Beijing, May 7 (AP/UNB) — China confirmed Tuesday its economy czar will go to Washington for trade talks despite fears he might cancel after President Donald Trump threatened to escalate a tariff war over Beijing's technology ambitions.
The announcement indicated President Xi Jinping's government puts its desire to end a conflict that has battered Chinese exporters ahead of the political need to look tough in the face of U.S. pressure.
The decision to have Vice Premier Liu He, Xi's top economic adviser, take part in talks due to start Thursday might keep alive hopes the two biggest global economies could make peace as early as this week.
The Trump administration is pressing Beijing to roll back plans for government-led development of Chinese global competitors in robotics, electric cars and other technologies. Washington, Europe, Japan and other trading partners say those violate China's market-opening commitments and are based in part on stolen technology.
Trump's announcement Sunday that he would increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports to 25% from 10% caused global stock markets to plunge. Markets recovered after a Chinese spokesman said Monday envoys still were preparing to go to the United States, though there was no word then whether Liu would take part.
The American side is led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
A Commerce Ministry statement announcing Liu's plans gave no indication whether other details such as the size of his delegation might change.
The Chinese government didn't immediately respond to accusations Monday by American officials that Beijing was trying to backtrack on commitments made in earlier negotiations.
Washington and Beijing have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's exports, disrupting trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment. Estimates of lost potential sales so far range as high as $25 billion.
Both governments have said negotiations were making progress, but Trump expressed frustration Sunday at the pace.
Mnuchin said Monday that Chinese officials "were trying to go back on some of the language" that had been negotiated in 10 earlier rounds of talks.
The conflict is testing how far Beijing is willing to go in changing a state-led economic model it sees as the path to prosperity and global influence — and how much power Washington will have to enforce any agreement.
The United States accuses Beijing of pressing companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access, improperly subsidizing Chinese firms and stealing American trade secrets.
No details of the talks have been released. But private sector analysts say Beijing is willing to change details of its plans so long as it preserves the ruling Communist Party's dominant economic role.
The Trump administration has imposed 10% tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and 25% tariffs on another $50 billion. The Chinese have retaliated by targeting $110 billion in U.S. imports.
Trump said Sunday he also planned to impose 25% tariffs on another $325 billion in Chinese products. That would extend penalties to everything China ships to the United States, its biggest foreign customer.
A stumbling block in the talks is U.S. insistence on an enforcement mechanism with penalties if Beijing fails to keep its promises. The Trump administration wants to keep tariffs on Chinese imports to maintain leverage over Beijing.
Washington, May 4 (AP/UNB) — Hiring accelerated and pay rose at a solid pace in April, setting the stage for healthy U.S. economic growth to endure despite fears of a slowdown earlier this year.
Employers added 263,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dropping to a five-decade low of 3.6% from 3.8%, though that drop partly reflected an increase in the number of Americans who stopped looking for work. Average hourly pay rose 3.2% from 12 months earlier, matching March's year-over-year increase.
Friday's jobs report from the government showed that economic growth remains brisk enough to encourage strong hiring nearly a decade into the economy's recovery from the Great Recession. The economic expansion, which has fueled 103 straight months of hiring, is set to become the longest in history in July.
"All of the recession talk earlier in the spring was much ado about nothing," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC.
Trump administration officials insisted that the job market's gains were a result of the president's tax cuts and deregulatory policies.
"We have entered a very strong and durable prosperity cycle," said Larry Kudlow, director of the White House's National Economic Council.
President Donald Trump has also pressed the Federal Reserve to cut short-term interest rates because inflation remains low. But most economists said the healthy jobs picture, against the backdrop of low inflation, would reinforce the Fed's current wait-and-see approach. The Fed raised rates four times last year but has signaled that it doesn't foresee any rate increases this year.
Investors welcomed the April jobs data by sending stock prices broadly higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 197 points, or 0.75%.
Jason Guggisberg, vice president of Adecco USA, a staffing firm that finds temporary and permanent hires for business clients, said companies are doing much more to attract workers. They are offering more perks — like free lunches or weekly happy hours — and allowing more flexible work schedules.
Some are also raising pay, though Guggisberg said many of them have to be persuaded to do so. Adecco often has to show its clients data about how many jobs are available in a given area and how few workers are actually searching for jobs.
"We are constantly having conversations with clients about supply and demand" and reminding them that most applicants have multiple job opportunities, he said. "Two years ago, I don't know that I ever had that conversation."
The brightening economic picture represents a sharp improvement from the start of the year. At the time, the government was enduring a partial shutdown, the stock market had plunged, trade tensions between the United States and China were flaring and the Fed had just raised short-term rates in December. Analysts worried that the economy might barely expand in the first three months of the year and might even tip into recession in the ensuing months.
Yet the outlook soon brightened. Chair Jerome Powell signaled that the Fed would put rate hikes on hold. Trade negotiations between the U.S. and China made some progress. The economic outlook in some other major economies improved. Share prices rebounded.
And in the end, the government reported that the U.S. economy grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the January-March period — the strongest pace for a first quarter since 2015. That said, the growth was led mostly by factors that could prove temporary — a restocking of inventories in warehouses and on store shelves and a narrowing of the U.S. trade deficit. By contrast, consumer spending and business investment, which more closely reflect the economy's underlying strength, were relatively weak.
But American households have become more confident since the winter and are ramping up spending. Consumer spending surged in March by the most in nearly a decade. A likely factor is that steady job growth and solid wage increases have enlarged Americans' paychecks.
Businesses are also spending more freely. Orders to U.S. factories for long-lasting capital goods jumped in March by the most in eight months. That suggested that companies were buying more computers, machinery and other equipment to keep up with growing customer demand.
Years of steady hiring have sharply lowered unemployment for a range of population groups. The unemployment rate for women fell last month to 3.1%, the lowest point since 1953. The rate for Latinos dropped to 4.2%, a record low since 1973, when the government began tracking the data.
For Asians, joblessness has matched a record low of 2.2%. And the unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars dropped to 1.7%, also a record low.
Most of last month's job growth occurred in services, which includes both higher-paying jobs in information technology and lower-paying temporary work. Manufacturers added just 4,000 jobs. Construction firms gained 33,000, mostly on public infrastructure projects.
Professional and business services, which include IT networking jobs as well as accountants and engineers, led the gains with 76,000. Education and health care added 62,000 jobs, while a category that mostly includes restaurants and hotels gained 34,000.
Retailers, however, continued to cut jobs, shedding 12,000 in April, the third straight months of cuts. The sector has eliminated 49,000 jobs in the past year even as the economy has picked up.
Retailers are suffering from broader changes in the economy as more Americans are shopping online and stores close after decades of overexpansion. Also to blame is an aging U.S. population that no longer needs to buy as much clothing and other goods.
Singapore, May 2 (AP/UNB) — Asian stocks were mixed on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve kept its benchmark interest rate intact and steered clear of suggesting that a cut was possible this year. Trading was light with markets in Japan and mainland China closed.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.4% to 29,829.76 while Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.6% to 6,340.20. The Kospi in South Korea was 0.3% higher at 2,209.33. Stocks rose in Taiwan but fell in Singapore and Indonesia.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate — which determines the cost of borrowing for individuals and businesses — in a range of 2.25% to 2.5% as expected.
Still, some traders had hoped the Fed would signal a rate cut to lift persistently low inflation to its 2% target rate. The Fed's preferred 12-month inflation barometer is running at about 1.5%.
Chairman Jerome Powell steered clear of this at a news conference. "The committee is comfortable with our current policy stance," he said.
Powell added that current inflation readings may be transitory and not fully indicative of real-world price increases.
"Equity markets were looking for so much more from the Fed and were shocked when Chair Powell said the Fed did not see a convincing case to move rates in either direction," Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.
Over on Wall Street, stocks closed lower after climbing earlier in the day on strong earnings reports.
The broad S&P 500 index retreated 0.8% to 2,923.73 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.6% to 26,430.14 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.6% to 8,049.64. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks shed 0.9% to 1,576.38.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 14 cents to $63.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 31 cents to settle at $63.60 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 19 cents to $71.99 per barrel. It added 12 cents to close at $72.18 per barrel in the previous session.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.54 Japanese yen from 111.38 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1207 from $1.1198.
Bangkok, May 1 (AP/UNB) — Financial markets were mostly closed in Asia on Wednesday for holidays after Wall Street capped a wobbly trading session with meager gains.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 rose 0.8% on Wednesday after ANZ reported a 2% increase in its profit, kicking off the earnings season for the country's Big Four banks. New Zealand's benchmark fell 0.6%.
There was no word of specific progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China that were underway in Beijing. With most global markets closed, investors are focusing on a meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday.
On Wall Street, a late spurt of buying helped the S&P 500 claim an all-time high for the third straight trading session after hovering below its previous high for most of the day.
Household goods makers, health care stocks, utilities and other sectors helped lift the market, narrowly offsetting a steep decline in communications companies.
Google's parent company, Alphabet, led the slide after the search giant reported a slowdown in revenue growth. Retailers and hospitality industry companies also fell.
The market's latest gyrations came as investors weighed the latest batch of corporate earnings reports.
"This is a market that's trying to find its way after advancing nearly 18% through last night on a year-to-date basis," said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA. "While the numbers have been good, there still remains a cautious tone in the market."
The S&P 500 rose 0.1%, to 2,945.83, while Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1% to 26,592.91.
The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology companies, fell 0.8% to 8,095.39. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks dropped 0.4% to 1,591.21.
Major indexes in Europe finished mostly higher.
Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10 year Treasury fell to 2.50% from 2.53% late Monday.
The U.S. stock market has been riding high this year after mounting a big comeback from a steep slump at the end of 2018. Investors have been feeling more optimistic this year as fears of a global economic recession eased and negotiations between the U.S. and China over their costly trade war appear to be making progress.
The Federal Reserve has done the most to allay the market's jitters this year by signaling that it may not raise interest rates at all in 2019 after seven increases the previous two years.
Traders will get to hear from the Fed again on Wednesday, when the central bank's policymakers issue another update on interest rate policy and their view on the U.S. economy.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gave up 58 cents to $63.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 0.6% to settle at $63.91 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 47 cents to $71.59 per barrel. It added 1.1% to close at $72.80 per barrel in the previous session.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.49 Japanese yen from 111.42 yen late Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1219 from $1.1215.
Seoul, Apr 30 (AP/UNB) — Samsung Electronics Co. says its operating profit for the last quarter declined more than 60% from a year earlier because of falling chip prices and sluggish demands for its display panels.
The South Korean technology giant on Tuesday said its operating profit for the January-March period came in at 6.2 trillion won ($5.2 billion), which was similar to an estimate it announced earlier this month.
Samsung says its revenue for the quarter was measured at 52.4 trillion won ($45 billion), which represented a 13.5% drop from the same period last year.
Samsung, which has dual strength in parts and finished products, is the world's biggest maker of memory chips and smartphones.