Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Reuters News - Trump sues Deutsche Bank and Capital One to block House subpoenas

by Rich Mkay

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and seven of his companies filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Deutsche Bank and Capital One Financial Corp to block the banks from complying with federal subpoenas investigating his financial dealings.

The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of New York, contended that demands for records by Democrat-controlled House committees have no legitimate or lawful purpose.
“The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses, and the private information of the President and his family,” the lawsuit said.
It also complains that the Democrats are hoping “they will stumble upon something they can expose publicly and use as a political tool against the President.”
Representative Maxine Waters, the chairwoman of the Financial Services Commission and Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, both Democrats, called the lawsuit “meritless” in a joint statement, the New York Times and other media reported.
On April 15, two U.S. House of Representatives committees issued subpoenas to multiple financial institutions for information on Trump’s finances. Both banks have been involved in Trump’s real estate empire.
“The potential use of the U.S. financial system for illicit purposes is a very serious concern. The Financial Services Committee is exploring these matters, including as they may involve the president and his associates, as thoroughly as possible,” Waters, said in a statement earlier.
Schiff said previously in a statement the subpoenas issued included a “friendly subpoena to Deutsche Bank.”
Trump recently has said that he intends to defy any efforts from the Democrats to dig into his affairs. Among other things, the Democrats have been looking into possible dealings Trump might have with Russia.
The suit, which includes The Trump Organization Inc. and Trump’s three eldest children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, states that the court has the power to declare the subpoenas invalid.
A representative of Deutsche Bank said in a statement: “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations.”
Attorneys and representatives for the two sides were not immediately available to Reuters late Monday.
Reporting by Rich McKay; editing by Richard Pullin

Monday, April 29, 2019

BBC News - US economy grows faster than expected

US construction workersImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
The US economy grew much faster than expected in the first quarter of the year, helped by a jump in exports and by firms building up stocks of goods.
The economy expanded at an annualised pace of 3.2% in the January-to-March period, well above analysts' forecasts.
The economy has accelerated since the previous quarter, when it grew at a pace of 2.2%.
However, some analysts warned growth had been boosted by one-off factors, and could slow in the months ahead.
US GDP graphic
The growth figures - which are subject to revision in the months ahead - appeared to dispel any fears of an economic slowdown.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross welcomed the data, saying: "The Trump economy has repeatedly defied the sceptics who predicted an economic downturn and has restored America's position in the world as a consistent source of economic growth."
Trade helped to boost growth in the first quarter, as exports rose while imports fell. Companies also built up inventories of goods at the fastest rate since the second quarter of 2015.
However, consumer spending, which drives about two-thirds of economic activity in the US, grew by only 1.2% in the first quarter, down from a rate of 2.5% previously.
Presentational grey line


By Andrew Walker, BBC World Service economics correspondent
US shoppersImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
The growth figure was quite a surprise and it certainly defuses some of the warnings about a possible recession in the US.
There were, however, some features of the figures that suggest the headline growth rate is a little flattering. The acceleration owed something to companies building up their stocks of goods. That is a process that won't go on indefinitely, not at the same rate.
There was also a contribution from government spending and from international trade. The last of these is striking, in the context of the increase in global trade tensions due to a significant extent to the more assertive policies pursued by the Trump administration. Will that be sustained?
Consumer spending is a traditional source of US economic strength. It did grow in this period, but more slowly than before. Spending on goods actually declined, although that was more than offset by services.
All that said, some observers point out that the first estimate for this quarter tends to be revised upwards. So we could yet end up with an even stronger figure.
Presentational grey line

Fed faces 'tricky summer'

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump called on the US Federal Reserve to cut interest rates, claiming that the Fed had "really slowed us down" in terms of economic growth.
In March, the Fed had indicated that it did not plan to raise interest rates - which currently stand between 2.25% and 2.5% - for the rest of 2019.
Ian Shepherson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the "strong" GDP report meant the Fed could have a "tricky summer".
"The problem for the Fed now... is that if growth continues at anything like this pace, the labour market will tighten much further this year, and the question of rate hikes will be back on the agenda".
However, Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Capital Economics, warned that there were "plenty of causes for concern" behind the headline growth figure.
As well as the boost from trade and inventories, he noted growth was also lifted by government spending on highways and roads.
"So taking out the over-sized boosts from net trade, inventories and highways investment, which will all be reversed in the coming quarters, growth was only around 1.0%," Mr Ashworth says.
"Under those circumstances, we continue to expect that overall growth will slow this year, forcing the Fed to begin cutting interest rates before year-end."

Friday, April 26, 2019

BBC News - Belt and Road: China showcases initiative to world leaders

Aerial view of flower beds reading 'Chinese Dream' at Zhouji Green Expo Garden to welcome the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on April 24, 2019 in Nantong, Jiangsu Province of China.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionFlower beds reading 'Chinese Dream' welcome delegates to the Belt and Road forum in Beijing
World leaders are gathering in Beijing from Thursday for a summit on China's Belt and Road initiative amid growing criticism of the project.
The sweeping infrastructure project aims to expand global trade links.
The initiative has funded trains, roads, and ports in many countries, but has left some saddled with debt.
Some see it as a bold bid for geopolitical influence, with the US particularly critical of China's so-called "debt diplomacy".
Chinese officials have tried to address concerns surrounding President Xi Jinping's project, which is expected to involve more than $1 trillion (£774.9bn) in investments.
At the first day of the forum in Beijing, Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun said China aims to make the Belt and Road initiative sustainable and to prevent debt risks.
Last year, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a speech Belt and Road was not a "geostrategic concept" but was part of efforts to build "a community with a shared future for mankind together with countries around the globe."
Leaders from 37 countries and dozens of officials are due to attend the three-day summit, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Italy recently became the first developed economy to sign up to China's Belt and Road programme, raising concerns among its allies.
Western governments, and particularly the US, are increasingly wary of China's growing influence.
The US, which has fought a trade war with China over the past year, has been particularly critical of the project.
Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech last year China was using "debt diplomacy" to expand its influence around the world.

Debt trap?

Other countries that are set to benefit from the project also seem to be growing more cautious.
Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Pakistan have all expressed concerns about the programme. Recipient countries worry about debt accumulation and increased Chinese influence.
Sri Lanka has been particularly affected - it had to hand over control over of a port to China in 2017 to help repay foreign loans.
Tom Rafferty, China economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, said China is using this week's summit to "reposition and, it hopes, revive the initiative after it lost its way in 2018 amid project delays and a slowdown in associated lending."
Mr Rafferty said the Chinese government "wants to convince the international community that the Belt and Road Initiative is inclusive and policy concessions in areas such as debt sustainability" are likely.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Reuters News - Goldman, Bank of England and stock exchange targeted by climate activists in London

by Dylan  Martinez, Alex Frazer
LONDON (Reuters) - Environmental activists glued themselves to the London Stock Exchange, blocked roads near the Bank of England and protested outside banks such as Goldman Sachs on Thursday to try to force Britain to help avert what they cast as a climate cataclysm.

The Extinction Rebellion group has caused mass disruption across London, blocking Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge, smashing a door at the Shell building and shocking lawmakers with a semi-nude protest in parliament.
On Thursday, they turned their attention to London’s financial district, known as the City - home to more international banks than any other and the global center for foreign exchange trading.
In streets beside the Bank of England, around 20 activists blocked the road singing Bob Marley’s “One Love”.
Outside Goldman Sachs European headquarters, protesters blocked Fleet Street, lying on the ground. One held a placard saying “No jobs on a dead planet” and others chanted: “What do we want? Climate justice. When do we want it? Now.”
At the London Stock Exchange’s headquarters, seven protesters dressed in black suits and red ties were blocking the revolving doors of the building. They held signs reading “Tell the truth” and “You can’t eat money”.
In Canary Wharf, five protesters from the group climbed aboard a train at the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) station and unfurled a banner which read: “Business as usual = Death”. One glued herself to a train.
“Its bizarre we have to do this in order for governments to listen to the scientists,” said Diana Warner, 60, who glued her hand to the train.
“I’ve got children who are grown up so I can do this, so I’m doing it for everyone who can’t.”
The activists plan protests outside other banks including Rothschild, Nomura, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Canada and Rabobank, according to a protest planning document seen by Reuters.
In the past 11 days, the group has brought iconic parts of central London to a standstill in what activists have described as the biggest act of civil disobedience in modern British history.
Sources at major banks said security staff had been fully briefed on their status as possible targets but had no plans to enhance security to deal with the disruption.
Extinction Rebellion advocates non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to reduce carbon emissions and avert what it says is a global climate crisis that will bring starvation, floods, wildfires and social collapse.


Police said 1,088 arrests had been made since the main protests began. The final day of protests is focusing on the international financial sector, which has made London its home.
“So we’re here today to highlight that there are people and businesses trading in ecological destruction in that building behind us,” Adam Woodhall, a 48-year-old spokesman for the group, said outside the London Stock Exchange.
“We want the people in this building and around the world that in the financial industry to understand the impact that they are having on our futures. They are trading and making money in our futures.”
The group is demanding the government declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 and create a citizen’s assembly of members of the public to lead on decisions to address climate change.
In 2017, total United Kingdom greenhouse gas emissions were 43 percent lower than in 1990 and 2.6 percent lower than 2016, according to government statistics.
The group said they would end their protests in London on Thursday and would end their blockades at Parliament Square and Marble Arch.
However, they promised more protests in the future, saying direct action was the only way to bring the issue to public attention.
Reporting by Helena Williams, Emily Roe, Simon Dawson, Peter Nicholls, Sinead Cruise, Lawrence White; Writing by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alison Williams

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

BBC News - Government borrowing lowest for 17 years

MoneyImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Government borrowing last year fell to its lowest annual level in 17 years, official figures show.
Borrowing for the 2018-19 financial year was £24.7bn, £17.2bn less than in the previous financial year, the Office for National Statistics said.
Despite the drop, the amount was still higher than the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast last month.
Economists believe the reduction should give the government freedom to ease the austerity measures of the last decade.
The figures showed tax receipts continued to grow strongly in March, but higher government spending accounted for the wider-than-expected deficit, mostly down to the purchases of goods and services.
The Chancellor of Exchequer, Philip Hammond wants to reduce borrowing to the equivalent of 2% of UK economic output. Borrowing last year was equivalent to 1.2%, giving the chancellor some extra spending room.

Scrap austerity?

Mr Hammond, speaking to the Treasury Select Committee on Wednesday reiterated that by the financial year 2020-21 the government would have around of £27bn to use on a range of options.
But he added: "Until we have resolved the Brexit issue I don't think it makes sense to to plump for one option or another."
Samuel Tombs, UK economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: "The chancellor still should be able to scrap the further austerity measures planned for 2020-21 in the Budget later this year and meet his target."
John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor said: "So much for the deficit being eliminated - something the Tories told us they would achieve by 2015. Four years on and the Government has added another £1.7 billion to the deficit in March alone.
"Nine hard years of austerity have held down growth, and shifted deficits onto the shoulders of local councillors, NHS managers, and head teachers.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Reuters News - Congress deadline looms for release of Trump tax returns

by David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service faced a final deadline on Tuesday for handing over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to Democrats in Congress, in a showdown that could mire the administration and lawmakers in a lengthy legal fight.

Representative Richard Neal, Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, requested six years of Trump’s individual and business returns on April 3 and has set a final deadline of 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) on Tuesday, informing IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in a letter that failure to comply would be viewed as a denial.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has vowed that Trump’s tax returns would “never” be handed over to Democrats. But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he intends to “follow the law” while pledging to keep the IRS from being “weaponized” for political gain.
As Ways and Means chairman, Neal is the only lawmaker in the House of Representatives authorized to request taxpayer information under a federal law that says the Treasury secretary “shall furnish” the data. Democrats say they are confident of succeeding in any legal fight over Trump’s returns.
“The law is on our side. The law is clearer than crystal. They have no choice: they must abide by (it),” Representative Bill Pascrell, who has been leading the Democratic push for Trump’s tax records, said in a statement to Reuters.
Democrats want Trump’s returns as part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves the public as president.
Republicans have condemned the request as a political “fishing expedition” by Democrats.
Despite the law’s clarity, Democrats have long acknowledged that the effort would likely result in a legal battle that could ultimately be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“If the IRS does not comply with the request, it is likely that Chairman Neal will subpoena the returns,” Representative Judy Chu, a Democratic member of the Ways and Means Committee, told Reuters.
“If they do not comply with that (subpoena), a legal battle will begin to defend the right of oversight in Congress,” she said.
Trump broke with a decades-old precedent by refusing to release his tax returns as a presidential candidate in 2016 or since being elected, saying he could not do so while his taxes were being audited.
But his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told a House panel in February that he does not believe Trump’s taxes are under audit. Cohen said the president feared that releasing his returns could lead to an audit and IRS tax penalties.
Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Monday, April 22, 2019

BBC News - Retail sales boosted by mild weather in March

ShoppersImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Retail sales unexpectedly jumped in March as mild weather enticed shoppers to UK stores.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the year-on-year growth in March was 6.7% - the highest since October 2016.
The ONS said milder weather had helped to boost sales in comparison with the "Beast from the East" last year.
Monthly sales rose 1.1% - economists had been expecting a fall - with the warm weather boosting clothing sales.
Department stores were the only type of stores to report a fall in sales compared with the previous year, seeing a 0.3% decline in March.
The problems facing department stores was illustrated by Debenhams, which entered administration earlier this month before being taken over by its lenders.
In contrast, food stores registered a 3.3% annual rise, and textile, clothing and footwear stores saw a 7.1% increase from a year earlier,
Rhian Murphy, head of retail sales at the ONS, said: "March's mild weather boosted sales, with food shops also recovering after a weak February".
February's month-on-month growth figure was revised up to a rise of 0.6% from 0.4%, which Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said "adds to evidence that the economy grew at a pretty reasonable rate... in the first quarter given the political chaos".
She noted that the ONS adjusted the figures for Easter - the run-up to Easter Sunday fell in the comparable period last year - but that the boost in food sales in March may have been sparked by stockpiling ahead of the original date for Brexit.
Philipp Gutzwiller, head of retail at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the third consecutive month of increasing sales was good news for retailers as they headed in to the Easter break after a mixed Christmas.
"Those who see drops in reported annual profits as symptomatic of the continued decline of the High Street should look at the contrasting fortunes of some who have sophisticated physical and online presences," he said.
Retail sales graphic
It is the latest data to be released this week, giving clues to the state of the UK economy.
On Tuesday, separate ONS data showed that average weekly earnings, excluding bonuses, rose 3.4% in the three months to February and the unemployment rate was lower than at any time since the end of 1975.
That was followed on Wednesday by figures showing inflation was stable at 1.9% in March.
Ed Monk, associate director for personal investing at Fidelity International, said: "The week's economic releases have ended with good news. Even accounting for the Beast from the East, which kept shoppers at home a year ago, today's retail sales data show households willing to spend more.
"That reflects a slow recovery from a decade-long wage squeeze and, perhaps, a willingness to look through the apparently never-ending uncertainty that is Brexit".
Ms Gregory expects retail sales to provide a boost to GDP in the first quarter, but added: "Of course it is entirely possible that sales will be weaker in the second quarter if no-deal Brexit concerns caused consumers to bring forward purchases in to March".

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Reuters News - Peace talks postponed as Taliban objects to size of Afghan delegation

KABUL (Reuters) - A meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians and civil society aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan has been postponed, officials and diplomats said on Thursday, citing Taliban objections to the size of the Afghan delegation.
The talks were set to begin on Friday in Doha, but a senior government official in Kabul said “the gathering has been called off for now and details were being reworked.”
Afghan delegates scheduled to fly to the Qatari capital on Thursday were told the trip was postponed and new dates were being discussed, a western diplomat in Kabul said.
“The government will have to change the composition of the delegation to make this meeting happen,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said leaders of the hardline Islamist group were uncomfortable with the size of the Afghan delegation and its composition.
“Presence of some participants was completely against the list of what was agreed upon,” Mujahid told Reuters over phone, adding that the delegation included Afghans working for the government.
The Taliban have repeatedly refused to meet President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they call a puppet regime, but have held several rounds of peace talks with U.S. officials.
Ghani said Wednesday the 250-member Afghan delegation included some government officials attending in a personal capacity. But the group did not include some of the most powerful figures in Afghan politics, who are reluctant to join forces with Ghani ahead of presidential elections due in September.
Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Rupam Jain, Editing by Darren Schuettler