Opening Bell 7.20.18

More China tariffs; Putin hedges; Jenny McCarthy gets spooked and more!
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Trump Says He’s Ready to Impose Tariffs on $500 Billion in Chinese Imports [WSJ]

“We’re down a tremendous amount,” Mr. Trump told CNBC in an interview broadcast Friday, referring to U.S. trade with China.

Following the interview, Mr. Trump continued his criticism of the Federal Reserve in a pair of statements on Twitter. Tightening by the Fed “now hurts all that we have done,” he tweeted, after expressing his unhappiness with interest rate increases in a separate television interview Thursday.

“The U.S. should be allowed to recapture what was lost due to illegal currency manipulation and BAD Trade Deals. Debt coming due & we are raising rates - Really?” Mr. Trump wrote.

Earlier this month, the U.S. imposed levies on $34 billion of Chinese exports of machinery, components and electronics. Also scheduled are tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese electronics and other components.

Sanctions law behind Putin's request to Trump for former U.S. officials [Reuters]

Putin and advocates for the Kremlin’s position had had no success with the campaign - until Trump became president. The Magnitsky Act of 2012 is the backdrop of Putin’s proposal to Trump at the Helsinki meeting earlier this week that the United States give Russian officials access to former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, in exchange for allowing the FBI to question 12 Russian agents recently indicted for interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump was receptive to the suggestion, calling it “an interesting idea.” That created a fire storm of criticism among Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike. But on Thursday, the White House reversed course with spokeswoman Sarah Sanders saying, “It is a proposal made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it.”

The world’s ‘inward thinking’ is a threat to stocks, says Blackstone’s Byron Wien [MarketWatch]

Byron Wien is worried that an “inward shift” — a growing tendency to shut out the wider world — could sap interest away from riskier assets such as stocks.

The rise in tariffs and other trade-war fears figure prominently in Byron Wien’s jeremiad, of course.

But Wien, who delivers our call of the day, also is concerned about the U.S. ditching major alliances that deal with security and the environment.

What’s more, it’s troubling that companies are choosing to remain private, rather than sharing their growth with investors, says the vice chairman for Blackstone’s private wealth solutions group.

“All of these examples contribute to the theme that the world is becoming a place where inward thinking is on the rise,” he writes.

Putin Hedges Trump Bet by Dumping Treasuries to Safeguard Assets [Bloomberg]

A U.S. Treasury report this week appears to show Russia liquidating dollar assets at a record pace, selling four-fifths of its cache of U.S. government debt, $81 billion worth, over a two-month period. It started in April, when the U.S. imposed the most onerous sanctions yet on allies of Putin.

The release caused a stir in the markets because neither the Treasury nor the Bank of Russia will comment on the transactions. And the data is murky, so it’s hard to know if Russia actually offloaded the bulk of its U.S. assets or simply transferred custodianship to a foreign entity to disguise ownership.

But for Sergey Dubinin, Russia’s central bank chief from 1995 to 1998, there’s no mystery at all -- the sales were simply a prudent “hedge” against confiscation, a possibility that looks more likely every day. Russia, he said, has learned from Iran’s experience and is converting its dollar assets into other currencies to safeguard its reserves against any attempts at seizure.

Jenny McCarthy doesn't know what her Google Home sounds like, assumes it's a ghost [Android Police]

Actress Jenny McCarthy had a bit of a supernatural encounter this week, sort of. After checking herself out in the mirror in a room she believed to be otherwise unoccupied, she heard a little ditty play. Noting there was nobody sitting at the nearby piano, the renowned science skeptic proceeded to freak out, calling for her husband to let him know what was going on. Thankfully, she had a Nest Cam set up in the room, from which she promptly pulled the footage to post online as proof that her house is "HAUNTED!"

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