Today's Top Supply Chain and Logistics News From WSJ

By Paul Page Features Dow Jones Newswires

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. thinks it's in position to gain ground against Amazon.com Inc. The world's biggest retailer posted its strongest quarterly U.S. sales growth in nearly a decade, picking up momentum for a strategy aimed at finding customers in both its brick-and-mortar stores and online. The WSJ's Sarah Nassauer reports that e-commerce sales at Wal-Mart, which has made a series of acquisitions in online retail, jumped 50% and are on track to reach $17.5 billion this year. That's still a fraction of overall revenue, and analysts say Amazon's sales are 10 times greater than Wal-Mart's online business. But with Wal-Mart's digital business growing and Amazon moving more deeply into physical stores, the companies increasingly look like they are competing on similar ground. Wal-Mart is still trying to maintain its profit margins as it builds up logistics for online fulfillment, a question that may grow more important at Amazon as it seeks to blend distribution operations for online and store operations.

Talks on redrawing North America's trade map are resuming under a cloud of pessimism. Working-level teams for the U.S., Canada and Mexico are convening in Mexico City starting today, but the WSJ's William Mauldin, Dudley Althaus and Paul Vieira report that top trade officials are staying home, highlighting the difficult state of the North American Free Trade Agreement talks. Mexico and Canada are still digesting contentious U.S. proposals like stricter rules for the proportion of a vehicle's components that must originate in North America and in the U.S. to avoid tariffs. Freight transport concerns also are reaching the table, with the U.S. looking to pull back a Nafta provision that allows Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S. The American Trucking Associations has asked the Trump administration to maintain the program, but the Teamsters union opposes it. The countries have said they want to complete talks by March, but delays deeper into next year could make an agreement less likely.

Tesla Inc.'s new heavy-duty electric truck is supposed to go 500 miles on a single charge, assuming the vehicle can get traction in the trucking world. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk revealed the company's first all-electric truck along with a new $200,000 super car late Thursday, the WSJ's Tim Higgins reports, in his latest attempt to stir excitement for his vision to upend transportation. The Semi, due out in 2019, will join a highly ambitious automotive supply chain that has stumbled in its bid to ramp up mass-market production. The truck has sleek, bullet train-like cab designed for wind resistance and is equipped with Tesla's semiautonomous driving system to assist drivers and that will allow the trucks to travel autonomously in convoys with the company's other big rigs. Without giving the sticker price, Mr. Musk says the semi would be cheaper to operate than a diesel truck and possibly -- using the autonomous technology -- even less expensive than rail.

MANUFACTURING

The sweeping changes in the business of generating power are triggering an upheavalin the industrial sector. German electrical engineering giant Siemens AG is the latest behemoth in the business to respond to the upheaval by looking for ways to get smaller, the WSJ's Zeke Turner and William Boston, moving to cut its global workforce by 2% while tackling overcapacity in core units that provide gigantic turbines, industrial motors and other heavy equipment. The actions follow General Electric Co.'s moves this week toward a sweeping restructuring ahead of what the company calls a "reset year." The companies have been caught off-guard by a rapid shift by governments and companies away from large, fossil fuel-powered plants to renewables. Siemens says demand for its biggest turbines has fallen dramatically and orders for large electrical motors for industries from mining to steel and shipbuilding are also tumbling. The declines are so big they suggest the industrial sector overall is being reset.

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Emerson Electric Co. is driving to consolidate the world of industrial automation. The company is ratcheting up efforts to take over Rockwell Automation Inc., the WSJ's Dana Cimilluca, Andrew Tangel and Bob Tita write, sweetening its buyout offer and raising the pressure on its rival to come to the negotiating table. Emerson is pushing ahead on the idea that it can get cost savings and better openings in the factory sector by creating a new powerhouse in the production of equipment and software used to control automated manufacturing processes. Analysts estimate that market is worth some $200 billion as companies increasingly look to simplify factory-control processes and for an offering that integrates equipment and software. Automation systems broadly have been a sweet spot for industrial investment as customers look for more efficiency from existing plants and as manufacturing becomes more automated and digital.

QUOTABLE

IN OTHER NEWS

The U.S. House passed a bill that would sharply lower the corporate tax rate and transform the U.S. system for taxing multinational corporations. (WSJ)

U.S. manufacturing output jumped 1.3% in October, in a strong post-hurricane recovery. (WSJ)

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits rose for the second straight week. (WSJ)

Canadian manufacturing shipments unexpectedly rose in September despite a steep decline in auto business. (WSJ)

South Korea's won reached its strongest level against the dollar since September 2016. (WSJ)

Best Buy Co. is stepping up discounting and shipping offers after weak sales growth left the retailer with more inventory than expected. (WSJ)

Calvin Klein is bypassing department stores and selling new underwear only on Amazon.com Inc. this holiday season. (WSJ)

Volkswagen AG and its Chinese partners will invest nearly $12 billion by 2025 developing electric cars for the local market. (WSJ)

Amtrak recorded its lowest operating loss in decades this year on rising ridership and revenues. (WSJ)

A retail industry group says Bangladesh factories have made strong progress in improving safety standards for workers. (Sourcing Journal)

Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co is buying Cardinal Health Inc's China drug distribution business. (Reuters)

Canadian grocer Loblaws is closing 22 stores and launching an internet-based home-delivery service. (CBC)

Tight aviation capacity is pushing freight forwarders to charter aircraft for peak-season shipping. (Air Cargo News)

Chinese regulators said several state-owned port authorities must rein back what they called anti-competitive practices that raise shipping costs. (Lloyd's List)

Florida's Port of Jacksonville is building a terminal for handling automobiles. (American Shipper)

Embattled Hong Kong commodities trader Noble Group is stepping up talks with lenders in a bid to avoid restructuring. (Splash 24/7)

Hong Kong authorities are weighing plans to place condominiums on podiums above the port's busiest container terminal. (South China Morning Post)

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 17, 2017 06:53 ET (11:53 GMT)