Day: February 21, 2022

China’s new home prices perk up as big city demand returns

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Economy1 hour ago (Feb 21, 2022 12:10AM ET)

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China's new home prices perk up as big city demand returns© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman rides past a residential compound in Beijing’s Tongzhou district, China, February 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s new home prices rose for the first time since September on a monthly basis, official data for January showed on Monday, as efforts to soften the blow from tough regulatory curbs on property supported buyer sentiment, particularly in big cities.

Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities climbed 0.1% from a month earlier in January, compared with a 0.2% drop in December, according to Reuters calculations from data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

China’s property market, accounting for a quarter of gross domestic product by some metrics, has slowed due to Beijing’s push to cut leverage in the sector amid defaults at heavily-indebted players such as China Evergrande Group.

To ease the pain for developers, authorities have taken a slew of measures since late 2021, including giving real estate firms easier access to funds from escrowed accounts.

“The marginal improvement in the financial and credit environment since the fourth quarter of last year helped the value of transactions to bottom out,” said Xu Xiaole, analyst at Beike Research Institute.

Credit conditions are expected to continue to ease, which would help lift transactions and stabilise home prices, Xu said.

Household loans, mostly mortgages, surged to 843 billion yuan ($133 billion) in January, more than doubling from 371.6 billion yuan in December, according to central bank data earlier this month.

Overall new bank lending more than tripled in January from the previous month. Chinese lenders tend to front-load loans at the start of the year to get higher-quality customers and win market share.

BIG CITY GAINS

The number of cities reporting price gains rose to 28 from 15 in December, driven mainly by the larger tier-one and tier-two cities.

Average prices of new housing in the country’s four largest cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – swung from a month-on-month decrease of 0.1% in December to an increase of 0.6% in January, the NBS said in a separate statement.

The biggest swing was seen in Guangzhou, where prices rose 0.5% from a 0.6% decline.

Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen increased 1.0%, 0.6% and 0.5%, respectively.

“The rise in tier-one cities has less to do with seasonal factors and more due to purchasing power amid (easing) credit policies in place,” said Yan Yuejin, research director of Shanghai-based E-house China Research and Development Institution.

Last month, developers in Shenzhen and Beijing took some measures to boost sales, offering buyers a 1% discount for cash payments.

“Prices in tier-one cities will definitely continue to rise,” Yan said.

Though easing measures are helping, new home prices rose at the slowest pace of 2.3% since December 2015 from a year earlier, narrowing from the 2.6% growth recorded in December.

The central government, while keeping curbs on speculative purchases and blind borrowing, is expected to roll out more measures to support buyer sentiment, which has sharply weakened due to the liquidity crisis faced by developers.

A handful of cities not constrained by regulatory restrictions on purchases are starting to relax downpayment rules for home purchases in a bid to stoke buyer interest.

“The market is expected to gradually stabilise in March or April,” said Zhang Dawei, chief analyst with property agency Centaline.

“First- and second-tier cities will be the first to come out of the downturn.”

($1 = 6.3268 )

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

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European Stocks Gain on Ukraine Summit Hopes; Credit Suisse Weakens

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Stock Markets8 hours ago (Feb 21, 2022 03:56AM ET)

European Stocks Gain on Ukraine Summit Hopes; Credit Suisse Weakens© Reuters.

By Peter Nurse

Investing.com — European stock markets traded higher Monday, boosted by fresh hopes for a diplomatic solution to the tense situation on the Ukraine border.

By 3:30 AM ET (0830 GMT), the in Germany traded 0.9% higher, the in France climbed 0.6% while the U.K.’s rose 0.8%.

News of a potential summit on Ukraine between President Joe Biden and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has buoyed markets which have been perturbed by the possibility of a Russian invasion, given its massive troop buildup as well as its extended military drills in neighboring Belarus.

The two leaders have agreed in principle to a summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, who proposed the idea, said in a statement Monday, while the EU foreign ministers will also discuss the situation.

That said, gains are limited Monday with many details about the proposed summit uncertain and its likely success very much up in the air. Additionally, there will be no lead from the U.S., given its markets are on holiday.

Back in Europe, in Germany rose by 2.2% in January, a hefty leap of 25% on the year, more than expected and an indication of the pressures the European Central Bank is under to combat inflation in the bloc.

Investors will also focus on the release of the data for February, given the importance of this sector in driving growth in the region. The PMI data from France, the Eurozone’s second largest economy, came in ahead of expectations, both in the and sectors. 

In the corporate sector, Credit Suisse (SIX:) stock fell 0.6% after the leak over the weekend of data on thousands of suspect accounts held at the bank in previous decades. The Swiss lender rejected any allegations of wrongdoing, while FINMA, the country’s banking supervisor, said it has been in contact with the bank.

Telecom Italia (MI:) stock fell 0.4% after the company dismissed as “unfounded and harmful” a Sunday newspaper report concerning financial targets in a plan by new Chief Executive Pietro Labriola.

On a more positive note, Faurecia (PA:) stock rose 0.7% after the French car parts group forecast a rise in full-year sales, as it expects semiconductor shortages to ease from the second half of the year.

Oil prices stabilized Monday as traders attempted to balance the potential for a summit between the leaders of Russia and the U.S. to defuse the continued tensions on the Ukraine border with the prospects of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, increasing the possibility of the Persian Gulf country’s crude exports returning to the global markets.

By 3:30 AM ET, futures traded 0.1% higher at $90.30 a barrel, while the contract rose 0.2% to $91.56. Both contracts last week registered their first losing week in nine, despite hitting their highest levels for over seven years earlier in the week.

Additionally, fell 0.1% to $1,897.40/oz, while traded 0.4% higher at 1.1368.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Putin orders Russian troops to Ukraine after recognising breakaway regions

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Putin orders Russian troops to Ukraine after recognising breakaway regions© Reuters. Ukrainian service members walk near the front line near the city of Novoluhanske in the Donetsk region, Ukraine February 20, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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By Andrew Osborn and Dmitry Antonov

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

A Reuters witness saw tanks and other military hardware moving through the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk after Putin formally recognised the breakaway regions and ordered the deployment of Russian forces to “keep the peace”.

About five tanks were seen in a column on the edge of Donetsk and two more in another part of town, a Reuters reporter said. No insignia were visible on the vehicles.

Putin’s announcement drew international condemnation and immediate U.S. sanctions to halt U.S. business activity in the breakaway regions and ban import of all goods from those areas.

The measures were separate from sanctions the United States and its allies had prepared if Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

A senior U.S. official said the deployment to breakaway enclaves did not yet constitute a “further invasion” that would trigger the harshest sanctions as Russia already had forces there, but that a wider campaign could come at any time.

Britain, France and Germany also agreed to respond to Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions with sanctions, and the White House said it would announce further measures on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who received a solidarity call from U.S. President Joe Biden, accused Russia of wrecking peace talks and ruled out territorial concessions.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that Moscow’s recognition of the eastern regions was part of its attempt to create a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine.

“Tomorrow, the United States will impose sanctions on Russia for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she told reporters after the Security Council meeting on Monday evening.

“We can, will, and must stand united in our calls for Russia to withdraw its forces, return to the diplomatic table and work toward peace.”

The Russian U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, warned Western powers to “think twice” and not worsen the situation.

China called for all parties to exercise restraint while Japan said it was ready to join international sanctions on Moscow in the event of a full-scale invasion.

U.S. diplomatic staff, who had been moved from Kyiv to the western city of Lviv, were ordered to spend the night in Poland as the crisis deepened.

Oil jumped to a seven-year high, safe-havens currencies like the yen rallied and global stocks tumbled as Europe’s eastern flank stood on the brink of war. [MKTS/GLOB] [RU/RUB] [O/R] The rouble extended its losses as Putin spoke, at one point sliding beyond 80 per dollar.

ANCIENT LANDS

In a lengthy televised address packed with grievances against the West, a visibly angry Putin said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian land..

Russian state television showed Putin, joined by Russia-backed separatist leaders, signing a decree recognising the independence of the two Ukrainian breakaway regions – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic.

Putin had announced his decision in phone calls to the leaders of Germany and France earlier, the Kremlin said.

In his address, Putin delved into history as far back as the Ottoman empire and as recent as the tensions over NATO’s eastward expansion. His demands that Ukraine drop its long-term goal of joining the Atlantic military alliance have been repeatedly rebuffed by Kyiv and NATO states.

“I deem it necessary to make a decision that should have been made a long time ago – to immediately recognise the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic,” Putin said.

A French presidential official said the speech “mixed various considerations of a rigid and paranoid nature”.

DIPLOMATIC WINDOW NARROWS

The United States says Russia has massed a force numbering 169,000-190,000 troops in the region, including the separatists in the breakaway regions, and has warned of invasion at any moment.

Putin has for years worked to restore Russia’s influence over nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with Ukraine holding an important place in his ambitions. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Russia denies any plan to attack its neighbour, but it has threatened unspecified “military-technical” action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO.

Recognition of the separatist-held areas will narrow the diplomatic options to avoid war, since it is an explicit rejection of a seven-year-old ceasefire mediated by France and Germany.

China warns consumers not to use Abbott baby formula affected by recall

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Economy13 hours ago (Feb 21, 2022 11:00AM ET)

China warns consumers not to use Abbott baby formula affected by recall© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Abbott Laboratories logo is displayed on a screen at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., October 18, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

BEIJING (Reuters) – China Customs has warned consumers against buying and eating certain infant and baby products of Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:) that were affected in a recent recall linked to a U.S. factory.

The General Administration of Customs, in a post published on Sunday on its website, referred to a Feb. 18 notice issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that cautioned consumers against buying or eating certain batches of baby formula products made by Abbott.

The day before, Abbott said it was recalling powdered baby formulas, including Similac, made at a Michigan facility after four consumers complained about bacterial infections in infants who consumed them.

China Customs said while the affected formula products were not directly sold in China, some consumers who may have bought them from abroad via cross-border e-commerce should stop using them.

One item, however, a Similac human milk fortifier which was affected by the issue, had been sold in China and Abbott had issued a voluntary recall of the affected batch, it added.

Abbott, whose shares fell about 3.1% on Monday, said in a statement it had issued a recall for a batch from the Michigan factory and that other items it sold in China were not affected.

Following the post by China Customs, other countries have called on consumers to stop using some Abbott formula products.

The Omani Ministry of Health on Monday warned against using two Abbott baby milk powder formulas due to potential bacterial contamination. Oman’s statement followed a similar warning from the Saudi Food and Drug Authority concerning three baby milk powders made by Abbott, according to Saudi state news.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

EU warns of sanctions if Russia recognises Ukraine breakaway regions

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World14 hours ago (Feb 21, 2022 01:41PM ET)

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EU warns of sanctions if Russia recognises Ukraine breakaway regions© Reuters. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock speaks to the media before a meeting with European Union Foreign Ministers in Brussels, Belgium February 21, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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By Sabine Siebold and Ingrid Melander

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -The European Union joined calls on Monday for Russia not to annex or recognise breakaway Ukrainian regions, threatening to impose sanctions should Moscow do so.

Ignoring the warnings, the Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin told France’s and Germany’s leaders during phone calls on Monday that he planned to sign a decree recognising the two breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent entities shortly.

“If there is annexation, there will be sanctions, and if there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the ministers will decide,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Borrell was speaking before the Kremlin gave a readout of Putin’s calls and confirmed he told France’s president and Germany’s chancellor that he planned to recognise the breakaway regions’ independence.

Borrell’s wording signalled it may be more difficult for the EU, whose members have different interests and views on how to deal with Moscow, to agree on a joint position, and sanctions, in case of recognition than it would have been for a full-fledged annexation.

“We call on President Putin to respect international law,” Borrell said. “We are ready to react with a strong united front in case he should decide” to ignore these calls, he said.

Western countries fear a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine in recent weeks is a prelude to an invasion, which Moscow denies.

The United States and European allies have said any attack would trigger severe sanctions against Moscow, but Kyiv wants these to be imposed now, its Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in Brussels earlier on Monday.

“We believe that there are good and legitimate reasons to impose at least some of the sanctions now to demonstrate that the European Union is not only talking the talk about sanctions, but is also walking the walk,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the EU ministers backed plans announced last month for a 1.2 billion euro financial aid loan package for Ukraine, and also agreed in principle to a long-standing Ukrainian request for a small-scale mission of military instructors to help train officers.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Iran’s Raisi calls on U.S. to lift sanctions to revive nuclear deal

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Commodities3 hours ago (Feb 21, 2022 10:50AM ET)

Iran's Raisi calls on U.S. to lift sanctions to revive nuclear deal© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flies in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

By Parisa Hafezi

VIENNA (Reuters) -Efforts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal cannot succeed unless Washington lifts “major” sanctions, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday, as sources said indirect talks between Iran and the United States were reaching a final stage.

Reuters reported last week that a U.S.-Iranian deal is taking shape in Vienna after months of indirect talks to revive the nuclear pact abandoned in 2018 by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who also reimposed extensive sanctions on Iran.

“The United States must prove its will to lift major sanctions,” Raisi said at a joint news conference with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha.

“To reach an agreement, guarantees are necessary for negotiations and nuclear issues.”

Iran had demanded legal assurances that the United States will not exit the deal again but Washington says it is impossible for U.S. President Joe Biden to provide them. A senior Iranian official told Reuters that Tehran had shown flexibility in response by agreeing to “inherent guarantees”.

A draft text of the agreement also alluded to other issues, including unfreezing billions of dollars in Iranian funds in South Korean banks, and the release of Western prisoners held in Iran.

“Aggression is bound to fail. Resistance has brought results and none of the regional issues have a military solution,” Raisi, a hardliner, said in Doha.

He was more cautious than Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, who said earlier on Monday that the Vienna negotiations had made “significant progress”.

Khatibzadeh added, however, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, telling a weekly press briefing: “The remaining issues are the hardest.”

Two sources close to the Vienna talks told Reuters that some minor technical issues were being discussed and that a deal was expected before end of the week.

Khatibzadeh said the talks were being handled by Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, which reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The 2015 deal between Iran and world powers limited Tehran’s enrichment of uranium to make it harder for it to develop material for nuclear weapons, if it chose to, in return for a lifting of international sanctions against Tehran.

Since 2019, Tehran has gone well beyond the deal’s limits, rebuilding stockpiles of enriched uranium, refining it to higher fissile purity and installing advanced centrifuges to speed up output.

Iran’s foreign minister said on Saturday that Tehran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, and that talks to revive the nuclear deal could succeed “at the earliest possible time” if Washington made the necessary political decisions.

Speaking from Doha on the sidelines of a gas conference, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji called the sanctions, which have squeezed Iran’s oil exports, a violation of international law and a threat to global energy security, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Israel, Iran’s arch-foe and widely believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, has been closely watching the Vienna talks. It is pressing Washington about the terms of an emerging Iranian nuclear deal, Israeli officials said on Monday, raising the prospect of a bilateral day-after agreement with Washington to address their worries.

While not a party to the talks, Israel has conferred with the U.S. administration in hope of wielding more clout over any revival of the deal with Tehran reached over its objections.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Rouble sinks, stocks plunge as Russia recognises Ukraine breakaway regions

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Rouble sinks, stocks plunge as Russia recognises Ukraine breakaway regions© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – A customer hands over Russian rouble banknotes to a vendor at a market in Omsk, Russia February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Alexey Malgavko

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By Alexander Marrow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The rouble tanked on Monday, slipping past 80 against the dollar, while stocks plunged to their lowest in over a year as Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the immediate recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Putin signed a decree recognising the breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, upping the ante in a regional crisis the West fears could erupt into war.

The rouble fell to as low as 80.0650 against the dollar during Putin’s lengthy televised address to the Russian nation but pared some losses as Putin announced his decision, which he said would find support among Russian people.

The sharp drop in the rouble from levels around 70 to the greenback seen just four months ago is expected to fuel already high inflation, one of the main concerns among Russians, which would dent the country’s already falling living standards.

By 1956 GMT, the rouble fell 2.7% to 79.37 against the dollar. It had been as strong as 76.1450 earlier in the session.

Against the euro, the rouble had lost 2.6% to 89.79 after hitting 90.7850, a level last seen in April 2021.

No Russian assets were left unscathed, with stocks cascading to their lowest since early November 2020 and bond yields, which move inversely to prices, soaring to their highest since January 2016.

The dollar-denominated RTS index finished the day 13.2% lower at 1,207.5 points and the rouble-based MOEX Russian index lost 10.5% to 3,036.9 points.

Yields on Russia’s 10-year benchmark OFZ bonds hit a high of 10.64%. The cost of insuring Russia sovereign debt against default also surged to its highest since early 2016 and both Moscow and Kyiv’s sovereign dollar bonds tumbled.

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) analysts said it now seemed plausible that geopolitical risks in the Ukraine-Russia standoff were starting to have a meaningful impact on global assets.

Comparing the rouble with its high-yielding emerging market peers was a good measure of the amount of risk premium still priced into the rouble, they said.

“On that basis, our latest estimates would put the risk premium from recent escalation at 9% based on Friday’s closing prices,” Goldman Sachs said.

DIPLOMACY VS. SANCTIONS

The prospect of a possible summit between Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as upcoming talks between the United States and Russia’s top diplomats on Feb. 24, had given investors a glimmer of hope earlier in the session.

Despite Moscow’s repeated denials of Western statements saying that it plans to invade neighbouring Ukraine, Russian assets have been hammered by fears of a military conflict that would almost certainly trigger sweeping new Western sanctions against Moscow.

Washington has prepared an initial package of sanctions against Russia that includes barring U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for major Russian banks, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Shares of Russia’s top banks Sberbank and VTB fell 20% and 17% respectively, underperforming the wider market.

Oil major Rosneft’s shares also dropped 13.3%.

UK’s Johnson scraps COVID restrictions in England

UK's Johnson scraps COVID restrictions in England© Reuters. A coronavirus disease (COVID-19) notice is seen in the window of a bus in London, Britain February 20, 2022. REUTERS/May James

By Elizabeth Piper and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) -British Prime Minister Boris on Monday said he would end all coronavirus restrictions in England including mandatory self-isolation for people with COVID-19 and free testing, drawing scepticism from some scientists and political opponents.

Johnson’s “living with COVID” plan has sparked alarm that it is premature and will leave the country vulnerable to new viral variants, but the government says it has provided more testing than most other countries, and must now curb the cost.

The plan to ditch the remaining legal restrictions is a priority for many of Johnson’s Conservative Party lawmakers, whose discontent over his scandal-ridden leadership has threatened his grip on power. Some critics think the plan is also a bid to divert attention from those scandals.

Britain has reported 160,00 deaths from COVID-19, the seventh-highest death toll in the world.

As Hong Kong builds isolation units and Europe retains social distancing and vaccine rules, Johnson is moving to repeal any pandemic requirements that impinge on personal freedoms, saying it is time the public took responsibility.

He will lean even more on the rollout of booster vaccines, with the government offering extra booster doses to the most vulnerable, as well as other pharmaceuticals interventions such as antiviral treatments.

“Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental wellbeing and on the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer,” Johnson told parliament.

“So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves and others without restricting our freedoms.”

Johnson said that the legal requirement to self-isolate for people who test positive for COVID would be removed on Feb. 24 while free universal testing would end on April 1.

The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have set their own COVID-19 restrictions, but the amount of money they have to spend on testing will flow from decisions made by the UK government.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was scathing on Twitter (NYSE:), writing: “To allow significant dismantling of the testing infrastructure built up in last two years would be inexcusable negligence given ongoing risks.”

‘SCALE THIS BACK’

Johnson said that some surveillance of the coronavirus would remain in place, allowing for a rapid response to new variants, which could be quickly scaled up.

But he cited the much-weakened link between COVID-19 cases and deaths due to vaccines, antivirals and the lower severity of the Omicron variant as informing his decision.

“It is only because we know Omicron is less severe, that testing for Omicron on the colossal scale we have been doing is much less important and much less valuable in preventing serious illness,” Johnson said.

“This came at a vast cost… We must now scale this back.”

Johnson said that symptomatic testing would remain available for at-risk groups and social care staff, and would work with retailers to allow anyone who wants to buy tests.

Britain has been unusual in providing free lateral flow tests to people who want to for months. In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden offered limited free rapid tests to households for the first time last month.

Leaders in Scotland and Wales had criticised Johnson’s plans to reduce the availability of testing ahead of the announcement, while leader of the opposition Keir Starmer also said that the plan was ill-conceived.

“We can’t turn off Britain’s radar before the war is won. ‘Ignorance is bliss’ is not a responsible approach to a deadly virus,” Labour Party leader Starmer said.

Trump’s Truth Social tops downloads on Apple App Store; many waitlisted

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Stock Markets9 hours ago (Feb 21, 2022 03:50PM ET)

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Trump's Truth Social tops downloads on Apple App Store; many waitlisted© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 28, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

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By Kenneth Li, Julia Love and Helen Coster

(Reuters) -Donald Trump’s new social media venture, Truth Social, launched late on Sunday in Apple’s App Store, potentially marking the former president’s return to social media after he was banned from several platforms last year.

The app was available shortly before midnight ET and was the top free app available on the App Store early Monday. Truth Social was automatically downloaded to Apple Inc (NASDAQ:) devices belonging to users who had pre-ordered the app.

Many users reported either having trouble registering for an account or were added to a waitlist with a message: “Due to massive demand, we have placed you on our waitlist.”

The app has been available for people invited to use it during its test phase, Reuters previously reported.

Trump was banned from Twitter Inc (NYSE:), Facebook (NASDAQ:) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc’s YouTube following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, after he was accused of posting messages inciting violence.

Led by former Republican U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), the venture behind Truth Social, joins a growing portfolio of technology companies that are positioning themselves as champions of free speech and hope to draw users who feel their views are suppressed on more established platforms.

So far none of the newer companies, which include Twitter competitors Gettr and Parler and video site Rumble, have come close to matching the popularity of their mainstream counterparts.

“This week we will begin to roll out on the Apple App Store. That’s going to be awesome, because we’re going to get so many more people that are going to be on the platform,” Nunes said in a Sunday appearance on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo”.

“Our goal is, I think we’re going to hit it, I think by the by the end of March we’re going to be fully operational at least within the United States,” he added.

Truth Social’s app store page detailing its version history showed the first public version of the app, or version 1.0 was available a day ago, confirming a Reuters report. The current version 1.0.1 includes “bug fixes,” according to the page.

DRUMMING SUPPORT

On Friday, Nunes was on the app urging users to follow more accounts, share photos and videos and participate in conversations, in an apparent attempt to drum up activity, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Among Nunes’ posts, he welcomed a new user who appeared to be a Catholic priest and encouraged him to invite more priests to join, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.

Even as details of the app begin trickling out, TMTG remains mostly shrouded in secrecy and is regarded with skepticism by some in tech and media circles. It is unclear, for example, how the company is funding its current growth.

TMTG is planning to list in New York through a merger with blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC) and stands to receive $293 million in cash that DWAC holds in a trust, assuming no DWAC shareholder redeems their shares, TMTG said in an Oct. 21 press release.

Additionally, in December TMTG raised $1 billion committed financing from private investors; that money also will not be available until the DWAC deal closes.

Digital World’s activities have come under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to a regulatory filing, and the deal is likely months away from closing.

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‘Growth’ stocks still not cheap, cautions JPMorgan

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Economy3 hours ago (Feb 21, 2022 05:30PM ET)

'Growth' stocks still not cheap, cautions JPMorgan© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files./File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Tech-dominated “growth” stocks are still not cheap despite some sharp falls over the last six months, analysts at U.S. investment bank JPMorgan (NYSE:) cautioned on Monday.

The so-called FAANGs have seen some of their COVID-era surges cut back this year, with Facebook (NASDAQ:) down 38%, Apple (NASDAQ:) down 5.7%, Amazon (NASDAQ:) down 8.5% and Netflix (NASDAQ:) and Google (NASDAQ:) down 35% and 10% respectively..

JPMorgan’s analysts estimate that on average tech firms that are yet to even make a profit have lost 30% of their value since peaks around September last year, while ‘fintech’ firms which focus on tech-savvy banking apps and tools have dropped 40%.

“As Growth stocks weakened of late, they derated, but are still not outright cheap,” JPMorgan’s analysts said in a note to clients, adding that banks and commodity-linked stocks which have rallied this year thanks to rising oil and metals prices or interest rates were still “far from expensive”.

The chance is that the earnings of ‘growth’ sectors might not be exceptional anymore, although the big driver remains bond market borrowing costs, which have shot up this year as top central banks have laid the groundwork for interest rate rises.

Years of record-low rates have fuelled the tech stock rally but with those rates now rising again the appeal of stratospherically-valued tech stocks gets dimmer for investors, especially if their growth trajectories splutter.

“We believe that bond yields will keep moving higher through the course of the year,” JPMorgan said referring to the bond market costs

“Our fixed income strategists expect U.S. 10-year (Treasury) yields to reach 2.35% by the end of this year, and German 10-year yields to reach 0.5%.” Treasury yields are now at 1.92% and Germany bunds are at 0.2%.

They also said that the tensions building between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine shouldn’t drive a return to big tech names, which carved out a safe-haven reputation during the pandemic.

“While geopolitics could flare up into month end… we do not expect this to last, and call for risk-on internals to resume into spring”.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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