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British pound rises as markets await ECB decision

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NEW YORK: The British pound rose to two-month peaks against the euro and the dollar on Wednesday as traders girded for a likely dovish message from the European Central Bank.

Britain is still far from a deal with the European Union ahead of a March 29 deadline but currency traders continue to bet against a no-deal exit, seen as the worst outcome for the country.

The British currency fetched $1.3068 near 2120 GMT from $1.2954 the prior day, also advancing against the euro.

“The pound’s resilience suggests that markets see a greater chance of Brexit getting delayed beyond March or possibly being put to a second referendum,” said Western Union Business Solutions Senior Market Analyst Joe Manimbo.

Hopes “Britain might avoid an ugly, economy-throttling exit from the EU” overshadowed weak factory data, Manimbo added.

Analysts are not expecting any bombshells at Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting but chief Mario Draghi could acknowledge growing risks to the eurozone economy while sticking to the bank’s patient course.

The central bank is caught at an intermediate stage of withdrawing crisis-era stimulus, having wound up net purchases of government and corporate bonds — so-called “quantitative easing” — but seeing the economy still too fragile to lift interest rates from their historic lows.

Draghi said last month that QE had been “the crucial driver of recovery in the eurozone” since its introduction in 2015 — while insisting growth could continue after its withdrawal and blaming one-off factors for signs of weakening momentum.

Since then, new data “have done little to stop fears of a more prolonged slowdown,” ING-DiBa economist Carsten Brzeski said.

“Confidence indicators are still plunging, hard data remains weak and latest Brexit developments suggest that new turbulence in both financial markets and the real economy is still on the horizon.”

 

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BMW, Daimler to invest 1b euros

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BERLIN: German auto giants BMW and Daimler said Friday they would invest one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in combining and extending their carsharing schemes, in future offering a slew of joint “mobility services”, including for electric cars.
“We are pooling the strength and expertise of 14 successful brands and investing more than one billion euros to establish a new player in the fast-growing market for urban mobility,” Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler said in a statement.

 

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Asian markets mixed after Fed minutes, eyes on trade talks

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Asian markets mixed after Fed minutes eyes on trade talks

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed Thursday after the Federal Reserve left open the possibility it could lift interest rates this year, while investors kept an optimistic eye on China-US trade talks.

Equities and other risk assets have enjoyed a stellar start to the year on hopes for the negotiations as well as expectations the US central bank will slow its pace of monetary tightening — with some even tipping a cut — as growth both at home and globally slows.

On Wednesday, the Fed minutes showed its policy board was concerned about the outlook and trade tensions, and said US growth would “step down” from last year’s rapid pace.

It also said it expects to continue to wind down its balance sheet of securities and other assets — which helps keep borrowing costs down — but added “it was not yet clear” what rate moves “may be appropriate later this year”.

The minutes showed there could be another hike if price pressures pick up.

Analysts said there was still a possibility of more increases in borrowing costs this year, after four in 2018.

“The debate is still focused on whether to tighten or not, and not whether to cut,” said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC. “The risk is tilted in the direction of more tightening.”

In morning trade, Hong Kong was flat and Shanghai dipped 0.1 percent while Tokyo went into the break 0.1 percent lower.

Sydney rose 0.4 percent, Singapore slipped 0.2 percent and Seoul was off 0.3 percent. Wellington added 0.7 percent, Taipei was barely moved and Manila lost 0.5 percent.

 

 

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Crunch time as high-level US-China trade talks resume

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Crunch time as high-level US-China trade talks resume

WASHINGTON: With eight days left in their trade truce, top US and Chinese officials were due Thursday to return to the daunting task of bridging a chasm between the world’s two largest economies.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the talks with Beijing are going “very well,” but concrete signs of progress have not been apparent in the three months since the two sides agreed to pause their trade war.

Analysts say the distance separating Washington and Beijing and the short time remaining before the March 1 deadline make it likely the outcome would feature banner announcements but would fall short of Trump’s most far-reaching goals.

“I think the consensus of people that have been following this thing is that they’re not making nearly as much progress as the president tweets that they’ve been making,” said William Reinsch, a former US trade official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Chinese trade envoy Liu He will lead Beijing’s delegation in meetings with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other American officials Thursday and Friday as they work to head off an escalation of US tariffs.

This fourth round of negotiations follow two days of preliminary talks at the deputy level.

Trump this week said a March 1 deadline to reach a deal was in fact “not a magical date,” raising hopes that he could delay the plan to more than double duties on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

China’s party-owned Global Times late Tuesday warned raising US tariffs would amount to “a catastrophic strike” on global stock markets, which have been buffeted for months by the uncertainty and the prospects for slower global growth.

Since July, Washington and Beijing have hit each other with tariffs on more than $360 billion in two-way trade, weighing on the manufacturing sectors in both countries.

Washington has demanded that Beijing reverse much of its industrial policy, charging that China has sought global dominance through the alleged theft of American technology, massive subsidies and the promotion mammoth state-owned enterprises.

US officials have stressed that any agreement must have teeth to ensure that China keeps its promises.

 

 

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