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Moscow warns Finland over NATO bid as Ukraine says Russian ship damaged

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags wave outside the Alliance headquarters ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting, in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

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By Anne Kauranen and Jonathan Landay

HELSINKI/KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Moscow warned Finland on Thursday it would face consequences as it seeks to apply for NATO membership “without delay” and Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship in the Black Sea, where there has been renewed fighting in recent days.

The Vsevolod Bobrov vessel was near Snake Island, close to Ukraine’s sea border with Romania, spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk for the Odesa regional military administration in southern Ukraine said.

“Thanks to the actions of our naval seamen, the support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov caught fire – it is one of the newest in the Russian fleet,” Bratchuk said.

Reuters could not independently verify the details. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, sunk last month.

Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent.

Abandoning the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades.

Moscow called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.

“Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move,” said the foreign ministry.

Russian officials have spoken in the past about potential measures including stationing nuclear-armed missiles on the Baltic Sea.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the Finns would be “warmly welcomed” and promised a “smooth and swift” accession process.

The White House backed such a move.

“We would support a NATO application by Finland and-or Sweden should they apply,” said press secretary Jen Psaki.

Russia faced a further setback on the battlefield as Ukraine drove its troops out of the region around the second largest city Kharkiv, the fastest advance since forcing the Kremlin’s forces from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago.

The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution to set up an investigation into possible war crimes by Russian troops in the Kyiv area and beyond, a move that the Kremlin said amounted to political score-settling.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said there were many examples of possible war crimes, including unlawful killings and summary executions.

Moscow denies deliberately attacking civilians.

‘YOU CAUSED THIS’

Finland’s 1,300-km (800-mile) border will more than double the length of the frontier between the U.S.-led alliance and Russia, putting NATO guards a few hours’ drive from the northern outskirts of St Petersburg.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.

Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining NATO, Niinisto said: “My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror.”

Five diplomats and officials told Reuters that NATO allies expect both countries to be granted membership quickly, paving the way for an increased troop presence in the Nordic region to defend them during a one-year ratification period.

Putin cited NATO’s potential expansion as one of the main reasons he launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February.

NATO describes itself as a defensive alliance, built around a treaty declaring that an attack on one member is an attack on all, granting U.S. allies the protection of Washington’s superpower might including its nuclear arsenal.

Moscow regards that as a threat to its security. But Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine has changed Nordic public opinion, with many now embracing the view that Russia is a menace.

Finland in particular has centuries of uneasy history in Russia’s shadow.

Thursday also saw an intensification of disputes over Russian supplies of energy to Europe – still Moscow’s biggest source of funds and Europe’s biggest source of heat and power.

Moscow said it would halt gas flows to Germany through the main pipeline over Poland, while Kyiv said it would not reopen a pipeline route it shut this week unless it regains control of areas from pro-Russian fighters. Prices for gas in Europe surged.

Ukraine has spent 245.1 billion hryvnia ($8.3 billion) on fighting the Russian invasion, the finance minister told Reuters on Thursday, reflecting the scale of spending on everything from buying and repairing weapons to support for millions of displaced people.

On the front lines, Ukraine has mounted a counter offensive in recent days, ousting Russian forces from villages north and east of Kharkiv they had held since the start of the invasion.

Reuters journalists have confirmed that Ukraine is now in control of territory stretching to the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, around 40 km (25 miles) east of Kharkiv.

Commodities

Gold Down, Weighed Down by Aggressive Fed

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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Gold was down on Thursday morning in Asia, with a steady dollar and elevated Treasury yields weighing on the greenback-priced bullion, whose outlook has already been dampened by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s aggressive stance on inflation.

Gold futures edged down 0.20% to $1,812.34 by 1:31 AM ET (5:31 AM GMT). The dollar, which normally moves inversely to gold, edged down on Thursday.

Gold’s daily closing price is effectively hugging the trendline projected from its March 2020 low, and intraday volatile spikes on either side of that key trendline have lacked conviction to prompt a sustainable move, City Index senior market analyst Matt Simpson told Reuters.

The yellow metal has largely seemed to track daily moves in both the dollar and benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields in recent weeks. A greenback near 20-year highs pushed gold to its lowest in well over three months on Monday.

Gold’s performance and outlook have also been impacted as the Fed adopts a more hawkish monetary policy stance on interest rate hikes.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday said that the U.S. central bank would hike its interest rates as needed to curb inflation which he said threatened the foundation of the economy.

“ETF (Exchange traded fund) flows peaked on the 27th of April, and we’ve since seen a net outflow as investors have lost confidence in the yellow metal… and the rout in stock markets simply added another reason for some investors to convert their gold to cash,” said Simpson.

In Asia Pacific, Japanese trade data for April 2022 showing that exports rose 12.5% year-on-year and imports rose 28.2% year-on-year. The trade balance contracted to -¥839.2 billion (-$6.51 billion).

In other precious metals, silver inched up 0.1%, while platinum fell 0.9% and palladium was down 0.6%.

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Commodities

Oil Up as Economic Growth Worries Continue

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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Oil was up on Thursday morning in Asia, recovering from early losses as concerns over tight global supplies outweighed fears over slower economic growth.

Brent oil futures jumped 1.45% to $110.69 by 12:58 AM ET (5:58 AM GMT), after falling by more than $1 earlier in the session. WTI futures rose 1.07% to $108.18 recovering from an earlier loss of more than $2 and were up 56 cents, or 0.5%, at $107.60 a barrel for July 2022.

Both Brent and WTI benchmarks fell about 2.5% on Wednesday.

“A slump in Wall Street soured sentiment in early trade as it underlined concerns over weakening consumption and fuel demand,” Rakuten Securities commodity analyst Satoru Yoshida told Reuters.

Asian stocks on Thursday followed a steep Wall Street selloff, as rising global inflation, China’s zero-COVID policy, and the Ukraine war led to fears of an economic recession.

“Still, oil markets are keeping a bullish trend as a pending import ban by the European Union on Russian crude is expected to further tighten global supply,” said Yoshida.

The European Union earlier in the month proposed a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The package includes a total ban on Russian oil imports in six months’ time, but the measures have not yet been adopted amid continued resistance to the plan from member countries including Hungary.

On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled a €210 billion ($220.65 billion) plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s U.S. crude oil supply data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a draw of 3.394 million barrels for the week to May 13. Forecasts prepared by Investing.com predicted a build of 1.383 million barrels, while an 8.487-million-barrel build was reported during the previous week.

Crude oil supply data from the American Petroleum Institute released the day before, showed a draw of 2.445 million barrels. Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, with those refineries near their highest possible running rates.

 

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Commodities

Oil prices recoup early losses on China hopes, global supply fears

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Workers walk as oil pumps are seen in the background in the Uzen oil and gas field in the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan November 13, 2021. REUTERS/Pavel Mikheyev

By Yuka Obayashi and Florence Tan

TOKYO (Reuters) -Oil prices rose on Thursday, recovering from early losses, on hopes that planned easing of restrictions in Shanghai could improve fuel demand while lingering concerns over tight global supplies outweighed fears of slower economic growth.

Brent crude futures for July were up $1.53, or 1.4%, at $110.64 a barrel at 0447 GMT, after falling by more than $1 earlier in the session.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for June rose 93 cents, or 0.8%, to $110.52 a barrel, recovering from an early loss of more than $2. WTI for July was up $1.57, or 1.5%, at $108.50 a barrel.

Both benchmark prices fell about 2.5% on Wednesday.

“A slump in Wall Street soured sentiment in early trade as it underlined concerns over weakening consumption and fuel demand,” said Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst with Rakuten Securities. [MKTS/GLOB]

Asian shares on Thursday tracked a steep Wall Street selloff as investors fretted over rising global inflation, China’s zero-COVID policy and the Ukraine war. [MKTS/GLOB]

“Still, oil markets are keeping a bullish trend as a pending import ban by the European Union on Russian crude is expected to further tighten global supply,” Yoshida said.

The European Union this month proposed a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. This would include a total ban on oil imports in six months’ time, but the measures have not yet been adopted, with Hungary being among the most vocal critics of the plan.

The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a 210 billion euro ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027, and to use the pivot away from Moscow to quicken its transition to green energy.

Also, U.S. crude inventories fell last week, an unexpected drawdown, as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced U.S. diesel and gasoline prices to record levels. [EIA/S]

Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, putting those refineries close to their highest possible running rates.

In China, investors are closely watching plans in the country’s most populous city, Shanghai, to ease restrictions from June 1, which could lead to a rebound in oil demand at the world’s top crude importer.

Stephen Innes from SPI Asset Management said news that Shanghai planned to gradually resume inter-district public transport from May 22 was positive for risk and supporting oil prices.

($1 = 0.9537 euros)

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