ECONOMISTS: HARD BREXIT WOULD HIT GERMAN AUTO INDUSTRY HARD

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 A no-deal Brexit could affect more than 100,000 jobs in Germany, and regions of the country with Volkswagen and BMW factories would be among those worst hit, according to economists at a prominent nonprofit institute.

The economists from the Halle Institute for Economic Research said Monday they modeled what would happen if imports to Britain from the remaining European Union countries fell 25 percent due to the absence of a negotiated trade agreement when Britain leaves the EU. ,

After calculating the effects — in theory — on 401 German regions, the researchers found the auto industry would be the sector most affected. They said the city of Wolfsburg in northcentral Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered, was one of the places that would see the most jobs affected. So would the Dingolfing-Landau region in southern Bavaria, where BMW has manufacturing facilities.

Another region that would be hit is the Maerkischer Kreis region in western Germany, where there are many export-oriented small and medium-size firms.

The authors, Hans-Ulrich Brautzsch and Oliver Holtemoeller, cautioned the figures do not predict the precise numbers of people who would be laid off. Companies could put workers on shorter hours or find other markets.

Still, “a hard Brexit would disrupt global value creation chains,” Holtemoeller said in a statement accompanying the report. “Therefore, an exit by Britain from the EU without an agreement could mean significant losses in well-being. From the economic point of view, it must be hoped that an agreement is reached.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been unable to win a majority in parliament for a negotiated agreement setting out the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU, which is set to take place on March 29.

Unless lawmakers approved a deal or the withdrawal date is pushed back, customs duties would be levied on Britain’s imports from and exports to the 27 remaining nations in the free-trade bloc.

Part of the institute’s reasoning for saying autos would be the German sector that suffers most is a no-deal exit would mean 10 percent import duties on cars and car parts, according to the Halle report. The duties would add costs and hassles to trade, and increase prices for imported goods to consumers.

The German auto industry has some 15,000 jobs related to trade with Britain, or about 0.9 percent of total employment in the sector, according to the report.

Fashion Gets Down and Dirty

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n Saturday evening, a small group of German coal miners — in full gear, from headlamps to black boots — marched into Times Square to sing a song. The men’s coal-streaked faces were somber as they clutched their dust-smeared white overalls and sang the “Steigerlied,” the traditional miner’s song with origins in the 16th century, to a small, somewhat confused crowd of onlookers.

Was it a protest? A political demonstration? A happening?

No: It was Part 1 of a two-part fashion week event.

The miners came from Bottrop, a city in western Germany, where the country’s last coal mine closed in December, marking the end of an industry that played a vital role in Germany’s postwar economic success.

Facing unemployment, some planned to retire early; others would be retrained through government programs for different jobs: on railways, in power plants and for airplane manufacturers. But they were in New York because a small German fashion brand had come up with a different idea.

“I wanted to find a way to pay tribute to the heroic, hard labor that has been done here for generations,” said Matthias Bohm, the founder of the label Grubenhelden, whose pieces are based on the uniform that German coal miners have been wearing for hundreds of years.

“I chose clothes as my medium because you are permanently in touch with them,” Mr. Bohm, 36, said. “The Ruhr region — this dirty, gray, industrial area — is the reason Germany is what it is.”

Mr. Bohm’s grandfather was a miner who dug for coal with his hands, using a hammer and chisel, and the label’s entire team — four full-time employees and 14 temporary staff members, including three miners — come from coal country.

“It’s a part of Germany that people gave up on,” Mr. Bohm said, his voice cracking with emotion. But “it’s my home, and I must give my home something back.”

Founded in 2016, Grubenhelden — the label’s name translates to “pit heroes” — is defined by the blue-and-white-striped fabric of the traditional miner’s work shirt, incorporated into pieces like formal shirts, caps and zip-up hoodies.

Splotched T-shirts and leggings are hand-printed with coal, rubbed into the fabric and mixed with black paint to achieve a unique texture. And a 1930s-era miner’s formal coat, which once belonged to a miner named Aloys, has become the model for a new line of jackets made from wool, velvet and the original hammer and chisel buttons.

The traditional attire speaks to the current trend toward work wear and utility clothing, and has proved surprisingly popular in Germany: In 2017 Mr. Bohm won the Tacken award, which recognized Grubenhelden as one of western Germany’s most successful start-ups. That’s when he decided to bring it to New York.

“I have the chance to tell this regional history on the biggest stage in fashion,” Mr. Bohm said. He secured sponsors — Eurowings, Innside by Melia, and the European Regional Development Fund, among others — to help cover airfare and hotel for not only the collection, but also 30 people, including four miners. Most had never been out of Europe.

“It’s like a fairy tale,” said Christian Strzecha, 26, of coming with the label to fashion week. Tall and stocky, Mr. Strzecha began working in the mine a decade ago. He comes from a long line of miners and speaks with the earthy, rough vernacular of his milieu. “I once did a catwalk in high school, but it was only our parents watching, not the whole world of fashion.”

Germany: Texas Museum Stands by Ownership of Disputed Art

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BERLIN (AP) — A HOUSTON museum said Friday it “stands by its ownership” of a painting on loan to an exhibition in Germany which is being claimed as Nazi-looted art.

Henri Edmond Cross’ “Regatta in Venice” was loaned by Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts for a show on the French artist at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. Heirs of Jewish French collector Gaston Levy say it was stolen from their family by the Nazis and have filed a legal request for its return.

The Texas museum said it made a legal filing in Potsdam on Thursday. It said in a statement that “based on the facts of the provenance research, the museum stands by its ownership of ‘Regatta in Venice.'”

It said in its filing that no proof has been presented that the plaintiffs are Levy’s rightful heirs, and that Levy didn’t claim compensation for the piece in 1956 when he filed claims for other pieces in his collection, among them other pieces by Cross.

A lawyer for the heirs, Christoph Partsch, said last week that the painting was confiscated by the Nazis in 1940. He said his clients had found out only now about the existence of the missing painting and were demanding its return. He said the family lives in Europe, but didn’t want to further identify them.

The Houston museum said the painting was restituted in 1949 to Natasha Flieglers, a Paris-based collector then living in New York, and that she consigned it to the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York for sale in 1953.

The following year, it said, the painting was sold by the gallery to Oveta Culp Hobby, who donated it to the museum in 1958. It said “this is contrary to the claimants’ assertions that the painting was smuggled out of France by Mrs. Hobby.”

It wasn’t immediately clear when the Potsdam state court will rule on the claim.

Germany considers barring Huawei from 5G networks

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Berlin: The German government is debating whether to follow the United States and allies like Australia in restricting China’s Huawei Technologies from accessing its next-generation mobile networks on national-security grounds.

Some Western countries have barred Huawei from their markets after US officials briefed allies that Huawei is at the beck and call of the Chinese state, warning that its network equipment may contain “back doors” that could open them up to cyber espionage. Huawei says such concerns are unfounded.

While no concrete steps have been decided upon, business daily Handelsblatt reported on Thursday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration was actively considering stricter security requirements and other ways to exclude Huawei.

Officials were discussing setting security standards that Huawei could not achieve, effectively blocking its participation. Changes to the German telecommunications law were also under consideration as a last resort, the paper said, citing government sources.

No decisions have yet been taken, according to a written answer by the Interior Ministry to a question from lawmaker Katharina Droege of the opposition Greens party.

“The process of reaching a common view on concrete steps has not been completed,” said the Interior Ministry’s response, which was seen by Reuters.

Europe has become a crucial battleground in a struggle between Beijing and Washington that analysts say could determine which of the two superpowers achieves technological supremacy in the 21st century.

Huawei, once a fast follower of Nordic firms Nokia and Ericsson, is now a $93 billion global market leader in an industry where there is no US champion.

US Legislation

In Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced bills on Wednesday that would ban the sale of US chips or other components to Huawei, ZTE Corp or other Chinese telecommunications companies that violate US sanctions or export control laws.

Germany’s Deutsche Telekom announced in December that it would review its vendor strategy and France’s Orange said it would not hire the Chinese firm to build its next-generation network in France.

Tensions have been heightened by the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer in Canada for possible extradition to the United States.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, in a rare public appearance this week, said his company had never received a request from a government to transmit information in violation of any regulations.

The deliberations in Berlin mark a shift from the German government’s position in October when it told lawmakers it saw no legal basis to exclude any vendors from an upcoming 5G auction following warnings from Washington.

In a statement, Huawei welcomed Berlin’s push to verify and standardise technology solutions which it has supported by opening an information lab in Bonn to help regulators scrutinise its gear.

“We are very optimistic that we can completely fulfil all security requirements for 5G networks,” Huawei said. “We see no rational grounds to exclude Huawei from the construction of 5G networks in any country around the world.”

Germany to let NATO use its cyber skills

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BRUSSELS, Belgium – Germany is to join the ranks of NATO countries making its cyber warfare skills available to the alliance to help fight hacking and electronic warfare, officials told the Agence France-Presse on Thursday, February 14.

NATO has designated cyberspace as a conflict domain alongside land, sea, and air and says electronic attacks by the likes of Russia and China – but also criminals and so-called “hacktivists” – are becoming more frequent and more destructive.

German officials used a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday to tell allies that Berlin would make its cyber capabilities available, including offensive elements, sources said.

The US, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Estonia have all made their offensive cyber weapons available to the alliance – and announced it publicly – in the expectation that the threat of counterattack may deter would-be aggressors.

As with other military resources such as tanks and jets, alliance members retain control over their cyber capabilities and make them available to NATO when requested for missions and operations.

Targets for offensive cyber tactics can include anything with an internet connection, including computers and smartphones, right up to devices which control key machinery at power plants and transport networks.

Russia is seen by the West as the biggest cyber threat after a string of attacks blamed on the Kremlin on targets including world sports bodies, the US Democratic Party and the world chemical weapons watchdog in the Netherlands.

In a sign of the growing importance NATO countries attach to cyber, this year Britain said it would spend 65 million pounds (74 million euros/$83 million) on offensive capabilities

US stocks mixed on earnings, weak retail sales

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StocksOpens a New Window. closed in a tight range Thursday after the U.S. retail salesOpens a New Window. report for December showed a big decline and quarterly earnings reports were mixed.

Retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years in December, tumbling 1.2 percent while the Wall Street expectation had been for an increase of 0.2 percent. The report was one of the data points that was delayed by a 35-day partial government shutdown.

Shares of Coca-Cola fell as profit of 43 cents a share was in line with expectations, while revenue fell 6 percent. The beverage giant’s full-year profit forecast is well below Wall Street expectations.

Amazon stock closed lower while home improvement chains Home Depot and Lowe’s Companies also slipped.

Shares of Bloomin’ Brands rose after the parent of the Outback Steakhouse restaurant chain beat fourth-quarter profit and sales expectations, and provided an upbeat full-year outlook.

Oil prices increased more than 1 percent, lifting shares of energy companies like Marathon Oil.

Meanwhile, Amazon shocked New York CityOpens a New Window. on Thursday by saying that it will not go ahead with a previously announced plan to build a major corporate campus, dubbed “HQ2,” in the city after facing strong opposition from local and state lawmakers and some area residents, according to a statement.

The Seattle-based corporation said it is not reopening its search process at this time and will continue as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville.

Investors were also keeping an eye on trade talks between the U.S. and China being held in Beijing. Optimism that a deal can be struck by the Mar. 1 deadline has helped to send the S&P and Nasdaq to four days of gains.

Congress Opens a New Window.is also taking up the spending bill on border security that will prevent another partial government Opens a New Window.shutdown. The proposal still does not meet President Trump’sOpens a New Window. request for $5.7 billion to help build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Senate and House of Representatives aimed to pass the legislation by late Thursday. Upon its expected passage, Trump was expected to sign it into law.

Producer pricesOpens a New Window. fell for a second straight month in January, leading to the smallest annual increase in 1-1/2 years. With inflation being held at bay it could keep the Fed on hold concerning interest rates. Prices dipped 0.1 percent, putting PPI for 12 months at 2 percent.

Initial claims for jobless benefits rose last week by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 239,000.

In Asian markets on Thursday, China’s Shanghai Composite closed almost 0.1 percent lower.  Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was off 0.2 percent and Japan’s Nikkei finished the day flat.

In Europe, the major markets finished mostly lower. London’s FTSE gained 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX declined 0.7 percent and France’s CAC was off 0.2 percent.

China data deals another blow to European shares

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LONDON (Reuters) – Weak inflation data from China sent European stocks slipping further on Friday, with car shares and Germany’s DAX the worst hit.

The German index, the most sensitive to China due to its large share of exporters, fell 0.6 percent with car manufacturers BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen (DE:VOWG_p) leading losses.

Europe’s STOXX 600 managed, barely, to hover flat as gains in telecoms and industrials helped offset the China strain.

Telecom Italia (MI:TLIT) was another top gainer, up 7.5 percent after a source said Italian state lender CDP has authorisation to increase its stake in the firm to 10 percent within the next 12 months.

Eutelsat on the other hand sank 9.2 percent, the biggest faller on the STOXX, after its first half results. A trader said the company’s CEO A talked down the possibility of consolidation in the industry.

Swedish defence firm Saab climbed 6 percent after its fourth-quarter earnings beat expectations and it forecast better margins and sales in 2019.

The European market was already dragged down on Thursday by very weak U.S. retail sales data. It was nonetheless on track for its first weekly gain in four, having hit a three-month high on Wednesday.

M&A also moved some shares.

German internet portal Scout24 surged up 12 percent to the top of the STOXX after it welcomed a higher offer from a private equity consortium of Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone (NYSE:BX).

French media giant Vivendi (PA:VIV) climbed 4.6 percent after reporting strong results for its Universal Music Group arm, and confirming it would soon select financial advisors to sell a stake of up to 50 percent in UMG.

German insurer Allianz (DE:ALVG) hovered around flat after it reported results in line with expectations.