Union officials declined to discuss their objectives for a new contract.

Mr. McKenna, the maritime association chief executive, said the union had yet to outline demands while declining to engage in discussions before May.

He expected that the union would resist efforts to expand automation at the ports, a traditional point of contention. He said greater automation — such as adding self-driving vehicles and robotics to move cargo — was unavoidable in ports in dense urban places like Los Angeles. There, land is tight, so growth must come from increasing efficiency, rather than physically expanding.

The last time the I.L.W.U. contract expired, West Coast ports suffered months of debilitating disruptions — the source of enduring recriminations.

Terminal operators accused dockworkers of slowing operations to generate pressure for a deal. The union countered that employers were the ones creating problems.

Some dockworkers question whether terminal owners are sincerely seeking to speed up cargo handling, given that shipping rates have soared amid chaos at the ports.

Jaime Hipsher, 45, drives a so-called utility tractor rig — equipment used to move containers — at a pair of Southern California shipping terminals. One is operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk, a Danish conglomerate whose profits nearly tripled last year, reaching $24 billion.

She said maintenance of equipment was spotty, producing frequent breakdowns, while the terminals were often understaffed — two problems that could be fixed with more spending.

A Maersk spokesman, Tom Boyd, rejected that characterization.

“Freight rates have been impacted by the global Covid-19 recovery and the demand outpacing supply,” he said in an emailed statement. “Ships at anchor are not productive, nor are they earning revenue against a backdrop of large fixed costs.”

That Ms. Hipsher spends her nights on the docks represents an unexpected turn in her life.

Her father was a longshoreman. He urged her to attend college and do something that involved wearing business attire, in contrast to how he spent his working hours — climbing a skinny ladder to the top of ships and loading coal onto vessels.

“He would come home after work and he would have coal dust coming out of his ears, out of his nose,” Ms. Hipsher recalled. “His hands would just be completely black.”

But in 2004, when she was working as a hairstylist, her brother — also a longshoreman — suggested that she enter a lottery for the right to become a casual dockworker.

The ports had changed, her brother said. Growing numbers of women were employed.

Eighteen years later, Ms. Hipsher has gained the security of seniority, health benefits and a pension.

As contract talks approach, she pushes back against the notion that the union poses a threat to the global economy.

“You’re complaining about my wages, thinking that my wages are the source of inflation, and we don’t deserve it,” she said. “Well, look at the billions that the owners are making.”

Emily Steel contributed reporting.

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EXCLUSIVE HSBC steps up scrutiny of Russian clients worldwide as sanctions ratchet up, article with image

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The HSBC bank logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

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  • HSBC applying harsher scrutiny to Russia-related business
  • Managers told to refuse new loans, accounts -sources
  • Crackdown comes as U.S., European sanctions bite

HONG KONG/LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) – HSBC (HSBA.L) is shunning prospective Russian clients and declining credit to some existing ones, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, as the bank seeks to shield itself from Western sanctions against Moscow.

The measures affect HSBC’s individual and business customers globally and go further than the bank’s previously stated intentions to wind down its relations with lenders such as VTB (VTBR.MM), which were placed under Western restrictions after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. read more

The moves by Europe’s second biggest bank show how sanctions aimed at Russia’s financial system and its political and business elite are also ensnaring Russian nationals outside the country as lenders seek to avoid falling foul of the restrictions and potentially hefty fines.

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HSBC had said on March 14 it is “not accepting any new business in Russia,” without spelling out what that means for existing or prospective Russian customers in other markets.

The sources said the bank’s risk and compliance staff have told business managers to apply extra scrutiny to all prospective clients bearing Russian passports or furnishing Russian addresses, with the result that many more are turned away than would have been in the past.

The checks also extend to dual passport-holders as well as those with links to Belarus, seen as an ally of Moscow, as the bank’s staff scramble to ensure they do not inadvertently offer services to sanctioned individuals or businesses.

HSBC declined to comment.

Customers with business ties to Russia and receiving income in roubles, such as those deriving income from Russian employment, pensions, or investments, are also being impacted as those rouble cashflows are discounted to zero for credit purposes, one of the sources, who works at HSBC, told Reuters.

Business customers with Russian links, even those with no ties to sanctioned entities or individuals, face increased scrutiny on large deposits or withdrawals and are seeing new loan applications declined, the two sources said.

The invasion has triggered an exodus of foreign companies from Russia as Western authorities deploy sanctions at an unprecedented scale and pace to squeeze Moscow and prevent the global financial system from being a conduit for Russian money.

Reuters reported earlier this month that European Union regulators had told some banks to tighten control of all Russian and Belarusian clients, including EU residents, to ensure they are not used to circumvent sanctions. read more

Russia characterises its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” the country.

BUSINESS FREEZE

Leading European banks such as Italy’s UniCredit (CRDI.MI) and France’s Societe Generale (SOGN.PA) said they could face a multi-billion dollar write-off of their businesses in Russia, but banks also face a wider chill on business as they grapple with sanctions. read more

HSBC does not operate a retail bank inside Russia but as of Feb. 22 it had around 200 staff there serving multinational corporations, its Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson told Reuters at the time. The bank said on March 14 its business there “will continue to reduce.”

The latest HSBC measures go beyond the usual background checks, and show how banks’ policies are still evolving since the invasion as they try to implement multiple waves of sanctions without discriminating against legitimate customers.

They also show the tension between banks’ sanctions and compliance teams, who urge the strictest possible interpretation of new rules to satisfy regulators, and frontline staff tasked with growing the business and serving clients.

HSBC is under particular pressure to show regulators that it can identify illegal transactions. It had to tighten up its money laundering controls globally after a string of past scandals and, in 2012, agreed to pay $1.9 billion to U.S. authorities for allowing itself to be used to launder drug money flowing out of Mexico.

HSBC is reviewing all existing private and retail banking customers with Russian connections globally to see if they have ties to sanctioned entities or individuals, the sources said.

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Additional reporting by Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore. Editing by Jane Merriman and Carmel Crimmins

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HP seeks to ride hybrid work boom with $1.7 billion Poly buyout, article with image

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March 28 (Reuters) – HP Inc (HPQ.N) said on Monday it would buy audio and video devices maker Poly (POLY.N) for $1.7 billion in cash as it looks to capitalise on the hybrid work led boom in demand for electronic products.

Shares in HP, which expects the deal will position it for long-term growth, fell 1.4% in premarket trade.

The company has offered $40 for each share of Poly, formerly known as Plantronics, which represents a premium of about 53% to the stock’s last closing price. Including debt, the deal is valued at $3.3 billion.

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“The rise of the hybrid office creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine the way work gets done,” HP Chief Executive Officer Enrique Lores said.

With the global healthcare crisis boosting the need for hybrid work, the market has seen several acquisitions, including business software maker Salesforce.com’s (CRM.N) $27.7-billion purchase of workplace messaging app Slack Technologies Inc last year. read more

Poly, whose shares rose 49% in premarket trade, said it would be required to pay a fee of $66 million if the deal is terminated.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2022.

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Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Vinay Dwivedi

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Is America’s Economy Entering a New Normal?

The pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine, have altered how America’s economy functions. While economists have spent months waiting for conditions to return to normal, they are beginning to wonder what “normal” will mean.

Some of the changes are noticeable in everyday life: Work from home is more popular, burrito bowls and road trips cost more, and buying a car or a couch made overseas is harder.

But those are all symptoms of broader changes sweeping the economy — ones that could be a big deal for consumers, businesses and policymakers alike if they linger. Consumer demand has been hot for months now, workers are desperately wanted, wages are climbing at a rapid clip, and prices are rising at the fastest pace in four decades as vigorous buying clashes with roiled supply chains. Interest rates are expected to rise higher than they ever did in the 2010s as the Federal Reserve tries to rein in inflation.

History is full of big moments that have changed America’s economic trajectory: The Great Depression of the 1930s, the Great Inflation of the 1970s and the Great Recession of 2008 are examples. It’s too early to know for sure, but the changes happening today could prove to be the next one.

kept at it.

Now, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens the global geopolitical order, yet another shock disrupting trade and the economic system.

For Washington policymakers, Wall Street investors and academic economists, the surprises have added up to an economic mystery with potentially far-reaching consequences. The economy had spent decades churning out slow and steady growth clouded by weak demand, interest rates that were chronically flirting with rock bottom and tepid inflation. Some are wondering if, after repeated shocks, that paradigm could change.

“For the last quarter century, we’ve had a perfect storm of disinflationary forces,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said in response to a question during a public appearance this week, noting that the old regime had been disrupted by a pandemic, a large spending and monetary policy response and a war that was generating “untold” economic uncertainty. “As we come out the other side of that, the question is: What will be the nature of that economy?” he said.

began to raise interest rates this month in a bid to cool the economy down and temper high inflation, and Mr. Powell made clear this week that the central bank planned to keep lifting them — perhaps aggressively. After a year of unpleasant price surprises, he said, the Fed will set policy based on what is happening, not on an expected return to the old reality.

“No one is sitting around the Fed, or anywhere else that I know of, just waiting for the old regime to come back,” Mr. Powell said.

The prepandemic normal was one of chronically weak demand. The economy today faces the opposite issue: Demand has been supercharged, and the question is whether and when it will moderate.

Before, globalization had weighed down both pay and price increases, because production could be moved overseas if it grew expensive. Gaping inequality and an aging population both contributed to a buildup of savings stockpiles, and as money was held in safe assets rather than being put to more active use, it seemed to depress growth, inflation and interest rates across many advanced economies.

Japan had been stuck in the weak-inflation, slow-growth regime for decades, and the trend seemed to be spreading to Europe and the United States by the 2010s. Economists expected those trends to continue as populations aged and inequality persisted.

Then came the coronavirus. Governments around the world spent huge amounts of money to get workers and businesses through lockdowns — the United States spent about $5 trillion.

The era of deficient demand abruptly ended, at least temporarily. The money, which is still chugging out into the U.S. economy from consumer savings accounts and state and local coffers, helped to fuel strong buying, as families snapped up goods like lawn mowers and refrigerators. Global supply chains could not keep up.

were able to raise prices without losing customers, they did so. And as workers saw their grocery and Seamless bills swelling, airfares climbing and kitchen renovations costing more, they began to ask their employers for more money.

Companies were rehiring as the economy reopened from the pandemic and to meet the burst in consumption, so labor was in high demand. Workers began to win the raises they wanted, or to leave for new jobs and higher pay. Some businesses began to pass rising labor costs along to customers in the form of higher prices.

The world of slow growth, moderate wage gains and low prices evaporated — at least temporarily. The question now is whether things will settle back down to their prepandemic pattern.

The argument for a return to prepandemic norms is straightforward: Supply chains will eventually catch up. Shoppers have a lot of money in savings accounts, but those stockpiles will eventually run out, and higher Fed interest rates will further slow spending.

As demand moderates, the logic goes, forces like population aging and rampant inequality will plunge advanced economies back into what many economists call “secular stagnation,” a term coined to describe the economic malaise of the 1930s and revived by the Harvard economist Lawrence H. Summers in the 2010s.

Fed officials mostly think that reversion will happen. Their estimates suggest that low inflation and slow growth will be back within a few years, and that interest rates will not have to rise above 3 percent to achieve that moderation. Market pricing also suggests inflation will slow with time, albeit to higher levels than investors expected in 2018 and 2019.

But some of today’s trends look poised to linger, at least for a while. Job openings are plentiful, but the working-age population is growing glacially, immigration has slowed, and people are only gradually returning to work from the labor market’s sidelines. Labor shortages are fueling faster wage gains, which could sustain demand and enable companies to charge higher prices.

a recent essay.

Global forces could exacerbate those trends. The past year’s supply chain issues could inspire companies to produce more domestically — reversing years of globalization and chipping away at a force that had been holding down wage and price growth for decades. The transition to greener energy sources could bolster investment, pushing up interest rates and at least temporarily lifting costs.

“The long era of low inflation, suppressed volatility and easy financial conditions is ending,” Mark Carney, a former head of the Bank of England, said of the global economy in a speech on Tuesday. “It is being replaced by more challenging macro dynamics in which supply shocks are as important as demand shocks.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has the potential to rework global trade relationships for years to come, could leave a more lasting mark on the economy than the pandemic did, Mr. Carney said.

“The pandemic marks a pivot,” he told reporters. “The bigger story is actually the war. That is crystallizing — reinforcing — a process of de-globalization that had begun.”

Mr. Summers said the current period of high inflation and repeated shocks to supply marked “a period rather than an era.” It is too soon to say if the world has fundamentally changed. Over the longer term, he puts the chances that the economy will settle back into its old regime at about 50-50.

“I don’t see how anyone can be confident that secular stagnation is durably over,” he said. On the other hand, “it is quite plausible that we would have more demand than we used to.”

That demand would be fueled by government military spending, spending on climate-related initiatives and spending driven by populist pressures, he said.

In any case, it could take years to know what the economy of the future will look like.

What is clear at this point? The pandemic, and now geopolitical upheaval, have taken the economy and shaken it up like a snow globe. The flakes will eventually fall — there will be a new equilibrium — but things may be arranged differently when everything settles.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Russia Continues Bombardment, but Its Forces Have Shrunk, Pentagon Says

WASHINGTON — When the Cold War ended, governments and companies believed that stronger global economic ties would lead to greater stability. But the Ukraine war and the pandemic are pushing the world in the opposite direction and upending those ideas.

Important parts of the integrated economy are unwinding. American and European officials are now using sanctions to sever major parts of the Russian economy — the 11th largest in the world — from global commerce, and hundreds of Western companies have halted operations in Russia on their own. Amid the pandemic, companies are reorganizing how they obtain their goods because of soaring costs and unpredictable delays in global supply chains.

Western officials and executives are also rethinking how they do business with China, the world’s second-largest economy, as geopolitical tensions and the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses and use of advanced technology to reinforce autocratic control make corporate dealings more fraught.

The moves reverse core tenets of post-Cold War economic and foreign policies forged by the United States and its allies that were even adopted by rivals like Russia and China.

“What we’re headed toward is a more divided world economically that will mirror what is clearly a more divided world politically,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “I don’t think economic integration survives a period of political disintegration.”

“Does globalization and economic interdependence reduce conflict?” he added. “I think the answer is yes, until it doesn’t.”

Opposition to globalization gained momentum with the Trump administration’s trade policies and “America First” drive, and as the progressive left became more powerful. But the pandemic and President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine have brought into sharp relief the uncertainty of the existing economic order.

President Biden warned President Xi Jinping of China on Friday that there would be “consequences” if Beijing gave material aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine, an implicit threat of sanctions. China has criticized sanctions on Russia, and Le Yucheng, the vice foreign minister, said in a speech on Saturday that “globalization should not be weaponized.” Yet China increasingly has imposed economic punishments — Lithuania, Norway, Australia, Japan and South Korea have been among the targets.

The result of all the disruptions may well be a fracturing of the world into economic blocs, as countries and companies gravitate to ideological corners with distinct markets and pools of labor, as they did in much of the 20th century.

Mr. Biden already frames his foreign policy in ideological terms, as a mission of unifying democracies against autocracies. Mr. Biden also says he is enacting a foreign policy for middle-class Americans, and central to that is getting companies to move critical supply chains and manufacturing out of China.

The goal is given urgency by the hobbling of those global links over two years of the pandemic, which has brought about a realization among the world’s most powerful companies that they need to focus on not just efficiency and cost, but also resiliency. This month, lockdowns China imposed to contain Covid-19 outbreaks have once again threatened to stall global supply chains.

Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

The economic impact of such a change is highly uncertain. The emergence of new economic blocs could accelerate a massive reorganization in financial flows and supply chains, potentially slowing growth, leading to some shortages and raising prices for consumers in the short term. But the longer-term effects on global growth, worker wages and supplies of goods are harder to assess.

The war has set in motion “deglobalization forces that could have profound and unpredictable effects,” said Laurence Boone, the chief economist of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

For decades, executives have pushed for globalization to expand their markets and to exploit cheap labor and lax environmental standards. China especially has benefited from this, while Russia profits from its exports of minerals and energy. They tap into enormous economies: The Group of 7 industrialized nations make up more than 50 percent of the global economy, while China and Russia together account for about 20 percent.

Trade and business ties between the United States and China are still robust, despite steadily worsening relations. But with the new Western sanctions on Russia, many nations that are not staunch partners of America are now more aware of the perils of being economically tied to the United States and its allies.

If Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin organize their own economic coalition, they could bring in other nations seeking to shield themselves from Western sanctions — a tool that all recent U.S. presidents have used.

“Your interdependence can be weaponized against you,” said Dani Rodrik, a professor of international political economy at Harvard Kennedy School. “That’s a lesson that I imagine many countries are beginning to internalize.”

The Ukraine war, he added, has “probably put a nail in the coffin of hyperglobalization.”

China and, increasingly, Russia have taken steps to wall off their societies, including erecting strict censorship mechanisms on their internet networks, which have cut off their citizens from foreign perspectives and some commerce. China is on a drive to make critical industries self-sufficient, including for technologies like semiconductors.

And China has been in talks with Saudi Arabia to pay for some oil purchases in China’s currency, the renminbi, The Wall Street Journal reported; Russia was in similar discussions with India. The efforts show a desire by those governments to move away from dollar-based transactions, a foundation of American global economic power.

For decades, prominent U.S. officials and strategists asserted that a globalized economy was a pillar of what they call the rules-based international order, and that trade and financial ties would prevent major powers from going to war. The United States helped usher China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 in a bid to bring its economic behavior — and, some officials hoped, its political system — more in line with the West. Russia joined the organization in 2012.

But Mr. Putin’s war and China’s recent aggressive actions in Asia have challenged those notions.

“The whole idea of the liberal international order was that economic interdependence would prevent conflict of this kind,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a research group in Washington. “If you tie yourselves to each other, which was the European model after the Second World War, the disincentives would be so painful if you went to war that no one in their right mind would do it. Well, we’ve seen now that has proven to be false.”

“Putin’s actions have shown us that might have been the world we’ve been living in, but that’s not the world he or China have been living in,” she said.

The United States and its partners have blocked Russia from much of the international financial system by banning transactions with the Russian central bank. They have also cut Russia off from the global bank messaging system called SWIFT, frozen the assets of Russian leaders and oligarchs, and banned the export from the United States and other nations of advanced technology to Russia. Russia has answered with its own export bans on food, cars and timber.

The penalties can lead to odd decouplings: British and European sanctions on Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns the Chelsea soccer team in Britain, prevent the club from selling tickets or merchandise.

Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

About 400 companies have chosen to suspend or withdraw operations from Russia, including iconic brands of global consumerism such as Apple, Ikea and Rolex.

While many countries remain dependent on Russian energy exports, governments are strategizing how to wean themselves. Washington and London have announced plans to end imports of Russian oil.

The outstanding question is whether any of the U.S.-led penalties would one day be extended to China, which is a far bigger and more integral part of the global economy than Russia.

Even outside the Ukraine war, Mr. Biden has continued many Trump administration policies aimed at delinking parts of the American economy from that of China and punishing Beijing for its commercial practices.

Officials have kept the tariffs imposed by Mr. Trump, which covered about two-thirds of Chinese imports. The Treasury Department has continued to impose investment bans on Chinese companies with ties to the country’s military. And in June, a law will go into effect in the United States barring many goods made in whole or in part in the region of Xinjiang.

Despite all that, demand for Chinese-made goods has surged through the pandemic, as Americans splurge on online purchases. The overall U.S. trade deficit soared to record levels last year, pushed up by a widening deficit with China, and foreign investments into China actually accelerated last year.

Some economists have called for more global integration, not less. Speaking at a virtual conference on Monday, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director general of the World Trade Organization, urged a move toward “re-globalization,” saying, “Deeper, more diversified international markets remain our best bet for supply resilience.

But those economic ties will be further strained if U.S.-China relations worsen, and especially if China gives substantial aid to Russia.

Besides recent warnings to China from Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said her agency would ban the sale of critical American technology to Chinese companies if China tried to supply forbidden technology to Russia.

In the meantime, the uncertainty has left the U.S.-China relationship in flux. While many major Chinese banks and private companies have suspended their interactions with Russia to comply with sanctions, foreign asset managers appear to have also begun moving their money out of China in recent weeks, possibly in anticipation of sanctions.

Mary Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said she did not expect China to “throw all in” with Russia, but that the war could still strain economic ties by worsening U.S.-China relations.

“Right now, there is great uncertainty as to how the U.S. and China will respond to the challenges posed by Russia’s increasingly urgent need for assistance,” she said. “That policy uncertainty is another push to multinationals who were already rethinking supply chains.”

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How to Fight Inflation With Lessons From History

Annual spending in the Union reached a staggering 16 times its prewar budget. Despite the need for funds, there was great fear in Congress of increasing taxes because of Americans’ well-known antipathy to taxation.

But Salmon P. Chase, the fiscally conservative Treasury secretary, was mortally afraid of inflation. He recognized that without revenue the government would have to resort to the printing press. After the southern states seceded, interest rates on the country’s debt soared and foreigners refused to lend.

Thaddeus Stevens, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, went further than Mr. Chase imagined by inventing an entirely new tax code. Previously, the Union had funded itself with tariffs on foreign trade, which it raised several times. Alongside that it created a system of “internal taxes,” on everything from personal income to leaf tobacco, liquor, slaughtered hogs and fees on auctioneers. Congress also created a new bureau to collect taxes, a forerunner of the Internal Revenue Service, underscoring its commitment to raising revenue this way.

Mr. Stevens had no idea how much revenue the taxes would raise, or if people would even pay them. (“Everything on the earth and under the earth is to be taxed,” one Ohioan groused.) But by 1865, the Treasury netted $300 million from customs and internal taxes — six times its prewar tax revenue.

That revenue helped moderate the inflation created by the issuance of “greenbacks,” notes that circulated as money, to pay for the war. The country’s credit improved and Mr. Chase was able to borrow prodigious sums. Ultimately, inflation in the Union was no greater than during the two World Wars in the following century.

The Confederacy faced similar financial challenges. Christopher Memminger, its German-born Treasury secretary, warned that printing notes was “the most dangerous of all methods of raising money.” But the South was ideologically opposed to taxation, especially by the central government.

The South approved a very modest tax (half a percent on real estate), but collection was left to the states and few tried to collect it. With cotton shipments to Europe pinched by the Union blockade, Mr. Memminger soon found he had little choice but to print notes to cover the cost of the war. These inflated at a catastrophic rate.

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S&P cuts Russia’s ratings to ‘CC’ on debt default risk, article with image

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A general view shows residential buildings in front of the Moscow International Business Center, also known as “Moskva-City”, in Moscow, Russia, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

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March 17 (Reuters) – S&P on Thursday lowered Russia’s rating to ‘CC’ from ‘CCC-‘, as the country reported difficulties meeting debt payments due on its dollar-denominated 2023 and 2043 Eurobonds.

Russia’s payment woes stem from international sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the ratings agency said. The sanctions have reduced the country’s available foreign exchange reserves and restricted its access to the global financial system.

“Although public statements by the Russian Ministry of Finance suggest to us that the government currently still attempts to transfer the payment to the bondholders, we think that debt service payments on Russia’s Eurobonds due in the next few weeks may face similar technical difficulties,” the agency said.

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Peer agencies Fitch and Moody’s had also cited concerns about Russia’s ability to meet its debt obligations when cutting the country’s rating by several notches earlier in March. read more

Fitch said on Tuesday Russia’s ratings would be further lowered to “restricted default” if the coupon payments are not made in U.S. dollars, in line with the original terms, by the end of a 30-day grace period. read more

Russian bonds are hovering at deeply distressed levels in very illiquid trading, with most issues trading less than a handful of times a day, according to Refinitiv data. read more

Adding to Moscow’s debt troubles, an exemption that currently allows U.S. citizens or residents to receive Russian debt and equity payments will run out on May 25.

After the sanctions exemption deadline and until year-end, Russia is due to pay nearly $2 billion more on its external sovereign bonds.

Some creditors have received payment, in dollars, of Russian bond coupons which fell due this week, two market sources told Reuters on Thursday. Some other creditors said they are yet to receive their funds but were optimistic they were on the way, according to the report. read more

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Reporting by Nishara Karuvalli Pathikkal in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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Crucial Russian sovereign bond payment received by JPMorgan, processed -source, article with image

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File Photo: A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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NEW YORK, March 17 (Reuters) – Coupon payments on Russian sovereign bonds due this week were received by correspondent bank JPMorgan (JPM.N), processed and the bank then made an onwards credit to the paying agent Citi (C.N), a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday, an indicator that the country may have averted default.

The payment received was a U.S. dollar payment, the source said. After being credited to the paying agent, it would be checked and distributed on to various bondholders, the source said.

Russia said on Thursday it had made debt payments that were due this week. Russia was due to pay $117 million in coupon payments on Wednesday on two dollar-denominated sovereign bonds and some creditors had received payments, market sources separately told Reuters, also indicating it avoided what would have been its first external bond default in a century. read more

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The payments were widely seen as the first test of whether Moscow would meet its obligations after Western sanctions hobbled its financial dealings.

The source said that JPMorgan’s obligation as a foreign correspondent bank was to process payments, but that given the circumstances, also to check with authorities before doing so.

Sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine have cut Russia off from the global financial system and blocked the bulk of its gold and foreign exchange reserves, while Moscow has in turn retaliated – all of which complicate payments.

The bank checked with authorities before processing, the source said. Not to process the payment would have harmed bondholders, the source said.

Under the sanctions and restrictions announced last month, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, U.S. banks were prohibited from correspondent banking – allowing banks to make payments between one another and move money around the globe – with Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, within 30 days. Washington and its partners also started barring some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system – a step that will stop lenders from conducting most of their financial transactions worldwide. read more

A March 2020 report by the Bank for International Settlements showed that correspondent banks have been “paring back their cross-border banking relations for the past decade.” The number of correspondent banks fell by 20% between 2011 and 2018, even as the value of payments increased, the report said.

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Reporting by Megan Davies;
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci

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Argentina’s Senate gives thumbs up to $45 bln IMF debt deal, article with image

Police officers stand in front of the National Congress as the senate debates the government’s agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

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BUENOS AIRES, March 17 (Reuters) – Argentina’s Senate voted late on Thursday to approve a $45 billion debt deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), converting the agreement into law and ensuring that the economically battered country can avoid another messy default.

After an extended debate, the IMF debt restructuring deal backed by President Alberto Fernandez was passed with 56 senators voting in favor, 13 against, along with three abstentions.

The South American country’s center-left Peronist government led by Fernandez struck a staff-level agreement with the international lender at the beginning of March, which was then approved last week by the Chamber of Deputies.

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It now needs to be signed off by the IMF board.

The deal lays out a fresh schedule of financing over a 30-month period to replace a failed $57 billion program from 2018 that the grains-producing country was unable to pay back after years of recession, spiraling inflation and capital flight.

It garnered broad support from the center-right opposition, though some ruling party lawmakers have opposed it citing the economic strings attached, which include reducing the fiscal deficit, raising interest rates and cutting energy subsidies.

“This agreement will allow us to accumulate reserves, which will favor Argentina’s exchanges with the world and will allow sustained growth,” Senator Sandra Mendoza, from the ruling Peronists, said during the debate.

Roberto Basualdo, a senator from the opposition alliance Together for Change, told Reuters earlier in the day that approving the deal was key to any future economic expansion.

“We need to grow and the only way to grow is to be in international markets,” he said.

Many lawmakers stressed that the vote removes the worst-case scenario for near-term economic prospects.

“By approving this agreement we are prioritizing the interests of the Argentine republic by preventing default,” said Senator Jose Torello, of the opposition alliance.

Fernandez wants a quick approval of the agreement ahead of a $2.8 billion payment due to the IMF at the beginning of next week and billions more later this year. The new program would see repayments made between 2026 and 2034.

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Reporting by Nicolás Misculin; Additional reporting by Lucila Sigal and Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Adam Jourdan, Hugh Lawson and David Alire Garcia

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Uber, Lyft Drivers Struggle With High Gas Prices

When Adam Potash started driving for Lyft six months ago to help make ends meet, he was happy with the pay. The business was far from lucrative, but he was making about $200 a day before paying for costs like gas and car maintenance.

But as gas prices have risen in recent weeks, Mr. Potash has barely been breaking even. To compensate, he has focused on driving during peak customer hours and tried to fill up at cheaper gas stations in the area around San Francisco where he works. He has also reduced his driving time from about 45 hours each week to roughly 20 hours.

“It hurts. I don’t have money coming in,” Mr. Potash, 48, said of his reduced hours. “But I’m not willing to operate at a loss.”

Gig workers who drive for ride-hailing and delivery companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have been hit hard by rising gas prices, because their ability to earn money is tied directly to driving hundreds of miles each week. And because the drivers are contract workers, the companies do not reimburse them for the cost of fueling up.

blog post on Monday.

DoorDash announced a gas rewards program on Tuesday. Those who use a prepaid debit card designed for DoorDash workers will get 10 percent cash back at gas stations, the company said, and DoorDash is adding bonus payments depending on miles driven. Grubhub also said it would boost driver pay.

Both Uber and Lyft say drivers have been making more money since lockdowns lifted than they did earlier in the pandemic or even prepandemic, even when accounting for rising gas prices. And both companies are promoting a partnership with an app called GetUpside that offers some cash back rewards for getting gas.

Gridwise, an app that helps drivers track their earnings and tallies data, found that drivers’ earnings had risen nationally in recent months, from an average of $308 per week in early January to $426 in early March. But gas costs for ride-hailing drivers have also gone up, from $31 per transaction to nearly $39 in the same period.

Uber and Lyft say the entirety of their new gas fees — 35 to 55 cents per trip for Uber and 55 cents for Lyft — will go to the drivers. But some drivers say the action is inadequate. Gas prices, on average, have increased 49 percent in the past year, according to AAA.

“That literally insulted every driver, and that was their first communication since gas prices were going up,” said Philippe Jean, an Uber and Lyft driver in Coopersburg, Pa.

Jennifer Montgomery, an UberEats driver in Las Vegas, where gas costs $5 per gallon, agreed that the gas fee “doesn’t even put a dent” in the cost of fuel, which for her has been at least $30 more each day since prices began to increase.

Ms. Montgomery, 40, said she was becoming disillusioned with the job, and had begun looking for other work that didn’t require her to drive. She has cut her six-hour, daily shifts in half, because “it’s really not a profit anymore.”

“I don’t want to deliver anymore,” she said. “Especially when you have bills to pay and rising cost of rent and mortgage, groceries — it affects everything.”

Mr. Jean mostly drives for Uber and Lyft during the winter and spring, when his work as a handyman tends to slow down. He said he enjoyed interacting with passengers and usually made $300 to $400 per week, with about $60 of that going to filling his tank.

Lately, though, Mr. Jean has been paying twice that amount for gas, and has had to cut back elsewhere to compensate — including by reducing his car insurance coverage.

“I’m driving Uber now hoping not to get in an accident, because if I do, I’m going to lose my car completely,” he said.

The gas price woes have actually caused Mr. Jean to drive more in the short term, because people with cars that get poor gas mileage have told him they have stopped driving. With his hybrid Toyota Prius, he figured he would be able to snap up some of their business and still be able to make some money. But Mr. Jean said he would most likely give up Uber altogether later in the spring when his handyman work picks up again, because of the high gas prices.

He questioned whether he or other drivers were even profiting from the ride-hailing business at all, after all of the costs involved.

“I think personally if I sat down and did the numbers, it would be break-even,” Mr. Jean said. “I don’t think we’re making money on it anymore. I think I’m afraid to admit it to myself, because then I would definitely stop doing it.”

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