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Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Amazing News- Belgian boy wonder drops out of Dutch university at the age of 9


AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A nine-year-old Belgian boy who was on track to become the world’s youngest university graduate has terminated his studies at the Dutch university of Eindhoven following a dispute over his possible graduation date.


Laurent Simons made headlines around the globe last month, as he looked set to complete a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Eindhoven’s University of Technology before the end of the year - which would have made him the world’s first ever graduate under the age of 10.

But on Monday, the university told Laurent and his parents that plan no longer looked feasible, considering the number of exams he still needed to finish before his birthday on Dec 26.

“Laurent is an exceptionally gifted boy, who is going through his studies at an unprecedented pace”, the university said in a statement.

As the original plan looked unachievable, the university said it had offered “a still phenomenally quick scheme in which he would end his education mid-2020.”

However, the boy’s parents decided not to accept the offer and immediately ended Laurent’s study in Eindhoven.


“Until last week everything was fine, and now suddenly they see a delay of six months,” Laurent’s father, Alexander Simons, told Reuters on Tuesday.

The exact date of Laurent’s graduation had never really been an issue for the family, he said, but became one as they felt the university was reacting to their plans to move the boy’s further education abroad.

“It’s very peculiar that this all comes right at the time when we were finalizing our plans for Laurent’s PhD at a different university”, Simons senior said.

“There is a lot of interest in Laurent from universities he would be honored to join... There is so much demand for Laurent, he is a unique project which everybody wants to be a part of,” he added.

Laurent, inspired by Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla, has said he wants to research artificial organs, and ultimately to develop an entire artificial body in his own laboratory.

Currently the youngest person to obtain a college degree is American Michael Kearney, who achieved the feat in June 1994 at the age of 10 years 4 months, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.


Reporting by Bart Meijer

FOREX- Nightmare before Christmas? Traders dig in for long British election night


LONDON (Reuters) - It’s the time of year when London’s banker and traders wind down and prepare for holidays. Instead, many are cancelling leave and will work all night on Thursday as Britain votes in an unpredictable election that could convulse global markets.


Major banks including Barclays and HSBC also plan to deploy extra staff through the night, not just in London but also on trading floors in New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, to make sure they’re constantly on call for clients.

This may seem an oversized reaction in an age where trading is increasingly reliant on robots, but this is a financially pivotal event where investors could make or break fortunes. It is Britain’s first December election in almost a century, and Brexit itself could be on the table.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party is running on a pledge to enact a swift split from the EU, while Jeremy Corbyn’s main opposition Labour is promising another referendum on membership of the bloc.

“I just basically canceled all holidays for our trading team next Friday, because we had some people actually who tried to take leave, this has all been canceled, which gives you an idea about what I expect on that day,” said Marco Pabst, chief investment officer at big Swiss private bank UBP.


The pound plunged more than 10% in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, while $2 trillion was wiped off world markets.

While the prospect of a second Brexit referendum could be a positive for sterling, countering factors could be Corbyn’s policies to nationalize parts of the economy, as well as further uncertainty as Brexit is delayed once more.

London is the world’s biggest center for the global $6.6 trillion a day foreign exchange markets and the biggest hub for secondary bond market trading, meaning any Brexit-fueled volatility can have global implications.

‘ADRENALINE KEEPS YOU GOING’
Of the many outcomes possible, market watchers fear an outright Labour Party win as the most damaging one for markets, even though markets assign it a very low probability.

British mid-cap stocks with high exposure to the domestic economy have rallied more than 8% since October while the pound has gained nearly 7% versus the euro to a 2-1/2 year high at 84 pence as markets have increasingly factored in a Johnson win.

Opinion polls have consistently shown the Conservatives holding a healthy lead, yet the pollsters failed to accurately call the last two British elections and dramatically dropped the ball on Brexit and Trump.

Exit polls on Thursday will begin at around 2200 GMT, after voting closes, with a Nomura analysis indicating that if they produce a surprise, sterling will react.

Then the official results will begin to trickle in.

Of particular interest will be results from Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which will arrive from 2330 GMT. While all the six seats there are expected to stay Labour, any signs of Conservatives over or under-performing will be seized upon as signposts to a national result.

Jonathan Pryor, head of foreign exchange sales at Investec in London expects these early results will be when clients would first want some insights on the broader picture.

“Obviously it’s not easy to stay up all night and the small hours are the hardest bit, but the adrenaline keeps you going.”


FIRST TO MOVE: STERLING
There will be no let-up in 24-hour global markets.


Sterling will be the first to react to the early results, according to market players, with the pound versus the dollar and euro the key crosses to watch.

The next potential movers will be the shares of major banks listed in Hong Kong, namely Standard Chartered (2888.HK) and HSBC (0005.HK). Next up could be the United Kingdom exchange traded fund (EWU), an instrument that allows investors to trade UK-focused stocks outside British hours.

Then financial eyes turn to miners listed in Australia.

The election is taking place at a time when investors have typically shut their trading books for the year which means any market volatility could be exacerbated. Risk managers are testing electronic trading systems to ensure there are no glitches in case market volatility jumps sharply.

Expected price swings for the pound over a one-week period as measured by derivative gauges is running at around 11%, more than double July’s reading, and traders expect it to jump further as election results start coming in.

Some investors such as Kaspar Hense, a portfolio manager at BlueBay Asset Management in London who helps manage $60 billion in assets, said it might simply be best to steer clear.

“We have closed our long sterling position going into election night,” said Hense. “There is too much risk.”

Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft, Tommy Wilkes


FOREX- After year of living dangerously, Fed likely to signal time to lay low


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve holds its last policy meeting of 2019 on Wednesday, having completed a year-long U-turn that saw it abandon a tightening cycle and lower borrowing costs three times in response to the global trade war.


The policy shift has slashed officials’ forecast for the U.S. central bank’s benchmark overnight lending rate over 2020 to a level half what it was when Fed Chairman Jerome Powell took the reins in February 2018.

The Fed is expected to leave its federal funds rate unchanged at a level between 1.5% and 1.75% when it ends a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday and reiterate that it will likely remain at that level through much if not all of 2020, a presidential election year.

As of March 2018, in the first set of economic projections issued under Powell, the median rate foreseen for the end of 2020 was 3.4%.

Having pulled rate expectations down steadily since then, Fed policymakers are likely to repeat and perhaps intensify the message sent in late October, when borrowing costs were last reduced, that only a “material” shock to the economy - for good or for ill - would prompt them to alter rates again.

“No change in rates, only cosmetic changes to the statement, and repetition of the message that the Fed is on hold with a high bar for making a move,” Cornerstone Macro analyst Roberto Perli wrote in his outlook for this week’s meeting.

The Fed is scheduled to release its latest policy statement and economic projections at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). It is possible the rate decision will be unanimous, which would be a major accomplishment for Powell. The Fed was at times sharply divided in 2019, with as many as three of 10 voting officials dissenting against some of its policy decisions.

Powell is due to hold a news conference half an hour after the release of the policy statement.


His comments will cap a complicated year in which he and his colleagues have been under a steady barrage of personal insults and demands for rate cuts from President Donald Trump, but also one in which they had to assess how Trump’s confrontational, tariff-heavy approach to trade had changed the economic outlook.

The Fed over the year concluded that cheaper money was required to offset the trade war, the resulting drag on business investment, and the rising risk of recession that world bond markets flagged last summer.

Policymakers also came to terms with the fact that a startlingly low U.S. unemployment rate of 3.5% can apparently coexist with tame inflation. That contradicts the common assumption that tight labor markets cause prices to rise, and made the Fed more comfortable reducing interest rates without fear of laying the groundwork for future problems.


‘HUGE ACHIEVEMENT’

Some of the storm clouds around trade may be lifting. A revised trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico appears headed towards final approval soon, and a looming set of tariffs on more Chinese imports is expected to at least be delayed as talks between Washington and Beijing on a “Phase One” deal continue.

That will shift the focus on Wednesday to what Fed officials foresee for the economy next year - and most notably whether they expect growth to slow or accelerate appreciably.

It will be an important signal not just for markets, but also for Trump and Democratic presidential hopefuls wondering if they will be campaigning in an economy that is growing, stumbling, or muddling along.

In recent weeks there has been little reason for the Fed to change its economic outlook from September, when officials saw the economy growing at a steady 2% next year with unemployment remaining low and inflation tame, said Ed Al-Hussainy, senior interest rate analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments.

Given the risks the economy faced last year, “that is a huge achievement they are already signaling,” he said. “They have not learned anything new in the last six weeks, so it would be very unusual to signal a change.”

Reporting by Howard Schneider

FOREX- Asian shares drift higher, pound eases on YouGov poll


SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Asian stocks extended earlier gains on Wednesday, although advances were patchy ahead of key central bank meetings while the pound wobbled as opinion polls pointed to a tight UK election later this week.


Investors were also cautious ahead of Washington’s deadline for new tariffs on Chinese goods this Sunday, although stronger-than-expected Chinese loans data provided some support for sentiment.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.5% higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 led gains with 0.7% rises. Shanghai blue chips rose 0.2%.

Japan’s Nikkei was unchanged. Futures pointed to flat open in Europe and on Wall Street.

Faced with conflicting reports, investors have begun to suspect that even if tariffs due to take effect on Sunday are delayed, it could take until 2020 before Washington and Beijing can agree a preliminary deal to wind back their trade war.

“Every day we get a little bit of a nudge one way or the other,” said Rob Carnell, Asia-Pacific chief economist at ING in Singapore. “You just don’t know who to believe, whether these comments have any basis in reality or whether they’re a negotiating tactic.”

There was some good news form investors on China’s economy with new bank loans rebounding more than expected in November, data showed on Tuesday, a sign that recent cuts to key lending rates were finding some traction.

Without harder news on the trade front, investors’ focus turned to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting and its outlook for the economy due at 2000 GMT, as well as Britain’s election and a European Central Bank (ECB) meeting.

The Fed is widely expected to hold rates steady, with investors watching for whether the central bank changes its view of the economy and its 2% growth forecast for next year.

U.S. inflation data due at 1330 GMT, expected to hold steady, may further reduce chances for rate cuts next year should it surprise on the upside.

Christine Lagarde holds her first meeting and news conference as ECB chief on Thursday.


The biggest mover among major currencies was the pound, which shed 0.3% to hit $1.3128 after a closely watched YouGov poll showed the ruling Conservatives tracking toward a much slimmer majority than forecast a fortnight ago.

It recouped some losses during the day, but remained under the eight-month high struck overnight, when investors were more confident of a Conservative victory and expected it could end uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union.

YouGov’s research director, however, said the results showed a hung parliament was possible.

“Granted, this still portrays a Tory (Conservative) majority but given what is already priced ... the actual outcome has resulted in some of the heat coming out of a fairly frothy market,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone.


TRADE STALEMATE

While China and the United States have still to settle differences on trade, officials from Canada, Mexico and the United States signed a fresh overhaul of the quarter-century-old North American trade pact.

A Wall Street Journal report that said U.S. and Chinese officials were preparing for a delay to the Dec. 15 round of tariffs knocked bonds but did not shift stocks since it suggested no resolution to the trade conflict.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump would make a decision soon on whether to enforce or suspend the tariffs.

Overnight the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 each fell 0.1%, while the Nasdaq dropped by a little less.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes, which moves inversely to price, last stood a little higher at 1.8364%.

Elsewhere among currencies, the dollar nursed overnight losses against the euro after German economic sentiment sharply rose after an unexpected rebound in October exports.

The kiwi dollar drifted 0.3% lower to $0.6526 as the government trimmed its growth forecasts and announced a long-term fiscal spending program.

U.S. crude dipped 0.5% to $58.92 a barrel, while gold was steady at $1464.80 per ounce.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

TRADING- World stocks go down as tariff deadline approaches


LONDON (Reuters) - Global stock markets fell for a second day on Tuesday, as caution over a Dec. 15 deadline for the next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports weakened risk appetite and limited outsized market moves.


Following their counterparts in Asia, European shares fell for a second day, with the pan-European STOXX 600 index down 1.09% at 1206 GMT. Germany’s DAX fell 1.44% to its lowest in a week.

The MSCI All-Country World Index, which tracks shares across 47 countries, was down 0.2%. U.S. stocks futures were down about 0.3%.

Market uncertainty before the tariff deadline was reinforced by comments from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday, who said President Donald Trump did not want to implement tariffs but did want to see “movement” from China.

The deadline looms over a series of events this week, with markets also awaiting the UK election on Thursday and U.S. and European Central Bank meetings.

Euro zone government bond yields were mostly steady, refusing to budge from recent ranges. Germany’s benchmark Bund yield inched up to -0.29%, moving in a three-basis- point-range.

Italian 10-year bond yields, which fell on Monday, were flat on the day at 1.39%.

In the euro zone, Christine Lagarde holds her first meeting and news conference as ECB chief on Thursday.


“Expectations for policy action from the ECB and Fed are subdued,” said Commerzbank rates strategist Rainer Guntermann. “Lagarde’s communication style will be watched closely, but that’s unlikely to lead to any repricing in bond markets.”

Germany’s ZEW research institute said its monthly index on economic morale among investors rose to 10.7 from -2.1 a month earlier, much higher than forecast by economists.

The reading pushed up a market gauge of euro zone inflation expectations to its highest in a month and boosted the euro, which last traded 0.15% higher at $1.1082.

On Tuesday, the U.S. two-year yield, a sign of market expectations of Fed fund rates, was at 1.619%, down from its close of 1.627% on Monday. The 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.8138% from a U.S. close of 1.8225% on Monday.

With investors reluctant to make big bets, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.25% lower. China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index was higher by 0.1%.

New data in China showed producer prices fell in November but consumer prices spiked, complicating efforts to boost demand as economic growth slows.

Australian shares were down 0.34%. Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.08%.


Tepid trade followed weakness on Wall Street overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.38% to 27,909.6, the S&P 500 lost 0.32% to 3,135.96 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.4% to 8,621.83.

Investors were also keeping an eye on the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Fed is expected to leave rates unchanged at its two-day policy meeting, which ends Wednesday. Analysts say investors will be watching policymakers’ forecasts for future U.S. economic growth.

Investors have focused this year on the risks of the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal and a sharp escalation in trade war tensions, said Frank Benzimra, head of equity strategy at Societe Generale.

“What you have seen since the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter was these two risks were receding ... And now this week you see those two concerns coming back on the market,” he said, adding that he expected their effect would be short-term.

Sterling, which reached its highest against the dollar since April on Monday at $1.3180, added 0.3%, last changing hands at $1.3169. GBP

Expectations of a Conservative Party victory in Thursday’s UK election have powered a rally in the pound, but options markets indicate worries of a post-election retreat.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six other major currencies, was down 0.14% at 97.506.

Worries over trade continued to push oil prices lower. Data released on Sunday showed that Chinese exports declined for a fourth straight month, underscoring the impact of the trade war between the U.S. and China, which is in its 17th month.

Global benchmark Brent crude fell 0.54% to $63.90 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 0.54% to $58.7 a barrel.

Gold rose 0.4% to $1,467.31 per ounce.


Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho

FOREX- Sterling cements recent gains ahead of GDP data


LONDON (Reuters) - Sterling edged higher on Tuesday, cementing recent gains as traders awaited data on economic growth and industrial production and kept an eye on the final days of campaigning ahead of Britain’s general election on Thursday.


The pound on Monday hit a new 7-month high against the dollar and a 2-1/2 year high versus the euro as investors ramp up their bets on a majority win for the governing Conservative Party in Thursday’s election.

Tuesday sees a clutch of economic data released, including GDP estimates for October and industrial production and manufacturing output at 0930 GMT. Analysts are expecting month- on-month growth in October of 0.1%, although it remains to be seen whether the numbers will move the pound much.

“October industrial production and UK services should have a very limited effect on GBP. Sterling price action is all about the upcoming parliamentary election and real economic data should continue to play second fiddle,” ING analysts said in a note sent to clients.

In early London trade, the pound was up 0.3% at $1.3167 GBP=D3, close to the Monday high of $1.3180.

Against the euro the pound rose 0.1% to 84.15 pence EURGBP=D3, not far from the 2-1/2 year high of 83.94 pence level touched on Monday.

Polls predict a Conservative Party majority, which many investors believe would lift some of the political uncertainty that has hampered a recovery in the British currency.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has vowed to take Britain out of the European Union on Jan. 31.


Reporting by Tommy Wilkes


Euro steady ahead of Fed, ECB meetings and expected U.S. tariffs

The greenback was neutral against a basket of six other major currencies.

This is “reflecting limited anticipation for a change from both the Fed and ECB meetings this week as well as uncertainty about the Dec. 16 tariff deadline,” said ING analysts in a note to clients.

Front of mind is whether Washington will go ahead with a new round of tariffs on Sunday, or whether a deal with China can be reached before then.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Friday that the Dec. 15 deadline is still in place, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday raised the possibility the tariffs are not imposed.

Against the euro, the dollar was last flat at $1.1072, and against the Japanese yen the greenback found support after last week’s declines, steadying at 108.62 yen. The dollar was also steady against a basket of currencies at 97.605.

The Chinese yuan — the most sensitive currency to the U.S. and China trade war — was also trading neutral against the U.S. dollar in the offshore market, last at 7.0370.

Soaring inflation in China, ahead even of lofty expectations, had little effect on a market waiting for trade news.

Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale, called markets “dull”.

Traders will be watching the German ZEW survey due at 1000 GMT. Economists polled by Reuters are expecting that the situation has improved a bit, with the economic sentiment expected at 0 and the current conditions expected at -22.3 for December, compared with -2.1 and -24.7 respectively in November.

Marshall Gittler, strategist at ACLS Global, said the numbers should be “positive” for the euro.

Investors are almost certain the Fed will hold rates steady when its two-day meeting concludes on Wednesday, increasing investors’ focus on the outlook and on finding a trade-war truce.

The ECB is likewise expected to keep interest rates steady.



Reporting by Olga Cotaga

FOREX- Asian shares edge down as tariff deadline hems bets


SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Asian equity markets eased slightly on Tuesday, tracking Wall Street declines as investors fretted over a Dec. 15 deadline for the next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports to take effect.


European equity futures pointed to similarly small moves. Pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were down 0.03% and German DAX futures were 0.14% lower in early trade, while FTSE futures added 0.1%. Market uncertainty ahead of the tariff deadline was reinforced by comments from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday that while President Donald Trump did not want to implement tariffs, he did want to see “movement” from China.

The deadline looms over a series of other significant events this week, with markets also awaiting the UK election on Thursday, and U.S. and euro zone central bank meetings.

Investors have focused this year on the risks of the UK crashing out of the European Union without a deal and a sharp escalation in trade war tensions, said Frank Benzimra, head of equity strategy at Societe Generale.

“What you have seen since the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter was these two risks were receding ... And now this week you see those two concerns coming back on the market,” he said, adding that he expected their impact to be “short-term.”

With investors reluctant to make big bets, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 0.17% lower, with China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index off 0.08%.

Adding pressure in China was new data showing falling producer prices in November while consumer prices spiked, complicating efforts to boost demand as economic growth slows.

Australian shares were off 0.34%, while Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.08%.


“The decision whether or not to raise tariffs on Dec. 15 rests with President Trump and he has continued his constructive ambiguity on the issue which is keeping markets guessing,” said Tapas Strickland, a director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank.

Tepid trade followed weakness on Wall Street overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.38% to 27,909.6, the S&P 500 lost 0.32% to 3,135.96 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.4% to 8,621.83.

Investors were also keeping an eye on the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is expected to keep rates unchanged at its two-day policy meeting, which ends Wednesday.

With rates likely to stay put, analysts say investors will be closely watching policymakers’ forecasts for future U.S. economic growth.

On Tuesday, the U.S. two-year yield, watched as a sign of market expectations of Fed fund rates, was at 1.6152%, down from its close of 1.627% on Monday.

The 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.8138% from a U.S. close of 1.831% on Monday.


Following the Fed, investors are likely to scrutinize the first policy meeting led by new European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde on Thursday for clues on where she will take the bank.

While expectations of a Conservative Party victory in Thursday’s UK election have powered a rally in the pound, options markets indicate worries of a post-election retreat.

“Polls have been wrong before, so a surprise can’t be ruled out - that’s exactly what happened in the 2017 election,” analysts at ANZ said in a morning note.

“But it’s not just about Brexit. Fiscal expansion is also on the cards, with ending austerity a major theme of the election irrespective of who wins,” they said.

Sterling, which hit its highest level against the dollar since April on Monday at $1.3180, added 0.08% to buy $1.3153.

The dollar rose 0.05% against the yen to 108.60 and the euro was up 0.03% at $1.1065.


The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.02% at 97.629.

Worries over trade continued to push oil prices lower. Data released on Sunday showed that Chinese exports declined for a fourth straight month, underscoring the impact of the trade war between the U.S. and China, which is in its 17th month.

Global benchmark Brent crude fell 0.12% to $64.17 a barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 0.15% to $58.93 a barrel.

Gold was a touch higher on the spot market, fetching $1,462.34 per ounce.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith