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Asia trades mixed as dollar retreats on Trump remarks; fate of Samsung chief eyed (CNBC) Asia markets finished mostly higher on Wednesday, as the dollar index retreated from levels above 102 reached in the previous week, fueled by remarks from President-elect Donald Trump. Trump spoke to the Wall Street Journal and remarked the greenback was already "too strong", partly because China was keeping the yuan weak, and that stateside companies are unable to compete with their Chinese counterparts as a result. On Wednesday afternoon Asia time, the dollar traded at 100.63 after hitting an intraday session low of 100.32.
Natural selection making 'education genes' rarer, says Icelandic study (The Guardian) A study from Iceland is the latest to raise the prospect of a downwards spiral of humanity into imbecility. The research from deCODE, a genetics firm in Reykjavik, finds that groups of genes that predispose people to spend more years in education became a little rarer in the country from 1910 to 1975. The scientists used a database of more than 100,000 Icelanders to see how dozens of gene variants that affect educational attainment appeared in the population over time. They found a shallow decline over the 65 year period, implying a downturn in the natural inclination to rack up qualifications. But the genes involved in education affected fertility too. Those who carried more “education genes" tended to have fewer children than others. This led the scientists to propose that the genes had become rarer in the population because, for all their qualifications, better educated people had contributed less than others to the Icelandic gene pool.
Currently, 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans, compared with 38% who say this should not be the government’s responsibility. The share saying it is the government’s responsibility has increased from 51% last year and now stands at its highest point in nearly a decade.
Even by his standards, President-elect Donald Trump's statements on trade have been stunning in their recklessness. His proposals essentially amount to the repudiation of a system that has fostered global stability and lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the last several decades -- and if he actually intends to execute his radical agenda, there's little to stop him.
In other areas of economic policy, such as budget matters, Congress will make the crucial choices. On trade, the White House has wide discretion. The stakes could hardly be higher.
During the campaign Trump threatened to rip up existing trade pacts, withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, and put punitive tariffs on imports from Mexico and China. He's called the World Trade Organization, which promotes liberal trade and adjudicates disputes, "a disaster," and he has said the U.S. might "pull out." Congratulating Britain on its decision to quit the European Union, he says the U.K. and the U.S. can design a new trade deal -- but that it makes no difference to the U.S. whether the EU, "a vehicle for Germany," stays together or falls apart.
Barack Obama transfers $500m to Green Climate Fund in attempt to protect Paris deal (The Guardian) Barack Obama has heeded calls to help secure the future of the historic Paris agreement by transferring a second $500 million instalment to the Green Climate Fund, just three days before he leaves office. The fund was a key aspect of the Paris agreement signed in 2015, which aims to keep global warming “well below" 2C and aspires to keep warming to 1.5C. Established in 2010, it is financed by wealthy countries and used to assist developing countries with adaptation and mitigation. It was widely seen as a key measure to bring both rich and poor countries to the negotiating table. The US committed to transferring $3 billion to the fund. The new instalment leaves $2 billion owing, with the incoming president, Donald Trump, expected to cease any further payments.
EU proposes to halve food waste in Europe by 2030 (The Guardian) People are being urged to support calls by a major pan-European group to halve ‘farm to fork’ food waste in Europe by 2030, on the eve of a landmark vote later this month. The European parliament’s environment committee will vote on new regulations on 24 January, which are set to shape the next 15 years of EU food waste policy and have the potential to be the most ambitious, legally binding target on food waste in the world.
Theresa May’s Brexit speech spurred a sterling recovery - but don’t get too excited (The Conversation) The pound reacted positively to Theresa May’s Brexit speech, but don’t let this give you the impression that it is good news for the UK economy. The bounce from around US$1.2150 to around $1.2380 at 5pm UK time on Tuesday is probably no more than what is known as a short covering phenomenon. This is where investors who bet against a currency start to cover their positions to limit their losses when the currency appreciates in in the short run. The way the pound rebounded does not reflect long-term confidence in the currency.
German inflation confirmed at three year high of 1.7% (Financial Times) Germany’s annual inflation rate hit its highest level since July 2013 at the end of last year, a leap which has ramped up the pressure on eurozone policymakers to justify their extraordinary stimulus measures. At 1.7%, Germany’s December year-on-year inflation rate climbed from 0.7%, with rising energy prices doing most of the work pushing up the inflation basket.
India's Central Bank Must Save Itself (Bloomberg) The Indian government’s abrupt decision to withdraw high-value notes from circulation has hurt a great many people and sectors of the economy. But the institution that’s been injured the most is the Reserve Bank of India. Since demonetization was announced on Nov. 8, India’s austere and technocratic central bank has become the butt of online jokes. Soft-spoken Governor Urjit Patel has endured intrusive protests. The central bank employees’ union wrote him a letter saying staff were “humiliated" by the RBI’s “operational mismanagement" and warning that the bank's “autonomy and image have been dented beyond repair". One former RBI governor said that in Patel’s position, he'd resign.
Five Things to Watch in China’s GDP Report (Bloomberg) Fourth quarter and full-year gross domestic product data will be released Friday at 10 a.m. in Beijing, which will be 9 p.m. Thursday on Wall Street. The expansion remained 6.7% percent for a fourth-straight quarter, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists as of Tuesday. That annual pace would be the slowest since 1990, but still among the fastest in the world. Among the things to watch will be property investment as curbs appear to have stabilized a sharp surge about a year ago.
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