Day: February 26, 2022

Meta to bar Russian state media from running ads, monetizing on platform

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Stock MarketsFeb 26, 2022 12:45AM ET

Meta to bar Russian state media from running ads, monetizing on platform© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo of Facebook parent Meta is beneath a 3D-printed logo of Facebook on a laptop keyboard in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) – Meta Platforms Inc is barring Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on its platform anywhere in the world, the parent company of social media giant Facebook (NASDAQ:) said on Friday.

“We also continue to apply labels to additional Russian state media,” its security policy head, Nathaniel Gleicher, said https:// on Twitter (NYSE:). “These changes have already begun rolling out and will continue into the weekend.”

He added, “We are now prohibiting Russian state media from running ads or monetizing on our platform anywhere in the world.”

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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.

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now© Reuters. General view of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

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(Reuters) – Russian forces seized Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine in heavy fighting but a huge blaze on the site was put out. Russian forces also bombarded Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and surrounded several other cities.

* No damage to reactors

The Zaporozhzhia nuclear plant was undamaged by what U.N. nuclear chief Rafael Grossi said he believed was a Russian projectile. Moscow blamed Ukrainian saboteurs for the attack.

* Ukraine says Russians driven from port city

Ukrainians have driven invading Russian forces out of Mykolayiv but fighting continues on the city outskirts, the governor of the Black Sea port said.

* City of Mariupol has no water, heating

The eastern Black Sea port of Mariupol is without water and heating and food is scarce, its mayor Vadym Boychenko said, appealing for military help. “We are simply being destroyed.”

* Civilian casualties mounting

At least 331 civilians are confirmed killed and 675 injured in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, but the real toll is likely much higher, the U.N. human rights office said.

* No to no-fly zones over Ukraine

NATO allies rejected Ukraine’s demand for no-fly zones, saying that would lead to an even more brutal war, but EU countries said they were weighing more sanctions on Russia.

* Scholz to Putin: Stop the war now

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to halt military operations in Ukraine immediately during a phone call. Putin said Ukraine must meet Russia’s demands, Interfax news agency reported.

* Russia targets foreign news websites

Russia’s communications watchdog restricted access to several foreign news organisations’ websites including the BBC for spreading “false information”.

*INSIGHT-Russians, Ukrainians seek asylum at US-Mexico border

A growing number of Russians and Ukrainians are traveling to Mexico, buying throwaway cars and driving across the border into the United States to seek asylum.

* SANCTIONS

Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:) is suspending new sales of its products and services in Ukraine, it said. French luxury group Hermes said it would temporarily shut its stores in Russia. Danish brewer Carlsberg (OTC:) said it would halt new investments in Russia and suspend beer exports.

* QUOTES

Kremlin calls for Russian national unity

“Now is not the time to divide, now is the time for all to unite, be together, and unite of course around our president,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Putin foe urges worldwide protests

“Show the world that Russians don’t want war. Come out in the squares of Berlin, New York, Amsterdam or Melbourne, wherever you are. Now we are all responsible for Russia’s future,” jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said in a post.

*MARKETS: Investors run for cover

Stocks sank to one-year lows in Europe and bonds, commodities and crude rallied as investors ran for cover in the face of escalating war. The rouble slipped back towards record lows.

Western allies to expel some Russian banks from global system; Ukraine vows to fight on

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Western allies to expel key Russian banks from global system; Ukraine vows to fight on© Reuters. Smoke and flames rise over during the shelling near Kyiv, as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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By Maria Tsvetkova and Aleksandar Vasovic

KYIV (Reuters) – Western allies announced sweeping new sanctions against Moscow on Saturday, including kicking key Russian banks off the main global payments system, as a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces were repelling Russian troops advancing on Kyiv.

Seeking to ratchet up economic punishment for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its European partners also said they would impose restrictions on Russia’s central bank to limit its ability to support the rouble and finance his war effort.

The announcement came as fighting continued across Ukraine. Reuters witnesses in Kyiv reported occasional blasts and gunfire in the city on Saturday evening, but it was not clear exactly where it was coming from. The capital and other cities have been pounded by Russian artillery and cruise missiles.

Putin launched what he called a special military operation on Thursday, ignoring weeks of Western warnings and saying the “neo-Nazis” ruling Ukraine threatened Russia’s security – a charge Kyiv and Western governments say is baseless propaganda.

Russia’s assault is the biggest on a European state since World War Two and threatens to upend the continent’s post-Cold War order.

A U.S. defence official said Ukraine’s forces were putting up “very determined resistance” to the three-pronged Russian advance that has sent hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing westwards, clogging major highways and railway lines.

“As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies,” the Western allies said as they escalated their punitive response.

“We will implement these measures within the coming days,” according to a joint statement from the United States, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Britain and the European Commission.

After initially shying away from such a move largely because of concern about the impact on their own economies, the allies said they committed to “ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system.” They did not name the banks that would be expelled but an EU diplomat said some 70% of the Russian banking market would be affected.

The move – which the French finance minister had earlier called a “financial nuclear weapon” because of the damage it would inflict on the Russian economy – deals a blow to Russia’s trade and makes it harder for its companies to do business.

SWIFT, or the “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication”, is a secure messaging network that facilitates rapid cross-border payments, making it a crucial mechanism for international trade.

Sanctions on Russia’s central bank could limit Putin’s use of his more than $630 billion in international reserves, widely seen as insulating Russia from some economic harm.

The new measures will prevent Russia from “using its war chest,” according to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive.

‘THE FIGHTING GOES ON’

Clay Lowery, executive vice president for the Institute of International Finance, said the new sanctions “will most likely exacerbate ongoing bank runs and dollarization, causing a sharp sell-off, and a drain on reserves.”

But because Russia’s large banks are deeply integrated into the global financial system, new sanctions imposed on them, such as cutting them off from SWIFT, could have a spillover effect, hurting trading partners in Europe and elsewhere.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said in a Twitter (NYSE:) post early on Sunday: “Thanks to our friends … for the commitment to remove several Russian banks from SWIFT.”

The Kremlin said its troops were advancing again “in all directions” after Putin ordered a pause on Friday. Ukraine’s government said there had been no pause.

“We have withstood and are successfully repelling enemy attacks. The fighting goes on,” Zelenskiy said in a video message from the streets of Kyiv posted on his social media.

The crisis has galvanised the NATO Western military alliance, which has announced a series of moves to reinforce its eastern flank. While NATO has said it will not deploy troops to Ukraine, a string of countries are sending military aid.

U.S. President Joe Biden approved the release of up to $350 million worth of weapons from U.S. stocks, while Germany, in a shift from its long-standing policy of not exporting weapons to war zones, said it would send anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles.

Amid a barrage of cyberattacks blamed on Moscow, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said his government will create an “IT army” to fight back. Kyiv already has quietly called on its hacker underground to help against Russian forces, Reuters exclusively reported.

Fedorov also called on Saturday on SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk to provide Ukraine with the company’s Starlink satellite broadband service. Musk responded on Twitter: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”

Ukraine, a democratic nation of 44 million people, won independence from Moscow in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union and wants to join NATO and the EU, goals Russia opposes.

Putin has said he must eliminate what he calls a serious threat to his country from its smaller neighbour, accusing it of genocide against Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine – something Kyiv and its Western allies reject as a lie.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser said about 3,500 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded. Western officials have also said intelligence showed Russia suffering higher casualties than expected and its advance slowing.

Russia has not released casualty figures and it was impossible to verify tolls or the precise picture on the ground.

“We know that (Russian forces) have not made the progress that they wanted to make, particularly in the north. They have been frustrated by what they have seen is a very determined resistance,” the U.S. official said, without providing evidence.

Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said there was no major Russian military presence in the capital but that saboteur groups were active. Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, later told Germany’s Bild tabloid the city was “nearly encircled”.

Authorities have handed thousands of assault rifles to residents and told citizens to make petrol bombs.

At least 198 Ukrainians, including three children, have been killed and 1,115 people wounded so far, Interfax quoted Ukraine’s Health Ministry as saying.

Interfax later cited the regional administration in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, saying 17 civilians had been killed and 73 wounded by Russian shelling.

Moscow says it is taking care not to hit civilian sites.

U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi said more than 150,000 Ukrainian refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries – half to Poland and many to Hungary, Moldova and Romania.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had captured Melitopol, a city of 150,000 in southeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials did not comment and Britain cast doubt on the report.

If confirmed, it would be the first significant population centre the Russians have seized.

Several European countries, including Russia’s Baltic neighbours Lithuania and Latvia, said they were closing their airspace to Russian airliners. Germany said it was preparing to follow suit.

Cutting Russia off from SWIFT a “matter of days” -euro zone central banker

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Economy12 hours ago (Feb 26, 2022 05:05AM ET)

Cutting Russia off from SWIFT a © Reuters. Swift logo is placed on Ukrainian’s and Russian’s flag colors in this illustration taken, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

PARIS (Reuters) – A decision to cut Russia off from the global SWIFT payment system will be taken in a matter of days, the governor of a central bank within the euro zone told Reuters on Saturday.

“SWIFT is just a matter of time, very short time, days,” the central bank governor, who asked not to be named, said.

“Is it sufficient? No. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Sanctions only make sense if there are costs for both sides and this will be costly,” the central banker added.

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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.

Europe at war: Six charts to know in financial markets

Europe at war: Six charts to know in financial markets© Reuters. Ukrainian servicemen and first responders stand by a damaged vehicle, at the site of fighting with Russian troops, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 26, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

LONDON (Reuters) – Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine this week, sparking a slew of sanctions and turmoil in global financial markets.

Below are six charts showing the week’s dramatic moves in financial markets:

ENERGY SURGE

Fears of a potential supply disruption on oil markets from the war in Ukraine saw crude prices surge above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014, with touching $105. [O/R] UK and Dutch gas prices rose about 40%-50% on Thursday. Both crude and gas prices came down on Friday, markets remain jittery. [NG/EU]

While a raft of harsh sanctions imposed by western capitals has not specifically targeted Russia’s oil and gas flows, top buyers of Russian oil were struggling to secure guarantees at Western banks or find ships to take crude from the country.

Russia is the world’s second-largest crude producer and provides around 35% of Europe’s and 50% of Germany’s supply.

(Graphic: Oil and gas prices jump – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xmpjoelrbvr/Gas%20and%20brent%20prices%20jump.PNG)

INFLATION FEARS

Soaring energy prices fuelled a dash for inflation-linked bonds – securities whose payouts rise in line with inflation.

That has sent real yields – borrowing costs after adjusting for inflation – sharply lower, while so-called breakevens, indicating where markets see future inflation, rose sharply.

Essentially, that implies belief that central banks may have to go slower than earlier forecast with interest rate rises to battle inflation as economic growth also takes a hit.

Yields on rate-sensitive Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) slipped while breakevens rose towards 3% this past week. In Germany, vulnerable to surging European gas prices, two-year real yields slumped around 30 bps and breakevens rose as high as 3.7% TIPS funds received net inflows for the first time in five weeks, BofA data shows.

(Graphic: Breakevens – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/gdvzybwmgpw/Pasted%20image%201645818345907.png)

STOCK MARKETS: BEWARE OF THE BEAR

Thursday’s market rout wiped nearly $1 trillion off the value of the global stock market and accelerated a drop in the major indexes that has come this year as investors have started to get jittery about major central bank rate hikes.

The tech-heavy U.S. Nasdaq flirted with “bear” market territory, as a 20% fall from the last peak is known, but U.S. markets ended up closing higher despite all the damage elsewhere and were making more ground on Friday.

Europe’s 3.3% drop for the took its recent reverse past 10%, but it then bounced just as much on Friday.

MSCI’s 24-country emerging markets index meanwhile did earn its “bear” market tag as its 4.3% drop on Thursday left it down just over 20% from a record high almost exactly a year ago.

(Graphic: Major equity indexes in correction territory – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/gkplgawxovb/indices.JPG)

RUSSIAN ROUT

Predictably, Russia’s stock market was hit the hardest on Thursday. Moscow’s MOEX exchange slumped a record 33% having plunged more than 1,000 points at one stage as traders braced for stiff sanctions. MSCI’s Russia index crashed 38%. Analysts estimate that it was one of the top three stock market crashes of all time.

(Graphic: Russian stock market plunging far more than during other crises – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xmvjoekmepr/Pasted%20image%201645779548050.png)

UKRAINE DRAIN

Ukraine was hit just as hard. Its currency and government bonds crashed violently, with investors wondering whether the country would be able to avoid another sovereign default.

(Graphic: Ukraine bonds drop – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/gkplgaxdavb/Pasted%20image%201645805780289.png)

SOARING WHEAT & GRAINS

Wheat prices hit their highest since mid-2008 as markets tried to gauge the consequences on grain and oilseed supplies from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine – two of the world’s biggest exporters.

Interruption to the supply out of the Black Sea region will put pressure on prices and further drive up food inflation at a time when affordability is a major concern across the globe following the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ukraine’s military on Thursday suspended commercial shipping at its ports after Russian forces invaded the country. Russia earlier ordered the Azov Sea closed to the movement of commercial vessels until further notice, but kept Russian ports in the Black Sea open for navigation.

(Graphic: Ukraine crisis send wheat prices soaring – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/egpbkqmayvq/Soaring%20food%20prices%20Russia%20Ukraine.PNG)

EU nearing decision on cutting Russia off from Swift: French official

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Economy1 hour ago (Feb 26, 2022 12:40PM ET)

EU nearing decision on cutting Russia off from Swift: French official© Reuters. Swift logo is placed on a Russian flag are seen in this illustration taken, Bosnia and Herzegovina, February 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

PARIS (Reuters) – Discussions among European Union members about excluding Russia from the Swift international payment system are close to reaching a successful conclusion, a French presidential official said on Saturday.

The official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, said that no EU member state was blocking Russia’s exclusion from the system, but that the talks were still ongoing.

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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.

Buffett’s Berkshire posts record annual profit, extends but slows buybacks

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Stock Markets18 hours ago (Feb 26, 2022 01:25PM ET)

Buffett's Berkshire posts record annual profit, extends but slows buybacks© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett walks through the exhibit hall as shareholders gather to hear from the billionaire investor at Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S., May 4, 2019. REUTERS/Scott

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:) Inc on Saturday said fourth-quarter profit swelled, boosted by gains in many of its businesses and common stock investments such as Apple Inc (NASDAQ:), and said annual earnings reached a record high.

Berkshire also signaled renewed confidence in its own stock, repurchasing $6.9 billion in the quarter, and boosting total buybacks in 2021 to a record $27 billion.

But the pace of buybacks has slowed, with Berkshire, whose share price is just 2% below its record high, repurchasing just $1.2 billion of stock in 2022.

In his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, Buffett said buybacks make “good sense” when alternatives such as buying whole companies or more stocks appear “unattractive.”

He also expressed confidence in Berkshire’s dozens of operating businesses such as the BNSF railroad and Geico auto insurer, after having gone six years since a major acquisition and letting Berkshire’s cash stake swell to $146.7 billion.

“Today, internal opportunities deliver far better returns than acquisitions,” Buffett wrote.

Quarterly operating income rose 45% to $7.29 billion, or approximately $4,931 per Class A share, from $5.02 billion a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected operating profit of $4,251 per Class A share, according to Refinitiv I/B/E/S.

“Overall results looked good,” said Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Research with a “hold” rating for Berkshire. “Many industrial and consumer businesses benefited from the tailwind of an economic recovery.

She said 2022 could be tougher for top-line and margin growth because of inflationary pressure, including higher fuel and other input costs, and geopolitical pressure.”

For all of 2021, operating income rose 25% to $27.46 billion, topping the previous record $24.78 billion set in 2018.

Net income more than doubled to $89.8 billion, aided by the stock prices of Berkshire’s largest stock investments–Apple, Bank of America Corp (NYSE:) and American Express (NYSE:) Co–which each rose by more than one-third.

Buffett considers net income a misleading performance measure because it includes gains and losses from stock holdings, regardless of what Berkshire buys or sells.

CRASHES AFFECT GEICO

Quarterly operating results benefited from improvement in property and casualty insurance operations, offset by rising accident claims at the Geico auto insurer as people drive more.

James Shanahan, an Edward Jones & Co analyst who rates Berkshire “buy,” said insurers are raising premiums to offset crash losses, and that higher premiums should be a “pretty strong catalyst” for improvement at Geico in 2022.

Seifert, however, said the deterioration in claims trends in life insurance “won’t turn around in the next couple of quarters. That affects underwriting profitability for reinsurers such as Berkshire.”

The BNSF railroad, one of Berkshire’s largest units, boosted profit 13%, helped by higher shipping volumes of consumer products, industrial products and coal.

Profit also rose 11% at Berkshire Hathaway Energy, as units including PacifiCorp and MidAmerican Energy reported benefiting from higher margins and increased income tax benefits.

Precision Castparts, an aircraft and industrial parts unit that took a $9.8 billion writedown in 2020 as plane production and air travel plummeted, boosted full-year pretax earnings 79% after eliminating more than 13,000 jobs, though revenue fell 8%.

A quick recovery for Precision’s aerospace business isn’t likely, Berkshire said, citing supply chain disruptions and Boeing (NYSE:) Co’s “significant inventory levels” following quality issues with its 737 and 787 planes.

Berkshire’s share price rose 30% in 2021, topping the 29% gain in the including dividends, and ending two years of significant underperformance relative to that index. They are also outperforming in 2022.

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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.

China says U.S. warship sailing in Taiwan Strait ‘provocative’

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World17 hours ago (Feb 26, 2022 01:35PM ET)

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China says U.S. warship sailing in Taiwan Strait 'provocative'© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chess pieces are seen in front of displayed China and Taiwan’s flags in this illustration taken January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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TAIPEI (Reuters) -A U.S. warship sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Saturday, part of what the U.S. military calls routine activity but which China described as “provocative”.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson was conducting a “routine” transit through international waters.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” 7th Fleet spokesperson Nicholas Lingo said in a statement. “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army monitored the passage, which a spokesperson in a statement called a “provocative act.”

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the ship sailed in a northerly direction through the Strait, that its forces had monitored its passage and observed nothing out of the ordinary.

Taiwan is currently in a heightened state of alert due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, nervous that China may try to take advantage of the situation to make a move on the island though the government has reported no unusual Chinese manoeuvres.

Last year, U.S. naval ships transited the Strait roughly monthly. Saturday’s sailing was the first since November.

China claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has mounted repeated air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the past two years, provoking anger in Taipei.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said that on Saturday eight Chinese aircraft – six fighters and two anti-submarine aircraft – flew into its ADIZ, to the northeast of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands at the top end of the South China Sea.

Beijing calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue in its relations with Washington.

Like most countries, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its most important international backer and arms supplier.

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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.

Buffett laments lack of good investments even as Berkshire profit sets record

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Stock Markets4 hours ago (Feb 26, 2022 02:16PM ET)

Buffett laments lack of good investments even as Berkshire profit sets record© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, pauses while playing bridge as part of the company annual meeting weekend in Omaha, Nebraska U.S. May 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Wilking//File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Warren Buffett on Saturday signaled he will stick to his knitting, bemoaning the lack of good investment opportunities for Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:) Inc as it sits on a massive pile of cash even after repurchasing a huge amount of its own stock.

In his widely read annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, the 91-year-old billionaire expressed strong confidence in Berkshire, saying its emphasis on investing in strong businesses and stocks benefits investors with a similar long-term focus.

“People who are comfortable with their investments will, on average, achieve better results than those who are motivated by ever-changing headlines, chatter and promises,” Buffett wrote.

Noting generally the risks of changes in world politics, terrorism and cyberattacks, Berkshire remains wary.

Cash swelled to a near-record $146.7 billion, even after Berkshire repurchased $51.7 billion of its own stock in 2020 and 2021.

Buffett also said, “We find little that excites us” in the stock market, and that major acquisitions remain hard to come by after six years without any.

“Today, internal opportunities deliver far better returns than acquisitions,” he wrote.

Many of those opportunities appeared to pay off in 2021.

Operating profit rose 25% to a record $27.46 billion, with more than one-third from the BNSF railroad and Berkshire Hathaway Energy despite COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. In the fourth quarter, operating profit swelled 45%.

Full-year net income more than doubled to a record $89.8 billion, bolstered by gains from Buffett’s investments in Apple Inc (NASDAQ:), Bank of America Corp (NYSE:), American Express Co (NYSE:) and other stocks in Berkshire’s vast portfolio.

“He is offering a story of a multifaceted growth engine,” said Tom Russo, a partner at Gardner, Russo & Quinn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a longtime Berkshire investor. “The primary message is that Berkshire has found some magnificent businesses, so let’s celebrate them.”

The Apple stake alone totaled $161.2 billion as of Dec. 31, more than five times the $31.1 billion Berkshire paid for it. Buffett called Apple’s Tim Cook a “brilliant” chief executive.

Stock buybacks totaled $27 billion in 2021 but have slowed in 2022, totaling $1.2 billion so far. Berkshire’s stock price is 2% below its record high.

“Buffett’s patience and discipline enabled him to make what is in essence the largest acquisition in Berkshire’s history, its own stock, at a substantial discount to its current market price,” said Jim Shanahan, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co.

‘FOUR GIANTS’

In his letter, Buffett touted what he called Berkshire’s “four giants” including its massive insurance operations, BNSF, Berkshire Hathaway Energy and the Apple stake.

“Our goal is to have meaningful investments in businesses with both durable economic advantages and a first-class CEO,” Buffett wrote.

He said also Berkshire favors an “old-fashioned sort of earnings,” including $6 billion last year at its BNSF railroad, throwing shade on companies that may manipulate their results to boost their stock prices.

“Deceptive ‘adjustments’ to earnings — to use a polite description — have become both more frequent and more fanciful as stocks have risen,” Buffett wrote. “Speaking less politely, I would say that bull markets breed bloviated bull….”

Buffett said Berkshire’s huge cash stake was “not some deranged expression of patriotism,” but rather a shield against losses in its vast insurance operations, including a business insuring against major catastrophes.

Uncle Sam does benefit from Berkshire’s size, Buffett said, collecting $3.3 billion of income tax from the company in 2021 out of the $402 billion in total corporate income tax receipts received by the U.S. Treasury.

Buffett also pledged to keep more than $30 billion of cash on hand, after long saying $20 billion was the minimum. That still leaves plenty available for the right acquisition.

“They are having a tough time (making acquisitions), given frothiness in the market and difficulty competing with private equity firms and SPACs,” said CFRA Research analyst Cathy Seifert, referring to special purpose acquisition companies.

Berkshire’s annual report, also released Saturday, included a letter from Vice Chairman Greg Abel describing the company’s commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment.

Abel, 59, would become Berkshire’s chief executive if Buffett were unable to continue. Portfolio managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, who invest $34 billion, are in line to oversee Berkshire’s stock investments.

The company’s more than 90 operating units also include Dairy Queen ice cream, See’s candies and several industrial companies.

Berkshire also said on Saturday it plans for the first time since 2019 to hold its usual shareholder weekend in Omaha, including the April 30 annual meeting.

“Woodstock for Capitalists,” as Buffett calls the weekend, typically draws about 40,000 people for shopping, dining, a 5-kilometer run and other events.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required to attend the annual meeting and obtain some shopping discounts.

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YouTube blocks RT, other Russian channels from earning ad dollars

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Google blocks RT, other Russian channels from earning ad dollars© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: YouTube app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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By Paresh Dave

(Reuters) -Alphabet Inc’s Google (NASDAQ:) barred on Saturday Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos, similar to a move by Facebook (NASDAQ:) after the invasion of Ukraine.

Citing “extraordinary circumstances,” Google’s YouTube unit said it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube.” These included several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions, such as those by the European Union.

Ad placement is largely controlled by YouTube.

Google added later that it was also barring Russian state-funded media outlets from using its ad technology to generate revenue on their own websites and apps.

In addition, the Russian media will not be able to buy ads through Google Tools or place ads on Google services such as search and Gmail, spokesman Michael Aciman said.

“We’re actively monitoring new developments and will take further steps if necessary,” Aciman said.

On Wednesday, the European Union unveiled sanctions on individuals such as Margarita Simonyan, whom it called RT’s editor-in-chief and “a central figure” of Russian propaganda.

Videos from affected media will also come up less often in recommendations, YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said. He added that RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine after a Ukrainian government request.

On Saturday, Ukraine Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said on Twitter (NYSE:) he contacted YouTube “to block the propagandist Russian channels — such as Russia 24, TASS, RIA Novosti.”

RT and Simonyan did not respond to requests for comment. YouTube declined to identify the other channels restricted.

For years, lawmakers and some users have urged Google for more action on channels linked to the Russian government, concerned that they spread misinformation and should not profit by it.

Russia received an estimated $7 million to $32 million over the two years to December 2018 from ads across 26 YouTube channels it backed, digital researcher Omelas told Reuters at the time.

YouTube has previously said it did not treat state-funded media channels that comply with its rules differently from others when it comes to sharing ad revenue.

On Friday, Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc barred Russian state media from running ads or generating revenue from ads on its services.

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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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