U.S. stocks open lower on continued political uncertainty

U.S. stocks opened lower on Tuesday as investors continued to grapple with political uncertainty stemming from the newly inaugurated President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 72 points, or 0.4%, to 19,899. The S&P 500 lost 5 points to 2,276, a drop of 0.2%. The Nasdaq Composite index sank 17 points, or 0.3%, to 5,595.

Late Monday, Trump fired the acting attorney general, who declined to defend an executive order calling for a travel ban. The order, which was met with massive controversy, also spurred selling on Monday.

Investors also watched the latest batch of corporate earnings, including from Exxon Mobil Corp. and Pfizer Inc.

Source: Marketwatch

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Analysis: Is North Korea’s Collapse Imminent?

Despite a growing narrative that North Korea might be teetering on the verge of collapse, there is a lack of consensus among U.S. experts on the imminent downfall of the reclusive regime.

Talks of a possible near-term regime collapse resurfaced among North Korea watchers when Thae Yong Ho, a high-level defector, said recently that the influx of information from outside the country and expansion of market activities within it are sapping traditional structures of the North Korean system. The regime is “crumbling” and the days of Kim Jong Un’s leadership are “numbered,” said North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Kingdom, prior to defecting with his family to South Korea in 2016.

“Low-level dissent or criticism of the regime, until recently unthinkable, is becoming more frequent [among North Korea’s elite],” Thae said at a news conference in Seoul last week. “We have to spray gasoline on North Korea and let the North Korean people set fire to it.”

Following Thae’s comments, a Wall Street Journal editorial suggested the Trump administration should “make regime change an explicit policy goal for North Korea.”

Joseph DeTrani, former U.S. nuclear envoy and intelligence official, said that while Thae’s claims are “significant commentary” based on the diplomat’s knowledge base, there is virtually “no indication that the regime’s collapse is imminent.”

While saying that his views are based on limited information, DeTrani said he sees “a functioning government” in the North: private markets are functioning and people have access to food.

Ken Gause, who monitors the Kim regime, is also skeptical of Thae’s prediction of regime change.

Notwithstanding increasing international sanctions, he says, Pyongyang’s economy is faring relatively well. Even with its chronic food shortage, the country is “not as in serious situation as it was in the 1990s when there was mass starvation.”

Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses in Arlington, Virginia added that due to an extensive surveillance network of informants that covers every North Korean citizen, it is highly unlikely that information that could lead to a popular uprising will circulate among ordinary citizens.

“If this regime is going to collapse, it will come from destabilization at the top of the regime,” Gause said.

Some experts, however, give weight to Thae’s description of Pyongyang’s political state.

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center in Washington, believes the Kim regime is being undermined significantly by disillusionment among North Koreans.

“Mr. Thae’s comments show that there is growing disillusionment, that the hopes that people had for Kim Jong Un have not panned out, that he is no better than his father and his grandfather, not only the repression but the resistance to allowing outside information in and implementing necessary economic reform,” the former intelligence official said.

Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California said there are a few signs of instability in North Korea. One example, he said, is the deteriorating ties between the North and its only ally, China.

“[South Korean] President Park has had eight summits with [Chinese President] Xi Jinping and [Kim’s] had zero,” Bennett said.

Source: voanews

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Wall Street stocks set for further losses as Trump travel ban reverberates

U.S. stocks on Tuesday were poised for further losses as investors grappled with the latest decisions by President Donald Trump after he fired the Attorney General.

The Federal Reserve was also in the spotlight as the central bank was set to kick off its two-day policy meeting.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23 points, or 0.1%, to 19,866, after the benchmark on Monday fell below the psychologically important 20,000 level and suffered its biggest daily drop since mid-October. As of Monday’s close, the Dow average, however, was still set for a 1.1% January gain. This would be its first January gain since 2013.

Futures for the S&P 500 index fell 3 points, or 0.1%, to 2,273 on Tuesday, while those for the Nasdaq-100 index gave up 7.50 points, or 0.2%, to 5,117. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite on Monday ended in negative territory, trimming their monthly gains and enduring their biggest daily falls since late December.

Monday’s selloff came as investors reacted to Trump’s decision to ban immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The move added to the controversy that has marked the first week of the Trump administration and fueled concerns the coming months could be volatile for markets.

Source: Marketwatch

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