HONG KONG: Asian stocks surged Wednesday as President Donald Trump said he may extend his trade deal deadline with China, and a report claimed his counterpart Xi Jinping would meet top US officials in Beijing, seeming to boost the prospects of an agreement.
High-level talks are due to begin in the Chinese capital Thursday aimed at an accord to stop sharp US tariff hikes that could damage the global economy.
Trump said he could let his March 1 deadline “slide for a little while” if the two sides were close to a meaningful deal, adding that he expects a summit with Xi “at some point”.
Later a report in the South China Morning Post said Xi would personally meet the US delegation in Beijing, suggesting a redoubled effort to make progress on a deal.
The developments improved market sentiment on the likelihood of a resolution to prevent US tariffs more than doubling on $200 billion in Chinese imports next month.
Washington is demanding changes from Beijing on what it says are unfair commercial practices.
Tokyo added a further 1.3 percent after Tuesday’s gains to finish at a two-month high.
Hong Kong rose 1.1 percent, and Shanghai earned 1.8 percent on the news, following Wall Street’s lead.
However, some analysts struck a cautious tone, noting that much work needs to be completed before a framework agreement is in reach.
“The rally in stocks has been based on hope rather than any concrete agreements overnight,” warned Oanda senior analyst Jeffrey Halley, predicting short-term volatility to come as headlines emerge from Beijing.
Elsewhere Sydney shed 0.3 percent, with calls for a snap election amid political tensions over refugees adding to underwhelming corporate earnings and subdued metal prices.
Record number of US black women graduating from West Point
WASHINGTON: They pose proudly in uniform, swords in hand: 34 young black women are set to graduate from West Point on Saturday, a record for the prestigious US military academy.
It is not the only record for the class of 2019: of the 985 cadets who have completed their four-year training, 221 are women.
“The strength of our Army lies within the diversity of its people and @WestPoint_USMA continues to prepare our future leaders to lead the modern #Soldier,” the US Army said on its Twitter account.
“Nothing standard-wise has changed, it’s just a concerted effort to broaden the people applying,” said academy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ophardt.
“Our last true integration was in 1980 when the first group of women graduated from the Academy. Since then, we had a diverse pool, but not what we wanted,” he said.
According to data released by West Point, the class of 2019 includes 110 African Americans (11 percent), 79 Asians or Pacific Islanders (eight percent), 88 Hispanics (nine percent) and seven Native Americans (0.7 percent).
One of the proud graduates-to-be, Tiffany Welch Baker, this week told the NBC’s Today show that she wanted to be a role model.
“I hope those girls can see themselves in us,” she said. “I want these little black girls to say hey, I can do it too! It is possible for me.”
Iran FM: US troop boost ‘threat to international peace’
TEHRAN: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday a US decision to deploy 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East is a “threat to international peace,” state media reported.
“Increased US presence in our region is very dangerous and a threat to international peace and security and must be confronted,” Zarif said while talking to newsmen before heading home from a visit to Pakistan.
Washington says the reinforcements, which come after the deployment earlier this month of an aircraft carrier task force, B-52 bombers, an amphibious assault ship and a missile defence system, are in response to “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
“Americans make such claims to justify their hostile policies and to create tension in the Persian Gulf,” Zarif said.
The United States this month ended the last exemptions it had granted from sweeping unilateral sanctions it reimposed after abandoning a landmark 2015 nuclear between major powers and Iran in May last year.
The move dealt a heavy new blow to Iran’s already reeling economy as even vocal critics of the renewed sanctions, like Turkey, announced they had stopped buying Iranian oil.
US military helicopter destroyed in Afghanistan ‘hard landing’
KABUL: Passengers and crew aboard a US military helicopter were injured when the chopper they were travelling in was destroyed during a “hard landing” in Afghanistan, a US official said Saturday.
According to Colonel David Butler, a spokesman for US Forces Afghanistan, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter “hit the ground hard on the way to drop passengers off” during a mission in Helmand province.
Butler said the helicopter had been totally destroyed during the landing.
“Both Afghan and US personnel were injured but all are stable and expected to recover,” he said.
“No hostile fire or enemy contact involved.”