RT: Global imports of LNG hit all-time high

Imports of liquified natural gas (LNG) by global consumers in 2022 totaled 409 million tons, compared to 379.6 million tons in the previous year, according to data from Refinitiv, as cited by Reuters.

The record volumes were reportedly due to soaring demand, especially from the EU, which emerged as the premium market for the super-chilled fuel as it rushes to reduce supplies of Russian pipeline gas.

RT: Gas market to remain volatile for years – Qatar

Global natural gas markets will remain unstable for the next several years due to a shortage of supply amid rising demand, Qatar’s energy minister and head of QatarEnergy, Saad Al Kaabi, said at an Atlantic Council conference in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

According to Al Kaabi, despite the current drop in European gas prices, largely due to mild weather, the region is likely to struggle to refill gas stockpiles for next winter given the lack of supplies from Russia.


Finanacial Times: Russian fertiliser export revenue surged 70% in 2022 as prices jumped

Volumes only fell by 10 per cent despite analysts’ predictions of a collapse in shipments after start of Ukraine war

RT: Russian forex reserves keep growing

Russia continues to grow its foreign currency reserves, which surpassed $580 billion in December, the Bank of Russia announced this week.

The figure, however, is lower than a year ago – on January 1, 2022, the country’s international reserves stood at $630.6 billion, and later reached a historical maximum of $643.2 billion on February 18.

MEE: Sweden ‘wants six more months’ from Turkey to honour Nato conditions

Monthly Review: The French working class organizes to defeat Macron’s pension reforms

On January 10, all the major trade unions in France gave a joint call for protests against the proposals for pension reforms announced by the Emmanuel Macron-led government. The unions, including the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT), Workers’ Force (FO), the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC), the French Confederation of Management—General Confederation of Executives (CFE-CGC), the National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (UNSA), Fédération syndicale unitaire(FSU), and Solidaires, have called for a general strike and nationwide protest mobilization on January 19. The left-wing coalition Nouvelle Union Populaire Écologique et Sociale (NUPES) composed of the La France Insoumise (LFI), French Communist Party (PCF), and others also oppose the reforms and have extended support to the protests. Youth groups, including the Young Communist Movement of France (MJCF), have also called for protests against the reforms.

Reuters: Tens of thousands of Spanish health workers protest for better future

The demonstration attracted about 30,000 protesters, a regional government spokesman said.

Common Dreams: Thousands Rally in the Rain to Protest Destruction of German Village for Coal Mine

Thousands of people demonstrated in a pouring rain on Saturday protesting the clearance and demolition of a village in western Germany that is due to make way for the expansion of the coal mine Garzweiler.

RT: Almost all Hungarians oppose sanctions on Russia – survey

A nationwide poll shows 97% believe the restrictions cause serious economic harm

East Asia and Oceania

TeleSUR: China Reports 60,000 COVID-19 Related Deaths

A total of 59,938 deaths due to Covid-19 was registered in China’s hospitals from December 8, 2022 to January 12, 2023, a health official from the Asian country reported on Saturday.

Among the total deaths, 5,503 people died from respiratory failure caused by Covid-19, and 54,435 died from underlying problems complicated by the infection, Jiao Yahui said.

Reuters: China, Hong Kong resume high-speed rail link after 3 years of COVID curbs

Financial Times: At least 68 people killed in Nepal plane crash

Reuters: Medvedev says Japanese PM should disembowel himself

Reuters: Japan estimates Fukushima water release to start in ‘spring or summer’

In April 2021, the government approved the release of more than 1 million tonnes of irradiated water from the site after treatment into the ocean. It said the release would happen “in about two years” at the time.

Central Asia and the Middle East

Common Dreams: Over a Hundred Thousand Israelis Protest Netanyahu Government

Tens of thousands of Israelis marched in central Tel Aviv and in two other major cities on Saturday night, protesting far rightwing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the legal system and weaken the Supreme Court — undermining democratic rule just weeks after his election.

Reuters: Iraqi PM supports indefinite U.S. troop presence, Wall Street Journal reports

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani defended the presence of U.S. troops in his country and set no timetable for their withdrawal, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday.

Referring to the U.S. and NATO troop contingents that train and assist Iraqi units in countering Islamic State but largely stay out of combat, Sudani said that the foreign forces are still needed. “Elimination of ISIS needs some more time,” he said in the interview.

MEMO: Iranian oil exports end 2022 at a high, despite no nuclear deal

Iranian oil exports hit new highs in the last two months of 2022 and are making a strong start to 2023 despite U.S. sanctions, according to companies that track the flows, on higher shipments to China and Venezuela, Reuters reports.

MEMO: Iran to receive Russian Su-35 fighter jets in 3 months

MEMO: Iran: Agreement reached with Saudi Arabia to continue dialogue until relations are normalised


Financial Times: War in Tigray may have killed 600,000 people, peace mediator says

Tim Vanden Bempt, who is part of a research group investigating civilian atrocities in Tigray at the University of Ghent, said Obasanjo’s 600,000 estimate might be roughly correct. Tigray was blockaded for long periods, making independent analysis of what went on, including how many people died, extremely difficult, say experts.

Africa News: Tunisia: Thousands rally against President Kais Saied amid grinding economic crisis

Africa News: Mali’s leader launches ‘Patriotic Day’ in bid to resist external pressure

Africa News: Benin, China sign MoU on partial debt cancellation, strengthen bilateral ties

Qin Gang’s visit follows recent celebrations of 50 years of cooperation between the two countries. Qin said his visit was to “identify more fields of action.”

“I am thinking for example of infrastructure, agriculture, human resources training, manufacturing and peace and security,” he added.

Reuters: Eni, Chevron announce new gas discovery in Egyptian East Med field

Egypt’s state-owned EGAS said the quantity of reserves in the well were being evaluated, and it would work with Chevron and the other partners to start production as soon as possible.

State-controlled Eni is looking for new gas sources as it aims to completely replace gas imports from Russia by 2025 following the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

North America

Reuters: Exxon prepares to start up $2 bln Texas oil refinery expansion

People’s Daily: U.S. records over 24 million flu illnesses this season: CDC estimates

There have been at least 24 million illnesses, 260,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from flu so far this season in the United States, according to the latest estimates released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday.

Common Dreams: Like Trump and Bolsonaro, Canada’s Pierre Poilievre Offers Anger, But No Solutions

An insightful article in The Walrus, co-written by prominent pollster Frank Graves, describes how Poilievre is making gains among disaffected Canadian men — particularly young men — who “complain they have not seen the kind of progress their parents and grandparents did. Pensions and secure retirement are a mirage.”

These men are correct, and their anger at being left behind as the world economy zooms ahead is understandable, even poignant.

Where they get off course and start lapsing into loopy thinking is in their inability to grasp who’s to blame for their predicament. And this is where a populist strongman can make hay. A strongman purports to be on their side, grasping their grievances and feeling their pain.

South America

TeleSUR: Honduran Government Declares Emergency Due To Avian Influenza

The Government of Honduras declared this Saturday a health emergency for 90 days throughout the territory due to the presence of avian influenza, which was detected in pelicans.

Financial Times: Peru declares state of emergency in Lima after deadly protests

The state of emergency, which will last for 30 days, grants the military powers to restore order and limits rights to movement and assembly. The port of Callao, just outside Lima, and the southern provinces of Puno and Cusco are also covered by the measures announced late on Saturday night, following the completion of a 30-day nationwide state of emergency that began last month.

TeleSUR: Boluarte’s Government Suspends Constitutional Rights in Peru

TeleSUR: Former Justice Minister Arrested in Bolsonaro’s Government

The former Minister of Justice during the government of former President Jair Bolsonaro, Anderson Torres, was arrested by the Federal Police on Saturday morning, after arriving in Brasilia on a flight from Florida, United States (USA).

Financial Times: Colombia’s $20bn takeover battle turns ugly after year-long fight

One of Latin America’s bitterest takeover battles is heading for the courts after 14 months of hostile bids and mudslinging, in a fight pitting Colombia’s most powerful business alliance against a billionaire predator.

At stake are $20bn of choice corporate assets, the future of the Andean nation’s stock market and the probity of its government.

The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

RT: Putin provides assessment of Ukraine campaign

Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided a positive assessment of battlefield developments of the military operation in Ukraine. His comment came days after Russian forces seized the strategic town of Soledar in Donbass.     

In an interview with the news channel Rossiya 1 aired on Sunday, Putin said: “The dynamics are positive. Everything is developing within the framework of the Defense Ministry’s and the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s plan.”

He also expressed hope that “our fighters will further please us with their results.”       

Reuters: Repaired German Leopard tanks for Ukraine ready in 2024 at earliest, armsmaker says

German armsmaker Rheinmetall could only deliver repaired Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine in 2024 at the earliest, its chief executive was quoted as saying by Bild newspaper on Sunday.

Germany announced earlier this month that it would provide Ukraine with Marder infantry fighting vehicles to help repel Russian forces. But Kyiv has also requested heavier vehicles such as the Leopards, which would represent a significant step-up in Western support to Ukraine.

RT: London rejects Ukraine helicopters claim

The British government has denied a media report claiming that it would supply Ukraine with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Sky News stated on Sunday. The UK still intends to donate a handful of tanks and artillery guns.


Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology

Michael Roberts: Wages, prices and profit – turning down

The inflation rate for consumer prices in the US has clearly peaked and is falling steadily. The latest figure for year-on-year inflation in December was 6.4%, down from a peak of 9.0% last summer. Core inflation (which excludes prices for food and energy) has also peaked but not by nearly as much. That’s because it is food and energy price inflation that has slowed the most. Energy price inflation has halved as oil and gas prices drop back and there has been a peak in food prices. But housing costs continue to accelerate and other services prices fell only a little; so core inflation remains ‘sticky’. 

Inflation may be subsiding as the US economy slows, but remember, the hit to average worker’s living standards has been significant since the pandemic. Inflation means a change in prices, so even if inflation slows, price levels remain higher than before. Since the start of the pandemic, US consumer prices have risen 15%, but average weekly earnings have risen only 7.8%. Wage increases have actually been higher for non-management workers; the hit to the living standards of professional and lower management staff has been greater. Even so, from the beginning of 2021 to the end of 2022, hourly earnings for lower grade workers have risen 11.5% while prices have risen 14%. Living standards have been hit across the board, as wage increases fail to match price rises – there is no wage-price spiral.

And the inflation spike is not over, partly because the supply chain blockages remain, if at a lower level, and partly because productivity growth is so low that any increase in raw material or labour costs puts pressure on profitability, forcing companies to try and compensate by raising prices. But the ability to do that is disappearing fast.

I wrote a post last September that noted profit margins were beginning to fall. Profits are made up of the profit margin between costs of production and sale prices multiplied by total revenue from sales. During the post-pandemic recovery, US non-financial corporate profit margins (that’s the ratio of profits to per unit of costs) reached multi-decade highs as the surge in inflation boosted corporate pricing power while wages languished. A true profit-price spiral.

However, margins are now beginning to be squeezed. The average profit margin for the top 500 US companies in 2022 is estimated at 12.0%, down from 12.6% in 2021, if still well above the ten-year average margin of 10.3%.

Inside the Imperial Core

People’s Daily: Uncertainties linger on amid energy transformation – a global energy outlook in 2023

“The world is in the midst of its first global energy crisis – a shock of unprecedented breadth and complexity,” the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its World Energy Outlook 2022 published in October. Due to tightened supplies, international energy prices have been highly volatile since last year.

As the Ukrainian crisis escalated last year, the West imposed harsh sanctions on Russia, a major energy producer and exporter, disrupting energy supplies and pushing up prices.

In European countries, wholesale prices for electricity and gas have risen five to 15-fold since early 2021, the Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel said in a report, noting that if governments were to fully cover the cost of price increases for electricity and gas before markets find a new equilibrium at lower prices, it would cost about 1 trillion euros (1.07 trillion U.S. dollars).

“The capacity of government budgets to soften the impact on consumers is limited by the magnitude of existing debt and the volume of the price increases,” said the report published in September.

The crisis has spotlit fragile global supply chains. Due to the sharp decline in gas via pipelines from Russia, European countries have increased liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports but do not have sufficient LNG storage facilities.

Europe’s dependence on Russian energy will likely remain for a while. In 2021, the European Union imported more than 40 percent of its total gas consumption from Russia, 27 percent of its oil and 46 percent of its coal.

Beyond Europe, a worldwide chain reaction is underway. Coal imports into India hit a record high. Economies such as Japan and South Korea are considering a return to nuclear power. Emerging and less developed economies relying on imported energy have had to compete with developed economies for energy at high prices. Meanwhile, U.S. energy exporters have gained huge profits, and regions with high natural gas reserves, such as North Africa, are trying to increase exports.

Also a result of the crisis, commodity price volatility increased, with many countries experiencing high inflation.