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U.S. oil climbs after 3 percent drop on big stock build

TOKYO (Agencies): Oil inched up on Thursday amid ongoing tensions over the death of a prominent Saudi journalist, with prices steadying after a big drop overnight due to a jump in U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for October delivery was up 12 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $69.87 a barrel by 0413 GMT, after falling 3 percent in the previous session to settle below $70 for the first time in a month.

Front-month London Brent crude for December delivery was up 13 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $80.18, having ended down 1.7 percent.

U.S. crude stocks rose 6.5 million barrels last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, the fourth straight weekly build and almost triple what analysts had forecast.

Inventories rose sharply even as U.S. crude production slipped 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 10.9 million bpd last week due to the effects of offshore facilities closing temporarily for Hurricane Michael.

U.S. lawmakers pointed the finger at the Saudi leadership over the disappearance of prominent Saudi critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suggesting sanctions could be possible.

Saudi Arabia denies that it had any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Western pressure mounted on Riyadh to provide answers, but comments by President Donald Trump suggested the White House may not take additional action against the Saudis, particularly after Saudi Arabia said it will conduct an investigation.

Investors worry Saudi Arabia could use oil supply to retaliate against critics. But Saudi Arabia has assured OPEC that it is “committed, capable and willing” to ensure there will be no shortage in the oil market, OPEC’s secretary-general said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will struggle to resume oil production from jointly operated fields that produced some 500,000 bpd any time soon due to operational differences and souring political ties, sources said on Wednesday.

Signs that Iranian oil exports have been falling more steeply than some in the market expected amid looming U.S. sanctions have underpinned the oil market.

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U.S. refrains from calling China a currency manipulator

WASHINGTON (Agencies): The U.S. government on Wednesday refrained from naming China or any other trading partner as a currency manipulator, as it leans on import tariffs to try to cut a trade deficit with China.

In its semi-annual currency report, the U.S. Treasury Department said a recent depreciation of China’s yuan currency will likely exacerbate the U.S. trade deficit, but U.S. officials found Beijing appeared to be doing little to directly intervene in the currency’s value.

U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed that China’s rise as an exporting powerhouse has hurt U.S. workers and since taking office he has ordered tariffs on more than $200 billion in Chinese imports.

“Of particular concern are China’s lack of currency transparency and the recent weakness in its currency,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Since the Treasury’s last currency report was issued on April 13, the yuan has fallen by more than 9.0 percent against the U.S. dollar.

In the last week, the currency has pushed closer to the key 7 to the dollar threshold, a level not breached since 2008. Some currency derivatives show market participants expect the yuan to weaken past that level within a year.

The Treasury noted reports that China was trying to counter some of the yuan depreciation and said China could bolster confidence in the yuan by engaging in more market-friendly reforms.

“Treasury is deeply disappointed that China continues to refrain from disclosing its foreign exchange intervention,” the department said in its report.

It added that China should advance macroeconomic reforms that support greater household consumption growth and help rebalance the economy away from investment.

China’s multi-decade investment boom has helped make it the world’s factory and fueled a trade surplus in goods with the United States of $390 billion in the 12 months through June.

Some China experts have speculated that Beijing could use yuan devaluation as a weapon in a broader trade war with the United States.

The Treasury also said it was keeping China, India, Japan, Germany, South Korea and Switzerland on a monitoring list for extra scrutiny.

The Treasury said it was concerned that South Korea stepped up interventions in currency markets that appeared “to have been for the purpose of slowing won appreciation against the dollar.”

The Treasury said India was on course to be left off the list when it is next updated in six months. India was added in April after a burst in foreign exchange sales by the country’s central bank.


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Danske Bank forced to resume CEO search

COPENHAGEN (Reuters): Danske Bank, reeling from a money laundering scandal, will resume its search for a new chief executive after a Danish regulator rejected its internal candidate for the job, and analysts said it would be forced to look outside the bank.

Jacob Aarup-Andersen, 40, the Danske board’s choice to take over the helm of Denmark’s biggest bank, was rejected by the country’s financial regulator on the grounds that he wasn’t experienced enough.

The previous CEO, Thomas Borgen, was ousted last month as the group struggles to deal with a 200 billion euro ($230 billion) money laundering scandal that has prompted several criminal investigations and spooked investors.

Aarup-Andersen joined Danske from Danica Pension in 2016 as chief financial officer and has been head of wealth management since May. While the regulator found he was “well qualified in many areas”, it added “longer experience, including within certain of Danske Bank’s business areas, is needed,” the bank said.

“The Board of Directors unanimously backed Jacob Aarup-Andersen as new CEO, knowing full well that longer experience in certain areas would have been desirable,” said Chairman Ole Andersen in a statement, adding that the board was now talking to other potential candidates.

The financial watchdog’s unusual move to block the decision raises the pressure on Danske Bank’s board.

“This can’t be interpreted as anything other than a slap in the face,” said Per Hansen, economist at investment firm Nordnet. However, he did not think the chairman was likely to step down before a new CEO is found.

Danske Bank will now have to look for an external candidate, possibly from outside Denmark, said Sydbank analyst Mikkel Emil Jensen. “There are no more internal candidates left,” he said.

However, the task will be difficult as the full magnitude of the money laundering scandal and potential fines is yet to be uncovered.

“There is no one who can quantify the risk that Danske Bank is in and a future CEO won’t be able to quantify the work-related risk either, that is a big challenge,” said Peter Lundgreen, CEO of investment advisory firm Lundgreen’s Capital.

Other names mentioned by analysts and media outlets as possible candidates are the CEO of Danish mortgage lender Nykredit, Michael Rasmussen; the head of European Fixed Income and Commodities at Morgan Stanley (MS.N) Jakob Horder; and Annika Falkengren, who is the former CEO of Swedish bank SEB (SEBa.ST) and a partner in Swiss bank Lombard Odier.

Danske Bank shares hit a four-year low this month after the bank said it faced a US criminal investigation into a money laundering scandal at its Estonian branch. The shares are down more than 40 percent this year.

Rating agency Moody’s said last week it has downgraded all of Danske’s long-term debt ratings because of the criminal investigation into the bank by the US Department of Justice. It followed similar moves by rating agencies DBRS, S&P and Fitch.

Former CEO Borgen quit after an internal inquiry found that payments totaling 200 billion euros, many of which Danske Bank said were suspicious, had been moved through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

Shares in Danske were trading down 2.1 percent at 138.7 Danish crowns at 1156 GMT on Wednesday.






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Animal print, plus-size clothing boost profits: Asos

LONDON (BBC News): Soaring sales of animal print clothing helped Asos post a £500m rise in sales last year.

The online fashion retailer sold 1.3 million animal print garments across both menswear and womenswear, offering 2,000 options during the period.

The firm reported revenue of £2.4bn for the year to 31 August, with profits jumping 28% to a better than expected £102m.

Shares jumped 15% on the news but are still down by about 10% this year.

Asos chief executive Nick Beighton said: “The potential for our business is huge and we remain focussed on building Asos into the world’s number one destination for fashion-loving twenty-somethings.”

During its financial year, Asos said it added around 5,000 new items to its website every week, with about 87,000 products in stock at any point in time.

Other popular trends included button through dresses, with more than half a million garments sold in varying fabrics and prints.

Sales of inclusive fit sizes – including petite, tall, maternity, plus-size, curve and wide – also jumped by 37%.

Asos sales have risen more than a fifth in each of the past three years as consumers continue to buy more online.

While the company has outperformed high street rivals such as Next or Marks and Spencer, investors get nervous when it misses its targets.

Shares had dropped by a fifth since January before Wednesday’s results and fell sharply in July when the retailer missed its third quarter targets.

Asos shares rose £7.80 to £57.78 in afternoon trading, valuing the company at £4.2bn. The rise has erased some of this year’s losses: the shares were above £68.64 in early January.

Richard Hunter at Interactive Investor said: “Of slight concern is the fact that Asos will need to maintain this breakneck speed of growth to continue justifying its lofty valuation, as evidenced in the July update when the shares were hit after slightly weaker than expected sales.

“However, its ongoing investment in the business and planned international further expansion means there is much to go for.”

Greg Lawless at Shore Capital maintained its “buy” rating on the shares.

“We believe that Asos remains a structural winner, given the shift online by consumers, together with harnessing the global opportunity as the ‘go-to’ platform for online clothing,” he said.



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22.5% of EU population faces risk of poverty

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Some 22.5 percent of the European Union population faces the risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2017, the EU’s statistical authority revealed on Wednesday.

Marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Eurostat said Bulgaria was the country with the highest share of total population at risk at 38.9 percent, while the Czech Republic registered the lowest with 12.2 percent in the same period.

Among the total population of the EU, women shared 23.3 percent risk of poverty or social exclusion, while men registered some 21.6 percent last year.

In 2017, some 64.7 percent of the unemployed population in the EU were at risk of poverty, with the highest share recorded in Germany (81.8 percent) and the lowest in Poland (51.5 percent).

Only 12.3 percent of the EU population at risk of poverty or social exclusion was employed.

Eurostat also revealed that 24.5 percent of children in the EU were at risk of poverty and social exclusion — ranging from 14.2 percent in the Czech Republic to 41.7 percent in Romania.

Last year, around 31 percent of the EU population could not afford a one-week annual holiday away from home, with the highest share in Romania (65 percent) and the lowest in Sweden (8.8 percent), the report added. (AA)



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Google unshackles Android-device firms

LONDON (BBC News): Google is dropping restrictions it imposed on Android-device-makers, following a clash with the EU.

It is ending a ban on manufacturers having a line-up that includes tablets and phones powered by alternative versions of the operating system to its own as well as ones that feature Google’s own apps and Play Store.

It will also allow some of its services to be pre-installed without others.

But Google continues to appeal against a related €4.3bn fine. The European Commission announced the penalty in July, after ruling that the US company had been using Android to illegally “cement its dominant position” in search.

Unbundled apps

Google announced the changes to its policies in a blog.

It said the new licensing arrangements would come into effect on 29 October and apply to devices shipped to the European Economic Area (EEA) – which includes Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein in addition to the EU.

Until now, Google insisted that if handset- and tablet-makers pre-installed apps such as YouTube and Google Maps, they also had to pre-load its web browser Chrome and Search apps.

Chrome and Search will no longer be bundled in this way. But one consequence of the move, Google said, was that manufactures would face a new fee.

“Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA,” wrote executive Hiroshi Lockheimer.

“Android will remain free and open-source.”

It has not stated how much the new fees will be or whether consumers should expect a significant rise to device prices as a consequence.

‘Free to experiment’

The EU’s Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has previously suggested that Google’s restrictions prevented “forked” versions of Android, including Amazon’s Fire OS, from having more impact.

Until now, many manufactures have focused instead on adding their own “skins”, which involves making user interface changes to Google’s stock version of Android but not deeper alterations to the code that might cause some services to become incompatible.

One industry watcher said he now expected to see more experimentation.

“If, for example, Samsung wanted to do a really pure Samsung device based on a forked version of Android, with a Samsung browser, Samsung Maps and Bixby as the lead voice assistant – but without the parallel Google services – they could,” said Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“The big challenge for phone-makers is to try to replicate the success that Apple has had with monetising its devices after they have been bought, which it has done by selling services such as iCloud storage and Apple Music. “That’s been harder to do for Android licensees as a lot of the revenue from their devices has flowed to Google via things like Search and Maps.”



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Canada becomes 2nd country to legalise recreational marijuana

LONDON (BBC News): The first recreational cannabis to be legally bought in Canada was purchased at midnight on Wednesday (02:30 GMT) on the eastern island of Newfoundland amid queues of hundreds of people.

Canada has become the second country after Uruguay to legalise possession and use of recreational cannabis.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the country since 2001.

But concerns remain, including about the readiness for police forces to tackle drug impaired driving.

Information has been sent to 15m households about the new laws and there are public awareness campaigns.

Ian Power, from the town of St John’s began queuing at 20:00 local time so he could “make history”. Newfoundland is half an hour ahead of the next province to the west.

“It’s been my dream to be the first person to buy the first legal gram of cannabis in Canada, and here I finally am,” he said.

Canadian provinces and municipalities have been preparing for months for the end of cannabis prohibition. They are responsible for setting out where cannabis can be bought and consumed.

This has created a patchwork of more or less restrictive legislation across the country.

How ready is Canada for legal cannabis?

There remain unanswered questions on some key issues around how legal cannabis will work in Canada.

A number of analysts are predicting a shortage of recreational marijuana in the first year of legalisation as production and licensing continues to ramp up to meet demand.

And the marketplace itself is still in its infancy.

Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, will only begin opening retail stores next spring, though residents will be able to order cannabis online.

British Columbia, one of the provinces with the highest rates of cannabis use, will only have one legal store open on Wednesday.

Until retail locations are more widely available, some unlicensed cannabis retailers, which have flourished in the years since the law was first proposed, may stay open.

It is unclear if police will crack down on them immediately, or if they will turn a blind eye.


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Passenger car demand grows 2.5 per cent: EU

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: The European Union passenger vehicles demand in January-September grew by 2.5 percent year-on-year, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) announced on Wednesday.

The ACEA said new passenger car registrations totaled around 12 million during the first nine months of 2018.

“Looking at the five biggest markets, demand went up in Spain (11.7 percent), France (6.5 percent) and Germany (2.4 percent), while car sales contracted in Italy (down 2.8 percent) and in the United Kingdom (down 7.5 percent),” the association said.

During the nine-month period, the biggest share — with 24.2 percent in passenger car sales in the 28-member EU bloc — was held by the VW Group, of which major brands are Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat and Porsche.

Sales of the VW Group saw an annual hike of 5.6 percent, reaching around 2.9 million units in first nine months of the year.

The PSA Group — which owns the Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel brands — and the Renault Group — which owns the Renault, Dacia, Lada and Alpine brands — followed with 16.2 percent and 10.7 percent of car sales, respectively. In 2017, over 15 million new passenger cars were sold in the EU, up 3.4 percent from the previous year.

The EU is the main automotive export market for Turkey, where the world’s prominent automotive manufacturers including Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Renault and Toyota have operations.

Last year, nearly 80 percent of Turkey’s total automotive exports were made to EU countries amounting to $22 billion, marking a 17 percent rise, year-on-year.

The ACEA will release its next report on the passenger car registrations on Nov. 15. (AA)


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Uber launches safety ToolKit for drivers and passengers

LONDON (Reuters): Uber’s recent safety push is spreading to Europe. The ridesharing service is launching a safety center in its app for the UK and 23 other European countries to provide many of the safeguards that launched stateside earlier in the year.

You can share trip details with trusted contacts, quickly access emergency services and read safety-related info like GPS tracking policies and customer support options. It will also anonymize pickup and drop-off locations for drivers, and UK users will also have the choice of two-factor authentication to add a layer of security.

Drivers and Uber Eats couriers will see their own upgrades, such as trusted contacts and emergency alerts. They’ll receive their own specific improvements, such as in-app speed limit warnings and an insurance hub to manage their coverage.

These are welcome additions if you’ve ever been nervous about taking a late-night Uber ride. They’re also somewhat necessary given Uber’s precarious status in the region. While it recently regained its London taxi license, it still has a lot of work to do if it’s going to build trust among officials concerned that its safety measures fell short of expectations. This won’t necessarily satisfy authorities, but it might be a step in the right direction.

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Bitcoin price rises as market stabilizes

Monitoring Desk

NEW YORK: Over the past 72 hours, the cryptocurrency market experienced one of its wildest fluctuations in recent years, triggered by the sudden increase in the Bitcoin price.

The unforeseen decline in the value of Tether (USDT), a stablecoin backed by the US dollar on a 1:1 ratio, led premiums on major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) to materialize, briefly pushing the price of BTC to $7,700.

In actuality, the price of BTC on fiat-to-cryptocurrency exchanges such as Coinbase and Bitstamp did not exceed $6,700. Still, the short-term recovery of BTC from $6,150 to $6,450 supported by a rise in daily trading volume from $3.2 billion to $4 billion is considered a positive market development for the mid-term.

The cryptocurrency market is not quite ready to initiate a strong short-term rally as seen in February and April during which the price of BTC surged from $6,000 to $8,000 within a span of minutes.

But, as technical analyst Crypto Monk emphasized, the weekly chart of BTC seen below has demonstrated a bottom-like trend over the past three months.

“BTC on the weekly doesn’t look like something about to crash to me. If i had to compare it to the 2014 fractal, it would look like the bottoming area.”

Analysts are optimistic in the outlook of BTC throughout the months to come because the dominant cryptocurrency has shown a level of stability it has not demonstrated since June 2017. Since August 9, BTC has defended the $6,000 support level and remained stable in the mid-$6,000 region.

Generally, technical cryptocurrency analysts have echoed a similar sentiment regarding the short-term trend of BTC; if Bitcoin price fails to maintain momentum above the $6,400 to $6,500 range with sufficient volume, then the market will become bear biased once again.

However, if BTC breaks out of the $6,500 mark quite comfortably and test the $6,800 resistance level, given that it already has temporarily broken out of a long-term descending trendline dating back go January, a trend reversal by the year’s end can be in play.

The daily trading volume of BTC, which has been an accurate indicator of the trend of the crypto market, has slightly declined from $4.5 billion to $4 billion in the past 24 hours. The volume of the crypto market also fell from $15 billion to $12 billion, suggesting that traders are holding back high risk, high return trades until BTC confirms a positive short-term movement.

0x (ZRX) and Brave Attention Token (BAT) experienced a 30 percent and 10 percent increase in value respectively, as traders have started to anticipate an influx of capital from regulated markets to tokens.

BAT has not been integrated into the trading platform of Coinbase as of yet, but the world’s largest digital asset brokerage disclosed its intent to list Cardano (ADA), BAT, and Stellar (XLM) as soon as it receives an approval from local regulators including the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).