Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 26, 2017

The Trump administration proposes dropping some offshore drilling rules, holiday sales rise, and more

1

Trump administration proposes scrapping post-spill offshore drilling rules

The Trump administration is proposing rolling back Obama-era offshore-drilling safety rules imposed after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, says the plan would save the oil industry more than $900 million over the next decade. The changes reportedly include easing rules that require oil production facilities to stream real-time data onshore, where regulators can currently access it, and scrapping a rule that only BSEE-certified inspectors monitor critical equipment like the blowout preventer that malfunctioned in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 people and triggered the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

2

Holiday sales rise at best pace in 6 years

Holiday retail sales rose at their best pace since 2011, thanks to strong consumer confidence and a healthy job market, Mastercard SpendingPulse reported. "It started with a bang in the week leading up to Black Friday," said Sarah Quinlan, a senior vice president of marketing insights at Mastercard, which tracks spending online and in stores. Retailers got help from the calendar, with shoppers getting a full weekend for last-minute buys because Christmas fell on a Monday. Sales, excluding automobiles, rose by 4.9 percent over the Nov. 1 to Christmas Eve season, up from a 3.7 percent gain last year. Online sales continued to be the driving force, increasing by 18.1 percent.

3

Bitcoin regains some ground lost in last week's sell-off

Bitcoin partially recovered Tuesday from last week's sell-off. The cryptocurrency rose by 10 percent to roughly $15,000 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. It is now up by more than a third from last week's lows near $11,000 after a nearly 30 percent Friday plunge. The digital currency had risen from under $1,000 at the start of 2017 to nearly $20,000 on Bitstamp, and even higher on other exchanges. The big gains have fueled enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies, but also stoked fears of a looming crash. "Taking profit is right, while buying into a long term projection is also right," said Andrei Popescu, Singapore-based co-founder of digital economy platform COSS. "You don’t have to be right in this market, just less wrong than the rest."

4

Stocks mixed at the start of post-Christmas trading

Asian shares were mixed on Tuesday, after a light day of global trading on Monday with markets in the U.S. and many other nations closed for Christmas. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index edged down after closing at a 26-year high in the previous session. South Korea's Kospi lost early gains to close down by 0.5 percent, dragged down by Samsung Electronics, which lost 3 percent, and other struggling blue chips. China stocks shook off early weakness to close with gains. U.S. stock futures were mostly flat early Tuesday. Oil prices hovered near a two-and-a-half-year high, boosted by an ongoing pipeline outage in the North Sea.

5

Apple suppliers hit by report of looming iPhone X sales drop

Shares in several Apple suppliers in Asia dropped on Tuesday for the second straight day on fears of low iPhone X demand in the first quarter. The doubts were fueled by a report from Taiwan's Economic Daily that Apple could slash its sales forecast for the iPhone X in the quarter to 30 million units, down from an expected 50 million. Some analysts shrugged off the concerns. "Our work continues to suggest the March and June quarters will have a significant amount of iPhone X make-up shipments," Chicago-based Loop Capital said in a note last week, forecasting shipments of 40 to 45 million units in the first quarter of 2018. An Apple spokeswoman said the company would not comment on market rumors.

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