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SNB Resisted Major Interventions as Franc Strengthened

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The Swiss National Bank appears to have resisted taking dramatic action in the past week to curb the franc’s appreciation to the strongest in almost three years.

Sight deposits at the SNB, considered an early indicator of activity, increased about 1.3 billion francs ($1.3 billion) to 585.9 billion francs in the week ending Jan. 17. That’s a gain of 0.2%, and analysts said it suggests no intervention.

The figures come as the franc pushes higher against the euro, something the Swiss central bank has been battling against for a decade. The currency rallied 0.7% last week after the U.S. Treasury added Switzerland back onto its currency watch list.

Yet the sight deposit data suggest the SNB didn’t do much to counter the rally, with Credit Suisse (SIX:CSGN) economist Maxime Botteron considering the figures in line with seasonal fluctuations. A spokeswoman for the SNB declined to comment on the data.

The SNB has used interventions on-and-off for years, and the franc’s recent appreciation had raised speculation it might have done so again recently. To help control the currency, which investors typically buy at times of market stress, the SNB also has a deposit rate at a record low of -0.75%.

Just days after the U.S. decision to monitor Switzerland, Alternate SNB Governing Board Member Martin Schlegel stressed that if policy needs to be eased, there’s room to expand the balance sheet.

Swiss central bank officials don’t usually comment on intervention and they they publish statistics once a year.

According to St. Galler Kantonalbank Chief Investment Officer Thomas Stucki, the SNB will continue to selectively intervene. An average franc appreciation of 1.5%-2% annually is manageable for the country, he said.

“Our base case is that the pace of franc strength wears off -- but in the event of a deteriorating euro-zone outlook the franc appreciation drift could resume,” said Christin Tuxen, Danske Bank’s head of currency research.

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Forex - Dollar Calm; Retains Strength Against Main Rivals

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The U.S. dollar was largely flat in European trading Monday, with the U.S. holiday providing little incentive for traders to take risks. That said, the greenback still looks strong against its main competitors.

At 03:35 ET (0835 GMT), the Dollar Index Futures, which tracks the greenback against a basket of other currencies, was essentially flat at 97.40. USD/JPY traded flat at 110.15, EUR/USD at 1.1095, up 0.1%, and GBP/USD at 1.2979, down 0.2%.

Figures released by the Commerce Department on Friday showed U.S. housing starts in December were well above economists' estimates for 1.38 million and were the biggest gain in 13 years.

Retail sales were also on the rise and a gauge of manufacturing activity rebounded to its highest in eight months.

The positive data reduced chances that the Federal Reserve would slash rates when it meets later this month.

The European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are also not expected to make any changes in their first policy meetings of the year this week, but the Bank of England is widely expected to cut rates in the near future.

The dollar story is staying firm in the G3 space, analysts Chris Turner, Petr Krpata and Francesco Pesole at ING, said in a research note. “Talk of a Republican Tax Cut 2.0 may cement that trend – at least in the G3 space. US macro weakness looks less of a concern now, but the market will soon turn to U.S. election risks – especially were (Elizabeth) Warren or (Bernie) Sanders to win the Democratic nomination.”

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FOREX-Dollar firm on strong U.S. data, outlook hopes hoist yuan to 6-month high

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The dollar began the week on a firm note on Monday as economic data pointed to strength right across the U.S. economy, while optimism on the outlook for China supported Asian currencies.

The greenback held steady near a one-week high against the euro EUR= , at $1.1095, and just below an eight-month peak on the Japanese yen, at 110.17 yen per dollar JPY= . Against a basket of currencies it was flat .DXY .

China's yuan edged 0.2% higher to a fresh six-month top, while the Australian and New Zealand dollars also edged ahead.

Moves were slight and volumes thin as Chinese New Year approaches in Asia and with U.S markets closed for Martin Luther King day on Monday.

Figures on Friday showed U.S. homebuilding surged to a 13-year high in December, with retail sales also on the rise and a gauge of manufacturing activity rebounding to its highest in eight months. pricing suggests nobody thinks the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut rates when it meets at the end of the month.The strength in the United States comes as European economic data points in the opposite direction, though with possible signs of bottoming out both there and in China.

"We're seeing consistently strong data, still, from the United States, and that's on the back of a boost that it will probably get from this U.S.-China trade agreement," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at broker OANDA.

"I think the U.S. dollar will continue to outperform against the major currencies," he said, adding he counted the chance of a Fed rate cut soon at zero. "I think the bar for a rate cut is quite high at the moment."

China on Friday posted its slowest annual growth figure in almost 30 years, although December data showed revived business confidence and quickening factory output. helped the yuan to a six-month high of 6.8457 per dollar CNY= after the country's benchmark lending rate was held steady on Monday, leading gains across Asia. CNY/

The Australian AUD=D3 and New Zealand dollars NZD=D3 rose about 0.2%, with emerging markets currencies also nudging ahead. EMRG/FRX AUD/

"They are catching a big tailwind from this trade deal," said Halley. "It does imply better times ahead on the resource side and that's why we're seeing some strength in the Aussie."

However caution remained as investors look to Australian jobs data due on Thursday for a crucial clue to the next move for Australian interest rates.

The Reserve Bank of Australia meets next month with widespread bushfires, and their depressing effect on already weak consumer sentiment, adding to the case for further stimulus following three rate cuts last year.

Futures are pricing a 46% chance of a rate cut when the RBA meets on Feb. 4, but that will likely shift higher if Thursday's read on unemployment puts it higher than market expectations of 5.2%. 0#YIB

Similarly, the British pound GBP= sat at a week-low of $1.3000, with markets apprehensive that the Bank of England may cut rates at the month's end - especially if business surveys this week seem sour.

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India desperately needs investment: Jyotiraditya Scindia on Piyush Goyal's remarks

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Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia termed as "unfortunate" Union minister Piyush Goyal's 'Amazon not doing any favour' remarks, and said such statements would do no good to the country as it desperately needs investments to come out of the "worrisome" economic condition.

He also said that there was a need to attract foreign investment as Indian businessmen's capacity to invest has exhausted.

"An investor as well as the country where the money is invested, both get profited...I think any comment that brings down the investment is not appropriate. It is unfortunate for us," Scindia told reporters here.

"The country desperately needs investment. Countries across the globe give a red carpet reception to investors, but in our country if such a statement is made, then it won't encourage investment," he said in response to a query about Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal's statement regarding Amazon's investment into India.

"Indian businessmen's capacity to invest has exhausted. So there is a need to attract investment...Such statements won't do any good to the nation," the Congress general secretary added.

He also called for all-out efforts to accelerate the country's growth rate, to attract investment, to check inflation and to end unemployment.

"The country's condition is worrisome on these four counts right now. It seems this kind of situation did not exist in the last 25-30 years," Scindia, who was Minister of State for Commerce and Industry during the UPA-II, added.

Piyush Goyal had on Thursday said that e-commerce giant Amazon was not doing a favour to the country by investing a billion dollars and also questioned how the online retailing major could incur such "big" losses but for its predatory pricing.

He had also said that e-commerce companies have to follow Indian rules in letter and spirit and not find loopholes to make a back-door entry into multi-brand retail segment.

However, a day later, the minister had said in Ahmedabad that the country welcomes all kinds of investments that follow the "letter and spirit" of the law. He also said that some people had misconstrued his remarks by suggesting that he had said something negative about Amazon.

Currencies mark time before trade deal; UK data eyed

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Major currencies were closeted within tight ranges on Wednesday as investors awaited the signing of a U.S.-China trade deal, with the greenback holding above a one-week low against its rivals.

Though the formal agreement, due in early U.S. hours, is aimed at drawing a line under 18 months of tit-for-tat tariff hikes that have hurt global growth, it will not end the trade dispute between the world's two largest economies.

"I don't think the market is fully convinced about a closure on the trade conflict front as the issue has caused a lot of damage to the world economy," said Neil Mellor, a senior FX strategist at BNY Mellon in London.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said existing tariffs on Chinese goods would stay, pending further talks.

Against a basket of its rivals (DXY), the dollar was steady at 97.4, just shy of a one-week low of 97.29. The Chinese currency in the offshore market was broadly steady.

The Australian dollar , a relatively volatile barometer of trade tensions, was a shade weaker at $0.6893.

U.S. President Donald Trump is slated to sign the Phase 1 trade agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at the White House at 1630 GMT.

Washington has already agreed to suspend tariffs on $160 billion of some Chinese-made electronics, and to halve existing tariffs on $120 billion of other goods to 7.5%.

But it will leave in place 25% tariffs on a vast, $250 billion array of Chinese industrial goods and components used by U.S. manufacturers.

A source told Reuters that China has pledged to buy almost $80 billion of additional manufactured goods from the United States over the next two years under the deal, although some U.S. trade experts called that unrealistic.

Elsewhere, the British pound was broadly steady at $1.3014 after sustaining some losses in recent sessions thanks to a chorus of dovish comments from central bank policymakers.

The only major data in the European session is U.K. price data due at 0930 GMT where inflation is expected to grow 1.5% in December from a year-ago period.

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Forex - Markets Calm; Sterling Awaits Inflation Data

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 A tone of caution prevails in the foreign exchange markets Wednesday, ahead of the signing of the much-awaited trade deal between U.S. and China.

At 03:25 ET (0825 GMT), the safe-haven yen was slightly firmer against the U.S. dollar, with USD/JPY trading at 109.91, down 0.1%, while the euro was marginally lower against the dollar, with EUR/USD at $1.1120, down less than 0.1%. A preliminary reading of 2019 German GDP due at 4 AM ET (0900 GMT) may have some impact on that pair.

The formal agreement is aimed at drawing a line under 18 months of tit-for-tat tariff hikes that have hurt global growth, but it will not end the trade dispute between the world's two largest economies. This was made clear overnight when U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said existing tariffs on Chinese goods would stay, pending further talks.

Elsewhere,sterling has climbed back above the $1.30 level, helped by comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said late Tuesday that he considers “very likely” the U.K. will get a “comprehensive trade deal with the EU by year-end.”

It’s debatable how long this pair can remain above this level given the recent comments from a number of members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, suggesting the bank may be edging towards a rate cut.

In a speech earlier, Bank of England policymaker Michael Saunders repeated his support for a rate cut to support an economy weakened by Brexit and other uncertainties.

"It probably will be appropriate to maintain an expansionary monetary policy stance and possibly to cut rates further, in order to reduce risks of a sustained undershoot of the 2% inflation target," Reuters quoted Saunders as saying.

"With limited monetary policy space, risk management considerations favor a relatively prompt and aggressive response to downside risks at present."

“News that the BoE is turning a little more dovish, plus no signs of a serious U.S. slow-down, suggests GBP/USD may be spending more time at the lower end of its 1.29-1.35 trading range, “ according to an ING research note.

The release of inflation data later Wednesday, at 04:30 ET (0930 GMT), could have some impact. The headline CPI inflation is expected to arrive at +0.2% on the month in December while the annualized figure is seen steady at +1.5%.

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Petrol, diesel prices cut by around 15 paise on Jan 16

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Petrol and diesel prices across all major cities in India were cut by 15 paise and 14 paise respectively on January 16. This came after no change in fuel prices was seen on January 15.

In Delhi, petrol costs Rs 75.55 a litre while diesel is being sold at Rs 68.92 a litre. Meanwhile in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, petrol is pegged at Rs 81.14, Rs 78.49 and Rs 78.23 a litre today. Diesel in these three cities after the price cut today is at Rs 72.27, Rs 72.83 and Rs 71.29 a litre.

On January 13, the fuel prices across major Indian cities saw a drop for the second day in a row, with petrol and diesel prices being slashed by 10 paise and 5 paise respectively.

The relief comes after crude oil prices saw a drop following a further easing of the US-Iran conflict threat.

Earlier this month, the price of crude oil spiked over rising tension in the Middle East and the resultant geopolitical uncertainties.

However, Iran signalled on January 12 that it favoured de-escalation, following nearly 10 days of tension between the countries, which came after an Iranian military general was killed in an airstrike by the US.

Relief for customers as petrol, diesel prices drop for second day in a row

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Customers across major metros in India saw some respite as petrol and diesel prices fell by 10 paise and five paise, respectively, on January 13. This was the second consecutive day when fuel prices saw a drop on the back of slight easing of tensions between the United States and Iran.

Prices of petrol and diesel stood at Rs 75.80 and Rs 69.06 a litre, respectively, in Delhi. In Mumbai, the same stood at Rs 81.39 and Rs 72.42, respectively.

In Kolkata and Chennai, petrol prices fell to Rs 78.39 and Rs 78.76 a litre, respectively. Diesel prices in the two cities reduced to Rs 71.43 and Rs 72.98 a litre, respectively.

Crude oil prices saw a spike earlier this month as a result of rising tension in the Middle East, heightened geopolitical uncertainties and the recent decision to reduce oil production made by OPEC nations and their allies.

However, Iran on January 12 signalled that it favours de-escalation, following nearly 10 days of tension between the countries, which came after an Iranian military general was killed in an airstrike by the US.

Indian power ministry seeks more time for coal-fired plants to install emission cutting equipment

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India's federal power ministry has proposed a new deadline for coal-fired power plants around New Delhi to install emission cutting equipment, a government official said on Friday.

The ministry has said that the power plants - 10 out of 11 of which missed a December 2019 deadline - be given deadlines starting July 2020 and ending December 2021 to install the equipment, the government official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.

The environment ministry will take the final call on the power ministry's proposal.

Investments in new projects jump 37% to Rs 4.26 lk cr in Dec qtr

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Investments in new projects during the December quarter have risen 37.4 percent year-on-year (YoY) to Rs 4.26 lakh crore.

In the same period in 2018, projects worth Rs 3.1 lakh crore were announced, according to data provided by project tracker Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

“This is not only the highest new investment announcements seen anytime in the past seven quarters it is also more than 50 percent higher than the average investment proposals seen over the same period,” CMIE said in a report.

CMI publishes capex data every quarter.

New projects worth Rs 1.36 lakh crore were completed during the December quarter, a slight drop from Rs 1.37 lakh crore during the same period in 2018. But, it is a sharp increase from the projects completed in the previous two quarters – 0.81 lakh crore in the June quarter and 0.79 lakh crore in the September quarter.

“The sudden spurt in completion of projects is welcome but, it does not imply a change in the overall slowdown in project completions during 2019-20,” CMIE said in the report.

CMIE estimates that 2019-20 may still see lower fresh investment proposals than the Rs 12 lakh crore reported in 2018-29.

Projects worth Rs 13,200 crore were stalled during the October-December quarter, which was the lowest in 11 years. The scenario of stalled projects being at a record low is unlikely to change soon though the estimate may be revised in future.

At the beginning of the December quarter, there were projects worth Rs 188.7 lakh crore in the pipeline, and the quarter ended with Rs 191.3 lakh crore projects in the execution and completion stages.

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