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Asian markets mostly lower, Korean peninsula tensions in focus; Nikkei down 1.2% (CNBC) Asian markets were mostly lower on Wednesday, as tensions continue to ratchet up on the Korean Peninsula following a warning from North Korea of a nuclear attack on the U.S. The dollar was traded at 100.75 against a basket of currencies, off the 3-week high set on Monday. Brent crude rose 0.34% to trade at $56.42 a barrel while U.S. crude rose 0.36% to trade at $53.59. Spot gold prices reached their highest level since November 2016 up by 0.06% at $1,274.78, after hitting a high of $1,279.80 earlier in the session.
And so, contrary to Hayek’s expectations, financial globalisation has proved that it is market fundamentalism, and not the regulatory state that is leading the world into an era of authoritarianism and totalitarianism - in the US, Eastern Europe, India and China.
Republican wins Kansas special election, fending off upset (The Hill) Republican candidate Ron Estes is projected to win Kansas’s House seat, overcoming an unexpectedly tough challenge and denying Democrats a major upset - albeit by a much slimmer margin than his Republican predecessor. Estes defeated civil rights attorney James Thompson (D) in Tuesday’s special election to fill the seat vacated by President Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo, with both the Associated Press and The New York Times calling the race.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Estes has 52 percent of the vote to Thompson's 46 percent.
Estes, a two-term state treasurer, had been expected to cruise to the finish line in a district that Trump carried by nearly 30 points. In the final days of the race, however, Republicans scrambled to fend off what would have been a devastating upset.
Gag order keeps Oregon from telling public about cancer-causing pollutant (Oregon Live) Hat tip to Roger Erickson. Oregon officials think they've found high levels of a cancer-causing chemical in the air near a Lebanon battery parts maker, but a judge won't let them say a word about it. Oregon officials think they've found high levels of a cancer-causing chemical in the air near a Lebanon battery parts maker, but a judge won't let them say a word about it.
Linn County Circuit Court Judge Thomas A. McHill on Friday agreed to Entek International's request for what appears to be an unprecedented gag order against state environmental and health regulators. Entek would be "irreparably harmed" if the regulators told the public about the preliminary finding, McHill wrote.
Annual Vehicle Sales: On Pace for First Decline Since 2009 (Calculated Risk) Through March, light vehicle sales are on pace to decline about 2% in 2017 from the record year in 2016. This would be the first annual decline in auto sales since 2009, but it would still be the fourth best year on record after 2016, 2015, and 2000.
This isn't a huge concern - most likely vehicle sales will move sideways at near record levels. But the economic boost from increasing auto sales is probably over.
Johnson stung over sanctions against Russia (The Times) Boris Johnson was left embarrassed last night after his demands for fresh sanctions against Russia over its backing for President Assad of Syria were publicly rebuffed by European allies. The final communiqué after a two-day meeting of G7 nations in Lucca, Italy, made no mention of the foreign secretary’s proposal to isolate Vladimir Putin and impose sanctions on Russian military figures. Italy and France rejected Mr Johnson’s position, and one senior Tory described the outcome as a humiliation for Britain.
Investors lose £42bn due to cyber breaches, report finds (City A.M.) Severe cyber attacks have cost global investors at least £42 billion ($53 billion) in recent years according to a new in-depth study published this morning. Security breaches directly correlate with lower share prices, according to a report from CGI Group and Oxford Economics. It reveals that share prices fall by an average of 1.8 per cent on a permanent basis following a severe breach. Investors in a typical FTSE 100 firm would be worse off by an average of £120 million after a cyber attack.
Inside Japan's Plan to Sidestep Trump on Trade (Bloomberg) Japan had one main objective when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the White House in February: Deal with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on major economic disputes. Ahead of the meeting, President Donald Trump had lashed out at Japan for keeping the yen weak and exacerbating the trade deficit with barriers for U.S.-made cars. For Abe, the criticism threatened to sour relations with an ally that is crucial for Japan’s defense against threats from North Korea and China.
Pence arrives in Japan on April 18 for talks with Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso as part of a new bilateral dialogue on everything from monetary policy to trade to infrastructure. The arrangement lets Abe focus on befriending Trump while giving Japan the best shot at avoiding a clash with the U.S. that could hurt Asia’s second-biggest economy.
With anemic demand at home, it’s crucial for Japan to head off any barriers to its exports, particularly to the U.S. -- its biggest market. The yen has dropped about 23 percent since Abe came to power, and Japan’s $63 billion trade surplus with the U.S. makes it a target for Trump.
Japan’s cherry blossoms are emerging increasingly early (The Economist) Diarists have keenly chronicled the comings and goings of cherry blossoms for centuries - records from Kyoto, the old capital, date back 1,200 years. This precious, ancient data set reveals a disturbing trend: in recent decades, the blossoms have emerged much sooner than they once did.
Xi Urges North Korea Talks in Call With Trump as Tensions Mount (Bloomberg) Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke with Donald Trump on Wednesday, urging dialogue to resolve concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program after the U.S. leader dispatched warships to the region. Relevant parties “should settle their disputes peacefully through dialogue and consultation to be jointly committed to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," China’s state broadcaster quoted Xi as saying. He reiterated China’s commitment to denuclearization of the peninsula, the report said.
“China has a bottom line that it will protect at all costs, that is, the security and stability of northeast China... If the bottom line is touched, China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back. By that time, it is not an issue of discussion whether China acquiesces in the US’ blows, but the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will launch attacks to DPRK nuclear facilities on its own."
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