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In the wake of the latest round of trade talks between officials from Washington and Beijing, outside observers are noting that some progress appears to have been made — but there’s still a long way to go before a meaningful deal.

On Wednesday, the U.S. trade delegation released a statement noting a long list of outstanding issues in the relationship between the world’s two largest economies — including “forced technology transfer, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft of trade secrets for commercial purposes, services, and agriculture.”

Still the official statement also recognized that China had pledged to buy “a substantial amount of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods, and other products and services” from the U.S. Some analysts said that language, in addition to the meeting extending to a previously unannounced third day, indicated some potential thawing in the dispute.

“There were several signs of modest progress from these mid-level talks. First, negotiations went a day over the original schedule, indicating enough substantive discussion to at least keep officials at the table. Day three reportedly focused on the more knotty structural issues raised by the US side in detailed demands presented to Beijing in May 2018,” a group of experts from political risk consultancy Eurasia Group wrote in a Wednesday note.

They added: “Second, (the U.S. Trade Representative’s) statement noted that China has pledged to purchase a “substantial amount” of US exports, including agriculture, energy and manufactured goods. That language suggests that, as we expected, Beijing is carrying out a strategy of aggressively purchasing US goods — playing to (U.S. President Donald Trump’s) focus on reducing the trade deficit — in the hopes that it lessens the pressure on China to undertake difficult structural measures.”

China, for its part, said in a Thursday morning statement issued by its Commerce Ministry that the just-concluded round of trade talks with the U.S. were extensive and established a platform for future discussions.

“Both sides … held broad, deep and meticulous discussions on shared observations on trade issues and structural problems, laying the foundation for addressing areas of common concern,” the statement said, according to a CNBC translation of the original Chinese.

Even before the talks were extended into a third day, the analyst community was already seeing a positive when when China’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, reportedly stopped by the negotiating room on Monday. Given the vice-ministerial level of the talks, that was interpreted as a strong sign that Beijing was taking negotiations seriously.

In early December, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a temporary ceasefire, giving both sides until March to reach some agreement on trade and issues such as the forced transfer of technology.

Trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies escalated last year, putting global markets on edge. The U.S. announced tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, while Beijing countered with its own battery of levies.

Both parties, the Beijing ministry said, agreed to maintain close contact.

In response to the U.S. statement on the talks, U.S.-China Business Council President Craig Allen said in a release that his group was “pleased that the two governments had substantive discussions over the past three days.”

Still, he noted that the business community is concerned about more than just the overall balance of trade between the two economic superpowers — a problem that is at least partially being addressed by Beijing’s pledge to purchase more U.S. goods and services.

“We urge both governments to use the time remaining in the 90-day negotiating period to make tangible progress on the important issues at the core of the current dispute: equal treatment of foreign companies in China, as well as China’s intellectual property and technology transfer policies,” Allen said.

Beijing has denied that it forces foreign companies to transfer technology to Chinese parties in exchange for market access, but it has in various ways acknowledged that it could do more to allow overseas players an equal footing within its borders. To what extent such reforms are truly on the Communist Party’s agenda remains a matter of debate.

—CNBC’s Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.

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EU will offer Brexit delay, but length depends on UK parliament

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The European Union will grant Britain an extension to its Brexit negotiating period, but the length of the delay will depend on whether Prime Minister Theresa May is able to win a vote in parliament on an exit agreement next week, draft summit conclusions said.

The updated conclusions for an EU leaders’ summit, which have yet to be finalised, said the bloc would grant an extension to May 22 if May is able to get the existing Brexit divorce deal approved by the British parliament.

If she is unable to do so, Britain would only be give a Brexit delay until April 12. At this point the country would face a disorderly Brexit, or could ask for another extension if it agreed to hold European Parliament elections on its soil on May 23-26.

“The European Council agrees to an extension until 22 May 2019, provided the Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the House of Commons next week,” said the updated draft of the EU leaders’ agreement on Brexit, which was seen by Reuters.

“If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward at the latest by this date.”

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Apple rallies as investors anticipate streaming service announcement

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Apple’s stock is on a tear this week as it releases a string of products in the lead-up to its highly anticipated event on Monday.

The stock had its biggest rally Thursday since January, closing up 3.7 percent at $195.09 per share for its ninth positive day in the past 10 trading days.

Apple fell just short of taking back the title of the world’s largest public company from Microsoft. Still, Apple is once again approaching $1 trillion in market value, adding about $33 billion to its market capitalization Thursday, bringing it to $919.9 billion.

While Apple has put the spotlight on its hardware this week, announcing new iPads, iMacs and AirPods three days in a row (with a fourth product possibly coming Friday), the focus of Monday’s event is expected to be on a new streaming video service. Teasing the event with the slogan, “It’s show time,” Apple is expected to introduce a new streaming TV service that will give iPhone and iPad users access to free original content and subscription channels such as Starz and CBS All Access, CNBC previously reported.

Investors are already seeing a big upside to Apple’s expected venture into streaming. Needham upgraded the stock on Thursday and raised its price target from $180 to $225.

In a note to investors, Needham analysts wrote that if users adopt Apple’s streaming service, it “should lower churn and drive higher lifetime value.” It could even attract new customers to its products and services, they wrote.

Citigroup also raised its price target on the stock from $170 to $220 on Thursday, even though analysts said in a note they don’t anticipate the launch of Apple’s streaming service “to be a big catalyst for the stock.” They noted, rather, that the streaming is meant to drive recurring revenue for the company, in continuation of its services strategy.

Wedbush raised its price target from $200 to $215 Thursday, saying, “Monday’s announcement is just the tip of the iceberg for [Apple CEO Tim] Cook’s broader streaming content strategy to take hold and in our opinion adds a significant potential catalyst to the Apple services growth story for years to come.” The analysts hedged slightly, noting that Apple “is definitely playing from behind the eight ball in this content arms race with Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and AT&T/Time Warner all going after this next consumer frontier.”

Disclosure: Comcast, which owns CNBC parent NBCUniversal, is a co-owner of Hulu.

— CNBC’s
Michael Sheetz
contributed to this report.

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Watch: Apple announces new AirPods with wireless charging and voice control

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US allies defy Washington’s please to ban Huawei

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But its not just Germany that is defying the U.S. Italy’s government has said that it won’t ban Huawei from its telecommunications industry, saying there is no proof of any security threat.

And in the United Kingdom, intelligence officials said that any risks posed by Huawei can be mitigated, according to an FT report in February. Even individual carriers have expressed their concern over excluding Huawei from the 5G rollout. U.K.-headquartered carrier Vodafone said banning Huawei could cost it millions of pounds and slow the rollout of 5G.

Experts say that while the American rollout of 5G would not be affected by a Huawei ban, Europe could suffer. Nikhil Batra, senior telecommunications research manager at IDC said European carriers’ businesses have struggled compared to those in the U.S., so they want the cheapest possible deal for 5G equipment — something that Huawei can provide.

“When you look at the industry as small as network equipment providers, excluding Huawei will have a big impact on the industry. If I am going from three major vendors to two major vendors, competition decreases, prices will increase as a result. A lot of countries, including specific telcos, are looking at Huawei as a better-cost option,” Batra told CNBC on Thursday.

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