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Factbox: Crowded Democratic field vies for 2020 U.S. presidential nomination

Former Vice President Biden speaks at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW) conference in Washington
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is mulling a 2020 presidential candidacy, speaks at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ (IBEW) construction and maintenance conference in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

April 25, 2019

By Arlene Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The largest Democratic field in the modern U.S. political era is competing for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

The diverse group of 20 vying to challenge President Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, includes six U.S. senators. A record six women are running, as well as black, Hispanic and openly gay candidates who would make history if one of them becomes the party’s nominee.

Here are the Democrats who have launched campaigns, listed in order of their RealClearPolitics national polling average for those who register in opinion surveys.


The leader in polls of Democratic presidential contenders, Biden waited until late April to enter the race – launching his bid by taking a direct swipe at Trump. Biden, who served eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama and 36 years in the U.S. Senate, enters in the middle of a Democratic debate over whether a liberal political newcomer or a centrist veteran is needed to win back the White House. At 76, he is the second oldest candidate in the nominating contest, after Senator Bernie Sanders. Liberal activists criticize his Senate record, including his authorship of the 1994 crime act that led to increased incarceration rates, and his ties to the financial industry, which is prominent in his home state of Delaware. Biden, who relishes his “Middle-Class Joe” nickname and touts his working-class roots, made unsuccessful bids for the nomination in 1988 and 2008. Biden, recently the subject of allegations of unwanted physical contact with women, in a video pledged to be “more mindful” of respecting “personal space,” an attempt to tamp down the controversy.


The senator from Vermont lost the Democratic nomination in 2016 to Hillary Clinton but has jumped in for a second try. In the 2020 race, Sanders, 77, will have to fight to stand out in a packed field of progressives touting issues he brought into the Democratic Party mainstream four years ago. His proposals include free tuition at public colleges, a $15 minimum wage and universal healthcare. He benefits from strong name recognition and a robust network of small-dollar donors, helping him to raise $5.9 million during his first day in the contest. Sanders, whose father was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, has shown a more personal side in this campaign, highlighting his struggles while growing up in a working-class family. He also has tried to reach out to black and Hispanic leaders after having trouble winning over minority voters in 2016.


The former three-term Texas congressman jumped into the race on March 14 – and has been jumping on to store countertops ever since to deliver his optimistic message to voters in early primary states. O’Rourke, 46, gained fame last year for his record fundraising and ability to draw crowds ahead of his unexpectedly narrow loss in the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. O’Rourke announced a $6.1 million fundraising haul for the first 24 hours of his campaign, besting his Democratic opponents. But with progressive policies and diversity at the forefront of the party’s nominating battle, O’Rourke will face a challenge as a wealthy white man who is more moderate on several key issues than many of his competitors.


The first-term senator from California would make history as the first black woman to gain the nomination. Harris, 54, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, announced her candidacy on the holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. She has made a quick impact in a Democratic race that will be heavily influenced by women and minority voters. She raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign and drew record ratings on a CNN televised town hall. She supports a middle-class tax credit, Medicare for All healthcare funding reform, the Green New Deal and the legalization of marijuana. Her track record as San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general has drawn scrutiny in a Democratic Party that has shifted in recent years on criminal justice issues.


The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is emerging from underdog status as he begins to build momentum with young voters. A Harvard University graduate and Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, he speaks seven languages and served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy Reserve. He touts himself as representing a new generation of leadership needed to combat Trump. Buttigieg would be the first openly gay presidential nominee of a major American political party.


The 69-year-old senator from Massachusetts is a leader of the party’s liberals and a fierce Wall Street critic who was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She has focused her presidential campaign on her populist economic message, promising to fight what she calls a rigged economic system that favors the wealthy. She also has proposed eliminating the Electoral College, vowed to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook if elected, and sworn off political fundraising events to collect cash for her bid. Warren apologized earlier this year to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her claims to Native American ancestry, an assertion that has prompted Trump to mockingly refer to her as “Pocahontas.”


Booker, 49, a senator from New Jersey and former mayor of Newark, gained national prominence in the fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Booker, who is black, has made U.S. race relations and racial disparities a focus of his campaign, noting the impact of discrimination on his family. He embraces progressive positions on Medicare coverage for every American, the Green New Deal and other key issues, and touts his style of positivity over attacks. Booker eats a vegan diet and recently confirmed rumors he is dating actress Rosario Dawson.


The third-term senator from Minnesota was the first moderate in the Democratic field vying to challenge Trump. Klobuchar, 58, gained national attention in 2018 when she sparred with Brett Kavanaugh during Senate hearings for his Supreme Court nomination. On the campaign trail, the former prosecutor and corporate attorney supports an alternative to traditional Medicare healthcare funding and is taking a hard stance against rising prescription drug prices. Klobuchar’s campaign reported raising more than $1 million in its first 48 hours. Her campaign announcement came amid news reports that staff in her Senate office were asked to do menial tasks, making it difficult to hire high-level campaign strategists.


The secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama would be the first Hispanic to win a major U.S. party’s presidential nomination. Castro, 44, whose grandmother immigrated to Texas from Mexico, has used his family’s personal story to criticize Trump’s border policies. Castro advocates a universal pre-kindergarten program, supports Medicare for All and cites his experience to push for affordable housing. He announced his bid in his hometown of San Antonio, where he once served as mayor and a city councilman. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is a Democratic congressman from Texas.


The entrepreneur and former tech executive is focusing his campaign on an ambitious universal income plan. Yang, 44, wants to guarantee all American citizens between the ages of 18 and 64 a $1,000 check every month. The son of immigrants from Taiwan, Yang also is pushing for Medicare for All and proposing a new form of capitalism that is “human-centered.” He lives in New York.


Gillibrand, known as a moderate when she served as a congresswoman from upstate New York, has refashioned herself into a staunch progressive, calling for strict gun laws and supporting the Green New Deal. The senator for New York, who is 52, has led efforts to address sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, and she pushed for Congress to improve its own handling of sexual misconduct allegations. On the campaign trail, she has made fiery denunciations of Trump. She released her tax returns for the years 2007 through 2018, offering the most comprehensive look to date at the finances of a 2020 White House candidate, and has called on her rivals to do the same.


The 67-year-old former Colorado governor has positioned himself as a centrist and an experienced officeholder with business experience. He is the only Democratic presidential candidate so far to oppose the Green New Deal plan to tackle climate change, saying it would give the government too much power in investment decisions. During his two terms in office, Colorado’s economy soared and the Western state expanded healthcare, passed a gun control law and legalized marijuana. The former geologist and brew pub owner is among the many candidates who have refused to take corporate money. He previously served as mayor of Denver.


The Washington state governor has made fighting climate change the central issue of his campaign. As governor, Inslee, 68, has moved to put a moratorium on capital punishment and fully implement the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and accompanying expansion of Medicaid health coverage for the poor. He has not settled on a position on Medicare for All but does support the Green New Deal backed by progressives. Inslee spent 15 years in Congress before being elected governor in 2012.


The former U.S. representative from Maryland became the first Democrat to enter the 2020 race, declaring his candidacy in July 2017. Delaney, 55, plans to focus on advancing only bipartisan bills during the first 100 days of his presidency if elected. He is also pushing for a universal healthcare system, raising the federal minimum wage and passing gun safety legislation. 


The Samoan-American congresswoman from Hawaii and Iraq war veteran is the first Hindu to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. After working for her father’s anti-gay advocacy group and drafting relevant legislation, she was forced to apologize for her past views on same-sex marriage. Gabbard, 37, has been against U.S. intervention in Syria and slammed Trump for standing by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. She endorsed Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign.


The third-term congressman from a California district south of San Francisco cited tackling student debt and gun violence among the reasons he jumped into the Democratic primary race. Swalwell, 38, is among the younger candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination. He served on the House Intelligence Committee and founded the Future Forum, a group of more than 25 Democratic lawmakers that visits universities and community colleges to discuss issues important to millennial voters like student loan debt and climate change.


The moderate nine-term congressman from a working-class district in the battleground state of Ohio has touted his appeal to the blue-collar voters who fled to Trump in 2016. He says Trump has turned his back on those voters and failed to live up his promise to revitalize the manufacturing industry. Ryan, 45, pledges to create jobs in new technologies and to focus on public education and access to affordable healthcare. He first gained national attention when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader in 2016, arguing it was time for new leadership. A former college football player, he also has written books on meditation and healthy eating.


An Iraq War veteran and member of Congress, Seth Moulton, 40, was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 when he defeated a fellow Democrat in the primary election. Moulton served in the Marines from 2001 to 2008. He became a vocal critic of the Iraq War in which he served, saying no more troops should be deployed to the country. He has advocated stricter gun laws, saying military-style weapons should not be owned by civilians. Moulton supports the legalization of marijuana and told Boston public radio station WGBH in 2016 that he had smoked pot while in college. After Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in 2018, Moulton helped organize opposition to Representative Nancy Pelosi’s bid to again become speaker.


The 66-year-old New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker and Texas native believes her spirituality-focused campaign can heal America. A 1992 interview on Oprah Winfrey’s show propelled Williamson to make a name for herself as a “spiritual guide” for Hollywood and a self-help expert. She is calling for $100 billion in reparations for slavery over 10 years, gun control, education reform and equal rights for lesbian and gay communities. In 2014, she made an unsuccessful bid for a House seat in California as an independent.


Messam, 44, defeated a 16-year incumbent in 2015 to become the first black mayor of the Miami suburb of Miramar. He was re-elected in March. The son of Jamaican immigrants, he played on Florida State University’s 1993 national championship football team, and then started a construction business with his wife. He has pledged to focus on reducing gun violence, mitigating climate change and reducing student loan debt and the cost of healthcare.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

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UPS profit miss raises stakes for 2019 holiday season; shares sink 7%

Vehicles of United Parcel Service are seen at the new package sorting and delivery UPS hub in Corbeil-Essonnes and Evry
FILE PHOTO: Vehicles of United Parcel Service are seen at the new package sorting and delivery UPS hub in Corbeil-Essonnes and Evry, southern Paris, France, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

April 25, 2019

(Reuters) – United Parcel Service Inc on Thursday blamed harsh winter weather in the United States as it reported lower-than-expected first-quarter profit, sending shares down more than 7% percent in early trading.

Despite the rough start to the year, the world’s biggest package delivery company stuck by its forecast for 2019 earnings of $7.45 to $7.75 per share. That raises the pressure for Atlanta-based UPS, which is spending billions of dollars to modernize its network, to meet its targets during this year’s key winter holiday season.

“There is pressure on management to execute at a high level during the peak,” Cowen and Co. analyst Helane Becker said in a client note.

Shares in UPS were down 7.7 percent to $105.55 in morning trading.

Operating profit in its U.S. domestic business, its biggest, dropped to $666 million in the quarter ended March 31, from $756 million a year earlier, largely due to an $80 million hit from weather-related disruptions.

Net income fell more than 17 percent to $1.1 billion, or $1.28 per share, from the year-earlier quarter, including a 7 cent per share hit from severe storms in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest.

Excluding an 11 cent per share charge related to modernizing its network, UPS earned $1.39 per share, missing analysts’ average estimate of $1.41, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue rose 0.3 percent to $17.2 billion, but was below expectations for $17.8 billion.

UPS is working to attract more business-to-business shipments to offset lower-profit deliveries of shoppers’ online purchases from retailers like and Walmart Inc.

It invested nearly $7 billion in 2018 under a three-year plan to automate package-sorting hubs, make routes more efficient and to upgrade airplanes and other equipment.

That initiative includes construction of eight regional “super hubs” in the United States. UPS has already opened these more flexible facilities in Georgia, Indiana, Arizona, and Utah, and will open two more, in Texas and Washington State, this year.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

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Canada probe finds Facebook seriously contravened privacy laws

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration
FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

April 25, 2019

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Facebook Inc committed serious contraventions of Canadian privacy law and failed to take responsibility for protecting the personal information of citizens, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner said on Thursday.

Daniel Therrien made his comments while releasing a probe into a data sharing scandal involving Facebook and Canadian data firm AggregateIQ. Facebook disputed the results of the probe, Therrien added, saying he planned to go to court in a bid to force the company to correct its privacy practices.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

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Huge crowds greet India’s Modi in his sacred city seat

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a roadshow in Varanasi
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

April 25, 2019

By Devjyot Ghoshal

VARANASI, India (Reuters) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi staged a show of strength on Thursday in his home city of Varanasi, one of the most sacred places for India’s majority Hindu population, as the country’s 39-day staggered general election neared its mid-point.

Dotted with ancient temples and sitting on the banks of the Ganges river, Varanasi was one of two seats that Modi fought and won at the last election in 2014. He has so far chosen to represent Varanasi in parliament and is not likely to pursue any other seat.

Surrounded by tens of thousands of supporters, Modi, who is seeking a second term as premier, bowed to the crowd with folded hands from an elevated podium.

He then toured the city in an SUV, standing to greet supporters through the sunroof. His security forces prevented the crowd from getting too close even as the vehicle moved slowly through the narrow alleys.

Modi was accompanied by senior BJP leaders, including the party President Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, where Varanasi is located. The northern state is India’s most populous and has the largest number of MPs. In 2014, the BJP won 71 seats there out of 80.

Modi is expected to file his nomination papers on Friday.

India’s election is being held over 39 days from April 11 to May 19, with votes due to be counted on May 23. Varanasi will vote on the last day.

Modi’s supporters talked up his achievements in bringing clean water, sanitation and electricity to more of India.

“The city has become clean. There is electricity 24 hours now, and there is water,” said 55-year-old Shyam Narayan Naik.

“No other party will be able to win here,” added Narayan, who runs a textile shop in the city that was shut on Thursday as Modi’s 5 kilometer-long roadshow passed by.


The city was decorated with BJP flags and saffron-colored balloons. Sounds of drums and songs praising Modi grew louder as the prime minister arrived.

Supporters wore “Namo Again” t-shirts or masks with Modi’s photograph, while others dressed as Hindu gods and goddesses.

“I think this time he’s trying to send the signal that he’s now far more confident, he doesn’t need the Gujarat seat and therefore he’s standing only from UP,” said Sudha Pai, referring to the other seat Modi won and gave up in 2014. Pai, a former political science professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, closely tracks politics in Uttar Pradesh.

But weak jobs growth, distressed farm incomes because of low crop prices, and charges of economic mismanagement have boosted the opposition. And in Uttar Pradesh, two formidable regional parties have allied to take on the BJP.

Modi often refers to “Mother Ganga” in his speeches, and his government has committed nearly $3 billion of funds to a five-year clean-up of the heavily polluted sacred river.

That program is due to be completed in 2020.

But last year, Reuters found that only a tenth of the funds had been used in the first two years of the project.

“It is what it was before. Nothing has changed. People are just using Modi to make money themselves,” said 70-year old Ramji, referring to the money spent on cleaning the Ganges.

(Editing by Martin Howell and Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

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As war rages, Tripoli art gallery opens in rundown old city

Libyan artists work at the art gallery and cultural centre in the old city of Tripoli
Libyan artists work at the art gallery and cultural centre in the old city of Tripoli, Libya April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

April 25, 2019

By Ulf Laessing

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – As a new war reached the Libyan capital, businessman Mustafa Iskandar opened an art gallery and cultural center, hoping to draw attention to a long-neglected old city in need of revival.

One of the best preserved in North Africa with monuments going back to the Romans, Tripoli’s old city has been rundown for years, with garbage filling the narrow streets and its ancient white buildings in dire need of repair.

Most Libyans who can afford it have long moved out of the old city to more modern districts of Tripoli, home to 2.5 million. But Iskandar bought a derelict house close to the landmark Roman Mark Aurelius arch, investing one million dinars ($720,000) to refurbish it as a gathering point for artists.

He sent an invitation to embassies and artists but in the end diplomats did not come, having fled the city as eastern Libyan forces started a campaign to take the capital using ground forces and jets.

It didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the businessman, who still lives in the old city, a settlement once inhabited by Ottomans and later Italian colonialists, with Muslims, Jews and Christians living for centuries in harmony.

“I want to give a signal for people to come back to the old city where I grew up and still live,” said Iskandar, who works for a Danish firm.

He hung paintings and moved in old furniture collected for years in Europe for his center, which is located next to a hotel that was once bustling with tourists who used to come to Libya until Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

Under Gaddafi, authorities restored a handful of old buildings and were planning a larger rehabilitation project when the 2011 uprising broke out, stopping the work.

Little has happened since then, given the country’s chaos, but officials hope to reopen the national museum housed in the Red Castle from the Ottoman era, closed since 2015 over security concerns.

“We are trying,” said Mohamad Farraj Mohamad, the head of the museum’s antiquities department, when asked whether the museum will open next year after a rehabilitation.

For that, French experts who have been advising Libya on how to improve the exhibition need to be willing to come back once the fighting is over to help as the ancient authority lacks funding and expertise.

In the old city, a group of young people organize walks to explore sites and build ties with the remaining inhabitants, many of which are West African workers or poor Libyans.

Relying on their own funds and donations, they repainted a rundown wall in white, a small start for what they hope will be a rehabilitation in the future.

“We are trying to raise awareness of the heritage of the old city ” said Hiba Shalabi, founder of the #SaveTheOldCityofTripoli campaign. “We are building relations with people in old city and look up in archives information about history of houses.”

($1 = 1.3920 Libyan dinars)

(Reporting by Ulf Laessing, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

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Obama Ends Primary Silence to Praise, But Not Endorse, Joe Biden

Former President Barack Obama gave his former vice president, Joe Biden, some encouraging words Thursday, but stopped short of endorsing his run for the White House, Politico reports.

Biden officially announced his presidential campaign Thursday morning, saying in a video clip he "cannot stand by and watch" President Donald Trump win re-election.

"President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made," a spokesperson for Obama, Katie Hill, said in a statement after Biden's announcement. "He relied on the vice president's knowledge, insight, and judgment, throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today."

Obama declined to endorse a candidate in the 2016 race, even his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. One of his former top advisers, David Axelrod, told Politico the former president will almost certainly follow tradition and not endorse a candidate.

"The custom for former presidents is not to endorse presidents," he said. "The expectation that he would, I find kind of baffling."

Axelrod added Obama typically thinks a strong primary season will lead to the strongest candidate emerging on top.

Source: NewsMax America

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Investors brace for more euro pain as U.S. economy, dollar flex muscles

The German Bundesbank presents the new 50 euro banknote at it's headquarters in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The signature of the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), Mario Draghi, is seen on the new 50 euro banknote during a presentation by the German Central Bank (Bundesbank) at its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

April 25, 2019

By Tommy Wilkes and Richard Pace

LONDON (Reuters) – After the euro’s slide to 22-month lows against the dollar, investors are scrambling to shield themselves from more weakness as Europe’s poor data contrasts with an upbeat U.S. economy that is sending the dollar surging.

Options markets suggest investors this week bought sizeable downside protection against further euro weakness against the dollar, after the single currency broke below its 2019 low of $1.1170, a level that has opened the door to more selling.

On Thursday, the pair traded as low as $1.1117, the lowest since May 2017. The dollar, meanwhile, soared against a basket of currencies as robust data on jobs and durable goods orders took its year-to-date gains to 2.2 percent.

“We have been increasingly doubtful that the euro can hold,” said Neil Mellor, currencies analyst at BNY Mellon. “Growth forecasts have been slumping and the ECB (European Central Bank) might have to revise its expectations again.”

This week’s fall — more than 1 percent so far — follows a period of calm during which euro/dollar, the world’s most traded currency pair, has been stuck in its narrowest ever trading range. The tiny price fluctuations have frustrated investors keen on volatility and clear direction.

(GRAPHIC: Euro hits 22-month low –

The Federal Reserve’s dovish shift at the start of 2019 would normally have hurt the dollar. But the Fed move was followed in March by the ECB’s decision to push back further planned interest rate rises.

Since then, euro zone business surveys have pointed to further gloom, with a widely-watched German business climate index showing deteriorating morale in April.

The U.S. economy, on the other hand, appears to be blooming; latest data showed new orders for U.S.-made capital goods increased by the most in eight months, while U.S. first-quarter growth could be as much as 2.4 percent, according to some estimates.

Until now, investors have had to pay relatively little to protect their portfolios against a euro downside, because currency volatility has been so low and few were buying options.

But that has changed – forex dealers said that a swathe of options were bought on Thursday giving holders the right to sell euros for $1.1000, including one for 500 million euros.

The market is already heavily long dollars, with speculative investors holding their biggest short position in euros since December 2016, CFTC data indicates.

(GRAPHIC: Euro positions –

One-month implied volatility – a gauge of expected price moves – has also jumped, after threatening to hit record lows only last week.

(GRAPHIC: Euro/dollar implied volatility –

Euro/dollar volatility is likely to be boosted by the run-up to the May 23 European parliamentary elections, where populist parties could make a strong showing by tapping into anger about public expenditure cuts and income inequality.

Of course, not everyone believes the euro will spiral lower. Societe Generale analyst Kit Juckes, for instance, said the dollar – supported by an interest rate advantage of at least 70 basis points above its main economic competitors – was expensive, while the euro looked cheap.

“The risk, then, is that, having broken through the bottom of the recent euro-dollar range, all we do is add another coat of paint to the bottom of it, and settle into a marginally lower range,” he said.

(GRAPHIC: YTD G10 FX performance –

But $1.10 is not unknown territory for the euro, which spent much of 2016 and 2017 below that level.

“It’s not really hard to rationalize,” said BNY Mellon’s Mellor. “The bad news is going to continue to mount from an (European) economic perspective.”

(Editing by Sujata Rao and Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin leaves the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting at the IMF and World Bank’s 2019 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

April 12, 2019

By David Lawder, David Milliken and Leika Kihara

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The risk that global economic growth could slow more than expected spurred a call on Friday from top finance officials for countries to overcome trade differences and opt for multilateral cooperation and “timely policy action.”

Policymakers from the Group of 20 industrialized countries are worried that the weakness evident in key economies could spread, especially if elevated trade tensions, such as those between the United States and China, escalate further.

“The balance of risks remains skewed to the downside,” Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a news conference following a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers. “We recognize the risk that growth prospects might deteriorate if weakening in key economies feed into each other.”

Aso’s remarks dovetail with those of other officials gathered in Washington for the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, many of whom fret that self-inflicted wounds from protectionist trade policies are to blame for the weakness. The week’s proceedings kicked off with another downgrade of global growth estimates from the IMF.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda emphasized the need for countries to take steps to foster a more dynamic global economy.

“There was a shared understanding among the G20 members that each country needs to take timely policy action,” Kuroda said at the news conference.

As the chair country of this year’s G20 proceedings, Japan wants to deepen talks on global imbalances – an effort to divert Washington’s attention from bilateral trade imbalances and stave off U.S. pressure to negotiate two-way trade deals.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, speaking at an event on the sidelines of the meetings in Washington, said the rules-based order of multilateralism is increasingly under threat and leaders must uphold international cooperation.

Scholz called on the United States to overcome trade differences with Europe, which erupted again this week when U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on $11 billion worth of European Union products, including commercial aircraft.

“I believe this is a matter of principle, it’s not just about achieving some short-term economic gain. It’s not about the art of the deal,” Scholz said in reference to the best-selling business advice book credited to Trump.

Scholz’s consternation is understandable given the global downshift in growth is most evident at the moment in Europe, where the outlook has been further clouded by the uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

An internal European Central Bank model presented to policymakers on Wednesday indicates euro zone growth was just above 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year and could be somewhat weaker in the second quarter, two sources told Reuters on Friday.


The Trump administration was also at odds with other IMF stakeholders on the need to boost the global lender’s resources and update its governance, although it does support extending a portion of the IMF’s $254 billion crisis fund.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated the U.S. opposition to increasing overall funding and shareholding quotas, likely meaning the effort to lift IMF funding and reshuffle voting rights was a dead issue at this week’s meetings.

The voting quotas were last altered nearly a decade ago.

“In our view, the IMF currently has ample resources to achieve its mission, and countries also have considerable complementary resources should a crisis emerge,” Mnuchin said in a statement for the IMF’s steering committee meeting that was posted on the IMF’s website on Friday.

Without U.S. backing for an update to the IMF’s stakeholding weights, there was little prospect for a change at this week’s meetings.

“There is no majority in sight for any changes regarding IMF quotas,” a German official said on condition of anonymity.

The IMF’s last quota increase was agreed in 2010, boosting the shareholding and influence of major emerging markets including China and Brazil.

The IMF has current total lending capacity of about $1 trillion, including the New Arrangements to Borrow crisis fund that was greatly expanded in 2009 at the depths of the last financial crisis.

That fund is set to expire in November 2022. Mnuchin said it was important for the IMF to maintain sufficient financial resources to respond to potential crises.

British finance minister Philip Hammond expressed concern the lack of a funding boost could hamper the IMF’s ability to step in to help Venezuela respond to its worsening humanitarian and economic crisis.

“This set of meetings is crucial to the debate about IMF quotas and funding for the IMF,” Hammond said.

“We all anticipate that as events unfold in Venezuela, at some point there will be a need for a major program to support Venezuela. So the UK is very keen to ensure that the IMF in particular is properly funded.”

Oil-rich Venezuela is embroiled in political and economic turmoil as socialist President Nicolas Maduro battles to retain power in the face of U.S. and Western powers’ backing of opposition leader Juan Guaido.

IMF and World Bank shareholders, meanwhile, are still undecided on whether to recognize Guaido as the South American nation’s leader.

(Reporting by David Lawder, David Milliken, Jason Lange, Leika Kihara, Michael Nienaber, Balazs Koranyi and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Property sale signs are seen outside of a group of newly built houses in west London
FILE PHOTO: Property sale signs are seen outside of a group of newly built houses in west London, Britain, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

April 14, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Asking prices for British homes rose by the most in over a year in the four weeks to April 6, a survey showed, adding to other tentative signs that the housing market may have passed the worst of its slowdown ahead of Brexit.

The 1.1 percent monthly rise in asking prices was a bigger increase than usual at the start of the spring season and reduced the fall in prices in annual terms to 0.1 percent, property website Rightmove said.

Britain’s housing market has stumbled since the 2016 Brexit referendum with most measures of prices showing only minimal growth in recent months. But some data has suggested that the slowdown stabilized in early 2019.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said last week’s delay of Britain’s exit from the European Union could spur hesitant home movers into action.

“We are not anticipating an activity surge, but maybe a wave of relief that releases some pent-up demand to take advantage of static property prices and cheap fixed-rate mortgages,” he said, noting visits to Rightmove’s website hit a record high in March.

Rightmove’s data is based on property advertisements on its website, which it says accounts for 90 percent of residential property on sale in the United Kingdom.

(Reporting by William Schomberg, editing by Andy Bruce)

Source: OANN

A row of houses are seen in London
FILE PHOTO: A row of houses are seen in London, Britain June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

April 18, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British lenders think a slowdown in house prices will exert the biggest drag since 2012 on how many mortgages they offer, a Bank of England survey showed on Thursday, as Brexit uncertainty continues to depress the market.

Lenders surveyed by the central bank last month expected to provide around as many mortgages in the second quarter as in the first three months of the year.

But they predicted that expectations for house prices would be the biggest drag on mortgage supply, rather than the economic outlook or financial conditions.

Expectations for demand for mortgages in the prime market — dominated by London which has been hardest hit by the chaos surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union — fell to their lowest level since late 2010, the BoE said.

Other surveys have shown Brexit to be a major drag on the property market in the capital, which is sensitive to flows of migrant workers from the European Union. A surge in prices in London in previous years has also stretched affordability.

Official data on Wednesday showed British house prices rose at the weakest rate in six-and-a-half years in February, dragged down by London’s biggest price fall in a decade.

The BoE’s survey took place between March 4 and 22.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by William Schomberg)

Source: OANN

Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., says she will add her name to an impeachment resolution aimed at President Donald Trump following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

The proposal, put forward by lawmaker Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., calls on the House Judiciary Committee to probe whether or not the president committed any offenses that rise to the level of impeachment.

“Mueller’s report is clear in pointing to Congress’ responsibility in investigating obstruction of justice by the president,” she tweeted Thursday night.  

“It is our job as outlined in Article 1, Sec 2, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution,” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez added. “As such, I’ll be signing onto @RashidaTlaib’s impeachment resolution.”

Mueller did not charge Trump for obstruction, but detailed numerous examples in his 448-page report released Thursday in which Trump asked his aides to take actions that would have obstructed the Russia probe.

“With respect to whether the president can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice,” Mueller wrote.

“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,” the special counsel added.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy reacts during a news conference at his campaign headquarters following a presidential election in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Marc Jones and Tom Arnold

LONDON (Reuters) – Ukraine has entered uncharted political waters by choosing Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian with no previous political experience and few detailed policies, as its new president.

Zelenskiy is the latest anti-establishment figure to unseat an incumbent leader, both in Europe and further afield, but he has a lot to get to grips with. Below are five big questions investors and the international community have.


Zelenskiy is expected to take office next month and his ability to work with Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, will be crucial to meeting the expectations of his voters.

The president appoints the head of the state security service, the head of the military, the general prosecutor, the central bank governor and the foreign and defense ministers. But parliament must confirm each appointment — and there’s the rub.

While Zelenskiy beat incumbent Petro Poroshenko decisively in Sunday’s presidential vote, parliamentary elections are not due until October and opinion polls suggest he is unlikely to win an outright majority.

That means he would need to ally with at least one other party if he is to get many of his policies and appointments through. The other alternative is to try to bring the elections forward in order to capitalize on the momentum from his presidential victory.


With no political experience himself, investors want Zelenskiy to build a team with enough know-how to avoid any policy missteps.

He does not actually have a full slate of policies yet but he brought in two former ministers as advisers for his campaign: former finance minister Oleksandr Danylyuk and former economy minister Aivaras Abromavicius.

Danylyuk is rumored to be in line to become either foreign minister or the head of the presidential administration, which would give him a powerful gatekeeper role.

“Zelenskiy might be inexperienced in foreign affairs but I think he will have plenty of choice of experienced individuals to serve as foreign minister, and will receive plenty of support, advice from Western governments,” wrote Timothy Ash of BlueBay Asset Management.


International Monetary Fund aid has kept Ukraine’s economy above water so its ongoing support is seen as crucial, especially with around $3 billion (about 2 percent of GDP) of external debt obligations, including interest, coming due in the remainder of 2019. Another $5.5 billion (about 4 percent of GDP) must be repaid in 2020.

But Ukraine’s patchy reform efforts led to repeated delays in its previous IMF program that ended up disbursing only $8.7 billion of a planned $17.5 billion.

That was replaced by a new $3.9 billion Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) in December. While Kiev hopes for another tranche of that money as early as next month, investors will want to see a fuller program put back in place soon.

It could be an interesting negotiation. Zelenskiy already wants to talk the IMF about reversing some gas price rises the Fund saw as crucial to mending Kiev’s finances.

Ukraine’s economic backdrop has improved in recent years though, with much smaller twin deficits (2-3 percent of GDP), lower public sector debt (just over 60 percent) and a stable currency. It also has over $20 billion in FX reserves, which is over four months of import cover, according to S&P Global.


One concern is Zelenskiy’s ties to oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, the former owner of Ukraine’s biggest lender PrivatBank, which was nationalized in 2016.

With the international community already concerned about corruption and influence, some have raised questions about what their relationship might mean for the future of PrivatBank and other interests of Kolomoisky in Ukraine.

A court ruling last week could threaten to overturn the nationalization of PrivatBank.

The central bank has said it will appeal — in fact there could be many appeals as well as other legal manoeuvres — but any sign that Zelenskiy might be in Kolomoisky’s camp on this could do serious damage, not least to relations with the IMF.


As world leaders clamored to offer their congratulations to Zelenskiy, one notable name was absent: Russian President Vladimir Putin. How the Russian-speaking Zelenskiy handles Ukraine’s relationship with Moscow will go a long way to determining the success of his term in office.

He has already suggested taking a fresh perspective to try to secure peace with Moscow, while pushing ahead with European Union-friendly moves. That could prove a difficult path to tread.

For its part, Russia has signaled it intends to respect the vote of the Ukraine people, although Putin is not planning talks with Zelenskiy.

Also rumbling in the background is a legal dispute between the two surrounding Ukraine’s $3 billion Eurobond, which Moscow wants repaid in full but which Kiev argues should have been written down along with most of its other debt in 2015.

Any repairing of ties could also bring rewards for Ukraine. Improved relations could help it regain control over the separatist-controlled east, as well as cheap gas and major investment, a Kremlin ally in Ukraine said last week.

(Additional reporting by Matthias Williams in Kiev, Graphics by Karin Strohecker, Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

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