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posted on 25 January 2017

Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Up, Dollar Steady, Oil Down, Trump Muzzles Fed Employees, Net Neutrality Foe Nominated, UK Court Empowers MPs, Toronto Housing Bubble Spreads And More

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Early Bird Headlines 25 January 2017

Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.



  • Asian stocks higher; Mexican peso falls after Trump's tweet (CNBC) Asia markets were in the green as investors cheered better-than-expected Japanese exports data and South Korean GDP figures. The U.S. dollar greenback remained at the 100 handle against a currency basket, at 100.32. The yen was stronger against the dollar, at 113.63 compared to levels above 114 last week, as the Australian dollar held steady at $0.7532. During Asian hours, Brent futures slipped 0.4% to $55.23 per barrel, while U.S. crude dipped 0.47% to $52.94 as weekly inventory data from the American Petroleum Institute showed that U.S. crude, gasoline and diesel stocks rose last week.



  • Trump administration seeks to muzzle U.S. agency employees (Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has moved since he took office last week to curb the flow of information from several government agencies involved in environmental issues, in actions that may have been designed to discourage dissenting views. Employees at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have seen directives from the newly minted leadership seeking to limit how they communicate to the public, according to multiple sources. The moves have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change doubter, could seek to sideline scientific research showing that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming, as well as the career staffers at the agencies that conduct much of this research. See also Trump administration tells EPA to cut climate page from website: sources.

  • Trump names net-neutrality critic Ajit Pai as FCC chairman (MarketWatch) Trump prepares to deregulate the internet. President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, to be the agency’s chairman. The designation of Pai, a sitting commissioner, allows the new administration to hit the ground running in the telecommunications area, a huge and dynamic part of the economy. Pai brings a staunchly free-market approach that generally appears to jibe with Trump and his economic advisers.

  • The Trump administration just told a whopper about the size of the federal workforce (The Washington Post) President Trump on Monday signed an executive order instituting a hiring freeze on all nonmilitary federal employees. At a press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the move “counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years." In both raw-number and percentage terms, this is an inaccurate statement. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million employees on the federal payroll as of December. The number has risen slightly since May 2014, when there were roughly 2.7 million federal employees (part of the reason may be an accelerated pace of hiring in anticipation of a new presidential administration). That represents an increase of about 3%. During the same time the total civilian workforce grew by 4.9%. Over Obama's 8 years there has been zero growth in federal government employees (2.8 million when he took office and today).

  • Trump expected to order temporary ban on refugees (Reuters) President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders starting on Wednesday that include a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, according to several congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter. Trump, who tweeted on Tuesday night that a "big day" was planned on national security on Wednesday, is expected to order a multi-month ban on allowing refugees into the United States except for religious minorities escaping persecution, until more aggressive vetting is in place. Another order will block visas being issued to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, said the aides and experts, who asked not to be identified.

  • Trump’s Supreme Court pick said to be down to final four (MarketWatch) President Donald Trump has culled the candidates to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court to a handful of federal appellate judges admired in conservative circles, people close to the selection process said Tuesday. The list includes Neil Gorsuch of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Thomas Hardiman of the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Raymond Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, and William Pryor of the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, the people said. Trump said he would make his nomination next week, quickly fulfilling his campaign pledge to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with a like-minded conservative.


  • Judges make history in Brexit blow to ministers (The Times) The Supreme Court reasserted the authority of MPs over government yesterday by curtailing the power of ministers to begin the process of Brexit. In a landmark ruling, Britain’s highest court said that only parliament had the right to make the decision of “momentous significance" that will take the country out of the European Union. The justices’ judgment, by a majority of eight to three, paves the way for weeks of parliamentary brinkmanship as ministers try to stop the legislation being ambushed by MPs and peers seeking to change the course of Brexit.


  • Yanis Varoufakis: 'Ireland may end up as collateral damage in Brexit talks' (the YV has contributed to GEI. The main challenges that Brexit poses for Ireland include higher taxes on imported and exported products, and the future for the border between the Republic of Ireland and the North. When Britain leave the European Union, higher taxes on goods exported from Ireland are likely; but how much higher they are will signify just how tough Brexit will be for small Irish businesses here. Because the UK voted to leave the EU on a mandate of limiting the free movement of people, the worry is that a physical border of some sorts will return, seriously impacting relations in the North - especially at a time of political uncertainty. Ireland would not be negotiating with London over the status of the border: "there will be negotiations between London and Brussels on this". This comes as Gerry Adams said that Brexit could destroy the Good Friday Agreement, and that Brexit was a "hostile act against this island", because it could mean taking the North out of the European Union and destroy its open border with the rest of Ireland.

  • Property prices will rise in 2017 - with the biggest increases just outside Dublin (the If trends continue, national property prices will rise by an average of 7% in 2017, with even higher price increases predicted for the Leinster region. This is according to an annual review and outlook by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI), who commissioned a study into the views of Irish property experts. The increases will occur in spite of the negative impact of Brexit on Ireland's property values.




  • Merkel’s Run for Fourth Term Just Got More Complicated (Bloomberg) Angela Merkel’s path to a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor just got more complicated. The surprise decision by Social Democratic leader Sigmar Gabriel to surrender the SPD’s candidacy to a more popular figure, former European Parliament President Martin Schulz, reinvigorates the fortunes of a party accustomed to playing the perennial also-ran to Merkel’s Christian Democrats during her tenure. Henrik Enderlein, professor of political economy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, said in an interview Tuesday:

“Schulz is someone who will compete with a more aggressive stance during the election campaign. This of course makes the situation for Merkel more difficult, but also more interesting."


  • Foreign powers back Syria truce deal, war erupts among rebels (Reuters) Russia and regional powers Turkey and Iran backed a shaky truce between Syria's warring parties on Tuesday and agreed to monitor its compliance, but on the ground rebels faced continued fighting on two fronts which could undermine the deal.

After two days of deliberations in Astana, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said the powers had agreed in a final communique to establish a system "to observe and ensure full compliance with the ceasefire, prevent any provocations and determine all modalities of the ceasefire."

While welcoming the text, the Syrian government's chief negotiator Bashar Ja'afari said an offensive against rebels west of Damascus would carry on. Rebels say it is a major violation of the ceasefire agreed on Dec. 30.

Opposition negotiator Mohammad Alloush said he had reservations about the text which he said legitimized Iran's "bloodletting" in Syria and did not address the role of Shi'ite militias fighting rebels.


  • India a ‘true friend’, Trump tells Modi (The Hindu) The U.S. considers India as “a true friend and a partner in addressing challenges around the world", President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday afternoon. A statement from the White House said:

“The two discussed opportunities to strengthen the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defence."


  • China foreign minister says wants to manage disputes with U.S. (Reuters) China wants dialogue with the new U.S. administration to manage disputes and promote bilateral relations, but only on the basis of respecting each other's core interests, like the "one China" principle, China's foreign minister said. U.S. President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated on Friday, upset Beijing before taking office by casting doubt on the "one China" principle, under which Washington acknowledges Beijing's position of sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan. China views Taiwan as a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. However, proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being ruled by Beijing.


  • Toronto’s Home-Price Gains Are Rippling Toward Niagara Falls (Bloomberg) Toronto’s housing boom is fueling price gains in markets as far away as the Niagara region, better known for its waterfall and wine. Towns including St. Catharines, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Toronto, and Barrie, about 100 kilometers north, are showing a “stronger price growth relationship" to the country’s largest city, Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. said Tuesday. The agency used high, medium and low correlation labels in analyzing the effect of Toronto’s boom on surrounding markets. Toronto remains Canada’s last major city to see unimpeded gains, in contrast to Vancouver which has begun to cool in reaction to various government measures. Policy makers have said the risks from a sudden price drop are the biggest danger to the financial system. Toronto prices jumped 18% in the third quarter from a year earlier, and the gains there are now at a record high relative to other parts of Ontario. See next article.

  • Does Income Growth Drive the Housing Market in Toronto? (Toronto Condo Bubble) Note: GTA = Gretaer Toronto Area. As shown in the graph below, median home price in Toronto has grown by 153% in the past 20 years, while median wage has increased by 42%. Can you answer the headline question now?

Click for larger image.

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