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Billionaire Musk sells more shares in whirlwind Tesla stock ride

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November 12, 2021

By Subrat Patnaik and Medha Singh

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc top boss Elon Musk sold another block of company shares worth about $700 million, filings showed on Friday, as the billionaire takes advantage of a meteoric rally that drove the electric carmaker’s value to over $1 trillion.

The second round of hefty stock sales this week comes just days after the world’s richest person and Tesla’s top shareholder tweeted that he would sell 10% of his shares if users of the social media platform approved the move.

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Musk disclosed the additional share sale, which was worth about $687 million, in regulatory filings after offloading about $5 billion in stock earlier in the week.

Musk’s trust sold 587,638 and 52,099 shares on Nov. 11 in multiple transactions, according to two separate filings on Friday.

In the first round of the sale, filings showed that Musk’s trust had offloaded nearly 3.6 million shares worth about $4 billion.

The stock sales, which marked the first time that Musk cashed out on a stake of that size since the electric carmaker was founded in 2003, were massive by capital market standards, bigger than the initial public offerings of most companies.

By getting Twitter users to green light the move, he has also skirted speculation of cashing out because Tesla’s valuation has become frothy after its shares hit record highs.

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INVESTORS EXHAUSTED

Tesla shares were down 1.5% at $1,050 in early trading and were headed for their first weekly decline in 12 weeks.

“Tesla investors are exhausted after the roller coaster ride they’ve been on. I don’t expect a big impact on the share price after what we’ve already been through,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior markets analyst at City Index in London.

So far this week, Tesla has lost $157 billion in stock market value, more than the combined market capitalizations of Ford Motor Co and General Motors Co.

Despite the week’s losses, Tesla is still the most valuable U.S. automaker. Its stock had soared in the past 11 weeks before the rout, underscoring demand for shares of electric vehicles (EV) makers.

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After the blockbuster market debut of Rivian Automotive Inc on Thursday, the two most valuable U.S. automakers are EV companies.

In a veiled jab at the Irvine, California-based rival, Musk tweeted on Thursday: “There have been hundreds of automotive startups, both electric & combustion, but Tesla is (the) only American carmaker to reach high volume production & positive cash flow in past 100 years.”

COVERING TAX OBLIGATIONS

Musk also sold another 934,000 shares for $1.1 billion in the first round of sale to cover tax obligations after exercising options to acquire nearly 2.2 million shares.

Nearly 800,000 options, or about 12% of Tesla’s open contract, are set to expire at the close of the session on Friday, potentially adding to short-term volatility as traders and options dealers make adjustments.

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Musk had previously said he would have to exercise a large number of stock options in the next three months, which would create a big tax bill. Selling some of his stock could free up funds to pay the taxes.

Prior to the sale, Musk owned a stake of about 23% in Tesla, including stock options.

(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik, Akash Sriram and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Anil D’Silva)

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Yen shines, Aussie sags as Powell turns hawk despite Omicron uncertainty

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December 1, 2021

By Kevin Buckland

(Reuters) – The safe-haven yen held steady on Wednesday, while the risk-sensitive Australian dollar languished near a one-year low after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signalled a faster taper of stimulus despite the risks around the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Investors fear that hasty monetary tightening could choke off the nascent economic recovery, with little still known about Omicron’s potential to evade current vaccine protection or how deadly it might be.

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“Investors are staying cautious,” said Shusuke Yamada, chief Japan FX strategist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

“It’s very difficult to make a judgement about the impact of Omicron when we don’t have a lot of information.”

Global markets fell sharply on Tuesday after the head of drugmaker Moderna said existing COVID-19 vaccines would be less effective against the new variant, although BioNTech’s chief executive struck a cautiously positive note, saying the vaccine it makes with Pfizer would likely offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

The Aussie weakened 0.12% to $0.71245 after dipping as low as $0.7063 of Tuesday for the first time since Nov. 3, 2020. The New Zealand dollar was largely flat at $0.68195 after also touching the lowest since early November of last year at $0.6773 in the previous session.

The greenback ticked 0.09% higher to 113.26 yen, but still within sight of an overnight low of 112.535, a level not seen since Oct. 11.

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Powell said in testimony to Congress on Tuesday that Fed officials will discuss at their Dec. 14-15 policy meeting whether to end bond purchases a few months earlier than had been anticipated. The Fed chief finally did an about face on a long-held contention that inflation would be “transitory.”

Powell expressed confidence that the impact from Omicron will be far less than in the spring of 2020, when the pandemic erupted.

In response, traders wound up interest rate hike expectations, with money markets now almost fully priced for tightening at the June meeting.

Powell’s testimony continues later Wednesday.

“Powell’s unexpectedly hawkish tone overnight, essentially asserting that inflation risk has primacy over growth/Omicron risks, should leave the (dollar index) forging ahead,” Westpac strategists wrote in a client note.

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The index, which measures the dollar against six major peers, traded at 95.921 after sliding to 95.544 on Tuesday for the first time since Nov. 18, weighed down largely by an unwinding of bearish bets on the euro, the most heavily weighted component in the basket.

Westpac recommends buying dips in the index down to the mid-95 level.

The single currency slipped 0.04% to $1.1331, down from a two-week high of $1.1387 overnight.

Sterling traded not far from an 11-month low of $1.31945 reached overnight, last changing hands at $1.32955.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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OPEC+ begins two days of talks amid oil rout

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December 1, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – OPEC and its allies begin two days of meetings on Wednesday to decide whether to release more oil into the market or restrain supply amid an oil price rout and fears the Omicron coronavirus variant could weaken global energy demand.

Oil prices fell to near $70 a barrel on Tuesday from as high as $86 in October, posting their biggest monthly decline since the outset of the pandemic, as the new variant raised fears of a supply glut.

For November, Brent fell by 16.4%, while WTI fell 20.8%, the biggest monthly fall since March 2020.

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“The threat to oil demand is genuine,” said Louise Dickson, senior oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy. “Another wave of lockdowns could result in up to 3 million bpd (barrels per day) of oil demand lost in the first quarter of 2022.”

Also pressuring prices, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the U.S. central bank likely will discuss speeding its reduction of bond purchases amid a strong economy and expectations that a surge in inflation will persist.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will meet on Wednesday after 1300 GMT, followed by a meeting on Thursday of OPEC+, which groups OPEC with allies including Russia.

Several OPEC+ ministers, including from Russia and Saudi Arabia, have said there was no need for a knee-jerk reaction from the group.

But some analysts have suggested OPEC+ might put plans to add 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to supply in January on hold.

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The group was already weighing the effects of last week’s announcement by the United States and other countries to release emergency crude reserves to temper energy prices.

OPEC+ has been gradually winding down record supply cuts of 10 million bpd implemented last year and currently has some 3.8 million bpd of reductions still in place.

The increase in OPEC’s oil output in November has again undershot the rise planned under a deal with allies, a Reuters survey found.

(Reporting by OPEC team, writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov, editing by Richard Pullin)

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New York accuses Amazon of backsliding over worker safety, seeks monitor

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December 1, 2021

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York state’s attorney general on Tuesday asked a state judge to appoint a monitor to oversee worker safety at an Amazon.com Inc fulfillment center in New York City, citing the retailer’s alleged rollbacks of COVID-19 safety measures that were “already inadequate.”

Letitia James, the attorney general, also wants a court order requiring the rehiring of Christian Smalls, who Amazon fired for allegedly violating a paid quarantine by leading a March 2020 protest over conditions at the Staten Island facility.

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James, a Democrat running to become New York governor, sued https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-complaint/new-york-attorney-general-sues-amazon-over-covid-19-shortfalls-idUSKBN2AH0C2 Amazon in February in a New York state court in Manhattan over its safety protocols for thousands of workers at the Staten Island facility and a distribution center in the New York City borough of Queens.

She said Amazon is valuing profit over safety and “acting as if the pandemic is over” by rolling back safety protocols even as the Omicron variant https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/omicron-variant-could-outcompete-delta-south-african-disease-expert-says-2021-11-30 of the COVID-19 virus threatens to increase transmission rates.

The alleged rollbacks include making the Staten Island facility “mask-optional” for vaccinated workers while not requiring masks for unvaccinated workers, and failing to enforce social distancing.

In her motion for a preliminary injunction, James said the proposed monitor would oversee upgraded cleaning, hygiene and social distancing procedures.

“While case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths rise, Amazon rescinds protections and packs in more workers for its holiday rush,” James said in her motion. “Amazon’s ongoing – and worsening – failure to protect workers must be halted.”

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Amazon said in a statement it has taken a “comprehensive approach” to COVID-19 safety.

“It’s disappointing that the Attorney General is seeking to politicize the pandemic by asking for ’emergency’ relief now despite having filed this lawsuit nine months ago,” Amazon said.

The Seattle-based company is appealing a judge’s refusal in October to dismiss James’ lawsuit.

Amazon on Nov. 15 reached a separate settlement with California https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/amazon-settles-california-claims-it-concealed-covid-19-cases-workers-2021-11-15 over claims it violated a state “right-to-know” law by concealing from warehouse workers and local health agencies the numbers of workers being infected with COVID-19.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Stephen Coates)

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