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 markets mixed, weaker dollar boosts oil prices (CNBC) Asian markets traded sideways on Friday, following a flat to lower close on Wall Street, in a light regional data day. The dollar remained under pressure against a basket of currencies, at 100.27 compared to levels above 101 seen earlier this week. During Asian hours on Friday, Brent crude traded up 0.17% to $51.83 a barrel, and U.S. light crude was up 0.29% to $48.88. Gold held firm on Friday near a one-week high hit in the previous session and was on course for its first weekly rise in three as the dollar weakened. Spot gold was up 0.1% at $1,227.11 per ounce by 0308 GMT, after hitting its highest since March 6 in the previous session at $1,233.13. U.S. gold futures were down $0.30 an ounce at $1,226.80.
China and Germany Unite Against Trump's Protectionism (Newsweek) Germany and China are cozying up when it comes to free trade, as President Donald Trump threatens to cut Beijing off. After they spoke on the phone Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to "together fight for free trade and open markets," Agence France-Presse reported. Their remarks came ahead of a meeting on protectionism between global finance ministers Friday. Economic leaders have increasingly warned that Trump's "America First" policies and promises to limit or shut down trade with China and other nations could shake up foreign markets. At the same time, Merkel is slated to meet with Trump Friday for the first time since he moved into the White House in January.
Leading Republicans, Democrats reject Trump's Obama wiretap assertion (Reuters) The leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan statement on Thursday rejecting President Donald Trump's assertion that the Obama administration tapped his phones during the 2016 presidential campaign. The top Republican in Congress, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, added his voice to a growing chorus of lawmakers saying there was no sign of a wiretap. In a testy briefing with reporters, White House spokesman Sean Spicer forcefully defended the president, citing news reports of intelligence collection on possible contacts between Trump associates and Russia in the presidential campaign.
The ‘Very Strange’ Item on Trump’s 1040: Alternative Minimum Tax (Bloomberg) Leaked pages of President Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return offer no new details about his foreign income and business dealings but highlight a tax he’s vowed to abolish. The alternative minimum tax, or AMT, was responsible for 80% of Trump’s 2005 federal income tax bill of $38.4 million, on income of $152.7 million. That’s a “startlingly" large proportion, said Alexander Popovich, a wealth adviser at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s private bank. Popovich said:
“It’s very strange -- usually, the AMT is not going to cause anywhere near such a difference."
Stop 'Stalking' Courthouses, Top California Judge Tells ICE (NBC News) The chief justice of California's Supreme Court accused federal immigration authorities of "stalking" local courthouses on Thursday, joined a growing chorus of officials objecting to immigration detentions at courthouses. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, state Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye asked the federal government to immediately stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants at courthouses in California. Cantil-Sakauye wrote:
"Enforcement policies that include stalking courthouses and arresting undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom pose no risk to public safety, are neither safe nor fair. They not only compromise our core value of fairness but they undermine the judiciary's ability to provide equal access to justice."
Trump seeks to ax Appalachia economic programs, causing worry in coal country (Reuters) President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating funding for economic development programs supporting laid-off coal miners and others in Appalachia, stirring fears in a region that supported him of another letdown on the heels of the coal industry’s collapse. The 2018 budget proposal submitted to Congress by the White House on Thursday would cut funds to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The Washington-based organizations are charged with diversifying the economies of states like West Virginia and Kentucky to help them recover from coal’s decline. The proposed cuts would save the federal government $340 million and come as the Republican president seeks to slash a wide array of federal programs and regulations to make way for increased military spending.
Trump Can't Stop Cars From Getting More Energy-Efficient (Bloomberg) See also next article. Trump has promised to scrap efficiency rules that required automakers to produce vehicles with an average efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. At the moment, that looks like 17 million Toyota Priuses (Prii?). In a meeting with auto executives this week, the president said he may slice environmental standards in about a year, providing carmakers deliver "big numbers in terms of jobs." The EPA now has until April 2018 to decide whether the 2025 milestone is feasible.
To be sure, the mileage rules were a high hurdle; complying with them would have collectively cost $200 billion, according to a recent lobbying letter from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "No conventional vehicle today meets the target," Mitch Bainwol, chief executive officer of the alliance, wrote.
But if I-95 does, in fact, look like a scene from Mad Max in a few years, with armed convoys fighting for gasoline, it won’t be because mileage mandates went away. Vehicles have grown remarkably more efficient in recent years, and that momentum isn’t going to stop because of new EPA targets. In the past nine years, the federal measurement of efficiency in the U.S. fleet has increased 25 percent, to 31.3 miles per gallon, according to the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
OPEC Can't Count on American Drivers to Help Boost Oil Prices (Bloomberg) See also preceding article. Rising U.S. oil production isn’t the only thing getting in the way of OPEC’s efforts to drain a global glut. American drivers aren’t helping either. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is counting on growing demand to bolster the production cuts it’s making in a bid to balance the market. But motorists in the U.S. -- the world’s largest consumer of gasoline -- are using less, not more. And that’s not likely to change any time soon. Gasoline consumption so far this year down 1.7% from 2016. As people trade in old cars, the new vehicles they’re driving are between two and 10 miles per gallon more efficient, Kevin Book, managing director of the Washington-based research firm ClearView Energy Partners, said:
“This is likely to lead to a flattening or even decline of U.S. demand as early as late this year."
Andrew Napolitano, a legal pundit for Fox News who has advised the current president, claimed during a March 14 telecast that three intelligence sources told the network Obama personally appealed to the British Government Communications Headquarters, known as the GCHQ, to spy on Trump. Spicer highlighted the report in a list of media accounts he read to reporters during his briefing on Thursday, arguing that the stories helped validate the president’s unsubstantiated allegation that his predecessor had surveilled him.
Flynn Paid Thousands for Work With Russian Firms, Documents Show (Bloomberg) Former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn received more than $45,000 from RT, the Russian government-backed television network, for his participation at a December 2015 gala where he sat at President Vladimir Putin’s table, according to documents released Thursday by congressional Democrats. Flynn also received $11,250 for a 2015 speaking engagement in Washington for Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, according to the documents. That firm was caught up in a Russian espionage investigation in December. Russian prosecutors have charged a manager at Kaspersky Lab with treason, saying he and two Russian information-security officials were “interacting" with U.S. intelligence officials, according to a defense lawyer in the case.
Deconstructing the age-old political narrative: Uttar Pradesh 2017 (The Indian Economist) THE is a content sharing partner of GEI. If Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) supremo Mayawati is to be believed, BJP has been voted for in the Muslim majority areas too. If her information is correct, it would mean that at least a section of Muslims has refused to be treated as captive vote bank of the opposition parties. It also means they have decided to rise above communal sentiments and fatwas, rejecting the politics of fear that alienate minorities like them from the mainstream of development. See also next article.
Pied Piper of India's politics (Straights Times) Sanjeev Kulkarni. See also preceding article. Narendra Modi has effectively wiped out all opposition with his party's sweeping victories in last week's state elections. The problem now, according to this columnist, is that when Modei runs for reelection himself there will be no one left for him to campaign against, "so complete is his dominance". He writes:
There is no question that Mr Modi, who lives a bachelor existence, is the Pied Piper of Indian politics and has the masses in a Peronist thrall. The striking aspect of BJP's victory in the heartland though is that it came after a fumbled "demonetisation" exercise, when Mr Modi, locking up his Cabinet and taking away the cellphones of ministers to prevent leaks, announced on Nov 8 that he was instantly withdrawing high denomination notes that accounted for 86 per cent of the money in circulation.
South Korea (Reuters)
Tillerson in South Korea in search of 'new approach' on North Korea (Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in South Korea on Friday for the second leg of an Asian tour focused on finding a "new approach" for North Korea after what he described as two decades of failed efforts to denuclearize the reclusive state. In Tokyo on Thursday, Tillerson said 20 years of diplomatic and other efforts, including a period when the United States provided North Korea with $1.35 billion in assistance "to take a different pathway", had come to nothing.
Aussie Jobless Rate Unexpectedly Jumps to 5.9%; Currency Drops (Bloomberg) Australian unemployment unexpectedly climbed in February as the economy shed jobs, indicating spare capacity remains a problem in the labor market and wages and inflation are likely to remain subdued. Employment fell 6,400 from January; economists forecast 16,000 gain. Jobless rate rose from 5.7% to 5.9%, the highest level since January 2016; economists forecast 5.7%.
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