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CEO Daily: Monday 7th November

November 7, 2016, 11:48 AM UTC

Good morning.

Betting sites now put Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the U.S. election at more than 80 percent, although there are enough people willing to take the other side of that bet that wagering is at record highs. The U.K.-based internet betting exchange Betfair said the presidential race was set to become the most traded ever, surpassing bets on Brexit.

Meanwhile stock markets around the world are rallying on news that the FBI reaffirmed its earlier recommendation that no criminal charges are warranted against Clinton – ending an unusual 9-day losing streak. Asian stocks, excluding Japan, rose just under 1 percent; European stocks were up more than 1 percent; and futures were pointing to a rise of 1.3 percent at the open in the U.S.

The biggest winner of the day was the Mexican peso, which has acted as a bellwether of sentiment on Trump’s election chances. It rose around 2 percent.

For those who still haven’t decided how to vote, Fortune has published a pair of closing arguments on the unprecedented Trump campaign — one from hedge fund operator Anthony Scaramucci who argues Trump is the best hope for getting America back on track, and the other from financial journalist Roger Lowenstein, who warns Americans not to let Trump make them his next patsy.

More news below.

Alan Murray

Top News

Toyota Firms up Electric Vehicles Plan

Reports of a major change in strategy at the world’s biggest automaker are getting more and more concrete. Japanese business daily Nikkei said Monday Toyota wants to launch an all-electric vehicle with a range of over 300 kilometers (186 miles) on the Japanese market by 2020. Toyota has bet heavily that hydrogen fuel cell technology would be better suited to medium and long-range driving, but the rapid improvement in battery technology, and the problems in rolling out the infrastructure for fuel cell-powered vehicles, appears to have forced Toyota into a change of heart. In related news on Friday, GM officials had said the company will ramp up production of Chevrolet Bolt EVs, tailoring them to appeal to drivers for ride-hailing companies. Fortune

German Prosecutors’ Probe Reaches the Top of VW

Transitioning to an electric future is supposed to be one of Volkswagen’s top priorities, but the company is struggling to work out what to do with all the heavily-protected labor at its engine plants that it would no longer need. In the meantime, though, VW is facing fresh heat from the diesel emissions scandal. German state prosecutors have extended their investigations to board chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch to see what, if any, role he played as Chief Financial Officer in withholding news of the diesel problem from investors. VW’s shareholders knew that Poetsch was a risky choice to oversee the company and its clean-up efforts last year. They may yet have cause to regret it. And in another unwelcome development, the German newspaper Bild reported that VW unit Audi may have used previously unknown software to engineer artificially low readings of CO2 emissions and thus qualify for more favorable tax treatment in the EU. Reuters


J&J Looks for a Kinder Court

Johnson & Johnson is looking for a more sympathetic judge to hear its defense against women suing for damages related to side-effects of the company’s talc. J&J is on a losing streak in the state court of St. Louis, Missouri, which has handed down three rulings against it with combined awards of $195 million to plaintiffs. The plaintiffs claim studies show J&J's Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products, when used in the vaginal area, increase the risk of ovarian cancer. The company counters that larger, more comprehensive studies show no such link. It also contends that the plaintiffs had tainted the jury pool by concentrating much of its $10 million spending on TV ads in St. Louis. Reuters

A Politer Kind of Trade War

The Commerce Department is expected to launch a formal investigation Monday into suspected steel dumping by China. The news is the latest reaction against the glut of steel in world markets caused by China redirecting excess capacity abroad. Lawyers for four domestic steel companies allege Chinese competitors were trans-shipping steel through Vietnam in order to get around preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of between 64%-77% imposed by the U.S. earlier this year. Steel exports have also been at the heart of EU tension with China this year, albeit the EU has taken less robust action than the U.S. Fortune


Around the Water Cooler

Ameriprise Mulls Big Bet on Italy

Ameriprise, the asset manager spun out of American Express a decade ago, may buy one of Europe’s biggest fund management companies, according to The Financial Times. Italy’s largest bank, Unicredit, is selling Pioneer, to strengthen its balance sheet at a time when there are acute concerns about profitability, both for the bank itself and the broader Italian banking sector. The banks organizing the sale have asked for second-round bids by Thursday. Pioneer has some $250 billion in assets under management and the FT estimates its value at up to $3.8 billion. FT, metered access

Colonial Restarts Gas Pipeline

Colonial restarted its gasoline pipeline, six days after an explosion and fire in Alabama during planned work on the line killed one person and injured several others. Colonial said it would take “several days for the fuel delivery supply chain to return to normal.” The pipeline carries fuel products from Houston to Linden to New Jersey. Gas prices in the north-east had spiked after the explosion two weeks ago but have now largely retraced. Fortune

China’s FX Reserves Hit 5-Year Low

China’s country’s foreign exchange reserves fell to a five-year low of $3.121 trillion after a larger-than-expected outflow of $47.5 billion in October, the biggest monthly drop since January. The dollar’s rise is partly to blame, as it depresses the book value of the reserves that China holds in other currencies, mainly euros. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that China may loosen its rules to allow Wall Street firms to operate investment banking businesses without a local partner: anything that creates more of a two-way flow in capital will obviously help in the current environment. The renminbi, meanwhile, is again testing a six-year low against the dollar. WSJ, subscription required

HSBC Escapes Capital Constraints

HSBC generated some rare positive headlines Monday with a quarterly report that comfortably beat expectations, at least once it had been adjusted for currency fluctuations and other one-offs. The bank had to take a $1.7 billion hit on the sale of its Brazilian operation, but a change in the regulatory treatment of its investment in China’s Bank of Communications has revived hopes that its strategy for coping in a world where national regulators are becoming more and more of suspicious of self-styled “global” banks could pay off after all. CEO Stuart Gulliver told the Financial Times it may even increase its current share buyback program next year. The bank’s shares hit a new high for the year. FT, metered access

Summaries by Geoffrey Smith;