Tuesday 20 August 2019

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  1. Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on what's moving European markets in your inbox every morning? Sign up here.Good morning. Donald Trump really, really wants the Fed to cut rates, Boris Johnson is planning a Brexit blitz and governments are testing the temperature of the bond market. Here’s what’s moving markets.100 Basis PointsIn what has become a favored topic for President Donald Trump on Twitter, he called for the Federal Reserve to cut rates by at least a full percentage point in order to weaken a dollar whose strength, he said, was “sadly hurting other parts of the world.” He also accused Democrats of holding out hope for a recession before the next election. The Fed’s minutes from its last meeting are coming on Wednesday but the attention will be on Chairman Jerome Powell when he speaks at the Jackson Hole symposium on Friday, where he’s expected to signal the potential for another, likely Trump-pleasing cut, though some of his colleagues are not convinced.Boris BlitzThe battle lines are being drawn again in British politics. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated the country will be ready to leave the European Union without a deal by the current deadline at the end of October and is planning a September  publicity blitz to prepare the public for a so-called hard Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, having failed to get support from other parties for a caretaker government, appears to be gearing up for an election by giving backing to a second referendum and vowing to do everything necessary to avoid a no-deal exit.Bond TestsThese are precarious times for the global bond market and the biggest issuers are starting to do more to test the waters on what investors want. Germany is set for a flurry of debt sales in the next couple of weeks offering negative rates and this week will sell a 30-year bond with a 0% coupon for the first time. The U.S. Treasury also appears to be taking the chance to issue ultra-long bonds, an idea shelved in the past but which could now have its moment as investors continue to search further out in global yield curves for returns as the spreading pile of negative-yielding securities grows.Great British PubsHong Kong leader Carrie Lam has pledged to establish a platform for dialogue with protesters in the country, potentially opening an avenue towards calming the turmoil in the city. But it was elsewhere that Hong Kong’s influence was felt on Monday. Victor Li, the head of Hong Kong’s largest conglomerate, made a $3.3 billion bet on the post-Brexit future of the pub with a deal to buy Greene King Plc. The immediate debate raised after the surprise bid is whether more pubs are likely to close down but another question to ask is to what extent this was driven by the cheap pound and whether more bids to pick up U.K. property estates could emerge.Coming Up...Asian stock indexes were mostly in the green on Tuesday amid signs of progress being made on trade negotiations and speculation about government stimulus to shore up economies globally. European and U.S. futures look mixed. On a relatively quiet day for earnings and economic data, all eyes will turn to Rome and the likely breakdown of the current coalition government. The question will be whether another government can be formed by alternative parties, likely leaving out Matteo Salvini’s League, or if new elections will be required.What We’ve Been ReadingThis is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.How Europe could reduce its reliance on the U.S. The Odd Lots podcast on what's ailing bank stocks. If you have spare 8 million pounds, this Scottish castle is on the market. The ethical conundrum of making money from deepfakes. ‘Tesla killers’ are struggling to kill Tesla. The century-old company on a $10 billion shopping spree. Transhumanists who want to live forever.Like Bloomberg's Five Things? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. Find out more about how the Terminal delivers information and analysis that financial professionals can't find anywhere else. Learn more.To contact the author of this story: Sam Unsted in London at sunsted@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  2. Omar: Go to Israel, see 'cruel reality of the occupation'Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticized Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the country and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot.

  3. Hungary Is Happy to Be Germany's Gatekeeper(Bloomberg Opinion) -- On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a friendly meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to celebrate an open border.This may look like a great occasion to discuss how Orban’s current anti-immigrant stance has subverted the legacy of the Hungarians who opened the first breach in the Iron Curtain on August 19,  1989 –  months before the Berlin wall became useless. But history doesn’t lend itself to such facile juxtapositions. After all, both in 1989 and in 2015, during the recent refugee crisis, Hungary was merely a transit country for people seeking a better life.In February 1989, the ruling Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, one of the softest and most reform-minded Communist parties in the Warsaw Pact, decided to dismantle the fortifications on Hungary’s border with Austria. It intended to take two years to remove the electrified wires and other defenses. Yet after the Hungarian government made the policy public in May, something happened that neither the Hungarians nor the Austrians had expected: East Germans started traveling to Hungary en masse in hopes of crossing the border into Austria and then moving on to West Germany. At the same time, a group of Hungarian activists were working on a small-scale idea: a joint picnic for the Hungarian and Austrian residents of the border area to promote friendship and openness. Both countries’ governments were fine with opening a wooden gate on the border near the Hungarian city of Sopron for three hours on Aug. 19, to let people move back and forth so they could eat and drink together. But the East Germans crashed the party. Why exactly that happened on depends on whose story you hear. One thing is for sure: Leaflets had been distributed to East German “tourists” in Hungary, telling them about the picnic and the opportunity it provided to slip into Austria. The East German government would later accuse West German intelligence and Otto von Habsburg, a descendant of the Austro-Hungarian monarchs who at the time represented Germany in the European Parliament, of having spread the word. Hungarian activists did their part, though, and the Hungarian government, worried about the growing number of restless East Germans gathered on its territory, at least turned a blind eye. Since the border guard contingents had been weakened on picnic day, with just five guards present on each side, some of the East German “tourists” simply pushed past them into Austria even before the gate opened. By the time the picnic began, chaos reigned: Local activists had made the event popular, so more Hungarians than expected had arrived, and hundreds of Germans were attempting to mix in with the crowd. Arpad Bella, the commander of the Hungarian border guards, was worried about being blamed for the mess, but he let the Germans through – about 600 of them.Like the opening of the Berlin wall on Nov. 9, 1989, what happened at the “Pan-European Picnic” was largely spontaneous; at  least, Laszlo Vass, the highest-ranking Hungarian official at the picnic, insisted there had been no plan to let the East Germans through to Austria. But after the event, it became clear that the rapidly liberalizing Soviet Union wouldn’t use its 60,000 troops in Hungary to punish the small country’s government for letting the refugees go, and in September, Hungary allowed thousands of the “tourists” to cross into Austria.Orban’s Fidesz party, formed just a year before the picnic, was among the event’s organizers, so some of the gratitude for helping bring down the Iron Curtain, which Merkel expressed at the commemoration on Monday, is due to him. And yet Orban is one of the harshest critics of Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to asylum seekers, mostly from Syria and Iraq, who had crossed the Mediterranean and were making their way to central and northern Europe from Turkey and Greece. Since these refugees swarmed into Hungary, Orban has fortified his country’s borders with Croatia and Serbia, made it illegal to help asylum seekers (the law is being challenged by the European Union) and turned applying for asylum in his country into a near-impossibility.At the commemoration on Monday, Orban said this behavior is “completely compatible” with what happened 30 years ago. I find it hard to disagree. In 2015, Hungary initially bused the asylum seekers to the Austrian border; even later, when the busing stopped, the Hungarian authorities only ever wanted the “migrants” to leave without filing asylum applications there. That, essentially, was the Hungarian authorities’ approach in 1989, too: They wanted to be rid of a problem. On their part, the refugees – both East German in 1989 and Middle Eastern in 2015 – had no intention of staying in Hungary: Both groups wanted to go to Germany, where they hoped to find a better life.The difference, of course, is that Hungarians were mostly sympathetic toward the East Germans in 1989 but not toward the Muslim newcomers in 2015. Hungary, with its long history of resisting the Ottoman Empire, has long seen itself as a bulwark against Muslim conquest, and it wasn’t just Orban who saw the refugee wave as yet another invasion. The cultural factor is important; for similar reasons, Poland’s nationalist government happily accepts Ukrainian immigrants but not Middle Eastern or North African ones. The discussion of xenophobia, however, overshadows a deeper truth. Smaller countries are often destabilized and overtaxed by political upheaval in bigger ones; both in 1989 and in 2015, tiny Hungary became an arena for German crises – one caused by East Germany’s inhumanity toward its citizens, another by the humanistic impulses of Merkel, a former East German. Hungary wasn’t equipped to handle either disruption – it was the innocent bystander thrust into the center of events by its geography. The world has changed dramatically, but Hungary the Soviet satellite was too poor to attract East German refugees – and Hungary the relatively recent EU member is still too poor for Middle Eastern asylum seekers to want to stay. So both in 1989 and in 2015, Hungary sent the refugees on their way. And when Orban built his fences on Hungary’s borders with Croatia and Serbia, he only did so out of fear that Germany would stop accepting the asylum seekers and saddle his government with them. Even before Merkel caught on to the toxic political fallout of her decision, Orban knew Germany soon would seek to limit the inflow, and so it did.“We believe that we are the fortress captains of the Germans,” Orban said on Monday. In a way, he’s right: At least twice in a generation, Hungarians have served, willy nilly, as Germany’s gatekeepers. Only now, Germany doesn’t really want them to rupture the new Iron Curtain, the one between the world’s poor south and its affluent north. For all the official disapproval of Orban’s tough anti-immigration policies in Germany and in the EU, for all the distaste about his illiberalism and his clumsy propaganda, he’s just the guy at the door.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  4. Trump Is Coming for Europe’s Most Important Alliance(Bloomberg) -- In the end, they papered over the cracks.After months of increasingly acrimonious sniping, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel set aside some of their differences last month, pushing through a deal on the next head of the European Commission. The rapprochement arrived just in time, with Donald Trump coming to Europe this week for the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.The U.S. president has a knack for finding the pressure points in the Franco-German relationship and has been looking to drive a wedge between the two leaders as he turns his focus toward the U.S.’s terms of trade with Europe. “Trade is a risk in their relationship,” said Enrico Letta, the former Italian prime minister who has worked with both Merkel and Macron. “France as a country has protectionist tendencies. Germany relies far more on industrial exports, and is keen to defend them. It’s another asymmetrical situation.” European Union diplomats fear that once Trump has rammed through a trade deal with China, he will turn his attention to Europe. While trade isn’t on the G-7 agenda, it’ll come up in one-on-one meetings if the president’s recent rhetoric is any guide. At a fundraiser in the Hamptons this month, Trump raised the prospect of imposing 100% tariffs on French wine, according to two people familiar with the conversation. The U.S. Trade Representative is also completing a probe into a French tax on internet giants like Google and Facebook that could pave the way for retaliatory tariffs, while the EU is braced for the World Trade Organization to give a green light for U.S. tariffs on up to $7 billion of EU goods after a ruling on illegal aircraft subsidies.“The European Union is worse than China, just smaller,” Trump said at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, last week. “It treats us horribly: barriers, tariffs, taxes—and we let them come in.”The prospect of a fully blown trade war is already sowing distrust between Berlin and Paris. The problem is that Trump’s demands are causing most resistance in France, and he’s mainly threatening punishment for Germany. The U.S. wants more access to Europe’s agricultural markets—a red line for the French—and the president is mulling tariffs on cars, the backbone of the German economy, unless he gets it. So Merkel’s aides are watching the French president nervously.German officials already feel that Macron has been playing a double game on trade. France, along with its allies, persuaded Germany to keep agriculture out of the EU’s trade talks with the U.S. in April but still cast a symbolic vote against opening trade talks.  Such a blatant sop to rural voters at home on an issue so vital to Germany greatly annoyed Merkel. She’s not convinced she can rely on Macron on trade, according to a person familiar with her thinking.The policy differences mirror the contrasting backgrounds of the two leaders. One is the 65-year-old daughter of a pastor who grew up in communist East Germany, the other a child prodigy who was writing plays at age 15. She’s cautious, he moves fast. He likes grand declarations, she works behind the scenes. At the October 2017 Frankfurt book fair, Macron gave a sweeping talk about the French 20th century philosopher Paul Ricoeur. When he was done, Merkel said “I didn’t understand what you said, but it sounded so beautiful.” She then launched into a discussion of the intricacies of German copyright rules.And yet when Macron came to power it looked at first like they might strike up a truly effective partnership—the previous three occupants of the Elysee Palace had failed to deliver the sort of reforms Germany has been hoping for. When Macron tried to answer politely, Trump cut him off and called her a “loser,” according to a diplomat presentMacron promised a long-overdue modernization of the French economy and, in exchange, he bet that Merkel would persuade German skeptics to accept greater financial integration of the euro zone. Both sides quickly wound up disappointed. Macron’s advisers say he hoped Merkel would show greater courage after more than a decade in power. But they also recognize both sides were unlucky with the timing. Germany’s inconclusive September 2017 elections touched off months of political gridlock and eventually left the chancellor’s hands tied by hardliners in her party leery of Macron’s proposals. Into this increasingly frustrating relationship, stepped Trump. At a White House meeting during Macron’s state visit in April 2018, Trump began with a tirade about German trading practices and then asked Macron what he thought of Merkel. When Macron tried to answer politely, Trump cut him off and called her a “loser,” according to a diplomat present.Trump’s monologues, sometimes premised on basic factual errors, can leave Macron lost for words, the diplomat said. But the president’s reading of the big picture can make a lot of sense all the same, he added.Macron’s relationship with Trump has deteriorated since then, and he’s stood firm with Merkel on both Iran and climate. But the French leader has also shown that he’s prepared to exploit the same pressure points as Trump and on occasion to leave Merkel isolated when she stands up to the U.S. A month after that White House encounter, Macron delivered his harshest rebuke yet to Merkel. Invited to Aachen, Germany, to receive an award for serving European integration, Macron lectured an audience including the chancellor for obstructing his plans, even echoing Trump’s critique of the Berlin government.  “Germany can’t have a perpetual fetish about budget and trade surpluses, because they come at the expense of others,” he said. When Germany blocked arms exports to Saudi Arabia last year after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Macron, like Trump, sought to shield his relationship with the Saudi regime and dismissed Merkel’s stance as “demagoguery.” That fight put a question mark over French-German plans to jointly develop tanks and a fighter plane.Macron even threw a spanner in the works of German plans for a new gas pipeline to Russia, a project that enrages Trump. Officials in Berlin were furious when France persuaded the EU to demand greater regulatory oversight of the North Stream 2, labelling it a threat to German interests. A compromise was found, but the bad taste remained. The Germans’ anger flared up again in May when Macron shot down their candidate to head the European Commission. Manfred Weber was the head of the biggest group in the EU parliament, a party ally of the chancellor, and officially the winner of the EU elections. But Macron demolished his credentials at a dinner in front of EU leaders. Merkel herself had been lukewarm about Weber, and acknowledged his inexperience. But the German camp saw Macron’s move not just as a European power play, but an attack on the European party system that has been a key element in their influence.  What followed was like a replay of the all night crisis summits of 2015 with an added element of farce. The 28 EU leaders were called back to Brussels for endless negotiations, though this time it wasn’t the fate of the euro that was at stake, just the identity of the bloc’s top bureaucrat. Macron settled the crisis with a call to the chancellor, proposing German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as a compromise candidate who could win broad support. Macron describes their jousting as “productive confrontation.” Merkel accepts that they have “differences in mentality.” People who know them say they aren’t close, but manage to work together.Their alliance has been fundamental to reining in the U.S. leader at previous G-7 meetings. They were at the center of the push that persuaded Trump to sign the communique at last year’s summit in Canada, even if he then ripped it up on the plane home. And any tensions this weekend could compromise efforts to wring concessions from the U.S. As Air Force One begins its descent into Biarritz on Saturday, both will know the relationship is in for another stress test. \--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs, Arne Delfs, Shawn Donnan and David Wainer.To contact the author of this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  5. Boris Johnson’s Bid to Renegotiate Brexit Starts on Irish Border(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first public attempt to renegotiate the Brexit deal by telling the European Union he wants to explore different ways to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, Johnson said he wants to replace the so-called backstop provision in the divorce agreement with a “legally binding commitment” not to build infrastructure or carry out checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland -- the U.K.’s new frontier with the EU -- as long as the bloc promises the same.The backstop, the most contentious part of the Brexit deal agreed between Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and the 27 other EU governments in November, would keep the U.K. following EU customs and many other trading rules indefinitely unless it’s superseded by a trade agreement that removes the need for controls or checks along the Irish border. The EU has said it’s needed as a permanent guarantee and isn’t up for negotiation.Johnson said both sides must look at other ways to keep the border free of checks and wants a commitment “to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period,” which could be as early as the end of 2020. A transition will only apply if the U.K. leaves with a deal.No SpecificsBut Johnson didn’t set out what the arrangements should be, and acknowledged there “will need to be a degree of confidence” about what would happen if they were not “fully in place” at the end of the transition period. That suggests he is prepared to replace the backstop with a different guarantee.What a No-Deal Brexit Would Mean for the Irish Border: QuickTakeJohnson made the removal of the backstop from the Brexit deal, which was not approved by the British Parliament, his key pledge on becoming prime minister last month. He’s repeatedly said that if the EU doesn’t comply, the U.K. will leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal.“Time is very short,” Johnson said in his letter, which was published late Monday. “But the U.K. is ready to move quickly, and given the degree of common ground already, I hope that the EU will be ready to do likewise.”In many ways, Johnson’s position echoes May’s. She also wanted to avoid a hard border in Ireland, while having different regulations between the U.K. and EU, and wanted to find alternative “arrangements” to deliver this. She, too, was willing to offer a guarantee if those arrangements couldn’t be agreed.Deal HopesJohnson said earlier Monday that while he would prefer to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU, he was determined to get the country out of the bloc, and was ready for any “bumps in the road.” His argument is that by talking up Britain’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit and willingness to go through with one, he’s more likely to persuade the EU to give ground.The prime minister travels to Berlin and Paris this week to discuss Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. EU leaders were “showing a little bit of reluctance” to change their position, he said, but he was “confident” they’ll eventually shift and give him a deal.The main opposition Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said Johnson’s plan didn’t contain any solutions.“This letter confirms that Johnson has no negotiating strategy,” Starmer said on Twitter. “He suggests (unspecified) alternatives to the backstop. And if they don’t work: further (unspecified) alternatives to the backstop. Why didn’t anyone think of that before!”No-Deal RowWith Johnson showing no sign of backing down over his willingness to leave the EU without an agreement, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded the prime minister release the latest assessment of the impact of a no-deal Brexit, after the government said a leaked copy of its plans was no longer current.The Sunday Times newspaper reported that “Operation Yellowhammer,” the government’s plans for leaving the EU without a deal, warned of a three-month “meltdown” at ports, along with shortages of food and medicine. Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, said on Sunday this was out-of-date information based on “worst-case planning.”“If the government wants to be believed that it doesn’t represent the real impact, it must publish its most recent assessments today in full,” Corbyn said in a statement. “Boris Johnson’s denials can’t be trusted, and will do nothing to give businesses or consumers any confidence that the dire state of affairs described in these documents aren’t right around the corner.”What ‘No-Deal Brexit’ Means and Why It’s a Big Risk: QuickTakeMeanwhile the government is about to launch a publicity blitz aimed at preparing the public for a no-deal Brexit, according to a government official.Whereas previous information campaigns were aimed at businesses -- with long technical briefings on how different sectors should prepare for the possibility that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a deal -- the new one will be more user-friendly, said the official, who asked not to be identified.EU citizens living in Britain are being urged to apply for settled status ahead of the Brexit deadline. But despite the government warning that free movement from the bloc will end on Oct. 31, the official said most changes are likely to be symbolic in the short term. The Home Office said in a blogpost that EU citizens still had until December 2020 to make their settlement applications.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, ;Robert Hutton at rhutton1@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.