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UK Consumer Confidence Rises Sharply, G7 Prepares Fresh Sanctions on Russia, US Existing Home Sales Decline

Shemesh Shahar
Latest News
May 19 2023 12:26AM

Trade Deal Strengthens US-Taiwan Bond

The United States and Taiwan have reached an agreement on the initial phase of a new trade deal, focusing on anti-corruption measures, regulatory practices, and customs procedures. Following the signing of this agreement, both countries intend to address additional topics such as agriculture, digital trade, and environmental standards. This trade deal strengthens the bond between the United States and Taiwan, particularly amidst escalating tensions with China.

Israel Used Tear Gas on Gaza Protesters

Amidst escalating tensions following a Jerusalem Day march, Israeli forces used tear gas against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Israeli Jewish nationalists participated in the march through Jerusalem’s Muslim quarter to commemorate Israel’s capture of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 war. Some far-right government ministers, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national-security minister, joined the procession, asserting Israel’s perpetual claim over Jerusalem.

Supreme Court Upholds Tech Liability Shield

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an attempt to diminish the liability shield enjoyed by tech companies regarding user-generated content. Plaintiffs argued that Twitter and Google should be legally responsible for hosting posts related to terrorism, but their argument was unsuccessful. During the February hearing, the justices exhibited a disinclination to disrupt the existing legal framework, with one justice noting that the court members were not the foremost experts on the internet.

UK Consumer Confidence Rises Sharply

According to a closely monitored indicator, UK consumer confidence has risen for the fourth consecutive month, reaching its highest level since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The consumer confidence index, as reported by research group GfK, increased by three points to -27 this month. This positive trend reflects an ongoing improvement since the index plummeted to -45 in January.

Surge in UK Housing Equity Release

Official figures reveal a notable surge of 28% in housing equity accessed by older homeowners in the UK, amounting to £5.2 billion in 2022. These figures raise concerns that pensioners are resorting to equity release mortgages to cover escalating living expenses without fully comprehending the associated costs. The sales value of lifetime mortgages, categorized as equity release loans, among individuals aged over 60, rose from £4.1 billion in 2021 to £5.2 billion last year, according to data from the Financial Conduct Authority obtained via a Freedom of Information request by advisory firm Bowmore Financial Planning.

G7 Prepares Fresh Sanctions on Russia

G7 countries are preparing to impose fresh sanctions on Russia, targeting various entities such as ships, aircraft, individuals, and diamonds. These measures aim to intensify economic pressure on Russia’s military apparatus. Additionally, G7 leaders are convening in Hiroshima, Japan, where they plan to curb the import of diamonds from Russia. This move specifically focuses on one of Russia’s few remaining export industries that have been relatively unaffected by Western sanctions.

European Natural Gas Prices Normalize

European natural gas prices have returned to their normal trading range for the first time since the onset of the energy crisis. On Thursday, prices fell below €30 per megawatt hour, marking the lowest level since June 2021. The benchmark TTF price dropped more than 8% during the day, reaching as low as €29.75/mwh. These price fluctuations have occurred as Russia has gradually resumed normal gas supplies to Europe after squeezing pipeline gas supplies ahead of its invasion of Ukraine.

US Existing Home Sales Decline

In April, sales of previously owned homes in the US experienced a decline from the previous month, accompanied by the largest year-on-year price drop in over 11 years. The National Association of Realtors reported that U.S. existing home sales, which constitute a significant portion of the housing market, fell by 3.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.28 million. Compared to the same period last year, April sales were down by 23.2%.

Reserve Bank of India Considers Increased Dividend

The Reserve Bank of India’s board is considering nearly doubling its dividend to the government, surpassing official estimates. This increase is due to revaluation gains and profits from the sale of dollars, which could help address the fiscal deficit. A Bloomberg survey of nine economists projected a surplus transfer of 900 billion rupees ($10.9 billion) for the fiscal year ending in March, surpassing the government’s estimate of 480 billion rupees, which includes dividends from state-controlled banks. In the previous year, the RBI approved a payout of 303.1 billion rupees, the lowest in a decade.