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posted on 15 February 2017

Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, Dollar Up, Oil, Gold Down, Trump's Russia 'Connection', Ryan Fights For Tax Plan, India Fighter Jet, Why Duterte Stopped Drug Effort, Trump-China Currency War And More

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Early Bird Headlines 15 February 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.

early-bird-301-180

Global

  • Asia markets mixed; Toshiba shares tumble 9% amid growing concerns (CNBC) Asian markets traded mixed on Wednesday, despite U.S. gains following remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Shares of Toshiba tumbled. The dollar climbed against a basket of currencies to trade at 101.29 at 3:36 p.m. HK/SIN on Wednesday, from levels below 100.8 in the previous session. Oil prices dipped on Wednesday over concerns that OPEC producers would not be able to maintain their high compliance so far with output cuts aimed at reining in a global fuel supply overhang. Brent crude was trading at $55.62 per barrel at 600 GMT, down $0.35, or 0.63%, from its last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $0.37, or 0.73%, at $52.83 per barrel. Spot gold fell 0.14%, to $1,226.44 per ounce by 0257 GMT, while U.S. gold futures rose 0.17% to $1,227.50.

asia.pac.2017.feb.15

U.S.

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

  • Trump knew for weeks that aide was being misleading over Russia - White House (Reuters) U.S. President Donald Trump knew for weeks that national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the White House about his contacts with Russia but did not immediately force him out, an administration spokesman said on Tuesday. Trump was informed in late January that Flynn had not told Vice President Mike Pence the whole truth about conversations he had before Trump took office with Russia's ambassador to the United States, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. Pence learned of the "incomplete information" that he received from Flynn when news reports surfaced late last week, spokesman Mark Lotter said on Tuesday. Flynn quit on Monday after Trump asked for his resignation, and the president hopes to pick a new national security adviser by the end of the week, Spicer said.

  • America's spies anonymously took down Michael Flynn. That is deeply worrying. (This Week) Hat tip to Sig Silber. Econintersect: The visible government exists at the pleasure of the deep state. Here is the beginning of this article:

The United States is much better off without Michael Flynn serving as national security adviser. But no one should be cheering the way he was brought down.

The whole episode is evidence of the precipitous and ongoing collapse of America's democratic institutions - not a sign of their resiliency. Flynn's ouster was a soft coup (or political assassination) engineered by anonymous intelligence community bureaucrats. The results might be salutary, but this isn't the way a liberal democracy is supposed to function.

Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press - mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result.

  • Ryan tries to save tax plan (The Hill) Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met with Republican senators Tuesday afternoon to quell growing opposition to a core element of the House GOP tax plan, a 20% across-the-board tax on imports, also known as border adjustment. Ryan beseeched the senators to “keep your powder dry" while House tax writers hammer out the details of their plan and prepare to move it to a vote later this year, according to a GOP source ­familiar with the meeting. Senate Republicans say political momentum has begun to shift against the House’s border adjustment tax in recent days.

Israel

"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve. Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that's what the parties want, or something else. If that's what the parties want, we're going to help them."

India

  • India clears plans to step up production of Tejas (Reuters) India will open a second production line for its light combat aircraft, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Tuesday, pressing ahead with a home-grown plane the military has had doubts over for years. The Tejas fighter entered service last year, 33 years after it was approved as the country sought to build a modern fighter from scratch for an air force that was entirely dependent on foreign - mostly Soviet-origin - aircraft. But the single-engine plane remains dogged by production delays at state-run Hindustan Aeronautics and only three have so far entered the air force.

  • Supreme Court sends Sasikala to jail, party MLAs free to play new TN numbers game (The Times of India) This is a completely confusing Supreme Court case, especially for people outside of India. But even those in India for it astonishingly and unecessarily complex. Sanjeev Kulkani forwarded these obtusely flowery excerpts from the 570 page judgement:

“…a few disquieting thoughts that have lingered and languished in distressed silence in mentation demand expression at the parting with a pulpit touch..."

“….a growing impression in contemporary existence seems to acknowledge, the all pervading pestilent presence of corruption almost in every walk of life, as if to rest reconciled to the octopoid stranglehold of this malaise with helpless awe…"

“…the common day experiences indeed do introduce one with unfailing regularity, the variegated cancerous concoctions of corruption with fearless impunity gnawing into the frame and fabric of the nation’s essentia…"

“…Innovative nuances of evidential inadequacies, processual infirmities and interpretational subtleties, artfully advanced in defence, otherwise intangible and inconsequential, ought to be conscientiously cast aside with moral maturity and singular sensitivity to uphold the statutory sanctity, lest the coveted cause of justice is a causality.."

“…this pernicious menace stemming from moral debasement of the culpables, apart from destroying the sinews of the nation’s structural and moral set-up, forges an unfair advantage of the dishonest over the principled, widening as well the divide between the haves and have nots..."

Philippines

  • Death of a businessman: How the Philippines drugs war slowed down (Reuters) When Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte summoned his security chiefs to an urgent meeting one Sunday night last month, his mind was already made up. His military and law enforcement heads had no idea what was coming: a suspension of the police force's leading role in his signature campaign, a merciless war on illegal drugs. There was only one reason for the U-turn, three people who attended the Jan. 29 meeting told Reuters. Duterte was furious that drugs-squad cops had not only kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman, they had strangled him to death in the headquarters of the Philippines National Police itself. Duterte decided that the much smaller Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) would take over the drugs crackdown, with support from the military.

Japan

  • BOJ's Kuroda: No plan now to raise yield targets (Reuters) Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Wednesday he has no plan now to raise the central bank's bond yield targets as inflation was still distant from its 2% target. Kuroda also reiterated that the BOJ was abiding by a G7 and G20 agreement to use monetary policy solely for the domestic purpose of achieving price stability.

South Korea

  • South Korea suspects female assassins killed half-brother of North Korea leader (Reuters) South Korea's spy agency suspects two female North Korean agents assassinated the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Malaysia, lawmakers in Seoul said on Wednesday, as Malaysian medical authorities sought a cause of death. U.S. government sources also told Reuters they believed that North Korean assassins killed Kim Jong Nam, who according to Malaysian police died on Monday on his way to hospital from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. South Korean intelligence believed Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, lawmakers said after being briefed by the country's spy agency.

China

  • U.S. Vs. China: Handicapping A Currency War (Investing.com) Unlike a traditional war with clear battles, a cold war is fought covertly and indirectly. When it comes to currencies, any attempts to weaken the domestic currency must, at least publicly, have different motives and plausible deniability, so that government cannot be accused of escalating the conflict. Much like THE Cold War of the late 20th century, the primary conflict in the budding Currency Cold War centers around two superpowers: in this case, the US and China. Econintersect: The following two excerpts summarize the ignorance of the new administration about foreign exchange currencies and how they could blunder into just the opposite of what they say they want.

Trump Administration is coming out swinging. On the campaign trail, Trump previously vowed to label China a currency manipulator on "day one", but he's since backed off slightly, though the issue still makes his list of priorities for the first 100 days. Though the US has refrained from taking that official step, Trump and his surrogates continue to make vague threats about leveling the global FX playing field.

What few casual observers realize is that China has been intervening in the currency market to "manipulate" the yuan's value, but instead of devaluing it, the country has actually been up the value of its currency. If the US opts to label China a 'currency manipulator' in the coming months, the People's Bank of China would have less incentive to spend this money to support its currency and the yuan's depreciation could accelerate.

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