Big Tech Earnings: Microsoft And Alphabet Signal Q2 Could Be A Bottom

Big Tech earnings were off to a solid start on Tuesday when Microsoft and Google reported stable revenue growth and margins that are unchanged from recent macro conditions. The strong margins were especially welcomed as many companies have been missing on operating margins and cash flow. Meanwhile, Microsoft delivered free cash flow of $17.8 billion and net profits of $16.7 billion along with upbeat guidance for the year. Similarly, Google reported strong free cash flow of $12.6 billion and net profits of $16 billion in the recent quarter.

The same was not true for Meta, which primarily stumbled on its Q3 guide. The company reported its first decline in revenue in company history and guidance for next quarter missed due to FX headwinds. Analyst expectations for Q3 were for $30.4 billion, or 5% growth. Instead, the company guided for $26 billion to $28.5 billion, or a YoY decline of 6% at the mid-point of the guidance with the current exchange rates creating a 6% headwind.

Alphabet: Search is Resilient

The company reported revenue of 13%, or 16% in constant currency, for a total of $69.7 billion. The operating margin was flat year-over-year, which is a win. Operating expenses grew 24% yet the operating margin was in line with previous quarters at 28% for $19.58 billion in operating income.

The net margin was a bit weaker than previous quarters in 2021 at $16 billion yet in line with last quarter. The company has free cash flow of $12.6 billion. The company has $125 billion in cash and marketable securities. The company reported EPS of $1.21 compared to $1.36 for the same period last year.

Search was stable given the current environment at 13.5% growth to $40 billion and this provided relief that not all ad spend has been paused. Search was strong last quarter at 24% growth to $40 billion, and was flat sequentially in terms of total dollar amount.

The effects of Google’s large R&D department and advances in AI cannot be overstated when it comes to the resiliency of Search in the current environment. We are getting a very slight glimpse of what’s to come for Google in terms of its advertising dominance.

The expectations were that YouTube would weigh on the report yet YouTube provided a bit of growth at 5% year-over-year. The company was adamant that YouTube growth is low because of the tough comps. The tough comps was touched on many times, such as this: “the modest year-on-year growth rate primarily reflects lapping the uniquely strong performance in the second quarter of 2021.”

Notably, Google Cloud slowed to 35.6% growth down from 43.8% growth last quarter. This means Google Cloud is growing slower than Azure on a lower revenue base. This is something to monitor in the future.

Microsoft: Double-Digit Guide for FY2023

Many tech companies are declining to give guidance while Microsoft’s management provided strong guidance in both Q1 FY2023 and for FY2023. For Q1 FY2023, management provided a 10% guide across product lines for next quarter (this includes FX headwinds) and also provided guidance for fiscal year 2023 ending in June: “We continue to expect double-digit revenue and operating income growth in both constant currency and U.S. dollars. Revenue growth will be driven by continued momentum in our commercial business and a focus on share gains across our portfolio.”

Revenue grew by 12% YoY to $51.9 billion (missed Wall Street analysts’ estimates by 0.94%) and EPS came at $2.23 (missed estimates by 2.9%). The strong US dollar negatively impacted the revenue by $595 million and EPS by $0.04. Microsoft Cloud revenue grew by 28% YoY to $25 billion. The company’s results are good considering the various macro uncertainties, China lockdown, and the strong US dollar. FY2022 revenue grew by 18% YoY to $198.3 billion and net income increased by 19% YoY to $72.7 billion.

The company’s gross income increased 10% YoY to $35.4 billion. The gross margin decreased by 147 bps to 68.2% when compared to the same period last year. Excluding the impact from the change in the accounting estimate, the gross margin was relatively unchanged.

The operating income increased by 8% YoY to $20.5 billion. The operating margin decreased by 187 bps to 39.5%. Excluding the impact from the change in the accounting estimate and FX, the operating margin would be relatively unchanged.

The company’s cash flows continued to be strong in the recent quarter. Cash from operations grew by 8% YoY to $24.6 billion (47% of revenue) and free cash flow increased by 9% YoY to $17.8 billion (34% of revenue). The company has cash and investments of $104.8 billion and debt of $49.8 billion.

Despite weakness in PCs, the company’s other segments continue to grow. Intelligent Cloud grew 20% YoY to $20.9 billion and Productivity and Business Processes segment grew 13% YoY to $16.6 billion. The company also made an accounting change in the useful life for server and network equipment assets from four to six years which will extend the depreciation expenses for the company.

Amy Hood said in the earnings call, “First, effective at the start of FY ’23, we are extending the depreciable useful life for server and network equipment assets in our cloud infrastructure from 4 to 6 years, which will apply to the asset balances on our balance sheet as of June 30, 2022, as well as future asset purchases.

As a result, based on the outstanding balances as of June 30, we expect fiscal year ’23 operating income to be favorably impacted by approximately $3.7 billion for the full fiscal year and approximately $1.1 billion in the first quarter.”

Meta: Misses Q3 Expectations

The market does not need a perfect quarter for Q2 given the numerous headwinds facing tech companies. What the market does need is a sign that a company may have bottomed and is able to guide growth (even if minimal) from Q2-Q3.

In Q2, Meta’s revenue declined for the first time in history. This was expected. However, what was not expected was the lower guide for the next quarter. The company guided for $26 billion to $28.5 billion, or a YoY decline of 6% at the mid-point of the guidance. The guidance takes into consideration the weak advertising demand the company experienced in the recent quarter and also the foreign exchange headwinds of 6%. The investors were expecting a return of growth in the next quarter.

The company had a slight beat on DAUs at 1.97 billion versus 1.96 billion expected. Monthly users were 2.93 billion slightly missed expectations of 2.94 billion. Operating expenses rose 22% YoY to $20.4 billion. This led to the drop in the operating margin to 29% in the recent quarter compared to 43% in the same period last year. It also led to the 36% YoY drop in the net income to $6.69 billion. The EPS came at $2.46 compared to $3.61 in Q2 2021.

The company is looking to further reduce the operating expenses for the year to $85 billion to $88 billion from the last quarter guidance of $87 billion to $92 million and the prior estimate of $90 billion to $95 billion.

Apple: Strong results despite challenges

Apple released strong results despite the challenging macro environment, strong US dollar, and supply chain issues. Revenue grew by 1.9% YoY to $83 billion, which was in-line with the analysts’ estimates. It reported EPS of $1.20, which beat estimates by $0.04 (4% beat).

The product segment revenue declined marginally by 0.9% YoY to $63.4 billion and the services segment revenue grew by 12% YoY to $19.6 billion. The company’s installed base of active devices reached an all-time high. It had more than 860 million of paid subscriptions, up 160 million in the past year.

The company did not give exact revenue guidance for the next quarter. Tim Cook, CEO of the company, said in the earnings call, “We’re going to accelerate revenues in the September quarter as compared to the June quarter and will decelerate on the Services side.”

The company’s gross margin was 43.26%, compared to 43.75% in the previous quarter and 43.29% in the same period last year. It was above the management’s guidance of 42% to 43%. Net income was $19.4 billion or $1.20 per share compared to $21.7 billion or $1.30 per share in the same period last year. It beat the analysts’ EPS estimates by $0.04.

The company had cash and marketable securities of $179 billion and a debt of $120 billion. The company reported strong operating cash flows of $23 billion (28% of revenue). The company returned over $28 billion to the shareholders in the recent quarter in the form of dividends and share repurchases.

Royston Roche, Equity Analyst at the I/O Fund, contributed to this article.

Please note: The I/O Fund conducts research and draws conclusions for the company’s portfolio. We then share that information with our readers and offer real-time trade notifications. This is not a guarantee of a stock’s performance and it is not financial advice. Please consult your personal financial advisor before buying any stock in the companies mentioned in this analysis. Beth Kindig and the I/O Fund own Alphabet and Microsoft at the time of writing.

Beth Kindig is the CEO and Lead Tech Analyst for the I/O Fund with cumulative audited results of 141%, beating Ark and other leading active tech funds over four audit periods

Source: Big Tech Earnings: Microsoft And Alphabet Signal Q2 Could Be A Bottom

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How China Disciplines Its Tech Barons

Chinese internet giants have become compliant parts of the regime they promised to disrupt. For Tencent’s Pony Ma and other tycoons the future is fraught. In April 2022, a resurgence of Covid spread seemingly unchecked through the financial centre of Shanghai. The government imposed a strict lockdown, confining millions to their homes, triggering mass-testing on a scale unseen since the initial outbreak and outraging affluent urban residents who were increasingly sceptical about China’s Covid-zero policy.

In an attempt to control public opinion, the government told social media sites including WeChat – the super-app used by two-thirds of China’s population – to wipe and scrape posts deemed negative or critical of the policy. But the censorship backfired. There was an unprecedented public outcry, which became a virtual protest. A video documenting the dire fallout of lockdown began circulating online.

The six-minute clip known as Voices of April – a montage of audio recordings encompassing the cries of babies separated from parents during quarantine, residents demanding food and the pleas of a son seeking medical help for his critically ill father – resonated with the tens of millions in Shanghai and more across the country. The video was quickly marked as banned content and taken down from social media platforms in China. On the Twitter-equivalent Weibo, even the word “April” was temporarily restricted from search results.

Many deemed the video a neutral yet essential documentation of the human toll of Shanghai’s lockdown. A backlash ensued, as defiant users repeatedly shared the video in ways that could dodge web censors. Some posted the video upside down, others superimposed words or images or embedded other footage. WeChat censors tried to wipe posts sharing the video, but it was like a multi-headed hydra: no sooner did one get blocked, than another would pop up.

This seminal moment embodied the dynamics between the Chinese government and the country’s giant tech companies. On the frontline was Tencent, the entertainment and tech conglomerate that owns WeChat. For the better part of three decades, Beijing tolerated and even celebrated entrepreneurship. As the country leapfrogged into the digital age, China produced one company worth $1bn every 3.8 days in 2018, just a year after Tencent overtook Facebook to become the fifth largest company in the world.

The amount of money Chinese-focused venture and private equity funds raised grew nearly fourfold to $120bn. That bounty helped China transform from industrial backwater into one of the most dynamic and coveted markets on the planet. In addition to generating revenue, companies such as Tencent complied with government orders when it came to monitoring its citizens. For an authoritarian regime ruling over a population scattered across an area almost as large as the US, an app that dominates every facet of life proves enormously useful.

Some say WeChat should be called WeCheck, such is its capacity for mass surveillance. The early days of Chinese tech also saw the construction of the Great Firewall of China. One in five people on the planet using the internet access it through a filter that obscures Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram, the New York Times and YouTube. In a sense, it’s a parallel universe, where nearly a billion people live and thrive – much to westerners’ surprise – on China’s equivalent of such mainstays. There’s Meituan for Deliveroo, Didi Chuxing for Uber, WeChat for WhatsApp and Facebook.

The services are often even better in terms of convenience and design. The Swiss army knife of a super-app, WeChat is the most deft at merging the functions of various western platforms, allowing people to chat, shop or order a takeaway. Domestically WeChat is known as Weixin, and the company has made a point of emphasising that it operates as two apps within and outside the mainland. China’s deficit of privacy controls means its companies and government have an edge when it comes to collecting the data that empowers the algorithms that screen, monitor, name-shame and, sometimes, imprison its citizens.

The dynamics between Chinese tech companies and the authorities are like no other. Before the pandemic I sat down once with an official and talked about the vicissitudes that startups and entrepreneurs endure. “No matter what kind of hotshot you are, we will always have a way of showing you who’s boss,” the person said, making an offhand remark about Tencent’s owner, Pony Ma. “Don’t think because you control a billion users and moved to Singapore or some overseas country that we can’t do anything about you.”

The official told me that when regulators felt Tencent needed to be taught a lesson, they would step up censorship efforts, block or shut down web services till the company got the message. The tactics were not always conspicuous. Given WeChat’s overseas ambitions at the time, they would sometimes disrupt its service for global users, delaying messages or transactions for just half a minute. “That small hold-up is more than enough to drive users crazy and make people ditch the app altogether,” the person said. “That’s how you show them some colour.”

The Wall no longer resides just within China. When Chinese people travel outside the country, the Wall follows them via their telecom providers. A person using a China Mobile sim card is barred from roaming on Google. Authoritarian nations in Africa, south-east Asia and Russia see the appeal of the model. They too want to create their own intranet. As the internet splits in two, aligning itself between the American and Chinese models, Tencent’s story offers a window into an alternative vision of what the global online sphere could become.

Tencent’s products are so convenient and intuitive; yet in the back of everyone’s minds is the knowledge that their every move, location and utterance is documented and potentially scrutinised. Nowhere is this contradiction more apparent than at Tencent’s headquarters, in the heart of southern Shenzhen’s hi-tech district.

Tencent’s office building took five years and more than half a billion dollars to construct. Ma handpicked NBBJ, the architect responsible for Amazon, Google and Samsung’s headquarters. But the billionaire wanted it to be more than a statement of financial largesse. With its twin gleaming towers of glass and steel, he turned the building into one of the world’s biggest laboratories for new internet services and connected devices. It features holographic tour guides, conference rooms that adjust temperatures based on attendance, and alerts for the best parking spots before commuters arrive.

What struck me was that within the halls of a building that serves as a towering paean to futurism and commerce, the Communist party’s influence is omnipresent. In its open-plan reading room, alongside books about the cosmos and the ancient Greek and Roman empires, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book – tabulating his speeches and thoughts about how to govern – features on the most prominent shelves. QR codes in the gym bring up links to stories documenting battle victories during the Long March.

Even these demonstrations of loyalty are not enough. Common sense would suggest that the Communist party would be supportive of companies such as Tencent and encourage their expansion overseas. But Xi has chosen to make sure the aspirations of a rising class of immensely wealthy entrepreneurs are tamed before they turn political. It was only a matter of time before he went after these national champions.

A crackdown that started with the financial technology industry in 2020, has quickly expanded to engulf every sector from online education to gaming, and ride-hailing to food delivery. With footprints in all of these sectors via its investments in some 800 companies, Tencent has felt the pinch.

Despite Pony Ma’s reputation for being the most low-key and cautious of Chinese tech moguls, Tencent has not been spared. China halted its app rollouts for about a month in late 2021, has curtailed gaming time for those under 18, ordered an overhaul of its financial units, fined it for investment deal disclosure violations and suspended new game approvals this year.

The change in approach to the tech sector is underpinned by shifts in Xi’s priorities. It mirrors crackdowns in other sectors, including property. As China’s economy slows and Xi tries to increase the nation’s birthrate, the policies underscore the Communist party’s growing resolve to respond to mounting public dissatisfaction with hoarded wealth and narrowing avenues for advancement.

A phrase that has emerged in tandem with the crackdowns is “common prosperity”, which refers to China’s goal of becoming a modernised socialist society. The implications for China’s tech industry are far-reaching, and could shape the playbook for the next few decades.

There’s a Chinese saying “Li yu tiao long men” – “a carp leaping over the dragon’s gate”. Legend has it that if the carp manages to swim upstream and vault an arch atop a waterfall on the Yellow river, it transforms into an Oriental dragon, a snake-like creature symbolising imperial power. The story of China’s internet tycoons, like Pony Ma, for the past two decades is that of a generation of carp becoming dragons. The twist, though, is that these idealistic geeks, who ventured out to change the world, are now shackled and have become part of a system they wanted to change. Once self-made dragons have achieved the level of success they have in China, the more important question seems to be: when and how do they bow out unscathed?

Source: ‘We show hotshots who’s boss’: how China disciplines its tech barons | Internet | The Guardian

Related contents:

Dejected, underemployed: China‘s Gen Z slowing economy Deccan Herald

06:01
16:43 Thu, 21 JulChina World Economic News Russia
06:48 Sun, 24 JulPakistani Economy Pakistan China

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German Industry Braces For Tougher 2022 Due To War, Lockdowns

German industry is bracing for a tougher 2022 as lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine compound ongoing supply chain problems, leading two associations to downgrade their forecasts for the year.

The VDMA engineering association cut its machinery production growth outlook for a second time on Monday. It now expects production of industrial machinery carrying the “Made in Germany” label to grow 1% this year, having already slashed its forecast to 4% from 7% two months ago.

Last year, production grew by 6.4%. The BDI industry association said it now expects exports to grow by only 2.5% this year, after predicting a rise of 4% in January. read more

The lowered forecasts come despite many companies having strong backlogs of orders, as they are struggling to fill them: A survey by the Ifo institute said 77.2% of companies complained about bottlenecks and problems procuring intermediate products and raw materials.

One in two companies affected by material shortages said the China lockdowns made the situation even worse than before, the IFO survey published on Monday showed. VDMA President Karl Haeusgen said in a statement that before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, 80% of companies described their business prospects in Russia as good or satisfactory. Now, 75% expect it to deteriorate in the next six months or want to abandon it altogether.

“This shows the extent to which the war has changed everything,” Haeusgen said. BDI predicts production will grow by nearly 2% – less than expected before the war began – with the caveat that this forecast depends on supply chain problems easing and Russian gas continuing to flow in.

Exports may also be a concern. Last year, machinery made up a substantial part of the 26.6 billion euros ($28.5 billion) in goods that Germany exported to Russia.

Source: German industry braces for tougher 2022 due to war, lockdowns | Reuters

Critics by Carlos Caceres, Mai Chi Dao, and Aiko Mineshima
IMF European Department 

Germany’s economy contracted by just under 5 percent in 2020, outperforming most European peers. New waves of infections and associated lockdowns during late-2020 to early 2021 hampered the rebound from the first wave. But forward-looking indicators suggest further growth in exports and a brightening outlook for the services sector, in line with re-opening plans and anticipated pent-up demand.

For the year as a whole, growth of about 3.6 percent is expected. The recovery pae

th, however, is beset with risks, particularly regarding the progress of the pandemic and supply shortages in key industries. Retaining supportive fiscal policy until there is clear evidence of a sustained recovery while also using the fiscal space to lift potential growth over the medium term will be crucial. 

The government has extended various COVID-19 measures from 2020, such as grants to firms and an expansion of the short-time work subsidy, while also introducing several new measures to support households and businesses. Maintaining adequate support while the economy is still weak is important to minimize scarring effects. As the recovery firms up, more targeted policies and a focus on facilitating resource re-allocation becomes important.

Over the medium term, it is important that Germany’s fiscal space is used to boost growth potential by investing in physical and human capital, accelerating digitalization, incentivizing innovation, bolstering labor supply, and increasing disposable income for low-income households. Making progress towards these goals would also help with external rebalancing.

A green transition is key to Germany’s recovery program, yet there are opportunities to improve the cost-effectiveness of its climate mitigation measures. Following a constitutional court ruling in May, Germany tightened its greenhouse gas emissions targets aiming for a 65 percent reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2045. Germany could bolster its mitigation program with a better-specified schedule of carbon prices over a longer time horizon, complemented with sector-specific feebates (revenue-neutral tax/subsidy schemes).

Continued government support for green infrastructure and technologies is also essential for the transition and to spur the economic recovery. To mitigate the potential adverse impact of higher carbon prices on households, further relief targeted at lower-income earners can be considered.

Germany’s expanded short-time work subsidy or Kurzarbeit remains important until the recovery takes hold, while groups not covered by Kurzarbeit need to protected by different means. The unprecedented take-up of Kurzarbeit helped keep unemployment in check and supported aggregate demand. However, as the recovery takes hold, normalizing Kurzarbeit parameters becomes essential so as not to inhibit labor reallocation toward growing firms and industries. Job search assistance and appropriate training programs can facilitate workers’ transition into post-pandemic jobs.

For groups not covered by Kurzarbeit, maintaining expanded access to the current basic income program would be beneficial until the job market recovers sustainably. To arrest widening inequality, the government could consider reducing social security contributions on lower incomes, which would also spur hiring and labor supply.

Safeguarding financial stability during the nascent recovery is essential. So far bankruptcies and financial losses have been limited, while bank capital has actually increased since the onset of the pandemic. But bankruptcies may rise as support measures are phased out, warranting continued targeted liquidity and solvency support for viable firms.

Meanwhile, specifying an appropriately gradual timetable for banks to rebuild capital buffers is important to mitigate the risk of curtailed lending when it is most needed. Banks also need to improve their cost structures to address chronic low profitability. Progress has been made in narrowing data gaps that have hampered the full assessment of macro-financial risks. But the buildup of financial vulnerabilities in real estate markets calls for close monitoring and for expanding the macroprudential toolkit to include income-based instruments.

Further reading:

UK inflation expectations stick at high levels – Citi/YouGov, article with imageWorld
WorldNATO’s support for Ukraine is unbreakable, Spain’s PM Sanchez says,
European MarketsRussian rouble rallies past 62 vs dollar, reversing last week’s heavy losses
European MarketsWorld stocks turn positive in May on Fed bets
European MarketsDollar resumes slide as stock markets tentatively pick up
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Global Stocks and Oil Prices Hit By Fears of a Beijing Lockdown

Global stocks and oil prices fell on Monday as rising Covid-19 cases in Beijing sparked fears that the Chinese capital could join Shanghai and other major cities in lockdown.

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) sank 5.1% to close at a 22-month low. It was the worst day for the index since February 3, 2020, when the initial coronavirus outbreak first rocked the nation’s stock market. Elsewhere in the region, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) fell 3.7%. Japan’s Nikkei (N225) dropped 1.9%, and Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) lost 1.7%.

European stocks also opened sharply lower on Monday. The FTSE 100 (UKX) fell 2.1% in London, while Germany’s DAX (DAX) slid 1.5%. France’s CAC 40 (CAC40) dropped 2.2%, despite market relief at  Emmanuel Macron’s election victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The fall in Asian and European markets came after a grim session on Friday for US stocks. The Dow fell about 980 points, or 2.8%, following comments about likely aggressive interest rate hikes from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq each dropped more than 2.5%, too.

Fears about China’s worsening Covid-19 situation are adding to the downside momentum. On Monday, Dow futures were down 305 points, or 0.9%, while futures on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were both down 1%.

Beijing, the capital of China with 21 million residents, began mass testing over the weekend and shut down residential compounds, raising concerns that more stringent restrictions could soon be implemented in line with other Chinese cities.

“Although some parts of China have been under restrictions longer than Shanghai, Omicron’s arrival in Beijing would be an ominous development,” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior market strategist for Oanda, on Monday.

“China is the world’s second-largest economy and has shown no signs it intends to live with the virus,” he said. “With that in mind, the likely pressure valve is going to be disruption to China’s export machine, and a cratering of consumer confidence.” Oil prices tumbled on Monday as worries about faster US rate increases and China’s slowdown weighed on sentiment.

Futures for US oil and Brent crude, the international benchmark, both fell more than 4%. “It seems that China is the elephant in the room and markets feel that slowing China growth could materially change the supply/demand equation on international markets,” Halley said. The pressure to contain the outbreak in Beijing comes as cases continue to grow in Shanghai.

The lockdown in Shanghai has already forced many factories to suspend production and made shipping delays worse, threatening to deal a hefty shock to its vast economy and place more strain on global supply chains. Shanghai reported more than 19,000 new cases and 51 deaths on Sunday.

Source: Global stocks and oil prices hit by fears of a Beijing lockdown – CNN

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Critics:

Oil prices opened slightly higher on Tuesday, after falling sharply the prior session on worries that continued Covid-19 lockdowns in China would eat into demand and as the U.S. dollar rose to a two-year high.

Brent crude futures settled 2.6% higher at $104.99 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate contracts settled the day 3.2%, or $3.16, higher at $101.70 per barrel.

Both contracts had settled down around 4% on Monday, with Brent down as much as $7 a barrel in the session and WTI dipping roughly $6 a barrel.

In China lockdowns to counter Covid in Shanghai have dragged into their fourth week. Meanwhile orders for mass testing, including in Beijing’s largest shopping district, have prompted fears of other Shanghai-style lockdowns.

“The hit from Chinese lockdowns is over a million barrels a day and the testing of 12 districts over the next five days will determine the next major move for crude prices,” wrote Edward Moya, a senior market analyst for OANDA in a note.

The U.S. dollar also hit a two-year high on Monday, making oil more expensive for other currency holders. “Supply fears are not the primary focus for energy traders, and now you have a surging dollar that is adding extra pressure across all commodities,” OANDA’s Moya said.

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UK Inflation Rises at Fastest Pace In 30 Years on Soaring Energy Costs

British consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in 30 years last month, fueled by soaring costs for household energy and motor fuels the latest grim figures as inflation surges around the world.

Inflation in the United Kingdom accelerated to 7% in the 12 months through March, the highest annual rate since March 1992, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.

The UK faces what economists say will be the biggest drop in living standards since the mid-1950s as rocketing energy costs, rising food prices and tax increases overshadow higher wages.

People around the world are feeling the squeeze of inflation as demand rapidly bounced back from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine further drove up energy costs and squeezed supply chains.

In the United States, consumer prices last month jumped 8.5% from a year earlier, the fastest pace in more than 40 years, the Labor Department said Tuesday. In the 19 European countries using the euro, inflation surged to 7.5% last month, the fifth consecutive month that it has hit a record high.

In the UK, the toll of rising rising means disposable household incomes, adjusted for inflation, are expected to drop by 2.2% this year, according to the government’s independent budget adviser.

Household natural gas prices jumped 28.3% over the last year, and electricity prices rose 19.2% as the global recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing worldwide demand for energy.

Prices will continue to rise after Britain’s energy regulator authorized a 54% increase in gas and electricity bills for millions of households that took effect in April.

Transportation costs are also rising, with the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel rising by an average of 30.7% over the past year, the biggest increase since current records began in January 1989, the Office for National Statistics said.

Countries are moving to ease the pain from rising food, fuel and other costs by raising interest rates. The has raised raised its key interest rate three times since December, and the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its benchmark short-term rate last month and is expected to keep raising it, possibly aggressively.

The European Central Bank, meanwhile, has sped up its exit from economic stimulus efforts to combat inflation but has not taken more drastic steps. It meets again Thursday.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Source: UK inflation rises at fastest pace in 30 years on soaring energy costs | Business Standard News

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Critics:

By:  

According to the ONS, part of the increase in inflation as measured by the consumer prices index was caused by the bounceback in prices after they were depressed during lockdown. There were also sharp rises in the cost of secondhand cars (up 5.6%) because the supply of new vehicles has been affected by a global shortage of computer chips.

Rising oil prices led to a sharp increase in motoring costs. The annual inflation rate for motor fuels stood at 20.3% in June, the highest since 2010, after an increase in average petrol prices from 106.5 pence a litre to 129.7 pence a litre over the past 12 months. Other contributors to rising inflation included furniture (up 6.6%), women’s clothes (4.3%), bicycles (13%), books (8%) and vet bills (4.2%).

Jonathan Athow, the deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The rise was widespread, for example coming from price increases for food and for secondhand cars where there are reports of increased demand. “Some of the increase is from temporary effects, for example rising fuel prices which continue to increase inflation, but much of this is due to prices recovering from lows earlier in the pandemic.

An increase in prices for clothing and footwear, compared with the normal seasonal pattern of summer sales, also added to the upward pressure this month.” Samuel Tombs, the chief UK economist at the consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics, said businesses were seeking to take advantage of strong consumer demand after the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

“The rise in the core rate in June was driven by increases in clothing inflation to 3.0%, from 2.1% in May, and catering services inflation to 2.2%, from 1.4%. In addition, a jump in secondhand cars inflation to 5.5%, from 0.9%, boosted the headline rate by 0.08 percentage points.”

Britain is not alone in experiencing stronger price pressures during a period marked by strong post-lockdown growth. Earlier this week the US reported that its inflation rate had hit a 13-year high of 5.4%. Analysts expect further increases over the coming months before it starts to come down again.

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