August 22, 2017
Trump backs Afghanistan expansion, Provident Financial slumps more than 60 percent, and top funds are doing well. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.
Play it again, Uncle Sam
President Donald Trump’s new plan in Afghanistan – more troops, more pressure on Taliban supporters – may sound familiar as the two previous occupants of the White House tried similar tactics. The new push to end the 16-year conflict includes increasing pressure on Pakistan, with Trump accusing the country of providing a “safe haven for terrorists.” The move is something of a change of heart by the president, who had previously been a critic of intervention in the region.
Shares in Provident Financial Plc, the British subprime lender which had tried to replace employees with technology, saw its shares fall more than 60 percent in London trading after the company scrapped its dividend, projected a full-year loss and saw its Chief Executive Peter Crook step down. The company had forecast a profit as recently as June.
Norway’s $970 billion piggy bank, the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, returned 2.6 percent in the second quarter. Trond Grande, deputy chief executive officer of Norges Bank Investment Management, said equity-market performance helped boost the fund, which owns 1.3 percent of global stocks. Separately, the Quantedge Global Fund gained 21 percent this year to make it the best-performing billion-dollar macro quant fund.
Markets still quietOvernight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced 0.1 percent, while Japan’s Topix index also added 0.1 percent in thin trading. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.5 percent higher at 5:40 a.m. Eastern Time as a rally in miners lifted stocks, while U.S. equity futures were broadly unchanged.
A barrel of West Texas Intermediate advanced to $47.51 at 5:40 a.m., ahead of U.S. data which are expected to show a further reduction in crude inventories. The spread between WTI and Brent crude remained at more than $4.00. BHP Billiton Ltd., meanwhile, is in talks with potential buyers of its U.S. shale assets, as one of the world’s top miners looks to unwind a 2011 deal spree.