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Taiwan to woo backers at APEC for bid to join Pacific trade pact

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November 2, 2021

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan will seek support for its bid to join a trans-Pacific trade pact when it attends a meeting of economic leaders of the Asia-Pacific group APEC next week, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday.

China, which has also applied to join the pact, opposes Taiwan’s membership and has increased military activities near the island which Beijing claims and has not ruled out taking by force.

Taiwan and China both applied in September to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

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Economic leaders from the Asia-Pacific trade group APEC, which includes the United States, China and Japan, will meet virtually next week to discuss a path forward for the region to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’d like to ask envoy Chang to use this meeting to gather support from more APEC members for Taiwan to join CPTPP,” Tsai told reporters, referring to Taiwan’s representative for the meeting, chip giant TSMC founder Morris Chang.

“Envoy Chang will express Taiwan’s support and insistence for free trade.”

Speaking at the same event, Chang said he will use his six-minute speech to emphasise Taiwan’s qualification to reach CPTPP’s high standards, as well as the island’s already “very high” trade contribution to the major pan-Pacific free trade pact. He did not elaborate.

Joining CPTPP has become the latest in a string of tensions between Beijing and Taipei, which is excluded from many international bodies because of China’s insistence that it is part of “one-China” regardless of Taiwan’s claim that it is an independent country.

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In an interview with Reuters in September, Taiwan’s economy minister questioned China’s suitability for the Pacific trade pact, citing restrictive trade practices by the world’s second-largest economy, and feared “obstruction” made by Beijing.

Taiwan, a major semiconductor producer, is a member of the World Trade Organization and the APEC grouping.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have escalated sharply in recent weeks as Beijing raises military pressure that has included repeated missions by Chinese warplanes in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Wall St drops over 1% on Powell’s faster taper comments, Omicron worries

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November 30, 2021

By Devik Jain and Ambar Warrick

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes tumbled more than 1% on Tuesday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the risk of higher inflation has increased and that it was appropriate to consider wrapping up tapering of bond purchases a few months sooner.

In his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell said it is a good time to retire “transitory” description for inflation, adding the U.S. central bank is widely expected to revisit taper timeline at its next meeting in two weeks.

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“Right now, there were some expectations that we’d hear a more dovish Federal Reserve, but we’re not,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

“We’re hearing a more hawkish Fed, but not that hawkish to the extent that people are betting that they’ll raise rates sooner next year.”

Powell’s comments weighed on markets already concerned over the Omicron variant following a warning from Moderna’s chief executive on the effectiveness of COVID-19 shots against the variant.

The vaccine maker’s shares tumbled 7.6%, while Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc fell 2% after it said its COVID-19 antibody treatment and other similar drugs could be less effective against Omicron.

“We have a pretty good belief that it’s more contagious, what we don’t know yet is whether it’s more deadly,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Schwab Center for Financial Research.

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“The biggest thing is that the market doesn’t like uncertainty, and this creates a whole new level of uncertainty we haven’t had yet.”

The declines were broad-based, with all the 11 major S&P sectors down. Communication services dropped 2.0%, followed by energy and financials shares. [O/R]

Banks fell 1.6%.

Travel and leisure stocks slumped, with S&P 1500 Airlines and the S&P 1500 Hotels, Restaurant and Leisure indexes sliding 2.7% and 2.1% each, over concerns of more border restrictions to curb the spread of the new variant.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index also fell 2.0%.

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The uncertainty has triggered fresh alarm at a time when supply chain logjams are weighing on economic recovery and central banks globally are contemplating a return to pre-pandemic monetary policy to tackle a surge in inflation.

Data showed U.S. consumer confidence slipped in November amid concerns about the rising cost of living and relentless COVID-19 pandemic.

At 11:33 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 504.51 points, or 1.44%, at 34,631.43, the S&P 500 was down 64.65 points, or 1.39%, at 4,590.62, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 231.66 points, or 1.47%, at 15,551.17.

The S&P 500 and the Dow were also set for a monthly drop, underperforming the Nasdaq, which is tracking a small gain for November.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 4.78-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 3.96-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

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The S&P index recorded 6 new 52-week highs and 33 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 20 new highs and 414 new lows.

(Reporting by Devik Jain and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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Exclusive-U.S. Senate panel inviting airline CEOs to testify at Dec. 8 hearing

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November 30, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee is inviting the chief executives of seven major U.S. airlines to testify at a Dec. 8 oversight hearing after she asked major carriers in July to explain worker shortages despite receiving billions in pandemic bailout, a committee official told Reuters.

Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat who chairs the panel, is inviting the CEOs of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines to testify, the official added.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)

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Factbox – Who is Twitter’s new CEO Parag Agrawal?

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November 30, 2021

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc on Monday appointed technology chief Parag Agrawal as its chief executive officer, replacing Jack Dorsey.

The social media networking platform joins tech giants Apple, Amazon and Alphabet in tapping a company insider for the top job.

Here are some facts about Agrawal:

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DECADE WITH TWITTER

Agrawal joined Twitter more than a decade ago as a software engineer and was appointed chief technology officer in October 2017.

He oversaw Twitter’s technical strategy and was responsible for improving the pace of software development while advancing the use of machine learning across the company.

At 37, Agrawal is the youngest CEO of an S&P 500 company.

LATEST INDIAN-ORIGIN CEO

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Agrawal is the latest CEO of Indian origin, joining a list that includes Alphabet Inc’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella and IBM Corp’s Arvind Krishna.

STANFORD GRADUATE

Agrawal has a doctorate in philosophy in computer science from Stanford University https://bit.ly/3liOKiT and a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B).

Both Pichai and Krishna also hold bachelor’s degrees from IITs.

PROJECT BLUESKY

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Since December 2019, Agrawal has also been working on Project Bluesky, an independent team of open-source architects, engineers and designers to combat abusive and misleading information on Twitter.

Bluesky is seeking to introduce a new decentralized technology, the idea being that Twitter and others will become clients of Bluesky and rebuild their platforms on top of the standard, Dorsey has said previously.

FREE SPEECH

Responding to a question on protecting free speech and fighting misinformation in an interview https://bit.ly/3o7JGiV with the MIT Technology Review in 2020, Agrawal said “our (Twitter’s) role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation.”

EX-MICROSOFT, YAHOO EMPLOYEE

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Before joining Twitter, Agrawal worked at Microsoft Corp, Yahoo and AT&T Labs Inc in their research units, according to his LinkedIn profile https://bit.ly/3lj2tGc.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru)

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