'A hard Brexit might be the best thing for our dairy industry – it would free up lots of land' – FarmIreland.ie

A hard Brexit could, indirectly, provide some opportunities for high profit dairy farmers, according to one leading Agri Consultant.

Cork consultant Mike Brady told the Grassland Conference this week that at the moment young people coming into dairy farming have to be prepared to move for their chosen career.

He said that young dairy farmers who don’t own or even come from a farm can have a successful and profitable career in farming, but they must be prepared to move location to do so.

“If you’re from West Cork you’re not going to end up milking 300 cows in West Cork. So you better be prepared to move where there will be opportunities.”

However, he also said that a hard Brexit may present an opportunity for some farmers, notably high profit dairy farmers.

“It’s a harsh thing to say but a hard Brexit might be the best thing ever for the dairy industry. That will free up lots of land.”

He said that a hard Brexit might be tough on the dairy industry, but it would be ‘catastrophic’ on the beef industry in Ireland.

“There is going to be substantially less single farm payment and if there are tariffs going into Britain, it will be catastrophic for the beef industry in this country.

“Figures from the National Farm Survey show that if you take out the subsidies, the average beef farmer with 100 acres loses €3,000 a year. If that goes to minus €20,000 a year, will he continue to do it?

“I doubt it. So that will free up land for dairy farmers, which is profitably and will be profitable, even if you take a 20pc hit if we have a hard Brexit, they will still survive.”

“It could be an opportunity for high profit dairy farmers, which it is for high profit farmers in the UK.”

Land in the West

Meanwhile, growing inequality in the farming sector will lead to a return of “landlordism” in the west, Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice has claimed.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said land purchases in the West were now dominated by either large-scale dairy operations or forestry interests, with small drystock farmers losing out.

“It’s either trees or the big dairymen that are mopping up all the ground that’s coming for sale,” Mr Fitzmaurice said.

He said local drystock farmers did not have the borrowing capacity to compete with either of these groups, adding that large dairy operators had the access to credit and the CAP payments to outbid most drystock farmers for any good parcels of land that came on the market.

Private forestry interests were also willing to pay more for planting ground, he said. Deputy Fitzmaurice (right) claimed that over €5,000/ac was paid for a section of land near the Galway-Roscommon border recently that is likely to go for trees.

“I see this happening around the country. Local farmers with 50-60ac who are trying to buy 20-30ac more just can’t get the finance to compete with the dairy farmers or forestry interests,” he said.

“The small man and woman are being pushed out.” He said State-backed low-interest loans should be made available to farmers with under 100ac who are seeking to expand the size of their holding to a commercial level, or who are looking to consolidate a fragmented farm.

“Something has to be done to help these farmers, because Ireland is heading for a return to landlordism the way the land market is going,” he stated.

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U.S. Announces Settlement With Fiat Chrysler Over Emissions

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and remedial efforts under an agreement announced Thursday to settle lawsuits over false emissions readings on diesel vehicles.

Including extended warranties and other provisions, the settlement could cost the company close to $800 million.

The Justice Department sued the company in 2017 over the Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that it had used illegal engine-control software that turned off pollution controls under certain driving conditions. The E.P.A. contended that the software enabled the vehicles to pass emissions tests while allowing them to release higher levels of pollutants in normal driving.

Under the settlement, the company will pay $305 million in civil penalties in connection with those claims, the Justice Department said, and another $6 million over allegations of illegally importing noncompliant vehicles.

It will also pay $19 million to mitigate excess emissions from noncompliant vehicles in California, which also sued the company.

As part of the agreement, Fiat Chrysler will recall about 100,000 diesel-powered Ram 1500 trucks and Jeep Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicles from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 model years, a person briefed on the settlement said. The recall repair involves installing new software in the vehicles and providing extended warranties, at a total cost of up to $185 million, the Justice Department said.

In addition, vehicle owners will be eligible for compensation of $990 to $3,075 from Fiat Chrysler and Bosch, a German company that supplied engine computers and software. That agreement could cost up to $300 million, the Justice Department said. Fiat Chrysler said it would bear an estimated $280 million of that cost.

The Justice Department said the settlement did not resolve any potential criminal liability.

In October, the company set aside about $800 million to cover the cost of a settling the emissions case. Fiat Chrysler stock was up more than 1 percent at noon on Thursday.

Fiat Chrysler is coming off a strong year in North America. Although the company’s profit fell on a global basis in the first nine months of 2018, its North American division’s pretax profits rose 17 percent.

The company is benefiting from a decision in 2015 to stop selling cars and focus on trucks and S.U.V.s, which have higher profit margins. In the United States, Fiat Chrysler’s new-vehicle sales rose 9 percent in 2018, while the overall market grew just 1 percent.

The federal investigation into Fiat Chrysler followed the vast diesel emissions-cheating scandal that rocked Volkswagen. But United States officials viewed the Fiat Chrysler matter as much less serious, and stopped short of accusing the company of intentionally engineering the software to cheat on emissions tests.

Volkswagen acknowledged that it had used “defeat device” software to cheat on emissions tests, and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and other charges brought by the Justice Department. The company agreed to pay $22 billion in settlements and fines, including $4.3 billion to settle a case brought by the Justice Department. It also was required to buy back 600,000 diesel vehicles from American consumers. Two Volkswagen executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the United States.

In Germany, the scandal resulted in the ouster of Volkswagen’s chief executive, his successor and some two dozen other executives. The former chief executive of Volkswagen’s Audi division was arrested last year and is awaiting trial on criminal charges.

Diesel engines were once seen as a key part of automakers’ strategies for increasing fuel economy and lowering emissions of greenhouse gases. But the Volkswagen scandal and diesel-emissions investigations against other companies have all but extinguished interest and demand for diesel cars and S.U.V.s. Diesel remains a popular choice for heavy-duty pickups and larger trucks.

In place of diesel cars, automakers are scrambling to develop a variety of battery-powered vehicles. Last year, Ford Motor said it planned to spend $11 billion in a bid to introduce 16 battery-powered vehicles and 24 hybrids by 2022. Audi and Mercedes-Benz plan to add new electric models this year. Both companies had previously been big promoters of “clean diesel” technology.

Volkswagen was once one of the largest sellers of diesel cars in the United States market, and had built a loyal following for the diesel versions of the Jetta and the Beetle. But sales plunged after the diesel cheating scandal. As part of a bid to win back customers, the company plans to introduce an electric S.U.V. in 2020, followed by an electric hatchback and possibly an electric minivan.

Ivan Penn contributed reporting.

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How Brits have the chance to win £39 million on this record-breaking lottery

Betting on the outcome of lottery draws has given players the chance to win huge amounts that they wouldn’t previously have been able to dream of.

Lotteries only usually allow entrants from a certain country, state, or region, meaning lotteries such as the Mega Millions were meaningless to Brits.

But now people from the UK, among other countries, can bet on the outcome of the Mega Millions draw through companies such as myLotto24 – who list their main prize as the same as the lottery’s jackpot.

Get 2 bets for the price of 1 on the outcome of the Mega Millions draw. Click here to get the chance to win millions**

This means whatever the jackpot on Mega Millions, myLotto24 list their jackpot as the same – so after weeks of building up, it has reached a huge £39 million ($50 million).

And players who are new to myLotto24 have the chance to get 1 bet for free – all they have to do is place their first wager on the outcome of the Mega Millions draw, which costs £3.**

"We’re giving our new customers two chances to win millions for £3**," said myLotto24’s UK country manager.

"Who knows if one of our players could hit a lucky streak, pick the correct numbers and we may have to pay out a huge sum to them."

To bet on the outcome of the Mega Millions draw simply follow the link below, pick the numbers you think will come out in the draw, then place your bet.

Get 2 bets for the price of 1 on the outcome of the Mega Millions draw. Click here to get the chance to win millions**

*Estimated Jackpot payout amount. myLotto24 will deduct an amount equivalent to 38% for the taxes that a winner would be required to pay in the United States on the winning Jackpot amount. myLotto24 may choose to pay the amount either in a 30-year annuity or in a lump sum. Payment as a lump sum is subject to a further 40% deduction. Display in British pound is for illustrative purposes only, payment will generally be made in US dollars.

**Terms and conditions

18+only. Valid bets will be placed on the next relevant draw that takes place, provided that they are placed before any deadline myLotto24 states in these Terms or on the Web Site for that draw.

It is up to the Player to ensure that the bet is placed before the relevant deadline.

Prize/Winnings are tax-free in many countries. Any applicable taxes, duties or levies on Prizes shall be charged to and paid by the Player.

Minimum deposit is the cost of one bet, which varies by lottery.

Players are not entering the draw instead they are betting on the outcome.

Minimum withdrawal amount £10. Offer is for new customers only. For the full terms and conditions,  click here  .

Disclaimer: Jackpot amounts correct at time of writing (10/01/2019).

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Wall St. flat after four-day surge as retailers, trade talks disappoint

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday after a four-day surge, as weakness in retailers due to tepid holiday season report from Macy’s Inc and concerns over progress in the U.S.-China trade talks were offset by gains in Boeing.

Despite the S&P 500’s .SPX sluggish moves, the benchmark index is at three-week highs it hit after rallying more than 5 percent in the last four days on strong U.S. jobs data, easing fears of higher interest rates and rising hopes of a trade deal.

But the trade-related optimism was dampened as China offered little details on key issues such as forced technology transfers, intellectual property rights, tariff barriers and cyber attacks, while saying the meeting set a “foundation” to resolve differences.

The lack of clarity, coupled with weak economic data in China and France, rekindled worries about global growth.

Closer home, reports from Macy’s and American Airlines added to fears of corporate profit growth shrinking, which was exacerbate after Apple’s sales warning last week.

“Most of what’s driving the pullback is headline risks on the lack of a formal trade policy deal,” said Matt Forester, chief investment officer at BNY Mellon’s Lockwood Advisors in King of Prussia, PA.

“We’re about to go into the earnings season and it’s going to be a tug of war between relatively good results versus what the forward guidance is going to look like.”

Macy’s Inc (M.N) plunged 18.1 percent after the department store operator cut same-store sales forecast for the full year due to weak demand during mid-December.

The report, along with that of Kohl’s Corp (KSS.N) and others, pushed the S&P 500 retailers index .SPXRT 0.56 percent lower.

The technology index .SPLRCT dropped 0.56 percent, with Apple down 0.4 percent and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) 0.7 percent. Profit forecasts for technology companies have fallen more than any sector other than energy.

At 11:36 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 62.93 points, or 0.26 percent, at 23,942.05, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 3.87 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,588.83 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 8.61 points, or 0.12 percent, at 6,965.69.

The trade-sensitive industrial stocks .SPLRCI however rose 0.73 percent, lifted by Boeing Co (BA.N), which gained 1.7 percent after the U.S. Air Force accepted its long-delayed KC-46 air tanker.

American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) fell 7.4 percent after the No.1 U.S. carrier cut its fourth-quarter profit and unit revenue forecasts. That weighed on other airlines as well.

Among the bright spots was Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), which rose 1.7 percent after Bank of America double upgraded the stock to “buy” from “underperform.”

Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s recent meeting, released on Wednesday, showed policymakers want to be patient on future rate hikes. Investors will tune into Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech before the Economic Club of Washington to see if the same tone continues.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.15-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.02-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 14 new highs and 8 new lows.

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Trump says U.S. is having tremendous success with China on trade

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Thursday the United States was having tremendous success in its trade negotiations with China, a day after U.S. and Chinese officials concluded three days of talks in Beijing.

The meetings in China were the first face-to-face talks since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Buenos Aires in December and agreed a 90-day truce in a trade war that has disrupted the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of goods.

Trump, a Republican, has accused China of cheating the United States on trade and stealing U.S. intellectual property, though he often has said he has a good personal rapport with Xi.

“We’re negotiating and having tremendous success with China,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House on a trip to the U.S. border with Mexico on the 20th day of a partial shutdown of the U.S. government. He did not elaborate.

He added that he found China to be in many ways “far more honorable” than congressional Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump is locked in a stalemate with congressional Democrats over his demand for $5.7 billion in partial funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The dispute triggered a shutdown of about one-quarter of the federal government, and Trump has said he will not sign any bill to reopen the government that does not include funding for the wall.

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“I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party,” he said.

Washington has presented Beijing with a long list of demands that would rewrite the terms of trade between the world’s two largest economies. They include changes to China’s policies on intellectual property protection, technology transfers, industrial subsidies and other non-tariff barriers to trade.

Some 40 days into the 90-day truce, there were few concrete details on progress made so far. The meetings in Beijing this week were not at a ministerial level, so were not expected to produce a deal to end the trade war.

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Jaguar Land Rover to cut 4,500 jobs under cost savings plans

Car giant Jaguar Land Rover is to cut 4,500 jobs under plans to make £2.5bn of cost savings, the company has announced.

Most of the cuts are expected to be in the UK, with a voluntary programme being launched.

The savings and “cashflow improvements” will be made over the next 18 months.

The new job losses are in addition to the 1,500 workers who left the company last year.

Ralf Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, said: “We are taking decisive action to help deliver long-term growth, in the face of multiple geopolitical and regulatory disruptions as well as technology challenges facing the automotive industry.”

The company also announced further investment in electrification, with electric drive units to be built at its factory in Wolverhampton and a new battery assembly centre at Hams Hall in Birmingham.

JLR employs 44,000 workers in the UK at sites in Halewood on Merseyside and Solihull, Castle Bromwich and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands.

In October last year, the car giant unveiled a £2.5bn turnaround plan that included cost cutting after Brexit uncertainty and slowing demand in China left it nursing a hefty second-quarter loss.

The firm, owned by Indian conglomerate Tata, booked a £90m pre-tax loss in the three months to September 30, which compared with a £385m profit in the same period in 2017.

In China, demand was adversely impacted by consumer uncertainty following import duty changes and escalating trade tensions with the US.

In the UK, “continuing uncertainty related to Brexit” was blamed.

Meanwhile, Ford signalled “significant” cuts among its 50,000-strong European workforce under plans to make it more competitive and make its business more sustainable.

The company started consultations with unions, with details of job cuts not expected until later in the year, although staff based at Warley in Essex will move to Dunton.

Steven Armstrong, Ford’s European group vice president, said the company was taking “decisive action” to transform its European business.

He said: “We will invest in the vehicles, services, segments and markets that best support a long-term sustainably profitable business, creating value for all our stakeholders and delivering emotive vehicles to our customers.”

New all-electric vehicles will be offered for all Ford models, while there will be a more “targeted” line-up of models in the future.

Mr Armstrong said Ford was making “tough” decisions by undertaking a “complete review” of its European operations.

He said the announcement was not directly linked to Brexit, but he added that Ford will have to undertake a further review if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in March.

Mr Armstrong declined to say how many jobs will be cut, but he said the impact will be “significant”.

Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “Ford’s workforce in the UK is world class in making and developing engines and gearboxes that are shipped all over the globe.

“Unite is positively engaging with Ford over its plans as we seek to safeguard jobs and look after the interests of all the company’s employees in the UK.

“We expect the immediate impact on Ford’s UK operations to be limited.”

Mr Quinn said Unite will scrutinise the business case for JLR’s job cuts, and the union expects any UK redundancies to be voluntary.

“Jaguar Land Rover workers have had to endure a great deal of uncertainty over recent months as they continue to work hard to ensure the carmaker remains a global leader.

“With record levels of new investment and models set to come on stream in its UK factories we look for Jaguar Land Rover to continue to be a global success and the jewel in Britain’s manufacturing crown.

“Britain’s car workers have been caught in the crosshairs of the Government’s botched handling of Brexit, mounting economic uncertainty and ministers’ demonisation of diesel, which along with the threat of a no-deal Brexit, is damaging consumer confidence.

“Government ministers need to wake up and start doing more to support UK’s car workers and their colleagues in the supply chain if Jaguar Land Rover’s recent success is to continue.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark said the company was offering voluntary redundancy packages to their UK workforce, adding: “This is a commercial decision for the company but nevertheless it will clearly be a worrying time for Jaguar Land Rover employees and their families.

“Jaguar Land Rover is a much valued British company with a talented and dedicated workforce. The Government has, and will continue, to work closely with the business to ensure that it can succeed long into the future as it invests and transitions to autonomous, connected and electric vehicles.

“Jaguar Land Rover and its owners have made clear they remain firmly committed to the UK, continuing to invest billions and employing tens of thousands of people.

“This includes today’s announcement of investment in next generation electric drive units to be produced in Wolverhampton and a new battery assembly centre in Hams Hall. Building on last year’s investment in their key plants in Solihull and Halewood to build the next generation of Land Rover models, including electric vehicles.”

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Nike's Dutch tax status investigated by EU regulators

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has opened an investigation into the tax treatment of Nike Inc (NKE.N) in the Netherlands, saying this may have given the U.S. sportswear maker an illegal advantage.

The Nike case, announced on Thursday, follows other probes by the EU executive since 2013 into tax schemes in Belgium, Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands it says allow companies to establish structures to reduce their taxes unfairly.

The countries have been ordered to recover the tax from beneficiaries of such schemes, which have included Amazon (AMZN.O), Apple (AAPL.O), Starbucks SBOX.O and Fiat (FCHA.MI).

The Commission said in a statement that Dutch authorities had issued five tax rulings from 2006 to 2015, two of which are still in force, endorsing a method to calculate the royalty payments to two Nike entities based in the Netherlands.

The EU executive, which oversees competition policy in the 28-member European Union, said that, at this stage, it was concerned that the royalty payments endorsed by the rulings “may not reflect economic reality”.

“Member states should not allow companies to set up complex structures that unduly reduce their taxable profits and give them an unfair advantage over competitors,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Nike said it was subject to and ensured that it complied with all the same tax laws as other companies operating in the Netherlands.

“We believe the European Commission’s investigation is without merit,” a Nike spokesperson said.

The Dutch finance ministry said it would cooperate with the Commission’s investigation and said that it agreed tax rulings should provide certainty and not preferential treatment.

The Commission has pushed governments to tighten taxation rules in response to revelations in the so-called LuxLeaks and the Panama and Paradise Papers, but some countries have resisted EU-wide changes.

Vestager did say she welcomed actions taken by the Netherlands to reform its corporate taxation rules and to help to ensure that companies operate on a level playing field.

The Commission said its new investigation concerned the tax treatment of two Nike companies based in the Netherlands – Nike European Operations Netherlands BV and Converse Netherlands BV – which market and record sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

They received licenses to use intellectual property rights of Nike and Converse products in the region in return for tax-deductible royalty payments to two other Nike entities also based in the Netherlands, but not taxable there.

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The Commission said the royalty payments appeared higher than what independent companies would have agreed between themselves. As a result the Netherlands may have allowed the Nike companies to pay a lower amount of tax. If this was confirmed, it would amount to illegal state aid.

The Commission will allow the Netherlands and interested parties to submit comments.

The Commission is also conducting an in-depth investigation into Dutch tax rulings in favor of IKEA and an investigation into a tax scheme for multinationals in Britain.

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GIC joins German mobile bank N26's US$300m funding round

SINGAPORE – Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC is taking part in a US$300 million (S$406.6 million) fundraising by N26, which aims to build the first global mobile bank.

Following the Series D funding round, the fintech start-up will be valued at US$2.7 billion. The latest funding round was led by New York-based venture capital and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners and backed by several existing investors.

N26 has to date raised more than US$500 million from major global investors including Tencent, Allianz X, Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures, Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Earlybird Venture Capital, Redalpine Ventures and Greyhound Capital.

The start-up said it will use the proceeds to drive global expansion, starting with the US launch of its mobile banking product in the first half of 2019.

Said Valentin Stalf, CEO and co-founder of N26: “Around the world, millions of people still suffer from bad banking experiences and high fees. With Insight Venture Partners and GIC joining our renowned group of existing investors, N26 has the support of the best investors globally to disrupt one of the largest industries in the world.”

N26 currently operates in 24 markets across Europe, and has more than 2.3 million customers. It is targeting to reach over 100 million customers in the coming years.

Since launching its first product in January 2015, N26 has processed more than €20 billion (S$31.1 billion) in transaction volume. Customers currently hold over €1 billion in the mobile bank’s accounts.

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Most Asia shares inch up as signals on trade talks awaited

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares edged up on Thursday on a weaker dollar and hopes of more economic stimulus in China, but many stocks seesawed as markets awaited some details on this week’s U.S.-China trade talks amid hopes an all-out trade war can be averted.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent, hovering at a near four-week high, helped by a fall for the dollar.

Japan’s Nikkei closed 1.3 percent lower.

European stocks are expected to open lower. Spread-betters looked for Britain’s FTSE to be 0.2 percent lower, France’s CAC off 0.5 percent and Germany’s DAX down 0.4 percent.

Wall Street’s S&P 500 rose 0.41 percent on Wednesday, extending its gains from 20-month lows touched around Christmas to more than 10 percent.(Asian stock markets: tmsnrt.rs/2zpUAr4)

But E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were down half a percent.

Weak Chinese inflation data raised the prospect of further government stimulus but China’s blue-chip CSI 300 went back into the red, losing 0.2 percent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng struggled to maintain a small gain.

Delegations from China and the United States ended three days of trade talks in Beijing on Wednesday in the first face-to-face negotiations since both sides agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war.

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday the talks were extensive, and helped establish a foundation for the resolution of each others’ concerns.

However, there were few concrete details on the meetings, which were not at a ministerial level, so were not expected to produce a deal to end the trade war.

Risk assets extended a days-long rally overnight after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting showed that many policymakers believed they could be patient about future U.S. monetary tightening, while a few did not support the central bank’s rate increase last month.

WEAK CHINA DATA

Figures out of China on Thursday showed the country’s consumer prices and factory-gate inflation both increased less than expected in December, with the latter rising at the slowest pace in over two years.

The pace of month-on-month increases in factory-gate inflation declined for a second straight time.

“If this trend persists, it may turn negative on year-on-year terms this year and more radical stimulus measures, such as benchmark interest rate cuts, may become possible,” said Betty Wang, senior China economist at ANZ Research.

Oil also caught investors’ attention after U.S. crude and Brent jumped overnight, helped by optimism that Sino-U.S. trade tensions are easing, while OPEC-led crude output cuts also provided support.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures on Wednesday gained almost 5.2 percent, while Brent crude futures rose more than 4.6 percent, extending a rally that has pushed futures up about 14 percent this year.

Both benchmarks gave up some of their recent gains on Thursday. U.S. crude was last trading 59 cents lower at $51.76 a barrel, down 1.15 percent. Brent lost 57 cents to $60.87, off 0.93 percent.

Chris Weston, Melbourne-based head of research at foreign exchange brokerage Pepperstone, said he viewed more gains in oil prices as a key driver for any further rise in risk appetite.

If U.S. crude futures can break through the $55 level, “you’re going to see real yields probably lower. That’s really good for the cost of money and taking some further headwinds out of the U.S. dollar,” he said.

U.S. Treasury yields last stood at 2.699 percent, down from 2.710 percent at the U.S. close on Wednesday.

The dollar remained on the defensive after hitting its lowest level since mid-October amid the signs Fed policymakers are becoming more cautious about future rate hikes and as investors unwound safe-haven bets due to optimism over the trade talks.

The yuan strengthened, breaching the key 6.8 per dollar level for the first time since August in both onshore and offshore trade.

The greenback was down a tenth of a percent against the euro at $1.1556. The single currency gained 0.9 percent against the dollar during the previous session, its biggest one-day gain since late June.

Against a basket of six major rivals, the dollar briefly dipped to 95.029, its lowest since Oct. 16, and was last down 0.1 percent.

The dollar lost 0.2 percent against the yen, a safe-haven currency that’s often preferred by traders during times of market and economic stress.

The Canadian dollar retreated in line with oil prices, and last traded down 0.2 percent at C$1.3232. It had risen to a five-week high during the previous session.

The Bank of Canada held interest rates steady as expected on Wednesday but said more increases would be necessary even though low oil prices and a weak housing market will harm the economy in the short term.

In commodity markets, spot gold was 0.2 percent higher at $1,296.40, edging towards a near seven-month peak of $1.298,60 scaled on Friday.

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State banking unit SBCI's future strategy to be guided by review

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is to undertake a review of the State’s Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to help determine its future strategy.

It comes just months after the SBCI chairman Conor O’Kelly, who is also chief executive of the NTMA, told Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe that the prevailing low-interest environment had diminished the SBCI’s financial advantage for banks.

The SBCI was established in 2014 to provide SMEs with access to cheap finance via the banks, as Irish firms faced some of the highest borrowing costs in Europe.

The NTMA said that following engagement with the Department of Finance, and as the fourth anniversary of the SBCI has passed, “it is considered timely and opportune” to undertake a review of the SBCI.

“The purpose of the review is to inform the SBCI’s future strategy and product development in a rapidly-changing market and support the SBCI as it continues to assist Irish businesses in accessing SME-friendly finance,” said an SBCI spokesman.

The NTMA said the review will focus on the SBCI’s function “as a policy-delivery mechanism and national promotional finance institution within the context of the Irish State’s suite of supports for SMEs and use of promotional finance”.

The SBCI launched its first products in March 2015 and has delivered more than €1bn of SBCI-supported lending to more than 24,000 SMEs.

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