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Economy

High fares, rising economic worries could weigh on airline recovery

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait in front of check-in counters in a terminal at Zurich Airport, Switzerland June 15, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

By Jamie Freed

DOHA (Reuters) -Pent-up demand from the pandemic means consumers are weathering high airfares, but as summer ends and inflation and interest rate rises begin to bite, there are growing questions over whether the appetite for travel is sustainable.

Global airlines are now expected to post a $9.7 billion loss in 2022, a sharp improvement from a revised $42.1 billion loss in 2021, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Monday, and to possibly claw their way back to profit in 2023.

But earnings remain well short of pre-pandemic levels as highly indebted carriers grapple with fresh challenges from rising fuel costs and high wages bills that they are attempting to pass on to consumers in the form of higher fares.

“We have a certain degree of insensitivity to prices this year,” IATA Chief Economist Marie Owens Thomsen said, citing high household savings rates during the pandemic and pent-up travel demand. “That could fade into next year.”

Industry leaders gathering at IATA’s annual meeting in Doha said bookings generally looked very strong for the next few months, but there was less certainty beyond that.

“The demand is pent up. It is revenge travel,” Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Izham Ismail said. “Airfares have gone up tremendously. It is not only in Malaysia or Malaysia Airlines – it is throughout the industry globally. If the price continues to be high the demand will taper off.”

IATA forecasts yields, a proxy for airfares, will rise by 5.6% this year globally.

Air New Zealand Chief Executive Greg Foran said fares at his airline were now running 20% to 25% above pre-COVID levels, in part to cover fuel prices that have more than doubled.

“We are communicating to our customers and letting them know … what they’re seeing in ticket prices is not Air New Zealand trying to recover money that it lost over the last 800-plus days. It’s about dealing with cost pressures that we have in front of us today,” he said.

Consumers in many countries are now facing higher prices for everyday items such as groceries and gasoline that are rising faster than wages.

To date, that has not hit the appetite for travel, with many having saved up during the pandemic when many borders were closed and holidays were postponed.

Hawaiian Airlines Chief Executive Peter Ingram said demand from the U.S. mainland and Canada was “incredibly robust”, with capacity running around 15% above pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s impossible not to be aware of the fact that we’re seeing a lot of inflation in the United States. But as we look at the demand right now, we aren’t really seeing any effects,” he said. “That’s not to say we won’t see some as the year goes on. But right now, all the demand indicators are very strong.”

IATA Director General Willie Walsh also played down concerns of a so-called “demand cliff” that would spell a short-lived recovery.

“I don’t think it’s a flash in the pan,” he said. “I think there is some pent-up demand being fulfilled at the moment, but you’ve got to remember we’re still well below where we were in 2019.”

“So I think there’s still a lot of ground to make up before we can get into the debate as to whether we’ll see that taper off.”

But in India, where airlines are entering a traditionally lower travel period in July to September during monsoon season, there are rising concerns about the sustainability of demand given airfares have not fully covered the impact of rising fuel prices, Vistara Chief Executive Vinod Kannan said.

“We have to cross our fingers, wish, pray and see what happens,” he said of the low season. “Fare increases can help you to a certain extent. But if your demand drops off, you’re back to square one.”

Economy

Futures rise as easing China COVID curbs lift travel, leisure stocks

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© Reuters. A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., June 22, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – Travel and leisure shares propped up U.S. stock index futures after China relaxed some COVID-19 quarantine requirements for international travelers, raising hopes of a revival in global growth.

Airlines, cruises, casinos and hotels were among the gainers in premarket trading after China’s slashing of the quarantine time for inbound travelers by half boosted hopes of a big jump in international travel and spending.

Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) Inc rose 2.5% to top the list of gainers on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after the company’s Shanghai Disney Resort said it would reopen the Disneyland theme park on June 30 after being shut for more than three months.

Spirit Airlines (NYSE:SAVE) and American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) Group Inc were the biggest gainers in the sector, rising 4% and 2% respectively.

Melco Resorts jumped 10% and led the rise in the casino sector, closely followed by Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM) International.

Wall Street’s main indexes started the week on soft footing after worries of surging inflation and an aggressive Federal Reserve dominated sentiment amid few market moving catalysts till the start of earnings season in two weeks.

Investors are now looking at data to determine whether the economy can withstand large interest rate hikes by the U.S. central bank to stamp out inflation.

A survey from the Conference Board is expected to show its consumer confidence index slipped to a reading of 100.4 in June, from 106.4 in May, at 10 a.m. ET.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are set to post losses in June and are on course to log two straight quarterly declines for the first time since 2015.

At 6:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 175 points, or 0.56%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 20 points, or 0.51%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 52.25 points, or 0.43%.

Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) shed 2.8% as it forecast first-quarter revenue below estimates on expectations of more discounts and pandemic-related disruptions in China, its most profitable market.

Occidental Petroleum Corp (NYSE:OXY) climbed 3.1% after top investor Warren Buffett raised stake in the shale producer.

China ADRs also rose on Beijing easing its COVID curbs, with e-commerce firms Alibaba (NYSE:BABA).com, JD (NASDAQ:JD).com and Pinduoduo (NASDAQ:PDD) up between 1.2% and 1.4%

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Economy

Euro below $1.06 as Lagarde keeps July policy options open

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© Reuters. A shopper pays with a ten Euro bank note at a local market in Nice, France, June 7, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON (Reuters) – The Aussie and the Canadian dollar climbed on Tuesday on firmer oil prices while the euro held below $1.06 as European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde offered no fresh insight on the central bank’s policy outlook.

The ECB is widely expected to follow its global peers by raising interest rates in July to check soaring inflation though economists are divided on the magnitude of the rate hike to protect a struggling economic recovery due to high oil prices.

Oil prices are up 10% in barely a week on supply constraint concerns with Brent crude holding above $117, pushing the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar up 0.3% and 0.4% respectively. [O/R]

“Oil is helping the Norwegian crown and the Canadian dollar to outperform and the euro is again running into resistance at the 1.06 level,” said Kenneth Broux, an FX strategist at Societe Generale (OTC:SCGLY) in London.

The euro held below $1.06 after the ECB’s Lagarde said the central bank would move gradually but with the option to act decisively on any deterioration in medium-term inflation, especially if there were signs of a de-anchoring of inflation expectations.

Money markets are pricing in about 238 basis points (bps) of cumulative rate hikes by mid-2023 compared to around 280 bps two weeks ago.

Broader currency market moves were contained in a big week for markets in economic data terms. German inflation figures are due on Wednesday, French data on Thursday and euro zone numbers on Friday.

At the other end of the dial, higher oil prices caused the partially convertible Indian rupee to open at a record low, and fall further to 78.67 per dollar.

The U.S. dollar index struck a two-decade high of 105.79 this month and was last steady at 103.93.

Elsewhere, the offshore Chinese yuan moved higher after China reduced COVID quarantine for international travellers.

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Economy

China’s economy recovering but foundation not solid, premier says

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is seen on a screen as he attends a news conference via video link after the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s economy has recovered to some extent, but its foundation is not solid, state media on Tuesday quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying.

China will strive to drive the economy back onto a normal track and bring down the jobless rate as soon as possible, Li was quoted as saying.

“Currently, the implementation of the policy package to stabilise the economy is accelerating and taking effect. The economy has recovered on the whole, but the foundation is not yet solid,” Li was quoted as saying.

“The task of stabilising employment remains arduous.”

China’s economy showed signs of recovery in May after slumping the previous month as industrial production revived, but consumption remained weak and underlined the challenge for policymakers amid the persistent drag from strict COVID-19 curbs.

China’s nationwide survey-based jobless rate fell to 5.9% in May from 6.1% in April, still above the government’s 2022 target of below 5.5%.

In particular, the surveyed jobless rate in 31 major cities picked up to 6.9%, the highest on record. Some economists expect employment to worsen before it gets better, with a record number of graduates entering the workforce in summer.

Li vowed to achieve reasonable economic growth in the second quarter, although some private-sector economists expect the economy to shrink in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, compared with the first quarter’s 4.8% growth.

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