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OPEC and BP Signal Pessimism in Oil Markets


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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries said Monday that it was cutting back slightly its forecast for demand for crude for 2020 and 2021, another sign of new pessimism in the oil markets.

The trim amounts to around a half-percent of global demand, or 400,000 barrels a day. In its Monthly Oil Report, OPEC pointed to weak consumption of transportation fuels like gasoline and jet fuel, and disappointing demand in India as reasons for the revision. Oil prices, which collapsed in April but regained strength through the summer, slipped downward last week on word that oil production has begun to exceed demand.

In further bad news for OPEC, the energy giant BP issued a report that supported the idea that demand for fossil fuels has reached its limit. The central scenario of BP’s annual Energy Outlook, which was led by the company’s chief economist, Spencer Dale, found that demand for oil had likely already peaked, would “not fully recover from the sharp drop” caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and would fall by about 50 percent by 2050.

That view bolsters the rationale for the recent decision of BP’s chief executive, Bernard Looney, to throttle back oil and gas production and investment in favor of cleaner energy, chiefly electricity.

Renewable energy like wind and solar would gain at the expense of fossil fuels, increasing by more than tenfold, according to the scenario. At the same time, the share of electricity used in activities like driving and heating and lighting buildings would more than double, to about 45 percent by 2050.

Credit…David Ryder for The New York Times

Delta Air Lines said Monday that it hoped to raise $6.5 billion in bonds and loans backed by its frequent flier program, while dropping plans to take out a smaller Treasury Department loan provided under the CARES Act that was passed in March.

By using its SkyMiles loyalty program to back the new debt deal, Delta is following in the footsteps of United Airlines, which used its MileagePlus program as collateral for a $5 billion financing round in June. American Airlines said it plans to do the same when it takes out an expected $4.75 billion Treasury loan.

Delta joins Southwest Airlines in declining the CARES Act loans. United has not yet said whether it plans to take out the loan. The stimulus bill set aside $25 billion in grants for passenger airlines to use to pay workers and another $25 billion in general loans for the airlines.

The decline in air travel had hammered its SkyMiles program, Delta said in a financial filing on Monday, with the number of miles redeemed down about 78 percent in the first half of 2020, compared with last year. Still, Delta’s revenue from the sale of passenger miles to American Express, which offers several co-branded credit cards, fell only 5 percent.

The two companies entered a partnership in 1991. Delta said it earned more than $4 billion from American Express last year, when both companies renewed their credit card contract to 2029. In all, the SkyMiles program generated about $2.5 billion profit last year, Delta said in the filing.

The airline had nearly $16 billion in cash on hand at the end of June and is losing about $27 million per day, its chief financial officer said during an investor conference last week.

Credit…PepsiCo.

PepsiCo has come up with a new product — what it calls “an enhanced water beverage” — to help people who are stressed out about, well, everything unwind before bed.

The new drink, called Driftwell, contains 200 miligrams of L-theanine, an amino acid that studies suggest can improve sleep and reduce stress. The drink also contains 10 percent of the recommended daily value of magnesium, which can be used as a sleep aid.

The beverage is blackberry and lavender flavored and comes in a 7.5 ounce mini-can. The idea came from an internal competition within PepsiCo called “The Next Big Idea,” led by Ramon Laguarta, the company’s chief executive.

Driftwell “is entering a white space within the beverage category to help consumers relax at a time when it is definitely needed,” said Emily Silver, vice president of innovation and capabilities at PepsiCo Beverages North America.

The brand will be sold on e-commerce sites by the end of the year and will be in stores in the first quarter of 2021.

Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

The damage to the world’s major economies from coronavirus lockdowns has been more than four times more severe than the 2009 global financial crisis, and created an “unprecedented” blow to growth in the second quarter in almost every country except China, where the virus was first detected, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Monday.

Growth in the nations represented by the Group of 20 — an organization of 19 countries and the European Union, representing 80 percent of the world’s economic production — fell by a record 6.9 percent from April to June from the previous three months, as governments kept people indoors and froze business activity. The drop eclipsed a 1.9 percent contraction recorded in the same period in 2009, when the financial crisis was at a peak, the organization said.

China, where lockdowns ended earlier than in the rest of the world, was the only economy to bounce back, expanding at an 11.5 percent rate.

Growth figures have been published by national governments, but the organization’s tally puts the magnitude of the damage into a global perspective. The biggest growth declines were in India (minus 25.2 percent) and Britain (minus 20.4 percent).

Growth in the United States shrank by more than 9 percent, and it contracted by nearly 15 percent in the euro area. By contrast, China, South Korea and Russia appeared to be the least negatively affected.

The global economy will fare far worse should a second wave of infections lead governments to renew wide-scale quarantines, the organization has warned. Without new shutdowns, global growth could shrink by around 6 percent this year, wiping out five years of income growth.

A second wave of infections leading to new lockdowns could cause unemployment around the world — already badly hit by this year’s lockdowns — to double and not recover for at least another year, according to the organization’s forecasts.

Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Amazon said on Monday that it would hire 100,000 new workers in the United States and Canada for its warehouses and logistics network, another sign that the pandemic has resulted in a huge growth in demand for the e-commerce giant.

Amazon has been one of the biggest winners of the crisis as people turn to online shopping rather than visit traditional brick-and-mortar retailers; those businesses have been decimated. As the broader economy suffered from the economic fallout of Covid-19, Amazon reported record sales and profit last quarter.

Dave Clark, senior vice president of worldwide operations for Amazon, said in a news release that the company was opening 100 buildings this month for sorting products, delivery and other purposes. The new jobs will pay a starting wage of $15 per hour and will include a $1,000 starting bonus in some cities.

The hiring announcement is on top of the 33,000 salaried job openings that Amazon said last week it had available in areas such as cloud computing and warehouse management. In 2020, Amazon said, it has opened 75 new fulfillment and sorting centers, regional air hubs and delivery stations in the United States and Canada.

Amazon previously said that it hired 175,000 additional people to meet the huge surge in demand related to Covid-19.

  • Macy’s said on Monday that it would shift its annual Thanksgiving Day parade in New York to a television-only event that will take place in and around its flagship store in Herald Square because of safety concerns. The retailer said the overall number of participants will be reduced by 75 percent and that it would not use its traditional 2.5-mile route this year. This will be Macy’s 94th Thanksgiving Day parade celebration.

  • As it gears up for what is expected to be a busy holiday season, FedEx said it would beef up its staffing by increasing hours for existing employees and hiring new ones. “We expect to add more than 70,000 positions in the lead-up to this peak season, with the majority of those added to the FedEx Ground network,” the company said in a statement posted on its website.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States will review a proposal for Oracle to become the American technology partner for TikTok and said the panel will make a recommendation about the potential tie-up to President Trump this week.

Mr. Mnuchin, in an interview on CNBC, said that the Chinese owner of TikTok, ByteDance, had chosen Oracle instead of Microsoft as its preferred partner over the weekend. He confirmed that the companies have until Sept. 20 to reach an agreement that satisfies the Trump administration’s concerns that TikTok, a popular social media app, poses a national security threat.

Mr. Mnuchin said that the administration has “a lot of confidence” in both Oracle and Microsoft in terms of their ability to mitigate national security concerns. Officials will be reviewing the proposal that American data and phones are secure and Mr. Mnuchin said that technical experts within the government will be speaking with Oracle’s technology team this week.

“We’ll need to make sure that the code is secure, that Americans’ data is secure, that the phones are secure,” Mr. Mnuchin said.

The Treasury secretary also said that as part of the proposal, the American division of TikTok would create 20,000 new jobs.

Credit…Hayoung Jeon/EPA, via Shutterstock

After insisting that TikTok’s U.S. operations be sold over national security concerns, the Trump administration now appears to be amenable to a watered-down deal where Oracle would become the video app’s technology partner. This raises several questions, notes today’s DealBook newsletter.

How would it work? TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, would apparently maintain control of the app’s algorithms and underlying computer code. Microsoft, whose takeover bid was rejected, said that it would have taken over the algorithm and let the U.S. government review any code changes, an approach favored by the Pentagon and the National Security Agency. But Oracle’s bid resembles Microsoft’s original proposal of serving as a technology partner and minority owner — something that President Trump rejected, saying that TikTok’s U.S. arm had to be sold altogether.

How much did politics play a role? Oracle’s ties to Mr. Trump are deep. Its co-founder, Larry Ellison, has raised money for Mr. Trump, while its chief executive, Safra Catz, was the only major tech executive to serve on the president’s transition team.

Will China support a deal? Technology export restrictions that Beijing introduced last month made TikTok’s U.S. business a less attractive asset. Chinese state news media, citing unnamed sources, said that ByteDance wouldn’t sell TikTok to Oracle, either — but that could refer to a complete takeover instead of a less comprehensive partnership. It’s hard to imagine ByteDance doing anything with Oracle without Beijing’s tacit approval.

What’s next for Microsoft? While its bid for TikTok was opportunistic, the tech giant has demonstrated an openness to a big, consumer-facing deal — so will it consider turning its M.&A. attention elsewhere?

What’s next for Walmart? Would Microsoft’s former partner in its TikTok bid team up with it on a different deal? Walmart has also said that it is still interested in TikTok, which implies that it may be open to partnering with Oracle.

Credit…Mike Blake/Reuters

Two mega deals that were just announced — Gilead’s $21 billion purchase of Immunomedics and Nvidia’s $40 billion acquisition of Arm — reflect what Wall Street advisers have been saying: the mergers and acquisitions market is heating up.

Deal makers cite three reasons to expect a flood of mergers in the near future, today’s DealBook newsletter explains:

  • A backlog built up during lockdowns

  • Soaring stock prices — in certain industries

  • A potential change in capital gains taxes

Appetite for deal making in the health care and tech industries is “as strong as at any point in the last decade,” said Colin Ryan, co-head of Americas M.&A. at Goldman Sachs.

For pharmaceutical companies, there are more likely to be deals that add specific capabilities — like Gilead’s purchase of Immunomedics — than agreements that completely transform a company. That’s because some big acquisitions have struggled to get regulatory approval without divestitures, and any such deal now could be reviewed after the election, when a potential Biden administration might be more skeptical of concentrated corporate power.

For technology companies, most of the action is expected among software companies that have benefited from the work-at-home shift — a bunch of them are taking advantage of rising markets to go public this week.

Executives and investors are also eyeing the implications of a change in the capital gains tax that might happen if Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats take control of Congress. Private equity firms are considering selling assets sooner rather than later, founders are mulling stake sales and conglomerates are accelerating plans to slim down.

And then there’s the election. “I haven’t seen a situation in which people are so focused on getting deals done before the election,” said Marc-Anthony Hourihan, co-head of M.&A. for the Americas at UBS. Not all advisers share that view, but the prospect of volatility from a contested election is enough for some to rush to seal deals. “Clients don’t want to be in the market in November and have the volatility and uncertainty of trying to figure out who won the election,” Mr. Hourihan added.

📌 A dozen I.P.O.s are expected to raise $6.8 billion this week, led by software companies. The cloud company Snowflake is set to raise more than $2 billion, while the video-game group Unity is targeting $950 million. Others going public include Amwell ($525 million), JFrog ($405 million) and Sumo Logic ($281 million).

⌚️At an event on Tuesday, Apple is expected to unveil new versions of its smartwatch and iPad, and possibly some sort of software subscription bundle.

🛍 Companies reporting earnings include Adobe and FedEx on Tuesday. The fast-fashion rivals H&M and Inditex (the parent company of Zara) also open their books — H&M on Tuesday and Inditex on Wednesday. BP kicks off a three-day investor event today in which the company will present a plan to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, as it forecasts that global oil demand may have already peaked.

⚖️ The Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan announce their latest policy decisions on Wednesday, followed by the Bank of England on Thursday. The Japanese central bank is expected to be the most upbeat, while the Fed will attempt to support a fragile recovery without additional fiscal stimulus, and the Bank of England is wrestling with the Brexit tensions roiling the British economy.

  • Stocks on Wall Street rallied on Monday, rebounding from last week’s sell-off with the S&P 500 climbing more than 1 percent. The gains came after the S&P 500 had fallen nearly 5 percent over the previous two weeks amid a pullback in shares of large technology companies.

  • Oracle rose about 4 percent after being chosen to be TikTok’s technology partner. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, rejected a bid by Microsoft. Time was running out on a deadline set by an executive order from President Trump threatening to ban TikTok unless its American operations are sold. Microsoft’s shares were slightly higher.

  • The drugmaker AstraZeneca said that an outside panel had cleared its vaccine trial in Britain to resume, after it had been halted because a person given the drug had experienced serious neurological symptoms. Still, scientists are concerned that vaccine makers are keeping information about their trials under wraps.

  • “The news over the weekend that AstraZeneca clinical trials had resumed is likely to be well received,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. “However, it is unlikely to assuage concerns that the speed with which these trials are being done could result in a vaccine being rushed out too hastily, with unforeseen circumstances.”

  • In other pharmaceutical news, Gilead Sciences said it would acquire biotech company Immunomedics for $21 billion. The move, which would expand Gilead’s access to cancer treatments, caused Immunomedics’s share price to more than double.

  • In Europe, the Euro Stoxx 600 index and the FTSE 100 in Britain were flat. Asian markets closed higher, with the Shanghai Composite in China gaining 0.6 percent, the Kospi in South Korea adding 1.3 percent and the Nikkei in Japan closing 0.7 percent higher.



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