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News Items, By John Ellis.
1. Google claims to have built the first quantum computer that can carry out calculations beyond the ability of today’s most powerful supercomputers, a landmark moment that has been hotly anticipated by researchers. A paper by Google’s researchers seen by the FT, that was briefly posted earlier this week on a Nasa website before being removed, claimed that their processor was able to perform a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced classical computer, known as Summit, approximately 10,000 years. The researchers said this meant the “quantum supremacy”, when quantum computers carry out calculations that had previously been impossible, had been achieved.
2. Google’s chief executive has warned politicians against knee-jerk regulation of artificial intelligence, arguing that existing rules may be sufficient to govern the new technology. Sundar Pichai said that AI required “smart regulation” that balanced innovation with protecting citizens. While many regulators are more focused on tackling Google over antitrust than AI at the moment, the company is keen to avoid repeating some of the tech industry’s past mistakes by working in “partnership between government and businesses."
3. The Federal Reserve stepped up its efforts to reduce volatility in short-term lending markets, announcing on Friday that it would inject up to $90 billion in two-week loans into the financial system starting next week. The new facility was revealed after the Federal Reserve Bank of New York offered overnight loans for a fourth consecutive day, helping steady conditions in the US repo market, where banks and investors make short-term loans in exchange for Treasuries and other high quality collateral. The central bank said that it would expand its interventions beyond overnight loans after the lending rate for two-week funds rose sharply — an indication that investors were anticipating a fresh financing squeeze at the end of the quarter, when companies and traders settle their accounts. The new two-week loans will be offered in three operations on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
4. A former top Federal Reserve official, who oversaw the U.S. central bank’s trading desk, has warned that the type of actions taken so far to quell this week’s turmoil in money markets may not be enough to keep conditions calm and fresh debt purchases may be needed. Simon Potter, the former New York Fed executive, made the remarks during a conference call that Bank of America hosted for its clients, according to three people who listened. Potter cautioned that policy makers may have to expand the central bank’s balance sheet through outright purchases of U.S. Treasury securities, to ensure stable liquidity conditions at the end of the quarter as well as at year-end, said the people, who declined to be named because the call was private.
5. Donald Trump said he did not need to secure a deal with China to end the trade war before the 2020 election, as the US president stressed that he wanted a comprehensive pact and would not settle for a narrow agreement. “We’re looking for a complete deal. I’m not looking for a partial deal,” Mr Trump said, rejecting suggestions that he needed an agreement for his re-election campaign. “I don’t think I need it before the election. I think people know that we’re doing a great job,” the president said at a joint news conference on Friday with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.
6. A Chinese trade delegation canceled a planned visit to farms in the U.S. heartland, driving down stock indexes as investors turned pessimistic on progress toward resolving the two nations’ trade war. The cancellation came only about an hour after President Donald Trump said he wasn’t interested in “a partial deal” with China based on Beijing increasing its purchases of U.S. agricultural products. U.S. and Chinese officials held negotiations this week and are aiming for a high-level meeting around October 10.
7. The net worth of American households grew in the second quarter, but at a slower rate than the prior quarter. Household net worth grew 1.64% in the second quarter to $113.5 trillion, compared to a 4.99% growth rate in the previous three-month period. However, the first-quarter growth was largely a bounceback after stock-market declines produced a contraction in household wealth in 2018’s fourth quarter.
8. On the eve of the recession at the end of 2007, 12.8 percent of prime-age (25-54) men didn’t have jobs. Now that figure stands at 13.7 percent. The headline unemployment rate for this group has fallen—from four percent to 3.1 percent—but only because many of these men have simply given up looking for work. When they stopped actively searching for jobs, they no longer qualified as “unemployed.” Instead, the government labeled them as “out of the labor force,” a designation that lowers the unemployment rate but is no less harmful to the economy. The exodus of prime-age men from the workforce depresses overall workforce participation and swells the (already teeming) ranks of the non-employed. In total, 8.5 million men aged 25 to 54 are either unable to find a job or no longer looking for one.
9. Britons are £128 a year worse off on average than they were in 2008, according to a report that reveals household incomes were hit harder in the wake of the financial crash than official figures have revealed.
10. Four out of 10 Japanese corporate chiefs believe the global economy is on the decline, a Nikkei poll released Friday shows, the worst outlook in seven years indicating a sense of fatigue from the U.S.-China trade war. The percentage of respondents saying the global economy is deteriorating, or deteriorating moderately, adds up to 41.3%, up 13.5 points from the previous quarterly poll. The share exceeds those who believe the global economy is expanding.
11. Until last year, India, with a population of 1.3 billion people, was the world’s fastest-growing large economy, routinely clocking growth of 8 percent or more. Now the government pegs the country’s growth at 5 percent. And the layoff notices are piling up, with unemployment at 8.4 percent and rising, according to the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy. India’s reversal of fortunes, partly driven by domestic problems like neglected farmers, is ominous for other developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America that are trying to navigate both the weakening global economy and Mr. Trump’s fusillade of trade conflicts.
12. The U.S. yesterday said it would send military forces and hardware to Gulf allies and moved to sever some of Iran’s last ties to world markets, while preparing to outline a case for international action next week when world leaders gather at the United Nations. The sanctions on Iran’s central bank and two other major state financial institutions were punishment for attacks on critical oil supplies in Saudi Arabia. They came as the administration sought to steer clear of a military response, instead bolstering efforts to persuade the U.N. and European allies to join its sanctions campaign. “It’s going to hell,” President Trump said, referring to Iran’s economy. “All they have to do is stop with the terror.”
13. Iran will pursue any aggressor, even it carries out a limited attack, and seek to destroy it, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday, after attacks on Saudi oil sites which Riyadh and U.S officials blamed on Tehran. “Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited. "We will pursue any aggressor,” the head of the Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said in remarks broadcast on state TV. “We are after punishment and we will continue until the full destruction of any aggressor.”
14. Rare protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi erupted in central Cairo and several smaller Egyptian cities on Friday night as hundreds of young people, responding to online calls for demonstrations against government corruption, chanted “Down with Sisi” and “Leave now.” The protests, although small, occurred as Mr. el-Sisi flew to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly next week — and they were unusual for taking place at all.
15. Hong Kong police fired tear gas to disperse democracy protesters marching in sweltering heat on Saturday after pro-China groups pulled down some of the “Lennon Walls” of anti-government messages in the Chinese-ruled city. The first volley was fired when protesters hurled two petrol bombs toward an approaching police line. The marchers had converged on the town of Tuen Mun, in the west of the New Territories, where some set fire to a Chinese flag as others tore down wooden and metal fences and traffic bollards to build road blocks, at least one of which was set alight. Hong Kong has now seen 16 consecutive weekend protests, some of them massive.
16. President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden ’s son, according to people familiar with the matter, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump’s potential 2020 opponent. “He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” if his lawyer’s assertions that Mr. Biden acted improperly as vice president were true, one of the people said. Mr. Giuliani has suggested Mr. Biden’s pressure on Ukraine to fight corruption had to do with an investigation of a gas company for which his son was a director. A Ukrainian official this year said he had no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son Hunter Biden.
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