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Asian markets enjoy healthy rally after China-US talks offer

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HONG KONG: Hong Kong led a rally in most Asian markets on Thursday after the US reached out to China in a fresh bid to avert a trade war, providing some much-needed respite to weary investors.
News that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had invited top Chinese officials for talks comes just under a week after Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on all $500 billion worth of imports from China.
The president’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow called the move a “positive thing” and added that “you could say that communication has picked up a notch”.
China’s commerce ministry on Thursday welcomed the offer and said the two sides were discussing details.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index jumped 2.5 percent, having fallen for six straight days and into a bear market, which is a 20 percent drop from its January record high.
Shanghai climbed 1.2 percent, Seoul gained 0.1 percent and Tokyo ended one percent higher.
Wellington, Taipei, and Manila were also higher, while Jakarta ran up 0.9 percent and Bangkok 1.6 percent. But Sydney fell 0.8 percent and Singapore eased 0.2 percent.
“Markets should welcome the news of possible resumption of high-level trade talks between China and the US,” said Tai Hui, JP Morgan Asset Management chief market strategist for Asia-Pacific.
“This may reflect strong feedback from the US corporate sector against further expansion of the list of Chinese exports that would be subjected to higher tariffs.”
However, while he said the latest round of threatened tariffs could be delayed, he said Beijing had already agreed to buy more American goods to reduce its gaping surplus with the US and open up the economy further, so it might not be able to offer much more.
“The road to a more sustained resolution is still challenging,” Tai added.
And Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, said “the playbook remains unchanged and it would be a total surprise for many market participants if the Trump administration didn’t follow through” with the next round of tariffs.
The tariffs are clearly starting to hit US and European firms based in China.
On Thursday, the American Chamber of Commerce in China said a survey found most US companies are seeing rising costs, lower profits and tighter scrutiny, and a separate poll of 200 EU companies in the country showed 17 percent are delaying investment or expansion plans.
That comes a day after the Federal Reserve reported increasing fears across the United States about the trade row, with some businesses planning to curtail capital spending, while a new lobby group announced plans to campaign against the levies in November’s elections.
The optimism also supported emerging-market and high-yielding currencies battered by a flight to safe havens such as the dollar and Japanese yen.
South Africa’s rand rose 1.3 percent, the Russian ruble gained 0.8 percent and the Australian dollar jumped one percent. The South Korean won put on 0.6 percent while the Indonesian rupiah gained 0.3 percent.
Energy firms also climbed with investors keeping tabs on Hurricane Florence as it surges towards the US east coast, with the Carolinas and Georgia in its crosshairs.
Concerns about the massive destruction the storm is likely to cause have helped send oil prices higher, while a forecast-beating draw in US stockpiles added to the increase.
While both main contracts dipped slightly Thursday, Japanese energy firm Inpex piled on 3.7 percent, while in Hong Kong PetroChina soared more than five percent and CNOOC rallied almost four percent.
In early European trade London and Frankfurt each dipped 0.1 percent while Paris was flat.
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 1.0 percent at 22,821.32 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 2.5 percent at 27,014.49 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 2,686.58 (close)
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,307.64
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1618 from $1.1629 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3037 from $1.3053
Dollar/yen: UP at 111.43 yen from 111.25 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 48 cents at $69.89 per barrel
Oil – Brent Crude: DOWN 39 cents at $79.35 per barrel
New York – Dow Jones: UP 0.1 percent at 25,998.92 (close)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PM expresses grief over the loss of lives in Kabul blast

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'Few signs of progress' in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday expressed his grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in a blast in Kabul, targeting a religious gathering.
He strongly condemned the cowardly act of terrorism and said being the biggest victims of terrorism; he could feel the pain of their Afghan brethren who continued to pay the price of war that was brought to their region.
“Our people and the two countries have paid the heaviest toll, both in terms of human lives as well as material losses, but we stand firm and unshaken,” the PM Office Media Wing in a press release quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
The prime minister also condoled with the bereaved families, saying “Our heart goes out to the bereaved families at this hour of grief.”

 

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Bangladesh photographer freed

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DHAKA: Award-winning Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam was released from prison Tuesday after more than 100 days behind bars, in a closely watched freedom of speech case.
The 63-year-old Alam was arrested on 5th August for making “false” and “provocative” statements on Al Jazeera television and Facebook during student protests.
He was freed from Dhaka’s main jail Tuesday after being granted bail last week, his wife Rahnuma Ahmad told the Media. 
“He is now heading home,” she said.
He was being held under controversial internet laws which critics say have been wielded by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stifle dissent and harass journalists.
Alam spoke briefly to reporters after he came out of prison to describe conditions inside the jail, Alam’s close associate Rezaur Rahman told the Media.
The photographer had previously said he was badly beaten while in custody.
Although Alam was granted bail for his release on Thursday last week, he had to wait another five days to be set free as the prosecution moved to appeal against the bail order.
He had earlier applied unsuccessfully for bail four times.
Alam, whose work has appeared widely in global media and who founded the renowned Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, faces a maximum 14 years in jail if convicted.
His lawyers have argued Alam’s continued detention was “a clear violation” of his fundamental rights under Bangladesh’s constitution.
The photographer’s arrest triggered international protests – with rights groups, Nobel laureates and academics calling for his release – and came after a series of mass rallies this summer after two teenagers were killed by a speeding bus.
The massive rallies evolved into broader demonstrations against Hasina, who will seek a third consecutive term next month, and her Awami League party.
Alam told Al Jazeera at the time that the protests were the result of pent-up anger at corruption and an “unelected government… clinging on by brute force”.
He was arrested the same day, with many other protesters held on similar charges as authorities cracked down on demonstrators.
Human Rights Watch accused Bangladesh of targeting activists and journalists in the wake of the protests instead of prosecuting those who attacked students with fists and rods.
Michelle Bachelet used her first statement as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to raise the issue of attacks on journalists in Bangladesh.
In recent weeks, Hasina has been accused of stifling dissent further by ratifying a controversial new digital-security law.
And a prominent critic of the government was arrested for defamation last month, days after he helped form an opposition coalition.

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Imran Khan reaches Kuala Lumpur

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KUALA LUMPUR: Imran Khan reached here today on a two-day official visit of Malaysia. It would be the first state visit by any foreign leader since Dr. Mahathir Mohamad assumed office in May.

A relevant piece published earlier: 

Imran Khan leaves for Kuala Lumpur

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