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Asian markets swing on tempered trade hopes, weak data

HONG KONG: Asian markets fluctuated Thursday as optimism over China-US trade talks was tempered by Donald Trump’s top negotiator, while investors also digested weak factory data from Beijing and fresh geopolitical tensions in Kashmir.
The global rally that has characterised most of this year took a knock after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers that real progress had been made with China, but a lot of work was still needed before a pact is signed.
While his comments did not derail expectations of an agreement at some point with both sides reporting good progress and Trump delaying a deadline for a deal it did give traders pause for thought, observers said.Lighthizer said a trade deal hasnt been agreed yet, bringing some reality back to euphoric markets post-Trumps tariff extension, despite the fact Lighthizer also announced both sides had agreed on an enforcement process, said OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.
After a negative lead from Wall Street, Asian markets swung Thursday and Tokyo went into the break 0.4 percent lower.Hong Kong was up 0.4 percent mid-morning, Shanghai gained 0.3 percent, Sydney put on 0.2 percent and Wellington was up 0.4 percent.But Singapore slipped 0.5 percent and Seoul shed 0.2 percent, while Jakarta retreated 0.5 percent and Manila lost 0.7 percent.
Also fuelling selling pressure was figures showing Chinese manufacturing activity contracted for a third straight month in February, with factories hit by the long Lunar New Year break, concerns about slowing growth and uncertainty from the trade row. Better sense-However, Zhou Hao, a senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank AG, said the results were likely not as bad as they seemed and the outlook could be positive.
I think we still want to wait for the next months reading as this months is distorted by the holiday, he said.Also the economy could stabilise this month.
Rising input prices suggest that there is no need to worry about deflation, so the question now rests on whether the economy has enough impetus.Nervousness continues to stalk trading floors after Pakistan and India said they had shot down each others fighter jets on Wednesday, fuelling worries of a conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
The developments followed the February 14 suicide bombing by militants in the disputed Kashmir region that that killed 40 Indian troops.Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called for better sense to prevail.With politicians on both nuclear-armed sides making soothing comments overnight, the trick will be finding a mutually face-saving path to de-escalate the situation. Of course, this will be much easier said than done, and the potential for hostilities to ratchet higher remains very high, Halley added.
On currency markets the pound held gains after touching a near eight-month high earlier Thursday after MPs gave Prime Minister Theresa May more time to work on her EU withdrawal deal after she promised they could delay Brexit if necessary.Sterling was also given a boost after the opposition Labour Party said it would back a second referendum, having lost a vote on its own Brexit plan Wednesday.

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Artmobile visits Staunton, Augusta County

Sixty-five years after the launch of its original Artmobile, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is once again bringing traveling art exhibitions .This state-of-the-art mobile museum and education studio will be in downtown Staunton on Sunday, Feb 24, 12:30-5 p.m. to help celebrate the Opening of the Staunton Augusta Art Centers Annual Juried Youth Art Show that same afternoon, noon-4 p.m.
There is no charge to board the ArtMobile or to visit the Art Center galleries.The ArtMobile will re-locate to the Woodrow Wilson Schools complex for group tours Monday, Feb 25 and Tuesday, Feb. 26, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Any groups may make reservations by calling the Art Center at 540-885-2028.
The general public may drop by to view the ArtMobile in the Fishersville complex, 4-6 p.m.
Monday, February 25.Visitors will be invited to board the new Artmobile to view the inaugural exhibition, How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists, which explores the history and impact of VMFA’s fellowship program, the largest of its kind in the United States.
The Artmobile: Yesterday and todayBeginning in 1953 the original Artmobile program brought art exhibitions and educational programs to colleges, schools, and community organizations across Virginia for 40 years, reaching 2.5 million people.
For many Virginians, this unique art-museum-on-wheels was their first encounter with VMFA. Since then, museums around the country and throughout the world have created their own mobile museum experiences.VMFA discontinued its Artmobile program in the early 1990s. As part of its 2015-20 strategic plan, and a renewed commitment to statewide outreach, museum leadership began exploring ways to bring this beloved program back.
When the Commonwealth offered VMFA an 18-wheel tractor-trailer that includes 640 feet of display space, the museum began working with exhibition design firms Riggs Ward Design of Richmond and Explus Inc. in Sterling to design and fabricate a new and improved version of the Artmobile, equipped with cutting edge technology for 21st-century visitors.“As a statewide art museum we are charged not only with welcoming visitors to our Richmond campus, but also with bringing art and educational programs to all corners of the Commonwealth,” says VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “VMFA on the Road allows us to significantly extend our reach so that every Virginian has access to authentic works of art and arts-based educational programming regardless of their location or economic status.
It is our hope that VMFA on the Road will transform lives and communities through the creative power of art.”VMFA currently serves nearly 500,000 people beyond its Richmond campus each year through lectures, artist workshops, teacher trainings and traveling exhibitions hosted by more than 1,000 Statewide Partners, including schools, community centers, colleges and universities, libraries, hospitals and museums around the state.
With VMFA on the Road and Lettie Pate Evans Distance Learning Program (Evans 360°), the museum’s new digital outreach initiative, VMFA hopes to reach more than 1 million Virginians each year.

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