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. is taking one of its biggest steps yet away from brick-and-mortar stores and into the digital world. The world's biggest retailer is closing 63 of its Sam's Club sites around the U.S. over the next few weeks, the WSJ's Sarah Nassauer reports, and will covert about a dozen of the facilities into e-commerce fulfillment centers. The store closings, including what may total thousands of layoffs, come as Wal-Mart is raising its starting pay for U.S. workers and distributing one-time bonuses. The retailer is facing growing competition for low-wage workers in a tight labor market and likely expecting a windfall from the new tax law that will add billions to retailer profits. The moves at Sam's Club are part of a bigger shift in the company's underlying business. Wal-Mart's overall online sales rose 50% in its most recent quarter, and the company's big focus is getting more of those goods delivered to customers cheaper and faster.

Demand for electric vehicles in China is growing, but not as fast as supply. Sales of electric passenger cars rose 72% to 578,000, a new sign of a big shift underway in the world's biggest automobile market. Overall auto sales in China rose just 1.4% in 2017, the slowest pace in at least 15 years, the WSJ's Trefor Moss reports. The end to the car-buying boom in China is part of a slowdown in the car industry world-wide over the past year that has defied the broader global economic resurgence. U.S. car sales slipped last year for the first time since the recession, and one forecaster expects North American output to decline 2.3% this quarter. The rapid growth in China's electric-car sales suggests a new chapter in the business is opening. But figures from car makers suggest production is growing far faster than consumer demand: Even with the strong sales growth, China produced 170,000 more EVs than it sold last year.

Qualcomm Inc. is getting closer to taking over a bigger piece of the growing field of providing the brains an increasingly automated world. The semiconductor maker is set to clinch as soon as next week conditional European Union antitrust approval for its $39 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors NV. The WSJ's Natalia Drozdiak writes the deal would make Qualcomm one of the top suppliers of chips used in cars, adding more heat to the competition over technology being used to build automobiles with greater computer power and autonomous capabilities. The U.S. already has cleared the deal, and approval in Europe would pave the way for clearance in China and South Korea. Qualcomm has sought to soothe various European Commission antitrust concerns. Still, it's unclear whether regulators still worry the pact would diminish competition in the auto sector and that the merged business would look to exclude rival suppliers from the market.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is joining the push toward more automotive production in the U.S. The company will invest $1 billion to move production of profitable pickup trucks from Mexico to Michigan, the WSJ's Chester Dawson and John D. Stoll report, a move that will lower the auto maker's exposure to potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The plan calls for shifting production of Ram Heavy Duty trucks from Saltillo, Mexico, to a factory in Warren, Mich., adding some 2,500 jobs there. The company says it will eventually build a vehicle "for global distribution" in Saltillo. Auto makers have been revamping production plans since President Donald Trump's election, and foreign auto makers have been expanding factories or building new ones at a faster clip than Detroit's Big 3. These foreign car companies are now poised to surpass domestic ones in U.S. production in coming years.

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IN OTHER NEWS

U.S. producer prices fell in December for the first time in more than a year. (WSJ)

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits rose to a three-month high. (WSJ)

China's chronically high trade surplus with the U.S. hit a record level in 2017. (WSJ)

Germany's economy grew at the fastest annual pace in six years in 2017. (WSJ)

Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. were offered at least $700 million in incentives to steer a $1.6 billion factory to Alabama. (WSJ)

Delta Air Lines Inc.'s cargo revenue jumped 14.4% in the fourth quarter as overall profit dipped 8%. (WSJ)

Union Pacific Corp. estimates that changes in U.S. tax law will provide a roughly $6 billion boost to the railroad's 2017 earnings. (Associated Press)

Boeing Co. released a prototype of a delivery drone that can carry up to 500 pounds up to 18 miles. (Air Cargo World)

Carrier Corp. is laying off another 215 workers at its Indiana heating and air conditioning factory. (Indianapolis Star)

Apple Inc. suppliers fueled record combined revenues for Taiwan's technology companies in 2017. (Nikkei Asian Review)

YRC Worldwide Inc. will pay Teamsters drivers $1 million for diverting too much freight to rails and brokers in the wake of last year's hurricanes. (Journal of Commerce)

Furniture giant Ikea signed a lease for a 975,000-square-foot distribution center on New York's Staten Island. (SILive)

"Call of Duty" video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc.is shutting its U.S. distribution center as more gamers download games online. (MarketWatch)

Japan plans to cull thousands of chickens after detecting an outbreak of bird flu, (South China Morning Post)

McDonald's will eliminate foam cups and foam packaging throughout its network by the end of this year. (Chicago Tribune)

Loaded container imports into the Port of Virginia rose 8.3% in December. (Virginian-Pilot)

Consultants told Oregon's Port of Portland it is unlikely to regain significant container shipping service. (Maritime Executive)

Belgium Post Group took control of Dutch food logistics operator Leen Menken, a delivery arm of HelloFresh. (Nieuwsblad)

British online grocer Ocado is testing a robot that would help maintain automation equipment in its warehouses. (The Guardian)

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

January 12, 2018 06:59 ET (11:59 GMT)