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Trump adviser Kudlow ‘cautiously optimistic’ on trade deal with China

FILE PHOTO: U.S and China trade talks in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: Chinese staffers adjust U.S. and Chinese flags before the opening session of trade negotiations between U.S. and Chinese trade representatives at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

April 23, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top White House economic adviser said on Tuesday the United States and China were making progress in trade negotiations and he was “cautiously optimistic” about the prospects for striking a deal.

Speaking at a luncheon at the National Press Club, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said the two nations still had issues to address and were discussing a “visitation exchange” as part of their ongoing talks.

“We’re not there yet, but we’ve made a heck of a lot of progress,” Kudlow said in response to questions from reporters. “We’ve come further and deeper, broader, larger-scale than anything in the history of U.S.-China trade.”

“We’ve gotten closer and we’re still working on the issues, so-called structural issues, technology transfers,” Kudlow added. “Ownership enforcement is absolutely crucial. Lowering barriers to buy and sell agriculture and industrial commodities. It’s all on the table.”

Washington and Beijing have engaged in a tit-for-tat trade war that has seen both countries imposing tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of each others’ imports.

The United States is seeking structural changes in China’s economy, from reducing industrial subsidies to halting forced technology transfers by U.S. companies seeking to enter the Chinese market.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

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Jussie Smollett lawyers sued by alleged hoax accomplices

FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago
FILE PHOTO: Actor Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped by state prosecutors in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

April 23, 2019

(Reuters) – Two Nigerian-American brothers wrapped up in Jussie Smollett’s Chicago hate-crime hoax sued the “Empire” actor’s lawyers on Tuesday, accusing them of defamation for insisting they had “criminally attacked” the actor even after police concluded otherwise.

Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo were briefly taken into custody as Chicago police investigated the alleged January incident in which Smollett, who is black and gay, said he was assaulted by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs and wrapped a noose around his neck.

Police later concluded that Smollett staged the attack for publicity. Prosecutors brought and then abruptly dropped hoax charges against the actor on March 26, a stunning move that drew the fury of the city’s police superintendent and mayor.

In a lawsuit filed in Chicago federal court, the Osundairo brothers charged that Smollett’s attorneys Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian falsely accused them of attacking Smollett, even after the investigation was over.

It rejected the idea that the brothers, who are also black, attacked Smollett because of his race, asserting that the actor staged the incident. It also noted that the pair served as the actor’s trainers and sometime extras on his Fox hip-hop TV drama.

“He wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful black, openly gay actor,” it said. “Smollett directed every aspect of the attack, including the location and the noose.”

Smollett’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 36-year-old actor has said he had always been truthful about the incident, which sparked extensive outrage on social media, drawing the attention of both Republican President Donald Trump and some of the Democrats who hope to challenge him in 2020.

“They’ve realized that it was wrong. They’ve apologized for it,” Gloria Schmidt, one of the brothers’ lawyers, told reporters on Tuesday. “But make no mistake: they had no role in calling the police and they had no role in defrauding the police department,” Schmidt also said.

Glandian insisted in a television interview after police closed the investigation that Smollett had not made a false report and that the brothers attacked him, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages.

The city of Chicago earlier this month sued Smollett, seeking three times the damages it said it incurred in the investigation of the incident. Smollett had previously refused a demand by the city for $130,000 to cover police overtime costs to investigate his claims.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

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Florida judge won’t release video in NFL Robert Kraft prostitution sting

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft attends a conference at the Cannes Lions Festival in Cannes
FILE PHOTO: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft attends a conference at the Cannes Lions Festival in Cannes, France, June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

April 23, 2019

(Reuters) – A Florida judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked prosecutors from releasing hidden camera footage that allegedly shows New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft engaged in sexual acts inside a massage parlor, local television station WPTV reported.

The billionaire owner of the six-time Super Bowl champions is among dozens of men accused of soliciting prostitution inside Orchids of Asia Spa in Jupiter, Florida. He has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges and issued a public apology for his actions.

Palm Peach County Judge Leonard Hanser said Kraft’s right to a fair trial could be harmed if prosecutors release the video to media outlets, which requested the footage under Florida’s robust open government laws, according to a ruling posted online by WPTV.

“The potential jury pool would be given the opportunity to preview trial evidence, including identifying (Kraft) as the person depicted in the videotapes,” Hanser wrote.

The videos will remain sealed until a jury is seated, a plea deal is reached or the case is dismissed, Hanser ruled.

Another judge, who is overseeing the prosecution of the spa’s owner and manager, had previously blocked public dissemination of any footage until he holds a hearing on the matter next week.

Kraft, 77, purchased the Patriots, one of the National Football League’s most successful franchises, in 1994.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

Source: OANN

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ING shareholders vote down motion on management liability at AGM

The logo of ING bank is pictured at the entrance of the group's main office in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: The logo of ING bank is pictured at the entrance of the group's main office in Brussels, Belgium September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

April 23, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Shareholders of Dutch bank ING on Tuesday voted against a motion granting executives discharge from legal liability for 2018, the company said, in an apparent rebuke for the $900 million fine the company incurred in September for failing to prevent money laundering.

It was not clear whether any shareholders will actually seek damages over the fine, which ING has said was properly disclosed and which did not have a major impact on the company’s share price. The company said in a statement shareholders had approved other motions at its annual meeting on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; editing by David Evans)

Source: OANN

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Report: Buttigieg Will Be on Fox News Town Hall in May

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg will be on a Fox News town hall event May 19 in New Hampshire, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

He will be the third Democratic presidential hopeful to participate in the Fox News-hosted forum. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also announced she would would be on a May 8 Fox News town hall.

"We look forward to hosting Mayor Buttigieg in New Hampshire and again showcasing our first-in-class journalism and election coverage," Jay Wallace, president and executive Editor of Fox News, said in a statement, The Daily Beast reported.

Source: NewsMax Politics

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Cuomo: Joe Biden Has ‘the Best Chance’ of Beating Trump

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said Tuesday that former Vice President Joe Biden has “the best chance” of beating President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

"I think he has the best chance of defeating President Trump, which I think is the main goal here," Cuomo said in an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota. “He has the experience, he has the background, he has the talent, I think he has the personality for the moment and I think he can unify the Democratic Party.”

Although Biden has not officially announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination, he is expected to make an announcement this week.

Cuomo also was asked if he regrets not entering the race himself after he was reelected to a third term last year.

“I do not regret [it]. I have a great job, I love what I’m doing. I want to help elect the next Democratic president and I think Joe Biden has the best shot at doing that,” he said.

During that same interview, Cuomo said he disagrees with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who is a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, on voting rights for incarcerated felons.

“I disagree with Bernie Sanders. You are in prison for a felony, you’re paying your debt to society. I don’t think you should have the right to vote and participate as a full citizen,” Cuomo said.

Source: NewsMax Politics

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Fed proposes blueprint for bank-controlling companies

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

April 23, 2019

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday proposed a framework for determining when a company has taken control of a bank and must face more rigorous oversight and restrictions, a move that could remove hurdles for banks seeking to attract investors and partners.

The new proposal would for the first time establish clear standards for when the central bank considers a company as taking control of a financial institution, which could be a boon for banks and investors who have had to tread cautiously as such determinations previously were made on a case-by-case basis.

A company that gains control of a bank is considered a bank holding company and, as a result, is subject to Fed supervision and a host of restrictions on other business activities.

The Fed’s efforts to clarify its thinking on bank control could help banks looking for new investors or partners, including private equity or fintech firms, without subjecting them to banking regulations and other restrictions, according to analysts.

Randal Quarles, the Fed’s vice chair for supervision, said in a prepared statement the regulator’s prior practice of determining bank control had become “one of the more ad hoc and complicated areas of the board’s regulatory administration.”

“The proposal would improve the transparency of the board’s control framework by placing substantially all of the board’s control positions into a comprehensive public regulation,” Quarles said.

The proposal is largely similar with the Fed’s existing practices on bank control standards, but is now being made formal through a proposed rule, according to Fed officials.

Specifically, the Fed is attempting to write a blueprint for when a company exerts a “controlling influence” over a bank, which can include a combination of factors such as size of investment, number of seats held on the board, and additional business relationships.

Broadly, the proposal requires companies with greater percentages of voting shares in a bank to have less input in other factors.

For example, a company with 15 percent to 24.9 percent of the voting shares in a bank must have business relationships with the bank that amount to less than 2 percent of its revenue or expenses without being considered a controlling interest.

By comparison, a company with just 5 percent to 9.9 percent of voting shares could have a business relationship worth nearly 10 percent of its revenue and expenses.

The Fed board is set to vote on the proposal at an open meeting later on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: OANN

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FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

April 18, 2019

By Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A new Trump administration report on international compliance with arms control accords provoked a dispute with U.S. intelligence agencies and some State Department officials concerned that the document politicizes and slants assessments about Iran, five sources with knowledge of the matter said.

U.S. President Donald Trump is intensifying a drive to contain Iran’s power in the Middle East, which has raised fears that his administration wants to topple the Tehran government or lay the groundwork to justify military action.

The administration says it is trying to halt Iranian “malign behavior” in its support for Islamist militants in the region and denies seeking the overthrow of the Islamic republic’s government.

The clash among U.S. officials emerged on Tuesday when the State Department posted on its website, and then removed, an unclassified version of an annual report to Congress assessing compliance with arms control agreements that the sources saw as skewed Iran.

The report’s publication follows the administration’s formal designation on Monday of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s elite paramilitary and foreign espionage unit, as a foreign terrorist organization.

Washington also has piled on tough economic sanctions following Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The administration also is waging a propaganda campaign, including over social media, aimed at fueling popular anger against Iran’s government.

Several sources said the report, which reappeared without explanation on Wednesday, made them wonder if the administration was painting Iran in the darkest light possible, much as the George W. Bush administration used bogus and exaggerated intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq.

A State Department spokeswoman defended the judgment on Iran, saying in an email that it was “informed by careful assessment of all relevant information.”

The report was published to meet a mandatory April 15 deadline by which it had to go to Congress, the department said. A more comprehensive unclassified version will be provided after the completion of a review of what information in the classified report can be made public, the spokeswoman said.

The department did not address the internal dispute over the report or concerns of politicization.

The unclassified “Adherence to and compliance with arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements and commitments” report omitted assessments of Russian compliance with landmark accords such as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the New START arms control treaty.

The State Department spokeswoman said that the U.S. position that Russia is in violation of the INF Treaty “is clear.”

The report also failed to include detailed assessments published in previous years of whether Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Syria and other nations complied with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Instead, the report replaced those assessments with a five paragraph section entitled “country concerns.”

The section made no mention of judgments by U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran ended a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has complied with the 2015 deal that imposed restrictions on its civilian nuclear program.

Instead, it said Iran’s retention of a nuclear archive disclosed last year by Israel raised questions about whether Tehran might have plans to resume a nuclear weapons program.

It added that any such effort would violate the NPT, as would any Iranian retention of undeclared nuclear material, though it offered no evidence that Iran had done either.

“It’s piling inference upon inference here to try to create a scary picture,” said a congressional aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the issue, as did the other sources. The aide added that by stripping out much of the report’s normal content, the documents largely had become about Iran.

“There is significant concern that the entire sort of purpose … was to help build a case for military intervention in Iran in a way that seems very familiar,” the source said, referring to the Bush administration’s use of erroneous intelligence before the invasion of Iraq 16 years ago that ousted President Saddam Hussein.

The 12-page report, down from last year’s 45-page document, reflected a disagreement between Assistant Secretary of State Yleem Poblete, whose office is charged with its drafting, and her boss, Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson, three of the sources said.

Two sources said Poblete had sought to include information such as news stories and opinion pieces in the report, which traditionally is based on legal analyses of U.S. intelligence reports.

The State Department did not comment on Poblete’s role.

“And it had other obvious errors,” said a former U.S. official familiar with matter. A draft of the unclassified version had included classified information, the official said. “It’s been described to me as just a big food fight within the department over an initially inadequate draft.”

A second former U.S. official said he believed that the report was being used to advance the Trump administration’s views on Iran rather than to reflect information gathered by intelligence agencies and assessments of that information by State Department experts.

“This ‘trends’ section is adding a political tinge or politicizing the report,” said the fourth source on condition of anonymity, saying the administration seemed to be using a once objective report “to back up subjective assertions.”

While saying they did not know why the report had been so abbreviated, removed and then restored from the website, analysts asked if there was an effort underway to demonize Iran.

“The worst case of course would be that we are observing signs of a politicization of intelligence for the purpose of serving what the top of the administration would like to accomplish,” said nuclear expert Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

“We have seen … that in the past with the (Iraq) war,” he said. “This is a potential warning sign about that.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

President Trump on Saturday took yet more shots at “highly conflicted” Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, as well as the “fake news” medias coverage of its findings — while declaring that “The Russia Hoax is dead!”

“Despite the fact that the Mueller Report should not have been authorized in the first place & was written as nastily as possible by 13 (18) Angry Democrats who were true Trump Haters, including highly conflicted Bob Mueller himself, the end result is No Collusion, No Obstruction!” he tweeted.

TRUMP RAILS AGAINST ASSOCIATES WHO SPOKE TO MUELLER, CALLS CLAIM ‘TOTAL BULL—T’

He went on to accuse the “fake news media” of “doing everything possible to stir up and anger the pols and as many people as possible seldom mentioning the fact that the Mueller Report had as its principle conclusion the fact that there was NO COLLUSION WITH RUSSIA.”

“The Russia Hoax is dead!” he added.

Trump, who repeatedly railed against the Mueller probe during its two-year investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election, declared he was “having a good day” when the report finally landed on Thursday. He also tweeted that it was “game over” for this political opponents, as his legal team issued a statement calling the report a “total victory for the president.”

They pointed to the report’s findings, namely that Mueller’s office found no evidence of collusion and did not conclude that a crime was committed on the question of obstruction of justice. However, it also contained a number of embarrassing details for the White House that were considered as part of the obstruction inquiry — particularly Trump’s efforts to curb or influence the probe.

“The president’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” investigators wrote.

Those findings quickly rose to the surface of media coverage and caught the attention of politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah., said in a statement Friday that he was “sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the president.”

He also cited report findings that campaign aides welcomed help from Russia, “including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.”

WARREN URGES HOUSE TO BEGIN IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS ON HEELS OF MUELLER REPORT

While its bottom line finding of no evidence of collusion has been enough for the White House to declare victory, the other findings have led Democrats to call for further investigations, including impeachment hearings. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., subpoenaed the full, unredacted report as well as underlying materials on Friday, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was one of a number of Democrats calling for impeachment hearings.

“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” she said. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

On Friday, Trump took a more critical stance toward the report than he had on Thursday, and took aim at aides who had spoken to Mueller, He was apparently responding to a detail in the report that outlines how Trump allegedly told then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to inform the acting attorney general that Mueller should be removed in June 2017 — a demand that McGahn ignored. Trump also reportedly questioned McGahn’s habit of taking notes and making memos for the record.

“Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called ‘notes,’ when the notes never existed until needed,” he tweeted, before calling some statements in the report “total bull—t.”

He later said it was “finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason.”

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

However, even amid signs that the controversy over the Mueller report is by no means over, there are some signs that the report has had some positive effects for the president. The Trump 2020 campaign announced Friday that it had raised more than $1 million since the report was released.

“The two-year lie was put to bed once and for all. It was a great day for the campaign and Americans responded enthusiastically,’ Trump campaign COO, Michael Glassner, said in a statement.

Even on Saturday, Trump tried to strike a positive tone on the report, saying that the “end result of the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. political history is No Collusion with Russia (and No Obstruction).”

“Pretty Amazing!” he said.

Source: Fox News Politics

We know what Special Counsel Robert Mueller knew when it comes to the question of Trump-Russia collusion, but the great unknown is when he knew it — and why he kept his knowledge secret.

That’s according to Michael B. Mukasey, a former federal judge, and President George W. Bush’s attorney general.

Speaking to Fox News host Bill Hemmer on the latest episode of the “Hemmer Time” podcast, Mukasey asked why Mueller did not reveal the most important piece of information he uncovered until submitting his report to Attorney General William Barr.

“When did Bob Mueller know, or when did the people who worked with him know, that there was no coordination, which is what they were looking for?” the ex-AG said to Hemmer.

ARI FLEISCHER: TRUMP SHOULD MOVE ON FROM RUSSIA, LET DEMS ‘WALK THAT IMPEACHMENT PLANK’

“When did they realize that and whenever they realized that shouldn’t they have told the rest of us?”

After two years of suspense, Mueller’s report was released Thursday showing investigators did not find evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia – as Attorney General Bill Barr declared last month – but revealing an array of controversial actions by the president that were examined as part of the investigation’s obstruction inquiry.

Hemmer asked Mukasey if he felt Mueller coming forward with that information would’ve been beneficial, and if he should have pre-empted the official announcement to do so.

“I don’t know about preempted the announcement but certainly should have told us about it beforehand. It would have taken the speculation the edge and the speculation off,” he said, Mukasey said, before critiquing the media’s coverage of the investigation.

“You remember the exercise that was engaged in… The number of television broadcasts that would have involved people sitting around conference tables inhaling their own and other people’s exhaust and getting high on it?

TRUMP DECLARES VICTORY AS MUELLER REPORT DROPS: ‘NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION’

“People talking about this indictment having this significance or that indictment signaling that the walls were closing in on the White House may have. If that was not true and known to be not true at the time then somebody should have said something.”

During the rest of the podcast, which can be downloaded here, the former attorney general continued to discuss Russian meddling, stating it is a long-established goal for the country.

“Look, the Russians have been messing with the West generally and with the United States specifically since the Communist Revolution,” Mukasey told Hemmer.

CHRIS WALLACE: BARR’S DECISION TO MAKE A CONCLUSION ON OBSTRUCTION IS ‘TROUBLING’ AND ‘POLITICALLY CHARGED’

This is of a piece with that. It’s more advanced obviously, they didn’t have the internet in 1917, and they’re going to have it in the next election. That’s not to minimize the seriousness of it in the sense that it’s something we ought to combat.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

“But let’s have a sense of proportion here. It’s of a piece with what’s gone on before. It’s not something brand new nor was it something that appears to have been particularly effective.”

Listen to the full interview on the latest episode of “Hemmer Time” here, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Source: Fox News Politics

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the trading floor of Barclays Bank at Canary Wharf in London
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the trading floor of Barclays Bank at Canary Wharf in London, Britain December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

April 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Barclays Plc is planning to cut bonuses for investment bankers as it steps up its defense against activist investor Edward Bramson ahead of next week’s annual meeting, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

The British bank is cutting bonuses as part of a cost-cutting measure to enhance returns at the bank’s underperforming investment division, the FT said, citing several people briefed on the plans.

Monday was a public holiday in Britain, and Barclays declined to comment on the matter.

Last month, the chief executive of Barclays, Jes Staley, took direct control of its investment bank and ousted head Tim Throsby in a surprise shake-up.

Barclays has been urging shareholders to oppose Bramson’s bid to be appointed to the bank’s board at its annual general meeting on May 2.

Last week, Bramson made a renewed plea to investors about a seat on the bank’s board.

(Reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Girls wearing the yukata, or casual summer kimono, run as they cross the road at a shopping district in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Girls wearing the yukata, or casual summer kimono, run as they cross the road at a shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

April 12, 2019

By Kaori Kaneko

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will forge ahead with a planned sales tax hike to 10 percent in October, likely knocking the economy into contraction in the fourth quarter, a Reuters poll showed.

Tokyo has twice postponed raising the sales tax from 8 percent but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said the hike will proceed this time.

To blunt its economic impact, the government has earmarked about 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) in spending.

Authorities say the move is needed to cover growing social welfare costs as the population rapidly ages.

Forty of 41 economists expect the levy will be raised as scheduled, according to the poll, which was conducted April 2-11.

“There are no reasons to postpone the tax hike at the moment,” said Takumi Tsunoda, senior economist at Shinkin Central Bank Research Institute.

He pointed out the 2014 tax increase, from 5 percent to 8 percent, was larger and said the government’s proposed steps to cushion the blow are “significant.”

Still, there is speculation Abe may delay the hike a third time even if Japan isn’t hit by a major economic blow, as was the case in 2016, when he postponed it a second time.

At that time, Abe laid the groundwork for the delay at a Group of Seven summit, insisting fellow leaders shared a “strong sense of crisis” about the global economy. Other G7 leaders seemed to differ with Abe on this assessment, fueling commentary Abe was using the G7 summit to justify the delay.

Given that history, about half the economists — even those who predicted the hike will proceed — said there is a possibility Abe may decide postpone it again. Asked if it might be delayed even without an economic shock, 18 of 37 analysts said “yes,” while 19 answered “no.”

Asked if the government will need to compile an extra budget for this fiscal year started in April to shore up the economy, 22 of 38 analysts answered “no” and 16 said “yes.”

“The government has already adopted enough steps to soften pains from the tax hike, so there is no need to compile additional spending,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

BOJ OUTLOOK

Meanwhile, more than half of economists polled — 24 of 40 — said the Bank of Japan’s next step will be to start normalizing its super-loose monetary policy. But 16 economists projected the BOJ will ease further.

That compares with 29 and 10, respectively, in the March survey.

Many forecast the BOJ will likely retain its current monetary policy framework for at least the rest of the year.

“We expect the BOJ will escape the situation where it has to ease policy,” said Atsushi Takeda, chief economist at Itochu Research Institute. “But the central bank will keep its current pace of easing as there are no signs that inflation will reach the BOJ’s 2 percent target.”

But Yoshimasa Maruyama, chief market economist at SMBC Nikko Securities, says the BOJ will be forced to ease further.

“The United States is expected to worsen from around late 2019, which will drag down the global economy.”

The economists predicted Japan’s core consumer price index, which includes oil products but not fresh foods, will rise to 0.7 percent for fiscal 2019, which started April 1, and to 0.8 percent the next fiscal year.

They also forecast the economy contracted at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent last quarter amid weak foreign demand for Japanese products.

It will shrink again by an annualized rate of 2.0 percent in the October-December quarter due to the planned sales tax hike, the poll showed. Only one economist predicted growth that quarter.

But the economy is expected to muster modest growth of 0.5 percent this fiscal year and 0.6 percent for the next, little changed from last month’s poll.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; polling by Khushboo Mittal; Editing by Malcolm Foster and Ross Finley)

Source: OANN



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