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Asian shares up but set for weekly loss after hawkish Fed
18 June 2021, 5:43 AM

Asian shares inched higher on Friday but were set for a weekly loss, while the US dollar hovered near two-month highs as investors continued to digest comments from the US Federal Reserve projecting interest rate hikes in 2023.

While the Fed messaging indicated no clear end to supportive policy measures such as bond-buying, signals of faster-than-expected rate hikes indicated concerns about inflation as the US economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was barely above water in morning trade after four sessions in the red, edging up 0.01%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.53% and Seoul’s KOSPI was up 0.16%. Chinese blue chips swung between gains and losses, and were last down 0.1%

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.31%.

Gold prices, which plunged following the Fed comments, edged higher but were still set for their worst week since March 2020.

Spot gold was last up 0.56% at $1,783.21 per ounce.

“What is pretty obvious is that the inflation genie is starting to sneak out of the bottle, and that will be a major driver of interest rates in the short to medium term,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut in Perth.

Adding to indications of a continued rebound in the world’s largest economy, new US data on Thursday showed growing factory activity and easing layoffs, despite an unexpected rise in weekly jobless claims.

Hopes for a strong US recovery pushed technology stocks higher on Thursday, lifting the Nasdaq Composite up 0.87%. But worries about inflation and higher rates weighed on the broader market, with the S&P 500 edging down 0.04%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.62%.

“While wage-price dynamics and inflation expectations are sticking to the Fed’s script, if they were to go off script even a bit, policymakers will need to pull forward when they begin and how quickly they normalise monetary policy,” Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, said in a note. “While this is a tricky balance the Fed must ultimately manage in every business cycle, it is happening much earlier in this one.”

Higher expectations of inflation continued to lift long-dated US Treasury yields.

Benchmark 10-year notes yielded 1.5226%, up from a close of 1.511% on Thursday.

The 30-year bond last yielded 2.1105%.

The dollar, which soared to more than two-month highs following the Fed meeting, gave up some ground on Friday.

The dollar index was 0.04% lower at 91.843.

It was flat against the yen at 110.20, and the euro gained 0.08% to 1.1916%.

The relatively strong dollar hit oil prices after they touched their highest level in years a day earlier, as concerns over demand and new Iranian supply also weighed.

Global benchmark Brent crude was down 0.7% at $72.57 a barrel and US West Texas Intermediate crude shed 0.65% to $70.58.

 

SAMRC calls for complete ban on gatherings in Gauteng
18 June 2021, 4:35 AM

The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) is calling for a complete ban on gatherings in Gauteng, as the number of daily COVID-19 infections continues to soar in the province.

Virologist and Vice President for Research at the Council – Professor Jeffrey Mphahlele – says it should also be urgently considered to discourage inter-provincial travel.

“For the Gauteng Province, in particular, I think we could have even stricter lockdowns because we definitely need to counter the number of new cases. I would love to see all gatherings banned completely, except funerals. The other area that perhaps we could look at, and look at it in a different way, is the schools. It is not really to say that schools should be closed, but the schools that could do online teaching, should be encouraged to do that. When the schools are closed, inter-provincial travel should be discouraged. It will be difficult to ban that completely, but it can be discouraged.”

Mphahlele says every effort must be taken to prevent South Africa from experiencing a similar crisis as in India, where the number of COVID-19 related deaths surpassed 380 000.

“We just don’t know how these new cases will unfold. It could be that we find ourselves in a situation like the one we have seen in India where things get out of control, hospitals are over-burdened and they cant cope with new patients…we have to minimise that at all cost.”

Former Ivory Coast president Gbagbo returns home after decade of exile
18 June 2021, 3:49 AM

Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, ousted during a civil war in 2011 and acquitted of war crimes in The Hague, flew home on Thursday from a decade in exile as thousands took to the streets to welcome him.

Gbagbo touched down in Ivory Coast’s main city of Abidjan late in the afternoon on a commercial flight from Brussels before climbing into a black SUV for the ride to his party’s headquarters.

Thousands of overjoyed supporters cheered and ran alongside his convoy as police fired teargas to control the crowds.

“I am happy to return to Ivory Coast and Africa,” Gbagbo,wearing a blue shirt and white mask, later told supporters. “I am from Ivory Coast but I learned in prison that I am from Africa. All of Africa supported me.”

Security was tight across Abidjan, even as Gbagbo’s camp and the government of his political nemesis, President Alassane Ouattara, both said they hoped his presence would help reconcile the country.

Gbagbo’s supporters have eagerly anticipated his return ever since his acquittal in 2019 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague related to his role in the civil war.

Gbagbo, 76, came to office in 2000 and governed during a turbulent decade that saw Ivory Coast split in two following an army mutiny in 2002.

His refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara’s 2010 election then prompted the war in which more than 3 000 people were killed.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, has seen rapid economic growth under Ouattara but continues to experience occasional bouts of political and ethnic unrest.

At least 85 people were killed around the time of last October’s election in which Ouattara won a third term despite opposition protests that the constitution required him to step down.

Gbagbo has said little about what political role he might play back home.

He retains firm support among his base of supporters, particularly in the south and west.

But he faces an outstanding 20-year prison sentence that was handed down in November 2019 on charges he misappropriated funds from the regional central bank.

The government has not said whether it plans to enforce the verdict.

Despite divorce, Kim Kardashian says she is Kanye West’s biggest fan
18 June 2021, 3:33 AM

Kim Kardashian said her ex-husband Kanye West is like family, despite their divorce, adding in a television show to air on Thursday that she will always be his biggest fan.

Kardashian, 40, was speaking on a reunion show for “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” which broadcast its final episode last week after 14 years on the air.

Shortly after finishing shooting for the final season of the E! reality show, Kardashian filed for divorce in February from rapper West citing irreconcilable differences in their marriage of almost seven years.

The couple agreed to share custody of their four children.

Asked about their relationship now, Kardashian said; “We have an amazing co-parenting relationship and I respect him so much… I will forever be Kanye’s biggest fan. He’s the father of my kids. Kanye will always be family.”

The beauty business billionaire last week posted a throwback picture of a young West on her Instagram account to mark the rapper’s 44th birthday.

Kardashian declined on the reunion show to go into detail about the breakdown of the marriage. “It wasn’t one specific thing. It was a general difference of opinions on a few things,”she said.

She denied recent rumors that she was now dating CNN host Van Jones or Colombian singer Maluma.

“I am not dating anyone, not Van Jones, not Maluma,” she said.

 

Global COVID-19 death toll exceeds 4 mln – Reuters tally
18 June 2021, 3:07 AM

Coronavirus-related deaths worldwide passed a grim milestone of 4 million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, as many countries struggle to procure enough vaccines to inoculate their populations.

While the number of new cases and deaths have abated in countries like the United States and Britain, several nations have vaccine shortages as the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain around the world.

It took over a year for the COVID-19 death toll to hit 2 million, while the next 2 million were recorded in just 166 days, according to a Reuters analysis.

The top five countries by total number of deaths: United States, Brazil, India, Russia and Mexico represent about 50% of all deaths in the world, while Peru, Hungary,Bosnia, the Czech Republic and Gibraltar have the highest death rates when adjusted for population.

Countries in Latin America are facing their worst outbreak since March, with 43 of every 100 infections in the world being reported in the region, according to a Reuters analysis.

The top nine countries reporting the most deaths per capita over the last week were all in Latin America.

Hospitals in Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay are largely seeing COVID-19 patients between the ages of 25 and 40 as the trend toward younger patients continued. In Brazil’s Sao Paulo, 80% of intensive care units (ICU) occupants are COVID-19 patients.

Soaring deaths are straining the operating capacity of crematoriums in developing nations and gravediggers in several countries have been forced to expand cemeteries with row after row of new tombs.

India and Brazil are the countries reporting the most deaths each day on a seven-day average and are still troubled with cremation woes and lack of burial space.

India accounts for one in every three deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.

Many health experts believe that official death toll to be under counted globally, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) last month estimating fatalities to be much higher.

Last week, the Indian state of Bihar raised its COVID-19 death toll sharply higher after the discovery of thousands of unreported cases, lending weight to concerns that India’s overall death tally is significantly more than the official figure.

As poorer nations struggle to inoculate their populations due to vaccine shortages, wealthier countries have been urged to donate more to control the pandemic.

“The primary issue in the Americas is vaccine access, not vaccine acceptance,” Pan American Health Organisation Director Carissa Etienne said Wednesday, urging donor countries to send shots as soon as possible.

The Group of Seven (G7) rich nations had pledged to provide 1 billion COVID-19 vaccinations to help poorer countries vaccinate their populations.

 

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