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Economy

Global shares fall on fears of global economic slowdown

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A broker reacts while trading at his computer terminal at a stock brokerage firm in Mumbai, India, February 1, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

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By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global shares sank to their lowest point in 18 months on Thursday as high inflation, rising interest rates and energy supply fears in Europe have investors worried about an economic slowdown.

Germany warned that Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February, was now using energy supplies as a “weapon” to put pressure on Europe’s continent-wide STOXX 600 index, which was down 0.75%. MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe was down 1.76%, as of 3:03 ET (1903 GMT).

That flagship global index is nearly 20% lower for the year.

In the United States, all three major stock indexes seesawed before settling into a steep sell-off, which put the S&P 500 within striking distance of the closing level that would confirm it entered a bear market. That same index reached its all-time high just five months ago on Jan. 3.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 507.73 points, or 1.59%, the S&P 500 lost 61.42 points, or 1.56%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 180.99 points, or 1.59. [.N]

The prospect of the fastest hike in Fed rates in decades is driving up the U.S. dollar and taking the heaviest toll on riskier assets that shot up through two years of COVID-19 pandemic-era stimulus and low-rate lending.

The dollar climbed to a 20-year high on Thursday, and the dollar index last rose 0.759%, while the euro was down 1.31% to $1.0373. The Chinese yuan slid to a 19-month trough.

After swinging between negative and positive territory throughout the trading day, Brent crude futures settled 6 cents lower at $107.45 a barrel and U.S. crude oil futures settled 42 cents higher at $106.13 a barrel.

Nearly all the main volatility gauges were signaling danger. Bitcoin was caught in a fire-sale of risky crypto assets as it fell another 8% to $26,570, having been near $40,000 just a week ago and almost $70,000 last November.

“We have had big moves,” UBS’s UK Chief Investment Officer Caroline Simmons, said, also referring to bond markets and economic expectations. “And when the market falls it does tend to fall quite fast.”

Tensions between Europe and Russia flared again Thursday when Finland said it would apply to join NATO “without delay.” Sweden is expected to follow, which could bring about the very expansion of the Western military alliance that Vladimir Putin aimed to prevent with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. Labor Department said the producer price index for final demand rose 0.5% in April as the rising cost of energy products moderated. The PPI surged 1.6% in March.

The slowdown in monthly producer price gains followed a similar trend in consumer prices last month.

U.S. consumer prices rose 8.3% in April year-on-year, fractionally slower than the 8.5% pace of March, but still above economists’ forecasts for 8.1%.

SELL IN MAY

The main pan-Asia Pacific indexes closed down 2.5% at a 22-month low overnight. Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.8. Emerging market stocks lost 2.28%.

U.S. Treasury yields slid on Thursday. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell 4.3 basis points to 2.870% as the benchmark U.S. government bond pared losses after sinking to a morning low of 2.8173%.

Germany’s 10-year yield, the benchmark for Europe, fell as much as 15 bps to 0.85%, its lowest in nearly two weeks.

Cryptocurrency markets are also melting down, with the collapse of the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD highlighting the turmoil as well as the selling in bitcoin and next-biggest-crypto, ether, which slumped 15%.nL3N2X337U]

Tether, currently the world’s largest stablecoin by market cap with a value directly tied to the dollar broke below its so-called U.S. dollar “peg” on Thursday. The global sell-off has now wiped more than $1 trillion off crypto markets. Around 35% of that loss has come this week.

“The collapse of the peg in TerraUSD has had some nasty and predictable spillovers. We have seen broad liquidation in BTC, ETH and most ALT coins,” said Richard Usher, head of OTC trading at BCB Group, referring to other cryptocurrencies.

Gold and other precious metals dropped on Thursday, with palladium shedding more than 8%, as investors flocked to the dollar.

Spot gold dropped 1.6% to $1,823.26 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 1.64% to $1,823.80 an ounce. [MET/L]

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was down 3.6% at $9,000 a ton in official trading after falling as low as $8,938. Prices are down 17% from a record high of $10,845 reached in March.

Economy

Dollar slips from 2-decade highs; yuan falls on weak China data

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. dollar banknotes are displayed in this illustration taken, February 14, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

By Sinéad Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. dollar index was lower on Monday after hitting a 20-year peak last week, with the global economy in focus after weak economic data from China highlighted worries about the prospects for a global slowdown.

Creating a risk-off mood on Monday, China’s retail and factory activity fell sharply in April as extensive COVID-19 lockdowns confined workers and consumers to their homes. But Shanghai did set out plans for the return to more normal life from June 1.

Following the release of China’s data, Bipan Rai, North America head of FX Strategy at CIBC Capital Markets, said trading was focused on macro economic data on Monday.

“It’s important to highlight that the risks are towards a stronger dollar and primarily, that’s because if you look at the macro economic climate, the fundamentals don’t look good. From a risk-off perspective that should still support the dollar against most currencies,” Rai said.

But he said the greenback was consolidating after its recent strength and that more range-bound trading sessions were possible: “It makes sense for some period of consolidation before the next leg higher.”

Trading in the dollar may be muted partly because a lot of bad news has already been priced in but also because investors are waiting for events such as the U.S. retail sales data release and a public appearance by Fed Chair Jerome Powell both scheduled for Tuesday, according to Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist at TD Securities. [nL2N2X52F6]

Still Issa said he doesn’t “think we’re in a market where we’re going to see the dollar weaken … It’s going to take a lot to get investors out of the dollar.”

The euro was pulled from its earlier lows after European Central Bank policymaker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said the common currency’s weakness could threaten the ECB’s efforts to steer inflation towards its target.

The Australian dollar, which is highly exposed to the Chinese economy, reversed course as the day wore on and was last up against the dollar after falling as much as 0.9%.

The dollar index was last down 0.37% at 104.16, after briefly crossing the 105 level on Friday – its highest level since December 2002, after six successive weeks of gains. Weekly positioning data showed that investors had built their long dollar bets.

The euro was up 0.26% at $1.0438 but not far from last week’s low of $1.0354, its lowest level since early 2017. Analysts see $1.0340 as a crucial level of euro support.

HSBC strategists expect the euro to fall to parity against the dollar in the coming year. “Much weaker growth and much higher inflation leave the ECB facing one of the toughest policy challenges in G10 (central banks),” they said.

Crypto markets, which trade around the clock, had a quiet weekend after turmoil last week driven by TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin, which broke its dollar peg. An affiliate of the company behind TerraUSD said it had spent the bulk of its reserves trying to defend its dollar peg and would use the remainder to try to compensate some users who had lost out.

Bitcoin was last trading at around $29,881, down more than 4%, after having dropped to $25,400 on Thursday, its lowest mark since December 2020.

Currency bid prices at 3:03PM (1903 GMT)

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Economy

Taliban dissolve Afghanistan’s Human Rights Commission, other key bodies

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Afghan woman walks on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Ali Khara/File Photo

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar

KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban authorities in Afghanistan dissolved five key departments of the former U.S.-backed government, including the country’s Human Rights Commission, deeming them unnecessary in the face of a financial crunch, an official said on Monday.

Afghanistan faces a budget deficit of 44 billion Afghanis ($501 million) this financial year, Taliban authorities said on Saturday as they announced their first annual national budget since taking over the war-torn country last August.

“Because these departments were not deemed necessary and were not included in the budget, they have been dissolved,” Innamullah Samangani, the Taliban government’s deputy spokesman, told Reuters.

Also dissolved was the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), the once high-powered National Security Council, and the commission for overseeing the implementation of the Afghan constitution.

The HCNR was last headed by former Afghan President Abdullah Abdullah, and was working to negotiate a peace between the U.S.-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani and the then-insurgent Taliban.

In August 2021, 20 years after invading Afghanistan, foreign forces withdrew from the country leading to the collapse of the government and a Taliban takeover.

Samangani said the national budget was “based on objective facts” and intended only for departments that had been active and productive.

He added that the bodies could be reactivated in the future “if needed”.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 with an iron fist and implemented a harsh version of Islamic rule, including banning women from education and work. After taking over last year, the Taliban assured the world they would be more moderate.

However, they are yet to allow older girls to restart education, and have also introduced rules that mandate that women and girls wear veils and requiring them to have male relatives accompany them in public places.

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Economy

U.S. SEC chair says much to be done to protect crypto investors

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Representations of virtual cryptocurrencies are placed on U.S. dollar banknotes in this illustration taken November 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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By John McCrank

(Reuters) – Cryptocurrency assets are highly speculative and investors in them need more protections or they could lose trust in the markets, Gary Gensler, chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, said on Monday.

Generally, people who buy cryptocurrencies do not get the disclosures they get when they make other asset purchases around things like whether the trading platform they are using is actually trading against them, or whether they actually own the assets they store in digital wallets, Gensler said.

“We have this basic bargain: You the investing public can make your choices about the risk you take, but there is supposed to be full and fair disclosure, and people are not supposed to lie to you,” he said at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s annual conference in Washington.

His comments came after last week’s spectacular collapse of TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin that lost its 1-to-1 dollar peg.

The token’s crash sent cryptocurrencies tumbling, a slide that resumed on Monday, as bitcoin erased the gains it had eked out over the weekend to trade under $30,000, far below its Nov. 10 record of $69,000.

While crypto markets are thought of as decentralized, the reality is that most activity occurs on a handful of trading platforms, which, along with token issuers, need to work with the SEC to improve industry rules and disclosures, Gensler said.

He pointed to basic market principles like, “anti-fraud, anti-manipulation, making sure there’s not front-running, making sure an order book is actually real and not made up.”

The SEC will continue to be “a cop on the beat,” while working with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to ensure all cryptocurrencies are covered, Gensler said.

“There’s a lot to be done here, and in the meantime the investing public is not that well protected,” he said.

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