FILE PHOTO: One hundred dollar notes are seen in this photo illustration at a bank in Seoul January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
April 26, 2019
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar held steady close to a two-year high against its peers on Friday, supported by data showing strong U.S. capital goods orders, while a first-quarter GDP report to be released later in the global day could further reinforce bullishness.
The dollar index versus a basket of six major currencies stood at 98.123 after advancing to 98.322 on Thursday, its highest since May 2017.
Data on Thursday showed new orders for U.S.-made capital goods increased by the most in eight months in March. That follows other recent U.S. data that show strength in retail sales and exports which have eased fears of a sharp slowdown in the world’s biggest economy.
According to a Reuters survey of economists, data to be released at 1230 GMT on Friday will probably show GDP increased 2.0 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, slightly slower that the 2.2 percent posted in the previous quarter.
“We expect the GDP data to underline steady economic recovery,” said Shin Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays in Tokyo.
“Differences in economic fundamentals is a key driver for currencies now that the Fed – and more recently the Swedish and Japanese central banks – have adopted a dovish stance,” Kadota added.
Sweden’s central bank said on Thursday that recent weak inflationary pressures meant an interest rate hike would come slightly later than it had planned, sending the Swedish crown to a 17-year low.
In a move to dispel any doubt over its commitment to ultra-loose policies, the Bank of Japan on Thursday put a time frame on its forward guidance for the first time by telling investors that it would keep interest rates at super-low levels for at least one more year.
The dollar was nearly flat at 111.64 yen after shedding 0.5 percent overnight.
The greenback has poked above 112.00 yen several times this month without building a strong enough foothold above the threshold, which has become a key technical resistance level.
While the dollar has been caught in narrow range against the yen through most of April, Mitsuo Imaizumi, chief FX strategist at Daiwa Securities, sees the next significant move would see the dollar strengthen.
“The Chinese PMI and the U.S. non-farm jobs report are due over the next week and both are expected to be quite good. There is also the next round of U.S.-China trade talks, which could further lift risk sentiment,” Imaizumi said.
“The market could thus see a significant increase in ‘risk on’ during the Japanese holidays, pushing dollar/yen towards 113.00 yen.”
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for trade talks beginning on April 30.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said this week that the talks were making progress and that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for striking a deal.
Starting on Saturday, Japan embarks on a 10-day public holiday to mark the abdication of the emperor, who will be replaced by his son.
The euro was a touch higher at $1.1138 but within reach of $1.1117, its lowest level since June 2017 plumbed on Thursday.
The single currency has shed nearly 1 percent against the dollar this week, weighed by worries about the health of the euro zone economy.
The Australian dollar nudged up 0.15 percent to $0.7027 after ending Thursday little changed.
The Aussie has lost nearly 2 percent this week, during which it sank to a near four-month trough as soft domestic inflation data boosted the prospect of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
(Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind an oil pump outside Saint-Fiacre, near Paris, France March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
April 26, 2019
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices dipped on Friday on hopes that producer club OPEC will soon raise output to make up for a decline in exports from Iran following a tightening of sanctions on Tehran by the United States.
Despite this, oil markets remain tight amid supply disruptions and rising geopolitical concerns especially over the tensions between the United States and Iran, analysts said.
Brent crude futures were at $74.16 per barrel at 0223 GMT, down 19 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $64.83 per barrel, down 38 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their previous settlement.
The dip followed Brent’s rise above $75 per barrel for the first time this year on Thursday after Germany, Poland and Slovakia suspended imports of Russian oil via a major pipeline, citing poor quality. The move cut parts of Europe off from a major supply route.
But prices were already gaining before the Russian disruption, driven up by supply cuts led by the Middle East dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Crude futures are up around 40 percent so far this year.
Washington said on Monday it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action.
To make up for the shortfall from Iran, the United States is pressuring OPEC’s de-facto leader Saudi Arabia to end its voluntary supply restraint.
“The U.S. will continue to pressure Saudi Arabia to lift its production to cover the supply gap,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA.
Jefferies bank said “a drop to 500,000 to 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) now seems realistic” for Iranian oil exports, adding that “at least China and potentially India and Turkey will continue to import Iranian crude”.
“OPEC will make up for the shortfall,” the U.S. investment bank said.
Despite U.S. efforts to drive Iranian oil exports down to zero, many analysts expect some oil to still seep out of the country.
“A total of 400,000 to 500,000 barrels per day of crude and condensate will continue to be exported,” said energy consultancy FGE, down from around 1 million bpd currently.
Most of this oil would be smuggled out of Iran or go to China despite the sanctions.
China, the world’s biggest buyer of Iranian oil, this week formally complained to the United States over its unilateral Iran sanctions.
Although most analysts expect some Iranian oil to keep flowing, they expect markets to remain tight amid little spare capacity and the high geopolitical tension.
“The oil market remains tight … (and) oil prices will rise,” FGE chairman Fereidun Fesharaki said on Friday in a note, adding that “$80 to $100 per barrel oil is around the corner”.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford)
FILE PHOTO: Tiger Woods of the U.S. is congratulated by Jack Nicklaus (L) after his final round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, June 3, 2012. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan
April 26, 2019
By Rory Carroll
(Reuters) – Tiger Woods said Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major championships is in his sights following his triumph at the Masters as he enjoys a career “extension” after a prolonged period of injury woes.
In his first comments since winning his 15th major title and fifth green jacket, the 43-year-old American said he always thought Nicklaus’s mark was reachable, provided his career was long enough.
“It took him an entire career to get to 18,” Woods said in an interview with streaming service GOLFTV.
“So now that I’ve had another extension to my career — one that I didn’t think I had a couple of years ago — if I do things correctly and everything falls my way, yeah, it’s a possibility.”
“I’m never going to say it’s not, except for a couple of years ago when I couldn’t walk,” he said with a laugh.
“Now I just need to have a lot of things go my way, and who’s to say that it will or will not happen? That’s what the future holds, I don’t know. The only thing I can promise you is this: that I will be prepared.”
Everything was going Woods’s way during his final round in Augusta, a win, he said, that had yet to sink in.
The former world number one was two shots behind the leading Francesco Molinari at the 12th at Augusta National when the British Open champion opened the door by finding water en route to a double-bogey.
“It went from a one-horse race with all of us kind of chasing Francesco, to now Pandora’s box is opened up playing 13, where … there’s at least seven with a legitimate chance to win the tournament with six holes to go.”
Woods birdied the next hole to grab the lead and held his nerve despite a logjam of contenders.
He will make his first start since the Masters at the May 2-5 Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina where he will bid to match Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 PGA Tour victories.
However, Woods said he was just happy to show his two children the positive side of a career that was derailed by personal problems and a litany of back injuries that convinced many the best golfer of his generation was done.
“They never knew golf to be a good thing in my life and only the only thing they remember is that it brought this incredible amount of pain to their dad and they don’t want to ever want to see their dad in pain,” he said.
“And so to now have them see this side of it, the side that I’ve experienced for so many years of my life, but I had a battle to get back to this point, and it feels good.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, Additional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ian Ransom)
FILE PHOTO: Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
April 26, 2019
OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Bank of Canada could start hiking rates again “sometime down the road,” although such a move will depend on whether upcoming economic data backs up its assessment that a current slowdown is only a temporary detour, the central bank’s head said on Thursday.
The Bank of Canada has raised interest rates five times since July 2017, although it has stayed on the sidelines in recent decisions as global trade concerns, the slumping oil sector and a weaker housing sector have weighed on the Canadian economy.
The bank again held rates steady on Wednesday but took a more dovish stance than in recent releases, removing wording around the need for “future hikes,” while lowering its growth forecasts for 2019.
But in a televised interview with Maclean’s magazine on Thursday, Governor Stephen Poloz said the central bank believed the slowdown would be temporary, lasting “a couple of quarters,” and implied the worst was already over.
“What we have to do then is wait and see if the data proves to us that we were right about that,” he said. “Assuming we are, then sometime down the road we’ll be able to say: ‘OK, now it’s time to start normalizing again,’ but that remains to be seen.”
He repeated that any move would be data-dependent.
The Bank of Canada estimates its neutral range is between 2.25 and 3.25 percent. The overnight interest rate is currently at 1.75 percent.
Poloz also said there was nothing to signal that Canada was on the verge of recession, but when asked if U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist trade policies could provoke a new global recession, he said: “Certainly.”
“When you think about the gains in income and living standards that have been created by trade liberalization in a postwar period, to erase even a portion of those would be to risk causing a recession globally,” Poloz said.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Peter Cooney)
FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk leaves Manhattan federal court after a hearing on his fraud settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in New York City, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
April 26, 2019
(Reuters) – Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday sought a second delay and requested to provide the court another joint submission on or before April 30, indicating whether they have reached an agreement to settle a dispute over Musk’s use of Twitter, both parties said in a court filing.
The SEC in February sought to have Musk found in contempt of a fraud settlement last year after the CEO tweeted details about Tesla production numbers that were not vetted by the electric vehicle company’s attorneys.
Instead, U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan ordered Musk and the SEC to try to resolve the dispute on their own. The parties have already requested one extension.
The SEC sued Musk last year for making fraudulent statements after he tweeted on Aug. 7 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The parties later settled and Musk agreed to step down as chairman and have the company’s lawyers pre-approve written communications, including tweets with material information about the company. Musk’s lawyers have argued that the February tweet did not contain new information that was material to investors.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco, Brendan Pierson in New York and Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
April 26, 2019
By Steve Gorman and Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday blocked a Trump administration rule that would prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers, according to the state attorney general.
The preliminary injunction bars enforcement nationwide of a policy that was due to go into effect on May 3 over the vehement objections of abortion supporters who have decried it as a “gag rule” designed to silence doctor-patient communications about abortion options.
“Today’s ruling ensures that clinics across the nation can remain open and continue to provide quality, unbiased healthcare to women,” Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement announcing the decision.
Washington state was a named plaintiff in the case challenging restrictions proposed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to its Title X program subsidizing reproductive healthcare and family planning costs for low-income women.
Neither the White House nor HHS immediately responded to requests from Reuters for comment.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima in eastern Washington capped a hearing in which oral arguments were presented by both sides.
Ferguson’s statement quoted the judge, in ruling from the bench, as saying, “There is no public interest in perpetuating unlawful agency action.”
A federal judge in Oregon earlier this week said he intended to grant a preliminary injunction in a similar but separate lawsuit brought by 20 states and the District of Columbia. Two more lawsuits challenging the Title X restrictions are pending in California and Maine.
The restrictions are aimed at fulfilling Republican President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to end federal support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other health services for women under Title X.
Congress appropriated $286 million in Title X grants in 2017 to Planned Parenthood and other health centers to provide birth control, screening for diseases and other reproductive health and counseling to low-income women.
The funding is already prohibited from being used for abortions, but abortion opponents have long complained that the money in effect subsidizes Planned Parenthood as a whole.
Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services to about 40 percent of the 4 million people who rely on Title X funding annually, and the organization has argued that community health centers would be unable to absorb its patients.
Under the new rule, clinics that receive Title X funding would be barred from referring patients for abortion as a method of family planning. The new regulation also would require financial and physical separation between facilities funded by Title X and those providing abortions.
Abortion opponents have argued the plan would not ban abortion counseling but would ensure that taxpayer funding does not support clinics that also perform the procedure.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)
FILE PHOTO: View of the U.S. Embassy (front buildings) in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo/File Photo
April 25, 2019
By Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is accelerating a plan to cut up to half of the workforce at the U.S. embassy in Kabul starting at the end of next month, sparking concern it will undermine the fragile Afghan peace process, U.S. officials and congressional aides said.
Pompeo’s order for the largest U.S. diplomatic mission comes about a year earlier than expected, a surprise development given the meager progress in U.S. talks with Taliban militants on an agreement that would pave the way for a U.S. troop withdrawal and an end to America’s longest war.
The Taliban, their negotiating leverage bolstered by U.S. President Donald Trump’s public impatience to end the war, could dig in further because they would regard a large embassy drawdown as more confirmation of his eagerness to reduce the U.S. role in Afghanistan.
The Kabul embassy is a testament to the size of America’s investment in Afghanistan since it went to war there in 2001 after the September 11 attacks. With a workforce of about 1,500, the heavily fortified compound underwent an $800 million expansion four years ago and now includes 700 beds for staff.
One U.S. official said the reduction should be seen as part of a global redistribution of U.S. diplomats required by the Trump administration’s national security strategy shift from emphasizing counter-terrorism to confronting renewed “great power” rivalry with Russia and China.
But a drastic embassy workforce cut – which State Department officials briefed key congressional committees about last week in advance of a formal notification – will likely reverberate throughout Afghanistan.
It could erode a strained U.S. relationship with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government a month after the allies publicly clashed over Kabul’s exclusion from the negotiations with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar.
Ghani “would see this as another step in a betrayal,” said Thomas Lynch, a U.S. National Defense University fellow focused on Afghanistan and former adviser to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. officials and congressional aides said that among the concerns about a major drawdown was the risk that it could alarm NATO allies, already at odds with Trump over a host of issues, and ordinary Afghans.
A State Department spokeswoman said in an email when asked about the planned embassy cuts that the department “regularly reviews our presence at our overseas missions to reflect changing circumstances and our policy goals.”
Trump’s priorities are “ending the war in Afghanistan through a sustainable peace settlement and focusing on counterterrorism,” she said, adding that Washington will maintain “a robust” presence in Afghanistan.
She did not explain why Pompeo moved up the embassy staff reduction plan.
‘SHOCK AND STUPEFACTION’
U.S. negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, has reported some progress toward an accord on a U.S. troop withdrawal and on how the Taliban would prevent extremists from using Afghanistan to launch attacks as al Qaeda did on Sept. 11, 2001.
The insurgents, however, so far have rejected U.S. demands for a ceasefire and talks on the country’s political future that would include Afghan government officials.
News that Washington was examining a workforce cut in Kabul first was reported by National Public Radio in February. Foreign Policy magazine reported earlier this month that the State Department was preparing to reduce personnel by half in 2020.
Now, the reduction “is starting as soon as May 31 and they want to have it done by September,” said one congressional aide.
Four other sources, including three U.S. officials, confirmed the plan to reduce the embassy staff by up to half. One said it would be achieved by not filling posts that regularly go vacant.
Pompeo’s order was not accompanied by a justification, such as cost-cutting, said a U.S. official and a congressional aide.
“You have to have some parameters, some guidelines, and there weren’t any,” said the U.S. official, adding that Pompeo’s directive triggered “shock and stupefaction” in the State Department when it was issued about two weeks ago.
The congressional aide said that when asked to justify the drawdown in congressional briefings last week, State Department officials said,
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Phil Stewart Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell)