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The United Nations is forecasting that the global economy will grow by around 3 percent in 2019 and 2020, but says waning support for multilateralism, escalating trade disputes, increasing debt and rising climate risks are clouding prospects

The United Nations is forecasting that the global economy will grow by around 3 percent in 2019 and 2020, but says waning support for multilateralism, escalating trade disputes, increasing debt and rising climate risks are clouding prospects.

The U.N.’s report on the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2019 also stresses that economic growth is uneven and often doesn’t reach countries that need it most.

Per capital income is expected to stagnate or see only marginal growth this year in parts of Africa, western Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in the forward of the report launched Monday that while economic indicators remain “largely favorable,” the report “raises concerns over the sustainability of global economic growth in the face of rising financial, social and environmental challenges.”   

France’s data watchdog fined Google nearly $57 million on Monday, saying the tech giant failed to provide users with transparent information on its data consumer policies and how their personal information was used to display advertising targeting them.

The French agency CNIL said U.S.-based Google made it too difficult for internet users to understand and manage their personal preferences online.

“The information provided is not sufficiently clear,” the regulatory agency said, “for the user to understand the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google’s legitimate business interests.”

It was the first ruling using the European Union’s strict new General Data Protection Regulation since it was implemented last year, a sweeping set of rules that has set a global standard forcing large American technology firms to examine their practices or risk huge fines.

Google said it was studying the ruling to determine its next steps.

“People expect high standards of transparency and control from us,” Google said. “We’re deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements” of the new regulations.

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled her Brexit Plan B on Monday — and it looks a lot like Plan A.

May launched a mission to resuscitate her rejected European Union divorce deal, setting out plans to get it approved by Parliament after securing changes from the EU to a contentious Irish border measure.

May’s opponents expressed incredulity: British lawmakers last week dealt the deal a resounding defeat, and EU leaders insist they won’t renegotiate it.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party accused May of being in “deep denial” about her doomed deal.

“This really does feel a bit like Groundhog Day,” he said, referring to the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, in which a weatherman is fated to live out the same day over and over again.

Outlining what she plans to do after her EU divorce deal was rejected by Parliament last week, May said that she had heeded lawmakers’ concerns over an insurance policy known as the “backstop” that is intended to guarantee there are no customs checks along the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Brexit.

May told the House of Commons that she would be “talking further this week to colleagues … to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House.

“And I will then take the conclusions of those discussions back to the EU.”

The bloc insists that it won’t renegotiate the withdrawal agreement.

“She is wasting time calling for a revision or clarification over the backstop,” said German politician Udo Bullmann, head of the socialist group in the European Parliament.

Amendments

While May stuck doggedly to her deal, she also acknowledged that control over Brexit wasn’t entirely in her hands. She noted that lawmakers will be able to amend her plan when it comes to a vote in the House of Commons on Jan. 29, exactly two months before Britain is due to leave the EU.

Groups of “soft Brexit”-backing lawmakers — who want to keep close economic ties to the bloc — are planning to use amendments to try to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit and make May ease her insistence that leaving the EU means quitting its single market and customs union.

Britain and the EU sealed a divorce deal in November after months of tense negotiations. But the agreement has been rejected by both sides of Britain’s divide over Europe. Brexit-backing lawmakers say it will leave the U.K. tethered to the bloc’s rules and unable to forge an independent trade policy. Pro-Europeans argue it is inferior to the frictionless economic relationship Britain currently enjoys as an EU member.

After her deal was thrown out last week by a crushing 432-202 vote in Parliament, May said she would consult with lawmakers from all parties to find a new way forward.

But Corbyn called the cross-party meetings a “stunt,” and other opposition leaders said the prime minister didn’t seem to be listening.

On Monday, May rejected calls from pro-EU lawmakers to delay Britain’s departure from the bloc or to hold a second referendum on whether to leave.

In a nod to opposition parties’ concerns, she promised to consult lawmakers, trade unionists, business groups and civil society organizations “to try to find the broadest possible consensus” on future ties between Britain and the EU, and said the government wouldn’t water down protections for the environment and workers’ rights after Brexit.

May also said the government had decided to waive a 65 pound ($84) fee for EU citizens in Britain who want to stay permanently after Brexit.

Guy Verhofstadt, the head of the EU Parliament Brexit steering group, welcomed news that the fee was being dropped for 3 million EU nationals, saying it had been a “key demand” for the EU legislature.

Irish border

May’s immediate goal is to win over pro-Brexit Conservatives and her party’s Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. Both groups say they won’t back the deal unless the border backstop is removed.

The backstop proposes to keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU in order to avoid checks on the Irish border. It is meant as a temporary measure that would last until a permanent solution is found. But pro-Brexit U.K. lawmakers fear Britain could become trapped in it, indefinitely bound by EU trade rules.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz broke ranks with EU colleagues Monday by suggesting the problem could be solved by setting a five-year time limit on the backstop.

The idea got a cool reception. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that “putting a time-limit on an insurance mechanism, which is what the backstop is, effectively means that it’s not a backstop at all.”

Britain’s political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies.

Threat of ‘no deal’

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said Monday was “another bleak day for business.”

“Parliament remains in deadlock while the slope to a cliff edge steepens,” she said.

Several groups of lawmakers are trying to use parliamentary rules and amendments to May’s plan to block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

One of those legislators, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, said May was shirking her responsibility to the country by refusing to take “no deal” off the table.

“I think she knows that she should rule out ‘no deal’ in the national interest because it would be so damaging,” Cooper told the BBC. “She’s refusing to do so, and I think she’s hoping that Parliament will do this for her. That is not leadership.” 

The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for world economic growth this year, citing heightened trade tensions and rising U.S. interest rates.

The IMF said Monday that it expects global growth this year of 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in 2018 and from the 3.7 percent it had forecast for 2019 back in October.

 

“After two years of solid expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as she presented the new forecasts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

 

The fund left its prediction for U.S. growth this year unchanged at 2.5 percent — though a continuation of the partial 31-day shutdown of the federal government poses a risk. The IMF trimmed the outlook for the 19 countries that use the euro currency to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

 

Growth in emerging-market countries is forecast to slow to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent in 2018. The IMF expects the Chinese economy — the world’s second biggest — to grow 6.2 percent this year, down from 6.6 percent in 2018 and slowest since 1990.

 

The World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have also downgraded their world growth forecasts.

 

Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and Italy’s ongoing financial struggles pose threats to growth in Europe.

 

And rising trade tensions pose a major risk to the wider world economy. Under President Donald Trump the United States has imposed import taxes on steel, aluminum and hundreds of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from China and other U.S. trading partners.

 

“Higher trade uncertainty will further dampen investment and disrupt global supply chains,” said IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath.

 

Rising interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere are also pinching emerging-market governments and companies that borrowed heavily when rates were ultra-low in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

 

As the debts roll over, those borrowers have to refinance at higher rates. A rising dollar is also making things harder for emerging-market borrowers who took out loans denominated in the U.S. currency.

 

 

Russia’s communication watchdog, Roskomnadzor, opened “administrative proceedings” Monday against Facebook and Twitter for non-compliance with country’s data laws, Interfax news agency reported.

Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov is quoted as saying that U.S. social media giants have a month to comply or face legal proceedings.

According to Roskomnadzor, Facebook and Twitter have not explained how and when they would comply with legislation that requires all servers used to store Russians’ personal data to be located in Russia.

Russia has introduced stricter internet laws in the past five years, among other things requiring search engines to share encryption keys with Russian security services.

In April last year, thousands rallied in Moscow in support of internet freedom after Russian authorities attempted to block access to the popular messaging app Telegram.

Telegram had refused to give state intelligence services access to private conversations which are usually encrypted.

У Брюсселі 21 січня відбудуться тристоронні переговори за участю України, ЄС та Росії стосовно газових контрактів.

Як зазначав раніше голова НАК «Нафтогаз Україна» Андрій Коболєв, головне завдання України на цих переговорах – зберегти транзит і підписати нові контракти відповідно до європейських правил. За його словами, це має гарантувати, що Україна отримає передбачені обсяги транзиту, а якщо «Газпром» відмовиться виконувати зобов’язання транспортувати через Україну договірні обсяги, Україна отримає відшкодування.

Перша зустріч на таких переговорах відбулася в липні 2018 року. Тоді представники ЄС, України і Росії по суті не ухвалили ніяких рішень, лише домовилися провести зустріч на рівні експертів у вересні 2018 року. На ту зустріч російська сторона не з’явилася. Так само, стверджують у Києві, Росія зірвала таку зустріч експертів і в новий її термін, 12 січня цього року.

Наразі в Росії кажуть, що на переговори 21 січня її представники прибудуть.

The sale of Nile Perch fish maw in Uganda has become a lucrative business, especially for distributors. The fish maw – or dried swim bladder – is used as an aphrodisiac in China. But Ugandan fishermen bringing in the perch say they are being exploited while others are reaping the profits. Halima Athumani reports from Kampala.

Home to Apple, Facebook and Google, Silicon Valley is an American economic powerhouse, producing technology companies with global influence. But behind these influential American brands are scores of foreign workers who play a critical role in the Valley’s tech workforce. Deana Mitchell reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday progress is being made toward a trade deal with China and denied that he was considering lifting tariffs on Chinese products.

“Things are going very well with China and with trade,” he told reporters, adding that he had seen some “false reports” indicating that U.S. tariffs on Chinese products would be lifted.

“If we make a deal certainly we would not have sanctions and if we don’t make a deal we will,” Trump said. “We’ve really had a very extraordinary number of meetings and a deal could very

well happen with China. It’s going well. I would say about as well as it could possibly go.”

Humanity’s efforts to move into and peer into space seem to be experiencing something of a renaissance in the past few weeks. NASA’s pictures of Ultima Thule continue to astound, as do Chinese pictures from their probe on the far side of the moon. Coming soon, the James Webb Telescope will allow NASA to look even farther into the great beyond. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports.

World stock indexes jumped on Friday, with Wall Street posting a fourth straight week of gains, and the dollar had its first positive week since mid-December as optimism increased that an end is in sight to the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Stocks were boosted by a Bloomberg report that said China sought to raise its annual goods imports from the United States by more than $1 trillion in order to reduce its trade surplus to zero by 2024.    

That followed a report on Thursday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was considering lifting some or all tariffs imposed on Chinese imports. The Treasury denied Mnuchin had made any such recommendation.

Progress in trade talks

While the equity rally lifted all major sectors, trade-sensitive industrials posted among the biggest S&P 500 sector gains, up 1.9 percent on the day. The Philadelphia SE semiconductor index rose more than 2 percent and Germany’s exporter-heavy DAX was up 2.6 percent.    

“There seems to be some progress going in the trade negotiations,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

While that was the biggest influence, “we’ve still got momentum since the first of the year,” he said. “Some of the money that came out of the market at year-end, whether it was high frequency traders or tax-loss selling, is coming back in.”

Adding to strength in equities and supporting U.S. Treasury yields was data that showed U.S. manufacturing output increased the most in 10 months in December. 

Some strategists said relatively light equity trading volume this week indicated that some investors were still waiting on the sidelines.    

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 336.25 points, or 1.38 percent, to 24,706.35, the S&P 500 gained 34.75 points, or 1.32 percent, to 2,670.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 72.77 points, or 1.03 percent, to 7,157.23.

The S&P 500 registered its biggest four-week percentage gain since October 2011. The index is now 8.9 percent below its Sept. 20 record close after dropping 19.8 percent below that level — near the 20-percent threshold commonly considered to confirm a bear market — on Christmas Eve.

STOXX 600 index is up

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.80 percent and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 1.23 percent.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States on Jan. 30 and 31 for another round of talks aimed at resolving the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.

Recent indicators show signs that the Chinese economy is losing momentum.

The trade optimism boosted the dollar against other major currencies.

The dollar index rose 0.31 percent, with the euro down 0.26 percent to $1.1365.

U.S. Treasury yields rose to three-week highs as investors piled back into Wall Street.  

Oil prices jump

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 12/32 in price to yield 2.7878 percent, compared with 2.747 percent late on Thursday.

Oil prices jumped about 3 percent, rising after OPEC detailed specifics on its production-cut activity to ease global oversupply.   

Brent crude gained $1.52 to settle at $62.70 a barrel, or 2.48 percent higher. U.S. WTI crude futures added $1.73 to settle at $53.80 a barrel, or 3.32 percent up.

 

Facebook may be facing the biggest fine ever imposed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations involving the personal information of its 2.2 billion users.

The FTC is considering hitting Facebook with a penalty that would top its previous record fine of $22.5 million, which it dealt to Google in 2012 for bypassing the privacy controls in Apple’s Safari browser, according to The Washington Post. The story published Friday cited three unidentified people familiar with the discussions.

In an automated response, the FTC said it was unable to comment, citing its closure due to the U.S. government shutdown. Facebook declined to comment.

The potential fine stems from an FTC investigation opened after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had vacuumed up details about as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

The FTC has been exploring whether that massive breakdown violated a settlement that Facebook reached in 2011 after government regulators had concluded the Menlo Park, California, company had repeatedly broken its privacy promises .

The FTC decree, which runs through 2031, requires Facebook to get its users’ consent to share their personal information in ways that aren’t allowed by their privacy settings.

Since the Cambridge Analytica erupted 10 months ago, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users’ data. Nevertheless, its controls have remained leaky. Just last month, the company acknowledged a software flaw had exposed the photos of about 7 million users to a wider audience than they had intended.

The FTC’s five commissioners have discussed fining Facebook but haven’t settled on the amount yet, according to the Post.

Facebook’s privacy problems are also under investigation in other countries and the target of a lawsuit filed last month by Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine.

U.S. consumer sentiment tumbled in early January to its lowest level since President Donald Trump was elected more than two years ago as a partial shutdown of the federal government and financial market

volatility stoked fears of a sharp deceleration in economic growth.

The drop in confidence reported by the University of Michigan on Friday was the clearest sign yet that the impasse in Washington over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion to help build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico was negatively affecting the economy.

Trump has touted high consumer confidence as an indication of the good job he is doing on the economy. While consumer sentiment remains relatively high, the gathering clouds over the economy could make households

more cautious about spending, leading to slower growth. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

“This report on consumer sentiment is the first concrete evidence that the economy is going to fall and fall hard if Washington does not end the shutdown,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. “It is going to be hard to see real GDP growth of more than 1 to 1½ percent in the first quarter if the consumer goes on a buying strike.”

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left 800,000 government workers without paychecks. Private contractors working for many government agencies are also without wages.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index fell 7.7 percent to a reading of 90.7 this month, the lowest reading since October 2016 and the steepest drop since September 2015. Economists had forecast a reading of a 97.0.

The survey’s measure of current economic conditions decreased to 110.0 from a reading of 116.1 in December. Its measure of consumer expectations tumbled to a reading of 78.3, the lowest since October 2016, from 87.0 in late December.

Several factors

The University of Michigan attributed the decline in sentiment to “a host of issues including the partial government shutdown, the impact of tariffs, instabilities in financial markets, the global slowdown, and the lack of clarity about monetary policies.”

It said that half of the survey’s respondents “believed that these events would have a negative impact on Trump’s ability to focus on economic growth.”

Economists estimate the partial shutdown of the government, which started Dec. 22, is subtracting as much as two-tenths of a percentage point from quarterly GDP growth every week.

Other surveys have also shown an ebb in business sentiment.

“Sentiment among both households and businesses has been coming off the sugar highs, which were caused by tax cut hopes at the beginning of the Trump presidency,” said Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit in New York.

U.S. financial markets shrugged off the fall in sentiment, with investors focusing on another report Friday that showed manufacturing output had surged by the most in 10 months in December, and on hopes for progress in the U.S.-China trade row.

Stocks on Wall Street rallied, while the dollar rose against a basket of currencies and U.S. Treasury prices fell.

Factory activity

The broad-based jump in manufacturing output in December reported by the Federal Reserve could allay fears of a sharp slowdown in factory activity.

Manufacturing activity, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is slowing as some of the boost to capital spending from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.

In addition, a strong dollar and cooling growth in Europe and China are hurting exports. Lower oil prices are also slowing purchases of equipment for oil and gas well drilling.

Production at factories increased at a 2.3 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter after expanding at a 3.7 percent pace in the July-September period. It increased 2.4 percent in 2018, the largest gain since 2012, after advancing 1.2 percent in 2017.

“While the manufacturing strength in December is a favorable signal for the economy, we should keep in mind that it came after soft results in earlier months,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “A broad range of manufacturing surveys also have been weakening lately, so the strength in the manufacturing output in December may prove to be short-lived.”

Last month, motor vehicle production surged 4.7 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in November. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, manufacturing advanced a solid 0.8 percent last month after gaining 0.1 percent in November.

December’s surge in manufacturing output, together with a rise in mining production, offset a weather-related drop in utilities, leading to a 0.3 percent increase in industrial production. Industrial output rose 0.4 percent in November. It increased at a 3.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter after

notching a 4.7 percent gain in the third quarter.

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UN Forecasts Global Economic Growth Around 3 Percent in 2019

The United Nations is forecasting that the global economy will grow by around 3 percent in 2019 and 2020, but says waning support for multilateralism, escalating trade disputes, increasing debt and rising climate risks are clouding prospects The United Nations is forecasting that the global economy will grow by around…

France Fines Google $57M for Data Privacy Violation

France’s data watchdog fined Google nearly $57 million on Monday, saying the tech giant failed to provide users with transparent information on its data consumer policies and how their personal information was used to display advertising targeting them. The French agency CNIL said U.S.-based Google made it too difficult for…

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