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Russian delegation holds talks with Assad as Syrian economy crumbles – Reuters Canada

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MOSCOW/AMMAN (Reuters) – President Bashar al Assad said on Monday he wanted to expand business ties with Russia to help Damascus cope with new U.S. sanctions on Syria’s already crippled economy that threaten to undermine military gains achieved with Moscow’s help.

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Assad, speaking in comments made during a meeting in Damascus with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and carried by state media, said he wanted Russian investment in key areas of the economy.

Officials from Syria and Russia, whose military support since 2015 helped Damascus reverse gains by Islamists and other rebels, have said the two sides plan to boost trade ties and will review energy, mining and power projects.

Borisov told a televised news conference that Moscow had presented in July an agreement to expand economic ties that was being studied by Damascus. He said he expected it would be sealed in December, during his next visit to Syria’s capital.

“Russia turned the tide for Assad and with the regime now facing its gravest challenges, Moscow is in a better position than any other time to further squeeze Assad,” said one Western diplomat who follows Syria.

Although Assad has now regained most of the territory he lost, the economy is in tatters, leaving many Syrians in poverty as the currency has lost 80% of its value.

Russia has criticised the new U.S. sanctions that took effect in June under the so-called Caesar Act.

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Washington says the sanctions, which penalise foreign firms dealing with Syrian government entities, aim to cut off revenue for Assad’s government and him push him back into U.N.-led talks to end the conflict.

Syria is pinning its hopes on Russia, its biggest foreign ally, to help it shore up its economy. Syria’s main regional ally, Iran, is itself also struggling to cope under a separate round of U.S. sanctions.

Hussam Taleb, a Syrian pro-government analyst, told Syrian state television the Russian visit would anger Washington which he said was “fighting us in our livelihood by passing the Caesar Act to deprive us of our wealth.”

Western diplomats say Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military involvement in Syria, its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, secured Moscow major regional influence and a bigger foothold in a naval base in Syria’s Tartus port.

Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; Writing by Tom Balmforth and Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Toby Chopra and Edmund Blair

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Buffett-following investment trust to list in London – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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LONDON (Reuters) – An investment trust following the principles of veteran U.S. investor Warren Buffett is to list in London, the trust said on Friday.

Buffettology Smaller Companies Investment Trust intends to raise a minimum of 100 million pounds ($127.52 million) via an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange, it said in a statement.

The trust will mainly invest in companies listed or traded in Britain, through a portfolio of 30-50 companies with market

capitalisations from 20-500 million pounds.

Sanford DeLand will be the trust’s investment manager, led by Keith Ashworth-Lord, CIO of Sanford DeLand Asset Management.

Sanford DeLand manages around 1.4 billion pounds across two open-ended funds.

“The UK small cap market offers excellent investment

opportunities to experienced managers who know what to look for and have the freedom to take a long-term view,” Ashworth-Lord said.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)

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China expands investment scope for foreign investors under combined scheme – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Luoyan Liu and Meg Shen

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China moved to further ease foreign access to its capital markets on Friday, officially combining two major inbound investment schemes and broadening the scope for foreign institutional investment.

The finalised rules, published by The China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), the central bank and the foreign exchange regulator, combine the Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) scheme and its yuan-denominated sibling, RQFII. The schemes channel foreign capital into Chinese stocks and bonds.

The new rules, which will take effect on Nov. 1, would also expand investment scope under the combined scheme.

The rule changes “will fundamentally relieve major bottlenecks for foreign institutional investors seeking to invest in China” said Thomas Fang, head of China Global Markets at UBS.

The regulations “have the potential to not only galvanize investor interests in China, but also broaden (the) investor base in using financial and hedging instruments in China,” Fang said.

China is accelerating reforms and the opening-up of its capital markets as part of efforts to promote global use of the yuan currency while trade and diplomatic ties with the United States remain strained.

The announcement coincides with FTSE’s decision earlier in the day to include Chinese government bonds in its flagship World Government Bond Index.

The rules also lower the threshold for overseas applicants and simplify the vetting process.

Investors will be allowed to buy securities traded on Beijing’s New Third Board and invest in private funds or conduct bond repurchase transactions.

In addition, foreign institutions will also have access to derivatives, including financial futures, commodity futures and options, according to the new rules.

“The move will encourage more medium- and long-term funds, including hedge funds and alternative investment funds, to enter the Chinese market directly,” said Fang at UBS.

The draft rules were published in January 2019.

(Additional Reporting by Samuel Shen; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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U.S. core capital goods orders beat expectations; business investment rebounding – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods increased more than expected in August and demand for the prior month was stronger than previously estimated, suggesting a rebound in business spending on equipment was underway after a prolonged slump.

The upbeat report from the Commerce Department on Friday, however, did not change views that the economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 recession was slowing as government money to help businesses and tens of millions of unemployed Americans runs out. New coronavirus cases are rising in some parts of the country. That could crimp consumer spending, with retail sales already slowing.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell this week stressed the need for more fiscal stimulus, telling lawmakers on Thursday that it could make the difference between continued recovery and a much slower economic slog. Another rescue package appears unlikely before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 1.8% last month, the Commerce Department said. Data for July was revised up to show these so-called core capital goods orders increasing 2.5% instead of 1.9% as previously estimated.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast core capital goods orders gaining 0.5% in August.

Core capital goods orders last month were boosted by increased demand for machinery, primary metals, computers and electronic products. But orders for fabricated metal products and electrical equipment, appliances and components fell.

U.S. stocks fell. The dollar was higher against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury prices rose.

STRONG THIRD QUARTER EXPECTED

Shipments of core capital goods increased 1.5% last month. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement. They advanced 2.8% in July. Business investment tumbled at a record 26% annualized rate in the second quarter, with spending on equipment collapsing at an all-time pace of 35.9%. Investment in equipment has contracted for five straight quarters.

Economic activity rebounded sharply over the summer as businesses reopened after mandatory closures in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Gross domestic product is expected to rebound at as much as a record 32% annualized rate in the third quarter after tumbling at a 31.7% rate in the April-June period, the worst performance since the government started keeping records in 1947.

But fading fiscal stimulus is casting a cloud over growth prospects for the fourth quarter. Goldman Sachs on Wednesday cut its fourth-quarter GDP growth estimate to a 3% rate from a 6% pace, citing “lack of further fiscal support.”

Orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, rose 0.4% in August after jumping 11.7% in July. Durable goods orders were supported by a 0.5% rise in orders for transportation equipment, though demand for motor vehicles and defense aircraft eased.

There were no orders for civilian aircraft reported for the second straight month in August.

Boeing has struggled with cancellations as airlines grapple with sharply reduced demand for air travel because of the pandemic. The grounding of Boeing’s best-selling 737 MAX jets since March 2019 after two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia has also weighed on the company.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)

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