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)
North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un on Thursday accused the United States of operating in “bad faith” at February’s Hanoi summit, which produced no breakthroughs in talks about the North’s denuclearization and U.S. sanctions.
Kim added peace on the peninsula depended on the United States’ “future attitude.“
At the meeting in Vietnam between the two leaders, Trump had demanded sanctions relief only if North Korean abandoned its nuclear weapons program. Kim wanted sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling a single nuclear facility.
But the balance the U.S. sought shifted dramatically Thursday, when Kim met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin — a sit-down described by the Korean Central News Agency as “unreserved and friendly,” AFP reported.
Kim declared “the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region is now at a standstill and has reached a critical point,” the news agency reported. And he warned the situation “may return to its original state as the U.S. took an unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second DPRK-US summit talks.”
“Peace and security on the Korean peninsula will entirely depend on the U.S. future attitude, and the DPRK will gird itself for every possible situation,” he said, AFP reported.
Kim said he hoped to usher in a “new heyday” in ties between Pyongyang and Moscow.
Source: NewsMax Politics
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)
A U.S. judge in Washington state Thursday blocked new Trump administration rules that would provide additional hurdles for women seeking abortions, including by banning taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals.
Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima granted the preliminary injunction in cases brought by the state and abortion rights groups, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. The new rules were due to take effect May 3.
“Today’s ruling ensures that clinics across the nation can remain open and continue to provide quality, unbiased healthcare to women,” Ferguson, a Democrat, said in an emailed statement.
The ruling came two days after a federal judge in Oregon, hearing a separate challenge by 20 states, said he intended to at least partially block the rules. That judge, Michael McShane, suggested he was reluctant to issue a nationwide injunction, but said the administration’s new policy was motivated by “an arrogant assumption that the government is better suited to direct women’s health care than their providers.”
Title X is a 1970 law designed to improve access to family planning services, especially for low-income women and those in rural areas, but abortion opponents and religious conservatives say it has long been used to indirectly subsidize abortion providers.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of Title X or other taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
Clinics that receive money under Title X provide a wide array of services, including birth control and screening for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. The program serves 4 million patients, about 1.6 million of whom obtain services through Planned Parenthood.
In addition to banning abortion referrals by taxpayer-funded clinics, the changes would prohibit clinics that receive federal money from sharing office space with abortion providers — a rule critics said would force many to find new locations, undergo expensive remodels or shut down.
“All over the country, there are Title X providers looking at their patient schedules and wondering what they were going to do,” said Clare Coleman, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which sued. “Now we know that everyone can continue to do their care as they have been doing for the past 50 years.”
The judge made his ruling from the bench and said he would issue a written opinion early next week, Coleman said.
The Department of Health and Human Services declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on litigation.
While the new rules would permit clinic staff to discuss abortion with clients, they would no longer be required to do so. If patients ask for an abortion referral, staff would be required to give a list of primary care providers with no indication as to which provide abortions.
The list would have to include providers who do not offer abortions, and it could not include clinics or organizations that aren’t primary care providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
Supporters of the changes say they return Title X’s regulations back to their original legislative intent that “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
“We’re extremely disappointed that a district judge made a ruling — a wrong ruling — that affects the entire nation,” said Mark Miloscia, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, which was not involved in the case. “We support family planning, but not giving it through agencies that kill the unborn.”
The legal challenges argue that the changes violate a requirement that patients receive pregnancy counseling that is not weighted for or against abortion, and that it violates the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on regulations that impose “unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care.”
Some 98,000 patients in Washington were expected to receive care through Title X this year, Ferguson said.
Source: NewsMax America
The Trump administration said Thursday it is reevaluating its controversial plan to sharply expand offshore drilling as it responds to a court ruling that blocked oil and gas development off Alaska and parts of the Atlantic.
Governors and lawmakers from both Republican- and Democratic-led states have strongly opposed the expanded drilling. And a federal judge last month ruled against President Donald Trump’s executive order to open the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic to broader oil and gas development, saying Trump had exceeded his authority.
Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the legal challenges may be “discombobulating” to the administration’s overall drilling plans. Bernhardt says the administration may have to wait for the challenges to fully play out in court.
Interior spokeswoman Molly Block said that given the court setback, the agency “is evaluating all of its options.”
The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “will carefully consider all public input received, including comments from governors of affected states, before making final decisions” on expanded drilling off the country’s coasts, Block added.
Environmental groups welcomed what they said amounted to a delay in the administration’s coastal drilling expansion plans. Collin O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation said the administration “needs to go one step further and fully and permanently scrap its plan to open our coasts to unfettered offshore drilling.”
But Randall Luthi, head of the National Ocean Industries Association trade group, urged against a “hard stop” in administration planning on expanded offshore drilling. “What cannot be delayed … is the importance of domestic production to meet the growing demand for affordable, reliable American energy,” he said.
The Trump administration announced a new five-year plan last year that would open up 90 percent of U.S. offshore reserves to development by private companies. Then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it would promote responsible energy development, boost jobs and pay for coastal conservation efforts.
The plan calls for expanded drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast and would open up waters off California for the first time in more than three decades. Drilling would be allowed from Florida to Maine in areas that have been blocked for decades.
Industry groups said the plan would encourage economic growth and create thousands of jobs, while environmental groups denounced the plan, saying it would cause severe harm to America’s oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life.
The plan drew bipartisan criticism in Congress, as lawmakers in coastal states said oil drilling off the coast could put their economy, environment and marine life at risk.
Governors from coastal states asked to be removed from the plan, but Interior officials said they were pressing forward even as they promised to take local concerns into consideration.
Offshore drilling was a key factor as the Senate confirmed Bernhardt as interior chief this month. Florida Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott voted in favor of Bernhardt after receiving assurances from him and other administration officials that Florida would be excluded from drilling proposals. A moratorium on offshore drilling in Florida expires in 2022.
Rubio said in a statement on the day of the vote that he is “confident that when all is said and done the ban on oil drilling off of Florida’s coasts will remain in place.”
Bernhardt has declined to publicly rule out drilling off any state, including Florida.
Source: NewsMax America
U.S. President Donald Trump attends the 2019 White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
April 26, 2019
(Reuters) – President Donald Trump is flatly refusing to cooperate in numerous U.S. congressional probes of himself and his administration, taking a defiant stance that could trigger protracted court fights with House of Representatives Democrats.
In an unprecedented step, the Trump administration has filed a lawsuit to try to block one congressional subpoena; some Trump advisers have been told to ignore other subpoenas; and a request for Trump’s tax returns has not been fulfilled.
In most instances, Trump risks trouble with Congress over subpoenas, “contempt of Congress” citations and civil enforcement actions in court.
Trump’s stonewalling has hardened since the release last week of a redacted report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump viewed the report as an exoneration because the special counsel did not charge him with conspiring with Russia or with obstruction of justice. However, the report detailed the Trump campaign’s welcoming of help from the Russians and his later efforts to thwart Mueller’s inquiry.
Like other senior Democrats who are treating the Mueller report as a road map for further investigations by Congress, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings accused the Trump administration on Wednesday of a “massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction.”
The following are ways Trump has defied Congress in recent days:
Don McGahn, former White House counsel, was a key witness in the Mueller probe and House Democrats want to hear from him. But the White House plans to assert executive privilege to prevent McGahn and other current and former administration officials from testifying to Congress, the Washington Post has reported.
UNREDACTED MUELLER REPORT
Parts of the Mueller report were redacted, leaving some questions unanswered. Democrats have issued a subpoena in an attempt to obtain the full report without redactions and evidence Mueller relied on. Attorney General William Barr must decide by May 1 whether to comply.
Barr has said he has a legal obligation to keep secret information obtained from grand jury proceedings, and that other redactions were necessary to protect U.S. intelligence sources and avoid harm to ongoing law enforcement matters.
Unlike past presidents in recent decades, Trump has refused to make public his tax returns, raising questions about what is in them. Democrats are probing Trump’s past business dealings and possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to meet a congressional deadline on Tuesday for turning over Trump’s tax returns to the House tax committee, setting the stage for a possible court battle between Congress and the administration.
Mnuchin said he planned to make “a final decision” on whether to provide Trump’s tax records by May 6.
Legal experts said House Democrats could vote to hold Mnuchin or IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in contempt of Congress if they ignore a subpoena, as a step toward suing in federal court to obtain the returns.
Trump on Monday filed a lawsuit attempting to keep U.S. lawmakers from obtaining his financial records. The unprecedented suit seeks to block a subpoena issued by Cummings, whose panel is looking into Trump’s financial record.
The subpoena sought eight years of documents from Mazars USA, an accounting firm long used by Trump to prepare financial statements. Cummings issued the subpoena after Michael Cohen, formerly Trump’s personal lawyer, testified to Congress in February that Trump had misrepresented his net worth.
Cummings said on Tuesday that his panel will soon vote on whether to cite a former White House official with contempt for failing to appear for questioning on allegations that the Trump administration inappropriately granted security clearances to some of the president’s advisers.
The White House told the Oversight Committee that it had directed Carl Kline, who was White House personnel security chief for the first two years of Trump’s presidency, to ignore the committee’s subpoena to appear.
CENSUS AND CITIZENSHIP
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) rebuffed the Oversight Committee’s request for an interview with John Gore, an official who was involved in the administration’s decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.
The Justice Department said Gore, a lawyer in its Civil Rights Division, would not participate in a deposition set for Thursday if he could not have a department lawyer at his side. The committee had offered to let a lawyer sit in a different room.
A DOJ official said the committee had provided “no legitimate or constitutional basis for excluding a DOJ lawyer from assisting at the deposition.”
Trump on Wednesday vowed to fight any effort by congressional Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings against him, promising to go to the Supreme Court, even though it plays no role in the constitutional impeachment process.
Congressional Democrats said in March that a U.S. government agency was responding too slowly to their requests for documents about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a plan to move the FBI.
Before he became president in January 2017, Trump supported moving the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters to the suburbs of Washington, Democrats looking into the matter said.
They said that after Trump was elected and disqualified from bidding to acquire the site for commercial development, he switched his position. Democrats have subsequently raised questions about a possible Trump conflict of interest.
The White House refused a request for Trump’s top immigration aide Stephen Miller to testify to Congress in a letter on Wednesday to the House Oversight Committee.
Miller, a former Senate aide, has helped shape some of Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, from the first Muslim travel ban shortly after he took office in 2017 to the child separation policy for migrants who illegally crossed the U.S.- Mexico border, both of which were rejected by courts.
(Compiled by Caroline Stauffer; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Leslie Adler)