Global News February 19, 2018

  1. BBC
  2. Global News February 19, 2018

“European Stocks Falter After Asia Rally; Oil Rises.”

European shares struggled to carry forward a rally from Japan and the U.S., where the S&P 500 index notched its best week in five years. Oil climbed while the dollar advanced against most major peers.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index slipped as auto and consumer stocks dropped. That contrasted with Asia, where equities built on their best week since September 2016 as Japanese stocks closed higher after the yen fell. U.S. equity futures were little changed, German bunds retreated with most European bonds and the euro fluctuated.
European markets were the center of investor attention on Monday as U.S. stocks and Treasuries take a break for Presidents’ Day holiday and markets in Hong Kong and China remain closed for the Lunar New Year. The continent’s equity gauge has trailed its American counterpart since a global selloff earlier this month, partly thanks to a jump in the euro.
As the week rolls on the U.S. Treasury will open the borrowing floodgates, and it’ll be up to bond traders to signal how much that extra supply will cost American taxpayers. The Treasury will pack in auctions totaling $258 billion this week, including record-sized sales of three- and six-month bills. With little in the way of significant economic data on the schedule, the sales will provide the clearest gauge yet of how steeply borrowing costs may rise.
In Asia, currency traders saw the yen retreat from a 15-month high even as data showed Japan’s exports and imports grew strongly in January from a year earlier in a sign the economy continues to expand


“Russia looms large as U.S. election officials prep for 2018.”

Ten months before the United States votes in its first major election since the 2016 presidential contest, U.S. state election officials huddled in Washington this weekend to swap strategies on dealing with an uninvited guest: Russia.
A pair of conferences usually devoted to staid topics about election administration were instead packed with sessions dedicated to fending off election cyber attacks from Russia or others, as federal authorities tried to portray confidence while pleading with some states to take the threat more seriously.
“Everyone in this room understands that what we are facing from foreign adversaries, particularly Russia, is real,” Chris Krebs, a senior cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told an audience of secretaries of state, who in many states oversee elections. Russia, he added, is “using a range of tools against us.”
While virtually all 50 states have taken steps since the 2016 election to purchase more secure equipment, expand the use of paper ballots, improve cyber training or seek federal assistance, according to groups that track election security, some officials at the conferences expressed an added sense of urgency.
That is because the meetings came immediately after U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed an indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian companies of conducting a criminal conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.
Speaking on a panel and attempting to quell frustration, Robert Kolasky, another DHS cybersecurity official, stressed that U.S. intelligence officials were genuinely worried about how Russia or others may attempt to interfere in 2018.


BBC News
“Latvian central bank boss ‘wanted bribe’.”

The detained head of Latvia’s central bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, is suspected of seeking a bribe of at least €100,000 (£88,610; $124,128), Latvia’s anti-corruption agency (KNAB) says. The Bank of Latvia governor was arrested on Saturday and his home and offices were searched. A businessman, Maris Martinsons, was also detained but later released.
The Bank of Latvia says it has a «zero tolerance» policy regarding corruption and was cooperating with investigators.
KNAB says the criminal investigation is not related to recent concerns about two other Latvian banks. The US Treasury has accused Latvia’s ABLV Bank of money-laundering. It linked the move against ABLV to wider action aimed at thwarting North Korea’s weapons programme.
Norvik Banka is meanwhile in dispute with the Latvian authorities over alleged unfair regulation.
Mr Rimsevics was first appointed Bank of Latvia governor in 2001 and is now nearing the end of his third term. He is also a member of the ECB governing council.
Latvia’s Prime Minister, Maris Kucinskis, chaired an emergency cabinet meeting on Monday. Earlier he said the Rimsevics case did not pose any national threat.
On Sunday, Bank of Latvia said it its operations were unaffected by the investigation.


“Russia Warns U.S. Not to ‘Play With Fire’ in Syrian Conflict.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the Trump administration not to “play with fire” as he lashed out at the U.S. over what he described as its “provocative” support for autonomy-seeking Kurds in Syria.
“The U.S. should stop playing very dangerous games which could lead to the dismemberment of the Syrian state,” Lavrov said at a Middle East conference in Moscow on Monday, alongside his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and a top adviser of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “We are seeing attempts to exploit the Kurds’ aspirations.”
An armed clash earlier this month in which U.S. strikes may have killed more than 200 Russian mercenaries attacking American-backed forces inflamed a standoff between Moscow and Washington in Syria. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it knows of five Russian deaths and the incident is still being investigated. While the U.S. accepted Russian assurances that it had nothing to do with the failed attack, the clash was the deadliest between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War.
After seven years of war, Assad has managed to reassert control over a large part of his country. But the conflict is entering a dangerous new phase as outside powers confront each other, with tensions sparked by Iran’s growing influence and Turkey’s bid to crush Kurdish forces it says are linked to separatists inside its borders.
The U.S. is setting up a 30,000-strong Kurdish-led border protection force in the northeast of Syria, which Assad’s backers Russia and Iran have condemned as an attempt to carve out an American zone of influence.
Lavrov dismissed Western criticism of Iran’s role and demands for a pullout of Iranian troops and military advisers, saying they’ve been invited by the government in Damascus.
Zarif for his part said Iran is concerned about a “new wave” of foreign intervention in Syria led by the U.S. after the defeat of Islamic State. He accused the U.S. of trying to capture Syrian territory by making use of proxies.