Day: February 20, 2022

Separatist rhetoric, ‘false-flag operation’ fears stoke Ukraine tensions

Separatist rhetoric, 'false-flag operation' fears stoke Ukraine tensions© Reuters. People walk towards a monument to the Liberators of Donbass in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, Ukraine January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

By Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Pro-Russian separatists said on Saturday they had uncovered a plan by Kyiv to seize territory they control in eastern Ukraine by force, and paraded a man they said was a Ukrainian spy.

Authorities in the Ukrainian capital quickly dismissed the alleged plan as a fake and have shrugged off spy allegations in the past, but such reports are contributing to a rise in tension.

Fears are growing in Kyiv and the West that a false-flag operation – an act committed with the intent of pinning blame on another party – could be staged in eastern Ukraine and used as a pretext for Russia to attack.

Russia, which has massed forces near Ukraine, has denied plans to invade and dismissed talk of false-flag operations.

But it has said it is alarmed by the situation and separatist authorities in eastern Ukraine began a mass evacuation on Friday, citing fears of a Ukrainian offensive.

The Ukrainian authorities deny planning any kind of assault, and fear that attempts to create a pretext for a Russian invasion are growing.

On Saturday, separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said they had intercepted a plan to “purge” of the pro-Russian region of Russian speakers as part of a five-day operation to take the region by force.

In an interview broadcast on Russia’s state Channel One television channel, a man whom the separatists said they had detained in the city of Donetsk said he had helped Ukraine blow up a separatist commander’s jeep the night before and that he had smuggled weapons and explosives.

“I was recruited in 2018,” he was shown saying.

He said his handler had told him to steer clear of tall apartment blocks in the city of Donetsk because it would be targeted by artillery and he risked being killed.

‘HOSTILE AND INFLAMMATORY’

Russian-backed rebels seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after protests toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian leader. Kyiv says more than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the east.

In the breakaway Luhansk region, local authorities said on Saturday a vehicle stuffed with explosives had been found parked on a road being used to evacuate people to Russia.

Authorities in the region also said explosions had torn through a local gas pipeline and a petrol station the previous night and described them as acts of sabotage which they suspected Ukraine was behind.

In other incidents on Saturday, Russia’s FSB security service said two shells landed on Russian territory near the border, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. One hit a building in Rostov region but no one was hurt, it said.

Ukraine’s military accused Russia of faking pictures of shells to make out they were Ukrainian, and said mercenaries had arrived in separatist-held eastern Ukraine to stage provocations in collaboration with Russian special forces.

Helga Schmid, the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) security watchdog, and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau expressed concern about the growing rhetoric on Friday.

“We deplore the spreading of disinformation about an imminent military action by Ukrainian government forces; this critically affects the civilian population in the conflict zone,” they said in a joint statement.

“The increasingly hostile and inflammatory rhetoric we have been hearing recently undermines efforts to foster peace, stability and security and increases the risks of further confrontation and escalation. It must stop.”

Moscow expressed surprise at the statement and questioned the impartiality of the OSCE.

Australia accuses China of ‘act of intimidation’ after laser aimed at aircraft

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World9 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 01:35AM ET)

Australia accuses China of 'act of intimidation' after laser aimed at aircraft© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media at Melbourne Commonwealth Parliament Office, in Melbourne, Australia February 11, 2022. Darrian Traynor/Pool via REUTERS

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused Beijing of an ‘act of intimidation’ after a Chinese navy vessel directed a laser at an Australian military surveillance aircraft last week.

A P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was illuminated on Thursday while flying over Australia’s northern approaches by a laser from a People’s Liberation Army–Navy (PLA-N) vessel, potentially endangering lives, the defence department said.

Morrison said his government will demand answers from Beijing.

“I can see it no other way than an act of intimidation, one (…) unprovoked, unwarranted,” Morrison said at a briefing. “And Australia will never accept such acts of intimidation.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton called the incident “a very aggressive act” that took place in Australia’s exclusive economic zone.

“I think the Chinese government is hoping that nobody talks about these aggressive bullying acts,” Dutton told Sky News television. “We’re seeing different forms of it right across the region and in many parts of the world.”

The Chinese vessel was sailing east with another PLA-N ship through the Arafura Sea at the time of the incident, the department said. The sea lies between the north coast of Australia and the south coast of New Guinea.

Relations between Australia and China, its top trade partner, soured after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from its 5G broadband network in 2018, toughened laws against foreign political interference, and urged an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

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Exclusive-Trump's Truth Social app set for release Monday in Apple App Store, per executive

Exclusive-Trump’s Truth Social app set for release Monday in Apple App Store, per executive By Reuters – Feb 20, 2022 18

By Julia Love and Helen Coster (Reuters) -Donald Trump’s new social media venture, Truth Social, appears set to launch in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s App Store on Monday, according to…

Russia and Belarus extend military drills; West worries invasion is imminent

Russia and Belarus extend military drills; West worries invasion is imminent By Reuters – Feb 20, 2022 28

By Polina Devitt and Polina Nikolskaya MOSCOW/DONETSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia will extend military drills in Belarus that were due to end on Sunday, the Belarusian defence…

Passenger found alive on Greece-Italy ferry after blaze, 11 still missing

Passenger found alive on Greece-Italy ferry after blaze, 11 still missing By Reuters – Feb 20, 2022

By Lefteris Papadimas CORFU, Greece (Reuters) -Fire fighters battling a blaze on a ferry sailing from Greece to Italy discovered a survivor on the stern of the still burning…

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

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French modelling agent who founded agency with Epstein dies in custody

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World6 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 02:05AM ET)

French modelling agent who founded agency with Epstein dies in custody

PARIS (Reuters) – Jean-Luc Brunel, a longtime French modeling agent who was detained in December 2020 as part of an inquiry into allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment, was found dead in his cell on Saturday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.

The investigation, opened in August 2019, was a preliminary inquiry into whether late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein had committed sex crimes on French territory or against French victims.

Brunel, 76, who had founded a U.S. modelling management company with Epstein, had denied any wrongdoing related to his association with him.

Bruel was found hanged in his cell in the Sante prison in Paris at around 1 a.m. on Saturday, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said. An investigation has been opened, the spokesperson said.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Federal oil lease sales delayed as Interior Dept navigates court decisions

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Sports & General4 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 04:15AM ET)

Federal oil lease sales delayed as Interior Dept navigates court decisions© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the Cushing oil hub, appearing to run out of space to contain a historic supply glut that has hammered prices, in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 24, 2016. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Upcoming federal oil and gas lease sales will be delayed as the Interior Department figures out how to weigh the climate impact of those sales without using a key tool for measuring those risks, according to a court filing issued on Saturday evening.

The length of the delay was not specified, but it stems from a Feb. 11 decision by a Louisiana federal district court judge that blocked the Biden administration from using the “social cost of carbon” – an interim estimate of $50 per ton of greenhouse gases emitted – to factor the risks of climate change into federal decision-making for permitting, investment and regulatory issues.

That decision has complicated the Interior Department’s efforts to comply with a separate court decision by a D.C. federal district court judge in January which invalidated the results of an oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico because the department failed to properly account for the auction’s climate change impact.

“Certain activities associated with its [Interior’s] fossil fuel leasing and permitting programs are impacted by the February 11, 2022, injunction in Louisiana v. Biden,” the Department of Justice filing said.

It said the Interior Department had been using the social cost of carbon to factor in the risk of climate change in some of the rules around new lease sales and that “delays are expected in permitting and leasing for the oil and gas programs. 

The administration had been planning onshore lease sales in several states this quarter.

The Biden administration had been considering raising the royalty rate to 18.75% from 12.5% that drilling companies must pay on oil and gas leases, according to a draft notice posted last month.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Firefighters struggle to douse fire on luxury cars vessel off Azores islands

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Stock Markets5 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 06:25AM ET)

Firefighters struggle to douse fire on luxury cars vessel off Azores islands© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The ship, Felicity Ace, which was traveling from Emden, Germany, where Volkswagen has a factory, to Davisville, in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, burns more than 100 km from the Azores islands, Portugal, February 18, 2022. Portuguese Navy (Ma

LISBON (Reuters) – Firefighters are struggling to put out a fire that broke out on Wednesday on a vessel carrying thousands of luxury cars, which is adrift off the coast of Portugal’s Azores islands, a port official said, adding it was unclear when they would succeed.

The Felicity Ace ship, carrying around 4,000 vehicles including Porsches, Audis and Bentleys, some electric with lithium-ion batteries, caught fire in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. The 22 crew members on board were evacuated on the same day.

“The intervention (to put out the blaze) has to be done very slowly,” João Mendes Cabeças, captain of the nearest port in the Azorean island of Faial, told Reuters late on Saturday. “It will take a while.”

Lithium-ion batteries in the electric vehicles on board are “keeping the fire alive”, Cabeças said, adding that specialist equipment to extinguish it was on the way.

It was not clear whether the batteries sparked the fire.

Volkswagen (DE:), which owns the brands, did not confirm the total number of cars on board and said on Friday it was awaiting further information. Ship manager Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cabeças previously said that “everything was on fire about five meters above the water line” and the blaze was still far from the ship’s fuel tanks. It is getting closer, he said.

“The fire spread further down,” he said, explaining that teams could only tackle the fire from outside by cooling down the ship’s structure as it was too dangerous to go on board.

They also cannot use water because adding weight to the ship could make it more unstable, and traditional water extinguishers do not stop lithium-ion batteries from burning, Cabeças said.

The Panama-flagged ship will be towed to a country in Europe or to the Bahamas but it is unclear when that will happen.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Top 5 Things to Watch in Markets in the Week Ahead

Top 5 Things to Watch in Markets in the Week Ahead© Reuters

By Noreen Burke

Investing.com — Rising tensions between Moscow and the West over Ukraine and speculation about monetary policy look set to keep investors on edge in the coming holiday-shortened week. Concerns over elevated inflation will also remain to the fore with the release of a key U.S. inflation metric along with a string of earnings results from major U.S. retailers. Oil prices will remain in focus, while the U.K. and the Eurozone are to release PMI data that may show the economic impact of easing Covid-19 restrictions. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

  1. Market turbulence

The U.S. market will be closed on Monday for the Presidents’ Day holiday, but investors are likely to be facing another choppy week as fears over a of Ukraine underpins demand for safe haven assets.

Ongoing uncertainty over the Federal Reserve’s next policy move is also likely to continue to weigh on equities.

The Fed has signaled that it will hike interest rates at its upcoming meeting in March to bring down inflation, which has surged past the central bank’s 2% target to hit its highest levels in four decades, but it has not indicated how aggressively it will act.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard has called for aggressive steps to curb inflation, while New York Fed chief John Williams said Friday he sees for the central bank to go big at the start of its rate-hike cycle.

“This is a confused market, confused about Ukraine, confused about how aggressive the Fed is going to be, and pretty much ignoring very strong earnings results from the fourth quarter,” Tim Ghriskey, senior portfolio strategist at Ingalls & Snyder in New York told Reuters.

  1. U.S. data

Amid speculation over the prospect of a half percentage point rate increase from the Fed in March Friday’s data on the personal consumption expenditures price index will be closely watched.

The PCE price index, rumored to be the Fed’s favorite inflation measure is forecast to have risen year-over-year in January, while the core reading, which excludes food and fuel prices, is expected to rise .

The PCE data is released as part of the report on and . Other economic data on Friday includes revised data on , numbers for January and a report on , also for January.

There will also be speeches from several Fed officials during the week, including Richmond Fed President Tom , San Francisco Fed President Mary , Cleveland Fed President Loretta and Fed Governor Christopher .

  1. Retail earnings

After a strong rebound in , consumers are back in focus and a string of earnings results from major retailers this week will be parsed for signs of how surging inflation is affecting spending. Despite the rebound in retail sales, consumer sentiment has dropped to a decade low in recent months leading to fears that the economic recovery could stall.

Home Depot (NYSE:), Lowe’s (NYSE:), Macy’s (NYSE:) and Foot Locker (NYSE:) are among those scheduled to report fourth quarter results during the week. Other companies reporting earnings include Anheuser Busch Inbev (NYSE:), Alibaba (NYSE:), Caesars Entertainment (NASDAQ:), Krispy Kreme (NASDAQ:) and Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:).

In addition to bottom lines, investors will be looking to see how companies are dealing with the supply chain crunch and their views on inflation.

  1. Oil prices

Oil prices could be set for another mixed week as energy traders weigh a potential supply disruption resulting from the Russia-Ukraine crisis against the prospect of increased Iranian oil exports.

Fears over possible supply disruptions from sanctions on top exporter Russia if it attacks Ukraine have supported prices, which have also been underpinned by a recovery in demand from the pandemic.

prices are hovering around $91 a barrel and last week reached their highest level since 2014, while the price for , the global benchmark, is near seven-year highs.

Higher oil prices are contributing to soaring inflation, adding to concerns that the Fed will need to aggressively tighten monetary policy to curb consumer prices.

Investors will also have the chance to measure the effect of higher oil prices on energy companies’ earnings this week when Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:), EOG Resources (NYSE:), NRG Energy (NYSE:), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:) and Coterra Energy (NYSE:) all report.

  1. PMI data

The U.K. and the Eurozone are to release PMI data for February on Monday that may show a boost to economic activity with governments removing more pandemic era restrictions. Germany’s on Tuesday will also be closely watched.

Positive signs of an economic recovery could encourage central banks to unwind post-pandemic stimulus fast.

The Bank of England is on track to raise rates again in March while European Central Bank policymakers are still debating whether rates will need to rise this year in order to curtail inflation.

BoE Governor along with several policymakers are due to appear before Parliament’s Treasury Committee on Wednesday to answer questions on inflation and the economic outlook.

Meanwhile, several ECB officials are due to make appearances during the week, including Vice President Luis and Executive Board member Isabel .

–Reuters contributed to this report

Energy & Precious Metals – Weekly Review and Outlook

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Commodities23 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 07:00AM ET)

Energy & Precious Metals - Weekly Review and Outlook© Reuters

By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com — The nonstop rally in oil has stopped after eight weeks. Or has it?

With crude’s five-minute candle flipping at every three bars this week, the nerves of traders were getting pounded beyond belief, regardless which side they were on. 

As Friday’s 5:00 pm trading halt came, many were just glad the week was over. 

Throughout the day, the texts I got from some of them invariably sounded like this: “Heck, I’m down again!” (that’s from a long who’d been banking on the drums of war over Ukraine to deliver a new $97 high) or “Damn, just can’t win this!” (that’s a bear who thought the strands emerging from the Iranian nuclear deal evolving in Vienna would just sink crude below $88).

At the end, longs won the day with Brent, pulling the market from $90 lows back to mid $93 levels. But the global crude benchmark still fell 1% on the week to snap an eight-week winning streak that proved a win for the bears. Shorts also celebrated on both ends of WTI, sending the U.S. crude benchmark down almost 1% on the day and 2% on the week.

Anyone counting on this order of play to continue when markets officially reopen after Monday’s President’s Day holiday in the U.S. is probably underestimating the gravity of the volatility that oil is being set up for. 

That’s because just after the regular trading session for crude folded on Friday, the “real news” that traders had awaited all day emerged – that the White House could indeed sanction Russia by as early as next week. 

President Biden cited sanctions five times in the text of his speech that evening, reinforcing Vladimir Putin’s conviction that Russia would be penalized even if it did not add to current hostilities. Yet, Moscow was less than forceful in denying Russian provocation of Ukrainian rebels in Donbas, as alleged by Washington. Then, there was the shelling of a Ukrainian kindergarten, which according to Biden, had all the signs of the handiwork of the Russians.

If there was still a semblance of calm over the impending U.S. actions against the Kremlin, it was due to the White House’s assurance that the first sanctions package would not yet disable Russia from accessing the SWIFT international banking system. Of all the risks pegged to the crisis, this outcome would deliver the worst financial hit to Russia, theoretically making its oil as difficult to trade as Iran’s. Given the stretched state of crude supplies in the market – both real and hyped – oil’s potential ascension to $100 a barrel or even $125 should not be disputed.

On the other end of the divide, Iran is slowly and surely working its way back into the legitimate market for oil exports with each passing day.

The draft of conditions, or rather roadmap of return, laid out to Tehran by world powers seeks to extract first from Iran compliance and proof that they have brought their nuclear enrichment to levels that would practically not harm the world anymore. Given Tehran’s earlier demands that the liftoff of sanctions on their oil not be conditional at all and that it’ll obey all rulings later, one wonders whether the draft is set up to fail from the start. 

If Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, is to be taken to his word, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Yet, it was also Kani who announced jubilantly this week that “we are closer than ever to an agreement”. That tweet of his that sent crude prices down almost $5 a barrel at one point last week. 

As French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his parliament: “Political decisions are needed from the Iranians. Either they trigger a serious crisis in the coming days, or they accept the agreement which respects the interests of all parties. We have reached (the) tipping point now. It’s not a matter of weeks; it’s a matter of days” for a deal. So, an agreement could still be reached under extraordinary circumstances.”

As a sweetener to reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, world powers are also waving in Iran’s face a $7 billion carrot that actually happens to be the Islamic Republic’s own money stuck in South Korean banks under the sanctions imposed by Washington. The release of these funds is to be in exchange for the release of Western prisoners held in Iran, which U.S. lead negotiator Robert Malley has said will be a requirement.

Iran is likely to agree to this cash-for-prisoners exchange as the money would be extremely helpful for its immediate economic needs (detractors would argue that the cash would further enable the Islamic Republic to act against Israel and Western interests). But we could also look at Iran reinvesting a significant portion of the money towards rebuilding its oil industry. This would help it bulk up production beyond current capacity and challenge others within OPEC and the extended OPEC+ for more market share. More barrels from Iran would mean more downward pressure on crude prices.

To recap from the past few weeks, the risks to oil from Iran’s side includes the potential return of one million barrels daily or more to the market (this estimate remains contentious); the unlocking of an estimated 12 million to 14 million barrels of Iranian crude held as “bonded storage” in Chinese ports; and price undercutting on mainly Saudi oil for Tehran to quickly win market share. 

As worrying as all this may be to the “higher for longer” price dream of oil bulls, a Reuters story from last week surreptitiously said that OPEC+ will work to incorporate Iran into its strategy quickly – an acknowledgment of how a hungry and competitive oil exporter with barrels to sell could upset the alliance’s strategy of squeezing production to create artificial supply shortages.

As I wrote earlier this week, are such polar opposites to oil – with the first representing a bear case (more barrels eventually from Tehran) and the second a bull case (U.S. sanctions on Russian energy exports in the event of an invasion) – that it pays to examine the permutations in each. 

In my years of reporting and analyzing about oil, rarely have two divergent themes coexisted this closely in shaping the narrative and pricing for crude. 

Oil Prices & Technical Outlook

London-traded , the global benchmark for oil, settled up 57 cents, or 0.6%, at $93.54 a barrel.  For the week, Brent fell 1% for its first weekly decline, following seven weeks of gains that added some 27% to the global crude benchmark.

New York-traded , the benchmark for U.S. crude, settled down 69 cents, or 0.8%, at $91.07. For the week, WTI fell around 2%, its first weekly drop after a seven-week rally that netted the U.S. crude benchmark 31% in gains.

Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at skcharting.com, said WTI could retest $95.80 and visit much touted $100 and $106.80 levels in the coming week or even drop below $89 – such is the range for a market being pulled at all corners after a two-month long rally that appears at exhaustion point.

“For sure, we’ve seen a break in the eight-week long winning streak. With that,  WTI has formed a potentially bearish price reversal top at $95.80 with a weekly closing at $91.80 and support at the 5-week Exponential Moving Average of $89.80 and the tested low of $89.”

Dixit added that WTI’s stochastic reading of 88/92 makes for a negative crossover while its Relative Strength Indicator reading of 67 has started pointing downward, indicating possibilities of a further correction if prices break below $89.

“Outlook for the week ahead is a tad bearish with mixed reactions between the $95.80 resistance and $89 support. Reactions to the 50% and 61.8% retracements of $92.40 and $93.20 will be monitored closely by bears for an opportunity. A retest and failure to consolidate above this zone may extend the correction to $84.80 followed by $78 over an extended period of time. But if prices consolidate above this area, oil is likely to retest 95.80 and visit much touted $100 and $106.80.”

Gold Price & Market Activity

Gold prices dipped on Friday but finished up for a third week in a row, with the biggest weekly gain in three months, as a combination of geopolitical concerns over the Russia-Ukraine conflict and soaring U.S. inflation drove a horde of safe-haven buyers into the yellow metal.

Gold’s most active contract on New York’s Comex, , slipped $2,.20 to settle Friday’s trade down 0.1% at $1,899.80 an ounce ahead of the long weekend break leading into Monday’s market holiday for the US President’s Day.

For the week, the benchmark gold futures contract rose 3.1%, its most for a week since November.

Earlier on Friday, it hit an intraday peak of $1,905, marking an eight-month high with June being the last time when gold got to $1,900 levels.

“Gold prices have had quite a February and should find key resistance around the $1,930 level,” said Ed Moya, analyst at online trading platform OANDA.  “With Monday being a holiday in the U.S. that might hold if Ukraine tensions do not escalate further.” 

“In just a couple of months, investors have done an about-face with gold,” added Moya. “Wall Street has gone from expecting robust economic growth around 4% this year and a return to normal next year, to fears that aggressive Fed tightening could invert the curve next year and send this economy into a recession early in 2024.”

The U.S. economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2021, its fastest since 1984, from a 3.5% contraction in 2020 caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

But inflation grew even faster, with the Consumer Price Index expanding 7.0% in the year to December, its most since 1982. 

The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation tool, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, expanded by 5.8% in the year to January. 

The Fed slashed interest rates to almost zero after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.  It is expected to resort to a series of rate hikes this year to counter inflation. 

Gold Technical Outlook

According to skcharting’s Dixit, gold appears largely on an upward momentum that could take it as high as $1,975 in the midterm.

Dixit noted that gold recorded its third positive week after strong momentum triggered by fears of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, breaching $1,900 for a $1,902 high and completing a $58 jump before settling the week at $1,897, slightly below $1,900.

“Stochastics, RSI and MACD are all positioned for a bigger rally while some healthy corrections can hardly be ruled out,” said Dixit. “As for the week ahead, prices will largely be driven by geopolitical developments which may continue making gold trades choppy and volatile.”

Dixit said short-term support was seen at $1,890-$1,886 while upside momentum could gain affirmation at above $1,902, targeting the subsequent levels of $1,916-$1,920 and $1,950-$1,975.

“The caveat though is that if gold breaks down and sustains a move below $1,890-$1,886, it will push it to $1,874 – a critical level that could trigger a further downside of $1,860 to $1,825.”


Disclaimer: Barani Krishnan does not hold a position in the commodities and securities he writes about.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth catches COVID

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Commodities9 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 09:50AM ET)

Britain's Queen Elizabeth catches COVID© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth speaks during an audience where she met the incoming and outgoing Defence Service Secretaries at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain, February 16, 2022. Steve Parsons/Pool via REUTERS

By Peter Nicholls

WINDSOR, England (Reuters) -Queen Elizabeth tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, sharpening concerns about the health of the world’s longest-reigning monarch two weeks after she marked 70 years on the British throne.

The 95-year-old queen, who has been fully vaccinated against coronavirus, quipped just four days ago to Palace staff that she could not move much, and she spent a night in hospital last October for an unspecified ailment.

“The Queen has today tested positive for COVID,” the Palace said. “Her Majesty is experiencing mild cold like symptoms but expects to continue light duties at Windsor over the coming week.”

“She will continue to receive medical attention and will follow all appropriate guidelines,” the Palace said.

A number of staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at Windsor, the ancient castle where Elizabeth, the world’s oldest monarch, spent much of her time during lockdowns designed to contain the pandemic.

Philip, the queen’s husband of more than 70 years, died in April last year, aged 99.

Their son, Charles, 73, the heir to the throne, earlier this month contracted COVID-19 for a second time. He had met the queen days before.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has said he nearly died from COVID-19 in 2020, was due to scrap coronavirus self-isolation rules as part of a “living with COVID” strategy that aims to achieve a faster exit from the pandemic than other major economies.

“I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing Her Majesty The Queen a swift recovery from COVID and a rapid return to vibrant good health,” Johnson said on Twitter (NYSE:).

DEVOTION TO DUTY

The queen quietly marked the 70th anniversary of her accession to the British throne in early February.

Elizabeth became the queen of Britain and more than a dozen other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand on the death of her father King George VI on Feb. 6, 1952, while she was in Kenya on an international tour.

She is the first British sovereign to spend seven decades on the throne in a dynasty that traces its origins back almost 1,000 years to Norman King William I and his 1066 conquest of England.

Elizabeth’s achievement has been to maintain the popularity of the British monarchy in the face of seismic political, social and cultural change that threatened to make the world’s most famous royal family an anachronism.

When she ascended the throne, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Harry Truman were running the Soviet Union, China and the United States, respectively, while Winston Churchill was British prime minister.

Including Churchill, she has been served by 14 prime ministers – a quarter of the number in Britain since Robert Walpole 300 years ago. During her reign, there have been 14 U.S. presidents, all of whom she has met bar Lyndon Johnson.

Elizabeth’s quiet devotion to duty has won her support and respect in the United Kingdom, and the broader Commonwealth, in contrast to the scandals that have engulfed other members of the royal family.

“She’s an icon, she’s an icon of the UK: she is an epitome of the UK in some ways, most people in the country have never known any monarch other than her,” Steven Stepanian, who works as a consultant in London, told Reuters.

Shashi Vandrevala, a 72-year-old retiree, said: “She has to get better, we can’t afford to lose her yet.”

ROYAL FUTURE

The queen has in recent years attempted to pass more duties to her heir, Charles, and to his eldest son, Prince William, and his wife, Kate.

There are, though, concerns about the future. Such is the depth of respect for the queen that while she lives, the institution will be safe. What will follow is less certain.

Supporters see the queen as a unifying figure who bolsters Britain’s prestige and economy. Opponents say the institution is a bastion of undeserved privilege, funded in part by taxpayers and undermined by some members’ behaviour.

Prince Andrew, Elizabeth’s second son, last week settled a lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager. Andrew, a former associate of Jeffrey Epstein, has denied accusations that he forced Giuffre to have sex at age 17 more than two decades ago.

Meanwhile, Prince Harry, once the Windsors’ most popular member, and his American wife Meghan gave up their royal duties to move to Los Angeles. Meghan last year said concerns within the family had been raised over the skin colour of their son.

She also accused the family of neglect, saying she ended up with suicidal thoughts after pleading for help and getting none. The queen said some recollections may vary.

British police said last week they had begun an investigation into allegations in media reports that honours were offered to a Saudi national in return for donations to one of Prince Charles’s charities.

For many British people, though, the queen is very special.

As news of her COVID-19 infection spread, message boards in the London underground stations carried a goodwill message to the monarch, urging her to relax with her dogs.

“Get better soon Your Majesty – chill out with the Corgis,” the message read. “Get plenty of rest. You’re simply the best. Thanks for being such a wonderful queen.”

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Biden agrees in principle to Ukraine summit with Putin

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Biden agrees in principle to Ukraine summit with Putin© Reuters. A helicopter flies over troops during the joint military drills of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus at a firing range in the Brest Region, Belarus February 19, 2022. Vadim Yakubyonok/Belta/Handout via REUTERS

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(Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed in principle to a summit over Ukraine, the French leader said on Monday, offering a possible path out of one of the most dangerous European crises in decades.

Financial markets edged higher on the glimmer of hope for a diplomatic solution even as satellite imagery appeared to show Russian deployments closer to Ukraine’s border, while sounds of fighting were heard on Monday in the east, where Ukrainian government forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement he had pitched to both leaders a summit on “security and strategic stability in Europe.” In a statement, the White House said Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened”.

“We are always ready for diplomacy,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences, should Russia instead choose war.”

Messages seeking comment from the Kremlin and the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy were not immediately returned early on Monday.

Few details of the proposed summit, announced after a volley of phone calls between Macron, Biden, Putin, Zelenskiy, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are clear.

Macron’s office and the White House said the substance of the plan would be worked out by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during their meeting planned for Feb. 24.

What role Ukraine would play in the summit, if any, was also uncertain.

A Biden administration official said in an email that the summit was “completely notional” as the timing and format had yet to be determined.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said there was a pressing need for talks to avoid war, while Germany said Russia should come back to the negotiating table.

While oil prices fell, Asian share markets pared losses and Wall Street futures rallied on news of the possible summit, Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said he was sceptical it would happen.

“But if Biden and Putin did meet, they should invite (Zelenskiy) to join,” he said in a message posted on Twitter (NYSE:).

News of Macron’s proposal comes after a week of heightened tension spurred by Russia’s military buildup.

Russian forces have been massing around its neighbour since late last year, in what Western countries say is a prelude to an invasion that could come at any moment.

Russia denies any intention to invade, but nerves were further frayed when the Belarusian defence ministry announced that Russia would extend military drills in Belarus that had been due to end on Sunday.

U.S.-based satellite imagery company Maxar reported multiple new deployments of Russian military units in forests, farms, and industrial areas as little as 15 km (9 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

On Sunday, Blinken said the extension of the exercises in Belarus, bordering Ukraine to the north, made him more worried that Russia was on the brink of an attack and every opportunity had to be taken to get diplomacy to work.

Belarus said Russian troops would go home from the exercises when there was “an objective need” to do so, the Interfax news agency said.

In a letter to U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, seen by Reuters, the United States raised concern that “further Russian invasion of Ukraine may create a human rights catastrophe”, including the possible rounding up and killing of opponents.

SPORADIC SHELLING

Sporadic shelling across the line dividing Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east has intensified since Thursday.

Sounds of fighting were heard again on Monday, including a blast in the centre of the separatist-held city of Donetsk. The cause was not known.

The rebels said two civilians were killed in shelling by Kyiv government forces, Russia’s RIA news agency said. Russian media reported 61,000 evacuees from east Ukraine had crossed into Russia.

Kyiv has accused pro-Russian forces of shelling their own compatriots in the breakaway region in order to blame the attacks on Ukrainian government forces.

Western countries are preparing sanctions they say would be wide-reaching against Russian companies and individuals in case of an invasion, including steps to bar U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for major Russian banks, people familiar with the matter said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC such measures could include curbs on Russian businesses’ access to the dollar and the pound.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ARD that Russia “would in principle be cut off from the international financial markets” and from major European exports.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said it was time for the West to impose at least part of the sanctions it has prepared, but the Biden administration has declined to do so, saying their deterrent effect would be lost if used too soon.

Surging oil prices add another worry for frazzled investors

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Economy10 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 09:00AM ET)

Surging oil prices add another worry for frazzled investors© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A U.S. stock market, already on edge from a hawkish Federal Reserve and a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, now has another worry: higher oil prices.

prices stand at around $91 a barrel after surging some 40% since Dec. 1 and earlier this week touched their highest level since 2014. Prices for , the global benchmark, have also soared and are near 7-year highs.

Rapidly rising oil prices can be a troubling development for markets, as they cloud the economic outlook by increasing costs for businesses and consumers. Higher crude also threatens to accelerate already-surging inflation, compounding worries that the Fed will need to aggressively tighten monetary policy to tamp down consumer prices.

“The stock market would really run into trouble if we went north of $125 per barrel and stayed there for a while because that would overheat high levels of inflation,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities. “That means that the Fed would have to be a lot more aggressive and that certainly would not be a pleasant scenario for the stock market.”

Rising tensions between Russia – one of the world’s largest oil producers – and Ukraine recently helped drive the rally in oil, which had been supported by a recovery in demand from the coronavirus pandemic.

Capital Economics analysts said earlier this week that crude oil and prices would surge if the conflict in Ukraine escalated “even if they fall back relatively quickly as the dust settles.”

Elevated oil prices contributed to the rise in U.S. inflation, which grew at its fastest pace in nearly four decades last month: While overall consumer prices rose 7.5% year-over-year in January, the index’s energy component rose by 27%.

Each “sustained” $10 increase in the price of oil per barrel adds about 0.3 percentage points to the overall consumer price index, on a year-over-year basis, according to analysts at Oxford Economics.

“The largest impact of higher oil prices is on consumer price inflation and it adds further to the pressure for the Fed to be more aggressive,” Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics, said in emailed comments to Reuters.

The benchmark is down over 8% this year while the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has risen by 40 basis points to over 1.9%. Investors are pricing the Fed funds rate to rise to above 1.50% by the end of 2022, from near zero now, according to Refinitiv’s Fedwatch tool.

CONSUMER SPENDING IMPACT

Rising crude is already raising costs for businesses and drivers. The national U.S. average for gasoline recently stood at $3.48 a gallon, automobile group AAA said earlier this week, up 18 cents from a month earlier and 98 cents from a year ago.

As gasoline prices rise, investors are monitoring trends for consumers, whose spending accounts for over two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Data on Wednesday showed U.S. retail sales increased by the most in 10 months in January, but last week’s consumer sentiment reading came in at its lowest level in more than a decade in early February.

“The risk is that if gas prices at the pump start going up that means less discretionary spending for consumers at a time when a lot of their fiscal benefits from the last couple years are fading,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street (NYSE:) Global Advisors.

Investors are gauging the effect of higher oil on companies’ earnings. Typically, rising oil prices are estimated to lift overall S&P 500 earnings by about $1 per share for every $5 increase in the price of crude, according to David Bianco, Americas chief investment officer at DWS Group, with benefits to energy firms outweighing the drag on earnings of airlines and other companies potentially hurt by higher crude costs. That amounts to about 0.4% of total S&P 500 earnings expected for 2022.

The S&P 500 energy sector is up 22% so far in 2022 while fund managers in the latest BofA Global Research survey reported their highest allocation to energy stocks since March 2012.

But with oil prices already near seven-year highs, and energy stocks comprising a far lower share of the market than a decade ago, those slim bottom-line benefits may be overshadowed by inflation worries if crude keeps charging higher, some investors said.

“Higher oil prices, without a recession, raise S&P profits,” Bianco said. “But not as much as it used to and you definitely don’t want this happening when the Fed is fighting inflation.”

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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