Good morning. Today is Tuesday, January 31st.
The UK's former PM Boris Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike on a phone call before he launched the invasion of Ukraine, a claim that the Kremlin dismissed as "a lie." Meanwhile, Turkey's President Erdogan said his government might give Finland the green light for NATO membership before Sweden, following a series of events in Stockholm that frustrated Turkey.
- Here’s an AmaPiano playlist that will hopefully set your mood right for the end of this year's first month. Enjoy!
—Tanem and Can
• Eurozone economic sentiment rose to a seven-month high in January as inflation expectations among consumers and businesses sharply fell while all sectors except construction reported higher optimism, figures from the European Commission revealed on Monday. The Economic Sentiment Index rose to 99.9 from an upwardly revised 97.1 in December, approaching its long-term average.
The European Commission
- Furthermore: The Commission said the mood among consumers improved to -20.9 in January from -22.1. The Employment Expectations Indicator also increased to 110.1 in January from 107.4 in the month prior.
• The German economy unexpectedly shrank in Q4, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed on Monday, suggesting that Europe's largest economy may be entering a recession, though likely a shallower one than originally feared. GDP decreased 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in adjusted terms, down from an upwardly revised 0.5% growth in Q3 and against analyst forecasts that the economy would stagnate.
- Looking ahead… Analysts predict annual EU-harmonized inflation will enter the double digits again in January with a slight rise, to 10.0%, from 9.6% in December. Eurostat will publish the preliminary inflation rate for January on Tuesday.
• Spain’s inflation unexpectedly quickened in January, ending a five-month run and prompting traders to boost their bets on how high the ECB will raise interest rates. Consumer prices advanced by 5.8% year-on-year, according to official figures released on Monday, up from the previous month’s 5.5% increase and well above a median forecast of a 4.8% rise.
• Sweden’s economy unexpectedly contracted in Q4, according to preliminary data released on Monday, as weaker purchasing power erodes consumer spending in the biggest Nordic economy. GDP shrank by 0.6% from the previous quarter, worse than a median forecast of an expansion of 0.2% but slightly above Riksbank’s expectation of a 0.8% contraction.
• Renault and Nissan said Monday they have agreed to reorganize their decades-long alliance in moves aimed at solving longstanding frictions and better competing in the rapidly transforming auto industry. The Japanese automaker achieved its long-sought goal of limiting its partner’s control over its management, while the French company got an investment in its electric-vehicle business "Ampere".
- Zoom in: Renault will reduce its ownership of Nissan to 15%, to match the stake Nissan holds in Renault, by placing the rest of its current 43% shareholding in a French trust, the companies announced Monday. The trust will sell those shares —worth about ¥544.1 billion (€3.84bn) at the moment— in a coordinated and orderly process likely to play out over several years.
• Toyota sold 10.5 million vehicles in 2022, it announced on Monday, remaining the world's top-selling automaker for a third straight year. Global sales for the Japanese group —including truck unit Hino and small-car maker Daihatsu— edged down by 0.1% as record overseas sales of 8.6 million vehicles helped offset a 9.6% dip in its home market to 1.9 million.
- A step back: Second-ranked rival Volkswagen Group earlier this month reported its lowest sales in over a decade, of 8.3 million vehicles, as Covid-19 lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine upended supply chains.
• Anglo-Australian metals giant Rio Tinto apologized on Monday for the loss of a tiny radioactive capsule —believed to have fallen from a truck— that has sparked a radiation alert across Western Australia. Authorities are now searching along the truck's 1,400-kilometer journey for the radioactive capsule, which was part of a gauge used to measure the density of iron ore feed.
• Adani Group shed $65 billion in stock values on Monday as the Indian conglomerate's rebuttal of a US short-seller's criticism failed to pacify investors. Led by Asia's richest man Gautam Adani, the group has locked horns with Hindenburg Research and on Sunday hit back at the report of last week that flagged concerns about its debt levels and the use of tax havens.
• British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the 14 Challenger 2 main battle tanks pledged to Ukraine should reach the country "this side of the summer."
- Furthermore: France and Australia said that they would collaborate on a multi-million dollar project to produce "several thousand" artillery shells for Ukraine. Kyiv also announced plans to spend 20 billion Ukrainian hryvnias (€500mn) buying drones this year.
• Russia said that the decision by the US and NATO allies to send tanks to Ukraine has made it "pointless" for Moscow to engage in any talks with Kyiv. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also accused the US of using Ukraine as a "testing ground" for its weapons.
- In other news: Kremlin said that former UK PM Boris Johnson's claim that President Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike in an "extraordinary" phone call ahead of invading Ukraine "is a lie."
• Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they could accept Finland into NATO before Sweden, with Ankara's foreign minister saying Finland's application is "less problematic." However, Finland's foreign minister did not welcome that suggestion, saying that it was important that the two countries join the military alliance at the same time.
via France 24
• A group of pro-Russian activists in Germany has donated funds to a Russian army division fighting in Ukraine, which was used to purchase walkie-talkie radios, telephones and headphones, Reuters reported. Their messages seen by Reuters show that they were aware that their money paid for telecoms equipment, despite EU sanctions that restrict the supply of such gear to Russia's military.
• US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel and Palestinians to ease tensions, as he arrived in the country during one of the deadliest periods of fighting in years in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.
• A suicide bomber killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 150 in Pakistan, after striking a crowded mosque inside a high-security police compound in Peshawar. Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.
• The European Commission is planning to ease state-aid restrictions to allow a wave of tax credits for investment in green sectors, in response to the US's $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act, the Financial Times reported. The Commission is to relax state-aid rules to support investing in green sectors, including via creating tax benefits.
• Facebook asked a London tribunal to block a £3 billion collective lawsuit over allegations that the social media giant abused its dominant position to monetize users' personal data. The mass action was brought on behalf of around 45 million Facebook users in the UK that were said to be not properly compensated for the value of personal data provided. Meta said the lawsuit was "entirely without merit" and the plaintiffs ignored the "economic value" Facebook provides.
• TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew is to appear before the US Congress, as lawmakers scrutinize the Chinese-owned video-sharing app and plan to hold a vote to ban the use of TikTok in the country over national security concerns. Chew will testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23, which will be his first appearance before a congressional committee.
• China's biggest search engine Baidu is set to launch an AI service similar to ChatGPT that gives users conversational results, Bloomberg reported. The AI service will be based on the company's Ernie system, a machine-learning model trained over several years that "excels at natural language understanding and generation."
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