British PM May resigns, paving way for Brexit confrontation with EU

Robie de Guzman   •   May 24, 2019   •   1357

A tearful Theresa May says goodbye to Downing Street | (c) 2019 Thomson Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday (May 24) said she would quit, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal.

May set out a timetable for her departure: She will resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7 with a leadership contest in the following week.

“I will resign as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party on Friday, 7 June so that a successor can be chosen,” May said outside 10 Downing Street.

May, once a reluctant supporter of EU membership, who won the top job in the turmoil that followed the 2016 Brexit vote, steps down with her central pledges – to lead the United Kingdom out of the bloc and heal its divisions – unfulfilled.

She endured crises and humiliation in her effort to find a compromise Brexit deal that parliament could ratify, and bequeaths a deeply divided country and a political elite that is deadlocked over how, when or whether to leave the EU.

May’s departure will deepen the Brexit crisis as a new leader is likely to want a more decisive split, raising the chances of a confrontation with the European Union and a snap parliamentary election.

The leading contenders to succeed May all want a tougher divorce deal, although the EU has said it will not renegotiate the Withdrawal Treaty it sealed in November. (REUTERS)

Malaysia carries out cloud seeding to tame haze in administrative capital Putrajaya

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019

Malaysia carried out cloud seeding on Monday (September 16) to tame haze and control air pollution in its administrative capital Putrajaya.

Parts of Malaysia, including Putrajaya, have been reeling under an impact of heavy haze with air quality dropping to a “very unhealthy” 203 benchmark, on the Air Pollutant Index the country uses to calculate, as forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia continue to affect the air.

Malaysia carried out cloud seeding in the hope of inducing rain and also closed hundreds of schools and sent half a million face masks to Sarawak, on Borneo island, this week, as fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces continued to burn.

Indonesia’s neighbours have regularly complained about smog caused by its forest blazes – often started by farmers trying to clear land for palm oil and pulp plantations – though Jakarta has denied the accusation, saying forest fires had also started in other countries across the region. (Reuters)

(Production: Ebrahim Harris, Sunil Kataria)

Oil falls more than 1% as market awaits response to Saudi oil attacks

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019

Oil shed some of its massive gains on Tuesday (September 17) as the United States flagged the possible release of crude reserves, but the threat of military action over the attacks on Saudi oil facilities kept prices elevated and stocks under pressure.

While equity market losses have not been large, shaky investor confidence continued to support safe-haven assets, with gold edging higher on Tuesday and Treasury prices rising.

Investors otherwise broadly remained on the sidelines ahead of an expected interest rate cut from the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday (September 18) and the next round of U.S.-China trade talks on Thursday.

The benchmark Nikkei average added 0.2% to 22,021.86 in mid-morning trade to mark its highest level since May 7, as soaring oil prices triggered by attacks on Saudi oil facilities boosted oil and gas-related companies.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.6%. Chinese shares fell 0.85%, while Australian shares were down 0.27%.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell 1.78% to $67.79 per barrel in Asia on Tuesday. On Monday Brent surged by 14.6% for its biggest one-day percentage gain since at least 1988.

Saturday’s attack on Saudi oil facilities has halved the kingdom’s oil output, creating the biggest disruption to global oil supplies in absolute terms since the overthrow of the Iranian Shah in 1979, International Energy Agency data show.

In South Korea, stocks opened slightly lower with the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) down 3.14 points or 0.15 percent to 2,059.08 points as of 0200 GMT.

China stocks fell on Tuesday as Beijing kept a key money rate unchanged even as recent readings pointed to further downward pressure on the world’s second-largest economy.

In Hong Kong, stocks extended falls after credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the island city’s outlook.

The Hang Seng index dropped 1.0%, to 26,849.72, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index lost 1.0%, to 10,520.42. (Reuters)

(Production: Yasuteru Ueda, Dogyun Kim, Jiang Xihao, Zaw Naing Oo, Kwiyeon Ha, Hyunyoung Yi)

Trump says Saudi oil attacks won’t affect the United States

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday (September 16) said it looked like Iran was behind attacks on oil plants in Saudi Arabia at the weekend that raised fears of a fresh Middle East conflict, but added that he did not want war with anyone.

Asked by a reporter if he can trust Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Oh I think so, they want to find out also, and I think they probably feel they know but we are going to know very quickly. We have pretty much all the material we need, we’ll know very quickly.”

Iran has rejected U.S. charges it was to blame for the attacks which damaged the world’s biggest crude processing plant in Saudi Arabia and triggered the largest jump in crude prices in decades.

Several U.S. Cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, have blamed Tehran for the strikes. Trump told reporters that he agrees with Pompeo on Iran responsibility for Saudi attacks.

The attacks cut 5% of world crude oil production and sent oil prices soaring. Trump said that the oil attack won’t affect the United States. (Reuters)

(Production: Temis Tormo)

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