Stocks jump as China cuts tariffs on $75bn of US goods
“The news overnight that China is to halve tariffs rates on $75bn of imports from the US beginning on February 14 has seen markets in Asia push on further this morning,” Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note on Thursday morning.
“That being said it shouldn’t be surprising news as this comes after both nations had agreed in Phase 1 negotiations that they would reduce tariffs on each other’s goods as part of the deal.”
China and the US signed a ‘Phase 1’ trade deal in January.
European and US stocks were trading higher in the wake of the tariff cut announcement. The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened up 0.4% in London, the German DAX (^GDAXI) was 0.8% higher in Frankfurt, and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) in Paris rose 1%.
China’s move to cut tariffs comes at a time when the country is battling a deadly outbreak of novel coronavirus that experts warn will hit economic growth.
Authorities said overnight that deaths in mainland China from coronavirus have now risen to 563. The number of confirmed cases has risen by 3,694 to 28,018. Millions of people remain under lockdown across China and travel restrictions are in place.
Goldman Sachs analysts said earlier this week they expect the epidemic to knock 1.6 percentage points off China’s forecast first quarter GDP growth. UBS said it expects annual GDP growth of just 3.8% in the first quarter, down from 6% in the fourth quarter of 2019, and forecast Chinese GDP growth of just 5.4% for 2020, which would be a 30-year low.
Senate acquits Trump in impeachment trial
WASHINGTON — In a vote that was predictable but momentous, President Trump was acquitted by the Senate on the charges contained in two articles of impeachment, related to abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, that had been endorsed by the House of Representatives in December.
The final vote was 48 to 52 on Article I, and 47 to 53 on Article II. The only surprise was when Mitt Romney of Utah voted to convict Trump on the first article, in what would prove the lone GOP defection. Every Democrat voted to convict Trump, though there had been concern that legislators from Trump-friendly states, in particular Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama might ultimately side with Trump.
None ultimately did, leaving Romney as the only senator to vote against his party. In fact, he became the first senator in United States history to vote in favor of convicting a president of his own party in an impeachment trial.
Speaking before the 4 p.m. vote, Romney rejected the notion that November’s forthcoming election would prove a sufficient referendum on Trump.
“This verdict is ours to render,” Romney said in Senate floor remarks that instantaneously went viral on social media. “The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty. The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a ‘high crime and misdemeanor.’”
The man who was once considered by Trump as a potential secretary of state then delivered his lonely but devastating conclusion: “Yes, he did.”
By casting his vote against Trump, Romney single-handedly prevented impeachment from remaining a solely partisan affair.
To convict and remove Trump as president, Democrats would have needed 20 Republicans to cross party lines, something they have generally been unwilling to do, fearing that he might launch a primary challenge against them. In the entire impeachment inquiry, encompassing both the House and the Senate, only two Republicans ever voted with Democrats. That was when Romney and Susan Collins of Maine voted in favor of hearing from more witnesses during the now-concluded Senate trial, and when Romney subsequently voted to convict.
Nicosia (AFP) – Washington sees Cyprus as a key player in eastern Mediterranean energy supplies, a visiting senior US official said Wednesday, while warning against further instability in the region as tensions rise over Turkey’s drilling activities off the divided island.
“Cyprus has an incredibly important role to play in this new energy corridor that is still developing throughout the region,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon.
“We urge all parties to not take any provocative actions that could create any further instability. And we’re steadfast on that,” he added.
He made the comments before a gathering of Israeli, Greek and Cypriot technical experts gathered in Nicosia to discuss ways to boost safety and security in offshore gas drilling.
Fannon’s visit coincides with Turkey upping the ante by pushing ahead with drilling activity in Cyprus’s designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite EU threats of sanctions against Ankara.
The US official said energy resources were a “catalyst for cooperation” and that the United States remained committed at the highest level.
“We support the Republic of Cyprus to develop its resources in its EEZ,” said Fannon.
Fannon welcomed the involvement of American companies in regional cooperation, including their role in developing new energy pathways.
Last year, US energy giant ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum discovered the largest natural gas reserve off Cyprus holding an estimated five to eight trillion cubic feet (up to 224 billion cubic metres).
Italy’s ENI and Total of France are also heavily involved in exploring for oil and gas off the island.
Greece, Cyprus and Israel last month signed an agreement to move ahead with construction of an ambitious 6-billion-euro ($6.6 billion) undersea EastMed pipeline to deliver gas to European markets.
Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis said that US support in creating an Eastern Mediterranean corridor was “profound and solid”.
“Cooperation among our three countries (Cyprus, Greece, Israel) plus the US is very important,” Lakkotrypis said.
“In contrast to this positive outlook, Turkey acts as a spoiler through its continued illegal exploration activities in the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus, escalating since last May and clearly violating international law,” he told the Nicosia gathering.
Turkey insists the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — recognised only by Ankara — has the right to explore around the entire island.
UN-sponsored talks on reunifying the island as a bizonal, bi-communal federation collapsed in July 2017 and have not resumed, in part because of deep divisions over offshore gas.
The Cyprus government has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, which dismisses it as an exclusively Greek Cypriot administration
Cyprus is divided between the Greek Cypriot south — an EU member state — and the Turkish Cypriot north which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974 in response to an Athens-engineered coup.