August 7, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
Cash, cars and nuts
The U.S. imposed new sanctions on Iran at midnight after President Donald Trump signed an executive order which will stop the purchase of dollar banknotes, while also targeting the country’s auto industry and banning the import of Persian rugs and pistachio nuts into America. The move drew fresh condemnation from the European Union which is standing by the 2015 nuclear accord. President Hassan Rouhani said Iran is still open to talks with the Trump administration, but added that such talks would be meaningless while sanctions are in place. Iran’s central bank yesterday scrapped most currency controls introduced to halt the plunge in the rial, which has weakened to 100,000 to the dollar on the black market this month.
The Turkish lira sank to a new record low, slumping as much as 6.3 percent to 5.3837 against the dollar overnight, before paring those losses this morning. While the recent selloff has been driven by increasing tensions with the U.S. over Turkey’s continued detention of a pastor, the currency’s 28 percent fall this year is mostly down to largest current account deficit in emerging markets. The central bank responded to the plunge by modifying its rules to help commercial lenders free up their foreign exchange reserves, a move generally dismissed by analysts as being too small to support the economy.
Paul Manafort’s former right-hand man, Rick Gates, testified that wealthy Ukrainian businessmen used offshore accounts and shell companies to pay his boss millions for political consulting work. Gates said he worked to help Manafort conceal millions of dollars in income from the Internal Revenue Service, an action which largely predated Manafort’s stint as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016. Simmering tensions between prosecutors and the trial judge erupted into outright confrontation in the courtroom late yesterday, with U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III summoning Justice Department lawyer Greg Andres to the bench after the jury had been excused.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.9 percent while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.8 percent higher. China’s Shanghai Composite Index posted its biggest one-day gain in two years to close 2.7 percent higher. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index had gained 0.5 percent by 5:50 a.m. Eastern Time with miners among the biggest gainers as commodities climbed. S&P 500 futures pointed to a higher open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.947 percent and gold rose.
Oil surge (in yuan)
A barrel of West Texas Intermediate for September delivery was at $69.44, as the commodity continued to trade in a tight range. Futures traded in Shanghai surged by their daily-limit of 5 percent to 537.2 yuan a barrel, the highest level since the contract’s debut in late March, on increasing Iran tensions. Bloomberg tanker tracking data shows that Saudi Arabia is sending the most crude to the U.S. since April 2017 as American importers seek to replace supply lost due to the collapse in Venezuela.