Pound coins are seen in the photo illustration taken in Manchester, Britain September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Illustration
June 18, 2019
By Hideyuki Sano
TOKYO (Reuters) – The British pound on Tuesday languished near this year’s low on rising worries Boris Johnson, the front-runner to replace UK Prime Minister Theresa May, could put Britain on a path towards a dreaded no-deal Brexit.
The Australian dollar is also at its lowest levels since the flash crash of early January, hit by growing expectations of another rate cut by the country’s central bank and by the specter of a further slowdown in China – Australia’s largest export market.
The yen and the euro were steadier, with investors holding out for trading clues from policy-setting meetings by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan as well as a conference organized by the European Central Bank, all scheduled this week.
“While major currencies were little moved now, when you look at market moves over the past week or so, many commodity currencies and emerging market currencies are weak, reflecting broad risk-off sentiment,” said Masashi Hashimoto, senior analyst at MUFG Bank.
The U.S-China trade frictions and rising geopolitical tensions in the Strait of Hormuz after recent attacks on tankers are all undermining risk sentiment, he said.
Worries about Brexit hit the British pound, which tumbled to a 5-1/2-month low of $1.2532 on Monday and last traded at $1.2539.
Sterling also fell to its weakest level since January against the euro, which climbed to 89.50 pence, compared to a two-year low of 84.56 touched just over a month ago.
Former foreign minister Boris Johnson got a boost on Monday in his campaign to succeed May as one of his former rivals and EU supporter Matt Hancock backed him.
That rattled markets as Johnson, the face of the official campaign to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, has promised to lead the United Kingdom out of the EU with or without a deal.
The pound could be in for a rough ride in coming days, with a raft of potentially market-moving events ahead, including consumer inflation and retail sales data, due on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, and the Bank of England’s policy announcement on Thursday.
The risk-sensitive Australian dollar drooped at $0.6855, just above its 5-1/2-month low of $0.6849 hit overnight, as trade tensions between the United States and China have shown few sign of abating.
Markets are pricing in about 50% chance of another rate cut next month by the Reserve Bank of Australia, which delivered its first easing in almost three years just two weeks ago.
The euro hardly budged at $1.1220 while the dollar was little moved at 108.53 yen.
The dollar was slightly undermined by the New York Fed’s business index showing a record fall this month to its weakest level in more than 2-1/2 years.
The Fed’s two-day policy meeting starting later on Tuesday is the next major focus after markets have priced in more than two 25 basis-point rate cuts by year-end.
That marks a sharp contrast to the Fed’s official forecast in March, which showed policymakers deemed the next move would be a hike.
“As markets are now pricing in rate cuts in the second half of this year, the question is how the Fed will respond to such an outlook,” said Shinichiro Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays.
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
A row of newly built apartment blocks is seen in the suburb of Epping, Sydney, Australia February 1, 2019. Picture taken February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Westbrook
June 18, 2019
By Jonathan Barrett and Paulina Duran
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Investors in Australian mortgage bonds are demanding higher premiums to buy the riskiest tranches of new debt, as a slowing economy stokes concerns a property downturn could get worse and increase home loan defaults.
High-yield investors are receiving up to 40 basis points more than they were last year to buy the lower-rated and unrated portions, according to an analysis of recent deals by large lenders including AMP, National Australia Bank and Members Equity Bank.
That marks an important shift from a near decade-long run of relatively stable spreads for the lower-rated residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), as the previously red-hot property prices have turned sharply lower, particularly in the major Sydney and Melbourne markets.
“When you are looking at those lower unrated tranches, they are deteriorating as one would expect at the late stage of the [property] cycle,” said George Boubouras, chief investment officer at Atlas Capital.
“We see them as a leading indicator of risk, and they have been getting riskier.”
Home prices in Australia’s heavily populated eastern states have fallen rapidly since late-2017 due to souring economic conditions, pushing problem home loans to their highest level since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, according to Standard & Poor’s.
Jonathan Kearns, head of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Financial Stability Department, said on Tuesday that arrears on housing loans are likely to keep rising for a while longer, but should not pose a risk to financial stability as long as unemployment remains low.
Indeed, the still-strong appetite for the safer – and much bigger – portions of mortgage debt suggests a major economic shock is unlikely.
The sector has also enjoyed a string of favorable policy moves in recent weeks including an interest rate cut for borrowers, proposed easing of lending rules and the surprise re-election of a conservative government which opposes higher property taxes.
TICKING TIME BOMB
All the same, as economic growth slumped to a decade low last quarter, an unusually long period of slow wages growth has also throttled household incomes and put pressure on borrowers trying to meet mortgage repayments.
The household debt to income ratio is at a record high 190%, according to RBA data.
Investors at the riskier-end of mortgage bond deals, which include higher interest payments, would take the first hit should loans start to default, though an investment grade RMBS tranche in Australia has never been hit by losses.
AMP last week sold A$1.6 million in un-rated bonds backed by mortgages, with the pricing of 6.2% representing 40 basis points more than the spread offered to buyers of similar risky bonds last year.
An ME Bank deal this month included A$5.25 million of unrated securities paying a 6% margin over benchmark rates which is 25 basis points more than what ME Bank paid buyers of similar non-rated bonds in October, the bank said.
The premium is in line with the pricing of several other RMBS deals, including one issued by NAB late last year.
Australian-issued RMBS volumes were tracking at $9.1 billion between January and June 5 this year, according to Refinitiv data, led by a global thirst for yield, but at a slower pace than the $26 billion for all of 2017.
David Bailey, chief executive of mortgage broker and RMBS-issuer Australian Finance Group, said demand for the products remained very strong despite some change to the returns in the lower tranches.
“As there’s been more and more discussion around a potential housing bubble and so forth, investors would in the back of the mind be saying, ‘maybe I do need to charge a little more for the risk’.”
Property analyst Martin North, of Digital Finance Analytics, said deals structured at the height of the property boom around 2017 and prior to prudential regulator-imposed changes to lending standards in 2014 were among the most susceptible.
“The debt bomb is still ticking, and even if a crash is delayed, the debt burden has to be dealt with at some time,” said North.
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett and Paulina Duran in SYDNEY; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
A man looks on in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer
June 18, 2019
By Shinichi Saoshiro
TOKYO (Reuters) – Investor caution ahead of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate meeting capped Asian stocks on Tuesday, while crude oil prices retreated as global growth worries overshadowed supply concerns stemming from recent Middle East tensions.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan inched up 0.05%.
Australian stocks added 0.1% while Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.05%.
The Fed, facing fresh demands by U.S. President Donald Trump to cut interest rates, begins a two-day meeting later on Tuesday. The central bank is expected to leave borrowing costs unchanged this time but possibly lay the groundwork for a rate cut later this year.
Fresh hopes for looser U.S. monetary policy have been a tonic for risk assets markets, which were buffeted last month by an escalation in the trade conflict between Washington and Beijing. The S&P 500 has gained 5% this month after sliding in May on trade war fears.
Focus is now on how close the Fed could be to cutting interest rates amid the raging U.S.-China trade war, signs of the economy losing steam and pressure by President Trump to ease policy.
“The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meeting is the week’s biggest event so there will be a degree of caution prevailing in the markets,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.
“Expectations for a rate cut in July have increased significantly, so the markets could experience disappointment if the Fed does not send strong signals of impending easing.”
U.S. Treasury yields dipped on Monday after the New York Fed’s “Empire” gauge of business growth in the state showed a fall this month to its weakest in more than 2-1/2-years, fanning rate cut expectations.
The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood little changed at 97.507 after pulling back from a two-week high on the decline in Treasury yields.
The pound traded at $1.2542 after retreating overnight to a six-month low of $1.2532 on Monday on concerns that arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson will replace Theresa May as prime minister. [GBP/]
The euro was a shade higher at $1.1224 after spending the previous day confined to a narrow range.
U.S. crude oil futures shed 0.08% to $51.89 per barrel after retreating 1.1% the previous day.
Oil prices had slipped on Monday as weak Chinese economic data released at the end of last week led to fears of lower global demand for the commodity. [O/R]
Concerns over weakening demand overshadowed tensions in the Middle East, which remained high following last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
(This version of the story corrects typographical error in paragraph 5)
(Editing by Sam Holmes)
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
June 18, 2019
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) – China’s holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds and notes for the month of April fell to the lowest level since May 2017, data from the U.S. Treasury department showed on Monday, highlighting an uncertain outlook on a trade deal between Beijing and Washington.
Chinese holdings of U.S. government debt declined for a second straight month, to $1.113 trillion in April, from $1.120 trillion the previous month. Even so, the world’s second-largest economy remains the largest non-U.S. holder of Treasuries.
(For a graphic on ‘China, Japan Holdings of U.S. Treasuries’ click http://tmsnrt.rs/2DJ1ckW)
Belgium, which analysts surmised is where China would typically keep some of its holdings, also fell to $179.8 billion in April, from $186.6 billion in March.
“This is a head-scratcher given that Chinese reserves during the month only declined by just under $4 billion,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, senior rates strategist, at TD Securities in New York. “So there’s quite a bit more selling than would have been justified.”
He said it could have been profit-taking from the build-up of holdings in the first quarter of the year. “If you look at the flow of funds, for example, there was notable buying of Treasuries in Q1. So this certainly suggests that foreigners are taking more profits off the table,” Goldberg said, while saying he does not think the decline was related to the trade conflict.
“If this were trade-related, you would have seen either more pressure on the Chinese yuan and you would have seen a decline in foreign exchange reserves on a one-for-one basis,” Goldberg said.
If Belgium’s holdings were included, it was almost a $15 billion decline.
The data showed that Japan, the second-largest non-U.S. holder of Treasuries, also reduced its holdings of Treasuries in April, to $1.064 trillion, from $1.078 trillion the previous month.
Overall, foreign holdings of Treasuries dropped to $6.433 trillion in April, from $6.473 trillion in March.
Foreign flows of U.S. Treasuries, meanwhile, showed an inflow of $16.949 billion in April, from net selling of $12.526 billion in March. Offshore private investors purchased Treasuries, at $45.366 billion during the month, from only $91 million previously.
(For a graphic on ‘Foreign purchases of U.S. Treasuries’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2TM2p21)
Foreigners continued to sell U.S. stocks in April to the tune of $964 million, after outflows of $23.638 billion in March. Foreign investors have sold stocks for 12 straight months.
The report showed foreigners bought $46.9 billion in net long-term securities in April, after selling $25.9 billion in March.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: Ships and shipping containers are pictured at the port of Long Beach in Long Beach, California, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
June 17, 2019
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON (Reuters) – A group of leading banks will for the first time include efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions in their decision making when providing shipping company loans, executives said on Tuesday.
International shipping accounts for 2.2% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), has a long-term goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050.
Working with non-profit organisations the Global Maritime Forum, the Rocky Mountain Institute and London University’s UCL Energy Institute, 11 banks have established a framework to measure the carbon intensity of shipping finance portfolios.
The banks involved in the “Poseidon Principles” initiative, which will set a common baseline to assess whether lending portfolios are in line or behind the adopted climate goals set by the IMO, represent around a fifth or $100 billion of the total global shipping finance portfolio.
The results will be published annually in individual sustainability reports and the data will be obtained by banks from borrowers under existing loan agreements.
Although the IMO agreed stricter energy efficiency targets last month for certain types of ships, environmental campaigners are calling for tougher goals.
“We are helping the shipping industry emerge into the 21st century in a responsible way,” Michael Parker, global head of shipping at Citigroup, told Reuters.
Those involved so far are Citigroup, Societe Generale, DNB, ABN Amro, Amsterdam Trade Bank, Credit Agricole CIB, Danish Ship Finance, Danske Bank, DVB, ING and Nordea.
“Banks have a huge role to play here because there is about $450 billion of senior debt that the world’s shipping banks and Chinese lessors grant to the sector and about 70,000 commercial vessels,” Paul Taylor, global head of shipping & offshore with Societe Generale CIB, said.
Banks will in the longer term be more selective about which ships they include in their lending portfolios, bankers said.
“Will there be companies that will find it difficult to get finance as they have less efficient ships, yes, it will be a consequence of it – but it’s not going to be used to look for those companies and somehow find a way of getting them out,” Citigroup’s Parker said.
Oivind Haraldsen, Danske Bank’s global head of shipping, said more institutions would join the efforts to cut the carbon footprint of the sector.
“All of us have to push – we as banks probably have more power than we are aware,” he said.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)
FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen at an industrial port in the Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki, Japan September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
June 17, 2019
By Daniel Leussink
TOKYO – Japanese manufacturers’ business confidence dropped to a more than 2-1/2-year low in June, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday, re-igniting fears the economy could be hit by slowing external demand in the face of a global slowdown and trade risks.
The monthly poll, which tracks the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) tankan quarterly survey, found the service-sector mood slipping for the first time in four months, suggesting business confidence has fallen ahead of a planned nationwide sales tax increase in October.
Both manufacturers’ and non-manufacturers’ sentiment are expected to remain below last month’s levels over the coming three months, boding ill for the central bank’s closely-watched tankan survey due next in July.
Subdued business confidence – on top of weakness in exports and household spending – has clouded the outlook for the world’s third-largest economy, though analysts widely expect the BOJ to keep policy steady at this week’s rate review.
In a Reuters poll of 505 large- and mid-sized companies, in which 263 firms responded on condition of anonymity, exporters voiced concerns about China’s economic slowdown and its trade war with the United States.
“Our clients are making cautious decisions in capital spending, as the international situation is unstable because of U.S.-China trade tensions and the UK’s departure from the EU,” a manager of a machinery maker wrote in the survey.
The Reuters Tankan sentiment index for manufacturers stood at 6 in June, down six points from May, weighed down by electricity, transport equipment machinery and steel companies, the June 4-13 survey showed.
The index hit the lowest reading since September 2016, falling for the first time in two months.
It is expected to rebound to 11 in September.
In the first quarter, Japan’s economy managed a second straight quarter of growth after a third-quarter contraction, thanks to stronger capital spending, but analysts expect global trade tensions to remain a drag on growth.
The service-sector index dropped five points to 22 in June from 27 in the previous month, weighed by retailers, potentially setting off alarm bells for consumption, which makes up about 60% of the economy.
The index is seen falling further to 21 in September.
Fragile domestic demand could be a source of concern for policymakers who are taking steps to ensure the planned sales tax increase to 10% from the current 8% will go ahead in October, as the 2014 tax hike depressed consumer sentiment.
The BOJ’s last quarterly tankan showed the business mood hit a two-year low in the March quarter, underlining the impact rising trade tensions and weakening overseas demand were having on Japan’s export-reliant economy.
The Reuters Tankan indexes are calculated by subtracting the percentage of pessimistic respondents from optimistic ones. A positive figure means optimists outnumber pessimists.
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers ride escalators at the Beverly Center mall in Los Angeles, California November 8, 2013. Picture taken November 8. REUTERS/David McNew
June 17, 2019
By Jason Lange, Chris Prentice and David Lawder
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – This year’s holiday season could be tighter for many Americans if the U.S. government imposes tariffs on another $300 billion worth of Chinese imports – because that will include tech products, game consoles, toys, cribs, ornaments and Santa hats.
The tariffs would add 25% to the import cost of these and many other consumer items just as retail outlets throughout the world’s largest economy begin to gear up for the peak end-of-year shopping season.
Consumers have been largely shielded until now from the direct impact of the trade war between China and the United States as the administration of President Donald Trump has focused previous rounds of tariffs on imports sold to manufacturers rather consumers.
But Trump is escalating the trade war and preparing to extend tariffs to nearly all Chinese imports after talks for a deal broke down in May. The U.S. government is pushing for wide-ranging economic and trade reforms from Beijing.
Trump said he would decide whether to trigger the next round of tariffs after talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan later this month.
In preparation for the new round, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) on Monday began seven days of hearings for testimony from retailers, manufacturers and others impacted. Thousands of business filed comments to the USTR ahead of the hearings.
Toys, phones and televisions are all on the tariff list and represent some of the most valuable categories of products that Americans buy from China, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The new tariffs would hit cellphones whose import bill from China totaled $43 billion in 2018 – more than 80% of total cellphone imports.
They would also cover a broad set of toys, including scooters and doll carriages, whose imports totaled $11.9 billion last year. China supplied about 85% of America’s total imports of those toys.
Further pain for parents could come in the form of proposed levies on more than $5 billion worth of video game consoles. Chinese imports amounted to 98% of total U.S. imports of those consoles last year.
And U.S. imports from China of targeted Christmas products – including ornaments, nativity scenes and Christmas tree lights – totaled at least $2.3 billion last year.
An executive from a family-owned, Christmas goods supplier in upstate New York said the company has looked “long and far” to find another supplier for many typical holiday products.
“However, trying to find other countries to manufacture everything else, from Santa hats, to stockings, to glass ornaments, has been a struggle and we have been unable to do so,” Nathan Gordon of Gordon Companies Inc in Cheektowaga said in public comments posted on June 12.
HE’S MAKING A LIST
Some products previously spared by the Trump administration to avoid hitting consumers’ pockets are now on the list. That includes an array of safety and play equipment for children – including high chairs, play pens, and swings.
The proposed tariffs would hit at least $800 million of these goods.
Smart watches, smart speakers and Bluetooth audio are also included. The Consumer Technology Association estimates that 2018 imports in this category from China were up to $17.9 billion.
Retailers Walmart Inc, Target Corp, and more than 600 other companies urged Trump in a letter last week to resolve the trade dispute with China, saying tariffs hurt American businesses and consumers.
Worry over potential cost increases for Americans from tariffs has raised concern about inflation, though across the economy, prices rises remain below the U.S. Federal Reserve target of 2%.
Trump has said that China pays the tariffs, but U.S. importers actually foot the bill and either pass them on to consumers or suppliers.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and David Lawder in Washington and Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Simon Webb and Rosalba O’Brien)
A state oil company PDVSA’s logo is seen at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela May 17, 2019. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
June 17, 2019
CARACAS (Reuters) – The top trade and supply official at Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA has left the post, according to a recent copy of the government’s official gazette, as the OPEC nation’s crude exports fall after U.S. sanctions and gasoline supplies dry up.
Jose Rojas Reyes, who was named vice president of trade and supply last October, is no longer on PDVSA’s board of directors, according to a decree in the gazette dated June 12. Marcos Rojas, who remains vice president of international affairs, has assumed the role on an interim basis.
Rojas Reyes’ departure comes as PDVSA, which was already reeling from corruption, mismanagement and underinvestment, was hit this year by Washington-imposed sanctions preventing U.S. companies from importing Venezuelan oil, part of the Trump administration’s effort to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
The company’s exports of crude and refined products fell 17%in May from the previous month to 874,500 barrels per day. A plunge in gasoline imports due to the sanctions, coupled with severe refinery outages, have forced motorists to wait hours or even days to fill their tanks.
Neither PDVSA nor Venezuela’s oil ministry immediately responded to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to reach Rojas Reyes.
Manuel Quevedo, a National Guard general who also serves as Venezuela’s oil minister, remains as chairman of PDVSA, according to the decree.
Critics say PDVSA has done little to stem the fall in production since Quevedo’s 2017 appointment ushered in a new era of military rule at the firm.
Rojas is also a National Guard general and previously held jobs at the Defense Ministry and the Housing Ministry, which Quevedo led before his surprise appointment to lead PDVSA.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot)
FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of Odebrecht is seen inside of one of its offices in Mexico City, Mexico May 4, 2017. Picture taken on May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo
June 17, 2019
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht SA filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, aiming to restructure 51 billion reais ($13 billion) in debt, according to a statement.
It would be one of Latin America’s largest-ever in-court debt restructurings.
The bankruptcy filing comes after years of struggles for Odebrecht, the biggest of the Brazilian engineering groups caught in a sweeping political corruption investigation that rippled across Latin America.
The debt restructuring does not include petrochemical producer Braskem SA, sugar and ethanol subsidiary Atvos Agroindustrial Participacoes SA, construction unit Odebrecht Engenharia e Construcao (OEC), oil company Ocyan, shipmaker Enseada, Odebrecht Transport or homebuilder Incorporadora OR.
(Reporting by Aluisio Alves; Writing by Gabriela Mello; Editing by Brad Haynes and Rosalba O’Brien)
FILE PHOTO: Emilio Lozoya, former chief Executive Officer of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in Mexico City, Mexico August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo
June 17, 2019
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican court ruled on Monday to allow the arrest of Emilio Lozoya, former chief executive of state-owned oil company Pemex, who is facing corruption charges, according to a court document dated Monday and seen by Reuters.
The decision nullified an earlier ruling that suspended an arrest warrant against Lozoya issued last month. “The suspension that had been granted is null and void,” the document said.
Mexican authorities say the case centers on bribes paid in connection with the purchase by Pemex of a fertilizer plant under the previous government. Reuters could not reach Lozoya for comment. He has always denied wrongdoing and defended the fertilizer factory purchase as a wise investment.
“I know perfectly well that he committed no crime,” one of Lozoya’s lawyers, Javier Coello, told local radio on Monday, vowing to fight the charges at trial.
The government’s move against Lozoya is one of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s boldest steps, since taking office in December, to fulfill a campaign promise to stamp out corruption.
(Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutiérrez, Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Susan Thomas)