Berkshire’s energy unit to buy Dominion Energy’s gas transmission, storage business By Reuters



© Reuters. Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha

(Reuters) – Berkshire Hathaway Inc ‘s (N:) energy unit said on Sunday it entered an agreement to acquire Dominion Energy Inc’s (N:) transmission and storage business.

The transaction has an enterprise value of about $9.7 billion, Berkshire Hathaway Energy said in a statement. (https://reut.rs/2C9zgtw)

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Trump approves five-week extension for small business pandemic loan applications By Reuters


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© Reuters. U.S. President Donald Trump holds press briefing on the U.S. economy and unemployment numbers at White House in Washington

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By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday signed into law a deadline extension to August 8 for small businesses to apply for relief loans under a federal aid program to help businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House said.

The extension to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which was launched in April to keep Americans on company payrolls and off unemployment assistance, gives business owners an additional five weeks to apply for funding assistance plagued by problems.

An estimated $130 billion of the $659 billion provided by Congress is still up for grabs. Critics worry the U.S. Small Business Administrator’s office, which administers the loan, may continue to experience challenges in fairly distributing the funds.

From the outset, the unprecedented first-come-first-served program struggled with technology and paperwork problems that led some businesses to miss out while some affluent firms got funds.

The SBA’s inspector general found in May that some rural, minority and women-owned businesses may not have received loans due to a lack of prioritization from the agency.

Reuters reported https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-ppp-exclusive/exclusive-us-small-business-program-handed-out-virus-aid-to-many-borrowers-twice-idUSKBN2391S9 on Thursday that a technical snafu in a U.S. government system caused many small businesses to receive loans twice or more times, nearly a dozen people with knowledge of the matter said.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Euro zone business slump eased in June as lockdowns relaxed By Reuters


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Paris Orly Airport resumes duty after a 3-month break due the coronavirus lockdown

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By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – The plunge in euro zone business activity caused by lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus eased sharply last month as more businesses reopened and people ventured out, a survey showed on Friday.

Around 11 million people have been infected by the virus globally, but as the number of daily reported cases has fallen across much of Europe governments have loosened restrictions on people’s movement.

To support ravaged economies the European Central Bank expanded its pandemic-related bond purchases to a total of 1.35 trillion euros last month while governments have waded in with unprecedented levels of fiscal stimulus.

That may be paying dividends as IHS Markit’s final Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), seen as a good gauge of economic health, bounced to 48.5 in June from May’s 31.9, better than a 47.5 preliminary reading and close to the 50-mark separating growth from contraction.

“The sharp increases in the euro zone PMIs in June suggest that activity is bouncing back quite quickly, but remains far lower than before the crisis,” said Jack Allen-Reynolds at Capital Economics.

A June Reuters poll predicted the economy contracted an unprecedented 12.5% last quarter but would grow 7.9% this quarter.

World shares inched towards a four-month high on Friday and industrial bellwether metal was set for its longest weekly winning streak in nearly three years, as recovering global data kept nagging coronavirus nerves at bay.

DAMP DEMAND

Activity in the bloc’s dominant service industry also almost returned to growth last month. Its PMI soared to 48.3 from 30.5, comfortably ahead of the 47.3 flash reading.

However, demand still fell despite vendors cutting prices, and firms reduced headcount for a fourth straight month. The services employment index rose to 43.9 from 37.9, still one of the lowest readings in the survey’s 22-year history.

Unemployment in the bloc edged up in May, official data showed on Thursday.

“The employment index has not rebounded anywhere near as sharply as the output PMI, implying that the increase in activity in recent months is a long way from strong enough to provoke an increase in hiring,” Allen-Reynolds said.

“Instead, the PMI still points to steep declines in employment.”

That weak demand is holding up a more pronounced recovery in Germany’s services sector, which is slowly coming back to life after Europe’s largest economy lifted restrictions, earlier data showed.

French service sector activity returned to growth as its lockdown was further eased, boosting overall business activity, while in Britain — outside the currency union — an historic slump levelled off as some of the economy reopened.

Optimism about the year ahead returned. The euro zone composite future output index climbed back into positive territory, recording 56.9 versus May’s 46.8.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Top U.S. business executives urge Congress to pass bipartisan policing reform By Reuters


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© Reuters. A woman walks past the U.S. Capitol building in Washington

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(Reuters) – Top business executives in the United Sates are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan policing reform before its August recess, in the wake of protests against police brutality and racial bias in the criminal justice system.

“Congress cannot afford to let this moment pass,” Joshua Bolten, the president and chief executive of The Business Roundtable group, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“There is room for bipartisan agreement on many critical issues of policing reform, but the issues will be resolved only in negotiations between the House and Senate,” the statement added.

The development comes amid demonstrations against police brutality following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man killed after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while detaining him in Minneapolis.

The group urged Congress to bring about more transparency and accountability in the reforms including establishing a ‘National Police Misconduct Registry’ to maintain disciplinary records of police officers.

It also called for federal minimum standards for policing, including on use of lethal and non-lethal force, adding that training programs for the police should be made more robust.

“There is no question that businesses can – and should – play a role in addressing the systemic inequities that Black Americans as well as other people of color face when it comes to policing in our nation today,” said Walmart (NYSE:) Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon, who is the chairman of Business Roundtable.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, also a part of the group, said corporate America cannot stay silent on the issue of racial inequality and should play its part.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



U.S. lenders, businesses brace for disclosure on small business pandemic aid By Reuters



© Reuters. A person in a mask walks on a nearly empty street in the coronavirus outbreak near the Treasury Department in Washington

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans will soon get a first full look at which businesses received $515 billion of taxpayer funds when the government, after initial resistance by President Donald Trump’s administration, releases borrower data for one of its highest- profile pandemic aid efforts.

The colossal data set for the Paycheck Protection Program, to be released by the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration in the coming days, will provide transparency for a first-come-first-served program that from the outset was plagued by technology, paperwork and fairness issues.

That could make life uncomfortable for borrowers that broke the spirit or letter of the rules, and for banks that shoveled the money out the door. The aim of the $660 billion program was to help cash-strapped companies keep workers employed and make rent.

“There’s a level of anxiety,” said Suzie Saxman, a partner at Chicago-based law firm Seyfarth Shaw. “I’ve said to everybody: Prepare to be disclosed, prepare to be audited.”

The Treasury and SBA said they will release a swath of information, including the names, addresses, loan amount ranges and jobs supported for businesses that received $150,000 or more. That should account for roughly 75% of the dollars granted, but only 15% of the 4.7 million loans.

The agencies have not said when they will release the data.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin initially refused to release the data, saying it included proprietary business information. But under pressure from lawmakers, he agreed to shine a light on large borrowers.

“The opportunities for waste, mismanagement, abuse and corruption are enormous, and we just can’t know unless we have the information,” said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at the Washington-based government watchdog group Public Citizen.

BACKLASH

Launched in April, the program allows small businesses hurt by the pandemic to apply for a forgivable government-backed loan from a bank, the largest-ever of its kind.

In the scramble to distribute funds, the program was beset by technology glitches, documentation snags and revelations that some banks prioritized their most profitable clients. As a result, more affluent companies got funds, while less well-heeled borrowers missed out.

Those revelations left lingering questions on whether the most needy benefited.

To date, the SBA has released broad distribution figures for states, industries and the largest lenders. But the new data will paint a much more detailed demographic picture of which local communities and sub-sectors received support and whether it helped save jobs.

While that is important data for economists and policy wonks, businesses and banks are preparing for more backlash.

“The industry understands the need for transparency around this program but believes SBA, Treasury and Congress should treat the release of this information carefully,” said Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association.

On Monday, the National Federation of Independent Business asked Mnuchin to halt the data release.

Beyond the risk of negative headlines or regulatory scrutiny, businesses worry that securing aid could scare off clients and vendors, or that companies working from their home address could be exposed, said Seyfarth Shaw’s Saxman.

For others, the data will be insufficient.

Maxine Waters (NYSE:), Democratic chair of the House Financial Services Committee, this week said the data would provide “minimal disclosure” since, while covering the majority by value, it would not include most of the loans issued. She called for the full data set, adding: “We must ensure the administration’s transparent and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”



German business morale posts record rise, ‘light at end of tunnel’ By Reuters



© Reuters. The skyline of the banking district is pictured in Frankfurt

BERLIN (Reuters) – German business morale posted its strongest rise in June since records began and Europe’s largest economy should return to growth in the third quarter after the coronavirus pandemic hammered output in the spring, the Ifo institute said.

Ifo said on Wednesday its June survey of companies showed the business climate index surging to 86.2 from an upwardly revised 79.7 in May – the largest surge since records started after reunification in 1990.

A Reuters poll of analysts had pointed to a reading of 85.0.

“Companies’ assessments of their current situation were somewhat better. Moreover, their expectations leaped higher. German business sees light at the end of the tunnel,” Ifo President Clemens Fuest said.

Ifo economist Klaus Wohlrabe said the economy should return to a growth path in the third quarter after an expected double-digit contraction between April and June.

“We have passed the economic trough, the low point is behind us and things are looking up again,” Wohlrabe said. “Export expectations have risen significantly.”

A robust health care system and widespread testing has helped Germany record fewer fatalities linked to COVID-19 than many other European countries.

Even so, Europe’s largest economy is facing its worst recession since World War Two, with the government predicting in April that gross domestic product would shrink 6.3% this year.

An Ifo current conditions index rose to 81.3 from 78.9, and an expectations index surged to 91.4 from an upwardly revised 80.5.

“At present, the principle of hope prevails: the economy is counting on massive support from monetary and fiscal policy and on the absence of a second wave of infection,” said DekaBank economist Andreas Scheuerle.

The government hopes its more than 130 billion euro ($146.81 billion) stimulus package will help bring the economy back onto a growth path later this year.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



U.S. business sector contraction eases in June By Reuters



© Reuters. Workers assemble a Ford truck at the new Louisville Ford truck plant in Louisville

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. business activity contracted for a fifth straight month in June, but the pace of decline eased, supporting views that the recession caused by the COVID-19 crisis was drawing to an end.

Data firm IHS Markit said on Tuesday its flash U.S. Composite Output Index, which tracks the manufacturing and services sectors, rose to a reading of 46.8 last month from 37 in May. A reading below 50 indicates contraction in private sector output. The economy slipped into recession in February.

The improvement this month came as businesses reopened after shuttering in mid-March to control the spread of the respiratory illness. Still, layoffs continued this month and businesses put a freeze on hiring to deal with weak demand and to cut costs.

The IHS Markit survey’s flash Purchasing Managers Index for the services sector rose to 46.7 in June from 37.5 in the prior month. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a reading of 46.0 in June for the services sector, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

In the manufacturing sector, the contraction in activity slowed this month, with the flash manufacturing PMI increasing to 49.6 from a reading of 39.8 in May. Economists had forecast the index for the sector, which accounts for 11% of the economy, rising to 47.8 in June.

A measure of new orders received by factories increased to a reading of 49.5 in June from 34.6 in May.

Businesses reported increases in both input and output prices for the first time since February. According to IHS Markit, “firms stated that higher input costs from suppliers due to COVID-19 related supply chain issues were partially passed on to clients, with some mentioning that demand conditions were such that discounting was no longer required.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



Trump suspends entry of certain foreign workers despite business opposition By Reuters


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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds his first re-election campaign rally in several months in Tulsa, Oklahoma

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By Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump suspended the entry into the United States of certain foreign workers on Monday, a move the White House said would help the coronavirus-battered economy, but which business groups strongly oppose.

Trump issued a presidential proclamation that temporarily blocks foreign workers entering on H-1B visas, which are for skilled employees, and L visas, for managers and specialized workers being transferred within a company. Trump also blocked those entering on H-2B seasonal worker visas, which are used by landscapers and other industries.

(Graphic: H-1B visa approvals – https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-IMMIGRATION/WORKERS/xklvyzkdxpg/h1b.jpg)

The visa suspension, which runs to the end of the year, will open up 525,000 jobs for U.S. workers, a senior administration official said on a call with reporters. The official, who did not explain how the administration arrived at that figure, said the move was geared at “getting Americans back to work as quickly as possible.”

But businesses including major tech companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the visa suspension would stifle the economic recovery after the damage done by the pandemic.

Critics of the measure say Trump is using the pandemic to enact his longstanding goal to limit immigration into the United States. The immediate effects of the proclamation will likely be limited, as U.S. consulates around the world remain closed for most routine visa processing.

The proclamation exempts those already in the United States, as well as valid visa holders overseas, but they must have an official travel document that permits entry into the United States. Immigration attorneys were working on Monday to determine what the order might mean for some clients currently overseas.

The measure also exempts food supply chain workers and people whose entry is deemed in the national interest. The suspension will include work-authorized J visas for cultural exchange opportunities, including camp counselors and au pairs, as well as visas for the spouses of H-1B workers.

Republican Trump is running for re-election on Nov. 3 and has made his tough immigration stance a central pitch to voters, although the coronavirus, faltering economy and nationwide protests over police brutality have overshadowed that issue. The president has faced pressure to restrict work visas from groups that seek lower levels of immigration, as well as some Republican lawmakers.

BSA, The Software Alliance, whose members include Microsoft (NASDAQ:) and Slack, urged the administration in a statement to “refrain from restricting employment of highly-skilled foreign professionals,” adding that “these restrictions will negatively impact the U.S. economy” and decrease job opportunities for Americans.

Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless, a pro-migrant group that helps families navigate the U.S. immigration system, said the fact that H-2A visas used to bring in foreign farmworkers were exempt signals that “big agriculture interests are the only stakeholder with any sway over immigration policy in this administration.”

H-2B visas, which were included in the suspension, have been used by Trump owned- or Trump-branded businesses, including his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

Many business groups were lobbying against a temporary visa ban before it was announced.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, estimated that the new ruling would block 219,000 foreign workers through the rest of the year.

“This is introducing more chaos into an already chaotic situation for a lot of U.S. companies,” she said. “The administration is making the assumption that these companies did not already look at the U.S. labor market, which most of them do before they get involved in a complicated process of trying to bring in foreign workers.”

Mitch Wexler, a managing partner at law firm Fragomen, said the order would hurt his social media and wireless communications clients and other tech companies.

Employers “wouldn’t pay a lot of money to file these applications and hire lawyers like me if they could hire an American for these positions,” he said.

Trump also renewed an April proclamation that blocks some foreigners from permanent residence in the United States, extending that measure until the end of the year. The senior administration official said that proclamation freed up roughly 50,000 jobs for Americans, but did not provide details.

The visa suspension issued on Monday narrows an exemption for medical workers in Trump’s April ruling to include only people working on coronavirus research and care.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said there were 15,269 petitions for H-1B visas in healthcare-related jobs across the United States in fiscal year 2019.

The Trump administration will make several other moves to tighten rules around temporary work visas.

The administration plans to rework the H-1B visa program so that the 85,000 visas available in the program each year go to the highest-paid applicants, instead of the current lottery system, the senior administration official said.

In addition, it plans to issue rules that make it harder for companies to use the H-1B visa program to train foreign workers to perform the same job in another country, the official said.

Both moves would likely require regulatory changes.

The Trump administration is also taking steps to limit work permits for people seeking asylum in the United States, finalizing a regulation on Monday that removes a requirement to process such permits within 30 days.

A separate asylum measure set to be finalized on Friday would greatly limit asylum seekers’ access to work permits.



Pandemic to sink Japan business mood to lowest since 2009 global financial crisis: Reuters poll By Reuters



© Reuters. The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Tokyo

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Business sentiment among Japan’s big manufacturers in the second quarter likely tanked to levels last seen during the 2009 global financial crisis as the coronavirus pandemic crushed global demand and paralysed factory output, a Reuters poll showed.

The Bank of Japan’s closely watched “tankan” survey is also likely to show big non-manufacturers’ mood sinking to more than a decade-low, underscoring the sweeping economic impact of the global health crisis.

Analysts polled by Reuters expect the BOJ tankan’s diffusion index for big manufacturers to have hit -31 in the three months to June, down sharply from -8 in the first quarter survey. That would be the worst level since September 2009, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers a year earlier triggered a deep global economic downturn.

Big non-manufacturers’ index likely worsened to -18 in the June quarter from +8 three months ago, the poll showed, as lockdown measures to contain the virus forced citizens to stay home and retailers to close. That would mark the weakest level since December 2009.

“Manufacturers were hit hard by slumping overseas demand and exports,” said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.

“Even harder hit were non-manufacturers. Sectors that were forced to close business due to state of emergency measures in April and May likely suffered devastating damage,” he said.

Both big manufacturers and non-manufacturers expect only modest improvements in business conditions three months ahead, the poll showed.

Big firms are likely to project a 2.1% increase in capital expenditure for the current fiscal year beginning in April, roughly unchanged from a 1.8% increase forecast in the March tankan, according to the Reuters poll.

Analysts are also closely watching how companies view job market conditions, as any evidence of excess labour capacity could signal rising job losses ahead.

The BOJ will release the tankan survey at 8:50 a.m. on July 1. (2350 GMT July 30).

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.



JPMorgan gets China’s nod for first fully foreign-owned futures business


HONG KONG (Reuters) – China on Thursday approved JPMorgan’s (JPM.N) application to operate the first fully foreign-owned futures business, as the world’s second-largest economy pushes ahead with opening its multi-trillion-dollar financial market.

FILE PHOTO: The JP Morgan sign is pictured at its Beijing office, in this picture taken December 13, 2010. Picture taken December 13, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

The latest regulatory approval for a U.S. financial services company coincides with tension between Beijing and Washington, increased by the COVID-19 pandemic and China’s move to impose security legislation on Hong Kong.

JPMorgan reportedly sought full control of its China futures joint venture last December as Beijing moved to scrap caps on foreign ownership. The futures industry in China is dominated by local players.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said in a statement posted on its website the approval would bring in more qualified foreign players.

JPMorgan had no immediate comment.

China’s central bank on Saturday gave the final nod to a network clearing licence for an American Express (AXP.N) joint venture, allowing it to be the first foreign credit card company to launch onshore operations in China.

The approval for JPMorgan to launch its futures business follows on from other licences the bank has received in the last six months to increase its shareholding in other financial services business in China.

Caps on the foreign ownership of futures companies were scrapped at the start of this year.

China is a “critical market” for clients globally, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said in December when the bank received approval to establish a majority-owned securities joint venture, offering brokerage, investment advisory and underwriting services.

In April, the biggest bank in the U.S. said it would raise its stake in a Chinese mutual fund venture to 100%.

Reporting by Noah Sin and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong, Lusha Zhang in Beijing and Andrew Galbraith in Shanghai; Editing by Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis



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