Asian stocks follow Wall Street up, silver eases off high

Asian stocks follow Wall Street up, silver eases off high
A woman walks past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021. Asian stocks followed Wall Street higher Tuesday after President Joe Biden invited Republicans to a meeting to discuss economic aid, while silver eased off an eight-year high.(AP)
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Updated 02 February 2021

Asian stocks follow Wall Street up, silver eases off high

Asian stocks follow Wall Street up, silver eases off high
  • Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all advanced

BEIJING: Asian stocks followed Wall Street higher Tuesday after President Joe Biden invited Republicans to a meeting to discuss economic aid, while silver eased off an eight-year high.
Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul all advanced.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index gained 1.6 percent, recovering some of losses earlier in the week amid frenzied trading of video game retailer GameStop and other stocks targeted by novice day traders.
In Washington, Biden invited 10 moderate Republicans to the White House to discuss his proposed $1.9 trillion economic aid plan. Republicans earlier countered with an offer of $600 billion, or less than one-third of Biden’s proposed amount.
“The sound of more stimulus, which tends to raise all boats, was music to the market’s ears,” said Stephen Innes of Axi in a report.
The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5 percent to 3,523.71 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo added 1 percent to 28,376.20. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 1.9 percent to 29,453.37.
The Kospi in Seoul was 2.1 percent higher at 3,120.27 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 gained 1.2 percent to 6,744.70.
New Zealand and Jakarta retreated while Singapore and Bangkok rose.
Silver declined after jumping at one point to its highest level in eight years.
Silver for March delivery shed 81 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $28.61 per ounce in London.
Last week, there were messages on the Reddit forum WallStreet Bets and other places on social media encouraging small investors to buy silver. It shot up Monday, but many online investors said it wasn’t them bidding up the price.
Smaller traders are learning “the silver market is much bigger than some of the small cap stocks they have been trading,” said Edward Moya of Oanda in a report. “Silver coin purchases and call option bets are not enough of a driver to send silver prices skyrocketing to record high levels.”
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index gained to 3,773.86. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8 percent to 30,211.91. The Nasdaq composite climbed 2.5 percent to 13,403.39.
US markets have been roiled by frenzied trading in GameStop and some other stocks that had been expected to decline but surged after novice traders bought. Other investors said hedge funds that bet against those stocks were losing money and selling other shares.
GameStop slumped 30.8 percent to $225 a share. It ended last year at about $18.
Tech stocks led the way higher. Communication stocks and a variety of companies that rely on direct consumer spending such as Starbucks and AutoZone also helped lift the market.
Hopes for economic aid, along with the Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep low-cost credit plentiful, have carried the S&P 500 and other major indexes to record highs.
Investors bid up stocks heading into 2021 in expectation the rollout of coronavirus vaccines would allow global business and travel to return to normal. That optimism has been dented by infection spikes and disruptions in vaccine deliveries.
Markets were rattled last week by AstraZeneca’s announcement it would supply the European Union with fewer than half the promised doses, which prompted the EU to impose export controls. On Sunday, AstraZeneca promised to increase European supplies and start delivery earlier.
In energy markets, benchmark US crude rose 52 cents to $54.07 per barrel. The contract gained $1.35 on Monday to $53.55 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 49 cents to $56.84 per barrel in London. It advanced $1.31 the previous session to $56.35.
The dollar edged down to 104.92 yen from Monday’s 104.94 yen. The euro rose to $1.2086 from $1.2066.


Egypt’s Sovereign Fund denies Tahrir Complex will be sold to investors

Egypt’s Sovereign Fund denies Tahrir Complex will be sold to investors
Updated 17 April 2021

Egypt’s Sovereign Fund denies Tahrir Complex will be sold to investors

Egypt’s Sovereign Fund denies Tahrir Complex will be sold to investors
  • The fund said it fully owned the complex and that it was offering it for development
  • It said the development process would be based on methods that took into account the building’s historical value

CAIRO: The Sovereign Fund of Egypt has denied reports that it intends to sell the Tahrir Complex (Mogamma El-Tahrir) to investors.
It said the complex was fully owned by the fund and that offering it for development, by teaming up with investors and partners, was about turning the complex into a multi-purpose building comprising a hotel, commercial, administrative and cultural elements.
It also said the development process would be based on methods that took into account the building’s historical value. This process was in line with a plan to make the most of state assets and invest in them to achieve broader opportunities, it added.
It launched the first operational steps to develop the complex by completing a prospectus and presenting it to foreign and local investors and developers.
The partnership model will be based on the fund contributing to the technical studies and surveying work, while the partner or real estate developer will contribute to the financing and other components.
The qualification process will be based on developing the building as a multi-use project.


Militants attack two oil wells in northern Iraq, production unaffected

Militants attack two oil wells in northern Iraq, production unaffected
Updated 17 April 2021

Militants attack two oil wells in northern Iraq, production unaffected

Militants attack two oil wells in northern Iraq, production unaffected

KIRKUK: Militants using explosives attacked two oil wells northwest of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Saturday but no significant damage resulted and production was not affected, the Iraqi oil ministry said.
The attack at the Bay Hassan oilfield "did not cause a fire or damage, affect production or stop oil pumping from the well," the ministry said in a statement. 


China’s GDP jumps record 18.3%

China’s GDP jumps record 18.3%
China’s GDP grew just 2.3 percent rise last year, its weakest expansion in 44 years, but still making it the only major economy to avoid contraction. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2021

China’s GDP jumps record 18.3%

China’s GDP jumps record 18.3%
  • Recovery propelled by stronger demand at home and abroad and continued govt support for smaller firms

BEIJING: China’s economic recovery quickened sharply in the first quarter to record growth of 18.3 percent from last year’s deep coronavirus slump, propelled by stronger demand at home and abroad and continued government support for smaller firms.

But the brisk expansion, heavily skewed by the plunge in activity a year earlier, is expected to moderate later this year as the government turns its attention to reining in financial risks in overheating parts of the economy.
While the jump in the gross domestic product undershot the 19 percent forecast by economists in a Reuters poll, the official data showed it was the fastest growth since quarterly records began in 1992 and up from 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year.
“The upshot is that with the economy already above its pre-virus trend and policy support being withdrawn, China’s post-COVID rebound is leveling off,” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior china economist at Capital Economics. “We expect quarter-on-quarter growth to remain modest during the rest of this year as the recent boom in construction and exports unwinds, pulling activity back toward trend.”
Aided by strict virus containment measures and emergency relief for businesses, the economy has recovered from a steep 6.8 percent slump in the first three months of 2020, when an outbreak of COVID-19 in the central city of Wuhan rapidly became a crippling pandemic that has killed about 3 million worldwide.
China’s rebound has been led by exports as factories raced to fill overseas orders and more recently a steady pickup in consumption as shoppers returned to restaurants, malls and car dealerships.
Retail sales increased 34.2 percent year-on-year in March, beating a 28.0 percent gain expected by analysts and stronger than the 33.8 percent jump seen in the first two months of the year.
Other data, however, showed a moderation in expansion with quarter-on-quarter growth slowing to 0.6 percent in January-March from a revised 3.2 percent in the previous quarter, missing expectations for a 1.5 percent increase.
Factory output grew 14.1 percent year-on-year in March, slowing from a 35.1 percent surge in the January-February period and lagging a forecast 17.2 percent rise.
National Bureau of Statistics spokeswoman Liu Aihua told a news conference on Friday while the economy started 2021 on a firm footing, the services sector and smaller firms still faced challenges, while consumer inflation was likely to remain moderate.
Data last week showed consumer prices rising at only a modest pace in March, even as factory gate inflation hit a near three-year high.
“Looking forward, the trend of normalization may continue for the rest of the year, and domestic consumption is expected to be the major growth driver,” said Chaoping Zhu, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management in Shanghai. “In terms of policy response, the central bank and fiscal authorities are returning to a more neutral stance, although some selective measures might be continued in order to support the small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Li Wei, economist at Standard Chartered in Shanghai, expected second-quarter growth to slow to 7 percent.
The world’s second-largest economy is expected to grow 8.6 percent in 2021, according to a Reuters poll, which would easily beat the government’s 2021 annual growth target of above 6 percent.
China’s GDP grew just 2.3 percent rise last year, its weakest expansion in 44 years but still making it the only major economy to avoid contraction as other industrial powers struggled with the pandemic hit.


Indian vaccine maker asks US to ease export curbs

Indian vaccine maker asks US to ease export curbs
Employees operate a filling machine inside a laboratory at the Serum Institute of India, in Pune, India, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP)
Updated 17 April 2021

Indian vaccine maker asks US to ease export curbs

Indian vaccine maker asks US to ease export curbs
  • Serum Institute of India paused exports to COVAX after a devastating surge of infections in India resulted in increased domestic demand

NEW DELHI: The chief executive of Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest maker of vaccines and a critical supplier of the UN-backed COVAX facility, asked President Joe Biden on Twitter to lift the US embargo on exporting raw materials needed to make the the jabs.
Vaccine makers and experts in India have been concerned that the use of the Defense Production Act by the US to boost their own vaccine production was resulting in exports of critical raw materials being stopped. This was hobbling vaccine production in other parts of the world.
Stéphane Bancel, CEO for Moderna, said Tuesday in an online event that export embargoes were also preventing American vaccine makers from exporting shots globally and resulting in shortages.
“If we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the US so that vaccine production can ramp up,” wrote Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India.
He had earlier said that pivoting away from suppliers in the US could result in a delay of up to six months for the production of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Novavax. Serum Institute and Novavax have inked a deal to supply 1.1 billion doses of the vaccine to COVAX to equitably distribute it across the globe.

NUMBER

200,000 new infections were detected recently in India.

Serum Institute of India paused exports to COVAX after a devastating surge of infections in India resulted in increased domestic demand.
Over 200,000 new infections were detected recently and major cities, like Mumbai and New Delhi, are under virus restrictions. Hospitals are overwhelmed and authorities are scrambling to try and vaccinate enough people to slow down the spread. But in doing so, India relies heavily on AstraZeneca shots made by Serum Institute of India.
Poonawalla had said the unavailability of the raw materials, such as the specific medium needed to grow microorganisms, would prevent Serum Institute from scaling up the production of the vaccine developed by Novavax.
The company had been planning to make up to 40 million shots of the vaccine monthly.
Ramping up the production of this shot could also help India. Novavax has applied for emergency use of the vaccine to regulators in Europe, the US and the World Health Organization. If approved, India would be able to use the shot under new regulations that make it easier to greenlight vaccines that have received the nod by the UK, the US, Europe, Japan or WHO.


Deserted Cape Verde hankers for its tourists

Deserted Cape Verde hankers for its tourists
Life in Cape Verde is famously slow-moving. But once the COVID-19 started to bite, tourists stopped coming and things seemed to come virtually to a stop. (AFP)
Updated 17 April 2021

Deserted Cape Verde hankers for its tourists

Deserted Cape Verde hankers for its tourists
  • Tourists, drawn to Cape Verde’s gentle hospitality, year-round warmth and turquoise seas, account for a full quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)

TARRAFAL, Cape Verde: Way back in B.C. — Before COVID — Domingos Pereira made a living as a tourist guide, showing visitors the many natural wonders of Cape Verde.
Today, the 26-year-old is in limbo, like tens of thousands of others on the Atlantic archipelago, whose economy depends hugely on the vacation industry.
“I’ve been going fishing every day for the past year,” said Pereira, a T-shirt on his head to protect him from the fierce sun.
“And the fish is just for eating. Don’t bother trying to sell it. There are no tourists.”
Cape Verde is a group of tropical Atlantic islands with a population of some 550,000 about 600 km from Senegal.
Life in the archipelago is famously slow-moving. But once the coronavirus pandemic started to bite, tourists stopped coming and things seemed to come virtually to a stop.
In 2019, the islands welcomed 800,000 holidaymakers, most of them from Europe, said Eugenio Inocencio, president of the Tourism Association for Santiago, the main island where the capital Praia is located.
Now, Santiago’s main resort, Tarrafal, is all but drained of life. Its hotels are shuttered and its workers laid off.
The streets are deserted save for a knot of local people sitting at a corner in the shade. The only things catching the sun on its palm-fringed white-sand beach are colorful fishing boats.
In the main square, a dreadlocked trader of postcards and trinkets said he had lost 80 percent of his income thanks to COVID-19.
Silvio Antonio Lopes Borges, a 32-year-old former tourist guide said he can no longer afford his two-year-old son’s playgroup.

FASTFACTS

● Tourists, drawn to Cape Verde’s gentle hospitality, year-round warmth and turquoise seas, account for a full quarter of the country’s GDP.

● After growth of 4.5 percent in 2018 and 5.7 percent in 2019, the former Portuguese colony suffered a record slump last year — a retraction of 14.8 percent.

“We play together — at least he’s happy,” he said. “And it’s free. Before, I was able to put aside savings. Now I don’t have enough to live on."
The pandemic has had, relatively speaking, only a limited medical effect on Cape Verde — the country has recorded 19,780 cases, of which 188 have been fatal.
Economically, though, the emergency has had catastrophic consequences.
Tourists, drawn to Cape Verde’s gentle hospitality, year-round warmth and turquoise seas, account for a full quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
After growth of 4.5 percent in 2018 and 5.7 percent in 2019, the former Portuguese colony suffered a record slump last year — a retraction of 14.8 percent.
“We thought that tourism would be bouncing back at the start of the year, but Europe has had a fourth wave of the virus, which means that the number of tourists coming to Cape Verde is rock-bottom,” said Inocencio.
How to rebound from this disaster is one of the main issues in Sunday’s legislative elections, for which the outcome could be close.
Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva’s Movement for Democracy (MpD) is pitched against the African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV), a socialist party led by Janira Hopffer Almada that dominated politics for decades until suffering an election defeat in 2016.
Maya Duarte is manager of the Pensao Por Do Sol, a brand new hotel with a view of the Monte Graciosa, a volcanic peak that plunges into the ocean.
The hotel’s opening day should have been in December, when the year-end tourist season kicks into gear. It was then delayed until February and postponed again, and has now only just taken place. "We’re worried,” said Duarte, who is just 25. “We’re afraid that if we stay open, we won’t have any income and be unable to pay the staff.”
The solution, she said, was to ease dependence on vacationers from Europe. “We can’t expect just Europeans to come here — we have to invest locally.