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Trump Amps up Criticism of Fed interest Rate Rises

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday dug in on his criticism of the Federal Reserve’s policy on raising interest rates, saying it takes away from the United States’ “big competitive edge,” and lamented the strength of the U.S. dollar.

Trump, in posts on Twitter, also accused the European Union and China of manipulating their currencies.

“China, the European Union and others have been manipulating their currencies and interest rates lower, while the U.S. is raising rates while the dollars gets stronger and stronger with each passing day – taking away our big competitive edge,” Trump wrote. “As usual, not a level playing field.”

After his posts, the U.S. dollar extended losses against the European Union’s euro, the Chinese yuan and Japanese yen.

Representatives for the Fed could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trump had already criticized the Fed’s interest rate policy in an interview on CNBC on Thursday, saying he was concerned higher rates could impact the U.S. economy.

Most economists believe the current economic climate, with the nation’s unemployment at historic lows and inflation at the Fed’s 2 percent target, justify recent interest rate rises and a strong U.S. dollar.

The issue also ties into the Trump administration’s current trade battles with China, Europe and others, as a strong currency tends to make a country’s exports more expensive, hurting exporters.

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Trump Ready to Hit All Chinese Imports With Tariffs

President Donald Trump has indicated that he’s willing to hit every product imported from China with tariffs, sending U.S. markets sliding before the opening bell Friday.

 

In a taped interview with the business channel CNBC, Trump said “I’m willing to go to 500,” referring roughly to the $505.5 billion in goods imported last year from China.

 

The administration to date has slapped tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods in a trade dispute over what it calls the nation’s predatory practices.

 

Dow futures which had already been pointing modestly lower slid sharply after the comments were aired by CNBC early Friday, indicating triple-digit losses when the market opens.

 

The yuan dipped to a 12-month low of 6.8 to the dollar, off by 7.6 percent since mid-February.

 

There is already pushback in the U.S. from businesses that will take a hit in an escalating trade war.

 

Trump has ordered Commerce to investigate whether auto imports pose a threat to U.S. national security that would justify tariffs or other trade restrictions. Earlier this year, he used national security as a justification for taxing imported steel and aluminum.

 

Auto tariffs would escalate global trade tension dramatically: The U.S. last year imported $192 billion in vehicles and $143 billion in auto parts — figures that dwarf last year’s $29 billion in steel and $23 billion in aluminum imports.

 

In the same interview, taped Thursday at the White House, Trump broke with a long-standing tradition at the White House and voiced displeasure about recent actions at the U.S. Federal Reserve. Both political and economic officials believe that the central bank needs to operate free of political pressure from the White House or elsewhere to properly manage interest rate policy.

 

Last month, the Fed raised its benchmark rate for a second time this year and projected two more increases in 2018. Its rate hikes are meant to prevent the economy from overheating and igniting high inflation. But rate increases also make borrowing costlier for households and companies and can weaken the pace of growth. In particular, the Fed’s most recent rate hikes could dilute some of the benefit of the tax cuts Trump signed into law last year.

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WhatsApp Makes Changes in India After Deadly Attacks

WhatsApp has announced changes for its 200 million users in India following the spread of viral messages via the app that resulted in deadly mob attacks.

India’s government has threatened to take WhatsApp to court, saying “…the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability.”  The information technology ministry said, “If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”  

The Facebook-owned messaging app said it will limit Indian users’ ability to forward messages, allowing only five contacts at a time to receive them.

The firm said it will also remove the quick forward button placed next to media messages.

Both moves are designed to make stop the mass forwards that have resulted in the mob attacks.

India is WhatsApp’s largest market.

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«Ощадбанк» заявляє, що Верховний суд дозволив стягнути з «Укртелекому» 1,1 мільярда гривень

Верховний суд України своєю постановою від 17 липня частково задовольнив касаційну скаргу «Ощадбанку» та дозволив стягнути з «Укртелекому» заборгованість за договором купівлі-продажу облігацій на суму 1,1 мільярда гривень, повідомила прес-служба державного банку 20 липня.

У фінансовій установі заявили, що Верховний суд скасував рішення Господарського суду Києва від 27 листопада 2017 року та постанову Київського апеляційного господарського суду від 10 квітня 2018 року про розірвання цього договору.

В установі нагадують, що 15 вересня 2015 року між «Укртелекомом» та «Ощадбанком» був укладений договір, згідно з яким банк зобов’язався передати у власність «Укртелекому», а останній зобов’язався не пізніше 15 березня 2017 року прийняти та оплатити облігації ТОВ «ЕСУ» (власник контрольного пакета акцій «Укртелекому») серії С в кількості 1 000 000 штук за ціною в 1 мільярд гривень плюс накопичений купонний дохід за облігаціями на дату продажу.

В «Ощадбанку» заявили, що в серпні 2017 року «з метою уникнення виконання зобов’язань за договором шляхом сплати банку понад 1 мільярда гривень», «Укртелеком» подав до Господарського суду Києва заяву про розірвання договору та визнання зобов’язань за договором припиненими. Суди першої та апеляційної інстанції задовольнили цей позов. 17 липня за касаційною скаргою банку судові рішення скасували, а направили на розгляд до суду першої інстанції.

У Верховному суді та «Укртелекомі» наразі не коментували інформацію.

Згідно з інформацією на сайті «Укртелекому», компанія надає повний спектр телекомунікаційних послуг в усіх регіонах країни. Вона є частиною групи СКМ, якою володіє український бізнесмен Рінат Ахметов.

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На борг російського «Газпрому» нараховано 75 мільйонів доларів відсотків – «Нафтогаз»

Національна акціонерна компанія «Нафтогаз України» вказує російському «Газпрому», що мирова угода щодо вже ухвалених рішень арбітражу неможлива, а на неоплачений борг нараховано вже 75 мільйонів доларів відсотків.

«Як ми сказали «Газпрому» на тристоронній зустрічі (у Берліні 17 липня – ред.), мирова угода щодо вже прийнятих рішень арбітражем рішень не є можливою. А зараз вже пізно просити «мирову угоду» за цими спорами. «Газпром» має сплатити нам за рішеннями арбітражу 2,56 мільярда доларів. Плюс вже 75 мільйонів доларів відсотків. І поки не отримаємо ці кошти, ми будемо продовжувати примусове стягнення, арештовуючи активи «Газпрому» по всьому світу. Ніхто рішення арбітражу не відміняв і не зупиняв», – вказує «Нафтогаз» у мережі Twitter із посиланням на комерційного директора компанії Юрія Вітренка.

Читайте також: Стокгольмська історія. Як український «Нафтогаз» планує знову перемогти російський «Газпром»

30 травня «Нафтогаз» повідомив, що почав процес стягнення з російського «Газпрому» боргу в близько 2,6 мільярда доларів відповідно до рішення Стокгольмського арбітражу в справах щодо постачання і транзиту газу.

Дивіться також: Російський газ: чи піде Україна на мирову

Стокгольмський арбітраж розглядав спір «Нафтогазу» і «Газпрому» про умови контракту на поставку і транзит газу, укладеного в 2009 році на 10 років. Сторони висували одна до одної претензії на кілька мільярдів доларів.

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Report: North Korea Economy Shrank Sharply in 2017

North Korea’s economy contracted at the sharpest rate in two decades in 2017, South Korea’s central bank estimated Friday, in a sign international sanctions imposed to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have hit growth hard.

Gross domestic product (GDP) in North Korea last year contracted 3.5 percent from the previous year, marking the biggest contraction since a 6.5 percent drop in 1997 when the isolated nation was hit by a devastating famine, the Bank of Korea said.

Industrial production, which accounts for about a third of the nation’s total output, dropped by 8.5 percent and also marked the steepest decline since 1997 as factory production collapsed on restrictions of flows of oil and other energy resources into the country. Output from agriculture, construction industries also fell by 1.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively.

“The sanctions were stronger in 2017 than they were in 2016,” Shin Seung-cheol, head of the BOK’s National Accounts Coordination Team said.

“External trade volume fell significantly with the exports ban on coal, steel, fisheries and textile products. It’s difficult to put exact numbers on those but it (export bans) crashed industrial production,” Shin said.

The steep economic downturn comes as analysts highlight the need for the isolated country to shift toward economic development.

Switch to economic construction

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April vowed to switch the country’s strategic focus from the development of its nuclear arsenal to emulating China’s “socialist economic construction.”

“As long as exports of minerals are part of the sanctions, by far the most profitable item of its exports, Pyongyang will have no choice but to continue with its current negotiations with the U.S. (to remove the sanctions),” said Kim Byeong-yeon, an economics professor at the Seoul National University with expertise in the North Korean economy.

North Korea’s coal-intensive industries and manufacturing sectors have suffered as the U.N. Security Council ratcheted up the sanctions in response to years of nuclear tests by Pyongyang.

China, its biggest trading partner, enforced sanctions strictly in the second half of 2017, hurting North Korea’s manufacturing sector.

Beijing’s suspended coal purchases last year cut North Korea’s main export revenue source while its suspended fuel sales to the reclusive state sparked a surge in gasoline and diesel prices, data reviewed by Reuters showed earlier.

2018 to be ‘a lot worse’

“This year will be a lot worse. Shrinking trade first hits the Kim regime and top officials, and then later affects unofficial markets,” said Kim at Seoul National University, adding that a reduction in tradable goods would eventually decrease household income and private consumption.

North Korea’s black market, or Jangmadang, has grown to account for about 60 percent of the economy, and is where individuals and wholesalers buy and sell Chinese-made consumer goods or agricultural products, according to the Institute for Korean Integration of Society.

China’s total trade with North Korea dropped 59.2 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier, China’s customs data showed last week.

The BOK uses figures compiled by the government and spy agencies to make its economic estimates. The bank’s survey includes monitoring of the size of rice paddy crops in border areas, traffic surveillance, and interviews with defectors.

North Korea does not publish economic data.

North Korea’s Gross National Income per capita stands at 1.46 million won ($1,283.52), making it about 4.4 percent the size of South Korea’s, the BOK said.

Overall exports from North Korea dropped 37.2 percent in 2017, marking the biggest fall since a 38.5 percent decline in 1998, the BOK said Friday, citing data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

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Autonomous Boats Can Offer Help on the Water

If there can be driverless cars on the road, why not driverless boats on the water? Faith Lapidus has details of a team building a robotic boat, and what they want it to do.

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Cyberattacks on 2018 US Political Campaigns Already Underway

Hackers targeted the campaigns of at least three candidates running for Congress in the upcoming 2018 U.S. elections, but the attacks were detected and thwarted, a Microsoft executive said Thursday.

The attempted attacks tried to use a fake Microsoft domain as a landing page for phishing attacks, said Tom Burt, Microsoft vice president for customer security and trust. He refused to name which candidates were targeted, citing privacy concerns.

“They were all people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint, as well as an election disruption standpoint,” Burt told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

He also did not identify the source of the phishing attacks, though the tactic was similar to those used by Russian operatives to target the Republican and Democratic parties during their presidential nominating conventions in 2016.

Burt said Microsoft coordinated with the U.S. government and was able to take down the fake domains. He also said none of the campaign staffers targeted by the phishing attacks were infected.

​More attacks are coming

Thursday’s revelation came in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s news conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland, after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump sided with Putin, supporting the Russian leader’s assertions that his country did not meddle with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s comments, which directly contradicted the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, have drawn harsh criticism from politicians, and former diplomatic and intelligence officials.

Current intelligence and security officials have warned repeatedly that not only was Russia responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, but that more attacks — both in the form of hacks and in the form of more subtle information operations — are coming.

Russia taking lead

“What we assessed and reassessed and have carefully gone over still stands,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said of Russia’s efforts.

“It’s undeniable that the Russians are taking the lead on this,” Coats added, speaking during an appearance at the same security forum. “They are the ones who are trying to undermine our basic values, divide us with our allies.”

But U.S. and private sector officials say that, at least to this point, Russian efforts to influence the 2018 elections appear to be somewhat subdued.

“We’re not seeing the targeting of the actual state and local election systems that we saw in 2016 right now,” said Jeanette Manfra, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for cybersecurity.

New tools working

For now, some leading private sector technology and social media companies agree.

Facebook, which Russia used to run ads and false news stories as part of its 2016 influence campaign, thinks some of that could be related to more awareness and crackdowns on the fake accounts Russian-linked operatives had been using.

“The new tools that would identify and remove fake accounts like the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] was running, combined with the new requirements for transparency in advertising, are such that I think we’re not seeing that same conduct,” Monika Bickert, head of Facebook’s product policy and counterterrorism, said.

“But we are watching for that activity,” Bickert said.

Microsoft’s Burt is also cautious, despite his experts “not seeing the same level of activity by the Russian activity groups” as they did two years ago.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to see it,” he said. “There’s a lot of time left.”

“I think we should all be prepared, given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned Thursday. “We would be foolish to think they’re not.”

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