Muhyiddin: No such thing as ‘back door’ citizenship applications


KUCHING: There is no “back door” in approving citizenship applications as alleged by some, says Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The Home Minister said every application, along with its supporting documents, are considered in detail by ministry officials before being recommended to him for a decision.

“In deciding whether or not to approve an application, I am assisted by officers who professionally carrying out their duties.

“I do not make decisions arbitrarily without recommendations from officers who have studied and assessed each application, ” Muhyiddin said when presenting citizenship certificates to 31 recipients here on Monday (July 29).

He advised those who had made such allegations not to make baseless accusations or to stir up racial sentiments.

Last Thursday (July 25), PAS demanded investigations into the possibility of “back door” applications for citizenship for migrants in Sarawak, with the support of DAP leaders.

Its information chief, Kamaruzaman Mohamad, asked why the recently set up Backbenchers Citizenship Committee was comprised only of 10 DAP MPs, following Lanang MP Alice Lau’s announcement on July 18.

A day earlier, Lau reportedly announced there would be a closed-door meeting with Muhyiddin.

“If there is no hidden agenda, why is only DAP involved؟ This has raised suspicion because such matters should be openly discussed, and such, a committee should comprise all races, ” Kamaruzaman had said.

Muhyiddin also said the Pakatan Harapan government would be fair in considering citizenship applications.

“Whoever is eligible to obtain citizenship under the Federal Constitution and relevant laws will be given fair consideration, regardless of race or religion, ” he said.



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Tashin posts net profit of RM3.5m in Q1 – Business News



KUALA LUMPUR: Steel products manufacturer Tashin Holdings Bhd, which will be listed on the ACE Market on Aug 1, posted net profit of RM3.5mil in the firstr quarter ended March 31, 2019.

The company said on Monday the earnings were on the back of RM62.78mil in revenue while its earnings per share stood at 1.21 sen.

Its managing director Lim Choon Teik said the strong Q1 performance was underpinned by the maufacturing division.

For FY2018, Tashin reported net profit of RM11.28mil on revenue of RM260.55mil.

On the outlook for Tashin, Lim said it was focused on expanding the steel manufacturing activities. 

This would see it purchasing machinery and equipment as it expands into manufacturing wire mesh. It would also increase the handling and packing speed for steel pipes and slit coils.

Tashin, which offered 17.45 million new shares under its listing exercise, recorded an over subscription rate of 5.42 times.

The 8.72 million new shares for its eligible directors and employees as well as eligible directors and employees of the Prestar Group were also fully subscribed.

Another 71.19 million shares had also been placed out to selected investors and Bumiputera investors.

Under the listing exercise, Tashin issued 59.33 million new shares at 58 sen per share.

The existing shareholders also made an offer for sale of 55.49 million shares to selected investors and selected Bumiputera investors.

M&A Securities Sdn Bhd  is the adviser, sponsor, managing underwriter, joint underwriter and placement agent for the IPO. Malacca Securities Sdn Bhd and JF Apex Securities Bhd are joint underwriters for the IPO.





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A Fed interest rate cut is in the bag. What then? – Business News



SAN FRANCISCO: US central bankers are expected to lower borrowing costs this week for the first time since the depths of the financial crisis more than a decade ago. That’s the easy part.

Whether that innaugurates a series of quarter-percentage-point interest rate cuts that could stretch deep into next year, as financial markets are betting, or something more limited is by far the harder decision facing Federal Reserve policymakers.

One reason: No clear consensus from Fed officials about why they need to cut rates in the first place, particularly with the U.S. unemployment rate near a 50-year low and the American economy puttering along as the best-in-class performer among developed nations.

Is it a bit of insurance against risks posed by slowing global growth and trade tensions? A step to bolster sluggish inflation? A bid to lift labor markets further? An effort to right kinks in the bond market? Over the last several weeks, Fed policymakers have floated each of these ideas and others.

New York Fed President John Williams even briefly convinced markets the Fed planned to cut rates by half a percentage point this week, until the New York Fed issued a statement to explain that his remarks about “vaccinating” the economy against serious illness were academic in nature and not meant to signal near-term policy decisions.

Complicating matters is the Fed’s desire to make clear that loosening monetary policy is not a reaction to months of pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to do just that.

Investors should get some clarity when the Fed’s rate-setting committee releases its policy statement at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Wednesday after the end of a two-day meeting. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference shortly after.

CROSSCURRENTS

Economists and traders overwhelmingly expect the Fed to cut its policy rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, matching the size of each of the nine rate hikes the Fed delivered from 2015 to 2018.

The big debate at the July 30-31 meeting will be about what comes next, and how to communicate it, Cornerstone Macro economist Roberto Perli said.

“I bet the statement will … leave the door open to more, to at least another 25 (basis-point cut) down the road,” Perli said.

But as for what economic threshold would trigger a further rate cut, he said, “I don’t think they have a clear idea.”

The federal funds rate is currently set in a range of 2.25% to 2.50%. Traders of futures tied to the rate have priced in a full percentage-point drop by the end of next year. But the economic picture now is quite different from the last few times the Fed has cut rates.

Since the Fed’s last rate-setting meeting in mid-June, economic data on retail sales and job creation has been stronger than expected, and durable goods orders, a proxy for business spending plans, jumped in June. At the same time, U.S. home sales tumbled, manufacturing has been weak for months, and exports are down.

A report on Friday showed robust consumer spending kept the U.S. economy growing at a 2.1% pace in the second quarter, a smaller slowdown than expected. But it also underscored the weak business investment and inflation that has worried Powell.

The competing threads are likely to feed a robust debate during the meeting over whether a rate cut is even needed, and may limit how much more easing could be signaled.

“I think it’s a stretch to think this either is or should be the beginning of an easing cycle; it’s simply not warranted,” said Ward McCarthy, chief U.S. economist at Jefferies.

Some Fed policymakers, including Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, may even go so far as to register their reservations over further easing with a formal dissent.

‘MORE LEEWAY’

Still, the Fed has a lot to contend with.

Mounting signs of weakness in Europe and China and the prospect that new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make a messy exit from the European Union have raised the odds of rate cuts abroad, with the European Central Bank looking all but certain to ease policy come September.

Some see rate reductions overseas as building the case for reducing U.S. rates.

Indeed that’s been a core argument from Trump, who has accused foreign central bankers of using monetary policy to devalue their currencies, and urged the Fed to do likewise.

In gauging the Fed’s next step, investors will have no “dot plot” to consult, as they have after with every other policy move since the Fed began in 2012 to publish quarterly interest-rate forecasts from individual policymakers.

Because those forecasts have at times been at odds with the Fed’s agreed-upon policy message, their absence could actually make Powell’s task easier.

“Not having the projections this month gives them a lot more leeway in sending a message of ‘we’ll respond as warranted,'” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial Corp.

The Fed could also put an early end to planned reductions to its $3.8 trillion balance sheet, built up during years of bond-buying after the 2007-2009 Great Recession. The runoff, seen as tightening policy on the margins, is scheduled to end in September in any case.

Ending it slightly early could defuse criticism that balance sheet policy is working at cross purposes with interest rate policy. And should the Fed disappoint markets by signaling further rate cuts are less than a sure thing, Moody said, a change to the balance sheet plan could be a “consolation prize.” – Reuters

 





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Britain ramps up preparations for no-deal Brexit – Business News



LONDON: The British government is working on the assumption that the European Union will not renegotiate its Brexit deal and is ramping up preparations to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without an agreement, senior ministers said on Sunday.

Boris Johnson, who took over as British prime minister on Wednesday with a promise to deliver Brexit by the end of October “no ifs or buts”, plans to seek a new exit deal with the EU. The EU has said repeatedly that the deal cannot be reopened.

Leading Brexit supporter Michael Gove, who Johnson has put in charge of ‘no deal’ preparations, wrote in the Sunday Times newspaper that the government would undertake “intensive efforts” to secure a better deal from the EU.

“We still hope they will change their minds, but we must operate on the assumption that they will not … No deal is now a very real prospect and we must make sure that we are ready,” Gove wrote.

“Planning for no deal is now this government’s no. 1 priority,” he said, adding “every penny needed” for no deal preparations would be made available.

Gove said the government would be launching “one of the biggest peacetime public information campaigns this country has seen” to get people and businesses ready for a ‘no deal’ exit.

The Sunday Times reported that Dominic Cummings, the mastermind behind the 2016 referendum campaign to leave the EU and now a senior aide to Johnson, told a meeting of the prime minister’s advisers that he had been tasked with delivering Brexit “by any means necessary”.

Johnson has set up a “war cabinet” of six senior ministers to make decisions on Brexit and is preparing for a no-deal emergency budget in the week of Oct. 7, the newspaper added.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, new finance minister Sajid Javid said: “In my first day in office … I tasked officials to urgently identify where more money needs to be invested to get Britain fully ready to leave on October 31 – deal or no deal. And next week I will be announcing significant extra funding to do just that.”

Javid, a former interior minister, said this would include funding for 500 new Border Force officers.

Asked by Sky News where the money would be coming from, junior Treasury minister Rishi Sunak said it was “not a blank cheque” for spending but that Britain could afford to borrow more.

REHEAT THE DISH

Johnson has said the Irish backstop, an insurance policy designed to prevent the return of a hard border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland by provisionally keeping Britain in a customs union with the EU, must be removed from any Brexit deal.

It was one of the most hotly contested elements of the divorce agreement his predecessor Theresa May reached with the EU, and opposition to it was a key driver behind the deal being rejected three times by parliament.

“You can’t just reheat the dish that’s been sent back and expect that will make it more palatable,” Gove wrote. “We need a new approach and a different relationship. Critically, we need to abolish the backstop.”

Lawmakers from opposition parties and the governing Conservative Party have threatened to try and block Johnson taking Britain out of the EU without a divorce deal.

The Observer newspaper reported that former finance minister Philip Hammond, who quit last week before Johnson took office, held talks with the opposition Labour Party about how to stop a no-deal Brexit.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday his party would do everything it could to prevent the country leaving the EU without a deal.

Although Johnson has been adamant he will not hold an election before Brexit, his Conservative Party does not have a majority in parliament, is divided over Brexit and under threat of a no-confidence vote when parliament returns in September.

Speculation of an early election to break the deadlock is likely to be fuelled by a YouGov opinion poll in the Sunday Times, which showed the Conservatives had opened up a 10-point lead over Labour since Johnson took over.

“That is not what we want, that is not what the prime minister wants,” Sunak said when asked about the possibility of an election. – Reuters





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China’s ICBC to take 10.82% stake in Bank of Jinzhou – Business News



BEIJING: The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), , the country’s largest lender by assets, said on Sunday that one of its unit had signed an equity transfer agreement to invest in the troubled Bank of Jinzhou.

The state-owned bank’s unit, ICBC Financial Asset Investment Co, will invest up to 3 billion yuan ($436 million) in a 10.82% stake of Bank of Jinzhou, the ICBC said in a statement filed to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The investment appeared to be the latest state-led bid to support a highly indebted smaller banks to contain financial risks.

“The investment is to serve country’s supply-side reform in the financial sector, and enhance the bank’s capability to serve the real economy,” the ICBC said in its statement.

The deal will be conducted with the unit’s own funds, ICBC added.

In May, a shock government-led takeover of little-known Baoshang Bank revived concern about the health of hundreds of small lenders as the slowing economy results in more sour loans, testing their capital buffers and draining their reserves.

Concern has been growing about Bank of Jinzhou since the Hong Kong-listed lender suspended trading in its shares this year in Hong Kong and saw its auditor quit.

On Thursday, Bank of Jinzhou said it was in talks with multiple parties for possible investments.

Sources told Reuters a day earlier that regulators recently met financial institutions to discuss measures to deal with liquidity problems at the bank. – Reuters





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Trump says China may try to delay trade deal until 2020 election – Business News



WASHINGTON: U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday offered a pessimistic view on reaching a trade deal with China, saying Beijing may not sign one before the November 2020 election in hopes a Democrat who will be easier to deal with, will win.

During a wide-ranging session with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said China is using stalling tactics and he doubted a trade deal will be reached any time soon, with lead negotiators for the two countries to meet in Shanghai next week.

Trump has been tough on Chinese trade practices throughout his presidency and has levied billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese imports and threatened another $325 billion if no progress is reached.

China levied tariffs of its own against U.S. products and together the two countries have disrupted global supply chains and shaken financial markets in their dispute over how China does business with the rest of the world.

Trump said China may be delaying a deal in a bid to wait him out in the hope a Democrat wins in November 2020.

“I think that China will probably say ‘let’s wait,'” he said. “‘Let’s see if one of these people who gives the United States away, let’s see if one of them could get elected.'”

He said the Chinese leadership is probably thinking, “Maybe we can deal with another dope or another stiff” instead of him.

The White House said on Wednesday that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would meet with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He for talks in Shanghai starting on July 30.

It would be their first face-to-face meeting since Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to revive talks to end their yearlong trade war.

Talks collapsed in May after China reneged on promises made in earlier negotiations, U.S. government and private-sector sources said at the time.

“I don’t know if they’re going to make a deal,” Trump said of his negotiators. “Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.”

He said he did not really care, because the United States is taking in billions in tariffs.

While Trump insists the tariffs are beneficial to U.S. Treasury coffers, in reality the costs are passed on to U.S. companies and consumers.

“We haven’t even taxed China yet compared to what I can do,” he said. “We have tens of billions of dollars rolling in from China,” he said.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said he does not expect a grand deal from next week’s trade talks with China but U.S. negotiators hoped to reset the stage for further productive talks on reducing trade barriers.

“They’re going to meet next week in Shanghai,” Kudlow said in an interview with CNBC. “I wouldn’t expect any grand deal. I think, talking to our negotiators, they’re going to kind of reset the stage and hopefully go back to where the talks left off last May.”

“We were doing well. No deal yet, but still on the structural issues, regarding IP (intellectual property) theft, forced transfer of technology, cyber interference, trade and non-trade, tariff barriers and so forth, certainly the enforcement mechanisms,” Kudlow added. “But if we were 90 percent there with 10 percent to go … I think our negotiators want to go back to that spot.”

Kudlow said the United States strongly expected China to make goodwill purchases of U.S. agricultural products. – Reuters





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Oil price up on US economic data, Gulf crude tanker dispute – Business News



NEW YORK: Oil prices inched up on Friday, ending the week higher after stronger-than-expected U.S. economic data brightened the crude demand outlook and concerns over the safety of oil transport around the Strait of Hormuz threatened supply.

Brent crude futures settled at $63.46 a barrel, up 7 cents. They clocked a weekly rise of about 1.7%.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled at $56.20 a barrel, rising 18 cents. It gained about 1.2% on the week.

U.S. economic growth slowed less than expected in the second quarter with a boom in consumer spending, strengthening the outlook for oil consumption.

“The data was net positive,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Management. “GDP beat expectations… consumer spending was just off the charts, but business spending was nearly as bad as consumer spending was good.”

Broader economic slowing, particularly in Asia and Europe, could weaken crude demand outside of the United States and kept prices in check.

“There’s a battle in the market right now between those who think we’re going to see slowing economic conditions that will hit demand… and others (focused on) what’s going on in the Persian Gulf as well as lowered output from the producers,” said Gene McGillian, vice president of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

Next week, top U.S. and Chinese negotiators meet for the first time since trade discussions between the world’s two largest economies broke down in May after nearing agreement. Any positive outcome from the talks is expected to boost oil prices.

Reuters polls taken July 1-24 showed the growth outlook for nearly 90% of the more than 45 economies surveyed was downgraded or left unchanged. That applied not just to this year but also 2020.

(GRAPHIC – Reuters Poll: 2019 economic growth forecast revisions: https://tmsnrt.rs/2y9gT2M)

A rally in equities <.SPX> and drop in production from Mexican state oil company Pemex also helped push oil prices up, said Josh Graves, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago.

“Pemex, Mexico’s largest oil company, coming out and cutting off some of the supply could have given the market a bit of a jolt here,” Graves said.

Energy firms this week also reduced the number of oil rigs operating in the United States, an indication of future supply, for a fourth week in a row, putting the rig count down for an eighth consecutive month, General Electric Co’s <GE.N> Baker Hughes energy services firm said in a report.

Tensions remained high around the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil passageway in between the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, as Iran refused to release a British-flagged tanker it seized last week but granted India consular access to its 18 Indian crew members.

Denmark welcomed the British government’s proposal for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the strait.

The United States is separately working on a multinational maritime security initiative in the Gulf. – Reuters





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Malaysian palm oil price rises to 7-week top on stronger overnight soyoil – Business News



KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian palm oil futures rose to their strongest in level in seven weeks in the second half of trade on Friday, tracking gains in U.S. soyoil on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT).

The benchmark palm oil contract for October delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange was up 0.4% at 2,067 ringgit ($501.94) per tonne at the close of trade, its fifth consecutive session of gains.

It earlier rose 0.7% to 2,073 ringgit, its strongest level since June 7. Palm is also up 4.8% for the week in a second week of gains.

“The market is expected to rebound as externals improve,” said a futures trader based in Kuala Lumpur, referring to U.S. soyoil prices.

Another trader said palm prices were also supported by short covering activities. 

U.S. soyoil futures on the CBOT had dipped 0.1% on Thursday after two previous days of strong gains, and were up 0.3% as of 1046 GMT on Thursday.

U.S. soybean futures dipped on Thursday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its weekly export sales report that disappointed analysts, though it held steady on Friday.

In other related oils, the September soyoil contract on the Dalian exchange rose 0.1% and the Dalian September palm oil contract gained 0.7%.

Palm oil prices are affected by movements in related oils that compete for a share of the global vegetable oils market. – Reuters





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Wall St. Week Ahead: Even if Fed cut is a given, Powell seen as wild card for stock market – Business News



NEW YORK: U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will have to walk a fine line to avoid roiling the stock market next week, even if the central bank delivers on expectations and lowers interest rates for the first time in more than a decade.

Investors are betting that the Fed most likely will cut the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to a range of 2.00% to 2.25% at the end of its two-day meeting on July 31. Whether that kicks off the first full-blown rate-easing cycle since September 2007, when the financial crisis was starting to build, or a more limited spurt of “insurance” cuts, is far from clear.

Regardless, the S&P 500 <.SPX> has a history of rising in the months following the onset of Fed cutting cycles, even the pair of mini-cycles in the mid-1990s.

But with the benchmark index already up 20% year-to-date partly due to rate-cut expectations, a quarter-point cut may not be enough to expand on or even sustain 2019’s gains. Instead, the market will look to Powell’s view on the economy and hints about his appetite for further cuts.

“You’ll see a lot of volatility from the announcement through the end of the press conference because investors are going to parse every single word,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Many are looking for Powell to signal more rate cuts. For example, if Powell says his next steps will be guided by numbers, this may suggest an open mind about future cuts, says TD Ameritrade chief market strategist JJ Kinahan. But if the Fed chief also comments on progress made in the economy, this may erode easing hopes.

“We’re limited on the upside, but he could say a lot of things that are received poorly. What he says and how it’s interpreted could be what disappoints,” said Kinahan. “Every word has to be perfect. That’s a tough line to walk.”

Friday’s stronger-than-expected reading of second-quarter U.S. gross domestic product will certainly add weight to the argument that a full-on easing cycle may not be warranted for now. How Powell characterizes the Fed’s actions against that backdrop is key.

Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey, says investors will look for Powell to mention “cross-currents” from trade again and to say he will do what he can to keep the expansion intact.

Even so, “you may see after the meeting that the market takes a breather and consolidates as it waits for the next catalyst,” said Krosby, who sees a U.S.-China trade deal as the next big catalyst.

Even if the short-term reaction is muted next week, history shows a positive longer-term trend for stocks after the commencement of a rate cutting cycle.

Going back to 1954, the S&P 500 rose an average of 14 percent in the 12 months after the Fed started a rate-cutting cycle, according to Audrey Kaplan, head of global equity strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

The S&P fell in the 12 months following the start of just three of 16 easing cycles. In two of those periods – 2001 and 2007 – the economy was already on the cusp of a recession when the cycle started, according to Kaplan.

But Kaplan does not see a recession on the horizon this time. Instead, she is hoping for an economic boost from a rate cut or from signals of further cuts.

“Rates are very low this cycle. It’s very different from the other cycles but the low and going lower rates could be good for the expansion of the economic cycle,” she said.

Interest rate traders are betting that a rate cut of at least 25 basis points is a certainty, according to CME Group’s Fedwatch. They have priced in a 19.4% probability of a 50-basis point cut, which would drop the Fed’s target rate range to 1.75% to 2.00%.

While some investors would welcome a 50-basis point cut on Wednesday, others worry that the Fed would cut by two notches only if it is seeing something more ominous in the economy.

“The market doesn’t like surprises. It might initially rally, but with such a low probability, the longer-term question would be: ‘What are you seeing that we don’t see?'” said Ameritrade’s Kinahan. – Reuters





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FGV exploring all avenues to expand sugar business – Business News


KUALA LUMPUR: FGV Holdings Bhd said the company and subsidiary MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd are “exploring all avenues” to expand its sugar business, but discussion are still at a preliminary stage.

The board of directors of FGV wishes to clarify that the group is exploring potential collaborations in the palm and sugar industries, both in the upstream and downstream sectors,” it said.

“These potential collaborations include strategic alliances,” the company said in a statement to Bursa Malaysia today.

The statement was in response to a news report saying that FGV is in talks with potential buyers for its 51% stake in MSM.

Since MSM Johor refinery came onstream in 2019, FGV said its total refining capacity increased to 2.2 million tonnes. This enables the company to serve both its domestic requirements and seek new opportunities in export markets.

“As such, FGV and MSM are exploring all avenues to successfully enter regional and international markets,” FGV said.

FGV has previously stated that the group is working on its transformation plan which includes reviewing all under performing and non-performing businesses, especially the group’s legacy investments.

“There are several initiatives that are ongoing and are at various stages of review and implementation,” it said.

Shares in MSM jumped 21 sen, or 18% on Friday to close at RM1.38.

 





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