment.

Facebook on Wednesday also put all its privacy settings on one page and made it easier to stop third-party apps from using personal information. Privacy settings had previously been spread over at least 20 screens, Facebook said.

Facebook said in a blog post it had been working on the updates for some time but sped things up to appease users’ anger over how the company uses data and as lawmakers around the globe call for regulation.

Facebook’s shares closed up 0.5 percent at $153.03 on Wednesday. They are still down more than 17 percent since March 16, when Facebook first acknowledged that user data had been improperly channeled in 2014 via a third-party app to Cambridge Analytica, which was later hired by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Slideshow (2 Images)

The data leak has raised investor concerns that any failure by big tech companies to protect privacy could deter advertisers, who are Facebook’s lifeblood, and lead to tougher regulation.


Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized for the mistakes the company made and has promised to crack down on abuse of the Facebook platform and restrict developers’ access to user information.

There is a new Facebook page – called Access Your Information – where users can see what they have shared and manage it.

“The biggest difference is ease of access in settings, which fulfills Mark Zuckerberg’s promise to make the privacy process and permissions more transparent to users,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said.

It was uncertain whether the changes will satisfy lawmakers.

They were announced ahead of a stringent European Union data law which comes into force in May. It requires companies to give people a “right to portability” – to take their data with them – and imposes fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue for companies breaking the law.

Lawmakers in the United States and Britain are still clamoring for Zuckerberg himself to explain how users’ data ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

He plans to testify before Congress, a source briefed on the matter said on Tuesday. Facebook has said it has received invitations to testify and that it is talking to legislators.

Zuckerberg and the CEOs of Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) have been invited to testify at an April 10 hearing on data privacy. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and U.S. Senate Commerce Committee have also asked Zuckerberg to appear at a hearing.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook, and attorneys representing 37 states are also pressing Zuckerberg to explain what happened.

Reporting by David Ingram and Julia Fioretti; Additional reporting by Laharee Chatterjee, Arjun Panchadar and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by James Dalgleish and Cynthia Osterman

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St-Onge joins Micromine in Vancouver

St-Onge, who has a Queen’s University MBA, spent the past nine years with Export Development Canada, most recently leading development of EDC’s relationships with Canada’s largest financial institutions.

“The future of mining is digital and Micromine’s first class software solutions make it perfectly placed to embed itself as the new industry standard in North America,” she said this week.

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St-Onge is responsible for increasing revenue and driving market penetration in Canada of Micromine’s exploration and mine design software, and data and fleet management products.

“We are seeing many positive signs in the market,” she said.

“From our Canadian headquarters in the technology and mining hub of Vancouver, we will significantly grow our presence across Canada with a particular focus on growing our footprint in Quebec and Ontario.”


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Terranova looks to Nevada precious metals play

New float hopeful Metals 479, which takes its name from a portmanteau of the atomic numbers of silver (47) and gold (79), was established last year with Spott, supported by Australian fund managers and high net worth individuals.

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Watpac weighs mining exit

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Boart buying new rigs at last

While only 5-6 rigs at this stage – added to a fleet cut down from 889 at the end of 2016 to 720 units last year – Boart global director of commercial drilling services, Bob Buto said the high-tech machines would help meet the changing needs of users.

“We will continue to evaluate opportunities where we can help our customers meet their 2018 exploration goals using the latest technology,” he said.

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Boart reported at the end of February its 2017 drilling services revenue grew by 12%, year-on-year, to US$501 million. Total revenue for the year was $739 million, up 15% yoy, but the company posted a $150 million statutory net loss.

Its services/contracting and products divisions produced positive EBITDA for the latest year, but the company’s continuing high debt servicing led to a negative earnings result.

Average utilisation of the remaining drill fleet was 43% in 2017 versus 32% the previous year, with the number of operating rigs put at 308 at the end of 2017.

There was no update on that number this week.

Boart CEO Jeff Olsen said the company continud to see signs of improvement in key markets and “this has translated to improvement in revenue, marginally higher utilization of our drill fleet and further improvement in our product backlog compared to 2016”.

Boart was trading at A1c this week and had a market capitalisation of A$263 million.



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