Feb 19, 2019, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
Talks between China and the U.S. toward a trade agreement restart in Washington today, with Vice Premier Liu He scheduled to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Feb. 21-22. Steve Censky, the Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary, said at an industry conference yesterday that talks are “picking up” ahead of the March 1 deadline for the imposition of new tariffs, despite few obvious signs of progress to date.
California is leading 16 states as they sue to block President Donald Trump using emergency powers to pay for his promised border wall. The move will come as no surprise to the White House, with Trump saying he would be challenged in court over the decision when he announced it on Friday. Meanwhile, Congress is still mulling its own legal and legislative options to challenge the president. Also on Trump’s desk is a probe into whether imported vehicles pose a national security threat. The president has 90 days to decide whether to impose up to 25 percent tariffs on such vehicles, a move that would be likely to start a trade war with Europe.
The long-standing March 29 deadline is fast approaching, with negotiators battling to clinch a deal for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “we are in God’s hands” as an agreement continues to be elusive. The main sticking point is still the contentious Irish border backstop, with both sides working on a new legal text to try to find a breakthrough. Meanwhile, the path to a deal could be further complicated by the shifting political landscape in the U.K.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.1 percent while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.3 percent higher after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said a stronger yen could force further monetary stimulus. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.3 percent lower by 5:50 a.m. Eastern Time with banks coming under pressure following disappointing results from HSBC Holdings Plc. S&P 500 futures pointed to a slightly weaker open after the holiday break, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.663 percent and gold was higher.
While there are no major decisions this week, it’s going to be a busy time for central-bank watchers with minutes from the most recent Fed and ECB meetings due. There are also several speakers to watch including the ECB’s vice-president and chief economist, while Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester gives an address on the economic outlook at 8:50 a.m. Away from monetary policy, Walmart Inc. is scheduled to report results today, which may give further clues as to the health of U.S. retail.