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ECONOMY

By Mo Yelin / Mar 05, 2019 11:51 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China will invest 800 billion yuan ($119.38 billion) in the rail sector for 2019, Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual government work report on Tuesday.

The goal was slightly higher than the target of 732 billion yuan for 2018.

A total of 4,100 kilometers (2,548 miles) of new high-speed railways were added in 2018, according to Premier Li.

In 2017, the Transportation Ministry said China planned to spend 3.5 trillion yuan in the railway sector as part of the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan, which charts development goals for 2016-2020. Under the plan, the government will build 30,000 kilometers of new track over five years, expanding the country’s railway network to a total of 150,000 kilometers

Related: China Rail to Lay Groundwork by Year End for Beijing-Shanghai IPO

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ECONOMY

By David Kirton / Mar 05, 2019 11:44 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Premier Li Keqiang promised to continue reform China’s electricity market in the year ahead, targeting a further 10% reduction in the average price of electricity for industrial and commercial companies.

Speaking in the annual work report at the start of the meeting of the National People’s Congress, Li said that additional charges involved in electricity prices would be reduced, as market reforms continue.

Last year’s work report also targeted a 10% reduction, which was achieved during the course of the year largely through reforms in the trans-provincial electricity sales system, and the reduction in service charges from local energy grids, Li Rong, the chief power industry analyst for Cinda Securities Co., Ltd, told Caixin. This year’s reduction will continue these measures and may be bolstered by a reduction in value-added tax (VAT), she said.  

Improvements have already been made in terms of energy efficiency, with the ratio of energy consumption to GDP falling 3%, Li said. He also mentioned several times the need to continue cleaning up China’s environment and addressing pollution problems, with the promotion of gas power instead of coal power to continue in the north of the country.

Li also said that reforms of energy producers in the state-owned sector would continue this year, and that a new round of upgrades to the rural power grids will take place.

Related: China Launches Sweeping Audit of Power Grid

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By Lin Jinbing / Mar 05, 2019 09:34 AM / Economy

Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: VCG

Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: VCG

China has set a target for its gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 6% to 6.5% for 2019, according to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s annual government work report delivered to the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislature, during its annual session in Beijing on Tuesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report included other important projected targets for economic development this year, including:

— Consumer price index growth of around 3%

— More than 11 million new urban jobs

— A surveyed urban unemployment rate of around 5.5%

— A registered urban unemployment rate within 4.5%

This year’s deficit as a percentage of GDP is projected at 2.8%, 0.2 percentage point higher than last year. The government deficit is projected at 2.76 trillion yuan ($411.5 billion), with a central-government deficit of 1.83 trillion yuan and a local-government deficit of 930 billion yuan.

Tax and fee cuts

— Value-added tax reform: reduce the current tax rate of 16% in the manufacturing sector to 13%, lower the rate in the transportation and construction sectors from 10% to 9%, and keep the lowest bracket rate unchanged at 6%.

— This year, reduce the tax burdens on and social insurance contributions of enterprises by nearly 2 trillion yuan.

— The report said China will prudently advance legislation on real-estate tax.

Local debt

This year, 2.15 trillion yuan of special local-government bonds will be issued, an increase of 800 billion yuan from last year.

Related: The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Opens in Beijing

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By David Kirton / Mar 01, 2019 04:50 PM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

More signs are emerging that the party might be over for China’s property market, with one of the country’s two major housing agencies reporting a sharp drop in its profits last year.

While Shenzhen Worldunion Properties Consultancy Inc. saw revenues of 7.55 billion yuan ($1.12 billion) in 2018, the actual profit attributable to shareholders was a relatively measly 447 million yuan, down 55.45% from 2017.

Much of the decline came from weaker sales in the company’s agency business, which saw its revenue fall by 17.15% year-on-year in just the first quarter of 2018.

For several years, economists have warned of a bubble as speculators looked to make easy returns by betting on seemingly ever-rising home prices. Local and national governments began in 2016 to roll out policies intended to restrict sales.

Shenzhen Worldunion’s results are another sign that these policies are dousing market enthusiasm, particularly in first-tier cities. Shenzhen’s government says that last year first-time housing purchases were down 27% on 2016 levels. In Shanghai they were down 35%, and Beijing down 57% for the same period.

Housing sales were still strong on the national level, with the total area of housing sold and total value both up 1.3% and 12.2% respectively, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. This was mostly driven by growth in smaller third and fourth-tier cities, where restrictions have been lighter, said Xiao Wenxiao, an analyst with CRIC Research.

Yet even here, the outlook is not good for 2019, predicted Huang Wei, the general manager of Centaline. China’s slowing economy has led to a sharp drop in confidence both among developers and buyers. Even developers in third- and fourth-tier cities are losing their optimism, he said.


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By Noelle Mateer / Mar 01, 2019 11:58 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The World Bank announced a new Country Director for China and Mongolia: Martin Raiser, a German national who was formerly the Country Director for Brazil.

Raiser succeeds former Country Director Bert Hofman, who is retiring.

Raiser, a macroeconomist, has been with the World Bank since 2003, when he was appointed Country Manager for Uzbekistan. As Country Director of Brazil, Raiser supported fiscal and structural reforms to help Brazil claw out of its recession, advocating for the country to “embark on a sustainable, private investment led growth path,” a World Bank statement said.

In his new role, effective today, Raiser also serves as Director for Korea.

Related: World Bank President Resigns to Join Private Sector

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By Liu Jiefei / Mar 01, 2019 01:26 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

The U.S.-China trade war may have yet to show up on many statistic sheets, but it’s having a much clearer effect on business sentiment.

Most American companies say the ongoing tensions are influencing their long-term business strategies, and many are delaying their China investments, according to the latest survey of its members by the American Chamber of Commerce in China released this week.

The overall outlook for AmCham’s members has shifted from cautious optimism to cautious pessimism, affected by new challenges such as bilateral U.S.-China tensions and longer-term issues like regulations, the report said.

“Our members have been very clear on actions that should be taken by both the Chinese and U.S. governments to improve China’s business environment and foster more sustainable economic ties between our two countries,” said AmCham China Chairman Tim Stratford. He added that more than half of respondents don’t like the tit-for-tat tariffs that have been imposed by Washington and Beijing while they try to reach broader trade deal.

The two sides called a truce on new tariffs after a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his counterpart Xi Jinping late last year. This week Trump extended a deadline for threatened new tariffs as the two sides move closer to a deal. Despite the tensions, the survey showed that most companies still view China as a high priority. Half said they are optimistic about steps that China may take to further open the market, the highest level since 2016.


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By Lin Jinbing / Feb 28, 2019 09:43 AM / Economy

China’s manufacturing shrunk further in February, as output activities contracted more quickly than the previous month due to the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI), which gives a snapshot of operating conditions in the manufacturing sector, dipped further to 49.2 in February from 49.5 in the previous month, according to data released Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The reading marks its lowest since February 2016.

A reading of 50 separates expansion from contraction. The higher the number above 50, the faster the expansion, while the further below 50, the greater the contraction. Manufacturing accounts for 30% of China’s gross domestic product.

China’s nonmanufacturing business activity index (BAI), which includes the services and construction sectors, fell to 54.3 in February from 54.7 in the month before, NBS data showed.

View all of Caixin's economic indexes

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By Liu Jiefei / Feb 27, 2019 01:26 AM / Economy

Bridge under construction in the city of Humen, Guangdong province. Photo: VCG

Bridge under construction in the city of Humen, Guangdong province. Photo: VCG

Anyone counting on infrastructure spending to keep China humming in the face of a slowing economy may need to think again. The country’s top economic planner is saying investment growth in China is expected to weaken after a strong start to the year, as spending on infrastructure projects loses momentum, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The number of planned projects submitted for regulatory approval or registration increased 15.5% in 2018, with investment in those projects expected to come in the year ahead, according to the report by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Mining, medium- to high-end manufacturing, hotel and catering, property, science research and technology services are expected to attract the most fixed-asset investment, the NDRC said.

However, growth in fixed-asset investment may slow after a robust start to the year due to a contraction in manufacturing activity dating back to the second half of last year, along with potential financing difficulties faced by some infrastructure projects, and an expected decline in new starts for real estate projects, the report added.

Financing for infrastructure projects is still overly reliant on government guarantees and the backing of fiscal revenues, the report pointed out, urging a diversification in how funds are raised. Some provinces have reported double-digit decreases in their number of planned infrastructure projects, as growth slows in local governments’ revenue streams amid a cooling economy. Local governments are expected to face further pressure as their borrowing comes under tighter scrutiny by Beijing.


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By Wu Hongyuran, Wu Xiaomeng and Lin Jinbing / Feb 25, 2019 07:44 PM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China has achieved the desired goals for its structural deleveraging campaign, the country’s top banking and insurance regulator said Monday, marking the official assessment of the nationwide debt-cutting campaign that aims to contain economic risks.

China’s macro-leverage ratio, or the ratio of its total debt to its gross domestic product, has stabilized since last year, reversing the trend of previous years in which the ratio rose by an average of more than 10 percentage points, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) said in a statement.

China launched the deleveraging campaign in late 2015 to curb the excessive borrowing of local governments, financial institutions, businesses and individuals. Yet the campaign’s one-size-fits-all methodology has faced criticism – especially from the small and private businesses that suffered the most – and is widely believed to have led to the country’s economic slowdown. In mid-2018, China adjusted the pace and strength of the campaign.

“Over two years of hard work, several kinds of financial misconduct have been effectively curbed,” Wang Zhaoxing, a vice chairman of the CBIRC, said at a Monday press briefing. Illegal financial businesses, shadow banking activities and overheated real-estate financing have all been effectively regulated, he said.

China has also flouted the predictions of some in the international community who said that the country’s huge growth in shadow banking and the overheating of real-estate financing would trigger systemic financial risks or even a financial crisis, Wang added.

Related: Ling Huawei: How to Fix the Deleveraging Campaign

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By Tang Ziyi / Feb 25, 2019 05:07 PM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

They say life in the big city is hard — but it’s also flush with hard cash.

The average disposable income of residents in Beijing and Shanghai topped 60,000 yuan ($8,931) last year, more than double the country's overall average. That overall average was only 28,228 yuan, but was still up 6.5% from the previous year.

That means locals in China’s two leading cities have twice as much extra cash to throw around compared to people in the rest of China. Shanghai resident came away with 64,183 yuan after taxes and mandatory fees last year, up 8.8% year-on-year. Beijingers’ netted 62,361 yuan, up 9%, according to government data.

These amounts have reached the disposable-income levels of low- and middle-income residents in developed countries, one industry analyst said.

Related: Chinese Government Gives Rare Definition of “Middle Income”

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By Zhao Runhua / Feb 22, 2019 06:23 PM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s insurance regulator will continue to oversee debt-ridden Anbang Insurance Group for another year, according to a statement released Friday. 

Despite the continued government oversight, the regulator trumpeted its success in steering the once-troubled insurance giant over the past year.

Anbang’s operation “has been stabilized,” and profitability has improved, the statement said.

Nevertheless, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission will control the firm for another year, until Feb. 22, 2020, to “consolidate the take-over achievements.”

The original government takeover took place in early 2018 when Anbang was accused of violating state laws and had struggled to repay its customers.

Last year, Wu Xiaohui, the 52-year-old founder and former chairman of Anbang, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for fundraising fraud and embezzlement at his financial empire.

Related: An Era Ends at Anbang as Founder Sentenced to Prison

 

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By Bloomberg / Feb 22, 2019 11:25 AM / Economy

Photo: Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

New home price growth in China decelerated for a third straight month.

The value of new homes, excluding government-subsidized housing, increased 0.61% on average in January from December in 70 major cities tracked by the government, data released by the National Bureau of Statistics Friday showed. That’s the slowest pace in nine months.

Key Insights

Softening price growth may spur more cities in China, particularly the smaller ones, to step up loosening measures as a way of boosting demand and ensuring the property market doesn’t collapse. Already several have moved in that direction, including Guangzhou, which relaxed age limits in residency permit applications, and Heze, which last year removed resale restrictions It will also have investors closely watching for any property policy signals at the upcoming National People’s Congress next month. Beijing has long had a campaign to combat housing speculation -- President Xi Jinping once famously said that houses are for living in, not for speculation -- and so local authorities have been loathe to indulge in any more stringent loosening measures Slowing rates of new home price growth is also bad news for builders, many of which are struggling under huge debt loads. Pre-sales proceeds are the industry’s biggest source of funding A knock-on effect may also be felt in China’s retail market. Consumers tend to spend less when property values fade because they ‘feel’ poorer, at least on paper.

Market Reaction

An index that tracks Chinese developers traded in Hong Kong slipped 0.6% Friday, broadly in line with the benchmark Hang Seng Index

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Prices in so-called tier 3 and 4 cities climbed 0.65%, while those in Beijing, Shanghai and other tier-1 hubs rose 0.38% HSBC Holdings Plc in January said Chinese cities with elevated loan-to-deposit ratios were most at risk against the backdrop of a slowing real estate sector Second-hand home prices -- which are free of the government intervention that affects prices for new homes -- declined in the largest four hubs for a fifth straight month

Related: Bonds Backed by Home Loans Surged in 2018

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By Han Wei / Feb 22, 2019 01:33 AM / Economy

U.S. delegation at the previous round of trade talks in Beijing. Photo: VCG

U.S. delegation at the previous round of trade talks in Beijing. Photo: VCG

Officials from China and the U.S. are back at the negotiating table for their latest round of high-level trade talks in Washington as they race to strike a deal before a March 1 deadline expires in their 90-day truce.

The two days of talks start Thursday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, marking the seventh round over the last 12 months. They follow the previous round of negotiations that ended in Beijing earlier this month.

The Chinese delegation is headed by Vice Premier Liu He, who has also been named as special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Other senior members include central bank governor Yi Gang, China’s U.S. ambassador Cui Tiankai, and Chinese Vice Finance Minister Liao Min.

The U.S. team is being led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Reuters reported the two countries have started to outline commitments in principle on the stickiest issues in their dispute, making major progress toward ending the seven-month trade war.

The broad outlines of what could become a final agreement are beginning to emerge from the talks, covering issues including forced technology transfers and cyber theft, intellectual property rights, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade, said the Reuters report, citing unidentified sources.

Related: China’s Vice Premier to Head to Washington: Ministry

 

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By Han Wei / Feb 21, 2019 07:38 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China will not use the yuan’s exchange rate as a bargaining chip to resolve trade disputes with the United States, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

China won’t resort to currency depreciation for competitive purposes in trade and hopes the U.S. can respect market rules and not politicize currency issues, Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman, said at a routine press briefing.

Geng’s comments followed reports that the U.S. is pressing China to keep the yuan stable as part of an agreement intended to end the countries’ trade war.

The U.S. is seeking a pledge from China that it will not devalue the yuan to counter American tariffs, Bloomberg reported. Officials from the two countries are discussing how to address currency policy in a memorandum of understanding that would form the basis of a U.S.-China trade deal, Bloomberg reported.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit Washington this week for another round of trade negotiations, his second trip in three weeks, as the two countries race the clock to strike a deal to avert an escalation in the trade war before a March 1 deadline. The talks follow a round of negotiations that ended in Beijing last week without a deal but with signs of progress.

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By Tanner Brown / Feb 20, 2019 12:21 PM / Economy

Portman, center. Photo: VCG

Portman, center. Photo: VCG

An American senator said today he believes China and the U.S. will reach some form of a trade deal by March 1, which would likely allow more detailed discussions to follow.

"I think something gets worked out," Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman told CNBC's "Squawk Box," according to news outlet Politico.

Chinese officials have just arrived in Washington for the latest of several rounds of trade talks, which are aimed at striking a deal before the March 1 deadline that will raise U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

According to Politico, "Portman outlined his expectations for a three-part deal that would include China buying more U.S. products to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, making significant new commitments to protect U.S. intellectual property and curbing subsidies and other unfair advantages of China's state-owned enterprises."

Portman is no novice in international trade issues. He served as United States Trade Representative under George W. Bush, and spearheaded previous trade claims against China at the WTO.

Read Caixin's full coverage of the trade war


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By Bloomberg / Feb 20, 2019 09:19 AM / Economy

Photo: Bloomberg

Photo: Bloomberg

As suddenly as it rolled in, the crisis of confidence that shook Chinese stocks last year may be ending.

The rally since January has added about $880 billion to the value of the country’s equities, lifting Shenzhen’s risky startups and state-backed giants alike. The rebound has been so quick and widespread that it’s already triggered signs of overheating in four of China’s major benchmarks. The CSI 300 Index’s 14% rally is its best start to any year in a decade, and turnover across all exchanges is the highest since March.

While valuations have been low for months, Chinese equities really took off only after another set of weak economic data made monetary policy easing almost a certainty. Gains intensified when the new securities watchdog eased restrictions on trading, encouraging an increase in leveraged bets. Ample liquidity and a streak of foreign buying have fueled volumes.

“It’s essentially a reflection of change in investor expectations,” said Wang Chen, a Shanghai-based partner with XuFunds Investment Management Co. “The rally’s been driven by a return in risk appetite and a valuation catch-up.”

The recovery is an about-face from 2018, when the government’s deleveraging campaign triggered a liquidity crunch and record bond defaults. Sentiment was so bearish after the equity market’s $2.3 trillion rout that average turnover was down to nearly the lowest in four years by December.

Traders are quickly moving on from last month’s deluge of profit warnings and China’s weaker economic growth, focusing instead on all the reasons why the outlook should improve. An interest-rate cut from the People’s Bank of China is on the cards, while next month’s annual gathering of top-level officials may spawn more supportive policies. Even Chinese state media has chimed in, highlighting the growing bull case for stocks.

Next week’s decision by MSCI Inc. on whether to include a broader array of A shares in its indexes may also provide another catalyst.

The concern is that China’s equity rebound is on shaky ground, underpinned mostly by fickle investor sentiment. Evidence of speculative trading has popped up in some of the riskiest parts of the market, and traders are borrowing more cash to chase the rally. Skeptics say only a better-than-expected recovery in profit growth will drive the next leg up.

“The rally lacks fundamental support,” said Jeff Chang, chairman of Cathay Securities Investment Trust Co. in Taipei. “It’s hard to see the indexes move up much higher unless earnings turn out better than expected.”

Related: High-Stakes Bid to Boost Stocks Could Inflate Bubble

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By Han Wei / Feb 20, 2019 07:50 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s central government pledged efforts to continue deepening reforms of the country’s agriculture sector and promoting development of the rural economy in the first policy statement issued for the year, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The No.1 central document, issued late Tuesday, is seen as a key indicator of policy priorities each year. Agriculture and rural development has been a top priority highlighted by the No.1 central document since 2017.

In face of continued economic cooling and rising external uncertainties, “it is of special importance to do a good job in agriculture and rural areas," according to the document, released by the State Council.

In this year’s document, central authorities pledged that China will maintain stable grain production, improve agricultural infrastructure, adjust agricultural industry structure and step up technology development, the document said.

China will also increase its strategic supply of agricultural products including soybeans, the document said. Soybeans have been a major issue in the China-U.S. trade war.

Related: China Back Buying More U.S. Soy Just Days After Last Spree

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By Qian Tong and Han Wei / Feb 19, 2019 07:20 AM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A growing number of Chinese entrepreneurs reported weakening confidence in the business outlook in the second half of 2018, citing economic cooling and uncertainties, a report showed Monday.

The report, released by the China Entrepreneurs Forum, showed that an index tracking business confidence declined 4 percentage points to 52.69 in the second half last year, the biggest drop since the report started in 2010. The index also moved closer to 50, the point signaling contraction.

According to Wang Yong, an economics professor at Tsinghua University, about 60% of entrepreneurs surveyed by the report said they believe the business outlook will turn harsher in the next three to five years because of weakening prospects for China and the global economy.

Of business people questioned, 46.9% said they plan to continue adding investments, 7.4% lower than a year ago. Meanwhile, 18.8% more entrepreneurs said they would halt further investment because of the uncertainties.

Entrepreneurs called for further tax reductions and proactive fiscal policies to bolster the economy and improve the business outlook, according to the report.

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By Bloomberg / Feb 18, 2019 03:32 PM / Economy

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese police have frozen about 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) of assets across more than 380 peer-to-peer lenders in an escalated investigation into illicit financing.

Codenamed ‘Fox Hunt,’ the operation spanned 16 countries and regions including Thailand and Cambodia and led to the arrests of 62 suspects implicated in Chinese P2P frauds since June, China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on Sunday. It didn’t disclose more details but said police is still recouping losses.

While a lack of oversight contributed to a ballooning in P2P loans, the sector has come in for special scrutiny under President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on financial risk. Authorities are now dramatically shrinking the market, which spawned the nation’s biggest Ponzi scheme, protests in major cities, and life-altering losses for thousands of savers.

Some P2P companies are attracting investors by promising high interest rates under the guise of “financial innovation,” while others fabricated investment projects and squandered the money, the police said. At least 100 people have dropped out of contact or disappeared before the firms went bust, with some having fled overseas, according to the statement.

The number of Chinese peer-to-peer lenders may drop by 70 percent this year to as few as 300, according to an estimate from Shanghai-based Yingcan Group. Only some 50 firms will survive eventually, Citigroup Inc. predicts.

Related: Goldman, Citi Drop Online Lender IPOs Amid China Crackdown

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By Charlotte Yang / Feb 15, 2019 05:09 PM / Economy

Mnuchin at his Beijing hotel. Photo: VCG

Mnuchin at his Beijing hotel. Photo: VCG

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called his meetings with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing “productive” on Friday as the two sides were wrapping up their latest round of trade talks ahead of the looming Mar. 1 deadline.

“Productive meetings with China’s Vice Premier Liu He and @USTradeRep Amb. Lighthizer,” wrote the treasury secretary in a tweet, without elaborating further. No official statement from either side regarding the talk has yet been published.

Related: Trump Weighing 60-Day Extension to Tariff Deadline, Sources Say


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