Tuesday, August 31, 2021

European stocks on course for seventh straight month of gains

The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt October 30, 2017. — Reuters pic
The German share price index, DAX board, is seen at the stock exchange in Frankfurt October 30, 2017. — Reuters pic

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BERLIN, Aug 31 — European stocks edged higher today, on track for their seventh straight month of gains, as hopes for more policy support overshadowed economic risks from the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.1 per cent, with Asian stocks reversing earlier losses as fresh signs of a slowdown in China’s economy spurred hopes of more stimulus.

Technology, industrial, chemical and mining stocks were the top gainers.

The trade-heavy German DAX outperformed its regional peers with a 0.5 per cent rise, while UK’s internationally focussed FTSE 100 dipped 0.2 per cent after a long weekend as the sterling rose.

The benchmark STOXX 600 was on course to end August with gains of more than 2.6 per cent, in what could be its longest monthly winning run since 2013.

Strong earnings and a relatively high rate of vaccination have boosted European recovery hopes, while US Federal Reserve’s remarks last week reaffirmed views they were in no rush to tighten monetary policy.

“We’re still riding the Powell wave,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“On the China side, it’s worth noting that it’s been priced in for a while. While the data is quite weak, the situation has evolved over the last couple of weeks,” Erlam said.

Meanwhile, data showed German unemployment fell more than expected in August.

The country’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) extended their lead over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, according to a latest poll published on Monday, just weeks ahead of a general election.

Analysts expect European stocks to hold around current record levels for the rest of 2021, supported by stellar earnings while worries around US monetary policy tightening, German elections and a Chinese regulatory crackdown will cap gains.

Among stocks, Dutch technology investor Prosus NV rose 4.6 per cent after it said it had agreed to buy Indian payments platform BillDesk for US$4.7 billion (RM19.5 billion).

Airlines including EasyJet, British Airways-owner IAG, Ryanair and Lufthansa were down between 1.2 per cent and 3.2 per cent, after European Union governments agreed to remove the United States from the EU’s safe travel list.

Rate-sensitive banks were also among the top losers, including Denmark’s Danske Bank, ahead of euro zone inflation data for August that is due later in the day.

Early readings due at 0900 GMT are expected to show prices rose 2.7 per cent year-on-year, according to a Reuters poll, up from 2.2 per cent in July. On Monday, data showed German inflation at a 13-year high, but failed to move markets, as most analysts expect it to be temporary. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Australian state rejects Posco’s bid to build new coal mine, rail line

The logo of Posco is seen at the company’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, July 20, 2016. — Reuters pic
The logo of Posco is seen at the company’s headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, July 20, 2016. — Reuters pic

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MELBOURNE, Aug 31 — New South Wales’s planning regulator today rejected a plan by a unit of South Korea’s Posco to develop a coking coal mine and rail line in the Australian state, saying that the environmental and social impacts would be too great.

The Independent Planning Commission (IPC) declined to grant planning permission to Hume Coal for the project, citing the potential impact to groundwater stores and Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

“The Commission finds the issues relating to the impact on water resources and social impacts significant enough to warrant refusal,” it said in a statement explaining the decision.

In an accompanying report, the IPC said the mine’s potential greenhouse gas emissions had also been taken into consideration.

“The project’s greenhouse gas emissions make it inconsistent with regional objectives for the promotion of sustainable development and, when weighted against the project’s relatively minor economic benefits, greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the land-use incompatibility of the project.”

The refusal comes as new coal mine approvals in the world’s biggest coal exporter face increasing regulatory hurdles.

Australia’s federal court ruled in May that its environment minister had an obligation to the next generation to consider the harm caused by climate change when approving the expansion of a new coal mine.

The Australian government has challenged the decision.

Hume Coal said it was disappointed with the IPC’s decision and would consider its future steps. “We now need to take stock and review the report,” Project Manager Rod Doyle said.

Hume Coal had sought permission to mine 50 million tonnes of steelmaking coal over 23 years from near the town of Moss Vale, some 175km south-west of Sydney.

A rail loop had also been earmarked for the site so that coal could be transported to Port Kembla on the east coast.

Key issues raised by those opposed to the project included mine design, subsidence, groundwater drawdown, risks to Sydney’s drinking water catchment, impacts to local biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and impacts to Aboriginal and historic heritage, the IPC said in its ruling. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia in on a path to net zero carbon emissions but has stopped short of committing to a timeline. Most other developed countries have signed up to a zero emissions target by 2050. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Norwegian Air sees travel rebound ending need to seek more cash

A satellite antenna is seen on the roof of the Norwegian Airways Boening 737-800 at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport April 2, 2015. — Reuters pic
A satellite antenna is seen on the roof of the Norwegian Airways Boening 737-800 at Berlin Schoenefeld Airport April 2, 2015. — Reuters pic

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OSLO, Aug 31 — Norwegian Air said today it would not need to raise more cash as easing Covid-19 travel restrictions lifted bookings, although the budget carrier which has emerged from bankruptcy proceedings did not provide a 2021 outlook.

The pandemic sent the indebted airline into bankruptcy proceedings last year, forcing it to terminate its transatlantic network and to cut more than 6,000 jobs to survive. It now has about 3,000 employees.

The company reported today revenue of 591 million Norwegian crowns (RM283 million) for the first half of 2021, down from 7.1 billion crowns in the same period a year ago. It said it remained focussed on preserving cash for the rest of 2021.

“We will very much be ready for the peak season (of 2022), so there is no risk today that we will have to go out and get more capital in the foreseeable future,” Chief Executive Geir Karlsen told Reuters.

Norwegian emerged from the government-backed bankruptcy proceedings in May and saw the number of passengers jump in July but still less than a fifth of those flown at the same time two years ago.

Bookings have risen in response to relaxation of travel restrictions and the roll-out of vaccines, Norwegian said, adding that it expected a further boost in the second quarter of 2022 when holiday travel was expected to pick up.

The current fleet of 51 aircraft, down from around 160 last year, would likely be fully utilised by the end of the year, up from less than 10 jets flown during April and May, the company said. It aims to expand to between 60 and 70 planes in 2022.

Norwegian’s debt was reduced by around 80 per cent during reconstruction as creditors took control, but the company now faces fresh competition from Flyr on domestic routes in Norway and some foreign destinations.

“Given the continuous uncertainty and ongoing impact on overall demand for air travel due to Covid-19, Norwegian does not provide guidance for 2021,” the board said.

Norwegian’s shares rose 0.2 per cent by 0825 GMT, slightly lagging a 0.3 per cent rise in the Oslo benchmark index. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Ryanair CEO sees ‘very strong recovery’, nudges up passenger target

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary speaks during a Reuters Newsmaker event in London October 1, 2019. — Reuters pic
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary speaks during a Reuters Newsmaker event in London October 1, 2019. — Reuters pic

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BRUSSELS, Aug 31 — Ryanair has nudged up its passenger target for the autumn amid signs of a “very strong recovery” in European short-haul flights, Chief Executive Michael O’Leary told Reuters in an interview today.

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest by passenger numbers, is expected to fly 10.5 million passengers per month in September, October and November, O’Leary said.

That compares with a July forecast of an average of 10 million for each of those months.

“As long as there are no adverse Covid developments, things are set fair for a very strong recovery,” O’Leary said ahead of a press briefing in Brussels.

The CEO also said Ryanair was on target to exceed its 10.5 million passenger target for August.

Capacity should return to pre-pandemic levels in October, from close to 90 per cent in September and 80 per cent in August, he added. But the airline is likely to fly with an average of 15-20 per cent empty seats on planes this winter compared with 7-8 per cent before the pandemic.

“Through the winter, pricing will continue to build, but it will still be below (pre-)Covid,” he said. “We don’t expect pricing to go back to pre-Covid levels until the summer of 2022.” — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Global stocks set new records as August ends in buoyant mood

A woman walks past a panel displaying the afternoon trading Hang Seng Index, after Beijing's plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong May 22, 2020. — Reuters pic
A woman walks past a panel displaying the afternoon trading Hang Seng Index, after Beijing's plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong May 22, 2020. — Reuters pic

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LONDON, Aug 31 — Stock markets set new record highs today as investors ended August in a buoyant mood, confident of an ongoing economic recovery and that the Federal Reserve’s eventual paring back of its stimulus would not knock asset prices anytime soon.

European stocks are on course for their seventh straight month of gains.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index gained 0.2 per cent, with Asian stocks reversing earlier losses as fresh signs of a slowdown in China’s economy spurred hopes of more stimulus.

The German DAX climbed 0.46 per cent while France’s CAC 40 was 0.1 per cent higher. Wall Street futures were higher ahead of the US open and after closing at or near record highs yesterday.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 50 countries, rose 0.28 per cent.

“While risks remain, and investors should reflect this in their portfolios, we believe the backdrop for equities remains positive, and we advise investors to position for reopening and recovery. We advise investors to position in stocks that should benefit from strong economic growth,” said Mark Haefele, Chief Investment Officer, UBS Global Wealth Management.

Rising cases of the Covid-19 Delta variant have hurt Asian shares in recent weeks but have mostly been ignored by European and US markets, as investors continue to bet that plentiful stimulus and rising corporate profitability will further fuel asset price gains even after such a strong run so far this year.

Outside of stocks, the dollar, a safe-haven currency and barometer of risk sentiment, fell to a three-week low. The euro rose 0.3 per cent to US$1.1827 (RM4.92) against a weaker dollar.

China concerns

However, the mood was not entirely ebullient.

Data showed that China’s businesses and the broader economy came under increasing pressure in August as factory activity expanded at a slower pace, while activity in the services sector contracted. That raises the likelihood of more policy support to boost growth.

There are also growing concerns about Beijing’s regulatory clampdown. Tech indices and stocks fell on Monday after the government cut the amount of time players under the age of 18 can spend on online games to one hour on Fridays, weekends and holidays.

The CSI information technology sub-index slumped 2.67 per cent. The ChiNext Composite start-up board was 2.51 per cent weaker and Shanghai’s tech-focused STAR50 index fell 2.8 per cent .

“The Chinese tech sector is under pressure. Divergence should continue when the market faces a lot of uncertainties over Chinese policies,” said Edison Pun, senior market analyst at Saxo Markets.

But Asian shares more broadly later recovered, with investors shrugging off the concerns about China. MSCI’s gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan was up 1 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 bounced back strongly to stand 1.1 per cent higher despite weak July industrial output data.

Oil prices fell on concerns that power outages and flooding in Louisiana after Hurricane Ida would cut crude demand from refineries at the same time that global producers plan to raise output.

US crude reversed losses to stay flat at US$69.22 a barrel. Brent fell to US$72.85 a barrel, although it was off its weakest of the day as Hurricane Ida weakened into a Category 1 hurricane within 12 hours of coming ashore as a Category 4.

In bond markets, euro zone government bond yields steadied ahead of euro zone inflation data for August. First-estimate data due at 0900 GMT is expected to show prices rose 2.7 per cent year-on-year according to a Reuters poll, up from 2.2 per cent in July.

Investors are also preparing for crucial data on the state of the US jobs market due out later in the week. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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FTSE 100 edges lower but poised for best month since April

A street cleaning operative walks past the London Stock Exchange Group building in London’s financial district March 9, 2020. — Reuters pic
A street cleaning operative walks past the London Stock Exchange Group building in London’s financial district March 9, 2020. — Reuters pic

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LONDON, Aug 31 — London’s FTSE 100 inched lower today as banks and Bunzl outweighed gains in industrials, although solid earnings and easing fears about early tapering of central bank support kept the blue-chip index on course for its best month since April.

The FTSE 100 edged down 0.1 per cent in choppy trading, with a 1.7 per cent drop in banks outweighing a 1.3 per cent gain in industrials.

Bunzl Plc fell 1.6 per cent after the business supplies distributor flagged supply chain disruptions, product shortages and a labour crunch in certain markets including Mexico, Australia and Britain.

The domestically focussed mid-cap index climbed 0.2 per cent, hitting a record high, and was on course for its best month since December.

Asia stocks reversed earlier losses while investors stayed mostly cautious after data pointed towards fresh signs of slowdown in the Chinese economy.

“The market is reacting to data in China and that’s reinforcing the view that we’re going to get liquidity injections or cuts going forward,” said S├ębastien Galy, a senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

“So, you saw a stabilisation in Chinese equity markets, rally to some extent in Asia Pacific markets, and that should translate into European markets in the next few hours.”

The FTSE 100 has gained about 10.5 per cent so far this year, but continues to lag its European and US peers as a resurgence in coronavirus cases across the world has sparked concerns of a slowdown in global economic growth.

Investors now await Markit/CIPS business activity data for August due later this week.

British Airways-owner IAG, Ryanair Holdings, Easyjet Plc and Wizz Air fell between 2.4 per cent and 3.5 per cent after European Union governments agreed on Monday to remove the United States from the EU’s safe travel list.

Among other stocks, Weir Group jumped 3.4 per cent to the top of FTSE 100 after Peel Hunt upgraded the engineering company to “buy” from “hold”.

Ferguson climbed 2.7 per cent after JP Morgan raised its price target on the plumbing and heating parts distributor. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Dollar at three-week lows as traders await tapering clues

The dollar was trading near three-week lows against a basket of currencies today, as investors looked to US jobs figures later this week for clues on stimulus taper timing. — AFP pic
The dollar was trading near three-week lows against a basket of currencies today, as investors looked to US jobs figures later this week for clues on stimulus taper timing. — AFP pic

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LONDON, Aug 31 — The dollar was trading near three-week lows against a basket of currencies today, as investors looked to US jobs figures later this week for clues on stimulus taper timing.

The greenback has been on the back foot since Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s comments at the Jackson Hole conference on Friday that the US central bank could scale back its bond-buying program this year but did not give a firm timeline.

US payrolls numbers due Friday this week will be closely watched, analysts said.

“Powell made clear on Friday that the Fed believes the ‘substantial further progress’ criteria has been met for inflation but not for employment and hence the jobs data will continue to be key for policy expectations,” analysts at MUFG said in a note.

Trade today will also likely be driven by month-end flows from businesses for their import and export transactions, traders said.

The dollar index slipped a quarter of a per cent to 92.456, its lowest level since August 6.

The euro gained 0.3 per cent against the broadly weaker dollar, hitting a three-week high of US$1.18315 (RM4.92).

Sterling strengthened to a two-week high of US$1.38010, before slipping back below US$1.38.

The yen was little changed at 109.85 yen to the dollar.

The New Zealand dollar strengthened 0.9 per cent to US$0.70560, a day after the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern partially eased lockdown restrictions outside of Auckland.

The offshore Chinese yuan slipped versus the dollar, but was largely steady after soft factory and service sector surveys.

“The drop in the non-manufacturing PMI reflects the impact of the coronavirus. But the infections in China has already peaked and dwindled,” said Ei Kaku, senior strategist at Nomura Securities.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin gained 1.6 per cent to US$47,752, regaining some of the previous day’s losses. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Asian markets rise as traders brush off early upset at China data

Pedestrians, standing in front of an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage, are reflected in a polished stone surface in Tokyo October 16, 2014. — Reuters pic
Pedestrians, standing in front of an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage, are reflected in a polished stone surface in Tokyo October 16, 2014. — Reuters pic

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HONG KONG, Aug 31 — Markets rose in Asia today, tracking another record Wall Street close, as investors overcame early selling pressure sparked by data indicating China’s economic recovery had been slowed down by an outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta Covid variant.

The positive energy stoked by a pledge from Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell to be cautious in withdrawing the bank’s vast financial support appeared to have dissipated at the open, replaced by fresh concerns over Beijing’s crackdown on private enterprises and the ever-present spectre of the coronavirus.

The day got off to a weak start after China released figures showing activity in the services industry contracted last month for the first time since February 2020.

Authorities imposed strict travel restrictions on swathes of the country this month to contain its worst outbreak of Covid since the initial pandemic with dozens of cities affected and tens of millions of people subject to containment measures.

The moves saw flights cancelled and tourist spots closed while events were called off in a bid to nip the flare-up in the bud.

The “data again reflected the outsized and asymmetric shock on the service sector from Covid-related restrictions”, Liu Peiqian, at Natwest Markets, said.

And while new case figures have been brought under control again, Liu warned any such spike in future will again likely hit the services sector.

Several other countries — including Australia and New Zealand — have been forced to impose tough measures to battle a surge in infections while also struggling with their vaccine rollouts.

Analysts said US Treasury yields remained subdued — indicating higher demand for the safe-haven assets — owing to lingering concerns over the impact of Delta on the recovery.

“The bond market is getting a little nervous about the economic outlook,” Priya Misra, at TD Securities, told Bloomberg Television.

China tech takes fresh hit

But she added: “I actually think the economy is fundamentally strong. By year end, if the economy holds up, which we forecast it will, that’s when we expect rates — especially in the long end — to start to edge higher.”

Tokyo and Seoul rose more than one per cent, while Shanghai, Sydney, Wellington, Taipei, Manila, Mumbai and Bangkok were also well up.

Hong Kong also reversed heavy morning selling after China announced rules allowing under-18s to only play their computer games for three hours a week, saying it wanted to curb what it called an addiction.

Companies are prohibited from offering gaming services outside the stipulated hours, although the statement did not make it clear how rule-breakers would be punished.

The announcement is the latest blow for the tech industry and gaming from Beijing, which has vowed to rein in firms it considers to have become too powerful.

Still, observers said that many firms had reported earnings in the second quarter that had not been drastically affected by the new rules.

Gaming giant Tencent, which has been battered for months by Beijing’s clampdown, lost more than three per cent in early business but ended up more than three per cent.

London edged down in the morning, though Paris and Frankfurt both rose.

Investors are now gearing up for the release of US employment data Friday, which could have a bearing on when the Fed begins tightening monetary policy. 

The reading comes after around 1.8 million new jobs were created through July and August.

“Another stellar print would firm up expectations of a near-term taper announcement as early as the September (policy) meeting, while a weaker print would see such an announcement pushed back to November or December,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.

Oil prices dipped as investors assess the damage to refineries after Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf of Mexico, while they are also awaiting the monthly meeting of OPEC and other key producers on Wednesday.

Key figures around 0810 GMT

Tokyo — Nikkei 225: UP 1.1 per cent at 28,089.54 (close)

Hong Kong — Hang Seng Index: UP 1.3 per cent at 25,878.99 (close)

Shanghai — Composite: UP 0.5 per cent at 3,543.94 (close)

London — FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 per cent at 7,143.03

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.83 yen from 109.91 yen at 2130 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at US$1.3792 from US$1.3756

Euro/dollar: UP at US$1.1826 from US$1.1796 

Euro/pound: UP at 85.75 pence from 85.73 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.1 per cent at US$69.25 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 per cent at US$73.47 per barrel

New York — Dow: DOWN 0.2 per cent at 35,399.84 (close) — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

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US dollar weakness pushes sterling to two-week high

Dollar, euro and pound banknotes are seen in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2017. — Reuters pic
Dollar, euro and pound banknotes are seen in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2017. — Reuters pic

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LONDON, Aug 31 — The pound rose to its highest in two weeks today, extending gains against the dollar which weakened after US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell did not signal a timeline for a policy shift.

At the highly-anticipated Jackson Hole economic conference on Friday, Powell offered no indication about when the central bank planned to cut its asset purchases beyond saying it could be “this year”. The comments knocked the US dollar and pushed up the pound.

Sterling extended these gains on Tuesday as the dollar fell further. At 0738 GMT, the pound was up 0.3 per cent at US$1.3792 (RM5.73), its strongest since August 17.

Versus the euro, it was little changed, at 85.76 pence per euro.

Risk appetite was steady, as European stocks shrugged off fresh signs of an economic slowdown in China.

Investors are looking to US jobs figures due later in the week for clues on the timing of the Fed’s monetary policy tapering.

ING FX strategists wrote to clients that a light data calendar in Britain and lack of Bank of England speakers meant that cable had followed euro-dollar’s move higher this week.

“A break above 1.3800 this week should, if anything, be driven solely by USD weakness, while EUR/GBP looks likely to keep trading within its recent narrow range for now,” ING said.

Earlier this year, Britain’s pace of Covid-19 vaccinations and a broader reflation trade in global markets allowed the pound to be the best performer among its G10 currency peers, but it has since lost that lead.

Speculators’ net position on the pound versus the dollar fell further into negative territory in the week to August 24 — meaning there are more bets on the pound falling — according to weekly CFTC positioning data.

The net short position is at its biggest since November 2020.

“The list of headwinds for GBP is growing,” said Nomura analyst Jordan Rochester in a note to clients on Friday, citing rising British Covid-19 infections and “high-frequency growth indications turning lower”. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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China shuts American Chamber of Commerce in Chengdu, organisation says

Chinese authorities have instructed an American Chamber of Commerce in the south-western city of Chengdu to cease operations. — AFP file pic
Chinese authorities have instructed an American Chamber of Commerce in the south-western city of Chengdu to cease operations. — AFP file pic

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SHANGHAI, Aug 31 — Chinese authorities have instructed an American Chamber of Commerce in the south-western city of Chengdu to cease operations, officials with the organisation said today.

According to an online statement from the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Southwest China, its members were notified on Monday that, in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations, the chamber would stop operations and “no longer carry out any activities in the name of the American Chamber of Commerce in Southwest China”.

AmCham Southwest China officials confirmed that it was an official statement. — Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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MAHB appoints Berk Albayrak as Turkey’s Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport CEO effective Sept 1

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 — Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has appointed Berk Albayrak as the chief executive officer (CEO) of its Turkish asset, Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (ISGA), effective September 1.

Group CEO Datuk Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh said MAHB is confident Albayrak would lead and further strengthen ISGA’s position as a city airport, more so with the encouraging signs of recovery shown by the airport in terms of traffic movements.

“Recently, ISGA was ranked as the fourth busiest airport in Europe by the Airports Council International (ACI) and showed encouraging recovery for 1H21 by recording 53 per cent of the total passenger traffic movements at pre-Covid-19 levels,” he said in a statement.

Last April, Albayrak was appointed the Covering CEO of ISGA and in the 11 years that he has been in ISGA, he has held various positions including being the chief operating officer and the technical services director.

A civil engineer by profession, Albayrak was also the department manager for Limak and GMR Joint Venture, director of the construction division for DHMI Turkey and assistant project manager for Baki Group of Companies. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

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Scientex expands Klang Valley footprint with 251-acre land purchase

PETALING JAYA: Scientex Bhd’s wholly-owned subsidiary Scientex Park (M) Sdn Bhd has entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Seriemas Development Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Bhd, to acquire five pieces of freehold land totalling 250.8 acres in Jenjarom, Selangor for RM207.6 million.

The packaging manufacturer and property developer plans to launch a mixed development project on the land, with its gross development value (GDV) yet to be determined.

Scientex CEO Lim Peng Jin said the proposed land acquisition has been an opportunity for the group to increase and boost its existing landbank in Selangor, especially after the encouraging take-up of its current developments in Kundang Jaya and Rawang.

“The strategic location of the proposed land, with easy access via several expressway and its proximity to vibrant towns such as Klang and Banting, indicates its potential as a budding new township, and provides us the opportunity to generate greater economic value in the state.

“We aspire to provide affordable homes to a greater number of Malaysian families under the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia. To date, we have completed about 25,300 affordable homes in Peninsular Malaysia, surpassing the halfway mark en route to our 50,000 affordable homes target by 2028,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Located near Klang and Banting towns with direct frontage of the bustling Jalan Klang-Banting Highway, the land are also accessible via the South Klang Valley Expressway from the Teluk Panglima Garang interchange and the upcoming West Coast Expressway connected to the Banting interchange.

The proposed land acquisition is subject to approval by the Estate Land Board and the Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, and is targeted to be completed in the second half of year 2022. The purchase will be financed by internally generated funds and bank borrowings.

“Scientex’s latest land acquisition would increase its total land bank to 7,450 acres across Johor, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah.

“The proposed exercise is Scientex’s fourth land acquisition in Selangor. This follows overwhelming response from its property launches in Kundang Jaya and Rawang developments. The group’s upcoming project launch in Selangor next year spans 139 acres in Cheras,“ Lim said.

Ever since the inception of the group’s property development segment in 1995, Scientex has delivered RM7.1 billion GDV worth of properties. All the affordable homes completed were priced below RM500,000 each, with more than 70% of the homes priced below RM300,000 per unit.

Currently, Scientex’s ongoing property projects are worth a total GDV of RM2.2 billion across its developments in Johor, Malacca, Selangor, Perak and Penang.



Source: The Sun Daily

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Malaysia must push to attract foreign direct investment, especially from EU, says Asean Business Advisory Council

A view of the city skyline in Kuala Lumpur August 17, 2021. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A view of the city skyline in Kuala Lumpur August 17, 2021. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 31 ― Malaysia needs to push for progress in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly investors from the European Union (EU), the Asean Business Advisory Council (Asean-BAC) Malaysia said.

The council said a consultation meeting with members of its joint business councils and foreign business councils yesterday concluded that the time now is suitable to restart talks for an EU-Malaysia free trade agreement (FTA).

It said the EU has completed bilateral trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam and is currently in talks for similar free trade agreements (FTA) with other Asean countries such as Indonesia.

“As such, the panellists agreed that Malaysia needs to push for progress in this area,” it said in a statement today.

Chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Munir Abdul Majid said Malaysia remained an attractive destination for foreign direct investment despite the many challenges that the country currently faces.

Council member Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon said the ratification of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) could enable Malaysia to reach an agreement with the EU sooner since certain provisions laid out in the CPTPP, such as those involving labour, would be similar to those required in an FTA with the EU.

Meanwhile, the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) said it firmly believed that there is a need for a formal framework to elevate trade between the EU and Malaysia to the next level.

“Since several Asean countries have already signed or are in advanced stages of FTA negotiations with the EU, we strongly recommend that the Malaysian government restarts the currently-stalled FTA dialogue,” chief executive officer Sven Schneider said.

Ambassador of the European Union to Malaysia Michalis Rokas said he believed that Malaysia should continue to be an attractive investment destination as long as it provided transparency and predictability.

“Malaysia should attract foreign investments and investors by streamlining and simplifying market access requirements for foreign companies, in a systemic and non-discriminatory way,” he said.

He added that although the trade and investment relationship between Malaysia and EU is on the whole satisfactory, there remained untapped potential for both sides to work together to “build back better” especially in the post-pandemic recovery period. ― Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

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Asia shares ease as weak China data weighs

MSCI's gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan slipped 0.25 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei 225 fell more than 0.3 per cent in the morning session. — Reuters pic
MSCI's gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan slipped 0.25 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei 225 fell more than 0.3 per cent in the morning session. — Reuters pic

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HONG KONG, Aug 31 ― Asia stock markets opened lower today despite fresh all-time highs on Wall Street, as worries about China's slowing economic growth and regulatory changes weighed on investor sentiment.

MSCI's gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan slipped 0.25 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei 225 fell more than 0.3 per cent in the morning session.

Japan's industrial output shrank in July as car production took a hit from a resurgence of the coronavirus in Asia that has cast doubt over recovery in the world's third-largest economy.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index and China's benchmark CSI300 Index opened down 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively.

China's factory activity expanded at a slower pace in August as coronavirus-related restrictions and high raw material prices pressure manufacturers in the world's second largest economy, while services activity contracted sharply, national data showed today.

Beijing yesterday cut the amount of time players under the age of 18 can spend on online games to an hour on Fridays, weekends and holidays, which analysts expect to continue to weigh in on tech stocks.

“Chinese tech sector is under pressure. Divergence should continue when market faces a lot of uncertainties over Chinese policies,” said Edison Pun, senior market analyst at Saxo Markets.

Australian shares, however, rose slightly for a second straight session, led by mining and technology stocks. The S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.2 per cent by 0130GMT.

Asia's cooler sentiment followed all-time highs set by US and global equity benchmarks in the previous session, as the Federal Reserve appeared in no rush to step away from its massive stimulus.

US crude fell 0.51 per cent to US$68.86 (RM286.27) a barrel and Brent was down 0.56 per cent at US$73 a barrel in Asian trade as Hurricane Ida weakened into a Category 1 hurricane within 12 hours of coming ashore as a Category 4.

“Eyes on Opec+ meeting after hurricane Ida's hit, short-term supply shock is relieved and Opec+ meeting could mean more future supply. Crude oil may return to weakness after strong rebound for about 10 per cent last week,” Sun said.

Spot gold gained 0.18 per cent to US$1813.54 per ounce. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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China's factory activity expands at slower pace in August, services contract

A worker works on a production line at a factory of a ship equipment manufacturer, in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China March 2, 2020. — China Daily pic via Reuters
A worker works on a production line at a factory of a ship equipment manufacturer, in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China March 2, 2020. — China Daily pic via Reuters

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BEIJING, Aug 31 ― China's factory activity expanded at a slower pace in August, while the services sector slumped into contraction, as coronavirus-related restrictions and high raw material prices pressure businesses in the world's second largest economy.

The official manufacturing Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) was 50.1 in August from 50.4 in July, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed today.

The 50-point mark separates growth from contraction. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected it to slip to 50.2.

China staged an impressive recovery from a coronavirus-battered slump, but growth has recently shown signs of losing steam due to domestic Covid-19 outbreaks, slowing exports, tighter measures to tame hot property prices and a campaign to reduce carbon emissions.

In a worrying sign for China's slow consumption recovery, a gauge of activity for the services sector in August slipped into sharp contraction for the first time since the height of the pandemic in February last year.

The official non-manufacturing PMI in August was 47.5, well down from July's 53.3, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.

To bolster the economy, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) cut the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves in mid-July, releasing around 1 trillion yuan (RM24.9 trillion) in long-term liquidity.

Many analysts expect another cut later in the year.

China's latest coronavirus outbreaks appear to have been largely brought under control, with zero locally transmitted cases reported on August 30, for the third day in a row.

But it spurred authorities across the country to impose measures including mass testing for millions of people as well as travel restrictions of varying degrees and port shutdowns.

Meishan terminal at China's Ningbo port resumed operations in late August after shutting down for two weeks due to a Covid-19 case. The closure caused logjams at ports across the country's coastal regions and further strained global supply chains amid a resurgence of consumer spending and a shortage of container vessels.

Higher raw material prices, especially of metals and semiconductors, have also pressured profits. Earnings at China's industrial firms in July slowed for the fifth straight month.

The official August composite PMI, which includes both manufacturing and services activity, fell to 48.9 from July's 52.4. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Tokyo stocks open lower with eyes on China data

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 0.67 per cent or 185.37 points at 27,603.92 in early trade, while the broader Topix index slipped 0.61 per cent or 11.96 points to 1,938.18. — Reuters pic
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 0.67 per cent or 185.37 points at 27,603.92 in early trade, while the broader Topix index slipped 0.61 per cent or 11.96 points to 1,938.18. — Reuters pic

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TOKYO, Aug 31 ― Tokyo stocks opened lower today after a mixed close on Wall Street with a dearth of fresh market-moving events and investors shifting their focus to Chinese economic data.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 0.67 per cent or 185.37 points at 27,603.92 in early trade, while the broader Topix index slipped 0.61 per cent or 11.96 points to 1,938.18.

On Wall Street, the Dow dropped but high-tech shares found favour following declines in long-term yields, driving up the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indexes.

“Japanese shares are starting with declines as the mixed US market failed to give a fresh reason (to buy),” senior market strategist Toshiyuki Kanayama of Monex said in a note.

Investors were closely watching Chinese purchasing managers indexes for both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors in August, to be released during Tokyo trading hours, he added.

The dollar fetched ¥109.94 (RM4.15) in early Asian trade, against ¥109.91 in New York late yesterday.

Among major shares in Tokyo, Toyota was trading down 0.79 per cent at ¥9,459, Sony was off 0.53 per cent at ¥11,175, and investment giant SoftBank Group was down 1.19 per cent at ¥6,079.

Among China-linked shares, construction machine maker Komatsu was down 0.79 per cent and engineering firm JGC was off 1.20 per cent at ¥907.

Japan's unemployment rate in July stood at 2.8 per cent, a 0.1 percentage point improvement from 2.9 per cent in June, according to data released by the internal affairs ministry before the opening bell.

The data did not prompt strong market reaction. ― AFP




Source: Malay Mail

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Dollar near two-week low as investors look to US jobs data

The US currency steadied from falls after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday offered no signal on when the central bank plans to cut its asset purchases beyond saying it could be ‘this year.’ — Picture by Hari Anggara
The US currency steadied from falls after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday offered no signal on when the central bank plans to cut its asset purchases beyond saying it could be ‘this year.’ — Picture by Hari Anggara

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TOKYO, Aug 31 ― The dollar hovered near two-week lows against a basket of currencies today with trade seen driven by month-end flows as investors looked ahead to US jobs figures later in the week.

The US currency steadied from falls after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday offered no signal on when the central bank plans to cut its asset purchases beyond saying it could be “this year.”

“The payroll data will be the next highlight given the focus on the Fed's taper. A strong reading will boost expectations the Fed will give markets prior notice in September before a formal decision in November,” said Yukio Ishizuki, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Weaker jobs numbers could instead cement a case for later action ― a pre-announcement in November with a formal decision in December.

Trade toay, however, is likely to be driven more by month-end flows from various businesses for their import and export transactions.

In early trade, the euro held firm at US$1.1799 (RM4.90), near yesterday's three-week high of US$1.1810.

The euro zone's consumer price data due at 0900 GMT is expected to show that inflation in the currency bloc has gathered pace in August.

Sterling fetched US$1.3762 while the yen was little changed at 109.98 yen to the dollar.

The dollar index stood at 92.698, near yesterday's two-week low of 92.595.

In Asia, China's official PMI due around 0200 GMT is being closely watched for clues on the extent of the impact caused by the outbreak of the Delta variant in the country.

The offshore Chinese yuan stood at 6.4648 per dollar, not far from a three-week high of 6.4595 touched on Friday.

The Australian dollar, often seen as a proxy bet on the Chinese economy, stood at US$0.7292, having peaked on Friday at US$0.7317.

The Canadian dollar fetched C$1.2610, having reached a two-week high on Monday, thanks in part to the Canadian current account surplus widening more than expected due to robust oil prices.

Oil prices strengthened to three-week highs as U.S. Gulf Coast platforms, refineries and pipelines grappled with uncertainty on restart timelines after Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on the region.

Emerging market currencies also held firm, with the MSCI emerging market currency index hitting a three-week high of 1,733.33 yesterday. It last stood at 1,732.54.

In cryptocurrencies, bitcoin eased to US$47,626 while ether held slightly firmer at US$3,277. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Study: Google, Facebook, Microsoft top EU lobbying spending

The study found that 612 companies, groups and associations spend more than €97 million (RM475.8 million) annually lobbying on EU digital economy policies. ― Reuters pic
The study found that 612 companies, groups and associations spend more than €97 million (RM475.8 million) annually lobbying on EU digital economy policies. ― Reuters pic

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BRUSSELS, Aug 31 ― Alphabet Inc's Google unit, Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp are the three biggest lobbying spenders in Europe in a battle against tough new laws aimed at curbing US tech giants' powers, a study released today showed.

Such efforts should be a wake-up call to EU policymakers to further beef up the draft laws and lobbying rules, the study by campaign groups Corporate Europe Observatory and LobbyControl warned.

The tech sector outspends even the pharma, fossil fuels, finance and chemicals sectors, which used to dominate lobbying, the report said.

“The rising lobby firepower of big tech and the digital industry as a whole mirrors the sectors' huge and growing role in society,” the study said.

“It is remarkable and should be a cause of concern that the platforms can use this firepower to ensure their voices are heard ― over countervailing and critical voices ― in the debate over how to construct new rules for digital platforms.”

The study found that 612 companies, groups and associations spend more than €97 million (RM475.8 million) annually lobbying on EU digital economy policies. The data was submitted by companies to the EU Transparency Register up to mid-June this year.

Google topped spending at €5.75 million, followed by Facebook at €5.5 million, Microsoft at 5.25 million, Apple at 3.5 million, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd at 3 million and Amazon.com Inc in sixth place with 2.75 million, the study said.

Google and Huawei responded that they submit their lobbying data to the EU transparency register.

“We have clear policies in place to protect the independence of the people and organisations we sponsor, including a requirement to disclose funding,” Google said in an email.

Microsoft said: “The European Union has been and remains an important stakeholder for Microsoft. We seek to be a constructive and transparent partner to European policymakers.”

Facebook, Apple and Amazon had no immediate comment.

The tech lobbying focuses on two key pieces of legislation. The Digital Markets' Act lists do's and don'ts for tech giants, and the Digital Services Act requires companies to do more to police content on their platforms.

The study warned about the industry's access to the European Commission, with lobbyists involved in three-quarters of the 270 meetings commission officials had on the two draft laws.

It also cited the role played by trade and business associations, think tanks and even political parties in promoting the tech industry's narrative. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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European stocks close flat, set for August gains

The Europe-wide STOXX 600 ended largely unchanged at 472.68 points but was on course to end August with a 2.4 per cent rise ― its seventh straight month of gains in what would be its longest such winning run in over eight years. — Reuters pic
The Europe-wide STOXX 600 ended largely unchanged at 472.68 points but was on course to end August with a 2.4 per cent rise ― its seventh straight month of gains in what would be its longest such winning run in over eight years. — Reuters pic

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FRANKFURT, Aug 31 ― European stocks ended flat yesterday as a British holiday made for languid trade, but were set for strong monthly gains on expectations that continued central bank support would sustain an economic recovery.

The Europe-wide STOXX 600 ended largely unchanged at 472.68 points but was on course to end August with a 2.4 per cent rise ― its seventh straight month of gains in what would be its longest such winning run in over eight years.

Chemical stocks, which are likely to benefit from an economic bounceback, were the best performers for the day, rising 0.6 per cent, while technology stocks rose 0.5 per cent.

Global equities remained supported after US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell explained on Friday why the central bank saw no rush to tighten monetary policy, and offered no signal on when it plans to cut its asset purchases beyond saying it could be “this year.”

“For equity markets, the gradual process is positive, because it is clear the Fed wants to continue to support the economy for as long as needed to achieve a full recovery,” said Willem Sels, chief investment officer of private banking and wealth management at HSBC.

“It is therefore no surprise that cyclical sectors reacted most positively to the news.”

Oil and gas stocks closed flat as crude prices retreated from three-week highs after a powerful hurricane slammed into the US Gulf coast, forcing shutdowns and evacuations of hundreds of offshore oil platforms.

After hitting record highs in mid-August, European stocks have struggled to reclaim the highs on worries about tighter regulation on Chinese tech firms and as a resurgence in Covid-19 cases prompt fresh lockdowns in parts of the world.

A study showed people who get the Delta variant of the coronavirus are twice as likely to be hospitalised as those who were infected by the Alpha variant.

However, the European Central Bank expects the more contagious variant to have a limited impact on the euro zone economy due to an advanced vaccination campaign.

Among individual stocks, French shares of carmaker Stellantis fell 0.8 per cent after the company said it was extending production halts at several plants in Europe due to a shortage in microchips. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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S&P, Nasdaq post record closes on dovish Fed taper-talk

The S&P 500 gained 19.42 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 4,528.79 and the Nasdaq Composite added 136.39 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 15,265.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 55.96 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 35,399.84, — Reuters pic
The S&P 500 gained 19.42 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 4,528.79 and the Nasdaq Composite added 136.39 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 15,265.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 55.96 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 35,399.84, — Reuters pic

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NEW YORK, Aug 31 ― The S&P 500 and Nasdaq topped their record closes once again yesterday, bolstered by technology stocks, as last week's dovish comments from the Federal Reserve on tapering its monetary stimulus refocused investors' minds on economic growth.

It was the fourth record closing high in five sessions for the S&P, and the fifth in six sessions for the Nasdaq, runs only interrupted by jitters ahead of Fed Chair Jerome Powell's Jackson Hole speech.

Ultimately, these worries were unfounded as Powell said on Friday the central bank would continue to be cautious in its approach to tapering its massive pandemic-era stimulus, while reaffirming a steady economic recovery.

“It's now clear that there's going to still be an extraordinary amount of support for this economy, probably until November,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst for the Americas at OANDA.

“Some investors are thinking that tapering might not even start this year, but the one thing that everyone can agree on is that Chair Powell has signalled they are in no rush to raise interest rates and he's disconnected tapering with rate-hike timing.”

With this in mind, investors turned to high-growth tech stocks which tend to benefit from expectations of lower rates because their value rests heavily on future earnings.

Apple Inc jumped 3 per cent to an all-time high, while Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com, Google-owner Alphabet Inc rose between 0.4 per cent and 2.1 per cent, helping the tech-heavy Nasdaq outperform the S&P 500 and the Dow.

The benchmark index is tracking its longest monthly winning streak since 2018 on the promise of easy money, with investors shrugging off signs of a slowing economic recovery and surging COVID-19 cases.

The S&P 500 has risen 3 per cent so far in August ― a seasonally weak period for stocks ― and Wells Fargo analysts said last week they expect the index to rise another 8 per cent by the end of the year.

It is also on track to log one of its best year-to-date returns through August of the past six decades, said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading at E*Trade Financial.

The S&P 500 gained 19.42 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 4,528.79 and the Nasdaq Composite added 136.39 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 15,265.89. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 55.96 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 35,399.84,

While US crude prices rose 0.7 per cent yesterday, energy stocks broadly slipped as investors fretted about possible longer-term impacts from Hurricane Ida, which roared ashore on Sunday near Port Fourchon, Louisiana, a major hub for the US offshore oil industry.

The energy index fell 1.2 per cent, with only the financials benchmark dropping further on the day, as bank stocks reacted to falling bond yields.

PayPal Holdings Inc advanced 3.6 per cent on a CNBC report that the financial services firm was exploring the development of a stocks trading platform for its US customers. The news helped send Robinhood Markets Inc down 6.9 per cent.

Volume on US exchanges was 8.77 billion shares, compared with the 8.95 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

The S&P 500 posted 77 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 153 new highs and 34 new lows. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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US stocks, global equities end at record highs as oil prices gain

The S&P 500 gained 0.43 per cent, to 4,528.76 and was on track to finish the month up more than 3 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.9 per cent to 15,265.72 as investors jumped into technology stocks. — Reuters pic
The S&P 500 gained 0.43 per cent, to 4,528.76 and was on track to finish the month up more than 3 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.9 per cent to 15,265.72 as investors jumped into technology stocks. — Reuters pic

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WASHINGTON, Aug 31 ― US and global equity benchmarks hit all-time highs yesterday, as the Federal Reserve appeared in no rush to step away from its massive stimulus, and US oil prices finished higher.

MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets hit a record. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also rose to all-time highs as dovish remarks from the Fed last week bolstered optimism in an economic rebound and eased fears of a sudden tapering in monetary stimulus.

The S&P 500 gained 0.43 per cent, to 4,528.76 and was on track to finish the month up more than 3 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.9 per cent to 15,265.72 as investors jumped into technology stocks.

High-growth tech stocks tend to benefit from expectations of lower rates because their value rests heavily on future earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.16 per cent to 35,399.84.

The Europe-wide STOXX 600 rose 0.07 per cent and was on course to end August with a rise of more than 2 per cent ― its seventh month of gains in what would be its longest such winning run in over eight years.

Asian stocks hit a two-week high and Japan's blue-chip Nikkei closed up 0.5 per cent.

Positive sentiment in equity markets was underpinned by Friday's Jackson Hole, Wyoming, speech by Fed Chair Jerome Powell in which he said tapering of stimulus measures could begin this year, but added the central bank would remain cautious.

“The questions now should pivot from the timing of the taper to its speed. How fast will the Fed reduce its purchases from the current US$120 billion (RM499 billion) monthly rate?” said Christopher Smart, chief global strategist and head of the Barings Investment Institute.

“That will likely be determined by some of the data coming in this week, including US consumer confidence and jobs, but also European inflation and Chinese PMIs,” Smart said.

With the market focused on the medium term, traders have seen any weakness as buying opportunities, said Pictet Wealth Management strategist Frederik Ducrozet.

“We are going from great to good ― the outlook is not as great as it was earlier this year but it's still consistent with further equity market gains,” he added.

Chinese shares remained the outlier, with the US-listed shares of gaming firms such as NetEase Inc dropping on signs of further regulation.

Chinese regulators cut the amount of time players under the age of 18 can spend on online games to an hour on Fridays, weekends and holidays, state media reported.

The new rules come amid a broad crackdown by Beijing on China's tech giants, such as Alibaba Group and Tencent Holdings that has hammered Chinese shares traded at home and abroad.

Oil off highs

Oil prices edged higher but were off a four-week high as Hurricane Ida weakened into a Category 1 hurricane within 12 hours of coming ashore as a Category 4.

Nearly all US. offshore Gulf oil production, or 1.74 million barrels per day, was suspended in advance of the storm.

Focus turned to a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies on Wednesday, with sources telling Reuters the group is likely to keep its oil output policy unchanged and continue with its planned modest production increase.

Oil prices rose, with Brent crude finishing up 71 cents at US$73.41 a barrel after touching four-week highs. They rose more than 11 per cent last week in anticipation of disruptions to oil production from Hurricane Ida.

US oil rose 47 cents to US$69.21 a barrel, having jumped a little more than 10 per cent over the last week.

“Hurricane Ida will dictate oil's near-term direction,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA. “If Ida weakens and its path of destruction is lower than expected, oil's rally will temporarily lose momentum here.”

Gold prices slipped after touching their highest level since August 4.

In bond and currency markets, the Fed's dovish tone held sway and Friday's key US jobs report was in focus.

US Treasury yields retreated as the market looked ahead to the release this week of the August employment report and the possibility it could factor into the timing of the Fed's tapering announcement.

The 10-year US Treasury yield was around 1.2818 per cent, while the dollar index ― which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies ― edged higher after touching a two-week low.

The euro edged up to US$1.18, off a three-week peak touched earlier in the session.

“If we get a (US payrolls) number close to a million, that would increase the odds of taper being announced in September, but if the number is in line with expectations, then there's a 50-50 chance for a September move,” said Vasileios Gkionakis, global head of FX strategy at Lombard Odier Group. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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WTO panel to examine China compliance with grain import tariff ruling

Countries like China that joined the WTO after its creation in 1995 have had their TRQ commitments set out in their accession agreements. — Reuters pic
Countries like China that joined the WTO after its creation in 1995 have had their TRQ commitments set out in their accession agreements. — Reuters pic

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GENEVA, Aug 31 ― The World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreed yesterday to a request from Beijing to evaluate China's compliance with a ruling faulting it for unfair restrictions on imports of American grain.

The decision by the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) to establish an expert panel to determine whether China complied with a 2019 ruling marks the latest twist in a long-running dispute between the world's two largest economies.

Back in December 2016, the administration of then US president Barack Obama filed a complaint with the global trade body over what it claimed were illegal Chinese restrictions on imports of American rice, wheat and corn, describing China's use of the so-called tariff-rate quota (TRQ) system as “opaque and unpredictable”.

Washington estimated at the time that American farmers could have exported some US$3.5 billion (RM14.5 billion) more of such crops to China if the system had been used properly, and charged that Beijing had violated its commitments under international trade rules.

A panel of experts established by the DSB agreed in April 2019 that China had failed to adhere to the commitments it made when it became a WTO member in 2001 to administer the TRQs on a “transparent, predictable, and fair basis”.

TRQs are two-level tariffs, allowing for a limited volume of imports to come in at a lower “in-quota” tariff level, and all other imports charged at an often much higher “out-of-quota” tariff.

Countries like China that joined the WTO after its creation in 1995 have had their TRQ commitments set out in their accession agreements.

China maintains it has fully implemented the DSB rulings and recommendations in this dispute, but Washington does not agree, and threatened last month to take countermeasures.

China has requested that the WTO help settle the matter by establishing a fresh panel of experts to examine its compliance with the 2019 ruling.

Its initial request for a panel was rejected, but its second request during a DSB meeting Monday was granted, according to a Geneva-based trade official.

The US representative at Monday's meeting appeared to welcome the decision, saying Washington was “willing to work together with China to reach a resolution to this dispute”. ― AFP




Source: Malay Mail

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US appeals court revives Madoff trustee lawsuit against Citigroup

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said lower court judges incorrectly required the trustee Irving Picard to prove Citigroup lacked good faith by being ‘willfully blind’ to ‘red flags’ suggesting a high probability of fraud. ― Reuters pic
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said lower court judges incorrectly required the trustee Irving Picard to prove Citigroup lacked good faith by being ‘willfully blind’ to ‘red flags’ suggesting a high probability of fraud. ― Reuters pic

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NEW YORK, Aug 31 ― A federal appeals court yesterday said Citigroup Inc must face a US$343.1 million (RM1.42 billion) clawback lawsuit by the trustee liquidating Bernard Madoff's former firm, who accused the bank of turning a blind eye to the late swindler's Ponzi scheme.

The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said lower court judges incorrectly required the trustee Irving Picard to prove Citigroup lacked good faith by being “willfully blind” to “red flags” suggesting a high probability of fraud.

It said the correct standard was whether the New York-based bank knew “suspicious facts” about Madoff that would have caused a reasonable person to follow up.

The US$343.1 million represented money that Citigroup received between 2005 and 2008 from a Madoff “feeder fund,” Rye Select Broad Market Prime Fund LP, that had borrowed from the bank to invest with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

Picard said Citigroup accepted that money despite internal suspicions that Madoff's trading activity and investment returns were a sham.

US Bankruptcy Judge Stuart Bernstein in Manhattan dismissed Picard's case after another judge, US District Judge Jed Rakoff, imposed the willful blindness standard.

But in yesterday's 3-0 decision, Circuit Judge Richard Wesley said the plain meaning of good faith in the US Bankruptcy Code required that Citigroup be only on “inquiry notice” of Madoff's fraud.

The appeals court also revived similar clawback lawsuits against Legacy Capital Ltd and Khronos LLC, seeking a combined US$219.8 million.

Lawyers for Picard had no immediate comment. Citigroup declined to comment. A lawyer for Legacy and Khronos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Picard has recouped nearly US$14.5 billion for Madoff customers, who he has estimated lost US$17.5 billion.

Madoff died on April 14 at age 82 in prison, where he was serving a 150-year sentence.

The cases are Picard v. Citibank NA et al, 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 20-1333; and Picard v. Legacy Capital Ltd et al in the same court, No. 20-1334. ― Reuters




Source: Malay Mail

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Monday, August 30, 2021

Bursa Malaysia’s performance remains mixed at mid-afternoon

On the broader market, however, losers outpaced gainers 493 to 441, while 476 counters were unchanged, 836 untraded and 50 others suspended. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
On the broader market, however, losers outpaced gainers 493 to 441, while 476 counters were unchanged, 836 untraded and 50 others suspended. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Continued selling activity in selected consumer products and services as well as healthcare counters kept Bursa Malaysia mixed at mid-afternoon amid better regional market performance, dealers said.

As at 3pm, the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) was higher at 1,593.81, up 3.65 points from Friday’s close of 1,590.16.

The index opened 3.03 points better at 1,593.19.

On the broader market, however, losers outpaced gainers 493 to 441, while 476 counters were unchanged, 836 untraded and 50 others suspended.

Turnover stood at 2.76 billion units worth RM1.72 billion.

A dealer said that Asian stock markets were traded mostly higher on Monday, responding to the broadly positive cues from Wall Street on Friday following US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell’s remarks at the Jackson Hole symposium on the same day.

Of the heavyweights, Maybank added 3.0 sen to RM8.40, Petronas Chemicals and Tenaga Nasional went up 8.0 sen each to RM8.28 and RM10.46, respectively, and IHH Healthcare gained 7.0 sen to RM6.42, but Public Bank shed 7.0 sen to RM4.11.

Among the actives, KNM Group slipped 1.0 sen to 25 sen, Bintai Kinden jumped 10.5 sen to 48 sen, AE Multi picked up half-a-sen to 4.5 sen, and Vortex was flat at 8.5 sen.

On the index board, the FBM Emas Index rose 22.68 points to 11,583.21, the FBMT 100 Index went up 23.01 points to 11,296.39, and the FBM Emas Shariah Index increased 36.93 points to 12,716.29.

The FBM 70 perked 19.46 points to 14,989.80 while the FBM ACE added 1.71 points to 7,216.58.

Sector-wise, the Plantation Index fell 1.54 points to 6,772.14, the Financial Services Index declined 1.48 points to 15,485.42 and the Industrial Products and Services Index climbed 1.07 points to 197.63.

Meanwhile, Bursa Malaysia Bhd and its subsidiaries will be closed on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, in conjunction with the National Day.

Bursa Malaysia and its subsidiaries will resume operations on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, the exchange operator and regulator said in a statement today. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

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Tokyo stocks close higher, extending US rallies

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.54 per cent, or 148.15 points, to 27,789.29, while the broader Topix index advanced 1.11 per cent, or 21.37 points, to 1,950.14. — AFP pic
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.54 per cent, or 148.15 points, to 27,789.29, while the broader Topix index advanced 1.11 per cent, or 21.37 points, to 1,950.14. — AFP pic

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TOKYO, Aug 30 — Tokyo stocks closed higher yesterday, extending rallies on Wall Street after cautious comments from Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell on a potential withdrawal of its massive easing this year.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.54 per cent, or 148.15 points, to 27,789.29, while the broader Topix index advanced 1.11 per cent, or 21.37 points, to 1,950.14.

“The Tokyo market largely tracked US gains, welcoming Fed chair Powell’s comments,” said Yoshihiro Okumura of Chibagin Asset Management.

Powell’s address last week was closely watched for signs the Fed could be planning to reduce the bond-buying that has helped support the pandemic recovery, and for indications of when the bank sees interest rates rising.

He stressed that there was no hurry to raise rates, arguing that current inflation pressures will be temporary, and repeated the Fed’s stance that “it could be appropriate to start reducing the pace of asset purchases this year.”

Traders in Tokyo remained cautious, shifting their focus to US unemployment figures due on Friday, Okumura said.

“It’s hard to hold a long position before seeing the payroll figures,” Okumura told AFP.

The dollar fetched 109.74 yen in Asian afternoon trade, against 109.82 yen in New York late Friday.

Takeda rose 0.46 per cent to 3,665 yen on bargain-hunting following recent declines after the drugmaker and the government said Japan would halt the use of more than one million doses of Moderna’s Covid vaccine, following reports of contamination in several vials.

Takeda is in charge of sales and distribution of the Moderna shot in Japan.

Nissan jumped 1.80 per cent to 579.4 yen and Mitsubishi Motors surged 2.93 per cent to 281 yen after they announced sales of low-price electric compact cars jointly developed by the two automakers. — AFP




Source: Malay Mail

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AMMB’s Q1 net profit climbs to RM386.6m, revenue falls 5.3pc

A man wearing a protective mask walks past an AmBank branch in Kuala Lumpur September 9, 2020. — Reuters pic
A man wearing a protective mask walks past an AmBank branch in Kuala Lumpur September 9, 2020. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — AMMB Holdings Bhd’s (AmBank Group) net profit for the first quarter ended June 30, 2021 (Q1 FY2022), rose to RM386.6 million from RM365.17 million posted in the same quarter last year.

Revenue fell 5.3 per cent to RM2.1 billion from RM2.21 billion previously, AmBank Group said in a filing with Bursa Malaysia today.

The group said fund-based income from interest-bearing assets decreased mainly from interest on fixed-income securities.

Interest income from securities decreased mainly from the trading portfolio and funding costs, attributable to lower interest expense on deposits from customers and securities sold under repurchase agreements.

Group chief executive officer Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir said AmBank Group was able to register a solid overall performance, delivering 34.2 per cent growth in profit before provision (PBP) to RM743.3 million amid challenging circumstances.

“At the same time, we continued to exert cost discipline demonstrated by AmBank’s improved cost-to-income ratio of 40 per cent. Indeed, our long-term transformation efforts, from our Top 4 strategy and now continuing into our Focus 8 strategy, has placed the group on a more formidable footing to face the challenging operating landscape,” he added.

Sulaiman said the group’s net credit cost for the quarter stood at 65 basis points (bps), which would have been 35 bps excluding the overlay.

“While we foresee increased impairment risk to our credit portfolios, this will only become more apparent in the latter part of FY22. Our mitigatory efforts continue to be in place. Our prudent and proactive stance has seen us set aside a pre-emptive overlay totaling RM832.7 million since the very first movement control order (MCO) in March 2020,” he said.

The group said deposits from customers decreased 5.3 per cent year-to-date to RM114.1 billion. while current and savings account balances registered a drop of 4.6 per cent to RM34.1 billion. 

Going forward, Sulaiman said AmBank Group will continue to place customer needs at the forefront while spearheading new paradigm shifts in an increasingly dynamic and digital banking environment, while at the same time observing good cost discipline.

“We have been clear about the importance of continually reviewing all aspects of our businesses to ensure alignment with our strategic aspirations. While we have commenced FY22 with an encouraging start, we remain cautious of Malaysia’s economic outlook for the remainder of the year as we do our best to anticipate the impact of the full MCO and the recently announced six-month loan moratorium,” he said. — Bernama




Source: Malay Mail

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