E All Nighters

When I was a young bride in Brussels back in the 1960s, my husband, who covered what was then called the EEC (European Economic Community) used to spend long nights outside its offices on the Rue Royale as the members of the Commission stopped the clock to enable them to meet deadlines for deciding on contentious matters. There were only 6 member states then.

But the habit of stopping the clock continues with a new HQ at the Berlaymont, a new name as the European Union, and far more members. It took an all-nighter for the British and the EU to hammer out the terms under which Britain will be able to leave the EU by Hallowe'en, as PM Boris Johnson had set out as his goal. The terms will be presented to Parliament during an extraordinary session on Sat., but already the Democratic Union Party from Northern Ireland has indicated it would not support the terms.

Since Johnson no longer has a majority hanging by thread with DUP votes, he can proceed regardless. But the deal is being called “tentative”, “potential”, and “a draft” as the details are scant. However, Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, confirmed that a Brexit deal has been reached.

Sterling rose to nearly $1.29 per pound today, the highest YTD before falling back over DUP objections to only $1.2846. Since the DUP votes would not be enough now to support the deal in any case, Johnson has thrown the Northern Irelanders under the bus and is dealing directly with Eire.

Greater uncertainty applies to define exactly what it was that China promised Pres. Trump, it would do about the $50 bn in US farm products Trumpet said would be bought last week. According to the Beijing Wall St. Journal reporters, Chinese negotiators say the purchase will be based on actual demand and at fair market prices. The White House says China will buy soybeans, pork, and other farm products whose exports in the past 12 months fell to $9.2 bn (US Commerce Dept data). Before the trade war began the exports were in low double-digit billions in US dollars, but nowhere near $50 bn.

Moreover, if Congress removes Hong Kong's “special status” during its annual review, there will be unspecified “strong countermeasures.”

US consumer spending surprisingly fell in Sept., again worrying for growth although most of the drop was in car-buying. This was the first drop in the past 7 months.

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