• Biden Says Trump Will Leave White House: Campaign Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden says he isn’t concerned that Donald Trump could refuse to leave office if he loses the November election.Given how he’s treated the military, the intelligence agencies and the FBI, “I have no worry about him being escorted out of the White House,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said Wednesday at a CNN town hall in Charleston, South Carolina.Biden was also asked if he had a message for Trump if he was watching the interview.“Mr. President, we have a democratic process,” Biden said, staring directly into the camera. “When the voters speak, they are heard and they have to be responded to. Now, if you’re worried about somehow someone interfering in our election, why don’t you do something about Russia now?Trump Opening Offices in Black Neighborhoods (4:52 p.m.)President Donald Trump’s campaign said Wednesday it will open offices in African-American neighborhoods in key swing-state cities like Milwaukee and Detroit.The campaign plans to open 15 Black Voices for Trump Community Centers in cities with significant numbers of black voters, including Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Philadelphia and Charlotte.A mock-up of one such community center from the campaign shows a storefront with a photo of Trump and Alice Johnson, a black woman he granted clemency.A sign trumpets the “promises made, promises kept” slogan as well as the phrases “school choice,” “criminal justice reform” and “HBCUs,” the acronym for historically black colleges and universities.Exit polls showed Trump won 8% of black voters in the 2016 election, 4 percentage points less than the average of nearly 12% among Republican presidential candidates between 1968 and 2004. His supporters think even a modest improvement in 2020 could make a win much harder for the Democratic nominee. -- Mario ParkerSouth Carolina Conservatives Want Sanders (4:22 p.m.)Some South Carolina conservatives are urging Republican voters to cross party lines and back Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.The goal: to help secure the nomination of the candidate they think is most likely to lose to President Donald Trump in November.“We think we have the opportunity here to get enough Republicans to vote to swing four or five or six points to help Senator Sanders win on Saturday,” said Stephen Brown, former chairman of the Greenville County Republican Party, according to the Greenville News.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned about that kind of logic on Tuesday, however. “I think Republicans speculating about which Democratic candidate for president being easiest to beat may be a bit foolish,” he said.After all, some Democrats thought Trump winning the Republican nomination in 2016 meant they would have easier sailing in the general election.Biden Looks to Black Voters on Super Tuesday (2:15 p.m.)Former Vice President Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday ad buy is relatively small and comes late in the game, but it is telling.The Biden campaign said Wednesday that it will be launching a six-figure ad campaign on stations and shows with large African-American audiences in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.In North Carolina and Texas, the campaign will also air radio ads on stations with African-American listeners encouraging early voting.After faring poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire and losing to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in Nevada, Biden is counting on his lead in South Carolina, where he has been boosted by higher support among black voters, to give him some momentum.But recent polls have shown Sanders gaining ground among black voters, which would undermine Biden’s strategy. -- Jennifer EpsteinPelosi Plays Down Concerns About Sanders (1:56 p.m.)Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday played down concerns that Bernie Sanders would cost Democrats the House of Representatives.Although some moderate Democrats have worried that having a self-identified democratic socialist as the nominee might hurt them down-ballot, the speaker said she wasn’t concerned about losing her majority.“I think whoever our nominee is, we will enthusiastically embrace and we will win the White House, the Senate and the House,” she said.Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg argued at Tuesday’s debate that Sanders would hurt the party’s other candidates.“If you want to keep the House in Democratic hands, you might want to check with the people who actually turned the House blue -- 40 Democrats, who are not running on your platform,” he said. “They are running away from your platform as fast as they possibly can.”COMING UPSouth Carolina will hold its primary on Saturday, Feb. 29. Fourteen states and one U.S. territory will vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)\--With assistance from Jennifer Epstein and Mario Parker.To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Teague Beckwith in Washington, D.C. at rbeckwith3@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Epstein in Charleston, South Carolina at jepstein32@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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  • The World’s Most China-Reliant Economy Reels From Virus Shockwaves

    (Bloomberg) -- The coronavirus hit has exposed the extraordinary depth of Australia’s economic dependence on China and fueled questions over whether the nation is too reliant on the Asian behemoth.That dependence is on display in the Western Australian coastal town of Geraldton, where an ocean “dragon” fires the incomes of local fishermen. The Longxia, literally dragon shrimp in Mandarin, is prized at celebrations in China for its rich red color, horns and spine that remind Chinese of the mythical creature. The coronavirus shutdown on the eve of Lunar New Year means Geraldton’s fishing fleet is stuck at port during this traditionally bountiful period.Matt Rutter, CEO of Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative, estimates the rocklobster catch between then and the end of March would normally be close to 2 million kilos, with a market value of more than A$120 million ($79 million). But not this year - boat captains, deckhands, truck drivers, export packers and others have seen little work and even less cash.“It’s the first time there’s been a stop on fishing,” Rutter said.Australia is the most China-reliant economy in the developed world, with about a third of its exports going there. Chinese nationals making up roughly 38% of its foreign students and 15% of its tourists.“We’re getting a test run on what many people worried might have happened as a result of political tensions, but instead it’s a result of a health crisis,” said Richard McGregor, author of ‘The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers’ and a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “So we’ll see how the Australian economy holds up and we’ll get a test of the ability of various sectors like tourism and education to diversify their customer base.”A shipment of honey illustrates how quickly the scales have turned. In December, wellness and nutrition group Eve Investments struck its first deal with a Chinese distributor for organic honey from its Meluka Australia brand. The shipping container holding that order of more than 21,000 units from its property outside Ballina on the New South Wales north coast is now being held up on the docks in Sydney, awaiting clearance from its destination port in Shanghai.“The biggest issue at the moment is one of logistics. With some of the ports sending people home, it does complicate getting product in there in a timely manner,” said Managing Director Bill Fry.For now - like many Australian businesspeople - Fry remains fixed on the massive dividends a country of 25 million can reap by tapping into the demand of 1.4 billion people. Longer term, the virus could drive demand for Meluka honey as people turn to products with medicinal value “to try and boost their immune systems,” Fry said.Ben Woodward, who along with his two brothers runs the CaPTA Group, with nature parks and jungle tours across Far North Queensland, says the cascading effect of the coronavirus’s fallout is in a league of its own.“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “It doesn’t just affect tourism, the spillover affects other industries like retail, transport, cafes and so forth as well.”The family - whose business started back in 1976 - has cut hours for some of the 200-odd staff across its butterfly sanctuary, wildlife reserve and other businesses.It’s smaller firms in Australia that are “working-capital dependent” that are most at risk, said Tim Toohey, a former chief economist for Australia at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. He expressed surprise the government hasn’t put in place a system to cushion the blow.“It wouldn’t cost a lot, and it would probably save a lot of jobs and businesses that would be very hard to restart again,” said Toohey, now at Yarra Capital Management.The terrible timing of the hit to fishing and tourism was matched by the blow to Australia’s education sector - the fourth-largest export industry.In Sydney, the nation’s oldest university is scrambling to cope with 15,000 Chinese visa holders locked out by the travel restrictions just as the academic year begins. The danger is Chinese parents will pull their children out of Australian institutions and instead send them to the U.K. or Canada, where the year begins in August or September.Officials at Sydney University are trying to be flexible and keep communication open, with a dedicated web site and videos for Chinese students. It’s made clear they can catch up if needed and that there are alternative paths if the travel ban is prolonged. Chinese nationals made up just under a quarter of the university’s total student population in 2019.Students will “have the option to defer or withdraw without penalty by the final census date of 31 March 2020,” said Michael Spence, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Sydney.The one-child policy has meant that Chinese students have the most disposable income of any international group. That produces a “ripple impact” on accommodation providers, cafes and restaurants when their spending dries up.Australia’s retail industry, already struggling for sales among frugal customers, is also in the firing line. Major outlets like Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. and JB Hi-Fi Ltd. face potential shortfalls of stock. China is the key source for mobile phones, computers and televisions, and for Harvey Norman, furniture and mattresses and cushions.Should a supply shortage emerge, it will be difficult to offer the sales and discounts that have been necessary to bring customers through the door. The scale of China’s dominance in these sectors means there isn’t another country that can easily step in to make up the shortfall. That could trigger something unseen for almost 20 years: inflation on electrical and other consumer goods.The ripple effect across Australia’s economy has rekindled the question of whether the country is too concentrated on supplying and being supplied by China - a debate that has flared before, but never with such a compelling backdrop.Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe in the past has argued that Australia would find alternative markets if Chinese demand waned, but prices would probably be lower and therefore the country wouldn’t be as prosperous. The central bank - which hit pause on last year’s interest-rate cuts for fear of driving up home prices and debt - is clearly worried about the growth risks.“The outbreak presented a material near-term risk to the economic outlook for China and for international trade flows, and thereby the Australian economy,” the RBA said in minutes of its Feb. 4 meeting, where it kept rates at a record-low 0.75%.S&P Global Ratings said Australia faces a “material knock to growth” from the virus, and has cut its GDP forecasts by half a percentage point. It expects the RBA to respond by easing twice more this year, taking the cash rate to its estimated lower bound of 0.25%.Even before the virus, Australia’s government was trying to diversify export markets with a series of free-trade agreements. The latest was with northern neighbor Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country; and it’s still negotiating one with India, on track to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation this decade.Australia is also in talks with the European Union and U.K. and has inked deals with Japan and South Korea and joined the regional pact formerly known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, until President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out.But it’s hard to escape China. Even where Australia started off with diverse customers, such as with its vast liquefied natural gas projects, Beijing is increasing its purchases of the fuel each year.Up in northwest Australia, site of major iron ore mines and offshore LNG projects - the No. 1 and No. 3 exports - the news is better. Iron ore ships take 14 days or so to sail to China, covering the quarantine period, and LNG is relatively well insulated by long-term contracts. But prices have slid as traders factor in the blow to demand; that impact will eventually find its way to Australians’ pockets.High iron ore, coal and natural gas prices are key to the terms of trade - the economy’s income - and this filters through taxes to government coffers, underpins Australia’s AAA credit rating, and makes its way to households in the form of welfare payments, tax cuts or health and education spending. In other words, a threat to commodities revenue is a threat to Australia’s financial muscle.Longer term, there’s another side to the picture. China’s top leaders have signaled they are planning to increase stimulus this year through fiscal and monetary policy. When China stimulates, it tends to build, and while observers don’t expect anything on the scale of 2009 after the global financial crisis, the injection is set to translate into demand for steel-making iron ore.What Bloomberg’s Economists Say...“China’s vast supply of goods has seen Australia’s income stretch further, and purchase more, than ever before. So to lose your largest customer and largest supplier at the same time is a shock of unfathomed proportions. The longer the disruptions persist, the deeper the unknowns and the larger the shock becomes for the economy.”- James McIntyre, economistAustralia’s currency has depreciated a bit over 3% in the past month as investors - who use the Aussie as a proxy for China - pushed it to decade lows in response to the crisis. Even still, John Pearce of UniSuper worries that the financial market still isn’t grasping the scale of the crisis.“We have the world’s second-largest economy, the world’s engine of global growth, effectively in shutdown. It’s only a matter of time before this starts impacting on short-term corporate profitability,” said Pearce, CIO at the A$85 billion pension fund. “I’m astounded at how complacent the market has been.”Rutter of the Geraldton fishermen’s coop says boat owners are waiting for the lobster market to re-stabilize to get skippers and deckhands out to sea, and onshore staff like truck drivers and export packers back to work. Still, he’s philosophical: “All our concerns and the issues we face just pale into insignificance compared to what the Chinese people are going through.” \--With assistance from Ainslie Chandler and Matt Turner.To contact the author of this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at mheath1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Malcolm Scott at mscott23@bloomberg.net, Alexandra VeroudeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.