Biden says US has ‘commitment’ to defend Taiwan
US president Joe Biden vowed to defend Taiwan in the face of a potential Chinese attack, in the latest sign of mounting military tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Biden’s comments were made during a wide-ranging televised town hall hosted by CNN in Baltimore, which covered pivotal tax-and-spending negotiations on Capitol Hill, as well as rising prices including for energy.
“I don’t want a Cold War with China. I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back, we are not going to change any of our views,” Biden said. When asked if the US would come to Taiwan’s defence in the event of a Chinese attack, the US president responded: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that”.
Biden’s comments were slightly more explicit than similar ones he made last month about America’s resolve to defend Taiwan in the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which US officials were then forced to clarify.
The Taiwan Relations Act, passed when Washington normalised relations with Beijing in 1979, requires the US to help Taiwan defend itself but does not bind the two in a formal defense alliance. US officials believe this “strategic ambiguity” about what Washington would do in the event of a Chinese attack on Taiwan has helped keep the peace between the two adversaries.
Asia morning markets: Stocks unmoved by looming Evergrande deadline
Asian equities opened largely flat ahead of a looming bond repayment deadline for Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer, after US markets capped off a seven-day winning streak to close at a record high.
The blue-chip S&P 500 index closed up 0.3 per cent on Thursday, led by technology stocks such as Microsoft, Tesla, Netflix and Amazon. The gains took the index past a previous peak of seven weeks ago. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note rose 0.03 percentage points to 1.69 per cent.
Asian Markets were mixed on Friday morning, with investors weighing both the crucial payment deadline and the strong performance of US stocks.
Japan’s Topix opened down 0.4 per cent but quickly rose to make gains of as much as 0.3 per cent in early trading. South Korea’s Kospi was flat at the open but notched early losses of as much as 0.3 per cent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat at the open and moved little in early trading.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.4 per cent at the open.
Queen Elizabeth spent night in hospital following cancellation of Northern Ireland trip
The UK’s Queen Elizabeth spent Wednesday night in hospital, Buckingham Palace announced on Thursday, in an indication that her current illness could be more serious than initially indicated.
The Queen on Wednesday cancelled a scheduled trip to Northern Ireland, saying she had “reluctantly” accepted medical advice to rest for the next few days.
In an unexpected statement issued on Thursday evening, the palace said the monarch had attended hospital on Wednesday afternoon for “some preliminary investigations”. She returned to her home at Windsor castle at lunchtime on Thursday and remained “in good spirits,” the statement said.
The Queen, who is 95, lost her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in April this year at the age of 99.
The statement gave no details on which hospital the monarch had attended or the nature of the illness being investigated.
US House vote finds Bannon in criminal contempt
The US House of Representatives voted on Thursday to hold Steve Bannon, a former top aide to Donald Trump, in criminal contempt for his refusal to co-operate with a congressional probe into the attack on the US Capitol on January 6.
The Democrat-controlled House voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in criminal contempt, with nine Republicans joining 220 Democrats in voting to sanction him for failing to comply with a subpoena from a special committee investigating January 6.
The vote marks a major escalation of lawmakers’ pursuit of Trump and his allies in the wake of the Capitol siege that interrupted the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory. Bannon’s case will now be handed to the US Department of Justice, which will decide whether to pursue misdemeanour criminal charges against him.
Thursday’s vote comes just days after Trump sued the January 6 committee and the US National Archives in an attempt to prevent the release of nearly 50 documents relating to his presidency. The former president has argued that the documents can remain sealed — and his allies can stay quiet — because of executive privilege, a legal convention that means certain presidential communications can be held in secret.
S&P 500 caps seven-day winning streak with record high close
The S&P 500 staked out a new high on Thursday, with the US equities benchmark surpassing a previous peak made seven weeks ago as strong corporate earnings bolstered the mood on Wall Street.
The index closed up 0.3 per cent, led by technology stocks such as Microsoft, Tesla, Netflix and Amazon. The stock price of electric vehicle maker Tesla rose to a record high after beating earnings late on Wednesday.
Thursday marks the seventh consecutive day of gains for the S&P 500, the longest winning streak since June 2021. The index ended the longest period without a new record since November 2020.
The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite added 0.6 per cent, but remains about 1 per cent below its record high in early September.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note rose 0.03 percentage points to 1.69 per cent. The yield, which moves inversely to the price of the security, has climbed from about 1.3 per cent a month ago as traders have sold Treasuries in anticipation of the Federal Reserve reducing its $120bn a month of pandemic-era bond purchases. High inflation has also piled pressure on Fed policymakers to raise interest rates from their current record low.
Read more about the day’s market moves here.
What to watch in Asia today
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministers from the Asia-Pacific trade group APEC will meet virtually today to discuss pressing topics such as the pandemic recovery and climate change.
Inflation: Japan releases its consumer and producer price indices data for the month today.
Price Manufacturing Indices: IHS Markit releases its monthly manufacturing and services PMIs — measures of economic activity — for Japan and Australia.
Reserve Bank of Australia: The RBA governor Philip Lowe speaks on a panel with the Universidad de Chile today. Investors will scrutinise his comments for clues as to the future trajectory of monetary policy.
Meetings: Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett will meet Russian president Vladimir Putin during a visit to the country.