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EUROPEAN MIDDAY BRIEFING : Stocks Rise as -2-

07/29/2021 | 06:15am EDT

The world's largest liquor maker--which owns Johnnie Walker whisky and Tanqueray gin--made a pretax profit of 3.71 billion pounds ($5.16 billion) for the year ended June 30, compared with GBP2.04 billion in fiscal 2020.

Volkswagen Raises Target for Return on Sales After Swing to 2Q Profit

Volkswagen AG on Thursday updated its guidance for 2021 after swinging to profit in the second quarter and reporting a jump in revenue.

The German car maker said quarterly aftertax profit came in at 5.04 billion euros ($5.97 billion), compared with a loss of EUR1.54 billion the same period year-prior.

Airbus Shares Rise on Upgraded Guidance, Strong 2Q

Airbus SE shares rose in early trading on Thursday after the European plane maker lifted its profitability, delivery and cash flow guidance for the year after a strong second-quarter performance. The company also announced it will launch a freighter variant of its A350 jet.

At 0744 GMT, Airbus trades 3.3% higher at EUR119.12.

AB InBev 2Q Net Profit Surged as Sales Recovered

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA said Thursday that net profit for the second quarter rose sharply as sales exceeded pre-pandemic levels, but the Budweiser brewer said it continues to absorb cost headwinds from tight supply chains in the U.S.

The world's largest brewer, which also houses the Stella Artois and Michelob Ultra brands in its portfolio, said quarterly net profit was $1.86 billion compared with $351 million for the year-earlier period, when its performance was hurt by an impairment charge against its African business.

Shell 2Q Net Profit Fell QoQ, Launches $2 Bln Buyback

Royal Dutch Shell PLC on Thursday reported that its net profit fell in the second quarter from the immediately prior period, and launched a $2.0 billion buyback.

The Anglo-Dutch energy company made a net profit of $3.43 billion for the three months to June, down from $5.66 billion in the first quarter.

Puma Swung to Profit in 2Q, Has Short-Term Supply Chain Concerns

Puma SE said Thursday that it swung to a net profit in its second quarter thanks to sales growth in all its divisions and regions.

The German sporting-goods company said net profit for the period came in at 48.7 million euros ($57.7 million), compared with a net loss of EUR95.6 million a year earlier. Analysts had expected net profit at EUR46 million, according to a consensus provided by FactSet.

U.K. Car Manufacturing in June Hits 68-Year Low; Revival at Risk

U.K. car manufacturing had its worst June in 68 years outside of Covid-hit 2020, an industry body said Thursday as it warned that staff and supply shortages could hurt a production revival.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders blamed the staff shortages on the current "pingdemic" under which people being notified by the U.K. National Health Service's Covid-19 app that they need to self-isolate after being registered as being in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

GLOBAL NEWS

Jobless Claims Are Expected to Remain Near Pandemic Low

Workers' filings for new unemployment benefits likely resumed their decline last week and remain near a pandemic low as the labor market continued to recover from the crisis, economists said.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimated that initial jobless claims for the week ended July 24 dropped to 380,000 from 419,000 the week before. From early May to July 17, filings for benefits have dropped by more than 17%, though they remain elevated from their pre-pandemic level. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility in the weekly figures, was slightly above its pandemic low last week.

U.S. Second-Quarter GDP Growth Likely Hit Historic Fast Pace

The U.S. economy likely exceeded its pre-pandemic peak in the second quarter as reopenings and government aid powered a growth surge that is expected to gradually slow in coming months, with Covid-19 variants and materials and labor disruptions clouding the outlook.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal estimate that gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services made in the U.S., grew at an 8.4% annual rate in the April-to-June period, compared with 6.4% in the prior quarter. That would mark the second-fastest pace since 1983, exceeded only by last summer's rapid rebound from spring pandemic-related lockdowns. The Commerce Department will release its estimate of second-quarter GDP on Thursday morning.

China Moves to Reassure Global Banks and Investors After Market Rout

China moved to ease investor concerns about crackdowns on listed companies, with a top regulator privately telling global financial firms that Beijing will consider the market impact before introducing future policies, people familiar with the matter said.

Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, spoke to representatives of global banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS Group AG, as well as some investment firms on Wednesday evening, according to the people. Yi Huiman, the securities regulator's chairman, was also present at the closed-door meeting in Beijing, they added.

China to Hike Export Tariffs on Some Steel Products

China said Thursday that it would increase export tariffs on some steel products, while scrapping tax rebates for steel exports, a further step to tame soaring commodity prices.

The Ministry of Finance said on its website that the government would increase tariffs on high-purity iron to 20% from the current 15%, and lift tariffs on ferrochrome to 40% from 20%.

Chips Are Not Down at Samsung

Korean technology giant Samsung Electronics is cashing in on its memory chips. The boom may not last forever but its leading technology position should help it weather slower times well too.

The world's largest smartphone and memory-chip maker said Thursday that its operating profit for the three months ended in June rose 54% from a year earlier to the highest level since 2018. That's against a low base last year, but its operating profit grew from the previous quarter too, by 34%. A one-off gain from Samsung's display segment-likely a guaranteed payment from Apple-helped. But the company's semiconductor division was the main profit driver. Operating profit there more than doubled from a quarter earlier.

Fed Says Economy Has Progressed Toward Goals, Tees Up Bond Taper

WASHINGTON-The Federal Reserve inched toward scaling back the easy-money policies adopted at the start of the pandemic by signaling that the process could start later this year.

The Fed cut its benchmark interest rate to near zero in March 2020 and has been purchasing at least $120 billion a month in Treasurys and mortgage bonds to provide extra stimulus to the economy. Officials since the end of last year said those purchases would continue until they see "substantial further progress" toward their goals of low unemployment and stable inflation.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Advances in Senate

WASHINGTON-A bipartisan group of senators struck an agreement on a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package Wednesday after grinding months of talks, hammering out enough details to propel the deal past its first procedural hurdle just hours later.

The Senate voted 67-32 to begin consideration of the bill, above the 60 required and reversing a failed effort a week earlier when many specifics of the deal were still under negotiation. Republican negotiators said Wednesday they now had enough confidence in the details of the agreement to allow it to move forward. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) backed the motion.

Tsunami Warning After Alaska Earthquake Is Canceled

An 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Alaska late Wednesday, triggering a brief tsunami warning for some of the state's coastal regions, national authorities said.

The quake's epicenter was 75 miles southeast of the small town of Chignik on the Alaska peninsula, with a depth of about 20 miles. Several smaller tremors were recorded in the wake of the quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Republicans Threaten to Block Two Biden Nominations Over Russian Nord Stream 2 Pipeline

WASHINGTON-A dozen Senate Republicans said Wednesday they plan to block two of President Biden's Treasury Department nominations over the administration's decision not to sanction Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project into Europe.

The threatened action by the 12 Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee, which has oversight of the Treasury, could indefinitely hold up Senate approval of the two candidates nominated to lead the administration's sanctions policy.

China's New Ambassador to the U.S. Adopts Placating Tone

NEW YORK-China's new envoy to the U.S. struck a conciliatory note upon his arrival in Washington on Wednesday, pledging to repair the increasingly testy relationship between the two world powers days after Chinese Foreign Ministry officials greeted a visiting senior State Department official with a chilly lecture on diplomacy.

Qin Gang, a veteran diplomat and trusted aide to President Xi Jinping, said in remarks posted on the website of China's embassy in the U.S. that he will "endeavor to bring China-U.S. relations back on track, turning the way for the two countries to get along with each other...from a possibility into a reality."

Pfizer Vaccine's Protection Against Covid-19 Declines After Six Months but Remains High

Protection against symptomatic Covid-19 from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE's vaccine diminished over time but remained strong after six months, according to data released by the companies Wednesday.

The efficacy of the vaccine protecting against symptomatic disease dropped every two months, to 84% after six months from a peak of 96% within two months of vaccination, a decline that may add urgency to Pfizer's push to administer an additional dose to maintain protection.

(MORE TO FOLLOW) Dow Jones Newswires

07-29-21 0614ET

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