planned to address the nation on Tuesday.

Declan Walsh and Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from Nairobi, and Abdi Latif Dahir from Eldoret.

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China’s Options for Punishing Taiwan Economically are Limited

In retaliation for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week, China conducted large-scale military exercises around the self-governing island democracy and suspended some trade between the sides.

The exercises led to a few shipping disruptions, but they did not affect traffic at Taiwanese or Chinese ports, analysts say. And the trade bans were notable mainly for what they did not target: Taiwan’s increasingly powerful semiconductor industry, a crucial supplier to Chinese manufacturers.

The bans that Beijing did impose — on exports of its natural sand to Taiwan, and on imports of all Taiwanese citrus fruits and two types of fish — were hardly an existential threat to the island off its southern coast that it claims as Chinese territory.

Taiwanese pineapples, wax apples and grouper fish, among other products.

a self-governing island democracy of 23 million people, as its territory and has long vowed to take it back, by force if necessary. The island, to which Chiang Kai-shek’s Chinese forces retreated after the Communist Revolution of 1949, has never been part of the People’s Republic of China.

“The political message is greater than the economic hit,” said Chiao Chun, a former trade negotiator for the Taiwanese government.

Even though about 90 percent of Taiwan’s imported gravel and sand comes from China, most of that is manufactured. China accounted for only about 11 percent of Taiwan’s natural sand imports in the first half of this year, according to the Bureau of Mines.

The two types of Taiwanese fish exports that China restricted last week — chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel — are collectively worth about $22 million, less than half the value of the Taiwanese grouper trade that was banned earlier this year. They are also less dependent on the Chinese market.

As for Taiwan’s half-a-billion-dollar citrus industry, its shipments to China account for only 1.1 percent of the island’s total agricultural exports, according to Taiwan’s Agriculture Council. A popular theory is that Beijing singled out citrus farmers because most orchards are in southern Taiwan, a stronghold for the governing political party, the Democratic Progressive Party, a longtime target of Beijing’s anger.

Future bans may become more targeted to punish industries in counties that are D.P.P. strongholds, said Thomas J. Shattuck, an expert on Taiwan at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. There may also be less retaliation against counties run by the Kuomintang opposition party “in an attempt to put a finger on the scale for Taiwan’s local, and even national, elections,” he added.

increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life. One producer, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, makes roughly 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors, and sells them to both China and the West.

simulated a blockade of Taiwan.

Even though some of the exercises took place in the Taiwan Strait, a key artery for international shipping, they did not disrupt access to ports in Taiwan or southern China, said Tan Hua Joo, an analyst at Linerlytica, a company in Singapore that tracks data on the container shipping industry. He added that port congestion would build only if the strait was completely blocked, port access was restricted or port operations were hampered by a labor or equipment shortage.

“None of these are happening at the moment,” he said.

Vessels that chose to avoid the Taiwan Strait last week because of the Chinese military’s “chest beating” activities would have faced a 12- to 18-hour delay, an inconvenience that would generally be considered manageable, said Niels Rasmussen, the chief shipping analyst at Bimco, an international shipping association.

If Beijing were to escalate tensions in the future, it would indicate that it was willing to put at risk China’s own economy as well as its trade and relations with Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States, Mr. Rasmussen said by phone from his office near Copenhagen.

“That’s just difficult to accept that they would take that decision,” he added. “But then again, I didn’t expect Russia to invade Ukraine.”

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$5.45 Million Sale of 25-Unit Highland Park Community in Los Angeles, CA, Arranged by The Mogharebi Group

COSTA MESA, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Mogharebi Group (“TMG“) has arranged the $5.45 million sale of San Pascual, a 25-unit community located in the Highland Park neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA. Bryan LaBar, Keon Truth, & Otto Ozen of The Mogharebi Group represented the seller, a Southern California family office; the winning buyer was a private investor out of Southern California.

Built in 1962, San Pascual is a 2-story garden style community located on 712 San Pascual Ave and comprises of one- & two-bedroom units situated on a .55-acre corner lot. The property features excellent accessibility to the 110 Freeway, just 2-minutes from the closest on-ramp and twelve minutes away from Downtown Los Angeles. San Pascual was offered to the market for the first time in over 20 years, making it a great opportunity to enter a high barrier to entry submarket, Highland Park.

“Despite buyer sentiment and a rapidly shifting economic landscape, we generated multiple offers, ultimately guiding the winning buyer to successfully close over 97% of list price within 3 months, in a submarket averaging 4 months to sale,” said Keon Truth. “The buyer did well to further their investment objectives by securing a high-demand multifamily asset and 25-unit foothold in a neighborhood where the average apartment building size is 12 units,” added Truth.

Highland Park, Los Angeles’ first actual suburb, has a long history filled with art, agriculture, architecture, and an ethnically diverse mix of Angelenos. Today the rapidly growing neighborhood has become a must-visit location for food enthusiasts, historic home buffs, and tourists looking for an authentic slice of LA in a vibrant hub.

About The Mogharebi Group

The Mogharebi Group is one of the largest multifamily brokerage firms in the United States by volume. With offices throughout California, Seattle, and Salt Lake City, The Mogharebi Group offers private investors and investment funds deep local market knowledge, an extensive global network of top real estate investors, state-of-the-art technology, and direct access to capital with over $800 million in regularly revolving inventory.

For more information, visit: Mogharebi.com

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Inflation Cooled in July, Welcome News for White House and Fed

Inflation cooled notably in July as gas prices and airfares fell, a welcome reprieve for consumers and a positive development for economic policymakers in Washington — though not yet a conclusive sign that price increases have turned a corner.

The Consumer Price Index climbed 8.5 percent in the year through July, a slower pace than economists had expected and considerably less than the 9.1 percent increase in the year through June. After food and fuel costs are stripped out to better understand underlying cost pressures, prices climbed 5.9 percent, matching the previous reading.

The marked deceleration in overall inflation — on a monthly basis, prices barely moved — is another sign of economic improvement that could boost President Biden at a time when rapid price increases have been burdening consumers and eroding voter confidence. The new data came on the heels of an unexpectedly strong jobs report last week that underscored the economy’s momentum.

job market stays strong, Americans may begin to feel better about their personal financial situations.

“It underscores the kind of economy we’ve been building,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday. “We’re seeing a stronger labor market where jobs are booming and Americans are working, and we’re seeing some signs that inflation may be beginning to moderate.”

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

Fed officials remain committed to wrestling America’s rapid inflation lower, and they have raised interest rates at the quickest pace since the 1980s to try to slow the economy and bring supply and demand into balance — making supersize rate moves of three-quarters of a percentage point at each of their past two meetings. Another big adjustment will be up for debate at their next meeting in September, policymakers have said.

But investors interpreted July’s unexpectedly pronounced inflation slowdown as a sign that policymakers could take a gentler route, raising rates a half-point next month. Stocks soared more than 2 percent on Wednesday, as Wall Street bet that the Fed might become less aggressive, which would decrease the chances that it would plunge the economy into a recession.

“It was as good as the markets and the Fed could have hoped for from this report,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies. “I do think it removes the urgency for the Fed.”

Still, officials who spoke on Wednesday remained cautious about inflation. Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, called the report the “first hint” of a move in the right direction, while Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said that it was “positive” but that price increases remained “unacceptably high.”

Policymakers have been hoping for more than a year that price increases will begin to cool, only to have those expectations repeatedly dashed. Supply chain issues have made goods more expensive, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent commodity prices soaring, a shortage of workers pushed wages and service prices higher and a dearth of housing has fueled rising rents.

toward $4 in July after peaking at $5 in June, based on data from AAA. That decline helped overall inflation to cool last month. The trend has continued into August, which should help inflation to continue to moderate.

But it is unclear what will happen next. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects that fuel costs will continue to come down, but geopolitical instability and the speed of U.S. oil and gas production during hurricane season, which can take refineries offline, are wild cards in that outlook.

declined in July, perhaps in part because borrowing costs rose. Mortgage rates have increased this year and appear to be weighing on the housing market, which could be helping to drive down prices for appliances.

slow hiring. Wages are still rising rapidly, and, as that happens, so are prices on many services. Rents, which make up a chunk of overall inflation and are closely linked to wage growth, continue to climb rapidly — which is concerning, because they tend to change course only slowly.

Rents of primary residences climbed 0.7 percent in July from the prior month, and are up 6.3 percent over the past year. Before the pandemic, that measure typically climbed about 3.5 percent annually.

Those forces could keep inflation undesirably rapid even if supply chains unsnarl and fuel prices continue to fall. The Fed aims for 2 percent inflation over time, based on a different but related inflation measure.

“The Covid reopening and revenge travel pressures have eased — and are probably going to continue easing,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, senior U.S. economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. But she also struck a note of caution, adding: “Under the hood, we’re still seeing pressures in rent. There’s still sticky inflation here.”

And given how high inflation has been for more than a year now, Fed policymakers will avoid reading too much into a single report. Inflation slowed last summer only to speed up again in fall.

“We might see goods inflation and commodity inflation come down, but at the same time see the services side of the economy stay up — and that’s what we’ve got to keep watching for,” Loretta Mester, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said during a recent appearance. “It can’t just be a one month. Oil prices went down in July; that’ll feed through to the July inflation report, but there’s a lot of risk that oil prices will go up in the fall.”

Ms. Mester said that she “welcomes” a slowdown in some types of prices, but that it would be a mistake to “cry victory too early” and allow inflation to continue without taking necessary action.

For many Americans who are struggling to adjust their lifestyles to rapidly climbing costs at the grocery store and dry cleaners, an annual inflation rate that is still more than four times its normal speed is unlikely to feel like a big improvement, even as lower gas prices and rising pay rates do offer some relief.

Stephanie Bailey, 54, has a solid family income in Waco, Texas. Even so, she has been cutting back on meals at local Tex-Mex restaurants and new clothes because of the climbing prices, which she sees “everywhere.” At Starbucks, she opts for cold, noncoffee drinks, which in some cases are cheaper.

Her son, who is in his 20s, has moved back in with his parents. Rent had become out of reach on his salary working at a vitamin manufacturer. He is now teaching at a local high school.

“It’s just so expensive, with housing,” Ms. Bailey said. “He was having a hard time making ends meet.”

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Turkey says ship carrying first Ukrainian grain on track for safe arrival

  • Ukraine consults U.S. in using HIMARS launchers, official says
  • Comment prompts Kremlin to accuse U.S. of direct involvement
  • First wartime Ukraine grain export ship reaches Bosphorus Strait
  • U.S. sanctions target ex-Olympic gymnast seen as close to Putin

ISTANBUL/LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of direct involvement in the Ukraine war while the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to world markets since Moscow’s invasion anchored safely off Turkey’s coast after a problem-free journey.

Russia said it was responding to comments by Vadym Skibitsky, Ukraine’s deputy head of military intelligence, about the way Kyiv had used U.S.-made and supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers based on what he called excellent satellite imagery and real-time information.

Skibitsky told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper there was consultation between U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials before strikes and that Washington had an effective veto on intended targets, though he said U.S. officials were not providing direct targeting information.

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Russia’s defence ministry, headed by a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said the interview showed that Washington was entangled in the conflict despite repeated assertions that it was limiting its role to arms supplies because it did not want a direct confrontation with Moscow. read more

“All this undeniably proves that Washington, contrary to White House and Pentagon claims, is directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

“It is the Biden administration that is directly responsible for all Kyiv-approved rocket attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure in populated areas of Donbas and other regions, which have resulted in mass deaths of civilians.”

There was no immediate reaction from the White House or Pentagon to the ministry’s assertions.

The Pentagon did deny, however, Moscow’s claims that Russia had destroyed six U.S.-made HIMARS since the war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24. Russia regularly claims it has hit HIMARS but has yet to show proof. read more

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of carrying out devastating missile attacks on civilian targets on an almost daily basis. Both sides deny deliberately targeting civilians.

The accuracy and long range of missile systems provided by the West were intended to reduce Russia’s artillery advantage, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday night said that despite those supplies, his country’s forces could not yet overcome Russian advantages in heavy guns and manpower.

“This is very much felt in combat, especially in the Donbas. … It is just hell there. Words cannot describe it,” he said.

A Russian diplomat said at the United Nations that the conflict in Ukraine does not warrant Russia’s use of nuclear weapons, but Moscow could decide to use its nuclear arsenal in response to “direct aggression” by NATO countries over the invasion. read more

At a nuclear non-proliferation conference, diplomat Alexander Trofimov said Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the existence of the Russian state.

“None of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine,” Trofimov, a senior diplomat in the non-proliferation and arms control department of Russia’s foreign ministry, told the U.N. conference to review the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

SAFE PASSAGE

Meanwhile, a July 22 U.N.-brokered deal to unblock the export of Ukrainian grain had an initial success. Turkey said that the first loaded ship since Russia’s invasion more than five months ago was safely anchored off the Turkish coast. read more

The vessel, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni was at the entrance of the Bosphorus Strait, which connects the Black Sea to world markets, around 1800 GMT on Tuesday, some 36 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

A delegation from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul, where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and U.N. personnel work, is expected to inspect the ship at 0700 GMT on Wednesday, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said.

It was loaded with 26,527 tonnes of corn.

“We hope that there will be some more outbound movement tomorrow,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Dujarric said there were about 27 ships in the three Ukrainian ports covered by the export deal that were ready to go.

The exports from one of the world’s top grain producers are intended to help ease a global food crisis.

“Our goal now is to have an orderly schedule so when one ship leaves port there should be other vessels – both those loading and those approaching the port,” Zelenskiy said.

For the safe passage deal to stick, there are other hurdles to overcome, including clearing sea mines and creating a framework for vessels to safely enter the war zone and pick up cargoes. read more

Known as Europe’s breadbasket, Ukraine hopes to export 20 million tonnes of grain held in silos and 40 million tonnes from the harvest now under way, initially from Odesa and nearby Pivdennyi and Chornomorsk.

Russia has called the Razoni’s departure “very positive” news. It has denied responsibility for the food crisis, saying Western sanctions have slowed its exports.

Adding to those sanctions, the United States on Tuesday targeted Alina Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast the Treasury Department described as having a close relationship with Putin. Putin has denied they are romantically linked.

The department said in a statement Kabaeva heads the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin group of television, radio and print organizations.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaux; writing by Andrew Osborn. Mark Heinrich and Alistair Bell; editing by Nick Macfie, Grant McCool, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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UK leadership candidate Truss: junk food taxes “are over”

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The frontrunner to become British prime minister, Liz Truss, said she would scrap plans to restrict multi-buy deals on food and drink high in fat, salt, or sugar and would not impose any new levies on unhealthy food.

Britain already taxes sugar in soft drinks, and in May delayed until October next year rules banning deals such “buy one get one free” on food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar due to the cost-of-living crisis. read more

“Those taxes are over,” Truss said in an interview with the Daily Mail. “Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.”

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Truss said Britons wanted the government to focus on things like delivering good transport links, communications infrastructure and cutting National Health Service waiting lists.

“They don’t want the government telling them what to eat,” she said.

The ban was also due to include restrictions on free refills for soft drinks in restaurants. Limits on the location of unhealthy foods in shops are still due to go ahead in October.

Opinion polls of Conservative Party members, who will elect their new leader and the country’s next prime minister, show Truss is leading her rival former finance minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a result due on Sept. 5.

The chairman of Britain’s biggest supermarket group Tesco (TSCO.L), John Allan, in June criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government for not being consistent on policy, including over anti-obesity measures. read more

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Reporting by Kylie MacLellan. Editing by Andrew MacAskill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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From subway stations to shopping malls, Taiwan prepares its air-raid shelters

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Taiwan is preparing its air-raid shelters as rising tension with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raise new fears about the possibility of a Chinese attack on the democratic island.

China considers Taiwan its territory and has increased military activity in the air and seas around it. Taiwan vows to defend itself and has made strengthening its defences a priority, with regular military and civil defence drills. read more

The preparations include designating shelters where people can take cover if Chinese missiles start flying in, not in purpose-built bunkers but in underground spaces like basement car parks, the subway system and subterranean shopping centres.

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The capital of Taipei has more than 4,600 such shelters that can accommodate some 12 million people, more than four times its population.

Harmony Wu, 18, was surprised to learn that an underground shopping concourse where she and other youngsters were recently rehearsing some dance moves would be turned into an air-raid shelter in the event of war.

But she said she could understand why.

“Having shelter is very necessary. We don’t know when a war might come and they are to keep us safe,” Wu said at the venue near a Taipei subway station.

“War is brutal. We’ve never experienced it so we aren’t prepared,” she said.

Taipei officials have been updating their database of designated shelters, putting their whereabouts on a smartphone app and launching a social media and poster campaign to make sure people know how to find their closest one.

Shelter entrances are marked with a yellow label, about the size of an A4 piece of paper, with the maximum number of people it can take.

A senior official in the city office in charge of the shelters said events in Europe had brought a renewed sense of urgency.

“Look at the war in Ukraine,” Abercrombie Yang, a director of the Building Administration Office, told Reuters.

“There’s no guarantee that the innocent public won’t get hit,” he said, adding that that was why the public had to be informed.

“All citizens should have crisis awareness … We need the shelters in the event of an attack by the Chinese communists.”

‘NOT STRESSED’

Last month, Taiwan held a comprehensive air-raid exercise across the island for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular drills.

Among the instructions citizens got in case of incoming missiles was to get down in their basement parking lots with their hands covering their eyes and ears while keeping their mouths open – to minimise the impact of blast waves.

Some civil defence advocates say more needs to be done.

Authorities are required by law to keep the shelters clean and open but they don’t have to be stocked with supplies like food and water.

Researchers in parliament called in June for shelters to be provided with emergency supplies.

Wu Enoch of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party says the public must prepare survival kits to take with them when they seek shelter.

“What’s important is what you bring with you, for people to stay there for a long period of time,” Wu said, citing medical supplies and even tools to build a makeshift toilet.

After decade of sabre-rattling across the Taiwan Strait separating the democratic island from China, many Taiwan people appear resigned to living with the threat of a Chinese invasion.

“I’m not stressed. I carry on with my life as usual. When it happens, it happens,” said Teresa Chang, 17, who was also going through her paces at the underground dance practice.

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Reporting by Yimou Lee, Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang; Editing by Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Analysis: East Europe’s party is over as double-digit inflation bites

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ESZTERGOM, Hungary, Aug 5 (Reuters) – In the weeks that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, western Europe’s big economies began to falter. But further east it was still boom-time thanks to double-digit wage hikes and generous state handouts in some countries.

Not any more.

A sharp slowdown in retail sales and plunging confidence indicators show that the cost of living crisis has caught up with Europe’s eastern wing, where people now face a harsh reality check as stubborn double-digit inflation erodes their incomes while food price rises top 15%-22% and energy costs soar.

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As household consumption takes a hit, analysts are downgrading their GDP forecasts and the risk of a Europe-wide recession looms.

Families have started to tighten their belts. Poles are taking shorter holidays, Czechs are saving on restaurant bills while some seek second jobs, and in Hungary – where food inflation alone was an annual 22.1% in June – people are cutting down on grocery bills and purchases of consumer durables as a slide in the forint currency pushes up import prices.

“I went into the bakery one day and a loaf of bread cost 550 forints. I go in the next day and it costs 650. For God’s sake!”, exclaimed Lajos, a 73-year-old man shopping at a market in the northern city of Esztergom on the Danube river.

Standing by his bicycle, grey-bearded Lajos, who did not give his family name, said the surge in food prices had consumed some of his monthly pension and he would not be able to pay higher utility bills, which will rise after the government last month scrapped price caps for what it called higher-usage households.

So he is making his own plans.

“I can heat with gas but also wood … as I have a tile-stove. So with my wife we will move into one room, heat up the stove, put on some warm sweaters and watch TV like that.”

Across Hungary, retail sales growth (HURETY=ECI) slowed to an annual 4.5% in June from 10.9% in May, with furniture and electronic goods sales down by 4.3%, suggesting the impact of huge tax breaks and fiscal transfers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government before April’s elections has now faded.

Polish retail sales growth also slowed to an annual 3.2% in June from 8.2% in May, while Czech adjusted retail sales excluding cars and motorcycles dropped by 6.0% year-on-year in June after a fall of 6.6% in May, data showed on Friday.

“Households have reacted to the rising cost of living in a meaningful way, and the consumption of things has started to slow,” said Peter Virovacz, an analyst at ING in Budapest.

According to a survey by the National Bank of Hungary on Friday, commercial banks expect demand for loans to decline and credit conditions to tighten in the second half.

BELT-TIGHTENING

The slowdown in domestic demand, rising interest rates, government spending cuts and companies’ rising costs look set to dampen economic growth in Central Europe in the second half of this year and slow them down sharply in 2023.

Citigroup said Hungary’s economy could grow by close to 5% in 2022 but that there were downside risks to its 1% forecast for next year.

“The risk of prolonged high energy prices keeping inflation in double-digit territory even in 2023 and our updated Euro Area in-house forecasts point towards downside risks,” it said.

The Hungarian central bank still projects 2.0%-3.0% growth for 2023, and it will release new forecasts in September.

The Polish economy is expected to grow by 3.8% this year and 3.2% in 2023, according to government projections.

The Czech central bank, the first to call a halt to its rate-hike cycle on Thursday, predicts recession at the turn of the year as it sees the economy contracting 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2022 and 1% in the first quarter of 2023.

“Our base scenario includes a mild recession – a technical recession – we have two quarters in a row with a quarterly decline there… That would be a healthy recession, which also allows for cutting inflation,” Governor Ales Michl said.

While the summer is still expected to see a boom in the tourism sector, Poles have started to save on trips according to travel website Noclegi.pl.

“We can see that what characterizes this season is the shortening of trips, on average by one day, and postponing the booking until the last moment,” said Natalia Jaworska, an expert at Noclegi.pl. Poles have also begun to save on food.

Data from various restaurant payment services, like Sodexo, have shown falling spending in restaurants in the Czech Republic as well. The STEM polling agency’s latest survey in June found 80% of Czech households were cutting back or limiting their purchases because of fast-rising energy bills.

Czech consumer confidence hit a new low in July, according to the statistics office’s monthly survey, while a survey by think-tank GKI showed the Hungarian consumer confidence index in July plunged to its lowest level since April 2020 during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Martin Hulovec, a 43-year-old Czech film producer, said he was not worried about his income right now, but he was less optimistic about the future.

“The hard times have not arrived yet for me to deal with it immediately… but it will come,” Hulovec said.

“I will certainly seek more energy savings… I will definitely not buy new stuff for the kids, clothing or sport equipment. You can find that secondhand for half the price.”

And he too will be switching on the heating less when winter comes.

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Reporting and writing by Krisztina Than, Addditional repoting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller in Prague, and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw, Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Emerson Marks ENERGY STAR® Award with Smart Thermostat Promotion to Ameren Missouri Customers

ST. LOUIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In celebration of Emerson’s Sensi™ smart thermostat being named the first smart thermostat to receive the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence Award, St. Louis companies Emerson and Ameren Missouri are teaming up to offer consumers special, energy-saving technology.

Through this latest collaboration, Ameren Missouri customers can receive an energy savings bundle that includes both a Sensi smart thermostat and an Emporia smart plug for only $1 plus required sales tax.

“Sensi is the first thermostat to win this recognition from ENERGY STAR, and we’re proud to partner with Ameren Missouri to ensure customers across the state can benefit from this smart, sustainable technology at very little cost,” said Jamie Froedge, executive president of Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions business. “We’re proud to help consumers use energy more efficiently while saving money and having even greater control over their personal comfort, no matter the temperature outside.”

Emerson’s Sensi smart thermostat helps customers save money and reduce their carbon footprint by heating and cooling homes more efficiently through features like flexible scheduling, remote access via the mobile app and geofencing to help automatically adjust their temperature when they’re away. The Sensi smart thermostat does not require a common wire, is easy to install and integrates with all major smart home platforms including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit and SmartThings.

“More and more customers are looking to smart thermostats as a way to conserve energy and save money on their bill,” said Tony Lozano, director of energy solutions Ameren Missouri. “We’re proud to partner with companies like Emerson that are committed to sustainability and reducing carbon emissions, and we’re excited to help our customers get an easy-to-install Sensi smart thermostat at such a reduced cost.”

The Sensi thermostat giveaway is just one component of Ameren Missouri’s residential energy efficiency program. Customers also have the power to save on heat pump water heaters, HVAC systems and other products that use less energy. Find more ways to save at AmerenMissouriSavings.com.

To request a Sensi smart thermostat, visit AmerenMissouri.com/Sensi. To learn more about Emerson’s Sensi smart thermostats, visit Sensi.Emerson.com or connect with Sensi thermostat on Facebook or Twitter.

About Emerson

Emerson (NYSE: EMR), headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), is a global technology and software company providing innovative solutions for customers in industrial, commercial and residential markets. Our Automation Solutions business helps process, hybrid and discrete manufacturers maximize production, protect personnel and the environment while optimizing their energy and operating costs. Our Commercial & Residential Solutions business helps ensure human comfort and health, protect food quality and safety, advance energy efficiency and create sustainable infrastructure. For more information visit Emerson.com.

About Ameren Missouri

Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than 100 years, and the company’s electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. Ameren Missouri’s mission is to power the quality of life for its 1.2 million electric and 132,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. The company’s service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit Ameren.com/Missouri or follow us on Twitter at @AmerenMissouri or Facebook.com/AmerenMissouri.

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Live Updates: As Pelosi Departs Taiwan, Threat of Military Standoff With China Looms

Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

After weeks of silence ahead of a high-stakes visit to Taiwan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was anything but understated on Wednesday during a day of high-profile meetings, in which she offered support for Taiwan and irked China.

In a pair of morning meetings that were partly broadcast online, Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwanese lawmakers and then with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, to whom she offered assurances of United States support despite threats from China.

“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” Ms. Pelosi said. “America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.”

The meetings, though light on substance, were widely welcomed in Taiwan as a symbolic victory. Ms. Pelosi’s trip made her the highest-ranking active member of the United States government to visit the island in 25 years and offered a rare moment of international support for the self-ruled democratic island, which China has worked relentlessly to isolate.

They also presented an affront to China. Ms. Pelosi, who headed to South Korea late Wednesday afternoon, also met with human rights leaders in Taiwan and toured a human rights museum. It was in keeping with her long history of poking China in the eye. She also brought economic assurances, calling a trade deal between Taiwan and the United States hopefully imminent and holding a cordial meeting with the chairman of the Taiwan chip giant T.S.M.C.

The trip took place against the backdrop of increasingly heated warnings from China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. Beijing condemned the speaker’s visit in strong terms, responding with plans for military exercises near Taiwan. It may also damage a push by the White House to shore up support against China from key allies in the region who analysts say have felt sidelined by the trip.

On Wednesday, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, told a regular news conference in Beijing that more punishments for the United and Taiwan would follow from Ms. Pelosi’s visit.

“As for the specific countermeasures, what I can tell you is that they’ll include everything that should be included,” Ms. Hua said, according to People’s Daily. “The measures in question will be firm, vigorous and effective, and the U.S. side and Taiwan independence forces will continue feeling them.”

Yet as Ms. Pelosi toured Taipei, the capital, at times an almost carnival atmosphere followed. Hundreds turned out to watch her plane land, Taipei’s tallest building was illuminated with welcome messages, and protesters and supporters greeted her at her hotel, and then on Wednesday followed her to the legislature and at a human rights museum. Many cheered and held up supportive banners, while others denounced her for stirring up tensions with China.

When Ms. Pelosi arrived at Taiwan’s legislature with a police escort, a group offering support on one side of the building held up banners welcoming her. A gathering of pro-China demonstrators on the other held up signs calling her an “arsonist” and accusing her of interfering in China’s internal affairs.

A mood that was often celebratory in Taiwan was far more menacing across the strait separating China from Taiwan with the real potential for a military showdown.

China’s military has planned a series of live-fire drills, starting on Thursday, that would mark a direct challenge to what Taiwan defines as its coastline. Coordinates for the drills indicated that they could take place as close as 10 miles from Taiwan’s coast, well within the area that Taiwan says is a part of its territorial waters and closer than previous tests during a standoff 26 years ago.

On Taiwanese social media, jubilance sat alongside anxiety over what could be the riskiest military standoff with China in a generation. Some posted pictures of China’s military exercises and expressed concern. Eric Liu, a sales manager at a food company in central Taiwan, said he felt both exhilaration and worry.

“It’s unprecedented for Taiwan and my generation of Taiwanese,” Mr. Liu, 26, said in an interview during Ms. Pelosi’s visit. “I felt quite excited, and also sensed the danger.”

“I believe a war in the Taiwan Strait is inevitable, but I don’t want to see it happen anytime soon,” he added.

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