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Asian stock markets traded multidirectional today

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asian stock markets today

Biggest Asian stock markets traded on Monday showed mixed dynamics.

Asian stock markets today – what’s happening in the market?

Stock exchanges in Mainland China are closed with the holidays on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China and in South Korea – on the occasion of the Foundation Day. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.5% despite weak statistics.

The Tankan index, which measures confidence in Japan’s economy among large processing companies, fell to its lowest level in six quarters (since January-March 2021) in July-September. The value of the indicator fell to 8 points from 9 points in the second quarter of this year, the Bank of Japan said. The positive value of the index means that the percentage of respondents who believe the business environment is favorable was higher than the share of those who do not think so.

Analysts on average had forecast an increase in the index to 11 points last quarter, according to surveys by Quick and Trading Economics. The index declined for the third straight quarter. This reflects, among other things, the rising costs of businesses, the falling yen, as well as restrictions imposed by China due to COVID-19. All of this is affecting Asian stock markets today. 

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.8%. It is at its lowest level in eleven years. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 is down 0.3% since the market opened.

Earlier we reported that European stocks are rising on record inflation in the eurozone.

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NATO allies rule out sending troops to Ukraine as Russia rebukes Macron

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NATO allies rule out sending troops to Ukraine as Russia rebukes Macron
© Reuters. French President Emmanuel Macron attends a press conference at the end of the conference in support of Ukraine, with European leaders and government representatives, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, February 26, 2024. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool

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By Andreas Rinke and Guy Faulconbridge

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Reuters) -The United States and key European allies said on Tuesday they had no plans to send ground troops to Ukraine, after France hinted at the possibility, and the Kremlin warned that any such move would inevitably lead to conflict between Russia and NATO.

French President Emmanuel Macron had said on Monday that Western allies should exclude no options in seeking to avert a Russian victory in Ukraine, though he stressed there was no consensus at this stage.

His comments, made at a hastily convened meeting of European leaders in Paris on ways to boost flagging support for Kyiv, come amid battlefield gains by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces in eastern Ukraine as well as growing shortages of ammunition and manpower on the Ukrainian side.

However, Germany, Britain, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic distanced themselves from any suggestion they might commit ground troops to the Ukraine war, now in its third year.

“…There will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius was equally adamant.

“Boots on the ground is not an option for Germany,” Pistorius told reporters during a visit to Vienna.

The White House later reiterated that it too had no plan to send ground troops, instead urging U.S. lawmakers to approve a stalled security aid bill that would ensure Ukrainian troops got the weapons and ammunition needed to continue their fight.

Seeking to clarify Macron’s remarks, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said on Tuesday the president had in mind sending troops for specific tasks such as helping on mine clearance, production of weapons on site, and cyberdefence.

“(This) could require a (military) presence on Ukrainian territory, without crossing the threshold of fighting,” Sejourne told French lawmakers.

Scholz did say that European leaders now appeared willing after Monday’s talks to procure weapons from countries outside Europe as a way of speeding up military aid to Ukraine.

Germany has become the second biggest supplier of military aid to Kyiv since Russia launched its full-blown invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, but is extremely wary of steps that would draw the NATO alliance into direct conflict with Russia.

RUSSIAN REBUKE

The Kremlin issued a swift warning about what was at stake.

“The very fact of discussing the possibility of sending certain contingents to Ukraine from NATO countries is a very important new element,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, commenting on Macron’s remarks.

Asked about the risks if NATO members did deploy troops to fight in Ukraine, Peskov said: “In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability (of a direct conflict).”

Russia and the United States – the big power behind NATO – have the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear weapons. President Joe Biden has cautioned that a conflict between Russia and NATO could trigger World War Three.

The possibility in particular of German troops being deployed to ex-Soviet territory is hugely sensitive for Russia, whose fierce resistance to Hitler’s invasion during World War Two is an integral part of national identity. Putin has even cast Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a struggle against “Nazis”, a stance Kyiv and the West dismiss as cynical and absurd.

A senior Ukrainian official welcomed Macron’s decision to raise the possibility of sending Western troops to his country.

“This shows, firstly, an absolute awareness of the risks posed to Europe by a militaristic, aggressive Russia,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a written comment on Macron’s statement.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, rattled by the resistance of some U.S. Republicans to providing more aid for Kyiv, has stepped up his lobbying of European governments for more artillery shells and longer-range weapons.

The Czech Republic this month announced plans, backed by Canada, Denmark and others, to finance the rapid purchase of hundreds of thousands of ammunition rounds from third countries to dispatch to Ukraine.

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Western states among biggest skeptics of Kroger-Albertsons tie-up

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Western states among biggest skeptics of Kroger-Albertsons tie-up
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An undated handout photo shows a Kroger worker delivering groceries in the U.S. obtained by Reuters on June 15, 2022. Kroger/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

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By Chris Sanders

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Grocery store chain Kroger (NYSE:)’s bid to buy its close rival Albertsons (NYSE:) has caused alarm in the U.S. West, where officials fear its potential dominance – controlling more than half the market in some states – will hurt consumers.

The proposed deal would create a grocery empire with more than 4,000 stores across the US, and has drawn tough scrutiny from lawmakers and consumer groups worried about higher prices, job losses and store closures.

But the biggest opposition comes from Western markets, who make up six of the eight states that joined a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit on Monday to stop the deal. They cut across ideological lines, from politically conservative Wyoming to more liberal states like California and Oregon.

While Kroger argues it needs the deal to take on big national rivals like Walmart (NYSE:) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:), in several Western states it will be by far the biggest player.

“One of main reasons grocery prices have skyrocketed is that too few chains dominate grocery retailing,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She added the deal could send “supermarket prices even higher by eliminating competition in many local markets.”

California and Nevada shoppers already pay the highest weekly grocery bills in the United States and officials from both states fear the merger could increase prices even more.

The new company would own more than 50% of the grocery stores in Washington and make up just under half of grocery sales in Arizona, the attorneys general of each state have warned separately.

“Arizona consumers will see higher prices in the long run with one company controlling over half the supply,” said Hitendra Chaturvedi, who teaches supply chain management at the Arizona State University.

“Limited number of companies result in decreased choices, increased prices, and decreased quality for customers in the long run.”

Kroger has promised lower prices for customers, that no stores will close, and that no jobs will be lost. They argue that only non-unionized retailers like Walmart and Amazon will benefit if the merger is blocked.

In the Northwest, Kroger and Albertsons will account for about 57% of tracked visits to grocery stores, according to research firm Placer AI, and “appear poised to lead” the grocery space in the five-state region made up of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

In California, where nearly 900 stores will come under one owner, residents currently pay just under $300 a week for groceries, well above the national average of $270.21, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by HelpAdvisor.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union noted that in Los Angeles and Orange counties, 115 of 159 Albertsons stores are located within two miles of a Kroger, leaving them susceptible to closures if Kroger fails to keep its promise to keep stores open.

Kroger is selling 413 stores across 17 states including California, Washington, and Arizona to C&S Wholesale Grocers in an effort to ease antitrust concerns.

If the two companies defeat the FTC bid to halt the deal, about 70% of the national retail food market would be controlled by Walmart, Kroger-Albertsons, and Costco (NASDAQ:), according to antitrust legal scholar Christine Bartholomew.

Kroger needs the deal to compete with big rivals, said Kevin Boeh with the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. “The synergies of combining will cut overhead costs and will increase buying power over suppliers, both of which will allow them to pass on lower costs.”

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Fed’s Bowman says she will stay ‘cautious’ on monetary policy

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Fed's Bowman says she will stay 'cautious' on monetary policy
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman poses at a conference on monetary policy at The Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, California, U.S., May 3, 2019. REUTES/Ann Saphir/File Photo

(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman on Tuesday signaled she is in no rush to cut U.S. interest rates, particularly given upside risks to inflation that could stall progress or even cause price pressures to resurge.

“My baseline outlook continues to be that inflation will decline further with the policy rate held steady,” Bowman said in remarks prepared for delivery to a Florida Bankers Association leadership luncheon in Miami. “I will remain cautious in my approach to considering future changes in the stance of policy.”

Bowman supported the Fed’s decision last month to hold its benchmark overnight interest rate in the current 5.25%-5.50% range, and on Tuesday said she feels the U.S. central bank’s policy stance is “restrictive and appears to be appropriately calibrated to reduce inflation pressures.”

She also repeated her view that if data continue to show inflation moving sustainably toward the Fed’s 2% goal, it will “eventually” become appropriate to reduce the policy rate to keep it from becoming overly restrictive.

But unexpectedly strong readings on inflation in January “suggest slower progress” towards the 2% goal, Bowman said. Consumer spending and economic activity have been strong and the labor market remains tight, she added. Loosening financial conditions and additional fiscal stimulus could add to demand and stall progress on inflation, Bowman said, while geopolitical risks also could add to price pressures.

“Reducing our policy rate too soon could result in requiring further future policy rate increases to return inflation to 2 percent in the longer run,” Bowman said, adding that she remains willing to increase the policy rate should it be needed.

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