Syria, North Korea Dominate G8 Agenda; Fed Debates QE

Sitting atop the agenda at the G8 conference in London is not the financial crisis, but the ongoing conflicts in Syria and North Korea. Secretary of State John Kerry and other G8 foreign ministers met with Syrian rebels to determine whether additional support could and should be provided.

As the G8 met in London, proposed negotiations between the United Nations and the government of Bashar al-Assad regarding an investigation into allegations the Syrians used chemical weapons reached an impasse this week.

The foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States are set to discuss the North Korea crisis on Thursday, which will lay the groundwork for talks at the full G8 conference in June.

Underscoring the urgency to – at the very least – ease tensions in the Asian peninsula was the decision by the North Koreans to move missile launchers into firing position.

South Korea Moderates Stance In Effort To Ease Tensions
While the North Koreans have escalated their actions, the South sought to defuse tensions by calling for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.

“We hope the North Korean authorities come out to the dialogue table,” Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, South Korea’s point man on the North, said in a nationally televised statement, The New York Times reports.

Fed Minutes Show Strong Debate Over Quantitative Easing
Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s March meeting show a split among members on whether to press ahead with QE, while others voiced the opinion that if the labor market showed improvement that QE could be ended by year’s end.

The meeting occurred in mid-March – before the latest weak employment report. Bloomberg News reports that Vice Chairman Janet Yellen, Governor Daniel Tarullo, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, St. Louis’s James Bullard and Boston’s Eric Rosengren were among the officials who support Chairman Ben Bernanke’s decision to continue with  asset purchases until the job market improves “substantially.”

The actual release of the minutes was not without controversy as several banks, including JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, received them hours before their public release. The error served to heighten questions from critics regarding the Fed’s handling of proprietary information that could impact the markets.




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