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Food inflation pain puts emerging markets between rock and...

May 17, 2022: Like millions of people in developing and emerging market countries around the world, shopping for staple foods has turned from a necessity into a luxury for Selcuk Gemici.

The 49-year-old, who works in an auto repair shop in Turkey's largest city Istanbul and lives with his wife and two children in his father's house, says fresh produce is often out of reach with his family living on pasta, bulgur and beans.

"Everything became so expensive, we cannot buy and eat what we want - we only buy what we can afford now," said Gemici. "My children are not properly nourished."

Global food prices have climbed for two years, fuelled by COVID-19 disruptions and weather woes. Supply shocks to grains and oils from Russia's invasion of Ukraine saw them hit an all-time record in February, and again in March.

Inflation rates have soared, with energy price rises adding to the pressure. Turkey or Argentina with annual inflation of 70% and around 60% might be outliers, but readings are into double-digits in countries from Brazil to Hungary. It makes U.S. inflation at 8.3% look modest in comparison.

Rising food prices are a hot topic in the emerging markets, raising the risk of civil unrest with echoes of the Arab spring and putting policymakers in a bind between stepping in with fiscal support to ease the pain on their population or preserve government finances.

Food is the single largest category in inflation baskets - the selection of goods used to calculate the cost of living - in many developing nations, accounting for around half in countries like India or Pakistan and on average for some 40% in low-income countries, International Monetary Fund data shows.

Food producers have become more protective: India on the weekend announced a ban on wheat exports while Indonesia halted exports of palm oil to control soaring prices at home in late April.

And with the war in Ukraine not only disrupting food but also fertilizer supplies, food inflation could be longer-lasting, Marcelo Carvalho, head of global emerging markets research at BNP Paribas told Reuters.

"This is here to stay," said Carvalho. "Food is very salient - when there is a change in food prices, the perception about inflation is magnified - that feeds into inflation expectations that are more easily unanchored."


For Um Ibrahim, a 60-year-old widow and street vendor selling headscarves in front of a mosque in the middle-class district of Madinet Nasr in Egypt's capital Cairo, feeding her four children has become much harder.

"All prices rose - clothes, vegetables, poultry, eggs - what am I going do?" she asked, laying out her ware on a cloth.

Egypt, one of the world's biggest wheat importers, has seen inflation soar more than 13% in April and is expected to hike interest rates again at a meeting this week after it devalued the currency by 14% in mid-March.

Emerging-market policymakers, having jacked up interest rates by hundreds of basis points cumulatively since 2020 to curb price pressures and ensure a bond premium to rising U.S. yields for investors, have to perform a balancing act between taming inflation and keeping fragile growth alive at a time of rising global interest rates.

Emerging economies may expand just 4.6% this year, the World Bank forecasts, compared with an earlier 6.3% prediction.

Polina Kurdyavko, head of EM debt at BlueBay Asset Management, says governments have three options: Provide bigger subsidies to consumers or bite the bullet that is to let prices rise and face inflation and social unrest, or do something in between.

"There are no easy solutions," Kurdyavko said.

A raft of countries has introduced measures: Turkey raised the minimum wage by 50% in December to address a currency crash and inflation spike. Chile will up minimum pay this year as well.

South Africa's government is debating whether to increase a social relief grant launched in 2020 and make the scheme permanent.

Economists fear emerging economies are facing a fresh wave of unrest on the back of the latest increases in food prices. North Africa, where food inflation was a contributor to the Arab Spring revolts a decade ago, looked particularly vulnerable, said Beata Javorcic, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

"The irony of this war is that while everybody expected Russia to have a crisis, it is actually North African countries that are closer to having an emergency situation due to high food prices," she said.

But pain is expected to stretch further: Three-quarters of nations expected to be at high-risk or extreme risk of civil unrest by the fourth quarter of 2022 were middle-income countries, risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft said last week.

Appeasing inflation pressures through spending will come at a fiscal cost that could spell trouble further down the line, said BNP's Carvalho.

"In emerging markets, fiscal sins are forgiven but not forgotten," he said. "Over the last couple of years, everybody felt like they have a blank cheque ... in part because rates were so low. Now that interest rates are rising, it gets a bit trickier."


NBP issues foreign exchange rate

May 17, 2022: Treasury management division of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) on...

Palm tracks rival oils lower, robust early-May exports limit...

May 17, 2022: Malaysian palm oil futures resumed trading on Tuesday after a long weekend and tracked losses in rival edible oils, but the losses were limited by strong exports for the first half of May.

The benchmark palm oil contract FCPOc3 for August delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange slid 64 ringgit, or 1.04%, to 6,075 ringgit ($1,382.88) during early trade.


* Exports of Malaysian palm oil products for May 1-15 rose 20.6% to 569,233 tonnes from 472,181 tonnes shipped during the same week in April, cargo surveyor Intertek Testing Services said on Sunday.

* The news of India banning exports of wheat on Saturday put some pressure on soyoil futures amid questions of ripple effects the ban could have on India's import demand for vegetable oils.

* Soyoil prices on the Chicago Board of Trade BOcv1 were down 0.4%. Dalian's most-active soyoil contract DBYcv1 fell 1%, while its palm oil contract DCPcv1 lost 2.4%.

* Palm oil is affected by price movements in related oils as they compete for a share in the global vegetable oils market.

* Palm oil may rise to 6,602 ringgit per tonne, as it managed to stabilise around support at 6,290 ringgit, Reuters technical analyst Wang Tao said. TECH/C


* Asian shares edged higher despite data reinforcing investors' fears the global economic recovery may be more fragile than expected, even as inflationary pressures remain high.


Gold flat as dollar retreat offsets rising U.S. bond...

May 17, 2022: Gold prices were little changed on Tuesday, as a pullback in the dollar supported demand for greenback-priced bullion and countered pressure from a recovery in U.S. Treasury yields.

Spot gold was last up 0.1% at $1,825.29 per ounce, as of 0218 GMT. U.S. gold futures gained 0.6% to $1,825.60.

The dollar index steadied after falling from near 20-year highs on Monday and the tumbling Chinese yuan found a floor, as investors trimmed bets on whether U.S. interest rate hikes will drive further dollar gains.[USD/]

A weaker dollar makes gold more attractive for buyers holding other currencies.

However, benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields climbed, limiting demand for non-interest-bearing gold.

"Now that we have the much-needed clearout on gold markets, longer-term holders could start to position for the eventual southbound turn on the U.S. hard economic data," said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

Asian shares edged higher despite data reinforcing investor fears the global economic recovery may be more fragile than expected, even as inflationary pressures remain high. [MKTS/GLOB]

Bullion is seen as a safe haven during economic crises and a hedge against inflation.

Gold slid to a 3-1/2-month low on Monday but reversed course later, tracking a fall in Treasury yields. On Friday, prices posted a fourth straight week of declines.

Spot silver dropped 0.2% to $21.56 per ounce, platinum was flat at $945.76, and palladium fell 1.2% to $2,002.17.

"With China on the verge of reopening and likely adding more stimulus, it benefits all hard commodities. And palladium is ultimately used in industrial applications, particularly within the auto sector; that segment could benefit from ports reopening in China," Innes said.

Improving demand and lower supply will help palladium and rhodium swing back into deficit this year and reduce platinum's surplus, consultants Metals Focus said on Monday.


Oil prices ease as EU struggles to seal Russia...

May 17, 2022: Oil prices eased on Tuesday as Hungary resisted a European Union push for a ban on Russian oil imports, a move that would tighten global supply, and as investors took profits following a recent rally.

Brent crude futures fell 22 cents, or 0.2%, to $114.02 a barrel by 0327 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slid 35 cents, or 0.3%, to $113.85 a barrel. Both benchmarks gained more than 2% on Monday, following a 4% jump on Friday.

EU foreign ministers failed on Monday in their effort to pressure Budapest to lift its veto of a proposed oil embargo on Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine. An embargo would require approval from all EU nations.

Still, overall sentiment on prices remained bullish amid optimism about demand recovery in China as it looks to ease COVID restrictions that have hurt its economy, analysts said.

"Shanghai's plans to relax the COVID-19 lockdown in stages raised expectations of a demand revival in China," said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities.

"With the U.S. approaching the start of the summer driving season amid tight fuel supply, oil prices are expected to head toward $120 a barrel," he said.

Shanghai set out plans on Monday for the end of a painful COVID-19 lockdown that has lasted more than six weeks, heavily bruising China's economy, and for the return of more normal life from June 1.

The news outweighed disappointing data from China on Monday, with industrial output and retail sales falling in April at the fastest in more than two years, missing expectations.

On the supply side, U.S. producers are ramping up in order to replenish inventories that have dwindled in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine - which Moscow calls "a special military operation" - and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oil output in the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the biggest U.S. shale oil basin, is due to rise by 88,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a record 5.219 million bpd in June, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday.

Still, stockpiles in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) fell to 538 million barrels, the lowest since 1987, data from the U.S. Department of Energy showed on Monday, underlining tight supply.


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