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Euro stuck near 21-month low after dovish ECB talk and before U.S. jobs data

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The single currency stood little changed at 1.1196 dollar after tumbling one per cent on Thursday to touch 1.1176 dollar, its lowest since June 2017. It has declined 1.5 per cent this week.

The euro’s big hit on Thursday came as the ECB pushed back the timing of its first post-crisis interest rate hike to 2020, cut its economic forecasts and launched a new round of cheap bank loans.

The euro slid along with euro zone yields with the 10-year German bond yield declining to its lowest since October 2016 following Thursday’s ECB meeting.

The February U.S. jobs report to be released as 1330 GMT could stack more pressure on the floundering euro.

Economists polled by Reuters expect to see 180,000 jobs added in the United States last month after two months of staggering growth.

The U.S. economy added 304,000 jobs in January and 222,000 in December.

“Whether the dollar can remain on an uptrend in the long-term is debatable, but for now a strong U.S. jobs report would provide further boost for the currency,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior FX strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo.

That in turn would weigh on the euro, caught in a downward spiral after the ECB meeting and also shackled with Brexit woes, Ishikawa said.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was a shade lower at 97.548.

The index soared 0.75 per cent on Thursday to brush a near three-month peak of 97.71 and was headed for a weekly gain of 1.2 per cent.

The dollar “is head and shoulders above peers, but this also means that it is the currency most susceptible to potential adjustments,” said Daisuke Karakama, chief market economist at Mizuho Bank.

The greenback was down 0.15 per cent at 111.44 yen , stretching overnight losses amid risk aversion in broader markets.

Global equities were lower after the ECB stoked economic growth concerns.

The yen, a perceived safe haven, attracts demand in times of political tensions and market turmoil.

The Australian dollar trod water at 0.7013 dollar, having declined 0.9 per cent this week and hitting a two-month trough of 0.7005 dollar after data showed the economy grew at its slowest pace in two years last quarter.

The currency showed little reaction to official data on Friday showing China’s February dollar-denominated exports plunging a steeper-than-expected 20.7 per cent from a year earlier, while imports dropped 5.2 per cent.

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Spotlight: As restrictions ease further, Europeans mark Children’s Day with messages of hope

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European countries took another step to normalcy on Monday with a further easing of anti-coronavirus restrictions, as part of the continent celebrated the International Children’s Day with public figures sending messages of consolation and hope for better days ahead.

In a phased approach, lockdown measures have been lifted cautiously by European governments, with a new phase of easing often coming on Mondays. Across Europe, businesses are reopening and many children are back in school.

An online dashboard, maintained by the WHO European Region, showed that 2.16 million confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported in 54 countries, with 180,650 deaths as of 10:00 a.m. CET (0800 GMT) on Monday.

ANOTHER STEP TO NORMALCY

Starting on Monday, more than 10 European countries further eased their coronavirus lockdown restrictions, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Finland and Albania.

In the Belgian capital of Brussels, the iconic Atomium building reopened its doors to the public, after having been closed since March 14 when Belgium imposed a nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Built on the occasion of the 1958 Universal Exhibition and representing the conventional iron crystal mesh magnified 165 billion times, the Atomium is on the verge of bankruptcy, with an estimated loss of 3 million euros (3.3 million United States dollars) due to the lockdown measures.

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said the Atomium’s reopening marked the return of some degree of freedom. Even if masks and social distance were necessary, she noted, this “should not keep us from enjoying the culture,” Brussels Times reported in an online story.

Also on Monday, the Netherlands reopened restaurants, cafes, theaters, concert halls, museums and cinemas after two and a half months.

“We are taking the second step in easing the anti-coronavirus measures today,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter. “Only if everyone adheres to the measures can we take a step forward.”

Greece also took another step to normalcy with the reopening of primary schools and kindergartens, open-air cinemas, hotels and swimming pools among other businesses which had closed since March.

In Italy, lovers of archeology and antiquity were rewarded by the reopening of the Colosseum Archeological Park and its monuments — which include the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the remains of the Emperor Nero’s Palace, the Domus Aurea — all of which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list as sites of “incomparable artistic value.”

HOPE FOR CHILDREN

June 1 is the International Children’s Day in more than 10 European countries, including Romania, Portugal, Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and Serbia.

In Romania, this year Children’s Day has become a big day for people of all ages, since it’s the first day that most of the anti-virus measures were lifted.

When the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History opened at 11 a.m., there was already a long queue at the gate. Zoos and parks in Romania were also favorite choices for children. In parks, children can be seen happily playing with rollers and skateboards.

In Portugal, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa visited the Sagrada Familia Social Complex, where he met children from daycare centers and schools in the metropolitan region of Lisbon.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa published a message on his social media as the country entered the third phase of de-confinement.

“On the day that we celebrate another Children’s Day, we return to socializing in pre-school establishments. Fifteen days ago, we reopened the daycare centers, demonstrating that … we could have our children in these establishments again,” wrote Costa in his tweet.

The Polish government and organizations helped the children celebrate the International Children’s Day with various online activities. The authorities organized a number of online readings for children, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who read a Polish children’s poem for kids.

In Albania, authorities lifted restrictions for citizens to visit parks and playgrounds. The Children’s Day was celebrated with fun activities dedicated to children at the newly reconstructed “Rinia” park in the center of the capital.

Children accompanied by their parents enjoyed the new playgrounds, toys, the concerts with songs and dances, sports games, circus and other fun activities organized by Tirana Municipality.

Albanian President Ilir Meta paid a visit to an orphanage in Tirana, where he donated books and drawing notebooks to the children.

Meta commended New beginnings orphanage for helping some 200 abandoned children, orphans or children from families with major social or financial problems, for 25 years.

“Your mission throughout these years has been to help, support and invest in the children with major social problems, and have them educated and get them out of…poverty, preparing them for the challenges of the future,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Latvia to fuel economic recovery with 2 bln euros over next 2 years

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Latvia’s government coalition decided on Monday to inject 2 billion euros (2.22 billion United States dollars) in the national economy over the next couple of years to fuel its recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins announced at a news conference following the coalition meeting.

The prime minister said the coalition agreed at Monday’s meeting on a strategic investment intended to promote an economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

“While last week we decided on how to invest, now there is an agreement on particular categories,” Karins said.

The prime minister explained that the money to be invested in the economy over the two-year period will be divided into three equal portions and spent on benefits, infrastructure and modernization.

Around 660 million euros will be made available for projects in each category. Of that amount, 32 million euros will be allocated to culture-related projects and 42 million euros to scientific research. Support is also being planned for the tourism industry, which has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as other activities.

The prime minister said that the solution agreed on by the government coalition would benefit both the state and the economy. (1 euro = 1.11 United States dollars)

(XINHUA)

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Portugal’s public debt rises to 262.1 bln euros in April

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Portuguese central bank Banco de Portugal (BdP) announced on Monday that the country’s public debt increased to 262.1 billion euros (291.24 billion United States dollars) in April, up 2.82 percent compared to March when the figure stood at 254.8 billion.

“It increased by 7.3 billion euros. This increase was mainly due to the issuance of government bonds of 7.2 billion euros in April,” the bank said in a statement.

General government deposits increased by 5.3 billion euros, with public debt net of deposits increasing by 1.9 billion euros from the previous month to a total of 237.1 billion euros, said the bank. (1 euro = 1.11 United States dollars)

(XINHUA)

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Major China-Europe freight train route sees surging deliveries

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A major China-Europe freight train route linking Yiwu in Zhejiang Province and Madrid in Spain has seen deliveries surge 72 percent in the first five months, according to the train operator.

As of May 31, 16,672 twenty-foot-equivalent unit (TEU) containers have been sent on the route, with 200 trains sent this year, according to the China Railway Shanghai Group.

The operator sent 19 trains in the last week of May and plans to send over 20 trains weekly starting in June.

Dubbed Yixin’ou in Chinese (Yiwu-Xinjiang-Europe), the cargo line is 13,052 km long, connecting China‘s major small commodity hub with Europe.

Initiated in 2011, the China-Europe rail transport service is considered a significant part of the Belt and Road Initiative to boost trade between China and countries participating in the program. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the service remained a reliable transportation channel.

From March 21 to the end of April, anti-pandemic supplies totaling 660,000 items and weighing 3,142 tonnes were sent by the freight trains to European countries such as Italy, Germany, Spain and the Czech Republic, according to China State Railway Group.

(XINHUA)

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Europe urges Trump to reconsider decision to withdraw from WHO

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Reconsideration

Stockholm, May 30, 2020  European leaders called on U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday to rethink his decision to terminate the U.S.’ relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump announced the decision on Friday, arguing the UN agency has failed to respond to U.S. concerns about its handling of the virus, which originated in China.

A spokesperson said the WHO, the founders of which include the U.S., had no comment to make on Saturday.

The European Commission was more vocal. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on Trump to reconsider, saying only global cooperation and solidarity could help to combat the virus.

Global cooperation is needed rather than solo efforts, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told newspapers belonging to the Funke media group.

He and Development Minister Gerd Mueller both called Trump’s move the “wrong signal at the wrong time.”

These concerns were echoed in Sweden, where a cabinet member said the move could lead to significantly more deaths.

“I think it’s very serious. It risks creating a situation where the WHO must cut down on operations that support poor countries instead of scaling them up,” Peter Eriksson, minister for international development cooperation, told Swedish broadcaster SVT.

Eriksson said he also feared that other countries might follow the U.S.’ decision. Last week, Trump said he would pull the plug on U.S. contributions to the WHO – which he said was between 400 million and 500 million dollars a year – if the organization did not make improvements within 30 days.

The U.S. leads the world in the number of COVID-19 deaths and Trump’s response to the pandemic has been widely criticised.

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China-Europe freight train delivers first batch of Russia’s frozen poultry meat

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A batch of Russian frozen chicken sent by refrigerated containers on a China-Europe freight train reached southwest China‘s Chongqing Municipality on Friday, marking Russia’s first exports of frozen poultry meat to China by rail.

The 24.9-tonne frozen meat are valued at 336,000 yuan (47,000 U.S. dollars). The shipment is under customs inspection before being distributed to the market in Chongqing.

Previous to this, poultry products imported from Russia had been transported to China by offshore shipping, while the freight train service transported imports such as sugar, dairy products, candy and snacks as well as fruit juice from Russia.

A single trip of the direct train service takes 18 days from Moscow of Russia to Chongqing, which is much shorter than sea and land transportation for the food imports.

(XINHUA)

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Volkswagen announces two-bln-euro investment in electric mobility in China

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Germany’s largest carmaker Volkswagen announced on Friday that it would invest around two billion euros (2.22 billion U.S. dollars) in electric mobility in China.

Volkswagen would invest one billion euros by increasing its stake in the e-mobility joint venture with Chinese JAC Motors from 50 to 75 percent and also acquire 50 percent in JAC‘s parent company JAG, the company stated.

“Together with strong and reliable partners, Volkswagen is strengthening its electrification strategy in China,” stated Herbert Diess, chief executive officer (CEO) of Volkswagen.

Founded in 2017, the JAC Volkswagen joint venture is an all-electric company which develops, produces and sells new energy vehicles (NEV). According to the German carmaker, an expansion of up to five additional battery electric vehicles (BEV) models by 2025 is planned, as well as building a “full-scale e-model factory.”

Furthermore, Volkswagen announced to acquire a 26 percent stake in Chinese battery manufacturer Gotion High-Tech Co., Ltd. also for around one billion euros, thus becoming the Chinese company’s largest shareholder.

Volkswagen would become the first global automaker to invest directly in a Chinese battery supplier, said the company. The partnership with Gotion, was an “opportunity” for Volkswagen to “achieve deeper know-how in the field of batteries.”

The electric car segment was “growing rapidly” and offered “a great deal of potential for JAC Volkswagen,” said Diess. With the investment in Gotion, Volkswagen would be “actively driving forward the development of battery cells in China.”

According to Volkswagen, Gotion would maintain its projects over the entire battery value chain from sourcing, development and production to recycling and was “in the process of becoming a certified Volkswagen Group battery supplier in China.”

(XINHUA)

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Austria to pay artists 1,000 euros a month to weather Covid-19 crisis

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Self-employed artists in Austria are eligible for monthly pay-outs of 1,000 euros ($1,100) to protect their livelihoods in the current COVID-19 crisis, the government announced on Thursday, responding to pressure from the cultural sector.

The government set up a 90-million-euro fund to help around 15,000 artists during the second half of this year.

“We are acknowledging that the disruption of cultural life will last more than just one or two months,’’ Culture Minister and Vice-Chancellor, Werner Kogler, told a press conference in Vienna.

The announcement came one day after Finance Minister, Gernot Bluemel, said that he had earmarked 25 million euros to cover losses for film productions that were stopped because of the pandemic.

The government is also planning to aid larger cultural institutions.

The coalition between conservatives and Greens has drawn up schemes in recent days to ramp up cultural life after the lockdown period after numerous artists protested that they were being forgotten while other sectors of the economy reopened.

The Green Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs, Ulrike Lunacek, stepped down amid the criticism and was replaced last week by Andrea Mayer, a former senior official in the Culture Ministry

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Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

 
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Facebook German privacy case referred to European Court

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The German Federal Court, on Thursday, referred a lawsuit filed by a consumer protection watchdog, alleging privacy violations by Facebook, to the Court of Justice of the European Union to seek clarification on the applicable law.

The long-running case, brought by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv), alleged that the social network had allowed operators of online games to improperly collect the personal data of people who played them.

Facebook declined to comment on the court statement pending the release of a full written judgment.

A lower court ruled in favour of the vzbv and Facebook appealed the decision.

In its written ruling, the Federal Court said it was suspending the case to seek advice from the European Court as interpretations of the applicable law varied.

“This question is disputed both in court judgments and in the literature,’’ the court, based in Karlsruhe, said in a statement.

At issue were online games offered on Facebook’s App Centre back in 2012 in which, by playing them, a user automatically agreed to share personal data including their email address.

At the end of the game, users would see a message saying that the app could post their status, photos and other information.

Such games – including quizzes – were widely used at the time to harvest data on users of Facebook.

The company subsequently overhauled its privacy settings, although they have continued to be a source of controversy.

The European Union’s two-year-old privacy rulebook, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), stipulates that any requests to collect personal data should be subject to clear, informed consent.

However, it is not clear, according to the Karlsruhe court, whether organisations that can bring litigation under national law have the necessary standing to press their case under the GDPR.

It is seeking clarification on this matter of principle.

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Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Contact US: editor @nnn.com.ng, nnnnews247 @gmail.com

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