Automakers’ March U.S. sales rise, lifted by strong economy

April 3, 2018

By Nick Carey

DETROIT (Reuters) – Detroit’s automakers posted sales gains in new vehicles in March on the back of a strong U.S. economy, sending shares in both General Motors Co <GM.N> and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV <FCHA.MI> <FCAU.N> up in early trading.

GM posted a 16 percent jump in new vehicle sales from the previous March, led by a 14 percent increase in higher-margin retail sales to consumers. Fiat Chrysler (FCA) reported a 14 percent increase in sales in March. FCA said it saw a 45 percent spike in sales of its popular Jeep models, giving the brand its best sales month on record.

The strong results for March followed a weak performance in February.

Last year, U.S. auto sales fell 2 percent after hitting a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. Sales are expected to fall further in 2018 as interest rates rise and push up monthly car payments. Also, millions of nearly new vehicles will return to the market this year after coming off lease, providing a lower-cost alternative for consumers.

GM, the No. 1 U.S. automaker saw double-digit sales increases across all of its brands in March, with particularly strong gains for its SUV and pickup truck models.

“March was an exceptional month for us,” GM’s U.S. head of sales Kurt McNeil said in a statement. “A growing economy and strong new products helped us execute a very successful plan to conquest customers from other brands.”

GM also reduced its dealer inventory of unsold vehicles – a key metric for analysts – to 72 days from 85 days at the end of February.

But while GM said its average transaction price was up $900 in the first quarter, the company’s consumer discounts as a percentage of transaction prices hit 14.5 percent in March.

Industry analysts consider discounts of over 10 percent to be unhealthy as they undermine resale values.

FCA’s retail sales to consumers outstripped those of No. 2 U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co <F.N>.

But FCA also saw a 22 percent increase in lower-margin fleet sales to rental car companies and government agencies. Over the past year FCA has pursued a policy of cutting fleet sales.

Ford reported a 3.4 percent increase in overall sales for March, led by an 8.7 percent rise in fleet sales. Retail sales were up just 0.8 percent in the month.

Ford said sales of its best-selling F-Series pickup trucks were the best since 2000.

Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> reported a 3.5 percent increase in sales in March, with double-digit increase in SUV and pickup truck sales offsetting a 6.1 percent decrease in sedan sales. Sales of the company’s completely-revamped flagship Camry sedan fell 1.1 percent.

In morning trading, GM shares were up 2.6 percent at $36.68, while FCA shares rose 5.2 percent to $21, and Ford shares were up 1.2 percent at $11.

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Sierra Leone heads to the polls to seek successor to Koroma

March 31, 2018

By Umaru Fofana

FREETOWN (Reuters) – Sierra Leone voted on Saturday in a poll delayed by fraud allegations to choose a successor to President Ernest Bai Koroma who leaves a country still struggling after the Ebola epidemic.

The face-off between opposition leader Julius Maada Bio and ruling party standard-bearer Samura Kamara was supposed to take place on Tuesday but was rescheduled after a complaint about fraud in the first round of voting this month from a member of Kamara’s All People’s Congress.

The successor to Koroma, who is stepping aside after his maximum two five-year terms in office, faces an uphill struggle to overturn years of hardship caused by a slump in the price of its commodity exports and Ebola.

Voting got under way early in peaceful conditions, according to witnesses, though some complained that a heavy police presence inside polling stations was deterring people from casting their ballot.

Staff at two polling stations said turnout in the morning was lower than in the first round. Many were forced to walk to their nearest voting station because of a driving ban imposed on election day for security reasons.

“There is low turnout in different parts of the country because of the huge presence of security forces,” Julius Maada Bio said after voting in Freetown.

President Koroma also noted the low turnout when he spoke in Freetown, and urged people to head to their polling stations.

Concern about policing comes after the National Electoral Commission last week said that police had tried to intimidate staff in the run-up to the election.

Speaking to the media, army spokesman Major Paow Kagbo said the military personnel were there to ensure the election was “free and fair”.

Politics in the West African country of over seven million people has been dominated by two parties since independence from Britain in 1961: the ruling All People’s Congress, now fielding ex-foreign minister Samura Kamara, and the Sierra Leone People’s Party behind Julius Maada Bio, who briefly ruled as head of a military junta in 1996.

The first round of voting was marred by allegations of fraud in some districts. In some districts, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds after a dispute over voting irregularities.

But the generally peaceful nature of the election, and the fact Koroma is stepping down while some other African presidents seek to extend their mandates, is seen as a positive sign for Sierra Leone that was ripped apart by a 1990s civil war.

The Ebola crisis in 2014 and 2015 and the global commodities downturn slowed the economy, which shrank by a fifth in 2015.

(Additional reporting by Christo Johnson; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Amazon, Apple weigh on Nasdaq

A woman passes by the Nasdaq Market Site in Times Square in New York
A woman passes by the Nasdaq Market Site in Times Square in New York City, U.S., February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 28, 2018

By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) – The Nasdaq Composite index fell on Wednesday, dragged down by losses in Amazon and Apple, while gains in healthcare stocks propped up the Dow and the S&P 500.

Amazon fell more than 5 percent after reports that President Donald Trump is looking to target the company by changing its tax treatment.

Apple dropped 1.6 percent after Goldman Sachs analyst cut sales estimate for iPhone for March and June quarters, citing weak demand.

However, Facebook’s shares rose more than 2 percent after the company said it was giving users more control over their privacy by making data management easier and redesigning the settings menu.

The social network has lost more than $100 billion in market value since March 16, when it first acknowledged that user data had been improperly harvested by a consultancy firm.

“We had Facebook making some announcements. That’s obviously taking some pressure off the stock at the moment,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director of New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

“It’s enough to get some short covering, but as far as pouring in, most investors will wait until the dust settles.”

Broader markets have suffered this month on a back-and-forth between the United States and China on tariffs and fears of rising interest rates. The main indexes are on track for their worst month since January 2016.

Comments from top officials in the United States and China had given a sense that both the countries would negotiate over President Donald Trump’s move to impose tariffs on Chinese goods.

China is expected to soon announce a list of retaliatory tariffs on US exports, its state-run Global Times reported on Wednesday.

At 9:55 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 90.99 points, or 0.38 percent, at 23,948.7 and the S&P 500 was up 5.87 points, or 0.22 percent, at 2,618.49.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 18.60 points, or 0.27 percent, at 6,990.21.

The S&P healthcare index was up nearly 1 percent on gains in Allergan, Celgene and Incyte.

Tesla dropped about 4.4 percent after the U.S. government said it would investigate a fatal crash and vehicle fire of a Model X in California.

Lululemon Athletica surged 8.8 percent after the Canadian athletic apparel maker posted a surprisingly strong fourth-quarter profit and forecast further growth in the first quarter.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE for a 1.41-to-1 ratio and for a 1.06-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Keep shouting, don’t become anesthetized, pope tells young people

The Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis blesses faithful gathered to attend the Palm Sunday Mass in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican, March 25, 2018 REUTERS/Tony Gentile

March 25, 2018

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis, starting Holy Week services leading to Easter, urged young people on Sunday to keep shouting and not allow the older generations to silence their voices or anesthetize their idealism.

Francis spoke a day after hundreds of thousands of young Americans and their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month’s Florida high school massacre and rallied across the United States to demand tighter gun laws.

He did not mention the demonstrations. Catholic News Service (CNS) said Gabriella Zuniga, 16, and her sister Valentina, 15, both students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 people were killed in February, attended the service with their parents.

CNS posted a photo of the two holding up signs in St. Peter’s Square, with one reading, “Protect Our Children, Not Our Guns.”

The 81-year-old Francis led a long and solemn Palm Sunday service before tens of thousands in the square, many of them young people there for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Youth.

Carrying a woven palm branch known as a “palmurello,” Francis led a procession in front of the largest church in Christendom to commemorate the day the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as a savior, only to be crucified five days later.


Drawing on biblical parallels, Francis urged the young people in the crowd not to let themselves be manipulated.

“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass.

“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said.

“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout,” he told young people, urging them to be like the people who welcomed Jesus with palms rather than those who shouted for his crucifixion only days later.

“It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”

The young people in the crowd shouted, “Yes!”

While Francis did not mention Saturday’s marches in the United States, he has often condemned weapons manufacturing and mass shootings.

Palm Sunday marked the start of a hectic week of activities for the pope.

On Holy Thursday he is due to preside at two services, including one in which he will wash the feet of 12 inmates in a Rome jail to commemorate Jesus’ gesture of humility toward his apostles the night before he died.

On Good Friday, he is due to lead a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession at Rome’s Colosseum. On Saturday night he leads a Easter vigil service and on Easter Sunday he delivers his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Sousa beats Harrison to set up Goffin clash in Miami

Tennis: Miami Open
Mar 21, 2018; Key Biscayne, FL, USA; Jared Donaldson of the United States hits a backhand against Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus on day two of the Miami Open at Tennis Center at Crandon Park. Donaldson won 6-3, 6-4. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

March 22, 2018

(Reuters) – Portugal’s Joao Sousa edged American Ryan Harrison 7-6(4) 7-6(4) in first round action at the Miami Open on Wednesday as unseeded players enjoyed a day in the limelight in Florida.

The big names start their campaigns at the weekend, allowing the 80th-ranked Sousa to enjoy the prestige of a center court showdown in only his second career meeting against 53rd-ranked Harrison.

The American saved three match points in a tight contest before the Portugal-born Sousa prevailed in a little less than two hours.

Next up for Sousa is Belgian seventh seed David Goffin, who is scheduled to return after a left eye injury that has kept him out for the past month.

Goffin incurred the unlikely injury during a match in Rotterdam when a ball bounced off his racket and struck him at high velocity.

While Harrison made a quick exit, fellow American Jared Donaldson fared better with a 6-3 6-4 win over Marcos Baghdatis, of Cyprus.

One break in each set was enough for the 49th-ranked Donaldson, who also saved eight break points.

Australian Matthew Ebden outlasted Gilles Simon, of France, 6-3 6-7(2) 7-5 in more than two hours in a match that featured eight breaks of serve.

Edben, who lost to another Frenchman, Gael Monfils, in the first round in Indian Wells two weeks ago, fared better against Simon, particularly on the pivotal points.

The Australian converted five of his 11 break opportunities, while Simon could only take advantage on three of his 14 chances.

(This version of the story corrects Sousa’s nationality from Brazilian to Portuguese)

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina)

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U.S. tariffs, China trade tensions overshadow G20 finance meeting

Argentina's Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne and Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Scholz leave a news conference during the 2018 G20 Conference in Buenos Aires
Argentina’s Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne and Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz leave a news conference during the 2018 G20 Conference entitled “The G20 Agenda Under the Argentine Presidency”, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

March 19, 2018

By David Lawder and Luc Cohen

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Worries about the potential for a U.S.-China trade war and frustration over U.S. President Donald Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs threatened to dominate a gathering of finance leaders this week amid strengthening growth.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who arrives on Sunday in Buenos Aires ahead of a two-day meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers, will be in a position of defending Trump’s trade plans against widespread criticism from G20 partners.

At the same time, he is likely to hear pleas for exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs, said Edwin Truman, a former Treasury and Federal Reserve international policy official now with the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“He’s going to get an earful from them,” Truman said.

“Mnuchin is going to be playing defense in his comments and he’ll put the best face on it that he can,” Truman added.

The U.S. import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, set to become effective on March 23, have raised alarms among trading partners that Trump is following through on his threats to dismantle the decades-old trading system based around World Trade Organization rules in favor of unilateral U.S. actions.

Potentially broader anti-China tariffs and investment restrictions under consideration as part of a U.S. intellectual property probe have raised concerns that retaliation could seriously diminish global trade and choke off the strongest global growth since the G20 was formed during the 2008 financial crisis.

Reuters reported last week that the Trump administration was considering punitive tariffs on some $60 billion worth of Chinese information technology, telecoms and consumer products annually.


Several G20 officials, including the finance ministers from host country Argentina and Germany, said they will insist on maintaining G20 communique language emphasizing “the crucial role of the rules-based international trading system.”

An early draft of the G20 communique seen by Reuters contained that phrase and added: “We note the importance of bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements being open, transparent, inclusive and WTO-consistent, and commit to working to ensure they complement the multilateral trade agreements.”

But it was unclear whether that language will stand. Mnuchin a year ago at his first G20 meeting in Germany pressed the group to drop a decades-old pledge “to resist all forms of protectionism.” This was replaced with a watered-down pledge to “strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.”

Germany’s new finance minister Olaf Scholz warned on Sunday that protectionism could harm future economic prospects and said Germany would continue talks to dissuade the United States from imposing planned steel and aluminum tariffs.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast that global growth will reach 3.9 percent in 2018 and 2019, with all G20 members showing positive and accelerating growth due to strong trade and investment flows. But it listed rising protectionism as among the key risks to growth in a briefing note to G20 countries.

“The reemergence of unilateral trade restrictions may escalate tensions and fuel global protectionism, disrupting worldwide supply chains and affecting long-term productivity,” the IMF said.

Meanwhile, Mnuchin’s chief deputy at the G20 meeting, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Malpass, kept up his criticism of China’s economic policies on Sunday. Malpass told an Institute of International Finance forum in Buenos Aires that countries were increasingly concerned by Beijing’s move away from market liberalization, its reliance on state subsidies and its use of restrictive investment policies.

Increasing state control of China’s economy “has not been good for us and the world and will continue to cause difficulty,” Malpass said.

In Beijing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing that Malpass’ comments were “not very friendly and not objective”, and called on countries to cooperate instead of criticizing each other.

A European G20 official told Reuters the European Union was keen to avoid being seen as taking sides in any disputes between the United States and China and urged Trump to negotiate directly with Beijing to resolve such issues.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese president Xi Jinping also emphasized multilateralism in a telephone call on Sunday, pledging to work within the G20 to resolve global steel overcapacity problems.

Officially, Argentina seeks to use the finance track of its G20 presidency to discuss the “future of work” as technological advancements begin to cause unemployment across countries, and on finding ways to finance an estimated $5.5 trillion in infrastructure investments needed worldwide through 2035.

“We want to create a new asset class to close this gap,” Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne said in a speech on Sunday, saying there is enough liquidity to finance infrastructure projects but the way they are currently structured makes it difficult to lure investors.

(Additional reporting by Francesco Canepa, Leika Kihara and Gernot Heller in Buenos Aires, Andrea Shalal in Berlin, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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New German transport minister says he’s no buddy of auto bosses: Bild

March 16, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s new transport minister said on Friday he was no “buddy” of car industry bosses, but a friend of production line workers and drivers who opposes bans for diesel vehicles and forcing manufacturers to refit cars.

Andreas Scheuer, sworn in as minister this week, also told Bild newspaper that he – like Chancellor Angela Merkel – opposed the introduction of a system of badges to identify more polluting diesels. He said they were the first step toward the driving bans he wanted to avoid.

“I don’t see myself as a buddy of automobile bosses but rather as the mate of those working on the production lines and as someone who represents the interests of diesel vehicle owners,” Scheuer said.

Some officials have proposed a system of “blue badges” that would allow cities with particularly bad air quality to selectively ban dirtier diesel cars from their streets.

But Scheuer said he, like his predecessor Alexander Dobrindt, who was often accused of being too closely tied to the country’s car industry, opposed any move in that direction.

“Whether it’s blue badges, light blue badges,” he said, “badges are the wrong method. I reject their introduction like my predecessor Alexander Dobrindt did. They are the first step toward driving bans.”

But he insisted he would be tough with carmakers, promising “new, very, very serious talks” with carmakers on diesel pollution. Asked whether car companies would be forced generally to retrofit diesel cars, he said he expected the companies to cooperate but added: “Forcing is not the way I do politics.”

Merkel last week said she opposed blanket nationwide schemes to restrict diesels, adding a badge scheme would let off the hook cities that should instead focus on finding locally appropriate ways of improving air quality, for instance by retrofitting public transport vehicles.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Paul Carrel and Mark Potter)

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DowDuPont executive chairman Andrew Liveris to leave: WSJ | One America News Network

DowDuPont executive chairman Andrew Liveris to leave: WSJ

March 12, 2018

(Reuters) – U.S. chemicals producer DowDuPont Inc’s executive chairman Andrew Liveris will step down on April 1 and its co-lead director Jeff Fettig will assume Liveris’s role at the company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Liveris will remain a director of the combined board until July 1, the WSJ said.

Jim Fitterling, currently the chief operating officer for DowDuPont’s material sciences unit, will take on the role of the Chief Executive of Dow after the breakup next year, the Journal said.

Last month, the company said it was pushing ahead with its plans to split into three separate units, starting with the Materials Science business by the end of the first quarter of 2019. Agriculture and Specialty Products are expected to follow by June 1, 2019.

Dow and DuPont completed the $130 billion merger in September.

The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in Bengaluru; Editing by Vyas Mohan)

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Trump to visit Peru, Colombia in April

U.S. President Donald Trump signs a presidential proclamation placing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports while surrounded by workers from the steel and aluminum industries at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump gives out pens he used to sign presidential proclamations placing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to workers from the steel and aluminum industries at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

March 10, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will travel to the Summit of the Americas in Peru and then visit Colombia in April, the White House announced on Saturday.

It will be Trump’s first visit to Latin America. He will meet with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, the White House said.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Stock futures fall as Cohn’s exit heightens trade war worries

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

March 7, 2018

By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures fell sharply on Wednesday after the resignation of top economic adviser Gary Cohn, a supporter of free trade in the White House, triggered worries that President Donald Trump may push ahead with plans to impose hefty metal tariffs and ignite a global trade war.

Dow e-minis <1YMc1> were down 257 points by 7:20 a.m. ET.

Manufacturing giants Boeing <BA.N> and Caterpillar <CAT.N> slipped 2 percent in premarket trading, while General Electric <GE.N> dipped 1.4 percent after Deutsche Bank analysts warned that rising metal input costs could weigh on a deal for its rail business.

S&P 500 e-minis <ESc1> were down 20.75 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis <NQc1> fell 40.75 points.

The declines continued from Tuesday night after Cohn, the architect of the tax overhaul enacted in December, said he would resign, a move that came after he lost a fight over Trump’s plans for hefty steel and aluminum import tariffs.

Cohn, a former president and chief operating officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs, was seen by investors as a stabilizing force within the Trump administration.

Demand for safe-haven assets including U.S. government debt and Japanese yen rose, while Wall Street’s fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility index <.VIX>, was up 11 percent at 20.42.

The ADP’s National Employment Report, due at 8:15 a.m. ET, is expected to show private employers added 195,000 jobs in February, compared with 234,000 jobs in January.

A more comprehensive report that includes hiring in both public and private sectors is due on Friday.

The Federal Reserve will publish its Beige Book, a compendium of anecdotes on the health of the economy, in the afternoon. The Fed’s next policy meeting is scheduled for March 20-21.

Fed’s New York President William Dudley and Atlanta Fed chief Raphael Bostic are expected to speak on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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