February 5, 2023

Pakistan’s Musharraf, military ruler who allied with the U.S. and promoted moderate Islam


Pakistan's Musharraf, military ruler who allied with the U.S. and promoted moderate Islam© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Pakistan’s former President, Pervez Musharraf, addresses his supporters after his arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi March 24, 2013. Musharraf returned home on Sunday after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to


ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pervez Musharraf, the four-star general who ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999, oversaw rapid economic growth and attempted to usher in socially liberal values in the conservative Muslim country.

Musharraf, 79, died in hospital after a long illness after spending years in self-imposed exile, Pakistan media reported on Sunday. He enjoyed strong support for many years, his greatest threat al Qaeda and other militant Islamists who tried to kill him at least three times.

But his heavy-handed use of the military to quell dissent as well as his continued backing of the United States in its fight against al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban ultimately led to his downfall.

Born in New Delhi in 1943, Musharraf was four years old when his parents joined the mass exodus by Muslims to the newly created state of Pakistan. His father served in the foreign ministry, while his mother was a teacher and the family subscribed to a moderate, tolerant brand of Islam.

He joined the army at the age of 18, and went on to lead an elite commando unit before rising to become its chief. He took power by ousting the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who had tried to sack him for greenlighting an operation to invade Indian-held areas of Kashmir, bringing Pakistan and India to the brink of war.

In his early years in government, Musharraf won plaudits internationally for his reformist efforts, pushing through legislation to protect the rights of women and allowing private news channels to operate for the first time.

His penchant for cigars and imported whisky and his calls for Muslims to adopt a lifestyle of “enlightened moderation” increased his appeal in the West in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

He became one of Washington’s most important allies after the attacks, allowing U.S. forces to operate armed drones from secret bases on Pakistani soil that killed thousands and ordering domestic troops into the country’s lawless tribal areas along the Afghanistan frontier for the first time Pakistan’s history.

That helped legitimise his rule overseas but also helped plunge Pakistan into a bloody war against local extremist militant groups.

In a 2006 memoir, he took credit for saving Pakistan from American wrath saying the country had been warned it needed to be “prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age” if it did not ally itself with Washington.

Musharraf also successfully lobbied then-President George W. Bush to pour money into the Pakistani military. Still, the army’s allegiances were never unambiguous: its powerful intelligence services cut deals with the Taliban and al Qaeda, and bolstered an insurgency fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

In other areas of foreign policy, Musharraf attempted to normalise relations between New Delhi and Islamabad.

At a regional summit in 2002, less than three years after launching the military operation against India, Musharraf shocked the world when, after finishing a speech, he suddenly moved towards Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to shake hands and offered to talk peace.

Analysts say the issue of Kashmir – which remains the most potent point of contention between India and Pakistan – was close to being solved during the Musharraf era. But the peace process was derailed soon after his rule.

Under Musharraf, foreign investment flourished and Pakistan saw annual economic growth of as much as 7.5% – which remains the highest level in nearly three decades, according to World Bank data.

The later years of his presidency were, however overshadowed, by his increasingly authoritarian rule. In 2006, Musharraf ordered military action that killed a tribal head from the province Balochistan, laying the foundations of an armed insurgency that rages to this day.

The next year, more than a hundred students calling for the imposition of Sharia law were killed after Musharraf shunned negotiations and ordered troops to storm a mosque in Islamabad. That led to the birth of a new militant group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has since killed tens of thousands in suicide bombings and brazen assaults.

Later in 2007, a suicide attack that assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, triggered waves of violence. His efforts to strong arm the judiciary also led to protests and a besieged Musharraf postponed elections and declared a state of emergency.

In 2008, the country’s first democratic elections in 11 years were held. Musharraf’s party lost and facing impeachment by parliament he resigned the presidency and fled to London.

He returned to Pakistan in 2013 to run for a seat in parliament but was immediately disqualified. He was allowed to leave for Dubai in 2016.

In 2019, a court sentenced him to death in absentia for the 2007 imposition of emergency rule but the verdict was later overturned.

Foxconn’s January sales surge as China COVID disruption shaken off

Stock Markets 6 hours ago (Feb 05, 2023 03:10AM ET)

Foxconn's January sales surge as China COVID disruption shaken off© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Foxconn is seen outside the company’s building in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics maker and major iPhone assembler for Apple Inc (NASDAQ:), said on Sunday its revenue in January jumped 48.2% year-on-year, as it shook off COVID disruptions in China.

Revenue in January reached a record high, at T$660.4 billion ($22 billion), with operations returning to normal and shipments increasing at its Zhengzhou campus in China, a centre for iPhone production, the company said in a statement.

Compared to the previous month, revenue was up 4.93% with smart consumer electronics products, which includes smartphones, and computing products showing strong double-digit growth, it said.

Production of iPhones faced disruption ahead of Christmas and January’s Lunar New Year holidays, after curbs to control COVID-19 prompted thousands of workers to leave Foxconn’s factory lines in Zhengzhou.

Analysts say Foxconn assembles around 70% of iPhones, and the Zhengzhou plant produces the majority of its premium models including the iPhone 14 Pro.

“Based on market consensus for first quarter 2023, January revenue came in slightly ahead. The outlook for the first quarter will likely reach market expectation,” Foxconn said without elaborating.

Analysts expect first-quarter revenue to grow by around 4% year-on-year, according to Refinitiv.

Apple on Thursday forecast its revenue would fall for a second quarter in a row but that iPhone sales were likely to improve as production had returned to normal in China after the COVID-related shutdowns.

Foxconn shares have slid 0.3% so far this year, underperforming the broader Taiwan market which is up 10.4%.

The company reports fourth quarter earnings, where it will also elaborate on its outlook, on March 15.

($1 = 29.9660 Taiwan dollars)

Pakistan’s former President Musharraf, key U.S. ally against al Qaeda, is dead


Pakistan's former President Musharraf, key U.S. ally against al Qaeda, is dead© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf poses for a picture after an interview with Reuters in London January 16, 2011. Musharraf said on Sunday that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws could not be changed, but that the man who killed the governor


By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam and Ghaida Ghantous

ISLAMABAD/DUBAI (Reuters) – Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the campaign against al Qaeda following the militant group’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, died in Dubai on Sunday after a prolonged illness. He was 79.

Musharraf, a former four-star general who seized power after a 1999 military coup, died in hospital in Dubai, where he was living in self-imposed exile since 2016. His body will be flown to Pakistan for burial on Monday, Geo News reported.

“I offer my condolences to the family of General Pervez Musharraf,” tweeted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. “May the departed soul rest in peace.”

Musharraf was suffering from a rare organ disease called amyloidosis, and was admitted to hospital last year after he became critically ill, his family said. 

He was credited with attracting foreign investment to Pakistan, which saw the strongest economic growth in nearly 30 years during his rule, and he enjoyed the support of the military and Pakistanis who backed his crackdown against militant groups.

But his decade-long rule was also marred by a heavy-handed approach to dissent, which included arresting rivals such as current prime minister Sharif and the imposing of an almost six-week long state of emergency in which he suspended the constitution and censored the media.

“He failed to build on his early popularity to effect sustainable economic and political reforms and became a captive of military power and vested interests,” said Shuja Nawaz, author of several books on Pakistan’s military and a fellow at U.S. think-tank Atlantic Council.

A graduate from a Christian high school, Musharraf was keen for Pakistan to embrace liberal Islam, an approach that increased his appeal in the West following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Musharraf joined what Washington called its “war on terror”, giving U.S. forces ground and air access into landlocked Afghanistan to chase down al Qaeda militants.

This decision contradicted Pakistan’s long-standing support for the Taliban, which at that point controlled Afghanistan, and made Musharraf a target for domestic militant groups. He survived at least four assassination attempts.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella group of Pakistani militant organisations formed after Musharraf’s crackdown on extremists, celebrated his death.

“This was the infamous army chief who sold off the country’s honour and respect,” it said a statement.

In a 2006 memoir, Musharraf said he “saved” Pakistan by joining the campaign against al Qaeda. He also successfully lobbied the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush to pour money into the nuclear-armed nation’s military, which remains one of the most powerful in South Asia.

Domestically, Musharraf’s iron-fist rule created turmoil. The state of emergency in 2007 aimed to quell protests triggered by a clampdown on the judiciary and the media. That same year, his government was criticised for not providing enough security ahead of the assasination by the Pakistani Taliban of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a political rival killed while on campaign for national elections.

The Musharraf-backed party lost the vote, held months later in 2008. Facing impeachment by parliament, he resigned and fled to London.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan in 2013 to run for parliament but was immediately disqualified. He left for Dubai in 2016, and was sentenced to death in absentia three years later for the state of emergency. The verdict was later overturned.

One of Musharraf’s former political aides told Geo News that he would either be buried in Karachi, his family’s hometown, or Rawalpindi, home to the army’s headquarters.

UK’s shortest-serving PM Liz Truss blames economic ‘orthodoxy’ for downfall

UK's shortest-serving PM Liz Truss blames economic 'orthodoxy' for downfall© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Liz Truss announces her resignation, outside Number 10 Downing Street, London, Britain October 20, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) – Former British prime minister Liz Truss blamed on Sunday the economic “orthodoxy” in the country’s finance ministry, other nations and in parts of the governing Conservative Party for derailing her premiership and “plan for growth”.

Truss’s tenure was cut short last year after her largely unfunded mini budget and tax cuts pushed up borrowing costs and mortgage rates, sent the pound tumbling and shattered Britain’s reputation for financial stability.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper in her first major foray into politics since the abrupt end to her premiership after just over six turbulent weeks in power, Truss wrote she believed her recipe for Britain by cutting taxes and removing some regulation was the right one.

But she was not successful, she wrote, because she had underestimated “the blob of vested interests” and orthodoxy.

“I am not claiming to be blameless in what happened, but fundamentally I was not given a realistic chance to enact my policies by a very powerful economic establishment, coupled with a lack of political support,” she wrote.

“I assumed upon entering Downing Street that my mandate would be respected and accepted. How wrong I was. While I anticipated resistance to my programme from the system, I underestimated the extent of it.”

She blamed the reaction not only on what she described as the left-leaning orthodoxy of the economic establishment but also on liability-driven investments (LDI), which pension funds use to cover their obligations. LDI’s were at the centre of the market turmoil following her mini-budget.

Truss also said she had underestimated “the resistance inside the Conservative parliamentary party to move to a lower-tax, less-regulated economy” and a drive on the global stage to “limit competition” between major economies.

“As I had spelled out during the leadership campaign, I wanted to go for growth … But this was not in line with the instinctive views of the Treasury (finance ministry) or the wider orthodox economic ecosystem.”

Grant Shapps, business minister, said everyone wanted lower taxes but Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government had to focus on reducing debt, bringing down inflation and boosting growth first.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party said it was time for a change of government.

“The Conservatives crashed the economy, sank the pound, put pensions in peril and made working people pay the price through higher mortgages for years to come,” said Rachel Reeves, Labour’s financial policy chief.

“After 13 years of low growth, squeezed wages and higher taxes under the Tories, only Labour offers the leadership and ideas to fix our economy and to get it growing.”

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says situation at the front getting tougher

Ukraine's Zelenskiy says situation at the front getting tougher© Reuters. Rescuers use a crane to remove debris of a multistorey residential building damaged in recent shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Donetsk, Russian-controlled Ukraine, February 4, 2023. REUTERS/Pavel Klimov

By Nick Starkov

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) -Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that the situation on the front lines in the east of the country was getting tougher and Russia was throwing more and more troops into battle.

The Kremlin has been pushing for a significant battlefield victory after months of setbacks, with Russian forces trying to close grip on the town of Bakhmut and fighting for control of a nearby major supply route for Ukrainian forces.

Russian troops are also trying to capture the coal mining city of Vuhledar, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of Bakhmut, also in the eastern region of Donetsk.

“I’ve often had to say the situation at the front is tough, and is getting tougher, and it’s that time again. … The invader is putting more and more of his forces into breaking down our defences,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

“It is very difficult now in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Lyman and other directions,” he continued.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar wrote on Telegram that Russian efforts to break the defences in Bakhmut and Lyman had failed.

Lyman, which lies just to the north of Bakhmut, was liberated by Ukrainian forces in October.

On Friday, Zelenskiy vowed that his forces will fight for Bakhmut “for as long as we can,” but the situation there is becoming increasingly dire for Ukrainian forces.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces has been reporting daily numerous combat clashes in the area and Moscow military bloggers have claimed a number of unverified Russian successes along the frontline.

The fighting around Bakhmut has been costly for Russia in terms of soldiers’ lives, the Kremlin admitted.

Russia’s independent news outlet Meduza reported in late January that some 40,000 of the 50,000 recruits by the powerful Wagner private military group involved in the campaign there were either dead or missing.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.

Ukrainian military analyst Petro Chernyk said that the high Russian casualty count means Moscow cannot take a break to stop an offensive there to recover as it would ease combat pressure.

“And this would be an excellent condition for our counteroffensive actions,” Chernyk told the 24 Kanal Ukrainian television.

Cyprus presidential election goes to runoff


Cyprus presidential election goes to runoff© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman walks next to a poster of Cypriot presidential candidate Nikos Christodoulides in Nicosia, Cyprus February 2, 2023. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou


By Michele Kambas

NICOSIA (Reuters) -Former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides took the lead in Cyprus’s presidential election on Sunday and will face off against leftist-backed candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis in a runoff on Feb. 12.

Christodoulides, running as an independent, took 32% of the vote, with career diplomat Andreas Mavroyiannis, backed by the left-wing AKEL party and generally considered an outsider by opinion polls, presenting the surprise at 29.6%.

Mavroyiannis’s showing defied opinion polls which had shown he would likely trail in third place and would be left out of the runoff. But he had the backing of AKEL, a well-organised party which had cranked up the rallying of its supporters in the past month.

“It comes down to Mavroyiannis having the full backing of a party and that Averof (Neophytou) probably didn’t,” said analyst Fiona Mullen of Sapienta Economics, referring to third-placed Averof Neophytou, leader of the ruling right-wing DISY party. “Its an extraordinary result,” she added.

Neophytou had been publicly endorsed by incumbent President Nicos Anastasiades, who by law cannot seek a second five-year term, but his candidacy was overshadowed by Christodoulides, a party member who broke ranks with DISY to run.

Opinion polls had shown Christodoulides gaining roughly one-third of the DISY votes.

The two frontrunners from Sunday’s vote will now have a week to win over voters, after which the victor will have to wrestle with how to break a deadlock in reunification talks on ethnically split Cyprus, as well as with irregular migration, labour disputes, and repairing the country’s image tarnished by corruption scandals.

Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup. The last round of peace talks collapsed in 2017.

Energy & precious metals – weekly review and outlook

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Commodities Feb 05, 2023 05:04AM ET

Energy & precious metals - weekly review and outlook© Reuters.

By Barani Krishnan

Investing.com — Unemployment and inflation, in theory, are at odds with each other. Taken simply, when more people are unemployed, price pressures are less. But on a deeper level, the so-called inverse relationship is more complicated. And it can break down. For instance, the blowout U.S. jobs numbers for January released Friday, on the back of what the Fed calls disinflation. And this week’s oil market crash on that.

Historically, there has been a strong positive correlation between jobs and crude prices. And that’s quite logical. When a greater number of people have jobs and are commuting to them (notwithstanding the post-pandemic work-from-home culture), the more transportation fuels, gasoline included, would be needed to move them around.

So, not surprisingly, upon release of the January , or NFP, report from the Labor Department, crude prices rose more than 2.5% as oil bulls tried to exploit the typical connection between such data and energy demand.

But the dollar’s rapid surge on the same jobs report put paid to crude’s advance.

Oil eventually capsized in a sea of red with gold and other commodities as the dollar’s rebound from 10-month lows made raw materials priced in the U.S. currency costlier for non-dollar holders.

Crude prices settled the week down 7%, taking global benchmark Brent to below $80 per barrel while bringing WTI, or the U.S. West Texas Intermediate, to the low $70s.

It proved one thing: Good U.S. jobs numbers are no longer an assurance for higher oil prices – not when you have a rebounding dollar and rate uncertainty to contend with.

According to the NFP report, some 517,000 jobs were added last month – almost three times above the forecast growth of 185,000 and against December’s number of 260,000. The outperformance threw a fresh challenge to the Federal Reserve, which had been hoping its aggressive rate hikes over the past year would have sufficiently cooled the labor market and wages to get inflation back to its target.

The and yields on the , which act as contra trades against risk assets that include stocks and commodities, surged on the NFP report. They could continue rising if the Fed rethinks its plan about further consolidating rate hikes this year. The central bank went from a 50-basis point rate hike in December to 25-basis points in February.

As though sensing a tougher challenge for this year, Fed Chair Jerome Powell told a news conference on Wednesday that while the pace of job gains had slowed late last year, “the labor market continues to be out of balance”.

The Fed has increased rates by 450 basis points in a monetary tightening cycle that began in March 2022, two years after the coronavirus outbreak, which led to trillions of dollars in relief spending that pumped up the economy and triggered runaway inflation.

Inflation, as measured by the CPI, or , hit four-decade highs in June when it expanded at 9.1% yearly. In December, the CPI grew at 6.5% per annum, its slowest since October 2021. But it was still more than three times the Fed’s target of 2% per annum.

Yet, Powell saw it fit to say that “for the first time, the disinflationary process has started.”

“We can see it,” he said. “We see it really in goods prices so far.”

Fed maneuvers aside, oil prices were on the back foot after a sixth straight weekly build in U.S. crude, along with surpluses in fuels, reported by the EIA, or Energy Information Administration, this week.

rose by 4.14M barrels during the week ended Jan. 27, the EIA said in its Weekly Petroleum Status Report. The build was above the 0.376M forecast by industry analysts and compared with the rise of 0.533M reported by the EIA during the previous week to Jan 20.

For context, the EIA has reported a total crude build of 34.5M barrels over the past six weeks. At current standing, crude stockpiles are at the highest since June 2021, said the EIA, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.

On the front, the EIA cited a build of 2.576M barrels, versus the forecast of 1.442M and the previous week’s rise of 1.763M.

Gasoline inventories have gone up by almost 13 million barrels since 2023 began. Automotive fuel is the No. 1 U.S. fuel product.

also rose, for the first time in five weeks. Here, there was a build of 2.32M barrels versus the expected deficit of 1.3M. In the previous week, distillate draws stood at 507,000 barrels.

Until last week, distillates – which are refined into , diesel for trucks, buses, trains, and ships, and fuel for jets – were the strongest component of U.S. petroleum demand. Prior to the build in the latest week, distillate stockpiles had fallen by around 5 million barrels over four weeks.

“Commercial storage in North America is ample,” Norbert Ruecker, economist at the bank Julius Baer, said in comments carried by Reuters. “The improved market mood has lifted prices of late, but this support should remain temporary. We see lower prices longer term, in line with the futures market’s expectations.”

Also weighing on the market was OPEC+’s decision this week to leave production levels unchanged and uncertainties over how well demand from China would fare in February – more than a month after the top crude importer abandoned all COVID restrictions.

On China’s side, crude imports were assessed at 10.98M bpd, or barrels per day, in January, down from December’s 11.37M bpd and November’s 11.42M bpd, a Reuters report said Thursday. Part of the decline in Chinese imports was likely due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell on January 22 this year, the report added.

ANZ analysts concurred with that, noting a sharp jump in traffic in China’s 15 largest cities following the Lunar New Year holiday but acknowledging that Chinese oil traders had been “relatively absent” from the market.

Despite this, Asia’s total crude oil imports jumped by 11.1% month over month to 29.13 million bpd in January. The imports last month beat the previous record from November, when Asia imported 29.10 million bpd of crude oil. This is the sort of data that those long the market are counting on for a rebound of the market in the coming weeks.

The European Union’s new sanctions on Russian fuel products, which came into force on Sunday, could hit Moscow’s energy revenue, but are unlikely to weigh on its overall production, said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler.

A coalition of Group of Seven economies, the EU and Australia set caps at $100 per barrel on products that trade at a premium to crude, principally diesel, and $45 per barrel for products that trade at a discount, such as fuel oil and naphtha. The same group on Dec. 5 set a $60 cap on Russian crude oil.

Like the crude price cap, the ones on Russian fuels will further weigh on the flat price of diesel and other products, even if the limits are way above selling prices, said Smith.

That will fulfill another agenda of the G7 and its allies, that is seldom discussed in the media. And that is to make sure Russia’s oil and energy products reach the markets, but not at the prices the Kremlin wants.

The Biden administration, particularly, is hoping the caps will force Vladimir Putin to put out even more barrels to fund his war against Ukraine. That will indirectly suppress global energy prices further – a gift to fighting inflation.

Oil: Market Settlements and Activity

New York-traded West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, crude for had a final trade of $73.23 on Friday, after settling at $73.39 a barrel, down $2.49, or 3.2% on the day. For the week, WTI dropped by just over 7.5%. Month-to-date, the U.S. crude benchmark was also down about 7%, extending its near 9% slide over three previous months.

London-traded Brent crude for registered a final trade of $79.82, after settling at $79.94, down $2.23, or 2.7%. Brent earlier hit a three-week low at $79.89. For the week, the global crude benchmark was down about 7.5%, after last week’s near 3% loss. For February thus far, Brent has lost 5.4%, extending its 6.5% slide since the end of December.

Oil: Price Outlook

WTI’s technicals point to a chance of a further drop below $70 per barrel in the coming week, said Sunil Kumar Dixit, chief technical strategist at SKCharting.com.

“Despite a previously strong upward move, WTI failed to hold temporary gains and fell from a $80.50 weekly high and closed at $73.20, well below the $76.40 and $75.50 support,” Dixit said.

Any recovery towards $75.40 and $76.40 will attract sellers, resuming a decline towards the 50-month Exponential Moving Average of $71.80 and the December low of $70.10, Dixit said.

The U.S. crude benchmark’s long-term support of the 200-week Simple Moving Average of $65.78 remains untested, he added.

Natural gas: Market Settlements and Activity

Natural gas futures tumbled for a seventh straight week as the heating fuel continued its descent into a seemingly bottomless abyss despite the arrival of freezing weather in the key Northeastern U.S. region, which until this week had experienced an unusually warm winter.

The on the New York Mercantile Exchange’s Henry Hub settled down 4.6 cents, or 1.8%, at $2.385 per mmBtu, or million metric British thermal units. The session bottom was $2.343, which marked a low not seen since Dec. 29, 2020, when it fell to $2.282.

For the week, the benchmark gas futures contract lost 15.4%, extending to 63% its tumble from December’s $7 high. Prior to that, it traded at a 14-year peak of $10 in August.

An unusually warm start to the 2022/23 winter has led to considerably less heating demand in the United States versus the norm, leaving more gas in storage than initially thought.

At the close of last week, U.S. stood at 2.583 tcf, or trillion cubic feet, up 9.4% from the year-ago level of 2.361 tcf, data from the Energy Information Administration showed.

Since the start of this week though, the weather has been colder, reaching 20 Fahrenheit (-6.7 Celsius) on Friday in New York City and some other key locations in the U.S. Northeast, which accounts for the largest heating market in the United States.

Natural gas: Price Outlook

“Gas has gone to extreme oversold conditions and its weekly Relative Strength Index is now at 28, matching the pattern of the 8 bearish weeks during its decline from a $10 peak to $4.75,” said Dixit of SKCharting.

He said a short-term rebound from this week’s $2.35 low was a possibility, but this needs clear acceptance above $2.87 for an upside potential towards $3.30.

“Sustainability below $2.87 will keep prices under pressure and trying to dig deeper.”

Gold: Market Settlements and Activity

Gold tumbled almost 3% on Friday after a blockbuster U.S. jobs report for January triggered profit-taking on the precious metal’s long-running rally, putting it way off the $2,000-an-ounce target eyed by bulls in the space.

Gold for on New York’s Comex did a final trade of $1,877.70 on Friday, after settling at $1,868.30 an ounce, down $53.90, or 2.8%. It hit a four-week low of $1,874.55 during the session.

It was the first time since Jan. 12 that gold’s $1,900 support on Comex had crumbled.

The , more closely followed than futures by some traders, was at $1,864.93, down $47.64, or 2.49%.

Gold’s plunge came as the Dollar Index and yields on the U.S. 10-year Treasury note surged after the U.S. Labor Department reported a non-farm payrolls growth for January that was almost three times above forecast, throwing a fresh challenge to the Federal Reserve’s hopes of seeing a cooling of the labor market and wages to get inflation to its target.

Gold: Price Outlook

Dixit noted that it took gold just two days to undo its 30-day climb from $1,860 to $1,960.

“Going in to the week ahead, gold needs to hold defense at the 50-Day EMA of $1,854, failing which the metal runs the risk of a correction extending toward $1,842 and $1,828,” he said.

Any recovery, meanwhile, faces challenges at $1,878-$1,885, followed by $1,900-$1,914. before retesting major resistance and supply zone at $1,929, Dixit said.

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

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 — It’s set to be a much quieter week on the economic calendar, but there’s still plenty for markets to mull over after last week’s rate hike by the Federal Reserve and Friday’s unexpectedly strong U.S. nonfarm payrolls report. Earnings season continues with media and consumer stocks in the spotlight. The Reserve Bank of Australia is set to hike rates again, while data in the Eurozone and the U.K. will be closely watched. Here’s what you need to know to start your week.

  1. Powell speech

After Friday’s forced investors to recalibrate expectations over how hawkish the Fed may need to be in its efforts to rein in inflation, markets will be closely watching an appearance by Fed Chair Jerome on Tuesday.

The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added jobs in January, almost three times what was expected.

Last week Powell acknowledged progress in the fight again inflation, but the unexpectedly strong jobs data has potentially given the central bank more leeway to keep hiking rates.

Investors are fearful that the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes will plunge the economy into a recession.

There will be an update on the labor market with Thursday’s numbers, while several other Fed officials are also scheduled to make appearances, including New York Fed President John , Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari and Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic.

  1. Earnings season

Earnings season rumbles on with media and consumer industry stocks taking their turn at the fore.

Walt Disney (NYSE:), which faces a proxy battle over board representation, and News Corp (NASDAQ:), which scrapped a plan to reunite with Fox Corp, are reporting on Wednesday and Thursday, while the New York Times (NYSE:) is also due to report on Wednesday.

Earnings from PepsiCo (NASDAQ:) and Kellogg (NYSE:) on Thursday will offer insight into how consumers are grappling with inflation. More than 90 companies are expected to post results in the coming week.

With 190 companies having reported, S&P 500 earnings are set to have declined 2.4% in the fourth quarter from a year ago – a steeper fall than the 1.6% drop predicted on Jan. 1, according to Refinitiv data.

  1. Central banks

Markets are expecting another quarter-point rate hike by the on Tuesday after surged to the highest level in 33 years in the last quarter, defying the RBA’s aggressive tightening campaign.

Other economic data shocked the other way as retail sales fell by the most since during the pandemic and house prices suffered their biggest drop since at least 1980.

The dollar’s outlook is untarnished: as long as China’s reopening is on track, the currency should push higher.

Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India’s inflation fight may be over, with economists forecasting another 25 basis point on Wednesday before a pause.

  1. Eurozone

Comments by European Central Bank officials will be closely watched after the hiked rates by 50 basis points last Thursday and all but promised more of the same in March.

ECB President Christine Lagarde cited high core inflation to explain why “we have more ground to cover and we are not done”.

ECB Vice President Luis and Executive Board member Isabel are due to make appearances in the coming days, along with Germany’s central bank President Joachim .

Germany is to release January data – delayed from last week – on Thursday, which economists expect to accelerate again.

Ahead of that, Germany is to release data on on Monday followed by a report on on Tuesday.

  1. U.K. to dodge recession

The U.K. is to release data on Friday, which is expected to show that the economy flatlined in the fourth quarter, narrowly avoiding a recession.

Last week the Bank of England said Britain remained set for a recession this year but it was likely to be “much shallower” than previously feared due mostly to lower energy prices and weaker market interest rate expectations.

The hiked rates for the tenth meeting in a row last Thursday but said the tide was turning in its battle against inflation.

Britain’s economy has been hard hit by the energy crisis after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It has also suffered a fall in the size of its workforce along with low business investment and weak productivity growth in the wake of Brexit.

–Reuters contributed to this report

Signs of market strength cheer U.S. stocks bulls

Signs of market strength cheer U.S. stocks bulls© Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images/Sipa via Reuters Connect

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. stock bulls are taking heart from a range of market signals pointing to an upbeat year for Wall Street, as equities sit on impressive gains despite worries that the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy tightening may plunge the economy into a recession.

Among these are equities’ positive January performance, a “golden cross” chart pattern on the and more stocks making new highs rather than new lows.

Such signals are far from the only indicators market participants use to make investment decisions, and they are not foolproof. Weak outlooks for corporate heavyweights such as Amazon (NASDAQ:) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:) and a blowout employment number that heightened expectations for Fed hawkishness injected a fresh note of uncertainty into markets on Friday, though the S&P 500 remains up 7.7% year-to-date.

However, steady improvements in gauges of momentum and sentiment in recent weeks reinforced the view among some investors that asset prices may be heading for a more benign period, after last year saw the S&P 500 lose 19.4% in its biggest annual percentage drop since 2008.

“We think this is a healthy picture that is being painted here,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at the Carson Group, referring to signals such as January’s gains and the broad range of sectors participating in the rally.


The S&P 500 rose 6.2% in January, driven in part by hopes that the Fed will be able to contain surging inflation without badly damaging the economy.

When the S&P 500 has advanced in January, the market has gone on to rise in the subsequent February-December period 83% of the time, with an average 11-month gain of over 11%, according to an analysis of data going back to World War II by CFRA Research.

An up January after a down year, however, was followed by a gain of 23.1% from February to December with a 92% success rate.

Despite a recent rally that may have made stocks comparatively expensive, “the track record implies that maybe we do have some upside potential,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.


Meanwhile, chart watchers noted that the S&P 500’s 50-day moving average rose above its 200-day moving average on Thursday, a pattern known as a golden cross.

Since 1950, the S&P 500 has produced an average 12-month return of 10.5% after a golden cross formed, while the overall average annual return since 1950 is 9.1%, according to Adam Turnquist, chief technical strategist at LPL Research.

However, when a golden cross has appeared as the 200-day moving average is declining – as it is now – the average 12-month return for the S&P 500 jumps to 16.8%.

“The recent golden cross adds to the growing technical evidence of a trend change for the S&P 500 and further raises the probabilities of the bear market low being set in October,” Turnquist said in a post.


Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at All Star Charts, said all five indicators on his bull market checklist were fulfilled in January, including upside volume and risk appetite metrics, something that did not occur once in 2022.

One of those indicators showed more stocks on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq making new 52-week highs than lows — — a sign that the rally is being led by a broad range of stocks, rather than a cluster of heavyweights. That happened as many times in January as it did during all of 2022, Delwiche said.

However, some investors believe stocks may have gotten ahead of themselves.

Friday’s data showing U.S. employment growth accelerating sharply in January renewed the inflation concerns that hammered stocks last year and ignited bets on a more hawkish Fed.

“The January employment report was unambiguously strong and should be the start of a series of data points showing stronger activity and inflation in early 2023,” analysts at Citi wrote. “We expect this emerging trend should push back on too-dovish market pricing.”

Pope Francis wraps up South Sudan trip, urges end to ‘blind fury’ of violence


Pope Francis wraps up South Sudan trip, urges end to 'blind fury' of violence© Reuters. Pope Francis greets people during the Holy Mass at John Garang Mausoleum, during his apostolic journey, in Juba, South Sudan, February 5, 2023. REUTERS/Yara Nardi


By Philip Pullella and Waakhe Simon Wudu

JUBA (Reuters) -Pope Francis urged the people of South Sudan on Sunday to resist the “venom of hatred” so they could achieve the peace and prosperity that have eluded them through years of bloody ethnic conflicts.

In his last public engagement before flying home, Francis presided at an open-air Mass on the grounds of a mausoleum for South Sudan’s liberation hero John Garang, who died in 2005. The Vatican said 100,000 people attended the Mass.

The 86-year-old pope wove his homily around the themes that have dominated his trip to the world’s newest nation — reconciliation and mutual forgiveness for past wrongs. He begged the worshippers to shun the “blind fury of violence”.

Many in the crowd sang, drummed and ululated as Francis entered the dusty area, and his homily was repeatedly interrupted by loud cheers and more ululations.

Predominantly Christian South Sudan broke away from Muslim Sudan in 2011, but two years later plunged into a civil war that killed 400,000 people. Despite a 2018 peace deal between the two main antagonists, bouts of fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians.

At the end of the service, in a farewell address shortly before heading to the airport, the pope thanked the people of South Sudan for the affection they showed him.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I return to Rome with you even closer to my heart,” he told them. “Never lose hope. And lose no opportunity to build peace. May hope and peace dwell among you. May hope and peace dwell in South Sudan!”

The pope has had a longstanding interest in South Sudan. In one of the most remarkable gestures of his papacy, he knelt to kiss the feet of the country’s previously warring leaders during a meeting at the Vatican in 2019.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, leader of the global Anglican Communion, and Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, accompanied the pope during his visit to South Sudan.

The “pilgrimage of peace” was the first time in Christian history that leaders of the Catholic, Anglican and Reformed traditions conducted a joint foreign visit.

The three left the South Sudanese capital Juba on the same flight and were expected to land in Rome at around 5:15 p.m. (1615 GMT).


Earlier on his Africa trip, the pope visited Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the continent’s largest Roman Catholic community, where he celebrated Mass for a million people and heard harrowing stories from people harmed by war in the eastern part of the country.

Among the worshippers at Sunday’s Mass in Juba was Ferida Modon, 72, who lost three of her children to conflict.

“I want peace to come to South Sudan. Yes, I believe that his visit will change the situation. We are now tired of conflict,” she said. “We want God to listen to our prayers.”

Jesilen Gaba, 42, a widow with four children, said: “The fact that the three Churches united for the sake of South Sudan, this is the turning point for peace. I want the visit to be a blessing to us. We have been at war, we have lost many people.”

Francis made another appeal for an end to the tribalism, financial wrongdoing and political cronyism at the root of many of the country’s problems.

He urged the people to build “good human relationships as a way of curbing the corruption of evil, the disease of division, the filth of fraudulent business dealings and the plague of injustice”.

South Sudan has some of the largest reserves in sub-Saharan Africa but a U.N. report in 2021 said the country’s leaders had diverted “staggering amounts of money and other wealth” from public coffers and resources.

The government dismissed the report and has denied accusations of widespread corruption.

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