Norway Steps in to End Oil & Gas Strike

European gas prices on Wednesday fell from four-month highs after Norway's government intervened Tuesday to bring an end to a new oil and gas strike that threatened to exacerbate the region's energy crisis. The front-month gas price at the Dutch TTF hub was last seen trading 2.5% lower at €161 or $164.60 per megawatt-hour. The contract briefly climbed above €178 per megawatt-hour amid intensifying supply fears in the previous session, reaching its highest level since early March. Norway's government proposed "compulsory wage arbitration" to bring an end to the offshore workers' strike. Labor Minister Marte Mjos Persen said: "But when the conflict could result in such far-reaching societal impacts for all of Europe, I have no other choice than to intervene in the conflict." The proposed wage board to resolve the labor dispute means both parties have agreed to end the strike.

Manhattan Apartment Sales Fell 30% in June

Sales contracts for Manhattan apartments plunged by almost a third in June as the city's hot real estate market started to cool amid recession fears and declining supply. According to data from firms Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman, though the median sales price in Manhattan for the second quarter rose to a record $1.25 million, sales contracts for co-ops and condos fell 30% during the quarter compared to June 2021. Coldwell Banker President Frederick Warburg Peters wrote: "The gradually slowing sales market manifests in all boroughs and at all price points throughout the city." Brokers and real estate analysts believe the Manhattan market took a sharp turn downward in June, as other asset classes fell, interest rates rose, and economists began discussing the possibility of recession. Manhattan's decline is unusual given that its market is skewed toward wealthier buyers who are less dependent on mortgages.

Voyager Digital Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Embattled crypto asset brokerage Voyager Digital (OTC: VYGVF) on Tuesday night filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing lists assets of $1 to $10 billion and liabilities in the same range. The firm said it has about $1.3 billion of crypto on its platform and over $350 million in cash on behalf of customers at Metropolitan Commercial Bank (NYSE: MCB). Voyager CEO Stephen Ehrlich said Wednesday the firm plans to continue pursuing recovered of its loan to hedge fund Three Arrows via court proceedings. He added the plan means Voyager's customers who deposited crypto would receive crypto, proceeds from the recovery of funds, shares of the newly reorganized company, and VGX tokens. Customers with dollar deposits will regain access to funds once a reconciliation and fraud prevention process with Metropolitan is complete.

FDA Temporarily Suspends Order Banning Juul E-Cigarettes

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an administrative stay Tuesday night on the order it issued last month for vaping firm Juul to remove its electronic cigarettes from the market. The agency tweeted the stay temporarily suspends the marketing denial order while it conducts further review but does not rescind it. The FDA said it has found "there are scientific issues unique to the Juul application that warrant additional review." The FDA issued the initial order banning Juul sales on June 23 as part of a larger effort by the Biden administration to increase scrutiny on the multibillion-dollar vaping industry. A day later, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit temporarily blocked the government ban. A three-judge panel of the Court granted Juul's request for a hold while it reviews the case.

DOJ Sues Arizona over Voting Law

The US Department of Justice said Tuesday it is suing Arizona over its new law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship for presidential elections, among other new restrictions, criticizing the measure as a "textbook violation" of the National Voter Registration Act meant to protect voters. Kristen Clarke, who leads the DOJ's civil rights division, said: "Arizona is a repeat offender when it comes to attempts to make it harder to register to vote." HB 2492 was signed into law by Republican Governor Doug Ducey in March, and it requires anyone who wants to vote in a presidential election or vote by mail in any election to provide proof of citizenship and their place of birth. The law was among several pushed by Arizona's Republican legislature following the 2020 election when former president Donald Trump and his allies spread baseless claims of fraud.

Celsius Repays $183 Million on Maker

Distressed crypto lender Celsius has been aggressively repaying debt on one of the largest decentralized finance protocols, possibly to get back Bitcoin-equivalent tokens that had been posted on the platform as collateral. Since July 1, Celsius has paid down $183 million of its collateralized debt to DeFi lending platform Maker. Transactions on the blockchain data tracker Etherscan verify that the payments originated from a wallet linked to Celsius. The debt was repaid in the Maker protocol's native stablecoin DAI. The payment resulted in not only the extinguishment of the debt but also the release from Maker of 2,000 wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) worth $40 million that had been posted as collateral. WBTC is a token configured for the Ethereum blockchain that represents Bitcoin (BTC). Celsius still owes 41 million DAI in loans to Maker and has about 22,000 WBTC worth $440 million posted against the loans.

UK Finance & Health Ministers Resign

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak resigned Tuesday in a blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's administration, saying the UK government should be run "properly, competently and seriously." He tweeted: "I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning. I am sad to be leaving government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this." Health Secretary Sajid Javid also handed in his resignation in protest of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's leadership. Johnson accepted the two resignations, saying the two ministers served the government and people well. Johnson then appointed his chief of staff Steve Barclay as the new health secretary. The British pound (GBP) fell to a fresh two-year low, down 1.5% for the session to 1.1923 against the dollar (USD).

Oil Tumbles Below $100

Global crude oil prices fell Tuesday with the US benchmark falling below $100 as recession fears grow, sparking fears that an economic slowdown will reduce demand for energy and petroleum products. West Texas Intermediate crude settled 8.24% or $8.93 lower to $99.50 per barrel. At one point WTI plunged over 10% to as low as $97.43 per barrel. The contract last traded under $100 on May 11. International benchmark Brent crude settled 9.45% or $10.73 lower at $102.77 per barrel. Citigroup (NYSE: C) said today that Brent could plummet to $65 by the end of this year if the economy does tip into a recession, potentially seeing a "falling cost curve as costs deflate and margins turn negative to drive supply curtailments." Citi has been one of the few oil bears at a time when other Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) have instead called for oil to surge to $140 or higher.

Credit Suisse Cuts S&P 500 Price Target

Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS), one of the most bullish investment banks on equities, on Tuesday reduced its target for stocks this year. The Swiss bank's strategist Jonathan Golub cut his S&P 500 (.INX) target from 4.900 to 4,300, representing a gain of over 12% from current levels. But he explained the reduction is not prompted by recession fears: "Our target is being adjusted lower to reflect the higher cost of capital on valuations, not recessionary concerns." However, Oppenheimer strategist John Stoltzfus is sticking with his Street-high S&P target of $5,330 initiated in December based on an S&P earnings projection of $230, which would be an increase of almost 40% from current levels. He looked to what he considers a similar situation in 1970 and noted the index fell 24.4% in the first half but then soared about 33% in the second half.

Norwegian Oil & Gas Workers Begin Strike

Norwegian offshore oil and gas workers on Tuesday went on strike over pay in the first day of planned industrial action that could cut the Nordic firm's gas exports by almost 60% and exacerbate ongoing global supply shortages. Audun Ingvartsen, the leader of the Lederne trade union, said: "The strike has begun," reiterating it would pressure employers to agree to worker demands for wage increases to soften the blow of inflation. The Norwegian Oil and Gas employer's lobby said that daily gas exports would be slashed by 1,117,000 barrels of oil equivalent or 56% of daily gas exports by Saturday, while 341,000 of barrels of oil would be lost. Norway is Europe's second largest energy supplier after Russia, and its energy is in high demand. Norway's government can intervene to stop any strike in exceptional circumstances, but the Labor Ministry said it has no comment on the labor dispute.

BOE's Bailey Warns Global Economic Outlook Has "Deteriorated Materially"

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said Tuesday that the global economic outlook has "deteriorated materially" and warned of possible further shocks in the future. He said at a BOE briefing: "The global economic outlook has deteriorated materially. Given this, we expect households and businesses to become more stretched over coming months. They will also be more vulnerable to further shocks." Bailey blamed Russia's invasion of Ukraine for adding further pressure on commodity prices and already rising inflation, and said that further resilience is needed to mitigate future risks. Bailey noted: "The economic outlook is uncertain and undoubtedly a very challenging one for many households and businesses." Risks to the UK's economic outlook include ongoing disruption to food and energy markets as a result of the war, high household and government debt, and the continued impacts of coronavirus in China.

Germany Posted €1 Billion Trade Deficit in May

Germany's statistics office reported Monday that it posted a foreign trade deficit of €1 billion or $1.03 billion, marking a significant moment for the German economy, which has relied on trade surpluses for several decades for growth. Bloomberg reported that 1991 was the last time the EU country posted a monthly trade deficit. Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, said Tuesday: "Germany's vaunted trade surplus is gone," noting "higher prices for imports of energy, food, and materials are goosing up the import bill." Germany's exports during May were still 11.7% higher from last year but 0.5% lower from the previous month. However, the country's imports soared by 27.8% from a year ago, and it was no longer offset by its exports abroad. The data comes as more economists are seeing a recession in Europe within the next 12 months.

Yum Brands Close to Selling its Russian KFC Business

Fast food firm Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM) said Tuesday it is close to selling its Russian KFC business as part of its plan to exit the country's market. The firm noted it plans to fully exit the Russian market once the KFC transaction is complete. Since March after the onset of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Yum Brands said it has been redirecting all profits from its Russian operations to humanitarian efforts as it works to divest from the country. The firm added it is stopping all investment, restaurant development, and operations in the country. The firm also sold its Russian Pizza Hut franchises in May. Of the over 54,000 locations Yum Brands has across the globe, there were about 1,000 KFC locations and 50 Pizza Hut locations in Russia, most of which operated under franchise agreements.

Ford Reports 1.8% Sales Growth in Q2

Ford Motor (NYSE: F) reported Tuesday a slight increase in new vehicle sales for the second quarter, though the figure still badly missed automotive analysts' expectations. The Detroit automaker said sales rose 1.8% to 483,688 new vehicles in the second quarter compared to a year earlier but noted that results improved in June and were up 31.5% for the month. Analysts had expected sales to climb between 3.3% and 5.1%. Andrew Frick, Ford's vice president of sales, distribution, and trucks, said: "Amid industry-wide supply constraints, Ford outperformed the industry driven by strong F-Series, Explorer and new Expedition and Navigator SUV sales." Ford's sales easily outperformed the industry during the quarter, as overall industry sales are forecast to be down between 19% and 21% from last year due to production cuts and the chip shortage.

UK to Require Internet Firms to Remove Disinformation

The UK government is pushing to make "foreign interference" such as disinformation a priority offence under its newly proposed Online Safety Bill, requiring technology firms to remove contravening content shared by foreign state actors. UK Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries on Tuesday pointed to recent "hostile online warfare" coming from Russia: "We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded." Under the Online Safety Bill, which includes new rules on how online platforms should manage dubious online content, online platforms such as Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) or Twitter (NASDAQ: TWTR) would be required to take proactive action against illegal or "harmful" content, and they could face fines of up to £18 million or 10% of their global annual revenue, whichever is higher. Also, Britain's regulatory body Ofcom would gain new powers to block access to specific websites.

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