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EU cigarette production down in 2016

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Cigarette production in the European Union dropped by 36 billion items to 527 billion in 2016, Eurostat said on Thursday.

Production is therefore down a third, or almost 300 billion cigarettes, from 2006, the report stressed.

The report said: “In 2016, the EU’s production was equivalent to more than 1,000 cigarettes, or roughly 50 packets of 20 cigarettes, per inhabitant.”

Germany’s cigarette production amounted for 32 percent of that of the EU with nearly 168 billion.

“In other words, one in every three cigarettes produced in the EU originated in Germany,” said the report.

Poland (19 percent) and Romania (15 percent) followed Germany with 99 billion and 77 billion cigarettes.

Eurostat highlighted that the cigarette production’s value in 2016 was around €6.2 billion ($6.88 billion).

“Tobacco consumption is one of the greatest avoidable health risks in the EU,” another Eurostat report said on Thursday.

The report showed that of 5.2 million deaths recorded in 2015 in EU countries, a quarter — 1.3 million — were due to cancer.

Lung cancer was the leading type observed in those deaths, with 273,400, according to the report.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called for global action against the tobacco industry Thursday as it marked “World No Tobacco Day”.

The WHO’s report underlined tobacco kills 7 million people each year, despite a steady reduction in tobacco use globally. AA



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ABL asset management launches ABL Islamic asset allocation fund

F.P. Report

KARACHI: ABL Asset Management is pleased to announce the launch of ABL Islamic Asset Allocation Fund (ABLIAAF), an open-end Shariah Compliant Asset Allocation Scheme. ABLIAAF provides an ideal opportunity for investors to generate competitive returns through a mix of Shariah Compliant fixed income and equity investments. The fund is now open for subscription.

ABL Islamic Asset Allocation Fund will operate under the guidelines of Al-Hilal Shariah Advisors Private Limited. The Shariah Supervisory Counsel is headed by Mufti Irshad Ahmad Aijaz, who is a renowned Shariah Scholar and is also the Chairman of SBP-Shariah Advisory Board. ABLIAAF will invest in Shariah Compliant Equity, Fixed Income, Money Market Instruments and any other instruments as permitted by the SECP and Shariah Advisor.

Mr. Alee Khalid Ghaznavi, CEO ABL Asset Management stated “ABL Funds endeavors to provide innovative investment solutions and quality services for its investors. With the launch of ABLIAAF, now we have further expanded the breadth of our offerings including Income Funds, Money Market Funds, Stock Funds, Fund of Funds, Asset allocation schemes and Pension Funds in both Islamic and Conventional manner. He further added, “The Fund offers the convenience to invest a diversified portfolio of Shariah Compliant equity and fixed income securities through a single scheme for optimal returns.”

For the past 10 years, ABL Asset Management is serving the investment needs to thousands of investors. It is the wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Bank and has Management Quality Rating of AM2++ by JCR-VIS which donates very good Management Quality. It is the only AMC in Pakistan which is ISO 27001 certified. ABL Asset Management is presently managing eleven mutual funds and several administrative plans with total Assets under Management (AUMs) excluding Fund of Funds, of around Rs. 39.30 billion (as on April 30th, 2018).

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US tariffs: Steel and aluminum levies slapped on key allies

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: The US is to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from allies in Europe and North America.

The US said a 25% tax on steel and 10% tax on aluminum from the EU, Mexico and Canada will start at midnight.

The move immediately triggered vows of retaliation from Mexico, Canada and the EU, which called the tariffs “protectionism, pure and simple”.

The UK said it was “deeply disappointed” by the US decision, which followed weeks of negotiations.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it was a “bad day for world trade”, while European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the move was “totally unacceptable.

The EU had “no choice” but to bring a case before the World Trade Organization and impose duties on US imports, he added.

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SSE to raise gas and electricity prices

LONDON (BBC News): SSE has become the last of the “big six” energy companies to announce early summer price rises, with a 6.7% average increase in gas and electricity bills.

The move will see gas prices rise by 5.7% and electricity prices go up by 7.7% on 11 July for SSE customers on variable deals.

This will mean an average £76 per year rise for 2.36 million customers. The company said the price rise was the result of increasing costs “largely outside our control”.

“We deeply regret having to raise prices and have worked hard to withstand the increasing costs,” said Stephen Forbes, chief commercial officer at the company.

“The cost of supplying energy is increasing and this ultimately impacts the prices we are able to offer customers.”

All the major domestic energy suppliers have announced some form of price rise in recent weeks.

Some 4.1 million British Gas customers faced a 5.5% hike as of Tuesday, adding an average of £60 to bills. The move was branded as “unjustified” by the government when it was announced.

Scottish Power is increasing prices by 5.5%, or £63 on average, for nearly one million people from 1 June.

EDF has a 2.7%, or £16, electricity price rise coming into effect on 7 June for 1.2 million customers.

Npower’s 5.3% increase, an average of £64, will hit one million people from 17 June. E.On has made changes to how it bills customers which took effect in April.

They will amount to a rise in the average standard variable rate of £22.

Last week, SSE – which is planning to merge its retail arm with rival Npower – announced that it profits fell last year as it lost 430,000 customers.

SSE pointed to competitive pressures as the number of domestic energy accounts fell from 7.23 million to 6.8 million.

The government has criticised the price rise announced by the company, ahead of a cap on some variable rate tariffs.

Energy minister Claire Perry said: “It is extremely disappointing that SSE has decided to announce this unjustified price rise – the highest yet from the Big Six – ahead of the new law coming into effect later this year.

“Consumers should vote with their feet. Switching suppliers will always help consumers get the best deal. An average consumer can save around £300 by switching from a default tariff offered by the Big Six to one of the cheapest deals in the market.”

Peter Earl, from price comparison website, which makes it money from consumers switching, said: “With the company announcing last week that it lost 430,000 customers in the past year, it is clear that people are realising that many tariffs offered by these energy giants are fundamentally bad value.”





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Indonesia hikes interest rates again to reverse rupiah slump

Monitoring Desk

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s central bank hiked its key interest rate Wednesday for the second time this month to prop up the rupiah after it slumped to its lowest level in three years.

Policymakers at Bank Indonesia hiked rates to 4.75 percent from 4.50 percent, following a similar rise from 4.25 percent in mid-May.

The rupiah slid by some four percent from the start of the year to fall below 14,000 against the dollar, its weakest level since 2015. The two rate hikes this month — the first since 2014 — underscore concerns about emerging market currencies, including the rupiah, as rising US interest rates lure investors to dollar-denominated assets.

“Generally our economy is quite solid but there is global pressure that needs an immediate response,” newly-inaugurated Bank Indonesia governor Perry Warjiyo told reporters after a meeting. In a bid to rev up Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, the central bank had been repeatedly slashing rates over the past year and a half until it reversed course with this month’s hikes.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo came to power in 2014 on a pledge to boost annual growth to seven percent, but the commodities-driven economy has remained stuck in the 5.0 percent range.



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German jobless rate hits new historic low

Monitoring Desk

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Fewer people were out of work in Germany in May than at any time since the country’s 1990 reunification, official data showed Wednesday, defying gathering fears for the eurozone economy.

Just 5.2 percent of the workforce was unemployed this month, the federal labour agency (BA) said in seasonally-adjusted figures — a fall of 0.1 percentage points from April’s level.

In unadjusted terms, which are less representative of underlying trends but more widely used in public debate, the jobless rate was 5.1 percent, or 2.3 million people.

Unemployment has been falling for years in Europe’s powerhouse economy, driven both by an insatiable appetite for its goods from abroad and healthy consumer demand at home.

Germany’s economy expanded by 2.2 percent in 2017, and government and private-sector forecasts suggest it could match or beat that performance this year.

A softer patch in early 2018, with slower first-quarter growth and weakened confidence indicators, has not put firms off their hiring spree. But other dangers are looming for Germany, including a June 1 deadline for US President Donald Trump to decide whether to exempt European Union countries permanently from new tariffs on metals imports.

Upholding the border taxes could spark a tit-for-tat trade war between Washington and Brussels.

Meanwhile, governments and financial markets across Europe and the world are looking with dread towards Italy, where the risk that insurgent anti-euro single currency parties could form a government remains high.


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Fruits export up 4.74% in 10 months

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Export of fruits from the country increased by 4.74 percent during first 10 months of current fiscal year as compared to same period of the preceding fiscal year.

The fruits export during the period under review rose to $358.23 million from $342.01 million in July-April 2016-17, according to latest data revealed by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Wednesday.

On year-on-year basis, the fruits export also witnessed an increase of 16.62 percent as it soared to $18.54 million in April 2018 from $15.89 million in same month of last year. On monthly basis, however the export of fruits declined by 58 percent as $44.7 million worth of export was recorded in March 2018.

Similarly, the vegetable exports during July-April (2017-18) surged to $203.549 million as compared to export worth of $147.52 million recorded in July-April (2016-17). On year-on-year and month-on-month basis, the export of vegetables in April 2018, witnessed a decline of 11.59 percent and 14.58 percent when compared with the export during April 2017 and March 2018 respectively.

The export of vegetables decreased from $34.57 million in April 2017, and $35.78 million in March 2018 to $30.56 million in April 2018.

The overall food group export witnessed a surge of 29.24 percent as it soared to $3.97 billion during July-April 2017-18 from $3.07 billion in same period of the previous fiscal year.






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SBP re-launches SMS service for issuance of fresh currency notes

F.P. Report

KARACHI: State Bank of Pakistan, through its subsidiary SBP Banking Services Corporation (SBP BSC), has re-launched the SMS service for issuance of fresh currency notes to the general public.

The fresh currency notes will be available from designated commercial bank branches called “e-branches” and the sixteen field offices of SBP BSC. It may be noted that the branch ID for e-branch is different from the existing branch/SWIFT code of banks.

The issuance of fresh currency through mobile SMS service will commence from 1st June and continue till 14th June, 2018.

The service will be provided through 1535 e-branches in 132 cities across Pakistan to ensure maximum geographical coverage. The charges for the service are Rs. 1.50/- plus tax, per SMS.

The branch IDs of designated e-branches are available at SBP website, PBA website, and commercial banks websites and will also be displayed prominently outside designated e-branches. Under this facility, a person may send an SMS message comprising his/her 13 digits CNIC/Smart card number along with the desired e-branch ID [e.g. 3130205839863(space) KHI005] to short code 8877.

In return, the person will receive an SMS containing redemption code, e-branch address and the code validity period. Redemption code received by the customer will be valid for two (02) working days as per the mentioned dates in the SMS. The customer may then approach the concerned e-branch along with his/her original CNIC/Smart card, a photocopy of the CNIC/Smart card and transaction code received from 8877 to obtain fresh currency notes. An individual can obtain three (03) packets of Rs.10/- and one (01) packet each of Rs. 50/- & Rs. 100/- as per availability of stock.

It is also notified that each CNIC/Smart card number or mobile phone number can only be used once.

No transaction code will be issued to the sender in case he/she sends the same CNIC/Smart card number from different mobile numbers or sends different CNIC/Smart card numbers from same mobile number during the service. For any queries/complaints, the general public may contact the SBP BSC helpdesk at UAN (021) 111-008-877. The helpdesk facility will only be available during office hours.


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Oil falls to $75 as OPEC hint to increase production

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil slipped towards $75 a barrel on Wednesday, under pressure from expectations OPEC and its allies will pump more and as Italy’s political crisis increased investors’ aversion to risk.

Global benchmark Brent crude has dropped $5 from a 3 1/2-year high of $80.50 a barrel on May 17, after reports that OPEC and Russia may increase supply at a June meeting, reversing policy after 17 months of cutting supplies.

Brent LCOc1 was down 3 cents at $75.36 a barrel by 0842 GMT, after trading as low as $74.81 earlier. U.S. crude CLc1 was up 3 cents at $66.76.

“Take the specter of rising production from OPEC/non-OPEC and throw in a generous sprinkling of eurozone political turmoil and what do you get? In short, an exodus of oil bulls,” said Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.

“A dearth of bullish catalysts will make hard work of any recovery.”

Political turmoil in Italy has rocked financial markets, sending the euro to a 10-month low against the dollar on concern that a snap election would lead to a eurosceptic government in Rome.

A stronger dollar makes dollar-denominated commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies and tends to weigh on oil prices.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers led by Russia have had a pact to curb output by about 1.8 million barrels per day since January 2017. The cutbacks have largely removed excess global inventories.

Amid concerns the price rally has gone too far, Saudi Arabia and Russia are discussing raising OPEC and non-OPEC oil output by around 1 million bpd, sources told Reuters on May 25. OPEC meets in Vienna on June 22.

Still, some analysts sounded a note of caution as the details have yet to be worked out. Ministers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates meet this weekend, a source said.

“The nature and magnitude of this effort – if it materializes – is not straightforward,” said JBC Energy. “Clarity will likely take some time to emerge, though there is an outside chance that more will be known by the end of the week.”

Lending some support to prices were expectations that U.S. crude inventories probably fell by 1.8 million barrels last week according to a Reuters poll. [EIA/S]

Industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) releases its weekly supply report at 2030 GMT on Wednesday, followed by the official government data on Thursday.


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U.S. trade threats: China vows to protect interests

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China lashed out on Wednesday at renewed threats from the White House on trade, warning that it was ready to fight back if Washington was looking for a trade war, days ahead of a planned visit by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

In an unexpected change in tone, the United States said on Tuesday that it still held the threat of imposing tariffs on $50 billion of imports from China unless Beijing addressed the issue of theft of American intellectual property.

Washington also said it will press ahead with restrictions on investment by Chinese companies in the United States as well as export controls for goods exported to China.

Its tougher stance comes as President Donald Trump prepares for a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose key diplomatic backer is China, and as Washington steps up efforts to counter what it sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

The trade escalation came after the two sides had agreed during talks in Washington earlier this month to find steps to narrow China’s $375 billion trade surplus. Ross is expected to try and get China to agree to firm numbers to buy more U.S. goods during a June 2-4 visit to the Chinese capital.

“We urge the United States to keep its promise, and meet China halfway in the spirit of the joint statement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing, adding that China would take “resolute and forceful” measures to protect its interests if Washington insists upon acting in an “arbitrary and reckless manner”.

“When it comes to international relations, every time a country does an about face and contradicts itself, it’s another blow to, and a squandering of, its reputation,” Hua said.

China has said it will respond in kind to threats by Trump to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods.

Trade war fears had also receded after the Trump administration said it had reached a deal to put ZTE Corp back in business after banning China’s second-biggest telecoms equipment maker from buying U.S. technology parts for seven years.

The easing in tensions had fuelled optimism that agreement was imminent for Chinese antitrust clearance for San Diego-based Qualcomm Inc’s $44 billion purchase of Netherlands-based NXP Semiconductors NV, which has been hanging in the balance amid the trade dispute.

A team of Qualcomm lawyers that is expecting to meet with Chinese regulators ahead of Ross’s arrival remained in San Diego as of late Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said.

“On hold now,” another person familiar with Qualcomm’s talks with the Chinese government said on Wednesday, declining to be identified as the negotiations are confidential.

“Trump is crazy. Crazy tactics might work, though,” the person added.

William Zarit, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said Washington’s threat of tariffs appeared to have been “somewhat effective” thus far.

“I don’t think it is only a tactic, personally,” he told reporters on Wednesday, adding that the group does not view tariffs as the best way to address the trade frictions.

“The thinking became that if the U.S. doesn’t have any leverage and there is no pressure on our Chinese friends, then we will not have serious negotiations.”

The Global Times, an influential tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said the United States was suffering from a “delusion” and warned that the “trade renege could leave Washington dancing with itself”.

FILE PHOTO: Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep Water Port in Shanghai, China April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

State news agency Xinhua said China hoped that the United States would not act impulsively but stood ready to fight to protect its own interests.

“China will continue to hold pragmatic consultations with the United States’ delegation and hope that the United States will act in accordance with the spirit of the joint statement.”

Also on Tuesday, a White House official said the U.S. government plans to shorten the length of visas issued to some Chinese citizens as part of a strategy to prevent intellectual property theft by U.S. rivals.

Citing a document issued by the Trump administration in December, the official said the U.S. government would consider restrictions on visas for science and technology students from some countries.