Australia

Police keep watch outside the family home of a bomber suspect where an explosion occurred during a Special Task Force raid in Colombo
Police keep watch outside the family home of a bomber suspect where an explosion occurred during a Special Task Force raid, following a string of suicide attacks on churches and luxury hotels, in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

April 25, 2019

By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s top defense official said on Thursday that security agencies had been working to stop militant attacks in the days before Easter Sunday bombings that killed 359 people, and he was resigning to take responsibility for the failure.

The suicide bomb attacks on three churches and four hotels exposed a significant intelligence failure, with warnings of strikes not acted on and accusations of feuds at the highest levels of government undermining security cooperation.

Police issued names and photographs of seven people, three of them women, wanted in connection with the attacks, as bomb scares and security sweeps kept the country on edge.

“We were working on that. All those agencies were working on that,” Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando told Reuters, referring to intelligence tips from India warning of imminent strikes that came in over the days before the blasts.

Fernando, the top civil servant at the government’s defense department, said he had resigned to take responsibility for institutions he was in charge of, though he added there had been no failure on his part.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks. If that connection is confirmed, it looks likely to be the deadliest ever such attack linked to the group.

Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities have said at least 38 foreigners were also killed, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.

They included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.

About 500 people were wounded.

Authorities have focused their investigations on international links to two domestic Islamist groups – National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – they believe carried out the attacks.

Islamic State released a video that showed eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The government said there were nine suicide bombers, eight of whom had been identified, and that one was a woman.

SNAPSHOTS

A picture has emerged of a group of nine well-educated, home-grown suicide bombers. Two of them were brothers, sons of a wealthy spice trader and pillar of the business community, a source close to the family said.

One studied in Britain and Australia.

At least 76 people, including several foreigners, have been rounded up since Sunday, but police on Thursday for the first time identified seven people they were looking for and appealed to the public for help in finding them.

Photographs, apparently casual snapshots, posted with a wanted notice showed young bearded men, one with a Muslim cap, and three young women, all with head scarves.

Fears that more bombers are at large has kept Sri Lanka on edge all week.

Authorities locked down the central bank and shut the road to the capital’s airport for part of the day because of bomb scares as communal tension simmered.

Office workers in Colombo’s business district were asked to go home early, police said, to avoid vulnerable throngs of people at rush hour. City-center restaurants were also shutting early.

Police also arrested three people and seized 21 locally made grenades and six swords during a raid in Colombo, a spokesman said. He did not give details or suggest that the raid was linked to the suicide bombings.

RECRIMINATIONS

The bombings shattered the relative calm that has existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since a civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

It seems unlikely that Fernando’s resignation will end the questions and recriminations over why authorities failed to act more effectively to stop the plotters.

Government officials have acknowledged a major lapse in the sharing of intelligence information. Lakshman Kiriella, the leader of parliament, said senior officials had deliberately withheld the intelligence from India about possible attacks.

Both President Maithripala Sirisena and his rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, denied seeing the Indian intelligence warnings, officials have said.

The president fired Wickremesinghe last October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, fears are growing of a surge of communal tension.

Muslims have fled the Negombo region on Sri Lanka’s west coast since scores of worshippers were killed in the bombing of the St. Sebastian church there on Sunday.

Hundreds of Pakistani Muslims have left the port city, crammed into buses, after threats of revenge.

“The local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” one of them, Adnan Ali, told Reuters on Wednesday, as he prepared to board a bus.

(GRAPHIC: Sri Lanka bombings – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Xy02BA)

(GRAPHIC: A decade of peace shattered – https://tmsnrt.rs/2W4wZoU)

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in COLOMBO, Alasdair Pal and Sunil Kataria in NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka, and Will Ziebell in MELBOURNE; Writing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel; Editing by Michael Perry and Alex Richardson)

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

April 25, 2019

By Paresh Dave

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A SoftBank Corp subsidiary said on Wednesday it had invested $125 million in an Alphabet Inc company that is working to fly cellphone antennas high in the atmosphere to provide internet in areas that are difficult to reach.

SoftBank’s HAPSMobile, which has also been trying to fly networking equipment at high altitudes to provide high-speed internet to areas that are out of range of land towers, said it had invested in Loon, a unit of the Google owner.

Loon, spun out from Alphabet’s business incubator in July, carries the gear with a long balloon, while HAPSMobile uses a drone. Both systems are solar powered, limiting the areas they can serve to equatorial regions of the globe.

Mobile network operators, governments and other potential clients have yet to demonstrate much enthusiasm for buying such technologies, despite the need to plug gaps in internet coverage in rural areas or at times of natural disasters.

The two firms are competing with billionaire entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, which are all backing separate ventures that aim to offer internet links using satellites in near-Earth orbit.

Loon and HAPSMobile said at a Tokyo news conference on Wednesday that they needed to collaborate to win over customers and were discussing sharing technology, standardizing gear and cooperating in regulatory talks.

The firms said in a joint statement they had entered a “long-term” partnership.

“I’m confident we can accelerate the path toward the realization of utilizing the stratosphere for global networks by pooling our technologies, insights and experience,” Junichi Miyakawa, SoftBank chief technology officer and HAPSMobile chief executive, said in the statement.

Miyakawa said HAPSMobile had taken a minority stake in Loon at its request and a right to observe board meetings. HAPSMobile did not expect to fund additional companies operating in the same field but was open to receiving investment, he said.

HAPSMobile, which uses technology developed by dronemaker AeroVironment Inc that has a 10 percent stake in the Softbank unit, planned to test its drone at Lanai Airport in Hawaii and was also discussing conducting tests in Australia, Miyakawa told Reuters.

Securing certfication from aviation agencies could take up to three years, he said.

Loon, which has tested balloons for nearly a decade and expects to hold its first commercial trial in Kenya by mid-year, has not ruled out raising additional funding, Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth said.

Loon has an option to invest $125 million in HAPSMobile for a minority stake at a later date.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Edmund Blair)

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A member of the 324 Squadron during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Coogee Beach in Sydney
A member of the 324 Squadron during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia, April 25, 2019. AAP Image/Steven Saphore/via REUTERS

April 25, 2019

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Tens of thousands gathered in Australia and New Zealand at Anzac Day memorials on Thursday amid heightened security following the shooting massacre at Christchurch mosques and deadly suicide bombings of churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan government minister says the bombings on Easter Sunday were retaliation for the Christchurch massacre on March 15, in which a lone gunman killed 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques. New Zealand says it has no evidence of a link.

Turkish authorities arrested a suspected member of the Islamic State group they believe was planning to attack an Anzac Day commemoration at Gallipoli attended by hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders, Turkish police said on Wednesday.

Anzac Day commemorates the bloody battle on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey during World War One. On April 25, 1915, thousands of troops from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were among a larger Allied force that landed on the narrow beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula, an ill-fated campaign that would claim more than 130,000 lives.

While the Gallipoli campaign against the Turks failed, the landing date of April 25 has become a major day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand for their troops killed in all military conflicts.

Addressing thousands gathered for a dawn service at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that, in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, Anzac Day 2019 should be an even greater uniting force.

“Let us recommit to always remembering our shared humanity that there is more that unites us than divides us,” Ardern said.

“Our sense of independence is as strong as our sense of responsibility to each other and not just as nation states but as human beings. That is part of the Anzac legacy,” she said.

Heavily armed police surrounded the function area and snipers were positioned on rooftops during the ceremony.

Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, paid tribute at the Auckland War Memorial alongside Ardern. He will travel to Christchurch later on Thursday to honor the 50 victims of the shooting.

Heightened security saw about 1,000 police deployed across New Zealand at hundreds of locations and security concerns meant Anzac Day events in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and elsewhere were scaled back.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed a dawn service in Townsville, Queensland, where he shared memories of his grandfather, who served in World War Two.

“Our heroes don’t just belong to the past, they live with us today,” Morrison said.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon in WELLINGTON and Will Ziebell in MELBOURNE; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Worker smiles as she shows cannabis plants at the Tilray factory in Cantanhede
A worker smiles as she shows cannabis plants at the Tilray factory in Cantanhede, Portugal April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

April 25, 2019

By Catarina Demony and Rafael Marchante

CANTANHEDE, Portugal (Reuters) – Famous for its roasted suckling pig and wines, the Portuguese city of Cantanhede now hosts the country’s first medical cannabis production farm – a budding European hub of efforts to meet growing demand for the flowering herb.

Portugal’s California-like weather caught the eye of Canada-based Tilray as its CEO Brendan Kennedy roved around Europe from 2015 to 2017 in search of the perfect spot for a new production site.

Kennedy said Portugal had the ideal climate for cannabis cultivation and the country’s young, educated workforce and its major agricultural sector were further attractions.

Covering 2.4 hectares (5.9 acres) in a biotechnology park just outside Cantanhede, Tilray’s site was given the green light by Portugal’s regulator Infarmed in 2017. The company then rushed to import its first baby plants and recently reported its first two successful cannabis harvests.Kennedy opened the site to visitors for the first time at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday.

“Some of our competitors are located in Denmark and northern Germany, where there isn’t that much sun – so we think we can produce a more environmentally-friendly product here,” he told Reuters.

Portugal also offers tariff-free entry to the rest of the European Union, a market Tilray wants to explore further at a time when an increasing number of governments are legalising medical marijuana.

FROM PROHIBITION TO LEGALISATION

“The paradigm is shifting from prohibition to legalisation,” Kennedy said, with demand for the product growing. “I’m fairly optimistic that over the next two years we will see every country in Europe legalising it.”

Last year Portugal’s parliament approved a bill to legalise marijuana-based medicines, following in the footsteps of EU countries such as Italy and Germany as well as Canada and parts of the United States. Britain made a similar move in July 2018.

Tilray’s 20-million-euro ($22.29 million) facility includes indoor, outdoor and greenhouse cultivation sites, as well as research labs, processing, packaging and distribution sites for medical cannabis and cannabinoid-derived products.

Tilray supplies medical cannabis products with CBD and THC to patients in a number of countries, through subsidiaries in Australia, Canada, Germany and Latin American, and through agreements with pharmaceutical distributors.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament called for an EU-wide policy on medical cannabis and properly funded scientific research.

“We are at point where almost every doctor around the world recognises the medical benefits of cannabis,” Kennedy said.

The World Health Organization has stated that several studies have demonstrated cannabinoids provide therapeutic effects for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.

Moreover, a handful of regulated pharmaceuticals use chemicals derived from cannabis, such as GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex which is approved for treating symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

BOOST EXPORTS

From Canada, where Tilray has six facilities, the company already sells medical cannabis products to 13 countries. Portugal will help Tilray boost exports further, Kennedy said.

“Our business plan for this facility is focused on exporting products from Portugal to other countries around the world.”

In Europe, Tilray products are already available in Germany, Croatia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic but it expects to start exporting to the United Kingdom – and potentially to France, Italy and Greece – in the next 12 months.

Kennedy said Tilray hopes this summer to expand exports to countries such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

According to analysis firm Prohibition Partners, the EU cannabis market will be worth 123 billion euros by 2028.

Kennedy did not confirm how much medical marijuana Tilray plans to produce.

($1 = 0.8973 euros)

(Reporting by Catarina Demony and Rafael Marchante; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Illustration photo of U.S. Dollar and Euro notes
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Dollar and Euro notes are seen in this June 22, 2017 illustration photo. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

April 25, 2019

By Daniel Leussink

TOKYO (Reuters) – The euro nursed losses against the dollar on Thursday after dipping to a 22-month low on a surprise drop in a leading indicator for economic activity in Germany, amplifying worries of a growth slowdown in Europe’s largest economy.

German business morale deteriorated in April, bucking expectations for a small improvement, a business index by the Munich-based Ifo economic institute showed on Wednesday, as trade tensions weighed on the German economy, leaving domestic demand to support slowing growth.

The greenback rallied to a 23-month high of 98.189 against a basket of key rivals overnight after gaining more than half a percent, largely propelled by the euro’s weakness. The index last traded slightly lower at 98.096.

“Yesterday’s strength of the dollar was exaggerated by the weakness in countries other than the U.S.,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“A big question is if the weakness in Australia and the euro area are temporary or not,” he said. “The main scenario is (for) a recovery in the second half of this year in the euro area and other regions.”

The euro sat at $1.1153, having suffered its biggest one-day loss against the dollar since early March when the European Central Bank pushed back plans for its first post-crisis interest rate hike.

The single currency also shed nearly 0.4 percent against the yen overnight and was last trading at 125.125 yen.

The Japanese currency slipped to a 2019 low of 112.40 yen per dollar on its own during the previous session, with traders eyeing a Bank of Japan policy decision later on Thursday for trading cues.

The BOJ is expected to keep monetary policy steady on Thursday and predict that inflation will fall short of its 2 percent target for three more years, signaling that its massive stimulus will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

The dollar was last a shade lower on the yen, changing hands at 112.12 yen.

The Australian dollar was largely unchanged at $0.7017.

The Aussie had given up nearly 1.3 percent during the previous session after weaker-than-expected Australian inflation numbers heightened the prospect of an interest rate cut.

The Canadian dollar was flat at $1.3495 after hitting a four-month low overnight, as investors raised bets on a Bank of Canada interest rate cut this year after the central bank slashed its economic growth outlook.

Market participants awaited policy decisions by the Swedish and Turkish central banks later on Thursday.

Sweden’s Riksbank is likely to keep its benchmark rate unchanged and may be forced to delay plans to tighten policy later in 2019, a Reuters poll of analysts published on Tuesday showed.

“The Riksbank may push further out the timing of the next rate hike, and also the market may speculate it’s too early for a rate cut by the Turkish central bank,” said Mizuho’s Yamamoto.

“That could be a negative for these currencies and positive for the dollar.”

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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FILE PHOTO: A Ghanian woman poses while holding her family's passports with a U.S. visa in Accra
FILE PHOTO: A Ghanian woman poses while holding her family’s passports with a U.S. visa in Accra, Ghana February 1, 2019. Reuters/Francis Kokoroko/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A merit-based immigration proposal being put together by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner could lead to an increase in U.S. visas for highly skilled workers, sources familiar with the effort said on Wednesday.

Kushner is expected to present the comprehensive plan next week to President Donald Trump, who will decide whether to adopt it as his official position or send it back for changes, the sources said.

The plan does not propose ways to address young people who came to the United States illegally as children who were protected by President Barack Obama in the 2014 program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), or those people who have Temporary Protected Status, the sources said.

Democrats, whose support the White House would need to advance any kind of immigration legislation through Congress, have insisted that the DACA recipients be protected.

Kushner has held about 50 listening sessions with conservative groups on immigration, a senior administration official said. He has been working with White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett and policy adviser Stephen Miller on the plan and the sources said there has been some intense behind-the-scenes jockeying about the plan.

At a Time magazine forum in New York on Tuesday, Kushner said he was working well with Miller, an immigration hawk, on the topic. The two men are both long-time Trump advisers.

“Stephen and I haven’t had any fights,” he said with a smile.

That drew skepticism from immigration advocate Marshall Fitz of the Emerson Collective, who gave Kushner credit for advancing criminal justice reform but said immigration was a dramatically different issue that Miller was dominating at the White House.

“It’s impossible to see how Kushner could navigate an issue this freighted with history and central to the president’s re-election strategy in a way that would actually move the ball forward,” Fitz said.

As a White House candidate in 2016 and throughout his presidency, Trump has advocated a hard-line policy on immigration, pushing for a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border and using bruising rhetoric to describe people who have fled Central American countries to enter the United States.

Republicans have largely supported his immigration proposals, but the latest White House plan aims to bring them together on a broader basis.

Some in the U.S. business community have asked that the number of highly skilled visas be raised to attract more employees from abroad for specialized jobs amid a booming U.S. economy. Trump himself has talked of the need to bring in more skilled workers.

The immigration plan would either leave the number of highly skilled visas each year at the same level or raise it slightly, the sources said.

The overall goal is to reshape the visa program into a more merit-based system, a key Trump goal. Officials working on the plan have been reviewing the systems used by Canada and Australia as possible models for the Trump effort.

The group has been working on a guest-worker program as part of the proposal to address the U.S. agriculture community’s need for seasonal labor while not hurting American workers, but nothing has been finalized, the sources said. Trump has sought to court farmers in key battleground states to boost his chances of re-election in 2020.

The proposal will include recommendations for modernizing ports of entry along the U.S. border to ensure safe trade while preventing illegal activity. It will also address asylum laws to take account of Trump’s desire to reduce the number of people who overstay their visas, the sources said.

Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, is also a main architect of a Middle East peace proposal that the president is expected to unveil this summer.

His objective on the immigration plan at the very least is to have a document that represents the president’s immigration policy and provide something that Republicans can rally around.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Tom Brown)

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WTA International - Monterrey Open - Final
FILE PHOTO – Tennis – WTA International – Monterrey Open Final – Club Sonoma, Monterrey, Mexico – April 7, 2019 Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka in action during her Final match against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

April 24, 2019

(Reuters) – Belarusian Victoria Azarenka made a winning return to Stuttgart with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Russia’s Vera Zvonareva in what was an engrossing battle in the first round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Wednesday.

Azarenka, a former world number one, was pushed in the opening set, especially by Zvonareva’s first serve, but fought back to break her four times in the match. The last time the pair met was in 2011 when they were both ranked in the top 10.

“We’re both in completely different stages of our careers, we’re both moms,” Azarenka said after her win in a match that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.

“I think I’m playing better than I used to before, I believe I’m much more of a complete player than I used to be. I’m in the process of building my game up again.”

The 29-year-old, a two-times Australian Open champion, also had to overcome jet lag after competing in the Fed Cup semi-final in Australia at the weekend.

“I have no idea right now of the time or what’s happening,” she told reporters. “The flight from Australia was so long I felt like it was never going to end! It was a huge challenge for me today and I’m very happy with the way I handled it.”

Azarenka will take on fourth seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova next for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Earlier, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic started the tournament strongly with a 6-2 6-4 victory over qualifier Mandy Minella, in a match that lasted 75 minutes.

Bencic, who ended a four-year title drought in February when she beat world number three Petra Kvitova in Dubai, struck 24 winners with her aggressive returns dominating the Luxembourger. The result pits Bencic against sixth seed Kiki Bertens.

Last year’s semi-finalist Anett Kontaveit of Estonia breezed past France’s Caroline Garcia with a 6-4 6-3 win while Donna Vekic beat Giulia Gatto-Monticone 6-1 7-5 to advance.

2011 champion Julia Goerges’ first match was cut short by injury with the German forced to retire when she was trailing 4-0 in the final set to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Goerges had taken the first set 6-4 before the Russian took the second 6-2.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Uber's logo is displayed on a mobile phone in London
FILE PHOTO: Uber’s logo is displayed on a mobile phone in London, Britain, September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

April 24, 2019

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc said on Wednesday the head of its Asia-Pacific operations will leave the company at the end of next month, and will be replaced by Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty.

Amit Jain had joined the app-based ride-hailing company as its India operations chief in 2015 and had taken over as head of Uber’s Asia-Pacific business last year.

The company, which recently unveiled its IPO plans, said https://ubr.to/2vjtq22 Gore-Coty, who heads its EMEA rides business, will also take charge of the Asia-Pacific business.

He will work to “unlock opportunity markets such as Japan and South Korea, and continue our strong momentum in markets such as India and Australia,” Chief Operating Officer Barney Harford said in a statement.

San Francisco-based Uber counts India as one of its major growth markets and has been locked in a fierce battle with homegrown rival Ola for years.

(Reporting by Derek Francis in Bengaluru; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

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U.S. dollar banknote is seen in this picture illustration
FILE PHOTO: U.S. dollar banknote is seen in this picture illustration taken May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

April 24, 2019

By Shinichi Saoshiro

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Australian dollar tumbled to a six-week low on Wednesday as soft domestic inflation reinforced prospects of monetary easing, while the U.S. dollar hovered near a 22-month high against its peers on after strong U.S. housing data further eased concerns towards the world’s biggest economy.

The Aussie was down 0.9 percent at $0.7040 after brushing $0.7031, its lowest since March 11.

The antipodean currency tumbled after data on Wednesday showed Australia’s headline consumer price index (CPI) come in flat in the January-March quarter, below forecasts for an 0.2 percent increase and the lowest since early 2016.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has recently opened the door towards monetary policy easing, and Wednesday’s weak inflation reading increased views that the central bank would cut the key interest rate from an already record low of 1.5 percent.

“The weak CPI heightens the prospect of RBA cutting rates at its May 7 meeting,” said Ayako Sera, senior market economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust.

“Higher commodity prices usually support the Aussie, but rate cut prospects are outweighing such positive factors,” Sera said.

The Aussie is a commodity-linked currency that is also usually sensitive to shifts in risk sentiment.

Crude oil prices rallied to six-month peaks this week, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq reached record high closings overnight.

The dollar index versus a basket of six major currencies stood at 97.660 after rising to 97.777 overnight, its highest since June 2017.

U.S. data on Tuesday showing sales of new single-family homes jumped to a near 1-1/2-year high in March added to recent positive readings in retail sales and exports.

The euro , which has the largest weighting within the dollar index, was down 0.15 percent at $1.1212 after shedding 0.25 percent the previous day.

“The European economy looks particularly weak relative to the U.S. economy and this highlights the euro’s weakness,” said Takuya Kanda, general manager at Gaitame.Com Research.

“The United States is now expected to have experienced firm growth in the first quarter, reinforcing the dollar’s strength relative to the euro.”

U.S. first quarter GDP data on Friday could strengthen the case that while the current period of global expansion is in its late stages, the United States is on a firmer footing compared with other leading economies.

The dollar was steady at 111.885 yen after suffering mild losses overnight, weighed down by a decline in long-term Treasury yields.

The Canadian dollar extended overnight losses and slipped to a seven-week low of C$1.3457 per dollar amid expectations that the Bank of Canada (BoC) would forgo language pointing to further interest rate hikes.

Canada’s central bank is expected to hold its benchmark interest rate steady at a policy meeting later on Wednesday. A Reuters poll showed that the central bank is expected to stand pat until the beginning of 2020 at the earliest.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Richard Borsuk)

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A man looks on in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing
FILE PHOTO: A man looks on in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 24, 2019

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Equity markets in Asia rose on Wednesday morning after upbeat earnings helped the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indexes reach record closing highs on Wall Street overnight, while oil retreated from its near six-month highs.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent in early trade in Asia. The gains followed a strong performance on Wall Street, driven by robust results from Coca-Cola, Twitter, United Technologies and Lockheed Martin.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.52 percent to 26,647.97, the S&P 500 gained 0.91 percent to 2,934.31 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.35 percent to 8,123.25.

On Wednesday morning, S&P 500 e-mini stock futures were up 0.03 percent at 2,938.75, just short of a record high of 2,944.75 on October 3.

Australian shares gained 0.6 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index was 0.3 percent higher. Seoul’s Kospi was up 0.1 percent.

Analyst said that alongside better-than-feared corporate earnings, a more supportive policy environment is helping to boost risk appetites.

“The Fed has been joined in its dovish tilt by major central banks across the globe … the tilt globally reflects genuine concern not to allow individual countries and the globe to tip into recession. That risk has receded,” Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro in Australia, said in a note to clients.

Equity market gains had been bolstered on Tuesday by rising energy shares after Brent crude, the global benchmark, hit its highest level since Nov. 1.

Oil prices had surged after the United States ended six months of waivers that allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes of Iranian oil.

Gulf OPEC members said that rather than offset any shortfall resulting from the U.S. decision on waivers, they would raise output only if there was demand.

But early on Wednesday, Brent had given up some gains, trading down 0.54 percent at $74.11 per barrel. U.S. crude dipped 0.54 to $65.94 a barrel.

U.S. Treasury yields ticked lower. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes yielded 2.5686 percent compared with a U.S. close of 2.57 percent on Tuesday, while the two-year yield, slipped to 2.3516 percent, compared with a U.S. close of 2.364 percent.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, eased 0.03 percent to 97.606. The dollar was down 0.04 percent against the yen to 111.82.

The euro edged 0.08 percent lower to buy $1.1216.

Spot gold fell about 0.1 percent to $1,271.07 per ounce.

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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