Friday, February 21, 2020
Get Adobe Flash player

HONG KONG – Malaysia’s ringgit and Indonesia’s rupiah led an emerging market rally against the US dollar Friday while Asian equities also pushed higher after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting suggested it could keep borrowing costs at record lows into next year.

Energy firms tracked a surge in oil prices as hopes for crude demand picked up and ongoing crises in the Middle East fanned supply worries.

The gains across assets come after a painful July-September quarter that saw trillions wiped off global markets owing to worries about the state of China’s economy and an expected US interest rate hike.

On Thursday, minutes from the Fed’s closely watched September policy board meeting showed some members were concerned about China’s struggles, the strong dollar and persistently low inflation.

“Recent global and financial market developments might restrain economic activity somewhat as a result of the higher level of the dollar and possible effects of slower economic growth in China and in a number of emerging market and commodity producing economies,” the minutes said.

Expectations through most of the year had been for the Fed to hike rates by 2016 as the world’s number two economy picks up pace.

However, with China suffering a growth slowdown — to levels not seen in a quarter of a century — and other developed and developing economies under pressure, policymakers have held off firing the gun.

The chances of a move were hammered in August when Beijing surprisingly devalued its yuan currency, fuelling worries about the Asian economic giant while last Friday’s below-par jobs data also struck a blow.

The minutes lit a fire under struggling emerging market currencies, with the ringgit surging 2.3 percent and rupiah more than three percent higher. The ringgit has soared about eight percent this week, its best five-day run in 17 years.

Talk of a Fed rate rise has hurt emerging markets — particularly struggling Malaysia and Indonesia — as dealers have for months been withdrawing cash to the United States looking for better, safer returns.

Energy firms climb

“The latest minutes clearly suggest that international factors are an unusually large determinant of US policy deliberations,” Matthew Sherwood, head of investment strategy at Perpetual Ltd. in Sydney, wrote in an email to clients.

“This, combined with the weak September US nonfarm payrolls report indicate that the hurdle for a US rate hike has increased further, which was music to the ears of investors.”

The South Korean won climbed almost 1%, the Australian dollar was 0.12% higher, the Thai baht edged up 0.30% and the Taiwan dollar gained 1.0%.

Share markets also extended a run of gains as confidence returns to trading floors. Tokyo was up 0.78%  by lunch while Hong Kong rose 1.6% in the morning, Sydney added 0.81% and Singapore gained 1.3%.

Markets have been rallying for years on the back of loose monetary policies introduced by central banks during the global financial crisis and economists fear any tightening will cut off the money tap, halting a stuttering recovery and lead to another downturn.

Among the stand-out winners on equities markets were energy companies, made more attractive by the advance in crude prices.

Sydney-listed Santos surged more than 5% while in Hong Kong CNOOC was almost 7% higher and PetroChina added 4.5%. Inpex and JX Holdings in Tokyo also rallied.

Crude prices have seen advances in the past week, surging more than 10% to multi-month highs as worries about a stronger dollar, a supply glut and weak demand ease.

The market got a shot in the arm Thursday when the head of the OPEC cartel of crude producers — which represents almost half of output — said demand will rise more than projected this year.

On Friday, US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up 0.50% and Brent was 0.53% higher, with continuing strife across the oil-rich Middle East providing support.

Facebook stumbles for second time in a week

Posted by pakin On September - 29 - 2015 ADD COMMENTS

SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook on Monday stumbled for the second time in a week, going out of service for slightly less than an hour.

The leading social network was down for 42 minutes about mid-day in California, after being out of service for 12 minutes four days earlier, according to website performance tracker

“We’re currently restoring Facebook services that people had trouble accessing earlier today due to a configuration issue,” Facebook said in an email response to an AFP inquiry.

“We’re working to bring things back to normal for everyone. We apologize to those who have been inconvenienced.”

Facebook did not disclose how many of the social network’s more than one billion users were effected by the outage.

People took to Twitter during the outage, with #facebookdown jumping into a spot among the top trending hashtags at the one-to-many messaging service.

“People will have to ring their friends from restaurants to describe their starter; it’s inhuman,” said a quip from Twitter account @WillLeahy.

Another joking tweet predicted a baby boom, since spouses would have to resort to speaking to one another.

BEIJING – Britain pledged pound sterling2 billion on Monday for a nuclear plant set to be built in England by a consortium, including Chinese firms, which would be the country’s first such new power station in decades.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the funding during a visit to China, saying the Hinkley Point plant was necessary to meet Britain’s energy needs as older coal and nuclear plants are retired.

A consortium led by French energy company EDF is expected to make a final decision this year on whether to invest in the plant, but the firm’s chief executive welcomed the funding pledge.

“The Chancellor’s approval of the infrastructure guarantee is a clear sign of the Government’s commitment to Hinkley Point C,” Vincent de Rivas was quoted as saying in a statement from the British Treasury.

EDF is the lead contractor in the consortium, which also includes state-run Chinese firms China General Nuclear Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation.

The Chinese companies are expected to largely finance and get a stake of around 40 percent in the project, which will have two new reactors that authorities hope will generate seven percent of Britain’s electricity.

The announcement came during a five-day trip by Osborne during which he is pushing for closer trade ties with the world’s second-largest economy, even as global concerns deepen about its health.

“We very much welcome Chinese investment not just in that project but the potential for majority Chinese investment in future nuclear projects in the United Kingdom,” he told reporters.

The final decision on investment in the plant could come during a visit to Britain by Chinese President Xi Jinping next month.

The Austrian government has filed a legal complaint to the European Court of Justice against state subsidies for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant, on the grounds they distort the market.

Seen as a major boost to the nuclear industry four years after the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant, some environmentalists see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary support for nuclear energy just as renewable energy technologies begin to take hold.

WASHINGTON – Two American women will on Friday become the first female soldiers to graduate from the elite and hugely demanding Ranger School, the US Army announced.

“Congratulations to all of our new Rangers. Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level.

“This course has proven that every soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Monday.

“We owe soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation’s needs,” he added.

Nineteen women began the rigorous training program in April but 17 were eliminated.

The Ranger School welcomed women for the first time this year, following President Barack Obama’s 2013 request that the Pentagon order all branches of the armed forces to open up ground combat jobs to women by 2016.

Women make up about 15 percent of army personnel.

Ranger School is an elite training program reserved for the most physically fit in the US Army, who feed into the 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite special operations force.

The progress of the two women has been closely monitored by the military community, where women in combat is still a divisive issue.