Oil and sanctions; Tesla's robo-taxis; IPO brew

Posted April 23, 2019 5:50 a.m. EDT

— 1. Oil and sanctions: Crude oil futures rallied again on Tuesday after the White House pledged to deepen its crackdown on exports from Iran.

The Trump administration vowed to bring Iran's oil exports to "zero" by removing the waivers that had allowed some countries to continue buying crude from the OPEC nation despite the reintroduction of US sanctions last fall.

President Donald Trump promised in a tweet that "Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up" the reduction in supply.

But the oil market suggest traders are skeptical.

US oil prices climbed another 0.7% on Tuesday to $65.55 a barrel. That represents a spike of 54% since Christmas Eve. Brent crude, the global benchmark, increased 0.6% to above $74.

2. Tesla's goal: Tesla has detailed plans to have more than a million fully self-driving cars on roads next year, doubling down on its radical vision for the future of mobility.

The robo-taxis would compete with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft. CEO Elon Musk pitched them as a way for owners to rent out their vehicles when they're not using them, with Tesla taking a cut.

The optimistic rhetoric contrasts with the rest of the industry, which is increasingly cautious over how long it will take to get such cars on the streets in large numbers.

Investors are bound to have questions: Does Musk know something his competitors don't? Or is this another Tesla promise that won't materialize on time and on budget?

Much hinges on engineering. Tesla won't use a sensor nearly everyone else views as essential, called LIDAR, that is prized for its ability to tell a vehicle exactly how far away nearby objects are. Instead, Tesla will rely on cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to understand a car's surroundings.

"LIDAR is a fool's errand. Anyone relying on LIDAR is doomed," said Musk, who described the sensors as expensive and unnecessary.

3. IPO brew: Starbucks' big rival in China just announced plans to go public in the United States.

Beijing-based Luckin Coffee said in a filing late Monday that it wants to sell shares on the Nasdaq as part of its ambitious expansion plans.

Despite being barely 18 months old, Luckin has more than 2,300 outlets in China and plans to open another 2,500 by the end of this year. If that happens, the company will oust Starbucks as China's biggest coffee chain.

Luckin previously raised hundreds of millions dollars from big international investors including Blackrock. Following its most recent fundraising in April, Luckin was valued at about $2.9 billion.

The chain's rapid ascent shows how Chinese upstarts are increasingly rivaling Western brands in one of the world's top consumer markets.

4. Global market overview: US stock futures were little changed.

Most European markets opened in negative territory as traders returned from the long weekend. Stocks in Asia were mixed.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.2% on Monday. The S&P 500 added 0.1% and the Nasdaq increased 0.2%.

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5. Earnings and economics: Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, Hasbro, JetBlue Airways, Lockheed Martin, Procter & Gamble, Sherwin-Williams, Twitter and Verizon will release earnings before the open.

Texas Instruments, eBay, iRobot, Six Flags, Snap and TD Ameritrade will follow after the close.

The US Census Bureau will release a report on new home sales for March at 10:00 a.m. ET.

6. Coming this week:Tuesday —Twitter, Snap and Procter & Gamble earningsWednesday — Facebook, Boeing, and Tesla earningsThursday — Amazon and Starbucks earningsFriday — US first-quarter GDP; US consumer sentiment for April