HONG KONG: Asian stocks retreated Friday as concern grew over reports of an impasse in China-US trade talks in Beijing, and Wall Street was hit by weak US retail sales.
Bourses across the region posted losses as investors shrugged off news that US President Donald Trump would sign a massive spending bill to avert a government shutdown, while Chinese inflation eased more than expected.
Top US economic officials were due to meet President Xi Jinping in the Chinese capital as both sides aim to conclude trade talks with enough goodwill to extend a truce in their tariff war.
Trump’s economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the talks were “covering all the ground” and “the vibe is good” though no decision had been taken on extending a March 1 deadline for tariff hikes.
But multiple reports said there had been little progress on thorny issues such as US demands that China crack down on forced technology transfers and reduce subsidies that favour domestic companies.
The Wall Street Journal said China had offered to boost imports of US goods with promises of major purchases of semiconductors and other items, but that officials “remained deadlocked on a number of issues”.
And Bloomberg News reported that the two sides had “failed to narrow the gap around structural reforms to China’s economy that the US has requested”.
Both cited anonymous sources.
Failure to resolve the dispute would initiate a sharp hike in US tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods which could slow the global economy.
Hong Kong shed 1.5 percent, Tokyo dropped 1.2 percent and Shanghai fell 0.7 percent.
Seoul, Taipei, Wellington and Jakarta all posted losses too, though Sydney edged up.
Factory and consumer price inflation in China rose at a slower rate than expected in January, official data showed Friday.
The weak producer prices were “a concern since these are highly correlated with profit growth in industry”, Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a research note.
Wall Street fell earlier after the Commerce Department reported US retail sales had dropped 1.2 percent in December from the previous month, marking the largest month-to-month decrease since September 2009.
The report suggested American consumers had held back during a peak holiday shopping season that coincided with a plunge in the stock market.
The US Congress passed a spending bill to avert a government shutdown, and Trump has signalled he will sign it before a midnight Friday deadline.
But the positive news was offset as the American president alarmed lawmakers with a plan to declare a national emergency to fund his controversial wall on the Mexico border.
Meanwhile, oil continued to climb due to falling global output after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cut output.
Trudeau’s Tory rival pledges balanced budget in 5 years
OTTAWA: Canada’s Conservative leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main rival in upcoming elections pledged Friday to balance the government’s budget within five years, backtracking on a previous target.
An average of several recent polls gives the Tories a six percentage point lead over the Liberals ahead of the October ballot.
Andrew Scheer previously vowed that balancing the budget could be done within two years, but now claims “Trudeau has made an even bigger mess of the budget than I thought possible.
“And he has made the job of cleaning it up that much more difficult,” he said in a speech to the Canadian Club in Vancouver.
Canada’s economy surged after the Liberals took office in 2015 and unleashed a massive stimulus. But growth is forecast to slow this year.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his March budget pointed to 900,000 new jobs created since 2015 and the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years.
The government’s fiscal deficit, however, is projected to balloon to Can$19.8 billion (US$14.7 billion) — after Trudeau abandoned his 2015 pledge to run a few small deficits and return to balance this year.
Still, Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is lower than its G7 counterparts and is expected to fall over the coming years from the current 30.7 percent.
Scheer said, “even the most optimistic projections don’t have the Liberals balancing the budget for 20 more years.”
“But if Canadians elect a Conservative government this fall, we will balance the budget in about a quarter of that time,” he said.
Canada unveils air passenger bill of rights
OTTAWA: Airline passengers in Canada will soon be eligible for significant compensation for delayed flights or lost baggage under regulations announced Friday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
The measures follow a rising number of complaints about being stuck on the tarmac for hours, musical instruments being broken in transit and lost baggage.
“Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive,” Garneau said.
“These new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travelers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve.”
Starting July 15, airlines will be required to disembark passengers after three hours on the tarmac if there is no prospect of taking off soon.
They would also need to compensate passengers bumped from overbooked flights up to Can$2,400 (US$1,800) and up to Can$2,100 for lost luggage.
As of December 15, additional measures will require airlines to pay passengers up to Can$1,000 for flight delays and cancellations, provide food, drink and accommodations, and rebook them on new flights — using competing airlines if necessary.
They would also have to seat children near a parent at no extra charge and develop new standards for transporting musical instruments.
The latter was in response to travelling musicians complaining on social media about broken guitars and other instruments during flights.
The rules apply to flights to, from and within Canada.
According to Canada’s government statistics agency, there are an average of 5.5 million take-offs and landings at Canada’s 91 airports each year.
Due to its vast geography, air transportation is crucial for connecting parts of the country. A flight from easternmost to westernmost Canada takes about eight hours.
Vice President’s upcoming visit to further deepen friendship, advance CPEC development: China
BEIJING: Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan’s upcoming visit to Pakistan will further deepen high-level exchanges, friendship and mutual trust between China and Pakistan and advance development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) besides bilateral cooperation across the board, a Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson said on Friday.
“We believe the vice president’s visit will further deepen high-level exchanges, friendship and mutual trust between China and Pakistan and advance the CPEC development and our cooperation across the board,” Lu Kang said while responding to a question of APP regarding the significance of the visit during his daily press briefing held here.
He said the visit would inject a new impetus in a closer community of shared future in a new era for two countries.
The spokesperson said the Chinese vice president would be visiting Pakistan from May 26 to 28 at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Wang Qishan will be meeting with President Arif Alvi and hold talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan and exchange views on deepening bilateral relations and international and regional issues of mutual interests,” he added.
Lu Kang remarked that China and Pakistan were all-weather strategic cooperative partners and iron friends, adding, “We firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s foreign interests.”