U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had offered to mediate a standoff between India and China at the Himalayan border, where soldiers camped out in a high-altitude region have accused each other of trespassing over the disputed border. “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute,” Trump said in a Twitter post. The standoff was triggered by India’s construction of roads and air strips in the region as it competes with China’s spreading Belt and Road initiative, involving infrastructure development and investment in dozens of countries, Indian observers said on Tuesday. There was no immediate response from either India or China to Trump’s offer. Both countries have traditionally opposed any outside involvement in their matters and are unlikely to accept any U.S. mediation, experts said. The Chinese side has been insisting that India stop construction near the Line of Actual Control or the de facto border. India says all the work is being done on its side of the border and that China must pull back its troops. Trump in January offered to “help” in another Himalayan trouble spot, the disputed region of Kashmir that is at the center of a decades-long quarrel between India and Pakistan. But the U.S. offer triggered a political storm in India, which has long bristled at any suggestion of third-party involvement in tackling Kashmir which it considers an integral part of the country.
Australia’s central bank chief said on Thursday that better-than-feared health outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic suggest the country’s economic downturn will likely not be as severe as earlier thought. The remarks come as Australia, with a much lower COVID-19 death toll than other advanced countries, has started resuming normal life barely halfway into the six-month shutdown first flagged by the government. Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe added that a mid-March stimulus package, including an unlimited quantitative easing programme, to cushion the blow to the economy was working “as expected”. With the national health outcomes better than earlier feared, it is possible that the economic downturn will not be severe as earlier thought. Much depends on how quickly confidence can be restored. Lowe was speaking before a parliamentary committee which is looking at the Australian government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Australia has recorded just above 7,100 coronavirus cases so far and 103 deaths, with new infections under control across all eight states and territories.
Asian shares and U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday as growing optimism about economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic trumped immediate concerns about a standoff between the United States and China over Hong Kong. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 0.5%. Australian shares rose 1.86% to the highest in more than two months, while Japan's Nikkei stock index rose 1.28% to the highest since early March as investors cheered the re-opening of economic activity in both countries. U.S. stock futures, S&P 500 e-minis ESc1, rose 0.36% on Thursday in Asia following another positive session on Wall Street overnight, highlighting the positive mood. The S&P 500 had closed above 3,000 for the first time in almost 12 weeks, bolstered by bank stocks, as investors hoped that the world economy can recover as it re-opens. The S&P 500 has leapt about 36% since the global coronavirus pandemic dragged it to the year’s low on March 23, but there are concerns the rally may be overdone and susceptible to a protracted pullback. Bond investors seemed to agree more circumspection is needed. Ten-year U.S. yields dipped to 0.6770% from 0.6802% overnight. Although 10-year yields are up from an all-time low of 0.4980% struck in March, they are still a whopping 120 basis points below highs seen in January. Oil futures took a beating as investors fretted about Trump’s response to China. U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 fell 2.68% to $31.93 early Thursday. Gold investors, on the other hand, appeared to shrug off geopolitical risks and focused instead on optimism around the re-opening of the world economy, paring their holdings of the safe-haven metal. Prices extended overnight losses and spot gold traded at $1,708.60 per ounce.
Indian shares edged higher on Thursday as signs the government is ready to step in to support state-run banks supported financial shares for a second day, adding to a broadly more positive global mood. The NSE Nifty 50 index rose 0.4% to 9,348 by 0346 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex gained 0.34% to 31,714.29. On Wednesday, Indian shares ended over 3% higher, fuelled by a more than 7% surge in the banking index. Asian shares and U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday as growing optimism about economic recovery from the pandemic trumped immediate concerns about a standoff between the United States and China over Hong Kong.
Oil prices fell in early trade on Thursday after U.S. crude, gasoline and heating oil inventories all rose more than expected, dousing hopes of a smooth recovery in demand from coronavirus lockdowns. The decline extended losses from Wednesday on uncertainty about Russia’s commitment to deep oil production cuts in the lead-up to a June 9 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, dubbed OPEC+. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell as much as 5% to a low of $31.14 and were down 3%, or 97 cents, at $31.84 at 0019 GMT. Brent crude futures last traded down 2.3%, or 78 cents, at $33.96. Gasoline stocks rose by 1.1 million barrels, more than 10 times the build analysts had expected, and stocks of diesel and heating oil rose by 6.9 million barrels, nearly four times as much as anticipated. Shaw said crude was also weaker amid scepticism about the tightness of Russia’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, even after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed on further “close coordination” on oil output cuts. With WTI holding above $30, OPEC+ will be closely watching to see whether U.S. oil shale oil producers who have breakeven prices in the high $20 and low $30 dollar range step up production.