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World food prices fall for 12th month running in March

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    World food prices fall for 12th month running in March

    ROME, April 7 (Reuters) – The United Nations food agency’s world price index fell in March for a 12th consecutive month, and is now down 20.5% from a record high hit one year ago following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 126.9 points last month against 129.7 for February, the agency said on Friday. It was the lowest reading since July 2021.

    The February reading was originally given as 129.8.

    A combination of ample supplies, subdued import demand and the extension of a deal allowing the safe export of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea contributed to the drop, FAO said.
    The Rome-based agency said the decline in the index reflected lower prices for cereals, vegetable oils and dairy products, which offset rises in sugar and meat prices.

    “While prices dropped at the global level, they are still very high and continue to increase in domestic markets, posing additional challenges to food security,” Maximo Torero, FAO’s chief economist said in a statement.

    “This is particularly so in net food importing developing countries, with the situation aggravated by the depreciation of their currencies against the U.S. dollar or the euro and a mounting debt burden,” he added.
    The FAO cereal price index fell 5.6% month-on-month in March, with wheat registering a 7.1% drop, maize a 4.6% decline and rice easing 3.2 percent.

    Vegetable oils fell 3.0%, some 47.7% down on the level the index hit in March 2022, while the dairy index was down 0.8%.

    By contrast, sugar rose 1.5% to its highest level since October 2016, hit by concerns over declining production prospects in India, Thailand and China. The meat price index rose by 0.8%.

    HIGHER WHEAT PRODUCTION

    In a separate report on cereals supply and demand, the FAO raised its forecast for world wheat production in 2023, now pegged at 786 million tonnes — 1.3% below the 2022 level but nonetheless the second largest outturn on record.

    “Near-record sown areas are expected in Asia, while dry conditions are impacting North Africa and southern Europe,” FAO said.
    FAO also raised its forecast for world cereal production in 2022 to 2.777 billion tonnes, just 1.2% down from the previous year. World rice production in 2022/23 was seen at 516 million tonnes, 1.6% below the record 2021/22 harvest.

    World cereal utilisation in the 2022/23 period was seen at 2.779 billion tonnes, FAO said, down 0.7% from 2021/22. World cereal stocks by the close of the 2022/2023 seasons are expected to ease by 0.3% from their opening levels to 850 million tonnes.

    Editing by Crispian Balmer

    Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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    South Korea will offer $5.3 billion in financing to North America to support battery investments

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      South Korea will offer $5.3 billion in financing to North America to support battery investments

      SEOUL, April 7, (Reuters) – South Korea announced Friday that it will provide 7 trillion won ($5.32billion) in financial support to its battery makers who plan to invest in infrastructure in North America in the next five years in order to help them cope with the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.

      According to the industry ministry, government support will include lowering insurance premiums and lending rates by as much 20%. It will also provide more loans and tax credit for Korean companies’ material and battery production facilities in the region.

      The U.S. Treasury Department announced last week stricter rules for electric vehicles (EVs). This requires automakers to source a specific percentage of vital minerals for EV batteries from the United States, or a U.S.-free-trade partner, in order to qualify for federal incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act.

      To qualify for a credit of $3,750, 50% of the battery components must be manufactured or assembled in North America. 40% of critical minerals must also be sourced from the United States, or a free trading partner, to qualify.

      While presided over a meeting with key battery cell manufacturers and material firms, Trade Minister Lee Chang-yang stated that both government and businessmen should work together to find solutions to quickly changing situations following the Inflation Reduction Act.

      South Korea’s government-backed battery alliance was launched in November to help it better source key metals that China dominates and to improve battery supply chain stability.

      South Korea’s LG Energy Solution Ltd. (373220.KS), Samsung SDI Co Ltd. (006400.KS), and SK On are three of the five largest EV battery cell manufacturers in the world. They account for more than a quarter the global market and supply the likes of Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O), Volkswagen AG. (VOWG_p.DE), and General Motors Co. (GM.N).

      LGES announced in March that it would resume a U.S. battery project, with a $5.6 Billion investment in Arizona, to qualify for federal incentives under The Inflation Reduction Act.

      ($1=1,316.2200 won)

      Reporting by Heekyong Yan; Editing by Christopher Cushing

      Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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      ValueAct raises criticism of Japan’s Seven & i

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        ValueAct raises criticism of Japan’s Seven & i

        TOKYO (Reuters) – ValueAct Capital criticized Seven & i Holdings (3382.T) Friday for failing to answer key questions about the Japanese retail giant’s strategy. This created tension ahead of its annual shareholders meeting.

        “Seven & i didn’t answer any of the nine questions posed to ValueAct in a clear, specific way,” ValueAct stated to Reuters in a statement. This was a day after Seven & i independent directors had promised to continue reviewing strategic options.

        The U.S. fund asked nine questions to the company about its earnings report on Thursday. One of those was whether the board recognizes shareholder dissatisfaction at the current conglomerate structure.

        ValueAct, which holds a 4.4% stake, is calling for a spinoff of its 7-Eleven convenience stores chain and seeking to replace four of the 14 board directors at the annual meeting.

        The fund stated that “the company’s communications remain to be vaguely and confusing.” “We look forward providing shareholders with the opportunity to vote on new directors who will guide the company towards a better future.”

        Seven & i responded to Reuters by saying in a statement that its strategy committee will continue to discuss reforms to the group structure.

        It stated that “We plan to communicate the views of our board, including responses to shareholders’ questions, around mid-April.”

        After its profit outlook for the current financial year failed to meet expectations, shares of Seven & i fell 4% on Friday.

        Reporting by Kantaro Koiya and Makiko Yamazaki. Editing by Jacqueline Wong & Muralikumar Aantharaman

        Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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        US regulator

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          US regulator

          examines JPMorgan’s dealmaking frenzy

          April 7, 2017 (Reuters) – U.S regulators are examining JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM.N), according to the Financial Times, citing people who were familiar with the matter.

          According to the report, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), had scheduled a special audit of JPMorgan’s transaction making after the bank bought dozens of smaller businesses in 2021 and 2022.

          After the U.S. government brought criminal charges against Charlie Javice (founder of the now-defunct college financial aid company Frank), for defrauding JPMorgan to buy the startup for $175million in 2021

          Javice, 31, was accused of lying to the largest U.S. Bank by claiming Frank had lined up 4.25 Million student customers when she actually had data for only 300,000.

          JPMorgan had sued Javice, Olivier Amar and Frank in Delaware federal court. According to the report, the OCC audit was scheduled prior to JPMorgan’s lawsuit.

          Javice filed counterclaims against JPMorgan in February. She accused JPMorgan of “compromising her reputation” by withholding $28 Million of equity and retention payments.

          Frank was shut down by the bank in January. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon called the acquisition a “huge error” during a conference call with analysts on Jan. 13.

          JPMorgan declined to comment, as did a spokesperson from the OCC.

          Reporting by Baranjot in Bengaluru; Editing and Jamie Freed by Jason Neely, Mark Porter

          Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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          Toyota to Launch 10 New Battery EV Models by 2026

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            Toyota to Launch 10 New Battery EV Models by 2026

            TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T), will introduce 10 new models powered by battery technology and aim to sell 1.5 million EVs per year by 2026. This is a major boost in a market that has been dominated by its rivals for a long time.

            Senior executives announced that the world’s largest automaker in terms of sales will also create a new specialized unit to focus on next generation battery EVs. This was revealed at a briefing held Friday.

            Toyota, which includes its Lexus luxury brand has only three battery models currently on the market. Last year, less than 25,000 were sold worldwide.

            Investors and environmental groups have criticized Toyota for not embracing battery-powered cars quickly. They claim that it has lost ground with Tesla Inc (TSLA.O), and other companies that are more agile in capturing fast-growing demand.

            The Japanese automaker countered that EVs were only one option and that gasoline-electric hybrids, such as the Prius, are a more realistic choice in some markets and for drivers.

            “In the next few decades we will expand our range-up in battery electric category,” Koji Sato, Chief Executive, stated. This was his first job in the top position, but he added that hybrids would still be an important pillar.

            By 2030, EVs will account for more than half the global vehicle production.

            Toyota will need to meet this demand. It also stated that it would increase its production in the United States where the growth of EVs is faster than the overall market.

            According to an S&P Global Mobility forecast, Toyota’s goal of selling 1.5 million BEVs per year by 2026 was 25% more than the 1.2 million units it was expecting to sell by then.

            Yoshiaki Kawano (associate director at S&P Global Mobility) stated that there is a gap of 300,000. This can be viewed as a difference of approximately a year.

            He said that it doesn’t seem impossible to achieve, but that the outcome would depend on which models Toyota released.

            Toyota reported that U.S. sales dropped by almost 9% in the first quarter. General Motors Co. (GM.N) experienced an 18% increase in sales due to increased demand from commercial and fleet customers for EVs.

            According to data from S&P Global Mobility, U.S. consumers are switching to electric vehicles mainly from Toyota Motor Co (7267.T), which was revealed in November by data from S&P Global Mobility.

            “Now that it’s time to make the next big innovation leap, Toyota is falling behind, and more and more people in the U.S. understand that,” East Peterson Trujillo, a Clean Vehicles Campaigner with non-profit Public Citizen, stated in an interview before the briefing.

            Reporting by Daniel Leussink, Maki Shiraki; Editing done by Edwina Gibbs & Clarence Fernandez

            Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

            Daniel Leussink

            Thomson Reuters

            Daniel Leussink is a Japanese correspondent. He has been covering Japan’s automobile industry since 2018, documenting how some of the largest automakers in the world navigate a transition from electric vehicles to unprecedented supply chain disruptions. Leussink joined Reuters in 2018 and has covered Japan’s economy, COVID-19, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the Bank of Japan’s ultra-easy monetary policy experiment.
            Contact: +81 80 4637 8526

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            Tesla reduces prices in the US to stimulate demand

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              Tesla reduces prices in the US to stimulate demand

              April 7, 2017 (Reuters) – Tesla.O (TSLA.O), a company that sells electric cars, reduced prices in the United States by 2% to nearly 6% on Thursday. This comes as analysts warn that the discount drive could harm profitability.

              As the United States prepares for tougher standards this month, which are expected to limit EV credit tax credits, the fifth such cut comes in Tesla’s largest customer market since the beginning of the year.

              The website revealed that Tesla reduced the prices of both its Model 3 sedan and its Model Y crossover by $1,000 and $2,000 respectively. It also reduced prices by $5,000 on both the Model S and Model X versions, which are more expensive.

              According to the company, the $7,500 tax credit for its base rear-wheel drive Model 3 would be reduced by stricter U.S. standards.

              Analysts who anticipated further price cuts raised concerns that Tesla’s market-leading profit margins might be at risk.

              Tesla reported this week that it delivered almost 423,000 vehicles in its first quarter. This is a 4% increase over the previous quarter, despite price cuts in the United States, China, and other markets to encourage demand.

              Tesla has set a goal of 1.8 million deliveries in 2018.

              Tesla has reduced the price of its base Model 3 by a cumulative 11 percent since the beginning of the year. It also saw a 20% drop in the base Model Y’s price.

              Reporting by Akriti Sharma, Bengaluru, and Abhirup Roy, San Francisco; Editing and editing by Kevin Krolicki & Clarence Fernandez

              Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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              Southwest Airlines CEO gets a higher bonus despite holiday meltdown

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                Southwest Airlines CEO gets a higher bonus despite holiday meltdown

                CHICAGO, April 6, 2016 (Reuters) – Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV.N), paid a higher bonus for Chief Executive Bob Jordan, a regulatory filing revealed. This was despite the company promising to reduce executive incentive pay after it canceled approximately 17,000 flights around Christmas, disrupting travel for 2,000,000 customers and costing them more than $1 billion.

                The company announced in February that executive bonuses would be reduced as a result.

                According to a regulatory filing, Jordan received $195720 in bonus payouts, an 89% increase over a year ago. His total compensation jumped by 75% to $5.3 million.

                The Dallas-based carrier also paid Andrew Watterson a higher bonus. It did not reduce the incentive pay for top executives.

                Southwest spokesperson said that the increased bonus payments were due to Jordan’s and Watterson’s job promotions.

                Jordan was the executive vice president from February 1, 2022 until he became CEO. Watterson was the chief commercial officer from September to last.

                Rajesh Kumar Singh reports; David Gregorio edits

                Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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                Airbnb shares fall following a probe into unfavorable customer experiences

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                  Airbnb shares fall following a probe into unfavorable customer experiences

                  April 6, 2016 (Reuters) – Shares in Airbnb Inc (ABNB.O), fell as high as 6% Thursday after an independent publication published a report detailing the unpleasant experiences customers had while renting short-term apartments through the platform.

                  According to The Bear Cave report horror stories of guests staying in individually managed Airbnbs are common on the internet. These include last-minute cancellations and surprise cleaning requirements, as well as many examples of guests finding hidden cameras inside bedrooms and bathrooms.

                  Airbnb did not respond.

                  In afternoon trading, the company’s shares fell 5%.

                  Airbnb’s revenue for 2022 was 40% higher than the previous year. It was also the company’s most profitable year ever. The San Fransico-based company reported a 16% rise in active listings during the fourth quarter 2022 compared to the same period 2021. The number of nights and experiences booked increased 20% over a year ago, but this was below analysts’ estimates.

                  Travel companies stated earlier this year that they have not seen a decrease of demand despite concerns about a slowing economy.

                  A fire broke out last month in Montreal’s building that was being used by both long-term residents as well as short-term guests who rented accommodation through Airbnb. Officials from the city said that the units in the residential building weren’t meant to be rented for such purposes.

                  Some of the top professional hosts in the company have left Airbnb and created their own booking platforms, offering lower rates and better service.

                  According to the report, the company’s revenues could be further threatened by the increase in professionally managed properties. However, some analysts are more optimistic about Airbnb’s prospects.

                  “Airbnb.. sits within a much better supply market, and appears much more like Amazon: Everything on Amazon can pretty much be purchased another way, however, that does not make it less valuable,” Richard Clarke, a Bernstein analyst, stated in a note.

                  Airbnb laid off some staff in March to reduce costs and protect margins.

                  Reporting by Priyamvada in Bengaluru and Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing: David Gregorio

                  Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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                  U.S. banks are dangling promotions to lock in customer deposits, analysts say

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                    U.S. banks are dangling promotions to lock in customer deposits, analysts say

                    NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) – For months, consumers have clamored for banks to pay out more for deposits as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. Now analysts say after the banking crisis shook markets last month, lenders appear to be rejigging offers in an effort to keep customers’ cash parked in their accounts for longer.

                    U.S. banks are trying to woo depositors by offering signing bonuses to open new accounts or deposit money on a regular basis. The promotions are running at a time when the failures of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank last month spooked customers, prompting them to move $119 billion out of smaller institutions.

                    Capital One Financial Corp (COF.N) is advertising a $100 bonus for opening a new savings account and keeping more than $10,000 in it for 90 days. The offer ramps up to a bonus of $1,000 for deposits of over $100,000.

                    Discover Financial Services (DFS.N) and LendingClub (LC.N) are offering similar perks, which were in effect before the bank runs began.

                    A Capital One spokesperson said the campaign is part of their longstanding strategy to help customers build balances in their savings accounts, and had been planned for several months.

                    Citizens Financial Group (CFG.N) is offering a $25 bonus for customers who put in $100 a month for three months and maintaining a minimum balance, according to emails sent to customers after March 10.

                    The offer is part of a pre-planned campaign to promote healthy savings habits, and not in reaction to specific events, Citizens spokeswoman Eleni Garbis said in a statement.

                    Discover did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

                    Paying more for deposits is an effective way for banks to keep customers loyal, analysts said.

                    “As rates have risen, high-yield savings accounts have become fashionable once again, with some banks competing aggressively to stay at the top of the rate tables that consumers rely on for comparison purposes,” said Andrew Davidson, chief insights officer at Mintel, a market intelligence agency.

                    “The intense competition has been further fueled by an overall drop in deposits, with more firms reaching out to customer in the last few weeks,” he added.

                    Banks are also trying to retain customers by employing other techniques such as explaining to customers the rules around deposit insurance, offering different products or emphasizing ties to local communities.

                    Smaller banks, which were most strained by the recent crisis, have been able to stem the exodus of deposits for now, according to weekly data from the Federal Reserve. But industry experts continue to monitor the outflows closely.

                    DEPOSIT OUTFLOW STABILIZING

                    The Fed’s data showed smaller U.S. banks — defined as any lender that is not among the largest 25 U.S. banks ranked by assets — saw their deposits stabilize in the week of March 22, down just $1.1 billion from the previous week on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.

                    That compares with $185 billion of deposits that were yanked out of smaller lenders by panicked customers during the week ending March 15, after SVB collapsed. That said, the Fed’s data showed deposits at smaller banks were still down some $216 billion during the week ending March 22 from a December high.

                    The Independent Community Bankers of America, an industry group, said some of its members had actually gained deposits in recent weeks as consumers and small businesses sought out banks with strong ties to their local markets.

                    “Community banks have not reported widespread withdrawals in response to the SVB failure,” said Anne Balcer, senior executive vice president, chief of government relations and public policy at the ICBA.

                    “Main Street community banks are there for their customers during uncertain times and have proven to be resilient through economic cycles.”

                    Meanwhile, large U.S. banks lost out on $96.2 billion in deposits in the week ending March 22, the Fed data showed. Several analysts attributed to decline to depositors moving their cash to higher-yielding money market funds.

                    Deposits at large banks dropped some $519 billion from as high as $11.2 trillion in February last year.

                    Banks act as middlemen in the economy by taking deposits and making loans. So far, the decline in deposits hasn’t stopped them from extending credit to households and businesses.

                    “Tighter funding conditions for banks have not translated into any notable deceleration in aggregate U.S. banking sector loan growth relative to February levels,” analysts at Moody’s Investors Service said in a note.

                    Reporting by Nupur Anand and Koh Gui Qing, additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer in New York and Douglas Gillison in Washington; Editing by Lananh Nguyen and Jan Harvey

                    Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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                    Volkswagen not planning new combustion engine Golf, Automobilwoche reports

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                      Volkswagen not planning new combustion engine Golf, Automobilwoche reports

                      BERLIN, April 2 (Reuters) – Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) does not plan to develop a new combustion engine generation of its legendary Golf car, brand chief Thomas Schaefer told autos publication Automobilwoche on Sunday, marking the end of the line for a vehicle on sale since 1974.

                      The Golf 8, currently in production, will be the last combustion engine version of the hatchback car, with one more series of updates expected next year.

                      “With that, the car is set until the end of the decade. Then we have to see how this segment develops,” Schaefer said. “If the world develops completely differently than expected by 2026 or 2027, we could develop a totally new vehicle – but I don’t think it will. So far that is not expected,” he added.

                      Volkswagen’s decision not to invest in upgrading the Golf, for decades Europe’s bestselling car, is a marker of the shift in investment by the carmaker from retooling combustion engines to bringing down the cost of electric vehicles.

                      The Volkswagen brand, part of the Volkswagen Group, is targeting 80% electric sales in Europe and 55% in North America by 2030. The group is targeting 50% electric sales globally by then.

                      The carmaker plans to keep the Golf name for a future electric model, but the earliest this is likely to be released is 2028, Schaefer said.

                      It is due to launch 10 new electric models by 2026, including a battery-electric car for under 25,000 euros($27,000).

                      ($1=0.9226 euros)

                      Reporting by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Sharon Singleton

                      Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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