As shutdown lingers, Pelosi asks Trump to delay State of Union address

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the U.S. government shutdown dragging into its 26th day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address – a move that could deny the president the opportunity to use the pageantry of the speech to attack Democrats in their own chamber over the impasse.

With Trump’s address set for Jan. 29, Pelosi wrote him a letter citing security concerns because the Secret Service, which is required to provide security for the address, has not received funding during the dispute.

The standoff was triggered by Trump’s demand for a round of funding for his promised wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Presidents traditionally deliver the address, which lays out the administration’s goals for the upcoming year, in the House chamber before a joint session of Congress and the majority of the Cabinet.

Democrats took control of the House after last year’s congressional elections. During the shutdown, Trump has routinely blamed them for the stalemate, although he had earlier said he would take responsibility.

In comments to reporters on Wednesday, Pelosi suggested that if Trump would not agree to reschedule the speech until the government re-opens, he could deliver it from the Oval Office instead, a setting that would lack the grandeur of the congressional address.

The White House had no immediate comment on Pelosi’s request and her letter appeared to take aides by surprise. It pointed out that she had invited Trump to make the State of the Union address at the Capitol but said the shutdown complicated the situation.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress,” Pelosi wrote.

Representative Jim Jordan of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans who are close allies of Trump, said Pelosi’s move showed the lengths to which Democrats will go to obstruct Trump.

“It sure sounds like she’s looking to not have the president come and give the State of the Union address, not have the commander-in-chief come and address the nation,” Jordan told Reuters. “I think that just shows that they’re more focused on stopping the president than they are on serving the country.”

Trump on Wednesday is expected to sign legislation that would ensure 800,000 federal employees will receive back pay when the government reopens.

Some government employees are being asked to return to work after being initially told to stay home during the shutdown, although they will not be paid on schedule.

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Both the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday said they would call back nearly 50,000 employees to process tax returns, refunds and other tasks or to work in aviation safety inspection.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was recalling about 2,500 furloughed Farm Service Administration employees to assist farmers with existing loans and ensure the agency meets a deadline for providing tax documents.

The Washington Post reported that Food and Drug Administration workers also have been called to work without pay during the shutdown.

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Upbeat bank earnings send Wall Street to one-month highs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s major indexes hit one-month highs on Wednesday as strong earnings from Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) boosted investor sentiment.

Goldman Sachs shares surged 9.5 percent, providing the greatest boost to the Dow, after the bank reported quarterly revenue and earnings that topped estimates. The shares registered their biggest daily percentage gain in nearly 10 years.

Bank of America shares jumped 7.2 percent, leading the S&P 500 higher, after the bank reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on growth in its loan book. The shares posted their biggest one-day percentage gain in 6-1/2 years.

The two banks’ results drove a 2.2 percent gain in the S&P 500 financial index .SPSY, which was by far the biggest advancer among the S&P’s major sectors. The S&P banking subsector .SPXBK climbed 2.7 percent.

A strong start to the U.S. earnings season, along with trade optimism and hopes of a slower pace in the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes, have helped S&P 500 recoup some of its losses from a recent rout. The index is now 10.7 percent away from its Sept. 20 record close after having fallen as much as 19.8 percent below that level.

“Overall, banks need a good economy and a properly sloped yield curve, and maybe we’re getting that,” said Kevin Caron, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in Florham Park, New Jersey. “We’re starting to see that percolate into bank earnings.”

With Wednesday’s gains, the S&P 500 came within striking distance of its 50-day moving average, a key indicator of short-term trends, for the first time since Dec. 4. The Nasdaq crossed its 50-day moving average on Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 3.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 141.57 points, or 0.59 percent, to 24,207.16, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 5.8 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,616.1 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 10.86 points, or 0.15 percent, to 7,034.69.

Stocks slightly pared gains in the last half-hour of trading after the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors were investigating Huawei Technologies Co Ltd HWT.UL, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. businesses.

Among other stocks, United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.O) shares rose 6.4 percent after the airline posted a quarterly profit that beat expectations.

Shares of First Data Corp (FDC.N) soared 21.1 percent after Fiserv Inc (FISV.O) said it had agreed to buy the payment processor for $22 billion in the biggest-ever deal within the digital payments industry. Fiserv’s shares fell 3.3 percent.

Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) shares fell 4.8 percent after the department store forecast full-year profit at the lower end of its prior estimates.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) shares dropped 6.2 percent after the automaker forecast a weaker-than-expected fourth quarter profit and said tariffs could erode its 2019 earnings.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.62-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 32 new highs and 19 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.48 billion shares, compared to the 8.69 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

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Upbeat bank earnings send Wall Street to one-month highs

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s major indexes hit one-month highs on Wednesday as strong earnings from Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) boosted investor sentiment.

Goldman Sachs shares surged 9.5 percent, providing the greatest boost to the Dow, after the bank reported quarterly revenue and earnings that topped estimates. The shares registered their biggest daily percentage gain in nearly 10 years.

Bank of America shares jumped 7.2 percent, leading the S&P 500 higher, after the bank reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on growth in its loan book. The shares posted their biggest one-day percentage gain in 6-1/2 years.

The two banks’ results drove a 2.2 percent gain in the S&P 500 financial index .SPSY, which was by far the biggest advancer among the S&P’s major sectors. The S&P banking subsector .SPXBK climbed 2.7 percent.

A strong start to the U.S. earnings season, along with trade optimism and hopes of a slower pace in the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes, have helped S&P 500 recoup some of its losses from a recent rout. The index is now 10.7 percent away from its Sept. 20 record close after having fallen as much as 19.8 percent below that level.

“Overall, banks need a good economy and a properly sloped yield curve, and maybe we’re getting that,” said Kevin Caron, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in Florham Park, New Jersey. “We’re starting to see that percolate into bank earnings.”

With Wednesday’s gains, the S&P 500 came within striking distance of its 50-day moving average, a key indicator of short-term trends, for the first time since Dec. 4. The Nasdaq crossed its 50-day moving average on Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 3.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 141.57 points, or 0.59 percent, to 24,207.16, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 5.8 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,616.1 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 10.86 points, or 0.15 percent, to 7,034.69.

Stocks slightly pared gains in the last half-hour of trading after the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors were investigating Huawei Technologies Co Ltd HWT.UL, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. businesses.

Among other stocks, United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.O) shares rose 6.4 percent after the airline posted a quarterly profit that beat expectations.

Shares of First Data Corp (FDC.N) soared 21.1 percent after Fiserv Inc (FISV.O) said it had agreed to buy the payment processor for $22 billion in the biggest-ever deal within the digital payments industry. Fiserv’s shares fell 3.3 percent.

Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) shares fell 4.8 percent after the department store forecast full-year profit at the lower end of its prior estimates.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) shares dropped 6.2 percent after the automaker forecast a weaker-than-expected fourth quarter profit and said tariffs could erode its 2019 earnings.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.62-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 32 new highs and 19 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.48 billion shares, compared to the 8.69 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

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U.S. Interior Department to recall some furloughed workers for Gulf oil lease work

(Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department intends to temporarily recall some workers furloughed by the partial federal government shutdown to prepare an upcoming Gulf of Mexico oil lease sale, using funds left over from last year, according to a department document.

The move would add to the administration’s push on its energy portfolio despite the partial shutdown triggered last month by President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign funding legislation that excludes money for his proposed border wall with Mexico.

“If the lapse in appropriations extends past January 15, additional personnel will be designated as exempt to complete work to publish Proposed Notice for Gulf of Mexico Sale 253 and Final Notice of Sale and Record of Decision for Gulf of Mexico Sale 252,” Interior said in its shutdown contingency plan.

“These employees will be designated as exempt for only the amount of time needed to complete this work. They will be funded through carryover,” it said.

The Interior Department’s Sale 252 is scheduled for March, and will offer some 78 million acres (31.5 million hectares)

across the Gulf of Mexico region. Recent lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico have drawn relatively weak interest from oil and gas drillers doing well in lower-cost onshore plays, despite the administration’s efforts to pump up the region with lower royalty rates.

The Interior Department is already keeping some personnel working on other energy efforts it says are exempted from the shutdown, including the Trump administration’s push for the expansion of oil drilling on sensitive, federally owned lands in Arctic Alaska.

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China worries weigh on Wall Street, earnings expectations tepid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks declined on Monday as an unexpected drop in China’s exports reignited worries of a global economic slowdown and prompted caution among investors as the corporate earnings season kicks off.

Data showed that China’s exports unexpectedly fell the most in two years in December and imports also contracted. The drop pointed to further weakening of the world’s second-largest economy and faltering global demand.

Chipmakers, which get a sizable portion of their revenue from China, took a hit, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor Index .SOX down 1.3 percent. The technology sector’s .SPLRCT 0.8 percent fall was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.

As worries over global growth have mounted, lofty expectations for U.S. corporate growth have subsided. Analysts now estimate that S&P 500 earnings will grow 14.3 percent year-over-year for the fourth quarter, whereas in October they forecast a 20.1-percent jump, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“People are less inclined to take large positions going into the start of earnings season,” said Robert Phipps, director at Per Stirling Capital Management in Austin, Texas. “There’s not a whole lot of reason to be buying now.”

Even so, earnings season began on a positive note as Citigroup Inc (C.N) beat profit estimates. The bank’s shares rose 4.4 percent and bolstered the S&P financial sector .SPSY, which rose 0.9 percent.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) are set to report earnings on Tuesday.

Adding to the downbeat mood on Monday was a partial government shutdown, which entered its 24th day, making it the longest shuttering of federal agencies in U.S. history.

Despite Monday’s drop, the S&P 500 has climbed more than 10 percent from its Christmas Eve low as optimism over U.S.-China trade talks and expectations that the Fed will slow its pace of interest-rate hikes have driven a recent stock rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 48.38 points, or 0.2 percent, to 23,947.57, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 9.2 points, or 0.35 percent, to 2,587.06 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 45.71 points, or 0.66 percent, to 6,925.77.

Shares of PG&E Corp (PCG.N) plunged 51.3 percent after the U.S. power utility said it was preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for all of its businesses.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.31-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.53-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 14 new lows.

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U.S. government shutdown drags into fourth week amid stalemate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A partial government shutdown entered its 24th day on Monday as talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats remained stalled even as some of Trump’s fellow Republicans called on the president to cut a deal and strains mounted nationwide.

Trump appeared unmoved to act, however, retweeting criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer that urged the top Democratic leaders to negotiate with him over funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I’ve been waiting all weekend. Democrats must get to work now. Border must be secured!” Trump wrote in an early morning tweet on Monday.

Democrats have rejected Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for the border wall in addition to other border funds but have said they would support $1.3 billion to bolster border security in other ways, including beefing up the number of Border Patrol agents and increasing surveillance.

About one-quarter of the U.S. government shut down last month as Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House. In December Trump said he would take responsibility for the shutdown but has since shifted the blame to Democrats. A growing proportion of Americans blame Trump for the closures, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

He now must win concessions from the Democrats, who took over the U.S. House of Representatives this month following November’s elections. He also must win over enough Senate Democrats to secure the 60 votes needed to pass funding legislation there.

The stress from the shutdown became more visible as 800,000 federal employees across the United States missed their first paychecks on Friday. The cut government services also affected travelers as a jump in unscheduled absences among federal airport security screeners forced partial closures of airports in Houston and Miami.

National parks also remain shuttered, food and drug inspections have been curtailed and key economic data is on hold, among other impacts. Federal courts are set to run out of money on Friday.

ADDRESS TO FARMERS

Later on Monday, Trump is scheduled to address a New Orleans gathering of farmers, a key bloc of Trump supporters who have been hit by the shutdown as federal loan and farm aid applications have stalled and key farming and crop data has been delayed.

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who last week had called on Trump to declare a national emergency as a way to get money to build his wall, on Sunday urged the president to instead reopen the government for a short period of time in an effort to restart talks before taking such action.

Declaring a national emergency over immigration issues is fiercely opposed by Democrats and remains unpopular with some Republicans. It also would likely face an immediate legal challenge.

Pelosi called on the Republican-led Senate to vote on several bills passed earlier this month by the House to fund affected departments that do not include money for Trump’s wall. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not take up any legislation that does not have Trump’s support.

Representatives for Schumer could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

Both the Senate and the House were scheduled to reconvene on Monday afternoon, despite a weekend winter storm shuttered much of the Washington area and it remained unclear what, if any, steps lawmakers might take to address the lapsed funding measures for affected agencies.

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Senator Chris Coons on Monday reiterated fellow Democrats’ call for Trump to reopen the government while negotiations over the wall and immigration continue.

He acknowledged efforts by Graham and other Republicans to forge a temporary solution but said Trump has been unpredictable even among fellow conservatives with ever-shifting positions.

“Every time they make progress, the president throws cold water on it,” Coons told CNN in an interview.

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Mexico City pipeline hit by 'sabotage' amid crackdown on fuel theft

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A major fuel pipeline that supplies Mexico City remained closed after two ruptures in a single day, the president said on Friday, as the government works to stem shortages that have frustrated motorists and triggered economic risks.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s offensive against fuel robbers marks the leftist’s first attempt to tackle entrenched corruption since taking office on Dec. 1.

Criminal groups have tapped pipelines and stolen tanker trucks carrying diesel and gasoline in the oil-producing country for years, costing the government billions of dollars.

The government will assign 8,300 police and 1,400 security vehicles over the next 48 hours to safeguard fuel trucks so they can deliver to gas stations, said Mexico’s National Chamber of Freight Transport (CANACAR).

A key pipeline running from the port of Tuxpan in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz to Mexico City was shut down on Thursday night and repairs were underway, Lopez Obrador said on Friday.

The pipeline was hit at daybreak on Thursday and repaired, only to suffer another rupture at 11 p.m., he said.

“There’s sabotage,” he said. “Let’s see who gets tired first.”

The series of disruptions to the pipeline in recent days had caused shortfalls in supply for Mexico City and surrounding states.

Cars lined up by the dozen at stations throughout the capital on Friday, many before dawn, fearing that the shortages that fanned into the megacity this week from nearby states could persist.

Local television showed angry protesters blocking a major roadway in Mexico City’s Iztapalapa neighborhood.

The head of Mexico’s central bank said on Thursday that the economy and inflation rate could be negatively affected if fuel distribution problems persist.

The closure of a pipeline from the Salamanca refinery in the central state of Guanajuato last weekend cut off supply for numerous gas stations.

Lopez Obrador later said the military had discovered a 3-km (1.9 mile)-long “hose” that was funneling fuel out of storage tanks from the facility to a secret storage area.

The president also confirmed some congestion at key ports where imported motor fuels arrive, noting that some tanker ships were awaiting to discharge cargos, but he did not provide details.

Bottlenecks at Mexico’s main Gulf coast and Pacific coast ports have increased during this week, and now prevent almost 10 million barrels of gasoline and diesel from discharging on schedule, further complicating distribution, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

On Tuesday, 24 vessels were backed up at ports, while that number has grown to 39 by Friday.

Six tankers loaded with liquefied petroleum gas, used mostly for heating, are also waiting to discharge.

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Nissan China chief Jose Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

(Reuters) – Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s (7201.T) head of China operations Jose Munoz has resigned following reports that the Japanese automaker has broadened its investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.

Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the United States by Munoz who led Nissan’s North American operations from 2016 to 2018.

He joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its ambitious expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the United States.

In a LinkedIn post bit.ly/2RsrNwQ on Friday, Munoz said, “I am proud to have played a role in achieving 74 percent growth in North America, gaining market dominance in Mexico, getting China market share on the growth path, and helping the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance become the highest volume group in the world.”

Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years. Since then, the world’s largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months.

China is Nissan’s second-largest market, accounting for roughly one-quarter of its annual global vehicle sales. Last year the company planned to boost sales to make China its biggest market in terms of vehicle sales by 2022.

Munoz, 53, who is also the automaker’s Chief Performance Officer, has been with Nissan for 15 years. He was recently placed on a leave of absence due to the ongoing probe.

Munoz, who is widely seen within the industry as close to Ghosn, was a “person of interest” in the probe and it was not clear whether he would be accused of any wrongdoing.

“I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations,” Munoz said in the post.

Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan’s alliance with France’s Renault SA (RENA.PA), has been charged with under-reporting his income. On Friday, he was also charged with aggravated breach of trust, accused of shifting personal investment losses worth 1.85 billion yen ($17 million) to Nissan.

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Head of Japan's Olympic Committee indicted in France over corruption allegations

PARIS (Reuters) – The president of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, has been indicted in France on corruption allegations, a judicial source confirmed on Friday.

He was indicted last month by the national financial prosecutor’s office in Paris, the source said.

Takeda, a retired equestrian sportsman who is helping to organize Japan’s hosting of the 2020 Olympic Games, was not immediately reachable for comment.

The Japanese Olympic Committee said it was not immediately able to comment. Tokyo 2020, the games’ organizing body, was not available for comment.

In 2016, French prosecutors announced an investigation into more than $2 million of payments made by the Japanese bidding committee to a Singaporean consultancy firm, Black Tidings, during the bidding for the 2020 games.

Takeda was questioned in 2017 by Japanese prosecutors in relation to those payments. The questioning took place at the request of French authorities, Kyodo News agency reported at the time.

Black Tidings is headed by Ian Tan Tong Hon, who is known to be friends with Papa Massata Diack, the son of disgraced former international athletics chief Lamine Diack.

Japanese officials said at the time that the payments were legitimate consultant’s fees, and a panel commissioned by the Japanese Olympic Committee said in 2016 that it found the payments to have been legitimate. (here)

Japan’s hosting of the Summer Games has been mired in setbacks, including an overhaul of the stadium design, which was abandoned in response to public anger over soaring costs, and plagiarism allegations over its original logo.

Takeda, 71, has long been involved in the Olympics movement, having competed as a show jumper in the 1972 and 1976 games.

He has been a member of the Japanese Olympic Committee since 1987 and its president since 2001, helping to coordinate the preparations for several Winter Olympics as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC was not immediately reachable for comment.

Takeda attended a ceremony in Tokyo on Friday along with former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020, according to Mori’s office.

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