April 20, 2018

Italian officials & German firm face lawsuit over arms sales to Saudi Arabia

The legal action was launched by the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the Yemen-based Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, and the Italian Rete Italiana per il Disarmo. They filed the lawsuit with the prosecutors’ office in Rome.

The lawsuit aims to challenge arms exports by officials from the Italian Foreign Ministry and the local subsidiary of the German conglomerate Rheinmetall, RWM Italia, to Saudi Arabia.

75% of French oppose arms sales to Saudi Arabia as Yemen war enters 4th year – survey

The human rights groups focused on the October 8, 2016 bombing in Yemen, which left a family of six dead, including four children. They expressed hopes that concentrating on a specific well-documented incident could increase their chances of success.

“What makes this case special are the remnants found at the site of the airstrike,” Linde Bryk, a Dutch lawyer who worked in Kosovo and is now with the ECCHR, told The Guardian.

According to Mwatana, among the fragments that it found at the site of the 2016 attack on the village of Deir al-Jari in Hudaydah (north-west Yemen) was a suspension lug for holding bombs in place. Mwatana arrived at the site of the bombing the day after the incident to interview witnesses and gather evidence. The human rights organization sent pictures to the Italian news agency Ansa last year.

According to the complaint, the serial number on the lug identified it as part of a batch manufactured in June 2014 by RWM Italia. “This case is emblematic as it not only concerns Italy’s role but the general question on the responsibility of European governments and European arms manufacturers for the consequences of arms exports used by the Saudi-led coalition,” Bryk said.

The civil war which broke out in Yemen in 2015 prompted the Saudi-led intervention. Since then, the country endured what has been called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, almost 6,000 civilians had been killed and 9,500 wounded between March 2015 and February 2018. Millions were left displaced and on the brink of starvation.

3 years of Yemen bloodbath marked by US UK arms deals with Saudis

Statistics showed the Saudi-led coalition conducted over 16,600 air raids, with roughly a third of them targeting non-military sites. Almost 1,500 of them hit residential areas. Amnesty International says at least 36 of them violated international laws and may have constituted war crimes. “Despite the reported violations in Yemen, Italy continues to export arms to members of the Saudi-led military coalition,” said Francesco Vignarca from Rete Disarmo.

She explained: “This is contrary to Italian law 185/1990, which prohibits arms exports ‘to countries engaged in armed conflict.’ Furthermore, it is in contrast with the binding provisions of the EU common position on arms export control and the international arms trade treaty.”

If the Italian prosecutors’ office declines to pursue the October 2016 case, the human rights groups may go to higher courts, including the International Criminal Court, which so far has not been investigating events in Yemen.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424476-italy-germany-arms-sales/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Gold bullion to rally on weaker dollar, rising US inflation & deficit – analyst

“The resilience of gold prices in spite of the substantial wave of speculative selling since mid-March (~71 tones, corresponding to a 17 percent drop in net long spec positions) is encouraging insofar as it suggests the presence of buying pressure elsewhere in the market, e.g. physical demand,” the analyst wrote in his weekly report for Seeking Alpha.

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According to Mikanikrezai, exchange-traded fund (ETF) buying interest for gold is at its strongest since September 2017. “Once bullish speculative sentiment toward gold resumes, I expect a strong price reaction. I have a long position in IAU (iShares Gold Trust), expecting a fresh 2018 high in Q2,” the strategist said.

The industry expert sees a weaker dollar and lower US real rates in the coming months on the back of three main drivers, with the US Federal Reserve the primary driver. Mikanikrezai expects “a dovish hiking cycle” in the next few months based on “[the] Federal Open Market Committee’s patience to see inflation moving back first toward its target of two percent.”

Inflation is seen as the second driver pushing gold higher, with an expansionary path projected to move further, boosted by strong oil and a tight labor market. The third boosting element for the yellow metal is the US deficit rising due to this year’s fiscal stimulus.

According to the analyst, the three listed factors will continue to affect the greenback and boost gold prices. Gold bulls shouldn’t be depressed by the commodity’s temporary inability to break above its current trading range, he says, stressing that investors are commonly wary due to geopolitical risks, such as the recent tension between the US and China over trade and conflicts in the Middle East.

“Should the situation continue to deteriorate, investors could be forced to price more accurately this geopolitical risk. This would exert even more downward pressure on the dollar and US real rates,” Mikanikrezai says.

Spot gold dropped 0.04 percent to $1,348 an ounce by 09:54 GMT on Wednesday, while US gold futures gained 0.1 percent to $1,351.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424470-gold-rally-fresh-highs-coming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Russia going kitty crazy amid falling ruble

After analyzing statistics on requests and transactions, the service found that sales of cats skyrocketed 213 percent on April 9 (when the ruble dropped), compared to April 3.

The Russian currency fell to a two-year low last week as a result of US sanctions, which have caused a sell-off on the domestic markets. The ruble has since rebounded as the panic simmered off.

According to Lenta.ru, which obtained the Youla statistics, the Scottish Fold was the most popular cat breed among service users. It accounted for 40 percent of the “cats market,” at an average price of almost 3,000 rubles ($48).

British Shorthair was the second-most demanded breed, comprising 26 percent of sales with an average price of 2,800 rubles ($47).

Maine Coons, which are mainly farm cats, took third place. A cat of this breed costs an average of 7,400 rubles ($120).

The hairless Canadian and Donskoy Sphynx cats were in the top-five most-popular breeds, the data showed. The Sphynx breed was developed through selective breeding, starting in the 1960s.

The contemporary breed of Sphynx, also known as the Canadian Sphynx, costs 10,000 rubles ($162) per animal. Its characteristic baldness is caused by a recessive gene.

The Donskoy breed started in 1987 with the discovery of a hairless cat in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don by cat breeder Elena Kovaleva. Its hairlessness is caused by a dominant gene. The Don Sphynx cat costs 3,100 rubles ($50) on average.

The Scottish Fold, British Shorthair and Maine Coons were also the most popular cat breeds among Russians in March.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424439-russians-cats-ruble-plunge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Rothschild heir takes reins of banking dynasty

Alexandre de Rothschild, 37, was picked to replace his 75-year-old father, David de Rothschild, as the bank’s top executive. The successor will become the seventh generation of the dynasty to take charge of the Franco-British investment bank, which was founded in 1838.

According to the group, David de Rothschild will step down, allowing his son to take his place, on May 17. Rothschild senior will join Rothschild Co’s Supervisory Board.

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“This change in leadership at Rothschild Co has been carefully prepared over time. Alexandre, with 15 years of experience, has demonstrated deep knowledge of all our businesses and his ability to build relationships,” he said.

“I believe that those who make our firm so successful are as delighted as I am about the family continuity at the head of the firm.”

Alexandre, who currently serves as an executive deputy chairman at Rothschild, first joined the lender during the financial crisis in 2008, shifting from private equity firm Argan Capital. Before that, he briefly worked for Bear Stearns, a New York lender that collapsed during the crisis.

“I look forward with great enthusiasm to working with this team to continue the firm’s development in the direction so clearly established by my father,” he said, commenting on the appointment.

Last month, Rothschild reported higher annual profit and revenues, buoyed by its advisory work. The group reportedly had a half-year revenue of €852 million. The firm employs roughly 2,800 people in 40 countries, according to its website.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424399-rothschild-announce-new-boss-appointment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Russian aluminum major losing Japanese market after being sanctioned by US

“We have requested RUSAL stop shipments of aluminum for our term contracts as we can’t make payment in US dollars and we don’t want to take the risk of becoming a secondary sanction target by the United States,” an unnamed source at a trading house told Reuters. Another source close to the issue confirmed the information.

The company’s Japanese customers include Mitsubishi, Marubeni, Sumitomo and Mitsui. All in all, Japan purchases some 300,000 tons of refined aluminum from Russia, which amounts to nearly 16 percent of the country’s total imports, according to the Japan Aluminum Association.

“RUSAL asked us to halt payments soon after the US sanctions were announced as they can’t access US dollar accounts,” a source at a Japanese manufacturer told the agency.

The metallurgic giant is reportedly seeking alternative ways of settlement to continue selling its product to its customers in Japan. According to the source, most of RUSAL’s Japanese clients use local financial institutions that are cautious of being involved with deals with companies on the US sanctions lists.

“Everyone has been on a search for substitutes and that pushed local spot premiums to around $200-$250 per ton by last Friday,” the source said.

The figure is significantly higher than the Japanese term premiums for the April-June quarter shipments at $129 per ton. “The sanction came as a total surprise and we are in an almost panic situation,” a source at another trading company said.

On April 6, the White House introduced new penalties against Russia, which Washington accuses of “a range of malign activity around the globe.” The new sanctions target 24 Russian individuals and 14 major entities in different sectors of the economy.

The updated blacklist includes major Russian aluminum producer RUSAL, the world’s second-largest aluminum producer. The company’s shares touched an all-time low shortly after the announcement.

US penalties against one the world’s biggest producers has also caused a price spike on the global aluminum market. Aluminum prices on the London Metal Exchange surged to $2,400 per ton on Monday for the first time in more than six years, and is currently hovering around that mark. The contract has gained about 20 percent this month.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424382-japan-rusal-stop-shipping-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

China crushes American sorghum crop imports with 179% tariff

Sorghum is a crop used to feed livestock and can be made into a liquor known as maotai, which is very popular with Chinese drinkers. China is the largest buyer of American sorghum products, buying almost $1 billion worth last year.

Chinese tariffs hitting US where it’s most vulnerable – farming

Some analysts say such a steep tariff will practically stop US sorghum exports to China. “It’s very high. Basically, US sorghum won’t be able to come in,” said Fan Jingya, grains analyst at Cofco Futures, as quoted by Reuters.

“We were expecting like 35 percent,” the news agency quoted its source at international trading house as saying. “Sorghum imports now are dead. No one can afford that high amount of tariffs.”

“I don’t know what [the importers] will do, but it will be rough,” another trader said.

Analysts have also noted that tariffs on US agriculture will mostly hurt states like Kansas – where President Donald Trump’s core political base is located.

An investigation was launched two months ago in retaliation to aggressive trade actions by Washington, including hefty tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. US companies Archer Daniels Midland – a top seller of US sorghum in China – and Cargill are likely to be affected.

China earlier said it also plans to introduce tariffs on American soybeans. Last year, soybeans were the biggest US agricultural export to China at a value of between $12 billion and $14 billion.

The tariffs come hours after Washington banned American firms from selling parts and software to Chinese tech company ZTE Corp for seven years. US suppliers provide up to 30 percent of the components used in ZTE’s equipment and can disrupt China’s plan to build the world’s largest 5G network by the end of this decade.

ZTE is a Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and systems company. The US has accused it of illegally exporting US technology to Iran and North Korea.

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New ‘cosmic’ airport in Crimea offers flights to Venus & Mars

The facility is located 6km from the old airport it replaces. It was built in 22 months and covers an area of 78,000 square meters. The hub can handle 3,650 passengers per hour or 6.5 million per year. The annual passenger flow is expected to gradually increase to 10 million people.

It is equipped with 55 check-in counters, eight jet bridges and eight standard gates. There are 16 moving staircases and 28 elevators, which create a barrier-free environment. The check-in area features a “green wall,” which is reportedly the largest indoor plant structure in Europe.

The new complex was designed by one of the leading architectural companies in the world, South Korean company Samoo Architects Engineers. To create a wave-like silhouette of the new air terminal, specialists assembled more than 5,000 tons of metal assembly blocks.

“Inspired by the nature of the Crimean peninsula, designers used the image of the sea, and called the project the Crimean Wave,” said the airport’s press service.

It added that in total some 7,000 tons of metal constructions have been installed on the site, “which is only 300 tons less than the amount of metal used for the construction of the Eiffel Tower.”

The new terminal has been unofficially dubbed a “spaceport” due to its futuristic appearance. Its opening was turned into an appropriate show with characters from the Star Wars saga. The terminal was visited by robots telling passengers about the airport complex. On the information boards, one could see flights to Venus, Mars and the fictional Coruscant. It was specified that those flights were available only on the opening day of the terminal.

The complex was also equipped with a multimedia space screen and platforms in the form of spaceships. As much as 30 percent of the funds for the terminal’s construction have been raised from investors, with the remaining 70 percent borrowed from Crimean banks.

The decision to build a new airport terminal in Simferopol followed a sharp increase in passenger traffic after the peninsula’s reunification with Russia in 2014. Five years ago, the airport served 1.2 million passengers, but that figure doubled in 2014 to reach 2.8 million passengers.

Since 2015, the airport serves more than five million passengers a year. During the first three months of 2018, traffic grew seven percent year-on-year to over 600,000 passengers.

The Moscow Sheremetyevo-based Nordwind Airlines plans to boost service to the Crimea this summer and will fly to 27 destinations from Simferopol.

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Russian stock markets, ruble recover after Trump rejects further sanctions

The RTS dollar-traded index had gained nearly three percent by 08:00 GMT on Tuesday, while the ruble-denominated MOEX climbed almost two percent, led by shares in Sberbank and mining company Norilsk Nickel. The ruble gained slightly against the US dollar and the euro.

List of Russian businessmen companies added to US sanctions

Russian stocks are currently reeling from last week’s plunge, when the ruble passed through its steepest slump since the middle of 2015. The currency slipped after the White House announced the toughest penalties against Moscow to date, targeting Russian businessmen and companies.

Donald Trump delayed revealing additional measures against the Kremlin and is unlikely to approve them without a new triggering event, according to a senior administration official, as quoted by Reuters.

On Sunday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that Washington was due to impose new economic sanctions on Russia over its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad over the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Arab republic.

“If President Trump intends to push back against imposing more sanctions on Russia, tension should ease,” Piotr Matys, an emerging-markets currency strategist at Rabobank told Bloomberg. “We are getting lots of confusing messages from Trump and his administration that will remain a source of volatility for the ruble.”

Russia’s fundamentals still look attractive, according to BlackRock money manager Gerardo Rodriguez, as quoted by the agency. At the same time, the analyst was cautious, as it is difficult to predict which Russian individuals or corporations will be targeted next.

“It’s not clear what the strategy of the US is when it comes to their relationship with Russia,” Rodriguez said.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424358-stock-ruble-recover-trump-sanctions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Aluminum hits highest price in 7 years with Russian supply at risk

On Monday, the metal went up to $2,377.50 per ton, setting a new seven-year record. Over the past week, its value increased by 12 percent.

Global metals market in limbo as US crushes major Russian aluminum producer

In early April, Washington extended anti-Russian sanctions. The updated blacklist includes major Russian aluminum producer RUSAL. On Monday, the company’s shares touched an all-time low, and analysts worried that it would be forced to cut production.

“We have a potential scenario where US and European markets will be shut off to RUSAL, and they’ll be forced to redirect units to clients in other markets,” Nicholas Snowdon, a metals analyst at Deutsche Bank AG, told Bloomberg.

“Doing the maths, that’s going to pose significant challenges, and there’s clear potential that they’ll have to cut production,” he said.

Russia’s aluminum association told RT that sanctions against RUSAL are likely to hurt many Western countries as well. “The high price of aluminum, which is the result of the largest player’s withdrawal from the market, will slow economic growth and affect the competitiveness of export-oriented European industries like automotive industry and other transport engineering. Germany can suffer the most,” the association said in a comment.

“The Russian metal is in demand all over the world, therefore the consequences of sanctions for the economies of other countries have yet to be assessed. But certainly, American sanctions will hit many countries, first of all, it will hit the competitiveness and generally profitability of such industries as automotive and machine building,” it added.

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Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/424323-russia-aluminum-highest-price/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Trump slamming Russia for currency devaluation shows lack of knowledge or bias – analyst to RT

“Russia and China are playing the currency devaluation game as the US keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable,” Trump tweeted on Monday.

The Russian Central Bank free-floated the national currency in late 2014 and focused on replenishing reserves instead. This means that only supply and demand determine the value of the ruble in comparison with the US dollar, euro, pound sterling, Japanese yen and other currencies. Over the four years, the Central Bank has repeatedly said it is not abandoning the strategy.

US sanctions aim to squeeze Russian firms out of global markets – Kremlin spokesman

“Trump sounds pretty strange by saying such things about Russia. With the exception of the last week, the Russian ruble had been strengthening for 1.5 years. The Chinese yuan has been strengthening since 2015. That’s why saying that Russia or China are playing the devaluation game shows either Trump’s lack of knowledge or his politically biased stance,” Konstantin Korischenko, former deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russia (CBR), told RT.

The US president’s tweet comes at a time when the Russian currency is seeing a very turbulent period after two years of stability. The new round of US sanctions has hit the country’s key exporters in metals and mining, which has led to a logical depreciation of the ruble.

On Monday, the ruble was falling slightly in anticipation of another round of sanctions from Washington over Moscow’s backing for the Syrian government. “The Russian financial market will remain extremely nervous and volatile – with a short-term focus on the scale and rhetoric of the new US sanctions,” analysts at Societe Generale SA’s Russian unit including Yury Tulinov said in a research note, as quoted by Bloomberg.

On Monday, the ruble fell slightly against the dollar and the euro, trading at 62.3 and 77.1, respectively. The Russian stock indices, the ruble-denominated MOEX and the dollar-traded RTS, were both down around 1.5 percent.

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