London, Oct 21 (AP/UNB) — The vast majority of British firms are poised to implement their Brexit contingency plans by Christmas if there isn't greater clarity over the country's exit from the European Union, a leading business lobby group warned Sunday.
The Confederation of British Industry said these could include cutting jobs, adjusting supply chains outside the U.K., stockpiling goods, and relocating production and services overseas.
The warning comes amid growing fears that Britain may crash out of the EU in March without a deal on the future relationship. That could see tariffs placed on British exports, border checks reinstalled, and restrictions imposed travelers and workers — a potentially toxic combination for businesses.
"The situation is now urgent," said Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI's director general. "The speed of negotiations is being outpaced by the reality firms are facing on the ground."
Discussions between the two sides have hit an impasse largely over how to maintain an open border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
A summit of EU leaders last week failed to yield a breakthrough and another gathering in November was cancelled. December is now the next scheduled summit, leaving the Brexit process tight ahead of Britain's official departure date. Even if a deal is forged, there are doubts over British Prime Minister Theresa May' ability to secure the necessary majority in Parliament given bitter divisions on the topic.
"Unless a Withdrawal Agreement is locked down by December, firms will press the button on their contingency plans," said Fairbairn. "Jobs will be lost and supply chains moved."
Fairbairn's warning was based on a survey of 236 member firms tilted toward small and medium-sized companies with up to 500 employees, undertaken from Sept. 19 to Oct. 8. The survey found that 82 percent of firms will have started to implement contingency plans by December if the Brexit process isn't any clearer.
The CBI also said that 80 percent of firms say Brexit has already had a negative impact on their investment decisions, more than double the 36 percent recorded a year ago. The survey found that 66 percent of businesses said Brexit has had an impact on the attractiveness of the U.K. as a place to invest, while 24 percent said there had been no impact.
Some big companies are becoming increasingly vexed by the impasse in the Brexit talks. Last week, ahead of the summit in Brussels, pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca and carmaker Ford issued statements raising doubts about their investments in Britain.
"Uncertainty is draining investment from the U.K.," said Fairbairn.
Beijing, Oct 19 (AP/UNB) — China's economic growth slowed further in the latest quarter, adding to challenges for its communist leaders as they fight a tariff battle with Washington.
The world's second-largest economy expanded by 6.5 percent over a year earlier in the three months ending in September, government data showed Friday. That was down from 6.7 percent for the quarter ending in July and 6.8 percent for the year's first three months.
Forecasters expected China's economy to cool after Beijing tightened credit controls last year to rein in a debt boom. But the slowdown has been more abrupt than expected, prompting Chinese leaders to reverse course and encourage banks to lend.
"China's slowdown is a little sharper than expected, but basically fits our narrative for the economy," said Bill Adams of PNC Financial Services Group in a report.
Beijing's debt controls and "trade uncertainties" are "taking a bite out of economic momentum," Adams said.
China's leaders express confidence their $12 trillion-a-year economy can survive the conflict with U.S. President Donald Trump. But export industries have begun to suffer from American tariff hikes of up to 25 percent on Chinese goods.
Economic performance was "stable overall," but "we must also see the number of external challenges has increased significantly," said a government spokesman, Mao Shengyong.
"Downward pressure has increased," Mao said at a news conference.
Retail spending, factory output and investment in factories and other fixed assets weakened.
Retail sales rose 9.1 percent over a year earlier in the first nine months of the year, down 0.1 percent from the first half, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Growth in factory output decelerated to 6.4 percent for the first nine months of 2018, down 0.3 percentage points from the first half. Investment rose 5.4 percent in the first three quarters, down 0.6 percentage points from the first half.
Beijing has rejected U.S. pressure to scale back industrial development plans Washington says are based on stealing or pressuring foreign companies to hand over technology. American officials worry they might threaten U.S. industrial leadership.
The conflict with Washington has prompted communist leaders to step up the pace of a marathon effort to encourage self-sustaining growth driven by domestic consumption and reduce reliance on exports and investment.
Beijing has cut tariffs, promised to lift curbs on foreign ownership in the Chinese auto industry and taken other steps to rev up growth. But leaders reject pressure to scrap plans such as "Made in China 2025," which calls for state-led creation of Chinese champions in robotics and other technologies.
Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain those plans violate Beijing's market-opening commitments.
Beijing has responded to previous downturns by flooding the state-dominated economy with credit, but that has swelled debt. The ruling Communist Party has told banks to step up lending, especially to private entrepreneurs who generate China's new jobs and wealth, but has avoided a full-scale stimulus. Forecasters say it will take the measures some time to work their way through the economy.
There are signs government support is "starting to gain traction," but "more easing will still be needed in order to stabilize growth," said Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics in a report.
"We doubt the latest pick-up in infrastructure spending will be enough to prevent the economy from cooling further in the coming quarters," said Evans-Pritchard.
Washington has raised tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods and Trump says he might extend penalties to almost all imports from China. Beijing responded with its own tariff hikes on $110 billion of American imports but is running out of goods for retaliation due to their lopsided trade balance.
Forecasters say if threatened tariff hikes by both sides are fully carried out, that could cut China's 2019 growth by up to 0.3 percentage points.
September exports to the United States rose 13 percent despite the tariff hikes, down slightly from August's 13.4 percent. The country's politically volatile trade surplus with the United States widened to a record $34.1 billion.
Chinese exporters of lower-value goods such as clothes say American orders fell off starting in April as trade tensions worsened. But makers of factory equipment, medical technology and other high-value goods express confidence they can keep their market share.
Trade accounts for a smaller share of the economy than it did a decade ago but still supports millions of jobs.
On Thursday, the Commerce Ministry promised official help for companies that have suffered due to the American import controls.
"In general, the impact is limited," said a ministry spokesman, Gao Feng. "Governments at all levels will also take active measures to help enterprises and employees cope with possible difficulties."
Tokyo, Oct 18 (AP/UNB) — Japan recorded a trade surplus for September of 139.6 billion yen ($1.2 billion), but exports fell 1.2 percent from the previous year, marking the first decline since 2016, after several natural disasters.
Trailing exports are also reflecting uncertainties over trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump's policies. Declining U.S.-China trade generally hurts the export-dependent Japanese economy.
September imports rose 7 percent, according to data released Thursday by the Ministry of Finance.
During the month, a major earthquake hit the northernmost island of Hokkaido, causing fatal landslides and widespread blackouts, while a typhoon struck the western Kansai area and temporarily shut down a major airport.
Those events followed deadly flooding in southwestern Japan and a quake in Osaka earlier this year.
The last time Japan's exports fell on-year was in November 2016, when they slipped 0.4 percent, data show.
For the six months through September, the first fiscal half, exports grew 5.2 percent, while imports rose 10 percent.
The Trump administration has plans to pursue trade agreements with the European Union and Britain, as well as with Japan. The administration recently reached a deal with Canada and Mexico to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Toronto, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Ian Power was among the first to buy legal recreational marijuana in Canada but he has no plans to smoke it. He plans to frame it.
Canada became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace as sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland. Power was first in line at a store in St. John's, Newfoundland.
"I am going to frame it and hang it on my wall. I'm not even going to smoke it. I'm just going to save it forever," Power said.
And there was more good news for pot aficionados: Hours before a handful of retail outlets opened in the country's easternmost province a federal official told The Associated Press that Canada will pardon all those with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams of marijuana, the now-legal threshold.
A formal announcement was planned for later Wednesday. The official, who was not authorized to speak public ahead of the announcement, said those who want to take advantage of the pardons will have to apply.
Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has spent two years working toward expanding that to include recreational marijuana. The goal is to better reflect society's changing opinion about marijuana and bring black market operators into a regulated system.
Uruguay was first was the first country to legalize marijuana.
In St. John's, Newfoundland, hundreds of customers were lined up around the block at the private store on Water Street, the main commercial drag in the provincial capital, by the time the clock struck midnight. A festive atmosphere broke out, with some customers lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support as they drove by the crowd.
"Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history," said the 46-year-old Power, who bought a gram. "I can't believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis."
Tom Clarke, an illegal pot dealer for three decades, was among the first to make a legal sale in Canada when his store opened at midnight local time in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. He made the first sale to his dad. A crowd of 50 to 100 people waited outside and cheered him.
"This is awesome. I've been waiting my whole life for this," Clarke said. "I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border."
Clarke, whose middle name is Herb, has been called THC for years by his friends. His dad, Don, said he was thrilled he was among the first customers of legal pot.
"It's been a long time coming. We've only been discussing this for 50 years. It's better late than never," he said.
The Newfoundland stores are among at least 111 legal pot shops expected to open across the nation of 37 million people on Wednesday, with many more to come, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces.
Canadians also can order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.
Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.
No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn't expect stores until next spring.
Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it's about time.
"Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no one from me ever," he said.
A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework set out by the federal government. Some are operating government-run stores, some are allowing private retailers, some both.
Canada's national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a sharp contrast with national prohibition in the United States.
Nine U.S. states have legalized recreational use of pot, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana. California, the largest legal market in the U.S., earlier this month became the first state with a law mandating expungement of criminal convictions for marijuana-related offenses that no are longer illegal.
Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said it's time for the U.S. government to follow Canada's lead.
"Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country," he said in a statement.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection invited Canadian media to a conference call on Tuesday so officials could reiterate that marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law and that those who are caught at the border with pot are subject to arrest and prosecution.
As Canada welcomes legalization, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some U.S. states when legalization arrived.
Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company has 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province has supplied only enough product to open three of them Wednesday.
"We're aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months," Fencott said.
Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor plan to open their pot shop in Labrador City in Newfoundland and Labrador at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday — 420 is slang for the consumption of cannabis. Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they will be cutting a ribbon and cake.
"We are just ecstatic," she said.
She doesn't expect to make much money off the pot itself, noting Newfoundland's 8 percent cap on retail pot profits. She hopes to make money from pipes, bongs and marijuana paraphernalia.
"There's no money in the product itself," she said. "You got to sell $250,000 worth of product in order to make $20,000. That's not even paying someone's salary."
Bentonville, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Walmart trimmed its profit outlook citing this year's $16 billion acquisition of the Indian online retailer Flipkart, its biggest deal ever.
The company also said on Tuesday that U.S. online sales growth would slow to 35 percent, from last quarter's 40 percent growth.
Since buying Jet.com for more than $3 billion two years ago, Walmart has been bulking up online, buying companies such as Bonobos and ModCloth. It's also tried to speed up deliveries while expanding same-day grocery delivery.
The company says its online grocery pickup service is attracting new customers and shoppers are adding more items to their cart because of it.
Walmart also announced a partnership with Advance Auto Parts, which will create an automotive specialty store on Walmart.com. The online store is expected to be rolled out in the first half of next year. In a joint release, the companies said they plan to work together to explore such services as home delivery and same-day pickup in a Walmart or Advance store. The Roanoke, Virginia-based Advance Auto Parts operates nearly 6,400 stores.
Walmart Inc. now expects 2019 adjusted earnings of between $4.65 and $4.80 per share, down from $4.90 to $5.05.
Shares rose more than 2 percent, or $1.93, to $95.75 in afternoon trading.