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March, 2019

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar is practically unchanged ahead of key employment figures.

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At 0630 AEDT on Thursday, the currency was trading at 72.16 US cents, up from 72.15 cents on Wednesday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open lower after Wall Street reversed course into negative territory as oil prices resumed their slide.

At 0645 AEDT on Thursday, the December share price index futures contract was down 33 points at 5,048.

ELSEWHERE:

THE HAGUE – The Dutch agriculture co-operative Rabobank has announced it will cut more than a third of its local workforce, slashing 9000 jobs over the next three years as it streamlines operations.

BENGALURU, India – Yahoo has shelved plans to spin off its stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, citing tax concerns, and will instead create a separate company to hold the rest of its assets.

ANKARA – Russia’s Rosatom has stopped construction work at Turkey’s first planned nuclear power plant, Turkish energy officials have revealed, with relations between Moscow and Ankara still sour after the downing of a Russian jet.

DOVER, Delaware – Shares of Dow Chemical and DuPont were trading sharply higher Wednesday amid reports that the two chemical giants are in advanced merger discussions.

PARIS – French hotel group AccorHotels says it has agreed to buy Canada’s FRHI, owners of the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel luxury hotel groups, from its current Qatari and Saudi owners.

FRANKFURT – Allegations that Volkswagen lied about the carbon dioxide emissions of up to 800,000 cars appear to evaporate into thin air as the embattled German car maker says they have been proven to be largely unfounded.

SANTIAGO – US billionaire Douglas Tompkins, who co-founded the outdoor label The North Face and went on to be a prominent conservationist and philanthropist, has died in a kayaking accident in Chile’s Patagonia region.

Calls to ban Trump from UK, Israel

Israeli politicians demanded Trump be blocked from a planned late-December visit, although a government official said the Dec.

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28 meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was still on. Meanwhile, more than 250,000 Britons signed an online petition to ban Trump from the United Kingdom.

A major chain of Middle East department stores halted sales of the real estate mogul’s glitzy “Trump Home” line of lamps, mirrors and jewellery boxes, hitting the businessman and former reality TV star in the pocketbook.

Even China weighed in with indirect criticism of Trump’s comments, which have been condemned by the White House, US congressional leaders, the United Nations, the prime ministers of France and Britain, a wide array of human and civil rights groups and many of Trump’s Republican rivals and potential Democratic opponents in the November 2016 US presidential election.

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“The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech,” the text of the British petition said.

“If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”

Britain’s interior ministry has the power to ban people from entering the country if they have engaged in what the government determines to be unacceptable behaviour.

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Trump, who leads opinion polls in the Republican nominating race, called on Monday for blocking Muslims, including would-be immigrants, students and tourists, from entering the country following last week’s deadly shootings in California by two Muslims who authorities said were radicalised.

Left- and right-wing Israeli politicians, as well as Israeli Arab lawmakers, condemned Trump’s remarks and said he should be barred from visiting.

Omer Bar-Lev of the main centre-left opposition party, the Zionist Union, took to Twitter to deem Trump a “racist.”

“I recommend fighting terrorist and extremist Islam, but I would not declare a boycott of, ostracism against or war on Muslims in general,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, a senior Likud lawmaker and Netanyahu confidant, told Israel’s Army Radio.

An Israeli government official, however, confirmed that a meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, scheduled two weeks ago, would take place on Dec. 28. Sources close to the right-wing Netanyahu said “he does not agree with everything said by every (US election) candidate.”

In Britain, the number of signatories to a petition demanding Trump be banned from visiting exceeded 250,000 and was growing fast. But Britain’s finance minister, George Osborne, said Trump should not be banned from the country.

In the past, people have been banned from entering the United Kingdom for fostering hatred that might provoke intercommunity violence.

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In China, home to about 20 million Muslims, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she could not comment on internal US matters but said China believed “the international community should make a concerted effort to fight terrorism, and at the same time we have always opposed linking terrorism to any specific ethnic group or religion.”

In the Middle East, sales of “Trump Home” products took a hit. The Landmark firm, one of the region’s biggest retail companies with 190 stores in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan, said it was pulling all Trump merchandise off its shelves.

“In light of the recent statements made by the presidential candidate in the US media, we have suspended sale of all products from the Trump Home décor range,” Landmark Chief Executive Officer Sachin Mundhwa said in an emailed statement. The company did not give any details on the value of the contract.

Although there were no other immediate announcements of business partners breaking with Trump so far, others made clear they were uneasy using his brand name in the Middle East, where he has been actively expanding his footprint in recent years, heavily concentrated in the Gulf business hub of Dubai.

A former Trump business partner in Dubai, construction billionaire Khalaf al-Habtoor, said Trump had wrecked his prospects for successful future collaborations in the region.

“He is really creating war. He’s creating hatred between Muslims and Christians,” Habtoor, who at one time held the contract to build a later-cancelled Trump International Hotel & Tower in Dubai, told Reuters.

“Muslims have invested hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars [in America], creating jobs for Americans. They can go invest it somewhere else.”

Trump has courted controversy during his White House run with derogatory comments about immigrants and controversial proposals to deport undocumented immigrants and implement a database to keep track of Muslim Americans

He defended his proposal on Tuesday, comparing his plan to ban Muslims to the US government’s World War Two detainment of Japanese-Americans. He said that President Franklin Roosevelt had overseen the internment of more than 110,000 people in US government camps after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation providing payments and apologies to Japanese-Americans detained during the war.

 

Trump shouldn’t be banned from UK: Osborne

The Scottish government has sacked US presidential hopeful Donald Trump as a business ambassador and a university revoked his honorary degree after he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

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A petition to bar the Republican frontrunner from Britain reached more than 258,000 signatures on Wednesday amid an outcry over comments by the tycoon, who owns golf courses in Scotland and has family links to the country.

“Mr Trump’s recent remarks have shown that he is no longer fit to be a business ambassador for Scotland,” a spokesman for the regional government said as he was dropped as a “GlobalScot” ambassador, a position he took up in 2006.

Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” following a shooting last week that left 14 people dead in California.

Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen announced it would revoke an honorary doctorate of business administration it awarded to Trump in 2010 because of statements “that are wholly incompatible with the ethos and values of the university”.

Remarks by the property billionaire that police feared for their lives in parts of London due to radicalisation also caused a social media outcry and drew the ire of the capital’s mayor, Boris Johnson.

“When Donald Trump says there are parts of London that are no-go areas, I think he is betraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of the president of the United States,” Johnson told ITV News.

Web users mocked the blustering tycoon with the ironic hashtag #trumpfacts.

One tweet carried an image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a headscarf with the inscription: “Even the British monarch is now forced to wear a hijab.”

The petition to bar Trump from entering Britain will be considered for a debate in parliament, like all petitions that reach over 100,000 signatures.

“The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to everyone who wishes to enter the UK,” the petition read.

Finance minister George Osborne told parliament that Trump’s comments were “nonsense” but added that debate was “the best way to deal with Donald Trump and his views rather than trying to ban presidential candidates”.

Twenty-four MPs have put their names to two House of Commons motions condemning Trump’s remarks.

British police issued a rare rebuke after comments by Trump to US network MSNBC claiming there were places in London “that are so radicalised that the police are afraid for their own lives.”

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said Trump “could not be more wrong” and invited all US presidential candidates for a briefing “on the reality of policing London”.

Aust concerned over climate deal draft

Australia has “serious concerns” over the latest form of a global climate agreement, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warning of a challenging few days ahead in Paris.

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A new draft agreement was revealed on Wednesday at the United Nations climate change conference, with no clear landing point on key hurdles of finance, ambition and differentiation.

Ms Bishop warned the document was a long way from attracting her signature.

Australia’s environment ambassador Peter Woolcott – speaking on behalf a negotiating block of developed countries – told the conference the group had serious concerns about the text.

“We are deeply disappointed at the weakening of several provisions,” he said on Wednesday night.

“As we move forward we must avoid a situation where, in an effort to reach consensus, we strip the Paris outcome of its ability to be a genuine step change.”

It comes as the United States joined around 100 countries in a new alliance dubbed the high ambition coalition which vows to strengthen Wednesday’s draft.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum said the coalition comprised countries big and small, rich and poor and would not be trading off any demands.

“We will not accept a minimalist or barebones agreement,” he told media on Wednesday night.

The coalition is calling for five yearly reviews of country emissions pledges, adequate climate finance for poor countries and a clear pathway to a low-carbon future.

It also wants recognition of an ambition to limit global warming to 1.5C – below the 2C target accepted by most developed countries.

Australia isn’t in the coalition and Ms Bishop couldn’t confirm if it had been invited.

“I’ll have to check on that, we’ve got so many invitations to so many events and so many groupings,” she told reporters in Paris.

She remains optimistic 196 parties will walk away with a strong agreement at the end of the talks but warns it won’t be an easy road.

“Clearly, this is the beginning of the end of the negotiations and there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“Our negotiators are working through the night.”

There’s still disagreement on who should do what, with an option still in the draft agreement to hold only rich countries to account on action.

Australia opposes that option, calling for each country to do its part to curb global emissions.

“All countries need to take action and there should be a level playing field,” Ms Bishop said.

Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke gave the new draft a pretty disappointing report card, concerned about a lack of agreement over financing action against climate change.

“There’s a kind of deflating sense of disappointment because there was an expectation that we would have got a bit further on,” she told AAP in Paris.

But Climate Institute deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson said progress on other areas like technology transfer showed real commitment from countries to deliver an outcome.

The draft agreement includes the ingredients of an outcome in Paris that can further boost global action, he said.

Earlier, the foreign minister flagged Australia’s intention to sign onto a New Zealand-led initiative to boost transparency and integrity of international carbon markets.

Australia doesn’t use international units, but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged it as an option when domestic climate policies are reviewed in 2017.

German chancellor Merkel named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’

In a statement explaining the magazine’s choice, managing editor Nancy Gibbs said despite crises in the region that caused “reason to wonder whether Europe could continue to exist,” Merkel, 61, emerged as an “indispensable player.

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Angela Merkel is TIME’s 2015 Person of the Year #TIMEPOY 杭州桑拿,杭州夜生活,/Be7EjFlRS2 pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/3YLPZJYSlq

— TIME杭州桑拿会所, (@TIME) December 9, 2015

“For asking more of her country than most politicians would dare, for standing firm against tyranny as well as expedience and for providing steadfast moral leadership in a world where it is in short supply, Angela Merkel is TIME’s Person of the Year,” Gibbs wrote.

In response to the news, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told a government news conference: “I am sure the chancellor will cherish this as an incentive in her job.”

See Angela Merkel’s life in photos 杭州桑拿,杭州夜生活,/LQmNE3SVgo pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/jOz7RKAgpX

— TIME杭州桑拿会所, (@TIME) December 9, 2015

Merkel celebrated her 10-year anniversary as chancellor last month, making her the European Union’s longest-serving leader.

For years she was seen as a cautious, risk-averse leader who paid close attention to public opinion in formulating policy. But her leadership in the Ukraine crisis last year, her clinching of a deal this summer to keep Greece in the euro zone and her stance in the refugee crisis have changed that view.

In late August, when tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war in the Middle East streamed into Hungary, threatening a humanitarian crisis, Merkel agreed to suspend the European Union’s asylum rules and allow them to continue into Germany. She declared to skeptical countrymen: “Wir schaffen das,” which translates as, “We can do this.”

Her “open-door” stance has led to a fall in support for her conservatives and in her own popularity ratings, which have slid to 54 percent from 75 percent over eight months.

Time also noted her leadership this year in leading the West’s response to Vladimir Putin’s “creeping theft of Ukraine” and welcoming refugees to Germany despite “the reflex to slam doors, build walls and trust no one.”

Merkel topped a short list of finalists that included U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who came in third, and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was runner-up.

She is the first individual woman to hold the title since Corazon Aquino in 1986, though women have been honored as part of a group. Last year, a group of Ebola doctors and survivors won the title.

Past Persons of the Year: Where are they now? 杭州桑拿,杭州夜生活,/E9YAImDIv2 pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/CGHrQ5fBPb

— TIME杭州桑拿会所, (@TIME) December 9, 2015