Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

By Paul Page Features Dow Jones Newswires

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Elon Musk is promising to transform the trucking industry but it's unclear whether truckers will go along for the ride. The billionaire entrepreneur and chief executive of Tesla Inc. is planning to unveil his long-awaited and much-hyped electric heavy-duty truck today, the WSJ's Tim Higgins and Bob Tita report, delivering a Silicon Valley jolt to the freight world and a fresh challenge for his company as it struggles to ramp up production of its mass-market electric sedan. The truck is Tesla's bold idea to extend its transportation electrification plans by replacing diesel-powered trucks with vehicles that would run cheaper and cleaner. But electric trucks are traveling uphill to replace long-haul diesel trucks. Cargo operators now are ramping up use of electric vehicles in short-range operations, like parcel delivery. And longtime industry manufacturers like Cummins Inc. and Daimler AG are working on their own electric prototypes aimed at solving the critical problem: getting greater range so far means hauling a battery that can weigh as much as a freight load.

Target Corp. is caught in a retail paradox: The company is getting the strong growth it needs in online sales, but higher costs are eating into profits. Target's profit fell 21% to $480 million in the quarter ending Oct. 28, the WSJ's Khadeeja Safdar reports, despite a 0.9% increase in comparable-store sales that included a big 24% gain in sales over the web. Getting those goods to customers remains a costly proposition, however, as Target is "rapidly testing and rolling out new fulfillment options," said Chief Executive Brian Cornell. That includes same-day in New York City, although the bigger effort is aimed at aligning its retail outlets for what it calls ship-from-store capability. Mr. Cornell says it has 1,400 stores set up for such operations, which bring complications for managing inventory and getting store workers attending to both customers walking the aisles and a kind of scaled-down fulfillment center.

Zombies are stalking European business, and they're eating away the financial health of supply chains. From retailers to shipping finance groups, hundreds of chronically unprofitable and debt-laden companies across Europe are being kept afloat with new infusions from lenders and shareholders. The WSJ's Eric Sylvers and Tom Fairless write that about 10% of businesses in six eurozone countries are what's known as zombie companies, and that there's growing concern they're undercutting prices, maintaining artificial barriers to entry and preventing weak operators from being flushed out. It's a pressing worry in shipping, where analyst Basil Karatzas says some deeply troubled ship-owning groups are getting financing at 2% interest rates as they keep business afloat and vessels sailing in an oversupplied market. In Germany, Moody's says the five biggest ship lenders had about $26 billion of distressed ship-related loans at the end of 2016. Yet there have been few bankruptcies by German shipping firms.

E-COMMERCE

Debates over the taxation of e-commerce companies are rising up in South America. The head of one of Latin America's top online retail giants says he may consider moving out of Argentina over a hefty new tax bill, the WSJ's Taos Turner reports, spotlighting questions over state support for internet commerce through tax codes. Argentina's tax authority is considering charging MercadoLibre Inc. some $28 million in tax benefits the company obtained through a law aimed at benefiting software companies. The question is whether MercadoLibre -- which allows users to buy and sell goods and services through its website -- should be treated as a software company or as an internet marketplace, similar to eBay. There's more at stake for Argentina than the tax bill. The country's capital is a hotbed of technology investment in the region, and the government wants to encourage more startups and tech investment. A high-profile tax dispute would make Buenos Aires a tough sell on international online marketplace.

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IN OTHER NEWS

U.S. retail spending increased 0.2% in October after a strong September push by consumers. (WSJ)

A soft trend for U.S. inflation persisted in October, with consumer prices excluding food and energy rising 1.8% from a year ago. (WSJ)

Japan's economy grew at a 1.4% pace in the third quarter, marking its longest growth streak in 16 years. (WSJ)

Germany's economy grew 0.8% from the second quarter to the third quarter. (WSJ)

Airbus SE and Boeing Co. landed aircraft deals at the Dubai Airshow with a headline value of more than $75 billion. (WSJ)

Hyundai Motor Co. plans to sell a diesel-powered sport utility vehicle by 2020. (WSJ)

Executives at Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc are concerned that border checks after Brexit will disrupt their global supply chain. (The Independent)

Amazon.com Inc. says it will use pharmacy licenses it recently acquired to sell medical supplies, not prescription drugs. (CNBC)

U.S. seaborne import shipments rose 3.2% in October from a year ago, according to Panjiva, (Logistics Management)

Loaded container imports into the Port of Los Angeles fell 8.1% year-over-year in October and exports declined 13.3%. (American Shipper)

Warehouse leasing prices in California's Inland Empire were up 15% in the third quarter over the same period a year ago. (Press-Enterprise)

Prologis Inc. will build a 540,000-square-foot distribution center in Elizabeth, N.J., near the Port of Newark. (NJBiz)

Best Buy Co. Inc. will place a 550,000-square-foot regional distribution center in Missouri City, Texas. (Fort Bend Star)

Maersk Line's chief climate-change adviser says ocean carriers should be required to step up emissions-reduction efforts. (Splash 24/7)

IHS Markit says the global container shipping fleet is set to grow in 2018 faster than expected demand and scrapping. (Journal of Commerce)

Germany's Hapag-Lloyd AG says it won't join rival container lines in ordering new and bigger vessels. (Lloyd's List)

Bulk liquid helium prices are jumping on higher production and distribution costs. (Industrial Distribution)

Iron ore shipments on the St. Lawrence Seaway are up 44% from a year ago so far in 2017. (Port Huron Times Herald)

U.S. national average diesel prices reached their highest level since January 2015. (DC Velocity)

Missouri logging companies are having a hard time finding truck drivers because the drivers are being paid more in hurricane relief areas. (KOLR)

Freight forwarder KTZ Express launched rail service between Finland and China. (Railway Gazette)

ABOUT US

Paul Page is deputy editor of WSJ Logistics Report. Follow him at @PaulPage, and follow the entire WSJ Logistics Report team: @brianjbaskin , @jensmithWSJ and @EEPhillips_WSJ. Follow the WSJ Logistics Report on Twitter at @WSJLogistics.

Write to Paul Page at paul.page@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 16, 2017 06:39 ET (11:39 GMT)