China joins S'pore-NZ initiative to keep supply chains open

China has pledged to uphold trade and supply chain connections during the coronavirus pandemic.

The commitment to maintaining cross-border flows of necessities was launched by Singapore and New Zealand in March.

Since then, several nations from across the world have joined the pact.

China is the 12th nation to ink the statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said yesterday.

Other signatories include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Laos, Myanmar, Nauru, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

The statement recognises that maintaining supply chains and trade flows amid disruptions caused by the pandemic is critical in enabling countries to emerge from the crisis stronger.

Signatories commit to refraining from imposing export controls or tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and to removing existing trade-restrictive measures on essential goods, especially medical supplies, during the virus outbreak.

Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said: “We are encouraged that 12 countries are now on board. It sends a strong signal of our collective commitment to ensure the continuity and interconnectivity of supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

He added that Singapore, along with other signatories, would welcome other like-minded nations to join the pact.

Signatories of the joint statement have committed to maintaining open and connected supply chains as part of their collective response to combat Covid-19.

They will also work closely to address trade disruptions that could affect the flow of necessities.

The 12 nations have pledged to work with all like-minded countries to ensure that trade continues to flow unimpeded.


We are encouraged that 12 countries are now on board. It sends a strong signal of our collective commitment to ensure the continuity and interconnectivity of supply chains during the Covid-19 pandemic.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY MINISTER CHAN CHUN SING, after China became the 12th nation to ink the pledge to maintain cross-border flows of necessities.

They will also ensure that critical infrastructure, such as air and seaports, remains open to support the viability and integrity of supply chains globally.

While Singapore imposed a strict circuit breaker for nearly two months, production lines were kept open for global supply chains, including those providing critical materials for surgical masks and other medical supplies.

The country is one of the world’s largest production hubs of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Singapore started to ease its circuit breaker measures after June 1.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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PRESS DIGEST-British Business – July 3

July 3 (Reuters) – The following are the top stories on the business pages of British newspapers. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

The Times

– Britain’s Casual Dining Group said that 91 of its 250 restaurants had been closed with immediate effect after the appointment of administrators from Alix Partners.

– Britain is in talks with a 185 billion pound ($230.60 billion) United Arab Emirates sovereign wealth fund about investing millions into a British offer for Oneweb, the bankrupt satellite operator.

The Guardian

– Britain has provided an emergency loan to the British arm of Celsa Steel in the first taxpayer-funded bailout under its “Project Birch” scheme for firms struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

– UK’s Luton airport is to make up to 250 staff redundant in the latest jobs cull in the aviation sector.

The Telegraph

– British retailer Marks and Spencer Group Plc has revamped its Sparks loyalty scheme allowing seven million users to shop “for free” after the scheme was criticised for being too confusing.

– Germany’s top financial regulator branded the accounting scandal at Wirecard AG a “massive criminal act” as the country’s authorities face a backlash over their failure to prevent the payments firm’s spectacular collapse.

Sky News

– IT consulting firm Accenture Plc is to cut up to 900 UK jobs, blaming “additional strain” on the business caused by the coronavirus crisis.

– Italian restaurant chain Prezzo has begun exploring a sale as it seeks new backers to enable it to survive the coronavirus crisis.

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SAA administrators aim to publish revised plan on July 7

JOHANNESBURG, July 2 (Reuters) – Administrators at South African Airways (SAA) aim to publish a revised restructuring plan on July 7 incorporating some ideas from committees representing the airline’s creditors and employees, the administrators’ spokeswoman said on Thursday.

The administrators published a restructuring plan for the struggling state-owned airline last month after repeated delays and months of wrangling with the government and trade unions.

But a vote on the plan was delayed until July 14 at a meeting last week after the NUMSA, SACCA and SAAPA unions and some creditors argued the plan was deficient and objected to the vote happening.

Louise Brugman, spokeswoman for SAA administrators Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, said the airline’s creditors’ and employees’ committees had submitted proposals for changes to the plan which were being discussed. It is not clear how significant revisions to the plan could be.

The plan published last month envisaged scaling back SAA’s fleet while keeping most routes intact. It needs the government to find at least 10 billion rand ($590 million) of new funds to pay some creditors, fund thousands of layoffs and restart the airline as COVID-19 travel restrictions ease.

The government has not said where that money will come from, although it has alluded to interest from private sector funders and potential partners. The finance minister allocated no new money for SAA in an emergency budget.

The Department of Public Enterprises, the ministry responsible for SAA, warned on Thursday of the “devastating impact” if creditors rejected the restructuring plan and the airline was liquidated.

It said four unions – NTM, SATAWU, AUSA and Solidarity – and some non-unionised SAA staff were ready to sign voluntary severance packages if creditors approve the plan on July 14.

All four unions confirmed to Reuters that they were prepared to do that.

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EMERGING MARKETS-EMEA stocks rally, but currencies skittish ahead of U.S. payrolls

* Russian, Hungarian stocks lead gains

* MSCI EM stock index set for best day in over 2 weeks

* CEE currencies muted ahead of Eurozone data

By Ambar Warrick

July 2 (Reuters) – Emerging market stocks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose on Thursday as investors bet on a potential coronavirus vaccine, while currencies remained subdued ahead of key U.S. economic data.

The MSCI’s index of developing world equities added 1.8% and was set for its biggest daily gain in more than two weeks, as encouraging results from early-stage human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech helped risk appetite.

Improving manufacturing activity surveys across the globe also spurred riskier buying, with Hungarian and Russian stock indexes leading gains in EMEA for the day.

Most EMEA currencies were muted, indicating that caution was still at the forefront, especially ahead of U.S. payroll data later in the day.

“Even though market participants seemed a little less risk-averse in view of the positive PMIs yesterday, they were not exactly euphoric,” Thu Lan Nguyen, FX & EM Analyst at Commerzbank, wrote in a note.

“First of all, the market has already largely priced in an economic recovery, and secondly, the survey-based economic indicators have to be taken with a pinch of salt.”

South Africa’s rand firmed against the U.S. dollar as markets awaited current account data from the country.

Central European currencies such as the Hungarian forint and the Polish zloty weakened against the euro, which was a touch firmer ahead of eurozone inflation and unemployment data.

Russia’s rouble took some support from stronger oil prices. Stocks in the country also rose after a holiday, after Russians voted in favour of changes that would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in the Kremlin until 2036.

Turkish stocks rose, while the lira edged lower after data showed the country’s trade deficit narrowing in June, indicating that economic activity was slowly recovering from the coronavirus.

For GRAPHIC on emerging market FX performance in 2020, see For GRAPHIC on MSCI emerging index performance in 2020, see

For TOP NEWS across emerging markets

For CENTRAL EUROPE market report, see

For TURKISH market report, see

For RUSSIAN market report, see (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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Temasek delays annual report until September, citing pandemic

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) – Singapore’s investment company, Temasek, has made the decision to delay its annual report until September, citing the Covid-19 pandemic for hampering the global flow of financial information.

Temasek chief executive officer Ho Ching announced the delay in a Facebook post on Thursday morning (July 2). The company, which managed $313 billion as of March 2019, was set to release the report this month.

The delay comes at a challenging time for Temasek, which saw its public equity holdings take a beating in the first quarter. It has also made several major commitments to support portfolio companies such as Singapore Airlines.

In her post, Ms Ho said Covid-19 has forced companies around the world to delay their financial results, noting that many of Temasek’s portfolio companies have multinational operations.

“Although we didn’t anticipate a Covid pandemic, the economic indicators had become worrisome since last year,” she wrote, adding that the company had made plans to build up its balance sheet. “Clearly, Covid is now a bigger problem than we had expected.”

Meanwhile, Temasek will continue to work towards carbon neutrality for its portfolio, not just by investing in carbon solutions, but by also partnering existing and new portfolio companies to support their transition to a carbon neutral world, she added.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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Fed received thousands of letters asking it to widen Main Street program

July 1 (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve received thousands of letters and emails from individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations this spring asking it to widen access to its Main Street Lending Program so more entities could tap it for funds to survive the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Documents released by the Fed on Wednesday contained hundreds of pages of feedback on the unique program, through which the Fed is providing credit outside of the financial sector it typically backstops. Nonprofit organizations including the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, YMCA and California State University system pleaded with the Fed to allow nonprofits access to the program, which launched in late June but as of last week had not yet made a single loan. (Reporting By Dan Burns Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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UPDATE 2-Swedish central bank boosts QE programme to fight pandemic downturn

* Riksbank holds rates, boosts QE to 500 bln SEK

* QE to include corporate bonds for first time

* Ready to use all tools if needed, including rate cut (Adds analyst comment, crown reaction)

By Simon Johnson

STOCKHOLM, July 1 (Reuters) – Sweden’s central bank held its key rate at 0% as expected on Wednesday and substantially boosted the size of its asset purchases, including corporate bonds for the first time, as it tries to soften the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

While Sweden has been hard hit by the outbreak and measures to slow the spread of infection, it looks to be through the worst and to have come off more lightly than many other countries.

The central bank expects the economy to shrink a relatively mild 4.5% this year, though the government sees a 6% contraction. Either would be better than the double-digit falls forecast for many parts of Europe.

Nevertheless, the central bank said further measures were needed to support the recovery.

“To avoid an unnecessarily prolonged and deep decline in the economy and inflation, monetary policy needs to continue to contribute to the smooth functioning of credit supply in the economy and to keeping interest rates low,” the central bank said in a statement.

The Riksbank said it would increase its asset purchase programme by 200 billion crowns to 500 billion and extend its duration to the end of June 2021.

The central bank will also begin buying 10 billion crowns in corporate bonds in September. Until now, it has bought government debt, mortgage-backed debt, commercial paper and municipal bonds.

In addition, it will cut interest rates and extend maturities on lending to banks.

The central bank has not cut its benchmark repo rate, arguing that would not help much in boosting demand, but did not exclude that if needed.

“They are very hesitant to cut rates and we don’t think they will in this period,” said Swedbank economist Knut Hallberg. “I think central banks see that in this crisis we need a strong banking sector and negative interest rates aren’t good for banks.”

Analysts had forecast no change in rates but some had expected that the Riksbank would follow the lead of the European Central Bank in boosting its quantitative easing programme, partly over worries of a stronger Swedish crown.

The crown initially weakened against the euro, but recovered to trade roughly unchanged compared to immediately prior to the announcement.

Earlier this month, the ECB extended its emergency bond purchase scheme to mid-2021 and increased it by 600 billion euros ($675 billion) to 1.35 trillion euros. ($1 = 9.3236 Swedish crowns)

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More payment delays hit Singapore firms in Q2; retail and services see worst jumps

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – Payment delays among firms in Singapore have risen for another quarter, with retail and services posting the highest jumps out of all sectors, amid the economy’s coronavirus-induced partial lockdown.

Slow payments, defined as those made at least 30 days above terms, increased to 45.78 per cent in the second quarter, up 3.2 percentage points from 42.58 per cent in the first quarter, which had marked a near three-year low, the Singapore Commercial Credit Bureau (SCCB) said in its latest quarterly report on Wednesday (July 1).

Year on year, slow payments were up 8.68 percentage points to 45.78 per cent in the second quarter of 2020.

“The deterioration in payment performance should come as no surprise as the economy came to a virtual standstill for the most of Q2 2020,” said SCCB chief executive Audrey Chia.

She added that it is still premature to determine if there will be an improvement in firms’ payment performance in the near term even with the gradual resumption of economic activities. “The cash flow situation for most firms is likely to remain tight. Hence, we would caution firms to continue exercising vigilance and prudence in their credit policies.”

Of the five industries studied by SCCB – construction, manufacturing, retail, services and wholesale trade – retail and services recorded the highest quarterly increases in payment delays.

It is also the retail and services industries’ highest year-on-year jump in nine years.

Within retail, slow payments increased to 51.22 per cent in the second quarter, up by 9.72 percentage points from 41.5 per cent in the first quarter. Year on year, the increase in slow payments was 15.03 percentage points.

The delays primarily arose among retailers of general merchandise, followed by retailers of food and beverage, and retailers of building materials and garden supplies.

Within services, slow payments were up 5.03 percentage points quarter on quarter to 48.35 per cent in the second quarter. Year on year, the increase in slow payments was 12.58 percentage points.

The delays were largely faced by the engineering services sub-sector, followed by the educational services sub-sector and hotels and accommodation sub-sector.

Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.

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WRAPUP 1-Canadian stocks post best quarter since 2009 as investors see past GDP slump

    * The TSX closes up 0.8% on the day, nearly 16% for the
    * Canadian GDP falls by a record 11.6% in April
    * The Canadian dollar rises 0.6% against the greenback
    * Canadian bond yields rise across a steeper curve

    By Fergal Smith
    TORONTO, June 30 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock market
index on Tuesday capped off its best quarter since the global
financial crisis with additional gains, as investors focused on
the speed of economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis
rather than data showing a record decline for monthly GDP. 
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
          closed up 0.8% at 15,515.22. Since the end of March,
the TSX has climbed nearly 16% to notch its biggest quarterly
advance since the second quarter of 2009. It plunged 21.6% in
the prior three months.
    "It has been a remarkable quarter," said Mike Archibald, a
portfolio manager at AGF Investments. "I would expect that on
the back half of the year, as economic conditions improve, stock
markets continue to move a little bit higher."
    "There still continues to be a mountain of cash on the
sidelines, waiting for the market to pull back to get in,"
Archibald said. 
    Canada's real GDP is likely to grow 3% in May, bouncing back
from a record decline of 11.6% in April, Statistics Canada said
in a flash estimate, as businesses across the country began to
reopen following coronavirus-linked shutdowns.                 
    The economically-sensitive and heavily-weighted financial
services sector gained 0.8%, while gold stocks climbed 2.1%
along with higher gold prices       . For the second quarter,
the gold index was up 46.7%.
    Shares of Cineplex          fell nearly 19% on Tuesday to a
three-and-a-half-month low after reporting a hit to
first-quarter results from the COVID-19 pandemic, while the
price of oil       , one of Canada's major exports, settled 1.1%
lower at $39.27 a barrel as investors worried that rising
COVID-19 cases would hurt demand.             
    Still, oil has rallied more than 90% since the end of March.
That has been supportive of the Canadian dollar.
    The loonie        was trading 0.6% higher at 1.3577 to the
greenback, or 73.65 U.S. cents on Tuesday, having touched its
strongest intraday level since June 24 at 1.3566. For the
quarter, it was up 3.6%, its biggest gain since the third
quarter of 2017.
    Canadian government bond yields rose across a steeper curve,
with the 10-year yield             up 2.2 basis points at
0.532%. Canada's bond market, as well as the TSX, will be closed
on Wednesday for the Canada Day holiday.

 (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Sonya

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IMF economic forecasts more pessimistic than Saudi Arabia's – governor

DUBAI, June 30 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s central bank governor said the International Monetary Fund’s economic contraction forecast for Saudi Arabia was “more pessimistic” than Saudi Arabia’s own forecasts.

The IMF has estimated the Saudi economy will contract by 6.8% this year.

Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy is expected to bounce back quickly as coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) Governor Ahmed al-Kholifey said, without providing a number.

He was speaking at a virtual economic forum. (Reporting by Davide Barbuscia, Marwa Rashad; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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