UBS fourth-quarter profit rises 23%; beats estimates

By Noele Illien

ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland’s UBS Group AG on Tuesday reported a 23% increase in fourth-quarter profit, beating analyst estimates, helped by a fall in costs despite a drop in financial markets.

The world’s largest wealth manager kicked off a round of reporting for major European banks, many of which have been cutting jobs and costs in light of waning economic growth.

The Swiss bank reported net profit attributable to shareholders of $1.7 billion, versus the $1.3 billion average of 21 analyst estimates in a UBS-conducted poll.

“We are starting 2023 from a position of strength,” Chief Executive Ralph Hamers said in a statement.

Full-year net profit reached $7.6 billion, compared with the consensus estimate of $7.3 billion.

Crosstown rival Credit Suisse Group AG will report on Feb. 9 having flagged a quarterly pre-tax loss of as much as 1.5 billion francs ($1.63 billion) following hefty withdrawals by wealthy clients after a string of scandals and losses.

UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher has said his bank has not actively sought to benefit from Credit Suisse’s troubles.

(Reporting by Noele Illien; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

World Bank approves $600 million loan to support Philippines’ recovery, financial sector

MANILA (Reuters) – The World Bank said on Tuesday it has approved a $600 million loan to support the Philippines’ economic recovery and efforts to make its financial sector more resilient.

The funds will be channeled toward strengthening its financial sector stability, expanding financial inclusion and improving disaster risk finance, the multilateral bank said in a statement.

“Financial inclusion can be a key enabler to speed up poverty reduction and strengthen recovery from the pandemic,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

Only half of Filipinos aged 15 and above have a transaction account with a financial institution, below the East Asia and Pacific regional average of 80%, World Bank data shows.

The Philippine central bank is aiming for 70% of Filipino adults to be bank account holders by this year.

The World Bank said the loan also aims to develop a catastrophe insurance market in the Philippines to prevent people from falling into poverty following natural disasters.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, is hit by an average of 20 tropical storms every year that cause deadly landslides and flash floods, and destroy crops and infrastructure. It is also prone to earthquakes as it sits on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor)

Unilever turns to former Heinz exec to steer new course

By Richa Naidu

LONDON (Reuters) -Incoming Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher gets seasick, according to his former boss at food group Heinz, but that never stopped him joining executive sailing trips and sticking them out.

“Every year, I’d bring nine of our most promising executives to Florida – just me and them, not their bosses. One year, we were on a catamaran on Naples Bay and Hein started turning green,” ex-Heinz chief Bill Johnson told Reuters in an interview. “The water was only four feet deep and 30 feet away from the shore and he was hung over the side of the boat.”

“But even though he knew he was going to be miserable he got on. He was willing to go anywhere and work any hours. Just the most adaptable person who has ever worked for me.”

Schumacher, 51, is likely to need all his determination – as well as the experience he gained in food at Heinz and in retailing at Dutch grocer Ahold – when he takes the helm at Unilever from Alan Jope in July.

The Dove soap to Hellmann’s mayonnaise giant needs to revive its underperforming food business, while also managing tricky price negotiations with retailers feeling the squeeze from inflationary pressures and a cost of living crisis.

Encouragingly for Schumacher, who worked as a finance manager at Unilever more than 20 years ago before heading to Ahold, he was warmly welcomed by activist investor and Unilever board member Nelson Peltz – who has a long track record of shaking up consumer goods companies, including Heinz.

“I first met Hein when I served as a director at the H.J. Heinz Company from 2006 to 2013 and was impressed by his leadership skills and business acumen,” Peltz said.

“I was delighted to learn that he was among the top candidates to become the next CEO of Unilever.”

Johnson told Reuters that Peltz and Schumacher “get along pretty well” and that Peltz reached out to Johnson last year, around the time Schumacher joined Unilever’s board.

“Hein gets to the heart of issues very quickly – which is like Nelson. They’ll get along really well, I have no doubt. Nelson respects capability, honesty, objectivity and results,” Johnson said.

British businessman Allan Leighton, who also worked with Schumacher, described him as “very calm, certain, clear and a great listener.”

“He’s ideal for Unilever,” said Leighton, a former CEO of British grocer Asda who has served on the boards of several retailers and consumer companies.

FOOD SPIN-OFF?

One of the biggest consumer companies in the world with more than 400 brands ranging from detergent to ice cream, Unilever has been trying to win back investor confidence after its stock has underperformed rivals for years, and after a failed attempt to buy GSK’s consumer health business a year ago.

Analysts said Schumacher’s appointment signalled Unilever was, for now, unlikely to spin off its food business, which makes Colman’s condiments and Knorr stock cubes, given his experience at Heinz as well as dairy firm FrieslandCampina.

“Why hire a food exec if you are planning to sell the food business?” Bernstein’s Bruno Monteyne said. “Selling the food business will always be on the cards, but I doubt that it is top priority in the short term.”

The food business, worth 20 billion euros ($22 billion) according to Unilever’s most recent annual report, has for years grown at a slower pace than other divisions and has lower margins than beauty and personal care.

In 2021, the food unit’s operating profit margin was 14.7% versus 20.4% in beauty and personal care. Historically, food sales have grown at 1-3% versus 3-5% at personal care, said Tineke Frikee, a fund manager at Waverton Asset Management.

“Unilever’s valuation multiples would rise if food was sold,” Frikee said.

Schumacher’s experience at Ahold – now Ahold Delhaize – and more than a decade at Heinz – now Kraft Heinz – could also help Unilever in price negotiations with grocers such as Walmart, Tesco and Ahold itself.

“He’s been given a very tough assignment but I have every confidence that if anyone could get Unilever moving in right direction, it’s Hein,” Johnson said.

($1 = 0.9183 euros)

(Reporting by Richa Naidu Editing by Matt Scuffham and Mark Potter)

Japan Inc strives to lure skilled workers as inflation, labour crunch bite

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – From inflation allowances to the reskilling of workers, firms in Japan are stepping up efforts to help employees fight rising prices and a labour crunch, even though some cannot afford pay hikes that do more than offset cost-push inflation.

As annual “shunto” labour talks get into full swing, momentum from both labour and management is growing for firms to offer such hikes to cushion, even if not beat, consumer inflation, which hit a 41-year high of 4% in December.

At the spring session of the labour talks, set to wrap in mid-March, major firms, such as Toyota Motor Corp, negotiate with in-house unions to set wages for the coming fiscal year from April.

Labour shortages and rising consumer inflation, which is double the central bank’s target of 2%, are spurring cautious firms, with a 500-trillion-yen ($3.85 trillion) hoard of internal reserves, to hike wages.

About a quarter of Japanese firms have offered inflation allowances or plan to do so, said corporate credit research firm Teikoku Databank. Such allowances range from 6,500 yen ($50) for monthly payments to 54,000 yen in lump sums, on average.

“I received the money just when we had our second baby,” said Shinichiro Mori, who received a one-off allowance of 150,000 yen last summer from groupware developer Cybozu Inc. The company offered the payment to all its 800 employees.

“I appreciated the money,” Mori, 41, told Reuters. “We spent it on baby goods, utility bills and other living expenses, as we stayed home all day taking care of our baby.”

News that Fast Retailing Co, operator of the Uniqlo clothing chain, will revise its pay system for employees, with raises as much as 40%, provides another example.

The private sector expects the drive to help boost productivity, meshing with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s “new capitalism” initiative on wealth distribution that put a top priority on wage hikes.

Such demands by Japanese policymakers come against the backdrop of 15 years of grinding deflation that saw firms shelve hikes in base salary from the early 2000s to the early 2010s, when rounds of stimulus failed to spark economic growth, but piled up public debt instead.

SUSTAINABLE PAY HIKES

OECD data shows Japanese workers’ wages have grown about 5% over a period of 30 years from 1990, during which U.S. pay rose 1.5 times and pay for South Koreans doubled.

Takahide Kiuchi, a former member of the board of the Bank of Japan, called for wage hikes to be sustained over time so that cumulative pay rises could offset price hikes in the long run.

“Bonuses or inflation allowances would have only a limited impact on easing the pain of cost-push inflation, as consumers tend to save one-off payouts rather than spend,” added Kiuchi, now an executive economist at the Nomura Research Institute.

The government and the central bank say inflation must grow in tandem with wage growth to fuel private consumption, which accounts for more than half the economy, paving the way for the Bank of Japan to achieve its inflation target in a sustainable, stable fashion.

But one-off payments do not make consumers more confident about increasing spending, although a rise in base pay, a salary component that is hard to reverse, is more likely to boost such confidence and set workers spending more.

Real wages fell 2.5% in November, down for the ninth straight month, following the previous month’s decline of 3.8%, the latest data shows.

Mori’s employer, Cybozu, has offered employees a record pay hike in the upper reaches of the 1% to 10% range this year.

That would surpass the 3% target of Kishida’s government, and even the 5% sought by the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), while Japan’s biggest business lobby Keidanren urged companies to offer positive wage hikes, including base pay.

“We always feel the need to respond to labour shortages of engineers, in particular,” said Yumika Nakane, the firm’s human resources head. “We set pay scales as we’re fully aware salary is one of the keys to attract workers.”

Despite a jobless rate of 2.5% in December that reflects the tight labour market, and steady job availability, at a ratio of 1.35 per seeker, policymakers complain about the absence of demand-pull inflation that entails wage growth. 

LABOUR TALKS

At this year’s shunto talks, large firms are likely to offer the biggest pay hikes in 26 years, or an average of 2.85% for the financial year starting in April, a poll of 33 economists by the Japan Economic Research Center (JERC) showed.

However, small firms, which employ seven of every 10 workers, face a severe situation, and more than 70% of them have no plan to raise wages, a separate poll by the Jonan Shinkin Bank and the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper showed.

To push small firms in this direction, authorities want to improve labour productivity and encourage more workers to switch to industries with better prospects for growth, provided that they will not lack for employment.

Kishida’s government plans to tap 1 trillion yen over the next five years in human resources, providing new support for firms hiring mid-career workers as well as for reskilling efforts to spur labour turnover.

Workers have high expectations from this year’s labour talks, which they hope will counter cost-push inflation while tackling the tight labour market to help boost the economy.

Some companies are ready to take the initiative.

For instance, Internet media firm Cyberagent’s “reskilling centre” has trained 200 information technology engineers, upgrading their skills to match its needs, besides wooing engineers from outside.

From this spring, it will also raise the starting salary for new graduates by 12% to 420,000 yen.

“As the IT industry faces a lack of engineers, we can contribute to resolving the labour crunch by cultivating human resources, which is our strength,” said Hiroto Minegishi, the firm’s general manager for technical human resources.

“As a result, we can help wages growth and enhance productivity across the IT industry.”

($1=129.9700 yen)

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

ETH Needs a BTC Return to $23,500 to Support a Run at $1,700

Key Insights:

  • It was a bearish start to the week for bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH), with BTC ending the day at sub-$23,000 for the first time in 11 sessions.
  • A lack of Shanghai hard fork news left ETH in the hands of BTC and the broader crypto market.
  • However, ETH and BTC found support from the broader market this morning.

Ethereum (ETH) slid by 4.80% on Monday. Reversing a 4.64% gain from Sunday, ETH ended the day at $1,566.

A mixed start to the day saw ETH rise to an early morning high of $1,648. Coming up short of the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $1,682, ETH slid to a late low of $1,535. ETH fell through the First Major Support Level (S1) at $1,588 to wrap up the day at $1,566.

On Monday, bitcoin (BTC) slid by 3.86%. Reversing a 3.11% rally from Sunday, BTC ended the day at $22,830. BTC wrapped up the day at sub-$23,000 for the first time in six sessions.

A mixed start to the day saw BTC rise to an early high of $23,785 before hitting reverse. Coming up short of the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $24,139, BTC slid to a late low of $22,500. BTC slid through the First Major Support Level (S1) at $23,177 and briefly through the Second Major Support Level at $22,607 before ending the day at $22,830.

Fed Fear and the NASDAQ Index Send the Crypto Market South

On Monday, there were no US stats for investors to consider. The lack of stats left investors to focus on tomorrow’s Fed interest rate decision and Fed Chair Powell’s press conference.

While the bets of a 25-basis point interest rate hike are bullish, a hawkish Fed Chair could weigh on the appetite for riskier assets. The US unemployment rate sits well below the Fend mandate with inflation still elevated. While cracks are showing in the US economy, the Fed Chair will be eager to ensure that inflation does not become entrenched.

There were no updates on the Shanghai hard fork to distract investors. While the hard fork is another bullish event, a delay beyond March could see ETH give up some of its 2023 gains.

For the day ahead, a lack of hard fork updates would leave BTC and ETH in the hands of the US economic calendar and the NASDAQ Index. Later today, US consumer confidence figures for January will draw interest, though the numbers are unlikely to influence the Fed Chair’s policy outlook.

However, investors should also monitor the crypto news wires for updates on FTX, Genesis, and the SEC v Ripple case.

Ethereum (ETH) Price Action

At the time of writing, ETH was up 0.35% to $1,572. A mixed start to the day saw ETH fall to an early low of $1,562 before rising to a high of $1,576.

ETH finds support.
ETHUSD 310123 Daily Chart

Technical Indicators

ETH needs to move through the $1,583 pivot to target the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $1,631 and the Monday high of $1,648. A return to $1,600 would signal a breakout session. However, the crypto news wires and Shanghai hard fork updates will have to be ETH-friendly to support a breakout.

In the event of an extended rally, the bulls would likely test the Second Major Resistance Level (R2) at $1,696 and resistance at $1,700. The Third Major Resistance Level (R3) sits at $1,809.

Failure to move through the pivot would leave the First Major Support Level (S1) at $1,518 in play. However, barring another broad-based crypto market sell-off, ETH should avoid sub-$1,500 and the Second Major Support Level (S2) at $1,470. The Third Major Support Level (S3) sits at $1,357.

ETH support levels in play below the pivot.
ETHUSD 310123 Hourly Chart

Looking at the EMAs and the 4-hourly candlestick chart (below), it was a bullish signal. Ethereum sat above the 100-day EMA, currently at $1,555. The 50-day EMA flattened on the 100-day EMA, while the 100-day EMA widened from the 200-day EMA, delivering bullish signals.

A move through the 50-day EMA ($1,590) would support a breakout from R1 ($1,631) to target R2 ($1,696) and $1,700. However, a fall through the 100-day EMA ($1,555) would give the bears a run at S1 ($1,518). A move through the 50-day EMA would send a bullish signal.

EMAs remain bullish.
ETHUSD 310123 4 Hourly Chart

Bitcoin (BTC) Price Action

At the time of writing, BTC was up 0.15% to $22,864. A mixed start to the day saw BTC rise to an early high of $22,854 before falling to a low of $22,730.

BTC finds early support.
BTCUSD 310123 Daily Chart

Technical Indicators

BTC needs to move through the $23,038 pivot to target the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $23,577 and the Monday high of $23,785. A return to $23,500 would signal another breakout session. However, the crypto news wires and the NASDAQ Index need to provide support.

In the event of another bullish session, the bulls would likely test the Second Major Resistance Level (R2) at $24,323. The Third Major Resistance Level sits at $25,608.

Failure to move through the pivot would leave the First Major Support Level (S1) at $22,292 in play. However, barring another broad-based crypto sell-off, BTC should avoid sub-$22,000 and the Second Major Support Level (S2) at $21,753. The Third Major Support Level (S3) sits at $20,468.

BTC support levels are in play below the pivot.
BTCUSD 310123 Hourly Chart

Looking at the EMAs and the 4-hourly candlestick chart (below), it was a bullish signal. BTC sat at the 50-day EMA, currently at $22,864. The 50-day EMA flattened on the 100-day EMA, while the 100-day EMA widened from the 200-day EMA, delivering mixed signals.

A move through the 50-day EMA ($22,864) would support a breakout from R1 ($23,577) to target R2 ($24,323). However, a fall through S1 ($22,292) would give the bears a run at the 100-day EMA ($22,007) and S2 ($21,753). A breakout from the 50-day EMA would send a bullish signal.

EMAs remain bullish.
BTCUSD 310123 4 Hourly Chart

Asian stocks edge down as investors eye central bank hikes

By Julie Zhu

(Reuters) – Asian shares edged down and bonds nursed small losses on Tuesday as investors braced for an eventful week that will include central bank meetings, a slew of earnings reports and key U.S. economic data.

Investors broadly expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by 25 basis points (bps) on Wednesday. Interest rate announcements are due on Thursday from both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank – and both are expected to hike rates by 50 bps.

Meanwhile, more than 100 S&P 500 companies, including Apple, Amazon.com and Google parent Alphabet, are expected to report results this week, which also will see the publication of closely watched U.S. employment numbers.

“It’s a big week for both central banks and U.S. equities, with … some of the household names due to make earnings announcements that will provide a micro overview of the macro economy,” ANZ analysts said in a note.

“We expect a 25 bps (U.S.) rate rise and anticipate that the Fed will caution against an early pause in the tightening cycle …. Risk appetite could be vulnerable to a correction.”

European markets were set for a lower open, with pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures down 0.48%, German DAX futures falling 0.47% and FTSE futures dropping 0.29%. U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were down 0.06%.

In Asia, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was 1.1% lower. The index is up 9.9% so far this month and is on course for its best January performance since 2012.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index slid 0.23% while Australian shares were down 0.15%.

China’s economic activity swung back to growth in January, after a wave of COVID-19 infections passed through the country faster than expected following abandonment of pandemic controls. The official purchasing managers’ index, which measures manufacturing activity, rose to 50.1 from 47.0 in December.

Investors remained cautious, however, looking for more signs of recovery in the pandemic-hit economy. China’s blue-chip CSI300 index was down 1% in afternoon trade after reaching a half-year high on Monday.

While Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 1.23% on Tuesday, it was still set to post its best January performance since 1989.

On Monday, U.S. stocks lost ground, with the major indexes sinking, weighed down by declines in technology and other giant corporations’ shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.8% to 33,717.09, the S&P 500 lost 1.3% to 4,017.77 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.0% to 11,393.81.

Despite Monday’s declines, the S&P 500 remained on track to post its biggest January gain since 2019.

At the end of the Fed’s two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, investors will be glued to Chair Jerome Powell’s news conference for clues on whether the rate-hiking cycle may be coming to a close, and for signs of how long rates could stay elevated.

Markets will also grapple with a flood of U.S. economic data, culminating in Friday’s payrolls report for January. Investors see signs of weakening in the labour market as a key factor in bringing down high inflation.

U.S. Treasury yields remained firm ahead of the central bank meetings and economic data, with the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR standing at 3.5457% compared with its U.S. close of 3.551% on Monday.

The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 4.2424% compared with a U.S. close of 4.261%.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar, which was poised for its fourth month of declines, was slightly up at 102.29 against a basket of other major currencies.

The European single currency was largely unchanged on the day at $1.0841, having gained 1.3% in a month.

In the energy market, oil prices fell ahead of the expected hikes by central banks and signals of strong Russian exports.

U.S. crude dipped 0.44% to $77.56 a barrel. Brent crude fell to $84.85 per barrel.

Gold was slightly lower. Spot gold was traded at $1920.84 per ounce.

(Additional reporting by Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and B)

Marketmind: Mind the gap

A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Anshuman Daga

An impressive 6% rally in global stocks this month, the first gain in January after three years, has got investors all excited after a dismal 2022.

Fundamentally, prospects for the world economy are not as bad as feared just a few months ago, prompting the International Monetary Fund to raise its 2023 global growth outlook slightly.

The IMF cited “surprisingly resilient” demand in the United States and Europe, easing of energy costs and the reopening of China’s economy.

Still, it would be wise for investors to be mindful of a gap between expectations and reality.

On Monday, hotter-than-expected inflation data from Spain and an unexpected decline in the German economy in the fourth quarter created uneasiness for stock bulls, dragging down European shares.

Asian equities fell 1% on Tuesday and the dollar was eyeing a fourth monthly loss as investors reckon a peak in U.S. interest rates could swing into view as soon as this week’s Federal Reserve meeting.

Flash GDP numbers are due from the euro zone, along with growth data for France and Italy. The numbers are likely to be keenly watched for signs on how weary economies are faring.

The ECB is all but certain to raise rates by half a percentage point on Thursday but fresh inflation data is still crucial for the central bank’s policy guidance for subsequent meetings.

The Bank of England is set to raise rates by 50 bps to 4.0%, respectively. Headline inflation moderated in December to 10.5%, but it’s still over five times its official target.

Money market bets show that the U.S. Federal Reserve is set to raise its policy rate by 25 basis points to 4.50%-4.75% on Wednesday.

Adding to pressure on British finance minister Jeremy Hunt to come up with a growth plan, the country became the only Group of Seven nation to suffer a cut to its 2023 economic growth outlook in IMF forecasts published on Tuesday.

Britain’s flagging economy now appears set to shrink by 0.6% this year, a sharp downgrade from previously expected growth of 0.3% in the IMF’s last forecast in October.

Meanwhile, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled on Monday that drug manufacturers can limit healthcare providers’ use of outside pharmacies for dispensing drugs under a federal drug discount programme, marking a victory for Sanofi, Novo Nordisk and AstraZeneca.

Finally, there’s good news for tech staff. With thousands of layoffs taking place in Silicon Valley, some German companies, faced with a tight labour market and a shortage of workers with key software engineering skills, are seizing on the West Coast’s woes as an opportunity to recruit top talent.

Key developments that could influence markets on Tuesday:

Economic data: Euro zone Q4 flash GDP; France Q4 GDP, Jan CPI flash; Germany Dec import prices, retail sales, flash CPI; Italy preliminary Q4 GDP

Speakers: Swedish central bank governor Erik Thedeen participates in an open hearing on financial stability in the Swedish economy in Stockholm

European results: UBS, Swedbank

U.S. economic data: Q4 employment wages, Q4 Nov house prices

U.S. Federal Reserve begins two-day meeting

U.S. results: Exxon Mobil, Caterpillar, General Motors, Pfizer, McDonald’s, UPS

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Russia’s war on Ukraine latest: After tanks, Kyiv wants fighter jets

(Reuters) – Ukraine’s defence minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet President Emmanuel Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out giving F-16s.

CONFLICT

* Ukraine’s general staff said Russia had carried out air strikes and three missile strikes in the past 24 hours, one of them on Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. It is also continuing offensive operations in the areas of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, it said.

* Ukraine said it had repelled assaults on Vuhledar and Blahodatne, a village just north of Bakhmut. The administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, said Russian troops had secured a foothold in Vuhledar.

* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY

* U.S. President Joe Biden said he will visit Poland but does not know when after reports suggested he is considering a trip to Europe to coincide with the Feb. 24 anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

* Russia and Belarus have started a week-long session of staff training for the joint command of their regional grouping of forces, the Belarusian defence ministry said.

* The International Olympic Committee on Monday rejected fierce criticism from Ukrainian officials, who have accused it of promoting war after the body said Russians could potentially be given the opportunity to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in the southern city of Mykolaiv during a rare visit by a foreign leader to a region close to the war front.

* NATO will continue to strengthen its partnership with Japan amid the ongoing Ukraine war, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday during a visit to Japan, where he will meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

* German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s bid this week to rally support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s invasion during his first South American tour fell flat, with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva reiterating his view both parties shared blame.

ARMS

* France and Australia on Monday unveiled plans to jointly manufacture ammunition for Ukraine as the two countries seek to shore up defence cooperation and move past a row over Canberra’s decision to ditch plans to buy French submarines two years ago.

* Ukraine’s military will spend nearly $550 million on drones in 2023, and 16 supply deals have already been signed with Ukrainian manufacturers, Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said.

* Tanks donated by Britain to Ukraine will be on the front line before summer, Defence Minister Ben Wallace said, without giving an exact timetable.

* Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said further supplies of Western weaponry to Ukraine would lead to further escalation of the conflict there and draw NATO members more deeply into it.

QUOTES

“The more defence support our heroes at the front receive from the world, the sooner Russia’s aggression will end and the more reliable security guarantees will be for Ukraine and all our partners after the war,” President Zelenskiy said.

(Compiled by Simon Cameron-Moore)

What to do when your term life insurance is ending

By Chris Taylor

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Joe Natiello is facing what you might call a “nice problem to have.”

Almost 20 years ago, the 64-year-old Westfield, New Jersey, resident took out a term life insurance policy, to help cover his family in case the worst happened.

Next year, though, that policy is elapsing, and at his age, Natiello’s insurance premiums would spike if he decided to extend coverage.

Obviously, it is better than the alternative of not being around anymore. But it begs the question, for Natiello and every other policyholder in his situation: “Do I need this anymore?”

It is a fraught decision that can bring up some pretty big existential questions. Such as: How much time do I have left? What is my health situation like? Is it still critical to safeguard my family’s financial future?

“It is actually a great time to revisit your need for life insurance, and whether it is adequate or too little or too much,” says Scott Bishop, a financial planner in Houston.

Remember there are different types of life insurance on the market, and those with “permanent” versions do not face this conundrum. Those types offer different advantages, depending on the particular policy – such as not lapsing, containing options for investment growth, and having a cash-value component you can withdraw or borrow against – but are far more costly.

Term policies appeal to those who prefer a simpler product with lower monthly premiums. A typical monthly cost for a 30-year-old male in good health buying a 20-year, $500,000 policy – the most common length and amount – is in the range of $19-$28 monthly, according to offers on the aggregator site Term4Sale.com.

So if your “deadline” is coming up, here are options to consider:

LET IT LAPSE

A key rationale for life insurance is protecting your family early in your career, when you do not have much to your name. But with enough assets, the equation changes.

“Ideally, they bought the term policy when they were young, and possibly had small children and a large mortgage,” says Kayla Johnson, a financial planner in Wilmington, North Carolina. “Now they’re near retirement, the kids are out of the house, and the mortgage is paid off. By this point, life insurance is hopefully a waste of money.”

Since Natiello’s two kids are now out of college and he has some universal coverage, the former Wall Street trader decided to let his term policy lapse.

EXTEND YOUR CURRENT POLICY

You may choose to keep the meter running on your existing policy, which typically gets renewed on an annual basis. The advantage of this is that you will not have to go through another battery of health tests to get approved.

The downside: Since your insurer is taking on more risk, those previously level premiums will jump.

“They can extend their current policy, but the cost will most likely be notably higher [than purchasing a new policy] because the person does not go through underwriting,” says Elaine Tumicki, head of insurance product research for the trade association LIMRA.

PURCHASE A NEW TERM POLICY

If your first term policy is winding up, and you are still in excellent health, shop around for a new term policy.

Just be ready for another underwriting process and don’t expect the same premiums. For a 50-year-old male in good health, buying a 20-year-policy with $500,000 in coverage, you will now be getting offers of monthly premiums in the range of $70-$100 a month, according to Term4Sale.com. (One way to keep a lid on those premiums: Getting coverage for a smaller amount than before.)

Also keep in mind that if you do have health problems, it may be difficult getting a new policy at all.

CONVERT INTO DIFFERENT COVERAGE

Another option is to flip your term into permanent coverage, which some insurers allow, depending on the fine print of your current policy.

“A term conversion privilege often allows the policyholder to convert to a permanent policy, like universal or whole life insurance, without having to take another medical exam,” says Amanda Kuhl, senior vice president and head of life products at insurer New York Life.

Even better if the converted policy has a long-term care component, designed to assist with future costs associated with disability or chronic illness or nursing homes.

“Can you convert the term life policy to a permanent policy?” asks Michelle Gessner, a Houston financial planner. “If you can obtain long-term care benefits as a rider through another life policy, that may the way to go.”

(Reporting by Chris Taylor; Editing by Lauren Young and Aurora Ellis; Follow us @ReutersMoney)

Australia and China trade ministers to hold virtual meeting next week – ABC

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The trade ministers of Australia and China will hold a virtual meeting next week, Australian broadcaster ABC reported on Tuesday.

Trade ministers for the two nations have not met in three years.

Australia’s Assistant Minister for Trade Tim Ayres called for the removal of China’s “trade impediments” on Australian exports in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, his office said earlier this month.

China’s Xinhua news agency reported that the meeting at Davos between Australian and Chinese officials had agreed that trade ministers from the two nations would hold virtual discussions “in the near future.”

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson in Sydney; Editing by Alasdair Pal)

Dollar set for fourth monthly drop as Fed meeting looms

By Tom Westbrook

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar was eyeing a fourth monthly loss on Tuesday as investors reckon a peak in U.S. interest rates could swing into view as soon as this week’s Federal Reserve meeting.

Currency trade was subdued in the lead up to Wednesday’s Fed rate decision, and ahead of Bank of England and European Central Bank rate decisions on Thursday, though cautiousness across financial markets gave the greenback a bit of support.

The euro wandered as far as $1.0913 on Monday after data showed Spanish inflation running surprisingly hot in January, though the broader mood has reeled it back to $1.0845.

The common currency is up 1.3% this month and is loitering near a nine-month peak. The U.S. dollar index is down 1.3% for January so far and held at 102.28 on Tuesday.

The Japanese yen fell 0.4% overnight but was steady at 130.26 in Asia and is set for its third monthly gain as markets anticipate shifts in monetary policy.

Sterling and the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars also made overnight losses but are set for monthly gains.

The Aussie fell 0.7% overnight, but at $0.7036 it is up about 3.2% for the month so far. The kiwi, last at $0.6474, is up more than 1.5% for January. [AUD/]

“Technically I think they’re looking a little bit tired,” said Tony Sycamore, an analyst at brokerage IG Markets in Sydney, referring to currencies rallying against the dollar, with investor caution and month-end dollar buying also contributing to their loss of momentum in the Asia session.

Interest-rate futures indicate market expectations for a 25 basis point (bp) hike from the Federal Reserve to take the Fed funds rate window to 4.5%-4.75%. Pricing suggests two more 25 bp hikes are expected, before cuts later in the year.

“Traders will need to marry the tone of the statement and (Fed chair Jerome) Powell’s press conference with this pricing structure,” said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“In the less likely outcome that the Fed give the impression that they could pause after this week’s hike, then the U.S. dollar could easily sell off and risky assets rally.”

Markets mostly shrugged off slightly better-than-expected Chinese manufacturing data, which showed a welcome return to growth in January, with focus now on the recovery ahead.

Australia also sounded a bit of a warning on consumption, with retail sales logging their biggest drop in more than two years last month in a sign that rate hikes are biting. Traders slightly pared rate expectations on the news.

A preliminary reading for euro zone gross domestic product is due later in the day, while across the Atlantic U.S. employment cost data will also be closely watched because the labour market can guide monetary policy.

“It is probably too late to have too much influence on the ultimate size of the widely expected 25bp rate hike that is due to be announced on Wednesday,” said NatWest Markets’ U.S. rates strategist Jan Nevruzi. “But results from the report will play a big role in the tone Powell uses in his press conference.”

Bitcoin, up nearly 40% in January to $22,865, is set for its best month since October 2021.

========================================================

Currency bid prices at 0521 GMT

Description RIC Last U.S. Close Pct Change YTD Pct High Bid Low Bid

Previous Change

Session

Euro/Dollar

$1.0842 $1.0852 -0.08% +0.00% +1.0860 +1.0840

Dollar/Yen

130.2600 130.4600 -0.12% +0.00% +130.5200 +130.0750

Euro/Yen

141.23 141.53 -0.21% +0.00% +141.6200 +141.1700

Dollar/Swiss

0.9250 0.9251 +0.00% +0.00% +0.9255 +0.9240

Sterling/Dollar

1.2342 1.2349 -0.08% +0.00% +1.2370 +1.2332

Dollar/Canadian

1.3409 1.3385 +0.18% +0.00% +1.3415 +1.3380

Aussie/Dollar

0.7037 0.7061 -0.32% +0.00% +0.7064 +0.7027

NZ

Dollar/Dollar 0.6450 0.6469 -0.32% +0.00% +0.6479 +0.6440

All spots

Tokyo spots

Europe spots

Volatilities

Tokyo Forex market info from BOJ

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

Support for New Zealand’s Labour Party jumps after Hipkins replaces Ardern

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -Support for New Zealand’s Labour Party has jumped to its highest level in almost a year after Chris Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as prime minister and leader of the Labour Party.

Two polls taken following Hipkins confirmation as leader by Newshub-Reid Research and 1News Kantar and published late on Monday saw the party’s popularity jump more than 5 basis points to 38%. National is sitting at 37%, and is behind in Labour for the first time since early 2022.

Ardern, whose progressive policies, empathy and leadership during several crises had earned her a global profile, had faced mounting political headwinds at home in recent months. A backlash over COVID-19 restrictions, a worsening housing crisis, rising living costs, and growing concerns about crime had seen support for her government plummet.

Hipkins, a close ally of Ardern’s, has in his first week in office worked to distance himself from the Ardern government and announced he plans to reprioritise and refine government policies.

Hipkins had nailed the political messaging and managed to reconnect with former Labour supporters, said political commentator and former National Party staffer Ben Thomas.

“The challenge from here is delivering on those expectations in an environment where inflation and interest rates remain high, and some unpopular policies may prove tricky to unpick,” he said.

Under the current poll results and New Zealand’s German-style proportional representation system, neither traditional coalition partners on the centre right or centre left would have the support needed to govern following an election scheduled for Oct. 14 and would likely need the support of another smaller party.

SHUFFLING

Hipkins announced a new Cabinet on Tuesday and reiterated the focus for the ministers would be on “core bread and butter issues like the cost of living, education, health, housing and keeping communities and businesses safe.”

Grant Robertson will remain as finance minister, while Andrew Little will take over the defence portfolio from Peeni Henare.

Nanaia Mahuta will remain as foreign minster but Hipkins told a media conference he had taken away her other porfolios to free up time for her to focus more on foreign policy and allow her to travel more internationally.

Carmel Sepuloni, the new deputy prime minister, who is of Samoan, Tongan and European descent, will be associate foreign minister.

Hipkins said both he and Sepuloni were looking forward to engaging with the Pacific, where China has been increasing its influence.

“Our Pacific neighbours are incredibly important to us. Will they see more of us? Yes, absolutely,” Hipkins said.

Hipkins’s first official trip as prime minister will be to Australia next week where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer, Editing by William Maclean and Lincoln Feast.)

Pakistan mosque bombing death toll rises to 87

By Jibran Ahmad

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) -The death toll in the suicide bombing that tore through a mosque in Pakistan rose to 87 on Tuesday, a hospital official said, a day after the one of the biggest attacks in the unstable South Asian nation.

The attack occurred in one of the most fortified areas of the northwestern Peshawar city, which houses offices of the police and counter-terrorism departments.

The bomber blew himself up shortly after hundreds of worshippers lined up to say their afternoon prayer, the latest in a string of attacks targeting police.

Hospital official Mohammad Asim said that 87 people had been killed, and that 57 people were being treated, seven of whom were in critical condition.

No one has claimed responsibility.

Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella of Sunni and sectarian Islamist groups, has denied responsibility.

(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar and Asif Shahzad; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Gerry Doyle)

China economic activity swings back to growth in January – official PMI

By Joe Cash

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s economic activity swung back to growth in January, after a wave of COVID-19 infections passed through the country faster than expected following abandonment of pandemic controls.

Domestic orders and consumption drove output higher, according to the first broad data to show how quickly China is recovering from its COVID reopening wave, but analysts warned that the economy faced persistent weakness in external demand.

The official purchasing managers’ index (PMI), which measures manufacturing activity, rose to 50.1 in January from 47.0 in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Tuesday. Economists in a Reuters poll had predicted the PMI to come in at 48.0. Since the result was above 50.0, it implied growth.

A rebound in non-manufacturing activity was more decisive than expected by economists – but helped by a seasonal surge in spending for the Lunar New Year holiday. That index, which covers services, leapt to 54.4, from 41.6 in December.

Both indexes had previously shown the economy to be contracting since September.

“The PMI data showed that confidence in production, operation, and the state of the market has improved significantly,” Bruce Pang, chief economist at Jones Lang Lasalle, wrote in a note, while pointing to the level of a sub-index for new export orders, just 46.1, as cause for concern.

As foreign economies have weakened under pressure from rising interest rates, so has demand for China’s exports, which last month were 9.9% lower than a year earlier.

January’s rebound in activity “is a bit unexpected as everyone is still quite cautious,” said Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank China. “It’s difficult for PMI to pick up in the same month as the Chinese New Year, as workers normally have two weeks off.”

“All the other real indicators – employment, inventory and delivery times – got worse …. Export orders went down, so that means domestic orders must have gone way up,” she added.

FAST WAVE

Yet the speed of recovery in activity corresponds to what is increasingly understood to have been an infection wave that came very quickly, disrupting work and consumer demand, then also faded very quickly, leaving factory managers to get production on line again and retailers to welcome back customers.

Eighty percent of people in China had already been infected with COVID-19 before the Lunar New Year festivities began, according to the country’s chief epidemiologist.

Still, strong holiday consumption has flattered the January PMI report. Lunar New Year consumption had already been reported as 12.2% higher than in last year’s holiday period, while holiday trips inside China for the same period surged 74%, as people headed out to celebrate for the first time in three years without COVID-19 restrictions.

After almost three years of following a zero-COVID strategy, China eased pandemic controls in November then dropped them almost completely in early December.

For the festive period, factories tried to make up ground lost to last year’s disruptions. Kevin Whyte, who sources homewares in China for a major Britain-based retailer, told Reuters his partner factory in China had offered bonuses to workers to shorten their vacations over the New Year period.

The cabinet said on Saturday it would promote a recovery in consumption as the major driver of the economy and also aim at helping importers.

The IMF on Tuesday also addressed the speed of China’s economic recovery. The boost from renewed mobility would be short lived, it said.

The international agency revised up its outlook for 2023 expansion in gross domestic product to 5.3%, from the 4.4% it estimated in October, but warned growth would likely fall again to 4.5% in 2024.

The official composite PMI, which combines manufacturing and services, rose to 52.9 from 42.6 in December.

The private sector Caixin manufacturing PMI, which focuses more on small firms and coastal regions, will be published on Feb. 1. Analysts polled by Reuters expect a headline reading of 49.5, up from 49.0 in December.

(Reporting by Joe Cash; Editing by Bradley Perrett)

DOGE Eyes $0.100 on Twitter News While SHIB Lags on Shibarium Silence

Key Insights:

  • Dogecoin (DOGE) and shiba inu coin (SHIB) joined the broader crypto market in the red on Monday, with DOGE ending a five-day winning streak.
  • Fed Fear and the NASDAQ Index weighed on the broader crypto market.
  • However, the technical indicators remain bullish, signaling further price gains.

Dogecoin (DOGE) fell by 1.78%. Partially reversing a 2.27% gain from Sunday, DOGE ended the day at $0.0884.

A mixed start to the day saw DOGE rise to an early high of $0.0929. DOGE broke through the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $0.0916 before sliding to a late low of $0.0847. DOGE briefly fell through the First Major Support Level (S1) at $0.0878 and the Second Major Support Level (S2) at $0.0857 before a partial recovery to end the day at $0.0884.

Shiba inu coin (SHIB) slid by 4.56% on Monday. Reversing a 2.12% gain from Sunday, SHIB ended the day at $0.00001152.

Tracking the broader market, SHIB rose to an early high of $0.00001214. Coming up short of the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $0.00001224, SHIB slid to a late low of $0.00001120. SHIB fell through the First Major Support Level (S1) at $0.00001181 and the Second Major Support Level (S2) at $0.00001156 to end the day at $0.00001152.

Fed Fear Overshadows Bullish Sentiment toward the Shibarium Upgrade

On Monday, Fed Fear hit the global financial markets. While the markets expect a 25-basis point interest rate hike on Wednesday, fear of a hawkish Fed Chair Powell press conference weighed on riskier assets. The NASDAQ Index slid by 1.96%, with the broader crypto market tracking the NASDAQ into the red.

There were no updates from the Shibarium Network on the Shibarium upgrade date, with the Dogecoin Foundation also silent. However, investors remain bullish about the Shibarium upgrade and increased DOGE utilization despite the bearish session.

This morning, news of Elon Musk pushing for Twitter’s payment platform to support crypto delivered a bullish start to the day.

For the day ahead, investors should look out for Shibarium Network updates and Twitter plans for DOGE. While FTX and Genesis news will provide direction, US economic indicators and the NASDAQ will draw attention this afternoon.

Dogecoin (DOGE) Price Action

At the time of writing, DOGE was up 3.05% to $0.0911. A bullish start to the day saw DOGE rise from an early low of $0.0881 to a high of $0.0950. DOGE briefly broke through the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $0.0926.

DOGE on the move.
DOGEUSD 310123 Daily Chart

Technical Indicators

DOGE needs to avoid a fall through the $0.0887 pivot to retarget the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $0.0926 and the morning high of $0.0950. A return to $0.0930 would signal a bullish DOGE session. However, the crypto news wires and network updates need to be DOGE-friendly to support a breakout session.

In the event of an extended rally, the Second Major Resistance Level (R2) at $0.0969 would likely come into play. The Third Major Resistance Level (R3) sits at $0.1051.

A fall through the pivot would bring the First Major Support Level (S1) at $0.0844 into play. However, barring another extended sell-off, DOGE should avoid sub-$0.0840 and the Second Major Support Level (S2) at $0.0805. The Third Major Support Level (S3) sits at $0.0723.

DOGE resistance levels in play.
DOGEUSD 310123 Hourly Chart

The EMAs sent a bullish signal, with DOGE sitting above the 50-day EMA, currently at $0.0875. This morning, the 50-day EMA moved away from the 100-day EMA, with the 100-day EMA widening from the 200-day EMA. The price signals were bullish.

A hold above the 50-day EMA ($0.0875) would support a move through R1 ($0.0926) to bring R2 ($0.0969) into view. However, a fall through the 50-day EMA ($0.0875) would give the bears a run at the 100-day EMA ($0.0855) and S1 ($0.0844). A fall through the 50-day EMA would deliver a bearish signal.

EMAs are bullish.
DOGEUSD 310123 4 Hourly Chart

Shiba Inu Coin (SHIB) Price Action

At the time of writing, SHIB was up 1.56% to 0.00001170. A mixed start to the day saw SHIB fall to an early low of $0.00001144 before rising to a high of $0.00001199.

SHIB finds support.
SHIBUSD 310123 Daily Chart

Technical Indicators

SHIB needs to avoid a fall through the $0.00001162 pivot to target the First Major Resistance Level (R1) at $0.00001204 and the Monday high of $0.00001214. A return to $0.00001200 would signal an extended bullish session. However, SHIB would need more details on the Shibarium upgrade and broader market support to deliver a breakout session.

In the event of an extended rally, SHIB could test the Second Major Resistance Level (R2) at $0.00001256 and resistance at $0.000013. The Third Major Resistance Level (R3) sits at $0.00001350.

A fall through the pivot would bring the First Major Support Level (S1) at $0.00001110 into play. However, barring another extended sell-off, SHIB should avoid sub-$0.00001100 and the Second Major Support Level (S2) at $0.00001068.

The Third Major Support Level (S3) sits at $0.00000974.

SHIB resistance levels in play above the pivot.
SHIBUSD 310123 Hourly Chart

The EMAs send a bullish signal, with SHIB sitting at the 50-day EMA, currently at $0.00001169. The 50-day EMA moved away from the 100-day EMA, with the 100-day EMA widening from the 200-day EMA. The signals were bullish.

A breakout from the 50-day EMA ($0.00001169) would support a move from R1 ($0.00001204) to target R2 ($0.00001256) and $0.000013. However, a fall through the 50-day EMA ($0.00001169) would give the bears a run at the 100-day EMA ($0.00001129) and S1 ($0.00001110). A fall through the 50-day would send a bearish signal.

EMAs are bullish.
SHIBUSD 310123 4 Hourly Chart

Western allies differ over jets for Ukraine as Russia claims gains

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine’s defence minister is expected in Paris on Tuesday to meet President Emmanuel Macron amid a debate among Kyiv’s allies over whether to provide fighter jets for its war against Russia, after U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out giving F-16s.

Ukraine planned to push for Western fourth-generation fighters like F-16s after securing supplies of main battle tanks last week, an adviser to Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Friday.

Asked at the White House on Monday if the United States would provide F-16s, Biden told reporters: “No.”

But France and Poland appear to be willing to entertain any such request from Ukraine, with Macron telling reporters in The Hague on Monday that “by definition, nothing is excluded” when it comes to military assistance.

In remarks carried on French television before Biden spoke in Washington, Macron stressed any such move would depend on several factors including the need to avoid escalation and assurances that the aircraft would not “touch Russian soil.” He said Reznikov would also meet his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in Paris on Tuesday.

In Poland Monday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also did not rule out a possible supply of F-16s to neighbouring Ukraine, in response to a question from a reporter before Biden spoke.

Morawiecki said in remarks posted on his website that any such transfer would take place “in complete coordination” with NATO countries.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukraine president’s office, noted “positive signals” from Poland and said France “does not exclude” such a move in separate posts on his Telegram channel.

Biden’s comment came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had begun exacting its revenge for Ukraine’s resistance to its invasion with relentless attacks in the east, where it appeared to be making incremental gains.

Zelenskiy has warned for weeks that Moscow aims to step up its assault after about two months of virtual stalemate along the front line that stretches across the south and east.

Ukraine won a huge boost last week when Germany and the United States announced plans to provide heavy tanks, ending weeks of diplomatic deadlock on the issue.

While there was no sign of a broader new Russian offensive, the administrator of Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, said Russian troops had secured a foothold in Vuhledar, a coal-mining town whose ruins have been a Ukrainian bastion since the outset of the war.

Pushilin said that despite “huge losses” Ukrainian forces were consolidating positions in industrial facilities.

‘BATTLE FOR EVERY METER’

Pushilin said Ukrainian forces were throwing reinforcements at Bakhmut, Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns running from north to south just west of Donetsk city. The Russian state news agency TASS quoted him as saying Russian forces were making advances there, but “not clear-cut, that is, here there is a battle for literally every meter.”

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Ukraine still controlled Maryinka and Vuhledar, where Russian attacks were less intense on Monday.

Pushilin’s adviser, Yan Gagin, said fighters from Russian mercenary force Wagner had taken partial control of a supply road leading to Bakhmut, a city that has been Moscow’s focus for months.

A day earlier, the head of Wagner said his fighters had secured Blahodatne, a village just north of Bakhmut, although Kyiv said it had repelled assaults on Blahodatne.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports. But the locations of the reported fighting indicated clear, though gradual, Russian gains.

In central Zaporizhzhia region and in southern Kherson region, Russian forces shelled more than 40 settlements, Ukraine’s General Staff said. Targets included the city of Kherson, where there were casualties.

The Russians also launched four rocket attacks on Ochakiv in southern Mykolaiv, the army said, on the day Zelenskiy met the Danish prime minister in Mykolaiv city, to the northeast.

WESTERN DELAYS

Zelenskiy is urging the West to hasten delivery of its promised weapons so Ukraine can go on the offensive, but most of the hundreds of tanks pledged by Western countries are months away from delivery.

British Defence Minister Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger tanks donated by Britain would be on the front line around April or May, without giving an exact timetable.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Western countries supplying arms leads “to NATO countries more and more becoming directly involved in the conflict – but it doesn’t have the potential to change the course of events and will not do so.”

The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War think-tank said “the West’s failure to provide the necessary materiel” last year was the main reason Kyiv’s advances had halted since November.

The researchers said in a report that Ukraine could still recapture territory once the promised weapons arrive.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow justifies as necessary to protect itself from its neighbour’s ties with the West, has killed tens of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman & Simon Cameron-Moore)

For ASEAN countries, IMF sees slower global growth outweighing China reopening

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund economists said on Tuesday that Singapore and other Southeast Asian economies are seeing downgrades to their 2023 growth outlooks because slowing global growth will outweigh the positive impact from China’s economic reopening.

Chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas told a news briefing on the IMF’s latest global growth forecasts these forces prompted the IMF to reduce Singapore’s GDP growth outlook for 2023 to 1.5% from a 2.3% forecast issued last October.

IMF’s 2023 forecast for ASEAN-5 – Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines – was cut to 4.3% from 4.5% in the October forecast. The fund’s 2024 forecast was also cut by 0.2 percentage point to 4.7%.

Daniel Leigh, division chief of the research department at the IMF, told Reuters that ASEAN’s rapid growth in 2022 of 5.2% was a one-off, while noting the surprising speed that China had reopened this year.

“It was just six months ago, we were talking about lockdowns and so on. They’ve just made a very rapid shift,” Leigh said, noting how this had quickly translated to visible numbers like bookings with the potential to raise growth in the tightly integrated Southeast Asian region.

Still, he noted that geopolitical fragmentation was a negative for the outlook for everyone, even though economies like Vietnam benefited from supply chains relocating out of China. Vietnam’s economy grew 8% in 2022, though the IMF expects growth to slow to 5.8% this year as authorities address inflation.

(Reporting Xinghui Kok; Writing by David Lawder; Editing by Tom Hogue and Ed Davies)

India’s Adani Enterprises enters final day of crucial $2.5 billion share sale

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s Adani Enterprises climbed 2% in early trade on Tuesday, the last day for its $2.5 billion secondary share sale, with all eyes on whether the company can secure enough backing for the offering after a U.S. short-seller’s scathing attack.

Billionaire Gautam Adani’s group firms have lost $65 billion in stock market value since Hindenburg Research’s Jan. 24 report flagged concerns about the group’s high debt levels and its suspected improper use of tax havens. Adani has called the report baseless.

A successful completion of the share sale will show investors still believe in the group’s prospects and that it can weather the unprecedented short-seller challenge and its aftermath.

Adani Enterprises stock opened at 2,932 rupees, still below the lower end of the share sale’s price band of 3,112 rupees.

The issue was subscribed 3% by Monday. The anchor portion of the issue – that accounted for 30% – closed last week with investments from investors such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

Abu Dhabi conglomerate International Holding Company said late on Monday it will invest $400 million in the issue, but the bid has not yet been reflected in the data on Indian exchanges.

The share sale needs at least 90% subscription to go through.

Some other group stocks, including Adani Power, Adani Green and Adani Total Gas, were down 5%-10%.

Adani Wilmar was down 5%, but Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone rose 0.5% at open.

(Reporting by M. Sriram and Chris Thomas; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Human Rights Watch urges Ukraine to investigate antipersonnel mine use

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on Ukraine on Tuesday to investigate accusations that its military used thousands of rocket-fired antipersonnel landmines in and around the eastern city of Izium when Russian forces occupied the area.

Human Rights Watch noted that it had also issued three reports last year accusing Russian forces of using antipersonnel mines in multiple areas across Ukraine since they invaded the country on Feb. 24, 2022.

Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.

“Ukrainian forces appear to have extensively scattered landmines around the Izium area, causing civilian casualties and posing an ongoing risk,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch.

“Russian forces have repeatedly used antipersonnel mines and committed atrocities across the country, but this doesn’t justify Ukrainian use of these prohibited weapons,” he said.

Ukraine is a party to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Russia is not. Moscow has denied targeting civilians or committing war crimes.

Human Rights Watch said use of antipersonnel mines also violates international humanitarian law because the devices cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.

In response to questions, Human Rights Watch said Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Oleksandr Polishchuk wrote in a Nov. 24 letter that Ukraine fully commits to all international obligations in the sphere of mine usage, including “the non-use of anti-personnel mines in the war.”

Polishchuk told Human Rights Watch that Ukraine’s forces strictly adhere to international humanitarian law and the 1997 antipersonnel mine convention.

The New York-based advocacy group said it conducted research in Ukraine’s Izium between Sept. 19 and Oct. 9, interviewing over 100 people, including witnesses to landmine use, victims of landmines, first responders, doctors, and Ukrainian deminers.

“Human Rights Watch documented PFM mine use in nine different areas in and around Izium city and verified 11 civilian casualties from these mines,” it said on Tuesday. “The nine areas were all close to where Russian military forces were positioned at the time, suggesting they were the target.”

A PFM is a scatterable antipersonnel mine, commonly called the ‘butterfly mine’.

Human Rights Watch said Polishchuk did not respond to any of its specific questions about PFM mine use in and around Izium, noting that “information on the types of weapons used by Ukraine… is not to be commented on before the war ends.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

China’s copper costs driven up by Maike’s woes, output glitches

(This Jan. 20 story has been refiled to add dropped words in the eighth paragraph)

By Siyi Liu and Dominique Patton

FOSHAN, China (Reuters) – China’s copper buyers face higher costs for the metal this year, buyers and analysts said, after market disruptions from top importer Maike Group’s financial woes and production glitches at domestic smelters pushed local premiums to their highest in years.

Copper traders around Shanghai and in industrial Guangdong province to the south say the premium that buyers pay above futures prices for domestic copper have surged since the second half of last year, potentially affecting the renewable energy and construction sectors that rely heavily on the metal.

“Import supply disruptions caused by Maike, together with local smelters’ maintenance, drove up the premium,” said Long Huachen, a copper analyst at industry information provider Shanghai Metals Market (SMM).

He was referring to Guangdong, which makes about one-eighth of China’s products from refined copper and where he expects copper imports to decline by 115,000 tonnes this year, or about one-fifth, even with some smaller traders stepping up supplies.

“The supply of imported refined copper remains the top uncertainty,” he said.

Graphic: China’s 2021 refined copper imports https://www.reuters.com/graphics/CHINA-COPPER/MAIKE/xmpjklqmwvr/chart.png

Privately held Maike, which was especially active in Guangdong and Shanghai and supplied about half of Guangdong’s imported copper, abruptly halted all its copper purchases in the summer of 2022 after it ran out of cash to pay suppliers.

Maike’s absence has encouraged some direct trade between sellers and buyers in the market but they face challenges.

“It takes time to reduce the counterparty risk for any of these stakeholders given Maike’s size,” said Zerlina Zeng, a senior research analyst at CreditSights, a subsidiary of Fitch Solutions.

One copper buyer who previously bought from Maike said being a small buyer has put them at a disadvantage when it comes to price negotiations with overseas suppliers.

Top copper exporters BHP and Glencore declined to comment on export pricing or transactions with China. Codelco did not respond to a request for comment.

Global copper prices have also risen, on expectations that Chinese demand is poised to surge after the country – which consumes half the world’s copper – abandoned harsh COVID 19-related lockdowns and restrictions that hamstrung economic activity.

Fitch Solutions expects China’s copper consumption to rise 4.4% this year, after just 1.5% growth in 2022.

Anti-pandemic restrictions had also prolonged smelter maintenance and curtailed copper production growth last year, especially in the Guangdong area.

Analysts warn that the global copper market may have got ahead of itself, however, with lingering concerns about how fast and how far Chinese growth may recover, while inside China the surge in domestic premiums has raised concerns.

“This is the highest in at least the past five years, and the elevated premium will definitely put lots of pressure on our profits, given we’re unlikely to source from anywhere else,” said a Guangdong-based copper tube producer, who asked not to be identified to speak frankly about business conditions.

Graphic: China refined copper spot premium/discount https://www.reuters.com/graphics/CHINA-COPPER/MAIKE/mopakjbzmpa/chart.png

The premium paid by copper users in Guangdong province for domestic copper surged in the third quarter of last year to 349 yuan ($51.74) a tonne over the futures price, from just 91 yuan in the prior quarter, and eased only slightly to 327 yuan in the fourth quarter, according to SMM.

For annual supply contracts as well, Guangdong smelters hiked their premium to nearly 250 yuan a tonne for this year, up from 130 yuan a tonne in 2022, a mid-sized Chinese copper buyer said.

A similar pattern was seen in the industrial east, despite government subsidies from the governments of Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces to encourage copper imports.

Some smelters there have hiked their offers for 2023 copper premiums to 300 yuan a tonne, up from 200 yuan a tonne last year, a Shanghai-based trader said.

While Maike’s disappearance from the import market has been blamed for disrupting supplies and pricing, China’s refined copper imports increased 6.6% in 2022, according to customs data.

Domestic inventories of readily available metal, however, fell last year, according to SMM, and traders believe a significant volume of imports in the second half may have ended up in state reserves. The State Reserve Bureau did not respond to a request for comment.

Maike said in a statement to Reuters that it is restructuring the company and would soon resume its business. The company has said that it was also seeking support from the local government and financial institutions.

($1 = 6.7450 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Siyi Liu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Edmund Klamann)