Thursday, September 8, 2016

ECB interest rate stays at zero; North Korea nuclear test suspected; Tenth of wilderness destroyed in 25 years

1 ECB interest rate stays at zero (BBC) The European Central Bank has kept its main interest rate on hold at zero for another month. The eurozone central bank's 25-member governing council left its benchmark borrowing rate at zero. The rate on deposits from commercial banks was also unchanged at minus 0.4%.

The ECB decided against extending the duration of its two-year bond-buying stimulus scheme under which it has been making purchases of €80bn a month. The central bank faces stubbornly low annual inflation of just 0.2% despite pumping €1 trillion in newly printed money into the banking system through bond purchases since March 2015.

Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, said he expected inflation rates to remain low for the next few months, adding: "We are monitoring developments in inflation expectations very closely and stand ready to act."

The Bank anticipates annual inflation at 0.2% in 2016, 1.2% in 2017 and 1.6% in 2018, which it said remained broadly unchanged from previous projections. Nick Kounis, head of macro and financial markets research at ABN Amro, said: "If the ECB waits too long, markets could get nervous."

2 North Korea nuclear test suspected (San Francisco Chronicle) South Korea's Yonhap news agency says Seoul believes North Korea has conducted its fifth nuclear test explosion. The agency's report cited an unidentified government official. South Korea's Defense Ministry couldn't immediately confirm the report.

Monitors earlier reported an earthquake near North Korea's northeastern nuclear test site, a strong indication of a nuclear test. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that "artificial seismic waves" from a quake measuring 5.0 were detected near the Punggye-ri test site, and officials were analyzing whether it was a nuclear test.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test earlier this year, part of its push for a nuclear-armed missile that could one day reach the US mainland.

3 Tenth of wilderness destroyed in 25 years (Adam Vaughan in The Guardian) Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there may be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study.

Researchers found a vast area the size of two Alaskas – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today, which experts said was a “shockingly bad” and “profoundly large number”.

The Amazon accounted for nearly a third of the “catastrophic” loss, showing huge tracts of pristine rainforest are still being disrupted despite the Brazilian government slowing deforestation rates in recent years. A further 14% disappeared in central Africa, home to thousands of species including forest elephants and chimpanzees.

“Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around,” said lead author Dr James Watson, of the University of Queensland and Wildlife Conservation Society.

The analysis defined wilderness as places that are “ecologically largely intact” and “mostly free of human disturbance”, though some have indigenous people living within them. The largest chunk of wilderness in the Amazon basin shrank from 1.8m sq km to 1.3m sq km, while the Ucayali moist forests in the west of the Amazon, home to more than 600 bird species and primates including emperor tamarins, was badly affected.

“There are four reasons why we need to protect these places. One is biodiversity, the second is carbon, the third is the poorest of the poor are living in them, and the fourth is this is a reference point for nature, of pre-human environments,” Watson said.

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