Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war between two of the world’s largest exporters of food and energy led to a big surge in prices, especially for importers like Ghana. Consumer prices have gone up 30 percent for the year through June, according to data from the research firm Moody’s Analytics. For household essentials, annual inflation has reached 60 percent or more this year, the S&P data shows.

To illustrate this, consider the price of a barrel of oil in dollars versus the Ghanaian cedi. At the beginning of October last year, the price of oil stood at $78.52 per barrel, rising to nearly $130 per barrel in March before falling back to $87.96 at the beginning of this month, a one-year increase of 12 percent in dollar terms. Over the same period, the Ghanaian cedi has weakened over 40 percent against the dollar, meaning that the same barrel of oil that cost roughly 475 cedi a year ago now costs over 900 cedi, almost twice as much.

Adding to the problem are large state-funded subsidies, some taken on or increased through the pandemic, that are now weighing on government finances.

Ghana’s president cut fuel taxes in November 2021, losing roughly $22 million in projected revenue for the government — the latest available numbers.

In Egypt, spending on what the government refers to as “supply commodities,” almost all of which is wheat for its long-running bread subsidy, is expected to come in at around 7 percent of all government spending this year, 12 percent higher — or more than half a billion dollars — than the government budgeted.

As costs ballooned throughout the pandemic, governments took on more debt. Ghana’s public debt grew to nearly $60 billion from roughly $40 billion at the end of 2019, or to nearly 80 percent of its gross domestic product from around 63 percent, according to Moody’s.

It’s one of four countries listed by S&P, alongside Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, where interest payments alone account for more than half of the government’s revenues.

“We can’t forget that this is happening on the back end of a once-in-a-century pandemic in which governments, to try and support families as best they could, did borrow more,” said Frank Gill, an analyst at S&P. “This is a shock following up on another shock.”

In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on its government debt for the first time in its history. Over the past month, the governments of Egypt, Pakistan and Ghana have all reached out to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout as they struggle to meet their debt financing needs, no longer able to turn to international investors for more money.

“I don’t think there is a lot of appetite to lend money to some of these countries,” said Brian Weinstein, co-head of credit trading at Bank of America. “They are incredibly vulnerable at the moment.”

That vulnerability is already reflected in the bond market.

In 2016, Ghana borrowed $1 billion for 10 years, paying an interest rate of just over 8 percent. As the country’s financial position has worsened and investors have backed away, the yield — indicative of what it would now cost Ghana to borrow money until 2026 — has risen to above 35 percent.

It’s an untenable cost of debt for a country in Ghana’s situation. And Ghana is not alone. For bonds that also mature in 2026, yields for Pakistan have reached almost 40 percent.

“We have concerns where any country has yields that calls into question their ability to refinance in public markets,” said Charles Cohen, deputy division chief of monetary and capital market departments at IMF.

The risk of a sovereign debt crisis in some emerging markets is “very, very high,” said Jesse Rogers, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. Mr. Rogers likened the current situation to the debt crises that crushed Latin America in the 1980s — the last time the Fed sought to quell soaring inflation.

Already this year, more than $80 billion has been withdrawn from mutual funds and exchange-traded funds — two popular types of investment products — that buy emerging market bonds, according to EPFR Global, a data provider. As investors sell, the United States is often the beneficiary, further strengthening the dollar.

“It’s by far the worst year for outflows the market has ever seen,” said Pramol Dhawan, head of emerging markets at Pimco.

Even citizens in some of these countries are trying to exchange their money for dollars, fearful of what’s to come and of further currency depreciation — yet inadvertently also contributing to it.

“For pockets of emerging markets, this is a really challenging backdrop and one of the most challenging backdrops we have faced for many years,” Mr. Dhawan said.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Northeast faces potential energy shortages as rails start to shut

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Unused oil tank cars are pictured on Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad tracks outside Hinsdale, New York August 24, 2015. Picture taken August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario/File Photo

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Some trains carrying fuel components to the U.S. Northeast have been halted in preparation for a possible railroad shutdown in the coming days, two sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

The northernmost East Coast states rely on railroad shipments to supplement pipeline deliveries from the U.S. Gulf. The region is among the largest fuel consumers in the nation, where U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that in July inventories of heating oil and diesel reached the lowest levels in at least three decades.

Major railroads, including Union Pacific (UNP.N) and Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRKa.N) BNSF, must reach a tentative deal with three unions representing 60,000 workers before 12:01 a.m. on Friday to avert a shutdown.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Unit trains to the Northeast that carry commodities including ethanol and crude oil have already stopped, two sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

All railroads are preparing to wind down operations in the next day, said a spokesperson at Norfolk Southern (NSC.N) who declined to comment further. Passenger rail operator Amtrak has already canceled all long-distance routes nationwide as their trains run largely on freight lines outside of the U.S. Northeast. read more

Nationwide, stocks of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, are at their lowest levels seasonally since 2000, according to EIA data.

The situation is more dire in New England and the Central Atlantic states. In that region, stretching from Maine to Maryland, stocks are at 16.6 million barrels, lowest seasonally since the EIA started keeping the data in 1990.

Fuel distributors generally have inventories to last several days and those markets can also receive imports, but prices would be expected to rise in anticipation of a possible shortage.

Some shippers, anticipating a shutdown, have already stopped transporting hazardous materials around the United States, including fuel blending components.

“I already have companies that have been limiting their production knowing this was coming and now they’ll have to face the music and shut down,” said Tom Williamson, a railcar broker and owner of Transportation Consultants, which manages over 2,000 railcars.

He said he has been busy the past few days communicating with clients who are starting to shut down production of hazardous materials.

The upper Northeast relies on rail for shipments of crude oil, natural gas and fuel products more than other regions because of a lack of pipelines. New England receives most of the natural gas it uses to heat homes and light stoves by rail, according to consultancy RBN Energy, making it vulnerable to a stoppage.

“Over the past 20 years, regional imbalances between where products are produced and where they are demanded has increased,” said Debnil Chowdhury, vice president, Americas head of refining and marketing, S&P Global Commodity Insights. “This has increased the need to transfer products from the Gulf Coast to the (Northeast).”

Pipelines carrying fuel and natural gas from Texas and other oil and gas-producing states of the U.S. South are already full, Chowdhury said, leaving little room to increase flows on the lines if a shutdown happens.

“All sorts of stuff is going to grind to a halt,” said one executive familiar with the region’s rail operations, who asked not to be named. “It’s going to be brutal.”

In July, governors of New England states wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm warning her that the region faced surging winter heating bills due to lack of natural gas pipeline connectivity.

They also asked the Biden Administration to suspend the Jones Act, which requires goods moved between U.S. ports to be carried by ships built domestically and staffed by U.S. crew, for the delivery of LNG for at least a portion of the upcoming winter.

In 2021, the six-state New England region got most of its power, or 46%, from natural gas, according to ISO New England, the region’s power grid operator. On the coldest winter days, the grid relies on oil as well to fuel a much bigger percentage of power generation.

Nationwide, shippers for oil and chemical companies are making contingency plans.

“We are starting to see impacts already,” said Chris Ball, chief executive officer of Quantix, a Houston-based company that provides trucks and trailers to transport chemicals for companies including Exxon Mobil, Dow and LyondellBasell.

“They (railroads) have already restricted what they’re taking and so we’re getting a fair amount of trucking orders across our whole network,” Ball said.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Laila Kearney, Laura Sanicola and Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laura Sanicola

Thomson Reuters

Reports on oil and energy, including refineries, markets and renewable fuels. Previously worked at Euromoney Institutional Investor and CNN.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Inflation Falls For 2nd Straight Month But Remains High At 8.3%

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 13, 2022

Consumer prices were up 8.3% in August compared with a year earlier, but that was down from an 8.5% jump in July and a 40-year high of 9.1% in June.

Sharply lower prices for gas and cheaper used cars slowed U.S. inflation in August for a second straight month, though many other items rose in price, indicating that inflation remains a heavy burden for American households.

Consumer prices surged 8.3% in August compared with a year earlier, the government said Tuesday. Though still painfully high, that was down from an 8.5% jump in July and a four-decade high of 9.1% in June. On a monthly basis, prices rose 0.1%, after a flat reading in July.

Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices jumped 0.6% from July to August, higher than many economists had expected and a sign of inflation’s persistence.

Inflation remains far higher than many Americans have ever experienced and is keeping pressure on the Federal Reserve, the agency tasked with keeping prices stable. The Fed is expected to announce another big increase in its benchmark interest rate next week, which will lead to higher costs for many consumer and business loans.

Inflation has escalated families’ grocery bills, rents and utility costs, among other expenses, inflicting hardships on many households and deepening gloom about the economy despite strong job growth and low unemployment.

Even if inflation peaks, economists expect it could take two years or more to fall back to something close to the Fed’s annual 2% target. The cost of rental apartments and other services, such as health care, are likely to keep rising in the months ahead.

Republicans have sought to make inflation a central issue in the midterm congressional elections. They blame President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed last year for much of the increase. Many economists generally agree, though they also say that snarled supply chains, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and widespread shortages of items like semiconductors have been key factors in the inflation surge.

Yet the signs that inflation might have peaked — or will soon — could bolster Democrats’ prospects in the midterm elections and may already have contributed to slightly higher public approval ratings for President Biden. In his speeches, the president has generally stopped referring to the impact of high prices on family budgets. He has instead highlighted his administration’s recent legislative accomplishments, including a law enacted last month that’s intended to reduce pharmaceutical prices and fight climate change.

Nationally, the average cost of a gallon of gas has dropped to $3.71, down from just above $5 in mid-June. Many businesses are also reporting signs that supply backlogs and inflation are beginning to fade.

Over the past year, prices of meat, milk and fruits and vegetables have soared by double-digits. But executives at Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, said that falling prices for farm commodities like wheat and corn could slow cost increases for food.

Next week, most Fed watchers expect the central bank to announce a third straight three-quarter-point hike, to a range of 3% to 3.25%. The Fed’s rapid rate increases — the fastest since the early 1980s — typically lead to higher costs for mortgages, auto loans and business loans, with the goal of slowing growth and reducing inflation. The average 30-year mortgage rate jumped to nearly 5.9% last week, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, the highest figure in nearly 14 years.

Chair Jerome Powell has said the Fed will need to see several months of low inflation readings that suggest price increases are falling back toward its 2% target before it might suspend its rate hikes.

Wages are still rising at a strong pace — before adjusting for inflation — which has elevated demand for apartments as more people move out on their own. A shortage of available houses has also forced more people to keep renting, thereby intensifying competition for apartments.

Rising rents and more expensive services, such as medical care, are also keeping inflation high.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Two Russian embassy staff dead, four others killed in suicide bomb blast in Kabul

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

KABUL, Sept 5 (Reuters) – Two Russian embassy staff in Kabul were among six people killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the entrance of the embassy, in a blast that injured at least 10 others, the Russian Foreign Ministry and Afghan officials said on Monday.

Police said the attacker was shot dead by armed guards as he approached the gate, in one of the first such attacks since the Taliban took power last year.

“The suicide attacker before reaching the target, was recognised and shot by Russian embassy (Taliban) guards … there is no information about casualties yet,” Mawlawi Sabir, the head of the police district where the attack took place, told Reuters.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that an unknown militant set off an explosive device near the entrance to the consular section of the embassy around at 10:50 a.m. Kabul time. read more

“As a result of the attack, two employees of the diplomatic mission were killed, and there are also victims among Afghan citizens,” the ministry said.

The four others killed were Afghan civilians, Khalid Zadran, a Kabul police spokesman said.

Russia is one of the few countries to have maintained an embassy in Kabul after the Taliban took over the country more than a year ago. Although Moscow does not officially recognise the Taliban’s government, they have been in talks with officials over an agreement to supply gasoline and other commodities.

The United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the blast.

“In light of recent events, UNAMA stresses the need for the de facto authorities to take steps to ensure the safety and security of the people as well as diplomatic missions,” the UN wrote on Twitter, in reference to the Taliban government.

During the decades-long Taliban insurgency against the western-backed Afghan government, bombings targeting foreign missions were a regular occurrence in Kabul, especially in recent years, with embassies and hotels fortifying themselves with razor wire and blast walls.

Such incidents have decreased dramatically since the insurgent group swept to power in August 2021.

Since then, attacks – some of them claimed by Islamic State – mainly targeted the Taliban and civilian targets such as mosques.

No group has claimed responsibility for Monday’s blast.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Gibran Peshimam; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield, Alasdair Pal and Shivam Patel, Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Sweden, Finland step in to avert Lehman-like situation for power companies

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals!<<<<

Swedish Finance Minister Mikael Damberg attends a press conference to propose relief for households affected by high electricity prices, in Rosenbad, Stockholm, Sweden January 12, 2022. Johan Jeppsson /TT News Agency/via REUTERS/File Photo

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

  • Sweden, Finland offer $33 bln in credit guarantees
  • Soaring power prices led to spike in collateral need
  • Power firms risked “technical bankruptcy”, Sweden says
  • Fortum welcomes proposal, says talks ongoing

STOCKHOLM/HELSINKI, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Finland and Sweden on Sunday announced plans to offer billions of dollars in liquidity guarantees to power companies in their countries after Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) shut the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, deepening Europe’s energy crisis.

Finland is aiming to offer 10 billion euros ($9.95 billion) and Sweden plans to offer 250 billion Swedish crowns ($23.2 billion) in liquidity guarantees.

“This has had the ingredients for a kind of a Lehman Brothers of energy industry,” Finnish Economic Affairs Minister Mika Lintila said on Sunday.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

When Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank at the time, filed for bankruptcy in September 2008 with more than $600 billion in debt, it triggered the worst parts of the U.S. financial crisis.

“The government’s programme is a last-resort financing option for companies that would otherwise be threatened with insolvency,” Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a news conference.

State-controlled Finnish power company Fortum (FORTUM.HE), which last week had urged Nordic regulators to take immediate action to avert defaults even among smaller players, praised the proposals made by Helsinki and Stockholm.

“We appreciate Finnish and Swedish governments taking swift action to stabilise the Nordic derivatives market and support Nordic energy companies in time of crisis,” the company tweeted.

“It’s crucial to keep companies operational. Our discussions with the Finnish government are ongoing,” it said.

The guarantees aim to prevent ballooning collateral requirements from toppling energy companies that trade electricity on the Nasdaq Commodities exchange, an event that could in turn spread to the financial industry, the governments said.

Lower gas flows from Russia both before and after its February invasion of Ukraine have pushed up European prices and driven up electricity costs.

The rapid rise in electricity prices has resulted in paper losses on electricity futures contracts of power companies, forcing them to find funds to post additional collateral with the exchanges.

The collateral requirement on Nasdaq clearing recently hit 180 billion Swedish crowns, up from around 25 billion in normal times due to the surge in power prices, which have risen some 1,100%, Sweden’s debt office said on Saturday.

The government feared that the Nord Stream 1 shutdown would lead to a further surge.

Finland’s Marin said there needed to be measures at the European Union level to stabilize the functioning of both the derivatives market and the energy market as a whole.

Nasdaq clearing is a Swedish company supervised by Swedish authorities, which is the main reason Sweden was the first country to step in to tackle the potential crisis.

Swedish Finance Minister Mikael Damberg said on Sunday that the guarantees would last until March next year in Sweden and would also cover all Nordic and Baltic nations for the next two weeks only.

Without government guarantees, electricity producers could have ended up in “technical bankruptcy” on Monday, Damberg said.

($1 = 10.7633 Swedish crowns)

($1 = 1.0049 euros)

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Essi Lehto in Helsinki
Editing by Terje Solsvik, Hugh Lawson and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

High Seas Deception: How Shady Ships Use GPS to Evade International Law

The scrappy oil tanker waited to load fuel at a dilapidated jetty projecting from a giant Venezuelan refinery on a December morning. A string of abandoned ships listed in the surrounding turquoise Caribbean waters, a testament to the country’s decay after years of economic hardships and U.S. sanctions.

Yet, on computer screens, the ship — called Reliable — appeared nearly 300 nautical miles away, drifting innocuously off the coast of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. According to Reliable’s satellite location transmissions, the ship had not been to Venezuela in at least a decade.

Shipping data researchers have identified hundreds of cases like Reliable, where a ship has transmitted fake location coordinates in order to carry out murky and even illegal business operations and circumvent international laws and sanctions.

maritime resolution signed by nearly 200 nations in 2015, all large ships must carry and operate satellite transponders, known as automatic identification systems, or AIS, which transmit a ship’s identification and navigational positional data. The resolution’s signatories, which include practically all seafaring nations, are obligated under the U.N. rules to enforce these guidelines within their jurisdictions.

sophisticated examples of AIS manipulation, officials said, and the country goes to great lengths to conceal the illegal activities of its large fishing industry.

Windward is one of the main companies that provide shipping industry data to international organizations, governments and financial institutions — including the United Nations, U.S. government agencies and banks like HSBC, Société Générale and Danske Bank. At least one client, the U.N. Security Council body that monitors North Korea’s sanctions compliance, has used Windward’s data to identify ships that breach international laws.

reported an increase in cases of AIS manipulation and jamming in the Black Sea, coinciding with U.S. and Ukrainian claims that Russia was trying to hide its oil exports and smuggle stolen Ukrainian grain.

many of the same ships have recently started trading Venezuelan oil that is under U.S. sanctions.

The spread of AIS manipulation by E.U.-registered vessels shows how advances in technology allow some shipowners to earn windfall profits from commodities under sanction while benefiting from European financial services and legal safeguards.

Cyprus’s deputy shipping minister, Vassilios Demetriades, said illegal manipulation of on-ship equipment is punishable by fines or criminal penalties under the island’s laws. But he has downplayed the problem, saying AIS’s “value and trustworthiness as a location device is rather limited.”

According to Cyprus’s corporate documents, Reliable belongs to a company owned by Christos Georgantzoglou, 81, a Greek businessman. The ship crossed the Atlantic for the first time shortly after Mr. Georgantzoglou’s company bought it last year, and has transmitted locations around eastern Caribbean Islands since, according to Windward’s analysis.

But Venezuela’s state oil company records reviewed by The New York Times show that Reliable was working for the Venezuelan government in the country during that time.

Mr. Georgantzoglou and his company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Their Venezuelan dealings appear to contradict a promise made by Greece’s powerful shipowners association in 2020 to stop transporting the country’s oil. The association did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Reliable is still moving fuel around Venezuelan ports or loading crude onto Asia-bound ships in open waters to hide its origin, according to two Venezuelan oil businessmen, who asked not to be named for security reasons. It still broadcasts coordinates of a ship adrift in the Caribbean Sea.

Adriana Loureiro Fernandez and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Russia Says the Gas Pipeline to Germany Will Remain Closed

Gazprom said on Friday that it would postpone restarting the flow of natural gas through a closely watched pipeline that connects Russia and Germany, an unexpected delay that appeared to be part of a larger struggle between Moscow and the West over energy and the war in Ukraine.

The Russian-owned energy giant had been expected to resume the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Saturday after three days of maintenance. But hours before the pipeline was set to reopen, Gazprom said that problems had been found during inspections, and that the pipeline would be closed until they were eliminated. It did not give a timeline for restarting.

The announcement had the hallmarks of a tit-for-tat move. Earlier on Friday, finance ministers for the Group of 7 countries said that they had agreed to impose a price cap mechanism on Russian oil in a bid to choke off some of the energy revenue Moscow is still collecting from Europe.

Eric Mamer, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that the “fallacious pretenses” for the latest delay were “proof of Russia’s cynicism.”

Russia has, during Mr. Putin’s long tenure, used energy for geopolitical ends, often with the goal of gaining leverage over European policies toward Ukraine. Mr. Putin has taken a keen interest in the oil and natural gas industries, often negotiating deals personally with energy giants in ways that barely hide the political subtext. The Nord Stream pipelines, which are designed to bypass Ukraine by sending gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, have been central to the Kremlin’s political use of energy.

In its statement Friday, Gazprom said it found oil leaks around a turbine used to pressurize the pipeline, forcing it to call off the restart. The German company Siemens Energy, the maker of the turbine, cast doubt on that account. “As the manufacturer of the turbines, we can only state that such a finding is not a technical reason for stopping operation,” the company said late Friday. Siemens also said there were additional turbines available that could be used to keep the pipeline operating.

OPEC Plus group of oil producing countries, headed by Saudi Arabia and Russia, have been hinting that they might pivot away from their gradual post-pandemic production increases and cut output to bolster falling prices. The group is expected to meet on Monday to set oil production levels.

“Putin will endeavor to demonstrate that he has not played his last card and that there are many open windows in his energy war with the West,” Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients on Friday.

The latest action by Gazprom will raise fears of a permanent shutdown of the pipeline, which had been the key conduit for gas to Germany, a country heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. Like other European Union nations, Germany has been rushing to fill storage facilities before winter as insurance against Russian cutoffs.

since late July. Well after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the pipeline was typically transporting around five times that level.

Britain’s energy regulator said that fuel bills for 24 million households would rise by 80 percent beginning in October, putting pressure on the next prime minister, expected to be Liz Truss, to turn immediate attention to coming up with a massive aid package to head off a catastrophic winter.

Britain’s government is not the only one working to mitigate the energy crisis in Europe. Facing dire circumstances, lawmakers and regulators across the continent are increasingly intervening in the energy markets to protect consumers.

At the same time, the European natural gas market has changed substantially over the last year as Russia crimped supplies and Europe turned to other sources. Flows from Russia to Europe have declined sharply.

imports of liquefied natural gas shipped by sea from the United States and elsewhere, and increased pipeline flows from producers including Norway and Azerbaijan. The problem is that the shifts have forced gas prices higher, as Europe vies with Asia for limited supplies of liquefied gas.

Until Friday’s announcement there was increasing optimism about the prospect for navigating the winter with less Russian gas, leading to the fall in natural gas prices in recent days. Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm, has projected that Russian pipeline gas imports will steadily decline from supplying more than a third of European demand in recent years to around 9 percent in 2023.

Even the importance of Nord Stream has diminished. Analysts say that Gazprom has so constrained Nord Stream volumes this summer that the pipeline’s performance is no longer crucial to the overall fundamentals of the market. But news about the conduit still has a psychological impact, and some analysts expect gas prices to jump when markets open on Monday.

“A complete shutdown will obviously have implications on market sentiment given how tight the market is,” said Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president for global gas at Wood Mackenzie. Such an event, he added, would “increase the risk of further cuts via other pipelines bringing Russian gas to the E.U. via Ukraine and Turkey.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Powell: Fed Could Keep Lifting Rates Sharply ‘For Some Time’

Since March, the Fed has implemented its fastest pace of rate increases in decades to try to curb inflation.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivered a stark message Friday: The Fed will likely impose more large interest rate hikes in coming months and is resolutely focused on taming the highest inflation rate in four decades.

Powell also warned more explicitly than he has in the past that the Fed’s continued tightening of credit will cause pain for many households and businesses as its higher rates further slow the economy and potentially lead to job losses.

“These are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation,” he said in a high-profile speech at the Fed’s annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “But a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain.”

Investors had been hoping for a signal that the Fed might soon moderate its rate increases later this year if inflation were to show further signs of easing. But the Fed chair indicated that that time may not be near.

After hiking its key short term rate by three-quarters of a point at each of its past two meetings — part of the Fed’s fastest series of rate increases since the early 1980s — Powell said the Fed might ease up on that pace “at some point” — suggesting that any such slowing isn’t near.

Powell said the size of the Fed’s rate increase at its next meeting in late September — whether one-half or three-quarters of a percentage point — will depend on inflation and jobs data. An increase of either size, though, would exceed the Fed’s traditional quarter-point hike, a reflection of how severe inflation has become.

The Fed chair said that while lower inflation readings that have been reported for July have been “welcome,” “a single month’s improvement falls far short of what the Committee will need to see before we are confident that inflation is moving down.”

He noted that the history of high inflation in the 1970s, when the central bank sought to counter high prices with only intermittent rate hikes, shows that the Fed must stay focused.

“The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely” lowering interest rates, he said. “We must keep at it until the job is done.”

Powell’s speech is the marquee event of the Fed’s annual economic symposium at Jackson Hole, the first time the conference of central bankers is being held in person since 2019, after it went virtual for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March, the Fed has implemented its fastest pace of rate increases in decades to try to curb inflation, which has punished households with soaring costs for food, gas, rent and other necessities. The central bank has lifted its benchmark rate by 2 full percentage points in just four meetings, to a range of 2.25% to 2.5%.

Those hikes have led to higher costs for mortgages, car loans and other consumer and business borrowing. Home sales have been plunging since the Fed first signaled it would raise borrowing costs.

In June, the Fed’s policymakers signaled that they expected their key rate to end 2022 in a range of 3.25% to 3.5% and then to rise further next year to between 3.75% and 4%. If rates reached their projected level at the end of this year, they would be at the highest point since 2008.

Powell is betting that he can engineer a high-risk outcome: Slow the economy enough to ease inflation pressures yet not so much as to trigger a recession.

His task has been complicated by the economy’s cloudy picture: On Thursday, the government said the economy shrank at a 0.6% annual rate in the April-June period, the second straight quarter of contraction. Yet employers are still hiring rapidly, and the number of people seeking unemployment aid, a measure of layoffs, remains relatively low.

At the same time, inflation is still crushingly high, though it has shown some signs of easing, notably in the form of declining gas prices.

At its meeting in July, Fed policymakers expressed two competing concerns that highlighted their delicate task.

According to minutes from that meeting, the officials — who aren’t identified by name — have prioritized their inflation fight. Still, some officials said there was a risk that the Fed would raise borrowing costs more than necessary, risking a recession. If inflation were to fall closer to the Fed’s 2% target and the economy weakened further, those diverging views could become hard to reconcile.

At last year’s Jackson Hole symposium, Powell listed five reasons why he thought inflation would be “transitory.” Yet instead it has persisted, and many economists have noted that those remarks haven’t aged well.

Powell indirectly acknowledged that history at the outset of his remarks Friday, when he said that, “at past Jackson Hole conferences, I have discussed broad topics such as the ever-changing structure of the economy and the challenges of conducting monetary policy.”

“Today,” he said, “my remarks will be shorter, my focus narrower and my message more direct.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

U.S. Inflation Slips From 40-Year Peak But Remains High At 8.5%

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 10, 2022

Consumer prices jumped 8.5% in July compared with a year earlier, down from a 9.1% year-over-year jump in June, according to government data.

Falling gas prices gave Americans a slight break from the pain of high inflation last month, though the surge in overall prices slowed only modestly from the four-decade high it reached in June.

Consumer prices jumped 8.5% in July compared with a year earlier, the government said Wednesday, down from a 9.1% year-over-year jump in June. On a monthly basis, prices were unchanged from June to July, the smallest such rise more than two years.

Still, prices have risen across a wide range of goods and services, leaving most Americans worse off. Average paychecks are rising faster than they have in decades — but not fast enough to keep up with accelerating costs for such items as food, rent, autos and medical services.

Last month, excluding the volatile food and energy categories, so-called core prices rose just 0.3% from June, the smallest month-to-month increase since April. And compared with a year ago, core prices rose 5.9% in July, the same year-over-year increase as in June. 

President Joe Biden has pointed to declining gas prices as a sign that his policies — including large releases of oil from the nation’s strategic reserve — are helping lessen the higher costs that have strained Americans’ finances, particularly for lower-income Americans and Black and Hispanic households.

Yet Republicans are stressing the persistence of high inflation as a top issue in the midterm congressional elections, with polls showing that elevated prices have driven President Biden’s approval ratings down sharply.

On Friday, the House is poised to give final congressional approval to a revived tax-and-climate package pushed by the president and Democratic lawmakers. Economists say the measure, which its proponents have titled the Inflation Reduction Act, will have only a minimal effect on inflation over the next several years.

While there are signs that inflation may ease in the coming months, it will likely remain far above the Federal Reserve’s 2% annual target well into next year or even into 2024. Chair Jerome Powell has said the Fed needs to see a series of declining monthly core inflation readings before it would consider pausing its rate hikes. The Fed has raised its benchmark short-term rate at its past four rate-setting meetings, including a three-quarter-point hike in both June and July — the first increases that large since 1994.

A blockbuster jobs report for July that the government issued Friday — with 528,000 jobs added, rising wages and an unemployment rate that matched a half-century low of 3.5% — solidified expectations that the Fed will announce yet another three-quarter-point hike when it next meets in September. Robust hiring tends to fuel inflation because it gives Americans more collective spending power.

One positive sign, though, is that Americans’ expectations for future inflation have fallen, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, likely reflecting the drop in gas prices that is highly visible to most consumers.

Inflation expectations can be self-fulfilling: If people believe inflation will stay high or worsen, they’re likely to take steps — such as demanding higher pay — that can send prices higher in a self-perpetuating cycle. Companies then often raise prices to offset their higher labor costs. But the New York Fed survey found that Americans foresee lower inflation one, three and five years from now than they did a month ago.

Supply chain snarls are also loosening, with fewer ships moored off Southern California ports and shipping costs declining. Prices for commodities like corn, wheat and copper have fallen steeply.

Yet in categories where price changes are stickier, such as rents, costs are still surging. One-third of Americans rent their homes, and higher rental costs are leaving many of them with less money to spend on other items.

Data from Bank of America, based on its customer accounts, shows that rent increases have fallen particularly hard on younger Americans. Average rent payments for so-called Generation Z renters (those born after 1996) jumped 16% in July from a year ago, while for baby boomers the increase was just 3%.

Stubborn inflation isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Prices have jumped in the United Kingdom, Europe and in less developed nations such as Argentina.

In the U.K., inflation soared 9.4% in June from a year earlier, a four-decade high. In the 19 countries that use the euro currency, it reached 8.9% in June compared with a year earlier, the highest since record-keeping for the euro began.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Electric Cars Are Too Costly for Many, Even With Aid in Climate Bill

Policymakers in Washington are promoting electric vehicles as a solution to climate change. But an uncomfortable truth remains: Battery-powered cars are much too expensive for a vast majority of Americans.

Congress has begun trying to address that problem. The climate and energy package passed on Sunday by the Senate, the Inflation Reduction Act, would give buyers of used electric cars a tax credit.

But automakers have complained that the credit would apply to only a narrow slice of vehicles, at least initially, largely because of domestic sourcing requirements. And experts say broader steps are needed to make electric cars more affordable and to get enough of them on the road to put a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions.

would eliminate this cap and extend the tax credit until 2032; used cars would also qualify for a credit of up to $4,000.

With so much demand, carmakers have little reason to target budget-minded buyers. Economy car stalwarts like Toyota and Honda are not yet selling significant numbers of all-electric models in the United States. Scarcity has been good for Ford, Mercedes-Benz and other carmakers that are selling fewer cars than before the pandemic but recording fat profits.

Automakers are “not giving any more discounts because demand is higher than the supply,” said Axel Schmidt, a senior managing director at Accenture who oversees the consulting firm’s automotive division. “The general trend currently is no one is interested in low prices.”

Advertised prices for electric vehicles tend to start around $40,000, not including a federal tax credit of $7,500. Good luck finding an electric car at that semi-affordable price.

Ford has stopped taking orders for Lightning electric pickups, with an advertised starting price of about $40,000, because it can’t make them fast enough. Hyundai advertises that its electric Ioniq 5 starts at about $40,000. But the cheapest models available from dealers in the New York area, based on a search of the company’s website, were around $49,000 before taxes.

Tesla’s Model 3, which the company began producing in 2017, was supposed to be an electric car for average folks, with a base price of $35,000. But Tesla has since raised the price for the cheapest version to $47,000.

pass the House, would give buyers of used cars a tax credit of up to $4,000. The used-car market is twice the size of the new-car market and is where most people get their rides.

But the tax credit for used cars would apply only to those sold for $25,000 or less. Less than 20 percent of used electric vehicles fit that category, said Scott Case, chief executive of Recurrent, a research firm focused on the used-vehicle market.

The supply of secondhand vehicles will grow over time, Mr. Case said. He noted that the Model 3, which has sold more than any other electric car, became widely available only in 2018. New-car buyers typically keep their vehicles three or four years before trading them in.

SAIC’s MG unit sells an electric S.U.V. in Europe for about $31,000 before incentives.

New battery designs offer hope for cheaper electric cars but will take years to appear in lower-priced models. Predictably, next-generation batteries that charge faster and go farther are likely to appear first in luxury cars, like those from Porsche and Mercedes.

Companies working on these advanced technologies argue that they will ultimately reduce costs for everyone by packing more energy into smaller packages. A smaller battery saves weight and cuts the cost of cooling systems, brakes and other components because they can be designed for a lighter car.

You can actually decrease everything else,” said Justin Mirro, chief executive of Kensington Capital Acquisition, which helped the battery maker QuantumScape go public and is preparing a stock market listing for the fledgling battery maker Amprius Technologies. “It just has this multiplier effect.”

$45 million in grants to firms or researchers working on batteries that, among other things, would last longer, to create a bigger supply of used vehicles.

“We also need cheaper batteries, and batteries that charge faster and work better in the winter,” said Halle Cheeseman, a program director who focuses on batteries at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, part of the Department of Energy.

Gene Berdichevsky, chief executive of Sila Nanotechnologies, a California company working on next-generation battery technology, argues that prices are following a curve like the one solar cells did. Prices for solar panels ticked up when demand began to take off, but soon resumed a steady decline.

The first car to use Sila’s technology will be a Mercedes luxury S.U.V. But Mr. Berdichevsky said: “I’m not in this to make toys for the rich. I’m here to make all cars go electric.” 

A few manufacturers offer cars aimed at the less wealthy. A Chevrolet Bolt, a utilitarian hatchback, lists for $25,600 before incentives. Volkswagen said this month that the entry-level version of its 2023 ID.4 electric sport utility vehicle, which the German carmaker has begun manufacturing at its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., will start at $37,500, or around $30,000 if it qualifies for the federal tax credit.

Then there is the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, produced in China by a joint venture of General Motors and the Chinese automakers SAIC and Wuling. The car reportedly outsells the Tesla Model 3 in China. While the $4,500 price tag is unbeatable, it is unlikely that many Americans would buy a car with a top speed of barely 60 miles per hour and a range slightly over 100 miles. There is no sign that the car will be exported to the United States.

Eventually, Ms. Bailo of the Center for Automotive Research said, carmakers will run out of well-heeled buyers and aim at the other 95 percent.

“They listen to their customers,” she said. “Eventually that demand from high-income earners is going to abate.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<