Tankan Comes in Stronger Than Expected

Also, an airline alliance trys to block takeover of Air Canada and Intel heads into the week with negative press nipping its heels.
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Tonight we start where the weekend ends, the

tankan

.

Investors worried about the dollar's recent weakness against the yen are anxiously watching how currency markets react to the

Bank of Japan's

tankan survey of business sentiment, which came in at a negative 22, up from the June's negative 37 and the survey's third consecutive rise. Economists polled by the

Nihon Keizai Shimbun

had expected the tankan diffusion index for large manufacturing companies to climb to a negative 26.

But currency markets weren't having any outsized reactions to the survey. Though the tankan was relatively strong -- remember, it's still negative -- traders have been acting with high expectations for some time. The dollar was lately trading at 104.9 yen, marginally below its New York close.

The

Nikkei

was trending higher in early trading, up 35, or 0.2%, to 17,747.56.

The tankan comes against the larger backdrop of a possible recovery in Asian demand, a recovery that may help

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

introduce a new, longer-range version of its 777 jet sooner than the company previously expected, Chairman and CEO Philip Condit told

Bloomberg News

today. The new 777-200x is designed to fly 18-hour nonstop routes between such cities as Los Angeles and Singapore, but slack demand has slowed the project's launch. Condit said that Boeing may be able to gather enough orders to start production on the jet within the next six months.

There's been a smattering of other corporate news around the globe this weekend.

UAL

(UAL) - Get Report

unit

United Airlines

and its international Star Alliance partners will try to block the $3.8 billion joint takeover bid by

Onex

and

AMR

(AMR)

unit

American Airlines

for Star Alliance member

Air Canada

.

The Chicago Tribune

today reported that UAL and Star Alliance partner

Deutsche Lufthansa

will try to buy at least 35% of Air Canada's outstanding shares in a bid that could be announced as soon as tomorrow.

Two weeks after reaching a tentative deal on a new contract with the

United Auto Workers

,

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

is running into some unforeseen labor problems north of the border. Yesterday the

Canadian Auto Workers

union threatened to go on strike at DaimlerChrysler's Canadian operations if the company's

Magna International

parts supplier doesn't let the union organize at its

Integram

seating plant. There are about 550 nonunionized jobs at the Integram plant, and the CAW represents about 15,000 DaimlerChrysler workers in Canada.

In the U.K.,

National Westminster Bank

is still working on ways to repel the

Bank of Scotland's

pesky $38 billion hostile takeover bid.

The Sunday Telegraph

reported today that NatWest's advisers are working on plans to break up the bank by disposing of enough operations to raise up to $8.27 billion, which it will return to shareholders through a special dividend. The paper wrote that the planned divestitures would "leave the core retail and commercial bank intact."

Meanwhile, the

Sunday Times

reported that in an effort to restore confidence in its leadership, NatWest is scheming up a management shake-out that "is likely to extend to the top reaches of the bank."

Over on the continent, German acetate and basic chemicals firm

Celanese

, which

Hoechst

plans to spin off later this month, warned that it expects to post a "significant" second-half operating loss this year due to class action lawsuits over faulty plastic that Hoechst's

Ticona

unit, now part of Celanese, allegedly provided for plumbing systems in the U.S. Celanese also said that its future earnings may be hurt by additional claims coming out of class action lawsuits

Specifically, the company said it would sustain charges of 70 million to 80 million euros in the second half of 1999 and that future losses may total as much as 109 million euros. And as if that weren't enough, Celanese said that civil suits related to charges of price fixing in the sorbate -- rest easy, that's sorbate, not sorbet -- market could cost it another 90 million euros.

In the Papers

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

is about to become the latest casualty of the

Barron's

ongoing war with large-cap technology and Internet firms. The paper's cover story this weekend focuses on what it sees as the chipmaker's slowing revenue growth in the face of recent shrinkage in the high-end PC chip market. The publication suggests that the company's current price-to-earnings multiple of 33 hasn't yet priced in that coming slowdown.

The piece comes at a sensitive time for semiconductor stocks, whose outlook has come under closer scrutiny after

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

disclosed its supply chain problems with

Motorola

(MOT)

, and in the wake of the massive earthquake that rocked Taiwan a week and a half ago. Intel has already taken hits in

after-hours trading late Friday, when word of the story came out.

Besides the Intel story,

Barron's

also features an slobbering interview with former

Fed

boss

Paul Volcker

, "the man who broke the back of inflation," in case you haven't heard. The piece comes replete with a photo of Volcker in mid-testimony, holding one of his characteristic stogies.

The international monetary fund that everyone loves to hate -- namely, the

International Monetary Fund

-- is set to receive some barbs from a report by the U.S.

General Accounting Office

. According to

The Financial Times

, which cited a draft copy of the report, the GAO charges that the IMF has been understating its lending capacity -- some $77 billion, by the IMF's account -- by discounting $19 billion in reserve funds it claims to need. The report notes that the IMF hasn't touched that reserve in more than 20 years.

In his usual short Sunday "Basis Points" column in

The Washington Post

, Fed insider

John Berry

wrote that Tuesday's

Federal Open Market Committee

isn't likely to yield any change in interest rates. Moreover, he writes, "the odds also are against an announcement that they are even leaning in that direction. The reality is that core inflation is tame, and some Fed officials are likely to argue that it actually is still declining."

So there.