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Asian stocks rally ahead of key US inflation data

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Stocks in Hong Kong gained, after reopening following a public holiday
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Asian stocks continued a global rally on Tuesday morning, ahead of the release of key US consumer price data that is expected to show slightly slowing inflation in the world’s largest economy.

Stocks rose in Japan, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan at the open, with Hong Kong, South Korea and Shanghai also gaining after reopening following a public holiday.

US consumer price index (CPI) data will be released on Tuesday, with analysts expecting inflation to slow to eight percent, driven mostly by falling gasoline prices. US inflation hit a 40-year high in June, touching 9.1 percent.

The ease in inflation, however, is unlikely to slow the pace of the US Federal Reserve’s tightening of monetary policy, with another 75-basis-point interest rate hike expected at its meeting next week.

The Fed has already instituted two consecutive rate hikes of that amount, and in recent days bank chief Jerome Powell has indicated that the increases will continue until inflation is tamed.

While the overall US inflation number is expected to slow, prices for food and housing are expected to have increased, raising the strain on household budgets.

“Risks remain skewed to the upside, due to an uncertain outlook for key inputs, including agricultural and energy commodities, as well as the pass-through of wage gains in a tight labour market,” according to Barclays US analysts Pooja Sriram and Jonathan Hill.

Last week, the European Central Bank also adopted a policy of monetary tightening, raising its key rate by a historic 75 basis points, with analysts expecting a similar-sized increase at the next policy meeting in October.

– ‘Locked in’ –

US stocks on Monday ended bullish: the broad-based S&P 500 advanced 1.1 percent, continuing the upswing last week that snapped a three-week losing streak.

“Wall Street is locked into Tuesday’s inflation report that will likely show pricing pressure relief but will not change the Fed from maintaining an aggressive stance of tightening monetary policy,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“Even if inflation falls below the 8 percent level, the Fed should still deliver a 75-basis-point rate hike at the September 21st policy decision.”

The euro stabilised in early Asian trading to 1.0125 against the dollar on Tuesday, after a surge a day earlier that saw it gain 1.4 percent against the US currency and 1.6 percent against the yen, before paring those increases in later trading.

Oil prices on Tuesday were down by close to a percentage point, as investors continue to speculate on the effect of slowing demand in overheating major markets, especially in China, where a harsh zero-Covid policy continues to negatively affect economic activity.

In addition to US CPI figures on Tuesday, other key data expected later this week will include US retail sales and industrial production on Thursday; China home and retail sales as well as industrial production on Friday; and Euro area CPI, also on Friday.

– Key figures at around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 28,591.50 

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.3 percent at 19,425.88

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 3,266.39

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 32,381.34 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 1.7 percent at 7,473.03 points (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0125 from $1.0120  

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.1682 from $1.1680 

Euro/pound: UP at 86.67 pence from 86.64 pence 

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 142.52 yen from 142.82 yen  

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.8 percent at $93.26 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.8 percent at $87.12 per barrel

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IBM to cut 3,900 jobs as it reorganizes business

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IBM becomes the latest tech firm to announce it is trimming staff, joining titans such as Amazon and Google
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IBM will slash some 3,900 jobs, slightly more than one percent of its workforce, related to businesses it has divested, a source close to the matter told AFP on Wednesday.

The computing company based in New York state did not talk of job cuts in its quarterly earnings report published Wednesday, however, nor in a call with analysts to discuss the financial results.

IBM said it would take a one-time $300 million charge in its first quarter this year, which the source said was related to the layoffs.

This cost is “entirely related” to the spin-off of Kyndryl and the disposal of health data and analysis businesses, an IBM spokesperson told AFP.

“It is not an action based on 2022 performance or 2023 expectations,” the spokesperson added.

The more than century old technology firm reported profit of $2.9 billion in the final three months of last year, some 17 percent higher than the same period in 2021 despite revenue remaining flat at $16.7 billion.

“Clients in all geographies increasingly embraced our hybrid cloud and AI solutions as technology remains a differentiating force in today’s business environment,” IBM chief executive officer Arvind Krishna said in an earnings release.

The company founded in 1911 announced late last year that it will invest $20 billion in semiconductors, quantum computing and other cutting-edge technology in New York state.

Krishna unveiled the spending, which will take place over a decade, in a speech alongside US President Joe Biden in the tech giant’s Poughkeepsie facility.

Biden hailed the pledge from the “iconic American company” as another sign that his strategy of rebuilding the US innovative edge is working.

The Democratic president has made a priority of encouraging growth in high-tech manufacturing, hoping to rebuild domestic supply chains in crucial components such as microchips that for years have been left to foreign companies based as far away as Taiwan.

Meanwhile, tech giants have been tightening belts and laying off workers to endure tough global economic conditions and a return to pre-pandemic lifestyles less dependent on internet services.

Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Google’s parent company Alphabet have all recently laid out plans to reduce workforces, after hiring heavily during the pandemic to meet increased demand for digital services.

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Amsterdam unveils its largest bike garage. It’s underwater

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Finding proper bicycle parking has long been a headache in Amsterdam
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Plagued by ever-shrinking space to park its hundreds of thousands of bicycles, Amsterdam opened Wednesday the first of its largest-ever bicycle parking complexes, built underwater in a pioneering engineering project.

The shelter is constructed beneath the Open Haven Front, an access tributary to the city’s IJ river, and will be followed by another next to the IJ itself that will open in February.

They will have a combined capacity for 11,000 bikes in the cycling-mad Dutch capital.

“Together the shelters will be the largest in the city,” the Amsterdam municipality said, with the Open Haven Front storage able to take 7,000 bicycles and the IJ-side site around 4,000.

Construction started in 2019 and involved draining part of the Open Haven Front next to Amsterdam Central Station.

A time-lapse video posted by the Amsterdam municipality showed how the water was pumped out, the structure built and the area eventually reflooded.

“We have a lot of knowledge and expertise when it comes to water,” Dutch deputy infrastructure minister Vivianne Heijnen told AFP at the opening ceremony.

This storage “makes optimal use of the space you have in a small country”, she said. 

Conveyor belts take cyclists nine metres (30 feet) below ground level, according to wUrck, the architectural firm that designed the ultramodern parking spaces that aim to evoke their oceanic surroundings.

“The cyclist steps into an imaginary oyster with a rough exterior of basalt and natural stone and a smooth, light interior,” the firm said in a statement.

“Now you will be assured that you can immediately park your bicycle when you come to Amsterdam station,” the city’s transport alderwoman Melanie van der Horst said.

There are an estimated 900,000 bicycles in Amsterdam with some 625,000 trips made daily, according to the city’s 2021 Bicycle Monitor plan — and finding proper parking has long been a headache.

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Boeing reports Q4 loss but reaffirms 2023 targets

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Boeing reported a 2022 fourth quarter loss as elevated supply chain costs dragged down results despite a late-quarter uptick in plane deliveries
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Persistent supply chain woes and staffing issues led to another quarterly loss at Boeing, but the company on Wednesday confirmed its 2023 outlook amid strong aviation demand.

Boeing said its commercial plane business was dented by “abnormal costs,” while “labor instability and supply chain disruption” weighed on its defense, space and security unit.

The company’s $634 million loss for the quarter ending December 31 was smaller than the $4.1 billion loss in the same period last year. Revenues rose 35 percent to $20 billion, but came in below analyst forecasts.

The aviation giant, which has been beset in recent years with production problems and certification delays following the 737 MAX crashes, nevertheless finished 2022 with positive free cashflow for the first time since 2018 as it reaffirmed 2023 targets.

“We had a solid fourth quarter, and 2022 proved to be an important year in our recovery,” said Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun.  

“Demand across our portfolio is strong, and we remain focused on driving stability in our operations and within the supply chain to meet our commitments in 2023 and beyond.”

Boeing has said it expects to return to a level of financial strength comparable to its pre-pandemic state around the 2025-26 timeframe. 

The company’s turnaround has been aided by robust demand for commercial planes as airlines struggle to meet pent-up demand for flying and replace older planes with newer jets that burn less energy and release fewer carbon emissions.

But efforts to ramp up output have been hindered by snags in garnering key parts and materials, including delays in receiving engines from key suppliers.

Calhoun, in an interview with CNBC, said suppliers have made progress in hiring more staff, but are still working through the process to be able to increase output.

“You have to train,” Calhoun told the network. “Every one of these products are pretty sophisticated.”

He predicted that 2023 would remain “bumpy” as far as the supply chain, but said the ramp-up was aided by shared knowledge that demand for aviation remains strong.

Boeing has resumed deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner after a lengthy halt, and confirmed it would increase production in 2023 from the current “low” level.

The company expects to deliver 70-80 Dreamliners in 2023, up from 31 last year. Boeing is eyeing 400-450 deliveries of 737s, compared with 387 in 2022.

– Breakthrough in China? –

A key unknown facing the company is the degree to which it can expect bankable revenues from China after a lengthy pause in deliveries of 737 MAX planes while the country maintained strict Covid-19 policies.

Boeing executives have previously suggested the suspension was a reflection at least in part of the tense state of US-China relations. 

China was the last major market to clear the MAX to return to service after a global grounding following two fatal crashes. 

On January 13, a 737 MAX operated by China Southern Airlines undertook the first flight by a MAX plane in the country since March 2019.

Calhoun told CNBC that he expects progress over the next six months in moving the 100 MAX planes already in China back into the air, but that he wouldn’t engage in a “guessing game” about when deliveries of new planes could resume.

The Boeing CEO said he was “optimistic and constructive” around the market given the reopening Chinese economy, but that he didn’t have “rose colored glasses on.”

Shares of Boeing fell 2.2 percent to $207.24 in early trading.

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