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Asia stocks reach five-week high, yuan makes big weekly gains

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks inched up to five-week highs on Friday, after Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the Federal Reserve will be patient about raising interest rates and news that trade talks between Washington and Beijing are moving to higher levels.

FILE PHOTO: Attendees take pictures of a stock quotation board after a ceremony marking the end of trading in 2018 at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Tokyo, Japan December 28, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

As the Fed’s dovish stance kept a lid on the dollar, China’s yuan rose to its highest levels in more than five months and was on course for its biggest weekly gains since the 2005 revaluation in onshore trade.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gained 0.2 percent to the highest levels since Dec. 6, while Japan’s benchmark Nikkei .N225 advanced 0.7 percent. Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC initially rose 0.8 percent, but that was pared to just 0.1 percent.

Wall Street extended its rally into a fifth straight day on Thursday in a whipsaw trading session as investors responded to mixed comments by Powell, while a warning from Macy’s (M.N) pummeled retail stocks. [.N]

At the Economic Club of Washington, Powell reiterated the views of other policymakers that the Fed would be patient about interest rate hikes.

Major U.S. stock indexes also quickly recovered from brief losses after Powell said that the Fed’s balance sheet would be “substantially smaller”.

“The word ‘patient’ is used often when the Fed’s policy direction is still tightening but its next rate hike can wait for a considerable time. So risk assets now enjoy support from what we can call Powell put,” said Tomoaki Shishido, economist at Nomura Securities.

“Similarly, Trump also softened his stance on China after sharp falls in stock prices. He has offered an olive branch to China and there’s no reason China would not want to accept it,” he said.

U.S. and Chinese officials are working on arrangements for higher-level trade talks after mid-level officials this week discussed U.S. demands that would require structural change in China to address issues such as IP theft, forced technology transfers and other non-tariff barriers.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said late on Thursday that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will “most likely” visit Washington later in January for trade talks.

“For markets the upshot is that the outlook for 2019 is looking better as tensions de-escalate, creating the potential for a re-rating of risk assets as the tail risk of a near-term trade war is partially priced out,” said Jeremy Lawson, chief economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments in Edinburgh.

“This is especially the case in Asia,” he added.

Still, fundamental tensions between the U.S. and China “are unlikely to go away and there is a high likelihood that any agreement to suspend tariffs eventually breaks down when it becomes clear that Trump’s objectives cannot really be met.”

Some investors are also increasingly wary of lingering disputes in Washington over a wall Trump wants on the U.S.-Mexico border, which has led to a weeks-long partial government shutdown.

Flanked by border agents who are going without paychecks during the shutdown, Trump again threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to bypass Congress to fund a wall.

In the foreign exchange markets, the dollar was broadly soft after a small rebound from three-month lows the previous day.

The dollar index .DXY, measuring it against major peers, dipped 0.1 percent to 95.38.

The euro firmed 0.2 percent to $1.1523 EUR=, while the dollar dipped 0.1 percent to 108.28 yen JPY=.

The yuan, both onshore CNY=CFXS and offshore CNH=EBS, climbed to the highest levels since late July, aided by a weaker dollar and rising hopes of progress in the U.S.-China talks.

In onshore trade, the Chinese currency has risen 1.6 percent this week, the biggest gain since July 2005 when Beijing abandoned the yuan’s peg to the dollar.

U.S. Treasury debt prices erased early gains after a soft 30-year bond auction and in reaction to Powell’s comments on the Fed “substantially” reducing the size of its balance sheet.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield last stood at 2.728 percent US10YT=RR.

Crude prices held near one-month highs, but a more than week-long in oil rally slowed as optimism surrounding U.S.-China trade talks faded a little. [O/R]

In Asian trade, West Texas Intermediate crude futures CLc1 slipped 0.6 percent to $52.30 per barrel.

Reporting by Tomo Uetake & Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Richard Borsuk

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Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics to commercialize Canada’s first automated heavy duty trucks

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Canadian Tire Corporation and Toronto based start-up NuPort Robotics, Canada’s first autonomous trucking company, are partnering with the Ontario government to invest $3 million to undertake an automated heavy duty trucking project to test a “first-of-its-kind-in-the-world” technology. 

The breakthrough technology provides a transportation solution for the middle mile, the short-haul shuttle runs that semi-tractor trailers make between distribution centres, warehouses and terminals each day.

It is designed to enable next-generation automated trucks that are more fuel efficient, safer to operate, and provide an enhanced driver experience.

Backed by $1 million in support from the Ontario government through Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network and matched by $1 million investments from Canadian Tire and NuPort Robotics, respectively, the two-year project is applying proprietary, artificial intelligence technology from NuPort Robotics to retrofit two conventional semi-tractor trailers – which will always be attended by a driver – with high-tech sensors and controls, a touchscreen navigation system, and other advanced features such as obstacle and collision avoidance.

Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, says: “Ontario is proud to be a global leader in automated and connected vehicle technology and this innovative project is an exciting milestone toward automated vehicle tech in the trucking industry.

“Ontarians rely on goods being delivered by trucks across the province every day and projects like this are demonstrating the ways that automated truck technology could help businesses meet delivery demands more efficiently while supporting a strong supply chain in Ontario.”

Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, says: “This project applies unique and made-in-Ontario Artificial Intelligence technology that offers increased safety and efficiency, with a reduced carbon footprint, to the goods supply chains on which we all rely.

“This is the latest example of how Ontario’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network acts as a catalyst, fostering partnerships between ambitious technology start-ups and industry to develop and commercialize next generation transportation technologies that strengthen our economy and benefit society.”

Raghavender Sahdev, CEO of NuPort Robotics, says: “The trucks are currently transporting goods between a Canadian Tire distribution centre in the Greater Toronto Area and nearby rail terminals within a 12.5 mile radius, and early results are promising.

“The aim of the project is to develop a system that incorporates an autopilot feature for conventional trucks with a driver, leading to the most efficient way to drive and increase safety.

“The sensors work as a ‘safety cocoon’ to cover blind spots and prevent accidents and the end result is peak fuel efficiency, meaning lower carbon emissions, and peak driving performance for an overall more optimal transportation experience.”

NuPort Robotic’s approach to autonomous trucking is unique in the industry because it focuses only on solving the middle mile challenge, using a known set of predetermined trucking routes that are repetitive and high frequency as opposed to general highway driving.

Ultimately, when implemented on fixed routes in the future, Canadian Tire will benefit from faster commercial deployments and improvements in supply chain sustainability.

Gary Fast, vice-president of transportation, Canadian Tire, says: “Canadian Tire embraces innovation and is always testing new technologies to improve our operational efficiency and safety.

“As proud Canadian companies, the safety of all stakeholders, including drivers, employees, customers, and public will be the top priority as we work together towards deployment of this technology.”

Cari Covent, vice president of intelligent automation, Canadian Tire, says: “Over the last three years, Canadian Tire has made a significant effort to solve complex business problems by using the Canadian start-up Artificial Intelligence ecosystem, and NuPort Robotics exemplifies what we look for in a start-up with a focus on innovation, automation and artificial intelligence.”

Sahdev says: “As NuPort Robotics continues to develop new technologies to overcome middle mile supply chain problems and advance autonomous trucking, I am extremely grateful for the support of the Ontario Government through AVIN and the Ontario Centre of Innovation.

“With their continued support, we are striving to position Canada as the leader in autonomous transportation.”

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Constellation Software is money in the bank, this fund manager says

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If you’re looking for a long-term hold in Canadian tech then Constellation Software (Constellation Software Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:CSU) should definitely be on your radar. So says Jason Del Vicario of Hillside Wealth Management who likes not only Constellation but its recent spin-off Topicus (Topicus Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:TOI) which Del Vicario says could do even better than CSU over the next ten years.

Software consolidator Constellation has been running on the same game plan for years, buying small vertical market software companies providing so-called mission critical software solutions globally. Over the years CSU has completed over 500 such acquisitions, buying the top names in their respective niche verticals and then using its clout and breadth to grow the business and expand into new markets. The resulting cash flow is then plowed back into more acquisitions and the cycle repeats.

The strategy has worked wonders for Constellation, which has grown its revenue from $631 million in 2010 to almost $4 billion for 2020 while taking earnings from $4.12 per share in 2010 to $20.59 per share this past year.

Shareholders were given a special treat last month when Constellation spun out recently acquired Topicus, giving CSU owners about 1.9 Topicus shares for every Constellation share as a dividend-in-kind. Constellation bought Netherlands-based software company Total Specific Solutions BV (or TSS) in 2013 and that subsidiary recently acquired Topicus BV, a Dutch information service company focusing on sectors such as healthcare, education and finance.

Topicus was singled out by Constellation founder Mark Leonard for its ability to grow without using outside shareholder funding. Leonard said the spin-out was part of the intention since a purchase agreement was struck last year.

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Nuvei wins price target raise from National Bank

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Strong quarterly results and an even brighter outlook for 2021 are reasons to celebrate for Canadian payments company Nuvei (Nuvei Stock Quote, Chart, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:NVEI), according to National Bank Financial analyst Richard Tse. In an update to clients on Wednesday, Tse left his rating unchanged at “Outperform” while raising his price target from C$85.00 to C$100.00.

Montreal-headquartered Nuvei is a provider of payment technology solutions to merchants and partners around the world, with a platform geared for high-growth mobile commerce and e-commerce markets. Nuvei’s solutions include a fully integrated payments engine with global processing capabilities, a turnkey checkout solution and a suite of data-driven business intelligence and risk management tools and services.

The company released its fourth quarter and full year 2020 financials on Wednesday, showing Q4 revenue of $115.9 million, up 46 per cent year-over-year, and adjusted EBITDA of $51.3 million, up 61 per cent year-over-year. Total dollar value of transactions processed by merchants (‘total volume’) with Nuvei rose by 53 per cent to $13.9 billion. (All figures in US dollars except where noted otherwise.)

The 2020 year featured revenue up 53 per cent to $375.0 million and adjusted EBITDA up 87 per cent to $163.0 million, with total volume rising a full 76 per cent year-over-year to $43.2 billion.

“Our performance continues to be driven by strong momentum in the high-growth verticals we serve, as well as by our customizable, scalable and feature-rich technology platform which provides one of the industry’s most complete payment technology solutions going well beyond merchant acquiring,” said Philip Fayer, chairman and CEO, in a press release.

The company said the fourth quarter represented the strongest growth yet experienced by Nuvei, driven by wallet share expansion from current merchants along with accelerated uptake of new merchants. New e-commerce business almost tripled compared to a year earlier, Nuvei said, while the company expanded its connectivity coverage over the quarter, introduced new product innovations on its platform and continued to execute on M&A.

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