World this week
The United States and the Philippines announced an expansion of America's military presence in the Southeast Asian country, with US forces granted access to four more military camps, effectively giving Washington new ground to ramp up deterrence against China. The agreement between the longtime allies was made public during the visit of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who has led efforts to strengthen America's security alliances in Asia in the face of China's increasing assertiveness toward Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The allies also said that "substantial" progress has been made in projects at five Philippine military bases, where US military personnel were earlier granted access by Filipino officials. Construction of American facilities at those locations has been underway for years but has been hampered by unspecified local issues. With the deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.
Pakistan was left reeling by one of the most devastating militant attacks to hit the country in years, after a suicide bomber unleashed a blast in a mosque inside the city's main police compound, killing at least 101 people and wounding at least 225, mostly police. The bomber arrived pushing a motorcycle at the mosque, located inside a high-security police and government compound in the city of Peshawar, said the police chief, Moazzam Jah Ansari.
The bomber wore a police uniform and the guards at the site assumed he was a police officer - their colleague - and did not search him, Ansari added. Police have identified the bomber, the police chief also said, and are close to arresting suspects who helped him carry out Monday's bombing, one of the deadliest ever in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan's defense and interior ministers in speeches to Parliament blamed the Pakistani Taliban, who are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban.
Oil and gas giant Shell reported record annual profits after energy prices surged last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Profits hit $39.9bn (£32.2bn) in 2022, double the previous year's total and the highest in the company's 115-year history. Energy firms have seen record earnings since oil and gas prices jumped following the invasion of Ukraine. It has heaped pressure on firms to pay more tax as households struggle with rising bills.
The price of Brent crude oil reached nearly $128 a barrel following the invasion, but has since fallen back to about $83. Gas prices also spiked but have come down from their highs. Opposition parties in Britain, where the company is headquartered, said Shell's profits were "outrageous" and the government was letting energy firms "off the hook". Shell's chief financial officer said that it had paid $13bn in taxes globally in 2022, and accounted for 11% of liquified natural gas shipments into the EU, easing pressure on supplies caused by sanctions on Russia.
The European Central Bank chugged ahead with another outsized interest rate hike and vowed more will follow, underlining its drive to subdue inflation even as the economy slows and the U.S. Federal Reserve eases its pace of increases. The Frankfurt-based bank raised its key benchmarks by half a percentage point and said it intends to make a similar move in March. Policymakers are moving aggressively to choke off price spikes that have slowed from record highs but are still hurting households in the 20 countries that use the euro currency.
The bank "will stay the course in raising interest rates significantly at a steady pace," ECB President Christine Lagarde said at a news conference. The Bank of England also went big with a half-point hike, but the Fed pulled back this week, slowing to a quarter-point hike as central banks around the world reassess their approach to tackling price spikes that have started to slow.
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