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Biden releasing 1 million barrels of gasoline from Northeast reserve in bid to lower prices at pump

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Tuesday that it is releasing 1 million barrels of gasoline from a Northeast reserve established after Superstorm Sandy in a bid to lower prices at the pump this summer.  The sale, from storage sites in New Jersey and Maine, will be allocated in increments of 100,000 barrels at a time. The approach will create a competitive bidding process that ensures gasoline can flow into local retailers ahead of the July 4 holiday and sold at competitive prices, the Energy Department said. The move is intended …


China launches anti-dumping probe into EU, US, Japan, Taiwan plastics

Beijing — China’s commerce ministry on Sunday launched an anti-dumping probe into POM copolymers, a type of engineering plastic, imported from the European Union, United States, Japan and Taiwan. The plastics can partially replace metals such as copper and zinc and have various applications including in auto parts, electronics, and medical equipment, the ministry said in a statement. The investigation should be completed in a year but could be extended for six months, it said. The European Commission, which oversees EU trade policy, said it would carefully study the contents of …


Russian court freezes assets of two German banks in gas project dispute 

VIENNA — A court in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has ordered the seizing of assets of Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank in the country, the Russia state news agency Tass says. The order is in response to a lawsuit over the planned construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Baltic Sea. The banks were among the guarantors in the contract for building a gas processing plant by a multinational construction firm, Renaissance Heavy Industries, and German company Linde. But the project was cancelled after Western sanctions, with …


China property shares jump on report of government plans to buy homes

HONG KONG — Shares of Chinese property developers rallied on Thursday after a report that China was considering a plan for local governments across the country to buy millions of unsold homes from distressed companies to ease a protracted property crisis.  Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index closed up 4.9% to the highest since November 24. The sub-index has gained around 30% since mid-April, when the market started speculation that more supportive measures would be rolled out to stabilize the ailing sector after months of disappointing home sales.  Defaulted private …


Biden quadruples tariffs on Chinese EVs

WASHINGTON — In a bid to revive domestic manufacturing, President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he is imposing a drastic tariff increase on Chinese electric vehicles and new levies on computer chips, solar cells and lithium-ion batteries.  “We’re not going to let China flood our market making it impossible for American auto – auto manufacturers to compete fairly,” Biden said. “I will do it by following international trade laws.” Tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, or EVs, will be quadrupled to a 100% rate. Solar cell and semiconductor imports from China will …


8 more Chinese cities join Hong Kong solo travel scheme

HONG KONG — Eight Chinese cities have joined a program allowing their residents to travel to Hong Kong on their own, rather than as part of a tour group, as part of efforts to boost Hong Kong’s economy.  Hong Kong is battling to revive its economy following a national security crackdown and COVID-related controls, which led to many locals and expats leaving the city and caused tourist numbers to dwindle to a fraction of prepandemic levels.  The Individual Visit Scheme began in 2003 as part of a cooperation agreement between mainland …


China tests European unity through Xi Jinping’s trip

Taipei, Taiwan — Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his high-profile European tour Friday after signing dozens of agreements with France, Hungary and Serbia, while reiterating Beijing’s desire to enhance “mutually beneficial cooperation” between China and Europe. Some analysts say Xi’s trip to Europe is part of Beijing’s attempt to undermine European unity while deepening its foothold in the European Union through elevated economic ties with Hungary, a member of the 27-nation bloc. “Beijing has identified France as a weak link in the EU” that it could potentially influence because of French …


Air Vanuatu files for bankruptcy protection

MELBOURNE, Australia — Air Vanuatu filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday a day after the South Pacific state-owned carrier cancelled all international flights, stranding thousands of travelers. The airline on Wednesday canceled more than 20 flights to and from the Australian cities of Sydney and Brisbane, and the New Zealand city of Auckland for the rest of the week. The airline said it was the result of “extended maintenance requirements” on their aircraft. Ernst & Young Australia’s Morgan Kelly, Justin Walsh and Andrew Hanson were appointed liquidators in an equivalent of …


Chinese cities lift curbs on buying homes as property crisis bites 

Beijing — Two of China’s wealthiest cities said Thursday they would lift all restrictions on buying homes, joining a growing list of urban areas rolling back curbs as they look to prop up the faltering property market. Many Chinese cities imposed restrictions and tough credit requirements on home purchases well over a decade ago in an effort to tamp down soaring prices and rampant speculation. But they are now reversing those policies in a bid to stem an economic slump characterized by a debt crisis among developers, low demand and falling …


Xi, in France, offers few concessions on trade, support for Russia

LONDON — Chinese President Xi Jinping offered few concessions to his counterpart and host Emmanuel Macron as he wrapped up a two-day visit to France on Tuesday evening. Both presidents are seeking to mend ties on Xi’s first trip to Europe in five years, after relations were soured by trade disputes and Beijing’s support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Macron invited Xi high into the Pyrenees Mountains, the home region of the French president’s maternal grandmother. Beneath snowy peaks shrouded in fog, the two leaders and their wives watched …


Sanctions, hobbled economy hit Iran’s traditional carpet weavers hard

KASHAN, Iran — The historic Kashan bazaar in central Iran once sat on a major caravan route, its silk carpets known the world over. But for the weavers trying to sell their rugs under its ancient arches, their world has only unraveled since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and wider tensions with the West. Rug exports, which exceeded $2 billion two decades ago, have plummeted to less than $50 million in the last year in the Persian calendar that ended in March, according to government customs figures. …


US employers add 175,000 jobs in April

WASHINGTON — The nation’s employers pulled back on their hiring in April but still added a decent 175,000 jobs in a sign that persistently high interest rates may be starting to slow the robust U.S. job market.  Friday’s government report showed that last month’s hiring gain was down sharply from the blockbuster increase of 315,000 in March. And it was well below the 233,000 gain that economists had predicted for April.  Yet the moderation in the pace of hiring, along with a slowdown last month in wage growth, will likely be …


Survey: US consumer confidence at lowest level since 2022

Washington — U.S. consumers appear less optimistic about the jobs market and more worried about future financial conditions, bringing a closely watched confidence metric to its lowest level since July 2022, a survey showed Tuesday. The consumer confidence index fell to 97.0 in April, said The Conference Board, significantly below the 104.0 reading that analysts anticipated. This marks the third straight month consumer confidence has worsened, the report said, and comes as President Joe Biden struggles to boost perceptions about the economy as his reelection campaign ramps up. “Consumers became less …


G7 ministers: Energy storage is key to global renewable goals

Paris, France — G7 environment ministers committed on Tuesday to ramp up the production and deployment of battery storage technology, an essential component for increasing renewable energy and combating climate change.   Here is how and why batteries play a vital role in the energy transition:    Growing demand Batteries have been central to the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) but are also critical to wind and solar power because of the intermittent nature of these energy sources.   Surplus electricity must be stored in batteries to stabilize distribution regardless of …


Long lines, frustration grow as Cuba runs short of cash

HAVANA — Alejandro Fonseca stood in line for several hours outside a bank in Havana hoping to withdraw Cuban pesos from an ATM, but when it was almost his turn, the cash ran out. He angrily hopped on his electric tricycle and traveled several kilometers to another branch, where he finally managed to withdraw some money after wasting the entire morning. “It shouldn’t be so difficult to get the money you earn by working,” the 23-year-old told The Associated Press in a recent interview. Fonseca is one of an increasing number …


Georgia to host development summit; climate change, aging on agenda

SYDNEY — The Asian Development Bank holds its annual meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, next week, with discussions on climate change and the world’s aging population high on the agenda. The four-day summit, starting Thursday, marks the first time that the ADB’s 68 members have gathered for a meeting in Georgia, which joined the multilateral development bank in 2007. “Georgia sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia,” said Shalini Mittal, a principal economist for Asia at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “This meeting signifies ADB’s agenda of bridges to the future where …


US growth slowed sharply last quarter to 1.6%, reflecting economy pressured by high rates

WASHINGTON — The nation’s economy slowed sharply last quarter to a 1.6% annual pace in the face of high interest rates, but consumers — the main driver of economic growth — kept spending at a solid pace. Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department said the gross domestic product — the economy’s total output of goods and services — decelerated in the January-March quarter from its brisk 3.4% growth rate in the final three months of 2023. A surge in imports, which are subtracted from GDP, reduced first-quarter growth by nearly 1 …


US ponders trade status upgrade for Vietnam despite some opposition

Washington — U.S. officials are considering a request from Vietnam to be removed from a list of “nonmarket” economies, a step that would foster improved diplomatic relations with a potential ally in Asia but would anger some U.S. lawmakers and manufacturing firms. The Southeast Asian country is on the list of 12 nations identified by the U.S. as nonmarket economies, which also includes China and Russia because of strong state intervention in their economies.   Analysts believe Hanoi is hoping for a decision before the November U.S. election, which could mean …


US presidential contenders differ on who’s better for economy

The U.S. economy is always a major factor in the presidential campaign because the president plays a key role in setting and shaping trade and economic policies. VOA’s Senior Washington Correspondent Carolyn Presutti reports on how the economy is doing and the difference between how the two presidential contenders would handle it. Camera: Mike Burke …