World this week
The OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting countries decided to sharply cut production to support sagging oil prices, a move that could deal the struggling global economy another blow and raise politically sensitive pump prices for U.S. drivers just ahead of key national elections. Energy ministers cut production by a larger-than-expected 2 million barrels per day starting in November after gathering for their first face-to-face meeting at the Vienna headquarters of the OPEC oil cartel since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group said the decision was based on the "uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks." Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman stressed the cartel's stated role as a guardian of stable energy markets. Besides a token trim last month, the major cut in the amount of crude that OPEC+ ships to the world is an abrupt turnaround from months of restoring deep cuts made during the depths of the pandemic. As demand rebounded, global energy prices have swung wildly.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the final papers to annex four regions of Ukraine while his military struggled to control the new territory that the West contends was added in violation of international laws. Ukrainian law enforcement officials, meanwhile, reported discovering more evidence of torture and killings in areas retaken from Russian forces. The documents finalising the annexation were published on a Russian government website. In a defiant move, the Kremlin held the door open for further land grabs in Ukraine.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "certain territories will be reclaimed, and we will keep consulting residents who would be eager to embrace Russia." Peskov did not specify which additional Ukrainian territories Moscow is eyeing, and he wouldn't say if the Kremlin planned to organise more such "referendums." Putin last week signed treaties to absorb Ukraine's Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia.
Lebanese depositors, including a retired police officer, stormed at least four banks in the cash-strapped country after banks ended a weeklong closure and partially reopened. As the tiny Mediterranean nation's crippling economic crisis continues to worsen, a growing number of Lebanese depositors have opted to break into banks and forcefully withdraw their trapped savings, with mixed success. Lebanon's cash-strapped banks have imposed informal limits on cash withdrawals. The break-ins reflect growing public anger toward the banks and the authorities who have struggled to reform the country's corrupt and battered economy.
Three-quarters of the population has plunged into poverty in an economic crisis that the World Bank describes as one of the worst in over a century. Meanwhile, the Lebanese pound has lost 90% of its value against the dollar, making it difficult for millions across the country to cope with skyrocketing prices. Just one of the four actually managed to convince his bank to hand over a portion of the money demanded, before handing himself over for arrest.
The U.K. government dropped plans to cut income tax for top earners, part of a package of unfunded cuts unveiled only days ago that sparked turmoil on financial markets and sent the pound to record lows. In a dramatic about-face, Treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng abandoned plans to scrap the top 45% rate of income tax paid on earnings above 150,000 pounds ($167,000) a year, a policy that had drawn near-universal opposition. The pound rose after the government U-turn, trading at $1.13 - just over the value it held before the government's calamitous budget announcement on Sept. 23.
But Kwarteng said the government would push ahead with the rest of its tax-cutting stimulus package - though further changes of plan may be looming. The Financial Times reported that the government would bring forward a planned full fiscal statement from Nov. 23 to later this month. The turnaround came after a growing number of Conservative lawmakers, including former ministers with broad influence, turned on the government's tax plans.
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