ratcheting down gas deliveries to several European countries.

Across the continent, countries are preparing blueprints for emergency rationing that involve caps on sales, reduced speed limits and lowered thermostats.

As is usually the case with crises, the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the harshest effects. The International Energy Agency warned last month that higher energy prices have meant an additional 90 million people in Asia and Africa do not have access to electricity.

Expensive energy radiates pain, contributing to high food prices, lowering standards of living and exposing millions to hunger. Steeper transportation costs increase the price of every item that is trucked, shipped or flown — whether it’s a shoe, cellphone, soccer ball or prescription drug.

“The simultaneous rise in energy and food prices is a double punch in the gut for the poor in practically every country,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, “and could have devastating consequences in some corners of the world if it persists for an extended period.”

Group of 7 this past week discussed a price cap on exported Russian oil, a move that is intended to ease the burden of painful inflation on consumers and reduce the export revenue that President Vladimir V. Putin is using to wage war.

Price increases are everywhere. In Laos, gas is now more than $7 per gallon, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com; in New Zealand, it’s more than $8; in Denmark, it’s more than $9; and in Hong Kong, it’s more than $10 for every gallon.

Leaders of three French energy companies have called for an “immediate, collective and massive” effort to reduce the country’s energy consumption, saying that the combination of shortages and spiking prices could threaten “social cohesion” next winter.

increased coal production to avoid power outages during a blistering heat wave in the northern and central parts of the country and a subsequent rise in demand for air conditioning.

Germany, coal plants that were slated for retirement are being refired to divert gas into storage supplies for the winter.

There is little relief in sight. “We will still see high and volatile energy prices in the years to come,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

At this point, the only scenario in which fuel prices go down, Mr. Birol said, is a worldwide recession.

Reporting was contributed by José María León Cabrera from Ecuador, Lynsey Chutel from South Africa, Ben Ezeamalu from Nigeria, Jason Gutierrez from the Philippines, Oscar Lopez from Mexico and Ruth Maclean from Senegal.

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G7 to hike sanctions on Russia, nears oil price cap deal

  • G7 to announce new Russia sanctions on Tuesday – U.S. official
  • G7 to work with other countries, private sector on oil price cap
  • Japan tries to cut zero-emission vehicles goal from G7 statement

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany, June 27 (Reuters) – The Group of Seven rich democracies will commit on Tuesday to a new package of coordinated actions meant to raise pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine, and will finalise plans for a price cap on Russian oil, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

The announcement came as the White House said Russia had defaulted on its foreign sovereign bonds for the first time in decades – an assertion Moscow rejected – and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke virtually with G7 leaders meeting at an alpine resort in southern Germany. read more

Zelenskiy asked leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies for a broad range of military, economic and diplomatic support, according to a European official.

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G7 nations, which generate nearly half the world’s economic output, want to crank up pressure on Russia without stoking already soaring inflation that is causing strains at home and savaging the global south.

The price cap could hit Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war chest while actually lowering energy prices.

“The dual objectives of G7 leaders have been to take direct aim at Putin’s revenues, particularly through energy, but also to minimize the spillovers and the impact on the G7 economies and the rest of the world,” the U.S. official said on the sidelines of the annual G7 summit.

G7 leaders would also make an “unprecedented, long-term security commitment to providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support as long as it takes”, including the timely provision of advanced weapons, the White House said in a fact sheet.

Western sanctions have hit Russia’s economy hard and the new measures are aimed at further depriving the Kremlin of oil revenues. G7 countries would work with others – including India – to limit the revenues that Putin can continue to generate, the U.S. official said.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the five leaders of guest nations joining the G7 for talks on climate change, energy, health, food security and gender equality on the second day of the summit.

“Since it is a mechanism that could benefit third countries more than Europe,” one EU official said. “These countries are asking questions about the feasibility, but in principle to pay less for energy is a very popular theme.”

TARGETING RUSSIAN GOLD, DEFENCE SECTOR

A U.S. official said news that Russia defaulted on its foreign sovereign bonds for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 showed how effective Western sanctions have been.

“This morning’s news around the finding of Russia’s default, for the first time in more than a century, situates just how strong the actions are that the U.S., along with allies and partners, have taken, as well as how dramatic the impact has been on Russia’s economy,” the official added.

The Kremlin, which has the funds to make payments thanks to rich energy revenues, swiftly rejected the U.S. statement, accusing the West of driving it into an artificial default. read more

New sanctions planned by the G7 countries will target Moscow’s military production, crack down on its gold imports and target Russian-installed officials in contested areas. read more

The G7 leaders would task their governments to work intensively on how to implement the Russian price cap, working with countries around the world and stakeholders including the private sector, the official said.

The United States said it would also implement sanctions on hundreds of individuals and entities adding to the more than 1,000 already sanctioned, target companies in several countries and impose tariffs on hundreds of Russia products. read more

The agencies involved would release details on Tuesday to minimize any flight risk, a second senior administration official said.

The Ukraine crisis has detracted attention from another crisis – that of climate change – originally set to dominate the summit. Activists fear Western nations are watering down their climate ambitions as they scramble to find alternatives to Russian gas imports and rely more heavily on coal, a dirtier fossil fuel, instead.

Japan is also pushing to remove a target for zero-emission vehicles from a G7 communique expected this week, according to a proposed draft seen by Reuters. read more

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Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Sarah Marsh, Additional Reporting by Angelo Amante, Phil Blenkinsop; Editing by Thomas Escritt, Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

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Go-slow Turkey unlikely to reach Nordics deal at NATO meet -sources

  • NATO leaders meet in Madrid June 29-30
  • Ankara opposed Stockholm and Helsinki’s memberships
  • Turkey ready for months of talks if needed -sources
  • Stance helped Erdogan’s sagging polls ahead of vote

ANKARA, June 27 (Reuters) – A NATO summit this week is unlikely to see a breakthrough to overcome Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland’s membership bids as Ankara takes an unrushed approach to negotiations, according to Turkish officials and Western diplomats.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in what would be a historic enlargement of the Western defence pact. But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan surprised allies by opposing it in May over what he called the Nordic countries’ support for terrorist groups. read more

Any membership bid requires approval of all 30 members of NATO, whose leaders convene in Madrid on June 29-30 in what some had billed as a stage to seal a deal.

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Turkish negotiators are not concerned with deadlines imposed by foreign allies and are ready to press on for months if needed for the Nordic states to drop arms embargoes and crack down on what it sees as terrorist groups, the four sources told Reuters.

Based on draft language exchanged by NATO officials and the three sides this month, a big snag is Turkey’s demand that Sweden, in particular, extradites some Kurdish militants living there, said one person close to the matter.

The officials and diplomats did not rule out a last-minute deal. But Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin repeated a week ago that Ankara – NATO’s second-biggest military and a member for 70 years – awaits binding steps and does not see the summit as a deadline.

“There were meetings, but unfortunately steps we expected are not being taken,” said a Turkish government official involved in the talks. “It seems difficult for a result to come out of the NATO summit.”

In an interview with broadcaster Haberturk on Sunday, Kalin said he and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal would hold fresh talks with Finnish and Swedish officials in Brussels on Monday, followed by another round of talks between the leaders of NATO, Turkey, Finland and Sweden on Tuesday before the Madrid summit. read more

“Attending this summit does not mean we will take a step back from our position,” Kalin said, referring to Tuesday’s four-way meeting. “We have largely reached an agreement, there are some issues we don’t agree on. If we agree on those, that is how we’re going to go to Madrid.”

ELECTIONS AT HOME

The person close to the matter, who also requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of talks, said the document outlining Swedish and Finnish commitments had boiled down to a few sections not yet fully agreed.

They included the appropriate treatment of a NATO partner on arms export controls, which the Nordic states applied to Turkey in 2019; a recognition of certain groups as terrorists; and concrete action on extraditions of individuals, the person said.

Turkey ramped up engagement in mid-June but its approach “is not driven by internationally-set thresholds…like Madrid”, the person said, adding one step forward was Stockholm’s agreement to ongoing consultations on counter-terrorism.

Erdogan, facing tight general and presidential elections over the next 12 months, says the Nordics harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States, as well as Gulenist followers of a cleric accused of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

The tough stance has helped his polls rebound even as Turkey’s inflation rate soars and its currency tumbles largely due to the president’s unorthodox economic policies. read more

A Western diplomat said Erdogan would likely eventually back the membership bids and declare victory to voters. “But this issue could last for several more months as he looks toward an election and NATO allies get increasingly frustrated.”

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Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Alex Richardson

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Banking body urges decisive wave of global rate hikes to stem inflation

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Plastic letters arranged to read “Inflation” are placed on U.S. Dollar banknote in this illustration taken, June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) – The world’s central bank umbrella body, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), has called for interest rates to be raised “quickly and decisively” to prevent the surge in inflation turning into something even more problematic.

The Swiss-based BIS has held its annual meeting in recent days, where top central bankers met to discuss their current difficulties and one of the most turbulent starts to a year ever for global financial markets.

Surging energy and food prices mean inflation in many places is now its hottest in decades. But the usual remedy of ramping up interest rates is raising the spectre of recession, and even of the dreaded 1970s-style “stagflation”, where rising prices are coupled with low or negative economic growth.

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“The key for central banks is to act quickly and decisively before inflation becomes entrenched,” Agustín Carstens, BIS general manager, said as part of the body’s post-meeting annual report published on Sunday.

Carstens, former head of Mexico’s central bank, said the emphasis was to act in “quarters to come”. The BIS thinks an economic soft landing – where rates rise without triggering recessions – is still possible, but accepts it is a difficult situation.

“A lot of it will depend on precisely on how permanent these (inflationary) shocks are,” Carstens said, adding that the response of financial markets would also be crucial.

“If this tightening generates massive losses, generates massive asset corrections, and that contaminates consumption, investment and employment – of course, that is a more difficult scenario.”

World markets are already suffering one of the biggest sell-offs in recent memory as heavyweight central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve – and from next month the ECB – move away from record low rates and almost 15 years of back-to-back stimulus measures.

Global stocks (.MIWD00000PUS) are down 20% since January and some analysts calculate that U.S. Treasury bonds, the benchmark of world borrowing markets, could be having their biggest losing first half of a year since 1788.

CREDIBILITY

Carstens said the BIS’s own recent warnings about frothy asset prices meant the current correction was “not necessarily a complete surprise”. That there hadn’t been “major market disruptions” so far was also reassuring, he added.

Part of the BIS report published already last week said that the recent implosions in the cryptocurrency markets were an indication that long-warned-about dangers of decentralised digital money were now materialising.

Those collapses aren’t expected to cause a systemic crisis in the way that bad loans triggered the global financial crash. But Carstens stressed losses would be sizeable and that the opaque nature of the crypto universe fed uncertainty.

Returning to the macro economic picture, he added that the BIS didn’t currently expect a period of widespread stagflation to take hold.

He also said that though many global central banks and the BIS itself had significantly underestimated how quick global inflation has spiralled over the last six to 12 months, they weren’t about to lose hard-earned credibility overnight.

“Yes, you can argue a little bit here about an error of timing of certain actions and the responses of the central banks. But by and large, I think that the central banks have responded forcefully in a very agile fashion,” Carstens said.

“My sense is that central banks will prevail at the end of the day, and that would be good for their credibility.”

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Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by David Holmes

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Ukraine War’s Latest Victim? The Fight Against Climate Change.

BERLIN — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine seemed like an unexpected opportunity for environmentalists, who had struggled to focus the world’s attention on the kind of energy independence that renewable resources can offer. With the West trying to wean itself from Russian oil and gas, the argument for solar and wind power seemed stronger than ever.

But four months into the war, the scramble to replace Russian fossil fuels has triggered the exact opposite. As the heads of the Group of 7 industrialized nations gather in the Bavarian Alps for a meeting that was supposed to cement their commitment to the fight against climate change, fossil fuels are having a wartime resurgence, with the leaders more focused on bringing down the price of oil and gas than immediately reducing their emissions.

Nations are reversing plans to stop burning coal. They are scrambling for more oil and are committing billions to building terminals for liquefied natural gas, known as L.N.G.

coal plants that had been shuttered or were scheduled to be phased out.

as top economic officials in Ukraine, say it would serve two key purposes: increasing the global supply of oil to put downward pressure on oil and gasoline prices, while reducing Russia’s oil revenue.

Proponents say it is likely that Russia would continue to produce and sell oil even at a discount because it would be easier and more economical than capping wells to cut production. Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimates that it could be in Russia’s economic interest to continue selling oil with a price cap as low as $10 a barrel.

Some proponents say it is possible that China and India would also insist on paying the discounted price, further driving down Russian revenues.

floating ones.

Critics charge that building all 12 terminals would produce an excess capacity. But even half that number would produce three-quarters of the carbon emissions Germany is allowed under international agreements, according to a recent report published by a German environmental watchdog. The terminals would be in use until 2043, far too long for Germany to become carbon neutral by 2045, as pledged by Mr. Scholz’s government.

And countries are not just investing in infrastructure at home.

Last month, Mr. Scholz was in Senegal, one of the developing countries invited to the Group of 7 summit, to discuss cooperating not just on renewables but also on gas extraction and L.N.G. production.

In promoting the Senegal gas project, analysts say, Berlin is violating its own Group of 7 commitment not to offer public financing guarantees for fossil fuel projects abroad.

These contradictions have not gone unnoticed by poorer nations, which are wondering how Group of 7 countries can push for commitments to climate targets while also investing in gas production and distribution.

One explanation is a level of lobbying among fossil fuel companies not seen for years, activists say.

“It looks to me like an attempt by the oil and gas industry to end-run the Paris Agreement,” said Bill Hare of Climate Analytics, an advisory group in Berlin, referring to the landmark 2015 international treaty on climate change. “And I’m very worried they might succeed.”

Ms. Morgan in the German Foreign Ministry shares some of these concerns. “They’re doing everything that they can to move it forward, also in Africa,” she said of the industry. “They want to lock it in. Not just gas, but oil and gas and coal.”

But she and others are still hopeful that the Group of 7 can become a platform for tying climate goals to energy security.

Environmental and foreign policy analysts argue that the Group of 7 could support investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, while pledging funds for poorer nations hit with the brunt of climate disasters.

Above all, activists warn, rich countries need to resist the temptation to react to the short-term energy shortages by once again betting on fossil fuel infrastructure.

“All the arguments are on the table now,” said Ms. Neubauer, the Fridays for Future activist. “We know exactly what fossil fuels do to the climate. We also know very well that Putin is not the only autocrat in the world. We know that no democracy can be truly free and secure as long as it depends on fossil fuel imports.”

Katrin Bennhold Bennhold reported from Berlin, and Jim Tankersley from Telfs, Austria. Erika Solomon and Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.

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Russia’s Blockade of Ukraine Is ‘War Crime,’ Top E.U. Official Says

LONDON — The Russian blockade that has stopped Ukraine from exporting its vast storehouses of grain and other goods, threatening starvation in distant corners of the globe, is a “war crime,” the European Union’s top foreign policy official declared Monday.

The remarks by the official, Josep Borrell Fontelles, were among the strongest language from a Western leader in describing the Kremlin’s tactics to subjugate Ukraine nearly four months after it invaded, and with no end to the conflict in sight.

Before Russian forces began pounding Ukraine in February, it was a major exporter of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer. But the Black Sea blockade — along with Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian farmland and its destruction of agricultural infrastructure — has brought exports to a near standstill. The latest blow came Monday, when, Ukrainian regional authorities said, a Russian missile razed a food warehouse in Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest Black Sea port.

arriving in Luxembourg for a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers. “Millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering hunger. This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made the same point in a remote address to the African Union on Monday. Moscow has deep ties to many African countries, which have been reluctant to criticize the invasion.

similar announcement on Sunday by Germany, Europe’s biggest economy. Denmark said it was also activating a plan to deal with looming shortages of gas that had been supplied by Russia.

The developments came as Russia, far from feeling the pain of lost fuel sales, found a savior in China, which reported on Monday that it was now the biggest buyer of Russian oil.

considering a suspension of fuel taxes to ease the strain on consumers.

NBC News, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said that the two Americans, Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, were “soldiers of fortune” who had been engaged in shelling and firing on Russian forces and should be “held responsible for the crimes they have committed.”

The sanctions imposed on Russia also played a role on Monday in an escalating confrontation with Lithuania, a member of both the European Union and NATO.

The Russian authorities threatened Lithuania with retaliation if the Baltic country did not swiftly reverse its ban on the transportation of some goods to Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Lithuania and Poland. Citing instructions from the European Union, Lithuania’s railway on Friday said it was halting the movement of goods from Russia that have been sanctioned by the European bloc.

Mr. Peskov told reporters the situation was “more than serious.” He called the new restrictions “an element of a blockade” of the region and a “violation of everything.”

small town of Toshkivka in Luhansk Province, part of the eastern region known as Donbas. That is where Russian forces have concentrated much of their military power as part of a plan to seize the region after having failed to occupy other parts of the country, including Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, in northern Ukraine.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Russian forces had broken through the Ukrainian front line in Toshkivka, about 12 miles southeast of the metropolitan area of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Those are the last major cities in Luhansk not to have fallen into Russian hands. As of Monday, it remained unclear whether Russia had made any further advance there.

But Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had intensified shelling in and around Kharkiv, weeks after the Ukrainians had pushed them back, suggesting that Moscow still had territorial ambitions beyond Donbas.

“We de-occupied this region,” Mr. Zelensky said in an address to a conference of international policy experts in Italy. “And they want to do it again.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from London, Andrew Higgins from Warsaw, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Druzhkivka, Ukraine, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Reporting was contributed by Valerie Hopkins and Oleksandr Chubko from Kyiv; Dan Bilefsky from Montreal; Monika Pronczuk from Brussels; Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong; Stanley Reed from London; and Zach Montague from Rehoboth Beach, Del.

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Gustavo Petro Wins the Election, Becoming Colombia’s First Leftist Leader

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — For the first time, Colombia will have a leftist president.

Gustavo Petro, a former rebel and a longtime legislator, won Colombia’s presidential election on Sunday, galvanizing voters frustrated by decades of poverty and inequality under conservative leaders, with promises to expand social programs, tax the wealthy and move away from an economy he has called overly reliant on fossil fuels.

His victory sets the third largest nation in Latin America on a sharply uncertain path, just as it faces rising poverty and violence that have sent record numbers of Colombians to the United States border; high levels of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon, a key buffer against climate change; and a growing distrust of key democratic institutions, which has become a trend in the region.

Mr. Petro, 62, received more than 50 percent of the vote, with more than 99 percent counted Sunday evening. His opponent, Rodolfo Hernández, a construction magnate who had energized the country with a scorched-earth anti-corruption platform, won just over 47 percent.

official figures.

part of a different rebel group, called the M-19, which demobilized in 1990, and became a political party that helped rewrite the country’s constitution. Eventually, Mr. Petro became a forceful leader in the country’s opposition, known for denouncing human rights abuses and corruption.

called his energy plan “economic suicide.”

riddled with corruption and frivolous spending. He had called for combining ministries, eliminating some embassies and firing inefficient government employees, while using savings to help the poor.

One Hernández supporter, Nilia Mesa de Reyes, 70, a retired ethics professor who voted in an affluent section of Bogotá, said that Mr. Petro’s leftist policies, and his past with the M-19, terrified her. “We’re thinking about leaving the country,” she said.

Mr. Petro’s critics, including former allies, have accused him of arrogance that leads him to ignore advisers and struggle to build consensus. When he takes office in August, he will face a deeply polarized society where polls show growing distrust in almost all major institutions.

He has vowed to serve as the president of all Colombians, not just those who voted for him.

On Sunday, at a high school-turned-polling station in Bogotá, Ingrid Forrero, 31, said she saw a generational divide in her community, with young people supporting Mr. Petro and older generations in favor of Mr. Hernández.

Her own family calls her the “little rebel” because of her support for Mr. Petro, whom she said she favors because of his policies on education and income inequality.

“The youth is more inclined toward revolution,” she said, “toward the left, toward a change.”

Megan Janetsky contributed reporting from Bucaramanga, Colombia, and Sofía Villamil and Genevieve Glatsky contributed reporting from Bogotá.

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Bitcoin Plummets Below $20,000 for First Time Since Late 2020

Square, another payments company, bought $50 million of Bitcoin and changed its name to Block, in part to signify its work with blockchain technology. Tesla bought $1.5 billion of it. The venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz raised $4.5 billion for a fourth cryptocurrency-focused fund, doubling its previous one.

Excitement hit a peak in April last year when Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange, went public at an $85 billion valuation, a coming-out party for the industry. Bitcoin topped $60,000 for the first time.

Last summer, El Salvador announced that it would become the first country to classify Bitcoin as legal tender, alongside the U.S. dollar. The country’s president updated his Twitter profile picture to include laser eyes, a calling card of Bitcoin believers. The value of El Salvador’s $105 million investment in Bitcoin has been slashed in half as the price has fallen.

Senators and mayors around the United States began touting cryptocurrency, as the industry spent heavily on lobbying. Mayor Eric Adams of New York, who was elected in November, said he would take his first three paychecks in Bitcoin. Senators Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, proposed legislation that would create a regulatory framework for the industry, giving more authority to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an agency that crypto companies have openly courted.

Through the frenzy, celebrities fueled the fear of missing out, flogging their NFTs on talk shows and talking up blockchain projects on social media. This year, the Super Bowl featured four ads for crypto companies, including Matt Damon warning viewers that “fortune favors the brave.”

That swaggering optimism faltered this spring as the stock market plummeted, inflation soared and layoffs hit the tech sector. Investors began losing confidence in their crypto investments, moving money to less risky assets. Several high-profile projects crashed amid withdrawals. TerraForm Labs, which created TerraUSD, a so-called stablecoin, and Celsius, an experimental crypto bank, both collapsed, wiping out billions in value and sending the broader market into a tailspin.

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U.S. labor market appears to cool; homebuilding slumps as rates surge

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A “Now hiring” sign is displayed on the window of an IN-N-OUT fast food restaurant in Encinitas, California, U.S., May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • Weekly jobless claims fall 3,000 to 229,000
  • Continuing claims rise 3,000 to 1.312 million
  • Housing starts plunge 14.4% in May; permits drop 7.0%

WASHINGTON, June 16 (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell less than expected last week, suggesting some cooling in the labor market, though conditions remain tight.

There are growing signs the Federal Reserve’s aggressive efforts to slow demand and bring down inflation to its 2% target are starting to have an impact. Homebuilding slumped to a 13-month low in May, while a gauge of factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region contracted for the first time in two years in June. read more

The U.S. central bank on Wednesday raised its policy interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point, the biggest hike since 1994. read more

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“The Fed is getting what it wants as financial market conditions tighten and interest rate-sensitive parts of the economy respond to the removal of monetary policy accommodation,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester Pennsylvania.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 229,000 for the week ended June 11, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 215,000 applications for the latest week.

The decline left the bulk of the prior week’s jump intact, which had lifted filings close to a five-month high. California reported a surge in unadjusted claims last week. There were notable rises in Ohio and Michigan, potentially related to the auto industry. Claims also increased considerably in Illinois and Pennsylvania, but fell in Missouri.

Jobless claims

There has been a steady rise in reports of job cuts, mostly in the technology and housing sectors. Still, claims have remained locked in a tight range since plunging to more than a 53-year low of 166,000 in March.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that “the labor market has remained extremely tight,” and that “labor demand is very strong.” The U.S. central bank has increased its benchmark overnight interest rate by 150 basis points since March.

There were 11.4 million job openings at the end of April. The number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 3,000 to 1.312 million during the week ending June 4.

“For now, supply and demand mismatches will keep filings low,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in White Plains, New York. “But the level could start to trend up as the Fed continues to remove policy accommodation to slow demand.”

Thursday’s data followed on the heels of news this week of a surprise decline in U.S. retail sales in May, amplifying fears of a recession.

Stocks on Wall Street tumbled. The dollar fell against a basket of currencies. U.S. Treasury yields fell.

LOSING SPEED

The housing market, the sector most sensitive to interest rates, is losing speed. But this could help to bring housing supply and demand back into alignment and lower prices.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed housing starts plunged 14.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.549 million units last month, the lowest level since April 2021. Economists had forecast starts would slide to a rate of 1.701 million units.

Permits for future homebuilding declined 7.0% to a rate of 1.695 million units. A survey on Wednesday showed the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market sentiment index hit a two-year low in June, with a gauge of prospective buyer traffic falling below the break-even level of 50 for the first time since June 2020. read more

Single-family housing starts, which account for the biggest share of homebuilding, tumbled 9.2% to a rate of 1.051 million units last month, the lowest since August 2020. Starts rose in the Northeast, but fell in the Midwest, South and West regions.

housing starts and building permits

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage jumped 55 basis points this week to a 13-1/2-year high of 5.78%, mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac reported on Thursday. That was the largest one-week increase since 1987.

“Rising rates aren’t all bad news, however,” said Jacob Channel, senior economist at LendingTree. “Though it’s unlikely that home prices will majorly slump, an increase in housing supply will likely significantly slow home price growth and give would-be buyers more housing options to chose from.”

Building permits for single-family homes declined 5.5% to a rate of 1.048 million units, the lowest since July 2020.

Starts for housing projects with five units or more dove 26.8% to a rate 469,000 units. Multi-family housing permits dropped 10.0% to a rate of 592,000 units.

The number of houses approved for construction that are yet to be started increased 0.7% to 283,000 units. Housing completions were the highest since 2007, which together with slowing demand could help to lower prices.

Goldman Sachs trimmed its second-quarter gross domestic product estimate by two-tenths of a percentage point to a 2.8% annualized rate. The economy contracted at a 1.5% pace in the January-March quarter.

“The Fed’s aggressive and abrupt policy tightening may soon be criticized for letting in the winds of recession,” said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at FWDBONDS in New York.

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Reporting by Lucia Mutikani
Editing by Nick Zieminski and Paul Simao

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Central banks opt for shock and awe to tame inflation

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The exterior of the Marriner S. Eccles Federal Reserve Board Building is seen in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 14, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

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LONDON, June 17 (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve this week delivered its biggest interest rate rise in over a quarter of a century and even the Swiss National Bank took markets by surprise with an aggressive rate hike.

It leaves the Bank of Japan the only major developed world central bank still clinging to the inflation-is-transitory mantra.

Here’s a look at where policymakers stand in the race to contain red-hot inflation.

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1) UNITED STATES

The Federal Reserve vaulted to the top-hawk spot on June 15, raising the target federal funds rate by three quarters of a percentage point to a 1.5%-1.75% range.

It acted days after data showed 8.6% annual U.S. inflation, triggering a market frenzy over potentially even more aggressive responses in the coming months.

The Fed is also reducing its $9 trillion stash of assets accumulated during the pandemic.

Central bank balance sheets are starting to shrink — slowly

2) NEW ZEALAND

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised its official cash rate by 50 basis points (bps) to 2% on May 25, a level not seen since 2016. That was its fifth straight rate hike. read more

It projected rates to double to 4% over the coming year and stay there until 2024. New Zealand inflation reached a three-decade high of 6.9% in the year to Q1, versus a 1-3% target.

New Zealand among the most aggressive central banks

3) CANADA

The Bank of Canada delivered a second consecutive 50 bps rate increase to 1.5% on June 1, and said it would “act more forcefully” if needed. read more

With April inflation at 6.8%, Governor Tiff Macklem has not ruled out a 75 bps or larger increase and says rates could go above the 2%-3% neutral range for a period.

Deputy BoC governor Paul Beaudry has warned of “galloping” inflation and markets price an unprecedented third consecutive 50 bps increase in July.

Major central banks are hiking rates

4) BRITAIN

The Bank of England (BoE) raised interest rates by 25 bps on Thursday and pledged to act “forcefully” to stamp out dangers posed by a UK inflation rate heading above 11%. read more

The British benchmark interest rate is now at its highest since January 2009. The BoE has now raised borrowing costs five times since December.

Sterling

5) NORWAY

Norway’s Norges Bank was the first big developed economy to kick off a rate-hiking cycle last year and has raised rates three times since September. It is expected to increase its 0.75% rate again on June 23 and plans seven more moves by end-2023.

6) AUSTRALIA

With the economy recovering smartly and inflation at a 20-year high of 5.1%, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) raised rates by a surprise 50 bps on June 6. It was the RBA’s second straight move after insisting for months policy tightening was way off. read more

Money markets price in another 50 bps rise in July.

7) SWEDEN

Another late-comer to the inflation battle, Sweden’s Riksbank raised rates to 0.25% in April in a quarter-point move. With inflation at 6.4%, versus its 2% target, the Riksbank may now opt for bigger moves.

Having said as recently as February that rates would not rise until 2024, the Riksbank expects to hike two or three more times this year.

8) EURO ZONE

Now firmly in the hawkish camp, and facing record-high inflation, the European Central Bank (ECB) said on June 9 it would end bond-buying on July 1, hike rates by 25 bps that month for the first time since 2011 and again in September.

But without details on a tool to prevent borrowing costs for Southern European nations diverging too much above those of Germany, markets will test the ECB’s resolve.

The bank now plans to accelerate work on a potential new tool to contain so-called bond market fragmentation, and skew proceeds from maturing pandemic-era bond holdings into stressed markets. read more

Euro zone inflation is at record highs

9) SWITZERLAND

On June 16, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) unexpectedly raised its -0.75% interest rate, the world’s lowest, by 50 bps, sending the franc soaring read more .

Recent franc weakness has contributed to driving Swiss inflation towards 14-year highs and SNB governor Thomas Jordan said he no longer sees the franc as highly valued. That has opened the door to bets on more rate hikes; a 100 bps move is now priced for September.

10) JAPAN

That leaves the Bank of Japan (BoJ) as the holdout dove.

On Friday, it maintained ultra-low interest rates and vowed to defend its cap on bond yields with unlimited bond-buying. It holds 10-year yields in a 0%-0.25% range.

BoJ boss Haruhiko Kuroda stressed commitment to maintaining stimulus, warning of risks to the economy from tighter policy read more .

In a nod to yen weakness, Kuroda called its rapid decline to 24-year lows “undesirable” as it heightened uncertainty.

The BoJ may come under political pressure, however, given inflation may exceed the 2% target for the second straight month and elections loom in July. Hedge funds, meanwhile, are betting it can’t keep up huge bond-buying for ever.

Japan keeps yield curve control, but pressure for change is building
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Reporting by Sujata Rao, Dhara Ranasinghe and Yoruk Bahceli Additional reporting by Tommy Wilkes and Saikat Chatterjee
Editing by Mark Potter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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