December 20, 2018 / 2:39 PM / 6 months ago

Thursday Morning Briefing

Trump orders troops to leave Syria, Senate approves bill to steer away from government shutdown and in the worst year since the global financial crisis, nearly $7 trillion has been wiped off world stocks. Catch up on the latest headlines.

A Coalition convoy of U.S. led international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stops to test fire their M2 machine guns and MK19 grenade launcher in the Middle Euphrates River Valley in the Deir ez-Zor province, Syria, November 22, 2018. Picture taken November 22, 2018. Courtesy Matthew Crane/U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC168AA782C0

Highlights

President Donald Trump has made good on his campaign promise to order U.S. troops to leave Syria. The decision has stunned lawmakers and allies alike. A U.S. defense official said Trump’s decision was widely seen in the Pentagon as benefiting Russia as well as Iran. French officials are scrambling to find out exactly what Trump’s announcement means and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to escalate its fight against Iranian-aligned forces.

Congress has steered toward preventing a partial federal shutdown with a temporary government funding bill. In a late-night session, the Senate approved a bill to provide money to keep a series of programs operating through Feb. 8. It also defied the president by refusing to give him any of the $5 billion he demanded to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump's tariff war with China has sent U.S. retailers on a buying binge. Warehouses are at record capacity with Chinese imports of all kinds - microwaves, vacuum cleaner filters, swimwear, furniture - stacked to the ceiling. The strategy could mean heavy discounts for shoppers next year if retailers are stuck with an overhang of unsold merchandise. Meanwhile, China has said that more talks have been planned for January.

Markets

Did Jerome Powell just poke the bear? U.S. stocks took another body blow on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates again. Now the question is whether Powell’s message that the economy should be strong enough to stand on its own without further assistance will be the catalyst that tumbles stocks to bear market levels.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Traders will be glad to see the back of 2018. In the worst year since the global financial crisis, nearly $7 trillion has been wiped off world stocks and emerging markets have been trampled flat by a charging dollar. Even gold and U.S. government bonds have lost money.

Oil prices fell more than 4 percent, hitting their lowest in more than a year on worries about oversupply and the outlook for energy demand as a U.S. interest rate rise knocked stock markets. U.S. light crude oil fell $2.35 a barrel, or 4.9 percent, to a low of $45.82.

In Argentina, 2018 has become the year of the “new poor.” Interest rates are at world highs, inflation is close to 50 percent and the peso has lost nearly 50 percent of its value against the dollar. Consumers have also faced wallet-emptying double-digit increases to electricity and gas bills and public transport fares, part of President Mauricio Macri’s austerity program to balance the budget.

World

The United States wants the United Nations Security Council to condemn Iran in a draft resolution being negotiated to back a ceasefire deal in Yemen’s Hodeidah region, but Russia has rejected the move, diplomats said. After a week of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, the Iranian-aligned Houthi group and Saudi-backed Yemen government foes agreed last Thursday to stop fighting in the Red Sea city of Hodeidah and withdraw forces. The truce began on Tuesday.

North Korea has given one of the clearest explanations of how it sees denuclearization. Any deal for North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal must include “completely removing the nuclear threats of the U.S.”, North Korean state media has said. Conflicting or vague views of what exactly “denuclearization” means have complicated negotiations between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since they met in June.

Danish lawmakers have approved funding to hold foreign criminals on a tiny island. With Denmark taking an increasingly tough stance on immigration, the government wants to send up to 100 people who have completed jail sentences but cannot be deported because they are at risk of torture or execution in their home countries, to the island of Lindholm.

Buildings are seen on Lindholm Island, Denmark December 6, 2018. REUTERS/Emil Gjerdingnielson

Commentary: How Trump can strengthen his hand with China. Two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, repairing U.S.-China trade is a work in progress. After unfruitful talks deteriorated into tit-for-tat tariffs this year, the two sides announced a 90-day truce on Dec. 1, ostensibly to work toward a comprehensive agreement to fix decades of what the United States sees as bad trade behavior by Beijing. Three actions will help strengthen the U.S. president’s position, writes Robert Boxwell, a director of Opera Advisors, an international management consultancy.

Business

Novartis and Bayer are among nearly 30 drugmakers that have taken steps to raise the U.S. prices of their medicines in January, ending a self-declared halt to increases made by a pharma industry under pressure from the Trump administration, according to documents seen by Reuters.

A user of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company. The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger, German trade publication reported.

Airbus tests market for A321XLR jet launch by mid-2019. They are talking to airlines about a longer-range version of its best-selling narrowbody jet family with a view to launching it by mid-2019 as it tries to head off a potential Boeing competitor, people familiar with the matter said.

Reuters TV

Against the odds, a Rohingya girl makes college
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