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Recession fears haunt markets

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Confidence among American consumers is at its lowest level in more than a year
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Asian and European stock markets mostly nursed losses Wednesday on resurgent fear that sharp interest rate hikes, aimed at tackling runaway inflation, could spark recession, dealers said.

The losses came after a gloomy US consumer confidence report had sent Wall Street tumbling on Tuesday.

US stocks stabilised on Wednesday, with the Dow adding 0.3 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dipped slightly.

European sentiment was rocked also by data showing Spanish inflation rocketed to a 37-year peak of 10.2 percent in June on rising energy and food prices. 

The news sent the Madrid stock market down 1.3 percent, with Frankfurt showing a similar loss. Paris shed 0.8 percent. London managed to break into the green and show a small gain.

“So much for the big stock market comeback. Another day, another sea of red on the market,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

The selloff followed more than a week of global gains caused by hopes that any signs of contraction could give central banks room to ease up on their pace of monetary tightening.

But New York stocks tanked Tuesday on data showing confidence among US consumers — a key driver of the world’s top economy — had fallen to its lowest level in more than a year.

The data re-ignited stubborn worries over the strength of the world economy, and eclipsed news of a surprise move by China to slash the quarantine period for incoming travellers.

That had raised hopes for further relaxations that can allow the country’s giant economy to recover more quickly.

– ‘Down the drain’ –

“With signs that consumer confidence is seeping away, worries that global growth will go down the drain have returned to rattle financial markets,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Covid restrictions may have eased for international travellers to China as infections rates slow, but one global problem is being replaced by another — fear that recessions are looming around the world.”

Fed officials on Tuesday tried to play down the chances of a recession, expressing hope of a soft landing.

City Index analyst Fawad Razaqzada said there is a threat of high inflation and recession, a phenomenon economists call stagflation.

“That is where the global economy is headed, and central banks won’t be able to do much about it,” he said in a note to clients. 

“If they fasten their belts too tightly, this will hit GDP, while if they loosen their belts again, this will only fuel inflationary pressures further.”

Oil prices advanced on expectations of demand growth as China lifts Covid restrictions and owing to tight supplies following bans on Russian imports.

Observers warned that G7 plans for a price cap on Russian crude was unlikely to have a massive impact on benchmark values.

– Key figures at around 1330 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: UP less than 0.1 percent at 7,328.75 points

Frankfurt – DAX: DOWN 1.3 percent at 13,057.85

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.8 percent at 6,038.74

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,521.70

New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 31,047.40

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.9 percent at 26,804.60 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.9 percent at 21,996.89 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.4 percent at 3,361.52 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.3 percent at $119.55 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.3 percent at $113.24 per barrel

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0507 from $1.0519 Tuesday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2143 from $1.2184

Euro/pound: UP at 86.41 pence from 86.33 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 136.87 yen from 136.14 yen

burs-rl/lth

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Uber courts drivers by letting them pick rides

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Uber drivers in the United States who had to accept ride requests before learning where they were headed will soon be seeing details of trips being sought along with the fares
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Uber on Friday said it will let drivers in the United States see trip details before deciding whether to accept them — a new feature long sought by drivers.

A common lament by drivers at the app-summoned ride platform has been that they have to accept a request before learning where trips will take them, or how profitable they will be.

“Our new trip request screen makes it easier for drivers to decide if a trip is worth their time and effort by providing all the details — including exactly how much they’ll earn and where they’re going — upfront,” chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

Revealing details only once a driver had accepted a trip was seen as a way to ensure riders would get picked up promptly, and not be snubbed because they were headed to locations deemed undesirable by drivers.

But Khosrowshahi said drivers have made it clear that they want more flexibility and choice.

Uber said the new feature, called Upfront Fares, was tested in several cities and was a success with drivers while resulting in shorter wait times for passengers.

The ride-sharing firm will also shift from sending drivers a single ride request at a time, to letting them pick from a list of detailed passenger requests in an area.

Uber is engaged in a long-term effort to prove that its business model is socially and economy viable.

The “gig economy” — which uses temporary independent contractors for short-term tasks — has grown rapidly since Uber’s launch in 2009 and is promoted as a flexible way for people to earn money without the constraints of a full-time job.

But there has been growing backlash in countries around the world about the conditions and dangers gig workers face.

Uber driver ranks — which shrank during the Covid-19 pandemic — have not rebounded as quickly as demand for rides, and soaring fuel costs have made the gigs less attractive.

The firm in March announced a surcharge on both rides and Uber Eats meal deliveries that would go directly to drivers to help offset high fuel prices.

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Elon Musk fires back at Twitter in court battle

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Court rules require Elon Musk to provide a public version of his 'confidential' counter claims against Twitter as the court battle over holding him to the terms of the $44 bn buyout deal heads for trial in October.
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Elon Musk on Friday filed claims against Twitter as he fights back against the tech firm’s lawsuit demanding he be held to his $44 billion buyout deal.

Musk’s counter-suit was submitted along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the deal he inked in April to buy Twitter, the Chancery Court in the state of Delaware said in a notice.

The 164-page filing was submitted as being “confidential,” meaning the documents were not accessible by the public, the notice indicated.

Rules of the court, however, require Musk to submit a public version of the filing with trade secrets or other sensitive information redacted.

A judge has ordered a five-day trial over Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk to begin on October 17.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.61 on Friday, has stuck by its estimates regarding accounts run by software “bots” rather than people, and argued that Musk is contriving excuses to back out of the contract.

The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.

“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a copy of a letter to investors.

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

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Musk, Twitter get Oct. 17 trial in buyout fight

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Twitter is due to face off with Tesla boss Elon Musk on October 17 in the US state of Delaware in a buyout trial
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Twitter’s lawsuit to force Elon Musk to complete his $44 billion buyout bid is set to go to trial on October 17, a US judge has ordered, in a case with major stakes for both sides.

The trial is due to open in a court in the eastern state of Delaware and is set to last five days to decide whether Musk can walk away from the deal.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was “terminating” their agreement on accusations the firm misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter has countered by saying Musk already agreed to the deal and can’t back out now.

An order from the judge handling the case, Kathaleen McCormick, lays out an expedited schedule to resolve a fight that has left Twitter in limbo.

She reminds both sides that they “shall cooperate in good faith” on matters like handing over information to each other, a key topic that can result in delays. 

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

Twitter blamed disappointing results last week on “headwinds,” including the uncertainty imposed on the company by Musk’s chaotic buyout bid.

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