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November, 29: Five things to know to start the day

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo: Alex Edelman/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Trump says talks with the Taliban are back on, financial stress warning signs are flashing in China, Morgan Stanley ousts traders. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.

Taliban Talks

U.S. President Donald Trump took a surprise Thanksgiving trip to Afghanistan, where he revealed that peace talks with the Taliban have resumed. The president landed at Bagram Airfield around 8:30 p.m. local time Thursday and greeted U.S. soldiers over a turkey dinner before meeting with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani at the airfield’s Air Force headquarters. The U.S. wants the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and will continue to reduce its troop commitment to the region, Trump said. “The Taliban wants to make a deal and we’re meeting with them and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire, and they didn’t want to do a cease-fire and now they want to do a cease-fire — I believe it’ll probably work out that way,” the president said.

Warning Signs

From rural bank runs to surging consumer indebtedness and an unprecedented bond restructuring, mounting signs of financial stress in China are putting the nation’s policy makers to the test. Xi Jinping’s government faces an increasingly difficult balancing act as it tries to support the world’s second-largest economy without encouraging moral hazard and reckless spending. While authorities have so far been reluctant to rescue troubled borrowers and ramp up stimulus, the costs of maintaining that stance are rising as defaults increase and China’s slowdown deepens. For now, investors appear to be betting that policy makers can manage the country’s financial risks and keep the economy afloat.

Markets Move Up

Stocks in Asia looked set to nudge higher on the final trading day of November with a lack of fresh drivers due to the U.S. holiday. Futures in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia all pointed to modest gains. U.S. equity and bond markets were shut Thursday for Thanksgiving, while European shares slipped. Oil climbed as OPEC+ signaled it will stick with existing output cuts at next week’s meeting, and the dollar was little changed. Meanwhile, traders in Seoul will be watching out for commentary from the Bank of Korea, which is expected to keep its policy rate unchanged. Elsewhere, the Chilean peso set a record low for a second day and the central bank said it will directly intervene. Gold was at $1,456.27 an ounce, up 0.1%.

Ambiguous Ammunition

China is making a habit of issuing vague threats of retaliation. So far, however, it hasn’t actually done much. The foreign ministry issued its latest warning Thursday, after President Donald Trump signed bills backing Hong Kong’s protesters. Using language that mirrored a statement last week, Beijing said the U.S. should stop “sticking obstinately to its course or China will take resolute countermeasures.” China issued similar threats earlier this year after the U.S. approved arms sales to Taiwan, sanctioned companies over human-rights abuses in Xinjiang and put Huawei on a blacklist. But the failure to flesh out the details despite having weeks to prepare shows the difficulties China faces in hitting the U.S. without also hurting its own economy, which is growing at the slowest pace in almost three decades. Apart from implementing retaliatory tariffs against the U.S., China has largely stuck to a policy of “strategic composure” when it comes to other aspects of the relationship.

Traders Fired

Morgan Stanley fired or placed on leave at least four traders over an alleged mismarking of securities that concealed losses of between $100 million and $140 million, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The suspected mismarking was linked to emerging-market currencies, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the details are private. In so-called mismarking, the value placed on securities doesn’t reflect their actual worth. The scope of the probe at Morgan Stanley includes currency options that give buyers the right to trade at a set price in the future, enabling them to both speculate and hedge against potential losses. Two traders in New York and two in London have been identified in the probe.

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.


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