Wall Street smiles as Trump asks to review US position on TPP

Trump hitting all the right notes on trade but still no word on Syria strike option.

Wall Street applauded US President Donald Trump's plans to explore re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership as the US leader continues to mull a Syria missile strike.

According to reports from a White House meeting, Mr Trump has deputised his economic adviser Larry Kudlow and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to explore re-entering the free trade deal. Senator Ben Sasse told reporters about Mr Trump’s remarks.

“He multiple times reaffirmed the point that TPP might be easier to join now,” says Mr Sasse.

The 11 remaining nations, representing 13% of global output, finalised a revised version of the trade pact last month, renaming it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership or CPTPP.

A White House official who verified Mr Sasse’s reports says while Mr Trump prefers negotiating bilateral trade deals, a multilateral deal with the TPP countries would counter Chinese competition and would be faster than negotiating one on one with each of the 11 other nations.

Following the news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 293.29 points, or 1.21%, to 24,482.74, the S&P 500 gained 25.91 points, or 0.98%, to 2,668.10 and the Nasdaq Composite added 71.22 points, or 1.01%, to 7,140.25.

Investor sentiment was also improved by a US initial jobless claims report that pointed to sustained labour market strength.

However, Facebook was notably down among technology stocks, falling 1.4% following a 5.3% gain over the past two days when chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on the social network’s data security.

NAFTA talks progress
Mexican and Canadian negotiators are in Washington for an informal eighth round of NAFTA talks.

USTR Robert Lighthizer is proposing to revise US demands that reduce the regional value content threshold to 75%, down from 85%, for a NAFTA vehicle to qualify for duty-free treatment. The talks are also scheduled to address rules-of-origin requirements.

Mr Lighthizer says he is feeling more optimistic about reaching a NAFTA deal quickly and that talks with Mexico are "a lot closer" but that Canada is "a different equation."

Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo told Mexican television there was about an 80% chance of reaching an agreement in principle by early May. Mr Lighthizer gave the same estimation.

Mr Trump says negotiations are “coming along great,” though he added there’s no timeline to reach a deal.

Bitcoin phoenix rises
Bitcoin bounced the highest on an intraday basis since December. The best-known cryptocurrency climbed as much as 16.9%, piercing both the $US7000 and the $US8000 levels in less than an hour.

Backers of the digital token suspect the bearishness on the digital currency may be fading after the price dropped more than 60% over a few months.

Reports also suggest George Soros, the billionaire investor who called cryptocurrencies a bubble in January, last week authorised his $US26 billion family office to trade in digital assets.

No Syria strikes yet
The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, says two teams of investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are scheduled to arrive in Syria on April 12 and 13 to assess an alleged deadly chemical weapons attack.

Nerve agent experts have been trying to get samples from corpses in the Syrian city of Douma to establish what happened. US technicians have also been studying satellite images and other information to determine what happened, with doctors on the ground saying that they could not recognise the effects suffered by victims.

The White House says no "final decisions" have been made on a potential missile strike. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the administration was still weighing “all options” on its next move.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. US Navy destroyers, jets, submarines and other assets are in position should Mr Trump order a military strike on Syrian targets.

The US is still assessing intelligence on the suspected chemical attack. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says: “We're still assessing the intelligence – ourselves and our allies. We're still working on this.”

“Any possible action [by western states] will contribute nothing but an increase in instability in the region,” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Syrian state television.

China flexes naval muscles
Chinese President Xi Jinping watched his country’s largest naval fleet review since 1949 on exercise in the South China Sea and scheduled a live-fire military drill in the Taiwan Straits for next week.

The military exercise off its coast opposite Taiwan, to be held on April 18, is the first to be disclosed in at least two years.

Mr Xi urged the navy to stay on high alert, safeguard national interests and strengthen the leadership of the Communist Party, according to a statement on the website of the Ministry of National Defence.

“The task of building a powerful people’s navy has never been as urgent as it is today. We will unswervingly accelerate the modernisation of the navy and strive to build it into a world-class navy,” Mr Xi spoke during the review.

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