Category Archives: Business

economy and business news

Hedge Fund Founder Charged with Mismarking Securities

 A New York hedge fund founder was arrested Wednesday on charges that he exaggerated his company’s performance by over $200 million to impress and preserve investors.

Anilesh Ahuja, 49, of Manhattan, was charged with conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud.

Federal officials said that the founder, chief executive officer and chief investment officer of the investment firm Premium Point Investments LP had carried out a fraud from 2014 through 2016 that was designed to make investors believe that the firm’s hedge funds were doing much better than they were. Between 2008 and 2016, the firm managed billions of dollars in assets, exceeding $5 billion at one time at its peak, authorities said.

Amin Majidi, 52, of Armonk, New York, a former Premium Point portfolio manager, and Jeremy Shor, 46, of Manhattan, a former trader at the firm, also were charged. A lawyer for Ahuja did not immediately comment. A lawyer for Majidi declined comment. An attorney for Shor did not immediately return a message.

“By allegedly cooking the books, Ahuja and his co-defendants made the fund appear more attractive to would-be investors and dissuaded current investors from withdrawing their investments,” said Audrey Strauss, a federal prosecutor.

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of the New York FBI office, said in a release that the defendants’ “alleged practice of intentionally misleading investors and mismarking securities held in the funds they managed allowed them to charge higher fees and hold captive money that would have likely been withdrawn had their clients been aware of the hedge fund’s actual value.”

According to an indictment, Ahuja started his firm in 2008 and launched the company’s flagship mortgage credit fund a year later. After the firm began overstating the net asset value of its funds by more than $200 million at times, it was able to charge investors higher management and performance fees and could forestall redemptions, authorities said.

Prosecutors also announced Wednesday that the firm’s former chief risk officer and a former salesman at a broker-dealer have pleaded guilty to charges and are cooperating.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed civil charges against Ahuja, Majidi and Shor.

“Investors rely on their investment advisers to fairly and accurately value securities, and that is especially true when the securities trade in opaque markets,” said Daniel Michael, chief of the SEC’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit.  “As we allege, Premium Point masked its true performance, which denied investors the opportunity to make informed investment decisions.”

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OPEC Source: Saudi Arabia Will Not Act Alone to Fill Any Iran Oil Shortfall

Saudi Arabia is monitoring the impact of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal on oil supplies and is ready to offset any shortage but it will not act alone to fill the gap, an OPEC source familiar with the kingdom’s oil thinking said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday abandoned a nuclear deal with Iran and announced the “highest level” of sanctions against the OPEC member. The original agreement had lifted sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program.

Iran is the third-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

During the last round of sanctions, Iran’s oil supplies fell by around 1 million barrels per day (bpd), but the country re-emerged as a major oil exporter, especially to refiners in Asia, after sanctions were lifted in January 2016.

“People shouldn’t take it for granted that Saudi Arabia will produce more oil single-handedly. We need to assess first the impact if there is any, in terms of disruption, in terms of a reduction of Iran’s production,” the OPEC source said Wednesday.

“We have managed to put together this new alliance between OPEC and non-OPEC. Saudi Arabia will not in any way act independently of its partners.”

Riyadh is working closely with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which holds OPEC’s presidency in 2018 and non-OPEC producer Russia for “coordination and market consultations,” the OPEC source said.

He said any action would be taken in coordination with all OPEC and non-OPEC partners, if needed.

OPEC’s oil supply-cutting deal with non-OPEC producers such as Russia has helped to clear a global oil supply glut and boost prices. The agreement is due to expire at the end of 2018.

OPEC officials from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia along with few other producers in the pact are due to meet in Saudi Arabia on May 22-23 as part of a monthly meeting for the Joint Technical Committee which monitors the oil market.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and top OPEC producer, is concerned about any negative impact from the potential oil supply shortage for oil-consuming countries, the OPEC source said.

But Saudi Arabia has enough oil production capacity — currently at 12 million barrels per day (bpd) — to maintain oil market stability, the OPEC source also said.

Iran produces about 3.8 million bpd. Since the Iran nuclear deal went into effect, its exports have risen to about 2.5 million bpd, from less than 1 million bpd. A majority goes to Asia, with Europe receiving about 600,000 bpd.

Analysts now expect Iran’s supplies to fall by between 200,000 bpd and 1 million bpd, depending on how many other countries fall in line with Washington.

Trump and oil prices

Expectations that new U.S. sanctions could hit Iranian crude exports and feed tensions in the Middle East had pushed oil prices higher in the past few weeks.

Brent crude was trading about $77 at a 3-1/2 year high on Wednesday, raising concerns that prices were going too high too fast.

Trump accused OPEC last month of “artificially” boosting oil prices in a message on Twitter, the first time he has mentioned OPEC on social media.

His tweet was seen by OPEC sources as the U.S. president’s way to appease a domestic audience unhappy about a rise in gasoline prices.

A key U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran and to reimpose economic sanctions.

Riyadh also said it would work with OPEC and non-OPEC to lessen the impact of oil shortages in a clear indication that the country has been coordinating with Washington ahead of time, sources familiar with the matter said.

“You need to work with your partners in dealing with any potential effect on supply,” the OPEC source said.

“But it should be done in a collective coordinated way and that can only happen when you start to be able to assess what would be the impact.”

OPEC and non-OPEC meet next in June and they are widely expected to keep supply curbs in place until the end of 2018.

But a drop in Iranian exports due to U.S. sanctions, plus supply disruptions in other OPEC members, such as Venezuela, could reduce supply more than planned, leading to a potential price spike.

But the OPEC source said a rise in prices due to the market’s worries about supply should not be the parameter for OPEC to adjust output.

The OPEC source said any decision in June to raise output “should be driven by a potential physical shortage or reduction in production from any oil supply source not only Iran.”

“You only handle [output] when you have a semi-clear idea of what would be the potential impact. It is too early now to do that,” the source said.

He also said Saudi Arabia does not expect any physical impact on the oil market from the U.S. Iran sanctions until the third or fourth quarter of this year.

OPEC’s objective is still to reduce global oil inventories to an acceptable level, and any adjustment in production targets should be done in a coordinated way, the OPEC source said.

“This way you do not disrupt a mechanism that we have worked hard to put together and to sustain just to address a short-term issue,” the source said.

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OPEC Source: Saudi Arabia Will Not Act Alone to Fill Any Iran Oil Shortfall

Saudi Arabia is monitoring the impact of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal on oil supplies and is ready to offset any shortage but it will not act alone to fill the gap, an OPEC source familiar with the kingdom’s oil thinking said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday abandoned a nuclear deal with Iran and announced the “highest level” of sanctions against the OPEC member. The original agreement had lifted sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program.

Iran is the third-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

During the last round of sanctions, Iran’s oil supplies fell by around 1 million barrels per day (bpd), but the country re-emerged as a major oil exporter, especially to refiners in Asia, after sanctions were lifted in January 2016.

“People shouldn’t take it for granted that Saudi Arabia will produce more oil single-handedly. We need to assess first the impact if there is any, in terms of disruption, in terms of a reduction of Iran’s production,” the OPEC source said Wednesday.

“We have managed to put together this new alliance between OPEC and non-OPEC. Saudi Arabia will not in any way act independently of its partners.”

Riyadh is working closely with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which holds OPEC’s presidency in 2018 and non-OPEC producer Russia for “coordination and market consultations,” the OPEC source said.

He said any action would be taken in coordination with all OPEC and non-OPEC partners, if needed.

OPEC’s oil supply-cutting deal with non-OPEC producers such as Russia has helped to clear a global oil supply glut and boost prices. The agreement is due to expire at the end of 2018.

OPEC officials from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia along with few other producers in the pact are due to meet in Saudi Arabia on May 22-23 as part of a monthly meeting for the Joint Technical Committee which monitors the oil market.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and top OPEC producer, is concerned about any negative impact from the potential oil supply shortage for oil-consuming countries, the OPEC source said.

But Saudi Arabia has enough oil production capacity — currently at 12 million barrels per day (bpd) — to maintain oil market stability, the OPEC source also said.

Iran produces about 3.8 million bpd. Since the Iran nuclear deal went into effect, its exports have risen to about 2.5 million bpd, from less than 1 million bpd. A majority goes to Asia, with Europe receiving about 600,000 bpd.

Analysts now expect Iran’s supplies to fall by between 200,000 bpd and 1 million bpd, depending on how many other countries fall in line with Washington.

Trump and oil prices

Expectations that new U.S. sanctions could hit Iranian crude exports and feed tensions in the Middle East had pushed oil prices higher in the past few weeks.

Brent crude was trading about $77 at a 3-1/2 year high on Wednesday, raising concerns that prices were going too high too fast.

Trump accused OPEC last month of “artificially” boosting oil prices in a message on Twitter, the first time he has mentioned OPEC on social media.

His tweet was seen by OPEC sources as the U.S. president’s way to appease a domestic audience unhappy about a rise in gasoline prices.

A key U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran and to reimpose economic sanctions.

Riyadh also said it would work with OPEC and non-OPEC to lessen the impact of oil shortages in a clear indication that the country has been coordinating with Washington ahead of time, sources familiar with the matter said.

“You need to work with your partners in dealing with any potential effect on supply,” the OPEC source said.

“But it should be done in a collective coordinated way and that can only happen when you start to be able to assess what would be the impact.”

OPEC and non-OPEC meet next in June and they are widely expected to keep supply curbs in place until the end of 2018.

But a drop in Iranian exports due to U.S. sanctions, plus supply disruptions in other OPEC members, such as Venezuela, could reduce supply more than planned, leading to a potential price spike.

But the OPEC source said a rise in prices due to the market’s worries about supply should not be the parameter for OPEC to adjust output.

The OPEC source said any decision in June to raise output “should be driven by a potential physical shortage or reduction in production from any oil supply source not only Iran.”

“You only handle [output] when you have a semi-clear idea of what would be the potential impact. It is too early now to do that,” the source said.

He also said Saudi Arabia does not expect any physical impact on the oil market from the U.S. Iran sanctions until the third or fourth quarter of this year.

OPEC’s objective is still to reduce global oil inventories to an acceptable level, and any adjustment in production targets should be done in a coordinated way, the OPEC source said.

“This way you do not disrupt a mechanism that we have worked hard to put together and to sustain just to address a short-term issue,” the source said.

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US Trade Embargo Has Cost Cuba $130B, UN says

A United Nations agency said on Tuesday an “unjust” U.S. financial and trade embargo on Cuba had cost the country’s economy $130 billion over nearly six decades, coming up with the same estimate as the island’s communist government.

Although many U.S. allies join Washington in criticizing Cuba’s one-party system and repression of political opponents, the United States has lost nearly all international support for the embargo since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The U.N. has adopted a non-binding resolution calling for an end to the embargo with overwhelming support every year since 1992. In a report ahead of the vote last year, Cuba estimated total damage from the embargo at $130 billion.

“This country which welcomes us today .. is testing its own ways to face the brutal human costs that it has sustained during an unjust blockade,” the head of the U.N.’s regional economic body for Latin America, ECLAC, Alicia Barcena told its biennial meeting in Havana on Tuesday.

“We evaluate it every year as an economic commission and we know that this blockade costs the Cuban people more than $130 billion at current prices and has left an indelible mark on its economic structure,” she said, without detailing how the organization came to that estimate.

After agreeing to a historic U.S.-Cuban detente in 2014, former U.S. President Barack Obama eased the embargo, which was fully put into place in 1962. But U.S. President Donald Trump last year tightened travel and trade restrictions again. Only the U.S. Congress can lift it in full.

“Despite the difficulties the Cuban economy is faced with, particularly due to the intensification of the blockade imposed on Cuba… we will continue to focus on the development goals set,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in his opening remarks at the meeting, attended also by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Cuba’s Soviet-style, centralized economy has grown just 2.4 percent on average per year over the past decade, official statistics show, much less than the 7 percent annual expansion the government has estimated it needs in order to develop.

Cuba hoped market reforms introduced in the last decade would boost growth, but they have so far borne mixed results.

The ruling Communist Party earlier this year admitted implementation had been harder than expected.

ECLAC will support Cuba’s reform program, Barcena said.

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US Trade Embargo Has Cost Cuba $130B, UN says

A United Nations agency said on Tuesday an “unjust” U.S. financial and trade embargo on Cuba had cost the country’s economy $130 billion over nearly six decades, coming up with the same estimate as the island’s communist government.

Although many U.S. allies join Washington in criticizing Cuba’s one-party system and repression of political opponents, the United States has lost nearly all international support for the embargo since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The U.N. has adopted a non-binding resolution calling for an end to the embargo with overwhelming support every year since 1992. In a report ahead of the vote last year, Cuba estimated total damage from the embargo at $130 billion.

“This country which welcomes us today .. is testing its own ways to face the brutal human costs that it has sustained during an unjust blockade,” the head of the U.N.’s regional economic body for Latin America, ECLAC, Alicia Barcena told its biennial meeting in Havana on Tuesday.

“We evaluate it every year as an economic commission and we know that this blockade costs the Cuban people more than $130 billion at current prices and has left an indelible mark on its economic structure,” she said, without detailing how the organization came to that estimate.

After agreeing to a historic U.S.-Cuban detente in 2014, former U.S. President Barack Obama eased the embargo, which was fully put into place in 1962. But U.S. President Donald Trump last year tightened travel and trade restrictions again. Only the U.S. Congress can lift it in full.

“Despite the difficulties the Cuban economy is faced with, particularly due to the intensification of the blockade imposed on Cuba… we will continue to focus on the development goals set,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in his opening remarks at the meeting, attended also by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Cuba’s Soviet-style, centralized economy has grown just 2.4 percent on average per year over the past decade, official statistics show, much less than the 7 percent annual expansion the government has estimated it needs in order to develop.

Cuba hoped market reforms introduced in the last decade would boost growth, but they have so far borne mixed results.

The ruling Communist Party earlier this year admitted implementation had been harder than expected.

ECLAC will support Cuba’s reform program, Barcena said.

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Trump to Allow Year-Round Sales of High-Ethanol Gas

President Donald Trump will allow year-round sales of renewable fuel with blends of 15 percent ethanol as part of an emerging deal to make changes to the federal ethanol mandate.

 

Republican senators and the White House announced the deal Tuesday after a closed-door meeting, the latest in a series of White House sessions on ethanol.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency currently bans the 15-percent blend, called E15, during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days. Gasoline typically contains 10 percent ethanol. Farm-state lawmakers have pushed for greater sales of the higher ethanol blend to boost demand for the corn-based fuel.

 

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley called the agreement good news for farmers and drivers alike, saying it would increase ethanol production and consumer choice at the pump.

 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the deal will save the jobs of thousands of blue-collar workers at refineries in Texas, Pennsylvania and other states.

 

“Terrific final decision from @POTUS meeting,” Cruz tweeted. “This is a WIN-WIN for everyone.”

 

The decision allowing E15 to be sold year-round will provide “relief to refiners” and “protect our hardworking farmers and refinery workers,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said. “The president is satisfied with the attention and care that all parties devoted to this issue.”

 

Trump met Tuesday with Grassley, Cruz, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, as well as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

 

The EPA oversees the decade-old Renewable Fuel Standard, commonly known as the ethanol mandate, which sets out how much corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels refiners must blend into gasoline. The program’s intent was to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and bolster the rural economy by requiring a steady increase in renewable fuels over time.

 

The mandate has not worked as intended, and production levels of renewable fuels, mostly ethanol, routinely fail to reach minimum thresholds set in law.

 

Environmental groups criticized the deal, saying it would worsen air pollution during summer months.

 

“Waiving clean-air standards at the behest of one favored industry would not only set a precedent for bad policy, it could cost lives,” a coalition of environmental groups said in a statement.

 

Ernst said allowing year-round sale of E15 “will drive up domestic ethanol production and consumption” while helping to “maintain already low prices” for fuel credits that oil refiners must buy if they can’t blend ethanol into their fuels.

 

She and Grassley also said they were encouraged that the Trump administration will take a closer look at “hardship” waivers that have been granted to small refineries, a practice they say has hurt biofuels and undermined the RFS.

 

The EPA has reportedly granted a waiver to a refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, a former Trump adviser, as well as other small refineries. The agency has not disclosed which refineries received the waivers, saying it did not want to reveal private business information.

 

Cruz said the president also agreed to consider his proposal to include fuel credits for ethanol that is produced domestically and exported. The proposal is meant to make it easier for the industry to meet annual sales volumes required under the renewable-fuel mandate.

 

“This is good for farmers, refiners and America,” Cruz said in a statement.

 

But the Renewable Fuels Association, an industry group, said allowing exports to qualify for RFS compliance could dramatically reduce domestic demand and result in retaliatory trade barriers from countries that import U.S. ethanol.

 

The group’s president, Bob Dinneen, called the export idea a “disgrace” and said ethanol producers and farmers would bear the brunt of any retaliatory tariffs.

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Trump to Allow Year-Round Sales of High-Ethanol Gas

President Donald Trump will allow year-round sales of renewable fuel with blends of 15 percent ethanol as part of an emerging deal to make changes to the federal ethanol mandate.

 

Republican senators and the White House announced the deal Tuesday after a closed-door meeting, the latest in a series of White House sessions on ethanol.

 

The Environmental Protection Agency currently bans the 15-percent blend, called E15, during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days. Gasoline typically contains 10 percent ethanol. Farm-state lawmakers have pushed for greater sales of the higher ethanol blend to boost demand for the corn-based fuel.

 

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley called the agreement good news for farmers and drivers alike, saying it would increase ethanol production and consumer choice at the pump.

 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the deal will save the jobs of thousands of blue-collar workers at refineries in Texas, Pennsylvania and other states.

 

“Terrific final decision from @POTUS meeting,” Cruz tweeted. “This is a WIN-WIN for everyone.”

 

The decision allowing E15 to be sold year-round will provide “relief to refiners” and “protect our hardworking farmers and refinery workers,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said. “The president is satisfied with the attention and care that all parties devoted to this issue.”

 

Trump met Tuesday with Grassley, Cruz, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, as well as EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

 

The EPA oversees the decade-old Renewable Fuel Standard, commonly known as the ethanol mandate, which sets out how much corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels refiners must blend into gasoline. The program’s intent was to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and bolster the rural economy by requiring a steady increase in renewable fuels over time.

 

The mandate has not worked as intended, and production levels of renewable fuels, mostly ethanol, routinely fail to reach minimum thresholds set in law.

 

Environmental groups criticized the deal, saying it would worsen air pollution during summer months.

 

“Waiving clean-air standards at the behest of one favored industry would not only set a precedent for bad policy, it could cost lives,” a coalition of environmental groups said in a statement.

 

Ernst said allowing year-round sale of E15 “will drive up domestic ethanol production and consumption” while helping to “maintain already low prices” for fuel credits that oil refiners must buy if they can’t blend ethanol into their fuels.

 

She and Grassley also said they were encouraged that the Trump administration will take a closer look at “hardship” waivers that have been granted to small refineries, a practice they say has hurt biofuels and undermined the RFS.

 

The EPA has reportedly granted a waiver to a refinery owned by billionaire Carl Icahn, a former Trump adviser, as well as other small refineries. The agency has not disclosed which refineries received the waivers, saying it did not want to reveal private business information.

 

Cruz said the president also agreed to consider his proposal to include fuel credits for ethanol that is produced domestically and exported. The proposal is meant to make it easier for the industry to meet annual sales volumes required under the renewable-fuel mandate.

 

“This is good for farmers, refiners and America,” Cruz said in a statement.

 

But the Renewable Fuels Association, an industry group, said allowing exports to qualify for RFS compliance could dramatically reduce domestic demand and result in retaliatory trade barriers from countries that import U.S. ethanol.

 

The group’s president, Bob Dinneen, called the export idea a “disgrace” and said ethanol producers and farmers would bear the brunt of any retaliatory tariffs.

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China Cuts US Soybean Purchases

With the threat of tariffs and counter-tariffs between Washington and Beijing looming, Chinese buyers are canceling orders for U.S. soybeans, a trend that could deal a blow to American farmers if it continues.

At the same time, farmers in China are being encouraged to plant more soy, apparently to help make up for any shortfall from the United States.

 

Beijing has included soybeans on a list of $50 billion of U.S. exports on which it has said it would impose 25 percent tariffs if the United States follows through on its threats to impose the same level of tariffs on the same value of Chinese goods. The U.S. tariffs could kick in later this month; China would likely retaliate soon after.

It can take a month or longer for soybean shipments to travel from the U.S. to China. Any soybeans en route to China now could be hit by the tariff by the time they arrive.

“The Chinese aren’t willing to buy US soybeans with a 25 percent tax hanging over their head,” said Dan Basse, president of AgResource, an agricultural research and advisory firm. “You just don’t want the risk.”

China typically buys most of its soybeans from South American nations such as Brazil and Argentina during spring and early summer. It shifts to U.S. soybeans in the fall. As a result, for now, the cutbacks from the United States are relatively small.

But should they persist, it could cause real pain to U.S. farmers. Roughly 60 percent of U.S. soybeans are shipped to China.

There might also be a political impact: Three of the top five soybean-exporting states — Iowa, Indiana and Nebraska — voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Illinois, the top soybean exporter, and Minnesota, the third-largest, backed Hillary Clinton.

Basse said that it has been roughly three weeks since China has made any major soybean purchases, an unusually long delay.

Some Chinese buyers might be showing support for their government in the trade dispute by turning away U.S. soybeans, Basse said. The dispute may also make it seem too risky to buy from the United States over the long run.

“The United States could lose the reliable supplier label that we’ve had these many years,” Basse said.

Data from the U.S. government data show that sales of soybeans have fallen from about 255,000 metric tons in the first week of April, when the trade dispute began, to just 7,900 in the week that ended April 26.

Cancellations have also jumped, to more than 140,000 metric tons in the week ending April 26. In the same week last year, there were no canceled sales at all.

Some analysts argue that the shifts aren’t yet particularly significant. China buys most of its soybeans from the United States in the late summer and fall, and then switches to South American sources, mainly Brazil and Argentina, in the spring. So the current market activity doesn’t necessarily reflect the pattern that would occur during the main buying season.

“These numbers we’re talking about are pretty minor,” said John Baize, an economist for the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

The U.S. ships about 35 million metric tons of soybeans to China a year, Baize said. China usually imports about 100 million tons a year and can’t import enough from other countries, he said, to abandon the United States as a source.

“Where’s China going to buy its beans?” Baize asked.

That may be true in the short run. But Basse suggests that Brazil has enough land that could be used for soybean cultivation that it could soon mostly replace the United States as a supplier to China.

And if the Chinese market were to be closed to U.S. farmers, they might be able to sell some portion of their soybeans to other markets. Baize said that huge multinational companies, such as Cargill and ADM, might, for example, sell more U.S. soybeans to Europe, where they wouldn’t face any tariffs, though this likely wouldn’t make up for the loss of the Chinese market.

At the same time, China is looking more to its own farmers. Since China announced its potential tariffs on U.S. soy in April, the government has encouraged farmers to cultivate more soybeans. Beginning this month, Chinese farmers say, Beijing reduced corn subsidies and raised annual soybean subsidies from 2550 yuan ($400) per hectare to 3000 yuan ($470) or more per hectare in major soybean-producing provinces in northeast China.

An adjustment had already been planned to help draw down China’s substantial corn stockpiles, so the change wasn’t necessarily aimed at U.S. soy growers, analysts say.

But the subsidy adjustment did come with political undertones. Officials in major soybean-producing provinces were describing the promotion of local soybeans as “the most important political task in agricultural production at present.” Heilongjiang in northeast China announced a pilot project to plant soybeans on over 100,000 new hectares, with an extra 2,250 yuan ($353) subsidy per hectare.

The moves are prompting farmers like Liu Cong to focus more on growing soy. Liu says he used most of his land to grow corn last year but this year is planting more soybeans.

“This is encouraging for farmers,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re more motivated.”

Zhang Xiaoping, China director for the U.S. Soybean Export Council, says that Chinese buyers have been canceling soybean purchases of last year’s U.S. soybean harvest because of the threat of tariffs.

“The buyers literally stopped buying from the U.S.,” Zhang said. “Exporters cannot find any buyers in China.”

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China Cuts US Soybean Purchases

With the threat of tariffs and counter-tariffs between Washington and Beijing looming, Chinese buyers are canceling orders for U.S. soybeans, a trend that could deal a blow to American farmers if it continues.

At the same time, farmers in China are being encouraged to plant more soy, apparently to help make up for any shortfall from the United States.

 

Beijing has included soybeans on a list of $50 billion of U.S. exports on which it has said it would impose 25 percent tariffs if the United States follows through on its threats to impose the same level of tariffs on the same value of Chinese goods. The U.S. tariffs could kick in later this month; China would likely retaliate soon after.

It can take a month or longer for soybean shipments to travel from the U.S. to China. Any soybeans en route to China now could be hit by the tariff by the time they arrive.

“The Chinese aren’t willing to buy US soybeans with a 25 percent tax hanging over their head,” said Dan Basse, president of AgResource, an agricultural research and advisory firm. “You just don’t want the risk.”

China typically buys most of its soybeans from South American nations such as Brazil and Argentina during spring and early summer. It shifts to U.S. soybeans in the fall. As a result, for now, the cutbacks from the United States are relatively small.

But should they persist, it could cause real pain to U.S. farmers. Roughly 60 percent of U.S. soybeans are shipped to China.

There might also be a political impact: Three of the top five soybean-exporting states — Iowa, Indiana and Nebraska — voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Illinois, the top soybean exporter, and Minnesota, the third-largest, backed Hillary Clinton.

Basse said that it has been roughly three weeks since China has made any major soybean purchases, an unusually long delay.

Some Chinese buyers might be showing support for their government in the trade dispute by turning away U.S. soybeans, Basse said. The dispute may also make it seem too risky to buy from the United States over the long run.

“The United States could lose the reliable supplier label that we’ve had these many years,” Basse said.

Data from the U.S. government data show that sales of soybeans have fallen from about 255,000 metric tons in the first week of April, when the trade dispute began, to just 7,900 in the week that ended April 26.

Cancellations have also jumped, to more than 140,000 metric tons in the week ending April 26. In the same week last year, there were no canceled sales at all.

Some analysts argue that the shifts aren’t yet particularly significant. China buys most of its soybeans from the United States in the late summer and fall, and then switches to South American sources, mainly Brazil and Argentina, in the spring. So the current market activity doesn’t necessarily reflect the pattern that would occur during the main buying season.

“These numbers we’re talking about are pretty minor,” said John Baize, an economist for the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

The U.S. ships about 35 million metric tons of soybeans to China a year, Baize said. China usually imports about 100 million tons a year and can’t import enough from other countries, he said, to abandon the United States as a source.

“Where’s China going to buy its beans?” Baize asked.

That may be true in the short run. But Basse suggests that Brazil has enough land that could be used for soybean cultivation that it could soon mostly replace the United States as a supplier to China.

And if the Chinese market were to be closed to U.S. farmers, they might be able to sell some portion of their soybeans to other markets. Baize said that huge multinational companies, such as Cargill and ADM, might, for example, sell more U.S. soybeans to Europe, where they wouldn’t face any tariffs, though this likely wouldn’t make up for the loss of the Chinese market.

At the same time, China is looking more to its own farmers. Since China announced its potential tariffs on U.S. soy in April, the government has encouraged farmers to cultivate more soybeans. Beginning this month, Chinese farmers say, Beijing reduced corn subsidies and raised annual soybean subsidies from 2550 yuan ($400) per hectare to 3000 yuan ($470) or more per hectare in major soybean-producing provinces in northeast China.

An adjustment had already been planned to help draw down China’s substantial corn stockpiles, so the change wasn’t necessarily aimed at U.S. soy growers, analysts say.

But the subsidy adjustment did come with political undertones. Officials in major soybean-producing provinces were describing the promotion of local soybeans as “the most important political task in agricultural production at present.” Heilongjiang in northeast China announced a pilot project to plant soybeans on over 100,000 new hectares, with an extra 2,250 yuan ($353) subsidy per hectare.

The moves are prompting farmers like Liu Cong to focus more on growing soy. Liu says he used most of his land to grow corn last year but this year is planting more soybeans.

“This is encouraging for farmers,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re more motivated.”

Zhang Xiaoping, China director for the U.S. Soybean Export Council, says that Chinese buyers have been canceling soybean purchases of last year’s U.S. soybean harvest because of the threat of tariffs.

“The buyers literally stopped buying from the U.S.,” Zhang said. “Exporters cannot find any buyers in China.”

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Zimbabwe Parliament Delays Mugabe’s Questioning on Diamond Revenue

Former President Robert Mugabe will not appear before Zimbabwe’s parliament as scheduled on Wednesday to answer questions on diamond mining operations, a legislator said.

Temba Mliswa, who leads the parliamentary committee on mines, said the clerk of parliament hadn’t written to Mugabe to invite him to appear.

“It has been delayed but that resolution still stands,” Mliswa said. “He will have to appear before the committee whether he likes it or not.”

The committee had ordered the 94-year-old Mugabe to face legislators over his previous pronouncements that the state had been deprived of at least $15 billion in diamond revenue by mining companies.

Mugabe said in March 2016 the country was robbed of the revenue by diamond companies, including joint ventures between Chinese companies and the army, police and intelligence services, whose operations were shielded from public scrutiny.

Specifically, he said Zimbabwe lost $15 billion from the Marange gem fields, more than 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of the capital. He later expelled the companies and replaced them with a state-owned diamond company.

Mliswa said a new date for Mugabe to testify would be set.

The questioning on Wednesday would have been Mugabe’s first public appearance since the army deposed him last November in a de facto coup.

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