says no need to boost nuke alert

There is no need to boost the threat alert levels of NATO’s nuclear forces in response to actions by Russia, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Associated Press on Tuesday after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The pair met at an air base in Lask, where the alliance keeps F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. 

“We will always do what is needed to protect and defend our allies, but we don’t think there is any need now to change the alert levels of NATO’s nuclear forces,” he continued.

Moscow announced on Monday that its land, air and sea nuclear forces were being placed on high alert in the wake of rhetoric coming from the West regarding its military offensive in Ukraine.

Russian and Ukrainian delegations met for negotiations on Monday at the Belarusian border. Another round of talks is reportedly in the works.

Stoltenberg declared the “horrendous, horrific invasion” of Ukraine was “a brutality that has to stop immediately,” as the US recently sent 5,000 additional troops to Poland and Romania and a detachment of French troops also headed to Romania.

It is the responsibility of NATO to “ensure that we don’t see a development where a conflict in Ukraine spiraled out of control and becomes a full-fledged confrontation between NATO and Russia in Europe,” the NATO leader said, insisting alliance officials are “able to maintain deconfliction [contacts] with Russia.”

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African Governments Urged to Support Plastic Pollution Solutions

Negotiators at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Kenya. African countries have been encouraged to adopt circular plastic policies which will lower greenhouse emissions. Credit: UNEA
  • by Aimable Twahirwa (nairobi, kenya)
  • Inter Press Service

The key approach to a circular economy for developing countries in Africa and elsewhere, according to experts, should focus on addressing plastic pollution by reducing the discharge of plastics into the environment by covering all stages of the plastic life cycle. Plastic waste would be reduced through restorative and regenerative projects using the material without allowing leakage into the natural environment.

Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), outlined critical steps on halting plastic pollution, stopping harmful chemicals in agriculture, and deploying nature to find sustainable development solutions.

“Ambitious action to beat plastic pollution should track the lifespan of plastic products – from source to sea – should be legally binding, accompanied by support to developing countries, backed by financing mechanisms, tracked by strong monitoring mechanisms, and incentivizing all stakeholders – including the private sector,” Andersen said.

The main challenge is how countries should move towards a more circular economy that benefits from reducing environmental pressure. Scientists stress the need for most African governments to strengthen the science and knowledge base on plastic pollution and improve their policies.

Mohammed Abdelraouf, chair of Scientific and Technological Community Major Group UNEP, told IPS that while there are many solutions to plastic pollution, research should complement these efforts by developing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

“It is important for governments to make decisions that stimulate innovations,” he said.

According to the draft resolution being debated at UNEA, signatories to an internationally legally binding agreement would commit to reducing plastic pollution across the entire lifecycle of plastics, from preventive measures in the upstream part of the lifecycle to downstream ones addressing waste management. Rwanda and Peru drew up the resolution.

For a smooth implementation and compliance by stakeholders, the UN agency in charge of environmental protection is engaged with stakeholders, including governments, the business community, researchers, and civil society. The engagement aims to understand priorities, challenges, what’s needed to foster a plastics circular economy that works for industry, economies and meets environmental and social objectives.

Experts describe private sector support as crucial in managing plastic waste. Some business community members will benefit during implementation from grant financing to encourage the move towards the circular economy.

With different industries across the plastic value chain now facing a shifting dynamic, Andersen noted that company shareholders and consumers are increasingly paying attention to the pollution challenges arising from their investments and purchasing decisions.

For example, one waste management initiative has supported public-private investment projects in three African countries, including Algeria, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, to advance sustainable waste management and the circular economy.

Margaret Munene, a Kenyan woman entrepreneur and chair of Business and Industry Major Group of UNEP, told delegates that the successful reduction of plastic pollution requires testing solutions.

“The private sector remains critical to creating innovative and technological solutions to address plastic waste,” she said.

Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Espen Barth Eide, has initiated a project to identify requirements and options for designing a science-policy interface. The project aims to develop different proposals on how to create the interface to operate as effectively as possible, especially for developing countries.

“Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic of its own. Paradoxically, plastics are among the most long-lasting products we humans have made – and frequently, we still just throw it away. Plastic is a product that can be used again, and then over and over again, if we move it into a circular economy. I am convinced that the time has come for a legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution,” Eide said.

Beyond plastics, experts say other major interventions needed concern the design of buildings that make efficient use of limited materials and use building processes that are less energy-intensive to lower greenhouse gas emissions and stop environmental degradation.

Official estimates show that Africa is the second most populous continent globally, and its urban population is expected to nearly triple by 2050 to 1.34 billion.

It’s estimated that between 60% and 80% of the built environment needed by 2050 to support this growing population has yet to be laid.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Russia-Ukraine war: WW-II era bunkers only refuge for stranded Indians in Sumy | India News – Times of India

GUWAHATI: With Sumy air reverberating with sounds of shelling, World War-II era bunkers are the only hope for around 40 Indian nationals, including 15 medical students from Assam, stranded in the northeastern Ukrainian city, barely 50 miles from the Russian border.
For those stranded in the northeastern region of Ukraine, it is a journey of more than 1,500 km to reach the borders of Hungary, Romania and Poland, which are giving refuge to the evacuees.
Guwahati boy Devraj Bhuyan said they have been staying in the bunkers at night with other foreigners since February 26.
“The bunkers were built on Heroiv Krut Street where our apartment is located and these have been handy during war times since WW-II. After a long time, the bunkers are being used. They were cleaned and the electricity supply was restored. We have sleeping arrangements for around 20 people but it’s not possible to study in the dim light,” he said, adding children, elderly people and women are being given priority to stay in the bunkers.
The Assamese students of Sumy State University said the local people are taking special care of the stranded foreigners. “I was staying in a rented accommodation with three Nigerian students. But I was asked by a local lady to hide in the bunker,” said Devraj.
After failing to get any evacuation assurance from the Indian embassy, the students have stocked ration items for a month with supplies drying up in shops. “From 6 pm there is a curfew in Sumy. The situation is very tense. Long queues are being witnessed in pharmacies also,” Devraj said.
Another Assam student, Bishal Das, was recently asked to get shifted to another hostel away from the countryside where intense fighting is on. “Usually people in the countryside are more rebellious. Our former hostel was close to the countryside where big explosions are being heard constantly,” he said.
“Wherever the locals see the Russian army, they attack. Many soldiers are roaming the streets in civilian clothes. It’s difficult to differentiate, which side they are from,” Bishal added.
Around 20 foreign students, including Indians, have been taking shelter in a bunker with Bishal since Monday night. “We could not find any train from Sumy to the western border. Roads are unsafe,” Bishal said.
As many as 15 students from Assam, studying mostly in western Ukraine cities close to the Hungary-Romania border, were evacuated till Tuesday noon.

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Protecting Workers & Enabling a Green Recovery from COVID-19

Gig economy has boosted employment of Indian women in the formal sector. Credit: UNDP India
  • Opinion by Haoliang Xu (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service
  • The writer is UN Assistant Secretary General and Director, UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

The pandemic has placed employer and worker organizations under increased pressure. It is posing new challenges with respect to safeguarding workplace safety and health, including in but not limited to frontline and other sectors critical to the day-to-day functioning of economies and societies, and ensuring respect for labour rights more generally, including in digitally enabled remote work arrangements which have expanded substantially during the crisis.

At the same time, sectors such as tourism and hospitality, culture, aviation, and some manufacturing and personal services continue to struggle, as do many smaller firms, resulting in many workers shifting from formal to informal and often insecure employment where labour protections, tax administration and social protection is considerably weaker.

Redoubling our efforts to effectively protect and empower vulnerable workers and enterprises, particularly those in the informal economy is clearly paramount.

Whilst this requires action on multiple fronts, there are four key levers to address the challenges:

First, data and analytics. We need more, better granular data to understand the realities and risks facing vulnerable workers and businesses, especially those in the informal economy. Efforts towards better understanding the ecosystems in which informal workers and businesses operate and building evidence, including through expanding labor market and Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) databases, should continue alongside efforts to bring the voice of workers and businesses into the mainstream.

Second, digital transformation. We need digital solutions that point to the potential of digital technologies, products and platforms. Our review of the social protection response to COVID-19 in the global South clearly indicates that greater investments in digitized registries, on-line mobile registration platforms, as well as digital delivery are instrumental to improve outreach and access for uncovered groups, including informal workers.

Likewise, digital solutions hold great promise for increasing the productivity and resilience of MSMEs, through expanding their access to financing, skills and market opportunities.

Uganda, for instance, has helped on-boarding over 3,500 informal vendors on a leading African e-commerce platform (Jumia) who are now selling over 300,000 products online and have doubled their daily turnover. The digital move gets obvious traction, and there is scope for scaling up.

Cambodia is accelerating digital transformation with over 1,500 MSMEs transitioning to e-commerce for business continuity, livelihoods, and employment. This secured jobs for 6,527 people (41% women).

Third, fostering gender equality and inclusion. We need to massively invest in digital and financial literacy while closing the gender digital divide. 2.9 billion women, mostly in developing countries, have no access to the internet. Our collective action should seek to fully protect and empower women workers and women-owned enterprises, particularly those in the informal economy. Integrating the needs of migrant workers and people with disabilities is another imperative.

Fourth, greater focus on resilience and sustainability. Sustaining enterprises and their capacity to preserve and create jobs requires improving their capacities to better prevent, anticipate and manage shocks. Equally critical is the need to encourage more environmentally and socially sustainable business practices.

For example, in India, a circular economy creates value from plastic waste. Ghana’s multi-stakeholder ‘Waste’ Recovery Platform connects all actors, formal and informal, public and private across waste management value chain and also create decent green jobs.

While considering pathways towards recovery, the informal economy cannot merely be approached from a ‘vulnerability’ or ‘deficit’ lens. The informal economy is an untapped opportunity to chart pathways for prosperity for all. It is also a world of innovation and creativity, with many invisible contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals.

One enabler to charting such pathways is to harness digital transformations, while connecting it to green transitions. Digital solutions can significantly improve informal actors’ access to social protection, skills, markets, trade, and financial opportunities.

Moreover, efficiency and productivity gains enabled by digital technologies, products and platforms and on-line one-stop shops, that bring together several registration procedures to accelerate the transition to larger, formal firms with greater scope to create jobs.

We need to move away from short-term towards long-term action that can spur transformative change in health and social protection systems, the world of work and business ecosystems.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Ukraine conflict: Russia bombs Kharkiv’s Freedom Square and opera house

Kharkiv has been bombed heavily for days now and 16 people were killed before Tuesday’s attack, Mr Zelensky said. His government accuses Russia of trying to lay siege to Kharkiv and other cities, including the capital Kyiv, where a huge Russian armoured convoy is approaching.

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Ukrainian Invasion Adds to Chaos for Global Supply Chains

And if the conflict is prolonged, it could threaten the summer wheat harvest, which flows into bread, pasta and packaged food for vast numbers of people, especially in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Food prices have already skyrocketed because of disruptions in the global supply chain, increasing the risk of social unrest in poorer countries.

On Tuesday, the global shipping giant Maersk announced that it would temporarily suspend all shipments to and from Russia by ocean, air and rail, with the exception of food and medicine. Ocean Network Express, Hapag-Lloyd and MSC, the world’s other major ocean carriers, have announced similar suspensions.

“The war just makes the worldwide situation for commodities more dire,” said Christopher F. Graham, a partner at White and Williams.

Jennifer McKeown, the head of global economics service at Capital Economics, said the global economy appeared relatively insulated from the conflict. But she said that shortages of materials like palladium and xenon, used in semiconductor and auto production, could add to current difficulties for those industries. Semiconductor shortages have halted production at car plants and other facilities, fueling price increases and weighing on sales.

“That could add to the shortages that we’re already seeing, exacerbate those shortages, and end up causing further damage to global growth,” she said.

International companies are also trying to comply with sweeping financial sanctions and export controls imposed by Europe, the United States and a number of other countries that have clamped down on flows of goods and money in and out of Russia.

In just a few days, Western governments moved to exclude certain Russian banks from using the SWIFT messaging system, limit the Russian central bank’s ability to prop up the ruble, cut off shipments of high-tech goods and freeze the global assets of Russian oligarchs.

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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Invasion escalates as convoy threatens Kyiv, Kharkiv ‘surrounded’

TEL AVIV — Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel laid out a litany of complaints Tuesday about Jerusalem’s response to the Russian invasion, accusing Israeli officials of failing to match the aid offered by other nations and of forgetting Ukraine’s history of aiding Jews during the Holocaust.

Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk said Israel had rejected requests to provide defensive equipment and to accept some of the refugees fleeing the fighting. He broke down in tears as he spoke about relatives still in Ukraine in a briefing with journalists at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Tel Aviv.

“We hope that Israel will behave like the rest of the world and help us with weapons as well,” said Korniychuk. “We’re getting more help from our other partners and friends than from Israel at the moment.”

Korniychuk said that he was “disappointed” with the refusal by the Israeli Ministry of Interior to accommodate a number of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have fled their homes and are temporarily stationed across Ukraine’s border countries. Israel has set up processing centers for Jewish refugees who want to enter Israel, but has declined to accept other Ukrainians.

“We do believe that you remember the time of the Second World War, when Ukrainians were massively saving Jewish lives from the Holocaust. Almost 4,000 are called the ‘righteous among the nations,” he said, referring to the honorific used by Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. “This is a humanitarian catastrophe. We are asking for your humanity.”

Israel also refused a request by Ukraine to supply medical care to wounded soldiers and civilians, for the wounded to be sent for treatment in Israel, and for Israel to ban Russian television networks that air in Israel and issue Russian propaganda, Korniychuk said.

Saturday, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tel Aviv issued an open call on its Facebook page for volunteers “who wish to participate in combat actions against the Russian aggressor.” The post, which drew a lot of media attention, was deleted after a few hours because of what the embassy called “extreme hype.” But the embassy restored the call for fighters on Monday and provided information on how to join Ukraine’s “foreign legion.”

Thousands of Ukrainian-Israelis are based in Ukraine, including an unknown number of men who had served in the Israeli Defense Forces and moved to Ukraine in the years following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over the last two days, Israel has airlifted 100 tons of humanitarian equipment to Ukraine, including water purification systems, sleeping bags and coats.

But the deliveries did not include the items Ukraine had specifically asked for, said Korniychuk, including helmets and protective vests, which are reportedly in short supply throughout Europe.

Israel has tried to balance support for Ukraine without angering Russian, which has unofficially coordinated with Jerusalem on military operations against Iran-backed proxies in Syria. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has expressed support for Ukraine, without criticizing Russia by name. But Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a tweet on Monday that Israel would back an upcoming United Nations resolution condemning the Russian invasion.

The move will place Israel “on the right side of history,” Lapid tweeted.

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‘Locals shooting at locals’: Kyiv hunts Russian ‘saboteurs’ – Times of India

IRPIN: The Ukrainian special forces commander inspected the remains of a bridge his teams had blown up at the gates of Kyiv and explained his strategy for fighting Russian “saboteurs”.
“We have our agents living with the locals,” Spear unit commander Viktor Chelovan said.
“If strangers come into our villages, people send us signals, call us, and we go out and take care of these saboteurs.”
A fear of Russians disguised as locals is gradually gripping Ukraine.
It crept into Kyiv when Russian paratroopers dropped into a local airfield on the northwestern edge of the city in the first hours of their invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.
The precise number who landed — or who survived the Ukrainian counter-offensive — is unclear.
But residents of the neighbouring village of Irpin have been reporting strange things in their woods ever since.
“We have people who look like locals shooting at other locals,” said Irpin resident Andriy Levanchuk.
The 39-year-old financial adviser was using a perilous-looking crossing made of pipes and wires to get to the other side of the small but surprisingly rapid Irpin River.
The regular bridge above him was blown up by Ukrainian forces to halt the Russian advance.
“These are Russian paratroopers who hide in the woods, enter people’s apartments, take their clothes, change and try to walk around in civilian clothes,” Levanchuk said.
Military analysts believe Levanchuk’s hunch about strangers in the woods might be right.
Mykola Beleskov of Kyiv’s National Institute for Strategic Studies said Russia was “employing special forces of different kinds en masse” to try and capture the Ukrainian capital.
“They are trying to combine airstrikes, artillery and infiltration commandos, who basically provide support for a very gradual advance,” he said.
The Russian advance on the historic city seemed imminent when the paratroopers arrived.
But Ukrainian forces put up a stiff resistance at the city’s northern entrance and then recaptured the airfield.
They then started blowing up bridges and setting up barricades across the city to stall the invasion by any means possible.
Kyiv residents such as 19-year-old student Ibrahim Shelia further took matters into their own hands.
Shelia and his friends began digging a trench in front of their building to lob Molotov cocktails at the Russian tanks.
Yet they also decided to keep a close eye out for people who look like they do not belong.
“The other day, with my guys, we stopped a car that some local people had tipped us off about,” Shelia said a few minutes before Kyiv entered its nightly curfew — another measure aimed at better fighting intruders.
“There were four people inside with two maps of Ukraine, two laptops and everyone had two Ukrainian passports: the first was the new version, the second the old one,” he said.
“We immediately called the police. Everyone was arrested and taken away.”
The mayor of Irpin also said his men had picked up some Russians after a tip from one of the local villagers.
“Of course there are saboteurs,” mayor Oleksandr Markushin said while inspecting the remains of his town’s main bridge.
A few policemen nearby argued about how long it might take to repair their town’s crossing to Kyiv once the war ends.
But the special forces commander had no time for idle chitchat and tried to steer the conversation toward the threat at hand.
“There are three types of saboteurs,” he said.
“There are the Russian special forces and GRU (military intelligence) planted here before the war. Their main job was to assist the Russian invasion,” he said.
Chelovan said the second group was sent in “to destabilise daily life” with various attacks.
“The third group are intelligence agents whose only goal is to kill various Ukrainian leaders,” said the commander.
A group of volunteer soldiers were trying to manuever a new shipment of Kalashnikovs across the makeshift river crossing as he spoke.
“But most importantly, they are trying to kill the leaders of the people’s resistance movement,” Chelovan said.

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Oil prices surge above $100 a barrel as war on Ukraine rages

The price of oil surged back above $100 a barrel after Russia, a major energy producer, faced further isolation and economic damage because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Oil prices soared on Tuesday and investors shifted more money into ultra-safe US government bonds as Russia stepped up its war on Ukraine.

Stocks fell following a volatile day for major indexes as investors tried to measure how the conflict will impact the global economy. The S&P 500 index fell 0.7 per cent as of 10:14 am Eastern.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 337 points, or 1 per cent, to 33,554 and the Nasdaq fell 0.5 per cent.

The bigger moves came from the markets for oil, agricultural commodities and government bonds.

Oil has been a key concern because Russia is one of the world’s largest energy producers.

The latest bump in prices increases pressure on persistently high inflation that threatens households around the world.

US benchmark crude oil prices rose 6.6 per cent to USD 101.87 per barrel, reaching the highest price since 2014. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 6.6 per cent to USD 104.44.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also put more pressure on agricultural commodity prices, which were also already getting pushed higher with rising inflation.

Wheat and corn prices rose more than 4 per cent per bushel and are already up more than 20 per cent so far this year. Ukraine is a key exporter of both crops.

Investors continued putting money into bonds.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.75 per cent from 1.83 per cent late Monday. It is now back to where it was in early February, before topping 2 per cent for the first time in over two years.

The conflict in Ukraine has shaken markets globally and added to worries about economic growth in the face of rising inflation and plans from central banks to raise interest rates.

The US and its allies have been putting significant pressure on Russia’s financial system as that nation continues its push into Ukraine and its key cities.

The value of the Russian ruble plunged to a record low Monday after Western countries moved to block some Russian banks from a key global payments system. Also Monday, the US Treasury Department announced more sanctions against Russia’s central bank.

Various companies have announced plans to scale back or pull out from ventures in Russia, or to suspend operations in Ukraine due to the conflict.

The Russian central bank has also raised its key rate to 20 per cent from 9.5 per cent in a desperate attempt to shore up the plummeting ruble and prevent a run on banks. Russia’s stock market remained closed on Tuesday.

Investors are closely monitoring developments in Ukraine while awaiting the latest updates from the Fed and US government on the economy.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is to testify before Congress later this week and that could offer clues on the path ahead for raising interest rates.

A report on Friday will also show whether strength in the US jobs market continued in February, allowing the Fed more leeway to raise rates.

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Stocks fall on first day of March as Russia bears down on Ukraine capital, oil hits 7-year high

U.S. stocks slipped on the first day of March as oil prices surged and investors continue to monitor the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 100 points, or 0.3%. The S&P 500 was off by 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.1%.

The decline in stocks came as satellite cameras captured a convoy of Russian military vehicles apparently on its way to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

The continued aggression from Russia pushed energy prices higher. West Texas Intermediate crude futures jumped 5% on Tuesday morning, breaking above $101 per barrel and hitting its highest level in seven years.

Wheat prices also surged on Tuesday. The rise in commodity prices added to inflation fears in the U.S. and Europe.

“Volatility is elevated as a wall-of-worry continues to grow. Geopolitical uncertainty, inflation, rising interest rates and technical price-trend deterioration are weighing on sentiment and stock prices,” U.S. Bank Wealth Management chief equity strategist Terry Sandven said in a note to clients.

Financial stocks were some of the biggest losers on Tuesday, with Bank of America down 1.9%, Citigroup off 1.8% and Charles Schwab lower by 3%.

Some of the early stock losses were offset by strong Target earnings, as the big box retailer posted profit of $3.19 a share that was well ahead of Wall Street estimates. Shares jumped nearly 12%.

Treasury yields were mostly lower, with the benchmark 10-year note most recently at 1.76%. Yields move opposite prices, so the decline represents a rush into safe-haven bonds amid the stock market turmoil.

Ukrainian and Russian officials wrapped up a critical round of talks Monday, and heavy sanctions from the U.S. and its allies are hitting the Russian economy and central bank. Major companies are abiding by the sanctions from the U.S. and its allies, with Mastercard and Visa blocking Russian financial institutions from their networks.

The VanEck Russia ETF, which sank 30% on Monday even as markets in that country were closed, was down another 7% on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the central bank of Russia more than doubled its key interest rate on Monday, as the ruble plummeted against the U.S. dollar.

In a volatile session Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 170 points. The S&P 500 dropped 0.24% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.4%.

JPMorgan’s Marko Kolanovic said Monday the worst of the Russia-Ukraine sell-off might be over.

“The Russia/Ukraine crisis will continue to produce market volatility, but the direct impact on corporate earnings should be small. Indirect risks are more substantial, given effects of higher commodity prices on inflation, growth, and consumers,” Kolanovic said in a Monday afternoon note. “However, one silver lining is that the crisis forced a dovish reassessment of the Fed by the market.”

Investors are also gearing up to hear from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in his semiannual hearing at House Committee on Financial Services, which begins on Wednesday.

Monday also marked the final trading day of February. The Dow lost 3.5% for the month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq fell 3.1% and 3.4%, respectively.

As corporate earnings season winds down, cloud giant Salesforce reports results after the close.

On the economic front, February’s Markit Manufacturing PMI will be released at 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday. ISM manufacturing PMI for February will be out at 10 a.m.

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