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What We Read Today 18 March 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).

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Topics today include:

  • G20 Leaders Acquiesce to U.S., Drop Free Trade Pledge

  • G20 Leaders Follow U.S. Lead, Drop Financing for Fighting Climate Change

  • Global Stocks Gain $1.4 Trillion in Last Week

  • Global Bonds Gain Almost $600 Billion in Last Week

  • Trump Doubles Down on Wiretap Charge

  • Trump Says Germany Owes U.S. for Past Defense Spending

  • North Korean nuclear threat at danger level, Tillerson tells Chinese hosts

  • Tillerson fires warning of pre-emptive US military strike on North Korea

  • China Pushes Back on 'All Options' Talk About North Korea

  • Beijing takes aim at Hong Kong’s pro-independence advocates

  • China's Zombie Firms Cause Pain in Northeast China

  • Student Loan Payment Scam

  • Buy Water Stocks Now

  • U.S. Inefficient Financing of Health Care

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world

Global

  • G20 financial leaders acquiesce to U.S., drop free trade pledge (Reuters)  Financial leaders of the world's biggest economies dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open, acquiescing to an increasingly protectionist United States after a two-day meeting failed to yield a compromise.  Breaking a decade-long tradition of endorsing open trade, G20 finance ministers and central bankers made only a token reference to trade in their communique on Saturday, a clear defeat for host nation Germany, which fought the new U.S. government's attempts to water down past commitments.  In the new U.S. administration's biggest clash yet with the international community, G20 finance chiefs also removed from their statement a pledge to finance the fight against climate change, an anticipated outcome after U.S. President Donald Trump called global warming a "hoax".

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global.stocks.2017.mar.17

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global.bonds.2017.mar.17

U.S.

Germany

Russia

  • Russia Steps Up Efforts to Win Friends Across Southeast Asia (Bloomberg)  The highest ranking Russian military official to visit Thailand in a decade will wrap up four days of talks Friday as Moscow further deepens ties with Southeast Asia.  After stopping first in Laos, Colonel General Oleg Salyukov, the commander-in-chief of Russian land forces, was scheduled to meet senior Thai military officials including Defense Forces chief General Surapong Suwana-adth. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to visit Thailand later this year to mark the 120th anniversary of bilateral relations.

North Korea

  • North Korean nuclear threat at danger level, Tillerson tells Chinese hosts (South China Morning Post)  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday said North Korea’s nuclear threats had reached “a dangerous level” and called on China to make urgent efforts to help rein in the reclusive state, while Beijing insisted the crisis should be settled by diplomatic means.  See also Tillerson fires warning of pre-emptive US military strike on North Korea.  See also next article.

  • China Pushes Back on U.S. Talk of ‘All Options’ Over North Korea (Bloomberg)  See also precedign article. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pushed back against the tougher U.S. line on North Korea, reiterating his country’s view that the only way to rein in its reclusive neighbor is through talks.  Wang spoke at a briefing in Beijing with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in Seoul on Friday refused to rule out a preemptive strike against Pyongyang if the threat from its weapons program was deemed severe enough. While that’s largely in line with prior U.S. positions, Tillerson’s comments -- and Twitter posts from President Donald Trump -- signal the level of concern over North Korea is rising.

China

  • Beijing takes aim at Hong Kong’s pro-independence advocates (South China Morning Post)  Premier Li Keqiang has made clear the central government will act if the local authorities fail to curb separatist forces.

  • Death by a thousand job cuts: the human cost of China’s zombie firms (South China Morning Post)  Residents of Tonghua in northeast China who lost their jobs when the city’s state-owned steel plant got into difficulties share their stories.  The Tonghua Iron & Steel plant opened in 1958 during China’s experiment with industrialisation, a period known as the Great Leap Forward. As the biggest state steelmaker in Jilin province, on the border with North Korea, the plant provided workers with cradle-to-grave welfare coverage and a sense of belonging, ownership and pride.  But not any more.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • If you pay more than the amount due on your student loans, you might be in for a surprise (The Washington Post)  Student loan debtors will be surprised to find out that paying more than the automatic withdrawals can result in the money being used to maximize returns for the loan servicer and not to get the fastest, lowest cost repayment schedule for the debtor.  What is the common trick?  Unless the debtor specifies the extra money is to be applied to principal, it will be credited against future interest payments resulting in a greater cummulative amount of payments before the loan is retired.  Econintersect note:  The same scheme has also been used for informal mortgage prepayments added to monthly checks or debits.

  • Buy Water Stocks Now (Seeking Alpha)  Hat tip to Marvin Clark.

  • Mismanagement and environmental conditions make public water utilities attractive investments especially in light of Pres Trump's commitment to infrastructure development and deregulation.

  • Bottled water has overtaken soda by health- and price-conscious consumers, and there are some very attractive investment opportunities.

  • Choose any sector to invest and hardly go wrong: Public utilities, corporate owners of freshwater sources, innovators/producers/distributors of potable water, potable water creation and conservation companies through technology.

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