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May 30, 2017

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US fiscal cliff worries extend losses in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Shares on the Taiwan Stock Exchange lost ground yesterday for a second day in a row amid escalating fears over a pending fiscal cliff in the United States that could trigger a recession.

Concerns over the potential fiscal crisis mounted after House Speaker John Boehner was unable to garner support from his own Republican Party to pass a bill that would have raised taxes on those with annual incomes of more than US$1 million, they said.

The deadlock was the latest signal that conservative Republicans have little appetite for tax concessions needed to reach a deal to avert the heavy tax increases and spending cuts that would be set off by going over the fiscal cliff. The measures would begin taking effect Jan. 1, and economists fear they could plunge the U.S. economy into a recession. Selling in the local bourse concentrated on the export-oriented high-tech sector as many investors were afraid the U.S. economy could soon be hurt by the looming austerity measures, weakening demand for electronics devices accordingly, they added.

The weighted index closed down 75.53 points, or 0.99 percent, at 7,519.93, after moving between 7,491.52 and 7,608.81, on turnover of NT$78.60 billion.

Separately, Taiwan's labor pension funds gained NT$15.8 billion in stocks in November, due to a sizable rally during that month, said the Labor Pension Supervisory Committee yesterday.

Cumulatively from January to November, the funds — made up of the labor pension old-system fund and new-system fund — have gained a total of NT$56.48 billion, which should more than make up for the NT$45.5 billion loss from last year. The NT$56.48 billion translated into an investment yield of 4.14 percent.

In October, the funds, which total NT$1.4 trillion, lost NT$14.6 billion in stocks, due to market sluggishness that resulted from the European debt crisis and lackluster earnings from the United States. The NT$14.6 billion added to a loss of NT$7.6 billion made by the labor insurance fund, another labor-related fund.

Things improved in November, resulting in higher returns gained by the labor pension funds, which raked in NT$15.8 billion.

"In November, the United States reported solid economic figures, while employment in the country also improved," the supervisory committee reported. "These positive numbers have led to a local stock rally, which in turn contributed to gains by the labor pension funds."

As for December, the agency also expects positive fund performance in stocks, which have been moving in a stable fashion thus far this month.

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