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Few Signs of Breakthrough as May Set to Unveil Brexit Plan B

Prime Minister Theresa May was set to unveil her new plan to break Britain’s Brexit deadlock on Monday — one expected to look a lot like the old plan that was decisively rejected by Parliament last week.

May was scheduled to brief the House of Commons on how she intends to proceed. There were few signs she planned to make radical changes to her deal, though she may seek alterations to its most contentious section, an insurance policy known as the “backstop” that is intended to guarantee there are no customs checks along the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Brexit.

 

The EU insists it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, and says the backstop is an integral part of the deal.

 

“This is the text we all invested ourselves in,” Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said as she arrived for a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels.

 

British lawmakers are due to vote on May’s “Plan B,” and possible amendments, on Jan. 29, two months before Britain is due to leave the EU.

 

Britain and the EU sealed a divorce deal in November after months of tense negotiations. But the agreement has been rejected by both sides of Britain’s divide over Europe. Brexit-backing lawmakers say it will leave the U.K. tethered to the bloc’s rules and unable to forge an independent trade policy. Pro-Europeans argue it is inferior to the frictionless economic relationship Britain currently enjoys as an EU member.

 

After her deal was thrown out last week by a crushing 432-202 vote in Parliament, May said she would consult with lawmakers from all parties to find a new way forward.

 

But Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the cross-party meetings a “stunt,” and other opposition leaders said the prime minister did not heed their entreaties to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit and retain close economic ties with the EU.

 

Instead, May looks set to try to win over pro-Brexit Conservatives and her party’s Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. Both groups say they will not back the deal unless the border backstop is removed.

 

May’s spokesman James Slack said May’s talks with opposition lawmakers were “genuine,” and that a “significant number” had expressed concerns about the backstop.

 

He said it was clear “we’re going to have to come forward with something that is different” to get Parliament’s approval.

 

Britain’s political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies.

 

Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said Sunday that a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic,” and it was “inevitable” Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the two-year countdown to exit.

 

Several groups of lawmakers are trying to use parliamentary rules and amendments to May’s plan to block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

 

One of those legislators, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, said May was shirking her responsibility to the country by refusing to take “no deal” off the table.

 

“I think she knows that she should rule out ‘no deal’ in the national interest because it would be so damaging,” Cooper told the BBC. “She’s refusing to do so, and I think she’s hoping that Parliament will do this for her. That is not leadership.”

 

EU leaders, meanwhile, expressed frustration with British indecision.

 

“We now know what they don’t want in London,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “Now we must at last find out what they want.”

 

Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that while the EU would not amend the legally binding withdrawal agreement, it was ready to adjust the political declaration — a non-binding statement on future relations that forms the second part of the divorce deal.

 

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell said it was crucial to find out what type of deal Britain’s Parliament would support.

 

“We cannot keep negotiating something this way and when everything is negotiated, the U.K. Parliament refuses,” he said in Brussels. “We have to have the guarantee that the proposal has the parliamentary support not to be refused again.”

 

 

 

 

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World Economy Forecast to Slow in 2019 Amid Trade Tensions

The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for world economic growth this year, citing heightened trade tensions and rising U.S. interest rates.

The IMF said Monday that it expects global growth this year of 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in 2018 and from the 3.7 percent it had forecast for 2019 back in October.

 

“After two years of solid expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as she presented the new forecasts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

 

The fund left its prediction for U.S. growth this year unchanged at 2.5 percent — though a continuation of the partial 31-day shutdown of the federal government poses a risk. The IMF trimmed the outlook for the 19 countries that use the euro currency to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

 

Growth in emerging-market countries is forecast to slow to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent in 2018. The IMF expects the Chinese economy — the world’s second biggest — to grow 6.2 percent this year, down from 6.6 percent in 2018 and slowest since 1990.

 

The World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have also downgraded their world growth forecasts.

 

Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and Italy’s ongoing financial struggles pose threats to growth in Europe.

 

And rising trade tensions pose a major risk to the wider world economy. Under President Donald Trump the United States has imposed import taxes on steel, aluminum and hundreds of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from China and other U.S. trading partners.

 

“Higher trade uncertainty will further dampen investment and disrupt global supply chains,” said IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath.

 

Rising interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere are also pinching emerging-market governments and companies that borrowed heavily when rates were ultra-low in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

 

As the debts roll over, those borrowers have to refinance at higher rates. A rising dollar is also making things harder for emerging-market borrowers who took out loans denominated in the U.S. currency.

 

 

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Uganda Seeks to Regulate Fish Maw Trade

At the Gaba landing site in Kampala, fishermen dock their boats filled with both tilapia and Nile perch.

Waiting along the shores, donning white gum boots and white coats, fish traders wait to offload the Nile perch that has turned profitable for many traders.

The fish’s commodity, known as a swim bladder, is used as an aphrodisiac in China and is now being recognized by the Ugandan government as water gold, but fishermen at the forefront say they are being exploited.

A study by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization has shown that a growing appetite in Asia has seen the former waste by-product becoming a multi-million-dollar export.

Idrisa Walusimbi began working as a fisherman 20 years ago. Now, he has his own boat and is chairman of the fish protection unit. He says in the early 1990s, Nile perch fish maw would be fried and eaten by locals. But lately, the Chinese market has made it more lucrative, especially for the exporter.

“You find that from the lowest fisherman, as you know, that he gains, but not so much. Then you find the middleman gains more, and the trader above gains even more, the levels keep increasing and the ones that profit the most are the final local buyer and exporter,” Walusimbi said.

Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania collectively earn $86 million from trading the commodity. Uganda alone earned $40 million in 2017 as the largest exporter of the Nile perch swim bladder to China.

Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda’s minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, says fish maw is a new item that needs to be regulated.

“That’s why we want to regulate it, so that our fish farmers and of course the fish mongers and the fisheries sector really, benefit from this very lucrative business. Yes, it’s certainly a new type of gold, so we need to look at it more critically,” Ssempijja said.

International prices for dry maw range between $450 and $1,000 per kilogram, depending on the size, quality and market strength. Fish sold to locals have the swim bladders taken out and sold for between $107 to $214 per kilogram.

At the Gaba landing site, fish processing companies have trucks loaded with the Nile Perch fish maw left intact.

The Lake Victoria Fish Organization in its report advises that the fish maw be recognized as a separate commodity from fish. Walugembe George, a fisherman, says he wishes there was a standard price so they too could benefit.

“We have always known that it’s a saleable commodity, but we sell it at low prices. So, we have been exploited. Why do the prices hike and then slump?” he asked.

The Ugandan government is currently consulting and discussing a fisheries and aquaculture bill that calls for the fish maw to be one of the products that should be regulated.

 

 

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Uganda Seeks to Regulate Lucrative Fish Maw Trade

The sale of Nile Perch fish maw in Uganda has become a lucrative business, especially for distributors. The fish maw – or dried swim bladder – is used as an aphrodisiac in China. But Ugandan fishermen bringing in the perch say they are being exploited while others are reaping the profits. Halima Athumani reports from Kampala.

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Uganda Seeks to Regulate Lucrative Fish Maw Trade

The sale of Nile Perch fish maw in Uganda has become a lucrative business, especially for distributors. The fish maw – or dried swim bladder – is used as an aphrodisiac in China. But Ugandan fishermen bringing in the perch say they are being exploited while others are reaping the profits. Halima Athumani reports from Kampala.

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Trump Says a Deal ‘Could Very Well Happen’ With China

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday progress is being made toward a trade deal with China and denied that he was considering lifting tariffs on Chinese products.

“Things are going very well with China and with trade,” he told reporters, adding that he had seen some “false reports” indicating that U.S. tariffs on Chinese products would be lifted.

“If we make a deal certainly we would not have sanctions and if we don’t make a deal we will,” Trump said. “We’ve really had a very extraordinary number of meetings and a deal could very

well happen with China. It’s going well. I would say about as well as it could possibly go.”

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Stocks Rally on Trade Hopes, Dollar Has 1st Weekly Gain of 2019

World stock indexes jumped on Friday, with Wall Street posting a fourth straight week of gains, and the dollar had its first positive week since mid-December as optimism increased that an end is in sight to the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Stocks were boosted by a Bloomberg report that said China sought to raise its annual goods imports from the United States by more than $1 trillion in order to reduce its trade surplus to zero by 2024.    

That followed a report on Thursday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was considering lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports. The Treasury denied Mnuchin had made any such recommendation.

Progress in trade talks

While the equity rally lifted all major sectors, trade-sensitive industrials posted among the biggest S&P 500 sector gains, up 1.9 percent on the day. The Philadelphia SE semiconductor index rose more than 2 percent and Germany’s exporter-heavy DAX was up 2.6 percent.    

“There seems to be some progress going in the trade negotiations,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

While that was the biggest influence, “we’ve still got momentum since the first of the year,” he said. “Some of the money that came out of the market at year-end, whether it was high frequency traders or tax-loss selling, is coming back in.”

Adding to strength in equities and supporting U.S. Treasury yields was data that showed U.S. manufacturing output increased the most in 10 months in December. 

Some strategists said relatively light equity trading volume this week indicated that some investors were still waiting on the sidelines.    

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 336.25 points, or 1.38 percent, to 24,706.35, the S&P 500 gained 34.75 points, or 1.32 percent, to 2,670.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 72.77 points, or 1.03 percent, to 7,157.23.

The S&P 500 registered its biggest four-week percentage gain since October 2011. The index is now 8.9 percent below its Sept. 20 record close after dropping 19.8 percent below that level — near the 20-percent threshold commonly considered to confirm a bear market — on Christmas Eve.

STOXX 600 index is up

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.80 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 1.23 percent.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for another round of talks aimed at resolving the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

Recent indicators show signs that the Chinese economy is losing momentum.

The trade optimism boosted the dollar against other major currencies.

The dollar index rose 0.31 percent, with the euro down 0.26 percent to $1.1365.

U.S. Treasury yields rose to three-week highs as investors piled back into Wall Street.  

Oil prices jump

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.7878 percent, compared with 2.747 percent late on Thursday.

Oil prices jumped about 3 percent, rising after OPEC detailed specifics on its production-cut activity to ease global oversupply.   

Brent crude gained $1.52 to settle at $62.70 a barrel, or 2.48 percent higher. U.S. WTI crude futures added $1.73 to settle at $53.80 a barrel, or 3.32 percent up.

 

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Stocks Rally on Trade Hopes, Dollar Has 1st Weekly Gain of 2019

World stock indexes jumped on Friday, with Wall Street posting a fourth straight week of gains, and the dollar had its first positive week since mid-December as optimism increased that an end is in sight to the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Stocks were boosted by a Bloomberg report that said China sought to raise its annual goods imports from the United States by more than $1 trillion in order to reduce its trade surplus to zero by 2024.    

That followed a report on Thursday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was considering lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports. The Treasury denied Mnuchin had made any such recommendation.

Progress in trade talks

While the equity rally lifted all major sectors, trade-sensitive industrials posted among the biggest S&P 500 sector gains, up 1.9 percent on the day. The Philadelphia SE semiconductor index rose more than 2 percent and Germany’s exporter-heavy DAX was up 2.6 percent.    

“There seems to be some progress going in the trade negotiations,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

While that was the biggest influence, “we’ve still got momentum since the first of the year,” he said. “Some of the money that came out of the market at year-end, whether it was high frequency traders or tax-loss selling, is coming back in.”

Adding to strength in equities and supporting U.S. Treasury yields was data that showed U.S. manufacturing output increased the most in 10 months in December. 

Some strategists said relatively light equity trading volume this week indicated that some investors were still waiting on the sidelines.    

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 336.25 points, or 1.38 percent, to 24,706.35, the S&P 500 gained 34.75 points, or 1.32 percent, to 2,670.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 72.77 points, or 1.03 percent, to 7,157.23.

The S&P 500 registered its biggest four-week percentage gain since October 2011. The index is now 8.9 percent below its Sept. 20 record close after dropping 19.8 percent below that level — near the 20-percent threshold commonly considered to confirm a bear market — on Christmas Eve.

STOXX 600 index is up

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.80 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 1.23 percent.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for another round of talks aimed at resolving the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

Recent indicators show signs that the Chinese economy is losing momentum.

The trade optimism boosted the dollar against other major currencies.

The dollar index rose 0.31 percent, with the euro down 0.26 percent to $1.1365.

U.S. Treasury yields rose to three-week highs as investors piled back into Wall Street.  

Oil prices jump

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.7878 percent, compared with 2.747 percent late on Thursday.

Oil prices jumped about 3 percent, rising after OPEC detailed specifics on its production-cut activity to ease global oversupply.   

Brent crude gained $1.52 to settle at $62.70 a barrel, or 2.48 percent higher. U.S. WTI crude futures added $1.73 to settle at $53.80 a barrel, or 3.32 percent up.

 

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US Consumer Morale at Two-year Low; Factory Output Surges

U.S. consumer sentiment tumbled in early January to its lowest level since President Donald Trump was elected more than two years ago as a partial shutdown of the federal government and financial market

volatility stoked fears of a sharp deceleration in economic growth.

The drop in confidence reported by the University of Michigan on Friday was the clearest sign yet that the impasse in Washington over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to help build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico was negatively affecting the economy.

Trump has touted high consumer confidence as an indication of the good job he is doing on the economy. While consumer sentiment remains relatively high, the gathering clouds over the economy could make households

more cautious about spending, leading to slower growth. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

“This report on consumer sentiment is the first concrete evidence that the economy is going to fall and fall hard if Washington does not end the shutdown,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “It is going to be hard to see real GDP growth of more than 1 to 1½ percent in the first quarter if the consumer goes on a buying strike.”

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left 800,000 government workers without paychecks. Private contractors working for many government agencies are also without wages.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index fell 7.7 percent to a reading of 90.7 this month, the lowest reading since October 2016 and the steepest drop since September 2015. Economists had forecast a reading of a 97.0.

The survey’s measure of current economic conditions decreased to 110.0 from a reading of 116.1 in December. Its measure of consumer expectations tumbled to a reading of 78.3, the lowest since October 2016, from 87.0 in late December.

Several factors

The University of Michigan attributed the decline in sentiment to “a host of issues including the partial government shutdown, the impact of tariffs, instabilities in financial markets, the global slowdown, and the lack of clarity about monetary policies.”

It said that half of the survey’s respondents “believed that these events would have a negative impact on Trump’s ability to focus on economic growth.”

Economists estimate the partial shutdown of the government, which started Dec. 22, is subtracting as much as two-tenths of a percentage point from quarterly GDP growth every week.

Other surveys have also shown an ebb in business sentiment.

“Sentiment among both households and businesses has been coming off the sugar highs, which were caused by tax cut hopes at the beginning of the Trump presidency,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit in New York.

U.S. financial markets shrugged off the fall in sentiment, with investors focusing on another report Friday that showed manufacturing output had surged by the most in 10 months in December, and on hopes for progress in the U.S.-China trade row.

Stocks on Wall Street rallied, while the dollar rose against a basket of currencies and U.S. Treasury prices fell.

Factory activity

The broad-based jump in manufacturing output in December reported by the Federal Reserve could allay fears of a sharp slowdown in factory activity.

Manufacturing activity, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is slowing as some of the boost to capital spending from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.

In addition, a strong dollar and cooling growth in Europe and China are hurting exports. Lower oil prices are also slowing purchases of equipment for oil and gas well drilling.

Production at factories increased at a 2.3 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter after expanding at a 3.7 percent pace in the July-September period. It increased 2.4 percent in 2018, the largest gain since 2012, after advancing 1.2 percent in 2017.

“While the manufacturing strength in December is a favorable signal for the economy, we should keep in mind that it came after soft results in earlier months,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “A broad range of manufacturing surveys also have been weakening lately, so the strength in the manufacturing output in December may prove to be short-lived.”

Last month, motor vehicle production surged 4.7 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in November. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing advanced a solid 0.8 percent last month after gaining 0.1 percent in November.

December’s surge in manufacturing output, together with a rise in mining production, offset a weather-related drop in utilities, leading to a 0.3 percent increase in industrial production. Industrial output rose 0.4 percent in November. It increased at a 3.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter after

notching a 4.7 percent gain in the third quarter.

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US Consumer Morale at Two-year Low; Factory Output Surges

U.S. consumer sentiment tumbled in early January to its lowest level since President Donald Trump was elected more than two years ago as a partial shutdown of the federal government and financial market

volatility stoked fears of a sharp deceleration in economic growth.

The drop in confidence reported by the University of Michigan on Friday was the clearest sign yet that the impasse in Washington over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to help build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico was negatively affecting the economy.

Trump has touted high consumer confidence as an indication of the good job he is doing on the economy. While consumer sentiment remains relatively high, the gathering clouds over the economy could make households

more cautious about spending, leading to slower growth. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

“This report on consumer sentiment is the first concrete evidence that the economy is going to fall and fall hard if Washington does not end the shutdown,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “It is going to be hard to see real GDP growth of more than 1 to 1½ percent in the first quarter if the consumer goes on a buying strike.”

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left 800,000 government workers without paychecks. Private contractors working for many government agencies are also without wages.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index fell 7.7 percent to a reading of 90.7 this month, the lowest reading since October 2016 and the steepest drop since September 2015. Economists had forecast a reading of a 97.0.

The survey’s measure of current economic conditions decreased to 110.0 from a reading of 116.1 in December. Its measure of consumer expectations tumbled to a reading of 78.3, the lowest since October 2016, from 87.0 in late December.

Several factors

The University of Michigan attributed the decline in sentiment to “a host of issues including the partial government shutdown, the impact of tariffs, instabilities in financial markets, the global slowdown, and the lack of clarity about monetary policies.”

It said that half of the survey’s respondents “believed that these events would have a negative impact on Trump’s ability to focus on economic growth.”

Economists estimate the partial shutdown of the government, which started Dec. 22, is subtracting as much as two-tenths of a percentage point from quarterly GDP growth every week.

Other surveys have also shown an ebb in business sentiment.

“Sentiment among both households and businesses has been coming off the sugar highs, which were caused by tax cut hopes at the beginning of the Trump presidency,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit in New York.

U.S. financial markets shrugged off the fall in sentiment, with investors focusing on another report Friday that showed manufacturing output had surged by the most in 10 months in December, and on hopes for progress in the U.S.-China trade row.

Stocks on Wall Street rallied, while the dollar rose against a basket of currencies and U.S. Treasury prices fell.

Factory activity

The broad-based jump in manufacturing output in December reported by the Federal Reserve could allay fears of a sharp slowdown in factory activity.

Manufacturing activity, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is slowing as some of the boost to capital spending from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.

In addition, a strong dollar and cooling growth in Europe and China are hurting exports. Lower oil prices are also slowing purchases of equipment for oil and gas well drilling.

Production at factories increased at a 2.3 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter after expanding at a 3.7 percent pace in the July-September period. It increased 2.4 percent in 2018, the largest gain since 2012, after advancing 1.2 percent in 2017.

“While the manufacturing strength in December is a favorable signal for the economy, we should keep in mind that it came after soft results in earlier months,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “A broad range of manufacturing surveys also have been weakening lately, so the strength in the manufacturing output in December may prove to be short-lived.”

Last month, motor vehicle production surged 4.7 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in November. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing advanced a solid 0.8 percent last month after gaining 0.1 percent in November.

December’s surge in manufacturing output, together with a rise in mining production, offset a weather-related drop in utilities, leading to a 0.3 percent increase in industrial production. Industrial output rose 0.4 percent in November. It increased at a 3.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter after

notching a 4.7 percent gain in the third quarter.