According to statistics, in autumn U.S. retail sales increased. Households buying a range of goods even as they cut back on purchases of motor vehicles, suggesting the economy maintained a moderate growth pace at the end of 2019.
Other data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped for a fifth straight week last week, indicating the labor market remained strong despite a recent slowdown in job growth. That should help sustain consumer spending and probably keep the longest economic expansion on record, now in its 11th year, on track.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday described the economy as having continued to expand modestly in the final six weeks of 2019. The U.S. central bank has signaled that it could keep interest rates unchanged at least through this year after reducing borrowing costs three times in 2019.
The Commerce Department said retail sales increased 0.3% last month. Data for November was revised up to show retail sales gaining 0.3% instead of rising 0.2% as previously reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales would gain 0.3% in December. Compared to December last year, retail sales accelerated 5.8%. Sales increased 3.6% in 2019.
Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales rebounded 0.5% last month after falling by a downwardly revised 0.1% in November.
The so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. They were previously reported to have edged up 0.1% in November.
Sales rose in December despite retailers such as Target Corp (TGT.N), Kohl’s (KSS.N), J.C. Penney (JCP.N) and Macy’s (M.N) reporting a decline in sales for the holiday period as foot traffic in malls dropped.
Though a report last week showed a slowdown in job growth in December and the increase in the annual wage gain retreating to below 3.0%, the labor market remains on solid footing. In a separate report on Thursday, the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 204,000 for the week ended Jan. 11.
Economists had forecast claims would rise to 216,000 in the latest week.
U.S. stocks were trading higher and the dollar .DXY was up slightly against a basket of currencies. Prices of U.S. Treasuries were trading lower.
SOME RED FLAGS
While claims are trending lower, there are some worrying signs emerging. The claims data showed layoffs in manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, construction, educational services and accommodation and food services industries in late 2019 and early 2020.
Some of the job losses in manufacturing, which were spread across at least eight states, could be related to the 18-month trade war between the United States and China, which has hurt business confidence and undercut capital expenditure. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed an initial trade deal on Wednesday, a first step toward defusing the trade war.
But with U.S. duties remaining in effect on $360 billion of Chinese imports, about two thirds of the total, economists do not expect the so-called “Phase 1” deal to provide a boost to manufacturing, which is in recession.
A third report on Thursday from the Philadelphia Fed showed factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region accelerated in January, with manufacturers reporting receiving more orders. But a measure of unfilled orders at factories in the region that covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware contracted and manufacturers cut hours for employees.
Even as trade tensions have eased, a dark pall remains over manufacturing, which accounts for 11% of the economy. Boeing (BA.N) has suspended production of its fast-selling 737 MAX jetliner starting this month and ripple effects are already being felt, with a major supplier announcing layoffs last week.
For now, consumers appear set to continue driving the economy, also thanks to house prices and a bullish stock market.
Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, grew at a 3.2% annualized rate in the third quarter. Growth in consumer spending is expected to have slowed to around or below a 2.5% rate in the fourth quarter. The economy expanded at a 2.1% pace in the July-September period.
Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are as high as a 2.5% rate, in part because of a drop in imports, which compressed the trade deficit.
In December, auto sales fell 1.3%, the biggest drop since last January, after increasing 1.5% in November. Higher gasoline prices lifted receipts at service stations, which jumped 2.8%. Online and mail-order retail sales rose 0.2% after being unchanged in November.
Sales at electronics and appliance stores rebounded 0.6% in December. Receipts at building material stores surged 1.4% and sales at clothing stores accelerated 1.6%. Spending at furniture stores edged up 0.1%.
Americans also spent more at restaurants and bars, with sales rising 0.2% last month. Spending at hobby, musical instrument and book stores rebounded 0.9%.
The program, called the Belt and Road Initiative, has come roaring back. Western officials and companies, for their part, are renewing their warnings that China’s gains in business and political clout could come at their expense.
Chinese companies signed Belt and Road contracts worth nearly $128 billion in the first 11 months of last year, according to China’s Commerce Ministry, a 41 percent increase over the same period in 2018. The contracts are mostly for construction and equipment by big Chinese companies using Chinese skilled labor and loans from Chinese banks, although the projects often create jobs for local laborers as well.
The latest contracts include a subway system for Belgrade, Serbia; an elevated rail line in Bogotá, Colombia; and a telecommunications data center near Nairobi, Kenya.
The return of Belt and Road is likely to raise tensions with the United States, which worries that China is building a globe-spanning bloc of nations that will mostly buy Chinese goods and tilt toward China’s authoritarian political model. The initiative figures into many of the disputes between the two countries over national security and technology.
The rush of new Belt and Road contracts follows a public pullback by Chinese officials in 2018 after projects in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and elsewhere were criticized by local officials and others as bloated and costly. China argues that since then, it has fine-tuned practices to trim waste.
“We will continue to follow a high-standard, people-centered and sustainable approach to promote high-quality Belt and Road cooperation with partner countries,” Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, said during a visit to Brazil in November.
Chinese officials have long presented Belt and Road as a chance to give emerging markets the same kind of world-class infrastructure that has helped make China a global economic powerhouse. Under Belt and Road, state-owned Chinese banks typically lend practically all of the money for a construction project to be carried out by Chinese companies. The borrowing countries are then required to repay the money, often with oil or other natural resources.
Officials in the United States and Western Europe have long criticized Belt and Road as predatory, and in recent years, some officials in developing countries began to agree. In 2018, Sri Lanka gave its major port to China after it could not repay loans, while Malaysia halted its own costly Belt and Road projects.
Chinese leaders began to acknowledge the criticism. Vice Premier Liu He of China publicly raised concerns in early 2018 about heavy lending by Chinese banks, not just for the Belt and Road Initiative.
In the months that followed, Chinese financial regulators clamped down hard on domestic and overseas lending alike. New Belt and Road contracts plummeted, Chinese data showed. China’s financial regulators told the country’s banks to look twice at further lending to poor countries. Top leaders practically stopped mentioning the program.
But the credit crunch produced a much broader slowing in the Chinese economy in 2018 than expected. Financial regulators reversed course. That has produced a revival of lending for domestic infrastructure projects and for Belt and Road projects alike. Contracts started to be signed in earnest again in the final weeks of 2018, and momentum built through last year.
In recent days, two groups representing Western governments, companies and banks have raised questions about the resurgence of the Belt and Road Initiative.
A report released on Thursday morning by the European Chamber of Commerce in China concluded that Chinese-built telecommunications networks and ports are set up in ways that make it hard for European shipping companies, computer software providers and other businesses to compete.
A survey by the chamber of its members also found that they had been almost completely excluded from bidding on Belt and Road Initiative contracts, which went mostly to Chinese state-owned enterprises.
“It was rather sobering to see that for businesses, it is quite insignificant what we get out of this,” said Joerg Wuttke, the chamber’s president.
The Institute of International Finance, a research group in Washington backed mainly by big Western banks, issued a different warning on Monday as part of a broader report on global debt.
The institute’s report said that many poor countries in the Belt and Road Initiative now find themselves with sharply increased debt burdens. Many of these countries could barely qualify to borrow money even before they took on the new debt, the report said.
The institute’s report also said that 85 percent of Belt and Road projects involved high emissions of greenhouse gases linked to climate change. These projects have included at least 63 coal-fired power plants.
The new reports come after a warning issued last year by European International Contractors, a trade group of construction and engineering companies. The trade group cautioned that loans for Belt and Road Initiative projects tend to carry considerably higher interest rates than those from lending institutions like the World Bank.
The construction industry group, and also the European chamber, said that the costs of Belt and Road Initiative projects are often greatly underestimated so that they can pass muster with Beijing officials. Poor countries then end up paying for cost overruns, they said.
European business groups, which include telecommunications equipment makers, have focused lately on Belt and Road’s emphasis on telecommunications. Many developing countries now have national telecom networks built by two Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE, that have been big participants in the Belt and Road Initiative. Huawei won a contract last spring to build a large telecom data center in Kenya.
The European chamber report said the networks were designed in ways that made it hard for European companies to sell any further hardware or software in these markets. European markets for telecom equipment, by contrast, are often more open, it argued. Huawei, for example, has sought to provide equipment for Germany and Britain.
Alongside telecommunications, the biggest security concern in the West about the Belt and Road Initiative has involved China’s construction or expansion of extensive ports. These ports now ring the Indian Ocean and extend up the west coast of Africa and into the Mediterranean.
The European Chamber report said that European shipping companies, which have ranked among the world’s largest since the Middle Ages, increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. The new ports are designed and managed by Chinese state-owned enterprises that are under the same Chinese government agency as Chinese shipbuilders and Chinese shipping companies.
China has contended that economic growth has long suffered in many emerging markets from high transportation costs, and that the construction of new ports can reduce these costs.
Lin Qiqing contributed research from Shanghai.
Japanese attorneys representing Carlos Ghosn, including lead lawyer Junichiro Hironaka, quit on Thursday following the former Nissan chief’s flight to Lebanon from Japan, where he had been fighting financial misconduct charges.
In an emailed statement, Hironaka said everyone involved in the case at his practice had resigned. A spokeswoman there declined to give a reason.
A second lawyer in Ghosn’s three-person legal team, Takashi Takano, also quit on Thursday, according to an official at his office.
A person who answered the telephone at the office of the third lawyer, Hiroshi Kawatsu, said she did not know if he still represented the former automotive executive.
Carole said she was “done with Japan”.
Japan has issued international wanted notices for the couple, which means the two will live in Lebanon as fugitives and could be arrested if they leave their country.
Hironaka, who earlier expressed disappointment at his client’s decision to abscond, had said he would quit once Ghosn had settled his account.
Ghosn spent more than 120 days in a Tokyo detention center and was interrogated on most days, often for more than seven hours without his lawyers, Takano has said.
Prosecutors questioned him for the first 43 days without a break, including Christmas and New Year’s Day.
On Thursday, Ghosn found an ally in another foreigner, Australian sports journalist Scott McIntyre, who was detained for 44 days for trespassing in a bid to get information on his missing children. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was freed on Wednesday with a six-month suspended sentence.
Speaking at a news conference, McIntyre, who was held at the same detention center as Ghosn in western Tokyo for part of his detention, described the conditions there as “torture”.
McIntyre said the lights were on 24 hours a day, making it impossible to sleep more than an hour at night, and that several of his fellow detainees told him they would confess to crimes they had not committed in order to shorten their time there.
China has pledged to buy $50 billion more in U.S. energy supplies, and will raise U.S. agriculture purchases by some $32 billion over two years above 2017’s $24 billion baseline, according to a source briefed on the deal to be signed on Wednesday. The deal also stipulates purchases of an additional $80 billion in manufactured goods.
Those totals would certainly trim the roughly $300 billion annual trade gap between the countries. However, analysts who study Chinese commodity flows remain skeptical that Beijing can absorb such quantities of U.S. goods without threatening trade ties with other suppliers, hurting its own domestic producers, and making substantial changes to import standards and quotas.
“Either China massively increases imports and reduces current account surplus from the current 1.5% of GDP, or it engages in trade diversion away from current providers of goods which compete with the U.S.” said Alicia Garcia Herrero, Chief Economist Asia Pacific at Natixis in Hong Kong. “I see this second scenario as much more likely.”
China will have to include U.S. crude, liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments and imports of petrochemical raw materials such as ethane and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to meet the target, Chinese trade sources and analysts said.
But it would still struggle unless new supply deals are signed that displace other exporters, they said.
The $50 billion target is “too aggressive and unlikely to achieve”, said Seng Yick Tee, an analyst at SIA Energy in Beijing, adding that energy product exports from the United States to China were about $8 billion in 2017 and 2018.
“To achieve $25 billion a year, all the imports need to be tripled.”
Gavin Thompson, Vice Chair for Asia Pacific at Wood Mackenzie, was surprised by the energy figure since it would mean tariffs on U.S. crude and LNG imports would have to be removed, particularly for LNG to be competitive.
Quality, rather than quantity, may be another hurdle.
“Most of the Chinese refineries were designed to process medium-sour crude, but U.S. oil is mostly light, sweet,” SIA’s Tee said, referring to the density and the sulfur amounts in crude, which dictate the types of fuels that can be refined from an oil.
AGRICULTURE TARGET “SHOCKING”
The pledge to boost U.S. farm imports by over $30 billion over two years is “shocking” since that increment is more than the value of farm products it has purchased from the U.S. in a single year, said a China-based grains trader.
“It would make (more) sense if the $32 billion is the total number, not the increased number.”
Such a large fixed dollar-figure from one producer would also risk supply disruptions and distort international crop prices, said Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING in Hong Kong.
“Prices of agri (commodities) from the rest of the world could be cheaper, especially after China cut import tariffs (in January). So even after retaliatory tariffs are removed, the U.S. will not have a competitive advantage over other economies,” she said.
Traders also questioned what products China could buy from the United States since African swine fever has dented demand for soybeans for animal feed and quotas to protect domestic farmers limit grain imports.
“China will, for sure, buy more soybeans, let’s say, 30 to 40 million tonnes. (For) wheat, maybe we can increase purchases within the import quota,” said a trader with a Chinese grain importer.
A third grains trader said: “If such volume (of products) come to China, it will be a disaster for us (in the domestic market).”
Malaysia Airlines delayed buying of 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets. The reason is the plane’s delayed return to service since it was grounded last year following two fatal crashes.
The decision represents another setback for Boeing, which on Tuesday reported its worst annual net orders in decades, along with its lowest number of plane deliveries in 11 years, as the grounding of the 737 MAX saw it fall far behind main competitor Airbus SE (AIR.PA).
“In view of the production stoppage and the delayed return to service of the 737-MAX, Malaysia Airlines has suspended the delivery of its orders,” the airline said in an email.
The carrier had been due to take delivery of its first 737 MAX in July 2020 but last year its chief executive said the introduction to service could slide beyond that.
Malaysia Airlines did not respond immediately to a request for comment on how many of the 25 planes it has on order were due to be delivered this year.
Analysts said cash-strapped carriers like Malaysian Airlines that over-ordered planes could take advantage of the 737 MAX grounding to negotiate with Boeing to restructure their orders.
Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (VAH.AX) last year said it would delay taking the first deliveries of 737 MAX jets for nearly two years to reduce capital spending.
Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (NWC.OL) last year said its Dublin-based leasing subsidiary had reached an agreement with Boeing to postpone delivery of 14 737 MAX planes that were originally due in 2020 and 2021.
Boeing on Tuesday reported a net negative of 183 orders for the 737 MAX in 2019 including cancellations, but many were associated with the collapse of a major customer, India’s Jet Airways Ltd (JET.NS).
Boeing did not respond immediately to a request for comment about Malaysia Airlines’ decision to suspend deliveries of its orders.
The Malaysian government has been seeking a buyer for the debt-heavy airline, which is still recovering from two tragedies in 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.
As of Jan. 1, the country hopes to put that identity crisis behind it: All official government communications and promotional materials will use the Netherlands as its name.
The Dutch government has been working on a branding campaign for the past 18 months to enhance the country’s image in the face of growing international competition, said Ingrid de Beer, the head of the public diplomacy section in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Our international image faces some challenges,” she said.
Research showed that many people do not know of the Netherlands or have outdated perceptions of the country, Ms. de Beer said. Young people, particularly those in countries farther away, are unfamiliar with the country, she said.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of 12 provinces, two of which — Noord (North) Holland and Zuid (South) Holland — make up Holland. Amsterdam, which sees about 19 million travelers annually, and Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens and a popular attraction, are both in the Holland region.
In some ways, the Dutch tourism board’s efforts to attract visitors have been too successful.
Straining to handle millions of tourists, the country’s tourism board stopped promoting its most famous attractions in favor of trying to encourage travelers to go to lesser-known destinations, according to a 2019 report.
“More isn’t always, and certainly not everywhere, better,” the report said.
By 2030, the report predicted, the Netherlands could see an influx of up to 42 million tourists — a gargantuan number for a country of 17 million.
Historically, the region of Holland has contributed the most to the country’s economy and wealth, resulting in its name commonly being used to indicate the entire country.
But not anymore, the Dutch government insists.
“We are fully aware that internationally, a strong image of the Netherlands contributes to achieving political objectives, promoting trade, attracting talent, investment and tourists and encouraging cultural and scientific exchange,” Ms. de Beer said.
Part of the branding campaign includes an updated logo, a “NL” stylized to look like an orange tulip, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The logo replaces the “Holland tulip,” which was created by the tourism board 25 years ago and used to promote the country.
The central government hopes to use the new logo, which debuted in November, for 20 years, the ministry said. The new logo can be used to promote the Netherlands abroad and by cities, universities, sports organizations, companies, cultural institutions and civil society organizations, Ms. de Beer said.
“If we compare our branding to a song,” Ms. de Beer said, “this basic narrative provides for the repetitive chorus, to which everyone can add on their own couplet.”
Marketing experts, however, were not convinced that the rebranding was needed.
David Corsun, the director of the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver, said on Sunday that it was always better for a brand to have a cohesive identity. But Dr. Corsun said any confusion caused by the country’s two names was probably not a major hindrance.
“My impression is that maybe more is being made of it than the results will drive,” he said. “I’m disinclined to believe that it’s going to have some earth-shattering results for them, but it seems like it’s going to have a relatively benign to somewhat beneficial outcome for them.”
Allen Adamson, a founder of the branding firm Metaforce and an adjunct professor of branding at New York University, said that the country’s new campaign was irrelevant because, for many people, the two names were interchangeable, so the rebranding wouldn’t affect their behaviors.
It’s an interesting intellectual exercise, he said, but Dutch officials are trying to solve a problem that does not exist.
“It’s hard to make the case ‘the Netherlands’ will be more effective than ‘Holland,’” Mr. Adamson said. “From a marketing perspective, shorter is always better so they’re fighting an uphill battle.”
Oil steady on Monday as fears over U.S.-Iran conflict ease, with investors shifting their focus to this week’s scheduled signing of an initial U.S.-China trade deal. This step could boost economic growth and demand.
Brent crude LCOc1 was up 1 cents at $64.99 per barrel at 0737 GMT, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 was up 5 cents at $59.09 a barrel from the previous session.
Oil prices surged to their highest in almost four months after a U.S. drone strike killed an Iranian commander and Iran retaliated with missiles launched against U.S. bases in Iraq. But they slumped again as Washington and Tehran retreated from the brink of direct conflict.
Global benchmark Brent touched $71.75 per barrel last week before ending on Friday below $65.
“The possibility of the war between the United States and Iran has disappeared … For the week, the signing of the U.S.-China trade deal would lift oil prices on expectations for higher demand,” said Kim Kwang-rae, a commodities analyst at Samsung Futures in Seoul.
Backwardation in Brent LCoC1-LCOc2, a market structure where prices for near-term contracts are higher than those for later contracts, is currently at 72 cents per barrel, from 84 cent a week earlier, whereas the WTI backwardation CLc1-CLc2 is at 4 cents a barrel from 23 cents last week.
Backwardation tends to reflect tightening supplies, and the narrowing of the values indicate that worries over supply disruption are receding.
“The fundamentals for WTI remain weak for the coming months and stocks are expected to build at Cushing,” said Virendra Chauhan, an oil analyst at Energy Aspects in Singapore.
“For Brent, which is a broader indicator of the global crude market, it is a combination of supply and demand,” he added.
“Sentiment appears to have turned a corner on the trade-war front, while some green shoots regarding industrial activity and the start of fiscal stimulus, could mean demand surprised to the upside.”
A U.S.-China trade deal is due to be signed in Washington on Wednesday.
During last three years Ford Motor Co’s China vehicle sales fell and now its around 26.1%. But they battles a prolonged overall sales decline in its second-biggest market so that has hit demand for its mass-market Ford brand and sports utility vehicles.
The U.S. automaker delivered 146,473 vehicles in China in the fourth quarter, down 14.7% year-on-year, Ford said in a statement. In total, it sold 567,854 vehicles over 2019.
Ford has been trying to revive sales in China after its business began slumping in late 2017. Sales sank 37% in 2018, after a 6% decline in 2017.
Anning Chen, president and chief executive of Ford Greater China, said that while 2019 was a “challenging” year for the automaker, it saw its market share in the high-to-premium segment stabilize and its sales decline in the value segment start to narrow in the second-half of the year.
“The pressure from the external environment and downward trend of the industry volume will continue in 2020, and we will put more efforts into strengthening our product lineup with more customer-centric products and customer experiences to mitigate the external pressure and improve dealers’ profitability.”
The automaker plans to launch more than 30 new models in China over the next three years of which over a third will be electric vehicles. It has also said it would localize management teams by hiring more Chinese staff and aimed to improve relationships with joint venture partners.
Models launched in the fourth quarter include a new Ford Escape version – for which the automaker said orders received so far have been much higher than expected – and the Lincoln Corsair, the first localized Lincoln model in China.
Bill Russo, head of Shanghai consultancy Automobility Ltd, said Ford was dealing with a “perfect storm” of trends which were not favorable to multinational mass market brands, and while the automaker was addressing the need to update its showrooms with new and refreshed models, this was taking time.
“They managed to stop the bleeding and increase average selling price,” he said of their 2019 sales figures. “Good sign, but they need to do more to localize their business model to address the growth in non-hardware related mobility and digital services if they are to recapture growth.”
In China, Ford makes cars through a joint venture with Chongqing Changan Automobile Co Ltd <000625.SZ> and Jiangling Motors Corp Ltd (JMC) <000550.SZ>. It has also said it would partner Zotye Automobile Co Ltd <000980.SZ> to sell lower priced cars.
Its larger U.S. rival General Motors Co last week said its sales in China fell 15% from a year earlier to 3.09 million vehicles in 2019, its second year of decline.
China’s auto market is set to contract by 2% in 2020 for the third year of decline, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) forecast, due to a weaker economy and trade dispute with the United States.
Over 28 million vehicles were sold in 2018, down 3% from the prior year, while 2019 sales are likely to have declined 8% from the prior year, CAAM said.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, will visit India next week for a meetnigs with government officials and company event. Thousands of small-scale traders in India are planning to organize protests against him. Why?
Bezos will participate in an Amazon event in capital New Delhi aimed at connecting with small and medium-sized enterprises, three sources told Reuters.
He has also sought meetings with the prime minister and other government officials, with conversations expected to center around e-commerce, one of the sources familiar with the matter said.
Details of Bezos’ visit, including his arrival date and the duration of his stay are not known.
Amazon did not respond to a request to confirm the visit. The prime minister’s office also did not respond to requests for comment.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a group representing roughly 70 million brick-and-mortar retailers, said it will protest across 300 cities during Bezos’ stay in the country.
CAIT has since 2015 waged a battle against online retailers Amazon and Walmart (WMT.N)-controlled Flipkart, accusing them of deep discounts and flouting India’s foreign investment rules.
Both e-tailers have denied the allegations.
Amazon has previously said its platform provides business opportunities to thousands of small sellers, artisans, weavers and women entrepreneurs. But CAIT is not convinced.
“We plan to organize peaceful rallies against Jeff Bezos in all major cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata as well as smaller towns and cities,” Praveen Khandelwal, the group’s secretary general told Reuters.
“We expect to mobilize at least 100,000 traders in the protests.”
With its 1.3 billion population and the world’s second-biggest smartphone user base that relies on cheap data for social media and online shopping, India is a key market for U.S. retailers Amazon and Walmart to grow their business.
Discounts on their platforms have helped lure Indians to shop online for everything from groceries to large electronic devices, a phenomenon which traders say has unfairly hurt their business.
New Delhi introduced rules last year to protect nearly 130 million people dependent on small-scale retail — a key voter base — by deterring large online discounts.
The rules forced e-commerce firms to change their business structures, drawing criticism from the United States and straining the two countries’ trade ties.
The federal commerce ministry is reviewing complaints and evidence filed by CAIT against Flipkart and Amazon, Reuters reported previously.
Apple Inc is testing new robot that disassembles its iPhone. New technology provides that minerals can be recovered and reused, while acknowledging rising global demand for electronics means new mines will still be needed.
The Cupertino, California-based company says the robot is part of its plan to become a “closed-loop” manufacturer that does not rely on the mining industry, an aggressive goal that some industry analysts have said is impossible.
Many mining executives note that with the rising popularity of electric vehicles, newly mined minerals will be needed on an even larger scale, a reality that Apple acknowledges.
“We’re not necessarily competing with the folks who mine,” said Lisa Jackson, the company’s head of environment, policy and social. “There’s nothing for miners to fear in this development.”
Inside a nondescript warehouse on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, Apple’s Daisy robot breaks apart iPhones so that 14 minerals, including lithium, can be extracted and recycled.
Apple is already using recycled tin, cobalt and rare earths in some of its products, with plans to add to that list. The company last month bought the first commercial batch of carbon-free aluminum from a joint venture between Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) and Alcoa (AA.N).
Daisy, less than 20 yards in length, uses a four-step process to remove an iPhone battery with a blast of -80 Celsius (-176 Fahrenheit) degree air, and then pop out screws and modules, including the haptic module that makes a phone vibrate.
Haptic monitors that have been removed.
The components are then sent off to recyclers for the minerals to be extracted and refined. Daisy can tear apart 200 iPhones per hour. Apple chose the iPhone to be the first of its products that Daisy would disassemble because of its mass popularity, said Jackson.
Apple is considering sharing the Daisy technology with others, including electric automakers. Daisy does have its skeptics, including some in the tech world who want the company to focus more on building products that can be repaired, not just recycled.
“There’s this ego that believes they can get all their minerals back, and it’s not possible,” said Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, a firm advocating for electronics repair, rather than replacement.
Camera modules sorted and awaiting further processing.
That may partially explain why the mining industry isn’t worried.
“Apple is in an enviable position, because they can do this,” said Tom Butler, president of the International Council on Mining and Metals, an industry trade group. “Not everyone else will be able to follow suit.”