Oil plunges below $49. Worries about economy collide with supply glut

The bear market in oil keeps getting worse as worries about global growth and a supply glut ratchet higher. US oil prices tumbled more than 2% to $48.75 a barrel on Tuesday morning. At one point, crude traded as low as $47.84 a barrel — the weakest price since September 2017. The deepening downturn in … Continue reading “Oil plunges below $49. Worries about economy collide with supply glut”

The bear market in oil keeps getting worse as worries about global growth and a supply glut ratchet higher.

US oil prices tumbled more than 2% to $48.75 a barrel on Tuesday morning. At one point, crude traded as low as $47.84 a barrel — the weakest price since September 2017. The deepening downturn in the oil patch is yet more evidence of investors fleeing risky assets as they brace for an economic slowdown. The same growth jitters that are rocking Wall Street — the Dow and S&P 500 are on track for their worst December since 1931 — are infecting commodities. Small-cap stocks plunged into a bear market on Monday.

    .m-infographic–1545146737794 { background: url(//cdn.cnn.com/cnn/.e/interactive/html5-video-media/2018/12/18/20181218_crude_nosedive_gfx_mobile.png) no-repeat 0 0 transparent; margin-bottom: 30px; padding-top: 108.26666666666667%; width: 100%; -moz-background-size: cover; -o-background-size: cover; -webkit-background-size: cover; background-size: cover; } @media (min-width: 640px) { .m-infographic–1545146737794{ background-image: url(//cdn.cnn.com/cnn/.e/interactive/html5-video-media/2018/12/18/20181218_crude_nosedive_gfx_desktop.png); padding-top: 59.87179487179487%; } } @media (min-width: 1120px) { .m-infographic–1545146737794{ background-image: url(//cdn.cnn.com/cnn/.e/interactive/html5-video-media/2018/12/18/20181218_crude_nosedive_gfx_desktop.png); padding-top: 59.87179487179487%; } } <!– “Recessionary fears” have caused “contagion” in the oil markets, according to Bjornar Tonhaugen, head of oil market research at Rystad Energy.That makes sense: Decelerating growth would eat into thirst for oil, which powers the global economy. Read More”Weaker” economic growth, especially in emerging markets, will likely hurt demand for crude, the International Energy Agency said in a report last week. Fifty-three percent of fund managers expect the global economy to weaken over the next 12 months, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey released on Tuesday. That’s the dimmest outlook on growth since October 2008.The growth scare couldn’t have come at a worse time for oil, which has plummeted about 37% since hitting a four-year high of $76.90 a barrel on October 3.Independent of economic concerns, oil traders have feared that the world is producing too much oil. The commodity plunged into a bear market last month because of concerns about a supply glut. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States ramped up output after the Trump administration signaled a desire to wipe out Iran’s oil exports. But US officials later took a softer-than-expected approach toward Iran, granting waivers to China, India and other countries. That left the oil market with excess supply.

    Doubts grow about OPEC deal

    OPEC and Russia appeared to come to the rescue on December 7 with a deal to slash oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day starting in January. Yet doubts are growing about whether the agreement between OPEC and its allies goes far enough to mop up excess supplies. “The cuts themselves are not sufficient to create a sustainable turning point in oil prices,” said Tonhaugen. “It’s just enough to stabilize (US oil prices) in the low-$50s.”Alan Greenspan Fast FactsAlthough OPEC and non-OPEC pledged to reduce output by 1.2 million barrels per day, some analysts think actual cuts will be much smaller.The combined cutback for the countries participating in the deal could be just 350,000 barrels, according to FGE, an oil and gas consulting firm. The analysts pointed to higher-than-expected production from non-OPEC countries, including Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and reluctance from OPEC nations like Iraq.”The absolute level of output from January will still be too high to absorb the stock surplus in the next few months,” FGE wrote in a report last week.The firm has a “bearish bias” on oil prices, calling for Brent to trade at $55 to $60 a barrel through the first quarter of 2019. Brent declined 1.5% to $58.72 a barrel on Tuesday.

    US shale keeps surging

    Oil traders continue to fret about the enormous amount of crude getting pumped in the United States thanks to the shale revolution. The Permian Basin of West Texas has emerged as one of the world’s most prolific oilfields. “Relentless growth” in the United States has lifted output by 1.1 million barrels per day since May, when sanctions on Iran were announced, according to the IEA.

      Rystad Energy expects US output to surge by nearly 2 million barrels per day in 2019, with most of the growth coming in the second half of the year. That’s when new pipelines are expected to come online, unlocking bottlenecks caused by the Permian Basin’s blockbuster growth.All of that US shale could be arriving just as the global economy slows down.

Alan Greenspan: Investors should prepare for the worst

Alan Greenspan says the party’s over on Wall Street.

The former Federal Reserve chairman who famously warned more than two decades ago about “irrational exuberance” in the stock market doesn’t see equity prices going any higher than they are now.”It would be very surprising to see it sort of stabilize here, and then take off,” Greenspan said in an interview with CNN anchor Julia Chatterley.

    He added that markets could still go up further — but warned investors that the correction would be painful: “At the end of that run, run for cover.”This is why presidents shouldn't mess with the FedMarkets have staggered in recent weeks, with spooked investors selling over mixed messages coming from the White House concerning the status of trade negotiations with China and growing fears of a global economic slowdown. Read MoreThe jitters come as the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate setting committee prepares to meet Tuesday and Wednesday. They’re expected to raise rates for the fourth time this year — though investors will also be combing for clues on their plans for 2019. Minutes from the Fed’s last meeting in November signaled policymakers want to take a more flexible approach next year adding to investor anxiety. On Monday, the S&P 500 closed the trading day at its lowest level since October 2017, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 600 points at one point in the day.”The volatility is a function of how we speak, think and feel — and it’s variable,” he said. “Unless you can somehow radically change human nature and how we respond, this is what you’ll always get and have been getting. You have to count on it, if you’re going to understand how the market functions.”President Donald Trump has in recent weeks taken repeated aim at current Fed chairman Jerome Powell, a former investment banker appointed last year by Trump himself. The President, a close market-watcher who has staked his presidency on the state of the economy, has accused Powell of trying to undercut him politically by slowing the economy down.He blamed the Fed for the market rout in October, calling the Fed “out of control” and suggesting Powell seemed to enjoy raising rates. He also later called the Fed a “much bigger problem than China,” referring to a trade war between the two countries. One White House official said that Trump continues to privately express anxiety about the markets, even as he publicly insists the economy is strong.Before markets opened on Tuesday, Trump tweeted yet another fresh warning to Fed officials to slow down their rate hike plans, while encouraging policy makers to read a Wall Street Journal editorial “before they make another mistake.”

    I hope the people over at the Fed will read today’s Wall Street Journal Editorial before they make yet another mistake. Also, don’t let the market become any more illiquid than it already is. Stop with the 50 B’s. Feel the market, don’t just go by meaningless numbers. Good luck!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018

    “Don’t let the market become any more illiquid than it already is,” Trump tweeted. “Stop with the 50 B’s. Feel the market, don’t just go by meaningless numbers. Good luck!”It was the second day in a row Trump tweeted on the Fed’s upcoming meeting. On Monday, Trump tweeted it was “incredible” that the Fed was considering a rate hike despite low inflation and a strong dollar.But Greenspan, who was first appointed to the Fed by President Ronald Reagan and became the longest-serving chairman, remaining in his role into the George W. Bush administration, said a key driving factor in the market’s volatility has been the “pronounced rise in real long-term interest rates.”


      Greenspan: Fed policy changes because economy changes

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      Greenspan: Fed policy changes because economy changes 03:32The former chairman also warned that the United States may be poised for a period of stagflation, “a toxic mix” when the economy suffers from high inflation and high unemployment. The last time the country experienced such an episode was in the 1970s and early 1980s. Trump said to express irritation over Wall Street's negative review of China deal”How long it lasts or how big it gets, it’s too soon to tell,” said Greenspan. “We’ll know it when we get on top of it.”Other economists, however, have expressed concerns about the risk of raising rates now, even at the risk of creating the impression that the President had cowed his own policymakers — whose independence from political pressure is intended to reassure markets that their decisions are free of political concerns.”I’m in the peculiar position of thinking the Fed should not raise rates, but it should not listen to the President, which is a hard position,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said Monday on CNN’s Quest Means Business. “There’s a pretty good case for not raising rates now. But to not raise rates in this beating would look like they’re allowing themselves to be bullied.”Greenspan, however, dismissed the idea that the Fed might cave to political pressure by the President.

        “I’ve seen no evidence of that,” said Greenspan, who said during his tenure he figuratively wore “ear muffs myself.” Adding he never recalled a time when someone had wished he had raised rates.”We listen — sometimes respectfully, sometimes not,” he said. “But do we change policy? ‘No.'”

Costco: Retail’s overlooked holiday winner

Retailers are trying to draw holiday shoppers with splashy perks like free shipping, convenient new ways to shop, and mobile checkout in stores.

Costco has eschewed that strategy. It focuses instead on the reliable model that has attracted loyal club members to its no-frills warehouses over the years.Costco sells just a few thousand hot-selling items — from tires to flat-screen TVs to big jugs of mayonnaise — at cheaper prices than competitors.

    Despite Costco’s muted approach, it has emerged as a standout in the end-of-year retail crunch by perfecting its simple formula.During its most recent quarter, Costco’s (COST) US sales increased 8.3% compared to the same quarter a year ago. That’s higher than competitors like Sam’s Club, which posted 5.7% growth, Target (TGT), which posted a 5.1% rise, and Walmart (WMT), which reported growth of 3.4% last quarter.Read More”Costco didn’t engage in any large scale, new strategic initiatives this holiday season,” said Timothy Campbell, senior analyst at Kantar Retail. “For Costco, it’s all about tactics with constantly new items and finding ways of providing more shopper value.”

    A trusted retailer

    Club members who pony up $60 or $120 for annual subscriptions are flooding in to shop during the holiday rush. Costco reported a 6.8% rise in foot traffic in November. Members believe that they can land deals at Costco on high-quality holiday staples and gifts they can’t find elsewhere.Costco has staked its reputation on cheaper prices than rivals like Walmart or Target. It pours revenue from annual membership dues back into keeping prices down.Costco also manages a limited inventory, which gives its merchandising teams a competitive advantage over Walmart and Target. Big-box retailers typically sell more than 100,000 items at superstores, but Costco stocks an average of 3,800 national and Kirkland Signature house-branded products. Costco's secret weapon: Food courts and $1.50 hot dogs”We’re able to mark up our goods so little because of the efficiencies that we bring to the table,” said Richard Galanti, Costco’s veteran chief financial officer. “There’s something in terms of putting all your buying power and focus on fewer items and pre-selecting the right items.” A narrower selection at stores also helps shoppers avoid the paradox of choice — so many options that it’s tough to decide.Costco does the vetting work for customers, said Joseph Feldman, an analyst at Telsey Advisory Group. “There’s a high level of trust for customers.”

    Looming challenges

    Costco benefits from the strong economy. High-income shoppers are increasingly willing to spending a larger chunk of their wallets at warehouses, Campbell noted. Yet Costco could face trouble holding those shoppers against Amazon if the economy turns sour. It has a sizable customer overlap with Amazon, and those customers could decide they don’t want to pay for both Prime and a Costco membership.There are other looming challenges, too.Costco’s low-price model depends on the annual membership funnel. That means the company has to find ways continue attracting new members — especially Millennials as its core baby boomer shoppers age.It will also have keep improving its online capabilities to keep up with Amazon and brick-and-mortar rivals that are speeding up their investments.

      For now, however, Costco’s customers seem to love the club.In November, Costco reported double-digit increases from last year in categories like sporting goods, electronics, hardware, and appliances, signaling that it was a top destination for big-ticket holiday purchases. Home furnishings, clothes, and small appliances like toasters and blenders grew as well.

Automation is helping to push women out of the workforce

Researchers at the World Economic Forum are highlighting a troubling trend: Fewer women around the world are working.

WEF said in a report published Monday that women are slowly narrowing the gender gap when it comes to income and representation in senior management. But after years of closing the gap in workforce participation, momentum has stalled.The group described the finding as a “worrisome development,” and put forward a handful of factors that help explain the lack of progress.

    Automation is having a disproportionate impact on roles traditionally performed by women, WEF said in its annual report on gender. At the same time, fewer women work in growth industries that require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The hidden costs of commuting while femaleResearch done in partnership with LinkedIn shows that only 22% of global professionals working on artificial intelligence are women, for example. Read More”In an era when human skills are increasingly important and complementary to technology, the world cannot afford to deprive itself of women’s talent in sectors in which talent is already scarce,” said WEF founder Klaus Schwab.WEF said another potential explanation for weaker labor force participation by women is a shortage of services that would help them enter or return to the workplace, such as daily care for children and the elderly. Australian women walk out of work early, protesting gender pay gapThe report suggests women are making gains in some areas.

      The share of women in managerial positions in both private and public sectors around the world has risen slightly to 33%. The income gap between men and women has narrowed, but it remains at nearly 51%.At the current pace, WEF estimates it will take 202 years to close the gap women face in the workplace. That figure is based on disparities in earnings, workforce participation and the number of women in top jobs.

Cracks appear in the world’s biggest autos alliance

The tension in the world’s biggest autos alliance was laid bare Monday when Nissan said it had been denied an opportunity to tell Renault’s board the full story about why it fired Carlos Ghosn in late November.

Nissan (NSANY) CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters that the Japanese carmaker wants to show the board of its French partner evidence it collected of “significant” wrongdoing by Ghosn, who remains CEO and chairman of Renault (RNSDF) while locked up in a Tokyo jail. So far, Nissan has only briefed lawyers for Renault. The stalemate highlights the serious differences within the alliance, which also includes Mitsubishi Motors (MMTOF), on how to handle the allegations against Ghosn.

    “We would like to explain to [Renault’s board] if we are given the chance,” Saikawa said following a meeting of Nissan’s board. “We hope Renault’s board directors will listen to the explanation.”Tokyo prosecutors last week indicted Ghosn on accusations he under-reported his income in Nissan corporate filings by about 5 billion yen ($44 million) between 2010 and 2015. They also rearrested him on additional allegations covering his income between 2015 and 2018.Read MoreJapanese public broadcaster NHK reported last week, citing unidentified sources, that Ghosn is denying the allegations against him. Ghosn was stripped of his role as chairman at Nissan and Mitsubishi following his arrest in November. Renault has appointed interim management but kept Ghosn on the payroll. Tensions between the partners, which have long been rumored, are now bursting into the open. On Monday, Saikawa sidestepped questions on a report in the Wall Street Journal that suggested Renault wants an emergency meeting of Nissan shareholders as part of an effort to reassert control over its Japanese partner.Nissan and Renault both declined to comment on the matter. Renault owns a 43% voting stake in Nissan.

    A major alliance

    Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors together employ more than 470,000 people in nearly 200 countries. They sold more than 10.7 million cars worldwide in 2017. The three companies have more in common than Ghosn, who crafted the alliance after leading successful turnarounds at Renault and Nissan. They also share ownership stakes, as well as technology and manufacturing facilities. That would make a breakup extremely difficult. “All sides need each other because they have no alternative,” said Campbell Gunn, a senior adviser at investment firm Tap Japan. “It’s impossible to unwind these relationships and set up new ones.”

    Divisions emerging

    Still, the partnership is unequal. Nissan, which sells more vehicles than Renault, has only a 15% non-voting stake in the French company.Some analysts have suggested that Nissan executives were uncomfortable about the possibility of Renault and Ghosn seeking a full merger, which would give the French company more control over Nissan. Saikawa told employees at a town hall meeting this month that Ghosn had accumulated too much power at the top of the alliance. On Monday, he said that Nissan would have to act in its own interests. “We would like to listen to Renault’s opinion as [an] alliance partner,” the CEO told reporters. “But we are the ones who are responsible for the governance of Nissan.”

    What happens next?

    All three alliance partners renewed their commitment to one another at a meeting in Amsterdam earlier this month, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The French government is the biggest single shareholder in Renault. Analysts say that Nissan is concerned that Renault could do what’s best for the French economy, rather than the alliance. Meanwhile, the Japanese government would be wary of letting one of its biggest companies coming under French control via a full merger.”A merger is effectively off the table,” said Gunn. Ghosn, meanwhile, faces a challenging court battle. He filed a complaint against his detention last week but it was rejected. More than 99% of people charged with a crime in Japan are eventually convicted, according to experts.

      The alliance architect was skilled at finding common cause between the three companies. If they are to stick together, they’ll need a replacement who can successfully navigate the same issues.”It’s hard to see who takes the lead,” Gunn said.

Asos stock crashes 40% as European retail chill hits spending online

Asos is having a nightmare holiday season.

Shares in the UK online fashion retailer plunged 40% on Monday after it warned that weak sales in the crucial month of November would harm its annual profit for 2018.”The current backdrop of economic uncertainty across many of our major markets together with a weakening in consumer confidence has led to the weakest growth in online clothing sales in recent years,” it said in a statement.

    Asos (ASOMY) was considered one of the few retail bright spots in the United Kingdom, where many sellers have struggled with the transition to online shopping and an economic slowdown caused by uncertainty about Brexit.The profit warning at Asos, which wiped more than $1 billion off its market value, shows that even savvy online retailers could struggle this holiday season.Read More”This is a potential warning sign for online retailers who have hitherto held up relatively well compared to traditional [Main Street] chains,” David Cheetham, chief market analyst at online broker XTB, said in a note to clients.Asos said Monday that conditions in major European markets such as Germany and France were “significantly more challenging.” But it was also hard hit in Britain, where the Brexit saga has unnerved investors and the public. Some 80,000 British retail jobs disappeared in the first half of the year, according to the Office for National Statistics. Official data on UK retail sales in November will be published on Thursday.Asos, which sells hundreds of brands as well as its own fashion lines, said it was facing a “high level of discounting” and promotional activity from competitors in the United Kingdom. It also said consumer confidence in the country was “increasingly fragile.” The retailer said it was still outperforming UK competitors, but only because it’s offering more discounts than planned. Costco: Retail's overlooked holiday winner Michelle Wilson, an analyst at Berenberg bank, said its reliance on discounts indicates “poor conditions in the retail market” and “a weak consumer.”

      Asos also misjudged its strategy on Black Friday, according to Wilson, offering discounts that fell short of the competition. CEO Nick Beighton acknowledged during a conference call with analysts on Monday that the Black Friday offer “wasn’t strong enough.”

Meet the pilots of Virgin Galactic’s first flight to space

After months of testing Richard Branson’s rocket-powered plane at lower altitudes, two of Virgin Galactic’s test pilots made it to the edge of space on Thursday — 51.4 miles above Earth.

For pilots Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow, looming over the flight was the memory of a tragic test flight in 2014. Virgin Galactic’s first vehicle, SpaceShipTwo, ripped apart in mid-air, killing a co-pilot. Stucky spoke to CNN Business after Thursday’s successful firing of the rebuilt SpaceShipTwo, called VSS Unity, to record heights at nearly three times the speed of sound. He said it was like taking a thoroughbred racehorse into a full gallop for the first time.”Before you can race her you have to train and walk her down uneven terrain, but eventually you have to say, maybe I should race her,” he said. “That’s what Unity reminded me of.”The test flight was the first time Brason’s space tourism startup has gone more than 50 miles above Earth. It earned both pilots commercial astronaut wings from the US government and put Virgin Galactic on track to become the first private company in the world to take paying customers to space.Read MoreVirgin Galactic had worked toward the goal since it was founded in 2004. It also marked the first crewed flight to space from US soil since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, with Virgin Galactic beating out other well-funded competitors.

    The company is squared up to compete directly with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin to conduct suborbital tourism flights. SpaceX and Boeing, meanwhile, are due to begin flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station — a trip that requires speeds over Mach 30 — next year.

    Making history

    Virgin Galactic and its corps of test pilots have worked for years rebuilding its spacecraft and its public image.Branson watched alongside a crowd of employees, their family members and friends in Mojave, California with nervous energy as Stucky and Sturckow took to the skies.It wasn’t clear ahead of time whether they would reach the 50-mile mark. The pilots had the option to cut the engine burn short, which they would have been forced to do if any of the safety checks were abnormal or weather turned bad.Mark “Forger” Stucky and Rick “CJ” Sturckow arrived at the flight line before Thursday’s test.The pair tried to do everything possible to boost their chances of success. The morning before flight, Stucky and Sturckow met at Virgin Galactic’s Mojave hangar at 4:30 am to run through flight simulations meant to mimic any possible curve ball the day could throw their way.”We did it again, and again, and again, and got it perfectly,” Stucky said.It paid off.Despite a rough windshear, VSS Unity’s engine roared for 60 seconds and reached Mach 2.9. The blaze ended, and the cockpit window looked out into the blackness of the cosmos with an expansive view of Earth’s curved horizon. Mission control dispatched: “Welcome to space.” Branson wept.

    Reflections on @virgingalactic’s first space flight & the momentous achievement of a crewed spaceship, built to carry private paying passengers, reaching space for the first time ever https://t.co/hHk8ZsF8Kn pic.twitter.com/qtN8cy7kdb

    — Richard Branson (@richardbranson) December 14, 2018

    A balanced act

    Stucky, 60, and Sturckow, 57, have more than 15,000 hours of flying experience between them. They’re both former marines and have known each other since the 1980s, but they’ve never worked together before joining Virgin Galactic. Their personalities are polar opposites.

      Stucky is verbose and charismatic, while Sturckow is known for his stoicism and intensity.When the men emerged from VSS Unity after their historic flight Thursday, they walked toward the crowd. Stucky broke into a sprint, bolting directly for the area where the pilots’ family members were watching. He gave his wife a kiss and handed Branson a small globe that he carried with him during the flight. On an outdoor stage near the runway, he addressed the crowd of employees, family members and friends with visible excitement.”It was really amazing, I hope you guys could maybe capture a sense of that,” he said. Stucky joked at one point that reaching space meant he’d left the United States, and he handed Branson a set of customs declaration forms.When Stucky gave Sturckow the microphone, he offered just two phrases: “It was a great flight, and I can’t wait to do it again. Thank you, Forger.””That’s more words than he usually gives,” one audience member remarked. Richard Branson celebrates with pilots Rick “CJ” Sturckow, left, and Mark “Forger” Stucky, right, after Virgin Galactic’s tourism spaceship climbed more than 50 miles high.Stucky said going into the flight, he was glad for Sturckow’s levelheadedness.”The thing I knew about CJ was that nothing would frustrate him, and I knew that he wouldn’t cave under pressure no matter how bad it got,” he said.

        Earning wings

        The rare designation of astronaut wings is awarded by NASA or the Air Force when a flight in their respective programs reaches more than 50 miles above Earth.The first-ever commercial astronaut wings were awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2004 to Mike Melvill and Brian Binnie, who piloted SpaceShipOne, the supersonic plane that was the precursor for SpaceShipTwo.FAA Assistant Administrator Bailey Edwards took the stage with Stucky and Sturckow Thursday to announce that they, too, would receive the designation in a ceremony next year.

        Here's a rendering of the commercial astronaut wings @Stuck4ger and CJ Sturckow will receive for Thursday's spaceflight. pic.twitter.com/K5tFJTIag7

        — Jackie Wattles (@jackiewattles) December 15, 2018

        Sturckow already has a set of wings. He’s a former NASA astronaut who flew on four Space Shuttle missions between 1998 and 2009. By the time he left NASA to join Virgin Galactic in 2013, he already logged more than 1,200 hours in space.But for Stucky, earning astronaut wings was decades in the making. He dreamed of traveling deep into the skies since he was a kid. After reaching the final stages of selection for the astronaut corps — a hyper-competitive process — he didn’t make the cut.He worked as a test pilot for NASA and the Air Force, logging experience on more than 170 types of vehicles throughout his career. He teamed up with Virgin Galactic about a decade ago. It gave him another shot at reaching his lifelong goal.When he finally reached space Thursday, Stucky honored a bet he lost to longtime pal Jack Fischer over who would get there first. Fischer was selected to be a NASA astronaut in 2009 and spent 136 days in space last year. Stucky carried Fischer’s name tag with him during Thursday’s flight.But Stucky said none of that was top of mind.Mark “Forger” Stucky and Rick “CJ” Sturckow emerge from VSS Unity after landing.”The overwhelming feeling is not anything about being an astronaut, it’s about doing a good job and not letting the company down and not letting Richard down,” he said. It was about showing what all those people at Virgin Galactic had worked for was “more than just a vision.”

          Stucky told CNN Business in October that he never felt like he was gambling with his life when he boarded VSS Unity for a powered test flight. But on Thursday he admitted he tried to shield some members of his family from the inevitable risk he took on firing a rocket engine up to 260,000 feet in the air. Stucky’s daughter gave birth earlier in the week. “I did not tell them about this flight because I didn’t want to stress her out,” he said.When asked how he would celebrate they day’s achievement, Stucky laughed and said his wife “got me a really nice bottle of whiskey.”

Boeing delivers first 737 from new Chinese factory

Boeing on Saturday delivered its first 737 airliner from its new factory in China — a debut that comes amid a 90-day truce in the US-China trade war.

The 100-acre completion site in in Zhoushan, where workers install interiors to 737s built in Seattle for sale in the Chinese market, is part of the US aerospace company’s plan to strengthen ties to what will soon be the world’s largest aviation market.The Chinese plant is the first of its kind for Boeing (BA) outside the United States. It is operated as a joint venture between the company and China’s Commercial Aircraft Corporation (COMAC).

    The first 737 to roll out of the plant was delivered to Chinese carrier Air China on Saturday.”This is a significant milestone of Boeing’s efforts to deepen its footprint in China, as well as to support the growth of China’s airline industry, opening an era of the collaboration,” Zhao Yuerang, president of COMAC, said in a statement.Read MoreCritics of Boeing’s new facility say it moves work done by US-based workers abroad and gives China valuable insight into jetliner production.Expanding its presence in China is key for Boeing to stay competitive with European arch-rival Airbus.China is on track to surpass the United States as the world’s largest air travel market by 2022, sooner than expected, according to the International Air Transport Association.Boeing estimates China will need 7,680 new planes worth $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years, plus $1.5 trillion in commercial services to support the new fleets.But Boeing, the United States’ single largest exporter, found itself on the front lines of a trade war this year as President Donald Trump directed his administration to slap billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese goods to punish the country for what Trump called unfair trade practices. China responded in kind, and the tit-for-tat escalated for months. Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a temporary truce earlier this month as officials work to negotiate a broad deal.”Am I nervous about the situation? Yeah, of course. It’s a challenging environment,” John Bruns, president of Boeing China, told reporters on Saturday, according to Reuters.Trump has also slammed US companies for building factories abroad.

      Last year, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg pitched the Chinese completion site, which has been in the works since 2015, as a boon for US manufacturing.”We’re able to add volume and increase sales in China, because as we increase sales to China we increase building airplanes here in the U.S., and that’s U.S. manufacturing jobs,” he said.

Doors are slamming shut for Huawei around the world

Huawei is coming under pressure in two more key European markets — the latest in a series of problems the Chinese company faces around the world.

Telecommunications firm Orange has ruled out using Huawei products in its core 5G network in France, and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom says it’s reviewing purchases of Huawei equipment.The Chinese company, which sells smartphones and telecommunications gear, faces increased scrutiny in the United States and other countries, where officials have warned of potential national security risks from using Huawei products.

    The recent arrest of its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, has raised additional questions about Huawei. Meng has been released on bail in Canada, but she now faces a lengthy legal battle over whether she should be extradited to the United States, where prosecutors accuse her of helping Huawei get around sanctions on Iran.Huawei's CFO is out on bail, but the crisis sparked by her arrest is snowballingOrange (ORAN), the largest telecoms operator in France, on Friday ruled out using Huawei equipment in its core 5G network in the country.Read More”We don’t foresee calling on Huawei for 5G,” Orange CEO Stephane Richard said Friday. “We are working with our traditional partners — they are Ericsson and Nokia.”Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom (DTEGY) said it was taking the discussion about the security of network elements from Chinese manufacturers “very seriously.””We are pursuing a multi-vendor strategy for the network elements used (manufacturers primarily Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco, Huawei),” it said in a statement. “Nevertheless we currently reevaluate our procurement strategy.”Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside business hours in China.The announcement from Deutsche Telekom — coupled with news from SoftBank this week that it might also drop Huawei equipment — could also factor into the pending merger between T-Mobile (TMUS) and Sprint (S). Deutsche Telekom is majority owner of T-Mobile while Softbank owns Sprint.Reuters reported Friday that the deal between the two US phone companies could now get approval from federal regulators who vet deals for national security risks. According to Reuters, the use of Huawei equipment has been part of the review.Law enforcement officials rebuff Trump over prosecution of Chinese executiveHuawei is largely shut out of the US market, where it has repeatedly come under fire from lawmakers and government officials who accuse it of working under the influence of the Chinese government.It has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying it’s a private company owned by its employees. Huawei told CNN Business last month that its equipment is trusted by 46 of the world’s 50 largest telecommunications companies.But security agencies are particularly worried about Huawei’s involvement in future 5G networks, because of the rise of connected devices, smart homes and the internet of things.

      New Zealand and Australia have prevented telecoms companies from using Huawei equipment for their 5G mobile networks. Issues for Huawei have cropped up in the UK, too. British telecoms group BT (BT) said last week that it would not buy Huawei equipment for the core of its 5G wireless network.

The electric cars of the future could be recharged in 15 minutes

The next generation of electric cars could charge their batteries in the time it takes to fill up at a gas station.

A group of companies including Germany’s BMW (BMWYY), Porsche and Siemens (SIEGY) say they have developed technology that could help make super-fast charging a reality.They unveiled on Thursday a 450 kW charging station that needs only three minutes to provide enough juice for a 100 kilometer (62 miles) drive. A full charge takes 15 minutes.

    Ian Ellerington, head of technology transfer at the Faraday Institution, said the technology is significantly better than what’s currently available, even if there are major issues to resolve before it’s put into widespread use.”450kW is substantially quicker than the Tesla superchargers (120kW), and would in principle be 10 times quicker than the rapid chargers that are currently widely available,” he said. Read More

    The slow charging problem

    Long charging times are a major drawback of electric cars currently on the market. They slow down road trips, and they’re a major inconvenience for owners who can’t charge their cars at home. Ellerington said the next generation of chargers could help solve the problem.”At 350-450kW, electric charging will take a time comparable to refueling with gasoline, which will make long journeys in [electric vehicles] as practical as in cars using liquid fuels,” he said.

    Power trouble

    More development work is needed to make 450 kW chargers a practical option, however. According to Ellerington, one major piece of the puzzle is building cars that can handle the increased power. “I believe that there are no vehicles currently on the market that could accept this amount of power, and it will need the next generation of batteries to take advantage of the full capability,” he said. For the 450 kW charging project, BMW and Porsche designed cars specifically for the tests.The maker of Mercedes cars is spending $23 billion on batteriesKeith Pullen, a professor of energy systems at City, University of London, said that super-fast charging comes with other drawbacks. “If you charge a battery very quickly, it’s less efficient [and] it actually damages the battery,” he said. The technology could be useful in an emergency, but frequent use would cause a battery to wear out quickly.

    Draining the grid

    Engineers would need to solve another problem: super-fast chargers use a huge amount of power.

      Pullen said that a service station with 20 charging stations would use about six megawatts of power — the same amount as a typical small town. “This power has to come from somewhere and it has to come from the grid,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to roll this out, there have to be major changes first.”