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SINGAPORE: Japanese rubber futures hit a six-week high on Monday as inclement weather in Thailand, the world’s top exporter of the natural rubber, raised fears of tighter supply, while optimism over strong automobile data also boosted sentiment.

The Osaka Exchange (OSE) rubber contract for June delivery finished up 5.5 yen, or 2.11%, at 266.1 yen ($1.83) per kg, the highest close since Nov. 29.

The rubber contract on the Shanghai futures exchange (SHFE) for May delivery rose 45 yuan to finish at 13,785 yuan ($1,922) per metric ton.

The Thai Meteorological Department has warned of Northern thundershowers from Jan. 15-17, and Southern heavy rains from Jan. 15-18, potentially affecting the supply of natural rubber.

Volkswagen’s increase in sales last year was driven by its mass-market cars and premium brand Audi, whose sales outstripped pre-pandemic deliveries at 1.9 million vehicles.

Porsche announced that 2023 retail deliveries in the United States totaled 75,415 cars – a new record – and a 7.6% increase from 2022.

European Commission investigators are to inspect Chinese automakers as part of a probe into whether to impose punitive tariffs to protect European electric vehicle makers, three people involved in the process said.

Japanese firms in China expect China’s economic prospects to remain grim this year.

China’s economic growth is likely to slow to 4.6% in 2024 and 4.5% in 2025, a Reuters poll showed.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei average closed up 0.91%, after touching its highest since February 1990 at 36,008.23.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.25% at 145.28 against the dollar. A weaker yen makes yen-denominated assets more affordable when purchased in other currencies.

The front-month rubber contract on Singapore Exchange’s SICOM platform for February delivery last traded at 154.10 US cents per kg, up 0.72%.

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