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Kohls quarterly profit beats on higher margins

´╗┐Department store operator Kohl's Corp (KSS. N) followed larger rival Macy's Inc (M. N) in reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by higher margins despite a drop in sales during the crucial holiday selling season. Shares of Kohl's were up about 2 percent at $42.55 in premarket trading. Both Macy's and Kohl's reported weak sales for November and December as they struggle to overcome stiff competition from Inc (AMZN. O) and weak demand for clothes and accessories. However, Kohl's likely had to discount less in the fourth quarter than rivals as it entered the holiday season with low inventories, analysts had said."We saw improvement in merchandise margin, and our team continued to manage inventory and expenses extremely well," Kohl's Chief Executive Kevin Mansell said in a statement. Gross margin rose to 33.4 percent from 33.1 percent in the quarter, and inventories were down 6 percent.

Macy's reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Tuesday, helped by the sale of some of its stores and lower costs and taxes but said it would post another year of sales declines. Kohl's said on Thursday that its full-year sales could fall 1.3 percent or grow 0.7 percent, which translates to sales of $18.44 billion-$18.82 billion. This came in largely below the average analyst estimate of $18.70 billion. Sales at Kohl's stores open at least a year fell 2.2 percent, in line with analysts' average estimate from

research firm Consensus Metrix. Net income fell about 15 percent to $252 million, or $1.44 per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 28, from a year earlier.

Jobless claims up, four-week average lowest since 1973 WASHINGTON The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose slightly more than expected last week, but the four-week average of claims fell to its lowest level since 1973, pointing to strengthening labor market conditions.

Trump to seek jobs advice from firms that offshore U.S. work WASHINGTON President Donald Trump, who has vowed to stop U.S. manufacturing from disappearing overseas, will seek job-creation advice on Thursday from at least five companies that are laying off thousands of workers as they shift production abroad.

Norwegian Air steps up transatlantic pressure with $65 fares Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA on Thursday announced plans to offer transatlantic flights on 10 new routes between the United States and Europe starting at $65, ramping up pressure on U.S. and European rivals.

OPEC cuts, weak freight rates help traders profit on Asia crude routes

´╗┐Oil traders from around the world, including the United States, Britain and Brazil, have tripled their sales to Asia as they take advantage of an emerging supply gap following OPEC-led production cuts announced late last year. Around 30 supertankers have this month made long-haul trips to ship crude oil from the Americas, the North Sea and the Mediterranean to refineries across Asia, the world's biggest and fastest growing consumer, data extracted from Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts shows. The unusual movements follow the decision late last year by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers including Russia to cut production by almost 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) during the first half of this year in a bid to rein in global oversupply and prop up prices. Companies most involved in the long-haul deals include major oil producers such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell, private commodity traders Trafigura, Vitol and Mercuria, and Chinese refiner Unipec, trading sources say. Energy and mining giant Glencore, Azerbaijan's state-oil firm Socar and Brazil's Petrobras have also been involved. Taking advantage of relatively low freight costs and regional crude oil price differentials - known as arbitrage, or arb - traders can profit from supply shortages in one region and oversupply in another. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures, for example, currently trade at around $54.50 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude costs $56.90 - a Brent premium over WTI of $2.40 a barrel, compared with near parity in late November, just before OPEC announced its cuts. "The OPEC cuts have ... led to an open arb for long-haul cargoes, leading to a rise in long-haul crude imports (which) make up for the decline in OPEC (supplies)," said Tushar Bansal, director of Ivy Global Energy, a Singapore-based consultancy. The cuts are an OPEC policy reversal after two years of pumping out oil and keeping prices low as the cartel sought to squeeze rival exporters."OPEC production cuts... created distortions in the Asian crude market, changing global trade patterns," BMI Research said in a note to clients. OPEC CEDES MARKET SHARE

Helping fill the OPEC gap, crude shipments to Asia from the United States, Britain, Brazil, and even war-torn Libya jumped to over 35 million barrels in February, or 1.26 million bpd, from 10.4 million barrels in October, or 336,000 bpd, the data shows. For OPEC, which typically meets around 70 percent of Asia's oil demand, that means a 5 percent loss of market share since October."Under current oil market conditions, OPEC risks losing market share with further production cuts," said Carole Nakhle, director of advisory firm Crystol Energy in London. Although OPEC's relationship with customers in Asia tends to be good, refiners in North Asia's consumer hubs of Japan, China, and South Korea say they will readily turn to other suppliers in order to meet their needs. Loading schedules show U.S. crude exports to Asia increased to more than 3.5 million barrels this month - including a first U.S. oil cargo delivery to India - from below 1 million in October. UK shipments have jumped to more than 10.5 million barrels from just 1.6 million.

Shipments to Asia from Brazil have hit a record 16.7 million barrels in February, up from 6.9 million in October, and Libya, an OPEC-member exempted from the cuts, doubled its Asia shipments to 2 million barrels last month. Shipping schedules show the trend continuing into March. BMI said the OPEC cuts, especially of medium and sour crude grades, were "providing opportunities for (similar)... Mediterranean crudes to flow into the Asian market," which include Libyan oil. WILL THE ARB LAST? One of the first major long-haul shipments to Asia in this round of arbitrage trading was by BP, which late last year used more than half a dozen tankers to ship almost 3 million barrels of U.S. crude as far as 30,000 km (18,641 miles) to Australia, Thailand and Japan.

In similar deals, Unipec and Trafigura have shipped U.S. oil from the Gulf of Mexico to China. Shippers of North Sea crude to Asia have included Vitol, Mercuria, Trafigura, Glencore, Shell, Unipec and Socar. The main exporter from Brazil has been state-owned Petrobras, shipping data shows, with traders saying its crude has replaced oil from OPEC-member Angola. Oystein Berentsen, managing director for crude oil trader Strong Petroleum in Singapore, said arbitrage for North Sea and U.S. oil to Asia has been possible due to the OPEC-led cuts, and these routes "may continue depending on freight and price spreads."Benchmark Middle-East to Japan freight rates for supertankers