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Gold Drifts Lower On Trade Progress

PM Lee Hsien Loong on leave for two weeks, Heng Swee Keat to be Acting PM from Dec 25

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be on leave for two weeks starting Saturday (Dec 21), his office said in a statement on Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will be Acting Prime Minister from Dec 25 until the end of Mr Lee’s leave on Jan 3.

The Straits Times understands that PM Lee will remain contactable during his leave until Dec 24.

Mr Heng was promoted to DPM in May and his first stint as acting head of government was from June 10 to 16.

U.S. fund firm Eaton Vance opens Brexit hub in Dublin

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. asset manager Eaton Vance has opened a Dublin office to cope with Brexit uncertainty, it said on Friday.

The $500 billion (383.7 billion pounds) asset manager joins firms such as Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA.L) and Legal & General (LGEN.L) in setting up bases in Ireland ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union next month.

U.S. fund firm Eaton Vance opens Brexit hub in Dublin

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. asset manager Eaton Vance has opened a Dublin office to cope with Brexit uncertainty, it said on Friday.

The $500 billion asset manager joins firms such as Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA.L) and Legal & General (LGEN.L) in setting up bases in Ireland ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union next month.

Women lead protests in India, Aligarh

Protests against a controversial citizenship law has moved beyond universities.

    Women are now leading their own rallies against the controversial new citizenship law in India.

    At least nine people have been killed and hundreds arrested in nationwide protests against the law which offers a path to citizenship for persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries but excludes Muslims.

    Al Jazeera’s Subina Shrestha reports from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, India.

    China Maintains Loan Prime Rates

    China retained its benchmark lending rates, as widely expected, on Friday, after lowering it last month.

    The one-year loan prime rate was retained at 4.15 percent and the five-year loan prime rate at 4.80 percent.

    The rate was last reduced in November, which was the first reduction since the new lending rate was introduced.

    The loan prime rate is fixed monthly based on the submission of 18 banks, though Beijing has influence over the rate-setting. This new lending rate replaced central bank’s traditional benchmark lending rate in August.

    This probably marks a pause rather than the end of the monetary easing cycle, Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, noted.

    With strains on corporate balance sheets still intensifying and economic activity likely to cool further in the first half of 2020, the People’s Bank of China will step up the pace of rate cuts before long, the economist added. The LPR is forecast to decline 50 basis points next year as a result.

    Earlier this week, the PBoC had cut its 14-day reverse repurchase rate marginally to 2.65 percent after cutting the short-term 7-day repo rate a month ago. On Wednesday, the central bank also injected CNY 200 billion into the financial system via reverse repurchase agreements.

    U.S. Leading Economic Index Unexpectedly Unchanged In November

    With strength in residential construction, financial markets, and consumers’ outlook offsetting weakness in manufacturing and labor markets, the Conference Board released a report on Thursday showing its reading on leading U.S. economic indicators came in unchanged in November.

    The Conference Board said its leading economic index was unchanged in November after dipping by 0.2 percent in both September and October. Economists had expected the index to inch up by 0.1 percent.

    “The US LEI was unchanged in November after three consecutive monthly declines,” said Ataman Ozyildirim, Senior Director of Economic Research at The Conference Board.

    He added, “While the six-month growth rate of the LEI remains slightly negative, the Index suggests that economic growth is likely to stabilize around 2 percent in 2020.”

    The report said the coincident economic index climbed by 0.4 percent in November after edging down by 0.1 percent in October.

    The lagging economic index also increased by 0.5 percent in November after rising by 0.2 percent in the previous month.

    Gold Drifts Lower On Trade Progress

    Gold prices inched lower Friday on the back of easing Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

    Spot gold dropped 0.1 percent to $1,477.57 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures were down 0.2 percent at $1,481.35 per ounce.

    It appears that the U.S.-China ‘phase one’ deal announced last week has taken some risk of escalation off the table for 2020.

    A week after Beijing and Washington agreed a trade agreement, China announced a list of United States (US) chemicals that will be exempted from import tariffs.

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday a trade deal with China was finished and is ready for signing after the holidays.

    Mnuchin told CNBC television that increased Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural, manufactured goods, energy and services would add about a half percentage point to U.S. economic growth during the next two years.

    The dollar gained some ground ahead of a revised reading on third-quarter U.S. GDP scheduled to be released later today along with reports on personal income and spending and consumer sentiment.

    Investors also await a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal later today.

    With a clear majority in parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would deliver on the promise made to the people and get the Brexit vote wrapped up for Christmas. The Brexit withdrawal bill is expected to be ratified without any major hiccups.