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    Dow Jones Newswires 20 August 2015

    20 August 2015 Federal Reserve sees conditions for rate hike 'approaching': minutes[WASHINGTON] The Federal Reserve saw US economic conditions "approaching" the point of being able to weather an increase in near-zero interest rates at July's policy meeting, the meeting minutes showed on Wednesday.
    Fed officials pointed to slack in the job market and worried about China's economic slowdown as they considered raising borrowing costs for the first time in more than nine years, according to the record of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.
    "Most judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point," the minutes said.
    The FOMC, as expected, decided at the July 28-29 meeting to hold unchanged the benchmark federal funds rate at the zero level, where it has been pegged since late 2008 to support the US economy's recovery from the Great Recession.
    A series of mixed US economic indicators since the meeting has clouded the outlook for a rate hike, which Fed Chair Janet Yellen earlier signaled was on track for sometime this year.
    Some experts say a hike at the FOMC September 16-17 meeting is likely because the economy overall looks strong enough, while others bet the Fed will want to wait to have more data before tightening credit.
    The minutes of the FOMC meeting did not reveal any hints about the timing of the liftoff, which has global financial markets on edge because it derail the fragile recovery.
    Instead, the minutes showed participants remained divided over when to make the move.
    Some participants emphasised the economy had made "significant progress" over the past few years and viewed conditions for a rate hike "as having been met or were confident that they would be met shortly." A "couple" worried that an appreciable delay in hiking would result in an "undesirable increase in inflation" or otherwise hurt financial stability.
    ONE OFFICIAL READY TO HIKE
    "One member, however, indicated a readiness to take that step at this meeting but was willing to wait for additional data to confirm a judgment to raise the target range," the minutes said.
    Participants at the meeting generally agreed that job market conditions had improved. But "several" officials noted that "some noticeable margins of slack remained," including a high share of employees working part time because full-time jobs were not available.
    "Some participants" said they did not have enough information to make them "reasonably confident" that tepid inflation would move back to the Fed's 2.00 per cent target over the medium term, a key element of the Fed's dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment.
    The minutes also noted"another concern" was raised related to the risk of premature tightening, at a time when the Fed has limited ability to offset negative shocks to the economy and inflation with the fed funds rate at its ultra-low level.
    The slowdown in China, the world's second-biggest economy, and a bout of financial turmoil as Chinese equities tumbled, also troubled Fed policy makers, the minutes showed.
    "While the recent Chinese stock market decline seemed to have had limited implications to date for the growth outlook in China, several participants noted that a material slowdown in Chinese economic activity could pose risks to the US economic outlook," the minutes said.
    The FOMC meeting came before China's shock devaluation last week of the yuan, which many observers saw as a sign that its economy is in worse trouble than thought.
    Moody's Analytics analyst Ryan Sweet said the minutes confirmed that a September rate hike remained possible, but was "not a slam dunk, and we believe the odds have diminished over the past couple of weeks." AFP

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    20 August 2015 Greece gets go-ahead for third multi-billion euro bailout

    20 August 2015 Greece gets go-ahead for third multi-billion euro bailout[ATHENS] Greece got the green light on Wednesday to start repaying its debts and reviving its economy after eurozone finance ministers formally approved a third reforms-for-rescue of up to 86 billion euros.
    A source close to the matter said Greece would receive a sum of 23 billion euros (S$35.9 billion) on Thursday morning, thereby allowing Athens to make a loan repayment of 3.4 billion euros due the same day to the European Central Bank.
    The all-clear from the finance ministers in the 19-country eurozone came after the new bailout was approved by European parliaments, including the Bundestag of Germany, Greece's effective paymaster.
    "This agreement provides perspective for the Greek economy and a basis for sustainable growth," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the so-called Eurogroup.
    "The Greek government is bound to implementing this wide-ranging reform package with determination and we will monitor the process closely," Mr Dijsselbloem said in a statement.
    "We are certain to encounter problems in the coming years but I trust we will be able to tackle them," he added.
    Pending endorsement from key national parliaments, Mr Dijsselbloem and the other eurozone finance ministers had on 14 August approved the bailout to keep Greece in the single currency bloc, pay its bills and revive its shattered economy.
    The German parliament voted by an overwhelming majority on Wednesday to back the third bailout, with Chancellor Angela Merkel spared a major rebellion of deputies opposing the aid.
    Interrupting their holidays for the second time this summer to cast ballots on a Greek rescue, lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house approved the 86 billion euro rescue plan by 453 votes to 113. Eighteen abstained.
    EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ROLE?
    While passage was virtually guaranteed given the dominance of Dr Merkel's left-right "grand coalition", the key question was whether the chancellor would face damaging dissent within her own camp.
    In the end, 63 conservative rebels cast 'No' ballots and three abstained, marking only a slight increase from a vote last month approving the start of negotiations on the package.
    At that time, 60 of the chancellor's MPs voted 'No' and five abstained. The mass-market Bild newspaper had predicted up to 120 deputies could revolt during Wednesday's vote.
    Meanwhile Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was grilled in parliament on Wednesday for his cabinet's support for the bailout, with the opposition accusing him of having "betrayed his electorate" by breaking his promise that no more money would go to Greece.
    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was on Wednesday mulling whether to early elections after the austerity bailout split his radical left Syriza party, leaving him powerless to push further reform bills through parliament.
    A decision is expected next week.
    Mr Tsipras rode to power in January on a wave of popular anger against the tax hikes, spending cuts and reforms demanded by creditors in exchange for two previous bailouts costing 240 billion euros.
    Mr Tsipras has said that Greece's creditors - the European Union, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund and the European Stability Mechanism - have agreed to discuss public debt relief measures when a first assessment of reform compliance is completed in November.
    The debt currently stands at 312.8 billion euros, the finance ministry said Wednesday.
    The Greek premier has also called for the European Parliament (EP) join the quartet of creditors in overseeing the recently-approved bailout deal.
    The request was made in a letter sent on Wednesday to EP president Martin Schulz in which Mr Tsipras requested the "direct and full involvement of the EP - as the fifth actor in the context of the so-called creditors' quartet".
    The initial 23 billion euro payment will see 10 billion euros placed in a fund to recapitalise Greek banks while another 13 billion euros will be partly used to pay back both the ECB and to cover an EU bridging loan of 7.16 billion euros, which was given in July to allow Athens to honour previous commitments to the ECB and the IMF.
    The bailout accord goes far beyond economic management to include an extensive overhaul of Greece's health and social welfare systems plus its business practices and public administration.
    Seemingly small details of daily life will also be affected by the new rules, from visits to the doctor to an extension of the expiry dates on pasteurised milk in the supermarkets. AFP

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    20 August 2015 Ringgit rout

    20 August 2015 Ringgit rout: Singaporeans keep calm, shop for Malaysia bargains[KUALA LUMPUR] When Edmund Goh wanted a better air- conditioning system for his Toyota Harrier, he chose a mechanic in neighboring Malaysia where the currency, at a record low against the Singapore dollar, offered a bargain for the upgrade.
    Mr Goh, 35, said he paid RM780 ringgit (S$266) for what would usually cost him S$700 in the city-state, unperturbed by inconveniences ranging from traffic jams and higher toll rates, as well as reports of theft of Singapore cars. His friends head across the border for cheaper food, groceries and massages.
    "With the exchange rate itself you save more than half," said Mr Goh, who works in operations for London-based asset manager RWC Partners Ltd.
    While global investors are fleeing Malaysia's currency, bond and stock markets as political uncertainty clouds the outlook for an economy rocked by plunging oil prices and an emerging-market selloff, Singaporeans are heading for its restaurants, big-box retailers and shopping centers.
    Some switched their vacations to Malaysia from Bangkok after a deadly blast Monday, while Singapore money changers at times ran out of ringgit as demand surged.
    The Singapore dollar closed at a record 2.9246 per ringgit on Wednesday and it has climbed about 11 per cent against the Malaysian currency this year.
    MICHELLE YEOH
    "It's lucky that the ringgit is cheaper now," said Tan Geok Lee, 48, who booked a holiday to Ipoh, the hometown of Michelle Yeoh, an actress in James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and a city known for its noodle dishes. "We're going to just go there and spend."
    While both the Singapore dollar and the ringgit have weakened against the greenback, Malaysia as a net oil and gas exporter and in the midst of a political scandal has fared worse. Against the US dollar, the Malaysian currency has fallen about 15 per cent this year, Asia's worst performer.
    The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index has lost 23 per cent in U.S. dollar terms this year, the most in among Asian benchmark gauges, while sovereign bond risk jumped to a four-year high since the Wall Street Journal reported on July 3 of a money trail of about US$700 million that led to Prime Minister Najib Razak's accounts. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said this month the RM2.6 billion in Mr Najib's accounts were from donors in the Middle East.
    MALAYSIAN BARGAINS
    What is a bane for Malaysia has been a boon for tourists. Annalise Cheong, a Singaporean mother-to-be, accompanied her husband on a business trip to Kuala Lumpur and went shopping for newborn clothes and toys while he was at work.
    "More than anything in the world, Singaporeans love bargains and sales and food," Ms Cheong said. "It is really a good time to be shopping and eating in Malaysia."
    The weakening ringgit may help the country's tourism sector at a time when other industries are hurting from an uneven global recovery that has curbed export demand and hurt commodity shipments.
    "Second half, tourism should do better compared to the first half of this year," said Rahul Bajoria, a regional economist at Barclays Plc in Singapore. "From a relative value perspective, you might see more tourists coming in from China, from India as the ringgit becomes more competitive."
    Even a spate of car thefts hasn't deterred Singaporeans from spending time in Malaysia. At least three Singaporean cars have been stolen in the border city of Johor Bahru this month, the Straits Times reported. A Honda Fit vanished 15 minutes after its owner parked it next to a restaurant on Aug 14, while a Honda Civic was broken into and driven out of a parking lot on Aug 10, the newspaper said.
    SAFETY CONCERNS
    "Safety is a concern for sure," said Gwendolyn Pan, who traveled to the southern Malaysian city by train earlier this month to avoid traffic jams that lasted as long as six hours over a four-day weekend. "Singapore cars are always a target. We had to take precautions."
    Singapore has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, according to the US State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. In comparison, the bureau gave Malaysia a "high" crime rating in its latest report, which said petty crime against expatriates is fairly common.
    For Mr Goh, his familiarity with Malaysia and the lure of the weak ringgit is too strong to resist even as some friends with young children choose to stay away.
    "It's quite a struggle for a lot of people, because the pull factor for Malaysia of course is the exchange rate, but the push factor is the crime rate," he said. "For me, I don't care, I just go in." BLOOMBERG

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    20 August 2015 Bearish Fed minutes send US dollar tumbling

    20 August 2015 Bearish Fed minutes send US dollar tumbling[NEW YORK] The unexpectedly bearish minutes of the Federal Reserve's July policy meeting sent the US dollar sinking Wednesday.
    Markets took the tone of the record of the July 28-29 meeting as a sign that the central bank was less likely to begin hiking interest rates in its September meeting, though some analysts said that could still be in the cards.
    The dollar fell more than one cent against the euro on the release of the minutes, and finished at US$1.1121 to the euro and at 123.89 yen.
    Policy makers weighing a move to raise the federal funds rate from the zero level expressed a number of doubts over labor market tightening and inflation picking up in the short term, even as they remained confident about the strengthening of the US economy in the medium term.
    They also showed some worry over the impact of China's slowdown and market turmoil.
    The Fed "is still split on whether the time to start raising rates is near," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
    But there was enough optimism in the report to leave a rate hike - the first in more than nine years - still in play at the September meeting.
    "I'm a bit surprised by the market reacting as much as that," said Vassili Serebriakov of BNP Paribas.
    "I think the message was 'we're getting closer to hiking but we're not there yet.' Certainly, there's no clear signal of a rate hike in September and that's what's hurting the dollar." AFP

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    20 August 2015 IMF extends SDR update as it eyes inclusion of China's yuan

    20 August 2015 IMF extends SDR update as it eyes inclusion of China's yuan[WASHINGTON] The IMF said Wednesday that it had extended by nine months the scheduled revision of its elite currencies basket, giving more time for adjustment to the potential inclusion of China's yuan.
    The move prolongs from year-end until September 30, 2016, the official update of the "special drawing rights" (SDR) basket, which takes place only every five years.
    The review would adjust the weightings of the four powerful currencies involved - the dollar, yen, euro and pound - but this time also could mean adding the yuan, also known as the renminbi (RMB), to the mix as well.
    China, now the world's second-largest economy, asked last year for the yuan to be added to the grouping.
    On August 4, the IMF said the currency, which has been tightly managed by the Chinese central bank, fell short of meeting all the standards for inclusion, particularly on being "freely usable" in international finance.
    However, a senior IMF official at the time said that he expected changes in that situation by the time an official board decision on the yuan's inclusion was expected in November.
    One week later, indeed, Beijing both devalued the currency and moved to let it float more broadly, allowing it to respond further to market forces, which the IMF holds as an important condition for SDR currencies.
    The IMF did not mention the yuan in its statement Wednesday, but explained that the update extension was a response "to feedback from SDR users on the desirability of avoiding changes in the basket at the end of the calendar year." "The extension would also allow users sufficient lead time to adjust in the event that a decision were to be taken to add a new currency to the SDR basket." While not a freely traded currency, the SDR is important as an international reserve asset, and because the IMF issues its crisis loans, crucial to struggling economies like Greece, valued in SDRs.
    IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said last year that the yuan's inclusion is a matter of "when" rather than "if". AFP

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    20 August 2015 Oil hits 6.5-year low as US crude supplies rise

    20 August 2015 Oil hits 6.5-year low as US crude supplies rise[NEW YORK] Oil prices in New York sagged to a new six and a half year low Wednesday following data showing an increase in US petroleum stocks.
    US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in September dropped US$1.82 to US$40.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell as low as US$40.46 a barrel earlier in the session.
    European benchmark Brent oil for October delivery fell US$1.65 to US$46.81 a barrel in London.
    The drop came after a US Department of Energy report showed oil stocks rose 2.6 million barrels in the week ending August 14. The data also showed a 300,000 barrel rise at the closely-watched Cushing, Oklahoma trading hub.
    Traders are girding for further weakness with the end of summer driving season.
    "As we go into the next couple of months, crude oil demand is going to decline, which worries the market," said Andy Lipow, head of Houston consultancy Lipow Oil Associates.
    Mr Lipow and other analysts expect US oil prices to dip below US$40 a barrel.
    Bearish factors include the Iran nuclear deal with major powers; slowing demand in China; and continued high output in Saudi Arabia and some other OPEC countries.
    "We're probably likely for some further weakness," said Fred Lawrence, vice president of economics and international affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
    "I don't necessarily expect it to go below US$40 for a long period of time, but it certainly is poised to do that." AFP

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    19 August 2015 Taxi app GrabTaxi raises US$350 million in additional funding from inv

    19 August 2015 Taxi app GrabTaxi raises US$350 million in additional funding from investorsSINGAPORE (Aug 19): GrabTaxi Holdings has raised record funding of more than US$350 million ($492 million).
    The sum was raised from Coatue Management LLC, a US investment firm that invests in technology worldwide, Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation and Chinese mobile car-ride hailing firm Didi Kuaidi, along with support from existing shareholders.
    The company, which counts a unit of Temasek Holdings and Japanese telco SoftBank Corp among its shareholders, says it has raised a total of around US$700 million after the latest round of fund-raising. The funds will be used to grow its new offerings and expand its engineering offices.
    In a statement released on Wednesday, Anthony Tan, Group CEO and Co-Founder of GrabTaxi, says, “This investment is not only a statement on GrabTaxi’s dominance in the region, but also the growth potential of Southeast Asia on a global level. GrabTaxi is at the forefront of the start-up industry in Southeast Asia and it is a mantle we carry proudly.”
    Launched in 2012, GrabTaxi has a presence in 26 cities across six countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. it has over 110,000 drivers under its banner in Southeast Asia.

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    19 August 2015 Highlight China injects

    19 August 2015 Highlight China injects nearly US$100 bil into banks for economy lift; stocks reverse lossSHANGHAI (Aug 19): China has injected nearly US$100 billion ($140.3 billion) from its foreign exchange reserves into two policy banks, which lend based on government directives, to help spur the country's sluggish economy, state media reported on Wednesday.
    Shanghai stocks closed up 1.23% on Wednesday, erasing a more than 5% plunge in morning trade, on expectations of fresh government support for the market, dealers said. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell as much as 5.06% and rose up to 1.69% during the day after a more than 6% drop on Tuesday, the biggest fall in three weeks. The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, rose 2.19%.
    The central bank on Tuesday completed putting US$48 billion into the China Development Bank and US$45 billion into the Export-Import Bank of China, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
    The move was to enhance their capital base and support the economy, it said.
    "The injection suggests the central bank is trying to guide funds to go to the real economy, like exports and infrastructure construction," China economist at Barclays Capital, Wang Shengzu, told AFP.
    Separately, Bloomberg News reported China Development Bank and another policy bank, the Agricultural Development Bank of China, plan to issue RMB1trillion yuan ($230 billion) worth of bonds to fund construction projects to boost the economy.
    China's economy, the world's second-largest, expanded 7.4% last year, its weakest since 1990, and has slowed further this year, growing 7% in each of the first two quarters.
    The government has set a target of around 7% growth for all of 2015.
    In a bid to stimulate activity, China has cut interest rates four times since November and has also lowered the reserve requirement ratio - the amount of money banks must put aside.
    "The funds released from earlier monetary loosening didn't go to the real economy. Instead, most of it went to the financial institutions and the stock market," Wang added.
    The benchmark Shanghai stock index rose 150% in 12 months to mid-June in a borrowing-fuelled surge, before plummeting almost a third in three weeks.
    The Wutongshu Investment Platform Co., which invests China's foreign exchange reserves, carried out the bank fund injections and will become a shareholder in both financial institutions, Xinhua said.
    China's foreign exchange holdings are the world's largest, though they fell to US$3.69 trillion at the end of June, down from US$3.73 trillion at the end of March.

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    19 August 2015 Keppel Land

    19 August 2015 Keppel Land inaugurates latest commercial project in JakartaSINGAPORE (Aug 19): Keppel Land topped off its latest commercial project, the International Financial Centre Jakarta Tower Two, in Jakarta's Central Business District on Tuesday, local media reported.
    The developer is seeking to grow its commercial portfolio in key Asian cities. Singapore and China remain its core markets, but the firm sees Indonesia and Vietnam as key growth areas.
    Says Sam Moon Thong, President (Indonesia) of Keppel Land: "Singapore is a home ground and China is a big market, so these two are our core markets. They are the top. And below these two markets, we have Vietnam and Indonesia which we term as the growth markets because they have the potential to grow and we want to grow these two markets.
    “If you look at Vietnam and Indonesia, they are fairly similar in that they have got big populations, a growing middle class and urbanisation.”
    With urbanisation, Sam says both Indonesia and Vietnam are seeing a higher spending power among their population. This will create opportunities for retail and office, as investments come on stream, he added.
    The topping out ceremony of International Financial Centre Jakarta Tower Two was witnessed by more than 150 guests, including government officials from Singapore and Indonesia.
    The tower is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2016, but Keppel Land says it has already secured tenants, such as Tokio Marine, Servcorp, Grant Thornton, Rintis and Ithaca Resources.
    The 48-storey Tower Two will offer 50,200 sqm of Grade A office space when completed.
    Keppel Land will also be redeveloping the existing 18-storey Tower One, which was completed in 1985, into a 55-storey office tower to offer more area for lease. The developer is looking out for more land parcels in Indonesia, to develop residential properties such as landed homes and apartments.

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    19 August 2015 Crude tumbles

    19 August 2015 Crude tumbles to six-year low after unexpected US supply gain[NEW YORK] Oil plunged to the lowest level in more than six years in New York as a government report showed that US crude stockpiles unexpectedly increased.
    West Texas Intermediate slipped as much as 3.4 per cent after the Energy Information Administration said crude supplies rose 2.62 million barrels last week. An 820,000 barrel stockpile decline was projected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Crude imports surged to the highest level since April as refineries reduced operating rates.
    Oil has tumbled more than 30 per cent since this year's peak close in June amid signs that producers are maintaining output even after a surplus pushed prices into a bear market.
    "This was the opposite of what was expected," Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc in New York, said by phone. "There were a number of refinery hiccups last week and as a result demand fell." WTI for September delivery, which expires Thursday, fell $1.32 cents, or 3.1 per cent, to $41.30 a barrel at 10:51 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices touched $41.18, the lowest since March 2009. The more-active October contract slipped $1.25 to $41.87.
    Brent for October settlement slipped 81 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to $48 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It touched $47.73, the lowest since January. The European benchmark crude traded at a $6.13 premium to October WTI.
    US crude Inventories rose to 456.2 million in the week ended Aug 14, the EIA report said.
    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has pumped above its 30 million-barrel-a-day quota for more than a year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Angola plans to ship 1.83 million barrels a day in October, the most since November 2011, according to a preliminary loading program obtained by Bloomberg. That compares with 1.77 million barrels a day from Africa's second-largest crude producer in September.
    Iraq must increase oil output to meet the needs of its growing population and provide services, Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said on his website. The nation's production climbed to a record 4.18 million barrels a day in July, according to the International Energy Agency. BLOOMBERG

 

 

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