Thousands more migrant children separated under Trump than previously known | US news

The Trump administration may have separated thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border for up to a year before family separation was a publicly known practice, according to a stunning government review of the health department’s role in family separation.

A report by the health department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published on Thursday said officials at the health department estimated “thousands of separated children” were put in health department care before a court order in June 2018 ordered the reunification of 2,600 other children.

“The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,” the report said.

This report shows that not only did the US government probably separate thousands more children from their parents than previously thought, but it was separating families well before the policy was made public in April 2018.

In the summer of 2017, one year before the general public knew mass family separations were taking place, officials at the health department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) observed a steep increase in the number of children referred to ORR care who had been separated from their parents or guardians by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to the report.

Usually, children put in health department care have traveled to the border without a parent or guardian. The health department then works to place them in the home of a sponsor, usually a relative or someone close to their family. If a sponsor cannot be found, children are put in foster care.

Occasionally, children would be separated from the adult who they traveled with but, the OIG report said: “Historically, these separations were rare and occurred because of circumstances such as the parent’s medical emergency or a determination that the parent was a threat to the child’s safety.”

Sign up for the US morning briefing

In response to the unusual increase in children whom the government separated from their families, officials began informally tracking separations using an Excel spreadsheet that was later processed into a database. This process was not formalized.

This informal tracking revealed that in 2016, of all the children in ORR care, 0.3% had been separated from a parent or guardian. By August 2017, the proportion of separated children had risen to 3.6%, according to the report.

“Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court, and HHS has faced challenges in identifying separated children,” the report said.

It was not until April 2018, however, that the Trump administration publicly announced it was changing the law to make more family separations possible.

That month, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced the “zero-tolerance” policy that would allow parents to be held in immigration detention while children were put in health department custody. Advocacy groups had been warning for months that family separations were already taking place, but widespread public outcry against the practice did not emerge until after Sessions announced the policy.

Facing significant public pressure, the Trump administration on 20 June ended the family separation policy it had created.

A week later, a federal judge ordered 2,600 children to be reunited with their parents in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and lead attorney on the family separation case, said the civil rights group would return to court in response to the OIG report.

“This policy was a cruel disaster from the start,” Gelernt said. “This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents.”

There had not been a centralized system in place to identify, track or connect separated families, according to the report, but the government had to create a process to identify quickly and reunite families in compliance with the court order.

In the OIG report, the health department said in the five months following the order, it was still identifying children who should have been considered separated but were not being clearly tracked in government systems. So far, 2,737 separated children have been identified.

Those children are separate from the new estimate included in Thursday’s report, which said: “The Court did not require HHS to determine the number, identity, or status of an estimated thousands of children whom DHS separated during an influx that began in 2017.”

The health department’s Administration of Children and Families (ACF), which oversaw care of separated children, emphasized its role in family separation was the care of children, not in enforcement of separations.

Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for ACF, wrote in a letter included with the report that the agency has also introduced new processes to track separated children.

Despite the OIG’s findings, warnings from child advocates and public outcry, the Trump administration has not ruled out bringing family separation back in a different form.

In November, Trump’s nominee to run US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), Ronald Vitiello, declined to rule out the possibility that the US could again separate families at the border. And the Trump administration has reportedly weighed family separation alternatives including a “binary choice” plan that would give parents the option to separate voluntarily or be detained together for years.

Bob Costas exiting longtime home at NBC Sports – The Denver Post

LOS ANGELES — Bob Costas, who stepped down as NBC’s prime-time Olympics host two years ago, has left the network’s sports division altogether.

NBC Sports said Wednesday that Costas parted ways with his longtime employer, providing no further details.

A representative for Costas didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Costas, 66, served as the emcee for NBC’s Olympics 11 times starting in 1992. In early 2017, he stepped aside for network newcomer Mike Tirico, formerly with ESPN.

When the switch was announced in early 2017, Costas said he had decided on his own that the time was right for a change. He said then he wanted to do long-form programming and commentary on special events, likening his new role to what former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw does for the network.

On Tuesday, Costas told the New York Post of his decision to leave NBC Sports, saying his departure was settled “quietly and happily for all concerned.”

In August 2018, the paper reported that he was no longer satisfied with his role at NBC and a contract that limited his participation in other projects.

Costas, who joined NBC Sports in 1979, has covered baseball, football and basketball and horse racing as well as served as the face and voice of the Olympics.

He plans to continue working on the MLB Network and is interested in doing an interview show focusing on sports and news, the Post said.

Morgan Stanley quarterly profit more than doubles

FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed on the Morgan Stanley building in New York U.S., July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) – Morgan Stanley’s (MS.N) fourth-quarter profit more than doubled from a year earlier when it recorded a $1 billion tax charge due to changes in the U.S. tax law.

Net income applicable to Morgan Stanley jumped to $1.53 billion, or 80 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $643 million, or 26 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the bank earned 73 cents per share, compared with 84 cents per share a year ago.

Analysts on average were looking for 89 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. It was not immediately clear if the numbers were comparable.

Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

Nancy Pelosi asks Trump to reschedule State of the Union amid shutdown

Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos

New York Times News Service,

3:10 PM

WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing security constraints from the partial government shutdown, asked President Donald Trump on Wednesday to scrap his Jan. 29 State of the Union address, and a bipartisan group of senators called on him to reopen the government while they negotiated a compromise on border security.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to Congress on January 29,” Pelosi said in a letter to Trump on Wednesday. She suggested he forgo the annual presidential ritual of addressing a joint session of Congress in a televised speech during prime time and submit a written message instead.

While she couched her request in logistical concerns, Pelosi’s proposal served as a reminder to Trump that, with Democrats in control of the House, she has the power to frustrate his agenda and upend his plans amid a prolonged stalemate over his demands for a wall on the southwestern border. It intensified the pressure on the president as a group of centrist House Democrats and Republicans were heading to the White House for talks with Trump in the Situation Room aimed at resolving the impasse.

A separate group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate were circulating a letter calling on Trump to drop his demand that wall funding accompany any bill to end the shutdown, urging him to agree to sign a three-week stopgap government funding measure to allow time to forge a “broad bipartisan agreement” on border security spending.

“We commit to working to advance legislation that can pass the Senate with substantial bipartisan support,” said the letter, which is being spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “During those three weeks, we will make our best efforts following regular order in the appropriate committees and mark up bipartisan legislation relating to your request.”

The letter has support from several other Republican senators including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio, as well as centrist Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, according to several officials familiar with it who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the effort. But the idea is identical to one the president has ruled out both publicly and privately, saying he would not reopen the government without first securing funding for the wall.

Behind closed doors last week, Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, made it clear to senators that the idea could not work because they feared that once the government was reopened, the White House would lose control of the legislative process of hammering out a border security compromise and end up with a product that the president could not support.

Still, a growing number of senators in both parties argue that if they demonstrate that there is enough support in the Senate to force consideration of such a plan, Trump might reconsider.

“If we can show a critical mass of folks that think we should reopen the government and then allow us the regular process to work, where a group of folks would come forward with ideas, I think we’ve got to do something,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Tuesday. “No one is going to negotiate while the government’s shut.”

Neither the White House nor the Secret Service had an immediate comment on Pelosi’s letter. But Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, said on Twitter that her decision “makes clear what we already know: Democrats are only interested in obstructing @realDonaldTrump, not governing.”

With the leadership of all three branches of government gathered in one place, the State of the Union is one of the highest-stakes events for federal law enforcement each year, requiring weeks of preparation. The Secret Service, the lead agency coordinating security for it, is among the agencies affected by the shutdown.

“Both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now — with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” Pelosi wrote.

But rescheduling would have other benefits, too.

With Democrats and Trump at an impasse over his demands for funding for a wall along the southern border, the speech would give Trump a nationally televised bully pulpit to hammer away at Pelosi and her party.

“What are Democrats afraid of Americans hearing?” Scalise said in a posting, branding Pelosi #ShutdownNancy. “That 17,000+ criminals were caught last year at the border? 90% of heroin in the US comes across the southern border? Illegal border crossings dropped 90%+ in areas w/ a wall?”

The Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” But what is now a speech to a joint session of Congress in the Capitol has taken different forms over the years, including in writing for much of the 19th century. The House speaker typically arranges the address by invitation, though its date is the subject of mutual agreement with the White House.

In her letter, Pelosi said there was no precedent for holding a State of the Union address during a government shutdown.

Close

Only a rupture with the EU will alter the failed status quo | Larry Elliott | Opinion

The pound rose, and all was calm on the stock market. As far as the financial markets were concerned, the message was clear: the voting down by MPs of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement means a delayed Brexit, a softer Brexit or perhaps no Brexit at all. Those with serious wealth in Britain have always been worried that Brexit will lead to radical change. They now think that there will be a perpetuation of the status quo – or something not far removed from it. Hence the pound getting stronger.

There’s no question that opting for the quiet life has its attractions. There would be a boost to the economy as companies decided to push ahead with investment plans that had been delayed while the outcome of Brexit was uncertain. And, of course, any economic costs of no deal would be avoided.

The EU’s single market is more than a free-trade area. It aims to remove not just the fiscal barriers to trade (tariffs) but the physical and technical barriers (borders and divergent product standards) too by allowing as free movement as possible of goods, capital, services and people. In essence, it is about treating the EU as a single trading territory. See our full Brexit phrasebook.

If the Bank of England is to be believed, these could be very high indeed. Just before Christmas, the Bank said the economy could shrink by 8% in the event of a disruptive no-deal outcome – a bigger recession than that seen when the global financial system came close to meltdown in 2008. But this was a worst-case scenario and the Bank had to throw in the kitchen sink to arrive at it. The idea, for example, that interest rates would rise by four percentage points after a no-deal Brexit is implausible. More likely, the Bank would join with the Treasury in using every available policy tool – including lower interest rates – to boost growth.

More realistic projections have been provided by the consultancy firm Capital Economics. It forecasts that the economy will grow by 1.4% this year if May’s deal is eventually agreed, by 1.5% if a delay to the article 50 process leads to a softer Brexit, and by between 1% and -0.2% in the event of no deal, depending on whether it is orderly or not. Still a cost, in other words, but much more modest.

Even so, why bother suffering any cost at all if it can be avoided by leaving things as they are? That seems like a reasonable argument, but in reality it is based on a series of doubtful assumptions.

The first is that voters care only about economic growth. But if that were the case, they would support fracking and concreting over the green belt, both of which would lead to higher levels of activity. The second – voiced by business lobby groups – is that it is not possible to do better than the status quo because unemployment is low, real wages are growing, the City is the world’s financial hub and the UK is an attractive destination for inward investment.

The third – shared by the European commission and some in the remain camp in the UK – is that there is nothing much wrong with Europe either. The EU is the world’s biggest market; the four freedoms allow for the movement of goods, people, money and services across the continent; and the euro has been a success.

Yet in reality the UK has malfunctioned badly since the 2008 financial crisis, suffering a prolonged period of weak productivity growth and flatlining living standards. Investment has been weak. Most of the jobs created have been low-wage and low-skill.

As for the rest of Europe, the eurozone was even slower to recover from the crash, in part because of the design flaws of monetary union and in part because its addiction to neoconservative economic dogma resulted in supercharged austerity programmes.

Brexit, the gilets jaunes protesters in France, the terrible pain inflicted on Greece and the support for the League/Five Star government in Italy all tell their own story. Europe is alive with political discontent that reflects the demand for deep and urgent reform, but the chances of getting it are less likely if the status quo prevails.

Why? Because the forces of conservatism are strong. Change comes about only when the pressure for it becomes too great to resist. The financial crisis provided one such opportunity to reform an economic system that for many people clearly wasn’t working; Brexit was a second. The left’s case for Brexit has always been based on the following notions: the current economic model is failing; socialism is needed to fix it; and the free-market ideology hardwired into the EU via the European Central Bank, judgments of the European court of justice and treaty changes will make that process all but impossible without a break with the status quo.

It is theoretically possible that in the event of a “Brexit in name only” or no Brexit at all, policymakers will push ahead with what’s needed in order to make a reality of the slogan “a reformed Britain in a reformed Europe”. Possible but not all that plausible, given that it would require breaking up the euro, more autonomy for individual countries to intervene in the running of their economies, and a simultaneous philosophical U-turn in the big member states.

Much more likely is that the pressure for change will dissipate and the real grievances of those who voted for Brexit will be quietly forgotten. The softer the Brexit, the more convinced the EU will be that it has been doing the right thing all along. Britain will not go up in flames, but there will still be consequences. Leave voters will feel they have been victims of an establishment stitch-up. The anger will not go away and will eventually resurface.

The risk is that the losers will be the biggest supporters of the EU – the liberal left. And the biggest winners will be the extreme right.

Larry Elliott is the Guardian’s economics editor

Coroner rules Longmont skydiving death accident

Courtesy photo

Logan Polfuss

The Boulder County Coroner’s Office has ruled the fall skydiving death of Logan Polfuss an accident.

Polfuss, 23, was found dead Oct. 19 in a field in unincorporated Boulder County, fewer than 24 hours after he went skydiving at Mile-Hi Skydiving Center located at Vance Brand Municipal Airport in Longmont.

Polfuss had a jump time in the early afternoon the day prior. His girlfriend reported him missing at about 9 p.m. after he didn’t show up for dinner.

According to an autopsy report obtained Wednesday by the Times-Call, the cause of Polfuss’ death was multiple blunt force injuries. It is unclear if he died immediately upon impact with the ground or between the time he landed and the time he was found.

The report also states that, according to information from the Federal Aviation Administration, Polfuss was not using the proper equipment, didn’t have his equipment up to standards and did not have enough free fall experience for the type of suit he was using.

Trump tariffs force tough choices at U.S. auto suppliers

WYOMING, Mich. (Reuters) – Bob Roth makes no bones about his feelings towards U.S. manufacturing.

Toyota trucks are shown on a car carrier for delivery after arriving in the United States in National City, California, U.S. June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The co-owner and chief executive of RoMan Manufacturing Inc, which makes transformers and glass-molding equipment for automakers and other industries, asks callers on his voicemail: “What have you done today to support U.S. manufacturing?”

His procurement team has been under long-standing orders to source all parts and materials as near as possible to his western Michigan factory, even with President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum.

But with those tariffs dragging into a new year and steel comprising a quarter of RoMan’s fixed costs, Roth says his company has now begun the lengthy process of switching from its U.S. suppliers to an Israeli company for a key component for its products.

It is a strategic decision that RoMan and other auto suppliers have put off since the tariffs kicked in last spring. With tariffs firmly part of the landscape, some are now starting to shift their own supply chain to keep costs in check, according to more than a dozen interviews with U.S. auto suppliers and industry consultants. (U.S. jobs impact of metal tariffs: tmsnrt.rs/2RKvA83)

The choice is stark for most suppliers: absorb the extra cost, pass them on to customers or find ways to slash material costs.

The transformers Roth’s 150 workers at RoMan produce require a magnetized steel core that is now more expensive as tariffs have allowed U.S. steel producers to raise prices. The Israeli supplier has access to cheaper steel and its cores qualify as finished products, so they are not subject to tariffs – making them a cheaper alternative.

“We don’t have the money to buy our way out problems like this,” Roth said of RoMan, which has annual revenue of around $35 million. “In the long run we can’t afford to absorb the extra cost of tariffs.”

Roth says he appreciates the sentiment behind Trump’s push to bring back American manufacturers jobs, but adds tariffs are “the wrong tool” because they hurt U.S. firms.

Trade consulting firm Trade Partnership Worldwide LLC estimated last summer metals tariffs could cost 5,000 jobs in the U.S. auto industry and 400,000 jobs overall – 16 jobs lost for every steel or aluminum worker hired. But so far there is little data available on how tariffs affect businesses such as RoMan because the process of switching suppliers is a long one and many manufacturers have muddled through so far.

For agraphic, click tmsnrt.rs/2RKvA83

Steven Wybo, a managing director at consultancy Conway MacKenzie, said “every single auto supplier we are working with has concerns around tariffs,” and he worries they come at an already challenging time for the sector.

Suppliers are gearing up for a large number of vehicle launches over the next three years, an expensive business, while also bracing for an expected decline in U.S. new vehicle sales. And some in the sector will bear the brunt of restructuring at Ford Motor Co (F.N) General Motors Co (GM.N), which are dropping less-popular sedan models.

Adding tariffs to the mix can require a creative approach.  

RoMan, for instance, splits half of a 10 percent tariff with a Chinese customer on transformers subject to retaliatory measures against U.S. manufacturers. RoMan will raise some prices 2 percent this month to partially offset rising copper prices.

Warren, Michigan-based Eckhart Inc – which books about $100 million in annual sales by building robots and automated tools for GM, Volvo and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and other automakers – must absorb the tariffs or run the risk of losing out in competitive bids.

So Eckhart has focused on cutting costs, including rolling out a new U.S. purchasing system for raw materials, CEO Andrew Storm said.

“We have to fight for every single dollar of revenue that comes in the door,” Storm said. “So we find ways to eat the extra cost.”

That is why RoMan is seeking alternative suppliers to cut costs – and it takes a long time to ensure a new supplier is financially sound and can consistently hit industry standards. Months into that process, RoMan is only now validating test parts produced by its potential new Israeli supplier.

“You can’t turn your supply chain on a dime,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

Dziczek said she gets calls “all the time” from suppliers wondering whether to overhaul their supply chain, and yet worrying that if they do, Trump may reverse policy overnight.

LOSING BUSINESS

The issue stretches up and down the supply chain for cars. Ford and GM have already warned metals tariffs will cost them $1 billion each in profits, setting in motion a complex dance over who foots the bill.

If automakers have to cover the cost, they typically raise vehicle prices to pass it onto consumers. Just this week, a Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) executive said industry wide tariffs have increased the average U.S. vehicle price by around $600.

Peter Bible, chief risk officer at tax advisory firm EisnerAmper and former chief accounting officer at GM, said suppliers making parts for less-popular vehicles will have trouble passing on higher costs. Automakers will resist price increases, but will be also be wary of pushing suppliers too hard, Bible said.

Problems at a single supplier can be disastrous, as Ford discovered last May when a fire at a supplier halted production of some highly-profitable pickup trucks.

Some suppliers have adapted quickly to cut costs.

They have cost Gentherm Inc (THRM.O), which makes climate control systems for vehicles and had revenue of close to $1 billion in 2017, a “few million” dollars, according to CEO Phil Eyler.

“We’ve worked really fast to change supplier locations in a couple cases,” he said.

Mark Wakefield, a managing director at consultancy AlixPartners, said suppliers providing more commoditized parts will find adjusting harder.

That’s the case for Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Pridgeon & Clay, which supplies stamped steel and stainless steel parts to automakers, with annual revenue of more than $350 million.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Third-generation owner Kevin Clay has lost business to low-cost overseas competitors in India who use cheaper tariff-free steel, and whose finished products are not subject to Trump’s U.S. tariffs.

Metal tariffs have shaved 25 percent off Clay’s pre-tax profit. Banks still wary of his sector following the Great Recession are growing reluctant to issue loans, and his company has mothballed some spending plans and cut staff more than usual for this time of year, according to Clay.

“These tariffs have cost me business,” said Clay, who describes himself as a moderate conservative who fervently believes in free trade. “If the aim is to get to a tariff-free world, this is a crappy way to get there.”

Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Joe White and Edward Tobin

16-year-old cruise ship passenger dies after falling onto pier Video

  • Now Playing: 16-year-old dies after falling from balcony of cruise ship



  • Now Playing: Cruise ship death remains mystery



  • Now Playing: Coast Guard paychecks held hostage by shutdown



  • Now Playing: Makers of popular Fortnite game reveal major security flaw



  • Now Playing: Air Force officer reunites with sons dressed as school mascot



  • Now Playing: Doctor accused of ordering potentially fatal doses of pain medication



  • Now Playing: 16-year-old cruise ship passenger dies after falling onto pier



  • Now Playing: Bodies found in graves possibly belong to missing couple: Police



  • Now Playing: City settles lawsuit for $2.3M after police officer kills teenager



  • Now Playing: U.S. man who died in Nairobi terror attack was a 9/11 survivor



  • Now Playing: In letter, Pelosi suggests Trump postpone State of the Union



  • Now Playing: Man arrested for allegedly threatening to attack White House



  • Now Playing: Fog blamed for multi-vehicle accident on California freeway



  • Now Playing: Grammy winner says career ‘launched’ after singing on Jim Bakker’s show



  • Now Playing: Remembering Tammy Faye Bakker’s return to TV



  • Now Playing: Ted Koppel recalls iconic 1987 Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker ‘Nightline’ interview



  • Now Playing: ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ 10-year anniversary



  • Now Playing: Ohio’s first medical marijuana dispensaries



  • Now Playing: Celebrity chef Jose Andres opens relief kitchen for furloughed workers amid shutdown



  • Now Playing: Los Angeles teachers unite on day 3 of strike



  • White House denounces Rep. King’s white supremacy remarks

    WASHINGTON — Comments by Republican Rep. Steve King about white supremacy are “abhorrent,” the White House said Wednesday as bipartisan condemnation of King continued.

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised a move by House Republicans to strip the nine-term Iowa lawmaker of his committee assignments.

    King told The New York Times last week that, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

    The comments were widely denounced as racist.

    The House on Tuesday approved a Democratic measure rebuking King, and a member of the House Republican leadership suggested King should leave Congress.

    When President Donald Trump was asked on Monday about King’s remarks, he said: “I haven’t been following it.” But Sanders said Wednesday that King’s comments were “abhorrent,” and said GOP leaders took action when one of their members said “outrageous and inappropriate things.”

    House Democratic leaders, meanwhile, blocked an effort to censure King, referring a proposal by Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush to the House Ethics Committee for further review.

    Censure is the most serious sanction for a House member short of expulsion, and it has been imposed only six times in the past 100 years.

    Rush, the sole House member to oppose the earlier measure rebuking King, pressed for a vote Wednesday to censure King, saying the House should take a stronger stand against what he called “Steve King’s violent, vitriolic and rabid racism.”

    Asia shares edge up, pound gets moment’s peace

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares crept higher on Thursday as upbeat bank earnings bolstered Wall Street, while an anti-climactic end to the latest chapter in the Brexit saga gave sterling a moment’s peace.

    FILE PHOTO: A woman points to an electronic board showing stock prices as she poses in front of the board after the New Year opening ceremony at the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), held to wish for the success of Japan’s stock market, in Tokyo, Japan, January 4, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS edged up 0.1 percent, with Australia was ahead by 0.2 percent.

    Nikkei futures JNIc1NKc1 pointed to an opening rise of around 0.5 percent for the cash index .N225. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 ESc1 firmed 0.6 percent.

    On Wall Street, strong earnings from Bank of America (BAC.N) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) eased worries about the earnings outlook. Bank of America shares jumped 7.2 percent and Goldman 9.5 percent. [.N]

    The Dow .DJI ended Wednesday with gains of 0.59 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX added 0.22 percent and the Nasdaq .IXIC 0.15 percent.

    Investors in Asia might be less encouraged by a Wall Street Journal report that U.S. federal prosecutors were investigating Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. businesses and could soon issue an indictment.

    Such a move could inflame tensions between Beijing and Washington and make a trade deal yet harder.

    China’s central bank on Wednesday moved to avert a cash crunch in the economy by injecting a record $83 billion into the country’s financial system.

    Also looming in the background were concerns the U.S. government shutdown was starting to take a toll on its economy.

    White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the shutdown shaved 0.13 percent off quarterly economic growth for each week it goes on.

    PLAN B

    As expected, British Prime Minister Theresa May narrowly won her confidence vote and invited other party leaders for talks to try to break the impasse on a Brexit divorce deal.

    An outline for Plan ‘B’ is due by Monday and the market assumes there will have to be an extension of the Article 50 exit date past March 29.

    “Nothing has happened in the last 24 hours to dissuade us from the view that we are headed in the direction of an Article 50 delay, a softer Brexit or no Brexit,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.

    “But it remains too soon to be buying sterling with your ears pinned back,” he added, noting many uncertainties remained.

    All of which left the pound firm at $1.2881 GBP=, though still short of Monday’s peak at $1.2929. It fared well on the euro, which hit a seven-week low before steadying at 88.45 pence EURGBP=.

    The lessening of Brexit risk pressured the safe-haven yen and helped the U.S. dollar up to 109.10 JPY=. The euro eased back to $1.1394 EUR= while the dollar index nudged up to 96.077 .DXY.

    In commodity markets, palladium XPD= hit record highs thanks to increasing demand and lower supply of the metal used in auto catalysts. Spot gold XAU= held steady at $1,293.68 per ounce.

    Brent crude LCOc1 futures rose 66 cents to $61.30 a barrel overnight, while U.S. crude CLc1 was last off 7 cents at $52.24.

    Editing by Jacqueline Wong