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UK posts slowest growth in six years as Brexit looms

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LONDON: The British economy grew at its slowest pace in six years in 2018, data showed Monday, as Brexit uncertainty grips the country and fears grow that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal.

The bleak official figures came as the British government seeks to win more time to secure EU concessions on Brexit that could pass the UK parliament and avert a chaotic split from the bloc on March 29.

Businesses are on edge with Britain just weeks away from its scheduled departure from the European project after 46 years and still with no firm arrangements in place.

The parliament in London last month roundly rejected a Brexit deal Prime Minister Theresa May had sealed with the remaining 27 EU leaders.

Monday’s figures followed data last week that showed Britain’s dominant service sector almost ground to a halt in January.

“The economy is clearly struggling in the first quarter of 2019 amid serious business and consumer caution resulting from heightened Brexit uncertainties while weaker global growth is also impacting” the figures, noted Howard Archer, chief economic advisor at the EY ITEM Club.

Last year gross domestic product growth stood at 1.4 percent, down from 1.8 percent in 2017, the Office for National Statistics said Monday.

Growth was only 0.2 percent in the last three months of 2018, the ONS said in a statement.

“Construction, production and services output fell in the month (of December), the first time that there has been such a broad-based fall in monthly output since September 2012,” the ONS said.

Britain has been in a state of political turmoil for two months since the Brexit deal was agreed in December.

In an incident heavy with symbolism, parts of parliament were cordoned off Monday after a large piece of masonry fell onto a parked vehicle over the weekend.

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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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