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South Korean stocks up after President Park's impeachment ruling (CNBC) Asia stocks closed mostly higher Friday. The dollar traded at 101.92 against a basket of currencies, slipping below the 102 handle it was at in the morning. During Asian hours on Friday, Brent crude was up 0.67% at $52.54 per barrel, while U.S. crude added 0.81% to $49.68, still below the $50 mark. Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,197.90 per ounce at 0410 GMT, after touching $1,197.02 earlier in the session, its weakest since Jan. 31.
As countries around the world seek to grow their economies and reduce inequality, tapping into the huge potential of women can be a game changer. Recent analytical work - including that done at the IMF - clearly demonstrates the compelling business case for women’s empowerment. Everyone has a role to play - including governments, businesses, and international institutions.
EPA chief unconvinced on CO2 link to global warming (Reuters) The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday he is not convinced that carbon dioxide from human activity is the main driver of climate change and said he wants Congress to weigh in on whether CO2 is a harmful pollutant that should be regulated. In an interview with CNBC, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the Trump administration will make an announcement on fuel efficiency standards for cars "very soon", stressing that he and President Donald Trump believe current standards were rushed through. Pruitt, 48, is a climate change denier who sued the agency he now leads more than a dozen times as Oklahoma's attorney general. He said he was not convinced that carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal is the main cause of climate change, a conclusion widely embraced by scientists.
Companies claim largest US onshore oil discovery in 30 years (CNBC) Spanish energy company Repsol says an oil reserve of 1.2 billion barrels has been identified in Alaska's North Slope, which the company says is the largest onshore discovery in the United States in three decades. Repsol said that the contingent resources of recoverable light oil found near the village of Nuiqsut in North Slope, would allow production of 120,000 barrels per day starting from 2021. A statement from Repsol's Madrid headquarters sayd the discovery was made with its partner, Denver-based Armstrong Energy. The companies began exploration in North Slope in 2008.
Scottish independence vote looking inevitable, FT cites unidentified UK minister (Reuters) A second Scottish independence referendum is now looking inevitable and ministers in the United Kingdom government have now concluded it is a question of when such a vote will be held, the Financial Times reported on Friday. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that Scotland could hold an independence vote in late 2018, just months before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, though Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly said there is no need for such a vote.
Le Pen declares France will leave the EU in wake of Brexit (South China Morning Post) Saying that France has been “pillaged by the neo-liberal global economic order". French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen promised Thursday she’d give the country control back over its currency, debt and trade policy. In a speech in Paris laying out her economic policies, the far-right National Front candidate paid tribute to what she said was a return to economic nationalism across the world.
Islamic State mortars, snipers take toll on Iraqi forces in Mosul (Reuters) ISIS is still offering stiff resistance to the Iraqi forces in Western Mosul. As Iraqi forces fight Islamic State militants deeper into western Mosul, they face increasingly stiff resistance, with the jihadists using mortar and sniper fire to try to hold off a U.S.-backed offensive to drive them out of their last major stronghold in the country. The fight has taken its toll of dead and wounded on Iraqi soldiers, special forces and police units. The military has not published the number of its own casualties. Islamic State's tactics, which include taking cover among the civilian population, have also slowed advances in some areas, the closer the battle gets to the more crowded city center.
India Lost 11 Billionaires Last Year (Bloomberg) India’s clampdown on cash lost the economy a few billionaires last year though the richest hardly saw their fortunes hit. India dropped one spot to No. 4 on the Hurun Global Rich List as the nation lost 11 billionaires in 2016 while the world added 69. However, the 18 Indians among the top 500 billionaires saw their wealth drop just 1.5 percent, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Donald Trump Has Call Centers in the Philippines Worried (Bloomberg) Outsourcing companies in the Philippines, whose clients are mainly U.S. companies, are worried that Donald Trump’s plan to bring jobs back to America won’t end at just manufacturing but extend into services. The industry is considering hiring a U.S.-based consultant to monitor the threat of rising American protectionism, Ike Amigo, the head of the Philippine association representing outsourcing companies, said in an interview on Wednesday. The average cost of a full-time business process outsourcing employee in the Philippines is about $19,300 a year, compared with $72,300 in the U.K. and $91,100 in the U.S., according to consulting firm Everest Group. The cost calculation includes salaries and expenses related to benefits, administration, facilities, technology and others.
As North Korea Uses Its USE, China Loses Its Patience (South China Morning Post) Hat tip to Sig Silber. China’s move to effectively cut off North Korea’s revenue lifeline by banning coal imports is the first significant signal that Beijing is willing to work with the United States to rein in its defiant neighbour after President Donald Trump’s repeated complaints. This latest move might also indicate a willingness to break the deadlock between China and the US since Pyongyang quit the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 2003.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye dismissed over scandal (South China Morning Post) South Korea’s constitutional court has ruled to formally end impeached President Park Geun-hye’s rule. The historic, unanimous verdict by the eight-judge panel means Park is South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be ousted early from office since democracy came to the country in the late 1980s. South Korea must now hold an election within two months to choose her successor. She was impeached by parliament in December on charges including bribery and abuse of power. Park, 65, has been accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, and a former presidential aide, both of whom have been on trial, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.
South Korean court throws president out of office, two dead in protest (Reuters) South Korea's Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from office on Friday over a graft scandal involving the country's conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China. The ruling sparked protests from hundreds of her supporters, two of whom were killed in clashes with police outside the court. Park becomes South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil over a corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail.
Tesla's Elon Musk offers to solve power crisis in South Australia (Reuters) Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk on Friday offered to save Australia's most renewable-energy dependent state from blackouts by installing 100 megawatt hours worth of battery storage, valued at $25 million, within 100 days of signing a contract. The offer follows a string of power outages in the state of South Australia, including a blackout that left industry crippled for up to two weeks and stoked fears of more outages across the national electricity market due to tight supplies. Musk made the ambitious offer on social media, and the government said it could consider backing such a battery roll out by Tesla.
Australia, New Zealand Luxury Homes on Top With 11% Gain: Chart (Bloomberg) Luxury home prices in Australia and New Zealand jumped 11 percent last year to be the best-performing region in the world, Knight Frank’s Prime International Residential Index showed. Asia ranked second in high-end housing gains as individual wealth rose. Meanwhile, Russia and the Middle East posted declines in prime home values, joining three other regions that went backward.
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