Singapore, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Asian stocks were mostly lower on Thursday as the U.S. and China moved closer to imposing tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods, sounding a call of caution in the markets.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.9 percent to 22,296.35 and the Kospi in South Korea dropped 0.5 percent to 2,275.89. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent to 26,828.82. The trade spat is one reason the Hong Kong index has dropped 18 percent since its peak in late January. The Shanghai Composite index was 0.2 percent higher at 2,697.76. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.4 percent to 6,136.70.
WALL STREET: On Thursday, U.S. technology companies suffered sharp losses for the second day in a row and emerging markets slid on trade fears. The S&P 500 index dropped 0.4 percent to 2,878.05. The Nasdaq composite, which has a high concentration of technology companies, dipped 0.9 percent to 7,922.73. The index has lost 2.3 percent this week. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was 0.8 percent lower at 1,714.47. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.1 percent to 25,995.87, as industrial companies and high-dividend stocks rose.
US-CHINA TENSIONS: The Trump administration may impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on an additional $200 billion in Chinese goods, after a public comment period ended Thursday. The imports are equal to nearly 40 percent of all the goods China sold the United States last year. Doing so would escalate a confrontation between the world's two biggest economies and likely squeeze U.S. companies that import everything from handbags to bicycle tires. China has said that it is ready to retaliate with "necessary countermeasures" if President Donald Trump goes ahead with the tariff hike. Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said Thursday that the country is confident it can maintain "steady and healthy" economic growth. It has announced a $60 billion list of American products targeted for retaliation. The Chinese government has said it would help local and even foreign businesses in the country mitigate the effects of the trade dispute.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "The market is risk-off and pricing in the effects of new tariffs. It's a done deal as far as investors are concerned," said Francis Tan, investment strategist at UOB Private Bank. "I don't think that China will retaliate with a full-fletched devaluation of the yuan. They will turn to other non-tariff measures," he added.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 9 cents to $67.86 a barrel. The contract dropped 1.4 percent to settle at $67.77 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 1 cent to $76.49 a barrel. It lost 1 percent to $76.50 a barrel in London on Thursday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 110.67 yen from 110.83 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.1637 from $1.1625.
Washington, Sep 6 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said terrorism, Syria and Yemen were among the topics of discussion during a White House meeting Wednesday with the emir of Kuwait.
Trump said Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah was a "very special friend" of his, while the 89-year-old Kuwaiti ruler said he was "very happy" to meet Trump for the third time in nearly a year.
The president said the U.S. and Kuwait practice "large-scale" trade and investment, and work together against terrorism. He declared Kuwait a "great partner" in that effort.
The emir said before the meeting that he and Trump would also discuss trade and investment, and cooperation on the military, energy and education.
New York, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — Uber is aiming to boost driver and passenger safety in an effort to rebuild trust in the brand.
The ride-hailing company has created a feature on its app to reach out to passengers and drivers if it detects an accident or unplanned stop. Drivers will also have access to a hands-free feature to pick up passengers without touching their phones, and they will no longer see data detailing where they retrieved passengers in the past.
"This is just the beginning of the journey for Uber," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Wednesday during the company's unveiling of the new features in New York City. "We want Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet."
Uber plans to use location data to figure out if a stop seems unusual because there's no traffic or if a car hasn't made it to its final destination. If there is a long, unexpected stop during a trip, both the rider and the driver will receive a ride check notification to ask if everything is OK.
The company has also added a button to its app for drivers to contact emergency services, similar to the one it created for passengers in March. Uber says using the button is more efficient than calling 911 because the Uber app contains the vehicle's exact location.
Going forward, Uber will conceal specific pickup and drop-off addresses in the driver's trip history so that only the general area where a trip has started and ended will show up on the driver's app, not the address.
Khosrowshahi has made safety one of his top priorities since taking over as CEO a year ago. In April, Uber started doing annual criminal background checks on U.S. drivers and hired a company to constantly monitor criminal arrests.
The moves are an attempt to repair Uber's reputation after a wave of major scandals and bad press. About two weeks after Khosrowshahi started, London's transport regulator decided to strip Uber of its license to operate, saying that the company may be endangering public safety and security. Khosrowshahi apologized, flew to London to meet with officials and promised to change. A court eventually gave Uber a license, although much shorter than normal so it can be evaluated.
Since it began operating in 2009, Uber has been dogged by reports of drivers accosting passengers, including lawsuits alleging sexual assaults. Last year, the company was fined $8.9 million by the state of Colorado for allowing people with serious criminal or motor vehicle offenses to work as drivers. The Public Utilities Commission said it found nearly 60 people were allowed to drive in the state despite having previous felony convictions or major traffic violations including drunken driving.
Despite the scandals, Uber's ridership is growing, although it is struggling to make money ahead of Khosrowshahi's planned public stock offering sometime next year. The San Francisco company lost $891 million in the quarter ending last June, narrowing from a $1.06 billion loss for the same time last year.
Khosrowshahi, 49, an Iranian refugee, worked at Expedia and its parent company for 19 years before replacing combative but innovative Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Analysts say he has created a corporate culture of honesty that employees respect.
On Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said he hopes Uber will be the standard by which other transportation players are measured in terms of safety.
"In the end, we want you to know when you get into that car, whether you're a rider or a driver, that Uber's got your back," he said.
Beijing, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — China is trying to defuse a spiraling tariff war with Washington over technology policy by highlighting gains in other trade-related areas.
The Cabinet press office invited The Associated Press to interview the head of the country's patent and copyright office, as part of government efforts to persuade Washington and other trading partners to tone down objections to Chinese industry policy.
The official, Shen Changyu, pointed to improvements in fighting violations, previously a target of complaints by the United States, Europe and other traders.
"China's work on intellectual property protection is solid and very productive," said Shen, commissioner of the State Intellectual Property Office. "This point should be evaluated objectively and fairly by the international community."
The interview coincided with a series of events organized by Chinese officials, including briefings for foreign reporters by economists and other researchers, seeking to change minds abroad.
They have emphasized China's importance as a market, its plans to end ownership limits in its auto industry and other regulatory changes. But none of those moves directly addresses the policies that prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to impose penalty tariffs on Chinese goods.
Washington says Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. American officials say Chinese plans for state-led development of global champions in robotics and other fields violate Beijing's free-trade commitments and might erode American industrial leadership.
The Cabinet press office said Shen couldn't address those complaints because his office has no role in technology policy.
The Trump administration has imposed 25 percent duties on $50 billion of Chinese imports and is poised to add similar penalties on another $200 billion list of goods as early as this week. Beijing says it will retaliate.
Washington and Beijing went to the brink of a trade war in the 1990s over complaints China allowed rampant unlicensed copying of medicine, movies, software, designing clothing and other goods. Business groups say enforcement has improved since then, largely because Chinese companies started creating their own technology in smartphones, solar power and other fields that required protection.
Shen cited promises this year by President Xi Jinping and China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, to strength enforcement and "make infringers pay a heavy price."
"It is an independent choice for us to build an innovative country and promote economic and social development," said Shen.
The conflict has largely moved on from over rampant Chinese copying of Hollywood movies, music, software and medicines to one focused on the bedrock of Beijing's state-led development strategy.
Chinese officials have rejected U.S. pressure to scale back industry plans Beijing sees as the path to prosperity and global influence.
"Ratcheting up U.S. pressure will not work on China," said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, last week. "For people who still think China will give in to intimidation, threats and groundless criticism, I think it's the time for them to wake up."
Chinese leaders also have stressed protection for patents and copyrights in meetings with foreign businesspeople, though their reaction suggested the topic is no longer the irritant it once was.
Li, the premier, asked representatives of some of Europe's biggest companies at a July meeting to give examples of intellectual property theft or measures they wanted changed. None did during the portion of the meeting reporters were allowed to watch. Instead, a German auto executive expressed concern about Chinese industrial standards — part of technology policy.
Shen expressed frustration at the U.S. government's "Section 301" investigation that concluded Beijing improperly obtains foreign technology.
"In the 301 survey, intellectual property was a justification or an excuse," said Shen. "We hope the U.S. government will provide specific infringement cases or clues. We will deal with them seriously and will not tolerate them."
China faces similar, though more muted, criticism from Europe and other trading partners.
The 28-nation European Union challenged China's rules on technology licensing in a June complaint to the World Trade Organization. The EU said Beijing unfairly favors domestic companies in violation of its commitments to treat all competitors equally.
At a government-organized event last week, researchers from official think tanks stressed the potential gains from collaboration between the two biggest global economies and what might be lost if they fight.
"The United States and China are interdependent. Not just trade in goods but in many other areas too," said Wu Baiyi, director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"These are the only two countries with more than $10 trillion of economic scale," said Wu. "If there is a serious (economic) war between these two countries, then the whole world economic system may collapse. This will be a disaster for the whole world."
New Delhi, Sep 5 (AP/UNB) — Thousands of farmers, workers and agricultural laborers marched Wednesday to India's Parliament demanding better wages, more jobs, higher prices for their produce and an end to privatization of state-run companies.
Waving red communist flags and banners, the protesters blamed the Hindu nationalist government for hardships caused by years of declining earnings in the agriculture sector. The farmers want the government to ensure they earn at least one and a half times their costs in producing their crops.
The march was organized by the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist).
Vijoo Krishnan, joint secretary of the All India Farmers' Group, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government came to power after making many promises, but had betrayed the people.
"They said they would ensure a better life for the working class. So, it is a show of anger against this government and their policies that are only pro-corporate," he said.
Rain-dependent agriculture employs more than half of India's 1.3 billion people, but shrinking earnings mean it now accounts for only 15 percent of India's economy. The bulk of Indian farmers are poor.
Failed harvests force poor farmers to borrow money at high interest rates to buy seeds, fertilizers and food for their cattle. They often mortgage their land and, as debts mount, some are driven to suicide.