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Monthly Archives: July 2018

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ICE, Border Patrol at Senate hearing on family separations

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding answers from federal immigration officials about the Trump administration’s separation of migrant children from their families and its struggle to reunite them, a fraught effort that’s drawn election-year criticism from both parties.

But a hearing scheduled for Tuesday on the topic may have a wider focus after the committee’s bipartisan leaders asked federal investigators to probe reports of sexual and other abuse of immigrants at government detention facilities.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and top panel Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California asked late Monday for an examination of alleged sexual, physical and emotional mistreatment of immigrants held at agency facilities, saying the problems may have been occurring since 2014 or earlier.

With President Donald Trump already under fire for taking thousands of migrant children from their detained parents — and botching the reunification of many — the request for the investigation elevated yet another issue to the administration’s list of immigration headaches.

“These allegations of abuse are extremely disturbing and must be addressed,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote in a letter to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services. “This is not a partisan issue as reporting suggests many have been occurring for years. Immigrant families and children kept in federal custody deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect and should never be subjected to these forms of abuse.”

Set to testify Tuesday to the Judiciary panel were officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Border Patrol and other agencies.

Trump began a policy of “zero tolerance” this spring, prosecuting all migrants caught entering the U.S. without authorization. To help discourage border crossing, his administration also began separating children from their detained parents, rather than following the policy used by previous administrations, which generally released the entire family pending court action.

Under withering public rejection and criticism from congressional Democrats and Republicans alike, Trump stopped taking children from their parents. But of the more than 2,500 children held, hundreds were not reunited by last week. That includes more than 400 whose parents were deported.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a deadline of last Thursday to reunite the families. While he commended administration officials for reuniting many parents in its custody with their children, it faulted them for leaving hundreds of families still apart and warning that a better system must be in place.

Trump seized on the praise, tweeting Monday that “a highly respected Federal judge” had said that the “‘Trump Administration gets great credit’ for reuniting illegal families. Thank you, and please look at the previous administrations record – not good!”

The senators’ letter, based on articles by The Associated Press and other news organizations, says the allegations suggest “a long-term pattern” of mistreatment. Those reports describe claims of abuse from this year dating back to before Trump took office.

The lawmakers want the inspectors general for the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to investigate the abuse allegations immediately and to release any previous investigations into the charges. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a branch of Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services oversee the facilities.

The AP reported last month that children held at an immigration detention facility in Roanoke, Virginia, said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked in solitary confinement and left nude and cold in concrete cells.

A civil rights lawsuit has been filed alleging mistreatment at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center from 2015 to 2018. The alleged victims, Hispanic youths held for months or years, have submitted sworn statements in the case.

Lawyers for the facility have denied the alleged abuse. Many of the children have been accused by immigration officials of belonging to MS-13 and other violent gangs, an activity Trump has used to justify his “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting immigrants caught entering the country without permission.

The senators’ letter also cited a New York Times report this month about two female migrants who described sexual abuse at detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has reported 1,310 cases of sexual abuse against detainees from 2013 to 2017, the report said.

A June report by the website Dallas News described alleged sexual abuse at a detention center near Austin, Texas, in 2017. The Arizona Republic reported alleged inappropriate contact involving a teenage boy in 2015 and a girl who accused a staffer of making suggestive comments in 2017 at facilities in Glendale and Tucson, Arizona. The lawmakers’ letter cited those reports as well.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said agency officials perform their duties “professionally and humanely” and that the agency “is abiding by the intent and letter of law and maintains the highest standards care for individuals in our custody.”

Threats aside, Trump says he’s willing to meet with Iranians

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said that he’d “certainly meet” with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and without preconditions, if the Iranian leader were willing.

Speaking Monday during a joint news conference with Italy’s premier, Trump said he would meet with the Iranians “anytime they want to.”

“I’ll meet with anybody,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with meeting.”

The overture comes as Trump and the Iranians have been escalating their rhetoric after Trump’s May withdrawal from the landmark nuclear accord. The United States has also vowed to boost sanctions until Iran changes its regional policies, including its support for regional militant groups. The first of those sanctions are to go into effect Monday.

Iranian officials reacted skeptically on Tuesday. Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted political adviser Hamid Aboutalebi as saying that for talks to happen, the U.S. needs to rejoin the nuclear deal.

It’s unclear whether Rouhani has any interest in meeting with Trump. Rouhani’s chief of staff claimed earlier this month in Iran’s state-owned newspaper that Rouhani had rejected eight requests from Trump for one-on-one talks last year.

Rouhani recently warned the U.S. that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” prompting an all-caps retort from Trump.

“To Iranian President Rouhani,” he wrote on Twitter. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH.”

He ended the message with a warning: “BE CAUTIOUS!”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif fired back with his own message that began, “COLOR US UNIMPRESSED.”

Trump tempered his threatening rhetoric two days later when he said his administration stands ready for Iran to come back to the negotiating table.

“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” he said.

Trump has long cast himself as a master negotiator who is most effective when he meets with his counterparts face-to-face. He pointed to his recent one-on-ones with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin as examples of the benefits of such get-togethers.

“I believe in meeting,” he said, talking up the benefits of “speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”

Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meetings, Trump was clear.

“No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want, anytime they want,” he said. “Good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday that he was onboard with the president’s invitation, saying Trump “wants to meet with folks to solve problems.”

But he appeared to add several qualifications: “If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter in a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he’s prepared to sit down and have a conversation with him.”

Early reaction on Capitol Hill was mixed, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is often critical of Trump, telling reporters: “I actually think that’s a good idea.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., characterized the overture as “fine,” but only “as long as they are willing to talk about being a normal country in the future.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a frequent Trump critic, was more skeptical, calling it “another recipe for bad outcomes.”

“It’s the same as North Korea,” he said. “No preconditions, no preparation. And what do we have? We have Kim Jong Un was elevated from an international pariah to someone who seems like a legitimate statesman.”

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

Rival Koreas’ generals discuss easing military confrontation

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Generals from the rival Koreas met Tuesday at their shared border for talks on easing their countries’ decades-long military standoff, the second such meeting since their leaders held a landmark summit in April and pledged to reduce the danger of another war on the peninsula.

The meeting comes days after North Korea returned the reported remains of U.S. war dead, the most recent sign of positive diplomacy after last year’s threats of war.

The Korean generals met at the border village of Panmunjom and discussed the implementation of agreements from the inter-Korean summit on non-nuclear military issues. Some experts say South Korea can’t agree on any drastic measures to reduce animosity unless the North takes serious steps toward nuclear disarmament.

In the April 27 summit, the leaders of the Koreas agreed to disarm a jointly controlled area at Panmunjom, work to prevent accidental clashes along their disputed western sea boundary and halt all hostile acts. Since then, the Koreas have dismantled their frontline propaganda loudspeakers, restored a military hotline and held their first general-level talks since 2007.

The generals were expected to discuss a reduction in the number of military guards at Panmunjom, the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the area, and the removal of some guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone, a buffer zone that separates the two countries. They could also talk about ways to ensure that fishermen operate peacefully along the Korean sea boundary, the site of several bloody naval skirmishes in recent years.

The Defense Ministry wouldn’t discuss any detailed agenda for the talks.

The meeting began in an amicable manner with delegates from both countries saying they expect a meaningful outcome.

Chief North Korean delegate Lt. Gen. An Ik San said he felt a “sense of mission” to contribute to peace and prosperity for the Koreas. His South Korean counterpart, Maj. Gen. Kim Do Gyun, said he was confident the talks would produce “achievements that South and North Korea and the international community want,” according to South Korean media pool reports from the venue.

Last Friday, North Korea returned what were said to be dozens of remains of American soldiers missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, something leader Kim Jong Un promised during a June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump thanked Kim for “fulfilling a promise” to send back U.S. remains and said it was a step in the right direction following their summit.

During the Singapore meeting, Kim also committed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula while Trump promised to provide security assurances. But there have been worries that North Korea hasn’t taken any serious disarmament measures since then.

In exchange for returning the U.S. war dead, North Korea may demand that the United States agree on a declaration to end the Korean War as a U.S. security guarantee. That could be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, according to analyst Cho Han Bum at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

The Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war. North Korea has long argued its nuclear weapons are a response to U.S. military threats, saying it wants to sign a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the war. That could then allow the North to demand the pullout of 28,500 U.S. troops deployed in South Korea.

An, the North Korean delegate, mentioned a South Korean media report that North Korea would ask South Korea to pressure the United States to jointly declare the war’s end. “Before determining whether that (report) is accurate, I realize that the entire people in North and South Korea think highly of our meeting,” he said.

The military talks are part of a number of recent steps toward reconciliation by the Koreas that began with North Korea’s participation in February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. The Koreas are to field combined teams in basketball, rowing and canoeing during the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia. On Tuesday, North and South Korean athletes trained together in rowing and canoeing in southern South Korea.

Trial set to begin for ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two questions loom large as Paul Manafort prepares to walk into a federal courtroom Tuesday: Will Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman spend what effectively could be the rest of his life in prison? Or will special counsel Robert Mueller be handed a defeat in his team’s first trial since his appointment more than a year ago?

Those questions will be answered by 12 jurors selected this week as Manafort’s trial on tax evasion and bank fraud charges gets underway at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. The pool of jurors will face questions from both sides and U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III as they try to weed out potential prejudice in what has become a highly publicized and politically divisive investigation.

That task comes as the president and his lawyer-spokesman, Rudy Giuliani, have intensified their attempts to undermine the Mueller investigation in the court of public opinion and as the president continues to waffle on whether he’ll sit for a private interview with prosecutors. The president criticized Mueller by name over the weekend and continues to refer to the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference as a “witch hunt” and “an illegal scam.”

While the main areas of Mueller’s investigation are Russia’s actions during the 2016 presidential election and any attempts by Trump to obstruct justice, none of those topics are expected to come up in Manafort’s trial. In fact, prosecutors said last week they don’t expect the word “Russia” to be mentioned at all.

Instead, the trial will center on Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president’s campaign.

Prosecutors have lined up 35 witnesses and more than 500 pieces of evidence they say will show how Manafort earned more than $60 million from his Ukrainian work and then concealed a “significant percentage” of that money from the IRS. Prosecutors will also argue that Manafort fraudulently obtained millions more in bank loans, including during his time on the campaign.

In particular, prosecutors say they will introduce evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a role on the Republican campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration that never materialized.

At the center of all this will be another Trump campaign aide, Rick Gates, who spent years working for Manafort in Ukraine and is also accused of helping him falsify paperwork used to obtain the bank loans. Gates, who cut a plea deal with Mueller earlier this year, is expected to testify against his former mentor.

Gates is also expected to play a key role in Manafort’s second trial scheduled for September. That trial, set in the District of Columbia, involves allegations that the longtime political consultant acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests and made false statements to the U.S. government.

Manafort is the only American charged by Mueller to opt for a trial.

The other 31 people charged have either pleaded guilty or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged. One of those companies has pleaded not guilty and is fighting the allegations in federal court in Washington.

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Follow Chad Day at https://twitter.com/ChadSDay and Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Twin wildfires threatening 10,000 California homes

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LAKEPORT, Calif. (AP) — Twin wildfires tearing through vineyards and brushy hills threatened some 10,000 homes in Northern California Tuesday — yet another front in the seemingly endless summer of wildfires that have ravaged some of the most scenic areas of the state.

The two fires straddling Mendocino and Lake counties had burned seven homes by Monday night along with some 107 square miles (277 square kilometers) of rural land.

About 100 miles (160 kilometers) north, the so-called Carr Fire that has burned more than 800 homes and killed six people has become the ninth most destructive wildfire in California history, said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

In Lake County, evacuation orders were in effect for the 4,700-resident town of Lakeport along with some smaller communities and a section of Mendocino National Forest. In all, some 10,000 people have been warned to flee, fire officials said.

Lakeport, north of San Francisco, is the county seat and a popular destination for bass anglers and boaters on the shores of Clear Lake. But by Monday night it was a ghost town, the main streets deserted.

A pair of wildfires that prompted evacuation orders for nearly 20,000 people barreled Monday toward small lake towns in Northern California. Those fires were among 17 burning across the state. (July 31)

A few miles away embers, ash and smoke swirled through vineyards where at least one home had gone up in flames. Firefighters set blazes at the bottom of hills in order to burn up the tinder-dry brush before flames cresting the ridge tops could feed on it and surge downhill. A fleet of aircraft made continuous water and fire retardant drops on the blaze, filling the air with the roar of their engines.

But not everyone heeded orders issued Sunday and Monday to evacuate.

Derick Hughes II remained behind at his property in Nice, California, where he ran sprinklers on his roof and removed yard plants that could catch fire.

The 32-year-old Marine Corps veteran sent his wife and two daughters to safety along with three carloads of belongings. But he said he had too much at stake to leave himself. He bought his three-bedroom house last year using a loan from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This is everything I bled for, and I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am, and I’m just not willing to give it up so easily,” he said over the phone. “Some people may think that’s selfish of me, and I have insurance. But the way things go, I’d rather not start over.”

Farther north, police said five people were arrested on suspicion of entering areas evacuated due to the explosive wildfire around Redding.

The blaze, which killed two firefighters and four civilians including two children, has now destroyed 818 homes and 311 outbuildings and damaged 165 homes, McLean said.

More than 27,000 people remained evacuated from their homes although another 10,000 were allowed to return Monday as fire crews reinforced lines on the western end of Carr Fire.

Some 12,000 firefighters were battling the blaze. Fire officials were hopeful that they could make progress containing the blaze, which was 23 percent contained.

The fire’s northwestern corner continued to be active.

“It’s still putting up a fight,” McLean said.

Those fires were among 17 burning across the state, where fire crews were stretched to the limit.

In Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, an arson fire that destroyed seven homes last week was 82 percent contained Monday.

Fire crews also have battled numerous small brushfires this summer, most charring only a few acres but still threatening homes in built-up areas along parched foothills. A 10-acre fire damaged 13 homes and apartments Monday in Santa Clarita, northwest of Los Angeles, county fire officials said.

McLean, the state fire spokesman, said there was no guarantee of safety in a state that has been ravaged by years of drought that has turned trees and brush to tinder.

“Anything could happen anywhere. That’s the nature of the beast for all of these fires,” he said. “The vegetation is so dry all it takes is a spark to get it going.”

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Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Lorin Eleni Gill and Olga Rodriguez also contributed to this report.

Business: World markets mixed, with eyes on eurozone data

SINGAPORE (AP) — World markets are mixed Tuesday ahead of key economic releases from the 19-country eurozone, which has come to an agreement with the U.S. on holding off on new tariffs.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent in early trading to 7,709.97 while Germany’s DAX fell 0.2 percent to 12,767.07. France’s CAC 40 shed 0.2 percent to 5,482.26. Wall Street was set for a subdued open, with Dow futures slipping less than 0.1 percent to 25,279.00. S&P 500 futures rose 0.1 percent to 2,805.70.

ASIA’S DAY: Markets were mostly higher after the Bank of Japan largely maintained the status quo while allowing some flexibility to achieve yield targets. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose less than 0.1 percent to 22,553.72 and South Korea’s Kospi added 0.1 percent to 2,295.26. The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.3 percent to 2,876.40. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index bucked the regional trend, falling 0.5 percent to 28,583.01. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 added less than 0.1 percent to 6,280.20. Shares fell in Indonesia but were higher in Taiwan and Singapore.

BOJ MEETING: In a widely watched statement, the Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy steady as expected. It maintained its target for the 10-year government bond yield at around zero percent and that for short-term interest rates at minus 0.1 percent. The bank said yields will be allowed to move up or down “to some extent mainly depending on developments in economic activity and prices.” Sustained relatively strong growth had raised expectations that the central bank may need to consider further tempering its massive purchases of government bonds and other assets.

Investors are also watching monetary policy meetings in the U.S. and U.K. The Bank of England is expected to nudge up its key interest rate by a quarter point on Thursday despite uncertainty around Brexit as inflation remains high.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The expectation had likely been for more tweaks from the Bank of Japan beyond the adoption of further flexibility in yield movements. With the affirmation towards the current ultra-loose monetary policy … and with the passing of event risks, Asian equity markets can be seen finding some relief. The same may not be said for European markets with the string of Eurozone releases lined up,” said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG.

CHINESE PMI: China’s manufacturing activity pulled back slightly in July, the National Bureau of Statistics said. The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index was 51.2 in July, down from 51.5 a month earlier. Readings above 50 indicate expansion on the index’s 100-point scale. Although new export orders were stable, they came in at just below the neutral level for the second month. “Chinese PMI is on the soft side, reinforcing expectations that the government would introduce more measures to secure its economy,” given trade tensions between the U.S. and China, said Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 40 cents to $69.73 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 2.1 percent to settle at $70.13 per barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 35 cents to $75.20.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.44 yen from 111.00. The euro ticked up to $1.1721 from $1.1710.

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Investing.com – Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Tuesday, July 31:

1. Apple Reports Earnings

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) results due out after the market close will be today’s main event, as a busy week for earnings rolls along.

The world’s largest company by market cap is expected to report adjusted earnings of $2.16 per share for its fiscal third-quarter, a 29% increase from the same period last year, on revenue of $52.3 billion, up about 15% over last year.

In addition to those top- and bottom-line numbers, investors will be paying close attention to iPhone unit sales. Growth in Apple’s services business will also be in focus.

More importantly, investors will be looking for crucial second half guidance after disappointing forecasts from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) earlier this month spurred concerns about future growth for a sector that has led U.S. equities to record highs.

The company will host an earnings call at 5:00PM ET.

Besides Apple, a slew of S&P 500 companies are also set to report results on Tuesday.

Before the market open, Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM), Cummins (NYSE:CMI), Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL), Steven Madden (NASDAQ:SHOO), Intelsat (NYSE:I), Arconic (NYSE:ARNC), and Lumber Liquidators (NYSE:LL) will be the highlights.

And after the market close, Apple earnings will also be accompanied by results from Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), iQIYI (NASDAQ:IQ), Pandora (NYSE:P), Akamai (NASDAQ:AKAM), Whiting Petroleum (NYSE:WLL), and Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC).

 

2. Federal Reserve Kicks Off Policy Meeting

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) begins its two-day policy meeting today, with a decision due Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. central bank is not expected to take any action on interest rates, but solid economic growth combined with rising inflation are likely keep it on track for another two hikes this year even as President Donald Trump has ramped up criticism of its push to raise rates.

The Fed so far this year has increased borrowing costs in March and June, and investors see additional moves in September and December.

In other central bank news, the Bank of Japan made small tweaks to its ultra-easy monetary policy, rather than more drastic changes that some traders in the market had anticipated.

Those include allowing long-term rates to fluctuate depending on economic and price developments, and conduct asset purchases more flexibly.

In response, yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds (JGBs) pulled back sharply to 0.05% from a 1-1/2 year high of 0.11%. The move in JGBs pushed U.S. 10-year Treasury yields lower too.

3. Fed’s Preferred Inflation Metric in Focus

Tuesday’s calendar features a closely-watched report on personal income and spending for June, which includes the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation data – the Fed’s preferred metric for inflation – at 8:30AM ET.

The consensus forecast is that the report will show that the core PCE price index inched up 0.1% last month, after rising 0.2% a month earlier. On an annualized basis, core PCE prices are expected to rise 2.0%.

The Fed uses core PCE as a tool to help determine whether to raise or lower interest rates, with the aim of keeping inflation at a rate of 2% or below.

There is also the S&P/Case-Shiller house price index (HPI) for May at 9AM ET, followed by the July reading on manufacturing activity in the Midwest at 9:45AM ET, and the CB’s latest consumer confidence survey at 10AM ET.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a basket of six major currencies, was barely changed at around 94.15.

4. U.S. Stock Futures Point To Small Gains

U.S. stock futures pointed to small gains at the open, with the major indices on track to break a three-session losing streak, as investors focused on the latest batch of corporate earnings and economic data.

At 5:30AM ET, the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a gain of 9 points, or about 0.1%, at the open. The blue-chip Dow futures and S&P 500 futures also indicated a slightly higher start to their respective trading sessions.

Wall Street fell on Monday, as an unraveling of popular technology stocks pushed the Nasdaq Composite to its lowest close in more than three weeks.

Elsewhere, in Europe, the region’s major bourses struggled for direction, with most sectors moving in different directions, amid a slew of data and corporate releases.

Data showed that while inflation in the euro zone accelerated further above the European Central Bank’s goal in July, growth unexpectedly slowed to the weakest in two years.

Earlier, Asian stocks closed narrowly mixed, taking cues from the rout in global technology shares.

5. Oil Prices Limp Lower Ahead Of API Data

In commodity markets, oil prices edged lower, as oversupply concerns mounted amid indications that OPEC output rose in July to its highest for 2018.

Brent crude futures, the global benchmark, shed 39 cents, or 0.5%, to $75.16 a barrel, while U.S. crude dipped 44 cents, or 0.6%, to $69.69.

Oil traders turned their attention to fresh data on U.S. commercial crude inventories to gauge the strength of demand in the world’s largest oil consumer.

The American Petroleum Institute is due to release its weekly report for the week ended July 27 at 4:30PM ET, amid forecasts for an oil-stock drop of around 3.1 million barrels.

Pressure mounting, former Trump ‘fixer’ turns aggressive

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The hiring of a Washington insider to be a public attack dog. Tantalizing leaks to the media. Puzzling allegations of actions that could fell a president. Talk of more to come.

What is Michael Cohen up to?

President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer has largely stayed out of the spotlight in the months since federal agents raided his office and hotel room and seized scores of records about his work for Trump. But this week, he has taken a sharply more aggressive and public turn, seeming to wage open warfare with the White House while weighing whether to cooperate with investigators. The moves suggest Cohen is looking for a way out of looming trouble. But his behavior doesn’t quite line up with a clear strategy, legal experts say. And if his signals are aimed at Trump, they’ve largely served to infuriate the president.

Three days after Cohen’s new lawyer, Lanny Davis, released a tape of Cohen and Trump talking about paying for Playboy model Karen McDougal’s silence, the relationship splintered further Friday. That was after a CNN report that Cohen was willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance of a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which the Republican candidate’s eldest son sought damaging information from a Russian lawyer about Hillary Clinton.

President Donald Trump denied Friday that he knew in advance about a critical meeting in Trump Tower in June, 2016, putting him at odds with the claims of his former attorney. AP Reporter Eric Tucker explains why it’s significant. (July 27)

Trump on Friday vehemently repeated his denial that he knew about the meeting, which is at the center of Mueller’s probe, tweeting “NO,” he “did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.”

CNN cited anonymous sources saying Cohen was willing to share his information with Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Cohen does not have any evidence such as audiotapes verifying his claims, CNN’s sources said.

Cohen’s camp has denied being the source of the CNN report, the basic substance of which The Associated Press independently confirmed.

The specter of the potentially damaging information, which would run counter to months of denials and point toward a willingness to collude with a foreign power by Trump himself, again raised the possibility of what Cohen could deliver to prosecutors if he decides to cooperate.

Cohen has not yet decided to work with the federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, according to two people familiar with his thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations.

The Justice Department has been investigating Cohen for months, raiding his home, office and hotel room in April in search of documents related to a $130,000 payment the attorney facilitated before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. If Cohen, who specialized in making deals and making Trump’s problems go away, were to cut a deal, he would do so with an eye toward eliminating or cutting his potential punishment.

His lawyer, Davis, a Democrat once known as a fierce defender of President Bill Clinton, would not comment on whether Cohen was fishing for a deal.

“My observation is that it was an evolution that caused him to decide once Donald Trump was president that he had to tell truth and change his life,” Davis told the AP. “He hit the reset button on his life and what he had done previously.”

Those close to Cohen describe the lawyer, who has been holed up in a Manhattan hotel after a pipe burst in his apartment, as bewildered at the fast-moving events around him as he tries to look out for his family and make decisions about their future. Cohen has also been badly hurt by the president’s public anger and is determined to hit back, according to two people familiar with this thinking.

There has been some speculation that Cohen may be angling for a pardon from Trump, who has begun wielding — and discussing — the presidential power frequently of late. But a person close to Cohen downplayed the possibility.

Most people in comparable legal peril would be encouraged to stay out of the spotlight and communicate directly with prosecutors, not through the press, experts said.

Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said Cohen “seems to be taking a page out of President Trump’s playbook by having his lawyers aggressively respond in the media to attacks on his credibility and reputation.” It’s a “high stakes gambit” that could backfire if he’s angling to become a cooperator, Mintz said.

“Prosecutors prefer to strike cooperation deals quietly and in private because they want to save the impact of any valuable testimony and information that a cooperating witness can offer until trial,” he said.

Moreover, should Cohen choose to cooperate with investigators, including Mueller, it’s not clear what information he has that they could not gather for themselves or have not already learned on their own.

The Mueller team has been at work for 14 months. Defendants looking for lenient deals through their cooperation usually have better luck if they come through the government’s door earlier in an investigation.

Additionally, Cohen has made no public mention of Trump’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting. If he mentioned the crucial detail to House investigators it was not included in their massive report on the matter.

That inconsistency was seized upon by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney. Giuliani, who called Cohen “an honest, honorable lawyer” as recently as May, has made a sport out of bashing Cohen in recent days. On Friday he called Cohen “an incredible liar who’s got a tremendous motive to lie now because he’s got nothing to give.”

Cohen frequently recorded his conversations, and prosecutors are believed to have dozens of them, including discussions with journalists, according to Davis.

Trump has been seething at Cohen since the recent tape’s release, raging to confidants that he could not believe he was being betrayed by someone he worked with for a decade, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to discuss private conversations.

The president publicly aired his grievances with a Friday tweet about Cohen, though he did not name him:

“Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”

Cohen says on the tape with Trump that he’s already spoken about the McDougal-story payment with the Trump Organization’s finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, on “how to set the whole thing up.” The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Weisselberg, who had intimate knowledge of the president’s finances, has been issued a subpoena.

When asked about that and other matters, the normally press-friendly Davis on Friday did an abrupt about-face and told the AP he was now “completely barred from talking to the media.”

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Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Jake Pearson contributed reporting.

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What does Mueller have? Manafort trial offers glimpse

WASHINGTON (AP) — The trial of President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman will open this week with tales of lavish spending, secret shell companies and millions of dollars of Ukrainian money flowing through offshore bank accounts and into the political consultant’s pocket.

What’s likely to be missing: answers about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election, or really any mention of Russia at all.

Paul Manafort’s financial crimes trial, the first arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, will center on his Ukrainian consulting work and only briefly touch on his involvement with the president’s campaign.

But the broader implications are unmistakable.

The trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday with jury selection in Alexandria, Virginia, will give the public its most detailed glimpse of evidence Mueller’s team has spent the year accumulating. It will feature testimony about the business dealings and foreign ties of a defendant Trump entrusted to run his campaign during a critical stretch in 2016, including during the Republican convention. And it will unfold at a delicate time for the president as Mueller’s team presses for an interview and as Trump escalates his attacks on an investigation he calls a “witch hunt.”

Adding to the intrigue is the expected spectacle of Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, testifying against him after cutting a plea deal with prosecutors, and the speculation that Manafort, who faces charges in two different courts and decades in prison if convicted, may be holding out for a pardon from Trump.

“Perhaps he believes that he’s done nothing wrong, and because he’s done nothing wrong, he’s unwilling to plead guilty to any crime whatsoever — even if it’s a lesser crime,” said Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Obviously, that’s very risky for him.”

Manafort was indicted along with Gates in Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation, but he is the only American charged to opt for a trial instead of cooperating with the government. The remaining 31 individuals charged have either reached plea agreements, including ex-White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, or are Russians seen as unlikely to enter an American courtroom. Three Russian companies have also been charged.

Prosecutors in Manafort’s case have said they may call 35 witnesses, including five who have immunity agreements, as they try to prove that he laundered more than $30 million in Ukrainian political consulting proceeds and concealed the funds from the IRS.

Jurors are expected to see photographs of his Mercedes-Benz and of his Hampton property putting green and swimming pool. There’s likely to be testimony, too, about tailored Beverly Hills clothing, high-end antiques, rugs and art and New York Yankees seasons tickets.

The luxurious lifestyle was funded by Manafort’s political consulting for the pro-Russian Ukrainian political party of Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed as Ukraine’s president in 2014.

Lawyers have tangled over how much jurors will hear of his overseas political work, particularly about his ties to Russia and other wealthy political figures.

At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who will preside over the trial, warned prosecutors to restrain themselves, noting the current “antipathy” toward Russia and how “most people in this country don’t distinguish between Ukrainians and Russians.” He said he would not tolerate any pictures of Manafort and others “at a cocktail party with scantily clad women,” if they exist.

Prosecutor Greg Andres reassured the judge that “there will be no pictures of scantily clad women, period,” nor photographs of Russian flags.

“I don’t anticipate that a government witness will utter the word ‘Russia,’” Andres said.

While jurors will be hearing painstaking detail about Manafort’s finances, they won’t be told about Manafort’s other criminal case, in the nation’s capital, where he faces charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent and lying to the government.

Nor will they hear about the reason he’s been jailed since last month after a judge revoked his house arrest over allegations that he and a longtime associate attempted to tamper with witnesses in the case. And they won’t learn that Manafort’s co-defendant in the Washington case is a business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, who lives in Russia and who U.S. authorities assert has connections to Russian intelligence.

Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly sought to play down Manafort’s connection to the president, yet the trial won’t be entirely without references to the campaign.

Mueller’s team says Manafort’s position in the Trump campaign is relevant to some of the bank fraud charges. Prosecutors plan to present evidence that a chairman of one of the banks allowed Manafort to file inaccurate loan information in exchange for a job on the campaign and the promise of a job in the Trump administration. The administration job never materialized.

The trial will afford the public its first glimpse of a defense that so far has focused less on the substance of the allegations than on Mueller’s authority to bring the case in the first place. At one point, his defense lawyers sued Mueller and the Justice Department, saying they had overstepped their bounds by bringing a prosecution untethered to the core questions of Mueller’s investigation — whether Russia worked with the Trump campaign to tip the election.

Ellis rejected that argument despite having initially questioned the special counsel’s motives for bringing the case. He noted that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, had explicitly authorized Mueller to investigate Manafort’s business dealings. Mueller’s original mandate was to investigate not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but also any other crimes arising from the probe.

“When a prosecutor looks into those dealings and uncovers evidence of criminal culpability,” said Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky, “it doesn’t make sense to ask him to avert his eyes.”

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ICE quest for detention sites puts Trump county on tightrope

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GOSHEN, Indiana (AP) — The sermon had been preached, the last prayers offered. Now, Mike Yoder decided, the time had come to share unsettling news.

As congregants at Silverwood Mennonite Church chatted around a Sunday potluck spread, Yoder, a county commissioner for 13 years and a dairy farmer for much longer, huddled with Pastor Jeremy Shue at the edge of the hall. There was a very good chance, Yoder confided, that the nation’s newest immigration detention center would soon rise from a soybean field north of town.

“One of the only positives is that it would be less of a drive to protest,” Shue said.

Yoder needed no reminder of the potential for conflict. The Republican had paid close attention when nearly two-thirds of Elkhart County’s voters backed Donald Trump for president after a campaign in which he lambasted immigrants. He knew just as well that the politically mixed county seat and the largest local employers had made a place for thousands of immigrants from Mexico — a significant, but uncertain, number of them in the U.S. illegally.

It was a balancing act in this part of northern Indiana, founded on sometimes conflicting views about business and faith, community and law. And the proposal for a 1,200-bed detention center put decision-makers on the tightrope.

“It was like a microcosm of all the different issues of immigration,” Yoder said, “right here in this county.”

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement has long sought to consolidate immigrants held in scattered Midwest jails. Since 2011, contractors have proposed detention centers in seven communities near Chicago, from the exurb of Crete, Illinois, to the steel center of Gary, Indiana.

“This is a game of whack-a-mole,” said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who has worked with activists to push a number of those proposals to defeat.

Local governments in Texas and California recently canceled agreements to hold detainees for ICE even as other communities seek the jobs and dollars that doing so can generate.

But demand for those facilities is rising. Though Trump talks up building a border wall, his administration has focused a large part of its policy on arrests away from the border and is seeking new detention sites.

ICE does not own most of these facilities. Instead, it hires companies whose for-profit lockups hold two-thirds of the immigrants detained for being in the country illegally, with others in local jails under contract. The agency spends about $134 a day to hold each detainee, government figures show .

Last fall, ICE put out a request for new detention sites near Chicago, Detroit, Salt Lake City and St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as in South Texas, as it sought to expand capacity from 40,000 migrants to 51,000.

A proposal by CoreCivic Inc., one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, put Elkhart County on that list.

The county, two hours east of Chicago, is the hub of the booming recreational vehicle industry with around 2 percent unemployment. A large Amish population has long provided many factory workers, but with 9,000 openings, “we have a lot of jobs that nobody wants,” said Yoder, whose father once led RV manufacturer Jayco Inc.

Immigrants have filled much of the gap in the workforce, yet residents remain divided on issues including immigration. More than 7,000 packed an Elkhart school gym in May to cheer Trump. But the county seat of Goshen — dotted with multilingual yard signs proclaiming “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor”— is a counterweight, home to a Mennonite college and large Latino population.

The proposal for a detention center would jab at those complexities. Yoder jumped in first, trying for a dialogue instead of a dispute.

“Commissioners had a mess to deal with, and that’s the reason I reached out early,” Yoder said. “It didn’t go as planned. Maybe that was because I was naive.”

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Richard Aguirre had spent months helping start an ID card program for Goshen’s immigrants, many barred from obtaining driver’s licenses because they were in the U.S. illegally. To Aguirre, a Goshen College administrator, it was a victory, however local.

On campus, he knew dozens of students brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The grandson of Mexican immigrants, Aguirre had childhood memories of relatives struggling to get by without work papers.

“It struck me as unfair that depending on which side of the border you were born on, you had a good life or a fairly miserable life,” he said.

When Yoder heard about the detention center, he knew it might antagonize people like Aguirre. But the project would be difficult to turn down, Yoder said. It would reap jobs and taxes from a site across from the county landfill and jail. Many Republican voters would likely back it.

So he asked his pastor to arrange a meeting with Mennonite clergy, many of whom preach a message of welcoming the stranger. If a detention center was going to get built, Yoder said, maybe it would be best where clergy could minister to detainees.

He also was mindful of the county’s growing Latino population and Goshen’s more liberal voters. Elkhart County is about 16 percent Hispanic, drawn to a region that produces 4 of every 5 RVs in North America. In Goshen, though, nearly a third of residents are Latino, accounting for more than half of school enrollment. Downtown, taquerias mix with wine bars and antique shops.

So the same day he spoke to pastors, Yoder met with Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, Aguirre and others.

“I’d really like your help communicating calmness,” the commissioner said.

“My reaction was, ‘No way!’” Aguirre said.

That night, he started a Facebook page for the Coalition Against the Elkhart County Immigration Detention Center. Activists had already planned a rally to celebrate the ID cards. Aguirre recast it as a protest.

Driving toward the courthouse on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, Aguirre figured icy rain would cap turnout at 60. Then he climbed to the top of the granite steps, handing a microphone to Felipe Merino, an immigration attorney and the president of Goshen’s school board.

“I want you to raise your hands if you believe that we do not want an immigration detention facility in Elkhart County, Indiana!” Merino said.

More than 200 thrust fists from under umbrellas.

“No!” they shouted.

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Listening to Yoder explain the detention center, Neil Amstutz, pastor of Waterford Mennonite Church, knew it was a proposal he could not abide.

Years before, he had served as a missionary in Bolivia and worked in San Antonio, Texas, to settle refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala, becoming fluent in Spanish. After talking with fellow Mennonite clergy, he called a Mexican immigrant pastor, Jose Luis Gutierrez, whose Pentecostal church sits alongside an apple orchard two miles from Amstutz’s own.

Gutierrez’s church, Comunidad Cristiana Adulam, is named for the biblical cave where King David took refuge.

“Some people from my community find that kind of protection — they feel like refugees — in the church,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a safe place for worship because of the language, and it doesn’t matter if they have documents or not.”

With another pastor, Gutierrez and Amstutz invited clergy from around the county to meet, and the group made plans for a communitywide service to oppose the detention center.

On Dec. 17, in a sanctuary decorated with candles for the holiday, an impromptu congregation filled most of the pews of Elkhart’s First Presbyterian Church.

“Why are we here?” Amstutz preached. “To show that whether or not our government builds a bigger wall to keep immigrants out, God’s church is about breaking down dividing walls!”

But many immigrants were increasingly apprehensive.

When 19-year-old Lizeth Ochoa first heard about the detention center, she imagined a lockup filled with criminals.

“But then I realized, oh, it’s for people like me,” said Ochoa.

When Ochoa was 9 months old, her mother paid a smuggler to spirit them from Mexico. They joined her father, who had already found work in Elkhart.

Now, though, her place in the U.S. felt increasingly tenuous. President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative had eased concerns about deportation, but Trump was pulling the plug on the program. At home, she and her parents avoided talk of the detention center, fearful of upsetting her four U.S.-born siblings. But quietly, she considered what they would do if ICE officers newly assigned to Elkhart knocked on their door.

“It’s been very stressful, (thinking) that my siblings might end up in foster homes because my parents and I would get deported,” said Ochoa, who will be a junior next fall at Goshen College. Nearly a quarter of its 900 students are now Latino, many brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children, and so Ochoa was not alone in worrying.

Trump’s election had already unsettled some in Gutierrez’s congregation. Talk of a detention center renewed their uneasiness.

“If ICE can do that in this county, people are going to go away,” said Luis Fraire, a mechanic who came to Elkhart from Mexico 11 years ago, married and started a family and a business.

“We are all brothers in God,” he said, as fellow worshippers filtered out of Adulam one Sunday. “We pray to God because nobody else can stop this but him.”

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To others, a detention center was just what the county needed.

“Make sure you build it big ’cause it’s going to be overflowing,” George Holiday, a retired forklift driver, posted online.

In an interview, Holiday said the county had changed tremendously in recent years, with more signs in Spanish and new arrivals who don’t seem to speak English. Immigrants work hard but disregard laws requiring permission to enter or stay, he said.

A decade ago, Bob Schrameyer and fellow Goshen residents lobbied police to partner with ICE, and pushed employers to vet workers’ legal status. The problem, Schrameyer contends, is that many immigrants don’t pay their fair share of taxes, while collecting welfare benefits.

When he sought tighter controls, those who disagreed argued that enforcement was the federal government’s job. But when the Trump administration tried to do it, people complained about that, too, said Schrameyer, a retiree and founder of the local Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement.

The detention center “was a no-brainer,” bound to bring in new taxes, Schrameyer said.

“But the loud opponents of it were the supporters of illegal immigrants in the area and, of course, they were worried the storm troopers were coming to town,” Schrameyer said.

On a recent morning, Roland Weaver put aside the trowel he was using to seal the foundation of his home, down County Road 7 from the proposed detention site. Such a facility would uphold the rule of law, he said, but there was more to it.

“We have a Constitution founded on the principles of God, and a lot of them, the illegals, they don’t have that where they’re from and so they can bring in their beliefs. That’s what waters down what this country was founded on,” said Weaver, a tiler at an RV plant.

“A lot of people say Jesus, he loved illegals and he didn’t have borders when he was on this earth. But, hey, it’s a different world.”

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At a holiday gathering in late December, Mayor Stutsman ran into retired cardiologist Mark Smucker. Talking over the proposal, the men were joined by Galen Miller, owner of a poultry company and a friend of Smucker’s since childhood.

“The argument I made was if we ever solve our problems with immigration in this country, either by reform or by deporting everybody, at some point we aren’t going to need an immigration detention center,” Smucker said. “It seemed to me that the people in the RV manufacturing community would not like to see even more of their workers drift away.”

Stutsman, a Democrat, proposed a letter of opposition. Miller agreed to reach out to executives at Elkhart’s RV companies.

Back when CoreCivic had first called, Yoder said he cautioned a company official that the biggest potential pitfall would be wariness from major employers. But any concerns had largely been kept silent.

“There is this dilemma,” said Jim Siegmann, former owner of a printing company who is active in business and civic circles. Many of Elkhart’s business leaders, he said, are politically conservative but count on immigrant workers, though some are in the U.S. illegally.

“They know they couldn’t run their businesses without them,” he said.

When a small group met in Stutsman’s office, several executives endorsed his letter.

Worries, though, were stretching beyond profits. Civic leaders, wary of recessions and the region’s reputation as flyover country, had long invested in projects to make the county a draw for companies and workers. How did a detention center fit that script?

On a recent morning, Pete McCown, president of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, pointed from his office window to construction turning an industrial island at the junction of Elkhart’s rivers into a new hub with hundreds of apartments. Construction workers clambered over a shell that will house a $68 million community center with a natatorium for competitive swimming.

Elkhart wants jobs, McCown said. But a detention center would add positions that could be difficult to fill, while potentially labeling the county as a place to lock people up.

“We don’t want that to become our identification,” he said.

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Stopping by the Electric Brew coffee shop in early January, Yoder ran into Aguirre.

CoreCivic officials were coming to meet business leaders, the commissioner said. Activists, whose online group had swelled to more than 2,000, organized a news conference, so representatives from the Nashville-based company would arrive to find their proposal in headlines.

The next morning, Jan. 17, Aguirre and others held protest signs outside Ivy Tech Community College as visitors in suits filed in.

Inside, CoreCivic representatives laid out their plans to executives from Thor Industries Inc. and Forest River Inc., the country’s largest RV makers; parts supplier Lippert Components; and other major employers.

They and other executives declined to comment or did not respond to calls or emails. But people who attended the meeting or spoke with those who did said that after listening to CoreCivic’s presentation, local executives were very direct.

“I do business here. I’ve been here my whole life, and I don’t want you to come here,” Forest River CEO Peter Liegl is said to have told the visitors.

Employers’ biggest issue was that a detention center “would create concern and fear within the Latino community and would lead them to relocate,” said CoreCivic spokesman Steve Owen, who attended the meeting.

“That, to me, was the defining moment,” said Yoder.

The next day, Stutsman released his letter.

“Any tax dollars generated by the project wouldn’t be enough to offset the long-lasting damage such a facility would do to our county,” he wrote, backed by 45 CEOs and civic leaders. “Join us in showing all newcomers to our communities how welcoming we are.”

Yoder counseled CoreCivic officials to think over their next move. It came the following Monday.

“After careful consideration,” a company official wrote, “CoreCivic has decided to withdraw its application.”

“We won!” Aguirre posted on Facebook. “We won!”

___

On the first Friday night of each month, Goshen residents gather around the Elkhart County Courthouse for a street festival.

In early June, an Amish couple sold kettle corn. Children scribbled their names on the sidewalk with chalk. A local band, Los Ortega, pumped Mexican dance tunes across the grass.

“I love living here,” said Pepe Urzua, a roofer who arrived from Mexico eight years ago, cradling his infant daughter. “It’s a place where you want to raise your kids.”

Across the grass, Rob Emahiser, a salesman for a tire manufacturer, looked out over the crowd.

“I’m a Trump-loving Republican, and I love everything about this community,” he said.

Emahiser raised his beer to the tax cut Trump signed into law. Then he praised Latino co-workers and neighbors for working hard and taking care of their families — and pointed out that sometimes he and the president would have to disagree.

“They wanted to build a detention center in this town,” he said as a guitarist led a line of dancing Latino couples through lengthening shadows. “That’s just not who we are.”

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Geller can be reached at ageller@ap.org or at https://twitter.com/AdGeller

Read more of AP’s coverage of the reverberations of the Trump administration’s policies on immigration here .

Report says 3rd party intervention possible in MH370 mystery

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian-led independent investigation report released Monday, more than four years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, highlighted shortcomings in the government’s response and raised the possibility of “intervention by a third party.”

The report, prepared by a 19-member international team, reiterated Malaysia’s assertion the plane was deliberately diverted and flown for over seven hours after severing communications.

Chief investigator Kok Soo Chon said the cause of the disappearance cannot be determined until the wreckage and the plane’s black boxes are found. He said there was no evidence of abnormal behavior or stress in the two pilots that could lead them to hijack the plane but all passengers were also cleared by police and had no pilot training.

“We are not of the opinion that it could be an event committed by the pilot,” Kok told a media briefing.

“We cannot rule out unlawful interference by a third party,” such as someone holding the pilots hostage, he said. But he added that no group has said it hijacked the plane and no ransom demands have been made, compounding the mystery. Kok said it was up to police to investigate.

He said the investigation showed lapses by air traffic control, including a failure to swiftly initiate an emergency response and monitor radar continuously, relying too much on information from Malaysia Airlines and not getting in touch with the military for help.

The plane carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished March 8, 2014, and is presumed to have crashed in the far southern Indian Ocean. The report said there was insufficient information to determine if the aircraft broke up in the air or during impact with the ocean.

Scattered pieces of debris that washed ashore on African beaches and Indian Ocean islands indicated a distant remote stretch of the ocean where the plane likely crashed. But a government search by Australia, Malaysia and China failed to pinpoint a location. And a second, private search by U.S. company Ocean Infinity that finished at the end of May also found no sign of the wreckage.

Family members of those on board the plane said after a briefing by the investigation team that they were frustrated because there were many gaps in the probe and questions left unanswered.

“There is nothing new but it highlighted failings of some government agencies” that did not follow protocol and guidelines, said Grace Nathan, whose mother was on board the plane.

She said the scope of the safety investigation was also too limited, depended too much on information supplied to them by other parties rather than on their own probe, and didn’t discuss the scope of the searches.

Sakinab Shah, sister of senior pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, said she felt “relieved and happy” that Zaharie was again cleared of blame.

“But still, it cannot end here. They have to continue the search until they find the plane,” she said.

Officials said Monday’s report is still not a final accounting because the plane hasn’t been found. Malaysia’s government has said it is open to resume searching if credible evidence of the plane’s location emerges.

The “rogue pilot” theory still arises in public discussions despite Malaysian authorities saying there was no evidence linking Zaharie or his co-pilot, Fariq Abdul Hamid, to any wrongdoing.

Kok said it was “human nature” to speculate on sensational conspiracy theories but that the team relied on facts.

He said police retrieved over 2,700 coordinates from various file segments found in Zaharie’s home flight simulator. This included seven “manually programmed waypoint coordinates” that when linked could fly from the Kuala Lumpur airport to the southern Indian Ocean, but police could not determine if the coordinates were found in a single file or from different files, he said.

Police didn’t find any data that showed a similar route flown by Flight 370 and concluded that there were “no unusual activities other than game-related flight simulations,” Kok said.

He said investigators couldn’t find any flaws with the plane and dismissed the theory that it was remotely controlled. Boeing has such technology to foil plane hijacking but hasn’t used it on any commercial planes, he added.

New Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the government will investigate and take action against any misconduct based on the report findings.

California wildfires claim more lives; crews make progress

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REDDING, Calif. (AP) — Thousands more fled their homes after wildfires surged near a small lake town in Northern California while a deadly blaze farther north slowed slightly as crews stretched to their limits across the state fight flames that have claimed the lives of both firefighters and civilians.

Residents of the waterfront town Lakeport fled Sunday after a major flare-up of two fires that combined across Mendocino and Lake counties destroyed at least four homes. Lakeport, home to about 5,000, is around 120 miles north of San Francisco.

More than 4,500 buildings were under threat, officials said. The two fires had blackened 47 square miles (122 square kilometers), with minimal containment.

About 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast, officials near Redding struck a hopeful tone for the first time in days as a massive fire slowed following days of explosive growth.

“We’re feeling a lot more optimistic today as we’re starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time,” said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s incident commander on the blaze around Redding, a city about 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

A California sheriff says a sixth person has died in a raging wildfire that has destroyed more than 500 buildings. Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said Sunday that the remains were found within the boundary of the Carr Fire near Redding. (July 29)

County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said authorities found a sixth victim of the blaze at a home that was consumed by flames, though he declined to say where. The victim’s identity was not released.

The sheriff’s department is also investigating seven missing persons reports, Bosenko said. Redding police have an additional 11 reports of missing people, though many of them may simply not have checked in with friends or family, said Redding police Sgt. Todd Cogle.

The so-called Carr Fire that affected Redding — a city of about 92,000 people — was ignited by a vehicle problem on Monday about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of the city. On Thursday, it swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick fueled by gusty winds and dry vegetation. It then jumped the Sacramento River and took out subdivisions on the western edge of Redding.

Redding Police Chief Roger Moore kept up an around-the-clock work schedule despite learning that his home was one of those destroyed. He was finally able to shave on Saturday when his wife brought him a razor, he said.

Moore was helping evacuate people from his River Ridge neighborhood in western Redding when the flames became unbearable.

“I saw everything around it ignite, and I go, ‘It’s gone,’” Moore said.

At least one person was arrested on suspicion of stealing from evacuated homes and authorities were keeping watch for other potential looters, said Deputy Travis Ridenour, whose home also burned.

“Lost our house like so many others,” Ridenour wrote on Facebook. “Still out watching over the ones still standing. No looting on my watch.”

The latest tally showed at least 657 homes destroyed and another 145 damaged, with the fire having consumed 149 square miles (386 square kilometers).

After days of fortifying the areas around Redding, fire crews were increasingly confident that the city would escape further damage. The fire had not grown inside the city limits since Saturday, Gouvea said.

Some of the 38,000 people forced to evacuate said they were frustrated because they didn’t know whether their homes were standing or were destroyed. Authorities had not reopened any evacuated neighborhoods where fires raged due to safety and ongoing investigations and urged people to be patient, saying they would soon let residents back.

Fed up, on Sunday morning Tim Bollman hiked 4 miles (6 kilometers) on trails up steep terrain to check on the Redding home he built for his wife and two sons 13 years ago. He found rubble.

“There’s not even anything to pick up,” he said. “It’s completely gone.”

Keswick, a mountain town of about 450 people, was reduced to an ashy moonscape of blackened trees and smoldering rubble.

The terrain surrounding nearby Whiskeytown Lake — usually filled in July with vacationers swimming in the clear water — was burned, burning or seemingly about to burn Sunday. A heavy haze hung low over the water, where some of the docked boats had melted. Firefighters and utility repair crews drove up and down the once-scenic highway, while California Department of Transportation water trucks sprayed roadsides in hopes of preventing potential wildfires from burning across the road, which can cost several million dollars to repair.

The fatalities included two firefighters and a woman and her two great-grandchildren.

“My babies are dead,” Sherry Bledsoe said through tears after she and family members met Saturday with sheriff’s deputies.

Her two children, 5-year-old James Roberts and 4-year-old Emily Roberts, were stranded with their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70, when flames swept through the family’s rural property Thursday on the outskirts of Redding.

The sixth victim, who was not identified, did not evacuate despite receiving an evacuation warning, Bosenko said.

It is the largest fire burning in California, threatening more than 5,000 structures. The flames were just 5 percent contained, though Gouvea said he expected that number to climb.

The firefighters killed in the blaze included Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines, a bulldozer operator who was helping clear vegetation in the path of the wildfire. Redding Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was also killed, but details of his death were not released.

The fire around Redding was among 17 significant blazes in the state on Sunday that had forced roughly 50,000 people from their homes, said Lynne Tolmachoff, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.

About 12,000 firefighters were battling the fires, she said.

Meanwhile officials said a second firefighter died fighting a huge blaze to the south near Yosemite National Park. Brian Hughes, 33, was struck by a tree and killed while working as part of a crew removing brush and other fuel near the so-called Ferguson Fire’s front lines, national parks officials said.

Originally from Hawaii, Hughes had been with California’s Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots for four years and reached the rank of captain. Earlier this month, firefighter Braden Varney was killed when the bulldozer he was operating overturned while he was fighting the flames near the national park. At least seven other firefighters have been injured since that blaze broke out July 13.

Some evacuations were lifted but officials said Yosemite Valley, the heart of tourism in the park, will remain closed until Aug. 3.

A big fire continued to burn in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs, but officials lifted evacuation orders for several communities after reporting significant progress by firefighters.

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Thanawala reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Martha Mendoza in Redding and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

ANALYSIS FACT CHECK: Trump’s ‘historic’ economic gains, 2016 myths

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump exaggerated his role in boosting U.S. economic growth, falsely claiming full credit for positive economic news and inaccurately declaring a “historic” turnaround.

The statements capped a week of mystifying assertion in which Trump also invented history by saying he won the women’s vote in the 2016 election, saw progress with North Korea that isn’t evident to his top diplomat and boasted of “success” and “record business” in U.S. health care programs that have yet to start.

A look at the claims:

2016 ELECTION

TRUMP: “I did win that women’s vote, didn’t I? Remember, they said, ‘Why would women vote for Trump?’ Well, I don’t know, but I got more than she did. That’s pretty good.” — remarks Thursday in Granite City, Ill.

THE FACTS: No, he didn’t. About 54 percent of women nationally voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to exit polls, compared with Trump’s 41 percent.

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HEALTH CARE

TRUMP, on a health insurance option for small businesses and self-employed people: “I hear it’s like record business that they’re doing. We just opened about two months ago, and I’m hearing that the numbers are incredible. Numbers of people that are getting really, really good health care instead of Obamacare, which is a disaster.” — remarks Thursday in Peosta, Iowa.

THE FACTS: The Trump administration’s new health insurance option isn’t producing “record business,” because a roll-out of the plans doesn’t begin until September.

Even after the plans take effect, their impact is expected to be somewhat limited.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates a modest impact of 4 million people who will be covered by the association plans within five years. That’s compared with nearly 160 million who are covered by job-based insurance, the 12 million eligible for expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” and the 10 million in the ACA’s private insurance markets.

TRUMP: “We’re greatly expanding telehealth and walk-in clinics so our veterans can get anywhere, at any time, they can get what they need, they can learn about the problem and they don’t necessarily have to drive long distances and wait. It’s been a very big success.” — remarks Tuesday to Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

THE FACTS: A new benefit that would give the nation’s veterans access to commercially run walk-in clinics is not a success at all, because it hasn’t started.

It won’t begin for another year and the care won’t always be freely provided “anywhere, at any time.” Only veterans who have used VA health care services in the previous two years would be able to get care at the private walk-in clinics. After two visits, veterans could be subject to higher co-payments charged by the VA.

TRUMP: “We passed Veterans Choice, the biggest thing ever. … It has got to be the biggest improvement you can have. So now if you can’t get the treatment you need in a timely manner, people used to wait two weeks, three weeks, eight weeks, they couldn’t get to a doctor. You will have the right to see a private doctor immediately, and we will pay for it.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: The care provided under the Choice program is not as immediate as Trump suggests, nor is it likely to be the “biggest thing” ever. Currently only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care immediately from private doctors at government expense, a standard that the VA is frequently unable to meet.

Under a newly expanded Choice program that will take at least a year to implement, veterans will still have to meet certain criteria before they can see a private physician.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that despite the Choice program’s guarantee of providing an appointment within 30 days, veterans waited an average of 51 to 64 days.

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ECONOMY AND TRADE

TRUMP: “We’ve accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions.” — remarks Friday on a new economic report.

THE FACTS: That doesn’t square with the record. Trump didn’t inherit a fixer-upper economy.

The U.S. economy just entered its 10th year of growth, a recovery that began under President Barack Obama, who inherited the Great Recession. The data show that the falling unemployment rate and gains in home values reflect the duration of the recovery, rather than any major changes made since 2017 by the Trump administration.

While Trump praised the 4.1 percent annual growth rate in the second quarter, it exceeded that level four times during the Obama presidency. But quarterly figures are volatile and strength in one quarter can be reversed in the next. While Obama never achieved the 3 percent annual growth that Trump hopes to see, he came close. The economy grew 2.9 percent in 2015.

The economy faces two significant structural drags that could keep growth closer to 2 percent than 3 percent: an aging population, which means fewer people are working and more are retired, and weak productivity growth, which means that those who are working aren’t increasing their output as quickly as in the past.

Both of those factors are largely beyond Trump’s control.

TRUMP: “One of the biggest wins in the report, and it is, indeed a big one, is that the trade deficit — very dear to my heart because we’ve been ripped off by the world — has dropped.” — remarks Friday.

THE FACTS: Trump is correct that a lower trade deficit helped growth in the April-June quarter, but it’s not necessarily for a positive reason.

The president has floated plans to impose import taxes on hundreds of billions of dollars of foreign goods, which has led to the risk of retaliatory tariffs by foreign companies on U.S. goods.

This threat of an escalating trade war has led many companies to increase their levels of trade before any tariffs hit, causing the temporary boost in exports being celebrated by Trump.

Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial, said the result is that the gains from trade in the second quarter will not be repeated.

TRUMP: “We’re having the best economy we’ve ever had in the history of our country.” — remarks Thursday in Granite City, Illinois.

THE FACTS: This is not the best the U.S. economy has ever been.

The unemployment rate is near a 40-year low and growth is solid, but by many measures the current economy trails other periods in U.S. history. Average hourly pay, before adjusting for inflation, is rising at about a 2.5 percent annual rate, below the 4 percent level reached in the late 1990s when the unemployment rate was as low as it is now.

Pay was growing even faster in the late 1960s, when the jobless rate remained below 4 percent for nearly four years. And economic growth topped 4 percent for three full years from 1998 through 2000, an annual rate it hasn’t touched since.

TRUMP: “The Canadians, you have a totally closed market … they have a 375 percent tax on dairy products, other than that it’s wonderful to deal. And we have a very big deficit with Canada, a trade deficit.” — remarks Thursday in Peosta, Iowa.

THE FACTS: No, it’s not closed. Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada’s market is almost totally open to the United States. Each country has a few products that are still largely protected, such as dairy in Canada and sugar in the United States.

Trump also repeated his claim that the U.S. has a trade deficit with Canada, but that is true only in goods. When services are included, such as insurance, tourism, and engineering, the U.S. had a $2.8 billion surplus with Canada last year.

TRUMP: “Veterans’ unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in almost 18 years. … And I’ll guarantee, within a month or two months, that 18 will be even a much higher number.” — remarks Tuesday at VFW convention.

THE FACTS: This boast is based on outdated numbers.

The veterans’ unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in June, a low rate historically, but that is still above the 2.7 percent rate in October, which was the lowest in nearly 17 years.

Veterans’ unemployment has fallen mostly for the same reasons that joblessness has fallen for everyone else: strong hiring and steady economic growth for the past eight years.

The vets’ unemployment rate peaked at 9.9 percent in January 2011, then fell by more than half to 4.5 percent by the time Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. Since then, it has fallen an additional 1.2 percentage points.

Trump won’t be able to get to a higher number than 18 years, as he promises to do, because the data only go back to 2000.

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NORTH KOREA

TRUMP: “We’re also pursuing the denuclearization of North Korea and a new future of prosperity, security, and peace on the Korean Peninsula and all of Asia. New images, just today, show that North Korea has begun the process of dismantling a key missile site. And we appreciate that. We had a fantastic meeting with Chairman Kim, and it seems to be going very well.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: Trump’s assessment that his administration’s plan to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons is “going very well” is not fully shared by his own secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. In fact, Pompeo acknowledged this past week that the North is still producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Trump made his remarks after the North Korea-focused 38 North website released recent satellite imagery that seems to show dismantlement underway at Sohae.

But Pompeo sounded a note of caution. He said that while such a step would be in line with the pledges that Kim made to Trump at the June 12 summit in Singapore, it would have to be confirmed by international inspectors.

Analysts say dismantling a few facilities at the site alone won’t realistically reduce North Korea’s military capability or represent a material step toward denuclearization.

Indeed, at a Senate hearing Wednesday, Pompeo acknowledged that North Korea continues to produce fuel for nuclear weapons despite Kim’s pledge to denuclearize. Pompeo said there was “an awful long way to go” before North Korea could no longer be viewed as a nuclear threat.

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AMAZON AND MANUFACTURING

TRUMP: “The Amazon Washington Post has gone crazy against me ever since they lost the Internet Tax Case in the U.S. Supreme Court two months ago. Next up is the U.S. Post Office which they use, at a fraction of real cost, as their ‘delivery boy’ for a BIG percentage of their packages…” — tweet July 23.

THE FACTS: He’s wrong to suggest that the U.S. Postal Service delivers packages for Amazon below cost. Federal regulators in fact have reviewed the Amazon contract with the Postal Service each year and determined it to be profitable.

Trump is upset with Amazon because its founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post, which Trump has labeled “fake news” after the newspaper reported unfavorable developments during his campaign and presidency.

While the Postal Service has lost money for 11 years, package delivery, a bright spot, is not the reason.

Boosted by e-commerce, the Postal Service has enjoyed double-digit increases in revenue from delivering packages, but that hasn’t been enough to offset pension and health care costs as well as declines in first-class letters and marketing mail. Together, letters and marketing mail make up more than two-thirds of postal revenue.

Amazon sends packages via the post office, FedEx, UPS and other services, and has taken steps toward becoming more self-reliant in shipping.

TRUMP: “On the South Lawn, you have the space capsule. And every part is made right here, in America.” — remarks July 23 at Made in America event.

THE FACTS: Trump neglects to mention a key detail: NASA’s Orion crew capsule, one of the star products at the White House event celebrating U.S. manufacturing, will ride through space thanks to Europe.

With its four solar-array wings, the European Service Module supplies propulsion, power and the essentials of life for the capsule’s space travels and marks a departure for NASA.

“For the first time,” the agency says, “NASA will use a European-built system as a critical element to power an American spacecraft.” Airbus, Boeing’s prime competitor in commercial air travel, leads an array of European companies that made the service module.

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Associated Press writers Cal Woodward, Emily Swanson, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Matthew Lee and Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.

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Business: World stocks slip as trade fears set in

SINGAPORE (AP) — World markets slipped on Monday as steep losses by U.S. technology stocks and a weakening Chinese yuan shook confidence in overall growth.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX fell 0.3 percent in early trading to 12,824.32 while France’s CAC 40 was down 0.4 percent at 5,490.90. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 0.2 percent to 7,683.99. Futures pointed to small losses on Wall Street, with the contract for Dow futures down 0.1 percent at 25,400.00 and S&P 500 futures also 0.1 percent lower at 2,813.90.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.7 percent to 22,544.84 and South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1 percent lower to 2,293.51. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.2 percent to 2,869.05 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 0.3 percent to 28,733.13. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.4 percent to 6,278.40. Shares gained in Indonesia but were lower in Taiwan and Singapore.

TECH STOCK LOSSES: Technology stocks led a slide in U.S. stocks on Friday, adding to the market’s losses from another tech-driven sell-off a day earlier. On Friday, Twitter announced that its monthly users declined in the second quarter, causing its stock to plummet 20.5 percent to $34.12. It was the company’s second-biggest loss since going public in 2013. Snap, the company behind the Snapchat messaging app, slid 4 percent to $12.83. Facebook shares gave up 0.8 percent to $174.89 a day after the social media giant led a slide in technology stocks that snapped the S&P 500′s three-day winning streak. Amazon.com bucked the trend, adding 0.5 percent to $1,817.27 after the online retailer reported its biggest profit ever as its advertising and cloud computing businesses kept growing.

U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH: The U.S. economy accelerated last quarter at an annual rate of 4.1 percent, its best showing since 2014, the Commerce Department said Friday. Consumers spent tax-cut money, businesses stepped up investment and exporters rushed to ship their goods ahead of retaliatory tariffs. President Donald Trump was thrilled with what he called an “amazing” growth rate and said it wasn’t “a one-time shot.” But most economists disagree and say the pace of growth in the April-June quarter won’t last. Friday also marked the end of the busiest stretch of the second-quarter earnings season, with roughly a third of companies in the S&P 500 reporting results. Most companies delivered better-than-expected results and favorable outlooks. That has reinforced the underlying perception in the financial markets that the U.S. economy is performing strongly and that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates this week.

ANALYST’S VIEWPOINT: “The (Chinese) renminbi is weak, reflecting the wider trend despite Trump and (European Commission President Jean-Claude) Juncker slapping each other on the back” and agreeing to hold off on new tariffs, said Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank. “Investors are realizing that the main trade risks lie between the U.S. and China,” he added. The renminbi, or yuan, has been skidding since February, mostly because of slower economic growth in China and rising interest rates in the U.S.

BOJ MEETING: Traders are looking out for the Bank of Japan’s statement on monetary policy due Tuesday. Financing costs will rise if the bank decides to steepen the yield curve. This is markedly different from yields turning higher on their own. In that case, bonds will drop and investors will be driven toward equities.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 77 cents to $69.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 92 cents to settle at $68.69 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 36 cents to $75.12.

CURRENCIES: The dollar increased to 111.08 yen from 111.00 yen on Friday. The euro rose to $1.1678 from $1.1656.

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Investing.com – Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Monday, July 30:

1. Dollar Dips At Start Of Busy Week For Central Banks, Data

The U.S. dollar was a shade lower against its peers, as market participants awaited key central bank meetings this week that could set the near-term course for currencies.

Central banks in focus include the Bank of Japan, which ends a two-day meeting on Tuesday, and the Federal Reserve, which concludes its policy meeting on Wednesday. The Bank of England also makes a policy decision on Thursday.

There’s also a gusher of economic reports in the coming week, as the calendar rolls to August from July, with data on U.S. inflation and payrolls in the spotlight.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a basket of six major currencies, was down 0.15% at 94.34, after dipping slightly on Friday, when upbeat second quarter U.S. gross domestic product data failed to lift the greenback, as markets had mostly priced in strong figures.

Elsewhere, in the bond market, U.S. Treasury prices edged lower, pushing yields higher across the curve, with the benchmark 10-year yield ticking up to around 2.98%, while the Fed-sensitive 2-year note was near a two-decade high of 2.68%.

2. Another Big Week Of Earnings Kicks Off

More than 140 companies listed on the S&P 500 are set to report corporate results in what will be the last big week of the second-quarter earnings season.

Monday sees Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Loews (NYSE:L), Bloomin’ Brands (NASDAQ:BLMN), Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE:BAH), Diamond Offshore (NYSE:DO), and Seagate Technology (NASDAQ:STX) report ahead of the opening bell.

AK Steel (NYSE:AKS), Denny’s (NASDAQ:DENN), Rent-A-Center (NASDAQ:RCII), Transocean (NYSE:RIG), Illumina (NASDAQ:ILMN), and KLA-Tencor (NASDAQ:KLAC) are due after the bell.

But Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will get the most attention when it reports Tuesday after hours. The iPhone-maker’s results will be closely watched after disappointing forecasts from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) last week shook investor belief in tech resilience.

Some of other high-profile tech names reporting this week are Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), Sprint (NYSE:S), Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), Square (NYSE:SQ), Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), CBS (NYSE:CBS), Teva Pharma (NYSE:TEVA), DowDuPont (NYSE:DWDP), Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK), Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC), and Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKa).

 

3. U.S. Stock Futures Point To Lower Open

U.S. stock futures looked set to kick off the week on a downbeat note, with the major indices on track to open with modest losses, as investors focused on the latest batch of corporate earnings.

At 5:10AM ET, the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a loss of 7 points, or about 0.1%, at the open. The blue-chip Dow futures and S&P 500 futures also indicated a slightly lower start to their respective trading sessions.

Wall Street fell on Friday, as disappointing results from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Twitter soured the mood on the Nasdaq.

Elsewhere, in Europe, most of the region’s major bourses traded lower, with almost every sector in the red. Earlier, Asian stocks closed in negative territory, as markets took cues from declines in Wall Street’s last session.

4. Oil Prices Edge Higher

In commodity markets, oil prices edged higher, with U.S. benchmark WTI outperforming thanks to recent upbeat news on the U.S. economy, but gains were limited as the fallout from trade tensions weighed on markets.

U.S. crude jumped 81 cents, or 1.2%, to $69.50 a barrel, while Brent, the global benchmark, tacked on 45 cents, or 0.6%, to $75.21.

The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in nearly four years in the second quarter, but trade tensions remain high between Washington and Beijing despite an easing between the U.S. and the European Union.

5. Trump Threatens Government Shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump called on Congress to enact sweeping immigration reform, including a border wall, and threatened a federal government shutdown if Democrats refused to back his proposals.

In a series of early Sunday morning posts on Twitter, the president lambasted Congress over immigration reform. He then threatened to shut down the government if Congress didn’t move U.S. laws “based on MERIT!”

 

Trump has threatened a shutdown several times since taking office in a bid to get immigration priorities in congressional spending bills, especially funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border. Trump has asked for $25 billion to build the wall.

Congress must agree on a spending measure to fund the government by a Sept. 30 deadline.

Emails: Lawyer who met Trump Jr. tied to Russian officials

LONDON (AP) — The Moscow lawyer said to have promised Donald Trump’s presidential campaign dirt on his Democratic opponent worked more closely with senior Russian government officials than she previously let on, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Scores of emails, transcripts and legal documents paint a portrait of Natalia Veselnitskaya as a well-connected attorney who served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel in a case involving a key client.

The data was obtained through Russian opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s London-based investigative unit, the Dossier Center , that is compiling profiles of Russians it accuses of benefiting from corruption. The data was later shared with journalists at the AP, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger , Greek news website Inside Story and elsewhere .

The AP was unable to reach Veselnitskaya for comment. Messages from a reporter sent to her phone were marked as “read” but were not returned. A list of questions sent via email went unanswered.

Veselnitskaya has been under scrutiny since it emerged last year that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., met with her in June 2016 after being told by an intermediary that she represented the Russian government and was offering Moscow’s help defeating rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Veselnitskaya has denied acting on behalf of Russian officialdom when she met with the Trump team, telling Congress that she operates “independently of any government bodies.”

But recent reporting has cast doubt on her story. In an April interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya acknowledged acting as an “informant” for the Russian government after being confronted with an earlier batch of emails obtained through the Dossier Center.

The new documents reviewed by AP suggest her ties to Russian authorities are close — and they pull the curtain back on her campaign to overturn the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Russian officials.

The source of the material is murky.

Veselnitskaya has previously said that her emails were hacked. Khodorkovsky told AP he couldn’t know where the messages came from, saying his group maintained a series of anonymous digital drop boxes.

The AP worked to authenticate the 200-odd documents, in some cases by verifying the digital signatures carried in email headers.

In three other cases, individuals named in various email chains confirmed that the messages were genuine. Other correspondence was partially verified by confirming the nonpublic phone numbers or email addresses they held, including some belonging to senior Russian officials and U.S. lobbyists.

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FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

Veselnitskaya’s role in the drama over the Trump campaign’s Russian connections is rooted in her fight against Bill Browder, the American-born British businessman who has become a leading critic of the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Browder’s decade-plus crusade against the Kremlin has so enraged Russian officials that Putin demanded his extradition to Moscow during his press conference with President Trump in Helsinki earlier this month.

The feud took off in 2009, when a lawyer working for Browder, Sergey Magnitsky, died in a Moscow prison under suspicious circumstances. Magnitsky had been investigating a multimillion dollar embezzlement scheme allegedly involving Russian tax officials when he was arrested, and Browder turned his death into a cause celebre, successfully lobbying Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that slapped the officials implicated in the scandal with visa bans and asset freezes.

Moscow has responded with a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans and by an unrelenting campaign against Browder, who says he’s been the subject of more than a half-dozen attempts to extradite him to Russia through Interpol.

Browder has refused to back down, pushing for copycat legislation across the world. Veselnitskaya has taken the counteroffensive, battling him in court across Europe and the U.S. and organizing a media and lobbying campaign to undercut his credibility in Washington.

Veselnitskaya told Congress last year that her interest in Browder was “all part of my job defending a specific person” — her client Denis Katsyv, who Browder accuses of laundering money through the company Prevezon.

But the documents obtained through the Dossier Center show she both received Russian government support and provided assistance to high-level authorities in Moscow.

When Swiss officials investigating Prevezon arrived in Moscow on September 2015 to interrogate Katsyv, for example, they were met not just by Veselnitskaya but by Lt. Col. A. V. Ranchenkov, a senior Interior Ministry official previously known for his role investigating the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Ranchenkov devoted a chunk of the interview to questions about the legality of Browder’s actions, according to a transcript of the interrogation reviewed by AP.

The Russian Interior Ministry did not return messages seeking comment.

Two years later, the emails show, Veselnitskaya was mixed up in the Russian government’s attempt to extract financial information from Browder’s former law firm in Cyprus.

An Oct. 31, 2017, email shows Veselnitskaya’s office preparing a draft version of Russian Deputy General Prosecutor Mikhail Alexandrov’s affidavit to Cypriot authorities. “This is needed by tomorrow,” she wrote a subordinate.

Two weeks later, a finalized version of the same document was sent by a Russian diplomatic staffer to a Cypriot counterpart, the Dossier Center’s files show.

Browder said this reinforced the idea that Veselnitskaya was enmeshed with Russian officialdom.

“If her office is drafting replies for Russian-Cyprus law enforcement cooperation, in my opinion that effectively shows that she’s an agent of the Russian government and not an independent lawyer as she claims,” he said in a telephone interview.

In a written statement, the Russian Embassy in Cyprus called the AP’s questions a “provocation” and said that it had “no idea who is Nataliya Veselnitskaya and what she sends or doesn’t send to the Cypriot Officials.”

Alexandrov, reached at the prosecutor-general’s office, refused to speak to the AP.

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‘MY ANTENNAE WERE OUT’

Veselnitskaya tried to extend her influence to the United States.

The emails obtained through the Dossier Center show her at the center of a multipronged lobbying operation aimed at halting Browder’s momentum in Washington.

One prong was aimed at building a grassroots support for the effort to overturn the Magnitsky Act, or at least create the illusion of one.

A potential ally in this effort was the Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption Including Neighboring Countries, or FRUA, a charity that supports families who adopt children from former Soviet bloc nations.

Jan Wondra, the organization’s chairman, said she attended a meeting in Washington on June 8, 2016, with a group of people including Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist who was working with Veselnitskaya to overturn U.S. sanctions against Russia.

The group told her they had evidence that the Magnitsky Act had been propelled by bogus claims spread by Browder and his allies, Wondra said, a revelation the group said could lead to the overturning of the Russian adoption ban.

Wondra told the AP she was suspicious and feared that the lobbyists wanted FRUA’s endorsement for their own purposes.

’My antennae were out. I looked at this as an attempt to put public pressure on Congress to rescind all or a part of the Magnitsky Act,” she said, emphasizing that she spoke only for herself, not her organization. “The conclusion I drew was that FRUA should not participate. And we didn’t.”

Akhmetshin, who would join Veselnitskaya at the Trump Tower meeting the next day, declined comment.

While the lobbyists were wooing Wondra, Veselnitskaya was overseeing the creation of a new organization called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, or HRAGI, which billed itself as a grass-roots group devoted to overturning the Russian adoption ban.

A Bloomberg report shows the organization was in fact funded by Russian friends of Katsyv — something Veselnitskaya appeared eager to keep secret.

“Is it possible to open a Fund account here in Russia, so we can collect money from donations and then pay them into an account anonymously in the U.S?” she wrote Mark Cymrot, a lawyer at the U.S. law firm BakerHostetler, in a March 17, 2016, email.

Cymrot represented Prevezon, the Katsyv-owned company accused by Browder of being a conduit for the ill-gotten money Magnitsky was tracking before he died. But Cymrot did more than just fight Veselnitskaya’s corner in American court; he also helped her undercut Browder’s crusading image in the American media.

For this, Cymrot turned to Fusion GPS, a private intelligence firm that prepared a 660-odd page media dossier on Browder for circulation to journalists.

Fusion also was tasked with background research for Veselnitskaya’s work convincing elected representatives to push back against Browder’s campaign in Washington, where the Global Magnitsky Bill, an enlarged version of the 2012 law, was wending its way through Congress.

The emails capture Cymrot writing to Fusion to ask for damning material on Browder to send to a senior staffer on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“Any articles critical of Browder,” Cymrot told Fusion, saying the staffer had asked for “anything we have that could be helpful.”

“Time is of the essence,” he added, noting that the global bill was only two days from the beginning of the amendment process.

Cymrot said his work did not constitute lobbying.

“You’re misinterpreting what occurred,” he said in a telephone interview. When pressed for details, he asked for questions in writing. When these were provided, he did not respond. BakerHostetler also did not respond to written questions.

Whatever Cymrot’s role, Veselnitskaya’s modest American lobbying effort came to naught. The Global Magnitsky Act cleared the Committee on Foreign Affairs amid overwhelming bipartisan support. It was signed into law on Dec. 23, 2016.

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BLOWBACK

The campaign to knock the wind out of Browder’s sails began to draw blowback as the political climate changed.

On July 16, 2016, Browder filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department accusing Cymrot, Akhmetshin, Fusion founder Glenn Simpson and many of their colleagues of acting as unregistered agents for Russia.

In October 2016, a judge threw BakerHostetler off the Prevezon case on the grounds of conflict of interest, since the firm had previously represented Browder. It eventually was replaced by Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

After Trump’s election in November, the once-discreet Fusion was thrust into the white-hot center of Trump’s Washington when it was revealed that the private intelligence company had commissioned the dossier containing explosive claims about the future president’s behavior in Russia.

Republican politicians seized on Browder’s 2016 complaint about Fusion to try to undermine the dossier’s authors, accusing Simpson, for example, of secretly working on behalf of the Russian state, or of letting his work for Prevezon overlap with his opposition research on Trump.

Simpson denied the charges in his testimony before Congress. In a statement Thursday, Fusion’s lawyer Joshua A. Levy said the company had provided litigation support — not lobbying — and that its Trump research had survived determined Republican efforts to discredit it.

Others in Veselnitskaya’s orbit took a little time to get their story straight, a document obtained through the Dossier Center suggests.

The April 2017 document initially has Robert Arakelian, the owner of the HRAGI organization working to overturn the adoption ban, explaining that he is exempt from the requirement to register as a foreign agent and saying he created the organization “at the request of Denis Katsyv.”

The document’s tracked changes suggest a BakerHostetler lawyer rewrote the charity’s origin story wholesale, deleting the reference to Katsyv and saying instead that the adoption group was established after Arakelian met Akhmetshin, the lobbyist, and “learned that the law is unjust and based on false information provided to members of the United States Congress.”

The BakerHostetler lawyer then inserted a sentence explaining that there were no agreements between the adoption group, Katsyv, Prevezon “or any other foreign persons or principals from the Russian Federation.”

The only foreign link, the document said, was an “informal representation” by Veselnitskaya.

Arakelian didn’t return an email seeking comment.

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“A BAD LIGHT”

As the rewriting of the document shows, BakerHostetler was still involved with Prevezon and its entourage despite the judge having ordered the firm off the case months before.

Faith Gay of Quinn Emanuel told Veselnitskaya on May 1, 2017, that she was still in touch with BakerHostetler even though the firm couldn’t officially participate in trial preparations.

“We have been trying to talk with them informally as much as possible,” she wrote.

Gay no longer works for the firm and declined comment when approached by the AP. But several emails show her former colleagues copying counterparts at BakerHostetler on trial-related matters, as well as BakerHostetler lawyers offering their feedback throughout the first half of 2017.

Cymrot defended his continued work on Prevezon, saying the lawyers at Quinn Emanuel needed help navigating the complex case they had taken on right up until the moment Prevezon settled with the government on May 19, 2017.

“It was all under the transition period,” he said in his interview.

Cymrot refused to divulge whether he or others at BakerHostetler were paid for their work, calling that information privileged.

Worries about the behind-the-scenes assistance becoming public would prove a source of concern after news of Veselnitskaya’s meeting at Trump Tower became public.

Within weeks, she, Akhmetshin, Simpson and others were called before Congress and investigators subpoenaed their emails. Quinn Emmanuel warned Veselnitskaya that the email exchanges could be damaging and urged her to declare them off-limits.

Releasing the messages could result in “a question being raised about BakerHostleter representing Prevezon’s interests well beyond the district court’s disqualification of them as Prevezon’s counsel,” one lawyer wrote.

Veselnitskaya initially shrugged off the issue.

“I can see no reason to worry,” she wrote on Aug. 18.

But five days later, senior Quinn Emanuel lawyer Faith Gay reemphasized the point, arguing that the documents should be kept secret “as it seems to us that it could be your friends at BakerHostetler in a bad light.”

Quinn Emanuel did not respond to a list of questions.

Veselnitskaya’s final response isn’t captured in the messages obtained through the Dossier Center, but she appears to have relented.

The emails between BakerHostetler, Fusion and congressional staffers were never made public. Instead, a two-page email log was produced labeling the material “confidential communication performed at the direction of counsel in anticipation of litigation.”

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UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The emails obtained by AP leave some unanswered questions.

In particular, the Dossier Center’s investigation turned up almost no messages about the Trump Tower meeting, its lead-up or its aftermath. The group said it received only a few messages dealing with the media queries when the meeting became public in mid-2017.

That could lend credence to arguments by the Trump campaign and Veselnitskaya that both sides quickly realized the get-together was a waste of time.

“I wanted to go away as soon as possible,” she told Congress. “And I felt Trump Jr. wanted the same too.”

The messages also carry no hint of the Trump dossier, and nothing in the material challenges Simpson’s testimony that Fusion’s work for Prevezon was kept separate from its work on Trump.

Finally, there’s no mention in the documents of the Russian hack-and-leak operation that began rattling the Democrats immediately following Veselnitskaya’s visit.

The only hints of cyberespionage in the documents appear to revolve around concerns that Veselnitskaya or members of her entourage might have their messages hacked by others.

About a week before the Trump Tower meeting, for example, Veselnitskaya’s translator warned Arakelian, the owner of HRAGI, the adoption group, that their emails were vulnerable and suggested switching to more secure channels.

“We need to think about how to send files via Telegram, Signal or PGP,” he said.

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Angela Charlton, Francesca Ebel and Varya Kudryavtseva in Moscow, Justin Myers in Chicago and Desmond Butler in Washington contributed to this report.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — Raphael Satter’s father, David Satter, is a Russia specialist who has been critical both of the Kremlin and of the Fusion GPS-commissioned dossier on President Donald Trump. He was involved in a 2011 arbitration claim against filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov over the production of a documentary. A subsequent film by Nekrasov, which was critical of British investor Bill Browder, was promoted by Natalia Veselnitskaya.

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Online:

Raphael Satter is reachable on: http://raphaelsatter.com

Legal implications on Trump or Cohen unclear on secret tape

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A secret recording of Donald Trump discussing payments to a Playboy model has brought renewed attention to the question of whether — and how — he might have tried to block politically damaging stories ahead of the 2016 presidential election. But it’s not clear that the tape, on its own, creates additional legal problems for the president.

The September 2016 conversation between Trump and his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, took place weeks after the National Enquirer’s parent company reached a $150,000 deal to pay former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair she says she had with Trump. The recording captures Trump and Cohen discussing acquiring the rights to McDougal’s story and whether to pay by cash or check.

At issue is whether the payment the men are discussing was campaign-related and intended to influence the election, in which case it would likely be regarded as a contribution, or whether it was merely meant to shield the married Trump from an embarrassing revelation harmful to his personal life. Also important is whether the payment to McDougal from the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., functioned as a backdoor campaign contribution or as a legitimate media company expense.

“It’s a piece of evidence. It’s not a smoking gun,” Rick Hasen, a campaign finance law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said of the recording. “It’s relevant to the investigation, and it’s relevant to considering whether Trump or Cohen or AMI committed campaign finance violations, but on its own, it does not constitute proof of any violation.”

He added, “It does not establish either a motive to spend illegal or unreported money in violation of the campaign finance laws, and it doesn’t establish that any money was actually paid for this purpose.”

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said the conversation wasn’t campaign-related and that Trump and Cohen didn’t make a payment to buy the rights.

The Justice Department has been investigating Cohen for months, raiding his home, office and hotel room in search of documents related to McDougal and a separate $130,000 payment the attorney facilitated before the election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who says she had sex with Trump in 2006.

Cohen, long a loyal counselor to the president, has more recently signaled that he’d be open to cooperating with prosecutors.

His lawyer, Lanny Davis, released the recording to CNN in a reflection of open discord with Trump. Trump’s lawyers circulated a transcript of the call that challenged Davis’ assessment of it.

Legal experts say the case raises murky issues, especially as investigators discern the motivations behind AMI’s payment and the extent to which Cohen was involved in the arrangement.

Prosecutors could conclude that the Enquirer, which did not publish McDougal’s story as part of a tabloid strategy known as “catch and kill,” made the payment to aid Trump’s election bid in violation of campaign finance regulations that bar corporations from making coordinated contributions.

“If they coordinated to suppress this story in order to help Trump’s presidential campaign, that would be a campaign finance violation,” said Andrew Herman, a Washington lawyer. “It could be a civil violation. It could be a criminal violation.”

AMI, however, could argue that it was acting as a legitimate news organization and in the best interest of its readers by acquiring McDougal’s story and withholding it from publication.

A key question for investigators will be whether the arrangements would have taken place even if Trump weren’t a candidate because the primary purpose was to protect his reputation. Election references in the recording, including discussion of polls and anxiety over the possible release of Trump’s divorce records from first wife Ivana, may create circumstantial evidence that the campaign was a central focus.

The brief recording is unclear as to the purpose of any proposed transaction.

“I think the election was certainly on everybody’s mind, but that doesn’t make anyone’s acts an election contribution or expenditure,” said Craig Engle, former general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Daniel Petalas, former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission, said the recording could be valuable to prosecutors to the extent it reveals Trump’s and Cohen’s intent. A former Justice Department prosecutor, Petalas said it was notable Trump seemed concerned that divorce papers could be unsealed, suggesting sensitivity to not wanting embarrassing information out before the election.

He said even if the conversation alone doesn’t establish wrongdoing, it could nonetheless be valuable to investigators reviewing the separate payment to Daniels as they examine a potential pattern to subvert campaign finance laws.

Lawyers for Trump and Cohen have made different representations about whether the recording shows Trump wanting to make the payment via cash or check. The Trump team’s transcript says he said “don’t pay with cash” and wanted it done by check. Davis has disputed that.

But that distinction probably doesn’t matter.

“The question comes down to whether or not there’s a payment, by any means, that violated the amount and source requirements of the law,” Petalas said. “Paying by check doesn’t change anything.”

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

Remains said to be US war dead repatriated from North Korea

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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Friday returned the remains of what are believed to be U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War, the White House said, with a U.S military plane making a rare trip into North Korea to retrieve 55 cases of remains.

The handover follows through on a promise North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made to President Donald Trump when the leaders met in June and is the first tangible result from the much-hyped summit. Trump welcomed the repatriation and thanked Kim in a tweet.

The United Nations Command said 55 cases of remains were retrieved from North Korea. The White House earlier confirmed that a U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft containing remains of fallen service members had departed Wonsan, a Northern coastal city, on its way to the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, near the South Korean capital of Seoul. A formal repatriation ceremony will be held there Wednesday.

At the air base, U.S. servicemen and a military honor guard lined up on the tarmac to receive the remains, which were carried in boxes covered in blue U.N. flags.

About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers.

North Korea on Friday returned the remains of what are believed to be U.S. servicemen killed during the Korean War, the White House said. A U.S. military plane made a rare trip into North Korea to retrieve 55 cases of remains. (July 27)

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, in a statement from the U.N. Command, called the retrieval mission successful. “Now, we will prepare to honor our fallen before they continue on their journey home.”

Following the honors ceremony on Wednesday, the remains will be flown to Hawaii for scientific testing. A series of forensic examinations will be done to determine if the remains are human and if the dead were American or allied troops killed in the conflict.

Trump late Thursday tweeted the repatriation was occurring and said, “After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.”

Officials in North Korea had no comment on the handover on Friday, the 65th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, which the country celebrated as the day of “victory in the fatherland liberation war.”

Despite soaring rhetoric about denuclearization before Kim and Trump met in Singapore, their summit ended with only a vague aspirational goal for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how that would occur.

The repatriation of remains could be followed by stronger North Korean demands for fast-tracked discussions to formally end the war, which was stopped with an armistice and not a peace treaty. South Korea’s Defense Ministry also said the North agreed to general-level military talks next week at a border village to discuss reducing tensions across the countries’ heavily armed border.

The U.S. military last month said that 100 wooden “temporary transit cases” built in Seoul were sent to the Joint Security Area at the Korean border as part of preparations to receive and transport remains in a dignified manner. U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Col. Chad Carroll also said, at the time, that 158 metal transfer cases were sent to a U.S. air base and would be used to send the remains home.

The remains are believed to be some of the more than 200 that North Korea has held in storage for some time, and were likely recovered from land during farming or construction. The vast majority of the war dead, however, have yet to be located and retrieved from cemeteries and battlefields across the countryside.

Efforts to recover American war dead had been stalled for more than a decade because of a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program and a previous U.S. claim that security arrangements for its personnel working in the North were insufficient.

From 1996 to 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.

The North marked Friday’s anniversary with ceremonies at war-related memorials; the capital Pyongyang and other cities were decked out in national flags and bright red banners. For the first time since 2015, Kim Jong Un has announced a general amnesty will be granted for prisoners who have committed crimes against the state.

North Korea has held out the return of remains as a symbol of its goodwill and intention to improve ties with Washington. Officials have bristled, however, at criticism from the U.S. that it seeks to profit from the repatriations by demanding excessive fees for handling and transporting the remains.

Pyongyang has nevertheless expressed its willingness to allow the resumption of joint search missions in the country to retrieve more remains. Such missions had been held from 1996 until they were cancelled by President George W. Bush amid heightening tensions over the North’s nuclear program in 2005.

Post Kim-Trump summit talks between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean officials got off to a rocky start earlier this month, with the North accusing the Americans of making “unilateral and gangster-like” demands on denuclearization. The North also said U.S. officials came up with various “conditions and excuses” to backtrack on the issue of formally ending the war.

“The adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in the light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations between the DPRK and the U.S.,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Peace can come only after the declaration of the termination of war.”

Pompeo said Wednesday that a great deal of work remains ahead of a North Korea denuclearization deal, but he dodged requests to identify a specific denuclearization timeline in testimony to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Experts say a declaration to officially end the war, which could also involve Seoul and Beijing, would make it easier for Pyongyang to steer the discussions with Washington toward a peace treaty, diplomatic recognition, security assurance and economic benefits. Some analysts believe that North Korea would eventually demand that the United States withdraw or dramatically reduce the 28,500 troops it keeps in South Korea as a deterrent.

Washington has maintained Pyongyang wouldn’t get sanctions relief and significant security and economic rewards unless it firmly commits to a process of completely and verifiably eliminating its nuclear weapons. There are lingering doubts on whether Kim would ever agree to fully relinquish his nukes, which he may see as a stronger guarantee of survival than whatever security assurance the United States could offer.

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Kim reported from Seoul and Baldor from Washington. AP journalists Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea, Kim Yong-ho in Pyeongtaek and Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this report.

US government: Over 1,800 migrant kids reunited by deadline

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Shy children were given a meal and a plane or bus ticket to locations around the U.S. as non-profit groups tried to smooth the way for kids reunited with their parents as a deadline loomed following their separations at the U.S. Mexico border.

The Trump administration said Thursday that more than 1,800 children 5 years and older had been reunited with parents or sponsors hours before the deadline. That included 1,442 children who were returned to parents who were in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, and another 378 who were released under a variety of other circumstances.

But about 700 more remain separated, including 431 whose parents were deported, officials say. Those reunions take more time, effort and paperwork as authorities fly children back to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The court-ordered deadline has passed and now the federal judge in San Diego who ordered the reunifications must decide how to address the hundreds of still-separated children whose parents have been deported, as well as how much time, if any, reunified parents should be allowed to file asylum claims.

Protesters gathered in Washington Thursday to call on the Trump administration to meet a court-imposed deadline to reunite thousands of children and parents forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. (July 26)

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union representing separated parents, said Thursday it was unclear how long it might take to find the parents returned to their homelands. “I think it’s just going to be really hard detective work and hopefully we’re going to find them,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw will also consider the ACLU’s request to give reunified parents at least a week to consider if they wish to seek asylum. The government opposes the waiting period, and Sabraw has put a hold on deporting reunified families while the issue is decided.

On a parallel legal front over treatment of immigrant children, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles will be asked Friday to appoint a special monitor to oversee detention facilities.

Children described horrid conditions in a voluminous report filed this month over whether the Trump administration is meeting its obligations under a long-standing settlement governing how young immigrants should be treated in custody.

As the deadline neared, small groups of children were led in and out of Lutheran Social Services in Phoenix all day Thursday, sometimes holding hands with a worker from the center. Children and parents wore matching hospital-like identification bracelets and carried belongings in white plastic bags. The men sported shoes without laces that were taken away while in immigration detention.

Support worker Julisa Zaragoza said some kids were so afraid of losing their parents again they didn’t want to go to the bathroom alone. “These families have been through a lot,” she said.

The federal government was supposed to reunify more than 2,500 children who were separated from their parents under a new immigration policy designed to deter immigrants from coming here illegally, but the policy backfired amid global outrage over crying children taken from their parents.

President Donald Trump ended the practice of taking children from parents and Sabraw ordered the government to reunite all the families by the end of Thursday, nevertheless indicating some flexibility given the enormity of the effort.

Chris Meekins, the head of the office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response for Health and Human Services, said the government would continue to reunify families with eligible parents throughout the evening.

In most cases the families are released and the parents typically get ankle-monitoring bracelets and court dates to appear before an immigration judge. Faith-based and other groups have provided meals, clothing, legal advice, plane and bus tickets and even new shoe laces.

A charitable organization called FWD.US, founded by technology leaders including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Dropbox founder Drew Houston was paying for the airline tickets, the bus tickets and the lodging for all the families newly reunited in the Phoenix area to get them to relatives living all over the United States, said Connie Phillips of Lutheran Social Services. She said a phone company donated 500 mobile phones for the migrants, each with six months of free service.

There were scattered reunions in various locations Thursday, including about 15 in Phoenix, said Phillips. The main immigrant-assistance center in El Paso, Texas, has been receiving about 25 reunified families daily.

Some children who had not seen their parents in weeks or months seemed slow to accept that they would not be abandoned again.

Jose Dolores Munoz, 36, from El Salvador, was reunited with his 7-year-old daughter last Friday, nearly two months after they were separated, but he said his daughter cries when he leaves the house.

“She is afraid,” Munoz said. “Yesterday I left her crying, she is telling me, ‘You are not coming back.’”

Those who remain separated from their children include Lourdes de Leon of Guatemala. She surrendered to authorities at the border and was deported on June 7, while her 6-year-old son, Leo, remained in the U.S.

De Leon said Guatemalan consular officials told her signing a deportation order would be the easiest way to reunite with Leo.

“He is in a shelter in New York,” de Leon said. “My baby already had his hearing with a judge who signed his deportation eight days ago. But I still do not know when they are going to return him to me.”

At the Lutheran center, Phillips said the parents and kids have opened up as they go through an assessment process with workers. She said the outpouring of donations has been comforting.

“We have seen a lot of people come together over this, we’re seeing the best of what Americans can be,” she said.

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Long reported from Washington and Snow reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas, Astrid Galvan in El Paso, Texas, Alan Fram in Washington and Sonia Perez D. in Guatemala City contributed to this report.

Fatal wildfire rips through California towns; residents flee

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REDDING, Calif. (AP) — An explosive wildfire tore through two small Northern California communities Thursday before reaching the city of Redding, killing a bulldozer operator on the fire lines, burning three firefighters, destroying dozens of homes and forcing thousands of terrified residents to flee.

Flames swept through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River and reaching Redding, a city of about 92,000 people and the largest in the region.

The so-called Carr Fire is “taking down everything in its path,” said Scott McLean, a CalFire spokesman for the crews battling the blaze.

“It’s just a wall of flames,” he said.

Residents of western Redding who hadn’t been under evacuation orders were caught off guard and had to flee with little notice, causing miles-long traffic jams as flames turned the skies orange.

“When it hit, people were really scrambling,” McLean said. “There was not much of a warning.”

Many firefighters turned their focus from the flames to getting people out alive.

“Really we’re in a life-saving mode right now in Redding,” said Jonathan Cox, battalion chief with Cal Fire. “We’re not fighting a fire. We’re trying to move people out of the path of it because it is now deadly and it is now moving at speeds and in ways we have not seen before in this area.”

California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Southern California’s Riverside County due to a massive fire. Stronger winds pushed the flames along mountainsides on Thursday. The blaze has burned more than seven square miles. (July 27)

Some residents drove to hotels or the homes of family members in safer parts of California, while other evacuees poured into a shelter just outside of town.

A reporter with KRCR-TV choked up as she reported live updates about the fire before the station had to go off the air later. Two news anchors told viewers that the building was being evacuated and urged residents to “be safe.”

Journalists at the Record Searchlight newspaper tweeted about continuing to report on the fire without electricity in their newsroom, and a reporter at KHSL-TV wrote on Twitter that the station’s Redding reporters were “running home to gather their things.”

Mike Mangas, a spokesman at Mercy Medical Center, said the hospital was evacuating five babies in its neonatal intensive care unit, which cares for premature newborns, and taking them to medical facilities outside of the area.

He said the hospital was preparing high-risk patients to be evacuated but there were no immediate plans to do so.

He said several burn patients were admitted to the emergency room but that most were being treated and released.

Late Thursday, crews found the body of a bulldozer operator who was hired privately to clear vegetation in the blaze’s path, McLean said.

The fire burned over the operator and his equipment, making the man the second bulldozer operator killed in a California blaze in less than two weeks.

Three firefighters and an unknown number of civilians had burns, but the extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately known, McLean said.

“It’s just chaotic. It’s wild,” he said. “There’s a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning.”

Firefighters tried in vain to build containment around the blaze Thursday but flames kept jumping their lines, he said.

“It’s just a heck of a fight,” he said. “They’re doing what they can do and they get pushed out in a lot of cases. We’re fighting the fight right now.”

He said the fire behavior was so erratic, there were tornadoes within the fire “tossing around equipment, blowing windows out of Cal Fire pickup trucks.”

The 45-square-mile (115-square-kilometer) fire that began Monday tripled in size overnight Thursday amid scorching temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. It was sparked by a mechanical issue involving a vehicle, Cal Fire said.

Brett Gouvea, incident commander of the crews battling the fire, urged residents to pay close attention to the blaze.

“This fire is extremely dangerous and moving with no regard for what’s in its path,” he said.

Earlier in the day with flames exploding around Whiskeytown Lake, an effort to save boats at a marina by untying them from moorings and pushing them to safety, wasn’t swift enough to spare them all.

Dozens of charred, twisted and melted boats were among the losses at Oak Bottom Marina.

“The boat docks down there — all the way out in the water — 30 to 40 boats caught fire when the fire laid down on top of them last night and burned those up,” said fire Chief Mike Hebrard of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Wildfires throughout the state have burned through tinder-dry brush and forest, forced thousands to evacuate homes and caused campers to pack up their tents at the height of summer. Gov. Jerry Brown declared states of emergency for the three largest fires, which will authorize the state to rally resources to local governments.

The wildfires have dispatched firefighters to all corners of the state amid an oppressive heat wave.

A huge forest fire continued to grow outside Yosemite National Park. That blaze killed 36-year-old Braden Varney, a heavy equipment operator for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection whose bulldozer rolled over into a ravine July 14.

Hundreds of miles to the south, the Cranston Fire grew to 7.5 square miles (19 square kilometers) and about 3,000 residents remained under evacuation orders in Idyllwild and several neighboring communities. That fire, which destroyed five homes, is believed to have been sparked by arson.

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Myers reported from Los Angeles. AP reporters Noah Berger in Redding, Brian Melley in Los Angeles, Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco, Alina Hartounian in Phoenix, Marcio Jose Sanchez in Idyllwild and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed.

Business: World shares mostly higher, defying Facebook-led tech slump

BANGKOK (AP) — World shares were mostly higher Friday as investors shrugged off Facebook’s nearly $120 billion overnight plunge in market value, the biggest-ever one-day loss in dollar value for a U.S. company.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX added 0.1 percent to 12,823.64 and the CAC 40 in France was flat at 5,481.07. Britain’s FTSE 100 picked up 0.3 percent to 7,682.74. Futures suggested an upbeat start Friday on Wall Street, with the contract for the Dow up 0.1 percent to 25,548.00 and S&P futures up less than 0.1 percent at 2,843.70.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.6 percent to 22,712.75 and the Kospi in South Korea picked up 0.3 percent to 2,294.99. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.3 percent to 2,873.59 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged 0.1 percent lower to 28,757.20. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 jumped 0.9 percent to 6,300.20. Shares gained in Taiwan and Indonesia but were lower in Singapore.

WALL STREET: Facebook’s tumble, brought on by its warning to investors that it sees slower revenue growth ahead, led a decline in technology shares that snapped a three-day winning streak for the S&P 500 index. It lost 0.3 percent to 2,837.44. The Nasdaq composite index, which is heavily weighted with technology companies, lost 80.05 points, or 1 percent, to 7,852.18. But broader gains in industrial, energy and consumer goods companies helped offset those losses for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which advanced 0.4 percent to 25,527.07. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 0.6 percent to 1,695.36. More stocks rose than fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

TRADE: The agreement between President Donald Trump and a European delegation to work on a pact to dismantle trade barrier inspired fresh optimism among investors that trade tensions between the U.S and European Union may be on the mend. But it’s worrying for Asian trading partners, especially China, which could lose leverage with Washington in its own disputes, especially over its imports of soybeans.

JAPAN: The Bank of Japan is due to hold a policy meeting early next week that some analysts believe could bring at least minor changes to the longstanding ultra-lax monetary policy for the world’s third-largest economy. Sustained relatively strong growth has raised expectations that the central bank may need to consider further tempering its massive purchases of government bonds and other assets.

ANALYST’S VIEWPOINT: “The Bank of Japan has a mandate to focus on financial stability as well as inflation. Some argue that sustained ultra-loose policy could generate unwelcome financial risks and so it should be reversed even if inflation remains well below target,” Marcel Thieliant of Capital Economics said in a commentary. But he added, “it would take far more than a further few months of stronger wage or inflation data to convince us that a change in stance was a possibility in the next couple of years.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 31 cents to $69.30 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 31 cents to settle at $69.61 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 33 cents to $74.79.

CURRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 111.14 yen from 111.23 yen on Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1629 from $1.1645.

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Investing.com – Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Friday, July 27:

1. Amazon sends earnings relief as Twitter, Chevron , Exxon and Merck step up

After a 19% plunge in Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB) stock price on Thursday, investors appeared to breathe a sigh of relief as Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) own quarterly earnings didn’t disappoint. The online retailer forecast operating income of between $1.4 billion and $2.4 billion for the third quarter, beating analyst estimates of $843 million, and shares rose more than 3% in extended trading.

Friday marks the end of one of the busiest weeks in the earnings season with an additional 55 companies reporting.

The focus will likely be on Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) results, scheduled for release at around 7:00 AM ET (11:00 GMT). Analysts, on average, are expecting Twitter to report a profit of 16 cents per share, up from 5 cents per share in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue is forecast to come in a little less than $698 million.

Attention will also be paid to earnings from Dow components Chevron (NYSE:CVX), Exxon (NYSE:XOM) and Merck (NYSE:MRK).

2. U.S. set for best growth in nearly 4 years

Investors will keep an eye on a preliminary reading of second-quarter U.S. growth due at 8:30AM ET (12:30 GMT) Friday for further clues on when and how fast the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.

The report is expected to show the economy expanded at an annual rate of 4.1% in the April-June period, more than double the first quarter’s output. That would be the highest since the third quarter of 2014.

Speaking at a steel mill in Granite City, Illinois, on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump doubted the expansion would reach the 5.3% some economists have penciled in, but said that “if it has a four in front of it, we’re happy.”

A strong reading would back Fed chair Jerome Powell’s recent upbeat assessment of the economy as markets currently expect the next rate hike to arrive in September. Fed fund futures currently discount the possibility of an additional increase in December at just above 70%, according to Investing.com’s Fed Rate Monitor Tool.

Also on the economic docket, the University of Michigan will release its revised consumer sentiment for July at 10:00 AM ET (14:00GMT).

3. Trade tensions remain in focus

Trade tensions remained in focus as representatives from the U.S. and China clashed at the World Trade Organization meeting on Thursday.

During the meeting, Washington asked for reforms targeting China’s responsiveness to the market, while Beijing said it would not respond to the U.S.’s tactics.

“Extortion, distortion or demonization does no good to resolve the issues,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xiangchen said.

“Holding our feet to the fire has never worked,” he added.

Another Chinese official noted at the event that China will retaliate against any additional U.S. tariffs, regardless of the volume of goods targeted.

“We clearly have a chronic problem with China,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in Senate testimony on Thursday, adding that trade problems with Beijing will take years to resolve.

Discussions over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) seemed to paint a more optimistic picture.

Mexico and the U.S. agreed on Thursday to step up talks on updating the NAFTA trade deal in hopes of reaching an agreement on major issues by August, Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said.

Guajardo said he had “constructive” and “very positive” talks with Lighthizer and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

4. Global stocks mostly higher ahead of U.S. earnings, GDP

Global stocks were mostly higher on Friday as strong company earnings reports and an easing of transatlantic trade tensions on an agreement between the U.S. and Europe this week to try to cut trade barriers boosted investor confidence.

U.S. stock futures pointed to a slightly higher open as traders awaited the final deluge of earnings this week and the latest take on growth in the American economy. At 5:50 AM ET (9:50GMT), the blue-chip Dow futures edged forward 23 points, or 0.09%, S&P 500 futures inched up 2 points, or 0.08%, while the Nasdaq 100 futures traded up 29 points, or 0.38%.

European stocks moved higher nearing midday trade on Friday, helped by easing fears over U.S. tariffs and positive company earnings.

Earlier, Asian shares showed mixed signs, as trade tensions between the U.S. and China kept continued to weigh on the Shanghai Composite.

5. Oil prices trade slightly lower ahead of U.S. drilling data

Oil prices traded slightly lower on Friday, breaking three consecutive days of gains despite support from news that Saudi Arabia is suspending oil shipping in the Red Sea, while investors looked ahead to the latest gauge of U.S. shale production.

U.S. crude oil futures lost 0.29% to $69.42 by 5:53 AM ET (9:53 GMT), while Brent oil fell 0.17% to $74.41.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil exporter in the world, said it was temporarily halting oil shipments through the Red Sea after an attack by Yemen’s Houthi movement.

The exports through the shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb links Egypt’s Suez canal and SUMED crude pipeline. An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day flow through the Bab al-Mandeb in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Investors looked ahead to weekly rig count data from Baker Hughes at 1:00 PM ET (17:00 GMT).

The U.S. rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by 5 to 858 last week. The rate of growth has slowed over the past month or so with a decline in crude prices from late May through late June.

The rig count is still up 94 from a year ago, when there were 764 rigs.

11 House Republicans seek impeachment of DOJ’s Rosenstein

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of 11 House conservatives introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The move came Wednesday after months of criticism aimed at the department — and the Russia investigation in particular — from Trump and his Republican allies in Congress. Trump has fumed about Mueller’s probe and repeatedly called it a “witch hunt,” a refrain echoed by some of the lawmakers. The impeachment effort is led by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who talks to Trump frequently and often defends him to his colleagues.

It is unclear whether there will be enough support in the party to pass the impeachment resolution, as Republican leaders have not signed on to the effort and are unlikely to back it.

Meadows, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan and the other Republicans who introduced the resolution have criticized Rosenstein and Justice Department officials for not being responsive enough as House committees have requested documents related to the beginning of the Russia investigation and a closed investigation into Democrat Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The introduction does not trigger an immediate vote, but Meadows could make procedural moves on the House floor that could force a vote late this week or when the House returns in September from its upcoming recess. The House is scheduled to leave Thursday for the five-week recess.

The five articles charge Rosenstein of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for failing to produce information to the committees, even though the department has already provided lawmakers with more than 800,000 documents, and of signing off on what some Republicans say was improper surveillance of a Trump adviser.

The resolution also goes directly after Rosenstein for his role in the ongoing Mueller investigation, criticizing him for refusing to produce a memo that outlines the scope of that investigation and questioning whether the investigation was started on legitimate grounds. Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign was in any way involved.

It is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for lawmakers to demand documents that are part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

In a statement, Meadows said Rosenstein’s conduct is “reprehensible.”

“It’s time to find a new deputy attorney general who is serious about accountability and transparency,” Meadows said.

It’s uncertain how many of Meadows’ fellow Republicans agree. Rosenstein, along with FBI Director Christopher Wray, faced dozens of angry Republicans at a House hearing last month. The lawmakers alleged bias at the FBI and suggested the department has conspired against Trump — but many could draw the line at impeachment.

“Impeachment is a punishment, it’s not a remedy,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy said shortly before Meadows introduced the resolution. “If you are looking for documents, then you want compliance, and you want whatever moves you toward compliance.”

The impeachment resolution came about two hours after GOP lawmakers met with Justice Department officials about the documents. Meadows said after that meeting that there was still “frustration” with how the department has handled the oversight requests.

Republican leaders, however, have said in recent weeks that they are satisfied with the Justice Department’s progress. Gowdy said after the meeting that he was pleased with the department’s efforts. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also said he is satisfied with progress on the document production.

Meadows heads the conservative Freedom Caucus and has sparred with Ryan on issues such as immigration and federal spending. His open threat of triggering a vote on impeachment — which he can do if he follows a certain set of procedural rules — could help him win concessions on other contentious issues before the House.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said she had no comment on the articles of impeachment. Rosenstein has overseen the Russia investigation since last year, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe following reports of his meeting with the Russian ambassador.

Democrats have criticized the Republican efforts to pressure the Justice Department, saying they are attempts to undermine Mueller’s investigation.

In a joint statement, the top Democrats on the House Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and intelligence committees called the move a “panicked and dangerous attempt to undermine an ongoing criminal investigation in an effort to protect President Trump as the walls are closing in around him and his associates.”

So far, the special counsel has charged 32 people and three companies. That includes four Trump campaign advisers and 12 Russian intelligence officers.

Democratic Reps. Jerrold Nadler of New York, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Adam Schiff of California said Rosenstein “stands as one of the few restraints against the overreaches of the president and his allies in Congress.”

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Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Chad Day contributed to this report.

Immigration Crisis: Clock ticks toward reuniting families separated at border

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EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The Trump administration faced a court-imposed deadline Thursday to reunite thousands of children and parents who were forcibly separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, an enormous logistical task brought on by its “zero tolerance” policy on illegal entry.

Authorities have identified 2,551 children 5 and older who may be covered by the order to be reunited with their parents by Thursday’s court-imposed deadline. That effort was expected to fall short, partly because hundreds of parents may have already been deported without their children.

But, by focusing only those deemed by the government to be “eligible” for reunification, authorities expected claim success.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,012 parents reunified with their children in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Hundreds more had been cleared and were just waiting on transportation.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told members of Congress on Wednesday that the administration was “on track” to meet the deadline, an assertion that was greeted with disbelief and anger by the all-Democrat Congressional Hispanic Caucus, according to people who attended. Nielsen declined to comment to reporters as she left the closed-door meeting.

For the last two weeks, children have been arriving steadily at ICE locations in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico to be reunited with parents. Faith-based and other groups have provided meals, clothing, legal advice and plane and bus tickets. Parents are typically equipped with ankle-monitoring bracelets and given court dates before an immigration judge.

Natalia Oliveira da Silva, a mother from Brazil, waited nervously outside a detention center in Pearsall, Texas, for her young daughter, Sara. She soon spotted the 5-year-old approaching in a vehicle, a seatbelt over her chest.

Sara got out and was quickly in her mother’s arms, asking her, “They’re not going to take you away again, right?”

Since their separation in late May, the girl had been at a shelter for immigrant minors in Chicago, while Oliveira was moved through facilities across Texas.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego commended the government Tuesday for its recent efforts and for apparently being on track to reunify the roughly 1,600 parents it deems eligible, calling it “a remarkable achievement.” Yet Sabraw also seized on the government’s assertion that 463 parents may be outside the United States. The Justice Department said this week that the number was based on case files and under review, signaling it could change.

“It is the reality of a policy that was in place that resulted in large numbers of families being separated without forethought as to reunification and keeping track of people,” said Sabraw, an appointee of Republican President George W. Bush.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who represents the separated families, said the government is “letting themselves off the hook” by focusing on those it deems eligible and excluding parents who were deported or haven’t been located.

“I think the critical point to remember, is that they are only reunifying by the deadline those families who they are claiming unilaterally are eligible for reunification by the deadline,” he told reporters. “The deadline is the deadline for just those parents and children the government says it can reunite.”

Lourdes de Leon, who turned herself into immigration authorities, was deported to her native Guatemala on June 7 but her 6-year-old son, Leo, remained in the United States.

De Leon said Guatemalan consular officials told her signing a deportation order would be the easiest way to be reunited with Leo.

“He is in a shelter in New York,” de Leon said. “My baby already had his hearing with a judge who signed his deportation eight days ago. But I still do not know when they are going to return him to me.”

The government was expected to provide the judge with an updated count by the end of Thursday. Both sides were due in court Friday.

Spencer Amdur, another ACLU attorney, said there are three categories of concern: The roughly 1,600 children who “everyone agrees have to be reunified” by Thursday; children whose parents were deported and who must be reunified but not necessarily by Thursday; and others the government deems ineligible, including parents with criminal records or are suspected of abuse or neglect and some who aren’t really the children’s parents.

In El Paso, the Annunciation House, which has been assisting dozens of reunited families, said progress has been slow considering Thursday’s deadline. The organization has already received about 250 reunited families. Advocacy group FWD.us has been buying plane tickets for them to quickly leave.

“We are under a logistical 24/7 crisis all-hands-on-deck moment to get through the (Thursday) deadline. We will not stop until all of these children are reunited with their parents and that is regardless of where their parents are,” said Alida Garcia, coalitions and policy director for FWD.us.

The government gives advocates sometimes as little as an hour’s notice when they’re releasing parents and children, Garcia said. The government has been shuttling kids from their shelters to the parking lots of the detention centers where their parents are held. Then they are handed over to non-governmental and faith-based groups that help them get to their intended destination.

Late last month, Sabraw ordered a nationwide halt to family separations, which President Donald Trump effectively did on his own amid an international outcry. He issued a 14- day deadline to reunite children under 5 with their parents and 30 days for children 5 and older.

Attention will now shift largely to the hundreds of children whose parents may have been deported and to how much time reunified parents in the United States should have to decide if they want to seek asylum.

The ACLU, which wants the judge to give families at least seven days after reunification to decide on their next steps, filed a raft of affidavits from attorneys working on the border Wednesday that detail what it considers flawed procedures, including limited phone access and strict visitation policies, language barriers and being given only a few minutes to decide whether to leave their children in the United States.

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Spagat reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers Alan Fram in Washington and Sonia Perez D. in Guatemala City contributed.

Audio recording steps up feud between Trump, former ‘fixer’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The sudden public airing of Donald Trump talking about paying for a Playboy model’s silence marks a turning point in the legal game of cat-and-mouse between the president and the lawyer who once promised to take a bullet for Trump but now seems out to save himself.

The feud between Trump and his onetime legal “fixer,” Michael Cohen, escalated when an audio recording of their 2016 pre-election conversation was released Tuesday by Cohen, prompting Trump to tweet Wednesday: “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad!”

As the two sides battled over the exact meaning of the sometimes-garbled words on the recording, it was clear that the tape could be just an opening volley. At least a dozen more recordings were seized from Cohen’s office as well as hundreds of thousands of documents.

The tape, made just weeks before the 2016 election, appears to undermine Trump’s contention that he was not aware of a payment to former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, who has alleged she had an affair with the married future president.

That raises questions about possible campaign finance violations. It shows Cohen advising Trump on campaign matters, and that could be of interest to investigators looking into whether the lawyer violated election laws by orchestrating hush money payouts.

Associated Press White House reporter Jonathan Lemire explains the strategy President Trump’s attorney is taking in regards to a recording made by Trump’s longtime personal lawyer discussing a potential payment to a former Playboy model. (July 25)

Cohen says on the tape he’s already spoken with the Trump Organization’s finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, on “how to set the whole thing up.” Weisselberg’s involvement has led to speculation about whether Trump’s private business tried to protect his campaign.

Trump’s lawyers say the payments were never made.

The tape’s revelations also mark a new chapter for Cohen, who, as he mulls cooperating with federal prosecutors and perhaps special counsel Robert Mueller, is viewed by many in Trump’s orbit as the greatest threat to the former businessman’s presidency.

Cohen rose through the ranks of the Trump Organization by mimicking his boss’ style in handling his personal and political problems. Now he and his own attorney, former Clinton lawyer Lanny Davis, are taking another page from the Trump playbook — fighting a legal battle in the court of public opinion.

With his apartment under construction after a pipe burst, Cohen has been holed up in a Midtown Manhattan hotel. From that luxurious bunker, Cohen has grown increasingly concerned that his relationship with the president has fractured beyond repair, according to two people familiar with his views but not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Cohen, who would make bad stories disappear and travel the globe to make deals for the Trump Organization, now feels increasingly isolated and burned by the attacks against him by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and by the president’s efforts to play down his former fixer’s role.

And when the president’s legal team waived attorney-client privilege, prompting Giuliani to declare that the tape was “exculpatory” for Trump, Cohen’s team moved to release it, believing it backed up his own version of events, the people said. The attorney told confidants that he was tired of being a punching bag and wanted to try to seize control of the story.

The meaning of the tape is up for debate.

Days before the recording, American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to McDougal for the rights to her story about the alleged 2006 affair. She later sued, claiming that AMI paid for the story with the intention of burying it to protect Trump. AMI president David Pecker is a close friend of the president.

Cohen is heard on the tape discussing AMI’s payment, and says of “David” that “I’ll have to pay him something.”

The audio is muffled but Trump can be heard saying something about “cash,” and then something about paying by check. Giuliani insists Trump says, “Don’t pay with cash.”

But Davis, Cohen’s attorney, maintains that Trump’s reference to “cash” is damaging. “The only people who use cash are drug dealers and mobsters,” he told CNN. In another twist in a tale full of them, Davis himself had previously worked with AMI and moved to squash unflattering stories about the company. He did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

Whichever account is accurate, the tape appears to bring limited additional legal exposure to the president himself. But the revelation of the audio on prime-time television, complete with exaggerated appeals by Davis to Trump’s supporters to listen to the president’s comments, was designed to impeach the credibility of the president and his leading lawyer.

The recorded conversation took place in early September 2016. But a campaign spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal in November of that year concerning the McDougal agreement, “We have no knowledge of any of this.”

Trump, for his part, weighed in on Twitter on Wednesday, suggesting the sudden conclusion to the recording should be viewed suspiciously.

“Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things?” he tweeted. “I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped – can this be so? Too bad!”

Trump’s searing tweets marked a new low point in his relationship with Cohen, who worked for the president for a decade and grew close to his family. Though Cohen was Trump’s right-hand man at the business, he was not given a major role in the campaign. He did run the president’s outreach to faith groups and became a fierce defender on television, including a notable CNN clip in which he demands, “Says who?” after being shown poor poll numbers.

Though he hoped for a key White House position, Cohen was left behind in New York, where he capitalized on his access to the president in business dealings with a number of corporate clients. Famously brusque with most reporters, he vehemently challenged the references to him in a dossier of uncorroborated information about Trump even as he was called in to testify before special counsel Mueller.

After the raid by federal prosecutors, Cohen’s relationship with Trump shattered. The men have not spoken for months and Giuliani has routinely lobbed grenades at the attorney.

Though Cohen’s move to record Trump was unorthodox, it likely was not illegal. In New York, only one party has to give consent to a conversation being recorded. Steven Lubet, a Northwestern University expert on legal ethics, said he was unaware of any rule in New York that explicitly bars a lawyer from recording a client without consent.

But other rules, such as ones requiring lawyers and clients to have full and open communication, and barring them from engaging in fraud, dishonesty or misrepresentation, could possibly be construed as requiring an attorney to obtain consent. Rule or not, it’s certainly an unorthodox practice and could leave lawyers subject to a bar complaint. Trump has a “legitimate complaint” and it’s fair for him to ask what kind of lawyer would secretly record a client, Lubet said.

“The nature of the attorney/client relationship itself would dictate that a client’s consent would be needed for taping,” Lubet said.

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Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker contributed.

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Follow Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Miller at http://twitter.com/@zekejmiller

Man explodes small device outside US Embassy in Beijing

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BEIJING (AP) — A man exploded a small homemade bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday, injuring only himself, according to police and an embassy spokesperson.

Photos on social media showed a large amount of smoke and police vehicles surrounding the embassy shortly after the incident. Apart from a heightened security presence, the scene outside appeared to be normal by early afternoon.

The Beijing Police Department posted a statement on its website identifying the suspect only by his surname, Jiang, and said he was 26 years old and a native of Tongliao city in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia. He was injured on the hand by the explosive device, which was made from fireworks and was detonated at about 1 p.m., police said.

There was no word on a motive and the statement said the investigation was continuing.

No damage was done to embassy property and no other injuries were recorded, a U.S. embassy spokesperson said, speaking on routine condition of anonymity.

Only one person was involved and police responded to the situation, the spokesperson said.

Neither the police nor the embassy had any comment on a report by the ruling Communist Party newspaper Global Times that said officers had earlier removed a women from outside the embassy who had sprayed gasoline on herself in a “suspected attempt at self-immolation” at around 11 a.m.

Chinese police say a small homemade device exploded outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday. A 26-year-old man threw it and only hurt himself. Authorities identified the man only by his surname, Jiang. No other injuries were reported. (July 26)

China and the U.S. are in the middle of a trade dispute, but America remains a hugely popular destination for travel, education and immigration for Chinese citizens.

On weekdays, large lines of visa applicants form outside the embassy, which sits in a busy corner of the city hosting numerous diplomatic installations as well as hotels and stores.

Trump, European Union leaders pull back from trade war

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and European leaders pulled back from the brink of a trade war over autos Wednesday and agreed to open talks to tear down trade barriers between the United States and the European Union.

But the agreement was vague, the coming negotiations with Europe are sure to be contentious and the United States remains embroiled in major trade disputes with China and other trading partners.

In a hastily called Rose Garden appearance with Trump, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.S. and the EU have agreed to hold off on new tariffs, suggesting that the United States will suspend plans to start taxing European auto imports — a move that would have marked a major escalation in trade tensions between the allies.

Trump also said the EU had agreed to buy “a lot of soybeans” and increase its imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. And the two agreed to resolve a dispute over U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.

“It’s encouraging that they’re talking about freer trade rather than trade barriers and an escalating tariff war,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council and a former U.S. trade official. But he said reaching a detailed trade agreement with the EU would likely prove difficult.

President Donald Trump says the US and the EU have agreed to work toward “zero tariffs” and “zero subsidies” on non-automobile goods. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he has made a deal with Trump to try to ease trade tensions. (July 25)

The tone was friendlier than it has been. During a recent European trip, Trump referred to the EU as a “foe, what they do to us in trade.” Juncker, after Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, said in March that “this is basically a stupid process, the fact that we have to do this. But we have to do it. We can also do stupid.”

On Wednesday, Trump and Juncker said they have agreed to work toward “zero tariffs” and “zero subsidies” on non-automotive goods.

Trump told reporters it was a “very big day for free and fair trade” and later tweeted a photo of himself and Juncker in an embrace, with Juncker kissing his cheek.

“Obviously the European Union, as represented by @JunckerEU and the United States, as represented by yours truly, love each other!” he wrote.

The president campaigned on a vow to get tough on trading partners he accuses of taking advantage of bad trade deals to run up huge trade surpluses with the U.S.

He has slapped taxes on imported steel and aluminum, saying they pose a threat to U.S. national security. The U.S. and EU are now working to resolve their differences over steel and aluminum — but the tariffs are still in place. And they would continue to hit U.S. trading partners like Canada, Mexico and Japan even if the U.S. and the EU cut a deal.

Whatever progress was achieved Wednesday could provide some relief for U.S. automakers. The escalating trade war and tariffs on steel and aluminum had put pressure on auto company earnings. General Motors had slashed its outlook, and shares of Ford Motor Co. and auto parts companies had fallen.

“Our biggest exposure, our biggest unmitigated exposure, is really steel and aluminum when you look at all of the commodities,” GM CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday.

Trump has also imposed tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports — a figure he has threatened to raise to $500 billion — in a dispute over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant U.S. technological dominance.

China has counterpunched with tariffs on American products, including soybeans and pork — a shot at Trump supporters in the U.S. heartland.

The EU is stepping in to ease some of U.S. farmers’ pain. Juncker said the EU “can import more soybeans from the U.S., and it will be done.”

Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies trade, said, “The Chinese are not going to be buying our soybeans, so almost by musical chairs our soybeans are going to Europe.” The trouble is, China last year imported $12.3 billion in U.S. soybeans, the EU just $1.6 billion.

Trump’s announcement stunned lawmakers who arrived at the White House ready to unload concerns over the administration’s trade policies only to be quickly ushered into Rose Garden for what the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee called “quite a startling” development.

“I think everybody sort of changed what they were going to say,” said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

Lawmakers said they still needed to see details of the agreement with the EU as well as progress on the other deals. But they said the breakthrough announcement was a step in the right direction.

“We have more confidence in him now than we did before,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

The White House announcement came as the Trump administration announced a final rule aimed at speeding up approval of applications for small-scale exports of liquefied natural gas. The Trump administration has made LNG exports a priority, arguing that they help the economy and enhance geopolitical stability in countries that purchase U.S. gas.

Juncker said the two sides also agreed to work together to reform the World Trade Organization, which Trump has vehemently criticized as being unfair to the U.S.

The biggest news from the Trump-Juncker meeting is that it appears to have delayed an impending trade war over autos. Trump had threatened to tax imported cars, trucks and auto parts, potentially targeting imports that last year totaled $335 billion.

The European Union had warned that it would retaliate with tariffs on products worth $20 billion if Trump put duties on cars and auto parts from Europe.

But the auto trade war with Europe is on hold while the U.S. and EU engage in further trade talks. Daniel Ikenson, director of trade studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, warned that the fight could flare up again if Trump grows impatient with Europe.

“Auto tariffs are looming unless the EU buys more U.S. stuff and does other things Trump demands,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Kevin Freking, Christopher Rugaber, Darlene Superville, Matthew Daly and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this story.

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On Twitter, follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC and Paul Wiseman at https://twitter.com/PaulWisemanAP

Business: World stocks mixed ahead of ECB meeting

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SINGAPORE (AP) — World markets are mixed ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting. Asian share benchmarks were mixed on concerns that easing tensions between the U.S. and Europe could bode ill for a compromise with Beijing over trade.

KEEPING SCORE: Britain’s FTSE 100 was less than 0.1 percent lower at 7,656.04 while France’s CAC 40 added 0.7 percent to 5,463.32 on Thursday. Germany’s DAX jumped 1.4 percent to 12,751.24. U.S. indexes were set for a mixed opening. S&P 500 futures dropped 0.2 percent to 2,835.70. Dow futures rose 0.1 percent to 25,426.00.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 0.1 percent to 22,586.87 while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.7 percent to 2,289.06. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.5 percent to 28,781.14. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.7 percent to 2,882.23. Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 slipped 0.1 percent to 6,244.50. India’s Sensex was flat at 36,874.73 and markets in Southeast Asia were mostly higher.

U.S.-EU AGREEMENT: President Trump and European leaders pulled back from the brink of a trade war over autos on Wednesday and agreed to start talks to dismantle trade barriers between the United States and the European Union. Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncke came to a vague agreement to hold off on new tariffs, suggesting that the United States will suspend plans to start taxing European auto imports — a move that would have marked a major escalation in trade tensions between the allies. Trump said the EU had agreed to buy “a lot of soybeans” — possibly lessening the fallout from tariffs imposed by China on its imports of American soybeans — and increase its imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. The two also agreed to resolve a dispute over U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Tensions between the world’s two largest economies rose. Earlier Wednesday, Trump tweeted that China was “vicious” on trade and said it was targeting U.S. farmers specifically because “they know I love & respect” them.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The news has effectively quelled US-EU tensions for now,” Stephen Innes of Oanda said in a commentary.

FACEBOOK REPORT: Facebook said its user base and revenue grew more slowly than expected in the second quarter as the company grappled with privacy issues, sending its stock tumbling nearly 18 percent to $178.77 in after-hours trading.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dropped to 110.78 yen from 110.97 yen. The euro eased to $1.1709 from $1.1732.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 11 cents to $69.19 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 78 cents to settle at $69.30 per barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 24 cents to $74.17.

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Investing.com – Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Thursday, July 26:

1. Facebook Set For Worst Day Ever After Grim Forecast

Facebook shares looked set to suffer their worst day on record after the social media giant warned that profit margins would plummet for several years due to the costs of improving privacy safeguards and slowing usage in the biggest advertising markets.

Investors were spooked following commentary from the company that its revenue growth rates could slow by “high-single digits” in the third and fourth quarter. It also cautioned that expense growth was likely to outpace revenue growth next year.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which closed at a record high on Wednesday ahead of the results, plunged roughly 18% to around $180.00 in pre-market trade, wiping out almost $120 billion in market value. It declined as much as 24% earlier, slumping below $170.

If the share drop holds, it would be Facebook’s largest single-day decline ever, topping a 12% drop in July 2012.

2. Amazon Earnings In The Spotlight

Investors will be inundated with corporate earnings as 74 members of the S&P 500 are scheduled to report results today, with McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Mastercard (NYSE:MA), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV), Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG), and Under Armour (NYSE:UA) all releasing earnings before the market open.

But the main event of the day is set to be Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), which will report earnings after the closing bell.

According to estimates, Amazon’s earnings per share should total $2.47 while revenues are expected to total $53.37 billion.

Investor focus will be on the company’s performance in its Web Services business, which analysts said will be a major boost to the company’s profitability going forward.

Alongside Amazon’s results after the close will be earnings from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), Western Digital (NASDAQ:WDC), Expedia (NASDAQ:EXPE), Lam Research (NASDAQ:LRCX), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), and Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG).

 

3. U.S.-EU Trade War Averted… For Now

President Donald Trump proclaimed the United States and the European Union had launched a “new phase” in their relationship following a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday.

The leaders pledged to expand European imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas and soybeans and both vowed to lower industrial tariffs.

 

They also agreed to refrain from imposing car tariffs while the two sides launch negotiations to cut other trade barriers, as well as re-examine U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and retaliatory duties imposed by the EU “in due course.”

Trump, in a late-night post on twitter Wednesday, touted the deal, saying it was “a big day for free and fair trade.”

 

The upbeat remarks helped ease some of the fears of a transatlantic trade war.

4. Nasdaq Futures Take A Tumble

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was set for a big down day, as investors fled the sector following alarmingly grim guidance from Facebook.

At 5:40AM ET, the Nasdaq futures were down 62 points, or 0.8%.

The big-name FANG technology stocks fell in sympathy with Facebook. Amazon lost 1.5% in pre-market hours, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) shed about 2%, while Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) slumped 1.5%.

Facebook competitors Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Snap (NYSE:SNAP) were also lower, both losing around 3%.

However, the broader market looked to be on sounder footing heading into Thursday.

The blue-chip Dow futures were up 35 points, or 0.1%, while the S&P 500 futures dipped 4 points, or 0.1%, as concerns over rising trade tensions between the U.S. and Europe showed signs of easing.

Elsewhere, European markets rallied, with almost every sector in positive territory. The German DAX was the best performing market, up by 1.3%, while autos and basic resources – which are most sensitive to trade headlines – were the top leading sectors.

Earlier, Asian markets inched up, but weakness in China markets underscored persistent worries about the outlook for global growth.

5. Dollar Inches Up Ahead Of Durable Goods Data

Away from equities, the U.S. dollar was a shade higher, as investors looked ahead to the latest batch of U.S. economic data for further clues on when and how fast the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a basket of six major currencies, was up 0.1% at 94.10.

Elsewhere, in the bond market, U.S. Treasury prices ticked lower, pushing yields higher across the curve, with the benchmark 10-year yield rising to around 2.97%, while the Fed-sensitive 2-year note was near 2.67%.

Economic data set for release on Thursday include the June report on durable goods orders, which are expected to rise 3.0% from the prior month.

The weekly report on initial jobless claims is also due, as well as wholesale inventories for June, and the Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing activity index for July.

In addition to the U.S. data, the immediate currency market focus was on the European Central Bank’s policy decision due at 7:45AM ET.

With the ECB widely expected to keep policy on hold, investors will study comments by President Mario Draghi for any references to the pace of policy normalization.

The euro was slightly lower against the dollar at 1.1710 (EUR/USD).

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