Suzuki Motor says demand strong despite economic concerns

Article content TOKYO — Japan’s Suzuki Motor said on Friday it did not see demand for vehicles slowing at home or in its key market of India amid growing concerns about a global economic downturn. The view from Masahiko Nagao, Suzuki’s senior managing executive officer, echoes the bullish outlook of other Japanese automakers, even though inflation and higher interest rates are fueling uncertainty about the world economy. Suzuki had an order backlog of about 200,000 vehicles in Japan as of the end of June, Nagao said, adding a more up-to-date backlog figure for India, where the company has the largest share of the four-wheel market, was about 350,000. Article content “Although we are concerned about global economic trends, orders are coming in very smoothly and demand is not declining at this point,” he said on an earnings call, adding the company would see an operating profit as long as it could keep producing the accumulated orders. For the April-June quarter, Suzuki’s sales in India rose 27.9% year-on-year to 380,000 vehicles, after retailers curbed operations due to COVID-19 restrictions the year earlier. However, vehicle sales in Japan fell 6.4% as a chips shortage hampered production. Suzuki kept its operating profit forecast of 195 billion yen ($1.46 billion) for the year to March 31, saying it was premature to change it at this point. A surge in global commodity prices, amid supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the Ukraine war, has challenged businesses and policymakers worldwide, with central banks rushing to tighten monetary policy and firms cutting costs. Although the semiconductor shortage is gradually improving, Suzuki cannot predict when it will be resolved, Nagao said. To lessen the impact, the firm has switched to producing cars that don’t need so many chips in India and selling them to African as well as Central and South American markets, he said. Earlier this week, rival Subaru Corp said it expected strong demand from U.S. car buyers to continue, while Toyota Motor Corp stuck to its 9.7 million full-year global production target. ($1 = 133.2100 yen) (Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama Editing by Mark Potter)

China military says it conducted drills to the north, southwest and east of Taiwan

Article content BEIJING — China’s military on Friday conducted air and sea combat drills to the north, southwest and east of Taiwan and continues “to test the troops’ joint combat capabilities,” it said in a statement on Friday. The statement came on the official Weibo account of the Eastern Theatre Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). (Reporting by Beijing Newsroom, Writing by Martin Quin Pollard; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Global bond funds receive biggest weekly inflow in nine months

Article content Global bond funds obtained their biggest weekly inflow in nine months and purchases in money market funds also surged in the week to Aug. 3, as investors favored safety due to worries about the risk of global recession. Also, jitters about an escalation in Sino-U.S. tensions over U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, tempered investors’ appetite towards risky assets. According to Refinitiv Lipper, global bond funds saw net purchases of $14.4 billion, the biggest weekly inflow since Nov. 3. Article content Meanwhile, money market funds also lured $7.03 billion, a 66% increase in inflows over the previous week. Data released during the reported week showed the growth in U.S. factory activity weakened to a two-year low in July. Figures from Europe and Asia also pointed to a slowdown or contraction in production activities amid a drop in demand, casting more worries over global growth. Global government bond funds attracted $3.77 billion after an outflow in the previous week, while short- and medium-term bond funds received their first weekly inflow since Jan 5, amounting a net $1.59 billion. However, global equity funds suffered outflows of $10.42 billion in a sixth straight week of net selling. The U.S. and European equity funds witnessed withdrawals of $6.84 billion and $4.81 billion, respectively, but investors poured $0.86 billion in Asian funds. Data for commodities funds showed, gold and precious metal funds recorded a sixth weekly outflow, valued at $382 million, while energy funds had a marginal outgo of $48 million. An analysis of 24,414 emerging market funds showed, bond funds gained $954 million in inflows after seven weekly outflows in a row, but equity funds lost $534 billion in a third weekly outflow. (Reporting by Gaurav Dogra and Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

Grand jury indicts 16 people charged with felony littering in Asheville's Aston Park

ASHEVILLE – All 16 people charged by the Asheville Police Department with felony littering have been indicted by a Buncombe County grand jury, moving a case North Carolina attorneys have called “rare” and “unusual” to Buncombe County Superior Court. Pip Flickinger and other defendants are charged following December protests calling for sanctuary camping at Aston Park.”It is extremely bizarre to think about going to a full trial because of seven Little Caesars pizzas, which is like my role in this whole thing,” Flickinger said.Though they declined to comment on the protests or who was there, they said it seemed “unprecedented to have that much energy put into someone bringing pizzas to a park during open hours.” Previous coverage: Asheville mutual aid volunteers face ‘absurd’ felony littering charges, lawyer saysUS Forest Service: Asheville protesters urge US Forest Service to decrease logging in Pisgah National ForestThe protests, which took place in the week leading up to Christmas Day 2021, were billed as “a community art build” by the protesters and were calling for sanctuary camping for the city’s homeless population following a series of police sweeps of encampments that winter. According to a June news release from APD, the protests resulted in the dumping of 2,000 pounds of litter and refuse, and the cleanup “cost taxpayers in the City of Asheville nearly $2,700 with more than 100 man-hours, and required two dump trucks, half a dozen pickup trucks, and other heavy machinery.” Defendants were indicted on June 28 and a first appearance was held on Aug. 1, according to attorney Martin Moore. Moore represents five of the defendants and said the Aug. 1 appearance was “very routine.” The defendants were not present. A trial date has not yet been set. When asked for a comment, Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said in an emailed statement: “The matters will be continued. I am obligated to make no further out-of-court comment while these matters remain pending.” An APD spokesperson did not immediately respond to additional requests for comment. Defendants were charged with felony littering and other related charges, including aiding and abetting felony littering or acting in concert to felony littering, over a series of months, beginning in January and ending in May.Almost all 16 defendants were indicted on June 28 for only the littering charges, according to court documents obtained by the Citizen Times — which is a class I felony when it exceeds 500 pounds.Asheville Duke substation plans draw criticism: tree loss, looks like a ‘fortress’One defendant was also indicted for employee larceny, with the grand jury alleging the defendant unlawfully took 20 wooden pallets from their place of work. According to the indictment, the defendants did: Intentionally and recklessly place and caused to be placed greater than 500 pounds of litter, to wit: tires, wooden pallets, miscellaneous furniture and other items, on and in Aston Park, property owned and operated by the City of Asheville, a municipality. The litter was not deposited on property designated by the State or its political subdivision for the disposal of garbage and refuse by a person authorized to use the property for that purpose, and was not deposited in a litter receptacle as defined in North Carolina General Statute 14-399 (a) (2). Photos posted in January on the Asheville Police twitter page show Aston Park following one of the protests — pallets leaned up on their sides bearing slogans, including “people over profit” and “community will keep us safe,” wooden chairs, an armchair and other miscellaneous items and signs. ‘Rare’ and ‘unusual’ According to N.C. Court’s felony case activity reports going back the last 10 years, there has only been one felony littering case filed in Buncombe County. Phil Dixon, a professor with the UNC School of Government, said in the scheme of criminal charges, it’s a “rare offense,” and not one he had seen before. As a point of interest in the case, he flagged that the alleged 2,000 pounds of litter are being aggregated to apply to everyone. Ashville homelessness: New funding, staffing approved to address crisis, Is it enough?Housing crisis: BeLoved Village breaks ground in Asheville; advocates take housing crisis into own handsWest Asheville:72 townhomes project faces roadblocks; no-go from planning board”I think that is unusual. There’s nothing that I’m aware of that says they can do that, but there’s also nothing that says they can’t do that,” he said. “I think that strikes me as an unusual application of the statute.” Dixon imagined the statute was most commonly used to apply to commercial entities and corporations responsible for illegal dumping. “I think that opens up a lot of defense arguments to say, ‘I personally didn’t bring 500 pounds of litter anywhere,'” Dixon said. ‘We’re persisting’Most of the defendants, including Flickinger, are volunteers with a mutual aid organization, Asheville Survival Program, and part of its Streetside program, which distributed food and gear twice a week in Aston Park to anyone in need, including the city’s unhoused population. Following the charges, 12 of the defendants were issued three-year park bans. Though 10 attempted to appeal those bans through a Parks and Recreation appeals process in April, all of the bans were upheld.The individuals are banned from city parks under the 2017 Restricted Access to City Parks policy. Flickinger said this caused “roadblocks” for some of the Survival Program’s advocacy work, preventing volunteers from gathering in parks for food-sharing efforts. Recently, they said, Streetside has moved out of the park to continue doing the work elsewhere in the city.  “In general, I think, we’re persisting,” they said. Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. News Tips? Email shonosky@citizentimes.com or message on Twitter at @slhonosky. 

Answer Man: What's buried under French Broad Dog Park? Expired tags cited much?

Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:Question: What used to be where the French Broad River Dog Park now is? All of the dogs are collectively freaks at the park, and by that I mean they all dig holes compulsively and eat the dirt. Dog owner lore says there used to be a mine/extraction something or other underneath, and that’s what the dogs are nibbling at.My answer: Wait a minute. How do you tell the difference between your run of the mill, “I smell another dog’s pee here!” dog freakout, and the more extensive, “I’m pretty sure this was a cattle farm/peanut butter factory where the city buried roadkill for a hundred years!” Dogs are excitable creatures, you know…Real answer: I started with the city on this, and city spokesperson Kim Miller checked in with Parks & Recreation staff to cobble together some information. She noted that in the early 1900s, Riverside Park, a top amusement attraction in Asheville, was somewhat nearby, but it washed away in the Flood of 1916.More from Answer Man: Sierra Nevada taproom closure rumor? Odd electrical outages?Answer Man: What’s the ‘scoop on the poop’? ‘Katabatic wind’ at work?”After nearly 80 years, Carolina Power & Light (predecessor to Duke Progress) donated the land to the city of Asheville,” Miller said. “RiverLink and community members developed the park, and it opened on Sept. 25, 1994, as an important early milestone in the transformation of Asheville’s riverfront. I believe there were tires, limestone deposits, and who-knows-what-else on the site before it was redeveloped as a park.”Let me pause here to note that nearly 30 years of dogs peeing and pooping in an area could easily result in some freaky behavior of our current canines.”Currently, grading work is taking place at French Broad River Park as part of greenway construction,” Miller added.Answer Man:TDA promoting itself in ad? Merrimon Avenue sign missing a piece?Pedestrian crossing:Answer Man: Sheriff’s Office armored vehicle out and about? Pedestrian crossing ready?For a deep dive into the site’s recorded history, I went to Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, who, I must say, delivered a great first line in response.”I love your ability to get elected officials to do hours of research because someone’s dog smelled something funny at the dog park where the other neighborhood dogs poop,” Reisinger said. “Thanks for keeping me in my place.”I laughed out loud at that.Then Reisinger got down to brass tacks.”The city’s response took me off the scent of the right path,” Reisinger said. “While I am fascinated and easily distracted by the history of the Riverside Park, according to Register of Deeds records, this old amusement park was three miles further downstream from the French Broad River Park. It was roughly where the Stump Dump is today on Riverside Drive.”So Riverside Park is out of the equation.”If this historic amusement park was the former tenant of the dog park, there would be a more interesting story to tell, but the city of Asheville was deeded the property, from Carolina Power & Light Company, in 1991,” Reisinger said via email. “It appears that the property was a Carolina P&L substation before it was deeded to the city of Asheville.”The deed from Carolina P&L to the city shows eight of the nine tracts came from Tom Rowland Jr. and his wife Margaret Rowland. The first tract came from Gay and Effie Green, Reisinger noted.”So, it would seem that before the property was a substation for Carolina P&L, it was all privately owned,” Reisinger said. “These nine tracts were all deeded to Carolina P&L between 1946-1948.” Reisinger did sniff out something intriguing, though.”There was an atypical note in the deed to the city from the power company where the attorney felt the need to use all caps, stating, “CP&L BELIEVES AND HEREBY NOTIFIES ASHEVILLE, ITS SUCCESSORS AND ASSIGNS, THAT PORTIONS OF SAID TRACTS OF LAND APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN UTILIZED AS REFUSE OR GARBAGE WASTE DISPOSAL AREAS AS PHYSICALLY EVIDENCED IN PART BY BROKEN GLASS, RUSTED CANS, AND RUSTED EQUIPMENT ON, OR NEAR AND UNDER THE SURFACE OF THE GROUND.”Aha! The smoking pile of garbage has been unearthed!Well, not quite, but maybe the pooches are smelling some decades old garbage and then trying to dig to China.”Maybe that’s why they only charged the city $1 for the land,” Reisinger added drily.Question: While stopped at a red light at the corner of Patton and Louisiana recently, I noticed the car in front of me with North Carolina plates had an expiration sticker of October 2019. It would seem to me that at some point an Asheville Police Department or Buncombe County Sheriff’s patrol car would be behind this vehicle also. Do they not bother to stop cars with expired plates? Is it too much trouble? To me, the owner has failed to pay his vehicle tax for over two years, and I’m fairly certain they don’t have insurance. How many tickets for expired tags has each agency issued over the last year?My answer: As someone who has let a tag lapse for, well, let’s just say a good number of months, I can assure you I was still paying insurance on the car. Got to get better about actually reading those notices from DMV, though…Real answer: Judging by the length of time it took me to not get much response on these questions, I’m going to guess enforcement here is not a huge priority. Hey, I sent the question out to both agencies in mid-June.”Asheville Police Department has issued 161 citations-plus thus far this year for expired registration card/tags,” APD spokesman Bill Davis said via email June 21. I got no further response.Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Aaron Sarver said June 30 via email, “I’m trying to get this data without success so far. There is a new reporting system from the state, I’m told.”I nagged him later for more information but didn’t hear back. Answer Man on West Asheville:Haywood Road improvements coming in West Asheville? Bus from AVL to downtown?When a similar question came up in 2018, a senior officer in APD’s Traffic Safety Unit, offered a little insight that I suspect still holds true: “Often times the tags will be valid and current on insurance and the driver has failed to place the current sticker on the vehicle. If the vehicle is only recently expired, but the insurance is still current, the Asheville Police Department tends to issue written warnings that the motorist can correct and submit without a fine.”If I get more information, I’ll keep you posted. Meantime, check those tags!This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or jboyle@citizen-times.com