Bangkok, Jun 24 (AP/UNB) — Shares were wavering in Asia on Monday as investors watched for movement in the China-U.S. trade dispute ahead of a meeting between Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping planned for later this week in Osaka, Japan, at the Group of 20 summit.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 0.2% to 21,302.38 while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng also added 0.2% to 28,538.39. The Kospi in South Korea edged 0.1% higher 2,128.69. Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.1% to 6,643.30 and the Shanghai Composite index declined 0.1% to 2,999.30. Shares fell in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.
The biggest uncertainty looming over the market remains the U.S. trade war with China. Stocks mostly have rallied since Trump said he planned to meet with Xi, though Wall Street finished its milestone-setting week on a downbeat note on Friday as a late flurry of selling nudged stocks lower and snapped a four-day winning streak.
On Friday, the U.S. announced it was blacklisting five Chinese organizations involved in supercomputing with military-related applications, citing national security as justification for denying its Asian geopolitical rival access to critical U.S. technology.
The move by the U.S. Commerce Department could complicate talks with Xi aimed at de-escalating the tariffs war between the world's two biggest economies.
The five blacklisted organizations placed on the so-called Entity List include supercomputer maker Sugon, which is heavily dependent on U.S. suppliers including chipmakers Intel, Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices.
The other four are the Wuxi Jiangnan Institute of Computing Technology and three Sugon affiliates. The Commerce Department called their activities "contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."
This latest move has left market sentiment in limbo, analysts said.
"The Trump administration's further blacklisting of five Chinese tech companies ahead of the G-20 meeting had perhaps not been the best piece of news for markets with sentiment hinging on U.S.-China trade relations," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary.
"That said, neither had things taken any significant step for the worse within the market," she said.
Wall Street finished a milestone-setting week on a downbeat note Friday after a late flurry of selling nudged stocks lower, ending the market's four-day winning streak.
Even with the modest losses the market delivered its third straight weekly gain, with the benchmark S&P 500 index hovering just below its record high close from a day earlier.
The S&P 500 index dipped 0.1% to 2,950.46. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1% to 26,719.13. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.2% to 8,031.71.
Smaller company stocks fared worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index slumped 0.9% to 1,549.63.
The major U.S. stock indexes are up more than 7% so far this month and are holding on to gains of more than 14% for the year.
Investors have been reassured by statements from the Federal Reserve this month that suggest the central bank is prepared to cut interest rates in response to a slowing global economy. At the same time, traders remain concerned that corporate profits might suffer should the kind of economic slowdown that would prompt the Fed to cut rates take hold.
A mixed batch of economic data on Friday didn't have much of an impact on trading, which remained mostly muted as investors took a breather after a four-day rally.
Benchmark crude oil picked up 38 cents to $57.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 0.6% to settle at $57.43 a barrel on Friday, ending with a 9.2% gain for the week, the biggest weekly gain in more than two years. Only a few weeks ago, the price of U.S. crude was in a correction, what Wall Street calls a drop of at least 20% from a recent peak.
Brent crude oil, the international standard, climbed 24 cents to $64.69 per barrel.
The dollar was hovering at 107.40 Japanese yen, up from 107.30 yen on Friday. The euro rose to $1.1381 from $1.1371.
Frankfurt, Jun 24 (AP/UNB) — Automaker Daimler said Sunday that profits for the second quarter will be hit by troubles with diesel vehicles from its Mercedes-Benz brand and downgraded its earnings forecast for the full year.
The company said in a news release that it would be hit by "a high three-digit million" euro increase in charges related to ongoing government proceedings and measures related to diesel vehicles.
It said full-year operating earnings would be "in the magnitude" of last year's 11.1 billion euros ($12.6 billion) instead of seeing slight growth.
The company's Mercedes-Benz Vans division would see a loss amounting to a negative return on sales of 2% to 4% for the years. The division lost 98 million euros in the first quarter.
Daimler was ordered Friday by Germany's vehicle authority to recall 60,000 SUVs with technology the authority said impermissibly reduced emission controls. The company said in its first-quarter earnings release it faces a probe of emissions matters by the U.S. Justice Department; German prosecutors in Stuttgart searched company offices as part of a probe in 2017 and are also investigating. Daimler also faces a consumer class-action lawsuit in the US along with supplier Bosch alleging a conspiracy to deceive U.S. regulators.
Daimler is scheduled to release its second-quarter earnings on July 24, the first quarterly report under new CEO Ola Kallenius, who has taken over from Dieter Zetsche.
Camarillo, Jun 24 (AP/UNB) — The average U.S. price of regular-grade gasoline dropped 11 cents per gallon (3.8 liters) over the past two weeks, to $2.73.
Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg of the Lundberg Survey says Sunday that lower crude oil prices contributed to the drop at the pump. Oil prices rose last week, however, because of tensions between the United States and Iran, as well as following the Federal Reserve signal of a potential interest rate cut.
The price is 22 cents lower than what it was a year ago.
The highest average price in the nation is $3.78 a gallon in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The lowest average is $2.17 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The average price of diesel fell by 6 cents since June 7, to $3.06.
Bangkok, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — Southeast Asian leaders have pressed their call for self-restraint in the disputed South China Sea after a new incident and renewed their alarm over the U.S.-China trade war with one warning it may spiral out of control.
The long-raging territorial conflicts and the protracted dispute between the two global economic powerhouses are high on the agenda of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders meeting Sunday in an annual summit in the Thai capital of Bangkok.
Facing predicaments such as the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, the leaders took the stage and clasped their hands together in a trademark ASEAN handshake to project unity.
The 10-nation bloc lumps together an absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchies, along with socialist republics and fledgling democracies.
Washington, Jun 23 (AP/UNB) — The Trump administration on Saturday unveiled a $50 billion Palestinian investment and infrastructure proposal intended to be the economic engine to power its much-anticipated but still unreleased "deal of the century" Middle East peace plan.
The scheme, which calls for a mix of public and private financing and intends to create at least a million new jobs for Palestinians, was posted to the White House website ahead of a two-day conference in Bahrain that is being held amid heavy skepticism about its viability and outright opposition from the Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday reiterated his rejection of the proposal and the conference.
The "Peace to Prosperity" workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday will also take place amid heightened regional tensions over Iran that threaten to overshadow its goals.
With no official participation from the two main protagonists, Israel and the Palestinians, and scant enthusiasm from others, continued uncertainty and strong doubts over the plan's political vision and the distraction of potential U.S.-Iran conflict, expectations are decidedly low. President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner faces high hurdles in building support for the initiative.
The 10-year plan calls for projects worth $27.5 billion in the West Bank and Gaza, and $9.1 billion, $7.4 billion and $6.3 billion for Palestinians in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, respectively. Projects envisioned include those in the health care, education, power, water, high-tech, tourism, and agriculture sectors. It calls for the creation of a "master fund" to administer the finances and implementation of the projects that is says are akin to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.
The plan foresees more than doubling the Palestinian gross domestic product, reducing the Palestinian poverty rate by 50 percent and cutting the sky-high Palestinian unemployment rate to nearly single digits, according to the documents, which do not specify exactly how the projects will be funded.
It also calls for linking the West Bank and Gaza with a modern transportation network, including high-speed rail service. Such ideas have been floated in the past in previous peace proposals but have run into Israeli security concerns.
"Generations of Palestinians have lived under adversity and loss, but the next chapter can be defined by freedom and dignity," the White House said, calling the plan "the most ambitious international effort for the Palestinian people to date."
But an already tough sell that has vexed U.S. administrations for decades is made tougher not least because Trump and his aides have refused to endorse a two-state solution to the conflict that has long been seen as the only viable path to lasting peace. They have also suggested they are open to unilateral Israeli annexation of occupied territory in the West Bank. And, officials say there is no intention of discussing either issue or the most contentious parts of their proposal to end the long-running conflict.
Thus, the core political issues that are key to resolving the dispute, such as borders, the status of the holy city of Jerusalem, Israel's security and the fate of Palestinian refugees, will not be raised. Such matters, U.S. officials have said, may have to wait until the fall, after Israeli elections, leaving numerous questions that potential investors almost certainly want answers to before making even tentative financial commitments.
Palestinian leaders, angered by what they and their supporters see as blatant U.S. bias toward Israel, want nothing to do with the workshop and will not participate. The Palestinians have called for mass demonstrations against the conference on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The plan cannot pass because it ends the Palestinian cause," Abbas said on Saturday. "We are not going to attend this workshop, the reason is that the economic situation should not be discussed before a political situation, so long as there is no political situation, we do not deal with any economic situation."
An economic adviser to Abbas said projects envisaged in the U.S. proposal could be considered, but only after the political question is agreed upon. "Yes, we need to build the infrastructure, the investment, the tourism sector ... but that cannot come before ending the Israeli occupation," Mohammed Mustafa, head of Palestinian Investment Fund, told The Associated Press.
In Gaza, the rival Hamas militant group has also condemned the conference. "In one voice, we say no to the Manama workshop and the deal of the century," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said. He appealed to Bahrain's king to "take a brave, strong, authentic Arab decision not to host this workshop" and called on Arab countries to cancel their planned participation.
Complicating the Bahrain meeting is the fact that it coincides with a pledging conference in New York for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, a 70-year-old institution that the Trump administration has defunded and wants to eliminate entirely. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, already provides health, education and other services to millions of Palestinians.
Its supporters suspect the administration purposely scheduled the Bahrain conference to conflict with its event, noting that Kushner's peace plan partner Jason Greenblatt has publicly called for UNRWA's dissolution. Greenblatt argued last month that the agency perpetuates Palestinian victimhood, abets anti-Israel sentiment and is an inefficient drain on funds that could be better directed.
Kushner's plan includes large sums of money for Jordan and Lebanon, countries with large Palestinian refugee populations, in an apparent attempt to have them absorbed into these nations.
Regardless of American intent, the dueling meetings are likely to leave donors, particularly European nations, in an awkward position: torn between supporting an established international organization or a mystery concept being put together by a U.S. administration that has in two years reversed a half-century of American Middle East policy.
Since Trump took office, he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, downgraded the consulate devoted to Palestinian issues, shut down the Palestinian office in Washington and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to the West Bank and Gaza.
Such steps have made Kushner's prospects for success in Bahrain even slimmer, according to experts.
"This is trying to dangle some benefits to the Palestinians to accept terms they already rejected," said Shibley Telhami, a Mideast scholar and the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland. "A lure to get the Palestinians to accept the unacceptable is not going to work. It's impossible."
Although Washington's Gulf Arab allies are supportive of the plan, Israel's immediate neighbors have been more reluctant to embrace it.
Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab countries with peace deals with Israel, are sending mid-ranking officials from their finance ministries and not Cabinet ministers to Bahrain.
Jordanian foreign ministry spokesman Sufian al-Qudah reiterated Amman's position that a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 borders and a capital in east Jerusalem, "is the only way to resolve the conflict and achieve security, stability and comprehensive peace in the region."
Egypt supports the same conditions, the state-run news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez as saying.