05/20/2022 | 05:36am

Russia dismissed calls from top United Nations and Western officials to halt a Black Sea blockade that has prevented Ukraine from exporting much of its grain to world markets, causing price hikes and exacerbating food shortages.

Moscow's ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that rising food prices had been caused by Western sanctions against Russia and other factors, rather than the nearly three-month old war in Ukraine. He didn't acknowledge calls to negotiate the shipment of grain from Odessa and other Ukrainian ports.

Europe's Natural-Gas Buyers Defuse Standoff With Kremlin Over Ruble Payments

PARIS-Some of Europe's biggest natural-gas utilities have agreed to new payment terms with Russia's Gazprom, defusing the threat of a sharp cutoff of Russian gas to the region after President Vladimir Putin demanded payment in rubles.

The demand roiled Europe's energy industry and prompted warnings from the European Union that paying for gas in rubles would run afoul of sanctions the bloc imposed in response to February's invasion of Ukraine. Gazprom last month cut off supply to Poland and Bulgaria after the countries refused to comply with a Kremlin decree.

U.K. Consumer Confidence Falls to Record Low as Cost of Living Crisis Intensifies

Confidence among British consumers fell in May to its lowest level in at least five decades as high inflation continued to weigh on households moods and squeezed real incomes.

The consumer-confidence barometer compiled by research firm GfK declined to minus 40 in May from minus 38 in April, the lowest level since the survey began in 1974. The index, which gauges consumers' views on the general economy and their personal finances, has decreased for six consecutive months.

Sweden, Finland Weigh Cyber Risks Stemming From NATO Applications

Authorities in Sweden and Finland have raised alert levels for cyberattacks, concerned they face increased hacking risks because of the war in Ukraine and the two Nordic countries' subsequent applications to join NATO.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, cybersecurity officials in Sweden and Finland haven't seen an increase in attacks targeting critical infrastructure, though they say the countries are becoming more interesting targets for hacking groups with Russian ties.


China's Central Bank Makes Unexpected Rate Cut as Growth Crumbles

SINGAPORE-China's central bank cut a key interest rate while keeping another unchanged, an unexpected policy shift that economists said would likely help the country's moribund housing market but bring only limited relief to its struggling economy.

The latest in a series of targeted steps by the central bank highlights how policy makers in China are constrained by rising interest rates in the U.S. and Beijing's zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic. Easing too aggressively would risk prompting capital to flee China in search of better returns, while lockdowns are crushing appetite for new loans from businesses and households.

Glynn's Take: RBA Likely to Consider Big Rate Hike in June

SYDNEY-The Reserve Bank of Australia's upcoming board meeting on June 7 will again be dominated by the uneasy reality that policy settings remain a long, long way from where they should be given the huge jump in inflation over the past six months.

For that reason alone, a 40-basis-point rise in the official cash rate next month to 0.75% can't be ruled out. The RBA faces more than the usual amount of uncertainty around the economic outlook and won't go overboard. But there is scope to act early and with urgency.

Japan Inflation Tops 2% for First Time in 13 Years

TOKYO-Consumer prices in Japan rose at a pace above 2% for the first time in more than 13 years, a sign of how higher costs of energy and raw materials are hitting even the world's most inflation-resistant regions.

Despite the price numbers released Friday and interest-rate increases by other global central banks, the Bank of Japan is likely to stick to its policy of keeping interest rates near zero. Both the BOJ and outside economists see consumer demand in Japan as relatively weak and believe inflation above the bank's 2% target is unlikely to take hold.

Palm Oil Outlook Still Bearish Despite Prices Rebounding -- Talking Markets

Palm oil prices recovered quickly from a knee-jerk dip after Indonesia said its soon-to-be-lifted export ban will be replaced with a requirement for local producers to keep some output for domestic consumption.

But the outlook for the edible oil remains bearish as Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producers, head into a high production season in the second half, with supply likely to overtake demand despite a potential easing of China's Covid-19 restrictions and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, analysts say.

Gas Prices Hit New Highs Again With All 50 States Above $4 a Gallon

Gas prices continued to rise across the U.S. this week, and pressure on the pump is unlikely to decrease as the summer travel season begins.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the U.S. hit a record of $4.59 on Thursday, according to AAA. It is the highest national average recorded by AAA since they began tracking fuel costs in 2000. On average, prices are about 50 cents more a gallon than they were a month ago. A year ago, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $3.04, according to the group.

Senate Passes $40 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine

WASHINGTON-The Senate passed a nearly $40 billion military and economic aid package to help Ukraine repel Russia's invasion, sending the bill to President Biden's desk and bringing America's commitment to almost $54 billion.

The 86-11 vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan, with all Democrats and most Republicans voting yes. The Republicans who opposed the bill cited its price tag and misgivings about long-term involvement in funding a foreign war.

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This article is a text version of a Wall Street Journal newsletter published earlier today.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-20-22 0535ET

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