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Us Inflation Test Looms Large Dollar Falls

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LONDON – The dollar slid to a 15-month low against the yen on Wednesday, while world stock markets found firmer ground ahead of U.S. inflation numbers that could soothe, or inflame, fears of faster interest-rate hikes globally.

European stock markets opened the day higher, with blue-chip indexes in London .FTSE, Paris .FCHI and Frankfurt .GDAXI up 0.6-0.9 percent on the day.

U.S. stock futures ESc1 1YMc1 also traded higher, pointing to a positive start for Wall Street shares which climbed on Tuesday for a third straight session.

The VIX stocks volatility index fell to a one-week low at 22.81 .VIX.

But Asian shares were mixed and Japan’s benchmark Nikkei closed down 0.4 percent .N225 as the yen rose and with investor sentiment generally strained ahead of the U.S. January inflation report at 1330 GMT.

That data has taken on particular significance following recent strong wage growth data that prompted investors to ratchet up expectations for U.S. rate hikes this year and sparked a rout in world stock markets.

“This renewed focus on inflation, not only in the U.S. but more globally has raised concerns that central banks may well be behind the curve when it comes to assessing the outlook for the next few months,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

Headline consumer price inflation is forecast to slow to an annual 1.9 percent and core inflation to 1.7 percent, an outcome that could help calm nerves.

Unease about the looming inflation data was perhaps greatest in currency markets, where the dollar slid to a 15-month low against the Japanese currency at around 106.82 yen JPY=.

The dollar, measured against a basket of currencies .DXY, dipped to a one-week low and was last down 0.1 percent at 85.62.

The dollar index has now given up two-thirds of the gains it notched up this month when investors rushed into the greenback as equity markets suffered a violent sell-off.

“My read is the dollar has not benefited in line with previous corrections of this magnitude. The dollar move also reflects the fact this has not yet become a correction where markets and investors are worried about the macro backdrop,” said Kamakshya Trivedi co-head of global FX and EM strategy at Goldman Sachs. “(Today‘s) CPI will be key to see if the correction extends further or if we are near the end of it.”

SCARS

The return of volatility in world stock markets has left its scars on investors.

BofA Merrill Lynch’s February Fund Manager Survey found a record one-month jump in the net percentage of investors taking out protection against a sharp fall in equity markets.

Funds were rotating into cash and out of equities, reducing their stock allocation to a net 43 percent overweight, from 55 percent, the largest one-month decline in two years.

Analysts also said investors were becoming nervous about the prospect of swelling U.S. budget and trade deficits given the passage of huge tax cuts and spending plans.

Europe’s single currency firmed 0.2 percent against the dollar to $1.2370 EUR=, with strong German economic numbers for the fourth quarter of 2017 underlining the strength of the euro zone economy.

Growth was 0.6 percent on the quarter between October and December, according to official data released on Wednesday- in line with the consensus forecast.

The drop in the dollar meanwhile gave a fillip to commodities, with copper firm after jumping 2.7 percent overnight CMCU3.

Spot gold XAU= edged up 0.1 percent to $1,330.81 per ounce, leaving behind last week’s one-month low of $1,306.81.

Oil prices dipped, squeezed by lingering oversupply including rising U.S. inventories and ample physical flows, though the prospect of Saudi output dropping in March, economic growth hopes and a weaker dollar all combined to cap losses.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 eased 0.6 percent to $58.80 a barrel, while Brent futures LCOc1 slipped 0.5 percent to $62.38. [O/R]

Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe; Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in SYDNEY and Tommy Wilkes and Sujata Rao in LONDON;

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Proxy Advisory Firm Iss Says Qualcomm Should Negotiate Sale To Broadcom

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– U.S. semiconductor company Qualcomm Inc should try to negotiate a sale to Broadcom Ltd following the latter’s sweetened $121 billion offer, proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services Inc (ISS) said.

Qualcomm has been seeking to walk a fine line between resisting Broadcom’s acquisition approach, which it says undervalues it and is fraught with regulatory risks, and demonstrating to shareholders and proxy advisory firms such as ISS that it is willing to engage to secure a better deal if possible.

In a report published late on Friday, ISS recommended to Qualcomm shareholders that they vote for four out of the six board director nominees that Broadcom has put forward for election at Qualcomm’s shareholder meeting on March 6.

While this recommendation would fall short of Broadcom’s nominees winning a majority on Qualcomm’s 11-member board, ISS said such a vote by Qualcomm shareholders would offer a reasonable path to a negotiated deal that would deliver value.

“The tenor of (Qualcomm‘s) engagement leading up to the present raises questions as to whether the incumbent (Qualcomm) board is committed to playing its part in attempting to maximize the offer,” ISS said in its report.

Broadcom first unveiled an unsolicited $70 per share cash-and-stock offer in November, which Qualcomm rejected. It raised its offer to $82 per share in cash and stock on Feb. 5 and offered other concessions, including paying an $8 billion breakup fee in the event regulators thwart the deal, which would be the technology sector’s largest-ever acquisition.

ISS said it did not recommend voting for all six Broadcom nominees because Qualcomm’s board would then be less inclined to drive a hard bargain with Broadcom in deal negotiations. ISS recommended that Broadcom nominees Samih Elhage, Julie Hill, John Kispert and Harry You should be elected as Qualcomm board directors.

Qualcomm on Friday called a Feb. 14 meeting with Broadcom constructive and opened the door to more talks, but continued to reject the proposed deal.

As of Saturday afternoon, no new meeting between the two companies had been scheduled, according to people familiar with the matter. Broadcom and Qualcomm representatives offered no immediate comment.

FILE PHOTO: Broadcom Limited company logo is pictured on an office building in Rancho Bernardo, California May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo The takeover battle is at the heart of a race to consolidate the wireless technology equipment sector, as smartphone makers such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd use their market dominance to negotiate lower chip prices.

Singapore-based Broadcom is mainly a manufacturer whose connectivity chips are used in products ranging from mobile phones to servers. San Diego-based Qualcomm primarily outsources the manufacturing of its chips which are used for the delivery of broadband and data, a business that would significantly benefit from the rollout of 5G wireless technology.

ISS said in its report that Broadcom’s latest $82 per share cash-and-stock bid, which Broadcom CEO Hock Tan has called its best and final offer, does not appear to be clearly superior to Qualcomm’s potential standalone value in the short term. ISS added, however, that the offer seemed to represent a reasonable starting point for negotiations.

Even though both companies “have adopted strategies that do not lend themselves to fluid negotiations,” a deal between them is possible, ISS said. It suggested that Qualcomm shareholders could gain greater exposure to the deal’s potential upside if they were to receive more of the combined company.

ISS also said it appeared more likely than not that Broadcom and Qualcomm, with their collective experience and resources, can find a reasonable path to regulatory approval, despite Qualcomm’s current concerns about antitrust risk.

NXP DEAL

Qualcomm is currently seeking to complete a $38 billion deal to acquire NXP Semiconductors NV, which is still pending regulatory approval. NXP shares ended trading on Friday at $118.50, significantly above Qualcomm’s $110 per share all-cash offer, as some NXP shareholders, led by activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp, have called on Qualcomm to raise its price.

Broadcom has said its acquisition offer is contingent on either Qualcomm buying NXP at currently disclosed terms of $110 per share in cash or the deal being terminated.

ISS said in its report that Qualcomm could negotiate provisions with Broadcom to close the NXP deal at a mutually agreed price, which would provide Qualcomm with the “next-best safety net of diversification” in the event the deal with Broadcom falls through.

China’s MOFCOM is the only regulator globally required to approve the Qualcomm-NXP deal that has yet to do so. With the start of the Chinese New Year public holiday this week, Qualcomm may now delay its decision on raising its offer for NXP until after the March 6 Qualcomm shareholder meeting.

Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York

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Judge Approves Takatas Us Bankruptcy Plan

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WILMINGTON, Del. – Takata Corp’s U.S. unit received court approval for its bankruptcy exit plan, a plaintiffs’ law firm said on Saturday, clearing the way for a $1.6 billion sale of Takata assets and providing compensation for those injured by the company’s deadly air bags.

Takata and its U.S. unit, TK Holdings Inc, filed for bankruptcy last year in the wake of the largest automotive recall in history. The company’s air bags can inflate with too much force and spray metal fragments, and have been linked to hundreds of injuries and at least 22 deaths.

”We are pleased that Judge (Brendan) Shannon has approved what we believe to be fair options for current and future victims of Takata airbags that provide swift resolution and allow victims to try to move on with their lives,” said a statement from the Motley Rice law firm.

The law firm represented more than two dozen injured drivers in the U.S. bankruptcy case.

The U.S. unit’s reorganization plan will include funds provided by automakers to help compensate those injured by the air bags.

On Friday, a lawyer for Takata’s U.S. unit told the bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, that the U.S. government will complete its review of the planned sale of Takata’s non-air bag businesses by March 26.

The non-air bag inflator businesses are being sold to Key Safety Systems, a unit of China’s Ningo Joyson Electric Corp (600699.SS).

Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del.

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Exclusive Indian Banks May Take More Than 3 Billion Hit From Pnb Fraud -tax Department

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NEW DELHI – Indian banks could take a hit of more than $3 billion from loans and corporate guarantees provided to diamond companies at the center of a massive alleged fraud at the state-run Punjab National Bank, the tax department has estimated.

As of March 2017, banks had extended loans and guarantees worth 176.32 billion rupees ($2.74 billion) to companies tied to billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, the tax department said in a note seen by Reuters.

Since then, the loans and guarantees would have increased over the past year and the total “hit” to Indian banks “may well exceed” $3 billion, according to an internal note prepared by the tax authority on its preliminary investigation into India’s biggest bank fraud case.

According to a complaint by PNB, the biggest fraud in Indian banking history involved two junior officials at a Mumbai bank branch issuing “letters of undertaking” to firms linked to Modi and Choksi for them to obtain credit from overseas branches of other Indian lenders.

The bank said these fraudulent transactions had taken place over a number of years and amounted to $1.77 billion.

None of these letters of undertaking – essentially credit guarantees – were recorded on the bank’s internal software system and instead were transmitted through the SWIFT interbank messaging system, “thus avoiding early detection of fraudulent activity”, the tax note said.

It said that Choksi’s Geetanjali Gems and its subsidiaries led by Choksi dealt with 32 banks. Among those that offered credit to Choksi and Modi, famous for his chain of stores stretching from New York to Beijing, were the Union Bank of India, Allahabad Bank and Axis Bank, the tax note said.

Union Bank of India (UNBK.NS), another state-run lender, said on Friday it has an exposure of $300 million as a counter-party lender. Axis Bank (AXBK.NS), a private sector lender, has said it has sold all its exposure related to the fraud.

Among the findings of the tax department was that several firms in which Modi and his uncle were involved had people of limited means listed as majority partners. Those people were not identified in the tax department note.

The total loans in the three firms of Modi, Stellar Diamond, Solar Exports and Diamonds ”R Us was 39.929 billion Indian rupees, while total capital of the partners was 4 billion Indian rupees, it said.

It said the three firms’ “trade receivables”, or the amount being billed to customers, were “much higher than total turnover of the three companies involved in the fraud, which shows that goods are being sold for related party and are either over-invoiced or not coming at all”.

Modi and Choksi have not made any comment so far. Federal police say they both left India in early January and there whereabouts are unknown.

Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani;

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