September 29, 2020

Hundreds of US companies join Tesla to challenge Trump’s trade war tariffs – media

The suits, filed by a wide range of companies in the US Court of International Trade in New York, seek to declare unlawful the latest rounds of levies on Chinese products imposed by Washington amid a wider trade dispute with Beijing. According to a Reuters report citing the filings, they name the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, and the Customs and Border Protection agency as defendants.

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Some of the companies accuse the Trump administration of waging an “unbounded and unlimited trade war impacting billions of dollars in goods imported from the People’s Republic of China by importers in the United States,” while others point at officials’ failure to comply with administrative procedures and impose tariffs within a required one-year period.

Elon Musk says ‘China rocks’, warns that the US may start losing due to ‘complacency’  ‘entitlement’ Elon Musk says ‘China rocks’, warns that the US may start losing due to ‘complacency’ ‘entitlement’

Many industry leaders and some of the biggest US corporations included on the SP 500 index are now challenging the tariffs. In addition to electric carmaker Tesla, which is seeking a cancellation of tariffs along with a refund for duties already paid, other big-name producers such as Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo are suing the US government. The long list of plaintiffs, totaling around 3,500 according to Reuters, also includes the operator of major US pharmacy store chain Walgreen, retail firms from various spheres such as Pep Boys, Home Depot and Target Corporation, as well as clothing company Ralph Lauren and guitar manufacturer Gibson Brands among others. 

The world’s two largest economies – the US and China – have been locked in a simmering trade dispute since 2018. While the two sides finally came to a partial truce at the end of last year, known as a phase-one deal, the bulk of Chinese imports are still subject to tariffs. According to the deal, Chinese goods worth around $250 billion remained under 25-percent tariffs, while a 7.5-percent levy was kept for around $120 billion of imports.

Lawsuits challenging the US’ tariff policy came shortly after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled last week that Washington’s trade war with Beijing breached the body’s rules, meaning that the multi-billion dollar duties are essentially illegal. The Trump administration was quick to accuse the body of being “completely inadequate to stop China’s harmful technology practices.”

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EU challenges court ruling allowing Apple to avoid paying $15bn tax bill

“The Commission has decided to appeal before the European Court of Justice the General Court’s judgment of July 2020 on the Apple State aid case in Ireland,” the EU’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

She said the General Court raised “important legal issues” in its ruling, adding that “the Commission also respectfully considers that in its judgment the General Court has made a number of errors of law.”

According to Vestager, the same court had previously stated that EU member nations needed to respect European treaties, despite being able to set up their own taxation laws. “We have to continue to use all tools at our disposal to ensure companies pay their fair share of tax,” she said.

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In July, the EU’s general court ruled that the Commission had failed to prove that Apple had been granted economic advantage via Ireland’s taxes.

The Commission’s team, led by Vestager, argued in 2016 that the tech giant had to repay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to Ireland, after the country granted “undue tax benefits” to the firm.

Both Apple and Ireland have contested the allegation, with Apple saying that it had never asked for any special arrangements and that the EU has tried to rewrite history. Apple CEO Tim Cook has even called the debacle “total political crap.”

The European Commission will now take the case to the highest court in Europe.

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More global investors will soon have access to China’s massive bond market

In a landmark decision announced on Thursday, British index provider FTSE Russell said Chinese government bonds will be added to the key index that includes mostly developed economies from October next year. The inclusion of around $1.5 trillion out of China’s $16 trillion bond market is set to be additionally confirmed in March 2021.

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“Since being placed on the watch list, Chinese authorities have implemented significant improvements to the fixed income market infrastructure, facilitating easier participation by international investors,” FTSE Russell said in a statement. It added that the developments include improving secondary market bond liquidity, enhancing the foreign exchange market structure and developing global settlement and custody processes. 

Chinese government bonds were earlier included in the JPMorgan and Bloomberg Barclays index suites and joining WGBI will mark another milestone for the rapidly developing Chinese bond market, especially at times when investors are scrambling for higher yields.

China has the world’s second-largest bond market, but international investors held 2.8 trillion yuan ($410.69 billion) of Chinese bonds or less than three percent of the entire market as of the end of August. 

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The debut on the index may bring at least $100 billion into the Chinese economy, some analysts predict, while others say that the inflow could be 40 percent or even 50 percent bigger. According to fixed income portfolio manager at JPMorgan Asset Management, Jason Pang, China may raise around $140 billion in additional inflows into its debt as a result of the decision, while HSBC reportedly estimates the attracted funds could top $150 billion.

“Overseas investors have been purchasing more China bonds this year with a decent return amid the global zero-rate environment, ongoing global reserve diversification and inflows as a result of the two prior bond index inclusion,” Candy Ho, HSBC’s global head of RMB business development in its global markets unit said as cited by South China Morning Post. “The FTSE WGBI index inclusion will further accelerate global investors’ participation.”

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Trade deal between US & India unlikely in next 4 years, says former White House economic adviser

That’s according to Todd Buchholz, who served as the director of economic policy at the White House under President George H.W. Bush.

He said as cited by the Economic Times that both US President Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden look at India amenably but have their own compulsions not to proceed with such a far-reaching deal.

“I find it difficult to imagine that in four years’ time, there could be FTA between the US and India,” Buchholz said.

The former adviser added that while Trump traveled to India in February and has a great relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he would be wary of going ahead with a deal as it could irk American farmers and also because of the wage differentials.

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During his visit to India, the US president seemed optimistic about the future of what he called the “biggest ever made trade deals” and the economic ties between the countries in general. He said a deal will be signed by the end of year, despite his Indian counterpart being “a very tough negotiator.”

Trump has been pushing New Delhi to lower tariffs on American products in order to boost their exports and decrease the US-India trade deficit. Tensions arose last year when the US removed India from its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a mechanism that granted key trade privileges for certain Indian goods. New Delhi raised a number of tariffs on dozens of American goods in response.

Earlier this month, Indian Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said that New Delhi has given a “very good and balanced offer” to the US.

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Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank wants to transform into Big Tech company

During its first major online event, which was held on Thursday, Sberbank – now rebranded as Sber – presented a range of services and gadgets signaling it wants to go deeper into the tech sector. For example, the bank presented a family of “emotional” virtual assistants, called ‘Salute’, which will be incorporated into all of Sberbank’s devices and mobile apps.

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“We are the first and the only bank in the world which started to produce a smart device,” Sberbank CEO Herman Gref said. He noted that in order to become a company that can develop tech products, it had to go through a massive “transformation” that took five years.

There are three assistants in the Salute family, called Sber, Joy, and Athena. Unlike Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, the company is betting on the “emotional” features of the virtual assistants, as each has its own “temper,” allowing users to choose the one they find most suitable.

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In addition to a logo change and new financial service features, like SberPay (an alternative to ApplePay and GooglePay), Sber also presented a TV streaming box called SberBox and a smart speaker called SberPortal. Both devices give access to a wide range of Sber services, while SberPortal, featuring gesture and voice recognition, will allow users to control other devices in the house.

“We’ve always had a chip on our shoulder, we believe we are a technology company with a banking licence,” Sberbank’s chief technology officer, David Rafalovsky, told Reuters ahead of the online conference.

In another step towards joining the Big Tech pantheon, Sber also launched a SmartMarket platform. The service is somewhat similar to App Store and Google Play, and will allow additional features for virtual assistants to enable businesses and entrepreneurs to produce their own apps. Russian airline S7 already has access to the platform and announced that it will create its own app on it.

The lender wants to boost revenues from the fast-growing non-financial sector by 20 to 30 percent, according to officials. This year, these services are expected to bring the bank around 70 billion rubles ($911 million), accounting for around five percent of all its operational revenues.

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California to ban sales of gasoline cars by 2035

The Los Angeles Times reported the order has gone to the California Air Resources Board for implementation, along with stipulations that would reduce the sales of ICE trucks.

“In the next 15 years we will eliminate in the state of California the sales of internal combustion engines,” the Governor said at a news conference before signing the executive order. “If you want to reduce asthma, if you want to mitigate the rise of sea level, if you want to mitigate the loss of ice sheets around the globe, then this is a policy for other states to follow.”

California is the biggest single car market in the States and the biggest EV market. Like other car markets, however, sales there so far this year have been stifled by the pandemic and the movement restrictions it necessitated. During the first half of the year, sales of plug-in vehicles in California fell by 17.1 percent on the year. The broader car market declined more sharply, at 26.9 percent in that period.

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California has, by far, the most ambitious climate change goals in the United States. The state plans to reduce emissions from 1990 levels by 40 percent by 2030 and further to 80 percent by 2050. As part of those efforts, Governor Newsom this week also called on the state Legislature to ban hydraulic fracturing in California.

California has committed some $2.46 billion from various government agencies to encourage the switch from internal combustion engines to electric cars, according to calculations made by the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this year. Of this, close to $1 billion is dedicated to building a charging infrastructure for the 5 million EVs that California wants to have on its roads by 2030.

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Russia projected to dominate global wheat exports for years to come

Algeria’s state grains agency said last week it would start accepting wheat imports from all countries, including Russia, in its next tender. Until now, Russia has only been able to export small amounts to the world’s third-biggest buyer of wheat.

The move follows Saudi Arabia opening up its market for Russian grain last year. Russian grain accounted for all cargoes bought in Egypt’s latest tender on Tuesday. Russia has also increased wheat exports to Turkey, Brazil, Vietnam and Tanzania in recent years. 

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“You can see the staggering increase in both production and exports from Russia,” James Bolesworth, a director at UK-based adviser CRM AgriCommodities told Bloomberg, adding: “Russia has invested heavily in order to increase market share and it’s still growing.”

Another expert, Andrew Whitelaw, who co-manages Australian consultant Thomas Elder Markets, said that it makes sense for import nations to open up access to a larger number of suppliers. “This will likely give them access to grain at cheaper levels in future,” he explained.

Experts say that more Russian sales to Algeria could be a blow to French shippers because the nation is their biggest customer, and France’s exports outside the European Union are already forecast to halve this season. Still, Russia could face more competition in the coming months from Canada and Australia, where harvests are increasing, they say.

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Helped by its second-largest grain harvest ever, Russia is expected to ship 37.5 million tons (out of some 127.5 million tons) produced this season. Russian agricultural production has surged more than 20 percent over the past six years. The country has managed to capture more than half of the global wheat market in recent years, becoming the world’s biggest exporter of grain, thanks to bumper harvests and attractive pricing. Since the early 2000s, Russia’s share of the global wheat market has quadrupled.

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DOLLAR will CRASH in 2021, US should brace for double-dip recession, economist warns

“We’ve got data that’s confirmed both the saving and current account dynamic in a much more dramatic fashion than even I was looking for,” Roach told CNBC.

According to him, “The current account deficit in the United States, which is the broadest measure of our international imbalance with the rest of the world, suffered a record deterioration in the second quarter.” He added that “The so-called net-national savings rate, which is the sum of savings of individuals, businesses and the government sector, also recorded a record decline in the second quarter going back into negative territory for the first time since the global financial crisis.”

Last June, the economist predicted a collapse of the US dollar could happen in the next year or two, maybe more. Now, he sees it happening by the end of 2021.

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“Lacking in saving and wanting to grow, we run these current account deficits to borrow surplus saving, and that always pushes the currencies lower,” he said. “The dollar is not immune to that time-honored adjustment.”

Roach, the former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, also put the probability of a double-dip recession in the US above 50 percent.

“As we head into flu season with the new infection rates moving back up again with mortality unacceptably high, the risk of an aftershock is not something you can dismiss,” he said. “The record of history suggests that this is not a time unlike what the frothy markets are doing to bet that this is different.”

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World may be running out of gold with mine production in decline

According to the World Gold Council, gold mine production totaled 3,531 tonnes in 2019, which is one percent lower than in the previous year. That is the first annual decline in production since 2008.

Statistics showed that around 190,000 tonnes of gold has been mined in total. Estimates do vary but based on those rough figures, there is about 20 percent still left to be mined. Some experts say we have mined the most we ever can in any one year, others believe we may have already reached that point.

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“While the growth in mine supply may slow or decline slightly in the coming years, as existing reserves are exhausted, and new major discoveries become increasingly rare, suggesting that production has peaked may still be a little premature,” said Hannah Brandstaetter, a spokesman for the World Gold Council.

She was echoed by Ross Norman of, who told Yahoo Finance that “Mine production has flat-lined, and is likely on a downward trajectory, but not dramatically so.”

Experts say that while new gold mines are still being found, discoveries of large deposits are becoming increasingly rare. In fact, most gold production currently comes from older mines that have been in use for decades, they add.

Around 60 percent of the world’s mining operations are currently surface mines, while the remainder are underground ones.

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“Mining is getting harder in the sense that many of the large, low-cost mines, and older ones such as in South Africa, are nearing exhaustion,” said Norman. “Chinese gold mines, on the other hand, are much smaller, and therefore have higher costs.”

China is currently the world’s biggest miner of gold while other major producers are Canada, Russia, and Peru. Experts note that there are relatively few unexplored regions left for mining, and possibly the most promising are in some of the more unstable parts of the world, such as in West Africa. 

The good news, however, is that unlike other non-renewable resources like oil, gold can be recycled. That means the world will never run out of gold, even when we can no longer mine it.

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China ramps up US crude oil imports as elections near

This month alone, China could import between 867,000 (barrels per day) bpd, according to Reuters’ Refinitiv data, and 900,000 bpd, according to oilfield services company Canary. And then the flow of US oil into China will decline, and it will decline sharply, Reuters’ Clyde Russell wrote this week. The reason as simple as it is worrying. The US crude that has been going into China since July—and reaching major records in terms of volume, with the July daily average alone up 139 percent on the year—was bought much earlier, in April, May, and June. This was oil bought when West Texas Intermediate was trading at multi-year lows. By June it had recovered to about $40, Russell notes, so purchases since then have been more modest.

But here is the worrying part: much of the oil price recovery we’ve seen since this spring was caused by rising Chinese imports, including from the United States. Rising imports are traditionally taken to mean improving demand, but this time this has not been the case entirely. Chinese refiners have been stocking up on crude more because of the historically low prices than to satisfy growing demand.

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In all fairness, oil demand has been seen as recovering pretty faster after the end of the lockdowns there but since China is not an isolated economy, its refining industry needs a recovery elsewhere in Asia and globally, and this has been slow in coming. Now, none other than OPEC is warning that a second wave of Covid-19 infections—already visible in parts of Europe, for example—will further slow down demand recovery, which will unavoidably affect Chinese oil imports.

According to Canary CEO Dave Eberhart, however, China will continue buying a lot of US oil ahead of the US elections. Beijing, Eberhart wrote for Forbes, would want to stay on Trump’s good side as much as possible in case he wins a second term. Reuters’ Russell is of a different opinion: he cites preliminary import estimates that point to a sharp decline in October to 500,000 bpd of US oil flowing into China and a further decline in November. For Russell, it’s all about the price. For Eberhart, it’s also about politics and the trade war.

“While importing US crude often doesn’t make commercial sense for China’s refiners, Beijing has directed them to continue buying as the election approaches—a sign that China knows that the trade issue with Trump will only intensify if the president wins a second term,” Eberhart wrote.

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Yet not everyone agrees that politics will trump the economy. In fact, data from Chinese market research firms suggests private refiners, if not the state giants, may sharply cut their intake of foreign oil this month and next. After all, storage space is finite and Chinese energy companies have been filling it up for months now while demand has been improving but is yet to return to growth mode, even in China with its rebounding economy.

It looks like the dominant opinion is for a decline in Chinese oil imports, from the US and elsewhere, in the coming months, not least because of lower refinery run rates. Reuters reported earlier this week refinery runs are set to be cut by 5-10 percent beginning this month because of a crude oil glut and weak fuel export margins. This would mean more pressure on prices. And this is not all. Some analysts expect that China may start selling the oil it bought on the cheap in the spring. Now that would be really bad news for oil prices.

By Irina Slav for

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