China

A man drinks American whiskey at a bar in Shanghai
A man drinks American whiskey at a bar in Shanghai, China, April 6, 2018. Picture taken April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – American whiskey exports slumped in the second half of 2018, taking a blow from higher duties by the country’s trading partners following President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, an industry group said on Thursday.

Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union slapped import duties ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent on U.S whiskey and bourbon last year, resulting in a 11 percent drop in U.S. whiskey exports in the second half, according to a report from the Distilled Spirits Council.

For the first six months of 2018, whiskey exports grew 28 percent compared to the same period in 2017, partly helped by companies like Jack Daniels maker Brown-Forman Corp, fast-tracking shipments overseas, especially to Europe, before the tariffs kicked in.

Overall for the full-year 2018, whiskey exports rose 5.1 percent to $1.18 billion, a significant drop from the 16 percent rise seen in 2017.

Exports to the European Union fell 13.4 percent in the second half of the year, after rising 33 percent during the first six months.

The European Union, which imposed a 25 tariff on American whiskey, is the largest market for the liquor, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total exports, according to the Council.

Earlier in March, Brown-Forman said absorbing the costs of tariffs in key European markets was the primary reason for the decline in its third-quarter gross profit margin.

The company also said its sales would take a hit in 2019 if the tariffs were to remain in place.

“The damage to American whiskey exports is now accelerating, and this is collateral damage from ongoing global trade disputes,” Distilled Spirits Council Chief Executive Officer Chris Swonger said.

Total U.S. spirits exports rose 9.5 percent to $1.8 billion in 2018, but also slowed from 2017, the report showed.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

Source: OANN

A man drinks American whiskey at a bar in Shanghai
A man drinks American whiskey at a bar in Shanghai, China, April 6, 2018. Picture taken April 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – American whiskey exports slumped in the second half of 2018, taking a blow from higher duties by the country’s trading partners following President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, an industry group said on Thursday.

Canada, China, Mexico and the European Union slapped import duties ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent on U.S whiskey and bourbon last year, resulting in a 11 percent drop in U.S. whiskey exports in the second half, according to a report from the Distilled Spirits Council.

For the first six months of 2018, whiskey exports grew 28 percent compared to the same period in 2017, partly helped by companies like Jack Daniels maker Brown-Forman Corp, fast-tracking shipments overseas, especially to Europe, before the tariffs kicked in.

Overall for the full-year 2018, whiskey exports rose 5.1 percent to $1.18 billion, a significant drop from the 16 percent rise seen in 2017.

Exports to the European Union fell 13.4 percent in the second half of the year, after rising 33 percent during the first six months.

The European Union, which imposed a 25 tariff on American whiskey, is the largest market for the liquor, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total exports, according to the Council.

Earlier in March, Brown-Forman said absorbing the costs of tariffs in key European markets was the primary reason for the decline in its third-quarter gross profit margin.

The company also said its sales would take a hit in 2019 if the tariffs were to remain in place.

“The damage to American whiskey exports is now accelerating, and this is collateral damage from ongoing global trade disputes,” Distilled Spirits Council Chief Executive Officer Chris Swonger said.

Total U.S. spirits exports rose 9.5 percent to $1.8 billion in 2018, but also slowed from 2017, the report showed.

(Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during “A Civil Society Dialogue on Securing Religious Freedom in the Indo-Pacific Region” forum in Taipei, Taiwan March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

March 21, 2019

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will visit Hawaii next week on a tour of diplomatic allies in the Pacific, official media said on Thursday, a move likely to anger China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own amid tension across the strait.

China regards Taiwan as its sacred territory and regularly calls it the most sensitive and important issue in ties with the United States, complaining to Washington about transit stops by Taiwan presidents.

Tsai will transit Hawaii next Wednesday on her way home from an eight-day visit to three diplomatic allies, the official Central News Agency said.

Taiwan, which China deems ineligible for state-to-state relations, has formal ties with 17 countries, almost all small nations in Central America and the Pacific.

The island battles to keep its allies from switching their allegiance to China, which last year persuaded Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador to forge relations with Beijing.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Cleveland Cavaliers
Mar 20, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

March 21, 2019

The Milwaukee Bucks played without All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo for a second consecutive game Wednesday night as he continues to nurse a sprained right ankle.

Antetokounmpo, a candidate for MVP, did not play in the Bucks’ road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. He also missed Tuesday’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, who were without their own superstar, LeBron James (sore left groin).

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo before Wednesday’s game, “He’s making progress, he just can’t go tonight. It’s us hopefully being smart and being somewhat cautious, but it’s more than that. He can’t play. We’ll see how the next 24-48 hours go, and I’m hopeful he’ll be in a good place as we move forward.”

The NBA-best Bucks (53-19) fell 107-102 to the Cavaliers, who own the third-worst record in the league at 19-53. Milwaukee returns home Friday for a game against the Miami Heat.

–Bucks power forward Nikola Mirotic will miss two-to-four weeks with a “slight fracture” of his left thumb, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported.

The Bucks acquired Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans at the trade deadline to provide depth off the bench. The team confirmed the injury but did not update his status.

Since the trade, Mirotic has played in 14 games (three starts), averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 22.9 minutes per game. Mirotic sustained the injury in the Bucks’ 115-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. The injury likely will keep him out the rest of the regular season.

–The NBA Summer League will have an international flavor in 2019, as the Chinese and Croatian national teams will join all 30 NBA teams in participating in the league, which will be held July 5-15 in Las Vegas, the NBA announced.

Team China played in Las Vegas at the 2007 NBA Summer League, but Team Croatia is making its debut at the event, marking the first time the league will have two international teams.

Each of the 32 teams will play four preliminary games, with the top eight teams seeded into a tournament to determine the champion. Those that don’t make the championship bracket will play a consolation game.

–Field Level Media

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A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai
A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 21, 2019

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s antitrust regulator has lowered a decade-old penalty imposed on U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc by 18 percent to $200 million, the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said on Thursday.

The cut comes after the Supreme Court in January overturned one of several lower court rulings against the U.S. firm for abusing its dominant market position.

In 2009, the KFTC fined Qualcomm 273 billion won ($242.6 million) for abusing its market power in CDMA modem and radio frequency chips, which were then used in handsets made by South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and LG Electronics Inc.

The KFTC said it had reset the penalty to reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling, adding however that a “monopolist enterprise’s abuse of its market position cannot be tolerated”.

The fine is the latest in a series of antitrust rulings and investigations faced by Qualcomm from regulators across the globe.

In a separate case, the South Korean regulator fined Qualcomm $854 million in 2016 for what it called unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales.

Qualcomm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amnesty International is seen next to director of Mujeres En Linea Luisa Kislinger, during a news conference in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amnesty International is seen next to director of Mujeres En Linea Luisa Kislinger, during a news conference to announce the results of an investigation into humans rights abuses committed in Venezuela during protests against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jass

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Amnesty International attacked the electric vehicle (EV) industry on Thursday for selling itself as environmentally friendly while producing many of its batteries using polluting fossil fuels and unethically sourced minerals.

Manufacturing batteries can be carbon intensive, while the extraction of minerals used in them has been linked to human rights violations such as child labor, a statement from the rights group said.

“Electric vehicles are key to shifting the motor industry away from fossil fuels, but they are currently not as ethical as some retailers would like us to believe,” it said, announcing the initiative at the Nordic Electric Vehicle Summit in Oslo.

Production of lithium-ion batteries for EVs is power intensive, and factories are concentrated in China, South Korea and Japan, where power generation is largely dependent on coal or other fossil fuels, Amnesty said.

Global automakers are investing billions of dollars to ramp up electric vehicle production. German giant Volkswagen for one plans to raise annual production of electric cars to 3 million by 2025, from 40,000 in 2018.

Amnesty demanded the EV industry come up with an ethical and clean battery within five years and in the meantime that carbon footprints be disclosed and supply chains of key minerals identified.

Last month, a letter seen by Reuters showed that 14 non-governmental organizations including Amnesty and Global Witness had opposed plans by the London Metal Exchange to ban cobalt tainted by human rights abuses.

Instead of banning the cobalt brands, the LME should work with firms that produce them to ensure responsible souring, they said.

(Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels
People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will discuss a more defensive strategy on China on Thursday, potentially signaling an end to the unfettered access that Chinese business has enjoyed in Europe but which Beijing has failed to reciprocate.

Caught between a new U.S.-Chinese rivalry for economic and military power, EU leaders will try to find a middle path during a summit dinner in Brussels, the first time they have discussed at the highest level how to deal with Beijing.

“We are fully open,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said of the EU’s economy. “China is not, and it raises lots of questions,” Katainen told Reuters, arguing that the world’s second-largest economy could no longer claim special status as a developing country.

Meeting as Chinese President Xi Jinping starts a tour of France and Italy, EU leaders – who have often been divided over China – want to present a united front ahead of an EU-China summit on April 9.

According to a draft April summit statement seen by Reuters, the EU is seeking to set deadlines for China to make good on trade and investment pledges that have been repeatedly pushed back, although Beijing must still agree to the final text.

That was a message delivered to State Councillor Wang Yi by EU foreign ministers on Monday. It marked a shift toward what EU diplomats say is a more “assertive and competitive mindset”.

“In the past, it has been extremely difficult for the EU to formulate a clear strategy on China, and past policy documents have not been strategically coherent,” said Duncan Freeman at the EU-China Research Centre at the College of Europe. “There is now a clear effort to do that.”

In a document to prepare the EU summit, the European Commission called China a “systemic rival”.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign to warn against Huawei telecommunications equipment in next-generation wireless networks has accelerated EU discussions about its position.

The deepest tensions lie around China’s slowness to open up its economy, a surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and an impression that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

GERMANY IS KEY

With over a billion euros a day in bilateral trade, the EU is China’s top trading partner, while China is second only to the United States as a market for European goods and services.

Chinese trade restrictions are more severe than EU barriers in almost every economic sector, according to research firm Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Unlike the United States, which has a naval fleet based in Japan to wield influence over the region, the EU lacks any military power to confront China, so its approach is technical.

But any new EU policies could prove complicated to implement, as EU capitals continue to court Chinese investment. Italy plans to join China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure project, while free-traders Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands are wary of any restrictions on commerce.

Germany’s views will be important as Berlin has at times pressed for a tougher response to unfair competition from Chinese rivals but also championed a closer relationship with Beijing.

“Their position needs to stabilize. At the moment it changes on almost every day of the week,” the senior envoy said.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo
An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

March 20, 2019

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The dollar nursed heavy losses in Asia on Thursday after the Federal Reserve stunned markets by abandoning all plans to raise rates this year, a signal its three-year campaign to normalize policy might be at an end.

Investors rushed to price in the prospect of rate cuts later this year, while benchmark Treasury yields dived to their lowest since early 2018.

The Fed’s swerve sent the dollar sliding to 110.67 yen, with its 0.6 percent loss overnight the biggest drop since the flash crash of early January.

The euro flew to a seven-week peak and was last trading at $1.1424, a world away from its recent low of $1.1177. That left the dollar down at 95.929 against a basket of currencies, having lost 0.5 percent overnight.

“Markets were universally poised for a very benign outcome and the Fed dutifully delivered, their message overall matching the most dovish of expectations,” said Richard Franulovich, head of FX strategy at Westpac.

“The median 2019 projection is for no hikes, a strong majority of 11 among 17 at zero; a dramatic shift from just two members looking for no Fed hikes in 2019 back in December.”

It had previously tipped two hikes this year. The central bank also trimmed its forecasts for economic growth and inflation, while lifting that for unemployment.

Driving home the dovish shift, the Fed will now stop running down its balance sheet in September, some months earlier than many had expected.

Investors reacted by wagering the next move in rates would be down, with fund futures now implying around 11 basis points of easing by December.

Yields on two-year notes sank to 2.40 percent, dead in line with the effective funds rate, and five-year yields dropped even further to 2.33 percent.

The only solace for the dollar was that other central banks around the globe have also turned decidedly dovish in recent months as growth slowed pretty much everywhere.

That need for stimulus means many central banks will not want to see their currencies appreciate against the dollar, giving them reason to sound even more accommodative.

“The more cautious tone and downgraded U.S. economic outlook will limit dollar upside,” said CBA senior currency strategist Joseph Capurso.

“However, with similarly soft economic growth outlooks elsewhere including Europe, China, Australia and Japan it is questionable whether the dollar will depreciate to any significant extent.”

One currency with problems of its own was sterling, which retreated to $1.3192 after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request to delay Brexit until June 30 faced resistance from parts of the European Union.

Faring better was the New Zealand dollar as data on domestic economic growth came in firmer than many bearish investors had expected.

Strong household spending and business investment lifted gross domestic product 0.6 percent in the December quarter, helping the kiwi climb to a seven-week top of $0.6923.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at scarves on sale at a department store in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at scarves on sale at a department store in Tokyo March 30, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

March 20, 2019

By Ritsuko Ando

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s 24-hour convenience stores are struggling to stay open around the clock as an industry that has continually expanded now finds itself at the sharp end of a labor shortage.

Franchise owners, some of whom were forced to work amid massive snowstorms or in the wake of a family death, have launched a campaign to persuade industry leader 7-Eleven to allow stores to close earlier.

Although the debate has focused on their plight, it has also raised doubts over the future of a $100 billion industry that faces an aging population, slow economic growth and new competitors such as Amazon Prime.

“The question is, how much demand is there for 24-hour service in an age when online shopping is expanding?” said Takayuki Kurabayashi, a Nomura Research Institute partner who specializes in consulting for the retail industry.

Japanese convenience stores began expanding in the 1970s as their 24-hour accessibility proved a perfect match with the country’s dense population and late-night work culture.

The brightly lit stores, which locals call “combini,” are ubiquitous and an essential part of modern Japanese life, offering everything from neckties to packaged “bento” lunches for city workers.

Rural Japanese rely on the stores for parcel and ATM services, or even as lifelines during disasters such as earthquakes.

The franchise system promoted a nationwide expansion that took the total number of stores to roughly 58,000 last year, a majority operated by the big three: 7-Eleven, originating in the U.S. but now Japanese-owned; FamilyMart, UNY Holdings’ convenience store arm; and Lawson, a subsidiary of trading house Mitsubishi Corp.

For years, the franchise model shielded operations from the direct effects of Japan’s labor crunch. But now, the tightest labor market more than 40 years is hurting store owners, who pay salaries after handing over royalty fees.

A union of convenience store owners said they were finding it increasingly hard to hire enough employees. Many owners said they worked long hours themselves to keep stores open 24 hours – a requirement in most franchise contracts.

“At the time of the agreement, we could not foresee the current labor shortage or spike in minimum wages,” said Mitoshi Matsumoto, a union member who owns a 7-Eleven store in Osaka, referring to the deal he and his wife signed with the company.

Struggling to keep the store running after his wife’s death last year, he began closing it for a few hours at night, and was threatened with a fine.

His pleas to management and lawmakers drew widespread sympathy in a country in which “work-life balance” has become a buzzword and employers have come under fire for cases of death by overwork.

Even the pro-business Nikkei newspaper wrote an editorial saying stores should be allowed reasonable working hours even if consumers suffer slight inconveniences.

Amid such pressure, the company said that on Thursday, it would begin testing shorter hours at 10 of its more than 20,700 stores. It emphasized that the change was experimental and that it was not yet altering its 24-7 format.

SATURATION AND INNOVATION

Roy Larke, who analyses Japan’s retail industry as editor of JapanConsuming.com, said he sees the sector as saturated and consolidation inevitable.

“We do have too many convenience stores now, sometimes literally next door to each other. There are probably around 10 percent too many,” he said.

Katsuhiko Shimizu, spokesman for Seven & i Holdings which owns 7-Eleven and general merchandise chain Ito-Yokado, disagreed.

“There’s room for innovation,” he said, citing the company’s efforts to incorporate more automation and artificial intelligence in processes ranging from stocking to check-out.

Chains are also testing new formats such as outlets that combine drugstores, dry cleaners and even gyms. FamilyMart has opened some such stores with the country’s largest discount chain, Don Quijote, to inject excitement.

Analysts warn against underestimating a sector known for maintaining high margins and rarely discounting, helped by constant product renewals and staples like 100-yen (90-cent) coffees.

They also say it’s too early to predict the outcome of Japan’s online grocery delivery race, which is only getting started.

Although Amazon’s grocery and same-day delivery services are considered threats, convenience stores are also launching online platforms; their affiliations with traditional supermarkets and logistics networks are seen as advantages.

“It’s not clear-cut whether Amazon will be overwhelmingly powerful here,” said Larke. “Especially in food, it doesn’t have the game to itself.”

Convenience stores, like other Japanese businesses, have also been expanding abroad. But Nomura Research’s Kurabayashi warned that those foreign markets, including China, were also aging.

“What’s happening in Japan is eventually going to happen elsewhere in Asia,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement about Brexit in Downing Street in London
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement about Brexit in Downing Street in London, Britain March 20, 2019. Jonathan Brady/Pool via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday to give Prime Minister Theresa May an offer to delay Brexit beyond March 29, on condition that she can finally win over her many opponents in parliament next week.

Nearly three years after Britons narrowly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, May has been unable to unite her divided cabinet, parliament or nation behind her exit plan.

Increasingly embattled, she asked the EU on Wednesday to postpone Brexit until June 30 to give her time to secure a deal in parliament and avoid an abrupt departure next week that could spell economic chaos.

“We could consider a short extension conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons,” summit chairman Donald Tusk said in a letter inviting all 28 EU national leaders to Brussels talks.

Any delay must be unanimously approved by all the other 27 national EU leaders, increasingly exasperated with Britain’s inability to find a way of a domestic political deadlock that is weighing heavily on the whole bloc.

Raising the stakes, France threatened to reject May’s request and the EU’s executive said Britain had to be out by May 23 to avoid having to take part in European Parliament elections.

May said in London late on Wednesday that she opposed any further postponement, telling parliament to pick between her deal, a no-deal divorce, or no Brexit.

“It is now time for MPs (lawmakers) to decide,” May said in a televised statement. “You want us to get on with it. And that is what I am determined to do.”

All 28 leaders assemble in Brussels at 1400 GMT. May will address her peers before leaving the room while they discuss the issue.

The 27 are then expected to agree what will amount to a technical extension, intended to give Britain time to pass the necessary exit legislation – if the House of Commons approves the divorce package before March 29.

EXIT DATE APPROACHING FAST

The chamber has already twice voted it down heavily, with some saying May’s deal would leave Britain too closely aligned with the EU, others arguing that it would not be close enough.

If Britain fails to ratify the deal in time, and with the legal exit date of March 29 approaching fast, Tusk could then call an emergency summit for late next week.

At stake would then be a “no-deal” Brexit or a much longer extension to give the British parliament time to find a notional consensus approach. Brexit’s backers fear that, with such a long delay, their project might never materialize.

EU supporters hope a longer delay could pave the way for a new vote in Britain or a reversal of May’s strategy to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, a policy that has exposed intractable differences over how to handle the Irish border.

But this would appear to require Britain to take part in European elections in late May that it had never expected to participate in – or present the EU with a painful constitutional conundrum.

The EU wants to avoid repeated Brexit delays or more renegotiations of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement, put together in months of painstaking talks with London. It is designed to settle Britain’s bill with the EU, guarantee expatriates’ rights and provide a status-quo transition period after Brexit.

As Brexit is sapping EU resources, the leaders will also turn to other pressing issues on Thursday and Friday. These include the state of their economies, their ties with China, climate change and ringfencing the European elections from illegitimate interference.

Eyes will also be on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will be meeting his EU peers a day after his Fidesz party was suspended from Europe’s main center-right alliance over a venomous campaign against EU institutions and migration policies.

(Reporting by Brussels, London and Paris bureaux; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

A former operator of a spa that’s entangled in a prostitution investigation responded Wednesday to top Democrats’ call for the FBI to investigate her because of her ties to President Donald Trump and China.

“I’m Republican and I’m Chinese,” Li “Cindy” Yang told NBC News. “That’s the reason the Democrats want to check me.”

Yang sold Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, roughly seven years ago. Now the spa and its new operators are in the news after authorities charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in late February with soliciting a prostitute there. (RELATED: Brazil’s New President Says What He And Trump Have In Common: ‘We Are God-Fearing Men’)

Senate and House Democrats requested the FBI open criminal and counterintelligence investigations into Yang, reported ABC News. They point to media reports claiming Yang’s company GY Investments sells opportunities to get close to Trump to Chinese clients.

”Although Ms. Yang’s activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit, her activities also could permit adversary governments or their agents access to these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes,” the Democrats wrote in a March 15 letter according to NBC News.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrates on Cambridge street during the New England Patriots Victory Parade on February 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrates on Cambridge street during the New England Patriots Victory Parade on Feb. 5, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Yang told NBC News she has lived in the U.S. for roughly two decades and has not had contact with any Chinese government officials.

“I love Americans. I love our president. I don’t do anything wrong,” she said.

Yang has made numerous social media posts of photographs with Trump, including a selfie with the president at a Super Bowl party at the Trump International golf resort in Florida, reported NBC News. She is “part of a network of organizations pushing for Taiwan to return to Chinese control and that fall under the oversight of the Chinese government,” reported the Miami Herald.

Kraft is expected to reject a plea deal that would result in prosecutors dropping criminal charges against him for allegedly soliciting prostitutes, according to reports Wednesday. Many pundits have weighed in on the scandal, including CNN’s Michael Smerconish, who called investigating Kraft “the largest waste of resources since Jussie Smollett” on Feb. 23.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

Send tips to [email protected].

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter

A former operator of a spa that’s entangled in a prostitution investigation responded Wednesday to top Democrats’ call for the FBI to investigate her because of her ties to President Donald Trump and China.

“I’m Republican and I’m Chinese,” Li “Cindy” Yang told NBC News. “That’s the reason the Democrats want to check me.”

Yang sold Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida, roughly seven years ago. Now the spa and its new operators are in the news after authorities charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in late February with soliciting a prostitute there. (RELATED: Brazil’s New President Says What He And Trump Have In Common: ‘We Are God-Fearing Men’)

Senate and House Democrats requested the FBI open criminal and counterintelligence investigations into Yang, reported ABC News. They point to media reports claiming Yang’s company GY Investments sells opportunities to get close to Trump to Chinese clients.

”Although Ms. Yang’s activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit, her activities also could permit adversary governments or their agents access to these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes,” the Democrats wrote in a March 15 letter according to NBC News.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrates on Cambridge street during the New England Patriots Victory Parade on February 05, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Patriots owner Robert Kraft celebrates on Cambridge street during the New England Patriots Victory Parade on Feb. 5, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Yang told NBC News she has lived in the U.S. for roughly two decades and has not had contact with any Chinese government officials.

“I love Americans. I love our president. I don’t do anything wrong,” she said.

Yang has made numerous social media posts of photographs with Trump, including a selfie with the president at a Super Bowl party at the Trump International golf resort in Florida, reported NBC News. She is “part of a network of organizations pushing for Taiwan to return to Chinese control and that fall under the oversight of the Chinese government,” reported the Miami Herald.

Kraft is expected to reject a plea deal that would result in prosecutors dropping criminal charges against him for allegedly soliciting prostitutes, according to reports Wednesday. Many pundits have weighed in on the scandal, including CNN’s Michael Smerconish, who called investigating Kraft “the largest waste of resources since Jussie Smollett” on Feb. 23.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

Send tips to [email protected].

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara
A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. ISHMAEL AITOREA/Handout via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – As politicians hit the hustings across the Solomon Islands two weeks out from a general election in the South Pacific archipelago, the loyalty of one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies is in the balance.

Some Solomons’ candidates are promising to review lucrative, but loosening, ties with Taipei that if broken, could trigger a reshaping of diplomatic relations in a region home to a third of Taiwan’s shrinking list of allies.

Although Pacific island states offer little economically to either China and Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations and as China seeks to isolate Taiwan. China see the democratically ruled island as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

In the Solomons, where two-thirds of exports go to China, many politicians are questioning whether diplomatic ties with Taiwan are still in their best interests.

“Sooner or later, when we see our country hasn’t been able to grow out of this relationship, we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues,” said former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the election.

Lilo’s views, echoed in the rival ruling Democratic Alliance Party policy manifesto, and by other candidates, have caught Taipei’s attention.

Taiwan this month sent its deputy foreign minister to the tropical capital of Honiara shore up the alliance.

President Tsai Ing-wen is also touring the South Pacific this week, visiting other allies Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations”.

Already five countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving just 17 mostly small, undeveloped countries that formally recognize Taiwan.

Four of the six Pacific island nations aligned with Taiwan have elections this year, putting its Pacific stronghold under increasing pressure.

The elections also come at a time when traditional regional powers from the West and Japan have been boosting their presence in the Pacific due to unease at China’s growing influence there.

Last week, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said China was using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific.

“The West is watching the outcome of the election in the Solomon Islands very closely. There is no doubt that there are some Solomon Islands lawmakers who would like to align with China,” said a senior U.S. diplomatic source.

“There is a legitimate worry that it will have a domino effect.”

FLASHPOINT OR CASHPOINT?

Acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it is the “common consensus of international society”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The Chinese government, under the one China policy and the principles of peaceful coexistence, develops friendly cooperation with countries across the world,” he said, without elaborating.

Shifting allegiances are nothing new in the South Pacific.

Vanuatu flirted with recognizing Taiwan in 2004 but ultimately stuck with Beijing, while Kiribati and Nauru have each switched sides in the past.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983.

The chain of islands stretching across some 600,000 sq km (232,000 sq miles) of ocean is a strategic gateway to the South Pacific and was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.

It is the largest of Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deepwater ports the conflict left behind.

The Solomons’ situation is further complicated by an unpredictable coalition building process after the vote, expected to last weeks before a government is formed.

FUNDING CRITICISMS

Taiwan is fighting to retain its ties.

“I think China is trying everything they can do to replace us in our diplomatic allies,” Taiwan’s deputy chief of mission to the Solomons, Oliver Liao, told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said Taipei was cautiously optimistic of retaining Honiara’s friendship because it has a long history of rural-development donations.

“Many friends here continue to share with us how much they appreciate Taiwan’s support and how they appreciate the flexibility this budgetary support allows – politicians and also the citizens.”

Its strategy, though, has come under fire.

Taiwan’s support of around $9 million a year is paid directly into a government account which lawmakers tap for projects in their far-flung provinces, with little oversight.

“In the rural areas there is no tangible development,” said Andrew Fanasia, politics reporter at the Solomon Star newspaper.

“Mostly these people blame their leaders and this fund.”

Anti-graft agency Transparency Solomon Islands says “vote buying” with cash linked to development funds is by far the most common complaint it fields, according to data it collected in 2017 and 2018.

Lawmakers say there are successes, and the government’s rural development website lists health and sanitation projects, community buildings, and text-message testimonies from citizens about improvements to their lives.

But even Taiwan’s Liao – and former prime minister Lilo – say economic progress has not been fast enough.

And in the capital, patience with the incumbents charged with disbursing Taiwan’s largesse is in short supply.

“Most students would really like to see a change in the leadership and style,” said law student Ishmael Aitorea, 25, on the phone from the student association office of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara.

“The perception is that if the old parliament members go back, nothing will change.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON, Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham in SYDNEY, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara
A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. ISHMAEL AITOREA/Handout via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – As politicians hit the hustings across the Solomon Islands two weeks out from a general election in the South Pacific archipelago, the loyalty of one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies is in the balance.

Some Solomons’ candidates are promising to review lucrative, but loosening, ties with Taipei that if broken, could trigger a reshaping of diplomatic relations in a region home to a third of Taiwan’s shrinking list of allies.

Although Pacific island states offer little economically to either China and Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations and as China seeks to isolate Taiwan. China see the democratically ruled island as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

In the Solomons, where two-thirds of exports go to China, many politicians are questioning whether diplomatic ties with Taiwan are still in their best interests.

“Sooner or later, when we see our country hasn’t been able to grow out of this relationship, we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues,” said former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the election.

Lilo’s views, echoed in the rival ruling Democratic Alliance Party policy manifesto, and by other candidates, have caught Taipei’s attention.

Taiwan this month sent its deputy foreign minister to the tropical capital of Honiara shore up the alliance.

President Tsai Ing-wen is also touring the South Pacific this week, visiting other allies Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations”.

Already five countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving just 17 mostly small, undeveloped countries that formally recognize Taiwan.

Four of the six Pacific island nations aligned with Taiwan have elections this year, putting its Pacific stronghold under increasing pressure.

The elections also come at a time when traditional regional powers from the West and Japan have been boosting their presence in the Pacific due to unease at China’s growing influence there.

Last week, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said China was using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific.

“The West is watching the outcome of the election in the Solomon Islands very closely. There is no doubt that there are some Solomon Islands lawmakers who would like to align with China,” said a senior U.S. diplomatic source.

“There is a legitimate worry that it will have a domino effect.”

FLASHPOINT OR CASHPOINT?

Acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it is the “common consensus of international society”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The Chinese government, under the one China policy and the principles of peaceful coexistence, develops friendly cooperation with countries across the world,” he said, without elaborating.

Shifting allegiances are nothing new in the South Pacific.

Vanuatu flirted with recognizing Taiwan in 2004 but ultimately stuck with Beijing, while Kiribati and Nauru have each switched sides in the past.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983.

The chain of islands stretching across some 600,000 sq km (232,000 sq miles) of ocean is a strategic gateway to the South Pacific and was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.

It is the largest of Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deepwater ports the conflict left behind.

The Solomons’ situation is further complicated by an unpredictable coalition building process after the vote, expected to last weeks before a government is formed.

FUNDING CRITICISMS

Taiwan is fighting to retain its ties.

“I think China is trying everything they can do to replace us in our diplomatic allies,” Taiwan’s deputy chief of mission to the Solomons, Oliver Liao, told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said Taipei was cautiously optimistic of retaining Honiara’s friendship because it has a long history of rural-development donations.

“Many friends here continue to share with us how much they appreciate Taiwan’s support and how they appreciate the flexibility this budgetary support allows – politicians and also the citizens.”

Its strategy, though, has come under fire.

Taiwan’s support of around $9 million a year is paid directly into a government account which lawmakers tap for projects in their far-flung provinces, with little oversight.

“In the rural areas there is no tangible development,” said Andrew Fanasia, politics reporter at the Solomon Star newspaper.

“Mostly these people blame their leaders and this fund.”

Anti-graft agency Transparency Solomon Islands says “vote buying” with cash linked to development funds is by far the most common complaint it fields, according to data it collected in 2017 and 2018.

Lawmakers say there are successes, and the government’s rural development website lists health and sanitation projects, community buildings, and text-message testimonies from citizens about improvements to their lives.

But even Taiwan’s Liao – and former prime minister Lilo – say economic progress has not been fast enough.

And in the capital, patience with the incumbents charged with disbursing Taiwan’s largesse is in short supply.

“Most students would really like to see a change in the leadership and style,” said law student Ishmael Aitorea, 25, on the phone from the student association office of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara.

“The perception is that if the old parliament members go back, nothing will change.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON, Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham in SYDNEY, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Soy beans are seen at storage plant in Carlos Casares
FILE PHOTO: Soy beans are seen at a storage plant in Carlos Casares, Argentina, April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Hugh Bronstein and Karl Plume

PERGAMINO, Argentina/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Francisco Santillan, 55, a grains farmer from the heart of Argentina’s soybean country, has two things on his mind: the rains and twists and turns in a bitter trade war between the United States and China that has hurt prices.

The weather-worn farmer, who rides a Harley-Davidson around the 4,500 hectares of farmland he manages, is expecting a bumper soybean crop when he begins harvesting this month, but he and his neighbors are holding off from sealing deals with buyers in the hope a trade war breakthrough will bolster prices.

The United States and China, the world’s top soybean producer and importer respectively, have slapped import duties on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each other’s products in their dispute. Tariffs made U.S. soybeans too expensive so Beijing stopped buying them, resulting in a glut that has hit soybean contracts in Chicago, the reference price for the global trade.

Trump said on Wednesday that a trade deal with Beijing was coming along nicely, with U.S. negotiators poised to head to China next week for another round of talks. Negotiations to resolve the dispute have been turbulent – Trump also said on Wednesday tariffs would remain in place for a long time and last week that he was in no rush to reach a deal.

Benchmark Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures are hovering near $9 per bushel, only about 90 cents above decade lows posted in September.

“I am waiting for a better price,” said Santillan, one of a group of farmers who spoke to Reuters among fields of green, knee-high soy plants in the country’s fertile Pampas, where the ground was damp from heavy rains.

“The season is coming along very well. The harvest will be above 55 million tonnes and that will have a huge impact on the economy,” Santillan said. “But with news about the U.S.-China trade war determining Chicago reference prices, rather than supply and demand, it’s like we are flying without instruments.”

CASH CROP

Much in Argentina, the world’s No. 3 soybean producer and the top exporter of soyoil and the soymeal livestock feed that is fuelling Asia’s shift in diet from rice to pork and poultry, hangs on the soy crop.

A severe drought last year dragged the economy into recession, while bumper tax revenues this year could help support government spending and prop up President Mauricio Macri’s bid for re-election.

Delayed sales could hamper that. Just 16.2 percent of this season’s expected crop was sold by early March versus 30.5 percent at the same point a year earlier, government data show.

The uncertainty over prices – and the delays to deals – could also rattle the global trade as major buyers look to lock in supply, namely Archer Daniels Midland Co, Bunge Ltd, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co.

The “ABCD” quartet, which dominates global grain trade, rely on a steady flow of grain to turn a profit in a typically thin-margin business. Farmers’ reluctance to sell at low prices has stung the grains merchants recently, particularly Bunge, which blamed limited farmer selling in Brazil for earnings misses last year.

Bunge’s acting Chief Executive Gregory Heckman called Argentina “one of the larger wild cards” for the firm’s oilseeds business in 2019, and said the firm anticipated farmers would hold more of their soybeans as a hedge against inflation and currency fluctuations.

“Soybean sales are happening slower this season than at any point over the last 10 years,” said a Buenos Aires-based grains broker. “Farmers are saying ‘I don’t like the price and I don’t need the money now because I was able to make cash with wheat and corn. So I’ll wait’.”

The uncertainty for the soy harvest comes at a complex time for President Macri too, who is battling to revive the economy while fending of challenges from political rivals ahead of national elections in October.

“For Argentina, the trade war between the United States and China is piling uncertainty on a country that is already full of uncertainty,” said Jorge Bianciotto, who manages a 2,300-hectare farm called La Lucila in Pergamino.

“This generates risks in terms of next year’s planting and investment decisions.”

His neighbor, Juan Girado, who manages a 500-hectare plantation, shared his concern.

“When they say the conflict is likely to end, prices rise. When the conflict looks like it’s deepening, prices fall,” he said. “So with a big crop on the way, and with prices as low as they are, it would be good for us for the trade war to end.”

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Karl Plume; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Soy beans are seen at storage plant in Carlos Casares
FILE PHOTO: Soy beans are seen at a storage plant in Carlos Casares, Argentina, April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Hugh Bronstein and Karl Plume

PERGAMINO, Argentina/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Francisco Santillan, 55, a grains farmer from the heart of Argentina’s soybean country, has two things on his mind: the rains and twists and turns in a bitter trade war between the United States and China that has hurt prices.

The weather-worn farmer, who rides a Harley-Davidson around the 4,500 hectares of farmland he manages, is expecting a bumper soybean crop when he begins harvesting this month, but he and his neighbors are holding off from sealing deals with buyers in the hope a trade war breakthrough will bolster prices.

The United States and China, the world’s top soybean producer and importer respectively, have slapped import duties on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each other’s products in their dispute. Tariffs made U.S. soybeans too expensive so Beijing stopped buying them, resulting in a glut that has hit soybean contracts in Chicago, the reference price for the global trade.

Trump said on Wednesday that a trade deal with Beijing was coming along nicely, with U.S. negotiators poised to head to China next week for another round of talks. Negotiations to resolve the dispute have been turbulent – Trump also said on Wednesday tariffs would remain in place for a long time and last week that he was in no rush to reach a deal.

Benchmark Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures are hovering near $9 per bushel, only about 90 cents above decade lows posted in September.

“I am waiting for a better price,” said Santillan, one of a group of farmers who spoke to Reuters among fields of green, knee-high soy plants in the country’s fertile Pampas, where the ground was damp from heavy rains.

“The season is coming along very well. The harvest will be above 55 million tonnes and that will have a huge impact on the economy,” Santillan said. “But with news about the U.S.-China trade war determining Chicago reference prices, rather than supply and demand, it’s like we are flying without instruments.”

CASH CROP

Much in Argentina, the world’s No. 3 soybean producer and the top exporter of soyoil and the soymeal livestock feed that is fuelling Asia’s shift in diet from rice to pork and poultry, hangs on the soy crop.

A severe drought last year dragged the economy into recession, while bumper tax revenues this year could help support government spending and prop up President Mauricio Macri’s bid for re-election.

Delayed sales could hamper that. Just 16.2 percent of this season’s expected crop was sold by early March versus 30.5 percent at the same point a year earlier, government data show.

The uncertainty over prices – and the delays to deals – could also rattle the global trade as major buyers look to lock in supply, namely Archer Daniels Midland Co, Bunge Ltd, Cargill Inc and Louis Dreyfus Co.

The “ABCD” quartet, which dominates global grain trade, rely on a steady flow of grain to turn a profit in a typically thin-margin business. Farmers’ reluctance to sell at low prices has stung the grains merchants recently, particularly Bunge, which blamed limited farmer selling in Brazil for earnings misses last year.

Bunge’s acting Chief Executive Gregory Heckman called Argentina “one of the larger wild cards” for the firm’s oilseeds business in 2019, and said the firm anticipated farmers would hold more of their soybeans as a hedge against inflation and currency fluctuations.

“Soybean sales are happening slower this season than at any point over the last 10 years,” said a Buenos Aires-based grains broker. “Farmers are saying ‘I don’t like the price and I don’t need the money now because I was able to make cash with wheat and corn. So I’ll wait’.”

The uncertainty for the soy harvest comes at a complex time for President Macri too, who is battling to revive the economy while fending of challenges from political rivals ahead of national elections in October.

“For Argentina, the trade war between the United States and China is piling uncertainty on a country that is already full of uncertainty,” said Jorge Bianciotto, who manages a 2,300-hectare farm called La Lucila in Pergamino.

“This generates risks in terms of next year’s planting and investment decisions.”

His neighbor, Juan Girado, who manages a 500-hectare plantation, shared his concern.

“When they say the conflict is likely to end, prices rise. When the conflict looks like it’s deepening, prices fall,” he said. “So with a big crop on the way, and with prices as low as they are, it would be good for us for the trade war to end.”

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein and Karl Plume; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos
FILE PHOTO: Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) attends the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

March 20, 2019

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s agreement with the United States to forgo special treatment by the World Trade Organization (WTO) would apply only to future negotiations within the multilateral trade body, Director General Roberto Azevedo said on Wednesday.

For example, Brazil’s self-defined status as a “developing” country has allowed it to subsidize up to 10 percent of its agricultural output, whereas the limit for “developed” nations is 5 percent, Azevedo said.

That would not change with Brazil’s potential new status, he said at a foreign trade seminar, because the plan to forgo the special WTO status would not affect prior agreements.

After a White House meeting on Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump said in a joint statement that Brazil had agreed to begin a process to relinquish special and differential treatment in WTO negotiations, in line with a U.S. proposal. In return, the United States would back Brazil’s bid to become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a forum for rich nations.

“The proposal would only concern future negotiations and whether countries would benefit or request differentiated treatment in WTO talks,” Azevedo said.

Azevedo said the United States has proposed new criteria to differentiate among a range of countries in the “developing” category, which includes major economies such as Brazil and China along with smaller nations such as Guatemala and Honduras.

According to Azevedo, such criteria could include whether a country is a member of the OECD or the G20 group of nations, and whether its participation in total global trade exceeds 0.5 percent.

(Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

The logo of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology is pictured at their booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt
The logo of U.S. memory chip maker MicronTechnology is pictured at their booth at an industrial fair in Frankfurt, Germany, July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Micron Technology Inc beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly revenue and profit on Wednesday, getting a lift from demand for its memory chips used in data centers.

The company’s shares, which have gained about 27 percent this year, were marginally higher in choppy after-market trading.

The results come against the backdrop of a glut in the global semiconductor industry that has been triggered by waning demand for smartphones.

Chipmakers are also reeling from a prolonged trade war between the United States and China, with Micron warning in September that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods will weigh on its financial results for as much as a year.

Micron has been looking to weather the slowdown by investing more on its next generation chips, as well as reducing output.

Net income attributable to the company fell to $1.62 billion, or $1.42 per share, in the second quarter ended Feb. 28, from $3.31 billion, or $2.67 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell to $5.84 billion from $7.35 billion.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.71 per share.

Analysts on average had expected Micron to report a profit of $1.67 per share and revenue of $5.82 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

(Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Trump and Brazilian President Bolsonaro hold news conference at the White House in Washington
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro listens to U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 20, 2019

By Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle

WASHINGTON/BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro won glowing praise and conditional promises from U.S. President Donald Trump on his visit to the White House this week, yet Brazilian negotiators came away grumbling about their hosts driving a hard bargain.

Diplomats and other officials said Brazil got few immediate concessions in return for granting a unilateral visa waiver for U.S. visitors, a tariff-free quota for wheat imports and easier access for U.S. space launches from Brazil.

Bolsonaro, an outspoken Trump admirer who seemed eager to please at their first meeting, failed to win more room for Brazil’s sugar exports or overturn a U.S. ban on fresh Brazilian beef – both major objectives of the country’s farm sector.

“If this is the way forward, we might as well stay put,” said a Brazilian official directly involved in the negotiations, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “They asked for everything, but didn’t want to cede on anything.”

Reactions among Brazilians focused largely on the symbolism of the visit, with Bolsonaro supporters calling it a vindication for the iconoclastic leader and critics cringing to see him so cozy with Trump.

Yet the frustration of the Brazilian delegation reflects the deeper difficulty of overcoming trade barriers and agribusiness competition between the two countries, even as their presidents find common ground in their brash style and conservative views.

Bolsonaro celebrated his visit as the start of a new era of U.S.-Brazil friendship, playing up his admiration of Trump and their shared disdain for political correctness and “fake news,” as they often call unfavorable press coverage.

The presidents also found common ground in condemning Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and cooperating on public security and military development. Designating Brazil a “major non-NATO ally” will ease U.S. arms sales to the Brazilian armed forces, while a new technology safeguard agreement will help U.S. companies to conduct commercial space launches in Brazil.

However, in more transactional areas such as trade, the Brazilians’ goodwill offerings, such as an annual import quota of 750,000 tonnes of tariff-free wheat, were not met in kind.

“If this reciprocity does not occur, Bolsonaro’s preference for the U.S. will look naive in the future,” said Welber Barral, a former Brazilian foreign trade secretary.

Brazil’s new openness to wheat imports will mainly benefit U.S. exporters and was a slap in the face to neighboring Argentina, another major trade partner, Barral said.

He also warned that Brazil stands to face more setbacks on trade if it gives up the benefits of “developing country” status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) — the U.S. condition for supporting Brazil’s bid to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a policy forum for wealthier nations.

That conditional endorsement — concrete WTO concessions in return for symbolic OECD membership — left Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes visibly annoyed after his meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“That’s no exchange. He’s making that demand,” he told journalists.

Addressing an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Guedes also gave a hint of the sticking points that stood in the way of broader trade agreements.

“You want to sell pork? Okay, buy my beef. You want to sell ethanol? Buy my sugar. Beef for pork, ethanol for sugar, wheat for auto parts. They’re little things,” he said.

None of the exchanges he suggested were formalized in talks.

Guedes reminded the audience that China, Brazil’s top trading partner, would be ready to pick up the slack if the United States did not engage.

“They are moving in, trying to invest,” Guedes warned.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Anthony Boadle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Powell holds news conference following two-day policy meeting in Washington
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference following the two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 20, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday and its policymakers abandoned projections for further rate hikes this year as the U.S. central bank flagged an expected slowdown in the economy.

In a major shift in its perspective, the Fed also now expects to raise borrowing costs only once more through 2021, and no longer anticipates the need to guard against inflation with restrictive monetary policy.

Market reaction:

Stocks: The S&P 500 reversed losses to turn 0.3 percent higher. The Dow turned 0.1 percent higher. Bonds: The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield fell to 2.5405 percent and the 2-year yield fell to 2.4003 percent.

Forex: The dollar index reversed slight gains and was off 0.63 percent.

Comments:

Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist, Wells Fargo Asset Management, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

“I didn’t think they’d do it, but they came across as more dovish than what was expected. Wrapping up the balance sheet run-off by the end of September rather than the end of December was the biggest surprise. Beginning in October they will keep allowing the MBSs to run-off, but replace them with Treasuries. There was also more consensus on ‘no hikes for 2019’ than I thought there would be.

“While the ECB’s dovish tilt was taken as a bearish omen for the Eurozone economy, the Fed’s dovish tilt is viewed as much more bullish. The key difference was in the messaging. The ECB’s was couched in terms of weakness. The Fed’s is couched in terms of caution.”

Danielle Hale, chief economist, Realtor.com, Washington

“It’s no surprise that the Fed decided to hold rates steady today, given its January pledge of taking a patient approach to reviewing data and making interest rate decisions. But today’s meeting also gives us clues about the road ahead for mortgage rates, which are influenced by both short-term rates and the longer-term economic outlook. Despite current short term rate increases, recent economic forecasts have been less certain, which has caused mortgage rates to slip recently.

“With today’s downgrade of the forecast for 2019 and 2020 from the Fed and lowered expectations for the median Fed Funds rate in this time, we expect this trend to continue with steadiness or even further potential declines in mortgage rates. While a plus for home buyers, if concerns about the economic outlook rattle consumer and home buyer confidence, it could offset the benefit of lower mortgage rates.”

Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser, Allianz, Newport Beach, California

“The Federal Reserve continued its move to a significantly more dovish policy stance, delivering to bullish investors exactly what they were hoping and betting for in terms of the outlook for interest rates and balance sheet.”

Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer, Leuthold Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota

“It sounded like to me as if I were listening to the (European Central Bank.) I had to read the Fed statement twice. It was a surprise. I think we are on the cusp of that – Does the Fed know something we don’t? What I found most interesting is more of the change in tone than substance by the Fed at this point. We are cautious on the stock market and moderately bullish on the bond market. We continue to forecast an economic slowdown. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rate cut later this year – around the fourth quarter. And I wouldn’t necessarily take that as a bullish thing.”  

Peter Cardillo, chief market economist, Spartan Capital Securities, New York

“It’s very dovish, obviously. They talked about the balance sheet (reductions)… and it does appear now they have abandoned raising rates for the remainder of the year. But that came also with lower economic activity, not by much, but they lowered some of their forecasts. Basically, this should be positive for stocks and hard assets as well.

“If rates go down, it’s less of a headwind for stocks. It doesn’t mean we’ll turn into a super bull market.”

Andre Bakhos, managing director, New Vines Capital LLC, Bernardsville, New Jersey

“The markets are viewing the fact that there will be no more rate hikes this year positively and it creates a risk-on scenario and if we can get a trade deal done in this stabilizing environment it could set up very nicely down the line.

“The markets have rallied very strongly on the news and that type of strong move is indicative of a sigh of relief and what one would deem as the best case scenario. In other words, a slowing economy is good as it keeps rates low, it shows that we can have growth even though the economy is slowing down and that helps markets.”

“This is going to create a good trading environment, and net-on-net this is a sigh of relief for traders and something the markets could focus on in the nearer term while we wait for a better visibility in China.”

Leslie Falconio, senior strategist, UBS Global Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Office, New York

“We anticipated the Fed removing one dot in 2019 and leaving one dot. They’ve removed both hikes in 2019. They’ve removed two hikes in 2020, leaving only one hike. That’s a bit dovish which is pushing yields down.

“They came out a bit more dovish than what the market was anticipating and what we were anticipating. The yield curve is therefore steepening. The long end is underperforming a little in Treasuries. When it comes to the balance sheet, although we were anticipating for the balance sheet (runoff) to cease we needed confirmation for exactly when they’d do that.”

“The market had already priced that the fed wouldn’t raise this year. That’s why you’re not getting as big a move. The market was right. It was pricing out two hikes this year and from what the Fed gave us the market was correct.”

Luke Tilley, chief economist, Wilmington Trust, Wilmington, Delaware

“The Fed moved in a much more dovish direction than anticipated on the rate hikes. That should be pretty supportive to the market. The action on the balance sheet is also supportive of markets.”

“We are not concerned that the Fed has downgraded its GDP forecast. Our forecast has been about 2 percent growth for 2019 for quite some time, so the Fed is coming down closer to our expectation. The dovishness on rates is less about anticipated growth and more about the fact that we simply don’t have any signs of inflation picking up.”

Chuck tomes, associate portfolio manager, Manulife Asset Management, Boston

“Overall it seems the Fed was able to solidify their dovish view as there are no rate hikes priced in for this year and only one rate hike for 2020. That was more dovish than people were expecting at the margin, even though the market was looking for a dovish Fed today.

“The dollar has come under pressure against a large number of currencies around the world.”   

Josh Bivens, director of research, the Economic Policy Institute, Washington, D.C.

“This is a welcome pause from the too-regular increases of the past couple of years. It is also a pause warranted by the economic data. There are clear signs that past rate increases are slowing spending growth through traditional transmission channels – slower residential investment growth and lower net exports – and 2019 will see the fiscal boost from tax cuts and higher spending levels fade rapidly. While wage growth is clearly healthier in recent years, productivity has also staged what looks increasingly like a durable, if unspectacular, rebound. This productivity rebound has helped keep price inflation firmly within – or even under – the Fed’s long-run targets. At this point, the key challenge facing the Fed in coming years is likely not going to be how to keep inflation in check, instead it will be how to keep the recovery going as long as possible to let workers finally eke out some significant gains. Indications that the Fed is unlikely to raise rates this year suggest they realize this.” 

Gennadiy Goldberg, interest rate strategist, TD Securities, New York

“It’s fairly dovish I’d say, given that there were 11 dots going to zero hikes in 2019, which is certainly quite a move lower. The fact that they’ve announced balance sheet runoff ending I think is certainly quite dovish as well. In a sense I think this is quite a bit more dovish than the market was priced for and that’s why you’re seeing Treasuries rally and equities rally as well. I think the expectation in the markets was a lowering to one dot. I think that was really the consensus and the fact that we’ve had 11 at zero, so effectively no hikes this year, sends a pretty dovish signal to the market.”

Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst, Western Union Business Solutions, Washington

“The Fed exceeded markets’ dovish expectations which took a toll on the greenback. The Fed did a big about-face on policy. The fact that the Fed threw in the towel on a 2019 rate hike was particularly dovish. Still, with the Fed erring more on supporting growth, it could reduce the chance of a rate cut in the months ahead. As for the timing on the end of balance sheet normalization, September is the early side of expectations.”

Evan Brown, head of macro asset allocation strategy, UBS Asset Management, New York

“It definitely skewed on the dovish side of expectations. The main surprise is that the Fed projects zero hikes in 2019. Whereas our broad expectation, and the expectation of consensus, was for them to leave in at least one hike in 2019. So, they’re effectively saying they’re done for the year.

“There’s one hike projected for 2020 but there’s a long time between now and then and so the market is effectively taking the view that the Fed is done tightening.  

“The balance sheet rolloff information is coming in in line with expectations. The main surprise is having no hikes in 2019 for the median dot projection – and there was a surprisingly high number of FOMC members who were in favor of that.”

Walter Todd, chief investment officer, Greenwood Capital, Greenwood, South Carolina

“The market had already priced in no hikes for 2019, but the Fed kind of validated that with the dots. That’s somewhat significant. The clarification on when they are going to end the balance sheet, maybe that was sooner than people anticipated, end of September. That’s the two things that the market is maybe reacting to at this point.”

(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)

Source: OANN

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks
Mar 18, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; A view of the arena during the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

March 20, 2019

The NBA Summer League will have an international flavor in 2019.

The Chinese and Croatian national teams will join all 30 NBA teams in participating in the league, which will be held July 5-15 in Las Vegas, the NBA announced Wednesday.

Team China played in Las Vegas at the 2007 NBA Summer League, but Team Croatia is making its debut at the event, marking the first time the league will have two international teams.

Each of the 32 teams will play four preliminary games, with the top eight teams seeded into a tournament to determine the champion. Those that don’t make the championship bracket will play a consolation game.

Every NBA team will participate in Las Vegas for the second consecutive year. The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2018 title.

China will host and participate in the 32-team FIBA World Cup, which begins Aug. 31. Croatia did not make the field.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An employee moves car components in a production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg
FILE PHOTO: An employee moves car components in a production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

March 20, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen’s supervisory board is set to meet on Friday to discuss the company’s ambitious cost-reduction plans, Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday, citing company sources.

The magazine said the extraordinary board meeting has been scheduled to mediate between management at Germany’s biggest carmaker and the head of its works council, Bernd Osterloh, who is also a member of the supervisory board.

A Volkswagen spokesman said he did not know of any planned board session.

A participant at a staff gathering on Wednesday told Reuters that Osterloh had said that unless the management offered concessions on planned job cuts there could be a confrontation that would “paralyze the company for months”.

Volkswagen this month said it would shrink its workforce by up to 7,000, raise productivity and eke out 5.9 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in annual savings at its core VW brand by 2023 in an effort to raise operating margins to 6 percent.

Der Spiegel, which also referred to the staff meeting, reported that Osterloh demanded a jobs guarantee to 2029 and that the Wolfsburg-based carmaker restaffs all currently open positions.

“I will tell Mr. Porsche the same thing this week,” Osterloh was quoted as saying by the meeting participant who spoke to Reuters.

Wolfgang Porsche is chairman of Porsche SE, the holding company that controls Volkswagen, and is a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board. Tensions had flared this month after he criticized what he described as rigid structures in Wolfsburg and demanded greater flexibility from VW’s workers to help Chief Executive Herbert Diess to overhaul the carmaker.

“We give job guarantees until 2025 or 2028 and have no idea what the competition in China will be unveiling in two years time,” Porsche said at the time.

Osterloh has retaliated by blaming management mistakes for high costs and low profitability at VW.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Douglas Busvine and David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are seen before Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday a trade deal with Beijing is coming along, with U.S. trade negotiators going to China soon.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said his administration is talking about leaving tariffs on China for a long period of time. Trump has said the threat of tariffs makes Beijing eager to reach a deal.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

Iron workers install steel beams during a hot summer day in New York
Iron workers install steel beams during a hot summer day in New York, July 17, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Wednesday that domestic producers were being harmed by imports of fabricated structural steel from Canada, China and Mexico, keeping alive an investigation that could lead to duties on the products.

The ITC’s preliminary determination ensures that an anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation launched by the U.S. Commerce Department last month will move forward.

U.S. lawmakers, car companies and Canada and Mexico have strongly urged the Trump administration to drop U.S. national security tariffs on steel and aluminum imports after a deal announced last year to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The fabricated structural steel under investigation is used in major building projects, including bridges, office and residential buildings, parking decks and ports.

If the Commerce Department determines the imports are being dumped in the U.S. market at less than fair value, unfairly subsidized, or both, and if the ITC affirms its finding of harm, the United States will impose duties for an initial five years.

The department launched the trade case after receiving a petition from an industry trade group.

The United States imported $658.3 million worth of fabricated structural steel from Canada in 2017, $841.7 million worth from China, and $406.6 million from Mexico.

The Commerce Department alleges there are 44 subsidy programs for Canadian fabricated structural steel, including tax programs, grant programs, loan programs, export insurance programs, and equity programs. There are also 26 subsidy programs for China and 19 subsidy programs for Mexico, according to the agency.

Last month, a Canadian steel industry group said it would strongly oppose anti-dumping duties on certain steel imports from Canada. The Canadian Institute of Steel Construction said allegations “that these products from Canada are unfairly traded and cause injury to U.S. producers of fabricated steel products are baseless.”

(Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by David Alexander and Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 20, 2019

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Dow Jones Industrial Average triggered a technical signal on Tuesday that many investors believe could portend more gains for stocks in the short term, known as the golden cross.

The chart pattern comes about when a short-term moving average moves above a longer-term moving average. Moving averages are popular trend indicators used by technical analysts.

In the case of the Dow on Tuesday, the 50-day moving average crossed above the index’s 200-day moving average, which is the most widely watched combination among technicians. Some analysts employ additional criteria in determining whether a cross is triggered, for example, if both moving averages are sloping upward, which the Dow’s currently are.

Even with the Dow’s slightly lower close on Tuesday on trade concerns, the 50-day managed to end the session above the 200-day moving average.

Other major indexes, such as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, have moved closer to a golden cross as stocks continue to rally off their late December lows, buoyed by a Federal Reserve pause in interest rate hikes and building investor optimism for a trade deal between the U.S. and China.

“All signs are pointing towards continued good performance, and the golden cross just accentuates that because that is another positive story,” said Ken Polcari, managing principal at Butcher Joseph Asset Management in New York.

Polcari said the cross should not be looked at in a vacuum, however, and pointed to gains in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq that have lifted those indexes above their highs from early March as further evidence the market is strengthening.

“You have to look at it in the context of some of the other indicators,” Polcari said.

On Dec. 7, the S&P 500 triggered a bearish counterpart, known as a “death cross,” when the 50-day moving average fell below the 200-day. The benchmark index went down another nearly 11 percent before bottoming on Dec. 24.

The Dow last triggered a golden cross on April 19, 2016 and closed out the year 9.5 percent higher from there.

(Graphic: Dow Golden Cross link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULiKEu).

Still, the golden cross is far from a bulletproof signal. According to Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York, using a “golden cross” strategy yielded a lower return than the compound annual growth rates for the Dow and smallcap Russell 2000 index since 1990.

The results were different for the S&P 500, however, with the “golden cross” strategy yielding returns similar to the index while also enabling investors to avoid major sell-offs and bouts of volatility.

Since 2000, the biggest drop yearly using a cross strategy would be 6 percent versus 38 percent for the index. In addition, the strategy topped the performance of the index 55 percent of the time.

(Dow triggers golden cross link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HvPWNE).

As a result, Stovall thinks the strategy could be feasible for an investor depending on what their goal is.

“In many ways (technical analysis) is an interpretive science. I think it is a good one, but not everybody interprets the pattern the same way,” he said.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Alden Bentley and Phil Berlowitz)

Source: OANN

Man is seen in front of an electronic board showing stock information on the first day of trading in the Year of the Pig at a brokerage house in Hangzhou
FILE PHOTO: A man is seen in front of an electronic board showing stock information on the first day of trading in the Year of the Pig, following the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

March 20, 2019

By Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) – After plowing billions into emerging market equities since October, investors have started to show signs of hesitation, but an uptick in earnings expectations should reassure those hoping to capitalize on stronger economic growth in the emerging world.

Emerging equity funds have suffered outflows over the past three weeks, according to EPFR data, and investors in a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey described emerging markets as the “most crowded trade”.

Year-to-date net fund flows into emerging markets total $15.7 billion, against $61.8 billion exiting developed markets, and global asset allocators have been increasing their exposure, betting that the worst is over and a declining dollar will help emerging economies.

Francois Savary, chief investment officer at wealth manager Prime Partners, who has an overweight on emerging equities in his asset allocation, said investors are searching for growth in a world where it is looking increasingly scarce.

“It’s not only a play on the last phase of the cycle, it is the fact that we have doubts about the U.S. economy down the road,” added Savary.

The relative health of emerging companies’ earnings compared to the rest of the world is a central draw. Analysts have increased their expectations for EM earnings growth this month while forecasts slide everywhere else.

Emerging markets valuations and return on equity March 20: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Cv5flh

Emerging earnings growth by country: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Cv4j0f

Small versus large emerging markets MARCH 20: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hy0dJ5

emerging markets earnings growth expectations inch higher March 20: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HwrlIk

CHINA GOLD RUSH

The inclusion of China’s domestic A-Shares into MSCI’s emerging markets index has also been a game-changer, making it far easier for international investors to access Chinese stocks.

Data from the Institute of International Finance showed that the lion’s share of emerging market equity inflows – $10.6 billion of a total of $13.9 billion in February – piled into Chinese stocks.

“The Tencents, Alibabas and Baidus of this world are not just Chinese growth stories, they’re becoming global international growth stories,” said Edmund Shing, head of equities and derivatives strategy at BNP Paribas in London.

“From that point of view, people are coming back to that sector and thinking that’s a better place to be. I would argue these leading technology companies are more innovative than their U.S. counterparts,” he added.

But investors are treading with caution, having learnt the hard way not to be too hopeful after many false dawns.

“No-one is breaking out the champagne on this. We’re just hoping we get a decent year, and arguing that U.S. valuations versus EM are quite stretched,” said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital.

Return on equity across emerging markets has risen to a five-year high, while valuations, at 11.6 times forward earnings, are 30 percent cheaper than the S&P 500.

With the sugar rush of U.S. tax cuts wearing off, U.S. profit margins look set to wane while EM margins have further to go.

Earnings for EM overall are expected to grow 6.8 percent this year – down from the 12 percent growth expected back in September, but still set to outpace the United States.

Thawing China-U.S. trade relations have also helped buoy the market.

“Because they’re seeing macro getting better, trade getting better, China doing the right things, as long as they can see that forward progress they can feel that some level of past disappointment can be just that – in the past,” said Andrew Jones, emerging markets equity portfolio manager at Pinebridge Investments in New York.

A “CROWDED TRADE”?

The BAML survey could be a bad omen for emerging markets. Previous “crowded trades” include bitcoin and the FAANGs, which went on to slide significantly.

On Tuesday, the latest survey showed short European equities had succeeded EM, however, comforting investors who say the asset class hasn’t reached the eye-watering valuations characteristic of such trades.

“When I meet clients there is certainly a lot of interest, but have people really started to move? I would say no,” said Robert Horrocks, chief investment officer at Matthews Asia.

The market is not factoring in the idea there could be a sustained earnings cycle in Asia, he added, saying Asian earnings could outgrow Europe by 3 to 5 percentage points.

Some, like Peter Elam Hakansson, chairman and CIO at East Capital in Stockholm, are homing in on specific countries where they see particularly strong earnings growth.

“Some of the most interesting developments will be in Brazil and Russia where you had some very nice earnings growth but the market is not really appreciating it,” said Hakansson.

Brazil and Russia have delivered the strongest year-on-year earnings growth of top EM countries, while Taiwan and South Korea – hit by U.S.-China trade tariffs – have had sharply negative earnings growth.

Data from Copley Fund Research shows that emerging market funds are overweight India and consumer staples stocks, while the biggest underweights are Taiwan, South Korea, communication services, and China and Hong Kong.

Others are seeking contrarian plays in the context of a U.S.-China trade war potentially nearing its end.

Al Bryant, EM portfolio manager at River & Mercantile in Chicago, said he holds some Chinese port operators.

“Global trade isn’t going away,” he said. “That’s our one option play, if you will, on a (trade) compromise coming out.”

Bryant is also focusing on small-cap stocks, which have a better earnings growth outlook while trading at lower valuations than large-caps.

“Small-caps are tilted away from state-owned enterprises, more tilted to privately owned and consumer companies whose story is a lot more attuned to the consumer demand you’re seeing in EM,” Bryant said.

(Reporting by Helen Reid, Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker and Josephine Mason, Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Ford logo is seen at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan
FILE PHOTO: The Ford logo is seen at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 20, 2019

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it is adding production of a fully electric vehicle at a second North American plant as part of its $11 billion investment plan set last year.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker said it is investing about $900 million in southeast Michigan and creating 900 jobs through 2023 as part of its electric vehicle push. That includes a plan to invest more than $850 million to expand production capacity at its Flat Rock, Michigan, plant to build EVs.

“When we were taking a look at our $11 billion investment in electrification, it became obvious to us that we were going to need a second plant in the not-too-distant future to add capacity for our battery electric vehicles,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, said in a telephone interview.

Ford is negotiating an alliance with Germany’s Volkswagen AG to work together on electric and autonomous vehicles. Hinrichs said those talks have been positive, but that there was nothing to announce.

Ford in January 2018 said it would increase its planned investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup. That investment figure was up from the previous target of $4.5 billion by 2020.

Automakers have been boosting investment in the development of EVs in part because of pressure from regulators in China, Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They also are being pushed by electric carmakers like Tesla Inc.

Of the 40 vehicles, Ford said at the time that 16 would be fully electric and the rest would be plug-in hybrids.

The Flat Rock plant, which currently employs 3,400 people, builds the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental cars. The plant investment includes adding a second shift and funding to build the next-generation Mustang.

Ford already was planning an all-electric sport utility vehicle in 2020 that will be built at its Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker also said on Wednesday that it will build its first self-driving vehicles for use by commercial customers at a new manufacturing center in southeast Michigan starting in 2021, and will build its next-generation North American Transit Connect commercial and passenger van in Mexico starting that same year.

The next-generation Transit Connect small van will be built at Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant and increases U.S. and Canadian vehicle content consistent with the proposed new North American trade agreement, the company said. The vehicle is now built in Spain.

Hinrichs said he is optimistic Congress will approve the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a meeting in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a meeting in Brussels, Belgium March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman -/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union executive is urging EU leaders this week to get tough on trade with Beijing and use their 2.4 trillion euro ($2.7 trillion) market in public tenders as leverage to pressure countries such as China to open up.

The bloc has sought to avoid taking sides in a multi-billion dollar trade war between Washington and Beijing, but has become increasingly frustrated by subsidies and state involvement in the Chinese economy, and what it sees as the slow pace of change.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told Reuters that the time was gone when China, the EU’s second largest goods trading partner, could argue that it needed to protect its developing economy.

“The old narrative is absolutely obsolete,” he said in an interview.

EU leaders will debate relations with China over dinner at a summit on Thursday.

The Commission now wants to revive a proposal that could lead to the bloc limiting foreign firms’ access to public tenders if there is discrimination against EU firms in their home procurement market.

In such cases, a penalty surcharge of up to 20 percent would be applied to the foreign bids.

The Commission proposed its International Procurement Instrument (IPI) in 2012 and 2016, largely at the instigation of France, but faced resistance from several EU countries.

However, it believes there is more willingness now to be firm with China, notably after EU members late last year backed a system of screening foreign investments for threats to strategic technologies and infrastructure.

“Once they saw concrete acquisitions, everybody started to back the (screening) proposal,” Katainen said. “The same thing will happen with IPI as it’s a way to improve reciprocity.”

Neither the screening law nor the public procurement proposal mention China by name, but the Commission mentioned both in its 10-point action plan on EU-China relations, published last week.

A German EU diplomat welcomed the paper as a whole, calling it “comprehensive and courageous”. However, the northern EU members that are most enthusiastic about free trade fear that the measure smacks of protectionism and could harm taxpayers by shutting out cheaper Chinese providers, for instance.

The Commission says Europe needs to take a coordinated approach and that EU companies face the most discrimination in public procurement worldwide, citing Global Trade Alert data.

Of the 10 countries most discriminated against, five are European, with Germany at the top. However, China comes second, and more than 40 percent of the restrictive measures are applied in or by the United States.

Commission officials said the proposal had in mind restrictions in India, Indonesia, Russia and Turkey, but they would not be drawn on the U.S. Buy American Act at a time when the EU is trying to ease trade tensions with Washington.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside DingTalk office, an offshoot of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, in Hangzhou
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside DingTalk office, an offshoot of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China July 20, 2018. Picture taken July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Foxconn Ventures Holdco has sold $398.4 million worth of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s shares, in a block trade in the open market managed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Foxconn sold 2.2 million Alibaba shares on Wednesday at $181.10 per share, the sources said, asking not to be identified ahead of any official announcement.

Foxconn and Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An offshore oil rig is seen in the Caspian Sea near Baku
FILE PHOTO: An offshore oil rig is seen in the Caspian Sea near Baku, Azerbaijan, October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

March 20, 2019

By Noah Browning

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Wednesday, dragged down by concerns about global economic growth as the U.S.-China trade dispute rumbled on, but receiving some support from tightened supply.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $67.35 a barrel at 1250 GMT, down 26 cents, or 0.38 percent.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $58.43 per barrel, down 60 cents, or 1.02 percent.

An eight-month trade war between China and the United States has worried global markets already concerned by signs of a slowdown in economic growth this year.

But there have been mixed signals that the standoff between the world’s top two economies can soon be resolved.

A Bloomberg report on Tuesday citing concern among U.S. officials that China is pushing back on American demands briefly weakened oil prices before both benchmarks again approached four-month highs.

However, Washington announced that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to travel to China next week for another round of trade talks with senior Chinese officials.

“U.S.-China trade talks continue to present a binary risk for the oil market and other risky assets,” BNP Paribas strategist Harry Tchilinguirian told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

“A trade agreement is likely to boost oil prices above current forecasts whereas failure can lead to the type of sell-off we saw last December.”

Analysts said an economic slowdown could soon dent fuel consumption, holding back crude.

“Global growth concerns and ongoing oversupply fears (are) creating headwinds for the commodity,” said Lukman Otunuga, analyst at futures brokerage FXTM.

Asian business confidence held near three-year lows in the first quarter as the U.S.-China trade dispute dragged on, pulling down a global economy that is already on a downward path, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey found.

But crude prices have risen almost a third this year, pushed up by supply cuts among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia, as well as U.S. sanctions against oil exporters Iran and Venezuela.

“The shaky supply outlook with regard to Venezuela and Iran, as well as the petro-nations’ output restrictions are top of mind in the oil market,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of economics at Swiss bank Julius Baer.

Further boosting prices, the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday that U.S. crude, gasoline and distillate inventories fell in the week to March 15.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration will publish its weekly crude production and storage level report around 1700 GMT.

(Reporting by Noah Browning; Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Dale Hudson and Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

Workers are seen on scaffolding at a construction site in Nantong
FILE PHOTO: Workers are seen on scaffolding at a construction site in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China January 1, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

March 20, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will strive to achieve its economic development targets for 2019, state television said on Wednesday, quoting the cabinet after a meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang.

The government aimed to “maintain steady economic operations and promote high quality development”, Li was quoted as saying.

China will speed up tax and fee cuts and push reforms to help shore up confidence of companies, Li said.

The government would adjust tax rebates for exports of goods and services, he added.

China has promised billions of dollars in tax cuts and infrastructure spending to help businesses and protect jobs, as economic momentum is expected to fall further due to softer domestic demand and a trade war with the United States.

China is targeting economic growth of 6.0-6.5 percent in 2019. The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.6 percent in 2018 – the weakest in 28 years.

(Reporting by Kevin Yao and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 20, 2019

By Medha Singh

(Reuters) – U.S. stock futures were little changed on Wednesday as investors waited for more clarity on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate outlook for the year, while some trade worries still lingered.

The U.S. central bank is expected to keep the fed funds rate unchanged and lower the number of hikes projected for the rest of the year as it wraps up a two-day policy meeting, followed by a statement at 2 p.m. ET and a press conference by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell half an hour later.

The policy statement will also shed light on long-awaited details regarding the Fed’s plans to stop reducing its holdings of Treasury bonds.

“Today’s price action is going to be focused mainly on the Fed chairman’s speech,” Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK Ltd in London said in a client note.

“Powell will be grilled on his future plan with respect to the monetary policy and he will have to continue to stress on one keyword, ‘patience’.”

At 6:57 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 0.08 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.06 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 0.02 percent.

Optimism that the Fed will remain patient in raising borrowing costs and hopes that United States and China will resolve their trade spat helped U.S. stocks erase most of their losses from late last year.

Following a 13 percent rally this year, the benchmark S&P 500 now remains 3.5 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Wall Street’s main indexes ended mixed on Tuesday, after a report that U.S. was concerned that China was pushing back against American demands in trade talks. News that the world’s biggest economies will reconvene face-to-face negotiations next week, did little to support the markets.

“It was pretty much given that only a negative surprise was going to have an impact on the markets, when it comes to the trade negotiations saga, because all the positive aspect was already priced in,” Aslam said.

Among stocks, FedEx Corp, seen as a bellwether for the global economy, fell 6.7 percent in premarket trade after the package delivery company cut its 2019 profit forecast for the second time in three months.

General Mills Inc jumped 5.7 percent after the Cheerios cereal maker reported an 8 percent rise in quarterly sales and also raised its full-year profit forecast.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

Source: OANN

An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: An attendant walks past EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High-level Economic Dialogue at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

March 20, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders will coordinate their positions on Thursday evening on a number of issues they intend to raise with China at an April 9 summit, including tight cooperation on WTO reform and cyber-security concerns, a senior EU official said.

While there will be no written conclusions of the discussion, the leaders of the 28-nation bloc will also discuss how Europe should position itself in the trade conflict between the United States and China, the official said.

“We are ready to offer China very comprehensive cooperation in many areas,” the official, who is involved in the preparation of the EU leaders’ meeting, said.

He said EU leaders were ready to conclude in 2020 an “ambitious” EU-China investment agreement and that leaders of EU institutions would directly engage in the talks, to speed up the process which has so far been slow.

By mid-year, the EU would like to agree with China on a list of access barriers to priority markets so they can be eliminated and ensure that companies on both sides are not discriminated against.

The official said the EU was also ready to conclude as soon as possible an EU-China agreement on the protection of geographical indications and to work closely with Beijing to deeply reform the World Trade Organisation.

He said the reforms should include new rules on industrial subsidies, on eliminating forced technological transfers and getting to work the WTO appellate body, now paralyzed by the lack of appointed judges.

“We also want to work with China within the G20 framework to tackle the problem of over-capacity in the steel and aluminum sectors and also to prevent the problem of over-capacity in other sectors like in high tech,” the official said.

“We also want to work with China on new, transparent rules for export credit. We are ready to promote, together with China, connectivity between Europe and Asia, but in a way that ensures fiscal, financial and environmental sustainability,” he said.

The EU will also want to discuss with China its concerns linked to cyber security, including cyber theft of intellectual property, the official said.

“I think this discussion will also give a chance for a collective reflection on how the EU should position itself vis-a-vis China and the U.S.,” he added.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

Police officers and workers in protective suits are seen at a checkpoint on a road leading to a farm owned by Hebei Dawu Group where African swine fever was detected, in Xushui
Police officers and workers in protective suits are seen at a checkpoint on a road leading to a farm owned by Hebei Dawu Group where African swine fever was detected, in Xushui district of Baoding, Hebei province, China February 26, 2019. Picture taken February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Hallie Gu

March 20, 2019

By Dominique Patton

BAODING, China (Reuters) – When pigs on the Xinda Husbandry Co. Ltd breeding farm in northern China began dying in growing numbers in early January, it looked increasingly likely that the farm had been struck by the much feared African swine fever, an incurable disease that has spread rapidly across the country since last year.

But after taking samples from some pigs, local officials in the Xushui district of Baoding city, about an hour’s drive from Beijing, said their tests came back negative, said Sun Dawu, chairman of Hebei Dawu Agriculture Group, the farm owner.

As hundreds of pigs began dying daily on the 20,000-head farm, the company obtained a test kit that showed some positive results for the virus. But after further lobbying by Xinda, officials just offered the company subsidies for farm buildings and other investments, said Sun.

Sun’s account of events and pictures taken by farm staff of dead pigs lying in rows and a pile outside the farm could not be independently verified.

Xushui district said in a faxed response to Reuters on Tuesday that it was opening an investigation into the case, adding that it had found some “discrepancies” with the reported version of events.

“If there is illegal behavior, relevant departments will handle it according to the law,” added the statement from the local government’s investigative committee.

Farmers and other industry insiders told Reuters that China’s African swine fever epidemic is far more extensive than official reports suggest, making the disease harder to contain, potentially causing pork shortages and increasing the likelihood that it will spread beyond China’s borders.

“Our full expectation is that the number of cases is under-reported,” said Paul Sundberg, executive director at the Swine Health Information Center in Ames, Iowa, which is funded by American pork producers.

“And if there’s so much of that virus in the environment in China, then we are at increased risk of importing it.”

China does not permit the commercial sale of African swine fever test kits, though many are now available. Official confirmation must come from a state-approved laboratory.

“Public confirmation of disease is the government’s job,” Sun told Reuters at his company headquarters in Xushui in late February.

Frustrated by the lack of action and mounting losses from the disease, Sun eventually published details of the suspected outbreak on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo on Feb. 22.

Two days later, it became the first African swine fever case in Hebei province, one of the north’s top pig producing regions, to be reported by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, about seven weeks after the company says it had alerted local authorities.

By then, more than 15,000 pigs on the Xinda farm had already died, said Sun, and the company even sold on thousands of pigs – potentially spreading the disease further.

Sun said officials did not explain why their first test had been negative, though he suggested it may have been because they took samples from live pigs on the farm and did not test the dead ones.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not reply to a faxed request for comment on the case.

The agriculture ministry has warned against covering up outbreaks of the disease, and in January highlighted two large farms that had tried to conceal outbreaks.

UNCONFIRMED OUTBREAKS

Detailed accounts of unconfirmed outbreaks shared with Reuters by two other farm company managers suggest Sun’s experience is not unique.

In one case in northern China last year, local officials declined to even carry out a test. In another case in Shandong province, official test results came back negative, despite clinical symptoms that strongly pointed to African swine fever and a positive test result obtained by the company itself.

Neither manager was willing to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Once an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) is confirmed, all pigs on the farm, as well as any within a 3-km (1.8-mile) radius, must be culled and disposed of, according to Chinese law, and farmers should be paid 1,200 yuan ($180) per pig culled.

For some cash-strapped county governments, avoiding compensation payments could be an incentive not to report disease, said a senior official with a major pig producer.

When the disease hit one of the company’s 6,000-head sow farms in the northeast in November, local authorities did nothing, the official said.

“It was never tested by the government. We couldn’t do the test because we didn’t have the capability. But there’s no question it was ASF, based on the symptoms and lesions,” he told Reuters, declining to be identified because of company policy.

A county official in northeastern Liaoning province told Reuters in January that the local government had poured so much money and resources into preventing and controlling African swine fever that it risked bankrupting the county.

But wealthy Shandong province, northern China’s biggest producer of hogs, has only confirmed one case of the disease, on Feb. 20.

Insiders at one company said four of its farms in the province had suffered swine fever infections, however, suggesting more unconfirmed outbreaks may have occurred.

After the company’s first outbreak in early January the local government tested and the results came back negative, said an executive, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Shandong province’s animal husbandry bureau did not respond to a fax seeking comment on unreported cases.

‘SPATIAL RANDOMNESS’

There is no cure or vaccine for African swine fever and it kills about 90 percent of infected pigs.

Analysts forecast pig production in China, which eats about half of the world’s pork, will fall more than during the 2006 ‘blue ear’ epidemic, one of the worst disease outbreaks in recent years, with some expecting a decline of around 30 percent in 2019.

That would send meat prices soaring and trigger huge demand for imports.

The agriculture ministry said last week the pig herd in February had dropped 16.6 percent year-on-year, and sow stocks were down more than 19 percent.

China also has a patchy record of reporting disease. Details of the blue ear outbreak, which infected more than 2 million hogs, did not emerge until months after the damage had already been done, and the number of pigs that died is still disputed.

Like blue ear, African swine fever does not harm people. But it is classified a reportable disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a global body that promotes transparency, and member country China is obliged to report each outbreak.

“You need to move faster than the virus, it’s a very simple equation of how to control disease,” said Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at the national research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. “If you don’t know where the virus is, you can’t stop it.”

Since August 2018, Beijing has reported 112 outbreaks in 28 provinces and regions. The increase has slowed considerably in 2019 and the agriculture ministry said earlier this month the situation was “gradually improving”.

But some suspect the disease is worse than the official data suggest.

“I am very much hoping that I am wrong, but if I consider the epidemiological characteristics of this virus disease, I would have to be extremely skeptical,” said Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary epidemiology at the City University of Hong Kong.

He pointed to the “spatial randomness” of the reported outbreaks, unusual for an infectious disease, which normally develops in clusters.

The high rate of detection of the virus in food products carried from China to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, as well as domestically, also indicated a much higher presence of the virus in Chinese pigs than reported, said Pfeiffer and others.

LARGE FARMS, LARGE LOSSES

With extremely high density of pigs, raised largely on low-biosecurity farms, tackling disease is widely recognized as a major challenge for China.

But the disease has hit both small farms and large producers, say industry insiders, despite better hygiene and training at factory farms.

“The large producers have not been spared,” said a manager with a company that supplies several of China’s top pig producers. “Everyone is trying really hard on biosecurity, but they’re still getting outbreaks, and they’re frustrated and losing hope.”

He said he knew of eight large breeding farms that had experienced outbreaks, including two on very large, 10,000-head sow farms. None were officially reported.

He declined to be named or to reveal the names of the producers because of client confidentiality.

Beijing has not officially reported any swine fever on the farms of large listed producers, whose shares are trading at record levels as investors bet the big producers will benefit from tighter supplies.

Qin Yinglin, chairman of China’s No.2 producer, Muyuan Foods Co Ltd, which raised 11 million pigs for slaughter last year, said most large companies were likely to be infected.

“If you checked carefully, testing one-by-one, then for sure everyone has it,” he told Reuters in an interview. “This is a high probability event.”

He said it was “not yet known” if his firm had been hit.

(For a graphic on ‘African swine fever in China’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2QMhmzL)

(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Tony Munroe and Alex Richardson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The BMW logo is seen on the wheel of a vehicle presented at the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: The BMW logo is seen on the wheel of a vehicle presented at the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing, China, April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo

March 20, 2019

MUNICH (Reuters) – BMW <BMWG.DE> on Wednesday said it expected group pretax profit to fall by more than 10 percent in 2019 and announced a sweeping 12 billion euros ($13.6 bln) cost savings and efficiency plan to help offset higher technology investment and currency costs.

Last week BMW said it would step up cost cutting in anticipation of a difficult year, as it reported a 7.9 percent fall in 2018 operating profit.

BMW said it would expand group-wide efforts to increase efficiency and lower costs. “By the end of 2022, it expects to leverage potential efficiencies totaling more than 12 billion euros,” BMW said in a statement.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Tassilo Hummel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man makes his way in a business district in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A man makes his way in a business district in Tokyo, Japan May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

March 20, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government downgraded its assessment of the economy in March for the first time in three years, blaming a bruising U.S.-China trade war for slumping exports and industrial output.

The Cabinet Office, which helps coordinate government policy, said on Wednesday the economy is in gradual recovery, but exports and output are showing signs of weakness.

The monthly economic report for March was a downgrade from February, when the Cabinet Office simply said the economy is in gradual recovery.

The March report gave a pessimistic outlook, saying this bout of weakness could continue for some time in the future.

The downbeat assessment could fuel calls for the government to delay a nationwide sales tax hike scheduled for October, and increase speculation that the Bank of Japan (BOJ) will take some steps to bolster economic growth.

Exports fell for a third straight month in February and industrial output in January saw its sharpest decline in a year as tit-for-tat tariffs between Washington and Beijing slowed China’s economy and reduced demand for mobile phone parts and chip-making equipment from Japan.

The Cabinet Office downgraded its assessment of industrial production for the second consecutive month, saying it has shown signs of weakness and flatlined.

Despite the damage from the trade war, Japan’s economy should continue to grow moderately because consumer spending and capital expenditure are holding up, a Cabinet Office official told reporters at a briefing.

For March, the government left unchanged its assessment that consumer spending is recovering and capital expenditure is increasing.

However, there are concerns that companies will start cutting capital expenditure plans for fiscal 2019 in April due to uncertainty about global trade policy.

Japan’s manufacturing sector is exposed to the trade war because it sends electronic parts and capital goods to China, where they are used to make finished products destined for the United States.

The government is scheduled to raise the nationwide sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent in October, but there are concerns this will weaken consumer spending and harm growth.

The BOJ last week cut its view on exports and output, but left its radical easing policy unchanged.

(Reporting by Stanley White; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

Red flags flutter outside the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing
Red flags flutter outside the Great Hall of the People during the closing session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, China March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

March 20, 2019

By Ben Blanchard and Robin Emmott

BEIJING/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – China will invite Beijing-based European diplomats to visit its far western region of Xinjiang, the foreign ministry told Reuters, furthering its outreach to fend off criticism about a de-radicalisation programme.

The visit would be the first by a large group of Western diplomats to the region as China faces growing opprobrium from Western capitals and rights groups for setting up facilities that U.N. experts describe as detention centres holding more than one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims.

Several diplomatic sources said the invitation to visit by the end of March had been issued informally, specifically to ambassadors, with one source describing it as a “sounding out” of interest, and the government had not explicitly said who they would meet or where they would go.

It is also not clear if the Europeans would accept the invitation, or how many of their diplomats or ambassadors would go.

Last year, more than a dozen ambassadors from Western countries, including France, Britain, Germany and the EU’s envoy in Beijing, wrote to the government to seek a meeting with Xinjiang’s top official, Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, to discuss their concerns about the rights situation.

Diplomats say the government never responded to that letter, aside from publicly denouncing it as a violation of diplomatic norms.

It was not clear if a meeting with Chen would be on the agenda.

“In order to increase the European side’s understanding of Xinjiang’s achievements at economic and social development, and promote bilateral exchanges and cooperation, China plans in the near term to invite European envoys based in China to visit Xinjiang,” the foreign ministry said in a statement to Reuters.

The date and other details were still being worked it, the ministry added.

“Hearing something for a hundred times is not as good as seeing it for yourself,” the ministry’s statement said.

The European Union’s mission in Beijing declined to comment.

Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Europe on Thursday for a state visit to Italy, Monaco and France.

‘HAPPY LIVES’

Beijing has been ramping up its efforts in defence of its measures in Xinjiang, which it says are aimed at stemming the threat of Islamist militancy. It calls the camps vocational training centres.

China “believes that through this trip, European envoys based in China will be able to personally experience the real situation of Xinjiang’s calm, order and peace and the happy lives of all its people”, the ministry said.

Last week, the U.S. State Department said China’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang marked the worst human rights abuses “since the 1930s”.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has weighed sanctions against senior Chinese officials in Xinjiang, including Chen.

Some diplomats briefed on the situation said there was concern the European diplomats could be used for propaganda purposes, pointing to pictures taken by and stories in state media about recent visits by other foreign envoys to Xinjiang.

“There’s no point in going if we’re just going to be portrayed as supporting the camps,” said one diplomat.

EU foreign ministers raised the issue of the Uighurs with the government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, on Monday at a lunch in Brussels, sources told Reuters.

While Wang was keen to focus on a list of issues of cooperation and agreement, EU ministers underlined the issue of human rights and the Uighurs, asking for explanations about why the people were being held and on reports of crackdowns on Muslims, sources said.

One EU diplomat said Wang’s reply was “not satisfactory”.

Wang said China was a big country with a lot of people so it could not be avoided that some individuals complain about treatment, and China was a developing country and measures were not against Uighurs but against extremists, the diplomat said.

“He was puzzled about why we are worried about it,” the diplomat said.

The foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wang’s Xinjiang discussions in Brussels.

Premier Li Keqiang will visit Brussels next month for a China-EU summit.

There have been two visits by groups including European diplomats to Xinjiang this year. One was a small group of EU diplomats, and the other by a group of diplomats from several countries, including EU members Hungary and Greece.

There have also been at least two other trips to Xinjiang for foreign diplomats.

A diplomat who has been on a government-organised trip to Xinjiang, said during the entire programme reporters from state media accompanied them, taking pictures and trying to interview the envoys.

“It was impossible to avoid them,” the diplomat said.

There is also concern that the European envoys would be taken to the same camps and sites that previous foreign visitors have been taken to on tightly controlled and carefully choreographed trips, including one Reuters went on in January, the sources said.

“There’s no point in going just to see the same places,” said another diplomat familiar with the invitation.

All the diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity.

China’s diplomatic efforts have included a briefing in Beijing late last month, where two former camp inmates spoke in front of envoys to describe how they had been rescued from radical Islam, people who attended the briefing told Reuters.

China has strongly defended the camps.

Xinjiang governor Shohrat Zakir told reporters in Beijing last week the facilities were “boarding schools” and not concentration camps.

Beijing says it must tackle radical Islam in Xinjiang, where hundreds have been killed in violence in recent years blamed by the government on militants and separatists.

Reuters last year reported on conditions inside the camps and took pictures of guard towers and barbed wire surrounding some. (https://tinyurl.com/y9zzouss)

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Robin Emmott; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Nissan logo is seen at Nissan car plant in Sunderland
FILE PHOTO: The Nissan logo is seen at Nissan car plant in Sunderland, Britain February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble

March 20, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Nissan Motor’s China joint venture with Dongfeng has not made any changes to its mid-term China sales plan, a company spokeswoman told Reuters on Wednesday, responding to a report that it has cut its sales target.

“Dongfeng Motor Company Limited has not changed its mid-term China plan. We will study whether to change the plan based on the future market situation” the spokeswoman said.

Dongfeng Motor Company Limited is the joint venture between Nissan and Dongfeng in China.

Bloomberg reported earlier on Wednesday that the JV cut its 2022 China car sales target by about 8 percent, citing unnamed sources.

Reuters reported last year the Japanese carmaker plans to invest 60 billion yuan ($9.5 billion) in China over the next five years with its joint-venture partner as it seeks to become a top three automaker in the world’s biggest market.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier presents the national industry strategy for 2030 during a news conference in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier presents the national industry strategy for 2030 during a news conference in Berlin, Germany, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany plans to pass legislation by the end of 2019 to create a state-owned fund that can protect key companies from takeovers by Chinese and other foreign firms, government sources said, in a marked shift from its “hands-off” approach to business.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier proposed the fund in February as part of a more defensive industrial strategy and three officials told Reuters the government was now working on draft laws so the fund could be up and running next year.

Two senior government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the idea was for the state-owned investment fund to work with the private sector when buying company stakes to foil unwelcome takeovers.

One official said the state could buy a stake initially and then sell it on as soon as possible to private investors while the other official said in some cases the fund could work with private investors from the start.

“In the past, Germany was too reluctant to define its national interests. This is changing now,” the first government official said.

“We see that we cannot lean back anymore and let everything be decided by the free play of market forces,” he said. “And this means more protection from the state.”

Long an ardent advocate of free markets, Germany’s move is a response to China’s state-driven metamorphosis from customer to competitor and U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats of unilateral trade sanctions and higher tariffs, the sources said.

For decades, German politicians followed the “ordoliberal” principles of post-war economy minister Ludwig Erhard who said free markets should decide winners and losers, with the state only providing a framework for fair competition.

The German move also comes at a time the European Union as a whole is reconsidering the bloc’s industrial strategy and relations to China in the face of increased investment in critical sectors by Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The European Commission has urged the bloc to back its ideas to curb Chinese companies and EU leaders are due to discuss the issue at a summit in Brussels this week.

WAKE-UP CALL

In Germany, the Chinese takeover of robotics maker Kuka in 2016 was the wake-up call for the government that underlined the urgency for the state to become more active, the officials said.

An attempt by China’s State Grid last year to buy a stake in power grid operator 50Hertz also focused German minds. After Berlin failed to find an alternative private investor in Europe, German state-owned bank KfW https://www.kfw.de/kfw.de-2.html stepped in to keep the Chinese out.

That’s why the German government is now aiming to pass new laws creating the investment fund by the end of the year so it can be ready for use in 2020, the first official told Reuters.

“Ideally, there will be stake acquisitions together with private investors,” the official said, adding that Berlin had no plans to intervene in daily business decisions. “It’s not about the state becoming entrepreneurial.”

The state-owned fund could be managed by KfW, or be an altogether new entity empowered to hold company shareholdings, the second official said.

The plan goes hand in hand with a decision by the government in December to lower the threshold for screening, and even blocking, purchases of stakes in German firms in strategic areas by non-European investors.

An economy ministry spokesman said investment by the state fund would be limited to “very exceptional cases” and stakes would only be bought for a restricted period.

Such cases would mainly involve the protection of critical infrastructure where the government viewed a non-European investor as a threat to Germany’s national interests, the ministry spokesman said.

“The idea and its possible implementation are being discussed now in the further process of the industrial strategy,” said the spokesman, who declined to comment on the fund’s expected size.

‘ECONOMIC SOVEREIGNTY’

Altmaier said in February after presenting Germany’s industrial strategy for the next decade that key sectors were steel and aluminum, chemicals, machine and plant engineering, optics, autos, medical equipment, Green technologies, defense, aerospace and 3D printing.

Among the companies whose survival Altmaier described as crucial for the economy as a whole were marquee names such as Deutsche Bank, thyssenkrupp, Siemens and Germany’s big carmakers.

Altmaier told Reuters in an interview that his aim was to safeguard global competitiveness and technological leadership of German industry for the coming decades.

“This should also be a top priority for the next European Commission,” he said. “With this, we will secure jobs and prosperity in Germany and Europe. And, above all, it’s what will give Europe its economic sovereignty and independence.”

Germany and France, the two biggest economies in the euro zone, are liaising closely on how the EU could overhaul its competition and state subsidy rules to support European champions that can compete on a global level.

Following a decision by Brussels to block a rail deal between Siemens and Alstom – a merger that was meant to counter Chinese competition – German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to put reform of Europe’s competition laws high on the agenda during Germany’s EU presidency in 2020.

BUSINESS BACKLASH

While Germany’s powerful BDI https://english.bdi.eu industry association has welcomed the government’s plan to tackle a more assertive China, support national champions and reform competition law, it has criticized the idea of a state investment fund.

“New instruments for state ownership should not be used to fend off company takeovers, they should only support projects of new technologies,” BDI director general Joachim Lang said.

In light of growing unease among coalition lawmakers and industry groups, Altmaier is trying to reassure critics that Germany will remain open for foreign direct investment and that the government wants to intervene as little as possible.

“However, there can be exceptional cases in which the state must take action to avoid severe disadvantages for the economy as a whole and the country’s national welfare,” Altmaier told Reuters. “For example in cases when our critical infrastructure is at stake or when it comes to game changer technologies.”

Carsten Linnemann, deputy leader of Merkel’s conservatives in parliament and head of the bloc’s business-friendly Mittelstand wing, said the government’s focus on national champions was problematic. “We shouldn’t confuse size with competitiveness,” Linnemann told Reuters.

He said Germany’s “hidden champions” – mostly family-run firms that are market leaders in niche segments – were a good example that innovation is often driven by small enterprises.

Linnemann also rejected the idea of state intervention.

“The state simply doesn’t have more knowledge than the market. This basic rule hasn’t changed in times of big technological disruptions, in fact rather the opposite.”

Asked if parliament would block legislation for a state investment fund, Linnemann said coalition lawmakers were still in the process of forming an opinion. He said they generally shared the government’s goal to support the industrial sector.

“But we won’t achieve this by copying the industrial policy of China, the United States and France.”

($1 = 0.8829 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Christian Kraemer; editing by David Clarke)

Source: OANN

ISU World Figure Skating Championships - Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan
ISU World Figure Skating Championships – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – March 20, 2019. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia in action during the Pairs Short Program. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 20, 2019

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Russian pair Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took a commanding lead after the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama on Wednesday after a fall left French favorites Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres in seventh.

James and Cipres, undefeated this season and the first French pair to win the European Championship in over 80 years, went down when James botched the landing on their throw triple flip and fell to the ice.

James later said a collision with Italy’s Matteo Guarise during the warm-up prior to their performance had rattled her.

“I didn’t see Matteo, Matteo didn’t see me so we crashed and I fell,” she told the International Skating Union (ISU). “It took me off a little and I was not very comfortable after. I felt a little dizzy, so I tried to stay focused.

“It was a bad skate for us today, and with the fall it was very tiring after.”

Tarasova and Morozov, who placed fourth at the 2018 Winter Olympics and second at last year’s worlds, renewed their season’s best score with 81.21 points in a dramatic, dynamic routine that had the audience clapping along at the Saitama Super Arena, just north of Tokyo.

“During the European Championships we had the same mistake both in short and free programs. Therefore, now we had to train harder not to allow this to happen anymore,” Tarasova said. “We decided to make everything at our maximum.”

James and Cipres were on 68.67 points after their routine, in which Cipres also made an uncharacteristic error when he doubled a toeloop.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “The season was long, we were not good on the ice today. It was not our moment, not our day.”

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, who have had an injury-plagued season, were second on 79.24 after delivering a graceful routine, with compatriots Peng Cheng and Jin Yang in third with 75.51.

“While we had several mistakes at the beginning of the program, otherwise the score would be above 80 points, we still performed our best, and we would like to skate well in the free program as well,” Sui said.

The pairs winner will be decided on Thursday with the free program. The championship competitions last until March 23.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Journalists taste test the plant-based hamburgers during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California
FILE PHOTO: Journalists taste test the plant-based hamburgers during a media tour of Impossible Foods labs and processing plant in Redwood City, California, U.S. October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Vincent Chow

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Start-ups specializing in alternative protein, from eggless eggs to pea-stuffed burgers and cell-grown fish products, are piling into the Chinese territory of Hong Kong to tap the mainland’s booming multi-billion dollar food market.

At a time when traditional meat farmers have seen profits hurt by the U.S.-China trade war and the spread of swine fever, companies such as Impossible Foods, JUST and Beyond Meat are luring affluent Asian consumers with products they say are more sustainable and environmentally friendly than conventional meat.

The global meat substitutes market was estimated at $4.6 billion last year and is predicted to reach $6.4 billion by 2023, according to research firm Markets and Markets. Asia is the fastest growing region.

Backed by some of the world’s top billionaires including Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing, philanthropist Bill Gates and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, plant protein firms are expanding into China for the first time this year.

San Francisco-based JUST, valued at $1 billion and which counts venture capitalist Peter Thiel as one of its backers, is planning to launch its mung bean faux egg product in six Chinese cities starting next month.

“China is the most important market to JUST globally,” said Cyrus Pan, JUST’s China general manager.

JUST has inked deals with Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com to distribute its egg product starting in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Shenzhen, before expanding to other cities.

The company says the use of mung bean as its key ingredient is important for food security and appeals to the Chinese market given its tradition as a dietary staple.

China has a history of food safety scandals from melamine-tainted eggs, smuggled frozen meat years beyond its expiry date and recycled “gutter oil” to crops tainted with heavy metals.

Nick Cooney, managing partner of Lever VC, a U.S.-Asian venture capital fund focused on alternative protein startups, said firms like his are eyeing joint ventures, exports and product technology licensing opportunities in China.

“Chinese consumers seem to be more open to novel foods than those in nearly any other country,” he said.

Beyond Meat, which makes burgers and sausages from pea protein, has seen sales in Hong Kong increase 300 percent last year, said David Yeung, Beyond Meat’s distributor in the special administrative region.

Backed by Tyson, the world’s largest meat processor, Beyond Meat filed for an initial public offering on the Nasdaq last November and plans to start distributing in the mainland in the second half of this year.

Rival Impossible Foods, which makes burgers out of soy, has said plant-based meat will eliminate the need for animals in the food chain and make the global food system sustainable.

The group has received around $450 million in funding since 2011 with investments from Lee Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures and Google Ventures.

Since launching in five restaurants in Hong Kong last April, the group’s products are now in over 100 restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau.

Impossible plans to open in mainland China within the next two years. ASIAN TASTES

Hong Kong-based Avant Meats, which uses cell technology to replicate fish and seafood products, is developing a cell-based fish maw prototype due for launch in the third quarter of this year, its chief executive Carrie Chan told Reuters.

Fish maw, or swim bladders, are popular in Asian soups and stews and are used to add collagen to food.

Right Treat, another Hong Kong company headed by Yeung, is replicating Asia’s favorite meat – pork – using mushrooms, peas and rice for use in dumplings and meatballs.

The company has seen its sales of its Omnipork triple since launching in Hong Kong in April 2018. It has since expanded to Singapore, Macau and Taiwan, and plans to sell in mainland China this year.

“If we want to change the world, we must find ways to shift Asian diet and consumption, which means we must find ways to reduce Asia’s dependence on pork and other meat products,” said Yeung, who also runs Green Monday, a startup tackling global food insecurity and climate change.

Omnipork is available at more than 40 stores and will be stocked in major Hong Kong supermarket chains by the end of March, Yeung says.

Advocates say meat substitutes are healthier and also use less water, produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and use less land than producing the same amount of meat.

Consumers, however, must be willing to pay a premium.

Omnipork retails for HK$43 ($5.48) for 230g (8 ounces) versus HK$37 for the same amount of minced pork.

Impossible’s burger at HK$88 is more than double the price of a Shake Shack burger in Hong Kong.

Yet the explosion of alternative protein products across Hong Kong has given consumers such as executive recruiter Shazz Sabnani, greater variety.

“Before I had to rely more on vegetables and tofu-based products, whereas now I’ve introduced more of these fake meats to my diet.”

Still, not everyone is convinced about the fake meat trend.

Tseung So, a retired 70-year-old said the spaghetti bolognaise made with omnipork at Green Monday’s “Kind Kitchen” in Hong Kong, was not as tasty as real meat.

“Why would we eat this when we can eat the same dish but with normal pork? I don’t think this will make meat eaters eat less meat but they will probably become more popular with real vegetarians.”

($1 = 7.8496 Hong Kong dollars)

(Writing by Farah Master; Additional reporting by Forina Fu; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

Chinese President Xi Jinping claps at the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
Chinese President Xi Jinping claps at the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

March 20, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Misunderstandings over China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are “hard to avoid”, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday ahead of a trip to Europe by President Xi Jinping during which Italy is set to join the multi-billion dollar trade scheme.

Italy has angered its EU partners by planning to sign infrastructure deals with China, pushing itself as a big backer of the initiative at the heart of Beijing’s foreign policy strategy that is Xi’s signature diplomatic and trade push.

“I think anything new will have a development process,” Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao told a news briefing when asked about recent controversy in Italy over the accord to be signed this month.

“It is hard to avoid misunderstandings occurring during the process of advancing the construction of the Belt and Road. Of course, the facts are the best proof,” Wang said.

More than 150 countries, regions and international groups have already signed BRI cooperation pacts bringing some benefits to all, he added.

Italy, which is expected to send a high-level delegation to the second Belt and Road summit in Beijing in late April, will be the first stop on Xi’s tour from March 21 to 26 that will also take in France and the tiny principality of Monaco.

With ports that offer easy gateways into Europe’s richest markets, Italy is a promising and prestigious prize for China.

Asked about China’s possible investment in a port in Italy, Wang said investment decisions by its companies would be based on market conditions.

Xi will hold talks with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Rome, and visit the Sicilian capital of Palermo, Wang said.

The two sides will sign commercial pacts on infrastructure, machinery and finance, he added.

Italy’s drive to be the first Group of Seven industrialized nation to join the ambitious venture has upset Washington and alarmed Brussels, raising fears of a sellout of sensitive technology and the handover of critical infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Conte said the commercial and economic deals he will seal with China have no implications for Italy’s geo-political position, in a bid to reassure the European Union and the United States.

In France, Xi and French President Emmanuel Macron will witness the signing of cooperation agreements on energy, transportation, agriculture, finance, culture and science and technology, Wang said.

(Reporting by Tom Daly and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Liangping Gao; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

An employee roasts pork at a Korean BBQ restaurant in Seoul
An employee roasts pork at a Korean BBQ restaurant in Seoul, South Korea, March 13, 2019. Picture taken on March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Chung

March 20, 2019

By Jane Chung

SEOUL (Reuters) – Whenever dust particles hang thick in the air in South Korea, sales of pork rise.

This quirky correlation in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, where air pollution outstrips industrialized peers, stems from an old belief attributed to coal miners, that the slippery pork oil helped cleanse dirt from their throats.

For middle school student Han Dong-jae, eating greasy barbecued pork belly on a smoggy day is a life lesson imbibed from his mother.

“I eat more pork when fine dust is dense like today,” said the 15-year-old as he dug in over a sizzling grill at a barbecue restaurant in Seoul with his mother after school.

“I think it’s somewhat helpful, because pork meat has oil and the oil soothes my throat.”

Scientists say there is no rationale for the belief, but pork sales jumped about a fifth on the year from Feb. 28 to March 5, when pollutants blanketed most areas, data from major retailers E-Mart and Lotte Mart showed.

SOCIAL DISASTER

South Korea faces a battle against unhealthy air, a combination of domestic emissions from coal-fired power plants and cars, and pollutants wafted in from China and North Korea.

Its air quality was the worst among its industrialized peers in 2017, data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) grouping of wealthy nations showed.

South Korea registers 25.1 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers on average each year, just over double the OECD figure of 12.5, but far lower than the world average of 44.2.

The pollution has affected South Korean policy and businesses, driving up shares of companies that make air purifiers and masks.

Legislation this month included a measure designating the problem a “social disaster”, which could unlock emergency funds.

Cho Seog-yeon, an environmental engineering professor at Inha University, called for more study of the exact damage wrought by high levels of concentrated pollutants, adding, “We don’t know now where the damage is done (by air pollution).”

People battle the air pollution by wearing masks and staying indoors. But in a country where 28 percent of all households have a pet, furry companions are a priority too.

Sales of pet masks surged more than five times in early March, said Suh Hyuk-jin, director of pet products maker Dear Dog.

Cho Eun-hye, who lives in the northwestern city of Incheon, bought a mask for her 18-month-old brown Korean Jindo dog, Hari, who needs to be walked two times a day.

“It’s inconvenient, but I think we have to keep living with that,” said the 36-year-old office worker.

(Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Karishma Singh and Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore
Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Choonsik Yoo

SEOUL (Reuters) – Confidence among Asian companies held near three-year lows in the first quarter as a U.S.-China trade dispute dragged on, pulling down a global economy that is already on a downward path, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey found.

The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asian Business Sentiment Index tracking firms’ six-month outlook was flat in the March quarter from the previous quarter’s 63, compared with a near three-year low of 58 set in the September quarter.

A reading above 50 means optimistic respondents outnumbered pessimists, but the latest index still marks one of the five worst since the world started its recovery from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“Things have not gotten worse but a lot of uncertainty is putting companies in wait-and-see mode,” Antonio Fatas, a Singapore-based economics professor at global business school INSEAD, said of U.S.-China talks on trade relations.

“In one week, it looks like they are promising and the week after it looks like they are going nowhere, and so there’s a lot of wait-and-see attitude,” he added, saying the uncertainty is forcing companies to put off investment decisions.

A global trade war was cited as the chief business risk by respondents for the third quarter in a row, though by a smaller margin. Higher interest rates emerged as the second-biggest risk, outpacing a slowing Chinese economy.

A total of 100 companies from a range of sectors responded to the survey, conducted from March 1-15 in 11 Asia-Pacific countries where 45 percent of the world’s population live and 32 percent of global gross domestic product is generated.

RECESSION UNLIKELY, POLITICS A RISK

The United States and China have put on hold a planned escalation of their trade war pending negotiations, but the much-awaited conclusion of the latest round of talks has also been delayed even though remarks from the two sides have been optimistic.

Global agencies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have said failure to resolve trade tension could further slow a downward-trending global economy.

Regional powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea all saw exports fall last month, with China and South Korea suffering their worst annual declines in overseas sales in around three years.

The index staying above the neutral point of 50 suggests companies in Asia are not expecting an imminent global recession, but languishing near multi-year lows indicates companies are exerting caution.

“We don’t see a global hard landing as a likely scenario when we look at economic factors such as inflation and credit conditions,” said Young Sun Kwon, economist at Nomura in Hong Kong. “But there are big uncertainties in politics.”

Lessons from the 2008-2009 global financial meltdown have forced countries to strengthen economic defenses, but factors such as Britain’s planned exit from the European Union and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s uncertain path are posing threats.

With less than two weeks before the March 29 divorce date, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is still struggling to push a departure deal with the EU through the British parliament.

In the United States, the Fed has declared a pause in its tightening campaign, but economists foresee at least one more increase later this year despite increasing signs of slowdown in major economies.

Respondents to the survey included Canon Inc, Suzuki Motor Corp, Thai Beverage PCL, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co and Delta Electronics Thailand PCL.

Note: Companies surveyed can change from quarter to quarter.

(GRAPHIC: Business sentiment index – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Cnw6je)

(GRAPHIC: Biggest perceived risks – https://tmsnrt.rs/2OcedbY)

(PDF of survey: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UJ70Cs)

(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo; Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring in BANGKOK; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo
A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 20, 2019

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares got off to a cautious start on Wednesday, holding close to six-month highs on hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve will stick to a dovish stance and unveil a plan to stop cutting bond holdings later this year.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ticked down 0.1 percent from a six-month high touched the previous day. Japan’s Nikkei was also down 0.1 percent.

Wall Street shares were narrowly mixed on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 losing 0.01 percent and the Nasdaq adding 0.12 percent.

The Federal Reserve, which is wrapping up its two-day policy review later on Wednesday, is expected to lower its policymakers’ rate projections from December, when their median expectations were for two rate hikes this year.

Since the beginning of year, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank would be patient – interpreted as code word for holding off on a rate hike – on signs of slowing economic growth in the United States and many parts of the world.

Financial markets have gone even further by pricing in a rate cut this year. Fed funds futures point to about a 30 percent chance of a cut by the end of year.

The Fed is also expected to lay out a plan to stop shrinking its $4 trillion balance sheet, or so-called quantitative tightening. Many policy makers have suggested the Fed is likely to conclude the process and stabilize its bond holdings by the end of this year.

“I think market consensus centers around an end in September but we expect the Fed to end its balance sheet rolloff in June, at around $3.85 trillion yen, based on our calculations on the amount of excess reserves the Fed will need,” said Shuji Shirota, head of macroeconomic strategy at HSBC Securities in Tokyo.

Expectations of a dovish Fed have dented the U.S. dollar, which has already been under pressure this year after Powell all but signaled a pause to the tightening cycle at the previous meeting.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies hit 2 1/2-week low of 96.288 on Tuesday and last stood at 96.390.

The euro traded at $1.1354, near Tuesday’s two-week high of $1.1362.

The dollar fetched 111.41 yen, slipping from Friday’s nine-day high of 111.90.

The British pound remained hostage to headlines on Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask the European Union to delay Brexit by at least three months after her plan to hold a third vote on her deal was thrown into disarray by a surprise intervention from the speaker of parliament.

May had earlier warned parliament that if it did not ratify her deal, she would ask to delay Brexit beyond June 30, a step that Brexit’s advocates fear would endanger the entire divorce.

On the other hand, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said an extension would only make sense if it increased the chances of May’s deal being ratified by Britain’s House of Commons.

Sterling last stood flat at $1.3265, off its nine-month peak of $1.3380 hit a week ago.

Market players held on to hopes of a trade deal between Washington and Beijing as officials from both sides remained locked in negotiations.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to travel to China next week for another round of trade talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a Trump administration official said on Tuesday.

Oil prices held close to four-month highs on expectations that OPEC would continue production cuts through the end of the year and after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed a surprise draw-down on crude inventories.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures stood flat at $59.02 per barrel after touching its highest since November at $59.57 on Tuesday.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

An employee counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a currency exchange office in Jakarta
An employee counts U.S. dollar banknotes at a currency exchange office in Jakarta, Indonesia October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

March 20, 2019

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – Major currencies stuck to tight ranges in early Asian trading on Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting later in the day.

Against a basket of key rival currencies, the dollar was broadly steady at 96.388 after hitting its lowest level since March 1 at 96.291 in overnight trading.

The index has lost almost 1.4 percent after climbing to a three-month high of 97.71 on March 7, on views the Fed will strike a dovish tone during its latest policy meeting.

Investors are focused on the Fed to see whether the central bank will affirm its commitment to “patient” monetary policy and for clues about the likely path of U.S. borrowing costs.

The Fed is due to make its rate announcement at 1800 GMT on Wednesday, when it is expected to keep its benchmark overnight interest rate unchanged.

“The dollar continued its drift lower but momentum seems to be waning on the move as volatility across the majors continues to fall,” said Nick Twidale, chief operating officer at Rakuten Securities Australia in Sydney.

“The market is poised for potential break out trades if the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) surprises later today,” he said in a note.

Most currencies stayed within well-trodden trading ranges before the Fed decision, as market participants were cautious after taking cues from U.S. data offering new signs the world’s top economy is on a path of slower growth.

New orders for U.S.-made goods rose less than expected in January and shipments fell for a fourth straight month, offering more evidence of a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing activity, overnight data showed.

More positive signs were evident in Germany as a survey by the ZEW research institute indicated the mood among German investors improved more than expected in March, as a potential delay to Britain’s exit from the European Union helped lift sentiment.

On Wednesday, the euro was a shade higher against the greenback at $1.1355, while the yen was down a tad at 111.51 yen per dollar.

Investors also kept a check on developments related to the U.S.-China trade war as a U.S. government official said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to travel to China next week for another round of talks with Chinese counterparts.

“I don’t think anyone is expecting a quick resolution to this problem any time soon. For the time being, the market will keep reacting to the headlines as they come and go,” said Yukio Ishizuki, senior currency strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Sterling was steady at $1.3267 after paring gains overnight on concerns that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for delaying Brexit was running into complications with the European Union.

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

U.S. scientists reportedly purchased hundreds of cats and dogs from Asian meat markets, used them for experiments and fed the remains to other lab cats, according to the White Coat Waste Project.

Scientists reportedly conducted the experiments at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s lab in Maryland between 2003 and 2015. The experiments involved hundreds of animals from markets in Colombia, Brazil, Vietnam, China and Ethiopia, according to the watchdog group. Some of the meat markets in question have been condemned by Congress.

“It’s crazy,” former USDA scientist Jim Keen told NBC News, which obtained a copy of the report. “Cannibal cats, cats eating dogs — I don’t see the logic.”

“It’s totally unrelated to the food safety mission,” Keen said. “We shouldn’t be paying for that as taxpayers.”

Lawmakers are already targeting the Agriculture Department labs with legislation to curb testing on cats. (RELATED: Congressmen Introduce Bill To Stop Government Cat Killers)

“The details of these kitten experiments keep getting worse and they need to end now,” Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida told NBC. “The fact that the USDA has been rounding up pets and other innocent dogs and cats in foreign countries — including at Chinese meat markets condemned by Congress — killing them and feeding them to lab cats back here in the States is simply disgusting and unjustifiable.”

Cat smacking her lips. Shutterstock/AltamashUrooj

Cat smacking her lips. Shutterstock/AltamashUrooj

Mast is a cosponsor of the legislation called Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now, or KITTEN.

The White Coat Waste Project previously uncovered other cat-related experiments in a 2018 report.

After the experiments are completed, the kittens are often euthanized and their bodies burned, according to the report.

The USDA did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

Workers at Tesla’s only electric car factory in California took about three times as many sick days in 2018 than in the year before, Bloomberg reports.

When the increase in the size of the workforce is accounted for, the average time each employee spent off the job doubled in 2018. In total, employees spent 22,454 days off work on sick leave in 2018 versus just 7,619 days in 2017, according to a company report viewed by Bloomberg.

The rate of injuries per hour worked stayed roughly the same, suggesting that each injury sustained in 2018 might have been more severe on average than those that happened in 2017, according to former Occupational Safety and Health Administration chief of staff Deborah Berkowitz.

“The most important metric is fatalities, and our number is zero,” Tesla vice president Laurie Shelby told Bloomberg. “It was a big ramp year for Model 3, so there were a lot more hours worked, more production staff and more potential for incidents. We really focused on making sure we had our safety team out in the area as we ramped.”

Shelby also disputed the theory that injuries were more severe. (RELATED: Tesla Plans Price Hikes To Keep Struggling Stores Open)

Tesla’s workforce is in flux. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in January the electric car manufacturer is cutting 7 percent of its workforce. The cuts amount to roughly 3,150 jobs across Tesla’s staff.

A Tesla Model 3 car is displayed during a media preview at the Auto China 2018 motor show in Beijing, China April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A Tesla Model 3 car is displayed during a media preview at the Auto China 2018 motor show in Beijing, China April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Musk and Tesla rode through a tumultuous 2018 as Musk continued to increase Tesla’s Model 3 production goals to bring the price per car down to $35,000.

Musk told his followers on Twitter in August 2018 that he had secured funding to take the electric car manufacturer private at $420 a share. The announcement prompted an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly making the announcement to boost Tesla’s share price.

Musk and Tesla settled with the SEC, agreeing to pay separate fines of $20 million each. Musk also agreed to step down as chairman of the carmaker.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Kim Guilfoyle | Contributor

Congress tried to veto reality.

Instead, President Trump vetoed Congress.

When Congress voted to block President Trump’s emergency declaration on the southern border, the president vetoed their measure.

No matter how hard Congress tries to ignore, deny and dodge reality, we have a humanitarian, security and enforcement crisis at the border. As Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen said, it is beyond a national emergency — it’s a total meltdown of our immigration system.

Sadly, their willful ignorance, ideological blindfold and hatred of President Trump prevent Congress from acknowledging it.

Illegal immigrant apprehensions on our southern border are at the highest level in a decade. But even that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story.

The number of migrant families with young children is higher than ever. In the first five months of this year, over 136 thousand were apprehended — that’s almost a third higher than were apprehended all of last year. (RELATED: Guilfoyle: President Trump’s State Of The Union Was A Grand Slam)

Human traffickers have put the word out in Central America that bringing a child provides a free pass to enter our country.  Business is so brisk smugglers are now offering a volume discount and using luxury express buses to take migrants from Guatemala to the U.S. with children traveling free, the Washington Post reports.

Once at the frontier, migrants don’t try to evade the Border Patrol. They willingly surrender, often in groups of a hundred or more, lining up in an orderly fashion as if they were entering our country legally.

So far this year, over 268,000 immigrants were apprehended on our southwestern border. Another 100,000 could cross in March. On one night alone in early March, agents took in 700 migrants just in El Paso.

At the current rate, one million of the poorest people on Earth could show up at the Rio Grande this year.  Once they are released into our country, as courts dictate, they will compete against the most vulnerable Americans for jobs on the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Many of the arriving migrants have medical issues and require emergency care. Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, sayson a typical day the United States Border Patrol refers 50 individuals to a hospital or medical provider. All children receive medical screening.

As a former prosecutor who fought for justice for women and children who were victims of sexual assault, it gives me chills when I hear CBP must screen every female over 10 years of age for rape. Doctors Without Borders reports more than 30 percent of women migrants it interviewed are sexually assaulted on the way north.

At the same time Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer deny there is an emergency at the border, they asked for nearly a half billion dollars from taxpayers to provide medical care and food for illegal immigrants showing up at the border. (RELATED: Guilfoyle: Americans Can Have A Merry Christmas Thanks To President Trump)

But there’s more to the emergency than migrants. The same criminal gangs that traffic people also traffic drugs. They will use migrants to divert Border Patrol agents in order to bring drugs across.

Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.

Over 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017.  The Centers for Disease Control reports the sharpest increase in deaths came from fentanyl, cheap synthetic heroin that is flooding our country.

Fentanyl is made in China and smuggled into America by Mexican cartels.  One load of fentanyl seized by customs agents on the Mexican border in January was enough to kill more than 115 million people.

By any measure of objective reality, there is a national emergency at the southern border.

There’s also another national emergency. It’s in Washington where Congress refuses to recognize reality or do anything about it.

The president took an oath to preserve and protect our country.

He takes that oath seriously.

Congress must take off its blindfold and work with President Trump to end the immigration crisis threatening our nation.

Kimberly Guilfoyle (@KimGuilfoyle) is vice chairwoman of America First Policies, a nonprofit organization supporting key policy initiatives that will work for all citizens in our country and put America first.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: A man cycles past chimneys of facotries at the Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki
FILE PHOTO: A man cycles past chimneys of facotries at the Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki, Japan September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

March 19, 2019

By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Izumi Nakagawa

TOKYO (Reuters) – Confidence among Japanese manufacturers hit its weakest in two-and-a-half years in March, a Reuters poll showed, as global trade friction fueled concerns that a postwar record growth cycle driven by Abenomics may be over.

The monthly poll, which tracks the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) closely watched tankan quarterly survey, found confidence fell for a fifth straight month while sentiment in the service sector held steady, suggesting domestic demand is unlikely to offset external risks such as the trade war and China’s slowdown.

Both manufacturers’ and service-sector morale is expected to rise just slightly over the coming three months, underscoring a bumpy road ahead for the world’s third largest economy, according to the Reuters Tankan.

The central bank will closely read the results of its official tankan due out April 1 for clues on strength of sentiment and capital expenditure at its policy meeting next month when it issues fresh economic and price projections.

The BOJ stood pat at its policy review last week, citing an economy posting gradual growth, but cut its views of exports and output due to increasing headwinds from overseas.

Slowing growth in Europe and China, the Sino-U.S. trade war and uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union have strained businesses around the world.

While U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping appear to be closer in striking a truce in the U.S.-China trade war, Japan’s export sector remains vulnerable to the fallout from trade friction between the world’s two largest economies.

In the Reuters poll of 479 large- and mid-sized companies, completed by 250 firms on the condition of anonymity over the March 4-15 period, managers also complained about costs of raw materials squeezing profits.

Sluggish consumer spending makes it difficult to pass on such costs to thrifty customers, they wrote in the survey.

“Our clients are turning cautions on capital expenditure due to the U.S.-China trade war, spreading protectionism and political jitters in emerging countries,” a manager of a machinery maker wrote in the survey.

The Reuters Tankan sentiment index for manufacturers fell three points to 10 in March, with exporters of electronics, precision equipment, steel and nonferrous metals especially gloomy.

The manufacturers’ index was down 13 points from three months ago, indicating the possibility of a similarly sharp decline in the BOJ tankan. The Reuters Tankan index is expected to inch up to 11 in June.

The service-sector index held steady at 22 in March from a month earlier but was down from 31 seen three months ago, indicating a likely decline for the sector in the official tankan, which measures confidence on a quarterly basis.

The service-sector index is seen edging up to 23 in June.

The BOJ’s last tankan out in December found the business mood held steady from three months ago, but business conditions were seen worsening ahead amid trade war and slowdown in China.

The Reuters Tankan indexes are calculated by subtracting the percentage of pessimistic respondents from optimistic ones. A positive figure means optimists outnumber pessimists.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN


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