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Trump says Saudi king agreed to raise oil output by up to 2 million barrels

WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had agreed to his request to increase oil production “maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels,” an extraordinary amount not confirmed by the kingdom and which would push the OPEC leader to a level of production never tested before.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the press aboard Air Force One en route to Bedminster, New Jersey, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

In an early morning tweet, Trump said Saudi Arabia’s expanded production would help offset a decline in supply from Iran, after the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May and moved to reimpose oil sanctions.

“Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference … Prices to high! He has agreed!” Trump tweeted.

He did not specify if the figure was barrels per day (bpd), the normal measure for oil production.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Country’s biggest producer.

A week ago OPEC and its allies including Russia agreed to boost supplies, easing curbs in place since the start of 2017. They did state how much extra supply they would add.

In briefings since then, OPEC officials have signaled the extra volume is likely to be in the range of 700,000 to 1 million bpd. A request by Trump for 2 million bpd more would be at least double market expectations.

Saudi state media reported that during the call, the Saudi king and Trump emphasized the need to preserve oil market stability and efforts of oil-producing countries to compensate for any potential shortage.

The statement reported by Saudi media did not mention any intention by Saudi Arabia to raise production by 2 million barrels per day. Saudi oil officials did not immediately comment.

Saudi Arabia has a maximum sustainable capacity of 12 million bpd, but it has never tested that level of production.

Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 was trading around $79 a barrel on Friday, and a Reuters poll showed prices look to remain strong for the rest of this year due to supply disruptions in countries including Libya and Venezuela and as the extra oil from OPEC fails to meet rising demand.

Riyadh plans to boost output to 11 million bpd, the highest in its history, in July up from 10.8 mln in June, a source familiar with Saudi output plans told Reuters this week.

It was not immediately clear what level of production Trump was referring to or by when.

  • Trump, Saudi king discuss oil markets, no mention of production plans

“We will be in uncharted territory. While Saudi Arabia has the capacity in theory, it takes time and money to bring these barrels online, up to one year,” said Amrita Sen of consultancy Energy Aspects.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Thursday to discuss energy security.

The Trump administration is pushing countries to cut all imports of Iranian oil from November when the United States re-imposes sanctions against Tehran, after Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major powers, calling it a “defective” agreement.

That agreement sought to curb Tehran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions. Trump ordered the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the accord.

U.S. officials are pressing allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to adhere to the sanctions, which are aimed at pressuring Iran to negotiate a follow-up agreement to halt its nuclear programs.

State Department officials said this week the United States is prepared to work with countries on a case-by-case basis to help them reduce imports of Iranian oil and suggested some exemptions were possible.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday accused Washington of trying to turn Iranians against their government.

“They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system … but six U.S. presidents before him tried this and had to give up,” Khamenei was quoted as saying on Saturday by his website, referring to Trump.

Iran’s rial currency has lost up to 40 per cent of its value since last month, when Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal

Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of trying to push up oil prices and said both countries are acting against the foundation of OPEC.

“If this happens, (it) means Trump is asking Saudi Arabia to walk (away) from OPEC,” he told Reuters.

“The market will go up to $100 I am sure as Saudi Arabia said they will plan an increase for July. … This was managed between the two to rob the pocket of rest of the world,” he said.

Kuwait planned to raise oil output by 85,000 barrels per day starting on Sunday, part of an agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to increase production by 1 million bpd, its Energy Minister Bakhit al-Rashidi said on Saturday.

“Kuwait will raise its oil production from tomorrow to 2.785 million barrels, a daily increase of 85,000 compared to May, based on last week’s production cut agreement,” Rashidi told Arabic-language daily Al-Rai.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai, Olesya Astakhova in Moscow and Dmitry Zhdannikov in London; Writing by Lesley Wroughton and Mary Milliken; Editing by Larry King, Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler

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Trump, Trudeau discuss trade, economic issues over phone call

BEDMINSTER, N.J./OTTAWA (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late on Friday to discuss trade and other economic issues, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Saturday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) in a bilateral meeting during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

The phone call between the two leaders was the first to be publicly disclosed since Trump blasted Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak” at the end of the Group of Seven leaders meeting in Canada earlier this month.

Trump has repeatedly suggested Canada was profiting from U.S. trade, and his blistering comments after the G7 meeting drove bilateral relations to their lowest point in decades.

FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) meets with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

On Friday, Canada struck back at the Trump administration over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, vowing to impose punitive measures on C$16.6 billion ($12.6 billion) worth of American goods until Washington relents.

During the call, Trudeau told Trump that Canada had no choice but to announce reciprocal countermeasures to the steel and aluminum tariffs, according to a separate statement issued by Canada late on Friday. The two leaders agreed to stay in close touch on a way forward, the statement added.

Trudeau also expressed his condolences for the victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, the Canadian statement said.

Separately, Trudeau also spoke with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday to discuss the Mexican elections on July 1. The two leaders also discussed the North American Free Trade (NAFTA) negotiations and agreed to continue working toward a mutually beneficial outcome.

Negotiations to modernize NAFTA started last August and were initially scheduled to finish by the end of December, but the three countries have yet to reach a deal.

Reporing by Jeff Mason and David Ljunggren; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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China’s ChemChina, Sinochem set to merge: Caixin

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese state-owned Sinochem and ChemChina will merge to create a new company, to be headed by Sinochem chief Ning Gaoning, financial publication Caixin reported on Saturday, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo of China National Chemical Corp, or ChemChina, is seen at its headquarters in Beijing, China February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

Reuters has reported that the two companies were in merger talks to create the world’s biggest industrial chemicals firm.

Sinochem Chairman Ning will serve concurrently as Chairman of ChemChina, Caixin reported, citing company sources.

“However, there is no definite plan for how to form a new company,” the publication said.

Spokespeople at Sinochem (600500.SS) and China National Chemicals Corp, as ChemChina is officially known, were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Kevin Yao; Editing by Ros Russell

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BMW says U.S. tariffs on EU cars may hit investment there

BERLIN (Reuters) – U.S. tariffs on imported cars could lead BMW (BMWG.DE) to reduce investment and cut jobs in the United States due to the large number of cars it exports from its South Carolina plant, the German carmaker has warned.

FILE PHOTO: An overall view of the assembly line where the BMW X4 is made at the BMW manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane/File Photo

President Trump’s administration last month launched an investigation into whether auto imports posed a national security threat and Trump has threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on all imports of EU-assembled cars.

“The domestic manufacture of automobiles has no apparent correlation with U.S. national security,” BMW wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross this week, adding that imposing duties would not increase U.S. growth and competitiveness.

The BMW plant in South Carolina is its largest globally and ships more than 70 percent of its annual production to other export markets, the company said.

Chinese tariffs on U.S. passenger cars, imposed in retaliation for U.S. duties on Chinese goods, have already hiked up the cost of exporting to China, BMW said. Any U.S. tariffs would likely lead to further retaliatory measures from China and the European Union.

In addition, higher tariffs on components imported to the United States would make other production locations outside the country more competitive.

“All of these factors would substantially increase the costs of exporting passenger cars to these markets from the United States and deteriorate the market access for BMW in these jurisdictions, potentially leading to strongly reduced export volumes and negative effects on investment and employment in the United States,” BMW said in the letter.

Two major auto trade groups, one representing BMW among others, had earlier this week said that imposing up to 25 percent tariffs on imported vehicles would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, dramatically hike prices on vehicles and threaten industry spending on self-driving cars.

“By insulating the United States from foreign competition, there is less incentive for American companies to strive to raise their productivity and look for ways and means of producing ever better goods (and services) ever more cheaply,” BMW said.

(This story corrects spelling of “Carolina” in first paragraph.)

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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Novartis chairman says Alcon worth $20 billion-$30 billion: Finanz und Wirtschaft

ZURICH (Reuters) – The chairman of Swiss drugmaker Novartis (NOVN.S) expects Alcon to be valued at between $20 billion and $30 billion when the opthalmic devices unit is spun off to shareholders next year, he said in an interview with Finanz und Wirtschaft.

FILE PHOTO: Swiss drugmaker Novartis’ logo is seen at the company’s plant in the northern Swiss town of Stein, Switzerland October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

“Just how much it’s ultimately going to be will be determined when we know how debt and other things will be quantified,” Joerg Reinhardt told the Swiss financial newspaper.

Novartis announced on Friday it is spinning off the eye care surgical equipment and contact lens unit, with $7 billion in annual revenue. The business no longer fits the drugmaker’s strategy of focusing on prescription medicines, Novartis concluded.

The Basel-based company will also repurchase up to $5 billion in shares through the end of next year.

Reinhardt said it was hard to determine whether Alcon, bought over time for $52 billion from Nestle in a deal concluded in 2011, ever really earned money for Novartis.

“Tough to say, since Alcon had to be revamped multiple times,” he said. “But I would say, all things considered, we didn’t lose money on Alcon.”

Reinhardt also said there were no changes to Novartis’s roughly $13 billion stake in Roche (ROG.S). His company has, for now, abandoned active plans to unload the package, and Reinhardt has returned to calling it “a financial investment with a certain strategic component.”

Reporting by John Miller, editing by Larry King

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China factory growth slows in June as trade tensions rise

BEIJING (Reuters) – Growth in China’s manufacturing sector slowed in June after a better-than-expected performance in May, official data showed, as escalating trade tensions with the United States fuel concerns about a slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy.

FILE PHOTO: A labourer works inside an electronics factory in Qingdao, Shandong province, China January 29, 2018. REUTERS/William Hong/File Photo

China’s economy has already felt the pinch from a multi-year crackdown on riskier lending that has driven up corporate borrowing costs, promoting the central bank to pump out more cash by cutting reserve requirements for lenders.

The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released on Saturday fell to 51.5 in June, below analysts’ forecast of 51.6 and down from 51.9 in May, but it remained well above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction for a 23rd straight month.

The findings are in line with recent data including credit growth, investment and retail sales pointing to slowing growth in China’s economy, as policymakers navigate debt risks and a heated trade row with the United States.

Significantly, the June new export orders index contracted for the first time since February, dropping to 49.8 from 51.2 in May.

A production sub-index fell to 53.6 in June from 54.1 in May, while a new orders sub-index declined to 53.2 from 53.8.

The PMI for large-sized firms fell to 52.9 in June from 53.1 in May, the index for medium-sized firms dipped to 49.9 from 51.0 while that for small firms rose to 49.8 from 49.6.


“Domestic demand is weakening and external demand faces pressure from escalating trade frictions between China and the United States,” said Wen Bin, senior economist at Minsheng Bank in Beijing.

Wen said he expected the central bank to continue to lower banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR) in the coming months to help ward off a sharper economic slowdown.

The central bank said on June 24 it would cut the RRR by 50 basis points for some banks to accelerate the pace of debt-for-equity swaps and spur lending to smaller firms.

After May’s official factory PMI touched an eight-month high, there have been increasing signs that China’s economy is finally slowing.

Credit growth has slowed this year as the government cracks down on many types of lending, and the tighter liquidity environment appears to be impacting growth.

On July 16, the government is due to release data on second-quarter growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and other key indicators.

Analysts at ANZ forecast second-quarter growth of 6.7 percent, from 6.8 percent in the first quarter.

In May, industrial output, retail sales and fixed asset investment all missed expectations as auto sales dropped, and local governments scaled back building projects amid scrutiny from Beijing over their borrowings.

While the economy could likely handle these domestic challenges without growth slowing dramatically, the trade dispute with the U.S. is adding to uncertainty about how China’s economy will react.

As U.S. President Donald Trump has ratcheted up the pressure on China with threats of new tariffs and investment restrictions, China’s stock markets and currency suffered one of their worst months in years in June.


After a sustained sell-off, China’s yuan and stock markets recovered some ground on Friday, yet investors were grappling with some of their worst losses in years as a bitter Sino-U.S. trade row threatened to rattle the country.

The United States has threatened to impose duties on up to $450 billion of Chinese imports, with the first $34 billion portion set to go into effect on July 6.

China’s exports have held up relatively well so far this year, with May shipments rising 12.6 percent in dollar terms.

But the contraction in new export orders in June could indicate tougher times ahead for exports.

A sister survey showed growth in China’s service sector picked up slightly in June, with the official non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rising to 55.0 from 54.9 the previous month.

A sub-reading for construction activity, a major driver of growth in 2017, stood at 60.7 in June, up from 60.1 in May.

Chinese policymakers are counting on growth in services and consumption to rebalance their economic growth model from its heavy reliance on investment and exports. The services sector now accounts for more than half of the economy, with rising wages giving Chinese consumers more spending clout.

The composite PMI covering both manufacturing and services activity slipped to 54.4 in June, from May’s 54.6.

Additional reporting by Xu Jing; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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Missouri appeals court tosses $55 million J&J talc-powder verdict

(Reuters) – A Missouri appeals court on Friday threw out a $55 million verdict against Johnson Johnson in a lawsuit by a woman who claimed she developed ovarian cancer after using talc-based products, including JJ’s baby powder, citing a U.S. Supreme court ruling on where such cases can be brought.

FILE PHOTO: A bottle of Johnson and Johnson Baby Powder is seen in a photo illustration taken in New York, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/Illustration

South Dakota resident Gloria Ristesund had been awarded $5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages in the 2016 verdict.

She alleged that her decades-long use of JJ talc-based products for feminine hygiene caused her cancer, and that the company had failed to warn consumers about the risks.

JJ denied the allegations, saying decades of testing have shown its cosmetic talc-based products to be safe.

The healthcare conglomerate is battling some 9,000 cases claiming its talc-based products cause ovarian cancer and, in some cases, mesothelioma, a rare cancer closely linked to asbestos exposure, amid allegations the products were contaminated with asbestos fibers. JJ has said its talc products do not contain asbestos or cause any form of cancer.

The unanimous three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals in the Eastern District, in overturning the verdict, did not rule on the merits of the allegations.

The judges instead said the verdict could not stand following a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision that limits where companies can be sued for personal injuries.

The high court ruled that state courts cannot hear claims against companies that are not based in the state or when the alleged injuries did not occur there.

JJ is based in New Jersey and Ristesund exclusively purchased and used the company’s talc products in South Dakota and Minnesota, according to court records.

JJ, in a statement, said it was extremely pleased with the court’s decision to recognize that the trial should have never occurred.

Ristesund’s case was one of more than 60 related talc lawsuits consolidated in Missouri state court, where juries have a reputation for issuing high-paying verdicts. But only one of those cases involved a woman from Missouri, leading many of the cases to be tossed on jurisdictional grounds.

During the appeals process, Ristesund asked the court for permission to present additional evidence tying JJ to Missouri. The judges on Friday rejected her request, saying she had ample opportunity to present such evidence over the past two years.

Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by David Gregorio and Bill Berkrot

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Stress test results signal more flexible new-look Fed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – This year’s Federal Reserve stress test results suggested a more flexible approach, a further sign the regulator’s new leadership is responding positively to a Wall Street push for pragmatic bank supervision, analysts and lawyers said.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Banks that took a one-off capital hit due to the 2017 U.S. tax overhaul got a conditional pass, a departure from the Fed’s traditional strict pass-fail approach to quantitative capital issues, while scandal-plagued Wells Fargo Co was able to double share buyback plans.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were dinged since their capital fell below the Fed’s minimum, but the regulator’s response this year sounded a more industry-friendly tone under Chairman Jerome Powell and Vice Chairman Randal Quarles, President Donald Trump appointees, analysts and lawyers said.

“They have allowed firms to pass on the basis there were special circumstances and applied a level of pragmatism in the way they haven’t in the past. This is the new Fed and it signals to me an early retirement of this super-strict quantitative test,” said Mike Alix, financial services risk leader at PwC.

The Fed on Thursday approved the capital plans of 34 lenders following the second leg of its annual tests, a process introduced after the 2007-2009 financial crisis to assess banks’ capacity to withstand a severe recession. The U.S. central bank has ramped up its worst-case scenarios each year.

The U.S. tax code rewrite signed into law in December meant Goldman and Morgan Stanley’s Thursday results were weighed, in part, by changes to the treatment of past losses on hypothetical tax bills under the Fed’s scenarios.

But since the tax issue was a one-off and capital levels in the system are high, the Fed felt it was unnecessary to fail the two banks, senior Fed officials said.

Under the conditional approvals for their capital plans, the two banks can pay out capital distributions but must keep them in line with previous years.

Some analysts pointed to the Fed’s conditional approval of State Street Corp’s higher dividend even though its counterparty exposures showed high losses under the scenarios.

“This reinforces how the Federal Reserve was less draconian in how it reacted to the results,” said Cowen Washington Research Group’s Jaret Seiberg in a note.

Wells Fargo won approval for the highest payout ratio of the major U.S. banks, quashing investor concerns it would fail the part of the test measuring operational controls.

A passing grade could signal clearer skies ahead for Wells Fargo and better relations with regulators, according to analysts at Evercore Group LLC.

Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown on Thursday criticized bank payouts to “wealthy shareholders” and warned the Fed against easing up on how it approaches the tests.


Lenders have long complained the stress-test process is too opaque and that the Fed has been too harsh on firms whose results fall short of models the Fed keeps secret.

Despite noting the Fed’s pragmatic stance on Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, industry insiders still questioned whether the regulator should have proceeded with the tough scenarios this year given the short-term adverse tax changes, and said they want further changes to make the process more transparent.

Powell and Quarles have said they believe stress-testing can be more transparent and less discretionary, but banks continue to worry that Fed rule-easing may not go far enough or could inadvertently make life tougher if changes are not finely tuned.

They point, for example, to the Fed’s April proposal to introduce a “stress capital buffer” that would work in tandem with the stress tests to move the system away from a strict annual quantitative pass-fail.

In a blog post published on Friday, bank trade group The Clearing House warned the proposal as written could actually exacerbate their capital planning challenges by requiring banks to capitalize themselves against stress losses year-round.

“This year’s results illustrate that capital requirements in the United States are highly volatile from year to year and that the volatility will be magnified by … the stress buffer,” they added.

Reporting by Michelle Price and Imani Moise; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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In farewell to U.S. shoppers, Toys ‘R’ Us urges ‘Play on!’

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – As Toys “R” Us Inc stores across the United States marked their final day in business on Friday, the bankrupt toy retailer posted a farewell message to customers on its website next to an image of its iconic Geoffrey the Giraffe mascot thanking them and urging them to “Play on!”

The sign of the Toys R Us store is seen in a Denver suburb March 15, 2011. Privately held toy retailer Toys R Us has canceled a $1.1 billion loan deal that was intended to refinance its debt and reduce borrowing costs, Bloomberg reported on Monday. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

“Thanks to each of you who shared your amazing journey to (and through) parenthood with us, and to every grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister who’s built a couch-cushion rocket ship, made up a hero adventure, or invented something gooey,” the message said.

“Promise us just this one thing: Don’t ever grow up. Play on!” the message, playing on the company’s famous jingle, added.

More than 700 Toys “R” Us stores are shuttering in the United States. The liquidation of the largest U.S. toy retailer is a blow to hundreds of toy makers that sold products at the chain, including Barbie maker Mattel Inc (MAT.O), board game company Hasbro Inc (HAS.O) and other large vendors such as Lego.

Its closure also leaves a void for small toymakers who relied on the company to showcase new products.

Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September hoping to restructure some $5 billion in debt, much of which stemmed from a $6.6 billion leveraged buyout by private equity firms in 2005.

But the company changed course in March, saying it would sell its operations in Canada, Asia and Europe, and shut down in the United States.

In addition to online platforms like Inc (AMZN.O), analysts have pointed to Walmart Inc (WMT.N), Target Corp (TGT.N), JC Penney Co Inc (JCP.N), Kohls Corp (KSS.N) and Bed Bath Beyond (BBBY.O) as chains that could pick up market share from Toys ‘R’ Us. Drugstores like CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) and Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) and discount outlets like Dollar General Corp (DG.N) or TJ Maxx (TJX.N) may also stock their shelves with more toys, they said.

In a dire retail landscape, more than 8,000 U.S. shops closed in 2017, roughly double the average annual store closures in the previous decade, according to data from the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Reporting by Jim Christie, editing by Tracy Rucinski and David Gregorio

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