Uber plans smaller, more cautious self-driving car launch

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc’s UBER.UL is plotting the return of its self-driving cars, but the company known for its hard-charging style is taking a much more conservative approach as it tries to recover from a fatal accident that upended its autonomous vehicle program.

After it receives approval from the state of Pennsylvania, Uber plans to begin driving “a handful” of cars on a mile loop between two company offices in Pittsburgh, where Uber first debuted its autonomous vehicles in 2016, company spokeswoman Sarah Abboud said. That would mark Uber’s first self-driving car tests on public streets since it halted its operations nearly nine months ago in the wake of a crash in Arizona that killed a pedestrian.

The diminutive launch is a dramatic downsize from Uber’s previous operation. The company in the past unleashed its fleet in autonomous mode on public roads at high speeds, after dark, in areas crowded with pedestrians and with a single backup driver in the front seat.

This time, the cars will not operate at night or in wet weather, and will not exceed speeds of 25 miles per hour, Abboud said. Two employees will sit in the front seats, and the company has no plans to resume picking up passengers in the robot cars, a service Uber launched in 2016.

The New York Times first reported on Uber’s plans on Wednesday.

Abboud said Uber was awaiting approval from Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation and would not begin testing before then. She said there was no firm start date.

In March, authorities in Arizona suspended Uber’s ability to test its self-driving cars after one of its cars hit and killed a woman crossing the street at night in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, Uber’s largest testing hub. Uber also voluntarily halted its entire autonomous car testing program.

Resuming an autonomous driving program is crucial. Uber has a deal with Volvo to purchase up to 24,000 cars, and recently Toyota invested $500 million to develop self-driving cars with Uber.

Uber had pledged to start self-driving operations by this past summer in Pittsburgh, but the company faced immense pressure from regulators, federal investigators and an internal review of safety practices. Last month, Uber released a safety report that outlined several changes, including enabling an automatic braking system and improving the cars’ ability to quickly detect and react to objects on the road.

The National Transportation Safety Board has an ongoing investigation into the Arizona crash, the findings of which are expected in a major report next year.

Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler

Chinese embassy demands release of Huawei CFO arrested in Canada

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s embassy in Canada criticized Canada and the United States on Thursday for wrongfully arresting a senior executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei [HWT.UL] and demanded her immediate release.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s global chief financial officer, is facing extradition to the United States and her arrest could rekindle tensions between Washington and Beijing only days after they agreed to a ceasefire in a bitter trade war.

Meng was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1. Her arrest is related to violations of U.S. sanctions, a person familiar with the matter said. Reuters was unable to determine the precise nature of the violations.

The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Canada said that it resolutely opposes Meng’s arrest and demands her immediate release.

“The Canadian police, at the request of the United States, arrested a Chinese citizen who had not violated any U.S. or Canadian law,” the embassy said in a short statement on its website.

“China has already made solemn representations to the United States and Canada, demanding they immediately correct their wrong behavior and restore Ms Meng Wanzhou’s freedom.”

A court hearing has been set for Friday, a Canadian Justice Department spokesman said.

Meng is one of the vice chairs on the Chinese technology company’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei. Huawei is strategically important to China’s ambitions in technology from 5G networks to chips.

Western governments are increasingly wary of what they say is possible Chinese state involvement in fifth-generation mobile and other communications networks. Huawei has insisted Beijing has no influence over the company.

Huawei’s smaller rival ZTE Corp had to temporarily halt much of its business earlier this year after the U.S. imposed an export ban on the company related to it illegally shipping U.S.-origin goods to Iran and North Korea.

Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Michael Perry

Huawei CFO arrested in Canada: Canada’s Justice Dept

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Canada has arrested Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Vancouver, where she is facing extradition to the United States, Canada’s Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

The arrest is related to violations of U.S. sanctions, a person familiar with the matter said. Reuters was unable to determine the precise nature of the violations.

Meng Wanzhou, who is one of the vice chairs on the Chinese technology company’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested on Dec. 1 and a court hearing has been set for Friday, a Canadian Justice Department spokesman said.

Huawei confirmed the arrest in a statement and said that it has been provided little information of the charges against Meng, adding that it was “not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng.”

China’s embassy in Canada said it resolutely opposed the arrest and called for Meng’s immediate release. [nB9N1NF01R]

The arrest could drive a wedge between China and the United States just days after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping held a meeting in Argentina where they agreed to steps to resolve a brewing trade war. [nL2N1Y604A]

U.S. authorities have been probing Huawei, one of the world’s largest makers of telecommunications network equipment, since at least 2016 for allegedly shipping U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws, sources told Reuters in April. [nL3N1S256N]

The U.S. Justice Department probe is being run out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, the sources said.

The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn also declined to comment.

In January 2013, Reuters reported that a Hong Kong-based firm that attempted to sell embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator had much closer ties to China’s Huawei Technologies than was previously known.

The news comes the same day Britain’s BT Group said it was removing Huawei’s equipment from the core of its existing 3G and 4G mobile operations and would not use the Chinese company in central parts of the next network.

The Huawei statement said Meng, who also has gone by the English names Cathy and Sabrina, was detained when she was transferring flights in Canada.

The handset and telecommunications equipment maker said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and U.S. and other regulations.

The arrest drew a quick reaction in Washington.

U.S. Senator Ben Sasse praised the action and said that it was “for breaking U.S. sanctions against Iran.” He added: “Sometimes Chinese aggression is explicitly state-sponsored and sometimes it’s laundered through many of Beijing’s so-called ‘private’ sector entities.”

U.S. stock futures tumbled, followed by Asian markets, as news of the arrest heightened the sense a major collision was brewing between the world’s two largest economic powers, not just over tariffs but also over technological hegemony.

While investors initially greeted the trade ceasefire reached in Argentina with relief, the mood has quickly soured on scepticism that the two sides can reach a substantive deal.

SP500 e-mini futures ESc1 were down almost 2 percent at one point in thin Asian morning trade on Thursday.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

U.S. stock futures fall, Asia follows after Canada arrests Huawei CFO

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. stock futures tumbled on Thursday and Asian markets followed after Canadian authorities arrested a top executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies, fanning fears of further tensions between China and the United States.

SP500 e-mini futures ESc1 fell almost 2 percent at one point in thin Asian morning trade and were last were down 0.7 percent.

The Canadian Justice Department said Meng Wanzhou, deputy chair of Huawei, was arrested early this month and that she was sought for extradition by the United States.

The arrest heightened the sense of a major collision between the world’s two largest economic powers not just over tariffs but also over technological hegemony.

It also came as an inversion in the U.S. yield curve has stoked global investor worries of a possible U.S. recession.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 slid 0.8 percent, with benchmark indexes in South Korea .KS11 and Australia down 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Currencies were steadier, with major currencies little changed so far.

The euro traded flat at $1.1347 EUR= while the dollar dipped 0.1 percent against the yen to 113.01 JPY=. The yuan CNH= is also unmoved at 6.8660 in the offshore trade.

U.S. Treasuries futures TYv1 were also almost flat.

The benchmark Treasury 10-year yield US10YT=RR fell to its lowest point since mid-September on Tuesday while the five-year yield dropped below the two-year yield, causing a so-called inversion in the yield curve.

Because an inverted curve has often tended to precede a recession, investors were spooked by that.

U.S. markets were closed on Wednesday to mark the death of former President George H.W. Bush.

Editing by Kim Coghill

Oil prices dip as stock markets slide, but trading tepid ahead of OPEC meeting

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices fell along with weak stock markets on Thursday, but trading was tepid ahead of a meeting by producer group OPEC that is expected to result in a supply cut aimed at draining a glut that has pulled down crude prices by 30 percent since October.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were at $52.66 per barrel at 0140 GMT, down 23 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.

International Brent crude oil futures LCOc1 were down 7 cents, or 0.1 percent, at $61.49 per barrel.

Traders said oil prices were being weighed down by weak global financial markets, which saw stock markets tumble on Thursday.

Since early October, crude oil has lost around 30 percent of its value amid surging supply and fears that an economic downturn will erode fuel demand.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is meeting at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday to decide its production policy.

Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s crude oil production PRODN-TOTAL has risen by 4.1 percent since mid-2018, to 33.31 million barrels per day (bpd).

Oil output from the world’s biggest producers – OPEC, Russia and the United States – has increased by a 3.3 million bpd since the end of 2017, to 56.38 million bpd, meeting almost 60 percent of global consumption.

The increase alone is equivalent to the output of major OPEC producer United Arab Emirates.

Russia, a major oil producer but not a member of OPEC, will meet with the producer cartel on Friday to discuss production levels, and it is widely expected that a supply cut will be agreed.

“Markets…believe the production cut deal will be in range of 1-1.3 million bpd,” ANZ bank said on Thursday.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

Thomson Reuters to cut workforce by 3,200 or 12 percent by 2020

TORONTO (Reuters) – Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.TO) said on Tuesday that it will cut its workforce by 12 percent by 2020, axing 3,200 jobs, as part of a plan to streamline the business and improve operating efficiencies.

The news and information provider, which completed the sale of a 55-percent stake in its Financial Risk (FR) unit to private equity firm Blackstone Group LP (BX.N), announced the cuts during an investor day in Toronto, in which it outlined its future strategy and growth plans.

Thomson Reuters said that it had set a target to reduce its capital expenditure to between 7 percent and 8 percent of revenue in 2020 from 10 percent currently.

The company also set a target to grow annual sales by 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent by 2020, excluding the impact of any acquisitions.

Thomson Reuters is looking to support organic growth through acquisitions and has set aside $2 billion of the $17 billion proceeds from the Blackstone deal to make purchases.

Shares in Thomson Reuters have risen by nearly 40 percent since May, benefiting from the company buying back $10 billion worth of shares.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Nick Zieminski

Nissan delays decision on Ghosn successor

TOKYO (Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) failed on Tuesday to nominate a successor to Carlos Ghosn as chairman in the wake of his arrest and dismissal for alleged financial misconduct last month, a source familiar with the situation said.

Ghosn could remain in detention until the end of the year because Tokyo prosecutors plan to rearrest him on a fresh claim of understating his income, the Sankei newspaper reported earlier on Tuesday.

A three-member panel of external Nissan directors put off a decision on recommending a replacement for the jailed Ghosn.

The carmaker declined to comment.

Ghosn’s arrest to face accusations including the under-reporting of income has triggered new attempts by Nissan to weaken Renault’s control of their Franco-Japanese alliance.

Renault’s board is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Ghosn, 64, was the architect of the alliance and one of the best known figures in the car industry.

Nissan has tasked former trade and industry official Masakazu Toyoda, retired Renault SA (RENA.PA) executive Jean-Baptiste Duzan and race car driver Keiko Ihara with the selection of a new chairman, which is to be submitted to the rest of the board at their next meeting on Dec. 17. Changes to the board must be approved by shareholders.

Ghosn has been detained in Tokyo since his Nov. 19 arrest on suspicion of conspiring with former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly to understate his compensation by about half of the actual 10 billion yen ($88 million), over five years from 2010. Tokyo authorities on Friday extended their detention until the maximum Dec. 10 for the alleged crime.

Citing unnamed sources, the Sankei daily said prosecutors plan to arrest Ghosn and Kelly on Dec. 10 for the same crime covering the period from 2015 to 2017, during which the suspects allegedly understated Ghosn’s income by about 4 billion yen.

If authorities approve the maximum detention for that case, Ghosn and Kelly would remain in custody until Dec. 30, the paper said.

The Tokyo prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the report.

Ghosn has been unable to respond to the allegations, which public broadcaster NHK has said he has denied. Calls to Ghosn’s lawyer, Motonari Otsuru, at his office went unanswered.

In Japan, crime suspects can be kept in custody for 10 days and that can be extended for another 10 days if a judge grants prosecutors’ request for extension. At the end of that period, prosecutors must file a formal charge or let the suspect go.

However, they can also arrest suspects for a separate crime, in which case the process starts over again. This process can be repeated, sometimes keeping suspects detained for months without formal charges and without bail.

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Maki Shiraki; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Stephen Coates/Keith Weir

Wall Street to open lower on trade deal doubt, bond market nerves

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower opening for Wall Street on Tuesday, as investors turned skeptical of the chances of a breakthrough in the U.S.-China trade talks, while a flattening U.S. yield curve raised fears of a slowing domestic economy.

Wall Street rallied on Monday on news that U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to hold off on new tariffs for 90 days, offering relief to a market that has been clouded for much of the year by the prospect of an all-out trade war.

However, different dates from the White House regarding start of the three-month trade ceasefire and skepticism over an actual resolution in the agreed negotiating window dampened the mood.

Traders were questioning the recent trade agreement as “it isn’t very clear on what both sides agreed to, other than just a temporary truce,” Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida said.

The short end of the U.S. yield curve also inverted for the first time since 2007, and the yield curve between the benchmark 2-year and 10-year notes remained at the flattest in over a decade. [US/]

Investors typically demand higher yields to commit money for longer periods of time. When short-term yields move higher it can imply doubts about the immediate future, and an inversion of the yield curve has preceded past recessions.

At 8:37 a.m. ET, the Dow and Nasdaq futures were down about 0.4 percent each.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) dropped 2 percent in premarket trading, after leading the rally on Monday. One of the company’s suppliers Cirrus Logic Inc (CRUS.O) trimmed its revenue outlook, adding to growing evidence that the latest iPhones are not selling well.

Dollar General Corp (DG.N) fell 5.4 percent after lowering its full-year profit and sales forecast, hit by higher costs related to hurricanes.

Toll Brothers Inc (TOL.N) dropped 3.1 percent after the luxury home builder reported its first fall in quarterly orders in more than four years on rising interest rates and higher home prices.

Among the few bright spots were energy companies whose shares rose as crude prices increased more than 2 percent, extending gains ahead of expected output cuts by OPEC and a mandated reduction in Canadian supply.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Sruthi Shankar; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

World stocks retreat as trade truce doubts return

London (Reuters) – Deflating hopes of a swift resolution to the Sino-U.S. trade war knocked world stocks off a three-week high on Tuesday, while recession warning lights in U.S. bond markets weighed on the dollar.

Optimism over a rapprochement between U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping at the weekend G20 meeting was replaced by scepticism and left Wall Street braced for another day in the red.

Adding to market jitters was an inversion of the short end of the U.S. yield curve in bond markets, which historically has signaled a U.S. recession.

Asian markets had seen Japan’s Nikkei close 2.4 percent lower after a jump in yen. Europe fared a little better, but London Frankfurt DAX and Paris were all 0.4 to 0.6 percent lower.

“The initial relief rally was never going to last. Investors need more detail now in order for that risk-on sentiment to survive,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group. “So far that detail has not been coming through, and investors have more questions than answers.”

There was added confusion over when the 90-day period, during which the U.S. and China would hold off on imposing more tariffs, would start.

A White House official had said it started on Dec. 1, while earlier, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters it would start on Jan. 1.

Moreover, none of the commitments that U.S. officials said had been given by China – including reducing its 40 percent tariffs on autos – were agreed to in writing and specifics had yet to be hammered out.

Meanwhile, the U.S. yield curve focused investors’ minds. The curve between U.S. three-year and five-year and between two-year and five-year debt inverted on Monday – the first parts of the Treasury yield curve to invert since the financial crisis, excluding very short-dated debt.

Analysts expect the two-year, 10-year yield curve – seen as a predictor of a U.S. recession – to follow suit.

On Tuesday, the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was at 2.95 percent compared with its U.S. Monday close of 2.99 percent. And the spread between 10-year and two-year Treasury yields tightened to around 13 basis points – hitting its narrowest level since July 2007.

“The focus is now shifting to the inverted U.S. bond yield curve, which has negative connotations, while implying the U.S. economy is heading towards what was only a few weeks ago an improbable economic slowdown,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for APAC at Oanda.

“Now, even recessionary fear is starting to raise its ugly head.”

However, analysts also said U.S. manufacturing data released on Monday had been reassuringly strong, with new orders a “key driver” in boosting activity.

Oil prices also extended gains, adding another 2 percent to Monday’s 4 percent surge, as investors bet a key OPEC meeting on Thursday would deliver supply cuts.

Benchmark Brent crude oil jumped by $1.89 to a high of $63.58 before easing back to trade around $63 by 1240 GMT. U.S. light crude was up $1 at $53.95 after earlier gaining more than 3 percent to an intraday high of $54.55. [O/R]

Graphic: U.S. yield curve inversion – tmsnrt.rs/2RvJ6J5

SOFTER DOLLAR

Another major shift was the dollar weakening against the other major world currencies again.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of peers, softened 0.5 percent to 96.53, while the euro added 0.6 percent to $1.1416.

Sterling climbed as well after the European Court of Justice’s advocate general said Britain had the right to unilaterally withdraw its notice that it is leaving the European Union.

The advocate general’s advice is non-binding, but the prospect of a route out of the Brexit process cheered the market, even as Prime Minister Theresa May pressed ahead with plans for a parliamentary debate on her proposed divorce deal.

It saw the pound rise as high of $1.28 versus the broadly weaker dollar. Against the euro, it rose 0.4 percent to a day’s high of 88.9 pence.

“The parliamentary debate should reiterate the divisions between and within the political parties, pointing to a low likelihood of the Brexit deal being voted through in Parliament next week,” said Petr Krpata, an currency strategist at ING.

The dollar also weakened 0.8 percent against the Japanese yen and fell more than 0.5 percent against the offshore Chinese yuan to 6.83 yuan, its weakest level since September.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell was scheduled to testify on Wednesday to a congressional Joint Economic Committee, but the hearing was postponed because of a national day of mourning for U.S. President George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday.

The dollar originally came under pressure last week on Powell’s comments that rates were nearing neutral levels, which markets interpreted as signaling a slowdown in the Fed’s rate-hike cycle.

In pre-market Wall Street trading, Apple shares were down almost 2 percent after leading the rally on Monday. One of the company’s suppliers, Cirrus Logic, trimmed its revenue outlook, more evidence that the latest iPhones are not selling well.

Among the precious metals, spot gold rose as dollar weakened, trading up 0.5 percent at $1,237.24 per ounce. Palladium gained another 2 percent to notch its latest all-time high.

Reporting by Karin Strohecker; additional reporting by Andrew Galbraith; editing by Andrew Heavens, Larry King

Exclusive: Exxon seeks to sell its stake in giant Azeri oil field

LONDON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil is seeking to sell its stake inAzerbaijan’s largest oil field, once dubbed the “contract of the century”, as the U.S. oil and gas giant re-focuses its global operations, industry and banking sources said.

Exxon is hoping to raise up to $2 billion from the sale of its 6.8 percent in the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) field in the Caspian Sea, according to the sources.

Exxon spokeswoman Julie King declined to comment, saying “we don’t comment on market rumors or speculation”. A spokesman for Azerbaijan’s state energy company Socar said: “The report is about Exxon and there is no need for Socar to get involved.”

The sale would mark the end of a 25-year journey. Exxon was among five U.S. oil companies that helped create Azerbaijan’s current oil industry soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and signing the deal in 1994.

The deal was dubbed by Azerbaijan and partners as the “the contract of the century” thanks to the field’s large reserves and hopes of future major discoveries that would help Europe diversify away from Russian oil and gas.

Even though the project is operated by British oil major BP, it had received substantial U.S. government support and a total of five American companies initially participated in the deal, including Exxon, Amoco, Unocal, Pennzoil and McDermott.

BP said it had no information about Exxon’s plans.

The project received particular Western support due to hopes it would help cut Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, but those hopes faded as new large discoveries failed to materialize.

Most U.S. companies sold out of the project or were acquired by rivals, while U.S. support to the Azeri administration also shrank.

Azerbaijan also became more assertive in controlling its energy wealth by building up large stakes in its energy projects via state company Socar.

If Exxon was to sell out of ACG, it would leave Chevron as the only U.S. company in the project, with a stake of 9.57 percent, the third largest after BP and Socar, with 30.4 and 25 percent respectively.

The ACG fields still account for the lion’s share of Azeri oil output. They produced around three quarters of overall Azeri crude output, or nearly 600,000 barrels per day, in the first half of 2018.

Other ACG consortium members include Japan’s Inpex with 9.3 percent and Norway’s Equinor with 7.3 percent. Turkey’s TPAO, Japan’s Itochu, and India’s ONGC Videsh have smaller stakes.

Exxon has in recent years increasingly focused on developing shale fields in the United States, as well as a string of large oil discoveries in Guyana.

Additional reporting by Margarita Antidze; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Mark Potter and Kirsten Donovan