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    Australian consumer sentiment slides as rates rise

    SYDNEY (Reuters) – A measure of Australian consumer sentiment fell for a ninth straight month in August to depths last seen early in the pandemic as another hike in interest rates combined with the surging cost of living to sour the national mood.The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment released on Tuesday slid 3.0% in August from July, when it also dropped 3.0%. The index was down 22% from August last year at 81.2, meaning pessimists far outnumber optimists.The grim mood partly reflected the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) decision last week to raise interest rates by another 50 basis points to 1.85%, warning that yet more would be needed to restrain runaway inflation.The impact was clear on mortgage holders where confidence tumbled 8.9%, while renters actually firmed 0.2%.A separate weekly survey from ANZ showed a sharp drop of 4.5% in its confidence index that wiped out three weeks of gains, even as consumption held up.”Household spending has been robust despite very weak consumer sentiment, with strong employment gains, high levels of household saving and a desire to travel more than offsetting concerns about the rising cost of living,” said David Plank, ANZ’s head of Australian economics.”It remains to be seen whether this divergence between confidence and spending can continue.”Rising borrowing costs is adding to pressures from higher energy prices, housing and food, and saw Westpac’s measure of whether it was a good time to buy a major household item slide 8.4%.The measure of the economic outlook for the next 12 months dropped 8.0%, while the outlook for the next five years fell 1.0%.Measures of family finances steadied a little after months of decline with finances compared with a year ago edging up 0.1%. The outlook for finances over the next 12 months added 2.3%, but was still down almost 18% on the year.(The story refiles to remove extraneous word from lead paragraph.) More

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    Colombia performed public debt swaps worth $461.1 million in June and July

    The finance ministry collected TES UVR bonds due to mature in 2023 in the transactions, in exchange for others maturing in 2025, 2029, 2035 and 2037, as well as for TES COP bonds due to mature in 2026 and 2042.”The transactions were carried out at market prices and contributed to improving the profile of Colombia’s internal public debt,” the finance ministry said in a statement.”This was done without increasing the nation’s net indebtedness,” the ministry added.The transactions followed a number of previous tranches of similar swaps, the most recent of which was carried out in May, for 3.4 trillion pesos.($1 = 4,337.28 Colombian pesos) More

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    Trend Micro calls out vulnerabilities in metaverse security development

    As told by Trend Micro, the top threats to the sector, mainly from a regulatory standpoint, include NFT security concerns, the development of a “darkverse” similar to the dark web, financial fraud, privacy concerns, physical threats, augmented reality (AR) threats, social engineering and traditional information technology attacks.Continue Reading on Coin Telegraph More

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    UK retail sales growth fails to keep pace with soaring inflation

    UK consumer spending defied talk of recession in July, data from industry bodies showed on Tuesday, but it still failed to match the pace of overall inflation. The value of UK retail sales grew 2.3 per cent in July compared with the same month a year ago, according to figures produced for the British Retail Consortium, a trade association, in collaboration with the professional services group KPMG. Sales last month were 10.6 per cent higher than in the pre-pandemic month of July 2019.These growth rates were lower than the rate of price increases, however, indicating that it was likely that sales volumes for retailers had fallen both during the past year and the past three years. The BRC said the small rise in the annual value of sales “masked a much larger drop in volumes once inflation is accounted for”. Consumer price inflation rose to 9.4 per cent in June and was last week forecast to reach 13 per cent by December, while prices in June were 12.9 per cent higher than three years earlier. Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said sales of clothing, picnic treats and electric fans had been strong in July, reflecting the heatwave, but that this could not disguise an “incredibly difficult trading period” for retailers. “Consumer confidence remains weak, and the rise in interest rates coupled with talk of recession will do little to improve the situation,” said Dickinson. With energy bills due to rise further in the autumn, “both consumers and retailers are in for a rocky road throughout the rest of 2022”, she added. The underlying gloomy message from retailers was not entirely reflected in separate data from payments company Barclaycard, also published on Tuesday, which showed that consumers were more willing to spend money enjoying themselves last month than in the shops. Barclaycard’s data, which gathers figures from almost half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions, found spending was 7.7 per cent up on July 2021, though it remained lower than the rate of inflation. This growth rate was up on the June annual spending growth of 6.2 per cent. The company noted that there were still large annual increases in fuel purchases, reflecting the rise in price of petrol and diesel and payment for utilities made on credit and debit cards. But it said that growth in spending on non-essential items was even faster in July as families largely enjoyed the hot weather and prepared for the summer holidays.Reporting that families were more optimistic in July about their finances, José Carvalho, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Brits [were] increasing their discretionary spending on entertainment, travel and takeaways as we head into high summer.”

    Eating and drinking out rose at an annual rate of 9 per cent, while travel agents enjoyed three times the spending of July 2021 and bookings with airlines doubled. But Barclaycard said a “need to buy” mentality was emerging among consumers. It noticed evidence that households were financing increased spending on entertainment by taking a more frugal attitude to regular shopping, whereby they spent less on each supermarket visit but visited more often. Carvalho said: “This shows that, faced with difficult circumstances, many are finding ways to budget and manage their finances successfully, to cope with ongoing inflationary pressures.” More

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    Australia-based crypto miner doubles hash rate after energizing Canadian rigs

    In a Monday announcement, Iris Energy said it had brought 41 megawatts of operating capacity in the British Columbia municipality online roughly two months ahead of schedule, adding 1.5 EH/s to its existing hash rate. In addition, the Bitcoin (BTC) miner expects to bring another 50 MW online in Prince George by the end of the third quarter of 2022, increasing its operating capacity to 3.7 EH/s. Continue Reading on Coin Telegraph More

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    Circle freezes blacklisted Tornado Cash smart contract addresses

    All U.S. persons and entities are prohibited from interacting with the virtual currency mixer’s USDC and Ethereum smart contract addresses on the SDN list. Penalties for willful noncompliance can range from fines of $50,000 to $10,000,000 and 10 to 30 years imprisonment. An estimated $437 million worth of assets, consisting of stablecoins, Ethereum, and wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC), are currently held in Tornado Cash’s smart contract addresses. As a result, issuers are expected to take steps to prevent the transaction or redemption of such assets. Continue Reading on Coin Telegraph More