News Archive

U.S. warns G7 of global economy ‘accident’ without Greece deal

DRESDEN, Germany The United States warned on Friday of a possible accident for the world economy if Greece and its creditors miss their June deadlines to avert a debt default.

Germany said there was no sign of a breakthrough.

With Athens struggling to make repayments due next month, the debt stand-off between Greece and its European Union partners overshadowed a meeting of policymakers from the Group of Seven rich nations otherwise held to focus on ways to get the global economy growing strongly again.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew repeated warnings not to minimize the global stability risk of Greece sliding out of the euro zone, even if most of its debt is no longer held by commercial banks.

“There is great uncertainty in there at a time when the world needs greater stability and certainty,” Lew told reporters after the G7 meetings.

Greece, which has been stuck in a deep debt crisis for the past five years, is due to pay back 300 million euros ($329.61 million) to the International Monetary Fund next Friday, although the IMF has said that deadline could be pushed back until later in June.

On June 30, Greece’s bailout expires, meaning it would be unable to call on cash currently available to it.

Lew said time was precious. “If you look from January until now, too much time has been spent unproductively,” he said.

He called for agreement quickly on the broad terms of a deal to avoid the risk of stumbling on difficult details at the last moment: “I think waiting until the day or two before whatever the deadline is, is just a way of courting an accident.”

Greek officials earlier this week said they were close to an outline agreement. That claim was quickly quashed by top officials from euro zone countries and the IMF.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaueble said on Friday there was no indication of a breakthrough. “The positive news from Athens is not fully reflected in the talks,” he said.

France struck a more optimistic note, however, saying officials were not considering the possibility of Greece leaving the euro zone.

“There is no Grexit scenario,” Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters.


Trying to show that Greece had not dominated their meetings, G7 officials said they had discussed ways to finally put behind them the financial crisis of 2007-09.

Canada and Germany renewed their calls for countries to focus on bringing down their budget deficits as the best way to get their economies growing again.

But in a reminder of the long-standing divisions among policymakers over the merits of austerity or public spending, the United States said major economies should consider using fiscal policies to support growth and avoid deflation.

The G7 said China was progressing towards having its renmimbi currency included in a basket of currencies used by the IMF. That would be a recognition of Beijing’s clout in the global economy. But Germany said China was unlikely be given the green light this year.

The G7 also asked a global bank regulators body, the Financial Stability Fund, to work on a code of conduct for bankers as part of its efforts to make sure the financial services industry does not put the world economy at risk again.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Martin and Jan Strupczewski; writing by William Schomberg)

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U.S. economy contracts in first quarter; dollar hurts corporate profits

WASHINGTON The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter as it buckled under the weight of unusually heavy snowfalls, a resurgent dollar and disruptions at West Coast ports, but activity already has rebounded modestly.

The government on Friday slashed its gross domestic product estimate to show GDP shrinking at a 0.7 percent annual rate instead of the 0.2 percent growth pace it estimated last month.

A larger trade deficit and a smaller accumulation of inventories by businesses than previously thought accounted for much of the downward revision. There was also a modest downward revision to consumer spending.

With growth estimates for the second quarter currently around 2 percent, the economy appears poised for its worst first-half performance since 2011. The economy’s recovery from the 2007-2009 financial crisis has been erratic.

Weak data on consumer sentiment and factory activity in the Midwest on Friday suggested that while the economy has pulled out of its first-quarter soft patch, the growth pace was modest early in the second quarter. That mirrored other recent soft data on retail sales and industrial production.

But reports on housing and business spending plans have indicated momentum could be building, which would keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates later this year.

Economists caution against reading too much into the slump in output. They argue the GDP figure for the first quarter was held down by a confluence of temporary factors, including a problem with the model the government uses to smooth the data for seasonal fluctuations.

Economists, including those at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, have cast doubts on the accuracy of GDP estimates for the first quarter, which have tended to show weakness over the last several years.

They argued the so-called seasonal adjustment is not fully stripping out seasonal patterns, leaving “residual” seasonality. The government said last week it was aware of the potential problem and was working to minimize it.

“Obviously the economy is weaker than we would like it to be, but the first quarter overstates that,” said Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica in Dallas. “We’re going see enough growth to keep job creation in place and allow the Fed to maintain their lift-off schedule for September.”

When measured from the income side, the economy expanded at a 1.4 percent rate in the first quarter. A measure of domestic demand growth was revised up slightly and business spending on equipment was much stronger than previously estimated, taking some edge off the slump in output.

U.S. Treasuries were trading higher, while the dollar was largely unchanged against a basket of currencies. Stocks on Wall Street fell.


Apart from the statistical quirk, the economy, which expanded at a 2.2 percent pace in the fourth quarter, was hammered by a sharp decline in investment spending in the energy sector as companies such as Schlumberger (SLB.N) and Halliburton (HAL.N) responded to the plunge in crude oil prices.

Spending on mining exploration, shafts and wells plunged at a 48.6 percent pace in the first quarter, the largest drop since the second quarter of 2009.

Economists estimate unusually heavy snowfalls in February chopped at least one percentage point from growth.

Trade was hit both by the strong dollar and the ports labor dispute, which weighed on exports through the quarter and then unleashed a flood of imports in March after it was resolved.

That resulted in a trade deficit that subtracted 1.90 percentage points from GDP, the largest drag in 31 years, instead of the 1.25 percentage points reported last month.

The GDP report also showed after-tax corporate profits declined 8.7 percent. That was the largest drop in a year and the second quarterly fall, as the strong dollar burdened multinational corporations and oil prices hurt domestic firms.

Multinationals like Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), household products maker Procter Gamble Co (PG.N) and healthcare conglomerate Johnson Johnson (JNJ.N) have warned the dollar will hit sales and profits this year.

Unlike 2014, when growth snapped back quickly after a dismal first quarter, the dollar and investment cuts by energy companies continue to hamstring activity.

But growth could accelerate as the year progresses.

The value of inventory accumulated in the first quarter was revised down to an increase of $95 billion from the lofty $110.3 billion rise reported last month.

That meant inventories contributed 0.33 percentage point to GDP instead of the previously reported 0.74 percentage point, suggesting warehouses are not bulging with unwanted merchandise and businesses have latitude to order more goods from factories.

While consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was revised down by one-tenth of a percentage point to a 1.8 percent rate, it could finally get a lift from the considerable savings households amassed because of cheaper gasoline.

Personal savings increased at a robust $726.4 billion pace.

“The outlook for the economy is very encouraging,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Deutsche’s Jain wins support of bank’s top labor leader

FRANKFURT Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) co-Chief Executive Anshu Jain won welcome support from the group’s top labor representative on Friday, who said a Frankfurt-based workers council acted alone when it called for Jain’s resignation this week.

One works council representing employees in key administrative functions in the bank’s Frankfurt headquarters on Thursday demanded Jain resign as Germany’s largest lender prepares to slash jobs.

But Alfred Herling, the No. 2 ranking supervisory board member after Chairman Paul Achleitner, said the corporate centre works council was one of around 40 autonomous works councils and did not speak for the group.

“This didn’t happen with the agreement of the general- or group-wide workers council, and it doesn’t have to. As such, neither does it reflect the view of all the works councils in our bank,” Herling, who is paid by Deutsche Bank, told Reuters.

German works councils can be loud opponents to management strategy, such as job cuts, but they yield little real power on the supervisory board, the highest oversight body that directly oversees management and chooses chief executives.

Thursday’s incident, however isolated, reveals battle lines forming between management and staff, mainly in the bank’s extensive retail branch network, as Jain leads a strategy that promises to slash 4.7 billion euros in costs by 2020, largely through job cuts.

The bank plans to close some 200 out of 700 of its own-branded retail branches and sell off its independently branded Postbank (DPBGn.DE) chain.

Jain was made directly responsible for reforms and cost cuts in a boardroom shake-up last week that saw co-CEO Juergen Fitschen lose some of his responsibilities.

Shareholders chastised management last week for lagging profits, soaring fines and sluggish reforms and called on management to whip the bank into shape and revive a lagging share price.

“I’m certain that Juergen Fitschen and Anshu Jain will do everything to take the bank forward again,” Herling told Reuters. Herling earned 272,849 euros ($299,000)in fixed compensation from Deutsche Bank last year. He also converted 2,657 notional shares in February as part of his 2014 compensation.


Herling’s vote of confidence was echoed by one of the bank’s top 25 institutional shareholders, who said removing Jain would hardly be an answer to the bank’s reform needs. Deutsche needed to show clear improvements in the next 12-18 months, he said.

“Jain has a very tough job and there’s no magic solution,” the investor said under the condition of anonymity.

“You can criticize him on some levels but the fact that there’s a hint of rebellion when he starts to do something just underlines how difficult it is to do anything.”

One legal advisor to the bank, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said Jain faced a “four-dimensional battlefield”, with staff, clients and shareholders pulling in different directions, and with outside interests such as politicians and consumers pulling in another.

“It’s such a complex organization with so many interest groups who all want to get something out of the bank,” he said. “From the outside, it looks like chaos.”

Deutsche Bank has 98,615 staff globally, of which 45,803 work in Germany.

The Frankfurt works council representing some 2,500 employees distributed a flyer saying staff morale was suffering.

The labor representatives who distributed the flyer are not members of the bank’s supervisory board, or board directors where labor representatives hold half the seats.

Deutsche Bank shares were down 1.32 percent at 1221 GMT as the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks index .SX7P was 0.55 percent lower.

For a graphic on Deutsche Bank’s share price performance since co-CEOs Jain and Fitschen took office:

(Reporting by Kathrin Jones and Thomas Atkins in Frankfurt and Sinead Cruise in London; Editing by Kirsti Knolle and Susan Thomas)

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U.S. funds raise equity allocation, cut euro zone assets: Reuters poll

U.S. fund managers recommended increasing equity exposure in a model portfolio in May, a Reuters poll showed, raising allocations in mainly North American and British shares at the expense of those in the euro zone.

The model portfolio for May comprised 55.4 percent in equity holdings, up from April’s 54.7 percent. Bond holdings in the model portfolio was slightly down at 34.7 percent from 35.9 percent in the previous month.

The increase in stocks comes against the backdrop of a global rally in equity markets, led strongly by European indices and a few in Asia.

While the ECB’s massive quantitative easing program and a string of positive economic data have pushed European indices up to near record-highs, Greek financial woes have halted that rally.

Worries Greece might not reach a new deal with its lenders and default on its debts have gripped global financial markets.

These worries pushed fund managers to lower recommendations for euro zone stocks to 9.2 percent of their global equity strategy, from April’s almost six-month high of 11.4 percent.

Meanwhile, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s comments that her bank might hike interest rates later this year has led fund managers to look for domestic options in all asset classes.

Regional breakdowns showed fund managers raised their recommended allocation for North American stocks to the highest since November.

“While we are underweight bonds, we prefer the yield and quality in the U.S. markets to those overseas,” said Alan Gayle, fund manager at RidgeWorth Investments.

Regionally, funds made a massive increase to U.S. bond allocations — to 76.4 percent from 69 percent — as GDP data for the first quarter due later on Friday is expected to show a 0.8 percent contraction. (reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/econ-polls?RIC=USGDPP%3DECI)

Euro zone bond allocation was reduced to 8.9 percent from 10 percent.

Within the fixed-income portfolio, fund managers have increased their recommended allocation into high yielding paper at the expense of investment grade credit.

The highest allocation is still in government securities, which make up 41.6 percent, up slightly from 40.8 percent of the total portfolio.

Other changes include a cut to Japanese bond allocations by 4 percentage points and a minor cut in Japanese shares to 4.8 percent from 5.8 percent in the previous month.

Global poll wrapup (ASSET/WRAP)

Europe poll story (EUR/ASSET)

UK poll story (GB/ASSET)

Japan poll story (JP/ASSET)

China poll story (CN/ASSET)

(Polling By Swati Chaturvedi and Khushboo Mittal; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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U.S. dealmaking at record year-to-date high

LONDON Dealmaking in the United States has made its strongest start to a year since Reuters records began in 1980, climbing 52 percent year on year to $746.9 billion in the Jan. 1 to May 28 period.

Merger and acquisition (MA) activity was boosted this week when Charter Communications (CHTR.O) said it would acquire larger rival Time Warner Cable (TWC.N) for $56 billion and Avago Technologies (AVGO.O) agreed to buy rival chipmaker Broadcom Corp (BRCM.O) for $37 billion.

The Time Warner deal also propelled cable MA up 42 percent year on year to $97.2 billion.

Morgan Stanley (MS.N), which advised Time Warner Cable on its second approach from Charter Communications, along with Citi (C.N), Allen Co and Centerview, tops the list of U.S. MA advisers.

Global MA activity is up 35 percent from the same period in 2014, with $1.7 trillion of deals having been struck.

(For more weekly data click here: here%20Scorecard%20Weekly%20Highlights_052815.pdf

For data on year-to-date investment banking activity click here: here%20Scorecard%20Template%20052815.pdf)

(Reporting By Anjuli Davies; Editing by David Goodman)

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High spirits battle: Asia tycoons vie for cognac maker Louis Royer

HONG KONG/BANGKOK Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi is considering buying cognac maker Louis Royer, people familiar with the matter said, potentially locking horns with a Philippine tycoon for the French firm amid a forecast rebound in Asian demand for luxury spirits.

Liquor firm Emperador Inc (EMP.PS), controlled by the Philippines’ fourth-richest person, Andrew Tan, said last week it has submitted a bid to buy Louis Royer, which has been put on the block by Japan’s Suntory Holdings Ltd [SUNTH.UL] and is valued at about $150 million by sources. Charoen controls Thai Beverage PCL (TBEV.SI).

The emerging battle for Louis Royer underscores the tycoons’ desire to add top-end spirit brands to their portfolios, both to help sell their other brands and to benefit from a revival in demand for cognac in Asia, which is driven by countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam where wealth is accumulating rapidly.

“It’s not really about the fundamental value of the business,” said one senior Hong Kong-based MA banker involved in the deal. “It’s about having a high profile brand inside your portfolio that helps you sell other products.”

It was not immediately clear if there were other bidders for Louis Royer or when a final decision on the sale will be reached. Suntory declined to comment.

“We don’t have a (cognac) business. We are open for every opportunity for beverage business,” said Vichate Tantiwanich, senior vice president for corporate affairs at Thai Bev, when asked if his group will make a bid for Louis Royer. “But for this brand (Louis Royer), we can’t confirm that we will buy.”

Louis Royer, which has about 7 billion yen ($57.1 million) of annual sales, was bought by Suntory in 1989 as the Japanese company was expanding overseas. But over the years, Suntory has taken on too much debt to build its global empire, including the $15.7 billion purchase of spirits maker Beam Inc, and is looking to exit some of its brands.


Asian demand for cognac, a variety of distilled brandy named after the town of Cognac in France, has dropped over the past few years due to a crackdown on conspicuous consumption in China. But it is set to recover and reach 30.4 million litres in 2019, a rise of 13 percent from 2015 that will outpace world demand growth, market research firm Euromonitor forecasts.

Malaysia and Vietnam are the other big cognac consumers in the region, ranking number three and four, behind China and Taiwan. Vietnam’s demand is set to surge 75 percent between 2014-2019, Euromonitor estimates.

Louis Royer, with its XO cognac that was launched in 1988 in a decanter, is the smallest of the global cognac makers. The industry is dominated by the likes of LVMH (LVMH.PA) and its Hennessy brand, and Remy Cointreau (RCOP.PA), maker of Remy Martin cognac, among others.

Charoen was Thailand’s third-wealthiest in 2014, when he had a net worth of $11.3 billion, according to Forbes. Tan has a net worth of about $4.6 billion, the publication estimates.

(Additional reporting by Ritsuko Shimizu and Emi Emoto in TOKYO, Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Japan’s Skymark submits bankruptcy plan despite creditor opposition

TOKYO Japan’s failed budget carrier Skymark Airlines Inc (SKALF.PK) submitted a restructuring plan for court approval on Friday despite opposition from the two main creditors owed about two-thirds of its roughly 300 billion yen ($2.4 billion) debt.

Skymark plans to enter discussions with creditors to seek to convince them to accept the restructuring plan, a lawyer for the airline told reporters at a news conference in the capital on Friday. The plan, submitted to Tokyo District Court, calls for major creditors to forgive 95 percent of Skymark’s debt.

The two biggest creditors, European jet maker Airbus Group (AIR.PA) and aircraft leasing company Intrepid Aviation Ltd (INTR.N), have both threatened to block Japan’s biggest airline, ANA Holdings (9202.T), from buying a 16.5 percent stake in Skymark, a feature of the restructuring plan.

“We will make utmost efforts through discussions” with Airbus and other creditors to secure acceptance for the revival plan, said Skymark lawyer Takeo Nakahara.

Airbus is opposing ANA’s participation in a bid to persuade ANA to buy a number of Airbus jets, people familiar with the matter told Reuters this week.

Skymark ran into financial trouble after embarking on an ambitious expansion programme that included plans to fly A380 superjumbos on overseas routes. Unable to keep up with payments for the jets, Skymark opted for bankruptcy in January after Airbus scrapped the sale and demanded a $710 million cancellation fee.

ANA senior executive Toyoyuki Nagamine said on Friday the airline would not buy aircraft as a means to support Skymark. Appearing at the Skymark news conference, he said ANA believes it will maintain long-established friendly relations with Airbus.

An official at Airbus’ office in Tokyo said no one was available to comment.

Intrepid’s claims on Skymark total 115 billion yen and Airbus’s 88 billion yen, the Skymark lawyer said.

Skymark has until July, when creditors are slated to meet to discuss revival plans, to persuade Airbus and Intrepid to drop their opposition to ANA’s participation. Intrepid declined to comment.

By gaining a stake in Skymark, ANA would win access to more valuable landing rights at Tokyo’s crowded Haneda airport. ANA already controls more than half of the landing slots at the capital’s downtown airport, and adding more would bolster its lead over rival Japan Airlines Co (9201.T).

Under Skymark’s plan, a fund formed by Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc (8316.T) and the Development Bank of Japan would take a combined 33.4 percent stake, while private equity firm Integral Corp maintains its 50.1 percent stake.

(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly; Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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Dollar, Chinese shares steady as Europe wobbles

NEW YORK Global equity markets and bond yields both fell on Friday, as data showed the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter and as investors were unnerved by mixed signals from Greece’s debt talks.

In Europe, shares also fell on data showing that private loan growth in the euro zone stalled in April, while Wall Street shares reacted to details in the U.S. gross domestic product data indicating that after-tax corporate profits declined 8.7 percent in the first quarter.

Conflicting reports that Athens was close to clinching a reforms-for-cash deal with its creditors pushed German 10-year bond yields down 4 basis points to just under 0.50 percent.

“It’s just Greece, Greece and Greece,” said David Madden, a market analyst at IG in London. “The lack of news in either direction tells you why traders are sitting on their hands.”

U.S. debt yields also dropped, with the 30-year U.S. Treasury yield falling to its lowest level in three and a half weeks, at 2.84 percent, while benchmark U.S. 10-year yields hit a three-and-a-half-week low at 2.097 percent.

The U.S. government slashed its GDP estimate, reporting the economy shrank at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter, instead of the 0.2 percent growth it initially estimated in April. The economy appears poised for its worst first-half performance since 2011.

Consumer sentiment fell this month, a survey by the University of Michigan showed, while the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago Business Barometer unexpectedly fell in May.

The data supported the notion that the Federal Reserve may consider the U.S. economy too fragile for a hike any time soon in interest rates; it has been nearly a decade since the Fed last raised rates. Higher rates would crimp bond prices, which move inversely to their yields.

“The market simply doesn’t believe the data will be strong enough to let the Fed (boost rates) this year,” said Aaron Kohli, interest rate strategist at BNP Paribas in New York.

MSCI’s all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS of the stock performance in 46 countries fell 0.61 percent. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 closed down 1.79 percent at 1,586.30 points.

Wall Street also finished lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 115.44 points, or 0.64 percent, to 18,010.68. The SP 500 .SPX slid 13.4 points, or 0.63 percent, to 2,107.39, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC lost 27.95 points, or 0.55 percent, to 5,070.03.

U.S. 10-year notes pared most gains late in the session to end near break-even, yielding 2.1284 percent.

Oil surged almost 5 percent as a rally in the dollar faded and after data a day earlier showed four straight weekly draws in U.S. stockpiles.

North Sea Brent LCOc1 settled $2.98 higher at $65.56 a barrel, and U.S. crude CLc1 rose $2.62 to settle at $60.30 a barrel.

The dollar index .DXY was down 0.06 percent at 96.902 and remained on track for a rise in May, resuming a string of nearly uninterrupted monthly gains that began last July.

The dollar was off 0.33 percent against the euro, at $1.0982. Against the yen, it rose 0.13 percent to 124.10 yen.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Leslie Adler)

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China stocks halt plunge, Asia wary but advances

TOKYO Asian shares rose on Friday as Chinese shares edged back from the previous day’s dizzying plunge, though regional investors remained fearful that the world’s best performing equity market was at the beginning of a major correction.

Spreadbetters expected Britain’s FTSE .FTSE, Germany’s DAX .GDAXI and France’s CAC .FCHI to open higher, albeit modestly in light of persisting Greek debt woes.

Buoyed by China, Australia .AXJO and South Korea .KS11??, the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS climbed 0.5 percent, but looked set to slip 1.5 percent on the week. It has gained nearly 7 percent so far this year.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 inched up to a 15-year high and was on track for an 11-day winning streak and a fifth straight month of gains amid hopes for better shareholder returns. [.T]

After swinging wildly in and out of the red, the Shanghai Composite Index .SSEC was last up 0.5 percent.

It dove nearly 7 percent on Thursday, when investors dumped stocks after more brokers tightened margin trading requirements and the central bank drained money to reduce flush liquidity in the financial system. The index still stands on top of an eye-watering 43 percent gain so far this year.

“The correction is not yet over,” said David Dai, Shanghai-based investment director at Nanhai Fund Management Co Ltd.

“Yesterday’s slump was too rapid, so many investors didn’t have time to flee. Many are still seeking an exit. The market has risen too much, and too fast, so the confluence of bad news is causing panic selling.”

Other commentators pointed to the strains of shares soaring despite a slowing economy.

“With valuations divorced from economic fundamentals, the heightened volatility we have seen is likely to continue,” economists at Capital Economics wrote.

Investors took a cautiously positive view on the euro as Greek debt talks grind on. The single currency was up 0.1 percent at $1.0957 after pulling away from a one-month low of $1.0819 EUR=.

Greece’s government intends to reach an agreement with its lenders on a cash-for-reforms deal by Sunday, its spokesman said on Thursday, brushing off comments from euro zone officials suggesting a deal was far from imminent.

The dollar retreated against the yen, fetching 123.73 yen JPY= after scaling 124.46 overnight, its highest since 2002. The greenback was knocked off the peak as Japanese government officials used stronger language to describe recent moves, with Finance Minister Taro Aso saying the yen’s recent drop had been “rough.”

The dollar index .DXY was little changed at 96.912, pulling back from a one-month high of 97.775 struck on Wednesday.

In commodities crude oil extended gains after rebounding overnight thanks to data showing a fourth weekly drawdown in U.S. crude stocks.

U.S. crude CLc1 was up 63 cents at $58.31 a barrel and Brent LCOc1 gained 54 cents to $63.12.

(Additional reporting by Pete Sweeney in Shanghai; Editing by Shri Navaratnam Kim Coghill)

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