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Many Sri Lankans flee Colombo as crisis persists

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An army member stops vehicles at a check point on a the main road after the curfew was extended for another extra day following a clash between Anti-government demonstrators and Sri Lanka’s ruling party supporters, amid the country’s economic

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By Alasdair Pal and Uditha Jayasinghe

COLOMBO (Reuters) -Many Sri Lankans thronged buses in the main city Colombo on Thursday to return to their hometowns during a brief relaxation in curfew, imposed after the prime minister quit and went into hiding and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa warned of anarchy.

The island nation off India’s southern tip, which overlooks shipping routes between Europe and Asia, is battling its worst economic crisis since independence. Violence erupted on Monday after supporters of former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president’s elder brother, attacked an anti-government protest camp in Colombo.

Days of violent reprisals against government figures aligned to the powerful Rajapaksa clan followed. The army was called out to patrol the streets and police said 9 people were killed and more than 300 injured in the clashes.

Security forces have been ordered to shoot to prevent violence and looting.

Hundreds of people thronged the main bus station in Colombo after authorities lifted an indefinite curfew at 7 a.m. (0130 GMT) on Thursday.

Streets in the commercial capital were calm, though there were queues at supermarkets as people ventured out to buy essential supplies before the curfew was reimposed at 2 p.m.

Frustration remained at ongoing fuel shortages that have crippled the country’s economy.

“We have hit the bottom economically,” said Nimal Jayantha, an autorickshaw driver queuing for petrol after the curfew was lifted.

“I don’t have the time do my job. By the time I stay in the fuel queue and get petrol, curfew will be imposed. I will have to go home without any money.”

Protesters have sprayed graffiti over Mahinda Rajapaksa’s home in a southern town and ransacked a museum dedicated to his father. They have vowed to keep up the protests until the president also quits.

NEW PM THIS WEEK

Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down after the fighting erupted and is in hiding in a military base in the northeast of the country. On Thursday, a magistrate’s court issued orders blocking him, his son Namal and other key allies from leaving the country, lawyers present at the hearing said.

“I personally will extend my fullest cooperation to any investigation that is taking place with regard to the unfortunate events that took place on Monday,” Namal Rajapaksa said in a tweet following the order.

“Neither my father nor myself have any intention to leave (Sri Lanka).”

The president has said he will appoint a new prime minister and cabinet this week “to prevent the country from falling into anarchy as well as to maintain the affairs of the government that have been halted”.

The Colombo stock market, closed for the last two days, ended over three percent up on Thursday on optimism over a new cabinet, traders said.

Sri Lanka’s central bank governor said on Wednesday failing to find a solution to the crisis in the next one to two weeks would lead to power cuts of up to 10 to 12 hours per day, as well as his own resignation. [nB8N2W601J]

President Rajapaksa has repeatedly called for a unity government to find a way out of the crisis, but opposition leaders say they will not serve until he resigns.

Hit hard by the pandemic, rising oil prices and tax cuts by the populist Rajapaksa government, the island nation is experiencing its worst financial crisis since independence in 1948.

Useable foreign reserves stand as low as $50 million, inflation is rampant, and shortages of fuel, medicine and other essential goods have brought thousands onto the streets in more than a month of anti-government protests, that had remained predominantly peaceful until Monday.

Economic Indicators

Ukraine removes fuel price restrictions to increase supply – economy minister

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Drivers stay in line outside a petrol station as they try to buy fuel, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine May 11, 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s government has lifted restrictions on fuel prices to enable traders to import more and make up the shortage Ukraine is experiencing after Russian forces destroyed many storage facilities and logistics chains, the economy minister said on Tuesday.

“We … suspended price regulation in order to enable market operators to saturate the market … so that they will be able to deliver all the resources available on the European market, and not only from the European market,” Yulia Svyrydenko said in an online interview with Ukrainian television.

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Economic Indicators

Motor vehicles boost U.S. business inventories in March

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An assembly worker of Ford Motor works on an F-series pickup truck at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S., January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. business inventories increased slightly more than expected in March, lifted by a jump in motor vehicle stocks, government data showed on Tuesday.

Business inventories rose 2.0% after increasing 1.8% in February, the Commerce Department said. Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast inventories rising 1.9%.

Inventories surged 14.7% on a year-on-year basis in March. Retail inventories increased 2.3% in March, instead of 2.0% as estimated in an advance report published last month. That followed a 1.6% increase in February.

Motor vehicle inventories rose 1.6% instead of 1.2% as estimated last month. They increased 1.4% in February. Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, shot up 2.5%, rather than 2.3% as estimated last month.

Inventory investment slowed in the first quarter from the October-December period’s robust pace. That, together with a record trade deficit, weighed on gross domestic product, resulting in the economy contracting at a 1.4% annualized rate in the first quarter.

Wholesale inventories increased 2.3% in March. Stocks at manufacturers gained 1.3%.

Business sales rose 1.8% in March after climbing 1.2% in February. At March’s sales pace, it would take 1.27 months for businesses to clear shelves, unchanged from February.

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Economic Indicators

U.S. Retail Sales Kept Up Strong Growth in April, Keeping Fed Rate Hikes on Track

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© Reuters.

By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com — The U.S. consumer kept spending in April, shrugging off concerns that high inflation and the looming prospect of an economic slowdown might act as a brake.

Retail sales grew 0.9% from March, and March’s data were revised up to show a gain of 1.4% from February, double the 0.7% initially reported. That left the annual rate of retail sales growth at a robust 8.2%.

Nor was that all down to rising prices for groceries and gasoline. Excluding food and energy costs, core retail sales grew 0.6%, more than the 0.4% predicted. Here, too, March sales were revised up to a gain of 2.1% from an initial 1.4%.

Financial markets took the data as a sign that the Federal Reserve will persevere with a string of hefty interest rate hikes over the course of the next few months. The yield on the interest-rate sensitive 2-year Treasury note rose 8 basis points to 2.64%, while the benchmark 10-Year yield rose 6 basis points to 2.94%.

S&P 500 futures, meanwhile, edged down 3 points but were still posting solid gains of over 1% for the overnight session.

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