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Dow rises more than 150 points, S&P 500 heads for best weekly gain since November

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York.

This week’s gains were largely led by tech shares, as the sector surged 5 percent. The tech sector also became the best-performer of 2019. Nvidia is the best-performing stock in the sector, rising more than 12 percent while fellow semiconductor stocks like Broadcom and Lam Research also rose sharply this week.

Semiconductor shares rose broadly on Friday, as the VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) climbed more than 2 percent. Broadcom shares led the gains, rising more than 9 percent after the company reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke via telephone with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Xinhua news agency reported Friday. The report, according to The South China Morning Post, said: “The two sides have further made concrete progress on the text of the trade agreement between the two sides.”

The news comes after CNBC reported Thursday that Chinese negotiators suggest combining a state visit to the U.S. with the signing of a trade deal. Beijing wants a deal to be fully ironed out before President Xi Jinping meets with U.S. President Donald Trump.

“US-China trade negotiations will likely reach a temporary deal, transforming future negotiations into a framework to monitor China’s compliance with trade and intellectual property policies,” Alberto Gallo, head of macro strategies at Algebris Investments, wrote in a note. He added, however, that “binary events” like this “may not translate into tail risks.”

AT&T shares rose 0.8 percent after Raymond James upgraded the telecommunications giant to outperform from market perform, citing an attractive valuation relative to rival Verizon. “We believe that the combination of positive earnings growth and delivering over the course of the year will being investors back to AT&T,” analyst Frank Louthan said in a note.

—CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Spriha Srivastava contributed to this report.

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European pilots urge EU regulator to thoroughly review Boeing 737 Max

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A Boeing 737 MAX 8 is pictured outside the factory on March 11, 2019 in Renton, Washington.

Stephen Brashear | Getty Images

A European pilots’ group Thursday urged the region’s aviation regulator to conduct its own thorough and independent review of the Boeing 737 Max before allowing the planes to fly again.

International air safety regulators, including the Federal Aviation Administration, grounded the close to 400 Max jets that were in service in mid-March after two fatal crashes within less than five months of one another killed a combined 346 people.

“Simply accepting the FAA’s word on the Max’s safety won’t be enough,” the European Cockpit Association said in a statement. The group represents 38,000 European pilots, including those at airlines that have purchased the Boeing 737 Max, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair.

The group’s comments come as the FAA meets with their international counterparts in Texas on Thursday to provide an update on its approval process of Boeing’s changes to the planes in an effort to get them flying again.

Operators of the Boeing 737 Max are grappling with how to reintroduce the plane in their fleets if the FAA and other authorities approve its return. The absence of the plane has forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights during the busy summer travel season. Confidence from pilots and flight attendants are key to that strategy and Boeing has met with both groups in recent weeks to discuss the changes its preparing.

“If there’s an American Airlines pilot ready to go, so am I, so is my family. And we’ll be among the first people, if not the first people, on board,” American Airlines‘ CEO Doug Parker told NBC News in an interview that aired Wednesday evening.

Boeing last week said it completed software changes to an anti-stall system that has been implicated in the October crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max and another operated by Ethiopian Airlines in March. That software along with updated pilot training materials will need FAA’s approval.

The manufacturer and the FAA are under fire for how the plane was approved, which included delegating some functions to Boeing. Although the practice is legal, lawmakers have questioned the agency’s relationship with Boeing and several investigations are examining how the planes received a green light with a system that pilots say they didn’t know about until after the first crash.

The pilots group also wants answers.

“For European pilots, having closely followed the developments and revelations in the past months, it is deeply disturbing that both the FAA and Boeing are considering a return to service, but failing to discuss the many challenging questions prompted by the Max design philosophy,” it said.

For its part, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it plans to conduct an independent review of the plane.

“The information made available so far through the preliminary investigations of the two accidents are deemed to provide sufficient understanding of the safety issues to be addressed and we will continue to analyse any new information that the investigations make available,” EASA said in an e-mailed statement.

Separately on Thursday, an international airline trade group is meeting with 737 Max operators to discuss Boeing’s update and the potential return to service.

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Sterling slumps as Theresa May’s time as UK leader edges to a close

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Prime Minister Theresa May leaving 10 Downing Street, London, ahead of Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Victoria Jones – PA Images | PA Images | Getty Images

The pound continued to hover around 4-month lows Thursday after Prime Minister Theresa May suffered another cabinet resignation and faced intensifying calls by some members of her party to step down.

Sterling versus the U.S. dollar has moved toward the $1.25 handle, falling to a low of $1.2603 just as European trading began on Thursday.

Around the same time the euro bought 88.385 pence. The pound is currently on track to suffer 14 consecutive days of losses against the euro zone’s common currency.

A fourth attempt by May to secure domestic support for her Brexit withdrawal plan looks doomed to fail and calls for her to step down have amplified.

Adding to May’s troubles was the resignation of House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom on Wednesday evening. Leadsom is the 36th minister to resign in the almost three years of the May premiership.

“Investors should not be complacent about the threat of a no-deal exit, which we believe would take the pound as low as $1.15 and 0.97 versus the euro,” UBS analysts said in a note Thursday.

May is expected to depart in the next few days and her Conservative Party will narrow down candidates to two people before conducting a run-off vote.

A number of Conservative lawmakers are thought to be in the race to be the next U.K. leader, but bookmakers put the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as favorite. Johnson confirmed his candidacy last week.

Johnson, a supporter of Brexit, has been hugely critical of May’s attempts to agree a deal and has said that Britain has “nothing to fear” from leaving the trading bloc.

The investment bank J.P. Morgan said in a note Tuesday that a leadership victory for Johnson would likely trigger a number of defections from within the Conservative Party, strengthening the case for a general election.

Now watch: Where did Brexit come from?

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US tariffs on China have been paid almost entirely by US importers: IMF

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Vehicles wait for shipment at Lianyungang Port in Lianyungang, China.

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods are hurting an unintended target as the trade war rages, an International Monetary Fund study found.

The study, released Thursday, said that tariff revenue collected from levies on Chinese goods “has been borne almost entirely” by U.S. importers.

China and the U.S. have been engaged in a trade war for more than a year. In that time, they have targeted billions of dollars worth of goods with high import tariffs. However, “there was almost no change in the (ex-tariff) border prices of imports from China, and a sharp jump in the post-tariff import prices matching the magnitude of the tariff,” the study said.

President Donald Trump claimed on May 8 that the higher levies on Chinese goods are “filling U.S. coffers ” to the tune of $100 billion per year. But the IMF said the bilateral trade deficit between China and the U.S. remains “broadly unchanged” even with the tariffs.

Trump has also raised the possibility of raising tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods. This, according to the IMF, could hurt consumers as companies are likely to pass on the additional cost.

“Consumers in the US and China are unequivocally the losers from trade tensions,” the IMF report said, adding higher tariffs could also hurt economic growth. “While the impact on global growth is relatively modest at this time, the latest escalation could significantly dent business and financial market sentiment, disrupt global supply chains, and jeopardize the projected recovery in global growth in 2019.”

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