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Khalid Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy and industry minister, arrives ahead of the 174th Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Friday, June 22, 2018.

Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Saturday that OPEC will be responsive to the oil market’s needs, but that he was not sure there is an oil shortage with data, particularly from the United States, still showing inventories building.

Speaking in Jeddah ahead of a ministerial panel gathering on Sunday by top OPEC and non-OPEC producers, including Saudi Arabia and Russia, Falih told Reuters OPEC will not decide on output until late June when the group is due to meet.

“We will be flexible, we are going to do the right thing as we always do,” he said.

Falih said OPEC is guided by two main principles: “One to keep the market in its direction towards balancing and inventories back to normal level. And two to be responsive to market needs. We will strike the right balance I am sure.”

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US forced tech transfer claims ‘fabricated’

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The U.S. flag flies at a welcoming ceremony between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017.

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The United States has “fabricated” accusations that China forces firms to hand over technology in exchange for market access, China’s top Communist Party newspaper said on Saturday, the latest salvo in a bitter trade war.

China announced this week it would retaliate against a move by Washington to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports amid complaints Beijing had done little to resolve U.S. concerns about the theft of intellectual property and the forced transfer of technology to Chinese firms.

The People’s Daily said in an editorial China had never forced U.S. firms to hand over technology and the claim was “an old-fashioned argument used by some people in the United States to suppress China’s development.”

“The U.S. argument about the ‘forced transfer of technology’ can be described as being fabricated from thin air,” it said. The United States had not yet been able to provide any evidence to back up the claims, the editorial said.

It said the United States benefited substantially from voluntary technological cooperation, earning $7.96 billion in intellectual property use fees in 2016 alone. Washington’s “fragile nerves” were caused by China’s own rapidly growing research and development capabilities, the paper said.

The increasingly acrimonious dispute between the world’s top two economies has rattled investors and roiled global markets. The United States said negotiations were likely to resume soon but China said no fixed date had been set yet and Washington needed to show sincerity in any new round of talks.

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Coolest and weirdest things, from robots to air taxis

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Attendees at the Viva Technology conference in Paris. It’s one of Europe’s largest tech shows.

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PARIS — Now in its fourth year, the Viva Technology conference has become one of the largest tech trade shows in Europe. And it’s not been short on weird and wonderful innovations and gadgets.

This year’s event saw everything from robot helpers upon arrival to the Batmobile and air taxis. CNBC takes you through some of the coolest — and weirdest — things that featured at Viva Tech 2019.

Robot helpers

A robot helper at the Viva Technology conference in Paris.

CNBC

It wouldn’t be a major tech expo without a few robots. And Viva Tech was chock-full of them. As soon as you enter the Porte de Versaille venue, these mobile helper bots can be seen.

The robot seemed to be able to detect a person who was approaching or walking past it. Visitors that approached it were presented with a touch screen that they could interact with to find their away around.

VR camera drones

Camera-equipped drones that let you see what they record with a virtual reality headset on display at Viva Tech.

CNBC

Drones also made an appearance at the event. A few by French energy firm Vinci Energies’ exhibition stand came equipped with cameras that people could see through, by using a virtual reality headset.

Air taxis

An electric air taxi developed by French firm HOVERTAXI makes a showing at the Viva Technology conference in Paris.

CNBC

Air taxis are getting increasing publicity, not least because of companies like Uber deciding to get into that space. That was no secret at this year’s Viva Tech, where German start-up Lilium unveiled a prototype of its electric aircraft designed to take passengers for rides in the sky.

Another zero-emission air taxi made by French firm Hovertaxi, pictured above, could be seen on display on the upper floor of the conference venue.

Air-purifying robots

An air purification robot roams the floor at France’s Viva Technology expo.

CNBC

This robot, which was roaming around the conference floor, is designed with the environment in mind. Called Diya One X, it purifies the air as it wanders about a building, while managing to avoid bumping into visitors.

Developed by French start-up Partnering Robotics, CEO Ramesh Caussy explained at the firm’s stand that the device collects data that can help map out the quality of indoor air as well as humidity and lighting.

SoftBank Pepper

SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper features at the Viva Technology conference in Paris.

CNBC

SoftBank’s Pepper is a four-foot-tall robot with a tablet screen attached to its chest. Chatting away with attendees, the humanoid machine is aimed at recognizing basic emotions and assisting people in different settings, such as health and retail.

When tapping a “Health” icon displayed on the screen, Pepper will ask if a visitor has a social security card. Say “no,” and it’ll take you through the process of applying for one.

The Batmobile

The Batmobile making an appearance at the Viva Technology conference in Paris.

CNBC

Last, but certainly not least: the Batmobile. It might seem a bit out of place at a trade show dedicated to tech and innovation, but there is a simple reason behind it’s inclusion.

The caped crusader’s famous vehicle was showcased at AT&T’s stand, the telecommunications giant having recently bought Time Warner, which owns the rights to DC Comics characters like Batman.

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Trump tariffs could trigger higher interest rates: experts

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The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China could cause interest rate hikes, the very opposite of what President Donald Trump wants, some analysts have told CNBC.

Recent market consensus has suggested that the U.S. Federal Reserve is unlikely to raise interest rates, with Fed funds futures indicating a 76% chance the central bank will instead cut rates by 25 basis points before September. As of Wednesday, futures had also priced in a one-in-three chance that the Fed will cut twice by the end of the year.

Trump has regularly expressed his disapproval of high interest rates and called for the Fed to cut, tweeting Tuesday that the U.S. would win the trade war if the central bank followed his advice

But some analysts are striking a contrarian tone. Mark Phelps, CIO of concentrated global equities at AllianceBernstein, told CNBC Wednesday that if prices are pushed up because of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, the Fed may respond to the inflationary impact by hiking interest rates.

Central banks will generally raise rates when inflation is predicted to rise above their inflation target, and higher rates tend toward moderate economic growth. This increases the cost of borrowing and can therefore limit the growth in consumer spending.

“Tariffs go up, you’ll see some hit to margin for companies, and that probably reduces their investment — that’s not great for growth,” Phelps said.

He added that higher prices will reduce consumer purchases of goods, also reducing growth.

“There will be an inflationary impact so the Fed is going to have potentially growth slowing and inflation going up — not an ideal set of circumstances, but certainly not something where they’re going to rush out and just cut rates for the sake of it,” Phelps said.

This view was echoed by Giles Keating, senior advisor at Torchwood Capital, who told CNBC “Squawk Box Europe” that the bond markets were “gambling that when inflation does go up, the Fed will look through that and say ‘it’s just higher tariffs,’ that it’s a one-off and it will go away.”

Meanwhile Jinny Yan, chief China economist at ICBC Standard Bank, also told CNBC that while Trump would love to cut interest rates, “probably the opposite direction would be justified because inflationary pressures will hit the United States, therefore hiking the rates might be the thing to do.”

Consensus view

The Fed has indicated that it is not ready to move rates in either direction at this point, but market sentiment remains expectant of a cut by the end of the year.

Yardeni Research President Ed Yardeni said in a note Wednesday that it was “unlikely that the Fed would raise interest rates in response to what would be a one-shot boost to the inflation rate from higher-priced Chinese goods.”

Yardeni also doubted that higher prices would reduce the purchasing power of American consumers, since importers might absorb some of the increased cost of doing business with China, which would squeeze their profit margins instead of passing costs to consumers.

In response, Yardeni argued, some businesses might move their supply chain away from China to avoid the tariff burden, which may mean the Chinese yuan continues to fall and offsets some of the tariff cost.

Pigeons fly past the US Federal Reserve in Washington.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

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