Sensex, Nifty Marginally Higher In Early Trade

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Indian shares opened on a flat note on Monday as investors digested the formation of a non-BJP government in Karnataka as well as news that the U.S. and China have reached an agreement to set up a framework for addressing trade imbalances in the future.

The benchmark BSE Sensex was margianlly higher at 34,876 after falling around 2 percent last week amid persistent selling by foreign funds. The broader Nifty index was virtually unchanged at 10,596.

UltraTech Cement climbed 3 percent after it agreed to acquire the cement business of BK Birla Group company Century Textiles. Shares of the latter slumped 6 percent.

SBI rallied 1.7 percent and Bank of India jumped over 3 percent after Tata Steel's bid for Bhushan Steel received NCLT approval.

Adani Enterprises slid half a percent on reports that it is foraying into electric buses manufacturing.

Jaiprakash Associates lost about 1 percent after posting a standalone net loss of Rs 78.70 crore for the fourth quarter ended March.

Asian Markets Mostly Higher As Trade War Fears Ease

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Asian stock markets are mostly higher on Monday after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the U.S. trade war with China is "on hold" as the world's two largest economies work on a wider trade agreement. On Saturday, Chinese and American negotiators reached an agreement to set up a framework for addressing trade imbalances in the future.

The Australian market is edging higher after a weak start. Gains by oil stocks helped offset weakness in banks and mining stocks.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 3.00 points or 0.05 percent to 6,090.40, after touching a low of 6,070.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 4.40 points or 0.07 percent to 6,195.30.

Oil stocks are higher despite crude oil prices edging lower on Friday. Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent and Oil Search is advancing 0.6 percent. Santos is rising more than 2 percent after U.S. private equity firm Harbour Energy raised its takeover bid for the company to about $10.9 billion.

The big four banks are mostly lower as the royal commission into banking practices is due to kick off this week. Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are down in a range of 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent, while ANZ Banking is edging up less than 0.1 percent.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is down 0.2 percent, Rio Tinto is declining 0.6 percent and Fortescue Metals is losing almost 2 percent after a fall in iron ore prices and some base metals.

Gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is losing 0.2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is advancing more than 1 percent after gold prices edged higher.

AGL Energy has rejected Alinta Energy's A$250 million offer to buy Liddel Power Station and reiterated its decision to close the plant in 2022. Shares of AGL Energy are rising more than 1 percent.

Shares of Vocus Group are gaining almost 4 percent after the company named former Optus boss Kevin Russell as managing director and chief executive, three months after Geoff Horth resigned.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was trading at US$0.7514, down from US$0.7523 on Friday.

The Japanese market is advancing after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the U.S. trade war with China is "on hold". Better-than-expected Japanese trade surplus for the month of April also boosted investor sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 83.18 points or 0.36 percent to 23,013.54, off a high of 23,038.64 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a slightly weaker yen. Canon, Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are lower in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent, while Sony is adding 0.4 percent.

Automaker Toyota is rising 0.6 percent, while Honda is edging down less than 0.1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging lower by 0.1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down 0.2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is advancing almost 1 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is adding 0.5 percent despite crude oil prices declining on Friday.

In the tech space, Advantest is declining almost 4 percent, while Kyocera is adding 0.3 percent and Alps Electric is rising almost 1 percent.

Among the market's best performers, Tokai Carbon is gaining almost 5 percent, while Fujikura and Asahi Glass Co. are rising more than 4 percent each.

On the flip side, Sompo Holdings is losing more than 5 percent, MS&AD Insurance Group is declining more than 3 percent and Screen Holdings is down almost 3 percent.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 625.977 billion yen in April, up 30.9 percent on year. The headline figure exceeded expectations for a surplus of 440.0 billion yen following the downwardly revised 797.0 billion yen surplus in March.

Exports were up 7.8 percent on year to 6.822 trillion yen, missing forecasts for an increase of 8.7 percent but up from 2.1 percent in the previous month. Imports advanced an annual 5.9 percent to 6.196 trillion yen versus expectations for 9.8 percent following the 0.6 percent contraction a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are all rising more than 1 percent each, while Shanghai, South Korea and Malaysia are also higher. Meanwhile, New Zealand and Indonesia are lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Friday in a lackluster session as traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front. Uncertainty about the outcome of the second round of trade talks between the U.S. and China also kept some traders on the sidelines.

The Dow inched up 1.11 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 24,715.09, but the Nasdaq fell 28.13 points or 0.4 percent to 7,354.34 and the S&P 500 dipped 7.16 points or 0.3 percent to 2,712.97.

The major European markets saw modest weakness on Friday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil futures slipped on Friday, but posted a third straight week of gains. WTI crude dipped $0.21 or 0.3 percent to $71.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Japanese Market Advances

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The Japanese stock market is advancing on Monday after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the U.S. trade war with China is "on hold". Better-than-expected Japanese trade surplus for the month of April also boosted investor sentiment.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 83.18 points or 0.36 percent to 23,013.54, off a high of 23,038.64 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly lower despite a slightly weaker yen. Canon, Mitsubishi Electric and Panasonic are lower in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent, while Sony is adding 0.4 percent.

Automaker Toyota is rising 0.6 percent, while Honda is edging down less than 0.1 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is edging lower by 0.1 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is down 0.2 percent.

Among oil stocks, Inpex is advancing almost 1 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is adding 0.5 percent despite crude oil prices declining on Friday.

In the tech space, Advantest is declining almost 4 percent, while Kyocera is adding 0.3 percent and Alps Electric is rising almost 1 percent.

Among the market's best performers, Tokai Carbon is gaining almost 5 percent, while Fujikura and Asahi Glass Co. are rising more than 4 percent each.

On the flip side, Sompo Holdings is losing more than 5 percent, MS&AD Insurance Group is declining more than 3 percent and Screen Holdings is down almost 3 percent.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance that Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 625.977 billion yen in April, up 30.9 percent on year. The headline figure exceeded expectations for a surplus of 440.0 billion yen following the downwardly revised 797.0 billion yen surplus in March.

Exports were up 7.8 percent on year to 6.822 trillion yen, missing forecasts for an increase of 8.7 percent but up from 2.1 percent in the previous month. Imports advanced an annual 5.9 percent to 6.196 trillion yen versus expectations for 9.8 percent following the 0.6 percent contraction a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 110 yen-range on Monday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Friday in a lackluster session as traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front. Uncertainty about the outcome of the second round of trade talks between the U.S. and China also kept some traders on the sidelines.

The Dow inched up 1.11 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 24,715.09, but the Nasdaq fell 28.13 points or 0.4 percent to 7,354.34 and the S&P 500 dipped 7.16 points or 0.3 percent to 2,712.97.

The major European markets saw modest weakness on Friday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil futures slipped on Friday, but posted a third straight week of gains. WTI crude dipped $0.21 or 0.3 percent to $71.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Australian Market Edges Higher

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The Australian stock market is edging higher on Monday after a weak start following the mixed cues from Wall Street Friday as investors focused on the U.S.-China trade talks. Gains by oil stocks helped offset weakness in banks and mining stocks.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 3.00 points or 0.05 percent to 6,090.40, after touching a low of 6,070.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 4.40 points or 0.07 percent to 6,195.30.

Oil stocks are higher despite crude oil prices edging lower on Friday. Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.3 percent, Oil Search is advancing 0.6 percent and Santos is rising more than 2 percent.

The big four banks are mostly lower as the royal commission into banking practices is due to kick off this week. Westpac, Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank are down in a range of 0.6 percent to 0.9 percent, while ANZ Banking is edging up less than 0.1 percent.

In the mining sector, BHP Billiton is down 0.2 percent, Rio Tinto is declining 0.6 percent and Fortescue Metals is losing almost 2 percent after a fall in iron ore prices and some base metals.

Gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is losing 0.2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is advancing more than 1 percent after gold prices edged higher.

AGL Energy has rejected Alinta Energy's A$250 million offer to buy Liddel Power Station and reiterated its decision to close the plant in 2022. Shares of AGL Energy are rising more than 1 percent.

Shares of Vocus Group are gaining almost 4 percent after the company named former Optus boss Kevin Russell as managing director and chief executive, three months after Geoff Horth resigned.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was trading at US$0.7514, down from US$0.7523 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Friday in a lackluster session as traders seemed reluctant to make more significant moves amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front. Uncertainty about the outcome of the second round of trade talks between the U.S. and China also kept some traders on the sidelines.

The Dow inched up 1.11 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 24,715.09, but the Nasdaq fell 28.13 points or 0.4 percent to 7,354.34 and the S&P 500 dipped 7.16 points or 0.3 percent to 2,712.97.

The major European markets saw modest weakness on Friday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both edged down by 0.1 percent.

Crude oil futures slipped on Friday, but posted a third straight week of gains. WTI crude dipped $0.21 or 0.3 percent to $71.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Blackstone checks out of Hilton Worldwide hotel group

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Blackstone Group is checking out of Hilton Worldwide Holdings. The hotel chain's largest investor agreed to sell 15.8m shares, valued at about $1.3bn (€1.1bn) based on Thursday's close.

The sale brings to an end a 11-year investment relationship of highs and lows that ended up being widely regarded as the most-profitable large private equity deal on record.

Blackstone took the hotel behemoth private in October 2007, investing $6.5bn of equity from its real estate and private-equity funds as well as from co-investors in those funds.

The investment was later written down by about 70pc during the financial crisis and New York-based Blackstone had to put in more cash and restructured the debt before taking the company public again in December 2013.

Since then, the hotel chain has more than doubled in value, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The firm has been gradually shedding its stake since 2014, and sold a 25pc stake of the hotelier to HNA Group in March 2017.

The Chinese firm - to combat deep indebtedness - recently sold its holdings.

HNA made a profit of roughly $2bn from its Hilton investment, Bloomberg News has previously reported.

Hilton's strong performance has been driven by organic growth as well as some lucrative sales of real estate within its portfolio, including the sale of Manhattan's iconic Waldorf Astoria New York for $1.9bn in 2015.

Hilton also sought to create shareholder value by deciding to spin off its so-called owned- real estate unit Park Hotels & Resorts and its timeshare business, Hilton Grand Vacations.

Hilton is buying back 1.25m of the shares that were owned by Blackstone.

Hilton operates a number of properties in Ireland, and Blackstone invested in hotels here after the crash.

The group bought the former Burlington Hotel in Dublin 4 for €67m in 2012, trading it under the DoubleTree by Hilton brand and then selling the property for around €180m to German asset manager DekaBank.

Having invested approximately €20m in the refurbishment of the hotel, Blackstone still doubled its money on the Burlington deal.

Intel lines up €4bn expansion for its Israel chip plant

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Intel has said that it has submitted plans to expand its production operations in Israel, with the Israeli government saying the US chipmaker would invest about $5bn (€4.2bn).

Intel is one of the biggest employers and exporters in Israel, where many of its new technologies are developed. The new investment will upgrade its Kiryat Gat manufacturing plant in southern Israel, the company said in a statement.

Intel did not provide financial details.

Israel's Finance Ministry said the company would invest about 18 billion shekels (€4.3bn) in the factory between 2018-2020 and had agreed to spend 3 billion shekels (€710m) on local suppliers.

"According to company officials, this investment is expected to pave the way for a future significant investment for a technological upgrade at the Israeli site," the ministry said in a statement.

In return, Intel will be granted an extension of its reduced tax rate of 5pc until 2027. The Finance Ministry said it was also considering giving Intel a 700 million shekel (€165m) grant, with a second grant of the same size to come with future investments.

"This is to incentivise the company to carry out the future investment that could be significantly higher than past and current investments," the ministry said.

Intel said it exported €3bn of goods and services from Israel in 2017, about 8pc of the country's total hi-tech exports.

Intel employs around 5,000 people in Ireland.

Marks & Spencer teetering on the brink of FTSE 100 relegation

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Marks & Spencer is expected to report a second straight fall in annual profit next week, and with the retailer's shares down nearly a quarter over the last year it is in danger of soon being booted out of the FTSE 100 index.

The 134-year-old M&S has been a member of the blue-chip index since its inception in 1984. Relegation would be a totemic moment for a British institution that has fallen out of fashion over the last decade.

M&S faces unrelenting competition both in clothing and food on the high street and online, while efforts to revitalise its business are being hampered by an ongoing squeeze on consumers' spending power.

Thomson Reuters data ranks M&S at 102nd by market value in the FTSE 350 of large and mid-cap companies based on Thursday's closing prices.

The FTSE 100 is not simply the 100 biggest companies in Britain that meet free-float and liquidity requirements. In order to avoid constant changes to the index as a result of day-to-day price volatility, companies are only demoted when they drop below 110 in the ranking.

So if M&S drops nine more places, it will be automatically relegated when FTSE Russell reconstitutes the index in its quarterly reshuffle. The next reshuffle will be announced on May 30, using closing prices from the previous day, and will take effect on June 18.

However, M&S also risks demotion if any mid-caps rise above 90th place and therefore qualify for automatic addition to the FTSE 100, meaning the smallest current blue-chip companies would be relegated to balance the numbers.

Currently, G4S and Severn Trent are the only FTSE 100 firms worth less than M&S by market capitalisation.

One mid-cap that has overtaken M&S is Ocado, the online grocer and technology company that, ironically, is chaired by Stuart Rose, a former CEO and chairman of M&S.

Ocado shares surged 44pc on Thursday after the firm struck a major deal with U.S. supermarket chain Kroger, making it now the 98th biggest firm.

That means that Ocado and M&S could be directly battling each other for FTSE 100 membership in under two weeks time, starkly illustrating the sea change in shopping habits.

Though largely symbolic, an M&S relegation would see it being sold by index-tracker funds, which seek to replicate the FTSE 100 by buying its constituents. It would be bought by FTSE 250-tracker funds.

M&S, which reports annual results on Wednesday, declined to comment.

Analysts' average forecast for pretax profit for the 2017-18 year is £573m, down from £614m in 2016-17. Clothing and home like-for-like sales are forecast to be down 1.1pc, with food down 0.2pc.

M&S re-set its strategy in November, two months after retail veteran Archie Norman joined as chairman, detailing a five-year plan that would speed-up store closures and relocations, and strive to make its food offering more competitive.

Norman and CEO Steve Rowe have stressed that investors need to be patient.

Shares in M&S were down 0.3pc at 296.5 pence at 0955 GMT, valuing the business at £4.8bn.

European court blocks US government from Apple tax case

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The United States government has lost a bid to join Apple's court fight against the European Union order that the tech giant must pay Ireland a record €13bn tax settlement.

The EU's highest court yesterday rejected the US request, its press service announced on Twitter. A lower court had dismissed the request in December, saying the American government failed to show it had a direct interest in the result of the state-aid case.

In August 2016 the European Commission ordered Ireland to recoup the record €13bn plus interest, saying the world's richest company had been handed an unfair advantage due to its historic tax treatment in Ireland. The Government, which had been found to have provided the aid, as well as Apple, appealed against the ruling.

Last year, the US asked the EU court for permission to intervene in Apple's case, arguing that the outcome of the case could affect its economic situation due to the tax credits the iPhone maker could claim back in America as a result of paying more taxes in Ireland.

Any tax paid by Apple in Europe can be deducted from the tax bill in its home, US market.

The EU's Apple order has reverberated across the Atlantic, triggering criticism from the US Treasury that the EU was making itself a "supra-national tax authority" that could threaten global tax reform efforts. The text of yesterday's courts decision wasn't immediately available.

Apple representatives in London didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Appeals over tax cases have been piling up at the EU's courts since 2015, when the Commission issued its first orders against Luxembourg and the Netherlands to recoup unpaid taxes from a Fiat Chrysler cars unit and Starbucks respectively.

The EU has also ordered Luxembourg to recover €250m from Amazon and Belgium to get back as much as €700m from 35 companies, including Anheuser-Busch.

At stake in all these decisions are billions of euro that multinational companies have squirrelled away in tax havens, out of the reach of authorities in the countries where they make most of their sales.

With no court hearings in sight yet, the EU has been continuing its investigations, including those into the tax affairs of McDonald's and Engie SA in Luxembourg.