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Vietnam protests Beijing’s sinking of South China Sea boat

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An aerial view of Qilianyu islands in the Paracel chain, which China considers part of Hainan province on August 10, 2018.

AFP via Getty Images

Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the disputed South China Sea.

The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, Vietnam’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted on a government website on Saturday.

All the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels operating nearby, the Vietnam Fisheries Society said in a statement posted to its website.

“The Chinese vessel committed an act that violated Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa archipelago and threatened the lives and damaged the property and legitimate interests of Vietnamese fishermen,” the foreign ministry said in its statement, referring to the Paracel Islands by its Vietnamese name.

Vietnam and China have for years been embroiled in a dispute over the potentially energy-rich stretch of water, called the East Sea by Vietnam.

The Vietnamese boat illegally entered the area to fish and refused to leave, the Chinese coast guard said late on Friday.

After making some dangerous maneuvers, the boat collided with a Chinese patrol vessel and sank, the Chinese coast guard said in a statement on its social media account.

The Chinese coast guard also said it had made solemn representations with the Vietnamese side.

The incident marks the second time in less than a year a Vietnamese fishing vessel has been reportedly sunk by a Chinese vessel near the China-controlled Paracels. 

A Chinese oil survey vessel conducted operations in Vietnamese-controlled waters for more than three months last year, causing a tense standoff between vessels from the two countries.

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Trump hints at US withdrawal from Afghanistan as election looms

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U.S. Marines conduct a security patrol in Southern Shorsurak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, during Operation New Dawn, June 20, 2010.

U.S. Marine Corps photo

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is evaluating a range of options for the eventual withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

It would be a colossal effort that could occur as soon as the November presidential election, according to The New York Times.

President Donald Trump, who campaigned on removing the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, took to Twitter on Wednesday to say that America’s role in the war-torn country has been reduced to a “police force” and not a “fighting force.”

“After 19 years, it is time for them to police their own Country. Bring our soldiers back home but closely watch what is going on and strike with a thunder like never before, if necessary!” wrote Trump, who is facing a challenge from former vice president Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee. 

The Pentagon would not give specifics on how many U.S. service members were currently serving in Afghanistan nor the options under consideration by the White House.

“I think it’s been clear for some time that the U.S. has been looking at different options and how we are going to continue with our presence in Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters at the Pentagon. “I would not share with you what potential options that we would be discussing with the president though,” he added.

“The bottom line is, we have said for many, many months and years now that the future of Afghanistan is going to be best suited for peace when there is an agreement between the inter-Afghan parties,” Hoffman said.

When asked by reporters during a White House event, Trump said Tuesday that the U.S. could go back to Afghanistan if needed.

“We can always go back if we have to. If we have to go back, we’ll go back, and we’ll go back raging,” he said.

U.S. Marines and Georgian Army soldiers run to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013.

U.S. Marine Corps photo

Earlier this year, the United States brokered a peace deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduce the U.S. military’s footprint from approximately 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July.

The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report.

The current U.S. military operations, designated Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq, and Operation Noble Eagle, have accounted for $266 billion of that sum.

Of the three current operations, Freedom’s Sentinel takes the lion’s share of costs at $193 billion.

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Market closes above a key milestone, setting up stocks for more gains

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The Wall Street Bull (The Charging Bull) is seen during Covid-19 pandemic in New York, on May 26, 2020.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The stock market closed above a key milestone and looks set to keep moving higher for now.

The S&P 500 broke above its 200-day moving average for a second day, but this time succeeded in closing above it. The S&P 500 surged 44 points to 3,036 on Wednesday, after trading weaker early in the day. Before this week, the S&P was last above the 200-day on March 5.

The 200-day happened to be at 3,000, a level that is also seen as psychologically important.

The market was helped Wednesday by a steadying in momentum names, like Netflix and Tesla that touched their lows of the day just before 11 a.m. ET.  The S&P 500 hit its low at about the same time, as the group which includes the FAANG names, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet, all started to turn higher.  

Those big tech names that have been drivers of the market took a rest this week, as traders focused on names that will benefit from a reopening economy, like airlines, banks and industrials. The S&P financial sector is up more than 9.6% this week so far, and industrials are up more than 7.%. Communications services, which includes internet names, was up just 0.8%.

“Another feather in the hat of the market for reclaiming the 200-day. We’ll see where it takes us,” said Scott Redler, partner with T3Live.com. “Tech had one more washout recovery to relieve some pressure and got back in line. I wouldn’t be surprised if tech acts better and the reopening trade takes a rest, like banks and the airlines.”

The 200-day is simply the average of the closing prices for the last 200 days for an index or even individual stock. In the case of the S&P 500, some investors view the 200-day as a line in the sand, where they will go long above  that level but not below it. That can generate interest in the market and help pull it higher.

Redler said the S&P 500 could face new resistance when the index reaches 3,080, a zone where the market broke down in March.

Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said the broadening out of the rally has been important and should help propel stocks. “The market has to figure out there’s more than one story to price,” he said, noting it would be hard to have a sustained rally without FAANG.

“In order to have a sustained rally, you needed broader participation. We still worry their fundamentals are not consistent with … gains we are seeing, especially in a lot of those smaller regional banks,” he said. Christopher said it’s unclear what kind of loan losses they could face in real estate, and from businesses like restaurants. 

“The rotation we’re seeing is a rotation to value, to small caps. It’s as if everything that got beaten up was getting a bid,” he said.

Christopher said there are headwinds for the market, including the rising tensions between the U.S. and China. That could come into focus later in the year, as the presidential election gets closer and candidates discuss China relations. For now, however, the V-shaped recovery is being seen as possible by some investors who see progress in the reopenings, he said.

“I don’t think this has registered yet,” Christopher said. “The market is still paying all of its attention to the accumulation of recent hopeful signs, not to cold hard facts, about a vaccine, a successful opening and a V-shaped recovery, which had been dismissed before.”

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Asia Pacific stocks set to jump as U.S.-China tensions ramp up

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China, raising questions over the special administrative region’s favorable trade relationship with the U.S.

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