China Halts Some U.S. Farm Imports, Threatening Trade Deal
Chinese government officials told major state-run agricultural companies to pause purchases of some American farm goods including soybeans as Beijing evaluates the ongoing escalation of tensions with the U.S. over Hong Kong, according to people familiar with the situation.
State-owned traders Cofco and Sinograin were ordered to suspend purchases, according to one of the people, who wanted to remain anonymous. State-buyers have also been told to halt American cotton and corn imports by Chinese officials, according to the same person. An unspecific amount of U.S. pork orders has been cancelled by Chinese buyers, another person said. While state run companies have been told to halt and cancel orders, private companies have not yet been asked to do so, according to one of the people.
The halt is the latest sign that the hard won phase-one trade deal between the world’s two biggest economies is in jeopardy. While Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month reiterated a pledge to implement the agreement that was inked in January, tensions have continued to escalate since then amid a standoff over Beijing’s move to tighten its grip on Hong Kong.
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ISM: U.S. manufacturing recovers slightly in May
U.S. manufacturing reached “the bottom of the toboggan run” in April according to Timothy R. Fiore, chair of the Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Business Survey Committee but began to rebound in May. The May PMI reading has been recorded at 43.1%, which is an improvement over April’s 41.5% figure. However, the sector is still struggling.
Manufacturers’ performance in June and July will be critical indicators of the industry’s recovery path for the rest of the year, according to Fiore. However, ISM does not expect to see a PMI in a growth range until the end of 2020 or in 2021.
Even for businesses that do manage to get back up and running soon, the steep drop-off in global consumer demand poses a challenge. “The mass new export orders to Europe or China were very weak,” Fiore said. “The customer inventory, I think, is declining into a better level, but it’s probably not doing that for the right reasons. It’s probably doing that because customers are managing their cash better,” while preparing for a broader economic downturn.
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Self-driving start-up partners with CVS on autonomous medical delivery
The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating a shakeout in the autonomous vehicle industry, but that doesn’t mean well-capitalized companies aren’t moving full speed ahead with new ventures. To wit, self-driving company Nuro has announced a pilot project with CVS Pharmacy.
The pilot, which will begin later this month, will see the Silicon Valley start-up deliver medications to CVS customers via autonomous robotic vehicles in several Houston neighbourhoods. Deliveries will be free to customers for orders through CVS.com or the CVS Pharmacy app and are expected to be fulfilled in three hours or less. “Today, more than ever, we believe autonomous delivery can improve people’s everyday lives,” according to a post from Nuro announcing the partnership. “Maintaining our health and safety has never felt so critical.”
Nuro’s plan is to first use Toyota Prius vehicles equipped with self-driving technology for the deliveries, and later shift to R2, its custom-built delivery vehicle. A safety driver will be behind the wheel at all times.
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