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Seoul mayor found dead after leaving message 'like a will'

SEOUL (Reuters) – Longtime Seoul City Mayor Park Won-soon was found dead, police said on Friday, after his daughter reported him missing saying he had left a message “like a will”.

The mayor’s body was found at Mt Bugak in northern Seoul around midnight, near where his phone signal had last been detected, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said. The agency did not give a cause of death.

His daughter reported him missing at 5:17 p.m. (0817 GMT) and said his phone was off and that he had left a message “like a will”, the Yonhap news agency reported. Hundreds of police took part in a search for the mayor.

Yonhap said a former secretary of Park filed a complaint on Wednesday over alleged incidents of sexual harassment.

The city’s police did not respond to Reuters’ calls seeking comment, but said in a statement that it would investigate the cause of his death.

As mayor of the city of nearly 10 million people, Park was one of South Korea’s most influential politicians and played a high-profile role in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He was seen as a potential presidential hopeful for the liberals in the 2022 presidential elections.

The discovery of his body followed a hours-long night search in one of the most mountainous and scenic parts of Seoul just a few minutes from the heart of the metropolitan capital, involving hundreds of police using drones and dogs.

Park left the mayor’s official residence at around 10:40 a.m. (0140 GMT) on Thursday, wearing a black hat and a backpack, having cancelled policy meetings scheduled for the day, according to multiple local reports.

CAMPAIGNER FOR WOMEN’S CAUSES

Formerly a prominent human rights activist and lawyer, Park has been the mayor of Seoul since 2011, pursuing a slew of policies promoting gender equality.

As a lawyer in the 1990s, he won one of South Korea’s earliest cases on sexual harassment, and strongly advocated for the cause of “comfort women,” those who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels before and during World War Two, when Japan occupied Korea.

Park also praised women for their courage after a series of women accused powerful politicians and policymakers of sexual wrongdoings amid the #MeToo movement in 2018.

“The resolve of individual heroines is not enough. I think we need social solidarity,” he said, calling for support for the movement.

He also played a vocal role in the massive candlelight demonstrations that helped lead to the ousting of former President Park Geun-hye in 2017.

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Business

Dollar falls as yuan leads charge in risk-on trades

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar fell against most currencies on Thursday as a rally in riskier assets such as global equities and commodities put a dent in safe-haven demand for the U.S. currency.

China’s yuan rose to a four-month high against the greenback, extending recent gains as investors of all stripes increase positions in Chinese stocks due to growing signs of a recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.[CNY/]

Lingering worries about the spread of the coronavirus could keep some currency pairs in a tight range, but the dollar’s losses are gradually increasing as sentiment favours riskier bets on long-term economic growth.

“Rising stocks and a dip in Treasury yields are slight negatives for the dollar, but the market can’t move too far because we still have to worry about the virus,” said Minori Uchida, head of global market research at MUFG Bank.

“A lot of major U.S. economic data have been positive, so this will be less of a trading factor going forward. People are looking for cues from stocks, yields, and hedging costs.”

Against the euro EUR=, the dollar fell 0.3% to $1.1365, reaching a one-month low.

The euro could get a further boost later in the day as Germany is scheduled to release export data. Economists expect shipments from the euro zone’s largest economy to rebound sharply in May from a large decline in the previous month.

The greenback also fell to a three-week low against the pound GBP= at $1.2637.

Sterling edged up to 89.97 pence per euro EURGBP=D3.

The dollar fell to a four-month low of 0.9365 Swiss franc CHF= on Thursday.

The dollar was little changed at 107.27 yen JPY=.

Chinese shares continued their recent rally and surged to a five-year high during the Asian session. [.SS] Futures pointed to further gains in European equities, highlighting the enthusiasm for risk-on trades.[MKTS/GLOB]

Investors are also looking to U.S. weekly jobless claims later on Thursday, but the dollar looks set to remain on the back foot until then.

The onshore yuan CNY=CFXS burst past the closely watched level of 7 to reach an almost four-month high of 6.9820 per dollar.

China’s currency has been a star performer as investors shrug off diplomatic tension between Washington and Beijing to focus on China’s improving economy and its attractive technology sector.

The yuan has risen around 2.7% from a seven-month trough against the dollar set on May 27.

While some investors are reluctant to take big positions before the traditional summer holiday season amid uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, analysts said sentiment favours more U.S. dollar declines as investors try to look past a recent spike in coronavirus cases in some countries.

Elsewhere in currencies, the Australian dollar AUD=D3 rose to a one-month high at $0.695.

Highlighting the greenback’s woes, the New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 rose to $0.6590, the highest since late January.

Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 here

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Dollar steadies near multi-week lows, yuan shines again

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar nursed losses against most currencies on Thursday as a rally in riskier assets such as global equities and commodities put a dent in safe-haven demand for the U.S. currency.

China’s yuan rose to a four-month high against the greenback, extending recent gains as investors of all stripes increase positions in Chinese stocks due to growing optimism about the world’s second-largest economy.

Lingering worries about the spread of the coronavirus and a light calendar in Asia could keep some currency pairs in a tight range, but the dollar’s losses are gradually increasing as sentiment favours riskier bets on long-term economic growth.

“Rising stocks and a dip in Treasury yields are slight negatives for the dollar, but the market can’t move too far because we still have to worry about the virus,” said Minori Uchida, head of global market research at MUFG Bank.

“A lot of major U.S. economic data have been positive, so this will be less of a trading factor going forward. People are looking for cues from stocks, yields, and hedging costs.”

The dollar bought 0.9381 Swiss franc CHF= on Thursday in Asia, close to the lowest in almost four months.

Against the euro EUR=, the dollar was quoted at $1.1339, close to a three-week low.

The euro could get a boost later in the day as Germany is scheduled to release export data. Economists expect shipments from the euro zone’s largest economy to rebound sharply in May from a large decline in the previous month.

The greenback was also close to a three-week low against the pound GBP=, last trading at $1.2613.

Sterling held steady at 89.91 pence per euro EURGBP=D3.

The dollar was little changed at 107.33 yen JPY=.

Asian stocks rose on Thursday, following gains in the tech-heavy Nasdaq .IXIC to a record closing high on Wednesday.

The onshore yuan CNY=CFXS rose to 6.9875 per dollar, breaking past the closely watched level of 7 to reach the highest since March 17.

China’s currency has been a star performer against the dollar as investors shrug off diplomatic tension between Washington and Beijing to focus on China’s improving economy and its attractive technology sector.

The yuan has risen around 2.6% from a seven-month trough against the dollar set on May 27.

While some investors are reluctant to take big positions before the traditional summer holiday season amid uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic, analysts said sentiment favours more U.S. dollar declines as investors try to look past a recent spike in coronavirus cases in some countries.

Elsewhere in currencies, the Australian dollar AUD=D3 stood at $0.6978, close to its strongest level in a month.

The New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 was little changed at $0.6573, also close to a one-month high.

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BOJ's Kuroda says economy to improve as pandemic impact subsides

TOKYO (Reuters) – Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Thursday the economy will remain in a severe state but improve ahead as the impact from the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

“Japan’s economy is expected to improve as the impact of the pandemic subsides, supported by pent-up demand … an accommodative monetary environment and the government’s stimulus package,” Kuroda said in a speech at a quarterly meeting of the central bank’s regional branch managers.

Kuroda also said Japan’s core consumer prices will likely fall for the time being due to sliding oil costs and the impact from the pandemic.

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Amazon India's unit gets $308 million in fresh funds from parent

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc has invested 23.10 billion rupees ($308.02 million) in Amazon Seller Services, an Indian unit, strengthening the business at a time when more people shop online in a bid to avoid crowded public places.

Amazon Singapore made a significant portion of financing, data from business intelligence firm Tofler showed.

The company’s Indian arm in May said it would hire 50,000 temporary workers to meet a surge in online shopping in the country.

The company, which competes with Walmart Inc’s Flipkart in India, has also been expanding its seller network in the country.

Indian laws allow foreign e-commerce companies to operate as “market places,” connecting buyers with sellers online.

As India went into lockdown, Amazon encouraged small shops to join as sellers on its platform in a bid to boost local businesses and expand its reach.

Jeff Bezos-led Amazon.com in January announced a $1 billion investment to bring more than 10 million small businesses online in India by 2025.

($1 = 74.9950 Indian rupees)

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China challenges U.S. to cut nuclear arsenal to matching level

BEIJING (Reuters) – China would “be happy to” participate in trilateral arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia, but only if the United States were willing to reduce its nuclear arsenal to China’s level, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday.

Washington has repeatedly called for China to join in trilateral negotiations to extend New START, a flagship nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia that is due to expire in February next year.

Fu Cong, head of the arms control department of Chinese foreign ministry, reiterated to reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that China has no interest in joining the negotiation with former Cold War-era superpowers, given that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is about 20 times the size of China’s.

“I can assure you, if the U.S. says that they are ready to come down to the Chinese level, China would be happy to participate the next day,” he said. “But actually, we know that’s not going to happen.”

Fu asserted that for the United States, asking China to participate in trilateral negotiations is “nothing but a ploy to divert attention” and an excuse for the United States to walk away from the New START extension.

“The real purpose is to get rid of all restrictions and have a free hand in seeking military superiority over any adversary, real or imagined,” said Fu.

Fu maintained China is not “shying away from the international nuclear disarmament process” and is prepared to discuss within the framework of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members all issues related to the reduction of nuclear risks.

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China begins pulling back troops near site of India border clash, Indian sources say

NEW DELHI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China began pulling back troops from along its contested border with India on Monday, Indian government sources said, following a clash between the two countries last month in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

Troops fought for hours with rods and clubs on the night of June 15, with some falling to their deaths in the freezing waters of the Galwan river in the western Himalayas.

China has yet to confirm whether it suffered casualties, but the Indian deaths are the highest along the border in more than five decades, a dramatic escalation that led to weeks of talks between senior military officials on how to ease tensions.

On Monday the Chinese military was seen dismantling tents and structures at a site in the Galwan valley near to where the latest clash took place, said the Indian government sources, who declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Vehicles were seen withdrawing from the area, as well as at Hotsprings and Gogra – two other contested border zones – the sources said.

In response to a question on whether China had moved back equipment in the Galwan valley, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said both sides were “taking effective measures to disengage and ease the situation on the border”.

“We hope India will meet China halfway and take concrete measures to carry out what both sides agreed to, continue to closely communicate through diplomatic and military channels, and work together to cool down the situation at the border,” Zhao told a news conference.

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Dollar in tight range ahead of U.S. services sector data

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar held steady against most currencies on Monday as investors awaited data expected to show the U.S. services sector stopped contracting, and highlighting the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The euro moved in a narrow range before economic data from Germany and the eurozone that are also forecast to show a sharp rebound in corporate activity and retail sales, which would ease concerns about the economic outlook.

A steady rise of new coronavirus infections in the United States has discouraged some investors from taking on excessive risk, but most market participants remain focused on the growing likelihood that major economies will continue to recover.

“When it comes to dollar/yen, recovery expectations are supporting the dollar, but worries about the virus are capping the upside,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities.

“The markets are focused on other currency pairs, like the Australian dollar, which is still in a clear uptrend against the U.S. dollar due to the rise in copper prices.”

The dollar held steady at 107.56 yen JPY=D3 on Monday in Asia following a 0.3% gain last week. Market activity was subdued following the July 4 long weekend holiday in the United States.

The euro EUR=D3 changed hands at $1.1247. Against the British pound, the common currency bought 90.18 pence EURGBP=D3.

Sterling GBP=D3 moved in a narrow range at $1.2474.

Against the Swiss franc, the dollar CHF=D3 was quoted at 0.9455.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index for non-manufacturing activity due later on Monday is expected to rise to 50.0 in June from 45.4 in the previous month, indicating activity stopped shrinking.

The greenback has been locked into narrow trading ranges recently as concerns about a resurgence in U.S. coronavirus infections offset growing optimism about the economy.

The euro will come into focus later in the trading day as Germany, the euro zone’s largest economy, is scheduled to release industrial orders for May.

Retail sales for all of the eurozone will also be released later on Monday. Both indicators are forecast to recover strongly from large declines caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

Elsewhere in currencies, the Australian dollar AUD=D3 traded at $0.6944 on Monday in Asia following a 1.2% gain last week.

The Aussie is another market focus ahead of a Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) policy meeting on Tuesday. Analysts expect that rates will stay at 0.25% amid signs that Australia’s economic downturn will not be as dire as first feared.

Recent gains in prices of copper and other commodities that Australia exports, combined with a more positive tone for the RBA, are likely to support the Aussie, analysts say.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 was quoted at $0.6535.

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Tokyo's first woman governor set for re-election even as coronavirus cases rise

TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike looks set cruise to victory in her bid for re-election on Sunday, buoyed by approval of her handling of the novel coronavirus even as a recent rise in infections triggers new concerns in the Japanese capital.

Koike, 67, often floated as a potential prime minister, won plaudits from the public for her straight-talking approach to the pandemic in contrast with what critics say was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initially slow and clumsy response.

A former defence and environment minister, Koike is promising to prepare Tokyo – which accounts for about 20% of Japan’s economy – for any second wave of infections and gain public understanding for a “simplified” Olympics next year after the 2020 Summer Games were postponed because of the coronavirus.

“She’ll win by a landslide,” said independent political analyst Atsuo Ito, noting a poll in late May put her approval rating at about 70% while her opposition is divided.

A former television announcer with well-honed communication skills, Koike warned in late March that Tokyo could face a coronavirus lockdown and called for an early state of emergency to tackle it.

She then tussled with Abe’s government over what businesses to target for shutdowns after he declared an emergency in April.

Japan has not seen the explosive outbreak of the virus suffered elsewhere but Tokyo, with a population of some 14 million, accounts for nearly 6,400 of its approximately 19,000 cases.

On Thursday, the metropolis confirmed 107 new cases, the most in two months, but the government – eager to revive a slumping economy – said it was not planning to reimpose the emergency that was lifted on May 25.

Koike has said it might be necessary to a hold a more bare-bones Olympics next year because of the pandemic’s impact, but it is not clear who will shoulder the huge costs of the postponement and whether the Games can really go ahead in 2021.

Among other challenges she will face are repairing the city’s finances and coping with an ageing population.

Koike, who has switched parties several times and shares many of Abe’s conservative views, bolted from his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 2016 to make a successful bid to become Tokyo’s first female governor.

A year later, she formed an upstart party in the hope – quickly dashed – of ousting the LDP from power.

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Dollar in narrow range as U.S. virus cases grow

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar was hemmed into a narrow range on Friday, supported by safe-haven flows as a resurgence of the coronavirus in the United States discouraged some investors from taking on excessive risk.

The yuan was stable in offshore trade before data on China’s services sector, but investors may avoid taking big positions due to worries about diplomatic friction between Washington and Beijing over civil liberties in Hong Kong.

The U.S. economy added more jobs than expected in June, data showed on Thursday, but reaction in the currency market has been muted because another spike in coronavirus infections threatens to once again put the breaks of economic activity.

“New infections in the United States have been on an uptrend since June,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities.

“The market is leaning more toward buying the dollar, particularly against emerging market currencies, because the dollar is considered the safest asset around.”

Against the euro EUR=D3, the dollar was quoted at $1.2395 on Friday in Asia.

The dollar held steady at 0.9469 Swiss franc CHF=D3 on Friday after three straight days of gains.

The British pound GBP=D3 traded hands at $1.2471.

The dollar was little changed at 107.50 yen JPY=EBS.

A wave of coronavirus infections has prompted the halting of or back-pedalling on plans to reopen economic activity in several U.S. states after months of strict lockdowns.

Officials are also taking steps to curtail activity during the extended Independence Day holiday weekend starting on Friday.

Trading in currency markets on Friday may be subdued before the U.S. holiday, but analysts say sentiment favours more gains in the dollar as investors turn cautious.

Relations between the United States and China are also in focus.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation on Thursday to penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong, raising the chances of further friction between the world’s two- largest economies.

In the offshore market, the yuan CNH=D3 was little changed at 7.0732 per dollar.

The Australian dollar AUD=D3 held steady at $0.6917 on Friday before data expected to show a sharp rebound in retail sales in May.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand dollar NZD=D3 traded at $0.6509.

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