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Hong Kong latest: Boris Johnson offers refuge to 3 million after China crackdown

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Mr Johnson said that Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated and its 350,000 UK passport holders, as well as 2.6 million people with British National Overseas (BNO) status, will be offered an escape route out. Representing just under half of Hong Kong’s 7½ million population, they will be allowed to live in Britain for five years. After a further year they can apply for British citizenship. Britain had warned China to “step back from the brink” over the changes.

Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984, 13 years before Britain officially handed back the territory, Hong Kong has a level of autonomy for at least 50 years via the “one party, two systems” plan.

But China rammed its new law through parliament and kept the wording secret until Tuesday night, when it unveiled repressive measures against protesters.

Vandalism against government buildings or public transport can now be treated as subversion or terrorism with life sentences for rule-breakers.

And China’s feared security agencies will openly set up shop in Hong Kong for the first time.

Human rights groups say the law has “frightening loopholes” that could let Beijing round up protesters and extradite them to China.

Yesterday a man with a “Hong Kong Independence” flag was the first to be arrested – 23 years to the day since Britain returned the former colony to Chinese rule.

Pepper spray and water cannons were also used against protesters.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said: “The enactment of an imposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British declaration.

“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with BNO status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship, and that is precisely what we will do now.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs: “We will live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong, and I can tell the House that after further detailed discussions with the Home Secretary, I can now confirm we will proceed to honour our commitment to change the arrangements for those holding BNO status.”

Currently they are only entitled to visa-free access to the UK for six months.

Alp Mehmet, the chairman of MigrationWatch pressure group, warned that the plan was “a potential disaster for immigration control”.

ANALYSIS by Alan Mendoza

The Government’s offer to resettle as many as three million Hong Kongers who possess British Overseas Nationality is both magnanimous and necessary.

For 50 years after the transfer of power in 1997, China agreed to preserve Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and autonomy.

Now, 23 years into the agreement, China’s promises lie in tatters.

To turn our backs on them now in their hour of need would send the message the UK cannot be trusted and that any of us might be similarly abandoned if the circumstances suited.

This might be China’s way, but it has never been ours.

As Britain prepares to relaunch itself as a global power post-Brexit, what better way to show we are back in business than by welcoming our fellow nationals back into the British fold.

• Alan Mendoza is a founder and the Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society.

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World News

UK heatwave: UK to see SIZZLING 29C heat as hot weather sweeps Europe – latest maps

As lockdown measures start to ease further in the UK, many of us are hoping for some warmer weather as we start to spend more time outdoors again. The Met Office is predicting highs of 23C on Thursday this week, and lots of rain for the UK on Friday, but according to weather maps things will really start to heat up later in July.

According to WXCHARTS maps, which use data from MetDesk, temperatures in the UK will start to increase next weekend.

In the week prior, much of the UK is forecast to see maximum temperatures within the ‘teens, but by Friday, July 10, many places will start seeing temperatures above 20C.

On Sunday, July 12, parts of the south-east of England will see highs of 25C, according to one chart.

On this date, other parts of eastern, northern and central England are also likely to see maximum temperatures above 20C, as will parts of Wales.

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And according to Netweather maps, the hot weather will continue into the following week as well.

On Wednesday, July 15, maps show much of southern, eastern and parts of northern England with maximum temperatures soaring above 25C.

Scorching maximum temperatures of 29C could also make an appearance in parts of the south.

Around this time, weather maps show scorching heat across other parts of Europe, particularly in France, Spain and Italy, where in some places maximum temperatures are forecast to near 40C.

The Met Office long-range weather forecast also suggests there will be some warm weather in parts of southern England around mid-July.

The Met Office forecast from July 6 to July 15 states the start of the period will see a “general settling trend” as rain and cloud in the south and showers in the north will “give way to higher pressure from the Atlantic”.

While some showers, rain and wind could still affect the whole country during this time, the Met Office state “these are likely to be fewer and further between than of late”.

Temperatures during this period are expected to remain “around average” for this time of year, however, the south is likely to see some warm and sunny weather.

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The forecast reads: “Temperatures will remain around average; often rather cool in the north and in more unsettled spells, to rather warm, or even locally warm and humid, in sunnier weather in the south.”

From July 16 to July 30, the Met Office is forecasting above-average temperatures with potential “hot episodes” across the south.

The forecast reads: “Most likely continuing settled overall, but confidence in the longer range forecast is low (typical for this time of year).

“Plenty of dry, fine weather around, with the most likely scenario seeing rain increasingly moving away from the northwest bringing more prolonged settled weather here too.

“A greater likelihood than earlier in the month of warm or even hot episodes across the south, especially south-east, with a chance, albeit still low, of thunderstorms.

“Temperatures are expected to be above average overall.”

According to bookmakers Ladbrokes, the odds are 2/1 for this July to be the hottest on record.

The odds are also 4/6 for Summer 2020 to be the hottest on record.

Alex Apati of Ladbrokes said: “Temperatures are expected to rise in the coming days and this may well go down as the hottest July on record as a result.”

He added: “As for the rest of the summer, following a scorching spring, things will only get hotter in the UK between now and the end of August and we’ve slashed odds on 2020 setting new weather records.”

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World News

Hong Kong police stabbing suspect arrested at airport after security law protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against a new national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

On Wednesday, police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.

A police spokesman told Reuters the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm if he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.

Local newspaper Apple Daily, citing unnamed sources, said the suspect was onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight.

A witness said “around 10 minutes before take-off, three police vehicles drove towards No. 64 gate, outside the Cathay Pacific plane” and around 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.

Local television Cable TV, citing a police source, said police received an anonymous call at 11.43 pm, 12 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, that the suspect was on his way to London. He bought a one-way ticket about two hours after the stabbing, the only purchase for that flight made on Wednesday, and arrived at the airport without luggage.

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He held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong and provides a route to citizenship, the source told Cable TV.

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying posted on Facebook on Wednesday that a bounty of HK$500,000 ($64,513) would be offered to anyone helping catch the fugitive and that confidentiality would be ensured.

The money would come via 803.hk, a website linked to Leung, which offers “crowdfunded” rewards for information leading to the prosecution of some anti-government protesters. The name of the site refers to an incident on Aug. 3, 2019, when a Chinese national flag was thrown into the sea during a protest.

Police said on Wednesday they had made around 370 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with 10 involving violations of the new security law.

The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China’s parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing denies the accusation.

Chinese state media on Thursday praised the passage of the law, saying it would bring “prosperity and stability.”

“We must face up to the fact that the existence of legal loopholes in safeguarding national security has already made Hong Kong society pay a heavy price,” a commentary in People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, read.

($1 = 7.7504 Hong Kong dollars)

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Business

Asian stocks near 4-month highs on vaccine hopes, eyes on U.S. payrolls

SYDNEY/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks hovered near four-month highs on Thursday on hopes of a vaccine for COVID-19 while copper prices jumped to a more than six-month peak on a better global outlook and supply fears in top producer Chile.

All eyes are on U.S. employment data, due later in the day, which are expected offer further cues into how the world’s largest economy is coping with a rise in coronavirus cases in several states.

In a sign the positive sentiment will extend elsewhere, E-minis for S&P500 rose 0.3% while futures for Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.8% and those for Germany’s DAX climbed 0.8%. London’s FTSE futures added 0.6%.

Risk sentiment was whetted by a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, which was found to be well tolerated in early-stage human trials.[.N]

A vaccine for COVID-19, which has killed more than half a million people globally and shut down the world economy, has been long anticipated.

“Based on a vaccine trial containing 45 people, including placebos, the V-shaped recovery gnomes, are once again, reaching for the sky,” said Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside of Japan rose 1.5% to near levels seen in early March.

All major Asian indexes were upbeat with Japan’s Nikkei rising 0.1%, China’s blue-chip index adding 1.7% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 1.8%.

U.S. employment figures will help indicate whether the world’s largest economy can sustain its fragile recovery as new COVID-19 cases accelerate in several southern states.

Economists polled by Reuters expect private employers to show 2.9 new million new jobs June, which would follow a surprise increase in May. Casting some doubt over that projection, however, was a smaller-than-expected increase in jobs seen in the ADP report on Wednesday.

“A better-than-expected outcome could go some way to settling the near-term debate that the U.S. labor market will heal relatively quickly and justify new highs in U.S. equities,” said Stephen Innes, strategist at AxiCorp.

Wall Street ended Wednesday higher after key economic indicators showed a rebound in Chinese manufacturing activity as it recovers from the pandemic while sharp declines in European factory activity eased.

Equity investors shrugged off concerns about Hong Kong where police arrested more than 300 people protesting sweeping new laws introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

Those developments have raised concerns about China’s already strained relations with its major western trading partners, particularly the United States.

In commodities, the most-traded August copper contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange touched 49,570 yuan ($7,016.28) a tonne, its highest since Dec. 30, 2019.

Manufacturing activity rebounded in the United States in June, while the factory sector in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, contracted at a slower pace and top copper consumer China posted better-than-expected manufacturing data.

Meanwhile in Chile, where the number of COVID-19 cases have been climbing, miner BHP said it would begin to slow production at its small Cerro Colorado copper mine in the country.

Elsewhere, oil prices climbed and gold eased while the dollar was steady as encouraging macro data prompted investors to take on more risk.[O/R][GOL/]

Brent crude climbed 17 cents to $42.20 a barrel. U.S. crude rose 14 cents to $39.96 a barrel. U.S. gold futures were 0.21% lower, at $1,776.20.

The safe haven greenback was unchanged against the Japanese yen at 107.45. The euro was a shade higher at $1.1267 while sterling was slightly firmer at $1.2497.

The risk sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollar were 0.2% and 0.4% stronger respectively.

That left the dollar index at 97.044.

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Business

Fed's Bullard warns of financial crisis risks as virus cases spike: FT

(Reuters) – St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank president James Bullard has warned that a growing number of bankruptcies due to the coronavirus outbreak could lead to a financial crisis, the Financial Times reported.

“Without more granular risk management on the part of the health policy, we could get a wave of substantial bankruptcies and (that) could feed into a financial crisis,” Bullard said in an interview with the newspaper on Wednesday. (on.ft.com/31AlcUF)

He warned of “twists and turns” in the health crisis and said “it’s probably prudent to keep our lending facilities in place for now, even though it’s true that liquidity has improved dramatically in financial markets.”

New U.S. COVID-19 cases rose by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, marking the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic. The surge in cases across the country, including the populous states of California, Florida and Texas, threaten the budding recovery.

Bullard said that it is possible that the country could “take a turn for the worse at some point in the future”, but added that it was not his base case, according to the report.

The Fed moved aggressively in March to support the U.S. economy by cutting rates to near zero, buying up trillions of dollars in bonds and launching a slate of emergency lending tools to keep credit flowing to households and businesses.

The last of those programs was launched on Monday, which the Fed can use to buy newly minted corporate bonds.

“With all these programmes, the idea is to make sure the markets don’t freeze up entirely, because that’s what gets you into a financial crisis, when traders won’t trade the asset at any price,” Bullard added.

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Politics

Brexit LIVE: ‘Too late!’ Boris Johnson blames EU for missing key trade talks deadline

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The UK missed Tuesday’s deadline to hand in 28 regulatory equivalency assessments to the EU relating to Britain’s financial service industry – a crucial sticking point in current trade negotiations. Brussels needs to use these documents to conclude whether it grants the city of London lucrative access to EU markets when the transition period ends on December 31, 2020. Earlier this week, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was left furious after confirming the UK had not completed the necessary equivalence assessments.

He said in a statement: “As you know, the political declaration committed us to ‘best endeavours’ to finalise our respective assessments by the end of June.

“The European Commission has therefore sent questionnaires to the UK, covering 28 areas where equivalence assessments are possible. So far, the UK has only answered four of these questionnaires. So we are not there yet.”

But the UK has instead blamed Brussels for the missed deadline, with the Government claiming it received the 1,000-plus pages of questions in April and May, with the last 248 pages arriving on May 25.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman insisted: “We have completed our own proportionate and thorough assessment of the EU on time.

“What we are doing is returning over 1,000 pages of questionnaires that were sent by the EU to the UK late.

“These are straightforward assessments as we start from having similar rules and a history of co-operation and we are ready to reach comprehensive findings of equivalence once the EU has clarified its position.”

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Rare Javan Rhino captured on hidden camera in gleeful mudbath

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A rare Javan rhinoceros has been captured on camera gleefully rolling around in the khaki, tropical waters of a national park, on the westernmost tip of Indonesia’s Java island.

The video of the critically endangered Javan rhino, one of only 72 left in the wild, was posted on Twitter by Indonesia’s environment minister, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, and offers a rare glimpse into the life of one of the world’s largest land mammals.

The footage, captured by a hidden camera at Ujung Kulon’s national park has been shared more than 12,000 times and shows the rhino, a male estimated to be seven years old, rolling around on his back in the muddy waters at the base of a waterfall.

The minister said that a rhino mud bath helps to regulate their body temperature and protect their skin from parasites and insects.

Javan rhinos, which once lived throughout northeast India and Southeast Asia, are among the most threatened of the five rhino species.

There are only 72 Javan rhinos left in the wild, including 39 males and 33 females, according to Bakar.

“Let’s keep watching and loving the rhino,” Bakar wrote in her viral Twitter post, “Looking after and loving them is the same as looking after and loving Indonesia.”

Conservationists and researchers from the World Wildlife Fund and the World Resources Institute in Indonesia told Reuters the government should increase monitoring of Ujung Kulon National park, and reinvigorate efforts to develop a second habitat for the critically endangered species.

The population of the herbivorous mammals has declined mainly due to illegal poaching and excessive demand for rhino horn and medicine, which fetch high prices on the black market.

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Politics

Biden and allies collect more cash than Trump for a second straight month

(Reuters) – Democrat Joe Biden edged out Republican Donald Trump in fundraising for a second straight month in June, data from the rival U.S. presidential campaigns showed on Wednesday.

Biden and allied Democratic groups raked in over $141 million during the month, while President Trump and closely tied groups hauled $131 million.

In each case, the figures were new monthly records this year for campaigns that are expected to mount the most expensive U.S. election in history.

Biden, who waged his successful primary battle against a historically large field of Democrats on a shoestring budget, is trying erase a fundraising gap ahead of his Nov. 3 election with Trump.

The president, who started his re-election bid shortly after he moved into the White House, has been a prodigious fundraiser and built an early war chest for his re-election battle against Democrats.

Yet Biden’s fundraising has picked up since becoming the nominee and staking a lead in national polls after the coronavirus crisis and protests over police brutality against Black Americans.

Both campaigns are proving they can stockpile significant sums despite the ongoing pandemic that is hobbling the economy and squeezing wealthy donors. The funds finance television and internet advertisements as well as staff and travel to key battleground states.

Trump raised $14 million online during a campaign celebrating his birthday last month. Biden, meanwhile, raised more than $11 million last week at one event featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama, which included a portion for people who contributed as little as they wished and another, more private event for high-rollers.

Despite the two-month winning streak, Biden and his allies are still likely at a disadvantage to Trump when it comes to cash. The Trump group reported having over $295 million in cash on hand, a closely watched figure representing what they could spend. The Biden statement did not include a comparable figure but they have consistently trailed Trump. Neither campaign’s figures include the significant spending that is being done by unaffiliated political groups.

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US passes HK sanctions as nations condemn new law

The US House of Representatives has approved new Hong Kong-related sanctions, after Beijing imposed a security law that was condemned by countries around the world.

The measure, which was passed unanimously, penalises banks that do business with Chinese officials.

It will have to be approved by the Senate before going to President Trump.

Critics say China’s law ends freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when British rule ended in 1997.

“The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passing of the law was a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

Under this declaration, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, with certain freedoms guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

China said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong during much of 2019.

And despite condemnation in the West, more than 50 countries, led by Cuba, supported China at the UN this week.

What does the US law say?

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act imposes sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who are involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Ms Pelosi said the law was an “urgently needed response to [China’s passing] of its so-called ‘national security’ law… which is purpose built to dismantle democratic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

Before the bill was signed, the US had already began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status – halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high-technology products.

Last year, the US had also signed into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

What have other countries said?

The UK said it will offer up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle there and ultimately apply for full British citizenship.

Australia is also “actively considering” offering safe haven to Hong Kong residents – with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying there were proposals that will “soon be considered by cabinet”.

Japan was among the other countries that spoke out against the law, calling it “regrettable”.

“It will undermine trust for the principle of ‘one country, two systems'” said Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

European Council President Charles Michel said it “deplored” the law – adding that it had a “detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and rule of law”.

And Canada changed its travel advice to Hong Kong, saying the new law “increased the risk of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China”.

Yesterday, a senior Chinese official slammed foreign critics, saying Hong Kong’s affairs were “none of your business”.

Have all countries been critical?

No. At the United Nations this week, Cuba – on behalf of 53 countries – welcomed the law.

Speaking at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it said: “Non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states is an essential principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

“We believe every country has the right to safeguard its national security through legislation, and commend relevant steps taken for this purpose.”

How has the new law been used so far?

Just hours after the law was passed, Hong Kong police made their first arrests.

Ten people were accused of violating the new law, including a man with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were detained at a banned rally.

Under the new law, inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are offences.

Acts including damaging public transport facilities – which often happened during the 2019 protests – can be considered terrorism.

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Business

Dollar on defensive as investors await U.S. jobs data

TOKYO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar was on the defensive against more growth-sensitive currencies on Thursday, following upbeat U.S. and European economic data, though worries about the coronavirus blunted more aggressive risk taking ahead of upcoming U.S. jobs figures.

The New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 led modest gains in Asia, edging ahead by 0.2% to a one-week high of $0.6492. [AUD/]

Against a basket of currencies, the greenback slipped marginally and is tracking toward its worst week in a month, with a 0.4% fall – though it could shift significantly in either direction depending on U.S. jobs data due at 1230 GMT.

Non-farm payrolls figures are expected to show an increase of 3 million jobs last month. But estimates vary widely and the data comes as concerns grow about whether the U.S. economy can sustain its recovery as coronavirus infections surge and some states reimpose limits on business and personal activity.

“Any reasonable reaction to this number must also price in the resurgence in cases,” said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics at Mizuho Bank in Singapore, adding that a strong beat is needed to boost sentiment.

“A shortfall, particularly even one that may be mildly negative, would quickly reinforce the shadows of doubt being cast on plans for unfettered re-openings,” he said.

A miss would probably push U.S. Treasury yields lower, Varathan added, but he said the dollar’s response is less predictable and dependent on whether investors regard hiccups in the U.S. recovery as a challenge to the global rebound.

“Given the programmes in place, a weak number is unambiguously weak,” said Steve Englander, global head of G10 FX research at Standard Chartered in New York.

“A strong number could reflect economic improvement or fiscal incentives to hire.”

FINE BALANCE

Supporting sentiment in the meantime was news that a COVID-19 vaccine developed by German biotech firm BioNTech (BNTX.O) and U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE.N) showed potential in early-stage human trials.

U.S. manufacturing activity also rebounded more than expected in June, with the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing activity index hitting its highest in 14 months.

Similar surveys from China, Germany and France all pointed to an improvement in factory activity, while the ADP National Employment Report showed June private payrolls added nearly 2.4 million jobs.

Still, re-openings are stalling in the U.S. as case numbers surge. New cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, shot up by nearly 50,000 on Wednesday, the biggest one-day spike since the start of the pandemic.

The safe-haven Japanese yen JPY= hung on to overnight gains to hold steady at 107.53 yen per dollar, pointing to elevated investor caution.

Elsewhere the euro changed hands at $1.1257 EUR=, maintaining its gain of 0.3% since the start of week.

The mood also lifted sterling GBP=D4 above $1.25 for the first time in a week, and it last sat at $1.2483, having bounced almost 2% from a one-month low hit on Monday.

Analysts expect the pound could be about 4% stronger in a year’s time, if Britain and the European Union can thrash out a trade deal, a Reuters poll has found.

Broadly, poll respondents expect the dollar to slowly decline over the coming year, though that depends on there being no second shock from the coronavirus.

“If we see further spikes in coronavirus cases, I would expect both the dollar and the yen to strengthen against other currencies,” said Tohru Sasaki, head of Japan market research at J.P. Morgan.

Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 here

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